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Mr. Thompson: Is it not a fact that under the Bill the power of the police reverts to what it was before 1936? Their power to ban parades will be under common law; they will have lost the statutory law in that respect.

Mr. Worthington: I am concerned with the current situation. The past few years have shown us that the 1987 order was not adequate and we must tackle that issue.

18 Dec 1997 : Column 544

The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross), who is not in his place, said that all existing traditional parades should be allowed, but that new parades should be looked at carefully. Clearly, that would be difficult to enshrine in law, particularly once we have incorporated the European convention on human rights into our law. The fact that a parade is new would not allow different considerations to be applied to it and a moment's thought would show that we could not have a law whereby certain practices were allowed for traditional but not non-traditional parades.

The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) raised a couple of important issues. He was right to say that this is about human relationships--that most difficult and obstinate of characteristics. In the end, it comes down to whether people are willing to accommodate differences. We do not claim that the Bill is the answer, because any law can be broken by people who are not willing to accommodate it, but it is a step forward.

The hon. Gentleman raised points of detail about clause 2(2)(a) and (b), which grant two powers to the Parades Commission: the first is mediation and the second is determination. That is exactly the sort of issue that can be thrashed out in Committee. One can see why that is proposed--because of the involvement of the commission--but one can also see that there could be a confusion of identities. That must be explored in Committee.

The hon. Gentleman said that the Bill gave powers to the Secretary of State and asked why she could not have that responsibility taken away from her. We must accept the fact that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is ultimately responsible for law and order in Northern Ireland, and one cannot take that power away. She is also referred to in terms of the mechanisms for parliamentary scrutiny of various aspects of codes with which she must deal.

I am delighted to see the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) in his place. I pay tribute to him for being in his place, for reasons that he knows. I have already dealt with some of the issues that he raised. He asked why the penalties under the Bill had not been equalised before. That is another matter which was dealt with in another place. It is simply a re-enactment of the provisions in the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, in which their lordships saw that there was an inconsistency. That is generally welcomed. The hon. Gentleman also said that it should be an offence to break up a lawful parade. It is already an offence to do so by virtue of article 7 of the 1987 order, which will be re-enacted in clause 11.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Mr. Godman) raised a number of issues. I agree with his first point that civil rights should not be pushed to one side. That goes back to the point about the balance between rights and responsibilities.

My hon. Friend asked why bands should be registered. That is taken as a reserved power. It was felt that there could be circumstances in which one might need the force of law if bands misbehaved in a particular way. He asked whether Scottish bands going to Northern Ireland would have to be registered. If we introduce that power, those bands will have to be registered, but it will depend on whether the power is taken. We hope that it will never have to be taken. We note my hon. Friend's comments about the need for someone with a legal background to be on the Commission.

18 Dec 1997 : Column 545

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) raised a number of issues. We welcome the support that he has given to the Bill. I have already given assurances about the conduct in Committee. We noted the point that he made--Lord Alderdice also made it--about package measures for parades. I admit that when I first became involved with this issue it seemed an attractive proposition to introduce restrictions if a number of parades take the same route each year. However, I am advised, and I see the sense of it, that once we have incorporated the European convention on human rights into our law, problems will arise in terms of accountability for each parade. Moreover, it might be difficult to implement the measure in terms of offences. However, that is a Committee point, as are the hon. Member's questions about annual reports and scrutiny within the House.

I am convinced that the Bill is a step forward, but, like all Bills that the House passes, it will depend on the consent of the people. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) say that polls show that an overwhelming percentage of people within Northern Ireland want independent arbitration to be introduced. They realise that the police have been put in an impossible position. The overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland detest seeing the rule of law threatened or the law being broken.

This year's marching season was less damaging than last year's because many statesmanlike decisions were taken, which shows that it is possible to achieve accommodation on this difficult issue. The Labour party is not naive about the forces that are at work, but we believe that we must act above all in the interests of the great majority of law-abiding people in Northern Ireland, who want to stay at home during the marching season rather than have to take their holidays then because of the threat to them. They want the rule of law to be asserted. The structures that we are putting in place will help that to happen. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 159, Noes 7.

Division No. 124
[7.38 pm


AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Baker, Norman
Barnes, Harry
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Byers, Stephen
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Coffey, Ms Ann
Colman, Tony
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Corston, Ms Jean
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Fisher, Mark
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Norman A
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Grogan, John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Harris, Dr Evan
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hutton, John
Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kirkwood, Archy
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonnell, John
McGrady, Eddie
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
MacKay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michael, Alun
Milburn, Alan
Moffatt, Laura
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Moss, Malcolm
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pendry, Tom
Pickles, Eric
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prosser, Gwyn
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Spellar, John
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Watts, David
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony

Tellers for the Ayes:


Janet Anderson and
Mr. John McFall.


NOES


Body, Sir Richard
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Paisley, Rev Ian
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Thompson, William
Trimble, David

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. John D. Taylor and
Mr. Roy Beggs.

Question accordingly agreed to.

18 Dec 1997 : Column 546

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).


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