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Ending Suspension

Part of Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:46 pm on 8th February 2000.

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Photo of Mr Peter Mandelson Mr Peter Mandelson Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office, The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 9:46 pm, 8th February 2000

That is a tempting offer by my right hon. Friend, and I fully understand the spirit in which it was made. I am afraid that I may not have that scope; there may not be that flexibility, between now and when I have to act, to come back to the House to make a statement and to give the House a further opportunity to debate the matter. If it were possible, if I had that latitude, I would certainly use it, because I regard it as very important on an issue as important as this, on which there are such strongly held feelings, to give people any and every opportunity to debate it properly in the only place in which democracy—live, open democracy—has been able to operate in relation to Northern Ireland for so long.

I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to this debate. I very much hope that, in the weeks and months ahead, if we have to take this painful decision before the weekend, it will not be too long before I can return to the House with better, more positive and constructive news. I hope that I can show how the parties together, as a result of the review that we intend to make, have been able to chart a new way through these very difficult waters, and how we are able ultimately to get the progress we want, not only in creating proper, democratic, devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, but in having the decommissioning that is an essential part of this peace process, without which the politics in Northern Ireland will not work.

I am confident; I am optimistic. I will certainly use all my energy to make sure that we get out of the dip—the trough—that we have now slipped into. I hope that it will not be too long before I can return to the House and give it better news.