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Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): On behalf of the Scottish national party and Plaid Cymru, I add my congratulations to the Queen and wish her many very happy returns. I should like to bring to the attention of the House her good choice of a birthday holiday this year, which is to cruise round my constituency, Na h-Eileanan an Iar. I am sure the good people of the Hebrides wish her well and I hope she enjoys her cruise, particularly around Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Barra and especially Mingulay. Ceud mile failte dhan Bhanrighinn agus tha mi an dochas gun cord an turas rithe.

Question put and agreed to.



19 Apr 2006 : Column 129

19 Apr 2006 : Column 131

Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

12.54 pm

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. David Hanson): I beg to move,

First Day                  
ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
Clauses 1 to 7, new Clauses relating to Part 1 of the Bill, new Schedules relating to Part 1 of the Bill, Clauses 10 to 12, new Clauses relating to Part 3 of the Bill, new Schedules relating to Part 3 of the Bill.The moment of interruption on the first day.
Second Day                  
ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
Clause 19, Schedule 2, Clauses 20 to 22, new Clauses relating to Part 5 of the Bill, new Schedules relating to Part 5 of the Bill, other new Clauses, other new Schedules.The moment of interruption on the second day.

The programme motion has been agreed through the usual channels and there will be ample opportunity for consideration of the matters before us. Proceedings in Committee of the whole House will be completed in two days—today and tomorrow—and proceedings in Standing Committee have been extended to Tuesday 2 May.

12.55 pm

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. The Opposition are content with what the Government propose.

Question put and agreed to.
19 Apr 2006 : Column 132

Orders of the Day

Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

(Clauses 1 to 7, 10 to 12, 19 to 22 and Schedule 2, and any new clauses and schedules other than those relating to Parts 2 or 4)

Considered in Committee.

[Sir Alan Haselhurst in the Chair]

12.56 pm

Clause 1

Anonymous Registration

Lady Hermon (North Down) (UUP): I beg to move amendment No. 23, in page 1, line 5, leave out subsection (1).

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: No. 24, in page 1, line 13, leave out subsection (2).

New clause 1—Anonymous registration—

Lady Hermon: On Second Reading, which was not so long ago—13 March—the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland assured the House that

whatever that is. He continued:

I am delighted about this—

So say all of us. The people of Northern Ireland do indeed deserve to enjoy the same rights as those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 would delete provisions in clause 1. I take great exception to the fact that instead of the people of Northern Ireland being treated as the Secretary of State undertook just over a month ago, they are to be treated differently in relation to anonymous registration. I recognise that there are circumstances in Northern Ireland where anonymous registration is essential. Not long ago there was a break-in at a secure office in Castlereagh police station. Files were taken that compromised the security of many members of the security services. Prison officers, police officers and others feel strongly that their details—name and address—can be located if they register to vote in Northern Ireland.

This is a serious issue. Anonymous registration is required when individuals feel that their security—or perhaps that of their family who register to vote in
19 Apr 2006 : Column 133
Northern Ireland and exercise their franchise, as they are entitled to do—would be compromised if their names were submitted on the electoral register. Of course, a balance must be struck to ensure that those who have genuine concerns about their identity being traced by using their entry on the electoral register are covered by a provision for anonymous registration. However, clause 1(1)—the strange and curious provision before us today—refers to a curious animal called

1 pm

As the Minister and other hon. Members will know, there is no such thing as the Electoral Administration Act 2006. That is still a Bill, which is being considered in another place, where it may be amended before it returns to the House. As we all know, after a long voyage of discovery and amendment in another place and in the House, what may appear currently to be clause 10 of the Electoral Administration Bill may become a section with any other number.

I should like the Minister to explain—I will listen very carefully—why the people of Northern Ireland will be treated differently. Once again, they will be treated to the obnoxious procedure of an Order in Council. Clause 1(1) begins with the words "An Order in Council". May I say quietly and gently to the Minister that I am absolutely sick, sore and weary of delegated legislation being used in Northern Ireland? Yesterday, we had a prime example, when the Secretary of State made a statement in the House indicating that he believed that the best way to govern Northern Ireland was by local people. Within an hour, through delegated legislation, the format of local government in Northern Ireland was changed by an Order in Council—no amendment in Committee and no debate on Report or Third Reading. That is an appalling way to legislate for Northern Ireland, and we now see it once again.

Clause 1(1) deals with an Order in Council to provide for anonymous registration in Northern Ireland


If the people of Northern Ireland are to be treated in the same way as the people of the rest of the United Kingdom, as the Secretary of State assured us on 13 March, and clause 1(1) indicates that the Order in Council will only make corresponding, or similar, provision to that already in the Electoral Administration Bill, I wonder whether the Minister will kindly explain why the people of Northern Ireland are not being treated in the same way as those in the rest of the country.

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