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Column 1259

Ground, Patrick

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Holt, Richard

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunter, Andrew

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Janman, Tim

Kilfedder, James

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)

Knapman, Roger

Knowles, Michael

Lang, Ian

Lightbown, David

Livsey, Richard

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

Lyell, Sir Nicholas

McCrea, Rev William

McCrindle, Robert

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Mans, Keith

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Meyer, Sir Anthony

Molyneaux, Rt Hon James

Montgomery, Sir Fergus

Morrison, Sir Charles

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Needham, Richard

Paisley, Rev Ian

Porter, David (Waveney)

Raffan, Keith

Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)

Roe, Mrs Marion

Sackville, Hon Tom

Sayeed, Jonathan

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Stern, Michael

Stevens, Lewis

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Summerson, Hugo

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

Taylor, Matthew (Truro)

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thorne, Neil

Thurnham, Peter

Tracey, Richard

Twinn, Dr Ian

Viggers, Peter

Waddington, Rt Hon David

Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)

Wallace, James

Waller, Gary

Warren, Kenneth

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Wheeler, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wood, Timothy

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. David Maclean and

Mr. Michael Fallon.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 7

Application to the High Court

Mr. Jim Marshall : I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 4 leave out lines 1 to 15 and insert--

( ) The Attorney General may apply to the High Court for a determination that a person has, while a member of a district council or of the Northern Ireland Assembly, acted in breach of the terms of a declaration against crimes of violence made by him'.

Mr. Speaker : With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments :

No. 18, in page 4, line 10, at end insert--

(iv) the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,

(v) a Northern Ireland Member of the European Assembly, (vi) a Northern Ireland Member of Parliament whose constituency includes the district council area concerned or any part thereof, and'.

No. 28, in page 4, line 10, at end insert--

(iv) the Director of Public Prosecutions in cases of likely personal intimidation or threat to safety'.

No. 19, in page 4, line 15, at end insert--

(iii) the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,

(iv) a Northern Ireland Member of the European Assembly, (v) a Northern Ireland Member of Parliament'.

No. 29, in page 4, line 15, at end insert--

(iii) the Director of Public Prosecutions in cases of likely personal intimidation or threat to safety'.

Mr. Marshall : During a previous Division the accusation was levelled at me, probably quite correctly, that when I intervened in an earlier debate I had not kept to the terms of the amendment that was being considered.

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There may well be some truth in that allegation, but I certainly intend to keep to the terms of this particular amendment. If I do that within the bounds of order, I shall be part of a very small minority of hon. Members who have managed to keep within the strict terms of the amendments to which they were speaking this evening. We find clause 7 especially distasteful. We have made clear our opposition to the Bill throughout its deliberations, but clause 7 is the worst part of it. It enables the Government to abdicate their responsibility to enforce the legislation. It tries to ensure that individual electors, councillors or councils do what the Government should be doing--endorsing their legislation. The clause will be dangerous for the individual and will do much harm to the future of local government in the Province.-- [Interruption.] The comments of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) do not add to the content of the debate. His Adjournment debate this evening has done much to prolong and exercise the House. He should refrain from contributing until we reach his Adjournment debate.

I do not intend again to rehearse the arguments that show the potential dangers to those who may exercise their rights under the Bill, except to say that I accept the validity of the arguments that reinforce those points. Undoubtedly, individuals or groups who try to exercise their rights will find themselves in much danger. Under clause 7, the majority on a council will be able to take members of minority groups on it to court. It will encourage individual councillors to confront each other in court through their legal representatives. All rational hon. Members will agree that this will do little to restore effective and harmonious relations in local government in the Province.

It is clear from our deliberations in Committee that the Minister has an underlying rationale for his arguments on clause 7. He regards the controversy in local government in the north of Ireland as the responsibility of the political parties there. He believes that his task is to provide a mechanism whereby electors and elected representatives combine to isolate the men of violence. He believes that if that happens a relative degree of normality will return to council chambers. I accept that that is an ingenious strategy--it removes the responsibility of implementing it from the Minister to others--but it is based on a false premise. The Minister assumes that the constitutional political parties will combine to isolate one organisation--Sinn Fein--and in so doing will mysteriously discover that they have mutual interests in arriving at a more general political accommodation. That is incorrect, because it assumes that the division is between the constitutional parties and the supporters of violence. It is a one-dimensional view of the political position, which is wrong.

Unfortunately, the position in the Province is not as the Minister would like it to be. Some constitutional political parties in the north of Ireland, to say the least, take an ambiguous attitude towards the use of violence. Hon. Members have heard one or two voices from that quarter in the House this evening. There are also differing approaches on how to defeat paramilitaries and, incidentally, which paramilitaries should be defeated. The Minister is wrong to assume that there is consensus among political parties. It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.

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That, at this day's sitting, the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.-- [Mr. Chapman.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), again considered.

Mr. Marshall : There is no consensus among constitutional parties in the north of Ireland. The Bill will make the establishment of consensus much more difficult. As the Minister knows, some councils already continue their work in a relatively peaceful and constructive manner. How does the Minister think that clause 7 will benefit them? It will not benefit them, except perhaps to introduce a further potential disruptive factor into their proceedings. What about those councils--the Minister will be aware that some exist in the north of Ireland--in which the SDLP or even the alliance, of which Leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats spoke so glowingly this evening, are considered by the majority on the council to be beyond the pale? Clause 7 will allow actions to be taken against members of the SDLP or of the alliance who in no way could be considered or construed as supporters of violence. For the Minister to seek to suggest, as I am sure that he will, that such actions will not occur is to ignore the reality of sectarianism and extremism in some councils in the Province.

Our amendment is designed to ensure that sectarian conflict, which would otherwise arise, is prevented by limiting the power of initiating an action to the Attorney-General. I have no doubt that the Minister will argue that the Attorney-General should not be given that power, so that it would be seen as the British Government imposing their will on a local authority. That argument is ironic. It has become clear that the Bill is unacceptable to all hon. Members, except those in the Government. The Bill is repressive. Those responsible for its conception should take responsibility for its enforcement. When the time comes, I shall seek a Division on amendment No. 8.

Mr. Clifford Forsythe : On Second Reading, in Committee and on Report Unionist Members have made clear their great nervousness about asking that councillors be responsible for taking other councillors to the High Court to seek a determination in a breach of the declaration. Our amendment that would have made a breach of the declaration a criminal offence was rejected. Our amendment requiring the Director of Public Prosecutions to do the job was rejected. Although it was not put to the vote, the official Opposition's amendment to require the Attorney-General to do the job was not well received by the Minister in Committee. I suppose that he is still against it, but at least hon. Members will have another look at it tonight.

I hope that the Minister will consider amendments Nos. 18 and 19 which are designed to take the load from the shoulders of councillors and share it among those named. The first group comprises Northern Ireland Members of Parliament. All those Members have within their constituency boundaries two, sometimes three or four, council areas. I assure the House and the Minister that at least Unionist Members of Parliament would be willing to take on themselves the job of policing the declaration so that those who breach it will be taken to the High Court

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