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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I suppose I invited my previous arguments about the names being on the list to be played back against me. I

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suggested that as the list ran out somebody should be nominated by the relevant political party. In my original remarks I accepted that such events were fairly unlikely. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, that although I cannot pinpoint it in the many days of debate that we have had, his noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood suggested that he could not see the point of putting up 12 names because they just cluttered up the ballot paper. If a party took that view it is quite conceivable that, over a four-year term, it may well run out of names for a by-election.

At this late stage of the Bill I shall not press the amendment. I thought it worth a try if the Government were prepared to accept that it might be the way to guard against an unlikely situation where a party had to run for the remains of a parliament under-represented when it came to proportionality, which seems to be considered so important by some people. But clearly that is not quite as important as showing all the names in the ballot paper. As I have been arguing for that, I can hardly complain if the Minister uses that argument against me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Presiding Officer]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 9, line 32, at end insert--
("( ) The Parliament may change the title "Presiding Officer" to such other title as it considers appropriate.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendment No. 24. We had an interesting debate on a number of occasions about this matter. It is like ships steaming towards each other in the fog and passing without actually seeing each other. We have been doing that with the Government on this issue for some time. I thought I should make one last attempt to put forward the principle that the parliament should be left to decide those matters.

The problem is that the Government have chosen two pretty unwieldy titles: one is "Presiding Officer", instead of "Speaker"; and the other is "First Minister" instead of "Premier" or "Prime Minister". They are also proposing "Scottish Executive" rather than "Scottish Government". In this respect, the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood--who still seems to be driving around somewhere in Africa--and I joined an alliance in an attempt to persuade the Government that that is a fairly daft proposition. The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, had a splendid letter from Northern Ireland, where it turns out that the person who presides over the Northern Irish Assembly calls him or herself the "Speaker", and that is on the printed paper.

As your Lordships know, all over the world, especially the English-speaking world, the person who presides over parliaments is called the "Speaker". That has been drawn to our attention with the problems of Newt Gingrich, who does not wish to seek re-election as Speaker of the House of Representatives in America. The word "speaker" has nothing to do with the traditions

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of the American parliament; its has everything to do with the traditions of the other place. It is an accepted word. We have had this argument a number of times.

I want to be absolutely sure in my mind. The parliament in Scotland will decide--as sure as this is Monday afternoon--that the person who presides over it will be called the "Speaker" and the Ministers will be called "Government Ministers" of the Government of Scotland. My view is that the First Minister will probably end up being called the "Prime Minister". I suggested that if we called him the "Premier" we might get that title to stick, but he will be called the "Prime Minister".

Lord Renton: My Lords, I put forward a small suggestion. Could there not be a compromise which relates to Northern Ireland? Instead of "Prime Minister", which refers essentially to the United Kingdom, could not the word "Premier" be used?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I do not blame my noble friend for not having been present during the many happy hours we had in Committee and on Report. I tried to propose this amendment at an earlier stage and, as always, I was rebuffed, very politely, by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, whose job it is to deal with this particular problem.

Without intruding into the private grief of the Labour Party, I could not help noticing in one media report--it was an electronic media report--the problems that the party was having in Wales. When describing someone to replace the person whom I shall not name, the report said, "effectively the Prime Minister of Wales". I gave a loud cheer and said, "There it is, proof positive".

This is another effort and I hope it is a joint effort with the Liberal Democrat Party. The suggestion is to leave the decision on those matters to the parliament and make it clear that it can use those more traditional titles. At least that will be a step in the right direction. The parliament meets on 1st May and by the end of next year, whether the Government like it or not, the titles will be those that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and myself have suggested. We want to know from the Government that the parliament will not be doing anything illegal and that its members will not be clapped in the Tower if they decide to ignore what this House and the other place insist upon but use the titles that are used in all parliaments around the world. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, will be unable to find any inconsistency with the Liberal Democrat Party in this case. It is absolutely ludicrous to try to foist on the Scottish parliament names which are unprepossessing, unattractive, not Scottish and not British. The noble Lady and the noble Lord will know the expression "It is bairny" to insist on that. No self-respecting Scottish parliament would put up with it. I believe that they ought to indicate now that the Scottish parliament can call the ministers exactly what it likes, provided it is not rude.

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3.45 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 10 and 24 bring us back, again, to the question of whether the Bill should prescribe titles for the key office holders it creates. Noble Lords opposite have made their views very clearly felt on this subject on quite a number of occasions now. The Government's views on this issue are well known by this time and have been gone over during Committee and Report stage at considerable length.

In brief, it is important for the sake of legislative certainty and consistency in the law throughout the UK that the Bill prescribes the titles from the outset. It is important that everyone is clear exactly who is being referred to in this legislation, in future legislation and in other formal documents. As I have said before, this will ensure that there is no doubt about who should be carrying out any duties provided for in the Bill. By prescribing simple and straightforward titles, we hope to ensure there is no confusion between offices and positions so everyone knows where they stand and what their responsibilities are.

That will be particularly critical for third parties outside the Parliament. They will simply want to know that, for example, an official document is what it purports to be, or that a legal case should be raised against a particular person holding a particular office. The Government believe that these titles are clear and unambiguous and suit the purpose. They avoid any risk of confusion with the established titles used at Westminster. I think we are doing a substantial service to all those, very many, people who are likely to have dealings with the First Minister and the executive and the presiding officer, by providing for settled titles in the Bill for those offices.

In view of some of the views expressed by noble Lords in both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Benches in earlier stages of the Bill, I want to set straight, for the record, some facts about the situations regarding Wales and Northern Ireland. First, Wales. The Government of Wales Act prescribes titles for the first secretary and assembly secretaries. It also prescribes the names of some of the assembly's committees. It does allow the standing orders to prescribe a different title for the presiding officer and deputy presiding officer, but I understand that the National Assembly Advisory Group has recommended that the titles should be presiding officer and deputy presiding officer. Those will be specified in the assembly's standing orders, which the assembly can amend with a two-thirds majority.

The Northern Ireland Bill provides for a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister in Clause 14, the executive committee in Clause 18 and a presiding officer in Clause 37. There is no doubt that the titles First Minister and Deputy First Minister are now in common accepted usage for both Mr. Trimble and Mr. Mallon. Although I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said about the First Minister in Northern Ireland being called "Premier", I believe that in the case of Northern Ireland the title "First Minister" for Mr. Trimble and "Deputy First Minister" for Mr. Mallon has come into common usage.

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The initial standing orders drafted by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland refer to the presiding officer. Much was made at earlier stages of the fact that it is understood that the members of the assembly who are involved in preparing the standing orders now are considering using a different title for presiding officer. The assembly is, of course, in quite a special situation in having been elected before the Bill is enacted. The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, referred to the letter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, at an earlier stage of the Bill. I do not know exactly what that letter was. I understood that it was from somebody who said he was an aide to the speaker, and "speaker" was the word he used. However, in front of me I have a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his official letter, as the presiding officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly is headed, "Initial Presiding Officer", which is the correct title and follows the title in the Bill.

I do not know whether we should compare letters but this is a letter dated 7th September 1998, so it is nothing if not current.

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