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Lord Dubs: I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, for having misunderstood the intention underlying his amendment. However, I do not believe there is any possibility of misunderstanding. The words in brackets are merely intended as a translation and I would have thought that, if anything, they would clarify matters rather than cause confusion.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I will not detain my noble friend, but can he imagine a situation where, as seems to be the case, the projected forum which appears to be provided for in the legislation is going to meet in the Senate Chamber in Stormont and the television producer says: "It's a dull day in the Assembly; at the other end we are now going over to the Senate to hear what is being said on cattle diseases" or whatever? I think the noble Lord would concede that that will cause confusion; that is, mention of the Senate of Ireland when there will be meetings held under the auspices of the Assembly, not under the auspices of this Bill, in the very same building in the Senate Chamber.

Lord Dubs: I am not sure that I am persuaded by the noble Lord's argument. It is not that often that television commentators actually quote from legislation, and I would have thought they would use whatever language was most appropriate. But in terms of the legislation itself, I think the existing way of having the English version in brackets seems to be perfectly clear and not likely to cause any undue difficulties.

I refer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, about the burden of proof. No, non-compliance is an objective fact. Only the person failing to comply can give the reasons and it is likely that he would have to do so, and that they should be reasonable; otherwise we will lose clarity. I would have thought that the present wording is preferable to what the noble Lord suggests.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 [Disqualification]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 15, line 14, leave out from ("Commons") to end of line 15.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 93 and to discuss with it Amendment No. 95. We are concerned here with whether an individual is disqualified for membership of the Assembly. The clause states that someone,

with which I agree. I would there put a full-stop. It seems to me that the same criteria should apply to both. However, the Bill goes on to say, unless my amendment is carried,

    "otherwise than under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975".

19 Oct 1998 : Column 1301

I am sure the Minister will be able to tell us the effect of those words, but we need some justification for the fact that people will be able to sit in the one but not the other.

While mentioning this point, I think it is worth inquiring whether Members of this House, who, after all, are not qualified for membership of the House of Commons, would, nevertheless, under the Bill as it stands be qualified for membership of the Assembly should they wish to stand for it.

Subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 29 provide that the Assembly, if it wishes, in certain circumstances-- they are limited circumstances--can overrule a disqualification of any kind. That does not seem desirable. The rules for qualification should be laid down firmly in legislation of this Parliament and not be a matter which the Assembly can waive, even in limited circumstances. They should be part of the law of the United Kingdom. That is why I have suggested the deletion of subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 29. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: Like some of the government amendments in the previous group, these amendments deal with the issue of disqualification. Amendment No. 93 would have the effect of applying the House of Commons disqualification provisions to the Assembly instead of the provisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act, as provided for in the Bill. This matter was discussed in another place, where the Opposition's amendment was described as "probing". We believe that the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act is more appropriate as it is more tailored to the situation in Northern Ireland.

The 1975 Act was obviously designed specifically with the Northern Ireland Assembly in mind. It therefore includes in the list of disqualifying offices a number of posts which are specific to Northern Ireland and does not include a number of others which are not relevant to Northern Ireland. It also includes easier provisions enabling the Assembly to keep this list up to date rather than having to amend Westminster legislation, which would be the effect of the noble Lord's amendment.

The 1975 Act applied to the previous assembly in Northern Ireland under the provisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly Order 1982, which was made under the Northern Ireland Act 1982. I hope this clarifies the position for the noble Lord and that he will withdraw the amendment.

The noble Lord has also put down an amendment which would remove the Assembly's power to provide relief from disqualification. I find that curious. The power to provide relief is available in the House of Commons. It is also in the Scotland Bill and was enjoyed by previous assemblies in Northern Ireland. It provides a useful degree of flexibility is assessing where disqualification may have been short-lived and perhaps inadvertent. The power requires a vote of the Assembly which could be subject to a petition of concern if Assembly members object. It seems a sensible provision and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

19 Oct 1998 : Column 1302

The noble Lord asked whether Members of this House could stand for the Assembly. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, has done just that. It is permitted for Members of this House to stand there.

I should like to make one other point about disqualification.

    "Otherwise than under the House of Commons Disqualification Act",
covers common law categories of disqualification; for example, mental health grounds and other statutes, such as the Representation of the People Act 1981. I hope that clarifies the position for the noble Lord and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I shall certainly look very carefully at what the Minister has just said. With regard to Amendment No. 93, he seemed to me to be speaking to subsections (1), (2) and (3) of this clause rather than to subsection (4), which my amendment addressed.

At the end of his remarks, he mentioned the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. He seemed to be saying that that legislation prevented those with mental problems becoming Members of the House of Commons. That is not a very sensible provision to suspend in the case of the Assembly. There used to be a Member of another place some years ago who had had a mental illness and he would occasionally produce his discharge certificate to demonstrate that he was the only Member of the House who could prove he was sane.

If I understood the Minister correctly on that point, I shall wish to return to it. I may not have caught exactly what he said. Unless he wishes to comment further, which he does not seem to, I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Effect of disqualification and provision for relief]:

[Amendment No. 95 not moved.]

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 96:

Page 15, line 41, at end insert--
("( ) Subsection (1)(b) has effect subject to section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (mental illness) and section 427 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (bankruptcy etc); and where, in consequence of either of those sections, the seat of a disqualified member of the Assembly has not been vacated--
(a) he shall not participate in any proceedings of the Assembly; and
(b) any of his other rights and privileges as a member of the Assembly may be withdrawn by a resolution of the Assembly.
( ) The validity of any proceedings of the Assembly is not affected by the disqualification of any person from being a member of the Assembly or from being a member for the constituency for which he purports to sit.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 30 to 32 agreed to.

19 Oct 1998 : Column 1303

Clause 33 [Standing orders]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 97:

Page 17, line 34, after ("made") insert (", amended or repealed").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 34 and 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 [Power to call for witnesses and documents]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendments Nos. 98 to 100:

Page 19, leave out lines 12 to 15.
Page 20, line 1, leave out subsection (10).
Page 20, line 2, at end insert--
("( ) In this section "statutory functions" means functions conferred by virtue of any enactment, including this Act.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [Witnesses and documents: offences]:

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

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