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Jeremy Corbyn: The hon. Gentleman is heading off again on the lack-of-evidence trail. If Members have been involved in criminal activities, they should be prosecuted. If they are not prosecuted, they are innocent until proven guilty, like anybody else when a charge is made against them.
We are being asked to take away the staff and support services that Members need to represent their constituents, and we should think carefully about that because the implications go far wider. In future, if we do not like the political statements made by any Member of the House on any matter at any timeall of us have been unpopular on certain issues at certain times, as I know extremely wellis it right to deny my constituents, the constituents of the hon. Member for South Staffordshire or anybody else's that important right to representation?
When a constituent comes to see me about a problem, I do not ask how they voted or how they intend to vote. I ask them what their problem is and I discuss it, as I imagine every other Member does. If that support is taken away from me or any other Member, that representation is reduced. We should be careful. We are
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not a golf club and we should not behave like one. We should behave like a Parliament that owes its authority to those who elected us.
The hon. Members for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) and my hon. Friends the Members for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) explained the wider implications extremely well. We have been through some awful times in Northern Ireland. An awful lot of people have died in the most horrific circumstances, the latest being Robert McCartney. Every loss of life and every act of violence is a tragedy. All the sanctions and illiberal Acts that were applied in the 1970sthe prevention of terrorism Acts, the emergency powers Act, all the orders, internment, the broadcasting ban, the travel ban and all the other measures did not take matters forward very much. What started to take matters forward was the courageit was courageof the hon. Members for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams), who were prepared to sit down privately together and hammer out some kind of agreement, which eventually led to the 1994 ceasefire and later ceasefires.
I hope that dialogue prevails. That is what the Good Friday agreement, power sharing and the acceptance of the traditions of all communities were about. Those were important steps forward. The decision that we are asked to take today is not the end of life or the end of the whole process, but it is an important signal that the House is closing down that element of participation. As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Hull, North pointed out, by contesting elections, getting elected and becoming involved in the political process, Sinn Fein has been able to help bring about the ceasefire, exert pressure and provide a great deal of hope for the future.
If those who voted Sinn Fein are told that their votes are not worth as much as the votes in my constituency or any other Member's constituency because we intend to take away their facilities, what message to them is that? Is the message that they should vote for someone else, or is it more likely to drive them away from a political process into a process that none of us wants to see developing?
David Burnside: If the Scottish National party and the Welsh nationalists were corporately involved in widespread criminality, including murder, smuggling, intimidation and the threat of shooting people in the UK, would it be worthy of debate that they should continue to be treated like other hon. Members?
Jeremy Corbyn: Any actions such as the hon. Gentleman has described are meritorious of legal action, if there is evidence against an individual. Surely we all believe that someone is innocent until proven guilty. If there is a case against people, it should be taken to court and dealt with there.
In this case, the security services have briefed Ministers, who have in turn briefed various hon. Members, and on that basis, we are being asked to make an important decision about hon. Members who have chosen not to take their seats. The security services have
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hardly covered themselves in glory in the past few years, and we are sceptical because of that performance. People must be accepted as innocent until a case is made against them.
Returning to my earlier democratic argument, our job is not to deny individuals their representation in this House, but to try to bring about a peace process by political inclusion and political involvement. That is what the peace process and the Good Friday agreement achieved, and I urge all Northern Ireland Members in particular to support the idea of continuing the Good Friday agreement and the institutions that stem from it. Therein lies the road to peace and a prosperous and hopeful future for Northern Ireland. Today's motion is a step in the opposite direction, and I cannot support it.
My view is that the motion is too little, too late. For the past seven years, the Belfast agreement was a cause for optimism, but I always thought that it was built on sand. The Government's policy now lies in tatters around it, and the Government are starting to backtrack.
It is now painfully clear that Sinn Fein never intended to go along with the Belfast agreement. According to the newspapers, all members of Sinn Fein and of the IRA refer to the Prime Minister as "a prize idiot".
Mr. Robathan: That is an even better term. The prisoners are out, the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been scrapped and those people have been allowed into the House of Commons, but for what? The Government have been the IRA's dupe and the IRA's patsy all along.
When the Prime Minister gives Adams and McGuinness tea at Chequers, does he ask them about their crimes? Does he ask them about Jean McConville, Robert Nairac, who was a friend of mine, and the thousands of decent soldiers, policemen, prison officers and civilians who have been murdered during the troubles? I think not.
The Government accept that the IRA and Sinn Fein are inextricably linked. It is a sad fact that these four MPs were elected by people in Northern Ireland. Other crooks have been elected to this House: murderers have been elected; Mosley was elected; Mugabe was elected in Zimbabwe; and, once upon a time, Hitler was elected in Germany. Those four MPs should be held responsible for their actions.
Does the Secretary of State believe that Adams and McGuinness are on the army council? Everybody else does. If they are on the army council, they are not inextricably linked to the IRA; they are the IRA.
Will the Secretary of State instruct the PSNI to investigate the claim that McGuinness made to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden
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(Mr. Lilley), that in the early '70s he was responsible for the deaths of more than 10 Catholics, whom he judged to be informers? McGuinness should be held to account for those murders.
Does the Secretary of State believe anything that Adams and McGuinness tell him? Sinn Fein lies and lies and lies againof course it was not involved in the Northern bank raid. Sinn Fein is the IRA. It contains thugs and murderers, and it is responsible for robbery, protection rackets, drugs, thieving, mutilation and exiles.
I know that the Secretary of State is a decent man, not only because we were at the same Oxford college at the same time, but because he knows that what I am saying is true. The Government have been paying Danegeld for seven years. Danegeld has its benefits to those who pay it, as those who paid it to the Danes found as well, but eventually it comes back to haunt them. There have been fewer murders, but now is the time to address what the IRA has been up to. These people do not recognise this Parliament and should not have access to it.
I note from the list of allowances that Mr. McGuinness and Mr. Adams both claimed more than £18,000 in additional costs allowance, which we all use for a second house. In other words, they are claiming £18,000-odd for staying away from home, which they do not do as they are hardly ever here. I suggest that the House authorities investigate where their second properties are. The press, who are so interested in our allowances, might do the same.
The Government say that they are going to be tough on terrorists. I ask them to be so by barring them from this House until they accept the responsibilities of democratic MPs and live up to the many promises that they made when they took on their roles under the Belfast agreement.
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