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Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I thank the noble Lord for explaining his amendment and also the relevance of Amendment No. 6 to his discussion. I assure him that my answers to him on this amendment are not given casually. In the Northern Ireland Office we have lived with this Bill for many weeks. We have indulged in a comprehensive period of analysis.

I assure him, first, that any affirmative order, although it cannot be amended, can be rejected by this House. It is very usual practice in Northern Ireland to publish orders in draft form so that everybody can have their views well and truly considered. I also give him an absolute commitment that the Secretary of State would not contemplate abusing the situation at all. We are trying to move a process forward. If these amendments were accepted, considerable duplication would be necessary in terms of cost and complexity. I hope that the noble Lord will not ask me for that.

Lord Monkswell: I thank the Minister for that reassurance. One thing I would request; namely, that an

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early draft should be circulated to interested parties as soon as possible. Obviously, the time constraints are very short. With the Minister's reassurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monkswell moved Amendment No. 4:


4Page 2, line 25, at end insert--

("( ) The Secretary of State shall invite Members of the House of Commons, returned for Parliamentary constituencies in Great Britain, to signify their answers to the question put in the referendum on the same day as the referendum is put to the people in Northern Ireland.")

The noble Lord said: While in relation to this Bill we are considering only the question of referendums in Northern Ireland--and, as we now know, referendums in possibly only part of Northern Ireland--we are also aware, although it could never appear in United Kingdom legislation, that there are likely to be referendums in the Republic of Ireland as well. They may be linked or separate. However, if they are linked, that is a mechanism for determining the attitude and views of the people in both the North and the South of the island of Ireland on the question that will be put in the referendum.

The population of Great Britain (that is, the United Kingdom less Northern Ireland) would also be interested in, and have an interest in, the determination of what happens in Northern Ireland and the relationship between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. It would be politic to enable them to make their views known on the question of the referendum.

One way of doing that would be to have a referendum in Great Britain. That might hold some attractions. The problem is that it would be quite costly and I am not sure it would find favour with the population of Great Britain. One way in which we can determine the views of the population of Great Britain is by asking their duly elected Members of Parliament. The Secretary of State would send the Members of Parliament a referendum ballot paper with a stamped return envelope asking them to respond to the text of the referendum: "Vote yes, no or abstain", in the same way as the citizens of Northern Ireland.

I tabled the amendment as a suggestion that may be useful, not only in involving the people of Great Britain in the affairs of the whole of these islands, but also in ensuring that there would not be a politically partisan view. Each Member of Parliament would be expected to represent his constituents and not to vote on a party basis. I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: The noble Lord's amendment raises an interesting point. However, I doubt that another place would welcome this Chamber telling its Members how they should register their views on any question put to the people of Northern Ireland under this clause.

I must stress that Members will have an opportunity to debate the order directing any referendum. Any implementation of agreement reached in the talks and endorsed in a referendum would almost certainly require

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primary legislation at Westminster. That would give Members of both this House and another place an opportunity to make their views known. I must stress that it is the determination of this Government to ensure that the future of the people of Northern Ireland is chosen by the people of Northern Ireland. I hope that, in considering the opportunities for debate in another place in due process of the negotiations, the noble Lord will feel that that is sufficient and withdraw the amendment.

Lord Monkswell: I recognised that this amendment was a bit of a flyer. I felt that it would be useful to run it up the flagpole and see if it waved. It has waved. I leave it there and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 ["Nominating representative" of a party]:

Lord Monkswell moved Amendment No. 5:


Clause 5 5 Page 2, line 32, leave out from ("time") to second ("the") in line 33 and insert ("has been notified by the party to be")

The noble Lord said: The result of agreeing Amendment No. 5 would be that Clause 5(1) would read, "In this Act 'nominating representative' in relation to a party means the person who at any time has been notified by the party to be the most appropriate person to act on behalf of the party for the purposes of this Act".

During its passage through the other place the Secretary of State advised the House of Commons that the reason for the use of the words "nominating representative" was to accommodate the fact that some parties may have a leader who would be the natural person to be the nominating representative, while other parties may not and may wish to ensure that somebody else was in the category of a nominating representative. The other provision that appears in the original Clause 5(1) is that the Secretary of State has to choose who he thinks the leader of the party is, or otherwise.

The amendment seeks to make it a decision for the parties to determine who would be the nominating representative rather than for the Secretary of State to decide. At the same time, it would ensure that the nominating representative was not considered to be the leader of the party, although he could be. The amendment therefore effectively enshrines two factors. I beg to move.

Lord Monson: I find myself supporting the amendment. It seems to me that subsection (1) of Clause 5 as drafted gives extraordinary powers to the Secretary of State. It is a little exaggeration to say that the formula as drafted is more evocative of the powers wielded by a 19th century colonial governor than one would expect to find in a democracy at the tail end of the 20th century. There may be a good reason for that and perhaps I have misinterpreted the position. No doubt the noble Baroness will explain why the formula is as it is.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: We have not seen any controversy in this element. We are not intending

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that that choice should be made entirely by the Northern Ireland Office or Her Majesty's Government. We shall be guided in identifying nominating representatives by the wishes of the party. We have already consulted on the question in the consultation paper of 1st April. A list of those we propose to identify appears in the Notes on Clauses which is available in the Printed Paper Office. If the parties wish to propose different names, they are welcome to do so.

I fear that the amendment is defective because it lacks certainty and may well lead to delay in the preparation of lists and nominations of teams. It may not readily be possible to pinpoint the legal entity corresponding to a party nor a person to speak with authority on its behalf. That is why the Secretary of State is involved: to permit the quick and unambiguous identification of such a person.

As we are acting in maximum consultation with the parties, we do not see that the problems that are feared will arise. I must therefore reject the amendment and I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw it. As I explained, consultation has already taken place and the parties involved are not unhappy.

Lord Monkswell: The Minister gives a certain amount of reassurance. But the main reason for my not pushing the amendment is again the time factor and the fact that these matters must be up and running fairly quickly.

There is a risk of letters getting lost in the post and being passed from one party member to another until they finally arrive on somebody's desk and are replied to. I suspect that initially the Secretary of State must pick the person he contacts and writes to. However, that raises a problem in the sense that, historically, we have not tended to recognise parties in legislative form or registration form. Parties may be constituted in various different ways.

Bearing in mind that this is the first electoral process that has occurred in this country that requires the election of parties rather than individuals, it may be something that the powers that be need to consider for the future. There may be a need for some mechanism for identifying parties and their structures and the responsible person to deal with them. However, that is a bit of a digression, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The elections]:

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]


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