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Mr. Alan Reid: I have serious worries about the sweeping dictatorial powers that the clause seems to give the Secretary of State. I want to know why he believes the powers are necessary, and I should like him to give examples of occasions on which he would need to use them.
that he considers expedient. Clause 4 states that the powers in clause 3 are exercisable by affirmative resolution unless the Secretary of State considers it expedient to pass the orders by negative resolution.
In other words, if the Secretary of State considers it expedient, he can do anything that he likes. He can amend Acts of Parliament without Parliament having to vote. Before we give the Secretary of State those broad powers, we expect an explanation and some examples of the occasions on which he intends to use them.
Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) (Con): I hope that the Minister can give us a few assurances. I listened carefully to what was said by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid) and, when I first read the clause, I shared some of his concerns. I hope the Minister will be able to say that the enabling powers given to the Secretary of State are circumscribed by reference to the purposes of the Bill, and also that they would lapse in any case in line with the time limit in the Bill.
Mr. Hanson: As the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid) said, clause 3 allows the Secretary of State to make orders in relation to matters arising as a result of things done under the Bill. It is intended to be used to sweep up any consequential or unforeseen matters relating to, particularly, the recall of the Assembly, the repeal of the 2000 Act, the postponement of elections or the dissolution of the Assembly.
For reasons that I hope are understood by both the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) and the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, the Bill was put together in some haste following the decision of the Prime Minister and the Government to adopt this route. Changes may well be needed that would require primary legislation unless we gave the Secretary of State this power. The power is focused and not meant to have a widespread application. The Bill is short and concise and, in any event, the level of detail required in an order made under clause 3 is not suitable for inclusion in primary legislation. In case there is any misunderstanding, I can assure Members that clause 3 cannot be used to effect changes to, for example, the operation of the institutions as envisaged under the comprehensive agreement of December 2004.
In this instance, these are delegated orders for the Secretary of State. As I said, the power applies to particular matters relating to the Bill; it does not have a wider application.
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Lembit Öpik: To save time, can the Minister assure me now that our understanding that the Assembly will be entitled to amend and repeal legislation passed during the period of the Assembly's suspension is correct? It would be useful if he could put that on the record.
Mr. Hanson: To return first to the point made by the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Dodds), such changes will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure of the House; I hope that that is helpful. On the point raised by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), the Assembly can deal with any relevant related matters once it is up and running and has Executive functions, because such functions will relate to matters pertaining to the Assembly's areas of responsibility.
I point out to all four Members who raised issues relating to clause 3 that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of another place has examined it. As the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute knows, the Committee takes a keen interest in these matters, so if we tried to pull a fast oneas the colloquial phrase has itit would notice. The Committee's report, available today, points out that the powers in the clause are acceptable, and that another place accepts the principle behind it and the degree of parliamentary scrutiny provided for in clause 4, in accordance with the Committee's views on such powers.
Lady Hermon: As I have already put on the record my deep distaste and dislike for, and my disapproval of, giving unfettered powers to the Secretary of State through this Bill, it is not my wish to move amendment No. 19.
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