Clause 153 - Service personnel

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 16 January 2003.

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Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon 10:00, 16 January 2003

I, too, am anxious to know what effect the Government think the Bill will have on members of the armed forces, particularly in connection with offences alleged to be committed by UK service personnel in UK bases overseas.

Our service personnel are of the highest calibre in the world, but occasionally they can be slightly boisterous. When I was in the Royal Marines in Singapore in 1966, I remember only too well attending the traditional Trafalgar cup soccer game against the Royal Navy. The Royal Marines usually get on very well with the Royal Navy, especially when there are members of other armed forces or overseas people about the place, but when they are locked together the rivalry can be fairly fraught. Of course, the Royal Marines triumphed in the game—I think the score was 6–1—which was organised on a day when there were two commando units in Singapore. Usually we had far fewer people from whom to choose our team than the Royal Navy had, and after the game a building was destroyed. I do not say that that was necessarily a crime, but these things can happen in boisterous circles when the blood is up, especially after troops have been away on operations. Relaxation, rest and recuperation are part and parcel of the job.

It is important to know how our servicemen will be treated under clause 153. It is imperative that this law dovetails with the Naval Discipline Act 1957—yes, it is still in force—and military and air force law. Will the Minister explain how offences alleged to have been committed by UK service personnel in UK bases overseas will be treated? As he knows, they were dealt with in the past under military, naval or air force law.