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Nigel Griffiths: I recognise that many hon. Members are concerned about this issue. There seems to be a degree of less-than-wholly accurate information being transmitted, although I do not impugn the motives of those who are circulating it. The position is as I have stated. Everyone is guaranteed a job. If my hon. Friend is saying that that job may not be in this place, that reflects what I said a few moments ago. This is a matter not for the Government but for the House authorities. I have set out, I think fairly, the offer that is on the table and have expressed my hope that it is agreed before Christmas.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): What is the future of the hapless Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, which would effectively give an amnesty to terrorists on the run, bearing in mind that every party in Northern Ireland is opposed to this legislation with the exception of Sinn Fein? It should also be borne in mind that every person who spoke at the meeting of the British-Irish parliamentary body, which met at Edinburgh on Monday, from both north and south of the border was opposed to the legislation. Only one Government Back-Bench Member supported it during the debate. Is it not time that it was knocked on the head completely? It is very bad legislation.
No, it is notthe Bill is part of the peace process, which has brought big dividends to us in this part of the United Kingdom and, most importantly, to Northern Ireland. These are always difficult decisions. Hon. Members have spoken with a great deal of passion and anger about their personal experiences. Nothing can bring back people who have been killed by terrorists. However, we would not be where we are today if we had not embarked on a peace process that required us to move forward rather than to look back.
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That has been one of the causes of the problems in Northern Ireland. I would expect someone with the experience of the right hon. Gentleman in this area to promote the peace process rather than make criticisms that have been made by others, and which the Government do not accept.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): The chief constable of the North Wales force has today criticised the unseemly rush in which the Government are deciding the future of Welsh policing. In Wales, there is a strong feeling that the views expressed by Mr. Giffard on an all-Wales police force do not take into account the peculiar geography and the circumstances within Wales. Will my hon. Friend please reconsider the issue of a debate, particularly on the future of policing in Wales?
Nigel Griffiths: Those views are not shared by the association that represents police constables in Wales and the Association of Chief Police Officers. If there are concerns, I have laid out a timetable to my hon. Friendthe decision will be taken after consultation, and the consultation period has not yet ended.
Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): Virtually everything that the Deputy Leader said on policing is wrong. I was lucky enough to be called in the Westminster Hall debate. The Minister did not answer any of my questions. There were Opposition Members right round Westminster Hall to within two seats of where the Parliamentary Private Secretary should have been sitting who were not called. At a debate that I had with the Under-Secretary of State, he could not answer any questions from the chief constable and the chairman of the authority
Mr. Speaker: Order. I allowed the hon. Gentleman to ask a question because he seemed so excited and I wanted to calm him down. It seems that that has not helped. Will he ask a question? If he does so, he may get an answer.
Nigel Griffiths: The opportunity to have a debate on this issue will arise early in the new year. I am sure that one of the key facts that my right hon. and hon. Friends will want to put forward is the increase by 14,000 in the number of police officers, which is why the report of Her Majesty's inspectorate has recommended, in part, a reorganisation of the policing forces.
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle) (Lab): It is a while ago now since the excellent Animal Welfare Bill was published. There was then an indication that Second Reading would take place before Christmas, but that now seems unlikely. When are we likely to have the Bill before us and why has there been a delay?
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): In announcing the new appointments to the Northern Ireland Parades Commission, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland referred to a fresh start on the issue of parades in Northern Ireland, which has caused so many difficulties with attacks on parades and the obstruction of parades. Can we have an early debate so that we make it absolutely clear that as well as fresh faces on the commission, we need a fresh framework in which all of these issues can be discussed and decided by root-and-branch change, and not by tinkering with the problem?
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware of the significant increases in young women being forced into prostitution in this country, particularly from eastern European countries. Will he arrange for a Government statement on what measures are in place or are proposed to deal with this evil trade in human beings?
Nigel Griffiths: I know that my hon. Friend, police forces and enforcement authorities take this matter extremely seriously. Indeed, there was a high profile case this weekit is vital that this evil trade is stamped out. Police authorities have the necessary powers and are using them, and we hope that they will continue to use them as effectively as possible.
Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con): The Deputy Leader of the House rightly spoke of the importance of the publication of explanatory notes on the Armed Forces Bill, but I understand that they are not to be published until Friday next week, which is not even a full parliamentary day before Second Reading. The Bill has 373 clauses and 15 schedules, all pretty impenetrable. Will he undertake either to speed up publication of the explanatory notes or to slow down Second Reading?
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend press for an early debate on media coverage of Select Committee sittings? There has been a sharp decline in the number of hours of coverage. The independent companies say that it is because they cannot afford it, but one would expect the BBC to step in. Coverage of the scrutiny process is central to our parliamentary democracy.
Nigel Griffiths: I agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I raised the issue during an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall last month. It is important. I shall ensure that both the House authorities and the BBC are aware of the concerns of my hon. Friend and, I am sure, other Members.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con):
I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the House for giving us his view of how police reorganisation should
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be debated here, but it is an important issue that affects all Members on both sides of the House. The Government should think again about a debate before the end of the year, so that they may be in a position to assess parliamentary opinion rather than just the opinion of the Association of Chief Police Officers, with its method of canvassing for information.
Nigel Griffiths: As I have said, there will be a debate. It will take place at the end of the first phase of the consultation that ends later this month, before final decisions are made where there are contentious matters, and before the end of the final consultation period in another four months-plus starting from mid to late December. There will be ample opportunity to debate the reorganisation.
Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): I am sure my hon. Friend agrees that the Ministry of Defence's honouring of veterans who served in the war could be extended to others who also served in the war, particularly those who were in the Land Army and the Bevin boys. Those people have been applying for badges, but unfortunately have been turned down. Will he use his good offices to try to rectify the position?
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