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Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I rise to speak mainly to Amendment No. 141, which is tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Tope. The amendment is very similar to one about bullying which we did not discuss earlier in the week but which was, none the less, passed. I believe that it is worth returning to the topic today. The amendment is about anti-bullying policies in schools and we seek to have such a provision on the face of the Bill. Therefore, we strongly welcome the Government's proposed move which was discussed last Tuesday; namely, to have an anti-bullying policy as an absolute, explicit requirement. That is a step forward, which I am sure will be well received by many people who have campaigned outside the House for the rights of minorities among pupils who are often quite routinely harassed or physically attacked by their fellow pupils.
We believe that our amendment would give some guidance on the face of the Bill. In many ways, that guidance is along the lines of the amendments tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady David, which deal with other matters. The provision concerns how head teachers might establish a good and positive climate in their schools with regard to bullying issues. Personal development lessons are called by different terms in different schools but they constitute a good forum in which staff and pupils can work together to discover how they can help pupils who are picked on and how better to protect them. This is a difficult area; sometimes head teachers shy away from it. They need all the encouragement we can give them to try to deal with it.
Often victims are asked to speak to others about their predicament. That brings home to pupils what bullying is and what it means to those who are picked on. It happens for all kinds of reasons--religion, ethnic origin, physical handicap or sometimes because pupils have learning difficulties. It can also happen to pupils who are academically gifted. My daughter desperately tried to pretend that she was not academic because no one in her year was; she knew that that could be thrown at her. I believe that she was probably bullied throughout her progression through the school. Sometimes people are picked on because they are particularly fat or particularly thin. I am sure we have all read of children who have committed suicide because they have been persistently picked on.
I turn to another important matter. In this day and age children are bombarded on television and in magazines with suggestions of how people are expected to behave sexually at an early age. Sometimes people are picked on because, for whatever reason, they are not behaving sexually as others think they should. Some pupils may think they are gay or lesbian--at that age pupils are perhaps not sure about their sexual orientation--because others perceive that they are not going out with the opposite sex. Young girls--I remember my children talking to me about this--do not wish to become sexually active at a young age. There is terrific peer pressure on them. People can be bullied. These are
We shall not press this provision to a vote. I believe that the Government have recognised the importance of the issue. They have included a measure on the face of the Bill. I welcome that provision. I know that those who have suffered from this behaviour, and parents, teachers and head teachers who have tried to deal with it, will also welcome the provision.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, we debated my noble friend's Amendments Nos. 140 and 142A in Committee. She quoted extensively from the reply of my noble friend Lord Whitty on that occasion. There is not a great deal more that I can add. Clause 61 already requires the governing body to consult both the head teacher and parents as part of the governing body's role in drawing up the school's discipline policy. Both have a distinct but valuable contribution to make.
My noble friend seeks to extend that further by requiring the governing body of each maintained school to consult the pupils and the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school before making or revising its statement of general principles on behaviour and discipline. In addition, the head teacher would be required to seek and consider the views of pupils, parents and staff when determining his or her measures on behaviour and discipline.
I agree with my noble friend that it is important to involve pupils and staff when drawing up a school's discipline policy. That is good practice already recommended in the department's guidance on pupil behaviour and discipline. I am afraid I differ from my noble friend in that I do not agree when she says that only legislation has any effect on practice. I believe that guidance can have a great deal of effect. We need to emphasise the point I have just made about good practice in this area at every opportunity, and indeed we shall. As my noble friend Lord Whitty said, we want schools to have the flexibility to decide who, when and how to consult. We shall cover the point again in the revised guidance that we shall need to produce once the Bill is enacted.
I hope that we have already met the noble Baroness's point by inserting an amendment to Clause 61 to require the head teacher to determine measures, as part of the school's discipline policy, to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. It would be wrong to be more prescriptive than that in defining exactly how it should happen. I hope that my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, will not pursue their amendments.
Amendments Nos. 143 to 145 are technical amendments to correct flaws in the Bill as drafted. Amendments Nos. 143 and 144 ensure that, where the Secretary of State has made regulations under paragraph 4 of Schedule 11 to the Bill requiring governing bodies to establish discipline committees, all references in Clauses 65 to 68 of the Bill to the governing body are construed as references to the discipline committee. The Bill as currently drafted omits Clause 65 from this definition.
The discipline committee will be a small committee of the governing body which will be able to deal with exclusions cases more conveniently than the full governing body. The exclusions provisions refer to "pupils" rather than "registered pupils" in all cases except in line 34 of Clause 67. Amendment No. 145 deletes the word "registered" to ensure consistency with the rest of the exclusions provisions.
Baroness David: My Lords, I presume that I now respond and leave the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, to respond on her amendments. I am disappointed with my noble friend's reply. Guidance can be ignored, as I said before. It is important that everyone is consulted about the disciplinary code, particularly the staff. I have mentioned dinner ladies and people who are in charge of pupils when they are in the playground. It is important that they should be properly consulted. I am disappointed by what my noble friend said. I responded to what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said in Committee, but that does not seem to have carried any weight at all.
The amendment provides for a great deal of flexibility as to how pupils and staff are consulted. It could be done in a number of ways. There are schools councils, and so on, which could be consulted. It is very unwise not to have this provision written on the face of the Bill. However, I see that I am against a stone wall. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 1st June be approved [36th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the draft order will extend the temporary provisions of the Northern Ireland Act 1974 under which the government of Northern Ireland is continued by means of direct rule. These arrangements, which have existed for the last quarter of a century, are far from ideal in a democracy. But the good news is that the positive outcome of the referendum and of the elections for the Assembly has demonstrated that there is now sufficient consensus in Northern Ireland for the restoration of a system of government there founded on greater local responsibility.
The 1974 Act which introduced direct rule will be repealed with the enactment of the Northern Ireland Bill 1998, which gives effect to the Belfast Agreement. As a consequence of the Bill, Northern Ireland will once again become self-governing.
Let me begin by saying that I thoroughly condemn last night's disgraceful sectarian attacks on 10 Roman Catholic churches in Northern Ireland. It is appalling that evil people have returned to this sort of activity at a time when enormous political progress is being made in Northern Ireland. Those who perpetrated these attacks must be brought to justice as quickly as possible.
The Government will not be deflected by the acts of such extremists. Noble Lords may be aware that today the Prime Minister visited one of the churches that was attacked last night, the church of St. James, in Crumlin, County Antrim. He said that the Government were determined to give Northern Ireland a future, leaving barbarism behind.
The Northern Ireland people have made it clear that they want the next generation to grow up in a peaceful, stable and secure society, live normal lives and look forward to brighter prospects. The outcome of the referendum held in Northern Ireland on 22nd May was an outstanding result; 71 per cent. of those who voted supported the Good Friday Agreement, and in the election to the new Northern Ireland Assembly held on 25th June the people of Northern Ireland once again showed their determination to make the agreement work by voting for pro-agreement parties to fill 80 of the seats in the 108-Member Assembly.
Yesterday, the new Northern Ireland Assembly had its inaugural meeting attended by the leaders of unionism, nationalism, loyalism and republicanism--a truly historic day for Northern Ireland and one which its people so rightly deserved. It was a day of new beginnings, providing an opportunity to move away
The new Assembly will now begin to prepare for devolution and the transfer of powers. That will not be an easy task, but the people of Northern Ireland have made plain their views. It is clear that the agreement will be implemented and it is the Government's duty to see that that is done as speedily and effectively as possible.
Major benefits will flow to the Northern Ireland people from the establishment of the new assembly, which will be vested with considerable powers. As noble Lords will already be aware of much of the content of the agreement, I shall not burden them with too much detail. But the main advantages for Northern Ireland are as follows.
The new political structures will be more accountable to the people of Northern Ireland and more responsive to their needs. The people of Northern Ireland will benefit from devolution, just as the people of Scotland and Wales will benefit. Bringing power back to the Northern Ireland people is also likely to play a vital role in healing divisions in Northern Ireland society as people there work together in a co-operative spirit for the greater good. The new North/South Ministerial Council will enable those with ministerial powers to come together to consult, co-operate and take action. The British/Irish Council will allow for representatives from all the different administrations to co-operate and endeavour to reach agreement on a range of issues such as transport links, the environment, health and European Union matters.
Benefits flowing from the Good Friday Agreement will not be confined to political development. In the economic sphere, greater inward investment is likely against the backdrop of peace and more settled and durable political structures.
Nor should it be forgotten that the Good Friday Agreement proposes the establishment of a human rights commission with an extended and enhanced role beyond that currently exercised by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. The new human rights commission, and the proposed equality commission, will be established by Westminster legislation.
Finally, the agreement should enable us to adjust security measures as the level of threat is reduced. That does not mean disbanding the RUC, as some of our critics have argued. No one appreciates more than the Government the sacrifices that the RUC has made over the years. Rather, our aim is simple: to provide the best possible police service for the people of Northern Ireland.
To that end, the agreement provides for an independent commission to make recommendations for future policing arrangements in Northern Ireland. The commission's job will be to find ways of achieving that in a way that reflects Northern Ireland's different conditions and cultures.
To sum up, it is the Government's job to put in place all the elements of the agreement endorsed by the people. There are concerns on all sides about different parts of the agreement, but the Government are committed to ensuring that the benefits I have outlined for the people of Northern Ireland stemming from the agreement are achieved.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I shall not detain the House for long. Northern Ireland has required more than its fair share of time in your Lordships' House recently. As the token Northern Ireland resident who is present for the debate this evening, there are a few points that I wish to make.
First, I read with considerable emotion the account in Hansard of Monday's debate. I greatly regret that I was unable to be in this House to hear the delivery of some truly moving and great speeches from all parts of the Chamber.
Secondly, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, is sorry that he is unable to be present. However, he is otherwise occupied across the water. He and I had a brief discussion this morning about the order; hence I make mention of the noble Lord.
Like the Minister, I hope that today will prove to be truly historic, inasmuch as it will be the last time that this Act will need to be extended in its present form. I understand that at this stage it is usual to debate the pros and cons of direct rule, the performance of the various departments under direct rule etc. I do not intend to go down that road tonight, except to say that democracy in Northern Ireland has been sadly missed. It is high time that it was reinstated.
I hope, and am cautiously optimistic despite Drumcree and last night's terrible escapades, on which I agree with the Minister. One chapel was next-door to the home of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and my own office, in a quiet country village. The happenings are disgraceful. Those concerned should be brought to law as soon as possible. However, I am still optimistic that the Assembly will succeed, and that the formation of the Assembly will prove to be the first truly successful step on the road back to democracy.
However, I do not wish to leave the subject of direct rule in the past without paying tribute to all those Ministers, both from this House and another place, who have committed themselves, and at times their families,
I am a little concerned, however, for the future on a number of issues. The first is the Government's legislative programme to bring about the necessary seamless changeover from direct rule to government by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Will the noble Lord later inform us of how that will take place? Within what timescale and by when can we expect it to have taken place? I gather it is relevant to the length of the renewal tonight. What safeguards will there be in case--I hate to say it--the Assembly just does not work?
Secondly, I should like to mention the effect on the economy that the peace agreement may have. There will undoubtedly be a serious loss of cashflow in the Province from the maintenance of 12,000 soldiers. What that number will come down to we do not know, but I do not imagine that 12,000 soldiers will continue to be there, be maintained there and, indeed, spend money there.
There is the unemployment which will be created by the reduction of civilian employment by the military and the reduction in the amount of security services required generally by industry, airports, transport and so on. I do not know what percentage of the employment there at the lower level is in some form or another security, but it is considerable. The wages are high and the money is spent in the Province. I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Treasury is not looking for a bonanza as a result of the peace agreement.
Still on the economy today, we are in the situation where three new parliaments in the three provinces, principalities--or whatever the collective noun is for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland--are being set up. There are hundreds of would-be politicians honing their skills and raising the expectations of their electorates. I wonder how many of the promises being promoted can be funded from the central government subvention funds. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give or have given some thought as to how the various provincial parliaments might come together to share experiences and to learn from one another the art of the possible, especially where it concerns their economies. I hope that there will be some mechanism for keeping all three economies broadly in line.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I would be grateful if I could speak briefly in the gap. I was not intending to do so until I heard the Minister refer to the human rights commission and the equality commission, both of which I enthusiastically support.
The point I wish to make is that the benefit of the reforms being made in Northern Ireland needs to be matched by similar reforms for Britain. I remember in the 1970s when the fair employment legislation was
The result is that we have a fractured equality code with different enforcement mechanisms in Northern Ireland. Now, in legislation soon to be published, we are to have an equality commission and a human rights commission in Northern Ireland. We shall not have the same co-ordinated attack on discrimination in Britain unless we have a similar equality commission. We shall not have a human rights commission in this part of the United Kingdom unless the Government change their views. I realise that the Minister is not responsible for anything other than policy in Northern Ireland. I realise that we are looking at this today in blinkers. But I very much hope that he and his colleagues will aim towards a comprehensive equality code and a comprehensive policy for dealing with human rights on both sides of the Irish sea.
For good measure, perhaps I may add that I also hope that the Government will persuade the Irish Government that they should incorporate the Convention on Human Rights into Irish domestic law so that in all four parts of both islands we have common standards and a common system of enforcement. I am grateful to have been heard on those points.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend spoke in the gap. His very long commitment not only to human rights in general but also to human rights in Northern Ireland and his familiarity with the Republic of Ireland make his last point well worth considering by the Government. I wonder whether the new council of the islands might take on board the great desirability, probably through the European Convention, of creating a common culture of rights throughout the British isles, including the Republic of Ireland.
I apologise to the Minister for my discourtesy in not being in the Chamber to hear him present the reasons for the renewal of the order. I am afraid London traffic is not as aware of the necessity for promptness as Members of your Lordships' House. I doubt whether, on this occasion, he would have said much to surprise anyone in the Chamber in that this is the 25th time that the order has been renewed. It is now part of the ritual. It is like so many features of British life, what is done initially as a temporary measure --like the Official Secrets Act 1911--rapidly becomes permanent. So we go from year to year being interim and temporary.
I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and this year we hope that what is interim really is interim and that we are about to see the Good Friday Agreement ready to emerge as the better way of governing Northern Ireland.
If this is to be interim, it will be because we have passed legislation for a better way of governing Northern Ireland. Would the Minister care to outline when we should expect to see the remaining parts of the legislation and the form they will take to make good the Good Friday Agreement in terms of your Lordships' House?
Before I sit down, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was right to remind us of this point. If we achieve the peace we all hope for in Northern Ireland, if we see the running down of the military presence and no longer have the vast expense of rebuilding where there has been bombing, reconstructing the depredations of the war that has gone on with the terrorists for so long, if we do not have to support expenditure on military and security forces, I hope that the Treasury will not simply pocket the sum as the peace dividend. If there is a peace dividend, it should not be for the Treasury; it should be reinvested in Northern Ireland. It will not be easy to turn Northern Ireland from a culture which is truly state dependent into one of greater economic and commercial independence. It will take time and will need a lot of patience from the Treasury over that period.
Perhaps I can briefly raise the question of the traditional march from the church at Drumcree, which is due to take place within a few days. There is a great temptation to try and second guess whether or not the march should go ahead, where it should take place and on what terms. But it is no longer for this House to make those decisions. As a House we delegated that decision to the Parades Commission when we voted to put the parades Bill on to the statute book a few months ago.
The Parades Commission has had a difficult role. It faced resignations and reconstituted itself. It has a controversial and difficult job. It has an excellent chairman in Alistair Graham. It reached a decision on the march this year and decided that it should be diverted away from the Garvaghy Road. Whatever we think of that decision, it is incumbent upon us to ask the people of Northern Ireland and the political leaders of Northern Ireland and this country to respect that decision and, if necessary, to enforce it.
I hope that the Government, in the remaining hours and days before the march, recognise that the decision must be adhered to; that the rule of law must be respected; and that there is room for statesmanlike compromise on the ground.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I support and endorse the Minister's condemnation of the attacks on churches last night. It is invidious to pick out one adjacent to the house of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and the office of my noble friend Lord Glentoran. However, that demonstrates the way in which attacks of that kind come home personally to individuals in Northern Ireland. I sincerely hope that the RUC will be able to bring those responsible to justice as soon as possible. I also echo the call for compromise on the ground at Drumcree, mentioned a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham.
It is a sad commentary on the affairs of Northern Ireland that direct rule, introduced for one year in 1974, should have lasted for nearly a quarter of a century. I thank my noble friend Lord Glentoran for his thanks to those of us who have had the privilege to serve in the Northern Ireland Office under direct rule. People sometimes ask me which of the various offices I was privileged to hold over the 15 years I was in government I enjoyed the most. They are rather surprised when I say that it was my time in the Northern Ireland Office. I felt that the job was real and worthwhile. It also flowed a little from the fact that one's powers under direct rule were a good deal more direct than the sort of influence that one was able to exert in committees in other Whitehall departments when struggling to tackle other problems.
Direct rule--a form of benign dictatorship--under governments of both parties provided good government and government generally acceptable to the people. It has considerable achievements to its credit over the years, though today is perhaps not the time to list them.
I believe also, as I have expressed in your Lordships' House before, that direct rule has been exercised in the Province for much longer than is good for democracy. I share the hope expressed by the Minister and others that it will soon be substantially replaced by the powers of the new assembly under the Northern Ireland Bill which we are promised relatively shortly. No doubt the Minister will respond to the request to tell us how soon we and another place can expect the Bill to arrive.
I am not urging haste on the Government over that Bill. It is an extremely important Bill which should be prepared with great care. I am sure that both Houses will respond to it in a manner which will enable it to pass through Parliament properly. However, it needs great care. It should not be rushed through, though it may be difficult to fit it into the parliamentary timetable at the moment.
We all wish the new assembly well, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice--our parliamentary colleague--who is to take the chair and will no doubt at times have a difficult job. However, I am sure that he will carry it out with his usual skill and ability. Also, I send best wishes to David Trimble and Seamus Mallon as they take up their new duties. They will have a difficult time and I am sure that the assembly will encounter all sorts of problems. No doubt we shall have cause to criticise it from time to time in the decisions it makes and in the way it acts. But both Members of this House and the people of Northern Ireland have a deep desire that the assembly should succeed. We hope therefore that this interim period extension order for one year is the last that we have to pass in this House. It is necessary to pass it and I commend it to the House.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate for their positive, helpful and supportive comments. I appreciate the tributes paid by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, to Northern Ireland Ministers. It is an enormous privilege to serve as a Minister in Northern Ireland--a view shared by all those who have had that opportunity. It is a rewarding job. The people are warm, responsive, affectionate, friendly and welcoming. If we achieve our main task, which is to bring permanent peace to Northern Ireland, that will be a further reward.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked about the legislative programme for the future, as did the noble Lords, Lord Holme and Lord Cope. I cannot say when further legislation will be introduced. I am tempted to say to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, "shortly". It is clearly understood that the Government intend to introduce an important Bill--the Northern Ireland Bill--which will deal with all other aspects of the agreement that need to be put into statutory form, apart from sentencing. The Bill dealing with that has already had its Second Reading here. The Northern Ireland Bill will not be a large Bill. We hope to introduce it shortly and that it will be passed by both Houses of Parliament by the end of this Session. It will be quite a task for us to deal with what will be a large, complicated and complex measure.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, also asked about safeguards. If there are to be any safeguards--and we are hopeful that we need not talk too much about safeguards--they will be contained in the Bill enabling the assembly to function in full form as opposed to the shadow form under which it is now operating. If the noble Lord wishes to add further safeguards, no doubt he will put down amendments in due course.
There is a counter-argument. The Chancellor of the Exchequer visited Northern Ireland recently and announced a very important package of several hundred million pounds to help with the infrastructure of the Northern Ireland economy. Extra sums of money have come to the farmers of Northern Ireland. They will say it is not enough, but there are certainly sums of money there. Above all, when peace comes we shall be able to attract a much greater level of inward investment. That in turn will lead to more jobs and greater wealth for all the people of Northern Ireland.
The Government are working to encourage more inward investment from all over the world, including North America, in order that we can provide a sounder commercial and industrial base for Northern Ireland and create more jobs and more wealth. Our ability to attract more inward investment will be the most significant economic fact, in addition to tourism, in Northern Ireland. It will make up for any decline in spending on security matters.
That decline in spending on security matters will only happen as and when the security situation permits. I am much more optimistic about the prospects for the Northern Ireland economy than the noble Lord suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, spoke about the peace dividend. That is something of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is well aware. I have already referred to his recent package. He will be sensitive to the points made by the noble Lord as to what is to happen when security expenditure falls.
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