Meaning of "service Living Accommodation"

Clause 15 – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 2nd April 2001.

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Question proposed. That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

Will the Under-Secretary explain how the statement made by the Ministry of Defence a couple of weeks ago about the future provision of single living accommodation for the armed forces will affect the application of the clause? As I understand it, the Ministry is introducing a programme to ensure that all single soldiers will have en suite facilities. Obviously, it will take a long time to provide such accommodation and the programme will be expensive to implement. Indeed, it will consume rather more than the extra resources that the MOD won in real terms from the Budget. Like others in the armed forces, I hope that it will go ahead, and I know that the Secretary of State has made it a priority, although it is one that is causing discomfort in other areas of the MOD budget and in respect of other programmes.

The explanatory notes appear to suggest that the programme will have an impact on the application of the clause, as the phrase "service living accommodation" appears to apply to shared areas. If all single soldiers in the armed forces are to have their own en suite facilities, will those facilities be analogous to the family accommodation that is dealt with elsewhere in the Bill? The explanatory notes refer to a distinction in respect of family accommodation. Should single service men expect to be subject to the clause when, in due course, they have proper accommodation? If so, how will it affect them?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

It is clause 16 that defines service living accommodation. Clause 15 refers to orders and regulations in general.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

In that case, it is clear that the notes from which I am working are incorrect, and I apologise. I thought that it would be easier to work from notes than from the Bill itself.

The point of the provision is to ensure that a certain amount of private space is defined as personal, irrespective of whether a person is living in single or shared accommodation. The definition is intended to ensure even in communal accommodation that a certain amount of space is allocated as personal and can be searched only when a warrant has been obtained.

I think that during our debate on clause 8, I may have spoken about "MOD police". I am always making that mistake; I should have referred to the service police.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Would a separate warrant be required to search the part of a billet shared with others that was specific to a member of the armed forces? If three other people shared the accommodation, would they be subject to the same search warrant? Will the Minister confirm that no one could interfere with their property under the aegis of the search warrant?

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

As the programme for single service men to have their own accommodation is implemented, will a warrant be required for each service man's space? In future, everyone will have their own space. On land, although not at sea, few areas will therefore be defined as communal. The number of warrants that are required for individuals will therefore increase. Has the Department considered the implications for, for example, communal searches for drugs? Will the warrants have to name a large number of individuals?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

The warrant applies to space that can be searched, not to the person. Warrants will be specific and refer either to shared or single accommodation. As the hon. Gentleman suggested, it will take a long time to provide single accommodation for everyone. We hope to make a start shortly.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I represent many service personnel, and it is important to be clear about the point. If three service men share accommodation and one is under suspicion and a warrant is obtained to search the premises, will it apply to the space occupied by all three, or simply to the part that belongs to the person who is under suspicion? If the former is the case, what protection is afforded to the other two occupants in such circumstances?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

So far as I am aware, the provision applies to the space of the person who is under investigation, and not to anyone else. Protection will exist to ensure that the rights of others are not infringed.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 16 and 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clauses 18 and 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clauses 20 to 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.