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1.45 am

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying far from the amendment. I stress to the Committee that if the same argument is played over and over, Standing Order No. 42 will be invoked.

Mr. Robathan: I bow to your judgment, Sir Alan, but could you briefly tell me what Standing Order No. 42 is?

The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman will find out if he continues on his present course.

Mr. Robathan: I shall report to your study afterwards, Sir.

In the bounds of the amendment and reciprocity, I was trying to develop the argument that trust must exist between the two parties. We are told that the Irish Government are considering reciprocity. We are expected to take that on trust. However, in Irish politics, trust has been singularly lacking. We must also rely on the Secretary of State to make

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an order with which we are satisfied. I am happy to trust the Secretary of State but I know that a large number of Government Members do not.

Mr. Hayes: Inasmuch as trust is relevant to the amendment, if we are to trust the Secretary of State to interpret who is qualified, we need to understand what is meant by qualification. If it is a matter of rights--as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady)--there may be a call on some other body that has responsibility for rights. If it is a more narrow definition, that discretion will not be so wide ranging.

The Chairman: Order. Tedious repetition can arise in interventions as well. I have heard that point enough times.

Mr. Robathan: I shall not therefore respond to my hon. Friend, although he makes a good point.

The qualification for this House is election by one's constituents to come to this place. We do not know what will be the qualification for the House of Lords in the near future. We await a response to the Wakeham report and are in a state of flux. We have to trust the Government to produce stage 2 but they have not said when.

What qualifications must Members of the Dail fulfil in reciprocity before being allowed to become Members of the House of Lords? We know that the Prime Minister intends to achieve parity between the number of Labour and Conservative Members in the House of Lords. How will an Irish Member of the Irish legislature--Senate or Dail--satisfy the qualifications? Few will be able to satisfy the qualifications we have seen recently, such as sharing a flat with the Prime Minister when first living in London--as did Lord Falconer.

In drawing my remarks to a close--[Hon. Members] "No".--I have nearly finished my remarks but I hope that the Minister will address these points when he winds up.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), who is not in his place, raised interesting points about achieving reciprocity using two Oaths of Allegiance. That is a very old concept. If I may quote badly from the Bible, a man cannot serve two masters. It would be difficult for Members of this House, having sworn the Oath of Allegiance, to accept reciprocity in the Irish Parliament--for all the reasons that people understand.

I am conscience of your remarks, Sir Alan, about Standing Order No. 42--which I shall go away and read--so I shall draw my comments to a close.

Mr. Simon Hughes: On a point of order, Sir Alan. May I, through you, invite a member of the Government Front Bench to say how they propose to proceed? We started this debate more than eight hours ago, at 5.43pm. We have completed one whole debate and 11 debates are scheduled. We have completed four amendments or new clauses and there are 23 amendments or new clauses to debate. My grade in A-level maths was rather poor, but I have worked out that at this rate, we will not complete the business this side of 2.30pm.

It is obvious that the Government want us to lose tomorrow's business. If that is an intelligent way of treating the public, international development questions,

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Prime Minister's Question Time, the Financial Services and Markets Bill and a ten-minute Bill, let it be on the Government's head.

It would be more sensible for the Government to agree--if they can do so--that, with co-operation between the parties, time could be found to complete consideration of the Bill. Perhaps a full day could be given to that, should there be a gap between the debate and the end of the deliberation. I wonder whether you, Sir Alan--through your good offices--could allow a Minister to say whether a more sensible way of proceeding might be available to us, rather than going on, as we are all quite able to do, for another 13 hours without completing our consideration. The Government have implicitly referred to the great sense of urgency in respect of dealing with the Bill, but we may have to consider it on another day.

The Chairman: That was a very long point of order. The House has passed a motion saying that the business can proceed until any hour and I have not received any intimation that it is to be invited to depart from its decision. Unless someone intervenes, there is nothing more I can add and we must proceed.

Mr. Maginnis: Reciprocity goes to the heart of the Bill. It should be drawn to Members' attention that Sinn Fein, for which the Bill has been drafted, boycotted the Irish Parliament for more than the first 70 years of its existence, although amazing progress has been made. It boycotted the Dail in 1921 and did not lift that boycott until the 1990s. We have all been puzzled about why we should have a unilateral accommodation, but I shall not repeat that question; you, Sir Alan, know very clearly why it puzzles me, as it has puzzled those who have articulated it again and again during our proceedings.

Mr. Cash: The hon. Gentleman referred to the 70-year boycott, but does he accept that we could consider the home rule incident of 1886, in which it was clearly stated that Mr. Parnell would certainly have preferred the exclusion of the Irish Members from the House? The irony is that, far from a policy along the lines of Mr. Parnell's being adopted, the exact opposite--including rather than excluding the Irish Members from the House--is being implemented.

Mr. Maginnis: I bow to the hon. Gentleman's erudition. I am afraid that my academic knowledge is not as great as his. I am particularly concerned about what little I have heard from those on the Treasury Bench. I should perhaps dwell on the special relationship, which was emphasised early and repeatedly by the Minister on Second Reading. I hope that a special and honourable relationship based on trust and reciprocal confidence is developing, although such a special relationship was not terribly obvious to me in the years when my friends--members of the security services--were fighting the IRA and finding that every impediment was put in the way of the extradition of terrorists.

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2 am

I concede the point, in latter-day terms, of a special relationship, however. If that latter-day relationship is to develop, I wonder why this House proposes to adopt a different attitude to Sinn Fein from that currently being adopted by the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, who has clearly stated--I think during his recent visit to South Africa--that he would not countenance having members of Sinn Fein in a coalition Government which he led in the Dail. He has indicated that such co-operation with an organisation which retains a terrorist army, with its weapons and explosives, would not be something that a self-respecting Irish Taoiseach could contemplate.

How do we come to a situation in which--as is now quite apparent--we make a provision exclusively to allow members of Sinn Fein to be members of the legislature in Dublin or of any other legislature, whether it be this sovereign Parliament or one of the devolved assemblies?

Mr. William Ross: My hon. Friend has said that the position between ourselves and the Irish Republic is improving, and he mentioned extradition. Can my hon. Friend assure me that the case of Mr. Fusco has been resolved, and that he is being extradited?

The Chairman: Order. That is quite outside the scope of the amendment, and I think the hon. Member knows it. May I also say to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) that we cannot have another debate on Second Reading? The House has given a Second Reading to the Bill and has therefore agreed its principle. I cannot listen to arguments now about that principle; I can listen only to arguments about the particular amendment we have in front of us.

Mr. Maginnis: Sir Alan, you will have noted that I have been particularly careful not to stray into the old Second Reading debate. I particularly emphasised--

The Chairman: Order. I have ruled that in my opinion the hon. Member most certainly strayed in his remarks immediately before the intervention. That is precisely where he strayed, and I do not wish to hear him stray there again.

Mr. Maginnis: I deeply regret it, Sir Alan, if I strayed. I have been endeavouring to stick with the basis on which reciprocity might be achieved, and I intend to discover whether in fact reciprocity is possible, given the constitutional position that currently exists within the Irish Republic. I hope that it is possible for me to try to discover that.

One thing that some hon. Members seem not to understand is that I, as a member of the region called Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, am accorded by the Irish constitution a special privilege, in that I am to be cherished equally as one of the children of the Irish nation. The same applies to my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross). If that is the case, I have no doubt that if I sought to stand, as Austin Currie and John Cushnahan have done, for a seat in an Irish Republic constituency, I would be permitted to do so.

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The inequality--in terms of this Bill being brought forward by this Parliament--is that someone living in Scotland, England or Wales would not be cherished as a child of the nation; nor could that person be. Hence some Members of this House claim that such reciprocity is not possible within the terms of the Irish constitution.

A question then arises that has been touched on, although not in any depth, by other speakers. Does a Bill that facilitates matters for Northern Ireland Members such as myself, but excludes Members from Scotland and England and Wales, discriminate? If this Bill discriminates, I believe that it infringes the European convention on human rights. Therein lies a major problem, in terms of what is in the Bill and deemed to be effective on the authority of the Home Secretary.

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