Armed Forces Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 25th March 2021.
Thank you, Mr Sunderland, and for all the comments—I have watched the sessions, which have been very interesting. I am more than happy to engage in debate on any of the amendments that have been tabled.
May I get some guidance from you, Mr Sunderland, and the Clerks? Clearly, I think the clause should stand part of the Bill, but we will then go through the amendments, as I understand it. Is that right, or would you like me to speak to the amendments straight up?
Minister, I urge you to speak to clause 1. The order will be: Minister to lead, then Labour spokesperson, SNP spokesperson, anyone else to come in at will, and the Minister to wrap up. We might cover each of the clauses quickly, but people might wish to speak to them. Certainly, Minister to open and to move clause 1.
The primary purpose of the Armed Forces Bill is to provide for the continuation in force of the Armed Forces Act 2006, which would otherwise expire at the end of 2021. The clause provides for the continuation of the Act for a year from the date on which the Bill receives Royal Assent and allows further renewal thereafter by Order in Council for up to a year at a time, but not beyond the end of 2026. Crucially, the 2006 Act confers powers and sets out procedures to enforce the duty of members of the armed forces to obey lawful commands. The central effect of the expiry of the Armed Forces Act would be to end the powers and provisions to maintain the armed forces as disciplined bodies. That is all I have to say on clause 1.