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Mr. William Ross rose--

Mr. Forth: I will give way, but I am anxious to draw my remarks to a conclusion.

Mr. William Ross: The right hon. Gentleman is doing very well. There is quite a lot that he could address yet.

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The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the possibility of manuscript amendments. How on earth can anyone put down an amendment until we know the form in which the Bill ends this part of its passage? Only when we reach the end of the Committee stage shall we know whether any amendments have been made. We then need time to look at the shape of the Bill and decide what, if any, amendments we need. Already some amendments have been promised, which would colour our thinking. How on earth could we put down manuscript amendments?

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman responds to that, may I remind him that he himself has already said that that matter has been dealt with?

Mr. Forth: We have been told the way in which it will be, Mr. Lord, and I will not pursue the matter, following your guidance.

I think we have said enough to illustrate that we are potentially in very real difficulty here, unless we are prepared to face squarely the sort of difficulties that I have been describing and have the determination to do something about them.

Mr. Sayeed: In his distinguished career as a Minister my right hon. Friend had to hold very private discussions within his Department where policy and a negotiating stance were decided upon. Ministers in the Irish Parliament obviously have to do the same. If he were a Minister there how would he be able to come to a different Parliament with which negotiations and discussions might have to take place and be able to keep his tongue still?

Mr. Forth: I freely concede that the difficulty my hon. Friend suggests is a real one. It arises from the confidentiality of so much of what Ministers have to do. We of course operate in a very open environment; most of the time we are open to scrutiny and under the public gaze. But Ministers are in a different category altogether. The mixing of the two environments could create real problems.

Mr. John M. Taylor: Does not my right hon. Friend personify an even greater problem, in as much as he is a Privy Councillor. How does he cope with that one?

Mr. Forth: That is something we have all missed: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having raised it, and I feel humbled by the fact that he has. I had not spotted it myself. Perhaps the Minister should think about whether membership of the Privy Council would have a bearing on eligibility for membership of a body outside the Commons; and about whether the equivalent obtains in any other legislature. The Oath that we take is a sacred one, and I shudder to think that anything might compromise it. So my hon. Friend is definitely on to something which we must attempt to clarify, even within the ridiculously short amount of time allotted to us.

Mr. Gale: I should like to take my right hon. Friend back to the amendments under debate. I am conscious

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that he has been slightly distracted from the purposes of amendments Nos. 3 and 4, but I have been studying them carefully, and I cannot understand how they deal with the problem my right hon. Friend referred to earlier concerning multiple seats and mandates.

I think I am right in saying that the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) is currently a Member of the European Parliament, of this House, and of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Under this legislation, it would be perfectly possible for the reverend doctor to go on to become a Member also of the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland--and probably of the Scottish Parliament, too. I cannot see how either amendment even begins to deal with that difficulty.

Mr. Forth: A number of points were wrapped up in my hon. Friend's succinct presentation. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), because he was born in Northern Ireland, is eligible for the Republic's legislature; but only by dint of the fact that he was born in Northern Ireland. That bestows on him a privilege that those of us who were born on the mainland do not have.

I want to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale). Our main concern has focused on a clash of loyalties in sovereign Parliaments, of which ours is still, I hope, one. The other bodies that my hon. Friend mentioned are not: the Assembly in Northern Ireland is a subsidiary body, and the European Parliament is mercifully not a sovereign body, and I hope it never will be. Therefore, it is possible and perhaps even proper for an energetic individual of the type that my hon. Friend mentions to serve with distinction in an Assembly such as that in Northern Ireland, in a Parliament such as that in Strasbourg and in the House of Commons. We may not see much of the individual in any one of those places, but that is okay.

It is possible, but only because the Irish allow it, for that same individual, by dint of having been born in Northern Ireland, to be both a citizen of the United Kingdom and eligible for election to the legislature of the Republic of Ireland. It is a complicated set of circumstances, but I think that I have it right. In mentioning that example, unusual though it is, my hon. Friend may have neatly wrapped up most of the arguments. I do not at this stage want to argue about whether one can have dual or triple mandates in the House of Commons, the European Parliament and the Assembly. That may be for another day. I do want to advance the argument that it is wrong for anyone to seek to serve in the legislature or Executive of both this country and a sovereign country with different interests at one and the same time.

That is the essence of my argument. I hope that the Committee will accept it.

Mr. William Ross: On multiple representation, the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned single, double and treble mandates, but the quadruple element still remains for the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and, indeed, for the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). For different reasons, both are likely to get elected to both Scotland and Dublin. One is likely to be elected to Dublin because of his Irish nationalism, the other because of the

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fact that people might want a totally honest face down there. In Scotland, both would enjoy quite large support from disparate elements of the population.

Mr. Forth: I concede that those are all possibilities. It simply illustrates the nonsense of a multiplicity--a plethora even--of representative bodies, which seem to be sprouting before our disbelieving eyes weekly, if not monthly. I hope that my party will have the courage to say to the electorate at the appropriate time that we do not regard that as irreversible and that we believe that the number of representative bodies at any one time should be discussed, debated and considered. That would be my devout hope.

I hope that I have said enough.

Mr. Bercow: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forth: It must be the last time.

Mr. Bercow: My right hon. Friend's generosity is boundless. Does he agree that dual, triple or indeed quadruple mandates are problematic on either score? If the Member concerned is sufficiently energetic to be able to participate in the deliberations of all the legislatures of which he is a member, he is almost certainly repeating daily the conflict of interest that many of us find so repugnant. If he is not doing so because he lacks energy or the flights do not permit him to be in the relevant place at the right time, he is thoroughly ineffectual. Either way, it simply does not work.

Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend is forcing me unwittingly to agree with the Minister, which pains me at this stage of the proceedings. By my reckoning, I have spent the best part of 15 hours disagreeing with the Minister and feeling comfortable about it. Now, at this advanced hour in the Committee stage, I am about to agree with him. I hope that it does not put his career at risk. Here, his point about leaving it to the people has validity. If those who have elected the individual with the multiple representation are prepared to put up with that and to accept, as must be inevitable, that the individual cannot possibly give as much time, dedication and involvement to each of the bodies in which he is serving, that must be a matter for them. Our role is to satisfy ourselves on the qualification point. We must then leave it to the electorate to make their judgment on the representational point.

Dr. Julian Lewis: I am sorry that the 15 hours appear to be taking their toll on my right hon. Friend's memory because I thought that I had dealt with that point thoroughly in an earlier intervention. I pointed out that, if people are elected to those multiple positions on proportional representation list systems, there is no way that the electorate can punish them because, if they are placed high enough on the list, it is the people lower down the list who will take the punishment. For all their abuses, those high enough on the list will continue to be elected.

Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In the good old days, if memory serves--it is failing a bit because I am old man and I have been on my feet for quite a long time--we were able to be elected to single Member constituencies in the European Parliament, single Member constituencies in the House of Commons and, in

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the really good old days, single Member constituencies in Northern Ireland. Now, of course, the Government are undermining all that, and that is where my hon. Friend's point comes in. Shall we call it a draw, and perhaps give it some further thought?

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