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Notification Requirements (Public Processions)

Volume 559: debated on Wednesday 6 March 2013

6. What consideration she is giving to bringing forward an amendment to the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 in relation to notification requirements as part of the proposed Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. (145442)

Under the relevant legislation, anyone who is organising a parade must notify the Parades Commission. If they fail to do so, the parade is illegal and those who organise or participate in it are liable to criminal prosecution.

First, as the MP for the city in question, may I join in the Secretary of State’s earlier condemnation of the attempted murder attack and her commendation of the PSNI interception of it, averting devastation and death?

Does the Secretary of State recognise that there was a gap in the understanding of the Parades Commission and the PSNI in relation to unnotified parades, and that that created a situation whereby we were getting dangerous notions, instead of responsible heads? Does she recognise that we, as legislators, may need to clarify the law on parades so that things are not destabilised during the forthcoming parades season?

I am always open to considering ideas for making these decision-making processes work better, but the reality is that the problem over recent weeks has not been how the legislation is structured—the problem has been that people have not been obeying it. So it is vital, as we go into the parading season, that people respect the decisions of the Parades Commission, notifying it when a parade is contemplated.

I also wish to echo the hon. Gentleman’s comments condemning unreservedly the horrific terrorist attack that his constituency was threatened with and that was narrowly averted by the swift action of the PSNI.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. What consideration has the Secretary of State given to bringing forward an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill to remove the Parades Commission, which is seen by many as part of the problem and not the solution?

It is vital that everyone recognises that the Parades Commission carries out an important function. It is the only lawfully constituted body in relation to parading and its decisions must be obeyed. We have always said that we are open to a reform of the system that would see a devolved solution. If the Northern Ireland political parties wish to put forward such a solution, we will consider it seriously.