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Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman mentioned the European Court of Human Rights. Did he listen to the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady), who said that there might be a breach of European Court of Justice rules whereby it would be wrong to discriminate against some European Union countries while allowing others to take part in representations in the Dail or, indeed, in this Parliament?

The Chairman: Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to get into the bad habit of repeating himself, or repeating what has been said by other Members, because neither is permissible. I also hope that he is not going to get into the habit of turning his back on the Chair.

Mr. Maginnis: Thank you, Sir Alan.

I do not pretend to be an expert on European law, but I know about the emphasis that Government place, again and again, when they introduce Bills in the House of Commons applying to Northern Ireland. When we debated the Patten report--I do not want to alarm you, Sir Alan; I simply want to illustrate a point--the human rights element was repeatedly emphasised. This Bill, however, contravenes the human rights of Members of Parliament from Scotland, England--

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman has just made a statement about a Bill to which the House has already given a Second Reading. It is not permissible for him to start to argue about a Bill to which the House has given a Second Reading--

Mr. Cash rose--

The Chairman: Order. I am on my feet.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) must confine his remarks to the amendment. He is straying outside it, and I must ask him not to return to matters relating to Second Reading.

Mr. Cash: On a point of order, Sir Alan. An interesting point has occurred to me following remarks that I have just heard about the class of persons affected by the Bill, and the manner in which different persons within that class are treated. I should like a ruling on this, Sir Alan. Is it possible that--if we take the House of Commons as a class--the Bill is hybrid? Clearly, on the basis of the

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arguments that I have just heard, there are distinctions to be drawn within that class which, on adjudication, could cause it to be construed as such.

The Chairman: That is not a point on which the occupant Chair is entitled to rule. It is a matter of public policy.

Mr. Cash: Further to that point of order, Sir Alan.

The Chairman: Order. I have ruled on that point of order. Unless he has an entirely fresh one--

Mr. Cash rose--

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot be on his feet if I am on mine. I have said that I can accept only a different point of order, as I have just ruled on his previous one. If the hon. Gentleman has a fresh point of order, I will listen to it.

Mr. Cash: With the greatest respect, Sir Alan, the question whether this is a matter of public policy is not exclusively one that deals with hybridity. I asked whether there was hybridity, on which an adjudication may be required from the Speaker.

The Chairman: I am satisfied that there is no question of hybridity in relation to the Bill.

Mr. Maginnis rose--

Mr. Robathan: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maginnis: I will.

Mr. Robathan: I should like to raise specifically the question that the hon. Gentleman was addressing--whether the failure to ensure the reciprocity mentioned in the amendment would be open to judicial review. We have mentioned that before, but did not explore all the avenues. I am particularly concerned about that. The Home Secretary has said that he does not believe that the measure could be open to judicial review; but does the hon. Gentleman have any faith in the Home Secretary's recent judgments on various cases in the public domain, be it Tyson, Pinochet or whoever?

Mr. Maginnis: I will not be tempted to make an adjudication on either Pinochet or Tyson, but I believe that, on this issue, the Secretary of State is in error. The Minister has an obligation to persuade me otherwise. He can do so by indicating how, while the negotiations were being conducted--

Mr. Hayes: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maginnis: I will, but I should like to develop that point.

Mr. Hayes: I want to be absolutely clear about the hon. Gentleman is saying. Is he saying that the amendment invalidates the Bill on the ground that it introduces measures that depend on equivalence between the two Parliaments? Where that equivalence does not exist

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because of constitutional bars, surely the amendment would damage the Bill; indeed, it would make it impossible to implement.

Mr. Maginnis: That is not exactly what I am saying. Again, I am always self-conscious about the guidance that I receive, but I will try to clarify the point, with your indulgence, Sir Alan. I am saying that, within the scope of my knowledge of the Irish constitution, reciprocity is not possible at this stage, but that it should be sought if we are not to find ourselves with a Bill that discriminates, as the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) suggested, against a class--that class being hon. Members.

Mr. Hayes: The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If he is saying that there is a constitutional bar, surely it would not be a matter that ever came before any external alien court, Parliament or body; it would relate to existing arrangements in respect of the Irish constitution. On the one hand, the hon. Gentleman is saying that something is not possible and, on the other, he is saying that it would contravene European law.

2.15 am

Mr. Maginnis: The hon. Gentleman must not attempt to blind me with science.

I was saying that the House is entitled to insist on a caveat that, unless there is reciprocity embracing all hon. Members, so that they are eligible to be Members of the Dail, the Bill's provisions should not be implemented. I cannot stop the Bill becoming law, but it should contain the caveat that its provisions cannot be implemented until the inequity within it has been dealt with.

Mr. Cash: I am extremely interested in the point that the hon. Gentleman has just made. With great respect to you, Sir Alan--with whom I am not prepared to disagree at this juncture--I simply say that the point about equity is the essence of the notion of hybridity. There are special procedures in the House to deal with those matters, which can be adjudicated only through proceedings provided in Standing Orders.

Mr. Maginnis: The hon. Gentleman has again made his point, and I cannot enlarge upon it.

Mr. William Ross: I have been trying to intervene on my hon. Friend for some time, but such was the interest in his remarks that other hon. Members wanted to have them clarified.

My hon. Friend's knowledge on these matters is greater than mine, and I, too, seek clarification. He has drawn attention to the potential inequity and discrimination suffered by hon. Members, and he related that to the fact that people in Northern Ireland were treated as children of the Irish nation. However, as he will know, it was not only people in Northern Ireland who were so defined by the Irish constitution; so were all those whom Ireland considers to be Irish citizens, including many persons who might enjoy dual citizenship with the United Kingdom. In such circumstances, my hon. Friend would surely be wrong to confine membership of that group to those who

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live in Northern Ireland. The group embodies a much larger number of people, who live not only in the United Kingdom but elsewhere in the world.

Mr. Maginnis: My hon. Friend makes a point that was developed Mary Robinson during her presidency, when she talked about the Irish diaspora. But I do not think that that point impacts on the specific point that I was making concerning the reciprocal rights of Members of this House.

Mr. Robathan: The point about how the law affects people in the United Kingdom is extremely important. If there is no reciprocity between Dail Members and Members of this place, and if--as the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) has just suggested--members of the Irish diaspora who are Members of the House of Commons are allowed to sit in the Dail, it seems that there will be immediate discrimination between an English-born Member like me and southern Irish-born Members, of whom there are many in the House--

Mr. Ross: And their descendants.

Mr. Robathan: Yes. Although I am not a lawyer, I suspect that, without the reciprocity clause, the consequent discrimination would constitute a prima facie offence against the European convention on human rights--and, almost certainly, against English law.

Mr. Maginnis: The hon. Gentleman hits the nail on the head. I hope that that is the point I have succeeded in making to Ministers, because it is the nub of my argument.

I move on in trepidation. Once again on reciprocity, I press the Minister to tell us whom he consulted. He could clarify the point by telling us whether he talked to each individual major party in the Irish Republic. He could achieve reciprocity by agreement with those parties. The strange thing is that the members of the Dail's all-party constitutional committee were neither in favour of nor against reciprocity. They were totally ignorant of the matter, which had not been put to them for consideration. They were worried about conflict of interest, as has been noted. Who had the authority, on behalf of the Irish Government, to offer reciprocity?

I am not as clear as the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) that the Minister did in fact suggest that such an offer was made. I hope that the Minister will enable me to move forward by saying whether an offer on that issue--vague or otherwise--had been made by the major parties in the Irish Republic. I hope that he will accept that challenge, but I see that he is keeping his head down. I recognise the Minister's reluctance to inform the House on the question of reciprocity and the basis on which certain assumptions are being made.

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