Continuance of Services Acts

Orders of the Day — Armed Forces (Re-committed) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 17th June 1991.

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Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 5:15 pm, 17th June 1991

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, leave out '31st August 1991' and insert '31st December 1991'.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

With this it will he convenient to take Government amendment No. 2.

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are not substantive. The service discipline Acts will expire on 31 August 1991 unless they are continued in force before then by primary legislation or by Order in Council. As is usual, clause 1 of the Bill has been drafted to provide for the Acts to continue in force for a period of five years from 31 August 1991. That assumes, however, that the Bill will receive Royal Assent before that date which effectively means before the start of the summer recess. While I have every expectation that this will be the case, as we are now past the middle of June, I think that it is prudent to provide for the contingency that Royal Assent might come at a later date so there is no possibility of the Acts expiring in August without having been renewed. To achieve this a draft Order in Council has been laid which I hope will be approved shortly and which provides for the Acts to continue in force from 31 August until 31 December 1991. The amendment to clause I simply reflects the change of date on which the Acts would otherwise expire.

Amendment No. 2 makes a corresponding deferment of the date of repeal of section I of the Armed Forces Act 1986. That is necessary because the Order in Council extending the expiry date of the service discipline Acts to 31 December 1991 is made under that section and it therefore cannot be repealed before that date.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

We have no objection to the amendment and do not wish to be obstructive, but we should like to remind the Minister of the complex nature of the Bill. As he knows, the Bill is a series of amendments to the service discipline Acts. In Committee, further amendments to those amendments were tabled as a result of late amendments to the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Today, we find that there are amendments to the amendments to the amendments to the service discipline Acts and, while we do not object to those amendments, if the Government are still in power in five years' time, it would be easier if all four series of amendments could be tabled at the same time.

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

We shall probably still be in power in five years' time. The position has arisen because there has been some delay in bringing the Bill before the House. If it had been brought forward earlier in the parliamentary timetable, we would not have had to table the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.