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Lord Dubs: My Lords, in his opening comments, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said that many amendments had

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been tabled to the Bill. He implied that that was something of which he was critical. I should say to the noble Lord and the House that this legislation has had to be prepared very quickly indeed. In a perfect world we should have had more time to go through the drafting of the legislation and avoid the large number of amendments that had to be brought into your Lordships' House after the debate before the Summer Recess in the other place.

Of course, I regret that so many amendments have been put before your Lordships. I ask your Lordships' understanding of the fact that it has been necessary to have a timetable which meant that we had to do that work very quickly. Many further discussions with the parties in Northern Ireland took place over the summer. That is the reason for many of the amendments. Others are technical or drafting amendments to improve the Bill. I repeat that I hope your Lordships will understand and be sympathetic to the need to get this Bill quickly onto the statute book because the peace process depends to a large extent on making rapid progress with those measures.

I turn now to deal with the introductory comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux. I do not agree with him that the parties to the Good Friday agreement did not understand it fully. In some respects, they understood it very well indeed. There may be some points of detail which, in the hurry to get the agreement signed, were not discussed as fully as they might have been. However, my understanding is that the parties are aware of what they agreed to on Good Friday and, by and large, they support it. I do not believe that there has been any movement away on the part of the people who originally supported the agreement, as the noble Lord suggested.

There have been significant achievements. I remind the noble Lord that with the exception of one small grouping all the terrorist groups are on a ceasefire. We have made considerable progress with the referendum, with an Assembly in place, with a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister in place. Intensive discussion is taking place about various of the institutions to be set up under the Good Friday agreement. Therefore, although there are still some difficulties ahead of us, I believe that progress has been most significant--indeed, progress that most people would not have believed could have been attained had we had this conversation perhaps eight or nine months ago.

I turn now to the substance of the amendments. We had some debate on the issues in Committee on amendments with a similar effect to those proposed now by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, seeking to bring Clauses 1 and 2 into force only at the point at which the Irish constitutional amendments became law in that jurisdiction. I reassured the noble Lord that that was precisely the intention and that we should achieve it by the Secretary of State making a commencement order for those provisions to come into force on the same day that the Irish brought into force their constitutional amendments. Indeed, that would be the day on which the main institutions of the agreement would come into full effect. The Irish Government will be under an obligation in international law to bring those provisions into force.

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The two sets of constitutional provisions can clearly only come into force simultaneously: they are complementary and represent the working through of the consent principles to which the agreement binds us. We are firmly committed to making every effort to reach the stage of devolution when these two sets of provisions will become live. But if we were by some mischance not to get there, the Irish constitutional amendments could not come into force. I reassure the House, once again, that we would not bring ours into force either. I have made clear what the position of the Secretary of State would be. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, was good enough to say in Committee that he did not wish to cast doubt on the word of the Secretary of State in this matter.

Therefore, as at Committee stage, I believe that the spirit and indeed the intention of the noble Lord's amendments are met. My objection to them--apart from the fact that they are necessary--is that they seek to make additions to texts which form part of the agreement. I suggest that those who say that they are committed to the agreement simply cannot do so. We do not want anyone else adding glosses to their obligations under the agreement, and we should not do so ourselves. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, in response to the Minister's first points, I am certainly sympathetic to the need for this legislation, as I have made clear throughout our proceedings. For the most part, I am not complaining about the government amendments that are being made. However, I am complaining about the great difficulty for your Lordships, and other people outside the Chamber, which arises when such amendments are tabled so very late in the proceedings. It is not as if it is exactly a rare occurrence for this Government. I understand that about 350 government amendments were made to the Scotland Bill during its time in this House.

After all, this Bill left another place at the end of July and here we have amendments being tabled on the very night before our Report stage debates. Indeed, some of them were tabled and then withdrawn during the course of last week, in particular on Thursday and Friday. That is the difficulty. I understand that the practice may have been essential and that the Government may have been driven to it in this particular instance. However, it should not become normal practice. It is only right to draw the attention of the House, and indeed that of the Government, to the fact that that is not an acceptable practice. It makes good legislation very difficult to achieve.

I turn now to the substance of the amendments. I still believe that it would have been better to have put into the legislation the undertaking which the Minister has given on behalf of the Secretary of State. The Irish legislation provides that, the referendum having been successfully conducted in the Republic, their constitution will automatically change when the agreement comes into force. It would be better if our legislation were set up so that the changes in the constitution in the UK also came into force

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automatically when the agreement came into force. I do not doubt the word of the Secretary of State; nor do I wish to be seen to do so. In view of the Minister's undertaking, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson: moved Amendment No. 2.

Page 1, line 15, after ("of") insert ("the Republic of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is needed for two reasons. It is needed, first, for consistency with Schedule 2, which was amended in Committee. Secondly, and much more importantly, the amendment is needed from the point of view of perception, which, as most people know, is and always has been all important in Northern Ireland. Knowledgeable and highly experienced noble Lords from every quarter of the House, such as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, stressed the importance of perception in backing the same amendment when I moved it in Committee. Indeed, despite his nationalist background, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, backed it wholeheartedly.

The suspicion and resentment of the broad mass of the unionist population at the Republic's very long-standing reluctance to renounce its territorial claim on the north runs deep. This suspicion will be revived if it appears that the Republic is finally, and at long last, abandoning the offending phrases of Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution only to replace them with an implied titular claim to the entire island of Ireland.

It is one thing for Her Majesty's Government to accept the deletion of the word "Republic" in the Good Friday agreement as a good-will gesture. Indeed, there can be no objection to that. However, it is very different to accept such wording in an Act of Parliament. By definition, an Act of Parliament is the concern of the people of the United Kingdom and no-one else. When this point was put forward on an earlier occasion the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, seemed to suggest that we were, nevertheless, obliged to use the wording presently to be found in Clause 1 in consequence of a binding commitment made in the Good Friday agreement. However, if one reads the agreement from cover to cover, no such binding commitment can be discerned.

If we want the Good Friday agreement to work, and if we want it to stick, it is vital to reassure the majority in Northern Ireland that there are no more hidden agendas and that there is no covert understanding that the British Government will put up no resistance to any future attempts by the Republic to chip away, little by little, at the foundations of the Union. That is why the amendment is important. I beg to move.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I should like to express my support for the amendment and make two brief comments. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and many others that perception is all. In this case, it is absolutely vital that we should be seen to be dealing with the Republic of Ireland, which is its legal title. I suggest that we may in any case have legal problems later if we continue to use the word

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"Ireland" only and we do not use the legally-constituted title of that country; namely, the Republic of Ireland. I can see no difficulty in that respect. They are naturally very proud of being a republic. I cannot see why it is necessary in any way to depart from the facts. That is why I support the amendment.

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