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The First Deputy Chairman: Yes, but all that the Secretary of State needs to know is about the confines of the amendment before us; and, knowing the Secretary of State, he is more than capable of doing that.

Mr. Ross: But the amendment must be set in the context--

Mr. Gerald Howarth: I am sure that, like me, the hon. Gentleman is convinced that the current Secretary of State is very capable of being satisfied, but he might not be in post for very long. Who knows? Someone less capable could succeed him.

Mr. Ross: Of course, and it would be possible to find someone less capable and with less understanding of the Irish situation, who could therefore become a bone of contention between this nation and Dublin. We really would not want that to happen. As I was saying when I was hauled back within order, Mr. Martin, I believe that that would be a problem.

People from other foreign legislatures might want to sit in the Dail. As you will appreciate, Mr. Martin, I would not be one of them. If there is one legislature on the face of this earth that I do not want to be a part of, it is Dail Eireann, so there will be no problem in dissuading me from moving in that direction. I am very happy where I am, and I hope to stay here for many years to come.

Another problem that arises is that Northern Ireland citizens are treated as Irish citizens by Dublin. For instance, if I wanted an Irish passport, all that I would have to do would be to drive down to Dublin with my photographs and get it. Whenever passport offices here have queues stretching around the block, many people have gone to Dublin. They have done so unwillingly, and because they could not afford to lose their holidays. They could always get a British passport later. In passing, it is sad that UK passport applicants have to pay for the Government's misdemeanours in that area, but that matter clearly falls outside the limits of the amendment.

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An all-party commission in the Dail is examining the possibility of allowing the Northern Ireland Assembly some sort of representation in the Dail. I have referred to the efforts made by Sinn Fein-IRA to allow Northern Ireland Members of Parliament to sit in the Dail. That is a dangerous road to go down, and we would need to know the underlying theory behind the IRA's demand. When the Dail talks about representation, it might not mean voting representation, so that would not be much use to anyone wanting to go there.

There is an excellent Library research paper concerning how a Member of Parliament--or any elected representative--can carry out duties in two disparate, different legislatures. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), who has left the Chamber, seems to manage fairly well in three--this sovereign Parliament, the European Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, he is a man of enormous energy, and he can possibly manage better than the rest of us.

How could anyone carry out their duties in this House--as a Minister of the Crown, perhaps--and then hop on a plane and get over for a vote in Dublin, or vice versa? I can make it door-to-door in four and half hours from my home to here, but I cannot imagine people doing that every day of the week. There is also the question of who would pay the travel costs. Would the travel costs from here to Dublin be paid by Dublin, and vice versa? What are the ramifications of this proposal?

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. Once again, the hon. Gentleman is going wide of the amendment, and I think that he is aware of that. Perhaps he can get back to the confines of the amendment. [Hon. Members: "Why?"] I do not need to explain why. I am telling the hon. Gentleman that he is moving wide of the amendment.

Mr. Ross: I am always grateful for your guidance, Mr. Martin, and the guidance from the Chair is always sound--it is never wrong. However, I am trying to ensure that the Secretary of State, in reaching a decision, stays within the confines of reason and those elements to which he must give consideration.

Mr. Robathan: Is not it a qualification of membership of both legislatures that one must do one's job properly for constituents? If one has constituents in Leicestershire, for instance, one must look after them. However, if one has constituents in Connemara or Donegal, one must look after them. Surely those are two competing claims on the qualification for membership of both legislatures.

Mr. Ross: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point which, down the years, has bedevilled those in the House who have looked at what should disqualify a Member of the House. One of the issues considered in terms of disqualification is the time available for a Member to carry out his duties in this place to his constituents.

Dr. Julian Lewis: Surely it is not just a question of the time demands on the hon. Members concerned, but the fact that the interests of the two different constituencies represented by the same Member of the two legislatures could well be in conflict with one another. How can that be resolved?

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I am sorry to have to keep interrupting proceedings. However, I am

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reading the same amendment as the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross)--it is about the Secretary of State being satisfied, and not about whether a person is capable of doing the job.

Mr. Ross: I just want to say one sentence in reply to the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis). The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) raised that very point yesterday, and it was definitely not answered. My hon. Friend made the point succinctly and it is well worth while reading his speech because it clearly illustrates the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

12.15 am

Mr. Swayne: It may be the lateness of the hour or the result of a momentary lapse of attention on my part, but the hon. Gentleman seems to be developing a powerful argument for voting against the amendments. Am I mistaken in thinking that he said that he was in favour of the amendment?

Mr. Ross: The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. To some extent, I am treating this is a probing amendment. However, if I am not satisfied with the answers that I receive from Ministers, I shall certainly vote for it. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst has been a powerful supporter of the Unionist position and he has greater experience of these matters than I do. Therefore, I will, on this occasion, bow to his judgment. It will not take very much to persuade me to vote for the amendment.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: I wish to refer specifically to the words in the amendment. Will my hon. Friend interpret for me what he understands by the words that refer to the Secretary of State--and I hope to the House of Commons as well? It uses the phrase

What does my hon. Friend understand by the phrase "qualified for membership"? It could mean a whole range of things--their intellectual capacities, their educational qualifications or the fact that they are just Members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. How does he interpret those words?

Mr. Ross: That is one reason why I treat this as a probing amendment. Someone who goes to either part of the legislature of the Irish Republic must be an Irish citizen. However, as I pointed out yesterday, those in the Irish football team might not always be considered as members of the Irish nation. Some of them qualify to play for it because they have an Irish grandfather. I have heard the team described as the English second string, but it has done very well--and good luck to it.

I am curious about the provision and that is why I want my questions answered. Is the fact that a person is--or can claim to be--an Irish citizen sufficient to qualify him? What about Members of the House of Lords? I am not sure about the current position but, until recently, peers could not vote. Some well known peers have large properties in Ireland and live there part of the year. Are they qualified?

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The Secretary of State has to make an order. Does that order have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament or will it be possible for it to appear in a preliminary form with white or green edges so that we could consider it and make representations about its amendment to the Secretary of State? What will the legislative procedure be to resolve the problems that are outlined in the amendment?

Mr. Fabricant: I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's argument. He asked whether the Secretary of State alone or the House should make the decision. Surely the judgment would not be a qualitative, but a quantitative one. It would not be a question of opinion, but of fact. It would relate to whether Members of this House or the other place are entitled to sit at that time in the Dail.

Mr. Ross: That is a matter which could be resolved only by reference to the rules of the Dail and by reference to the Government of the Irish Republic. Perhaps, we could set up a committee between this House and the Dail to discuss and explore all the problems that might arise if we made a mistake. For example, we would not want to say that the hon. Gentleman could go to the Dail and then find at the last minute that the party that was depending on him or the independents that wanted him would not be able to choose him. That would not be right at all. We have to be dead certain that all the implications have been thoroughly thought through, the lines are clear and we know exactly where we stand. Enough has been said to illustrate that there are several difficulties that must be explored.

I draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the Government of Ireland Act 1920 disqualified members of the Northern Ireland Executive from sitting in the House of Commons. The Secretary of State should bear that in mind. I note in passing that, at present, Members of the European Parliament cannot be members of the Northern Ireland Executive. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) is not a member of the Executive, but the deputy leader of his party is. The same is true of the SDLP: the deputy leader is a member of the Executive, but the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) is not. The two members of those parties who are members of the Executive are, of course, Members of the House of Commons, but the leaders of those two parties are debarred by the rules of the European Parliament, of which they are Members, from taking up posts in the Northern Ireland Executive. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), nods.

That example demonstrates that reciprocity is not easy to achieve. There are all sorts of rules, regulations and problems that the Government have not fully thought through. It is the Committee's duty to explore such matters and to seek explanations in the hope that, this evening, we might receive an answer to one of our questions. If we did, it would make such a pleasant change that we would hardly believe our luck. I do not expect an answer to any of my questions, but I do ask for one. If we do not get any answers, I am sure that we shall return to these matters on Report.

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The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) has complained about remarks made by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. If he were to stand, the hon. Gentleman might be elected to the Dail--[Laughter.] It is possible--he would certainly have a better chance than I would. One has to think through the steps one must take to get elected to the Dail. The Secretary of State should listen carefully, because both he and his Under-Secretary are familiar with the single transferable vote system of election.

I believe that there are one or two Dail constituencies in Dublin that send five, six, seven or eight Members to the Dail. Let us take a four-Member constituency--the mathematics are easier to work out at this time of night. Only 20 per cent. of the votes plus one vote are needed to secure election: that is the quota the candidate needs to be home and dry. As one moves down the list, fewer and fewer votes are needed to secure election. Even if the hon. Member for St. Helens, South received a relatively small number of votes--the absolutely derisory vote that results from a by-election in a safe Labour seat or a council election, both of which attract extremely low turnout--he could in such a constituency be home and dry, a Member of the Dail. Other Members of the UK Parliament might be able to do the same. However, if the hon. Gentleman stood in a place like Donegal, where the number of seats is carefully controlled so as to ensure that it is far more difficult to get elected--Donegal is where the pro-Union population lives--he would find it impossible to get elected.

I shall not weary the House with a chapter and verse description of the STV system of election--[Hon. Members: "Go on."] No, I shall not do so, if only because you, Mr. Martin, might consider such a description of the workings of the STV system and of the way in which the count is done to be out of order. I know that hon. Members would find it interesting, but, if not quite out of order, I would be stretching the First Deputy Chairman's patience.

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