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Mr. Cash: Last night, I voted against the Bill on principle, for several reasons. I saw no reciprocity between the arrangements that are being provided for the House and the arrangements in the Dail and in Eire as a whole. That in itself is unfair and unreasonable in all circumstances, but the issue goes much deeper than that. The question that is before us has not been answered by the Government. We have continually put to them issues relating to why the Bill should be brought before us at this stage. We have had no answer whatever. That is an outrage and it is why I tabled the amendment.

My amendment No. 32 states:

I challenge the Government to answer the point. Is it conceivable that anyone who did not disavow terrorism as a matter of principle would take their place in a democratic society and democratic Government under a constitutional arrangement, whether in respect of the House of Commons, or the Northern Ireland Assembly?

Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester): The hon. Gentleman speaks of Members coming into a democratic society. Is it not for a democratic election to decide the merit of those individuals and which House they enter? The electorate would ultimately make that judgment in a democratic society.

Mr. Cash: The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. It is not inconceivable that there are people in Ireland who would want to stand for election and who had not disavowed terrorism. If they stood and were successful, it would be inherent in the Standing Orders of the House and in the duty to protect the people of this country to ensure that anyone who did not disavow terrorism should not take their seat in the House--just as, without going into the merits of the process, they would not be able to take their seat in the House without

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declaring their Oath of Allegiance to the Queen. The question of terrorism is thus of fundamental importance in the context of the Bill.

We face a strange situation. After all, in the 19th century, during debate on the home rule Bill in 1886, Mr. Parnell, who took a strong position with respect to home rule, supported by Mr. Gladstone, made it clear in a memorandum that was put forward, effectively, in his name that he

We have come full circle. It is clear that, at that time, Mr. Parnell was not against the idea of members of the Irish nation, as he would have put it, being excluded from the so-called imperial Parliament. We are posing for ourselves the West Lothian question in relation to Ireland as a whole. If members of the Irish nation, as they would put it, are to stand and to be elected in this country, it follows that we will face exactly the same issues as those raised by the West Lothian question. As a colleague of mine said to me earlier today, instead of the West Lothian question, we might just as well raise the East Connemara question.

The Bill is directly relevant to a devolution question. I believe strongly that we should also look at a much deeper question that faces the Committee: what really lies behind the Government's objectives.

As I have often said, the best way to keep a secret is to make a speech in the House of Commons. It is becoming clear that the best way to keep a secret is to promote a Bill without giving any reasons for it. We have not had a single reason from the Government. I look to the Minister, who is now shaking his head--he was nodding earlier; he does not know which way to go--to say why the Bill has been introduced at all.

Some of us look at the Irish issue not as a means of dividing ourselves from our colleagues or friends in Ireland, but to discover whether what is being done is inimical to the interests of this country, or indeed of Eire as a whole. We have no reciprocal arrangements in respect of the Bill. I demand that the Minister explain before the debate on the amendment is concluded, or on Third Reading, why the Bill has been introduced.

On Second Reading, many people raised the legitimate question of the conflict of loyalty and interest--that Members cannot serve two nations--but there is another question at the heart of what is behind the Government's thinking. There is a proposal, albeit embryonic, for arrangements within the--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman is speaking about the Bill in its entirety. He must confine himself to the amendments, one of which is his own.

Mr. Cash: I will indeed. Anyone who promoted terrorism and was not prepared to renounce it would invade the sovereignty of the country in which they proposed to stand and be elected, or be disqualified under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Anyone who proposed to stand for this Parliament but was not prepared to renounce terrorism would invade the sovereignty of the citizenship and the right of the electors.

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7 pm

I therefore ask the Minister to answer this question: is it inconceivable that the real reason why the Bill has been introduced is that Ministers are proposing an arrangement whereby there is no conflict, and people are able to stand for election and to be elected to the House, because we shall be subject to a European Union arrangement under which Ireland and the United Kingdom are part of the same province? That would be a very convenient way of dealing with the problem that Ministers face with Sinn Fein and its aspirations in relation to Ireland as a whole.

Has the Minister had any direct discussions with Sinn Fein on the Bill? We know that there were secret discussions last year. I should like to know whether the Minister is prepared to deny that the arrangements for this Bill and for the future of Northern Ireland were discussed with Sinn Fein-IRA, within a constitutional--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. It would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman mentioned the amendments and not the Bill in its entirety. He could have raised those issues in yesterday's debate on Second Reading.

Mr. Cash: I am speaking to an amendment that raises the issue of whether a person who stands for election to this place or to the Northern Ireland Assembly, and who is elected, should be prepared to disavow terrorism. That is the key issue. Anyone who is prepared to stand for and to achieve election to this place, but not to disavow violence and terrorism, should be prevented from becoming a Member of this place. That is the key element of amendment No. 32.

I should be interested to know whether Opposition Front Benchers are prepared to support amendment No. 32, requiring a disavowal of terrorism. I do not know the answer to that, as I have had no indication from Front Benchers whether they would be prepared to go down that road. However, a requirement to disavow terrorism must be equivalent to one requiring us to take the Oath of Allegiance.

Mr. MacKay: My hon. Friend will be aware that, very wisely, legislation on the Northern Ireland Assembly that he and I helped to pass includes a provision requiring Assembly Members to disavow violence before taking their seats in the Assembly, let alone on the Executive. It is an interesting issue, and we should give it further consideration. Nevertheless, I am sure that the whole Committee is grateful to my hon. Friend for speaking to his amendment, enabling us to discuss the matter in greater detail.

Mr. Cash: I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for making that point. However, although that provision may apply to the Northern Ireland Assembly, it does not seem to apply to the House of Commons.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): In view of the comments of the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), does it not seem to be a contradiction that we have Assembly Members who are supposed to have repudiated violence saying publicly that, if they do not get their way, they will go back to doing the things that they do best--blowing up schools, hospitals and industry, and killing people? How can anyone say that a person

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who says such things has given up violence? We know perfectly well that some of those who have been released on to the streets have gone back to violence and attacking police.

Mr. Cash: That was one of the reasons why, last year, when we were considering other legislation, I was deeply concerned. I objected to releasing terrorists into the community simply on the basis of a very sordid deal with Sinn Fein-IRA.

Does the Minister agree that the Government should clearly state that, in principle, no one who fails to conform with the requirements of a provision such as amendment No. 32--which is consistent with the provisions of the Terrorism Bill--should be allowed to take a seat in the House of Commons?

We are debating a matter of principle and legislation that Ministers say is urgently needed, and I should like to know whether the Government are prepared to support my amendment. If they are not, they are effectively saying that, as far as they are concerned, anyone who does not renounce terrorism should be qualified to be a Member and to speak in the House of Commons.

I see the Minister shuffling around. He almost came to the Dispatch Box, but has not quite made it. Will he be good enough to tell me whether the Government agree with my amendment? If he is not prepared to say whether the Government agree with it, the Committee would be entitled to draw the conclusion that Ministers do not agree with it. The Committee would also be entitled to conclude that Ministers are prepared to allow those who do not renounce terrorism--in the context specified in the Bill--to join the House of Commons. I give him another opportunity to answer that question.

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