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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Lord speaks from an extremely authoritative background on this issue. He reminded me of my long-term family connections with the situation in Northern Ireland. But even so, I cannot match his experience.

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I simply remind the noble Lord of what I said in response to an earlier question on the issue of exclusion of parties from the assembly. The parties have the option of excluding any party from the executive if it does not meet its commitment. That was extremely clear. He is right to draw attention to the role of the Loyalist paramilitaries. He will have noted that the Statement referred to the fact that a great deal of the recent violence has come from that source.

The particular point about the executive, which is at the nub of the present concerns about the fail-safe arrangement, is that the Loyalist paramilitary groups would not be represented within the executive because the parties which are, as it were, the democratic face of the loyalist paramilitaries do not have sufficient seats, under the d'Hondt system, to be represented on the executive. Therefore that issue is constitutionally irrelevant.

However, I repeat that there are all the concerns to which the noble Lord rightly drew attention about the detail of the decommissioning process. That process will have been said to have started if, within a couple of days--I use General de Chastelain's phrase--the commitment on decommissioning is given by the IRA and it appoints a link person to negotiate all the precise details with his team. That will set the decommissioning process in train. As I said in answer to other questions, that will be followed by certain benchmark activities which must be satisfied during the coming months.

However, I merely say to the noble Lord and to the whole House that if we do not follow through and we are not able to deliver on the agreement, there will be no decommissioning at all.

Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she has handled questions so far. She has shed light on some difficult points.

However, the fog persists. Does she not agree that one of the main reasons for that confusion across the water is the way in which Sinn Fein and IRA spokesmen seem, day by day, to be saying one thing to their own supporters and another to the Prime Minister? If that ambivalence persists during this crucial month, the chances of the Unionists reaching a satisfactory conclusion are bound to be greatly reduced.

The second point has not yet been made. Will the noble Baroness accept--I am sure she will--that the Statement today and the events over the weekend put a huge burden on General de Chastelain? His integrity and good sense impress anyone who meets him. However, he now carries that burden. It is his job to be clear and not to throw a cloak over any ambiguities and things which are going wrong. The whole process depends not just on the Herculean efforts of the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach but also on the capacity and integrity of that Canadian general. Will the noble Baroness assure us that he will receive full support in the independent carrying out of his role?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, for allowing me

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to say that there is an enormous burden on General de Chastelain. Our Government and the Irish Government have recently recognised that explicitly. He will receive the full support of both Governments in the extraordinarily delicate work which he undertakes.

I go back to the noble Lord's earlier comments. The ambivalence which he describes must be resolved by actions, not words. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has set out in such detail the way in which the defaulting system, if one can call it that, kicks in once the devolution process, if it does begin, begins. After two days--and General de Chastelain used the expression "a couple of days"--we need to see the agreement from the IRA to the decommissioning process. If in September and further on in subsequent months General de Chastelain is then able to report that the benchmarking process has been agreed, those actions will in a sense reinforce the whole political process. They will be crucial to it. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has insisted on those objective tests of movement on decommissioning rather than, as I said in answer to the original point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, relying on people's good faith. That has been sorely tested in this process.

I repeat to the House--because it may not have been clear, judging by the questions which have been asked--that all those fail-safe arrangements will be set out in legislation. That is being consulted on urgently and I know that my right honourable friend is hoping to bring forward the legislation within a matter of days.

Greater London Authority Bill

5.7 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 199.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 288C:

Page 106, line 38, leave out ("Greater London") and insert ("the Greater London area").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 2888D. These amendments are proposed to Clause 199 which deals with the appointment of the London Transport Users' Committee.

The first amendment proposes that rather than simply and precisely "Greater London" being the area relevant to the use of transport facilities and services, the area is described as the "Greater London area".

It is in the nature of transport that one cannot set a political or administrative boundary. The term "the Greater London area" is used in the Railways Act 1993 to define the area with which the current committee--the LRPC--is concerned. We believe that there should be a similar provision here and that membership of the committee should be able to cover the whole area.

When the matter was raised by my honourable friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton in another place, the Minister said that she was prepared to consider the

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issue further and return to it at a later stage. On that basis, he withdrew the amendment. I hope that the Minister may have some news for us about that.

The second amendment seeks to exclude the mayor from membership of the new committee. That is because of a concern on our part about a possible conflict of interest. Members of the assembly, Transport for London and the staff of those organisations may not be appointed. Of course, the mayor falls within one of those categories.

In response to this amendment in another place, the Minister said that it was unlikely and unacceptable that the assembly would appoint the mayor in such a capacity. She said:

    "As it is inherent that, although it is unlikely, there may be criticism of the mayoral transport strategy as well as Transport for London, the amendment is unnecessary".--[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee A, 2/3/99; col. 885.] It seems to me that by saying that it would be unlikely and unacceptable for the assembly to appoint the mayor to the new committee rather makes the point that the amendment is necessary and desirable.

On the Bill, the Government's response to amendments has been that such and such is inconceivable. We take the view that our role is to say, "What if?", and to ask that question of the Committee. The amendment was tabled in that spirit. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We have similar difficulties with these amendments as with Amendment No. 288B. Amendment No. 288C seeks to define the geographical area covered by the LTUC. Noble Lords will recognise--as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said--that the boundary of LTUC in its role as a rail users' consultative committee is much wider than Greater London or indeed the outer boundary of TfL services. However, the assembly is not prevented from selecting people from outside the boundary of the Greater London Authority, and it is important to recognise that the rail regulator has the opportunity to contribute to the process of appointments. If the noble Baroness remains concerned on the issue of boundaries, I am prepared to consider whether the geographical area covered by the LTUC may be more clearly defined in the Bill.

We do not believe that Amendment No. 288D is necessary. Decisions about appointments are taken by the assembly in consultation with the rail regulator. A basic purpose of the committee is to assist the assembly in the scrutiny of the mayor's policy and the performance of TfL. It would clearly be perverse for the mayor to participate in the proceedings of the committee as its chair while his or her policies were under debate. We believe that that is so obvious that the assembly does not need an express provision in the Bill to point it out.

I am conscious that the noble Baroness, in speaking to her second amendment, was commenting on the strength of the language. I hope she feels reassured by the clear expression that it would be perverse for that to happen and will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: On Amendment No. 288D, I believe that it is the job of this Committee and the

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House as a revising Chamber to exclude any possibility of perversity. Nevertheless, I shall admit to an argument that the noble Baroness has not used against me. We have sought all the way through the Bill to give the assembly as much flexibility as possible vis-a-vis the mayor. Perhaps there is logic in my accepting the rather odd situation with which we are presented on that amendment.

I am grateful for the comments of the Minister on the first of the amendments. It would be useful to provide for what we are agreed upon. On the basis that the Government will consider returning with an amendment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 288D not moved.]

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