HL Deb 20 November 2000 vol 619 cc526-56

3.7 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Amendment of section 1(1)(e) of the Disqualification Acts]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 9, after ("than") insert ("the Republic of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 is a modest amendment which seeks to correct what I hope is an oversight. In proposing to amend the House of Commons Disqualification Act, the Bill refers only to Ireland. In common English that normally means the whole of the island of Ireland. Those who come from Northern Ireland are just as much Irish as those from the south. The Government of the Republic claimed the whole of Ireland as their territory, although they modified the Irish constitution following the Good Friday agreement. They have conventionally referred to themselves as the Government of Ireland so as to imply a claim to the whole island and that they speak for all of it. But that is no reason why our legislation should do the same, particularly since the Good Friday agreement.

Amendment No. 1 refers to the House of Commons Disqualification Act. The other amendments in the group, Amendments Nos. 5 to 7, 9 to 11, 13 and 15, make the same correction to later references to Ireland where the intention is to refer to the Republic of Ireland. When one refers to the parliament of the Republic, as do most of the later amendments, it might be thought more acceptable to omit the words "Republic of" so as to preserve the translation of the official Irish name of the parliament, which also appears quite properly in the Bill, even though that would be just as objectionable given the underlying principle. I believe that Amendment No. 1 is slightly more important because that alters only our legislation and does not refer particularly to the parliament but to the House of Commons Disqualification Act. I beg to move.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Cope. The noble and learned Lord the Minister will remember that before the Italian Risorgimento Metternich used to refer to Italy as a geographical expression. I think that Ireland is still a geographical expression and perhaps also a cultural expression. This is a highly political Bill. Like my noble friend, I am certainly not in favour of the principle of the Bill, a point which the noble and learned Lord will no doubt by now have gathered. But if he is going to do this foolish thing, it would be sensible if the wording of the Bill reflected the political realities of the island of Ireland, in which there are still two polities rather than one, however much the government of the day may be pushing us in the latter direction.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I have always taken the view that a rather more accurate description would be the "Irish Republic". I base my thinking on the wise words of a much respected former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the late Clem Attlee. When, after the Act had been passed in the Dail, he was confronted on the issue of what the international title should be, he said, "Call themselves what they like. They remain what they are". That was very wise guidance.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

My Lords, I rise to oppose this series of amendments. The advantage of a six-hour journey to your Lordships' House rather than one of fewer than three hours has meant that I have been able to read the entire Committee stage of the Bill. It is quite interesting that during the Committee stage the word "republic" was not used by any speaker. That begs another question as to where this series of amendments has come from. We all know that when we talk about Northern Ireland language is incredibly important. It is no less so in the South.

I have in my hand a copy of the constitution of Ireland. Article 5 states: Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic state". Nowhere between the pages of the document does the word "republic" appear. It seems to me that when other countries—other states—use English, whether as a first or second language, there is a certain courtesy in using the names of their states as they use them. I cannot believe—I have not looked this up—that in any double taxation agreements with the United States of America we refer to that country as the Republic of the United States of America. Therefore, looking at good accord with people nearby, we should stick to what they use. They use "Ireland" and in certain cases "the Government of Ireland".

Lord Laird

My Lords, I rise to support the amendments. Our problem is that the government of the Irish Republic always seek to have everything both ways. It is all very well saying in the constitution that they have a jurisdiction over the entire island of Ireland. As chairman of the Ulster Scots Agency, I talk to the people in Dublin about quotas for the Garda Siochana in the same way as the House approved the other day for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Yet when I point out to them that, according to their definition—not my definition—20 per cent of the population of the island of Ireland are ethnic Ulster Scots and so we want 20 per cent representation on the Garda Siochana, we suddenly discover that when they refer to Ireland they are referring only to 26 counties; so it is then down to 2 per cent.

We need clarity and honesty on this matter. What we have is a government in the Irish Republic for whom words are cheap—words mean whatever you want them to mean. It is an Alice-in-Wonderland world. Therefore, I should like clarity and I support the amendments.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

My Lords, the term "Ireland" is used correctly, is unambiguous and is in accordance with established practice. Since the conclusion of the British-Irish agreement in 1998 it has been the practice of both the British Government and Irish Government to refer to "Ireland" rather than "the Republic of Ireland" when the reference is in an international context. To accept the amendments would make the drafting of the Bill inconsistent with the practice of the Government in other legislation. Therefore, we oppose the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the other amendments in the group.

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, how does he reconcile what has been said with the fact that new Article 2 of the constitution of the Republic of Ireland states: It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation"? Article 3 goes on to refer to the, firm will of the Irish nation … to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland". and, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people". It seems to me that those phrases in themselves make it quite clear that the government in Dublin do not yet think that they represent the whole of Ireland. That is the point we are making. We are not raising any minor issue. It is an issue of whether we are talking about a part of a nation or a whole nation.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, with respect, there is no inconsistency between the extracts from the Irish constitution read out by the noble Baroness and the approach taken by the United Kingdom Government and, to avoid confusion, the Republic of Ireland Government that when in an international context "the Republic of Ireland" is referred to, it is referred to as "Ireland". That is the approach taken by both governments, including this Government, in legislation. It is right that that practice, having been adopted in legislation, should be continued; otherwise, there would be inconsistencies between this piece of legislation and other legislation. Whether that was the right or wrong course from the point of view of drafting is not quite the issue. From the point of view of a sensible approach to legislation, one should be consistent. I do not think that there is any inconsistency between that and the extracts from the constitution read by the noble Baroness.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, does he not agree that the real prize here is that, with the repeal of Articles 2 and 3, any constitutional claim by the Irish Government on Northern Ireland will pass; and as it passes so it ensures that the people of Northern Ireland have the right to continue to determine their own affairs? That is the prize at the end of the process. For those of us who claim to be Irish as well as British and hold passports from both countries, there is no conflict here. Following this debate, it is beholden on everyone to realise that you can love one country while refusing to hate another.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I quite agree with the sentiment of the noble Lord's remarks. I repeat, as I have done on every occasion and as everyone involved knows, the principle of consent remains enshrined in the relations between the countries.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, that it is some time since I looked at double taxation agreements or had to do so for any purpose. As far as I can recollect, those that involve what we know as America refer to it as the United States of America, which is a very precise description of part of that continent; just as "the Republic of Ireland" is a very precise description of part of that island. Therefore, the noble Lord's point is not effective in that respect. There is no double taxation agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and America—only with the United States of America or with other states on that continent.

I turn to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Articles 2 and 3 have not quite been repealed. They have been modified, as my noble friend Lady Park pointed out.

The Minister accused us of wishing to see inconsistency. I do not wish to see inconsistency. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Laird moved Amendment No. 1A: Page 1, line 9, at end insert— ("() At the end insert "is a Minister in the government or chairman or deputy chairman of a committee of the legislature, of any country or territory outside the United Kingdom; or"").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I regard this as an important amendment. I do not believe that one person should be permitted to sit here at Westminster and in another sovereign legislature, or in any one of our devolved parliaments or assemblies. The issue of the inevitable conflict of interest was elucidated in Committee in this House. However, the Government continue to listen with deaf ears.

If the Government, for reasons they still have not disclosed satisfactorily, cannot accept that a person should not be able to sit in two sovereign parliaments, does the Minister accept that a person who is in government in another nation, or is the chairman or deputy chairman of a committee of another national legislature, should not be able to sit at Westminster or in any of the devolved assemblies?

That is the purpose of this amendment; namely, to exclude a government Minister of another nation from sitting here at Westminster or in one of our devolved assemblies and to exclude a committee chairman or deputy chairman of another nation's legislature from sitting here at Westminster or in any of the other devolved assemblies.

Why should a Minister of another state be permitted to take a seat in this legislature of the United Kingdom? As has been pointed out before in this House, members of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland have not demanded this piece of legislation. Indeed, in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, informed the House of this when he said that he "went to Ireland" and "contacted all" his, friends in the Irish Parliament, in Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the two major parties, and in the Democratic Left". He asked, whether any of them put forward the idea of serving in both parliaments". The noble Lord clearly stated that he did not receive a positive response. He continued: The members of Fianna Fail to whom I spoke were very cagey about this. Those of Fine Gael were very annoyed about it. Those in the Democratic Left laughed".—[Official Report, 6/11/00; col. 1257.], I always attach great weight to comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. In this case, from what he has said, it seems clear that there is no demand for this measure from parliamentarians in the Irish Republic. Furthermore, opposition to this Bill is the more probable opinion.

As I sure noble Lords are aware, the Ulster Unionist Party has been vocal in its vigorous opposition to this legislation. That opposition has not lessened. I am not aware of any support for the measure from the Democratic Unionist Party or from the SDLP. However, some party or group may have prompted the legislation; or, in the case of the party I have in mind, it may be more accurate to say that it has demanded this legislation.

I should like to ask the Minister: of all the political parties consulted about the measure, how many were in favour of the proposals that appear in this Bill? Would the Minister consider a party to be a consultee if, in fact, it was the originator of the Bill? If a party puts forward a proposal, will it still be consulted? If it is, would the proposal be acted upon in full? Perhaps Sinn Fein/IRA was not a consultee as regards the proposals, but rather was the genesis of the measure.

Perhaps I may remind the Government that the Belfast agreement was designed to remove the latent influence of Sinn Fein/IRA on government policy and to create complete transparency. Undoubtedly, with the agreement, Sinn Fein/IRA has a transparent influence and is accountable. However, this legislation serves to confirm what many unionists suspect; namely, that the latent influence of Sinn Fein/IRA still exists. Furthermore, that influence is sufficiently strong to dictate to the Government that it wishes to see a Bill passed through Parliament for its sole benefit. How do the Government intend to bring about the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons when they permit Sinn Fein/IRA to maintain its latent influence? One can suggest only that the Government do not wish to ignore the demands of people who retain a paramilitary capability.

I stated my opposition to this Bill at the outset of our deliberations. However, it would be at least less offensive, if not more acceptable, if it could be accepted that the Ministers of other national governments and the chairman or deputy chairman of other national legislatures should be barred not only from holding office in the government of the United Kingdom, but should also be barred from membership of the assemblies and parliaments of the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the world is not quite as simple as has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Laird. His argument that people should not be able to hold office in two separate sovereign states has a certain apparent persuasiveness. However, let me ask him to consider the case of King William III, a name not without honour in Northern Irish Protestant circles. That king was the King of England and the King of Scotland when they were two independent, sovereign states. He was also the Stadtholder of the Province of Holland. I believe that benefit accrued to all three from that relationship.

Lord Laud

My Lords, would the noble Earl agree that it is better to look forward to the future than it is to look back to the past?

Earl Russell

My Lords, the noble Lord has stated an absolute principle. I merely stated that there are exceptions to that principle, from which his Province has benefited.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl. I enter into this discussion with the greatest diffidence, knowing that the noble Earl is an enormous authority on 17th century and other history. However, would he not draw a distinction between a sovereign and one of his or her Ministers? After all, we seem to have in place a perfectly satisfactory arrangement as regards the Commonwealth. Our present monarch is the head of state of a number of Commonwealth countries, but also head of a supranational organisation which includes a number of republics. Is that not a qualitative difference from that of the position of a Minister?

Earl Russell

My Lords, when we try to draw distinctions, we move in an area which may become interesting. However, it appears to be a point that should rightly be debated in Committee. Regrettably, we have now passed that stage.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that one consequence of unity of monarchs, namely, one throne for two countries, has often been that of political unification? That is precisely the point being made from the Benches opposite.

Earl Russell

My Lords, that was subsequently the consequence; namely, with the full consent of both countries, in which circumstances and in which circumstances only one might regard it as proper. It does not appear immediately to be on the table here, but my understanding of the Good Friday agreement suggests that that is the only way in which that could come about. That I regard as one of the good elements of the agreement.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, has taken us back to the 17th century; perhaps I may move forward two centuries. Noble Lords will recall that Mr Gladstone's Home Rule Bill came before your Lordships' House and was defeated. It attempted to create a united Ireland within a United Kingdom. If that Bill had passed through all its stages, perhaps many of the tragedies of the 20th century might have been avoided.

I believe that at the end of the First World War, Mr Churchill observed that although much else had changed in Europe, what remained were the "dreary steeples" of Ulster. What this Bill has been trying to do is to put in place a more creative set of circumstances in which people living on the island of Ireland, as well as those living on this island, can learn to coexist in far more interesting ways which do not require us constantly to name call or to abuse.

If the noble Lord considers the matter, even his own party has moved in that direction and I commend it for that. We should recall that the Ulster Unionist Party in the European Parliament had their former Member of the European Parliament sitting in the same group in the European People's Party with members of Fine Gael. It would have been impossible to achieve that in this House or in another place. The former leader of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland, Mr John Cushnahan, a British citizen, now sits as a Fine Gael member representing the Limerick area in the European Parliament. There are other examples of former Northern Ireland politicians who sit in the Dail. Already a more creative and fluid relationship is being built.

We need to think rather more imaginatively than perhaps we have done over the past 70 years. However, what is certain is that if we merely turn around the bloodbath and hide behind slogans like, "a united Ireland" or, for that matter, even the phrase, "a united kingdom", that will not take us anywhere.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, I was not going to speak in the debate but I have been brought into it by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, who has quoted me repeatedly from a previous debate.

At this stage it is right that we should sympathise with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. It has been reported that he is a friend of the Prime Minister. In recognition of this, the Prime Minister has given him responsibility for the Dome, the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill and the Disqualifications Bill. If that is what he does for his friends, I should not like to be one of his enemies.

Perhaps I, too, may mention a little bit of history. It was not the 1998 Act which brought about the term "Republic of Ireland and the island of Ireland". It was brought in by the Conservative government who initiated the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. I remember very well having the British text and the Irish text of the agreement delivered to my office in this building. The British text stated that it was an agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Irish Republic. The Irish text stated that it was an agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom. So there, from the word go, was the reason for the conflict.

Prior to that, when for many years I was a member of the parliament in Northern Ireland, no one had ever heard of Articles 2 and 3. It was the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 which first brought that term into the political arena of Northern Ireland. That was the first time it was seen and heard. Since then, there has been a natural progression.

I shall repeat very shortly what I asked in the previous debate: who asked for this Bill, with all its ramifications? I have spoken to many members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Democratic Left and other minor parties in the Republic. I asked them whether they had asked for the Bill. The answer I received was no; they do not want it. They will find the Bill an embarrassment. Given the residence qualification in this country, it is highly unlikely that any member of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will come to England and take up residence in Hackney or anywhere else to qualify for a vote and to sit here. That will not happen—it is not feasible—but it could have an effect on Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein now claims to be an all-Ireland party. It has been rumoured—no one can say whether or not ii is true—that Sinn Fein intends to have a Member in this House. Given the probable timing of the election next year, Sinn Fein could have a candidate elected to this House in May, in addition to the two people who are currently elected.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I take it that the noble Lord is referring to the other place rather than to this House.

Lord Fitt

Yes, my Lords; I am. Sinn Fein could have someone elected to the other place, in addition to the two who are currently there. Given the emotion that would surround such an event, Sinn Fein could then fight a seat in the Republic. It could go to the electorate in the Republic of Ireland and say, "We are the only all-Ireland party, unlike Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Democratic Left and the SDLP".

I followed very carefully the progress of the Bill through another place. No SDLP Members spoke to the Bill or voted on it. I believe that they were highly embarrassed by the Bill. Whatever we envisage will happen, it will not be to the benefit of the SDLP I have heard only today that, at this late stage of the proceedings, the SDLP supports the Bill. It is very late in the day for it to take this attitude. One wonders what has happened between the Committee stage and now to compel the SDLP to support the Bill. I shall he glad to hear from the SDLP that it does support the Bill.

I have said already that all major political parties in the island of Ireland are opposed to the Bill. Until I am convinced that there is a genuine need for the Bill to improve relations in Northern Ireland, I shall have to express my serious misgivings about it.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, as this is Report stage, I shall defer to another occasion asking the noble Earl, Lord Russell, why he omitted the original sovereign title of William III, "the Prince of Orange", from his list.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord for my error, which I realised I had made only a few moments ago.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl. I shall defer also my comments on the general arguments which have been aired to the debate on the next amendment, which covers them more fully.

As to this amendment, the Government claim—inaccurately, in my view—that the purpose of the Bill is to correct an anomaly. The amendment draws attention to the fact that, unless the amendment is accepted, the Bill will create a new anomaly. The amendment is valuable from that point of view.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for drawing the attention of the House to the fact that we are at Report stage. Repetition is not helpful to your Lordships, despite the charms and historical perspective of the noble Earl.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, a number of points have been made—in particular by the noble Lords, Lord Laird and Lord Fitt—which deal with the principle of the Bill. I have also been asked about who supports the Bill and the position of the SDLP in relation to the Bill. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cope, perhaps I may deal with those questions when we get to the next group of amendments, which raises the question of whether or not Clause 1 should remain in the Bill. That would appear to be the appropriate point at which to deal with those issues and I would thus avoid the necessity of having to repeat myself.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, seeks, in effect, to prevent a Minister of any Commonwealth country or of Ireland being a Member of the legislature here. The Bill is not intended to remove a qualification which already exists for members of the Commonwealth, which would be the effect of accepting the amendment. It is already the case that office holders in any Commonwealth country are able to stand for election to any UK legislature and are not barred from accepting any post within that legislature.

The Government are seeking to extend the qualification to stand for election to UK legislatures to include Members of the Irish Parliament, while at the same time ensuring that measures are in place to prevent situations where conflicts of interests may occur and the selection procedure for certain kinds of posts does not allow for the use of discretion, as is the case with ministerial positions in the Assembly, which are selected by d'Hondt. The amendment does not do this—that is, it does not deal with the case where there is no discretion—and the Government therefore ask the House not to accept the amendment.

Lord Laird

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his response. I shall have to consider it. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment. I very much respect the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the role he has played over the years. However, I am a little confused as to his exact point; it was not very clear. Perhaps he and I might discuss the matter further.

I make the point that, as an Ulster Unionist, I am seeking to work the Belfast agreement. Those of us who do so split our community and everything else and put ourselves at personal risk. Yet, what happens? As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, says, legislation is pushed through this House which only makes our discomfort that much worse. It does nothing in Northern Ireland to further the Good Friday agreement.

The amendment that I propose seeks to exclude members of the Dublin Government from being Members of the Westminster Parliament. Perhaps this House could spend a bit more time examining the failures of the Dublin Government to implement the Belfast agreement in terms of human rights. Nearly three years after the signing of the agreement, the Dublin Government have not moved in any shape, sense or form on human rights, which lag considerably behind those of the United Kingdom. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 2: Leave out Clause 1.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to leave out Clause 1. This clause is the heart of the Bill. If we pull it out of the Bill, the Bill will not live. It does not deserve to live, because it is a dangerous Bill.

I shall pose two questions to the Minister at the start in order to give him and those who advise him the maximum opportunity to reply in full. They are not new questions; they have already been hinted at this afternoon. They are entirely straightforward, but we have not received answers.

First, does the Minister accept that the Bill will mean that Sinn Fein members could be elected both to the Dail and to Westminster, and could claim to speak in the Dublin Parliament for United Kingdom constituencies? Secondly, why do the Government want that? Those questions are directed to the Minister, but they are also for other noble Lords to consider—for the Liberal Democrats and anyone else.

The first question addresses the practical effect of the Bill. As we have set out previously, we simply do not believe the Minister's explanation of the Bill's purpose. It has been said that it is a Home Office-inspired Bill, thought up entirely by our own Government to bring the Republic of Ireland into line with the Commonwealth and to allow people to hold seats in the two sovereign Parliaments at the same time.

As I reflected on this, it conjured up to me a picture of civil servants sitting in the Home Office and spotting this so-called "anomaly". One assumes that, once they realised it existed, they sat down and wrote an internal minute: "Sir Humphrey, we have just realised that when Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949 we did not provide for Members of its Parliament to sit as Westminster MPs at the same time as being Members of the Dail, which they were able to do up until then.

We have identified three courses of action available to deal with this anomaly now that we realise it exists. Course A: we could simply keep quiet. No one complained about this at the time and, over the 50 years since, no one has mentioned it, so we do not need to mention it now. Course B: we could propose a Bill to Parliament that Commonwealth MPs should not in future be able to sit simultaneously at Westminster and in their own Parliament. That would bring Ireland and the Commonwealth into line and remove the anomaly. No one in history has ever sat in a Commonwealth Parliament and been a Member of the Westminster Parliament at the same time, and no one is ever likely to do so; so the Commonwealth should not be too concerned. Or, of course, we could take Course C: we could extend this peculiar privilege to the Republic of Ireland as well. Which course would you like us to recommend to the Home Secretary, Sir Humphrey?"

Presumably, Sir Humphrey then said something to this effect: "Having discovered this dreadful anomaly, in these days of open government we have to expect that its existence will leak, so Course A is not available. The Foreign Secretary would not want to take away a privilege from the Commonwealth—even one that it does not use—so Course B won't do either". That brings us to the Bill. "That means that we must legislate along the lines of Course C and extend the privilege to the Irish".

"But Sir Humphrey, how are we going to get that through the Parliament". "Oh, tell them it's urgent". "Urgent, Sir Humphrey—after 50 years?". "Do as you are told. Waste Parliament's time, not mine". "But we've already got 12 Home Office Bills this Session". "Well, then, this is No. 13"—and it is the 13th Home Office Bill in this parliamentary Session.

We find that scenario ridiculous. It is just as ridiculous as the government explanation of the purpose of the Bill, whether expressed by the Home Secretary in another place or by the noble and learned Lord in earlier debates. It must be the feeblest reason ever for any Bill to be presented to Parliament.

Of course, that is not the actual reason for the Bill; it is a cover story. The real reason is not ludicrous, but sinister. All the indications are that the Bill is wanted by Sinn Fein/IRA. They want to be able to have members elected for both Westminster and Dail constituencies—not to sit in both Parliaments; they do not recognise the validity of the Westminster Parliament, they do not take their seats and never have done—they want to claim to represent United Kingdom constituencies in the Dail. That would be a huge step towards a United Ireland by stealth.

So far, I cannot make out from our debates whether the Government agree that Sinn Fein will use the Bill in the way that I have set out. That is why my first question was whether they accept the likelihood, or even the possibility, of that outcome. I cannot believe that they are näve enough not to realise such a possibility; nor can we think of anyone else who is likely to want this Bill. But if they accept that possibility, why do the Government want the Bill?

Which part of the Government wants the Bill? ft is supposed to be a Home Office Bill; Home Office Ministers introduced it into another place. But I do not believe that the Home Office thought of this all by itself. So perhaps it is the Northern Ireland Office that wants it. But I have to say that the indications we have received are that the Northern Ireland Secretary wants nothing to do with the Bill—in spite of the fact that it was described to this House by the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms as part of the "choreography" of Northern Ireland. That makes me think that my noble friend Lord Cranborne was right to suggest the other day that this measure springs from a deal done by No. 10. As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, remarked, it is an interesting fact that the noble and learned Lord is taking the Bill through this House.

However, looking to different parts of the Government is fruitless speculation. We all know that we shall be told that the Government are all good friends; that they agree on everything; and that what we read to the contrary in the newspapers is rubbish. I can see why Sinn Fein/IRA would want the Bill, but not why the United Kingdom Government or any other Member of this House would want it. I think it can only be because they, too, secretly want to advance the cause of a united Ireland by stealth, or because they have done a deal and think that they will get something in return. The Government got nothing from Sinn Fein/IRA in return for the release of prisoners, so I am not sure why they should expect to get anything from this measure, significant as it is.

Perhaps the Irish Government believe that this would be one way to appease Sinn Fein, which still has its old agenda at the back of its mind. This device might serve its purposes and help to destabilise Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. But, if so, what has it offered that is remotely comparable in return? As far as we know, the answer to that question is nothing. Indeed, its own constitution, the Irish constitution, would restrict this curious dual mandate to Irish citizens, because only they can stand for election in Ireland. That makes it all the more curious that the British Government should want to grant this special privilege of sitting in the two sovereign parliaments at once, not to British citizens but only to Irish citizens, or those with dual nationality. If Her Majesty's Government want it for some unexplained reason, why should this United Kingdom Parliament want it? That is the question for us to consider.

We have been told of no deal; indeed, we are told that it is solely the policy of the United Kingdom Government. We in this Parliament should stand by the Belfast/Good Friday agreement that Northern Ireland will remain fully part of the United Kingdom, as the majority of its people want for as long as they want it. We remember that part of the agreement, even if the Government want us to forget it. In our previous debates, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said that he did not understand the Government over this Bill: what is more, he thought that he was not meant to understand. I feel exactly the same. Anyone who accepts this clause and the Bill today will, I believe, have cause to regret it when it is used against our constitution. However, they cannot say that they were not told what the effect would be.

We shall not acquiesce in the weakening of our Parliament by stealth, and we shall not accept the undermining of our United Kingdom by stealth. That is why we should defeat this clause. I beg to move.

Lord Laird

My Lords, perhaps I may briefly express my support for this amendment. In view of my earlier remarks today, will the Minister indicate clearly in his response whether he thinks that this Bill is a plus or a minus for the Belfast agreement?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I think it is a plus. The Government support the Belfast agreement. The British/Irish agreement in 1998, which followed the conclusion of the Belfast agreement, put on a formal basis the arrangements—

Lord Laird

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. Can he explain to us how it is that they can support the Belfast agreement? It is not in the Belfast agreement; indeed, it is nothing to do with the that agreement. No one who is a signatory to the Belfast agreement, except Sinn Fein/IRA, seems to be in favour of it. The point is that it causes considerable confusion in Northern Ireland. So how can they be in support of the Belfast agreement?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, that is what I was seeking to explain. Perhaps I may now do so—

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord replying to the debate or intervening in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Laird? If he is replying to the debate, does he wish to speak early or to close the debate now?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, after the noble Lord, Lord Laird, sat down, my understanding was that he had concluded his speech. No one rose to speak at that point, so I decided to do so. I profoundly apologise to any noble Lords who wished to speak. I looked around the Chamber and no was standing up.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord mistook my natural diffidence. I heard a question addressed to the noble and learned Lord from the noble Lord, Lord Laird. I thought that the noble and learned Lord, with his customary courtesy, would want immediately to explain why he could not answer it.

With no disrespect whatever to the present distinguished occupant on the Woolsack, I, for my part, regret the fact that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not present today. I believe that the Lord Chancellor is chairman of the legislation committee of the Cabinet. I should have liked to give the noble and learned Lord the opportunity to tell us a little, in these days of transparent government, about how it is that this Bill, which did not feature in the manifesto, has, notwithstanding that, managed to find a place in the Government's programme. All chairmen of the legislation committee of the Cabinet are very jealous of government legislative time.

Perhaps I may follow the scenario suggested by my noble friend Lord Cope. It would be diverting to know how the Home Office Minister charged with bringing forward this proposal would have put the matter to the legislation committee of the Cabinet, especially to the Lord Chancellor. There would have had to be a very good reason given as to why precious government time in legislation was taken up in this way. Unfortunately, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not in a position to respond today, but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is. He has had plenty of time to think about this, because several noble Lords addressed the question in Committee.

A substantial constitutional change is being proposed. It is a very significant one. Any change to the disqualification rules that Parliament has previously approved for itself, and for the House of Commons in particular, is also important constitutionally. The Minister has said, "No, we don't anticipate that any member of the Commonwealth legislatures will avail themselves of this privilege; indeed, they have never done so in the past and we see no reason to suppose that they will do so in the future. Yet we think it is important that members of the Irish legislature should be able to avail themselves of it. No, we don't say that anyone we know will do so. It is just that we don't like these funny old anomalies".

Noble Lords do not need to have particularly sensitive noses to smell a rat here. All that the noble and learned Lord would say when I asked him this question in Committee was that it was not an appropriate question to ask. I have considered that curious doctrine and I am afraid that I still consider it to be an appropriate question. I hope that it will receive an appropriate answer today.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, has both complained of anomalies. I do not think that there is any question that we have an anomaly in front of us today. However, I happen recently to have read the book of Mr David Willetts on civic conservatism. Mr Willetts quotes Voltaire, with strong approval, about the contribution of anomalies to the preservation of liberty. On this matter, I happen to agree with Mr Willetts rather than the noble and learned Lord or the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley.

It is a fact, as well as an anomaly, that throughout history those who live within the same physical border have not always had the same identification of their nationality. If that is not compatible with peace, then all the perfumes of Arabia will not cleanse their ethnicity. So some way of living with the situation is, I believe, desirable. Perhaps I may recommend the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, to another anomaly; namely, the state of Andorra, where some people believe that they are Spanish, some people believe that they are French and some people believe that they are neither. The people have an elected assembly and their affairs are presided over jointly by the local French préfet and the local Spanish bishop. The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, may be reassured to know that that is where events have stopped for as long as I can remember. I believe that that precedent is relevant to this Bill.

4 p.m.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for moving this amendment, which I strongly support. I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, was slightly on the wrong tack. It is not a question of creating anomalies; indeed, the unnecessary rectification of an anomaly without good reason is at the root of our objections.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred to the phenomenon of dual passports. He also made the observation, with which no one could disagree, that it ought to be possible for someone to love his own country without hating another country. Of course one accepts that. There are, of course, those who disagree with the principle of dual passports. I am not one of them. It is not a question of loving one's own country and not hating another; it is a question of whether one can perform one's duties which contradict each other in two countries simultaneously. It is the essence of the argument on this side that it is difficult to imagine someone being able to do that in two sovereign parliaments simultaneously. That is perhaps possible in a sovereign parliament and a devolved assembly in another country, but is it possible in two sovereign parliaments where one has to swear two oaths of allegiance? It might be difficult but not impossible to represent two different sets of constituents. However, where one's function as a Member of Parliament is both to sustain and occasionally to bring down governments, that could lead to enormous conflicts of loyalty.

I am in no doubt that the principle of this Bill is highly objectionable. But what I think is much more serious is the way in which this measure has been justified. It has been put forward and justified on a basis which is utterly implausible. Initially the noble and learned Lord presented the measure as simply bringing Ireland into line with the Commonwealth as though that were a statement which had any justification because Ireland is not a member of the Commonwealth, even though there is some talk of it becoming one. However, it quickly emerged that there has been no example in history of a Member of Parliament of a Commonwealth legislature sitting simultaneously in the House of Commons. Therefore the whole basis on which the measure was justified simply did not stand up.

Then there is the extraordinary timetable of the Bill. I think I am right in saying that the Bill was first presented to the House of Commons on 22nd December, just before Christmas, when no one could pay it arty attention. It was reintroduced when Parliament came back after the Christmas break. Then we had the turn for the worse in the negotiations in Northern Ireland and the measure was dropped. It was then reintroduced in the Commons in June. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, referred to it as consultation with the House of Commons. He used the words "very intensive scrutiny". It comprised an angry all-night Sitting in the House of Commons who protested that there was no Report stage and that the whole thing was rushed through. Then it was presented to this House on the second day, I believe, before we rose for the Recess. The way in which this Bill has beer handled is truly shocking because it is of such significance. We strongly suspect that the real reasons have not been given.

Mention has been made of the close relationship between this country and Northern Ireland. That because it is, typically for the noble and learned Lord, a narrow basis on which to stand—rather more convincing. However, it does not tell us much simply to say that we need the measure because we have a close relationship with Northern Ireland. The measure is being put forward as if the Sinn Fein submission to the all-party committee of the Irish Parliament on the constitution had never been published. The document refers to the changes that were made to Article 2 of the Irish constitution. The claim to Northern Ireland has been dropped. Article 2 now reads: It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born on the island of Ireland, which includes its island and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland". Sinn Fein argues that these rights include, the right of citizens in the Six Counties to send representatives to the Irish legislature". That is a freely available published document. It is extraordinary that the measure put forward by the Government does not refer to that document at all. I find that shocking. I do not believe that the Government's proposals have nothing whatever to do with the proposals of Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein's purpose is to make the relationship of Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom more ambiguous; to make the Dublin Parliament appear equi-distant from the Northern Ireland Parliament; and to make it appear as though a person elected in a constituency in Northern Ireland can equally sit in the Dail or in the House of Commons because both Parliaments have an equal right to pass laws referring to the internal affairs of Northern Ireland.

It has been said that this proposal was not mentioned in the Belfast agreement. That is an important point. This Bill is a significant measure in two ways. First, I submit that it constitutes a constitutional outrage. Secondly, it constitutes a significant addition to the Belfast agreement, if its purpose is as the Sinn Fein document states. I say with great respect to the Minister that I strongly object to the lack of candour and frankness with which the measure has been put forward. Ministers have described it as a small step. In a sense it is a small step; it is another small step in the betrayal of Northern Ireland.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

My Lords, the amendment that is before us has no other purpose than to scupper the Bill. The Bill makes further progress in the closer ties being forged between the two countries. It constitutes a natural evolution following the progress, admittedly sometimes halting, that has occurred since the Good Friday agreement. If only one or two people take up this measure, it could be of help to the fragile and delicate nature of that agreement. I can envisage circumstances in which it could help tremendously for someone from the unionist tradition to be present at debates in the Dail. But it is up to electors in constituencies, both North and South, to decide whether or not to vote for candidates who are also representatives of another body.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I know nothing about the background of this Bill but I believe that noble Lords are going a little over the top. I have heard expressions such as "united Ireland by stealth" or "betrayal of Northern Ireland". Frankly, these seem disproportionate to what we are discussing here. There is no question of a united Ireland by stealth. The Belfast agreement made it perfectly clear that a United Ireland would come about only if the majority of the people of Northern Ireland wished it. That is not a process by stealth; it is part of an explicit process. I do not see how Northern Ireland would be betrayed if a politician representing a constituency in Northern Ireland were also to be elected to the Dail or were to be in the Senate in Dublin. I do not consider that a betrayal. It may not be as tidy as some noble Lords would wish, but I do not consider that it would be a betrayal of Northern Ireland and I consider it mischievous to construe it as such.

What we are talking about surely is the uniqueness of Northern Ireland in terms of the relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic which are explicitly recognised by a variety of structures which arose through the Belfast agreement. All we are doing here is to recognise the uniqueness of Northern Ireland. I appreciate that there is an anomaly at present as regards Commonwealth countries and Ireland. However, I prefer to put the argument in terms of the unique position of Northern Ireland. If John Hume were to be elected to the Dail while retaining his seat in the other place, would that be the end of Northern Ireland? I do not understand why that is considered such an anomaly. If Seamus Mallon were to be elected to the Dail while retaining his parliamentary seat in the other place, would that be the end of Northern Ireland? I do not see that those are such enormous matters that the whole House should say that they constitute a betrayal of Northern Ireland.

It seems to me that this is a relatively minor matter. Members of this House may not like it. They may not feel that it accords with the way in which they see things but I believe that we should get this in proportion. It is not a revolutionary change; it is a fairly minor matter, even if it has been vested with enormous significance in some of the speeches we have heard. Put in those terms, it is not that important, but let us at least get on with the matter and pass it.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, I support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who has tried to put the debate into a reasonable context. There has been an edge to much of what has been said this afternoon that will not help the process in Northern Ireland. I always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, with great regard and I believe that he has a significant contribution to make to these debates. However, on this occasion his talk of betrayal has not done us a great service.

His noble friend Lady Thatcher took the first historic steps in 1985 to try to engage the Dail and the authorities in Ireland in a constitutional programme for change so that people in these islands could live alongside one another. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I supported the Conservative Party's brave initiatives, led by the noble Baroness, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, and their right honourable friend Mr John Major, in trying to engage Sinn Fein/IRA in the constitutional process. We all knew that that would lead to many dilemmas.

The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, was right to remind us that we have duties. It is not just about affections or loyalties. Those who are elected to the House of Commons or to the Irish Dail have duties, but it is not impossible to reconcile the different duties. After all, Rev. Ian Paisley sits in the European Parliament and the British House of Commons. Some Members of the Irish Parliament are British citizens and have sat previously in Northern Ireland.

Our objective should be to engage Sinn Fein in proper constitutional dialogue. When I was a member of a political party—for some of those years I was an Irish affairs spokesman—I refused adamantly to engage with Sinn Fein. I refused to meet them at any stage. I took on my own political party at a party conference when there was an attempt to mandate the Irish affairs spokesman to meet Sinn Fein. Quite properly, conference refused to pass that resolution. It was improper to seek such a requirement and I would not have been prepared to do it while Sinn Fein was engaged in a process that also relied on violence.

I recognise that, as the Unionists and others have said, the decommissioning process has not been transparent enough to determine whether violence has been totally disavowed. That issue is still on the table. Any return to violence would undoubtedly ensure that the process stopped. That would be an historic tragedy, leading to the return of violence on the streets.

If the worst result of this provision was that members of Sinn Fein took their seats in the British House of Commons and started to put their arguments where they should always have put them, I cannot see why that would be a betrayal of the people of Northern Ireland.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, the longer that we engage in this discussion, the more glaringly obvious it becomes that it will be impossible to work the legislation. What does it mean to be an elected Member of Parliament? A Member of Parliament is elected to represent the voters of a constituency. It would be impossible for anyone to represent the interests of their constituencies in both the Dail and Westminster, because their electors would want a constituency service from their representative. The two Parliaments have different electoral systems. The Republic has proportional representation.

Can anyone imagine any member of the major political parties in the Republic—Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or the Democratic Left—coming over to Westminster to ensure that they had a residence qualification? They are not going to be elected to Westminster. The provisions will apply only in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The main parties in the Republic have had adequate opportunity since the Bill was introduced at the other end of this building to voice their support for it, but they want nothing to do with it. Why has no elected Member in the Republic—Back-Bencher or otherwise—stood up and spoken in favour of it? I asked the same question in Committee. The Minister has said that he has had consultations with Dublin. I should have preferred to hear a voice from the Irish Parliament saying that they wanted the Bill. So far that has not happened. Only this afternoon did I hear that, at this late stage, the SDLP has expressed its support for the Bill. I have not yet read that officially and I would be more satisfied to see it in print. Why did no SDLP Member speak or vote in favour of the Bill when it went through the House of Commons? If the Bill is so important, the three SDLP Members should at least have voted in favour of it, even if they did not speak.

The only party that can gain from the Bill is Sinn Fein. If the Government start appeasing and placating Sinn Fein, they do it to the disadvantage of the other constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. That is a very dangerous road to travel.

As a learned member of the Bar, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, knows the value of words. He would probably deny this, but I think that he is probably highly embarrassed at having to push the Bill through the House, because he cannot muster a logical argument in favour of it. If he cannot do so, I do not think that many of your Lordships can do so either.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I have three comments to make. First, many of those who support the Bill have suggested that, by moving against it, we are endangering the links that are developing. That is an extraordinary argument. Are they seriously saying that opposing the Bill would damage a set-up that includes the Council of the Isles, North-South agreements and many other discussions in which people are working together all the time? It is inconceivable that the Bill could change all that and send an unfriendly message.

Secondly, the only people who will benefit from the Bill are Sinn Fein/IRA. Gerry Adams has already been elected to a UK constituency in Northern Ireland. I he is also elected to the Dail, he will be able to say that he represents the whole of Ireland. Other members of Sinn Fein/IRA would do the same. None of the rest: of the Dail could do that.

Lastly, only yesterday the Irish Times reported that there had been a good deal of discussion in the Dail on a proposal to ban the dual mandate that allows TDs and Senators to hold local authority seats. That was recently opposed by Fianna Fail. One TD said that the Dail should reform itself first. He said: There have to be changes to allow us to he true parliamentarians rather than the super county councillors we are at present". Might we not expect that the implications of the Bill would also be of interest to the Dail during such a debate? Nothing was said about it. It is a non-event for everyone in Dublin except Sinn Fein/IRA. I suspect that the reason that we are hearing nothing from Ministers is that in Dublin there is considerable anxiety lest there should be rather a large number of Sinn Fein/IRA people elected at the next election. The Bill is a threat to Dublin as well as to us.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, it is well known that the British Government strongly support the Belfast agreement and wish to see it work. Following the conclusion of that agreement, the British/Irish agreement was made in 1998 and that put on a formal basis links between Ireland and the United Kingdom governments. Included in that, agreement were new institutions to build on and develop the relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland, which is close and mutually beneficial.

Essential and crucial to this new spirit of cooperation and the foundation of the new relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland was the recognition by the Irish Government and all the parties to the Belfast agreement of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom—the principle of consent. In the case of the Irish Government, acceptance of that principle led them to commit themselves in the British/Irish agreement to changes in their constitution to the territorial claim to Northern Ireland so long objected to by Unionists. The Irish Government sought approval for these constitutional changes in a referendum held on 22nd May 1998, which demonstrated overwhelming support for the Belfast agreement and for the proposed constitutional changes. The changes to the Irish constitution took effect on 2nd December with the coming into effect of the British/Irish agreement and devolution in Northern Ireland.

The constitutional changes made by the Irish Government are historic and irreversible. They represent the giving up of what has always been regarded in Ireland as very important constitutional provisions. They were given up in recognition of the new relationship between the two countries. It is in that context that we believe it appropriate to recognise the very close relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland, which is much strengthened and deepened by the new British/Irish agreement and by the Belfast agreement itself.

When the Irish constitutional changes took effect on 2nd December, we believed it only right to follow those changes by removing in this Bill one of the last distinctions made in domestic legislation between Ireland and those other countries with which we have an equally warm and special relationship through the Commonwealth.

I have tried to emphasise on every occasion the very strong relationship that now exists between the two countries. We very strongly believe that placing Irish citizens in the same favoured position as Commonwealth citizens will benefit that relationship both by building good will and by demonstrating the Government's commitment to build on the Belfast agreement in the spirit of co-operation of that agreement. I believe that that will greatly benefit the political process and I cannot accept that it means in any way that the independence of the House of Commons, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the constitutional position of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland will be in any way undermined.

I emphasise that the purpose of this Bill is not to bring about Irish integration by the back-door. The place of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom is confirmed by the Belfast agreement, the British/Irish agreement and in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. We already have many mechanisms in place, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, specifically identified in her speech, for North-South and East-West co-operation. This Bill brings the people of Ireland into line with the people of Commonwealth countries with whom we have similar links.

In answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, whether I accept that a Sinn Fein candidate could be elected both to the Dail and Westminster, the answer is yes, he could in theory, as a result of this Bill. As to whether he would be able to speak for his United Kingdom constituents in the Dail and his Irish constituents in the United Kingdom, the answer is no. He would speak for the constituents for whom he had been elected in the appropriate legislature. That is the constitutional position as a result of this Bill.

This Bill came about for the reasons I have given. I earnestly ask Members of the House to consider the Bill on its merits in the context of the Belfast agreement rather than in the context of the various theories which have been proposed in the course of this debate. I earnestly ask Members of the House to reject the amendment.

Lord Eden of Winton

My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord able to respond to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and others; namely, to what extent has there been a demand, a campaign or a request for this legislation in the Irish Republic?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, this Bill has the support of the Irish Government. They are the elected government of Ireland, which represents very significant support.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, would he care to reflect for a moment that real progress has been possible in the past 15 years because, when his party were in opposition, it quite properly gave full support to the previous government and that progress has been made since this Government came to power because Her Majesty's Opposition have given them great support? If bipartisanship were to break down and we were to begin questioning every single detail of every single Bill in a hostile way, that would undermine the progress that has been made.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I fully recognise the significance of bipartisan support for many aspects of the progress that has been made in the peace process in Northern Ireland. I would very much regret it if such bipartisanship broke down. Perhaps I may make one further point. The SDLP also supports this Bill.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, we support the Belfast agreement and we have done so consistently, as the House knows. We support the new Anglo-Irish agreements which have been referred to. But this is a sinister clause in a sinister Bill. I seek the opinion of the House.

4.26 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 165; Not-Contents, 152.

Division No. 1
Aberdare, L. Bowness, L.
Allenby of Megjddo, V. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Ampthill, L. Brigstocke, B.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Ashcroft, L. Burnham, L.
Astor, V. Buscombe, B.
Astor of Hever, L. Butterworth, L.
Attlee, E. Byford, B.
Baker of Dorking, L. Campbell of Alloway, L
Barber, L. Campbell of Croy, L.
Bell, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Belstead, L. Chadlington, L.
Blackwell, L. Chalfont, L.
Blaker, L. Chilver, L.
Blatch, B. Cockfield, L.
Bledisloe, V. Coe, L.
Boardman, L. Colwyn, L.
Cooke of Islandreagh, L. Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Monro of Langholm, L.
Craigavon, V. Monson, L.
Cranborne, V. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Crickhowell, L. Montrose, D.
Cuckney, L. Moore of Lower Marsh, L.
Cumberlege, B. Moore of Wolvercote, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Deedes, L. Moynihan, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Dundee, E. Naseby, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Newton of Braintree, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Noakes, B.
Elles, B. Northbrook, L. [Teller]
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Northesk, E.
Elton, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Feldman, L. O'Cathain, B.
Fitt, L. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Fookes, B. Oxfuird, V.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Palmer, L.
Freeman, L. Palumbo, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Park of Monmouth, B.
Geddes, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Glenarthur, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Glentoran, L. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Goschen, V. Platt of Writtle, B.
Gray of Contin, L. Prentice, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L. Rawlings, B.
Hanham, B. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Hanningfield, L. Rees, L.
Hanson, L. Renton, L.
Harris of Peckham, L. Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Henley, L. [Teller] Roberts of Conwy, L.
Higgins, L. Rotherwick, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L. Ryder of Wensum, L.
Holderness, L. Saatchi, L.
Home, E. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Hooper, B. Seccombe, B.
Howe, E. Selborne, E.
Howell of Guildford, L. Sharples, B.
Hunt of Wirral, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Inglewood, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Jopling, L. Skidelsky, L.
Slim, V.
Kelvedon, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L
Kingsland, L. Stewartby, L.
Kirkham, L. Strange, B.
Knight of Collingtree, B. Strathclyde, L.
Laing of Dunphail, L. Taylor of Warwick, L.
Laird, L. Tebbit, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L. Tenby, V.
Liverpool, E. Thatcher, B.
Lucas, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Luke, L. Trefgarne, L.
Lyell, L. Trumpington, B.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Vivian, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Waddington, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Walker of Worcester, L.
MacLaurin of Knebworth, L. Wilberforce, L.
Mancroft, L. Wilcox, B.
Marsh, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Young, B.
Miller of Hendon, B. Younger of Leckie, V.
Acton, L. Bach, L.
Addington, L. Barker, B.
Alton of Liverpool, L. Barnett, L.
Amos, B. Bassam of Brighton, L.
Andrews, B. Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Berkeley, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. Bernstein of Craigweil, L
Blackstone, B. Layard, L.
Borrie, L. Lea of Crondall, L.
Bradshaw, L. Lipsey, L.
Bragg, L. Lockwood, B.
Brennan, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Brett, L. Longford, E.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Brookman, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Carter, L. [Teller] MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Chichester, Bp. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L
Christopher, L. McNally, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Maddock, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mallalieu, B.
Clinton-Davis, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B. Mishcon, L.
Crawley, B. Mitchell, L.
Dahrendorf, L. Morris of Manchester, L.
David, B. Newby, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Northover, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B Paul, L.
Desai, L. Peston, L.
Dholakia, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Dixon, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Dubs, L. Puttnam, L.
Eatwell, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Elder, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Rea, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Redesdale, L.
Falkland, V. Rennard, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Richard, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Filkin, L. Roper, L.
Gale, B. Russell, E.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Gilbert, L. Sawyer, L.
Goodhart, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Goudie, B. Scott of Needham Market, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Serota, B.
Gregson, L. Shepherd, L.
Grenfell, L. Shutt of Greetland, L.
Hamwee, B. Simon, V.
Hardy of Wath, L. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L. Strabolgi, L.
Harris of Richmond, B. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Harrison, L. Taverne, L.
Haskel, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hayman, B. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tomlinson, L
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Tope, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Tordoff, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B. Turnberg, L.
Hoyle, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Uddin, B.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Varley, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor) Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Islwyn, L. Warner, L.
Jacobs, L. Weatherill, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal) Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Wilkins, B.
Judd, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
King of West Bromwich, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Kirkhill, L. Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative and amendment agreed to accordingly.

4.37 p.m.

Clause 2 [Disqualification for Ministerial office in Northern Ireland]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton) moved Amendment No. 3: Page 1, line 15, at end insert (", or () be nominated under paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board drawn from the Northern Ireland Assembly),").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, after the feast, we come to a small part of the menu. This group of amendments precludes Ministers, committee chairmen or deputy chairmen in the Irish Parliament who are also Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly from being political appointees to the police board.

This amendment has been tabled in response to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, in the Lords Committee stage of this Bill and a subsequent amendment which he presented for inclusion at the Report stage of the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill. Noble Lords will recall that my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer undertook to consider the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, in the context of the Disqualifications Bill rather than the police Bill. This amendment has no effect on independent applications or nominations to the police board by office holders in the Irish Parliament. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Rogan, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his response and the fact that he has taken heed of the valid case put forward by my noble friend.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 3A: Page 1, line 15, at end insert ("or

  1. (d) stand for election as Presiding Officer or as Deputy Presiding Officer, or to be elected as such, or
  2. (e) be nominated as a Chairman or Deputy Chairman of a statutory committee or ad hoc committee").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 3A, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 3B. We have been over this ground before. Therefore, given that there are other matters to attend to today, I do not intend to take up the time of the House.

The amendments have an important effect. They add to the positions within the Northern Ireland Assembly which cannot be held by a person who holds a "disqualifying office". In Committee the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, indicated that the position of the presiding officer is not subject to the potential conflict of interest to which other positions are subject because the presiding officer has no role in policy development or initiating policy. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord was suggesting that a potential conflict of interest does not arise unless both roles in question involve policy—either the development or initiation of policy. I believe that that is a clear distinction. Does such a suggestion adequately explain the intrusion of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission? If the presiding officer is a member of the commission, will he not be excluded anyway from being a member of that commission? If that is so, why do the Government not wish to include this position as one of the exclusions on the face of the Bill?

The issue of deputy chairman and deputy chairman of committees raises its head again. On this issue we have been straightforward in asking if the holding of the position of a Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the position of a committee chair in the legislature of Ireland raises a potential conflict of interest. We would be grateful for any clarification that the noble and learned Lord can supply.

I wonder why it is that a Minister in the Government of Ireland holding a position of committee chair in Northern Ireland does not provide the same potential conflict of interest, because, on the face of it, there appears to be some contradiction. If it is conceded that a potential conflict of interest does exist, why has such a position been permitted to appear in the Bill?

All I am suggesting in these amendments is a very small measure of consistency on the three points I have mentioned, which is admittedly a small request in the context of what we all have to regard as a rather shoddy and undesirable piece of legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, this amendment is concerned with the position of Presiding Officer or Deputy Presiding Officer: They have not been added to the list of disqualifying offices because they are elected. Unlike Ministers in the Executive, the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer are elected by the Assembly voting together. The Assembly may vote to replace the Presiding Officer at any time. Consequently, the Government do not believe it to be right or necessary to legislate to restrict the Assembly's discretion to elect the person whom they believe to be the most appropriate man or woman for the post.

The Bill has now been extended to preclude chairmen and chairmen of statutory committees in the Assembly from holding one of the disqualifying offices in the Irish Parliament. The Bill does not include the chairmen and deputy chairmen of ad hoc committees simply because they are neither appointed by the d'Hondt process nor do ad hoc committees carry out the same role in making policy and legislation as statutory committees. I can confirm the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, at the outset of his remarks that a role in policy initiation could give rise to the sorts of conflict that have been referred to before.

The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, also raised a question in regard to the Presiding Officer's position as head of the Assembly Commission: that is, if commission members have been excluded, why has not the Presiding Officer? The Presiding Officer's position as head of the Assembly Commission will not be affected by the amendment relating to commission members because, as we have said on previous occasions, the Presiding Officer is elected by the Assembly, and it should be for Assembly Members to decide on who the postholder should or should not be. By virtue of Section 40 of the 1998 Act, the Presiding Officer must be a member of the Assembly Commission, and Members of the Assembly will be able to assess not only a candidate's suitability for the position of Presiding Officer but also for any other post that is automatically awarded to that position, the head of the Assembly Commission included.

The Assembly is also entitled to elect a new Presiding Officer at any time it wishes. This means that, should there be a change in the circumstances of the Presiding Officer, such as having been chosen to join the Irish Government, say, the Assembly itself would decide whether or not this constituted a clash of interests.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, in the light of the clarification provided by the noble and learned Lord, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3B* not moved.]

4.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 4*: Page 1, line 18, at end insert— ("() A person holding office as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board in accordance with paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 ceases to hold that office on becoming the holder of a disqualifying office.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 7 not moved.]

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 7A*: Page 2, line 9, at end insert ("; or () a member of the legislature of Ireland"").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, although this amendment covers what has already been referred to and that which has been spoken to on other occasions, I think there is a need for this to be looked at again and perhaps for some consideration to be given to the points in the amendment, but I will not make a long speech on this matter. However, I raise it if only to discern whether the noble and learned Lord has had some further thoughts on this subject. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, very briefly, this amendment seeks to make it impossible for a Back-Bench Member of the Irish Parliament to take up office in the Northern Ireland Assembly. I and my noble friend Lord Bassam have already explained the Government's view on this point a number of times. We do not believe that there is an automatic conflict of interest involved if an individual is a Minister in one place and a Member in another, or if an individual is a Member in one place and a committee chairman in the other. In neither circumstance is that individual required to make executive decisions for two separate jurisdictions but only in one: just as Members of the other place can also be Ministers in any of the devolved legislatures.

The quite reasonable and understandable amendments that the Government have so far made to the Bill have been consistently concerned with situations where there is no discretion in the selection of candidates for certain offices because of the use of d'Hondt. In all other cases the electorate, the legislature or the head of government has the discretion to select the most able individual concerned. The Government do not believe it is right to remove that discretion and I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I was travelling hopefully, but I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

Amendment No. 8. I have to inform your Lordships that if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 9.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 10, leave out from beginning to first ("chairman") in line 14 and insert— ("() In section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (statutory committees) after subsection (5) insert— (5A) A member of the Assembly who is—

  1. (a) a Minister of the Government of Ireland, or
  2. (b)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords this is a redrafting amendment and it achieves the same result as the current draft, but in a rather more straightforward manner. As currently drafted, the Bill defines who may not be the chairman or deputy chairman of a statutory committee of the Assembly. It precludes a Minister of the Government of Ireland or the chairman or deputy chairman of certain committees of the Irish legislature from holding such offices. It does so at present by requiring Standing Orders to be made by the Assembly to make such provision. On reflection, we consider it better to make this provision directly on the face of the Bill rather than by the more cumbersome method of including provision in the Bill to require such provision to be made by standing order. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 12: Page 2, line 23, at end insert— ("() In section 40 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (which makes provision as to the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission), after subsection (3) insert— (3A) A member of the Assembly who is—

  1. (a) a Minister of the Government of Ireland, or
  2. 555
  3. (b) chairman or deputy chairman of—
    1. (i) a committee of the Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives of Ireland),
    2. (ii) a committee of the Seanad Éireann (Senate of Ireland), or
    3. (iii) a joint committee of the Oireachtas (National Parliament of Ireland),
may not be appointed as a member of the Commission." ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble and learned friend, Lord Falconer gave an undertaking to consider further the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, in Committee to add membership of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission to the list of disqualified offices at Clause 2.

This we have done, and on the basis that the present membership of the Commission is unelected and the commissioners hold positions of responsibility in the Assembly. Such membership is not open to Assembly Ministers, or indeed the chairman and deputy chairman of Assembly statutory committees. The Government agree that the bar should apply to certain office holders in the Irish Parliament who, if elected to the Assembly, might otherwise have been qualified. Consequently, this amendment ensures that no Assembly member who is also a Minister, a committee chairman or deputy chairman of the Irish Parliament would qualify for membership of the Assembly Commission.

Amendment No. 16 is simply a consequential amendment to the Title. We ask your Lordships' House to reject Amendment No. 17 on the basis that the amendments I have outlined will have exactly the desired effect as those moved by the noble Lords, Lord Laird and Lord Molyneaux. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, in the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Laird, I express thanks to the Minister for taking on board some of the points we made. We understand that it is not always easy to concede entirely what we want. However, we are grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the way in which he has endeavoured to meet us on this point.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title:

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 14: Line 4, leave out ("Ministerial office in Northern Ireland") and insert ("certain offices which may be held by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment to the Title is consequential to the government amendments including membership of the Police Board and the Assembly Commission in the list of disqualified offices at Clause 2. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I rise only to say that there will be other amendments to the Title, consequential on the earlier decision of the House, which we shall pursue at Third Reading.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 16: Line 10, at end insert ("or a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]