Northern Ireland (Transfer of Functions)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13 December 1973.

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Motion made, and Question proposed,That the Northern Ireland (Modification of Enactments—No. 1) Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved.—[Mr. Pym.]

11.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

As I indicated to you earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are a number of points which I feel should be raised on these important orders. This order deals with the transfer to the Secretary of State of certain functions of the Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland and of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland. The functions of the Ministry of Home Affairs include police, criminal law, detention of offenders, electoral law, prisons, courts, juries, debt enforcement, compensation claims and similar matters. The Lord Chancellor is also to take over the appointment of coroners, county court judges, magistrates, the Lands Tribunal and other matters. The Civil Service becomes responsible for employing, dismissing and fixing terms of service of public servants involved in the administration of those services, and the Treasury takes over financial responsibility.

The point which I put to my right hon. and hon. Friends is the one that was raised during the earlier debate but was not dealt with in the winding-up speech. With so many important matters now being transferred to Westminster, what is the Government's intention regarding the representation of Northern Ireland in this House? Westminster has not hitherto dealt with these matters, and I should like to know whether the number of Members of Parliament will be increased.

11.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I am not sure whether that point is covered by this order, but, if it is not out of order, I shall answer the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) in this way: those matters have been very fully dealt with in the debate on the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill, on the White Paper, and again and again in the House on other occasions. My right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State and my other right hon. and hon. Friends have made clear again and again that the question was not for further consideration at this time, and that it was not a matter which they were prepared to open up and discuss in the context of the present constitutional changes in Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend may feel otherwise, as do some other hon. Members—my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) raised the matter earlier in the evening—but it is not, in the Government's view, a matter which can be opened up in this discussion, and the Government have no comment to make on that situation at this time.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That the Northern Ireland (Modification of Enactments—No. 1) Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved.—(Mr. Secretary Pym.)