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Mr. Forth: I beg to move amendment No. 2, page 1, line 9, at end add--

'(2A) This section shall come into force on a day to be appointed by an order made by the Secretary of State; and the Secretary of State shall not make such an order unless he is satisfied that Members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons are qualified for membership of either House of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland'.

This is the point in our proceedings where the debate can be broadened considerably. So far, we have concentrated on some narrowly drawn amendments, but amendment No. 2 covers a much broader matter of principle. None the less, it is important. The point that underlies it is, in one sense, simple, but it properly opens a debate on a principle that I will characterise as reciprocity, for want of a better word. It does not appear in the amendment, but I hope that you agree, Sir Alan, that it admirably sums up the essence of the amendment.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): I have listened to my right hon. Friend and read the amendment, but it strikes me that he asks for reciprocity because he does not trust the people with whom the arrangement is being made. Surely that is not the case.

Mr. Forth: I will perhaps come to the matter of who trusts whom in a slightly different context shortly. The point that I wanted to make in laying the ground for the amendment is this: should the change be unilateral or should it be made only if there is an equal and reciprocal change by the legislature that is most involved--that of the Republic of Ireland?

We have to confront two separate issues immediately. First, I make no apology for coming back, however briefly, to the motivation behind the Bill and whether it is designed to react to the Irish Government or, indeed, to any other body. More important, we have to consider as a free-standing issue whether the Bill can and should proceed, regardless of what happens at the other end of the process. Put at its simplest, the question is whether we should accept into this legislative body Members of the Irish Republic's legislature when Members here are not allowed into that body.

Mr. Swayne: Will my right hon. Friend enlighten me as to how the introduction of reciprocity makes an offensive Bill less offensive? Can he describe the conditions in which any right-minded hon. Member, having the interests of the UK at heart--as he would, having taken the Oath--would wish to serve in the Dail?

11.45 pm

Mr. Forth: We can perhaps deal with such matters shortly. I am not sure whether it is for me to explore the motivation of Members of the Irish legislature or that of any of us who might wish to go there--although the point may become relevant as I develop my argument--but my hon. Friend's useful intervention reminds me that the principle of the Bill is something on which we can agree or disagree.

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I voted against Second Reading but accept that, as the House has taken the view that the Bill is acceptable in principle, the Committee's task is to determine whether and to what extent we can improve it. In that context, I should like my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) to be absolutely clear that, although I do not agree with the Bill's principle, I have to accept the verdict of the House. Accordingly, the spirit in which I move my amendment--which seeks to strengthen the Bill and its purpose--is very positive.

We must therefore ask whether it is right, sensible and acceptable, within the sense and principle of the Bill, which was accepted on Second Reading, now to contemplate the possibility of Members of a legislature of another sovereign state--the Republic of Ireland--coming to this place when no such right exists for Members of the House of Commons to go there.

As you know, Sir Alan, Irish law currently states that only Irish citizens may be Members of the Irish legislature. I should say immediately that I agree with that. I believe that we should adopt the Irish approach to the matter, rather than any other, because I think that they have it right. They obviously have a proper sense of their nationhood, of the sovereignty of their country and of the important symbolic value of their legislature as an expression of that sovereignty.

It is Members of this place who, if the Bill were to proceed through all its stages, would compromise our concept of nationhood and sovereignty by admitting the principle that Members of the legislature of another country may be admitted to the House of Commons. It is a very important principle.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): As someone who was born and bred in the Republic, I say that the right hon. Gentleman's comments are an insult to millions of people in this land. He has no right to insult as he does millions of us who have given our allegiance in life and in death to this land. What does he seek to do--to erect the walls of yesteryear?

The Chairman: Order. That was a Second Reading intervention on a Second Reading passage of a speech that should be dealing with amendment No. 2. I am not prepared to listen again to arguments of principle related to Second Reading. Although I allowed such arguments to be deployed in moderation in the previous debate, which was on a wide amendment, I must correct the impression of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth): he may think that this is a widely drawn amendment, but I do not, and I shall rule accordingly.

Mr. Forth: Sir Alan, I not only accept, but welcome your guidance in these matters. In seeking to make proper progress, we should have due regard to an amendment's breadth or otherwise. I had mistakenly thought that, in my amendment, I was seeking to import into the Bill a matter of broad principle. You have said otherwise and I accept that ruling without question.

Let us concentrate, therefore, on my amendment's very narrow point on reciprocity, which must be a relatively simple matter for the Committee to resolve. Are we

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prepared to contemplate the Bill proceeding without a reciprocal arrangement or not? At the other end of this deal are the Irish, whom, I tell the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), I was praising to the skies. I wish that we could have taken a similar approach to theirs in the matter. The Irish have within their law a provision that I should rather that we had. Regrettably, however, that is not the direction in which the Bill seeks to take us.

I suggest that the amendment would reassure the Committee, the House and the people of the United Kingdom that, at the very least, an equal and opposite arrangement could be established that would allow for the mutual exchange of members of the legislatures.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one problem with the Bill is the lack of trust on both sides? Is not inclusion of the principle of reciprocity essential if trust in both halves of the deal being delivered is to be built up? That affects every element in the Bill, including the narrow point under discussion.

Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I do not trust the Government's intentions with the Bill, as they have not explained the motivation behind it. Trusting the legislators of the Irish Republic is another matter, but their law makes their view clear. The risk is that, unamended, the Bill sends out an opposite and very dangerous signal.

Mr. Fabricant: Is not my right hon. Friend being a little unfair to the Dail, which has conceded that it no longer has territorial rights over Northern Ireland? Is not that a concession, and does it not suggest at least an element of reciprocity?

Mr. Forth: No, I am not sure that that is so. The gesture was important in terms of the Belfast agreement, but the problem of whether that agreement is relevant to the Bill remains. Many of us think that it is, but Ministers sometimes say that it may be, and at other times that it is not. Therefore, I am not sure that the radical changes that have taken place in the Republic of Ireland's constitutional arrangements are germane to this debate. Sir Alan has placed a very narrow construct on this amendment, so I am not sure that what my hon. Friend suggests is relevant.

The amendment speaks for itself. It states that the Secretary of State will not make an order to bring the provision into force

We are talking about full reciprocity between two bicameral legislatures. That does not exist at present. The Bill would--

The Chairman: Order. I hope that I can assist the right hon. Gentleman. I know that it is not easy, when one is advancing an argument, to be aware of the words that one is using. However, I can assure him that I have listened

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extremely carefully. He has now repeated six times the wording of the amendment in one form or another. That is getting to the point of excess.

Mr. Forth: Thank you, Sir Alan.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forth: Of course.

Mr. Winterton: Does my right hon. Friend consider it possible that some conflict might arise if Members of the Dail sought to become Members of the House of Commons, given the need to take the Oath or to affirm? Similarly, might there not be problems for Members of this Parliament when it came to taking the relevant oath--or whatever is required--required by the legislature of the Republic of Ireland?

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