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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. If I say that I am not as satisfied with his answer as he would like me to be, I hope he will not be offended. I have read the letter, a copy of which he has placed in the Library. It is a challenging document. I have sought to understand it. After the third reading, I think I almost succeeded.

The fact remains that, although the contexts of the two Bills, of course, are different, a common-sense reading of the different way that the rule of interpretation is expressed in the different drafts is the same. Therefore, the point which the Minister has made is not relevant to the point which I am advancing. However, I recognise that he will stick to the point that he makes. He was extremely generous to me on my previous two amendments and in those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 43, line 7, leave out ("in relation") and insert ("relating").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 25 and 27. Amendments Nos. 23, 25 and 27 in Clauses 83 and 98 are purely a matter of drafting to clarify interpretation and to ensure consistency within the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

17 Nov 1998 : Column 1221

Clause 98 [Interpretation]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 54, line 29, at end insert--
(""the Commission" means--
(a) the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission, in section 40 and Schedule 5;
(b) the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, in sections 68 to 71; and
(c) the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, in section 73 and Schedule 9;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an extremely minor drafting point. The words "the Commission" occur in three separate parts of the Bill and refer to three separate commissions--the Assembly Commission, in some clauses, the Human Rights Commission in others and the Equality Commission in others. There is no single definition. The words are defined in all three ways but they do not seem to me to be defined in a way which carries clearly across all the clauses.

There are various ways in which that might be dealt with. I have proposed one in Amendment No. 24. Amendment No. 33, which is grouped with it, goes to the same point in relation to Schedule 5. I beg to move.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I support Amendment No. 24. I feel that there is an element of reproof or a slap on the wrist for the Government in relation to this, because there is some sloppiness in the Bill. There is a slightly ironic tone to this but I support the amendment. The words "the Commission" are used quite sloppily.

However, I do not support Amendment No. 33 because the schedule itself is headed the "Northern Ireland Assembly Commission". Therefore, it is impossible to read it in any way other than that the commission in the schedule refers to the commission at the head of the schedule.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I support the amendment. Following on from the points made in our brief discussion on Amendment No. 16, I wonder whether it is possible to identify for the purposes of clarification the role which will be required of one of the two commissions in the campaign to find jobs for the elderly. It would seem to me that that is a fashionable initiative and it has blossomed since we began our discussions on the Bill many months ago. Of course, I have a vested interest but at the moment, I am not looking for any more jobs.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I sympathise with the noble Lord's desire, exemplified in his Amendments Nos. 24 and 33, to do anything to make the interpretation of this Bill clear. But I am not sure the noble Lord's amendments actually help us in achieving that aim.

I think, in fact, it is reasonably plain which commission is being spoken of at all relevant points in the Bill. In Clause 40, it is clear from subsection (1) that it is the Assembly Commission that is referred to, and that is also apparent in Schedule 5, the subject of the

17 Nov 1998 : Column 1222

noble Lord's second amendment, No. 33, since the schedule is headed in capital letters "NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY COMMISSION". This is a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Holme, referred, and I thank him for that. There is equally no ambiguity in Clauses 68 to 70: it is clear that the Human Rights Commission is referred to; nor in Clause 73 is it unclear that we are concerned with the Equality Commission. I believe that in Schedule 9, to which the noble Lord's amendment refers, it is also clear which commission is involved, since the schedule opens with a reference to the Equality Commission.

But, even if we were disposed to accept that the noble Lord's first amendment made things even clearer, I fear we must hesitate, because it is not comprehensive, and may therefore sow doubt. For example, it does not refer to Clause 74, which sets out the Equality Commission's functions, nor to Schedule 8, which sets out that commission's constitution.

I believe, therefore, that the noble Lord's first amendment is flawed, his second is unnecessary, and I ask him not to press them. As regards the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, I am sure that he can always make his case convincingly when that is necessary.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I shall not press this matter. The Minister has answered my question in part. As regards Clause 74, I did not include that because the words "the Commission" do not appear in it. The Equality Commission is referred to as the Equality Commission throughout the clause. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dubs moved Amendments Nos. 25 to 27:

Page 54, line 42, after ("includes") insert ("any provision of this Act and").
Page 55, line 12, leave out ("9(3)") and insert (" 7(3)").
Page 55, line 42, leave out ("or Bill") and insert (", Bill or subordinate legislation").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 101 [Short title and commencement]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 28:

Page 57, line 2, leave out subsection (2) and insert--
("(2) The following provisions shall come into force on the day on which this Act is passed--
(a) sections 3, 55, 86, 93, 96 and 98;
(b) paragraph 20 of Schedule 13 and section 99 so far as relating to that paragraph;
(c) in Schedule 15, the repeal of section 31(4) to (6) of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and section 100(2) so far as relating to that repeal; and
(d) this section.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Amendment No. 28, we propose some slight adjustments to the commencement clause to bring into effect a number of provisions immediately on Royal Assent, rather than by a later commencement order.

They include among the provisions to come into force immediately those for consequential legislation, and for the setting up of the north-south implementation bodies,

17 Nov 1998 : Column 1223

orders under which will have to be made before the appointed day. They also include the provisions relating to the Stormont Estate. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, these amendments are wholly unobjectionable. However, can the Minister give some indication as to the timetable for bringing into force by commencement orders the provisions relating to human rights? I have in mind, for example, Clauses 6, 7 and 24. The reason that I ask the question is that, from the moment that the new Northern Ireland Government and Assembly are operating under the Bill when it becomes enacted, they will be bound to comply both in their legislative and executive capacities with the convention rights and freedoms. The judges will then have to ensure that they interpret the executive and legislative actions compatibly with convention rights. Therefore, without giving away any official secrets, can the Minister give some indication of the timetable so that judges, practitioners and the general public in Northern Ireland know when the convention rights are to be triggered under the devolution scheme?

Lord Dubs: My Lords, Clauses 6 and 7, which are to be found in Part II of the Bill, come into effect under the devolution order. That is also the case with Clause 24. However, if the noble Lord requires further details, I shall be happy to write to him giving more information.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister; indeed, he has been most helpful. However, can he say when he anticipates the devolution order is likely to be made, as that would meet my point?

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I think that it would be more appropriate for me to write to the noble Lord. There may be a simple answer but he asked a number of complicated questions. I do not wish to mislead the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Excepted matters]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 29:

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