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Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I have real affection for the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Gordon Banks) who sits on the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs, but I do not think that contribution really did him justice. When he reads his speech I hope that he will be not exactly proud of it.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates), who preceded me as Chairman of the Select Committee, I have never heard a Minister so savaged as the Secretary of State was today. The right hon. Gentleman behaved with great restraint and dignity and I have a regard for him. I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber at present. I know that he went to meet the victims and we are all glad about that. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) is talking to victims groups at present. As the Secretary of State has already seen the groupsI hope that he was converted by them, if not by ushis place is now in the Chamber and he should be listening to the remainder of the debate.
I have been a Member of the House for 35 years and I have never had to speak in a debate on a piece of legislation that was so illogical, shoddy and base. I understand why the Government are anxious to move, as they see it, the peace process on, but it was clear from the body language, and indeed the language, of the Prime Minister when I questioned him at the Liaison Committee yesterday, and of the Secretary of State this afternoon that their heart is not in the legislation. They know that they cannot justify it.
In many ways, this is the most bizarre day in parliamentary history, because whatever happens in the Lobbies tonight, if the Bill has its Second ReadingI hope it will not, but I suspect that it willit will have been carried not by a majority of Government Members but by the influence of the hon. Members for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams), for West Tyrone (Mr. Doherty), for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Michelle Gildernew), for Mid-Ulster (Mr. McGuinness) and for Newry and Armagh (Conor Murphy). Five Members who do not take their seats in this place, who play no part in our deliberations and who, despite their recent protestations that they are moving towards democracy, play absolutely no part in the Parliament of the United Kingdom to which they have been elected
Sir Patrick Cormack:
Oh, they take the money and they like the facilities, but they are not prepared to act as Members of the House; yet they have influenceI would even say malign influence. The leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party, the hon. Member
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for Foyle (Mark Durkan), who made a good speech, quoted what the Prime Minister had said to him about the power of the gun. They were the most chilling words that we have heard in our debate. The hon. Gentleman was honourably elected to lead his party and honourably returned to the House with his friend and colleague, the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Dr. McDonnell), who plays a valuable part in the Select Committee; yet at Weston Park, the Prime Minister pointed out that their words and their influence did not count for as much as that of people who have not eschewed terrorism, because they had relied not on the power of the bullet but on the power of the ballot. That is disgracefulutterly disgraceful.
I do not know whether those people are personally implicated in any of the crimes that we are obliquely talking about today, but I know that in spite of the declaration in July, which we all welcomed, and in spite of the act of decommissioning that was real, if not totalnone will know how totalthere has not, as I said in an intervention on the Secretary of State, been one word of remorse or contrition.
If we are to draw a line, if we are to move forward, as we would all like to do, and if we are to create a United Kingdom where every part of that United Kingdom is as normal as the other parts, Sinn Fein-IRA must make a declaration that they have not just renounced the bullet or not just put away their arms, but that they have indeed entered fully into the democratic process. They need to take their seats and to argue their cause on the Floor of the House. They should take their place on the Select Committee. They should play a full and constructive part in building that Northern Ireland, which we all accept is part of the United Kingdom unless and until a majority of its population decides otherwise. We would respect that verdict, although I hope that that does not happen.
What have the Government done? They have introduced the Bill, which they had no need to introduce. It is not part of the Belfast agreementnor was it in the Government's manifestobut it is a gesture of appeasement towards those who have not properly embraced the democratic process. The grotesque juxtaposition of introducing the Bill on the very day that the Government were seeking to pass some of the most draconian legislation that the British Parliament has ever had placed before it is extraordinary, and it is indeed differentiating between terrorists.
The people who caused the atrocities to which hon. Members have referred in moving speeches today are as evil as the people who puts the bombs in the London tube, and let us not pretend otherwise. If those people who, on Remembrance Sunday 1987this is seared on my memory; I shall never forget itblew apart a community as it sought to honour its dead and created more dead are not prepared to say that they are sorry for what they have done, they are not really fit to sit down with the rest of us in a democratic forum. [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst):
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. Sedentary
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comments of that kind, coming from certain hon. Members, do not assist the debate. These are very grave matters, and they are diminished when that kind of sedentary commentor signis made.
I was about to make a point that I have made several times this afternoon: those people who are guilty of those acts should at the very least come into an open court before a judge and be faced with their victims. This business of issuing a certificate and sending it, as was said earlier, to their holiday homes is no way of closing or drawing the line; it is itself yet another grotesque act.
I hope that the Minister will pass on these comments to the Secretary of State, because we all wish him well. Every member of the Select Committee wants to see normality restored, wants to see the peace walls down and wants to see a Northern Ireland in which we can all take pride, but the Bill is not advancing that cause; it is retarding it. It is rewarding those who have caused desperate anguish and have been responsible for some of the worst tragedies in peacetime ever inflicted in our country.
As the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) was speakingand how sensibly she spoke, Mr. Deputy SpeakerI thought again about the peculiar double standards by which we operate. She and I campaigned together at the time of the Bosnian atrocities. She and I would love to see Mladic and Karadzic brought to justice. They are on the run, but would anyone in Her Majesty's Government be happy to give them a little certificate because someone had been sent along to The Hague to say, "Well, give them a certificate. They're free now."? Those are the standards that the Government are trying to impose in a part of the United Kingdom for which they are responsible.
I am glad that the Secretary of State has returnedI am grateful to him. I beg him to listen carefully to what is said in the Chamber. Again, I say to him that the Bill is not by any definition emergency or urgent legislation. It is legislation over which we should take our time. The Bill must be subject to the most critical scrutiny and examination if there is to be any chance at all of creating something from it in which any of us can take any pride at all. As it is, the Bill is a shoddy document. It is fit only for ripping in halfas I now doand nothing else.
The Secretary of State is a reasonable man who, as I said earlier this afternoon, has exercised great restraint. Will he reflect on what I am sure he heard this afternoon from the victims' groups? Will he reflect on the fact that almost every single hon. Member on both sides of the House who has taken part in the debate has said that they do not like the Bill? Will he either take the Bill away, which would be the best thing that he could do, or, at the very least, agree that the Select Committee or a Joint Committee of both Houses should be given six weeks to examine the Bill, go through it, take evidence and come up with something that is a little more worthy of the oldest of Parliaments and the greatest bastion of democracy? We are besmirching our reputation if we give a Second Reading to this Bill today.
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