§ 3.28 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (EARL JELLICOE) rose to move, That the Draft European Communities (Designation) Order 1972, laid before the House on October 31, be approved. The noble Earl said: My Lords, your Lordships will doubtless recall with more than a touch of nostalgia our long debates on the European Communities Act this summer. Recalling those debates you will remember that Section 2 of the Act enables provision to be made for the purposes of meeting Community obligations either by Order in Council or by regulations made by Ministers or Departments designated in an Order in Council. The Order now before your Lordships' House designates those Ministers and Departments which may exercise powers to make regulations under Section 2(2) of the Act and specifies in the Schedule the matters in relation to which Ministers or Departments may exercise these powers.
§ Broadly speaking, I should perhaps remind your Lordships, the need for subordinate legislation arises under the Community Treaties, under the obligations which we assume under them, in two ways. First, the institutions of the Community, the Commission and more normally the Council, issue Directives. These lay down objectives to be achieved by all the Member States, while leaving it to each Member State to choose the method within its own legislative and administrative framework by which they are achieved. This can be done in a number of ways: by new primary legislation, by Order in Council under Section 2 of the Act, by regulations or indeed by administrative action. Secondly, the Treaties and the regulations issued by the Community institutions lay down rules which themselves are to operate as law in the Member States but which frequently need to be supplemented in national law for their satisfactory operation. Again for this purpose, my Lords, regulations may need to be made by Ministers of Departments under the umbrella of a designation Order such as this one provided for in Section 2(2) of the Act.
§ The purpose of this Order is to make clear to Parliament the area in which the 932 various Ministers will operate in the exercise of their regulation-making powers. It also limits and specifies their particular fields of operation. In this way both Houses of Parliament are given a double opportunity to scrutinise the exercise of delegated powers, first in this Order as to the extent of those powers, and subsequently when the designated Minister exercises his or her particular powers. I should perhaps remind your Lordships that I gave an assurance that there would be this double safeguard, and I repeated that assurance at our Report stage in September. I made it clear on both occasions that, rather than use the general power to legislate by Order in Council, we would normally specify particular Ministers for particular purposes. That is what this Order does.
§ Your Lordships will also recall that under paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 2 to the Act a designating Order in Council before Parliament—such as this one—can be made subject to either the Affirmative or the Negative Resolution procedure. On this occasion the Government have decided to proceed down the Affirmative road. Since this designating Order is the first of its kind we felt it right at the outset that Parliament should have an opportunity to assess the range of the powers which the Government propose to confer on Ministers and the extent to which these powers are delimited in each case.
§ I do not think that the inherent importance of the Order itself would necessarily call for the Affirmative procedure for approval in draft and it may be that as successive Orders come to be submitted from time to time it will not always be necessary to take up the time of Parliament with Motions for their approval. However in this case, the first instance, I hope your Lordships will agree not only that the Order is worthy of the approval of the House but also that it was right to take up a little of the time of the House with a discussion on its substance and merits, which I am now outlining, even though we have a rather special reason to-day for wishing to clear the decks in this House comparatively early in the afternoon. With that in mind I shall not weary your Lordships with a detailed description of each of the powers conferred in the Schedule to the Order. But a glance at the 933 Schedule makes it clear, I think, in the light of the specific detail with which the matters covered in it are described, that in general only the type of revision normally found in Statutory Instruments as opposed to primary legislation are intended to be covered.
§ Let me illustrate this by drawing your Lordships' attention to the list of articles about halfway down in the Schedule in respect of which subordinate legislation is authorised; covering measures for safety and consumer protection, labelling, marketing, classification, description and so on. The type of provision there covered is not at all dissimilar to the kind of thing one would expect to see dealt with in regulations made under the Consumer Protection Act 1961 or the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. However, my Lords, it is not always possible, or indeed desirable, to specify the subject matter of the delegated powers so very precisely and particularly. And this is especially true so far as the Common Agricultural Policy of the Community is concerned. Whether we like the C.A.P. or not (and I think there are those of us, even those who support our entry, who may have their doubts about C.A.P. as it stands at present), we know that for the most part it operates by regulations taking direct effect and leaving little discretion to the Member States as to the method of implementation.
§ The range of products and activities embraced by the policy is indeed vast and will require quite a few ancillary provisions for its satisfactory operation in this country; that is, regulations. Already we see that these will range from provisions for marketing eggs and registering hatcheries to financial aid for farmers who give up their land. With so wide and varied a range of matters to be covered, flexibility becomes essential and calls for a broad specification. The Schedule, in following this rather broader approach, will (I hope) avoid the need for any further designation in the agricultural field for a considerable time to come.
§ I should perhaps mention here one rather technical matter. The Special Orders Committee of the House, in their First Report of this Session, which is before your Lordships, have commented that in following the traditional use of the term "the Secretary of State" the 934 Schedule does not indicate which of the several Departments presided over by a Secretary of State will in fact be responsible for particular matters. As your Lordships know, it is a long-standing practice for duties intended to be performed by a Government Department in the charge of one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State to be entrusted to "the Secretary of State" as such, without specifying a particular Department. This is because the office of the Secretaries of State is constitutionally one, and each Secretary is capable, at least in law, of performing the duties of all or any of the others. That at least is the constitutional theory as I understand it.
§ In the case of the present Order it seems to the Government that the advantage of following the traditional methods are indeed overwhelming. I see three or four. In the first place, there is always the practical convenience of interchangeability, of one Minister being able to deputise, if need be, for another. The second is that in this case the Order itself would become extremely unwieldy if it were drafted in other than the way in which it is drafted: in relation to nearly every item more than one Minister would need to be designated. For example, the Secretaries for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will all be necessarily involved with practically all agricultural matters, in addition to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If the Ministers were specifically listed in the alternative, the reader might be no wiser about who is going to exercise the powers than he is now. Thirdly, the Order is intended to operate for some time to come, and with several Ministers designated for nearly every purpose any one of whose functions could possibly be transferred, the position could soon become highly confusing.
§ The primary objective of the Order is not so much to specify particular Ministers who are to exercise the powers conferred by this section of the Act as to limit the scope of these powers in relation to particular subjects. After all, Section 2(2), subject to the qualification in Schedule 2 to the Act confers powers on Her Majesty to enact by Order in Council almost anything that can be done by Act of Parliament, and proposals to that end could be submitted to Her Majesty by any Minister. The primary object of the 935 Order is to give effect to ministerial undertakings that the very wide powers conferred by the section would normally be used only for limited purposes.
§ My Lords, I think it might be helpful if, in conclusion, I gave your Lordships some indication, or such indication as I can, of the amount of Community subordinate legislation, flowing either from this designation Order or from elsewhere in the Act, with which Parliament is likely to be faced in this Session. First of all, I can repeat the assurance which your Lordships received from the Joint Select Committee on Delegated Legislation, chaired by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that Parliament will not be swamped by a flood of subordinate Community legislation. With a few exceptions—and I shall come to them in a moment—this Order is designed to cover all the subordinate legislation that we think will be necessary this Session in order to enable us to fulfil either our existing Community obligations or those that we are likely to incur within the next twelve months or so. Our present estimate, though I hope that I shall not be held to this within one or two, one way or the other, is that under the powers conferred by this Order something like 35 Instruments may be needed. This is the best calculation we can make at present, and we have taken account of all those matters which are now in draft or which we know are under serious consideration and in an advanced state of preparation.
§ In addition, as I have mentioned, there are a few matters which, on account of their intrinsic importance or precedence, are more appropriately dealt with by Order in Council. Here again, there is no prospect of a flood of Orders. Your Lordships will have noticed that three Orders in Council were in fact laid before Parliament on October 31 under Section 2 of the Act. They relate to the effect of Community decisions and judgments in the United Kingdom, to immunities of the European schools and to the tax treatment of loan stock issued by some European institutions. I think there is a further Order laid under Section 6 of the Act which relates to the constitution of the Intervention Board for Agricultural Production. I understand that no further Orders in Council under these 936 sections are contemplated at the present time. Finally, there will be a certain number of Statutory Instruments made under specific powers contained elsewhere in the Act, or under existing powers of subordinate legislation, which can be exercised in connection with the various Treaty obligations which we are or shall be assuming. On present information, we do not expect these to exceed 100 in the course of this year and next.
§ My Lords, I have gone into some detail in this matter, particularly to try to give your Lordships some estimate of the subordinate legislation coming before Parliament. With these explanations, I hope your Lordships will agree that the Order before this House is a satisfactory means of delimiting the field of subordinate legislation and of designating Ministers to exercise the appropriate delegated powers under Section 2(2) of the Act which your Lordships approved a month or so ago. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Draft European Communities (Designation) Order 1972, laid before the House on October 31, be approved.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Earl said that it was with a sense of nostalgia that we return to Section 2 of the Act. I am bound to say that it was in a mood of the utmost gloom that I found myself looking at Section 2, which was so gallantly explained by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, his noble friend Lord Limerick and others who had to deal with this Bill. Once again I found it difficult to follow. I am grateful, however, to the noble Earl for explaining the purpose of this new Order. He said that it made clear who was responsible for (I did not actually write it down, but I think it was something like) making Orders under Section 2(2). But of course that is precisely what this Order does not do. The noble Earl explained that the phrase "Secretary of State" was a generic term. Certainly it is a useful thing when one Secretary of State is away that another Secretary of State can sign an Order. Lesser Ministers sometimes have to go to another Department to have this done. But it does not designate which Department is going to do this.
937 The noble Earl attempted the defence, like many of the defences that he made during the passage of the Act, that it was really rather convenient, and that it would be misleading to attempt to say which Department was involved. In that case, if the Order is not to tell us which Department is involved, I do not really know why we have Orders. If the noble Earl says that this is convenient, we might just as well substitute the word "Government" for "Secretary of State ", in which case we need not have had Orders at all. I would ask the noble Earl to think again. He knows well that Parliament has long struggled with the Executive in seeking to get more explanatory information into Orders. I remember the tremendous reform when it was provided that an Order which otherwise might be unintelligible should have a short paragraph at the end saying what it was all about. I am suggesting now that the Government might go a little further and might help us to know which Secretary of State it would be. I understand that where it talks about for instance, "the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State", this may mean at least two, and possibly three, Secretaries of State. But when it comes to the medicinal products, it is "the Secretary of State and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food". I am sure there is a logical reason for this—that one is likely to do more of the work. But would the noble Earl consider whether there is not a way to indicate this?
Looking at the Order, I conclude that something like six Secretaries of State are involved. There is, first of all, the Secretary of State for, I think, the Environment who is concerned with transport. There is the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. There are the Scottish and Welsh Secretaries of State. And there is the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. At present there are only five. If the noble Earl is saying that it is too difficult to say because they do not know, or it might change, I would say that of course it will change. Powers to make Orders change as Departments change and there are provisions enabling this to be done. But the important thing is to know the position at the time of the passing of the Order. The noble Earl has not vouch 938 safed anything to us, though I hope that I have informed the House by, as it were, deduction what Secretaries of State are involved. It would be helpful, especially in the light of the fact that the Special Orders Committee has, rather exceptionally, drawn attention to this point, if a way could be found of explaining it, possibly with an appendix to the Order. Otherwise, we might just as well have the list of subjects in relation to which Orders can be made.
My Lords, this is an important Order. The Government take some credit for moving by the Affirmative procedure. It would have been quite intolerable if they had not done so. I give them the credit, but I should have been shocked if they had thought of anything else. The noble Earl, in a rather light and friendly way, said, "We shall not necessarily always do this. We might otherwise use the Negative procedure." I am not clear whether these are Orders of the category under the Act which will automatically, even if they are not strictly Affirmative Orders, go to the Special Orders Committee under the arrangements which the House approved, and of which the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees informed us, or whether these Orders are outside that category and therefore may not be subject to scrutiny by the Special Orders Committee. I must admit that I have had thought on this point only while I have been on my feet, and it may be that the noble Earl does not know the answer. However, it is important, because once again we are moving into this area, and we took up a good deal of time in trying to understand how Parliamentary control would be exercised.
My Lords, I should like to get this matter clear. Is the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition asking me whether any further designation Orders will automatically go to the Special Orders Committee, or whether regulations made under this or further designation Orders will do so?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I might as well ask both, but I had in mind any more Designation Orders, which might be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. If I understood the noble Earl correctly, he might say: "Now we have set a good example and 939 told you how we do it, but in future we may well do it by the Negative procedure. "It is very difficult at this stage for Parliament, which is having to learn all about this subject, to keep in touch. I think there is a lot to be said for the Government, until further notice at any rate, proceeding by the Affirmative procedure in the case of any designation Order. In due course we may all get accustomed to it and may be content with what is being done; but there is no doubt that there are many anxieties, whether one is for or against entry into the Common Market, and we are anxious to monitor very carefully. The Government have deliberately put into the Act provision for monitoring of this kind and now we are beginning to see how it is working and we should like to continue in this way.
Perhaps the noble Earl can help me on this point. It is conceivable that occasionally there might be a regulation—I take it this does not apply to a treaty, which is dealt with in Section 1 of the Act—of such importance that it was desirable to do it by primary legislation. I take it that we might even have an Order made following a directive which it might be better to do by primary legislation. If I am right, the noble Earl and the Government have recognised that there may be some developments which are of such importance, especially arising from a directive, and I take it this could apply to some regulation made to implement a directive. We are not talking about "directly applicable legislation"—it is terrible to be back in this language again!—we are talking about material where the Government have to take steps to implement it. There might be something of such importance that it would give rise to primary legislation. This is another reason why I hope that the Government, in listing the sort of subjects on which they are taking powers for the Secretary of State and/or Departments, will proceed by the Affirmative procedure until further notice, so that we can keep an eye on it.
I do not think it would be appropriate, nor would there be time, to discuss the particular powers to which the noble Earl has referred, because these are matters which will come before Parliament when an Order is made. I take it that this is 940 correct. We know that the whole of the Common Agricultural Policy is mopped up in one sentence, and the noble Earl was very cautious about that, but this is one area where obviously we expected it and Parliament will have to keep an eye on it.
There is one other aspect which bothers me. This is one with which we dealt when we were in Committee, and indeed on Report of the Bill, and I am glad to see that in every case the designating Ministers are either the Minister of Agriculture or this collective noun, "the Secretary of State". But when we come to Northern Ireland it becomesany Minister or Department of the Government of Northern Ireland.This is not an amendable Order. This is the difficulty we are always in; but I should much prefer to see the words again, "Secretary of State". We were concerned that Orders were going to be made by Departments and we felt in these early stages that they ought to be made by Ministers. Now we understand that a number of Orders are made perhaps by the Customs or certain Departments that have Order-making powers, and that ultimately the Minister is responsible. We are always a bit nervous about what happens in Northern Ireland, in the sense that we are legislating in an area about which we are singularly ignorant. We have not as yet any procedure for discharging our duties properly, and I would ask the noble Earl not to seek to withdraw the Order but to give consideration in future, particularly with regard to Northern Ireland, for the Secretary of State to be designated. He may say that it makes very little difference, but I think it has a significance in terms of confidence. The present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland enjoys a great deal of confidence, at least in this country, but just to use the vague expression "any Department of Northern Ireland", even though a Minister may ultimately be responsible, seems to me unsatisfactory and emphasises the doubts we were raising when we tried to delete the word "Department".
I am sorry to launch into this rather technical exposition on this matter. I shall be grateful for any help that the noble Earl can give. No doubt we shall continue to watch, lynx-like, what the Government are doing, pointing out that 941 if there are 35 Orders to be made in the next few months, and if, as my noble friend Lord Hoy pointed out, we take a day on each of those, that will be 12 weeks' business. No wonder the Government Chief Whip looks so depressed!
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for explaining this Order. Until I heard the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I thought it was comparatively straightforward. It is not my task this afternoon to answer the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but I have one or two comments I should like to make. First, we are indebted to the Special Orders Committee for drawing the attention of the House to Orders of this nature laid before Parliament. As for the future, I imagine that we shall have to consider very seriously what method will be adopted for studying this delegated legislation arising from the European Communities Act, and we shall have to decide how best to co-operate with another House in that respect. But that is for the future.
I am glad that the Government have followed the Affirmative Resolution procedure in this case, and I hope that it will be a precedent; but no doubt we must see how things work out. The noble Earl has pointed out that these Orders are not in the nature of primary legislation, and he justifies the procedure on those grounds. But there may well be some matters arising that are of considerable importance. I notice that in the Schedule there is the item "Collection of Information about the Carriage of Goods by Road". I do not know for certain at the moment whether that brings in the whole controversial subject of the very large container lorries that may be coming on to our roads. If it does, then even though it is not primary legislation it is a matter of some importance.
As to the designation of "the Secretary of State", I appreciate the constitutional point, but I hope that at some stage we may know the particular Department to which the matter is to be referred. The noble Earl very kindly referred to the Committee known as "Lord Brooke's Committee", and I 942 welcome his remarks, as I happen to be a member of that Committee. It certainly appears from the Committee's Report that the amount of subordinate legislation will not be as large as was at one time anticipated in some quarters. I gather from what the noble Earl said (I am not sure whether I heard him correctly) that this Order we are now discussing covers all the subordinate legislation for this coming Session. Of course, what is going to be more serious in the future is—
My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord Lord Wade, just to settle that point. If I was unclear I apologise. This Order covers, I believe, 35 of the Instruments, but there will be other regulations, flowing from other sections of the Act, which the House will be asked to approve. I may say that there might be up to 100 Instruments there. There were also three or four Orders-in-Council which I particularly itemised: otherwise, so far as I understand it, this Order covers the waterfront.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Earl. I was about to say that in future the most serious problem is going to be the examination of draft instruments before they come to this stage; but that is another matter and is outside the purview of the debate to-day.
Finally, returning to the subject of the reference to "the Secretary of State", the noble Earl will know that the Explanatory Note on this Order says:This Order designates Ministers who may exercise powers to make regulations…The Explanatory Note is not entirely accurate in sayingThis Order designates Ministers…",for there is reference throughout the Order to "the Secretary of State". So long as we know in due course which Department is going to deal with the particular Order, that will, I hope, satisfy the House. Those are the only points that I have to raise, and I should like to thank the noble Earl for introducing the Order.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I intervene because I served for many years on a Statutory Instruments Committee. Whenever we had an Order put 943 before us in another place (and sometimes we dealt with hundreds of them) we had the power to call before us the civil servants and others who had drafted the Order. Will such a power exist so far as this place is concerned, when we get this type of Order from another place? If the power does not exist, then it is an increase of delegated powers by a body outside the United Kingdom over which, despite the facade of appointing a number of Members of Parliament to go there, we shall have no real power. That is how I feel about that matter.
I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Wade, pointed out the ambiguity of the verbiage. The Explanatory Note does not explain anything. It say that the Order designates Ministers, but it talks about "the Secretary of State". We have the word "Minister" inserted in two places. Either that is looseness or it is a kind of technical shadow boxing with this House. I believe that there should have been much more information in the Explanatory Note. I should like to declare an interest in medicinal products, because I am concerned with a drug company that has won the Queen's Award for a technological breakthrough in gastroenterology. We are now particularly concerned in Britain about the qualifications of those people serving in medicine and in hospitals throughout Europe. All I am told in this Order is that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is going to deal with medicinal products. I can understand this with veterinary surgeons. For instance, foot-and-mouth disease is dealt with completely differently in England compared with most of Europe. You do not cure foot-and-mouth disease by pouring coal tar over the feet of the cows. We did not do that even on the crude little farm that my ancestors had in Wales. We know more about agriculture than that. Are we going to have the first-class technological progress in agriculture and the same standards in medicine, and in qualifications for practising medicine, as we have had in this country? If regulations and Orders are made, can the Minister of Health, the B.M.A. and other bodies of similar status be consulted?
Finally—I do not want to delay your Lordships—I regret that there seems to be no power similar to that of the Statu 944 tory Instruments Committee in another place; namely, to bring the civil servants before them. I could give examples galore, historic cases in my 25 years or so in Parliament, where we brought civil servants and the drafters of the Orders before the Committee to explain clearly why the Explanatory Note did not explain all that was contained in the Orders. I apologise to the House for intervening, but I have been speaking for only three minutes, and I think the questions I have asked the noble Earl are relevant. My Lords, I have spoken now, I notice, for four minutes.
§ 4.5 p.m.
My Lords, I think that all the questions that have been asked of me are relevant. Having heard the questions, I am not certain that I do not, for once, agree with the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that it is not only with nostalgia but also with feelings short of nostalgia that I find myself again in this particular field. It is, as he has said, and as the noble Lord, Lord Wade, intimated, a highly technical matter. There has been some criticism voiced by noble Lords opposite of the fact that Ministers under this Designation Order, with the exception of the Minister of Agriculture, are not to be designated by name. All I can say, not by way of defence as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, suggested I was doing, but by way of explanation, is that this is following the traditional procedure. It may well be that in this sphere we may over a period of time find it best to depart from our traditional procedures. This is a matter which is open to us. In this case we are certainly following the route which we have always followed in the past. I sought to explain why that was so, and the advantages of it.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? I am grateful for his explanation. I think I am right in saying that powers to make Orders are usually given in primary legislation, when one is discussing a Bill and can argue round it, and one knows who the Minister is. Here we are giving powers to make these Orders in subordinate legislation where that is not so apparent. Normally with legislation one knows at least the Minister who is presenting it to Parliament. There is quite 945 an important difference. I accept the argument on precedent which the noble Earl has given; but precedent does not entirely meet the present situation. I do not say this to harass him, but just to give him another argument when he thinks further about it.
My Lords, I am always grateful to the noble Lord for his bounty in giving me further arguments in this way. This is an area which we wish to explore, and I would not wish to be dogmatic here. All I will say is that when the actual regulations come to be laid it will be made clear which Ministers are laying them. Perhaps it would be right if I left that point at this moment.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, surmised that there were five Ministers concerned under this particular Designation Order covering an anticipated 30 to 35 Instruments. Broadly speaking, the noble Lord is right. I have been through the list of the 35. The total may be marginally more; I think probably it will be marginally less. There will be the three Secretaries of State for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There will be the Minister of Agriculture, in the case of at least one Instrument—no more than one. I see—there will be the Home Secretary. He will be involved in the laying of the regulations for safety requirements for aerosols, I notice. There will be the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and the Secretary of State for the Environment. In this first clutch it looks as if the list will amount to seven Ministers.
So far as the Special Orders Committee's being seined of this is concerned, it is my understanding that, according to our present procedure, it is only those regulations which are subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure that go to the Committee. I note what the noble Lord has said in that regard.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? Perhaps we could ask the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees to look at one point. Orders made under this Order will, if I understand it correctly, go to the Special Orders Committee regardless. But I may have misunderstood this. This was a decision taken by the House only about a 946 fortnight ago. I was asking whether similar Orders to this, but taking the Negative Resolution procedure, would go to the Special Orders Committee. If not, then this is a further argument in favour of following the Affirmative Resolution procedure.
My Lords, it is my understanding that if they were subject only to the Negative Resolution procedure they would not. But I take the noble Lord's point. On the question of whether in certain instances it will be necessary or desirable for us to meet our obligations under Commission Directives by primary legislation, I think I made it clear in my opening remarks that certainly the Government have not a closed mind. There may well be instances where primary legislation will be required.
There was the particular difficulty and situation regarding Northern Ireland, to which certainly the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred, and it may have been touched on by other noble Lords. I agree with Lord Shackleton that in these areas touching Northern Ireland it is highly necessary for us to proceed as cautiously and scrupulously as possible. My understanding of the position—and here I will stick close to my brief, as these are difficult waters—is that it is the common constitutional practice in Northern Ireland for Departments to be empowered to make subordinate legislation. For example, Section 8 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which deals with Executive powers, is drafted in terms of such powers being exercised by Departments; and both United Kingdom and Northern Ireland legislation which delegates powers of subordinate legislation normally refers to Northern Ireland Departments, rather than to Northern Ireland Ministers. That is my understanding of the present position, and that is the explanation why Northern Ireland Minister or Department—I am speaking from memory—is shown as such in this Designation Order. So far as one of the specific questions which were put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, is concerned, I can straight away inform him (I hope he will regard this as an assurance) that the collection of information about the carriage of goods, which is referred to in the Schedule, does not cover the axle weight of heavy lorries.
947 My Lords, in asking your Lordships to approve this Order I would make something on which I have already touched very clear. We are, as I have said, entering on a very new phase of our national life and of our legislative life in the area, the territory, which we are now beginning to traverse. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that it would be the duty of Parliament to watch lynx-like, I think, the progress of subordinate legislation following our entry into the Communities and our assumption of obligations under Community law, through Parliament. I would not dissent from that. It was a theme running right through those debates, to which I referred with perhaps mistaken nostalgia, on the European Communities Act earlier this year. I certainly do not dissent from what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said. Also, I do not dissent from what the noble Lord, Lord Wade, said: that it is very important here that we should get our articulation of our processes with another place as right as may be. This is an important area and maybe we shall need to change our procedures and modify them. We should be flexible here—this is certainly my own view—and, if need be, from time to time a little experimental.
Again I should like to say (and I do not say this in any Party political sense) that we should do this better with the understanding and co-operation, and in the knowledge of procedures, of another place. Also, I think we should all gain if we were to do it with the full cooperation of all the main Parties in this country. I very much hope that, whatever we may feel about our entry on January 1 into the European Communities, we can together try to work out the best ways in which Parliament should be involved in the supervision of this whole area: because, certainly as I see it, this is a matter of vital concern. I hope that I have dealt with at least some of the googlies which have come my way in the course of this debate, and I hope that your Lordships will now approve this Order.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.