‘(1)Before the Special Tribunal established under section 8 sentences an applicant who pleads guilty or is found guilty of an offence, it shall give an opportunity for a victim, or the family of a victim, to make representations to it.
(2)In passing sentence, the Special Tribunal shall take into account any representations made to it under subsection (1).’. —[Mr. Peter Robinson.]
On a point of order, Mr. Taylor. On behalf of the entire Committee—I hope—I express my gratitude to you and your co-Chairman, Sir Nicholas, for the way in which you have chaired the Committee.
I also pass on our grateful thanks to the Clerk, Mr. Sandall, and his team for the efficient way in which they have managed the amendments. I also thank Hansard, which has done, as ever, a fine job, and also the doorkeepers and the police, who have kept order.
I particularly thank all hon. Members for their co-operation in Committee. I know that strong passions have been generated. I simply say to Opposition Members that they have fulfilled their duty to challenge the Government, and they have done so in an exemplary manner. I hope that those hon. Members who have now had their first experience of a Committee enjoyed it. I also thank my officials and my hon. Friends for their support and their contributions.
Although the Bill leaves Committee as it entered it, I hope that our debates have shown that there are issues on which the Government will reflect. I look forward, after a restful Christmas break, to returning in the new year to deal with those matters on Report and Third Reading.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Taylor. I echo the Minister’s thanks, particular to you and Sir Nicholas for your chairmanship.
I thank the Minister for the way in which he has dealt with the Bill. I think that he took every intervention that was asked of him. I look forward to him returning on Report with one or two of Opposition Members’ suggested improvements.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Taylor. I associate myself and the Liberal Democrats with the Minister’s comments. [Interruption.] No doubt those are well wishers telephoning as we speak. I also echo the comments of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury. It is disappointing that not a single amendment has been made to the Bill, but the Minister has done a good job in impossible circumstances. Although we may hate the sin, we still love the sinner.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Taylor. I despise and have utter contempt for this legislation and I am ashamed of my own Government for taking it forward. Nevertheless, I want to put on the record my deep appreciation of your chairmanship, Mr. Taylor, and of that of Sir Nicholas, especially during the late hours of Tuesday, for which we have already expressed our appreciation. I thank the Clerks, his officials and Hansard, and to everyone else who has contributed by supplying us with water, little notes and encouragement.
As I have said, I despise Bill, but I appreciate the efforts that Opposition Members and the Social Democratic and Labour party Members have made to improve the Bill. I am only sorry that the Minister did not stretch himself more to improve the Bill by accepting amendments. He will come back to us on Report, and I hope that over the Christmas break he will reflect and be generous in responding to victims’ concerns and the concerns of all hon. Members who are deeply concerned by the legislation, even at the end of the Committee stage.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Taylor. I would not like the occasion to pass without expressing to you and Sir Nicholas my appreciation and that of my colleagues for the way in which you have conducted the proceedings. We warmly appreciate how you have been able to keep us cool when tempers could easily have become considerably heated. I join other members of the Committee who have expressed their appreciation to the officials and police and so on. We thought at one stage that we might have an all-night sitting. We ended up with a late-night sitting, but still managed to complete our work.
Although the Minister has been pleasant, mild and mannerly throughout our whole proceedings, not even his excellent disposition could make anyone from Northern Ireland—save the terrorists—swallow this legislation. He really will have to do better when the Bill is discussed on Report. I hope that he will take the opportunity to do so.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Taylor. I join other hon. Members in extending thanks to you and Sir Nicholas for helping us throughout our proceedings. I thank everyone else who has supported the Committee in its task, such as the Clerk, his staff, and others.
I dissociate myself from the Minister’s compliments to his hon. Friends for providing support. I am glad that the Minister counted me as an hon. Friend on a couple of occasions during our debates, but I want to make clear my position on the Bill. Like others, I find it disgraceful and disgusting. I am appalled that it is the first Bill in which I have been involved in a Committee stage in this Parliament. We shall debate it further at other stages.
Like other hon. Members, I acknowledge the Minister’s forbearance. Each sitting of the Committee was, in effect, a punishment meeting for him—and deservedly so, given the nature of the Bill—but I accept the good grace with which he has conducted his contributions.