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Lord Glentoran: My Lords, when the Northern Ireland Bill left this House a few months ago, I think that it legislated for six departments, although it may have been six plus one. We now have 10 plus one. I simply do not believe that the most efficient way of running and governing 1.3 million people in six counties is by having 10 Ministers and all that follows in the form of bureaucracy and civil servants, however competent and willing. The noble Lord, Lord Blease, pointed out that the economy is not in a strong state. I was sorry to see last night that it looks as though Mackies is finally going.

The Government started on a high-risk strategy, culminating in great success with the Good Friday agreement, and they deserve great credit for it. However, good strategists know that frequently the time comes for a change of direction. We have 10 departments plus one rather than six because Sinn

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Fein had to have two places in the government. That is an example of the Government once again rolling over. I do not accept that that policy should continue. I am not saying that it was wrong at that time, but that is the way that it appears to the people, certainly in County Antrim.

We are on the brink. If by Good Friday 1999 we are not to lose all that was gained on Good Friday 1998, we need a change of direction and a serious hardening of the stance with regard not only to the republican movement as a whole, but to all terrorists. We are rapidly moving from a position where Northern Ireland was one of the safest parts of the United Kingdom in which to walk about, day or night, to the position where it will be among the most dangerous. I refer to the decrease in community policing and control of large areas of our cities. Now, that is permeating into the country and the villages. They are becoming unpoliced. We have drugs, intimidation and gang warfare. We have all the "nasties", well led and well controlled by those who know how to do it best.

Unless the Government change their view and policy and take a tougher line, by Easter 1999--I hope that it does not happen but I have always been cautious about the agreement--dear old Northern Ireland will have exchanged open terrorism, albeit tightly controlled by security forces, with the security forces well on top of the terrorists, for widespread crime. The Government will wish that they had brought a very good agreement to the table and signed it. They may lose the opportunity by releasing too much control. Policemen are no longer supported by soldiers in West Belfast. Indeed, some of the strongholds of the police force are being pulled down. I refer to some of the watch towers and observation towers. Those bad boys--I shall not call them "terrorists"; they are criminals--are starting to build and to move freely. I assure your Lordships that that is very dangerous. I hope that the Government will heed that. If not, they will not deliver what we all hope for, which is a well policed, well managed country as a result of the achievements on Good Friday 1998.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I am delighted to have the privilege of following my noble friend Lord Glentoran. His remarks did not come as any surprise to me. He succeeded a father who played a very large role in stabilising Northern Ireland and establishing fair and equal government. The family, as a whole, have continued to play an indispensable part in guiding and advising those who do not always listen to common sense.

I suppose that the order may be regarded as a kind of enabling measure. Like my noble friend Lord Glentoran, I understand that six departments were regarded as reasonable, but the figure has now been upped to 10 plus one in an effort to provide jobs for the boys. It is good to see the Treasury, for a change, being so benevolent, provided that it is happy to finance that, and is equally happy to do so for that which is yet to come with regard to Scotland, Wales and eventually London, when it has "home rule". They too will add to the bargain.

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I used the word "enabling" earlier because this order will come into force and the structures operational only when much more fundamental developments are firmly in place. I notice that the Secretary of State and others have been expressing the hope over the weekend--and I hope that I do not misquote them--that the "two sides will compromise". Who precisely is expected to compromise? A year ago it might have been reasonable to suggest that unionists and republicans might compromise. I think that it can be taken from all that has already been said and from the knowledge that noble Lords have acquired that the unionists have compromised in the sense that the Government have made a long list of concessions at the expense of the majority population. But the Government have extracted no significant concessions whatsoever in return. There has been absolutely no balancing factor.

Decommissioning remains a crucial issue. The wise words of Mr. John Hume become more and more relevant by the day. He said some years ago on this topic,

    "Political parties cannot be expected to sit down in government with men who have guns on the table; guns under the table; or guns outside the door".
The supreme importance of the issue is illustrated in a poll published in this evening's Belfast Telegraph which is generally recognised as Northern Ireland's number one newspaper. That poll shows that 84 per cent. of respondents to the poll want the IRA, UDA and UVF to decommission now. A surprising aspect of the poll is that of that 84 per cent., 80 per cent. were "yes" voters in the referendum.

Considering that we are often told by the Government that the "yes" voters provided supreme authority for the Good Friday agreement, the amnesty for murderers and every other dubious adventure, surely in the face of that expression of public opinion by a reputable body, the Government will not ignore this latest verdict of those "yes" voters who have sustained the Government's case for the past 10 months. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, those voters are now beginning to have second, third and fourth thoughts.

But decommissioning will be much more difficult for the reasons which I provided to your Lordships on the 3rd September 1998 when we returned to the House for a one-day sitting. I said on that occasion,

    "With regard to the proscribed list, the membership consists of terrorist groups who have identified themselves by claiming what they regard as achievements; namely, a murderous campaign".
They boasted about that. I went on to say,

    "That is indiscriminate slaughter which puts the public in fear"
I come back to that phrase on this occasion. I continued:

    "I mention fear. I am in fear because I am concerned by the existence of an unknown body to which almost 70 per cent. of the Provisional IRA's mechanisms and munitions have been quietly transferred since 24th July of this year. Those transfers"--
as I said on that occasion on 3rd September--

    "continue as we deliberate here today".

The worrying thing is that,

    "Despite all the efforts of the intelligence services throughout the entire British Isles, the structure of the new body has not been penetrated or identified, nor has the identity of its members or approximate locations, It does not appear to be its intention to

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    become involved and active until the early part of next year, by which time its striking power may surpass anything that has gone before".--[Official Report, 3/9/98; cols. 26 and 27.]
That was a reference to my contribution in your Lordships' House on 3rd September. The "striking power" was not to become evident until the early part of this year--in other words, during these current months of this year.

One Martin McGuinness, ignoring the fact that he has been presiding over the transfer of arms for all those six months since I illustrated the realities of the situation, now complains that some of his IRA arms have been "stolen", as if anyone would survive the customary discipline imposed on anyone who stole Mr. McGuinness's "toys" from any cupboard.

But those terrorist bodies which have transferred weapons and explosives, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said--he illustrated it very vividly as a man who knows exactly what he is talking about--have now increased their domination over their own people, not the people of other religions or political beliefs. They have succeeded to a point where there now exists a reign of terror which puts the Gestapo in the shade. The terrorists groups are no longer engaged in sectarian conflict. They are now challenging Parliament and the authority of this state, the United Kingdom.

I make this special plea to all present. Surely we, as an element in the state, have a bounden duty to rescue all those law-abiding citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever their political or religious views, from this ever-increasing reign of thuggery and tyranny.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I would not presume to comment on the grave concerns that have been voiced tonight by the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran, and Lord Molyneaux. I was here on 3rd September and I heard the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, make the statement to which he referred. It was a chilling thought that he expressed at that time. It is of great distress to me that his optimism has not risen in the intervening period. Noble Lords who have spoken so far have long experience of the politics and pain of Northern Ireland which I cannot begin to match.

We on the Liberal Democrat Benches are supportive of the process which led to the Good Friday agreement and beyond and which has now delivered the legislation which is before your Lordships' House. We have a few minor concerns but we shall be supporting the Government on this legislation.

Devolution is long overdue in Northern Ireland. The idea of devolution itself has been coloured by memories of failed models and troubled histories. It is particularly important that we make sure that devolution is established fairly and properly now. We hope that the order before the House this evening will do just that.

We hope that the departments envisaged by the legislation and set out by the Minister are what most people in Northern Ireland had in mind when they voted for the agreement last May. It may be that there have been increases in the number of departments and that that is done to accommodate varying interests in

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Northern Ireland. But as long as the momentum of the peace process can be kept moving forward, we hope that these departments will succeed. As a reflection of the expression of the popular will the order is acceptable. We are particularly glad that there has been consultation and co-operation in the construction of the new executive. There was perhaps a time when Westminster sought to impose new structures upon the reluctant people and politicians of Northern Ireland and when anything which was imposed was doomed to failure. But we believe that this order has genuine input from local people. That gives it a greater legitimacy, which will be needed as time goes on.

There are a number of specific issues about the proposed structures with which I should like the Minister to deal. The Department of Agriculture is being renamed the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Of course, there is much more to rural areas than farming, as we know in Wales. We welcome this symbolic shift in the department's title, which recognises this fact. We hope that the new department will have new powers and responsibilities towards rural areas; indeed, such a change would be very welcome. I am sure that many people in the rural population of Northern Ireland who are not directly involved in agriculture would readily agree with that.

We note the absence of a department of equality. This is a significant concern for many, within both the Nationalist and the Republican communities. We would like to know whether there are assurances that there will be a junior Minister responsible for equality issues working out of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

My final point relates to tourism. There is no strategic view of tourism shown in the order. Tourism is potentially an economic lifeline to many of the hard-pressed parts of Northern Ireland. We believe that much can be done to create an alluring image of Ireland which, in the future, may give cause for optimism and dispel the more depressing opinions that many people may have about the Province. North/South co-operation on tourism could be very valuable. Tourism seems to come under the remit both of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and, so far as concerns visitor amenities, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. We hope that there will be some rationalisation of the functions which the order will transfer.

Having voiced those very minor criticisms, I reiterate that my party takes great pleasure in finding so few flaws in an order with such wide and substantial implications. Although, as I said, I pay the greatest respect to the views which have been expressed by those who know the Province so well, I hope that the order will help to bring inclusive and peaceful self government to Northern Ireland in the future.

8.45 p.m.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the order and for the welcome that he extended to me in my new role. I am, of course, very honoured to be given this appointment and look forward to the challenges of my task and of doing business with

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the Minister in the manner he described. We do have a bi-partisan policy, but it is not a blank cheque. The Minister mentioned the transfer of functions order, but can he say when it will be ready and whether the difficulty is in its drafting or in securing the necessary agreement?

In his valuable contribution, my noble friend Lord Glentoran referred to the disadvantages inherent in having so many departments, as indeed did other speakers. I share his concern but, at the same time, I recognise that it may be necessary in order to have an executive and an Assembly that will be acceptable overall. The noble Lord, Lord Blease, made many interesting points which were thought provoking. I shall enjoy reading them carefully in tomorrow's Hansard.

However, at present, one Minister covers health, social security and education. This could be broken up into three or four departments, each with a Minister, so it will clearly not be as efficient an administration as we have at present. The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, referred to the Treasury impact. But it is not just a question of the cost: it is the speed and efficiency of decision making. The Minister may like to reflect upon how many Ministers will be doing his job after the executive is set up.

My noble friend Lord Glentoran touched upon the security situation and the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, raised the extremely important and sensitive issue of decommissioning and so called "punishment beatings". I believe that "mutilation assaults" would be a more accurate description. We will have a good opportunity to debate this issue next week at Starred Questions, and later that evening when we discuss the Northern Ireland decommissioning order. However, the Minister may like to check his diary, as I think he will find that the 16th is a Tuesday and not a Wednesday.

The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, also referred to the interesting statistics published in the Belfast Telegraph. I think that they well illustrate the desire for peace in the Province, rather than a return to violence and confrontation. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, referred to the popular will: let us hope that it will prevail. I share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, regarding the security situation and I will be exploring it in detail next week.

Can the Minister say what is expected to happen to the non-departmental public bodies? Are they likely to continue as before, or will their functions change? Members of your Lordships' House well know how members of those organisations will feel at the moment.

I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the downside of the size of the executive. On that basis, we are content with the order and look forward to a successful outcome of the peace process and the implementation of the Good Friday agreement.

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