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9.48 pm

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson). I thank him and the previous speaker, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), for their brevity and for allowing some time for others to contribute.

The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) made a plea at the end of his speech for the Government to listen to at least some of the points made by Opposition Members. I must say that I doubt whether the Government will respond to that plea, given that they are not prepared on many occasions to listen to the views of the people of Northern Ireland or, as has been demonstrated, to those of the majority of the Unionist population. On this issue and many others relating to the Belfast agreement, they have steadfastly turned their face against the democratically expressed wishes of the

9 Jan 2002 : Column 638

majority of the Unionist population, even though we were told that this process was based on having the consent of both communities, nationalist and Unionist.

We are debating deadlines tonight, and one of the problems that we have with deadlines in Northern Ireland is that they have been patently and blatantly ignored and cast aside. We were told by the Government and by the pro-agreement leaders and parties in Northern Ireland that May 2000 was the deadline not for the start of decommissioning but for its completion—the handing over and destruction of all illegal terrorist weapons, particularly by those who had a part in the government of Northern Ireland.

Let me say categorically that we want to see both loyalist decommissioning and republican decommissioning. The reason why there is so much focus on republican decommissioning is that although republicans still hold on to virtually all their weaponry, have their total terrorist machine intact, and still target, intimidate and maim people on the streets, they are still part of the government of Northern Ireland. That is what the people in Northern Ireland find so unacceptable.

We have seen the decommissioning deadline cast aside in May 2000 and again in May 2001, and if the House votes that way tonight, we are about to cast another deadline aside. Yet at the same time, a series of measures have been delivered to the republican movement according to a strict timetable—the release of all terrorist prisoners, for example. We have also seen the dismantling of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and a series of other concessions, one of which—the introduction of an amnesty for terrorists on the run—was highlighted by the hon. Member for Lagan Valley, who powerfully described the sort of people to whom that amnesty will apply.

In contrast to the way in which the so-called decommissioning event was carried out, we have seen the open and transparent dismantling and pulling down of security installations along the border, in total opposition to the wishes of many people living there, who feel that their security has been denuded and reduced.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) asked why we could not trust General de Chastelain. One of the reasons why it is difficult to proceed on the basis of the event that General de Chastelain told us had happened is that we saw a previous event of decommissioning, carried out by the Loyalist Volunteer Force, as part of the process. That was done quite openly, and I dare say that the weapons destroyed amounted to a greater proportion of its total weaponry than the proportion involved in the IRA's event. Yet where does the LVF stand now? Its ceasefire has been declared to be over. Why was that event not considered significant in the long run, as something that could be built on? It was because it was a one-off event, and not part of a timetabled sequence or programme leading to complete and verifiable decommissioning.

Yet nothing that we have heard thus far in relation to the IRA's so-called act of decommissioning gives that impression, and nowhere have we been told that there is any programme or timetable that would lead to the total and verifiable destruction of all IRA weaponry—which we, the people of Northern Ireland, were told would have happened by May 2000.

9 Jan 2002 : Column 639

One of the reasons why people are so disillusioned, angry and frustrated in Northern Ireland tonight is the series of concessions that have been granted. How else can we describe the release of all terrorist prisoners, the destruction of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the granting of amnesties to terrorists on the run? While that series of concessions takes place, in this House tonight we are to have the Third Reading of a Bill that will allow the IRA off the hook on decommissioning again.

Finally, I want to mention the events in north Belfast. In my constituency, we have seen in recent months a series of troubles in various interface areas. It is fair to say that people in north Belfast do not recognise any sort of peace process. They see paramilitary organisations holding sway on the streets in many areas. They see men of violence who previously used guns continuing to hold sway, and holding on to and using those weapons. All hon. Members will deplore and be dismayed by the upsurge of violence on the Ardoyne road today. I am dismayed that there seems to have been a major setback after all the hard work that went into trying to make progress.

I call on everyone in north Belfast to exercise calm and restraint, and not to engage in violence. It is clear that some people are prepared, for propaganda and political purposes, to undo some of the hard work that has been done, and are not content to see progress being made. But we need to be careful with the language that is being used in relation to the Holy Cross dispute. The events that were taking place as of 20 minutes ago were happening away from the Holy Cross school altogether, in the republican Ardoyne area. That is where the rioting is going on, so let us be careful that we do not fall into the trap of saying that everything is to do with the Holy Cross school. It is not.

We need to ensure that the measures that were agreed as part of a package to try to make progress are implemented speedily and seen to be delivered on the ground. Not least, we need to ensure that the right signal is sent out to people in north Belfast and across Northern Ireland that security will be provided to the ordinary decent residents. The proposals for the removal of two police stations in north Belfast are opposed by everyone in the community. They are opposed by the SDLP as well as by the Unionist parties, and by the clergy, community workers and others. I urge the Minister to make representations to ensure that those police stations are kept open, particularly in the light of today's events and of recent times.

The Bill will send out the wrong signal to the paramilitaries and to those engaged in violence. It will encourage them in their belief that violence pays and that violence works, and I trust that the House will vote against it tonight.

9.57 pm

Jane Kennedy: Our debates on Second Reading and today have given us the opportunity to use the vehicle of a very short Bill to discuss some serious issues. They have been a useful two days and I am grateful to everyone who has participated.

9 Jan 2002 : Column 640

The Bill does one thing only. It extends by one year the period during which a decommissioning scheme may provide an amnesty for those decommissioning weapons. It provides for the possibility of further extensions, subject to parliamentary approval. I will not use words such as "credible", "significant" or "important", but we have seen a start to decommissioning. I do not think that anyone expects all paramilitary organisations to have completed decommissioning by 28 February.

May I say to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) that, although he and his hon. Friends cannot agree with the Bill in its entirety, I am grateful to hear that he has committed his party at least not to vote against it? The Bill will provide the continuing framework for further decommissioning, and it is right that we should expect that to happen. The event that happened on 23 October was an historic move forward, but it would not have been possible had not the scheme designed by his hon. Friends in the last Conservative Government, and the regulations, provided an amnesty for those decommissioning weapons.

If we are to fulfil the promise of the Belfast Good Friday agreement, it is essential that we continue to provide the means by which weapons may be put beyond use. The mandate of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning—the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms—comes from the Good Friday agreement, and the pursuit of that objective must continue. The Bill is critical to that, and I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 357, Noes 6.

Division No. 126
[9.59 pm


Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
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
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
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
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, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis–Thomas, Mrs Claire
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
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
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, 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, Glenda (Hampstead)
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)
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
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
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
Llwyd, Elfyn
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luke, Iain
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
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
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
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
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
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
Price, Adam
Prosser, Gwyn
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, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
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)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, Rt Hon John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
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)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
Weir, Michael
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Nick Ainger and
Mr. Phil Woolas.


Burnside, David
Donaldson, Jeffrey M
Hermon, Lady
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Roy Beggs and
Mr. Nigel Dodds.

Question accordingly agreed to.

9 Jan 2002 : Column 643

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

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