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Business Of The House: Northern Ireland Motions
01 July 1999
Volume 603

3.50 p.m.

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rose to move, That, in the event that one or more statutory instruments relating to Northern Ireland are laid before the House this day, a Motion or Motions to approve them may, notwithstanding the practice of the House, be moved this day without notice; and that Standing Order 70 (Affirmative Instruments) be dispensed with to enable the Motion or Motions to be taken, notwithstanding that no report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on the instruments has been laid before the House.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may give a brief word of explanation. This is an unprecedented Motion but I believe it is justified by unprecedented events. It has the full support of the usual channels.

As your Lordships will be aware, discussions in Northern Ireland are still under way. I must report to the House that they are still without conclusion. It had been agreed through the usual channels that should a resolution have been reached sufficiently early yesterday, the necessary secondary legislation would have been laid last night and would have appeared on your Lordships' Order Paper today. Had this been the case, I would have moved only the second part of the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper today, that which dispenses with Standing Order 70.

I should like, if I may, to take this opportunity to emphasise again that the Government take very seriously the work of the Joint Committee. It is only in the most exceptional circumstances that we move to suspend the Standing Order requiring the Joint Committee to report on a Statutory Instrument before the instrument is taken. In the event, it was not possible to lay the necessary secondary legislation last night. In those circumstances, it was agreed through the usual channels that this Motion should appear on the Order Paper today against the possibility that the process would be complete and it would be possible to proceed with the necessary secondary legislation tonight. The Motion before the House will allow an order laid today to be taken tonight; a similar Motion has been passed by another place.

It is proposed that any substantive Motion should be taken by my noble friend Lord Dubs during the dinner hour this evening or, if necessary, at the end of Business. So your Lordships will have time to study the text. I hope that in the circumstances the House will support this Motion.

Moved, That, in the event that one or more statutory instruments relating to Northern Ireland are laid before the House this day, a Motion or Motions to approve them may, notwithstanding the practice of the House, be moved this day without notice; and that Standing Order 70 ( Affirmative Instruments) be dispensed with to enable the Motion or Motions to be taken, notwithstanding that

no report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on the instruments has been laid before the House.—( Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the background. It is an unprecedented Motion but, under the extraordinary and unusual circumstances that exist today, we are happy to agree with it.

Will there be any means of letting Members of the House know if an agreement has been made and if the Business is to be dealt with in the dinner hour or at the end of the day? If not, could there be? Perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill, which is about to get underway, could be broken into and an announcement made. Perhaps information could be shown on the annunciator so that people are:not kept hanging around if nothing is going to happen: alternatively, if something is going to happen they will know at what stage they should go and look for papers in the Printed Paper Office.

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My Lords, I am very grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for his support for this unprecedented Motion. As he and the House will see, my noble friend Lord Dubs is in the House. He is, of course, in constant contact with his office in Belfast. He will let the Government Chief Whip and myself know if there is any news and that will be immediately conveyed through the usual channels and there will be an announcement on the annunciator. The noble Lord's suggestion that an announcement be made during the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill, which we are now about to begin, would be appropriate.

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My Lords, although the Cross-Benches are not normally part of the usual channels in respect of business of this kind, may I ask the noble Baroness whether, in future, when matters of this kind—particularly concerning Ulster—are being discussed through the usual channels, we can be so informed? We have on our Benches a number of noble Lords with Northern Ireland connections—we are about to have a number of others as well—and it would be very helpful to us.

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My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's comments. I am sure that the usual channels have heard them.

On Question, Motion agreed to.