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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there has been some research into the causes behind the falling away of Specials within the special constabulary. No one reason is pinpointed. I believe that last year some 400 Specials actually went into the mainstream police service. That is very encouraging; that has always been a good route. Some 40 per cent have cited family reasons as one of their reasons for leaving the Special Constabulary; namely, the pressure on them of the mix of their job and their work/life balance.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, will the Minister tell me whether, although the special constables are not paid, they are given any form of honorarium or support? The Minister mentioned that they are given support. Does he mean financial support or are they actually out of pocket because they are special constables?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, no. I do not believe that they will be out of pocket. They receive allowances and costs for being in attendance. As I have made plain earlierand I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, is awarepayment is in the form of a wage. Other support is management encouragement and working with the local force systems.
Viscount Tenby: My Lords, is it not the case that all other voluntary service organisations, ranging from retired/ retained firemen to the Territorial Army, are paid? Why should the police be different?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, raised a question which has obviously been debated many times in the past. It is for that reason we have come to the stage where we believe that there is some value and merit in relaxing the regulations so that a pilot can be evaluated. I must sayand I believe that I made the point in my initial responsethat special constables themselves are somewhat divided as to whether payment is a good idea. In receiving payment, they would have to be taxed not just on the payments they receive, but also on their attendance allowances. For many of them there is not necessarily a big benefit to be found in payments.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, was not being discouraging towards the efforts of the Cumbrian police service because I am sure that the special constables will be very welcome in Workington; the extra special constables that they receive will be very welcome on the streets.
As to the second point raised by the noble Lord, it is for police authorities to bring forward schemes in consultation with their chief constables. They will be properly looked at and evaluated, and then put into effect.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, a package utilising existing military satellite links to provide "near real time TV" to larger ships should be complete next summer. We have commenced a trial of the feasibility of providing satellite dishes to all RN and RFA surface ships. Once trials are complete, we will be assessing likely costs and will need to consider the affordability alongside other projects.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that moderately encouraging reply. He knows that recently I completely my commitment to the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme when I joined HMS "Westminster" while it was sailing in the South Atlantic. Is the Minister aware that when I asked members of the crew what single change would most improve life at sea, the almost universal response was the opportunity to keep up with the news, follow football and watch the soaps? That was what would make the greatest difference.
Given that the technology now exists to provide satellite television almost anywhere in the world, perhaps I may encourage my noble friend to give its provision a higher priority? In addition, would the
Lord Bach: My Lords, I begin by congratulating my noble friend on completing his tour of duty on the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme. I am reliably assured that he made an excellent sailor. As regards his Question, that matter has a high priority. As I say, by summer next year all three aircraft carriers, HMS "Ocean" and all frigates and destroyers will have, effectively, satellite television. That is a high priority.
As far as concerns sponsorship, the Government are ready to consider any practical and realistic ways of providing rest and recreation opportunities, including sponsorship. As my noble friend will know, however, the devil is often in the detail. Any arrangements which might be considered with private sponsors would have to meet rigorous criteria of propriety and regularity.
Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, will the noble Lord explain what the difference is between "real time" television and "near real time" television and how that affects the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, who spent some time in the South Atlantic?
Lord Bach: My Lords, that is a jolly good questionand I shall answer it. "Near real time" television will use existing military satellite links to transmit approximately six hours of recreational television over an 18 hour period each day. That can be played back on board at a time appropriate to the time zone in which the ship is operating. That is why it is "near real time".
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, is it not a fact thatbearing in mind the importance of crew welfarethere is a captive audience here? It may be a wonderful opportunity to show some British films. British films have a great deal of difficulty in being distributed and seen. Do the Government have any policy to show those films to the crews in order that we may receive some feedback which may, in the end, have a salutary effect on British film production and distribution which could benefit us all?
Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Viscount makes an excellent point. Perhaps I should remind him that films, by way of video and film, have been shown on Her Majesty's ships, both surface and submarine, for many years. The film "In Which We Serve", which I
Lord Greenway: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the provision of properly functioning armament and equipment should remain the greatest priority as compared to the provision of television to Her Majesty's ships?
Lord Bach: My Lords, of course I agree with that. The whole House will agree with that. But, as we move forward with technology, it is very important that those who bravely serve on our ships should have as good a time as possible.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Earl, in particular, should ask that question. I thought that, with me, he shared a liking for past times. Thirty years is not that long ago. I think the film is older than that and was made perhaps 60 years ago. But it remains an excellent film, which I am sure the noble Earl has enjoyed.
Lord Puttnam: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the British film industry is finding it extremely difficult to attract audiences outside this country? The fact that sailors on ships will be viewing these films outside the UK may be a tremendous promotional asset for the DTI when it is pointing out the advantages of UK film making.
Lord McNally: My Lords, if the research of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, is right and the priorities of the men on HMS "Westminster" is to watch news, football and soaps, is this not a long way from the traditions of the British Navy expressed by Winston Churchill, which were "rum, sodomy and the lash"? Does this trend bode altogether well for the mettle of our fighting men?
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