|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Can the Minister say whether they are bodies in which co-operation is agreed or, to put it crudely, they are bodies which get on with it? The normal meaning of "operational remit" is that a body which, for instance, deals with tourism gets on with promoting tourism on a cross-border basis. Presumably those are not implementation bodies because both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland already have such bodies. Is it intended by the Government that in any instance the cross-border bodies will be operational bodies, as opposed to bodies in which the modes and policies of co-operation are worked out? That is not exactly the same point as that raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, although it overlaps it. I am extremely unclear about this. It may be that one type of body will evolve into another, but it would be useful to hear the Government's thinking on that. I am not as modest as the noble Lord, Lord Cope--it is his amendment--but there is a great deal to be said for pressing the Government on this matter.
In relation to Amendment No. 114A it is important to define "reciprocity". The noble Lord's words were reassuring on this but I do not understand why it should not appear on the face of the Bill. It may be that the wording is not exactly right and it may be that it should read "has equivalent powers", because in two different jurisdictions identification of the same powers may be difficult. However, the notion that there should be an equivalence of powers in the two jurisdictions is an important point to enshrine in the Bill.
Lord Monson: I strongly support the noble Lords, Lord Cope, Lord Fitt and Lord Holme of Cheltenham. If support for the Good Friday agreement by the majority in the north is to be sustained, it is vital that there be reciprocity and that any powers enabling the Republic to interfere in the affairs of the north be matched by corresponding powers for the north to interfere in the affairs of the Republic.
The Minister says that that is unnecessary. However, to avoid any possible confusion and, even more importantly, to avoid any suspicion, why not dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s by supporting this modest amendment. It can do no possible harm and may well do a great deal of good.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I strongly support other Members of the Committee in saying that above all there must be clarity of interpretation. That has been missing up until now. I sincerely hope that both Governments are seized of the importance of remedying that deficiency.
There may be a temptation in some quarters to indulge in fudge. It may suit people at times to be somewhat vague about their intentions. But with all the force at my command I say that that is not a luxury that we can afford.
Lord Cooke of Islandreagh: We are discussing probably the most important part of the agreement and one which will give the most trouble. I strongly support all that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and other Members of the Committee.
There is a great suspicion that the powers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will not be the same. That may be because those powers have to be passed in the Parliament in Dublin and the Government there do not have as large a majority as the Government in Westminster. It may well be that the Bills which go through in Dublin are altered in one way or another. I think the appropriate word is "equivalent". It is important that that is included in the Bill. There must be no doubt or fudge on this matter of cross-border bodies.
I agree that implementation bodies are not intended to set policy. Policy will be agreed by Ministers operating in the North/South Ministerial Council. The policy having been set, its implementation will then be carried out by the implementation bodies. That reflects closely the wording of the agreement read out a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Holme. There is a clear distinction between the North/South Ministerial Council, where policy will have to be agreed by Ministers, and, where an implementation body is to be set up, the implementation body itself, which will have specific responsibility for giving effect to those policies.
Of course I agree that bodies will be mutual and reciprocal and will implement agreed policies on both sides of the Border. It is clear that pressure can initially come in both directions, but those policies will have to be agreed by the council. The policies of the implementation bodies will be similar policies to those to which they have to give effect.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked whether the Foyle Fisheries Commission might be an appropriate model. It is certainly an excellent body, but it is not the model we are following in this instance. We are saying that each body will be established by agreement and each will be a single body. But each body will have any power it needs conferred separately--by the Assembly in respect of Northern Ireland and the Irish Parliament in respect of the Republic. The best model for that is perhaps the current Decommissioning Commission--a single body established by agreement but with powers conferred in separate legislation from this Parliament and from the Irish Parliament. That may be a body which does not immediately come to mind as being the best example, but it indicates the way in which we see the implementation bodies working.
In asking for clarity the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, again asked whether the bodies would be subject to approval in the Assembly. The initial six bodies are to be agreed between the north and the south in the shadow of the North/South Ministerial Council, which I hope will be established fairly soon. Though the Assembly, during its shadow phase, has no formal powers, the need for cross-community representation in the council ensures broad support for those bodies. However, after devolution, for any body to be established new subsection (4) of Amendment No. 112 will require Assembly approval. I hope that assures the noble Lord that the position is clear, both during the shadow period and subsequently.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: Before the Minister sits down, he was kind enough to mention in his opening words Amendment No. 205, to which we will come in Clause 78. However, it appears to be related to our present discussion because it refers to,
Will there be uniformity in both jurisdictions given the different structure of justice in each and the Supreme Court influence in the Irish Republic? I do not press the Minister for a reply, but perhaps he can say whether or not that is the kind of thing he had in mind when he mentioned Amendment No. 205.
Lord Dubs: The position is this. We have to see on what basis powers are given to implementation bodies; first, in the shadow period leading up to the start of those bodies; and, secondly, when the Assembly is in place and further implementation bodies may be set up. Amendment No. 205 seeks to ensure that any orders made by the Secretary of State in relation to the initial implementation bodies are subject to affirmative resolution in each House. Subsequently, implementation bodies that are set up will have to take their legal basis from the Assembly in relation to Northern Ireland and, in relation to the Republic, the position will remain the same; that is, it will come from the Irish Parliament.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: Dealing first with the question of the powers on both sides of the Border, I am encouraged by the support that has been expressed in the last few minutes for Amendment No. 114A. However, the Liberal Democrat spokesman has kindly suggested an improvement. I am not sure whether what he said amounted to the moving of a manuscript amendment, but, if it did, I would be prepared to accept the deletion of the words "the same" and substitution of the word "equivalent" before the word "powers". That would be a better way to phrase what I had in mind and would be a reassurance. If the Minister will consider that suggestion between now and Report stage, we can no doubt return to the matter then and take it further, if necessary.
I return to the question of the status of the implementation bodies. The Minister said that the decommissioning commission is the nearest thing to a model. I am not sure of its legal position, but I do not
As far as I understood the Minister, however, we are now talking about a single legal personality crossing the Border. But under which law? The only provision for an international legal personality, as I understand it--I am not a lawyer--is a treaty, but the Assembly and the Executive have no treaty-making powers and, as far as I know, it is not proposed to give them such powers. However, if they are to set up an international body with a legal personality, they may need limited treaty-making powers to be able to agree to such a body under international law.
The Secretary of State and the United Kingdom could agree with the Republic of Ireland Government to set up particular international bodies under this heading. Perhaps the clause is intended to give the Secretary of State the power to do that, but I must admit that I had not read it in that way. Perhaps the two governments can do so without such powers, but that is slightly different from the idea that we have been given, which is that the Assembly and the Executive could, without reference to the Secretary of State, agree with the Republic of Ireland to establish such a body and to set its work in motion. I do not think that that results in a legal personality unless the "Foyle Fisheries Commission" route is followed although the Minister said that that is not the route to be followed.
These are complicated legal matters and I am hesitant in outlining them to the Committee in case I do not understand them correctly. However, given what the Minister said, I believe that further reflection is required on the matter of the legal personality of the bodies once they are established.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page