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Mr. Murphy: I probably have enough on my plate at the moment so far as our own Parliament is concerned, and it is obviously a matter for the European Parliament how it deals with some of those issues. That is also the case for local government. Today, we are dealing with what the House itself can deal with. If the hon. Gentleman feels that there is a possibility of raising the issues involving the European Parliament, he may have the option to do so, if the rules permit, when we debate those matters in several weeks' time.

I agree entirely with the Justice Minister about the linkage between Sinn Fein and the IRA. I also agree with the hon. Gentleman that the agreement we were negotiating before Christmas laid great emphasis on ensuring that we dealt with the issue of criminality and that we dealt also with the testing period between the time of the agreement and when it would come into force. However, I also have to say that no Member from any party in the House would disagree with my saying that we must emphasise the fact that criminality is at the root of our problems at the moment.

Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South) (Lab): All of us in the House wish the PSNI and the Garda Siochana every success in bringing those responsible for these terrible crimes to justice. We look forward to the evidence being presented to the House. Does my right hon. Friend share the legitimate concerns of those of us who worry that invoking financial penalties and making links with individuals in the House at the same time as we are talking about those crimes only adds to the press and media speculation that there was a personal involvement linking Members of the House to those crimes? Will he take this opportunity to say whether he agrees or disagrees with the statement from the Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, that Members of this House are members of an illegal organisation?

Mr. Murphy: In terms of the penalties, because the Assembly is not up and running at the moment, effectively the only thing that we can do is deal with the allowances and the position of Sinn Fein Members of the House. That is a matter for the House to decide. I have already made my point about the linkage between Sinn Fein and the IRA, but although we have had to discuss the question of sanctions, as that is the nature of today's statement, it is important that we never lose sight of the issue that has brought about those sanctions, which is criminal activity, whether robbing banks of £26.5 million or shooting young men in our cities in Northern Ireland through their hands, ankles or knees. Any form of such activity must stop. Unless it does, as I said earlier, any sort of inclusive Executive is simply impossible. It is important to bear that point in mind.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Does the Secretary of State realise how absurd it is that tomorrow, when this House debates the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, Mr. Adams and Mr. McGuinness could be entertaining friends within the precincts, spending
 
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the profits of their recent ill-gotten gains and discussing the bloody murders that they have committed in the past? Cannot he express an opinion on that?

Mr. Murphy: Yes, I have already expressed the opinion that, as far as we are concerned, the criminality that surrounds paramilitary activity, which culminated in the robbery of the bank—I have referred to other criminal activities, too—has resulted in today's statement. That statement has reported that the Government will give the House the opportunity to end all the allowances for Sinn Fein, as far as that affects the House, and that we will support that decision.

Sir Patrick Cormack: And access?

Mr. Murphy: That is a matter for the House to consider in some weeks' time. The fact that the Government have given the House that opportunity speaks for itself.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): But why will the Government not include in the motion to stop the allowances paid to Sinn Fein Members the further provision that they should not be here at all? Is not it absolute nonsense that we are discussing anti-terrorism activity and security in the House, and yet democratically elected Members are expected to walk around and bump into people whom Michael McDowell from the Republic of Ireland has said are members of the army council? Does the Secretary of State agree with Michael McDowell that Gerry Adams and the other member of Sinn Fein-IRA who was mentioned are members of the army council?

Mr. Murphy: I have indicated more than once in the House that I believe that there are absolute linkages between the IRA and Sinn Fein at all levels. My hon. Friend might also have heard me say in the media today that I do not intend to talk about individuals or individual cases in the House. [Hon. Members: "Why?"] For all sorts of reasons, including the fact that the Chief Constable must deal with certain issues and that it is an intelligence matter. I also hope that Members will understand that I believe strongly that this is a matter of great public interest in Northern Ireland. That also means that members of the republican movement in Northern Ireland have a duty to be able to convince
 
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people that they are not. We and the Irish Government, however, are absolutely at one in seeing no distinction within the republican movement between the IRA and Sinn Fein.

David Burnside (South Antrim) (UUP): I welcome the debate in the House to discuss privileges. Although many of us feel, emotionally, that we want to punish those involved in criminality, I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will vote to restore equality in relation to membership of the House, so that if one does not come here and swear or affirm allegiance, one does not become a special grade of MP. It is time that we restored equality for all Members of the House.

I am confused: IRA-Sinn Fein are responsible for the biggest bank robbery in history. The Secretary of State is advised that Martin McGuinness, the chief negotiator, and the president are members of the army council. He knows that the rest of the army council of the IRA includes Slab Murphy, the finance director, Ferris and the rest. Can he explain to the House why there has been not one arrest or interview by detectives within the PSNI or the Garda Siochana of any member of the army council of the Provisional IRA, or not one serious investigation by the Assets Recovery Agency into the illegal financing of a political party that will give it an unfair electoral advantage, in a few months' time, in the Westminster and local government elections, against the rest of us who must obey the law and adhere to the rulings of the Electoral Commission in this country?

Mr. Murphy: First, in terms of the opportunity that will exist in the House in some weeks' time, the hon. Gentleman, and any Member of the House, will be in a position to express the point of view that he just did in the context of a debate. I am sure that he will do so. In terms of people being arrested or interviewed, obviously, that is not a matter for me as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland but a matter for the police. On the Assets Recovery Agency, I said earlier in relation to the Organised Crime Task Force that the Assets Recovery Agency plays a vital part in dealing with organised crime, and I take the point that he makes.

Several Hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. We must move on.
 
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Points of Order

2.25 pm

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It was explained in the statement by the Home Secretary that the anti-terrorism Bill that we are to consider tomorrow will be made available to the House, but under the House's ordinary rules it will not be made available until the close of both statements at 2.30. Notwithstanding that, I understand that the Government have held a briefing for journalists, which started at 1.45 pm, in which the entire contents of that legislation, which have not been imparted to the House—the House has had no opportunity to look at the document—were made available to them. Is it in order that the Government should behave in this way, in complete contempt of the courtesy that they owe to this House?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): The Home Secretary has already made a statement to the House this afternoon. I will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I have no doubt that Mr. Speaker will make some investigations into his complaint.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At 7.45 pm on Tuesday 8 February, the House agreed to suspend the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) for two weeks. Could you ask the hon. Member in question to come to the House and explain why he thought that he was in order to sit in this Chamber during the Home Secretary's statement and seek to participate in that debate, even though the two weeks has clearly not elapsed?


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