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The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I have said before that the substance of this matter has been debated in relation to clause 1. An argument such as that advanced by the right hon. Gentleman would have been perfectly

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acceptable in that context, but it is not in a debate on clause 3 stand part. Clause 3 is consequential on the Committee having approved clause 1.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: I am grateful to you, Mr. Martin. Not only do I take full note of and accept your ruling, but I offer you my assurance that I was not deliberately attempting to stray outside rulings that you and your colleagues have generously, graciously and, indeed, patiently given the Committee during the past few hours. I was trying to reassure the Committee and you that there is a matter of substance to be discussed, arising out of a real case.

It is interesting that the 1998 Act distinguished between the lower House and the Irish Senate. As the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) pointed out, that matter was signed, sealed and settled 12 months ago and it has now been reopened. Were I to stray into the reasons for that reopening, you would rule me out of order, Mr. Martin, because we debated such matters--albeit unsatisfactorily--in relation to clause 1 and the amendments thereto.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that section 1(1)(e) of the 1975 Act--like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), I happen to have a copy with me--makes no distinction between the two Houses. In the 1998 Act, which set up the Assembly, a distinction was made. It is that distinction that is addressed by clause 3, which repeals section 36(5) of the 1998 Act.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst helpfully directed the Committee's attention to the nature of the Irish Senate, and he compared it to the nature of the Dail and of the House of Commons. So as not to stray from your guidance, Mr. Martin, I shall rest my case on the erudite and convincing arguments that my right hon. Friend advanced at that time. The Committee is being invited to assume that it is acceptable for Members of the Irish Senate to have an involvement in our elected affairs, even though some of them may not have previous elected experience.

The clause refers to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which in turn refers to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. I remind the Committee of section 1(1), which states:

I move on to paragraph (e)--

    "is a member of the legislature of any country or territory outside the"--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but we debated

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the matter that he is raising under clause 1. As I have said, clause 3 is narrow. All these matters have been debated under clause 1 and we cannot go over them again.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: I am extremely grateful to you, Mr. Martin. Actually, I was not going to debate the matter.

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The right hon. Gentleman may not intend to debate it, but this is a matter of words. To make mention of the issue would bring him outwith the rules.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: I apologise, Mr. Martin. I want to stay inside the loop. Outside it is not where I wish to be, not least because that is a place of less influence than inside it--that is, unless the loop is round one's neck.

Clause 3 refers specifically to section 36(5) of the Northern Ireland Act. The first part of the section refers to the Northern Ireland Disqualification Act 1975. That is how I reached that piece of legislation. It refers to countries outside the Commonwealth. Were I to suggest that by clause 3 the Government were signalling their antipathy to the burgeoning debate about whether Ireland should or should not rejoin the Commonwealth, you, Mr. Martin, would rule me out of order, so I shall not do so--except to make the point that the thought occurred to me. As we have had difficulty--nay, I say charitably that it has been an impossibility--trying to ascertain what the clause is all about and what the Government are seeking to achieve from it, you will understand, Mr. Martin, that various interpretations have occurred to the Committee, even if it has not been possible to pursue them because of the rules of order, which I welcome and entirely accept.

Mr. Fabricant: My right hon. Friend has pointed to the connection between the two Acts that are referred to in the Bill. He has correctly identified the change that took place in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which a year later we are repealing. What is it that necessitated the inclusion of the Irish Senate in the 1998 Act, which was not referred to previously and which we now see--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. We cannot debate that matter.

Mr. Bercow: But we would like an answer.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) and with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who interjected from a sedentary position. We cannot debate the matter but we would like an answer. When the Minister replies, he might be tempted to respond to the concern that both my hon. Friends have expressed.

11.45 am

We come to the question of why the clause is necessary. There is a prima facie case. The Government have tried to direct us along their road by including, in small type, in the margins of the Bill, the words "Consequential repeal". It is not the first rule of Opposition to believe what the Government tell them to believe. If it were, there would be no Committee stage; we would simply nod legislation through on the inaudible say of the Under-Secretary.

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The Government believe that clause 3 is simply consequential.

Mr. Brady: My right hon. Friend contradicts himself a little. First, he claimed that the Government said that the amendment was consequential. He now claims to know what the Government think. There is a major difference between what the Government think and what they say. Our debates have clearly revealed that they do not say what they think.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: My hon. Friend's preamble almost upset me. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell, it would grieve me if my hon. Friends thought that I was misleading them or myself. However, I understand the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) made. Today of all days--no, today is still Tuesday--but when we reach Wednesday, my local paper will reflect my hon. Friend's point. The Government say one thing and do another.

Whatever the Government believe, they want us to believe that clause 3 is simply a consequential repeal.

Mr. William Ross: Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that another anomaly has arisen about the day? It is Tuesday in the Chamber, but Wednesday in the Table Office.

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The right hon. Gentleman will not want to comment on that, because he is considering clause 3.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: My self-discipline and anxiety to remain inside the Chair's loop is such that I would not have responded to my hon. Friend's valid point.

Mr. Bercow: My right hon. Friend's contention that the Government's description of clause 3 as consequential does not automatically mean that it is, is supported by clause 1. He will have noticed the wording in the margin, which states:

However, on closer inspection, the clause provides for qualification in some circumstances, not disqualification.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: My hon. Friend makes an important point--

Mr. Mike O'Brien: On a point of order, Mr. Lord. The First Deputy Chairman ruled that the clause was consequential on clause 1. I am sure that you can confirm that and thus show that that is not only the Government's contention but that of the Chair.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord): Those matters can safely be left to the Chair.

Sir Brian Mawhinney: I am grateful for that ruling. I intervened earlier to try to reassure the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that our biting criticism of the Government's handling of the measure was not personal. However, given the intervention of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, I shall

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not necessarily want to be so generous to him. The Chair dealt with the substantive point but I have been speaking a short time and at no point did the Chair tell me to sit down because my remarks were unacceptable or inappropriate in terms of order. When Mr. Martin drew boundaries around interventions made by my hon. Friends, the Minister heard me tell me Mr. Martin that I would not be tempted to go outside Mr. Martin's loop--precisely because I was making a determined effort to stay within the ruling of the Chair. I was addressing my remarks, all of them pertinent thus far, to clause 3.

Mr. O'Brien: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

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