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As a member of the Loyal Orange Institution as well as the Apprentice Boys of Derry, I am proud to say that the number of people who watch our parades is
significantly on the increase. An independent survey conducted this year found that 62 per cent. of those who were in Belfast city centre on 13 July had never been at a parade before, and 98 per cent. said they would be back next year. Furthermore, the bed occupancy rate in Belfast hotels was 80 per cent., and some 200,000 to 250,000 people watched the event. The significance of all this is that while it is true that many people throughout the kingdom might ask about the relevance or vital importance of parading, in Northern Ireland-and, indeed, in some other parts of the United Kingdom, although less so-this issue goes to the heart of the community.
It certainly goes to the heart of the community that DUP Members represent. It is part of our culture and identity, and those-Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein and others-who decided to seek political advantage from the issue, and to disrupt the parades through violence and intimidation, knew exactly what they were doing. They knew that in doing that they would strike at the very heart of what makes a lot of Unionists and Protestant people in Northern Ireland tick. We have to find a way through these problems and difficulties, and ensure that those who want to foment trouble and disorder do not succeed.
It is right to put on record, as many already have, a tribute to those in local communities who have dedicated many hours-often at great personal expense, as they might have sacrificed time with their families, or time to look after their own interests-to their own community by stewarding parades and helping voluntarily to ensure that there was a peaceful outcome. They deserve to be commended throughout communities in Northern Ireland, as do those who go on parade and who, despite severe provocation on many occasions-despite being spat upon, having stones fired at them, and suffering verbal abuse and physical violence-have 100 per cent. of the time, certainly in recent years, been absolutely peaceful and dedicated to behaving in an entirely civil, peaceful and democratic way.
I was alarmed by the remarks of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) when he sought to redefine what a peaceful parade was. He argued that a parade might not be peaceful if it were contended, or if there was controversy surrounding it as a result of opposition from others. I totally reject that. The fact of the matter is that those who go on the parades in Northern Ireland do so entirely peacefully, and I wholly endorse the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) about the ordinary decency of the people who are involved in the loyal orders, and who come out on parade and do not want to get involved in violence in any shape or form.
A lot of our debate has necessarily centred on the Parades Commission and the strategic review of parading. The hon. Members for Foyle and for South Down put up a defence of the Parades Commission. I have to say that I do not agree with the Minister's praise for the work of the Parades Commission. I agree with my party colleagues who have talked about the problems that the commission has caused by the way it has gone about its work, without acknowledging the progress that has been made where there has been engagement, and by setting its face against recognising and rewarding those who have engaged in good faith in trying to move things
forward, and by instead rewarding those who have sat on their hands and done nothing except refuse to make progress.
Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) talked about the good deeds and good work that the Parades Commission had done, and said that although it does not enjoy complete support, it does enjoy some support. He is right to say that it enjoys some support, but it enjoys very little support in the Unionist community, as I hope he will know and acknowledge. That is why I was more encouraged by what the Minister said when he intervened in the debate and talked about the need for consensus, because that goes to the heart of things.
The commission deals with one of the most contentious issues in Northern Ireland, and it is roundly lacking in support right across the Unionist community. It might have some support from elsewhere, as we have heard from those on the Social Democratic and Labour party Benches and others in the nationalist community, but I dare say that if an opinion poll were conducted in the Unionist community-this has been reflected by the speeches made tonight-hardly any support would be found for the commission. It is clear that the argument has been won, and despite the last-gasp efforts of the SDLP to fly the flag for the Parades Commission, everybody recognises that its day is done, that it will have to be replaced, and that it will be replaced in due course.
There was a great deal of misunderstanding-I do not know whether it was due to a lack of information or whether it was deliberate-in what the hon. Member for South Down and others said about the role of the councils in the new dispensation under the Ashdown review; they displayed a lack of knowledge about the way in which the councils are involved in this matter. It is important that we recognise that far too often the Parades Commission has responded to threats, as has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson), who knows full well the situation in his constituency; it is one of the most contentious and controversial situations. He pointed out the unwillingness of those who are protesting against the Orangemen in that area to engage in a constructive way forward.
In the couple of minutes left available to me I wish to make some more general remarks. We have framed our motion in the context of the possibility of the devolution of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland. There has been talk of financial packages and so on, and they are vital. I commend the tremendous work that has been done, particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East, the leader of my party, in achieving tremendous progress on a financial package for Northern Ireland in relation to policing and justice. I also commend the contribution made and the work put in by the Government on that subject. However, we must remember and reiterate the fact that for us, the overriding issue is confidence in the community, and this is one key aspect of ensuring that there is confidence in the community.
One cannot have confidence in the community when people who are in government, sharing power, will not share a public road. One cannot have confidence in a
situation where people are saying that they want to share a future but they will not say that someone is entitled to share a public highway. Until we reach a situation where there is mutual respect and a recognition that the loyal orders have the right to parade the public highway in a peaceful and democratic way, it is pointless talking about trying to create confidence. We need to ensure that confidence exists, and this area is a vital component of it. It is essential that we get resolution on these issues, because we cannot afford to enter any more years-next year or the year after that-with them unresolved, especially if progress is to be made on policing and justice.
Paul Goggins: With the leave of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall make some-necessarily brief-remarks. That this has been a good debate reflects both the importance of the issue and the controversy that it can still sometimes create as the debate ensues. I wish to respond to specific questions put by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) about the qualifications of the chair of the Parades Commission, Mrs. Rena Shepherd. He will understand that no specific qualifications were required for that post, so it was not appropriate, or indeed necessary, for checks to be carried out on qualifications as a part of the appointment process. However, I am sure that he and others will be reassured to learn that Mrs. Shepherd has confirmed to officials that her qualifications are, indeed, as stated on the record.
I have said throughout the debate that respect and dialogue are the twin foundation stones on which we must take things forward. Whatever model is used-the Parades Commission or something different-respect and dialogue are the answer, in the end, to the parades issue.
That this House recognises that the right of free assembly and peaceful procession is an intrinsic human right and an important part of the British heritage; acknowledges the cultural significance of parading in Northern Ireland and its tourist potential; regrets the attempts by a minority to interfere with the right to parade peacefully; and accepts that it is a political imperative to resolve such matters, especially in a context where it is proposed to devolve policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland.
That, in accordance with rule 56 (1) of the Parliamentary Election Rules contained in Schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983, the sealed packets containing the completed corresponding number lists forwarded to the sheriff clerk at Kirkcaldy following the Glenrothes by-election on 6 November 2008 (1) shall not be destroyed by the sheriff clerk other than as provided for in the protocol agreed among the Secretary of State for Scotland, the electoral registration officer for Fife, the returning officer for the Glenrothes parliamentary constituency and the sheriff clerk for the Kirkcaldy sheriff court district and dated 16 and 19 October 2009 (Cm 7729); (2) may be delivered by that sheriff clerk to that returning officer; and (3) may be opened by that returning officer in order that a substitute marked copy of the register of electors may be made available for public inspection, all in accordance with and subject to the conditions specified in that protocol. 118(6) and Order of 20 October -(Mark Tami.)
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not want to interrupt the passage of this motion, which I think is an elegant solution to a problem, but I do want to draw attention to paragraph 10 of the protocol on this matter. I hope that it will be noted that if the matter were to come up in future, it would be better to allow for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to observe election processes.
That the Landfill Tax (Prescribed Landfill Site Activities) Order 2009 (S.I., 2009, No. 1929), dated 21 July 2009, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23 July, be approved. -( Mark Tami .)
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 11060/09, which sets out the Commission's view of the next five year work programme in the field of Justice and Home Affairs; and supports the position that the Government takes on its direction. -(M ark Tami .)
Mr. Speaker: Objection taken. What the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid) meant was that he did not want me to take the next three motions together. I therefore will not put them together but will take them separately, and we shall see how he or others respond.
That Dr Richard Taylor be a member of the West Midlands Regional Select Committee.-( M ark Tami .)
That Linda Gilroy be discharged from the South West Regional Select Committee and Roger Berry be added . -(Mark Tami .)
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I rise on important business, to which you referred, Mr. Speaker, to present a petition on behalf of my constituents, the residents of the borough of Telford and The Wrekin and of east Shropshire, and others. The petition declares that my constituents have very serious concerns about the plans of the Shrewsbury and Telford hospital NHS trust, and indeed of Health Ministers, to cut local health services from the Princess Royal hospital in my constituency. My constituents believe that the plans do not take local clinical and medical needs fully into account, and they are particularly concerned about the threat to paediatrics and accident and emergency services, irrespective of whether general surgery A and E may or may not remain in the short and medium term.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Health to use his powers to reverse the proposed plans.
Mr. Speaker, you and I know that petitions are presented each and every week in this place, but there are very few of this size: 16,303 people at least in my constituency are protesting. I hope that under the rules of the House the petition will be taken very seriously by the Secretary of State.
Declares that the Petitioners have serious concerns about plans for The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust to cut local health services from the Princess Royal Hospital, Telford; further declares that these cuts aim to generate financial savings alone, and do not fully take into account local clinical and medical needs.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): I am very grateful to have the opportunity tonight to raise the case of my constituent Fabio Alves-Nunes who died, avoidably, aged five. By unhappy coincidence, I also attended earlier today the funeral of my constituent, Lance Corporal James Hill of the Coldstream Guards, who was killed in Afghanistan aged 23. It is sad to reflect that the bereaved families live only about 100 yards apart.
The death of a young person is especially harrowing, and never more so than when it is avoidable. Everyone associated with it will plague themselves with the question, "What if I had acted differently?" It will be the parents who feel the loss most keenly and who will pose that question most self-critically.
Corporal Hill's parents know that their adult son chose to go into the Army, and without such decisions by young men and women our nation would be defenceless. Equally, Fabio's parents, Ricardo and Anna, know rationally that they are in no way responsible for his death. I hope that this debate will be another opportunity to reinforce that emotionally.
The key events in this sad story are as follows. On 7 February 2008, Fabio presented with the symptoms of chickenpox. The following day, Anna asked her GP practice whether he should be seen by a doctor. The surgery receptionist said no. His parents could not have been expected to know about the dangerous link between eczema and chickenpox, but a check of his record at this stage would have revealed that.
Fabio's condition deteriorated at home. He was not eating and hardly drinking; his bedding was soaked in a pinkish fluid; his clothes were being changed three or four times a day. On 13 February his parents requested a home visit by the GP. This was declined. The receptionist told them not to be alarmed, that chickenpox can look worse than it is, and to put him in cold water and administer Calpol. The next day they spoke again to a GP, who advised them to call the out-of-hours service as the practice was about to close. When they did this, they were told that the wait could be lengthy.
At this point Anna and her brother drove Fabio to East Surrey hospital. He was quickly discharged home in circumstances to which I will return, then cared for at home for another two days before his parents called an ambulance on the morning of Sunday 17 February. It took 24 hours for the hospital to realise the critical nature of his condition and transfer him to the paediatric intensive care unit at St. Evelina's in London. Doctors there were unable to save him ,and Fabio died on 1 March 2008.
To the hospital's credit, staff quickly realised that they had a disaster on their hands and set up a review. A serious untoward incident was declared by the trust on 20 February 2008 following concerns raised by the team who took over Fabio's case on the Monday morning. This led to an internal and an external investigation of Fabio's care.
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