HC Deb 22 July 1998 vol 316 cc1225-9
Mr. William Ross

I beg to move amendment No. 134, in page 1, line 16, at beginning insert '(1)'.

The First Deputy Chairman

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 107, in page 1, line 17, at end add— '(2) This section is to come into force on the day appointed under section 3.'. No. 135, in page 1, line 17, at end add— '(2) If the Assembly has passed with cross community support a resolution praying that this provision should come into force the Secretary of State may lay a draft of an Order before Parliament to bring this provision into force. (3) The Assembly shall not consider any resolution under (2) above until more than 12 months after the appointed day.'

Mr. Ross

You will see, Mr. Martin—it is quite evident—that amendment No. 134 is consequential on amendment No. 135, although, in some respects, the latter amendment is consequential on the former one. My right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has tabled amendment No. 107, which generally tries to achieve the same objective—equity of treatment between the constitution of the Irish Republic and the constitution of the United Kingdom.

The Government of Ireland Act 1920 was, of course, intent on preserving the unity of the Kingdom. The agreement's position on the matter is quite clear—throughout this debate we have heard quite a lot about the agreement, and about how sacrosanct it is. Paragraph 7(5), on page 4—under "Annex B: Irish Government Draft Legislation to Amend the Constitution"—states: If such a declaration is not made within twelve months of this section being added to this Constitution or such longer period as may be provided for by law, this section shall cease to have effect and shall be omitted from every official text of this Constitution published thereafter. The Government of the Irish Republic are changing their constitution and publishing the changes. Then, if things do not work out as they envisage, they will go back to the status quo. The United Kingdom Government, however, are removing the last vestiges of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 from the statute book with no possibility of bringing them back. Therefore, there could be circumstances in which the United Kingdom will have changed the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, but the constitution of the Irish Republic will not have changed at all. Indeed, it may revert to the present position and restore its territorial claim.

The Irish Government's position is "Heads I win; tails I win" and that is not acceptable. If, under certain circumstances, it is possible for the Irish Republic to restore the status quo, the United Kingdom should be in exactly the same position. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and the Government should make it perfectly plain that they intend to retain the status quo for Northern Ireland in British constitutional law should things not work out as envisaged.

In a characteristically modest mood, my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann has tabled an amendment that states: This section is to come into force on the day appointed under section 3. I would go a little further. My amendment was born out of long experience in the practical marketplace and dealing with folk, when giving away one's position before being dead certain of getting one's price frequently led to giving something away without getting anything in return. My right hon. Friend's amendment promises to do something on the appointed day. The Dublin Government are saying, "Regardless of that, we intend to have our pound of flesh". It is only sensible that the United Kingdom Government should retain their freedom of action and not wipe out the Government of Ireland Act 1920 completely.

The Dublin changes are not giving up claim to sovereignty, but shifting it from territory to people in a very explicit way, and the United Kingdom Government accept that. Under the new statement that the Irish are adopting, all those born in the island of Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship. That is the present position. It does not matter whether or not they are born in the United Kingdom, they still have that freedom of choice of nationality.

As the Minister will know, dual citizenship is an interesting concept which is not universally recognised and respected. Different countries take very different views. Some interpret it loosely and casually. The Irish Republic allow one's grandparents to give one Irish citizenship, even if two generations have been born overseas. In other countries, only those who are born within the country—regardless of who their parents are—can claim citizenship.

Mr. John D. Taylor

If the Republic did not have that rule, it would not have a football team.

Mr. Ross

Of course we understand that, and the benefits of having footballers trained in England is evident at times. Sometimes, we are far too lax in our interpretation of who should and who should not be allowed to be a citizen. Citizenship not only brings benefits; it demands responsibilities. If that balance is drawn too loosely, people can gain the benefits without having to show the responsibility and commitment to a country that should go with citizenship. There should not be benefits without responsibility.

As a consequence of the agreement, some have said in recent weeks that they are Irish citizens and that the Government of the Irish Republic should interfere on their behalf in Northern Ireland. There have been demands in some articles in the Irish Post over here that the Irish Government should interfere on behalf of Irish people who have lived here for many years.

10.45 pm

The subject is bigger than the Bill or the agreement. The situation will be exploited ruthlessly by Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism in the years ahead. We should not allow the Irish Government to get away with that. We should pin them down and make it plain that there is a quid pro quo. We should be prepared to do away with the remnants of the 1920 Act only if the claim on territory is changed. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

The logic of my position is inescapable. I hope that the Minister will see fit to accept the amendment.

Mr. Paul Murphy

We cannot shift from the words of the agreement on clause 2, but I may have some good news for the hon. Gentleman, because another part of the Bill satisfies his demands.

The concept of balanced constitutional change in both jurisdictions lies at the heart of the agreement. The amendments to the Irish constitution that were agreed in the referendum on 22 May will be implemented. The essence of the amendments is that there should be parity of change involving the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and the Irish constitution.

The Secretary of State will be able to exercise her powers under clause 82(3) so that the clause comes into effect at the same time as the amendment to the Irish constitution. That means that there will be equality in the constitutional change in both jurisdictions. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) and that he will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. William Ross

Under the circumstances, I shall withdraw my amendment, but only to study the Minister's words carefully in writing. My amendment No. 135 would insert a long delay—the same minimum one year delay that Dublin is demanding. The clause that the Minister has referred to does not go that far. However, I shall study what he has said. I hope to come back to the amendment on Report, but, in the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 282, Noes 9.

Division No. 346] [10.49 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Boateng, Paul
Allan, Richard Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Brake, Tom
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Brinton, Mrs Helen
Atherton, Ms Candy Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Atkins, Charlotte Browne, Desmond
Austin, John Buck, Ms Karen
Battle, John Burnett, John
Bayley, Hugh Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Begg, Miss Anne Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Campbell-Savours, Dale
Bennett, Andrew F Canavan, Dennis
Benton, Joe Cann, Jamie
Bermingham, Gerald Caplin, Ivor
Berry, Roger Caton, Martin
Blackman, Liz Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Blears, Ms Hazel Clapham, Michael
Blizzard, Bob Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hood, Jimmy
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hoon, Geoffrey
Clelland, David Hopkins, Kelvin
Coaker, Vernon Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Coffey, Ms Ann Howells, Dr Kim
Cohen, Harry Hoyle, Lindsay
Colman, Tony Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Connarty, Michael Hutton, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Iddon, Dr Brian
Cooper, Yvette Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Corbett, Robin Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jamieson, David
Corston, Ms Jean Jenkins, Brian
Cox, Tom Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Crausby, David Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland) Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Darvill, Keith Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Keeble, Ms Sally
Davidson, Ian Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Kemp, Fraser
Dawson, Hilton Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Denham, John Khabra, Piara S
Dobbin, Jim Kidney, David
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Kilfoyle, Peter
Doran, Frank King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Dowd, Jim King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Kingham, Ms Tess
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Kumar, Dr Ashok
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Laxton, Bob
Edwards, Huw Lepper, David
Efford, Clive Levitt, Tom
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Ennis, Jeff Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Livingstone, Ken
Field, Rt Hon Frank Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Fisher, Mark Lock, David
Fitzpatrick, Jim Love, Andrew
Fitzsimons, Lorna McAvoy, Thomas
Follett, Barbara McCabe, Steve
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McCafferty, Ms Chris
Foulkes, George McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Fyfe, Maria McDonagh, Siobhain
Gapes, Mike Macdonald, Calum
Gardiner, Barry McDonnell, John
George, Bruce (Walsall S) McGrady, Eddie
Gerrard, Neil McIsaac, Shona
Gibson, Dr Ian Mackinlay, Andrew
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McNamara, Kevin
Godman, Dr Norman A McNulty, Tony
Godsiff, Roger MacShane, Denis
Goggins, Paul Mactaggart, Fiona
Golding, Mrs Llin McWilliam, John
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Mallaber, Judy
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Marek, Dr John
Gunnell, John Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hain, Peter Martlew, Eric
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Maxton, John
Hancock, Mike Meale, Alan
Hanson, David Merron, Gillian
Harris, Dr Evan Michael, Alun
Healey, John Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Milburn, Alan
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Miller, Andrew
Hepburn, Stephen Mitchell, Austin
Hesford, Stephen Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hewitt, Ms Patricia Moran, Ms Margaret
Hill, Keith Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Hinchliffe, David Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Skinner, Dennis
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mudie, George Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen) Soley, Clive
Naysmith, Dr Doug Starkey, Dr Phyllis
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Steinberg, Gerry
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Stevenson, George
O'Hara, Eddie Stinchcombe, Paul
O'Neill, Martin Stoate, Dr Howard
Öpik, Lembit Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Organ, Mrs Diana Stringer, Graham
Osborne, Ms Sandra Stuart, Ms Gisela
Palmer, Dr Nick Sutcliffe, Gerry
Pendry, Tom Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Pike, Peter L Temple-Morris, Peter
Plaskitt, James Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pond, Chris Tipping, Paddy
Pope, Greg Tonge, Dr Jenny
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Touhig, Don
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Trickett, Jon
Purchase, Ken Turner Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Quin, Ms Joyce Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Quinn, Lawrie Vis, Dr Rudi
Radice, Giles Ward, Ms Claire
Rapson, Syd Wareing, Robert N
Raynsford, Nick Watts, David
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Rogers, Allan Wicks, Malcolm
Rooker, Jeff Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Rowlands, Ted Winnick, David
Ruane, Chris Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Ruddock, Ms Joan Wise, Audrey
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Woolas, Phil
Ryan, Ms Joan Worthington, Tony
Sanders, Adrian Wray, James
Savidge, Malcolm Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Sawford, Phil Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Mr. Robert Ainsworth and
Singh, Marsha Mr. Kevin Hughes.
Beggs, Roy Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Forsythe, Clifford Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Thompson, William
McCartney, Robert (N Down) Tellers for the Noes:
Paisley, Rev Ian Mr. Peter Robinson and
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

It being after three hours after the commencement of proceedings, THE FIRST DEPUTY CHAIRMAN proceeded to put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings to be concluded at that hour.

Clauses 3 and 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

To report progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Dowd.]

Committee report progress: to sit again tomorrow.

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