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Lord Lamont of Lerwick moved Amendment No. 11:


(". 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.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 12 to 14. The amendments put forward a number of different propositions. The more we go into this Bill, the more complex the ramifications of it become and the more varied the number of situations which arise. The Bill is not at all what it first appears. It has multiple consequences. Thus, in these debates, we have been forced to table amendments which would have the effect of having no Ministers of other countries in either the House of Commons or the Northern Ireland Assembly; amendments, to which we shall come later, which ensure that Irish Ministers and chairmen of committees of the Irish parliament should not be Northern Ireland Ministers; that junior Irish Ministers should not be Northern Ireland Ministers; that Irish MPs should not be Northern Ireland Ministers; that Irish committee chairman should not be Northern Ireland Ministers, and that Irish Ministers and committee chairmen of the Irish Parliament should not be Northern Ireland committee chairmen. The combinations are infinite. However, in Amendments Nos. 11 to 14 we propose, only for dual Members of the House of Commons and the Dail, that it should not be possible to become a UK Minister. Amendment No. 12 proposes alternatively that it should not be possible for a Dail Member to be a UK Minister. This concerns the conflict of loyalties which we have continually emphasised in these debates.

Amendment No. 14 proposes that Irish MPs of either House should not be Speaker or Deputy Speaker in the House of Commons. I accept that it is for the House of Commons to determine, through an election, who should be Speaker. I was moved to table the amendment because it seemed rather bizarre that the Speaker of the House of Commons could in theory be an Irish Member of Parliament. However, I say in advance, even without hearing the Minister's reply, that that is not an amendment I wish to press.

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Amendment No. 13 is important. It proposes that an Irish Minister should not be a UK Minister. I hope here that I might have some encouragement from the Liberal Democrat Benches. So far, the Liberal Democrats have not contributed to our debate in any way. However, I hope we may hear their views on this amendment. It was put forward by Simon Hughes in the House of Commons. It was presumably drafted by him or his office. Speaking for the Liberal Democrats from the Front Bench, he stated that he had gone along with the principles of the Bill, but that having done that, he drew a line. He stated

    "In our view, no one should be able to hold simultaneously ministerial office in the Irish Government and ministerial office in the British Government or in the Northern Ireland Government ... We have always argued that there is no necessary incompatibility with being a member of two legislatures. We share that view with the Government".

But he went on to say:

    "There is a strong conflict of interests. Someone who is a member of the Government in one country cannot simultaneously and without conflicts of interest arising be a member of the Government of another sovereign country."

He continued that, although it would be unlikely that a British Prime Minister would choose such a person to go into his government, nonetheless, as has been evident from everything we have discussed, the Bill was dealing with things which are theoretical and probably unlikely to occur. He stated:

    "The Minister asked me whether what I described would be likely in the real world. The entire Bill is in large measure about things that do not happen in that world. The Bill is about whether Members of Commonwealth Parliaments would be Members of the Westminster Parliament. The Minister said that there are not any such Members in that position and there never have been. I understand that no one has previously served in a Parliament in this country while simultaneously being a Member of a Commonwealth country Parliament".--[Official Report, Commons, 25/1/00, cols. 493 and 494.]

Needless to say, he went on to state that he supported his own amendment and that he did not believe that someone should be able to hold ministerial office in the Irish Government and the British Government or the Northern Ireland Government at the same time. That was the view of the Liberal Democrats. I therefore hope that the Liberal Democrat spokesman will give Amendment No. 13 his warm support.

Viscount Cranborne: I understand the reason why my noble friend tabled the amendments. He is right to point out that if a conflict of loyalties exists for a Back Bench Member of both sovereign parliaments, an even greater conflict of interest and loyalty will exist for people who hold any form of office, not only in the sovereign parliament but also in the subsidiary parliaments and assemblies of the United Kingdom. I do not think I need to add to the points raised by the noble Lord. They are evidence enough of the difficulties of the Bill as brought before us and why we oppose it in principle.

However, there is another difficulty which the Government need to address. It is something which I suspect has worried Members of the Committee in

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relation to other pieces of legislation ever since the 1997 general election. The devolution legislation, particularly for Scotland, raised precisely this point. One of the glories of your Lordships' Chamber is that every Member of it is equal. Whatever we feel about each other, our experience and our capabilities, we are all equal and theoretically are able to perform jobs open to us, whether as members of Government, Opposition Front Bench or as members or chairmen of Select Committees. I believe I am right in saying that the same is true of another place.

One of the difficulties thrown up by the West Lothian question is how it is possible effectively to create two classes of Member in another place. We know that it is possible for a Member of Parliament from a Scottish constituency to vote on matters not devolved to English regions but devolved to the Scottish Parliament. And this Bill is providing a classic locus of conflict. My noble friend and I strongly believe that there is a conflict of interest which is insoluble for members of two sovereign parliaments. As he eloquently made clear, any office holder covered by Amendments Nos. 11 to 14, will have an even greater conflict of interest. It is therefore beyond peradventure undesirable that such office holders should be members of another sovereign parliament. But at the same time, as soon as we accept my noble friend's amendments, we immediately create two classes of Member in another place. That is inevitable when we get ourselves into the difficulties that the Government have got themselves into over Scottish devolution and, equally, over this Bill.

When confronted with what seemed to me two irreconcilable matters, one had to make a choice, just as the leader of my party made a choice with his slogan, "English votes for English laws". I can understand why he did that and I am sure that, like me, he felt that that was the least bad option open to us for the West Lothian question, even though it raises all sorts of difficulties of a kind of which my noble friend will be more than well aware.

My noble friend has done us a great service by tabling Amendments Nos. 11 to 14. He is right in saying that the conflict of loyalties for office holders of this kind is greater even than it would be for members of two sovereign parliaments. But he is introducing another difficulty which will need resolution if, as I hope, he succeeds in this amendment; that is, how is another place to deal with having two classes of Member? As I repeated ad nauseam in the debates on reform of your Lordships' House, that is profoundly undesirable. There is a distinct difference between taking different routes to membership of an Assembly and, once there, having different rights within it. That is a conflict I am sorry to find. I do not blame my noble friend; I am sure he is well aware of it. And he is right that, when one is forced to make a judgment in these matters, to try to resolve the question of inherent conflict of interest seems to be more important.

That shows that the Government are opening a can which will lead them into all sorts of difficulties, comparable to those they are beginning to face in the native heath of the noble and learned Lord.

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9.15 p.m.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: As someone who sat through many debates in the other place as far back as the home rule and devolution for Scotland debates in the time of the Callaghan government, it is true that there has never been a clear resolution of the difficulty of what he rightly calls two classes of member. But at least in one way or another they are paying taxation to the same Treasury. But in this Bill, without giving much thought to it, we are creating a third-class member from another sovereign country who presumably will be permitted to vote on expenditure and taxation within the United Kingdom, although not himself contributing to taxation within it. I agree with the noble Viscount that that is not something we can lightly pass over. We are having problems with Scotland already. If the Northern Ireland Assembly reaches the point where it is given powers to increase taxation, then naturally we shall spotlight the anomaly contained in these provisions.

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