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Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): We need to remember that we are considering two motions. They are very different, and in debating them, there is cross-reference between them and things are confused and conflated. However, we need to remember that those motions are distinct.

Motion 4 is the more straightforward of the two, as it deals with the question of restoring allowances removed in a motion on sanctions introduced in the House last March. That motion was tabled after a report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, and it extended the sanctions recommended by the IMC following the withdrawal of Assembly allowances and the Northern
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bank robbery. The Social Democratic and Labour party has never agreed that the IMC should have a role, power or function in drawing up or recommending sanctions against particular parties. We agreed with the concept of a monitoring commission that would examine any issue of concern raised by any party or anyone else about paramilitary activities or about parties failing to honour their political commitments under the Good Friday agreement to work with the institutions in a proper way. We therefore agreed that a monitoring commission should have such a role.

In 2003, we argued at Hillsborough that the two Governments should not include sanctions in the role of the monitoring commission. We suggested that it take a solution-based approach, not a sanction-based one in which parties would sue one another and cite one another's activities in an effort to achieve sanctions. In a solution-based approach, by contrast, all parties would have a collective responsibility to face up to problems, propose solutions and take shared responsibility for them. That position, however, was not accepted, so legislation was introduced in the House to establish the commission and give it the power of sanction. We did not support that legislation, because we believed that, yet again, the Governments were making a mistake in the management of the process.

Whenever motions were introduced in the House to impose sanctions on Sinn Fein, SDLP Members abstained from voting. Similarly, we will abstain from the vote to lift those sanctions, not because we oppose the return of allowances to Sinn Fein so that its Members can work on behalf of their constituents but because that is consistent with our position that we are not in the business of sanctions. Our position has been misrepresented by Sinn Fein, who keep saying that we supported a power of sanction for the IMC. We did not do so, and that is why we will abstain from the vote on motion 4. I will not do anything to discourage hon. Members on both sides of the House from going into the   Lobby to support that motion, because it aims to ensure that Sinn Fein Members can conduct their representative business on behalf of their constituents. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) spoke about the way in which hon. Members conduct their business, and said that the allowances that we are paid do not all relate to what we do in the Chamber but to the meetings, correspondence and activities in which we engage. That will be covered by motion 4 on an equal basis with all other hon. Members in the House. The hon. Gentleman made a good argument for motion 4, but in his intervention he was not making a relevant argument in respect of motion 3.

As someone who believes in equality and in the quality of democratic representation, I have no issue with people who live in Sinn Fein-held constituencies knowing that their MPs have the same allowance as any other MP, which allows them to engage in day-to-day representative business. I do not want anyone to be denied representation. I will make my arguments against Sinn Fein's manifesto and their representative quality at elections, but once the electorate has decided, we should all have the allowance available to us for our representative business.
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Motion 3 is different. We knew from what the Secretary of State had said in response to a previous IMC report that a motion would be tabled to restore allowances at Westminster. We all knew that. What we did not know was that there was a bonus ball in the draw—that Sinn Fein Members would get the Short money too. That emerged only last week, yet from briefings to colleagues, it seems that it goes back to an earlier deal or understanding between the Government and Sinn Fein.

For weeks the Secretary of State and his Ministers have been assuring us that the odyssey of side deals is over—that we are no longer on that pub crawl of preconditions, demands and side deals that get in the way of progress and debase the very name of the peace process. We are told that that is no longer happening, but lo and behold—what do we get? More of the same.

On Short money, the Leader of the House gave us a farrago of confusion. He told us that this was new money. He used the phrase "new money"—new funds. He told us that it was not Short money. In reply to hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, he contradicted them and said it was not Short money. Then he said it was the same as Short money; it would be like Short money. Later he said no, it would not be like Short money.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), who unfortunately is not with us, said that he wanted Ministers to reassure the House. So far Ministers have not done so. They have just made me even more concerned than I was. It is up to the House to reassure itself on these matters. If any of us have any doubts as a result of the confusion, we should vote against motion 3 and ask the House authorities or the Government to table something better.

There is confusion, as matters stand, even about Short money. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said that different parties had tested the line on it. When, as a new Member of the House and the leader of a party in the House, I inquired about the guidelines for Short money, I was told by Officers of the House that there is very little. They said that they would send me what there is, and not much came to me in the post. There is a genuine need for the House to re-examine funding for Opposition parties. That could take in representative work, as well as parliamentary work, so that all of us could look equally at the distinction between parliamentary work and representative work. Perhaps then all parties, on an equal basis, could have the benefit of an allowance that they could use for either or both purposes.

I advocate that we sort the issue out, taking in the position of Sinn Fein as well as other parties. That is the right and proper way of doing things. It would give equal treatment to all parties.

Lady Hermon: May I clarify an issue arising from the hon. Gentleman's speech? In the early part of his contribution, he made it clear that he does not approve of sanctions if Sinn Fein overstep the mark. If the accounting officer every nine months is unable to give Sinn Fein a clean bill of health about how they have spent their so-called allowance for representative purposes, would the hon. Gentleman support sanctions in those circumstances?

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Mark Durkan: The hon. Lady has made a separate point about sanctions. The misuse of funds voted for by this House is clearly a proper matter for this House to pursue, because if anyone misuses funds, appropriate measures must be taken.

I have been discussing political difficulties in the peace process. When the Government introduced the IMC, they went for a sanctions-based approach. We had an issue with that approach, but it was not because we were afraid of imposing sanctions on Sinn Fein or of doing things separately from Sinn Fein—our position on policing shows that we have no problem with doing things differently from Sinn Fein. Our honourable position on the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, which has been vindicated, also shows that we have no problem doing things differently from and standing up to Sinn Fein—for example, we pointed out the sleazy deals struck between Sinn Fein and the Government.

We could not accept that sanctions were the long-term answer to the problems in the peace process. We did not like the Government's idea of a menu of sanctions, because, as Seamus Mallon said in this House on a previous occasion, when the sanctions were set against the scale of criminality and the potential profit from racketeering, we were discussing a small licence fee for criminality, which was not much of a windfall tax given all the robberies for which the IRA has been indicted. We never got into that territory, because we thought it wrong and misguided.

On Short money, the Government are now seeking to get the House to give Sinn Fein a gratuitous bonus. We should consider how Short money can be used to extend some benefits to Sinn Fein on an equal basis to other political parties, and I ask hon. Members to vote against motion 3 on the Order Paper to allow that to happen.

The Northern Ireland Bill will be published next week. Among other things, it will make provisions on donations and fundraising in respect of party political funding. Although the Government's proposal is out of turn, I want the Government to allow us to go through the Bill and examine the implications for all parties on funding. We should also examine the fairness of introducing a bespoke fund for Sinn Fein in that light. All hon. Members should be wary of bespoke, ad hoc funding for one party in any circumstances.

Some hon. Members have said that the peace process rests on that issue, but they used the same verbal formula on the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, when they suggested that the sky would fall in if the values, spirit and concerns of victims were upheld. The Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill has fallen by the wayside, but is the peace process in crisis? No; the political landscape is a lot better and the situation is more encouraging.

A number of hon. Members have cited the IMC report and the Decommissioning Commission report, which are relevant to not only this debate, but, hopefully, political developments in the coming months. The IMC report is positive, and I wish that DUP Members would face up to the progress that it identifies on the IRA's desisting from a range of activities. Equally, Sinn Fein and the Government must face up to the ongoing problems that that report underlines. For their own purposes, both Sinn Fein and the DUP
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exaggerated their reactions to the IMC report, which gave people the impression that it is far more negative than it actually is.

Hon. Members should have no particular concern about voting for motion 4 on the Order Paper, but they should think long and hard about motion 3, because we can better address Short money, Sinn Fein and equality of funding for Northern Ireland political parties.

I am conscious that in any overall review of Short money we need to consider the invidious position that is created for the Ulster Unionist party, which, with the same number of Assembly Members as Sinn Fein and a vote share slightly larger than ours, finds itself without Short money, policy money, and so on. That puts it in a difficult position. It has to carry out all sorts of representative activities and duties without the benefit of the parliamentary allowances that Sinn Fein has.

If we are to consider this on the basis of equity, fair play, justice and diversity, we need to take a position that is more than just a fix-up for Sinn Fein alone. Too much of this process has been based on the Government fixing things for Sinn Fein. The right hon. Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) recalled sitting on the Government Benches for 26 hours defending the Disqualifications Bill, which was introduced for the purposes of Sinn Fein alone and to suit its particular party political designs. Time and again, in key negotiations Sinn Fein negotiates not for a variety of people, nor for the community at large in Northern Ireland, nor even for the nationalist and republican community in Northern Ireland, but for itself. That is why we get key demands centring on funding for Sinn Fein, offices for Sinn Fein and the on-the-runs legislation.

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