|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I am happy to say that the Prime Minister kept his promise. He kept it by ensuring that the Northern Ireland Act 2000 was enacted, which noble Lords will realise gives the British Government unilateral power to suspend the Assembly, which has been exercisedand was exercised most recently in 2002 after an ultimatum given by my party to the Prime Minister following the discovery of the extent of the criminality that the republicans had been engaged in. I hope that that safeguard, which in our view was crucial to the making of the agreement, is sustained and will achieve the objectives that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has put forward. I hope that when the Minister said that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was unnecessary he had that Act in mind and that procedure which has been used and should be available in the future if it turns out that republicans return to criminality.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in the Orders in Council mini-debate which the noble Lord ran alongside the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I thank the Minister for placing on record the Government's intention to address how we legislate for Northern Ireland in Westminster. It has been a long time coming. My noble friend Lord Smith of Clifton has been leading the charge, so to speak, on that point for a long time. We have certainly raised concerns on the matter for at least two years and we are very grateful that the Government have now fully taken those concerns on board and are prepared to act. We appreciate that the Government are firmly committed to the 24 November deadline and understand that we must concentrate first on restoring the Assembly.
However, if devolved power is not restored to Stormont by that dateof course, we sincerely hope that politicians in Northern Ireland will be able to find a way through the current impassehow quickly will the Government move to put the new arrangements in place?
We on these Benches also very much welcome the intention to legislate for Northern Ireland by primary legislation, where appropriate. Can the Minister clarify precisely what that means? Are we likely to see
19 July 2006 : Column 1292
Given our debates on anonymous registration, it would be much better if provisions for Northern Ireland were included in that way. However, we appreciate that that would require discussion between various government departments. Can the Minister assure the House that there will be better co-operation and co-ordination between the various Northern Ireland departments and departments in Whitehall?
Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, I want briefly to place on record the appreciation of the Ulster Unionist Party of the statement just made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. It has considerable significance, which is not only recognised in our Parliament here in Westminster but will be very important to the people in Northern Ireland.
I repeat what I warned about a few months ago: when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland met in Armagh city, they implied that there was a plan B, should devolution not proceed by the deadline of24 November this year, and that that plan B would be further involvement of the Republic of Ireland in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. I warned that that was having a dangerous impact on the loyalist community in Northern Ireland and that alarm bells were ringing across the Province. The day after the meeting in Armagh, the UDA and UVFtwo illegal organisations which had said that they were going to decommissionannounced that their plans for decommissioning had been abandoned. That was a real warning of the impact of the Armagh meeting on the people of Northern Ireland.
Today's statement by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is therefore not only good for the procedure of legislation relating to Northern Ireland under the direct rule system but, it should improve political attitudes on the ground in Northern Ireland. As an Ulster Unionist, I recognise the courage of the noble Lord in coming forward today to clarify what will be the procedures should there be no devolution by 24 November.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, very briefly, first, I thank the Minister for his courtesy in writing to a number of us last week about the misunderstandings that went back and forth over donations to political parties. His explanation is clear. There may still be some small ways in which the provision could be misused, but they are not significant; so I am grateful to him.
I should also sayI will say it this way to save the time of the Housethat I very much agreed with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, said. So I do not have to say it again. Finally, can the Minister confirm in as many wordshe has come pretty closethat if it became clear that any Minister was not committed to upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland, that Minister would promptly be
19 July 2006 : Column 1293
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am sorry to have dumped this on the House. I had no other opportunity to do so, as there is only one amendment. The rules of this placethere are no rules of this placemake it easier to do these things, because we do not have Third Reading speeches. We are going to come back to this, because the other place will consider the amendments to the Bill and there will be an opportunity on Tuesday for us to deal with that. The answer to the final question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is yes. I appreciate what he said about the letter, which I hope clarified the position. It certainly cleared it up for me.
I am also grateful for the broad welcome given by the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, to the short statement that I was able to give. Let us make it absolutely clear that we do not want direct rule; we want the Assembly back. In the event that we continue with direct rule, the entire legislative framework and the laws governing Northern Ireland will be made here at Westminster, and there will be more scrutiny than there has been in the past 30 years. That is quite clear from the statement. No one need be in any doubt whatever about that in Northern Ireland.
The noble Baroness made a point about speed. Usually when Ministers want to hedge things, they say, We will do this in due course or We will do this shortly. I actually saidI have it in bold in front of me, and I said word for word,
Quickly does mean quickly after 24 November. I do not know the date of the Queens Speech at the momentthere is a bit of flexibility at that point in the year because of the date of the State Opening of Parliamentbut it will happen quite quickly afterwards.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, for his welcome and for the background that he gave but, to avoid any doubt, the Bill does not devolve policing. It enables policing to be devolved, but it was made abundantly clear before the noble Lord entered the House that it will be some way down the road before the triggerif I can use that termwould be pulled to devolve. However, the Government were obliged to put on the statute book the legislative framework for the possible planned devolution of policing, which is what the Bill does. It does not devolve policing. That was made quite clear.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, my right honourable friend does not make foolish speeches. He made an excellent speech on Sunday. It was quite a long one, and he said one or two things about the consequences if plan B comes into being; in other words, direct rule will continue. We have made it quite clear that we
19 July 2006 : Column 1294
For 30-odd years we have dealt with unsatisfactory legislation for Northern Ireland. Having got an Assembly up and runningand hoping that it would be back by nowwe have tried in the past 12 months or so to find a mechanism. But we have reached the point where we have said what we have said today, and that goes further than anything else over the past 30-odd years. It is a major upheaval. Let me put it this way: the usual channels will want to make sure that this is for Northern Ireland only. It is secondary legislation quite distinctly for Northern Ireland.
I want to make a final point. The other day someone mentioned the budget. In this House we do not debate in great detail the Budget for Great Britain; so I donot expect that we will be debating in detail the budget for Northern Ireland. There are rules on finance that we have to abide by, and I think that that is quite legitimate. But the general spirit of everything else shows that this is a major and substantial change to the democratic scrutiny of legislation under which the people of Northern Ireland live. I am grateful for noble Lords response to the statement. I hope that when the Commons have looked at the amendmentsin your Lordships House, and perhaps sent us a message back, we can reach an amicable solution so that the Bill can receive Royal Assent.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for that response and for the whole way in which he has handled the Bill for the Government. I refer in particular to a little incident that happened yesterday. Early in the afternoon I had a meeting with him in his office. Later in the afternoon, he was in my office and we reached a mutual agreement that we had it right at this end and the other end had cocked it upif I can use that language in this place. The result has finally come out of the machine and the statement he has read out is agreed by all of us. I think that it is a very good compromise.
I have also read the Secretary of States speech, which probably should not have been mentioned this afternoon. It took me about 20 minutes to readit is a very long speech. I am not sure that it was totally brilliant for the location in which it was made or for the audience to whom it was made. I thought he took a number of risks, but we shall find out how that has worked as it makes its way through.
Having said that, I am afraid that I have to return to my amendment. On this occasion I think that the Government and the Minister are wrong and that it is necessary to strengthen this part of either the pledge or the reasons for removing Ministers from power. The point is criticalcrucialto the debate now taking place between the parties and there should be no fudging: it has to be absolutely crystal clear. I am sure that I am not being presumptive in saying that I
19 July 2006 : Column 1295
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I would like to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place. The Statement is as follows:Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about our plans for transforming the Home Office. I have today placed in the Library a copy of a reform action plan which gives full details of the changes we intend to make. All political change should start with values and objectives. The Home Office exists to protect the key elements of civilised society in this countryto reduce fear and increase security, from global terrorism to local cohesion in our streets and communities; from justice and fairness through to the protection of opportunities to live life in security. But the context in which we seek to apply these values is changing faster than ever before, and changing fundamentally, creating new and different challenges for the future.In the past 15 years we have seen seismic geopolitical changes, from the global to the local. Globally, the old Cold War had frozen the world into relative immobility. States were static and frozen, ethnic tensions and religious extremism repressed, borders inviolable and peoples largely static. The end of the Cold War brought a torrent of new problems and, above all, the challenge of international mobility on a hitherto unimaginable scale. We have seen unprecedented levels of migration, with the movement of more than 200 million people in 2005, the development of international terrorism and the growth of global and organised crime. From global to local, relative immobility has given way to social and geographic mobility, where the old group allegiances, extended family relationships and inherited patterns of voting and religious observance have broken down and, with them, the old forms of community cohesion. Moreover, unlike most other government departments in this changing context, many of the people with whom the Home Office is tryingto dealprisoners, criminals and illegal immigrantssee it as their primary objective not to co-operate with government and to resist our authority and evade our control.In the face of these challenges, the Home Office has been in a process of change and reform for some years. The department also has a more
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|