HC Deb 15 June 1982 vol 25 cc812-921

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendment to the proposed amendment be made.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. Would it not be reasonable to suggest that those who have just voted to end our proceedings at Ten o'clock should now go home? We might then make some progress with the Bill.

The Second Deputy Chairman

As an experienced parliamentarian, the hon. Gentleman knows well that the Chair has quite enough on its hands without suggesting whether right hon. and hon. Members should go home.

10.15 pm
Mr. Amery

I was in the process of developing an argument, and I had sought to explain to the Committee that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had laid great emphasis on the need for stability. I had explained that I thought that the Bill would not achieve that but that I well understood that he believed he was making a contribution towards it. I had begged him to consider that he might be wrong, in which case he should develop a fallback position.

I had suggested that although my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had read the leading article in The Times, he had not fully understood it. Though ostensibly favourable to the Bill, it had a pretty sharp sting in the tail. It had forecast that the Bill was likely to fail to achieve its objective, in which case there would not be much alternative to direct rule, perhaps indefinitely, or to moving towards integration.

I reminded the Committee that whatever view hon. Members may take of direct rule—many who are opposed to the Bill are not in favour of indefinite direct rule and would like to see local government and the full integration of the Province with the United Kingdom—public opinion polls suggested that a large number of operations in the Province regarded the continuation of direct rule as second-best. Perhaps my right hon. Friend should take into account that they cannot agree on the best and be prepared to make a concession, if not to the main amendment, if not to the second amendment, perhaps to the compromise that could be represented by the five-year period.

There are good reasons for saying that. In an earlier debate my right hon. Friend sought to expose what he saw as a contradiction between the views of the right hon. Member for Down, South and the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). One wanted a return to Stormont and the other wanted integration. What he perhaps concealed from the Committee—although I am sure that he is sophisticated enough to have understood it—is that the only reason why Stormont worked at all was that it made up its own mind to act as a rubber stamp for what was decided by Parliament. Had it done otherwise, the Stormont experiment would have broken down long before it did.

I am by no means convinced that my right hon. Friend's Assembly will, if it comes into being at all, be a rubber stamp for what is decided in the House and in this Parliament. It may never come into being, but if it does it may decline to follow Westminster's lead. If it does, we shall be in considerable difficulty. Indeed, the Bill attempts to make some provision for a conflict between the two. If that should be the case, we need a fall-back position.

The first inevitable fall-back position is a continuance of direct rule. My right hon. Friend has always said—and he said it again this evening in an intervention—that devolution is not obligatory. If devolution is not obligatory, what will happen if the opportunity is not taken up? It means that direct rule will continue until something else takes its place—either another experiment in devolution, or integration.

Therefore, this is an occasion when my right hon. Friend could make a concession, if not to the detail of the two amendments, at any rate to the spirit in which they have been tabled. I beg him to realise that the Committee is very uneasy about the Bill—much more uneasy than perhaps the voting figures show. Some concession would not be inappropriate. I should not want my right hon. Friend to be regarded as a hard man who never made concessions, or as a man who did not have the milk of human kindness in his veins. On the contrary, we should like, on this occasion—perhaps on this amendment—a spirit of concession and an attempt to reach a consensus between those who are for the Bill and those who are against it.

Mr. John Patten

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I examine in some detail these two interesting amendments which have been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who, unusually for him, is not in his place. He has been with us almost continuously during our proceedings, and he greatly adds to their value.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough suggested that the period for which direct rule should run, before any review of that period of direct rule and any renewal should take place, should be 10 years. The right hon. Member for Down, South and his two hon. Friends the Members for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and Londonderry (Mr. Ross) felt that the period should be allowed to run for two years before any review and possible renewal of direct rule should take place.

The Committee will be aware that the Northern Ireland Act 1974 provides that the interim period of direct rule shall be one year, and one year only, subject of course to statutory renewal by both Houses of Parliament. In the past, these annual debates have provided useful and important opportunities for us in this Chamber to express an opinion on the way in which the government of the Province is conducted. Something that unites us across the Floor of this not always united Committee is a desire for the better government of Northern Ireland. It is therefore useful for the House of Commons to have the opportunity to scrutinise the way in which direct rule works.

A second important point is that the very fact that direct rule has to be reviewed each year demonstrates to the people of the Province the conviction of successive United Kingdom Governments—Labour Governments as much as Conservative Governments—that direct rule is only temporary, and should be temporary only until a more acceptable form of government is found which could return devolved powers to Northern Ireland.

I have three main points to put. First, should it become necessary under clause 5 to revoke a devolution order—the unhappy day when, if full devolution had taken place, this House had to consider revoking the full devolution order and bringing about the resumption of direct rule—at some unspecified time in the future—it would be some years in the future—there would be a no less necessary obligation on the House to scrutinise and review direct rule at annual periods. That is our strong feeling and conviction.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry)

The Minister said a moment ago that he thought that this part would not be needed for some years. As he has formed an opinion about how long it would take for full devolution to break down, has he also formed an opinion about how long it would take to get it set up?

Mr. Patten

My predictions about how long it might take for full devolution to break down, should that unhappy event ever happen, follow my own convictions. It would be some little time before partial or full devolution could occur because of the necessary accommodations for which the Bill makes provision having to be brought about. We are in the area of speculation here. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that as much as I do.

In the event of the breakdown of a full devolution order, it would remain right for the continuation of direct rule to be debated on at least an annual basis. That debate would give an opportunity to Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, who have other views on how the Province should be governed, to air their views. It would also give all right hon. and hon. Gentlemen the chance to review the workings of direct rule. Yet, if either of the amendments were successful, renewal debates would take place much less frequently.

We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough that he would wish such debates at the maximum to take place once every 10 years, although he suggested that perhaps five years might in the end be a more suitable period. On the other hand, the right hon. Member for Down, South suggested that two years would be a more suitable period. I was interested to see that there was not wholehearted agreement between them as to their mutual levels of support. My point is fundamental to the Government's attitude.

Mr. Molyneaux

Is it the Minister's intention to permit those who have been waiting to be called to intervene? We could answer his point about the difference between the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Harborough and our amendment to it.

Mr. Patten

I am extremely happy to have an explanation on that point from the hon. Gentleman if he feels that it would be helpful.

Mr. Molyneaux

I do not believe that a mere intervention would fill the bill. I would say at this interim stage—I know my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) is eager to contribute—that our position has been fully explained by my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who said clearly—[Interruption.] I would interpret the arrival of the Patronage Secretary as a friendly call to see how we are getting on and whether we need any encouragement. I do not believe that it in any way indicates that we are about to be muzzled.

We feel that 10 years would be too long and we can give a variety of reasons for taking that view. However, there is a strong case for breaking out of the routine of the annual renewal. My right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South used the term "breaking out". We would favour two years, but we are prepared to be flexible and accept an additional one year or two years. Our principle is to break away from the farce of the annual renewal.

10.30 pm
Mr. Patten

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his clear exposition of the reasoning of the right hon. Member for Down, South behind his injunction to us all to break the habit of the annual renewal of direct rule. I am sure that the Committee is grateful to him.

Mr. Farr

My hon. Friend said that one of the advantages of the present system is that the House of Commons has an opportunity to discuss Northern Ireland affairs regularly. There is no reason why Northern Ireland affairs should not be discussed as regularly as Scottish and Welsh affairs are at present. If we broke away from the present annual system and had a 10-year system, as I suggested, it would possibly save the House of Commons from discussing the subject of Northern Ireland annually when from time to time it might be inconvenient to do so.

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend has made a most interesting intervention. I find it hard to understand how right hon. and hon. Members, especially my right hon. and hon. Friends who wish to safeguard Parliament's rights in regard to Northern Ireland—I believe that I am right in counting my hon. Friend among their number—should wish to reduce the opportunity that Parliament has regularly to scrutinise the Province's affairs. Surely they should be thoroughly in favour of regular scrutiny.

Mr. Gorst

We would like Northern Ireland laws to be the same as those for Great Britain. If that happens, it will not be necessary to go through the annual procedure. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) made this very point.

Mr. Patten

I am trying to address the Committee's attention firmly to the period for renewal. I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not go down the route towards which he is luring me. There are other important considerations. The most important is that the amendment and the amendment to it seek to make clear to varying degrees the fact that, should a future devolved Administration fail, the people of Northern Ireland will be subject to a further and a lengthier period of direct rule. That would appear to be shutting the door on political progress. I hope that no one will read anything untoward into that phrase.

Mr. Michael Brown


Mr. Patten

I shall develop my argument.

It would appear to be shutting the door on any political progress in the Province for a longer period. That could be damaging because, the longer the interim period of direct rule lasts without being reviewed by Parliament, the more damaging it will be.

As we made clear in the recent White Paper, and as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made abundantly clear on Second Reading, the Government do not believe that the current arrangements for direct rule provide a long-term answer to the problems of Northern Ireland, and neither do we believe that they are conducive to political progress. Most important of all, we do not believe that they are conducive to inducing greater stability in the Province. It must follow from that that we do not believe that any proposals that tend to make direct rule more permanent, or seem more permanent, will help the Province's stability, whether we extend the interim period for two years, five years, 10 years or whatever.

Mr. Michael Brown

It is obvious that I would rather deal in a speech with the important point that my hon. Friend is making, but I have the feeling in my heart that I shall not catch your eye on this point, Mr. Dean.

Is my hon. Friend saying that, in the event of direct rule being re-established because of the revocation order, he is opposed to the amendments on the grounds that they would prevent further consideration of some new type of political initiative to deal with the problem then posed by the revocation? Would he care to speculate about what new form of political initiative he regards as emerging from the right of the House to debate orders annually, as they would normally come, under the 1974 legislation?

I listened to my hon. Friend's words closely. He said that if either of the amendments were accepted we would be shutting the door to further political progress. Let us suppose that full devolution under the Bill has failed and revocation measures have been effected but my hon. Friend wants to reserve the Government's position for some form of future political progress, notwithstanding the failure of that progress under the terms of the Bill. Will he speculate as to the Government's thinking in terms of the political initiative that he mentioned—

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I hope that the Minister will resist the temptation to speculate on subjects that are well beyond the fairly narrow confines of these amendments.

Mr. Patten

Of course I accept your ruling, Mr. Dean. Perhaps, while accepting your ruling, I may refer to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who indulged in futurology. He speculated on what might come next. The suggestions made by my right hon. Friend might be part of a range of options that might be dealt with at some stage in the future.

Mr. Budgen


Mr. Patten

Perhaps my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not give way. I have given way a great deal.

Mr. Gorst


Mr. Patten

I have been listening carefully to the siren voices behind me.

Mr. Gorst

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. Perhaps you will assist us on this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has rightly resumed his seat because the Minister will not give way. Once more we can see the Chief Whip poised on the edge of his seat, looking exactly as we have grown accustomed to him looking. It seems that we have no way of having this point cleared up. I imagine that there will be no more speeches. Is it possible for us to have just one more short speech so that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West can make his speech before the Chief Whip has his way?

The Second Deputy Chairman

I cannot anticipate hypothetical questions. Nor can I decide whether the Minister should give way.

Mr. Patten

I greatly regret that we are unable to accept the amendment of the right hon. Member for Down, South and his two hon. Friends.

Mr. Budgen


Mr. Patten

Much as I should like to offer something by way of a birthday gift to the right hon. Gentleman, as was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion—

Mr. Budgen


Mr. Patten

—the Government do not wish to break the annual habit and go to the two-yearly cycle that he suggests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough was good enough to say in his interesting and lucid speech that he realised that amendment No. 103, which stands in his name, would not bring about what he wished it to achieve. In the light of that, perhaps he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Budgen


The Parlimentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michel Joping)rose in his place claimed to Move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided:Ayes 147 Noes 27.

Division No. 209] [10. 40 pm
Alexander, Richard Lloyd, Ian (Havant&W'loo)
Alison, RtHon Michael Loveridge,John
Alton,David Lyell,Nicholas
Arnold,Tom Lyons, Edward(Bradf'dW)
Atkins, RtHon H.(S'thorne) McNally,Thomas
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Marland,Paul
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Marlow,Antony
Beith, A. J. Mates, Michael
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Mather,Carol
Berry, HonAnthony Mawhinney,DrBrian
Best, Keith Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Biffen, RtHon John Mayhew, Patrick
Blackburn,John Mellor, David
Bonsor,SirNicholas Meyer, SirAnthony
Boscawen,HonRobert Mills,lain(Meriden)
Bowden,Andrew Mitchell,David (Basingstoke)
Boyson,DrRhodes Moate,Roger
Braine,SirBernard Monro,SirHector
Bright,Graham Montgomery, Fergus
Brooke, Hon Peter Morgan,Geraint
Brotherton,Michael Needham,Richard
Bruce-Gardyne,John. Newton, Tony
Bryan, SirPaul Onslow,Cranley
Butcher,john Page, Richard (SWHerts)
Cadbury,Jocelyn Parris, Matthew
Campbell-Savours,Dale Patten,John (Oxford)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Pattie, Geoffrey
Carlisle, RtHon M. (R'c'n) Penhaligon,David
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Percival,Sirlan
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Prior, Rt Hon James
Chapman,Sydney Rathbone,Tim
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Renton,Tim
Cockeram,Eric Rhodes James, Robert
CoIvin,Michael Rhys Williams, SirBrandon
Cope,John Ridley,HonNicholas
Crawshaw, Richard Ridsdale,SirJulian
Dorrell,Stephen Roberts, M.(Cardiff NW)
Dover,Denshore Roper,John
Dunn, James A. Rossi, Hugh
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Royle, SirAnthony
Eggar,Tim Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Fookes, Miss Janet Sainsbury,HonTimothy
Fowler, RtHon Norman Scott,Nicholas
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Shaw, SirGiles (Pudsey)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Goodlad,Alastair Shelton,William(Streatham)
Qreenway, Harry Shepherd,Colin(Hereford)
Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm 'ds) Silvester, Fred
Griffiths, PeterPortsm'thN) Sims, Roger
Grimond, RtHonJ. Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Gummer,JohnSelwyn Speed, Keith
Hamilton, Hon A. Sproat,lain
Hampson, Dr Keith Squire,Robin
Hawksley, Warren Steel, RtHon David
Hayhoe, Barney Stevens, Martin
Henderson, Barry Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Stradling Thomas, J.
Holland,Philip(Carlton) Taylor, Teddy (S'endE)
Hooson,Tom Temple-Morris,Peter
Horam,John Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson,Donald
Howells,Geraint Thornton,Malcolm
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) Townsend.CyrllD,(B'heath)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Trippier,David
Jenkin, RtHon Patrick van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Jopling,RtHonMichael Vaughan,DrGerard
Kershaw,SirAnthony Waddington, David
Latham, Michael Wainwright,R.(ColneV)
Lennox-Boyd,HonMark Wakeham,John
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Waller, Gary
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Warren,Kenneth
Wells, Bowen
Wells,John(Maidstone) Tellers for the Ayes:
Wickenden, Keith Mr.David Hunt and
Wolfson,Mark Mr.Ian Lang.
Amery, RtHonJulian Molyneaux,James
Biggs-Davlson,SirJohn Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)
Body, Richard Paisley, Rev Ian
Brown, Michael(BriggampSc'n) Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Budgen,Nick Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cranborne, Viscount Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Cryer, Bob Skinner,Dennis
Dunlop,John Smyth, Rev. W. M.(Belfast S)
Farr,John Stanbrook.lvor
Fraser, RtHon Sir Hugh Walker, B. (Perth)
Gardiner,George(Reigate) Winterton,Nicholas
Lawrence, Ivan Tellers for the Noes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. Christopher Murphy and
McCusker,H. Mr. William Ross.

Question according agreed to.

Question accordingly, That the amendment to the proposed amendment be made:—

The Committee divided:Ayes 36, Noes 132.

Division No. 210] [10.55pm
Alton,David McCusker, H.
Amery, Rt Hon Julian McNally,Thomas
Beith, A. J. Molyneaux,James
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Morgan,Geraint
Body, Richard Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Penhaligon, David
Budgen,Nick Powell, RtHonJ.E.(SDown)
Cranborne,Viscount Rees-Davies, W. R.
Crawshaw, Richard Roper,John
Dunlop,John Skinner,Dennis
Dunn, James A. Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh Stanbrook.lvor
Gardiner,George(Reigate) Steel, Rt Hon David
Gorst,John WainWright,R.(ColneV)
Grimond, RtHonJ. Walker, B. (Perth)
Horam,John Winterton, Nicholas
Lawrence, Ivan Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. Christopher Murphy and
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW) Mr. William Ross
Alexander, Richard Chapman,Sydney
Alison, RtHon Michael Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Arnold,Tom Cockeram,Eric
Atkins, RtHon H.(S'thorne) Colvin,Michael
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Cope,John
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Dorrell,Stephen
Benyon,W.(Buckingham) Dover,Denshore
Berry, HonAnthony Dunn,Robert(Dartford)
Best, Keith Eggar,Tim
Biffen, RtHonJohn Farr,John
Blackburn,John Fowler, RtHon Norman
Bonsor,SirNicholas Gardner, Edward (SFylde)
Boscawen,HonRobert Garel-Jones,Tristan
Bowden,Andrew Goodlad,Alastair
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Greenway, Harry
Braine,SirBernard Griffiths, B.(B'ySt. Edm'ds)
Bright,Graham Griffiths, PeterPortsm'thN)
Brooke, Hon Peter Hamilton, Hon A.
Bruce-Gardyne,John Hampson, Dr Keith
Bryan, Sir Paul Hawksley,Warren
Butcher,John Hayhoe, Barney
Cadbury,Jocelyn Henderson,Barry
Campbell-Savours,Dale Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Carlisle, RtHonM.(R'c'n) Holland,Philip(Carlton)
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hooson,Tom
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, David (Wirral) Ridsdale,SirJulian
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Hurd,Rt Hon Douglas Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Rossi, Hugh
Jopling,RtHon Michael Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Kershaw,SirAnthony Sainsbury,HonTimothy
Lamont,Norman Scott,Nicholas
Latham,Michael Shaw, Sir Giles(Pudsey)
Lennox-Boyd,HonMark Shaw,Michael(Scarboroug)
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Shelton,William(Streatham)
Lewis,Kenneth (Rutland) Shepherd,Colin(Hereford)
Loveridge,John Silvester,Fred
Lyell,Nicholas Sims, Roger
McQuade,John Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
Marland,Paul Speed, Keith
Mates,Michael Speller,Tony
Mather,Carol Sproat,lain
Mawhinney,DrBrian Squire,Robin
Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin Stevens,Martin
Mayhew,Patrick StradlingThomas,J.
Mellor,David Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Temple-Morris,Peter
Mills,.lain(Meriden) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Miscampbell, Norman Thompson,Donald
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thornton,Malcolm
Moate, Roger Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Monro,SirHector Trippier,David
Montgomery,Fergus van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Needham, Richard Vaughan,DrGerard
Newton,Tony Waddington, David
Onslow,Cranley Wakeham,John
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Waller, Gary
Paisley, Rev Ian Warren,Kenneth
Parris,Matthew Wells,Bowen
Patten, John (Oxford) Wells,John (Maidsone)
Pattie,Geoffrey Wickenden, Keith
Percival,Sirlan Wolfson,Mark
Prior, Rt Hon James Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
Rhodes James, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
RhysWilliams,SirBrandon Mr. Selwyn Gummer and
Ridley,HonNicholas Mr. Ian Lang.

Question accordingly negative.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided:Ayes 23, Noes 145.

Division No. 211] [11.10 pm
Amery, RtHon Julian Moate, Roger
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Molyneaux,James
Body,Richard Morgan, Geraint
Budgen,Nick Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)
Cranborne,Viscount Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Cryer,Bob Rees-Davies, W. R.
Dunlop,John Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Farr,John Walker, B. (Perth)
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh Winterton,Nicholas
Gorst,John Tellers for the Ayes:
Lawrence,lvan Mr. Christopher Murphy and
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Ross.
Alexander,Richard Boscawen,HonRobert
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bowden,Andrew
Alton,David Boyson,Dr Rhodes
Arnold,Tom Braine,SirBernard
Atkins, RtHon H.(S'thorne) Bright,Graham
Baker, Nicholas (NDorset) Brooke, Hon Peter
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Bruce-Gardyne,John
Beith, A. J. Bryan, Sir Paul
Benyon,W. (Buckingham) Butcher,John
Berry, Hon Anthony Cadbury,Jocelyn
Best, Keith Campbell-Savours,Dale
Biffen, RtHon John Carlisle, RtHonM.(R'c'n)
Blackburn,John Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Bonsor,SirNicholas Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Chapman,Sydney Onslow,Cranley
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Cockeram,Eric Paisley, Rev lan
Colvin,Michael Parris, Matthew
Cope,John Patten, John (Oxford)
Crawshaw, Richard Pattie,Geoffrey
Dorrell,Stephen Penhaligon, David
Dover,Denshore Percival,Sirlan
Dunn, James A. Prior, Rt Hon James
Dunn,Robert(Dartford) Renton,Tim
Eggar,Tim Rhodes James, Robert
Fowler, RtHon Norman RhysWilliams,SirBrandon
Gardner, Edward (SFylde) Ridley,HonNicholas
Goodlad,Alastair Ridsdale,SirJulian
Greenway, Harry Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Griffiths,PeterPortsm'thN) Roper,John
Grimond,RtHonJ. Rossi, Hugh
Gummer,JohnSelwyn Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Hamilton, Hon A. Sainsbury,HonTimothy
Hampson,DrKeith Scott,Nicholas
Hawksley, Warren Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Henderson,Barry Shaw,Michael(Scarborough)
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'rh'm) Shelton,William(Streatham)
Holland,Philip(Carlton) Shepherd.Colin(Hereford)
Hooson,Tom Silvester,Fred
Horam,John Sims, Roger
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Skinner,Dennis
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
Howells,Geraint Speed, Keith
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) Speller,Tony
Hurd,Rt Hon Douglas Sproat,lain
Jenkin,Rt Hon Patrick Squire,Robin
Jopling,RtHon Michael Stanbrook,lvor
Kershaw,SirAnthony Steel, Rt Hon David
Lamont,Norman Stevens,Martin
Lang, lan StradlingThomas,J.
Latham,Michael Taylor, Teddy (S'endE)
Lennox-Boyd,HonMark Temple-Morris, Peter
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Lewis,Kenneth(Rutland) Thompson,Donald
Loveridge,John Thornton,Malcolm
Lyell,Nicholas Townsend,.CyrilD,(B'heath)
McNally,Thomas Trippier,David
McQuade,John van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Marland,Paul Vaughan,DrGerard
Marlow,Antony Waddington,David
Mates,Michael Wainwright,R.(ColneV)
Mather,Carol Wakeham,John
Mawhinney,DrBrian Waller, Gary
Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin Warren,Kenneth
Mayhew,Patrick Wells, Bowen
Mellor,David Wells,John(Maidstone)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Wickenden,Keith
Mills,Iain(Meriden) Wolfson,Mark
Miscampbell,Norman Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Monro,SirHector Tellers for the Noes:
Montgomery,Fergus Mr. David Hunt and
Needham,Richard Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

Question accordingly negatived

11.15 pm
Mr. Lawrence

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong I want to come again, if I may, with great respect to the Chair, to the question of the protection of the rights o Back Benchers who want to speak against premature closure. When I last raised the matter in front of the Chairman of Ways and Means, he referred me to Standing Order No. 30, which, since I did not have a copy to hand effectively silenced me. Now that I have a copy to hand and it seems to be an appropriate opportunity to raise the matter, I will read what Standing Order No. 30 says: After a question has been proposed a Member rising in hi place may claim to move, 'That the question be now put,' and unless it shall appear to the Chair that such motion is an abuse of the rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority, the question, 'That the question be now put,' shall be put forthwith.

I do not claim that when my right hon. Friend rises to speed matters that is an abuse of the rules of the House. However, I do suggest that from time to time, in closuring discussion on the amendments, he is infringing the rights of the minority. That is the matter that I originally rose to ask about when I was told that it was a hypothetical case and one that I could not raise. After the closure I could not raise it because of the vote.

Chapter XX of "Erskine May", page 446 of the nineteenth edition, is headed: "Methods of Curtailing Debate" and the subheading is entitled "Obstruction by Prolongation of Debate." It reads as follows: The ordinary closure.… which ends a debate by securing the immediate putting of the question under discussion, can be initiated by a single Member, but requires that not less than a hundred must vote in the majority. The rights of the minority are protected by the dicretionary power which is given to the Chair (and is frequently exercised) of refusing to accept a motion for the closure. These conditions are laid down in the standing orders on which the closure is based". The discretion is entirely that of the Chair, whose decision is final and cannot be argued. However, it is difficult to get from "Erskine May" the rules that apply. When, on the next page, "Erskine May" gives an example, it is of Private Members' Bills or motions that have been debated during the sitting or half-sitting that the Standing Orders allot for such proceedings.

However, common sense must dictate that the Chair, in a situation such as this—when several hon. Members want to speak on a large group of amendments on a constitutional Bill where the Government have not introduced a guillotine—must then judge whether the speeches that are about to be made are likely to be constructive or whether the point has already been flogged to death, as is the situation in some debates.

For example, in the last debate we had a closure after—

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

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is moving towards a debate on the Standing Order. The Standing Order is quite clear. It is for the Chair to decide whether the criteria have been met. It cannot be debated.

Mr. Lawrence

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I know what the Standing Order says because I have read it out. It is clear to me, even at this hour.

I rise to ask, Mr. Armstrong, by what criterion you will allow either the moving of a closure after a short period of time or the prolongation of a debate to prevent the moving of the closure in order to protect the Back Benchers.

The First Deputy Chairman

It is entirely within the discretion of the Chair, having considered the Standing Order, whether the closure should be accepted. We cannot debate the interpretation of the Standing Order. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman understands that.

Mr. Budgen

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. Can the Chair give some early indication of how it is likely to exercise its discretion? It would be helpful to those hon. Members who wish to speak. To illustrate the proposition by my position, I wished to speak in the last two debates but, unhappily, was unable to catch the Chair's eye. Had I known that the closure would be moved in the way that it has been, I would not have bothered to compose two speeches.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. It would be quite wrong to expect the Chair to say how the debate is likely to go. My job in the Chair is to interpret the Standing Order. That is entirely a matter for the Chair's discretion. I assure the Committee that that discretion is not exercised without considerable care and thought and previous reading of the Standing Orders backwards and forwards.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. Every time that the closure has been moved during these debates, it has been accepted by the Chair. One would think that at some time in the debate, when so many hon. Members are waiting to speak, the discretion of the Chair would be used in favour of those hon. Members.

The First Deputy Chairman

All I can say is that every closure that is moved is judged by the Chair on its merits, and the Chair exercises its discretion in accordance with the Standing Order.

Mr. John Patten

I beg to move amendment No. 66, in page 6, line 2:5, at end insert '; and if an Order under section 2(1)(b) of this Act is revoked (and no other Order under that provision is in force) that period shall further continue as aforesaid for the period of one year beginning with the date of re vocation.'.

The First Deputy Chairman

With this we are to take the following amendments:

(a) to the proposed amendment, to leave out 'one year' and insert 'two years'.

No. 114, in page 6, line 24, leave out from 'continue' to end of line 25 and insert: 'subject to an order being made by the Secretary of State under subsection (4) of that section in so far as it relates to the ending of the interim period on a date earlier than the date on which it would expire'.

Mr. Patten

This is a purely technical amendment which has been tabled by the Government to remove a possible area of doubt in paragraph 3(1) of the schedule. The paragraph provides that, while a partial devolution order is in force, the "interim period" of direct rule shall continue without the need for it to be extended by an order under section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 1974. However, hon. Members may have noticed—and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has already drawn attention to the fact—that the paragraph makes no provision for the resumption of the interim period, should it prove necessary to revoke a partial devolution order or, if there has been more than one partial devolution order, the last extant such order. This, of course, is in contrast to paragraph 1 of schedule 1, which makes provision for the resumption of the interim period, should a full devolution order be revoked.

The Government believe that if partial devolution by one or more orders has been tried and failed, it seems reasonable that the only immediate alternative is a return to direct rule in respect of all the Northern Ireland Departments. Accordingly, I trust that the Committee will accept the amendment without too much debate, because it simply makes clear what would happen should partial devolution fail.

Two other amendments are taken together with this amendment. Clearly it would be discourteous of me to anticipate what is to be said about them. On amendment (a) to amendment No. 66, I can add little to what I said in answer to the last debate. In the unfortunate circumstances of a collapse of partial devolution, we believe that the correct interim period should be one year, not two years as suggested in this amendment, for the reasons that I gave on the last group of amendments.

It would be equally discourteous to anticipate what my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and my hon. Friends the Members for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) will say on amendment No. 114. However, I should like to make one observation. As I have just explained, paragraph 3(1) of schedule 1 provides—and it is important to get this straight—that, while a partial devolution order is in force, the "interim period" of direct rule shall continue without the need for any new order under section 1(4) of the Northern Ireland Act 1974. That is because it would be strange to require an order to continue the "interim period" of direct rule during a time when a partially devolved Administration, which is of course dependent on the continuation of that "interim period", was in existence. I think that it must be self-evident that Departments which are not devolved under a partial devolution order should continue to be subject to direct rule. However, at this stage, I shall not seek to anticipate further what other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will say about these amendments.

Mr. Molyneaux

The Committee will find itself in difficulty unless the Minister has made provision to protect himself against the Patronage Secretary moving the closure before he has replied to our submissions and suggestions. Perhaps the Minister would like to reflect on that point.

As the Minister has said, there are close parallels between this debate and the one which preceded it. I said in that debate that a lengthy period would be objectionable, but one has to admit that there are some attractions. The practice of annual reviews that we have followed for the past eight years tends to breed cynicism. The Minister asks for renewal of the direct rule order. He holds out the expectation that it will be the last time and that possibly, in the 12-months interval, some arrangement will be made—I shall not use the term "cobbled together" because I was reprimanded on a previous occasion for doing so.

11.30 pm

I am inclined to agree that instability is created by constant chopping and changing and by the annual renewals which hold out the hope to all types of troublemakers, whether political troublemakers on terrorist troublemakers, that if the issue is up for grabs at 12-monthly intervals, there is merit in their doing their worst.

There are, however, obvious drawbacks in going for a lengthy period. A lengthy period would tend to put a stop on the consideration of alternatives. The Secretary of State of the day would tend to be frozen in an attitude of mind where he would be expecting to try to breathe new life into an organisation which had, to a great extent, become extinct instead of focusing his mind on far more sensible and realistic alternatives. It would be a great pity if the Committee came to the conclusion that a period significantly lengthier than that proposed in the Government amendment should be approved.

One also has to think about the unfortunate breed of native Ministers. They would be chopped in mid-term through no fault of their own for policies, or lack of policies, over which they had little or no control. Once chopped, the native Minister would be reluctant to go through the same hoop whether it was in six, nine or 12 months. Politics being the type of profession it is, the native Ministers would be regarded, rightly or wrongly, as failures and has-beens, again through no fault of their own but more likely than not through the misdemeanours of Westminster Governments of whatever political complexion. The native Ministers would be held accountable and responsible by those who elected them. They would also be held to be accountable, through the Members of the Assembly, to those who elected the Members.

As I have pointed out before, it would be no use the native Ministers declaiming responsibility after they had been chopped and saying to Assembly Members or, worse still, to the people who elected them "Let us have another try and we will do better next time." It would not be in their power to do better or worse. The United Kingdom Government will still have control of the reins and the purse strings. All that the native Ministers will be able to do is to work within the limitations of their role.

A more serious aspect is that Ministers who are chopped will find it difficult to work out arrangements to reinstate themselves during the interim, deep-freeze period. If they were chopped shortly before an Assembly election, they would stand little chance of being re-elected.

For the reasons that I gave in the brief intervention that was the only contribution I was able to make to the previous debate, we want to break out of the mould of annual renewals, but we do not agree that the period should be excessively long.

I am sorry if what I have to say appears to be a personal attack on the Secretary of State and his Ministers, but we seem to be witnessing a go-slow in economic matters. Lord Gowrie said on a television programme in Northern Ireland that the economic situation in the Province would continue to deteriorate as long as "we" are here. That "we" was the noble Lord the Minister of State, the Secretary of State and their fellow Ministers. That can be seen on the transcript of the television programme. Confession may be good for the soul and Lord Gowrie's startling admission will no doubt have taken him up a few rungs of Jacob's ladder.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

What does the hon. Gentleman think that Lord Gowrie meant by those remarks? Did he mean that things would get worse as long as he was in office?

Mr. Molyneaux

The remarks were interpreted by many of my constituents as meaning that as long as the Conservative Government are in office the economy of Northern Ireland will continue to deteriorate. I did not interpret them in that way. I took them to mean that the economy will continue to deteriorate for as long as the present occupants of Stormont Castle are in office.

Mr. Prior

It would be a travesty if the Committee were left with the impression that that was what my noble Friend intended to convey. The hon. Gentleman has taken his comments completely out of context. My noble Friend was making the case for devolved government and said that he felt that Ulster people could perhaps make a bigger contribution towards their own future than English Ministers could make, however hard they tried. In addition, there is no justification for suggesting that Ministers have not tried to do everything that they can or have not tried to get as much public expenditure as they can. The hon. Gentleman may want more, but his right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) sometimes thinks that we give too much.

Mr. Molyneaux

I am sure that the Committee and all who represent Northern Ireland constituencies will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his clarification, or for explaining what he thinks the words of his noble Friend meant. I accept the Secretary of State's word that that would be the interpretation that he would place upon them. However, the right hon. Gentleman, not for the first time, has fallen into his own trap. If the Northern Ireland economy were to start to improve under a devolved Government, would it relapse and go downhill again if we reverted to direct rule? The right hon. Gentleman has never taken up that issue.

How could the economy improve dramatically, significantly or to any great extent if we had a devolved Government with no direct access to the Cabinet Room? I have put that question to the Secretary of State on another occasion. He gave the rather roundabout answer that the economy would improve because the security situation would improve and that that would improve because everyone would be represented in an improbable Cabinet. That is not the real world.

Mr. Prior

I have understood the hon. Gentleman and his party to wish for devolved government. Presumably they wish for devolved government because they think that they can make a better job of governing the Province than anyone else. The hon. Gentleman spends half his time arguing that he wants devolved government and the other half arguing that he wants integration. He had better make up his mind what he wants.

Mr. Molyneaux

I made up my mind long ago. I want to protect those who will be elected to the Assembly, those native Ministers who may be appointed after the cobbling-together operation has been achieved. I want to protect them from the blame for the first factory closure after the Assembly is elected, when the electors say to them "We elected you to stop all this. The Secretary of State said that you would stop it when you took office. Why haven't you stopped it?" I am seeking to protect them and, it is misleading, to put it no higher than that, for any Secretary of State, or anyone else, to give the impression that the economy of Northern Ireland will improve dramatically once an Assembly is elected and in the improbable event of an Executive being formed. I note, Mr. Armstong, that you are showing signs of impatience. The Secretary of State led me astray.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The amendments relate to timing. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will relate what he is saying to them.

Mr. Molyneaux

I hope, Mr. Armstrong, that you will permit the Minister who replies to the debate to clarify some of these issues. They are important when we consider whether the devolved structure will continue to operate or whether it will collapse, which is an eventuality that is being taken account of in the amendment. I hope that we can arrive at a clear understanding of the native Ministers who will be held accountable for failures for which they are not responsible.

A long period between reviews would tend to restrict Secretaries of State and their Ministers from examining workable alternatives. It would distract them from doing what the Under-Secretary of State hinted at. He did more than hint but I will not use against him the words that he used in a previous debate when he talked about the "search for political progress". If this improbable structure collapses despite all our helpful suggestions that are designed to make it more stable, I hope that Ministers will not twiddle their thumbs and say "It is not our business now. We shall revert to direct rule and claw back power. There is no obligation on us to do anything more until this local lot get together and decide that they can achieve another 70 per cent. in some miraculous fashion." I would hope that the Ministers, whoever they might be, would think more const-uctively, examine possible options and enter consultations with a willingness to listen during the period for which the amendments provide.

The Minister suggested that the annual renewal would be beneficial and would give the House the opportunity to consider improvements. There has never been a lack of constructive and useful suggestions from Northern Ireland Members and others, on both the Conservative and Opposition Benches. The difficulty has been that Ministers have flatly refused to listen. They have kept talking and hoped that something would turn up without their having to take any constructive steps towards that objective.

I hope that the lesson that we shall learn from the debate today is that, if we come to that state in future, intervals of renewal, whether annual, two-yearly or slightly longer or whether, as a result of a collapse, they come at an interim stage, Ministers will join with Northern Ireland Members and others—I exclude no one and I am delighted to see so many parties represented tonight—to see how, to refer to what is said in the Queen's Speech, we can work out ways of returning to the people of Northern Ireland more real control over their own affairs.

Mr. Budgen

It is a pleasure to take part in a debate after a speech by the leader of the Official Unionist Party. It is strange wher the leader of an important party is prevented by the closure from expressing in a significant debate his views about a constitutional measure.

I am sure that those hon. Members who have had the pleasure of considering amendment No. 66 will never again wish to dispute the Secretary of State's proposition that this is a flexible arrangement. My goodness, it is flexible. First, there is a proposal to grant powers, then one for taking them back after a period of discussion and, perhaps, disagreement. Moreover, we may take them back either wholly or in part.

One reflects on the misunderstandings in England about the powers of Members of Parliament and local government. Many hon. Members who represent English constituencies must find that a high proportion of people who come to their surgeries believe that Members of Parliament deal directly with housing matters. That is a good example of the way in which the elector in the booth or the man in the street does not know where the buck stops, or where it stops first.

In England, the House of Commons is a supervisory body over local government. What a marvellous body it will be if, for the sake of argument, it is eventually decided that the Ulster Assembly may discuss security.

Groups representing 70 per cent. of the Assembly may then get together and put a proposal to the Secretary of State that they should have control over security. The proposal would then come before the House of Commons for the first time. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) did not fully consider what would happen if there was a minority Government in Westminster. If the Secretary of State recommended a proposal to the House in all good faith and it was voted down, would not that be a marvellous prescription for worse than conflict—for real hatred between the Ulster Assembly and the Westminster Parliament? Does not that illustrate the potential in this proposal for conflict and instability?

Let us suppose that the Assembly finds that it has lost the cross-community support that is said to be the sine qua non of activity by the Assembly. We then refer to paragraph 61 of the White Paper, which deals with the multiplicity of options open to the Secretary of State if he wishes to revoke the powers that he has granted to the Assembly or to change the personality of the Executive carrying out those powers. This, again, is a wonderful example of flexibility.

Let us consider the position of some unfortunate woman whose husband has been killed in a sectarian murder in Ulster. She may know that, in the scenario that I have described, the Assembly would have the power to supervise the security services. She may then find that that power has been or may be taken back to Westminster. According to paragraph 61 of the White Paper, the Secretary of State would be able to invite the existing Executive to continue on a caretaker basis for up to six months; or to appoint, again for a maximum of six months, a caretaker administration of his own choosing whose members need not come from the Assembly; or resume himself the powers which had been devolved. The Assembly could be prorogued; or returned to the original scrutinising, consultative and advisory functions, without the powers conferred by the devolution order; or dissolved so that fresh elections could be held. The objective would be to sustain or reconstitute a devolved administration but in the last resort he would have the option of reverting to direct rule in the form which now exists.

How would that poor lady know where the buck stopped? Her position would be far worse than that of the constituent who comes to me in the mistaken belief that I control the allocation of council housing in some part of Wolverhampton. She would not know where she stood. What is more, neither would the Assembly nor, as is plain from amendment No. 66, the Secretary of State. It is clear that, despite the detailed consideration given to this, no doubt by highly intelligent civil servants and equally intelligent parliamentary draftsmen, the Government have not considered what the constitutional position would be in the event of a partial revocation and whether one would then fall back on the direct rule position which requires annual review. It is a position, as the Secretary of State would say, of great flexibility. My goodness, it is one of great flexibility. It is also one of great uncertainty.

The least that we can do is to vote for amendment (a), because then, after revocation of a partially devolved order, there would not be a further review for another two years. That is not a long period of stability after all the uncertainty and conflict between Governments that will have given rise to the revocation becoming necessary, but at least two years would pass before the fire was raked over again, or the wound opened again, and the people of Ulster were once more alerted to the constitutional instability that had been foisted upon them.

If we are to have this masterpiece of flexibility, as it is described by those who do not understand or agree with the prime necessity of stability in the constitution, and if its supporters cannot adhere to the proposition that stability is the single most important characteristic, let us at least ensure that the unhappy people of Ulster are not reminded of their misfortune on an annual basis but are given a couple of years of peace.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I shall speak to amendment (a), which proposes to leave out "one year" and insert "two years".

The paragraph to which the Government amendment, and my amendment to it, refer is remarkable. It presents a strange paradox, particularly to those who have taken part for the past two or three hours in the debate on the question of direct rule, alias the interim period, and its renewal. The mechanism of part II is primarily concerned with modifying the provisions of the 1974 Act in respect of those Departments that have been devolved by a clause 2(1)(b) order. But paragraph 3(1) makes provision for what is left of direct rule, and that may be all the Departments except one. It stipulates that in those circumstances direct rule will continue not with annual, biennial or even decennial renewal, but indefinitely, without any such renewal order.

That is a remarkable situation. It means that, whereas hitherto with 100 per cent. direct rule we have been renewing, and therefore reviewing, direct rule every 12 months, let there be but one Department devolved, be it the least important Department, and direct rule for the rest continues indefinitely without the interim period having been renewed.

I emphasise that because it is remarkable that the same Government who have recently rejected a proposal to let perhaps a further year go by before renewing direct rule, in the context of part I of the schedule, are now defending a provision that, subject only to there being devolution of a single Department, the rest of direct rule can go on till kingdom come without any review or renewal. That is a most extraordinary arrangement.

12 midnight

I had the misfortune to miss the very first sentences of the Under-Secretary's introduction of the amendment, but I do not see any dissent coming from him. Therefore, I take it that paragraph 3(1) has its natural meaning. I shall proceed to pray that in aid when I come presently to the content of my amendment.

However, it was an enlightened act on the part of the Secretary of State to table this amendment. I appreciate that it is now no longer the only Government amendment on the Amendment Paper. Nevertheless, a word of appreciation should be said to the right hon. Gentleman for having tabled Government amendments in Committee.

Some of us have lived through protracted Committees when every argument and debate was dominated by the Government's determination to make no concessions, not to understand the points that were made and not to accept even the most necessary amendments because they realised that to do so would involve the necessity of a Report stage.

That has not been the action of the right hon. Gentleman. Not only has he offered to contemplate amendments on Report, that we have not yet seen, but he has also ensured, by having amended the Bill in this and other respects, that there will be a proper Report stage on the Floor of the House. Whatever other criticisms I have to offer, I must say that that is an agreeable contrast to the experience that from time to time some of us have had. However, in the presence of a Liberal Member, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), I shall not specify the occasion that was most painful and destructive of constitutional confidence in the procedures of the House.

I now come to the revocation amendment in the name of the Secretary of State. I am not absolutely sure how this amendment came to be on the Amendment Paper, except that it is out of the good will and sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman.

One would like to know whether the possibility of a partial or rolling devolution order being revoked had not occurred to the Government or their advisers until the Bill was in Committee. Alternatively, having got the provision for revocation in the case of full devolution in paragraph 1(b), did they feel that somehow there was some machinery whereby they did not need to provide for the consequences of revocation of a rolling devolution order?

Be that as it may, and it is a rather curious phenomenon, they have now provided that if the one ewe lamb slaughtered—the one devolved Department—fails to fulfil the conditions for survival, the order under which it subsists will be revoked. What will happen then? Not only will the interim state of affairs—direct rule—no longer escape scrutiny for one, two, five or 10 years, but we shall be back to the one-year interim period arrangements under the 1974 Act.

I could have understood that—indeed, I believed that I understood it—in the context of part I, but, in the context where one devolution secures eternity for the remainder of direct rule, it seems rather curious for the Government to insist that if that one devolution must be cancelled we must return to direct rule, living from year to year.

It cannot be argued in this case, as the Under-Secretary of State did on an earlier amendment, that no stability is involved, because the Secretary of State might pop along with another rolling devolution order and might restart the rolling procedure that was so unhappily interrupted. We are not, as in part I, dealing with full devolution and the complete supersession of direct rule. We are dealing with, initially, an entirely tentative entry upon the rolling process. No argument can be sustained that, by increasing the period of immunity, the order should be invoked, as my amendment proposed, and we should not be creating a genuine stability or a genuine prospect of things going on as they did under direct rule. Under that hypothesis, direct rule will be the major form of government in the Province. Consequently, the argument for giving it some stability or a longer lease of life than it has had since 1974 is much stronger now than in part I. Like Lord Clive on a famous occasion, I am astonished at my hon. Friends and myself for not taking a leaf out of the Government's eternal direct rule provision in the sub-paragraph as it stands and asking for a longer period than two years.

We shall no doubt have several weeks to reflect upon this and other matters. Who knows but that reflection between Committee stage and Report stage may not move us or other hon. Members to put down on report a different amendment in the light of mature reflection? Our debates have sometimes been truncated. The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who has had most to complain of and who has been most plaintive on the subject—I do not use the adjective in a deprecatory way—should take comfort from the fact that the assurance of a Report stage after we have parted from this amendment will be a security that the Chair and hon. Members have an opportunity to ensure that the points that were made and the issues that were inadequately debated in Committee can be considered on Report. That is the purpose of a Report stage and it is a comfort and a reassurance. If any hon. Member has been kept out of the truncated debates by any desire of mine to put forward a case—I am glad to have the disavowal of any such imputation by a gesture of the hon. and learned Member for Burton—the prospect of a Report stage would be sufficient excuse and recompense for a temporary deprivation in Committee.

I therefore hope that the Government, estopped as they are by the extraordinary provision in paragraph 3(1) for eternal or quasi-eternal direct rule without renewal of the interim period, will not look as churlishly as I thought they were disposed to do upon the prospects of a modest extension of the interim period without the necessity of renewal, which is proposed in the amendment in the names of my hon. Friends and myself.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I am pleased to follow the birthday speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).

I understand that there will be no Division on amendment No. 114, and I would not wish there to be one because I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will feel that he can accept it.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary explained, when he made his agreeable speech, that paragraph 3(1) of schedule 1, part II, which we seek to amend, deals with arrangements under partial devolution. It provides that while a partial devolution order is in force the interim period—direct rule— referred to in subsection (3) of section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 1974 shall continue ad infinitum without the need for any renewal order.

Those who are following the argument will readily appreciate that this is an amendment that the Government might accept. We have heard much of flexibility in these debates, and the amendment would add to the flexibility of the powers of the Secretary of State in respect of what is called "sustaining devolution", as set out in paragraph 61 of the White Paper.

That paragraph gloomily considers what the Under-Secretary called the "unhappy day" when the Executive, if it is ever set up, might lose the broad support in the Assembly that had led to devolution. The paragraph envisages the possible necessity for the Assembly to be prorogued or returned to the original scrutinising, consultative and advisory functions, without the powers conferred by the devolution order; or dissolved so that fresh elections could be held. The objective would be to sustain or reconstitute a devolved administration but in the last resort he would have the option of reverting to direct rule in the form which now exists. The same principles would apply should arrangements for partial devolution lose the necessary support in the Assembly.

Here is a strange thing. It has been the contention of the Secretary of State that political stability requires the Government's proposals as set out in the White Paper and in the Bill. It is my view, and the view of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that political stability will not be secured in this way. The Bill will have the opposite effect. However, it is the position of the Government that political stability is an objective that may be attained by the passing of the Bill.

Here we are envisaging the return from political instability because of the failure of the Executive to work. We are considering a return to the relative political stability that in fact obtains in Northern Ireland under the benign and paternal aegis of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, a system of direct rule that, as the right hon. Member for Down, South said in an earlier debate—I agree with him—commands general acquiescence in the Province. That enables me to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend and the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office who have attended the debates so attentively and assiduously and shown such courtesy to the Committee despite all their many burdens and preoccupations. We are truly grateful. I am sure that they will agree that the debates this evening are proceeding in a pleasant and agreeable manner.

12.15 am
Mr. Lawrence

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. A point that has been repeatedly made on the Government Back Benches, and as repeatedly rejected by the Secretary of State, is the effect that the legislation is likely to have on political stability, economic recovery and the defeat of terrorism. In an excellent paper that my hon. Friend gave—Salisbury Papers 10, "Ulster Six British Counties", he quotes a lecturer in economics at Queen's university, Belfast as saying: If Mr. Prior proceeds with his proposed rolling folly, the instability and bad publicity which will ensue will be another nail in the investment coffin. If he genuinely wants to help the Northern Ireland economy, he should get on with governing it along the same lines as Scotland and Wales.

Is there any other view to which my hon. Friend can point that is authoritative, other than that which Mr. Boyd Black makes and my hon. Friend quotes, which supports that contention? It is vital to the general approach to the legislation and this series of amendments that we should be convinced, before we give our support to the Secretary of State, that the legislation will not be another nail in the investment coffin, that the economy will thrive and that the alternative that my hon. Friend proposes will cause instability of an economic, political and terrorist kind. I am asking for more evidence than that which Mr. Boyd Black gives, if my hon. Friend with all his experience and knowledge of the area can give it, so that those of us who are in two minds about the matter can balance the views.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying too far from the amendments, which deal with timing.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

We are discussing political instability when the Executive cannot be made to work and it is necessary for partial devolution to be revoked. My hon. and learned Friend has quoted a leading economist, Mr. Boyd Black, of Queen's university, Belfast as saying that in his opinion devolution is likely to lead to greater instability. I am not in a position to quote other economic authorities, and I am sure that you would not permit it, Mr. Armstrong. The White Paper says that the Government are envisaging the possibility that their proposals will lead to greater political instability—otherwise there would be no need for consideration to be given to the revocation of devolution, if devolution ever comes about.

Let us suppose that our fears are realised and direct rule has to be resumed. Under the 1974 Act, direct rule is renewable each year. Amendment No. 114, which I had the honour to put forward, would enable the Secretary of State to restore partial devolution earlier than the expiry of the period of direct rule to which he had resorted, if he felt able.

It is known that I am not in sympathy with the Bill, which tends to differentiate between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom and is therefore injurious both to Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole. But our duty is to make what improvements are in our power. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the amendment.

Mr. Michael Brown

I agree with the schedule in its present form. The burden of the argument in support of the amendments is that in the event of failure by the Executive and the orders having to be revoked so that direct rule is re-established—unhappy though that would be—Parliament will be given the opportunity to consider, as it has previously, the operation of the interim period under the 1974 Act. I should regard that as an unhappy development.

The purpose of the debate is to discuss the extent to which there will be stability, or instability, if the Executive fails. Wittingly or unwittingly, when my right hon. Friend drafted paragraph 3(1) he was right. If Northern Ireland goes through the unhappy experience of direct rule in the next few years, with cross-community support and the necessary procedural measures and discussions in the Assembly and in the House of Commons, and the Executive is unable to make progress so that revocation orders have to be made, I should like direct rule to be reestablished with no opportunity for reviewing it. That would create total stability and everyone in Northern Ireland would know the position.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said, the people of Northern Ireland will have experienced the present system, government by the Executive and possibly the various options, before a return to direct rule. If we reach the unhappy stage where a decision has to be taken as to who will run a Department, all the people who work in that Department and all those subjected to government by that Department in Northern Ireland should have the absolute security of knowing that for a considerable period there will be stability. No amendment has been put down specifying a long period of, say, 10 years such as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) in regard to part I. Paragraph 3(1) should remain as drafted.

The people of Northern Ireland have been dragged through the hedge backwards and forwards and then backwards again, and they must have a period of complete stability. In the previous debate I was fortunate to be allowed to intervene in the speech of the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten), when I posed a question which I should like to put again to the Committee. With regard to general suspension of the orders, if that unhappy day, to use his words, were to dawn, he said that the Secretary of State might want to reserve his position and, in the event of direct rule still existing, make yet another suggestion.

Assuming that direct rule had given way to the Executive, that the Executive had failed and that direct rule had come back to my right hon. Friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford said on part I—the argument is the same for partial suspension as for general suspension—that we should have the opportunity for an annual review in the traditional way that we have done since 1974 so that the Secretary of State could put forward a new initiative to overcome the problem of failure of the Executive if he did not want a return to direct rule. That does not appeal to me, certainly with regard to the partial suspension of paragraph 3(1), for the reasons outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. Because I agree with his arguments, I would rather see the schedule remain in the form in which it was drafted before my right hon. Friend tabled the Government amendment.

I must speculate with the Committee on why the schedule was drafted in its present form. I suspect that my right hon. Friend thought, as I do, that, having had the unfortunate experience of a Department in Northern Ireland being governed in various ways over a relatively short period, it should be essential for the Departments to have the period of stability with which we are concerned in the Committee.

12.30 am

Why has my right hon. Friend tabled the amendment? I thought that, like me, he believed that a period of calm over the next few months was essential after the stirring up of the waters. What will happen in the unhappy event of failure if we then have to revert to direct rule? If, after returning to direct rule, we want to make progress in the future, it will be difficult.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman. I have been listening to him as carefully as I can. Has he understood the drafting of the schedule? Paragraph 3(1) provides that, while a rolling order is in force, direct rule shall continue without the necessity of renewal. The hon. Gentleman seems to be construing it as if it means when such an order has been in force but has ceased to be.

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's attempt to use the words of the schedule to serve his purpose, but do they do that or do they have the opposite effect?

Mr. Brown

I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Perhaps my failing is not to have tabled an amendment to clarify my argument. Perhaps I should have tabled an amendment to add to the schedule as originally drafted.

I shall seek a way out of my difficulty by speaking specifically against my right hon. Friend's amendment. I do not have an alternative amendment prepared. However, I do not want to see any element of doubt develop as to what will happen in the unhappy event that the Executive looking after a particular Government Department fails. If my right hon. Friend has to resume his present powers, I want to ensure that for a long time, going beyond the necessity to deceive the House of the possible annual change in the direct rule situation, there should not be an opportunity for my right hon. Friend or any of his successors to try another experiment. In the absence of anything better, I acquiesce with direct rule.

As we are to have an opportunity for further reflection on the matter on Report, I may seek to table an amendment to resolve the difficulty in which I find myself, and which has been brought to my attention by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).

I wish my right hon. Friend god-speed. I hope that the Bill will prove me wrong. However, the Committee has a duty to consider the possibility of failure of the experiment. So we must consider the period after the failure of the experiment, as the Bill considered that possibility. It is a most unusual situation. I cannot think of many examples in the past when a Bill has not assumed total success. As the Bill invites us to consider the prospect that there may not be agreement, it is important for us to consider that possibility.

I shall vote against Government amendment No. 66. I note that it may not be possible for us to divide on amendment No. 114. I regret to say that I shall also vote against the amendment to the Secretary of State's amendment, standing in the name of the right hon. Member for Down, South, because I am anxious to ensure that, in the event of the failure of this experiment, there is a possibility for further experiment.

My right hon. Friend is entitled to ask the Committee, and the Committee is entitled to deny him his request, for the right to experiment. There is a chance—a slim one in my view—that his experiment will pay off. However, I do not believe that he or any of his successors have the right to leave open the possibility of further experiments. For that reason, I shall oppose Government amendment No. 66, and regret that I have come to my senses somewhat late regarding the implications of this part of the schedule.

Mr. Budgen

May I point out to my hon. Friend that his last remarks have the support of The Times? Yesterday's second leader says that if the proposed Assembly gets as far as the talking shop stage, and even if the Assembly then refuses the powers that are offered, Devolution will then be dead. In amendment No. 66, we are not considering the possibility of stage one going wrong; we are contemplating stages five, six or seven going wrong after a long period of conflict, perhaps with the House, and also conflict within Ulster. Surely, if The Times can predict that devolution will be dead after only one stage we are entitled to predict that it ought to be dead after six or seven stages.

Mr. Brown

It is probably due to luck more than anything else that The Times and I happen to be on the same side. My hon. Friend is correct. The impact of part II, and, for that matter, part I, of schedule 1 takes us to the end of the line with regard to devolution. The schedules, drafted as they are by my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, must acknowledge that we are debating here a position at the very end of the argument in favour of devolution for Northern Ireland, for a particular Government Department or for all the Government Departments. Therefore, it is right and proper that we should say to my right hon. and hon. Friends that if we reach this sad unhappy stage a great deal of choppy water will have passed under the bridge. By the time we have finally managed to swim along with the choppy waters and have just about managed to prevent ourselves from drowning, we will have to ensure that in the foreseeable future there will not be the opportunity for further experimentation.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

I am trying to follow my hon. Friend's argument. He has neglected to make any reference to the grounds for revocation of an order. Surely the grounds for the revocation of an order must affect the value judgments that he has made about the provisions as a whole. There may be many grounds on which an order will be revoked. Perhaps it does not command the commendation of the electorate. It may be something different. Surely the grounds on which revocation is made is the pertinent consideration.

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but we have a problem. We are constrained by the motion moved by my right hon. Friend at the beginning of our deliberations under which we are considering schedule 1 before we have debated clause 5.

Mr. Budgen

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is all very well to take the idea of devolution on trust, to give it a chance, to see how it goes and to see whether a system of flexibility may do the trick whereas previous tricks have failed, but that that type of extremely benevolent and optimistic argument does not apply when we reach the end of the road? Under amendment No. 66 we are seeing the end of the road after many different constitutional innovations have been tried, and when the experiment has been finally revoked it has come to a sad and unhappy end. Surely at that stage, as envisaged by yesterday's unusually courageous article in The Times, the House of Commons is saying that devolution is dead and the only logical alternative is integration.

12.45 am
Mr. Brown

I agree with my hon. Friend. The difficulty is that we ought to be debating the schedule alongside clause 5. We had a lengthy debate on the motion about the order in which we should consider the clauses and we now see the difficulties that the Committee faces in not being able to discuss clause 5 until later.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already made that point. He must get back to the amendment.

Mr. Brown

I shall draw my remarks to a conclusion, Mr. Armstrong. I apologise for straying; that was not my intention. I will table an amendment on Report to close the option when the series of experiments in partial devolution are completed. I hope that they are a success, but, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues have invited us to consider the possibility that success may not be secured, I shall attempt to write into the schedule an amendment to close the option for a long time ahead. I cannot support the Government amendment.

Mr. Grimond

We all want stability in Northern Ireland, but I do not believe that direct rule equals stability. As long as we have direct rule, we shall not have stability, because direct rule is unanimously regarded as a temporary state of affairs.

If there is a failure or partial failure of the Secretary of State's proposals, we may have to go back to direct rule temporarily, but if that unhappy event should occur we shall have to go on to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), which is virtually some form of integration.

Amendments that provide that direct rule will have to be reviewed at fairly frequent intervals—not necessarily annually, but perhaps biennially—are essential and we should not delude ourselves that we can go back to an indefinite period of direct rule, unsupervised and undebated in the House, and put forward no further proposals for the better government of Northern Ireland.

Mr. John Patten

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) for his contribution to the debate. Indeed, I am grateful to him for his attendance in Committee. He has added a great quality to the debate and he advanced his arguments admirably shortly.

Mr. Prior

I too, admire the brevity of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

Mr. Patten

There is no doubt that direct rule is an imperfect instrument that cannot of itself guarantee stability, whether that be social stability, community stability, economic stability or stability of the security situation. If partial or total devolution had taken place and had collapsed, a return to direct rule would have been a stopgap but the Government of the day would have had to address their mind to the political progress that could be made in the Province.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

The Minister having gone so far with the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), I was hoping that he would finish the journey with him and draw the same conclusion.

Mr. Patten

We are considering a Bill that will attempt to set up an Assembly in Northern Ireland. That is the Government's policy. I do not wish to speculate at this stage on the Assembly having partial or total devolved powers and then failing. Perhaps it was the presence of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, and not only his brief and pointed contribution, which caused the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneux), who is no longer in his place, to break into "SDP-speak" when discussing the appropriate length of the interim period and to talk about breaking the mould of annual renewals. That was a variant on the phrase of his right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who spoke of breaking the annual habit. I think that in replying to the debate on the previous group of amendments I gave the reasons that lead us to think that one year is correct for the examination, review and renewal of iterim periods.

My hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown) are rightly concerned with the stability of the current situation and political landscape in Northern Ireland. I must tell them that they are mistaken if they believe that support for an alteration in the period during which no review and renewal of direct rule may take place will of itself guarantee stability. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) in the previous debate, amendments such as the ones that we are discussing, drafted in the way in which they are drafted, would not prevent any Government after a return to direct rule deciding during that period to bring forward some scheme or design for the better government of Northern Ireland.

Viscount Cranborne

My hon. Friend will know better than I do that the opening words of amendment No. 66 read: If an Order under Section 2(1)(b) of this Act is revoked".

Does my hon. Friend intend during the course of his remarks to be more specific about the circumstances in which the Government would revoke such an order? Would it be, as it were, the reverse of the cross-community support that my right hon. Friend adumbrated during our discussion on whether clause 2 should stand part of the Bill? If so, will the same standards apply?

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend has raised an interesting point. I fear, subject to your guidance, Mr. Armstrong, that he is a little ahead of the Committee. These are matters that we shall discuss fully when we consider clause 5, which involves the circumstances in which devolution, partial or full, can be revoked. Perhaps I may be permitted to leave those arguments until that time, when they may more happily be considered. We are addressing ourselves to highly technical points in the schedule. The technical point that I was attempting, I hope with some success, to point out to my hon. Friends the Members for Brigg and Scunthorpe and Wolverhampton, South-West was that even if they managed to secure an extension of the period before which an interim period is examined from one to two years, that will not stop any future Government deciding to introduce other schemes.

Mr. Budgen

I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that the process of annual review ensures that the Government's assertion that direct rule is only temporary is brought to the attention of the House and the people of Ulster. If, on the other hand, it is reviewed only every two years, there is a greater appearance of stability.

Mr. Patten

That may be so, but, notwithstanding what my hon. Friend has said, if any Government decided between day one and the end of the two-year period to introduce a new scheme for the better government of Northern Ireland, they would be completely at liberty to do so. No amendment to the Bill could prevent that.

Perhaps I may address amendments Nos. 114 and 66 together. When there is no devolution, Parliament must be given the opportunity to discuss whether it wants direct rule to continue, at present on an annual basis. That is a matter of fact. I hope that I am coming to a more meaty point. When Parliament has approved a partial devolution order, it has then decided what form of government it wants, as the sovereign body for Northern Ireland. in reaction to requests for that form of government from the Assembly. It would be inconsistent to reopen the question of direct rule continuing in other Departments. At that stage, Parliament and the Assembly, united by mutual consent, would be travelling towards full devolution. That is the whole intention of the Bill. Partial devolution is only a stepping stone to full devolution.

It is wholly right for the Government to renew the interim period of direct rule annually when there is no devolution. Parliament must have an annual stock-taking. But, once Parliament has decided to go down the devolution route and it is agreed that there should be partial devolution, it goes without saying that direct rule can be the only option that is open to those Departments that have not been devolved.

Amendment No. 114 would, therefore, simply not fit logically with partial devolution. If Parliament really wanted to consider whether direct rule should continue for non-devolved Departments, surely it would be essential, first of all, to end partial devolution. I hope that I am not tiresomely repeating the essential point. While a devolution order is in force, there can be no alternative but to continue direct rule for non-devolved Departments.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

The Minister just said that if there is one devolved Department, it is obvious that all the others must be under direct rule and that we therefore do not need to renew or review direct rule. Is he saying that if there is no devolution at all to any Department, direct rule is not the alternative for all Departments? I cannot believe that he is advancing that argument seriously.

Mr. Patten

The argument—I can only repeat what I have said—is that while a partial devolution order is in force there can be no alternative to continued direct rule for non-devolved Departments because they are part and parcel of the rolling devolution that will have been begun by the first Department being devolved under transferred powers to the Assembly. I hope that the Assembly, the Government and the House will be marching hand in hand as quickly as possible to full devolution. If it is any reassurance to the right hon. Gentleman, while the non-devolved Departments continue under direct rule they will be subject to the scrutiny, which I expect will be very severe and strict, of the departmentally related committees of the Assembly. I rest my case.

1 am

Sir John Biggs-Davison

My hon. Friend has not dealt with the purpose of my amendment, which was to be helpful to the Government and to enable the Secretary of State to proceed with rolling back again if the opportunity occurred to get devolution going again without waiting for the expiry of the normal period. The amendment was intended to be helpful and I should have thought that it could he accepted.

Mr. Patten

I am extremely sorry. I apologise to my hon. Friend if he feels that I have been in any way discourteous. Unfortunately, it is not our view that amendment No. 114 would help in that way, for the reasons that I have tried to explain.

Several Hon. Members


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 137, Noes 24.

Division No. 212] [1 am
Alexander, Richard Bright, Graham
Alton, David Brooke, Hon Peter
Arnold, Tom Bruce-Gardyne, John
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Bryan, Sir Paul
Baker, Kernneth(St.M'bone) Butcher, John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cadbury, Jocelyn
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Campbell-Savours, Dale
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Berry, Hon Anthony Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)
Best, Keith Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Biffen, Rt Hon John Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Blackburn, John Chapman, Sydney
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Cockeram, Eric
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Colvin, Michael
Bowden, Andrew Cope, John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Dorrell, Stephen
Braine, Sir Bernard Dover, Denshore
Dunn, James A. Percival,Sirlan
Dykes, Hugh Prior, Rt Hon James
Eggar,Tim Rathbone,Tim
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Rhodes James, Robert
Goodlad,Alastair RhysWilliams,SirBrandon
Gow, lan Ridley,HonNicholas
Griffiths, E. (B 'ySt. Edm 'ds) Ridsdale,SirJulian
Grimond,RtHonJ. Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Gummer,JohnSelwyn Roper,John
Hampson,Dr Keith Rossi, Hugh
Heddle,John Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Henderson,Barry Scott,Nicholas
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Holland,Philip(Carlton) Shaw,Michael (Scarborough)
Hooson,Tom Shelton,William(Streartham)
Howell,Rt HonD. (G'ldf'd) Shepherd,Colin(Hereford)
Howells,Geraint Silvester,Fred
Hunt, David (Wirral) Sims, Roger
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hurd,Rt Hon Douglas Speed, Keith
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Speller.Tony
Jopling.RtHonMichael Spicer, Michael (SWorcs)
Kershaw,SirAnthony Sproat,lain
Lamont,Norman Squire,Robin
Lang, lan Stevens,Martin
Latham,Michael Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Lennox-Boyd.HonMark Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Lester, Jim (Beeston) StradlingThomas.J.
Loveridge,John Taylor, Teddy(S'end E)
Lyell, Nicholas Temple-Morris,Peter
Marland,Paul Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Marlow.Antony Thompson,Donald
Mates,Michael Thornton,Malcolm
Mather,Carol Townsend, Cyril D,(B'heath)
Mawhinney,DrBrian Trippier,David
Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin van Straubenzee,Sir W.
Mayhew,Patrick Vaughan,Dr Gerard
Mellor,David Viggers, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Waddington,David
Mills,lain(Meriden) Wainwright,R.(ColneV)
Miscampbell, Norman Wakeham,John
Mitchell,David (Basingstoke) Waller, Gary
Moate, Roger Warren,Kenneth
Monro,SirHector Wells, Bowen
Montgomery, Fergus Wells,John(Maidstone)
Needham, Richard Wickenden,Keith
Newton,Tony Wolfson,Mark
Onslow,Cranley Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Parris,Matthew Tellers for the Ayes:
Patten, John (Oxford) Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Pattie, Geoffrey Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn McQuade,John
Body,Richard Molyneaux,James
Brown, Michael (Brigg&Sc'n) Paisley, Rev Ian
Budgen,Nick Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Cranborne,Viscount Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cryer,Bob Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Dunlop,John Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Farr,John Stanbrook,lvor
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh Walker, B, (Perth)
Gardiner,George (Reigate) Winterton,Nicholas
Lawrence, lvan Tellers for the Noes:
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. William Ross and
McCusker,H. Mr. Christopher Murphy.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment proposed to the proposed amendment: (a), to leave out 'one year' and insert 'two years'.—[Mr. J. Enoch Powell.]

Question put, That the amendment to the proposed amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 20, Noes 136.

Division No. 213] [1.12 am
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn McCusker.H.
Body,Richard Molyneaux,James
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Budgen,Nick Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cranborne,Viscount Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Cryer,Bob Stanbrook,Ivor
Dunlop,John Walker, B. (Perth)
Farr,John Winterton, Nicholas
Fraser, RtHon Sir Hugh
Gardiner,George(Reigate) Tellers for the Ayes:
Lawrence, Ivan Mr. William Ross and
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. Christopher Murphy.
Alexander, Richard Lennox-Boyd,HonMark
Alton,David Lester, Jim(Beeston)
Arnold,Tom Loveridge,John
Atkins, RtHon H.(S'thorne) Lyell, Nicholas
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) McQuade,John
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Marland,Paul
Benyon,Thomas(A 'don) Marlow,Antony
Benyon,W. (Buckingham) Mates, Michael
Berry, Hon Anthony Mather,Carol
Best, Keith Mawhinney,DrBrian
Biffen, RtHon John Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin
Blackburn,John Mayhew, Patrick
Bonsor,SirNicholas Mellor,David
Boscawen,HonRobert Meyer, SirAnthony
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Mills,lain(Meriden)
Bowden, Andrew Miscampbell, Norman
Boyson,DrRhodes Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Braine,SirBernard Moate, Roger
Bright,Graham Monro,SirHector
Brooke, Hon Peter Montgomery,Fergus
Bruce-Gardyne,John Needham, Richard
Bryan, Sir Paul Newton,Tony
Butcher,John Onslow,Cranley
Cadbury,Jocelyn Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Campbell-Savours,Dale Paisley, Rev Ian
Carlisle, Rt Hon M.(R'c'n) Parris, Matthew
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Patten, Jobn(Oxford)
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Penhaligon, David
Chapman,Sydney Percival,Sirlan
Clarke,Kenneth(Rushclifffe) Prior, RtHon James
Cockeram,Eric Rhodes James, Robert
Colvin, Michael RhysWilliams,SirBrandon
Cope,John Ridley,HonNicholas
Dorrell, Stephen Ridsdale,SirJulian
Dover,Denshore Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Dunn, James A. Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Dykes, Hugh Roper,John
Eggar,Tim Rossi, Hugh
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Garel-Jones,Tristan Scott,Nicholas
Goodhart,SirPhilip Shaw, SirGiles (Pudsey)
Goodlad,Alastair Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Gow, lan Shelton,William(Streatham)
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Grimond,RtHonJ. Silvester,Fred
Gummer,JohnSelwyn Sims, Roger
Hampson,DrKeith Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
Heddle,John Speed, Keith
Henderson,Barry Speller,Tony
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Spicer, Michael (SWorcs)
Holland, Philip(Carlton) Sproat,lain
Hooson,Tom Squire,Robin
Howell, RtHonD.(G'ldf'd) Stevens,Martin
Howells,Geraint Stewart, A.(ERenfrewshire)
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) StradlingThomas.J.
Hurd, RtHon Douglas Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Jenkin, RtHon Patrick Temple-Morris,Peter
Jopling, RtHon Michael Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Kershaw,SirAnthony Thompson,Donald
Lamont, Norman Thornton,Malcolm
Lang, Ian Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Latham,Michael Trippier,David
van Straubenzee, Sir W. Wells,John (Maidstone)
Vaughan, DrGerard Wickenden,Keith
Waddington,David Wolfson,Mark
Wainwright, R.(Colne V) Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Waller, Gary Tellers for the Noes
Warren,Kenneth Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Wells, Bowen Mr. David Hunt

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 144, Noes 5.

Division No. 214] [1.23am
Alexander,Richard Lennox-Boyd,HonMark
Alton, David Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Arnold,Tom Loveridge,John
Atkins, RtHon H.(S'thorne) Lyell,Nicholas
Baker, Nicholas (NDorset) McQuade,John
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Marland,Paul
Benyon,Thomas (A'don) Marlow,Antony
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Mates, Michael
Berry, Hon Anthony Mather,Carol
Best, Keith Mawhinney,DrBrian
Biffen, RtHon John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Mayhew, Patrick
Blackburn,John Mellor,David
Bonsor,SirNicholas Meyer, Sir Anthony
Boscawen,HonRobert Mills,lain(Meriden)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wichW) Miscampbell,Norman
Bowden,Andrew Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Moate, Roger
Braine,SirBernard Molyneaux,James
Bright,Graham Monro,SirHector
Bruce-Gardyne,John Montgomery, Fergus
Bryan, Sir Paul Murphy,Christopher
Butcher,John Needham, Richard
Cadbury,Jocelyn Newton,Tony
Campbell-Savours,Dale Onslow,Cranley
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Paisley, Rev Ian
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Parris, Matthew
Chapman,Sydney Patten,John(Oxford)
Clarke,Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Penhaligon,David
Cockeram,Eric Percival,Sir lan
Colvin, Michael Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Cope,John Prior, Rt Hon James
Cranborne, Viscount Rhodes James, Robert
Dorrell,Stephen RhysWilliams,SirBrandon
Dover, Denshore Ridley,HonNicholas
Dunlop,John Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Dunn, James A. Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Dykes, Hugh Roper,John
Eggar,Tim Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Rossi, Hugh
Garel-Jones,Tristan Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Goodhart,SirPhilip Scott,Nicholas
Goodlad,Alastair Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Gow, lan Shaw,SirMichael(Scarborough)
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds)
Grimond, RtHonJ. Shelton,William(Streatham)
Gummer,JohnSelwyn Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Hamilton, HonA. Silvester, Fred
Hampson,DrKeith Sims, Roger
Heddle,John Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
Henderson, Barry Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Speed, Keith
Holland,Philip(Carlton) Speller, Tony
Hooson, Tom Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Howell, RtHon D.(G'ldf'd) Sproat,lain
Howells,Geraint Squire,Robin
Hunt,John (Ravensbourne) Stanbrook,Ivor
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Stevens, Martin
Jenkin, RtHon Patrick Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Jopling,RtHonMichael Stradling Thomas,J.
Kershaw,SirAnthony Taylor, Teddy (S'endE)
Lamont,Norman Temple-Morris,Peter
Lang, lan Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Latham,Michael Thompson,Donald
Thornton, Malcolm Wells, Bowen
Townsend, Cyril D, (B 'heath) Wells,John(Maidstone)
Trippier,David Wickenden,Keith
van Straubenzee, Sir W. Wolfson,Mark
Vaughan,DrGerard Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Waddington, David
Wainwright,R.(ColneV) Tellers for the Ayes:
Wakeham,John Mr. Peter Brooke and
Waller, Gary Mr. David Hunt.
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)
Budgen,Nick Tellers for the Noes:
Cryer,Bob Mr. Nicholas Winterton and
Farr,John Mr. Richard Body.
Lawrence, lvan

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 68, in page 7, line 15, leave out from 'force,' to end of line.17.—[Mr. J. Enoch Powell.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 21, Noes 133.

Division No. 215] [1.34 am
Amery, RtHon Julian Lawrence,lvan
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Body, Richard Molyneaux,James
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (SDown)
Budgen,Nick Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Cranborne, Viscount Stanbrook,Ivor
Cryer,Bob Walker, B. (Perth)
Dunlop,John Winterton, Nicholas
Fraser, RtHon Sir Hugh Tellers for the Ayes:
Gardiner,George(Reigate) Mr. William Ross and
Goodhart,SirPhilip Mr. Christopher Murphy.
Alexander, Richard Dykes, Hugh
Alton,David Eggar,Tim
Arnold,Tom Goodlad,Alastair
Atkins, RtHon H.(S'thorne) Gow, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (NDorset) Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds)
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Grimond, RtHonJ.
Benyon,Thomas(A'don) Gummer,JohnSelwyn
Benyon,W. (Buckingham) Hamilton, Hon A.
Berry, HonAnthony Hampson,DrKeith
Best, Keith Heddle,John
Biffen, RtHon John Henderson,Barry
Blackburn,John Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Bonsor,SirNicholas Holland,Philip(Carlton)
Boscawen,HonRobert Hooson,Tom
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Bowden,Andrew Howells,Geraint
Boyson,DrRhodes Hunt,John(Ravensbourne)
Braine,SirBernard Hurd, RtHon Douglas
Bright,Graham Jenkin, RtHon Patrick
Brooke, Hon Peter Jopling,RtHonMichael
Bruce-Gardyne,John Kershaw, SirAnthony
Bryan, Sir Paul Lamont,Norman
Butcher,John Lang, Ian
Cadbury,Jocelyn Latham,Michael
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lennox-Boyd,HonMark
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Loveridge,John
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Lyell, Nicholas
Chapman,Sydney McQuade,John
Clarke,Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Marland,Paul
Cockeram,Eric Marlow,Antony
Colvin,Michael Mates,Michael
Cope,John Mather,Carol
Dorrell,Stephen Mawhinney,DrBrian
Dover, Denshore Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin
Dunn, James A. Mayhew, Patrick
Mellor, David Sims, Roger
Meyer, Sir Anthony Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mills, lain (Meriden) Speed, Keith
Miscampbell, Norman Speller, Tony
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Moate, Roger Sproat, lain
Monro, Sir Hector Squire, Robin
Montgomery, Fergus Stevens, Martin
Needham, Richard Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Newton, Tony Stradling Thomas, J.
Onslow, Cranley Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Temple-Morris, Peter
Paisley, Rev Ian Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Parris, Matthew Thompson, Donald
Patten, John (Oxford) Thornton, Malcolm
Penhaligon, David Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Percival, Sir Ian Trippier, David
Prior, Rt Hon James van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rhodes James, Robert Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Waddington, David
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Wainwright, R.(Colne V)
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Wakeham, John
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Waller, Gary
Roper, John Warren, Kenneth
Rossi, Hugh Wells, Bowen
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Scott, Nicholas Wickenden, Keith
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wolfson, Mark
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarborough) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Tellers for the Noes:
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Silvester, Fred Mr. David Hunt.

Question accordingly negatived.

1.45 am
Mr. Stanbrook

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

I do not move the motion because the amount of progress that we have made is great, although it could be said that having passed a clause and a substantial part of a schedule is no mean progress today. Moreover, I do not move the motion because of the physical hardships which we cause hon. Members by debating throughout the night, as we have done during the past two weeks. That is a good enough reason for us to adjourn and proceed with the debate another time.

My main ground for requesting that we adjourn is to ensure that we devote proper time to an important constitutional matter. With some legislation it is possible for hon. Members to be present without having their minds fully engaged in the subject. [Interruption.] If my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) will allow me, as I was saying, there are some subjects—[Interruption]—which come before the House which we all accept do not require a high intellectual application, and if they have to go overnight they are carried on by people who at least know what they are talking about.

However, this is a constitutional Bill which affects the fundamental rights of a part of the population of the United Kingdom which deserves the highest consideration and study. I put it in that way because I was, to my regret, one of the Members who, 10 years ago, voted for the legislation which suspended Stormont, the devolved Government of Northern Ireland of those days. In those days I knew very little about Northern Ireland and I was one of those Members—[Interruption.] I wonder whether it is possible for a Back Bencher to name an hon. Member. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Perhaps I could get on with my speech without interruption from my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham.

In 1972, most of us knew very little about Northern Ireland, most of us in the Conservative Party accepted what we were told by our leaders, and most of us trooped through the Lobbies, just as more than 100 Members have trooped through the Lobbies during the past few weeks, without knowing much about the merits of the question and without even listening to the arguments. That is precisely what is happening now, and that includes people like my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham.

I confess that since I have been a Member of the House I have become a sadder and a wiser man—and more knowledgeable, I hope. I have at least some modesty, which my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham appears to lack.

Mr. Budgen

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his courtesy which stands out remarkably against the discourtesy of the hon. Gentleman whom I hope he will still regard as our hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg)?

Mr. Stanbrook

That seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham.

Those who know something about this subject and who stay in the Chamber to listen to the arguments realise its constitutional importance. The argument is all against the Government. The argument is convincing to the average observer who is not predisposed to vote according to the way in which the party Whip decrees. Once one knows how important the issues are, and once one listens to the arguments, one appreciates how important it is to follow the merits of the case and to vote accordingly. Unfortunately, that process attracts the support of perhaps only a score of Members on the Conservative Benches. I do not give up hope that the other Members who troop through the Lobbies without listening to the arguments and without realising what they are doing would perhaps change their views if they really considered the arguments. [Interruption.] It has been suggested that I am being patronising. That comes from someone who does what he is told on almost every occasion. I have reason to cherish the independence that our system gives us. I would rather not be in the position that my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Stradling Thomas) is in today and has been in for virtually all his parliamentary career. I would rather have a voice that I could raise in the interests of my constituents and be able to say what I believe is right for the country.

I submit this is an argument which must be carefully listened to and which deserves time and study. I understand that the Government have some time available in their legislative programme between now and the end of the Session. Therefore, it is possible for us to retire at a reasonable hour of the night so that we may return refreshed tomorrow. I do not suggest that we are doing so well in getting through the Bill that the Government can afford to adjourn the debate. That would be an insincere argument. My argument is that the importance of the subject deserves not only more time but more time during the day when Members are able to give their fullest concentration to the matter.

Mr. Amery

The supreme irony of the way in which the debate is being conducted is inherent in the Bill before the Committee. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State seeks to produce a position in which the majority and the minority in the Province are equated. But in Committee the rights and the views of the minority are to be swept aside. The mechanics of parliamentary procedure are to be used to squash those who dissent from the Government's views and the influence of the Patronage Secretary is to be brought to bear in support of the majority and against the minority. It is an intolerable situation.

We have had closures moved after an hour and a half's debate when there were still four or five hon. Members who wanted to speak. I must ask for the support of the Chair in defence of the rights of the minority. We cannot go on like this on an issue of major constitutional importance. It is not as though we were trying to railroad through a transport Bill. This Bill touches the unity of the kingdom. That unity is at stake in the Bill and there must be opportunity for all hon. Members to express their views.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

At about this time of night, when the motion that you, Mr. Armstrong, have just proposed to the Committee had been moved it would be normal for the right hon. Member leading for the Opposition—if there were one—to offer his counsel to the Committee and the Government. Drawing on considerable reserves of experience, with the insight sharpened by lack of office and a desire, nevertheless, to be helpful to the Committee and the Government, the right hon. Gentleman across the Dispatch Box from the Secretary of State—it is perhaps significant and symbolic that there is no right hon. Gentleman in precisely that position at the moment—would undoubtedly rise to give his advice to the Committee and to support the motion.

I am sorry that we have to debate the motion in the absence of one of the essential constituents of a proper parliamentary debate and of the House when it goes properly about its business, namely, the Opposition in an organised and co-ordinated form. Perhaps we shall live to see the day when once again the Labour Party can perform the role of an Opposition in the House and in the country, but until that day we have to fill its place as best we can in these debates where the function of the House depends on genuine debate and dialectic.

This is approximately the time of night when the House enters one of its predictable phases. It is at about 2 am, give or take a quarter of an hour, that the House enters upon a phase of hilarity—when the slightest witticism, or a remark which would not be recognised as even an attempted witticism at any other time in the 24 hours, is sufficient to throw most hon. Members who are still awake into a paroxysm of merriment.

On form, in accordance with observed custom, that phase normally lasts for about two hours before the merriment dies out and is succeeded by the next phase, also lasting for two or three hours, of somnolence, boredom and a generally dreary aspect like that of the gods of Valhalla after the goddess of youth had been removed from them.

The point towards which I am working my way is that experience shows, without variation, that little or no useful business is transacted during either the two hours of unrestrained hilarity or the subsequent two hours of dreary and somnolent boredom. The Government, attempting to carry on, with the notion that they will make progress, are invariably obliged to admit when they look back over the four hours preceding 6 am that such minimal progress as has been made in Committee or in the House in those successive conditions has not been worth the candle that has been burnt by hon. Members in reserve in other parts of the Palace of Westminster or by those whose attention and energies have been put under strain in maintaining the debate. It invariably is so, and so it will be should the Government unwisely attempt to proceed much further this morning.

2 am

There is another reason for this experience that is quite separate from the chemical behaviour of the human physiology under the stresses to which an all-night sitting or a late-night sitting subjects it. All Bills—this measure is no exception—have a shape of their own. It is a shape which largely dictates the manner, stages and timing of the debate. When the House of Commons, the Government and the Whips attempt to push on from one completed phase in the consideration of the Bill and imagine that they will gain by opening a different one, they are equally uniformly disappointed.

The Bill falls into two main parts. I am not saying that there are only two parts but there are two main and distinguishable parts which are relevant for the purposes of my argument. The first part, which comprises the first two clauses, together with the schedule which has not yet been agreed to, is concerned with devolution in the ordinary sense of the term. That section has now been debated in Committee during four sittings. The implications of the two clauses will cast their shadow forward into the remainder of the Bill, but broadly speaking the general subject of administrative and legislative devolution to be established in Northern Ireland by way of an elected Assembly is contained in the first two clauses and has been quite fully debated though not perhaps as fully as it deserved.

Mr. Amery

It has not been debated as fully as it should have been.

Mr. Powell

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The debate has not been to the satisfaction of all hon. Members. Indeed, I think that it has brought deep disappointment to those who believed that a return to the devolution which the Province of Ulster knew over two generations could be achieved through the machinery of the Bill. Whatever hopes of that were entertained have been first disturbed and then shattered by the debates that have taken place over the four days. We are all—not only the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook)—wiser and in some instances sadder on the subject of devolution than when we set to work to consider the Bill in Committee.

Mr. Amery

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that the intellectual argument in favour of the Bill has been shattered by the speeches that have been made in all quarters of the Committee, chat this must be well understood in the Province and elsewhere, and that it is only the mechanics of Government that have been able to advance the Government's case?

Mr. Powell

The right hon. Gentleman is right. It is well understood that the message has been received, as my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) informed the Committee earlier, and understood in the Province in which it is sought to impose the Bill against the wish of nearly all the informed political expressions and parties of the Province.

Those who have assisted in the debates in Committee have witnessed the destructive process to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. However, the larger numbers are of those who are not in the Chamber. One of the marginal benefits of a long or late sitting is that sometimes the desire for entertainment—perhaps an injudicious attempt to satisfy the desire for entertainment—leads hon. Members who would not otherwise apply their minds to the subject to drop casually into the Chamber, and then, arrested by the eloquence, novelty or form of presentation of the hon. Members who happen to be speaking, they remain and gradually say to themselves "The Government are wrong." "My right hon. Friend", they say to themselves, "no doubt introduced this Bill with the best of intentions, but, after listening to the debate, it is quite clear that he is getting the worst of the argument." To that extent, as one grinds on through the hours, one draws into the parliamentary mill, the dialectic mill, certain grist from outside the regular attenders of the Chamber. That is something gained. It is to be chalked up as a plus that the process of mutual education that the relatively closed circle carries out in the debate extends itself, by a type of parliamentary osmosis, into the rest of the membership of the House.

Broadly speaking, there is the House of debates and the House that is not there. The House that is not there is the House that tends to decide the Divisions. Until the Government become aware that victories that are won by those who do not understand over those who do understand what is happening are victories that prove to be Pyrrhic or worse.

Mr. Amery

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again. Does he recall and agree that the defeat of the devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales arose when the House understood that the intellectual argument that the Government advanced had been shattered?

Mr. Powell

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It took two Sessions to do it but, by the end of those two Sessions, the right hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that the fallacies upon which that legislation was founded had been extracted from the minds of most hon. Members. Even those who supported the Bill at the end were saying openly that they regarded the foundations of the Bill as unsound and that they were voting for it only so that it could be destroyed, as they rightly anticipated, in a referendum.

The first natural section, the one that deals with devolution in the ordinary sense of the term, lies almost entirely behind us now. With clauses 3 and 4, we are about to enter symmetrically upon the other half of the diptych, upon that portion of the Bill that deals with a talking shop. "The Assembly as talking shop" might be the somewhat unkind but accurate rubric cross-head over clauses 3 and 4.

Just as large constitutional issues will be raised when we come to consider clauses 3 and 4—"the Assembly as talking shop"—as we had to deal with when we considered the Assembly as the matrix of a power-sharing devolved Government and legislature. There lies before us a largely new field, a natural point of separation and a new beginning of a different series of arguments.

Experience shows that if Governments are content to handle a Bill in accordance with its natural subdivisions, they make better progress with it and with less friction and dissatisfaction being created in their own party and in the House than when they endeavour to ride over the natural boundaries and to drive the House on from one topic, with which it has dealt, to another, with which it is as yet unprepared, intellectually and emotionally, to deal.

Those two mistakes the right hon. Gentleman will make unless he is prepared to accept the proposition moved by the hon. Member for Orpington. The right hon. Gentleman is a Privy Councillor of considerable experience. He does not yet bear the weight of years of some of us who bring our ageing and weary limbs into the service of the Committee. Nevertheless, although he has not attained the psalmist's limit of the natural period of human life, he has considerable parliamentary experience. Therefore, he knows that by insisting on sitting for another four hours, as I hope that he will not, he will gain very little indeed. There will be no satisfactory debating, little progress and a discontented and dissatisfied working Committee at the end of that time. When he agrees later to the motion, he will look back and wish, as Ministers in a similar position have wished over the years, that he had had the sense to go to bed at the right time.

I wish to make a proposition to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. I notice the expression of natural surprise, doubt, suspicion and cunning that crosses his visage as I say that. He has already been sufficiently puzzled by the series of compliments that I have been unable to refrain from paying to him in the course of these debates to regard with some apprehension even the suggestions that with the warmest good will, which I indeed entertain, I tender to him.

Bearing up against that discouragement and discountenancing, however, I venture to offer the right hon. Gentleman what I think is a practical suggestion which I hope will commend itself to him. It arises out of the argument that I have made as to the natural shape and subdivision of the Bill.

Schedule 1, whether or not we should have taken it out of order and after clause 2—a matter that it is now too late to discuss—undoubtedly coheres with clauses 1 and 2 and is ancillary to them. When we have cleared schedule 1, however, we shall certainly have left one territory and entered upon another.

The proposition that I make to the right hon. Gentleman is not merely the rational way in which to handle the Bill but one by which he will lose nothing in progress and gain much in cheerfulness and good will. It is that he should indicate to the Committee that he would himself propose when we have disposed of schedule 1 that the Chairman should report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

My advice is therefore not exactly the same as that of the hon. Member for Orpington. The hon. Gentleman perhaps wished to test the ground in an exploratory move, although I do not say that it was undertaken prematurely, as it is often useful for a Minister to be able to give a little advance notice of his intentions before the moment comes to put them into effect. Slightly modifying the hon. Gentleman's proposal, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be in the interests of everyone, including himself, if he now indicated that when we have debated schedule 1, if there is to be debate, and agreed to it we should rest satisfied, having dealt with the portion of the Bill concerned with devolution, and report progress.

We may then open the major debates on clause 3 with a fresh mind, having had the opportunity, albeit brief, to reflect upon the points that have arisen in the past four days, as a new topic, which it distinctly is. After all, it would theoretically have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman—I shall not do it by way of demonstration—to have torn the Bill in half and either half, with a little finnicking with the schedules, would have been a self-contained Bill. For the Assembly to put forward proposals for power-sharing devolution, subject to the right hon. Gentleman's views of necessary widespread consent throughout the community, would have been a self-contained, self-sustained proposition.

2.15 am

Alternatively, the proposals in clauses 3 and 4, with their appurtenances, to have a talking shop and set up in Northern Ireland an elected Assembly without the responsibilities or relationships between those elected and the electors which we take for granted, and to hope that it could be a stabilising, useful and scrutinising feature of the constitution of the Province, would, again, have been a self-contained coherent whole. I am glad to see that some thought on this subject may be taking place, and I hope that it will he fruitful.

This is the stage where we pass from what is essentially one Bill to another. The right hon. Gentleman should frankly recognise that and the fact that if we continue to sit for the next two or four hours what we do will be negligible and will be dust and ashes to us afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman should help the Committee by telling it that it is his intention to accept the motion.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I do not intend to follow the arguments of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) relating to the mental and physical mechanics and behaviour of mankind after midnight and in the early hours of the morning, although I admit from my limited experience during my 11 years in the House that his summary is accurate.

I support the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook). I, too, believe that the Government will be doing a disservice to the Committee if they proceed further tonight. Having attended most of today's sitting, I find it extraordinary that arguments against the Bill have been put time and again from both sides of the Committee without adequate answers from the Government. There has been absolutely no support for the Government from any of the hon. Members who have spoken in the debates.

As Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Weatherill, you must inevitably safeguard the interests of the minority. Surely the minority view in the Committee is the majority view in debate. When the Patronage Secretary enters the Chamber, as he does on average about once every two, two and a half or three hours to move the closure, it is generally granted. I do not argue with the Chair's decision but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) reminds me that there has not been an occasion when the move to closure the debate has not been granted, despite the fact that a number of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have sought to contribute to the debate. It will be a sad reflection of the working of the Committee if such a situation is allowed to prevail.

All the arguments are against the Bill. Very few, if any, contributions have been made in support of the underlying principle. I believe that the Committee is being ill served in that the answers we have received from the Government—for which you, Mr. Weatherill, are not responsible—do not adequately answer the debate. In addition, outside the Committee, particularly in Ulster, what is happening here establishes a bad reputation for the House of Commons and the Committee.

Let us take into account the view of someone who comes from the Province, He is Mr. Boyd Black, who lectures on economics at Queen's university. This learned gentleman is deeply concerned about the fact that the economy of the Province has already suffered severely from a series of disastrous initiatives taken by successive Secretaries of State.

I remind the Committee of Sunningdale, the constitutional convention, the "Atkins" conference el al. All those things have been very bad for Ulster. In supporting my hon. Friend's motion, let me quote Mr. Black precisely—

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not go into the merits of the Bill. We are debating whether we should report progress.

Mr. Winterton

I am seeking to support my views in support of my hon. Friend. By using certain quotations, it may help the Committee to decide whether we should report progress. I also hope that it will indicate to the Government why many Conservative Members believe that it would be helpful if we did report progress.

The Government and the Treasury Bench would have an opportunity to consider this legislation which has caused so much concern among Conservative Members. I am particularly concerned about minorities. Let me quote precisely what Mr. Boyd Black says: If Mr. Prior proceeds with his proposed rolling folly, the instability and bad publicity which will ensue will be another nail in the investment coffin. If he genuinely wants to help the Northern Ireland economy, he should get on with governing it along the same lines as Scotland and Wales.

I am sure, Mr. Weatherill, that you will accept that we are debating a measure of considerable constitutional importance, as has been highlighted in two brilliant speeches from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on his seventieth birthday. I am sure that he will make a number of other excellent speeches demolishing this piece of legislation. Those of us who seek to report progress do so because we are concerned that at this time of night the Committee cannot give close scrutiny to an important piece of constitutional legislation.

We are not getting the support for this Government legislation that should be forthcoming if, in fact, there is any meaningful support for it in the Committee.

Mr. Amery

Or anywhere.

Mr. Winterton

Or anywhere for that matter, as my right hon. Friend says.

It is easy for the Patronage Secretary to rally the payroll vote and to get it tramping through the Lobby at the end of a debate which has been closed by his own action, but where are those learned and able people during our debates on a measure that will affect an important part of the United Kingdom? They are not here. Those hon. Members present are deeply concerned about the future of Ulster as part of the United Kingdom. They have participated in the debates late at night.

I agree that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have been steadfast in their presence on the Front Bench, but they are ill supported by the Government as a whole in debate. If there is such support for the Bill, where are its supporters when it comes to debating the nitty gritty?

Mr. Budgen

My hon. Friend seems to be concentrating too much upon the Ulster aspect and perhaps too little upon the consequences for the unity of the kingdom.

Mr. Winterton

I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend says. You would quickly bring me to order, Mr. Weatherill, if I tried to go into the merits—there are none—of the Bill. They will be considered by amendment and at later stages. Tonight I am doing my best to support my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington, who, in a most reasonable, responsible and constructive way, moved the motion that you put to the Committee suggesting to my right hon. Friend that at 25 minutes past two o'clock it would be appropriate to draw stumps. Then the Government could give proper consideration—not some of the ill-considered answers or lack of answers that we have had in our debates today—to the articulate arguments that have been advanced, and perhaps return to the Committee ready to respond more positively and constructively by accepting some of the improving amendments that we wish to move to make this monstrous legislation less monstrous in its effect upon Northern Ireland and the people of that embattled part of the United Kingdom and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said, to consider its implications for the rest of the United Kingdom.

With those very few words I fully support the motion that has been put to you, Mr. Weatherill, and I hope that my right hon. Friend and his Ministers will respond constructively and positively to the request.

Mr. Budgen

We all know my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his generosity of spirit. In many cases a generous gesture is more important in politics than a logical argument. It would be useful to my right hon. Friend if tonight we were immediately to make a generous gesture.

We in the Tory Party are a coalition divided in many different ways. The great division is between those who believe that immediate resort to the statute book is the answer to all problems and those who take the more pessimistic view that in some instances problems are insoluble and must be lived with but that in other instances the Government can have only the most minimal influence upon those problems.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is an important proponent of the optimists in the Conservative Party. He believes in legislation. In introducing this legislation, he reminds us of the hopeful optimism that those of us who were not Members of the House between 1970 and 1974 saw with such interest. This legislation is part of the move that we saw—

The Chairman

Order. Again we are getting on to the merits of the legislation. The hon. Gentleman must argue why the Chairman should report progress.

Mr. Budgen

Because, Mr. Weatherill, the Tory Party is a coalition. To keep the coalition together, it is necessary on occasions for one group of the coalition to make a generous gesture towards the other.

I wish to make it plain, for I often belong to a different part of the coalition from my right hon. Friend, that I do not wish ever to see him driven from the coalition, and I am sure that he would not wish to see any of us driven from the coalition.

2.30 am
Mr. Prior

I should like to make a generous gesture to my hon. Friend. The last time that I sat here conducting a Bill through the House and he was sitting on the Back Benches attacking me, it was for the opposite reason to that which he has just given. He complained at that time that I was putting too little legislation through the House when he wanted more. Tonight he is accusing me of the opposite.

Mr. Budgen

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. One of the essential reasons why all of us in the Tory Party ought to be humble and friendly towards others who are temporarily in a different position in the coalition is the recognition that at one moment we ally ourselves with one part of the cabal and the next moment we ally ourselves with another part.

There are none of us who are totally of a piece, and there are none of us who are consistent. All of us are dependent upon the good will of the remainder of our friends. When I see, as I and many hon. Members did a few moments ago, friend snapping at friend and one of my hon. Friends laughing in an almost manic way at the reasonable and courteous submissions made by another hon. Friend, it seems to me that the coalition is wearing a bit thin and that my right hon. Friend should want to make a gesture towards the cohesion of the coalition, recognising, as he does, the need to keep it intact and the need occasionally to make a generous gesture. Tonight is an occasion when a generous gesture would not come amiss.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is the beneficiary of the works of the coalition and of the excellent work being done by the Patronage Secretary in curtailing debate. He is also the beneficiary of those who are saying that the Bill is the latest of many of those great reforming pieces of legislation such as the reform of local government, or that excellent reform of the Health Service, or of the water authorities, of which all of us are so proud.

My right hon. Friend will now be able to make a gesture to the pessimists in the Tory Party, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), of whom, when his memorial to many years' service in the House is written, it will be asked "What did he do? What good did he do? What great piece of legislation enshrines his memory after so many hours of work, such brilliant and passionate oratory in the House?" There will be no legislation, but those who speak after him will be able to answer "He stopped an awful lot of harm being done. It was he who demolished so many specious arguments; it was he who filibustered"—[HON. MEMBERS: No.] Not filibustered, although the Whips' Office would say so. However, it will be said that it was my right hon. Friend who demolished much rubbish. There is something to be said for those in a coalition who exist for the demolition of rubbish.

There are those who, on the other hand, exist for the promulgation of progressive, on-going legislation and see that for every problem there is a solution and that for every problem there ought to be an Act of Parliament, preferably pushed through under a guillotine. They are a significant and important part of our coalition. As the Secretary of State says, there is no doubt that many of us who are in opposition to him on that point tonight will join him in other instances in wanting legislation.

We change within the coalition. Let us recognise that the coalition needs a gesture of generosity and an example of that warmth and vigour that we know and like in the Secretary of State, that warm temper that last week caused him to say that he was getting pretty worked up. How much we sympathised with him when he said that. He had much to suffer. We have much to suffer tonight. We are becoming tired. We need a gesture of reconciliation. Let the Secretary of State make that gesture. Let us return tomorrow in a spirit of good will with the acerbity gone, with our capacity for detailed analysis renewed and the knowledge that our frail, often difficult, coalition has been renewed in a spirit of fellowship.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) may be disappointed, but I suspect not surprised, when I say that I cannot respond positively to his stirring and completely sincere appeal for a gesture. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) who talked of the supreme irony in our affairs. If there is a supreme irony, it is that we are discussing the motion that we should report progress. Since the Committee began to sit—bearing in mind the amount of time we have spent—we have made precious little progress.

It is true, as was pointed out at the Ten o'clock Rule Division, that those who do not wish to continue to take part and who may, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, be too tired, or those who may suffer from the various cyclical attitudes outlined by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), are free to depart and leave the work to those who are less tired and still have "the stomachs to eat"—I quote again from Henry V.

My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) was needlessly offensive to my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Stradling Thomas), the Deputy Chief Whip, and about the work of the Whips' Office that we know is so essential to the good operation of the House. I hope that on consideration my hon. Friend will feel it proper to apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth for those remarks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said that because the Bill was a constitutional one it was inappropriate to deal with it in the middle of the night. My experience in the House is comparatively short compared with some right hon. and hon. Members but I remember constitutional measures dealing with the reform of the House of Lords, our membership of the European Economic Community, and the devolution Bills for Scotland and Wales that were not noticeably un-nocturnal in their consideration. I believe that the benefits of belonging to the European Economic Community are clear.

It was suggested that the Government were losing the argument. I do my best, and have always done my best during my 16 years in the House, to see the other point of view. I have listened to virtually the whole of the arguments put forward during the Committee stage, but I am bound to say—in no arrogant way-that I believe that the Government's argument has carried the day, although more of the time has been taken up by those who have opposed the Government's case. We have seen a concerted effort to delay the legislation. I do not object to that. It is right for hon. Members who oppose the Bill to do that, but let us recognise what has been going on, take our tongues out of our cheeks and recognise reality.

In a short, sharp burst of bowling from the pavilion end, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion took a bit of nerve to talk about squashing debate. Those who have listened to the debates cannot believe that debate has been squashed. My right hon. Friend could have fooled me when he made that claim.

Mr. Molyneaux

I should like to take the Under-Secretary back to the constructive and useful debate yesterday afternoon. Does he think that that was a waste of time? Does he agree that it produced much information and gave the Secretary of State food for thought? I do not think that the Secretary of State is satisfied that enough time has been devoted to the unresolved problem of cross-community consent which worried the Committee so much and which will continue to worry us. It is a key matter. Will the Under-Secretary be generous and admit that if that debate had not been closured prematurely, it could have resolved many of the problems which will continue to create trouble for the Bill?

Mr. Scott

I do not wish to appear even more churlish, but I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman's description of the debate. It might, at best, approach the description of the curate's egg in that it was good in certain parts, but I do not think that it merits the praise lavished upon it by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux).

Although there was a superficial attraction in the generous offer by the right hon. Member for Down, South, I do not see any difficulty about the Committee being able to progress and deal with schedule 1 now. It would not require a great intellectual leap for us then to move on to the rest of the Bill.

Hon. Members who have been in the House for a while know the ploys and arguments used when there is a concerted effort to delay a Bill. One was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). He knows that when full and proper consideration of a Bill is urged by a small group of hon. Members, part of the game is to seek to provoke supporters, of the Bill to aid them in their efforts to delay the measure. Hon. Members who support the Bill are too wise to be lured in that direction. They prefer silence and to make their views clear when they are called upon for their support in the Lobby, as they are at regular intervals. This is an absurdly early hour for us to report progress. We should see how we get on.

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 123, Noes 23.

Division No.216] [2.42 am
Alexander,Richard Boscawen, Hon Robert
Arnold,Tom Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)
Atkins, RtHonH.(S'thorne) Bowden,Andrew
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Boyson,Dr Rhodes
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Braine,SirBernard
Benyon,Thomas(A'don) Bright,Graham
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Brooke, Hon Peter
Berry, Hon Anthony Bruce-Gardyne,John
Best, Keith Bryan, SirPaul
Biffen,Rt Hon John Butcher,John
Blackburn,John Cadbury,Jocelyn
Bonsor,SirNicholas Campbell-Savours,Dale
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Percival,Sir Ian
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Prior, Rt Hon James
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Rathbone,Tim
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Rhodes James, Robert
Chapman,Sydney RhysWilliams,SirBrandon
Clarke,Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Ridley,HonNicholas
Cockeram,Eric Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Colvln,Michael Roper,John
Cope,John Rossi,Hugh
Dorrell,Stephen Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Dover,Denshore Scott,Nicholas
Dunn, James A. Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Eggar,Tim Shaw,Michael(Scarborough)
Goodlad,Alastair Shelton,William(Streatham)
Gow, Ian Shepherd,Colin(Hereford)
Griffiths, E. (B'ySt. Edm'ds) Silvester,Fred
Gummer,JohnSelwyn Sims, Roger
Hamilton, Hon A. Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hampaon,Dr Keith Speed, Keith
Heddle,John Speller,Tony
Henderson,Barry Spicer, Michael (S Wores)
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Sproat,lain
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Squire,Robin
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) Stevens,Martin
Hurd,Rt Hon Douglas Stewart,A.(ERenfrewshire)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Stewart,Ian(Hitchin)
Jopllng.RtHon Michael Stradling Thomas,J.
Kershaw,SirAnthony Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Lang, Ian Temple-Morris,Peter
Latham,Michael Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Lennox-Boyd,HonMark Thompson,Donald
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Thornton,Malcolm
Loveridge,John Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Lyell,Nicholas Trippier,David
Marland,Paul van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Marlow,Antony Vaughan,Dr Gerard
Mates,Michael Viggers, Peter
Mather,Carol Waddington,David
Mawhinney,DrBrian Wainwright,R.(ColneV)
Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin Wakeham,John
Mayhew,Patrick Waller, Gary
Mellor,David Warren,Kenneth
Mills,Iain(Meriden) Wells, Bowen
Miscampbell, Norman Wells,John(Maidstone)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Wickenden,Keith
Monro,SirHector Wolfson,Mark
Montgomery,Fergus Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
Newton,Tony Tellers for the Ayes:
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Parris,Matthew Mr. David Hunt.
Patten, John (Oxford)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian McQuade,John
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Molyneaux,James
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)
Cryer,Bob Stanbrook,Ivor
Dunlop,John Walker, B. (Perth)
Farr,John Winterton,Nicholas
Goodhart,SirPhilip Tellers for the Noes:
Gorst,John Mr. Christopher Murphy and
Lawrence,Ivan Mr. William Ross.
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 24,Noes 124.

Division No. 217] [2.54 am
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Budgen,Nick
Body,Richard Cranborne,Viscount
Cryer,Bob Paisley, Rev Ian
Dunlop,John Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Farr,John Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Gardiner,George(Reigate) Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Goodhart,SirPhilip Stanbrook,lvor
Gorst,John Walker, B. (Perth)
Lawrence, Ivan Winterton,Nicholas
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
McQuade,John Tellers for the Ayes:
Moate,Roger Mr. Christopher Murphy and
Molyneaux,James Mr. William Ross.
Alexander,Richard Mayhew,Patrick
Arnold,Tom Mellor,David
Atkins, RtHonH.(S'thorne) Mills,Iain(Meriden)
Baker, Nicholas (NDorset) Miscampbell,Norman
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Benyon,Thomas(A'don) Monro,SirHector
Benyon,W. (Buckingham) Montgomery,Fergus
Berry, Hon Anthony Needham,Richard
Best, Keith Newton,Tony
Biffen,Rt Hon John Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Blackburn,John Parris,Matthew
Bonsor,SirNicholas Patten,John(Oxford)
Boscawen,HonRobert Percival,Sir lan
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Prior, Rt Hon James
Bowden,Andrew Rathbone,Tim
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Rhodes James, Robert
Braine,SirBernard RhysWilliams,SirBrandon
Bright,Graham Ridley,HonNicholas
Brooke, Hon Peter Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Bruce-Gardyne,John Roper,John
Bryan, Sir Paul Rossi, Hugh
Butcher,john Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Cadbury,Jocelyn Sainsbury,HonTimothy
Campbell-Savours,Dale Scott,Nicholas
Carlisle,John(Luton West) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M.(R'c'n) Shaw,Michael(Scarborough)
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Shelton,William(Streatham)
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Shepherd,Colin(Hereford)
Chapman,Sydney Silvester,Fred
Clarke,Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Sims, Roger
Cockeram,Eric Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield)
Colvin, Michael Speed, Keith
Cope,John Speller,Tony
Dorrell,Stephen Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Dover,Denshore Sproat,Iain
Dunn, James A. Squire,Robin
Eggar,Tim Stevens,Martin
Goodlad,Alastair Stewart,A.(ERenfrewshire)
Gow, lan Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds) Stradling Thomas,J.
Gummer,JohnSelwyn Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Hamilton, Hon A. Temple-Morris,Peter
Hampson,DrKeith Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Heddle,John Thompson,Donald
Henderson,Barry Thornton,Malcolm
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Townsend,CyrilD,(B'heath)
Holland,Philip(Carlton) Trippier,David
Hunt,John(Ravensbourne) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Hurd,Rt Hon Douglas Vaughan,Dr Gerard
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Viggers, Peter
Jopling,RtHonMichael Waddington,David
Kershaw,SirAnthony Wainwright,R.(ColneV)
Lang,Ian Wakeham,John
Latham,Michael Waller, Gary
Lennox-Boyd,HonMark Warren,Kenneth
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Wells,Bowen
Loveridge,John Wells,John(Maidstone)
Lyell,Nicholas Wickenden,Keith
Marland,Paul Wolfson,Mark
Marlow,Antony Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Mather,Carol Tellers for the Noes:
Mawhinney,DrBrian Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin Mr. David Hunt.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That this schedule, as amended, be the first schedule to the Bill.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

This is an important schedule which raises one of the important constitutional issues involved in the devolution proposals. I should like to ask certain questions on the construction of the schedule and then address myself to what I conceive to be the principal constitutional issue that the schedule raises.

My first question of construction relates to paragraph 6(2), which states: For the purposes of this paragraph an instrument shall not be treated as not relating to the specified matters by reason only that it requires the consent or concurrence of a Northern Ireland department other than the specified department or that it contains provisions creating offences or imposing penalties. I hope that I am employing the sort of clarity of diction that is particularly helpful to the Committee at this time of the morning, but the words are not mine; they are those of the draftsman.

Even at 3 am, I can see that it could be argued that if a devolved Department had to deal with a subject that required the co-operation, even marginally, of another Department, that might be treated as ruling out of account as specified matters, as defined in paragraph 3 of the schedule, the subject matter of the devolved Department.

However, I am not so sure that I understand the reference to provisions creating offences or imposing penalties". It is a common observation that legislation creating offences or imposing penalties can come from most of the Departments of State. Indeed, there can be few Departments that do not have such legislation to their credit or discredit. I fail to understand how that should be regarded as presumptively, apart from paragraph 6, taking those matters outside the scope of a Department. Is it the conception that the business of creating offences or imposing penalties is a departmental matter on its own, or have I failed to observe that it is in some way a reserved matter? I hope that I have sufficiently succeeded in conveying my incomprehension to the Minister for him to be able to eliminate it when he replies.

The second matter that I wish to raise is that of the appointments to headship of Departments and of assistants to heads of Departments under paragraph 5. This is a partial application of section 8 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. Am I correct in assuming that section 8(8) of the 1973 Act applies and that, therefore, all these appointments are appointments to hold office at Her Majesty's pleasure? I think that they probably are and I think that that is the correct construction. If I am wrong, I shall be grateful if the Minister will tell me now. I ask him to do so because otherwise I shall continue upon the assumption that that is the correct construction.

Mr. John Patten

The construction that the right hon. Gentleman has put on the paragraph is precise and exact.

Mr. Powell

I am obliged. Therefore, section 8(8) of the 1973 Act applies to the appointments under paragraph 5.

The constitutional issue that is raised by part II of the schedule is the constitution and nature of an Executive, some of whose members are responsible to the Assembly, being the heads of devolved Departments by reason of an order made under section 2(1)(b) of the Northern Ireland Act 1974, whereas others are appointments made as members of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. As they are appointed at Her Majesty's pleasure, I suppose that the view could be taken technically that the heads of devolved Departments are members of Her Majesty's Government and hold their appointments in exactly the same way and at the same risk, so to speak, as members of Her Majesty's Government do under our constitutional arrangements. I take it that this applies both to the heads of Departments—as it were, the Ministers—and to the assistants—as it were, the Under-Secretaries of State.

We thus have a formal situation whereby, although some of the Departments are devolved under the terms of the Bill, the Ministers in charge of them are on a footing holding the same type of appointments and holding them by the same tenure as the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretaries of State. That throws into relief the practical and constitutional difficulty of combining in one Executive—indeed, in combining in one Government, namely, Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom—persons who arrived there by different routes owing their position to and being responsible to two different assemblies in the sense of depending on their good will.

If I am correct so far—I am endeavouring to be precise and I hope that I am succeeding in being accurate—we should have in Northern Ireland what is technically a part of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, yet some of the members of that part of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom could not be bound by the essential rules, principles and conventions which bind members of the Government in our constitutional understanding.

This can be observed by testing two alternatives. If they hold their positions subject to the approval of the Assembly—if they do not, how does the Assembly control those Departments—what is their relationship to their colleagues? They do not seem to have a relationship with their colleagues in the sense in which we normally understand it. They are not bound to agree with their colleagues on matters of policy. They are free to criticise the policy of the Government. They are free to correspond with one of the editors of the Financial Times without any inhibition or concealment of their personal opinions. They are in no real respect colleagues either of those who are heading the other Departments in Northern Ireland or of the rest of the Government.

3.15 am

If, on the other hand, they behave as colleagues, if they accept collective responsibility with the rest of their colleagues in the Northern Ireland Department or with the rest of their colleagues in the Government, they will constantly have to tell the Assembly that the answer is a lemon. They will have to tell the Assembly "It is not what you think, it is not how you vote, it is not the results of your debates here in this Assembly that will determine my action as head of this or that Department. Like all the other actions of Government Ministers, that will essentially be a decision of the Government, covered by collective responsibility and sustained by the support that the Government have in the House of Commons."

That is not a workable or a credible arrangement. If it were ever put into practice, it would rapidly bring into discredit the whole contrived devolutionary contraption because joint responsibility is at the heart of the control of an elected Assembly over the Executive. It was part of the exertion of the control of the House over Her Majesty's Ministers that Her Majesty's Ministers either hung together or hung separately. The two arrived at the same time. Collective Cabinet responsibility and the full control of the House over the Executive in England—I suppose it was so originally—belong together, arrived together and are inherently inseparable. When a Government act in a certain way, if they take a decision, whether it be financial, legislative or a decision to embark on legislation of this contradictory and unworkable character, the House could exercise no control if the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten), for example, were not bound by collective responsibility. I do not know what his views and wishes would be were he not a member of the Government. But what his wishes and views about the Bill would be if he were not a member of the Government are irrelevant because the only views and wishes that he can express as long as he is a member of the Government are those that are collectively held and collectively defended.

Whatever may have been said earlier in dispraise of Whips by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), even Whips are bound by a collective responsibility. The Under-Secretary will recognise that no discredit to himself or to any other Minister was implied in what I said.

It is the essence of the system that we control the Executive, because every member of it takes responsibility for all that his colleagues do, although he may not have been consulted by his colleagues. Indeed, junior Ministers often have no knowledge of the process by which or the reasons for which departmental decisions are arrived at in other Departments. Nevertheless, they are bound by them. A junior Minister at the Department of the Environment, for example, cannot go around saying "Don't blame me for the lousy way they are carrying on at the Ministry of Defence because personally I regard the decision to go for Trident as indefensible." That would be impossible. Such behaviour, if permitted, would bring about the dissolution of the Government. If it were not instantly followed by the dismissal of the Minister concerned, it would destroy the necessary relationship that we understand between the House and the Government as a collectivity.

Yet, in purporting to set up devolved government in Northern Ireland we are doing exactly that. Either it will be a mockery in which the persons appointed will from that moment on cock a snook and snap their fingers at the Assembly from which they came, or we shall introduce into Government and into a Department a breach that is totally inconsistent with the whole theory of parliamentary democracy and responsibility as we know it in the United Kingdom. Indeed, no argument or illustration more clearly demonstrates that the Bill would separate Ulster from the rest of the United Kingdom than the effect that the process of devolution would have upon the parliamentary processes and principle in respect of that Province.

Practical conflicts, although less important than constitutional conflict, will arise all the time. The Assembly will not vote money. Certainly at the stage of rolling devolution with which part II of the schedule deals the Assembly has no financial powers either in the sense of Ways or Means or in the sense of Supply. It will not control expenditure or provide revenue. It is therefore beyond all human possibility that that Assembly, directing itself to the different branches of administration in Northern Ireland, will not pose demands on the Administration that cannot be fulfilled within the financial limits under which it is bound to operate. Anyone who has dealt with Northern Ireland opinion will be well aware that even when confronting this House, which has to provide as well as to spend, there is all too great a facility in the Province to assume not merely that problems can be solved by expenditure but that it is evidence of ill will and alienation towards the Province if the additional expenditure demanded for this, that or the other purpose is not forthcoming.

Mr. John Patten

I should first exonerate the right hon. Gentleman from constantly coming to the House and asking for excessive additional sums of money for Northern Ireland, as that has not been his habit. Looking objectively at the situation when the Assembly is set up and working under full or partial devolution, would it not be reasonable to expect it to come to the same kind of accommodation about how to distribute money—putting it crudely, how to carve up the cake and spend the money—as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has to discuss with his Cabinet colleagues regarding the amount of Supply that he can gain under programme 17 for expenditure in the Province?

Mr. Powell

The hon. Gentleman inadvertently referred to full devolution. We are referring to partial or a stage of rolling devolution.

My answer to the Minister's question is "No", I do not think that that is what would happen. I see no reason why it should happen. There is no reason why those who are responsible for only two Departments out of eight should say "In exercising our responsibility for these two Departments we must come to arrangements and understandings with the other Departments that we are prepared to defend." It is human nature to assume that these Departments would say "These are our Departments that have been entrusted to the Ulster Assembly and to Ulster Ministers."

The Ulster Ministers and the Assembly will be frustrated because they will be denied what is necessary for the full and proper discharge of what we demand from those Departments and from the services that they provide. They can easily say "It is not our business or any concern of ours. We are not responsible to those who elected us for the sub-division of the money between those Departments and the other Departments. They must look after themselves and make their own case. They must be answerable through the parliamentary channel."

The very basis of collegial behaviour in controlling expenditure is destroyed at the start by partial devolution. Not only is there no reason to expect it, but the whole structure is such as to render it unlikely. It is contrary to natural behaviour that there should be the same relationship between Ministers.

Let me contrast the situation between the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with his responsibility for social services, his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland responsible for the environment and his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who is responsible for education. Every one of those Ministers knows perfectly well that there are certain limitations that he has to place on the work of his Department to conform to the internal and external finance decisions of the Government of Northern Ireland both the internal carve-up and the external share as between the rest of the Government and the Government of Northern Ireland. Every one of those Ministers will, therefore, defend the consequences of the limitation placed upon him by his own colleagues and by his own Government.

That is not the situation for the head of a Department appointed under the schedule who will have no collegial relationship with his colleagues and will be under no obligation to defend their decisions or to accept any collective responsibility either for the total or for the subdivision of the total of the money spent in Northern Ireland.

Mr. John Patten

I am sorry to indulge in what may be a theoretical debate. I entirely accept the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, in his interesting discussion of the doctrine of collegiality in ministerial responsibility for financial matters, that human nature and immoderate demands might cause the system to break down. However, there is nothing inherent in the structure. I listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. He did not refer only to human nature. He also referred to the structural aspect of these proposals. There is nothing in the structure that suggests his fears will be realised.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to my responsibility for social services and health and to the housing responsibility of my hon. Friend. I shall give one short example to the right hon. Gentleman. Let us suppose that under partial devolution the Department of Health and Social Security was devolved and the Department of the Environment, with its responsibility for housing, was not yet devolved, but both the direct rule Ministers and—the term used by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux)—the native Ministers had to get together to look at the pattern of expenditure. I find it hard to believe that the structure of their discussions would not allow them to see, as the Northern Ireland Economic Council said, that there had been too much public expenditure on the Health Service in recent years in the Province and too little expenditure on housing. That problem faces us all. There is no reason inherent in the structure for people not to draw the right conclusions from that.

Mr. Powell

I shall take up the hon. Gentleman's challenge, and I apologise—it was not my intention—if it involves examining two or three cases. Let us suppose that there is one devolved Department where the head holds his office as the representative of the Assembly. Let us suppose he says "I cannot do what you want, and what ought to be done in this Department, because I am not provided with the increase in the expenditure required to carry out this plan over the next two or three years." Let us suppose that the Assembly proceeds to pass a resolution condemning the Government for starving the education or road service. Who leads the rout? It will be the head of the Department, because that is his easy answer for his shortcomings.

3.30 am

Let us also suppose that there are three or four heads. I caught a suggestion that the Minister thought that they might get together to share out the sop to Cerberus that would be thrown to them by the Secretary of State as their share of the total. Those three or four heads would not form a collective entity. Each would be obliged to look separately at his own Department, and each would find the blame for the deficiencies not in the behaviour of the other devolved heads of Departments but in the decision of the Government.

When I say what I am describing is the result of the structure, I mean that it is a direct consequence of the notion of partial devolution, because I believe that partial devolution is a chimera. It is a chimera in practice because people will not behave that way, and it is a chimera in constitutional theory in that it is incompatible with collective responsibility.

This point was put to the Minister earlier, although perhaps not so fully as we now have the opportunity of putting it. The Committee will recollect that it has never been taken seriously. If I understand it, the Government's answer has been "Oh, well, if you want to make progress, that is the kind of anomaly and contradiction that you must put up with." They have not sought to deny the constitutional and democratic conundrum. They have simply said "You must put up with the conundrum because it is implicit in moving gradually towards full devolution."

That is a fatal frame of mind. It is the old fallacy of saying "We want to bring, something about and it is therefore possible to do so." That is the sort of fallacy that underlies the 1973 Act as well as this Bill. The view is "Here is something that we have persuaded ourselves is desirable. It must be practicable because it is desirable. If it involves contradictions, they must be ingnored or we must pretend that they will not prove to be obstacles." The result will be the same as in 1973.

If we impose upon the Province an arrangement that defies what we understand to be the logic of parliamentary democracy—which I rephrase as the responsibility of an Executive to an elected Assembly—the result is not that the Province has half devolution and half satisfaction but that it is discontented, frustrated and in the end concludes that it has been cheated, been promised one thing and been given another.

If the Government should say "Apply that to what you wish to see instead"—I hope that I may make this argument by way of contrast and not in its own right—and if we are talking about an extension of devolved administration or, to use the Great Britain term, local government, none of those problems would arise. Those who administered would carry collective financial responsibility to those to whom the services were tendered, not for 100 per cent. of the cost—we are familiar with that in Great Britain—but for the marginal and decisive cost element of the services. They would be in the position, as a joint body, of all being the executive, because all the members of a local authority are members of the executive. They would all bear genuine responsibility to their constituents for their administration and the financial consequences of that administration.

They might say, as a body, "If we had a larger grant from the Government we would not need to increase the rates so much", but their constituents would be quick—we know how irrationally quick constituents sometimes are—to link the direct taxation burden of rates with the performance of the rates-financed executive. Those deficiencies have been created by the form of devolution proposed. They would not arise in the form of devolution against which the right hon. Gentleman has set his face. On the contrary, there would be genuine mutual and joint responsibility on the part of those who took the decisions.

It would be wrong for the Committee to part from the schedule, and thus from the part of the Bill that is concerned with rolling devolution, until it has seen a much more satisfactory confrontation by the Government of the constitutional problem that I have outlined than anything that has been seen so far.

Mr. Bill Walker

The schedule illustrates clearly the difficulty that faced the Government when trying to frame legislation to meet the needs of change from direct rule to partial devolution and, if necessary, back to direct rule. The interesting debates on the Bill have shown that most hon. Members are worried about that aspect of the proposals. How can one have rolling devolution without introducing instability and insecurity into the system?

The suspension of direct rule and the return to it after partial devolution that has proved to be unsatisfactory and the prospect of annual renewals can only be a recipe for uncertainty. In my experience, uncertainty is the greatest enemy of investment. However one wishes it to be different, the facts of life are that if one is unsure one does not invest. Uncertainty will lead to a lack of investment.

Thus, the very thing that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and his colleagues are hoping to achieve—somehow, as a result of these proposals, to bring about a greater degree of stability—will not happen. The opposite will happen. Things will be unstable and uncertain. Just how my hon. Friend and his colleagues can imagine that anyone with capital to invest in a future would be prepared to do so in a situation as uncertain as this, I do not know.

It is uncertain in the words of my right hon. and hon. Friends, because they state clearly in the schedule that they do not expect that partial devolution will necessarily work. They are making provisions to roll it back if it does not work. It is almost an admission of failure before one begins. To expect that they will get investment into the Province with those problems seems to me to be flying in the face of all experience of investment.

I shall go even further. This uncertainty may be considered in some quarters to be a greater disincentive to investment than terrorism in Northern Ireland. However ghastly these acts are, and however dreadful we believe them to be, we have to see them in the light of what happens elsewhere in the world. There is no lack of investment in the city of New York or in Chicago, where more people die through violence than in Northern Ireland. In those cities, they know the score on their elections. They know what powers are involved in the running of the city. Therefore, they have at least some idea of what will happen over a period during the lifetime of an Administration.

Every form of government, however one views it, has advantages and disadvantages, but the weakest form of government is one where the citizen is at a loss to understand just who is responsible for what, and whom he can approach when he is concerned over a matter that has been handled by Ministers in the Westminster Parliament, and then been passed on to those who have been appointed in the devolved Assembly to look after that partial devolution, and then had it rolled back again. I cannot think of a more uncertain position for electors and voters, if it has been brought about, as we imagine that it must have been brought about, because these partially devolved powers have been rolled back because they have not been operated satisfactorily to the view of the 70 per cent. majority of the Assembly and the Province is returned to direct rule.

I was prompted to speak on this schedule because I am a member of the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. I know from my experience the problems that arise as a result of maladministration. These are brought to the notice of the Committee, and the Ministers on the Government Front Bench will know that we deal with the Northern Ireland Commissioner as well. That maladministration often results from a failure to communicate within Departments. The failure is often the result of changes in the Departments. I cannot imagine a situation which is more likely to create problems of communication than rolling devolution proposals.

We have here a very abstruse problem. I know from my experience of considering the matter of the Health Service Commissioner, who is the same chap wearing a different hat, that one of the great problems that has been experienced, where life has been concerned, has been the failure of effective communications between different health boards and between different hospitals. Partial devolution will result in a Department being run by the Executive appointed by the Assembly. If for some reason the Assembly is unhappy and the Department is returned to the United Kingdom to be administered, more problems will be caused to the Ombudsman than almost any other activity. The majority of complaints arise from the failure to communicate.

3.45 am

Housing allocation is a thorny problem at the best of times. If the housing Department is partially devolved and housing allocation is based on a system judged to be fair by the Executive, it is bad if the Department is then returned to the United Kingdom Parliament for it to control and administer and it then chooses another system.

Housing repairs and renovations cause more problems. A problem that was referred to the local government commissioner in Scotland arose because a fireplace was installed in council property. The fireplace had a closed-in front to make the combustion more efficient and ensure that the best possible use was made of fuel. The fire was badly installed and the doors did not function properly. The customer complained to the local authority. The Committee will readily appreciate the point I am making. It is important that we recognise what the schedule contains. We are interested in the people of Northern Ireland.

That complaint occurred because the fire was incorrectly installed and used five times the normal amount of fuel. It took many years to investigate and coincided with a change in local government. Administrations and responsibilities changed and communications broke down. The complaint was recorded and not acted upon before the administration changed. When the lady complained again the matter was taken up afresh, but unfortunately that brand of fire was no longer in production and it was difficult to obtain spare parts. It was investigated by the Local Government Commissioner.

The Chairman

Order. I am having great difficulty in following the hon. Gentleman's argument in relation to the schedule.

Mr. Walker

I am referring to the Parliamentary Commissioner and Commissioner for Complaints under paragraph 7. I am a member of the Select Committee dealing with the Parliamentary Commissioner and Commissioner for Complaints for Northern Ireland. I am explaining that the problems that we face are brought about largely by breakdowns of communication within and between Departments.

I am illustrating by example what happened as a result of recent local government changes. Communication problems arose. If an Administration which appoints individuals lose support, devolution will be rolled back. That will cause problems and increase the work load of the Parliamentary Commissioner and the Commissioner for Complaints.

Our experience in the Select Committee shows clearly that maladministration arises, not because someone wilfully sets out to maladministrate but because of the structure of a Department and the way in which it is run.

I am sorry that the Minister is unhappy about that, but I spend many hours in Select Committee studying the problems in the hope of learning something. I am worried about the fact that the work load of that Committee may increase as a result of rolling devolution. That is a valid point. I am a hardworking member of a Committee diligently attempting to carry out my duties in the best interests of the House and the country. Often the work of Committees is not understood unless their members explain the matter to the House.

Rarely are Select Committee reports studied as carefully as they should be. Members of Select Committees study their own Committees' reports. I am a member of more than one Committee and I have to spend enough time reading my own Committees' reports without reading in detail the reports of others.

It is right that I should explain that my judgment is that uncertainty will exist in Northern Ireland as a result of the rolling devolution proposals and that that will lead to a substantial rise in the number of complaints to the Commissioner. People will then be unhappy and uncertain, and the proposal will lead to more and more trouble.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I am against the schedule because none of the arguments has been answered. The questions were not dealt with. The Minister suggested that hon. Members who thought progress had been made should go off and leave others to get on with the business. I note that he has left us to get on with it.

As a former Unionist Member once said, the measure may pass through the House, but it will never pass the Bann bridge in Portadown. The real working of the Bill depends on its reception in Ulster. Academic exercises to satisfy time schedules or to appear to be doing something will not stand the test of time. I share the concern of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker).

As we have been going through the night and have seen how fresh we are, I appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) shows no sign of weariness. Neither will the people of Ulster in standing for what they believe to be parliamentary democracy and their rights as part of the parliamentary system. As schedule 1 is being examined, a transformation may be going on in Parliament that may prepare Ulster to accept the medicine that is being prescribed for it in the schedule. We have noted time and time again that there has been a transformation in the Committee in that there is no Opposition as it was hitherto known. At the heart of the schedule, the whole concept of devolving to an Executive the principle of—

Mr. Budgen

I dare say the hon. Member is not a reader of The Guardian, but he may have seen on Monday a most important article which started as follows: The Government has secured an unofficial understanding with enough Labour MPs to ensure that a guillotine, restricting debate on its new Northern Ireland legislation, will be passed if necessary. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is a happy position for a group of hon. Members to be in if they can get what they want without debate or discussion? It is plain that they will get what they want as part of the price for either voting with the Government or abstaining on a guillotine motion. As we labour through the night, would not the hon. Gentleman like to join me and others in congratulating the official Opposition on their good fortune?

Rev. Martin Smyth

I had not seen the article but I share some of the sentiments of the hon. Gentleman.

We in Ulster have for some 10 years been asking Parliament to set us the example of this wonderful thing in action. Tonight we see the beginning of it. It is given to young men to see visions. We can look forward to the day when we shall have this magnificent spectacle of partnership for the good of the nation, where in the one Government we shall have representatives from one extreme of the political spectrum to the other, all working together harmoniously. When we see that happening, we can understand this working out in Northern Ireland.

I oppose the schedule for another reason. As I understand it, the Secretary of State has said that he wants, from the very first day, the advice of the Northern Ireland people through their elected Assembly. Yet at the very heart of the schedule he is surrendering that privilege on some important matters. The excepted and reserved matters will continue to be debated by this Parliament alone, without the benefit of the wisdom and experience of the Northern Ireland Assembly, whose opinion he desperately desires on other matters. He is robbing himself and his successor of much wisdom, which he acknowledges the need for in lesser matters.

4 am

As I understand it, the schedule is not concerned with legislative matters. It provides only for advice. The schedule is designed to help the Secretary of State to continue when everything is not going too well. Some matters may be devolved, whereas others will not be. While the Committee has been urged to vote in favour of the Bill to secure the better government of Northern Ireland and to involve the people of Northern Ireland in their own Government, the Government say that devolution should not apply in all matters.

There is a lack of consistency. I can understand why some matters are reserved and excepted. However, the Assembly will be virtually a talking shop. It is a pity that in such vital matters for the people of Northern Ireland the House, particularly the Secretary of State and those associated with him, will be robbed of the wisdom and experience of the Assembly.

I do not think that the schedule should be added to the Bill until the Secretary of State and those advising him have considered how to answer the questions concerning the introduction to the Bill, whence all else flows. It is designed to give stability and to help in the economic progress and better security of the Province, yet security is taken out of the care and concern of the Assembly.

The whole exercise, of which the schedule is part, is designed not to give us economic progress, economic security and stability but to give us what I have previously called "shunting" devolution—one step forward and two steps back. The whole thing is a house of cards and will add to the instability of the country. On the day after another foul murder in Ulster, it is tragic that the Committee should in any way give the people of Northern Ireland even the vaguest impression that the pattern will be changed.

As I understand the schedule, there must be participation at all levels before the Bill becomes operable. That is the level at which we in Ulster long for a lead from the House. In discussion with the official Opposition, I have suggested that they might join together with other Opposition parties to change the form of Government. I received a raw answer.

On another occasion, when a colleague in the Ulster Unionist Party suggested to Her Majesty's Ministers that they might invite a certain gentleman from my side of the House to join the Government, because that would be a masterly demonstration of partnership for the good of the nation and would show people in the backwoods of Ulster how to behave in a democratic fashion, the answer was "Do you not know that he is the enemy of all that we stand for?" When the response was "And yet you ask us to bring into the Government in Northern Ireland, as of right, those who are dedicated to destroy the State as we know it and love it", the reply came "You must have that as the price of stability and progress."

I ask the Committee for further consideration of the fatuous reasons given to it for accepting the schedule and the Bill, and I ask the Government to think again before they try to impose something on Northern Ireland that experience and history say is unworkable.

Viscount Cranborne

I begin my few remarks at this early hour of the morning by thanking you, Mr. Weatherill, for calling me. Because of the activities of the Patronage Secretary during the past two sittings, I have not been fortunate enough to catch your eye. Therefore, I am most grateful to you, even at what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) calls the soporific part of the morning, for being able to address myself to the partial suspension of direct rule.

Mr. Budgen

Will my hon. Friend tell the House how many speeches he has prepared? I have sat beside him during our past two sittings, and my recollection is that he must have risen to speak on six or more occasions. Perhaps he will scour his recollection.

The Chairman

May I remind the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne), before he is tempted, that we are dealing with schedule 1, as amended. I do not imagine that he has prepared more than one speech for this debate.

Viscount Cranborne

Naturally, Mr. Weatherill, I should never be tempted into a path which was not the path of rectitude. Fortified by your warning, I shall not dream of animadverting for a second to memory lane and referring to my forthcoming publication of a book called "The 100 best speeches that I never made". I know that junior Back Benchers in this place have to learn to savour the occasional times on which they are called and to regard them as the privilege that they undoubtedly are. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) for his well-meant intervention on my behalf. However, encouraged by you, Mr. Weatherill, I return at once to the schedule.

I am not a military man, but I know that all members of this Committee have watched with growing apprehension and admiration the events in the Falkland Islands over the past 10 weeks. One thing which struck me very much during the amphibious operations was that the moment of greatest danger for our soldiers and sailors was when the ships were attempting to land people from the sea on to the islands. There is an analogy between what happens in military operations and the question of partial or rolling devolution.

The most dangerous moment in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's scheme is the one which comes when we attempt to transfer from the relative security, however temporary it might be, of direct rule to the dangerous and inhospitable ground—

Mr. Budgen

And untrustworthy.

Viscount Cranborne

—indeed, and untrustworthy ground ashore. That would correspond to the untrustworthy ground of devolved government. We will face not the successful military outcome that we saw in the Falkland Islands but rather the attempt by my right hon. Friend at a landing, the success of which is not assured and, indeed, is virtually guaranteed not to take place.[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) does not agree with that. He makes that plain. It always grieves me to disagree with my hon. Friend, for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration in all matters, but the dangers presented by the device of rolling devolution make my hair stand on end.

The right hon. Member for Down, South has stated clearly his objections. I could not follow his skill and expertise in constitutional matters, but I should like to draw the Committee's attention to the question of finance. It was rightly pointed out during our debate on clause 2 and later on schedule 1 that the Department of Finance and Personnel will not be transferred under rolling devolution until all other Departments have been transferred. The reason was made clear earlier in our proceedings. If that Department were transferred first, it would be impossible for rolling devolution to have any chance of success. Therefore, even with the cock-eyed logic of this scheme, one can see the reason for delaying the transfer of that Department until the last possible moment.

However, reverting to my analogy of the most dangerous moment—the moment of landing—we face considerable difficulties during the period before that transfer takes place, if, indeed, it ever does. Hon. Members, particularly those on the Conservative Benches, understand the danger in any system of Government of dividing the responsibility for raising and providing finance from the responsibility of spending the money that is raised.

Mr. John Patten

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the local government option, if I may paraphrase it in that coarse way, were to be adopted in the future, local authorities in Northern Ireland would suffer from that disadvantage? They would often be asking for money which they did not raise themselves and which they would receive via a block grant from the Government.

Viscount Cranborne

I thought that someone would point that out. One of the great disadvantages of our system of local government finance is that at least 60 per cent. of the finance provided to local government comes from the Government rather than from the rates. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary pointed out, that is not a satisfactory situation and it has been largely responsible for the growing number of complaints about the rating system.

4.15 am

The division, which is only partial in local government, would be complete under the partial suspension of direct rule. During that partial suspension, the division between those who spend the money and those who raise it—British taxpayers—would contribute to the uncertainty and lack of direction that many of us fear will be the results of the Government's proposals.

The division of responsibility makes the administration of finance doubly difficult. There will have to be people handling the matter for the Government and others dealing with it for Assembly Members. Such a development is foreshadowed in the notes on clauses: devolved departments would have wide discretion to establish their expenditure priorities. DOFP's responsibilities for approving expenditure and staffing would be unaffected under partial devolution. That seems to foreshadow two Departments covering finance. It will be difficult for Assembly Members and Government representatives to agree, and I can foresee the sort of difficulties that the right hon. Member for Down, South referred to.

The native Ministers, as the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) has so eloquently named them—the extraordinary colonial nature of the Bill is pointed up by the fact that that description fits so snugly—will spend all their time blaming Northern Ireland Ministers for failing to provide money for native Ministers' pet schemes. That is a recipe for the sort of difficulties that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who believes passionately in the justice and future efficacy of the Bill, is seeking to avoid.

We need to examine the practical difficulties involved in the schedule.

Mr. Budgen

Is there not a difference between the position where, for instance, the local authorities within the Socialist republic of South Yorkshire attack, as they would put it, the mad monetarist regime at Westminster and the position that will obtain in Northern Ireland, where the devolved Executive will not merely be attacking the Westminster Parliament because the Government may be of a different colour in some respects but will be driving a wedge between Ulster and the remainder of the United Kingdom? The inexorable logic of what they will say is that they wish to have an independent Ulster, which will, sadly, be seen increasingly as a solution by a larger group here in England.

Viscount Cranborne

My hon. Friend is right. The narrower consequence of what he has suggested, the consequence that will arise first and the one that I suggest is most closely allied to that which we are discussing in schedule 1, is the difference between the Socialist republic of South Yorkshire, as it is so unfortunately but aptly known, and the Assembly and the devolved powers enjoyed by it in the event of the Bill working, even in part. The Assembly will have legislative powers while Local authorities in this part of the United Kingdom will not.

The powers that are enjoyed by local authorities on this side of the water are granted by the House of Commons and another place—in short, by Parliament. It is purely as a result of the powers granted by Parliament that local authorities can function. There are no inherent contradictions between the powers enjoyed by local authorities here because they are granted by the one authority which has the power to legislate. This will not be so under rolling devolution as foreshadowed by the Bill—indeed, very much the reverse. Part of the very character of that which my right hon. Friend proposes is that the functions that are devolved should have legislative powers. There is a section under paragraph 4 in part II of the schedule that is headed "Legislative functions". That supports my argument.

Finance is crucial because it will make it administratively difficult for the proposals in the Bill to be implemented. There will be a practical difficulty for those who are affected by the proposals. This point is made clearly in the Green Paper on local government. If finance is separated from the administration of services, it is difficult for those who are using the services and living under the legislative powers to see where the true responsibility lies

I return to paragraph 5 of the useful notes that have been provided by my tight hon. and hon. Friends. The final paragraph discusses in a sweep of one and a half sentences the difficulties to which I have alluded. This encapsulates one of the main problems of schedule 1. Here we have the argument between devolved Departments and their right to establish their expenditure priorities and the DOFP responsibilities for approving expenditure and staffing. Here lies the problem. If one is an inhabitant of, say, Belfast or Londonderry, does one pin the responsibility for what one may consider to be inadequate expenditure on the devolved Department or does one go to where the responsibility really lies, to the man who doles out the money, who in this case is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State?

It is abundantly clear that, once the amount of expenditure is approved for each Department, there will be some discretion within the devolved apparatus to say how that global sum should be spent. But the amount of that global sum will not be covered—I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—by the powers that are given under the devolved arrangements. Therefore, the unfortunate individual living in Northern Ireland with a complaint will and should address himself with perfect reason not to his elected Assembly but to his elected representative in Westminster who should be representing his interests to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Therein lies a difficulty. I understand that under the arrangements that we will discuss later—I do not intend to trespass on that territory now as I should be out of order—it will not be possible for the individual to address himself through his Member of Parliament because his Member of Parliament will not be allowed to inquire on his behalf about matters that have been devolved. It is a classic "Catch 22" situation. If the extraordinarily difficult proposal is to have any practical chance of success, that aspect must be thought out. I have given only one example in the interests of brevity, although many of my right hon. and hon. Friends might find that hard to believe.

If we are to propose anything for the better government of Northern Ireland, it is not enough to have woolly expressions of good will. I say that with the greatest respect for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, the Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten). He knows that I bear the greatest respect for him. We must consider the practical consequences of what we are doing. That is not being done in schedule 1.

Perhaps it would be sensible to give one more example. Not long ago we discussed amendment No. 66. It may seem long ago to those of us who have had the privilege of listening to the debate last evening and this morning. It was a Government amendment that added words to paragraph 3(1) of the schedule for reasons that those in the Chamber understood. Some of us felt that one year was not enough, but we quite understood why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had to table the amendment. It took account of the possibility of an order being revoked.

When I asked my hon. Friend about this earlier, he properly directed me to clause 5, which we shall be considering in due course. Nevertheless, it seems relevant to the proposition before us to ask what are the circumstances in which an order under clause 2(1)(b) may be revoked, as provided for in amendment No. 66 which was accepted earlier. I imagine that the reason for such a revocation would be perfectly plain. This would then have a direct bearing on the schedule. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown) that it is thus difficult to think in terms of amendment No. 66 without at least tangentially considering what is proposed in clause 5.

4.30 am

I merely say in passing that the cross-community support that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has predicated as one of the criteria for proposing the form of rolling devolution in clause 2 would undoubtedly have, as it were, a reverse image. If cross-community support is needed for the proposals to be made, the lack of it must be one of the criteria to be taken into account when decreeing that an order must be revoked.

I can quite understand the order being revoked in a dramatic event such as the general strike in Ulster in 1974. If such an event occurred—God forbid—as a result of the arrangements for rolling devolution breaking down, everyone would recognise that it had happened and there would be no doubt about it.

There is a greater difficulty, however, if another criterion has broken down and it is less obvious that the order must be revoked. I suggest that that is the case when my right hon. Friend's criterion of cross-community support has broken down. It is by no means clear, although I trust that it will be made clear when my right hon. Friend's amendment is published, what constitutes cross-community support. It may be clear to those who know more about Northern Ireland than I do, but I must confess that, listening to earlier speeches, I was more than a little mystified at the extraordinary lack of agreement in the Committee about this.

Some have said that there is an identifiable Catholic community and an identifiable Protestant community, but others—notable among them was my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison)—denied that, pointing out that considerable numbers of Roman Catholics support the Unionist cause. I am also told that there are those of no given religious persuasion who will attack British soldiers and explode bombs all over Ulster with vim and vigour, despite the difficulty that we might have in attaching to them the label of Roman Catholic. I cite just those two examples to show how difficult it is to determine what is one community in Northern Ireland and what is another.

I suggest that this is another difficulty that will be encountered by my right hon. Friend as he presses on with his plans for the Bill. He may find that the only criterion by which he can judge whether there is the cross-community support which is a precondition for the order that might have to be revoked is his own judgment.

I have the greatest respect for my right hon. Friend, but I say in all sincerity that politicians tend to claim to know the way their constituents are feeling. All of us have claimed to know the way that the country thinks. More often than not, the country happens to think the same way as politicians, and politicians pray in aid that opinion. They adjudge that the country agrees with them, and that is convenient.

I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would resist such a temptation. Nevertheless, there are many examples in Great Britain and throughout the world, but specifically in Ulster, of politicians' judgments having been proved to be wrong. To rely on a vague feeling of cross-community support is highly unreliable. It is particularly unsatisfactory in a community that has proved time and again to be almost incapable of agreeing across communities, whatever those communities may be.

The constituent parts of those communities have varied throughout the history of Ireland. We need only recall the attempts of Lord Randolph Churchill in the 1870s to strike up an alliance with the Roman Catholics, one of whose leaders at that time was Issac Butt. He regarded the Roman Catholics as the natural allies of the Tories. The proposition that the Roman Catholics in Eire are the natural allies of the Tories now would be greeted with hoots of derision. I give that as an example of how shifting those constituent parts can be and how misleading it is to assume that what is true in Ulster today will necessarily be true tomorrow, or was true yesterday.

I am, therefore, driven inescapably to the conclusion that the only criterion which can work in Ulster and, ultimately, in the whole of the United Kingdom is that which takes the ballot box as its authority. Therefore, the rescinding of an order that is foreseen under amendment No. 66 will surely happen, if that order is ever made, because of the imprecision of the cross-community support criterion.

I plead guilty to the same fallibilities that I accuse other politicians of being prey to, but with great daring I put forward a judgment of my own. Because of the imprecision, it is almost certain that the amended paragraph 3(1) will be brought into effect if ever rolling devolution gets under way. On that matter, too, the schedule is seriously defective. I should have thought that the Committee would vote against the schedule and that it would urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider the schedule and be more precise about the way in which we are to proceed, otherwise the dangers to which I alluded at the beginning of my remarks will be at least as great as the dangers attendant upon an amphibious landing in the Falklands, and rolling devolution will find us caught at the most vulnerable point.

Mr. Molyneaux

Part II of the schedule causes me the greatest worry, particularly that paragraph dealing with partial devolution, which I regard as absolutely fatal to the whole scheme.

The Secretary of State will remember that that part of his plan startled those of us with some parliamentary experience when he outlined it to our party. That was disclosed in early January. At that time we had a fairly civilised discussion, because it occurred before he dropped the bombshell of cross-community consent, which finally brought the discussions to an end on 8 March. I have already referred to that and do not propose to cover that ground again.

When the right hon. Gentleman unveiled the idea of partial devolution, we probed his mind to discover his thinking about divided responsibility and the lack of collective responsibility, only to find to our surprise that he was one of us. It was quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman's heart was not in it.

Along with my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) I thought that the right hon. Gentleman, as an experienced parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister, would never have invented such a scheme. I am delighted that the Secretary of State has rejoined us, because I am talking about partial devolution and the mixture of native and British Ministers.

I shall not launch an attack on Civil Service advisers, because at most they probably adopted the idea. I guess that the author came from the same stable as the prominent business man who for a time peddled to me suggestions that all 12 Ulster Members should get together and form some kind of an advisory council which would gradually evolve into an Executive that would begin to take over powers from the Secretary of State and, in his opinion, do the job much better. However, that gentleman simply refused to understand that the political mechanisms did not work that way.

I understand that some credit—perhaps it should be some blame—has been attributed to a certain Mr. Catherwood, who is a successful business man and a Member of the European Assembly. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is with us, and he can confirm or repudiate my suggestion that whatever good points the European Assembly may have—I have yet to discover any—it certainly is not a training ground for good administrators, statesmen or legislators. It has no system on which we could model United Kingdom affairs.

4.45 am

The inventor of partial devolution, which is merely a mixture of British and native Ministers, knew nothing about the realities of political life. That is obvious when one considers this improbable design. English Ministers—we have not yet been sufficiently fortunate to have a Scotsman in the Northern Ireland Office—will be accountable to this House, the native Ministers will be accountable to the Assembly, and never the twain shall meet. The Secretary of State was candid enough to say that he had no intention of giving the Assembly the power to call him before it to give an account of his stewardship, because, to use his words, I did not wish to be involved in any kind of rough-house discussion.

Even if that mix of personalities could get together, perhaps in a bar around Stormont, the two rival assemblies—the House of Commons and the Assembly that is proposed for Northern Ireland—would pull apart the two sets of Ministers, no matter how determined they might be to work together. There cannot be collective responsibility when two sets of people are responsible and accountable to two different bodies that usually pull in opposite directions.

All that would be complicated enough when the two sets of Ministers shared roughly the same national political philosophy, but how much more difficult will it be when there are marked differences between their national political philosophies? The native Ministers are almost bound to have diverse views and most, if not all, will disagree with the political outlook of their superiors—the Secretary of State and his British Ministers. At best, there will be a three-way ministerial divide in opinion and there cannot be a common cause between that group of diverse personalities and political opinions.

Perhaps the worst feature is the lack of cohesion in the Assembly on which the structure is to rest, because there is no reason why the Assembly should not take an unpopular course or should try to defend unpopular policies. It follows that the native Ministers will have no option but to engage in criticism of their English counterparts. That criticism will be made first in the Assembly and the media, being what they are in Northern Ireland, will try to expand and project that criticism to the general public through never-ending interviews, arguments and debates on the "box". One does not know how that will work out. It is an aspect of the scheme to which I have repeatedly drawn the Secretary of State's attention, but he has never attempted to explain how he sees it working or how he will get over that basic difficulty.

The lack of collective responsibility is almost as great a defect as the one to which the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) referred—cross-community support. Those are the twin icebergs on which this ship will founder. Both those problems must be resolved and both icebergs must be moved before the Bill has a chance of working.

Colleagues on both sides of the House have agreed that the debates in Committee over recent weeks have been notable for the lack of any intellectual arguments to refute all the charges and weaknesses that have been pointed out. I hope that before we get much further, a serious attempt will be made to remedy this.

The defect in the Committee system as it is being worked in the Bill—this is no criticism of you and your colleagues in the Chair, Mr. Weatherill—is that the Patronage Secretary comes in hotfoot from the Chief Whip's Office, not having heard one word of the debate. He is in no position to assess the importance of any particular discussion, or the significance of any section of the debate. He simply hops up to the Dispatch Box and moves the closure.

I am forced to the conclusion that if the Committee wants to give the Bill a fair run and any chance of working, it must oppose the inclusion of schedule 1 in the Bill.

Mr. Body

I am conscious that we are now 50 minutes past that magical hour when the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that the House passed from being jocose to being comatose. None the less, in case anyone reads the Official Report, I shall say, so that it may be reported, that the Committee seems to be remarkably alert. Looking around, I can see nobody who is now comatose.

The experts in forensic medicine say that there is a stage between being jocose and being comatose—being bellicose. I hope that you, Mr. Weatherill, will agree that tonight our debates have been very good humoured and no element of any bellicosity has arisen, unlike last week, when there was a touch of it. It is not for me to say whether that was provoked or not.

I shall speak for only a few minutes, first out of sheer interest, in the hope that my first contribution will be so short that I may be visible in the future. Secondly, I think that it is important that people in Northern Ireland should realise that there are a large number of right hon. and hon.Members who wish to take part in these debates.

One hears again and again in Belfast that the House is not very interested in the problems of Northern Ireland. If the Province can be made to realise that there are a large number of hon. Members—many more than the debate as reported will show, because of the closures—interested, it will be all to the good. Thirdly, my contribution will be short because I know that others of my hon. Friends wish to be called.

Part I of the schedule is concerned only where there is full devolution and a general suspension of direct rule. When it fails, as we on the Back Benches are certain that it will, there will be a return to the annual review of direct rule. I do not think that this subject is academic. The trouble is that if we get this full devolution, we shall have something back in Northern Ireland not unlike Stormont. It will have the same bad features that Stormont had.

Above all, there will be one essential issue that will divide the Assembly between those who wish to maintain the Union and those who wish to destroy it. All other issues will be so subordinate that they will be virtually immaterial. Thus the Assembly will be divided not as the House is divided but on different lines. That will be disastrous. I say that because the White Paper "Northern Ireland: a framework for devolution" contains this sentence in paragraph 6: Northern Ireland's 50 years of devolved government has shaped its politics. That is indeed true, and, with respect to those who represent Northern Ireland, some of us would say that its shape is ugly and unprepossessing. If we were to have full devolution that shape would be petrified.

Mr. Budgen

Would my hon. Friend agree with the surprisingly courageous second leader in The Times to the effect that, if the Bill is enacted and it fails in Ulster, devolution is dead? Is not that, perhaps, a necessary process in the education of the House of Commons and of those who read the words that pass here and the resolutions that are made?

Mr. Body

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, I am sure that that will be the result. I will not digress, but I believe that before the collapse of the Bill we shall see something much worse which will increase the apprehension of the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Budgen

That will be the price of the lesson, unfortunately. If we have the good fortune to persuade the Secretary of State not to interpose that lesson, we shall be doing Ulster and the United Kingdom a great service.

Mr. Body

Yes, but we are gambling, because if as a result of the Bill being enacted the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council is established—we all know that this is but a stepping stone towards the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council, which in turn is a stepping stone to a so-called united Ireland—in the process there will be such fears that will lead to such hatreds and violence in Northern Ireland that the consequences could be appalling.

Mr. Budgen

My hon. Friend is well informed and I am very grateful to him for referring to the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council. He will know that there is, as reported in The Guardian, a new and close understanding between the Secretary of State and enough Labour Members to ensure that the guillotine will be passed if necessary. Has my hon. Friend any information about that? Are the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council proposals any part of the price that the Secretary of State may have paid to secure the compliance of Labour Members?

Mr. Body

We all look forward to a contribution from the Opposition Front Bench. If any of its members were to contribute, it would be possible to intervene and probe. While they remain as taciturn as they do, we are prevented from discovering, by one or two interrogatories, the truth of the matter. My hon. Friend will be familiar with that passage in the report of the Second Reading debate when the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred to the exchange of opinions in the Dail when Mr. Haughey, who was then leader of the Opposition, complained to the Prime Minister about the lack of progress towards an Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council and Mr. FitzGerald said that he believed it wise not to press ahead at this stage with an Anglo-Irish parliamentary council because of the difficulties involved in securing fair representation from Northern Ireland where there was no elected representative body".—[Official Report, 10 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 539.] No one is more impatient than Mr. Haughey. Once a Northern Ireland Assembly is established, Mr. Haughey will press for the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council to be established and to include representatives from the Assembly.

5 am

Devolution will fail. My hon. Friends and I, with the exception of the Front Bench, are certain of that. It will fail not only because it is intrinsically hopeless but because it has all the dangers that Stormont had. Years ago I was active in Ulster politics. I was nearly the Unionist candidate for Antrim, North, but mercifully I was not. Devolution will collapse because the West Lothian question will arise. That will make it plain that the Assembly cannot succeed in harness with the House of Commons.

Paragraph 1(b) of the schedule will be invoked. At that stage there will be a return to direct rule. I am the enemy of direct rule. It is an insult to the people of Northern Ireland to subject them to direct rule. The White Paper makes a pertinent comment. Paragraph 2 states: Direct rule from Westminster has been accepted as a temporary arrangement. But it is not a long-term answer. As a result, there is a continuing uncertainty in the Province, which undermines its political stability.

Some of us would not go as far as to agree with every syllable of that passage, but the best that can be said for direct rule and what would happen when the order is revoked, is that it works. It has many blemishes, but it is workable. Having said that, no further advantage can be claimed for it.

I have to admit that perhaps the Government are right about one issue. When I voted earlier in favour of a 10-year period I may have been mistaken. The Government are probably right to believe that one year is enough. It would be a mistake to accept a 10-year or a five-year period. I say that because after years of trying devolution, which fails, we revert to direct rule. When that fails the Government should be convinced that there is only one proper course to be pursued for Northern Ireland. To repeat the phrase used by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), there is integration without local democracy. What there should be is integration with local democracy, as exists throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. Therefore the right course, when that paragraph is in the schedule, is for the Government to go full steam ahead towards local government in Northern Ireland as it is in Great Britain.

At that stage there should be consultations with all the district councils as to whether they would agree to having additional powers comparable to those which our district councils have. The Front Bench has already been asked if there have been consultations with the district councils. Some councils are non-Unionist. Have they expressed a view? All the information that we have from Northern Ireland confirms us in the view that there is not one district council that would not support having the same kind of powers and status as district councils have on this side of the channel.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

It might be well, and perhaps a message might get to him, if my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell), whom I saw earlier, were present. He had an opportunity to attend the conference of the Association of Local Authorities. It would be interesting if we could have a record of that conference because it may be that fruitful discussion took place about the way in which local authorities could be endowed with more functions. I do not know if that was the case, but I am sure that my hon. Friend, who has charge of the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment, could contribute something to the debate on this matter.

Mr. Body

It would be useful and valuable if my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) were to be present. Some of us, including the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), might like to ask him questions, because he has spoken on the subject. I think I am right in saying that he was quoted by the right hon. Member for Down, South in the debate on the White Paper when he seemed to be in favour of extending the functions of local government. Perhaps that is why he has not been on the Front Bench to answer some of the questions that we would like to ask him.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

The hon. Member's memory is not at fault. I happen to have in my hand—it came to hand and I found it—the report of the attendance of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) at the first conference of the Association of Local Authorities, the very people from whom we want information. Even before he had informed himself of that body, the hon. Gentleman declared himself of his views when he said: Following the election of an Assembly in the autumn"— he was optimistic about that— a key question which will no doubt be considered is to what extent local politicians may wish to return power to district councils or keep it at Stormont. He pointed out that efficiency was a key consideration and that the running of local matters by the local district councils would be a direct contribution to efficiency. So there is no doubt where the heart of the hon. Member for Basingstoke is. He has been in a position actually to ask the local authorities how they feel about exercising additional powers.

A question which my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and I urged upon the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins) at a very early point in his period of office, when he showed some hesitation and was already repeating the rote on this subject which is dinned into Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, presumably by their officials, but I am not allowed to make that assumption, was why he did not consult the district councils. He seemed at the time, as the right hon. Member for Spelthorne has a way of seeming, rather impressed, but he never did that.

Mr. Body

I am more than grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. One wishes that the Chamber were filled at the moment by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends to hear that intervention. Cane hopes that they will be able to read it.

Mr. Budgen

Can my hon. Friend, who is percipient about such things, give us any information about the whereabouts of my hon. Friends the hon. Members for Bosworth (Mr. Butler) and Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell)? The Committee may have had the good fortune to hear the Secretary of State on Sunday talking about those whose names are on the back of the Bill.

In order to emphasise with particular force and drama the important support that my right hon. Friend has had, no doubt for the first and only time, the Committee may have heard the Secretary of State mention the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Secretary of State for Defence. However, he did not mention my hon. Friends the Members for Bosworth and for Basingstoke. Their names are on the back of the Bill and yet we have not heard a dicky bird from them.

In view of the interesting remarks made by the hon. Member for Basingstoke, to which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred, I should have thought that he would come scurrying over here in order that he might, at some stage, lead a debate on local government in Northern Ireland and explain to the Committee his interesting remarks. He is a man of courage and dignity, and surely he would not wish to make such remarks to some uncritical audience in Northern Ireland. He would wish to put them over with the vigour and perspicacity that we have come to expect of him in the Chamber.

I hope that my hen. Friend will be able to help the Committee by explaining why it is that the Secretary of State relies upon those distinguished names on the back of the Bill and yet denies his junior Ministers the pleasure and privilege of explaining those views to the Committee that they have previously expressed in a forum where they might not be criticised as sharply, though as courteously, as they would be here.

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

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be tempted down that road. A passing reference to the whereabouts of right hon. and hon. Members is in order, but we must not make a meal of it.

Mr. Body

I regret the absence of my two hon. Friends. I am surprised that they are not with us. Both are renowned for the power of their advocacy.

Mr. William Ross

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) is in charge of the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland. That means that he must deal with housing, water, sewerage, roads and so on. I and other hon. Members write dozens of letters to him frequently and at length about blocked pipes, tiles off roofs, flooded houses, bad roads, pot holes and so on.

My experience is that the hon. Gentleman in question can usually be found in his office, beavering away like nobody's business, trying to catch up with the correspondence that we send him, flooding in week after week. I dare say that if someone went to his office he would find him carrying on with the duties that would normally be done by a councillor looking after 500, 600 or 1,000 constituents at local level—and done very well by that councillor—whereas right hon. and hon. Gentlemen representing Northern Ireland constituencies have to tie up the valuable time of this exceedingly able Member with the minute details of administration in Northern Ireland, which many people there would be willing to take on, if they were allowed to do so.

5.15 am
Mr. Body

I do not doubt for a moment what the hon. Member says. I am sure that he writes many letters about sewerage, waterworks, and so on, but I am sure that he also writes many letters on education, housing and social services.

I had thought—though I stand to be corrected—that my hon. Friends who are present in the Chamber and dealing with these debates are responsible for those other issues which must generate just as much correspondence as that which flows in the direction of my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke. I personally miss my hon. Friends the Members for Basingstoke and for Bosworth (Mr. Butler). They would have adorned the Front Bench admirably, and would have been good advocates of the Bill. Certainly it needs good advocacy. I do not mean that those who are at present on the Front Bench lack the necessary skills. They have been as persuasive as they can be, although I do not believe that they have yet persuaded any of the Bill's critics to change their minds and support it.

A few minutes ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West listed the names of the back of the Bill. He included the name of Mr. Secretary Pym—the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Of course, we all know that the Foreign Office has its finger in this pie. We also know that the Overseas and Defence Committee of the Cabinet approved the proposals in the White Paper and the contents of this Bill. As soon as I discovered that fact, I decided to oppose the Bill as best I could.

I promised that I would be brief for the selfish reason that I hoped that I might be visible again in the future if I were. I am conscious that I may prove to be invisible if I speak any longer.

I conclude by saying that I repent my decision to vote for the 10-years period in part I. I think that the Government were right to hold fast to one year. The one year is now in the Bill. One year should be time enough for the Government to carry out the necessary consultations throughout Northern Ireland to make sure what the people there want. We on the Back Benches are convinced that we know what the majority want. We cannot understand why those who are speaking for the Bill, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke, persist in saying that local government is not the answer. We are convinced that this devolution, if it comes about, will fail. Let us hope that we shall then advance along the lines which were set out in our party's manifesto at the last election. Then we should have integration plus—not minus—local democracy.

Mr. William Ross

This has been an interesting debate. A number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have put their views to the Committee with great clarity. As the debate has progressed the slow process of the education of the Committee has continued and a greater understanding of the creature that is being created has become clear in the minds of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are giving their attention to the subject.

There is no doubt in my mind, having observed the House at work over a number of years, that such debates and such detailed investigation—some would call it filibustering, although I do not consider it as such—are a necessary part of the process of understanding and a necessary part of the education of Members. On every Bill dealing with constitutional issues but, in particular, Bills dealing with Northern Ireland it is necessary that Members should acquire a detailed knowledge and a subconscious feel for the subject. That is the key to how we should think and react to the proposals before us. Such debates give right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who rarely visit Northern Ireland an understanding of what the people on the ground want and what their understanding of the position is.

We have heard many references in the past few hours to local government. One of the complaints about the so-called local government option in Northern Ireland is that it may leave a devolved Assembly with little to do. For 50 years a devolved Government sat in Stormont. There was also a county council structure and a local council structure. All those councillors had plenty to do, yet Stormont never appeared to run out of work. It always seemed to have enough to keep it occupied. I have never been able to understand the argument that if we give powers to local councillors there will be nothing left for the devolved Assembly.

It appears a strange conclusion that the functions that kept the Stormont Parliament going for 50 years will not now be sufficient to keep it going unless it is intended that so little of real substance would be given to it that it would have nothing to do. Whenever I look through the Bill, I wonder whether there is any intention of giving real power and authority to the Assembly.

Even those Members from Northern Ireland who listen to Ministers and to other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen acquire a deeper understanding of what is before us. I am not yet clear about a number of matters which have been discussed in detail. It is clear to all Members who have sat through the proceedings that not everyone, including myself, is clear as to how the Executive or the departmental leaders will be appointed and how they will operate either individually or as a group.

The Secretary of State said at one of our meetings that he expected the Catholics to exact a high price for their cooperation. He said that only when he had said, through a slip of the tongue, that devolution could collapse after the Catholics walked out of the Executive.

Who will be the heads and deputy heads of the Departments? What will be their exact status? They will be appointed by the Assembly and will supposedly be responsible to the Assembly. Who will keep them in their place? Like Ministers in this House, they will be appointed during Her Majesty's pleasure. Who will dismiss them—the Assembly, the Secretary of State or Her Majesty? Will they be dismissed when they lose the support of the 70 per cent. of the Assembly that is necessary to keep them in office? They can be heads of Departments only with 70 per cent. or 50 per cent. plus one cross-community support.

What will happen if those people lose that support? Suppose they do something that a number of Assembly Members disagree with and the Secretary of State says "You must go", but they reply "No. We still have 60 per cent. support and we refuse to go". What will happen? Would the Assembly collapse, with the devolved powers returning to the Secretary of State? What would the House think if a Secretary of State said "An individual still enjoys the support of 69 per cent. of the Assembly, but I demand that he be removed from office because two Assembly Members do not like his policies"? That sort of thing will occur regularly.

Mr. John Patten

It may be helpful if the hon. Gentleman delays detailed consideration of those points until we reach clause 5, which is addressed wholeheartedly to the issues that he is raising.

Mr. Ross

If we had considered clause 5 before we discussed the schedule, as we requested, we would not be in the difficulty that the hon. Gentleman is trying to hide.

Let us suppose that my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) was in charge of a Department in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Molyneaux

God forbid.

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend would do a better job than some of the folk who have had charge of Departments in the past. If he had the support of 65 per cent. of the Assembly and the Secretary of State said that he was 5 per cent. short and, therefore, must go, I guarantee that the Secretary of State would not enjoy the confidence of Members of the Assembly.

5.30 am

The Government and the Secretary of State have not thought this matter through. They have not thought through the implications and ramifications of the Bill. They should start ID apply their minds to it with a great deal more attention and in much greater depth. If they fail to do so, they will find themselves in a deep Irish bog that has swallowed so many political and military hopes in the past.

To set up heads of Departments who will not have collective responsibility as a group and who can be removed from office is to introduce a system that is fraught with danger. The more one thinks about it the more one is forced to the conclusion that the only system that works in practice is that of 50 per cent. plus one. Everyone was so anxious to think of a fancy solution that would give a place to everyone in the political scene in Northern Ireland that they were prepared to close their eyes to the practicalities.

Many problems will arise because of the ambiguity that still surrounds the argument about what the difference is between 50 per cent. plus one and 70 per cent. I have no doubt that some hon. Members will recall that I made a brilliant speech on this very matter on 10 May.

Mr. Molyneaux

My hon. Friend is blowing his own trumpet, but there is no harm in that.

Mr. Ross

Sometimes it is necessary to remind hon. Members of what is said on these occasions. I think that I was right on 10 May. Everything that has been said from the Government Front Bench today, all the fears that have been expressed and all the arguments that we have heard about what 70 per cent. means, were contained in my remarks on 10 May when I spoke about paragraph 43 and the 70 per cent, requirement, which I said had caused the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) some difficulty. I said: A careful reading of paragraphs (a) and (b) will show that the only difference between 70 per cent. and a majority of less than 70 per cent. is that the Secretary of State has to lay the matter before the House if there is a 70 per cent. majority but can forget all about it if the majority is less than 70 per cent. Whether the figure is 50 per cent. plus one or 90 per cent. there must be cross-community support … I assure the right hon. Member for Mansfield that the figure of 70 per cent. is purely a smokescreen to make people think that a 70 per cent. Unionist vote is good enough. It is not. A careful reading of those two paragraphs will quickly reveal that."—[Official Report, 10 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 498.]

That is the precise position. The failure of some to understand what is meant by the statements in the White Paper and the Bill and the statements that have been made by the right hon. Gentleman and his junior Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office arises from the picture that "devolution" conjures up in the minds of the people of Northern Ireland. People always relate that term to what they have seen and known in the past. Whenever one mentions a devolved Assembly, Government or Stormont in Northern Ireland, the man or woman in the street does not look at the fine print of the Bill or of the White Paper. People have a picture in their minds of what was there before. That is what they relate to.

Therefore, whenever one asks people whether they want Stormont or devolution back, one must understand that people answer the question on the basis not of the present proposals but of what they knew in the past. If one takes account of that aspect of people's perception, many of the difficulties and different opinions such as have emerged in opinion polls fall neatly into place. If one does not understand that all such results do not make sense.

It is often complained that most opinion polls are sketchy and that it is difficult to phrase questions in the idiom of the people so that they understand precisely the question that is being asked and answer it. People often answer the question that they think is being asked rather than the real one.

We have been told that we need co-operation and reconcilliation. The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) was the leading exponent of that argument. I am sorry that she is not present. Pehaps her hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn), who is an assiduous attender, will draw her attention to what I am about to say. The right hon. Lady was so poor at searching for reconciliation herself that she had to leave the party that she had served for many years and to turn her back on it because she and some of her right hon. and hon. Friends said that they could not co-exist with other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. I dare say that people in that position could have kept their conscience under strict control and gone along with those with whom they disagreed. To their eternal honour they did not. They did not struggle either. They left and sought pastures new.

Yet, when it comes to Ulster, those right hon. and hon. Members do not apply the same criteria to what we believe in. They tell us that all the things in which we believe are to be undermined, that the things that we love and have worked for all our lives are to be destroyed, and that the country that we love, the party that we work for, care for and cherish is to be moved in a direction of which we do not approve. They tell the people of Northern Ireland that we must accept people, policies and parties that will move all that we believe in in a direction in which we do not wish to go. Apparently we must go along with them. They do not apply the same standards to us. Their judgment is therefore completely worthless because they are not prepared to allow us to live by the standards that they laid down for themselves in party political circumstances.

If there is to be co-operation, which must ultimately mean co-operation in political ideals, it can be achieved only between people who are politically on the same wavelength. Earlier we debated a number of matters, not least the whole question of co-operation and how and why we should try to get along together. I fear that we are harrowing fairly sterile ground, however, as the matter is not so simple as some would have us believe.

If we cannot achieve the 70 per cent. agreement, we have a talking shop. If we have partial or full devolution and people do not like what is happening, perhaps because they are subject to political pressure from their own electorate and wish to protect their backs, they will move out and the house of cards will immediately collapse. We shall then come back down to the level of the Assembly talking shop and try to cobble together another 70 per cent., to use a term that I regard as an insult to cobblers.

That constant rebuilding is the real reason for the opening words of clause 2, "At any time". In other words, if the thing collapses we can try again and again to build up to 70 per cent. with all manner of permutations. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will get together, or they will try to get together with someone else, and so it will go on and it will go on for ever without agreement so long as the hurdle left before us cannot be jumped over.

These are not light matters. I seek not to filibuster but to lay before the Committee the practical outworkings of the proposals before us. We have been told that there are two aspirations and that there must be a place for both. In the same debate, however, we were told that there must be a place for all sections. Which is it? Is it just the two, or is it all? I tend to think that it is all, which makes nonsense of the idea of leaving out the SDLP.

The best advice that I can give the Government is simple. There is a time for reflection, and time spent in reflecting on our debates will not be wasted. As the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said earlier, it is obvious that the Government have lost the intellectual argument on the Bill because it is impracticable. It is unworkable because the Bill as drafted simply cannot succeed. The sooner that is realised and the proposal is changed or abandoned and forgotten, the better it will be. To continue on this path will mean nothing but misery for the people of Ulster, and we have had misery enough already.

I cannot forget—and no hon. Member will easily forget—the advice read out to us by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and his hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor), who is not present today, about the advice given to Conservative candidates, which no doubt was also received and read by right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Front Bench, about the intentions of the Conservative Party and the new Conservative Government. They were told that the view of the Shadow Cabinet—I am sure that the election manifesto and the briefing notes were not issued without the authority of the right hon. Lady and her shadow Ministers—was that there would be pressure to establish a power-sharing Government who would pave the way for a federal constitution linking Ulster to the Republic. A federal structure is the first step to complete integration with the Republic.

5.45 am

We were warned that the United States was involved. What did we find? Within a few months there was a complete about-turn. We are shoved down this road. Everything regarding Northern Ireland on which the Conservative Party stood for election has been deserted or forgotten. Now that this has been brought out into the open, we must ask where that pressure came from. Is that pressure still there? If it is not, why are the Government trying to proceed with a Bill that the right hon. Gentleman knows in his heart and mind will not work? He cannot be so blind to reality that he still believes that the Bill will work. He cannot be deaf to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South and the hon. Member for Antrim, North. One of the two Unionist parties will probably emerge from an election with a majority, and certainly the two combined will do so. That is the reality.

Does the Secretary of State really believe that those two hon. Members have been fudging their words? I do not know what the hon. Member for Antrim, North has said in private, but I do know what he has said publicly. I know what my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South has been saying both privately and publicly. If they keep close to their pronouncements, the Bill is doomed. There is no way that the Unionist parties of Northern Ireland will enter into a power-sharing coalition with Republican parties. That is what the 71 per cent. and the 51 per cent. means. It cannot mean anything else.

People have died over the question of sovereignty in Ulster for years, and it is foolish to proceed down a path that can lead to more deaths, violence and bloodshed.

The Secretary of State appeared to say earlier that he thought that Ulstermen could do better than he and his team. Most Ulstermen would not disagree with that. We would not be politicians if we did. However, if the Secretary of State is serious about putting Ulstermen in the position where they cannot do the job that he desires them to do, he should produce proposals that will allow them to do those jobs. We cannot have the half-baked nonsense in the Bill.

We are clear on what we want. It was made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South earlier in the debate. We believe that the solution put forward by the Secretary of State will not work. We are clear that his solution does not embody our view of the future of Northern Ireland. Up to now the Government have consistently refused each proposal and amendment that has been put forward to improve the Bill to the point where it would have been possible to operate and make sense.

This has been a short debate, despite what might be said, because it has to be balanced with what has to be covered. Part I of the schedule relates to "general suspension", and we could have a debate as long as this one on that 17-line paragraph alone.

Part II deals with "partial suspension" and is also concerned with legislative and Executive functions. The paragraphs on Executive functions allow the Secretary of State to appoint people under section 8(1) of the Constitution Act". Paragraph 5(b) states that a person can be appointed to assist the person appointed as mentioned in paragraph (a) above. That is nothing more than jobs for the boys, because it will be possible to have a chairman—possibly even two—for each committee.

Paragraph 5(2) states: Subsections (2), (5) and (6) of section 8 of the Constitution Act … shall not apply to any appointment". However, section 8(2) of the Act provides: The chief executive member shall preside over the Executive and act as Leader of the Assembly". Therefore, he cannot be appointed. Subsection (5) states: Two of the persons at any time holding appointments under this section (other than the chief executive member) may be persons who were not appointed from among members of the Assembly but not more than one of them shall be the head of a Northern Ireland department. Subsection (6) provides that any person so appointed shall not hold office for more than six months. We could spend at least a full day debating the schedule to make sense out of it. No doubt the Minister will say that we have had a long debate and that the subject has been thoroughly explored. It has been lightly scratched, and no one can deny that. We are only skating over this issue. We could spend much more time on it, but the late hour will, unfortunately, prevent us from doing so.

I am sorry that the Secretary of State is unwilling to concede the principle of majority rule. I believe that straightforward majority rule will at the end of the day be the only system that will work. Once it is coloured or moved in one direction or another, it causes greater offence to the majority of the people.

The Government have the choice of trying to educate a minority to accept that it is a political minority or giving it a veto, which in effect turns it into a majority. Alternatively, the Govermnent can attempt a weighted majority, which only infuriates the political majority. That leads to nothing but misery and concern for everyone, and I ask the Government to think again.

Mr. John Patten

I do not think that at this time in the morning the Committee would welcone my indulging in a great technical excursus into every detail of the schedule.

Mr. Farr

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. Can you guide us about whether my hon. Friend is concluding the debate or merely intervening in the discussion?

The Second Deputy Chairman

All that I can say to help the hon. Gentleman is that the Minister has caught my eye, has been called and is making his speech.

Mr. Patten

The Committee will not welcome such a technical excursus into the details of the schedule. The notes on clauses—I know that many hon. Members have welcomed them—consider the workings of the schedule in some detail. It would be almost otiose for me to go through them line by line, particularly because I could not add much of substance to many points in the schedule. I am not ashamed of that. It would be odd if a Minister came to the Dispatch Box and said something radically different in content, style or opinion from the views supplied in the notes on clauses. I do not suggest that the notes on clauses are imperfect, insufficient or inadequate.

Part I, which is concerned with full devolution, has not caused us much trouble in this interesting debate. It provides that under a devolution order made under clause 2(1)(a) the existing arrangements for direct rule automatically cease. Rather more attention has been paid to part II, which takes up the greater part of the schedule and deals with the arrangements for partial devolution. That issue has excited the interest of many right hon. and hon. Members and I intend to make some points in conclusion about the issues that they raised.

The main provisions of part II concern legislative and executive functions It is important for the Committee to realise that while a partial devolution order is in force the Assembly is given unresticted legislative competence under paragraph 4 over devolved transferred matters, for example, agriculture, commerce or the environment. Transferred matters that are not devolved would remain the responsibility of Parliament. In the language of the Bill, with which we have become so familiar during long hours of consideration, those matters would be treated as reserved and the Assembly could legislate for them only with the Secretary of State's consent.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) requested me to address my attention to two points on paragraph 5. That paragraph enables the Secretary of State to appoint heads of devolved Departments under partial devolution and contains a consequential provision, by reference to the 1974 Act, that devolved Departments would no longer operate under the direction of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman asked, more than reasonably, whether the heads of the devolved Departments during partial devolution should be regarded as an integral part of the United Kingdom, subject to the same doctrines of collective responsibility as applied to United Kingdom Ministers.

I do not think that such heads of devolved Northern Ireland Departments are analogous with United Kindgom Ministers and neither do I think that they perform exactly the same role. They will rather be part of the Government of Northern Ireland under partial devolution. Most importantly of all, they will be responsible to the Assembly, and not to the House, for the discharge of their functions. No doubt it will be for the Secretary of State to advise the Queen on whether they should be dismissed, if for example—here I turn in passing to a point raised by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross)—they had lost the confidence of the Assembly.

6 am

The basis for the appointment of the heads of Departments and for their continuance in office would be different from that applicable to Ministers in the Government of the United Kingdom. It would be a question, for example, of whether they were doing their job in the way appointed or were commanding acceptance throughout the community in Northern Ireland. I know that that is a contentious point for some hon. Members, but it is a point of substance in the Government's policy.

Mr. John Dunlop (Mid-Ulster)

Will these Ministers or heads of Departments be appointed according to their elected performance in the community, or will they be appointed irrespective of how they perform electorally? In other words, will they have the support of the people of Northern Ireland for these problems and appointments? Will that be a factor in their employment, or will they be appointed irrespective of their performance in the election?

Mr. Patten

The appointment of the heads of Departments would depend on the Assembly, which would bring forward proposals. Part and parcel of the Bill as it stands is an attempt to put the maximum opportunity in the hands of those who make up the Assembly.

The second point that the right hon. Member for Down, South asked me to address my attention to was on paragraph 6 of schedule 1.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I take it that the hon. Gentleman's answer to my first point is that these people will not be subject to collective responsibility?

Mr. Patten

They will be subject to a different form of collective responsibility, not the form that applies to United Kingdom Ministers as we know it in the House. They will be responsible for those areas of the budget that they collectively have within their power to spend, just as other Ministers of non-devolved Departments will be responsible in the first instance to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

There will have to be a time when the Secretary of State discusses issues both with the non-devolved and devolved groups of, to use shorthand, Ministers. This will be a matter for accommodation, the same sort of accommodation as has to be made within the Government of the United Kingdom in the Cabinet, with which the right hon. Gentleman is familiar.

Mr. Powell

What did the Minister mean by saying that the heads of Departments would have a different collective responsibility? The natural meaning of that would be that if there were, for example, four heads of devolved Departments, those four would act as collectivity, bound by collective responsibility, in which case it must follow that one of them answers for all since unless one answers for all, there is no meaning to collective responsibility.

Mr. Patten

The doctrine of collegiality, which the right hon. Gentleman developed about two hours ago, was an interesting one. It is clear that, as in the British constitution, so in the new Assembly there will be a period of evolution. Doubtless, the ways and means by which decisions are taken under partial devolution will be subject to that sort of accommodation.

Partial devolution inevitably means that there is a division between devolved and non-devolved Departments. In the Bill each is given its own responsibility. No Administration that I know of—certainly not that of the United Kingdom—comprises Departments that are entirely free from the need to consult other interests.

I am prepared to admit that the scope for overlap will perhaps be greater under partial devolution than under full devolution. The difference does not need to be exaggerated. Even under the Stormont system that operated until 1972, the discretion of Northern Ireland Departments to spend money was effectively constrained not only by the Northern Ireland Department of Finance but by the United Kingdom Parliament and Treasury, which decided what funds would be available to Northern Ireland.

I shall attempt to answer the second question that the right hon. Gentleman asked me to address myself to. He asked—it was a reasonable request—why in paragraph 6(2) of the schedule the words in the penultimate and ultimate lines of that sub-paragraph or that it contains provisions creating offences or imposing penalties. should have been provided in that way. It is to ensure that during partial devolution subordinate legislation—that is what we are dealing with—relating to devolved matters may—such as legislation sometimes does—create offences or impose penalties without requiring it to be laid at Westminster. If that did not occur I believe that there would be a doubt since the criminal law is a reserved matter under schedule 3 to the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and only transferred matters can be devolved under devolved powers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that explanation as to why those works appear in that form in paragraph 6(2).

The last major point is the important one raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) who discussed the problems that might face individuals—it is individuals in Northern Ireland with whom we are primarily concerned—seeking to gain redress from the Ombudsman during a period of rolling devolution. Paragraph 7 of the schedule deals with the reports, both of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and the Commissioner for Complaints in Northern Ireland, and the laying of accounts under partial devolution. The underlying principle is that reports and accounts should be laid before the Assembly if they deal with Northern Ireland Departments that have been devolved—and that seems to be only logical—and before Parliament, which seems equally logical, if they concern Departments that remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State. Paragraph 8 specifically requires the Assembly to establish a public accounts committee in respect of devolved Departments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire raised a point about the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. Under paragraph 7 of the schedule it is clear that his reports will be laid before—I ask my hon. Friend to think about what I am about to say—whichever legislature is responsible for the matter at the time the report is made.

That is right in principle because whichever legislature is responsible for a matter that is the subject of the Parliamentary Commissioner's report should be able to question the responsible Minister, whether the Minister is in the House of Commons or the Assembly.

Mr. Farr

Can any member of the devolved Assembly refer a matter to the Commissioner for Complaints or the Parliamentary Commissioner in the same way that a Member of Parliament may?

Mr. Patten

Yes. The position is exactly as my hon. Friend suggests. The newly elected Members of the Assembly will have those avenues open to him.

Mr. Farr

I was listening with attention, despite the hour. I heard my hon. Friend say that the Parliamentary Commissioner or the Commissioner for Complaints would reply directly to the Assembly or to Parliament, but I did not hear him say that a complaint could be intiated by an Assembly Member.

Mr. Patten

I thought that I made it clear that that possibility is there for any member of the Assembly.

Schedule 1 contains, in a technical sense, all the necessary provisions to enable either full or partial devolution orders to. The schedule is essential to the scheme of the Bill and I commend it to the Committee.

Mr. Farr


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 124, Noes 18.

Division No. 218] [6.11 am
Arnold,Tom Fookes, MissJanet
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Forman,Nigel
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Garel-Jones,Tristan
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Goodlad,Alastair
Benyon,Thomas(A'don) Gow, lan
Berry, Hon Anthony Gray,Hamish
Best, Keith Greenway, Harry
Biffen,Rt Hon John Griffiths, E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds)
Blackburn,John Gummer,JohnSelwyn
Bonsor,SirNicholas Hamilton, Hon A.
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Hampson,Dr Keith
Bowden, Andrew Heddle,John
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Henderson,Barry
Braine,SirBernard Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Bright,Graham Holland,Phllip(Carlton)
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Hordern, Peter
Bruce-Gardyne,John Hunt, David (Wirral)
Butcher,John Jenkin,Rt Hon Patrick
Cadbury,Jocelyn Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Lang, lan
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Luce, Richard
Chapman,Sydney Marland,Paul
Churchill,W.S. Mates, Michael
Colvin,Michael Mather,Carol
Cope,John Mawhinney,DrBrian
Cormack,Patrick Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin
Dickens,Geoffrey Mayhew, Patrick
Dorrell,Stephen Mellor,David
Dover,Denshore Meyer, Sir Anthony
Dunn, James A. Mills,lain(Meriden)
Eggar,Tim Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Eyre,Reginald Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb 'gh N) Moate, Roger
Monro,SirHector Speller,Tony
Montgomery, Fergus Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Sproat,Iain
Needham,Richard Squire,Robin
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Steen, Anthony
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Stevens,Martin
Parris, Matthew Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Patten, John (Oxford) StradlingThomas,J.
Pink, R.Bonner Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Prior, Rt Hon James Temple-Morris, Peter
Rathbone,Tim Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
RhysWilliams,SirBrandon Thompson,Donald
Ridley,HonNicholas Thornton,Malcolm
Ridsdale,SirJulian Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Trippier, David
Roper,John van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rossi, Hugh Waddington,David
Royle,Sir Anthony Wakeham,John
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. Waldegrave,HonWilliam
Sainsbury,Hon Timothy Waller, Gary
Scott,Nicholas Warren,Kenneth
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wells,Bowen
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wells, John(Maidstone)
Shelton,William(Streatham) Wickenden,Keith
Shepherd,Colin(Hereford) Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Shersby, Michael
Silvester, Fred Tellers for the Ayes:
Sims, Roger Mr. Peter Brooke and
Smith,Tim (Beaconsfield) Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn McQuade,John
Body,Richard Molyneaux, James
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Paisley, Rev lan
Budgen,Nick Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Cranborne,Viscount Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Dunlop,John Stanbrook,Ivor
Farr,John Walker, B. (Perth)
Goodhart,SirPhilip Tellers for the Noes:
Gorst,John Mr. William Ross and
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. Christopher Murphy.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That this schedule, as amended, be the First schedule to the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 105, Noes 17.

Division No. 219] [6.22 am
Arnold,Tom Dunn, James A.
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Eggar,Tim
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Garel-Jones,Tristan
Beaumont-Dark,Anthony Goodlad,Alastair
Benyon,Thomas(A'don) Gow, lan
Berry, Hon Anthony Greenway, Harry
Best, Keith Griffiths, E(B'ySt.Edm'ds)
Biffen,Rt Hon John Gummer,JohnSelwyn
Blackburn,John Hampson, Dr Keith
Bonsor,SirNicholas Heddle,John
Boscawen,Hon Robert Henderson,Barry
Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W) Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Bowden, Andrew Holland,Philip(Carlton)
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Braine,SirBernard Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bright,Graham Lang, lan
Brooke, Hon Peter Lennox-Boyd,HonMark
Bruce-Gardyne,John Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Butcher,John Marland,Paul
Cadbury,Jocelyn Mates, Michael
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Mather,Carol
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Mawhinney,DrBrian
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin
Chapman,Sydney Mayhew, Patrick
Colvin,Michael Mellor,David
Cope,John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Dickens,Geoffrey Mills,Iain(Meriden)
Dorrell,Stephen Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Dover,Denshore Moate, Roger
Monro,SirHector Squire,Robin
Montgomery, Fergus Stevens, Martin
Needham, Richard Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Newton,Tony StradlingThomas,J.
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Parris,Matthew Temple-Morris,Peter
Patten,John (Oxford) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Prior, RtHon James Thompson,Donald
RhysWilliams,SirBrandon Thornton,Malcolm
Ridley,Hon Nicholas Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Ridsdale,Sir Julian Trippier,David
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Roper,John Vaughan,Dr Gerard
Rossi, Hugh Waddington,David
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R. Wakeham,John
Sainsbury,Hon Timothy Waller, Gary
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Warren,Kenneth
Shaw,SirM.(Scarborough) Wells, Bowen
Shelton,William (Streatham) Wells,John(Maidstone)
Shepherd,Colin (Hereford) Wickenden,Keith
Silvester, Fred Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
Sims, Roger
Smith Tim (Beaconsfield) Tellers for the Ayes:
Speller,Tony Mr. David Hunt and
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Mr. Archie Hamilton.
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Molyneaux,James
Body,Richard Paisley, Rev Ian
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Budgen,Nick Smyth, Rev, W. M. (Belfast S)
Cranborne,Viscount Stanbrook,Ivor
Dunlop,John Walker, B. (Perth)
Gardiner,George(Reigate) Tellers for the Noes:
Goodhart,SirPhilip Mr. William Ross and
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Mr. Christopher Murphy.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Mr. Molyneaux

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

The Second Deputy Chairman

I do not feel able to accept that motion at present.

Mr. Prior

I beg to move the amendment in my name.

6.30 am
The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. The first amendment that has been selected is No. 39 which is not in the name of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. Could you assist the Committee with some guidance on your decision not to accept the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) that you do report Progress? There are certain conventions as well as rules that extend to the decision of the Chair on this subject. As the proposition was last debated over four hours ago and the Committee has added the schedule to the Bill, will you tell us, for information and guidance, the considerations by which the Chair is governed in the decision that you have just announced?

The Second Deputy Chairman

This is a matter for the discretion of the Chair. In exercising that discretion, the Chair has available advice and precedents.

Mr. Farr

I accept your guidance, Mr. Dean, which was no doubt given after considerable thought and advice. Can you help us by telling us when such a motion could be presented to you with the chance of a successful outcome or at least of being debated?

As the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, progress has been made. We have added a substantial schedule to the Bill after four or five hours' debate, and previously in similar circumstances the Chair has nearly always accepted a motion to report progress.

The Second Deputy Chairman

We must see how we get on.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Dean. I refer to an expression that you used in kindly replying to the point that I put to you. You said that the Chair had available to it precedents and advice. It is understood that, like the rest of us, the Chair seeks and obtains professional advice in the exercise of its functions. That is well understood, though it is not normally referred to.

The reason why I have raised with you, Mr. Dean, the expression that you used is that your reference to advice could be taken to refer, though I am sure that it was not intended to refer, to advice other than that from those who normally, and in the course of their duties, assist the Chair.

The Second Deputy Chairman

I return to my original point. This is a matter for the discretion of the Chair and I have exercised my discretion to the best of my abilitity.

  1. Clause 3
    1. cc894-921
      1. c921
      2. LIAISON COMMITTEE 13 words
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