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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, at Second Reading I gave the Bill a welcome from these Benches because we recognise that the 1980 Act was out of date, that it needed revising and that there was a case for a new role for the reserve forces. I also emphasised that the reserve forces form a vital umbilical cord, if I may put it like that, between the regular forces and the civilian population. That is the role that has been emphasised by a number of noble Lords in the course of our debates.
The noble Earl listened carefully to my point that we would explore a number of matters in Committee. The Government agreed with a number of the points that we put forward and those have been written into the Bill. I am particularly pleased that the penny dropped on the question of pensions in the end because the Government started off from a position that we regarded as being untenable--indeed, not only untenable in equity but one which would discourage people from signing up as reservists. I am glad that the Government have conceded that point. As the noble Earl said, he was unable to accede to a number of our amendments. I fully understand that.
I believe there are four points that will be matter for another place; indeed, they will perhaps be debated at some length there. The first is the question of key personnel who are called up for humanitarian relief. We debated that in Committee. My noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff referred to doctors in the NHS and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, referred to the problem of medical services generally in the Royal Air Force. It is particularly acute when we come to humanitarian relief because, as was mentioned in Committee and at Report stage, people who are employed for humanitarian relief domestically may well not enjoy being called up for humanitarian relief outside the United Kingdom. They probably have enough to do, particularly in the NHS, at home. That could, and does, give rise to all sorts of problems.
The second point that will be matter for debate in another place is that of discrimination, protection and conditions of employment. Despite what the noble Earl said, I have to put on record that I do not believe he went quite far enough for our liking. Under the Bill as drafted we believe that reservists can be discriminated against, particularly in their conditions of employment. We would like to make sure, not in the interests of the individuals, as the noble Earl said, but of the whole system because if that is right people will sign up as reservists. If the system is wrong people will not sign up. Obviously, we have our concerns about individuals but above all it was in order to get the system right that we moved the amendments.
The third point is the vexed question of nine months versus six months for humanitarian relief operations. I have no doubt that that matter will come back again in another place. It links with the fourth point which is the structure of the Bill. I do not believe that we touched on it except peripherally from time to time. There seems to us to be a certain fuzziness in the distinction between call-up in Clauses 52, 54 and 56. It is the difference between what is a warlike operation and a humanitarian relief operation and when a humanitarian relief operation suddenly becomes a warlike operation. The position is somewhat less than clear. I offer this as an afterthought to our discussions. It would make sense if there were a category all on its own, as it were, which dealt with pure, humanitarian relief operations and never got into anything that could be on the edge of warlike operations. If that were the case, then the call-up period of six months--and I put this forward as a personal
We went into Committee in the Moses Room. I believe that that generally was a success. After the Government had, as the noble Earl said, consulted widely on the Bill and indeed had drafted a Bill and published it, it was unfortunate that they had to produce a whole raft of amendments even before we began in Committee. Somewhat against my will, I was forced to accept the Government's amendments in toto on the understanding that we would recommit the Bill and at that point have a Bill that the Government were prepared to defend. It seemed to me rather odd that we had more than 100 amendments before we even went into Committee when this was the first House to examine the Bill.
Having said that, I consider the Committee experiment in the Moses Room, after we had overcome that rather difficult hiccup, to have been a success. The fact that it was a success is due not only to the participation of noble Lords who had great knowledge of the subject of reserve forces but also to the flexibility and courtesy of the Minister himself. I take this opportunity of reciprocating and thanking the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his courtesy, kindness and the general flexibility and good humour he displayed throughout what were at times somewhat tense debates. The House is indebted to him. He can feel proud of the way in which he carried the Bill through the House. My thanks are also due to my noble friends Lord Judd and Lady Turner of Camden who helped me on specific aspects of the Bill and I hope, as the noble Earl said, with some effect. We had a good team. I believe that we made some impression on government thinking.
In conclusion I wish the Bill well. It seems to us to be a Bill that, in its present form, is reasonably well drafted, subject to the points I mentioned and to further opinions that no doubt will emerge in another place. The Bill is certainly needed; it is one which will give heart to the reserve forces. I believe that it will give heart to the regular forces as well. We welcome it as such. I wish the Bill well. We look forward to seeing what happens to it in another place and whether amendments will be introduced which your Lordships will discuss.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I would like to add my words of welcome to the Bill. The Bill is needed. Not only will it be welcomed by all sides of the House but, more importantly, it will be welcomed by the Territorial Army itself and the reserve forces because it will give added impetus to their role. For many people in the reserve forces it will provide a focus on which to train and a reason for retention. I believe that that is the main reason behind the Bill added to the fact that people get "in-field" experience. One of the major problems that the Bill has brought to light--and I understand the Minister's reservations about introducing legislation--is discrimination.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I express my gratitude for the way in which the Minister and his predecessors consulted so deeply and at all levels and for the fact that consultation has been genuine. The Minister obviously acted on the information he received. As to the future, I look forward to taking advantage of the Bill personally and also allowing the men under my command to take advantage of it.
Lord Mottistone: My Lords, I too want to thank my noble friend the Minister. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said about his great courtesy and the immense care he took to deal with each and every possible amendment, including some relatively little ones of mine. I congratulate my noble friend on having handled this very important Bill so very well.
The advice I have received from those parts of the Territorial Army with which I have dealt for many years is that they very much welcome the Bill. That endorses what those noble Lords with experience in the area have said. I believe that it will be a very good Bill and I hope that another place does not ruin it. I look forward to it returning to your Lordships' House more or less as it is now.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I should like to reply briefly. First, I must thank all noble Lords for their kind and positive words about the Bill and my part in its passage through the House. I thank particularly my noble friend Lord Mottistone not only for his most recent comments but for his contributions generally to our debates which have been most constructive at all times.
I should like to make two points in response to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. He expressed doubt about the availability of reservists for humanitarian purposes overseas. I take note of his concern, but it is likely that only willing individuals would be called out for that type of operation.
The noble Lord also implied that the Government had given some ground on the issue of pensions. We had a useful debate on that matter. I agree with the noble Lord that many important issues were aired. In fact, we have not changed our position on pensions. The power to safeguard civilian pensions has always been in Part VIII and our intentions, which I set out at Report stage, have been clear for some time. Nevertheless, I am glad that I was able to satisfy the noble Lord and his noble friends on those issues.
Once again, I thank your Lordships for the constructive spirit in which the Bill has been debated. It has been a pleasure to be responsible for a measure which is welcomed by all parties and which has stimulated many interesting debates. I suspect that at the forefront of all our minds is the realisation that the reserve forces want to play a significant part in our