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The Second Deputy Chairman: There is no need for the hon. Gentleman to seek leave to withdraw the amendments. As for the new clause, we have had a wide ranging debate and I am satisfied that there is no justification for calling any more separate votes.

Mr. Forth: I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 16, at end insert--

'or a member of either House of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland'.

The Second Deputy Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 4, in page 1, line 18, at end add--

'or a member of either House of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland'.

No. 33, in title line 7, after 'Government', insert--

'or members of the legislature'.

No. 5, in title line 7, at end insert--

'or members of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland'.

Mr. Forth: The amendment takes us into a completely new subject. We can put behind us the debates of the past few hours and march boldly into new territory, which is both deliberate and proper. Until now, we have been considering in some, although not excessive, detail the relationship between the Executive of other Parliaments and the institutions of the United Kingdom, especially

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those of Northern Ireland. However, I want to extend the logic of that argument to encompass Members of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Clappison: On a point of order, Mr. Lord. I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) for not having raised this matter before he started to speak.

Mr. Lord, I do not believe that you were in the Chair about an hour ago, when I raised the issue of this morning's sitting in Westminster Hall. My question about the fate of that sitting was satisfactorily resolved at that time. The guidance that I was given--that the Westminster Hall sitting would proceed, even though the Committee of the whole House continued to sit--was helpful to me as one who is interested in this morning's proceedings in both Westminster Hall and the Chamber. However, a further issue has since occurred to me, Mr. Lord, on which I seek your guidance. What will the position be if a Division is called in the Chamber and the sitting at Westminster Hall is proceeding? Will the Westminster Hall sitting be suspended?

The Second Deputy Chairman: I can deal with that quite quickly. That will be a matter for the Deputy Speaker at Westminster Hall at the time.

Mr. Forth: I am advancing an argument that is exactly parallel to the argument about whether it was legitimate, valuable and acceptable for members of the executive branch of government in another country to be able to participate either in the House of Commons or in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The parallel argument must now be raised in relation to Members of the legislature of the Republic of Ireland and their eligibility for this place or the Northern Ireland Assembly.

I concede that, in some ways, the arguments are rather different because there is a difference in kind between the Executive and the legislature, but I want to advance the case that arguments about conflicts of interest are equally legitimate, as are the arguments about the demands of time and of place. As we know, it is impossible for a person to be in two places at once. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) illustrated that in his point of order. The fact that he cannot be in Westminster Hall and in the Chamber simultaneously neatly illustrates in a timely way how much more difficult it would be for any hon. Member to serve in the legislature of the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly or the House of Commons at the same time.

Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is even more difficult for my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), given that it is Tuesday in the Chamber and Wednesday in Westminster Hall?

Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend may not believe this, but we have had rulings that there is no problem with that. We have a bifurcation of time in this legislature. It appears that the occupants of the Chair are comfortable with the fact that it is one day in the Chamber and a completely different day in Westminster Hall, which is a few hundred yards away. I have an intellectual difficulty with that concept. My hon. Friend, who is much more

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intellectually gymnastic than I am, may be comfortable with the concept of two separate time zones in one building.

Mr. Taylor: There is no problem, but can my right hon. Friend tell me where the date line is?

The Second Deputy Chairman: I would be grateful if we could return to the amendment that is being moved by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and not continue to deal with matters in Westminster Hall, which the Chair has already dealt with.

Mr. Forth: Indeed, Mr. Lord. You will have to forgive my disorientation, which is obviously natural following that short exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor). I shall do my best to gather my thoughts quickly.

The argument is essentially about whether our debates about the executive branch and the legislature in different countries can be comfortably and credibly carried forward to a similar argument involving different legislatures. That is the thrust of the amendment.

It is patently the case that there is a real difficulty in terms of Members doing justice to their duties in the legislature as well as doing justice to those whom they represent in an elected sense. However, how much more is there a problem with a potential conflict of interest? Knowing as we do the wide variety of matters that are dealt with in the natural course of events in legislative bodies--I include the Northern Ireland Assembly in a broad definition of a legislative body, and I hope that the Committee and the Minister will accept that for the sake of the argument--how much more is it possible that there will be almost daily contradictions and conflicts between matters being dealt with in the legislature of the Republic on the one hand and by the Northern Ireland Assembly on the other? That would certainly apply to the House of Commons.

8 am

Mr. Sayeed: It is a matter not simply of legislatures, but of different constituencies. Let us suppose that my right hon. Friend was Member of Parliament for an English constituency and an Irish constituency, and both constituencies were bidding for investment from the same company. He would have to speak for both constituencies. That would be absurd.

Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend has anticipated my line of argument, but I am grateful to him because he has brought into sharp focus the point that I wanted to make. He illustrated the inherent conflict of interest that must exist when the same person tries to be a representative in two different legislative or deliberative bodies.

That problem would arise not only in the particular circumstances that my hon. Friend outlined, but in a range of others, especially if the legislative bodies considered international conflicts or, if both legislatures were members of the European Union, ways of dealing with European law. Genuine difficulties emerge when we consider the concept of elected Members simultaneously serving in two legislative or deliberative bodies in two separate sovereign states.

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The Government have a problem in getting to grips with the difficulties. We have already found it difficult to persuade the Under-Secretary that it is legitimate for a law-making body such as the House to try to identify people who may be disqualified from standing for elective office. I have had a running debate about that with Ministers throughout our proceedings. Ministers have claimed time and again that we must allow the voters to decide. I replied time and again that the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 identifies groups of people who may not serve in the House of Commons for legitimate reasons. Those groups include civil servants, members of the judiciary and the armed forces. The principle that it is our duty properly to restrict the sort of people who may be eligible to stand for election to a legislative or deliberative body is therefore long established.

Even if I cannot persuade Ministers of the existence of that well-entrenched body of law, or persuade the Under-Secretary to tell me whether he intends to repeal it, we have established the argument that it is the Committee's proper responsibility to consider whether one person can properly make decisions in more than one legislative body. My answer to that is no. The reason was shown by the specific example that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) gave.

I do not want to weary the Committee with a long list of examples, although it would be easy to do that. However, we can all imagine cases in which those who served in the legislative assembly of the Republic of Ireland and in the House of Commons would quickly find themselves in an impossible position--physically, temperamentally, in terms of policy and, above all, loyalty. Hon. Members who wanted to take their seats in the House of Commons would have to swear the Oath of Allegiance. I am told that there is no parallel oath in the legislature of the Republic of Ireland, but there is something with similar force. Any Member who sought to represent voters in two different legislative bodies--

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