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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, before the Minister turns from the question of newspaper stories, it was not my view that it was an amazing coincidence. I do not believe in amazing coincidences. My specific question was: did that material get into all those newspapers in virtually identical form as the result of briefing at a senior level in the Northern Ireland Office?
Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, I do not know how that story got into the newspapers, and there is much variation in the reporting of it. I am afraid that I am unable to answer the noble Lord. I wanted to say that we share the noble Lord's concern that when prisoners are located at some distance from home, those who suffer are their families. The situation at the moment on transfer is that the Home Secretary has jurisdiction over 43 prisoners under terrorist crime: eight have been granted temporary transfer and six have been granted permanent transfer, to be moved as soon as possible; five have varying reasons for being refused; but 24 have insufficient links with Northern Ireland. We are fully aware of the issues in that area.
I turn to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Holme. On subvention, I will write to the noble Lord. I thank him for recognising what a difficult task I had in persuading Fujitsu to continue with its investment in West Belfast while we were finding it difficult to get the man who was bringing us 100 jobs onto his site. We have to be very grateful to the people of Antrim, with whom he had worked for six years, who had shown the value of Northern Ireland. I found myself talking about terrorist attacks on Tokyo tubes for quite a long time that evening. Someone said that I had a great sense of humour. It was wearing thin when I saw that those people whom we were most trying to help were the people who were bringing this damage to the Province and not only damage to themselves but to the future of other families' children. I hope that people will realise that if they are looking to us for help, they also have to help themselves. It is very important that that goes home.
The noble Lord is looking to the Treasury to help Northern Ireland on the matter of 10 per cent. corporation tax. I know how strong that card is when played by the South. We talk the whole time about how we can bring strength to the economic package that we offer. There is a lot of strength in it. The fact that we have attracted investment to Northern Ireland when the images are of pavement slabs flying through the air and people suffering greatly shows how strong are the people.
But there is much to be done. We have been asked about the Objective 1 solution, which the noble Lord brought forward, and are discussing it. We are looking at other ways of ensuring that our package is attractive and we constantly keep things under review. It depends very much on the nature of the company looking to invest as to whether that particular one is a strength. We work continually and recognise that we need to do so on the question of the long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland. That is now our major unemployment issue.
The noble Lord asked whether I would comment on the argument that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed". As he well knows, the Government are committed to the search for an agreed outcome and seek a resumption of multilateral talks on the basis of the statement made in 1991. But the maxim that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed was, we believe, a sensible one at that time. But whether it will apply to further talks will be a matter for those who participate in them. I can assure him that we do not believe that progress will be made in any area by setting anything in absolute concrete and not recognising changing circumstances and changing values.
My noble friend Lord Brookeborough asked me specifically whether we were planning to amalgamate employment and education in Northern Ireland. I can assure him that this is not a change that is on the horizon in Northern Ireland for many reasons, one of which is that change for change's sake is not the best value. We must do what we do better and bringing change into that does not always allow us to do that. Also, we have a very high standard of education, and the training needs are for adult long-term adult unemployed people. We have a different scenario from that in England and Wales.
I hear what the noble Lord said about the state of Fivemiletown after the 12th July and the situation on opening hours. There is a lot of work to do and I thank him in particular for his involvement in tourism.
Noble Lords brought many points to the table today. I shall read carefully all the issues. I emphasise that we should like to see substantial power devolved to locally elected representatives. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, I stress that new institutions will only work if they command the widespread support of the people of Northern Ireland and much can be achieved by just pragmatically doing it.
What is clear is that political momentum means that we must move forward; that the status quo is not acceptable. I can assure your Lordships that the Government will do their utmost to find a way to achieve the peace, stability, reconciliation and prosperity that is needed in Northern Ireland and look for the durable political accommodation which will enable the ending of direct rule and the return of substantial powers to locally elected representatives of Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, until that happens I regret to say that direct rule must continue and I therefore commend the order to the House.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, a draft of which was laid before your Lordships on 20th June 1995 be approved. The purpose of the order is to bring Northern Ireland trade union law into line, and up to date, with that existing in Great Britain.
The draft order represents the second stage in the Government's step-by-step approach to aligning all Northern Ireland industrial relations legislation with that in Great Britain. In October 1993, the Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 brought the law on individual employee rights (unfair dismissal, maternity, redundancy and so forth) completely into line with that in Great Britain. The order before your Lordships today completes that programme by replicating for Northern Ireland, trade union law enacted in the rest of Great Britain since 1990, thereby providing a uniform system throughout the United Kingdom.
Your Lordships will appreciate that the legal and administrative framework for industrial relations in Northern Ireland is separate from that in Great Britain, but generally the legislation follows that in the rest of the United Kingdom. However, Northern Ireland trade union law currently reflects only the position in Great Britain prior to the enactment of the Employment Act 1990. Simple amendment of the existing Northern Ireland law within the confines of the 1992 order would have made it extremely difficult to ensure that the Northern Ireland legislation had achieved the same legal effect as in Great Britain.
It has therefore been decided to repeal and re-enact, with amendment, the greater part of the 1992 order in the order now before your Lordships. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to adopt the Great Britain structure and terminology in the draft order to make it more user friendly and, by aligning it directly with the 1992 Act, facilitate the use of Great Britain text books, journals and commentaries to the benefit of practitioners, industrial tribunals and other users, including employees. The close correlation between the law in the two jurisdictions will make for easier future amendment or consolidation.
The proposal for this order was published in December 1994 and a wide range of interested parties were invited to comment. Some 130 individuals and organisations received copies of the order and the explanatory document. Of the 12 who commented, five welcomed the order, four objected and three raised only minor technical points. Having considered the various representations made, the Government re-affirm their policy that there should be parity between the law in Northern Ireland and Great Britain unless there are compelling local reasons for a departure from the Great Britain position. The draft order, with one particular difference to which I shall return later, has that effect.
The key new provisions in the order before your Lordships extend democracy and accountability in trade union affairs and give union members new rights in relation to ballots, including independent scrutiny. Unions are made more accountable for their financial affairs and held responsible in law for the acts of their officials. Employers are given protection against precipitate industrial action and a new citizen's right is introduced to enable individuals to bring proceedings to halt unlawful organisation of industrial action.
The main aim of these provisions is to increase the rights of individual trade union members, so that they have a proper and effective voice in the affairs of their union, and of individuals who might fall victim of unlawful industrial action. All of these provisions already operate in the rest of the United Kingdom.
But I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the one significant difference from the law in Great Britain. The Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993 gave individuals in Great Britain a new statutory right not to be unreasonably expelled or excluded from a union of their choice. Following representations from the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, it was decided that, in the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, the statutory right for individuals in Great Britain to belong to the union of their choice should not be enacted in Northern Ireland. Ministers found the arguments persuasive and were prepared to make this change in view of the committee's experience of 25 years of sustained and courageous effort by the unions to combat discrimination and sectarianism and maintain peace in the workplace. That is a role the unions in Northern Ireland have played so tremendously well.
The establishment of a local appeals tribunal was the subject of much correspondence during the consultation. However, the present order is not a suitable vehicle for such a change and it would be inappropriate to deal in isolation with the arguments for and against an employment appeal tribunal at a time when the whole industrial tribunal system is under review. The review will present opportunities for further consideration of the subject.
This is a long and complex order, but, as I have indicated, some two-thirds of the order consists of re-enactment and modernisation of existing law and only one-third consists of new provisions. All the provisions apply in the rest of the United Kingdom and are familiar to employers and trade unions in Northern Ireland, particularly since almost 80 per cent. of Northern Ireland trade union members belong to Great Britain unions. This order will give Northern Ireland workers the rights and privileges already enjoyed by their counterparts in Great Britain. The fact that it will bring uniformity to trade union law throughout the United Kingdom is of benefit to unions and employers operating in Northern Ireland and will help in encouraging inward investment. I commend the order to the House.
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