HL Deb 30 November 2000 vol 619 cc1475-91

1B Lord Cope of Berkeley rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that this House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered No. 1A, leave out "not".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1B standing in my name to insist on your Lordships' Amendment No. 1.

It remains our view that this is a dangerous Bill for Northern Ireland and for the rest of the United Kingdom. That is well known to your Lordships. I do not propose again to detail all the arguments, although I shall touch on some points. It was made clear by the noble and learned Lord that the question for consideration today is not only about the dangers of the Bill but also about your Lordships' House insisting on the amendment. Whatever may happen in the future, this House reflects the decisions taken last year on its membership. Its powers are settled in the Parliament Acts. There is no doubt that we are legally entitled to insist on this amendment. Whether or not we should do so is a matter of judgment. That is partly a question of the effects of the Bill but also a question of the nature of the Bill. There can be no question but that this is a constitutional Bill.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, the question as to who sits in the legislature of any country is clearly a constitutional matter of the highest importance. I do not profess to be an expert on international constitutions, but I have never heard of a country with a written constitution that does not, among other things, fix who sits in the legislature. It is also a normal feature of written constitutions to fix more elaborate methods than mere legislation to ensure wide support for changing the constitution—so-called entrenched provisions. For example, the Irish constitution provides, among other things, for a referendum on a change to the constitution.

Presumably, the House of Commons also agrees that this is a constitutional measure, as the Committee stage was held on the Floor of the House and not in the usual Standing Committee. Many people believe that this House has a special responsibility in respect of constitutional Bills. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said so only yesterday in another debate.

Furthermore, the Bill was not in the Government's manifesto—

Lord Richard

My Lords, I do not believe that I said that. I recollect that the point I sought to make was that the only circumstance in which it would ever be justifiable for this House to insist on an amendment would be one which raised a grave constitutional issue. I do not believe I ever said that I thought this House had a special responsibility for constitutional matters.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I have the words in front of me. The noble Lord spoke about a major constitutional issue being at stake. I hope that I did not misrepresent him—if I did, I apologise. However, he certainly made the point that there was a difference between some constitutional issues and other issues when it came to the use of our powers. I am grateful to the noble Lord for indicating his agreement to that.

Apart from that, the Bill was not in the Government's manifesto. It was not in the Belfast agreement which on other occasions we have been told to follow word by word, almost slavishly. It was not in the British/Irish agreement. It was not even in the Queen's speech last year. It was introduced as a matter of great urgency—so it was said at the time—into another place, all stages being taken on 24th and 25th January. It was not discussed again by another place until a few hours ago, when it was discussed for three hours under a guillotine.

In those circumstances, we are not only entitled to insist on our amendment but have a duty to judge carefully whether the Bill is in the national interest. It is our view that it is not. If the Bill were carried, the principal beneficiary would be Sinn Fein/IRA. Few people, if any, will want to sit in both Parliaments at the same time. However, Sinn Fein would be able to try to have people elected simultaneously for both United Kingdom constituencies and Dail seats, not to take advantage of the seat in Westminster—we know that it spurns doing so—but in order to claim to represent parts of the United Kingdom in Dublin in the Dail. That would be most damaging to the United Kingdom.

The argument also used by Ministers concerns the peace process, good will and so forth. The right honourable Mr Howarth, the Northern Ireland Minister, speaking in the debate in another place not long ago, referred to the warmth of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. He indicated that it was like the Commonwealth, which it left 50 years ago, and greater than with any other European Union country, even those which have been our allies in peace and in war. Even the Prime Minister yesterday referred to the Commonwealth analogy in reply to the right honourable Mr Trimble.

Therefore, I make no apology for repeating that the Commonwealth comparison is rubbish. No Commonwealth MP has ever sat in Westminster at the same time and in practice none will ever do so. The Minister gave up using that argument long ago in our debates in this House; and quite rightly, too, because it was exploded. I am shocked that no one has told the Prime Minister what a bogus argument it is.

The fact is that no one can legally represent two different constituencies at the same time in the House of Commons. No one can sit in this House and in another place. This Bill provides a right for Irish citizens to represent two different constituencies in two different sovereign Parliaments whose national interests sometimes differ. The noble and learned Lord said a few moments ago that we had our separate interests. Of course we want good relations with the Republic and its government, but we have our separate interests. The two Parliaments also have separate interests, and no man can serve two masters.

I emphasise "Irish citizens" because no one who is not an Irish citizen can sit in the Dail. As far as I am aware, there is no proposal by the Irish Government or anybody else to alter the Republic's constitution to allow us to sit in the Irish Parliament. There is no reciprocation at all from the Irish Government or Sinn Fein. All that the Irish Government have said this week while this matter has been coming to the boil is that they will not support Catholics joining the Northern Ireland police service. There is not much good will in that. We believe that this is a one-sided Bill in which we should not acquiesce.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1A, leave out "not".—(Lord Cope of Berkeley.)

Lord Rogan

My Lords, I speak in support of the amendment. By now all noble Lords are aware of the issues which surround the Bill. It is yet to be confirmed to me, and to the satisfaction of others in this House, who exactly demanded this shameful measure of constitutional reform. However, one does not require the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Morse to infer from the consequences of this Bill who demanded it: plainly and simply, it was Sinn Fein. That is the only party to benefit from the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, said, this measure is not part of the Belfast agreement which is the basis for constitutional reform in Northern Ireland. An agreement that we cannot cherry pick appears to be the very document to which the Government can attach other measures.

In another place this very afternoon the Minister defended this measure on the grounds that it was consistent with the Belfast agreement. I should like to correct that error. The Belfast agreement is founded on consensus which clearly this measure does not have. A belated and half-hearted statement of support by the SDLP should not be interpreted as anything other than that. It is not an indication that that party supported this measure at the outset, merely that the SDLP was pressurised either by the Government or Sinn Fein to make some kind of statement of support.

There is no support by parliamentarians in the Republic of Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has told this House on more than one occasion of the lack of support by parliamentarians in the Republic of Ireland. No reciprocal measure is to be introduced in the Republic of Ireland. Should Members of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland be able to sit in another place, or in the Northern Ireland Assembly, if Members of the United Kingdom legislature are unable to sit in Dublin? That is not correct.

When I refer to Members of the United Kingdom legislature I mean all of them; but only MPs from Northern Ireland constituencies, not from the mainland, may be permitted to sit in the Irish Parliament. Is the Minister aware that the Government of the Republic of Ireland, even if they wanted to reciprocate—I believe that they do not—are unable to do so without reforming their constitution? Further, they cannot do that without a referendum on an amendment to the Republic's constitution. Indeed, I believe that the Irish Government are not minded to amend their constitution. But then the Irish Government are not permitting Sinn Fein/IRA to dictate to them on this issue of constitutional reform.

Here in the United Kingdom we can amend our constitution without a referendum. We can amend our constitution by passing a Bill such as this.

We are under a duty to consider carefully the Bill as it amends our constitution. But we are not under a duty to please and placate Sinn Fein at every juncture. If anything, the Disqualifications Bill should actually disqualify persons from membership of another sovereign parliament and ours. It should remove the anomaly of the Commonwealth parliaments, not add to that anomaly by including the Republic of Ireland.

If countries with which the United Kingdom has special relationships are to receive favourable amendments to our constitution, which will be next? The United States, with which we have a special relationship, left the Commonwealth in 1776. Will it be next to have its disqualification removed? Or is that conditional on Sinn Fein demanding it? I urge and plead with noble Lords to accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and bury this constitutional monstrosity.

5 p.m.

Lord Smith of Clifton

My Lords, as has been apparent from the previous two contributions, those noble Lords opposed to Amendment No. 1 tend to couch their strict constructionalist rather black-lettered legalistic arguments in somewhat apocalyptic terms with warnings of dire consequences. It is their view that not only the hallowed canons of constitutionalism are being contravened, but, worse, the floodgates are being opened to the most rampant forms of Irish nationalism. Such argumentation is all rather too far-fetched.

It is that sort of mindset which ferments disunity within the ranks of unionism and inhibits the development of a more positive and modern interpretation of unionism that is congruent with contemporary realities and attempts to make the Belfast agreement work.

Those noble Lords who support Amendment No. 1 believe that positive benefits may ensue from having one or two representatives who hold seats in Dublin, London or Belfast. That point was made by my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland on Report. As the noble Lord, Lord Rogan said, we should seek reciprocity from Dublin in that regard.

Some element of cross membership may be beneficial and may help to melt the somewhat frozen attitudes that either end of the dialectical spectrum invariably characterise our debates on Northern Ireland. It is time that that the era of old men in bowler hats, collarettes and long johns is consigned to the museum of political history. For that reason the Liberal Democrats support the Commons amendment.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My Lords, at every opportunity in this House I have asked the question: who has asked for the Bill? Your Lordships' House has yet to hear an answer. It was not unreasonable to ask that because it is only when one knows who has asked for a Bill that one can have a reliable idea of how it will be used if it is passed.

I noticed a significant distinction between the speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, on the Dome and on this Bill. Yesterday he was at great pains to point out that it was the Conservative Party which had asked for the Dome. The noble and learned Lord was perfectly entitled to do that. He did that on a number of occasions. Indeed, he did little else. No one can complain that the matter was irrelevant. It was highly relevant. It may not have carried the noble and learned Lord very far, but it was relevant.

But when it comes to answering the same question about the Bill we do not get an answer. The nearest he came to giving an answer was to say to me that it is an inappropriate question. When that answer was first given there was such a guffaw from all sides of the House that one might have been back in the House of Commons.

I do not easily make difficulties for the Government in their Northern Ireland policies. I have tried hard to be supportive of them. They have been right to try to build confidence. But where they have gone wrong here, if I may suggest it respectfully, is that they have failed to recognise how fragile unionist confidence now is. If the Bill is forced through without an answer to the question, "Who has asked for it?", it will be very bad for unionist confidence. That is a very serious matter.

The only other explanation for the Bill was given by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, at Second Reading when he said that, this surely is now the right time to extend this modest courtesy to the Irish Parliament".—[Official Report, 27/7/00; co1.721.] I should like to suggest that it is now high time that a modest courtesy was extended to our own Parliament by giving an appropriate answer to the question I have put.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, as I listened to the "Today" programme this morning, the lady who reads the news—presumably she had a script in front of her—said that today in the House of Lords the Disqualifications Bill would be discussed, a Bill which would ensure that Sinn Fein would be able to sit both in the Irish Parliament and in the British Parliament. There you have it. The BBC knows what the Bill is about. I know what it is about. But there we had a national broadcast telling us what the Bill is all about. No one else in the political arena of the island of Ireland, North or South, has asked for the Bill.

As I came into your Lordships' House, I heard that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, had made reference to me, saying that I was out of step with the SDLP. He is quite right. I left the SDLP five years before I became a Member of your Lordships' House. I left the SDLP because, as I said then, it was getting too close to extreme republicanism. That is why I left the SDLP. Had I agreed with the SDLP, I would have been expressing the same sentiments as it is expressing today.

Throughout our debates on the Bill I have repeatedly posed the question, as have other noble Lords—the question was being asked in the other place today—"Who has asked for the Bill?" None of the major political parties in the Republic has asked for it. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or the workers' party have not asked for it. Before I came into the House today I watched the proceedings in another place on television. I was hoping to see a member of the SDLP saying, "We want the Bill. We have asked for the Bill". Why is it that every time the Bill is discussed in the House of Commons, no SDLP Members are there? Is it because they are frightened of the Bill? Even more seriously, is it because they are frightened to say that they are frightened, as Sinn Fein is at the moment a very direct threat to the SDLP?

The SDLP knows very well that none of its members will fight for a seat in the Dail. It knows very well that no one from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or the other major parties will fight for a seat over here. Indeed, they could not fight for a seat over here because they would have to have a residence qualification. There is no reciprocation whatever. An Englishman sitting in the other place could not fight for a seat in the Republic because he has to be an Irish citizen to sit in the Dail. It seems that the traffic is all one way.

As I watched on the monitor what was happening in the other place, it all became clear to me. On the previous occasion we discussed the Bill I was watching the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. He read every word of what he was telling the House. I watched George Howarth today. He read every word. My mind went back to the House of Commons, where I was an MP for many years. One of my close and dear friends, a man whom I revered, was Michael Foot. When Michael Foot stood at the Dispatch Box and read every word, we all knew that he did not believe in a word he was saying. I would say that to him later in the Corridors, and he would confirm it. The same thing is happening here.

We have heard the argument about the Commonwealth. I do not believe that it is valid.

Perhaps I may interject against myself and say that if there was not a single unionist or Protestant Member from Northern Ireland sitting in the House, I would say exactly the same things. I am not persuaded by any unionist or Protestant argument; I am persuaded by my conscience.

Last week or the week before, I read the Irish newspapers after I had spoken in the House. An old friend of mine—an old-time journalist—commented on this House and referred to the unionists and the House taking an anti-Irish stance, as the House has reputedly done over many centuries, particularly in 1993. I am sorry that my former friend had to question my motives in speaking as I do in this House on this Bill. I am expressing honestly the concerns of many people in Northern Ireland, who see the traffic all going one way.

I have a press report of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said in the House two or three weeks ago. It states: He told Peers in the House of Lords last night that 2,804 people had been murdered in the province between 1969 and last month … But charges had only been brought in respect of 958 murders … There had been 1,860 civilians murdered (688 charges), 441 soldiers (106 charges), 300 members of the RUC (111 charges)". Those kinds of figures activate the minds of the people of Northern Ireland. It may only be a press report or a quote from Hansard, but that is not the way it affects people in Northern Ireland. I have often said that you could walk from the Belfast Telegraph office through Belfast's main street, Royal Avenue, at any time of the day, and you would be certain to walk past some of the people who have carried out those atrocious murders. That is what makes the people of Northern Ireland think as they do.

As to the question of the Commonwealth, I heard again today that we must treat Ireland as we would any other part of the Commonwealth. As I have said, Ireland left the Commonwealth of its own volition in 1949. If we must treat Ireland as we would any other part of the Commonwealth, does that mean that we will allow a representative from Ireland to attend the next Commonwealth conference? That would be one way of treating Ireland as any other part of the Commonwealth. We all know that no one from the Commonwealth has ever attempted to take up what they have been permitted to do. If that had been the case, we could have Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe sitting here, or some of the other so-called parliamentarians of Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth argument does not hold water.

I am opposing this Bill because of my total and absolute abhorrence of the men of violence in Northern Ireland. I have lived through the violence for many years. The IRA succeeded in burning my house and everything in it, including every memento that I had acquired throughout my married life. It did so because it could not intimidate me into agreeing with what it was doing, and it could not intimidate me into keeping quiet about what it was doing. I have no hesitation in saying what is my motivation: I deplore and detest every action of the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries, although it was the IRA who caused the damage to myself.

Sinn Fein is, to use the jargon, inextricably linked with the IRA. If Sinn Fein were not tied to the IRA and acting as its political wing, I should have no hesitation in supporting the Bill. Sinn Fein could have within its ranks people who would make good public representatives and, indeed, good Ministers. It is because of its link to the men of violence that I oppose this measure.

There is no doubt that something has happened behind the scenes. No one knows what is the motivation behind this obnoxious little Bill. Perhaps we shall know in 30 years' time when the papers are made available. The promulgation of this measure is an attack on democracy—not because of the wording, but because of the motivation behind it; because it has been demanded by Sinn Fein/IRA, which will be the only political party in Northern Ireland to gain from the Bill.

I repeat: why did not the SDLP issue a public statement? Why did its members not stand up yesterday, or when the Bill received its Second Reading, and say that they supported it? That is difficult to understand. I heard the Minister say today that the Irish Government support the Bill. Why did no one in the Irish Government stand up in the Irish Parliament and say, "We are quite happy with the content of the little Bill that is going through Westminster. We find no objection to it"? No one has expressed support for it.

I repeat my statement that the Bill has been demanded by Sinn Fein. It is inextricably linked to the men of violence who have carried out so many murders and wrecked so many lives in Northern Ireland. I cannot support anything that Sinn Fein demands.

5.15 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and again I salute his courage. No one in this House speaks with greater authority on Northern Irish matters. I am sorry that I did not hear his intervention, but I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, was "rolled out" once again yesterday as the "big gun" to give an obiter dictum on the propriety or otherwise of your Lordships rejecting the Government's NATS proposals yet again. The noble spoke of the importance of exercising our judgment rather than our full powers in that case. When he was challenged by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, he went on to make the distinction to which my noble friend Lord Cope alluded a moment ago.

In that instance, I agreed wholeheartedly with the judgment of the noble Lord, Lord Richard. Like him, I believe that the full exercise of our powers should be a "nuclear" option, used sparingly and if possible not at all. The noble Lord was right when he said (at col. 1329) that further resistance by your Lordships would be justified only, if a major constitutional issue were at stake". The noble Lord knows, and has even been kind enough to acknowledge on the Floor of the House, that he and I have agreed on matters affecting your Lordships more often than some people outside the House might expect. I only hope that that agreement has not caused him too much embarrassment in his own party. Knowing the noble Lord, I am sure that it has not.

In spite of the fact that I would go further than the noble Lord in wanting to see the powers of this House as a constitutional long-stop increased and even become enshrined in convention and possibly in statute, I am interested to find that the noble Lord has not yet been rolled out on this particular issue. Perhaps he is holding his fire. However, I understand why the noble Lord was rolled out: it was due to the respect and affection with which he is regarded on all sides of the Chamber, as a former leader of his party in this House and, indeed, as a former Leader of the House. It is absolutely right that he should talk about noble Lords exercising their judgment. I suspect that the noble Lord and I will find ourselves in separate Lobbies yet again this evening. I am sorry about that, because it seems to me that this is a case where noble Lords ought really to think seriously about exercising their judgment.

We have heard this Bill variously described by members of the Government Front Bench in this House as either, "a mere piece of tidying up—rectifying an anomaly", or, by the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, as "a part of the choreography of the Good Friday agreement". If it is the former, it is a matter of minor importance to the Government. In that case, I have to ask: why are they so keen to promote it, and why have they agonised so much about the tactics used as it has been pushed through Parliament? But if it is the latter, as my noble friend Lord Cope and other speakers have said, it is a matter of major importance. If that is the case, why have not the Government come clean with Parliament in their explanations as regards what lies behind this Bill?

Like other noble Lords who have spoken, this seems to me to be a thoroughly pernicious and dangerous piece of legislation. It endows Members of another place with a divided loyalty. I venture to remind your Lordships of a phrase of Queen Elizabeth I, which was used in another context; namely, that she did not like her dogs to wear foreign collars. I believe that that encapsulates why that is unwise for people who will be elected to what is still, at least in some instances, the sovereign Parliament of our country.

This Bill panders to Sinn Fein/IRA's desire to be able to claim to represent parts of Northern Ireland in the Dail before the people of the Province have expressed a wish to leave the United Kingdom. In doing so, I fear that it will make the unification of Ireland more likely rather than less likely, because it will make it seem even more inevitable than many of the Government's activities thus far have made it seem.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to allude to my following point when he concludes the debate on behalf of the Government. If my information is correct, this Bill was demanded by Sinn Fein/IRA with Mr Ahern, the Taoiseach, acting as an intermediary between them and our Prime Minister. As I understand it, it was demanded as a price for Mr Adams' silence in the wake of the five famous hand-written promises issued by our Prime Minister before the referendum on the Good Friday agreement took place—promises which, I should remind your Lordships, were not kept in the event.

The question before us is both big and important. As your Lordships have pointed out, it is embodied in a nasty little Bill. We have always supported the bi-partisan policy on our side and, indeed, when in government, we were extremely grateful when the party opposite supported us in turn. However, I hope that noble Lords will agree that we have always made it plain that, should things go too far, we would withdraw our support. Indeed, it seems as though the bi-partisan policy is supporting something that, in particular, appeases terrorists more than appears to be remotely sensible.

Even in its own terms, it seems to me that the Government's policy is not working. Indeed, within minutes of the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill being passed by your Lordships' House, it was being flouted by Sinn-Fein/IRA. It is as if its members are laughing in the face of the Government by encouraging Roman Catholics in the Province not to join the police force, which was, of course, one of the principal reasons that the Government initially gave for introducing that legislation. In my opinion, this Bill is even worse. It appeases the terrorists; it will not persuade them any more than the police legislation did to throw away the Armalite in favour of the ballot box. I am in no doubt whatever that not only should noble Lords throw out the Bill again on its merits, but also, in view of the constitutional and radical nature of what is proposed, I suggest that they would be well within their rights to do so.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I have listened to many speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, on the subject of Northern Ireland. I think that he has used the expression "appease the terrorists" against the Government on several occasions and on several different measures. So there is nothing unique about the accusations that he made today.

My noble friend Lord Fitt and I have been friends for many years. I have known him since he was in the Commons. I very much respect him as a person of integrity and as someone who has suffered from terrorism. I have been fortunate not to have suffered from terrorism although other Members of this House have so suffered. Anyone who has suffered directly from terrorism obviously speaks with more moral authority than those who have not. I think nevertheless that he will allow me to disagree with him on this occasion in the spirit of friendship which has always characterised our debates here and our friendly discussions outside.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, both said that the Bill is dangerous. They may disagree with the Bill. They may think that the Government have made an error of judgment. However, I believe that the word "dangerous" is an exaggeration in relation to a Bill the consequences of which will be much smaller than has been suggested.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that with the Bill on the statute book our Government have every right to say to the Government in Dublin that they should reciprocate and pass measures to grant the same rights to British people to seek to enter the Dail as will be granted the other way in this legislation. However, the bottom line is that Northern Ireland is different and the relationship between the British Government and the Irish Government is different from the relationship we have with any other government in the world. Northern Ireland is pivotal to that different relationship.

There are all kinds of arrangements between the British Government and the Irish Government involving Northern Ireland which are quite different from the arrangements we have anywhere else; for example, the cross-border bodies, the north-south ministerial council, and so on. Therefore it is not that unusual that we should seek as a government to introduce a measure which is different from that which would in effect apply elsewhere. I understand that as regards the Commonwealth it would apply in the same way but it would have more bite as regards the relationship between this country and Ireland.

My understanding is that the Government of the Republic support the Bill, the SDLP supports the Bill and Sinn Fein also supports the Bill. This is not just a matter of dealing with Sinn Fein. Indeed, I believe that the main effect of having this Bill on the statute book—

Lord Laird

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Will he join me and others in this spirit of friendship in encouraging the Irish Government to ensure that they implement fully the Belfast agreement, applying human rights to the same standards that apply in our country to those people who are discriminated against on religious and political grounds in the Irish Republic? Will the noble Lord join me in that call to the Irish Government?

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I certainly will. I certainly call all the people who are parties to the Good Friday agreement to adhere to all elements of that agreement, be it opposition to discrimination, support of human rights or whatever. I gave that assurance at the Dispatch Box when I was a Northern Ireland Minister and I am happy to repeat it. I am happy to discuss the details of the matter with the noble Lord at any time in the friendly spirit which characterises our discussions.

The main effect of the Bill would be that a Member of Parliament representing a Northern Ireland constituency would be active in the Irish Parliament, in the Senate in Dublin rather than in the Dail. It is much more likely that Seamus Mallon or Gerry Adams would find a place in the Senate. Therefore they would not represent a constituency in the traditional sense in which Members of the House of Commons represent their constituencies.

I do not believe that that is such an untoward outcome. If it helps in the peace process, if it helps in better relationships between the British Government and the Irish Government but, above all, if it contributes to peace in Northern Ireland, I think that it is not a bad thing.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I join with the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in his total condemnation of terrorist violence. There is no justification for it and the guiding principle of this Government has been to counter the incidence of paramilitarism in every form and at every point. The people who support the Bill—the Irish Government, the British Government, the SDLP and the Women's Coalition—would not agree with the characterisation that this in any way promotes violence.

This Bill removes a disqualification for membership of the House of Commons. It is a Bill which the House of Commons has just passed, having put back Clause 1 by a substantial majority. It was not and could not have been in the manifesto because it is a product in part of the consequences of the Belfast agreement and the improving relationship between the British and Irish Governments. Both the Irish Government and the British Government believe that it would contribute to the peace process. They believe that it assists the relationship between the two governments which the governments believe are a substantial foundation for the improved relationships which have led to the continuation of the peace process.

That is a judgment that has been made by the British Government. It is a judgment that has been made by the Irish Government after very considerable thought and consideration of the issue. The Bill would allow Members of the Dail to sit in the House of Commons, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the other assemblies or parliaments in this country. The electorate would be able to decide for themselves whether they are prepared to countenance a Member who is or might be also a Member of the Dail.

I respectfully ask Members of this House to consider carefully the fact that the peace process is a matter where delicate judgments have to be made. Those are judgments which have to be made in part by the British and Irish Governments. They have made a judgment that this modest measure helps. I suggest that it would be wrong for this House to override that judgment.

Finally, in another place, my honourable friend Mr Howarth, the Under-Secretary of State, undertook to raise with the Irish Government the issue of reciprocity; that is, removing the requirement of Irish citizenship which is a requirement for membership of the Dail. I ask noble Lords not to insist on their amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, we support the Belfast agreement, the British/Irish agreement and the cross-Border bodies to which agreement has given rise. The existence of those cross-Border bodies makes this Bill less necessary. They provide for the co-operation which has been spoken about.

The noble and learned Lord spoke a moment ago of this Bill as a consequence of the Belfast agreement. I remind noble Lords that the Belfast agreement was hammered out between the parties involved, line by line and word by word over agonising weeks and days, eventually through Maundy Thursday into Good Friday. Every word was carefully weighed; and this measure was not a proposal on the table let alone in the agreement at that time.

We are told that we should accept it in the interests of good will between ourselves and the Irish although, as the noble and learned Lord said in his opening speech, we have our separate interests. Of course we want good will. But we were told a few days ago that if we passed the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill we would see better co-operation. Not only has that not materialised, the measure has so far been rejected.

We still believe that the Bill has great dangers. I was standing by to deal with new points from the Government's side but there were none. No new points have been raised. I wish, therefore, to press the amendment and seek the opinion of the House.

5.34 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 138; Not-Contents, 158.

Division No. 1
Ackner, L. Denham, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L. Donaldson of Lymington, L.
Allenby of Megjddo, V. Eccles of Moulton, B.
Ampthill, L. Eden of Winton, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Elles, B.
Ashcroft, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Astor, V. Elton, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Feldman, L.
Attlee, E. Ferrers, E.
Bagri, L. Fitt, L.
Baker of Dorking, L. Flather, B.
Blaker, L. Fookes, B.
Blatch, B. Freeman, L.
Blood, B. Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Goschen, V.
Bridgeman, V. Greenway, L.
Brigstocke, B. Hanham, B.
Burnham, L. [Teller] Hanningfield, L.
Buscombe, B. Harris of High Cross, L.
Butterworth, L. Harris of Peckham, L.
Byford, B. Hayhoe, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Henley, L. [Teller]
Campbell of Croy, L. Higgins, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Chadlington, L. Hogg, B.
Chalfont, L. Hooper, B.
Colwyn, L. Howe, E.
Cooke of Islandreagh, L. Howe of Aberavon, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Howell of Guildford, L.
Courtown, E. Hunt of Wirral, L.
Craig of Radley, L. Jopling, L.
Craigavon, V. Kimball, L
Cranborne, V. Kingsland, L.
Crickhowell, L. Laing of Dunphail, L.
Cumberlege, B. Laird, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L. Rawlings, B.
Luke, L. Rees, L.
Lyell, L. Rees-Mogg, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
McFarlane of Llandaff, B. Renton, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Mancroft, L. Rogan, L.
Marlesford, L. Rotherwick, L.
Marsh, L. Saatchi, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. St John of Fawsley, L.
Miller of Hendon, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L. Seccombe, B.
Monro of Langholm, L. Selborne, E.
Monson, L. Sharples, B.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Newton of Braintree, L. Skidelsky, L.
Nickson, L. Slim, V.
Noakes, B. Stewartby, L.
Northbrook, L. Strathclyde, L.
Norton of Louth, L. Swinfen, L.
O'Cathain, B. Taylor of Warwick, L.
Onslow, E. Thatcher, B.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Trefgarne, L.
Park of Monmouth, B. Trumpington, B.
Parkinson, L. Vivian, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L. Walker of Worcester, L.
Peel, E. Walpole, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L. Wilberforce, L.
Powell of Bayswater, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Prentice, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Prior, L. Young, B.
Acton, L. Falkland, V.
Addington, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Ahmed, L. Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Alli, L. Filkin, L.
Amos, B. Gale, B.
Andrews, B. Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Gladwin of Clee, L,
Ashton of Upholland, B. Goldsmith, L.
Attenborough, L. Goodhart, L.
Bach, L. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Barker, B. Grabiner, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Greaves, L.
Blackstone, B. Greengross, B.
Borrie, L. Grenfell, L.
Bradshaw, L. Guildford, Bp.
Bragg, L. Hamwee, B.
Brennan, L. Hardy of Wath, L.
Brett, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Brookman, L. Harris of Richmond, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Harrison, L.
Burlison, L. Haskel, L.
Carter, L. [Teller] Hayman, B.
Castle of Blackburn, B. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Chandos, V. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Howells of St. Davids, B.
Clement-Jones, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Hoyle, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Crawley, B. Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Dahrendorf, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L. Jacobs, L.
Donoughue, L. Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L. Judd, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. King of West Bromwich, L.
Falkender, B. Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L. Roper, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L. Russell, E.
Lipsey, L. Russell-Johnston, L.
Lockwood, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Longford, E. St. John of Bletso, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L. Sandberg, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller] Sandwich, E.
Sawyer, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B. Scotland of Asthal, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L. Scott of Needham Market, B.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L. Sharman, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Shutt of Greetland, L.
McNally, L. Simon, V.
Maddock, B. Simon of Highbury, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Smith of Clifton, L.
Massey of Darwen, B. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Methuen, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B. Strabolgi, L.
Mishcon, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Mitchell, L. Taverne, L.
Morris of Manchester, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Newby, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Northover, B. Thornton, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L. Tomlinson, L.
Parekh, L. Tope, L.
Perry of Walton, L. Tordoff, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Plant of Highfield, L. Uddin, B.
Prys-Davies, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B. Walmsley, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L. Warner, L.
Razzall, L. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Rea, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Redesdale, L. Whitaker, B.
Rendell of Babergh, B. Whitty, L.
Rennard, L. Wilkins, B.
Richard, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L. Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.45 p.m.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am in some difficulty. The other place is still discussing the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill and we have to await the Message that it has accepted the Lords amendments. The best I can do is to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure to await a Message from the Commons. We shall then display on the annunciator screens the time at which we expect to receive that Message. I believe I am correct in stating that once we have received it, I can then adjourn the House to await Prorogation.

Lord Henley

My Lords, before the noble Lord moves that Motion, I wonder whether he can give the House some idea as to when he thinks the other place might be sending forward the amendments. Could he suggest that we adjourn for two hours, three hours or whatever and then come back and let us know?

Lord Carter

My Lords, I think it would be safer to adjourn for the moment during pleasure so that I can find out what is happening. The procedure in the other place is not nearly as well whipped as ours! The debate on the Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill is taking longer than we expected. I believe that a number of Conservative Members are taking a particular interest in it. There is also a Business of the House Motion and another matter to be dealt with. Rather than adjourn for two or three hours and then find that we could come back at 7 p.m., it would be easier to adjourn during pleasure. The moment we are able to place a time on the annunciator screens, we shall do so.

Lord Henley

My Lords, the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip is a member of the Government. Therefore, we presume that he has some idea of what his colleagues are doing in another place.

Noble Lords


Lord Henley

No, my Lords, I am serious. The Government have total control over their business in another place. They seem to be issuing guillotines every day, night and day. Can the noble Lord give us further advice as to when we might come back? There is no point in saying one hour or two hours. I cannot say. It is up to the Government, who control the other place, to say when we might come back. Can the noble Lord assist us?

Lord Carter

No, my Lords, I cannot. It is as simple as that. I understand that there is not a timetabled Motion on the Bill which is being discussed. That has to be completed in order for a Message to be sent, and I understand that it is open ended. I assure noble Lords that it would be simpler to adjourn the House during pleasure while we await a Message from the Commons. The moment we know that we will receive that Message, we can come together, receive it and adjourn for prorogation.

Lord Henley

My Lords, how will we know when we are coming back? Would it not be better if the noble Lord said that that would be at least one hour?

Lord Carter

My Lords, if it is easier, I can adjourn the House for one hour. If we find that we could have returned at 6.15 p.m., I think that the House will be cross. I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 6.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 5.49 to 6.30 p.m.]

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am reliably informed that the other place will be able to send us a message at 7 o'clock on the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill. At that time I shall be able to tell the House at what time we will prorogue.

I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 7 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[House adjourned during pleasure from 6.31 to 7 p.m.]

Lord Carter

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 7.30 p.m. for the Royal Commission.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.1 to 7.30 p.m.]