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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill

Volume 799: debated on Wednesday 17 July 2019

Third Reading

Clause 8: Same sex marriage and opposite sex civil partnership

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 8, page 7, line 34, leave out “section 11(4)” and insert “section (Regulations: supplementary)(2)”

My Lords, these amendments rationalise the clauses to make procedural provision in respect of each of the new regulation-making powers in the Bill, so they can be dealt with together. They rationalise the commencement provisions for each power and, importantly, they will not come into force if an Executive is formed on or before 21 October. We are also seeking to amend the Long and Short Titles of the Bill to reflect its purpose. It is now—goodness me—nearly 1.30 am and I would like to thank the staff who have helped us by staying late.

My Lords, good morning—that will confuse “Yesterday in Parliament”. I rise to speak to Amendment 2, which is mercifully in the same group as the Minister’s amendments. It is a small technical amendment to the amendment in my name that was passed on Report.

Its effect is to change the deadline for the regulation-making powers and consultation from 13 January 2020 to 31 March 2020. Noble Lords who were here will have heard the Minister give a very extensive exposition of the way in which his department will pursue the regulation-making powers under Clause 9 and the very tight timetable it has to work on amendments which are somewhat more complicated than those pertaining to same-sex marriage. All this is intended to do is to give his department sufficient flexibility and the small amount of time it may need if matters fall slightly behind. It is absolutely not intended to be a reason to in any way frustrate or delay for a long time the matters on which we have deliberated in some detail and with great seriousness. I hope when others watching our proceedings come to see this amendment, they will understand the reasons why it has been tabled and the spirit in which it is proposed.

I will sit down very shortly, but I want to put on record my thanks to the staff, the Opposition Front Bench and Members of the Cross Benches, who have worked extremely hard to get us to this point. Above all, I thank the Minister, who has been outstanding on this Bill.

My Lords, I speak to Amendment 5 in my name. It is a tidying-up procedure which corrects and clarifies the statutory instrument powers. To be clear, the procedures for victims’ payments and same-sex marriage remain as the House agreed on Report, which is via the negative procedure. The abortion regulations will now be made by affirmative procedure, rather than by negative procedure, and, to avoid any doubt, this amendment states that:

“In calculating the period of 28 days mentioned … no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or … adjourned for more than four days”,

so that should we be adjourned part-way through a consultation period, the clock would stop ticking, and start again when we officially resume.

The other important thing is to explain the last part of this amendment, which states that if regulations cease to have effect as a result of proposed new subsection (4), that does not affect anything previously done under them, or the making of new regulations. I shall give an example of that to clarify it. If in relation to the abortion issue that we discussed, a statutory instrument is introduced, and after that date a GP prescribes misoprostol for an abortion, they would be protected doing so during the consultation period. However, if at the end of the 28 days that statutory instrument falls, they would not be covered in prescribing on day 29, and it would not be retrospective either.

It is important to be clear, because this has been such a charged debate. I too thank everyone, particularly the Minister, for having been extraordinarily available at all times of the day and into the night for discussion and consultation. He has really tried to resolve these complex issues.

My Lords, very briefly, given the hour, I thank all those who have taken part, especially those who have worked so hard on these critical amendments. It was indeed a mutual process, with the Minister, of getting us to the point where we now have a Bill that looks much more fit for purpose than when it came to us, which is precisely what we are here to do. We must thank the staff for facilitating; we apologise for keeping them all up. We have done a job of work and people can say that the issues have been thoroughly and properly debated. I also reinforce my thanks and appreciation to the Minister for what he has done and the way he does it, which is much appreciated.

My Lords, despite the danger of sounding repetitive, I thank the Minister and the noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Finlay.

This Bill is now in better shape than when it was received from the House of Commons. It has been a fraught process at times. I am not sure whether it is the lateness or the earliness of the hour, but as well as thanking the staff—we ask a lot of our staff to be here at this time of the morning working on these issues and are very grateful for the support that they have given us—without the Minister’s conciliatory attitude and his willingness to talk at all times to everybody involved, we would not be at this stage. We are grateful to him and thank him for the work that he has done.

Before we conclude, I will add my comments. I thank people who were unseen throughout my efforts—there are even members of the DUP who have said, “Keep going”. That is the different voice that one has heard. I also pay tribute to No. 10 and the PM, who have also encouraged me in the process. When I made my speech earlier this evening—or was it this afternoon, yesterday afternoon, I am not sure—I referred to people whom I knew. We should bear in mind that the changes that we have made relate so much to people whom we do not know. We will never know that we have helped a lot of people.

One of the miracles of modern technology is such that, since I referred to Rainey Endowed School this afternoon, I have had a message from another of its former members who happened to be watching us—there is a salutary warning to us all—and he has written to say thank you. He has announced to a number of people—I shall never know them and we all never will—these two sentences, which I hope summarise what we have achieved here in the last few days: “You, perhaps like me, know far too many people who killed themselves back in the 1970s and 1980s, rather than bringing shame on their families”. He then goes on to say, “I was fortunate. I had another guy who lived in the same village and we kept each other sane”. Those are very appropriate thoughts for what we have achieved here in the last few days.

My Lords, I will not detain us for long. I think it is important to thank certain noble Lords, many of whom are in the Chamber tonight, but particular commendation should go to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, for the work she has done in helping us move towards consensus. On an issue such as this, consensus is far better than division. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with the Front Benches on the Labour and Liberal sides—the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce—and my own side and others to try to deliver what has been a difficult Bill, in remarkably difficult circumstances, over a remarkably short timescale, even though we have allowed for it to be extended; I think that is important. This would still be far better done by a reformed and resolved Executive in Northern Ireland, but that was not to be on this occasion. The sun will shortly rise and it will be a brave new world upon which it shines.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Clause 9: International obligations in respect of CEDAW

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: Clause 9, page 8, line 15, leave out “13 January 2020” and insert “31 March 2020”

Amendment 2 agreed.

Clause 10: Victims’ payments

Amendment 3

Moved by

3: Clause 10, page 9, line 39, leave out “section 12(4)” and insert “section (Regulations: supplementary)(2)”

Amendment 3 agreed.

Amendment 4

Moved by

4: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—

“Regulations: supplementary

(1) A power to make regulations under section 8, 9 or 10 may be used to make different provision for different purposes.(2) Regulations under section 8, 9 or 10 may make incidental, supplementary, consequential, transitional or saving provision.”

Amendment 4 agreed.

Amendment 5

Moved by

5: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—

“Regulations: procedure

(1) Regulations under section 8, 9 or 10 are to be made by statutory instrument. (2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 8 or 10 is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 9 must be laid before Parliament after being made.(4) Regulations contained in an instrument laid under subsection (3) cease to have effect at the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the instrument is made unless, during that period, the instrument is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(5) In calculating the period of 28 days mentioned in subsection (4), no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.(6) If regulations cease to have effect as a result of subsection (4), that does not affect—(a) anything previously done under them, or(b) the making of new regulations.”

Amendment 5 agreed.

Clause 11: Regulations: procedure and supplementary 1

Amendment 6

Moved by

6: Clause 11, leave out Clause 11

Amendment 6 agreed.

Clause 12: Regulations: procedure and supplementary 2

Amendment 7

Moved by

7: Clause 12, leave out Clause 12

Amendment 7 agreed.

Clause 13: Regulations: procedure and supplementary 3

Amendment 8

Moved by

8: Clause 13, leave out Clause 13

Amendment 8 agreed.

Clause 14: Extent, commencement and short title

Amendments 9 to 11

Moved by

9: Clause 14, page 10, line 36, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

“(2) Section 9 extends to Northern Ireland only.”

10: Clause 14, page 11, line 3, leave out subsections (4) to (8) and insert—

“(4) Sections 8, 9, 10, (Regulations: supplementary) and (Regulations: procedure) come into force on 22 October 2019, unless an Executive in Northern Ireland is formed on or before 21 October 2019 (in which case they do not come into force at all).”

11: Clause 14, page 11, line 19, after “Formation” insert “etc.”

Amendments 9 to 11 agreed.

In the Title

Amendment 12

Moved by

12: In the Title, line 4, at end insert “and other matters; to impose duties to make regulations changing the law of Northern Ireland on certain matters, subject to the formation of an Executive; and for connected purposes.”

Amendment 12 agreed.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

House adjourned at 1.38 am.