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Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, is she aware that notwithstanding the happily favourable experiences of her mother, academic research has recently revealed that 34 per cent of the minority population south of the border, amounting to almost 104,000 people, were driven out of the south between 1918 and 1924? It was ethnic cleansing, in other words. I should be happy to give her chapter and verse if she is interested.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I had not considered speaking, but there are a couple of things I should like to say in the gap. The requirement for this Bill is a sad state of affairs, and the debate has been extremely gloomy. Perhaps that should not be so, but it is difficult to see how we can move forward. However, two factors offer a glimmer of hope. First, the Prime Minister, the Government and the government of the Republic have finally stood firm. Paragraph 13 lays it out. It seems to me that for the first time they have accepted in writing that the full scope of paramilitary activities must stop. Previouslyall too often for those of us living therethe demands from government seemed to be a cessation of the violent activities, the shootings and the bombings. Paragraph 13, however, itemises all the activities in addition to violence which have continued over the past few years while Sinn Fein/IRA have gained concession after concession. It is very welcome. The Government have to stand fast on paragraphs 12 to 17.
The second glimmer of light comes out of the delay of the election, sad as that may be. It is this. Day by day, people in the Province and worldwide are learning and accepting to a far greater extent that we are where we are now as a result of the intransigence of Sinn Fein/IRA. The blame is beginning to land in the right place and there is more recognition of it daily. We should not be ashamed of that. Even round the Province, many people are not saying, "Why have the Government done this? We should not have this". Some of those whom one might expect to make such remarks are not doing so. Instead they are asking, "What are Sinn Fein/IRA doing? Why have they not come up with the goods?".
As a result, if Sinn Fein/IRA do not come clean on those paragraphs and we have to have an election in the futureand I hope that we doit will be far more acceptable to the world at large, to the people of this country and to the people in the north and the south of Ireland to have an election and, if necessary, to exclude Sinn Fein/IRA from the executive.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I was hoping that in concluding this debate I would be able to say that the debate had not ranged any further back than this century. But then we had the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney. Unusually in Northern Ireland debates, however, the discussion has been largely about the Bill before us. The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House said that this was to be a deferment in exceptional circumstances. I think that all who have spoken have expressed regret about the deferment of the election. My noble friend was more robust in his regret than many. Nevertheless, everyone has regretted this deferment.
Several noble Lords referred to the guillotine issue in the Commons and to how the Bill was not dealt with last night to the satisfaction of many Members of another place. I have been asked to raise an issue with the noble and learned Lord. Reference has already been made to whether an affirmative resolution will be presented to the Commons. Perhaps because of yesterday's events, those in another place wish to be clear that the matter will be dealt with on the Floor of the House and not in a committee room. I have no idea whether the noble and learned Lord can deal with that point, but, after yesterday's events, those in another place are keen to have an answer.
The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, referred to the conflicts within unionism. I am very much in favour of political parties being a broad church, but I cannot believe that having two tendencies within the Unionist Party is helping to resolve the issues. The word "trust" has been mentioned by so many speakers, but I worry about the level of trust between even the tendencies.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, referred to the fact that 10 per cent of people now living in Northern Ireland were born in Britain. I thought that it was a good point in that it shows that people have the confidence to go and live in Northern Ireland and that there has been a relative peace in the past five years for
The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, made a useful contribution. She gave us an insight into the feelings of those with a British backgroundcertainly those who presently live in the Republic of Ireland.
An election gives a renewed legitimacy and a forum for discussion. Everyone here is regretting this move. We want to see a situation where such a election can take place. Three words have been mentioned many times: clarity, trust, confidenceand, I would hope, honesty. Is it only Mr Blair's famous third question? If that is so, can there be clarity that that third question is the one to be answered to satisfaction?
Mr Trimble's reported comments as to whether Sinn Fein or the IRA can be trusted seem to suggest another problem. Clarity as to the way out of the impasse will be an important position for the Government to take. Noble Lords on these Benches look forward to an early announcement of an election, so that there can be renewed legitimacy and a proper forum for discussion in Northern Ireland.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, your Lordships will know that I have led a hitherto entirely blameless life. I am grateful for the confirmation from the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, for those words. However, some noble Lords are not in that category; indeed, some were formerly Members of the House of Commons. It is true that the ameliorative and civilising effects of membership of this House, as the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, said, sometimes take a little while to produce demonstrable results. So noble Lords with those previous convictions know that the House of Commons is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
My workin so far as I have any useful, detectable functionis to attend to the interests of this House. I have to make sure that we have plenty of time for debate and, if the Government intend to make amendments, I must give as early notice and have as full a consultation process as possible.
Many questions were asked about what will happen in the House of Commons in the foreseeableor, indeed, not foreseeablefuture. I do not know. With the best will in the world, it is not really my business to try to impose conditions on an elected Chamberat the moment.
The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, asked about the sunset clause. I have already said that how the House of Commons deals with that is entirely a matter for the House of Commons. I take the noble Lord's point about scrutiny of expenditure. I know the Secretary of State has this very much in mind. The noble Lord also asked for the end date of the consultation process. My advice is that that will be 12th June, which will give a reasonable, but not extravagant, opportunity.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, asked about the Policing Board. The membership of the board is not affected by the dissolution of the Assembly. It is only the restoration of devolved government that will affect that membership. In the citation that he gave, the noble Lord also asked a question about parties. The monitoring body will have its remit in respect of paramilitary activity and as regards claims that parties from the Assembly have failed in their obligations. The body will be independent. I know that the noble Lord is displeased about its membership. However, I put that to one side because it seems to me that we shall not persuade each other of the virtue of our respective positions.
The links between Sinn Fein and the IRA are widely spoken of, not least in this House. It will be a matter for the body to come to its judgment about whether any paramilitary activity is properly to be attributed to a political partywhich, of course, the IRA is not. I daresay that we shall deal more fully with that question when the legislation comes forward. The Government have indicated that the monitoring body will require a specific Act, as, indeed, will the question of those accused of various offences who are currently on the run.
The noble Lord also asked about MLAs who plan to retire from politics. If one such MLA was intending, or proposing, to retire from political life after 29th May and gave that notice, we would consider sympathetically the question of the resettlement grant mentioned by the noble Lord. It is important to have consultations; but, equally, the Secretary of State saidI repeat this on his behalfthat we are talking about consultations in the next week or so. Therefore, they should not be long, drawn-out processes.
The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, asked questions about the review. In principle, as both speakers said, it ought to begin on the fourth anniversary of devolution in December. As noble Lords will know, the agreement does not set an end date. If, unfortunately, there has been no election by that timeour hope and our purpose is to have one before thenwe shall have to consult all the parties to see how we can take the review forward, not least bearing in mind the difficulties identified by the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, asked about Clause 6. Essentially, this provision is intended to permit amendments to the electoral law. The most obvious example is to be found in subsection (2), which parallels the power to call an election in advance of approval. Some amendments to the law may be necessary for the holding of an early election. It is right to say that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committeeas always, I am pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, in his placeput its mind to these questions. One finds evidence of that under the rubric "The Delegated Powers" in its 20th report. With the exception of the two that I have dealt withI hope, eventually, to the satisfaction of your Lordshipsin paragraph 3 the committee specifically says:
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked about the consequences of the amendment that I have already tabled in my name and hope to discuss in Committee. The noble and learned Lord is quite right. It would be possible for the Secretary of State to come to a conclusion to call an election, but if there is no approval within 28 days by both Houses of Parliament that decision would fall.
I cannot give the noble and learned Lord a specific undertaking in the terms requested. However, I can say that we have no wish to circumvent parliamentary scrutiny. As I outlined in my opening remarks, it would have been possible for us to go to for a generally conventional period like 40 days, but I felt strongly that that would not be pleasing to your Lordships. Therefore, we looked at 28 days; but that is a maximum. I cannot give undertakings, but it would not be honourable to go against what I had said in determining the timetable. The noble and learned Lord was not only Attorney-General but Secretary of State, so he will know much better than I do that, in Northern Ireland, if agreement miraculously arises, it is very often important to move promptly, before that agreement evanesces as soon as the sun rises. I hope that what I have indicated is the Government's attitude will therefore be satisfactory when we come to look at the matter in more detail tomorrow.
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