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11.32 pm

Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull): I think that there is nothing that I should add at this hour, save to congratulate all those who have brought us this far and to give my party's good wishes to all concerned. Everyone knows how much there is to do. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said, in effect, that the apparent end is in fact the beginning. I agree.

The Opposition would like to say to all concerned, "Good luck with the beginning, the middle and the end. God speed."

11.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. George Howarth): By the standards of the best of this House, in many ways this has been a good debate. The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) made a good speech. I could not agree with all of it, but he acknowledged that it has been a long and difficult path that has led from the problems of the past to the present position. On behalf of my departmental

30 Nov 1999 : Column 272

colleagues, may I say how glad I am that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, even though they may not have been with us throughout the entire journey, should be here at the end of it.

The right hon. Member for Bracknell spoke about Mr. Martin McGuinness. He, and the rest of the House, should remember that there are still two communities in Northern Ireland. The whole process has been about healing the wounds of the past and bringing in parity of esteem for the future. I hope that Martin McGuinness, Bairbre de Brun and all the other Ministers will play their part, and that the right hon. Gentleman, and the whole House, will encourage them to work towards healing divisions and making a future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon)--typically, if I may say so--made a moving speech. Assuming for one moment the mantle of responding to him on behalf of all past and present Ministers, I thank him for his kind words to all of those who have served at any time in Northern Ireland.

I pay tribute to the vision that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have held on to, often in unimaginably difficult circumstances, and to congratulate him and all the other pro-agreement parties on now seeing a time when that vision can be realised. His eloquence tonight was the expression of the eloquence of almost all the community in Northern Ireland and I congratulate him on the role that he has played tonight and for many years, in bringing us to where we are today.

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has rightly received many compliments in recent days and months. More than anyone, he has recognised the substantial gains that the Good Friday agreement brings to his community, yes, but also to everyone in Northern Ireland--I know that, increasingly, he will want to speak for the whole community in the future. It is a future that puts aside violence, in which communities come together instead of driving each other apart. The right hon. Gentleman, through his courage, which has often been commented on, his good sense, which I have often witnessed and respected, and with the wit that he has shown tonight, has played an important part in that process--probably one of the key parts--alongside Senator Mitchell and others.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he feels--perhaps rightly--that some issues remain unresolved. While there is not time for me to deal with those issues in detail in this debate, he well knows that the door of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is always open to him and to the other parties that have matters that they still need to resolve. My right hon. Friend will welcome him and those other parties. He will keep that door open to them.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who is also a friend, paid tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I have watched him work in recent weeks and he has indeed shown a great deal of skill and commitment, but also a great deal of principle in building on the work that many of his predecessors--most recently my right hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Marjorie Mowlam)--have put into bringing us to where we are today. This is indeed a momentous point in history and a great deal of trust and responsibility will rest on the shoulders of my right hon.

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Friend the Secretary of State in the weeks and months to come. He will take those responsibilities as seriously in the future as he has in the past.

Mr. Field: While in no way do I want to detract from the compliments that I and many others rightly paid the Secretary of State, I was also trying to point out the strength of feeling on both sides of the House to support him in insisting that at some stage--we hope soon--arms are surrendered.

Mr. Howarth: My right hon. Friend makes a good point. It is well made. The comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the undertakings that he has given stand on the record. They are serious commitments and undertakings.

Mr. Thompson: The Secretary of State made it absolutely clear that decommissioning is a voluntary act. If that is so, how can he fulfil his promise to take quick resolution if the action is not carried out?

Mr. Howarth: My right hon. Friend has also made it clear that there is a package, with devolution on the one hand and decommissioning on the other. He has given clear and unambiguous undertakings that he will monitor the progress of both matters; default on one side will have consequences. The hon. Gentleman may not like to accept that; he may not like its implications. However, that is the reality of the undertakings given by my right hon. Friend; that is why the Ulster Unionist party, last Saturday, decided to give the process a go.

More in sorrow than in anger, I come to the speech of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley). I do not propose to deal with all the points that he made. However, he made a specific attack on the intentions expressed by my right hon. Friend in his opening speech. By way of clarification, when my right hon. Friend referred to the hon. Member for North Antrim and his party, he had in mind the fact that, after 30 years of telling us that Ulster says no, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were remarkably swift-footed in saying yes when it came to taking up ministerial positions. Although we welcome that news, the hon. Gentleman may have to make some explanations as to how that came about to the people who have put their trust in him in the past.

Rev. Ian Paisley: I got 195,000 votes.

Mr. Howarth: I have some affection for the hon. Gentleman. That is not the first occasion on which he has shouted at me. I congratulate him and his colleagues on taking up Government posts. I hope that they will play a constructive role.

This is truly a moment in history when, for the most part, Members of the House have been patient and understanding. On occasion, we have been willing to suspend our collective judgment in the hope that that will help. As a House, we have played our part in this piece of history. Of course, we should acknowledge and remember all the past suffering, but I hope that the hon. Member for North Antrim and all those who do not wish the process well will join us in wanting to see a future for

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all the people of Northern Ireland--a future in which they will all have a stake and in which they can all take their place, not only with pride, but with confidence that it is indeed all of their future.

Question put:--

The House divided: Ayes 318, Noes 10.

Division No. 7
[11.43 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Austin, John
Baker, Norman
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burnett, John
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cran, James
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curry, Rt Hon David
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Day, Stephen
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Ennis, Jeff
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fox, Dr Liam
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Heald, Oliver
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNulty, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mallon, Seamus
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Mates, Michael
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sanders, Adrian
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Trimble, Rt Hon David
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Walker, Cecil
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Jamieson and
Mr. Clive Betts.


Beggs, Roy
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Forsythe, Clifford
Hunter, Andrew
Paterson, Owen
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Swayne, Desmond
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. William Thompson and
Rev. Ian Paisley.

Question accordingly agreed to.

30 Nov 1999 : Column 276


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