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The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I will not tolerate such behaviour. Perhaps I was distracted because I was speaking to another hon. Gentleman. I do not want to hear any comments about the Bill in its entirety. We are speaking about a very narrow matter.

Mr. Hughes: Having also laboured through Monday and Tuesday, and whatever it is now, I certainly do not intend to go over what is already on the record, such as my contribution on Monday, when I said what sort of Bill it is.

We have a clear position--which we addressed on Monday--which relates specifically to the clause, namely, that it is right that Members of the Irish Senate should be able to be Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is one of the anomalies that we have inherited and has been the position for quite some time. As Ministers and colleagues have said, there have been Members of this House who have been Members of the Senate of the Irish Parliament. Indeed, the law was changed some 10 years ago to accommodate that fact.

The second point is that it was clearly illogical to have legislation--why it should come up to be debated now is a separate question--that said that if one was in the Irish Senate one could be in the Northern Ireland Assembly, but if one was in the other House of the Irish Parliament one could not. Therefore, it was perfectly proper that a Bill should come before us addressing both issues, and this Bill, in fairness to the Government, does address both. It retains the right of a Senate Member to be in the Northern Ireland Assembly and it adds the right of a Member of the Dail to be in that Assembly.

Mr. Brady: Whether correct or not, surely there is an argument that there is a distinction, in that a Member of the Senate does not have all of the constituency responsibilities that a Member of the Dail may have, and therefore the effect in terms of conflict of interest and conflict in the daily workload of a Member might be very different.

Mr. Hughes: The hon. Gentleman is half right. As we learned from a mini-seminar earlier, certain Members of

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the Senate are elected--those who come from the university electorate in Ireland--and there are certain Members of this Parliament who are not elected, not at this end of the building but at the other end. In that sense, both Parliaments have unelected and elected Members; both Parliaments contain Members with constituents and Members without them. Therefore--if the hon. Gentleman is making a Westminster Parliament point in comparison to a Dublin Parliament point--there is no logical reason for there not to be a parallel view on whether people can be members of both legislatures. Clause 3, however, does not deal with that point. It deals only with the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Dail point, which is different.

Mr. Brady: Nevertheless, it is not anomalous, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, that the legislation as it stands should remain. Is he arguing that, merely because some members of the Irish Senate have been elected, they have a responsibility to represent their constituents as Members of this House have a responsibility, or is it simply that they are selected to be Members of the Assembly by virtue of an election, but then sit there without a responsibility to represent people?

Mr. Hughes: I will no go far down that road, but I will say that before the hon. Gentleman was born--indeed, before I was born--the House contained people who had been elected to represent university seats, as the Irish Parliament still does. That was the last unusual way in which the franchise was altered for the purposes of this place. In this instance, however, I think that we should focus on the narrower question of whether it is right to have legislation that enables Members of the Senate also to be Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

By passing clause 1, we have already said that Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Members of the United Kingdom Parliament should not be disqualified from membership of the Irish Parliament. It follows from that that clause 3 is logical: without it, the same provision exists in two separate Acts, which is surely a nonsense.

Mr. Nicholls: I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman, at least on this occasion, but does he really feel that he is on safe ground in praying in aid the university example that used to exist in this country? Even in the case of those with a dual franchise, members of the legislature had sworn allegiance to the same head of state. Will the hon. Gentleman turn his mind to the unanswerable conflict that must permeate this and every other debate on the Bill? We are talking about people swearing allegiance to two different heads of state, and that is why the whole Bill fails.

Mr. Hughes rose--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not reply to that point because it goes

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wide of the clause that we are discussing. So far, the hon. Gentleman has remained in order and I would not like him to stray as a result of that intervention.

Mr. Hughes: Let me say gently to the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) that, had he laboured as long on the Committee as some of us, he would know that we have already been around that course--as you rightly pointed out, Mr. Martin.

Mr. Swayne: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes: I will give way for the last time.

Mr. Swayne: The hon. Gentleman says that it is anomalous for the same provision to be made in more than one statute. I suggest that that is not unreasonable, and I shall give just one example. The Protestant succession is enshrined in no fewer than six Acts of Parliament that would have to be repealed were a change to be made.

Mr. Hughes: I did not know that, but I am willing to take it as read for the time being. Perhaps the Government will come up with another little constitutional four-clauser to deal with the Act of Succession, and that will be proposed as a modest amendment to the Bill. Once we have looked at it we may discover, as the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) has suggested, that it is not such a modest amendment after all.

Mr. Maclean: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes: Only as an absolute exception, because the right hon. Gentleman is a right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Maclean: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. This is one of the few occasions in this Parliament on which Her Majesty's Privy Councillorship has come in handy.

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that clause 3 is redundant, in that it replicates a provision that already exists in clause 1? Does he wish it to be removed because it is redundant, or does he believe that it is incompatible with other provisions? I could accept the removal of clause 3 if it were inconsistent or contradictory. Why does he think it necessary to remove it if it is compatible, but merely redundant?

Mr. Hughes: The answer is that clause 1 does not deal with section 35 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. In fact, it deals only with two other Acts--

Mr. Robathan: On a point of order, Mr. Martin. Clause 3 deals with section 36(5), not section 35. It is important to get that right.

The First Deputy Chairman: That is not a point of order, it is a point of debate.

Mr. Hughes: It was not a point of order, but I stand corrected. Section 36(5) is repealed by clause 3 and is not dealt with in clause 1, which deals only with the two disqualification Acts. Although it deals with the same Act--the 1998 Act--clause 2 does not deal with that

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provision. However, amending the disqualification Acts means that we do not need the Northern Ireland Act provision.

The three lines reveal that the Government have no coherent constitutional agenda.

Mr. Maclean: That is just like the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Hughes: It is absolutely not like the Liberal Democrats.

If the Government bring before Parliament a Bill to change the constitutional position of Members of the Senate and Northern Ireland Assembly, and have to come back to the House less than two years later to look at the legislation again, that suggests that it was not a thought- through, planned element of the constitutional jigsaw.

Mr. William Ross: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes: Not for the minute.

The complaint that I made on Second Reading applies specifically to the clause--namely, it is here because the Government self-evidently have come belatedly, and for no reason yet given, to get us to amend the constitution--which may be logical in itself, but would more logically have been done by looking at the same time at Northern Ireland and its relationship with the other four parts of the United Kingdom and with Ireland. We should do it all together. We are not doing so. It does not help constitutional logic and order to come back time after time, taking one bit of constitutional change at a time. I hope that the Government have more coherence in future.

Mr. Winnick: On a point of order, Mr. Martin. I have been here all night. My commiserations go to you and to your colleagues. I do not need any lectures from Opposition Members.

The point of order that I want to raise is simple. On a number of occasions, Madam Speaker has expressed concern about how the public view the House. I wonder how people will view the House when they see how the debate has been prolonged. It is an important Bill--I do not deny that for one moment--but it need not have gone all through the night and still continue now. It does the House no service for the public to see a Tory-organised filibuster, which brings discredit on the House.

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