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4.59 pm

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone): The Bill derives from the Patten commission report, which was presented several months ago and which, in itself, was flawed in that it stepped far outside Patten's terms of reference, which were based on the Belfast agreement. Patten chose to ignore that and published a report that was described in this House and elsewhere--I believe by Home Office officials--as an interesting report, but certainly one that had nothing to do with policing. That, of course, has had a knock-on effect in that we have before us a Bill that no doubt has to do with political accommodation, but has nothing to do with policing or law and order.

The reality is that, after 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland, a different ethos pervades our society than that which some of us grew up with. It is an ethos

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that adjusts easily to criminality, to the extent that we have in Northern Ireland a powerful mafia sub-culture. That is an issue that should be debated at length as we go through the Bill. While it is all very well to say that we dealt with each of the issues in Committee, it is important that any of us who are elected to the House recognise our responsibility to our electorate and realise that we cannot dismiss the input of the House just because a Bill has gone through a Committee to be fine-tuned.

If my calculations are right, the Government have tabled 222 amendments to the Bill, and they expect us to deal with them and the other amendments in six hours. One realises why the Minister was so apologetic about the Government's intention to guillotine the Bill.

I hope that the House will be able, on Report and Third Reading, to move the Bill into a form in which it primarily deals with the interests of the police and society in Northern Ireland as they grapple with a growing drugs problem and a huge tax evasion problem--something that should interest the Government. We hear that petrol prices have to be kept high in order that we can pay for our health and education programmes, yet the Government are ruling over a Province in which up to £1 billion in petrol duty is probably being evaded by means of smuggling from the Irish Republic. [Interruption.] The Minister of State corrects me from a sedentary position and suggests that the figure is £100 million. He knows as well as I do that he is wrong. Even Customs and Excise, who used to throw out that figure with abandon, now admit to a figure that is approaching--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I think that I need to remind him that we are debating an allocation of time motion. He is now straying a little too far from it.

Mr. Maginnis: If I appeared to stray, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I apologise. I was trying to illustrate how the Government are presenting the House with a Bill, the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill, that has nothing to do with policing and that the House must therefore put right if it is to have any significance whatsoever for society in Northern Ireland in general and for the police in particular.

The Minister knows that the level at which our mafia sub-culture is becoming organised in Northern Ireland will not be hindered one iota by anything in the Bill. Instead of dealing with that matter, instead of giving the House time to consider the implications of what is before us, the Government are guillotining the debate.

The Minister should give us the facts as to whether the Bill contains anything to enhance policing in terms of the job that the police have to do in order to protect society--protect it from violence, corruption and abuse of the tax system. He may be able to give us an indication of when there has been a major measure to deal with the problem that I have described, whether the extent of that problem is £100 million or nearer to £1 billion. The Minister must tell us what there is in the Bill to reverse the trend in that respect and in respect of drug peddling and drug misuse. Nothing in the Bill will make the ordinary, law-abiding, virtually non-political Mr. Average Citizen in Northern Ireland feel safer and more secure.

That is why it is wrong that the Government should bring forward 222 amendments, on top of those that other parties have tabled, and expect us to rush them through

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without due consideration, when, as the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said, we could have had the Bill four or five months ago. I do not believe that it was by accident that we had the Bill at the last minute and that the Government asked those of us who are in opposition to co-operate in getting it through the Committee stage. They received that co-operation, so that nothing was left untouched, but we made it clear at the outset that we would not consider a guillotine on Report appropriate. We made it clear that if we were to co-operate with the Government in Committee, the Government would have to co-operate with Members of the Opposition parties--and not just my own party--on Report so that the serious deficiencies of the Bill were not swept under the carpet.

From the outset, the Minister has been aware of our concerns. Therefore, he must answer the points that I have made.

5.10 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I have been amazed at some of the statements that have been made in the debate already. They do not have much relevance to the amount of time that we have to consider the Bill.

In last week's Northern Ireland Grand Committee, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) referred to the persecution of the Baha'i faith in Ulster as though that were a matter of importance. I am glad that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) put him right on that issue.

Mr. Öpik rose--

Rev. Ian Paisley: I am not giving way, because we need time to deal with the Bill, which has nothing to do with the Baha'i faith. I have a good relationship with members of that faith and not once have they said that they have been persecuted in Northern Ireland. I would nail any suggestion that they have been as an atrocious lie.

I was also amazed by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), who rightly condemned the attacks on the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I condemn them, too, and I have already done that on the record in the Assembly. The right hon. Gentleman is laughing with his friends on the Opposition Front Bench, but he forgets the two atrocious attacks that were carried out by republicans. In his opening remarks, he did not even mention the 250-lb republican bomb in Stewartstown or what happened in Aghalee last night when republicans attacked an Orange hall and gutted it. They attacked another hall, too. The attacks that are taking place in Northern Ireland are coming from both sides of the divide and we need to keep that point in mind.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire thinks that we have had plenty of time to debate the Bill, but no time has been given to my party. In the House, there are three Members from the Social Democratic and Labour party and two of them were on the Bill's Committee. There are two Members of the Democratic Unionist party in the House, and the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) is also a Unionist. Not one of those three voices was allowed on the Committee. We can refer to the hours that were spent on the debates in Committee, but one point of view--the majority Unionist view, as was seen from the vote in the Assembly last Tuesday--was

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locked out of the Committee. Members who represent that view were locked out simply because they would not have helped the Bill to go forward; they would have sought to curb its provisions. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said that the Bill does not deal with issues such as drugs and the mafia. Its main thrust is to demoralise and destroy the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Although he does not attend this place, Mr. McGuinness is a Member of the House and he is a Minister in Northern Ireland. On a radio programme about the Stewartstown bombing, he was asked whether he would tell anyone who knew anything about the bombing to go to the police. He said, "Certainly not." When a Minister in Northern Ireland tells the people who know about the laying of a 250-lb bomb at a police station that could have killed many people--it could have been another Omagh--not to go to the police, how can anyone have any faith in what is happening in Northern Ireland at this time? Those are the issues that we should keep in mind.

We have not had time to debate the Bill. We were told that we would have time on Second Reading, but the time for speeches of the representatives of Northern Ireland was limited to 10 minutes.

We should have had more time on Second Reading, but it was not given. The Government kept one section of the community of Northern Ireland out of the Committee, but today they say that we have plenty of time. We do not have plenty of time. The Government say that debate will be guillotined after seven hours, which includes the time spent on this motion. Guillotines did not used to affect the time for discussing the guillotine. Now, however, discussion of the guillotine takes away from the time given to the debate. Why has that departure taken place? Why do we not have the old rules if we are going to have guillotines? We are not having a guillotined discussion now, so there is an encroachment on the time that we should have for debate. That is a fact.

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