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4.31 pm

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): It is with considerable pleasure that I join in supporting the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister. Of course, in doing so, I speak for the Ulster Unionist party, but I believe that I speak for more in Northern Ireland than just that party, and that the proposal that has been made--that

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a humble address be presented to Her Majesty with regard to the approaching centenary of the Queen Mother--would be warmly supported throughout society in Northern Ireland. There may be a few curmudgeonly people who pretend to hold to anti-monarchical principles, but the truth is that most reasonable people recognise the tremendous contribution not only that the monarchy in general has made, but that the Queen Mother personally has made throughout the century.

Other right hon. Members have referred to the tremendous contribution that the Queen Mother made at the time of the abdication crisis and, of course, throughout the war. We in Northern Ireland will remember particularly the many visits that she has made to Northern Ireland--more than 11, I think--since the second world war, the most recent being in 1990 as part of her 90th birthday celebrations. Of course, we do not expect similar tours on the occasion of the centenary, it being an achievement even to reach that.

The humble address refers to the great pleasure that the House shares with the nation. Often, the terms in motions that are proposed in the House have a formal character, but, on this occasion, there is no doubt about the reality of the great pleasure that everyone in the nation will take on this centenary. Great pleasure is there not just because of her longevity and war-time service, but because of the character of the Queen Mother. That great pleasure undoubtedly is shared throughout the House. We should add that not just in our own nation, but, I am sure, throughout the Commonwealth, many will be eternally grateful to the Queen Mother for all her characteristics, but particularly for the sense of duty that has characterised her entire life of service.

4.33 pm

Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside): May I make a brief comment and associate the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru with the terms of the motion and with the message that it is proposed be conveyed to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother? I have the privilege to represent the village of Glamis, the childhood home of Her Majesty in the county of Angus; the family home of the Bowes-Lyon family is located there. She spent much of her youth there before her marriage to the then Duke of York.

Much has already been said about the courage of Her Majesty during the second world war in remaining in London. I was pleased that the Prime Minister mentioned the fact that, during the first world war, when Glamis castle was turned into a hospital, the Queen Mother spent most of her time there caring for patients who had been injured in the first world war and who were recuperating in the splendour of the county of Angus.

Her Majesty has maintained a very close interest in the life of the village of Glamis. Her interest has been long-standing, including a visit to the village only two years ago for a ceremony with the Black Watch regiment, of which she is Colonel-in-Chief. We wish Her Majesty health and happiness at this proud moment in her long life.

4.35 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I should like to associate the Ulster Democratic Unionist party with the motion.

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I have been informed by the Library that this is the first time that the House of Commons has been asked to debate a motion commending a King or Queen on attaining his or her century year. The Queen Mother, however, is a first in her own right. During her years as the Queen and Consort of King George VI, she became a legend: because of her steadfastness, her courage, her dignity, her resourcefulness and her majesty as she stood with her husband and her kingdom in the darkest days of the second world war.

Early on in her life, as a teenager, the Queen Mother had learned something of the trials of war, with its bereavements, deaths, heartbreaks and sorrows. She is indeed a first in the lives of the subjects of her Kingdom: because of her genuine interest in and concern for the public of this country over a long life of dedicated and majestic service.

On a visit to my constituency of North Antrim, she said to me, "I am not in a hurry; I have time. Time is not my dictator; I dictate to time. I want to meet people." She also reminded me about, and inquired about, people whom she had met many years before, when she and her husband had opened the town hall in Ballymena. She has a marvellous memory for people, places and facts. I believe that that comes from her deep commitment to the task that she was appointed to do.

One day, one of the Queen Mother's pilots said to me, "Often, when we take off on a journey, the Queen Mother says to me, 'We are not in any hurry to get away. Let's stay a little longer.'" It is indeed a great joy to us all that she has achieved her century year. Although I do not often agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury, I agree with his comments today on the Queen Mother--I can even say an amen to them.

We know that the Queen Mother lives in the hearts and minds of her people. Although Kings and Queens were once addressed with the words, "O live for ever", that royal person lives in the hearts of all her subjects. I believe that she will live there for ever, and I sincerely wish her many happy returns.

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4.38 pm

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater): I had the great privilege and pleasure of accompanying Her Majesty the Queen Mother at celebrations hosted by the Ministry of Defence, 10 years ago, on the occasion of her 90th birthday. On that very remarkable occasion, it was the dearest wish of everyone that we should indeed be able to see her celebrate her centenary.

The Queen Mother greatly enjoyed and showed great enthusiasm for all the events of that day. After the parade, which lasted one and a half hours, she spent another one and a half hours going round and talking to people, thanking every single person who had participated in the parade or helped to organise it, at a party in the Banqueting house. That was simply symptomatic of the way in which, throughout her life, she has shown an interest in and concern for people.

It is a matter of the greatest pleasure and warmth that, having had the pleasure of welcoming the Queen Mother to her 90th birthday, we see her now celebrating her centenary.

Question put and agreed to.


That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by such Members of the House as are of Her Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council or of Her Majesty's Household;
That a Message be sent to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother rejoicing with Her on the attainment of Her hundredth birthday; expressing to Her Majesty the people's gratitude for Her lifelong example of trust in the Lord, and courage and service in war and in peace; and praying for Her health and happiness in days to come;
That Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister, Margaret Beckett, Mr. William Hague and Mr. Charles Kennedy do wait upon Her Majesty with the said Message.

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Police (Northern Ireland) Bill (Allocation of Time)

4.40 pm

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram): I beg to move,

I shall set out why the Government regard the motion as necessary. The Government are committed to the implementation of the Belfast agreement in all its elements, and the reform of policing in Northern Ireland,

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which the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill will achieve, is an integral and extremely important part of the agreement. We want to see a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, and the Bill lays the foundation for that fresh start and that new beginning.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said on Second Reading on 6 June:

The whole House should know that we made good and constructive progress in our 11 sittings and more than 40 hours of debate on the Bill in Standing Committee B. This progress was assisted, even focused, by the structured way in which members of the Committee dealt with the issues. We were able to have useful debates that concentrated on the key issues of concern to the various parties represented on the Committee. I hope that those hon. Members who were on the Committee will acknowledge that the Government were willing to consider, and make, constructive changes to the Bill. We have also brought forward further changes to consider later today.

The Government want to maintain that good momentum. We have had a full debate on the Bill in Committee and we want to ensure that we make good progress tonight. My understanding is that it was not possible through the usual channels to reach broad agreement on an informal timetable for this evening's debate. This timetable motion will help the Government to stick to their timetable for the Bill. It will help focus debate. It is a precautionary approach.

All the provisions in the Bill were dealt with in detail in Committee. The Committee did its job properly. Discussion was full and reasonable. We covered the issues thoroughly. However, it is important to note that there are no issues raised by the amendments in front of us today that were not aired in Committee. The Government's judgment is that six hours ought to be sufficient for the House to deal with the Report Stage. It is up to hon. Members to use the time available responsibly and to best effect.

We are willing to work with those who want to play a constructive role in helping us to fashion and improve the Bill. That will require the House to focus on the issues in a structured way. For that reason, we believe that a timetable is helpful. We have not sought to stifle debate on the Bill. There can be no criticism of how the Government dealt with the Bill in Committee, nor of the other parties represented in Committee.

The House should not baulk at the amount of work that needs to be got through on Report. Right hon. and hon. Members should know that the vast majority of amendments for consideration are technical changes on the name. Many of the others are in response to issues on which there was general agreement in Committee. Only a few of the amendments could be classed as being of a contentious nature.

The Government have demonstrated that we are open to debate and that we are prepared to take on board constructive and helpful proposals to improve the Bill.

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We are still prepared to listen to constructive suggestions for change. The good work that has been done needs to continue and I look forward to debating the issues further. That is the best way forward and the best way to serve the needs of all the people of Northern Ireland.

There is fundamental change ahead for the police service. The Government, in discussion with the police and others, have sought to identify an ordered and logical way to take that forward. Our approach, and the timetable that we have set, is outlined in the implementation plan, which the Secretary of State published on 6 June and which is available in the House.

The implementation plan recognises that such a wide range and depth of change cannot happen overnight and, as Patten recognised, will take time to implement. However, we need to get the building blocks in place to take the change forward. The Bill is one of those building blocks. Those who oppose the Bill and the Government's approach serve no one but their own factional interests. That has to be recognised, as have the reasons for it, but it does not move the process forward. This Bill is about putting in place building blocks for the future, and that must be the best way to make progress.

I have been brief in my explanation of the timetable motion. That was my deliberate intention, as it is important that the House should move on to consider the Bill and the important issues raised by the selected amendments. I trust that we will not be treated to an extended debate on the motion, which could be interpreted as calculated to eat up the whole of the three hours that have been timetabled for discussion and to lay the ground for accusations in another place that insufficient time was allowed here for discussion of the issues. For that reason, I have set out fully, and I believe succinctly, my reasons for commending the motion to the House.

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