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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am certainly not for letting them off the hook. I hope that we shall achieve, as a result of the agreement, greater co-operation. As a matter of fact the present Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, was the employment minister when I was at the Department of Employment carrying out most of the European business for the department. I had good co-operation with him at that time on many matters which did not involve too much money. I have every hope therefore that the co-operation will be good. However, the Northern Ireland representation in Europe, as the Minister said, has to be within the context of the United Kingdom position as a whole.

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In response to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, of course there are other members of the Community who have either minority groups within their countries, such as he suggested, or, for that matter, a great deal of devolution. The German lander is one obvious example. Those countries do their best to achieve a united front for their country when they come to negotiate in the councils, and on the whole they are very good at it. If they stray they certainly get short change from the other people round the table, and not much notice is taken of a country which argues simply on the basis of one little part of its own framework if that is not thought to be in the interests of the country as a whole.

It is a difficult balance to keep but it is important that representatives attending the councils from the United Kingdom, whether they are Westminster Ministers or Ministers from Edinburgh or Belfast, should be arguing in support of the United Kingdom line as a whole: otherwise we certainly weaken the whole of our case. I think the Minister is seized of that, and certainly the paragraphs which I read out from the White Paper on Scottish government reflect that.

My noble friend Lord Renton made polite references to myself and the Scotland Bill. The extract that I read out was from the White Paper rather than the Bill and described what was to happen. The Bill follows it a little but, basically, these arrangements are not incorporated in the Bill. That rather supports the Minister's suggestions that we should deal with this matter outside the Bill rather than inside it. I am inclined to go along with that.

With those comments, I am grateful to all those who have taken part in the debate and I seek leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 75 [Assembly property]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 193A:

Page 38, line 30, leave out subsection (1) and insert--
("(1) Subject to subsection (2), all property such as is mentioned in section 31(4) of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 (property held in trust for Parliament of Northern Ireland etc.) shall on and after the commencement of this section be applied for the purposes of the Assembly or such other purposes as the Department of the Environment ("the Department") may determine.").

The noble Lord said: The Government amendments in this group are an assortment of technical and drafting amendments.

Amendment No. 193A to Clause 75 is intended to correct a defect in the current provisions relating to Assembly property. The clause is intended to bear on the property, essentially concerning the Stormont Estate, covered by Section 31 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. The clause, however, at present mis-describes this, referring to property held for the purposes of the Assembly established in 1973. The property is in fact held, according to the terms of the relevant trusts, for the Parliament of Northern Ireland abolished in 1973. All this property will, by virtue of Amendment No. 199A, vest for the future in the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. Since we are proposing in Amendment No. 282A that the issues in this clause should be reserved

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matters, rather than excepted ones as at present, the possibility will be open of the Assembly legislating on them, although with the consent of the Secretary of State and subject to parliamentary control.

Amendment No. 200 is a pure drafting amendment. The intention of Clause 77 is that no legislation made under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act or the direct rule powers in the Northern Ireland Act 1974, nor the instruments mentioned in the clause, should lapse because of the repeal of the power under which they were made. The amendment better achieves the purpose.

Amendment No. 201 omits a reference in Clause 77(1) to Section 70 of the Government of Ireland Act which is redundant, no relevant order-making power existing under that section.

Most of the amendments to Clauses 78 and 80 are consequential on earlier changes in the Bill. We have touched on some, but not all, in the course of discussions on earlier amendments. Amendment No. 202 is consequential on the new clause in relation to ministerial offices that the Committee has approved after Clause 14 of the Bill, transferring into the new clause the requirement of the negative resolution procedure in respect of the order-making power it contains.

Amendment No. 207 in Clause 80 is a matter of drafting. It substitutes a new definition of international obligations in line with the Scotland Bill but without change to the substance.

Amendment No. 209 is consequential on the omnibus definition of "Minister" in the new clause before Clause 18 on statutory functions--an area where, as I have said before, we shall need to do some tidying up on Report.

Amendment No. 210 is part of the package of amendments we discussed last week in relation to fisheries.

Amendment No. 211 corrects the drafting of the definition of subordinate legislation so as to take in not only orders made under Acts of the Assembly but also those made under previous Northern Ireland primary legislation.

Amendment No. 212 ensures that the definition of discriminatory legislation in Clause 80(2) catches subordinate legislation as well as primary legislation.

Amendment No. 216 brings into force immediately on the passing of the Bill our proposed new paragraph 12 to Schedule 13, set out in Amendment No. 342, which the Committee will consider tomorrow, by which statements in the Assembly, and their publication under the Assembly's authority, will have absolute privilege in defamation in relation to Assembly business. That will, in any event, be the position under the Bill after the appointed day.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 217 and 218 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. The establishment by the Irish Government of a human rights commission and the bringing into force of employment equality and equal status legislation, to which the amendments refer, are important commitments under the agreement. I am aware that the Irish Government are moving

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energetically to give effect to them. But these are different from the Irish commitments in relation to constitutional amendments, which we discussed last week, because the agreement does not set a deadline for them. The whole agreement must of course be progressively implemented, but it is certainly not a requirement that all of it must take effect at the establishment of devolved institutions; for example, the policing and criminal justice elements of the agreement move on a different time-scale. I do not think we should impose a time-scale where the talks participants did not impose one.

The House will be able to consider whether sufficient progress has been made with the agreement before it comes into force, because the devolution order made by my right honourable friend under Clause 3 must be approved here and in another place. But I do not think we should set any other requirements that do not feature in the agreement. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am content with the government amendments and seek only to address the two amendments which stand in my name, Amendments Nos. 217 and 218. As the Minister said, both seek in different ways to delay the coming into force of parts of this Bill until the equivalent parts of the Republic of Ireland legislation are also brought into force. I have drafted both these amendments so as to avoid the accusation that they are preconditions. In both cases, my intention is that their provisions should come into force at the same time as the relevant legislation in the Republic of Ireland.

When the House returned during the Recess to discuss the emergency legislation following the Omagh bombing, a great deal was made by the Minister and by his government colleagues elsewhere of the fact that both parliaments--that in the Republic of Ireland and the Parliament here in the United Kingdom--were acting together at the same time in response to the same incident. At other times during the course of the application of the agreement, it has been made clear that the two governments acting together, and the two parliaments acting together to a degree, are important parts of the way in which the agreement is being implemented as a joint effort. We very much value the support of the Irish Government and of the Dail for the measures which are being taken with regard to the agreement. In the agreement, they entered into commitments to take comparable steps to those taken in the United Kingdom with regard to both human rights and equality. We have discussed both points many times earlier today and previously in Committee with regard to the detailed steps that we are taking in this jurisdiction.

The agreement sets out comparable steps to be taken by the Republic of Ireland. It is much to be desired that both in terms of human rights and equality--separately, if necessary, because the timetables may not be the same--the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland should move together. Paragraph 18 of the agreement is

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very precise in terms of the commitment with regard to human rights. The Irish Government are to,

    "establish a Human Rights Commission with a mandate and remit equivalent to that within Northern Ireland".
It is not to be absolutely the same in every provision--no doubt Irish law is different from ours--but people in Northern Ireland want the reassurance of equivalent provisions with regard to human rights. There are also to be commitments from the Irish Government to,

    "implement enhanced employment equality legislation;

    introduce equal status legislation; and

    continue to take further active steps to demonstrate its respect for the different traditions in the island of Ireland".
The Minister will know that there has been criticism over the years of the fall since the foundation of the state in the 1920s in the proportion of the population of the Republic of Ireland who are Protestants. The way in which Protestants in the Republic have been treated has also been criticised from time to time--sometimes no doubt fairly and sometimes unfairly. Nevertheless, the criticism is there and it is strong. It is important in both jurisdictions that we also move together as regards the equality legislation.

All I am suggesting in my amendment is that, when we finally settle what should happen about human rights and about the equality commission, those sections of the Bill which implement such provisions should, in each case, come into force on the same day, in step with the same legislation in the Republic. That seems to me to be a relatively modest request to make. I hope the Minister will at least give it some consideration.

10 p.m.

Lord Hylton: I should very much like to see a human rights commission established in the Republic at the earliest possible date. Nevertheless, I have considerable doubts about this group of three amendments. I believe that it probably goes a good deal too far, notwithstanding whether or not it may be thought to constitute a precondition. First, I should like to know why we should subordinate our legislation to progress in the Republic. Secondly, if we were to accept such amendments, it seems to me that we would tie the hands of the Secretary of State in an unnecessary way.

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