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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State can, if necessary, strike down a measure in the interests of defence, national security and so on, as suggested in the amendment, both in relation to primary and secondary legislation. I accept that that would happen only rarely. It is not as simple as the Minister suggested. This is actually quite a sweeping power against the rub of devolution. The intention under later parts of the Bill, and particularly under Schedule 3, is to transfer responsibility for public order in due course to the Assembly and the Executive in Northern Ireland. This provision, on the other hand, retains the ultimate power with the Secretary of State. Perhaps that is necessary, but the responsibility for public order is supposed to be transferred at some stage in the future.

The position is even more difficult when it comes to the question of the single market in goods and services within the United Kingdom. Later clauses of the Bill--if they are not amended though amendments are suggested--propose to transfer to Northern Ireland responsibility for the regulation of building societies, banking, intellectual property, patents, copyright and so

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forth. There will not be a single market if there is a different patent law, different banking regulations and regulations of that kind in Northern Ireland. Yet if these powers are used by the Secretary of State to strike it down there is no point in giving the powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly in the first place.

So the single market part of it does not sit at all easily with the proposal to transfer those responsibilities--very considerable responsibilities--in due course to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. Of course, it is not intended that they should be transferred immediately on the passage of the Bill; they are in the reserved category for the time being. But the point of the reserved category is that they should be readily transferred to Northern Ireland when conditions permit. However, they will not be if, on the grounds of it having an adverse effect on the single market, the Secretary of State then overrules them all. I believe that we are getting into a bit of difficulty here.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I think not. The noble Lord is quite right: this is a considerable power but it is intended to be a fail-safe mechanism only. The noble Lord is quite right also in relation to what may be future developments. But it is necessary to put those possible future developments in their legal context. It still remains the fact that, as a matter of European Community law, the Northern Ireland Assembly and authorities in the future will have to meet their obligations under the single market legislation in transferred areas. That means not discriminating against goods and services from any other member state of the Union. It is only if they fail to discharge their legal responsibilities that one would anticipate the Secretary of State having to intervene.

I stress that one would anticipate negotiation and discussions. But if at the end of the day it is necessary, then this reserved power--and the adjective is as important as the noun--is still something that the Secretary of State needs.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14 [First Minister and deputy First Minister]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 7, line 30, at end insert ("; and
(b) subject to the provisions of this Part, shall hold office until the conclusion of the next election for First Minister and deputy First Minister.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 17, with your Lordships' permission it will be convenient to discuss at the same time Amendments Nos. 21 to 25 and 227. I notice that Amendment No. 229 appears both in this group of amendments and in a later group which commences with Amendment No. 30. I am grateful to the noble Lord who drew my attention to this before we began our debate this afternoon; I had not noticed it myself. It may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I confirm that Amendment No. 229 will be taken in the group which we shall consider later this afternoon; that is to say, in the group commencing with Amendment No. 30. I regret the error and hope that it has not caused any confusion.

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This series of minor and technical amendments amounts to the last episode in what we might call the saga of d'Hondt. As those of your Lordships who listened to the Committee stage debates during the earlier passage of the Bill will know, the d'Hondt formula is one of great elegance and intricacy and I trust that these amendments will help to ensure that the provisions of this clause work fully in the way the agreement's authors intended.

Amendment No. 17 is a minor point clarifying that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will hold office until the conclusion of the next election for their posts.

Amendment No. 21 addresses a fairly obscure point--the circumstances in which the d'Hondt formula needs to be rerun. At present, one of those circumstances is when a motion of exclusion against a political party under Clause 28(2) expires, but only if the original motion had led to a vacancy in one or more ministerial offices.

The whole point of the one-year period of exclusion is that political parties should be able to reclaim ministerial posts to which they are entitled when the exclusion is over. But there may be circumstances in which the current wording of the Bill is too narrow. The original motion might not have led to vacancies if the motion had been passed before d'Hondt had been run in the first place, for example. The revised drafting addresses that problem.

Amendment No. 22 is purely a drafting point. Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 make it clear that if a political party's registered nominating officer (or party leader in the case of a non-registered party) wish to delegate their functions under Clause 16, this may only be to a member of the Assembly. This addresses some points made to the Government during the consultation exercise on the Bill.

Amendment No. 227 makes it clear that for a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister determination on the number of ministerial posts to carry forward after devolution, it must both have been made and approved by the Assembly in the shadow phase. This brings the transitional provision more into line with the provision of Clause 15 itself. I commend all these amendments to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, Amendment No. 23, which we are discussing with this group, brings into the Bill a reference to the Registration of Political Parties Bill 1998, which is also passing through Parliament at this time. I am afraid that, with this large number of amendments being considered, I have not had time fully to follow the point and it may already have been dealt with elsewhere. However, the intention is apparently that the Northern Ireland parties, like those in the rest of the United Kingdom, should be registered by the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales in Cardiff. That seems to me to be an extremely odd

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thing to have in respect of the Northern Ireland parties. Is that really the intention of the Government or have I misunderstood it?

Lord Dubs: My Lords, the answer is yes, and the same applies in Scotland and indeed in England.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, is there any particular reason why the Registrar of Companies, who has very specific responsibilities with respect to limited companies in England and Wales but is not given the duty of making value judgments about names and things of that sort in relation to companies, is nevertheless going to have to decide on whether the name for a political party in Northern Ireland is acceptable?

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am not sure that there is a problem on that. Companies House was moved to Cardiff. It happens to be the geography of where the move was made, and there is no further significance in that.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am in no way objecting to Companies House being in Cardiff; I would not dream of doing so with the noble Lord, Lord Williams, being present! But it seems to me that an official in England and Wales charged with the duty of dealing with companies is perhaps going to have to make some difficult decisions about whether or not the choice of a name for a Northern Ireland party is acceptable and can be registered. That is placing a heavy duty on an official, whether he is in Cardiff, in London or anywhere else in England and Wales. I am not sure whether, as in the Companies Act, the Secretary of State should be responsible for making decisions about a name.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am not sure whether Report stage is the point at which to hold this discussion. Northern Ireland parties are subject to the same arrangements on legislation as all other United Kingdom parties. Representations are taken and the matter can be discussed with the Speaker's Committee. That is what is happening in relation to all political parties in the legislation referred to--which is, after all, not the legislation under discussion this afternoon.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 15 [Ministerial offices]:

4.30 p.m.

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 8, line 18, after ("Ministers;") insert--
("( ) the number of junior Ministerial offices to be held by junior Northern Ireland Ministers;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to speak to the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord McNally. With it, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 29.

These amendments introduce exactly the same provisions for the appointment of junior Ministers as are already in place for Ministers. Our proposal is the same as in Clause 16, except that it refers to junior Ministers

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rather than Ministers; and whereas Ministers are to be allocated the top 10 places, junior Ministers would be allocated the 11th to 20th place.

These issues arose on the first day in Committee (col. 1277 of Hansard) when the Minister made clear that the invention of junior ministries was to be allocated by a determination agreed by the First and Deputy First Minister. We believe that that could fly in the face of the spirit of the Good Friday agreement. The agreement makes no reference to junior Ministries, only to ministries which it explicitly demands are to be allocated in proportion to party strengths, not at the whim or direction of the First and Deputy First Minister. We on these Benches have rigorously defended the agreement and it is regrettable that the Government should seek to diverge from it.

We suggest that the exact method of d'Hondt seems the most appropriate for the allocation of junior ministries. When party strengths are ordered according to the d'Hondt principle, the top 10 places are to be rewarded with ministries; the next 10 (the 11th to 20th) places are to be given to junior ministries. That seems the most obvious interpretation of the Good Friday agreement in this matter. It is of no particular benefit to larger or smaller parties, merely to parties in proportion to their strength, which is what people voted for in the referendum in May. Nevertheless, we should not object if the junior ministries were allocated in exactly the same way as ministries given to the top 10 places, so that each party that won a ministry also won a junior ministry.

The Government's plan for junior ministries to be allocated in accordance with a formula agreed by the First and Deputy First Minister is a recipe for a stitch-up and would undermine the new structures. Any matter put forward by the First and Deputy First Minister that is not proportional to party strengths will either be voted down by the Assembly, undermining the authority of the First and Deputy First Minister, or the Assembly will be voting against the letter and spirit of the agreement. Any party that is disadvantaged by such a deviation from the agreement is sure to highlight that fact.

In considering this amendment, will the Minister state whether be believes that not appointing junior Ministers in this way would fly in the face of this spirit of the agreement? I beg to move.

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