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Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire): I do not intend to detain the House for long. I had the honour of being a member of the Government in two Administrations who, from time to time, used the guillotine. I do not object in principle to it being used, although we never even fantasised about the sort of use and centralised control that has become normal for this Government.
I remind the Minister that, with one or two notable exceptions, I have always broadly supported the Patten recommendations, so I am not ideologically opposed in principle to what the Government are seeking to do. However, the Government told us that they were primarily trying to do two things: they were trying to use the peace to reform the police service, and they were trying to use the Bill to persuade members of the nationalist community to join the police. My concern is that the timetable motion will not give us the time to explore either of those issues properly.
The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) was right when he told the House that all the evidence and all the intelligence shows that the Province is moving in the direction not of peace but of tension and--God forbid--the possibility of more violence. Given that, it is hard to understand the Government's justification for not permitting the House the time necessary to debate the amendments that address the first of the central planks--that the peace would be used as an opportunity to reform the police service.
The second declared aim was that the Bill would enable the representatives and advocates of the nationalist and republican traditions to join the police service. That is not going to happen, because the SDLP has not signed up; Sinn Fein has certainly not signed up and, as a member of the British-Irish interparliamentary body, I heard the Taoiseach himself say in Galway a few weeks ago that he was not signed up.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said one other thing with which I agree--that consideration of the Bill had become increasingly fractious. We have heard echoes of that already, and we are only 39 minutes into a debate on the timetable. If the timetable motion is rammed through and rigorously enforced, as I expect it will be, the fractiousness will increase. It will persist in Northern Ireland long after our debates are forgotten. That defeats the third main plank of the Secretary of State's intention for the legislation, which was to create confidence in the police force.
The Secretary of State cannot generate confidence if everyone is feeling fractious about the process of legislation. It is because I do not believe that it is in the best interests of my homeland that that fractiousness should get in the way of the generation of confidence that, when the time comes to express an opinion on this supplemental timetable motion, I will oppose it.
Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk): I could not disagree more fundamentally with the conclusions of the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney). He made many valid points, but I shall support the timetable motion because I believe that the time has come for action and reform. It is clear to anyone who reads the Bill that it envisages major changes in the policing of Northern Ireland. I was privileged to be one of a small number of Members of Parliament who, on a recent cross-party visit to the constituency of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), talked to people of all views in Northern Ireland.
It was clear to that group that, as we know from debates in the House on Northern Ireland subjects, views are strongly held in Northern Ireland and that one could never please everyone in one Bill. Certainly it was clear that the Belfast agreement, which was the grandparent of the Bill, was the subject of much compromise. Some in the House to this day complain about issues that they could not accept, but the agreement obtained majority support from the people of Northern Ireland.
Similarly, the Patten report represented compromises. It is clear that some of the issues that Patten raised were not accepted. The Bill, which is the son--or daughter--of Patten, can be interpreted as satisfying people's requirements or not, according to where they come from. The consensus among members of the group who visited Northern Ireland a week or two ago was that it was now time for the reforms to take place. It is too early to talk about the Bill achieving something.
My personal position is that discussing the Bill further or being tempted to go into a ping-pong game of amendments with the other place and thereby hold up the Bill would do a major disservice to the people of Northern Ireland. The Chief Constable made it clear in his discussions that what was needed was to get ahead and demonstrate that the reforms in the Bill were appropriate and could be implemented in a way that satisfied the main requirements on both sides of the argument.
I shall support the timetable motion because I believe that we should avoid further ping-pong debates on the detail. I have heard the main arguments time and time again both in this Chamber and in my office, on the relay system, and it is now time for practicalities. We should now consider the detail of the Lords amendments, agree with them and give the Bill a fair wind.
Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley): I join other hon. Members who are opposing the timetable motion, because I believe that there are important issues to do with policing in Northern Ireland that we need to debate, but which we shall not have the opportunity to discuss tonight; and this may be, and probably will be, the final opportunity in the House to address these issues before we move beyond the legislation.
I wish that we had the opportunity tonight to address issues such as the name of the new police service and the symbols. My views are well known, as are those of my colleagues: we wish to retain the title Royal Ulster Constabulary. I have yet to hear any representative of the nationalist community articulate why the present symbol--the cap badge--is unacceptable. I have yet to hear a coherent argument against the inclusion of the harp and the shamrock as two of the three symbols embodied in the cap badge of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
I simply tell the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), "You cannot airbrush out the identity of the two political traditions of Northern Ireland, and the idea that we can neutralise Northern Ireland bears no resemblance to reality." I have yet to hear a coherent argument from nationalists as to why they oppose the green uniform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Perhaps they want an orange one. I do not know; they have not said. There is a need for a serious debate about the name and the symbols, and I have yet to be convinced by anyone that there is a need to change these key aspects--apart from political expediency.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh also mentioned a number of murders and deaths in Northern Ireland, into which he has been calling for a public inquiry. He seeks to link the Royal Ulster Constabulary to those murders in calling for that inquiry and in raising those issues in today's debate. Then he says that he wants speedy implementation of key aspects of the Bill, such as the extension of the RUC Reserve.
The hon. Gentleman may not be aware, but I certainly am in my constituency, that downsizing poses major problems in coping with the growing amount of criminality in Northern Ireland. He may not have the same amount of criminality in his constituency as I do in mine, but I suspect from my limited knowledge of South Armagh that he does; so how does he suggest that in speedily downsizing our police in Northern Ireland we shall be able to cope with these problems--never mind, as the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) has said, the growing security problem in Northern Ireland?
If I had the opportunity to speak on these issues tonight, I would be urging the Secretary of State to adopt the utmost caution in proceeding to implement the extension of the full-time Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve, and--
Mr. Donaldson: I am dealing with the issue of time, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am lamenting the fact that I shall not have adequate time to deal with these issues; that is my argument. If I had time this evening to deal with the implementation of the Bill, which I believe that we should debate because there are important issues to be addressed, I would be telling the Secretary of State that he should be cautious about downsizing the police in the context of an increased security problem and growing criminality. Those issues must be properly addressed.
The problem is greater even than that. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh spoke about inquiries into a number of murders. Well, I tell him and the Secretary of State that there is a concern in Northern Ireland that resources are being misallocated. I use for example the murder of two police officers in Lurgan, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble): constables John Graham and David Johnston. Constable Graham's mother walked into Lurgan RUC station recently to discover that 50 detectives from an English police force were investigating the murder of Rosemary Nelson. When she asked how many detectives were involved in the investigation of the murder of her son and his colleague, she was told: two.
I simply ask the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and the Secretary of State whether the life of those two police constables is worth so little that so few resources are allocated to the investigation of their murder when a huge number of detectives are allocated to investigating the murder of the solicitor Rosemary Nelson. We should address such issues, because they are about policing. Are the police not entitled to have the same resources for the investigation of the murder of their colleagues as have been allocated to the investigation of the murder of Rosemary Nelson? If we had had the time, I hope that we could have considered such issues.
Implementation of the proposals is important not just to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh; it is important to the people whom I represent and the majority community in Northern Ireland. We do want to be left without protection, and we do not want police numbers to be decimated when republican and loyalist terrorists are running about murdering people. They have mortar bombs and are attempting to blow up police stations, so if I had had the time, I would have urged on the Secretary of State the utmost caution. He must not make the protection and the security of the people of Northern Ireland a bargaining chip to try to buy off people such as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh on the issue of police reforms.
Security and the protection of the people of Northern Ireland must be the Secretary of State's top priority when the Bill and the proposals that flow from it are implemented. He must not, in any circumstance, compromise the security and protection of the people of Northern Ireland. If that means retaining the RUC Reserve until the security threat has been dealt with, that should be done.