§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 13th August be approved [5th Report from the Joint Committee].
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if speak at the same time to the other three orders standing in my name: the Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) Order 2001, which was laid before the House on 13th August 2001; the Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) (No. 2) Order 2001, which was laid before the House on 26th September; and the Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) (No. 2) Order 2001, which was also laid before the House on 26th September.
§ The political context is well known to your Lordships. The then First Minister, the right honourable David Trimble, resigned on 1st July. That created automatically a deadline of 12th August. On the afternoon of Friday 10th August the Secretary of State announced that he would be signing an order to suspend devolution from midnight that night. That order was the Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) Order 2001, which is the first order standing in my name today. The Secretary of State then restored the devolved institutions after 24 hours by signing the second order.
§ The deadline was then reset for Saturday 22nd September. There were various developments and difficulties with which your Lordships are well familiar. The Secretary of State, after appropriate consultations, announced on 21st September that he was again bringing about a suspension by means of the third order. Devolution was restored 24 hours later by means of the fourth order.
§ That is the historical background to these orders. I have taken them briefly because it is self-evident that your Lordships know what has happened. More recently, as your Lordships know, Mr Trimble and Mr Durkan have been elected as First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The up-to-date material that I have is that the Reverend Dr Paisley returned to court this morning in Belfast and has been given leave to take out judicial review, but leave only on the basis that he has an arguable case. I commend the order to the House.344
§ Moved, That the order laid before the House on 13th August be approved [5th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)
§ Viscount Bridgeman
My Lords, we on these Benches understand the convoluted procedures which have been necessary to take the peace process forward. We support the Government.
§ Lord Smith of Clifton
My Lords, with these orders, let us hope that there will be an end to this kind of yo-yo politics. It was commendable that the Alliance Party took the decision to break the impasse. However, new arrangements must be made for the future to create a workable procedural arithmetic. We support the orders.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that last word. I entirely agree. The Secretary of State is bending his mind at the moment to new appropriate workable arrangements.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.