All 3 Baroness Deech contributions to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019

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Mon 15th Jul 2019
Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill
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Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 17th Jul 2019
Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 22nd Jul 2019
Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Bill
Lords Chamber

Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords

Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill Debate

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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 15th July 2019

(4 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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I agree with the noble Baronesses, Lady Tonge and Lady Barker. I recall that just a few weeks ago we debated the provision of sex and relationships education to young people. I was shocked and dismayed by the protests of our colleagues from Northern Ireland. The point is, you may or may not approve of abortion or same-sex marriage, but we live in a world where we have to tolerate these relationships and choices. As the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, said, you do not have to do it if you do not like it—but you must not stop other people having the information and having the right.

You may or may not be a fan of Europe. Our human rights have come not from the EU but from the European Convention on Human Rights, much of which was British-based. It is not a question of consultation, either. If the population had been consulted on every single human right, we probably would not have them. Sometimes there has to be an external body that brings people into that circle of human rights and gives them their liberty. In this particular case, it is the right to a private and family life that women must have.

Sadly, most people in this debate are men and most of the supporters are women. That is highly significant. In an age of #MeToo complaints, when this Chamber has just been criticised by Naomi Ellenbogen for the attitude that some men take towards female employees, it is high time that men laying down the law had a bit more consideration for the feelings of the women who may have been put in the position of having to have an abortion, because the man who made them pregnant has abandoned them or is not supporting them—whatever the reason may be.

I think that in this situation devolution is being used as an excuse. This is perhaps the most profound human right a woman can have. Had it not been for the advances in contraception and abortion over the last 50 years, which gave us the confidence and freedom to go ahead with our education, plan our lives and have our children when we wanted them, we women in this Chamber would not be where we are. We must give this to the women of Northern Ireland. They are 50 years behind the rest of the world. Any man here who wants to deny this to them does not understand human rights or what he should be doing to help those women, rather than holding them back and condemning them to shady, shabby and expensive trips to other countries to get their human rights.

Baroness Smith of Basildon Portrait Baroness Smith of Basildon
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My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, might like to speak, because his clause stand part debate is grouped with these amendments.

Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill Debate

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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 17th July 2019

(4 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, it seems to me that it does not matter whether one supports leaving the European Union permanently or remaining in the European Union. That is not the issue before the House. The issue is whether Parliament should be allowed a say on whether we leave by crashing out, leave with a deal or do not leave. It does not, in a sense, matter which of those three situations it is. What matters is that Parliament has a voice. For that reason, I support this amendment.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, they say that Brexit drives people crazy and I think there is something in this. It certainly makes people cerebral. May I put forward a few general points? First, it has been said that Her Majesty might be embarrassed by such a request. Her Majesty has been on the Throne for 70 years or so and faced many a constitutional crisis. I think she would survive.

Secondly, be careful what you wish for. Suppose we pass this amendment requiring Parliament to meet in October. It is not for the benefit of Northern Ireland. I feel rather sorry for the people of Northern Ireland, who are being used as a sort of wedge in a door—not for their benefit. Suppose there is a general election in the meantime. Suppose there is a vote of no confidence in the Commons. Is it seriously considered that requiring Parliament to meet in October would take precedence over these other events, which may very well occur in the next few weeks? If there is a general election before October, what will happen to the will of some that Parliament should meet in the run-up to the possible leaving of the European Union? If there is a vote of no confidence, the same thing might well happen.

It seems to me that the constitution is not clear on what motives have to lie behind the call for a general election, the call for a vote of no confidence or the Prorogation of Parliament. It is a somewhat ambiguous area. The speculation about this has led people to believe that it is better placed in the hands of the judges than of politicians. That may well be. I am not disputing for a moment that the rule of law is upheld by judicial review and allowing judges to decide. However, where an issue is as ambiguous as this, noble Lords should realise what they are doing in putting these decisions in the hands of judges, who might very well be summoned to meet in a great hurry; the issue would then be rushed all the way through the courts. We would be leaving it to judicial wisdom.

A great deal may happen between now and the end of October. It worries me that we should be using parliamentary procedure in this way. It would be an unfortunate precedent. As I said, think about Motions of no confidence; think about a general election and the assumption, so readily made, that the notion of Prorogation would be a terrible breach with everything that has ever happened in the 1,000-year constitution of this country.

Moreover, the action of judicial review, which is already being talked about in this House—somewhat prematurely—will depend on one wealthy individual bringing that action. Suppose there is a vote of no confidence and by some method the Queen is advised that Mr Corbyn should be summoned to form a Government. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the services of my noble friend Lord Pannick, but I am sure there are those among us and in the country who would say that the possibility of a Prime Minister widely regarded as an anti-Semite was a constitutional outrage and must be judicially reviewed.

I beg noble Lords to consider what sort of precedent might be set by using the people of Northern Ireland, speculating on what might happen with judicial review and not allowing the normal course of events to continue. To support this amendment will have repercussions way beyond what we might expect this afternoon.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, reads far too much into this simple amendment, which is unambiguous and makes the point that power should rest not with the Executive but with Parliament. It would require Ministers to report on a Bill’s progress where progress is essential, such as with this Bill. Of course, most importantly, we should not give the Prime Minister of a minority Government, whoever he may be—let us all, particularly those of us on this side of the House, recognise that we are talking about the Prime Minister of a minority Government—the opportunity to suspend our constitutional proprieties.

I should like to make another point. I deplore the fact that the rules of my party have allowed this decision to be protracted over almost five weeks and to be taken by 0.3% of the electorate, a number of whom are 15 years of age; they are entirely eligible to vote, as I established earlier today. Many people do not realise that; I did not realise it myself until two or three days ago. The party in the country has had great power—way beyond what any party should have, particularly when it represents such a tiny percentage of the electorate. I believe that the real constitutional impropriety that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, seeks to deal with is that of conferring on the Prime Minister of a minority Government—I repeat: a minority Government—the powers to dispense with the services of Parliament and to absolve himself of being answerable to it. As I said on Monday, the Government are answerable to Parliament, which must never be the creature or subject of government. This is a safeguard. We should support it.

Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Bill Debate

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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Bill

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 22nd July 2019

(4 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, the British people did not vote for a no-deal exit from the European Union. All I would say to my noble friend Lord Forsyth is that when he talks about sophists, it takes one to recognise one. The truth of the matter—I have tried to be scrupulous in this—is that if the Commons rejects a House of Lords amendment, most of us in this House do not vote again. We accept the will of the elected House. The will of the elected House on this occasion is clear and emphatic. It has given this provision a majority and we should not fly in the face of that.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, I have two simple questions which I hope can be clarified by those who are in favour of remain. First, how on earth can this amendment from the Commons prevent a Dissolution of Parliament if there is a call for an election? There is no way that Parliament could be re-summoned if an election were called in the early autumn and the period of Dissolution covered October. Secondly, the amendment from the Commons misses the point. We could meet and talk right through August, some have said, and right through September and October, but unless something is done to remove the date of 31 October, the default position is that we leave on 31 October. There is nothing that this Parliament can do about it because any attempt to postpone that date rests in the hands of the European Union. We are not sovereign in that respect. Only if the European Union agreed to an extension could that default position of 31 October be removed; therefore, the amendment coming from the Commons is pretty pointless.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, I will make two short points. First, Northern Ireland is as affected as the rest of the United Kingdom if we crash out on 31 October. Secondly, this is not an issue between leavers and remainers; it is an issue of whether we crash out or leave the European Union with a deal. It is important not to muddy the waters over leavers and remainers, when this is a separate and terribly important issue.