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Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): It would be breakfast time before we finished.

Mr. Ross: On many occasions, it has been breakfast time on the second day before the result is announced.

Mr. Brady: It may be out of order to go into detail about the single transferable vote, but I think that the hon. Gentleman has answered one of his earlier questions. With a multi-Member constituency, clearly a Member could come to this place and serve here while the other Members in the constituency worked for the constituents. That is one of the great failings of the multi-Member system.

Mr. Ross: The hon. Gentleman draws attention to a failing. However, he will understand that the Member who was carrying out his duties in this place would be throwing an extra burden on the other Members of the Dail elected. It would be possible for him to be only a representative of his party. The boundaries are often drawn as they are by the governing party because it knows how people vote. That Member could find himself getting into trouble with the Whips in the Dail, and we would not want that, would we?

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An enormous number of points must be answered by the Minister when he responds to the debate. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State has left us again. That is sad because he is not taking enough interest in the ramifications of the matter. It seems that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will respond.

Mr. Brady: To the single transferable vote point?

Mr. Ross: The STV was wished upon us in Northern Ireland by the House of Commons. I note that the Government have cold feet and do not want to wish it upon themselves. Long may that happy situation persist because it is the most abominable system. Having had experience of other forms of proportional representation in this place, there is a certain coolness among those on the Government Benches towards the concept.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): With respect, I fear that the hon. Gentleman is straying a little far from the narrow confines of the amendment. I say that with respect, Mr. Martin. I draw him back to the specific point that is contained in the amendment about reciprocal arrangements and qualification. The hon. Gentleman has abbreviated his remarks generally, to the great loss of the Committee, and especially when he answered my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) about qualification. Was he speaking about legal qualification, and will he elaborate upon that in respect of the reciprocal arrangements? Or was he speaking about qualification in terms of political legitimacy? Will he elaborate on the issue and go into some detail in answering the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield, which in my estimation he failed to answer?

Mr. Ross: As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, my response to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) arose because of his intervention. That being so, I did not have time to explore the point that he was raising. I wish that that time had been available to me because it might have been possible to have considered the issue in more depth. I shall keep in mind what he said and I hope that we can return to it on Report. It can be taken up in the House of Lords or perhaps when it returns to this place, having been properly amended. It is clear that the Bill needs many and various amendments that will be of great importance.

Mr. Fabricant: We all know that in this place we have role models. We have heroes whom we worship. It is fairly well known in the House of Commons that my right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) is my hero. For that reason, I speak in favour of the amendment.

I was trying to get my head round the amendment, as we say in the broadcasting profession. I was trying to understand my right hon. Friend's motivation in tabling it. I think that the motivation was summed up admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), when he said, "Mr. Martin, it is all down to trust."

Before I entered the House of Commons, in 1992, when some would say I did a real job, although they would be unfair in saying that, I was involved in setting up radio stations in about 48 countries throughout the world. In

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some of those countries one could easily come to a bargain; one simply shook a hand and the deal was done--for example, with the BBC in the United Kingdom, or in Holland. I would make an offer, it would be accepted and the deal would be done. In other circumstances, one could not always trust such a handshake, and reciprocity was required. If one wanted to enter into a contract, not only offer and acceptance but consideration were required.

12.30 am

Why do we feel that trust does not exist between us and certain elements with whom we have entered into negotiations in the past year? I do not wish to stray from the narrow terms of the amendment, but the answer is clear: trust does not exist because of decommissioning. When we entered into a contract with representatives of Sinn Fein-IRA, the terms made it clear that decommissioning would be undertaken. Yet, as we speak, at 31 minutes past the hour on 26 January, not one weapon or bullet has been handed over. Time ticks on.

Dr. Julian Lewis: Can my hon. Friend suggest the reason for Sinn Fein's failure to decommission in January or February if it intends to do so totally by May? Does that not suggest a lack of trust?

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. There is no scope for discussing decommissioning on amendment No. 2.

Mr. Fabricant: I always take your advice, Mr. Martin, but my hon. Friend's point is well made. If an action is to be completed by May, it could be taken in January, February or March. Failure to decommission creates doubt and lack of trust. I have now got my head around the problem, and I realise why my hero and right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst tabled the amendment: there is doubt about whether trust can exist between the parties involved. I believe that shady dealing might well occur. That is worrying.

Mr. Hayes: It is all very well to talk about slap and tickle while shaking hands with heroes and others around the world--I am sure my hon. Friend enjoyed that. However, although my hon. Friend argues that we are considering a matter of trust, we are in fact discussing qualification. As I suggested to the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross), qualification is either a legal matter or a broader issue. It may well be broader, and cover some of the subjects that we debated earlier, such as the ability to serve a constituency, conflict of interest and so on. Rather than entertaining us with stories of Holland and other exotic climes, my hon. Friend should concentrate on qualification, which is at the heart of the amendment.

Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend's incisive mind has cut to the point like a scalpel. He repeated a point that I made to the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) when I said that the ability of a Member of Parliament to sit in another legislature was a qualitative, not a quantitative matter.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst wants to put down a marker to the effect that trust cannot exist as long as decommissioning, and other

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factors involved in the agreements that have been reached, have not been fulfilled equally by both sides of the bargain. When concessions are made continually by one side and not the other--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman is making what might be considered a Second Reading speech. It might have assisted him to read the amendment before rising.

Mr. Fabricant: Thank you, Mr. Martin. I am reading the amendment now and I read it earlier too. It states that

the Dail. I repeat that this is a quantitative matter, not a qualitative matter. It is not an analogue issue but a digital issue. It is either 1 or 0; yes or no. There is no rainbow. There is no spectrum. Either it is so or it is not so.

The reason for amendment No. 2 is a lack of trust. I thought that the Bill was fairly straightforward. The hon. Member for East Londonderry referred to an Act of 1920. I did not catch all the details and it is a great shame that the hon. Gentleman has left the Chamber. If any hon. Gentleman could assist by explaining the 1920 Act, I shall be most grateful.

Mr. Beggs rose--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. It is not for any hon. Member to give details of a different piece of legislation. This is a narrow amendment, and the hon. Gentleman should speak to it.

Mr. Beggs: Does the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) agree that, despite the wording of the amendment, the reality is that it is simply a device to enable members of Sinn Fein-IRA to sit in both the Dail and the House of Commons? Let us face up to that.

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's intervention refers to, but the Committee is debating amendment No. 2. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the Bill may be a device to allow something to happen, it is one thing--but the Committee is debating not the Bill as a whole but a narrow amendment to it moved by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth).

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