All 1 Lindsay Hoyle contributions to the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act 2018

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Mon 30th Oct 2017

Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill [Lords] Debate

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Department: Ministry of Defence

Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill [Lords]

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
2nd reading: House of Commons
Monday 30th October 2017

(6 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act 2018 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 13-R-I Marshalled list for Report (PDF, 73KB) - (9 Oct 2017)
None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
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Order. There is a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

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Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am apologetic for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman. I was waiting for him to take a natural pause, but one did not appear. Am I right in saying that there is a convention in this House that speakers should remain in their place for two speeches before they leave? The Secretary of State has left after only one speech, and the Chair of the Defence Committee is speaking. Have you been notified of any reason why the Secretary of State has had to leave so soon, when many of us would have expected him to want to know what was being said?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
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The Secretary of State went at such speed that he did not even say goodnight or anything, so I am not sure why; he may well be coming back. He may have been taken short, given the speed he went at. It is convention that Members normally hear at least two speeches, and it is normal for Ministers to stay around to hear a bit more. Of course, when we have such a learned Member as the Chair of the Select Committee, we all wish to hear him. I had better bring him back on.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I must say in defence of the Defence Secretary that he spent no fewer than two hours and 25 minutes before our Committee last Wednesday afternoon, and I felt that was—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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Order. That is no reason for him not to be here—let us put that on the record now.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
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But I did feel it was somewhat beyond the call of duty, and I believe that the whole Committee appreciated it.

My fourth question is: will this new system send a positive or a negative signal—first, to recruits and, secondly, to potential adversaries? That is where the controversy arose in the upper House, as grave concern was expressed about the Bill’s repeated use of the terminology of “part-time service”. To give a brief example of the dangers of the use of such terminology, I take a moment to refer to the lyrics of a “Glee Club” song composed by Liberal Democrat activists at their 2014 conference, sending up their party’s policy of sending nuclear submarines to sea either without warheads—we appear to be without Liberal Democrats, too—or only for part of the time. I will not sing it, the House will be glad to hear. [Hon. Members: “Do!”] It is done to the tune of “Yellow Submarine” and, talking of the boats, one of my favourite verses goes, “We can send them back to base if we’re really up the creek and request the war’s postponed until the middle of next week.” The chorus then is, “We believe in a part-time submarine, a part-time submarine, a part-time submarine,” and so on. Members can, thus, see the potential for the use of “part-time” in relation to armed forces to allow our adversaries and our critics in the media to suggest there is something less professional and less committed about the way in which we are conducting ourselves. Lord Craig of Radley, former Chief of the Air Staff, did suggest an alternative wording, which I hope might still be considered in Committee.

My final question is: will it be possible to apply to go on so-called part-time service just in time to avoid an operational deployment? The answer to the first question about emergency service clearly covers the issue of whether someone about to be deployed to a war zone could use this scheme to get out of it—clearly, they could not—but I would like a little more clarification from Ministers on whether there is any risk that some people might see a less popular deployment looming up on the near horizon and decide that the time was appropriate to start thinking about applying not for so-called part-time service but for a change, a reduction or an alternative to full-deployment just at that point.

Subject to those caveats, I wish the Bill well. I look forward to hearing further elaboration on the points I have raised, perhaps in the closing speech from the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who I believe will be summing up. I endorse the commendation of both Front Benchers for this measure.

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Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am slightly bemused. Can you confirm whether we have until the moment of interruption for the Minister to continue his remarks?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
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That is not a point of order, but there are 33 minutes to go.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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As I said, without exception, all Members from across the House came to support the people in our armed forces today.

For centuries and across continents, our armed forces have been respected—indeed, revered—for their grit, tenacity and courage. When we define who we are as a nation—our standards, our values, our tolerance, our interests and our aspirations—they are neatly interwoven with the reputation of our armed forces and the role that they play on the nation’s behalf.