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Mr. Garnier: My right hon. and learned Friend and I are both Queen's counsel. When we became Queen's counsel, we took an oath of allegiance to the Crown. Does he extend his argument to our position then? Is it his view that republicans should be entitled to become Queen's counsel without taking it?
Mr. Hogg: Yes, of course it is. I do not want to create constraints that stand in the way of honest and honourable people who work within the framework of the constitution and wish to change it in accordance with the law. I do not wish to establish an oath that prevents them from holding an occupation or that obliges them to lie. That is not a proper thing for us to do. We should either have no oath at all or one that honourable people can honestly take without straining their consciences. I very much hope that the House will be willing to consider the structure of the Oath and will either abolish it altogether or move forward in the way that I have described.
Mr. Hawkins: While my right hon. and learned Friend advances an argument that I understand, but with which I respectfully disagree, will he at least consider the possibility that the four Sinn Fein Members decline to take the Oath not for an honest and constitutional reason, for which he gives others credit, and not because they want to change our arrangements by law? The real reason, as opposed to the ostensible and public reason, why they will not take the Oath is because they wish to change our arrangements by force as terrorists, by the bomb and the bullet.
I am trying to set out the propositions on which I stand and that cause me to take a view different from that expressed by my hon. Friends on the Front Bench. Do they cause me to vote for or against the Government? In the end, I will vote against the motion, very much for the
It is my belief that we should be willing to accept Sinn Fein Members in this place. We should not allow the Oath, in its present structure and form, to be an obstacle to that. We should be ready to change the Oath, or to abolish it. Then they can choose what they want to do. They can become Members of the House and conform to the obligations and take the benefits, or they can decline to become Members of the House and refuse the benefits. In that way, we can be certain of one thing: no one would be able to say that the rules and practices of the House have stood in the way of them being able to take their seats. Ultimately, that is a matter for their constituents, not for us.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): As this seems to be the evening for truisms, I hope you that will forgive me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I begin with one or two short statements. I am proud to be a Member of Parliament, and I am proud to be British and a member of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is not a fashionable attitude, but it bears repetition from time to time. One of the sad things about the debate is that we have not so far received any of the answers to which the House of Commons is entitled on such basic and important matters.
We have heard some interesting speeches but there is a singular lack of clarity. I want to know why Her Majesty's Government think it necessary to introduce a motion that will radically change the status of Members of Parliament in such a way that there will be a two-tier system, with two completely different types of Member present within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster. I want to know why this matter has not been fully debated before the motion was placed on the Table and why Members of Parliament were not given a full explanation.
I am extremely fond of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but he did himself and the House of Commons no favours by partially quoting from a letter, which seemed to imply that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) is taking a different line from that which he took at the beginning of the argument. Even listening to the part of the letter that was read out, it appeared to me that the right hon. Gentleman was simply saying politely what he has said consistently all along. Indeed, it added neither light nor information to the debate.
We come back to something that is tremendously important. One hundred years ago, I would not have been welcome in the Chamber because my father did not own property until he was well into his 50sand then only courtesy of a libel actionand as a woman, I would not
Those changes are brought about because there is a clear public interest. It does not mean to say that we always come up with the right answers or that the general public have the faintest idea how we propose to change procedure, but we are duty bound in this House of Commons to represent the important aspects of democracy for which we were sent here. That means that we cannot, of ourselves, suddenly decide for political reasonssome of which owe a great deal more to the intransigence of certain groups than they do to the genuine political interests of the people of the United Kingdomthat there will be two different types of Members of Parliament.
The Members of Parliament who are excluded from this place are not excluded because they were not honest with their electorate. They said that, if elected, they would not come here. Whatever happens between them and their constituents, their constituents cannot say that they did not know on what terms they were electing a particular Member. Those Members of Parliament are not excluded because they will not swear the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath has been greatly debated tonight, but it does not seem to have occurred to hon. Members that it is an oath to the state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It should be very important to us. Those Members are excluded because they choose, for political reasons, to exclude themselves.
I have no problem with that. If I choose to exclude myself from political organisations to which I am elected, who is to say me nay; I still have the vestiges of a brain even after many years in this place.
Mr. Hogg: The hon. Lady represents her constituents who do not vote for her. She is a doughty champion of their rights. The problem with her argument is that the electors who did not vote for the Sinn Fein Members of Parliament are also unrepresented here. That is a serious problem.
Mrs. Dunwoody: If I thought that I was not representing the whole of the constituency of Crewe and Nantwich, I would not come here. I do not see myself as simply a representative of one group, nor have I ever said so. The debate about the Oath is a side issue and it takes us away from the real burden of the debate.
The Government tabled the motion. They did not tell us why and they have not yet given an explanation. They tried to suggest that it is a matter of minor importancea mild rearrangement of the rules of no real value. If that is so, why did the Members of Parliament concerned need to go as far as the European Court of Human Rights to get a definition of the way in which we operate in the House of Commons? They did that because they know that not only is it constitutionally important but it matters to the role of a Member of Parliament.
Mrs. Dunwoody: I will not give way because I have taken too long. I have been sitting here since half-past two because I have a fundamental belief that when I vote against the motion tonight, I will be voting not against a small political rearrangement that is convenient for members of Her Majesty's Government but against a motion that demeans the House of Commons, and I am deeply angry that it should have been brought forward in this way.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I rise to oppose this attempt to change the rules to allow IRA-Sinn Fein Members to enjoy the privileges of this place while abdicating their responsibilities. The House is being asked to create two types of Members: those who uphold the rules of the House and take the Oath, and those who refuse to do so, but who will be allowed to enjoy certain benefits of the House, while abdicating their responsibilities.
As the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said, it is Sinn Fein Members' own fault that they do not enjoy those privileges. I have lived through many elections, and I have heard those men and that woman advocate their particular political philosophy. They said, "We will not go to the House of Commons. We will not swear an oath to a foreign Parliament. We will not sit there and represent our constituents." SDLP Members have attacked them for that, asking why people would vote for candidates who will not even go to Parliament. They have made their choice.
The serious question that I must ask is, what is the reason for this motion? Why, at the end of this year, are we to be found debating this matter? There is another side to this coin, and I should like to see it. I should like to know what the deal really is. Before 1997, Sinn Fein never used its resources for the benefit of anyone because it was so busy bombing and killing Protestant and Roman Catholic constituents that it had no time to represent them. Suddenly, it seems to have time.
The House should remember that we have devolved powers to Northern Ireland. Those four Members are already Members of the Stormont Assembly, and one is a Minister in the Stormont Cabinet. He does not need to worry about the education of his constituents because education is a devolved matter and he is the Minister of Education. This talk about Sinn Fein having a real desire to help people by coming to the House is false. They want a platform on which to meet the people who come to the House and to forward their aims, and they want the House to finance that.
The Leader of the House said that he was glad about the relative peace in Northern Ireland. Last Friday, the Belfast Telegraph, which is a strong supporter of the agreement and all that it stands for, carried an article stating that bombing by all republicans had returned to pre-ceasefire levels. What do Members think about that? We are told that, to help advance the cause of peace, we should pass the motion tonight.
The Members who want to come here include, of course, Mr. McGuinness, who remains a member of the IRA army council and was promoted to become its chief of staff. He retains his position on the council along with Thomas Murphy, Brian Keenan, Gerard Adams, Martin Ferris, Patrick Dohertyanother Sinn Fein member who wants to come hereand Brian Gillen. Let us look at Mr. McGuinness's history. He was in charge of operations during the trouble in Londonderry. In the McGuinness era of IRA control in Londonderry, there were 87 murders. Five of the victims were innocent children: Kathryn Eakin, a Protestant and nine-year-old child; Gordon Gallagher, a Roman Catholic and nine-year-old child; Bernadette McCool, a Roman Catholic, another nine-year-old child; Carol Ann McCool, a Roman Catholic and four-year-old child; and Kathleen Feeny, a Roman Catholic and 14-year-old child.
I have never heard Mr. McGuinness at any time utter one word of regret for the murder of those children; he is completely silent. A journalist questioning him on television about the Omagh atrocity asked, "If one of your constituents came to you and said that they had information about who was responsible for Omagh, what would you advise them to do?" He said, "I would certainly not advise them to go to the police." That is in the public domain.
We have established that Martin McGuinness was to all effects leading the IRA army council and was busy in Londonderry. Members should know for what type of people they are proposing to bend the rules. One of the saddest calamities in Londonderry was the death of Frank Hegarty, who was murdered on the instructions of Mr. McGuinness. Mr. Hegarty had worked for military intelligence and knew where some of the IRA's most important arms and explosives were hidden in the Irish Republic. When the Irish police raided them the Army, fearing that Mr. Hegarty's cover would be blown, pushed him away to England. Mr. McGuinness then arrived on the doorstep of Rose Hegarty, and told her that he wanted to talk about her son and how he could return.
Twice a week for 13 weeks, Mr. McGuinness dropped by, the family met him and they drank tea together. He assured the mother, Rose, that if Frank came home, he could sort the matter out and all would be well; a firm assurance for a mother's heart torn about her son. She persuaded her boy to come home. A rendezvous was arranged by Mr. McGuinness; afterwards the body was found in a roadway in Tyrone, a bullet through the head. That is in the public domain. Many journalists, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, have written moving stories about that murder.
Gerry Adams was a member of the first Provisional IRA delegation that came to London to negotiate with the Conservative Government. He was released with other members of the IRA to do that. When he returned, he carried out what is known as Bloody Friday, when 22 bombs were set off in Belfast with no warning, killing 11 people, including a child.
Jean McConville, another victim whose name ought to be familiar to the House, was executed by the IRA because she was a Roman Catholic who helped a dying Army man. Like any other woman, she went and put his head on her lap, wept over him and helped to comfort him. She was executed on the command of Gerry Adams. Her body has never been found.