§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Nicholas Scott)
The Chief Constable's suggestion is one of a number of matters which my right hon. Friend will consider when re viewing public order legislation for Northern Ireland in the light of the Public Order Bill for Great Britain currently before Parliament.
§ Mr. Alton
Following the violence at Portadown last July and the growing concern about the marching season this year, has the Minister not missed the opportunity of 1075 introducing a real change that would stop Dublin from being blamed for unnecessary interference in deciding where the marches should be routed?
§ Mr. Scott
The public order legislation that we may be introducing in the autumn is the proper vehicle for any legislative change in this matter. We want to consider carefully this suggestion, among others, some of which have been discussed in the Committee on the Public Order Bill.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
Is my hon. Friend aware that officers of the Conservative Back-Bench aviation committee visited the United States over the recess, and discussed with Congressman and Senators activities such as the routeing of marches in Northern Ireland? There was confusion in the minds of these opinion formers and leaders in the United States about the democratic way in which we handle such activities. In fact, they were in doubt whether Northern Ireland was a democracy. They were confusing Northern Ireland with the non-democratic activities of other countries over terrorism, marches, and so on. It is that confusion that is causing enormous problems in the United States in presenting Northern Ireland as a democracy.
§ Mr. Scott
I am sure that my right hon. Friend's visit to the United States will have cleared the minds of a number of people on the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) will be in the United States in the near future. We consistently seek to explain the basis and the fairness of society in Northern Ireland, because we need international support in the battle against terrorism and because we want people to invest in the jobs that are so vital to the future of the Province.