|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we, too, welcome the order. I strongly approve of the need for regular parliamentary approval. I found myself in Ankara at a conference with several Turkish MPs in March and saw their looks of astonishment and horror
I also had some interesting conversations last week in the Baltic states, when I met the Earl of Carlisle, whom we deeply miss. I also met a number of British Army officers in training teams. They were training the Baltic battalion and the other new forces of those new nations. I was struck by how difficult it is to change ideas about discipline in post-Soviet armed forces. It made them reflect on the importance of self-discipline, training and mutual confidence between officers and other ranks as the basis of an effective armed force. That is one of the most difficult things to instil in those who come from a former Soviet background.
My only hesitation is about the length of time that I understand that we may have to wait before we have a tri-service discipline Bill. We are moving rapidly towards tri-service operations with helicopters and in many other areas. The forces are working much more closely together. If I understood the Minister correctly, we may be facing a new quinquennial Act next year without a tri-service Bill at the same time.
The Government nowadays expect people in universities to do things in three to four weeks, even if extensive research is required. So I am puzzled as to why the Government should allow the armed services three to four years to go through a process which I should not have thought would be that complicated. May we have an assurance that the process of a new quinquennial Act and a consolidated but also reformed tri-service Act should not necessarily be one after the other to a great extent?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their welcome of the continuation order. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that we tackled the most obvious areas of difficulty in terms of compatibility with the convention in the Armed Forces Discipline Act.
I stress to both noble Lords that there may be a degree of what one might describe as tidying up in the quinquennial Act. We are going through in enormous detail all the three discipline Acts to look at every single aspect of compatibility. I am not yet in a position to give your Lordships any indication of how much of such tidying up will be necessary.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that the confidence between officers and other ranks is extremely important. The reason why the British Army is welcomed so much in areas where peacekeeping is the primary function being undertaken is because officers and other ranks work so very well together. Discipline is in the very life-blood of the British Armed Forces.
I hope that I shall be forgiven my earlier slip. The Government are always happy to consider any improvement to legislation as the noble Earl will know because, on occasions, he has been able to persuade me.
But both noble Lords concentrated their remarks on the tri-service Act and whether that was going to postpone the consolidation. I tried to get that point across in my opening remarks. It is extremely important to impress this upon both noble Lords because I do not want there to be any misunderstanding. A tri-service Act is not simply taking forward the consolidation which was begun under the previous administration and continued under this Administration. It is not a matter of putting the three Acts together into a single cover.
I want to stress to both noble Lords that it creates a new structure of discipline, allowing the services to apply discipline more effectively in fully tri-service environments. Our Armed Forces are currently operating in those environments. We are looking at whether we can ensure that the same penalty for any indiscipline will be applied across all three services. That is not always the case at the moment and it leads to incidents where there is perceived unfairness; where officers or men from different parts of the Armed Forces are treated differently for the same misdemeanour or infringement of forces discipline. Therefore, that must be looked at.
But the new Act will, of course, maintain any of the essential differences which there are between the three services. It will be an extremely complex piece of legislation. I hope that both noble Lords will have the stamina to get through it when it reaches this House.
I should say to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that there is a problem as regards over-stretch in the Armed Forces, but I do not accept what he said about over-commitment. The Government have done what they said they would do. I know that the noble Earl has had doubts about some of those issues; for example, Sierra Leone. I remember noble Lords on the Benches opposite said that we would not be withdrawing from Sierra Leone when we said we would. We have fulfilled what we said we would do, certainly in respect of Sierra Leone. I remind the noble Earl that this year has been the best year for recruitment in the Army for 10 years. There is a problem with retention and we are working extremely hard to improve that record.
I agree wholeheartedly with what the noble Earl said. The Army is not just another job. I do not think that we need any greater reminder of the Army not just being another job than on the day when Brigadier Saunders has been buried. He was a man who was going about his lawful business, unarmed, and was so cruelly attacked and murdered simply because of the
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 18th May be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Horticultural Development Council was established by the Horticultural Development Council Order 1986. It is an executive non-departmental public body funded by a statutory levy on growers of horticultural produce. The main function of the council is to commission research and development on behalf of the horticulture industry, excluding apples, pears and hops.
The council raises around £3.6 million per year from the levy. Expenditure on research and development is proportional to the amount of levy raised from growers in each crop sector. Selection of research products gives due consideration to environmental benefits as well as to the needs of the industry, being directed at crop protection; reduction of input costs and chemical usage; increased efficiency and yield; and improved quality.
The HDC was subject to statutory review in 1999 when agriculture Ministers agreed that the HDC should continue for another five years. During the consultation process Ministers agreed that the levy on small growers was a burden and uneconomic for the council to collect. That has led to the amendment to the Horticultural Development Council Order which is before us today.
The amending order makes two changes to the statutory levy. There are two levies: one for mushroom growers with which I shall deal later; and another for growers of other horticultural produce. That latter levy is based on a percentage of the net sales of horticultural crops and is set at 0.5 per cent. Growers with an annual net turnover of horticultural produce below £25,000 are exempted from the levy. The figure of £25,000 was set in the original 1986 legislation. Under the 1999 statutory review it was agreed that the minimum threshold should be raised to £50,000 with effect from the levy year commencing 1st October 2000. The revised threshold would reduce levy income by around £125,000 per annum. It would have minimal effect on the research and development programme and lead to a switch of saved administrative costs to that programme. Around 660
The second change in the amendment order covers the maximum rate of levy that could be paid by mushroom growers. The mushroom levy is assessed on spawn purchased for use in compost. The order provides for a maximum levy of 7p per litre of spawn purchased which is currently applied. The amendment increases the maximum rate for mushroom growers to 15p per litre of spawn. That increase will provide the HDC with the flexibility to propose an increase to the mushroom levy if it becomes necessary to raise additional funds to meet additional research requirements. All available funds collected from the mushroom levy are at present fully committed and there are serious new disease problems facing the industry. The mushroom industry has been consulted and is content, although it does not want to see an increase within the new ceiling in the near future. However, increases are allowed only following industry consultation and with the collective approval of agriculture Ministers. On that basis, I commend the order to the House.