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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, the Minister has put the case for our amendment very well. Therefore, I shall not move the other amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 69:

Page 27, line 24, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 69 and 70. Amendment No. 68 raises a well worn subject but I think there is probably no harm in our addressing our minds to it. It aims to achieve greater accountability not just in financial terms but, far more importantly, in constitutional terms. In the area covered by the amendment there appears to be a rather boxed-in atmosphere. If trust and confidence are to be established and generated in the Assembly, openness accounts for a great deal. Bearing in mind the degree of co-operation that has been established thus far today, I hope that the Minister will be able to give a favourable reply. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 69 to 71 address an issue which goes to the heart of these clauses. In fact, it is an issue which was at the heart of the negotiations on strand 2--the authority and accountability of Ministers participating in the North-South Ministerial Council.

I have already moved an amendment to Clause 50 which puts beyond any doubt that participation in the council shall be construed in accordance with paragraphs 5 and 6 of strand 2. The effect of this amendment is that Ministers have authority to participate in the North-South Ministerial Council only to the extent that such participation is in accordance with these paragraphs.

Paragraph 6 in particular makes clear, first, that Ministers must be able to operate within their defined authority and, secondly, that Assembly approval must be given for any decisions which go beyond that authority. This amendment seeks to go further still by requiring Assembly approval for all agreements or arrangements. This clearly goes beyond the terms set out in paragraph 6.

I believe that these clauses, as amended, implement the agreement accurately. I believe also that they set out a number of safeguards which help to meet noble Lords' concerns. Perhaps I may quickly outline those safeguards. As a result of amendments already discussed, Northern Ireland participation in the North-South Ministerial Council must be on a cross-community basis; all decisions of the council must, by virtue of paragraph 2 of strand 2, be taken by agreement between the two sides; any agreement or arrangement which requires additional finance or fresh legislative provision must subsequently secure the

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support of the Assembly if it is to be given effect; any new implementation body must be approved by the Assembly; and, finally, Ministers must act in accordance with all decisions of the Executive Committee and Assembly.

Taken together, these provisions ensure that no decision in the council can be taken without cross-community involvement and that any significant, substantive decision will require Assembly approval.

As I have said, this is a very important issue. But I firmly believe that the Bill fully reflects the agreement and will ensure that the North-South Ministerial Council is properly accountable to the Assembly.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, the explanation has been helpful. It goes as far as one can expect the Minister to go. As the noble Lord knows, the amendment is designed to ensure that all agreements and arrangements entered into will be approved ultimately by the Assembly because without that provision the Assembly members could become very disillusioned. But in the light of the Minister's reasonably sympathetic approach, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 70 and 71 not moved.]

Clause 52 [British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 72:

Page 27, line 34, after ("such") insert ("cross-community").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 73:

Page 27, line 34, after ("attendance") insert ("by Ministers and junior Ministers").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. There is not much point in moving this amendment if the Minister is going to agree to Amendment No. 75: the former will be immediately knocked out.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I believe that the amendment is appropriate because we cannot act on the assumption that the House will necessarily agree to a subsequent amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 27, line 36, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have much pleasure in moving this amendment. It provides another demonstration of our co-operation in that when the Assembly is in operation, if there is need for an experienced tea-boy, I hope that the noble Lord will not overlook my claims. I do not believe that it is necessary to say much more about this amendment and the

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proposal to delete this particular subsection. In one way or another we have already covered all the ground. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 53 [Implementation bodies]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 76:

Page 27, line 38, leave out ("body") and insert ("international organisation created by treaty").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now move on to Clause 53, which deals with implementation bodies. These are the joint bodies to be created north and south of the Border to carry out various executive responsibilities. In Committee we had a discussion as to what was to be the legal nature of those bodies. There is a difficulty about it. If they were to have a legal persona in either the north or south under the Companies Act, for example, or some such provision, that would be unsatisfactory. They would not be truly joint bodies.

As I understood the Minister's reply at that time, the intention is that the implementation bodies shall be international organisations created by treaty, which will give them the necessary international legal persona carrying across the whole of Ireland. It will enable them to make contracts which any legally constituted body can do. They will then be able to carry out their business of implementing the responsibilities laid on them by the two jurisdictions, north and south.

The question of such bodies being international organisations had not been made clear before, and was creating some difficulty. It seemed to me, therefore, that it would be better to state on the face of the Bill that these are not just any old bodies, which is what the Bill says at the moment. The Secretary of State may make an order about an international organisation created by treaty. In that way we make it clear to people exactly what the status of the implementation bodies is going to be legally and, for that matter, internationally. They are a very significant part of the agreement. They will be difficult to set up and operate in the first instance. We all wish them well and I hope that they will be effective in operating across the whole of Ireland. They will have difficulties. It is necessary to be very clear that they have a strong legal basis from which to operate as well as the political support which they will obviously need from both parts of Ireland. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, the legal framework of north-south implementation bodies was the subject of considerable discussion during our earlier consideration of these clauses. I think it would be helpful if I again set out the sequence of events by which these implementation bodies will come into being.

Under the terms of the agreement, representatives of the Northern Ireland transitional Administration and the Irish Government are to identify and agree at least six areas where co-operation will take place through agreed implementation bodies on a cross-border or all-island level. These initial implementation bodies will then be established by international treaties concluded between the British and Irish Governments.

10 Nov 1998 : Column 685

In order to operate effectively, each implementation body will then need to be given any requisite capacities and functions in domestic legislation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That is the purpose of the Secretary of State's power to make orders under Clause 53. This clause deals only with the initial group of implementation bodies. As I have said, these bodies are to be established by treaties between Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Government. I hope that this has provided the noble Lord with the reassurance he seeks about the legal status of the initial implementation bodies.

Before leaving this amendment, I should like to take the opportunity to clarify the definition of an "implementation body", on which noble Lords had some earlier discussion. It is the Government's clear view that implementation bodies will operate on a cross-border or all-island level. It is also our understanding that paragraph 11 of strand 2, which is used to define the bodies, applies to all implementation bodies, both initial and further. I trust that that clarifies the understanding of noble Lords. Therefore, I am unable to accept the noble Lord's amendment.

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