Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Cope of Berkeley: The whole point of the amendment is that, as the Bill stands, the position in respect of the Commonwealth and Ireland is not the same. This is a small point where it is simply not the same. It is no good saying that it is consistent. The Government have been saying all day that we should make the position in respect of Ireland the same as for the Commonwealth, despite the fact that that is not a sensible comparison. Now, when I seek to place Ireland in the same position as the Commonwealth in this respect, they say, "We do not want to be consistent in this respect because we think it is useless and pointless and will never apply". That drives home my point that the analogy with the Commonwealth, which was the foundation of the noble and learned Lord's speech at Second Reading, is rubbish. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 25:



( ) In this section "disqualifying office" means--
(a) Minister of the Government of Ireland; or
(b) chairman or deputy chairman of--
(i) a committee of the Dail ireann (House of Representatives of Ireland);
(ii) a committee of the Seanad ireann (Senate of Ireland); or
(iii) a joint committee of the Oireachtas (National Parliament of Ireland).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 25A to 29 not moved.]

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 30:


    After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(". In section 29(5) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (which requires standing orders of the Assembly to make certain provision with respect to statutory committees), after "committee;" in paragraph (a) insert--
"(aa) a member of the Assembly who is a Minister of the Government of Ireland or the chairman or deputy chairman of--
(i) a committee of the Dail ireann (House of Representatives of Ireland),
(ii) a committee of the Seanad ireann (Senate of Ireland), or

6 Nov 2000 : Column 1350


(iii) a joint committee of the Oireachtas (National Parliament of Ireland),
may not be the chairman or deputy chairman of a statutory committee;".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 31:


    After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" . No person may be a Minister of the Crown, or Leader or other paid officer of the Oposition, if he is a Minister or Junior Minister of the Government of Ireland.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 31 is exactly the same in substance as Amendment No. 13, tabled by the Liberal Democrats and discussed earlier. As we saw, they evidently changed their mind since consideration in another place and so there is no point in pursuing it at this hour. Amendment No. 32 is virtually the same as Amendment No. 12, which we have also already discussed. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: As the noble Lord is not pursuing the amendment at this stage, I shall not respond.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]

Lord Laird had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 33A:


    After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

MEMBERSHIP OF NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY COMMISSION

(" . After section 10 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 there shall be inserted--
"(11) No person may be a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission if he is a Minister of the Government or a member of the legislature of Ireland."").

The noble Lord said: In view of what the Minister said, which was reasonably favourable, I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 33A not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 not moved.]

Lord Laird had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 35A:


    After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

RESTRICTIONS ON CONFIRMATION OR APPROVAL OF SUBORDINATE LEGISLATION

(" .--(1) A person who is a Minister of the Government of Ireland, or of a Commonwealth country, has no power to make, confirm or approve any subordinate legislation, or to do any act so far as the legislation or act, which--
(a) is incompatible with any of the Convention rights;
(b) is incompatible with Community law;
(c) discriminates against a person or class of person on the ground of religious belief or political opinion;
(d) in the case of an act, aids or incites another person to discriminate against a person or class of person on that ground; or

6 Nov 2000 : Column 1351


(e) in the case of legislation, modifies an enactment in breach of section 7 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
(2) "the Convention rights" has the same meaning as in the Human Rights Act 1998.").

Baroness Jay of Paddington: I apologise to the Committee, I have only recently been following the procedures on this Bill with the noble Lord, Lord Laird. I have advised the noble Lord that I am, in turn, advised by the authorities that Amendment No. 35A is irrelevant to the subject matter of the Bill. I did forewarn the noble Lord that I would say this and the House authorities also so warned him.

I can only repeat, as I am sure is familiar to the Committee, that the Companion to the Standing Orders states that amendments must be relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. It makes it clear further that the advice of the Clerks should be taken in relation to matters such as these. The Clerks in the Public Bill Office advised me, and I believe advised the noble Lord, Lord Laird, that, as this Bill is confined to matters relating to disqualification from membership of the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly and the holding of certain offices, but this amendment seeks to act on participation in certain kinds of Assembly business--namely, to prevent a Minister of the government of Ireland or of a Commonwealth country confirming or approving subordinate legislation--it follows that the amendment is not relevant to the Bill.

As Members of the Committee will be aware, our procedures in the House are governed by the House as a whole and not by any one individual, and as a consequence the House has a collective responsibility to ensure that our procedures are followed. I intervene at this time for that purpose. With that in mind, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Laird, to accept the advice the Clerks offered to him and to me, and not to move Amendment No. 35A.

Lord Laird: I thank the noble Baroness for her remarks and everybody involved in this matter. I accept the advice which has been supplied to me and I shall not move the amendment. The purpose in tabling new Clause 4 was to make the point that there is a very high standard to which Ministers in the Northern Ireland Assembly operate. At present, Northern Ireland Ministers and departments are strictly forbidden by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 from doing anything that would infringe human rights arising from the European Convention.

Through the implementation by the British Government of the Belfast agreement, our own Northern Ireland Ministers have extensive human rights obligations but their Irish counterparts do not. Unlike the United Kingdom, the Irish Republic has not yet incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into its own domestic law, nor has the Republic of Ireland fulfilled its obligation under the Belfast agreement to ensure that at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights as those which will pertain in Northern Ireland. Under the Belfast agreement, the Irish Government have a duty to

6 Nov 2000 : Column 1352

establish a human rights commission with the mandate and remit equivalent to that within Northern Ireland. No such commission has yet been created in the Irish Republic. Consequently, a joint committee of representatives of the two human rights commissions has not yet materialised, even though the Belfast agreement was created two-and-a-half years ago.

We are enormously disappointed by the slow progress made in respect of human rights in the Irish Republic. It is more than two years since the passing of the Belfast agreement, but so far the Republic has totally failed. Consequently, we in Northern Ireland can have no confidence that Irish Ministers sitting in the Northern Ireland Assembly would appreciate the significance that we have in Northern Ireland of upholding fundamental human rights. There must be equality of treatment between Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Ministers who take their seats.

I shall be looking at another way of bringing forward an amendment at Report stage. I shall have discussions with the relevant authorities.

[Amendment No. 35A not moved.]

Clause 4 [Short title]:


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page