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Mr. Hain: There is virtually universal support for all-community policing in Northern Ireland, even in republican communities and even if republican leaders have not yet signed up to it. On restoring a power-sharing Government, feelings are, to be perfectly frank, ambivalent, according to where people stand politically and what experience they have had in the past. That is reflected, for example, in the difference of opinion expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) and the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson).
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): I join my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) in congratulating the Secretary of State on withdrawing the Bill. I and many others felt very strongly about it. I have served in Northern Ireland, and many have to live in that environment. It was a pernicious measure, and I am glad that he has seen the light.
I was concerned, however, that it took Sinn Fein to decide the fate of the Bill, not those who have taken their places here and legitimately argued their case. I hope that that will not occur ever again.
If the Secretary of State ever thinks of bringing back the Bill, or anything like it, he should learn from the South African experience. My hon. Friend was absolutely right to say that we cannot have peace without justice, and making people confront the victims of their actions is absolutely vital if we are to have any closure. We must not have the process that the Secretary of State proposed, which would have allowed those people to escape and never have to face up to what they did.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned South Africa. Despite the fact thataccording to my calculationsmore than five times as many people were killed during the bitter years of apartheid as were killed during the troubles in Northern Ireland, and despite the fact that
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Nelson Mandela spent 10,000 days of his life in prison, leaving his family bereft, and experienced the killing of many of his close comrades, he was able to build trust and to forgive, although not forget. That is the point that I ask all politicians, parties and people of Northern Ireland to learn from: it is the only way forward.
Dr. Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast, South) (SDLP): I congratulate the Secretary of State on withdrawing the Bill, which caused all of us a lot of stress. I am heartened by its withdrawal and grateful that he took that wise step.
I agree that it is not credible to sustain the payment of Assembly Members indefinitely. We all accept that, but we would like responsibility to be placed where it belongs. I shall not try to defend the indefensible, but responsibility for whether payment was made falls within the remit of the Secretary of State. A previous Secretary of State decided that on suspension 75 per cent. of salaries would be paid.
The Secretary of State mentioned the figure of £85,000 per Assembly Member, but, if taken out of context, that could be misconstrued and even seen by many as disingenuous. The salary of an Assembly Member is about £30,000 and the rest goes on expenses and maintaining a constituency service. Many Members of the Assembly, from all parties, work very hard as constituency representatives, trying to maintain public involvement in and engagement with the evolving new democratic process. That is important. Many colleagues maintain offices and staff and I know one colleague who tries to run three offices and three members of staff from expenses in a difficult constituency in which he is trying to build hope, trust and confidence in democracy. I urge the Secretary of State
Mr. Speaker: Order. May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? I know that he is new, and I do not like to interrupt new Members, but during a statement one supplementary only should be asked. I give a little elbow room to the Front Bencher from every party, which I have already done. Perhaps the Secretary of State could now answer the hon. Gentleman's points.
Mr. Hain: I welcome the hon. Gentleman saying that it is not credible to continue paying people who will not fulfil their legislative responsibilities. The figure I gave includes a £32,000 salary and £48,000, which is the maximum claimable for office costs, to provide the service to constituents that MLAs almost universally provide with great diligence. The figure of £85,000 is an average figure given to me by the relevant Department that works to me. I accept that many people do work very hard.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): In adding my welcome for the statement, especially the withdrawal of the Bill, may I ask the Secretary of State for an assurance that if he is minded to produce newnot recycledlegislation, it will be committed to pre-legislative scrutiny, possibly to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, as suggested by the Committee?
I do not have any plans for recycling the Bill or for early legislation. We need to cool the issue
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down. As I said in my statement, I hope that next yearor whenever the hon. Gentleman feels it is appropriatethe Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will look into the past in that context. I cannot give a commitment to pre-legislative scrutiny at the moment, because I do not have any plans to bring back a Bill, but I have always been a big fan of it. Such legislation could be a good candidate if some future Secretary of State or even I were to introduce a Bill on the basis of consent.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State be more specific about what date the Assembly might be re-established? The intentions are fine, but we need to be more specific about when it will happen in order to hasten any negotiations that take place. In the light of the Bill's withdrawal, is he satisfied that the Belfast agreement is being adhered to and is still fully supported by the Government? His defence of the original measure was that it was part of the Belfast agreement, so the issue will have to be returned to at some point.
Mr. Hain: I made it clear that we will have to return to the issue if we are to resolve the anomaly that I described. To that extent, I am honouring the Good Friday agreement. I introduced the Bill in good faith in response to commitments made by both Governments in 2003. One of the parties to those commitments has now reneged on its support for the Bill and it should ask itself some questions before we start down the road that my hon. Friend suggests.
Lady Hermon (North Down) (UUP): I am delighted and I am unanimouswhich is one of the benefits of being on my ownin my welcome for the Secretary of State's courageous announcement that he will look at the salaries and allowances of Assembly Members. I believe passionately in devolved government in Scotland and Wales, and particularly in Northern Ireland, but it has been very offensive to many constituents, some of whom are waiting for hip and knee replacements, to see salaries and allowances being paid to MLAs. I also welcome the withdrawal of the OTRs Bill.
One little outstanding matter needs to be clarified. Is it true that the Lord Chief Justice and other members of the Northern Ireland judiciary were opposed to operating the OTRs Bill and that that was one of the prime reasons why the parallel structure had to be put in place?
Mr. Hain: I cannot comment on that last point and I do not think that the hon. Lady would think it proper for me to do so. Despite the fact that she speaks for one unanimously, I think that she speaks for many more, as does her party in Northern Ireland, and I am grateful for her remarks. I am also grateful for her support on salaries and allowances for MLAs.
Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab):
On the issue of withdrawal of the Bill, my right hon. Friend will know that I supported it in the optimistic hope that it would bring about peace and reconciliation. I spoke to him yesterday about the families bereaved by the McGurk's bar bombingthe victims included my grandmother's youngest brother,
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whom we fondly called Uncle Phillywho hoped that the Bill might provide some way to bring to some form of justice the people who carried out that bombing. Robert Campbell, a member of a loyalist paramilitary organisation, admitted to driving the car, but the two men who placed the bomb have never been named. We understand from the families' campaign, run by Patricia Irvine and others, that the names of those two men are somewhere in the files of the Northern Ireland Office or the Police Service. Where do the families go now for justice, because without some form of restorative justice the two men will never be named?
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