Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] — 18 Dec 1997
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill marks another important step in the Government's programme for Northern Ireland. In line with the hopes and desires of the vast majority of the people in Northern Ireland, the Government are looking for a society at peace--a society governed by the rule of law and clear principles of democracy--which respects the rights and traditions of all its citizens.
The Stormont talks provide us with the opportunity to secure a just and enduring settlement, and we will continue to press forward with them. We will also continue to implement fair and effective policies on security, policing and public order. We need those for their own sakes, but we must also ensure that progress in one area is not threatened by festering disputes in others.
One such area of dispute in recent years has, of course, been parades. The majority of parades in Northern Ireland pass off peacefully, but when things go wrong and local accommodation cannot be reached, parades and the counter-demonstrations associated with them have the capacity to polarise opinion, raise community tensions and generate extremes of emotion. As we have seen all too often, they can degenerate into major flashpoints of civil disorder.
The Bill is born of the Government's desire to bring about accommodation and agreement where there are disputes over parades in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde):
The Parades Commission will play an important role. I welcome the increase in the membership of the commission set out in schedule 1, but may I humbly and modestly suggest that three of the commissioners should be women and that one should be someone with a legal or judicial background?
He went on to say he was happy that his right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton had said that parts of the legislation would be replaced by a future Labour Government because
"the legislation attacks civil liberties."--[ Official Report , 30 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 1068.]
In other words, if the commissioners do not like the people who are parading or what they stand for, they can place restrictions on the parade. It is wide open: those who are disliked can be stopped from parading--that is what the Bill would allow.
Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--
The House divided: Ayes 159, Noes 7.
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