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(2) This sub-paragraph applies where the Order declares that the Secretary of State has advised Her Majesty that because of the urgency of the matter it is necessary to make the Order without meeting any of the conditions in sub-paragraph (1).
Mark Durkan: We covered many matters yesterday on Second Reading. We have tabled amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 6 to clause 1. The clause provides that the Secretary of State may refer certain matters to the Assembly that is to be set up under the Bill, namely, the election of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the operation of d'Hondt and such other matters as the Secretary of State sees fit.
The clause makes it clear that suspension does not end with the creation of the Assembly. It provides that the Assembly is to be composed of people who were elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, so there is a clear legal distinction between the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Assembly. So far, the Secretary of State has not coloured in exactly which other matters he might see fit to refer to the Assembly. There were various exchanges between Governments and parties in the run-up to the statement made by the two premiers in Armagh, which preceded the Secretary of State's announcement of the Bill last week. The purpose of amendment No. 7 is to try to probe further into which other matters the Assembly might consider.
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Elsewhere in the measure, it is made clear what will happen if restoration does not occur by 25 November. The Assembly set up by the legislation will be wound up and the Secretary of State has made it clear that Assembly Members will lose their jobs. We accept that, as we have been told, the Assembly is not a shadow Assemblyso it is not even a shadow of its former self. It should not continue indefinitely. We do not want an endless talking shop of any kind, but the Government are making a mistake if they think that the deadline will worry those who may not be in a hurry to form an inclusive Executive by that date. Talk of closing the book on devolution and talk, such as we heard yesterday, of bringing the curtain down on the process that has been in operation since 1998 could appeal to a party such as the Democratic Unionist party, which still says that its aim is to remove and replace the Belfast agreement.
The proposals that may or may not exist on joint stewardship in the event of the Assembly being wound up if there is failure by 25 November do not extend to anything that might look like joint authoritythe Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been at pains to state that here last week and this weekso it would seem that perhaps we are talking about some sort of direct rule with knobs on at best. Again, I am not sure whether that will particularly appeal to anyone to whom the deadline is meant to appeal, and I am not sure whether it will scare or frighten anyone whom the deadline is supposed to worry in that sense.
It would suit those in the DUP in many ways for everything to be wound up at that stage and for attempts to be made in the direction of joint authority, to which they can then galvanise opposition and claim success in those attempts and, indeed, in burying the agreement, as they would see it. There is a danger that parties could have an incentive to play it out to failure on 25 November. Indeed, that incentive could also extend not just to the DUP, but to those in Sinn Fein who, for their own reasons, might be quite happy for us to reach a situation where the onus is on the two Governments to produce an alternative after 25 November. Of course, they can then galvanise and criticise when that is not good enough from their perspective either. Of course, they would be happy to blame the collapse by 25 November on the DUP.
The danger is that, after 25 November, the Northern Ireland Assembly might not be a given, the Assembly created by the Bill might be gone and a worthwhile alternative from the two Governments might not be a given and not be available. It might well be that the only given that we will have then is the outcome of the review of public administrationthe seven super-councils, the repartition in waiting and the deep Balkanisation of our societyand in those circumstances, parties might well start to turn their attentions to how they build up their powers and bases in those new local government institutions, rather than concentrating on how we deliver the vision for devolution that the people of Northern Ireland endorsed when they voted overwhelmingly for the agreement.
Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP):
Why are those the only options available to the political parties in Northern Ireland? There is still the option of voluntary coalition, and my party has said many times
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to the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that, in the absence of Sinn Fein-IRA completing the journey to democracy, peace and the rule of law, we are prepared to go into government tomorrow with them, so there are other options on the table, including the proposals that the hon. Gentleman and his party have made.
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