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Jeremy Corbyn: My hon. Friend is slightly missing the point. The money is for representational purposes. Representation is not just what we say in the Chamber; it is also involves representations directly to Ministers, meetings, briefings and all the other things that go with it, as he well knows.
Andrew Mackinlay: I do not think that my hon. Friend and I disagree about that. However, the rules that will apply if motion 3 is passed have been announced, but they relate only to Sinn Fein. The Conservative party, the Liberal party, the SDLP, the DUP and the SNP must adhere to different, much narrower criteria.
My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington, East (Mr. Kemp) pressed the Leader of the Houseif I could have the right hon. Gentleman's attention for a momentto define the parameters of Short money, because he criticised the Conservatives' stewardship of it. The Conservatives said that it was inappropriate and quite wrong to accuse them of abusing Short money. My hon. Friend has asked the Leader of the House to clarify the parameters, and they have been clearly defined and relate to exclusively to parliamentary business. The provision did not extend to representative business. That shows the difference that is being made for Sinn Fein.
We must understand the nature of Sinn Fein, which believes that its writ runs like a seamless robe throughout Ireland. Let us take the position of the Leader of the House, who said that Sinn Fein might have a spokesperson on a certain matter. It is not possible, either for Sinn Fein or an accounting officer, to distinguish whether that spokesperson is, for example, talking about transportation in Northern Ireland, or in Monaghan or Cavan or elsewhere. Such things cannot be allocated and put into watertight compartments. That is the nature of Sinn Fein. I am not laying that down; it is part of the party's own rules and ethos that it believes that there is no such thing as Northern Ireland and that its spokespeople are entitled to talk about all 32 counties.
Jeremy Corbyn: My hon. Friend is in danger of burying himself in the detail of his own argument. Surely, the issue is that if Short money is paid to a party, it is used to prepare briefings and other information for meetings with Ministers and so on. Is he saying that the other parties that receive Short money do not use any of that information other than in the Chamber of the House of Commons or in its Committees? Do they not use it in meetings with Ministers and in respect of all the other issues? Why is he so obsessed with the detail?
The detail is crucial. We have detailed ground rules and strict parameters are laid
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down. I did not lay them down. The ground rules were laid down after a challenge by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington, East (Mr. Kemp), who criticised the Conservatives in particular by suggesting that they were using the money for the purposes referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North.
Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman, with whom I very much agree, might wish to point out to the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) that paragraph 6 of the 1975 resolution requires the parties to certify
Andrew Mackinlay: I want to move on, because, as I have indicated, there might be a case for the state funding of political parties, but that is a matter for debate on another occasion. That should be taken seriously and considered across the United Kingdom; or if hon. Members were persuaded that there are exceptional circumstances in Northern Ireland, we could debate it in the context of Northern Ireland. I am conscious of the fact that the UUPthe hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) is now its sole representativedoes not attract Short money, and neither she nor I would suggest that it should do so. However, there is a paradox, is there not? She comes and plays a full part in the House and contributes to the debate and so on, but the party that does not attend will get the new allowance.
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend makes a very fair point. Will he consider a point that is at the heart of the distinction between parliamentary and representative activities, about which he is quite properly concerned? Is it permissible for the Leader of the Opposition, for example, to make a speech outside Parliamenthe has been doing that quite properly in recent weeksthat was written and drafted by a researcher who was funded by Short money? [Interruption.] Of course it is permissible. Conservative Members have just confirmed that. However, the speech must be made as part of the job of Leader of the Opposition. My hon. Friend therefore needs to be a little careful in making such a distinction when the Short money itself is quite carefully prescribed.
I have been invited to respond to my right hon. Friend's example, and I cite the case of the Prime Minister delivering speeches that were prepared wholly or in part by someone who was funded wholly or in part by Short money. The difficulty is identifying that. However, the Prime Minister does turn up here and he utters the same mantra in Sedgefield as here. I have never had the benefit of being a Ministeryetbut I imagine that each speech made by Ministers is not
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custom built. Much of the material for a speech delivered here is used for a speech made in Neath, Sedgefield or anywhere else.
Lembit Öpik: It strikes me that we are trying to define something that we do not need to worry about today. The principle surely is that Short money cannot be spent on anything for which there are restrictions. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that, as long as the Hoon money is very clearly defined, that will resolve that issue? Does the hon. Gentleman also accept that one of the problems with the contribution of the Leader of the House was that he was incredibly focused on Sinn Fein? As the hon. Gentleman rightly points out, the proposal sets a precedent. Will he be looking, as I am, for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to confirm that he really grasps that this about a principle and not specifically about Sinn Fein?
Andrew Mackinlay: The hon. Gentleman needs to join me in the Division Lobby to defeat motion 3. We could send the homework back and the Government could return with strict ground rules that had been discussed and on which all the political parties and House authorities had been consulted.
I want to deal with the question of consultation. Who has the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland consulted, and where and when? Has he consulted the House authorities and elected officials such as Mr. Speaker and members of the Administration Committee, who run our finances? Which political parties have been consulted? It is a matter of courtesy, common sense and right that there should be full consultation, as that might enable us to set the ground rules for what the Conservative party and other parties can spend the money on? If there is a facility for Sinn Fein, ground rules would also make clear what it can spend the money on.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland invited me to consider the example of the Leader of the Opposition. Some of his speeches would be delivered here and others elsewhere. The point is that Sinn Fein cannot even remotely do that; there is no fig leaf to suggest that it could. In fairnessI use the word "fairness" for want of a better termto Sinn Fein, it will not be able to demonstrate in its accounts how the money is identified as Westminster money. That cannot be done. Its policies form a seamless robe because its mandate is pan-Ireland. It simply does not carve things up into Northern Ireland matters.
Mr. Peter Robinson: May we return to what will happen as a result of the Government's largesse? There are three Members on the SDLP Bench behind the hon. Gentleman[Interruption.] There are now three. The proposal will not affect my colleagues and I because there is a very small swing vote between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist party, but the funds for those three Members will be tied to their work for the Committees of the House and in the Chamber. Sinn Fein's target, on the other hand, will be to take the seats of those three hon. Gentlemen.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. In the past, on the margins, I have been critical of our colleagues from the SDLP. However, we
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do not often acknowledge the way in which the Social Democratic and Labour parliamentary party plays a full and proud part in the work of the House. I acknowledge that unreservedly, as well as the fact that SDLP Members have bravely borne the problems of many years, along with other elected representatives. They follow a tradition in the House of being not only proud nationalists, but good parliamentarians. If you glance up at the back of our Chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker, you will see a red crest. I salute it every day because it represents Willie Redmond, a proud nationalist Member of Parliament. He was the oldest officer killed on the western front and a Member of the House of Commons who attended the House of Commons. The hon. Members for South Down (Mr. McGrady), for Foyle (Mark Durkan) and for Belfast, South (Dr. McDonnell) keep up that tradition today.
A suggestion made by the Secretary of State and the Leader of the House might have influenced my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson), although I hope to get him to pause and reflect. My right hon. Friends said that the peace process must go on and that it has been a great success. Enormous advances have been made and I am proud of the changes that have come about in Northern Ireland. I have a selfish interest in Northern Ireland because my wife and I intend to retire therea long time from now, I must add, and after many more elections. The place has transformed, and we need to talk it up because, in many respects, it is one of the safest places in western Europe, as well as one of the most beautiful. It has a lot going for it and I am proud of what has been achieved. However, the suggestion that the peace process is predicated on the new allowance for Sinn Fein stretches credulity to the limit. One can just imagine the president of Sinn Fein lying awake in bed at night thinking, "If I can get money in lieu of Short money, the peace process will advance."
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