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28 Oct 2002 : Column 597—continued

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): Let me begin by agreeing with all the contributors to the debate who have welcomed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to his new office and responsibilities. It is a privilege to support him in this debate.

The debate has been short. Its brevity has the advantage that we can still remember with clarity the remarkable opening speech of the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies). It contained an extended cadenza in which he condemned Government policy in Northern Ireland as squalid, egregious and mistaken—[Interruption.] It was fairly comprehensive.

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, entitled to his view but I hoped that, having expressed it, he would have spared us the cant that he wholeheartedly supports the Belfast agreement, which is kept alive by those same policies. However, I found that passage of the hon. Gentleman's speech marginally more convincing than the subsequent section in which he told us that the speech made by Gerry Adams last week, in which he envisaged a future without the IRA, was entirely prompted because he was worried about what the hon. Gentleman might say in this Opposition day debate and had nothing whatever to do with the thoughtful speech made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain in the preceding week.

The hon. Gentleman's passion in denouncing our wickedness in granting Sinn Fein access to these precincts would have carried more conviction if the previous Conservative Government had done anything to deny Sinn Fein access to these precincts during the 1980s when no peace process was in being at all.

We are at a difficult moment in the peace process, when it is important that we all proceed with great care not to make worse the prospects for restoring momentum once again to the process started by the Belfast agreement. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spelt out the gravity of the situation in his speech earlier this month, when he stressed that the core of the Belfast agreement was that in return for political equality all parties committed themselves exclusively to peace. He spelt out to republicans that retaining the option of violence does not give them leverage but increases resistance to progress. It does not push us forward, but holds us back. As the Prime Minister said, the IRA cannot continue to be part in and part out of the peace process. If it wants the political benefits of a normalised Northern Ireland, it has to give up for all time the option of ever going back to the military struggle.

Equally, however, the House must not lose sight of how far we have come over the past five years. It is too easy to point to the faults in the peace process, as the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford did, and never to recognise its strengths and its achievements.

Sectarian violence still claims too many lives, but each year they are numbered in tens, not in hundreds as they were at the height of violence. With peace has come new investment in the Province, which has the fastest growth in the UK. Tourism has risen and unemployment has come down. Those are the real gains of the peace process for the ordinary citizens of Northern Ireland. Those are

28 Oct 2002 : Column 598

the products of what the hon. Gentleman denounced as the Government's squalid, egregious and mistaken policies.

The rational course for reasonable people is to do all that we can to maintain the process of putting political dialogue in the place of military confrontation. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Harris) pointedly and fairly asked how the motion would help us to talk to Sinn Fein. No one intervened during his speech to try to tell him how it would help.

Mr. Quentin Davies: I and my Front-Bench colleagues have said over and again with great emphasis that we are wholly committed to the Belfast agreement. Indeed, the agreement was a remarkable achievement for the Prime Minister, but what a pity that the mistaken and ill-conceived policies that he has adopted since have unfortunately recently taken us backwards so that we have a major reversal—the suspension of devolution in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman cannot say that he supports the Belfast agreement and yet fail to support any of the steps that are necessary to keep it in play and keep the dialogue going. He cannot expect the Belfast agreement to continue under its own steam with no offers of help, no progress, no debate and no negotiations, and without the compromise that inevitably comes from negotiations. That is, of necessity, what the process is about.

I have listened to the debate throughout and I have not heard one Opposition speaker explain how the motion will help us to make progress on the peace process or the Belfast agreement, or how expelling Sinn Fein from the precincts will encourage its members to choose political dialogue. From time to time, access has been helpful. Last week, Michelle Gildernew booked a room in the House where Mitchel McLaughlin debated current developments with MPs from all parties. That is the type of political dialogue and scrutiny that access to the precincts was intended to develop.

During the statement on the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly, my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) pointed out that he had been able to arrange a meeting in the precincts between Gerry Adams and one of the exiles from Northern Ireland. I do not comprehend how those who propose to deny Gerry Adams and his colleagues access to the precincts imagine that it will help the task of reconciliation to make such meetings more difficult.

Last December, when I put the motion granting access before the House, I said that it was a modest contribution to the peace process. Opposition Members should not exaggerate the practical consequences of that motion, nor should they be under any illusion about the symbolic impact of withdrawing access. I expect that those who propose the current motion fully understand how seismic that impact would be.

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) asked what signal would be sent if we passed the motion. It would be a loud signal that the British Parliament has withdrawn from a step that we

28 Oct 2002 : Column 599

took only last year. It would be held up as evidence that even when the republican movement seeks political progress, we refuse to have anything to do with it. If we were to pass the motion, we would strengthen not the moderates in the republican movement, but the extremists who have never believed that the political route would lead to progress.

Our strategic goal must be to draw Sinn Fein into political activities—the only legitimate way forward. No Opposition Member has told us how it will help that strategy to tell those in Sinn Fein that, even if elected, we in the House will shut the door in their face and that, even if they represent 250,000 electors, they will not be given access to the support or the offices that they need to work for their constituents. The reason why Opposition Members have not told us the answer to that question or said how the proposal would help is that there is no answer.

I have no problem with those who want to vote for the motion because they want to have nothing to do with Sinn Fein, but I ask them not to mislead themselves into imagining that, by excluding Sinn Fein from the House, they will somehow make it easier to include them in a political process.

Opposition days are a due part of the democratic procedures of the House. They help the Chamber to retain its role as the grand forum of the nation's political differences, and they give the Opposition and the Government the occasion to rehearse the political divisions. The process of peace in Northern Ireland should not be an issue on which the House is divided. I would acquit the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford of having proposed a frivolous motion; it is profoundly serious, and it is thoroughly partisan.

I asked for a trawl of the records, and it failed to discover a single example, in 18 long years of opposition, when we ever opposed the Conservative Government's policy on Northern Ireland on an Opposition day.

Hon. Members: XThe Prevention of Terrorism Acts."

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr. Cook: We supported all the openings that they made to the IRA. We supported them when they talked to the IRA even in the middle of a bloody bombing campaign on the British mainland. We supported them when they had secret communications with the IRA. We supported them in all that because people do not make peace by talking to their friends; they make peace by talking to their enemies. We supported them because there was a better chance for peace if the IRA were confronted by a united Parliament, and, for that reason, we would have a better prospect of success if they gave us the same support now.

This is a sensitive moment in the long troubled history of Northern Ireland. It is a time when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State needs to speak with the authority and backing of the House. That is why I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to give him our full backing by rejecting a partisan motion that would take us further away from the political dialogue that is the only hope Northern Ireland has of a permanent peace.

28 Oct 2002 : Column 600

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 140, Noes 336.

Division No. 330
[7.1 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, rh Michael
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Bellingham, Henry
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burnside, David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Cameron, David
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Curry, rh David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, hon. Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, rh William
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Hawkins, Nick
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, rh Michael
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
MacKay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, rh Michael
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Sanders, Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, rh David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Desmond Swayne and
Chris Grayling


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Banks, Tony
Barrett, John
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, rh David
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul
Byers, rh Stephen
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, hon. Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
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)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Holmes, Paul
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salmond, Alex
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siön (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Charlotte Atkins and
Derek Twigg

Question accordingly negatived.

28 Oct 2002 : Column 603

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Madam Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


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