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Sammy Wilson: Like the on-the-runs legislation. The Secretary of States argument about the demands from the Assembly cannot be used to back up the urgency with which this measure is being pushed through.
The Secretary of State said that we want to have this measure in place so that we can have the devolution of policing and justice when the Assembly is ready. The Assembly is clearly not ready. Leaving aside the whole issue of trust, the Assembly and Executive Review Committee is still considering aspects of policing, not least the police budget and whether we want the devolution of policing and justice when there is a £170 million hole in that budget.
Sammy Wilson: That is the point. If the Secretary of States argument is that we want the legislation in place for when the Assembly is ready to accept the devolution of policing and justice, there is no indication of that being a cause for urgency from Northern Ireland.
My next point was raised by the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), the former Secretary of State, who is not in his place now. He went even further in making the case for why what I have mentioned was essential. He talked about the commitments given at St. Andrews, the fact that Sinn Fein had come on board on policing and supported the police only because of certain commitments on the devolution of policing and justice, and the fact that in the past that kind of method had been used because it was an absolute necessity for progress. If we take the right hon. Gentlemans argument to its logical conclusion, we reach the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey): it all becomes tantamount to blackmailIf you do not do this, somehow or other the commitment that Sinn Fein has given to policing will evaporate. It will no longer be prepared to sign up to policing. This is necessary for progress. I am not accusing this Secretary of State of employing that argument; nevertheless, it was employed by those who support the pushing through of this legislation as the Secretary of State is seeking to push it through.
By and large, we are content with the thrust of this legislation. We are also content that other legislation put in place in this House addresses the fears of people in Northern Ireland and ensures that a Member previously associated with a terrorist organisation, even with acts of terror, could not be the Minister for policing and justice. We are content with all that, but I accept that some Members have difficulty with this legislation, wish to move amendments or, in the case of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), want to use the mechanism available to probe the legislation and ensure that there are no mistakes or weaknesses in it and that any changes to improve it can be made. All that requires that there be proper debate and a proper system to deal with the issues.
I make one last point, which was also made by the hon. Member for Vauxhall. As a Unionist, I wish Northern Ireland to be treated in the same as any other part of the United Kingdom. That means that Northern Ireland legislationtechnical or not, politically important
or not, ordinary and mundane or notshould be treated in the same way as legislation for the rest of the United Kingdom. We deserve that. In the past, there were excuses. There was what was described as temporary direct rule and we used Orders in Council. Those days are past; the Northern Ireland Assembly is dealing with most of the legislation that we were told had to go through in that form.
The House has no massive time commitments on Northern Ireland legislation. Indeed, what makes it more galling is that there is plenty of time. It is not as if we are being squeezed out because the House has to deal with other issues of such national importance that Northern Ireland has to be dealt with differently. Yesterday the House finished early, and I do not know how many times this Session we have not used up the full allocation of time. It is even more insulting for people in Northern Ireland to find that, when there is time, it cannot be allocated for important legislation that will put in place structures for the administration of policing and justice when it is time for those to be devolved to Northern Ireland. I hope that the Secretary of State will rethink the position for that reason, because the arguments have been weak and spurious, and because he owes the people of Northern Ireland the same treatment as that received by those in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Everyone who has spoken and everyone present in the Chamber wishes Northern Ireland well and hopes that the processes will continue and bring about an ultimate solution that is satisfactory to all the people who live in Northern Ireland.
I commend the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). They are essential, de minimis amendmentsthe very least that could be done. The Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) saw the position as merely a technical reissuing of previous guillotine motions.
Mr. Paterson: May I clarify the issue again? I am just being brutally practical. Sadly, the Government have control of Parliament; the Executive have the power to decide time. We have some important amendments that we want to introduce and we bitterly regret the position, but the fact is that we will not be able to explain the amendments in this democratically elected House if we do not have the time. I entirely endorse my hon. Friends beliefs, and he knows perfectly well how I feel about this. However, I am just being practical this afternoonas we speak, the Executive have control of the time. I have not said how we will vote on the issue; I have been clear about that. I am just being absolutely practical about the time that could be spent speaking to the amendments.
I was not going to come to this point immediately, but the former Secretary of State referred to it and it was explicit in what my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire said, although not in what the Secretary of State said. Normally, these three-and-a-half-page constructed guillotines are taken automatically by the Executive, who have become so accustomed to them.
The guillotine motion has been included in the time for the Second Reading debate. This has been a long-argued casein respect of almost every Northern Ireland Bill, too. It behoved the Secretary of States predecessors to say, If you discuss the process of Parliament and scrutiny, you are taking away from the consideration of the substantive issue before the House. That is an entirely artificial construct. What does it suit? The Secretary of State made no case that this was an absolute emergency that demanded delivery on this day. When asked, the former Secretary of State got perilously close to stating the need for hit you on the head guillotine motions in emergency legislation.
In fact, when my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough was speaking, a piece of paper fluttered on to the Bench, and he kindly allowed me to read it. It said, Peterwould be helpful if you start to wind up. Youve had 20 minutes, eating into debate time. I cannot imagine which Government Whip could have gone as far as to suggest that an hon. Member may not make his case. But that case was not used by the Secretary of State. All the arguments have been presentedin my speech, in those of Labour Members and in those of Members who represent Ireland[Hon. Members: Northern Ireland!] Northern Ireland, I should say. Those arguments have been about why this motion should not constrain the debate on Second Reading.
Mr. Heath: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, not least for exposing the collusion between Conservative and Government Front Benchers on this issue. May I take him back to something that he said earlier, which is very important? The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) is de minimis: the minimum. If it were passed, our proceedings would not represent normal consideration of a Bill in this place. The amendment proposes streamlined emergency consideration put into just two days of parliamentary debate. We should not see it as a normalisation of the treatment of Northern Ireland legislation, but merely as something that is not as bad as what the Government are proposing.
There is no opposition to the substance of the measure before us. As the former Secretary of State said, it is a largely technical matter involving some very important issues that need consideration. It is fairly safe to say that most English and Scottish Members will wish it good will and let the debate take its form, for this is the Parliament of us all. I was hoping not to abuse anyone in this, but simply to ask the Secretary of State to have an urgent word with the business managers. We did not need this motion; it is not necessary. He did not make a case for it, in all fairness, and he knows it. The only person who tried to argue for it was the former Secretary of State, who elided the concepts of technicality, process and emergency in such a way as to try to give a certain sense of urgency. As has been said in this Chamber before, anyone who studied law, as quite a few of us did, will remember from Maines Ancient Law that justice lies in the interstices of procedure. Nothing is a merely procedural matter. It is very important to justify this to those whom we represent, and especially to those who represent the Province that will have to bear this legislation.
Mr. Bone: This has been an interesting debate on the amendment. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) said, we are in a Catch-22 situation: the more time we take, the less time there is for the Second Reading debate. However, if my amendment were successful, we would be able to continue a Second Reading debate for the rest of the day. I hope that when I press it to the vote Government Members will agree to it so that we can move forward.
Of course, this is more than a procedural matter, albeit that it contains a number of technical issues. I say in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) that of course we are serious. There is no question but that this is a very serious issue; that is why we are setting about it in this way. I would say to the Conservative shadow spokesman that nothing in the Bill is a surprise. If he had read the report of the Assembly and Executive Review Committee, which was published six weeks ago, and followed its work, he would have seen that the legislation reflects that work. He would also have noted that the Assembly itself managed not only to pass the debate motion, but to do so with a full debate in a little less than two hours.
Sir Patrick Cormack: I made my argument today in sorrow, not in anger. Why cannot the Secretary of State accept the validity of the points that have been made time and again from all parts of this Houseall the Northern Ireland parties represented in this House appear to agree on thisand give us a little more time? We will have two hours to debate the Second Reading of an important Bill. He could make himself a real reputation if he allowed us to continue that debate until 7 oclock tonight.
I ask hon. Members not to divide the House on this issue. I fear that they will do so, but it is obviously a matter for Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) suggested that it would be a bad day for Parliament if we proceeded in the way proposed. I would qualify that by saying that this will be another day when Parliament will have played its part in helping to build a very different Northern Irelanda Northern Ireland based on peace and prosperity. Even
if there are disagreements in the House on procedure, this will be a very good day for Parliament. I thank my hon. Friends.
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