§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I beg to move,That Standing Order No. 87A (Consolidation, &c., bills) be amended, as follows:Line 29, at end insert—(f) any Order in Council laid or laid in draft before the House where an affirmative resolution is required before it is made, or is a condition of its continuance in operation, and which but for the provisions of the Northern Ireland Act 1974 would, in the opinion of the Committee, have been enacted by a Consolidation Bill, whether public or private, or by a Statute Law Revision Bill.
§ The effect of this amendment is to enable Northern Ireland consolidation orders to come within the remit of the Joint Committee on consolidation and statute law revision. As hon. Members will know, most primary legislation for Northern Ireland dealing with matters within the competence of the former Northern Ireland Assembly is effected by 856 Orders in Council during direct rule. The consolidation of legislation of such matters is also promulgated by Orders in Council.
§ Unlike consolidation Bills, Northern Ireland consolidation orders are not subject to any special scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. They are, of course, subject to affirmative resolution in both Houses and, therefore, they undergo a measure of parliamentary scrutiny. In practice, there is usually little or no debate. The often complex and technical nature of consolidation legislation makes it difficult for hon. Members to give it proper consideration. That is why consolidation Bills go to the Joint Committee on which are experienced legal experts who can scrutinise them in detail and provide Parliament with an expert report.
§ Since Northern Ireland consolidation Orders in Council do not go to the Joint Committee, hon. Members are obliged to some extent to take on trust that a particular Order in Council, which purports to consolidate the law, actually fulfils that task and does no more and no less. It seems clear that it would be most valuable were Northern Ireland consolidation Orders in Council to be referred to the Joint Committee, which can give such legislative proposals the expert scrutiny which they do not have at present. It will close a small but not wholly insignificant gap in the parliamentary scrutiny given to consolidation legislation.
§ I understand that the Committee willingly is prepared to take on the extra burden. I am sure that the House will be grateful for that. I express my gratitude to the noble Lord who chairs the Committee. The Committee is unable to take on the task until its terms of reference under Standing Orders are changed. The necessary amendments to Standing Orders in the Lords have already been approved. The motion completes the process.11.17 pm
Mr. J. Enoch Powell
My hon. Friends and I and, I am sure, if only they were aware of it, the other representatives of Northern Ireland constituencies, are obliged both to the Joint Committee and to the Leader of the House for an act of 857 justice as well as common sense in extending the remit of the Joint Committee in this way.
Ever since Orders in Council under the 1974 temporary provisions Act have come before the House, the occupants of the Chair have invariably applied to those Orders in Council which are of a consolidating character the same rules of procedure as apply to consolidation Bills. We have not been permitted, and, indeed, have not sought, to carry debate beyond the question whether they were truly consolidating and whether the consolidation was correct.
However, there has been a loophole in the armoury, namely, that whereas hon. Members, when dealing with other consolidation measures, had behind them the assurance of the scrutiny of the Joint Committee, no such scrutiny was being given in our case: we were taking the reality of the consolidation upon the word of the Executive. That was not as it should be, and this amendment to the Standing Order will put it right.
I should not like to leave the motion without reminding the House that there still continues the anomaly whereby the citizens of a part of the United Kingdom have some of their law made for them by a process which would not be acceptable in the rest of the kingdom—namely, by 858 Order in Council. Measures of this kind can and do alleviate the impropriety of that discrimination against one part of the United Kingdom, but sooner or later the discrimination itself will have to be removed. The fact that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom will have to be recognised in the proper way and in the proper place—in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House confirm that the membership of the Joint Committee will be strengthened by the inclusion of hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland?
§ Question put and agreed to.
That Standing Order No. 87A (Consolidation, &c., bills) be amended, as follows:
Line 29, at end insert—
(f) any Order in Council laid or laid in draft before the House where an affirmative resolution is required before it is made, or is a condition of its continuance in operation, and which but for the provisions of the Northern Ireland Act 1974 would, in the opinion of the Committee, have been enacted by a Consolidation Bill, whether public or private, or by a Statute Law Revision Bill.