|Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill
Mr. Francois: On a point of order, Mr. Conway. I wish to register my protest at what has happened. Earlier, you told us that we had to finish at 1 pm. Any minute now we shall spend 30 seconds on each group of amendments that we have not considered. There are 44 amendments, in 20 groups, left to consider in seven minutes. I am particularly disappointed because we shall not even reach a matter about which I spoke on Second Reading. I wish to place on record the fact that the Government have handled this very badly.
Mr. Mole: It is not a point of order.
The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman's point of order was perfectly in order. I am sure that those who follow the Committee's proceedings will note what has been said. We move on to amendment No. 235.
Lembit Öpik: Given what has been said, I should like to point out that we were offered a lifting of the knife until later today, but it was Conservative Members, not the Liberal Democrats, who refused the offer. It should be made clear that the knife that we are discussing was kept in place by the Conservatives, not the Liberal Democrats.
The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman could have said that as a point of order, not when he was supposed to be moving amendment No. 235. If he wishes to move the amendment, he must do so now.
Mr. Blunt: On a point of order, Mr. Conway. It is wholly unacceptable that such inaccurate allegations should be flung around. Conservative Members do not oppose the lifting of the knife at 1 pm. We have argued throughout that the knife should not be used at all during our consideration of the Bill. We have wider issues to think of than the length of the Committee's consideration, but we are now running into the straightforward problem that the Government set for themselves. I would be grateful if the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire would withdraw his suggestion that Conservative Members oppose the removal of the knife at 1 pm, as it was his hon. Friend who voted for it.
The Chairman: I have noted that point of order, but I am not aware of discussions that may have taken place between the usual channels as they do not take place on the Floor of the Committee. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire made no
Column Number: 331unparliamentary remarks, and I am sure that he will now wish to return to the amendment.
Lembit Öpik: Further to that point of order, Mr. Conway. I wish to set the record straight. Let me speak about what I know. I was approached informally with regard to the knife, and I said that I had no objection to it being lifted. What happens between the Conservative party and the Government is their own affair, but Liberal Democrats were more than happy for the debate to be extended. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.
The Chairman: I am grateful for the hon. Member's point of order. I make it clear that no request has been put to me by the Programming Sub-Committee.
Lembit Öpik: I beg to move amendment No. 235, in page 36, line 1, leave out ', as far as practicable,'.
We do not believe that it is reasonable to say that one should try to avoid conflict with an offender's religious beliefs or not interfere with his normal work or education.
Mr. Turner: Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, during the Report stage of the recent Education Bill, the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) complained at some length about people's practice of suddenly getting religion when they wanted their children to be admitted to a particular school? Is it not conceivable that people might get religion if they are the subject of instructions from the responsible officer under the clause?
Lembit Öpik: No, I do not recall that, and I would like to hear what the Minister has to say.
Mr. Browne: The hon. Gentleman knows that when the phrase, ''as far as practicable'' is used, it means that although every reasonable effort will be made to avoid the conflicts anticipated in the clause and interference with other aspects of a child's life, it may not always be possible to achieve that objective. The bottom line is that the child must comply with the terms of the community responsibility order imposed by the court. If the matter is unresolved or unresolvable, the responsible officer or the child can seek to have the order amended or revoked and replaced with another. Adequate provision is made for such circumstances.
Lembit Öpik: I understand the Minister's response. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lembit Öpik: I beg to move amendment No. 237, in page 36, line 13, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 238, in page 36, line 18, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
No. 249, in clause 56, page 41, line 16, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
No. 253, in clause 57, page 44, line 12, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
No. 254, in page 44, line 14, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
Column Number: 332
No. 258, in clause 60, page 55, line 19, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.
Lembit Öpik: This group of amendments would make it mandatory for the Secretary of State to make rules to regulate both the treatment of young offenders and, to protect them, the circumstances in which they should carry out community responsibility orders. It would also make it mandatory for the Secretary of State to make rules to protect children under supervision, rules about the procedures for youth conferences and rules on monitoring offenders who are subject to orders. The amendments are probing. We want to know why the Government believe that the Secretary of State ''may'' do those things, and why they do not emphasise the mandatory nature of those rules.
Mr. Browne: As the hon. Gentleman recognises, we will need to make rules on all such matters if the orders are to work. The word ''may'' has been used in line with the usual drafting conventions. Making the orders mandatory would seem rather unnecessary, and the amendment makes no difference. I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.
Lembit Öpik: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
It being One o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [28 June 2001] and the Orders of the Committee [29 and 31 January 2002], to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.
Clause 55, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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