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The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the Statement, which I have now had the opportunity to read. I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the Statement. I believe that this is the correct way forward for the Territorial Army, but I suspect that the cuts are too deep. I should like to put one specific question to the noble Lord. I declare an

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interest in that I served in a squadron of main battle tanks and also in the Territorial Army. I note with interest that the Territorial Army will have access to Challenger 2 main battle tanks. These are very complex beasts. Can the Minister tell the House what is the likely detachment to be assigned to maintain these battle tanks? Will it come from the regular forces or the Territorial Army? If it is the latter I suspect that these main battle tanks will not stay on the road for long because there is insufficient time for the Territorial Army to maintain these tanks.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Earl. I am not sure about the answer to the question. I believe and expect that those tanks will be maintained by the Regular Army. I emphasise that the territorials will have genuine use and access to these tanks, including firing their guns and driving them over training grounds, as is made clear in the Statement of my right honourable friend. To ensure that I have the position right as to maintenance, I shall write to the noble Earl to confirm the matter.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I thank the Minister for saying that Northern Ireland will not suffer the same cuts as everyone else. I declare an interest in the Northern Ireland Battalion. It appears from the list of infantry battalions that two battalions, the Northern Ireland Battalion and the South-West Battalion, have been left with only two companies. Other battalions have up to five or six companies. It is considered that two companies are below the critical mass for any battalion to operate, let alone on its own. I believe that the Government should consider this matter to see whether perhaps by attaching other units to such battalions the numbers will constitute a critical mass to support the Regular Army.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Viscount for his representations. I am sure that he speaks from very considerable knowledge. I do not believe that this is the occasion on which I should enter into discussion of proposals for individual units, but I undertake to write to the noble Viscount about the important point that he made.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I welcome the Statement which is much more encouraging than I had expected. It is perhaps coloured by the fact that Davies Street in London where I served for many years is to be maintained as a TA centre. I hope that the Royal Greenjackets will have a good role to play in the London Battalion.

I should like to raise one specific query that arises on page 11 of vol. 1. In the final paragraph there is a passage that slightly puzzles me:

    "Both infantry and yeomanry will also provide opportunities for their members to train as combat medical technicians, to reinforce the expanding Army Medical Services in the TA".
Is it the understanding of my noble friend that there will be medical technicians within the framework of those battalions, or does it mean that there is to be some kind

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of secondment which suggests that there may be drainage from infantry battalions into the medical services?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am not quite sure that I fully understand my noble friend's point about drainage from infantry battalions into medical services. I always thought that the proposal embraced the first of the alternatives that he put before the House. But I shall check to make sure that I have it right. For the assistance of noble Lords, my noble friend referred to page 11. The document is not page numbered; perhaps it should be. I believe that my noble friend is referring to the end of paragraph 11. I do not seek to score off my noble friend but to assist noble Lords. My noble friend touches on a very important point. Possibly the most difficult task that the Ministry of Defence faces as a result of these proposals is recruitment of the numbers that we want to the medical services. That will be a very challenging task for all of us. I want noble Lords to know that we recognise it.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, today's Statement is to be welcomed because it ends a very long period of uncertainty for the TA which has disturbed morale and affected recruitment and retention. It will take time for the new organisation to settle down. Will tomorrow's TA be given a period of stability in which to carry out this reorganisation, and can it look forward to a period without review and change and with confidence in the future as long as this Government are in power?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord tempts me to look a very long way ahead. Having said that, that is part of the objective of the Strategic Defence Review. The whole point of the review is to give the services as a whole the confidence to look a long way ahead. We are looking five, 10 or 15 years ahead with respect to our procurement programme. The noble and gallant Lord will be aware that we have obtained a three-year guarantee from the Treasury as to the sums of money that will be available to the Armed Forces. That is a guarantee that no former Defence Secretary has ever enjoyed. I re-emphasise that the review of the Territorial Army is not separate from the Strategic Defence Review; rather, it is an inherent part of it. As a result I hope that it will benefit from the period of stability that we envisage for all of Her Majesty's Forces for the next three years and, further, for the whole lifetime of this and following Labour Governments.

Scotland Bill

5.56 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments and reasons be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments and reasons be now considered.--(Lord Sewel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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[The page and line refer to HL Bill 119 as first printed for the Lords.]


Clause 31, page 15, line 38, leave out ("subject to subsection (2)").


Page 15, line 39, leave out ("Presiding Officer decides") and insert ("decision of the Presiding Officer under section 30(1A) is").


Page 15, line 42, leave out subsection (2) and insert--

("(2) Such a decision of the Presiding Officer shall not be capable of being overruled by the Parliament.").
The Commons disagreed to Lords Amendments Nos. 32 to 34 but proposed the following amendment in lieu thereof--

Page 15, leave out lines 38 to 44.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 32 to 34 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 34A in lieu thereof. These amendments address what is to happen if the presiding officer decides that a Bill or part of a Bill is not within the legislative competence of the parliament.

During an earlier stage of the Bill your Lordships' House made clear that your Lordships were concerned that Clause 31 as drafted provided that the presiding officer could be overruled by the parliament if he decided that a Bill was outwith the competence of the parliament. Noble Lords argued that this would put the presiding officer in an untenable position and would weaken his authority. The House wanted to ensure that the presiding officer was not brought into conflict with the parliament in this way and argued, quite persuasively, that the parliament should not be able to overrule its presiding officer. The Government have listened to the concerns of the House and in these amendments do not seek to undermine them but to address a new anomaly that arises.

We do not think that we can leave Clause 31 as amended by your Lordships' House. It would mean that the presiding officer would have an unchallengeable power to decide questions of legislative competence. We believe that this is an uncomfortable and undesirable position for him or her to be in and these amendments seek to address that. The presiding officer has an important role. However, it is intended that he or she is to be politically impartial. These amendments help to preserve that neutrality. What we have provided for in these amendments ensures that the parliament has the benefit of the presiding officer's views as to the competence of the parliament to consider a Bill. The presiding officer is required simply to make a statement about the competence of a Bill. That is a view to which the parliament will no doubt want to pay particular attention. However, it will then be for the parliament to decide what to do. In some cases, it might decide that

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some is clearly ultra vires and reject the Bill at an early stage. In other cases, it may decide to amend particular offending provisions. If there is still concern at the end of the process, by which time the Bill becomes an Act--indeed, the question of vires could develop during the passage of the Bill through the parliament--as Members of your Lordships' House know, we have the provision that it is open to any one of the Law Officers to refer the matter to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That is the main forum in which devolution issues, matters of vires, should be properly considered.

I do not believe that there is justification for leaving the presiding officer with the right of absolute veto from the start on what constitutes vires and ultra vires. I hope that noble Lords would agree that the question of vires is simply not the same as the Clerks of the Public Bill Office ruling amendments out of order (oh, that they would do it more often!) or Madam Speaker in another place deciding that a Bill is a finance Bill and should not be considered by this House. The question of whether a Bill falls within the competence of the parliament is on a completely different scale.

We are considering issues surrounding the devolution settlement. I am absolutely convinced that it would be entirely inappropriate to leave one person with the power to decide what legislation the parliament may or may not consider in an area which may raise difficult legal issues. As the Bill stands, this clause creates a dead end, quite at odds with the rationale behind the Bill, which is that ultimately matters of vires should be determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

We have built into the Bill a carefully thought-out mechanism for ensuring the resolution of disputes over the vires of a Bill of the Scottish parliament. Leaving the presiding officer with a veto would mean that these provisions would in many instances become redundant; they would not come into play at all. The presiding officer's view and judgment, if unchallengeable, would bring the curtain down on the question of vires at a very early stage. It would mean that the Bill could not be introduced if the presiding officer considered it outwith the parliament's competence. That is too much responsibility to put on any individual person, no matter how well advised--and I am absolutely confident that he would be well advised. I believe that that should rightly be a matter ultimately for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We should not seek to build in ways of preventing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council from determining matters of vires.

In coming before your Lordships' House today we are setting in place a system that will ensure that the boundaries of the parliament's competence are properly mapped and that a consistent body of law emerges. If we do not do that, we risk the interpretation of one office holder dictating the limits of the settlement where the law may be uncertain and subtle.

We took on board the points made by the noble and learned Lord at an earlier stage and by other noble Lords on the issue of the role of the presiding officer in

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deciding competence. It is better that he indicates his views, makes his statement and then the matter remains one for parliament to decide. If at the end of the process there is a real question of vires, we have the procedure that we have all accepted; that is, that it is open to any one of the Law Officers to move a reference to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That would enable the whole business of the law around vires to be built up in a consistent and coherent way. I commend the Motion to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 32 to 34 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 34A in lieu thereof.--(Lord Sewel.)

6 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, as one of those who moved amendments on this issue in Clause 31, perhaps I may say that I am happy with what has been said. There will be a distinct need for prior discussion on the issue of vires before it is introduced. However--I have used these words before--the opposition in parliament will pounce on anything which seems to be ultra vires, and I believe that we can leave this issue to the process of scrutiny.

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