Previous SectionIndexHome Page

8.57 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): Throughout my 14 years in this House, I have taken a close interest in the affairs of the Province. Whoever has been in government during those 14 years, I have spoken up without fear or favour for a principle that I hold dear and continue to hold dear: that appeasing evil is wrong and doomed to failure.

For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to make it clear that my views are my own, and mine alone. All members of my party tonight have the ability to speak as we will and vote as we will. What we do later this evening is entirely a matter of conscience for each and every one of us.

Before I get to the substance of my speech, I suppose that I must declare an interest of a sort. Some years ago, the views that I hold got me on to a Sinn Fein-IRA assassin's death list. I have always assumed that at least two of the four people whom we are seeking to help tonight approved of my being put on that list. I therefore readily accept that I need to approach this subject in a calm and rational way, rather than with personal feeling and emotion.

Whatever approach I adopt, I come to the same conclusion—that I am implacably opposed to this motion, whatever the arguments that are used and whatever the justifications that are attempted. I am against it for three reasons. As the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said, this motion demeans democracy; this motion allows armed terrorists into the Palace of Westminster; and this motion creates two classes of Member of Parliament, when we should all be equal.

As I said, the motion demeans democracy. If democracy means anything, it is about governance and change exclusively via the ballot box. Yet the motion will help those who support using violence to overthrow the state. Neither the motion nor the Leader of the House has set out the official line as "They must renounce violence first and give up their guns and explosives."

The Government want us to believe that Sinn Fein and the IRA are different. They are not. I had wanted to make it clear why I consider them to be the same, but I do not need to do so, because the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) achieved that far more eloquently than I can. He told the House that three of the four whom the Government want to help are believed to be members not of the Sinn Fein Council, but of the IRA army council—they are one and the same. He also said that at least two of the four have blood on their hands: they have not only authorised and instructed the killing of others, but have been involved. The four whom the Government want us to help are terrorists. They should be treated accordingly, instead of being welcomed into the heart of British democracy.

Mr. Hawkins: My hon. Friend and I tabled an amendment that, sadly, was not selected for debate, so he

18 Dec 2001 : Column 230

knows that I agree with each and every word he has said—and I am sure that I shall agree with the rest of his speech. Does he agree that much of the debate has shown that the emperor has no clothes? Many speakers consider the people whom the Government want to help to be democrats who wish to participate in our processes, but as he rightly says, they spat in the face of democracy time after time through all their terrorist activities.

Mr. Wilshire: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; of course they are not democrats. They are armed terrorists who keep their weapons and explosives for a simple reason: if they cannot get their way, they will use them. If they are not like that, why do they keep guns and why would they need Semtex, save to undermine democracy as we know it? By demeaning democracy, the motion will not only let those armed terrorists—the four Members of Parliament who have never renounced terrorism or denounced violence—into the Palace of Westminster, but will make staff passes available to them.

Sinn Fein-IRA have twice got bombs into this building without passes, so one can only speculate about how much more murder and mayhem may be achieved if we give those people passes to enable them to pass through the security screens with whatever they like. The motion will also leave those on Sinn Fein-IRA death lists open to attack within the precincts, but I have yet to hear the Government offer any suggestions on their plans for extra security and extra protection.

The third matter of principle is that the motion will create two classes of MP—an issue that has generated much concern and much debate. There are 655 of us who believe in democracy, although we may have different views on it, but another four hold us, the House and our country in contempt. The Leader of the House claims that those of us who oppose the motion are trying to create two classes of MP, but that is utter rubbish. It hardly warrants being taken seriously as an argument.

Currently, all Members of the House, whatever their views, are the same. The Sinn Fein-IRA four are deliberately putting themselves at a disadvantage. We are not doing that; they are doing it themselves, and it is unnecessary. Consider the position of the Social Democratic and Labour party. It wants a republic in the north of Ireland. It wants out of the House of Commons. It wants a united Ireland. I may not agree with those policies, but they are all perfectly honourable if pursued solely via the ballot box. Those who do not agree with them can vote against them, but I defend the right to believe in them.

If members of the SDLP can pursue the dream, as they see it, of a united Ireland through this place, why cannot Sinn Fein-IRA? There can be only one conclusion: that the SDLP has renounced violence, and Sinn Fein-IRA have not.

Sadly, the Government have a majority which they intend to use to force the motion through. I suspect that the best that we can hope to achieve is the passing of some amendments. On the Order Paper is a group of amendments that seek to do four things; I think they should be touched on briefly before the end of the debate.

The first of the amendments deals with the question of when the new arrangements should be brought into effect. The Government say that it should happen as soon as we return from the Christmas recess. There is a raft of

18 Dec 2001 : Column 231

amendments suggesting other times, but there is a common theme: all the amendments suggest in one way or another that if the House is determined to make the proposed arrangements, it should not bring them into effect until the terrorists have disarmed and renounced violence. If the House is determined to follow a route that I oppose, I beg it to do that only when dealing with democrats rather than with armed terrorists.

The Leader of the House tried to suggest that amendments of this sort presented obstacles—by supporting amendments requiring decommissioning and a renunciation of violence, we were somehow placing an obstacle in the way of four Members of Parliament. There is an easy answer to that: all 659 of us should be required to renounce violence, and say that we will not hold guns and explosives. I doubt that any Member would not agree to such a requirement; only the four who are setting themselves apart consider it unreasonable.

Amendment (m), tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), would prevent the payment of allowances. If we do our arithmetic correctly, we see that the motion will give armed terrorists some £400,000 a year to further their campaign to overthrow the state. Moreover, they will not even have to account for themselves: the Leader of the House confirmed that they would not be required to complete the register. That is a disgrace.

I am glad that the Leader of the House has now returned to the Chamber. If he will not listen to anything else said by anyone here, I hope that if he gets his way tonight he will immediately give some thought to requiring all MPs, regardless of whether they take their seats, to complete the register and be subject to the same rules as the rest of us.

Amendment (p), tabled by me, seeks to prevent Sinn Fein-IRA staff from having access to the services and facilities of this building. As I said earlier, issuing passes to those staff will allow unchecked and unrestricted access. It will allow free access of guns and explosives to the Palace. It will also do something else which I find utterly objectionable: it will require staff of the House to assist people in their avowed intent to undermine this state. I think it dreadful to put loyal servants of the House in a position in which they are required to assist terrorists, and assist subversion.

If the Government will not listen to the argument about staff passes, I urge them to do a number of things. If they are determined to have Sinn Fein-IRA terrorists in here wearing staff passes, they should require them to go through the security screens every time they enter the building. They should make certain that none of those people—none of our staff, in fact—can use the facilities of the House to further terrorism. We must ensure that no one in this building is required to help Sinn Fein-IRA to undermine the state.

Amendment (ii) seeks to put some restrictions on whom Sinn Fein-IRA can choose as members of staff. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), who tabled the amendment, would agree that we could happily put that restriction on every Member of Parliament, so that we would all continue to be equal. Anyone who has a pass to this place should not be, or should never have been, a member of a proscribed

18 Dec 2001 : Column 232

organisation and should never have been convicted of an imprisonable offence. I do not see why we cannot have that requirement, even if the Government insist on their motion.

The motion is not about enabling duly elected Members of Parliament to do their job. It is not even, as we discovered earlier, about implementing the Good Friday agreement; there is nothing in the agreement about such a measure. The motion is about surrendering to murderers, trying to appease those who have guns pointed at us and who are willing to use them, handing over millions of pounds to terrorists to help them to do their work, and forcing the staff of the House to help people of violence. Those who are in favour of the motion demean democracy. Those who support the motion are bowing down to armed killers and creating two types of MP. In my book, that amounts to appeasement. It will not work. It never has done and it never will.

Next Section

IndexHome Page