HC Deb 17 March 2003 vol 401 cc697-702 7.52 pm
Mr. Peter Robinson

I beg to move manuscript amendment No. 1, in line 2, to leave out from the beginning to the word "in" in line 13 and insert— In Section 31 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998". It will assist the House if I say that I do not intend to speak for more than a couple of minutes on the amendment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—although if I were encouraged, that might change.

The amendment was covered to some extent on Second Reading. Having spoken for three quarters of an hour in that debate, I do not need to add many points. The effect of the amendment would be to have an election on 1 May, as provided in the original 1998 legislation and in the order put forward by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he was required by legal action to do so. There should be no further delay to the election. The people should have the opportunity to speak.

The reality is that the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister are attempting, once again, to cobble together an agreement that has clearly failed. It has gone from crisis to crisis. It has collapsed on four occasions, it has been attended by all sorts of violence and the misbehaviour of the Provisional IRA, and it is abundantly clear that the Secretary of State will not be able to obtain a stable political structure from the existing Belfast agreement. It was Einstein who once defined insanity as endlessly doing the same thing and hoping for a different result. That seems to be the Government's intention. They continue to repeat the same mistakes that they have made before and hope that things will turn out all right. They will not turn out all right, because a new agreement is needed. I hope that the election will allow us to reach a situation in which we can have negotiations for a new agreement that will enjoy the support of not only nationalists in Northern Ireland but the Unionist community as well.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland)

The House has already heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Opik) that we generally support the Bill, so it will come as little surprise that we are opposed to the amendment. We oppose it for two reasons. First, it does not add anything to the Bill. Secondly, as the Minister said earlier, it is a wrecking amendment, although it would not actually wreck the Bill. Clause 1(3) would still categorically state that the date of the election would be 29 May 2003. All the amendment would do is add further confusion and provide work for the courts when the inevitable challenge is brought by the Democratic Unionist party.

Mr. Desmond Browne

As the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) has just said, the amendment is designed to wreck the Bill by removing the provisions that would revoke the order that sets the election day for 1 May and amend the legislation to set a new election date of 29 May. In moving the amendment, the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) did not: pretend that it was anything else. It might even qualify as a reasoned amendment on Second Reading.

It will be obvious that the Government cannot accept the amendment. Postponement is not a step that the Government propose lightly, but we believe that there is a chance of a real breakthrough that will give the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to vote for an Assembly ready to take up powers again. That chance should not be missed, and I submit to the House that it will be missed unless we have this window of opportunity. We cannot allow the Bill to be wrecked in this fashion.

Mr. Peter Robinson

I regret that the Government wish to resile from a date that was set by them in the legislation, and later confirmed by an order by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, simply for political purposes. People should not attempt to manipulate elections and the electoral process for party political reasons. The election date was set by the Government and should not be manipulated by them. I trust that hon. Members will consider the matter and join us in the Lobby on that issue.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 368.

Division No. 115] [7: 56 pm
Burnside, David Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Dodds, Nigel
Donaldson, Jeffrey M. Tellers for the Ayes:
Paisley, Rev. Ian Mrs. Iris Robinson and
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Mr. Gregory Campbell
Abbott, Ms Diane Coaker, Vernon
Adams, Irene (Paisley N) Coffey, Ms Ann
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Cohen, Harry
Alexander, Douglas Coleman, Iain
Allan, Richard Colman, Tony
Allen, Graham Connarty, Michael
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen) Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Corbyn, Jeremy
Atherton, Ms Candy Corston, Jean
Atkins, Charlotte Cotter, Brian
Austin, John Cousins, Jim
Baird, Vera Crausby, David
Banks, Tony Cruddas, Jon
Barrett, John Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Barron, rh Kevin Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Beard, Nigel Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Begg, Miss Anne Darling, rh Alistair
Bell, Stuart Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Benn, Hilary David, Wayne
Benton, Joe (Bootle) Davidson, Ian
Berry, Roger Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Best, Harold Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Blackman, Liz Dawson, Hilton
Blears, Ms Hazel Dean, Mrs. Janet
Blizzard, Bob Denham, rh John
Boateng, rh Paul Dhanda, Parmjit
Borrow, David Dismore, Andrew
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington) Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Bradshaw, Ben Dobson, rh Frank
Breed, Colin Donohoe, Brian H.
Brennan, Kevin Doran, Frank
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend) Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Drew, David (Stroud)
Browne, Desmond Drown, Ms Julia
Bryant, Chris Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Buck, Ms Karen Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Burden, Richard Edwards, Huw
Burnett, John Efford, Clive
Burnham, Andy Ellman, Mrs, Louise
Byers, rh Stephen Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Caborn, rh Richard Farrelly, Paul
Cairns, David Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Flint, Caroline
Caplin, Ivor Follett, Barbara
Carmichael, Alistair Foster, rh Derek
Casale, Roger Foster, Don (Bath)
Caton, Martin Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg) Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Foulkes, rh George
Chaytor, David Francis, Dr. Hywel
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S) Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Godsiff, Roger Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Goggins, Paul Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Lammy, David
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Hain, rh Peter Laws, David (Yeovil)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Lazarowicz, Mark
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Lepper, David
Hancock, Mike Leslie, Christopher
Hanson, David Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Harman, rh Ms Harriet Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart) Linton, Martin
Harvey Nick Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Healey, John Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
Heath, David McAvoy, Thomas
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) McCabe, Stephen
Hendrick, Mark McCafferty, Chris
Hepburn, Stephen McCartney, rh Ian
Heppell, John McDonagh, Siobhain
Hermon Lady MacDonald, Calum
Hesford, Stephen McDonnell, John
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia McIsaac, Shona
Mackay, rh Andrew
Heyes, David McKechin,Ann
Hill, Keith (Streatham) McKenna, Rosemary
Hinchliffe, David Mackinlay, Andrew
Hodge, Margaret McNulty, Tony
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) McWalter, Tony
Holmes, Paul McWilliam, John
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale) Mahmood, Khalid
Hoon, rh Geoffrey Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hope, Phil (Corby) Mallaber, Judy
Hopkins, Kelvin Mann,John (Bassetlaw)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E) Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston) Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Meacher, rh Michael
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Merron, Gillian
Humble, Mrs Joan Michael, rh Alun
Hurst, Alan (Braintree) Milburn, rh Alan
Hutton, rh John Miliband, David
Iddon, Dr. Brian Miller Andrew
Illsley, Eric Moffatt, Laura
Ingram, rh Adam Mole, Chris
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate) Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moore, Michael
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Moran, Margaret
Jamieson, David Morley, Elliot
Johnson, Alan (Hull W) Mountford, Kali
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Mullin, Chris
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Munn, Ms Meg
Jones, Kevan (N Durham) Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak) Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W) Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Kaufman, rh Gerald Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Keeble, Ms Sally Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Keen, Alan (Feltham) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Keen, Ann (Brentford) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Keetch, Paul Olner, Bill
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W) O'Neill, Martin
Kemp, Fraser Öpik, Lembit
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Organ, Diana
Khabra, Piara S. Owen, Albert
Kidney, David Palmer, Dr. Nick
Kilfoyle, Peter Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne Stinchcombe, Paul
Pickthall, Colin Stoate, Dr. Howard
Pike, Peter (Burnley) Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Plaskitt, James Straw, rh Jack
Pond, Chris (Gravesham) Stunell, Andrew
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn) Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Prescott, rh John Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Primarolo, rh Dawn Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Prosser, Gwyn Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pugh, Dr. John Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Purchase, Ken Timms, Stephen
Purnell, James Tipping, Paddy
Quin, rh Joyce Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Quinn, Lawrie Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Rammell, Bill Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough) Trickett, Jon
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N &Bellshill) Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland) Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Rooney, Terry Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell) Viggers, Peter
Ruane, Chris Walley, Ms Joan
Ruddock, Joan Ward, Claire
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Wareing, Robert N.
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N) Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Salter, Martin Watts, David
Sanders, Adrian Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Savidge, Malcolm White, Brian
Sawford, Phil Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Sedgemore, Brian Wicks, Malcolm
Shaw, Jonathan Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Sheerman, Barry Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Sheridan, Jim Willis, Phil
Shipley, Ms Debra Wills, Michael
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Wilson, Brian
Singh, Marsha Winnick, David
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury) Wood, Mike (Batley)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe &Lunesdale) Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Worthington, Tony
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wray, James (Glasgow Baillieston)
Soames, Nicholas
Soley, Clive Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John Wright, David (Telford)
Squire, Rachel Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis Wyatt, Derek
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber) Mr. Nick Ainger and
Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Jane Kennedy.]

8.12 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley

All I say on behalf of the electors whom I represent is roll on 29 May. Let us have the result of the election and let the House take proper democratic note of the same.

8.13 pm
Lembit Öpik

The Minister heard the earlier debate. It is vital that the Government define acts of completion. They must also ensure that there is parity of treatment in terms of information for Northern Ireland parties.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Madam Deputy Speaker

The House will now be suspended for 10 minutes. The Division bell will ring for three minutes before we commence the statements.

8.14 pm

Sitting suspended.

On resuming

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