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Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, does the Minister believe that the Government's ridiculous and dangerous decision to sell off Ministry of Defence houses acts as an inducement for increasing numbers of people to join the forces?

Earl Howe: My Lords, yes. Housing will improve in standard as a result of what we plan to do and I should have thought that that would act as an incentive.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that one of the principal reasons for undermanning is the instability and insecurity caused by a series of defence reviews, redundancies and all that goes with that? Can the Minister assure the House that the Government intend to stand by and honour the Prime Minister's pledge that the services should now have a period of peace and stability?

Earl Howe: My Lords, Ministers have repeatedly said that a period of stability is desirable and that is what we aim to achieve. A number of factors have contributed to undermanning, one of the main ones being a false perception among many people that because some servicemen recently faced redundancy the Army no longer offers a worthwhile career. That kind of perception is one that we are trying hard to overcome.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, following from the question of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, can the Minister say what the career prospects are that are held out to young people joining the Armed Forces? Are they good and

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positive during their service in the Armed Forces, and are the recruits trained adequately for their return to civilian life?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, touches on some important points. We endeavour as far as we can to convey to every new recruit that the Army offers a worthwhile and fulfilling career. We are laying particular emphasis on the encouragement of soldiers in particular to undertake courses of training which will give them transferable qualifications that they can use after leaving the service when they move into civilian life.

Lord Ironside: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, recruitment depends on the career opportunities which are offered in the services. Therefore, can my noble friend say now when the Government are going to adopt the recommendations made in Sir Michael Bett's report, which will show what the real opportunities in the services will be?

Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend touches on another important issue. The review carried out by Sir Michael Bett has been carefully studied over the past year and more. We hope to make an announcement shortly on our conclusions. My noble friend is quite right in that the areas that Sir Michael looked at are the key to ensuring that we can recruit and retain the right personnel in future.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo: My Lords, does the Minister agree that some of our finest servicemen have come direct from school into service life? Will the Government consider the reintroduction of the apprentice system and the junior leader system and say what they are doing to right the major deficiency that we have all heard about?

Earl Howe: My Lords, we are considering the possible advantages of reintroducing some form of junior entry, but that would be expensive to set up. For the time being we propose to watch the success of the other measures that we have already implemented before taking a decision about junior leaders. In particular, we want to see whether our initiative, in partnership with the careers service, delivers the kind of results that we hope for.

Lord Wedgwood: My Lords, my noble friend the Minister will be aware that the Army has recently introduced a recruiting drive through the Internet. Does he agree that not only should we strive to recruit junior leaders, but that we should also consider and focus on our cadet forces across the country?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I believe that the increase in the advertising budget will yield results. As I have said, there are signs that it is already doing so. As regards cadets, we have always felt that while it is very useful that the cadet movement yields recruits for the three

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main branches of the services, it should not by itself be regarded as a recruitment conduit. I believe that that would be retrograde.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the noble Earl will be aware that I asked him a question about the proposed statement on the Bett report a short time ago. Is he further aware that we are all now expecting, as the noble Earl said, a statement to be made shortly? Can we have the noble Earl's assurance that it will be made before the House rises for the Long Recess so that it can be properly considered and debated?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am very much in sympathy with the wish expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. I can only tell him what I said the other day, which is that we are endeavouring to ensure that that happens, but I am not in a position to promise it.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that all local authorities give free access to the military to recruit in schools and colleges and that they are not influenced by some Left-wing authorities who may not allow the military to recruit at all?

Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point. I would like to be able to reassure him that all local authorities have the same constructive attitude towards recruitment into the Armed Services. However, I am unable to do so, but it is something that we keep constantly under review.

Non-food Exports: EU Powers

2.54 p.m.

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the European Union claims the right to ban member states from exporting non-food products to countries outside the EU on health or safety grounds.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, Community controls on exports are principally governed by the EC's common commercial policy. The Community might seek to ban the export of non-food products from the EU, but we are not aware that it has ever done so on health and safety grounds.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply which is somewhat disconcerting because it appears to indicate that there is a theoretical possibility that the Commission could ban the export of motor cars, machine tools or electrical goods if they were thought to be dangerous on health and safety grounds. Does the noble Baroness agree that the right of the Commission to interfere with the external trade of member states--as distinct from intra-Community trade--is nowhere mentioned in the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act or the Maastricht Treaty, which seems to indicate that the beef ban must have been brought in through the back door in some unexplained

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way? If, as is theoretically possible, the European Court of Justice eventually rules that the ban has been illegal all along, can the noble Baroness say whether British farmers and taxpayers will be compensated directly or indirectly by the other 14 member states?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, certainly this is an area of great complexity. There is no doubt that under Article 3(o) of the treaty there is reference to the high level of health protection. I can read out the exact words if the noble Lord wishes. It is right that there should be health protection. What is wrong is where the health protection is extended into areas which should be those of national competence. As I believe the noble Lord, Lord Monson, knows, that is where we have objected very strongly. As regards the noble Lord's second question about compensation should the ECJ find the action of the other 14 member states to have been illegal, I do not believe that that is going to be the outcome although the noble Lord will know that at the present time we are awaiting information. There is no procedure that I know of for compensation to be paid. But it is certainly a very interesting legal point. I shall take much interest in looking into it.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the European Court of Justice is beginning to take on the aspect more of a political court than a court of law as we would understand it in this country?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am well aware that that is the view of many. But the point is that the ECJ has a responsibility which is defined in law. On occasions it has sought to go beyond what we believe to be right. That is why we have made the suggestion that the IGC should look into what should go before the ECJ and what should not.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that many people are extremely worried by what she has just said? Does it mean that the European Union can ban any goods or produce from this country going to another country which is quite prepared to accept them? If that is so, have we not really lost our sovereignty?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we have not lost our sovereignty. The noble Lord seeks to embroider a situation which is not that unclear, although it is complicated. Article 113 is the main basis on which an export might be banned, but it is possible that powers under other articles of the treaty or in subordinate legislation adopted under those articles might be sought. It all depends on the goods in question or the aim of the prohibition. If goods are unsafe I would have thought that it was not in the interests either of the company producing them or of the industry in this country that they should be freely allowed into the market. So there is some sense in this although the noble Lord may find it hard to accept. We have to make sure that there is balance

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and common sense applied in this matter. It is in those instances where we believe that scientific evidence is not being fully used to inform decisions that we have protested. That is why I believe that there has to be another look taken at the way in which the ECJ works on these matters.


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