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Mr. Davies: I hope that the hon. Lady will deal with the essential issue before she sits down. The Secretary of State has acknowledged that deadlines are taken full advantage of in Northern Ireland by all participants. In other words, if we extend a deadline, all other things being equal we extend the time available for the completion of the obligations that the deadline governs. The Secretary of State has already said that. Perhaps it was an involuntary slip, but it was an extremely significant one. Of course, there are many other factors involved, but our responsibility is to get the deadline right. The idea that having a longer deadline will produce a shorter period of implementation beggars belief. The Secretary of State does not believe that, and I do not believe that the Minister does either. How can she therefore defend resisting our amendment proposing a shorter deadline?

I hope that the Minister will not return to the idea that the Bill extends the regime for one year. She knows that that is entirely artificial and that the signal in the Bill comes from the headline date. The signal being sent is that the Government are extending the regime for five years. The wording is exactly the same as in the 1997 Act, which introduced the five-year regime that we are

9 Jan 2002 : Column 585

now rolling forward, so there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Government are trying to extend the regime for five years. That is their fatal mistake.

Jane Kennedy: I am falling into the same bad habit as the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) in provoking interventions from hon. Members. I must try to refrain from doing that.

Mr. Davies rose

Jane Kennedy: I shall answer the hon. Gentleman in my own time and in my own way, and I have a number of other points to make that might answer some of his questions.

The expiry date of this legislation to provide the legal framework for decommissioning has never been a factor in any discussions with Sinn Fein or any of the other parties. We have started to call it a deadline in this debate, but the question has never arisen before or been the subject of any discussions with Sinn Fein. I hope that I can reassure the hon. Gentleman on that point.

On the speech made by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, I must be careful not to fall into the habit of constantly saying what a good, thoughtful, challenging and thought-provoking contribution he made, but that is what he did. My years of practising the dark arts as a Whip have led me to be more careful in responding to the provocation that Ministers get from time to time from hon. Members seeking to goad them into making what they hope will be unwise responses. I shall not, therefore, go down some of the avenues that the hon. Gentleman pursued, but he made an important point about the concerns of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) also made a strong statement on that issue. I accept that we must reach out and listen to those concerns. The way in which they are articulated is also important.

We must bear it in mind that the process so far has been successful only because of the engagement of the Unionists. They have been instrumental in the establishment of the institutions and in putting pressure on all parties to participate in democracy. The peace process cannot succeed without their continued engagement. There is much for Unionism to draw comfort from in the progress that has been made in recent times. I could list some of the details, but I did so on Second Reading and I invite hon. Members to look at those comments.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire talked about exiles. That is a matter for another day and a different debate, and I shall not refer to it today. However, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his contribution, which was well informed and provocative—again! I listened carefully to his comments and I shall think about them.

Mr. Baron: If the Government are to hold out a hand to the Unionists on this issue, surely the best way is to ensure that deadlines are exactly that—deadlines. They should not be a rolling series of lines in the sand that continually get eroded. Every time the Government draw a fresh line, the potency of that line diminishes because it has no real effect. The best way of bringing all parties to the table on decommissioning is to ensure that a deadline means exactly that—a deadline.

Jane Kennedy: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to say that had we done what Conservative

9 Jan 2002 : Column 586

Members are urging us to do and held to those deadlines, we would not have had the act of decommissioning that we have witnessed. [Interruption.] Conservative Members laugh, but we have had a credible start to decommissioning from the IRA. Whatever hon. Members may think of that act—they may have their own views on it—the decommissioning process has begun.

Mr. Robathan rose

Mr. Swire rose

Jane Kennedy: No, I shall not give way at the moment.

The decommissioning process has begun, thus removing the final obstacle to the full implementation of the Belfast agreement. However, we must recognise that implementation is a long-term process, and full implementation may not be completed for some years. The Bill extends the immunity provisions for one year only. It provides for the possibility—nothing more—of further extensions beyond that, subject to the approval of the House. We consider that that is appropriate. Parliament will have the opportunity to examine this issue again after one year.

We consider that an extension of the order-making power of five years is appropriate. As was the case when the 1997 Act was brought into force by the Conservative Government, the five-year period does not represent a time frame for decommissioning; it is simply the usual period for time-limited Acts. It allows each Parliament the opportunity to consider the basic principles of the legislation, as this Parliament is doing now.

David Burnside: Will the hon. Lady, as an experienced Minister in Northern Ireland, inform the Committee whether she believes that the Provisional IRA, the republican groups and the loyalist paramilitaries would support the Bill or the Bill as amended?

Jane Kennedy: If I can spare the hon. Gentleman's blushes, may I say that I thought he made perhaps the best speech of this debate? He articulated passionately and coherently the concerns of his community. I acknowledge the profound disappointment of members of his party and other parties, including the Conservative party, who feel that progress has been painfully slow, and that these acts of decommissioning have had to be dragged out of the apparently unwilling organisations that hold the weapons.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the message that should go from the House. The message to those organisations is clear: decommissioning is a process and a start has been made. The most important thing about the Bill is that it shows that the Government are serious in their pursuit of decommissioning of all illegally held weapons, and that they intend the legal framework for that to happen to remain in place.

Amendment No. 2 deals with the offences in the schedule to the 1997 Act. We see no merit in enacting legislation that in our view would be calculated to make those in illegal possession of weapons less likely to decommission. That would surely be the effect of the amendment.

Various aspects of the schedule mostly relate to possession of weapons or explosives, but others concern offences that may stem from a person's participation in

9 Jan 2002 : Column 587

decommissioning—not necessarily centred on the weapons involved, but on the behaviour that may accompany participation, such as the withholding of information or making arrangements with terrorists. The amendment would leave someone in possession of explosives open to prosecution, and I cannot see how that would encourage decommissioning.

We shall return to some of these issues as we go on to debate the new clause and Third Reading. For the reasons that I have outlined, I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 144, Noes 374.

Division No. 124
[6.15 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Baron, John
Beggs, Roy
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burt, Alistair
Cameron, David
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton–Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Donaldson, Jeffrey M
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat–Amory, Rt Hon David
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Murrison, Dr Andrew
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prisk, Mark
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (Mid–Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, Rt Hon David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Wilshire and
Mr. Charles Hendry.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Carmichael, Alistair
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis–Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Francis, Dr Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan (Oxford W)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai
Heath, David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, Rt Hon John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kirkwood, Archy
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luke, Iain
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Estelle
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr John
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, Rt Hon John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stunell, Andrew
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thurso, John
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and
Mr. Graham Stringer.

Question accordingly negatived.

9 Jan 2002 : Column 590

Clauses 1 and 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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