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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 13:


Page 5, line 22, at end insert ("(a) or (b)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 13 makes a technical change to Clause 11. Clause 11(1) requires the Assembly to make standing orders for various stages of a Bill, including the final stage of a Bill--Third Reading as we know it in your Lordships' House--at which a Bill can be passed or rejected but not amended. Clause 11(2) permits standing orders, however, to modify provisions under Clause 11(1) in relation to different types of Bills. But under the scheme of Part II, the Secretary of State may, before "Third Reading", have given her consent under Clause 9 to a Bill, or the Attorney-General may have indicated under Clause 10 that he does not intend to make a reference to the Judicial Committee. That scheme would be subverted if modifications to standing orders under Clause 11(2) were able to provide for amendment of Bills at Third Reading, when such consent or notice may already have been given. The amendment is designed to ensure that that cannot occur, and that is its purpose. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I have never been very happy with the idea that a Bill proceeding through the Assembly--that is, a single chamber legislature in Northern Ireland--should merely have what we would call in our jargon a "Second Reading" debate on the principle; a Committee stage on the detail; no Report stage and then a "Third Reading"--I adopt the inverted commas used by the Minister--at which no amendments can be made. It seems to me that the experience of this Bill, with its huge number of amendments, at the second stage in the second House, demonstrates the need sometimes to modify enactments and Bills between First Reading and when they pass into law. Where there is a single chamber, as there will be in Northern Ireland, an awful lot will be expected of the draftsmen if there is no Report stage and there are no amendments at Third Reading.

There will also be the difficulty that the Executive will not be able to reply, as Ministers frequently reply both in your Lordships' House and in another place, that a good point has been made but that the drafting is not as the Government would wish and that they will table an amendment on Report or at Third Reading to take account of the point in a properly drafted way. That is a legitimate tactic--or rather, a legitimate course of action--which Ministers frequently take. It is to the benefit of all that they should do so. The point is taken but the proper legal form is used in the Bill. That would be ruled out if this amendment applied.

Preventing Standing Orders from permitting any form of amendment to an assembly Bill except in the one Committee stage would cause difficulties for the

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Assembly. Ultimately, the Assembly will have to work out its own Standing Orders. But, here, in these clauses, we are preventing it having a second stage at which amendments can be moved. I may have misread the amendment, but that is as I understand it. I think the Minister is about to tell me that I have misread it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am simply responding, as helpfully, I hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, has asked his questions.

The real reason for the prohibition is to avoid the subversion of the scheme whereby the Secretary of State before "Third Reading" or the Attorney-General have given their consent or indication of non-reference.

In answer to the noble Lord's question, I am happy to confirm that the three required stages in the Assembly, which are set out in Clause 11, are the minimum. The Assembly can add other procedures, such as a Report stage, if it wants to deal with the problem that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, identified. I would make two points on that problem. First, we tend to have rather more massive and substantial legislation in your Lordships' House and in another place than is likely to be contemplated for the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, I take the noble Lord's point that legislative review and reconsideration may sometimes be necessary. Therefore, I stress that it is entirely open to the Assembly to add, for instance, a Report stage. We are simply disentitling a changed view after the Secretary of State's consent or after the Attorney's indication that he does not intend to refer. I hope that that reply is helpful both to the noble Lord and to your Lordships generally.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, as I read it, if amended, subsection (2) will include the presumption that there will be only a limited number of stages. However, I shall not argue with the Minister. If the Assembly has the power to add a Report stage, I think it would be well advised to do so for the reasons I have given.

I certainly do not agree with the Minister when he states that the Northern Ireland Assembly may not face such substantial legislation as we do. Some of the secondary legislation and statutory instruments which come before us from time to time in respect of Northern Ireland--that is exactly the sort of thing the Assembly will have to consider--comprise many pages and complicated clauses. They replicate all sorts of Bills which deal with the domestic life of the Province in the same way as our Bills deal with life this side of the water.

I believe that the Assembly would be wise to have an equivalent of Report stage. If the Minister says that it will be able to do so legally under this Bill and that it will not be restricted from doing so, I am happy to allow the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 14:


Page 5, line 40, at end insert--
("( ) a reference made in relation to a provision of the Bill under section 10 has been withdrawn following a request for withdrawal under section (Reconsideration by Assembly);").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Submission by Secretary of State]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 15:


Page 6, line 14, after ("Assembly,") insert ("or
(b) a reference made in relation to a provision of the Bill under section 10 has been withdrawn following a request for withdrawal under section (Reconsideration by Assembly),").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 16:


Page 6, line 27, leave out from ("contains") to end of line 28 and insert ("a provision which he considers--
(a) would be incompatible with any international obligations, with the interests of defence or national security or with the protection of public safety or public order; or
(b) would have an adverse effect on the operation of the single market in goods and services within the United Kingdom.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group comprises Amendments Nos. 16, 36, 37 and 38. At an earlier stage of this Bill, we indicated that we would table further amendments to safeguard national security. Amendment No. 16, together with Amendments Nos. 36, 37 and 38, give effect to that commitment.

The purpose of these amendments is twofold. First they would ensure that the interests of defence, national security and public safety are properly safeguarded under the new arrangements. They remain, of course, the responsibility of the Secretary of State. They are vital interests which have to be protected. Secondly, the amendments will protect the operation of the single market in goods and services across the United Kingdom.

Amendment No. 16 provides that the Secretary of State may decline to submit an assembly Bill for Royal Assent if she considers it to be incompatible with any international obligation, the interests of defence or national security, the protection of public safety or public order, or with the operation of the UK single market.

Amendment No. 38 is closely related. It gives the Secretary of State power to revoke subordinate legislation for the same reasons. I remind your Lordships that the Scotland Bill contains similar provisions for ensuring that legislation meets international obligations and safeguards national security, although the provisions are not directly equivalent.

The principle of the single market in goods and services across the United Kingdom is important. Under EC law, the Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern

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Ireland Ministers will be required to meet obligations under EC single market legislation in transferred areas, including not discriminating against goods and services from any other member state of the Union. Community legislation enforces a single market between EU member states, but not necessarily within each member state. These amendments are intended to fill that gap. It is only right that goods and services from England, Wales and Scotland should be treated no less favourably than those from other EU member states.

Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 deal with the Secretary of State's power to direct certain action to be taken by Ministers or departments or to direct that proposed action is not taken. As it stands, Clause 24 entitles the Secretary of State to do so only in order to comply with international obligations. As I have indicated, Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 protect the interests of defence, national security, public order and public safety.

These are important and necessary provisions. One hardly needs to underline that. The responsibility to safeguard defence, national security, public order and public safety extends throughout the United Kingdom. It will continue to do so after devolution. Those matters will remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State. These amendments, if accepted by your Lordships, will ensure that the Secretary of State has a means of continuing to discharge her responsibilities. We hope that no such situation would arise. However, we cannot leave open the possibility; the consequences are potentially too grave. That is the purpose of the amendments.

I stress that these provisions, by their nature, would be used by Her Majesty's Government only as a last resort. If there were questions of concern, every effort would be made to resolve them by consultation with the Northern Ireland Administration. I stress once more that if, and only if, that failed would the Secretary of State use her power of direction. I hope that that explanation satisfies your Lordships. I beg to move.


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