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6.15 am

However, the Minister had the temerity to say that the Government could not accept the amendment. If we do not include this provision, sooner or later, some clown will tell us what we must do, because the European Commission of Human Rights says that it is not fair to allow one lot in without the other. That would raise the issue of hybridity; we do not want to go down that road. That is why I tabled the new clause.

Mr. Swayne: Although I accept the hon. Gentleman's argument that the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker should not be Members of a foreign Parliament, is he not introducing a new concept--that there would be Members of Parliament who have differential rights to be elected to particular offices? That is why I suggested that the hon. Gentleman might be proposing a wrecking amendment. In essence, he is saying that those people could not be real Members of the Parliament.

Mr. Ross: That is my sentiment. They would have divided loyalty, so they could not be full Members of the House; they would not be part and parcel of the whole ethos of this place. In no circumstances, would I want to see the First Commoner of England a Member of Dail Eireann, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate what I am trying to do.

Dr. Julian Lewis: I fear that the hon. Gentleman may be in danger of a slight contradiction, depending on which way he voted earlier on the amendment that was designed to achieve reciprocation--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. We will not return to how Members voted on amendments.

Dr. Lewis: My point directly relates to that matter.

The First Deputy Chairman: I have said that it cannot relate to that matter. That is my ruling. We stick to the amendments before us.

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Mr. Ross: Although I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, nor a mind reader, I have a fair idea of what the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) was about to say. My response is that if an earlier amendment had been accepted--despite the doubts of some hon. Members--our view on this amendment might have changed. In those circumstances, we might have found it expedient not to move amendment No. 21. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is reassured that I am at least trying to be consistent in my efforts to improve this miserable Bill. I am trying to make it a little better by tightening it up.

From the days of King Charles and before--in trying circumstances--the Speaker has always been the protector of the rights and privileges of this place and of its Members. I should prefer to be protected by Madam Speaker than by Mr. Charlie Haughey, for example. At least, I should not have to watch my wallet if I was ill.

However, under the Bill, there would be nothing to prevent my fears from coming about. I have deep concerns; we should protect the position of the Chair. It should be reserved for a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament and for a citizen of the United Kingdom. I do not want it to go to somebody else.

Mr. Chope: Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee whether the Government have given any reason as to why they will not accept the new clause?

Mr. Ross: The Minister has sat in lonely silence for a long time. We hope that, on this occasion, he will be tempted to get to his feet and explain why he is prepared to accept the principle of the provision, as he has already told us. It is surprising for a Minister to tell us long in advance that the Government will not accept an amendment under discussion, but that they will accept one that will be debated much later--two or three miles down the road. I always believe that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush any day of the week. The Minister is not a shooting man; he does not understand, but he will appreciate that it is always better to get what one can, when one can, from the Government and not give oneself up as a hostage to fortune.

Amendment No. 21 applies the same rule to the Northern Ireland Assembly. A Presiding Officer or Deputy Presiding Officer should not be a member of a foreign legislature. I should have thought that that was a very sensible amendment to table--unless the matter is covered elsewhere the Bill. We have not had much time to study the Bill to decide what was needed, because one never really knows what a Bill is all about until one has heard the Ministers speak at Second Reading and the detail has been teased out to some extent. Afterwards one decides what amendments to table. This time we did not have time, and it had to be done in a rush.

What I said with regard to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker applies with equal force to those who are the senior officers in the Assembly. The Minister tells us that the principle of amendment No. 7 is acceptable, but that amendment No. 14 is not acceptable. I have only a vague idea about the procedures in the Dail, but I am sure that it must have a Committee system, so the same principle should apply to the Dail.

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That is the theory that underlies our amendments in the group. They are drafted fairly simply and straightforwardly. The Minister has not given us any reason, good or bad, why he will not accept them. We expect a bad reason if he is not accepting them

The Minister admitted previously that Ministers in the Dail would have a serious conflict of interests if they also served simultaneously in the Assembly or the United Kingdom Parliament. Only the surface of that iceberg has been explored. The same must be true of all the officers mentioned in our amendments. It is pointless to say "Leave it to the Assembly; leave it to the electorate" when we have seen the wheeling and dealing by Government to avoid the IRA bombing some place or shooting someone or breaking their ceasefire. Mind you, whenever people are shot--a gentleman was shot at Portadown not so long ago--we are told that the people who shot them have not broken their ceasefire. People were murdered by the IRA; we are told that the IRA has not broken its ceasefire. I presume that that is looked upon as house-keeping. That is fairly bloody house-keeping, and a murderous house-keeping. It costs people their lives and causes a great deal of misery, but the IRA is still on ceasefire.

In those circumstances, I have great difficulty in accepting what the Government say. I believe that they are wheeling and dealing and doing everything that they can to buy the IRA off, and I believe that the Bill is part of that buying off. We shall see the Royal Ulster Constabulary wrecked. We have seen the prisoners let out. We have seen the proposal to let Sinn Fein-IRA in to make use of the facilities of the House and to collect, not only their salaries but 100,000 quid to run their propaganda machine back home. We have heard all the talk about the border observation posts going. We have seen gun running and smuggling--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman is definitely straying from the amendment. Even allowing for the long hours that we have worked, I cannot allow him to stray so far.

Mr. Ross: I am sorry that you take that view, Mr. Martin. I was trying to explain to the House why the Government are not accepting the amendments. There must be something in the amendments that is offensive to the IRA; otherwise, they would be accepted.

Dr. Julian Lewis: Is not another possibility that the Government genuinely believe in what they are doing? It is possible to believe in two contradictory views simultaneously. It is called doublethink, which was invented by George Orwell, the 50th anniversary of whose death we are marking. Does that explain why the Government can accept the principle in some amendments and reject the same principle in others?

Mr. Ross: I read Orwell as a young man and found it interesting. Ministers should go back and read his books again, as that might give them an understanding of themselves and the problems with their own thinking. I do not want to trespass on your goodwill, Mr. Martin, so I had better move on.

The Government have swallowed all of those things that I mentioned earlier, at a cost of several hundreds of millions of pounds of oil revenue alone. That has been

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swallowed in an effort to keep the IRA on board. We should not pay the price that the IRA are evidently demanding. The IRA should accept the standards that normal, civilised folk accept. They should leave their thuggery, violence and threats behind. They should produce their weapons, dismantle their terrorist infrastructure, accept the rule of the Queen's law and pinpoint the bodies of the disappeared. The last point is another matter that is coming up again, although not in the Bill. However, it is relevant, as many people in Northern Ireland are concerned about it.

If the IRA left behind their embittered past and their hatred of all things British, perhaps my party might begin to treat them as a normal political party. As it is, we have to try to keep those in the IRA at arm's length to ensure that they do not get into a position where they can inflict more damage on the constitution of this country and its institutions. That is why the amendments have been tabled.

Mr. George Howarth: I am tempted to be drawn into the discussion about the works of George Orwell--simply to say that a text that the hon. Member for East Londonderry might have read sums up a little of what has taken place in the Chamber these last hours. It is "Homage to Catalonia" in which Orwell, who fought in the Spanish civil war, described the experience of trying to fight alongside the anarchists when nobody seemed to be in control. The anarchists had taken over the war and were not making a great deal of progress. I wonder whether Opposition Front Benchers might care to reflect on "Homage to Catalonia" and the lessons that they could learn from it.

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