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Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House make it clear whether this is a free vote across Government, or is it a payroll vote, with hon. Members being asked to vote in a certain way? It is clear that the IMC may have suggested the restoration of allowances in Stormont. Where does the Short money suggestion come from? Who introduced that idea? Was it the Prime Minister in cahoots with Gerry Adams?

Mr. Hoon: I will deal with the second point in a few moments, once I reach that part of my remarks, but my
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hon. Friend will recall from her time in ministerial office that certain obligations follow from accepting ministerial office. Those obligations apply to all Government policy, and that is no different in relation to this matter.

Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): The essence of the right hon. Gentleman's argument is that Sinn Fein is making progress. Is not the problem that that is exactly what was said just before the Northern bank robbery? Since, as he says, this is a matter for the House, what assurance can he give that even now, Sinn Fein-IRA are not planning a similar outrage?

Mr. Hoon: No one can give absolute assurances of that kind, but—

Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): Then why are you doing it?

Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman asks that from a sedentary position. The answer, of course, is that we want to see progress. If we simply waited for every last dot and comma, there would be no progress. I am not suggesting that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) wants to frustrate progress—I am sure that he sincerely wants to see a successful peace process in Northern Ireland—but inevitably, as I will make clear during my remarks later, we will always have to take some risks in relation to securing that successful peace process. All I ask him is simply to reflect on whether he really believes that we should sit back and do nothing, perhaps allowing the prospect of peace to fade and fail, or whether we should allow this opportunity to encourage Sinn Fein along a permanent path of political process towards peace? That is the issue that he and other right hon. and hon. Members must deal with.

Daniel Kawczynski: Will the Leader of the House give way?

Mr. Hoon: If I give way to the hon. Gentleman, perhaps he will calm down.

Daniel Kawczynski: I feel very calm actually, but I also feel passionately that this is something on which to listen to the Speaker. What advice has the Leader of the House had from Mr. Speaker in this matter? When Labour first came to power in 1997, the former Speaker, Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell, was the one who adjudicated in this matter, and her opinion was vindicated both by courts in Northern Ireland and by the European Court of Justice. Why is the right hon. Gentleman not listening to those testaments in the courts and to Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that it would be incorrect to seek to draw the Speaker into a debate. This matter is before the House for all hon. Members to make a decision. As I believe Mr. Speaker ruled during an earlier intervention, that is the position, and it remains so.

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that guidance, but if I may, without in any way intruding on your observations, I can help the hon.
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Gentleman to an extent. I have read the previous observations of the noble Baroness, and, indeed, those that Mr. Speaker set out to the House and published in Hansard, which are available to all right hon. and hon. Members to read for themselves. Again, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it might be appropriate for him to read all the statements made by distinguished Speakers, not simply to rely on any one, especially given the passage of time since that was made.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): As I have given my right hon. Friend notice of this question, may I perhaps pose it differently? What is new about today's debate is that we are extending moneys still further to Sinn Fein-IRA, and what we are very anxious to learn from my right hon. Friend is on what grounds we have changed giving Short money to parties carrying out responsibilities here to giving it to a party that does not wish to take the oath or ever appear here?

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend should be assured that I am anxious to deal with that, but I have not yet got to that point, and I will certainly give way to him again in due course.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Does the Leader of the House not accept—perhaps he could tell us a bit more about this—that there is a perfectly good democratic argument for restoring the allowance and providing an extra allowance for research, back-up and so on, so that Sinn Fein can represent its constituents to the many Government agencies, as it must do, and that that also encourages people who support Sinn Fein to wish to take part in the democratic process, rather than being excluded from it?

Mr. Hoon: I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that, given the occasions in the past on which we have had exchanges in the House, it is a rare and wonderful pleasure for me to agree with him. He makes a very powerful point that should be properly considered by the hon. Members who are likely to participate in the debate.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Does the Leader of House agree that Danegeld is normally paid to Governments, not by Governments?

Mr. Hoon: I am not going to debate mediaeval history with the hon. Gentleman—at least, not yet.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): The Leader of the House has opened up the question of Short money—I know that he will deal with it in greater detail in a moment—but the truth is that we are now extending Short money to Sinn Fein in respect of its representative business, rather than its parliamentary business. Does he agree that it would be unfair not to extend the same rule to the other parties, which participate, so that they could use Short money for representative as well as parliamentary business?
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Otherwise, they might be at a disadvantage compared with Sinn Fein where a competition occurs between those parties.

Mr. Hoon: The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point, which I hope to deal with to his satisfaction in due course, but we should debate that part of the issue later.

Mrs. Iris Robinson (Strangford) (DUP): I hope that the Leader of the House will accept that after his comments about all this being for the good of peace, absolute and utter despair will go around our Province, Northern Ireland, especially among the victims and those who have suffered at the hands of Sinn Fein-IRA. After the La Mon House hotel bombing, 12 people died, and one women's only child—her 25-year-old daughter—was one of the victims, along with the daughter's 25-year-old husband. That mother was offered £300 for the loss of that child. For many years we fought with the Community Relations Council to get money to put in a stained-glass window to honour the victims who were murdered so horrendously. All we got was a paltry £3,000. Can the Leader of the House now go over to Northern Ireland, face the victims and tell them that violence does not pay?

Mr. Hoon: I have had the opportunity to meet a number of the victims of violence in Northern Ireland, many of whom, inevitably, were associated with Her Majesty's armed forces, during the time that I was Secretary of State for Defence. In no way do I minimise the loss, the suffering and the tragedies caused to families in Northern Ireland, and I do not challenge the hon. Lady's interpretation of those events. All I can say is that in my time visiting Northern Ireland, I have heard from all sides of the community an overwhelming desire to see an end to the violence and to see a peaceful path for the people of Northern Ireland. It seems to me that it is necessary for us to take appropriate steps in the hope of securing that.

I simply ask all hon. Members to consider this. If we do not take this step, and the peace process stalls and fails and violence returns, what will have been achieved? What is the danger and risk about the process that we are embarked upon that causes so much difficulty for right hon. and hon. Members?

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to reflect carefully on what he has just said? We have heard repeatedly, and taken in good faith, from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and various commissions, the idea that we should take seriously the pledges made by the republican movement last year that it was putting violence behind it for good. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not saying that this grant of some thousands of pounds is what will determine whether violence returns. That is a disgraceful way to conduct this matter.

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