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Lord Skelmersdale: Surely to goodness it is already in the Bill before Clause 18 by means of Amendment No. 50, which reads,

    (3) In this Act 'Minister' ... means the First Minister, the deputy First Minister or a Northern Ireland Minister",
or, if I am right, "junior Northern Ireland Minister" or "Northern Ireland junior Minister", or whatever description the Government decide on.

The point is that "Minister" is defined, according to the whole Act, or in reference to the whole Act, before Clause 18. I agree with my noble friend to the extent that, if my memory serves me correctly, the Renton Report suggested that all such definitions should be grouped together, in which case the definition would not be found before Clause 18 or even in Clause 18 or Clause 19 but would be found in a "definitions clause". Perhaps the Minister would like to comment.

Lord Dubs: As regards the question asked about Amendment No. 56, I think we are clear that we may have to tidy up the definitions of "Northern Ireland Minister" and "junior Minister" throughout the Bill. We shall do so on Report. I believe that will make things simpler and deal with all the points that have been made.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I apologise to the Committee. I have just realised that Clause 80, the definitions clause, includes a definition of "Minister", or at least it will, assuming we pass Amendment No. 209. However, that definition just refers one to the definition in the amendment inserted just now. That does not seem

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to be a helpful way to do things. Why not incorporate the definition in Clause 80 in full rather than refer to an earlier clause?

Lord Dubs: I know it is getting late but I thought I had said we would consider this matter and tidy up the Bill on Report.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendments Nos. 52 to 56:

Page 10, line 2, leave out ("other").
Page 10, line 6, leave out (", or aids or incites any person to discriminate,").
Page 10, line 8, at end insert--
("( ) in the case of an act, aids or incites another person to discriminate against a person or class of person on that ground; or
( ) in the case of legislation, modifies an enactment in breach of Schedule 4.").
Page 10, line 8, at end insert--
("( ) Subsection (1)(c) and (d) does not apply in relation to any act which is unlawful by virtue of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976, or would be unlawful but for some exception made by virtue of Part V of that Act.").
Page 10, line 9, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 52 to 56 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 19, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 57:

After Clause 19, insert the following new clause--

Excepted and reserved matters

(".--(1) If any subordinate legislation made, confirmed or approved by a Minister or Northern Ireland department contains a provision dealing with an excepted or reserved matter, the Secretary of State may by order revoke the legislation.
(2) An order made under subsection (1) shall recite the reasons for revoking the legislation and may make provision having retrospective effect.").

The noble Lord said: These amendments are ungrouped. I indicate that for those who have followed the earlier grouping. The new clause in Amendment No. 57 is simply a redrafting of Clause 20(4)(b). The current provision is defective technically and in substance in that it relates only to excepted matters. We always intended that it should cover also reserved matters. Amendment No. 203 amends Clause 78 to require any order made under this provision to be subject to negative resolution at Westminster. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 [International obligations]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 10, line 13, after ("international") insert ("treaty").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 58 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 59 to 63 and Amendment No. 204. Amendment No. 58 seeks to limit the power of the Secretary of State to strike down an Act of the assembly on the grounds that it offends against

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an international obligation of the United Kingdom. An international obligation is defined in Clause 80 on page 40 of the Bill. However, that is being amended in a slightly complicated way that I shall not trouble with at the moment. In the case of Ireland north and south there is a special significance in this amendment over and above the arguments which have been advanced in the course of debates on the Welsh Act and on the Scotland Bill.

The United Kingdom can be regarded as having all kinds of obligations. Some of them are contained in treaties of one kind or another but others are less formal. They may comprise understandings which develop between countries but which are regarded as obligations by Ministers.

The United Kingdom Government and the Republic of Ireland have long had close relations. When I was a Minister we had a lot to do with the Government of the Republic of Ireland during the course of the Anglo-Irish agreement. A variety of agreements were entered into from time to time by Ministers of every level of formality. There was a great deal of suspicion at the time about the whole process going on at Maryfield between myself and other Ministers and the officials who worked there and the equivalent officials and Ministers of the Republic. Much of that suspicion was unjustified; nevertheless, it was there.

In these circumstances the idea that the United Kingdom Government could strike down an act of the Assembly in response to some unpublished, but nevertheless appreciated by the British Government, obligation to the Republic of Ireland entered into at some time is bound to raise a great deal of suspicion. That is why this amendment suggests that the Secretary of State should be able to use these powers only in the case of treaty obligations which are well known and well understood.

There is a peculiarity in the Bill as I read it; namely, orders that are contrary to European Union law seem to be stated to be wrong, but so far as I can see the Secretary of State does not have power to strike those down, to "put the black spot on them", in the way that the Secretary of State will have the power to block any act which appears to offend against some agreement with the Republic of Ireland, or for that matter any other national government. I am not sure why European law should be given that kind of negative preference, as it were. Given the suspicion that lies behind it, we should be very careful as regards the way in which we phrase the power that is to be given to the Secretary of State to strike down the acts of the Assembly. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful to the noble Lord. As he indicated, this group includes his Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 and government Amendments Nos. 60 to 63 and 204. Perhaps it is convenient if I deal with the government amendments first.

Amendments Nos. 61 and 62 are consequential on the new clause after Clause 19 which we have just considered, and Amendment No. 60 is purely a matter of drafting.

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The new clause after Clause 20 proposed in Amendment No. 63 permits the making of an order determining the Northern Ireland share of a quota imposed on the United Kingdom by virtue of an international or European Community obligation. The clause is identical in intention, though there are obviously differences in form, to amendments made to the Government of Wales Act and the Scotland Bill. The principle has been accepted in those cases and we think it appropriate that it should also be included in the Northern Ireland context.

There is an obligation of consultation with the relevant Northern Ireland authorities. We shall expect robust negotiation between different regions of the United Kingdom about the proportions of a quota obligation allocated to each. We would hope that amicable arrangements could always be arrived at. We will use our best endeavours to that effect. But there must ultimately always be a means by which we can ensure that the UK as a whole meets its international obligations. Orders under this clause will, by Amendment No. 204, be subject to negative resolution at Westminster.

I now turn to the linked but separate amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Cope. Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 would limit the Secretary of State's powers to prohibit or require action under the first two subsections of Clause 20, confining them to cases involving international treaty obligations, not simply international obligations. The noble Lord is right. "International obligations" is partly defined in Clause 80. As amended, it would be cast so as to exclude obligations to observe and implement Community law or convention rights.

The amendments would mean that that limitation no longer applied, so widening the power. The real defect is that it would leave Her Majesty's Government, who have to be the guarantors of the Government's international obligations, without the means to enforce obligations in international law that are not treaty obligations but are obligations in customary international law. They include some of the most fundamental international legal duties. An important element in the structure and coherence of the Bill would be lost if there were not that residual power to enable this country to fulfil its duties under international law. On the basis of that explanation, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Can the Minister give me an assurance that private understandings that may have been entered into between the United Kingdom Government and other Governments, such as the Government of the Republic of Ireland, would not be used as a reason for striking down legislation under this clause?

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