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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her attention to this matter. I agree with her that the only possible articles that could be breached are 5 and 6. I have been studying them with care for some time, and have been unable to find any way in which, in substance, the existing regime breaches those articles. However, what I would really like to know--this is something that we come back to the whole time--is what precise authorities, what reasoning and which provisions of the existing regime are running against, or counter to, the Convention on Human Rights?

I do not ask that question merely to be wicked; I ask because I have been looking through these articles for quite some time and have been unable to find out how they, in the light of any decided case, have breached the convention. However, it is getting late. I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for having spoken and, indeed, to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, as always. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 90:

    After Clause 13, insert the following new clause--


(" . No provision of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall prevent proceedings being taken for offences against good order and military discipline.").

The noble Lord said: My amendment is very brief and suggests the insertion of a new clause stating that no provision of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall prevent proceedings from being taken for offences against good order and military discipline. This overlaps with a good deal of the discussion that has already taken place, but it provides an alternative to some of the suggestions that have been put forward.

The amendment would deal with that serious situation which could, and will, occasionally arise when a member, or members, of the Armed Forces--indeed, any of them--is clearly in breach of good order and military discipline because of his behaviour, which is justified by the Human Rights Act. One could elaborate on the situation and give a number of examples, but I shall give Members of the Committee only one example. Article 11 says that everyone has the right to freedom of association. One can imagine that various meetings of bodies on the streets by way of protest for or against some particular cause could very easily lead to a breach of good order and military discipline. Indeed, that is an obvious example.

Article 15, which has already been mentioned in another context today, is really too narrow to cover this point because it merely says:

    "In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation".

Those are very serious and extreme circumstances. However, something could arise in peace-time and not necessarily in time of war or on an occasion threatening the life of the nation. It could arise when we have forces serving overseas within the Commonwealth to protect some interests there at the request of a Commonwealth government. Alternatively, under United Nations arrangements, it could arise where we have sent forces to try to keep the peace in some part of the world. It is not necessary for me to elaborate. I simply say that it also has the advantage of being a solution to the problem raised last year by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on Third Reading of what was then the Human Rights Bill. I beg to move.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: I support this amendment. It opens up again this essential avenue as to the exclusion clauses. Between now and Report we must consider how Amendment No. 2, Amendment No. 14 and Amendment No. 90 might be converted

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into an exclusion clause. I support in principle the spirit of the amendment and hope that between now and Report some exclusion clause can be drafted.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for introducing this amendment. As usual, he makes a good point. Can the Minister say whether there are any civilian equivalents to Section 69? Does she believe that Section 69 is necessary and, if so, how does she justify such a catch-all provision?

Is the Minister comfortable with the fact that road traffic accidents are dealt with under Section 69? I accept that an offence of careless driving can be dealt with under Section 70 of the Army Act, which incorporates civilian law into military law. However, Section 69 is used for other accidents with military vehicles. Indeed, the manual of military law shows several specimen charges under Section 69, and having an accident with a military vehicle is only one of them. With the implementation of this Bill will it not be necessary to introduce several new specific offences in order to be able to avoid having to use the catch-all offence of Section 69?

Lord Glenarthur: I listened with care to what my noble friend Lord Renton said when he moved his amendment. However, I am bound to say that I was not quite clear from what he said whether he was trying to preserve what my noble friend on the Front Bench has called the catch-all element for the purposes of military law, or whether he was stating that he considered that the Human Rights Act might go against that. It seems to me from my military experience that it is almost essential to have some kind of catch-all because, if you do not, you end up in a muddle when operating in a whole set of circumstances which are different from the ways we operate in the civilian world. I refer to the particular aspects of operating under service life and operational conditions.

I hope that it is possible for what I believe is Section 69 of the Army Act to be maintained, and that acceptance of the Act as it now stands does not indicate either that the Human Rights Act is being violated or that military law could be diminished by the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998. That catch-all Section 69 seems to me all-important and extremely difficult to quantify because of the number of different instances which might apply at any one time.

Lord Renton: I hope that I may answer my noble friend before the Minister replies. The measure leaves the catch-all provision unimpaired but it resolves a potential conflict between all military, naval and air force law and the Human Rights Act. Some means of reconciling this matter has to be found, as indeed the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor mentioned at Third Reading of what was then the Human Rights Bill.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Renton.

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He has in former times given a great deal of study to all these intricate matters. For that reason we should take seriously both his amendment and the way that he introduced it. I also agree with him that between now and Third Reading, wherever we sit in your Lordships' House, we should all give a great deal of concentrated thinking to these matters.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I recognise the noble Lord's concern that the Bill should do nothing to undermine discipline. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, made his views very clear in an admirably succinct manner at Second Reading.

I hope that I was able to make it equally clear on that occasion that the Government do not believe that the Bill and the interests of discipline are in any way in conflict with each other. On the contrary, we consider that the Bill is essential to the maintenance of those aspects of the disciplinary procedure that we are all agreed are so important. I hope and believe that this is common ground among all of us in your Lordships' House.

I can find nothing in the Human Rights Act or in the Bill that would have the effect that the noble Lord, quite properly, seeks to avoid. The existing range of offences will remain on the statute book, as will the powers to charge for those offences. The Bill is concerned with the procedures for dealing with offences in order to ensure that they are compatible with the convention. In the Government's view, it is essential that the procedures should ensure that proceedings are handled fairly and properly in all circumstances. The Government believe that that is what the Bill is about. However, I can assure the noble Lord that there is nothing in either the Act or the Bill to prevent proceedings against good order and discipline. It would clearly be of great concern to the services and to the Ministry of Defence if that were to be the case.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked me about civilian equivalents to Section 69. We are not aware of any civilian equivalents. Perhaps that is not surprising. The section deals with conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline and the services use it for inappropriate behaviour, such as motoring offences on military land. Obviously, because it is military land and not a public highway, the Road Traffic Act does not apply. Section 69, therefore, is the means used to ensure that servicemen and servicewomen behave properly in that respect.

To return to the main points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I hope that the assurances I have given him in relation to the Act and to the Bill are of some comfort to him. I wonder whether, on that basis, the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.

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Lord Renton: Naturally, I am very much relieved by the assurance given by the noble Baroness. I hope that she will not feel that I am being in any way offensive if I say that I only hope that she is right. I shall wish to consider that between now and the Report stage. Meanwhile, while thanking her and other noble Lords who have spoken on this matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Summary appeal courts]:

On Question, Whether Clause 14 shall stand part of the Bill?

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