Maginnis trumped on Westminster ban
BY FERN LANE
After last week's news that Peter Mandelson was in favour of the lifting of the ban preventing Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness from using the Westminster facilities to which elected MPs are entitled, Ulster Unionist Security Spokesman Ken Maginnis threw the matter into some confusion with his claim that he had been told by the Secretary of State that no motion would be brought forward and no such facilities will be made available unless decommissioning takes place. Nevertheless, closer scrutiny of Maginnis' claim reveals that he was, as he put it, informed of this apparent decision ``through the normal channels at the Northern Ireland Office'', rather than directly by Mandelson himself.
For its own part, the Northern Ireland Office contradicted Maginnis when it said, on Wednesday 26 January, that it remains the intention of the government to bring a motion to the House of Commons in order to lift the ban and that it is presently engaged in ``consulting all parties in the House'' before coming to a decision in respect of the timing of the motion. The NIO confirmed that the matter is not a question of if, but when the matter is brought before parliament.
However, the spokeswoman would not be drawn on whether any attempt would be made to explicitly link the issue to decommissioning. The mechanics of the matter are fairly straightforward; if the Cabinet decides to go ahead and remove the ban on Adams and McGuinness, Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the House, will simply bring forward a motion, announced about two weeks in advance, to the House of Commons. Because of the huge Labour majority, such a motion would inevitably be passed despite Unionist and Conservative opposition, although it remains something of a mystery that the ban could be imposed at the behest of the Speaker of the House without any need for parliamentary consultation or vote, but cannot be lifted in the same way.