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Lord Laird: My Lords, does the Minister accept that a lot of his arguments are reasonable, but the timing is not? We do not understand timing the Bill alongside the Good Friday agreement. I do not know anybody in Northern Ireland who requested that. Where has the pressure come from for the Bill?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am drawn to conclude that perhaps there is never a right time for some people to make progress on some of these matters. We have judged that it is right to try to make progress. We suspended that progress while the Assembly was not in operation. We now want more progress to be made. The arguments for developing that special relationship can be taken forward with the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, made some clear and specific points about the special relationship with the Irish public, including our historic and cultural links. We need to build on those relationships on the basis of consent, trying to cement the political progress that has been made over the past two or three years and beyond.

I think that I have answered the primary points that have been raised. I do not think that I have left much out and I am sorry if I have missed anything in trying to summarise where we are.

However, it is important to make the final point that the Bill is clearly linked to the peace process. It is very important that we should cement those links in developing continued and improved British/Irish relations. That surely is at the heart of the Good Friday agreement. Much political progress has been made since then. I can well understand some of the

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misgivings, but I think that we would be very foolish to throw up the political opportunity and the opportunity to make further progress.

So far as we are concerned, this is simply a case of amending and regularising existing legislation according to the existing principles in the light of recent developments. Nothing innovative is being suggested. The Bill does not represent for us a major constitutional amendment. It will not have fundamental, practical implications, nor will it have any impact on the composition of this Chamber.

Given the progress that has been made in reaching a political settlement in Northern Ireland, the amendments that have been made to the Irish constitution and the coming into force of the British/Irish agreement, this surely is now the right time to extend this modest courtesy to the Irish Parliament. This measure strengthens the close ties that exist between the United Kingdom and Ireland, but it does so within both the terms and the spirit of the Good Friday agreement. As such, I hope that it will receive the support of noble Lords here today. I commend the Bill to the House.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before the noble Lord puts the question, as I was on my way out of the House at the Peers' entrance, I happened to catch sight of the television in the lobby. I thought that I heard the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, suggest that he wished to divide the House at the end of the debate. Not unnaturally, I returned to the House.

I hope that I have not brought about this situation in what was an honest attempt to help the House. I merely informed the House that the reason for the Second Reading was that I had been asked by the Secretary of State to achieve a Second Reading before the Recess. It was entirely my own phrase and choreography. Chief Whips should not hold opinions or do any more than state the facts of a situation.

The reason that the Bill is being read tonight--and I have already apologised for the fact that it is so late--is that I thought that it would be convenient for everyone who was speaking on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill, bearing in mind the difficulties of coming backwards and forwards. The Bill would probably have been read at 9 o'clock if we had not had the earlier incidents. I took the view that it would probably be convenient for the Bill to be read this evening. Those are the reasons.

I think I am correct in saying that there is no precedent that we can discover for dividing the House on a shout at Second Reading. It is completely outwith the convention of the House. My understanding is that a Motion is tabled so that the House is aware of the intention of the noble Lord that this Bill be read this day or in six months, or that the Bill be not given a Second Reading, with a reasoned amendment. It

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would be extraordinary if, on a whim, we attempted to kill a Bill on the shout. I therefore hope that noble Lords will give the Bill a Second Reading.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, will the noble Lord, the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, tell us if the Secretary of State gave him any reason for wanting this Second Reading so quickly?

Lord Carter: No, my Lords. He merely wrote to me in the usual way and said that it would be helpful, if possible, to have a Second Reading of the Bill before the Summer Recess. At first I thought that it would not be possible. I discussed this in the usual channels and no objection whatever was raised in the usual channels. I then realised that we would have time today in the normal way. Because everyone was here for the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill, I thought that I was being helpful by having the Second Reading tonight. I was responding to a simple request to find time, if possible, for a Second Reading before the Summer Recess. It also helps us to get it into Committee more quickly in the overspill, because we do not have to wait for the 14-day interval. It is as simple as that. As far as I am aware, there is nothing at all sinister about it.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, perhaps the Minister will allow me to intervene before he sits down. May I express my complete sympathy to the noble Lord, the Government Chief Whip. It is clearly a difficult situation for him. I do not believe that anybody in this House, least of all myself, would in any way suggest that he was ever minded to be unhelpful to your Lordships. We all greatly appreciate the way in which he performs his duties and the considerable style with which he does so. It is hardly surprising that he is held in the deepest affection in all corners of your Lordships' House.

As a former Leader, I hope that I am aware of what is usual at Second Reading. I hope that I am right in thinking also that it is still within the rules of your Lordships' House to divide the House on a shout at Second Reading. It seems to me that the only time at which this House would be extremely unwise to vote against the Government at Second Reading is on a manifesto Bill, which this Bill clearly is not.

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord the Chief Whip, I listened with as much care as I could muster not only to the noble and learned Lord who introduced the debate but also to the noble Lord who, with his usual courtesy, answered it. I was not happy with the answers to the two questions which I asked. They were principally concerned with the content of the Bill and the way in which the noble Lord the Chief Whip has been asked by his colleagues to introduce this Bill at this hour.

It was with some anxiety that I listened to his answer when I intervened before the beginning of this debate, because I had hoped that he would be able to accommodate us if there was no real reason for us to hurry this Bill through. I have not heard one. I am sure that, like every good Chief Whip, he will have kept a

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House. I intend to divide the House to make the point. I undertake that we shall put in Tellers and that we will not endeavour to defeat him.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I should tell the noble Viscount that under the usual arrangements which mean that we never whip on a Second Reading, because it is unknown to me to divide the House on a shout at the end of a Second Reading--I cannot think of any precedent--there is no whip. It is not my duty to keep a House on unwhipped business, which, as the noble Viscount knows, Second Readings always are.

12.12 a.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be read a second time?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 2.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Desai, L.
Dubs, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Puttnam, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.


Cranborne, V. [Teller]

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The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Simon): My Lords, as it appears that fewer than 30 Lords have voted, in accordance with Standing Order No. 57, I declare the Question not decided and the debate thereon stands adjourned.

Lord Carter: My Lords, as business on this Bill is not concluded, I shall table it to continue tomorrow afternoon, after the Finance Bill.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill

Returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

Census (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Returned from the Commons agreed to with a privilege amendment; the amendment considered and agreed to.

Football (Disorder) Bill

Returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

        House adjourned at twenty-three minutes past midnight.

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