Defence Reform Bill clears Lords

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The Defence Reform Bill has cleared the House of Lords after peers approved the legislation at third reading on 2 April 2014.

Peers agreed to a government amendment requiring the defence secretary to report to Parliament on the options for carrying out defence procurement.

It was brought forward in response to previous discussions about the need for parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of any decision to proceed with a government-owned, contractor-operated organisation (GOCO).

Moving the amendment, Defence Minister Lord Astor of Hever told peers it showed the government had listened carefully to their concerns.

"The amendment will ensure that Parliament is provided with sufficient information to enable it to properly scrutinise and consider a future decision to proceed with a GOCO."

The Defence Reform Bill establishes the arrangements for reforming Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and turning it into a GOCO.

Although a final decision on whether to pursue a GoCo is not expected until summer 2014, the relevant enabling legislation has been put forward as part of this bill.

The amendment was supported by the former Army chief and crossbench peer Lord Craig of Radley, Liberal Democrat Lord Roper, and the Labour front bench.

However, shadow defence minister Lord Rosser did express concern that there would be no minimum timescale between the report being laid before Parliament "and the associated affirmative order being considered by Parliament".

He feared a future government might be tempted to try to "rush" the order through without proper scrutiny.

The Defence Reform Bill contains several measures designed to boost recruitment to the Reserve Forces, as the government pursues its plan to cut he number of regular soldiers to 82,000 and double the number of reservists double to 30,000 by 2020.

Unlike in the Commons, legislation can be amended at third reading in the upper chamber.

The bill will now be sent back to the House of Commons for MPs to consider peers' changes, in a stage known as parliamentary ping-pong.

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