HC Deb 27 July 1998 vol 317 cc80-1

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

7.30 pm
Mr. McNamara

I shall not delay the Committee long, but clause 58 winds up the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and it would be wrong to allow the occasion to pass without recording the appreciation of—I hope—the whole Committee for the work of successive chairmen and members of the commission, for the way in which it has advanced human rights in Northern Ireland and for the way that it has been prepared to stand up to Governments and insist on the primacy of human rights and of its right to be considered.

It is tragic that Governments have often acted without reference to the commission, despite its terms of reference. Governments did not submit proposals to it and took abrupt courses of action which often resulted in effects quite the contrary to those sought or proposed. Examples include the right to silence and freedom of the press, quite apart from the gamut of security and other legislation affecting human rights. I pay tribute to all the commission chairmen and members who acted for it. Sometimes I agreed with them and sometimes I disagreed, but I knew that they always did a very fine job for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

I associate myself with what the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said. I speak as a junior member of the club of ex-Northern Ireland Ministers and as a co-president of the new dialogue—or new consensus—group. If he was fully fit, I know that the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) would want to say the same thing. The human rights work done by people across the spectrum, often showing great courage and interest, has been important, and they should be thanked for it.

Mr. John D. Taylor

I join hon. Members in their tribute to the chairman of SACHR, a person for whom I have the highest regard. I cannot extend the same sentiment to the commission or to its deliberations and conclusions. The body lacked community balance and its decisions reflected that. Many of its decisions were seen as partial and political and were not respected by the greater number of people in Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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