HC Deb 09 June 1982 vol 25 cc335-74
The Chairman

We now come to amendment No. 29, with which it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 30, in clause 2, page 2, line 28, leave out from 'to' to `as' in line 30 and insert `such transferred maters'.

No. 31, in clause 2, page 2, line 30, leave out 'Order', and insert 'Orders'.

No. 33, in clause 2, page 2, line 30, at end insert— `(1A) No Order made under subsection (1) shall specify transferred matters within the responsibility of more than one Northern Ireland department.'. No. 99, in clause 2, page 2, line 39, leave out subsection (4).

No. 37 in clause 2, page 2, line 39, leave out from `specify,' to end of line 41, and insert 'finance and personnel matters'.

Mr. Concannon


Mr. J. Enoch Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I apologise once again for forestalling the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), but I respectfully submit that, although the remainder of the group of amendments is clearly homogeneous and it is obviously convenient to take them together, amendments Nos. 99 and 37, which relate to the same point, are essentially different in content.

The first four amendments deal with the question—to simplify it—of half a Department, one Department at a time, or several Departments at a time. Amendments Nos. 99 and 37, in different ways, deal with the prohibition of a devolving Department and thus raise an entirely different question of policy; not whether Departments that are to be devolved should be taken together, but whether the devolution of a particular Department should be prohibited by statute and placed beyond the reach of the Assembly's proposals.

I hope, Mr. Weatherill, that you will enable us to have two separate debates. That would be more convenient and rational, and would probably not take any more time.

The Chairman

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the reasonable way in which he has raised his point of order. I went into the selection of amendments very carefully, because I understand the Bill's importance to the Committee. I think that the two amendments hang with amendment No. 29 and I prefer not to change my selection at this moment and off-the-cuff.

Mr. Powell

I appreciate your difficulty, Mr. Weatherill, which was conveyed by the words "at this moment" and "off-the-cuff'. As a result of sitting on successive days, we are in great difficulty, because it is impossible for those debating the Bill to become aware of the selection proposed by the Chair early enough to make submissions that you can fairly consider. Therefore, we are both working under difficulties. That is the excuse for putting propositions to you that one would not normally put at such short notice. I hope that you will understand that my remarks are an explanation and apology rather than a criticism.

The Chairman

I certainly understand that, but I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that the selection was made before the Whitsun Recess. The amendments to clauses 1 and 2 were selected then. I review them all the time and I think that I must stick to the grouping.

2.45 am
Mr. Concannon

I beg to move amendment No. 29, in clause 2, page 2, line 23, leave out 'Order' and insert 'Orders'.

Amendments Nos. 31 and 33 are consequential to amendment No. 29.

The amendments spring from the points that I made on Second Reading about our worries as to how powers would be devolved and scrutinised by the House. There are three ways in which powers can be devolved to Northern Ireland. All the Departments can be devolved at once, some Departments can be devolved or parts of Departments can be devolved which, by sleight of hand, suddenly become whole Departments again. That is how I understood the reply of the Minister.

I understand that there is always a changing climate in Departments. An order will come before the House soon to join together two Northern Ireland Departments. When I first went to Northern Ireland in 1974 after the downfall of the Executive, there were 17 Departments in full flight. We all know why there were so many Departments. It was to facilitate a good spread of offices around the many political groups. When I arrived there with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle), the only order that we received was to "get up that hill and take that lot over". Only then did I find out that we were taking over 17 Departments. Many of those Departments have now disappeared or been amalgamated, which makes sense.

It worries Labour Members that if devolved powers return in a complete package, as we stand now—I hope that Ministers can clarify the point—that operation will be achieved by orders. That is what usually happens with Northern Ireland business late at night, but in this case it will not be satisfactory to us, to the Government or to anyone else.

If one is searching for an easy example, the best one is the Department of Agriculture. I understand the Government's fears that there might be a package deal to devolve two or three Departments at a time. That can be argued with us at the time, but what we are saying in our amendments is that we wish to see each Department devolved by a separate order. We wish to limit the devolving of powers to one Department at a time. To use the Department of the Environment as another example, if there were a proposal to devolve all of it we would wish to scrutinise that carefully.

Within the Department of the Environment is the Housing Executive. We all know why the Housing Executive was set up and I am certain that the House would want to scrutinise that carefully. The Department of the Environment might be one of those partial devolutions where one finds that the parts that want to be devolved suddenly become Departments again. If only half the Department were devolved the Government would have to place another order before the House. There would be two separate Departments, the one left to the Government and the other to be devolved. By sleight of hand that becomes a Department again.

The object of the amendments is to ensure that if and when devolved powers come before the House by means of either of the methods we have discussed they come one at a time so that we can discuss them properly. Has the Minister anything further to say as to how these would be debated and whether they will be by order, for an hour and a half, or late at night? Having gone this far with the Bill I am sure that the Government would not want one of the first devolved orders dealt with for an hour and a half at the conclusion of the ordinary business of the day. That would not be the right way of proceeding.

Mr. Proctor

It is a delight, Mr. Dean, to catch your eye after listening to many hours of debate on previous groups of amendments. It is also a delight in the middle of the night to speak immediately after the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). Alas, during the earlier proceedings when the right hon. Gentleman caught your eye and made his other contribution I had to take a constituent to tea. I blinked and I missed the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I have been waiting all this time to apologise to him for blinking and missing his speech. It was a unique occasion yesterday, although not during the sitting of the Committee, to hear him speak. I heard some parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech but not the whole of it, as I would have wished. I am assiduous with my constituents. I make sure that they get a good cup of tea and not just a short cup of tea. I support the amendment. It may seem to be making only a small grammatical change, but it raises a matter of importance to the Committee. It is a House of Commons point and I shall comment later on the time available for debating devolution orders.

The right hon. Member for Mansfield said that there were three ways in which powers might be devolved. First, all Departments could be devolved in one go. From what I have heard in Committee and on my visits to Northern Ireland I gather that it is unlikely that that will happen, but even if the Assembly wanted all the Departments to be devolved together the House should have the opportunity to vote on each one separately. I hope that we shall be given an absolute assurance that that will be the case.

Mr. Michael Brown

Does my hon. Friend agree that the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) has done us a great service by tabling the amendment? When an order or orders come before the House, that will be our final opportunity to take the monumental decision on the suspension or partial suspension of direct rule. Since that is the final opportunity that the Committee may have, it is crucial that it should be able to consider the possibility of devolving different Departments at different times within the context of separate orders and therefore separate debates.

3 am

Mr. Proctor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for leading me on to the other two-thirds of the equation which the right hon. Gentleman has set down.

The second proposal is that certain Departments would be devolved. When we refer to certain Departments, I am not sure whether we are talking about two, three or four being devolved at one time or whether over a period, which might be relatively short, a number of requests will be received by the Secretary of State for the Assembly for the devolution of this, that and the other Department.

Could the Secretary of State over a period of, say, a month act as a collecting agency for the requests from the Assembly, or will he have to come to the House immediately on each individual request? I do not know which would be the best administrative practice from the point of view of the Northern Ireland Departments and of the Secretary of State. From the point of view of the House, the preference of most Members would probably be so to engineer the situation that a separate vote could be taken on each Department, even if the requests are collated by the Secretary of State and brought forward in twos and threes and we have one long debate.

If I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, his third category covers parts of Departments. Once a part of a Department has been so defined, it has then to be reconstituted as a new Department. I thought I understood him aright, because I referred to it at an earlier stage of our deliberations on another group of amendments dealing with the heads of Departments and how such a situation would affect them.

The authority for what we are talking about is in clause 1, and the briefing notes are very helpful. It might assist the Committee if I refer to them: Under Subsection (1), devolution can be 'full' or 'partial'.… 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. Clause 1 undoubtedly makes allowance for part or parts of a Department to be devolved. Here, again, I believe that the House of Commons would be even more concerned to discuss an individual order dealing with that part of a Department that was to be devolved, and it would be even more important for the House to be able to vote on it because of the complex position which would arise as a result of splitting one Department into two, certain responsibilities of the Department being devolved to the Assembly and others being retained by the Northern Ireland Office.

Earlier, it was said that the Secretary of State would somehow sweep these up in his general umbrella powers and keep them himself if they were not to be devolved. Sweeping them up was, I think, the purport of the Minister's answer to my intervention, although I hope that I shall be forgiven at this hour for failing to remember the precise words. Sweeping them up or pushing them under the umbrella of the Secretary of State was the purport of the Minister's response.

I should be out of order if I made any further reference to wheeler dealing or cobbling together, because that arose when we discussed another group of amendments, but I think that each of the three different circumstances described briefly by the right hon. Member for Mansfield should be the subject of a separate order rather than one global order.

I am a relatively new Member, and therefore I am not fully apprised of all the ins and outs of procedure. Frequently, Mr. Weatherill, I have to seek your guidance and that of your colleagues in the Chair on procedural matters, but if I understand it correctly, the debate on any order would have a duration of one and a half hours only. In the absence of any immediate intervention to the contrary, I assume that that is so. If that is the case, I submit that is not adequate time for a debate on such a weighty matter, whatever Department is proposed to be devolved or in which of the three categories it may fall.

I say that as one of the great unpaired who frequently moan about orders being debated late at night. Sometimes these one and a half hour debates are regarded as an irritant to hon. Members who perhaps are not all that interested in the subject matter and as a particular irritant to the great unpaired. But these matters are of such magnitude and importance to Northern Ireland and to the constitutional aspects that we have debated at length in clause 1 that I do not believe that the House of Commons could do justice to a proposal to devolve any or all of these Departments to the Assembly in a debate lasting only one and a half hours. That is nonsense and all Members of the Committee know it. It is nonsense because usually on those occasions the right hon. Member for Mansfield would not make the type of speech that he made tonight. He would make a longer speech.

Mr. Scott

I was going to deal with all of these points later in the debate. Perhaps it would save time now if I made it clear that the Government would not demand that the time allowed for these orders be constrained to one and a half hours.

Mr. Proctor

I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful suggestion. I shall not now pursue the difficulties of the one and a half hour debate. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will be grateful to my hon. Friend for his assurance and help on this matter. It may, indeed, shorten our deliberations on the amendments.

Mr. Molyneaux

I would not like to diminish the pleasure that the Minister's announcement has given to the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor). While it is true that the time can be extended from the standard 90 minutes by a given period of two hours, four hours and so on, that is done normally on the initiative of an opposition party. Today, I signed a letter to the business managers requesting that we have a time extension for an order to be discussed next Monday evening. I should like to extend an invitation to all present to be with us at that late hour when we shall be doing the reverse of what is outlined by the hon. Gentleman. We shall be discussing the amalgamation of certain Stormont Departments. We have asked for a time extension. We wait to see whether we shall be successful. It has to be done on our initiative. Governments do not agree to such extensions out of the kindness of their heart, because they do not like being kept late at night.

Mr. Proctor

The hon. Gentleman intervened at the point at which I had thanked the Minister for his assurance but before I had had time to probe it. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish me to forgo the delight of probing him on these matters. As I said earlier, I am an innocent in procedural matters. My hon. Friend's intervention was helpful, but I should like the Minister to be even more helpful. If we are saying that the Government hold certain specified powers to extend in certain circumstances the time of debate on an order but that only the Government can trigger them, I would wish to press my hon. Friend for assurances with regard to the length of time of such debates. In his reply to the debate I am sure that he will give assurances concerning the length of time such devolutions orders merit from the House.

We are fortunate to have with us the right hon. Member for Mansfield. If we can tempt him to the Dispatch Box again we might discover how long the official Opposition wish to allow. We assume that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to devote a considerable amount of time to orders. Otherwise, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends would not have tabled the amendments. It would be helpful to know his view about how long the orders should be debated.

3.15 am
Mr. Concannon

In my Second Reading speech I said that we might have to find another way to examine the special Northern Ireland powers. I was questioning whether that should be done by order or in some other way. I tried to solicit the help of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) because of his expert knowledge. The amount of time involved will depend on the Departments involved and whether they will be dealt with one at a time or in a group. There might be another way to deal with such matters.

Mr. Proctor

I shall not pre-empt the contribution by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) because he might wish to comment on that. The right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) seems to say that one and a half hours for one Department is not enough. We should examine the length and form of debates. I understand that that will depend upon whether all Departments are involved.

If all Departments are involved we shall need a sizeable debate, probably not limited to one day. The Under-Secretary of State looks at me quizzically, but if all Departments were devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, we should need a substantial debate. I do not see how such a debate could be confined to one day.

Mr. Farr

I appreciate my hon. Friend's difficulty. The answer to the conundrum rests not with Opposition or Government spokesmen, but with the Leader of the House. Orders in Council relating to Northern Ireland are limited to one and a half hours' debate. It is not normally within the Minister's discretion to say that fresh arrangements should be made without consultation with the authorities of the House. I agree with my hon. Friend. Some of these orders are so important that they should not be debated in less than three-quarters of a day--never mind one and a half hours. The difficulty lies in the mechanics of this place, and not with the good intentions or otherwise of the Minister.

Mr. Proctor

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) for that intervention, although I do not necessarily fully agree with him. Although Northern Ireland orders are normally discussed for one and a half hours, there are procedures of the House for extending discussion, as the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said.

Mr. Scott

In the interests of brevity, perhaps I should point out that, although an order is exempted business for one and a half hours after Ten o'clock, it can start at any point after the commencement of public business. So it is perfectly possible for an order to start at 3.30 and run to 11.30.

Mr. Proctor

I thank my hon. Friend, because he has put into precise words what I was fumbling to say—that there should be a full day's debate on an order devolving one Department. That is a sensible suggestion. If the Secretary of State proposed that a Department should be devolved to the Assembly, there should be a full day's debate in the House. I hope that that is how my hon. Friend sees the matter.

I am conscious of what the right hon. Member for Mansfield said about when the order might be debated. Certainly, it would not be right to constrain a debate on such a major issue as whether or not to devolve a Department of State to the Northern Ireland Assembly to late at night—still less the middle of the night, as now.

I have sought to put what I wanted to say as briefly as I could, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for helping me. I hope that he will be able to allay my worries.

Mr. Body

Would my hon. Friend be satisfied—or, more important, would Northern Ireland be satisfied—if this business were taken on a Friday? That might be a compromise. Certainly, that would not be as appalling as taking it late at night for one and a half hours. If we are realistic, we realise that the business managers are unlikely to agree to a full day's debate, except in exceptional circumstances. Perhaps a full Friday might be a compromise. Would my hon. Friend think that that was satisfactory'?

Mr. Proctor

I had drawn my remarks almost to a close, but I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) for raising this matter. This debate is important because the Leader of the House and the business managers, when discussing a devolving order, will no doubt take note of what has been said in it. This debate may therefore give valuable guidance to the Government and the business managers.

I am not avoiding my hon. Friend's suggestion about a Friday. That might be very attractive to an hon. Member such as myself, with a constituency close to London, who can be and often is in the House on a Friday. Although it is normally regarded as a private Members' day, Government business can be and, indeed, is taken on a Friday. It might be a great deal easier for London Members to attend debates on a Friday than for right hon. and hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies.

I believe that Northern Ireland Members should have a big say in the debates when the orders come before the House. Their direct links with their constituents will allow them to shed another light on the Secretary of State's proposals, as the Assembly's views will be funnelled through the Secretary of State rather than coming directly to the House. Northern Ireland Members therefore should and, I hope, will have a large say and influence in the House when we are deciding whether to devolve various Departments.

Therefore, my hon. Friend may, on reflection, consider that his helpful suggestion is perhaps not such a good idea as he first thought.

I look forward to hearing my hon. Friend the Minister's reply to the debate.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

: Like the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor), I took a rare pleasure in the speech of the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). I found particularly enjoyable the description of his entry into the many mansions on Stormont Hill. It was a reminder of an aspect of the Bill and of devolution to which I sought to refer, with as much decency as possible, in an earlier debate—the means of providing inducements to as many people as possible who come within the ambit of the Bill, as Assembly members or otherwise, for conformity with whatever may be the wishes, policies and intentions of the powers at the time. After all, that is part of the mechanism for which this whole operation is being undertaken. As explained in the important and striking daily notes from the 1979 Conservative Party campaign that the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) communicated to the House yesterday—perhaps it was this morning, I have rather lost count—

Mr. William Ross

It was yesterday.

Mr. Powell

I am grateful. I think that it was indeed yesterday.

In the brief period of the former vitality of the 1973 Act, the motive power and the multiplication of inducements have led to fissiparous nature of Departments of Government in Northern Ireland and hence to a pullulation of those Departments, resulting in the increase in their number and the subdivision of their functions that made such an impression upon the right hon. Member for Mansfield—an impression that he succeeded in communicating vigorously and vividly to the House this morning.

The amendments before us all deal with various aspects of a problem which, as the right hon. Member for Mansfield said, was mentioned on Second Reading—the control by this House of the inception of the various stages of resumed devolution under the 1973 Act. Strictly speaking, the ideal method would be that those stages should be authorised by legislation, for only legislation in the proper sense can enable the House of Commons properly to debate and properly to control that which it authorises. There is no substitute for legislation. That is an aphorism which trips readily off the tongues of Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies, who are often presented with a substitute for legislation in the form of Orders in Council.

3.30 pm

I draw attention to a delightful irony which may have escaped those who are contemplating the future delights of devolution by virtue of this proposed legislation. It is an irony that at the moment when power is being devolved we still find ourselves using Orders in Council. There is a certain tacky quality. about direct rule, such that when we think that we have got rid of it we suddenly find an Order in Council again under the 1974 Act. The moral of this takes us back to the previously mentioned aphorism that there is no substitute for legislation.

There is no remedy for direct rule other than getting rid of direct rule altogether. I do not want to use words which fall unpleasantly upon the ears of any hon. Member present or absent or of any person present or absent, but there is only one way within the United Kingdom of getting rid of direct rule altogether—I will pronounce it in as low and hushed a tone as I can manage, not to say husky at this hour of the morning—and that is integration As long as Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom there will always be some measure of direct rule associated with however lavish and extensive an integration may be contrived for the Province.

We are considering the procedure whereby with the mechanisms of direct rule and Orders in Council we can implement instalments of legislative and administrative devolution in Northern Ireland. We shall find that we shall come up against another inconvenience. It was brought to my mind when I was contemplating how much more preferable it would have been if instead of Orders in Council we had genuine legislation by Bill.

When I was musing upon that, I realised that the meat of the matter will not be in the Orders in Council. I suspect that the drafting of an Order in Council will be terse indeed. It will probably be a single effective article. Principally that article will be concerned with nominating a Department of the Northern Ireland Government. That is all that the Order in Council will need to do. It will need to say that the 1974 Act does not apply to the following Department of State. But that is not the essence of the matter. That says nothing about the conditions and modalities which we have been debating in the context of clause 1.

In the context of clause 1 we were being informed by the Secretary of State of all sorts of wheeling and dealing, horse trading, cobbling together, agreements and packages whereby the proposals would get themselves into a form likely to prove acceptable to the Secretary of State. Therefore, the real meat is in the proposals.

Perhaps I am not alone in this thought. During the debate I allowed myself to imagine that while we were debating clause 1, the proposals would somehow emerge from their chrysalis into actual legislative provision by the magic of clause 2. But that will not happen. Clause 2 will simply result in the most terse of Orders in Council. All the meaty matter, all the skulduggery and all the reciprocal arrangements that will induce and condition the instalments of devolution will not be laid down at all. They will not be brought before the House at all for its specific approval because they will be just in the proposal and the proposals that have been presented to the House.

Therefore, I would imagine that during the extended debates on the Orders in Council hon. Members will have before them two documents. One document will be the proposal of the Assembly and the second will be the actual Order in Council. The House will have to contrive to debate the proposals because only they will render intelligible the circumstances in which the devolution of a particular Department will be allowed to take place. Therefore, the House will not be able to apply itself to the details of the proposals and the detailed conditions and modalities as it can do when it legislates in the normal manner.

So much by way of preface as to the general procedure with which clause 2 deals. I now come to the purposes of the various amendments that we are considering as one group. I am not sure whether the amendment should have run: "'Order' or 'Orders', as the case may be". Surely under subsection (1)(a) there can be only one order in any case. The object of pluralising the word "Order" is to make it possible, as the wording of the clause as it stands may not have made possible, to present several Orders for several Departments of which the administration and legislation is being devolved at the same time.

To put the matter negatively, the object is to prevent the Government from presenting a single Order for a whole clutch of Departments. There are to be no clutches. We shall devolve Departments Department by Department—one Department, one Order. That is the purpose of the right hon. Member for Mansfield in amendments Nos. 29 and 31. It is a purpose of which my hon. Friends and I heartily approve and which I hope will win the approval of the Government and consequently the acceptance of the amendments.

But then there is an opposite to the combination of Departments in a single order, which we hope to prevent. That is the bisection—it might be trisection or even a more minute fragmentation—of a single Department so that the several parts of that Department might be devolved by one of the Orders. To provide for that, my hon. Friends and I tabled amendment No. 30. If the amendment is made, then, with such skill in construction as one can muster at this hour of the morning, clause 2(1)(b) would read: suspend the operation of those provisions so far as relating to such transferred matters … as are specified in the Order". That is a beautiful, not to say deft, simplification of the wording of paragraph (b). It is not only more beautiful and chaste as a specimen of English but also makes it possible to devolve some, though not all, of the matters falling within the ambit of a Department. I draw your attention, Mr. Armstrong, to that important definite article "the" in "the transferred matters" within the responsibilities of such Department as may be specified. That would appear to mean all the transferred matters within one given Department must be transferred all together or not at all.

I am at one, as are my hon. Friends, with the Secretary of State and, I think, with the Committee generally, in preferring to envisage that whole Departments should be devolved without diminution. But there are Departments where diminution may be convenient. The right hon. Member for Mansfield gave, I believe, the Department of the Environment as a conspicuous case in point. I can imagine other Departments such as Agriculture or Education where such subdivisions might be convenient.

We are considering here the process of rolling devolution. There could be cases where it was convenient not to roll all at once but to roll a piece at a time, to devolve in the rolling manner one part and not the whole sweep of education that falls within the compass of the Department of Education. I hope therefore that the purpose of amendment No. 30 will commend itself to the Committee and to the Government, remembering always that its liberating power is permissive. It does not exclude and, indeed, it would normally provide for devolution Department by Department, but its wording makes subdivision possible where that is evidently preferable.

Amendment No. 33 might be seen as an alternative to amendments Nos. 29 and 31. At any rate, if I understand it correctly—the right hon. Member for Mansfield did not refer to it at great length, if at all—it is an additional protection and safeguard and specific prohibition of devolution to more than Department at a time.

I skip certain amendments to which we shall return in connection with a later grouping and come to amendments Nos. 37 and 99. I shall deal with amendment No. 37 first because it is partly in the nature of a drafting and partly in the nature of a query, and hence, essentially, a probing amendment.

3.45 am

Subsection (4) of the clause refers to an order that specifies the Department of Finance and Personnel or any matters within its responsibilities. I cannot see the point of attaching the words or any matters within its responsibilities since, if the specification of a Department of Finance and Personnel is forbidden, then presumably the specification of any matters is within the responsibility of the Department forbidden. A drafting or clarification query prompted the tabling of amendment No. 37.

The purpose of amendment No. 99, in the name of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), is very different. I should apologise to him that the luck of the draw and the luck of catching your eye, Mr. Armstrong, the chance effect of that procedure of alteration that we commonly practice between the two sides of the Committee, should put me in the paradoxical position of referring to the hon. Gentleman's amendment before he has the opportunity to do so.

This is an important amendment, because it draws attention to what will be one of the besetting weaknesses of the process of rolling devolution, although I am not advising the committee to accept the amendment. The Department of Finance and Personnel is the Treasury in United Kingdom terms, the Treasury being what Plato would have called the architectonic Department, the Department that supervises, controls, and in a sense, comprehends all the other Departments. It would be absurd to devolve that Department, without devolving all the other Departments that are dependent upon it.

The reverse process is possible, although inconvenient, and it is to that inconvenience that the amendment in the name the hon. Member for Epping Forest attracts the attention of the Committee. As the Department of Finance and Personnel cannot, as the Bill stands and as common sense requires, be devolved until all the other Departments have been devolved, and cannot be devolved until the "big bang" of paragraph (a) in subsection (1); then all the devolved Departments under the rolling procedure will be subordinate in respect of all those forms of control and limitation that it is the business of the Treasury to impose and administer, while that Department is still undevolved and is still the direct responsibility of the Secretary of State, answerable to the House.

This is a reminder that the reality, the red meat of devolution, the real independence of devolution, the responsibility of devolution, will be withheld as long as the rolling process continues, although the more the rolling process continues, the more painful and perceptible will be that deprivation.

Mr. Budgen

The principal reason for the comparative success of Stormont over many years was that it had that responsibility. It was because it had that responsibility that it did not exercise, at any rate initially, its substantial powers unjustly against the minority. However, if a system of rolling devolution is set up, there will be none of that clear responsibility, felt and recognised by all as residing in the devolved Government. There may well then be a much greater inclination to feel less cautious about exercising powers in such a way as to be unjust to the minority.

Mr. Powell

I am not sure that I followed the hon. Gentleman's reasoning that leads him to conclude that a Department that is being administered under the financial constraint of another Department is more likely to be biased in its administration. However, doubtless when he catches your eye later in the debate, Mr. Armstrong, the hon. Gentleman will be able to assist the Committee and myself in understanding his argument.

The hon. Gentleman was quite right in saying that, with one extremely important exception, Stormont had total devolution. Indeed, it had the full devolution that is provided in this Bill, plus a number of subjects that are not to be devolved at all in this Bill.

Mr. Budgen

Plus security.

Mr. Powell

Yes, plus security principally.

As the Committee has been reminded in earlier stages of its work, Stormont was dependent upon United Kingdom Treasury decisions, as the United Kingdom controlled not all but some of the major inputs into the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland.

The devolved Department will be a highly constricted one. Not merely the total of what it can spend, but a great deal of what it can spend it on, will continue to be decided by the Minister re sponsible for the Department of Finance and Personnel: the staffing, the pay, the total expenditure of the Department, the estimates of the Department—that is, the expenditure under its different heads and subheads. The policy that results in that expenditure will continue under the surveillance, and, more, under the control of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, and hence of this House.

The amendment is a warning not to suppose that the head of a devolved Department will not constantly be under the temptation—perhaps that is putting it a little unfairly: will constantly be obliged—to explain to those with whom he debates, to the Assembly to which he is responsible, that he cannot be held to account. To bring to account the person who is responsible, they must call upon the Secretary of State.

As long as finance is not devolved, there will be little reality in administrative devolution, because the administrative responsibility vests so deeply in the hands of whoever controls the finance.

Mr. Farr

I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's interesting argument. Whoever in theory controls finance when the Department of Finance and Personnel is officially devolved by the House, Whitehall will surely still hold the purse strings because of the huge annual subventior from the Treasury to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Powell

I am sure that that is right. As long as Northern Ireland is treated as a separate element for financial purposes under the peculiar system instituted in 1920—which still largely continues—there will be dependence, and consequently a dilution of responsibility. When some Departments are devolved and others are not devolved, the priorities as between those Departments will not be settled upon devolved responsibility and will not be a matter that comes within the purview of the Assembly—to which the devolved Departments are nominally responsible—because the Treasury will have to make the allocations to all the devolved and undevolved Departments.

The remark that priorities are the language of Socialism is attributed to the late Aneurin Bevan. However, since the establishment of priorities is at the heart of politics and Government, it should be understood that that essential function of government and politics will remain firmly with the Secretary of State as long as there is only rolling devolution. As the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) said, even when full devolution under subsection 1(a) has taken place, there will still be the overhanging financial influence and decision making of the Treasury.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Before you entered the Chamber, Mr. Armstrong, and before the debate began, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) raised a point of order with your predecessor in the Chair. He respectfully questioned lumping together these amendments. I confess that I was a little worried because I tabled amendment No. 99 and thought that I might catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair when we were still discussing the other amendment. However, the Chair's prescience and efficiency have been demonstrated because, in the event, the forebodings of the right hon. Member for Down, South have not been realised. We have slid gracefully from one amendment to the other. The right hon. Gentleman, in touching on my amendment, gave the Committee some interesting reflections and thoughts and has enabled me to be much briefer than—

Mr. Lawrence

Oh dear!

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Does my hon. and learned Friend wish to intervene?

Mr. Lawrence

I was concerned that my hon. Friend should appear to be sitting down so soon after rising to his feet. Although I may have dozed off in the middle of the exposition by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—if I may say so, it was extremely effective and comprehensive—I am a little hazy about the effect of deleting subsection (4). That Department will be the last to be devolved and no partial devolvement will affect that Department. I was hoping that my hon. Friend, before he sat down, would have told me, as I am sure is appreciated by everyone in the Chamber, that that is precisely the effect of the abolition of subsection (4).

4 am

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I sat down because I believed that my hon. and learned Friend wished to intervene. It is against the rules of order for more than one hon. Member to be on his feet at the same time.

I now intend to expound the effect of amendment No. 99, although I cannot guarantee that my hon. and learned Friend will not be even hazier at the end of my remarks than he is now. He may doze off if he wishes, subject to the Chair, but I hope that he will not.

Clause 2 provides for the general or partial suspension of direct rule under the 1974 Act and the corresponding full or partial devolution. Subsection (1)(a) provides for full devolution and subsection (1)(b), which I propose should be left out, provides for partial devolution. Subsection (4) provides: No Order under subsection (1)(b) above shall specify the Department of Finance and Personal or any matters within its responsibilities. Like the right hon. Member for Down, South, I wondered why the words or any matters within its responsibilities were included. No doubt my hon. Friend will explain that to the Committee's satisfaction.

If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) had not been asleep but had listened with the same attention to the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South, he would have heard that it should be obvious that the Department of Finance and Personnel must be the last Department to be devolved.

Mr. Lawrence

If my hon. Friend had been listening, he would have known that that is precisely what I said a few moments ago.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I apologise to my hon. and learned Friend.

This is a probing amendment. I assure the right hon. Member for Down, South that I am happy to agree that the Committee should be advised not to accept it. The right hon. Gentleman forcefully made the point that there is no reality in legislative autonomy or devolution without financial autonomy or devolution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) intervened to say that the good thing about Stormont was that it had such responsibility.

Mr. Budgen

No. I mentioned responsibility generally within the parameters of that form of devolution. I drew a distinction between the general granting of powers to Stormont and the piecemeal granting of powers that is envisaged in this proposal.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his intervention. It occurred to me that perhaps he had not appreciated that the financial autonomy of Stormont was more apparent than real. There is no separate income tax for Northern Ireland under the Stormont system.

Mr. Budgen

On Saturday, my hon. Friend and I attended an interesting lecture by Professor David Harkness that covered that point. If I catch your eye, Mr. Armstrong, I might be able to say something about the disadvantages that were suffered by Stormont as a result of it having no independent source of revenue.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

My hon. Friend is referring to the inaugural meeting of the Council for the Union. It was not Professor David Harkness the historian who spoke; it was the economic gentleman.

Mr. Budgen

It was both.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State tell us how the overlapping Treasury functions will be exercised, because they would apply both to Departments that have been devolved and to those that have not? It will be complicated. How will it work in practice?

Mr. Body

While listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) I was reminded of what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) said on Second Reading. He is the spokesman for the Social Democratic Party on Northern Ireland. One appreciates the fact that he has given many hours to the debates although he has not been an audible spokesman. No doubt he will be in the future.

Mr. Farr

I support what my hon. Friend has said, because the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) not only has taken a keen interest in Northern Ireland affairs but was a hard-working Minister in a responsible office in Northern Ireland at a difficult time. Those of us who watched his work admired the manner in which he did that job and shared with him the tremendous responsibility.

Mr. Body

My hon Friend has said what I was about to say. I remember the hon. Member for Kirkdale, when he was a Minister, speaking sympathetically and conscientiously late at night about the problems of Northern Ireland. We shall not forget the way that he discharged his responsibilities.

On Second Reading the hon. Gentleman said: Ultimately,"— an appropriate word, for this debate— we shall require sufficient time in which to consider each of the clauses and any amendments. The Secretary of State should appeal to those who control the parliamentary timetable to ensure that that happens."—[Official Report, 10 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 511.] May we have an assurance from the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary that an appeal has been made through the usual channels that we should have ample time to consider the amendments and new clauses?

The more time that we have, the more opportunities there will be for the right hon. Member for Down, South to add items to the catalogue of inconsistencies, anomalies and plain absurdities that he has already listed. The bigger the catalogue grows, the more convinced we shall be that the Bill will prove to be unworkable and will cause grave harm to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Lawrence

The other view, which is held by a number of hon. Members, is that the legislation ought to be made more workable. Does my hon. Friend agree that the more time that is given for consideration of the legislation the more likely it is that all the parties that will have to work it will be able to do so sensibly and amenably, so that it can become more effective and efficient than it is likely to be if it is rushed through, causing anger, irritation and a determination not to make it work?

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

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) will not follow that line of argument. We must get back to the amendments.

Mr. Body

Perhaps I may be permitted to say that I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence).

Most of my Back-Bench colleagues who are in the Chamber agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South, but my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) is not quite persuaded.

Mr. Crouch

I am a devolver.

Mr. Body

If my hon. Friend listens to other hon. Members he may gradually be persuaded that devolution is no answer and that what the Conservative Party argued at the general election is the right course. We should not go back on what we proposed and we shall make a grave mistake if we allow the Bill to go through.

Considering how we have treated Northern Ireland in recent years, it would be disgraceful if an order were debated for only one and a half hours. It is many years since I played any part in Ulster politics—long ago I was defeated for the Antrim, North nomination, and perhaps that was just as well—but there is sufficient Ulster blood in my veins for me to have strong views about how we have behaved towards Northern Ireland in recent years, certainly since 1970.

It would be an insult, piled on to other insults, if we allowed only one and a half hours to debate an Order in Council on devolution. I hope that even my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, devolutionist though he may be, agrees that such a short debate would be an insult to the people of Northern Ireland and would only add to the ill-feeling that exists in Ulster towards the House and the Government.

4.15 am

I gauged just a glimmer of hope a few moments ago when the right hon. Member was speaking. Even if the Bill goes through, it is; obvious that we will not get devolution, no matter what the hopes of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury may be. What the Assembly may try to get is some form of local government. Although it will be encouraged to pursue a devolutionary course, it may say that that is not what it wants but that it is seeking local government and wants the Province to be treated like the rest of the United Kingdom. It may seek in the name of partial devolution some form of local government functions for, say, education, planning or other matters. It may put before the Secretary of State proposals couched in devolutionary terms but for local government.

This fits in with the views that have been expressed in Northern Ireland in the opinion poll and, as we understand, by other organs of opinion. The people of Northern Ireland want some say in the decision-making processes that affect their everyday lives. They are getting impatient with direct rule. If they could have returned to them local government functions comparable to those in England, Wales and Scotland, they might be satisfied.

The proposals put to the Secretary of State, although couched in devolutionary terms, may be much narrower and more akin to local government functions. If the Secretary of State realises that that is what Northern Ireland wants, he should be persuaded to put before the House an Order in Council along those lines. In that case it would not be necessary to have a full day's debate or even a complete Friday's debate, as I hinted earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor). It would be tolerable to have a shorter debate of only an hour and a half on an Order in Council.

There may be some merit in what this clause proposes. Those of us who have listened to the right hon. Gentleman and others pour scorn on the Bill have our doubts. Although there is that hope, I cannot see much more hope than that. Therefore, although I support the amendment, I acknowledge that there is no solid ground for optimism.

Mr. Molyneaux

The debates today have brought back many memories, happy and unhappy, of the Scotland Bill. I mention this because the Minister who will be replying tended to chide us for wasting too much time on our deliberations. He is a generous soul and on reflection he will acknowledge that a Bill such as this one raises many issues that go far wider than one might have envisaged when embarking on the debate. We have seen many examples of that in the past two days and two nights; no doubt we will see some more before we reach four of five o'clock this afternoon.

It follows that this constitutional Bill is bound also to raise many matters of principle, which again may not have been foreseen, certainly not by those of us who have been destined to debate the Bill. There is a fair chance that they were not foreseen either by the draftsmen. Even today—and perhaps today is the best example—the Committee has been brought up short by an unexpected major issue. That is bound to happen, and it will continue to happen as we pick our way through the minefield that the Bill provides.

Ministers may feel that we ought to move a little faster, but, being experienced politicians, they will recognise the real value of the Committee stage of any Bill, especially that of a complicated constitutional measure such as this Northern Ireland Bill. It is not just what appears in a subsection that triggers off thoughts that lead to various calculations and then to probing questions that may have to be shelved for the time being until answers can be provided. In many cases, a harmless, innocent form of words can hide very prickly points and matters of real substance.

None of us can be at all confident about the outcome or the product of this very important measure. We have been amazed by the disclosures that have been made today, the chief one being, perhaps, in response to the request of the official Opposition for some addition to the clause now under discussion. We are shooting in the dark, because we do not know what effect the Government's proposed amendment will have on clause 2. The announcement came as a bombshell to the entire Committee. The Secretary of State and his Ministers were ill-advised to proceed with the debate without right hon. and hon. Members even having had sight of their proposed amendment.

Ministers have had a considerable amount of time to mediate since they engaged in the deal alleged by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), and I have cause to wonder why the amendment could not have been made available to right hon. and hon. Members, even in manuscript form, so that the Committee could look at it in the course of its deliberations.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) sketched out for the Committee the course that will be followed if the road show ever starts rolling, rambling or creeping. He reminded us that we shall still have direct rule and all its objectionable features even when the Bill has been implemented, assuming that it is evr implemented in that second improbable stage.

Three options were outlined by the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). The hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) discussed them more fully, and they were touched upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South. The first, which we prefer, is where all the Departments are devolved in one go, though not of course in one order, and we feel that it would be only prudent, since they cover so many facets of Government, for the House to give detailed scrutiny to each of the orders laid before it. But in our view all those Departments should at least be transferred in one block and not in penny packages such as those proposed in the option provided in amendment No. 102. We believe that that would be highly undesirable. It would lead to the destruction of collective responsibility, with British Ministers responsibile to the United Kingdom Parliament and native Ministers responsible and answerable to the Assembly at Stormont.

There is then the question of confidence. What would be the effect on the native Ministers of a highly unpopular measure that is proposed by the Secretary of State, or the British Ministers, as they would come to be called? Would the native Ministers go to their Departments of Agriculture, Education or Health and Social Services and say "Do not blame me. I am only the native Minister. You must go up to the castle and talk to the boss because, after all, we are under his thumb. We hold our seals of office through his approval. Those can be taken away from us in the twinkling of an eye. You would not want us to put our jobs at risk, so you had better discuss the matter with the great man himself."? I fear that that would be the result of a penny package devolution, a hotchpotch operation where no one would know where he stood, particularly when the machine went into reverse.

The famous clawback powers have not attracted much attention in the debate. Perhaps, before we finish the proceedings on the Bill, we shall come face to face with that structure. Those powers have been inserted because, as you know, Mr. Armstrong, they were not included in any of the 1973 Acts nor in the Northern Ireland Act 1974. It was assumed by those who drafted the Bills and by the parliamentarians who passed them into law that the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 had a fair chance of surviving and operating satisfactorily. The draftsmen and those who proposed it and defended it in debate did not admit that it was likely to fall on its face and that therefore, some type of salvage gear would be needed close at hand ready to remove the debris.

The Northern Ireland Office has learnt something from that operation, which explains why we have the peculiar clauses and subsections in the Bill. An explanation was given by the Secretary of State when he was asked by some of my colleagues what would happen if there were another hunger strike, which might impose intolerable pressures, particularly on the minority who had provided the cross-community consent. Without batting an eyelid or without having to give the matter a second thought he said that the Government would have to sack the native Ministers and the whole thing would come down. He said that it would not all be demolished—it would be demolished only to the level of the Assembly.

Unlike the 1973 operation which, had to be put into cold storage by the Northern Ireland Act 1974, this operation will continue. The jobs for the boys in the Assembly, whether there are 78 or 85 of them, will stay there presumably as long they are paid to stay there. They will go through what I would describe to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) as the phoney exercise of scrutinising and offering advice. We all know to our cost precisely how much weight the Government attach to advice that is given. If they had paid heed to advice, perhaps we would not be in the present mess, discussing this intolerable measure at this time of the morning. There were other occasions on which we would have been happy to offer advice, but even that advice was not sought. It was not sought in the inquiry that we learnt about yesterday afternoon. We do not even know whether that committee has concluded its deliberations. We were not asked for advice. I suspect that the Secretary of State knew that he would not like the advice and he did not want the embarrassment of rejecting it.

4.30 am

The third of the dazzling options involves what might be called partial devolution. It is partial only in the sense that it would make one Department devolve a portion of its functions. That is too terrible to contemplate. My right Friend the Member for Down, South has dealt with the matter adequately. As he illustrated, it would be possible to carve up the Department of the Environment. If one were looking for jobs for the boys at the second salary level and at the higher grade, carving up the Department of the Environment is the way. One could make a good case for separating planning, roads and airports, and for putting them under control of well-paid Ministers. The Department of the Environment would be the first victim if such a carve-up were contemplated.

It would be disastrous if such an experiment were tried in the Department of Education and Science. One can imagine the confusion if primary, secondary and higher levels of education were covered by three separate ministries and Ministers. That would be sheer vandalism. I do not know which body has the power to prevent such vandalism. The Assembly could not expect to have such power because it would merely put to the Secretary of State a cobbled together proposal for devolution.

If the Secretary of State wished to retain a section of a Department the Assembly could do nothing to break his grip. He would be the paymaster. The United Kingdom Parliament is unlikely to be any more successful. We should be told that the Secretary of State knows best and that he had decided, in his wisdom, that the Agriculture Department, for example, should be subdivided into three separate ministries. We should be told that the Secretary of State knows best. That has been his attitude to the Bill. The Secretary of State is so certain that he knows what is best for the people whom we represent that his confidence is unshaken, even when elected representatives tell him to his face, almost to a man and to a woman, that they reject totally the proposals in the Bill.

If the ultimate disaster should befall the Government and the Secretary of State should be seized with doubts about his wisdom, the Patronage Secretary will be on the corner seat to move the Closure. I have to admire the Patronage Secretary. He has become so successful that I doubt that he could break the habit, even if he tried.

There is another reason for the partial devolution. It is contained in the notes on clauses. It makes no sense unless one considers the whole. Paragraph 4 states: 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"— and that is the important word— 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. 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 (see clause 2(l)(b) of the Bill). This differs from Section 2 of the Constitution Act, which made allowance only for full devolution There we have the reason for that provision of what I call partial partial devolution—the fragmentation and splitting up of a given Department. All that operation, as the right hon. Member for Mansfield reminded us, comes at a time when we are about to complete the scheme of amalgamation of Government Departments at Stormont. I understand that we shall be engaged in that operation on Monday evening or in the early hours of Tuesday morning. So we seem to be setting out to undo that which the Government have been engaged in, and in which I congratulate them, over the past two years, at least.

The time factor in considering orders was dealt with: by the hon. Member for Basildon, assisted by the Minister. Presumably, time will be needed to discover whether conditions have been fulfilled. That is an extension of time, because if Parliament is to be invited to approve by resolution, by order, a proposal for devolution, whether for one Department or a group of Departments, time will be necessary to listen to the Secretary of Stale's recommendation. We should remember that he has undertaken to give advice. Even when the 70 per cent. figure has been cobbled together, he will still offer advice.

Mr. Farr

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), but he keeps using the frightful term "cobbled together". Every time that he says "cobbled together", I wake up with a start. Surely, there is no such word in the Oxford English Dictionary. My right hon. Friend used the term in the context of bringing about a package. Might I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it is possibly not the ideal word to use. It seems to have the stigma of making an arrangement or a bargain, preferably not in the open, or making some compromise arrangement which was unexpected. Surely, part of the failure of the Bill is that it is not wanted, and the term "cobbled together" somehow symbolises the whole hopeless idea behind the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will net use it.

Mr. Molyneau

I will refrain from using the term too frequently in the many debates that are still to come. I agree that it is not very elegant. I imagine that it comes from a Lowestoft dialect or something of that nature. The Secretary of State used the term, perhaps in its propier context, in discussions. When he was asked how to illustrate how this improbable structure would be erected, he said that when the various parties were elected to the Assembly those who thought that they might be able to agree on something might get into a huddle and "cobble together" a 70 per cent. majority. He also used it in facing realistically the problem of the salvage operation and demolition down to Assembly level. He was asked who would run the show when all the native Ministers had been sacked. He said that the power would be clawed back to him and to British Ministers. He may not have .used the word "British", but that was the meaning. I am sure that the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) agrees that it is better to be accurate in these matters in dealing with such vague and woolly legislation.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been led astray by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). The amendments relate to whether one Department should be dealt with in each order, with special reference to finance, personnel and so on, not to the more general matters covered by the Bill.

Mr. Farr

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. My intervention was perfectly serious. The hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend repeatedly used the term in the form of a verb "to cobble". I know that in the Irish context the word "cobble" exists as a noun, meaning an antique or fairly out-of-date fishing boat, made of wood and of very rude and rudimentary construction, but so far as I know the English dictionary contains no word meaning "to cobble". We cannot have a meaningful discussion unless the point is cleared up.

The First Deputy Chairman

I did not suggest that the hon. Gentleman was not raising a serious matter. I simply said that it was not relevant to the amendments before the Committee.

Mr. Molyneaux

I gladly abide by your guidance, Mr. Armstrong, the point to which I was coming is relevant to the clause and especially to two of the amendments.

When the Secretary of State was asked what would happen after the native Ministers had been sacked, he said that the show would be run by the Secretary of State and his British Ministers until such time as some other group could cobble together—I apologise, I will use the phrase used by the hon. Member for Basildon—could come together and wheel and deal until they could get another 70 per cent. majority, or as near as made no difference. They could then arrive at some arrangement—I am trying to avoid the Secretary of State's term—

Mr. J. Enoch Powell


Mr. Molyneaux

—some package or compromise to get the show rolling, creeping or rambling again. I think that that is as far as I can go. I do not wish to go or even to roll too far down that road.

Mr. Farr

Perhaps you will allow me to make one further comment, Mr. Armstrong. If we persist in using that term we shall eventually be talking not about rolling devolution but about cobbling devolution, which would be most confusing.

Mr. Molyneaux

I have undertaken to be of good behaviour and to watch my terminology, Mr. Armstrong, but I am frail and human and I cannot promise anything with certainty.

The time factor is important, particularly when the proposals are put before Parliament. I think that there is a fair amount of agreement that, one way or another, time will be made available for adequate scrutiny of the proposals. The Secretary of State will make the initial proposal and, presumably, move the motion. He will then give the Government's view and advise Parliament and the House on whether, in his view, sufficient support exists, not necessarily in the Assembly but in the community.

4.45 pm

An additional complication that we were not aware of when we started the debate was whether the proposal is likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community. When we were appealing for time to be made available to reflect on the implications and consequences of the new amendment the Minister made light of them. However, I have experienced difficulty in deciding where the amendment should be inserted in clause 2. There might be a case for inserting it between paragraphs (a) and (b). Alternatively, there might be a case for adding a paragraph (c).

It would have been a great help if, first, we had had a sight of the amendment and, secondly, if we had had some indication of where it would be inserted in the clause. In the absence of that information we are not in a position to judge the overall effect that the amendment would have on the clause. For that reason, we shall not be able to progress very far into the debate on the clause. A severe restriction has been thoughtlessly and unnecessarily placed upon us by the combined operation of Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition Front Bench.

Mr. Budgen

I am sure that the Committee is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) for having tabled amendment No. 99, which draws attention to subsection (4). One of the most important advantages seen by many advocates of devolution was release from some of the financial constraints that they imagine presently press down upon the administration in Northern Ireland. Subsection (4) clearly demonstrates that such hopes for devolution are illusory.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest referred to the meeting that some of us attended on Saturday in Belfast at the inaugural meeting of the Council for the Union. We had the good fortune to have a number of distinguished academics address us on the record of devolution after 1920. Both Professor David Harkness, professor of Irish history at Queen's University, Belfast, and Mr. David Nesbett, a don in economics, gave us their assessment of the financial constraints that were suffered by Stormont after 1920. Between 1920 and 1945 the financial constraints suffered by Stormont were considerable. They were considerable to begin with, because the United Kingdom Treasury took the view that devolution meant financial self-sufficiency. In 1945, after Ulster had been warmed for some years by the rhetoric of Winston Churchill, who reminded the British people of the advantages of the Northern Ireland ports, the purse strings of the Westminster Parliament were somewhat loosened and the doctrine of self-sufficiency was mitigated.

Here I have to make a concession. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) will agree that, in what we hoped would be an almost exclusively Unionist gathering, some substantial dissident voices—the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) nods agreement—called not for the integration that we hope ultimately will come to Northern Ireland but for a return to devolution.

I dare say that the hon. Member for Belfast, South will remember the gentleman from Fermanagh who made a forceful intervention at the end of the conference. He said that he wanted some control over the factory that was to close in Fermanagh in the near future as 300 people who lived in his ward would become unemployed. He reflected upon subsection (4). He said that, even if there were devolution and a return to some form of quasi-Stormont that he wanted, there would not be the financial autonomy to enable him to retain employment for those 300 people in Fermanagh.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Will the hon. Gentleman take us a little further along that road? The Secretary of State has argued that the Bill will enable us to get a better economy and deal with job problems. Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten us and help us to help people such as the gentleman to whom he referred, who would like to do something? If the Secretary of State, with the powers and undoubted experience could not persuade the firm to continue, how could a devolved Administration under the terms of the Bill have greater success?

Mr. Budgen

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State can explain his proposals with both more passion and precision than I can, particularly at this hour of the morning.

As I understand my right hon. Friend's argument about the advantages of rolling devolution in relation to the economy, a settled constitutional framework for Northern Ireland will give increased stability, though heaven knows how he can describe this essentially unstable system of rolling devolution as being a stable constitution. That seems to me to be a contradiction in terms. None the less, my right hon. Friend likes to have it not only both ways, but all ways. He described this as a potentially stable situation. Thus, he would say that those who have funds to invest will bring those funds to Northern Ireland and will use the undoubted skills of the people of Northern Ireland with the assistance of that imported capital.

Secondly, my right hon. Friend would argue that he, as an economic interventionist, would wish to see a progressive industrial policy exercised from Westminster, but not by the devolved procedure that he wishes to set up. The gentleman from Fermanagh, if he were sitting as an Assemblyman, would not have the direct powers to intervene, as he would put it, to save the factory in Fermanagh, but he would be able to make suggestions to the Secretary of State. However, the decision, in the end, whether to subsidise the factory and so keep it open would not rest with the Assembly. There would be no vote by which that Fermanagh Assemblyman could directly support a subsidy. The best that he could do would be indirectly to bring his influence to bear upon the decision of the Secretary of State. Subsection (4) demonstrates clearly that the Assembly will have no direct control over finance.

Rev. Martin Smyth

The hon. Gentleman is, I believe, mistaken in talking about Fermanagh. If my memory is correct, the factory concerned was at Moygashel in South Tyrone. It was profitable and productive but was affected by the cutbacks among British firms. The issue is one not of asking for more money, but of ensuring that profitable factories in Northern Ireland continue. It has nothing to do with the stability of the community. If the Secretary of State cannot deal with that situation, I cannot understand how a devolved Assembly can deal with it. The factory was profitable and the community stable, but the firm withdrew.

Mr. Budgen

I believe that the gentleman who addressed us at the conference came from Fermanagh and South Tyrone. I was not especially attentive to the exact details he gave of the reasons for the factory closing. Nor did I take particular account of the exact geographical location of the factory. Hearing his remarks, I turned over in my mind whether the constitutional arrangement for which he argued would provide the powers that he hoped to exercise to bring benefit to those he represented. I did not take notes and I do not have the privilege of the friendship of that gentleman. The hon. Gentleman may know him and the; details of the factory better than I do. I tried, however, to consider the essentials of the problem to which the gentleman referred. I concluded that he would never obtain the powers that he wanted from this proposal of rolling devolution.

Mr. Molyneaux

The identity of the gentleman concerned is relevant to the subsection. His name is Maginnis, and he was the Unionist candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The electorate, unwisely, elected not him, bat Mr. Carron who will not come here. Mr. Maginnis cannot come here. Therefore the constituency is left without representation.

Mr. Budgen

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for fleshing out the point I make. I hope that Mr. Maginnis will read the record of these proceedings at a time when, after a long period of sleep, he has the opportunity for reflection and clear thinking. I hope that, when he does, he will reflect that, albeit without the clarity that I would attempt to achieve at other times, I have demonstrated that he would not get what he wants under these proposals.

5 am

I ask Mr. Maginnis to reflect on the different situation that would obtain if there were to be a system of enhanced local government in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Local government has its own system for raising revenue. I believe that in the United Kingdom generally the rate support grant has grown too large as a proportion of the expenditure of load government. None the less, there is still some, albeit tentative, relationship between the money that is spent and the revenue that is received by local authorities. This gives local authorities a great deal more discretion and dignity in deciding what they will spend.

I shall take as an example an equivalent county in the West Midlands. I do not wish to rake up old sores in the Tory Party, but Wolverhampton is no longer part of the ancient county of Stafford. In these progressive, ongoing days, it is now, thanks to the activities of the Conservative Administration of 1970–74—a great reforming Administration, although that is a contradiction in terms—part of the new West Midlands county council.

That county council, because it can raise funds, has taken to itself a new organisation—a sort of West Midlands NEB—which gives subsidies, picks winners arid does all the things that interventionist Administrations like to do. That is done by the county council and by the Wolverhampton district council. I disagree with that form of economic philosophy, but it makes it plain that, because a county council and a district council have, in the English context, the power to raise funds, they also have the power to do what Mr. Maginnis wants a devolved Administration to do. That demonstrates the central proposition that many of us are making—that only by an enhanced local government, not by this unstable system of rolling devolution, will the people of Northern Ireland get what they crave.

The same argument interestingly applies to the other part of subsection (4), because the Department of Finance and the Department of Personnel are excluded. Why is that? It is all part of the process by which the Secretary of State retains overall control.

Mr. Scott

The Department of Finance and Personnel is a single Department.

Mr. Budgen

I am grateful. However, I suspect that it is the control over personnel that is important if the Secretary of State is to retain the control over the personality of the Executive to which I referred in some of my earlier observations when I invited the Committee to consider paragraph 61 of the White Paper. It is plain that if the Executive lost the broad support in the Assembly, which had led to devolution, the Secretary of State has powers to draw back to himself control over the Executive and its powers.

The Committee may remember that I reminded it that the Secretary of State would be able to invite the existing Executive to continue on a caretaker basis for up to six months, to appoint a caretaker administration of his own choosing for a maximum of six months, the Members of which need not come from the Assembly, or to resume himself the powers that had been devolved.

If the Secretary of State is to have the power to appoint his own placemen, his own quango, to the Executive, it is important, as is made clear by subsection (4), that he should not lose control over that part of the Department of Finance and Personnel that relates to personnel.

I suggest that we are beginning to see some of the enormous disadvantages that attach to this unstable system of rolling devolution. It can never have those advantages that Mr. Maginnis hoped for when he made his observations at the meeting that some hon. Members attended last Saturday. Nor can it ever have the advantages that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) hopes that he will find in devolution. He demonstrated yesterday the grave dangers that the Secretary of State is likely to fall into whenever he makes even the smallest concession to any group concerned with this system of rolling devolution.

I hardly understood the sensitivities that were so obviously and keenly felt by the hon. Gentleman. I hardly understood how it was that the small concession that seemed to be about to be made or promised the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) could cause such enormous offence to the hon. Gentleman. However, offence it did cause; great offence.

I dare say that equal offence will be caused to the SDLP when we consider the proposals for clause 3. All the powers are linked. The powers of finance and of personnel are all linked to the mix, and to the important balance created by this unique proposal for rolling devolution, which has the advantages of flexibility and stability.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North will ask, with all the passion at his command, to be able to discuss security matters with the Assembly. Once he starts talking about security and recommending the return of the B Specials, will that not inevitably lead to a countervailing sensitivity on the part of the SDLP? Therefore we should be extraordinarily grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest. In drawing our attention to subsection (4), he has once again drawn it to the extraordinary restraints being imposed by the Secretary of State on this system of rolling devolution. The system does not have the certainty, dignity or width of power previusly granted to Stormont, but has the overriding disadvantage that it cannot have the direct surveillance of the Westminster Parliament. Despite out multiplicity of faults and our frequently defective individual judgments, Parliament's collective judgment is very often good. For obvious reasons, the devolved Administration will be shorn of power at every stage.

Mr. John McQuade (Belfast, North)

A few months ago I had a stroke at the House and I had not intended to speak. Do the House and my hon. Friend know that the war was directed from Stormont senate? The senate of Stormont was given to the military. Does my hon. Friend know that our men carried out Churchill's orders and worked in the shipyards 24 hours a day building ships? We did not only throw ports open. Half an hour after the Luftwaffe bombed Belfast there was not a shell left to fire at it. That is the Stormont that hon. Members are kicking in the dust. It helped in the war effort to bring stuff from America and to guard our ships until they reached the ports of Northern Ireland. Let us hear less of this talk about Stormont and let us hear about what was done during the war. As a result of such action, we are all sitting here.

5.15 am
Mr. Budgen

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade) for his intervention. It supports the point that I made earlier that there is, understandably, an extremely warm feeling between all those who sit in the House of Commons and the people of Northern Ireland. I wish that I could remember the words of Winston Churchill, but it was a recognition that the ports and the people of Ulster had been a vital factor in our survival in the Second World War. That bore fruit in a more generous attitude towards finance for the people of Ulster in 1945. I agree entirely with what the hon. Gentleman said about the sterling efforts of the people of Ulster in the Second World War. They fought for Ulster, but they also fought for the remainder of the United Kingdom. They stood shoulder to shoulder with us.

Mr. McQuade

In 1939 Churchill was not Prime Minister. I was in France with the British Expeditionary Force in September 1939. The Prime Minister then was Mr. Chamberlain and there were no good words about him from the troops in France.

Mr. Budgen

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting me straight about who was Prime Minister in 1939. My point was that at the end of the war, much gratitude was expressed by Winston Churchill for the contribution made by the people of Ulster to the war effort. I am sorry if, because I am undoubtedly tired, I put it inaccurately and inelegantly. The hon. Gentleman takes me to task for the way in which I prefer the integrationist solution to a return to Stormont. I understand that he wishes a return to Stormont with all its powers.

Mr. McQuade

The rebs were not in France in 1939.

Mr. Budgen

I entirely understand that.

Mr. McQuade

I was only a sergeant in the Paratroop Regiment. I was not "Mr." Maginnis.

Mr. Budgen

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, in his role as a sergeant in a most distinguished regiment, was one of the many to whom my father's generation and mine felt a deep debt of gratitude. However, unhappily, in later years Stormont lost the confidence of the minority community. I suggest that if a devolved Administration—

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. I know that the hon. Member has strong feelings on these matters, but he must come to the substance of the amendment.

Mr. McQuade

I apologise, Mr. Armstrong. I did not intend to take part in this debate. I am very nervous because only a few months ago I suffered a stroke in the House.

Mr. Budgen

I am sure that the Committee is grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his observations and his attendance. I do not mean that insincerely. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We know of his ill-health and it is a delight to see him in the Committee and to compare his attendance with the absence of younger and fitter men from the ranks of the Labour Party, of whom it is said that during yesterday they were stringently Whipped to vote on one of their amendments. At the time that that amendment was before the Committee they seemed to be conspicuously absent.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is abusing the procedure. We must come to the amendment.

Mr. Budgen

I return to the amendment immediately, Mr. Armstrong. I am sorry that my sense of resentment which I am sure the Committee shares at the absence of members of the Labour Party led me to stray from the path, if not of virtue, of strict order.

I was genuinely grateful for the remarks made by the hon. Member for Belfast, North. I know that it is his earnest desire to return to the Stormont system. We are now discussing some of the disadvantages of the new system of devolution which the hon. Member for Belfast, North may at first sight have believed had some advantages. This system can never have the advantages for him that Stormont had. The hon. Gentleman must understand that with all the good will that was undoubtedly felt by many Members of Stormont towards the minority community, in the end Stormont lost the support of the minority community. As a result a Secretary of State in this House will always look for various forms of constraint that he will impose upon any substitute for Stormont.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has said over and over again that Stormont lost the support of the minority community. I challenge that because the minority community representatives in Stormont did not leave because of opposition that they felt towards anyone in Stormont. They left because the Secretary of State for Defence refused to set up an inquiry into the shooting of two people in Londonderry. Let us not have the nonsense that the Opposition left Stormont because they had something against people who were in office. They left because of the actions of somebody in this House.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. We must not be led astray in this way. We must keep to the amendment and not have a general discussion about Stormont.

Mr. Budgen

I am grateful, Mr. Armstrong. I intend to adhere precisely to the constraints of your admonitions. I was referring to the constraints imposed upon the system of a partial return to Stormont by the effects of subsection (4). It was because I was dealing with that problem that the hon. Member for Antrim, North intervened so helpfully. Whatever the final reason for the withdrawal of the representatives—

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman really must take note of what the Chair is saying. I have to protect the proceedings of the Committee. He ought not to pursue that line, because it is far away from the amendment.

Mr. Budgen

May I explain why I think that you, Mr. Armstrong, may feel on reflection that my remarks are relevant to subsection (4)? The subsection sets out two of the most important limitations on the powers conferred by rolling devolution. I believe that I am entitled to ask the rhetorical question; "Why are those restrictions imposed on the system of rolling devolution?" The answer to that question lies in the history of the constitution from which devolution is take over.

The Committee is entitled to look briefly at the constitution that went before and which conditions the new constitution. The question why the minority community allegedly lost confidence in Stormont can be tangentially referred to by an hon. Member speaking principally to subsection (4). Whatever the final reason for the withdrawal of those representatives, the general view of history is that the minority community lost confidence in Stormont.

Mr. William Ross

The hon. Gentleman is inaccurate when he talks of a reason. The minority representatives at Stormont were locked in a leadership struggle with the leaders of the civil, rights campaign and various other bodies. They were looking not so much for a reason for withdrawing from Stormont as for an excuse for doing so. They wanted to boost their popularity with their own community.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) will realise that what he says about Stormont must be related to the amendment. Otherwise, we shall be led into matters that are wide of the amendment, as has happened in the past few minutes.

Rev. Martin Smyth

If the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has discovered an instability in Stormont arising out of a decision by a Secretary of State in this House, does he believe that there will be instability in the proposed Assembly because of the Secretary of State's powers over financial matters? Time and again, there will be collisions between the Assembly and the Secretary of State because he will hold the purse strings.

Mr. Budgen

If I were feeling fresher and more intellectually agile, I could, while keeping strictly to the constraints that you, Mr. Armstrong, have imposed on me, discuss at greater length the causes for the final breakdown of Stormont. However, in spite of the assistance of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who has passed me a glass of water, I am feeling somewhat jaded and I do not intend to continue the discussion on the sad demise of Stormont.

However, I shall take up the question of the instability of the new system of rolling devolution. The reference that the hon. gentleman makes is not so much to the inconsistent way that the Secretary of State puts it when he says that in every circumstance it has all the advantages of flexibility, and yet those advantages do not bring with them any risk of instability. The hon. Gentleman is referring to the extraordinarily grave risk of serious friction and conflict between the Assembly and the House.

5.30 am

Let us take for a moment the example of the hon. Gentleman's friend, Mr. Maginnis, who ought to be the Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Mr. Maginnis believes perhaps that if he were elected to the Assembly he could make a promise to the 300 people employed in that factory and that there would be some means by which he could get subsidy or support for it. Mr. Maginnis is not seized of subsection (4) which has been so helpfully brought to our attention.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

May I bring my hon. Friend back to the Department of Finance and Personnel? He was referring to the experience of Stormont. Was it not the very strict Treasury control that was applied to this supposedly autonomous Northern Ireland Government that was one of the unsatisfactory features of the Stormont system of devolution? Is that not one of the reasons why my hon. Friend, like myself, would prefer integration?

Mr. Budgen

Indeed, Mr. Maginnis would not have had the advantage that he wants even under the old system for Stormont. He will not get it under the new system either. He will say, "When I get to that Assembly I will make sure that you in your factory have the subvention of the subsidy that you want." Then he will say, "I am being deprived of the power that I ought to have to support you because of the frugality of the British Treasury." He will be talking about people who have been in the past Financial Secretaries to the Treasury, about the Treasury mind and about the meanness of the English and of Westminster. He will work himself up into a lather talking about monetarists and strict financiers. He will get angry about financial constraints. He may acquit himself with a few slogans about sterling M3.

The effect of Mr. Maginnis's oratory will be to stick a wedge between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. As the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) says, the effect will be to create friction between the House and the proposed Assembly. As the people of England or of Wolverhampton watch Mr. Maginnis on the television they will say to themselves—and they will be wrong—"The people of Northern Ireland are different from the people of the remainder of the United Kingdom. Those people want independence and they may be right. Perhaps they are different from us. Perhaps they should be separately governed. Perhaps they are right in their resentments. Perhaps they would be better off on their own." When they say that, then surely there will be the same sort of cry from other separatists in both Scotland and Wales. We shall see the road towards a separate and divided kingdom, and we shall see the end of much that those of us who sit on these Benches came here to preserve—the United Kingdom.

Mr. Scott

Although one might have been tempted to forget the fact, we are discussing six specific amendments, three of them tabled by the official Opposition, two by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and his colleagues, and one by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison). I shall deal first with amendment No. 30 and then with the two probing amendments.

Amendment No. 30 is concerned with the devolution of powers and whether they should be on a departmental or on a functional basis. The Bill is quite clear about it. Proposals for such devolution and a partial devolution order would relate to matters within the responsibility either of a single specified Northern Ireland Department or of a number of Northern Ireland Departments. This makes practical common sense and, in practice, is the way in which devolution is likely to proceed. It would keep the lines of responsibility between devolved and non-devolved matters as clear as possible, and I am sure that the Committee can quickly imagine the sort of administrative problems which would ensue if a Government Department were to be responsible to two political heads.

Over a period, Departments will have learnt to work as cohesive units and for them to be split would cause considerable problems. I am not saying that those problems are necessarily insurmountable. If a case were made out by the Assembly for the splitting of a Department, I believe that it could be done, but it would create problems and it would be better if it could be avoided if at all possible.

If such a proposal came forward, it would be necessary to get the organisation right. Proposals for partial devolution could be in respect of all or some of the responsibilities of given Departments. It would be preferable, as I say, for all the functions to be devolved, but if the Assembly's agreement depended critically on some of the functions being devolved and not all of them, it would be possible by altering the Department's structure for devolution still to take place.

Mr. Proctor

A point that occurs to me and perhaps to other right hon. and hon. Members is what happens if, on a date after the first partial devolution of responsibilities, the Assembly desires to have the rest of those responsibilities of that Department? What are the provisions by which the Assembly might get those responsibilities from the Secretary of State? Would that be done by order in the same way?

Mr. Scott

It would operate in exactly the same way as the original proposal.

I move on to amendment No. 37. Some of the matters raised on that also apply to the other probing amendment, No. 99. It is important to be clear that amendment No. 37 would prevent any order specifying financial and personnel matters—that is, matters not only concerned with the Department of Finance and Personnel but within individual devolved Departments. The Departments themselves have at the moment, and the devolved Departments would have, wide discretion to establish their expenditure priorities. The heads of the Departments would have to work closely with the Secretary of State since total resources for Northern Ireland would be shared among devolved and non-devolved Departments.

This amendment would appear to prevent any order giving effect to partial devolution from dealing with such matters. It would put in jeopardy all the financial and personnel functions falling within the responsibilities of any Department which became devolved. It would make any scheme of partial devolution far less likely to get off the ground and if it did it would seriously impede its operation.

Amendment No. 99 would delete clause 2(4) which provides that no partial devolution order shall specify the Department of Finance and Personnel or any matters within its responsibilities. Perhaps I could clear up that phrase. There are a number of responsibilities which are laid upon the Department of Finance. For example, other Departments, which may be in the process of giving grants to outside organisations or to companies, may have to get the permission of the Department of Finance and Personnel before they can do it. That matter falls within the responsibilities of the Department of Finance and Personnel. The wording makes it clear that those responsibilities are covered.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) made clear the basis on which the Government have come to the view that while any other Departments remain undevolved, the Department of Finance and Personnel could not be devolved because of the central role it plays over the whole area of Government.

I turn now to the amendments tabled by the Official Opposition which are concerned with two matters, both of which were raised by other hon. Gentlemen: first, the time and the procedures provided for the proceedings of all proposals going through the House; secondly, whether there should be one order at a time or several. I hope that I can reassure the Official Opposition and other hon. Members who have raised this matter that Parliament will give adequate time and attention to the scrutiny of proposals for devolution. The Government are determined to see that that is so. We do not believe, however, that those amendments which seek to increase the scope for discussion by requiring separate orders for the devolution of executive responsibility to each Northern Ireland Department are required for this purpose, although that would be possible if the Assembly so wished it to be handled in that way. Indeed, we consider it best to leave open the possibility that a devolution order could consist of a complete package of proposals if that is what the Assembly desired.

I have said before that we want to leave as much flexibility in the hands of the Assembly as possible. If, for example, the Assembly produced a package for the devolution of three Departments and Parliament was satisfied when it received the proposals that they commanded the necessary support and should be implemented, it would make little sense to have three devolution orders, although in theory it would be possible under the Bill. The Government would want to listen to what was said in the debates on the proposals before making up their mind.

A single order would be sensible in some circumstances. If the Assembly produced a series of separate freestanding proposals for one Department at a time, almost certainly separate orders would be required to get the proposals through the House. Both the debates on the devolution proposals and the debates on draft orders to give effect to them would be major parliamentary occasions. The Governmet would seek to ensure that ample parliamentary time was made available. An Order in Council is exempted for one and a half hours, but there is no reason why it should not commence at any time after the commencement of public business. Debates on the emergency provisions and the extension of direct rule last at least half a day, and have sometimes lasted a whole day.

5.45 am

The Bill makes provision for the maximum flexibility in the devolution of Departments. That is sensible since we cannot tell at this stage what agreement the Assembly may make. We do not want an agreement painfully reached in the Assembly to fail because it takes a form which is not provided for in the Bill. That is why the arrangements are as flexible as we can make them. That does not mean that Departments will be split and rearranged, roving in and out of devolution continually. Any discussion will be a major parliamentary occasion. We should not be going through this now if we did not recognise that.

It is important to recognise that there would be a two-stage process. The proposals would first come from the Assembly. The House would, in my view, have a full day to debate the proposals. The Government would then take account of that and prepare the draft orders. Further debates would be of appropriate length, depending on the number of Departments to be devolved, to provide a further full discussion.

In the event of all the Departments being devolved in a single order, the business managers of the House may think that debates in excess of a full day might be necessary. I emphasise to the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) that the Bill is as flexible as possible in terms of the number of orders necessary for any devolution. The Government envisage adequate time being provided in the two-stage process to ensure proper consideration.

I was asked whether there was something between an order and an Act. I believe that in the provision for discussion and for the order, which would involve a time greatly in excess of the one and a half hours to which we have become accustomed on Northern Ireland matters, we have met the demands. I hope that it will not be necessary to press the amendment. I cannot advise the Committee to accept amendment No. 30.

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 121, Noes 15.

Division No. 197] [5. 45 am
Alexander,Richard Forman,Nigel
Ancram,Michael Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Arnold,Tom Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Baker,Kenneth(St.M'bone) Garel-Jones,Tristan
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Goodlad,Alastair
Banks,Robert Gow, Ian
Benyon,W. (Buckingham) Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Berry, Hon Anthony Greenway, Harry
Best, Keith Gummer,JohnSelwyn
Bevan,David Gilroy Hamilton, Hon A.
Blackburn,John Hampson,Dr Keith
Boscawen,HonRobert Hannam,John
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Hayhoe, Barney
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Henderson,Barry
Bright,Graham Hooson,Tom
Brotherton,Michael Hordern,Peter
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Howell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)
Bulmer,Esmond Hunt,John(Ravensbourne)
Butcher,John Jessel,Toby
Butler, Hon Adam Jopling,Rt Hon Michael
Cadbury,Jocelyn Lang, Ian
Carlisle,Kenneth(Lincoln) Lee, John
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Colvin, Michael Luce, Richard
Cope,John Lyell, Nicholas
Corrie,John MacGregor,John
Crouch,David McQuarrie,Albert
Dorrell,Stephen Major,John
Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ. Marshall,Michael(Arundel)
Dover, Denshore Mather,Carol
Dunn, James A. Mawhinney,DrBrian
Elliott,SirWilliam Mayhew, Patrick
Emery, Sir Peter Mellor,David
Eyre,Reginald Meyer,SirAnthony
Fisher, Sir Nigel Mills,Iain(Meriden)
Fookes, Miss Janet Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Moate, Roger Speller,Tony
Montgomery, Fergus Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Squire,Robin
Neale,Gerrard Stevens, Martin
Needham,Richard Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Nelson,Anthony Stradling Thomas,J.
Newton,Tony Tapsell, Peter
Page, John (Harrow, West) Thompson,Donald
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Thornton,Malcolm
Patten, John (Oxford) Townsend, Cyrill D,(B'heath)
Pollock,Alexander Trotter,Neville
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh) Viggers, Peter
Prior, Rt Hon James Waddington, David
Raison,Rt Hon Timothy Wall,Sir Patrick
Ridsdale,SirJulian Waller, Gary
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. Walters,Dennis
Sainsbury,HonTimothy Wells,Bowen
Scott,Nicholas Wheeler,John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Whitney,Raymond
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Wickenden, Keith
Shelton,William (Streatham) Williams,D.(Montgomery)
Shersby,Michael Wolfson,Mark
Silvester, Fred
Skeet, T. H. H. Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith,Tim(Beaconsfield) Mr. Peter Brooke and
Speed, Keith Mr. David Hunt.
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Murphy,Christopher
Body, Richard Paisley, Rev Ian
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Budgen,Nick Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Cranborne,Viscount Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Gorst,John Tellers for the Noes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Ross and
McQuade,John Mr. K. Harvey Proctor.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The Commitee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 114.

Division No. 198] [6 am
Body, Richard Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Cranborne,Viscount Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Ross and
Molyneaux,James Mr. K. Harvey Proctor.
Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Alexander, Richard Corrie,John
Arnold,Tom Crouch,David
Baker, Kenneth (St, M'bone) Dorrell,Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.
Banks, Robert Dover,Denshore
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Elliott,SirWilliam
Berry, Hon Anthony Emery, Sir Peter
Best, Keith Eyre,Reginald
Bevan, David Gilroy Fisher, Sir Nigel
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Forman, Nigel
Blackburn,John Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Bottomley,Peter(W'wich W) Goodlad,Alastair
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Gorst,John
Bright,Graham Gow, Ian
Brooke, Hon Peter Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Brotherton,Michael Greenway, Harry
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Grylls,Michael
Bulmer,Esmond Gummer,JohnSelwyn
Butcher,John Hamilton, Hon A.
Butler, Hon Adam Hampson,Dr Keith
Cadbury,Jocelyn Hannam,John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayhoe, Barney
Colvin, Michael Hooson,Tom
Cope,John Hordern,Peter
Hunt, John(Ravensbourne) Sainsbury,HonTimothy
Jessel, Toby Scott,Nicholas
Jopling,Rt Hon Michael Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Ian Shaw,Michael(Scarborough)
Lester,Jim (Beeston) Shersby,Michael
Lewis,Kenneth(Rutland) Silvester, Fred
Luce,Richard Skeet, T. H. H.
Lyell,Nicholas Smith,Tim(Beaconsfield)
MacGregor,John Speed, Keith
McQuade,John Speller,Tony
Major,John Sproat,Iain
Mather,Carol Steen,Anthony
Mawhinney,DrBrian Stevens,Martin
Mayhew, Patrick Stewart, Ian(Hitchin)
Mellor,David Stradling Thomas,J.
Meyer, Sir Anthony Tapsell, Peter
Mills,Iain(Meriden) Thompson,Donald
Moate, Roger Townsend, Cyril D.(B'heath)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Trotter,Neville
Murphy,Christopher Viggers, Peter
Needham,Richard Waddington,David
Nelson,Anthony Wall,SirPatrick
Newton,Tony Waller, Gary
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Walters,Dennis
Paisley, Rev Ian Wells, Bowen
Patten,John(Oxford) Wheeler,John
Pollock,Alexander Whitney,Raymond
Price, SirDavid (Eastleigh) Wickenden,Keith
Prior, Rt Hon James Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wolfson,Mark
Rhodes James, Robert
Ridsdale,SirJulian Tellers for the Noes:
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Mr. David Hunt and
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

Question accordingly negatived

Amendment proposed: No. 30, in page 2, line 28, leave out from 'to' to 'as' in line insert 'such transfereed matters'.—[Mr.Molyneaux.]

Question put. That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 15, Noes 102.

Division No. 199] [6.10 am
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Murphy,Christopher
Body,Richard Paisley, Rev Ian
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Budgen,Nick Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Cranborne,Viscount Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Gorst,John Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Ross and
McQuade,John Mr. K. Harvey Proctor.
Alexander,Richard Corrie,John
Arnold,Tom Crouch,David
Baker, Kenneth(St M'bone) Dorrell,Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Douglas-Hamilton,LordJ.
Banks,Robert Dover,Denshore
Benyon,W.(Buckingham) Elliott,SirWilliam
Berry, Hon Anthony Emery, Sir Peter
Best, Keith Eyre,Reginald
Bevan, David Gilroy Fisher, Sir Nigel
Blackburn,John Forman,Nigel
Boscawen,HonRobert Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Garel-Jones,Tristan
Bright,Graham Goodlad,Alastair
Brooke, Hon Peter Gow, Ian
Brotherton,Michael Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Bulmer,Esmond Greenway, Harry
Butcher,John Hamilton, Hon A.
Butler, Hon Adam Hampson,DrKeith
Cadbury,Jocelyn Hannam,John
Carlisle,Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayhoe, Barney
Colvin,Michael Hooson,Tom
Cope,John Hordern,Peter
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Jessel, Toby Scott, Nicholas
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Ian Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Shersby, Michael
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Silvester, Fred
Luce, Richard Skeet, T. H. H.
Lyell, Nicholas Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
MacGregor, John Speed, Keith
Major, John Speller, Tony
Mather, Carol Stevens, Martin
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Mayhew, Patrick Stradling Thomas, J.
Mellor, David Tapsell, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Trotter, Neville
Moate, Roger Viggers, Peter
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Waddington, David
Needham, Richard Wall, Sir Patrick
Nelson, Anthony Waller, Gary
Newton, Tony Wells, Bowen
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Wheeler, John
Patten, John (Oxford) Whitney, Raymond
Pollock, Alexander Wickenden, Keith
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Prior, Rt Hon James Wolfson, Mark
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Rhodes James, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Mr. Selwyn Gummer and
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. Mr. David Hunt.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Concannon

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. Due to the technicalities at the end of the last debate I did not have the chance to withdraw amendment No. 29. I wished to do so because I accept the assurances given by the Secretary of State that the debate would not have been of an hour and a half's duration, but a full parliamentary debate.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. It is now about three and a half hours since the Committee took the decision not yet to report progress. From the single fact that you have accepted the moving of this motion, Mr. Weatherill, it follows that the Committee has made progress in the meantime.

As is common at this time of day, the progress has not been spectacular, though we have made progress in disposing of some not unimportant amendments to clause 2 of the Bill. Therefore, this is the appropriate time to invite the Secretary of State to reconsider one point in particular that I ventured to put to him when the motion was last before the Committee, The advantage of reporting progress at this stage, while the question that clause 2 stand part of the Bill has not yet been put, and while there is still a group of amendments, although only probing amendments, to be dealt with, is that it will enable the Secretary of State to table the amendments to clause 2 that he referred to earlier before the Committee resumes its consideration of the Bill. I am sure that he is not unaware of the importance of those amendments.

The Secretary of State having given his assurance, there is no question whatever in anyone's mind that he would not in any case table the necessary amendment or amendments on Report. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that the effect of the amendment, which produced an almost sensational effect earlier in this day's sitting should be made known by being placed on the Order Paper. I assume that there is no practical problem, that it is relatively simple to draft the necessary amendment or amendments and that the provision could be introduced into clause 2 at a later stage, so that we could deal with it when the Committee resumed.

I hope that the Secretary of State accepts that I am making a point that is not only serious but directed towards the better conduct of the Bill's remaining stages. From any point of view it is undesirable to proceed—as we proceeded until a certain point—under a misapprehension. However, that was not the Secretary of State's fault

At this time in the morning, other grounds could be put forward in support of the motion. I shall not urge them now, because I expect that the Secretary of State w ill wish to respond fairly soon. I shall, content myself with referring back to what I said about his speech and to the value that will accrue to our subsequent handling of the Bill from reporting progress. We shall all then have an opportunity to study the right hon. Gentleman's statements. Therefore, I hope that he feels able to support the motion.

Mr. Farr

I support the motion, largely for the reasons outlined by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), but also for other reasons. Since we last discussed this motion a few hours ago, several changes and inflections have been given to the Bill by the Front Bench. The additions that are implied, or promised in a week or two are now so numerous and perhaps of such significance to the Bill, that it would be right and proper to adjourn proceedings until next week.

Furthermore, it would be desperately unfair to expect the Committee to discuss meaningfully further amendments to clause 2, when we are not sure what the Front Bench's statements mean. As we reach the meat of clause 2, I find it difficult to assess the impact on the remaining amendments to the Bill. We still do not know the final number of Members of the Assembly. The difference between 78 per cent. and 85 per cent. is quite big. It is nearly 10 per cent

The uncertainty that my right hon. Friend, with the best will in the world, cannot clear up is being reflected more and more in our progress, such as it is. If we broke off now, my right hon. Friend could make a statement and perhaps table some relevant amendments to schedule 2(11), which details the number of Members in the proposed Assembly. He could also make a short statement relating to the committee of inquiry that he has set up. The matter is still rather mysterious. It would be fair to Committee members, if we are not to have a statement on it, to have the opportunity to study in Hansard tomorrow what my right hon. Friend said today about this new and previously unknown committee of inquiry and to study its effect, implications, scope and role.

6.30 am

It will be generally recognised that we have completed clause 1, which is probably the most important clause of seven. We are well into clause 2 and the heart of the Bill. I appeal to those responsible and stress that the lateness of the hour for the staff and other members of the Committee is not as important as knowing the implications of the revelations that my right hon. Friend made today. We need time to reflect upon them and perhaps to table further amendments in Committee next week. In the circumstances, it would be right and proper for us to adjourn now until next week.

Mr. Gorst

I wish to add two points to those that I made five or six hours ago when I moved, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. For all the reasons that I stated then, we should report progress now and, having heard what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said originally, which I had not heard when I moved the motion previously, it is important that we should not create the impression that we are railroading a measure of constitutional significance through the House.

I have kept a tally of votes. On clause stand part only 20 per cent. of those entitled to vote in the Committee voted in favour of it. For such a small proportion of the Committee to vote on such an important constitutional matter and to railroad it through two successive nights until nearly breakfast time will create a bad impression if this measure reaches the statute book. I hope that we can consolidate the progress that has been made by reporting progress now and give it the necessary thought that was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Molyneaux

I support the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and others who have spoken, both on the grounds of the necessity of clarification and the fact that there has been misunderstanding. It is not for the Committee now to try to identify the causes of that confusion. Some clarification was achieved earlier today, but then we had the further complication of the surprise announcement of the new amendment, which is designed to make watertight the arrangements for what is called cross-community consent before powers can be devolved to any section of the Administration at Stormont. The effects will be incalculable upon the political parties in Northern Ireland. I am certain that some hon. Members will want to consult and obtain the views of their parties on the surprise development regarding the new amendment. It would be wise if we had a little time to reflect on those matters.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). Northern Ireland representatives find themselves in great difficulty because they are asked to discuss a clause when they are not cognisant of the wording of an important amendment to be tabled by the Secretary of State. It is unfair that Northern Ireland Members should have to discuss that clause until they see the wording of the amendment.

It makes nonsense of the fact that there are two conditions in the Bill regarding the triggering-off mechanism to enable the devolved powers to reach the Assembly at Stormont. One is the 70 per cent. and the other is the 50 per cent. plus one with cross-community participation. If there is cross-community participation with 50 per cent. plus one, to say that there must be cross-community participation with 70 per cent. makes nonsense of it. There is no need for the 70 per cent. if it can be 50 per cent. plus one. If the amendment writes that into the Bill, the sooner we know its terms the better, because the Committee can then discuss the matter. Northern Ireland Members find difficulty in being asked to discuss part of the Bill when they are unaware of the wording of the amendment. The time has come for the Secretary of State to call it a day. When we return, we shall have the amendment before us.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I moved the motion which is under discussion. It has come to my knowledge that it might be possible for the Committee to dispose rapidly and satisfactorily with the next group of amendments, Nos. 34 and 35. If that were so I understand that the Secretary of State—once the question that clause 2 stand part had been proposed—would have it in mind to move to report progress. Upon that understanding, which I hope is correct, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 2, line 37, leave out from 'subsection,' to end of line 38.

The Chairman

With this it will be convenient also to take amendment No. 35, in page 2, line 37, leave out 'one or more,' and insert 'all'.

Mr. Powell

This is somewhat more, though not a great deal more, than a drafting amendment. I can explain the effects of it briefly if the Committee would be good enough to look at schedule 1(2). It will be seen that when a full devolution order—I am translating as I go—is made it automatically wipes out any rolling devolution orders which at that time are in force. The relevant words are the Order or Orders under para (b) shall thereupon cease to have effect. That is clear and satisfactory and my hon. Friends and I could not understand why, with those words in the schedule, it was necessary to write into clause 2(3): or so as to supersede one or more Orders made under para (b).

" Those words seem to be not merely superfluous but undesirable. The word supersede is potentially ambiguous or certainly not as clear as the wording in the schedule and the expression "one or more Orders" is definitely ambiguous because it could mean that there were three orders and that one or two could be superseded, which is not the intention. I hope that the Government will accept that the schedule does the job as it stands.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John Patten)

We cannot accept amendment No. 34, because of the complexities involved. The Bill's intention is to ensure maximum flexibility and it is curious to propose an amendment that would prevent full devolution via partial devolution, while not preventing full devolution or partial devolution.

Amendment No. 35 is a different matter and I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) for drawing the issue to the Committee's attention. He is right to say that the clause may contain a small element of ambiguity. As he suggested, we need to look at the wording again. I have considered the amendment carefully, but I am not convinced that the substitution of the word "all" is the entire answer, because it might not be appropriate when only one devolution order is in force. However, we should like to look at the matter again and bring forward an amendment on Report.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I am grateful for the UnderSecretary's explanation and suggestion. I am sure that it is better that the drafting should be looked at before the next stage of the Bill. Provided that the effect of the Bill is that a full devolution order simultaneously wipes out partial devolution orders, which must be the intention, I am sure that the wording that the Government will bring forward will achieve that purpose. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Prior

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I think that it would be appropriate if we discussed clause 2 at the next sitting of the Committee. Therefore, I 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.

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