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Lord Rogan moved the amendment:



(e) be nominated as a chairman or deputy chairman of an ad hoc committee,")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the outset, I freely admit that this amendment would have no effect on the Bill in its current form. Indeed, if the Minister were now to give a clear assurance to the House that the Government have no intention of reintroducing Report stage Clause 1 in another place, I would gladly withdraw my amendment and sit down. However, if the Government are minded to reintroduce what was Clause 1, then this amendment would have an effect, a very important effect.

My amendment would prevent persons holding a "disqualifying office" from being nominated as a chairman or deputy chairman of an ad hoc committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Therefore, it would

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prohibit a Minister of the Government of the Republic of Ireland, or a committee chairman or deputy chairman of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland, being nominated as a chairman or deputy chairman of an ad hoc committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Both in Committee and on Report the Government have shown that they can be persuaded. They were persuaded on points regarding the policing board, committees of the Republic of Ireland legislature and the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission. I am optimistic that the Government will be persuaded again. An amendment was offered in Committee to add the presiding officer and the deputy presiding officer to the list of positions to which a holder of "disqualifying office" could not be appointed. The Government rejected the amendment on the grounds that the presiding officer and deputy presiding officer have no role in relation to the initiation of policy or policy development.

Again on Report the Government rejected an amendment to add the presiding officer to the list of positions to which a holder of a disqualifying office could not be appointed. Will the Minister confirm that by virtue of Section 40(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 the presiding officer must be a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission? Will the Minister also confirm that the holder of a disqualifying office is barred from being the presiding officer because the presiding officer must be in the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission?

Of course, we must consider this amendment on the assumption that the Report stage Clause 1 will be reintroduced in another place. As the Bill stands, no holder of a disqualifying office can even sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

At Committee stage of this Bill and again on Report, ad hoc committees were rejected on the basis that they have no statutory role in the development of policy. But is it necessary to have a statutory role in the development of policy in order to have a role in the development of policy? I think not. It is quite possible to have a role in policy development without that role being statutory. Thus, ad hoc committees of the Northern Ireland Assembly have a role in the development of policy.

The Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 came before this House on Thursday, the second of this month. The issue of flags was discussed in a committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly before the regulations were brought forward. It was an ad hoc committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly in which the issue of flags was discussed. Does the Minister believe that it would have been prudent for a Minister in the Government of the Republic of Ireland or a holder of any other disqualifying office to have been a chair or deputy chair of that committee? Does the Minister believe that it is acceptable to have a Minister of the Government of the Republic of Ireland involved in deciding where the national flag should, or should not, be flown in any part of the United Kingdom?

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The Government have conceded that a chairman or deputy chairman of a statutory committee would have potential conflict of interests with the holder of a disqualifying office. They should also concede that the same potential conflict of interests would arise with a chair or deputy chair in an ad hoc committee.

In urging the Government to accept this amendment I also urge them not to reintroduce the clause removed on Report. I would be more than happy for the Government to refuse to accept this amendment if they give an undertaking that they will not reintroduce the removed clause in another place. Something that was not part of the Belfast agreement and demanded in the agreement should never have been introduced by the Government at the request of Sinn Fein. When I refer to the "request of Sinn Fein" I do so in the same vein as Sinn Fein refers to "discouraging" young Catholics from becoming members of the police service in Northern Ireland and that is, let it be noted, post the police Bill.

Sinn Fein/IRA has for many years discouraged--and still does--young Catholics from participating in policing through murder, violence and intimidation. Now Sinn Fein requests a measure and the Government either place a Sinn Fein clause in the Bill as with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill, or, as in the case of this Bill, the Government produce an entire Bill. Just as "discouragement" means intimidation for Sinn Fein/IRA, the Government appear to read a Sinn Fein request as an order.

Surely this Government must learn, and must learn quickly, that the insatiable appetite of republicanism can never be satisfied. If the Government produce a piece of legislation which contains a specific Northern Ireland issue, or they produce a Bill with particular Northern Ireland aspects, they must not continue to consider only the views and wishes of Sinn Fein/IRA. Carrots alone do not maintain motivation unless interspersed with the occasional stick. I beg to move.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I raise what appears to me rather a substantial point. It seems that we are now discussing an amendment proposed to a clause which is not there or is part of a Bill which has been declared dead. Without Clause 1 the Bill no longer has any life or meaning. According to my understanding, Clause 1 was taken out on 20th November by your Lordships' House. Now the noble Lord, Lord Rogan--no blame attaches to him--has somehow,with considerable ingenuity, managed to persuade the Table Office to accept an amendment to a clause which has gone. He has properly expressed a wish that the Government in another place will not seek to replace Clause 1 in a Bill which is now effectively dead. He rightly fears--I certainly share his anxiety--that if the Government were to be so insensitive (that is the politest word I can think of) as to reintroduce the now dead Clause 1, they would revive the whole Bill and give it a fresh life in a quite indecent fashion which I do not think anyone could possibly welcome.

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I do not wish to speak about the merits of the amendment at this stage. The noble and learned Lord has a disagreeable responsibility in regard to the Bill. He has a rather difficult time of it these days and I have the utmost sympathy for him. I say sincerely that I always respect the patience, intelligence and courtesy with which he handles tricky and difficult situations. However, on this particular occasion he will have a lot of explaining to do with regard to what in this thoroughly undesirable Bill is now living and capable of meaning anything and whether he and his colleagues in another place intend to do the dreadful thing of reviving the corpse by giving the Bill its Clause 1, or its head, back again so that once again the wretched creature will be capable of breathing and of living.

Before the merits of the noble Lord's reasonable and sensible amendment are gone into further, I do not think that it is too much to ask the noble and learned Lord whether he will be kind enough to comment on the degree of animation which this ghastly corpse can expect to receive from his colleagues in the near future. I earnestly hope that the noble and learned Lord will say that the Government have no such sinister intentions of restoring to life a Bill which never deserved anything other than total condemnation.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I had better intervene at this stage as the Minister did not intervene while my noble friend was speaking; otherwise he might bring the debate to a conclusion.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I am advised that I am allowed to speak only once in this debate. Intervening in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I should make it clear that it is the Government's intention if the Bill do now pass to argue in another place that the former Clause 1 of the Bill should be reinstated. We stand by this Bill and intend to pursue this Bill. I speak by way of intervention rather than losing my right to speak.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, perhaps I may say that I paid my very sincere tribute to him in the hope that he would be able to influence his honourable and right honourable friends elsewhere to emulate the virtues for which I have given him credit.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, with temerity, I remind noble Lords that it is Third Reading. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that speaking once and intervening in the intervention of another speaker is stretching the point.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, perhaps I may resume my remarks. First, I deeply deplore the announcement that the noble and learned Lord made, although it came as no surprise. However, I shall return to that a little later.

I hope that the Bill will remain dead and will not be revived. But if it were to be revived, then this amendment would be a valuable small addition to the

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Bill. Without the amendment, the incredible difficulties of dual loyalties--they are the reasons that the Bill is so potentially damaging--could be much worse. I therefore support the amendment.


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