Armed Forces Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 25th March 2021.
With this, it will be convenient to consider clauses 13 to 17 stand part, and that schedule 5 be the Fifth schedule to the Bill.
A discrepancy currently exists within the Armed Forces Act when it comes to the sentencing of personnel of equivalent rank in the Royal Navy. Under the current law, commanding officers are empowered at summary hearing to award a sentence of detention to personnel up to and including the rank of leading hand. However, this does not apply to the Royal Marine rank of corporal, a position that is equivalent to that of a leading hand. Should a commanding officer decide at summary hearing that an offence, if proven, might attract a sentence of detention for a Royal Marine corporal, that individual would have to be referred to the court martial, where such a punishment could be imposed.
As a result of this discrepancy, there is a lack of clarity in how discipline is administered for all equivalent ranks within the Royal Navy under the terms of the Armed Forces Act. This clause seeks simply to remove that disparity by aligning sentencing powers available to commanding officers of leading hands and Royal Marine corporals at summary hearing.
On a point of order, Mr Sunderland. Clearly, I want to answer everybody’s questions. I have checked with my team and there was no question from the right hon. Member for North Durham, but we will go over Hansard again, and if I have missed anything, I will go back to him to ensure that he has the answers he requires.
Thank you for that point of order, Minister, which is on the record.
Further to that point of order, Mr Sunderland. If the Minister had listened to the speeches, he might have got the questions.
I do not think that is a point of order; it is a personal opinion.