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As you will see, Sir Alan, the amendments were tabled by me, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and by the right hon. Members for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe). The amendments in the group all have a certain sameness about them, and are all related in the sense that they are aimed at preventing the same evil. Therefore, if the Government really want to make some progress on the Bill, the Minister should stop me now and say that the Government will happily accept the whole group of amendments. That would immediately resolve the difficulty.

The Minister seems to be unwilling to do that, although he has already said that he is accepting the principle in one amendment. As the principle is the same in all the amendments, what on earth is he worrying about? If the principle in amendments Nos. 7 and 21 is acceptable, why should it not be acceptable in new clause 3?

Dr. Julian Lewis: Is not the hon. Gentleman making the simple mistake of assuming that the Government will show some consistency?

Mr. Ross: What troubles me is that, although the Government are sometimes consistent, the driving force behind their consistency is so carefully concealed behind a smokescreen of words and misdemeanours. One is never able to catch up with what they are doing until the evil consequences of their actions appear one year or five years later.

Mr. Swayne: I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is being fair when he says that the same principle underlines all the amendments. The chairmen are most definitely Back Benchers and are not at all comparable to members of the Executive. I think that the hon. Gentleman may have tabled and moved essentially a wrecking amendment.

Mr. Ross: The hon. Gentleman may justifiably accuse me of many things, but, on this occasion, not of tabling a wrecking amendment. I am anxious to improve the Bill, which needs so much improvement that it needs to be rebuilt. However, that is a totally different matter from wrecking it completely.

The Government must see some good in the proposals, or they have been grievously misled by the IRA. Perhaps Ministers have been so threatened or blackmailed by the IRA's weapons or other means that they feel they have to do as they are told. However, I assure the Committee that amendment No. 21 is certainly not a wrecking amendment.

Mr. Swayne rose--

Mr. Ross: If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed for a few minutes, he will see that my proposals are logical.

Mr. Forth: For the sake of clarity, will my hon. Friend tell me why he has resorted to that ghastly "chair and vice

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chair" formulation? Conservative Members still talk about chairman and vice chairman, and we are proud and happy to do so. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends from Northern Ireland have not slipped into political correctness.

Mr. Ross: The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that our proposals had to be tabled in great haste, before we were able to think them through entirely. So many people are now so anxious to apply the strictures of political correctness that they might ask, "What if it is a lady?", forgetting that, in United Kingdom legislation, the legal definition of the male embraces the female--[Interruption.] Hon. Gentleman should not get too carried away with that information; it is much too late, or much too early, for that.

I am talking about a legal definition, which Ministers will understand perfectly well. In British law, the term "he" encompasses "she".

Dr. Julian Lewis: It even embraces her.

Mr. Ross: It was a barrister who told me that, as barristers in the Committee will be aware, "he" embraces "she."

Mr. Fabricant: I wonder whether my hon. Friend agrees with--I am almost tempted to say my right hon. Friend--the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who said that the worst thing that one could possibly write report is "she/he". Indeed, it was expunged from a Select Committee Report.

Mr. Ross: It is time to leave these highways and byways and proceed to the amendments, although a few minutes on preliminaries are always well spent.

I regret the usages that so offend my hon. Friend--the Tories feel like hon. Friends again after 20 years or so. It is clear, from its long title, that the Bill is somewhat restrictive. Amendment No. 9 has been tabled to correct a drafting point by replacing the phrase "Ministerial office" with "certain offices". It is necessary because of the wide range of offices addressed by various other amendments. Not all such offices are affected, but a fair number are.

Preceding debates have made it clear that the Bill to some extent is intended to avoid the conflict of interests that has so exercised the minds of many hon. Members over the past few hours. We fear that the Bill does not achieve its aim. It is very badly drafted, and has clearly been cobbled together in a hurry. The amendments are an attempt to make it more precise and tighten the wording. We want to make certain that the Government's intention is fulfilled.

Clearly, clause 2 does not meet the intention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann, the leader of our party and the First Minister in Northern Ireland. That is despite the fact that it was inserted into the Bill at his request, as we were told earlier. The Bill does not meet the needs of the Ulster Unionist party or the Conservative party. It is kneejerk, ill-thought-out legislation designed to please the IRA.

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The proverb "act in haste and repent at leisure" is well known. If we were to ask the IRA, "Would this Bill please you?", the real answer would be yes. The Secretary of State, the Government spokesman or whoever the present contacts are--

The First Deputy Chairman (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. As I have told the hon. Gentleman before this morning, he must confine himself to the amendments. They are, after all, his amendments.

Mr. Ross: I am trying to do that, Mr. Martin, but we have gone a long time without sleep and the way hon. Members chat in the background can be distracting.

Mr. Hoyle: The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) is asleep.

Mr. Ross: Yes, he is not speaking at the moment--although he is listening.

The Government would say to the IRA, "Of course, whatever you want, right away." They are acting in haste and will repent at leisure. I note that although the amendments tabled by the Conservative party and ourselves are not exactly the same, we were aiming at the same targets for the same reason. The amendments are precise enough to meet the case.

It is not possible to serve two masters; it is not physically possible to be in two places at once. We must make up our mind what job to do and then do it. [Interruption.] I hear it said, from a sedentary position, that it is possible to collect two salaries. I have tabled amendments to deal with that and the concept of collecting two lots of office allowance, claiming double for plane flights and car journeys and heaven knows what other dangers.

The First Deputy Chairman: The hon. Gentleman will know that the claiming of two salaries is dealt with later, when his remarks will be helpful. Perhaps he can keep his powder dry until we reach that stage.

Mr. William Ross: I was responding to a sedentary remark, and I realise that I should not have done so. I was aware that this point would arise--after all, these are my amendments. I thought about the dangers to the public purse. It is a question not only of extra salaries but of the possibility of fraud, whether inadvertent or not. We will come back to that issue later.

The amendments would clean up the Bill, making it precise and tight. They would make it clear that certain people should not be permitted to do certain jobs. The Government have already admitted that there could be a clash of interests if people held ministerial positions in two legislatures.

It is impossible to imagine that a foreign legislator could do some of the jobs that I refer to in the amendments. That said, I think that we should not allow the doors to open.

Many things are happening in Northern Ireland today that I would at one time have thought impossible. They have been tried and, even though they have not yet been very successful, some people are still hopeful. We shall see how matters develop over the next week or two. My right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann

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(Mr. Trimble) has written his resignation. The same holds true of the president of the party and the other Ministers in the Executive. If the weapons are not given up, we will be in a difficult position relatively soon.

I am more used to pronouncing Irish place names than Irish institutions such as the Oireachtas. I fear they are beyond me and I have no particular urge to learn how to utter these words. Bearing that in mind, let me quote new clause 3, which states:

Under no circumstances, Mr. Martin, would I like to see a good Glasgow man like yourself replaced by a Dubliner. I prefer to be sitting under your control, Mr. Martin, or under the control of Madam Speaker, of Sir Alan and all the other hon. Members who preside over this House at one time or another. Every Member of the House would want a United Kingdom citizen to occupy that position. That is why I have tabled this extremely sensible amendment.

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