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Lord Glentoran: My Lords, some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, ring some bells. However, in principle I do not agree with him. The situation has arisen because of internecine political battling within the parties at Stormont. It has been suggested that the Bill (as it then was) would not have passed through Stormont had it stayed there. I have done a little research—one does not have to count a lot of numbers—and there is considerable doubt on that. The likelihood is that it would have passed. But, what is more important is that it is a very good Bill, it should pass, and is in the right hands—that is, in the office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. That is what the argument is about. Should it be there or in another department controlled by some other party? That is my first point.

Secondly—I am sorry if we have debated this previously but we have an amendment before us which we have to debate—the board is a very worthwhile asset for Northern Ireland. It gives considerable potential if managed and developed well by professional people. The strategic investment board has not yet been set up. It has not yet been selected. From where I sit, there is no reason to believe that those responsible for selecting and appointing the board will not propose a sound group of people well capable of making a success of it.

The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, mentioned matters such as De Lorean—from 100 years ago. I think of Laganside Development Corporation which changed for the good the face of Belfast. Of course, it took some knocks on some projects because of dissatisfied parties and so on. But overall, anyone who visits Belfast now and knew it 20 or 25 years ago would hardly believe that he is in the same city. The citizens of Belfast and outside enjoy that.

Let us take the issue a stage further. I refer to the Belfast harbour board. It was set up a little before the time of my great grandfather. Its remit was to develop and work the port of Belfast in the interests of the citizens of Belfast. I believe that those developments—the redevelopment of the port, the selling off of the property portfolio and the developments on Queen's Island where Harland and Wolff has, sadly, been steadily running down—are another exceptional example of developing the property assets of part of Northern Ireland. It has been achieved by a tough business board appointed by government and others.

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My anxiety—I have mentioned it to the Lord Privy Seal outside the Chamber—is that there may be a dilution of authority. I should hate to think that separate little boards would be set up to develop bits handed to the north, the east and the west. That would be a serious waste. It would not be a successful route. To set up a strong strategic investment board is the right answer. If for political correctness it is necessary also to have an advisory commission, so be it. I support the order and do not support the amendment.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I have not suggested in any way that there would be mini boards set up all over the place. He tilts at the windmills of his own imagination.

Baroness Blood: My Lords, I am fully behind the order; and I support the amendment. I agree with the reference of my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, to the model of the Laganside Development Corporation. The Laganside board has, and must have, a proportion of representatives from the community. That has worked well. So the noble Lord's argument works against itself. However, when we were setting up the partnership boards in 1994–95, there had to be representation from business and different parts of the community. I sat on a Northern Ireland partnership board for five years and know how difficult it was to get that mix of people at the beginning. It worked well. We now have LSP boards, area partnership boards—in fact, boards coming out of our ears. You can rarely meet anyone in Northern Ireland who is not on some board. So the expertise is there.

We are discussing the bases that the Army had for years. Most of them are in local communities, not down in the docks like Laganside, which is a beautiful tribute to Belfast. Local communities had to put up with all the business that went with those bases for many years. I do not want to circumvent the system. I hope that the strategic investment body will include that knowledge, but if local communities were included, that would give people confidence and a feeling of pride in their area. Giving the local community a say could put to bed many future disagreements.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions made. If the House wishes to have my advice, I advise it to vote for the order and to endorse the approach so clearly set out by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.

The membership of the company's board will be controlled by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister—both of them democratically elected. Accounts will be subject to scrutiny by independent audit. The affairs of the company will be subject to audit for value for money under Article 9 of the Audit (Northern Ireland) Order.

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I shall quote a little more fully from the letter that I sent to the noble Lord, Lord Smith. I observed:

    "A small expert board is the most efficient option and the Government will be proceeding on that basis".

For the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, I am sure that that is right. I continued:

    "Current thinking suggests that the board should consist of one public sector representative, the interim chief executive and the chair of Partnerships UK"—

who have been acting as consultants—

    "plus a small number of other experts in the relevant fields".

I then turned to the advisory council, of which I notified all those who attended the Grand Committee on Northern Ireland Orders after our discussion. The letter states:

    "I emphasise that Government is committed to a social partnership approach in this important area of policy development. I want to ensure that the social partners, including the representatives of trade unions, business and the voluntary and community sectors will continue to make an effective contribution".

I hope that that answers the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blood.

    "I hope, therefore, to announce soon the details of proposals for the establishment of an advisory council representing a range of local interests"—

precisely the point raised by the noble Baroness—

    "to discuss and advise on the SIB and its work, with specific reference to Public Private Partnerships, which will include representation from the social partners".

All that the noble Lord, Lord Smith, wants is contained in those assurances. The right way forward for the board is for it to be constituted as I described. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for his support. I must tell your Lordships that the amendment is no more than aspirational—which is sufficient condemnation.

Lord Smith of Clifton: Aspirational, my Lords, describes the right sort of motive. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blood, said, that is common practice in Northern Ireland. The opposition of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was wide of the mark about what I suggested. It was in his imagination. The noble and learned Lord said that the board would be audited and subject to this, that and the other condition. I expect all that to happen.

The Government would save themselves a lot of trouble if they included two or three community representatives from business, the trade unions and the voluntary sector in decision-making. As I said earlier, the PPP process has not always gone smoothly and some commonsense views would be welcome. For that reason, I should like to press my amendment.

3.55 p.m.

On Question, Whether the amendment shall be agreed to?

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Their Lordships divided: Contents, 50; Not-Contents, 134.

Division No. 1


Addington, L. [Teller]
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Blood, B.
Bradshaw, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Cobbold, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dholakia, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Fearn, L.
Fitt, L.
Geraint, L.
Goodhart, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hooson, L.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E. [Teller]
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Newby, L.
Northover, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Perry of Walton, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Acton, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L.
Alli, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Boothroyd, B.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brookman, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Colwyn, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Elles, B.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Glentoran, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hylton, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jeger, B.
Jones, L.
Kilclooney, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monson, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
O'Cathain, B.
Orme, L.
Parekh, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Paul, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rogan, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Slim, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

11 Feb 2003 : Column 578

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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