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The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman has made enough of that point in a very long intervention.

Mr. Maclean: I think that my hon. Friend was coming to the nub of a very complex argument, although I accept that you, Mr. Lord, must keep the Committee in order.

I cannot accept the words in the margin of the Bill, nor the Government's garbled explanation that clause 3 is no more than a consequential repeal. We have not heard the Government's argument, but it might be that, if clause 1 deals with the legislature of the Irish Republic, specific reference to the Senate is not needed.

The Government could have chosen a different route. They could have retained a reference to the Senate and added the words "of the Dail" to the existing wording in section 3 of the 1998 Act. However, I cannot explore that fully without straying out of order.

I believe that the Government's decision to omit either reference must mean something. I doubt that the House will ever know what sort of cosy agreement they have reached with the Irish Government, but it seems that the people from the southern Irish legislature who they want to stand for election, or to serve in both Dail and Senate,

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or to come and serve here, are Members of the Dail. The Government must have spotted how awful it would be if Members of this House--elected, responsible to constituents, and who take an Oath of Allegiance to Queen and country--had to sit next to people appointed by the five old-boy networks that, with the university seats and some others, provide the membership of the Irish Senate.

The possibility exists that most of the members of the Irish legislature who come to this House could be Senators, and not come from the Dail. Members of the Dail might be too busy with their constituents to participate in the Parliament of another sovereign nation. On the other hand, the Senate is composed of the products of the five appointed, specific interest groups. Senators have a lot of time on their hands and may regard themselves as the ideal candidates to get a proper job here and work alongside elected Members.

Have the Government received any advice from the Government of the Republic of Ireland about permitting Members of either House of the Irish Parliament to stand for election to this House, or to the Northern Ireland Assembly? Senators are more likely than Members of the Dail to be interested in doing that. The Government may be trying to ensure that any Members of the Irish Parliament who end up on these green Benches making legislation for the United Kingdom are members of that lower House. They have greater respectability, because they at least have been elected to a Parliament. That is why the Government want to use clause 3 to repeal section 36(5) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. They wish to delete the part of an Act that they passed only 12 months ago which refers to the Senate.

Mr. Swayne: Is that my right hon. Friend's estimate of what the Minister was telling us, at lightning, breakneck speed?

Mr. Maclean: We do not know--we just do not know. I am sure that with the leave of the House, the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, for whom I have the highest regard, will be able to stand up and, using the same notes--I know how the system works--read the Minister's speech again. We will not complain if the Minister reads the speech in his normal voice, at normal speed, or even if he speaks as quickly as I do. I appreciate that I may sometimes speak too quickly.

It would be better to hear the Government's view on this. I cannot accept that this is a straightforward attempt to tidy up the legislation using a consequential repeal. There is more to it than that. The legislation was initially rushed through at breakneck speed, yet throughout the night the Government have made no effort to advance the debate. Although I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the measure, it is not a solution. We need more time--another day, in fact--in which to deal with clause 3.

Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) made a helpful intervention a few moments ago. Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it is not merely a question of us tolerating hearing again what it is important for us to hear and understand--we are virtually in the position of kneeling and praying to hear it? The problem appears to be not merely that the

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Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has absented himself from the Chamber--so, apparently, has his speech.

Mr. Maclean: I hope that my hon. Friend's point was in order, Mr. Lord. The Minister has prolonged the debate by the way in which he has treated the House. That was the Government's fault. The Minister has prolonged the debate by making me suspicious, and I am generally not a suspicious chap. The Government have an opportunity to allay my fears and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends that there is nothing more sinister in clause 3 than a simple repeal to tidy up the measure--something that lawyers might, in the normal course of events, advise Ministers to do. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be able to catch your eye, Mr. Lord and, in his customary courteous way, reassure us about my concern. I am concerned that there is more to clause 3 than meets the eye.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: My right hon. Friend is making an extremely good point. He has highlighted the fact that it is the Government's fault that the Committee is not making faster progress on the Bill. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not simply that we expect the Government to present their reason for tabling the clause, but it is custom and tradition that Ministers reply to a debate and then respond to the many issues that are raised in their winding-up speech?

Mr. Maclean: I am sure that the Minister, as an honourable gentleman for whom I have the highest regard, has heard our comments and that, even now, he is champing at the bit to set my fears at rest.

12.30 pm

No doubt the Government will say that the Bill has been debated for many hours. That is not the point. There has been no gap between Second Reading and Committee, and between Committee and Report, for the Bill to be properly considered. That is my concern. Had there been sufficient time to consider the Bill, I might not have these fears about clause 3.

The Government must tell us whether, when section 36(5) of the 1998 Act is repealed, they would prefer to have more Members entering this House from the Irish lower House or from the Senate. Why remove a clause that makes specific reference to Senators, if the Government do not want Senators to enter the House? Why insert the new generic word "legislator", if they do not want Senators? If they simply want to ensure that there is a fair number of Senators--

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. The right hon. Gentleman has been doing quite well so far, but he is now in danger of straying from the clause. Will he return to it?

Mr. Maclean: Thank you, Mr. Lord. I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant).

Mr. Fabricant: I have followed the arguments of my right hon. Friend with considerable interest, especially his view that there is a Machiavellian plot--he may be right.

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However, because he was a Home Office Minister, running a Department with high standards, is he falling into the trap of ascribing the same high standards to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department? Might it not just be--

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman's point is not relevant to the clause.

Mr. Maclean: I hear your ruling, Mr. Lord. My hon. Friend made an interesting point, but I shall not take that route. I do not want to make comparisons between Ministers and myself. Under all Governments, civil service staff are generally excellent.

Will the Bill be rendered unworkable if clause 3 remains? That brings me to my next point, because, unless other points that are in order occur to me, I have finished exploring my concerns that the clause is slightly Machiavellian in that it implicitly excludes Senators of the Republic of Ireland, but not Members of the lower House, from sitting on the Benches in this place.

Mr. Gray: Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a strong parallel between Members of the House of Lords, who legitimately sit in the European Parliament, and Members of the Irish Senate, who legitimately sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly?

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. That is a Second Reading point. I should be grateful if the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) would ignore it.

Mr. Maclean: I shall certainly ignore it in this debate, Mr. Lord. Perhaps it will also be relevant on Third Reading.

Are the Government saying that the Bill will be unworkable if clause 3 remains in it? We should delete inconsistent provisions in previous legislation and insert new clauses in the Bill to make it workable. I disagree with parts of the Bill, but I do not simply want to disagree with the clause. After we lost the argument on the other clauses and on the principle of the Bill--

Mr. Bercow: We lost the vote.

Mr. Maclean: Indeed. Having lost the vote on other parts of the Bill, I do not want to delete clause 3 if it would make the Bill unworkable. However, I have heard nothing from the Government to suggests that the legal advice to Ministers is that, if the Bill is to work, it is vital to pass the clause and thus to delete section 36(5) of the 1998 Act.

I want to try to winkle out whether that would be so. If we do not do so during this relevant debate on clause 3, we can bet our bottom dollar that even the bowdlerised and purged other place will want to pay proper attention to whether the Bill is technically workable.

The Minister must give us the information. Let us suppose that he is minded to accept the argument of my right hon. and erudite Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst that clause 3 should be deleted. I may be tempted to support my right hon. Friend on that.

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If the Committee deleted clause 3 from the Bill, would the rest of the Bill be unworkable? Would anything in clause 1 be unenforceable or unworkable? The Minister's assertions that it would be untidy to delete clause 3, or that it is consequential and needs to stand part of the Bill, would not constitute an argument. However, if the Minister tells me that unless clause 3 is enacted, the Bill becomes unworkable, unenforceable or contradictory, or that he will again end up on judicial review before their Lordships, I shall accept his argument.

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