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Mr. Maginnis : The hon. Gentleman is right. Unfortunately, if I read the selected amendments correctly, we will not have the opportunity to consider that specific point. That is a weakness in this debate.

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The Minister has made a grave mistake about enforcement. In his discussion paper he implies that, while the enforcement of the declaration could occur in the criminal or the civil courts, it would be more effective through the criminal process. I want to draw the attention of the House to the points that my party made about enforcement. In our submission to the Minister we said :

"Any breach of the Declaration must be deemed a criminal offence. Let there be no equivocation on this issue. The proposed legislation is neither for the convenience nor the protection of an individual. It should be portrayed as neither a salve for Unionist sensitivities bruised by 17 long years of terrorism nor as a weapon to be placed in the hands of Unionists."

The one thing that worries Unionists about the way in which the legislation is to be enforced is that it will constantly be interpreted as a weapon placed in the hands of Unionists by the Government and it will cause the greatest chaos and animosity in council chambers where at the moment peace and constructive work is proceeding.

Our submission continued :

"Rather, the Declaration is urgently required in order to protect and maintain those electoral processes upon which our democratic system of Government is founded. It is the primary duty of Government to sustain those processes for the benefit of the electorate." We believe that no self -respecting Government could contemplate an abdication of that responsibility. I hope that the Minister is taking me seriously.

However, we are facing a dilemma. Do we vote against this legislation on Third Reading because it is inadequate and will make a mockery of the Government?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. We are not debating Third Reading yet. The hon. Gentleman should wait for that debate before advising the House of his position.

Mr. Maginnis : I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would not dream of digressing into that or other areas.

The new clause is crucial to the Bill. If we do not have a common-sense approach to it, and if we cannot convince the House of the necessity to accept it and so stop the Government falling into the trap that they have set themselves and also prevent those of us who must serve as elected councillors from having to endure the ridicule that would be a consequence of failing to pass the new clause, the Bill will not have the attributes that would allow us to support it on Third Reading. I urge every hon. Member to vote for the amendments so that we can have some hope of carrying necessary legislation which will sustain the democratic process.

6 pm

Mr. William Ross (Londondery, East) : Nothing is worse than a law that does not fulfil its stated objective. We are discussing just such a Bill which undoubtedly will become law and eventually prove ineffective. As usual, the Government will then blame the people of Northern Ireland rather than their own actions for its failure to deliver.

This group of amendments is intended to make the offence criminal. The Government are dealing with a terrorist conspiracy which combines the openly violent actions of the IRA with the activities of its political mouthpiece, the Sinn Fein. It may well be that in the world at large or in the United Kingdom, some folk still regard those two organisations as separate and distinct, two manifestations of Irish republicanism or Irish nationalism.

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Those people are making a very grave error of judgment. In Northern Ireland, those two organisations are seen as a single seamless web ; they act in concert under the same instructions from the same source. They have an army command. The IRA is a military organisation which runs on orders from the top. Decisions are taken from the top in the same way as the Conservative party take its orders from 10 Downing street and carries them through for good or for ill. The IRA and Sinn Fein organisation has always worked in that way. That is why all Sinn Fein councillors are members of the IRA.

In the past, Ministers at the Northern Ireland Office have related to the House the statistics of convictions of those who serve as Sinn Fein councillors. It is evident from those convictions that all those councillors who had been convicted were active, ruthless members of that terrorist organisation. Those who know the situation in Northern Ireland know perfectly well that all the other Sinn Fein councillors are people whom the IRA can trust or they would not have been chosen. The IRA can trust them, because, until now, they have carried out the orders which the army council of the IRA issued to them and which they obeyed.

The House is treating this matter far too lightly. Looking around the Chamber, I see rather less than a dozen Members of the House of Commons which is one of the oldest democratic institutions in the world. Hon. Members are failing in their duty to turn up and listen to a debate on how an attack on the democratic structures of this country has evolved and has reached the stage were the democratic structure itself is being used by a terrorist organisation to undermine and destroy the will of the majority. It is very sad that Members of Parliament of the United Kingdom do not take a far greater interest in this matter. If they did, their understanding of the situation would increase rapidly and there would be much more willingness to listen to the Unionist case which is so soundly based.

The Government are trying to treat one aspect of the activities of the IRA and Sinn Fein as a civil matter when it is simply part and parcel of the IRA strategy. The IRA violence is half that strategy, which set off a bomb in Londonderry last night. Not for the first time, the action was aimed at the legal structure because the bomb was placed in front of the court house. The Sinn Fein councillors who sit and take notes of what Unionist councillors say and carry that information out are the other half of that strategy. It represents the Armalite in one hand and the ballot paper in the other in action and the Government have not seen fit to treat it with the seriousness or the legislative precision that would defeat the purposes of the organisation which the matter deserves and demands.

The Minister was busily shaking his head on a number of occasions during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis). No matter what the Minister thinks, I can tell him quite bluntly that Sinn Fein councillors and Sinn Fein candidates could not lightly or easily repudiate or disavow the IRA or the PIRA--to be precise, we are discussing the Provisional IRA, and not the official IRA. No Sinn Fein council candidate and no Sinn Fein candidate for election to this House could easily say, "I repudiate my military masters." They could not do that. The Minister, the Prime Minister, the Government and the Conservative party have not accepted that reality. They simply refuse to listen

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to those who live in Ulster, have grown up among such people and know how they think and how they act, as I do. The Northern Ireland Office and the Government, in refusing to accept the amendments, are demonstrating once more the double thinking, the double standards and the parallel attitudes that are so often evident in their approach to Northern Ireland.

As has already been pointed out, Ministers will not meet the Sinn Fein members of any council. Two Sinn Fein councillors were elected out of the five representatives of my local area, so no one can tell me that I do not know about Sinn Fein republicanism. Ministers will only meet them at arm's length through their officials. The same Ministers who refuse to make this a criminal offence will come to the House next Tuesday to defend their attitude in another Bill applying to Northern Ireland, clause 5(7) of which treats what is in effect contempt of court as a criminal offence.

If Ministers think that we do not notice their double standards and double think, let them take note that we understand what they are doing. It may well be that Ministers at the Northern Ireland Office are so blind that they do not realise what they are doing and they do not understand that they are not presenting a cohesive policy against murder and terrorism in Northern Ireland. But we see it and we understand it. The IRA understands it and believes that lack of decision and cohesiveness is a clear sign that the Government will some day surrender. If we are ever to convince the political mouthpieces of the IRA that they will be defeated, the Government had better produce a cohesive policy.

The Government's approach is wrong. They know that it is wrong. Paragraph 15 of the Government's consultation paper referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone states : "Enforcement of a declaration could either be through the criminal or the civil courts. Breach of a declaration could be made a criminal offence."

Paragraph 16 stated, "alternatively"--the Government always need to have at least two doors open and if those do not suit them they will invent a third. It further says that the enforcement procedures might operate through the civil courts.

What force moved the Government to adopt the second option? Which argument persuaded them to take a road that they must know--as we know--in our heart of hearts will prove completely ineffective?

Rev. Ian Paisley : The Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr. Ross : The hon. Gentleman correctly anticipates what I was about to say. Pressure was put on the Government by another source. The Government are so weak and so lacking in understanding that they were incapable of understanding the result they chose. The pressure resulted from the Anglo-Irish Agreement and came from Dublin. We have had the softly -softly approach for 20 years--20 years of murder, arson, violence, defeat and retreat. Within the next month, this Government will have been in power for 10 years--10 years under the rule of the party of law and order. If this is the best that they can do, the sooner the Northern Ireland Office is cleared out and replaced by people who mean what they say, the better for us all. They have failed to deliver peace, to deliver order on the streets, to defeat the IRA and to deliver the economy. Failures have no place in the esteem of Unionist Members.

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Mr. Ashdown : I apologise for the fact that from time to time I might have to leave the Chamber.

I rise for the second time to correct the inaccuracies of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). The hon. Gentleman said earlier that he did not know--and by the way in which he said it, it appeared that the world did not know--that I am an Irishman and proud to be so. The fact that I was brought up in Ireland has appeared many times in the Belfast Telegraph and the Newsletter. I imagine that the hon. Gentleman does not read those newspapers to bring himself up to date with Irish affairs.

A further incorrect statement issued from the mouth of the hon. Member for Antrim, North about the Alliance party in Northern Ireland. He misled the House into believing that it supported new clause 2. I make it perfectly clear that it does not. No doubt this is not the first occasion on which the House has had cause to doubt what the hon. Gentleman says or whether he who claims to be an authority on Northern Irish matters has nevertheless misled the House--perhaps inadvertently--on important issues.

I am delighted to hear the comments of the hon. Member for Antrim, North and the overheated comments made elsewhere because it shows that the Alliance party is having some effect in Northern Ireland. In the few years that it has been in existence, it has done more for peace and reconciliation than has the hon. Member for Antrim, North throughout the long and bitter years of his political career. I say that with all the passion of an Irishman who knows what he is talking about.

The record should be clear about the Alliance party's attitude to new clause 2. In evidence that it submitted, it said :

"We are concerned that making the declaration a criminal offence will lead to unnecessary problems regarding proof and evidence. Would, for instance, a refusal to stand as a mark of respect to someone murdered by terrorists be grounds for disqualification? While it may be reprehensible, we feel it would not be sufficiently serious on its own merits to justify a criminal prosecution."

New clause 2 would create and give publicity to the people to whom we are trying to deny it. The proposals of the hon. Member for Antrim, North, like so much else that he proposes, would not add to the cause of peace but would precipitate and foment trouble.

6.15 pm

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South) : With your customary generosity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have allowed a wide-ranging debate on new clause 2. I will keep my brief remarks in order, but at times I may stretch your generosity of spirit when replying to one or two of the points that have been made.

Every debate on Northern Ireland arouses deep feelings and emotions. Those feelings and emotions were illustrated by the speeches of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and those of hon. Members of the Official Ulster Unionist party. I share some of the feelings of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) about the hon. Member for Antrim, North. The hon. Gentleman is a symptom and cause of the problems of Northern Ireland. Every time he speaks in the House he does nothing to advance the causes of consensus but pours petrol on its problems, inflaming passions in the troubled Province. I find it difficult to take

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a lecture from him about violence, especially given his ambiguity over the use of it in the past and presumably in the future. I shall refer briefly to an article that appeared in the Irish News on 11 November 1986. I understand that the hon. Member for Antrim, North was present at the launch of what was called Ulster Resistance. At the meeting, the hon. Gentleman is alleged to have read a statement of intent by the leadership of Ulster Resistance which said that it

"resolved to band together to take whatever steps are necessary to destroy the Agreement and the ongoing republican conspiracy." A report states that the hon. Gentleman said that the new movement would mobilise

"the men of Ulster into an organised and disciplined force and would embark on a recruitment of men willing and prepared to take direction as and when required. Such action will be strictly disciplined, calculated and controlled.

To rapturous applause"--

presumably the hon. Gentleman is accustomed to such a reception in the circles in which he moves--

"Mr. Paisley said he was prepared to give the movement his undivided support' and"--

the next words should be noted--

" whatever political cover it needed'

Mr. Paisley said that he was aware of the seriousness of the course of action he was embarking on, but said it was necessary if they were to destroy the Agreement. To prolonged applause he warned that the new force was not a bluff'."

To my simple mind, that would appear to be incitement to the use of violence and to effect political ends in the north of Ireland.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : On the same subject, which is related to the amendment, does my hon. Friend remember the picture and the articles that appeared in the press some years ago when the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) stood on a well-known hillside in Northern Ireland with a group of men in serried ranks who were holding aloft their gun licences? The hon. Gentleman was clearly acknowledged as their leader. I cannot imagine that such actions will help the people of Northern Ireland, and it amazes me that the hon. Gentleman should do them.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention has nothing to do with declarations about standing for local government. We must get back to the new clause.

Mr. Marshall : It is certainly my intention to get back to the new clause, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I gave those quotations to illustrate the hon. Gentleman's ambiguity on the use of force. It ill behoves the hon. Gentleman to lecture the House on its attitude towards either the Government's policies or the Opposition's policies on the north of Ireland, when many of his statements and intentions appear to exacerbate an already serious situation in that troubled Province.

Hon. Members from the Province are urging the Government to accept responsibility for the implementation of legislation. Unfortunately, that does not form part of the new clause, but it has been the main thrust of their arguments. As Official Unionist Members know, Labour Members share their desire to make the Government responsible for the implementation of the legislation. If

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hon. Members from the north of Ireland are so intent on achieving that objective, I suggest that they support amendment No. 8. The criminalisation that new clause 2 would introduce will not achieve those ends. I agree with the right hon. Member for Yeovil that it will make worse an already desperate situation in the north of Ireland. It will lead to further intimidation of witnesses and to people being extremely reluctant to come forward and give evidence in criminal cases. For that and the other reasons that I have stated, if there is a Division we shall support the Government and oppose the new clause.

Mr. Molyneaux : Some of my hon. Friends have remarked on the comparatively small attendance at the debate. We do not have far to look for the cause of such low attendance. With all its defects, the House of Commons has a degree of collective perception. It can perceive occasions when it is doing a real job of work--fortunately, that is most of the time- -and it can also perceive when it is acting out a charade. Hon. Members both present and absent are aware that the latter is the case tonight. Hon. Members would be required to participate in a charade in which they and the country do not believe. The few representatives from the press--the news industry--who are present will confirm that statement.

There is hope on the horizon. The Under-Secretary has it in his power to bring purpose to the debate and the legislation. To do him credit, shortly after the local government elections in the spring of 1985, the Under- Secretary responsible for local government engaged in the most exhaustive discussions and consultations with practically every legitimate group of councillors in Northern Ireland. He had submitted to him reasonable and workable proposals to do what he wanted to do, which was to remedy the hideous situation that had resulted from the local government elections which had shocked hon. Members on both sides of the House. They could not understand how people in their right minds could vote for Sinn Fein candidates who openly and unreservedly supported and advocated the policy of the ballot paper in one hand and the Armalite in the other, and who had no hesitation in condoning acts of violence on occasions when it suited them. Unfortunately, that was on a good many occasions.

Faced with what they recognised as a serious and grave problem, Ministers made one correct decision. They resolved that, as Ministers of the Crown, they would not meet or consort with Sinn Fein elected representatives. I agree with that decision. However, they did not follow it up. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends are serving councillors. The Government did not absolve them from the requirement to sit side by side in council chambers with Sinn Fein councillors and to listen to abuse dished out by those councillors to members and relatives of fallen members of the security forces.

If an individual councillor is now to take any action--this is the problem with which we are faced--he will be intimidated first and later shot, if not by some Sinn Fein councillors doubling up as members of the IRA, by their fellow travellers who are not far removed from them.

I hope that my next point will be returned to in debates on subsequent amendments. I refer to a council's difficulty in taking action and initiating a prosecution if that council is to be at the mercy of the public auditors, and its

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members severally and individually surcharged. As things stand, there does not appear to be any way in which members of a council of any party can acquire cast-iron legal advice and guidance on what may or may not subject them to surcharges and penalties. I hope that that will be resolved.

After three and a half years of reflecting on all the advice--I am sure that he did it with the best intent and that he tried to find a solution-- the Minister must be generous and realistic and admit that he has not found the remedy for the problem. Sinn Fein will sign the declaration. It has already announced that it will do so. I imagine that, at its conference, along with its fellow travellers, no doubt sitting with their guns at the ready, it will reinforce and clarify its determination to sign the declaration. It is equally certain that Sinn Fein will proceed to breach the declaration. Unfortunately, no effective action can or will be taken. We might as well face up to that, because it will be the reality.

My hon.Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) stated that we had sought to avoid tendering our advice to the Minister. The subject of our new clause was one element in the advice that we gave him in the early days. My hon. Friend said that we had done our best to avoid making the Minister's task more difficult and that, for that reason, we put forward what we and the House would consider to be reasonable and workable proposals. We take the same attitude tonight.

New clause 2 is designed to carry forward that work. It offers the Minister yet another opportunity to make the Bill more effective. I hope that he will accept the new clause or, if he is not inclined to do that, that he will undertake to introduce something similar in another place.

6.30 pm

Mr. Needham : This has been an excellent Second Reading debate and an even better Third Reading debate, and it has covered most of the amendments down for consideration. I shall try to keep as close as I can to the new clause and be as quick as I can.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and several of their hon. Friends called for proscription. The new clause is not about proscription, but even if there were proscription in Northern Ireland it would not do away with the need for this legislation.

Mr. Molyneaux : If the Minister were asking me now whether I advocated proscription, I would say yes. But I am seeking not to embarrass the Minister by asking for something that might embarrass him. That was why I did not suggest or request proscription. I would prefer to settle for new clause 2.

Mr. Needham : The right hon. Gentleman does not embarrass me in either event. Even if there were proscription, which the right hon. Gentleman now says he would call for, which I think was accepted on Second Reading, there would still have to be a Bill of this nature to ensure that those who stand under different colours and different guises were caught if they were to advocate terrorism or support violence in further elections. The hon. Member for Antrim, North, in his tour around the glens, said nothing against the need for the Bill.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) said that the wording, to which he particularly referred,

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would not be effective because it avoided the words that had been put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) in, as he said, a helpful document calling for repudiation. The hon. Gentleman criticised the Government for their failure to introduce effective legislation in the past. If there is to be legislation, the House would want it to be effective. There could be nothing worse than to introduce legislation which would not work in practice.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East said that the use of the word repudiate would make it much harder for the followers of terrorism, from wherever they may come, to sign such a declaration. I do not understand why, because, if they were so minded, I suspect that they could find whatever arguments they so wished to get round it. If the word repudiate formed part of the declaration, it would apply only at the time that a candidate signed the declaration. What form would the repudiation take? There is nothing in the declaration, nothing suggested in any amendment here or in Committee, to say how representatives would be asked to handle repudiation. Would they be asked to repeat their repudiation? Would there be certain propositions to which they would be asked to assent to show that they had fulfilled their repudiation? The whole point of the declaration is that it is concerned with deeds and words, not with a form of prior approval for terrorism which would be unenforceable in the courts.

Mr. Maginnis rose --

Mr. Needham : I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a minute. I want to finish this point. I have listened to the hon. Gentleman for quite a long time this afternoon.

I am not a lawyer, but when bringing forward legislation it is sensible to ensure that we do not fall into the trap of using political words which sound wonderful on the lips of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East, but mean nothing when it comes to making the legislation effective in the courts of Northern Ireland. Nothing that has been said today by the hon. Member for Londonderry, East, the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) in Committee, or the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone would in any way lead me, the Government or anybody else listening to believe that the word repudiate would be effective or achieve its end within the courts.

Mr. Maginnis : I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, even though he did so reluctantly.

Mr. Needham : Not reluctantly.

Mr. Maginnis : I understand the Minister's embarrassment, because in putting forward his argument against the word repudiate he has defeated his argument for any sort of declaration. However, let me help him by giving him the proper legal opinion about the word repudiate. A learned senior counsel states :

"I am quite clear that the word repudiation in any other situation will be construed by the courts according to its ordinary and natural meaning'. My authority for that is the extremely important House of Lords case Brutus v. Cozens (1973) AC 854 that said the meaning of an ordinary word of the English language in a statute is not a question of law but of fact. Accordingly a normal dictionary meaning will be given which according to the Oxford Dictionary means disown, disavow, reject, refuse dealing with, refuse to recognise'. Accordingly it seems that the word repudiated is

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appropriate for the declaration in the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill."

That is the opinion of a senior counsel.

Mr. Needham : With respect, the hon. Gentleman cannot have paid attention to the second part of what I was saying. He may be right about the word repudiate if, as the hon. Member for Londonderry, East suggested, its use meant that the declaration was not signed. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone appears not to be interested in the argument.

Repudiation applies to a particular time and it faces backwards. What actions would have to be taken thereafter once a councillor was elected which would prove whether that repudiation had continued? There is nothing to suggest that words or deeds are required within the declaration and the Government have been advised that the use of the word repudiate would, on its own, be ineffective. That is the point to which I want to come.

I have listened to hon. Members carefully. We are talking here about the effectiveness of the declaration. Will it or will it not work? Is there any reason to make the failure to sign it a crime or a civil offence? If it is to be a crime, is it more or less likely to be effective? I am not impugning, and have not at any time impugned, the integrity of Opposition Members about their consideration and concern on the effectiveness of the declaration. Unfortunately, they have not taken the same line with me. Therefore, the question that I want to ask is why Opposition Members seek to make it a crime when there are strong arguments, in principle and in practice, against doing so.

Mr. William Ross : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Needham : I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman as I have already done so twice.

First, I am not sure that fines and imprisonment are necessarily the appropriate sanctions for the breach of a declaration. Breaching a declaration is not a criminal act. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has pointed out during our debates the amount of criminal legislation that exists for acts and deeds. A breach of the declaration is not a criminal act. If expressions of support are used by councillors or assembly members, those people can be removed from office. Disqualification is the right penalty for people who, in council chambers or in the assembly, support acts of violence or terrorism.

Secondly, existing electoral law is enforced largely by civil means through election petitions. That is a much more appropriate analogue than using the criminal law, which will not have the effect that hon. Members seem to think. It is not right for the prosecuting authorities to bring actions for breach of the terms of the declaration. As the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) said, there could be no quicker way to create martyrs and give a propaganda advantage to the supporters of violence than to have actions brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr. William Ross rose--

Mr. Needham : I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's point as to whether it should be the DPP or the Attorney-General when we come to the next group of amendments.

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The standard of proof, which is different in the civil and criminal laws, would mean that criminal cases required evidence of reasonable doubt to be successful, whereas in civil cases only the balance of probability needs to be proved. These amendments would not, as the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley seems to believe, make the declaration easier to enforce or more effective. It would have exactly the opposite effect. Hon. Members have argued that the Bill will not work because it depends on who brings the action, but, in the next breath, they propose an amendment that makes it more difficult to bring an action and obtain a conviction. What do hon. Members want? Do they understand the difficulties of introducing criminal, rather than civil, law?

If, unfortunately, these amendments were incorporated in the Bill, the people of Northern Ireland would find that the legislation was less effective. When they studied the evidence, they would see where the blame for that lay. On that basis, I ask the House to reject the amendments.

Mr. Flannery : I want to take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall). He suggested that we agreed with the Government. That may be so in respect of this amendment, but, generally speaking, I profoundly disagree with the Government, as I do with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), because they are all wrong. I do not condemn my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South.

Mr. Jim Marshall : I am sure that my hon. Friend does not condemn me, but may I make it clear that I said that, if a Division were called on this group of amendments, we would vote with the Government.

Mr. Flannery : I assumed that, although I am not sure about the form of words used by my hon. Friend.

This debate was inevitable. It is not often that I act as a referee. My hon. Friend and I do not live in Northern Ireland, whereas the hon. Members to whom I have referred do. They are subjected to terrible fears and horrors that we do not experience, although we receive many threats through the post. I know how they feel and appreciate that there is a historic background to the issue.

When this Bill, to which we are totally opposed, was introduced, it was clear that it represented an intensification of the struggle and would therefore cause all kinds of upsets. There is already enough trouble without Bills that intensify the struggle.

6.45 pm

New clause 2 states :

"Where a person has made a declaration for the purposes of section 3, 4 and 5 of this Act and has acted in breach of the terms of that declaration, he shall be guilty of an offence, punishable on summary conviction to a fine or to imprisonment."

Section 21 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 prohibited the requirement of oaths, undertakings or declarations as a condition of appointment or of service on public bodies in Northern Ireland. That provision was introduced because Ireland was oath-ridden. The Bill is hagridden with this kind of thing. The Government must be dreaming if they believe that someone who wants to be a Sinn Fein councillor--the Bill concentrates on Sinn Fein--will not take an oath to be a councillor. Many will take the oath, but it lays itself open to all kinds of abuse. If such

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a person cannot be a councillor, even though he might be opposed to violence, it means that a certain section of the electorate in Northern Ireland cannot vote for that kind of thinking. Eleven per cent. of the vote is Sinn Fein.

There are no hon. Ladies present. It is disgraceful that we do not have sufficient women in this place, but the Establishment is not bothered about having women in here.

Hon. Members will disagree with what I am saying because they are so desperate to find a solution that they keep thinking up quick solutions to the problem. They did not put forward this amendment in Committee but have brought it forward here.

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