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Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry): The Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is usually able to tell us who is responsible for these attacks--such as the one earlier this week, when he said at about 7 am, the attack having taken place the previous evening, that the bomb was the responsibility of dissidents. Has he been able to say whether it was dissidents or the Provisional IRA who were responsible for that attack?
Mr. Donaldson: We are dealing with an issue that is vital to people in Northern Ireland. No one in the House would challenge that assertion. It is an extremely emotive issue for those on both sides of the debate. When Chris
What am I to say to those people today? Will we have a proper opportunity? Of course not--there are more than 300 amendments and there is no way we can properly and adequately consider them, let alone put forward the arguments that we want to present in support of the amendments that we want to make.
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): I hope that when the hon. Gentleman is talking to his constituents he will not inadvertently mislead them, as a great many of the amendments are tiny, technical and of no great significance. I hope that he will put that across to them.
Mr. Donaldson: The amendments may not be of much significance to the hon. Lady's constituents, but many of them are crucial to my constituents--to those who live in Aghalee and who were on the receiving end of last night's attack; to those who live in Dunmurry and who are on the receiving end of attacks by republican extremists; and, indeed, to those in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who stand in the line against attacks from extremists on both sides of the community. The amendments are important and they ought to be afforded proper parliamentary scrutiny. That is absolutely crucial.
Whether some of the amendments are technical misses the point. Those of significance--there are quite a few of them--deserve proper parliamentary scrutiny. It is very difficult for my right hon. and hon. Friends and me to reassure people in Northern Ireland that the matter has been properly scrutinised by the House of Commons. Clearly, given the guillotine motion, that will not be so.
Mr. Ingram: In explaining things to his constituents, the hon. Gentleman could say that his hon. Friends the Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson) represented their interests and made very robust arguments in all the areas considered in Committee. I therefore suggest that reading what was said by his hon. Friends will help him to explain to his constituents the case that was put.
Mr. Donaldson: Of course my hon. Friends worked very hard to put forward points of view in Committee, but how many of their amendments were accepted by the Government--no matter how good their arguments? We therefore want an opportunity to voice our concerns on the many amendments that the Government refused to accept in Committee.
One very significant amendment, on the import and effect of the clause dealing with the name of the new police service, has been tabled at the 11th hour. That has caused much concern. I do not know whether the Minister heard the interview given yesterday by my right hon.
It is a sad day for democracy and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, its reputation, and all that it has done to defend democracy and to battle terrorism in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom, when this House of Commons is not afforded a full and proper opportunity to scrutinise the Bill. The Government can make all the arguments that they want, but they cannot deny that that is how the motion will be perceived in Northern Ireland. That is most unfortunate.
Of course, this is not the first time that the Government have treated Northern Ireland legislation in such a way--and, no doubt, it will not be the last. As I said, there are unfortunately pressures on the Government which do not come from within the House of Commons or, indeed, from Parliament, that determine the time scale within which we must deal with the Bill. We ought to have been given proper and adequate time. There ought to be an opportunity for the concerns of people whom I represent and who are represented by right hon. and hon. Members of all political viewpoints in Northern Ireland to be aired properly and fully. The Government's guillotine motion will not allow them the opportunity that we might have expected.
When we go back home to Northern Ireland tomorrow and try to explain to people what happened in the House of Commons, I fear that many will say once again that they have been let down--let down by a parliamentary process that is supposed to defend their rights and enable them, through their elected representatives, to address issues of vital importance. Sadly, in relation to the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the issue of policing in Northern Ireland, the guillotine motion will deny them that right.
There are 237 amendments in the name of the Secretary of State, 190 of which refer solely to the change in nomenclature from "police force" to "police service". I expect that the House will want to debate that change in the philosophy of policing, but it is one issue, not 190. We need one debate; we do not need 190. There are more than 20 other amendments that are simply changes consequential on changes of nomenclature.
Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down): The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) properly raised the fundamental constitutional issue relating to the guillotine motion--that is, the relationship between the Executive and the House.
The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) claimed that plenty of time was spent considering the Bill in Committee, but no time at all was spent by the Committee listening to the views or discussing the amendments proposed by the hon. Members who now represent the majority of pro-Union people in Northern Ireland.
The Bill is important because it goes right to the heart of the concerns of the pro-Union community not only about the future protection of their lives, liberty and property, but about a police force that will be able to deal with the mafia atmosphere that is spreading throughout Northern Ireland.
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I have some sympathy with the viewpoint that he and the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) have expressed with regard to the membership of the Committee and their consequent inability to pursue amendments in Committee. However, the hon. and learned Gentleman has the opportunity to table amendments and have them considered on Report. Can he tell me how many amendments he and his colleagues have tabled?
Mr. McCartney: I have consulted the hon. Member for North Antrim and the hon. Member for Belfast, East. I am sure that the House knows that I do not have the same amount of back-up and number of advisers as the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). However, I have made detailed, comprehensive and lengthy submissions to Patten, both in writing and orally. After all, the Patten report is the basis for the Bill. The Secretary of State and the Minister said more than once that they intended to implement Patten in full.
We now face dealing with a multiplicity of amendments in a short time. As I have already said, those amendments are central to policing Northern Ireland. It is therefore wrong that Back Benchers are denied an opportunity to explore and debate fully, perhaps not all the technical amendments, but the smaller number of important amendments that go to the heart of the Bill.
I conclude by making some remarks about chronology, which the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) mentioned at the outset. He said that the Government's delay in presenting the Bill at its various stages had occasioned the urgency that requires a guillotine motion. The reason for that was evident from a political point of view: the Government wished to lure the Ulster Unionists into a position whereby they voted in the Ulster Unionist Council to re-enter the Assembly. They did that by