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Mr. Bottomley: On a point of order, Mr. Martin. If my intervention on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst prompted that ruling, I apologise. I was hoping to ask what happens if the Bill becomes an Act and is later repealed. Were clause 3 not to stand part of the Bill, the qualification for a Member of the Senate to come in would still apply. If I trespassed over ground that has been covered before, I apologise.

The First Deputy Chairman: I stress that it is a small point that the hon. Gentleman makes--it is not a point that we can make a meal of at this time.

Mr. Forth: Indeed, Mr. Martin. The distinction in my mind is that whereas clause 1 refers in a generic sense to the Northern Ireland Assembly disqualification, clause 3 focuses specifically on the Senate. There is an opportunity under clause 3 for us to consider whether the Senate should be treated differently from or the same as the Assembly. That is a crucial difference, especially given the fact that the Senate is of a different political nature.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): My right hon. Friend might value the information that the Irish Senate

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consists of 43 members elected to represent five vocational panels, six members elected to represent Irish universities and 11 members appointed by the Prime Minister.

Mr. Forth: I hesitate to explore that matter further. However, I suspect that the use of the term "elected" is rather loose, as I doubt whether they are directly elected. I do not want to get distracted in that way, as I wanted to take a succinct look at the matter. I wanted to set the stage for the debate, rather than hog the time. As you know, Mr. Martin, I try never to do that. I am trying to draw out the main themes of the debate in the context of section 36(5) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

10.15 am

I was briefly considering the difference in treatment that the Committee might have to consider. A political body that is elected and which is therefore fully comparable to the House and to the Northern Ireland Assembly even though it is peculiarly elected by the gentleman called d'Hondt, about whom we keep hearing but none of us fully understand--

Mr. Peter Bottomley: He is dead.

Mr. Forth: Well, the dead d'Hondt--or the late Professor d'Hondt, if one wants to be more gentlemanly about it.

Consequential or not, the Irish Senate is referred to separately in clause 3 because it was dealt with separately in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. That means that we must give it proper and separate consideration. It might have been treated separately because it is, in substance, different from the other bodies that we have considered. It is certainly separate in the context of the Bill.

Rev. Martin Smyth: I am a former graduate of Trinity college, but a much earlier graduate, Edmund Burke, gave us the guideline that Members should come to the House not as delegates but as representatives. Is there not a difference between those, such as Gordon Wilson, Dr. Robb and others, who were appointed to the Senate by the Taoiseach and those who were elected? Where does the loyalty of those appointed by an individual lie?

Mr. Forth: These are vital considerations. An interesting and respectable publication has fallen conveniently into my hands. It was produced by the constitutional unit of the UCL school of public policy, so I suppose that it can be trusted. I shall quote it briefly because I am sure that the Committee wants to understand the context:

That is not very complimentary. Are its Members the people with whom we are supposed to be playing transfer? It adds:

    "Its powers were weakened under the new constitution of 1937. It has only 90 days to consider any legislation that comes from the Dail, which in turn may overturn any amendments after a further 180 days. The Senate has no powers over financial legislation and no power to appoint or dismiss the Government."

That illustrates that we are dealing with a political body that is quite different from the elected Assembly in the Republic of Ireland and from the unicameral Assembly in

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Northern Ireland. It is different again from the combination of the House of Commons and the new transitional House of Lords, whose final composition we do not yet know.

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border): My right hon. Friend suggested that the Senate was not elected in the normal sense. The excellent constitution unit booklet shows that it is made up from five vocational groups, it is voted through by the out-going Members of the previous Senate, by some people in local councils and by Members of the lower House. It is very much an old boys' and old girls' network who put in their own placemen from their own vocational groups. He is right to suggest that it is not an elected Assembly.

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. This is a convenient point to stop the right hon. Gentleman. Once again, I make it clear that such arguments could have been made on clause 1. If my memory serves me correctly, they were made on clause 1. [Interruption.] Order. I have as good a memory as any other hon Member. That is why I am in this job.

Clause 1 refers to the "member of the legislature". That includes the Senate as well as the Dail. This is a technical and consequential clause, and we are narrowly constrained by it. We cannot talk about the make-up of the Senate in this debate.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): On a point of order, Mr. Martin. Your remarks are helpful, but will you confirm that clause 1 provides for the removal of a disqualification, whereas clause 3 provides for the removal of a qualification, and that there is, in some sense, a difference between the two, even though they appear to be the reverse of each other? Although the clauses are different, the arguments are not identical, and it is relevant to note the distinction between the two clauses.

The First Deputy Chairman): It is not my obligation, but the Minister's, to explain the Bill to the Committee. If the Minister were to start to explain clause 1 in great detail, I would rule him out of order, because we moved on from clause 1 after having a lengthy debate on it. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) must speak only to clause 3. If he or any other hon. Member who intervenes during his speech strays from the confines of that narrow clause, I shall have to intervene. I do not like having to intervene, because it disrupts the flow of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: Further to that point of order, Mr. Martin. You have referred to matters that should have been debated and answered during the debate on clause 1, but what if it is the view of the Committee--at least, those on the Opposition Benches--that those matters were not properly dealt with at that time? Is it not the right of the Committee to probe such matters during debate on a later clause, even though that clause is rather tightly drawn, as you have rightly pointed out?

The First Deputy Chairman: We have to keep within the narrow confines of clause 3. My remarks might be construed as implying that clause 1 offered greater opportunity and scope to debate the matters to which the hon. Gentleman refers. Therefore, in a sense, hon.

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Members have missed the boat by waiting until clause 3 stand part to raise matters that they should have raised in connection with clause 1.

Mr. Brady: On a separate point of order, Mr. Martin. You have, rightly, drawn attention to the Bill's description of the clause as consequential. However, my reading of the two clauses reveals no inconsistency between the provision removed under clause 3 and that which is proposed under clause 1. Surely, clause 3 is not strictly consequential, given that there is no need to remove it from the other legislation?

The First Deputy Chairman: I can concern myself only with clause 3. I used clause 1 as an example, but said that we had now moved on from that clause to clause 3, which is narrowly drawn. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst has got my point.

Mr. Forth: I have indeed, Mr. Martin--indeed, how could I fail to do so? I am a simple man and can only tell these things as I see them. It complies with your guidance to say that it struck me that there had to be a clause 3 to determine the treatment of the Irish Senate within the overall framework of the Bill. If that determination had been unnecessary, clause 3 would have been unnecessary. My view is that clause 3 is necessary because of the provision in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which, in turn, singles out the Irish Senate, albeit for different reasons.

Mr. Peter Bottomley rose--

Mr. Forth: Have I upset my hon. Friend?

Mr. Bottomley: No, I am not upset; I just think that my right hon. Friend is wrong. If the Government had not proposed clause 3--we have yet to hear why they thought it essential to do so--the result would have been belt and braces, with all sorts of reasons given as to why a Member of the Senate should be able to be qualified. The question of whether Lords-Lieutenant should be able to do certain things is another matter. However, I do not believe that clause 3 is necessary--it is matter of choice. The question of why that choice was made is one that my right hon. Friend should ask. If I have misunderstood his remarks, I apologise.

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