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That the following provisions shall apply to proceedings on the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill:

Timing of proceedings


1.--(1) Proceedings on the bill shall be completed at the sitting on Wednesday 22nd April.


(2) Proceedings on Second Reading shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion four hours after their commencement of proceedings on this motion.
(3) Remaining proceedings shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion seven hours after the commencement of proceedings on this motion.
(4) Standing Order 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on the Bill at the sitting on 22nd April.
2.--(1) When the Bill has been read a second time--
(a) it shall, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put,
(b) proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed while the Question is put, in accordance with Standing Order No. 52(1) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills), on any financial resolution relating to the Bill; and
(c) on the conclusion of proceedings on any financial resolution relating to the Bill, proceedings on the Bill shall be resumed and the Speaker shall leave the chair whether or not notice of an instruction has been given.
(2) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question; and if he reports the Bill with Amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

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Questions to be put


3.--(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)--


(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;
(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown; and
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
and on a Motion for a new Clause or Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(2) If two or more Questions would fall to be put by the Chairman under sub-paragraph (1)(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chairman shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions.

Miscellaneous


4. If at the sitting on 22nd April--


(a) a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) stands over to Seven o'clock, and
(b) proceedings on the Bill have begun before that time,
the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings in accordance with paragraph 1 shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.
5.--(1) No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken.
(2) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be made except by a Minister of the Crown; and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
(3) No debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and the Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment.
6. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply to this Order.
7.--(1) The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced; and Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.
(2) If at the sitting on 22nd April the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the time at which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under paragraph 1, no notice shall be required of a Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

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Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

5.2 pm

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Paul Murphy): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Today, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, on Monday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave the House some details of the overall settlement reached in Castle buildings on Good Friday. Like them, I pay tribute to all those involved, especially the leaders of the political parties and the talks delegates, who spent more than two years arriving at the agreement that was forged and settled just over a week ago. Underpinning the settlement is the principle of consent, and the triple lock of the parties, Parliament and the people is an essential element in the agreement.

Later tonight, we shall consider two orders: the first provides for a referendum on 22 May; the second brings the life of the Northern Ireland forum to an end after it meets for the last time on Friday. The Bill provides for elections to a New Northern Ireland Assembly to be held on 25 June--subject, of course, to a yes vote in the referendum the month before.

We need the Bill now so that the Northern Ireland parties can prepare for the elections in June and engage in the forthcoming referendum campaign. I do not want to go into the details of the previous debate, other than to say that this is only one of two Bills that will deal with the settlement and the agreement.

If on 22 May the people, as I hope, wish and pray they do, say yes to the agreement, the House will be able to consider a much larger Bill--a major constitutional Bill--to implement the entire settlement. The Bill will make necessary legal provision for the setting up of the north-south ministerial council. It will deal with human rights and equality matters. It will deal with the transfer of all six Northern Ireland Departments to the new Administration. It will, in effect--

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Murphy: Of course.

Mr. Robinson: Will the Minister be helpful by giving the House an assurance that there will be no guillotine whatever when that occurs?

Mr. Murphy: It is not my business to speak on behalf of the Leader of the House, but I can say that in recent months the House has met through the night a number of times and given detailed scrutiny to the Welsh and Scottish Bills. I have not the slightest doubt that every opportunity will be given to hon. Members here and the other place to deal effectively and properly with what will be a major constitutional Bill, with similar status to those relating to Wales and Scotland.

Dr. Godman: These are early days and I am trying to be helpful, but if, as I sincerely hope, we get a yes vote

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on 22 May, will the Secretary of State seriously consider commissioning an international architectural competition for the design of the new assembly building? [Laughter.] I do not know why there is laughter from the Opposition Benches. I remind my hon. Friend that an international competition is now taking place for the design of a Scottish Parliament and that President Clinton and Congress may well offer to contribute to the building of a new Parliament in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Murphy: That is a very interesting idea. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was shadow Heritage Secretary she took a great interest in architectural matters, but I must tell my hon. Friend that the matter will be for the assembly to decide. I know from experience in Wales that these are not easy matters to consider, and I believe that that is a matter for the assembly to consider, when it is set up.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I have read the document, and it tells me that the Secretary of State says where and when the assembly will meet--and yet the hon. Gentleman now tells us that we shall have a choice in the meeting.

Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman should realise that the Bill sets up what we describe as the shadow assembly. If there is an election on 25 June, as a result of a positive vote in the referendum, of course a place must be found immediately for the assembly to meet to conduct its initial business. That is a matter for the Secretary of State, initially, to decide, but the ultimate home of the assembly must be a matter for the assembly itself--as it will be in other parts of the country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) asked me whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would institute a competition among architects. I can give an absolute assurance that she will not.

The Bill refers to what has been termed strand 1 of the talks and of the settlement, but the agreement is a package, covering relations north and south, relations east and west and other matters. Even without the special circumstances of Northern Ireland, of which we are all aware, the Bill would be in line with the Government's policy on devolution.

It is right and proper that power comes closer to the people of Northern Ireland, in any event; it is right that the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland is addressed, in any event; but it has a special significance in Northern Ireland because I believe the assembly will be a vehicle for change and for reconciliation, as Members of the Assembly will need to work together for the benefit of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.

For example, positions of executive authority and chairmanships and memberships of committees will be proportional and based on the number of seats that parties win in the election. Key decisions will be taken on a cross-community basis with the need for significant support from both Unionist and nationalist members elected to the body. The most important appointments of

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the Presiding Officer, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will have to be made precisely through that method.


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