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12.50 pm

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): My colleagues and I fully endorse the recommendation of the Committee and the motion.

My only query relates to the fact that as the anomaly and the solution were so obvious, it is sad that it has taken several months and the precious time of a Select

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Committee to sort it out. I hope that in future we can find some mechanism to deal with such minor problems more effectively and expeditiously.

I hope that the Chairman of the Committee will be able to refer to the point made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). If all Members were required to include in the Register of Members' Interests any financial interest of their party, they would, first, have some difficulty in obtaining the information and, secondly, the register would become extremely lengthy—not least, if I may say so, in relation to the Conservative party—

Mr. Forth: I wish that it were so.

Mr. Tyler: The right hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that cash is not going into the party coffers as it used to. That depends how far back one goes. It could be said that Members might be influenced by past donations of substantial size, going back several years.

We should be clear that the Register of Members' Interests is just that—it is not a register of party interests. There is a different mechanism for registering party interests.

Mr. Robin Cook: Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. The requirement that we are placing on the four Sinn Fein Members is identical to that on all of us. Although he is correct to say that it is not an obligation to declare donations that might be received at party headquarters, it puts Members under the same obligation to declare substantial constituency funding that rests on all of us.

Mr. Tyler: I am grateful to the Leader of the House for those comments. I was about to come to that point. I do not have personal knowledge of what may or may not happen in Northern Ireland, but there are circumstances in which there is careful targeting, and if that is done on a constituency basis it could influence the judgment of an individual Member.

With those few words, my colleagues and I fully endorse the recommendations.

12.53 pm

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): I commend the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and his colleagues on the Committee on Standards and Privileges for the report. I am sure that the whole House will want to approve it.

It is, however, a matter of regret that the Committee was forced to fill in for the Government's failings last December when they tabled the original motion on access for Sinn Fein-IRA Members. One can only conclude that the error was made in haste, as a result of the Government's desire to deal with another entry on Sinn Fein-IRA's wish list at the earliest opportunity.

I thank the right hon. and hon. Members who signed the letter drafted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire asking for the report to be produced. I also convey my gratitude to the 71 Members

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on both sides of the House who signed early-day motion 678, tabled by my right hon. Friend, which also sought to bring about that result.

The motion will bring Sinn Fein-IRA Members of Parliament one step closer to being treated in the same way as normal Members of Parliament. I welcome that, but the fact remains that they are still far from the fully fledged article. Indeed, the journey of those four individuals will be complete only when they decide to go that final step by taking their seats in the Chamber. In the meantime, despite what the Government might like to have us believe, we are left with two classes of Members in the House. As things stand, Sinn Fein-IRA MPs and their staff are permitted almost unrestricted access to the confines of the Palace of Westminster and to parliamentary allowances without being made accountable like the rest of us.

Only yesterday, two Sinn Fein Members were in the Palace for meetings and refreshments, before flying back to Northern Ireland using House of Commons air warrants: all gain and no pain. That is the republican way. Interestingly, they had a guest with them as they drank tea in the area reserved for Members in the Terrace Cafeteria. His name was Martin Ferris. He, like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, is a member of the IRA's ruling army council. Maybe next time, Messrs. Adams and McGuinness will invite along one or two other members of the army council for tea and an unescorted wander through the precincts of this building. Perhaps they will even book a table for seven towards the end of the year and hold an IRA army council Christmas party in the Churchill Room. They could bring Mr. Adams's Irish tricolour down from his House of Commons office and plant it on the floor beside them. They would certainly be arrogant enough to do that.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has set out graphically the special privileges that are accorded to Sinn Fein Members, which set them completely apart from the rest of us. Is he aware that I continue to receive letters, as I am sure many other hon. Members do, about the grave offence that that has caused to people throughout the country? I wonder whether he is receiving continuing expressions of regret that the House has bent to Irish republicanism in this way.

Mr. Speaker: Order. We are beginning to reopen an argument that was put before the House previously. This is a very narrow matter on the registration of interests. The hon. Member for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs) should not respond to that intervention; he should confine himself to the subject of the registration of interests.

Mr. Beggs: I will be guided by the wisdom and experience of Mr. Speaker and not be further misled. Nevertheless, I have to say that there is no credible argument to justify the fact that four Members of the House have been given access to facilities without taking their seats. If any of the rest of us had asked for such a privilege, our request would have been given short shrift, and rightly so.

The fact remains that these individuals were given their new entitlements only because of the Government's unceasing desire to pacify the republican movement.

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The House and many others not only in this country but especially in the United States are, thankfully, beginning to catch on to the Government.

We are here today because a Committee of the House moved to stop these individuals being allowed their many privileges without at least being made to declare their interests. I sincerely hope that hon. Members will move with equal vigour to block any attempt to grant the next item that the Government are considering on the republican wish list—the odious amnesty for on-the-run terrorists.

12.58 pm

Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry): The Standards and Privileges Committee has moved to close an anomaly that has existed for several months. I believe that everyone in the House should welcome it, and the Leader of the House said that that was the case. In fact, he went further. He said that the four Sinn Fein Members had welcomed the move, and, indeed, why would they not welcome it? The move, several months ago, to create the two-tier membership has advantaged them, and only them. Therefore, they would obviously want to take advantage of that. The hon. Member for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs) described the way in which advantage was taken of the House's facilities yesterday. That is what is happening, and hon. Members should be aware that, increasingly, such advantage will be taken.

The anomaly is being addressed today, but hon. Members should be aware that as the Sinn Fein-IRA machine utilises the political process while maintaining its military capability—in the past month, the IRA has murdered a person in Northern Ireland—it will increasingly take advantage of all that is on offer within the precincts of the House.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) alluded to Sinn Fein's wealth and affluence, and Members should not underestimate that. The Conservative and Labour parties would look with some envy at the resources that are available to Sinn Fein, which is the wealthiest political party in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Part of the reason for that, of course, is the fact that it not only takes all the advantages that go with membership of the House and the Northern Ireland Assembly, but acquires many resources by illegal means.

Only yesterday, I noticed that Consignia was complaining and reference was made to the fact that many thousands of people may have to be made redundant. Sinn Fein and its political alliances with the Provisional IRA have acquired many millions of pounds from the Post Office in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Tom Levitt (High Peak): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House should know that the issues described by the hon. Members for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell) and for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs), who spoke previously, are nothing to do with the debates that took place in the Standards and Privileges Committee, which, as you have said, had a very narrow remit. I wish to dissociate members of the Committee—certainly from a personal point of view—from the arguments that have been made. I ask you to direct the hon. Member for East Londonderry to stick to the narrow confines of the motion.

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