Previous SectionIndexHome Page

No. 4, in page 4, line 18, leave out from 'officers' to end of line 19.

No. 25, in page 4, line 19, at end insert—

No. 24, in page 4, line 26, leave out sub-sub-paragraph 3(a).

No. 26, in page 4, line 32, leave out paragraph 4.

No. 27, in page 5, line 18, leave out paragraph 6.

No. 6, in page 5, line 20, at end insert—

27 Apr 2006 : Column 738

(a) Condition 1 is that a draft of the Order has been referred under section 1(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 2006 to the Assembly;

(b) Condition 2 is that a meeting of the Assembly has taken place at which it has had the opportunity to consider the draft of the Order;

(c) Condition 3 is that the Assembly at that meeting has not expressed by resolution passed with cross-community support its opposition to the draft of the Order;

(d) Condition 4 is that the draft of the Order has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

(a) must be laid before Parliament after being made; and

(b) ceases to have effect if it is not approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before the end of the relevant period.

(a) must be referred to the Assembly under section 1(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 2006 after being made; and

(b) ceases to have effect if before the end of the relevant period—

(i) the Assembly has not had an opportunity to consider the Order; or

(ii) the Assembly has passed a resolution with cross community support expressing its opposition to the Order.

(a) anything done under the Order before it ceased to have effect; or

(b) the making of a new Order.

Mark Durkan: We covered many matters yesterday on Second Reading. We have tabled amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 6 to clause 1. The clause provides that the Secretary of State may refer certain matters to the Assembly that is to be set up under the Bill, namely, the   election of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the operation of d'Hondt and such other matters as the Secretary of State sees fit.

The clause makes it clear that suspension does not end with the creation of the Assembly. It provides that the Assembly is to be composed of people who were elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, so there is a clear legal distinction between the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Assembly. So far, the Secretary of State has not coloured in exactly which other matters he might see fit to refer to the Assembly. There were various exchanges between Governments and parties in the run-up to the statement made by the two premiers in Armagh, which preceded the Secretary of State's announcement of the Bill last week. The purpose of amendment No. 7 is to try to probe further into which other matters the Assembly might consider.
27 Apr 2006 : Column 739

Elsewhere in the measure, it is made clear what will happen if restoration does not occur by 25 November. The Assembly set up by the legislation will be wound up and the Secretary of State has made it clear that Assembly Members will lose their jobs. We accept that, as we have been told, the Assembly is not a shadow Assembly—so it is not even a shadow of its former self. It should not continue indefinitely. We do not want an endless talking shop of any kind, but the Government are making a mistake if they think that the deadline will worry those who may not be in a hurry to form an inclusive Executive by that date. Talk of closing the book on devolution and talk, such as we heard yesterday, of bringing the curtain down on the process that has been in operation since 1998 could appeal to a party such as the Democratic Unionist party, which still says that its aim is to remove and replace the Belfast agreement.

The proposals that may or may not exist on joint stewardship in the event of the Assembly being wound up if there is failure by 25 November do not extend to anything that might look like joint authority—the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been at pains to state that here last week and this week—so it would seem that perhaps we are talking about some sort of direct rule with knobs on at best. Again, I am not sure whether that will particularly appeal to anyone to whom the deadline is meant to appeal, and I am not sure whether it will scare or frighten anyone whom the deadline is supposed to worry in that sense.

It would suit those in the DUP in many ways for everything to be wound up at that stage and for attempts to be made in the direction of joint authority, to which they can then galvanise opposition and claim success in those attempts and, indeed, in burying the agreement, as they would see it. There is a danger that parties could have an incentive to play it out to failure on 25 November. Indeed, that incentive could also extend not just to the DUP, but to those in Sinn Fein who, for their own reasons, might be quite happy for us to reach a situation where the onus is on the two Governments to produce an alternative after 25 November. Of course, they can then galvanise and criticise when that is not good enough from their perspective either. Of course, they would be happy to blame the collapse by 25 November on the DUP.

The danger is that, after 25 November, the Northern Ireland Assembly might not be a given, the Assembly created by the Bill might be gone and a worthwhile alternative from the two Governments might not be a given and not be available. It might well be that the only given that we will have then is the outcome of the review of public administration—the seven super-councils, the repartition in waiting and the deep Balkanisation of our society—and in those circumstances, parties might well start to turn their attentions to how they build up their powers and bases in those new local government institutions, rather than concentrating on how we deliver the vision for devolution that the people of    Northern Ireland endorsed when they voted overwhelmingly for the agreement.

Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): Why are those the only options available to the political parties in Northern Ireland? There is still the option of voluntary coalition, and my party has said many times
27 Apr 2006 : Column 740
to the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that, in the absence of Sinn Fein-IRA completing the journey to democracy, peace and the rule of law, we are prepared to go into government tomorrow with them, so there are other options on the table, including the proposals that the hon. Gentleman and his party have made.

Next Section IndexHome Page