§ Order for Second Reading read.3.58 pm
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill marks another important step in the Government's programme for Northern Ireland. In line with the hopes and desires of the vast majority of the people in Northern Ireland, the Government are looking for a society at peace—a society governed by the rule of law and clear principles of democracy—which respects the rights and traditions of all its citizens.
The Stormont talks provide us with the opportunity to secure a just and enduring settlement, and we will continue to press forward with them. We will also continue to implement fair and effective policies on security, policing and public order. We need those for their own sakes, but we must also ensure that progress in one area is not threatened by festering disputes in others.
One such area of dispute in recent years has, of course, been parades. The majority of parades in Northern Ireland pass off peacefully, but when things go wrong and local accommodation cannot be reached, parades and the counter-demonstrations associated with them have the capacity to polarise opinion, raise community tensions and generate extremes of emotion. As we have seen all too often, they can degenerate into major flashpoints of civil disorder.
The Bill is born of the Government's desire to bring about accommodation and agreement where there are disputes over parades in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)
The Parades Commission will play an important role. I welcome the increase in the membership of the commission set out in schedule 1, but may I humbly and modestly suggest that three of the commissioners should be women and that one should be someone with a legal or judicial background?
§ Mr. Ingram
I note what my hon. Friend says. Of course, such matters may come up in Committee. From recollection, I do not think that that subject was raised in the debate in the other place, although my recollections are not 100 per cent. accurate. I will certainly see whether that and related matters were raised, but there is every likelihood that other hon. Members will discuss the composition of the independent commission in Committee.
The Bill is based on the recommendations in the report of Dr. Peter North and his colleagues published in January this year. Their review of the law and practice in relation to parades in Northern Ireland was thorough-going and their report is an invaluable contribution to thinking in this highly contentious area. We remain grateful to them for their work.
As hon. Members will be aware, the previous Government had announced the review following the appalling events surrounding the parade at Drumcree in 495 the summer of 1996. None of us should forget the widespread violence, disruption and lawlessness witnessed that summer. Nor should we forget the loss of life and injuries sustained by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and by those involved and caught up in the unrest, which lasted for nine days—149 RUC officers were injured and there were 192 civilian casualties, including one death. Nor should we forget the damage to property and to Northern Ireland's economy and image in the world at large. Those events prompted the review and the ensuing report.
When the report was published, we said in opposition that we accepted its findings and would implement its recommendations. With the Bill, the Government are making good our pledge. The Government's feelings on the issue were reinforced by my experience and that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this summer. No Secretary of State could have done more to bring about accommodation and a peaceful resolution of the dispute between the two sides in Portadown this year. However, as my right hon. Friend has acknowledged, she failed, but it was not for the want of trying against what proved to be impossible odds.
As in previous years, the Chief Constable, the RUC and the Army were once again caught in the middle of two competing, inflexible forces. As the Chief Constable said so graphically at the time, the fact that public order considerations were the only ones to be taken into account meant that he had to choose between the lesser of two evils. The Bill is an attempt to ensure that no future RUC Chief Constable is boxed into that position again.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
The Minister will, of course, have noticed the significance of the date when talking about intransigent positions—18 December. Having said that, why does the hon. Gentleman expect this legislation to have any greater effect than the previous legislation, which was not impartially, adequately and fully implemented to deal with counter-protests?
§ Mr. Ingram
I recognise the date. I carry a lot of dates in my head and that one came to mind as the hon. Gentleman was speaking. Because I was searching for the date, I did not hear his point. I have no doubt that he will repeat the point in his speech; if he does, I will try to give him an answer today, failing which I will respond to him in writing.
It is worth repeating that, as the Chief Constable said so graphically at the time, he had to choose the lesser of two evils; that was his view this year. It is important to avoid his being in the same position again.
The Government's approach, like the North report, is based on recognising rights and responsibilities. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary recently published a White Paper on the incorporation of the European convention on human rights into law in Britain and Northern Ireland. The convention provides for the protection of the right to peaceful assembly which, in Northern Ireland terms, protects the right to march. It is a basic right that the Government fully recognise, but, as the convention also recognises, it must be exercised with regard to the rights and freedoms of others. Like all rights, it brings responsibilities with it.
496 People also have the right to live their lives free from fear and intimidation, and there is a fundamental right to demonstrate and protest peacefully against events to which one is opposed; but that, too, brings with it the responsibility to respect the rights and freedoms of others.
As the North report recognised, in Northern Ireland we have starkly competing rights. When that results in a dispute, as it does in a small number of the 3,000 or so parades each year, an accommodation has to be sought. The first goal of the Parades Commission, which will be properly established by the Bill, is to enable and facilitate the finding of such an accommodation.
The commission was set up last spring by the previous Government and chaired by Alastair Graham. It was not at that time given the full remit that North recommended, but I hope that hon. Members will agree that it has performed important work in seeking to encourage local agreement in the months since its establishment. Despite the best efforts of Alastair Graham and his team, there is no doubt that, in the future, as in recent years, attempts to find an accommodation can be frustrated if there is no willingness on either side to seek compromise.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
That is a vital point, both in Londonderry and on the Ormeau road, where attempts were made in successive years to have rational discussions, but there was implacable opposition. Is the Minister aware that that opposition is developing, and not only in a few isolated areas? Seminars have been held in Belfast to promote estate control. There is a demand that there should be at least one former prisoner on each committee to control estates, and that is extending Sinn Fein-IRA control throughout Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Ingram
We are conscious of all those developments, as many of them take place in the public domain and there is public debate about them. The hon. Gentleman's point confirms the need for a Parades Commission with the role of seeking resolution to conflict. I am sure that he agrees that accommodation and the search for an agreement provide the best course for any party to a dispute.
That is why all of us in the House, and those in positions of leadership throughout Northern Ireland, have a duty to encourage both sides to seek that accommodation. We all have an important role to play in creating a different climate from the one that has prevailed over recent years. Unfortunately, we have to recognise and accept that there are likely to be occasions when that accommodation cannot be found. That is why the legislation will also empower the commission to make determinations when agreement cannot be reached.
I hope that that will always be a last resort. In itself, it will be a signal of failure, but not, I stress, on the part of the Parades Commission: it will be a failure of those on both sides of the dispute who did not succeed in reaching that desired accommodation. In making such determinations, the Parades Commission will be empowered to take account not only of public order considerations but of the wider impact that the procession may have on relationships within the community. The commission will also be able to take into account the failure of any specified person to abide by a code of conduct. The commission has already published the code of conduct and is consulting on it.
497 As the North report recommended, the commission will take account, in coming to a view, of whether the route of a parade is of long standing. We hope that that will go some way to easing the fears of those in the loyal orders who continue to maintain that the legislation is anti-parade. It is not; nor was it ever intended to be.
I believe that the Bill is a crucial improvement on existing legislation. Might is never right; right is right. I hope that this new legislation will make that clearer than ever before.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)
Will the Minister go back into the history of this matter and the changing of the order relating to public order? Is he not aware that some of the matters that he has mentioned were changes that were made in that order, and that the drafter of that order was none other than Mr. Lenahan from the Dublin Parliament, who said that they had got the order on the statute book of Northern Ireland which would make it easier for them to push forward their objectives? If we have a law governing Northern Ireland that is aimed at pushing forward the objective of subverting the constitution, in no way is that law going to work.
The Minister has mentioned traditional parades, but traditional parades were taken completely away in that order. I remind the Minister that the majority of hon. Members on the Unionist Benches went to prison to highlight the matter because we realised that something dreadful would happen once the order was implemented. As we know, Gerry Adams said that he was working hard on it and had done good work on it.
§ Mr. Ingram
The hon. Gentleman asks me to go back into history with him. I have no intention of doing so, because I do not believe that an examination of history serves any purpose. We are at a point in time when I hope that we can build for the future of Northern Ireland. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will start his history now and begin to look forward rather than constantly looking back. That is a vision and hope that the vast majority of people of Northern Ireland want from their local politicians and from the Government.
§ Mr. Ingram
No. I have given way enough. I may give way later.
The legislation is designed to assist the rule of law, and to discourage those who would seek to break it. In proposing the legislation, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that we would take into account concerns raised with us and be sensitive to views of those on both sides of the community.
The legislation, and the independent commission, require the support and co-operation of the whole community if they are to succeed. It was in that spirit that the Government took on board concerns raised with us this summer that the legislation was too narrowly focused on the cultural expressions of one community.
498 The extended remit, as it was called, of the Bill when it was first introduced in another place was designed to meet those concerns and to enable the commission to look at other cultural expressions that might have an adverse effect on relationships within the community. However, during the Bill's passage in the other place, it became clear that there was cross-community opposition to that provision. The Bill was, therefore, amended to take account of the united opposition to the proposal, and the extended remit was eventually removed from the Bill on Report.
However, the Government's determination to ensure that the legislation is even-handed remains undiminished. We will continue to consider carefully all suggestions to ensure that our commitment to implement the findings of the North report is fulfilled in a balanced and even-handed way. The Government remain open to advice from right hon. and hon. Members of all parties to that effect, both before and during Committee.
It is worth pointing out that several other useful amendments were made in the other place that are generally acknowledged to have improved the workability and acceptability of the Bill. Full and constructive debate led to a cross-party consensus on a number of issues, such as the need for an equalisation of the maximum penalties that can be imposed for the various offences under the Bill, and a return to the original definition in the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 of "public procession", which now makes it clear that it includes processions involving vehicles and other conveyances.
At this juncture, it is important to pay tribute to my noble Friend Lord Dubs who was responsible for the Bill in the other place. I also pay tribute to the Lords who spoke on behalf of the Ulster Unionist party, the Conservative party, the Alliance party and the Liberal Democrat party, all of whom made major contributions in reaching agreement in these important areas. The Bill is the better for their input. I hope that we can achieve the same level of co-operation in this House.
In recent years, a great deal has been asked of the Chief Constable and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in relation to disputed parades. They have shown equanimity, courage and determination in their attempts to resolve disputes and to manage the literally explosive situations that have arisen in recent years when an accommodation could not be found. All too often, they have, in my view, been expected to bear too much of the pressure. In recent years, Secretaries of State have also borne considerable pressure. It is not our intention simply to transfer that pressure solely to the Parades Commission.
The Bill therefore not only establishes a Parades Commission empowered to make determinations in relation to parades but enables the Secretary of State, on application by the Chief Constable, to review the determination made by the commission and to revoke, amend or confirm it after consulting the commission, where practical.
In reviewing the commission's decision, the Secretary of State will need to take all relevant factors into account—just like the commission—and not simply public order issues. Should all those attempts fail, on the day the RUC will continue to have the power to take action to deal with or prevent a breach of the peace.
499 The Secretary of State retains the power to ban public processions as currently set out in the order on public order.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North)
That brings us to the crux of the Bill. What if we are threatened with a Drumcree 4? What will the Secretary of State do then?
§ Mr. Ingram
That question takes me down the road of trying to predict what may happen in the summer. It will be a matter of fine judgment by the commission in the lead-up, by the Chief Constable in relation to his powers, and in respect of the powers that reside in the Secretary of State. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that it would be wrong to try to develop the scenario of recent years and say that there would then be a specific determination. That determination rests with those who are responsible at the point at which the determination is made. The nature of the Bill means that different people are empowered to carry out that determination.
§ Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)
I am sure that the Minister will be happy to tell the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) that the simple answer is that, in view of the relatively good outcome this summer, only one rational decision can be taken: not to assist the people who have caused the trouble by blocking the road in previous years. That is the only sensible way in which to proceed.
§ Mr. Ingram
We could spend a long time debating the best way forward if we could predict what the future holds. I hope that we do not reach the flashpoint of conflict or stand-off. Different circumstances applied each time in 1995, 1996 and 1997. It flows from that that it would be wrong to try to say that the same thing will inevitably occur next summer. I hope that we all do everything in our power to seek to ensure that it will not be repeated. That is why I started by commenting on the impact of Drumcree 1995. Remember what happened in 1996 and 1997: the mayhem and riots that ensued, and the damage that that did to the good name of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Godman
I am sorry to be a nuisance to my hon. Friend, but perhaps I misheard what he said earlier. Will he confirm that the Chief Constable will not have the power to overturn a determination by the commission? Will he, instead, in the appropriate circumstances, have to go to the Secretary of State to have a determination overturned?
§ Mr. Ingram
The Chief Constable will have the power under the public order legislation to decide, on the day, whether a parade should go ahead. The Secretary of State also has banning powers, as set out in the Bill, which are a straightforward transfer from the order on public order. Of course, the Secretary of State can revoke, amend or uphold a decision of the commission following a reference from the Chief Constable. There are a number of ways in which such matters can be examined. I hope that that answer helps my hon. Friend to understand the provisions relating to determinations.
500 All the relevant factors must be taken into account by the Secretary of State, just as the commission must take a range of relevant factors into account. A decision will not simply be reached on the grounds of public order.
§ Mr. Clifford Forsythe (South Antrim)
Can the Minister tell us whether members of the commission would be in attendance at a controversial parade to try to sort things out if something went wrong?
§ Mr. Ingram
It depends on the nature of the parade and what is happening round about it. We know that the commission is very much a hands-on one. It depends on the stage at which its members seek to participate—they may try to facilitate mediation or may adjudicate at a certain point. It would be wrong to speculate on whether the commission would be involved in particular parades. I know that commission members witnessed many parades last summer. If my memory serves me right, I understand that Alastair Graham was at Drumcree and obviously observed what happened. I do not know to what extent he continued to talk to people—that was a matter for him.
§ Mr. Forsythe
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but there is a considerable difference between observing a parade and trouble, and trying to do something about it.
§ Mr. Ingram
Absolutely. That is why I have said it depends on the point in a parade to which the hon. Gentleman's question refers. Well in advance of a parade there are obvious available points of engagement and discussion, where it is possible to facilitate mediation. At that stage, it is even possible that the commission could mediate, as the Bill empowers it to do.
On the day of a parade, should there be a major public disorder problem—let us hope that that does not occur—the Chief Constable must make a decision. I would assume that the Parades Commission would be in attendance to witness the events and to learn from that experience. I am sure that its members would talk to many people on that day and afterwards to learn why their attempts to seek accommodation had not proved successful. They would have to learn from that, in the hope of building on that experience when dealing with other parades that immediately followed or those that were held in the months and years ahead.
The approach that I have set out and powers in the Bill are recommended by the North report. We all hope that those powers would not need to be exercised. By their very nature, they are the powers of last resort. The best interests of the community are served not by exercising banning powers or by the Chief Constable exercising powers on the grounds of public order, but by both sides in a dispute engaging in a dialogue, through mediation if necessary, to seek an accommodation with which both can live.
We all hope that a new mood will prevail in Northern Ireland, fostered in an atmosphere of peace, where agreement is currently being sought by the parties taking part in the multi-party talks. We hope that that will encourage both sides to seek accommodation and to avoid conflict across the range of areas that have been disputatious in Northern Ireland in the past.
§ Mr. Trimble
The Minister referred to the political talks that are proceeding and the possibility—indeed, the 501 hope that many people have—that those talks will produce an agreement. I am sure that he will agree that the most important issue facing Northern Ireland is that there is an agreement.
In the event of that agreement including matters that touch on the Bill, will the Minister give an undertaking that the Government will ensure that that is implemented and carried into legislation as quickly as possible? The Minister stood at the Dispatch Box on Monday night when we were discussing the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill and said that if the inter-party talks brought forward any matters that touched on the structures of the police, he would ensure that they were brought forward during the passage of that Bill. Will he give the same undertaking with regard to today's Bill? It is possible that the agreement of the inter-party talks could touch significantly on the Bill.
§ Mr. Ingram
The hon. Gentleman should let me explain my point. If he is not happy with my explanation, he can come back to me, but he should let me explain in my way and not make his judgment before I have got more than two words out of my mouth.
The hon. Gentleman was asking me to speculate on what could come out of an agreement following the talks. Assuming that the current timetable is held to, the time scale could be May of next year. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, well in advance of that, we hope to have the Parades Commission up and functioning and to have the Bill on the statute book so that the commission can be properly constituted. We want it to be able to operate well in advance of the forthcoming marching season.
If anything by way of an agreement comes out of the joint talks and impinges on the Bill or any other piece of legislation, clearly the Government will have to take cognisance of that. If all the parties participating in the talks want something to happen which has the support of the people of Northern Ireland, it behoves the Government to take full account of that.
§ Mr. Trimble
The situation may arise in a slightly different way from that anticipated by the Minister. An agreement in the talks may be held up, or may not be achievable, without changes to the legislation. Should that situation arise, I hope that the Minister will act with the same promptness as he promised on Monday night with regard to the police legislation.
§ Mr. Ingram
Promptness in terms of my actions may be easy to deliver, but we have to consider the business of the House over which I do not have control and which is a matter for others.
All of us will be fully conscious of the importance of the hon. Gentleman's point—if there is a major point of contention and a lasting peaceful settlement could be held up on the basis of an amendment to a piece of legislation, I am sure that there will be urgent talks with all the constitutional parties to ascertain the best way forward.
502 It depends on what sort of change is required; it may or may not require primary legislation; it may or may not require a significant amount of time in the House. We could speculate all evening on various scenarios, but I do not think that it would take the debate much further forward.
§ Mr. Trimble
I thank the Minister, particularly as he has given way three times on this point, which is unusual. When the Minister replied, there was a smile on his face as though he thought he was dealing with an unusual scenario. When the Minister considers that this Bill is the most serious and substantial assault on the civil rights of the people of Northern Ireland this century, he must realise that this is not a light matter.
In relation to the inter-party talks and the future of Northern Ireland, the issue is of major importance and it will be very much in the minds of those engaged in the talks. It is hypothetical because we may not arrive at an agreement during those talks, but I can assure the Minister that the matter will be considered in that context.
§ Mr. Ingram
That is helpful to know. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am not a participant in the talks proceedings, so I do not know whether the matter has been raised in any of the bilateral meetings or plenary sessions, but I shall certainly find out whether that is the case.
If the hon. Gentleman has a strong view on that matter and if he pursues it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my fellow Minister of State, who have direct responsibility in that area, I am sure that he will get an answer to a specific question rather than a hypothetical question. I suggest that, when trying to move forward the talks process, it is better that we deal with specifics, rather than with unspecified or hypothetical generalities.
§ Mr. McNamara
The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has raised a point which is important to him and about which his community feels strongly. I have a question vis-a-vis my hon. Friend's remarks on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill and other matters: if an agreement is contingent on alterations to the Bill, does the alteration take place before the agreement is agreed, or is the agreement going to be made subject to alterations in the Bill—that is, there will be no change in the status quo before the agreement is made and, if no agreement is made, the status quo has already been altered?
§ Mr. Ingram
This is becoming rather like a philosophy debate. I am not belittling it—I understand the depth of the point being raised—but we are dealing with the Second Reading of a Bill, and the Government are determined to proceed on course with the Bill. The eventualities that have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) are, in a sense, not yet on the table for discussion.
We can deal only with matters that exist and not with those that are hypothetical. If they become reality and affect the status quo or the proceedings of the Bill in Committee and on Report, those matters will have to be taken into account. However, they will not be taken into account because of pressure from one particular party or 503 an individual Member of Parliament. If I understand the hon. Member for Upper Bann correctly, they will arise from an agreed position that the House will be asked to consider. We can then proceed to give these matters our consideration at that stage.
Before those numerous interventions, I was setting out what all of us hope will prevail in Northern Ireland—a new future, fostered in an atmosphere of peace in which agreement can be reached. It is encouraging to hear the hon. Member for Upper Bann talking in those terms; all of us can take encouragement from that. He has made a major contribution throughout the talks process, and I know that he will continue to do so.
I hope that I have clearly set out the reasons why the Bill is needed. Last Saturday's events in Derry have shown that violent disturbances do not occur only at the height of the marching season, in the heat of summer; they can flare up wherever there are people intent on creating mayhem and riot and where there is an unwillingness to reach accommodation.
The use or the threat of force has been a blight on society in Northern Ireland for many years. The way in which the law has been structured to deal with disputes over parades has in recent years encouraged those who would use or threaten force. That is surely wrong. The rule of law must be paramount at all times.
§ Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)
Further to that point, is the Minister aware that three of the leading spokesmen for the so-called residents groups—Dounacha MacNellis of the Bogside Residents Group, Brendan McKenna of the Garvachy Road Residents Coalition and Gerard Rice of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community—have convictions for terrorist offences? Does not that underline the reality that what the Minister describes as the "flaring up" of protests and opposition parades is actually carefully orchestrated by Sinn Fein-IRA? The evidence for that is the fact that those three leading spokesmen have all been convicted of IRA membership in the past.
§ Mr. Ingram
I dealt with that issue in some detail during Monday night's debate on the police legislation. I know that the hon. Gentleman was present for only part of that debate, so he might have missed the views I expressed then.
The debate is not well served by attributing blame to only one side. We must be realistic when dealing with the issues that we face in Northern Ireland. There are many players in the outbreaks of public disorder. That is what puts pressure on the Chief Constable; it is what has put pressure on previous Secretaries of State when coming to their determinations as to whether parades should or should not be allowed to proceed.
The rule of law must be paramount at all times. It is the bedrock of any civilised society. Those who seek to overturn the rule of law must be discouraged from doing so, and punished if they still proceed. The Bill is designed to aid those who seek to uphold the rule of law. It is designed to operate in a way that is fair and reasonable, and which embraces common sense. Those principles underlie everything the Government are trying to do in Northern Ireland. I hope that every Member of the House who values those principles will support us.
No law is perfect; no new structures are without problems or flaws. However, without the support of both sides of the community in Northern Ireland, 504 whatever legislation is enacted or whatever structures are built will just not work. Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been dissipated over recent years in policing costs and clearing up the damage caused by those who do not respect the rule of law.
Of course, there is much more than direct public expenditure at stake—who knows how many investment opportunities and possibilities for economic growth have been forgone over that period? The cost of the events this weekend in Derry alone are already estimated to be in the region of £5 million. To that can be added the tens of millions of pounds spent in the aftermath of Drumcree 1995, 1996 and 1997.
The whole community pays the price; the whole community suffers. Thus, it is in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland, socially and economically, to see that disputes are resolved by accommodation, not conflict. I hope that the Bill will go some way to making that more possible in the future, and I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)
I thank the Minister for setting out the Government's objectives. As the Bill has been exhaustively debated in another place, and as a number of the Opposition's concerns have already been taken into account, I intend to keep my comments relatively brief. I should like, however, to record our thanks for the co-operative way in which the Minister in another place dealt with those concerns. I pay tribute, too, to my noble Friend Lord Cope for his efforts on behalf of the Opposition.
It is probably true to say that marches, and the so-called marching season, in Northern Ireland are one of the aspects of society there which the public in Great Britain find the most difficult to understand: they find the whole thing baffling. They watch with amazement marches commemorating events of 100, 200 or even 300 years ago. On the whole, they find the whole thing unnecessary and provocative.
Rarely do the people of Great Britain try to understand, in short, why their fellow countrymen in Northern Ireland see the necessity to march. That view is born of the luxury of security: we are secure in our ability to express our cultural traditions, secure in our national identity, and secure in our ultimate constitutional status.
The House cannot simply dismiss the marches in Northern Ireland, however. Above all, we have a duty to understand their significance to a great many people there. That is not just because of the contentious nature of some of the marches, or because a small minority of them are attended by public order problems—as witnessed in Londonderry last weekend. The reasons go much deeper than that, because to understand the numerous parades and processions that take place every year, and to understand why they do, is to come close to a proper understanding of the nature of the problems of Northern Ireland. I shall develop that point briefly.
Parades and processions provide us, in effect, with a microcosm of the historic struggle between Unionism and nationalism—not just over the past 28 years, during the current troubles, but over the centuries, ever since the titanic religious and constitutional struggles of the 17th century. They are about displays of identity. They are about defiance—a siege mentality on both sides, 505 which has yet to be resolved. Above all, they are about territory—the mosaic of settlement—on what is described as the "narrow ground", which has done so much to forge the patterns of conflict that have characterised almost every stage of the so-called Ulster crisis.
When violence erupts, it is a reminder to us all of the real tensions and insecurities that are constantly there below the surface of society in Northern Ireland. Only when the ancient insecurities are lifted and a new accommodation between the two divisions in Northern Ireland has been forged, will the parades and processions take on the form that everyone in the House and elsewhere desires: displays of cultural traditions that can be respected, and even enjoyed, by all parts of the community in Northern Ireland. That is what the current talks process is all about, so we wish it well.
However, the immediate background to the Bill is one of the ugliest manifestations of the divisions in Northern Ireland: the violently disputed march, every July, at Drumcree in the constituency of the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), and the subsequent stand-off and violence.
Drumcree is only an example of the increasing number of disputed parades throughout the Province. There are several others. The Orange and Black Preceptory parades on the Ormeau road in Belfast, the Apprentice Boys annual parade in Derry and the Orange parade in Magherafelt in County Tyrone are a few examples.
However, undoubtedly Drumcree has encapsulated the difficulties of the parades issue. Drumcree was the catalyst for the previous Conservative Government to establish the North review, to consider the issue of parades in Northern Ireland and to recommend ways in which they might be handled in future. I should like to place on the record once again our gratitude to the North review and to associate the official Opposition with the broad thrust of its conclusions.
Two principles guided our approach to the issue of parades when we were in government, and they continue to guide us now. First, let me be unequivocal. The official Opposition support the rights of organisations to hold parades in Northern Ireland. On both sides of the community, they are perfectly legitimate, not to say colourful, means of cultural expression. They are, within the law, an integral part of a free society.
Let no one forget that the vast majority of marches in Northern Ireland pass off peacefully. In many cases, they date back centuries. The Orange Order has been around since 1795, the Apprentice Boys since the 1820s. The Ancient Order of Hibernians has a lengthy history.
Many of the marches have been held along the same routes since the organisations were founded. However, in some cases the demography of the routes that have been marched has changed considerably, not least in the past 20 years and as a result of the troubles.
For example, 20 years ago the Lower Ormeau road was predominantly Protestant. It is now a very strongly republican area yet, not unnaturally, the Orange Order wishes to continue to parade along the route that it regards as traditional. That presents us with very difficult problems and the potential for public disorder.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
As the hon. Gentleman mentioned my constituency, I felt that I should comment. 506 He may have made a slip of the tongue when he spoke about a disputed parade in Magherafelt in County Tyrone. I think it would have been Bellaghy in County Londonderry, because I am not aware of Magherafelt being in County Tyrone.
Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that it is not a question of simply retaining a traditional route on the Ormeau road? It is the main route on which people walk, day in, day out, to their business places, and it links Ballynafeigh and Donegal] Pass, which are two Protestant areas.
§ Mr. MacKay
I confirm that and I apologise to the hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) for the slip of the tongue in saying Tyrone, not Londonderry. I am grateful.
Coupled with the right to march are the rights of residents of a different tradition who object—sometimes violently—to what they regard as triumphalism and intimidation or, in effect, an invasion of territory that they regard as their own.
I understand the suspicion of some hon. Members—especially from Northern Ireland—about the nature of many of the residents associations that seem to have proliferated in recent years and the fact that many of them appear to be manipulated by Sinn Fein-IRA, as the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) well illustrated in an intervention, but residents' rights must be respected.
Today we are trying to strike a balance between those two elements: the right to march and the rights of residents, which are at the heart of the struggle at Drumcree. They are at the heart of the Bill.
If parades are a microcosm of the problems in Northern Ireland, Drumcree is a microcosm of the parades issue. For the best part of two centuries, the Orange Order has sought to walk from the Protestant church at Drumcree along a route that takes it along the Garvaghy road, through a strongly republican area. As the Minister said, in each of the past three years the marchers have been resisted by violent protesters. Serious breaches of the peace, including loss of life, have probably been averted only by the resolution of the security forces. I utterly condemn those who have resorted to violence or broken the law on such occasions.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, as has been said, the Garvaghy road and the Ormeau road are not roads passing through residential areas, but main arterial roads? Is he further aware that there is little, if any, evidence that parades passing those points in approximately 20 minutes annually are likely to give rise to any reasonable cause of fear, threat or intimidation to residents adjoining those main arterial routes?
§ Mr. MacKay
The hon. and learned Gentleman is right to say that they adjoin. I do not want to go into details; I believe that the Minister was correct in saying that that would not be helpful this afternoon. In the case of the Garvaghy road, that main road passes down one side of a nationalist housing estate and causes offence; that is beyond dispute. Whether that should be of overwhelming 507 influence is entirely another matter and no doubt an argument that the hon. and learned Gentleman will wish to develop in his speech.
§ Mr. Trimble
Something has always fascinated me about the Drumcree church parade and its return down the main road into Portadown. As has been said, along the Garvaghy road, the estates are set back some distance from the road, but along the Drumcree road before its junction with the Garvaghy road, the estate borders the road, and there has never been trouble at that point. There has never, to my knowledge, on the five occasions on which I have walked there, been any sign of residents being annoyed or upset by the parade there, but on turning the corner into the Garvaghy road, one finds that people have come out of the estates and congregated at points some distance from the housing, for the purpose of trying to attack those who are walking home from church. The geography is more complex, but I draw attention to the fact that there are no protests at the point where the estate borders the route that is walked.
§ Mr. MacKay
That was an extremely important and helpful intervention. I, and I hope other hon. Members, will not want to second-guess the hon. Gentleman on the geography of his constituency, and will want to take careful note of his first-hand observations of marches over a number of years. He might wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to pursue those matters further in due course.
I return to the subject of the violence. I repeat that the Opposition, and I am sure the Government, utterly condemn those who have resorted to violence or who break the law on such occasions. In many cases, the violence has been premeditated and very carefully orchestrated. I pay tribute to those who have sought to defuse community tensions at marches throughout Northern Ireland and who have been prepared to compromise, particularly last summer.
I commend the Royal Ulster Constabulary, supported by the Army, on the professionalism and impartiality that they displayed at Drumcree in the face of appalling provocation from both sides. I agree with the Chief Constable of the RUC, who complained that, year after year, the RUC has been put in the middle, which is an impossible situation for the police force. The RUC has endured much unjustified criticism of how the parade at Drumcree and other parades throughout Northern Ireland have been policed. On behalf of the Opposition, I reject that criticism entirely. The Chief Constable had to make difficult judgments on the ground in an unbelievably tense situation. It does not behove Members of Parliament, particularly those whose constituencies the marches do not go through, to second-guess the Chief Constable, whose main duty is to maintain law and order and to minimise the risk of loss of life.
In Londonderry last week, we saw the position in which the police have continually found themselves. The RUC deserves not our condemnation but our whole-hearted 508 support. I agree that the RUC, especially the Chief Constable, has been placed in a no-win situation. Whatever he does or decides, he will be criticised by one side or the other, which is one reason why I believe that this legislation is necessary.
The struggle at Drumcree has gone down in folklore on both sides. One of the Bill's key objectives is to avoid confrontation at that parade and at others throughout Northern Ireland in the future. We support that, as we do the establishment of the Parades Commission. We wish Alastair Graham and his team well in their efforts to reach peaceful resolutions, on the basis of consensus, to the difficulties that might arise. We do not underestimate the difficulties that lie ahead. The Opposition recognise that some of the Parades Commission's adjudications will be controversial and might go against the wishes of one side or the other. However, I hope that all parties and all sections of the community will approach its work in a constructive and co-operative manner.
When the Government introduced the Bill, we had many concerns, which were widely shared in the other place. A number of them have now been satisfactorily resolved. The Government agreed to strike out one of the main clauses—clause 3—rewrite six of the other 18 clauses and two of the three schedules, and alter the short and long titles. I shall not rehearse again the arguments that were used in the other place other than to comment in passing on the remarkable degree of consensus there. That was particularly the case on clause 3, which has now been struck out of the Bill, together with all references to it. We very much welcome that.
In its original form, clause 3 would have enabled the commission to consider all kinds of outdoor expressions of cultural identity, such as church services and gable ends, although not offensive sporting occasions. Now the Bill deals only with processions such as parades and protests, which is how it should be. As my noble Friend Lord Cope said in another place, the Secretary of State's powers to ban parades and protests are not made any easier by the Bill, as the threshold has been increased to "serious public disorder" and "serious damage to property".
The penalties for parade organisers when parades go wrong are no longer four times as much as for those who set out to break up parades. The same penalties will be available for organisers of, or participants in, an illegal parade held without notice as are available for the organisers of, or participants in, a legal parade that goes wrong in some way. Previously, the penalties were much stiffer for legal parade organisers and participants, which cannot be what the Minister intended.
The Government will also use the old definition of processions, which includes cavalcades of cars or vehicle processions.
In short, we now have a much fairer and more balanced Bill, which is likely to be more effective and, although it does not provide all the answers to the parades issue, it is workable. Importantly, the Bill as now constituted is not the anti-parades Bill demanded by some, which is not to say that the Opposition parties will not want to look closely at the detail in Committee to see whether there is scope for establishing common ground, to improve the Bill still further. As it stands, however, and as a result of the changes already accepted by the Government, we intend to give the Bill an unopposed Second Reading.
§ Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)
The Bill is a sad reflection of the inability of communities in Northern Ireland to come to terms with and accept the diversity of political, cultural and religious beliefs and aspirations. The Bill and other Bills of this nature are a poor substitute for the good will and tolerance that should exist in any community. People should not only accept the differences and diversity that exist within communities but desist from acts that infringe the rights and even the sensitivities of others. If true tolerance existed, the confrontational problems in Northern Ireland could and would be resolved locally and amicably. The problem would not have to be addressed by a Bill which, even with the best will in the world, is a blunt and clumsy instrument to deal with the failure of human relationships.
Many people will argue and try to convince us that all Orange parades, Black Preceptory parades and Apprentice Boys parades are mere expressions of religious culture. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said that they were expressions of political and other beliefs, rather than simply religious, as we are led to believe. If the parades are somehow rooted in customary practice, they should be sacrosanct and inviolable, irrespective of the harm that some of them do to the community in terms of injury to people, destruction of property and damage to the reputation of Northern Ireland as a whole.
Many parades are genuine in terms of their truly religious and otherwise innocent intent, but it must be said that some specific parades, while under the guise of religious occasions, are based totally on a display and assertion of dominance, superiority and subjugation. Primary among those must be the infamous parades at Drumcree in the past three years.
§ Mr. Trimble
The hon. Gentleman claims that the walk to and from Drumcree parish church is for the purpose of intimidating people. I am sure that he is aware that the parade started in 1807, and until the last couple of decades, on its journey back into Portadown along the Garvaghy road, it did not pass by the housing of any person who would be upset by it. If the hon. Gentleman suggests that that church procession is for the purpose of intimidation, what on earth was happening from 1807 until just a couple of decades ago?
§ Mr. McGrady
The hon. Gentleman, who is leader of the Ulster Unionist party, would have us believe that the Drumcree march is simply an expression of religious belief. In his earlier intervention on the hon. Member for Bracknell, he said that the local community lived some distance from the Garvaghy road, which would lead the House to believe that it was miles from the scene of events. Yet on the last occasion, because the march passed down the Garvaghy road, the people on that street could not attend their place of worship and had to perform that religious act of worship in the open air. So much for the lack of proximity.
If the parade is truly a religious expression, the backdrop to it is anything but religious. Bulldozers were brought along and other unmentioned and unprovable events took place behind the scenes, threatening not only public order but the life and limb of entire communities. That is what we are dealing with. If it was genuinely 510 religious and not an expression of dominance and subjugation, why could not that march to Drumcree church, which was so graphically described by the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, have returned by the same route, without any hindrance? The alternative route by which the marchers came was available for them to go back. No amount of tradition—10, 50 or 200 years—can justify the expression of that so-called right at the expense of the consequences that follow.
The decision to allow the Orange parade to march along the Garvaghy road was wrong in principle, and in terms of justice, law and order. No statement from the Secretary of State or the Chief Constable can justify that decision. By his own declaration at the time, to which the Minister referred in his introduction to the debate, the Chief Constable was saying that law enforcement could be based only on the principle of submission to the greater evil. The evil to which he was referring was that of the loyalist and Orange violence against the nationalist community at Garvaghy road.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the confrontations at Drumcree of which he complains were really occasioned by protests against a lawful parade? It was the threat of intercommunity violence, not least by members of the nationalist community, that caused the interface in which the Chief Constable was placed in the odious position in which he found himself. To suggest that it was solely the responsibility of those who chose to parade along a route that they had taken for 200 years is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.
§ Mr. McGrady
I cannot say that I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for his intervention, but I shall deal with the facts that he has given. Let me put the situation to the House in a different context. If the march is not a triumphalist and subjugatory expression, why are medals struck in the subsequent couple of months each year to commemorate the event—to commemorate the daring and courage of those who march down the Garvaghy road? For all I know, a bar could have been struck for the medal last summer. Is that an expression of religious tolerance? The facts are different. The intent was to intimidate, and intimidation took place.
I referred to the Chief Constable saying that law enforcement must be based on the principle of submission to the greater evil. The Chief Constable specifically sent the security forces into the estates on the Garvaghy road to confine members of the nationalist community. That decision was based on the distorted argument that, as he said, he was protecting their lives from the greater evil—his words, not mine. The Secretary of State fully endorsed that decision, and added the abysmally weak rider that she hoped that as a consequence the Orange Order would be "generous".
§ Mr. McGrady
I have given way quite enough; I want to get on.
Inexperience may be an excuse, but lack of principle in high position is never an excuse. The Secretary of State and the forces of law and order were not capable on those 511 occasions—July 1995, 1996 and 1997—of upholding and enforcing the rule of law or the principles of justice and equity. The subsequent debate has been clouded by the argument that it was a religious march and that the marchers were prevented from coming back from their church. I have already argued in response to a question that if community harmony, religious freedom and so on were at the heart of decision making, the parade could have returned without incident by the way that it had come to its church.
§ Mr. Ingram
I appreciate the depth of feeling on the matter. If the decision had been taken to ban that parade, what is the hon. Gentleman's assessment of the potential state of public order thereafter? That is the judgment that the Chief Constable had to make, and that is why he used the language that he used. Did the hon. Gentleman want to see something worse visited on Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. McGrady
I thank the Minister for his intervention. Is he offering the same justification as the Chief Constable, that the greater evil is that which should prevail? That is the import of the hon. Gentleman's question. The answer to the question, "What would happen if" or, "What would happen if not" should be based on the common principles of law, justice and equality, rather than on who can mount the bigger force or threaten more violence.
As other speakers have said, we must not play into the hands of those who orchestrate violence in the pretence of making a protest—the so-called defenders of the nationalist communities, who simply perpetrate their violence also on the nationalist communities. There are some genuine community groups that are anxious to alleviate the problem and eradicate dissension, but there are other groups that are dominated by other agencies determined to exacerbate the violence and mayhem that occur. I hope that in future all those in the nationalist community will carefully consider their actions and not allow themselves to be used by the paramilitaries in that hypocritical and cynical way.
Last week's events in Derry, which could be perceived as a precursor of today's debate, illustrate the enormity of the potential for a parade to destroy all the work that has been done to create a settled political climate, a more attractive economic environment and a better way of life. One afternoon's work, and it is all gone.
We are tired in Northern Ireland. We are weary of events, and we are also very angry at the fact that in Derry, two relatively small sections of a large and tolerant community can bring such mayhem, destruction and economic damage to a great city within a few hours.
In the six months from 1 April to 30 September this year, there were 2,687 parades in Northern Ireland. According to a parliamentary answer, it was judged that 2,401 of them were Orange and Unionist parades, and 286 were nationalist parades. Although it must be acknowledged that few of those parades give rise to problems, the sheer weight of repetition in every community of parade after parade exacerbates the position.
Two factors could considerably alleviate the problem arising from the excess of parading. One is the voluntary restriction of the number of occasions on which marches are held. The second is the expression of greater tolerance 512 by the communities towards those who wish to march for whatever reason—religious or traditional—as long as it is innocent in intent. I think that the Bill attempts to address that point.
I am not sure that now is the appropriate time to discuss the details of the Bill, but I wish to comment on some broad aspects of the legislation at this early stage. I shall do so not according to their importance but according to their sequential appearance in the Bill. I am concerned about clause 2(2)(a), which gives the commission power to mediate between parties. That clause is particularly worrying when one takes account of the power in clause 2(2)(b), which requires the commission to issue determinations in respect of parades.
I suggest that it is not good practice for a body that is engaged in mediation to make decisions about parades also. The commission should certainly assist and facilitate mediation, but I do not believe that it should make determinations. I fear that that would compromise the commission's role and might lead to unnecessary confusion, unwarranted allegations and a diminution of regard for any final determination regarding a parade.
A theme seems to run through clause 3, which deals with the code of conduct, clause 6, which deals with advance notice of parades, and other parts of the Bill. I shall refer to that specifically on another occasion. However, in almost every circumstance—whether it be determination of a parade, the conditions for a parade, the registration of bands or offences for interrupting parades—the Bill allows for power to filter back eventually to the Secretary of State or through the Chief Constable to the Secretary of State. As I said this morning, it looks as if one is keeping a dog and barking oneself.
I thought that the Bill would provide for a commission that would take out of the political-security arena the decision making regarding parades. However, it seems to keep introducing that power into controversial areas. Almost every part of the Bill, including clauses 3 and 6, goes into some detail about referring power back to the Secretary of State.
Clause 7(6)(e) refers to a matter that the commission must consider when determining whether a parade should go ahead and under what conditions. The clause refers tothe desirability of allowing a procession customarily held along a particular route to be held along that route.The vexing question of traditionality has been raised in the debate. I have an anecdote about my experience of traditionality. There were some problems with a small parade that was held in an area not far from my constituency—I shall not name it, as that would only exacerbate the situation. The parade caused some offence and residents went to the police to request assistance. The police said that they could not do anything about it, because it was a traditional parade.
One would imagine that a traditional parade had some tradition. However, this parade took place on a new housing estate along a hammerhead cul-de-sac 150 yd long. It was a green-field site two years ago and there was no proper road, but the police allowed the parade to go ahead on the basis of traditionality. It devalues the concept of traditionality to allow parades to take place in local areas such as that.
I thought that the underlying purpose of the Bill was to take away from the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable the decisions regarding parades and the 513 conditions attached thereto, yet every part of the Bill inexplicably pushes the problem back to them—I was looking forward to a more positive and dynamic new dimension.
I have highlighted several concerns that large sections of the community in the north of Ireland have about some of the details of the proposed legislation. I hope that, in his winding-up speech, the Minister will address my concerns about referral of powers to the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable and the suggestion about bringing the Police Authority on to the scene at some stage. Perhaps the Government will amend the Bill in Committee.
It is important that we end the conflict about parades in Northern Ireland once and for all. I hope that the draft Bill will establish a really independent Parades Commission with determining powers on a statutory basis, in line with the North review. That would provide a possible vehicle for ending the bitter conflict that we have witnessed over so many years. On behalf of my party and all of those whom it represents, I wish the commission well in its very difficult task. I hope that that task will be made easier by the support and understanding that it will receive from the entire Northern Ireland community. My party supports the Bill.
§ Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry)
This is a very important Bill and a very important debate—I am only sorry that so few hon. Members are in the Chamber to listen to and participate in it. That is partially the fault of those who scheduled the debate for a Thursday night just before Christmas—it should have been considered earlier in the week.
Some of the Minister's opening remarks made me wonder exactly what he thinks is going on in Northern Ireland. I was particularly interested in his comment that many players are involved in parades. Perhaps he will tell us how many players were involved on Saturday and what interests they were pursuing. As he is clearly aware of the personalities and the backgrounds of the different players involved, he must have inquired of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as to who was protesting against, and participating in, the parades.
There were certainly enough photographs taken and enough video cameras in the hands of the police and the security forces to allow identification of every known IRA player, terrorist, ex-terrorist, ex-thug and ex-murderer who has served a prison sentence and who was present on the streets of Dungiven, Bellaghy, Londonderry and many other places. Harryville had nothing to do with a parade: it was a protest outside a church—which I think that every hon. Member on the Unionist Benches would object to because we do not see what good it will do anyone.
As the Minister obviously knows the IRA and Sinn Fein-related persons who were involved in those protests, will he give their names to the House or publish a list? I think that many people would be interested in that information. The Minister could publish their photographs if he has not managed to identify them. We shall get them identified because we know who those individuals are, and we know that some of them travel 30 or 40 miles to be intimidated and insulted at such gatherings.
514 It is interesting that the Minister refused to give way to me on the question of history. I thought that every hon. Member would acknowledge that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it endlessly. Yet a Minister of the Crown stood before us today saying, "No, no, no. I don't want to know where we have come from and I don't want to know how we got here." That seems to be a peculiar way for any Minister to proceed.
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McCrady) cited some statistics today. I must confess that I have been trying to collect detailed statistics on parades and processions for some years—and I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have received mighty little help from the police or anyone else.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
Order. It is sometimes confusing if two hon. Members seek to intervene at the same time. I ask the hon. Gentleman to make it clear to which hon. Gentleman he wishes to give way.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Does my hon. Friend accept that, of the 2,000 parades to which he has referred, about 400 or 500 are recorded on 12 July, and that they are duplicated in that one in the morning and one in the evening are counted as separate parades? It is exceedingly difficult to obtain accurate details from the authorities.
§ Mr. Ross
That is the very point that I was making.
I was given global figures for Northern Ireland. I attempted to ascertain the position in the police division which I represent for 1996. I discovered that, in that year, there were 267 parades that were tagged as loyalist, along with 34 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which was roughly 10 per cent. of the total. The Sinn Fein republicans' parades represented about 8 per cent. I assume that those parades were those of which the police were given due and timely notice. The Royal British Legion had 25, as did the youth organisations.
I was astonished that youth organisations such as the Boys Brigade, the Girls Brigade, the Scout movement and other bodies, to name only the Protestant youth organisations, were able to reach a total of only 25. I thought that there was something wrong with the police statistics. I am sure that there are more than 25 such organisations.
The various loyalist organisations reach a considerable total but it is not one that represents an overwhelming number of loyalist parades every day of the week, especially when many of the so-called Orange parades are merely band collection expeditions round the country. Those parades must amount to a large proportion of the total that we are discussing.
It is necessary to understand the background to the parades and that which is being labelled as a parade, which are somewhat different concepts. With that understanding, a different picture begins to emerge.
Given that I found it difficult to obtain accurate statistics, I asked the police for a more detailed breakdown. I was told in February that a new statistical 515 system, which would be able to provide a more detailed set of statistics, had been implemented from the beginning of 1997.
As it happens, I tabled a parliamentary question at the end of July. I discovered from the answer that, until then, while there had been 1,576 loyalist parades and 254 others, only 114 nationalist parades took place. The hon. Member for South Down will appreciate that that was before 15 August, when a large proportion of the nationalist parades take place.
§ Mr. McGrady
The figures that I quoted were those that were cited in response to my parliamentary question, which was answered on 14 November. The figures related to a period from 1 April 1997 to 30 September 1997.
§ Mr. Ross
Yes, I read the question and the answer. The Minister received a letter from me in November in which I asked for a breakdown of the statistics. I hope that, sooner or later, he will be able to provide an answer, setting out what parades took place and what they were about. Were they church parades or collection parades? What were they? We must be aware of the detailed facts, because the devil is in the detail. We must have that information if we are fully to understand the situation.
A lack of understanding is common on the part of those who are trying to ascertain the detail of what is going on in Northern Ireland. I recall clearly that, in 1985, shortly after the then Prime Minister signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Baroness Thatcher, as she now is, said that she had signed it because something had to be done to stop the violence. Those words revealed a great void in her understanding of what was going on in Northern Ireland. That void remains unfilled to this day.
Lack of understanding is perhaps a true cause of violence in Northern Ireland. Such understanding is blocked by a well-fertilised and impregnable hedge of misdirection and political malice, often created by the IRA's propaganda machine, helped by its fellow travellers on the road to the all-Ireland republic that they desire.
The school of thought that produced the idea that something had to be done, without thinking through what that something should be—the reaction in 1985—is probably that which produced the foolish and ultimately dangerous Bill that we are discussing. I believe that the Bill will fail as the party procession legislation of the previous century failed.
§ Mr. Ross
I shall detail the reasons why I take the view that I do before I conclude my speech. I ask the hon. Gentleman to restrain himself. I am aware that he has some knowledge of Northern Ireland, having grown up there. When I have finished, I think that he will understand the process of thought that has led me to my conclusions.
It is a plain fact that IRA-Sinn Fein and their spiritual predecessors of whatever name have long hated every manifestation of the desire of the Unionist population in Northern Ireland to remain within this realm, governed as it is by a constitutional monarchy and Parliament. Their desire is for a republican form of government. I do not 516 know whether those on the Government Front Bench share that view but, given that those who occupy it have taken the oath or affirmation, I feel certain that they support the principle of constitutional monarchy.
One of the most visible and potent symbols of the desire to remain within the kingdom has been the Orange order and its sister organisations, the Royal Black Institution and the Apprentice Boys. They were, and are, visible because their members and halls are present in almost every town, village and hamlet in Northern Ireland. As well, their major celebrations are large and colourful occasions.
Those organisations are potent because their membership is large and much of it is active in the religious and political life of Northern Ireland. They are well recognised by Irish republicans as a bulwark of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. These republican organisations well understand that, if the loyalist orders could be destroyed, or at least weakened, one of the strongest webs which unites the Ulster Protestant population would be greatly diminished. If so, the cohesion and strength of the Unionist position would be correspondingly reduced.
As that is so, the Ulster Protestant loyalist orders have long been a prime target for attack by violent republicanism, and non-violent republicanism tags cheerfully along because it shares the constitutional objectives of the gunmen and the bombers.
People outside Northern Ireland do not know those things. They see only a group of people who want to go where others, claiming to be either residents, or representatives of the residents, do not want them. Most people in Great Britain cannot understand the underlying, carefully concealed purpose of the objectors and believe that the stated purpose is the real one.
Sadly, some folk also believe the atrocious lie that the objections are spontaneous despite the fact that the leader of Sinn Fein, Mr. Adams, told his supporters that the preparations for the current confrontations took two years. It is only when we focus on the whole scene and place it in the context of the IRA assault on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland that events make sense. The long-term strategy set out by the IRA before violence was exploded in the late 1960s was that the campaign had to be a perfect blend of politics and violence.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, after the first IRA ceasefire on 31 August 1994, when the overt use of the bomb and the gun stopped, the IRA deliberately opened a second front, which consisted of civil unrest, attacks on parades and the spreading of violence among the community at large? As the hon. Gentleman has said, that has been publicly acknowledged by Mr. Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein-IRA, who has stated that that process did not happen accidentally but was the result of careful preparation over a period of years.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he also agree that, alongside that, there has been a sustained campaign over the years to attempt to burn out every Orange hall in the country?
§ Mr. Ross
I recall going to the General Synod of my church in May this year, when a great deal of hot air 517 was being expended on the attacks on Catholic churches, and on the foolish behaviour such as that in Harryville. I was able to point out that the statistics that I had compiled on those incidents show that the vast majority of the buildings that were suffering arson and bomb damage were Protestant owned, and that a large proportion—at least two thirds—of the churches that had suffered damage by bomb and arson were Protestant churches.
In the 1960s, at first violence took centre stage. Politics publicly reared its head only on rare occasions, for example, when the IRA leadership was let out of prison and flown to London for consultations with the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, now Lord Whitelaw. The political element next appeared with the articulation of the Armalite and ballot box strategy, which eventually led to the ceasefires, as part of the progression of that strategy.
I should point out how careful the IRA has always been in the words that it uses, for the term "complete cessation of military operations"—that gets at what the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) was saying—does not imply that it is the end of what it calls its war against the British state. It was—and is—only a change of tactics within its broad strategy. It knew that its efforts to stop the processions would be resisted and create a volatile situation that would be certain to end in violence, and, of course, it was prepared to help that along with its organisation throughout the Province. The statistics of the burnings—the arson, the attacks on vehicles and so on—show that the number of incidents was always much, much higher in the areas with a high population of republicans and nationalists than it was in Protestant areas. Those statistics are available for anyone who wants them.
Violence—any violence—is very damaging to Northern Ireland, and therefore is very much welcomed by those who are determined to end the existence of Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. In that context, I invite the House to look again at the events that took place in Londonderry last Saturday, and, indeed, at the problem that the Bill purports to resolve. That particular Apprentice Boys function goes back, I understand, to 1718—the first recorded occasion of the burning of Lundy—predating the formation of the Orange Order. It is probably the oldest such demonstration in Ireland. It is also a fact that, at one time, there were many similar commemorations in other towns and villages, which now survive in only a few locations, for example, Limavady, in my constituency, where the demonstration goes back a very long way; in Omagh, where I think it still takes place; and in Belfast, which is a relatively new demonstration.
The closest parallel to this type of behaviour in Great Britain is the burning of Guy Fawkes in Lewes and a number of other places in Sussex. It is quite evident from what we have seen on our television screens that the violence in Londonderry was carefully planned. The police knew beforehand that there would be a riot and took precautions. They were then accused of a heavy-handed presence. We even had Mr. McGuinness—not the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), but the leader of Sinn Fein-IRA—in Londonderry saying that some would go considerably 518 further than that. We heard him saying, "It doesn't really take these lads very long to fill up a thousand petrol bombs." I have worked it out. It is nearly 400 gallons of petrol, at a pint a bottle. Who paid for the petrol? Where did they get it from? Did they just stop a tanker? It is not done in five minutes. It is not planned in five minutes. I do not think that printers or painters work on Saturday mornings, yet there was a big banner hanging over the Richmond centre, which the rioters had managed to invade, attacking the RUC. The police knew that there was going to be a riot, and they knew who was behind it.
The violence that erupted in Londonderry last Saturday spread over most of the old commercial heart of the city. It was not confined to the very small area in which the parade was taking place. The parade through that part of the city would normally be over in about 20 or 25 minutes. The riot was not only vicious and sustained. It was very carefully directed at a number of carefully chosen targets, one of which was the Government, who were being sent a plain message about the capability of IRA-Sinn Fein to switch on the violence when they wish. There were also a number of subtexts about the Government's slowness to create the united Ireland that the IRA wants; the meeting with the Prime Minister and Sinn Fein last week; and IRA members in prison and what would be done for them. I notice that nine of them got out in the Irish Republic today.
The second target was the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The banner displayed read, "Disband the RUC". The chants were not anti-Apprentice Boys. They were "SSRUC, SSRUC". There was an underlying demand for the police to stop all demonstrations by the loyal orders, or else, especially in the west bank in Londonderry.
The third target was a message that was sent to the local business community: "Exert pressure to stop all demonstrations by those dedicated to the Union in this city or you will suffer." Finally, of course, there were the Apprentice Boys, who were being told that they would be allowed to do only what Sinn Fein-IRA would permit. That is a common theme throughout the affair, right across the country.
§ Mr. Trimble
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I think that he has left a further target off his list, and a further objective that Sinn Fein-IRA had in organising the riot in Londonderry at the weekend—the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and his party. The hon. Member for Foyle had contributed significantly to the peaceful resolution of earlier difficulties about different parades in Londonderry, so Sinn Fein-IRA decided to create a problem, which had not been a problem hitherto, and to ensure that it was not resolved peacefully in order to damage the SDLP and its representative.
§ Mr. Ross
I was going to draw a gentle veil over the hurt and damage done to the SDLP and principally to its leader. I was at a gathering at which he was present the day before, and at that time he was very upbeat about the possibility of the problems being resolved. His face was very much shoved into the mud by the IRA and the way in which it behaved in that city on that occasion.
What is the end result of this? It is, of course, to get the Government, the police and the business community united yet again in their demand that the loyal orders talk directly to the IRA. We heard the same theme in the 519 opening speeches of today's debate. It runs through the proposed legislation from beginning to end. It runs through all the events leading up to it. It is a consequence of not understanding that this aspect of the multi-faceted reign of terror that we have lived with is but a tactic in one battle in a terrorist war to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.
When Ministers point us in that direction, whether they know it or not, they are informing Sinn Fein-IRA that the Government are relinquishing control of the streets to the terrorists' demands. I know that the Government will deny that—they always do—but I have set out the practical working out of following the path laid out in the Bill. If only the Government would look with care at the real reason for the terrorist assault, they would see that it is all about sovereignty over the territory of Northern Ireland. It is not about rights. It is not about jobs. It is not about parades or religion. It is about which nation governs and controls the six counties of Northern Ireland.
It is for that reason that the noble Lord Fitt was wrong when, referring to the 1966 riots in the Falls road, he described the Irish tricolour as a cultural symbol of the individual who was displaying it. It is not a cultural symbol in that context. It is a national flag and it is flown by republicans in Northern Ireland as a territorial claim—a fact to which members of both Front-Bench teams have consistently and assiduously closed their eyes.
This, I say again, is foolish and dangerous legislation. It is built upon deceiving words and the misconceptions taken up by Governments—this one and previous ones—as truth. It creates another factory of grievances in Northern Ireland. It will cause far greater mischief than at present exists in the whole area.
I have to tell the Government plainly that there are not just a few contentious parades. There are as many contentious parades as the IRA wants to create, and it will create as many, in as many places, as suits its purpose at a given time in a given year.
The best, perhaps the only solution—I put it in the broadest terms—is to put all existing processions through and look with care at new creations. If the Government do so with firmness, in a few years they will have created a situation in which processions will again be able to proceed in peace. In contrast, the Bill can ensure only that the number of violent incidents will increase year by year.
I have sat for longer than anyone else from Northern Ireland on the Unionist Benches, and I have lived in Northern Ireland all my life. The first contentious parade that I saw was on coronation day in 1953 in Dungiven when the IRA took over a large chunk of that town and set up its field kitchens to feed its followers and pressurise the local Roman Catholic population into supporting it, all because a local band was to lead the children in their fancy dress parade. I was 17 at the time. When I speak in the House on these matters, I speak with a background of knowledge and a depth of experience that no one on either Front Bench can even begin to comprehend, never mind match.
§ Mr. Tony Colman (Putney)
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in the debate. I follow the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) by saying that it is important that all hon. Members, particularly new Members, should comprehend and 520 understand the situation in Northern Ireland. It is perhaps unusual for a London Member of Parliament to speak in such a debate, but some 600,000 Londoners are of Irish descent. According to the 1990–91 census, 214,000 were born in the Republic of Ireland and 42,000 in Northern Ireland.
My second reason for wishing to speak in the debate is that I was privileged to serve on an all-party group which visited Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland last week to understand—to use the phrase of the hon. Member for East Londonderry—Northern Ireland's multi-faceted society. I particularly thank all those whom we met in our attempt to understand the background to the talks process. We met politicians, RUC representatives, business people, people from the community and representatives of civil society.
In particular, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson), the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), and the Secretary of State, who helped to set up the arrangements. We had an interesting stop-over in an excellent fast-food restaurant in Newry on the way from Belfast down to Dublin.
It is important to reflect that the work that we were learning about was cross-party, going back to previous Governments. I pay tribute to the work of Sir Patrick Mayhew, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. All hon. Members should understand and comprehend the situation in Northern Ireland. Autumn 1997 in the House has been dominated by Northern Ireland, and rightly so. It is the key issue of the hour. The issues that we debate were referred to by the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram)—fairness, justice and equality.
Five measures have emerged during the past few months. First, the employment equality review of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights was completed this summer and made more than 160 recommendations. I look forward to the full paper in the new year, as I am sure do other hon. Members.
Secondly, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill was fully debated into the early hours of the morning in Committee and, as a member of that Committee, I started to comprehend Northern Ireland's multi-faceted society.
Thirdly, the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill, which received its Second Reading earlier this week, will improve the effectiveness and accountability of the police in Northern Ireland.
Fourthly, a White Paper has been published on the incorporation of the European convention on human rights into United Kingdom law. For the first time, that establishes fundamental human rights guarantees for all people in Northern Ireland and Britain.
The fifth measure is the Bill that we are debating today, which encourages accommodation over disputed parades and, where that fails, empowers an independent commission to determine whether and how a parade should go ahead. That follows the recommendations of the North report.
I pay tribute to the work done by my noble Friend Lord Dubs, with other Members of the other place, in achieving a consensus, certainly between the Opposition and the 521 Government, although we have heard this evening that that consensus did not extend to all parties. The removal of clause 3, the equalisation of penalties and the reintroduction of the word "serious" into clause 10 were supported by all parties in the other place.
I reiterate what has been said by the hon. Members for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and for South Down (Mr. McGrady). The vast proportion of the marches pass off without any problem. Of nearly 3,000 in 1996, only 15 had problems. Of a similar number in 1997, again few had problems.
Like all hon. Members here, I am obviously concerned about the troubles in Londonderry, or Derry, last weekend. I hope that such problems would have been avoided had the commission been in place. I note the £5 million cost of those troubles and I hope that the business community, representatives of which I met last week, will regard it as an aberration and continue their investment in Northern Ireland, which has tremendous opportunities for the business community. I note the comments of the hon. Member for South Down condemning all those involved.
The all-party group met a number of people last week and I felt that there was strong hope for a better future for Northern Ireland. We should not forget the past but we should work towards a vision for the future.
The highlight of the days that I spent in Northern Ireland was a meeting with women's groups, set up by Lady Mayhew, to whose continued interest in Northern Ireland I pay tribute. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) put a slightly different slant on those discussions. To put the record straight, the women's groups there were very much in favour of additional child care and training for single parents to enable them to return to work.
§ Mr. Colman
Having spoken to the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough, I understand that he is happy for me to bring the matter up, as he also wishes that the House should not be misinformed of the nature of that meeting.
I was about to talk about what to me was perhaps the defining moment when we met that group of people—an eloquent presentation by May Blood of the Greater Shankill area partnership board and Geraldine O'Regan of the Upper Springfield development trust. They were working together on their joint application for European Union urban funds and the European peace and reconciliation moneys that are available.
I believe that the work that those women are carrying out is apposite as an example of what we can learn from. Many good things are happening in Northern Ireland, such as the work on the early years programme and the training for life project. Those are activities that we can learn from, adopt and carry forward in the rest of the UK.
Hon. Members might ask what that has to do with the Bill. I noticed that all the communities that we met wanted peace—not peace at any price, but peace on the basis of fairness, justice and equality. I believe that the Bill is a further step towards that achievement.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)
This is a vital debate for the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. Alas, many people have not been prepared to study the situation. I deeply resent the falsehood that the Minister put into my mouth. I did not ask him to go down the road of history, but I asked him to look at the history of the legislation before us.
We had better get the facts of the matter straight. Today at the Dispatch Box, the Minister seemed unaware that something had happened on this date some time ago—a disaster for democracy, when an attempt was made by the Conservative Government to thrust down the throats of the vast majority of the people in Northern Ireland an Anglo-Irish Agreement.
That agreement was never made the law of this country, but now I notice that in the talks Bertie Ahern wants it to be made the law of this country by doctoring the Government of Ireland Act 1920, and bringing it in as part of that. Of course that is an outrageous suggestion, totally unacceptable to the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was thrust upon the people of Northern Ireland and rushed through the House. It was to be the panacea for all the evils in Northern Ireland. How foolish those people, even Lady Thatcher who was one of its sponsors, appear in the aftermath of what took place.
We are in an aftermath now. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) has left the Chamber—oh no, there he is on the Back Bench. Perhaps he might take notice of some of the things I am saying, if he had time even to listen to my speech. He should go back and study the public order order and realise that it makes criminal in Northern Ireland what is not a crime here. Let us get it straight. The actions that the order legislates against and makes crimes, would be law-abiding actions by the citizens of any other part of the United Kingdom.
Some of the matters of which we now face the aftermath arose because of the influence of Mr. Lenahan and the Anglo-Irish conference, which decided that there must be a public order order to deal with everything connected with processions and protests. What did they do? They closed their eyes to the most important facet of the parade system—traditional parades.
The House may not know this, but traditional parades are both Unionist and nationalist, both Orange and republican. In my constituency, the Hibernians march through prominent Protestant areas on the day of their celebration. The same happens in other constituencies.
Although the Hibernians go through what hon. Members might describe in the House as "bigoted Orange areas", the Orangemen do not lift a finger to them; indeed, many stand and watch them go by. In the past, before the House started to institutionalise the divisions in our country, it was well known that the bandmaster trained both bands. He would visit one hall one week and the other hall the other week—the Hibernian and the Orange. It may come as a great surprise to learn that even the drums were loaned by each band for particular celebrations.
We need to establish the facts of the matter, and say what the Government did to please the Irish Republic. I found it amusing to hear the Tory party spokesman, 523 the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), saying some of the things he said today. I wish that he had said those things in earlier days, instead of backing his Government and giving them his nod of assent.
Everybody in the House to whom I have listened has said, "Yes, there are traditional parades, and they cause no trouble." The traditional parades of the Hibernians go through Orange areas, and nothing is done. Great pressure has been put on me as a Member of Parliament to say that we should stop those parades and give them the same sauce as they give us.
I have made it clear publicly that I shall do no such thing. I believe in civil and religious liberty for all men, and those people are entitled to go along a route that they have passed along for years. As has been said, some of the parades pass by in 10 to 15 minutes.
However, the IRA grasped the fact that the public order order was up its street, and immediately decided to attack traditional parades. The House does not need to take my word for it. In a well—publicised RTE programme Gerry Adams admitted that it had taken three years of preparation and planning to organise and orchestrate the anti-parade feeling, which he said is going to be exploited to the advantage of the Provisional IRA.
By passing the legislation, the House is helping Adams on in his work, for nobody believes that the Bill will end the problems of parades; I noticed that not even Ministers were confident about that. Some hon. Members have asked where the strength of the Chief Constable now resides with regard to the parades, and how much power he has over them.
The IRA saw a weakness in the legislation, and said, "Right, we will concentrate on that." Of course, the IRA concentrated on the areas in which it could best mobilise and, by propaganda, give a false impression to the world about what was happening.
As for Drumcree, the propaganda that the world has listened to says that Orangemen deliberately walk through republican and nationalist housing estates. That has been said again and again, but it is untrue. I rather resent what the Minister said about Drumcree, because he did not go into the background.
Why do the Orangemen go down that road? It is because of a brokered agreement with the police. I happened to be a party to the meetings, and the police decided that the Tunnel area of Portadown would be closed to Orangemen for all time, despite the fact that they had always walked that way. Because that was the way that the Orangemen walked from Drumcree, the police gave a promise that the other road would always be kept open to them, because it was an arterial road.
The authorities gave the Orangemen that promise. Is it good reason or good sense that, without any consultation and with a heavy hand, the authorities should decide against what they had promised? If the boot was on the other foot and that had happened to nationalists, they would be here screaming, "Murder," and asking, "Why did you suddenly break your word?"
We have heard a lot about the problems at Drumcree and we know there were problems—the people who live in Northern Ireland know that better than anyone in this House. However, the aftermath of Drumcree was not all Protestant or Orange violence, and the Minister should know that. He knows who made the initial attack on both occasions. It is unfair for the hon. Gentleman to say that we are all to blame.
524 I do not think that the Apprentice Boys in Londonderry were to blame for what happened there on Saturday. As the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) told us, and we should listen to what he has said, the slogans were not against the Apprentice Boys: they were all anti-police. We are told that this Bill will alter things. Even if it is enacted, it will not make any alteration.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) told us in the debate on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill that doing away with the oath of allegiance for the police would make no difference and neither will it. The issue is that we have to face up to those elements who intend violence. This Bill is a charter that will assist them, and that is what worries the Unionists. This Bill will help them to make more trouble.
When the Government issued the Bill, it was disastrous that they did not make the punishments for both offences equal. They should have been equal from the beginning. People are saying, "As a person thinks in his heart, so is he." When the Bill was first presented in another place—it was not a draft—why were the penalties for the crimes not considered equally?
Furthermore, the person who breaks up a parade should have a heavier sentence than people who apply to walk legally and who are refused. The people who break up the parades institute the violence, and hon. Members ought to know that.
I do not understand. Here we have a traditional parade that has gone down a road for 150 years. If the police tell people, "You're not going to walk that road again," and they attempt to walk it, they will get the same penalty as people gathering up 1,000 petrol bombs and throwing them at the police. If any penalty is to be more severe, it should be the penalty for those who take the law into their own hands and who attack the police who are doing their duty—even under this legislation.
We must face up to reality when considering those issues. It is all very well saying that the police have been even-handed, but have they? It is all very well saying that the police should act in keeping with the law, but do they?
As I have said, while I support the Royal Ulster Constabulary, I do not support every officer in it. Tonight, the Chief Constable has been eulogised here. I have already tabled my objections to him and put in an official complaint. I received a reply saying that the Chief Constable has full power to refuse a complaint against himself. That is something, is it not? I was told that my complaint would not proceed. The Chief Constable said that he would not allow it to do so.
The Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, told my friends and me deliberate falsehoods about what had happened at Dunloy, and completely misled us. When I took the only way open to me and put in a complaint against him, I discovered that he still had the power to say whether the complaint would be proceeded with, and he said that it would not be. What remedy do people have? That is why I welcomed the legislation to provide an ombudsman when we discussed the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill. Then we can get to the point. Those matters deeply concern the people of Northern Ireland.
When the situation arose in Harryville, which is part of my constituency, why were plenty of police not available to ensure that those people got to and from their place of worship? It is on the record that I did not support what was done there. My record stands on that and I want to 525 make that clear to the House. I do not believe in attacking people who are going to any place of worship by verbally abusing them or throwing stones at them.
§ Mr. Godman
As an hon. Member speaking from the Government side of the House, may I say how pleased and grateful I am to the hon. Gentleman for his outright condemnation of those people at Harryville who seek to deter people from going to their church service?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I thank the hon. Gentleman. Further up my constituency in Dunloy, the police presence was intended to keep Orangemen from worshipping in their own hall—not in a church. The police had banned the church. It had already been attacked. The windows had been smashed and the main burial plots rifled. The police told people that they could not walk there because there would be trouble and said, "They've done that to the church, what will they not do to you?"
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Mr. Godman) knows this, but the Harryville Roman Catholic place of worship is what we would call a chapel in Northern Ireland. It is different in this country, where chapels are dissenting, nonconformist places of worship.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Yes, that is right.
In Harryville, the Roman Catholic place of worship is in the midst of a 98 per cent. Protestant area and yet the police were able—and they were right—to say that people could go to their place of worship. However, the police then turned on people who had gathered to go to their own hall and, as a result, those people made scores of complaints to the police adjudication board about the way they were treated. What did the police do? They promoted the officer in charge, putting him in charge of all the complaints. That is the system that we are working against in Northern Ireland.
A few weeks ago, after much discussion, in which I engaged, we were able to persuade the police to allow a religious service for the Apprentice Boys of Londonderry in the hall. However, when the police chiefs met me, they objected to the preacher the Apprentice Boys wanted—himself an Apprentice Boy—because they said that he might say things that republicans did not like. I said that that was getting into the very depths of intolerance, because a man is entitled to go to an Orange hall and speak his mind, and if he says anything contrary to the law there are authorities to deal with that.
I told the police that they had no right to tell the Orangemen who should preach to them. They said that they did not want there to be a loudspeaker outside the hall, and I said that there would be a crowd in that small hall, so why could not the people in the grounds hear what was said? Eventually, they consented and we had the meeting. As a result, there is an easing of tension in Dunloy.
I hope that that will be built on, and that the Orangemen will be permitted to go to their place of worship once a year. It is an Irish Presbyterian place of worship and the Moderator of the Irish Presbyterian Church put on record 526 the pressures that were on his people in that area. It used to be a flourishing church, but the Moderator said that now he did not need a full-time caretaker. When the caretaker had left, his house was not needed, so it was sold.
On the radio in Northern Ireland, the Moderator said that people taunted his congregation as they arrived at church, saying, "We've got the sexton's house, we've got the caretaker away, your minister is now shared with another parish, and we'll get him and your church away." It is not an Orange church; we are talking about people going to an ordinary place of worship on a Sabbath day. The situation is totally unacceptable to the Protestant community.
Dunloy is a little enclave of republicanism in the heartland of Protestantism, and the Protestants have tolerated that behaviour, largely because they have been exhorted by myself and others to bear with it until we get the matter settled. I have had no help whatever from the police authorities or from Ministers. I have never heard a Minister saying anything about Dunloy, but I heard the Secretary of State at his party conference talking about Harryville.
It is time that we realised that there are two sides to the story. I have made it clear, in places where the message was not well received, that there is no justification for attacking anybody going to any place of worship. People are entitled to do that, and that must be declared strongly. I hope that Ministers will realise that there are people who do wrong in Northern Ireland and that they cannot simply say that we are all to blame.
The vast majority of people in Londonderry were not to blame for Saturday. I talked to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) yesterday, and he was far from approving of what was done, because it was surely a setback to all his work. The incidents are a serious setback to all that we are trying to achieve. The peace and reconciliation money has been mentioned. That money would not have been there but for the hon. Member for Foyle, Jim Nicholson and myself: we got that money.
We also encouraged the setting up of the partnership boards, as the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) knows, to ensure that the money is spent equally across the community. We are not dragging our feet, but the issues are fundamental and run to the very heart of the problem; they must be faced.
Great praise has been given to the North commission, but it included two representatives, the Very Rev. John Dunlop and Father Crilly, who had already gone on the record as against parades. I cannot be expected, as a public representative, to swallow what they say. Why could not we have had a commission that everyone knew had not committed itself on anything? That is why there is opposition to the North commission and to the Bill.
There will not be co-operation on the legislation, and it is a tragedy that we cannot come to grips with the matter. Public order legislation is inadequate. It is not very often that the majority of Unionists have gone to gaol on an issue, but we all went to gaol on the public order legislation, because we saw what was coming and that there would be opposition if traditional parades were interfered with.
Ormeau road is a main arterial road into Belfast. I lived there, and my church is adjacent to the road. The street at the bottom of Ormeau road is called Cooke street after 527 the greatest son of Irish Presbyterianism, Henry Cooke. Off the road is what is known as the holy land, because the streets are named after places in Palestine, and that was a predominantly Protestant area, but the other side, from Hatfield street, was slowly and surely infiltrated from Cromac street, up the road. As a result, even the cricket ground was attacked.
The Ormeau road is a main road that people go up and down, and what did the IRA-Sinn Fein man say? He said, "Never again will we allow a Protestant foot to walk on this road." That cannot be done in Northern Ireland. If a man said, "Never will I allow a Hibernian foot to walk on this road," the Hibernians would say, "Well, we'll show you."
I raised the matter with the Prime Minister, and asked him what he intended to do, because the Orangemen are entitled to go to their place of worship and walk down the main thoroughfare. The IRA can hold its celebrations in front of the city hall in the very heart of Belfast. Not only that, but a councillor can bring three of them into the city hall and those men can go up on the roof and start to paint slogans, and then lay what was supposed to be a bomb, all wired up; it all happened.
On the other side, the people sitting at the table who are supposed to represent the Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force and other elements come down to the city hall and hold a meeting wearing the uniforms of outlawed organisations, and nothing is done. It will not be a surprise to see armed IRA men in uniform at the city hall. If the one side does it, so will the other. It is time to have a law that everyone must be made amenable to. That can be done only when the law is seen to be fair and to set out not to attack anybody, but to make people behave properly.
Public order legislation is inadequate and must be replaced with more practical legal formulations. In particular, the law should be recast to reintroduce the protection for traditional parades. Parades that have gone ahead for 100 years on a public road should not be banned. Of course, no parade should go into a housing estate that opposes it, but we are talking about public roads. As was made clear earlier, there is only one point at which the housing by the Garvaghy road abuts on to the road, and at that point there is no opposition whatever.
We should recognise the fundamental right to march, except where a march or parade is organised by or in support of an illegal organisation or for illegal or subversive activities. Those should be the criteria. People should not be allowed to hold a parade if it is in the interests of subversion or to support criminal activities. Those criteria must be introduced into the law. The right to march must not be hindered by those who oppose the marchers' identity and threaten public disorder.
I received a telephone call from a police officer in a certain place in Northern Ireland. I shall not mention the area for I do not want to have any maligning of his name. He said, "If your people are not on the streets of this town on Sunday afternoon, the IRA will walk with their tricolours and all." I said, "So you are telling me that my people must risk engaging in lawlessness in order to keep the IRA off the streets. What are you doing about it?" He said, "Oh, there is no law now about traditional parades so I have to let it go." That is an impossible situation to put people into.
528 Protests must keep within the law and must not be allowed to hinder a lawful parade. It is possible to hold a legitimate protest without hindering a lawful parade. People in politics in Northern Ireland are well used to people opposing them and to hearing what they say. Moreover, church parades ought to be given sympathetic consideration. Most loyal order church parades are held to mark victories—not victories of 1690 but victories of modern times, in world war one and world war two in remembrance of honoured deaths. Church parades must be included.
It is interesting to note what some people need to understand about the mentality of certain individuals who do not want parades. A most interesting book was published recently which I commend to the House. It is written by a Roman Catholic, Finnula O'Connor, and entitled "In Search of a State—Catholics in Northern Ireland". Everyone should read that book. The author found that many Catholics held an erroneous view about the Protestant community. She said:The essence is a desire for supremacy, not accommodation".She confirmed that that was the public opinion made known to her. Later in her study she explains how many Catholics are sustained by the view that Protestants are bigots, saying, "We are not bigots, because we are not Protestants."
Now we are getting to the real mentality of the people who went out and threw petrol bombs on Saturday and then said that they made them in five minutes. The hon. Member for East Londonderry told us how many gallons of petrol had had to be gathered up. They did not gather it up in five minutes.
Finnula O'Connor says that Catholicslovingly dwell on those Protestants who tell them that they covet the wealth of Irish traditional music and that they feel deprived of their heritage.She then quotes John Hume saying that Unionist paralysis is caused bythe siege mentality—inbuilt in what is a guilt complex and an inferiority complex.Such ill-informed views are widely and lovingly cherished by many Roman Catholic people about Protestants. Of course, there are those Protestants who have a completely wrong view of Roman Catholics and do not understand the situation of Roman Catholics.
I am happy that, even though I am reckoned a bigot by some people, I sent my children to a mixed school so that they could bring their Roman Catholic fellow scholars home with them and we could meet them. The Roman Catholic children could find out that we had no horns or tails and that my wife could make a good Ulster fry that they could enjoy. The time has come when we must realise that there are many people who are suffering most, yet they are not guilty of anything.
I heard the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman talking about the 12 July parades. I have taken part in processions on this side of the water in which there was good friendship and fellowship, even though too much liquor was consumed. Liquor seems to curse all parades. I am opposed to liquor drinking. I wish that the Government would say that on all parade days no liquor shops should be open. We would then have less nonsense. People get plied with drink. When John Barleycorn calls in, the whip is out and people get started.
529 There is a holiday spirit on 12 July. I hope that the hon. Member for Putney will accept my invitation to come over on 12 July and then on 15 August to see the Hibernians. Then perhaps he will have a different view. From dozens of Orange halls and community centres of one sort or another, bands can be heard practising for the big march. There are more bands per acre per head of the population in Ulster than in any other part of the kingdom, if not of the world. I want to tell the House that that is good musical talent. Some of the people, including the flautist, who is recognised as a great man across the world, learned to play in a kick-the-Pope band, as it is called in the Shankill road. Some people forget about their background and heritage.
Until recently, the uniform for the parade was standard: the company director and the docker turned out alike. An umbrella was rolled up with meticulous care so that it looked almost like a sword and carried stiffly with military precision. Orangemen insisted that that was for the practical reason that, even in Ulster, sometimes it rains on 12 July.
The hon. Member for East Londonderry put his finger on the point. Why does the IRA hate the marches? It is because they are part of a bulwark that it must pull down if it is to succeed in its campaign to destroy the United Kingdom. Everyone knows that the Orange institution is linked to the Official Unionist party, but thousands of Democratic Unionists are members, and many hold office in its ranks. There are Labour men who are members.
In fact, many Labour men in Scotland are Orangemen. When I came to the House, one of them came over to me and said, "I am the worshipful district master of a certain place. I am glad to meet you." He had a trade union badge on his breast and he suggested that we exchange badges. I gave him my badge and he gave me his. The Scotch people and the Liverpudlians perhaps might realise the situation better than some people.
If we study history, we will find that British Government after British Government have decided that they can do something about parades. They have banned them and they have imprisoned people for taking part in them. They have introduced legislation and they have used the sword on them. Yet what has happened? People are still there and still marching. It would be far better for us to arrange measures tonight to enable people to march in peace and enable those who want to make their protest to realise that it must be made within the law. When that is established properly, people will have to live with a march passing for 10 minutes on a road.
I wish that the disturbance lasted only 10 minutes in some cases in which I have been involved in my neighbourhood. Drinking clubs turn out at all hours of the night and there is vandalism after they close. The parades pass for only 10 minutes. I have been told that the whole of the Garvaghy road takes no more than 16 minutes.
The Bill is not the solution. We will come back to this again and see that it is not the solution. The solution is to face up to the real difficulties. People must know that, as long as we are in this House, Northern Ireland is going to remain in the United Kingdom. The Government can have as many talks with Gerry Adams at Stormont as they like, and make as many concessions to him as they like, but the vast majority of the Northern Ireland people—and 530 according to Priest Paul of Dungannon, some 15 per cent. of the Roman Catholic people—say that we are going to remain in the Union. The sooner that that is recognised and we start legislating with that in mind, the sooner we will move to something that can bring a real solution to this problem.
§ Mr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)
The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) made an uncharacteristically lengthy speech, in which he rightly argued the case for fair laws. The legitimacy of legislation is determined by its acceptance or rejection by the majority of the people whose behaviour it seeks to shape.
I am sorry to disturb the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross), but in his closing remarks he observed that my hon. Friends the Members for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) had no understanding of marches and the circumstances surrounding them. He may be right to some extent. Labour Members do not have a thousandth of the experience of Ulster Unionist Members or of my hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), but it is absurd to tell someone from the west of Scotland that he has no experience of Orange parades. One of the biggest public events in Scotland in the early summer is an Orange parade.
With my hon. Friends the Members for East Kilbride, for Clydebank and Milngavie and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne), I was proud to take part only a few years ago in a parade through Glasgow. I had better tell the hon. Member for North Antrim, who wants me in the Orange Order, that it was not an Orange parade but a celebration of the 70th birthday of Nelson Mandela. Even the police admitted that 25,000 people were on the parade, but the west of Scotland has Orange parades every year that are bigger than that.
There are differences. The hon. Members for North Antrim and for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) are well known in my constituency. They have well- kent faces. I remind the hon. Member for East Londonderry that some of the finest bands that take part in the parades he attends come from the west of Scotland, so we have some comprehension of parades. The difference is that our communities accommodate each other. We live in peace and harmony.
It was not always the case. My wife, born and raised in Govan, knows from her early childhood that things could be lively and that a big police presence was needed. There is a story, possibly apocryphal, in the west of Scotland that the chief constable in Strathclyde had a nice sense of humour. He always put a Catholic police officer in charge of Orange parades, while republican parades would be marshalled by a Presbyterian police officer.
§ Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone)
In the hon. Gentleman's area, there is no Sinn Fein-IRA to oppose marches. Many people support and watch marches. That is why they go off peacefully. Furthermore, the constitution of the people of Scotland is not under threat.
§ Mr. Godman
I said that there were many more differences than similarities. I said that the other evening as well—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was 531 here. None the less, there are some similarities. He is right, but we have some Sinn Fein supporters and some extremist supporters of the other side. When I was a member of the review committee at Edinburgh prison, in six months I interviewed three men who were being assessed for release under licence. All three were extremist loyalists who had been gaoled for gun miming.
While we have some experience, it is not a thousandth of the suffering of the people who are represented by Unionist Members. We have some understanding and a lot of sympathy. If we did not, we would not be involved in a debate such as this. We are friends of the people of Northern Ireland. There are many tangled relationships between Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland. I believe that the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has a sister who runs a very fine guest house down. in Kintyre—not that I am advertising the establishment for her. Arrests in the west of Scotland are usually because the police have to lift drunks. In the west of Scotland, people accommodate each other. My only deep regret is that the same does not prevail in Northern Ireland.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
When the police tell groups that want to march through the streets of Glasgow that their chosen routes are not suitable—not for fear of public disorder but because of traffic disorder—they accept it. They may not like it, they may grumble, but they accept it.
§ Mr. Godman
I am pleased that the differences in the west of Scotland are confined to Ibrox and Parkhead in the main. I want to be brief. I shall not speak for as long as some hon. Members have. I know that people want to go home.
The Bill was changed in the other place. Clause 3 was removed, and other amendments were made. I have a couple of questions for my hon. Friend from the other side of the Clyde, the Under-Secretary. I want UIE to come to my side, of course, but that is another story.
May I impress on the Minister that new legislation should be used to ensure that civil rights are not pushed to one side by those who believe that might is on their side. The hon. Member for North Antrim was right about that. The legislation has to be seen to be fair to the people of the two traditions. All sections of the community must be seen to be treated with equity. The commission, not the RUC, must become the arbiter of what is to be seen as just and fair conduct. Those claiming the right to march have to take responsibility for their actions.
I do not believe that this legislation panders to one side or the other. It needs to be amended. I do not anticipate serving on the Standing Committee. The Whip is scowling at me, so perhaps I will.
On clause 12, why do bands need to be registered? I thought that registration of bands had been on the statute book for some years. I am not sure that anyone has been able to demonstrate how best such registration can be employed. What is the point of it? In Scotland, the Orange Order organises its own registration of bands.
If, despite my reservations, clause 12 remains unamended, what about the Scottish bands that take part in parades? I know that there are some fine bands in Northern Ireland in both communities, but some of the 532 best bands and players come from my constituency. Under clause 12, would Scottish bands that play regularly in Northern Ireland have to register? As for the commission, what about the role of the chairman? Perhaps I should say "or chairwoman", given that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) is sitting alongside me—I believe that she is the only female Member here tonight. I hope that three women will be appointed to the commission, so why not create a chairman or a chairwoman?
I should like to see a judicial person—perhaps a retired judge or a Queen's counsel—appointed to the commission, because, whatever the qualities and qualifications of the other commissioners, someone with a legal background and training would strengthen it and give added confidence to other commissioners when they make their determinations.
I have been influenced in my thinking on the commission and the Bill by two academics, Dominic Bryan and Neil Jarman. I asked those two gentlemen what they thought about the commission.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Down had some reservations about clause 2, under which determinations are made. When the commission gathers information, takes evidence, offers a preliminary view and then makes a formal determination, I hope that there will be an opportunity for such a determination to be reviewed on the basis of fresh evidence or fresh applications being submitted.
I welcome the Bill in principle, but I would like answers to my questions.
§ Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)
We heard earlier about some of the credentials of other hon. Members who have spoken. Although I went to the Royal Belfast Academical Institution—I think that I can say without fear of contradiction that it is the best school in Northern Ireland—I still do not pretend to have all the answers. I am surprised that I got away with that comment about my school, but there we go.
§ Mr. Öpik
I realise now that it was that rather than anything else which led to my remark being heard in silence.
I do not pretend to have the answers to the problems and the views that I express on behalf of the Liberal Democrats are meant to add value to the debate. I do not pretend to have a monopoly on good ideas, but I offer these comments in a spirit of constructive debate.
Marches and parades have become increasingly contentious in the past three years. Drumcree has been discussed and I will not rehearse the arguments about it. Nevertheless, it must be said that there is a huge cost involved in such parades in terms of the estrangement that they cause between communities and between the police and those communities as a result of the disturbances that take place. A gulf has also developed between the perspectives of the two groups. On the one hand, some people perceive that their inalienable right to assemble and march is being infringed for political motives; on the other, people feel that an alien culture is being forced upon them, backed up by the might of the security forces.
533 There is always the danger, as we have seen again tonight, of looking for problems rather than solutions and looking for those at fault rather than considering what we can do to move forward. I have a minor concern because politicians on the mainland sometimes misinterpret that debate and seek to find fault with the Northern Irish politicians, many of whom try very hard to seek accords between the two sides.
I am the first to admit that I have had many heated debates with colleagues from Northern Ireland on such issues and I have many differences with them. I recognise, however, and I hope that the House does, too, that in order to make progress we do not just have to introduce Bills with which we may or may not agree, but we have to provide the space for detente to be established among those politicians.
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) spoke about the important principles of law, justice and equality. He also spoke about the importance of voluntary restrictions and tolerance. We must not only encourage such attitudes among others, but display them in our own behaviour. Voluntary restrictions and tolerance must be exercised by both sides. It is so easy to expect the other side to show those characteristics without feeling the need to make what may feel like considerable concessions oneself.
We can choose to see what we want to see. We can choose to be offended and, above all else, we can choose to believe in our right to perform certain actions. That is at the core of the debate.
The North report sought to align those perspectives. The North commission held 93 separate meetings and produced a document of more than 200 pages. The legislation, which was enacted in the twilight weeks of the previous Conservative Government, insisted on a notification period for parades, restrictions on alcohol and some other important measures which were instrumental in making the parades of the summer of 1997 markedly less troublesome than those of the past.
The Bill takes the North report recommendations further. Let me say at this point that the Liberal Democrats therefore believe that the Bill is the correct way to proceed at this time. Let us not forget that about 3,000 marches are held and just a tiny proportion of those end up on the news for being contentious. The legislation is targeted not at the 99 per cent. that pass without incident, but at the 1 per cent. that cause problems. I do not know what effect the legislation will have on the other 99 per cent., but I sincerely hope that we can navigate a way through that does not impinge on the peace-loving and sensible marches that take place, which are respected by both sides of the community.
The Bill is therefore welcome to Liberal Democrats, and we will give it our whole-hearted support, because of its central innovation—the Parades Commission. It is a truly sensible way to regulate such matters. It is independent and I hope that it will be a major advance in the effort to decouple concerns about political expedience from the desire to do the right thing.
It is also good to see that the powers of decision making by the commission are not unaccountable. In certain circumstances, as set out in article 9 of the public order 534 order, the Secretary of State may reconsider them. The Secretary of State will remain responsible for the overall situation in the Province. The Parades Commission is not a quango to which the Secretary of State can simply pass the buck or offload the blame. Nevertheless, the commission has real decision-making authority and, as much as responsibilities can be clearly delineated, the Bill is successful in achieving that.
It is also welcome to see a Bill that contains such a rounded group of measures. For example, I was glad to see that in clause 13—unlucky for some—clear punishments are laid down for those who obstruct a march that has been allowed by the commission and that those punishments are equal to the punishments meted out to those who parade when they are not allowed to do so. That clause has been referred to before, and. I recognise that it is somewhat contentious, but we support it. It is important for the commission to be seen to be even-handed and the clause will help it to be so.
The Bill has distilled the perceptiveness and thoughtfulness of the North report into balanced, carefully worded legislation. I was glad to see that the Government took on so many of the points made in another place. For example, the words "serious" and "undue" have been added to clause 1 as a result of the wise suggestion of Conservative Members. Liberal Democrats were glad to see more realistic treatment being given to the issue of alcohol at public processions. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) made some good points about that.
All of those in another place, including Unionists and nationalists, were able to fall in behind the move to abandon former clause 3 that would have extended the remit of the commission to cover the rather strange phrase:other expressions of cultural identity".I pay tribute to Lord Alderdice for being one of the first to recognise the folly of giving the commission such wide-ranging powers. I suspect that it did not relish the prospect of having to implement them. If the commission had had powers overother expressions of cultural identitywho knows what would have been banned? Painted kerbstones and tricolours would probably have been out of the window straight away, and shamrocks and poppies would have been next. Would green jumpers have been considered contentious? Would the Orange mobile phone network have come under the hammer? I wonder whether the Spice Girls movie would have been allowed to open in Northern Ireland, given that in the film the girls drive around in a huge bus with a Union Jack on the side. Lord Alderdice was able to highlight the nonsense of legislating against such things—although I understand that he used other examples.
One of the lessons to be learnt from that phrase is that anything can be made into a symbolic act if we choose to judge it as such. There is sometimes a tendency in our debates to confuse the wider issues, as revealed by that example. The clause would have made the legislation difficult to operate and we should all be glad to see the back of it.
We Liberal Democrats also have some concerns about the Bill. First, according to the Bill, several parades cannot be treated as a unit. We feel that it would be more 535 helpful if the commission were able to treat marches in groups so that it could negotiate with the various marchers and decide on the merits of each march. Marchers would be able to march and local residents would be pleased to have severely cut the number of marches in some situations. That would acknowledge the reality of the situation in Northern Ireland, with a certain amount of negotiation always taking place in the background.
At present, as the commission cannot take into account the pattern and frequency of marches, if it were to allow one march along a particular route, it should be inclined to allow identical marches the following week in order to keep things balanced. As the Bill stands, the commission could be forced to give all-or-nothing verdicts rather than the balanced compromises that are so desperately needed in these delicate situations. I understand why this proposed change might be incompatible with the European convention on human rights and the forthcoming United Kingdom human rights Bill. We should like to consider this aspect and I would welcome the views of the Under-Secretary of State when he winds up the debate.
I also note that the commission's preliminary view will be given informally. Consultation is valuable. There is a danger that if the commission were to publish its preliminary view informally, some people might try to use coercion to get it to change its views. We must avoid that temptation and that danger. The commission must be clear minded and specific about what informal consultation means and what it will take to make it change its initial judgment.
In another place, the Under-Secretary of State gave a commitment to deal with the issue of a code of conduct for counter-demonstrations. While I appreciate the need for counter-demonstrations to be regulated, I wonder whether an in-depth code of conduct is wise. Surely, existing public order legislation is sufficient. If a mob are obstructing a parade that has been allowed by the Parades Commission, could they not be read the riot act and dealt with accordingly under existing legislation? The code of conduct could be useful as long as it is a simple distillation of current public order legislation. Whatever the code of conduct turns out to be, it must be simple, straightforward and unambiguous.
Paragraph 13 of schedule 1 calls for an annual report from the commission. Is it intended that that report should be debated on the Floor of the House? I commend the Government on their decision, in another place, to make concessions on what has become clause 15, which will increase parliamentary scrutiny.
Paragraph 3 of schedule 1 makes it clear that the Secretary of State may not remove the chairman or any members of the commission owing to the decisions that they make that fall within their remit. That fact should be widely publicised as it will help to establish the commission's independence.
We should do well to reflect on the considered process that has brought the legislation before us. The North report was extremely well thought out. The other place gave the Bill thorough treatment and hon. Members benefit from that, and also from the Government's reasonable attitude in taking on suggestions made from all parties.
Alastair Graham and the Parades Ccommission will need luck and our support in the months ahead if they are to implement the legislation wisely. We therefore wish 536 them luck in their daunting task and we hope that they will take on board any developments and evolutions that strike them as reasonable as they move towards implementation of the Bill.
The hon. Member for North Antrim said that a Bill will not solve the problems of parades, and he was correct. Effective implementation of the Bill is not a result, but an attitude; success in the affairs of Northern Ireland is not an outcome, but a choice. Such a hard choice involves compromises on all sides. No Government Bill can cause that to happen, nor can I, as the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Northern Ireland. But there are those in the House who have great influence over Northern Irish matters. Although it is a difficult job and no one underestimates the challenges for those who operate on a day-to-day basis in the Province, it is up to them, with the full backing of the House, to seek ways forward.
I offer my services and those of my party to help the process move forward. We must recognise above all that the fact that the Bill is before us is a symptom of the deeper problems in Northern Ireland that many hon. Members on both sides of the House and many Northern Ireland colleagues have lucidly described.
Ultimately, it is important that those involved directly in the settlement talks know that everyone at Westminster wishes them well in searching for a solution. The Bill is not intended to be a panacea for every problem, but a statement, and, I hope, a controlling mechanism to calm some of the problems of the past. Good will from those who partake to make parades more inclusive and less threatening, coupled with good will from local residents, who should occasionally give marchers the benefit of the doubt, would be immensely welcome.
We shall do all that we can to assist in the process and the Government can be assured of the good will of the Liberal Democrats as the Bill proceeds.
§ Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone)
It is good to be able to be called tonight to speak about the Bill. We welcome the fact that it is a Bill, not an order, so that we shall have the opportunity fully to debate its principles; then, in Committee, discuss it in detail; and finally discuss it during its remaining stages before it eventually becomes law.
It is tragic that those who represent the Government in Northern Ireland pay so little attention to the elected representatives of the Province. It is clear from what has been said tonight that all the hon. Members who represent the Ulster Unionist party, the majority party in Northern Ireland, which won the election, oppose the Bill. But those who come over to govern us from Westminster have the arrogance to think that they know more about Northern Ireland than the elected representatives. They seek to impose their will on the people of Northern Ireland and we can see this clearly in the Bill.
I am reminded of the words of a famous man, Lord Denning, who said of the universal declaration of human rights of the United Nations that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association:This freedom has only been won after much pain and anguish. It is bound up with the right to demonstrate. These demonstrations are made for various causes. Often it is to protest against the Government or against its doings. People march along the streets. They carry banners. They hear speeches. History shows how much537Governments have disliked those demonstrations. So much so that they used to regard them as unlawful assemblies. They arrested the ringleaders and prosecuted them. Sometimes the demonstrations were for good causes, sometimes for bad causes. In principle, all these can and should be allowed by law so long as they are peaceful.Unfortunately, I do not think that a more hurtful Bill on public order has ever been debated in the House. Indeed, the restrictions that will now be placed on parades are greater than have ever been proposed in the House. The present legislation relating to public order in Northern Ireland is the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. Article 4 of part II of the order lays down the four criteria under which a policeman can re-route a parade. It states that he may do so if
Those words are a direct quotation from the Public Order Act 1986 relating to mainland England and Wales. It is remarkable that that Bill was opposed, tooth and nail, by the Labour party. Labour Members insisted that the first criteria on—
- "(a) it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community; or
- (b) the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or to do an act they have a right not to do".it may result in serious public disorderwas sufficient and they strongly opposed the other criteria. It is rather strange that, despite their opposition then, the Labour Government are here tonight proposing far more severe restrictions on any public parade.
When we look up the Committee stage of the 1986 Act, we find that the present Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), opposed the measures greatly. He said that they were drawn from the law in South Africa and told us thatThe White Paper outlines some of the Government's reasons for the inclusion of the power, which even President Botha has not yet taken it upon himself to use."—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 27 February 1986; c. 534.]When we came to the final stages of the Bill, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), then the Opposition spokesmen, said:We still dislike some of part I, and especially some of part II, considerably. I give notice to the Minister and his officials that an incoming Labour Government after the general election will repeal most of the contentious aspects of part II and consider part I."—[Official Report, 30 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 1063.]After some years, the Labour party has arrived in government. Are the Labour Government going to repeal the Public Order Act 1986, because they find that the conditions and restrictions therein are as unacceptable now as they were then?
In 1986, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) stated:In 1979 the Government claimed that they would set the people free. They talked about law and order and said that they would impose a short, sharp shock on those who were supposed to be upsetting society at that time. After seven years, the Government have not set the people free.538 He went on to say he was happy that his right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton had said that parts of the legislation would be replaced by a future Labour Government becausethe legislation attacks civil liberties."—[Official Report, 30 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 1068.]
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I am not totally aware of the circumstances, but one thing I do know is that today we have an entirely different Bill before us, which cannot in any way be described as comparable with the 1986 Act. I remind the hon. Gentleman that 11 years have passed, which is a long time in politics. In 1986, Northern Ireland was ablaze; now, we have an opportunity to get a peaceful settlement. What is taking place here today is an attempt—no more than that—at providing a building block to peace. I also remind him that 11 years ago, he and his hon. Friends would not have been seen dead with Gerry Adams; now, they go into the same room. He should understand that the ground has shifted quite considerably, not only for me, but for him and for the leader of his party. I want to see this building block secure; I do not want to go back to what happened in 1986. I want to see a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Thompson
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks, but I understood him to be a man who stood by his principles.
§ Mr. Thompson
But it is the same principle. The Bill would put restrictions on the people of Northern Ireland that the hon. Gentleman would never accept for people here on the mainland. When in opposition, the Labour Front Benchers said that they would repeal the 1986 Act, yet now they are the Government they have neither the guts nor the intention to do so. They have changed their principles and now seek to place greater restrictions on the people of Northern Ireland, such are their double standards. That just shows that the higher one goes in government, the lower one's principles become. The Labour Government should realise that.
Let me now deal with the Bill before us. It deals with an important principle that we have here on the mainland, which is that nobody—especially no Government—should interfere in the operational matters of the police. The Bill takes police operational matters out of their hands and places them with an unelected quango. We have plenty of quangos in Northern Ireland and the idea that one can have an independent quango in Northern Ireland is absolute nonsense. One can become a member of a quango in Northern Ireland only by showing oneself to be so-called apolitical, or one of the great and the good, or one who is somehow superior to everybody else, especially elected representatives. Most of the people on the Northern Ireland quangos have a deep antipathy to elected representatives and to the ordinary people of Northern Ireland.
We find that the restrictions that can now be placed on parades are absolutely wide. The Bill states:The Commission may issue a determination in respect of a proposed public procession imposing on the persons organising or taking part in it such conditions as the Commission considers necessary.539 In other words, if the commissioners do not like the people who are parading or what they stand for, they can place restrictions on the parade. It is wide open: those who are disliked can be stopped from parading—that is what the Bill would allow.
Another great problem is that the Bill would reduce the powers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If the commission makes a decision and the parade is about to begin or has started, the police will have fewer powers than they have now, because they will no longer have the powers under article 4 of the 1987 order. We shall therefore find that there is more trouble, not less. The commission will be able to operate various restrictions. It will issue guidelines or a code of conduct, some parts of which are ridiculous, but those who seek to hold a parade will have to abide by them or face restrictions on their parade.
The Bill would give powers to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that, as I understand it, even the Home Secretary on the mainland does not have. The Secretary of State will, of her own volition, be able to ban a parade in Northern Ireland. As I understand the law on the mainland, only certain types of parade can be banned here; but under the Bill a single, specific parade can be banned. That power can be used indiscriminately or against particular Orange parades.
The commission has published certain procedures that it intends to follow. We are told that it will go around the various controversial areas and that it will then give a preliminary indication of what will happen in those areas. I can think of no more ridiculous action that the Parades Commission could take. What will happen in the spring if the commission says that a particular parade will not be allowed to go ahead? Those opposed to the parade will foregather; those in favour of it will gather. Far from ameliorating the problem, this will make it worse. There will be a greater likelihood of confrontation and disorder.
There are many who think that an accommodation can be reached in such circumstances. When the Prime Minister met the leader of Sinn Fein last week, I understand that there were two opposing crowds outside 10 Downing street. Can anyone imagine an accommodation between those two demonstrations? It is folly to think so. Equally, it is folly to imagine an accommodation being reached between those who believe in law and order and who march according to the law in a peaceable fashion and those who seek, for political reasons, to break up those marches. It is wholly naive to suppose that a harmonious conclusion can be reached—
§ Mr. Thompson
Would that what the hon. Gentleman says were true. In practice, it is those upholding the law on peaceful parades who get stopped, and it is the law breakers whom the police are accommodating. We need no change in the law of Northern Ireland. We want the police to apply the law just as it is applied on the mainland.
When people on the mainland want a parade, they go along to the police and agree the route with the police, and then the parade is policed by the police. No one gets 540 near it; no one is allowed to interfere with it, or sit down in the road and stop it. People know that they cannot get away with disruption, so the parades go off peaceably.
In Northern Ireland, by contrast, the police stop parades and give in to the law breakers. That is why we have a problem: the law breakers have found that if they sit down in the street, or threaten to do so, the parade will be stopped. All that we need is the impartial application of the law by the police. People need to know that they cannot get away with obstructing a parade. That is the only way to solve the issue in Northern Ireland.
It is stupid to suppose that an accommodation can be reached between people who are opposed politically and in many other ways. I recall that the Secretary of State tramped around Drumcree meeting every conceivable person, but in the end she could not produce an agreement either. And in Londonderry even the leader of the SDLP could not, for all his efforts, produce an agreement. One cannot reconcile irreconcilables. The only way to peace is to treat everyone the same way, equally under the law. The law breakers, whoever they may be, must be dealt with by the police and must know that they will not succeed.
The Bill will not solve the problems of Northern Ireland; it will accentuate them. For 25 years, we who are elected have come here and told the Government what they should do, but they ignore our advice, which is why our problems persist. I know that time is limited today, so I thank hon. Members for listening attentively to what I have had to say.
§ Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)
I was not aware of any time limits on the debate, but I do not intend to detain the House unduly, for several reasons. The first is that the background to the legislation belongs to the previous Government. I am mindful also of the co-operation given to the Opposition by the Government in another place and of the fact that the Government looked kindly on many of the Opposition's amendments. I pay tribute to Lord Dubs for his co-operation. I am sure that that co-operation will be maintained when we take the Bill into Committee in the new year.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said, the work behind the Bill began with the severe public disorder in Northern Ireland during the summer of 1996, especially, but not exclusively, at Drumcree. The then Secretary of State, Sir Patrick Mayhew, announced on 15 July 1996 the establishment of a review body comprising Dr. Peter North, the Very Rev. John Dunlop and Father Oliver Crilly to make recommendations on the future management of parades. I take this opportunity to praise the work of that review body, which produced a long and well-argued document containing some 43 recommendations. Interestingly, not all those recommendations have been incorporated in the legislation—a point to which we shall return in Committee.
Sir Patrick Mayhew made a statement in the House on the North report on 30 January 1997, and the then Government accepted all the seven principles that the report proposed as the basis for future development of the processes and procedures governing parades.
541 In their final paragraph, the authors of the report defined their proposals as having been designedto provide all the interested parties with the mechanisms and opportunities to work towards mutual understanding and local accommodation".That is a worthy aim with which we can all agree.
The authors said:We would be delighted to look back in five years and wonder why it was felt necessary to propose such major changes in legislation that address the problems of public order rather than promoting the community benefits of shared celebration, in the light of the subsequent positive development of Northern Ireland society.Wise words indeed. The twin-track approach is vital.
Let us not lightly set aside the fact that these are major changes. As Sir Patrick said in his statement of 30 January:the proposal that an independent body should … take over the RUC's decision-making power in respect of parades is a radical and far-reaching one."—[Official Report, 30 January 1997; Vol. 289, c. 508.]After his statement, the Secretary of State pledged to take the North proposals out to consultation. That yielded some important common strands of agreement. First, there was encouragement for parties in disputes to reach local accommodations. People felt that it was not right for the police to make and then enforce decisions regarding parades. They felt that there was a role for an independent advisory or decision-making body. There was support for principles and processes that would provide greater information about parades, and there was a case for guidelines and a code of conduct to regulate the behaviour of participants and protesters.
The North review also conducted a survey of attitudes, with interesting results. Eighty-eight per cent. of respondents said that, in the event of a dispute, a negotiated accommodation should be sought. Seventy-nine per cent. said that, if an accommodation was not possible, a binding decision should be taken by someone else. Interestingly, in answer to the question who should take that decision, 49 per cent. said an independent commission, 29 per cent. said the police, 11 per cent. said the Secretary of State and 6 per cent. said the judiciary. Those percentages add up to about 95 per cent. of the people who were contacted: they all wanted a binding independent decision to be taken by someone. We shall work with the Government to move that process forward on the basis of the consensus shown by those findings.
I have several questions for the Under-Secretary of State. Under clause 7, the commission has powers to impose conditions on public processions, including powers to amend the proposed route and to restrict access to certain areas and places. However, there do not appear to be any rights of appeal against an adverse decision by the parade organisers, or rights to a reply within a certain time. Rights of appeal, if I may call them that, are available in clause 8 to the Chief Constable, who can appeal to the Secretary of State if there is concern in a public order context about a decision by the commission. If the Chief Constable may appeal, why do parade organisers who have an adverse decision taken against them not have rights of appeal?
542 Clause 7 lays the responsibility for complying with the conditions placed on a procession squarely on the shoulders ofthe persons organising or taking part in it",but no responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the protesters or protest groups to act within a code of conduct. Such a proposal was made in the North report.
A key element of the Bill is how, in a specific case, the commission's determination is to be enforced. Clause 10 gives the Secretary of State powers to ban public processions or parades. We welcome the changes that were made to that clause in Committee in another place; the threshold triggering a decision by the Secretary of State to ban was enlarged to encompassserious public disorder or serious damage to property",bringing the Bill into line with the public order legislation that is being superseded.
However, just as there is no balancing intervention under clause 7 for protesters or protest groups to abide by a code of conduct, there are no powers in clause 10 for the Secretary of State to ban a counter-demonstration if a parade has been deemed lawful by the commission but continues to be opposed by the protest groups, which seem determined to ignore the results of adjudication. That appears to be, at best, an oversight and, at worst, a serious imposition on one section of the community but not the other. If my reading is correct, the protest can go ahead and the perpetrators be charged under clause 13, or the threat is deemed by the Chief Constable to be so great that he intervenes under his option in clause 8, but that is simply a reaction to intimidation and threat.
I promised to be brief. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell said, we shall not oppose the Second Reading. We welcome the acceptance of the sensible and carefully thought out amendments made in another place. However, we still believe that the Bill is capable of improvement and we shall seek the co-operation of the Minister of State, the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), and the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who we hope will find ways of accommodating us in Committee.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tony Worthington)
I am aware of a conflict between my obligations to hon. Members who want a response to points that they have made and to all other hon. Members, who want brevity.
I thank hon. Members for their contributions to the debate. A fair number of points have been made. I shall try to deal with as many of them as possible, but a good many of them were Committee points.
We all know that the word "parades" is invested with a significance for both sides of the community that can sometimes seem mysterious to people on the mainland. There is bitterness and distrust—well evidenced tonight by the speech by the hon. Member for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson)—on both sides about the issue. We are seeking to create new structures to tackle the disputes. We hope that eventually those new structures will win the allegiance of all.
The events of the past few years have been unacceptable. The rule of law must prevail in the United Kingdom. Some disputes have made people realise that 543 the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 contained a perverse incentive by making it possible for the group that threatened to create most mayhem to get what it wanted. That is not acceptable in any part of the United Kingdom.
If we believe in the rule of law, we must face up to the fact that when any law—including the one before us—is passed, after a full debate and full consideration in Committee, a duty rests on all hon. Members to support the law. That is an aspect of equality before the law, and I trust that all hon. Members will uphold that duty.
I endorse the tributes that the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) paid to what happened in the other place. For the sake of brevity, I shall not list the people who were mentioned, but I believe that all their lordships made useful contributions.
I believe that, as the hon. Member for Bracknell implied, the core of the Bill is in clause 7, which is well expressed in terms of balanced rights and responsibilities. Many of the contributions that were made by Unionist Members caused me to think that every time they spoke they strengthened the argument for an objective independent commission. The issue is political; it is about force; it is about territory. I do not believe that the police should be dragged into a quasi-political issue; they have said that that makes their lives intolerable, so we must find an alternative.
I support the comments about the contribution of the police, who have been placed in a no-win situation. However difficult it is, we must—as the hon. Member for Bracknell said in a good contribution—build consensus in the House, as was done in another place. We shall conduct the Committee stage in this Commons in a similar spirit of trying to improve the Bill.
I said that the hon. Members who spoke from the Unionist side seemed to strengthen the case for a commission, but I emphasise how much the Bill is not an anti-parades Bill. What emerges from the North report, and what all Labour Members believe, is that a balance should be achieved between rights and responsibilities. There has never been, in any country, at any time, the right to march where one likes, when one likes—and there should not be. What exists is a right to process and a right of assembly, but we must always take other people into account.
In the past few years, it has become obvious that we must take the Royal Ulster Constabulary out of the judgment about what can be allowed under what conditions. I resist what was said by the hon. Member for West Tyrone; we are not removing the Chief Constable's powers to decide how to police. The operational freedom on the day is still there, and must be there, to react to the circumstances. We are merely performing a traditional role of the House, and of judicial or quasi-judicial bodies: setting the framework within which the police operate.
§ Mr. Thompson
Is it not a fact that under the Bill the power of the police reverts to what it was before 1936? Their power to ban parades will be under common law; they will have lost the statutory law in that respect.
§ Mr. Worthington
I am concerned with the current situation. The past few years have shown us that the 1987 order was not adequate and we must tackle that issue.
544 The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross), who is not in his place, said that all existing traditional parades should be allowed, but that new parades should be looked at carefully. Clearly, that would be difficult to enshrine in law, particularly once we have incorporated the European convention on human rights into our law. The fact that a parade is new would not allow different considerations to be applied to it and a moment's thought would show that we could not have a law whereby certain practices were allowed for traditional but not non-traditional parades.
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) raised a couple of important issues. He was right to say that this is about human relationships—that most difficult and obstinate of characteristics. In the end, it comes down to whether people are willing to accommodate differences. We do not claim that the Bill is the answer, because any law can be broken by people who are not willing to accommodate it, but it is a step forward.
The hon. Gentleman raised points of detail about clause 2(2)(a) and (b), which grant two powers to the Parades Commission: the first is mediation and the second is determination. That is exactly the sort of issue that can be thrashed out in Committee. One can see why that is proposed —because of the involvement of the commission—but one can also see that there could be a confusion of identities. That must be explored in Committee.
The hon. Gentleman said that the Bill gave powers to the Secretary of State and asked why she could not have that responsibility taken away from her. We must accept the fact that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is ultimately responsible for law and order in Northern Ireland, and one cannot take that power away. She is also referred to in terms of the mechanisms for parliamentary scrutiny of various aspects of codes with which she must deal.
I am delighted to see the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) in his place. I pay tribute to him for being in his place, for reasons that he knows. I have already dealt with some of the issues that he raised. He asked why the penalties under the Bill had not been equalised before. That is another matter which was dealt with in another place. It is simply a re-enactment of the provisions in the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, in which their lordships saw that there was an inconsistency. That is generally welcomed. The hon. Gentleman also said that it should be an offence to break up a lawful parade. It is already an offence to do so by virtue of article 7 of the 1987 order, which will be re-enacted in clause 11.
My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Mr. Godman) raised a number of issues. I agree with his first point that civil rights should not be pushed to one side. That goes back to the point about the balance between rights and responsibilities.
My hon. Friend asked why bands should be registered. That is taken as a reserved power. It was felt that there could be circumstances in which one might need the force of law if bands misbehaved in a particular way. He asked whether Scottish bands going to Northern Ireland would have to be registered. If we introduce that power, those bands will have to be registered, but it will depend on whether the power is taken. We hope that it will never have to be taken. We note my hon. Friend's comments about the need for someone with a legal background to be on the Commission.
545 The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) raised a number of issues. We welcome the support that he has given to the Bill. I have already given assurances about the conduct in Committee. We noted the point that he made—Lord Alderdice also made it—about package measures for parades. I admit that when I first became involved with this issue it seemed an attractive proposition to introduce restrictions if a number of parades take the same route each year. However, I am advised, and I see the sense of it, that once we have incorporated the European convention on human rights into our law, problems will arise in terms of accountability for each parade. Moreover, it might be difficult to implement the measure in terms of offences. However, that is a Committee point, as are the hon. Member's questions about annual reports and scrutiny within the House.
I am convinced that the Bill is a step forward, but, like all Bills that the House passes, it will depend on the consent of the people. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) say that polls show that an overwhelming percentage of people within Northern Ireland want independent arbitration to be introduced. They realise that the police have been put in an impossible position. The overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland detest seeing the rule of law threatened or the law being broken.
This year's marching season was less damaging than last year's because many statesmanlike decisions were taken, which shows that it is possible to achieve accommodation on this difficult issue. The Labour party is not naive about the forces that are at work, but we believe that we must act above all in the interests of the great majority of law-abiding people in Northern Ireland, who want to stay at home during the marching season rather than have to take their holidays then because of the threat to them. They want the rule of law to be asserted. The structures that we are putting in place will help that to happen. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 159, Noes 7.546
|Division No. 124]||[7.38 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Allen, Graham||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Colman, Tony|
|Baker, Norman||Cooper, Yvette|
|Barnes, Harry||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Beard, Nigel||Cormack, Sir Patrick|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Corston, Ms Jean|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Crausby, David|
|Betts, Clive||Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Blizzard, Bob||Darvill, Keith|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Davey, Edward (Kingston)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Doran, Frank|
|Byers, Stephen||Dowd, Jim|
|Casale, Roger||Drew, David|
|Caton, Martin||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Clapham, Michael||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Efford, Clive|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Fisher, Mark||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Flint, Caroline||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Gapes, Mike||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Gardiner, Barry||Meale, Alan|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||Michael, Alun|
|Gerrard, Neil||Milburn, Alan|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Moffatt, Laura|
|Godman, Norman A||Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Moss, Malcolm|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie|
|Grogan, John||Mudie, George|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)|
|Harris, Dr Evan||Olner, Bill|
|Healey, John||Öpik, Lembit|
|Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Heppell, John||Pendry, Tom|
|Hill, Keith||Pickles, Eric|
|Hope, Phil||Pond, Chris|
|Howarth, Alan (Newport E)||Pope, Greg|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Pound, Stephen|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Hutton, John||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Ingram, Adam||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|Jamieson, David||Rendel, David|
|Jenkins, Brian||Robertson, Rt Hon George|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||(Hamilton S)|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Jowell, Ms Tessa||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Keetch, Paul||Skinner, Dennis|
|Khabra, Piara S||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Spellar, John|
|Kingham, Ms Tess||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Lepper, David||Stunell, Andrew|
|Leslie, Christopher||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||(Dewsbury)|
|Lock, David||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Love, Andrew||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Todd, Mark|
|McCabe, Steve||Touhig, Don|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Vaz, Keith|
|McDonnell, John||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|McGrady, Eddie||Watts, David|
|McIntosh Miss Anne||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|McIsaac, Shona||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|MacKay, Andrew||Woolas, Phil|
|McNulty, Tony||Worthington, Tony|
|McWalter, Tony||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|McWilliam, John||Janet Anderson and|
|Mallaber, Judy||Mr. John McFall.|
|Body, Sir Richard||Trimble, David|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Ross, William (E Lond'y)||Mr. John D. Taylor and|
|Thompson, William||Mr. Roy Beggs.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).