HC Deb 23 July 1998 vol 316 cc1329-30
Mr. Trimble

I beg to move amendment No. 148, in clause 20, page 10, leave out lines 12 to 15.

This is, I hope, quite a small point. The aim of the amendment is to elucidate the meaning and situations that the Government have in mind with regard to this clause.

The clause gives the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a power unilaterally to revoke legislation that is made by a Northern Ireland Department of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It gives that power to the Secretary of State in two situations. I find one acceptable—the one in which the legislative enactment in Northern Ireland contains a provision that is incompatible with the United Kingdom's international obligations.

However, I have difficulty in understanding the second provision. It gives the Secretary of State power to revoke legislation that is enacted by the Northern Ireland Assembly and that the Secretary of State considers would have an adverse effect on other legislation as it applies to excepted matters.

I should like the Minister to explain precisely what is meant by "an adverse effect". In what circumstances is there likely to be a situation that would justify the Secretary of State, in a remarkable action, unilaterally revoking the legislation of another body? That should be done only where there is clearly good reason for so doing. I am concerned about the apparent breadth of that phrase "adverse effect".

Mr. Worthington

As the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) will know, we have three categories of legislation: excepted legislation, transferred legislation and referred legislation. In some circumstances, the Secretary of State may also give permission for the Assembly to legislate on areas that have been reserved. Again, we will have to look at this issue, but the thought here is that there may be circumstances in which legislation passed by the Assembly under its transferred powers has an impact on the Secretary of State's reserved powers or under the excepted powers.

Here is an example that has been given to me. The Assembly might introduce legislation on road transport, which might have an impact on the activities of the security forces. We are not talking here of conflict. We are talking just about the interface between different sorts of legislation and different sorts of powers.

This issue is still being visited under clause 54 of the Scotland Bill; it is clear that we need to be clearer about what is the relationship between different sorts of powers. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment, because we will need to revisit the issue at a later stage to clarify the relationships between those three sorts of powers, and to ensure that there is compatibility between those powers and clarity between the different Assemblies and Parliaments.

Mr. Trimble

I am glad that the Minister is thinking of looking again at the matter to achieve some clarity. That is precisely what I was seeking. I hope that we will have uniformity with the equivalent arrangements in Scotland, which, I regret to say, I have not had the opportunity to study, but I will endeavour to do so. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw the amendment, and I beg to ask leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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