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New Clause—(Application To Northern Ireland)

Volume 416: debated on Thursday 12 April 1945

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(1) Sections three, five, six and eight of this Act shall not extend to Northern Ire land; and this Act shall, in its application to Northern Ireland, have effect as if paragraph (c) of Subsection (I) of Section one were omitted there from.

(2) In the application of this Act to Northern Ireland, Section seven thereof, and so much of Section nine thereof as relates to the said Section seven, shall be deemed for the purposes of Section six of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 (which relates to the power of the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make laws), to be provisions of an Act passed before the appointed day.—[ Mr. Bevan.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It is not necessary for us to discuss the Clause at any length. It contains provisions which the Northern Ireland Parliament can itself amend if it so wishes. That is also common form. Unless a Statute which applies to Northern Ireland expressly states that Northern Ireland is able to amend or repeal it, it cannot do so, and that is the purpose of this Clause.

When we in Northern Ireland first saw the Bill we were rather surprised and our people set about trying to see whether they could not make some improvement in it. When the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health was on this side of the Committee, I often heard him make very severe strictures on Departments for legislating by reference. Now he is tied up in the same way himself. When I first read the Clause I said to myself, ''Whatever does this mean?'' I doubted whether any of the 640 Members of the House of Commons could have explained what it meant. Having gone into the question, I find it simply resolves itself in Northern Ireland being placed on a parity or equality with the rest of the country. We of course have to submit to the same taxes or disabilities, and when we have the opportunity of contributing our quota to the Imperial Parliament or Exchequer we do it in the same way as it is done over here. As we contribute £35,000,000 to the Exchequer every year, and as our voluntary contributions to the war effort amounted to upwards of £120,000,000 we think we are entitled to parity of treatment with that of Great Britain. That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman has done in this Clause and personally, and on behalf of Ulster Members and the Northern Ireland Government, I would like to convey our grateful thanks to him and to the Department responsible for making this improvement in the Bill.

7.15 p.m.

I listened to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) with interest and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health himself will be gratified that his action in putting down an Amendment rather clumsily on a previous Clause did not cause discord and that we now know that the representatives of Northern Ireland have approved of this new Clause. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee in dealing with it, but it is a bad' case of legislation by reference and it is a great pity that more clarity was not shown earlier, when so much time could have been saved, especially if this had been an original Clause of the Bill. I regret that the Government should have thought it so unnecessary to get their original Bill right that they had to come at this time with a new Clause; it makes it difficult for us, who have a lot of work to do, to look after Amendments and to try to help the Government.

As the Member representing the constituency nearest to Northern Ireland I would like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) have said. While my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay was talking and complaining of this cumbrous new Clause being introduced by the Minister at this late hour in the day I thought I heard the Minister say—and he will correct me if I am wrong—that all legislation incorporated into Bills of this House with regard to Northern Ireland has been legislation by reference. Was I right in assuming that that was what the right hon. Gentleman said?

I must accept the information supplied by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Armagh, with his very long experience and knowledge of Ulster matters, and some 30 years in this House, in preference to what the Minister of Health indicated to the Committee a few moments ago. I protest very strongly indeed against the cumbrous nature of the Clause and this continual legislation by reference, which, as my hon. and gallant Friend reminded the Committee, the present Minister of Health himself continually attacked when he sat in the last Parliament. In the Parliament of 193I, when I first came into this House, I used to sit enthralled listening to the right hon. Gentleman attacking the Government of the day under Ramsay MacDonald. My only reason for rising was because, as I say, I represent the constituency in Great Britain nearest to Ulster and separated only by the narrow straits, from the constituency represented in this House by my hon. Friend the senior Member for Down (Dr. Little), who I am sorry is not here tonight, and by my hon. and gallant Friend the other Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles).

Would the hon. Member please come back to the Clause?

I was completely unaware that the hon. Member had ever been near it.

Had the senior Member for Down been here tonight, with his well known interest in Ulster affairs and his zealous care in protecting the interests of his own constituents, as a Northern Ireland Member he would have wanted particular information from the Minister about this Clause. I very much regret that the Minister was unable to give the information, and just slurred over it by saying that everyone could understand it, when not one single person in the Committee really knows what it is all about.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, to be considered Tomorrow, and to be printed.[Bill 44.]C