Lord Trimble welcomes Government concession over Order in Council System

Ulster Unionist peers have today welcomed the government’s declared intention to finally reform the Order in Council system so that it can be subject to amendment by Parliament.

Lord Rooker stated in the Lords this afternoon that if there is no restoration of devolution by November 24 the government will immediately bring in legislation which will change Orders in Council so that they may be amended by Parliament.

Lord Rooker told the House that the Order process is very unsatisfactory, and that while the focus is on plan A which is to get the Assembly up and running, Direct Rule will need to be more accountable. He said that there will be an amendability stage to the Orders in Council and the Government will ensure that it will use primary legislation wherever it can.

Responding in the Upper House, Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey said: “The UUP have been pressing for this for years. No longer will there be the scandalous situation of the Education Order which was forced through despite the overwhelming opposition of the people of Northern Ireland, as well as the Northern Ireland members of the House.”

Speaking afterwards, Lord Trimble said: “That government now intend to remedy this undemocratic anomaly is something that is to be greatly welcomed.

“At present, Orders in Council can only be accepted or rejected in full. What that means is that Parliament can only rubberstamp legislation destined for Northern Ireland, irrespective of the views of the people most directly affected by it.

“Thankfully government has seen sense and have pledged to introduce fundamental changes to the Order in Council system. Being able to amend Orders in Council and subject them to normal legislative procedure is something Ulster Unionists have been pressing for decades.

“It has long been recognised that the Order in Council is an unsound way to conduct government in any part of the United Kingdom – and this principle has now been conceded.”

He added: “This system was rudely exposed during debate last week on the Draft Education Order. At each stage of this Order’s procession through Parliament, Northern Ireland representatives raised fundamental concerns and objections.

“These far-reaching proposals, which have failed the test of public opinion in Northern Ireland time and time again, were simply pushed through unaltered and this was not lost on Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem peers. The integrity of the Order system itself was critically undermined.

“Scrutiny, accountability and responsibility are keys to the democratic process. Ulster Unionists have lobbied long and hard for these principles, and I am sure that the Government’s statement of intent will enjoy cross-Party support.”

(July 20th, 2006)

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