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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 3, line 25, leave out ("not incompatible with any of those rights but") and insert ("incompatible with Community law;

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 3, leave out line 28.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 3, line 29, leave out subsection (3).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.]

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 3, line 41, at end insert--
("(5) Her Majesty may by Order in Council specify functions which are to be treated, for such purposes of this Act as may be specified, as being, or as not being, functions which are exercisable in or as regards Northern Ireland.
(6) No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty to make an Order in Council under subsection (5) unless a draft of the Order has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: The package of amendments beginning with Amendment No. 17 is intended to clarify the Northern Ireland Assembly's powers to regulate sea fisheries. The scheme it sets out is, with the necessary amendments for our different context, the same as the one put to your Lordships in the Scotland Bill. The Assembly will be able to regulate sea fisheries inside a Northern Ireland zone defined in Amendments Nos. 210 and 214, but not beyond it, other than in respect of Northern Ireland fishing boats, because Amendment No. 244 makes regulation of sea fisheries outside the Northern Ireland zone, except in respect of these boats, an excepted matter. But within those limitations, there

19 Oct 1998 : Column 1220

will still be cases where the Assembly's writ must run outside Northern Ireland. To avoid any doubt, Amendment No. 17 provides for an Order in Council, subject to affirmative resolution, to specify when functions are exercisable in or as regards Northern Ireland. We shall later have other consequential amendments to propose to Clause 72.

In putting forward these amendments, I emphasise to your Lordships that these powers allow the broad thrust of regulation and licensing of sea fisheries to continue, without imposing additional bureaucracy or disturbance on the fishing industry. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I understand the purpose of these amendments. As the noble Lord the Minister has said, it is to transfer fisheries matters in part to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The problem with them is that most of the important decisions in connection with fisheries are taken by the European Community by agreement. This brings us to the question of who will represent the Northern Ireland fishing interests when such matters are discussed and negotiated at the Council of Ministers. These matters, along with agriculture, are some of the most contentious and difficult negotiations that ever take place in the European Union, and that is saying an awful lot. There are some very difficult matters which have to be dealt with at the Council of Ministers, but fishing and agriculture are among the most difficult.

The present position is that UK Ministers will negotiate fish quotas, total allowable catches and matters of that kind. There is no question but that the United Kingdom will be involved in those negotiations. The United Kingdom is the body which is the member of the European Union, and will remain so. Northern Ireland will not become a separate member, nor is it desirable that it should. The UK Ministers will deal with the negotiations and will be answerable to Parliament for the decisions they have made and for the way in which the negotiations have turned out. I am sure they will consult with the Northern Ireland ministers, as they will with Scottish representatives, before they go and do their deals; but they will need to do their deals in the middle of the night and in the small hours of the morning, without benefit of immediate consultation at that time, unless they take a Scottish and a Northern Ireland representative with them. The UK Ministers will not be able to answer to the Northern Ireland Assembly, or indeed to the Scottish parliament or anywhere else but only to the Westminster Parliament.

This matter came up in some detail on a number of occasions in the Scotland Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, speaking for the Government, was quite clear about it. He was clear that Scottish ministers would report to the Scottish parliament and UK Ministers would report to the Westminster Parliament. He also said:

    "Scottish ministers and UK Ministers will agree the UK line on negotiations in Brussels".--[Official Report, 28/7/98; col. 1434.]
I am sure he meant that, once this Bill has been enacted, Scottish ministers, Northern Ireland ministers and UK Ministers would agree on the line insofar as it affects

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Northern Ireland interests, if these are to be transferred. At the stage that he was speaking this amendment had not been put down and there was not a proposal to move fisheries questions to Northern Ireland. I am not criticising what the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said on that occasion; he was quite right at the time, but the situation has changed as a result of these amendments. The position will now be even more complicated for UK Ministers.

This makes one wonder whether it is sensible to move the responsibility for fisheries matters to Northern Ireland. I realise that it is a matter of great importance to Northern Ireland, as is agriculture. One could use the same arguments about agriculture, and I am not proposing that agriculture should not be devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. There is this difficulty, however: that all the important matters affecting fisheries inevitably happen in Brussels and Luxembourg, at the meetings of the Council of Ministers. It is important that the Government and the House understand that, at the time when we consider transferring fisheries matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Lord Dubs: I am happy to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, question. It is clear that our negotiating position in Brussels will be taken by the United Kingdom Minister, that is to say the Westminster Minister, whether it be at Agriculture Council meetings, Fisheries Council meetings or at other council meetings in Brussels. We shall certainly be following the Scottish example in Northern Ireland practice. UK Ministers will continue to negotiate on behalf of the Northern Ireland sea fishing industry. Northern Ireland ministers will have an opportunity to contribute to the United Kingdom negotiating position, however, and they may on occasions be invited to attend the Council of Ministers for appropriate discussions. Indeed, I have on occasion been to agriculture meetings in Brussels where the subject at issue has been of direct concern to Northern Ireland, but the responsibility for our negotiating position was, of course, with the senior MAFF Minister present.

As regards giving effect to Brussels measures, the present Northern Ireland Order in Council procedure has often been used and the Assembly would have that responsibility in future. The position is therefore clear. The negotiating position in Brussels is clear and then, to give effect to these measures, the Assembly would have to pass such measures as appropriate.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: May I ask the noble Lord the Minister how paragraph 17 of strand two of the agreement bears on all this? It is about the British-Irish Council and it reads:

    "The Council to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings".

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Can I take it that what he has just said would not lead to the issue of fisheries also being put to the British-Irish Council? It seems to me that that would cause immense complications.

Lord Dubs: These are fairly complicated matters and in some cases they might be a little hypothetical.

It is quite possible for there to be co-operation through the North/South body between Northern Ireland and Dublin. I think that is the point of paragraph 17 on page 13 of the Belfast agreement. The responsibility for this country's negotiating position, however, will still be that of the MAFF Minister, or whatever other Minister is appropriate. Clearly the Dublin Government would have its own Minister doing that, but that does not mean that there could not be co-operation and discussion. The views expressed through such a North/South body would clearly be listened to, both by the appropriate Minister in Dublin and by the appropriate Minister in London. That is different from who is responsible for negotiating for each country.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Scrutiny by Presiding Officer]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 18 to 20:

Page 4, line 8, leave out ("Subject to subsection (2),").
Page 4, line 10, leave out ("be outside") and insert ("not be within").
Page 4, line 11, leave out subsection (2).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 [Scrutiny by the Judicial Committee]:

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