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Mr. Gale: My right hon. and learned Friend is right, except that I think he meant to refer to the provisions of clause 2, not of clause 1. Otherwise, he is absolutely right.

In the early hours, in his absence, we referred--in no way disparagingly, as Mr. Martin would not have permitted it--to the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), who is a Member of the European Parliament, of this House and of the Northern Ireland Assembly. There is nothing improper in his holding those positions. However, the point was made that only one of those three legislatures--this one--is a sovereign Parliament. The Northern Ireland Assembly is not sovereign, and the European Parliament is most certainly not sovereign. The Parliament of the Irish Republic is sovereign, as is the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Minister cannot have it both ways. He might admit, "I got clause 2 wrong. There is no prospect of a Member being a Minister both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic"--although if he did, one might ask why

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clause 2 was included in the Bill. Clause 2, which the Committee has passed, deals precisely with a situation in which a Member serves as a Minister in both legislatures.

Mr. O'Brien: The hon. Gentleman is being extremely generous in allowing interventions, and I do not want to abuse his generosity, but I thought I had dealt with that point. The situation in Northern Ireland is different because of the d'Hondt principle on selection of the Executive. The d'Hondt principle does not apply in the British Parliament, the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly. Therefore, the Prime Minister, First Minister or First Secretary in those Executives have a choice about who is appointed as a Minister, and, in practice, would not choose someone who was a Member of the Executive of another country.

Mr. Gale: What matters is not whether the principle belongs to Professor d'Hondt deceased, or to anyone else, but the principle itself. The Bill's principle maintains--entirely correctly, if we are to have the Bill at all--that it is wrong for a Member to be a Minister in both the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Parliament of the Irish Republic. The Minister agrees with that--it is his Bill--and, to the extent that I agree with the Bill at all, I agree with that. All the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey is saying in new clause 9, and all my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) is saying in new clause 8, is that, if that is so, it is also wrong for a Member to be a Minister in this House and in the Parliament of the Irish Republic. Let us, therefore, state that clearly in the Bill.

The Minister has spoken many times in our debates, and he has said that he is prepared to consider the issue. However, he is not prepared to give any undertakings. If he is not prepared to do that, I hope that either my hon. Friend the Member for Stone or the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey will press his new clause to the vote. Patently, if clause 2 is correct, one of the new clauses also must be right. We have to deal with that.

Mr. Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree that, in the past year, Ministers have created a problem by raising the issue of whether formulations and amendments arising from Bills may be thought to be purely theoretical?

Secondly, the history of British constitutional development over the past 600 years contains many examples of people saying that something would never happen because it was merely a theoretical possibility. An example of that is the prediction that Britain would not lose the veto. Is it not unwise to rely on the Minister's protestations that what appears theoretical could not happen eventually, or even soon?

Mr. Gale: My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and I went to see the Minister in 1997 and were told that there would not be a problem with economic migrants. He was proved wrong about that, and I fear that he will be proved wrong again. The Minister pulls a face, but if he does not answer satisfactorily the points that have been raised, he must expect us to vote against the Bill.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): The Minister has said in his defence that our objections are theoretical, but

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do not all the precedents show that laws made in haste tend to be bad laws? The Government have introduced the Bill in haste, and it is our duty to try to improve it, as the new clause proposes.

Mr. Gale: If we are not here to legislate, I do not know what we are here for.

Mr. Maginnis: The Minister claims that it is not possible to legislate for every eventuality, but the Government are promoting legislation in favour of creating an anomaly--that Ministers in this House theoretically could be also be Ministers in the Dail. Therein lies the difficulty with the Bill.

Mr. Gale: The hon. Gentleman is right, but the argument is becoming circular and I am getting bored with the sound of my own voice.

In conclusion, if clause 2 is right, at least one of the new clauses must be right. The Minister has not convinced the Committee that if one is right, the other is not. If he cannot produce a convincing argument, he should produce an amendment encapsulating the single exclusion that we want. Failing that, he has to accept one of our proposals now or face a vote on one.

I agree that legislation for its own sake is bad. The Bill cannot be described as that, but it is very bad and we are genuinely trying to mitigate it.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Bermingham: On a point of order, Mr. Lord. How many times must I rise to catch your eye before I am called to speak?

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord): I arrived in the Chair only a few moments ago, and was not aware that the hon. Gentleman was rising to catch my eye. Had I been so aware, I should have called him, in the correct order, as I always do.

Mr. Bermingham: I am grateful, Mr. Lord. I want to be brief. I have sought to intervene several times--sometimes I was allowed to, sometimes I was not. I recognise that I am an alien species in the Committee. According to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), I am an alien because I was born and bred in Ireland. I have been called an alien and a foreigner. I have listened to the debate and I am appalled. The question of sovereignty arises, but the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) forgets, of course, that in 1984 his Government put through the House the Single European Act, which made this country subject to European law. That is a transfer of sovereignty.

The Irish Republic, where I was born--and whose passport I held even after I came to the House because I was not an English citizen, but that is perfectly permissible--is also a member of the European Union and subject to European sovereignty. We have commonality of sovereignty, but that is ignored by those who seek to insult and denigrate those of us who were born abroad. That is sad. It is also why I appeared a little annoyed earlier, for which I apologise, Mr. Lord.

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I have sat here for a day and a bit being consistently insulted, as have 5 million people with the same heritage. We do not have to take it: our forefathers and relatives fought and died for this land in two world wars. Some of my family fought against this country in various rebellions and wars; that is a part of history. But I thought that we had grown up--I thought that the Good Friday agreement would mean that we could bury the past and not carry the prejudices and hatred forward. We should not be carrying into the future that which had created the tragedies of Northern Ireland. Yet what have I seen for a day and a half; what have I heard? Hon. Members have sought to carry the tragedies of Northern Ireland into the future.

I accept that I was rude to the Minister earlier, and I apologise unreservedly to him. He was right when he said that we should not play with theoretical issues that might not happen but should look at the realities of life. Why not? I know that one can be a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the European Parliament and the House of Commons. Of course that happens and nobody criticises it. I think that three hon. Members currently combine those roles. When I first came to this place, many people were Members of both the European Parliament and the House. Now, many people are Members of the Scottish Parliament and of the Welsh Assembly. The Scottish Parliament is sovereign--at least, I think it is; I hope it is.

Mr. Cash: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many of us have Irish ancestry in various degrees? Far from insulting anybody who comes from Ireland, the reverse is true--many of us have enormous affection for the Irish people and wish them well. However, there is a simple point that I should like to put to the hon. Gentleman in response to his question. Why does the Bill provide for members of the Irish legislature to become Members of this House and the Northern Ireland Assembly but not vice versa?

Mr. Bermingham: That is quite simple--we are dealing with the situation that we find today. Should the situation arise, I am sure that the necessary amendments could be passed. It is as simple as that. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that he has much sympathy and love for Ireland. Perhaps he might transfer that sympathy and love to certain of his right hon. and hon. Friends--including the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border--who are mentioned in early-day motion 315. That makes it clear that certain Conservative Members have no sympathy or love for the Irish; instead, they have an ingrained hatred, and it shows from time to time.

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