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Mr. Donaldson: The hon. Gentleman makes a point that he has made many times in the Chamber, and he has been wrong many times.

12 May 2003 : Column 124

The Belfast agreement provides for exclusion. I do not ask the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh to tear up the agreement by asking him to accept the principle of exclusion because he signed up to that when he supported the agreement. There is a provision for exclusion in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Indeed, I remember that he once made a promise that if the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) would go into government with Sinn Fein, he would personally guarantee that if the IRA had not decommissioned within a defined time, the Social Democratic and Labour party would vote to exclude it from government.

Exclusion is already provided for, but Unionist Members need to know whether the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and his party will support that if the IRA fails to come up to the mark. We have not heard the answer to that question and I suspect that we will not receive it this evening.

Mr. Quentin Davies: The hon. Gentleman has alighted on an important issue but, as so often happens in Northern Ireland debates, his pertinent question will be responded to by another question. Does he agree that it is one thing to expect the SDLP to take explicit responsibility for excluding Sinn Fein or any other recalcitrant party from an Executive, but another thing altogether for the SDLP and other parties to accept that the Government should have the right to exclude such a recalcitrant party? That is the power that I have urged the Government to take and I offered our support for it last July. If we had that power and if the Government had used it, we would have been able to avoid the present crisis.

Mr. Donaldson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He might be aware that the Government already have the power to refer any party to the Assembly that they believe to be in breach of its obligations. The Government have not used that power in Northern Ireland during the past five years. Despite all the activities, including IRA cease-fire breaches and even espionage against the Northern Ireland Office, the Government failed to make a move or to table an exclusion motion. What confidence can we have that even if the Government had the power that the hon. Gentleman proposes, they would ever utilise it? I would support them if they took that power, but I have little confidence that they would use it. In the end, the decision will come down to the parties in the Assembly and to whether the SDLP is prepared to work with Unionists in such a situation.

These are serious issues. I regret that the House does not have more time to consider the Bill in detail—we should have that time. We are being denied elections and the right to scrutinise the Bill much more effectively. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State is unhappy with the length of time for which I have spoken but I remind him that he spoke for an hour and that the Government have curtailed the debate. They set the guillotine and created the timetable, and they have denied elected representatives the proper opportunity to scrutinise the Bill, which is highly regrettable.

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9.54 pm

Mr. John Taylor (Solihull): Time is limited, and I shall not trespass too much on what is left of it.

I listened intently to the contributions, not least to the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson). Rather gloomily, I agree with him about a long autumn and direct rule. I am far from enthusiastic about continuing government by Order in Council. My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) rightly said that the logical conclusion of the Conservative party voting against Second Reading would be to wish an Assembly election on 29 May. That would be a recipe for chaos and incoherence.

Tonight's proceedings are a monumental indictment of the Government's attitude to the House of Commons. The absence of a Committee stage is a disgrace. It has been a bad day for the Government—a bad 10 days, in fact. In the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, we hope for better things, but it is not with overwhelming optimism.

9.55 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Desmond Browne): Like the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), I, too, listened with care to the debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he would reflect on the contributions, which we will, of course, do. I will include in that reflection the comments by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), who described me as the wee Scottish man.

I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Walsall, North (David Winnick) and for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) for their support. They are ever present in debates on Northern Ireland and speak with some knowledge and understanding of the situation there. I understand their reluctance, and the reluctance of other hon. Members, to support the Bill because of the difficulty that all democrats have with postponing elections. To the extent that my hon. Friends supported the Government, I thank them for that.

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) on his analysis of what is needed to restore trust and confidence in the peace and political processes in Northern Ireland. I will read with care his comments in the Official Report tomorrow, but I clearly understood him to go well beyond a form of words in what he said at the beginning of his speech. To that extent, he hit the nail on the head.

I thank the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) for his understanding and support of the strategy adopted by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister. I also thank him for his pledge of support for the Government in the Lobby if it comes to that. To paraphrase him, he said that many of his Conservative colleagues support the view that my right hon. Friends have made the right decision. I know from my conversations that he is right about that, too.

I was disappointed by the contribution of the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies). Before the debate, I reminded myself of his contribution to the debate on 17 March, when I suggested in an intervention that his contribution was understated. That reminded me that he does not do irony. What he

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does do, however, and he does it with aplomb, is pomposity. He is fond of suggesting to the Government that if only they had listened to him, things would have been significantly different and better in Northern Ireland. He is also fond of adopting everything that he thinks the Government have done right as being in response to his urgings. Those of us who have listened to him for some time on the issues and have seen his position change significantly on occasions will make our own minds up about that.

The hon. Gentleman was so caught up in his flawed analysis of the Government's strategy that he did not once mention the effect of continuing paramilitary activity on trust and confidence in Northern Ireland. That was my most significant disappointment with his contribution. I was also slightly disappointed that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) did not mention it, although he was right to remind me of my contribution to the debate on 17 March.

I do not have time to do justice to the contributions, but I want to put it on the record for those who read the debate in future that life is better in Northern Ireland for the people of Northern Ireland because of the Belfast agreement. To take statistics of violence—

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pursuant to Order [this day], put forthwith the Question, That the Bill be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 22.

Division No. 183
[10:00 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Benn, Hilary
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Challen, Colin
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
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)
Hinchliffe, David
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
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
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackay, rh Andrew
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Merron, Gillian
Miliband, David
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, rh John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James (Glasgow Baillieston)
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Joan Ryan and
Mr. Fraser Kemp


Burnside, David
Corbyn, Jeremy
Dodds, Nigel
Hunter, Andrew
Llwyd, Elfyn
McGrady, Eddie
McNamara, Kevin
Mallon, Seamus
Mercer, Patrick
Paisley, Rev. Ian
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Rosindell, Andrew
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Gregory Campbell and
Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson

Question accordingly agreed to.

12 May 2003 : Column 128

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the whole House, pursuant to Order [this day].


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

12 May 2003 : Column 129

Question agreed to.

Bill immediately considered in Committee, pursuant to Order [this day].

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