New Clause 1 — Independent Members: Declaration Against Terrorism

Part of Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 26th March 2003.

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Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 4:45 pm, 26th March 2003

I could not agree less. The hon. Gentleman is deeply wrong to suggest that. He and others have had the opportunity to consider the proposals and table amendments for the past four months if they really thought that their composition was fundamentally flawed. The hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to think about them for four months. In addition, there has been an opportunity to table amendments since last week.

That is not the issue, however. The hon. Gentleman asks whether this is the right time to introduce the provisions. I have already explained that this is not the ideal time, but that is why we decided to add another commencement order to the provisions, which my hon. Friend the Minister of State will refer to later.

The hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members are also wrong to say that our parliamentary safeguards are meaningless. They think that the procedures of the House are so inadequate that they could not cope with great issues such as those that we have been discussing. I do not agree. The commencement orders are so important that we should be dealing only with one issue: whether the clauses should be introduced—yes or no. They would be introduced on the basis of the acts of completion that we have discussed today.

The provisions were discussed in the other place. I take the valid point made by Lembit Öpik. The issue is so important that it should not go upstairs to a Committee. The hon. Gentleman was right to say that the whole House should have the opportunity to debate and vote on that single issue—whether the matter before us should go through. Such a debate would be meaningful. Indeed, it would be no different in substance from this debate, although it might be in time. Every Member will have the opportunity to make their points in this place and debate whether it is right or wrong to ensure that particular matters are discussed and agreed to.