Amendment 12

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Browning Baroness Browning Conservative 8:00 pm, 17th July 2019

My Lords, I had not intended to speak but I would like to ask about two matters in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord McCrea, has said. Yesterday was my first sitting on the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, on to which your Lordships have kindly placed me. The noble Lord is right: the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and others mentioned the determination of our committee in not looking at the policy or the moral issues of the two clauses before your Lordships’ House but looking at the technicality of whether this is good legislation, and whether it is properly drafted and is not going to cause problems with existing legislation as we go forward.

On the question of the need for an affirmative rather than a negative resolution, as a member of that committee, and as that is our report’s main recommendation, I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister would confirm what his view is of the committee’s report with regard to the need for an affirmative resolution. Perhaps he could also give some indication, in the light of that and his previous remarks about the legislation as drafted in another place, of whether he is minded to introduce government amendments in line with the recommendations of the committee, if only to correct what he himself has identified as flawed legislation.

That is a purely, if you like, techy contribution to this debate, because it seems to me, after 27 years in this building, in both Houses, that good legislation is our job—that is what we are required to do—and if we do not do it properly, there are consequences. It is not unknown for courts to ask, “What was the intention of Parliament at the time?”. There is nothing worse for a court case than not to be absolutely clear what Parliament intended when we legislated. That is what we are sent here to do, so we have to get it as technically good and as legally correct as we possibly can.

My second point to my noble friend the Minister is a more personal one. I am not against abortion, although I would certainly like to see the upper limit for abortion come down. I agree—I have seen 22 week-old infants in prem baby units survive, and it is time for an adjustment there. However, that is not the matter of this debate. I have heard one or two contributions tonight which I am not absolutely clear about, on this matter of 28 weeks in Northern Ireland. Can my noble friend confirm whether, if this goes through, it will be compatible with the rest of the country or whether in fact there will be some differential in Northern Ireland? The thought of 28 weeks fills me with horror.