HC Deb 08 June 1982 vol 25 cc104-81

Again Considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendmentent be made.

10.15 pm
Mr. Farr

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I Wonder Whether you can help the committee. Can you explain the situation relating to motion put from the Government Bench that we report progress? I gather that the question was put to the House and was carried with general acclaim. So far as I am aware, it was never withdrawn. In those circumstances, can you give us some guidance as to what we are doing here now and why we are still in Committee?

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Perhaps I can help the Committee. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has been here for a very long time. He should know that this normally happens during a Committee stage. The Government Whip reported progress on my behalf and I then called the 10 o'clock business motion. That is the normal form.

Mr. Scott

I shall bring my remarks fairly rapidly to a close.

I reiterate that clause 1(2) meets the requirement to allow the Assembly maximum scope to make proposals in a form that will best enable it to achieve agreement, with the requirement that the proposals must be clear and specific enough for the Government and ultimately this House to form a view on whether they should lead to devolution. Proposals which did not include provision for composing an Executive or headships of Departments would be too vague to merit serious consideration and would not provide a secure basis for devolving powers.

I suggest that those who are most suspicious of devolution should above all wish clause 1(2) to be retained, as without it, at least in theory, devolution might take place without agreement on these crucial matters.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

The Minister has been very clear in his reference to schedule 2 and the provisions of its first paragraph. My difficulty—I may not be alone in this—is in seeing what kind of thing could further be specified in relation to the composition and appointments than is already specified in that paragraph. Incidentally, the Minister said, by a slip of the tongue, I think, that this gave the Assembly the "opportunity". In fact—and this makes it more difficult—we are mandating it to do something. That being so, we should surely be able to give ourselves an indication of the kind of thing that it might wish to do.

Mr. Scott

It is very much for the Assembly to settle these matters. The proposals need not nominate individuals for particular posts, although I suspect that in practice the Assembly is likely to come forward with the names of individuals. That is certainly possible. Alternatively, however, it might come forward with proposals which included a breakdown between the parties of the posts to be filled. All of those outcomes are possible. It is for the Assembly itself to decide what the proposals should be.

Mr. Powell

The Minister is being very patient and I am most grateful, but how could these once-for-all proposals by the Assembly for general devolution or, in the second case, rolling devolution, be so specific as to relate to the composition of a particular Assembly, or even more, to an individual? If this is really intended to force the Assembly to make such recommendations, should not the Committee think again about the desirability of this, as recommendations of that kind would clearly be undesirable and inconsistent with the whole procedure?

Mr. Scott

Personally, I should be reluctant for the Committee to think again about that, as I believe that the more flexibility that there is in the hands of the Assembly the better.

The right hon. Gentleman says that in a sense the proposals provide a basis for an enduring devolved system of government. That may be. The original proposals would provide either for names or for some other breakdown for the immediately devolved Administration, but provisions would also be included in the proposals as to what would happen when the individuals changed or when further consideration had to be given to the composition or basis of some Executive or the breakdown of headships of Departments.

It is possible for the Assembly to come forward with such proposals. That is the basis on which the Government have produced the proposals. That is why we are opposed to all these amendments, which would in their different ways place obstacles in the path of a return to a devolved administration. It is integral to the scheme of the Bill that proposals for full or partial devolution must include recommendations on the composition of Northern Ireland administration. The appointments clearly fall to the Secretary of State to make, but it is the views of the Assembly which we would seek and which would be taken into careful account.

Only if we are prepared to give the Assembly that flexibility can we end up with proposals that are likely to endure in the special situation of Northern Ireland. The obligations on the Assembly imposed by clause 1(2) are the minimum necessary for practical purposes and are completely compatible with our aim of providing a flexible framework within which the people of Northern Ireland can create a workable form of government in the interests of the common good. I therefore urge the Committee to reject amendments Nos. 7, 119 and 120, which would serve to make the possibility of devolution yet more remote.

It is hard to believe that some right hon. and hon. Members can take exception to allowing the Assembly to recommend the appointment of persons to assist the heads of devolved Departments, yet that is what the last pair of amendments seek under partial devolution. However, the Committee will immediately notice that the power to appoint such persons in the event of partial devolution is expressed in purely permissive terms. In practice, no such appointments would be made unless the Assembly so recommended. Members of the Assembly will be under no obligation to make such proposals. Therefore, this provision is also in accord with the general philosophy of the Bill and is designed to give the maximum possible freedom to the Assembly in its consideration of a suitable devolved structure.

Those are matters for the Assembly to decide for itself, and I trust accordingly that the Committee will reject the amendments and allow the Assembly the greatest possible freedom in its task of forming proposals for devolution.

Rev. Martin Smyth

My contribution arises particularly from the response of the Minister, who has been arguing that the amendment should be rejected because it robs the Bill and the proposed Assembly of flexibility. If I understood his argument correctly, it is that the flexibility is that one can have the Assembly if one does what the Minister asks. That does not seem to be flexible at all, even if names were presented to the Minister. If the Minister liked those people, he would appoint them. That does not give flexibility to the Assembly and certainly does not give great hope of the prospects of the Assembly having power devolved to it.

I am learning much in the House. From my experience in the Select Committee I thought that Ministers would respond to some of the points that were made and that we would get difficulties out of the road and make progress. The amendments and this part of the Bill deal with the composition of the Executive or an Executive—whatever Executive. It is at this point that we shall get into difficulties fast, yet I must admit that the Government have been providing some object lessons to us in power-sharing because we have a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office who claims to be a citizen of another State. I know that the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) has proposed certain forms of government on the American pattern that would help us, he believes, to move forward to devolved government in Northern Ireland. I wonder if the Government, in their examination of those proposals, have learnt from their distinguished visitor today that a person ceases to have citizenship when he takes a passport from another State.

Looking at the matter in more detail, it seems to me that we are back to the old scenario. In my basic vocation, these are what are termed travellers. These are sermons brought out of the filing cabinet, dusted and used again when someone is asked to speak in certain places. I have followed these debates for over 10 years. It seems that there are some in the Northern Ireland Office who have that philosophy. I am reminded of the preacher who, when asked on a famous harvest occasion what he was doing, replied, "Bringing out a traveller and putting a few stalks of corn through it."

The proposals before the Committee seem to be the old proposals with a little titivation to try to con the people of Ulster to go in the direction in which they have said they will not go. I would have been happier if in the previous debate the Paymaster General and chairman of the Conservative Party had been able to say to the Committee who was the guide who forecast the problems affecting the Government. This might have helped hon. Members to understand the impelling motives that produced the Bill, which I can guarantee, following the response of the Minister a short time ago, will founder on the rock of invincible Unionism. It is on that level that all the theories have to be tested.

At an earlier stage the argument against devolution presented by some was that a legislative assembly was contrary to the interests of central government. There are those in the past who have argued that in the Union's interest it never worked like that. Historically, the answer is that it did not, because Ulster was governed by Unionists. The Bill is dedicated to making sure that Unionists, even elected by their people in a democratic franchise, will not govern Ulster. Even though the franchise may have been geared a little to break the monolith and made different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom by the introduction of proportional representation to avoid a strong Unionist position, the people nevertheless returned pro-Union candidates.

Now we are told that, even if by some miracle the proposals have 70 per cent. acceptance, it will not be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government if the Bill does not carry community support. It seems that the "shalls" and the "mays" have to take account of the reality of the Ulster situation as we in Ulster examine the realities of the powers against us. According to my reading of the script, we may have a new choreographer in the Northern Ireland office, but the dance is the same

All I would say is that it takes two to tango, and, if the House is serious in bringing devolved Government back to Northern Ireland, it must look more seriously at these proposals, because they will not work. If, in the past, there have been those who have prophesied what the Conservative Party might face in Government, and have been proved right, I wish to put it on the record tonight that without a deeper consideration of the principle involved in this part of the Bill in particular, it will not pass the test of public opinion in Northern Ireland.

10.30 pm
Mr. Budgen

It was generous of the Minister to have said early in his speech that the Government had no immediate intention to move a closure on the debate, and that he would allow us the unusual privilege of replying to his remarks. It makes of our debate a reality, and he was helpful in replying to some of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The right hon. Gentleman was dealing at one stage with what might happen if a part of the Executive lost the confidence of the Assembly. The Minister replied only shortly to that.

I preface my remarks by saying that I was disappointed by the reply that was given earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten), because it is important to know the Government's attitude towards Stormont. I often agree with the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) who says in our discussions on Northern Ireland that he does not want a return to Stormont. Nor do I, and probably for the same reasons as the hon. Member. However, the Government have not given their general view about the desirability of a return to Stormont.

Leaving that aside, whatever else one might say about Stormont, it survived for 50 years, and for at least the greater part of that 50 years it must have retained the broad support of the people of Ulster. I suggest that that was because it was plain for all to see that power and responsibility resided with Stormont, and that those at Stormont, and especially the Cabinet Ministers, knew that they could not pass the buck to Westminster and blame Westminster in the event of their being either unjust or incompetent. It is plain from these proceedings that the sheer instability of these proposals means that the buck will never clearly be settled upon anybody.

I was hoping, as I listened to my hon. Friend the Minister, that he would point to paragraph 61 of the White Paper, because that gives, at some considerable length, the answer for which the right hon. Member for Down, South was asking. It makes it plain that this is not to be a devolved Administration in the way that Stormont was a devolved Administration. Nor is it to be local government in the way that, for instance, the actions of the Wolverhampton district council may be debated in the House and may be the subject of questions at environment Question Time. None the less, from paragraph 61 it is obvious that at all stages the Secretary of State retains supervisory powers.

I hope that the Committee will forgive me if we look for a moment at paragraph 61: If the Executive lost the broad support in the Assembly which had led to devolution the Secretary of State would have to consult the parties in the Assembly to see how that support could best be re-established or whether another Executive could be formed which commanded the necessary support. If no such Executive could readily be formed, there would be a number of options with regard to the Executive and the Assembly. Before we move towards that "number of options", may I say that it is all very well for the Secretary of State to talk about the manifold examples of flexibility within this constitution, but a constitution is surely a framework—something which sets the parameters within which people know that they can manoeuvre. To say that it is all flexibility is rather like somebody who has no standards of behaviour of any sort saying, "My attitude to everything is always pragmatic."

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

My hon. Friend talks about standards of behaviour, but how many times has he visited Northern Ireland?

Mr. Budgen

I think, about six times.

Mr. Rhodes James

Over how many years?

Mr. Budgen

Over about the past eight years.

As I hope I made plain on Second Reading, I do not suggest for a moment that I come to the debate with a detailed knowledge of Northern Ireland. Nor, if I may say so, do I expect that the Secretary of State would argue that about himself. All of us, as I am sure would my hon. Friend, would approach the problems with the same humility.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

If Northern Ireland is to remain part of the United Kingdom, which is the implication and the intention of the Bill, we are debating the constitution of the United Kingdom. Every hon. Member is equally entitled to hold a view on it.

Mr. Budgen

That is what I thought. I believed that those who were in favour of a United Kingdom said that for better or for worse Back Benchers provide a sort of jury system and on broad issues can offer their collective opinion upon such matters. I thought that it was not just a question of looking to those who had specialist knowledge, because the very weight of detail in the specialist's mind may make him least able to see the general problem.

Of course, I am an Englishman and my detailed knowledge of Northern Ireland is not great, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) would no more suggest that that is a fundamental weakness in my argument than say that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is incapacitated in carrying out his high office because he too is an Englishman.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Does my hon. Friend recall the debates on Welsh and Scottish devolution? I am sure that he does. Does he ever recall an hon. Member asking any other hon. Member how many times he had been to Wales and how many times he had been to Scotland?

Mr. Budgen

I do not remember that. I quite understand that some hon. Members do not wish to see the United Kingdom continue, would regard it as most important that each individual section of the United Kingdom should be ruled by those who come from it, and support the philosophy of breaking up the United Kingdom. I know that my arguments will be unacceptable to them. I do not seek to base my arguments on the arrogance of great intelligence or tremendous knowledge.

Mr. Gorst

I urge my hon. Friend to accept the point made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The specious suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) is not to be entertained. After all, my hon. Friend might equally ask my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge whether he has ever been to the Falkland Islands. Of course the answer is "No", and the question is totally irrelevant.

Mr. Rhodes James

As the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister dealing with the Falkland Islands, I was involved. However, the point is that Northern Ireland is very near to and is part of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend makes speeches denouncing a perfectly reasonable proposal—[Interruption.]—and I object to that because of his lack of involvement

Mr. Budgen

I understand that my hon. Friend objects to what I am doing. I fear that I shall have to continue without his support. That, of course, is sad, but I hope that I shall not, as a result, be entirely incapacitated in my task.

Mr. Michael Brown

Does my hon. Friend accept that he has still not succeeded with the kernel of his argument? When my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) mentioned the Falkland Islands, my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) argued that he knew more about the Falkland Islands because he was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister involved. Will my hon. Friend reiterate yet again the crucial point that, although I and several hundred other hon. Members are not Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Ministers concerned, we have all spoken at great length on that subject? However, none of us feels that we cannot speak on that subject just because we have not been to the place under discussion?

Mr. Budgen

I am the last person to wish to undermine in any way the important role of those who have the honour to be Parliamentary Private Secretaries. I quite understand the importance of that role. It is extremely kind of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge to remain in the Chamber while I speak. It may well have been unwise of the Wolverhampton, South-West electorate to elect me, but I am here. Although I have never had the honour of being a Parliamentary Private Secretary, I shall offer a few diffident words about the scheme. Those who believe that specialist knowledge of Ireland is pre-eminently important should remember that when I was interrupted I was talking not about what is happening in Ireland now, but about the proposals for Northern Ireland if rolling devolution becomes effective.

I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge that I was simply saying that my consideration of paragraph 61 of the White Paper—which is far less intelligent than my hon. Friend is capable of, from his high position—revealed that through the Secretary of State the Government would retain considerable power over the Assembly. When my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge was good enough to intervene I was not talking about the past in Northern Ireland but was inviting him to apply his imagination to the future. I believe that the second sentence deals with what would happen if the Executive lost broad support in the Assembly.

10.45 pm

The paragraph says: If no such Executive could readily be formed, there would be a number of options with regard to the Executive and the Assembly. As regards the Executive he would be able to invite the existing Executive to continue on a caretaker basis for up to six months, or to appoint, again for a maximum of six months, a caretaker administration of his own choosing whose members need not come from the Assembly; or resume himself the powers which had been devolved. He could set up a puppet Executive, or he could exercise those powers himself. If he set up a puppet Executive—some form of quango—one might even have the undesirable position that occurs, for instance, with the Property Services Agency, where one has a State organisation that is not a Ministry or directly subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

The Minister will say, "That is a good example of the wonderful flexibility of our proposals." It is an example of flexibility but it is also an example of instability. The people of Ulster will not know where they stand and will not be able to say even to the leader of the old Stormont Executive Lord Brookeborough, or to whomever it may be, "It is your fault." It will be a State in which the power constantly changes between the Secretary of State and those who are from time to time leaders of the Assembly.

The paragraph continues: The Assembly could be prorogued; or returned to the original scrutinising, consultative and advisory functions, without the powers conferred by the devolution order; or dissolved so that fresh elections could be held. The objective would be to sustain or reconstitute a devolved administration. When a crisis occurs, are the people of Northern Ireland not entitled to know whether the Assembly is to be sustained or reconstituted? "Yes," says the Minister. "That is another sign of the wonderful flexibility." Or should it be described as another sign of the uncertainty and instability of the organisation?

The important words of the paragraph are these: But in the last resort he would have the option of reverting to direct rule in the form which now exists. The same principles would apply should arrangements for partial devolution lose the necessary support in the Assembly. That brings me to the point to which the Minister replied when I intervened in his speech. On the one hand we hear clearly from the Secretary of State that once power has been devolved there will be residual supervisory power in the House. Let us take the case in which the House has decided to devolve to the Assembly in Ulster, for instance, powers that enable that Assembly to run district hospitals. Once the district hospitals are being run by the Assembly, no residual power over those hospitals could be exercised here.

The right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) asked whether we are to return to the pre-1979 system with no questions being asked about what is happening in Northern Ireland. No questions would be asked about district hospitals. We could form a view about how they were being run from reading the Ulster newspapers, but we could not ask direct questions or directly debate the issue.

Although this is theory, it is not illusion. It might be suggested that the devolved Assembly had powers to run mental hospitals. Before allowing that, the House might like to know the Assembly's track record in running district hospitals, how efficient the Executive was and whether it appointed the best person to the job or made sectarian appointments. We could not ask how it dealt with district hospitals. The power would have been devolved.

The proposals will not have the dignity and certainty of the old Stormont arrangement, for all its defects. Because of the so-called flexibility, we shall build a system that will leave the people of Ulster uncertain where real power resides. The real power will be with the Secretary of State. He will have residual powers over the appointments of personnel within the Executive and residual powers to withdraw devolved functions back to the House. The tradegy is that in the exercise of those powers, especially under clause 5(3), we should not have the right to question the way in which a devolved power was being carried out.

It is all very well to talk of flexibility. In the end a constitution must have parameters. There must be certainty about where power and responsibility ultimately lie. The so-called flexible proposals merely set the scene for confusion and muddle, for blaming Parliament and for doing something to break up the United Kingdom.

Mr. Gorst

My hon. Friend is saying that the Government are asking for a blank cheque. They will write in no details and give no one in the House the opportunity to put in a figure or a nought.

Mr. Budgen

The Government are not only asking for a blank cheque. As Margaret van Hattem said in an article to which the Secretary of State hardly referred, the Government proposal leaves any Secretary of State in a position to horse-trade all the way. It is one thing for the Minister of Argiculture, Fisheries and Food to tell farmers that they cannot have quite as much as they want on the sugar beet but that they can have a bit more on the oats or wheat. In constitutional matter the horse trading cannot be left as flexible as that. There must be an element of certainty.

The delightful proposition that where there is flexibility anything can be done will give rise to conflict between the Assembly and the United Kingdom Parliament. It will ensure that the people of Ulster are seen to be markedly different from those in the remainder of the United Kingdom. Perhaps we shall create an Assembly whose Members, in their understandable frustration, have a sense of impotence and anger and where, because they do not have clearly defined powers or the obligation to tax and to spend, or because they can always blame someone else, the powers of obstruction and vituperation that we Englishmen see in some people from Ulster will be enhanced and improved. They will seem to many English people to be a different race. With the assistance of the Bill, if it becomes an Act, they will, sadly, do much to separate themselves from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Shirley Williams (Crosby)

I begin by adding my congratulations to you, Mr. Dean, on the assumption of your responsibilities and sympathise with you on embarking on this occasion, which is likely to be more lengthy than most. We have listened in Committee to much brilliant negativism and to much clever and totally destructive criticism of the Government's proposals. We are now discussing a set of amendments that go to the heart of the Bill, because they propose to divorce the devolution of legislative responsibility from that of executive responsibility and to remove that part of the Bill that would confer executive devolution upon Northern Ireland.

I have not yet heard a word from the many right hon. and hon. Members who have addressed themselves to the subject, with the honourable exception of the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), about the long agony of Northern Ireland and how it might be brought to an end. It is sad that the House of Commons, after all that has happened, should treat the Secretary of State's proposals in an almost completely destructive way and not attempt to improve those proposals and make them work.

In 1975 a White Paper appeared called " The Government of Northern Ireland—A Society Divided".

Mr. Michael Brown

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Williams

I shall not give way just yet. The society has been divided from that day to this. The Secretary of State is attempting—one must give him credit for it—to find a way in which that divided society can be brought to work together once again. I see no threat to the United Kingdom greater than that of continuing decline in the economy of Northern Ireland, which will drive its young people away and promote the feeling that, for all its political genius, the United Kingdom Parliament has not found any solution. I ask right hon. and hon. Members to devote at least a little of their time to that consideration. [Interruption.] I shall not keep the Committee for as long as many others who have spoken in the debate and I shall certainly not give way to that sort of remark.

The heart of the Bill is in clause 1(2). It suggests that there should be real responsibility along with legislative devolution, and it is correct to link the two together. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to his support for the proposal that there should be devolution of legislation to the Northern Ireland Assembly because he clearly believes that there is not enough time in the United Kingdom Parliament to scrutinise and debate issues of importance to Northern Ireland. That is obviously true. We do not discuss in the House, nor is there time to do so, details of the individual issues that affect much of the population of Northern Ireland.

11 pm

We must honestly say that it is not likely that there will be adequate time for that kind of scrutiny. Yet that kind of scrutiny is very important to the development of democracy in Northern Ireland. To divorce the power to scrutinise and monitor from any power of Executive control and responsibility would be a dangerous exercise. The Assembly could rapidly become the very talking shop to which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) referred when he said that there were great dangers of powers without responsibility. The likelihood is that the Assembly would simply find its scapegoat in this Parliament. That also would not be good for the future integrity of the United Kingdom. What the Government recognise is that they must build on trust between the different religious communities. Without that there is no real future for a return to political responsibility in Northern Ireland.

I draw attention to part of the clause about which the Government might say another word if they respond to the debate on this group of amendments. I welcome what I understand to be a change. Under subsection (2), together with section 8 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, the Government wish to satisfy themselves that individual appointees as heads of Department would be subjected to the test of acceptability to a wide section of the community, as only the Northern Ireland Executive collectively was subjected to that test under the terms of section 8 of the 1973 Act. That is an advance which should be welcome to the Committee, if I am correct in interpreting it as I have done.

Am I right in assuming that schedule 2, which should be taken together with clause 1 for this purpose, means that those individual appointees could also be discussed with the Assembly and that the Government would commit themselves to widespread consultation with the parties? If the Minister were able to say something more about that consultation I would welcome it and it would be helpful to the proceedings on the Bill.

Mr. Proctor

The right hon. Lady referred, as did my hon. Friend the Minister, to schedule 2. I presume that she has read schedule 2. If she has, she will have seen the answer to her question in paragraph (7), where it says that the Secretary of State shall so far as practicable consult with the parties represented in the Assembly and take into account any proposals submitted to him under section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 1982. Is that not the answer to the question?

Mrs. Williams

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I referred precisely to the fact that there was reference to consultation with the parties in the Assembly. I ask the Government to say a little more about those five significant and important words. While I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's help, I should be grateful if he would allow me to puruse the matter a little further and get more enlightenment from the Government.

The next issue concerns a matter to which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred, perfectly properly, at considerable length. He was talking about what would happen if an individual head of a Northern Ireland Department were to lose the confidence of the Assembly. Again, taking schedule 2 together with clause 1, has the Minister given further thought to the possibility of dividing responsibility for an individual Department and any loss of confidence in the head of that Department from the general experiment in devolution?

As the Minister knows, my party is worried about putting the entire experiment at risk if one head of Department in one area were to lose the confidence of the Assembly, conceivably because he as an individual was believed by the Assembly not to be competent to carry out his responsibilities. In my view, it would be perfectly reasonable to amend schedule 2 or clause 5 so as to allow a division between loss of confidence in an individual Department and loss of confidence by the Assembly in devolution of responsibility of an executive nature as a general issue.

The third question that I want to ask the Minister relates to responsibility to the Assembly. No doubt when we come to clause 5 we shall discuss the extent to which the Assembly could be involved in demonstrating the acceptability of the presiding officer and of other officers of the Assembly to the Assembly itself. Again, it may be worth considering whether the heads of Departments, after consultation between the Secretary of State and the Assembly, might go through some procedure in which they were shown to be acceptable, on a vote of confidence by the Assembly itself. I agree that the closer the links between the Assembly and the heads of Departments, the more effective the intended devolution will be.

These are my questions, and, if the Government cannot reply to them now, I hope that they will do so at a later stage. I reiterate that the Government alone have put forward proposals that attempt to build bridges between the communities and to create confidence and trust, without which Northern Ireland will be regarded as a part of the United Kingdom which cannot share the full political responsibility that other parts of the United Kingdom enjoy. The Government are making an honourable and gallant attempt to fill the political vacuum that exists in Northern Ireland. Without that attempt the United Kingdom will be more at risk that it is today.

Mr. Proctor

It is no criticism of the Chair—and no exaggeration, either—to say that I have been seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Dean, since 27 May, when the previous debate commenced on the earlier group of amendments. Indeed, I believe that it predates your appointment to the Chair, and I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment to the Chair and the onerous duties that you bear.

This is also the first opportunity that I have had to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for making available in good time to members of the Committee who asked copies of the notes on clauses. They were gratefully received. It was at my suggestion that the notes were made available, and I believe that they will considerably help our deliberations. Indeed, had the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) had a copy of the briefing notes before she made her speech, or had she had an opportunity to read the part on schedule 2, she might have found the answer to some of her questions.

A number of right hon. and hon. Members during this and the preceding debates mentioned manifestos and briefing notes—of a different Kind—to candidates. The Opposition mentioned their proposals, too. I shall restrain myself by referring only to my own election manifesto at the last general election. I said: We must strengthen Parliament and its sovereignty if we are to defend our people and society. For this reason I am opposed to the creation of rival parliaments in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Europe. Tonight we are discussing the creation of just such a rival Parliament or Assembly. My opposition to it in principle stems from my views at the time leading up to the last general election. I then made my views clear on the matter to my electors so they will not be surprised that I speak behind the principles that I inserted into my election manifesto in May 1979.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred to the partial quotation that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) on an earlier group of amendments. Although it was a partial quotation, it was such an important one that those parts which have already been quoted deserve a fresh airing. I shall read a little more of the quotation because the Committee may be interested in the further remarks. The quotation comes from Daily Notes No. 9, 25 April 1979, on Northern Ireland. It states: The next Government will come under considerable pressure to launch a new high-powered political initiative on Northern Ireland with the object of establishing another 'power-sharing' government in the Province which could pave the way for a federal constitution linking Ulster to the Irish Republic. The main political parties in Dublin have already drawn up their plans; and so have political representatives of the anti-unionist minority in Ulster itself. It is clear from the comments made by Mr. Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, during his visit to Ireland last week, that the Irish-American community is ready for a war of words with the next Government (in which, no doubt, it will be assisted by Mr. John Pardoe"— no doubt the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) will be interested to hear his name— who rushed to endorse Mr. O'Neill's criticisms of British policy). That is a longer quote than the one my hon. Friend gave, but it was worth while to give it. What was forecast in the quotation has come about. To what extent it has come about through external pressures from Dublin, from Washington, from the Liberal Party or the SDP, or a mixture of them, one does not know. But the political initiative has come about through our own hand, through my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State introducing the Bill. It is not the first initiative of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins) took an initiative along lines which would run counter to what was set out in the briefing notes. When he was Secretary of State he also introduced similar proposals for a political initiative. They were doomed to failure. The proposals before us today will be doomed to failure.

Mr. Molyneaux

Following the revelations by the hon. Gentleman and by his hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) of this significant and startling information for which they have now produced documentary proof, with hindsight does the hon. Gentleman share my fear that transatlantic pressure was possibly applied during the top-level three-day meeting in London, which lasted for three days, between senior Cabinet Ministers and their opposite numbers in Washington.

11.15 pm
Mr. Proctor

The hon. Gentleman obviously has more information about these matters than I have. I accept his fear that just such a deliberation took place with just such the outcome as is conditioned and set forth in the Bill. I am grateful to him for wisely putting that view and fear on the record.

The amendments seek to amend clause 1(2). I have read the amendments carefully and I have a preference for amendment No. 7, moved so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest, which seeks to remove subsection (2). That would be ideal, but, if that proves impossible, there are various amendments that seek to improve the subsection. If the Committee divides upon them subsequently, I have a mind to vote for them. My hon. Friend the Minister did his best to answer the questions raised, but I do not believe that he met the approval of those who have been critical of the subsection.

I have considerable doubt about the powers that have been given to the Secretary of State to receive proposals from the Assembly if and when it is established and to make appointments on Her Majesty's behalf. I have doubts about the vague provisions for dismissal of appointees. I have a few questions to ask about the number of heads of department and assistants who might be appointed. I wish to comment briefly on partial devolutions and the powers that might be split up within a Department, and the effect that that might have on the appointment of heads of Department.

It is necessary to look at three or four different parts of the Bill at once to understand the thread of that which is being proposed. Subsection (2) must be read in conjunction with schedule 2 and section 8(3) to the 1973 Act. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has said that the purpose of schedule 2 is to give the Secretary of State greater flexibility in dealing with rolling devolution. May I press him about the formula for the maximum number of persons who may hold those appointments? They are set out in what will become the new section 8(3).

The subsection provides that the maximum number of persons holding appointments under section 8 is 13. Thus, referring to the briefing notes that were so kindly provided, it says: Thus if required, there could be a chief executive member, Heads of the Northern Ireland Departments (which are expected to number 6 shortly) and deputies to those Heads; but there would be no need to proceed in this way. Under the Constitution Act, as amended by Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution (Amendment) Act, 1973 the maximum size of the executive is 11, although the maximum size of the administration as a whole (which includes the Executive) is 15. It concludes: The figure of 13 is considered a sensible maximum bearing in mind the size of the Assembly, but that figure can be increased by statutory instrument subject to negative resolution at Westminster. I do not think that the Minister told the Committee why that figure is now 13 whereas in the 1973 Act it was 12. There has obviously been some reason for increasing it—no doubt a good one. I am not convinced by the briefing note as to the reason for it. Nor am I convinced by the Minister's response about numbers. I might have been less critical of the provision had the Bill provided for a reduction from 12 to 11, or preferably less. But as it proposes to increase the number and presumably the cost of salaries will increase as there will be an added administrative cost of employing those people, there should be a clear reason for increasing the number.

The briefing notes also refer to two persons at any time holding appointments under this section who may not have been appointed from among Members of the Assembly, but they say that not more than one shall be a head of a Northern Ireland Department.

I am not convinced by the Minister's answer to that and as to why it is necessary to go wider than the membership of the Assembly to appoint heads of Departments. What is the motivation behind that? If the people to whom he referred had expertise but were not Members of the Assembly, presumably they could stand in the elections. The expertise would then be available to the Assembly and to the Secretary of State when he comes to appointments.

I understand that those people, who may not be Members of the Assembly but who might be appointed heads of Departments, could sit and speak in the Assembly but not vote there. I am not sure that that is a sensible way to proceed. Perhaps the Minister could advise me whether I am right in my assumptions.

I tried to deal with the points raised by the right hon. Member for Crosby about the consultations that might take place with regard to appointments under subsections (5) and (6), which are taken into account in subsection (7) of the schedule.

Mr. Budgen

Surely the persons appointed to the Executive by the Secretary of State would be in the same position as co-opted members of a county council. They would be able to take part in the deliberations, they might be able to carry out executive functions, but they would not be able to vote.

Mr. Proctor

My hon. Friend has probably set it absolutely right. Following his line of thought, I cannot think that any self-respecting county councillor would place such a person in an important or influential position such as the chairmanship of a committee, which might be the nearest equivalent. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his help on that point.

Section 8(6) empowers the Secretary of State at any time to make appointments that do not comply with the requirements of section 8(4) if it is not possible to form an Administration that command widespread acceptance throughout the community and all but two of those members were drawn from the Assembly.

The briefing note, however, says rather disturbingly of the new section 8(6): This provision ensures that if, after a breakdown in the arrangements for devolved government in Northern Ireland, it is thought that it is worthwhile persisting with attempts to continue devolution, it can continue without the need to revert to direct rule while attempts are made to form a fresh Executive drawn from the Assembly. The briefing note euphemistically describes this as a "breathing space". It seems to me to be a period for "wheeler dealing" in smoke-filled corridors well out of sight of any public scrutiny or indeed any scrutiny by this House.

Mr. Molyneaux

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me a second time. I think that the Secretary of State can clarify that point. I recall that in a discussion—it was not a private discussion, so I am not breaking any confidences—he was asked by one of our team what would happen if the Executive came a cropper. The Secretary of State's view—one now sees the reflection of this in the Bill—was that the whole structure would not collapse. It would be demolished only down to Assembly level. When asked what would be the next step, he explained that there would be an interval during which the parties could attempt to cobble together a 70 per cent. majority to enable someone else to put the show on the road.

Mr. Proctor

The hon. Gentleman substitutes the term "cobbling together" for my "wheeler dealing", but I think that there is no difference between our views of what would happen in such a situation.

I wish to push the Minister to say something about the suspension or dismissal of heads of Department if the Secretary of State so wished. Can he assure the Committee that this will be possible under the arrangements proposed? I believe that the Government's intention is that, if such a position were reached despite the wheeler dealing and cobbling together of a new formula, In that event the Secretary of State can appoint a United Kingdom Minister to discharge executive powers in Northern Ireland. Unless I have misunderstood it, that seems to be a reversion to the present position. I hope that the Minister will confirm that if we were minded to go down this route there would be some way in which we can retrieve the situation. I hope that he will describe the ways in which we could then claw back what we might put wrong in the Bill.

11.30 pm

I should like to comment on partial devolution of powers of an individual Department. I do not believe that that has been dealt with by any of the Committee. Therefore, I should like to probe a little on that point to find out how it spins back on to the appointment of Departmental heads. I am again indebted to the Minister for the briefing notes to help me to go down the path. They state: Under subsection (1), devolution can be 'full' or 'partial'. Either all the legislative and executive powers formerly devolved in 1974 by virtue of the Constitution Act can be devolved in a single transfer of responsibilities; or only certain functions can be devolved in the first instance. Proposals for partial devolution can be in respect of all or some of the responsibilities of given departments. The briefing notes state further: It would be preferable if the Assembly agreed that all the functions of a given department should be devolved. Though if the agreement on devolution was critically dependent on some but not all of a department's functions being devolved that would be possible; in that event, the existing departmental structure would need to be changed before devolution so that when devolution took place it would be by reference to all the functions of a particular department. That is in clause 2(1)(b).

It may be decided by the Assembly that, for example, for the sake of argument, the Department of Education should have devolved powers but not all the devolved powers that are currently held by my hon. Friend the Minister dealing with education in Northern Ireland. It may be agreed that it should have secondary education and higher education but not primary education. Two thirds of the Department can be devolved presumably to a head of that Department, who would look after it. What happens to the other third? Are we saying that we might at the same time appoint and pay a head of Department for secondary education and higher education, but that a Minister of the Crown responsible to the House would still continue in being, responsible for primary education?

That is my reading of the Bill as it stands. If I am not correct, perhaps the Minister will tell me where I have gone wrong in reading through the Bills, Acts and briefing notes. I accept that it is a complicated matter. I may have followed a wrong route or taken a wrong decision, but I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister will put me right.

The right hon. Member for Crosby claims that none of my right hon. and hon. Friends has put forward sensible suggestions for improving the Bill. The right hon. Lady should accept that that is a sensible suggestion. It cannot be sensible to have two Ministers for education for Northern Ireland. That cannot be.

Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will pay some attention to that point. I have delayed the Committee for too long. I should be grateful for my hon. Friend's comments on my remarks.

Mr. Michael Brown

I rise to speak to this group of amendments because clause 1(2) raises some important issues. The Government, in drafting the subsection, have recognised that there is a problem in Northern Ireland. It is different from the rest of the United Kingdom. The aim of all political parties in Parliament is to ensure that one party commends itself to the electorate and is returned to Westminster with an overall majority. Our constitution and electoral practice seek to assist that process—much to the annoyance of the minority parties, the Liberals and the Social Democrats—through a straightforward method of majority voting that the electorate understands. There is no proportional representation.

This is where the divergence begins. The subsection seeks to devise a scenario for Northern Ireland that is the exact reverse of what we, as politicians, seek to achieve for this part of the kingdom. A different electoral system has for some years been applied to certain elections in Northern Ireland. The subsection and, indeed, the clause as a whole seek to devise a situation in which it will be difficult, notwithstanding the wishes of the electorate, to have a group of politicians elected on a co-ordinated platform as happens when a political party is returned to power in this part of the kingdom. That is frustrated by the 70 per cent. test. I recognise that this is not the subject of the present debate. I mention it in passing because it colours the style in which subsection (2) is drafted.

Once the parties are elected to the new Assembly, the Bill seeks to ensure that it is difficult for a single party, with the largest group of Members, to govern and to express the democratic view of the people, especially over decisions to take on powers. This brings me to the heads of Departments. It is easy, listening to the debates, to forget that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. I find myself sometimes falling into that habit, which I shall attempt to resist during the proceedings on the Bill.

Everything is done in this part of the kingdom to ensure that Ministers and their deputies are Members of Parliament. There appears to be some confusion over the part of the clause that deals with heads of Department in the new Executive. I should like to hear some reassurance from the Minister on this matter. The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) was emphatic that she should receive answers to her questions. I hope that I shall receive the same treatment. I am concerned that heads of Department or their deputies will not be accountable to the elected Assembly in the way that I, as a representative of my electorate in this part of the kingdom, expect Ministers to be accountable to hon. Members. That worries me. Therefore, the amendments that deal with the problem of the deputies will be important in the event that the first group of amendments do not find favour with the Committee.

I come back to the theme that was struck by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen). He talked about the general structure and the Government's claim in favour of the subsection that it symbolised the flexibility of the Bill. In my view, that flexibility will be the Bill's undoing and, indeed, the Assembly's undoing. As my hon. Friend said, when framing a new set of proposals for a local authority and setting up its standing orders, or when setting up a new Assembly, we must try to take a view that goes beyond the difficulties of the first year or two.

I represent a county that went through the mincing machine of local government reorganisation about 10 years ago. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) in his place, and he will understand what I am about to say. The Government of the day argued that there were bound to be teething problems but that local government reorganisation would go beyond the election of one council and its political colour.

If we apply the same argument in this case, we shall have to go beyond the difficulties of whatever the electorate may throw up after the first set of elections. We cannot simply say to the Assembly "Well, you go at your own pace." If the electorate is sufficiently inconsiderate as to throw up an Assembly that is not along the lines envisaged in the Bill, my right hon. Friend simply puts on the brakes and says "You do not go along that particular road or follow that line, but hold back until you want to move on."

In all honesty, one cannot pursue that policy. In a way I would have more support for the Bill if, in seeking to establish a Northern Ireland Assembly, it specified in clear detail what the powers would and would not be. I did not like the old Stormont. I was not particularly unhappy when Stormont was abolished in 1973. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said, at least there was accountability and Ministers at Stormont knew their powers, knew how far they could go and knew their responsibilities and everyone in the whole system knew where the buck stopped.

In the end, although sometimes there was no clarity about it, the buck inevitably stopped here at Westminster. I believe that in the end, however much we may try to pass it on in the short run, the buck will have to stop at Westminster, irrespective of what comes out of the implementation of subsection (2).

11.45 pm
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

While in no way agreeing with my hon. Friend on the prorogation and ultimate abolition of Stormont, to which I was strongly opposed at the beginning of the 1970s, and against which I voted, may I ask whether he agrees that the sheer flexibility of the subsection will set dangerous precedents not only for Northern Ireland, as he is describing, but perhaps in other parts of the United Kingdom as well? Will my hon. Friend direct his remarks to that end, because dangerous precedents are being set in the Bill?

Mr. Brown

I seldom disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), and I remember his opposition to the abolition of Stormont in 1973 and his great support for it. I disagree with him on this issue and will not be tempted into going down the road of arguing with him about the pros and cons of Stormont, though in this debate references to Stormont, and contrasting the arrangements that existed for Ministers in the Stormont Assembly their exact powers, and the clear lines of responsibility that they had, together with the clear separation of power between Westminster and Stormont, are relevant and useful.

My hon. Friend is right to draw my attention, and that of the Committee, to the fact that there must inevitably be implications for the rest of the kingdom if the subsection is passed in its present form. I do not see any way in which a determined, devolution-minded political party in Wales or Scotland would allow this measure to go on to the statute book without seeking to use it for its political purpose. There is no sense in not recognising that.

Viscount Cranborne

My hon. Friend has been talking, with considerable justice, about the flexible nature of the proposals. He quoted the example of subsection (2), to which we are addressing ourselves. Will he consider whether the flexibility introduced by my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Northern Ireland Office has come as a direct result of the attempt to do something which, by definition, the Stormont settlement did not do, which is to give the minority communities in Northern Ireland a say in the government of the Province?

Does my hon. Friend agree that so long as that attempt is being made in a Northern Ireland rather than a United Kingdom, and therefore a Westminster, context, the flexibility to which he has alluded is inevitably a part of those proposals, and that flexibility in a Northern Ireland context alone contains within it the seeds of the destruction of those proposals?

Mr. Brown

I accept what my hon. Friend has said. One understands and appreciates the honourable motive behind the idea of flexibility of my right hon. and hon. Friends who sit on the Treasury Bench. It is a reasonable attempt, but if one thinks that through the legislative processes one can try to solve the problem that we all recognise, one is wrong. I hope that the right hon. Member for Crosby agrees that the reason why Conservative Members are spending so much time and energy in debating the matter at great length is that we are deeply concerned.

It can be seen from the attendance during debates on Northern Ireland matters, and from the balance of the political parties whenever Northern Ireland matters are debated, whether on a late night order at 10.30, 11 o'clock, or later, that it is usually the Government Back Benches that ensure that there is some representation, whereas on the other Benches there is often none.

It is because we are so deeply concerned about the possibility of failure that we are anxious to ensure that whatever the House does there shall be no failure. We are worried about the fact that the Secretary of State has genuinely not made any great claims for the Bill. My criticism is that the Bill has great implications for the future of both Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

What worries me and so many of my hon. Friends and which causes us to scrutinise the Bill in every detail, is that we have seen so many attempts to grapple with the problem of Northern Ireland come to nothing. We see now an amalgam of various attempts to solve the problems. We should have the advantage this time of knowing what may well happen in Northern Ireland when such an Assembly is finally set up. The experience of the past 10 or 15 years of power sharing, attempts to create some credible Stormont, call it what one will—Assembly, power-sharing Executive—should enable us to join up the dots of the circle and realise that if we are not careful we will be back where we started.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the long history that has led to the assiduous efforts of himself and his hon. Friends to investigate the Bill in great detail. I might just add that as the Minister of State, Home Office at the time when the troops were first sent in, I am also conscious of the reasons why it is important to try to build better relations between the two communities. I was worried by what appeared to be an absence of the realisation of the importance of that in the course of the debate.

Mr. Brown

I accept entirely that the right hon. Lady, like every hon. Member who has participated in the debate, from whichever political party, wishes nothing but the best for the future of Northern Ireland. However, there was an implication in her intervention earlier when she referred to the "negativism"—I think that was the word she used—of Conservative Members. I dispute that.

Given that the House has given a Second Reading to the Bill, we have been concerned and determine to consider some sensible amendments and to deal with the problem to which the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) drew attention. We must sort out the chaff from the maize in the wording of this subsection. It is important to ensure that we get that balance right.

I submit that those of us who are scrutinising the Bill in detail in Committee are not doing so simply out of a desire that the Bill should not find a place on the statute book. I should rather it did not find a place on the statute book, but I recognise—

Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Committee has a duty and a responsibility to consider in detail any legislation for Northern Ireland if it impinges on other parts of the United Kingdom, as some hon. Members believe that this will?

The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) raised the question of discussing Northern Ireland business. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the time that is spent in the House discussing Scottish business. Any Scottish Member will inform the right hon. Lady that we spend a lot of time upstairs as well discussing Scottish business. That seems to work effectively. We in Scotland wonder why Northern Ireland cannot have the same benefits.

Mr. Brown

Debating Scottish affairs in detail in the Mother of Parliaments—in Committee upstairs, or in a full-scale debate on the Floor of the House—ensures that the people of Scotland do not feel that we are letting them down and do not feel remote from Westminster. When the people of Scotland and Wales were invited to participate in a referendum on whether the devolution Bills were acceptable, they decided that Parliament at Westminster was the best body to consider and look after their affairs. They must have been pleased to know that not only were Scottish Members prepared to look after their constituency interests, but that English Members also were prepared to do so.

I took great exception when it was implied that hon. Members needed great in-depth knowledge of Northern Ireland before speaking on the subject and had to satisfy the Committee that they had made X number of visits to Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland should be pleased that so many hon. Members who do not have a great deal to do with Northern Ireland are concerned with far-flung parts of the United Kingdom and are prepared to consider their problems in such detail. It is a great credit to our parliamentary system—and one of its great strengths—that we can bring to bear our concern for that part of the United Kingdom. Ultimately, as has been said, the measure also has implications for the rest of the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Minister should consider the amendments, because if he and his colleagues insist that the Bill should reach the statute book as soon as possible, it is vital that we should ensure that, in our haste and speed, we get things right for a part of the United Kingdom that has been through so many problems and failures. We must get things right this time, because there will not be any room for another constitutional failure. We must clarify the powers and responsibilities of heads of Department and of Members of the proposed Executive, and clarify why heads of Department can appoint deputy heads that are not members of the Assembly. We are trying to deal with a majority and a minority and with the possibility that that minority will not be represented because the majority will send a certain type of Member to the Assembly, who will not be acceptable to Ministers in this House, or perhaps to the House as a whole.

We are trying to ensure that the gap is bridged. However, in doing so, the Government will sow the seeds of destruction.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I am following my hon. Friend's excellent argument closely. Is he saying that, through the mish-mash of the constitutional monstrosity before the Committee, he would rather go back to the Stormont situation that existed before abolition than see Northern Ireland integrated into the United Kingdom? Many hon. Members would see the latter as a positive contribution towards solving the problems of the troubled Province of Ulster.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be tempted down that road. It is getting far from the amendment that we are discussing.

Mr. Brown

Obviously the implication of what I have been saying is that, if the Government were merely implementing the spirit of their election commitment in 1979 to integration, that would be a more acceptable way of progressing.

12 midnight

I accept, Mr. Dean, that we cannot pursue that argument with this group of amendments, although it is bound to run through our minds as we consider the detail of the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to consider seriously the amendments that are being proposed, and certainly the amendments that relate to the second part of subsection (2). That is important to hon. Members.

Mr. Scott

At the slight risk of gilding the lily, perhaps I could add my congratulations to you, Mr. Dean. We have been friends since long before either of us became Members of the House. For personal reasons it is a delight to hear of your appointment, and I look forward to sitting for many hours under your chairmanship.

I have listened to the arguments that have been presented, but I see no reason to change the advice that I gave to the Committee when I last intervened to reject the amendments. I should like to take up some of the points that have been raised. Some of them affect other parts of the Bill perhaps more immediately than this part. It would be appropriate for those points to be discussed and settled when we reach those other parts of the Bill.

The point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown), and by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), and by his distinguished predecessor the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), about the uncertainties and problems associated with partial devolution—for example, the split responsibilities and the fact that some Ministers would be responsible to the Assembly while the Secretary of State would have overall responsibility to the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West spoke graphically about the uncertainties. I accept the points that have been made.

In many ways partial devolution will have unsatisfactory aspects, but it must be seen as a step, or possibly more than one step, along the road to full devolution which is the aim of the Bill. The unsatisfactory nature of partial devolution stems from the problem that we are seeking to solve. I believe that we will give ourselves a substantially greater chance of being able to move to full devolution if we have before us the opportunity of moving in the first stage to partial devolution.

My hon. Friend spoke about the control of Parliament during partial devolution. It is a quibble, but it enables me to deal with another point raised by him when he advanced the examples of devolving district hospitals in the first instance and mental hospitals subsequently. The idea of partial devolution is that whole Departments should be devolved. All the responsibilities should be moved over to the devolved Administration at once.

Although, in my view, it would be unsatisfactory, if it became impossible for one particular aspect of a Department's work to be devolved and that was holding up agreement on a package for partial devolution, it would be possible to devolve part of those responsibilities. Under the Bill, that could be done only by removing those responsibilities from the Department before moving on to the devolution procedure.

Mr. Proctor

What happens to the responsibilities that might be removed from the Department that will be devolved? Will the Minister of the Crown continue to be responsible?

Mr. Scott

In practice, the duties would be exercised by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Budgen

My hon. Friend has been very kind and courteous in fully replying to the debate and in giving way. We have had an excellent and useful debate to which he has contributed fully by his courtesy. I wish sharply to differentiate between his conduct and that of his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who truncated the previous debate, which was extremely disturbing to many of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

My hon. Friend says that a partial devolution of the work of one Department is undesirable. He says that the Government do not intend to attempt such a partial devolution dividing up the work of the Department. But the Bill as framed would allow a partial devolution of the work of any one Department. Would he accept an amendment so that the work of a Department could be devolved only in toto, or devolved back only in toto, but that there could not be the piecemeal devolution which he concedes would cause great problems?

Mr. Scott

The short answer is "No". As drafted, the Bill provides the flexibility that we need. My hon. Friend's suggestion would needlessly complicate matters. It is the Government's intention that such devolution should take place Department by Department.

The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) raised a number of interesting points. She opened her speech with a telling commentary on the inadequacy of the House's scrutiny of Northern Ireland affairs. Much time and effort are rightly spent on security and constitutional matters. Having been responsible for a Northern Ireland Department for the past nine months, I know how rarely it is that the precise matters that come under my responsibility are raised on the Floor of the House. Although the people of Northern Ireland are of course interested in such matters, they are also interested in schools, homes and hospitals. It is our profound belief that the creation of an Assembly and devolved government is the right way to give them back power over those matters.

The right hon. Lady mentioned the question of responsibility and acceptability to the Assembly of members of the Executive. I am not sure whether I disappoint her—I found it slightly difficult to follow her argument at that point—but it is clear that the acceptability or otherwise would be seen as a package of the names that came forward. If she considers that carefully, she will see that if the Assembly comes forward with proposals that have been carefully worked out, it would be wrong either for the House, or perhaps for arrangements for the Assembly itself, to work through the names to decide which were acceptable. The package as a whole must be accepted and for the same reason we would not wish to move towards a system of what the Americans call "advise and consent", where individual names come forward for formal voting. That would not help to get the process of rolling devolution in operation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West made much of the powers of the Secretary of State, especially the powers of appointment where devolution is in some trouble and Members' confidence is withdrawn from Ministers responsible to the Assembly My right hon. Friend would have the power to appoint, as a caretaking measure, Northern Ireland junior Ministers responsible to the He use of Commons in order to shoulder the responsibilities, but that would be for only six months. It would be used simply to enable devolved arrangements to be continued if there was the prospect of reconstituting a Northern Ireland Administration after a breakdown without the need for a fresh election. A parallel to that was included in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) spoke about flexibility. It is worth pointing out the provisions of schedule 2: Before making any appointment … the Secretary of State shall so far as practicable consult with the parties represented in the Assembly and take into account any proposals … under clause 1 of the Bill. The duty is there. The right hon. Member for Crosby wished to have that fleshed out. It is difficult to do so precisely because we do not know what sort of Assembly will be elected and the arrangements that the parties within the Assembly will wish to formalise. The attitude of my right hon. Friend and those who help him is that we should devote the maximum time and effort to those consultations, because unless we can achieve devolved government our whole effort—the production of the White Paper and the hours that we are spending in consideration of the Bill—will come to naught.

The Assembly in its early stages will have a useful job to perform, but it must be seen as a job that will lead towards devolution. We shall make every effort and use our imagination and skill—all the virtues that the right hon. Member for Down, South imbued us with earlier—to consult and ensure that, from those consultations, we gain proposals for devolved government.

The parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Jopling)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divide: Ayes 142, Noes 20.

Division No. 179] [12.13 am
Alexander, Richard Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.
Alison, RtHon Michael Dover, Denshore
Alton, David Dunn, Robert(Dartfort)
Arnold, Tom Eggar, Tim
Baker, Kenneth(St. M'bone) Elliott, SirWilliam
Baker, Nicholas(N Dorset) Eyre, Reginald
Banks, Robert Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Faith, Mrs Sheila
Beith, A. J. Fisher, Sir Nigel
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gh N)
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Forman, Nigel
Berry, Hon Anthony Gardner, Edward(S Fylde)
Best, Keith Goodlad, Alastair
Bevan, David Gilroy Gow, Ian
Blackburn, John Grant, Anthony(Harrow C)
Blaker, Peter Gray, Hamish
Boscawen, Hon Robert Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds)
Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W) Hamilton, Hon A.
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hampson, DrKeith
Bright, Graham Hannam, John
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Haselhurst, Alan
Brooke, Hon Peter Hawkins, Paul
Brotherton, Michael Hawksley, Warren
Browne, John(Winchester) Hayhoe, Barney
Bruce-Gardyne, John Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)
Buck, Antony Holland, Philip(Carlton)
Bulmer, Esmond Hooson, Tom
Butler, Hon Adam Hordern, Peter
Cadbury, Jocelyn Hunt, David(Wirral)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hunl, John(Ravensbourne)
Carlisle, John(Luton West) Irvine, BryantGodman
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln) Jessel, Toby
Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe) JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey
Colvin, Michael Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, John King, Rt Hon Tom
Costain, SirAlbert Lang, Ian
Crouch, David Lester, Jim(Beeston)
Dorrell, Stephen Lyell, Nicholas
MacGregor, John Scott, Nicholas
MacKay, John(Argyll) Sever, John
Major, John Shaw, Giles(Pudsey)
Marland, Paul Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Marlow, Antony Shersby, Michael
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Silvester, Fred
Mather, Carol Smith, Tim,(Beaconsfield)
Mawby, Ray Speller, Tony
Mawhinney, DrBrian Stevens, Martin
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stewart, A.(ERenfrewshire)
Mellor, David Stewart, Ian(Hitchin)
Mills, Iain(Meriden) Stradling Thomas. J.
Moate, Roger Tapsell, Peter
Morrison, Hon P.(Chester) Taylor, Teddy(S'end E)
Myles, David Thompson, Donald
Neale, Gerrard Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Needham, Richard Viggers, Peter
Newton, Tony Waddington, David
Normanton, Tom Wakeham, John
Onslow, Cranley Waldegrave, HonWilliam
Page, John (Harrow, West) Wall, SirPatrick
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Waller, Gary
Patten, John (Oxford) Ward, John
Penhaligon, David Wells, Bowen
Pollock, Alexander Wheeler, John
Prior, RtHon James Whitney, Raymond
Raison, RtHon Timothy Wickenden, Keith
Rhodes James, Robert Williams, D (Montgomery)
Rhys Williams, SirBrandon Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Ridley, HonNicholas Wolfson, Mark
Ridsdale, SirJulian Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
Rifkind, Malcolm
Roper, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Sainsbury, HonTimothy Mr. John Selwyn Gummer.
Amery, RtHon Julian McQuade, John
Biggs-Davison, SirJohn Molyneaux, James
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Murphy, Christopher
Budgen, Nick Paisley, Rev Ian
Cranborne, Viscount Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Dunlop, John Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Goodhart, SirPhilip Stanbrook, Ivor
Gorst, John Winterton, Nicholas
Knight, MrsJill
Lawrence, Ivan Tellers for the Noes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Moss and
McCusker, H. Mr. K. Harvey Proctor.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divide: Ayes 20, Noes 142.

Division No. 180] [12.25 am
Amery, Rt Hon Julian McQuade, John
Biggs-Davison, SirJohn Molyneaux, James
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Murphy, Christopher
Budgen, Nick Paisley, Rev Ian
Cranborne, Viscount Powell, Rt Hon J. E.(S Down)
Dunlop, John Smyth, Rev. W. M.(Belfast S)
Goodhart, SirPhilip Stanbrook, Ivor
Gorst, John Winterton, Nicholas
Knight, MrsJill
Lawrence, Ivan Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Peter(Fareham) Mr. William Ross and
McCusker, H. Mr. K. Harvey Proctor.
Alexander, Richard Hawkins, Paul
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Hawksley, Warren
Alton, David Hayhoe, Barney
Arnold, Tom Hogg, HonDouglas (Gr'th'm)
Aspinwall, Jack Holland, Philip(Carlton)
Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone) Hooson, Tom
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Hordern, Peter
Banks, Robert Hunt, David (Wirral)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Beith, A. J. Irvine, BryantGodman
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Jessel, Toby
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey
Berry, HonAnthony Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Best, Keith King, Rt Hon Tom
Bevan, David Gilroy Lang, Ian
Blackburn, John Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Blaker, Peter Lyell, Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert MacGregor, John
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) MacKay, John (Argyll)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Major, John
Bright, Graham Marland, Paul
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Marlow, Antony
Brooke, Hon Peter Marten, Rt Hon Neil
Brotherton, Michael Mather, Carol
Browne, John (Winchester) Mawby, Ray
Bruce-Gardyne, John Mawhinney, DrBrian
Buck, Antony Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bulmer, Esmond Mellor, David
Butler, Hon Adam Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Moate, Roger
Campbell-Savours, Dale Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln) Myles, David
Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Neale, Gerrard
Colvin, Michael Needham, Richard
Cope, John Nelson, Anthony
Costain, Sir Albert Newton, Tony
Crouch, David Normanton, Tom
Dorrell, Stephen Onslow, Cranley
Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ. Page, John (Harrow, West)
Dover, Denshore Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Patten, John (Oxford)
Eggar, Tim Penhaligon, David
Elliott, SirWilliam Pollock, Alexander
Eyre, Reginald Prior, Rt Hon James
Fairgrieve, Sir Russell Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Faith, Mrs Sheila Rhodes James, Robert
Fisher, Sir Nigel Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'ghN) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Forman, Nigel Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Rifkind, Malcolm
Goodlad, Alastair Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Gow, Ian Roper, John
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Gray, Hamish Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Scott, Nicholas
Hamilton, Hon A. Shaw, Giles(Pudsey)
Hampson, Dr Keith Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Hannam, John Shersby, Michael
Haselhurst,Alan Silvester, Fred
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Ward, John
Speller, Tony Wells, Bowen
Stevens, Martin Wheeler, John
Stewart, A (E Renfrewshire) Whitney, Raymond
Stewart, Ian(Hitchin) Wickenden, Keith
Stradling Thomas, J. Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Tapsell, Peter Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Thompson, Donald Wolfson, Mark
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Viggers, Peter Younger, Rt Hon George
Waddington, David
Waldegrave, Hon William Tellers for the Noes:
Wall, Sir Patrick Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Waller, Gary Mr. Selwyn Gummer.

Question accordingly negatived.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Earlier the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) put a request to me for separate Divisions on some of the amendments that were being considered with the amendment that he has just disposed of. I undertook to consult the Chairman of Ways and Means about that request. If desired, there can be separate Divisions on amendment No. 10, which would come straight away, and on amendment No. 68, which would come later on schedule 1.

Amendment proposed: No. 10 in page 2, line 3, leave out from "relate" to end of line 6—[Mr. J. Enoch Powell.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 19, Noes 142.

Division 181] [12.37 am
Amery, Rt Hon Julian McCusker, H.
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Molyneaux, James
Brotherton, Michael Murphy, Christopher
Brown, Michael (Brigg&Sc'n,) Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Budgen, Nick Smyth, Rev. W. M.(Belfast S)
Cranborne, Viscount Stanbrook, Ivor
Dunlop, John Winterton, Nicholas
Goodhart,Sir Philip
Gorst,John Tellers for the Ayes:
Knight,Mrs Jill Mr. William Ross and
Lawrence,Ivan Mr. K. Harvey Proctor.
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Alexander, Richard Carlisle,Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alison,Rt Hon Michael Clarke,Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Alton,David Colvin,Michael
Arnold,Tom Cope,John
Aspinwall,Jack Costain,Sir Albert
Baker,Kenneth (St. M'bone) Crouch,David
Baker,Nicholas (N Dorset) Dorrell,Stephen
Banks,Robert Douglas-Hamilton,Lord J.
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Dover,Denshore
Beith,A. J. Dunn,Robert (Dartford)
Benyon,Thomas (A'don) Eggar,Tim
Benyon,W. (Buckingham) Elliott,Sir William
Berry,Hon Anthony Eyre,Reginald
Best,Keith Fairgrieve,Sir Russell
Bevan,David Gilroy Faith, Mrs Sheila
Blackburn,John Fisher, Sir Nigel
Blaker, Peter Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN)
Boscawen,Hon Robert Forman,Nigel
Bottomley,Peter (W'wich W) Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Garel-Jones,Tristan
Bright,Graham Goodlad,Alastair
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Gow, Ian
Brooke, Hon Peter Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Browne,John (Winchester) Gray, Hamish
Bruce-Gardyne, John Griffiths, E. (B'ySt. Edm'ds)
Buck,Antony Gummer, John Selwyn
Bulmer,Esmond Hamilton, Hon A.
Butler, Hon Adam Hampson,Dr Keith
Cadbury,Jocelyn Hannam,John
Campbell-Savours, Dale Haselhurst,Alan
Hawkins,Paul Rhodes James, Robert
Hawksley,Warren Rhys Williams, SirBrandon
Hayhoe,Barney Ridley,HonNicholas
Hogg, HonDouglas (Gr'th'm) Ridsdale,SirJulian
Holland,Philip (Carlton) Rifkind,Malcolm
Hooson,Tom Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Hordern,Peter Roper,John
Hunt,John (Ravensbourne) Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Irvine,BryantGodman Sainsbury,HonTimothy
Jessel,Toby Scott,Nicholas
JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Jopling,RtHon Michael Shaw,Michael (Scarborough)
King, RtHonTom Shersby,Michael
Lester,Jim (Beeston) Silvestr,Fred
Lyell, Nicholas Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
MacGregor,John Speller,Tony
MacKay, John (Argyll) Stevens, Martin
Major,John Stewart. A. (ERenfrewshire)
Marland,Paul Stewart,Ian (Hitchin)
Marlow, Antony Stradling, Thomas. J.
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Tapsell, Peter
Mather,Carol Taylor, Teddy (S' end E)
Mawby, Ray Thompson,Donald
Mawhinney, DrBrian Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Viggers, Peter
Mellor, David Waddington, David
Mills,Iain(Meriden) Waldegrave,HonWilliam
Moate, Roger Wall,SirPatrick
Morrison, Hon P.(Chester) Waller, Gary
Myles, David Ward,John
Neale, Gerrard Wells,Bowen
Needham,Richard Wheeler,John
Nelson,Anthony Whitney, Raymond
Newton,Tony Wickenden,Keith
Normanton,Tom Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Onslow, Cranley Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Page, John(Harrow, West) Wolfson, Mark
Page, Richard(SW Herts) Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Patten,John(Oxford) Younger, Rt Hon George
Penhaiigon, David
Pollock, Alexander Tellers for the Noes:
Prior, Rt Hon James Mr. David Hunt and
Raison, RtHonTimothy Mr. Ian Lang.

Question accordingly negatived.

12.45 am
Mr. Molyneaux

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 2, line 7, leave out subsection (3).

Subsection (3) provides for the Assembly to include proposals—it is worth looking at the exact terminology— for further provisions in the standing orders". We on the Official Unionist Bench, and I am certain Conservative Members, want to ask what are the standing orders referred to which will have further provisions attached. We should like to know whether they are the basic standing orders provided for in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and what the reason is for their extension. What is the reason for further provisions? One is tempted and led on to ask, what is the point in having the powers conferred in clause 1(3)?

Two explanations appear to be given in the notes with which we have been provided as a result of the cooperation of the Secretary of State and the initiative of the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor).

The first explanation is that the provision "makes administrative good sense." It will have little in common with the rest of the Bill, which makes neither administrative nor legislative good sense. The second explanation is perhaps the real one. It enables minority representatives to safeguard their position as part of an agreement on a devolution package. It is perhaps another aspect of what the hon. Member for Basildon has described as wheeling and dealing. Hon. Members may, however, prefer the more elegant phrase "cobbled together" favoured by the Secretary of State. Whatever the motive, I fear that it introduces yet another element of uncertainty into a Bill packed with uncertainty.

Without some valid explanation of this extraordinary provision, the idea of confronting this improbable Assembly with the task of scrutinising the existing standing orders and debating how these can be improved or added to makes one wonder whether the Government intend seriously that agreement should be reached between the various parties. The phrase enables minority representatives to safeguard their position as part of an agreement on a devolution package is almost an incentive and incitement to minority parties, even very small minority parties on either side of the fence, to do their best to gum up the works and to set a high price on their co-operation. I am afraid that one is led to that conclusion—

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend. I have not applied, as I should have done, for my personal copy of the explanatory notes. Is there any indication in the notes of the way in which standing orders will enable a minority to safeguard its position? I have had only a moment or two to reflect on what my hon. Friend has quoted from the notes. It is difficult to understand how the standing orders for the better conduct of any functions that would become exercisable by the Assembly could be utilised by a minority to protect its position. Does anything throw light on that?

Mr. Molyneaux

I am not sure that I can do much to clear up the mystery. I can only inform my right hon. Friend that paragraph 9, dealing with clause 1, states: For example, there could be a provision in the standing orders that votes of confidence in the Assembly required a specified majority. It would be out of order to deal with another set of amendments that will be reached perhaps later this month in respect of 70 per cent. and cross-community consent. The two requirements—70 per cent. and cross community consent—are written into the Bill. One is therefore baffled by the additional requirement which seems to give the Assembly at least the right to devise yet another road block and obstacle over which the long-suffering majority of the representatives elected to the Assembly would have to hurdle before they could get down to anything constructive. I can only assume that the extracts I have read from the notes are a broad hint to any and all irresponsible minority groupings or parties to make the most of the opportunity provided for them by the subsection.

Mr. Gorst

What sort of opportunity does the hon. Gentleman envisage might develop from what he has suggested?

Mr. Molyneaux

I am thinking of still further tinkering with the two requirements that are featured in another part of the clause. For example, there is the requirement for a 70 per cent. weighted majority before decisions can be taken at a certain level about whether partial or complete devolution can take place. There is also the almost insurmountable problem of cross-community consent.

The only interpretation that I can place on the explanatory note is that this will be an encouragement. Here I am talking not about the minority as it is understood by the Government but about irresponsible groups of independent members who will make the most of every opportunity to gum up the works of the Assembly. That is why it is highly dangerous to include such a provision in the Bill, and I trust that the Committee will support our amendment.

Mr. John Patten

Perhaps I can deal straight away with an important point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) about the present standing and status of Assembly standing orders.

The standing orders are those made under section 25 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. The Bill does not change those provisions at all. The standing orders made before the Assembly was dissolved in 1974 remain in force and will apply on the election of a new Assembly until that Assembly changes them under the provisions in the Bill.

I should like to make two brief comments to outline at this stage the Government's position. I personally hope that the Committee will accept that it is very sensible for the Assembly to be able to propose amendments to its standing orders for the better conduct of its affairs in the event of a full or partial devolution of powers.

Should it at any stage assume a legislative role, it surely would be wrong to debar the Assembly from adopting procedures different from those that existed when it was a purely consultative body required to have departmentally related committees under clause 4.

It is simply common sense that when forming any devolution proposals, which will be subject to the consent of the Assembly and the House, the Assembly should be free to make arrangements for the conduct of its business as it considers necessary. The proposal as outlined in this clause stands or falls most importantly of all on that simple and pragmatic ground.

Mr. Gorst

In what circumstances and for what sort of reasons might the Secretary of State reject these proposals? I understand that they will be presented to the Secretary of State. If my hon. Friend cannot envisage any such reasons, why must the proposals be submitted to the Secretary of State?

1 am

Mr. Patten

It is extremely difficult for me to predict exactly any circumstances in which proposals for the amendment of standing orders under the Bill, or different elements of a devolution proposal, could come before the House of Commons. However, this is the provision that enables the Secretary of State to scrutinise, before laying before the House, proposals from the Assembly to ensure that they are in the Government's judgment the sort of proposals that should be laid before the House—these issues will be debated on later amendments—and therefore that any proposals laid before the House are thought to be practicable. I cannot predict whether any proposals from the Assembly over the standing orders would not be practicable.

Mr. Gorst

My hon. Friend's answer to me suggests a lack of confidence. After all, we are talking only about standing orders, not about legislative actions or Executive functions.

Mr. Patten

Such standing orders are likely to be part and parcel of any devolution package—I am sorry that I cannot find a more felicitous word to use—from the Assembly, which contained proposals for the devolution to Assembly of transferred powers that had gained consent across the community. Certain checks and balances introduced in a new set of amended standing orders may be a vital part of that devolution package.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Perhaps I should know the answer to this question, but can my hon. Friend tell me whether the star ding orders of the Northern Ireland Assembly were submitted to the Secretary of State. and did all of them receive his approval? We are anxious not to constrain the freedom of action of the new Assembly, and this subsection provides for new standing orders. Will there then be the difference that any additions will require the approval of the. Secretary of State, whereas the original standing orders did not—or did they?

Mr. Patten

No, the preceding Assembly standing orders are not subject to the approval of the Secretary of State of the day.

I shall answer the latter part of my hon. Friend's question by enlarging on what cannot have escaped the notice of right hon. and hon. Members. Subsection (3) fulfils an important purpose, not just the practical purpose of making the conduct of the Assembly as easy and as sensible as possible for the 78 or 85 Members of the Assembly. It provides a substantial measure of flexibility for the compilation of proposals about devolution which might be passed on to the House and which would command the maximum support across the community. The Government believe that it is an essential provision for paving the way to a cross-community agreement on a means of devolution.

To take up the point of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), representatives of the various parties could, as the notes on clauses—I am glad that the hon. Member found them helpful—pointed out, safeguard their position in return for agreement on a specific devolution proposal by requiring certain amendments, for example, to the standing orders of the Assembly, or to arrangements for votes of confidence.

I do not wish to go further down that road, or speculate on what might or might not happen, because the very purpose of the Bill is to give a framework within which the people of Northern Ireland, who have elected the representatives to the Assembly, can have accommodations made to provide for the better government of Northern Ireland by the Assembly. But these are matters for the Assembly to decide, riot matters to be determined in this Chamber. The Government's firm intention ms merely to provide a framework within which agreements can take place.

Mr. Molyneaux

With respect, the framework was adequately set out in section 25 of the 1973 Act. Subsection (4) makes adequate provision for the establishment of consultative committees. For example, there is provision in subsection (7) for any consultative committee which wishes to do so to obtain information from a Government Department.

Far from providing a framework that can be clearly understood, the Government appear in clause after clause of the Bill to make it so elastic that nobody quite knows its shape. The impression that will be given to the unfortunate members elected to the Assembly is that it can be squeezed and pushed in any direction.

Mr. Patten

I regret that I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of that section. It is not the Government's view that an adequate range of powers to alter standing orders is conferred on the face of that Act.

The hon. Gentleman's second, and for me most significant, question was: to what purpose or purposes could such accommodations be put? My answer is not related to the ways, means and mechanisms by which such accommodations might be made; that is for the Members of the Assembly to decide within the Assembly. However, if the Assembly asks the House to devolve some transferred powers which have become hallowed in one or more Departments, the House must then decide clearly whether the proposals have cross-community support. The fact that the proposals are designed, perhaps with some suggestions for changes in the standing orders of the Assembly, to protect the interests of particular groups, or to show that some accommodation has been reached among the different parties and interest groups, would surely help to reassure the House that the purpose of the Bill, of permitting devolution with cross-community support, had been achieved.

I can do no better in conclusion—

Rev. Ian Paisley

As a member of the Assembly, I had standing orders committed to me by the Secretary of State on the first day that the Assembly met. Are those the standing orders to which the Minister is referring? After the Assembly met I was a member of the committee that drew up standing orders for the Assembly—

Mr. Gorst

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. There is a terrible squeal on the loudspeaker. Can the hon. Gentleman lower the pitch of his voice or the loudspeaker be adjusted? It is difficult to take in what is squealing through the public address system.

Mr. Lawrence

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. This is not the first time that the audibility of the public address system in the House has been mentioned this evening. One had hoped that it was put right earlier. If the electricians have gone home, perhaps we should all go home.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

I shall look into that immediately.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I should like the Minister to tell us what standing orders he is talking about.

Mr. Patten

I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that it was indeed the standing orders as handed down to the Assembly by the then Secretary of State, but they were the standing orders as handed down and subsequently amended by the Rules Committee, of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member. That is the point at which the new Assembly, should it be elected, would begin.

I can do no better than quote from paragraph 18 of the recent White Paper to sum up the Government's view: The object of the Government's proposals is to point a way whereby, in spite of their acknowledged and continuing differences, the two sides of the community may achieve sufficient mutual respect, and make sufficient mutual accommodations, to participate more creatively in the public life of the Province". I am afraid that the amendment would substantially reduce the chance of that respect and those accommodations being achieved. In addition, it might make the new Assembly's work much more difficult, because the Assembly could not, in law, alter its own standing orders. Therefore, I must advise the Committee that in the interests of the Assembly's smooth running and of achieving those accommodations across the community and political divides, the amendment should be rejected.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Did the Minister say that by law the Assembly cannot amend its standing orders? I appreciate, of course, that it cannot amend the standing orders that are mandatory upon it under the 1973 Act, but where such orders are not mandatory, surely it can both make and amend standing orders. Perhaps some information will percolate through to the Minister.

Mr. Patten

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman intervened just before I sat down. He has given me the opportunity to say that the Assembly can alter the standing orders in all areas unless there is a mandatory element.

Mr. Gorst

Presumably, only with the Secretary of State's permission

Mr. Patten


Viscount Cranborne

When considering the Bill and the draftsmen's motives I find myself tempted—and clause 1(3) is no exception—down two possible paths. One of those paths might appear to provide an uncharitable explanation of the draftsmen's motives, but the other might offer a more charitable explanation. However, both explanations seem to lead to the same disastrous conclusion.

The uncharitable interpretation of their motives to which I am attracted is that the Bill is prompted almost entirely by a colonial mentality. Clause 1, and subsections (2) and (3) in particular, is a good example of that mentality. Because of the draconian policy being pursued by the Government Whips, many hon. Members could not participate in our earlier debates. They wished to make points which may have seemed otiose and irrelevant in the Government's eyes, but which are important enough to those with doubts about the Bill to induce them to stay up to an advanced hour in the morning. Therefore, it is a pleasure, having sat here on and off—and rather more on than off—since early evening to have the privilege of catching the Chair's eye.

The strictures that come to mind when considering subsection (2) apply to some extent to subsection (3). For that reason I have been persuaded to support amendment No. 13. The uncharitable explanation is that the motives of the framers of the Bill are prompted by a colonialist mentality. Subsection (3) is a good example. As I understand it, the standing orders which will be added to standing orders under existing legislation—the Minister has given a lucid explanation of how that will work—will be subject to subsection (5), which reads: The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament any proposals submitted to him under this section. 1.15 am

I repeat the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst): am I right in supposing that subsection (5) means that any standing orders added to the existing standing orders of the Assembly must be submitted to the House before they come into operation? If subsection (5) applies to the standing orders added under subsection (3), I am driven to the conclusion that the colonialist interpretation of the motives of the framers of the Bill carries a certain weight. I know, Mr. Armstrong, that you will call me to order if I go too far down this road, but, if one looks at subsection 5(3), one sees that whatever the Assembly can do is always subject to the endorsement of the Secretary of State or of this House.

As somebody who has severe doubts about the proposals in the Bill, I have no objection to the House having the final say about what happens in Northern Ireland. That seems to be a thoroughly desirable principle for any part of the United Kingdom. However, it is a trifle perculiar that if we are to devolve government to the Province, we do not seem to be entirely clear just how that government will be devolved and which responsibilities will be those of the Assembly and which will be those of either the Secretary of State or the Westminster Parliament. I return to my colonialist interpretation. It reminds me of the tentative experiments of the 1950s and 1960s by the Colonial Office in giving a measure of self-government to British territories overseas. In many cases it gave limited powers, subject to the veto of the governor or the Secretary of State for the Colonies. That seems a close parallel to what is proposed in the Bill.

Mr. Gorst

I do not want to anticipate what my hon. Friend will say, but has he thought through the implications of what he is saying about colonialism? If he follows it a stage further, the modern attitude towards colonialism by our bureaucracies is that first one makes them quasi-independent, then they are told to be independent and then to merge with somebody who is near to them—the Argentine, for example, of Southern Ireland. Is my hon. Friend developing that line in his argument?

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman will have difficulty in relating any reply to the amendment.

Viscount Cranborne

As always, Mr. Armstrong, your ruling does not surprise me. My hon. Friend's conclusions will have been listened to with keen attention by the Treasury Bench.

It is characteristic of the Bill that the Government are prepared to devolve certain powers to the Six Counties, but always with the proviso that if things go wrong nanny at Westminster knows best. I happen to believe that the Westminster Parliament does know best. We should preserve this system as the supreme and sovereign authority in the United Kingdom. But I am worried that, because of our anxiety that things should not go wrong, on the one hand we trust the inhabitants of the Six Counties far enough to make up some of their own rules, but on the other we do not trust them far enough to let them go all the way.

Clause 1(3) illustrates as well as subsection (2) what I mean. Here we have powers to set out further provisions in the standing orders to the new Assembly. Subsection (5) gives the Secretary of State and Parliament the nanny powers which make the proposals that would be acceptable only those which would be acceptable to the Secretary of State and a majority in the House. Under clause 2(4), the most important powers of any Government—over finance and personnel—are specifically excepted from the powers that be can be devolved to the Assembly. No matter what happens, we shall allow the Assembly only sufficient independence to kid the people of Northern Ireland into believing that they will have control over their own affairs.

Whether they want control in that sense is another matter. Sadly, I have little practical experience of the Six Counties and would not presume to tell right hon. and hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies what their constituents will think. But it is a remarkable betrayal of our mentality that we are prepared to devolve only certain powers, while telling the people of Ulster that they are being given the chance to have virtually a complete say over what they can and cannot do. That is the uncharitable interpretation of the motives prompting the framers of the Bill.

Against that, another interpretation perhaps runs counter to the one that I have attempted to propound It does so in some senses, but in others we could say that it is complementary to my first interpretation. I call it my charitable interpretation, simply because one of the most attractive characteristics of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is the enormous fund of good will that flows from every pore of his being. Many hon. Members could envy that fund of good will, with justice. It has prompted my right hon. Friend's attitude to his most onerous job as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that he has approached the proposals in the White Paper and the Bill—

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will relate his remarks to the amendment, which deals with the elimination of subsection (3).

Viscount Cranborne

As always, Mr. Armstrong, I am very grateful for your guidance on such matters.

The proposals contained in subsection (3) could be interpreted as being prompted by a colonialist mentality. I have endeavoured to explain why I believe that to be so. I am now endeavouring to explain why I believe that the same motives could be given a more charitable interpretation. The proposals in subsection (3) could be interpreted as being prompted by the sort of good will that has prompted my right hon. Friend's approach to this legislation. I have the greatest respect for good will, but I doubt whether in all circumstances it is enough to ensure a successful conclusion to any endeavours. If I understand correctly what my hon. Friend the Minister said earlier, it seems to me that he is relying almost entirely on the good will of both communities in the new Assembly to he able to agree on the new standing orders, which may be laid before us in due course.

I always rise with considerable diffidence to talk about Northern Ireland in this Committee, because I am aware of my lack of practical experience of the Province. However, one characteristic of the past 10 years in Northern Ireland is that no matter how much good will has abounded in the breasts of Secretaries of State of either political persuasion, when it has come to the point, that good will has not been matched by both factions. I am sure that—especially in the case of the United Ulster Unionist Party—there are sufficient practical reasons for that.

1.30 am

A pious expression of hope that the new standing orders will be agreed and therefore forthcoming for us to consider will not be enough to ensure that the standing orders are produced. If we look back at the history of every attempt to produce a settlement in Ulster over the last 10 or 12 years, that history should have taught us at least to be a little less than sanguine about the prospects for success. Therefore, when I question the judgment of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten), which I do with the greatest reluctance, as he will know, and which I always hesitate to do even in private, I am driven to do so because I read day in day out in the newspapers the evidence that is put before us about what is happening in Northern Ireland.

One of the most attractive characteristics of our parliamentary representative system of government is the inherent propensity of those who work in the Palace of Westminster to assume that everybody in the world outside is prompted by the same motives of good will as we all are here. I sometimes think that those who support so avidly and so genuinely the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament suffer from the same delusion. They think that the Russians, simply because they are human beings like us, will be prompted by the same motives as those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a Western liberal democracy.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying a long way from the amendment. What he is saying bears no relation to it. He must not treat the Committee in this way.

Viscount Cranborne

I apologise to you, Mr. Armstrong, and to the Committee. I accept that I had strayed rather a long way in my enthusiasm to search for a parallel which I hoped would illuminate my argument. I apologise if I have failed not only to keep within the bounds of order, but to illuminate the argument as I hoped to do.

If I had to choose between the two interpretations of the motives that impelled the drafters of the Bill into action, I would rather take the second than the first, not only from a natural desire to think as well as I can of my fellow Members, but because, if we look back on the history of proposals of this kind, affecting not only Northern Ireland, we must come to the conclusion that the roads to the particular hells enjoyed or otherwise by Governments of this country have almost invariably been paved with good intentions, rather than the reverse. Therefore, the colonialist attitude which seems to shine through to the sceptic as he peruses the pages of the Bill is the consequence of the good will from which I am afraid my right hon. and hon. Friends have suffered when they have considered the matter.

Subsection (3) would be all very well if we had any reason to suppose that the flexibility built into it by my right hon. and hon. Friends would lead to anything concrete. I regret to have to inform them that I have the gravest doubts about whether their hopes will be fulfilled. Instead of trying to bridge a curious gap between executive and legislative devolution—a gap which we did not properly explore because we were not given time to do so earlier—it would be much better to reconsider the Bill with a more rigorous approach, perhaps not so tainted with the good will which superficially is attractive but which in practical terms often leads to dangerous results

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The last group of amendments dealt with the appointment of Northern Ireland heads of Departments and the possible appointment under the appropriate section of a person to assist any person appointed as head of any such Department. The debate was very interesting, and I wish that it could have gone on longer, but I must admit that during it I went out and had a bacon sandwich, a cup of coffee, and some other refreshments that I shall not go into, because I felt that, interesting as the discussion was, there was not the least likelihood in the lifetime of this Government of any heads Departments in Northern Ireland being appointed from the Assembly. It was an interesting discussion, but it was entirely theoretical.

However, if the Government really intend to press ahead with this legislation, it is likely that we shall have an Assembly which we are told will, from its inception, have scrutinising, deliberative, and consultative functions. Clause 3 provides that, at a time when there is no suspension of direct rule, the Assembly may, without prejudice to its powers by virtue of any Order under paragraph (b) of that subsection, consider any matter affecting Northern Ireland which is not an excepted or reserved matter". That gives quite a lot of latitude.

I find impossible to understand in the old standing orders, unamended, that will come into force, how on earth the Assembly will go about its business and choose a subject for debate. Standing order No. 14, "Business of the Assembly", reads: An Order Paper shall be prepared by the Clerk for each sitting day, showing the business to be placed before the Assembly, together with such other information as the Presiding Officer may from time to time direct. The business of the Assembly shall be transacted in the following order: (1) Private Business". That is fairly easy to understand. There is no particular problem there. (2) Messages from Her Majesty the Queen". No particular problem there. (3) Messages from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland". Perhaps there will be some problems there, but not procedural problems. (4) Announcement by the Presiding Officer". I do not think that there will be many problems there. (5) Questions". There will be quite a lot of problems there, at the beginning anyhow, because there will be no one to answer questions. (7) Statements by Members of the Executive". Those will not play an important part in the Assembly's work at the beginning. (8) Introduction of Measures". Those will presumably be sent down by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but that was not envisaged when these rules of order were adopted. (9) Motions relating to the setting up of Committees". There is little problem there. (10) Motions relating to Public Business". There are problems there. Who on earth will decide which public business will be discussed on a Tuesday or a Thursday? In the House of Commons we have a Leader of the House who is a member of the Government. No doubt he will tell us that on the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we shall be making further progress on the Northern Ireland Bill. Hon. Members will be able to approve or object to the Government's selection of business for the following week. But there will be a definite procedure.

In an ordinary council it is easy to decide on what the business will be. Councils have to administer the services in their areas and so the pressure of events decides the agenda for the council. But if my interpretation of the Government's reply to the discussion on the first group of amendments is correct, the Assembly will not have the right to look into local government matters. It will therefore be floating in mid-air.

Viscount Cranborne

Has my hon. Friend also considered paragraph 9 of the notes, which have been kindly provided by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State? Paragraph 9 deals with subsection (3). It describes the procedure for standing orders and states: This makes administrative good sense, and enables minority representatives to safeguard their position". My hon. Friend is right in everything he has said, but, if one of the main functions of discussing standing orders is to enable minorities to safeguard their position, is it likely that they will expend their energies on practical considerations rather than safeguarding their position against the minority? These two objectives seem to be wholly incompatible.

1.45 am
Sir Philip Goodhart

My hon. Friend is right, but I am concerned with how the Assembly will decide what the business on the second Tuesday and the second Thursday will be. Will the business be decided by the majority group in caucus? Will it be decided by the presiding officer? If it is to be decided by the presiding officer, who will he consult? Will minority groups be able to regard certain days as their own? If the Assembly existed now, how would it decide its business next week? Some Members might wish to discuss the affairs of the De Lorean car company while others might wish to discuss the administration of boys' homes in Belfast.

Mr. Gorst

Where is it laid down how often the Assembly will meet? I hope that my hon. Friend can assist me because I have missed that reference.

Sir Philip Goodhart

There is reference to that in standing order No. 16. I am sure that there are many other references to it, but that is the one that I have to hand.

Mr. Gorst

Is my hon. Friend certain that the Assembly would have to meet every day and every week?

Sir Philip Goodhart

No, not at all. Presumably changes could be made. The Assembly will be without leaders and presumably all men will be equal except in their party groups. How will it decide what to do? It will be unique among all elected assemblies in the United Kingdom in not having people in official positions within it. When all are equal, how will it decide what to do?

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Subsection (3) is one of the provisions in the Bill which with its very innocence courts inquisitiveness. As one reads the Bill one is struck by the apparent superfluity of the provision. That is a ground for warning. Draftsmen, though wrongly accused sometimes of pleonasm and excess of verbiage, do not normally waste a subsection for an unnecessary purpose. We have been told by the Minister that the Assembly will have power to make and to alter its standing orders except in so far as those are statutorily defined or requisite.

It seems, therefore, a superfluity for the Assembly, in making proposals to the Secretary of State under clause 1, to be told that it can, if it likes, mention ideas which it might have in its head about what in any case it can do—make or amend standing orders. It is not, therefore, altogether surprising that the debate has led to some disclosures of what did not lie on the surface of the subsection. I have a notion that there are disclosures still to come.

It was a kindly, but perhaps not an entirely judicious, decision of the Secretary of State to place the notes on clauses at the disposal of right hon. and hon. Members. It gave my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) some start or grip on the question that he addressed to the Governrnent—"Why subsection (3)?". Yet it left, apparently, more questions unanswered than it resolved. It said that it makes "administrative good sense". Of course. I am sure that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) has been making that point. It is a good idea for an Assembly to have some standing orders, but one would not have thought that that in itself was sufficient explanation or justification of the subsection. It goes on to a different and much more serious matter. It says that it enables minority representatives to safeguard their position as part of an agreement on a devolution package. That is remarkable because the subsection says that the purpose of the proposals on standing orders is to make provision for the better conduct of any functions that would become exercisable by the Assembly. It is difficult to bridge the gap between the purpose of standing orders to improve the efficiency and the better conduct of the functions of the Assembly and safeguarding the position of minority representatives as part of an agreement on a devolution package.

Mrs. Knight

There is another gap to which I should like my right hon. Friend to direct his attention. It connects directly with what he has just said. Has he noticed that the notes that have so kindly been provided for us, in dealing with the devolution proposals, specifically state: Power sharing is neither required, nor ruled out. Does my right hon. Friend consider that to be another rather odd gap?

Mr. Powell

It may be that, though not ruled out, it comes in in various ways. Perhaps subsection (3) is one of the little holes through which it finds entry. That is the direction in which my argument was moving. Unwisely, those who compiled the notes proceeded to give an example. I know that the Under-Secretary of State, relatively new in office though he is, will be aware of one of the rules for Ministers, especially junior ones, at the Dispatch Box. It is "Do not use the examples that are supplied by the brief" because the examples nearly always—An important communication is being made. It is obviously a communication that commands the assent of the Minister as, I hope, is the communication that I am making.

It is only by way of a reminder that I recall to the Minister how injudiciously sometimes civil servants, who prepare these excellent documents, choose their examples. This is a case in point. It will be rather a blow to me if I am to lose the presence of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) at this point, as it had occurred to me that the implications of the example given would be of special interest to him. One never knows, however. As time goes on, the hon. Gentleman may be with us again before the point is finally disposed of. The notes on clauses state: For example,"— the fatal words— there could be a provision in the Standing Orders that votes of confidence in the Assembly required a specified majority.

Exactly how would a standing order requiring a specified majority for votes of confidence protect minority representatives and allow them to safeguard their position as part of an agreement on a devolution package"? I will tell the Committee what occurs to me. It occurs to me that, for example, a vote of confidence might be requisite either to initiate or to sustain the appointment of a head of Department in the course of the devolution of a particular matter or subject. It further occurs to me that the specified majority for a vote of confidence might be the not unfamiliar figure of 70 per cent. That would be very remarkable indeed, as we have been assured already, and no doubt we shall be assured again in debates on the later part of clause 1, that the 70 per cent. relates only to the launching of devolution and that once it is in progress the ordinary conventions and the normal assumptions of majority and minority decision will apply. But that is not so.

We have learnt something of great importance. When the package is being cobbled together, or whatever verbiage is used for preference, we shall find that the 70 per cent. or something like it will be built into all kinds of obscure portions of the package and will be the means whereby it is commended to those who enter into it—perhaps to the Secretary of State and perhaps ultimately to the House.

If that is the purpose, it is no wonder that the trouble has been taken to say on the face of the Bill that proposals for further provisions in the standing orders may be included in the proposals asking for total or rolling devolution. Subsection (3) thus conceals another form of the power sharing mechanism which is more explicit in the following subsection and which is to permeate the whole procedure of devolution as conceived in the legislation. It was worth our time to elicit the fact that power sharing provisions are to be built not only into what appears on the face of the Bill but into the procedures of the Assembly as a condition of the Assembly's being allowed to administer or to be responsible for anything.

2 am

I am glad that the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) has persevered in well doing. In that respect, she provides a contrast with those who, turn and turn about, do sentry duty on the Opposition Front Bench. They remind me of proceedings on an earlier piece of legislation on which the Chamber was frequently addressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and others of us when we were engaged in destroying the Parliament (No. 2) Bill of the Session of 1967–68. The then Official Opposition had been so ill advised as to commit themselves to what was proposed in the Government's Bill. They were thereby reduced to the condition to which the Committee has seen the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) and his occasional companions reduced—that of silence on their own part and a zealous anxiety that those behind them would be conspicuous by their absence rather than by their presence.

That part of the operation has been more successfully carried out in this case than it was by the Conservative Opposition in 1978, but, I am afraid, for a discreditable reason. If a party has a declared policy in regard to Northern Ireland and states as a matter of principle that it intends to take no steps to advocate that policy in Northern Ireland, to explain it to the people of the Province or to secure, if it can, their agreement, what is left for that party in the House but silence and the state of boredom which the silent sentinel kept in his place by force of duty must so often suffer?

I was referring to the right hon., Member for Crosby, who observed in an earlier debate that the genius of the United Kingdom Parliament itself had been unable to find an adequate constitutional remedy for the demands and problems of Northern Ireland. She is right. But it is the exception that proves the rule. The reason why it has not been able to do so is that it has resolutely refused to apply the principles of its own parliamentary proceedings and its own parliamentary democracy to a part of the United Kingdom. This may be through some perception that its parliamentary rules principles and laws were those of a sovereign Parliament and of a unitary parliamentary State, and that fatal consequences would follow if the attempt were made to apply the same principles only to a portion—a special portion—of that unitary state.

But be that as it may. The fact is that, whenever a thing makes sense, whenever a thing is assumed automatically in the House, it is something that cannot be built into a constitution for Northern Ireland, we have to resort to all sorts of devices to ensure that any Assembly which we set up, any devolved Government or legislature which comes into existence cannot operate upon the same principles, upon those principles which have been evolved and proved by experience over the centuries in the House.

I think it was more instinct of the right hon. Lady than the conclusion of a long chain of ratiocination, but instinct is the contribution—if I may say so, with great respect—which that small, though very distinguished, minority of right hon. and hon. Members of her sex brings to the Government and Parliament of this country. It was instinct surely which enabled the right hon. Lady to place her finger absolutely straight on to the central point. She said that the people of Northern Ireland—I took down her words—ought to share what the rest of the people of the United Kingdom enjoy. It is the deduction that Parliament should ensure that all in the United Kingdom share in the same rights, the same form of control, the same power to call to account and the same influence over law and administration.

The right hon. Lady was right. Inspired for an instant perhaps by the genius of the United Kingdom Parliament that she had invoked, she spoke what are really the words of salvation for Northern Ireland and the only way in which this House will ever make sense of its responsibilities towards that part of the kingdom—that it will treat that part of the United Kingdom as it treats any other part of the United Kingdom and apply to it the same constitutional and electoral provisions.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The right hon. Gentleman is almost too kind towards the amazing instinct that I share with my sex. In the passage of my speech to which he has graciously referred, I was speaking specifically about the capacity of most parts of the United Kingdom to bridge through political opinion the different religious communities. It was that to which I was referring rather than the application of the methods and style of the House of Commons.

Mr. Powell

Quite so. If this House is to persist in isolating a part of the United Kingdom in which those differences, rather than the differences that rend other parts of the United Kingdom, exist and are of a lasting character, it will find that it is driven into constructing unconstitutional, undemocratic and unparliamentary devices in order to be able to introduce such institutions at all. The right hon. Lady is still reasoning upon the right lines. I have every hope, by persistence and a combination of instinct and ratiocination, that she will arrive a Bench or two further back among those who claim for Northern Ireland what she says Northern Ireland ought to share—that is to say, the same institutions—with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Gorst

Is not the logic of what the right hon. Gentleman says that, if the same argument was applied to the sexes in Parliament, there would no doubt have to be power sharing in this Parliament of the sexes and also of races, creeds and colours? This has become a problem in Northern Ireland. If it became a problem in England, we would have to take similar action in order to remain consistent.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The right hon. Gentleman cannot relate that to the amendment.

Mr. Powell

I am grateful, Mr. Armstrong, for your intervention. I considered that a fairly prickly question to deal with. I am glad to know that I shall not be allowed to respond. I am not quite sure how I would have extracted myself from the embarrassment into which the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) sought to entrap me. All the rest, until the intervention, as you, Mr. Armstrong, have observed, is strictly relevant to what we are now learning lies behind this apparently innocuous subsection.

It is to be another form of device, an essential paving of the way, according to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten), to a cross-community arrangement. In order to produce this cross-community arrangement and to fulfil this preconceived condition, hon. Members find themselves, with almost every line of the Bill, doing things that would not bear examination in the light of our own practices and principles in this House.

What lies behind the term "cross-community"? Not co-operation or co-existence between Roman Catholics and those who are not; not co-operation and co-existence between male and female, if that will satisfy the hon. Member for Hendon, North; but co-operation and co-existence in government and legislation between those who are elected and sent to the Assembly to use their position to destroy the union of Northern Ireland with Great Britain and those who are sent there to preserve it. It is in order to bridge that contradiction, and to bring that contradiction within the scope of legislation and administration, that all these devices of a complexity and an absurdity that we increasingly explore are being resorted to.

It is, ex hypothesis, a vain and foolish attempt. We cannot produce co-operation between those who desire and those who reject the central political aim by arranging that the one shall have a veto upon the other. The end of that is confusion and frustration. The end of that scarcely needs to be described, as we have been able to observe it in action in 1973 and 1974 in Northern Ireland itself, when Northern Ireland was enjoying the blessings of the type of constitution which is now being revived by this legislation.

So it has turned out after all that it is indeed an important amendment that we are discussing. It is an amendment that the Committee ought to accept as an indication that it is not prepared to cobble together a constitution upon. the basis that it must hold within itself those who do not believe that there should be a constitution at all within the United Kingdom and those who wish the position within the United Kingdom to be assured as far as humanly possible.

It is an impossible object, and the pursuit of it leads to absurd and undesirable consequences—to a curse and not to a blessing, which I am prepared to believe, at any rate when he inherited it upon entrance into office, it was the desire of the right hon. Gentleman to confer. Let us remove subsection (3).

Mr. John Patten

I do not think that it would be wise to remove subsection (3). I welcome the opportunity again to explain to my hon. Friends the Members for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) and Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst), and perhaps also to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), the exact position on standing orders and their application.

Standing orders come to the House of Commons and to the Secretary of State in this House only if they come as part of a set of devolution proposals that are to be laid before Parliament, otherwise the Assembly's standing orders are for the Assembly itself to determine for the better conduct of its business, subject only to the requirements of the law—in other words, clause 4 which we have yet to consider.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir. P. Goodhart), from his close reading of the standing orders of the Assembly, raised a number of interesting points. Of course the Assembly can change its standing orders. As I pointed out earlier to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), the pre-existing standing orders as amended by the last Assembly simply represent the starting point from which the new Assembly, should it be set up, can begin its new work.

2.15 am

The Assembly will have important tasks—for example, setting up departmentally related committees in its consultative phase. At that stage clearly, until there is devolution, the provisions in the existing standing orders, which are applicable only after devolution, cannot have any effect and cannot be brought back to life, but would undoubtedly need to be amended at a later stage.

Mr. Michael Brown

I have read subsections (3) and (4) carefully, and have the impression that, although the Secretary of State shall merely "lay before Parliament" any proposals submitted to him under previous sections relating to the clause, if previous proposals—and I suppose that those under subsection (3) are included—fail to get at least 70 per cent. support of the Members of the Assembly, it will be the Secretary of State who has to decide, whether the proposals relate to standing orders or otherwise, whether he is satisfied that the substance of the proposals, standing order or other proposals, is likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community. That would be on the assumption that the proposals regarding standing orders that are brought before the House of Commons under subsection (3) do not obtain the 70 per cent. The Secretary of State's role in this matter is much greater than the Minister has led the Committee to believe. Will he reconsider some of the sentiments that he has expressed?

Mr. Patten

That is not the point, and I shall explain briefly why that is not right. Proposals coming to the House via the Secretary of State that involve standing orders only come to the House when those standing orders are part of a suggestion from the Assembly about how devolution might take place, and an integral part of that suggestion or those sets of suggestions when they come to the Secretary of State. That is the precise position.

I can tell the right hon. Member for Down, South that the Government could not have been any more open than they have been in leading up to the White Paper, its publication, the Bill, and the making freely available to hon. Members notes on clauses. I am glad that we had in front of us during an earlier discussion the worked example, as provided for in the notes on clauses, for what might happen when proposals were put in front of the Assembly, by which accommodations might be achieved.

The Bill does not lay down, and has no intention of laying down, to the Assembly in, to borrow a phrase, a "nannyish way" any rules about how accommodations should be achieved between different sections of the Assembly.

Mr. Molyneaux

If that is the case—and I do not doubt the Minister's word—and the Government have no wish to dominate the Assembly in any way, why is it necessary to go beyond the first line of section 25 of the 1973 Act, which simply says: The Assembly shall make standing orders for regulating its procedure"? Why do we need subsection (3) in the Bill?

Mr. Patten

We need subsection (3) because of the need to provide as many possible routes as may be available within the Assembly for accommodations to be reached within the Assembly, and between separate groups in the Assembly.

Mrs. Knight

The Minister mentioned the notes. An important point arises here. Earlier he said that the House had to make its mind up about whether any proposals have cross-community support. However, the notes say that power sharing is not required or ruled out. If power sharing is not required or ruled out, how is it that the House has to make its mind up about whether any proposals have cross-community support?

Mr. Patten

This will be a matter for later debates in Committee. The concept of cross-community support does not demand nor impose power sharing. It simply demands a measure of accommodation or agreement within the Assembly.

I say to the right hon. Member for Down, South and to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South that it is the Government's policy to try to give the Assembly and its Members, should it be set up, via clause 1(3) and other provisions in the Bill, the maximum opportunities to take responsibility and power. That is a most important provision. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South that one could have the most perfectly drawn constitution in the world, but without political will, and without the good will of those who operate it, it cannot operate.

Sir Philip Goodhart

I appreciate that the Government are trying to be helpful as far as the Assembly is concerned. Can the Minister tell me who in the Assembly, under the present standing orders, will decide what will be discussed?

Mr. Patten

The first thing that the Assembly will have to discuss on the first happy day that it meets in Belfast, is who the presiding officer will be. From that stage on, the Assembly, taking responsibility and not being nannied by the House, will be able to come to agreements, numerous I dare say, between the different parties and the different interest groups in the Assembly as to what the standing orders provided for in clause 1(3) make possible.

It is for those reasons that we feel that this amendment must be resisted.

Mr. Jopling

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 133, Noes 18.

Division No. 182] [2.22 am
Alexander,Richard Haselhurst,Alan
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Hawkins,Paul
Arnold,Tom Hayhoe, Barney
Aspinwall,Jack Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Baker,Kenneth(St. M'bone) Holland,Philip(Carlton)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Hooson,Tom
Banks, Robert Hordern,Peter
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Hunt, David (Wirral)
Benyon,W (Buckingham) Hunt,John(Ravensbourne)
Berry, Hon Anthony Jessel,Toby
Best, Keith JohnsonSmith,Geoffrey
Bevan, David Gilroy Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Blackburn,John King, Rt Hon Tom
Blaker, Peter Lang, Ian
Boscawen,HonRobert Lestor, MissJoan
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Lyell,Nicholas
Boyson,DrRhodes MacGregor,John
Bright,Graham MacKay,John (Argyll)
Brittan,Rt. Hon. Leon Major,John
Brooke, Hon Peter Marland,Paul
Browne,John(Winchester) Marlow,Antony
Bruce-Gardyne,John Marten, Rt Hon Neil
Buck,Antony Mather,Carol
Bulmer,Esmond Mawby, Ray
Butler, Hon Adam Mawhinney,DrBrian
Cadbury,Jocelyn Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Campbell-Savours, Dale Mellor,David
Carlisle,Kenneth(Lincoln) Mills,Iain(Meriden)
Clarke,Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Moate,Roger
Colvin, Michael Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)
Cope,John Myles, David
Costain,SirAlbert Neale,Gerrard
Crouch,David Needham, Richard
Dorrell,Stephen Nelson,Anthony
Douglas-Hamilton,LordJ. Newton,Tony
Dover,Denshore Normanton,Tom
Dunn,Robert(Dartford) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Eggar,Tim Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Elliott, SirWilliam Patten, John(Oxford)
Eyre,Reginald Pollock,Alexander
Faith, Mrs Sheila Prior, Rt Hon James
Fisher, Sir Nigel Raison,Rt Hon Timothy
Fletcher,A.(Ed'nb'gh N) RhodesJames, Robert
Forman, Nigel Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Goodlad, Alastair Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Gow, Ian Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Roper, John
Gray, Hamish Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hamilton, Hon A. Scott, Nicholas
Hampson, Dr Keith Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Hannam, John Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Shersby, Michael Wall, SirPatrick
Silvester, Fred Waller, Gary
Smith, Tim(Beaconsfield) Ward, John
Speller, Tony Wells, Bowen
Stevens, Martin Wheeler, John
Stewart,A.(ERenfrewshire) Whitney,Raymond
Stewart,Ian (Hitchin) Wickenden,Keith
Stradling Thomas,J. Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Tapsell, Peter Wolfson, Mark
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
Thompson, Donald Younger, Rt Hon George
Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Viggers, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Waddington, David Mr, Selwyn Gummer and
Wakeham,John Mr, Tristan Garel-Jones.
Waldegrave, HonWilliam
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Molyneaux, James
Biggs-Davison, SirJohn Murphy, Christopher
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Paisley, Rev Ian
Budgen, Nick Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Cranborne, Viscount Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Goodhart, SirPhilip Stanbrook, Ivor
Gorst, John Walker, B. (Perth)
Knight, MrsJill
Lawrence, Ivan Tellers for the Noes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Ross and
McQuade, John Mr. K. Harvey Proctor.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 18, Noes 132.

Division No. 183] [2.33 am
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Molyneaux, James
Biggs-Davison, SirJohn Murphy, Christopher
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Paisley, Rev Ian
Budgen,Nick Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Cranborne,Viscount Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Goodhart,SirPhilip Stanbrook,Ivor
Gorst,John Walker, B. (Perth)
Knight, MrsJill
Lawrence,Ivan Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Ross and
McQuade,John Mr. k. Harvey Proctor.
Alexander, Richard Cope, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Costain, SirAlbert
Arnold, Tom Crouch, David
Aspinwall, Jack Dorrell, Stephen
Baker, Kenneth(St. M'bone) Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Dover, Denshore
Banks, Robert Dunn, Robert(Dartford)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Eggar, Tim
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Elliott, SirWilliam
Berry,HonAnthony Eyre,Reginald
Best, Keith Faith, MrsSheila
Bevan, David Gilroy Fisher, Sir Nigel
Blackburn,John Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN)
Blaker,Peter Forman,Nigel
Boscawen,HonRobert Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Goodlad,Alastair
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Gow, Ian
Bright,Graham Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Gray, Hamish
Brooke, Hon Peter Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds)
Browne,John (Winchester) Hamilton, HonA.
Bruce-Gardyne,John Hampson, Dr Keith
Buck,Antony Hannam,John
Bulmer,Esmond Haselhurst,Alan
Butler, Hon Adam Hawkins, Paul
Cadbury,Jocelyn Hayhoe, Barney
Campbell-Savours,Dale Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Carlisle,Kenneth(Lincoln) Holland,Philip(Carlton)
Clarke,Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Hooson,Tom
Colvin,Michael Hordern,Peter
Hunt, David (Wirral) Ridsdale,SirJulian
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Jessel, Toby Roper,John
JohnsonSmith,Geoffrey Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Jopling, RtHon Michael Sainsbury,Hon Timothy
King, Rt Hon Tom Scott,Nicholas
Lang, Ian Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lester,Jim (Beeston) Shaw,Michael(Scarborough)
Lyell,Nicholas Shersby,Michael
MacGregor,John Silvester,Fred
MacKay,John (Argyll) Smith,Tim(Beaconsfield)
Major,John Speller,Tony
Marland,Paul Stevens,Martin
Marlow,Antony Stewart,A.(ERenfrewshire)
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Stewart,Ian(Hitchin)
Mather,Carol Stradling Thomas,J.
Mawby, Ray Tapsell, Peter
Mawhinney,DrBrian Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin Thompson,Donald
Mellor,David Townsend,Cyril D,(B'heath)
Mills,Iain(Meriden) Viggers,Peter
Moate,Roger Waddington,David
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Waldegrave,HonWilliam
Myles, David Wall,SirPatrick
Neale,Gerrard Waller, Gary
Needham,Richard Ward,John
Nelson,Anthony Wells, Bowen
Newton,Tony Wheeler,John
Normanton,Tom Whitney,Raymond
Page, John (Harrow, West) Wickenden,Keith
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Patten, John(Oxford) Wolfson,Mark
Pollock,Alexander Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Prior, Rt Hon James Younger, Rt Hon George
Raison,Rt Hon Timothy
RhodesJames, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Rhys Williams,Sir Brandon Mr, Selwyn Gummer and
Ridley,Hon Nicholas Mr. Trystan Garel-Jones

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Michael Brown

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I am sorry to trouble you with a point of order that in no way attempts to question your decision to accept the motion for the closure. You were not in the Chair earlier when I raised a similar point of order, having tried to catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair on numerous occasions in the first debate. I was unsuccessful then because a closure motion was accepted. I wish to draw to your attention the fact that, excluding the time allowed for the Minister, who intervened twice during the previous debate, approximately 50 minutes were allowed to three speakers.

2.45 am
The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not get into a discussion on my judgment as to when a closure motion is acceptable. I assure the Committee that all these matters are considered carefully and closures are accepted only when the Chair feels that they are justified.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

The amendments that are coming up for discussion, the first of which stands in my name, deal with an important aspect of the Bill. They go to the very heart of the matter, in that power sharing surfaces really and truly in this part of the Bill.

The Bill is important to Northern Ireland. It is only right that the people of Northern Ireland should have an opportunity of knowing what their elected representatives are saying here. They will not hear at this hour what anyone from Northern Ireland has to say about their future Government. It would be right for the Government at this late stage, before we venture into a new series of amendments, to be prepared to say that we have made progress and that tomorrow is a new day when we can consider this important matter adequately. That is what should be done in the interests of the Committee, of the Government and of the future well-being of the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Prior

It is true that the Committee has been sitting for quite a long time. It is equally true that we have made slow progress during the day. We need to press on with the measure. We recognise that this is an important group of amendments, but other groups of amendments have been considered in that light during the last few hours. I do not think one can say that a particular group of amendments is of that much greater importance than any other because of the amount of time spent discussing them.

I suggest to the Committee that we make a start on the next group of amendments but that we do not seek to complete the discussion on those amendments tonight but resume the discussion afresh tomorrow. If the Committee would agree to that proposal we could make progress for a period and then I would seek to move a motion to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

At this stage it is important to proceed, in the interests of making progress on the Bill and of showing the people of Northern Ireland that we are determined to get the Bill through. I regard this as very important. Therefore, I ask the Committee to continue the discussion for a further period, with the undertaking that I have given, and we will complete the discussion on this series of amendments tomorrow.

Mr. Budgen

I am sure that the Committee needs no words from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to reinforce his determination to get the Bill through, but he does not need to say that to the people of Northern Ireland, because, with the sole exception of the Alliance Party, they do not want the Bill.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not go into the merits and demerits of the Bill.

Mr. Budgen

I am merely dealing with what my right hon. Friend said about his determination to get the Bill on to the statute book.

This is an important series of amendments, particularly amendment No. 15, which is vital to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). No doubt he will make a splendid speech for about an hour, if he is given the opportunity, between about 3.30 and 4.30. Although we all know that he is in the first league of orators and a man of considerable physical strength, he is not likely to be at his best at that time. The consequence of calling on his great powers at that hour will simply mean that he will then listen to the Minister and have to make a second speech—again, perhaps, of an hour or an hour and a half—at the resumption of business in 12 hours' time.

I respectfully suggest, Mr. Armstrong, that we shall have not only a better but a shorter debate—it cannot, of course, be a short debate—if we report progress now, with the frank assertion that we are all human and that at this hour some are more human than others. I am very human, and I am sure that I am demonstrating, in making this point very badly, the repetitiousness into which, sadly, we all fall if we make speeches at this hour.

Mr. Gorst

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said. In doing so, I want to make it clear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is correct when he says that we must get the Bill right—if we are to have the Bill. However, the right way to get it is not to carry on after 10 hours of consideration with another 10 hours, or whatever he is to allow us. After all, it is the quality of thought that matters. I have been here for most of the past 10 hours, and I have not yet made a contribution, except by way of a small occasional intervention.

Most of my right hon. and hon. Friends—indeed, all those who are taking part in this debate—want to get the Bill right. To do so at 3, 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning is not the right way to achieve that. It is often said by members of the press, who obviously cannot be here at this hour to witness what is happening, that the quality of our discussion and legislation suffers when we have these considerable extensions.

It has rightly been said that amendment No. 15 is vital, and that is the one to which we shall come next, if we continue. I urge my right hon. Friend to call it a day now and allow us to come back fresh to the matter. As my hon. Friend said, when we start later today we shall be able to give it a much shorter discussion. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear that in mind.

Mr. Amery

I have never doubted my right hon. Friend's stamina. He has given us a fine example of the machismo which motivates him, and which would be worthy of General Galtieri. Those of us who are strongly opposed to the Bill are happy to welcome the dawn through the windows of the House, as hon. Members did at the time of Pitt and Fox.

We are supposed to be an example of a caring society. We are supposed to have concern. I am worried, not about my hon. Friends who feel as strongly about the Bill as I do, but about the unhappy Back Benchers who have been mobilised by the Whips and driven into the Lobby to support my right hon. Friend on a measure which he knows is unpopular with the Cabinet and with the House of Commons. Do we really need to persecute them? We are quite happy. We will go on until doomsday. But we should remember Chaucer—the Prioress's Tale. It did not end very happily. Perhaps, on consideration, my right hon. Friend will give leave to the Back Benchers who have been coerced and driven into the Lobby to go home to their beds and to their wives, to sleep off the effects of this late sitting.

Mr. Stanbrook

I strongly support the motion, mainly because of the health of the Ministers concerned. It appears that the supporters of the Bill in the Chamber in the early hours of the morning consist mostly of what is sometimes known as the payroll vote. It certainly includes Ministers from Departments—[Hon. Members: "Withdraw."]

Mr. Budgen

My hon. Friend is being most unkind to that important group of people, the Parliamentary Private Secretaries. They are not paid, even though they are important, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) pointed out earlier.

Mr. Stanbrook

I have not yet begun to enumerate the various classes of people for whom I have the greatest sympathy. I have no sympathy whatsoever with the PPSs because it serves them right for obtaining a job without pay.

There are many Whips in the House, and, at a time when this nation is strugging in a war in the South Atlantic, the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces is here when he should really be attending to his duties or, at least, conserving his health so that tomorrow he may attend to his duties. I have also seen the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment in the Chamber.

Mr. Gorst

There is a solution to this problem. We could arrange some unofficial pairing for the really important people.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. We must relate the debate to the motion before the Committee.

Mr. Stanbrook

I at least am endeavouring to do that, because this is a strictly practical problem. We cannot do our best work at this time of the morning, especially when we are dealing with one of the biggest problems in the Bill. Hon. Members are being kept up over 12 hours after we began our discussion of the Bill. We have had 12 hours of continuous discussion. There are Members in the Chamber who are responsible for running the Government of the country, who must deal with important matters, for which they need the best of health. I can see in the Chamber, for example, the Minister with responsibility for race relations and other Ministers. They must have important matters to deal with tomorrow.

This brings the parliamentary process into disrepute. Parliament is not a place for Ministers to spend their time simply waiting to go through the Lobbies. Their function is administration, to constitute the Executive and to be controlled by us. Discussion is for ordinary Members of Parliament. We who oppose the Bill are willing to discuss things. If the Government insist on going on, we shall be willing to do so continuously and, if necessary, to take out the business arranged for later today, but that is not the way in which Parliament should function. It should have a decent regard for the human frailties of its Members, especially those who have departmental responsibilities.

The fault might lie with the Whips that it has not been possible to allow Ministers to get a good night's sleep tonight so that they may do their jobs properly tomorrow. Many are being kept up tonight and prevented from having a proper night's sleep. That must lead to the disadvantage of the country as a whole, if not to Parliament. We depend upon Ministers to have cool heads and wise judgment in dealing with their work.

On behalf of Ministers, I support the plea that has been addressed to the Government—

3 am

Mr. Amery

Does my hon. Friend agree that much of the discussion concerns the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature, and that it would be dangerous if the Executive were subjected to such strain that it could not legislate effectively? I do not know, but perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not a member of the inner Cabinet that conducts the war on the Falklands. Perhaps he should be, but again I do not know. It is not for me to judge these matters. However, will we not be in some danger if we prolong the sitting, with the result that my right hon. Friend and some of his colleagues may not be able to weigh the critical decisions that may lie ahead tomorrow about Port Stanley, for example, in the way that we would wish?

Mr. Stanbrook

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. We rely upon Ministers for the good and wise administration of the United Kingdom. They have a secondary role to play as legislators, but for the moment they are part of the Executive. We depend upon them as administrators, and that is their proper job. As legislators they are here simply and solely to vote. None of them will take part in the discussion. The Ministers of the responsible Department are here to do that. Other Ministers, upon whose good health and judgment we depend, should not be kept up at this time of night. It is nonsense and I protest at it.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I understand the desire of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to make progress with the Bill, although I am not sure how widely that desire is shared. I think that we should do one thing or the other. I do not understand the logic of my right hon. Friend's proposal. The amendment opens up a considerable range of debate. We are moving into a new phase in Committee. We should either start afresh on the new phase or, if my right hon. Friend is determined to proceed, complete our consideration of the amendment.

Sir Philip Goodhart

It has been noticeable throughout the debate—it was equally noticeable on 27 May—that Labour Members have not been present in the Chamber. No Liberal Members have been present. We have had only one Social Democratic Party Member in the Chamber, the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams). The SDP spokesman on Northern Ireland has evidently been unable to be present. It is inconceivable that Labour Members, Liberal Members and SDP Members—

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the motion before the House.

Mr. Joseph Dean (Leeds, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. It should be brought to your attention, if an hon. Member is personalising absentees, that more than 100 Government supporters are not present, yet we are discussing a Government Bill.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I should like to point out that at least three other Members of the Social Democratic Party and two Members of the Liberal Party have been present during various parts of the debate.

The First Deputy Chairman

I remind the Committee that we are discussing a narrow matter—whether we ought to proceed with the debate. I hope that all speeches will be relevant to the motion.

Sir Philip Goodhart

I am sure that those hon. Members will wish to take part in the debate on the crucial amendments that we are about to discuss. If we follow the advice of the Secretary of State, those Members of the Labour and Liberal Parties, who I am sure will wish to participate, will not have the opportunity to hear the opening speeches. They will, therefore, be severely handicapped in tomorrow's discussions.

Viscount Cranborne

I should like to support the motion as strongly as I am able. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is a fan of Formula 1 motor racing. If he is not, I can assure him that neither am I, but I happened to turn on a most interesting resume of the Detroit Grand Prix on the television last weekend. I assure you, Mr. Armstrong, that this little incursion into the world of sport is entirely relevant to the motion. Those hon. Members who are interested in motor racing will recall that, in an attempt to circumnavigate a track as narrow as the scope of the motion, the contestants failed to complete more than seven laps. As a result, the race had to be started again. All commentators, as far as I was able to ascertain, came to the conclusion that that was a most unsatisfactory precedent. As a result, I am glad to say, the race was won by an Englishman. [Interruption] I beg your pardon, Mr. Armstrong, I have been corrected.

Mr. Budgen

This is an historic moment: a Patronage Secretary has spoken in the Chamber.

Viscount Cranborne

I have been corrected by the Patronage Secretary. The race was won by an Irishman, which makes the point even more relevant—and a Northern Irishman to boot.

We have before us an example of another race which, if we stopped now, will go for perhaps seven laps and then have to start again tomorrow without the benefit of a video recording in the shape of Hansard to guide our steps. My right hon. Friend, with whose desire to make progress I am entirely sympathetic, would do far better if he allowed us to start off on this important group of amendments tomorrow rather than at this late hour tonight.

Mr. Lawrence

As you know, Mr. Armstrong, I have not yet taken the opportunity of trying to catch the eye of any Chairman during the debate. I have been saving up my energies and enthusiasms for the important amendment that is about to be proposed by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). As hon. Members know, once I get started on a matter that consumes my interest, it has been known to be somewhat difficult to stop me. I can remind the House of occasions when I have spoken for more than an hour. Of course, that does not outstrip the capabilities of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

I rise to assist my right hon. Friend and the Committee in this way. I have come prepared to make a contribution of some length on the next group of amendments. I make my right hon. Friend an offer that he should find hard to refuse. If he will accept my invitation to end the debate now, I will undertake to remain silent throughout all the speeches attracted by the next group of amendments. I can think of no greater sacrifice that I could make in the causes for which I speak. I do so on behalf of all of my hon. Friends who are gathered together, I believe, in anticipation of the contribution that I intended to make. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept that invitation as seriously as I offer it. If he will now rise to accept it, I promise to remain silent on the next group of amendments.

Mr. Michael Brown

I support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in suggesting that we should continue the proceedings and try to make progress. For nine or 10 hours, at most times, there have been no more than 20 or 25 right hon. and hon. Members in the Chamber. We now come to what for me at any rate is clearly the most important series of amendments. Until 15 or 20 minutes ago, there was nothing like the number of right hon. and hon. Members now present. It is clear from the number who are now here that everyone realises that we are now coming to a crucial part of the Bill.

Mr. Gorst

Is my hon. Friend absolutely certain that if we carried on he would be able to persuade the larger number of his colleagues now present to think as he thinks? Would it not be better to get them with fresh minds?

Mr. Brown

The 130 or 140 of my hon. Friends who so far have been able to make a judgment on the Bill without actually being present may regard this group of amendments as so crucial that I need to be convinced. They may indeed be there waiting to make important speeches on the amendments. On the assumption that they have come not just to listen to this procedural debate but to contribute to the debate on the group of amendments that we shall discuss next if my right hon. Friend, as I hope, gets his way, I believe that we should now proceed. My right hon. Friend should regard the sudden filling up of the Chamber as an indication of the very great interest in the next group of amendments. The debate should therefore run for a very long time, as one can only assume that about 100 hon. Members will be seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Armstrong.

I hope, therefore, that the Committee will accept my right hon. Friend's view. I go further. I believe that he should capitalise on the fact that, after nine hours, there appears at last to be some interest in this great and important constitutional measure.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry)

Chairmen come and go during these debates, Mr. Armstrong, but some of the rest of us go on for ever. The debates have been most interesting and we have all listened to them with keen attention. My interest in what has passed back and forth across the Chamber and sometimes up and down it has meant that by the time I had collected my thoughts properly to make a contribution to each of the debates I was passed over. For me, this is a most unfortunate state of affairs. The Committee will appreciate how bitterly I feel about it.

3.15 am

If we embark on the debate on the next group of amendments, we could have another 12 or 14 hours' debate. Then perhaps we could adjourn, get a night's sleep, come back if the business were postponed to the next day and carry on from there. There is no good reason for supposing that the debate on this important group of amendments, considering the interest that is now being shown, will be terminated even in that 12 or 14 hours. It is essential that we should get the Bill right. We cannot get it right if the people of Ulster are to be lumbered with nonsense such as the 70 per cent. rule, which we want to discuss now.

In those circumstances, I should have thought that a detailed examination of that important matter was vital and that we should allow a considerable time for it.

Question put, That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again:—

The Committee divided: Ayes, 18, Noes 114.

Division No. 184] [3.16 am
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Budgen,Nick
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Cranborne,Viscount
Goodhart,SirPhilip Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Gorst,John Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Knight,MrsJill Stanbrook,Ivor
Lawrence,Ivan Walker, B. (Perth)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Molyneaux,James Tellers for the Ayes:
Murphy,Christopher Mr. K. Harvey Proctor and
Paisley, Rev Ian Mr. William Ross.
Alexander, Richard MacGregor,John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael MacKay, John (Argyll)
Arnold,Tom Major,John
Baker,Kenneth(St. M'bone) Marland,Paul
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Marten, Rt Hon Neil
Banks,Robert Mather,Carol
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Mawby, Ray
Benyon,W.(Buckingham) Mawhinney,DrBrian
Berry, HonAnthony Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin
Best, Keith Mellor,David
Bevan, David Gilroy Mills,Iain(Meriden)
Blackburn,John Moate, Roger
Blaker, Peter Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Myles, David
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Neale,Gerrard
Bright,Graham Needham, Richard
Brittan,Rt. Hon. Leon Nelson,Anthony
Brooke, Hon Peter Newton,Tony
Brown,Michael (Brigg&Sc'n) Normanton,Tom
Browne,Jobn(Winchester) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Bruce-Gardyne,John Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Buck,Antony Patten,John(Oxford)
Bulmer,Esmond Pollock,Alexander
Butler, Hon Adam Prior, Rt Hon James
Cadbury,Jocelyn RhodesJames, Robert
Carlisle,Kenneth (Lincoln) RhysWilliams,SirBrandon
Colvin,Michael Ridley,HonNicholas
Cope,John Ridsdale,SirJulian
Costain,SirAlbert Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Crouch,David Sainsbury,Hon Timothy
Dorrell,Stephen Scott,Nicholas
Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ. Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Dover,Denshore Shaw,Michael (Scarborough)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Shersby,Michael
Eggar,Tim Silvester, Fred
Elliott,SirWilliam Smith,Tim(Beaconsfield)
Eyre,Reginald Speller, Tony
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Stevens, Martin
Forman, Nigel Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Garel-Jones,Tristan Stradling Thomas,J.
Goodlad,Alastair Tapsell, Peter
Gow, Ian Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Grant, Anthony (HarrowC) Thompson,Donald
Gray, Hamish Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Hamilton, Hon A, Viggers, Peter
Hampson, Dr Keith Waddington,David
Hannam,John Waldegrave,HonWilliam
Haselhurst,Alan Waller, Gary
Hawkins,Paul Wells, Bowen
Hayhoe, Barney Wheeler,John
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Wickenden, Keith
Hunt, David (Wirral) Wolfson,Mark
Jessel, Toby Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
JohnsonSmith,Geoffrey Younger, Rt Hon George
Jopling, RtHonMichael
Lang, Ian Tellers for the Noes:
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Lyell,Nicholas Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Question accordingly negatived.

The First Deputy Chairman

We now come to which it will be convenient to amendment No. 15, with which it will be convienient to take the following:

No. 16, in page 2, line 11, leave out subsection (4).

No. 17, in page 2, line 13, leave out paragraph (a).

No. 18, in page 2, line 13, leave out from '(a)' to 'at'.

No. 19, in page 2, line 13, leave out 'the proposals

have,' and insert 'every such proposal at that time submitted has'. No. 20, in page 2, line 14, after 'Assembly', insert 'who have taken their seats and voted on the proposals' No. 21, in page 2, line 14, after 'Assembly', insert 'voting thereon'. No. 22, in page 2, line 14, after 'Assembly' insert 'have voted for those proposals'. No. 98, in page 2, line 14, after 'Assembly', insert 'present and voting'.

No. 117, in page 2, line 14, after 'Assembly', insert 'drawn from all sections of the community'. No. 23, in page 2, line 15, leave out from beginning to first 'the' in line 16.

No. 24, in page 2, line 15, leave out paragraph (b).

No. 25, in page 2, line 15, leave out 'the proposals have,' and insert 'every such proposal at that time submitted has'.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

On a point of order. Mr. Armstrong. I should like to raise a point of order about the grouping of these amendments. It is a point of which I gave earlier notice to the Chairman of Ways and Means.

My submission is that it would be greatly to the convenience of the Committee and to the advantage of debate if these 13 amendments were divided into three groups, as they deal with three essentially separate subjects.

Perhaps it would be simplest if I demonstrated this by starting at the end with amendment No. 25. That amendment deals with a matter completely separate from the question of the 70 per cent., or whatever, majority that is required for the submission of proposals. Amendment No. 25, which at present is grouped with the remainder, deals with whether the proposals should be put and voted upon as a whole, and only as a whole, or separately.

I am in no way seeking to argue the merits or the substance but simply to point out that this is a totally distinct subject from the question what the majority voting ought to be. I hope that that suggestion will commend itself to the Chairman of Ways and Means. I believe Mat we should separate amendment No. 25 from the other dozen, thus making it a real and not a baker's dozen and enabling us to take separately a subject that is inherently distinct.

My other proposition is that amendments Nos. 20 to 22 and 98—four amendments in all—could with great advantage and logic be separated from the 12.

That would mean that we would have eight amendments on the question of the majority and these four amendments on the separate question of whether it should be a majority of those present and voting or a majority of the members of the Assembly.

I know that the perception of the Chair in these matters is anything but superficial, Out superficially there might seem to be some relationship between the topics contained in the eight and four amendments which I am asking the Chair to take separately.

If, Mr. Armstrong, you consider the matter more closely, you will see that the requirement of a majority is essentially distinct—and above all, in Northern Ireland conditions is really distinct—from whether the majority should be taken of those attending or of those who are elected to the Assembly.

3.30 am

I mention, to clarify that point, that one method of political expression in Northern Ireland is to secure election and not take advantage of having been elected. In some areas it has been an endemic custom. The consequences of that as a possible tactic for the working and application of this clause are clearly distinct, and the principles at issue are distinct from any that may be used to defend the requirement of a minimum percentage in support.

I submit, Mr. Weatherill—I have already given notice of my submission—that we have before us not 13 amendments relating to the same topic, but eight relating to one topic, four to another and one to yet a third. Perhaps it might seem unreasonable, although there is no earlier stage at which I could, in accordance with custom and the rules of order, have made this submission, to invite the Chair at this stage in the proceedings, with the first amendment called and about to be moved, to modify the provisional grouping and selection.

However, that difficulty has been removed for us fortuitously, but happily, by a declaration by the Secretary of State a little time ago, in which he intimated that he did not anticipate pursuing this topic to the bitter end in this sitting but that we should resume the examination of the question at the next. The Committee has already had evidence of your readiness, Mr. Weatherill, to make the provisionality of grouping and selection a reality and not a mere pretence, and to consider, as the Committee went on with its proceedings, whether the grouping and selection should be modified. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to ask you at this hour and at this moment, before we embark upon the discussion, to enable us to consider these 13 amendments in the more rational and convenient grouping of eight plus four plus one.

Although it is essentially a matter for the Chair and not for the Minister, I wonder whether this might not be an unwelcome suggestion to the Secretary of State. I am sure that, in exercising your judgment, that would not weigh with you, Mr. Weatherill. Nevertheless, it is bound to weigh with the Secretary of State, if with no one else. In my opinion, the more logical arrangement, and consequently a tighter relevance of each of the three debates, would result in less time being consumed in total. A much more satisfactory debate and consideration would ensue than if we were to roll all these subjects together so that one hon. Member after another might, haphazard as he caught your eye, deal first with one aspect, then with another and then with something irrelevant altogether to the question to which the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is about to address himself, but relevant to one of the questions that is grouped with amendment No. 15.

Therefore, Mr. Weatherill, I hope that, with the benefit of what lucubration may be available to yourself and to us before the Committee resumes this afternoon, you would, in accordance with your custom, address your mind to the question whether you could help the Committee by suggesting an amended grouping of those 13 amendments.

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having written to me about this matter before we went into recess. He will have noted from the selection list in the No Lobby today that I considered his suggestions. Indeed, I made one alteration concerning amendment No. 13. On that occasion, and again today at a selection conference, I looked at the right hon. Gentleman's other suggestions. I regret that I cannot agree to his suggestions. I cannot change the selection now. I have looked at it carefully. However, it would be open to the right hon. Gentleman if he so wished to ask for separate Divisions on the amendments Nos. 20, 21, 22 and 98 grouping.

Mr. Powell

I am grateful, Mr. Weatherill. I hope that you will not regard it as disparaging if I say that I was glad to have the crumb of comfort that you let fall in the conclusion of your ruling that we shall be able to divide upon amendments Nos. 21, 22 and 98. No doubt the same would apply, by parity of reasoning, to amendment No. 25. However, I should not like the wrong implication to be deduced from your reference to the availability of a Division on those amendments, that only one Division would be allowed by yourself, or whoever was in the Chair, on the remaining eight amendments. It may well be represented to you that a number of those amendments, dealing, as every individual amendment of the 13 does, with a different aspect and a different means of curing the vice in the Bill, might be the subject of separate Divisions.

Therefore, I hope that we shall not find ourselves restricted, as might have been deduced from the words that fell from you, to a mere six Divisions on amendments Nos. 15, and then, as you have said, 20, 21 and 22, then 25 and later 98.

The Chairman

I do not think that I said that. May I repeat what I did say? As I understand it, before I came into the Chair the right hon. Gentleman was suggesting a different grouping of amendments—amendment No. 25 and then amendments Nos. 20, 21, 22 and 98. The way to get over the difficulty is for the right hon. Gentleman to make his submission about separate Divisions at the appropriate time and I will consider them.

Mr. Powell

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Weatherill, for that. I should know, but I confess that I do not, what would be the appropriate time for making a submission in regard to the propriety or otherwise of a Division. It is often helpful to know some time in advance on which amendments Divisions will take place. Would I be right in assuming that if representations were made personally to the Chair during the course of the debate that is about to begin, that would be the approach that would meet with your approval?

The Chairman

That would be perfectly in order.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. Before I move my amendment I should like to put to you the fact that amendment No. 20, standing in the names of my hon. Friends and myself is really a fall-back amendment to amendment No. 15. If amendment No. 15 is defeated, I should want a vote on amendment No. 20, which deals with whether the 70 per cent. proposition relates to the entire membership of the Assembly or to those who are present at the particular time.

That, of course, is important. If eight Members of the Assembly absent themselves, 80 per cent. of the Assembly will be needed. If 16 Members absent themselves, 90 per cent. of the Assembly will be needed. It is vital that the House should have the opportunity to vote on that amendment, as it is central to the Bill. Therefore, may I ask whether my hon. Friends and I will be able to vote on amendment No. 20?

The Chairman

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising his point of order. I shall consider his representations and let him know my conclusion.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I beg to move amendment No. 15, in page 2, line 11, leave out subsection (4) and insert— '(4) The Assembly shall not submit any proposals under this section unless the proposals have the support of a majority of the members of the Assembly.'.

The Chairman

I remind the Committee that with this we shall discuss amendments Nos. 16 to 22, 98, 117, and 23 to 25.

Rev. Ian Paisley

As has been said, we have reached an important part of the Bill. In plain language, we see the genius in the Bill's drafting of an Executive appointed by the Assembly. The two propositions are: The Assembly shall not submit any proposals under this section unless—

  1. (a) the proposals have the support of at least 70 per cent. of the members of the Assembly; or
  2. (b) the proposals have the support of a majority of those members and the Secretary of State has notified the Assembly that he is satisfied that the substance of the proposals is likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community."
We have reached the provisions in the Bill that failed completely when the Act upon which the Bill is based was enacted and when the Assembly was brought into existence.

No matter how clever or talented a Secretary of State may be, we all know that he is not in a position to satisfy himself that those proposals command widespread acceptance throughout the community without that one great discipline of democracy, the ballot box. How can any Secretary of State ignore and reject the ballot box yet say that proposals command widespread acceptance? My point can be illustrated by reference to the ill-fated power-sharing Executive. A Secretary of State told the world that he had discovered a body of men who commanded the widespread acceptance of the community. In reply to my question about when we would have an opportunity to vote, the Secretary of State said that we would not have an opportunity to vote for four years. However, providentially, there was an election and 11 hon. Members out of 12 who were opposed to that power-sharing Executive were returned to the House. That was positive proof, through the ballot box, that what the Secretary of State believed had widespread acceptance did not have such widespread acceptance.

3.45 am

I happened to be present when the Executive was installed. I counted 44 army vehicles parked around the Parliament buildings. Forty-four armoured vehicles were required to put an Executive into office that was supposed to have widespread acceptance in the community. When the ballot was taken, that Executive, of course, fell. If the House proceeds again in that way, it will only court disaster and failure. That will certainly not work.

There is only one discipline in a democracy, and that is the ballot box. If the House is saying to the people of Northern Ireland "We do not accept the ballot box", it is far better to tell the people clearly, as we would say in Ulster, with a tooth in it. Let us hear that and then we shall know the attitude of the Government and the Secretary of State. I wholeheartedly believe in the supremacy of the ballot box. The party that I lead cannot support any scheme or system that would have the effect of undermining or upstaging the democratically expressed will of the people. That is a fundamental principle. It seems strange that in the twentieth century in the House of Commons, which is supposed to be the sanctuary of democratic principles, a Member has to argue that that democratic principle should operate in part of the United Kingdom.

I met the Prime Minister some time ago. I said to her "Prime Minister, there are millions of people in the United Kingdom who do not like you and your policies, but they have to accept you because you were put there by the will of the people democratically expressed. I know that you do not like me, but you have to abide with me because I am here because of the will of the people of Northern Ireland."

The suggestion in the Bill is that if we like what the ballot box turns up we shall accept it; if we do not like what it turns up we shall reject it. That is the principle underlying this proposal. That is obnoxious to those of us who believe in democracy in Northern Ireland and in the ballot box. The ballot box in our country has been degraded. We have seen the result of that.

All types of people have been mentioned in the Committee today. The Labour Party silent sentinels, as they have been called, were told that they should take a leaf out of a certain Mr. Carr's book. I am sure that they do not want to take a leaf out of his book as that would mean that they would forfeit their deposit and never be elected. It is utter nonsense. We have people in Northern Ireland who have a panacea for all our ills, but when they submit themselves to the electorate they are not accepted and they cannot be elected. Yet we are told by the House that those are the kind of people that we should follow. Let them submit themselves to the electorate and see what the electorate has to say.

No one should be in the Government of any country as of right. That is a principle that the House should pay attention to. But behind the adventures into trying to doctor democracy and democratic principles is the aim to put people as of right into Government.

If members of the SDLP want to be in the Government of Northern Ireland—they have told me that they must be in the Government and that we shall never have a Government in Northern Ireland unless they are—they must get there by the ballot box. They continually tell us that the majority of people in Northern Ireland want power sharing—they want that type of government. The SDLP and everyone else who wants it can have a coalition. The opinion polls tell us that the SDLP has won hands down. Let it get its majority. If it does so, it is entitled to form a Government.

Those who believe in democratic principles must sit on the Opposition Benches. I should be happy to lead or participate in an Opposition against a Government who controlled a majority in the House. That is democracy. But if the SDLP cannot get a majority by the democratic process, the House cannot turn a minority into a majority, which is what it is attempting to do.

We had a change of the election system. I listened to debates in the House years ago. We were told that if we had a single transferable vote things would change; the Unionists would no longer have a majority. At the last council elections there was an increase in the total Unionist vote, and that was on STV. No matter what the election system, if a party has a majority it will get there anyway.

It was thought in the House that the system would destroy certain groups and encourage others and bring them to a place where they would then be a majority. But that did not happen. All the attempts to do that will not bring it about. There can be no place as of right for anyone.

Mr. Lawrence

I have a particular difficulty about subsection 4(b), which the hon. Gentleman is more fitted to help with than any other hon. Member. It requires the Secretary of State to be satisfied that the proposals are likely to command widespread acceptance". As I understand it, the Secretary of State says that the proposals in the Bill command the widespread acceptance of the people of Northern Ireland. I also understand that those who oppose him on the Bill deny that. What is the truth as between the two sides? If the opposition is right, what confidence can be placed at the outset in the proposal as the Bill stands?

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on a sore point for the Secretary of State. But the right hon. Gentleman has the remedy in his own hands. There is a proposal for a referendum. Let it be submitted to the people. Let him accept the amendment and let the people decide whether there is widespread acceptance. The matter should be tested.

Let us look at the Government to be constructed. What happens if we put people into government with views that cannot be reconciled? There can be no reconciliation between someone committed to the destruction of Northern Ireland and taking us into the Irish Republic and someone who believes that Northern Ireland should continue to be part of the United Kingdom. Of course they can live together, as they have lived together in Northern Ireland for years. They do not need to throw stones or bombs at each other. They can live and work together, but politically they cannot be reconciled.

One characteristic of good government is collective responsibility. How can we have collective responsibility when one part of the Cabinet—to take political ideology—believes in Socialism and the other part believes in capitalism? We had that sort of Government and what happened? Every time there was a problem Brian Faulkner discovered that his partners in the SDLP were in Dublin consulting their friends in the Dublin Government. That was totally repugnant to the majority of people in Northern Ireland. Can the Secretary of State tell us how there can be collective responsibility in this so-called power-sharing structure?

In that set-up the Government are not responsible to the Assembly. The Government are brought together by parties who make an agreement to their advantage. Each party has the power of veto, so if one party does not like what the other party wishes to do it may say that it will leave. If it leaves, devolution—to use the Secretary of State's term—rolls in. All the progress that has been made will be destroyed. Each group has great powers and can overthrow the entire set-up. No one would accept that that will lead to stable government in Northern Ireland. Democratic government ceases to exist under this system. Each group in the Government has an effective veto on every Government decision. If an unpopular decision must be made and one section says that it will leave, the Government no longer have widespread acceptance, the Secretary of State must step in, roll it up, take away the portfolios of Ministers and we are back to square one. How will the Secretary of State get over that problem?

Another factor is that there is no effective opposition. We saw that in the Assembly because those who would have formed the Opposition withdrew. The Unionists left the Assembly to function with the Faulknerite Unionists, the SDLP and the Alliance Party. They had their own meetings. One day the Assembly met for 20 minutes because there was no Opposition. Everyone said "We are all in this together. We cannot afford to criticise. We must not rock the boat." So there was no effective opposition. How will the Secretary of State have a good Government in Northern Ireland without an Opposition?

A constitution that ensures power-sharing is bound to fail if, at a future election, a majority of Members of the new Parliament refuse to operate the system.

4 am

There will be a majority in the new Parliament who will say that they do not agree with it and will not co-operate and that will be the end of the matter. It must be remembered that there will be a Unionist majority in the Assembly, whether the Committee likes it or not. It cannot be any other way because 1 million people are dedicated to upholding the Union. So what will happen? The majority will be Unionist and will say that they will not work the system. The system will fail and the whole proposal will become unstuck.

This is an unworkable proposition. A constitution guaranteeing power-sharing would provide no impetus or incentive for change with regard to political allegiances. It could freeze and fossilise existing party structure and, in short, institutionalise sectarianism in government.

If a Government is made up in this way, the people can never change that Government because all the parties will be in the Government anyway. So no matter how one votes, one cannot change the Government because there will be X SDLP members, X Alliance members and X Unionists who believe in power-sharing, if there are any Unionists left who do so, and the other Unionists will be completely outside the Government. That is the system which will be set up under the Bill. How then can one change the Government? Surely democracy means that there must be a way in which the people can change the Government of the country.

Power-sharing makes a mockery of the principle of receiving a mandate. When the electorate endorses the policy of a party, it has a right to expect that policy to be implemented. How could the SDLP expect Unionists to implement its policy and how could the Unionists expect the SDLP to implement their policy? It cannot be done. It is ludicrous to suggest that this is the way the Ulster people should go. It would lead to a completely ineffective Government unable to move in any direction lest they offended one group or the other.

In this structure the minority is to have the same rights as the majority. In any democratic system a majority must be a majority and must be treated as such. What the Government are saying is that we do not need elections; let all the parties agree and get together. According to the Government, elections are no good because they will not alter the situation one iota.

We have before us a proposal that there are two ways in which the executive can come into being. If 70 per cent. of the Assembly agree that this is the way it should go, that proposal will be put to Parliament. Can the Secretary of State answer a straight question? Has that 70 per cent. to be a coloured 70 per cent.? Is it to have within it Republicans or those who want to destroy the people of Northern Ireland? If it is, there is no use in the Secretary of State trying to go any further because in no way would the people of Northern Ireland accept that situation.

But if there comes about a situation in the Assembly in which 70 per cent. vote that they should have power in a certain way, will the Secretary of State come to Parliament and recommend that there should be devolved government for Northern Ireland? Or will he say that he does not like the colour of the people who make up the 70 per cent. and therefore cannot recommend the proposal to the House? The Secretary of State should tell us plainly tonight. The people of Northern Ireland are entitled to an answer to that question and we need to have it straight and clear.

Let us consider the other proposal—50 per cent. plus one—as it includes a cross-community basis. I wonder what that cross-community basis is. Is it Protestants and Roman Catholics. Is it Unionists and Republicans? What is it? The Minister should spell it out. I have been told that, if the Alliance Party and the Unionist Party got together, that would not be considered to be cross-community power-sharing. There would need to be committed Republicans in that Government. However, no Unionist worth his salt would go into a Government with committed Republicans. Whether this Committee likes that or not, it happens to be a fact of life. People in this House say "The politicians of Northern Ireland should be brave and surrender their principles". We have seen it all before, and it resulted in chiefs without Indians. People said that they were leading the people, but no one was following. The majority of the people of Ulster are convinced that their future is to remain part of the United Kingdom, and they want no truck with the Republic. When one touches them on that point, one touches them at the very quick of their political thinking.

There are other people, the minority, who take the opposite view. Their future, they say, is with the South of Ireland, and they look to the day when they can take us all into the Republic. There is only one thing that stands in their way, and that is the ballot box. The great strength of the Unionist people is their power at the ballot box.

I do not understand why this Committee says to the people of Northern Ireland "By the ballot box you can decide whether you will remain in the United Kingdom, but you cannot decide how you will be governed by the same democratic principle of the ballot box". Surely, if the people are deciding their constitutional future by the ballot box, they should be entitled to decide their administrative and legislative future by the same means.

The Secretary of State should realise that, when the election comes and the Assembly is formed, the day of truth will come. There is no way in which the Unionists—and the majority in the Assembly will be Unionists—will be prepared to sell their principles and say "We are prepared to enter into Government with Republicans". I stress that it is not a matter of religion; it is a matter of political outlook. There are Roman Catholics who believe in the Union and who vote for the Union. There are Roman Catholics who even vote for me. I know that because there is an island in my constituency called Rathlin, where there are only two Protestants, yet I get 17, 18 and 20 votes from that island. I always look at the Rathlin voting box, which comes over on the boat. Under the STV system, one might have some idea of how Roman Catholics vote, because at the European election thousands of people voted 1. John Hume, 2. Ian Paisley. Those who voted for John Hume were certainly not Protestants. I did not need their second preference votes, because I had too many first preference votes. So I stress that there are Roman Catholics who are Unionists.

But evidently they do not count in this situation. One has to be a strong committed Republican. If strong committed Republicans are prepared to get into this power sharing business, with 50 per cent. plus one, a Government can be formed. The House of Commons must face this matter. The people of Northern Ireland have faced it before. It should have learnt the lesson but evidently it has not. It seems that we are to go down the same road again.

What will the Secretary of State do when we have the Assembly with a Unionist majority if that majority says that it will not go down the same road again? What will we do then? Will the House of Commons still stick to the proposals? If it does, the Assembly can do its good work. There is good work to do in looking after the committees and playing scrutinising and consultative roles. That is a job that it can do and should do. But when it comes to the crucial issue of having real devolved powers, how will the House of Commons act then? The way mapped out in these proposals will not be workable.

I turn now to the 70 per cent. issue. Should it be 70 per cent. of the membership or should it be 70 per cent. of those taking part? There will be those elected to the Assembly who will not attend. There is a Member elected to this place who does not attend. His votes might form three quotas, so there could be at least three who will not attend. Others have said that they will abstain. If there are abstentions, it will not be 70 per cent. of the whole Assembly. If eight persons abstain, 80 per cent. of the participating membership is needed before one can go further. If 16 abstain, 90 per cent. of the participating Assembly is needed.

It is impossible for any elected Assembly to function in that way. The Secretary of State has complained—I can understand his complaint—that we are not making much progress. But if he had to get a 70 per cent. vote every time one of the amendments was debated, he would take a long time to make progress.

We must face the requirement of 70 per cent. and certainly 70 per cent. of all participating. The Secretary of State is anxious that everyone who is elected should participate. If the Secretary of State said that we should have 70 per cent. of all those who participated, that would take the teeth out of the tactic of abstention and would encourage those who were elected to go to the Assembly, to make their views known, to stand up for their political principles in the Assembly, and to fight their battles on the floor of the Assembly and not by abstention.

The time has come for the Committee to face the fact that power-sharing proposals in the past have failed and will fail again in future. It would be better for the Secretary of State to tell us what he intends to do if and when the Assembly has a Unionist majority which is not prepared to go down this road. I also ask him to spell out this 70 per cent. structure. If it is 70 per cent. clean regardless of political colour or political persuasion, is he prepared to recommend that to the House of Commons?

The people of Northern Ireland are entitled to have that assurance or clarification from the Minister. It is a sad day for the Province when in the House of Commons we do not face the realities and when we express views and introduce principles that cannot work. Let us give the people of Northern Ireland a possibility. When the Assembly is appointed, when the people do the work that they can do from day one, and when the House of Commons sees that the work is being done and done well, I hope that it will have a change of heart. There will be no way forward if we stick to this principle that there must be power-sharing and that that is the only way forward in Northern Ireland.

4.15 am
Mr. Michael Brown

I, too, am concerned about the drafting of the 70 per cent. agreement. I shall address my remarks to the difficulties that could occur in the Assembly when it tries to do the work with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is seeking to charge it.

I have thought about the possible outcome if we sought in this place to determine our business according to whether we were able to obtain support from minority groupings. As the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said, in the new Assembly, if it is eventually elected, there will be those who hold to a Socialist view of Northern Ireland, those who hold to a belief in private enterprise and those who are Unionists who are Catholics, and who will be bound to support a form of Unionism. If we are to expect the Assembly to be capable of taking decisions, we shall have to accept that sometimes there will not be a 70 per cent. majority for the Assembly moving forward and accepting a devolved form of Government.

I look to the crucial and critical decisions that have been taken at various times by the House of Commons, such as on whether the Government should continue or on a certain Act of Parliament. I can think of few occasions when 70 per cent. of the membership of the House of Commons supported a particular measure. My election to this place was determined indirectly by a majority of one in the House of Commons, which precipitated the 1979 general election, the change of policy and the change of Government.

If we are to try to get decisions taken in Northern Ireland, we must accept that the likelihood of there being an agreement of 70 per cent. of the participating membership will be extremely rare and almost inconceivable, especially if we bear in mind the mood of public opinion in Northern Ireland.

The allegiance to party there has not changed significantly in the past 10 years. There have been several electoral tests. There was the election of the power-sharing Executive in the early 1970s, the general elections of 1974 and 1979 and elections for the European Parliament. In spite of the attempt to prevent one party from having a clear majority by the single transferable vote system that has been used in many elections, opinion in Northern Ireland is reasonably fixed. It would not take too much gazing into a crystal ball to gain an idea of what the balance of the parties would be in an Assembly were an election held in the latter part of this year.

It is clear to everyone who takes an interest in Northern Ireland matters that a reconciliation of political differences, to the extent of 70 per cent. support in an Assembly for a move towards devolution, could not be obtained.

These amendments go to the heart of the Bill. The 70 per cent. will contain the seeds of destruction of my right hon. Friend's intentions. If there is to be any hope of success along the lines that the Secretary of State would like, we must recognise that a simple majority is all that we can hope for. I am mindful of what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said about how people might interpret a straight forward 50 plus one majority.

In a local authority in which there was a balance of power between the Labour and Conservative Parties, and yet there was a substantial minority of immigrant voters, it would be intolerable if the council sought to take decisions without having regard to cross-community support. We always assume that the people who are charged with the responsibility of representing all of their electorate act in their own way and are accountable to the whole electorate at the end of their term of office. In large metropolitan areas such as the West Midlands and West Yorkshire there are many minority groups. The argument that my right hon. Friend is using in the Bill might just as well be applied to the local authorities of areas with high immigrant populations.

I am sure that Members in all parts of the Committee would regard it as completely impracticable to seek cross-community support and to try to ensure that if the electorate does not do what the Government wish the Government should be able to impose some extra restriction on the Assembly. I am sure that that would be regarded as wrong.

The same is true of this requirement. I hope that my right hon. Friend will therefore recognise that it is unlikely that his proposals will have much chance of success unless he recognises that a straightforward method of reaching a decision on devolution should be adopted by the Assembly in exactly the same way as we take decisions in the House of Commons.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. Rather than moving formally to report progress, may one inquire what the Government's intentions are with regard to the progress of the debate? One of the amendments stands in the name of the Opposition, and the structure of the debate is clearly a matter of interest to all who are likely to participate in it. Perhaps the Secretary of State could give some indication of the Government's intention in this regard.

Mr. Prior

Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. Although we have recently voted on a motion to report progress and have decided to continue the debate, I notice that at least three hon. Members on this side of the House have been seeking to catch your eye. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) will probably also wish to contribute to the debate, as will the Opposition Front Bench. I suggest that we continue for a time and hear the speeches at any rate of the three hon. Members on this side. The right hon. Member for Down, South might also like to make a short contribution. We might then report progress.

Mr. Powell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. If we are to have a useful debate, I should have expected to hear from the Secretary of State at an early stage so that the justification, if any, that he can give for the subsection as it stands would be before us before the principal contributions to the debate are made.

Mr. Budgen

Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I have referred in the past to a most helpful article by Miss Van Hattem in which she refers to the 70 per cent. proposals. I shall not bother the Committee at length with this, but it seems that there is a serious possibility that the Government may wish to make a concession on these proposals, which have been described as not being sacrosanct. Therefore, I hope that we shall hear from the Secretary of State at an early stage. I am sure that I speak for a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends who say that they are really undecided about this and the 70 per cent. proposal could be a most useful buffer to prevent conflict between the Assembly and Westminster. We should like to know the Secretary of State's view now. Having heard and considered it, we would then wish to respond at some later stage.

The Chairman

That is not a point of order, but the Secretary of State will have heard what has been said.

Mr. Amery

I intervene briefly at this late stage in the debate.

Mr. Powell

It is an early stage in this debate.

Mr. Amery

I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is trespassing on the frontiers of what is democratically possible when he talks of a 70 per cent. margin for any transfer of power.

More than 20 years ago I was a junior Minister at the Colonial Office. We tried to produce constitutions for the colonies. We tried to equate minority and majority tribes in Kenya or Tanganyika, as it was then called, or Uganda. We tried to devise different systems of weighted voting. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend is trying to do in Northern Ireland. However, Northern Ireland is not a colony. These are our own kith and kin. To treat Northern Ireland as if it were a colony is an insult to those people and will not succeed.

4.30 am

There is much talk about discrimination. For 18 years I had the honour to represent Preston in Lancashire. It was an entirely industrial town. My majority fell as low as 14 votes. I was rescued by 14 Carmelite nuns, whom I managed to bring in a covered van to vote for me. However, that is beside the point.

The important point is that discrimination was rife in Preston in Lancashire. The electorate was 33 per cent. Catholic. No Catholic in those days ever employed a Protestant and no Protestant employed a Catholic. Over the years, not because I was the Member of Parliament, but when I was the Member of Parliament, that discrimination was phased out. If we had a period of direct rule or perhaps integration, which I would prefer, the discrimination that is causing so much worry to my right hon. Friend would be phased out. If it was not, my right hon. Friend has it in his power through the grant that the Government give local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland to decide whether particular local authorities deserve the grant.

The 70 per cent. proviso is an attempt to discriminate in favour of the minority. We sometimes hear the argument in some of our metropolitan suburbs that we should give more jobs to blacks than to whites and have positive discrimination. My right hon. Friend is trying to discriminate in favour of the minority community. In doing so, I cannot help thinking that he is building a wall between the minority community and the majority community. That will not wear. I assure the Committee that it will not. It is at the root of the problems of the Bill.

It is a folly to think that one can create a happy community by discriminating in favour of the minority against the majority, yet that is precisely what the 70 per cent. proviso seeks to do. Surely it would be wiser to move to local government, as Airey Neave proposed.

My right hon. Friend and his colleagues have been guilty of contempt of the House in the debate. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that an increase in powers for local government would be contentious. He left it at that. Surely he should explain why it is contentious. No attempt has been made to explain it. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State made the same point on the West Lothian problem. His remarks were to the effect that this was very difficult and that the Government could not answer it. But it is contempt of the House to brush aside these enormously important constitutional problems. The West Lothian problem is not one to be easily overlooked. Seventeen Ulster Members—I am glad that the number is to be increased—would be allowed to vote on English housing, education or whatever the issue, with the possibility that none of us would be able to vote on Ulster education, housing or whatever subject may be devolved. It is no damned good—

The Chairman


Mr. Amery

It is no good the Under-Secretary of State saying that this is an insuperable problem. If it is insuperable, the Bill is faulty at the roots and can be corrected only by the 70 per cent. provision, which itself is a negation of any democratic system as we know it. After all, when President Reagan spoke yesterday about a crusade for democracy, the whole emphasis of the speech was that if 51 per cent. of the people decide that something is good, they should be allowed to do it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State are bringing before us a Bill under which there shall be a privileged minority like the Communist Party in the Soviet Union that would be allowed to veto or decide whether things went forward or backwards. This is unacceptable if we are talking about extending democratic devolved government to Northern Ireland.

Surely the conclusion to be drawn is that it is here at Westminster that the democratic rights of the people of Ulster have to be expressed. I am delighted to think that there will be 17 Ulster Members—but do not castrate them by taking away part of the rights and responsibilities for which they should be responsible. Let them exercise here their democratic rights—

Mr. Budgen

I intervene only because my right hon. Friend speaks with such certainty about the 17 Ulster Members. I remind him that our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already indicated in some fairly careful words that in the event of there being complete devolution and the final rolling of the programme, there might be some reconsideration of the issue of the 17 Members. There would surely be some considerable argument, particularly among English Members, about the reason for Ulster having 17 Members in the event that it was also enjoying, that is the right word, the final roll of this devolution.

Mr. Amery

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I must say that I have always regarded my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as an honourable man and a man of his word. If there was any question of back-tracking on the 17 Members for Northern Ireland, I would not shake hands with him again. Nor, I think, would any hon. Member. That would be betrayal of a major order. It is something that I am sure my right hon. Friend has never contemplated. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will rise to the Dispatch Box if I am wrong. I cannot believe for a moment that he would go back on the pledge to extend the representation of Northern Ireland to 17. Will my right hon. Friend assist me by making it clear that he has no intention of doing anything of the kind?

Mr. Prior

I shall try to assist my right hon. Friend. I have made it clear that the 17 Members provision stands. My reply to a question on the West Lothian principle was that it would be a matter for the House, if it felt so strongly about the West Lothian principle, to take what action it considered right in regard to the number of Members once full devolution has taken place. That is an entirely different matter. Full devolution has not taken place. We stand absolutely by the undertaking that there will be 17 Members. That remains the position.

Mr. Budgen

As one who supports the 17 Members, will my right hon. Friend explain what argument can be put forward to sustain the 17 Members once full devolution takes place? There will be an inevitable pressure from English Back Benchers, for the sake of argument, who see education questions in Wolverhampton or Preston being decided by the 17. Will they not ask "Ought we not go back to the 12", and what will be the counter-argument?

Mr. Prior

I did not want to intervene again in my right hon. Friend's speech, but let me say two things. First, the late Mr. Neave, whose name has already been mentioned a number of times in my right hon. Friend's speech, made it perfectly clear in the discussions on the 17 Members that whether or not there was devolved government in Northern Ireland, he felt that there was under-representation anyhow and that 17 Members were justified. That remains the position.

The answer to the second part of the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is that when there was a devolved Government in Northern Ireland before, 12 Members sat in this House and had the same voting capacity as other hon. Members. That did not cause a great deal of trouble. It did on one or two occasions, but I believe that we should live with that, certainly if it helps to produce peace, prosperity and greater security for the people of Northern Ireland, which is the whole purpose of the Bill.

Mr. Amery

I am rather worried by what my right hon. Friend has said. Up to now, Northern Ireland has been grossly under-represented. This was part of a bargain that went along with the devolution to Stormont. The fact that Ministers were never drawn from Ulster representatives was also part of the bargain and was a natural consequence of the fact that the Executive power in Northern Ireland was exercised by the Stormont ministry. Therefore, it was felt to be indelicate and unwise to appoint Ulster Members to ministerial posts in this country.

In my view that was one of the greatest weaknesses of the whole devolution problem. After all, the Scots and Welsh had their representatives who rose to the highest offices, such as Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was quite normal for the Celtic fringe to occupy the highest places. Indeed, when I first entered a Government, I was one of the very few Englishmen there. Nearly all the Ministers were from the Celtic fringe.

However, there was never an Ulsterman, and that was part of the convention that followed devolution. It is no good suggesting that they were not capable of it. A Province that produces eight Field Marshals out of 12 is perfectly capable of producing two or three Cabinet Ministers of at least the same timber as a great many of the duds we have in the Cabinet today.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

The right hon. Gentleman has represented, as a result of a bargain connected with devolution, the fact that there were 12, instead of, say, 17, seats for Northern Ireland. With great respect, he is mistaken about the history. In 1885, when Gladstone produced a scheme for home rule for the island of Ireland, the question was asked, "How then is Ireland to be represented in the Parliament of the United Kingdom?"

4.45 am

To that question, posed on that scale, in those circumstances, there was no satisfactory answer, and, having tried the notion that there would be no representation or that there would be full representation but the Irish Members would stay away when it was not United Kingdom business, Gladstone hit on the illogical compromise, which was eventually forced through in the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, that home rule would be matched by a major reduction in the scale of representation in the United Kingdom Parliament.

At no stage was it part of a bargain in return for Home Rule, and at no stage was the bit that was chipped off related to Northern Ireland in any way part of a bargain or arrangement as the counterpart of home rule imposed on Northern Ireland in 1928.

I apologise for that lengthy intervention, but it is important that it is not thought of as something agreed; it should be seen to be something that was illogical and is only less illogical on a smaller scale because people take less notice of illogicalities if their scale is smaller.

Mr. Amery

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He has done me a service in correcting the historical perspective from which I was speaking. If I understood him aright, the idea put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that if the West Lothian problem proved to be too much of an obstacle there could be a reduction in the representation of the Northern Ireland representatives here, strikes me as something sinister.

If we have to choose between a proper numerical representation that would involve 17 Northern Ireland Members here, or a reduction in that number, plus the kind of bogus devolution to which my right hon. Friend is attached, where there would be a 70 per cent. qualification, giving a veto power to the minority, there would be no doubt which way the House, on both sides of the Chamber, would go. It would be in favour of direct representation and we should sweep aside, as we shall in the discussions on the Bill, this gimmick of 70 per cent.

Viscount Cranborne

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) has spent a considerable time during his illuminating remarks examining the consequences of having 17 instead of 12 Members representing the six counties in Westminster. Would my right hon. Friend care to speculate on what would happen in the unlikely event of the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State being successful, and the sort of devolution proposed in that Bill coming to pass?

In the event of the committees adumbrated in the Bill being set up, what would those 17 Members be discussing? Would they merely be discussing matters concerning the Department of Finance and Personnel, as specified in clause 2(4)? If that is so, it seems to me that not only would we be disenfranchised with regard to Ulster affairs, but Ulster MPs would be disenfranchised with regard to the affairs of the people who sent them here.

Mr. Amery

My hon. Friend makes a good point, which is for the Secretary of State to answer. Clearly, if we have 17 Members here, they must be allowed to participate in all our deliberations and to vote on them.

That brings us up against the West Lothian problem. Northern Ireland Members will be entitled to vote on English and Scottish education, housing and so forth, and we will not be allowed to vote on Irish education and housing. This is an insoluble problem and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has more or less admitted it. That is one of the basic failings of the Bill and one reason why I am sure that the House will not tolerate its acceptance.

This is why so many hon. Members have asked: why not go for ordinary, proper local government as in England, Scotland and Wales, which, in the ordinary course of events, would deal with housing, education and so many other problems? The Under-Secretary says that that would be contentious. Perhaps it would, but had we not better face something that is contentious but normal?

I shall tell the committee why we are not being allowed to do this. It is not because it is contentious in the House. It is because it is unacceptable to Dublin. Here is the real root of the matter. This takes us back to the starting of devolved Government in Northern Ireland. As I ventured to suggest to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) earlier, Stormont—devolved government—was imposed on Northern Ireland because it was still the hope of the Government in London that the unity of Ireland could be preserved. The Northern Ireland Office is still operating under the memory of the myth that the unity of Ireland can be perpetuated. Therefore, it is dead against what many of us want to see, which is the integration of Northern Ireland into our United Kingdom family. It should be no different from Scotland or Wales in its relation to England.

The Under-Secretary calls it contentious. It is contentious in Dublin. It may be contentious in the United States. It may be contentious outside our kingdom, but it is not contentious in the House. All hon. Members would like to see the Province of Northern Ireland completely integrated into our kingdom if it were possible. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says that we cannot do that because it would be contentious. He does not try to argue the point; he treats the House of Commons with contempt about this. He does not try to explain why it cannot be done. He simply says that it cannot be done; it is contentious. That is what his aide says at the same time. The reason is quite clear. We know it. It is because it might offend Dublin.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that Scotland also has local government which is often contentious? We have had to pass Acts of Parliament because some local authorities, run by authorities that were not in accord with the Westminster Government's views, were acting in a way that necessitated legislation to bring the difficult authorities into line. If that is the kind of problem that is worrying my right hon. Friend in Northern Ireland, he should remember that one party in Scotland, which has been in office for a long period, is very contentious.

Mr. Amery

I agree with my hon. Friend. There is no great difficulty. The existence of the local authorities to which my hon. Friend has referred does not really interfere with their commerce with the rest of the United Kingdom. That is what we have been trying to convince my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about.

Mr. Budgen

May I make a further suggestion as to why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is inclined to reject the solution of an extension of local government? He says that local government in Northern Ireland failed in the past because it acted unfairly towards the minority. However, he fails to take into account the fact that when local government failed the people of Northern Ireland, it was supervised by Stormont. The local government that we should like to see would ultimately be supervised by Westminster. Stormont became a defective body. We hope that Westminster will be able to protect the rights Of the minority better than a reimposed Stormont.

The Chairman

Order. The amendment has nothing to do with local government or with direct rule. We are dealing with the Assembly and perhaps the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) could confine his remarks to that.

Mr. Amery

I shall, of course, comply with your ruling, Mr. Weatherill. We are dealing with the 70 per cent. provision. In a sense, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is right to say that when there was no 70 per cent. provision, local government may have discriminated against the minority. However, through the grant to local authorities, it is in the Secretary of State's hands to remedy that. That is in his control.

However, the danger is that as a result of the 70 per cent. provision, he will discriminate against the majority. That represents a serious infraction of the democratic principle as we know it. Sometimes, Mr. Weatherill, you have to cast your vole. We accept your verdict because we have been taught and have grown up with that democratic principle. However, we would not take it very well if the figure had to be 70 per cent. If the vote resulted in a 69 per cent. majority and you cast your vote the other way, Mr. Weatherill, we should probably not bow to your decision as we do when you cast your vote on fifty-fifty tie. That is my point, and I hope that the Secretary of State will address himself to it more seriously than he has done so far.

Viscount Cranborne

As always in such debates, I rise with some diffidence. At this late hour we find ourselves considering the guts of the Bill. Given the extraordinary interest in the Bill shown by an increasingly large minority of Conservative Members, it is remarkable that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should persist in the view that we should attempt to make progress on the Bill at this late hour.

Mr. Budgen

May I remind my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave the clearest undertaking that he would not press this matter to a vote in the early hours. Of course, we rely upon that undertaking.

Viscount Cranborne

As always, I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. Like him I was fortunate enough to be in the Chamber when my right hon. Friend gave that undertaking. Therefore, I assume that our debates at this advanced hour of the night, or early hour of the morning, can be regarded merely as a preliminary canter before tomorrow's full dress performance. The Committee should note that the interest evinced by Conservative Members has not been mirrored by the official Opposition.

I am lost in admiration at the way in which the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) and the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) have for hour after hour sat in virtual immobility watching the proceedings with an occasional quizzical expression but more usually a look of resignation. They have managed to argue that, far from representing nothing less than indifference, the empty Benches behind them represent the contrary. They enjoy the confidence of the members of their party so that those members do not find it necessary to watch the performance of untold heroism and immobility because they know that, sure as eggs are eggs, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend will be able to sit it out for hours without saying a word.

5 am

If that confidence had been shown during our debates on the Falkland Islands crisis, perhaps we should have been able to get through our business a little quicker than we did on the five or six occasions that we considered that matter.

I should like to consider amendment No. 16 and the question of the 70 per cent. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and others of my hon. Friends who have spoken have pointed clearly to the reason for the inclusion of that figure in subsection (4)(a). It is because the Secretary of State has found it impossible to make the Bill succeed without ensuring that the minority has a built-in protection in the constitutional arrangements.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten) is not leaving his place too precipitantly. In his eloquent summing up on Second Reading he was kind enough to answer an intervention of mine. I interrupted my hon. Friend with great daring and asked him why he quoted what he considered to be the success of the Stormont experience before 1969 as a reason for supporting devolution again. I said: As a parallel to his case, he"— that is my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford— puts forward 50 years of successful devolved government in Northern Ireland. One reason for the success was that the minority in Northern Ireland was given no power of veto while Stormont existed. After it was abolished, the question of power sharing arose. His case is intrinsically different from the parallel that he attempts to draw.

I am all too aware that my eloquence and concision are frequently exceeded by more experienced hon. Members. But my hon. Friend quickly replied: We both know what happened on the collapse of the Assembly and also what happened in the previous 50 years."—[Official Report, 10 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 545.] I have considerable feelings of friendship and respect for my hon. Friend. With even greater diffidence than that with which I approach matters concerning Northern Ireland do I venture the slightest criticism of him. But he did not even attempt to answer my question. The issue is of considerable relevance to the debate on the amendment.

Under Stormont the Province was governed by a simple majority. The system ensured that the majority within the Province always got its way. Since the troubles began in the Six Counties it has become common ground among the Government and Opposition Front Benches—the bipartisan policy is distinguished by the remarkable silence of the right hon. Member for Mansfield and the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race)—and the national press that that type of majority rule is no longer acceptable because it ensures that Ulster will be dominated by the "Protestant majority".

I was privileged to attend an interesting conference last weekend under the auspices of the Council for the Union in Belfast. It was confirmed to me that many Catholics in Ulster are as keen for the Union as Protestants. To use the term "Protestant majority" is a bad habit induced by too much reading of the gutter press, such as The Observer and The Sunday Times.

We have here the logical consequence of the assumption since the collapse of Stormont that the minority must be given a guaranteed voice to protect its position in the government of the Six Counties.

So long as the Government of the United Kingdom—the Imperial Parliament—is struck by that access of conscience and is also dedicated to the cause of devolved government, we must have provision similar to that proposed in clause 1(4)(a) of the Bill. Without it we should have to fall back on the simple majority vote with which we have had to content ourselves in the Mother of Parliaments for several hundred years. Such a thing would never do for the special case of Ulster! It is perhaps unfair to put it in that way because we know that the good will that flows from every pore of my right hon. Friend will induce him to ensure, in any proposals that he makes, that the minority has a fair crack of the whip.

In his haste to ensure that that occurs, my right hon. Friend is doing exactly the opposite of what he wishes. Instead of giving the minority a fair crack of the whip and thereby ensuring that it becomes wedded to the Union, the effect of the 70 per cent. measure will be exactly the opposite. It will encourage among the Loyalist majority in Ulster feelings of discrimination that are dangerous in a minority, but which in a majority could lead to an explosion the like of which we have not seen even since 1969.

It is impossible to solve the apparently insoluble dilemma merely in the context of Northern Ireland. If we try to do that, we shall go round and round in circles, like the present Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins). If we pursue the cauterisation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, in 20 years—perhaps by some lucky chance I shall still be a Member of Parliament—a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be introducing yet more proposals designed to ensure a fair solution to the problem.

The 70 per cent. factor is the only way in which we can attempt to square the circle. However, because it is so profoundly unsatisfactory, and because it is like trying to force a piece that does not fit into a jigsaw, it will not work. The Committee should pay heed to the wise words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion and the clearly expressed views of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and others who have spoken with such eloquence and at such length during this long night. The Committee should realise that, although it may not work—here I take the same approach, although in a different context from that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—there is at least a better chance of its working in a United Kingdom context.

5.15 am

If the Northern Ireland conflict can be submerged into a greater whole and the political ring can be held at Westminster rather than at Stormont, there is surely a chance that the conflict can be seen to be rather more parochial than when the boxing ring is set up in Northern Ireland where the conflict seems to take precedence over every other, however important the other conflicts may be to those of us who have concerns which perhaps loom larger on occasion.

If we were to submerge the Ulster conflict into the forum of the Westminster Parliament, it would be much easier for those inhabitants of the United Kingdom and their representatives who hail from the Six Counties to play a full part in the affairs of the United Kingdom and as a result find it easier to direct their gaze at matters which do not solely concern Belfast, Londonderry, Coleraine, South Armagh or wherever within the Six Counties.

That is why the matter of the 70 per cent. has a direct bearing on the question of devolved government as against integrated government at Westminster. If that 70 per cent. were not proposed by my right hon. Friend, he would have to go back to the proposal of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) for the old Stormont system of majority rule. That means inevitably entrenching the position of the majority in Ulster.

Because this connection seems very clear to me at least, even at 17 minutes past 5 in the morning, my right hon. Friend ought to consider that, by trying to devolve the government of Ulster as he has proposed, he has fallen between two stools and has had to compromise with the 70 per cent. proposed in subsection (4)(a). It would have been much clearer if he had drawn a distinction between legislative and executive devolution.

I know that I risk your grave displeasure, Mr. Weatherill, if I stray beyond the bounds of order, but I feel that strictly relevant to this is the whole matter that we discussed on subsection (1). I make no more than a passing reference to it; if I went further, you would stop me because we discussed this exhaustively last night. I merely repeat if it were not for the muddle that has occurred in the drafting of the Bill and the blurring of the distinction between legislative and executive devolution, we would not find ourselves in this difficulty over the 70 per cent. or the greater than the simple majority formula under subsection (4)(a).

The reason for this has been clearly put in a recent textbook published by Professor, now Lord, Beloff and Miss Gillian Peele. It is an interesting volume entitled "The Government of the United Kingdom: Political Authority in a Changing Society". It is a long tome, and I do not propose to quote more than a couple of sentences. One passage from the chapter on local government encapsulates the difference between local government and legislative government. If you will allow me, Mr. Weatherill, I shall quote from page 246: It has been said for example that one of the most important features of British local government is the ultra vires rule, which means that local authorities have no independent legal competence—as they do in France—but derive all their powers from Parliament"; and: The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were periods when local authorities were extremely active as promoters of private acts of Parliament which would enable them to engage in new activities".

I have quoted those two sentences because, with the authority for local government coming from this Parliament, the confusion which arises from the proposals contained in the Bill is avoided. The objection which is often raised—I confess that I am not an expert on the subject—is that the distinction between local government on this side of St. George's Channel and the legislative powers enjoyed by central Government here is often muddied by the fact that local government tries to take powers and when it does that it has to do so by promoting Private Bills in the House of Commons. The distinction is still maintained.

I suggest that if, instead of fiddling about with the 70 per cent. formula in an attempt to square the circle, my right hon. Friend made a clear distinction between legislative and executive devolution, we should not find ourselves in the present difficulty of examining a proposal which contains the seeds of its own unworkability. Although I would find it difficult to vote for amendment No. 15 because it perpetuates the idea of devolved and legislative rule in Ulster, there is at least an argument for not voting for subsection (4)(a), as it stands.

I am, therefore, in considerable difficulty. If we vote for amendment No. 15, we are following the hon. Member for Antrim, North down the road of devolved and integrated government for the Six Counties in a form which would prove as unworkable as the Stormont experiment did after 50 years, and as unworkable as I fear my right hon. Friend's well-intentioned proposals in subsection (4)(a) will prove.

I therefore suggest to my right hon, and hon. Friends that the only sensible thing to do, if we vote on amendment No. 15 alone, is to abstain. I know, Mr. Weatherill, that you, in your wisdom, have decided that we must vote on other amendments at the same time. If we are invited to vote on amendment 15 alone, it will be more sensible for those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who feel that the course of integration will lead to legislative devolution and allied movements not to vote at all. Therefore, on this issue, I say a plague on both your houses.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

The central purpose of the Bill is to contrive an equipoise between the minority and majority communities. Indeed the proposals for rolling devolution seem to be designed to create a constitutional arrangement in which the Secretary of State can institutionalise the community divide. Naturally, his belief must be that this will neutralise inter-community conflict and permit the agreement which no doubt exists between the majority and the minority on more mundane and day-to-day issues to become apparent and to enable the majority and the minority to co-operate in them in the normal political activities either of devolution or of any other political form in the Province.

Unfortunately, this formula, I believe, will have the opposite effect from that intended by my right hon. Friend. It will make a vote for the minority individual or interest more valuable than a vote for the majority. At the very least that must strike the majority as undemocratic and unfair. It might be worth creating those feelings or allowing them to develop if that was the only price that would have to be paid for producing a harmonious effect, but I am certain that that will not be the only price. My right hon. and hon. Friends have already described various aspects where that will be so. Certainly, the minority will always have an influence equal to the majority in the devolved Assembly. It will be able to veto when it wishes and to pull the rug from under the arrangement.

We have heard that 70 per cent. will not merely be the formula for voting but will also be in the rules and regulations which might be—the way is open—adopted by the House. Perhaps the minority community will not pull the rug away lightly but the ever-present threat that it might must be destabilising. It does not give the minority any incentive to win majority support for any of the issues and attitudes that it holds dear. The minority does not have to do that because it has been given a veto. The minority is already as powerful as the majority. This is a recipe not for advance in Northern Ireland but for immobility and for a political glacier. There is no incentive for the minority to turn itself into a majority. Why should it when it has all the powers of the majority as a minority?

There is encouragement here for the men of violence. The fragility of the arrangement that my right hon. Friend seeks to make must be seen as nothing less than an opportunity for those who want to make the Province ungovernable again. The great strength of direct rule is that it is difficult for the men of violence to do that. They harm and hurt the local community, they hurt individuals and they damage the economy, but they have little effect on the political structure.

That will be very different if my right hon. Friend's proposals come into effect. There will be the vulnerability of a shift of opinion within the Assembly, causing the minority to withdraw its support, and there will be every incentive for the IRA, the men of violence, to put pressure where they think that it will be effective. Their interest lies in a lack of stability, and in the appearance of the ungovernability of Northern Ireland—whether devolved government, local government or integrated government, while it remains within the United Kingdom and within the Union. I fear that my right hon. Friend's 70 per cent proposal will be of far more use to the IRA and its objectives than it will be to inter-community harmony.

5.30 am

My right hon. Friend's hopes of a reduction in violence as a result of the proposed measures being introduced will, I believe, be defeated if the Bill is enacted as drafted. I fear that that will be so if the Bill remains unamended.

The effect of institutionalising the community divide will ensure that the community remains divided. The veto that it will give to the majority will ensure that the majority remains suspicious and nervous and far less ready to accept any form of all-Ireland dimension or relationship, which on the face of it and logically it would seem sensible to have, certainly in respect of matters of common interest. The minority will feel obliged to use its veto power to insist upon more of this dimension than the majority will feel that it can safely allow.

There is the practical question—it has been raised by many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—of how cross-community support will be calculated and tested and what my right hon. Friend thinks will go to make it. The minority will not consist even in part of non-traditional Unionists because that would mean the Alliance Party, and I do not believe that that is what my right hon. Friend believes is the minority. It cannot be only Catholics because we know that a minority of Catholics, possibly a large one, support the Unionist or the Alliance Party. Presumably the "minority" means Republicans. That means that to get the 70 per cent. agreement that my right hon. Friend is seeking it will be necessary to have an agreement with those and of those who want to see the destruction of the very basis of Northern Ireland's existence as part of the United Kingdom. That is why under what is proposed there can be no movement to devolution.

The Assembly may come if the Bill completes its passage through the House of Commons. We shall then have an extensive talking shop, but an agreement on devolved government cannot come on that basis. It must rule itself out. The House of Commons, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) has said, will not allow devolution to come without a formula—not necessarily the one proposed by my right hon. Friend—to protect the minority, whether or not it needs protecting. That is the belief in this place. Devolution will not be granted without a contrivance of that sort.

The effect of the proposals will return us to the local government solution. That is the only way in which some local political activity can be recreated in Northern Ireland.

The crucial discussion of that matter—here I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South—was not exhaustive. It was sharply and unexpectedly terminated by the closure last night before many members of the Committee, including myself, had an opportunity to express their views. That was a pity, because the amendments contained the one practicable route to restoring a form of devolved political activity in Northern Ireland—the local government form that serves the rest of the United Kingdom well.

It does not take the destabilising devices of the contrivance of devolved government to ensure that there is no discrimination. I am sure that the Secretary of State can do it by administrative means if he has a mind to do so. He could do it by a civil rights committee or by a bill of rights with ready reference to the courts.

It is not my purpose to develop any of those ideas under the heading of the present group of amendments, because they do not rightly and naturally fall there, but it is relevant in showing that the procedure of the clause that we are trying to amend is not satisfactory and that there are other options.

The divide between the two communities cannot be overcome by a formula such as we are discussing. It can only, as several of my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, be subsumed at Westminster where the conflicts that divide the community in Northern Ireland are not known and where, if it is clear that no more unfortunate essays in devolution are intended, it will be possible to devise thorough and effective ways of examining legislation for Northern Ireland.

No doubt the representatives of Northern Ireland at Westminster will then begin to feel obliged to make links with the major parties to enable them to influence legislation here. That is the only way in which they will be able to bring influence to bear.

I applaud my right hon. Friend's general objective of eliminating the community divide, but by the present proposals, he is on his way to increasing it.

Mr. Prior

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I said some while ago that after three or four of my hon. Friends had spoken, I would consider that we had made sufficient progress. I therefore beg to move, That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.