Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

It has been a long, long battle. When the peace process actually began, I am not quite sure. But I am certain that pretty well everyone in the Chamber will have a different opinion about it. For myself, I believe one of the basics came about when my noble friend Lord Brooke was the Secretary of State—here I thank him for his kind words—and I was able to bring the International Tall Ships’ Race to Belfast. In 1991 some 72 vessels from the world’s tall ship fleet came to Belfast Docks—before the peace process had got under way and long before the Good Friday agreement. What happened during those days was quite staggering. Sectarianism was forgotten. On the night of the fireworks the docks were so overcrowded that I had to stand on the gates and, with a manual loudhailer, try to persuade people to go home. They would not go home and they blocked the streets, for those who know it, all the way to the Albert Clock. But nobody was hurt, there were no fights, and the chief executive of the city bus company rang me the next day to tell me that the last bus had got home at three o’clock in the morning with no damage to any vehicles. That is my memory of where some of this comes from.

Behind all this, there has been a fantastic amount of work and a huge amount of courage on behalf of politicians, officials, the Prime Minister, the Taoiseach, the President of the United States, Senator Mitchell and many, many others in the Irish, British and American Governments. And do not let us forget the key people in our own Ulster political life: the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, Sir Reg Empey and his colleagues, Dr Ian Paisley and his team, Peter Robinson and all of them. I can tell your Lordships that I have shaken Adams’s hand. It was not a pleasant experience for me because I have lived in Northern Ireland since 1970 and have been to the funerals of my friends, as have the rest of us. I am very admiring of Ian, if I can be that familiar in your Lordships’ House, for having taken his team to where it is now. It is a tremendous gesture.

But he is only just starting down the road. The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, outlined a number of the practicalities facing the new Stormont Government, including a reasonably strong economy under the

27 Mar 2007 : Column 1634

circumstances, but one that is totally top-heavy with government sponsorship, staff and civil servants. The infrastructure is badly in need of an overhaul, starved as it has been of investment cash for 15 to 20 years. However, that is not the main difficulty to be faced. The main difficulty they face is to work as a team. I have forgotten who said, “I wonder if it will work? I hope it will work”. My Lords, it has to work. There is no doubt about that. These politicians, Mr Adams and Dr Paisley, owe it to everyone I have mentioned, not just the people of Ulster. They also owe it to everyone who died for us in the battles. God help them if they fail; I hope they go to where they deserve to go. They must not fail. I wish them luck. As will all noble Lords, I will give them all the support I can. Those noble Lords who pray, pray now. Those who do not, just hope. This is the start of a great road forward, but do not let there be any room for complacency.

8.16 pm

Lord Rooker: My Lords, on behalf of the Government, I am extremely grateful for all the contributions to the debate. It has been an experience with six speakers in the gap. I shall remember that when I become a Back Bencher one day. I often have to remind colleagues that the composition of this place is such that as a Minister you are facing people who have been there: former Secretaries of State and Ministers in Northern Ireland, and those of long standing like the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney. One has to be very careful. Indeed, I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, that I am, frankly, humbled by his remarks and deeply grateful to him. Almost two years ago he set me a test. I do not say I have passed it, but I am on the way. For that, I am grateful. I can assure him that when being briefed by officials in Northern Ireland, on many occasions one of them will say, “And by the way, we’ve got to think about dealing with Lord Tebbit”. I can assure him that that is the case.

I am not going to comment on all that has been said, but towards the end of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, made a central point which has been repeated by other noble Lords: the shape of the economy in Northern Ireland is unsustainable because the public sector is actually squeezing out the private sector. I have seen examples of enterprise being stifled. Although the public sector needs to be supported, some major changes will have to take place. The economy has been extremely successful, but there will have to be changes to modernise it.

I am very grateful, as I think the whole House is, for the content and tone of the speech we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Trimble. To the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, I say yes, it will be possible in the mean time to keep asking the questions about roadworks and all the other kinds of issues. I get them not necessarily from him but from other noble Lords. Until direct rule ceases, we are responsible and accountable for everything in Northern Ireland. Soon I hope we will not be; after 8 May, we will probably not be. The noble Lord, Lord King, hit the nail on the head when he talked about Treasury officials—

27 Mar 2007 : Column 1635

although I do not think he talked about tremors—who are usually so tough with the rest of Whitehall. It is a different bag of chips they are going to face now, and one would expect them to act accordingly.

I am very grateful overall. There is such a wealth of experience in this House; Members who have lived through all this and been part of the success. One has to think about the past and no one will forget it, but, as has been said, people have come to the table and gone away with a piece of success. No one is talking about failure. That is the road to the future and to success. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.35 pm. The House will then resume for the remaining stages of the Bill. I apologise for not being a severe Whip in the gap. I felt that this was not the occasion.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.20 to 8.35 pm.]

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.



27 Mar 2007 : Column 1636

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Geddes) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes): I understand that no amendments have been set down to the Bill, and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. With the agreement of the Committee, I will now put the Question that I report the Bill to the House without amendment.

Bill reported without amendment.

House resumed; Report received.

Bill read a third time, and passed.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn. The House will sit for Royal Assent at 9.10 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.38 pm to 9.10 pm.]

Royal Assent

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Geddes): My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Act:

Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page