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Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton) : My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) spelt out plainly and adequately why we should press for more time to discuss the motions. In my experience of discussing motions on Northern Ireland, this is the first time that I have heard Members representing Northern Ireland say that they do not need more time. I have always agreed with them that we need more time to discuss Northern Ireland issues because of the controversies that arise.

In my intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), I said that today's exchanges reinforce the demand for more time to discuss Northern Ireland issues, whether they are political or matters of principle. We are in danger of giving too much away to the Executive if we do not show them that we need more time to discuss issues, particularly on Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Belfast, East referred to the fact that, because the Labour party does not organise in Northern Ireland, its membership of the Committee should be considered. If it is right to criticise the number of Labour Members on the Committee, should not the same principle apply to the Tory party ?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman was not here at the beginning of the debate

Mr. Vaz : He was.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I apologise if the hon. Gentleman was here. However, I made it clear that hon. Members must not anticipate the debate that is to come, which concerns membership of the Committee. This business motion is specifically about motions Nos. 2 and 3, not about how much time should be given to debating

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Northern Ireland as such. I should therefore be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would be specific in addressing the issue.

Mr. O'Brien : Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was referring to the orders and my intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, East. May I finish what I was saying ? The hon. Gentleman's reference was relevant to the discussion, but I accept your ruling on that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Rev. Ian Paisley : The Tory party is organised in Northern Ireland and some of us got here having defeated Tory candidates.

Mr. O'Brien : I accept that point, but will not pursue it, as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have ruled on it.

Given the exchanges across the Chamber and the concerns expressed by hon. Members about the principles set down in the motion, I support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South that more time should be allocated so that we might hear hon. Members' views on significant issues relating to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Mallon : The hon. Gentleman has said that this is the first time he has known Northern Ireland Members not to use all the time available to make their points. Lest that be misconstrued as a lack of interest or concern on our part, I should point out that we are acting in recognition of the Chair's ruling that the debate should be only about the time factor. Perhaps we should all make a small sacrifice and deny ourselves the opportunity to listen to our own voices in this of all weeks. That might allow us to get on to debate the Northern Ireland issue.

Mr. O'Brien : I acknowledge that point, although it prompts certain other controversial questions--which I could put to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that there is more that he could say on this issue.

The restriction on the time for debate on the orders is a retrograde step-- especially when people press for even less time to discuss them. I appeal to the Leader of the House carefully to consider our request for more time in future to discuss these issues.

5.40 pm

Mr. Newton : This has been a debate of what I may tactfully term endless fascination to those of us who have witnessed it. I can only say how much I envy my hon. Friends who are to have the chance to serve on the Select Committee, following what I have seen this evening

Mr. McNamara : When are they to have that chance ?

Mr. Newton : I hope that they will have it following the recommendations of the Committee of Selection. Given that the Select Committee is to include the hon. Members for South Down (Mr. McGrady), for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and for North Down (Sir J. Kilfedder), and the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), I suspect--based on what I have seen this evening- -that its members will spend less time scrutinising the Government and the Northern Ireland Office than scrutinising each other. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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Another fascination of this debate--there were many--was to witness the transformation of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), not present in the Chamber now, from glowering at us from one side of the Gangway to glowering at us--after an intervention--from the other side of it.

Yet another fascination offered by the debate was the the speech by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). It reappeared like a familiar friend from our previous debate on the establishment of the Committee. I cannot say that it reappeared by popular demand, but it doubtless made a contribution to the recycling industry--I listened to it with great interest.

Both the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) referred to the iniquity of the guillotine on the non-domestic rating legislation. I remind them that, so draconian was that guillotine, that the Opposition could not even fill the time for which it allowed.

This further "draconian" measure on rating and valuation--allowing an hour and a half for discussion of the proposals--has led the hon. Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for Leicester, East to demand a £200 million reduction in the money available to local authorities this year. If British Rail does not pay £200 million in rates, local authorities will not receive that revenue--a most interesting demand betokening a welcome conversion, somewhat unexpected, to restraint on public expenditure.

Mr. Vaz : The point that my hon. Friend and I were making was that there was no need to bring in this measure three days before it was due to come into effect. There has been plenty of time to debate it since November 1993, when the Railways Act became law. Our objection is to the fact that the order has been brought in at such a late stage.

Mr. Newton : I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and I will deal with it in my conclusion.

Although there has been a good deal of point in my comments so far, I should like to end on a more serious note. I do not know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether I am allowed to advert to this fact, but the rating and valuation order went through another place on 21 March. So awful is it--so important is it--that

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not about to debate the order.

Mr. Newton : I was merely about to observe, having been told that there is not enough time to debate the order, that when this allegedly dreadful measure went through another place on 21 March, Her Majesty's Opposition did not see fit to offer a single word on it, let alone to discuss it for an hour and a half.

I should tell the hon. Member for South Down that it is my understanding that there were conversations through the usual channels with his party. For all I know, the problem may lie with the usual channels in his party

Mr. McGrady : I reiterate what I said : there was no communication of any sort with my party about the setting up of the Select Committee or the appointment of its members.

Mr. Newton : That is different from my understanding, but I do not question the hon. Gentleman's integrity ; I

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regard him as an hon. Gentleman and I respect his veracity. Perhaps it is all a misunderstanding, but I have put my view on the record, as he has his.

The last fascination of this debate is that it has been rather like those Adjournment debates when the Leader of the House offers the House a holiday, only to be confronted by a solid phalanx of Members simultaneously demanding more and more work and praying that the Leader of the House will not accept their blandishments. There has certainly been an element of that in this debate.

I have provided an hour and a half each of prime time for the rating and valuation order and for discussion of the Select Committee membership. That has resulted in my being here to listen to some rather strange speeches for the better part of an hour and a half or more. The alternative would have been to table the rating and valuation order for 10 o'clock tonight or tomorrow night, followed by an hour--not an hour and a half--on the Northern Ireland Select Committee motion. If that is what hon. Members want, they had better tell me. I think that what I have offered the House is sensible, reasonable and right, and I hope that the House will accept it. Question put :

The House divided : Ayes 303, Noes 233.

Division No. 183] [5.47 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)

Aitken, Jonathan

Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)

Allason, Rupert (Torbay)

Amess, David

Ancram, Michael

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkins, Robert

Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)

Baldry, Tony

Banks, Matthew (Southport)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Bates, Michael

Batiste, Spencer

Beggs, Roy

Bendall, Vivian

Beresford, Sir Paul

Biffen, Rt Hon John

Body, Sir Richard

Booth, Hartley

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)

Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia

Bowden, Andrew

Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes

Brandreth, Gyles

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Browning, Mrs. Angela

Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)

Burns, Simon

Butcher, John

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, John (Luton North)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Clappison, James

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coe, Sebastian

Congdon, David

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon Sir John

Cormack, Patrick

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)

Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)

Davies, Quentin (Stamford)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Deva, Nirj Joseph

Devlin, Tim

Dickens, Geoffrey

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Duncan-Smith, Iain

Dunn, Bob

Dykes, Hugh

Eggar, Tim

Elletson, Harold

Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)

Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)

Evans, Roger (Monmouth)

Evennett, David

Faber, David

Fabricant, Michael

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fishburn, Dudley

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)

Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman

Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)

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