HC Deb 19 March 1997 vol 292 cc1030-46 12.40 am
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler)

I beg to move, That the draft Public Order (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, which was laid before this House on 17th March, be approved. In his statement to the House on 30 January, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said that the Government welcomed the report of the independent review of parades and marches, and announced a number of measures that we would take in response to it.

The Government undertook to establish without delay an independent Parades Commission with an education, conciliation and mediation role, in time for this year's marching season. At the same time, the Government began consultation on the wider decision-making and related powers of the Parades Commission recommended by the report. That consultation will last until the end of March. The Government accepted the other recommendations of the report, and undertook to examine opportunities to implement them, including the necessary legislation.

The order will amend the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 to implement some of those recommendations that do not hinge on the outcome of the current consultation exercise. The period required for notification of a parade or procession will be increased from seven to 21 days, and new controls on alcohol at parades will be introduced.

The proposal for a draft order was published on 25 February and was distributed to a wide range of individuals for consultation. In order to ensure, so far as possible, that the provisions of the draft order would be in effect before this year's marching season, it was necessary to shorten the consultation period from the usual six weeks to two weeks. Those who responded to the consultation generally welcomed the proposed measures.

Since the publication of the proposal, the Government have taken the opportunity to make two minor technical amendments, which I shall deal with now. First, we have amended article 4(5), which gives the police power to dispose of intoxicating liquor that has been surrendered. There may be circumstances in which a police officer has confiscated drink that he genuinely, but mistakenly, believed to be alcoholic. To provide for such a situation, we have made an amendment to give the police power to dispose of anything that has been surrendered to them. The change mirrors an amendment made to the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Bill, on which the provision is broadly based.

Secondly, we have added a new article 4(10), to ensure that the time limits on the exercise of the controls on alcohol will also apply in a "stand-off situation, where persons have assembled for a parade that does not then go ahead. The amendment will mean that the confiscation powers will end at midnight on the day on which those who have assembled disperse.

I shall now deal briefly with the detailed provisions of the draft order. The current seven days' notice to be given of a public procession has been clearly shown to be inadequate, especially for contentious parades, to give all sides maximum opportunity to discuss differences at a local level and, it is to be hoped, to come to agreement.

The order will therefore increase the period of notice from seven to 21 days. With regard to spontaneous parades, the order will provide that, where it is not reasonable to require the organisers to notify the police 21 days in advance, they may give less than 21 days' notice, but will be required to explain the reason for the short notice. The order will also require that notice is given in a standard form, which will be set out in regulations, and which must be signed by the person giving the notice.

The review team—that is the North team—noted considerable and widespread concern from all parts of the community about the problems caused by alcohol at parades, a problem that the measures contained in the draft order address. The measures make a discretionary power available to the police. Clearly, the use of the powers by the police will be dictated by the operational situation and discretion will be exercised. I am confident that the Royal Ulster Constabulary will adopt a sensible and commonsense approach to the enforcement of this measure.

In summary, the order would implement a number of the recommendations in the review team's report. I hope that we shall be able to press on with other necessary legislation to deal with any other matters raised in the report in the next Parliament, should that prove necessary after the consultation period. I commend the draft order to the House.

12.45 am
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

We find this to be a miserably inadequate order, but we shall support it because we recognise that its two provisions—the need to extend the period of notice to 21 days, and the need to control alcohol—are necessary. Those seem to be common sense and should be applied, but we feel that the people of Northern Ireland have been badly let down. In the words of the Secretary of State on 30 January in response to the North report: Last summer, public disorder occurred in Northern Ireland on a very grave scale. We now have these two small provisions, which have become the total legislative response so far by the Government to the North report. There were 43 recommendations in the North report and the Government's response is that two are to be enacted. We feel particularly aggrieved because it was obvious for so long that the Government should be reappraising how marches and parades in Northern Ireland should be conducted and controlled.

My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) was pressing from the middle of the summer of 1995 for action on this, and the Government responded only after the appalling events of last summer. They then failed to act upon the North report in full when it was published and we are now left, in effect, with two clauses as the Government's response. Any incoming Government will feel that their task has been made more difficult. As my hon. Friend said on January 30 The police were put in an impossible position. The House has a duty to do all that it can to prevent such a situation from arising again."—[Official Report, 30 January 1997; Vol. 289, c. 509–10.] That is not what the House has done.

The central recommendation of North—in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar, "the guts" of the report—was that there should be an adjudicatory body. That was not immediately accepted by the Government, who said that they would need further consultation. Can we hear from the Government the results of that consultation? The Government gave the impression that they were hesitant about an adjudicatory body, but will they now confirm that it is their view that there should not be such a body?

For our part, the Labour party can confirm that it is our intention to enact the North report in full. The Government promised that, in terms of the non-adjudicatory functions—the Minister confirmed this—they endorsed the report's recommendations, which they believed should be implemented without delay. We are less than a fortnight before the start of the marching season, and nothing is in place. The measures that we are considering today will not be in place for the start of the marching season, and even the 21-day rule created by this order will not be effective until the marches that will take place in the middle of May.

What has happened to the advisory commission? What is its membership? I remind the Secretary of State that he said in the House on 30 January: The Government therefore intend to establish, as soon as possible, an independent body of five people, to be known as the Parades Commission, with the mediation, conciliation and education roles recommended in the report. We intend that the new commission should be in place ahead of this year's marching season, precisely because we recognise that it has a valuable role to play. He said that legislation would not be required to establish the commission, so it is fair for us to ask where it is.

If there is a commission, as the Government agree, even if it is only with the mediation, conciliation and education role, it is vital that it is backed up by a statutory code of conduct. From reading Hansard of 30 January, it would seem that the Government accepted the recommendation that there should be a statutory code of conduct. They agreed that a code should be prepared and published for consultation as soon as practicable. We want to know where the code is that will apply to this year's parades.

The Government also said that consideration should be given, as recommended by North, to changes to articles 4(1)(b) and 7 of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. What conclusions have they come to on that matter? They also pledged that there would be a registration scheme for bands, which would be introduced as soon as the necessary practical arrangements could be put in place. Again, what has happened to that proposal?

The Secretary of State also said: There needs to be within all who live in Northern Ireland the will and … determination that last year's terrible events shall never again occur … the Government pledge that they will play their own part to the full."—[Official Report, 30 January 1997; Vol. 289, c. 509–510.] I hope that I can have a full response to my questions.

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry)

Does the hon. Gentleman not yet understand that there is in Northern Ireland an organisation called the IRA and its fellow travellers, who are determined that there will not be understanding and are totally committed to seeing that there is mayhem, violence and confrontation in the streets? So long as they are there, those events will occur.

Mr. Worthington

I understand that. We need to appreciate that many people told North that, to cope with that problem, there needed to be a better statutory framework than exists at present. That will not solve the problem of organisations dedicated to causing mayhem, but we can improve the legislative framework within which we are operating.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the head of the IRA-Sinn Fein has said that those events came about as a result of careful and deliberate planning for three years? If I stood up in Northern Ireland and said that I had planned events for three years, my feet would not hit the ground—I would be in Castlereagh. The head of the IRA-Sinn Fein was never even questioned by the police. Now, we are hearing that there will be trouble in other places where there has never been any trouble. This is an IRA-concocted way to have trouble throughout the Province.

Mr. Worthington

I respect what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I am aware—I could not see it myself because I was here—of the programme that demonstrated that there had been planning and that Mr. Adams said that that had occurred. One also has to recognise, however, that people on the other side of the divide are convinced that similar planning will cause confrontation in the opposite direction.

The North report was instituted with our full support to try to improve the framework within which judgments about marches were made. We believe that the Government could have done more and that any incoming Government will be left in a much weaker position than they should have been because of the lack of action on the report.

12.54 am
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

I have listened carefully to the speeches in this important debate. It is important, because I believe that we are witnessing an attack on one group of people in Northern Ireland, within the United Kingdom.

Before developing my theme, I want to join my hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) in wishing the Minister a happy retirement. I trust that, as he has found fulfilment in serving the people of the United Kingdom, and the people of Northern Ireland in particular, he will also find it in whatever occupation he turns his hand to. The people of Northern Ireland deeply appreciate the service that he gave, and Members of Parliament have at all times found him courteous and concerned for their safety in the face of IRA terrorism. He has always shown personal concern for individual Members and their constituents.

I express my appreciation on behalf of my constituents in Mid-Ulster, because the Minister played an important role and gave support to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and members of the security forces protecting the citizens of the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland in particular. I trust that he accepts the appreciation of the people of Ulster.

I am extremely concerned about the order, which is reactionary: as we have come to expect, after some agitation from republicans and others, and interference from outside Governments—from the United States of America or the Irish Republic—there has been a reaction from Government. Unfortunately, the reaction is comparable with that in the legislation on dogs, which was bad law. The order is not in the interests of the Northern Ireland community, and it will be regretted.

Once again, we are creating a nightmare. The situation that has developed is causing great concern in the community. Marches and parades have been part of the culture of the Unionist community over the years. I was raised in Arboe, where Unionists were the minority, and we had excellent relationships with the nationalists. Problems are being created that simply did not occur before. Neighbour is being turned against neighbour, and that has not simply happened: it has been carefully devised over several years.

We are approaching the marching season, and many people are talking about another Garvaghy road. Let me remind the House once again that the Orange parade that walked to the church there two years ago did so in a legitimate and lawful parade. The parade was given the authority to do that and to leave the church and go back down the Garvaghy road to the Orange hall in Portadown. They were not acting outside the law. They had legal authority to go to and from church. The route was laid out, notice was properly given and permission granted. Why are we talking about the situation? How did the order come about? Let us remember the facts.

The IRA went into the Garvaghy estate, took over some of the homes—as mentioned by the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) in a previous debate—and threatened the community. Many Roman Catholics were told to get out on to the streets and object to the parade. They were intimidated out, but that does not seem to matter; it was the Orangemen who were at fault. They were just coming to and from church in a proper, legal procession in an honourable and decent fashion, as they had for many years.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)

And none of them had had a sip of alcohol.

Rev. William McCrea

No alcohol was consumed. People were acting legally, but terrorists got involved. Their voice seems to mean more, because behind it is not just the ordinary marching of feet but the thud of a bomb or the power of a gun. That registers more. Sad to say, over the years it has registered with more authority with Governments, with those who are supposed to be protecting the community in a democracy. It seems that terrorists must be listened to, because their threat is not that of a debate in the House.

As hon. Members know, over the years, the voice of those who have exercised their democratic right of debating in the House has been little heard, and it has meant very little. We had the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the framework document. Was that the will of the people or of their elected representatives who speak on the people's behalf, and who have gone to the people to renew their mandates? I was one of those who, after the Anglo-Irish Agreement, resigned my seat, even though Mid-Ulster has a republican majority. I was willing to resign my seat and put myself before the electorate again to ensure that the Government knew that I was speaking with the authority of the people who sent me to the House.

The people spoke; the voice of the ballot box spoke again, but the reaction was that one Minister said that it does not matter how people vote, because the Government would have it their way anyhow. So much for democracy; but terrorist gunmen can say that Orangemen, even in lawful procession, cannot go down a road because they will shoot them. Sad to say, there was a reaction to the threat of the gun. They did not have to shoot, only threaten. The community is being held to ransom.

My family knows exactly what the power of the gun of an IRA terrorist thug means. The blood of my loved ones ran in the streets and homes of the Northern Ireland, and but for the mercy of God, as the Minister knows, every one of them would have been lying dead—no thanks to the terrorists. They threaten the community.

That was what happened on the Garvaghy road. It had nothing to do with Drumcree parish church, but everything to do with murdering thugs who seem to think that they have the right to threaten the community and hold it to ransom. Why do they think that? It is because they have done it for the past 30 years and got away with it.

Mr. Beggs

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is because of the abject failure of successive Governments for 30 years that the outgoing Government and whichever party is the incoming Government had better recognise that the demonstration of solidarity across Northern Ireland, arising from the despicable ban on the lawful parades, is symbolic of a new atmosphere in Northern Ireland? The majority community will not tolerate interference from Dublin or America, or failure on the part of the Government properly to act.

Rev. William McCrea

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making his views heard. They are my views, too. The reality is that there is a different spirit. There is talk of the spirit of Drumcree. Yes, there is the spirit of Drumcree. There is a spirit within Northern Ireland. We are sick of concession after concession. All that the terrorists have to do is hold their guns up in the air and threaten to shoot the people of Northern Ireland. Not only are we threatened with being shot, but our rights, our liberties and our freedoms are being taken away.

I am sickened as a Member of Parliament who has come to the House for the past 14 years to be told by those leading for Her Majesty's Opposition that they will race on. They will not hold back. Once they get in, they are going to race on. It does not seem to me that we have any rights at all, or that we will be listened to at all.

I have a message for the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). He is not coming to Northern Ireland to dictate. We are sick of dictation. There will be a bit of democracy, and in a democracy, the people have some say. They have a right to be listened to. Their elected representatives have a right not to be shot at or silenced, and a right to be heard, and by the grace of God we will be heard because we are going along the road of democracy.

Every concession—Garvaghy road, for example—has been looked upon as weakness. Every concession has been looked upon by Republicans as a stepping stone to more concessions. They hold out the begging bowl. Of course, with every concession they obtain, they can remind us, "Sure, all we had to do in the past was threaten or shoot, and look what we have got for it." I ask the House to think carefully.

What have my people who have been democrats and peaceful, law-abiding citizens got? What has been the end result after we have gone down the road to democracy, and the ballot box has been supreme? The bullet has been cast aside. We do not want it. I will tell the House what we have got. We have got coffin after coffin, grave after grave. Some might not want to listen, but that is the sad reality.

It does not seem that many want to listen to the Ulster Unionists, but my, it seems important to listen to the republican, because he might have an ear in the White House. There might be a hand outstretched in the White House that will take Adams's hand and hold it tight. He might have a southern Government down in Dublin who are happy to play footsie with him, but we are talking about something which affects our rights, our freedoms and our liberties.

What happened at Garvaghy road? Did it happen by chance? Let me quote what Adams said. I will quote it word for word because it is important: Ask any activists in the North did Drumcree happen by accident, and they will tell you 'no'… Three years of work on the Lower Ormeau Road, on Portadown, parts of Fermanagh and Newry and in Bellaghy and up in Derry… Three years work went into creating that situation, and fair play to those people who put the work in. And they are the type of scene changes that we have to focus on and develop and exploit. That is what the order tells us tonight—that we are reacting to three years of planning by terrorists.

Did the parades start three years ago? No, they did not. I am 48 years old, and there were parades from the day I was born and for years and years before. We lived side by side with our Roman Catholic neighbours, and we insulted nobody. We lived as good neighbours—we worked together, we sweated together, and, when anything happened to our loved ones, we wept together. It is sad that, today, neighbour is turning against neighbour because of a few thugs who created a situation, planned it, schemed it and now tell us that they are going to focus on it, develop it and exploit it.

What have we heard from the Dispatch Box tonight? That those thugs are going to be aided and abetted and assisted. I hope that, when they leave this House at the end of this Parliament, go back to their constituencies and put their head on their pillow at night, hon. Members have a clean conscience. But I tell them this: anybody who knows that the IRA has planned, focused, developed and exploited the situation in Northern Ireland and who aids and abets them through legislation is guilty.

What are we told? Twenty-one days. What for? Not 21 days for people to talk together, but 21 days to allow republicans to build up a case against us. That is what the 21 days are for: 21 days for them to invent or create scenes and to manipulate situations; 21 days to conspire against lawful, legal, law-abiding people; 21 days for thugs who have never given anything to the community and who have no intention of ever giving anything to the community. All they have done is draw out the blood of the community and leave it on the street and laugh when the poor corpses go by. That is the reality—21 days.

There is no doubt that the order will pass, that it will get through tonight, but will it solve the situation? No, it will not. It is another piece of appeasement.

I have this to say on the subject of alcohol. Anyone who knows me knows that I oppose alcohol. I am a teetotaller—I hate the stuff, because I saw enough of it when I was a boy. Is there not rank hypocrisy here? A few months ago, legislation was raced through this House. What for? To extend drinking in Northern Ireland. We were told, "You have not got enough of it, you have not got long enough to do it, you need more time to do it. Not only that, but you have not enough outlets—you'd better get it into every corner shop." It is sickening hypocrisy.

This order might be only a couple of pages long, but it means a lot. It only takes a line on a page to remove a person's liberty altogether, and that is the road this House seems to be taking. God forbid. I did not want to be brought up in China. I was born in the United Kingdom.

1.14 am
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) pleaded for more action to be taken to put an end to this problem. One of the best ways of doing so would be to change the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the implanting of the Maryfield secretariat in Northern Ireland, which is one of the cancers that has been eroding our community as people have interfered at different levels of government in Northern Ireland. Her Majesty's Government must take the final decision, but time and again they have implemented recommendations from Maryfield, and many people in Northern Ireland are aware of the part played by Maryfield in 1995 and 1996.

The order before us stems from the North report; the Labour Front-Bench team has chided the Government for not fully implementing the recommendations in the report. The North committee was asked to examine the issue of parades. It focused on the loyalist parades, especially the Orange parades. It also moved from the concept of parades to comment on the qualifications of an Orangeman and to accuse the Orange Order of being the cause of sectarianism in Northern Ireland.

Although the committee had an Anglican chairman, the report said nothing about the Thirty-Nine Articles; although a committee member was a Presbyterian minister, the report said nothing about the Westminster confession of faith; and although a member was a Roman Catholic priest, the report said nothing about some of the claims of Vatican Council II, even in its modern form, and nothing about the other sectarian claims, which even forbid a person to have communion although they claim to be one with us in other ways. It was strange that the committee went down that road.

On the issue of the number of days' notice, the laughable fact is that it is well known when the Orange parades will be held: every police station has the rotas and times. Only as a result of the introduction of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 was seven days' notice required. We were told that it was requested by the police, and thereafter we abided by it.

We managed at that time to get rid of some of the more obnoxious interference in civil liberties, although we did not get it all dealt with at that time. Interestingly, the Liberal spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), visited us to make a plea for civil liberties on prevention of terrorism, but he does not appear to realise that the requirement of seven days' notice interferes with civil liberties.

I am happy to recognise that the Minister's statement earlier showed that the Government are aware that a requirement of 21 days' notice would be unduly restrictive, because it would interfere with many aspects of public life, such as a moment of rejoicing. If a football team won the cup, or if an athlete returned from a foreign sporting event as a champion, there would be a spontaneous welcome, which would be a breach of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. It would be even worse if people had to wait 21 days. The Orange institution has no difficulty with the 21 days from that point of view. Some traditional walks do not go out of their way to provoke people. People can easily remain unprovoked by just staying at home.

I live off the Ormeau road. I cannot see the Ormeau bridge from my house; but some people have such brilliant eyesight that they can see the Ormeau bridge from Dungannon, 40 miles away. They feel provoked, so they come up to prevent loyalists from walking down a main road. Some loyalists take no more than five minutes to walk from the bridge to the Northern Ireland cricket ground—yet that is supposed to amount to provocation.

As for spontaneous protest, last year, in the village of Pomeroy, during the holiday season, a person managed to get an oil tanker supplied with oil to deliver oil around the country. This happened during a boycott of the local non-Orangeman trader who had run an oil business for years. In England, Scotland or Wales, could someone immediately procure an oil lorry and a supply of oil to coincide with a boycott of a local trader? The evidence of that came not from the BBC or Ulster Television but from a prime time programme on the RTE station in the Irish Republic. It all adds up to evidence of plotting to undermine stability.

We question whether the order is needed. It will not solve the problem at all.

When people ask me why I do not drink, I usually say that I am better off without it—I am bad enough without it, too. Someone once asked me, "Don't you enjoy yourself, then?" I said, "I do; and I know I'm enjoying myself when I haven't a headache in the morning."

Will the provision governing alcohol be used for all sorts of public gatherings? We Orangemen have tried in the past to get the police to implement the law. Public houses are not supposed to open before 10 o'clock in the morning, yet they were allowed to trade before that time, with no action taken against them. We also raised the question of special licences being issued on the twelfth, only to be told that nothing could be done but to issue the licences.

I know that the Minister said that the measure would be implemented with sensitivity, but what does that mean? Belfast and other places have in the past experienced "alcohol-free zones". The law is such that a constable can do nothing to a person breaching the law, unless he first warns the person that he or she is in breach of it. The person must then carry on drinking around the next corner before another constable can do anything about the situation. That is totally laughable. The police have told us that this sort of legislation is unenforceable.

Legislation is being rushed through the House. I empathise with the idea behind it and recognise the old saying, "When the drink is in, the wit is out." We face the problem of lager louts in England and football hooligans around Belfast or elsewhere, but I question whether the police will be able to enforce such legislation.

I draw attention to the Opposition's cry for more action to be taken and ask them to consider where they are heading with that action. If we have an adjudication body that is also charged with mediation, there is an immediate conflict. Nor has there been a clear perception of the concept of mediation.

For example, last year, people in the Ormeau road were asked whether they would accept me, as the apprentices in Londonderry accepted the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), to bring them together and mediate. The Rice faction in the Ormeau road said, "We are not of that mind." Fair enough; I am broad-minded, and I accept that they did not like me. However, they are so entrenched in bigotry and opposition to proper democracy that they were not even prepared to recognise the then deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Dr. Macdonald, an SDLP elected representative for that very area.

I am sorry that our colleagues from the SDLP are not here now. We saw the scenes on television. There was a mass invasion from west Belfast to try to occupy the Ormeau road, and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), Dr. Macdonald and others were there trying to mediate. They were ignored and insulted, because the Rice faction, which organised those residents' groups throughout the Province, was not prepared to listen to them.

The North report spoke about the conflict between the loyal orders and the residents' groups. The loyal orders had no conflict with anybody; the residents' groups sought the conflict, trying publicly to discredit the RUC and get television pictures of it allegedly battering those innocent people into the ground.

When I was at a football match in London recently, it was fascinating to see the police presence just to control the crowd. I know of no place—certainly not in the city of Dublin—where an unruly crowd is allowed to dominate. I remember student days there, when workers just protesting on the street for the right to walk were batoned off the street by the Gardai. The RUC has not done that.

Mr. William Ross

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in those confrontations over the past two years, we have seen an attempt by the IRA to determine who will rule the streets, and that, so far, it has been getting away with it on too many occasions?

Rev. Martin Smyth

My hon. Friend is correct. I have no wish to detain the House, except to say that the Government now and after the election must watch that they do not repeat the tragedy and folly of 1968–69, when they did not read the philosophy of Dr. R. Johnson, who was then the education officer of the IRA. They are following the same procedures now. Having failed by terror to intimidate the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, the IRA is now seeking to destabilise the community through street protests.

I congratulate the Minister and thank him for his services to Northern Ireland.

I was interested to note that in the earlier debate there was no reference to the drugs scene, other than by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross). Is not something going wrong in that respect? In my constituency within five days last week two men with paramilitary connections died from overdoses of drugs.

1.30 am
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

This is an important debate. It goes to the heart of the situation in Northern Ireland. Those who do not know the situation in our Province and are not acquainted with Irish history will not be aware that from time to time processions have been at the centre of much disorder, both when Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and since the separation of the 26 counties from the United Kingdom.

Various Parliaments and Governments of the United Kingdom have dealt with the problem in the way that we are told that it must be dealt with tonight. One can read Irish history from the time when Ireland was one within the United Kingdom and from the founding of Ulster and one will find people who did not know the place attempting to introduce bans and giving in to unruly elements who decided who shall walk the streets. They all failed totally, and this motion will fail, too.

It is not the House that will suffer, but the ordinary men and women in Northern Ireland and their children. The House has come to a sorry state. When anything is to be done in Northern Ireland, people are called in who do not know what is happening there.

We have the problem of decommissioning. It should never have been a problem. The terrorists should have been told from the very beginning, as the Prime Minister told me, that they must hand in their weaponry. Government and Opposition spokesmen said the same. Even the great Dick Spring said the same. But the Government could not do it, so they called in strangers— the peace envoy nominated by the President of the United States, the general from Canada and the former Prime Minister of Finland—people who knew nothing about Northern Ireland. They produced a report, which the Government were accused of rubbishing. All that was brought out of the report was the principles.

I accept the principles, but I do not accept the report, because it came down on the side of mutuality. I must wait for the day when the IRA army council and the combined loyalist military command—two outlawed organisations—come to an agreement, and their arms will be handed in. What utter folly. When will those two illegal so-called army councils achieve mutuality and agree? That is what I am asked to accept in the talks. It is the policy accepted by the Government. It has been accepted by the Irish Government. It has been accepted as the basis of the talks. No right-thinking person will commit himself to that.

And then we have trouble with parades. What happened? We had a person from the United Kingdom who had never seen a parade in his life and knew nothing about them. We also had a liberal Presbyterian ex-moderator who was on the record as being against parading. We had a Roman Catholic priest who was also on the record as being against it. Those were the people who came together to find a solution. So they brought in their solution, which was an attack on people who paraded. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) has said that it was a definition of sectarianism. It was an attempt to tar and feather anyone who walked on the roads who happened to be a Protestant and believed in the Williamite revolution settlement, on which the constitution of this country is built. That is what it was all about.

We were told that the answer was the commission. What will happen when the commission meets? What will happen when the full-blown recommendations are made? Will it be advisory? There will be interests that will prove to be at variance. How will it be possible to adjudicate and then mediate? It is not possible to be an adjudicator and a mediator at the same time.

We are told that everything will be fixed up and we shall have the commission. It will meet and say, "No, the Orangemen are not going to walk down that particular road. Although they have walked down it for 180 years, they can no longer do so because it offends certain people."

On the day of the parade people will turn up and the police officer in charge who is there to keep the peace says, "The only way that I can keep the peace is to let this orderly parade through." And he does that. From every throat of every opposing person there will be a cry for the officer's dismissal from the service. Why will that be? The cry will be made because the officer kept the peace.

I want the House to know that the Orangemen walked to Dumcree church and walked back again. They walked that parade because the route was agreed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but Oban street in Portadown was closed to the Orangemen.

I happened to be mere. The Orangemen were given a solemn undertaking that their one church parade of the year would not be affected. We know that the parade has taken place for 180 years. They were told, "You will go there and come back again." So two years ago they went on the route as usual. They had the return from the church to Portadown agreed. The route was legally set up by the police. But when the Orangemen came out of the church they were told, "The road is blocked. The IRA are in the Garvaghy road estate with their guns and you can't go down."

The police changed their mind and said, "They will never go down that road." I am not an Orangeman, but I was asked to go to Dumcree by the Orangemen. They asked me to talk to the police, which I did. I talked to the assistant chief constable, Blair Wallace. It was in the middle of the night in Belfast. He said, "We will face the Orangemen down." I said, "What about facing down the men with the guns on the Garvaghy road estate?" The law breakers should have been faced down, not those who were keeping the law.

I said to Blair Wallace, "You have been a friend of mine for years but I tell you that you are a fool because the Orangemen will go down that road. They will wait, wait and wait, and eventually they will go down that road." He said, "Never. You can go back to them and say that they will never go down that road. That is it."

Why did the police not deal with the elements in the Garvaghy road? They did not because of the pressure of the southern Government and the Maryfield secretariat. A storm was stirred up about that, but eventually we went down the road. Let us remember that the last parade was not told that it could not go back down the road. It was open ended, and once the people reached the church the same thing happened. They had eventually to get down the road, because of a problem. People all over the Province said that if that happened it would be the end. The men from Dublin were exhorting the RUC to get stuck in to law-abiding citizens whose only crime was that they were going to a place of worship and wanted to get home.

The House should realise that that cannot be done to the people of Northern Ireland all the time. People have to realise that there must be a democratic solution. What is the use of democracy if the people, through the ballot box, cannot appoint their spokesmen and urge the Government to take the right action? We know what happened. After that, of course, everything was blamed on Drumcree, but Drumcree had nothing to do with it; it was the people in the Garvaghy road. To make out that Drumcree parish church was the centre of some revolution is nonsense. The people who caused the trouble were in the Garvaghy road.

The problem is spreading across the Province. We now have the problem in Drummore, which had never heard of it before. As my colleague pointed out, it is a well-orchestrated IRA plan that they will exploit every time, and there will be serious trouble. Yet we are told that we have to approve the order tonight.

Mr. William Ross

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the whole concept of local agreements is nonsense, because even if agreement were reached between a loyalist organisation and the ordinary Roman Catholics living in the area, it would immediately be seized on by the IRA and a garbled version would come out? The whole thing would be blown out of the water by the IRA. Is not that the lesson that we should absorb from what happened when people have hitherto tried to talk to each other?

Rev. Ian Paisley

There is not a place about which that could be more truly said than Dunloy, in my constituency. In Dunloy is a Presbyterian church where Orangemen have paraded for more than 100 years. Much pressure has been put on it. The present moderator of the Presbyterian church said, "As my people go to church on Sunday morning, they are told by the people in Dunloy, 'We've got the caretaker out of his house and we have it. You now don't have a full-time Minister, and we'll get your church as well.'" After these troubles, they went into the churchyard and desecrated the most prominent grave there, tearing up the moss that covered it and throwing it all around the churchyard. Then they broke all the windows in the area.

Who are these people? As the Member of Parliament for that area, I was very concerned. A friend of mine knew many of the local people in Dunloy. With all our help, he brokered an agreement: that, on 26 November, an Orange service would go through to the church. The decent people of Dunloy said, "Yes, but we have to protest against it." We said, "You have your protest. We'll understand that, but as long as we get through." The people of Dunloy were so impressed by the way in which the Orangemen handled the situation—allowing no one to walk in a parade except by invitation, and limiting the numbers— that they withdrew their application and said, "We'll not protest. You can go."

On the Sunday that the protest was to be held, IRA men from Loughguile and from the Mid-Ulster area moved in and told the people who had brokered the agreement with us, "You can't do that. You are going out on the street to stop this, and if you don't, we'll shoot you." They produced a gun and put it to a man's ear, and said, "That is what is going to happen", and it did happen. The police let it happen. They did not have enough power to put the procession through. Now those people tell us that they can do nothing, because they are under threat, which is exactly what the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) said. That is being repeated all over the place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) referred to neighbour being set against neighbour. What I have described is what is setting them one against the other. They are intimidated and run into the ground by gunmen. Mr. Adams boasts about that, and the police do not take him away. For three years he has been working to destroy our country and to break the law. People will exploit the situation even more. They are getting everything they want. They want 21 days to organise their rebellion.

The House should know that no notice used to be given for traditional parades. That was not needed, because the police knew that they would take place on a certain day. When that day arrived, the local sergeant would confirm that it would take place as usual and arrangements were made. The House took away that traditional parade agreement. Why did they scrap it? Because of the Anglo-Irish agreement and the new Public Order (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.

We went to prison in protest about this issue, and the House laughed at us. Hon. Members are not laughing tonight about what happened last year. They should have listened to us and not gone ahead with this order. My hon. Friend and I have dealt with Hibernian processions, which go through predominantly Protestant areas. I resent what the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said about people on the other side who would stop them. No one lays a finger on those Hibernians: they walk their traditional route and they will continue to do so.

Mr. William Ross

Is it not a fact that, in living memory in Northern Ireland, there has not been an attack on any parade of the Ancient Order of Hibernians by the Protestant population?

Rev. Ian Paisley

I know of no place or time in history since the drawing of the border and Northern Ireland remained within the United Kingdom when the Protestant population attacked an AOH parade. That is a traditional parade, but the traditional parade agreement has been thrown out. This order was hailed by the south of Ireland as a great step forward. It is certainly a step forward for the IRA. We are now going further and further into the mess and mire of this whole situation.

We must draw back, because people will say, "If we cannot go to our church, as we have always walked to our church, the time has come to make a stand." Do not force law-abiding citizens to become lawless. There are plenty of lawless groups in Northern Ireland. Some lawless groups on the Protestant side are being courted by the Government and the Opposition.

When I walk out in the morning and go down the Newtownards road, I see the great big notices put up by the Progressive Unionist party and Ulster Democratic party—the two fringe loyalist groups that are connected with Protestant paramilitaries—which say, "Carson brought in the guns. Paisley says, 'Hand them over'." And I am supposed to sit in quietness with those people, at a table.

That slogan is all over Northern Ireland. Not only did those people write it on the site; they went to a new church that we were building, and wrote it there. It does not hurt me, because everyone knows where I stand on the issue. I have had bullets put through my bedroom window by Protestant paramilitaries, so I know something about it. I am not worried about myself, but I am now seriously worried about the ordinary people of Northern Ireland. They have had enough.

I ask the House to be careful about what it does, and I worry about what Opposition Front Benchers have said. The matter needs careful consideration. We are talking about 21 days to give those in authority time to stop the parade. The longer we give them, the more they will be organised. What are people in Dungannon to do with the Ormeau bridge? Why do they have to bring people from the outlying areas of republicanism into the Ormeau road, and allow them to sleep them over in their houses? The local people in the Ormeau road were not causing the trouble.

It should be remembered that every residents' organisation is led by an IRA man. The IRA controls those organisations, and it can exploit them. I say this to the House: do not go down this road, because it will end in disaster. Hold back, and consider. Why should Northern Ireland be governed, in times of difficulty, by commissions that are set up and present reports? The report that we are discussing has never been properly analysed by the House: I do not think that we have ever had a proper debate to consider it. It has never been submitted to a Committee of the House; it has simply been rammed through.

Father Crilly, Dr. Dunlop and the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford university are not the men to make a decision about something that they have not had to live with. I think that it is time the House considered what it is doing, and had a proper evaluation of where this will lead. The chief constable said that, under the regulations, it would be impossible for him to do his job. It is a policing job, not a job for people who just think, "This is the way to do it." The place must be policed, but it makes the job of a chief constable—or any officer—impossible if, instead of using his professionalism and the opinions that he has after long service and experience, all that is set aside by people who do not know.

I would be interested tonight—as, I know, would the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie—to see who will be on the committee that will make these decisions. I trust that the House will think again.

1.51 am
Sir John Wheeler

We have had an interesting debate on this modest order. I understand that the House is, as it were, restive for rest, so I shall be as brief as possible.

The hon. Members for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) have made some profound remarks about the character of public order events in Northern Ireland—remarks that the House would do well to heed. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, South that the loyalist institutions have within their constitution an obligation not to be triumphalist, to keep the peace and to operate within the rule of law in their activities in Northern Ireland. That needs to be widely understood.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster spoke with great passion, because he has suffered what few hon. Members in the present Parliament have suffered, and perhaps few, if any, Members of the Parliament that is to assemble in May are likely to suffer. He and his family have been under machine-gun fire in their home. They know what terrorism is and the evil of it. He is entitled to speak with the fire and determination that he did because of that personal experience. He and others were right to draw attention to the evil of Provisional IRA-Sinn Fein manipulating residents' groups to cause the maximum disruption during what is commonly called the marching season. The House should recognise where the fault lies. It is to be deplored. I thank the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster for his kind references to myself. I am deeply obliged to him for that.

After I had introduced the debate, the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) raised a number of issues. He castigated the Government for not implementing the North commission report in full. The modest and brief debate that we have enjoyed illustrates to him the difficulty of implementing that report in full, a report with profound and, in some respects, radical recommendations, which, if they are to stand a chance of influence and success, must enjoy the support of the democratically elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, some of whom have spoken in the debate. I am sure, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will reflect on the debate and realise that the Government's chosen course of consultation, proper analysis and a determination to introduce in the next Parliament legislation that can be supported, is the wisest course.

The Government will proceed to appoint members of the commission for the narrow purpose of mediation, conciliation and education. It has not been easy to find people willing to serve on that body, but I hope that the Government will be able to announce the chairmanship and membership very shortly.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the codes of practice and other matters of some detail. All those have yet to be resolved and determined. They all take time. The evidence for the necessity of that time has surely been exposed in this short debate.

I commend the order to the House.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 59, Noes 6.

Division No. 100] [1.57 am
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Kynoch, George
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Lidington, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Arbuthnot, James McAvoy, Thomas
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) MacKay, Andrew
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Barnes, Harry McLoughlin, Patrick
Bates, Michael Maitland, Lady Olga
Boswell, Tim Malone, Gerald
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Brandreth, Gyles Merchant, Piers
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Neubert, Sir Michael
Carrington, Matthew Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Clappison, James Paice, James
Coe, Sebastian Pickles, Eric
Conway, Derek Riddick, Graham
Rowe, Andrew
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F) Spencer, Dr Robert
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Spink, Dr Robert
Cran, James Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Stephen, Michael
Fabricant, Michael Sweeney, Walter
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Gale, Roger Wells, Bowen
Gallie, Phil Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Whittingdale, John
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Heald, Oliver Worthington, Tony
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Jones, Robert B (W Herts) Mr. Timothy Wood and Mr.Richard Ottaway
Knapman, Roger
Beggs, Roy Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
McCrea, Rev William Paisley, Rev Ian Tellers for the Noes:
Ross, William (E Londy) Mr. Peter Robinson and Rev. Martin Smyth.
Taylor. Rt Hon John D (Stranaf'd)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Public Order (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, which was laid before this House on 17th March, be approved.