HL Deb 27 July 1972 vol 333 cc1524-41

4.29 p.m.

THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND (LORD WINDLESHAM) rose to move, That the draft Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, laid before the House on July 10, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the first of the two Orders standing in my name on the Order Paper. This first draft Order in Council is concerned with the organisation and structure of the education and library services in Northern Ireland. These are clearly matters of some importance, and I shall explain in a few minutes the scheme of reorganisation which the Order proposes. But the educational system is something far more than a statutory service. In a very real sense it is, or is capable of being if it is used wisely, a principal means to shape a better spirit and a better future in Northern Ireland. No one can for very long carry any degree of responsibility for the affairs of Northern Ireland without concluding that it is a place which carries, often self-consciously, the marks of history. The deep divisions, the bitterness, the reluctance to look beyond the bounds of a restricted society and community—these marks disfigure a rising generation of young Ulster people, as they have done for so many years in the past.

In spite of the brave and largely unrecorded efforts of generations of imaginative teachers, the old mould has not yet been broken. Nor is there any simple nostrum by which that desirable end may be achieved. In recent years there has been much talk of integrated education in Northern Ireland. If I may express a personal opinion, I hope that the debate will continue. But we must recognise the right of parents to choose the type of school they consider best suited to the needs of their children. Nor would it accord with the principles on which British education is based to seek to impose from above some prescribed and uniform pattern, with the hope that all existing conflicts will thereby become resolved.

I am, however, certain of this: that no single group in Northern Ireland carries a heavier burden of responsibility for the future than do its educators. They have the power to use the educational system and the curriculum to promote breadth of mind and vision; to encourage tolerance; to foster a sympathetic and constructive curiosity about others. In short, to work towards the emergence of a mature and educated society in which the noble qualities of the human spirit can once again re-assert themselves against the evil forces of emotion and prejudice and self destruction. The preamble to the UNESCO Constitution put this vividly a quarter of a century ago: Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.

The whole purpose of educational policy since 1944 has been to identify and to realise the full potential of successive generations of children. I do not believe that any child born in Northern Ireland has any less potential than a child born on this side of the Irish Sea. But all too often, as he grows up, he has been trapped in a narrow and restrictive outlook on the world. If the Province can, in the future, more fully realise its responsibilities towards it own children—who receive their education, we should remember, not just from the schools but from the whole society around them—then there will be greater hope that the current tragedies will not be re-enacted. That is the background against which this Order should be considered.

Turning to the Order itself, it can be most clearly described as having four main purposes. The first is to provide administrative machinery for the education and library services in Northern Ireland after the re-organisation of local government which comes into operation on April 1, 1973. On that date all the existing county, county borough, urban and rural district councils will be abolished. In their place will be 26 local government districts established under the Local Government Boundaries Act (Northern Ireland) 1971. The present position is that responsibility for the local administration of education, and for the greater part of the public library service in Northern Ireland rests with the county and county borough councils (that is, the councils in the 6 Counties of Ulster together with Belfast and Londonderry, making 8 in all). After they cease to exist on April 1 of next year, their duties in respect of education and the public library service will devolve on five Area Boards, which will be responsible for these services in areas made up of groups of the new district councils. This follows the recommendations of the Local Government Review Body, chaired by Sir Patrick Macrory, which were accepted by the previous Government of Northern Ireland and which have been endorsed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The membership of Boards will be composed, as to 40 per cent., of members of district councils in the areas of the Boards nominated by those councils. The remaining members will be appointed by the Minister. Some are required by the draft Order to represent specific interests such as transferors of voluntary schools, maintained voluntary school authorities, and teachers. At least three members must have a special interest in the library service. The selection of the remainder will be at the discretion of the Minister, with the aim of securing a wide and balanced representation of community interests in the area of the Board.

Turning now to the functions of the Boards, I have described the structure. The counties and county boroughs cease to exist after April and five Area Boards based on the groupings of the new district council take their place. I have described what the membership will be, so I will now move on to the functions. As I have explained, the membership of the Boards will differ substantially from that of existing local education authorities and their education or library committees, but the functions of the Boards—what they will actually do—will be very similar to those of the present authorities. In their day-to-day working they will be subject to much the same degree of control by the Ministry of Education as the present local education authorities. The main rules of conduct governing members and officers of local authorities are applied by the draft Order to members and officers of the new Boards. There will also be a Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards. This will be a new body which will exercise a general oversight of matters connected with recruitment, training and terms and conditions of employment of officers of Boards. Although the functions of the Commission are advisory and not executive, the Commission call refer a matter to the Ministry of Education which will then give such directions as are necessary. I should add that the Boards will not be rating authorities, and will receive grants from the Government of Northern Ireland to cover all of their net approved expenditure.

The second main purpose of the draft Order is to bring together more closely the administration of education and of the public libraries, and for that purpose to enact a new code of library legislation. Libraries are an expanding service in Northern Ireland, but the legislation is fragmentary and in many cases out of date. This opportunity has accordingly been taken of setting out in one document a self-contained and up-to-date code of law relating to libraries in the light, in particular, of the comprehensive legislation on this subject which was enacted for England and Wales in 1964. The most significant change is that, whereas up to the present local authorities have been empowered, but not obliged, to provide library services, the new Boards will be required to make available for their area a comprehensive library service. They will also have an obligation to work together with other Boards and, so far as is necessary, with outside library authorities, to ensure that the library needs of the Province are fully met. Although it is expected that both education and library services will benefit through being administered together, it is important to ensure that the library service is not unduly subordinated to the much larger and more expensive education service. For this reason, Boards will be required to set up statutory library committees which will have the duty, in addition to any other duties given to them by the Boards, of preparing library estimates and library development schemes.

The third purpose of the draft Order is to enable effect to be given to the results of a detailed review of existing provisions of legislation concerning edu- cation which are not necessarily affected by the reorganisation of local government. Of the provisions in the Order which reflect this purpose, the most significant is probably that contained in Schedule 3. This relates to the establishment of a teaching appointments committee for each board to deal with appointments to senior teaching posts in schools under the management of boards. An important feature of these teaching appointments committees will be that out of their eight members two will be serving principals of schools managed by the area board so as to ensure that the committee has available expert advice in the making of these appointments. The jurisdiction of the appointments committee will not extend to voluntary schools since appointments to all teaching staff in these schools are the prerogative of their governing bodies.

The fourth purpose of the Order is to consolidate those provisions of existing legislation which are not substantially affected by the change in the structure of local government and which do not appear to call for amendment on any other grounds. The Education Act (Northern Ireland) 1947 has been subject to very numerous Amendments, the consolidation of which in the draft Order should make the law much more accessible to those concerned with its administration.

That is a short summary of a long and, in places, complex draft Order in Council. The Order is based on a Bill which had received its Second Reading at Stormont before Prorogation, but because of the inherent importance of its subject matter, it was also considered in the form of a draft Order by the Northern Ireland Advisory Commission. Members of another place debated the Order at some length on July 14 and my hon. Friend Mr. Channon, who has a particular responsibility for education in the Province, was able to inform Parliament of the visits he had made to schools throughout Northern Ireland and of meetings and discussions he had had with teachers, pupils and those concerned with educational administration.

The Order, as I have explained, does not affect the schools directly or what is taught in them. It is designed to bring the pattern of the local control of education into line with the new structure of local government and to consolidate into one document, and in places amend, much of the existing legislation concerning education. It also recognises for the first time, as a statutory obligation, the duty of the new area boards to provide comprehensive library facilities. That is the basis of the Order, which I hope will commend itself to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, laid before the House on July 10, be approved.—(Lord Windlesham).

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the Order, though one cannot pretend that we are following a satisfactory process when, for example, one notices from the Report of the Special Orders Committee that the subject may be debated merely in the terms of the Order. Your Lordships will appreciate that this is a major piece of legislation. It contains 127 Articles and 16 Schedules, and although the Minister set the pattern admirably by explaining it under four headings I would have preferred an opportunity to consider some of what I would call the nuts and bolts of this legislation. I agree as an educator that educators will always carry great responsibility. Nevertheless, I hope that there will never come a time when enthusiasm for the integrated school will prevent parents from having a choice in the type of school they desire their children to attend.

I have said on many occasions in this House that we are all too prone to blame religious differences for many of the problems that exist in the world, Throughout history it has been the whipping boy, but I believe that the present problems in this part of the world are often exaggerated by causes which are right outside those of religious difference. It is certainly true that emotion, prejudice and self-destruction are paramount in the area we are considering. It is equally true, however, that the younger generation are the people to whom we must look.

This " Bill "—I am reluctant to call it an Order—obviously consolidates many previous Acts. As I read it I wished that we in this House could be given an opportunity to look at a major piece of legis- lation relative to education, something we have not had an opportunity of doing for a long time. When I learn that these councils, carrying incredibly wide powers and responsibilities, will be largely within the prerogative of the Minister, I was alerted, as one is bound to be, to the tremendous responsibilities which fall on the Minister. I notice that from the district councils, two-fifths will be the maximum number of people appointed to the boards. This will not be in any way comparable with the representation on local education committees because by my reading of the Order it means that the boards will be made up largely of people appointed by the Minister.

The disqualification provisions which will prevent people from being appointed to the boards are interesting, and as I read them I wondered whether they were comparable with English legislation. If one has been convicted by a court in Northern Ireland or elsewhere for an offence which merits imprisonment for not less than three months one is disqualified from membership. This seems rather unusual. Will one be asked, before standing for appointment to one of these bodies, if one has been in prison for three months or convicted of that type of offence? After all, certain driving offences can be punished by similar terms of imprisonment, yet a person so convicted might prove a very adequate representative on a local education authority.

I cannot understand how the medical and dental inspection arrangements will be carried out, mainly because of the vague phraseology that is used. Our legislation specifies the number of times that a child must be medically examined during its school lifetime. Perhaps the Minister will explain what is meant in this context of the Order. Neither can I understand how children requiring special education will receive it. As your Lordships will recall, we have made a major change by which no child is considered incapable of receiving education. No longer do we have transference to another service. This does not seem to be spelled out in the Order.

In relation to compulsory attendance at school, walking distance in the Order is described for a child under the age of 11 as two miles and, for any other child, three miles. I do not know whether the countryside of Northern Ireland is like that of Southern Ireland, but I should have thought that a child who had to walk three miles to school and three miles home, even in these days of well-fed and energetic children, was undertaking a very considerable journey.

These are some of what I would call the nuts and bolts of the Order that we should be discussing and I am particularly bothered that we should be dealing with such a major piece of legislation in this speedy fashion. We have taken over responsibility for Northern Ireland and I feel that matters of this sort should come before us in a different way. Perhaps that was impossible on this occasion. I notice that there is power to call for reports. May we have reports at more reasonable intervals and at times other than at the end of the Session, so enabling us to debate them more fully?

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for explaining the nature of the Order. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, referred to the Report of the Special Orders Committee and as this matter is of such constitutional importance it might be appropriate if I were to quote a few passages from the Report.

This is the Fourteenth Report of the Committee and it states that this Order is: … the equivalent of a large Bill dealing with a subject of prime importance comparable to the Bills for the Education Act 1944 and the Education (Scotland) Act 1945. It may be presumed that a Bill for the some purpose as this Order would have occupied the attention of the House at every stage and, during its passage, have been amended. The effect of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 is that this legislation will be debated once only by the House on the Motion to approve the draft. The draft cannot be amended. I am not criticising the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, because he is faced with the situation of which we are all aware, but it is rather an exceptional one. It is clear, and to some extent illustrated by the opening remarks of the noble Lord, that in debating Northern Ireland we have to do so on two different planes. On the one hand there is the immediate situation and the continuing crisis. On the other there is the legislative programme which it is now the duty of the Westminster Parlia- ment to consider. It is sometimes a little difficult to divorce the one from the other.

But I should like, if I may, to make just one brief comment on the wider aspect. I still hope that Mr. Whitelaw's policy will succeed in spite of the setbacks and the aggravation caused by the activities of the I.R.A. and the necessity for dealing with violence. It does seem to me absolutely essential that Mr. Whitelaw should win over the moderates and prevent, if he can, any events occurring which will increase support for, or throw sympathy over to, the I.R.A. I hope that the critics of Mr. Whitelaw will keep this continually in mind, because if it is not kept in mind there is little hope for the success of his policy and perhaps not much point in discussing these Orders.

My Lords, when we were debating the last batch of Orders I may have preempted this debate perhaps by referring to the subject of education and in particular the religious differences. But I did so because there was a reference to the cost of education in the previous Order. I do not want to say again what I said on the last occasion except to point out that I do feel some concern for the divisive effect of sectarian differences reflected in the schools. And in saying that I am, of course, aware of what the noble Baroness has just said. I merely want to ask two questions. The first is this: I would be interested to know how many children are prevented from going to school at the present time? To what extent is the educational process being interfered with by the tragic events in Northern Ireland? When I view television, all too often one sees children taking part in riots and throwing stones and other objects. Some of them certainly appear to me to be of school age and I cannot believe that all these incidents occur outside school hours. I wonder whether the noble Lord is able to help us at all on that?

Secondly—and here I am just returning to this subject of the sectarian differences in Northern Ireland—what about the training colleges? There is a reference to the training and certification of teachers in Part VI, paragraph 55, and all I wish to ask is whether the separation of the two communities applies to training colleges. I would hope not. I would hope that so far as training colleges are concerned religious differences do not come into the picture. It certainly does seem to me important that if the tragedy of Northern Ireland, the sectarian differences and all that flows from them, are to diminish, it might be helped at the educational level. If so, I think that would be a step in the right direction.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that everyone in this noble House will support the draft Order introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I do not want to go into the details, but I can assure my noble friends from past experience that governing Northern Ireland is an extremely difficult task for anybody to undertake. The noble Lord who has just sat down said he hoped that the Secretary of State would win over the support of the moderate people in Northern Ireland. May I assure him that he already has their support. The people whose support he has not got are the extremists, and the support of the extremists is quite impossible for any reasonable man to get. The extremists are and always have been the curse of Ireland in general and Northern Ireland in particular.

I have been asked by my moderate friends in Northern Ireland to say a few words in support of this Order. I believe it would be wise for this House to support it, and may I say to the two previous noble speakers that, despite the appalling difficulties through which we are passing, life does continue. People do continue to go to school. I was in the centre of Belfast last Friday when a bomb was going off every minute and I experienced this appalling problem of how one was to get out of the city, because whatever road one went down something was blown up. Somehow or other one did get out and somehow or other life has to continue.

In brief, I am merely suggesting that the House should support the Order introduced by my noble friend. I believe it is the right thing to do. The Bill was already at Second Reading stage at Stormont before the Parliament was suspended and it would be wise that it should come into operation.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, both the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble Lord, Lord Wade, referred to the Report of the Special Orders Committee which drew the attention of the House to the length of this Order and to the unusual nature of the Parliamentary proceedings which relate to the draft Orders in Council. The noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, raised these same considerations on the last occasion when we debated a number of Orders in Council relating to the Northern Ireland legislative programme. We had the discussion on the first of the Orders which happened to be about the reorganisation of the electricity supply industry, but the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made it clear that his remarks related to all the Orders which were brought forward in this way.

We must accept that this is a most unusual procedure and my noble friends and myself in introducing the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972, to which the House gave its agreement just before Easter, made it clear that this was so. But the hard fact is that the Parliament of Northern Ireland has been prorogued, for reasons which it is unnecessary to discuss to-day, and that it had a full and important legislative programme before it. Part of that was on the Statute Book, but not very much. It was March and a number of Bills were halfway through while others had not yet started their course. So, my right honourable friend had to consider whether he would proceed with the legislative programme or whether he would curtail it.

It so happened that the very heavy burden of the legislation necessary to implement the Macrory reforms, and the whole series of linked consequential reforms that flow from it, were coming up before Stormont in this particular Session. Anyone who has been close to the situation would agree that it would have been defeatist and most unwise to have dropped the whole reform programme and to have said that this could no longer go forward. It was so far advanced—this had been going on for several years; a number of preparatory steps had already been taken, staff recruited and so on—that it would have been unthinkable to take that course of action. So what we are now left with is the fact that one Parliament cannot do the work of two. The procedure for Orders in Council is the best that we have been able to evolve, and it is what Parliament agreed to when it passed the Act just before Easter.

What I did discuss on the previous occasion—I shall not rehearse it to-day because it is in Hansard—was the very full process of consultation which takes place in Northern Ireland before these draft Orders in Council come to Westminster at all. We must remember that it is the interests of the people in Northern Ireland that are affected, so it is crucial that close consultation should take place there before these Orders in Council are tabled for debate and approval at Westminster. I gave details of the procedure, which can be found in Hansard.

The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, asked me some questions which she described as referring to the nuts and bolts of the Order. The first was about the disqualification of members of boards who have served a term of imprisonment. I understand that this provision is taken from the general local government law in Northern Ireland. As regards medical and dental inspection, the Northern Ireland provision originally specified the number of occasions on which a child should be medically examined, but the medical officers thought, and advised, that this was too rigid; they pointed out that some children need more frequent inspection than others, and they thought it was better to be flexible in the way set out in the Order.

As to the composition of the boards, the local authorities will, as the noble Baroness correctly said, provide 40 per cent. of the members, and in the remaining 60 per cent. there will be a number of laid down categories: representatives of the transferors of schools, representatives of maintained schools, three teachers, and three persons with library interests. So there will then be about 30 per cent. of people who have to fall within these specified categories. The remainder are the people who can be appointed by the Minister, who has a duty to ensure that the interests of the area are represented. Here again I might say that the figure of 40 per cent. comes from the report of the local government review body and the thinking and consultation that took place both be- fore and after the publication of that document.

The theme of the Macrory Report was that Northern Ireland was a region of 1½ million people and that a whole number of services were best managed on a regional basis. These included education, health, planning, roads and a number of other services, but it was thought that in the case of education and health there should be area boards in between the Stormont level—that is the regional level—and the district councils and the schools themselves. Macrory recommended that between 30 and 40 per cent. of the members of those boards should be nominated by the district councils. In this Order the top figure of 40 per cent. has been taken, because this was, of course, a local authority service, as it is in this country, and it seemed appropriate to take the higher figure. In the next Order we will see that a figure of 30 per cent. is taken, because hospitals, for example, have had very few elected representatives.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, asked me about training colleges. I understand than the position is that almost all Roman Catholic students attend colleges under Roman Catholic management. He also asked about school attendances, and was, I think, answered by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. The attendance figures are quite astonishingly high. I have seen a schedule of attendances, which I do not have with me at the moment, but I should like to send it to the noble Lord, Lord Wade. But the general pattern is as described by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, who speaks with such experience on this matter. Children do still go to school; the pattern is much nearer normality than one would expect, and it is a very encouraging sign that this should be so.

May I finally say that I welcome very much the support given to this Order by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. When he said that governing Northern Ireland was an extremely tiresome and difficult task to undertake, I felt like saying, "Hear hear!"


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question on medical and dental inspection? I listened carefully to this new recommendation, and it seems to me that it would be possible for some children not to be subject to examination during the whole of their school attendance. Is that correct?


My Lords, I should not like to speak with great authority on this matter, and if I am wrong I will let the noble Baroness know. I understand that the position is that no number of occasions is specified in the Order and there is no actual obligation, which I think is what the noble Baroness is asking me. But I feel quite certain, in view of the consultation that has taken place with the medical officers, that it is most improbable that a child could go throughout its whole school life without being examined by a medical officer. I can look into this point. The Ministry of Education is not one that I have direct responsibility for, but I can find out the position and let the noble Baroness know.


My Lords, I hope the House might be just a little indulgent, because, as my noble friend Lady Phillips indicated, this is some Order! and the House is being asked to accept a very great deal. My noble friend raised the matter of the presentation of the annual report and the timing. I wonder whether we could be given some answer to the point that she made on that. While I am commenting very briefly, may I say that we are very fortunate in having the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, here with us this afternoon. I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government might consider some means whereby perhaps a small number of your Lordships' House might be sent to Northern Ireland from time to time to acquaint themselves with the situation there.


My Lords, I think we must regard this as a continuous reply.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, perhaps I may intervene; I may help him. This is becoming a regular performance. The House ought to welcome the interest that noble Lords show, but unforunately they have not always read what has been said in the previous debates. We have gone round this subject as to how we should consider these Orders. It is an inevitably very unsatisfactory situation at the moment, but I am bound to acquit the Government of responsibility for it. As the noble Lord will know, and as other noble Lords who heard the earlier debates will know, discussions have been going on through the usual channels in this matter. As I understand it, when another place comes to make up its mind—and unfortunately we have been hung up as another place would not make up its mind on how to deal with these matters—I hope we shall have the sort of committee which will be able to examine legislation which is, as both my noble friends said, major legislation. Incidentally, I am grateful for the fact that the Special Orders Committee have acceded to the suggestions we made and now draw attention to the special nature of this. I think we are in a difficult position. My feeling at the moment is that it is quite impossible for us to do justice to this sort of legislation. There is hardly a page in the Order which is not susceptible to full discussion and analysis. I certainly do not want to press the Government tonight, because we have further business coming on.

It is satisfactory to see noble Lords taking an interest. Neither the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, nor I myself, who have been handling these matters up to now, can possibly be remotely expert on them, and I welcome the interventions of people like my noble friends, Lady Phillips, Lord Garnsworthy and Lady Summerskill. But I am afraid that it will be a frustrating experience for them at the moment, and I am quite sure that, before the House meets again in the autumn, we shall need some sort of committee which I hope will be able to examine these Orders (I would repeat this, although it has been said already), not merely in draft form, which is the form they are in now, but in a form which will enable the Government to take heed of the advice of noble Lords. I think it will be important that this consideration should take place after the Commons have considered the Orders, because there is actual representation in the Commons from Northern Ireland, and they will be able to do a more thorough job. I am attracted by the suggestion from my noble friend Lord Garnsworthy, to the effect that there are noble Lords who are willing to devote time to this matter, and that it should be possible for them to be given information in advance of the sort of legislation which is coming, and possibly also smile information on consideration and deliberations of the Advisory Committee. Indeed, their activities might well include visits to Ireland.

My Lords, we shall be deluding ourselves if we suppose that we can do a proper job on this sort of legislation. It is one of the unfortunate consequences of the present situation in Northern Ireland that proper Parliamenmentary scrutiny is really impossible. I accept, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, made clear, that the Government were right to get on with these Orders, even if the legislation is imperfect, because the matters concerned are so important. But it will not necessarily be essential for this legislation always to be taken in the form of Orders. Some ought probably to be introduced as main legislation and be subject to amendment, as is the case with Scottish Bills and so on. But at the moment I think the Government should welcome the interest which noble Lords are taking, and I would only say that it is a source of regret to me—as indeed it is to Lord Windlesham himself—that the difficulties perhaps in arriving at agreement in another place before it rises for the Recess have been a factor in preventing our adopting the sort of propositions made by my noble friend. I must apologise for intervening, but I thought it was fair to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to say that some of these points had been made and although it is not perfectly desirable they should be made again we must recognise the difficulties of the situation we are in and hope to do better in the next Session.


My Lords, may I make a very brief intervention, before the Minister rises to his feet? I had no idea that the discussion would assume such a wide aspect, and of course I am probably not privy to certain discussions which are going on through the usual channels. But I should like just to make one or two observations. Stormont has been prorogued or suspended, whatever language one likes to use, for one year—


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for one moment? In fact he is out of order. This is not a Committee stage, and I believe he is entitled to speak only once, which he has already done.


My Lords, may I have the leave of the House to address your Lordships to make a very brief—




My Lords, on business the House cannot give leave to noble Lords. If any noble Lord would read the Companion he will see that it is expressly confined to Ministers, Chairmen of Committees and movers of Motions. May I also suggest there is another Order coming along shortly, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, will be able to direct his remarks in these general affairs to that Order?


My Lords, it is with some trepidation that I ask for the leave of the House. I was the mover of this Motion, and I have already spoken a second time; and therefore I should only do so again briefly and with the leave of the House. This does, I think, illustrate one of the difficulties in this procedure, that points occur as a debate develops and noble Lords like to put points at the appropriate time. But of course as I have already answered earlier perhaps it is difficult to reply to a further series—


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord on business? I wish he would read the Companion; he can speak as often as he likes, with leave—it says more than once, not twice, carefully chosen to give him the opportunity.


My Lords, I am always grateful to have that guidance; and often I am in need of it, I regret say. That does not prevent my saying that I think I ought to speak again very briefly.

The fact that we have had this discussion this afternoon, and with noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips—who takes a particular interest in education—taking part, is extremely welcome to the Government, and I think it arises partly from the attitude of the Government Whips' Office in putting these Orders on early. The previous Orders we have had have tended to come on rather late at night, but, because of the significance of these two Orders, on education and health, they come before your Lordships at an earlier time when a bigger House can be expected. The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, asked again about the publication of the reports of the new area boards for education and libraries. These area boards, and the committees they have, do not start operations until April 1, 1973, so I do not suppose since these are annual reports, that one would expect to see a report until the summer of 1974. What the situation will be at that time it is difficult to speculate on to-day.

As regards visitors, visitors from your Lordships' House to the Province are always welcome. There have been a large number of visitors from another place, and one or two from your Lordships' House. But if any of your Lordships individually or in parties wish to come, we shall be glad to do what we can to facilitate your trip and make it as rewarding and as useful as possible. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, correctly said, there have been fairly prolonged discussions on this matter of Parliamentary control, and I think that all of us—certainly my noble friend the Leader of the House—are concerned that the House of Lords should have the opportunity to give propery scrutiny to these matters. There will be a new situation in the new Session. The Orders we are considering now are, in the main, Bills which were before Stormont or which had been presented to Stormont. The Education Bill had had a Second Reading; the Health Bill had been published, but had not yet had its Second Reading debate. But in the new Session we shall have a new situation. The Government's feeling is that, in the next Session we should certainly like to do anything we can, together with noble Lords opposite and the Liberal Party, to come to some form of understanding as to how a more appropriate form of scrutiny can be given to Northern Ireland affairs.

On Question, Motion agreed to.