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Lord Rooker: My Lords, I agree 100 per cent with what the noble Baroness said. For that reason I shall not say much more as that could make matters worse. As I have always said, the way to get a solution is for all the parties coming to the table to walk away from it feeling that they have been successful and for the language of failure, victory, war or defeat to disappear; in other words, everyone should feel that they have been successful. That is what emerged from the events of last week. The consequences of those events are momentous. The expectation is that the

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Northern Ireland Policing Board will operate in virtually the same way as policing in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is our aim and aspiration.

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, I welcome the Statement on the St Andrews agreement. That is possibly a misnomer since no one has yet agreed it; it is now up to the main political parties in Northern Ireland to agree it. But it is a proposal from the two Governments. I congratulate and thank the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of southern Ireland, Mr Ahern, for the energetic way in which they have attended to this issue.

I see the St Andrews agreement as an extension of the Belfast agreement. I congratulate all those who I hope will support it in the coming days. On the so-called elections or referendum, since both Governments discussed this issue the Minister cannot sidestep the question of what will happen in the Republic of Ireland. Will it be a case of a referendum or simply the approval of the southern Irish Parliament? It will be a referendum if there are constitutional problems in the Republic. We need clarity on that issue. I am certain that that was discussed.

As regards Northern Ireland, would it not be odd to have a referendum if all the parties supported the issue? You would get very little enthusiasm for that and parties would be very unwilling to commit money to a referendum where the result was obvious. It may well be better for political parties to get a new mandate on the basis of the St Andrews agreement.

Will the Minister clarify the position on academic selection, as I am still slightly confused? If the St Andrews agreement proceeds and the Assembly and the Executive come into operation, will academic selection continue without taking any further decision? Will it be changed only after a cross-party vote in the new Assembly?

As clearly it was discussed with the southernIrish Government, and there is reference to it in theSt Andrews agreement, what is Plan B? Or do we have to use other means to find out what it is? The people of Northern Ireland need to know what the alternative is.

Will the Minister tell us more about the suggestion of a reduction in corporation tax in one part of the United Kingdom? Would that not mean fewer tax transfers from Northern Ireland to the Treasury? Certainly, it would be welcomed by business people, but would it not mean in return that the Treasury might send less money to the devolved institution, resulting in reduced expenditure on housing, hospitals and education?

Finally, when the St Andrews agreement is approved and the Assembly is up and running with an Executive, will the IRA still exist?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, under the rules of the House I believe that I have a choice of answering two of those six questions, so I will choose the two easy ones. There is no Plan B. If the noble Lord reads Hansard, he will see that the Statement said that if

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necessary we would formulate Plan B. There is no secret, hidden Plan B. If it all falls apart, we will formulate Plan B.

I repeat what I said about academic selection in case I did not make myself clear. If there is agreement by 10 November and the Assembly is restored by26 March next year, a decision to ban academic selection will be taken by the Assembly on a cross-community vote. When we discussed the order recently we agreed that that matter would be left to the Assembly provided it was restored. If there is no agreement and no Assembly, academic selection will remain banned. That is the position.

I cannot add to what I said on the elections. I do not answer for the Republic of Ireland; I answer for the United Kingdom Government. We shall discuss with the parties the best way of letting the people speak. That is their desire; the parties raised that themselves. There is a choice—an election or a referendum. That matter will be discussed in the weeks ahead.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I join others in wholeheartedly welcoming the agreement. I welcome also the efforts made by the Minister, his colleagues, the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach. When the Member for North Antrim, the Reverend Ian Paisley, becomes the First Minister in Northern Ireland, he will be entitled to the support of all parts of the community. Was it not always the case that when he and Gerry Adams sat down at a table together under this agreement, we would make progress in Northern Ireland?

Can the Minister give the House any idea when the ard fheis is likely to be held to approve these proposals? Does he agree that unless the central issue of policing and the maintenance of law and order is addressed, and the rhetoric turned into reality, all the words will wither? Therefore, we need assurances about how to encourage members of the nationalist/republican community to join the Northern Ireland police service, to become involved and to do the things that were referred to today.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, but I would counsel one thing. It does not serve any purpose for anyone anywhere to seek to put further hurdles in the way of any of the political parties in Northern Ireland making their internal decisions. The dates for decisions have been agreed. There is 10 November—and we have promised the Government that we will legislate urgently through this House and the other place—and there is26 March. It is entirely up to the political parties of Northern Ireland, the independent, registered political parties, to make their decisions. They know what decisions have to be made, and they have to be clear and transparent so that we can get an agreement.

I do not think that we should second guess those parties, saying, “We need to know by another date”, or whatever. It is up to them to do that. They are responsible and they want to share in the process. I agree entirely with the first part of the noble Lord’s

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remarks regarding the leader of the DUP. Nevertheless, it is up to the political parties in Northern Ireland now. The ball is truly in their court now; by 10 November we require their agreement to the St Andrews agreement. Otherwise there will be dissolution of the Assembly.

Lord Snape: My Lords, while tributes have quite properly been paid to the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and to the leadership of Sinn Fein, I detain your Lordships for a moment in paying tribute to the work, dedication and courage of the Prime Minister in bringing about this move towards an agreement. Does my noble friend agree that the success of devolution in Scotland and Wales has helped to change the climate in Northern Ireland? Again, that devolution has come about because of the courage of this Government, and this Prime Minister in particular.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend. The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister could easily have walked away from this. He could easily have walked away and not spent the time that he has chosen to spend on it. Frankly, very few people would have blamed him if he had walked away; but he did not. He gave leadership to try to bring the parties to an agreement, and it can only be an agreement where each of the parties feels as though they share some of the success. As I have said, the language of defeat and victory must be abolished. They have all got to feel as though they have a share of the success, and that is what the Prime Minister has been able to do.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I congratulate both Governments unreservedly on Friday’s achievement in Scotland and on the contents of today’s Statement. I got into trouble more than a decade ago for congratulating the leaders of Sinn Fein on their courage. I do not think that I shall get into any trouble at all today if I especially congratulate the right honourable gentleman for North Antrim, Dr Paisley, on his courage. Of all the 14 places where Robert the Bruce may have famously observed the stamina of the spider, the most favoured is Rathlin Island, off the north Antrim coast. Now we have further proof. When does the Minister think the most fruitful time would be for your Lordships’ House to debate these historic matters?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I cannot comment on that, but I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord. I am told that the people of Rathlin Island vote to a man and woman for the leader of the DUP, because he got them electricity as a constituency Member, so he is definitely in their favour.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, like everyone else who has spoken, I think the people who made this proposal for an agreement are to be congratulated from all sides. I have three questions for the Minister. This is about devolution and not independence. Is there any indication from Sinn Fein

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that when we have a devolved Assembly—if we have it—it will come to Parliament to represent its constituents and make the proper Oath of Allegiance so that it can serve its constituents not only in the devolved Assembly but in this Parliament?

Secondly, I have a question on Annexe B, which says:

Why does a devolved Northern Ireland need a separate Bill of Rights? We already have a Bill of Rights that applies to the whole of the United Kingdom. I would like to hear the Minister’s comments on why there is a proposal for Northern Ireland to have a separate Bill of Rights when it will still be part of the United Kingdom.

Finally, will the Minister explain the sentence on page 5 of the Statement:

Could we know what d’Hondt is? I think I probably do know, but not everyone does, and it would be nice to have it in Hansard.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I will choose to answer the one easy question; d’Hondt is the formula for dividing up the proportions of the parties in the Executive to be Ministers. It is a well-known formula; I do not have a visual aid to explain how it works. It has worked before in Northern Ireland; it works elsewhere. Everyone accepts that it is a fair way to distribute seats.

On the other two questions, Annexe B speaks for itself. Northern Ireland has different rights and rules, and there is different legislation relating to equality. There are several mentions of that. Secondly, as far as the noble Lord’s first question is concerned: again, why put further hurdles in the way of parties who are coming to an agreement?

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I have two questions for the Minister. First, has the IRA now agreed to recognise British courts and British justice, which it has still steadfastly refused to do publicly? Incidentally, when is the McCartney case going to come to trial?

Secondly, I see that there is concern about victims, and that is very reassuring. When Martin McGuinness was last asked whether they would allow back those people who had been expelled from Northern Ireland by the paramilitaries, he said that that would not be in the interests of the community, and they would not do it. Has that issue been taken up? Are the rights of those people, very many of them expelled for the most monstrous reasons, to be taken up? I ask because it is little use to talk about victims without paying attention to the victims who still exist and who need not be victims.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, as I recall, one of the four orders due in Grand Committee next week relates to victims; it may relate to the victims’ commissioner. I

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will be happy to take advice to answer that. I cannot possibly comment on the McCartney case; it is not relevant to this Statement.

As far as recognising the courts is concerned, the specific answer to the question is, “I don’t know”. But the point is that we are dealing here with the devolution of the criminal justice and policing system of Northern Ireland. That is what this has all been about, and the recognition and acceptance of that has actually been the key to unlocking movement to get the Assembly back. So movement is under way on this, and that is clearly set out both in the Statement that has been made by the Secretary of State and in the agreement. We will know by 10 November.

Violent Crime Reduction Bill

5.58 pm

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 16.

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 25 not moved.]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 26:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when I spoke to the large group of amendments that represented questions from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, I made the point that there would be a couple of other amendments covering new aspects that I would need to move today on matters that had been brought to my notice since Committee.

Amendment No. 26 seeks to build consultation into the time frame of creating an alcohol disorder zone. The licensed trade has pointed out that it would be sensible to have a statutory two-week period between the action plan stage and the potential stage of the designation of the zone. That would allow time for the essential consultation between the local authority, the police and all affected businesses. Surely, it would be to the benefit of everyone in the community if there were time built into the process for constructive discussion to take place between all parties on how best to deal with the problems in a locality. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it might help if I set out how we see ADZ designation working. An ADZ can be implemented if, after eight weeks following publication of the action plan, steps are not being taken that are sufficient to enable the local authority to consider designation to be necessary, or if before or after eight weeks the local authority is satisfied that the plan will not be implemented or that the steps required are no longer being taken, or if that effect is no longer being given to arrangements made in accordance with the plan.

The amendment seeks to add a further stage to the process at the eight-week point if the local authority

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does not consider that the steps taken are sufficient to render the designation unnecessary. It would require local authorities—as I understand it, and as the noble Baroness has explained—to consult licensees for a further period of 14 days before designating the ADZ. I understand the noble Baroness’s concern, which, I assume, is intended to ensure that a final warning is issued before the local authority designates an ADZ—the final opportunity to take steps to implement the action plan.

As I stressed in Committee, the action plan is the real prize. That is best illustrated by the constructive work we have undertaken with the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, following Committee, on the guidance to local authorities on designation and the flexible approach that we want to see taken towards the action plan.

Throughout the eight-week period, we expect the local authority to engage with licensees to ensure that steps to implement the action plan are under way. It is clear that sitting back and waiting for the eight weeks to expire will not achieve the desired outcome. There will be a need to ensure that licensees are given ample warning before designation. However, I do not believe that we need to introduce an additional step into the process in the Bill or, effectively, to seek to prolong the eight-week period and turn it into a 10-week period.

Guidance will reinforce the need for local authorities to engage with licensees throughout the eight weeks and for local authorities to ensure that, as the eight-week point approaches, licensees have every opportunity to deliver on the plan. It is important to see how that operates on the ground. If we can get the guidance right and ensure that the eight-week period is used actively, whereby there is a continual loop of contact between the local authority, police, licensees and so on, then the issue of concern to the noble Baroness will melt away and the process will be more workable and less bureaucratic, so that the extra period she seeks will become unnecessary.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, as the Minister stated, the Government see the action plan as the real prize. Responsible traders have already been involved in working out their own action plans and we are concerned that there is not too much bureaucracy or that steps are not taken against people who are trying to ensure that there is no public disorder.

Like the Minister, I do not wish for the period of consultation for the action plan to stretch so much that nothing ever gets done. Equally, I want to ensure that the consultation period is carried out effectively and that those who co-operate in producing the plan do not suddenly find themselves facing the imposition of a plan and an ADZ when they have tried to do all that they can.

I appreciate why the Government are trying to avoid an extra two-week delay in the system, but given that this is a new idea, I will go back to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and find out whether the Minister’s words have reassured it or whether I need

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to take any further action at Third Reading. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 [Procedure for designation of zones]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved AmendmentNo. 27:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I retabled this amendment because I am anxious about whether the Government have had any further thought about terminating the orders made under Clause 15. I have suggested to the Government that there should be a cap on the statutory charge; that has not been successful. Your Lordships have voted down our suggestion that there should be further clarification of the extent of an alcohol disorder zone. The amendment deals with its temporal limits.

I am anxious that the local authority that seeks to designate such zones should not find them an easy way of raising additional revenue and roll them over, which is what the Bill permits. The order can be rolled over without again going through the necessary procedures. The purpose of tabling the amendment is to ask the Minister whether there is any news. Have we advanced? If not, what is his and his colleagues’ thinking on this issue? I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am not sure that we have much more to add to what was said in Committee. I can understand where the noble Lord is coming from and is trying to go. The amendment imposes a sunset of a year on an alcohol disorder zone after compulsory charging begins. That is not right, nor is the requirement for the local authority and local police authority, not the local chief police officer, to restart the process if they believe that the ADZ should continue. We can see no merit in the noble Lord’s proposal.

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