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Lord Dubs: My Lords, I did not want to take the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, unawares. From what he said yesterday I understood that he wanted to have time to reflect upon this particular amendment, and it is only right to give him the opportunity to have his say.

This amendment makes the subject matter of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 a reserved matter. We debated the matter yesterday, together with an amendment to allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate on employment matters as a whole in Northern Ireland. The underlying principle of the national

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minimum wage is that the same rate will apply throughout the United Kingdom. The National Minimum Wage Act reflected a UK-wide policy from the start. It ensures that workers across the United Kingdom qualify for the same rates and have the same degree of protection, and that employers are subject to the same obligations and penalties, in every part of the United Kingdom. It is therefore right that the National Minimum Wage Act should be a reserved matter.

In framing in this Bill the reservation of the National Minimum Wage Act, however, we have also been mindful that employment law is a transferred matter in Northern Ireland. We have sought to ensure that the Assembly would be able to make changes to those enforcement provisions which lock into existing Northern Ireland legislation without undermining the integrity of the universal approach of the National Minimum Wage Act. We have done this by proposing an amendment, which we discussed yesterday, which would allow the Assembly to legislate in those related areas of employment law, provided that any such legislation applies consistently to the national minimum wage and all other employment law.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 158 not moved.]

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 159:

Page 57, line 40, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 58 and insert--
(" . The following matters--
(a) financial services, including investment business, banking and deposit-taking, collective investment schemes and insurance;
(b) financial markets, including listing and public offers of securities and investments, transfer of securities and insider dealing.
This paragraph does not include the subject-matter of--
(a) the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969;
(b) the Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985;
(c) the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order 1986;
(d) the Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989;
(e) the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order 1990;
(f) the Companies (No.2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990;
(g) the Open-Ended Investment Companies (Investment Companies with Variable Capital) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997.
. The subject-matter of--
(a) the Building Societies Act 1986;
(b) the Friendly Societies Act 1992.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment replaces existing paragraph 22(2) of Schedule 3. It will widen the current reservations in respect of building societies, friendly societies, banking and investment business to cover the whole area of financial services and markets. It will not encroach on the subject-matter of existing Northern Ireland legislation in respect of

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credit unions, industrial and provident societies, insolvency and other matters whose transferred status is protected by the Belfast agreement. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, as I said earlier, many of these matters should have been excepted rather than reserved. I certainly do not disagree with the re-writing of this particular part of the schedule.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 160 to 162 not moved.]

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 163:

Page 58, line 25, at end insert ("in relation to goods").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment clarifies the scope of the reservation in Schedule 3 on consumer safety. It makes it clear that consumer safety is concerned with the safety of goods and does not embrace the safety of services, facilities or accommodation. This is in line with Part II of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and a large number of related EC directives which provide for the safety of goods. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendments Nos. 164 to 167:

Page 58, leave out line 38.
Page 58, line 43, after ("17") insert (", 18").
Page 58, leave out line 44.
Page 59, line 1, leave out ("and 71") and insert (", 71 and 73(1), (2) and (4) to (8)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Enactments protected from modification]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 168:

Leave out Schedule 4.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Northern Ireland Assembly Commission]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 169:

Page 61, line 6, at end insert--
("(aa) charging for goods or services;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Bill provides at Schedule 6 that the Assembly commission may do anything which appears to it to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of or in connection with the discharge of its functions. The principal function of the commission is to provide the Assembly, or ensure that the Assembly is provided, with the property, staff and services required for the Assembly's purposes. This amendment puts beyond doubt that the commission has the power to charge for services provided, for example, a restaurant facility.

This amendment gives the Assembly commission an express power to sell goods or provide services to the public. It is necessary because, as Schedule 6 to the Bill is currently drafted, it is not a function of the commission to provide services other than those required for the purposes of the Assembly. If the commission should wish, for example, to sell souvenirs the amendment will give it the necessary power. The

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power is enabling and is not intended to confer a function to sell goods or provide services to the public, if the commission does not wish to do so. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, this is an entirely proper amendment for the Minister to move. Not long ago, both the Minister and I had the pleasure of listening to a debate in the Assembly, which included some exchanges about whether or not a bar should be provided in the Assembly. It was a matter of much greater controversy than I have ever heard in this building on the same subject. Nevertheless, it is right that the commission should have the power, should it wish to use it, to charge for goods and services of the types described by the Minister.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 170:

Page 61, line 10, at end insert--
("( ) The Commission may sell goods or provide services, and may make arrangements for the sale of goods or provision of services, to the public.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 171:

Page 61, line 21, leave out ("proceedings") and insert ("acts").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment provides that acts of the Assembly commission are protected in the event of a vacancy in the membership of the commission or any defect in the appointment, or qualification for membership, of a member. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6 p.m.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 172:

Page 61, line 39, at end insert--
("( ) A statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under this paragraph shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment to correct an earlier failure to provide for the parliamentary process by which any Order in Council to confirm Crown status on the Assembly commission for particular purposes would become law. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 173:

Page 64, line 14, leave out ("their") and insert ("its").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 173 and 174 are simple drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 174:

Page 64, line 16, leave out ("non-Commissioners)") and insert ("persons who are not Commissioners)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Schedule 9 [The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 175:

Page 64, line 42, leave out ("member") and insert ("Commissioner").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am pleased to inform the House that this group of amendments includes the Government's response to several points raised earlier in the passage of the Bill and by interested parties outside Parliament. The government amendments in particular effectively meet the objectives of Amendment No. 179 tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell.

Schedule 9 deals with the detailed arrangements for the equality commission, which is established by Clauses 69 and 70 and will take over the existing functions of the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland, the Commission for Racial Equality for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Disability Council. In addition, it will take on new responsibilities in relation to the equality of opportunity obligation. Those are specified in Schedule 10.

Amendment No. 175 is a technical amendment, following up Committee stage amendments which gave members of the equality commission the title of commissioner. Government Amendment No. 178 is also technical and is designed to remove the risk of a double audit of the commission's accounts by giving the responsibility for examining, certifying and reporting on the accounts solely to the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland.

In discussion at the Committee stage and in the other place, much attention was paid to the balance of responsibility for the equality commission between this Parliament and the Assembly. Amendment No. 177 enhances the interest of Parliament in the activities of the commission by requiring a copy of its annual report to be laid before both Houses. Amendment No. 176 will require the commission to include in its annual report information on the progress which it and other public authorities have made in promoting equality of opportunity.

Together, Amendments Nos. 176 and 177 meet the essential objectives of Amendment No. 179, which stands in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer. The only significant difference is that my noble and learned friend's amendment would require an annual report separate from the equality commission's report on its own activities, required by paragraph 5 of Schedule 9. The government amendments would create an effective system of annual reporting on the overall compliance of the public sector with Clause 71 obligations. They render the current amendment unnecessary. I therefore hope that my noble and learned friend will not move Amendment No. 179.

My noble and learned friend has also tabled Amendment No. 194, which would require public authorities to submit an annual report to the equality commission on its measures and policies for complying with the statutory equality duties. The Government expect other public authorities to co-operate fully with

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the equality commission in the preparation of this aspect of the commission's annual report. In particular, we would expect public authorities to provide the necessary information on their own compliance with the new statutory obligation to enable the commission to report generally on progress throughout the public sector. This would achieve the aim of putting into the public domain information on the progress of the implementation of the statutory obligations.

However, it does not seem necessary to impose a further statutory administrative requirement on public authorities to make annual reports to the commission. They will of course have to submit their equality schemes to the commission. We will shortly be discussing Amendment No. 191, which would, in addition, require a public authority to carry out a five-yearly review of its scheme. Therefore, I hope my noble and learned friend will think that, in the light of what I have said, his Amendment No. 194 is necessary. I beg to move.

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