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Mr. Garnier: Is it not indicative of the regrettable attitude that the Government appear to take on this serious issue that the Secretary of State was willing well into the course of this debate to produce a document out of his pocket and then to seek to trip up the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly capable of looking after himself, but it strikes me as deeply regrettable that documents come whipping out of back pockets. The Government should have laid their case out fully at the outset this afternoon.
Mr. Trimble: I might be tempted to say something about it being partisanship, but not preceded by any other phrase or term. It is a rather partisan approach, but well and good. The Secretary of State is entitled to do it. I hope that we have dealt with it.
I remind the House of the point that I was making because we took a detour from it. We should stick to the agreement. We should not have these add-ons. I gave the background of one add-on that came from discussions at the tail-end of the agreement between the Government and Sinn Fein. I suspect that the origins of this measure lie there, too. The question arises: if the origins of this measure lie in the dying moments of 10 April 1998, why has it suddenly come up without prior consultation? There was prior notice perhapslast Thursday, I received noticebut no consultation. Why has it suddenly come at the last moment, at this time? What special reasons have led the Government to introduce the motion? Please would the Secretary of State
Mr. Trimble: The one thing that I am confident of is that the motion has not been caused by anything that I have said. The Secretary of State is wrong to suggest that. If he wants to say that the Government have brought this forward because of a beginning of decommissioning, let him say that, rather than imputing it to me.
I do not want to labour the point, but we should stick to the agreement. This motion is not part of the agreement. Let the Government explain why they are introducing something that is not part of the agreement, that will damage the process that we are engaged in, that will not be helpful and that will not achieve the laudable objective of bringing the republican movement fully into the democratic process, which we can do only on the basis of an exclusive commitment to peaceful and democratic means.
That commitment has not yet been fully apparent. That is demonstrated by the poster on policing that my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) read out and by the fact that only a few weeks ago, the republican movement decided to republish without any further commentary an article that it wrote exulting in the murder of a Member of the House. That conjunction of events is most regrettable. I am sorry that the Government are proceeding in this way, at this time.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and to hear him confirm a point that I made in an interventionthat tonight's motion formed no part of the Belfast agreement.
I wish to oppose what my Government propose tonight. I do not doubt their motives, but I doubt greatly their judgment of what led to the motion. I also question why it has been introduced at this stage. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have asked why it has been introduced now, just before Christmas, without proper consultation. Why is it being slipped through just before we rise for Christmas? The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not answered those questions. If the motion is about decommissioning, as he confirmed from a sedentary position a few moments ago, why was that not made clear as soon as the so-called decommissioning took place?
Several hon. Members have made good speeches with which I agree, especially the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), who spoke hardly a word with which I disagreed. It is important to point out to all the people watching our debate in Northern Ireland that although the motion has been portrayed as a matter for the House and as a free vote, there will not be a free vote tonight. Ministers have been called back and there will be a Whip on all the payroll vote, which exceeds 100. When the vote is called, I hope that many of those right hon. and hon. Members might still exercise their consciences and vote against the Government; but if the motion passes, people should know that it was not as the result of a free vote.
Some hon. Members have said that the motion will move the peace process forward. They have implied that it will ensure, somehow, that IRA-Sinn Fein are moved forward. My concern is with the perceptions of the pro-Union community in Northern Ireland and how it is feeling tonight. I am especially sad, given the speech made recently by the Secretary of State in which he drew attention to the alienation that the pro-Union community feels, that he is pushing the motion tonight, when nothing appears to suggest that the peace process will collapse if it does not pass.
There have been historic developments in Northern Ireland in the past few years, and I supported the Belfast agreement. I welcomed the setting up of the Assembly and the fact that IRA-Sinn Fein took their seats under the same agreement as the other parties. That was an attempt to bring some normality to politics in Northern Ireland, but it is important to point out that IRA-Sinn Fein recognise the centrality of Westminster. They say that they want to come here, even if they do not want to come into the Chamber. They also said that they would never go to Stormont, but they are now in Stormont. They also said that they would refuse to give up the claim to Northern Ireland, but they have had to accept that.
The Belfast agreement has had many positive effects. It is especially sad, therefore, that the motion, rather than moving the peace process forward for IRA-Sinn Fein, will move it back for the pro-Union community, which already feels that small extra concessions beyond the Belfast agreement have been made to the nationalist community, including dual membership and Northern Ireland's exemption from the introduction of party funding rules. Those issues had nothing to do with the Belfast agreement and were additional to everything else that the pro-Union communityand all people who believe in law and orderfound difficult to accept, such as the release of terrorists from prison with little being given in return.
Mr. Donaldson: Will the hon. Lady include in the list of concessions made to Sinn Fein-IRA that are not part of the agreement the recent amnesty that the Government offered to IRA terrorists on the run from justice who have never faced the courts in Northern Ireland or in any other jurisdiction? They will be permitted to return home to their families without facing justice, which is a gross injustice to the innocent victims of terrorist violence.
Kate Hoey: I share those views and it is a real shame that that will happen, but all those people who have had to leave Northern Ireland under the threat of violence and knee-capping have no amnesty. They will not be able to go back home and spend Christmas with their families.
Although I disagree completely with what the Government are trying to do tonight, something may be gained from recalling that IRA-Sinn Fein has moved away from classic Irish republicanism and adopted almost a John Redmond position. That will not go down very well with the members of IRA-Sinn Fein. It is unfortunate that one of the leading members of Sinn Fein will not be able to watch this debate tonight on television, because I am not sure that Cubawhere he is enlisting the support of Fidel Castrohas the parliamentary channel.
On the question of finance, my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) said that IRA-Sinn Fein were rich and did not need the money. It is worth pointing out that since 11 September the funds sent to IRA-Sinn Fein from America have not flowed as quickly and, taking into account the visit to Cuba as well, that might mean that they need the extra £70,000.
There are many reasons why I do not think that the motion is right politically, but the fundamental issue is the question of a two-tier Parliament with two types of Members of Parliament. We should not allow people to use the facilities of the Palace of Westminster, such as the Members' dining facilities, the Library and the Members' Lobby, without being Members of Parliament. I have been told that they would even be able to come into the House and stand behind the Bar. We cannot have two types of Members of Parliament.
Mrs. Dunwoody: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the difficulties that we face is that the motion might send a message to people outside the House of Commons that Back Benchers are of so little import that they can be treated as the lower of the two tiers of Members of Parliament when it suits the Government?