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Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a result of the vote, we have to deduce that it is the Government's intention that we carry on with the Bill,

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which is the second part of an accelerated process in two days. We had the Second Reading yesterday; we had a curtailed procedure before Committee stage and a curtailed procedure for the rest of the Bill. May I ask whether there is anything the House can do to get the Government to tell us why we have to move so quickly? I sat throughout the whole of the Second Reading. There was no explanation. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, (Mr. Oaten) sat throughout the whole of the proceedings today. There has been no explanation--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat when I stand. He should know that.

What I can say to the hon. Gentleman is this: the House has decided to continue with the Committee of the whole House. Therefore, that is what I intend to do.

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

10.15 pm

Mr. MacKay: When the 10 o'clock motion was sort of moved, I thought that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe) first of all was pulling stumps when he was tweaked and changed his mind. I was complaining that the Under-Secretary of State in his summing up had not once told us why it was necessary for this legislation to be rushed through so quickly. Let me explain why my colleagues and I voted against the 10 o'clock motion. Quite simply, it is normal practice in the House to have a Second Reading debate--

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. The House decided on the 10 o'clock motion. The one thing I do not want to do is repeat myself, because I usually advise hon. Members not to do so. The right hon. Gentleman must come back to the amendment that he was so kindly winding up.

Mr. MacKay: When you called me to order originally, Mr. Martin, because it was 10 o'clock, I was remarking to you and the Committee that in listening to the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland summing up the debate, at some length, and rightly so--I make no quibble about that--it was concerning to hon. Members on this side, from all parties, that he had not addressed at all in his winding up the fact that nearly every hon. and right hon. Member who had spoken had asked why it was necessary to have a Committee stage of a Bill the day after Second Reading. You, Mr. Martin, will understand, as the Secretary of State, who is returning to his place, will understand, because he is an experienced parliamentarian, that the normal practice is that a Second Reading takes place, a vote is taken, and if the Bill receives its Second Reading the House, either on the Floor or upstairs, moves into Committee the following week. There is a very good reason why this happens. It is so that the House and Ministers can reflect--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. What is done is done. I have no control over these matters. The House has decided that I must return the Committee to the debate on

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the amendments, so the right hon. Gentleman must speak to them rather than discuss the history of how we arrived at this position.

Mr. MacKay: I have no wish to question the vote on the Ten o'clock motion. I have moved from that, I hope--as you rightly requested me to, Mr. Martin--to where I was at 9.59 pm, after which you--again, rightly--called me to order because the clock had struck ten. At 9.59 pm, I was saying the same to the Under-Secretary of State as had been said by every other Member who had spoken; I assume that they were in order. Like them, I was asking why we needed to rush the legislation through.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department confirmed to me, from a sedentary position, that the Bill did not constitute either urgent or emergency legislation--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to continue. The other hon. Members who have spoken may have mentioned the Second Reading in passing, but it is not permissible to concentrate on Second Reading in a debate on amendments. The right hon. Gentleman has made his point; I now ask him to speak to the amendments, which are indeed very narrow.

Mr. MacKay: At no point was I discussing Second Reading. I was discussing something much more important than Second Reading, which, as you rightly say, was past, done for and gone yesterday. I was asking why the Committee stage of a Bill that is not urgent or an emergency Bill need take place this week, and my question was not answered.

The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) rightly asked what was the special reason. We have been given no special reason, and that makes it very difficult for many Members--especially the Liberal Democrats, who, not uncharacteristically, have not yet made up their minds--to decide which way to vote. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Winchester, who is not capable of making up his mind until he knows why we need to rush the legislation through. I ask the Under-Secretary of State to tell us why it is being rushed through, why it is emergency legislation, and why--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I am sorry to keep interrupting the right hon. Gentleman, but let me say this to him. I would not allow the Under-Secretary of State to discuss these matters, because what we are discussing is not the legislation in its entirety or the way in which it is being rushed through, but the amendment and those grouped with it. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that that is what he must discuss.

Mr. MacKay: The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland failed to respond to any of the points made by hon. Members speaking to my amendment and new clause, and the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). It is interesting, and needs to be pointed out, that not one Labour Member supported the Front Bench. We heard a good speech from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and a very good intervention from the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), but not one Labour Member saw fit to support

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Ministers. I consider that deeply significant. Having been in the Chair for some time on more than one occasion during this Committee stage, Mr. Martin, you will have noted that for almost all the sitting--nearly five hours so far--hardly any Labour Members have been present until the vote. That is disgraceful.

The Under-Secretary of State--rightly, I believe--made much of what had been achieved under the Belfast agreement. But he must accept that his Government--rightly--the Irish Government--rightly--and the democratic non-violent parties, Unionist, nationalist and Alliance--rightly--have jumped every hurdle. Only one group have not fulfilled their obligations under the Belfast agreement: the paramilitaries, whether they are republican or so-called loyalist. They have not fulfilled their obligations on two counts. First, they do not appear to have renounced violence for good because beatings, mutilations and tortures are still going on. Secondly, even more significant, they have failed to decommission any of their illegally held arms and explosives.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland singularly failed to address the point that I made earlier and that others have endorsed: many believe, I included, that the process to date has been all take by the paramilitaries and no give. The Bill--I have already begged to differ with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst--is relatively small beer and relatively unimportant. Therefore, it is not right that it be passed, unless my amendment is incorporated. It says that, unless substantial decommissioning is confirmed by General de Chastelain, the Bill should not become law. That is why I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends, many Labour Members who have expressed reservations publicly or privately, the Liberal Democrats, who have expressed reservations through the hon. Member for Winchester, and Unionist Members who also oppose it, to vote against it.

It is a sad day for the House of Commons when legislation, for no good reason, is pushed through without any chance for us to consider it properly. Much as I genuinely like and respect the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I believe that he has, under orders, behaved disreputably by pushing the Bill through without proper debate. It is shameful and wrong. He and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will live to regret it.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone): I thank you, Mr. Martin, for calling me. I apologise to those who will have noted that I have not been in the Chamber all day. I have been participating in the Committee stage of the Terrorism Bill. None the less, I have heard much of what has been discussed.

I feel somewhat sorry for the two Ministers who have had to carry the burden of a Bill that was contrived by--I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has just left; I understand his sensitivity to what I have to say--the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister. Yesterday, on Second Reading, we discussed why the Bill had been introduced in the first place, and we have discussed for whom the Bill is drafted.

I have some sympathy for the two Ministers in that respect, but I still cannot understand why, in responding to the Committee stage, the Under-Secretary of State for

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Northern Ireland repeated inadequately what he said on Second Reading yesterday. He did not elaborate at all on those points, but referred to them in the most general terms. He did not elaborate, for example, on the consultation. He indicated that the consultation involved many others, yet I know that he was inaccurate--unavoidably inaccurate, I hope--when he suggested that others besides Sinn Fein had an interest--[Interruption.]

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