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The Chairman: Order. Hon. Members are in danger of repeating themselves. There is a limit to the number of words that can be devoted to this matter.

Mr. Leigh: There is, indeed, a limit to the number of words that may be devoted to this matter, but, Sir Alan, there is no limit to the anger that Conservative Members feel. That is why we shall continue to try to show the British public exactly what this grubby little Bill is trying to achieve.

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The title of the Bill is a matter for parliamentary draftsmen; Ministers have not been involved in decisions of that kind. The Bill amends

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legislation relating to disqualifications and adds a new disqualification relating to Irish Ministers who cannot be Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr. Howard: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. O'Brien: No, I will not.

Mr. Howard rose--

The Chairman: Order. Both Members must now take their seats. It is not clear to me whether the Minister is giving way. He must indicate that he is, or indicate otherwise; but if he does not give way, the right hon. and learned Gentleman must resume his seat.

Mr. O'Brien: I am not going to give way, Sir Alan.

I have made a genuine attempt to reply to the points that have been made, but it has sometimes been difficult for me to do so, because some hon. Members have not been able to get through their speeches without having to be brought to order. I have, however, tried to respond to points that seemed to me to penetrate the semantic discursiveness, bluster and other Tory games.

Mr. Fabricant: On a point of order, Sir Alan. The Minister may have forgotten that he was brought to order twice in succession earlier.

The Chairman: That is not a point of order. I have had to say that more than once to the hon. Gentleman today.

Mr. Howard: Although I spoke on Second Reading, I did not intend to speak in this debate. However, I was astonished by what the Minister just said about clause 4. He told the Committee that clause 4 was a matter for the parliamentary draftsmen, and that Ministers had not been involved. Is he denying any ministerial responsibility for clause 4?

Sir Patrick Cormack: Does my right hon. and learned Friend not realise that new Labour is allergic to clause IV?

Mr. Howard: That is a tempting suggestion, but I suspect that you, Sir Alan, would not look with approval on any attempt by me to respond to it.

There is a serious point, which is of absolute and direct relevance to whether clause 4 should stand part of the Bill. I hope that the Minister will clarify the matter. I was astonished that he did not give way to me, but I hope that he will deal specifically with this fundamental point: is he standing at the Dispatch Box and denying ministerial responsibility for clause 4?

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The right hon. and learned Gentleman, a former Home Secretary, puts his reputation on the line by making such silly points. We are clearly responsible for the Bill. The point that I was making was in reply to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), who had asked me a specific question about whether Ministers had intervened to alter the view of the parliamentary draftsmen about the name on the Bill, to which I gave a clear indication that Ministers had not.

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With his long experience in the House, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that Ministers are responsible for the Bill. He demeans himself by indulging in the sort of discursive tactics that have been deployed by the Tory party and in the games that Tory Members have visited on the Committee all night. We have seen bluster and discussions. The public will have seen the sort of Conservative party that has taken part in the debate.

The Chairman: Order. That is well outside the debate on clause 4 stand part.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 2

Disqualification from ministerial office in United Kingdom

"No person who is a member of the legislature of Ireland (the Oireachtas) may hold any Ministerial position, or be a Party Whip, or be a member of the Government of the United Kingdom.".--[Mr. William Ross.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. William Ross: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 8--Minister of the Crown--

"No person elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom and also to the legislature of the Republic of Ireland may become a Minister of the Crown.".

New clause 9--Disqualification from ministerial office in the United Kingdom--

".--(1) No person may be appointed to ministerial office in the government of the United Kingdom if he is a member of the government of Ireland.
(2) A minister in the government of the United Kingdom ceases to hold office on becoming a minister of the government of Ireland.".

Amendment No. 34, in title, line 4, after "Ireland", insert "or the United Kingdom".

Mr. Ross: We are coming to the end of the Bill. We have heard it described as a modest little measure, but those who over the past 23 hours have examined it continuously, line by line--each crossed "t" and dotted "i"--know that, although the Bill seems modest, it has vast implications. We have looked at it carefully. Sadly, the only bluster has been from Ministers, because we have had no answers out of them. That remains the case.

New clause 2 stands in my name and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). New clause 8 is in the name of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) has tabled other amendments. They all try to accomplish the same end. They try to ensure that no person who is a member of the legislature of Ireland may hold any ministerial position--be it as a Whip, or any other position--in the UK Government. That is in broad terms the gist of my

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new clause, but the hon. Members who have tabled amendments will no doubt speak to them and explain their thinking.

Yesterday, the Minister largely admitted the validity of the point at issue in the amendments, so the Government are in no position to resist the principle in the amendments. [Interruption.] I thought that I saw a faint smile starting to spread over the Minister's face and a half nod. I was beginning to hope that he was going to bounce to his feet and to explain that he was about to accept the amendments. Sadly, he is waiting to be convinced to the last fibre of his being that the principle that he supports is correctly set forth in the amendments.

I am fairly easy about which amendment the Minister accepts. Naturally, I hope that he will accept the one that is in my name. The Minister may, however, decide to opt for new clause 8--which was tabled by the hon. Member for Stone, who has been quite active in our debates.

Liberal Democrat Members have expressed clear concerns in new clause 9--which is perhaps only a probing amendment, although I hope it is not. I hope that they will press their new clause to a Division. We should have a Division on all three of the new clauses in this group, to determine which one the Committee favours. We have plenty of time to do so; the 10 o'clock motion still stands, and we could go right through the night again.

Mr. Swayne: New clause 2, which was tabled by the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), differs from the other new clauses and the amendment in this group in proposing to exclude members of the legislature of Ireland from serving as a party Whip in the United Kingdom. Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten the Committee as to why he has included that office as an exclusion in new clause 2? Does he extend the exclusion to the position of Opposition Whip, or does it apply only to the position of Government Whip?

Mr. Ross: As you will know from your own experience in the House, Sir Alan, there is barely an hon. Member who does not bear on his or her back the deep and vivid marks of the Whips. The same is true in every legislature in the world. Time and again, Whips drive unwilling Members into the Lobby. The Government must have their business, but the duty of Opposition parties must be to oppose the Government and to explore what Ministers are trying to do, so that Opposition Members are able--for the benefit of our constituents and of citizens of the United Kingdom generally--to gain a clearer understanding of Government policy. So often, however, although we labour long and hard, ultimately, we have very little to show for it.

The hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) should therefore know why I want to include Whips in the new clause. People who have gained experience and learned their trade in a Whips office in a foreign state should in no circumstances be given a position of responsibility in, or be allowed anywhere near, the United Kingdom legislature. God knows we have so many problems with our home-grown variety of Whip that we do not want to import any.

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I see the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) shaking in his shoes, and I appreciate the bad experiences that he must have had with Whips.

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