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Mr. Brady: Surely the Secretary of State would be bound by the normal principles. He would have to exercise his discretion with a degree of reasonableness, and would be open to judicial review if he did not do so.

Mr. Fallon: That is precisely the sort of eventuality that we should guard against. It should not be for the

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courts to decide who is eligible, after appeals, reviews, seats being declared void and so on. That is the whole point. We should set down in statute who is eligible to be a Member of this House. I do not want that to be left to the subjective judgment of the Secretary of State, to judicial review, or to an appeal process.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) and I are overcome with curiosity about who wanted to be a member of the Congress of the People's Republic of China. We think that it could only be the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath).

Mr. Fallon: The hon. Gentleman tempts me to deal with the south China question, but I will not allow myself to be tempted.

I think that my right hon. Friend needs to do a little more work on the amendment. I am not persuaded that simply proposing, negotiating or agreeing reciprocity will cure the faults that lie at the centre of the Bill. It is not possible to be a subject of two sovereign states, or to bear allegiance to two sovereign Parliaments. No amount of reciprocity with any assembly or Parliament in the European Union, the western world, China or anywhere else can deal with those fundamental faults.

Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend has argued powerfully that two, three or four wrongs do not make a right. Does he agree, however, that it is particularly important in the context of amendment No. 2 to ensure clarity, and that discretion--fettered or otherwise--for the current incumbent of the post of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is especially dangerous, given that that right hon. Gentleman, whatever his talents, is a notoriously tricky customer?

Mr. Fallon: That is exactly the sort of suggestion that is bound to be made. Once the House decides to give discretion to any kind of Secretary of State, all kinds of questions are bound to be raised about that Secretary of State's party allegiance, his partiality, his own place in the peace process in Northern Ireland, and so forth.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will improve his amendment by removing the subjective test, and defining eligibility for membership in statute. Even if he is prepared to do that, however, I shall have deep reservations about the possibility of dealing with the whole question of dual loyalty simply by reciprocity. I do not think that that is enough, and, even if my right hon. Friend improves his amendment in the way that I suggest, unless he presents me with a much more compelling argument in favour of it, I shall not be prepared to vote for it.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: I am sure that the Committee appreciated the forceful arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon). We missed him here yesterday. Like him, I am totally opposed to the Bill. Unlike him, I voted against it; but I know--because he assured me in the Lobby--that, had he been here yesterday, he would have voted against it too. He would also have heard what was said yesterday by my

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hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates), a former Northern Ireland Minister. He made some of the points that my right hon. Friend has made.

It is true that the amendment, which was moved so ably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), contradicts the argument of my hon. Friends the Members for East Hampshire and for Sevenoaks that it is not seriously conceivable to have dual allegiance to two sovereign legislatures. It undoubtedly creates conflicts of allegiance, but the difficulty is that we have the Bill before us. The question is simple: having lost the Second Reading vote, do we turn our backs on the discussion, say that there is nothing we can do with the Bill and just let it go; or do we seek to amend it in some way to improve it, however miserable the improvement?

Mr. Swayne: Our contention is that, by multiplying the potential for wrongs, the amendment would make the Bill worse. [Interruption.]

Mr. Howarth: Did the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound), my fellow prison officer from Dartmoor, wish to intervene? I am sorry. I thought that he wanted to intervene.

Dr. Julian Lewis: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Howarth: Of course. I will take all interventions from New Forest.

Dr. Lewis: That is precisely the point. It is the first time that I have ever disagreed with an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne). Surely the point is that, rather than multiplying the wrongs, insistence on reciprocity creates the possibility of retaliation. If someone who is going to abuse his status in the House of Commons when he sits for the Dail is made aware of the fact that retaliation can occur, he may be less inclined to commit that abuse in the first place.

Mr. Howarth: That is a forceful argument from my hon. Friend, who is the embodiment of the thermo-nuclear deterrent. I do not think that any of us would wish to cross him, but there are arguments for the amendment. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will make a speech at some point and will have to answer a number of questions. The amendment gives us the opportunity to probe further how it came to pass that the Bill was brought before the House in this form and why it is being rushed through with such expedition.

The amendment is of a dual nature. It seeks to provide that Members of the House of Commons and the other place should be either qualified or eligible, depending on the word we want to use, for membership of either House of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland. That is the key issue. It is at the heart of the reciprocity argument. If, as is provided for in the Bill, Members of the Irish legislature are to be permitted to have the honour to be Members of this legislature, there should be reciprocity.

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The question of how the conditions for that reciprocity are determined--whether the Secretary of State has to be satisfied, or whether another mechanism is provided--is a separate matter. However, the amendment provides us with the opportunity to test the good faith of those who are behind the promotion of the Bill. I do not believe that the Ministers are behind the promotion of the Bill. They are merely the agents. We are trying to find out not who the monkeys are, but who the organ grinder is.

1 am

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere): Before my hon. Friend moves on to his next point, which I apprehend he will come to shortly, will he reflect a little further on the matter of reciprocity? Is it not a fact that reciprocity characterises many of the special arrangements between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom, not least in matters such as the common travel area? Would it not be a shame to depart in this Bill from the principle that underlies those arrangements? Might not such a departure bring to an end the undoubted good will that exists between the citizens of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic?

Mr. Howarth: If my hon. Friend is suggesting that there are already substantial spheres of reciprocity and that the Bill would mark a substantial departure from that precedent, he owes it to the Committee to give us a rather more detailed exposition of the point. I, for one, feel that he has only touched on the point and that we need a very much more comprehensive explanation of the extent to which arrangements between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom are subject to reciprocity.

Mr. Clappison rose--

Mr. Howarth: I shall give way to my hon. Friend, but I hope that he will be able to enlighten me more substantially.

Mr. Clappison: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I have been provoked to intervene also by the Minister, who I know enjoys my interventions on this type of subject.

The amendment would remedy a defect that would otherwise be present in the Bill, by ensuring continuation of the reciprocity that is a characteristic of so many arrangements between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. By contrast with what has been suggested by at least one Labour Member, the amendment is all about promoting good will between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

Mr. Howarth: Although I listened very carefully to my hon. Friend's argument, I still share some of the reservations expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon)--that the amendment would strike at aspects of the Bill's principle. Nevertheless, I support amendment No. 2 because I believe that the debate on it will provide a mechanism by which we shall be able to get to some of the truth of the matter, which we have not yet heard.

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My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) asked the key question that has run throughout our debates today: why have the Government introduced the Bill? Is it part of a deal with Sinn Fein?

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