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Northern Ireland: Electronic Border

3.23 pm

Lord Trimble asked Her Majesty’s Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, we continue to work closely with both the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of the Republic of Ireland on operational policy and legislative issues, including the implementation of the e-borders programme, which is a key part of the Government’s plans for securing our borders.

My Lords, I wonder if the Irish Government have pointed out in their discussions with Her Majesty’s Government that British citizens make up the largest group of foreign nationals in the Irish Republic and that they, together with the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Irish passport holders domiciled in Great Britain, have been accustomed to travelling back and forth between the two states without any formalities ever since the creation of a separatist Irish state. With the e-borders, there will of course be considerable inconvenience to them. Would it not be much better to take the existing informal common travel area and put it on a formal basis analogous to the Schengen agreement that applies elsewhere in Europe? This would solve the problems that arise in practice and relieve the difficulties experienced by the Home Office, which seems to be intellectually challenged by the idea of a land frontier.

My Lords, as was said before, there is a lot of dialogue between ourselves, the Border and Immigration Agency, the UK police, the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Northern Ireland Executive on these various issues. We carry out a lot of joint operations, and we all believe that the way we are moving forward with two chunks of work—one relates to the Police and Justice Act 2006 and the other to e-borders—are good ways of covering the problems. We know both anecdotally and from taking samples that there are people who either come through the Republic of Ireland, move into Northern Ireland and then come across to the United Kingdom or vice versa. The sample evidence we have suggests that it is a considerable problem, and this way forward will resolve those issues.

Lord Rogan: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that the same quality of protection against external terrorism will be afforded to citizens of the United Kingdom residing in Northern Ireland as to our fellow citizens who reside in the mainland?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the quick answer is yes. We are making sure that is exactly what happens.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I return to basic Northern Ireland politics after a very statesmanlike Question from my noble friend Lord Trimble. Do Her Majesty’s Government really understand Ireland and Northern Ireland? I think not. They are expelling the people of Northern Ireland—I am one of them; I live there—geographically from the United Kingdom. They are putting an electronic boundary around England, Scotland and Wales, excluding Northern Ireland and packaging it in with the Republic of

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Ireland. Do Her Majesty’s Government really think that that will help political friendship and political progress between these islands given their delicate state? I would love to answer the question. I hope the Minister’s answer is the same as mine.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I do not agree. The Government do understand Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and the status of the people there. There is no doubt whatever that, in the interests of the Republic of Ireland, the people in Northern Ireland and the people of the United Kingdom in general, it makes sense to move down this route. On the e-borders area, for example, we have carried out a trial run called Project Semaphore, and in that very small pilot project 1,300 arrests were made for crimes including murder, rape, assault and so on. On a counterterrorist basis, it is better for the safety of all our people. I cannot accept what has just been said about our lack of understanding. There is absolutely no intention, no desire and no wish; it would be contrary to everything we believe in.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, will the Minister reply specifically to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Trimble? Would it not be more optimal to maintain the common travel area rather than hive off Great Britain from our neighbours in both Northern Ireland and the Republic? This is a complex issue. Given the mix of population between the islands, it is absurd to go down the route that the Government appear to be going down.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, we are maintaining the common travel area, which is recognised by the EU. We are applying a sensible way forward to identify the loophole that existed of people moving in through the Republic of Ireland, into Northern Ireland and then travelling across to the United Kingdom. We know, as I said, from anecdotal and sample evidence that that is a considerable number of people. Similarly, the Crown dependency routes are being maintained. So the common travel area is staying as it is.

Lord Elton: My Lords, do the Government not recognise the enormous symbolism of what they are doing with the map? What will be the security losses of including the province of Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom instead of leaving it out?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, there has been mention already of the common land border in Ireland. Those of us who have patrolled and walked along it know how permeable it is. That is part of the issue in terms of the ability of people arriving in the Republic of Ireland to get into Northern Ireland. Nothing that is being done makes any declaration about the status of Northern Ireland. It is for the safety of all the people of these islands that we are doing these things. There is a great deal of discussion going on. I think it is a sensible way forward.

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Lord Trimble: My Lords, does the Minister not realise that, when he spoke a moment ago of travelling from Northern Ireland to the United Kingdom, he demonstrated clearly his lack of understanding of the basic concept?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, it was a slip. I certainly understand it. As I said, I have served in Northern Ireland. It was rather like the slip that people make when they forget that the United Kingdom is in Europe. It is a slip that is made sometimes.

Lord Lyell: My Lords, will the Minister let me have details of how the projected security measures across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be similar to or different from the projected border controls within and without the European Community?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, perhaps I may come back to the noble Lord in writing on those details.

Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL)

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)

Tax Law Rewrite Bills

3.30 pm

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the three Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL)

Moved, That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the board of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL):

L Brabazon of Tara

L NasebyL PaulL Thomson of Monifieth.

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)

Moved, That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed to the board of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST):

B Greenfield

L OxburghL Sutherland of HoundwoodL Winston.

Tax Law Rewrite Bills

Moved, That a Select Committee of six members be appointed to join the committee appointed by the Commons to consider tax law rewrite Bills, and in particular to consider whether each Bill committed to it preserves the effect of the existing law, subject to any minor changes which may be desirable;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the committee:

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L Blackwell

L ChristopherL GoodhartL HaskelL MillettL Newton of Braintree;

That the committee have power to agree with the committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a chairman;

That the quorum of the committee shall be two;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the evidence taken by the committee shall, if the committee so wishes, be published;

That the procedure of the Joint Committee shall follow the procedure of Select Committees of the House of Commons when such procedure differs from that of Select Committees of this House, and shall include the power of the chairman to select amendments.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motions agreed to; and a message was sent to the Commons.


3.31 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, we are about to resume the debate on the Second Reading of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. It is important that I make clear the advisory Back-Bench speaking time, because we have had half the debate already and could not have different rules for the second half of the debate from those of the first. The advisory speaking time remains 10 minutes, which I hope will be rigorously observed. Before the Clerk calls the Second Reading, my noble friend Lord Darzi will, with the leave of the House, make a brief Statement.

Lord Brennan

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My Lords, I am pleased to report that I spoke with my noble friend Lord Brennan earlier today. He is recovering well and is expected to return home tomorrow. I thank the staff of the House for their quick response, and I am grateful, too, for the presence of the defibrillator in the House. It was the defibrillator and its immediate availability that saved his life, as my noble friend was in ventricular fibrillation and had no cardiac output. This incident shows how important it is to have defibrillators in public places. I am also grateful to the House for allowing me to maintain my clinical skills, although, in the future, I would prefer to keep my practice in hospital rather than in the Chamber.

Earl Howe: My Lords, as someone who was in the Chamber when the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, was

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taken ill, perhaps I may express the relief of these Benches that the noble Lord is recovering so well. We look forward to seeing him back in his place very soon. I not only reiterate the importance of defibrillators, but emphasise the importance of having somebody such as the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, who is medically qualified, to attend to the noble Lord, which I congratulate him on doing with such expedition. There is no doubt that we all owe him a great debt of gratitude.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I was not in the Chamber, but my noble friend Lady Tonge was. As a doctor, she gave the noble Lord a clean bill of health on his performance. In reporting to our Peers today, she also paid special tribute to the staff of this House and their training, which much complemented the skill of the noble Lord.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I have just spoken to the son of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, who said that he will come out of hospital on Friday. I hope that it was not my speech that made him have his episode, because I had spoken just before him. I congratulate the skilful surgeon who immediately leapt to his feet and saved the noble Lord’s life.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [HL]

3.35 pm

Second Reading debate resumed.

Baroness Paisley of St George's: My Lords, before I continue what I had already commenced on Monday evening, I should like to associated myself and my party members in your Lordships' House with the sentiments expressed about the noble Lord, Lord Brennan. I have been praying that he will have a speedy recovery, and it appears that those prayers are being answered. We look forward to having him back in your Lordships' House very quickly. It just goes to show us all how brittle life can be and the necessity for us to make preparation for the life that is to come. I also associate myself with the remarks passed about the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, and his skill. We thank him for what he did in those vital golden moments immediately after the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, became ill.

I wish to voice my concerns on matters arising from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The current proposals threaten not only human dignity but the family and, if the liberalising amendments on abortion are accepted, human life itself will also be threatened. I believe that the creation of animal/human embryos for research is not only unnecessary and undesirable but unethical and would undermine our human dignity and alter the very nature of humanity. Further, this proposal totally disregards the biblical law on mixing kinds or species as laid down in Holy Scripture, and would be an offence to the Creator Himself, who made man in His own image. These proposals would also unleash

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an untameable monster on an already morally diminished people, the end result of which is too fearsome to contemplate.

I was greatly heartened at the weekend to hear Professor Wilmut’s decision to abandon cloning because of the new discoveries and work of the Japanese Professor Yamanaka, who has found a way to create a patient’s own stem cells from fragments of skin, obviating the need for embryos. Today a statement was made by another scientist from America, who agrees with this and is on to the same line of creating a patient’s own stem cells. A warm welcome was given to this by Sir Martin Evans, who sees it as a long-term solution, and by Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, who said that it was very likely to be the future. I believe that Josephine Quintavalle spoke for all right-thinking people when she commented:

I trust that your Lordships' House will take these words to heart today and reject the proposals in this iniquitous and immoral Bill.

My concerns are heightened when I hear that a group of Members of another place have threatened that they will use this Bill to force Northern Ireland doctors to carry out abortions. To use this Bill as a Trojan horse without any considered discussion on the implications is an abuse of Parliament. No consideration to this issue was given by the Joint Committee, nor by any Select Committee. Such behaviour flies in the face of the assurances given by successive Governments that no change would be made to the law without the consent of the democratically elected representatives of Northern Ireland. This is but the latest example of certain people trying to foist their ideas on the people from every background and tradition across Northern Ireland who have repeatedly and steadfastly shown their revulsion at the wholesale murder of unborn children.

Northern Ireland will not be bullied by political activists whose ideas and actions have brought about the massacre of more than 7 million innocent unborn children in the years that this Act has been in operation on the mainland. It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of this murder campaign, and how many scientists, musicians, doctors, teachers and business men and women have been flushed down the sluices of our hospitals and clinics. We hear complaints about the brain drain, but it never seems to be recognised that the surgeons who advise women and carry out their wishes are the people who drain the brains, together with the lifeblood, dismembered limbs and bodies and crushed skulls of their silent victims. I wonder whether the women who abort their children and those who carry out the gruesome execution of these innocent and defenceless living babies ever think that they are emulating Herod in the horrific campaign that he perpetrated on innocent victims in his day. It is heartbreaking to think that any man or woman who has sworn to preserve life is instead wilfully and systematically doing what only God Himself has the authority to do—sons and daughters of Herod indeed.

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At this time of renewed hope in Northern Ireland under the new system of Government, it is extremely important that Westminster politicians should support it, bearing in mind the strong opposition to abortion in Northern Ireland. In response to a question on 16 July this year from my colleague, the right honourable Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA, Mr Paul Goggins, the Minister in another place, revealed that legislation covering abortion falls within the criminal law and therefore remains a reserved matter. However, a further question from Lady Ann Winterton MP seeking clarification received an answer that made it plain that, once criminal law becomes a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, so too will abortion.

How will the Government respond if parliamentarians try to table amendments during Committee, Report and Third Reading of this Bill extending the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland while it remains a reserved matter? What about the Government’s promise of the triple lock which shuts firmly the door on the Government proceeding down that road? Will the Minister make it clear today that his Government will resist any attempt to overturn the undertakings given to Northern Ireland elected representatives?

I must tell your Lordships’ House that any attempt to impose the 1967 Act would be “over our heads” and “in spite of us” and the whole world would know it. During the abortion debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly as recently as 25 October this year, that view was made abundantly clear from the mainstream parties.

Many dangers are connected to abortion. The mortality following abortions is higher than recognised, and women need to be seriously counselled before they make such a devastating and irreversible decision. Sadly, I have had mothers tell me that because they refused to abort what they were told would be a seriously handicapped baby, they were reprimanded for being irresponsible. However, when their babies were born, they were perfect. How many sons and daughters have been denied the right to live because of misdiagnosis?

Handicapped children also have the right to live and I believe that they are made in the image of God. I served for some years on the board of a school for physically handicapped children in Northern Ireland and was deeply impressed by the love and devotion of the parents to these children. These children are special and deserve special treatment. There are doctors and surgeons able to rectify many of the deformities with which some of these children are born. The world would be a poorer place without the handicapped when we think of the achievements and pleasure so many of them have given to the world.

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