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Mr. McGrady : I was struck by the new-found concern of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) for

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the culture and traditions of the Republic of Ireland. In his speech, he wandered around the British islands. He referred to the cultures of Wales, Scotland, England and the Republic of Ireland. Strangely enough, he did not refer to Northern Ireland. I hope that he did not mean by that that we do not have an unique culture in Northern Ireland. That portrayed to me, and perhaps to the House, a sense of lack of identity from which my parliamentary colleagues representing Northern Ireland sometimes suffer. Perhaps that is the real background to the amendment.

We should be looking forward to 1992, but the hon. Member for Londonderry, East has taken us back to 1962 when the Electoral Law Act was passed by the then Unionist regime in Belfast for political reasons, to prevent citizens of the Republic of Ireland from voting in local government elections. Today, there are people in Northern Ireland who moved there when they were very young, and who have brought up their families and have children and grandchildren but who have never been able to vote in local government elections. Like other residents, they have paid their rates, so in the past 30 years there has been taxation without representation in Northern Ireland. Underlying what might be described as the honeyed words of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East was a degree almost of racism and sectarianism. I found that very sad because I thought that we were slowly moving away from such attitudes, and that we were trying to bring together the communities in Northern Ireland. The people whom he wishes to disenfranchise are, whether he likes it or not, part of the people of Northern Ireland, who perhaps 30 years ago came to live among us, are married and have brought up their children in Northern Ireland. The amendment is almost racist and sectarian. It is certainly a political attack on a measure to grant universal franchise to the people of Northern Ireland. Ironically, it contradicts the expression used by the Leader of the Official Unionist party, who frequently uses the phrase "the totality of relationships within these islands". I feel that the amendment is trying to put up the electoral wall running from Derry to Newry, which I consider is a retrograde and small-minded step backwards. The amendment also belies what I hoped to be some sign that the Unionist parties were prepared to stretch out their hands a wee bit more than they have in the past, as I hoped that I and my party would be able to do to heal and cement divisions. The amendment is a retrenchment back to 1962. When the veneer of macro- economics is stripped away, it is clear that the hon. Member for Londonderry, East is really saying, "Don't let those people vote because they are not likely to vote Unionist", despite the fact that the franchise would be extended to many people who are not inclined towards Nationalism. I understand that the spouses of British forces stationed in Northern Ireland would be enfranchised for the first time under the Bill, but not under the amendment which would disenfranchise them. Sadly, in the honeyed words of the hon. Gentleman I detect the old entrenched position of giving not an inch and I hope that the House will see the amendment for what it is --just another political sectarian gimmick that is 30 years old.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North) : I shall not delay the House for long because I agree almost entirely with what the Minister said about the amendment. The Opposition tabled a reasoned amendment to the Bill

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on Second Reading because we appreciated the value of clauses 1 and 2. The Government were very clever to include those clauses in the Bill because they had us on Morton's fork ; if we voted against the Bill, we were voting against giving the vote to the citizens of the Republic of Ireland, but if we let it through we would be seen as agreeing with the rest of the contents of the Bill. However, we refused to fall into that trap.

I wish to raise two points of considerable importance. First, the amendment goes against the trend of what is happening in western Europe. There is a breaking down of boundaries between nations and an understanding and sharing of burdens across national borders, across the Irish sea and across the English channel. There is an understanding that we are part and parcel of a greater community. The amendment goes against that trend.

Secondly, at a time when we are seeking to heal people within a community, if one were to accept the logic of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) for the sake of argument, one could concede his position about votes for national Governments but surely that does not apply to local government. We are seeking to knit people together in a local community and to make them part of the community in which they live and for which they pay their local rates and local taxes, and to get them to accept responsibility for their immediate environment and their relationships with their fellow citizens. For that reason we believe that it would be regrettable if the amendment were accepted.

Finally, perhaps the hon. Member for Londonderry, East has forgotten that citizens of the Republic of Ireland serve in our security forces in Northern Ireland. Are they to be denied the vote?

Mr William Ross : There are also Gurkhas serving in our security services as part of the Army of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) spoke about breaking down boundaries and national identities. I wonder whether he has thought about where that might lead in the case of the Irish Republic and Irish nationalism in general, and the logical conclusion of his argument.

The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) spoke about people who are not British citizens voting in British elections. Such people cannot get British passports at present, but they could easily become British citizens if they wished to do so. The fact that they do not wish to do so only adds to the strength of my argument that folk need to show an allegiance to the state in which they wish to vote. I confess that I did not mention Northern Ireland, but I referred to all of Ireland as an area from which there has been emigration to this island. That has not been on such a large scale in some parts of the north-east of Northern Ireland because people could go to the Belfast basin where there was a large industrial city and greater employment opportunities than existed in most of the Irish Republic. I believe that the fact that we have been losing people from Northern Ireland has helped us to maintain our Ulster identity. Earlier in the debate I detected the willingness of the hon. Member for South Down to be considered as an Ulsterman rather than an Irishman. I almost always welcome such a change in attitude, even from the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, North and South Down tied the local government franchise to rates and local taxes. I thought

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that the House had buried that idea a long time ago. It was one of the principal reasons for the civil rights movement and one man, one vote. The hon. Gentlemen said that they regarded the qualification as desirable for local government elections.

8.30 pm

The Minister drew attention to the similarities in voting rights but neglected to mention what was said in Committee, which he defended--that one must still be resident in Northern Ireland for three months before one can vote in local government elections. He said that there was a fear of people crossing the border from the Irish Republic to vote in Unionist- vulnerable wards, thus tipping the balance. By his defence of that difference, which is maintained by the Bill, he proved the validity of my case.

As the amendment has no chance of being made, and because I believe that the House will return to the matter in a national context, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6

Breach of terms of declaration

Mr. Needham : I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 3, line 5, after Act', insert

in connection with a local election, an election to the Northern Ireland Assembly or the filling of a casual vacancy in a district council'.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 26 and 27 and amendment No. 22, in schedule 2, page 11, line 5, leave out , if elected,' and insert

after nomination until the declaration of the count and, if elected, during the life of the elected authority'.

Mr. Needham : Amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 27 seek to tidy an ambiguity in the Bill.

The declaration in schedule 2 makes it clear that it will apply only if the declarer is elected. Clause 7(1) refers to breaches of declaration committed by someone while a member of a district council or of the Northern Ireland assembly. It is not immediately evident to the reader of clause 7 that the councillor or assembly member concerned must have been elected at an election in respect of which the declaration against terrorism was made. The purpose of the amendment is to make it explicit that the position is such. The obligations imposed by the declaration relate only to the period of office following the election at which the declaration was made. The amendments are important because they clarify the position of sitting councillors who will be candidates at the district council elections in May 1989 by ensuring that sitting councillors are not bound in 1989. They reflect the principle that the declaration binds only in respect of the period of office for which it was made. At the 1993 and subsequent local elections, some councillors will be sitting councillors. All will be bound by declarations entered into before they were elected or co-opted to councils. The declaration will continue to bind sitting councillors during the election campaign--unless of course they resign before the election campaign starts--as is right and proper when councillors are exercising the responsibility of elected

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office, which under the Bill includes an obligation not to express support for or approval of proscribed organisations or acts of terrorism.

Amendment No. 26 makes it clear that the declaration binds from the moment that a councillor or assembly member is declared to have been elected.

Mr. Clifford Forsythe : I am relieved to note that Government amendment No. 26 is similar to amendment No. 22. Without wishing to cast any reflection on the civil servants in the Box, I believe that amendment No. 22 is better drafted. The difference between amendment No. 26 and amendment No. 22 is that amendment No. 26 does not cover the election period, whereas in amendment No. 22 we suggest that it should be covered.

At present, certain organisations are not allowed to appear on the media. In the forthcoming elections in Northern Ireland in May, representatives of those organisations will have access to the media and will be able to express all the views that are currently banned. During election campaigns in my constituency, posters were pasted across motorways, roads and pedestrian walkways. I received a number of complaints because they caused offence to local residents. In future, I will have to tell my constituents that because they are electoral posters they cannot be removed until the election campaign is over.

Regardless of their views, candidates will be able to send whatever they like by post at the taxpayers' expense. Those who are trying to bring down democracy will be entitled to send seditious leaflets by post. Indeed, they will be encouraged to do so by the Bill. There are certain areas in most constituencies in which election workers and canvassers will be entitled and encouraged by the Bill to canvass. I can imagine the complaints that the police will receive when large crowds of party supporters enter estates, bearing various coloured flags and banners.

During election campaigns, cavalcades enter every district and estate. Music is played and the candidate addresses voters through a loudspeaker. I can imagine certain areas where that would be most unwelcome. Those who support terrorists, murder and bombing will be entitled to enter those areas.

Leaflets are put through ratepayers' doors during election campaigns. One can imagine the enormous offence, aggravation and anger they cause simply by being dropped on to the mat. Let us think about polling day, polling stations and the cars that are used to take people to vote. People are faced with certain emblems at polling stations. I can well imagine that they insult and anger various people. There are personation agents inside polling stations. I can imagine the anger that they cause. All those matters are banned during non-election periods. That does not seem sensible. We are disappointed with the Bill, and if the amendment is not accepted, we will not support it. I must make it clear to the Minister that Unionist Members had high hopes of a Bill that would improve matters. I am sad that we have not yet managed to achieve such a Bill. We will push the amendment to a Division.

Mr. William Ross : Amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 27 are interesting, because they are the only ones that the Government have chosen to move. They will weaken the

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Bill. For that reason, my party opposes them. The Government's amendments are defective in that they are designed to allow all candidates to say whatever they like during an election campaign. The Government believe that if folk are allowed to advocate violence during an election campaign, they will diminish their support. That is completely wrong. IRA members are doing what their supporters want. The Government believe that IRA members can establish themselves as the folk who support the armed struggle, that that will carry on even after an election, and that they will always be known to their own supporters--after all, there are 100,000 of them--as the people who support the boys behind the wire, or the fellows in the black masks supporting the murderers. If the Secretary of State and his Ministers are acting on that assumption, they have been sold a small pig in a poke. They should have looked at it more carefully before they bought it.

IRA supporters glory in the murders and the successful acts of violence by the IRA. They glory in the fact that people are prepared to stand up publicly to defend such acts. They will vote for those who support the people who commit murders, bombings, intimidations and knee-cappings. Anyone who lives in Northern Ireland and knows the IRA cannot doubt that that is so.

Having made their statements during the election campaign, if they wish to remain members of the council, and if they wish to remain beyond the reach of the law, Sinn Fein councillors will be extremely careful about what they say. Third parties will make the statements that they might otherwise make. Therefore, the Bill has a great big barn door right in the middle of it.

8.45 pm

The Unionist amendment is a practical way of dealing with the matter. It is a highly accurate targeting exercise. Perhaps I should not say "targeting exercise", in deference to what it could mean in Northern Ireland. The amendment would be accepted by any Government who were serious about making life difficult for murderers in Northern Ireland.

There have been differing approaches by the Government and Unionist parties. That illustrates the Government's feeble effort. The only reason we oppose the Bill is that we believe that it is so feeble that it is ineffective. As the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) said, it will bring the law into disrepute. The IRA's Sinn Fein element will sign the worthless declaration that the Government have drawn up. The Government refuse to consider our point in relation to "repudiation" and "repudiate". The Minister dealt with that point, but he failed to give way to me. I hope that we will have a chance to deal with it again on Third Reading to show how wrongly he has assessed the matter. The Government are making it clear that they are prepared to allow an easy way out for the IRA. I say "IRA" advisedly, rather than "Sinn Fein". There are matters of credibility and of selling itself if the IRA signs a repudiation and then breaks its word.

A proper appreciation of the need for a properly effective Bill is absent from the Government's thinking and from the advice that they have taken. Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe the Government have been given advice from other sources and they have ignored it also. I am simply pointing out the effect of ignoring that advice. The result will be more disillusion in Northern Ireland whenever the Bill fails to deliver. There will be more despair in Great Britain

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when another addition to the legal armoury is seen to be ineffective. Once again, the Government have added another feature to the long catalogue of failure which has characterised their approach to Northern Ireland in the past 20 years.

What will happen whenever a fellow goes outside the law? The IRA will not go outside the law hotheadedly. It will do so cold bloodedly, deliberately, and for a carefully thought out reason. IRA members may perform acts en masse or as individuals at different times and in different places. If they decide to do something, they will be careful. They will do it wisely and well from their point of view. They are not stupid. Our amendment would ensure that council proceedings are taped. The amendment arises from an incident in a council in my constituency, about which the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) will be aware, where words spoken were apparently noted by a reporter but were not available next day. Councils do not keep records such as the one that is being kept of my words this evening. They record only decisions, and perhaps votes. How is any accusation to stand up in court if there is no accurate record of the words spoken? I hope that the Minister will be able to answer that, and also that he will be prepared to say from where the funds will come--something that he has so far ignored--if the individual councillor or citzen is supposed to meet the cost. So far, we have not had a satisfactory reply. The Bill is useless, but it is even more useless if the funds are not available from some source or another.

Rev. William McCrea : I support amendment No. 22 which seeks to insert the words

"after nomination until the declaration of the court and, if elected, during the life of the elected authority."

rather than the Government amendments. Ministers have once again allowed a clear flaw in the Bill.

The Sinn Fein representatives of the terrorists will be fully aware that they can say whatever they like during an election campaign. They can pass every insult against the security forces that have defended democracy through trying years in our Province ; security forces who deserve the fullhearted support of every hon. Member. They can gloat over every atrocity. They can mock at the murders that they have already committed. They can vocally support the IRA during an election campaign. They can drum up support for the men of terror during that campaign. Yet nothing will be done against them. Nothing that they say will be used against them, because it will be said under cover of an election campaign.

We all know that the IRA and its spokespersons will be fully aware of that fact. They know that under this legislation there will be a curb on their vocal outbursts in the council chambers if some member of the general public is courageous enough to use it and to put his life on the line. If such a person takes a stand against a spokesperson for the terrorists in defence of freedom of speech and democracy, he may pay for it with his life.

The IRA knows that it can say whatever it likes. It can gloat over every atrocity in the United Kingdom. It laughed at the eight soldiers who were blown to bits on the Ballygawley road in my constituency. That was the forerunner of this legislation. In the light of that, the Government said that something would be done. The IRA can gloat over UDR members and the sorrow and grief of

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RUC members. During the election campaign it can call upon young people to join its ranks and proclaim that the IRA deserves the population's fullhearted support.

It is a fact that to be elected at the next election the IRA will do all that because there is a hard core Republican vote. As my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) said, there are around 100,000 Sinn Fein voters in Northern Ireland elections. Their support will be drummed up during speeches by spokesmen for the terrorists. There is no doubt that the IRA will be delighted to parade through the streets of Ulster clasping the Armalite in one hand and the ballot in the other.

The Minister finds nothing wrong with that ; that is all right. Those people are doing it to be elected. If they can use the lack of legislation before the election, they will certainly use the legislation after the election. Those who think that the members of Sinn Fein are all fools, that they are illiterate and do not know how to exploit Britain's neglect of democracy in Northern Ireland, are far mistaken. I am convinced that during an election campaign we shall be faced with continuous gloating over the destruction and murder of the good people of Ulster, whether they be soldiers, UDR personnel, members of the RUC or the innocent citizens throughout the community.

Why should Sinn Fein get off? It will be interesting to hear the Minister tell the House why he thinks that those who are vocal in their support and calling for support of the Armalite and the ballot box should get off during the election campaign. The people of Ulster have suffered for too long. I am convinced that if Sinn Fein members stood on the mainland during an election campaign and gloated over the murder of the eight British soldiers in my constituency a few months ago, a Minister would soon be rushing to the Dispatch Box to close any loophole because there would be such a volume of objection from the community.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, especially at election times, from nomination day onwards, measures should be in place to ensure that no one exhorts others to violence for political gain, and that it is most important that every candidate should guard his words to ensure that he is elected on the basis of good common sense and reason to deal with the practicalities and needs of the constituents whom he desires to serve?

Rev. William McCrea : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and wholeheartedly agree with him.

I am convinced that the vast majority of those who stand in an election will say nothing to the detriment of democracy in Northern Ireland, but, alas, there is a group of people in our Province, which is part of the United Kingdom, who have no thought for democracy. They do not care how hurtful their words will be or how vicious their actions. There will be support for acts of terrorism in our Province.

When an election is called, we should ensure that candidates who are elected to local councils in Northern Ireland have an interest in the people and in democracy and are not out to destroy the basis of democracy in the United Kingdom.

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9 pm

Mr. Maginnis : I need scarcely add to what my hon. Friends have said about amendment No. 22 which states :

"after nomination until the declaration of the count and, if elected, during the life of the elected authority"

members should be prevented from promoting violence, or at least commit themselves not to promote violence.

I wish to seek clarification from the Government about their amendments Nos. 25 to 27. I want to paint for the Minister a picture which I hope he will either refute or confirm. If the Bill is enacted, I, as a presently elected member of a district council, could not, during the lifetime of the next council and coming up to the council election in 1993, promote violence of any sort. However, a new candidate who has not previously been elected would be quite free, during the run-up to an election, to do so.

Mr. Needham indicated assent.

Mr. Maginnis : I see the Minister nodding, so he is obviously telling me that there is an anomaly in the Bill.

Mr. Needham : No.

Mr. Maginnis : I cannot promote violence during an election campaign, but a new member can do so. What the Government have done about that anomaly is astounding. Instead of saying that we must ensure that no one is able to promote violence during an election campaign, because we believe in democracy and not in the use of violence for political ends, and saying that we must bring the new candidate under the same rules as someone who is already a sitting member, the Secretary of State has decided that it is not a good thing that I, as a sitting member, cannot promote violence for political ends. He is, in effect, asking the House to ensure that I have the same opportunity as a new candidate to promote violence for political ends during an election campaign. That is utter nonsense. It is a shameful proposal from those who are responsible for trying to ensure that the democratic process is maintained in the difficult circumstances that pertain in Northern Ireland at present. Are right hon. and hon. Members prepared to support Government amendments that promote the very thing that the Bill is intended to prevent? From the first moment that I saw the discussion paper that the Minister produced in October 1987 I had grave reservations about whether there was any possibility of dealing properly with people who have a ballot paper in one hand and an Armalite in the other, determined to undermine what the vast majority in Northern Ireland hold dear. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined that a member of Her Majesty's Cabinet--the amendments are in the name of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland--would bring to the House amendments which permit the promotion of violence.

Let us imagine the use that presently elected members of Sinn Fein will make of the legislation. For three weeks after nomination for council elections they will parade the highways and byways, the housing estates and meeting places throughout Northern Ireland telling the community, "We support the IRA. It is right that the armed struggle"--that is what they call it--"should continue. You must understand that we support the IRA. We give the IRA wholehearted support in violence not just against members of the security forces but against the civilian population." In my constituency the violence is very much against the civilian Protestant population.

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The Sinn Fein councillors will say, "We support violence and will continue to support it for the next four years while sitting on Fermanagh, Dungannon or Magherafelt district councils. Do not fear ; we will not weaken in our support for the campaign of murder. Of course, we will not be able to say so. We will probably not choose to say so unless it suits us to test the faulty legislation, but we are without doubt behind the IRA the whole way." That can happen for three weeks. The House should remember that it is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who is making it possible. I am amazed. I hope that no honourable person in the House will vote for the Government amendments.

Mr. Needham : As the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) pointed out, the amendments apply only to sitting councillors who are nominated at the next election. The reason is that it cannot be right in the constitutional process to pass a law which would affect existing councillors but which they could not conceivably have known about when they stood and were elected four years ago. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to grasp that the amendments are not designed to deal with what happens during election campaigns. It was never designed to deal with that. From the first instance it was to deal with problems in councils and within the assembly once an election has taken place and how elected members behaved within the councils or the assembly.

An important question needed to be considered about what happens post- candidature during an election campaign. The Government concluded that, however abhorrent it is to all of us in this House who support democracy, there is a time when those who advocate violence as a means of gaining their political ends should be allowed to put their political views before the electorate.

I can assure the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross), who is not in his place, that we did not do that on the basis that by allowing such candidates to parade themselves they might lose votes, nor do we believe necessarily that they will win votes. But the principle that we have adopted, which we believe to be right, is that during the election campaign those candidates who believe in what are to us obnoxious views should be able to put them before the electorate. What we have always been concerned to do in the Bill is to deal with the effectiveness of a declaration once the election has taken place and councillors or assembly men have taken their places. The amendment proposes that the declaration should bite during the candidature and the election campaign. There is, of course, no remedy. The only remedy under the Bill--and this has always been clear--is disqualification. We believe that that is the correct remedy for a breach of the declaration in a council or the assembly. But there is no remedy or sanction against those candidates who fail to get elected. Nothing makes bad law worse more effectively than law without sanction.

Therefore, the amendment can have virtually no effect, because nothing will happen to those candidates who stand in an election and breach their declaration and are not elected. The amendment would have the very effect that the hon. Gentleman suggested, of encouraging people to put up their names for election, to sign a declaration and then breach it. But as there is no sanction to it, the amendment would be totally ineffective.

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Mr. Beggs : Is the Minister saying that from now on during election campaigns there will be open season for incitement to violence on all sides and that no action will be taken?

Mr. Needham : The hon. Gentleman knows full well the existing laws on incitement to hatred. I do not need to set out for him the panoply of existing law. We are talking here of what happens during and after an election campaign, when the rules of the democratic process must be observed. Such considerations were the subject of my discussions with councillors over several months, especially concerning what happens in council chambers. We were discussing not what happens during election campaigns, but what happens in councils and what might happen in the assembly. The amendment has no sanction and will achieve nothing. It will not make the slightest difference to what goes on during an election campaign.

Mr. Maginnis : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is unintentionally misleading us. He is saying that there is no sanction. He may be partially right, in that there is no sanction against a candidate who advocates violence and is not elected. But that is not the person that we are concerned with. We are concerned with the person who advocates violence and who is elected and with whom I have to share a council chamber for four years. There is a sanction against that person as soon as he becomes elected if he has promoted violence during the election campaign. I will not have to be a total hypocrite. It is not the fact of having someone in the same chamber who is not at this moment promoting violence that worries me but rather having someone in the chamber who is pretending to be a democrat like me yet who, before coming into the chamber, quite openly advocated violence. That is the problem that the Minister should address.

9.15 pm

Mr. Needham : I have addressed the problem, as I told the hon. Member, by saying that the Government believe that, however much we disagree with and abhor those who promote violence, from whatever side of the community, the right way to stop them is not to introduce a declaration when they become candidates. That would be going too far. It would be an abuse of somebody's right to stand for election. We believe that the problem exists in the council chambers, in the assembly, amongst those people who are elected, once they have been elected. That is when the declaration bites.

Rev. William McCrea rose --

Mr. Needham : The hon. Member asks me what happens in the three weeks leading up to the election. People can stand as candidates and continue to advocate violence during the whole election campaign, the hon. Member says, and then they will use it for their own ends : once they are elected, they will say nothing. They will be quiet for four years. I would be surprised, knowing the political astuteness of the hon. Gentleman, if it were possible for such people cynically to sign a declaration, then go through an election campaign, saying one thing, then become elected and spend four years in the council chamber without opening their mouths or giving some indication of their views. That is hardly likely. The declaration should apply to those people once they are elected.

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Mr. Ashdown : I recognise that there is a very delicate balance to be struck here and it may be that the Government have the balance right. I recognise the complexities of the problem. But surely there is a potential sanction. The Minister will recognise that if an elected candidate should breach his declaration he is banned for five years. If the Government were to extend that ban to seven years and apply it to candidates as well, they would not only suffer in that election for having broken the declaration as candidates but they would be unable to stand for the following election as well. So there is a potential sanction available to the Government that falls short of the sanction proposed earlier, which he knows I oppose, the sanction of the criminal law. Would the Minister indicate the Government's reasoning against a course of that sort?

Mr. Needham : We are straying from the amendment. The Government's view is that disqualification for five years, which covers one whole election period, is sufficient penalty for a breach of the declaration. It must be remembered that we are looking at this matter against the background of the rest of the existing criminal law, including incitement to hatred, and that we are talking about what goes on in a council chamber or an assembly.

I do not want to repeat myself. I think that I have made the Government's position clear.

Rev. William McCrea rose --

Mr. Needham : We have considered the case long and hard and we felt on balance that it was right that during an election candidates should be entitled to put their views. We find those views obnoxious. We do not believe that it is any way to conduct an election campaign or a basis for any sort of policy for a politically pluralist society. It is not right that, at this stage, we should stop candidates from putting their views during elections. For that reason, I ask the House to reject amendment No. 22.

Rev. William McCrea : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you assist hon. Members standing behind the Minister? I hope that I was elected to the House in the same way as everyone else. Although he has his back to me, will the Minister accept that I have a right to make contributions to the debate which may be helpful? It seems that, whenever requests are made for him to give way, he always gives preference to hon. Members facing him.

Mr. Speaker : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has exactly the same standing as every other hon. Member. I imagine that the Minister had not seen that he was on his feet.

Question put, That the amendment be made :--

The House divided : Ayes 132, Noes 11.

Division No. 54] [9.20 pm


Alexander, Richard

Amess, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Atkinson, David

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Batiste, Spencer

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Boswell, Tim

Bowis, John

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Bright, Graham

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

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