§ 2.57 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD WINDLESHAM)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Status of Northern Ireland as part of United Kingdom]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Clause 1 is one of the more controversial clauses in the Bill. It is a subject which we dis- 936 cussed on Second Reading, and we had contemplated putting down an Amendment to leave out the requirement that the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland should be determined by voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1. It might be convenient if one were to speak on this particular aspect of Clause 1, but if I may I should like also to make some general remarks. I know that a number of my noble friends, and perhaps some noble Lords opposite, are bothered about this requirement. I think that one problem which has to some extent become clarified and accepted by the majority of people, including many people who believe passionately in a united Ireland, is that there is no possibility of getting a united Ireland without the consent of the majority, by which we mean the Protestant majority, in Northern Ireland. Despite the deep emotive aspect of this problem in the Republic, successive statements by Leaders in the Republic have made clear that they accept this also.
It has been the contention of a number of people that this is not a matter alone for the people of Northern Ireland. It could either be a matter for all the people of the Island of Ireland, or it could also be a matter of concern to the rest of the United Kingdom. So far as I am concerned, and I believe so far as the majority of the people, and certainly the Government, are concerned, the views of the people of Northern Ireland, regardless of the views of others, are crucial. They are the people who are most concerned, and until such time as there is a degree of consensus there it will not, I think, be possible for the North and South to be united without a degree of bloodshed and civil war: and we should be failing in our duty, despite the heavy cost, if we allowed this to take place.
There are undesirable aspects in the proposal that in some way this matter cannot be determined earlier than in a period of ten years—or it cannot be put to a decision—and that it should be determined by a poll. I accept that the Government are in something of a dilemma here. I suspect that they are not particularly enamoured of this proposal, which does not receive universal support even in the Protestant areas of Northern Ireland. It was noteworthy that some of the 937 (if I may so call them) extreme Unionists in another place also voted for the deletion of this passage. All of this causes one to think, and to suggest, that perhaps it is best to leave it in, after all, as representing a sort of middle way consensus. None the less, I am not happy about it. It does not seem to me to provide any particular assurance to the people of Northern Ireland. It is in no way entrenched. It is arguable that if a time came when the Government were reasonably satisfied with the progress of relations in Ireland, with the development rossibly of the Council of Ireland, and there was a possibility of agreement—unlikely though I personally believe this to be in the near future—then it would be a pity if there was on the Statute Book something which implied that no change could be made in under ten years. As I say, this is not entrenched, and obviously for there to be a change an Act of Parliament would be required.
This is one of those difficult psychological areas which cause anxiety and concern to those who believe in a united Ireland, and who feel that somehow the possibility of achieving this long-desired objective is postponed by this particular provision. In any case, as I have already said, it seems to me to add nothing. The important part of this clause is that no change shall take place without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. That is the crucial part of this clause, and the addition seems to me to add little, but rather, if anything, to be a cause of irritation.
We on this side thought it was worth while pursuing this matter further. We decided not to put down an Amendment, although there was an Amendment put down in another place which was defeated by only six votes. We think it is extremely important to turn this Bill into an Act of Parliament at the earliest possible moment, and therefore we thought the most helpful thing to do was not to put down an Amendment, but to provide an opportunity for your Lordships to explore this rather difficult issue further in Committee.
VISCOUNT MASSER EENE AND FERRARD
I should like to ask the noble Lord a question. I understand him to object to a poll every ten years. What period would he suggest for having a poll 938 —every five years, every three years, or what? I think a poll is rather unsettling, and we do not want one too often.
On another point, I should like to say that it is conceivable to have a majority of one (I agree that that is a million to one chance), so should not some percentage be written into the Bill? It seems to me that the percentage inserted ought to be one of 60 per cent. or 75 per cent. of the electorate. To have a poll every three years or so would be unsettling.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Viscount has really put, rather better than I have done, the case against having this provision in the Bill at all. There are grave difficulties in specifying how often one should have a poll and what the effect is, and I should have thought it would be much better not to have it in the Bill, but to leave events to decide the matter. It would be possible to make provision in the Bill for a poll if one wanted to in circumstances to be determined. My objection is to making it mandatory in this way. I do not like referenda or polls, whether they are in Europe or in Ireland, although it may be that in certain circumstances in Ireland it may be necessary. We did not particularly like the last poll. Therefore I have no suggestion as to how often one should be held; that is why I should prefer not to have this clause in the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I should like strongly to support my noble Leader and to call the attention of the noble Lord the Leader of the House to one point in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum which I am sure he will wish to alter. I do not know whether one can move an Amendment to the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum; I have never known it done, but if it is false, something ought to be done about it. I would call attention to where it says:Clause 1 re-affirms the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and permits a poll"—I emphasise those last words—for the purposes of the clause to be taken in accordance with Schedule 1.That is just false. I am sure that the noble Lord had no connection with it, but whoever drafted that was trying to be "too clever by half"—a phrase which 939 was immortalised in rather painful circumstances some years ago. It is just untrue. It is, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has just said, making a poll mandatory. You cannot bring about this change without a poll. The poll cannot take place for ten years, and when you have had one poll you cannot have another one for ten years. Those are the facts. This is false, and I hope we can have a firm assurance at least that it will be altered. It is really just a lie as it stands; one cannot use any other expression about it.
Coming to the point under discussion, I made my view plain on Second Reading and I do not want to repeat myself. I think we should realise that there could be all sorts of awkward situations. We could find opinion in the elections moving towards the unity of Ireland, and still it would be stopped by this clause. Nothing like this has been included in previous assurances to Northern Ireland; this is quite new. Having conducted one poll, after another two or three years had passed you could again have a very difficult situation as long as you were held up by the rigidity of this clause. Therefore I am against it.
There is just one other point that I would submit more gently to the noble Lord the Leader of the House. People say that this is going to reassure the Protestants of Northern Ireland. I think, in a way, there is something rather patronising about the idea that the Protestants of Northern Ireland are more irrational than the Protestants anywhere else and need a sort of pointless reassurance. There is no real reassurance here, because it is clear that if the majority of the people in Northern Ireland wanted to unite with the South (and not until then) there would be some change in legislation. So it is the reassurance not of rational feeling but of irrational feeling, and I personally think that it is rather insulting to the Protestants of Northern Ireland to pander to them in this ridiculous way. However that may be, I hope that at the very least the noble Lord will agree to remove this from the Explanatory Memorandum, and, beyond that, I hope that he may wish to say a few words to set our fears at rest.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD MOYOLA
I think it is important that this provision should be allowed to remain in the Bill, and I think it is important for two reasons. The first is that we are trying, through the medium of this Bill, to restore peace to Northern Ireland, and the very fact that all along the Border Poll has been mentioned as a part of this Bill makes it exceedingly difficult now to withdraw it. There is undoubtedly a feeling in Northern Ireland of—and I hesitate to use the word—distrust of all the political Parties in this country, in that many people (and certainly the Protestant majority) believe that they are likely to be pushed by Parties here into joining with the Republic. To take this provision out at this stage would simply foster that belief. I myself feel that it could be the cause of further violence. It certainly could be the cause of further unrest and, quite possibly, the cause of a total lack of cooperation in the working of the Assembly. My second point is simply the repetition of what I said on Second Reading last week, that I believe it is extremely important to do our best to take the Border issue out of the Assembly's politics. It would be far better if, instead of debating whether or not we are going to join the South and making cheap political points over each other, we could get down to (for lack of a better term) the bread-and-butter issues and do something constructive.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I hope I am right in interpreting the gist of what has been said in your Lordships' House to-day, and indeed on other occasions, as being that it has been appropriate for the basic pledge that is incorporated in Clause 1 of the Bill to be there. Before turning to the main point on which there may be some disagreement—that is, the Border Poll—I think it is worth putting on record that Members of your Lordships' House and of another place have consistently been of the opinion that the central principle should be maintained; that is, that Northern Ireland should not cease to be part of the United Kingdom so long as that is the wish of the majority of the Northern Ireland people. And I recall that back in 1949 the Government of the Party opposite included such 941 a pledge in Section 1 of the Ireland Act of that year: that Northern Ireland should not cease to be part of the United Kingdom except with the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. This provision was reaffirmed in the Downing Street Declaration of August, 1969, as the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, will remember very well. I think it was also included as the fifth of Mr. Wilson's 15-point speech in another place on November 25, 1971.
I further recall that Clause 2 of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, which was added as the result of an Opposition Amendment moved by Mr. Merlyn Rees in another place in March last year, read as follows:…that nothing in this Act should derogate or authorise anything to be done in derogation of the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.That was put into the Act as a result of an Opposition Amendment. Mr. Callaghan spoke in a similar way when the Bill had its Second Reading.
The pledge that is contained in Clause 1 of the Bill now before us is of course in slightly different form from that which was contained in the Ireland Act 1949. The Parliament of Northern Ireland referred to in that Act will, under other provisions of the Bill which is before us to-day, cease to exist. Clause 1 of the Bill therefore introduces the concept of the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. in place of the reference to "the Parliament of Northern Ireland". So the question that arises is how this consent is to be expressed. There are two aspects to this question. The first is whether a consent of the people of Northern Ireland to any change in the constitutional status of the Province should be expressed directly or whether it should be expressed indirectly, perhaps through some vote in the Assembly. We concluded that this consent should be exercised by the direct vote of the people of Northern Ireland.
This leads on to the second aspect, namely, whether the machinery for a poll needs to be enshrined in the Bill, or whether it could be left instead to some legislation at a future date. I would suggest to your Lordships that it is better to include the machinery in the Bill. The Border issue has had an hypnotic influence on politics through- 942 out the fifty years' life of Northern Ireland. It would be a happy state of affairs if the question of the Border could be taken out of Northern Ireland politics altogether, leaving the people of the Province and the politicians they elect to represent them to consider the main social and economic issues of the day, free from the pressures of political views on the Border which have dogged Northern Ireland politics in recent decades. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, make exactly that point in his speech to-day.
I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, regarding the second of his two points when he questioned the need for the reassurance of the majority community in Northern Ireland and what that might amount to, to study the words of the noble Lord's intervention just now. It is so difficult to describe, unless one is living and working within the Ulster political system, why it is that certain issues become matters of such importance and are able to determine the pattern of events in a decisive way. In our belief, this matter, touching as it does on the Border, which is the most controversial issue in the history of Northern Ireland, is just such an issue. If, instead of looking at the direct expression of opinion by the people of Northern Ireland and at each vote on this issue we had required the Assembly to be the indicator of how the state of opinion in Northern Ireland on the question of the Border was moving, we should, in the view of the Secretary of State, be doing the new Assembly a disservice for we should be encouraging the Assembly to focus upon an intensively divisive issue. We should be requiring of all those persons who have been elected as members of the Assembly, of a new political institution, and all those who campaign in future for election to it, to orientate their politics around the issue of the Border. It may be said that it is unrealistic to expect that the Border will never be an issue in Northern Ireland politics. That may be so, but it is not a justification, in our view, for establishing the Assembly as the same perpetual focus far the politics of the Border issue as was the Parliament of Northern Ireland.
May I move to the second point, because it is on this that the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, in opening 943 this debate, concentrated his own remarks, on the basis that Northern Ireland can cease to be part of the United Kingdom only if a majority of the people of Northern Ireland give their consent. Is it necessary to provide in the Bill any mechanism for ascertaining consent? Is it necessary to specify that polls should be taken for this purpose? Is it necessary to make the provisions which are included in Schedule 1 of the Bill? I believe that the answer to all these questions is, "Yes". In a sense we are repeating to-day the debate that took place in another place when the Bill was in Committee there. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who I think all noble Lords will agree has shown an open mind on this issue as on so many others concerning the future constitution of Northern Ireland, after hearing what was said in the debate agreed to reconsider whether it was essential to include this provision in the Bill, or whether it was something he could drop in the light of the comments and speeches that had been made in the House of Commons.
He undertook to test reaction in Northern Ireland to the idea that while preserving the possibility of having a Border poll in the future it should not be written into the Bill. As your Lordships may know, when the matter was debated again at the Report stage in another place, Mr. Whitelaw announced that, as a result of his consultations, he had found there was a considerable body of opinion in Northern Ireland which believed that a provision for a plebiscite should be written into the Bill as it stood at the present time. He also found a strong body of opinion expressed forcibly to him that considered the Government to be pledged to this provision by the Prime Minister's statement made at the time of direct rule in March of last year. It is believed by many in Northern Ireland that the Government are pledged on this matter, and the light of this, and in the light of the harm that would be done if the Government were regarded as having broken a pledge on a matter as sensitive and important as this, the Secretary of State came to the conclusion that the only course open to him was to ask Parliament to retain these provisions in the Bill. Another place accepted that 944 advice from my right honourable friend, and I ask your Lordships to do the same this afternoon.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Before the noble Lord concludes, may I ask him to refer, at least, to what I said about the Explanatory Memorandum? There is clearly a false or misleading statement upon which he surely must make some comment.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
As the noble Earl will know as a former Leader of the House, the Explanatory Memorandum is no part of the Bill; it is for guidance of Members of Parliament and Members of your Lordships' House when considering the Bill. When the Bill goes on the Statute Book the first few pages of the present document are removed and the Act of Parliament begins where the Bill is headed, "Northern Ireland Constitution Bill". As to whether or not the statement is misleading, it must be read together with Schedule 1, as it says. Clause 1 and Schedule 1 have to be considered together. I suppose it is right to say that this matter can be looked at in two different ways. I would regard it as being permissive to hold a poll in the sense that there is no requirement to hold a poll. If we look at Schedule 1 on page 31, the wording is:The Secretary of State may by order direct the holding of a poll for the purposes of section 1 of this Act.…He may do that. In other words, it is permissive. He may hold—
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Would the noble Lord enable me to say why I think it is possible to look at it in one of two ways? He looked at it in his way, I am looking at it in my way. I think the Committee may find it helpful to understand that there are two ways of looking at it. He knows as well as I do that Government draftsmen do not try to mislead Members of Parliament or Members of your Lordships' House: they do these things because they think it will be helpful. Therefore if the wording of the Schedule is that the Secretary of State may by order direct the holding of a poll it is permissive; it is not mandatory. It does not say that he shall order the holding of a poll. That would be a mandatory requirement. It is permissive in that sense.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord has steered, no doubt sincerely, out of an embarrassing situation. There is no doubt that this particular part of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum is misleading, because whereas it is permissive if there is not going to be a change, it is obligatory if there is to be a change. To that extent to say that it permits a poll seems to mislead. I do not think we need worry too much about it: I accept that Parliamentary draftsmen do not tell lies. But this is one example of something that may have a significance in legal terms to lawyers but is, none the less, seriously misleading to laymen. As a descriptive account of what is contained in the Bill, it fails accurately to describe the situation.
§ LORD CONESFORD
May I express precisely the opposite view, and support the Government in this? I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is a fair-minded man and I do not doubt that he believes that this is misleading. From some experience in these matters, I think it is the job of the Parliamentary draftsman and his Department to produce the Memorandum. If you are to get something that is wholly sufficient without looking at the Bill at all, you are going to require a much longer Memorandum. The utility of the Memorandum is that it refers you to Clause 1, and that refers you to Schedule 1, and it gives a summary of what is possible, and what is indeed intended, under Clause 1 and Schedule 1. I cannot see that the Parliamentary draftsman, or whoever drafted this Explanatory Memorandum, went far wrong. It seems to me to be a perfectly fair summary.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am somewhat bewildered by the nature of this discussion. All along there has been an impression—whether it is acceptable or not is another matter—that there could be no readjustment of the political situation in Northern Ireland without the consent either of the Northern Ireland Parliament, or the people themselves. That impression has been generally accepted because of the situation. Therefore I refer to the substance of the case presented by the Leader of the House as logically impeccable. I can find no fault in it.
I can recall the circumstances of 1920, when we were bound to accept in the then 946 circumstances the fact that Northern Ireland must remain part of the United Kingdom. There was nothing directly included in the legislation of the period, but the impression was confirmed in the Act of 1949. As the Leader of the House pointed out, that has been accepted by the Opposition, not because they particularly like it—I certainly do not like it—but if it is unacceptable we have to face, as my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition has rightly declared, the possibility of civil war. Obviously the logical solution to the problem in Ireland is unification. It is unacceptable at the present time and, in my view, it is unacceptable in the foreseeable future. It will take time; it will require patience and understanding.
What I am about to say may not be agreeable to every Member of your Lordships' House, but it requires a removal of the sectarian differences. I have seldom spoken on this subject although I have a long acquaintance with the Irish problem. I was acquainted with the Irish rebels before the First World War and I knew what happened in 1920. I was not then a Member of Parliament, but I was a candidate for Parliament in 1918 and therefore was acquainted with the politics of Northern Ireland. What is the position? Suppose it is not implicit in the present legislation that there can be no readjustment or reorientation of the political situation in Northern Ireland without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. My noble friend Lord Longford has said that the declaration was included in order to reassure the Protestants of Northern Ireland but he doubted whether it would have this effect. That may well be, but to take it out would be another matter. If it was excluded I can imagine that all that Mr. Whitelaw has done would be futile. I agree with him. Never mind about idealism—we have to face facts.
My only complaint about the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the House is on a somewhat different matter which has a bearing on this subject. His argument for the moment I am bound to accept, and I think your Lordships' House should accept it whether or not we agree with every iota of what is contained in the proposition. But my objection is this: he has said that in a matter of this sort it cannot be left 947 to the Parliament of Ireland, although that was implicit in the 1949 Act; it cannot be left to the newly-created Assembly: it must be left to the people of Ireland in a direct vote. I think we are bound to agree that there must be some mechanics in this matter, and a poll may be necessary unless it is to be left to the Assembly. I recall what Mr. Heath said about the proposed entry into the E.E.C., when he declared unreservedly that we would not enter the E.E.C. without the full consent of the British people. That is what he said—and how did he interpret it? He interpreted it in this fashion: it could be left to the Members of both Houses of Parliament. It was left to them to decide, not the people of the United Kingdom. But this is a different interpretation. Here there is a possibility of a poll, a plebiscite, leaving the decision to the people of Northern Ireland—nothing to do with Parliament; they are excluded completely. That did not happen in the case of something even more important—namely, accession to the E.E.C. On the one hand, there is the declaration of intent on the part of the Prime Minister which was not implemented, and on the other hand we have this declaration of intent implicit in legislation and is the very reverse of what happened in the case of the E.E.C. That is my objection.
That has a bearing on the argument, but it is not fundamental, nor perhaps entirely relevant; but I am bound to say that in the circumstances we have no alternative in Northern Ireland, in the hope that good will will prevail, that sectarian differences will be removed and that the people of Northern Ireland will come together either to continue as they are for many years as part and parcel of the United Kingdom or as part of a unified Ireland. That matter must be left entirely to them, and I think in the circumstances we have to accept it.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I do not want to prolong the debate unduly but I think it is necessary to say that we on this side do not find the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, convincing. In a way my own objection is more to the first Schedule than against the first clause, because it either goes too far or does not go far enough by trying to lay down con- 948 ditions which are not fully spelt out. In another place it was significant that not only did the Government escape defeat by only six votes—which after all is a very small majority—but that among those who voted against the Government were Captain Orr, who is the Leader of the official Unionists in another place and the Rev. Ian Paisley, not to mention Mr. Enoch Powell. They all voted against the Government—a curious combination—with the entire Labour Party.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
It is true to say, is it not, that the Parliamentary representatives of the Unionist Party led by Captain Orr also voted against the policy of the official Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.
§ BARONESS WHITE
One knows, of course, that there are various strands of opinion (shall we say?) within the Unionist Party.
§ BARONESS WHITE
Yes; but they sit in another place as Unionist Members and one assumes that they have some authority, to speak with knowledge on Northern Ireland.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Mr. Brian Faulkner made a specific statement on behalf of the Unionist Party dissociating himself from what was said by the Unionist Members in another place.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I was not attempting to deny it, and I think the noble Lord speaks too much. I was not attempting to deny for one moment that Mr. Faulkner's particular branch of the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland supports this clause, but there are Members in another place who call themselves Unionists—and I repeat, there are various strands of the Unionist Party, as we all know very well. I do not think one should necessarily make too much of it, but they are representatives in another place who consider themselves members of the Unionist Party. I mentioned also 949 the Rev. Ian Paisley, who is not a member either of the Unionist Party in another place or of Mr. Faulkner's Unionist Party, but who nevertheless speaks for a strand of opinion at least among Protestants in Northern Ireland. That was the only point that I was trying to make; but I repeat that it is not a completely straightforward matter.
However, I do not propose to try to analyse the various nuances of opinion among the Unionist Party. The real point we wish to make is that the Bill as it stands is not satisfactory in so far as one has a particular condition in Schedule 1; namely, the 10-year rule. But one is not told really anything else because the Border Poll in itself is not decisive. There is nothing in the Bill which says that the result of a Border Poll is in itself a decisive act; it has to be followed by legislation. A Border Poll is an indication of opinion. It is a sine qua non under the Bill, but it does not of itself carry the latter to any definitive conclusion. We are not told in Schedule I what happens next. We assume, of course, that it would be dependent upon the legislative power of both Houses of Parliament at Westminster, but we are not told whether at any point of time the Assembly in Northern Ireland is to have any say or not. It is not at all clear. Is it to be entirely by-passed? Is it to be the Border Poll and then direct legislation at Westminster, without any consultation with the Assembly? Is there any kind of provision as to the majority by which any such Border Poll should be regarded as mandatory?
This is a serious matter. Normally in constitutional situations where there is a profound change such as this would mean for the Province of Ulster there is some provision such as a requirement of a two-thirds majority—maybe a two-thirds majority of those actually voting or a two-thirds majority of those entitled to vote. Are we to accept that a simple majority of one (to take an extreme instance) on a Border Poll in Northern Ireland would be regarded as definitive? It is for this kind of reason that we on this side have taken objection, particularly to welling out of the conditions under which a Border Poll should take place without our being taken fully into the Government's confidence as to what they really think would happen.
950 We do not propose to carry our doubts to a Division. We would not for one moment wish to leave out Clause 1 in its entirety because, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, very properly said, we have been absolutely consistent for many years past in saying that there should be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without consent. That situation, of course, we should not for one moment wish to change. In any case, as my noble friend Lord Shinwell has pointed out, if at this point in time, when a promise of a Border Poll has been put into the Bill, it were to be removed, then there really would be trouble. So we are not for one moment suggesting that. All we are saying (and we are absolutely right to say it at this stage of the Bill) is that we feel that the Government are perhaps being unwise, more especially in Schedule 1, in putting down one condition—a 10-year rule, an immutable 10-year rule—without indicating, either in the Bill itself or in the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, what the other conditions should be in the circumstances envisaged in Clause 1 of the Bill.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
I had not intended to raise my voice at all on this clause, but I think I must in view of what has now been said by members of the Opposition, who I feel would be much more entitled to speak on these matters had they had the courage to impose direct rule earlier; and that they signally failed to do. Now that the present Government have had that courage, I should like to support them in the problems with which they are faced. It was said just now that the remarks of the noble Lord the Leader of the House had not been very convincing. I myself thought that they were not only convincing but extremely frank, because he went out of his way to say that he feared that, even if the Border poll was brought in by legislation, it could well be that the Border would still be a topic of conversation in the Assembly—assuming that the Assembly comes into existence, which is a very large assumption. I fully agree with him. I think it could well be that even though the Border poll is legislated for, it will not in fact take—nothing, I am afraid, will ever take—the Border out of public discussion in Northern Ireland.
951 Perhaps what dragged me to my feet most was to hear members of the Opposition say that the fact that Mr. Powell and Mr. Paisley voted against this Border poll in the House of Commons is something we should take into consideration in this House. I hope we shall never take matters of that kind into consideration in this House. If Protestant extremists come out against something which the Government, in their considerable difficulties, have decided to do, I myself am extremely suspicious of it. I have no idea whether the Government were right or wrong to promise a Border poll when direct rule was imposed. I do not recall the Opposition opposing the idea at that time, and I agree—
§ BARONESS WHITE
If I might interrupt, I made this perfectly clear on Second Reading: we did not oppose it at that time because there was at that time no elected body functioning in Northern Ireland.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
No, the noble Baroness misunderstood what I said. I was talking about at the time of direct rule—over a year ago. I do not recall the Labour Party's opposing the Prime Minister's statement that there was going to be a Border poll. I have not looked it up—I may be proved wrong—but I do not recall it. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was most statesmanlike in his remarks and I fully support what he said.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I must say that when the Opposition are trying to help the Government—and no Opposition has helped the Government as much as we have, because our views on Northern Ireland and the desirability of carrying this reform through have been of the same order as the Government's—I really cannot take from the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, that rather snide remark about courage with regard to imposing direct rule. I hope that when he comes to look at his remarks he will consider whether that was a fair proposition. What we sought to do was to discuss an admittedly controversial issue—one on which clearly the Government themselves had doubts. We are not quarrelling with the Government's ultimate decision, in the light of, in particular, the pledge they had given earlier, that this provision must 952 remain in the Bill. It might have been more helpful if we had put down an Amendment merely to leave out that part which relates to voting in a poll held for the purpose of this clause in accordance with Schedule 1, because, as my noble friend Lady White said, the question relates partly to the rigidity which is contained in Schedule I. It is part of a story. The Government know this very well; we know it very well, but because we are anxious to get this Bill into law as quickly as possible we thought it right to initiate a discussion on it.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has explained the position very frankly. He has net put our doubts at rest; I do not think he has even put his own doubts at rest. And I really do not think it lies in the mouth of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, who up till now has behaved in a rather good bipartisan way, to chide the Opposition. I referred to the rather confusing situation in which some of the more extreme Unionists (which is the word I used) clearly did not think this particular item was of importance to the security of Northern Ireland. But I entirely agree: it is very difficult to interpret these plans in Northern Ireland. But we did not intend to hold up the Bill. This is an important aspect to discuss. I think Schedule I might well have been better left out. We accept that the Government have a commitment, and I think they are, in all the circumstances, absolutely right to fulfil it; and that was an important part of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. But I think that if we are to continue our discussion we shall do so better by not being tetchy with one another on a matter on which there is general agreement in this House: that Northern Ireland shall not cease to be a part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for his generous comments on this occasion, as on so many others when we have discussed Northern Ireland together in the past. The fact that the two main Parties have been so close together during this period of 18 months has been of very great benefit to the people of Northern Ireland. I must apologise if I introduced any tetchiness into the discussion. As the noble Lord and 953 the noble Baroness, Lady White, rightly said, it has been a very full discussion. But this is a matter of controversy. It was discussed at considerable length on two occasions in the House of Commons, on Committee and Report, and it is quite right that we should discuss it again. If any of us speaks sharply I think it is because we feel strongly on the matter.
The various strands of opinion were referred to. I apologise to the noble Baroness if I intervened too frequently in her speech; the purpose of my doing so was to try to draw attention to the thickness of the different strands. It is quite true that different opinions were expressed, but we have heard to-day that the noble Lords, Lord Moyola and Lord O'Neill of the Maine, speaking with enormous experience of the situation in Northern Ireland, agree with what is in the Bill; agree in effect with the judgment made by the Secretary of State, who was willing to have another look at this matter following the debate in another place. He had another look; he had a number of discussions in Northern Ireland, and came to the conclusion that, for the reasons I gave, it was right for the Bill to remain in the shape in which it is before your Lordships to-day. I hope that your Lordships, in the light of what I have said from this Box and of what we have heard from noble Lords with experience of Northern Ireland, will be willing to accept that judgment.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Measures of Northern Ireland Assembly]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
If I may refer to Part II of the Bill, I am bound to say that the proposals with regard to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the powers of the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary control of the executive authorities—if I may mop them all up together—present a most interesting collection of rather unfamiliar types of proposal. I think the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary draftsmen and those who advise them have done an extremely skilful job in producing something which seems to me, however com- 954 plicated, none the less to be workable provided there is the will in Northern Ireland to make it work.
I am not going to criticise particular aspects, because clearly this is an ingenious and complicated set of proposals, but I should like to ask whether the Government are in a position to tell us anything about any progress they may have made. It may be too early; it may be inappropriate to do so. I do not think the Committee ought to let Part II go by without noting that it represents a most unusual—so unusual as to be highly interesting—series of constitutional provisions of a kind which are not really very familiar to the British within our Parliamentary system. In a way this balance of powers is more like the American Constitution and since we look (sometimes mistakenly) at the glories of the largely unwritten British Constitution and the flexibility of our provisions, here we find something that is extremely complicated and very much a balance of powers—almost a division of powers.
There is little doubt that whatever happens for some while a most onerous burden will rest on whoever carries the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It was apparent to some extent in the discussions on the role of the Government that he will carry a position more comparable to the President of the United States than to either a Governor or a Cabinet Minister in the ordinary sense of the word. All this suggests that although in the short run it will impose the most tremendous amount of political activity—almost negotiation—none the less one hopes very much that rapid progress will be made, and I wonder whether the Government have anything to tell us about that. I hope that this Bill will pass through all its stages in the course of this afternoon and will receive the Royal Assent shortly. It may be that the Secretary of State has not been able to take any further steps while the Parties in Northern Ireland are sorting out their own relations with one another and making up their minds, but if there is anything we can be told about it I shall be grateful to the Minister.
Although it is not in order to speak about the whole of Part II, it seems to he most conveniently raised on Clause 4. 955 It is extremely complex and the Committee and the House of Lords ought not to underestimate the enormous burden that will be placed on the holder of this post. It will certainly call for holders of the office of the very highest calibre. Mr. Whitelaw is indeed worthy of holding this post but it is not a post that can be held by anyone who is not absolutely first-class as a Minister, or indeed as a statesman. If I said "the Governor" I meant to refer to the Secretary of State, although in a sense of course he is going to act as Governor as well.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (LORD BELSTEAD)
I should like to reply to one or two of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, if only because I have seen my right honourable friend the Secretary of State rather more recently than has my noble friend the Leader of the House. As the noble Lord quite rightly reminded us, Clause 4(1), and indeed the whole sense of Part II, sets down, so far as it is possible to do so in statutory language, the broad principles which underlie the concept of government by consent. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is of course absolutely correct to point out that this is something with which we are not familiar in this country, and certainly not in either House of Parliament. At the same time, the words of the Bill in this Part are so drafted as to try to avoid imposing upon Northern Ireland any particularly rigid formula, because it strikes me that again and again in this Bill one is having to provide for what may happen in the future. It is for that reason that again and again the Bill tries to maintain —to use an overworked word, but one that is true in the context of this Bill—an element of flexibility.
I cannot give the noble Lord the sort of information that he seeks, except to say that my right honourable friend is continuing to conduct conversations with the Leaders of the political Parties; and as your Lordships know, it is a fact that the Assembly will now meet on July 31. Perhaps I may say on behalf of my right honourable friend that when he looks back and sees the doubts that were expressed in public, and perhaps the doubts which he himself felt, as to whether there would be successful elec- 956 tions and as to whether the Assembly would meet, he has the satisfaction, which I hope your Lordships may share, that July 31 is a firm date.
May I add two further points which I believe have some reference to what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said. It is of course axiomatic that any Northern Ireland Executive that is appointed must be an Executive which will be able to command a majority vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Executive will be the Government of Northern Ireland and of course it will need to govern. No Government in Northern Ireland, any more than a Government in the United Kingdom, can govern unless it is able to get its legislation through its own particular Assembly. Indeed it is difficult to imagine that Parties represented in the Assembly would wish to recommend to the Secretary of State a pattern of appointments to the Executive which would not command a working majority in the Assembly.
That leads to the other point that I felt perhaps I did not make sufficiently clearly on Second Reading when the noble Earl, Lord Longford, intervened. I will try now to make crystal clear that there really is no question—and there is no question implicit in the Bill—of my right honourable friend dictating the formation of the Executive. This is a process in which the Parties in the Assembly must play a major role. At the same time, the Secretary of State is under an obligation under Clause 2(1)(b) to take into account the electorate on which the support of the Executive is based. I know these are things which many of your Lordships have had doubts about, but none the less it is something which gives my right honourable friend a guide. Therefore, the appointment of the Executive is a combined operation in which the elected Assembly and the Secretary of State each has a part to play, both significant, both essential, for the success of the new arrangements under the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Since the noble Lord has referred to me I must just make one point, although I do not want to quibble and I agree that the least said, the better. However, I think it is correct to say that the sole responsibility for these appointments rests on the Secretary of State.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I am grateful to the noble Lord. He is absolutely right in saying that what the Secretary of State can do is conditioned in a sense by Clause 2, particularly Clause 2(1)(b) and we shall watch with interest. I do not think at this point it will be helpful to make any further comments. One body of persons which will profit largely by this Bill is the writers of text books on Constitutions, because it seems to me that we have an extraordinarily complicated but very interesting constitutional process about to start in Northern Ireland, and it will provide material for university lecturers for many years to come.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8 [The Northern Ireland Executive]:
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 8 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I think all your Lordships will hope that the new Assembly in Northern Ireland will be able to operate. It will depend largely on the application of the terms in Clause 8 as to whether it will be possible to establish an Executive which will be broadly representative, and which will include Protestants as well as Catholics. I think at this moment there is some hope that that may be realised. When considering this clause, I want to put certain points to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, which I believe are absolutely essential if the hope is to be realised that this Executive will include Catholics as well as Protestants.
May I say first that I think all of us accept the view that the future of Northern Ireland must be determined by the will of the people, and I welcome the fact, discussed in an earlier Amendment, that the decision is to be by the people rather than merely by the National Assembly. I think the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, knows that the doubts which still exist as to whether it is going to be possible to establish this Executive or, indeed, the co-operating committees, largely depends on certain other things. It depends whether there is going to be instituted in Northern Ireland a real sys- 958 tern of personal and civil liberties. I will not say more about that now because there is a clause later referring to it, but I believe a code of personal civil liberties is absolutely essential if one is to secure the co-operation of Catholics in any Executive under the Bill.
I believe the second essential, if the hope in this clause is to be realised, is that there will be a civilianised police force as recognised by the Hunt Commission. Until that is accepted I doubt whether the hopes in this clause of a co-operative Executive and committees will be possible. Thirdly (and I will not pursue it at length because again, it arises later) I believe that the proposal for an all-Ireland Council with effective coordination is necessary. I think we shall be making a mistake now if we pass this clause without realising the difficulties which will continue to exist before effective co-operation in an Executive can be attained. I hope as deeply as I can express that it will be realised, but the Minister must well appreciate that if it is to be realised, then these considerations which I have put forward must also be accepted.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has intervened in this Committee stage at a fairly early moment. He has been perhaps one of the most regular participants in debates on Northern Ireland. To his credit I think he can claim to have launched debates in this House on the subject of Northern Ireland well before the present crisis burst, and he did draw the attention of your Lordships, and I think of Members of another place when he was in the House of Commons, to the need for certain changes to be made. Some of them have been made in this very clause that we are looking at.
§ TOE EARL OF LONGFORD
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, it is nice to report that the first debate ever launched since the war on the subject of Northern Ireland was launched by the father of the noble Lord.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I thank the noble Lord for that most apt historical footnote to our discussion. I was just going to draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to subsection (10) of this very clause which refers to oaths. I spoke at a little length on Second 959 Reading on oaths and will not repeat that all again now. But this is a matter in which the noble Lord has been interested for very many years. He has touched in a general way on some of the considerations which will determine whether there is sufficient co-operation on the part of one community to take part in power-sharing, on which this whole exercise rests. In a way, I would claim that the whole Bill represents a code of personal and civil liberties—that is what this Bill is. So was the White Paper; so was the Green Paper. I think there has been a recognition of that fact in Northern Ireland. Maybe it is not everything that some people active in politics would ask for, but the Bill now before Parliament represents I think the fulfilment of the last 15 to 16 months' work of Mr. Whitelaw and the judgments that he has come to; and the principles upon which these judgments have rested are in many cases incorporated in this Bill.
The police force will, of course, be something that will be discussed on many occasions. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, himself has accepted on a number of occasions when we have debated Northern Ireland that the Hunt recommendations were made in different circumstances and were looking forward hopefully to a more stable situation in Northern Ireland rather than what happened, which was a decline. When stability returns to Northern Ireland one hopes some of the recommendations that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, had in mind may become applicable. With regard to relations with the Republic of Ireland, when we get to Clause 12 it will be possible to discuss that matter, if your Lordships wish to do so, at a little greater length. There was an indication on Second Reading that your Lordships might wish to do so, and Clause 12 will be the appropriate place to do it.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12 [Consultation, agreements and arrangements with Republic of Ireland]:
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?960
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I only want to provide an introduction for other noble Lords. We now seem to have returned to a state of consensus and harmony. Perhaps it is time the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, came in with a slightly jarring note to restore us to the realities of the hard and bitter situation that exists in Northern Ireland. I am bound to say that the clause in the Bill which is perhaps the most hopeful for the future is Clause 12. On Second Reading, in a certain amount of criticism of the Bill, my noble friend Lord Longford mentioned that it was perhaps a pity that there was no reference to the Council of Ireland in the Bill, and I think I pointed out that in a sense Clause 12 was a vehicle, at least, for discussion of the Irish dimension.
This is a matter on which there has been quite a lot of general talk but comparatively little detailed thinking. When I say "detailed thinking", I refer to the fact that people may have been thinking about the application of Clause 12, or they may have thought: "We must wait till the Executive and the new Assembly exist and then we can get down to it". None the less, it would be useful if we could explore a little how the Republic —Northern Ireland, or even the tripartite Republic—Northern Ireland—United Kingdom Government, might operate. There are powerful arguments in favour of the Republic and Northern Ireland co-operating in their own interests. As the Minister for External Affairs in the Republic pointed out not so long ago, it is quite possible that with the Republic's entry into the E.E.C. the balance, the difference, in the standards of living between North and South, and between the Republic and the United Kingdom, may be greatly reduced, and it may be very much easier for a degree of harmonisation to take place between North and South. I would be very interested to hear from noble Lords, or indeed from the Government, how they visualise the sort of co-operation referred to in Clause 12 working.
I wonder, too, whether the Government can say anything further about the possible institutions which might back up the type of pragmatic arrangements that could arise from Clause 12, the possible form that a Council of Ireland might take, the extent to which a Council 961 of Ireland might have some devolved powers for supervising arrangements made under Clause 12. Again, this may be premature, but I feel that if one can begin to look at this matter, it, after all, will not weaken the safeguards in Clause 1 about the consent of the people of Northern Ireland and can only work to the interests of both North and South. It appears that Clause 12 is a very wide clause. There is very little that is devolved on the Executive—in fact it appears that there is nothing that is devolved on the Northern Ireland Executive—about which they cannot consult and make agreements or arrangements with the Republic. It may be that there are certain saving clauses. I am not sure to what extent the Secretary of State himself may have to consent to certain arrangements, and some arrangements may even call, to be effective, for a Parliamentary sanction, because they go wider than the powers actually devolved on the Executive.
This has been rather a longer introduction than I meant to make. I feel this is a very important aspect of the Bill; I am sure my noble friends will wish to raise points, and we will be very grateful for anything the Government can tell us about this matter.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I welcome the inclusion of this clause. I admit that when I first read it I was disappointed because there was no reference to the proposed all-Ireland Council. But on consideration I recognise that in a Bill dealing with legislation passed by the Parliament here it would not be possible to indicate statutory support for a Council with which the Republic of Ireland must also be associated. I hope very much that under subsection (2) the proposals for discussions may realise the all-Ireland Council which has been our hope.
I am raising the matter now because I want to support the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition in hoping that in the discussion on this clause we may have some statement from the Minister regarding the intentions of the Government in this matter. Perhaps inevitably from the development of circumstances, the proposal for a Council of Ireland has rather dropped into the background of public discussion. It was put forward quite dramatically and spectacularly in the Green Paper, in a recognition that 962 there was an Irish dimension to the problems of Northern Ireland. I think it is just worth reminding the Committee of what the Green Paper said:It is therefore clearly desirable that any new arrangements for Northern Ireland should, whilst meeting the wishes of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, be so far as possible acceptable to and accepted by the Republic of Ireland.…The previous sentence is:Both the economy and the security of the two areas are to some considerable extent inter-dependent, and the same is true of both in their relationship with Great Britain.When the Green Paper was published, with those acknowledgments, it was accepted that in any consideration of the problem of Northern Ireland one must enter into consultations and take recognition of the views of the Republic.
When one says that, in a sense one is only going back in history, because even the purpose of the Act of 1920 was to establish two subordinate Parliaments cooperating through a Council of Ireland. That hope was broken by the declaration of a Republic in Southern Ireland. But we have now moved forward to a new situation. The attitude of the Republic of Ireland, as reflected recently in that quite remarkable speech by the Prime Minister, Mr. Cosgrave, has now established a situation where there may be recognition of a Northern Irish Assembly by the Republic; where there is recognition that, if there is to be a movement towards co-ordination, it must be by consent; and recognition of the fact that, during the period when that public opinion is being developed, there should be increasing co-operation between North and South. That is a new situation of very great hope to Ireland to-day.
I would ask the Minister on this clause, which deals with the prospects of cooperation between North and South, to say what is in the mind of the Government; what the hope is that an all-Ireland Council may be established; what the intention is about co-operation, economic and social, and even extending to the joint introduction of legislation in the two areas of North and South. One of the difficulties in the North about cooperation with the South has been an absence of liberalisation. Even that difficulty is now being met, and one hopes that, in the adoption of this clause by this Committee, a new era may open out 963 for the co-operation of the North and the South.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I should like to support my noble Leader, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend Lord Brockway, in their general approach to this question. Like my noble friend Lord Brockway, I was slightly disappointed when I read this clause when it was first published. However, I was reassured by my friends in all parts of the world, particularly in Southern Ireland, that it was quite all right and that this did not represent any kind of retrograde step. In view of what my noble friend Lord Brockway has said, I should like to ask the Leader of the House, or the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, if he is replying, whether we may take it that all that the Government have said up until now—and in some cases put in print about the importance of the Irish dimension is reaffirmed, and that there is no going back on anything that has been said. I should like to be reassured on that point. I hope very much that we can be given that reassurance.
I am not going to try to spell out in glorious prospect what might be achieved by a Council of Ireland. To do that might be counter-productive here and elsewhere. Some people would begin to feel that I was leading them much too fast towards a united Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, might become very nervous if I began explaining all that might be achieved by this Council. I would rather look at it the other way round and say what would happen if we did not have this Council. There is going to be this consultation; at least we can all agree on that. Let us assume that it will be a long time before there will be a united Ireland. In the meantime we hope that there will be an effective Northern Ireland and an Irish Republic, so there must be some cooperation. The only alternative to something like a Council of Ireland is to leave it to the goodwill or initiative of Prime Ministers (or whoever are the chief executives of Northern Ireland), such as the noble Lords, Lord Moyola and Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and others, and leaders in the South of Ireland to see what they can make of it. I hope that here at least the former Prime Ministers 964 of Northern Ireland will agree with me that it would be much easier for everyone concerned if there were some explicit, organised machinery, something agreed in advance, so that the meetings, conferences, official talks and all the rest should be accepted as part of the nature of things and not left to some daring initiative.
I am sure we have all read and enjoyed Lord O'Neill's book. We know how difficult it was when he first embarked on talks with Mr. Lemass. We hope that there will not be anything of that sort in the future. It will be much easier if there is some recognised longterm machinery. I am more optimistic, in my terms, than some about the coming of a united Ireland, and I assume that it will come sooner than some others wish that it should. But let us assume that it is quite a long way off. I think we can all agree that in the meanwhile there should be a reconciliation between the various communities in Northern Ireland. Indeed, in my speech on Second Reading I suggested that this was a Bill pointing the way to reconciliation in Northern Ireland, between the North and the South, and between Ireland as a whole and Britain as a whole; and I suggest that all those things hang together. Without some link, such as a Council of Ireland, I do not believe that this reconciliation will be achieved. Take the Catholic community, the minority in Northern Ireland: whatever anybody says or does they will never be totally absorbed in Northern Ireland; they will always be looking, to some extent, to Southern Ireland. Nothing will make Northern Ireland as though it were a separate island out in the Atlantic; it will have these geographical and historical links with the South.
The best that can happen in the years ahead, if we assume that there will not be a united Ireland for a long time, is friendship between North and South, friendship within Northern Ireland and friendship between Ireland and this country. For all those purposes the Council will have an important part to play. My noble Leader, Lord Shackleton, has asked the Leader of the House whether he can throw any light on what is borne in mind. I realise that the noble Lord has to be guarded and that ht cannot dictate to the Government 965 of Northern Ireland. He cannot say, "This is what we intend that the Council of Ireland should become or do", but at least we can look to the Government for some indication at this stage of what could be achieved through a Council of Ireland. I hope very much that the noble Lord will be able to say something helpful and forward-looking this afternoon.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Clause 12 itself is a straightforward provision. What it does is to allow the authorities of Northern Ireland to engage in talks, and so on, with their opposite numbers in the Republic of Ireland. It allows them to reach agreement and, if legislation is necessary to give effect to those agreements, the clause, in subsection (2), specifically allows the passing of such legislation. Much of this would have been beyond the powers of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland authorities if specific authority had not been given in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked about the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding relations with the Republic of Ireland. I can confirm that the policy remains as stated in paragraph 110 of the White Paper:As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, it favours and is prepared to facilitate the formation of such a body. The constitutional proposals would permit the new Northern Ireland institutions to consult and co-ordinate action through a Council of Ireland.And that Clause 12 does. Paragraph 110 went on:There are undoubtedly many matters of substantial mutual interest such as tourism, regional development, electricity and transport.As the Government made clear before the Bill was published, at the time of the White Paper and subsequently, we intend to invite the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the leaders of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland to join in a conference on this matter. At that conference we shall hope to discuss, in the main, how the three objectives which were set out in the Paper for discussion and in the White Paper may best be pursued. Those were as follows—and I quote from paragraph 112:
Matters of this sort—effective consultation and co-operation in Northern Ireland and in the Republic—would be for the benefit of both parties.
- "(a) the acceptance of the present status of Northern Ireland, and of the possibility—
966 which would have to be compatible with the principle of consent—of subsequent change in that status;
- (b)effective consultation and co-operation in Ireland for the benefit of North and South alike; and
- (c)the provision of a firm basis for concerted governmental and community action against terrorist organisations."
Until such a conference has been held, and until the conclusions reached by the conference have been worked out, it is difficult for me, as I am sure your Lordships will appreciate, to say what form the co-operation with the Republic, if that were decided upon, would take. It might be that the result would be something which was described as a Council of Ireland; it might be that the result would be something with a different title. I am afraid that in this matter, involving, as it will, negotiations between three separate parties—the Westminster Government, leaders of elected opinion in the North and representatives of the Government in the South: it will be a tripartite conference—it is difficult at this stage to attempt to predict what the outcome will be. But I can confirm without reservation to the noble Earl that our policies remain unchanged.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
I should like to say just a few words. My view, as stated on Second Reading (perhaps I may say this because of some journalistic remarks to the contrary), is that, on the whole, it is wise for the Government to be flexible and not to lay everything down in black and white, because we really cannot tell at this stage how matters will turn out. So, in my view, this is an exercise in flexibility and everything has not been laid down in black and white. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition drew attention to a speech made by, I think, Mr. Garrett FitzGerald the other day. In one part, with which I quite agreed, he said that now that we are all in the E.E.C. standards of living in the South may well rise, and this will be a great help. But there has for many years been great hope in Dublin that when we were all in the E.E.C. the Border would then vanish. I always used to remind my friends in 967 Dublin that there was still a King of the Belgians, a Queen of Holland, a Grand Duke of Luxembourg, a French President, a German President and an Italian President; so that the idea that, simply because we were all in the E.E.C., the Border would suddenly vanish was not supported by the facts.
I should like to end on a hopeful and rather personal note. It has always been a great sorrow to me that Mr. Heath and my friend Jack Lynch did not get on very well together. It is my impression, not entirely based on reading the newspapers, that Mr. Heath and Mr. Cosgrave get on extremely well, and in Ireland it is not policies that matter; it is personalities. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Taoiseach in Dublin—to use an Irish expression—agree, and I think that is a hopeful sign for the future, and I should far rather see that than something written down in the Bill.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, will not take it amiss if I say that we on this side cannot really be expected to wish that Mr. Heath will remain in office indefinitely, simply because he happens to get on rather well with Mr. Cosgrave. Nevertheless, as we know only too well, and as the noble Lord has just said, so much in Ireland depends upon personalities and if we have at least a period when the Prime Minister of the Republic and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom happen to get on well, that is a bonus for which we must be grateful.
We fully understand that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, cannot go further than he has done. These matters are always to some extent unpredictable. The very name of the Council of Ireland still arouses horror in the breasts of certain citizens in the North. It was always part of the total tragedy in the 1920–22 period that it never came to anything at all, that Ulster understandably opted out at the earliest possible moment. With great respect to my noble friend Lord Brockway, it was not a Republic in the South at that moment, but the effects of the Civil War in the South probably influenced the North as much as anything.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
As a matter of history about which I may be wrong, because the noble Baroness 968 knows a great deal about this subject, may I ask whether it is not a fact that the South withdrew their members from the Council of Ireland?
§ BARONESS WHITE
I have not looked this up, and I do not wish to bandy historical facts with the noble Lord. Lord O'Neill. The only fact that we are all absolutely sure of is that it never worked.
§ BARONESS WHITE
It was not a question of withdrawing; it never started. The North never appointed their members, surely. But I do not think we should bandy historical facts on which none of us is very certain. We just hope that at any rate the spirit of Clause 12 will lead to something really fruitful and constructive between the Province and the Republic. Further than that we can hardly go to-day.
§ Clause 12 agreed to.
§ Clauses 13 to 16 agreed to.
§ Clause 17 [Discrimination in legilation:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 17 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we took Clauses 17, 18 and 19 together, because they all refer to discrimination and equal rights. If that is possible, I shall save the time of the Committee by making only one comment.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD MERTHYR)
I can only put clauses separately, but there is no objection to several clauses being debated together. I must put only one clause at a time to the Committee. The Question now is, whether Clause 17 shall stand part of the Bill? But your Lordships can of course debate subsequent clauses as you wish.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I think that if the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, with that guidance in mind from the Chairman of the Committee, would like to address his remarks to the three clauses, it would 969 certainly be to the convenience of the Committee.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I thank both the Chairman and the Minister. I raise my first point for information rather than in criticism. Am I right in thinking that under these clauses when there is a complaint about discrimination, mostly on religious grounds, it can be made only by an individual? If so, I think that is a very limited sphere. Individuals are often incapable of presenting a case themselves, and are often unwilling to face the lengthy process necessary to do so. I should have hoped that when an individual, or a group of individuals, had grounds to make a complaint, they would be allowed to act through sympathetic organisations which have the staff necessary in order to make the complaint effective; and that the right to make a complaint should not be limited to individuals but that organisations should also be considered in this respect. If one thinks of the situation in this country, a great deal of the revelation about breaches of human rights has been made by such organisations as the National Council for Civil Liberties, and if they had not had the right to present cases, and the right had been given only to individuals, I doubt whether we should have gone as far as we have in recognising human rights.
The second question I want to ask, or rather the comment that I want to make, because I think in this case I am speaking in quite definite terms, concerns the first subsection of Clause 19, which appears to limit the right of complaint to public authorities. That is stated explicitly on page iii of the Explanatory Memorandum, under Part III, Clause 19. It reads as follows:Clause 19 prohibits discriminatory action on religious or political grounds by United Kingdom Ministers and departments, the Post Office, members of the Northern Ireland Executive, Northern Ireland departments and other public and local bodies which are subject to investigation by the respective Parliamentary Commissioners for Administration or the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints.That would seem to limit the right of complaint either to Ministers, whether in the United Kingdom or in the national Northern Ireland Executive, or to local authorities in Northern Ireland. Is it really desirable that the right of complaint about discrimination should be limited to public authorities? Surely our 970 own Race Relations Act goes very much further than that and refers to all kinds of organisations of a public character, to all public places and to housing and unemployment. Why, in the case of Northern Ireland, should the right of complaint be limited to Ministries and to public authorities?
The third point I want to make is this. In Clause 20 there is a reference to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. We were promised earlier in the White Paper (or it may have been the Green Paper) that there would he a Charter of Human Rights. I should like to ask the Minister whether, when he is discussing these clauses, he would give us some indication of what is the intention of Her Majesty's Government in this matter. Later this week we shall be discussing the Emergency Provisions Bill, which seems to me to repudiate most of the essential human rights. But apart from that, when, under Clause 20, there is being set up this Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, what are these human rights to be? Where are they to be defined, other than in the reference upon which I have already commented regarding religious discrimination by public authorities? I shall be very happy if, on these three clauses, the Government can give us some explanation, and I hope satisfaction, on those points.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I wonder whether I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, by first drawing the noble Lord's attention to Clause 17, which is of course the first of the clauses in the Part of the Bill to which the noble Lord has directed his remarks. The effect of that clause is to prohibit not only religious discrimination but political discrimination as well—both Clause 17 and Clause 19 refer to religious and political discrimination—by any member of the Northern Ireland Assembly or in any Act of the former Parliament of Northern Ireland and any relevant subordinate instrument. The reason why I wanted to reply to the noble Lord in this way is because it strikes me that there are two ways in which this clause is an advance on what exists at the moment. The first is the point on which the noble Lord has already nodded. If we are talking about any measure of the Northern Ireland 971 Assembly, the discrimination which is now prohibited is not only discrimination on religious grounds, which was covered by Section 5(1) of the 1920 Act, but discrimination on political grounds as well. That is one advance. As to any Act of the Northern Ireland Parliament, discrimination on religious or political grounds in any Act which existed up to the time that the Northern Ireland Parliament was prorogued is prohibited by Clause 17. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that, because of Clause 42, such Acts may still be tested in court after this Bill has gone through. They have been able to be so tested before, but, in addition, such Acts also will have to be decided in the light of the new criteria of Clause 17. So that is how Clause 17 marks an advance into different ways.
May I now go to Clause 19, to which the noble Lord drew attention? Clause 19 is a prohibition on discrimination in executive action; and whereas Clause 17 is the equivalent of the old Section 5(1) of the 1920 Act, Clause 19 is, I suppose, really the equivalent of Section 8(6) of the 1920 Act. Here again, I think, if I may say so, we see an advance spelt out in this Bill, and it is spelt out in, I think, three ways. The list of authorities covered by the new prohibition in Clause 19 includes, for the first time, United Kingdom authorities. It brings Northern Ireland local authorities and other public bodies more clearly within the prohibition than did Section 8(6). I think I am right in saying that it has never been resolved whether these bodies are covered by that section or not. Clause 19(1) also covers discrimination on the grounds of political opinion as well as religious belief.
Finally, subsection (2) of Clause 19 makes it clear that an individual may resort to the courts if an authority discriminates against him. Section 8(6) of the 1920 Act did not confer that clear right; it is believed by many that no such right exists; and it is difficult to find instances of where the right was exercised. The undertakings set out in paragraph 96 of the White Paper to introduce stringent checks against any abuse of Executive power, that any action of a discriminatory character by a Government department, a local authority or 972 a public body could he made the subject of court action, and that a whole range of legal remedies should be available to the litigant, are fully implemented by the clause.
The noble Lord also referred to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in Northern Ireland and asked whether the Government could give an indication of their thinking on this body, which will be a new body. I sought to submit to the House on Second Reading the quite definite intention (it is written into the Bill) that the Standing Commission will not be a body which merely backs up Clauses 17 and 19 of the Bill; it will be appointed to consider the gaps in the existing structure of the law in Northern Ireland, and it is the intention that the Commission shall in due course exercise the ability given to it by the Bill to inquire into fields not covered by existing law.
I would say to the noble Lord that the Government attach the greatest importance to this Commission, with its task of constantly surveying the existing protections against discrimination and of considering and recommending improvements in practice and in the law. In a sense, there is a similarity between this Commission and the Advisory Commission set up under the Temporary Provisions Bill, in the sense that the Advisory Commission under the Temporary Provisions Bill has done some very good service, as everyone who has served in Northern Ireland knows, during the time it has been in existence. The similarity which I think we all hope for is that the new Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights will be able to do exactly the same when it is established. As announced in the White Paper, the Government intend in due course to bring forward legislation to prevent discrimination in private employment in Northern Ireland.
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has had the opportunity of glancing at the Report of the Committee chaired by my honourable friend Mr. van Straubenzee on this matter. Perhaps it might be helpful if I were to say that that Report, which has been recently produced, proposed that discrimination should be unlawful but not a criminal offence. A range of civil sanctions should apply; a declaration of principle 973 and intent, and a guide to manpower policy and practice should be promulgated throughout industry through the Northern Ireland Regional Council of the Confederation of British Industry, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. A fair employment agency, with extensive powers of investigation, consiliation and enforcement, should be established, and constructive action should be taken to try to rectify such inequalities of opportunity as may have arisen in the past through the initiation of programmes of what the Report calls "affirmative action", both on a voluntary basis by employers and, if necessary, at the requirement of the fair employment agency.
I do not think that at this stage it would be right to dilate—or that I am capable of dilating—very much more on those heads. I thought that the House would like to have it on Record that those are basically the chief heads of the Report of the Committee chaired by Mr. van Straubenzee. I think that that answers Lord Brockway's questions, except for his point about whether individuals and organisations of individuals will be able to lodge a complaint. As the noble Lord will have observed from the Bill, a complaint may relate to a grievance over discrimination against not only individuals but classes of individuals. As regards whether organisations can bring a complaint, I see nothing in the Bill that could prevent this. Anti-discrimination legislation in itself is not going to be an excepted or reserved matter. This is something that could be looked at further by the Assembly when it comes into being.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I am grateful to the Minister for that long reply, and particularly for what he said about the Standing Commission on Human Rights. I regret that I was unable to be present during the Second Reading debate; although I read it later. I admit that I had not seen the further Report to which the Minister has referred. I will give my attention to it. May I add this? The Minister has read a very interesting brief, which is descriptive; but that brief, a little unusually for our Civil Service, did not anticipate the questions which would 974 be put on this clause. And frankly, he has failed to answer my questions.
My first question was this. Will organisations, as well as individuals, have the right to make complaints about discrimination under this Bill? The Minister was able to say only that he did not think that there was anything in the Bill which excluded organisations. I think that that interpretation needs some very careful examination, because it may be that under our statutes, where organisations, as distinct from individuals, are not mentioned, the right to make a complaint will be limited to individuals. The noble Lord's brief did not include at all a reference to the second question I put to him, which was: is it not the case that under this Bill complaints can be made only against Ministers, heads of departments and local authorities, and cannot be made if there is discrimination outside those categories. I drew attention to the fact that in this country the Race Relations Act goes far beyond that, and I urged that it should be applied in Northern Ireland as well. I hope that during this Committee stage definite answers can be given to those questions to which answers have not yet been given, and that we may have some satisfaction as to the meaning of these clauses.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I apologise. Two of the noble Lord's questions I failed to answer. I do not think I can add much to what I have said in answer to the first point raised. Anyone can complain; but only an organisation or a person who has been actually aggrieved can take the case to court under Clause 19. But I sought to say that antidiscrimination legislation is something which is not excepted or reserved. This is something that the Assembly could look into further.
I was unable to reply to the noble Lord on his last point: why was it that only public bodies are excluded in Clause 19? I think I am right in saying that we have drawn Clauses 17 and 19 in a rather different way from the way in which Sections 5 and 8 were drawn under the 1920 Act. If I remember rightly, Section 5 was a very much more detailed clause than we have attempted in this Bill. The fact is, as the noble Lord has very readily divined, that Part 975 III relates only to action within the public sector because we found when we came to draft the Act that discrimination is, as all your Lordships will know better than I, a complicated matter and it is necessary to devise particular remedies for particular grievances. The thinking behind the drafting of the Act was that it was therefore not right to deal with grievances in the private sector at large. What we have done is to promise to legislate for job discrimination, and on that I have spoken at some length.
As regards the broader matter of setting up the Standing Advisory Commission, we hope that it will be able to recommend new machinery to deal with discrimination wherever it is seen. The Standing Advisory Commission is not there just to back up Clauses 17 and 19 but to advise. This is something to which the Commission can now turn its attention, and we have felt that it is not right to deal with it piece by piece in clauses which are supposed to deal, using a rather broader brush, with discrimination by public authorities in Clause 19.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I apologise for holding up the Committee on this point and I am hoping not to act in a pedagogic fashion. I am asking for information. I am concerned with education, and it is in the hope of equality of opportunity within education that I see the eradication of this xenophobia, be it Hottentots, Jews, Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants. We speak of discrimination, and where do we see that there is any guarantee of equality of educational opportunity without any discriminatory by-laws being put forward? I am sure that this must be so, and I am quite certain that the people who drafted this Bill would have had it in mind. I know discrimination is a reality in the history of Wales. It happened in my own family when a great grandfather was refused a scholarship at a Church grammar school because he was a Nonconformist. That was a long time ago. This stupid discriminatory activity did much to frustrate the progress, not only of Wales but also of Britain. I see a hope for mankind if we get this equality of opportunity. Can the Minister, who I know is interested in this matter, give me a little information 976 which may be satisfactory, because, despite the fact that I have spoken broadly and loosely, I should like to spike down this point.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The Advisory Commission on Education in Northern Ireland produced a most interesting Report which refers to the initiation of reorganised secondary education; but, of course, this must be allied—or perhaps I should say could be allied—to segregation in education. The latest position in regard to that very full Report is that the Government are, I think properly, consulting all the interested bodies in Northern Ireland, and the replies from those bodies are now coming in. I am sure that the noble Lord will acquit me of any discourtesy if I am unable to say any more on that point. But may I add this means that we are in consultation with those in Northern Ireland who are responsible for the actual running of the schools. The situation there is the same as in this country; one can go forward in education in Northern Ireland only by a process of co-operation between Government, central and local.
In saying that, I would add that the Government are looking carefully at all ways in which education can progress in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord may have noticed that under the terms of the Bill it is a distinct probability that education will be one of the functions which will be transferred. I say that, bearing in mind that the final decision will be for my right honourable friend in a devolution Order. But education is not in the excepted or reserve category, which would mean that, after devolution when it comes, we should have an executive who would be a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The legislation on education will be Northern Ireland and not Westminster legislation. Indeed, the White Paper expressed a hope that education would be one of the functions in which there would be considerable financial independence in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord has put his finger on one of the functions which when devolution comes, as I hope, will be run by people in Northern Ireland. I am sure that just as the Government in Westminster will look carefully at it, so will they look carefully at what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said to-day.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am a little unhappy about the noble Lord's reply to my noble friend Lord Brockway regarding the question of the right of the plaint-iff—which I think was my noble friend's point—to take action being limited to an individual as opposed to some body, like the Race Relations Board. It seems to be a possible limitation. I am not sure enough about the law on the matter to make any firm remark about it. If we were to have a Report stage we might have time for the Government to give a little more consideration to this question. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that this was a matter which the Standing Advisory Commission could consider if they found that this provision was unsatisfactory. I do not know enough to appreciate whether it is a point of real substances; but clearly my noble friend Lord Brockway, who has had a great deal of experience of these affairs, thinks that it is a matter of substance. We want this Bill to go through all its stages to-day, but I am wondering whether Lord Belstead or Lord Windlesham might give a little further consideration to this matter and perhaps say something more on Third Reading.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has not quite convinced me. I am not sure whether he has been able to give enough consideration to this point. If in the meanwhile some hasty consultation might take place, and if this matter is found to be unsatisfactory, it is one which the Standing Advisory Commission could consider. But here again I am not clear whether in Clause 20 there is power to make a reference to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. If so, one might have asked for an assurance that this reference might be made. This is one of the difficulties of trying to facilitate the passage of complicated legislation, when points are revealed that may be difficult and to which there may be a satisfactory answer but we have not another chance to look at it. I think that the right thing is to get this Bill through, even though it may be imperfect. Perhaps a little thought could be given to this issue between now and Third Reading, or perhaps there might be some other point at which it could come up; but I do not see how we can deal with it on Report.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has been forbearing, and I have not given a very good reply to this question. I think that the correct thing to do would be for me to try to give a reply, if possible before we finish the Committee stage of the Bill, on the point which, as I understand it, the noble Lord is bringing up and which is the worry of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that, so far as he can see, only an individual can bring a case under a complaint of discrimination. The reply which I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, was that anyone can complain, but only under Clause 19 can someone complain who has a grievance of discrimination against him. I have also added during our discussion that of course a complaint can be made about a particular individual—it has to be the individual himself or herself—or relating to a particular class of individuals. If those who advise me can produce something reasonably short which I can offer to noble Lords before the end of the Committee stage, dealing with the noble Lord's worry that only an individual, so far as he can see, can bring a complaint under these clauses, I will bring it forward.
If I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on the point whether a reference could be made to the Advisory Commission, I think, with respect, this is putting things the wrong way round. Clause 20(1) states that the Commission is to advise the Secretary of State and to keep the Secretary of State informed. I think this gives the Advisory Commission as wide powers as it can possibly have. And this would include, quite obviously, information being given to the Commission as well as the Commission giving information to the Secretary of State.
I will not quarrel with that last point. Obviously, if there is the right sort of relationship the Secretary of State can ask the Commission to look at a particular point. I am not quite sure how the noble Lord can tell us before the end of the Committee stage without adjourning for a few minutes, unless the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has found an appropriate place later in the Bill where it could be done. I do not think it should just be chucked in anywhere. That is why I suggested Third Reading. But it may be that 979 the resources of the Constitution are still not fully exploited.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for his consideration, and I look forward to his further statement. May I ask this further question? Will it be in order, if necessary, for the Minister to introduce a manuscript Amendment on the Report stage?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My noble friend has said that if he can offer any more guidance to the House in the course of our proceedings he will try to do so. Your Lordships have never been tremendous sticklers for narrow relevance on the subject matter of a particular clause, particularly since we have the Schedules coming up, including Schedule 2 and Schedule 3, dealing with the accepted matters and all the minimum reserve matters, which is a pretty good portfolio. If we do not manage to get it in at some stage there, my noble friend might come in on Third Reading. If he is in a position to add to what he has said, I am sure there will be opportunities.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
It would be possible of course to move a manuscript Amendment on Report, but I am sure the Government would have no wish suddenly to move an Amendment on a matter for which they have not hitherto seen the need. I do not think it is likely that the Government will accede, unless they become rapidly convinced of the weakness of this revision and spring forward with an Amendment. The Government are being so helpful, and I think the House is always willing, once people get to their feet, to allow them to wander completely out of order. But for the Government to get up, without finding a suitable peg on which to hang their remarks would, I am bound to say, rather offend me. I think it would be a dangerous precedent for the Leader of the Home, who in future may have to advise the House that it ought to debate what is before it.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I do not believe that I am in a position that the noble Lord opposite has not found himself in on previous occasions. My noble friend the Under-Secretary reminds me that in Schedule 2. paragraph 15. there is a refer- 980 ence to the whole Act. I should have thought that almost anything could he raised under that.
§ Clauses 17 to 19 agreed to.
§ Clauses 20 to 24 agreed to.
§ Clause 25 [Procedure]:
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I beg to move Amendment No. 1. The latter part of subsection (6) of Clause 25 says that the power to make Orders under this section shall inter alia be subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure. Your Lordships will notice that this clause contains only one power to make Orders in Council, and since that power is contained in subsection (6) itself, I put this forward merely as a drafting Amendment.
Page 17, line 31, leave out ("section") and insert ("subsection").—(Lord Belstead.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
There must be some highly technical consideration as to why it is preferable to have "subsection" instead of "section", but it appears to be quite unnecessary to do so. It seems to me (and perhaps the noble Lord can inform me on this) that this power relates only to the chairmen of consultative committees. It is a pretty involved clause. It is almost as if the whole of our Companion on procedure were to be stuck into Clause 25 of the Bill. I suppose the purpose of choosing "subsection" is to prevent people from having to read the rest of the clause to see what other powers there are to make Orders in Council. I do not object to it. Perhaps I should commend the draftsmen if they think it makes it easier to understand the clause, but it does not seem to me to be strictly necessary.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 26 to 35 agreed to.
§ Clause 36 [Provisions as to other Northern Ireland officers]:
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD MERTHYR)
May I draw the attention of the Committee to a printing error on the Marshalled List? Amendment No. 2 should refer to page 25, and not to page 2.
§ LORD BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 25, line 32, at end insert—
("(5) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make provision with respect to the appointment of lord-lieutenants, lieutenants and deputy lieutenants in Northern Ireland, for conferring on them functions which apart from the Order would he exercisable by lieutenants in Northern Ireland, for altering the designation of vice-lieutenants in Northern Ireland and for matters incidental to or consequential on any provision so made, including the amendment or repeal of any enactment passed before this Act.
(6) An Order in Council under subsection (5) above may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order.")
§ The noble Lord said: The main effect of this Amendment is to introduce the rank of lord-lieutenant in Northern Ireland. Under the existing law each county of Northern Ireland has a lieutenant in exactly the same way as has each county in Great Britain. The only difference between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is that the lieutenants in Northern Ireland are appointed by the Governor whereas in Great Britain they are appointed by Her Majesty. Following the local government reorganisation in Scotland, England and Wales, the present system of appointments in Great Britain is to be changed. With effect from April, 1974. your Lordships will know that a lord-lieutenant for each of the new counties in England and Wales is being appointed, and with effect from April, 1975, a lord-lieutenant for each of the new Scottish regions and Island areas will come into being. There is provision for each lord-lieutenant to be supported in his area by one or more lieutenants.
§ The purpose of these Amendments on the Marshalled List is to enable similar and suitable changes to be made in Northern Ireland in due course. I would put it to your Lordships that it would be wrong if provision were not made for the dignity of Her Majesty's representatives in Northern Ireland to be raised to the rank of lord-lieutenant when they are being raised to that rank in Great Britain. The new subsections proposed in this Amendment will allow Her Majesty to make appropriate provision for the appointment of lord-lieutenants and for lieutenants in Northern Ireland. What I cannot say to the Committee at this stage is what exactly will be the arrangements decided upon by Her Majesty. The representation of the Crown in Northern Ireland, as in any other part 982 of the United Kingdom, is a matter for Her Majesty herself, and it would be improper, certainly for me, to attempt to forecast the view which might be taken.
§ The Amendment also mentions the offices of deputy-lieutenant and vice-lieutenant. There is, however, no intention to make any basic change relating to these offices. If Her Majesty makes an Order in Council creating one or more lord-lieutenants for Northern Ireland and retaining some or all of the existing offices of lieutenant, then it will clearly be necessary to re-allocate between the lord-lieutenants and lieutenants the functions which have previously been discharged by the lieutenants, while the most important of these functions is that of appointing deputy-lieutenants. The Amendment on the Marshalled List accordingly permits Her Majesty to include in any Order in Council provision relating to the appointment of deputy-lieutenants. I beg to move.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord gave a rather rapid explanation. I would assume—I may be wrong: in fact, I almost certainly am—that the Government had really forgotten about lord-lieutenants in Ireland and that they put in a clause relating to the Governor. Curiously enough, this thought occurred to me the other day and I meant to ask about it. I understand that at the moment there are county-lieutenants but not lord-lieutenants. I may be absolutely wrong because I cannot really remember about this, but I cannot really see why the changes in the British local government boundaries hear on this. I may have missed this entirely. Unfortunately, I ought to have consulted some of my local government friends on this side of the House, but did not. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, can explain; but it seems to me that this is something that ought to have been in the Bill in the first instance: it is an oversight. However, I am sure it is quite right that we should add this. I did not quite follow what the change in Britain was that somehow made it necessary to do what it seems to me we ought to have done anyway in regard to Northern Ireland.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I have had to receive a little instruction on this, and I 983 believe I am correct in saying that the change which has taken place in Great Britain is that a two-tier structure, to use local government phraseology, of lieutenants—whom I have always called "lord-lieutenants", quite wrongly—and deputy-lieutenants now becomes a three-tier structure, where one can have lord-lieutenants (which will be the correct expression), lieutenants and deputy lieutenants. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is perfectly right: it is to put Northern Ireland on the same footing that this should have been in the Bill from the outset, and has now been inserted. There is nothing behind this Amendment at all except to ensure that the position, so far as Her Majesty's discretion is concerned, is exactly the same in Northern Ireland as it will be in England and Wales.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am very grateful to the noble Lord. It would be quite wrong of me to ask him to educate me further on a matter which I am quite sure is perfectly understood by other noble Lords.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 37 agreed to.
§ Clause 38 [Power to legislate by Order in Council for certain matters relating to Northern Ireland]:
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 26, line 18, leave out from ("by") to end of line 22 and insert ("or under any Measure or Act of the Parliament of Northern Ireland or Order in Council under section 1(3) of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 or by or under any Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed before this Act in so far as the provision is part of the law of Northern Ireland.
( ) An Order in Council under subsection (2) above may contain such consequential and supplemental provisions as appear to Her Majesty to be necessary or expedient.").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3. The effect of this Amendment is to extend the Order-making power contained in Clause 38(2) of the Bill to cover the same ground as that of its predecessor, Section 2 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1945. Under Section 2 of the 984 1945 Act the Governor of Northern Ireland was given power to make Orders in Council amending the law of the United Kingdom in certain circumstances. With the disappearance of the office of Governor, Section 2 of the 1945 Act is being repealed in Schedule 6 of this Bill and the power re-stated in Clause 38(2) as a power vested in Her Majesty in Council.
§ In reconstituting the power, however, two points which were present in the 1945 Act have not so far been carried forward. The first of those two points is that the 1945 Act empowered the Governor to make an Order in consequence of functions having been transferred by or under an Act of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Clause 38(2), as at present drafted, allows an Order in Council to be made only consequent upon provisions contained in a measure or Act of the Northern Ireland Parliament. Unlike the 1945 Act, it does not allow an Order in Council to be made consequent on provisions contained in subordinate legislation. The first part of the Amendment sets out to remedy this and to bring Clause 38(2) into line with the provision in the 1945 Act.
§ The second point is a much smaller one. The 1945 Act allowed an Order in Council to include such consequential, incidental and supplemental provisions as appeared to be necessary. Clause 38(2) as it stands does not go this far, and the Amendment accordingly proposes to add a fresh subsection to Clause 38 to remedy the defect. Any Order made under the new subsection will of course be subject, as the whole clause is, to Affirmative Resolution, whereas the 1945 Act was subject to no Parliamentary procedure whatsoever. In short, this Amendment seeks to give Her Majesty the same breadth of power to make Orders in Council as the Governor of Northern Ireland had under the 1945 Act; but in this case there is the check of Parliamentary scrutiny at Westminster. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 38, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Excepted Matters]:
§ On Question, Whether Schedule 2 shall stand part of the Bill?985
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
We discussed paragraph 15 of Schedule 2 earlier on the matter of discrimination, and I said to the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Brockway, that if it was possible to add to what had been said by my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State, we would do so at this point. It is a peculiarly appropriate place to do so. Paragraph 15 of the Schedule places in the excepted category all the matters dealt within this Bill with the exceptions stated. Thus the provisions about the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, about the minimum requirements for the Assembly's Standing Orders, about the Northern Ireland Privy Council and all the anti-discrimination provisions, are all placed beyond the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Were it not for this paragraph, some of these items would undoubtedly be within the competence of the Assembly, so it is an apt and appropriate moment to return to the subject of anti-discrimination.
The Standing Advisory Commission, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred earlier, will no doubt be prepared to receive the views of individuals and organisations on the need to introduce new machinery, or amend existing legislation to deal with discrimination. As to individual complaints, it is open to any individual or organisation to make representations that particular legislation is void because it is discriminatory. It will then be for the Secretary of State to consider the matter and, as appropriate, to refer the matter to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. As to complaints relating to individuals, it is always for the individual plaintiff to seek his remedy at law, though other organisations can help him. The individual also has the right to seek an injunction by the new and improved procedure in Clause 19(3). I will also refer the noble Lord to references in Clauses 17 and 19 to classes of persons in addition to individual persons. I hope that what I have said is helpful and adds to what was said by my noble friend earlier.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. My noble friend Lord Brockway has missed this great dénouement, but no doubt he will 986 be able to read it. We are very grateful to the noble Lord.
§ On Question, Schedule 2 agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Minimum Reserved Mutters on Appointed Day]:
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I beg to move Amendment No. 4. The effect of this Amendment is to bring into the reserve category the Court of Criminal Appeal in Northern Ireland. It had been thought that the Court of Criminal Appeal was already covered by the words "Supreme Court of Judicature", which is in the same paragraph. On further analysis it appears that technically the Court of Criminal Appeal is not part of the Supreme Court of Judicature, hence the Amendment.
Page 33, line 7, after ("Ireland") insert (", the Court of Criminal Appeal in Northern Ireland,").—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
This is a similar Amendment, in that its effect is to include among the reserve matters in Schedule 3 the registration, execution and enforcement of judgments and orders. It had been thought that these matters were already included in the reserve matters by virtue of the general reference to the Courts in Northern Ireland, which is in the same paragraph, and to court proce, dure and costs. But, on further analysis, it appeared that the enforcement of judgments was not necessarily brought wholly within the reserve category by the words already included in the Bill. That is why I am putting forward this Amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.
Page 33, line 9, leave out ("and legal aid") and insert (", legal aid and the registration, execution and enforcement of judgments and orders").—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
With the permission of your Lordships, I will move Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 together. The effect of these Amendments is specifically to include firearms and explosives in the reserve matters listed in Schedule 3. It was made clear in paragraph 68 of the White Paper that the Government's proposal is that Ministerial powers in relation to police, public order and penal 987 establishments should rest with the United Kingdom Ministers accountable to this Parliament. Paragraph 68(b) of the White Paper specifically included the control of firearms and explosives in this general statement. It had been thought that the general reference in paragraph 4(a) of the Schedule to the Criminal Law would be sufficient to bring firearms and explosive matters within the reserve category. I am advised that this is not so, and this is the reason why I am putting forward this Amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 33, line 15, leave out ("and 5") and insert (", 5 and 5A").
Page 33, line 37, at end insert—
("5A. Firearms and explosives.")—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
Page 34, line 22, leave out first ("and").—(Lord Belstead.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I agree that this particular paragraph will scan a little better without the "and". Perhaps the noble Lord can specifically assure us that the omission of the word "and" does not in any way affect the sense, because this Amendment is in this very sensitive area.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I am advised that this cannot affect the sense. This paragraph places in the reserve category any oath or undertaking in lieu of an oath or declaration, and this is complementary to Clause 21 which limits the circumstances in which an oath of allegiance or loyalty may be required. Clause 21 has gone before us, but we can see what we are referring to here. I give the noble Lord the undertaking that I am quite certain that this Amendment does not change the sense.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedules 4 and 5 agreed to.
§ Schedule 6 [Repeals]:
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES: (LORD GRENFELL)
The Amendments to Schedule 6, Nos. 9 to 16, 988 have been marshalled in the wrong order. The correct order is: 9, 15, 10, 11, 14, 16, 12 and 13. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, proposes to move these Amendments en bloc. If he has the leave of the Committee I shall put the Question on these Amendments en bloc in their correct order.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
With the agreement of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and with the leave of the Committee, I should like to move Amendments Nos. 9 to 16 en bloc. These are either drafting Amendments or technical Amendments. None of them is an Amendment of substance.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 36, line 20, column 3, at end insert ("and the words and pending proceedings".")
§ Page 39, column 3, leave out lines 8 to 10 and insert ("The whole Act, so far as unrepealed.")
§ Page 39, line 27, column 3, at end insert ("In section 14(3) the words" or in section two of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1945".")
§ Page 41, line 10, column 3, at end insert ("In section 12(7) the words from "but" onwards.")
§ Page 41, line 40, column 3, at end insert ("In Schedule 1, in Part III, the words "Crown Solicitor in Northern Ireland", "Speaker of the Senate or House of Commons of Northern Ireland" and "Standing Counsel to the Speaker of the Senate or House of Commons of Northern Ireland".")
§ Page 42, column 3, leave out line 16 and insert ("subsection (3), in subsection (4) the words "giving or" and subsection (12).")
§ Page 47, line 11, column 3, at end insert ("Section 18(3)")
§ Page 49, line 47, column 3, at end insert ("In section 29(1) the definition of "the Attorney General".").—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ House resumed. Bill reported with Amendments: Report received.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of July 12):
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. In doing so, I should like to express the gratitude of Her Majesty's Government to the House for agreeing to take the Committee stage and all subsequent stages of this important Bill on one day. It has been extremely useful to the Secretary of State to have had the 989 co-operation of the Leader of the Opposition and of the other Parties in facilitating the passage of this Bill on to the Statute Book in good time for the first meeting of the new Assembly later this month. The House has scrutinised the Bill very thoroughly to-day and has debated the main features: the pledge on the territorial status of Northern Ireland, the undertaking on the Border poll —on which we listened with considerable interest to the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord O'Neill of the Maine and Lord Moyola—the form of the Executive and power-sharing. We also discussed relations with the Republic of Ireland and the prevention of religious and political discrimination. Since the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is now back with us, I might say that, as indicated previously, I made a further statement supplementing what my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State had said about discrimination when we came to Schedule 2, paragraph 15. I am sorry that he missed it. His noble friend the Leader of the Opposition intervened briefly and it will be available in Hansard. I hope it will be helpful to him. If there is anything further he would like to know about it, I hope that he will not hesitate to get in touch with me.
My Lords, in addition, a number of Government Amendments have been explained by my noble friend, and the Bill has been amended and will now return to another place. When the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, spoke on Clause 1 he said, very truly I thought—and I made a note of it—that what we are trying to do to-day is to achieve peace or contribute towards peace in Northern Ireland through the medium of this Bill. In the end the Bill before the House to-day is concerned with only one thing; that is, government by consent and how it is to be achieved in Northern Ireland. The Bill provides a framework within which new and more fruitful political life can develop in Northern Ireland given good will, and we must hope that that is the future to which Northern Ireland can look forward.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, there is little I can say at this stage beyond once again expressing the united 990 feelings of, I think, everybody in your Lordships' House, and, I should like to think, of nearly everybody in another place, that this Bill, which is shortly to be an Act, will succeed; that the people of Northern Ireland and all those of moderate views and good will really will take this opportunity of making it work. It is not for us to preach on this matter, but such tremendous efforts—this is worth stressing—have gone into trying to devise a satisfactory solution or combination of solutions for Northern Ireland. I find it very difficult to see what more the Government of the United Kingdom can do at this moment. I think it is important to recognise this because people get themselves—and one finds this in politics in England—into such entrenched positions that they cannot believe that something can be made to work and they cannot accept what is the only possible solution.
Obviously we could have spent a much longer time on this Bill, but I am satisfied, as indeed I think all my noble friends are, that its general effect is good. There may be small improvements that could have been made here and there and which it may be possible to make at a later date, but certainly we wish the Bill every success and we wish the Secretary of State and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who carries such onerous responsibilities, the good fortune they deserve.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, in supporting every word of what the Leader of the Opposition has just said, I should like to make a small point which I almost touched on earlier. Many years ago, long before the present troubles, I can remember suggestions being made that there should be a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In those days I always argued that the Home Secretary was the senior Minister in the Cabinet and that any Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would be junior to and less important than the Secretary of State for Scotland. Unfortunately, times have changed, and all I want to do is to make a suggestion and leave the idea with the Government.
It seems to me that we shall continue to have a difficult time in Northern Ireland for some time ahead; and it also seems to me inevitable that before long 991 the present Secretary of State will be returning to London in some other capacity. I hope very much that his successor will be a man of senior standing in the Cabinet who will have direct access to the Prime Minister and who will be able to carry policies swiftly into effect. I am not asking for any comment from the Government, but if someone should be appointed who could not carry the Prime Minister and the Cabinet with him in the grave decisions that have to be taken, sometimes at a moment's notice, then I think the job would be far less effective than it is at present. I shall not weary the House with any further dilations on this subject, nor do I ask for any reply. I should just like to leave this thought with the Leader of the House and to congratulate him on the swift passage of the Bill.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I only want to express my hope that this Bill will contribute towards peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. I have expressed in this House more than once my very great appreciation of the contribution which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made, and more particularly, because he is here, my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—and that I feel very sincerely indeed. I shall be very critical of the Bill on Thursday, but I hope that this Bill will succeed in the object at which we are all aiming, which is to end the appalling violence in Northern Ireland, to bring about co-operation between representative Catholic and Protestant communities and to open the way to some co-operation between Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland and this country which will at last bring a solution of this problem which has lasted for centuries. That problem cannot be overcome in a short period, but this Bill, we believe, may contain the hope of its ultimate solution.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, I am extremely sorry to cast a contentious stone into the placid waters of bipartisan or perhaps tripartisan consensus, but there is another side to the story and I think in fairness it deserves a hearing. I did not speak on Second Reading, partly because I had just come down 992 from the North of Scotland and had not had a chance to see the Bill in the form in which it emerged from the Commons, but mainly because I was extremely reluctant to strike a controversial note at this stage if it could possibly be avoided. Apart from anything else, it is no fun being "odd man out" in your Lordships' House. I hoped, even at this late stage, the Government might have seen fit of their own accord to introduce some Amendments in Committee to ameliorate the Bill; to give greater long-term safeguards to those who support the British connection. But this has not happened, and of course any Amendment introduced by myself would have had no chance of getting off the ground. My justification for taking up the time of your Lordships at this fairly late hour is that I feel on principle that if a large body of people on the periphery of one's country feels aggrieved or let down in some way or another, then on balance it it more likely that their co-operation will eventually be won, and less likely that they will take any foolish action, if at least one person at the centre of things is seen to express their fears and to attempt, however clumsily, to put over their point of view. I say "attempt" because I speak only for myself, not at anybody else's instigation. I have not been briefed or primed in any way. I can only try to put myself in the shoes of the man in the street on the other side of the North Channel and try to imagine how I would feel in his position.
One cannot, from the voting figures for the recent election for the Assembly, evade the unhappy fact that over half a million people in Northern Ireland—about 530,000, taking into account people under 18 and those who did not vote for one reason or another—all from that section of the community that traditionally supports Britain and supports the Westminster Parliament, are in opposition to the Bill which is before us to-day, or at least to significant parts of it. These people are not, apart from a very small number, extremists. From time to time I receive letters from strangers in Northern Ireland after I have spoken or written something on this subject, and they almost invariably start in this vein: "I was a supporter of Captain O'Neill until my shop was blown up"; "I was a moderate and always strongly opposed Paisley until my next-door neighbour 993 who was a policeman was shot dead when he opened his front door one night"—
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, just for historical rectitude, nobody's shop was blown up in my day. The troubles started after I left.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, I think the people in question supported the noble Lord's ideas and principles. Others said, for instance, that they always used to have their Republican neighbours to tea every Sunday until such-and-such another incident. And so, on balance, these are the sort of people, I suspect, who contributed the greater part of the votes to Vanguard, to the Democratic Unionist Party or to the unofficial Unionists.
There are of course extremists too, but this must be put in perspective. One thinks of a certain Mr. John McKeague, who I think is in prison at the moment. He was constantly featured on television in this country as being a typical representative of working-class Protestantism. This was absolute nonsense. This individual stood in the 1970 General Election in the strongly Protestant constituency of North Belfast and received a derisory 1 per cent. of the votes. So I think this shows how unpopular extremism is in Northern Ireland, among both sectors of the community. Most of the half million people who oppose this Bill are, I suggest, intrinsically moderate but worried people.
How did this sad situation come about and, more important, how can it he retrieved? At this moment of time current developments may seem natural and inevitable, but if your Lordships cast your minds back I think you will concede that had anybody forecast three years ago, when Mr. Heath's Government came to power, or even as recently as two years ago, that a Conservative Government would abolish Stormont and bring in a Bill of this sort, people would have assumed him slightly mad. And if one had gone on to suggest that a Conservatime Government would have moved farther than Mr. Wilson's Administration ever dared to in the direction of accommodating or making gestures to nationalism or republicanism, one would have been considered certifiable. But look at what has happened. Let me give three examples to substantiate the last point.
994 First of all, paragraph 2 of the 1969 Downing Street Agreement has been metaphorically, and for all I know literally, torn up and thrown out of the window. Your Lordships will remember that paragraph 2 states quite categorically that:The United Kingdom Government affirm that responsibility for affairs in Northern Ireland is entirely a matter of domestic jurisdiction. The United Kingdom Government will take full responsibility for asserting this principle in all international relationships.I entirely concede that, with the best of intentions, Her Majesty's Government have not only consulted all sorts of people in the South of Ireland and briefed foreign Ambassadors prior to operation "Motorman"; they have even been in touch with Senator Edward Kennedy, who your Lordships may remember once recommended that the Protestants opposed to a united Ireland should emigrate from the country where they had lived for 400 years. Then of course one thinks of a 15-year plan proposed by Mr. Wilson on, I think, November 25, 1971. It is true he envisaged the possibility of Irish unity, but only on conditions that the South of Ireland joined the Commonwealth and accepted the Queen as Head of State. No such safeguards or preconditions were laid down in the Government's Green Paper, for example; and now, of course, the Loyal Oath has been abolished, so far as the new Assembly is concerned, in its old form.
Now, like a great many other people, I was horrified at the prorogation of what was already a very much reformed Stormont as a result of the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and his two successors. This prorogation, "this profoundly unconservative act" as a middle-of-the-road Conservative M.P., a member of the Bow Group, described it at the time—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I am bound to say that, in terms of the custom of this House, I find the speech which the noble Lord is now delivering completely inappropriate to a Third Reading debate on a Bill which has virtually completed its stages. It is not a case of objecting to things of this kind being said, but there is no opportunity for reply—at least, the Government will have 995 another opportunity to make a speech, but there is no opportunity for other noble Lords to reply. In another place this would be entirely out of order. We do not have these Rules, but I must say that I find it an unusual speech for a Third Reading debate. I do not know whether the noble Lord the Leader of the House can give any guidance.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, explained to us that it had not been possible for him to take part in the Second Reading debate, and therefore I think if he wishes to raise general considerations now he is free to do so. I understand that the noble Lord was kind enough to intimate to my Office that he intended to speak on the Third Reading. But I think that if he were able to put his points relatively briefly it would be to the advantage of the House.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, I note what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said and I apologise to your Lordships. As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said, I explained why I did not speak on Second Reading, and I understood—and still understand—that the Government have the right of reply. I explained my justification for keeping your Lordships at this hour was that the views of a large body of people—over half a million—have not as yet had a hearing in your Lordships' House.
I will try to shorten my comments. The prorogation of Stormont was a "profoundly unconservative act," as a member of the Bow Group said at the time, but once it was a fait accompli one naturally looked to see whether there were any mitigating factors. I agreed with the Green Paper where it pointed out that when any Government is in power for a continuous period it leads inevitably to insensitivity on the part of the semi-permanent majority and a lack of responsibility on the part of the semi-permanent minority. I accept that, and indeed paragraph 79 of the Green Paper, which spoke of the need for a greater consensus. This made sense, and I was particularly pleased to read paragraph 77. I do not want to detain your Lordships longer than necessary but that paragraph is critical. I would have spoken of this point on the first Amendment in the Committee stage 996 but I thought it better to put it in context. I believed—wrongly as it turns out —that the new principles which had been introduced by the Government at the time envisaged the possibility of unification only on conditions that were acceptable to the distinctive communities, from which I adduced that a majority vote of both communities would be necessary before Irish unity was achieved. This made excellent sense: because if one demands a consensus for matters affecting education, social service, health, public works, the economy and so on, it is hardly right or logical to demand a minimum, or almost absence of consensus, on the far more important question of national identity.
But as the abstract philosophy of the Green Paper hardened into the more concrete proposals of the White Paper, and they turned into the specific clauses of this Bill, it became obvious week by week that the Government had no intention of making gestures to what one might call the grass roots majority in the North of Ireland, despite promptings from all quarters. From the Right the Daily Telegraph urged the retention of the office of Governor despite the technical difficulties: as the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, said on Second Reading, "Where there is a will there is a way." From the Left the Guardian consistently pressed for greater representation for Ulster at Westminster, sixteen seats instead of twelve. Again, no action. I would never claim omniscience for newspaper editors but their views do represent the views of a great body of people. From the centre, I suspect (rather than from the Right), the Federation of Conservative Students demanded the abolition of the anomalous and unreciprocated right of Southern Irishmen to influence British General elections, as a quid pro quo for the abolition of Stormont. But again, nothing doing!
Most disappointing of all, from my point of view, was the fact that the principles which I thought had been enshrined in Clause 77 of the Green Paper were not in fact enshrined there at all. As there was such a long discussion about it in Committee I should like to put it to your Lordships that if Clause 1 remains as it is in perpetuity, given the different demographic proclivities of the two communities, it is highly possible that within 997 ten or twenty years Ulster could be voted into the Irish Republic against the wishes of the entire present majority. A greater disaster would he hard to imagine, and I cannot believe that it would be welcome in the South of Ireland either. Certainly Dr. Collor Cruise O'Brien would not welcome such an outcome; nor, I think, would most members of Fine Gael or the more moderate members of Fianna Fail. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, may not believe it, but I do have a deep affection for the South of Ireland. When they are not being Chauvinistic I am very fond of them; and I have a large number of friends there. I regret most strongly that no action was taken on this score.
I was going to speak about a certain lack of tact on the part of the Government—and here I entirely exclude the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, the Secretary of State and fellow Ministers, from any criticism on this score. Of course they have had an extremely arduous and difficult role to play, and I join with other noble Lords in expressing my admiration for the way in which they have done so, even though I oppose Government policy generally. I appreciate that Mr. Whitelaw, in his quasi-Gubernatorial role, walks a particularly difficult political tightrope, and cannot afford to show any partiality between what may be called pro-British and anti, British sections of the community. But the same does not apply to the Government as a whole; nor indeed to the Conservative and Unionist Party—to give it its full title. Stornoway—in the Isle of Lewis—is further away from the mainland of the United Kingdom than Larne or Carrickfergus or Newtownards or Ballycastle, and about the same distance as Belfast. If respected British statesmen had said in extremely unenthusiastic terms: "If it is the wish of the people of the Outer Hebrides to remain in the United Kingdom, that wish will be respected", how hurt their feelings would be— It is that lack of warmth, or recognition of the role played in two world wars, which in my opinion has not been given enough emphasis.
This has led us to the rather ironic situation where, six years ago, when Captain O'Neill (as he then was) was the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, an extremely meticulous and detailed survey 998 was made by Professor Rose of Strathclyde University, in which he established that only 12 per cent. of the population of Ulster at that time were opposed to the Constitution. After everything that has happened we now have the situation (and the figures were given by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, the other day) that 37½ per cent. of the population—three times as many: and that is not taking into account the spoiled ballot papers—have opposed the present Constitution, or a good part of it. I think this has taken us from the frying pan into a rather hotter fire. But now that the Bill has reached this stage, one can only help to speed it on its way, hope that one's pessimism is misplaced and that all will go well, and wish the Assembly well. But from the point of view of both justice and expediency I trust that it will be possible before too long to introduce some amending legislation to give to the pro-British majority in Northern Ireland, whether they be Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Atheist, the additional safeguards and guarantees of their long-term status which in my opinion they deserve.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD W1NDLESHAM
My Lords, I thank those noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate on Third Reading. I think they all, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, have taken part in the Committee stage proceedings. The noble Lord who has just spoken explained the reasons why he has some doubts about the Government's policies, and he has done so on previous occasions as well. I do not think this is the occasion for me to reply to him in detail, other than to say that none of us, Mr. Whitelaw or the other members of his team, which include myself—we spent more than a year in Northern Ireland—has had any absolute certainty that one policy is necessarily 100 per cent. right and that another policy would be 100 per cent. wrong. What we have tried to do is to analyse the situation on the ground as it is there. I can tell your Lordships that it looks very different on the ground from the way it appears in the relatively calm and ordered society we have grown used to. Nobody knows this better than the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill.
999 My Lords, as I explained on Second Reading, one must analyse the situation as to how a conflict of such bitterness and intensity came about. It is necessary to become familiar with the factors which meet in Northern Ireland politics, and then to weigh them up. It is necessary to consult a wide range of people, to try and build up confidence and to establish personal relationships with representatives of every part of the community, and then to come forward with policies. That is what Mr. Whitelaw has done. The Conference at Darlington, the Discussion Paper, the White Paper and now the Bill—these embody the result of a continuous process of appraisal and judgment, and have resulted in these 1000 policies. We believe, and believe with some conviction, that it is these policies in this Bill that are most likely to lead to the return of stability and peace in Northern Ireland. That is why we have commended them to Parliament.
§ On Question, Bill read 3ª, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.