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Mr. Barnes: Yes. The Belfast agreement essentially guarantees Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom, unless the people agree in a referendum to change it, and that is light years away. Unionism should recognise that it has gained a tremendous advantage from the situation. The Opposition continually argue that concession after concession has been made to Sinn Fein, but that is not the case. An overall position advantageous to Unionism has emerged from the agreement, and that must be recognised.
On occasion, attempts are made to push back Sinn Fein. For example, in my speech last night, I discussed the Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Bill, a Bill that is directed fundamentally against Sinn Fein, which manipulates and manoeuvres the electorate to get seats. It has not been ruled against by electoral courts, so its members still hold legitimate positions, but, in the end, if the issue is dealt with fully and properly in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein will win fewer seats.
If we take on the politics that I have described, I believe that we will overrun Sinn Fein so that constitutional nationalism, through the Social Democratic and Labour party, for instance, would be in a prominent position. The Labour party should be willing to organise in Northern Ireland to take those issues on and we should take the debate on measures that the House considers into the Province to argue the case.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): I agree totally with my hon. Friend on that countfor many years, I have advocated restoring the Northern Ireland Labour partybut may I ask about another matter? I assume that he regards himself as my equal. Like me, he was elected by adult franchise and by a majority in his constituency according to an electoral system that he and I recognise. If he arrived in the House of Commons and found that, unfortunately, he was subject to one set of basic rules while another Member operated under a second and totally different set that offered some privileges without the work having to be done, what would be his response?
Mr. Barnes: Any elected Member is subject to the provisions that are being agreed to tonight and that are established generally. In some future situation, someone else, apart from Sinn Fein Members, might decide that he wants to operate in that peculiar way, but it is not a matter of fundamental constitutional or parliamentary principle that what is proposed should not occur.
I return to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn). Traditionally, Sinn Fein would not take seats in the Republic of Ireland or in Stormont, but the situation has changed. The distorted principles that it held in the past have been influenced and altered, and it is willing to act to try to maximise its political advantage or to minimise disadvantages. Owing to that, it agreed to the position on putting some arms beyond use. It was under tremendous pressure and liable to lose very much financially and
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his shadow had an argument about whether the motion is a matter of principle or of money. The shadow Secretary of State said that, in the end, it is a matter of principle, although it sounded to me as though it is about the money.
If it is about the money, I do not know what Sinn Fein is after. It is the richest political party in western Europe, and it has obtained its money by all sorts of devious and other means. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) that Sinn Fein Members should be obliged to make an entry in the Register of Members' Interests.
A number of Members have registered the fact that 25 per cent. or more of their election expenses came from certain organisations, such as trade unions in the case of various Labour Members. Where did 25 per cent. of Sinn Fein's money come from when its members stood for election? If Sinn Fein Members had to register such details, they should be subject to investigation, especially iffor all Memberswe made investigation of such matters more rigorous. If we began to take account of some of the manoeuvres and manipulations in which the organisation has been involved, that would be a healthy development.
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): Did I mishear, or did the Leader of the House indeed say that no registration would be required because the Members had not taken their seats, and that although they were engaging in constituency advocacy and representation, they would not be subject to the same rules as other Members?
Mr. Barnes: Perhaps that could be clarified. I understood that those who had taken the Oath and had been Members for more than three months must then be included in the register. If that excludes Sinn Fein, the provision should be altered.
Mr. Robin Cook: Let me clear up this point. The provision does not exclude Sinn Fein, although my hon. Friend is right about the requirement for registration within three months of a Member's taking his seat. If registration were required of Sinn Fein Members, or indeed any other Members who did not take the Oath, it would have to take place three months after their election.
In response to an earlier intervention, let me add that those who do not take the Oath are bound by the same code of conduct as those who do, and are therefore required to accept investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Not all the consequences of the motion might be equally welcome to the four Sinn Fein MPs.
Mr. Barnes: Some Members laughed during that intervention, but I think that such points about standards and arrangements are very important. Even if there is no general willingness to obey the rules, they will take on a new significance: they will begin to alter the shape of the activities in which the Members have been involved. That has already begun to happen in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. If we can encourage it to happen here, we should take the chance.
Mr. Barnes: That matter should be taken on board. If it is not covered by the current arrangements, it should be. We are not doing it on this occasion because it might not be procedurally possible. If some of us had known of this debate a little earlier, we could have tabled the appropriate amendments. Nevertheless, it should be done as soon as possible. The measure on registration should apply to Sinn Fein Members as much as it applies to anyone else.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I admire the hon. Gentleman's hope and optimism. He may be aware that the Electoral Commission has already published the expenses of the parties at the last general election, including the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but the figure for Sinn Fein accepted by the Electoral Commission is £8,000 or £9,000. How will the commission discover what was spent by Sinn Fein and bring that out into the open? Is it not time that we stopped pussyfooting around in the whole business?
Mr. Barnes: As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am in favour of the finances of Sinn Fein, the IRA, other paramilitary bodies and the parties linked to them being thoroughly investigated and seeing the light of day, and of taking action that flows from that against those organisations, but that is not the only tactic that we should be engaged in. We should not always engage in the tactic of pressure to get concessions, as it were. We should also be for pulling them into the political process.
The analogy between how the Labour party came out of the trade unions and how Sinn Fein as a political body came out of the IRA has some relevance. The Labour party started to change over time. It distanced itself from the trade unionstoo much, some of us think. We want Sinn Fein, because it has been pulled into the political process, to begin to detach itself from what remains of the IRA. I suspect that the IRA will still be strong and involved in racketeering and mafia-type activity. Action will have to be taken at that time. We could reach a situation in which the organisations begin to be distinct and not inextricably interlinked, as they happen to be at the moment.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): I am a Liverpool, Irish, cradle Catholic. I happen to be inclined towards republicanism. I also aspire to a united Ireland, but I knew when I came in here that I would have to take an Oath of Allegiance. I also knew that the honour of