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4.52 pm

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): The hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) rightly drew to our attention the fact that this is his second bite of the cherry, as he had a go on 29 July 1998, when he said that he spoke "with some trepidation". Obviously, in the intervening time he has been able to overcome that trepidation, and he has entertained us with another case for changing the practices of the House. He is nothing if not persistent. As he also pointed out, he was defeated last time by 151 votes to 137. I am pleased to say that those who opposed him last time came from many different parties. Many Liberal Democrat Members, as well as Ulster Unionists, were against him.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on one point: it is a solemn matter. I suspect that the vast majority in the House take that view. When they queue up at the beginning of the new Session to take the oath of allegiance, they do so with some solemnity. Most of us regard it as the most wonderful privilege to come here on behalf of those who elected us and take part in ordering the destiny of this great nation. The act of signing the register and affirming the oath is one of the privileges that

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most of us enjoy. There may be some who dislike it and would ridicule it, but I suspect that they are in a very small minority.

The oath is part of our traditions, going back centuries. It is true that in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was in large measure--

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): It goes back to the Stuarts.

Mr. Howarth: Yes, and in the 17th and 18th centuries it was to renounce the Stuart claim to the throne. It was also one of the bulwarks against Catholicism, which at that time represented a challenge to the sovereignty of these islands--which of course it does not today. Indeed, this House and the country are privileged to have so many adherents to the Catholic faith among us. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) fights vigorously for the continued independence of these islands, which shows that Catholicism and the defence of sovereignty go hand in hand today--as perhaps they did not in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The oath has been changed since then, but it has stood the test of time since about 1868. For the benefit of the House, I shall rehearse some of it, to remind those hon. Members who have forgotten what it says. It states:

Most of hon. Members are entirely happy to swear that oath.

However, we are not alone. It is not as though Members of the House of Commons are unique in having to swear an oath of allegiance before taking their seats. Judges, magistrates and members of the armed forces do so as well--and members of the Privy Council swear a much more sophisticated oath than Members of Parliament, as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) will know. I shall not embarrass the right hon. Gentleman by reading it out, as it might embarrass some other Labour Members--[Hon. Members: "Go on, read it out."] I am being tempted by my hon. Friends, so perhaps I will.

The text of the Privy Council oath, as reported to the House by the Leader of the House on 28 July 1998, is:

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In swearing the oath of allegiance, we, like judges, magistrates and other persons appointed to other positions, acknowledge that the Crown--not the person of the Queen, but the Crown--is the fount of all justice in this country. It is significant that the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament have drawn up the same sort of provisions for the swearing of an oath of allegiance as we require in this House.

Therefore, the hon. Member for Hull, North should look at those legislatures before he proposes modernising the oath. Neither of those bodies has seen the need to modernise, but both have accepted the desirability of having the oath. It is right that Members of Parliament should swear an oath of allegiance to our country, as Her Majesty the Queen is the head of state. That is the system of government that the people of this country wish--it is the democratically expressed wish of the people. Therefore, it seems entirely consistent that we should take the oath of allegiance. Recent events in the United States have shown the merit of having the Head of State and the day-to-day government of the country resting in different hands.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of inclusivity. I do not believe that we should extend inclusivity to fifth columnists and traitors. Those who wish to be Members of this House and represent the people of this country should swear an oath of allegiance to the Head of State and have the interests of the country at heart.

I believe that the hon. Gentleman's real agenda is to obtain consent for the admission into this Parliament of those who have been elected to it but have chosen not to take the oath of allegiance and--some of us would argue--have done a great deal to undermine all that this country stands for. It is their decision whether they come here or not--no one is forcing them to stay away. They have simply to swear the oath of allegiance and they can take their seats in the House. They challenged it in the High Court in Northern Ireland and in the European Court of Human Rights, and they lost both cases. They lost in the European Court of Human Rights because it was deemed to be a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, and for this House, and not for anybody else.

I hope that I have made a case for the House to reject the hon. Gentleman's entreaties for the second time around and give him such a decisive view of our decision on the matter that he will spare us a third attempt.

ion put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):--

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 148.

Division No. 330
[5.1 pm


Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Borrow, David
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burgon, Colin
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Davidson, Ian
Dawson, Hilton
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Drown, Ms Julia
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Grogan, John
Harris, Dr Evan
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kemp, Fraser
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Laxton, Bob
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Love, Andrew
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McFall, John
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Mitchell, Austin
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Hara, Eddie
Organ, Mrs Diana
Pickthall, Colin
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Rendel, David
Roy, Frank
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stunell, Andrew
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Tyler, Paul
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John McDonnell and
Mr. Paul Flynn.


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, John
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Cann, Jamie
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hammond, Philip
Harris, Dr Evan
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Hunter, Andrew
Jenkin, Bernard
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Merron, Gillian
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woolas, Phil
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Gerald Howarth.

Question accordingly negatived.

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