HC Deb 01 August 1975 vol 896 cc2445-6

11.38 a.m.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Stanley Orme)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 15, line 44, at end insert— '(2) The Commissioner shall arrange his sittings so as to facilitate the attendance of any such judge and, subject to paragraph 2(4) above, shall put to the witness any questions suggested to him under this paragraph.'. The amendment provides that, on the taking of evidence on commission in Northern. Ireland, to assist the court of trial in the Republic the commissioner shall arrange his sittings for the taking of such evidence so as to facilitate the attendance of any visiting judge from the court of trial and shall put any questions suggested by the visiting judge to the witness, provided that such questions do not infringe the rules relating to immunities and privileges of witnesses which, under the Bill, are determined in accordance with the law of Northern Ireland.

The Government have brought forward this amendment because it brings the Bill into line with the Bill at present going through Dublin. The House will be pleased to hear that yesterday morning the Senate passed the Bill and the Bill will now go to the Dáil.

Hon. Members who were present in Committee will know that I then resisted amendments because we did not want to alter the Bill and make it out of line with the Bill which was going through the Dublin Parliament at the same time.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell the House that the Bill as presented to the Dáil will not be amended. How can he justify his argument that he does not want to alter the Bill in any way in this House when the Irish Bill could be altered? If that were to happen, would he bring subsequent amendments before this House.

Mr. Orme

I accept the validity of the hon. Gentleman's point. We brought this amendment forward because there was strong pressure in the Irish Parliament for the strengthening of this clause. The amendment strengthens the Bill. It does not dilute or weaken it. The Irish Government had the choice of diluting the clause in their own Bill to a strength which matched the provision in this Bill or asking us to bring our clause into line with that which was going through the Irish Parliament.

This provision will strengthen the Bill. It will give judges the right to have questions put and answered both in Northern Ireland and the Republic where examinations will be taking place under the Bill. I therefore urge the House to support the amendment.

Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)

We welcome the amendment. We believe that it strengthens the position of the judges, for the reasons given by the Minister of State. We prefer to make no further comment on the position in Dublin. We agree that the amendment strengthens the position under Schedule 4.

Amendment agreed to.

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