Clause 9 - Powers of statutory bodies

International Development Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:45 pm ar 15 Mawrth 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development) 3:45, 15 Mawrth 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 4, line 2, at end insert—

`(c) where the statutory body concerned is a Northern Ireland body, only with the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly.'.

I have had words with the Clerk, and I understand that, in the absence of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), it is in order for me to move the amendment.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I will attract the hon. Gentleman's approbation, because he would not table an amendment to a Bill and fail to be here to move it after it has been selected by the Chairman unless something untoward had happened to him. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is in good health, and that nothing has happened to prevent him from coming here to move the amendment.

Having taken advice from the clerk, I shall speak briefly. I had not prepared to speak on the matter. I was interested in the debate, but the amendment raises the—[Interruption.] Did the Minister wish to say something?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development 4:00, 15 Mawrth 2001

Yes. I said—through chuckles from the usual channels—that the fact that the hon. Lady had not prepared to speak on the matter would not prevent her from doing so.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

Praise where praise is due. That is admirable.

Amendment No. 18 opens a can of worms in respect of devolution, as it relates to the differences between the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. The amendment is about Northern Ireland.

Coupled with the clause is schedule 2, which details the statutory bodies to which the clause applies. If the amendment were deemed necessary and accepted by the Minister, an alteration to schedule 2 would result, however, in the light of the clause as drafted, I must ask whether schedule 2 contains a full and exhaustive list of statutory bodies to which the clause applies. Bodies such as the Scottish tourist board are not included.

I suppose that the basic questions raised by the amendment relate to what the Secretary of State is and is not in charge of and why there is no reference to Northern Ireland if the provisions apply to Wales and Scotland. I did not table the amendment and I was not prepared to speak to it, I but felt that it was only courteous to move it for the Government. Labour Back Benchers have been so well controlled by their Whip—they have not participated in our discussions—that I assumed that the amendment must have been Government-inspired. I hope that I was not wrong to assume that the Minister would therefore not object to it on the grounds that there was some inadvertent drafting error. I look forward to what he has to say.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

The Government will resist the amendment, as it goes against the wishes of the Northern Ireland Assembly. We recognise that the Assembly should be consulted if and when we want to enter into arrangements with statutory bodies for which it is responsible. The Assembly will want to ensure that its statutory bodies do not divert resources towards international development work when they might more properly be used for domestic purposes.

We closely consulted the Northern Ireland Assembly and all the devolved Administrations when drawing up the Bill, and we consulted the Assembly again about the amendment. It asked that any consultation regarding statutory bodies take place under the memorandum of understanding on devolved Administrations, rather than being prescribed by text in the Bill. The Bill reflects the Assembly's wishes, so I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am grateful for the Minister's brief response, which raises more questions that it answers. If accepting the amendment is against the wishes of the Northern Ireland Assembly, may we have access to the process of consultation and the exchange of information between the Department and the Assembly? As there is now a difference between the Northern Irish Administration and the devolved Administrations of Scotland and Wales, may we have access to the discussions and exchange of papers between the Department, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly?

I am willing give way to the Minister, who has championed transparency of Government for a long time, as I am sure that he will want to enlighten the Committee and the House about the discussions that have taken place. The Minister does not rise—that says it all. We have a Minister who is willing to nip off and do dirty deals, but he will not let us know how those decisions were arrived at.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Llafur, Coatbridge and Chryston

On a point of order, Mr. Butterfill. The hon. Lady accuses by my hon. Friend the Minister of doing dirty deals. Surely that is not in order.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Llafur, Normanton

The right hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that although I deplore such accusations, they are not unparliamentary.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston for giving me a rest every now and then. However, I withdraw that remark. I did not mean that the Minister does dirty deals. However, he should not do deals without enabling us to scrutinise them. He may have consulted people, but it was not a transparent process.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Llafur, Coatbridge and Chryston

If I may say so, the hon. Lady is becoming increasingly gracious. It is wonderful that she has withdrawn her remark.

My hon. Friend the Minister has responded to an amendment that asked us to consult the Northern Ireland Assembly; the Assembly has been consulted and it wishes to be consulted no more. Will the hon. Lady not accept that and allow the Committee to get on with its business?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

The right hon. Gentleman is in danger of becoming my champion.

That is not the point. The point is that before the Bill was drafted, the Minister consulted the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, if the amendment is not accepted, there is nothing in the Bill to permit further consultation. That is the reason for the amendment. I am not speaking for the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie, but such a provision would be an added protection for the future. For the moment, the Bill places the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament in a position over and above that afforded to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

It is not an issue of great concern to me, but it would be useful if the Minister told us when and by what means the Northern Ireland Assembly was consulted.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

My hon. Friend makes a valid point.

The Minister said that the Northern Ireland Assembly has agreed that a memorandum of understanding is the vehicle by which it wishes to be consulted. If that is so, why is it not enshrined in the Bill? What is it about Northern Ireland that it does not get a look-in on the territorial responsibilities of the rest of the United Kingdom, whereas the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly do? I am not satisfied by the Minister's answers. I am sad that the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie was not inspired by the Government Front Bench but was a little expedition of his own. He is to be congratulated on the amendment, but would have been more warmly congratulated had he been here to move it.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Ceidwadwyr, Blaby

It would be helpful if the Minister would explain when and by what means the Northern Ireland Assembly was consulted.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

Oh, Mr. Butterfill; what can I say? We consulted closely with the Assembly. I do not know on what day we did so.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We consulted all the devolved Administrations, as is our habit when drawing up such legislation. I cannot usefully assist the Committee any more. I shall therefore sit down.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clauses 10 to 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 3 agreed to.