HL Deb 14 May 2003 vol 648 cc242-5

3.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.

I wish to say a word on consequent procedure. If the Committee amends the Bill, copies of the Bill as amended will be available shortly after the end of the Committee in the Printed Paper Office. Noble Lords will then have one hour, from the end of Committee stage, to table any amendments that might be required on Report.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Election of next Assembly]:

[Amendment No. I not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 10, leave out subsection (3) and insert— (3) Section 96 is amended as follows—

  1. (a) in subsection (2), after "section" there is inserted "31(2),",
  2. (b) after subsection (2) there is inserted—

(2A) Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) does not apply to an order under section 31(2) if the order declares that the Secretary of State considers it to be expedient for the order to be made without the approval mentioned in that paragraph. (2B) An order containing a declaration under subsection (2A)—

  1. (a) shall be laid before Parliament after being made: and
  2. (b) shall cease to have effect if it is not approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date on which it is made.

(2C) Subsection (2B)(b) does not prejudice the making of a new order. (2D) In calculating the period of 28 days mentioned in subsection (2B)(b), no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days."

The noble and learned Lord said: As always, I am grateful for the courtesy that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, showed me because I was aware of his intention. As Committee Members know, we had a significant discussion in some depth yesterday about how we ought to deal with these matters. I indicated that, following the extremely helpful report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, we had given the matter further thought. I told noble Lords yesterday that I intended to move an amendment that would require the Government to come back to Parliament if the relevant power had not been exercised by 31st December this year. I have had further representations, not least from the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, in the context of his amendment, and the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton.

That being so, and having listened, I hope, with an open mind, I intend, not to move this amendment in Committee, but to move an altered, I hope, improved amendment on Report. That would bring forward the date from 31st December to 15th November. That would have the attraction that, if Royal Assent is tomorrow, it would be a six-month period, so there would be the internal symmetry of six months' succession. Furthermore, I gathered the feeling in your Lordships' House that, although the 31st December proposition was welcomed, perhaps something a little more rigorous might be wished for. I hope that noble Lords will accept my undertaking to table the amendment on Report. It has already been lodged in the Printed Paper Office. I repeat my heartfelt thanks to the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, not only for its report, but for the speed and efficiency with which it worked. With the leave of the Committee, I will not move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 6 agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 3: After Clause 6, insert the following new clause— RENEWAL OF POWERS UNDER SECTION 1 (1) Unless subsection (4) applies— (a) the following provisions of the 1998 Act—

  1. (i) section 31(2),
  2. (ii) the word "31(2)," in section 96(2), and
  3. (iii) section 96(2A) to (2D),

(all as substituted or inserted by subsections (1) to (3) of section 1 of this Act), and (b) subsection (4) of section 1, together collectively referred to below as "the temporary provisions", remain in force until 31st December 2003 and then expire if not continued in force by an order under subsection (2). (2) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument provide that the temporary provisions are to continue in force for a period, or further period, in each case not exceeding 6 months from the coming into force of the order. (3) An order under subsection (2) may not be made unless a draft of the order has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. (4) This subsection applies if an order is made, at any time, under section 31(2) of the 1998 Act, as substituted by section 1(2) of this Act. (5) If subsection (4) applies, the temporary provisions do not expire, and the provision to the contrary in subsection (1) ceases to apply. (6) If the temporary provisions expire, the Secretary of State must by order made by statutory instrument make such amendments of enactments as appear to him to be necessary or expedient in consequence of the expiry. (7) Subsections (4) to (7), and (9), of section 6 apply to an order under subsection (6) as they apply to an order under subsection (1) of that section. (8) If by virtue of section 6(7)(b), as applied by subsection (7) of this section, the order under subsection (6) ceases to have effect, the amendments made by the order also cease to have effect, but this does not prejudice the making of a new order.

The noble and learned Lord said: I outlined this amendment to noble Lords yesterday. We have attended very carefully and, I hope, appropriately to the recommendations of the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. This amendment would bring about the draft affirmative resolution procedure; that is to say, in the context of Northern Ireland, it is often prudent to move promptly. Equally, Parliament must have its proper opportunity for scrutiny and comment.

When I responded yesterday, I indicated that I would propose the amendment—I hope it meets with your Lordships' approval—which would mean that if Parliament were not to approve by affirmative procedure the Secretary of State's decision in 28 days, that decision would fall.

A number of your Lordships yesterday raised some questions with which I shall deal now. In particular, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, raised a question that was also raised by the noble Lords, Lord Brooke, Lord Tebbit and Lord Smith of Clifton. It was: what would happen if Parliament were not sitting? I believe that I have satisfied him on that in relation to the relevant provision, but there is of course the opportunity to delay coming back to Parliament within the 28-day period. I made it plain that I did not consider that to be proper behaviour and I would deprecate it. I am giving an undertaking this afternoon that the Government would bring back such an order to Parliament, as soon as practicable, for debate. I hope that that meets the point raised yesterday.

A further specific point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. I said yesterday—and I repeat it now—that I am not the master of Commons procedure. I hope that it is acceptable merely to say that I am hopeful and confident that we shall find a way forward that will meet the legitimate expectations of Members of both Houses. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for introducing the amendment and for his understanding. It is my understanding that my noble friends who were on the committee are satisfied with the process and with what the Government have delivered.

Lord Smith of Clifton

I share the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for the way in which he has accommodated the wishes of the Committee as expressed yesterday. We are most grateful to him for his extreme skill and dedication in handling the negotiations.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

As one of the three Back-Bench Peers on this side of the Chamber and as one of those who, as the Minister said, raised the matter yesterday, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord not only for the fact that he has reinforced what he said yesterday, but also for the manner in which he has done it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with an amendment.