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House of Lords

Monday, 18th October 1999.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers--read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield.

Baroness Gale

Anita Gale, having been created Baroness Gale, of Blaenrhondda in the County of Mid Glamorgan, for life--Was, in her robes, introduced between the Baroness Gould of Potternewton and the Lord Davies of Coity.

Lord Waldegrave of North Hill

The Right Honourable William Arthur Waldegrave, having been created Baron Waldegrave of North Hill, of Chewton Mendip in the County of Somerset, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Hussey of North Bradley and the Lord Butler of Brockwell.

Working Time Directive and HM Armed Forces

2.49 p.m.

Earl Attlee asked her Majesty's Government:

    How the working time directive will affect Her Majesty's armed forces.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the working time directive was incorporated into domestic legislation as the Working Time Regulations on 1st October 1998.

The provisions of the regulations are applicable to the armed forces, but the services are excluded from many of the provisions under Regulations 18 and 25 which implement Article 2.2 of the framework directive. Those exclusions allow significant flexibility for the armed forces to safeguard operational effectiveness and training.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. I remind the House that I have an interest as a serving officer in the TA. I understand that the DTI has told the MoD that the working time directive will apply to the TA. Will that not make the TA unworkable?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the important factor to remember is that not all the service that the Reserve Forces--they include the Territorial Army--render is covered because it is exempted under Regulation 18. Some of the duties--they would be the same for the Army--would cover operations.

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However, as regards the Territorial Army, exercises simulating operational conditions and operational training are completely exempted in the first place.

We are considering advice to be promulgated to reservists to identify the provisions which affect them. We hope to be able to promulgate that advice by the end of the year.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, as regards those parts of the service which are not exempted, will members of the Regular Army or the Territorial Army be expected to sign certificates of exemption in the way that civil servants are expected to do if they are required to work longer hours?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, no. your Lordship will remember that I mentioned two regulations. Regulation 18 refers to operational requirements. Regulation 25 exempts the Ministry of Defence from keeping records of the time worked by members of the armed forces which would be applicable in the civilian part of the Ministry of Defence.

Lord Burnham : My Lords, perhaps I may welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box on her first appearance wearing this particular hat. From the way in which she conducted semi-military affairs in Kosovo, I have no doubt that the join will be seamless.

In the light of her reply, will she tell the House the undoubted major cost implications on training? The time required for training is likely to be extended by 20 to 30 per cent. Who will pay for that? Will it come out of the defence budget?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, for his kind remarks. I assume that he is talking about additional costs which will flow from the working time directive. Operating the regulations for the Armed Forces has not in any discernible way contributed to costs in the way that the noble Lord suggests it might. We have of course been keeping a firm eye on the issue across all three armed services and all three are reporting that they see no operational difficulties. None has reported any additional costings.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, if any of the armed services found any difficulties, would we be able to do anything about it?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that we would be able to do something about it because the Ministry of Defence would have to ensure that money was available in order to keep the law of the land. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, is reassured by the fact that we have looked specifically at all three armed services and no such difficulties have been reported. Of course, the regulations have been in operation only since October last year and I am sure that we will continue to keep a very firm eye on what is happening.

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Hereditary Peers

2.54 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked the Leader of the House:

    What steps are to be taken and when to determine what privileges and facilities, if any, are to be accorded by the House to those hereditary peers who are to lose their right to speak, vote and enjoy the privileges hitherto available to them as Members of this House.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, following the last meeting of the House's Offices Committee in July, the usual channels, in this case including the Cross Benchers, were charged with exploring this issue. They decided to consult the Library and Computers and Refreshment sub-committees. The results of those consultations will be discussed at the next meeting of the Offices Committee at the end of this month. I understand that the usual channels consider that the present House cannot make decisions about any arrangements which might affect the new House. That would certainly be the view of the Government.

Baroness Park on Monmouth: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. However, may I urge the Government and the committees concerned to reconsider? I do so first because it will be vital that the servants of the House--the Doorkeepers, the Attendants and so forth--should have clear briefing as to what is to happen once the change has been made. Secondly, I suggest that it is part of the honour of this House that it should be seen to treat honourably and not shabbily those who are leaving and who have served it and the country well. It is all very well to say that the matter might be considered in the next Session, but by then the time will have come and gone. I urge the Government to reconsider.

Furthermore, will the noble Baroness use this opportunity to correct press reports of remarks allegedly made by her at the Labour Party conference which, if they were truly reported--and they concern this matter--were, to say the least, graceless? I feel sure that as Leader of the whole House, she would never have spoken in that way. Will she now correct those reports?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am afraid that in response to the noble Baroness's final point, I cannot correct what I do not know. As I have no personal recollection of referring to the Offices Committee, or to any matter which would be within its provenance, at the Labour Party conference, perhaps the noble Baroness has misread a press report or is incorrect in her assumptions.

Of course it is appropriate that the officers of this committee and people she refers to as “Doorkeepers and so forth" should be properly briefed on their responsibilities. I am sure that the people responsible for that--not myself, of course--will undertake to do so.

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As regards the relevance of the Offices Committee to the decision, I reiterate what I said in my original Answer. This is a matter for the Offices Committee and the whole House. I understand, however, that the agreement is that the decision is for the next House.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, will the noble Baroness recognise the relevance of Hamlet's words of his father:

    “Die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year";

or King Lear's words to his daughters:

    “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is

To have a thankless child!"?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, no, I do not recognise the relevance of that. I am sure that individual hereditary Peers who have given great service to this House, which has been acknowledged, would not wish to be remembered necessarily in terms of their club privileges in this House. Their contributions have been substantial and not relevant to those matters.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that at no time before the House considered the Lords reform Bill and during the passage of that Bill did the Government commit themselves to anything of the nature contained in the Question? Indeed, a number of amendments to the Bill were considered and rejected, if not by this House, certainly by the other place. Does my noble friend not consider that to give such a privilege to people who are not Members of Parliament--that is, not Members of this House--would be ludicrous and make a mockery of this House?

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