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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I rise only to draw attention to the fact that this is a wonderful example of the draftsman's second thoughts. The whole Bill gives the impression that it was drafted by a relatively junior draftsman in a hurry. The senior draftsman having looked at it, all these amendments are being included to the great confusion of everyone else.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, it is necessary to comment on that remark. The Government have listened carefully to comments made during the various stages of the Bill. We have sought to improve the drafting of the Bill wherever possible. We had at our disposal the time of several senior draftsmen and it is not right for the noble Lord to cast aspersions on them. The fact is that they were asked to work very quickly. The timetable was difficult; normally, the drafting of such a Bill would have required many more months in order to resolve the details before introducing it into another place. The noble Lord knows exactly why we had to move quickly. I will defend the draftsman against his accusations, which I know were meant in good part.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 47:

After Clause 4,9 insert the following new clause--

Review of operation and effect of this Part

(" . Within two years of the coming into force of this Part, the Secretary of State shall report to each House of Parliament his conclusions following a review of the efficiency and fairness of the following and any related matters--
(a) the arrangements for the election of the Assembly;
(b) the procedures of the Assembly; and
(c) the effects of the existence of the Assembly on the House of Commons.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we move to a point of considerable substance. First, perhaps I may say that I did not mean to cast aspersions on the draftsmen employed on the Bill. I recognise, as I did in my remarks, that they were under great time pressure. That has obviously been the case in recent weeks and days.

I rise to move Amendment No. 47, which inserts a new clause. It suggests that the Secretary of State shall report to each House of Parliament his conclusion following the review of the efficiency and fairness of various matters which are set out.

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Three matters are set out. The first is the arrangement for the elections to the Assembly. The second is the procedures of the Assembly. The agreement provides for a review of those two matters after what it describes as a specified period, although as far as I can see, the period is never specified. I seek to put into the Bill a provision for such a review as the agreement suggests and I specify a period of two years, which seems to me to be a reasonable period, after which the arrangements for the elections and procedures for the Assembly can be judged, when we see how it is all working. I was discussing earlier the difficulties of not having a Report stage in the Assembly. That is one of the procedures which may be required to be considered at that point.

I have added a third matter which will require review and that is:

    "(c) the effects of the existence of the Assembly on the House of Commons".
My opinion, which I gave in Committee at greater length and I do not propose to go over it all again, is that the so-called English dimension--the West Lothian question--will not go away. It was answered before when Stormont existed by a reduction of, roughly speaking, one-third in the Members of the Westminster Parliament from Northern Ireland and by a self-imposed limitation by the Northern Ireland Members of Parliament in relation to those matters on which they spoke and took part in the debates in another place. That is obviously one way of answering the West Lothian question.

But it has become more important now than it was at the time of the existence of Stormont because there are three assemblies now being set up for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That question will not go away. I speak as an Englishman and I believe that it will become more important as the years go on and as English voters see what is the position and how their Members of Parliament are disadvantaged and in some cases no doubt overruled by the Members of Parliament in other parts of the United Kingdom while their Members have no comparable power over the operations of the other assemblies.

It is important that we should provide for a review of that situation in two years. At this point, nobody has an answer to the West Lothian question but an answer will have to be found and two years seems to me to be a reasonable time within which the matter should be reviewed and considered, along with the other two matters which the agreement proposes should be considered and reviewed. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for this amendment which deals with the question of reviews of the Bill and the Belfast agreement's operation.

I think no one can be in any doubt that the procedures in this Bill are novel. Reviewing them to see how they work in practice is clearly sensible, and indeed is already provided for in the agreement, but it is for the Assembly to decide when a review is appropriate.

The noble Lord proposes a review within two years carried out by the Secretary of State and reported to the House. According to his amendment, the review is to

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focus on the Assembly's electoral system, the Assembly's procedures and the effects of the existence of the Assembly on the House of Commons.

I am certainly sympathetic to the idea of keeping under review progress being made under the agreement, but I wonder whether the Secretary of State is really the right person to carry out those reviews, particularly in some of the clearly devolved areas the noble Lord identifies.

On the noble Lord's third point, it is surely a matter for the other place to consider the impact of devolution, and indeed I note that a consultation exercise on just this subject is now under way. I shall return to that point in a moment.

As for the other two points in the draft new clause, these seem to be in the first instance matters for the Northern Ireland political parties and the Assembly to decide, not for the Secretary of State. Noble Lords will know that the Belfast agreement already includes provisions for review. Those are not mentioned in the Bill simply because we do not believe that provision is necessary.

The agreement largely calls for the new institutions to review their own progress and address any problems which may have arisen. On the strand 1 issues which the noble Lord identifies, for example paragraph 36 of strand 1 already includes some provisions. The paragraph states:

    "After a specified period there will be a review of these arrangements, including the details of electoral arrangements and of the Assembly's procedures, with a view to agreeing any adjustments necessary in the interests of efficiency and fairness".
Similarly, paragraph 8 of the validation, implementation and review section of the agreement also calls for a wide-ranging review, indeed one rather more wide-ranging than proposed in the noble Lord's amendment.

The agreement says that,

    "the two Governments and the parties in the Assembly will convene a conference 4 years after the agreement comes into effect, to review and report on its operation".
In this area, as in every other, the Government are committed to the agreement's provisions. We believe this is the most appropriate form of review, and I would accordingly urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Perhaps I may refer further to the issue of representation at Westminster by Members of Parliament from the devolved areas. Noble Lords will be aware that the Scotland Bill includes provision for reviewing the number of Scottish MPs in Westminster in the light of devolution. But we are clear that similar provisions are not necessary for Northern Ireland for the very good reason that Northern Ireland is not over-represented in Westminster at present. The average Northern Ireland constituency is about the average size of constituencies in most other parts of the United Kingdom.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the Scottish example is not appropriate to paragraph (c) of Amendment No. 47 because that merely corrects the

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current over-representation of Scotland rather than to allow for consideration of the English dimension of the West Lothian question. Therefore, I do not believe that the Scotland Bill deals with the point at all. It merely corrects the change in the representation which will follow from it. No doubt we shall have to return to that matter many times in the coming years.

In regard to paragraphs (a) and (b), the Minister was correctly advised that paragraph 36 of the agreement was what I had in mind when drafting the amendment and the words follow it as closely as I could manage. I had not thought that that was the same review referred to elsewhere in the agreement.

As to who should carry out the review, the Minister suggested in the earlier part of his remarks that paragraphs (a) and (b) should be reviewed by the Assembly rather than the Secretary of State. But the responsibility for the law on the election of the Assembly and the outline of the procedures are laid down in Westminster legislation and, indeed, the procedures are laid down in this Bill itself. Therefore, even if the Assembly considers those matters, it will have to refer them to the Secretary of State, which is why I suggest that he should review them in the first place.

However, the Minister has made clear that the major four-year review with both Governments and the different parties involved in it will cover those matters at paragraphs (a) and (b) and I shall not seek to press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 50 [North-South Ministerial Council and British-Irish Council]:

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