With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will group this with Question 18.
Armed forces personnel are prohibited from joining any such lawful organisation. Personnel may become members of civilian trade unions and professional associations. If they are a member of a trade union, they cannot participate in any industrial action.[This section has been corrected on
I do not think the grouping had previously been requested, although I would not go to the wall over that, but in any case it cannot apply for the very good reason that Question 18 has been withdrawn. However, I daresay the Minister will bear that burden with stoicism and fortitude.
Does the Minister not recognise that we owe our current and former personnel a voice in the development of the policies that serve and support them, and that that is what a statutory representative body would do? Does he agree that, at the very least, the House should have an opportunity to fully debate this? Will he therefore ask the Leader of the House to make time for the Armed Forces Representative Body Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend Martin Docherty-Hughes?
I am obviously saddened that there is less time to debate this important issue right now, let alone on any future occasion. I want to make it clear that our armed forces prepare not for the world that we live in but for the world that we might find ourselves in. We are the ultimate backstop. We are the ones who step forward and fill the gaps when there is a necessity to do so. We cannot do that if there is a threat of industrial action or if we are in some way unable to provide those services. By all means bring that debate on; I will be more than happy to explain in more detail why the status quo is correct.