HL Deb 14 May 2003 vol 648 cc293-6

6.30 p.m.

Standing Order 47 having been dispensed with, Report received.

Clause 1 [Election of next Assembly]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 1: 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 he 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: My Lords, earlier, in Committee, there was a little confusion about the numbering of amendments, for which I was entirely responsible.

To make things perfectly clear—I have dealt with the substance of the matters—I must point out that there are now two amendments in my name for Report. Amendment No. 1 will insert the affirmative resolution procedure into Clause 1, which grants the power to call elections. Amendment No. 2, which refers to new Clause 7, will change the date at which the power to call elections must be renewed or else lapse from 31st December to 15th November, as I explained fully in Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Renewal of powers under section 1]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 2: Page 6, line 5, leave out "31st December" and insert "the end of 15th November

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have also explained this matter to your Lordships. I think that your Lordships were pleased. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, this is as good a moment as any to wind up the debates on the Bill. I shall take the opportunity to do two things. First, I say, once again, a big "Thank you' to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal, the Northern Ireland Office, the officials and all who worked with us. I hope that I may be so hold as to include the other parties—the Liberal Democrats and the Unionists—with whom the noble and learned Lord and I have worked hard over a short time to get the Bill to a situation with which all of us in the House can, I hope, be satisfied. As has been said, none of us wanted the Bill, but, at this stage. we have got the best that we could have hoped for. We must hope that it is not too long before the Bill is in the wastepaper basket and is no longer in use.

Having said that, I shall raise one other subject. There are many things going on in Northern Ireland. Both Governments have committed themselves to quite a lot of changes, and some of them give us quite a lot of concern. It is hard to know where the legislative programme might go, what the Government feel they need legislation for and what they will go on doing without legislation in the devolution situation. If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal could give us some clarification on that, I would be grateful.

Overall, it has been a satisfactory debate. It has been short and sweet in your Lordships' House—your Lordships will be delighted about that—but it has often been long and arduous in various corridors and offices.

Lord Smith of Clifton

My Lords, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said. There has been some hard pounding over the past week or so. We have made the best of a bad job, and I echo the comments about the mutuality that was shown.

Enough plaudits have been given to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, but there is one attribute that is rarely mentioned but which shone through in the past 10 days—his intellect. It is at the service of your Lordships' House and is a great asset.

Baroness O'Cathain

My Lords, I want to follow the comments of my noble friend Lord Glentoran and say something about the current situation in Northern Ireland, in which we do not have an Assembly. Until now, we have been taken into the thinking of the Government by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal, and I trust that that communication and consultation will continue. It has helped us all to understand what has happened in the past few weeks. I thank the noble and learned Lord for keeping us informed.

Lord Rogan

My Lords. I wish to be associated with the words of the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Smith of Clifton. I heartily agree with what they said.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am very grateful, not just for myself but on behalf of my Private Office—actually the indefatigable Nicky Daniells—and all our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office.

We have done useful work. With specific regard to what the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Smith of Clifton, and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, asked of me, I will do my very best to keep the House as fully informed as I can. I know that. in the past, your Lordships have welcomed the letters in which I have been able to set out a legislative timetable. even if it was on a tentative basis. I undertake to continue to do that.

My Lords, where there is discord, let us bring harmony—

Noble Lords


On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, now for the harmony: I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.