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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: I shall not be pressing Amendment No. 35 to a Division, though I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for recognising that it has a certain logic.

I recognise, as the Minister said, that the amendment is perhaps not correctly worded because there is no specific disqualification on a Member of the House of Commons being a member of the Dail. But in Irish law there is an effective means of stopping most

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Members of the House of Commons from standing for the Irish Dail; that is, that one must be an Irish citizen. One cannot be a British citizen and stand for the Dail, though one could have dual nationality and stand, which may be a means by which some people will stand in the north and also stand for the Dail. My amendment is not illogical. It may be imperfect in its wording. But it is entirely logical, as was recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.

As regards the noble Lord's points in relation to Amendments Nos. 7 and 2, I understand the argument that it is not appropriate because it links a different matter. But it is not entirely inappropriate to link a different matter when no reason of any kind has been advanced for this mysterious legislation that none of us understands. That is the unanimous view of everyone who has spoken, with the possible exception of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who did not speak on the first amendment. No explanation has been advanced for this Bill, other than the flimsy one of "tidying-up". Nonetheless, I shall not press Amendment No. 7 to a Division.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, apologised for missing my first few words and I entirely exonerate him from any blame in that respect. But he did thereby deprive himself of the opportunity of hearing me say very fiercely that I object to the whole Bill. But the fact that I object to the whole Bill does not disbar me, if I may say so to both the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble Lord, Lord Desai, from discussing the details of the Bill.

Lord Dubs: I did not suggest that it would disbar the noble Lord. I suggested that it weakened the cutting edge of the point of principle made in the earlier debate.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: If the noble Lord regards it in that fashion, then no Committee stage would ever take place. It is an absolutely absurd construction of parliamentary debate that cannot survive. If the fact that one objects to a Bill means that one is not allowed to discuss the details without being accused of weakness, then we can pack up the whole Committee stage of everything. Perhaps that is part of the Chief Whip's plan. Maybe others are trying to install that idea. I know that some wish to downgrade the Committee stage but that would destroy it completely.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs: I thank the noble Lord for giving way again. I appreciate how Committee stages work. I understand his argument. But I have seldom heard on the first amendment in a Committee stage of any Bill such protestations about fundamental principles as I heard on the first amendment we discussed today. It is for that reason I made the point; not because of the general proposition that I am against both detailed and principled objections.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I shall not pursue the point except to express the view that I am glad that our

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fundamental objections got over to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in the first debate; they did not seem to get over to the Minister.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, also suggested that it was not helpful to the cause of decommissioning to link the amendment to anything else. That drew me back to the debates we had at the time of the Belfast agreement and shortly afterwards when we attempted to make a close linkage between the release of prisoners and decommissioning. I still believe, as I said a few moments ago, that the failure to do that was a key error on the part of the Government in dealing with Northern Ireland matters.

I will not add to what my noble friend Lord Lamont said in relation to Amendment No. 35. However, if a Bill were presented to the Dail removing the limitation that only citizens of Ireland can stand for the Dail and, when the Minister in the Dail was asked who wanted it he was told that the British Government asked for it, that would not be very satisfactory.

I turn to the amendments. This is a matter of fundamental importance. For that reason the Government should not give this Bill away, which is what they intend to do, for nothing in return. The suggestion is that there should be decommissioning. There are two versions on offer. I admit to my noble friend Lord Cranborne that my version is more moderate than that of my noble friend Lord Lamont. I thought it might help to attract the Government to this course of action. Clearly, I was mistaken. They see it as a sign of weakness. And if I may say so, that is exactly how the members of Sinn Fein see the Bill. That is exactly how they see the release of prisoners--as a sign of weakness. That is why it is no good continually giving away things--this is one more example--and expecting the terrorists to say, "Oh, they are nice people after all. We will drop our aims". They will not. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Lord Lamont of Lerwick moved Amendment No. 4:


    Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert ("provided that, in respect of Ireland, a person who is or has been a member of a proscribed organisation within the meaning of the Terrorism Act 2000 and who has not disavowed terrorism within the meaning given to that expression by that Act before taking his or her seat in the said House or Assembly shall be disqualified from membership of the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly").

The noble Lord said: No doubt I shall be told by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, that I am linking something that should not be linked. I am doing something which is absolutely outrageous: I am asking that before someone takes their seat in the House of Commons, as a Member of the Dail, they should disavow terrorism. What a terrible thing to ask! I am linking the most outrageous demands with this most outrageous Bill.

But the noble and learned Lord cannot say that I am interfering with a process. What I propose should be perfectly consistent with the peace process. Indeed, I believed that the original provisions of the Belfast agreement were that those participating should

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disavow terrorism. I understand that to be a Minister in the Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly it is necessary to disavow terrorism. If it is so in order to be a Minister in the Executive, it seems a very reasonable requirement that one should also disavow terrorism before taking one's seat either in the House of Commons or in the Northern Ireland Assembly. If that provision can apply to Ministers in the Executive, why should it not apply to Members of the Assembly as well?

There are many provisions in other countries to which one might refer. The United States of America does not admit a person with a visitor's visa if they have a murder or a terrorist conviction. Only a few days ago we heard a Foreign Office Minister say that she thought it totally inappropriate for people who had been connected with the Milosovic regime to play any part in Serbian politics. We were laying down the law as to who should participate in the democratic politics of Serbia regardless of the wishes of the new president and politicians in that country. My noble friend Lord Cranborne made a very pertinent intervention. He asked whether we were really going to pursue that policy even though it threatens the political stability of Serbia. How can we preach to other countries about who should be involved in their politics and not impose minimum requirements ourselves in disavowing violence? This amendment represents a very small linkage to make. It is a very reasonable request to ask that if we are to have this extraordinary measure for which no justification has been advanced, we should at least demand that those who will sit in the House of Commons or the Assembly as well as in the Dail should have explicitly rejected terrorism. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, will have made his calculations. He will be aware of the fact that currently there are two representatives claiming to be representative of so-called loyalist paramilitary organisations. I am not certain that the establishment--by that I mean the dreaded Northern Ireland Office--would particularly relish the expulsion of those two Members of the Assembly. If that were done, the majority would be lost and the whole house of cards would collapse.

Viscount Cranborne: I support these amendments. It may be uncharacteristic, but I wish to ask the Minister but one question. Can he tell the House what conditions the Dail itself imposes on its Members not only in regard to the rejection of terrorism, but also what oaths have to be taken and checks made on Members of the Dail before they can become Members? If we are to do this foolish thing, it would be very reassuring for us to know that certain good housekeeping measures had been taken by the Dail itself so that we may find exact reciprocity between the two parliaments.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I should like to know whether we can rely on the Government to apply the

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Representation of the People Act, which disqualifies anyone who has been detained for more than a year for any offence or who is unlawfully at large at any time when he would otherwise be detained? Anyone in that situation is precluded from becoming a Member of Parliament. Are the Government meditating setting aside that ruling, because I cannot see any member of Sinn Fein--IRA who is at present in the frame for this not qualifying under that description as excludable? It would be very interesting to know whether legislation is now being thought about while the Prime Minister has his bath, which might remove that provision in order to make life easier for everybody.


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