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Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 9, line 11, leave out ("subsections (4) to (9) as applied by subsection (13)") and insert ("any application of subsections (4) to (9)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 47:

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause--

Junior Ministers

(".--(1) At any time after a First Minister and a deputy First Minister are elected under section 14(1), those Ministers acting jointly may determine--
(a) that a number of junior Ministers specified in the determination shall be appointed in accordance with such procedures for their appointment as are so specified; and
(b) that the functions exercisable by virtue of each junior Ministerial office shall be those specified in relation to that office in the determination.
(2) Procedures specified in a determination under this section may apply such formulae or other rules as the First Minister and the deputy First Minister consider appropriate.
(3) A determination under this section shall--
(a) make provision as to the circumstances in which a junior Minister shall cease to hold office, and for the filling of vacancies; and
(b) provide that a junior Minister shall not take up office until he has affirmed the terms of the pledge of office.
(4) A determination under this section shall not take effect until it has been approved by a resolution of the Assembly passed with cross-community support.
(5) Where a determination under this section takes effect--
(a) any junior Ministers previously appointed shall cease to hold office; and
(b) the procedures specified in the determination shall be applied within a period specified in standing orders.").

The noble Lord said: This new clause and the series of amendments consequential on it would enable the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Assembly to decide to have junior Ministers as well as the Northern Ireland Ministers provided for in the Bill.

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There is nothing specifically in the agreement about junior Ministers, although they are provided for in the Scotland Bill and were a feature of previous devolved governments in Northern Ireland as well, of course, as at Westminster. During subsequent meetings with the parties, however, there has been strong support for some provision in the Bill to enable junior Ministers to be appointed.

Accordingly, the new clause provides for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister acting jointly to make a determination which may cover the number, functions and methods of appointment of junior Ministers.

Such a determination would not take effect until it has been approved by a resolution of the Assembly with cross-community support.

The other amendments in this group are consequential. They would subject junior Ministers to the provisions of Clause 23 on exclusion from office. They would provide that junior Ministers, like Northern Ireland Ministers, cannot serve as chairman or deputy chairman of a committee. Last but not least, the amendment to Clause 38 would enable junior Ministers to be paid extra.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: Perhaps the Minister could reassure me on one point. If it is up to the First Minister and his deputy to decide what junior posts there will be, how many of them and what they will be, how are they then allocated between the parties? The danger on which I would like his reassurance is that the two main parties concerned who will hold the First and Deputy First Ministerships--the UUP and the SDLP--will have all the junior Ministers. Am I right in thinking--I hope I am--that, having decided how many of them there will be and what functions they should hold, the determination would still be by d'Hondt, so that some of the smaller parties (the Women's Coalition or the Alliance Party) would, to the extent they were proportionately entitled, benefit and would not simply all go to the two major parties represented by the first minister and his deputy?

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Like the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, I was slightly surprised that Mr. d'Hondt seemed to be taking a rest when we got to this part, and that these junior ministerships were going to be dished out without reference to any formula. That is slightly surprising in itself, but also a very genuine question to put to the Minister.

I was also concerned, as I indicated on an earlier amendment, as to what these junior Ministers will do. When I was in the Northern Ireland Office there were five of us, and at other stages there have been four Ministers, carrying out not only all the functions of the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the10 Ministers proposed earlier in the Bill, but also the functions of the Northern Ireland Office, some of which

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will remain in being even after all this apparatus has been set up. So I do not think that they will be overworked, except of course that they will have a very large number of Assembly members to keep happy. As a former Whip, I know that there is more than one way to keep Assembly members happy and perhaps the junior ministerships will make a contribution, both in themselves and in the amount of time the junior Ministers can spend talking to the Back-Benchers who will remain. As I understand it, however, this clause originates with the parties in Northern Ireland, who thought it would be a good idea to have the possibility of junior Ministers being in the new administration. I certainly would not wish to stand in the way of that.

I referred to my time in the Northern Ireland Office; now, as a spokesman, I am bombarded literally daily with Orders and correspondence from the different departments regarding legal issues about which it is often extremely difficult to make any real judgment. They are often extremely small matters: the closing of a short length of footway and things like that, being done by order. All these things will pass to the Northern Ireland executive and will much better be looked after by them--by the Minister, assisted no doubt by these junior Ministers--than they can possibly be by the machinery of direct rule. Although, having been a part of it for a short while, I believe that direct rule has served the Province well, it has served the Province long enough and these detailed matters should be transferred to the Ministers and the junior Ministers under this clause.

Lord Hylton: I hope that there will not be too many junior Ministers and that they will not be paid too much. I hope that the size of the payroll vote will not increase to anything like the size of that in another place.

Lord Fitt: I can confidently predict that we will run into a Parkinson's law situation. I vividly remember the Sunningdale agreement. When the executive was set up, Members of my own party exerted tremendous pressure on myself and Brian Faulkner as Chief Executive to create positions for them. I have absolutely no doubt and can confidently predict that the First Minister and his deputy will, by the pressures from Members of their own party, be forced to create junior Ministers.

What type of junior Ministers will there be? In Westminster there are Ministers of State and Under-Secretaries. Will there be only one level of junior Ministers? I know Northern Ireland and I know the circumstances of most of the personnel there. There are 108 Members and only 10 will have ministerial positions. That leaves 98 back benchers who will feel very unhappy. They will all be looking for some form of promotion. I predict that the party leaders will be subjected to great pressure to create jobs. Therefore, will there be a limit on the number? Will there be one Minister and one junior Minister for each department or will they be able to create as many as they like? Given the pressures, no doubt they will be able to find excuses to create as many junior Ministers as possible. There should be some limit on the number.

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Lord Skelmersdale: There is a curious anomaly between Clause 14, which we have just agreed, Clause 15 and this amendment. Clause 14 begins firmly:

    "Each Assembly shall ... elect from among its members the First Minister and the deputy First Minister".
One has to read a long way down Clause 15--to subsection (4)--before discovering that persons who hold office as junior Ministers must be Members of the party and of the Assembly. One wonders why the draftsman has chosen this convoluted formulation to achieve exactly the same object. It is clear to me that junior Ministers should be Members of the Assembly and that should be made patently obvious at the beginning of the clauses to which I have referred.

Lord Dubs: In essence, we have an enabling provision under which the First Minister and his deputy can make a determination providing for junior Ministers, their functions and the method of their appointment. Any such determination would have to be agreed by the Assembly voting on a cross-community basis. That is the answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Holme. The determination is that of the First Minister and his deputy and it would have to be endorsed by the Assembly on a cross-community basis. That effectively disposes of most of the arguments.

I understand what was said by my noble friend Lord Fitt, but clearly there are issues which we must leave to the Assembly to decide. There are powers which the Assembly will wish to take and it is only proper that we give it the chance to make decisions. It might be tempted to appoint too many junior Ministers and they would fall into the trap mentioned by my noble friend Lord Fitt. Equally, it might feel that that is not the proper way to go and will appoint very few, but it is a decision we felt appropriate to leave to the Assembly.

It was the wish of the parties that there should be provision for junior Ministers, but there was not agreement about the precise details of how many junior ministerial posts would be appropriate. Therefore, we are enabling the Assembly, on the basis of determinations by the First Minister and his deputy, to make progress in these appointments.

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