Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
INGRAM, JP, MP AND
600. The Parades Commission.
(Mr Ingram) I have a comment on the Human Rights Commission
as well. Clearly they would have to give consideration to any
court judgment and I think what I said was that it gave more surety
to the way they have conducted their business, and I think I am
right in saying that. If there is any fine-tuning which flows
from it, this which would then require action by Government, and
the Parades Commission came to us and said, "This is what
is now required", clearly we would have to respond to that.
Equally, that would apply to the Human Rights Commission because
they would be a body whose judgment would be taken into account
because that is part of the reason for them being set up in the
601. Finally, both the Parades Commission and
indeed the Royal Ulster Constabulary are bound now to act in consideration
of human rights. What is the point of having two bodies considering
the same thing when indeed the police could in fact take the decision
in the light of the human rights obligation they are under?
(Mr Ingram) I do not think it changes the relationship
of the police to any particular contentious parade or any parade.
That is why the North Report came to the conclusions it came to
and why the Government then implemented, in the main, the recommendations
of the North Report, which were to have a body which had two prime
functions, one to assist and to facilitate mediation, to try and
find points of reconciliation within the community, and also to
make determinations, and then it was the role of the police to
apply the law as determined by that independent body. I know,
Mr Thompson, your view is we should go back to where we were before
there were the conditions of the human rights legislation, but
it was always there anyway, it just was not in domestic law but
the challenge could be made in any event under that legislation
and never was. I have to say the view of the RUC and indeed of
Government was that what had applied before, with the highly volatile
environment which existed in and around not just Drumcree but
certainly in and around that particularly highly disputed parade,
put the police in a very difficult situation. It put the Chief
Constable in a very difficult situation if he was having to mediate
and find ways forward, to try and assist a reconciliation, and
then having to police it in those circumstances without any independent
body assisting them in that approach. That is basically the reasoning
behind the North Report, it is the way we interpreted it and I
think overall it is working better than what prevailed before,
even with the implementation of the Human Rights Act.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed, Minister.
I have one or two things I want to say myself but let me just
verify whether anybody else has a question they want to ask.
602. One of the main recommendations accepted
was that the Commission should develop its role as the educator
on reconciliation and mediation and provide support, assistance
and advice particularly to local mediators and local areas with
their problems. Indeed you have reaffirmed that in some of your
subsequent submissions, Minister. Were there any additional resources
either in terms of funding or personnel given to the Commission
to enable it to carry out this enhanced role?
(Mr Ingram) The advice I have is the answer is no,
and none were sought; they did not ask for any additional resources.
I do not want to encourage such a request but we do view this
as a very important area and, although not directly conducted
by the Parades Commission, the Government has put a lot of resources
into trying to find mediation and reconciliation in Drumcree.
There was an earlier attempt and they brought in an outside mediator.
I myself got involved in a wide ranging set of discussions with
the two parties in conflict over Drumcree, and we now have another
initiative in place as well which has been substantially funded.
So, in other ways it has been funded but not through the Parades
Commission. The Government would not shy away from putting money
on the table if we could get an answer to these very difficult
603. I assume it is right to assume then that
if the Commission did not ask for extra funding that it was satisfied
with the current funding it had, which you would have directed?
(Mr Ingram) I hesitate to be too encouraging here,
because we may get a letter now saying, "Give us more money",
but we would have to examine it on the basis of what it was for.
I stand by what I said, if the business case is made and we can
see outputs from that which would benefit the work of the Commission,
we would not shy away from that, because we want this body to
work even more successfully than it has been up to now.
604. Let me now say the things I was going to
say in conclusion. The first is, and I do not want my next remark
to be misunderstood, given the fact there has been some failure
of meeting of minds between ourselves and not one but two Secretaries
of State on the subject of something we published recently and
questions we asked, it is not because of that that I say I am
extremely gratified to hear you will in due course be responding
to whatever report we publish, which I hope we will be able to
bring out even before the earliest date the General Election might
occur. I am not going to press you about that date, not least
because you are probably not empowered to answer it, but I do
have a question to ask you about the past. When did the Government,
and this is purely chronological, formally announce the decision
not to bring forward the coming into effect of the Human Rights
Act in the context of the Public Processions Act?
(Mr Ingram) We never did.
605. You never did? Well, that is a helpful
answer in itself. Thank you for that.
(Mr Ingram) Perhaps it was too short an answer for
you, Mr Chairman.
606. I thought if I paused long enough you might
(Mr Ingram) It was a trial of wills,
was it! Again because the process moved on and we were movingI
think I gave an answer which gave some indication of it earlierinto
the first determination of the new Parades Commission as the marching
season started, when we were still trying to assess and assimilate
the best way forward in all of this, with some of the views changing
as we spoke to individual bodies, trying to get clearer understanding
from other bodies, and it became a matter of as we were moving
into the new process the Parades Commission itself did not want
it to happen, it would have been wrong to have imposed that upon
them. That would have really been a difficulty for them as they
saw it, and we had to respect their view in all of this. But it
was not because of any dilatoriness or unwillingness on behalf
of Government to try and find an answer to this. We saw it as
a very important issue and key to what we had set out to understand
in the Review, but time beat us, the calendar moved against us.
In any event October, when the implementation of the Act was coming
in right across all Government departments, was looming large
and we just let it drift in that particular way. "Drift"
is probably a word my officials would say we never did but that
was the climate in which the decision was not taken, but I think
everyone realised that was the reality.
607. Thank you very much for that. The other
is a piece of housekeeping. I should have said at the beginning
that in addition to saying we were grateful to you for coming
to give evidence, you were giving evidence in private, that the
evidence was strictly confidential to the Committee and we would
not be reporting it immediately to the House. The fact remains
your evidence has been valuable and I wondered, if we were to
send you a transcript of the evidence, as we would be doing in
any case, if you could advise us what parts of it you would not
want to be published, and also indicate whether you would be content
for the rest to be published.
(Mr Ingram) I am very grateful to you, Chairman, for
offering that facility. I would say yes to that, I would welcome
608. I am not pressing you but the more we can
publish the better, because it obviously fills out the general
(Mr Ingram) If I could release the whole testimony
for that purpose, the answer is I would be very keen to do so.
I do not think I have said anything untowardofficials may
say afterwards, "Minister, perhaps you could have voiced
that in a slightly different", but that is the benefit of
having good officials. But I will make the final decision based
upon what I say.
609. Very good. We will send it to you as quickly
as we can. We are extremely appreciative of you having coming
here to give evidence.
(Mr Ingram) Thank you.
3 See Ev p 186. Back