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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I support Amendment No. 4 and speak also to my Amendment No. 5, which is of similar import. I shall not dance around the differences of detail in the wording of the amendments. We are trying to achieve the same thing. I do not believe that either my noble friend or I is concerned to push the precise wording on the Government.

This is a very important point. I referred earlier to the possibility of Mr Pat Docherty standing in the West Tyrone by-election and subsequently for Donegal. The activities of Mr Docherty are extremely well documented in the public record as a leading member of the Provisional IRA over a large number of years. He has been very active in, and a senior member of, that organisation. I am not saying anything new. I am not seeking parliamentary privilege to make some great accusation. It is perfectly well documented in all kinds of publications.

The possibility indicated by this amendment is not a theoretical proposition at all. It might be an immediate one. Terrorism and democracy are incompatible. If democracy is to survive, it should not admit terrorists into its ranks. There are plenty of examples throughout the world where former terrorists have come into government and have made good leaders of their countries, but only after they have firmly relinquished rule by the gun and the bomb. That is the purpose of these amendments. I agree with the opinion of the Taoiseach quoted to us earlier by my noble friend Lady Park. Terrorism and democracy are not compatible.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: These amendments would retain disqualification from membership of the House of Commons and the Assembly, which disqualification would otherwise be removed by the Bill in respect of any Member of the Irish legislature who has been a member of a proscribed organisation within the meaning of the Terrorism Act 2000 and has not disowned terrorism within the meaning of that Act. I do not believe that there is any need for me to go through the list of the organisations.

As regards the approach in the Bill, I return to what I said at the beginning. It is intended to make the position of the Republic of Ireland the same as that of Commonwealth countries. In that regard, there are provisions in the Bill setting up the Assembly and provisions in relation to the House of Commons relating to other disqualifications. They will continue

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to apply as before. It is not intended to differentiate between the position of Members of the Dail and that of Members of any Commonwealth legislature.

As the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, rightly identified, these amendments try to link to this Bill the one thing the Bill is not about. The Bill reflects the good relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It deals with the anomaly identified in the first debate in Committee. It would be contrary to this purpose to impose a new disqualification in relation to Members of the Republic of Ireland legislature which did not apply to any other body to which the right of dual membership applied. On that basis, it is contrary to the principle which underlies the Bill.

As regards the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Committee will know that all its Members are members of parties which have indicated that they are committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic methods. Therefore, in relation to the Assembly, there is already in place a provision which meets many of the points made by Members of the Committee.

7 p.m.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: Am I not right in saying that there is a requirement for Ministers in the Executive to make a specific declaration about having disavowed terrorism?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I believe that there is and I will check the precise details. Those in the Box are nodding that that is correct. However, I am going further than that because there is a requirement for Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which goes beyond the Executive, to be members of parties which have indicated that they are committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic methods.

There are three further questions which I must answer. First, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, asked whether the Irish Dail imposes conditions in relation to terrorism. It imposes no disqualification provisions in relation to membership of a proscribed organisation. The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, asked about the Representation of the People Act. I am not acquainted with the provisions to which she referred but I can make it clear that there is no intention to change the provisions of that Act.

In the light of what I have said, it always comes back to the same propositions coming into conflict in the course of the debate. We say that the move is sensible and modest, not related to the issues to which Members of the Committee seek to relate it. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: I agree with one thing which the noble and learned Lord said; that we always receive the same reply from him. We have just heard that it always comes back to the same thing; he tells us what the Bill does and then says that we should not link it with anything else. It may have occurred to him that that is what amendments to legislation do; they link legislation to other things. That is the whole

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purpose of amendments. They can sometimes achieve the precise objective, making it a little more easily, but sometimes they also introduce related issues. It is not an extraordinarily outre idea that an amendment should establish some linkage to something. The noble and learned Lord should not look so shocked and surprised and believe that I am the first person ever to propose an amendment which links something to something else.

The noble and learned Lord has not made much of a case. He conceded the point that Ministers in the Assembly make a specific disavowal of terrorism. If Ministers in the Assembly have to do that, why should not Members of the Assembly do that--or why at least should not Members of the House of Commons have to do that? It does not seem an unreasonable request. My noble friend Lady Park argued that that is how the law ought to be applied in any event; it is what we have come to expect.

It seems--if I may have the Minister's attention--to be a reasonable request. I see that I do not have his attention. Perhaps we are negotiating the dinner break, which according to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, we have already had. I wish only that we had! It is not outrageous to suggest that there should be a disavowal of violence.

I am afraid that this is all just part of the very shabby, contaminating compromises which are being made and which I believe will one day come back to haunt us. I do not believe that you can make compromises of this kind without there being undesirable consequences in the long run. However, the Minister is sitting there and Ministers have responsibility for this. After what he has said, I shall not press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Lord Lamont of Lerwick moved Amendment No. 6:


    Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert--


("( ) At the end insert "is a Minister in the government of any country or territory outside the United Kingdom; or"").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 6 seeks to ensure that no one who is a Minister in another country should be a Member either of the House of Commons or the Northern Ireland Assembly. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not give the same reply by saying that it attempts to link the Bill with an unrelated matter. It seems to me to be a closely and clearly related matter. It seeks not to go off at a tangent to an unrelated subject but to narrow down the number of people who would be able to sit both in the Dail and in the House of Commons or in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

I am sure that the noble and learned Lord realises that the amendment was tabled in another place by the First Minister for Northern Ireland. He was unable to be present to press his amendment or to speak to it, but he thought that it was important. Some of us are concerned that his anxieties and interests are being ignored. I know for a fact that he does not relish nor is enthusiastic about the Bill. I believe that if I cannot

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persuade the Minister of the merits of an amendment he ought to take seriously something which has been proposed by someone to whom the Government are deeply indebted for what he has done to keep the whole show on the road. If he has given so much and has kept the show on the road, I believe that the amendment he tabled in the House of Commons should be taken seriously.

It does not seem to me that it would be a good idea for a Minister in another country to be a Back-Bencher in the Northern Ireland Assembly or in the House of Commons. It seems to me that that would lead to a conflict of loyalty, as does the whole Bill. The conflict of loyalties is that if you sit in a sovereign Parliament you represent your constituents but of course you have national interests in mind. In addition, often the function of a Back-Bench Member of Parliament is to sustain a government or to bring a government down. That is where there could be a clear conflict of loyalty.

Having read the account of the debates in another place, I know that the Minister went so far as to say that he thought that some people in Northern Ireland might be better represented if a Member of the Assembly were also a Minister in the Irish Government. I found most extraordinary the suggestion that someone would be better able to represent their constituents by being a Minister in one government and a Back Bencher in a parliament in another country.

It would be easy and consistent with the Bill to make the disqualification. The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 disqualifies a number of public office holders. Disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons are holders of certain judicial offices; High Court and Court of Appeal judges; civil servants, whether or not established and whether or not full or part time; members of the regular Armed Forces; full-time police officers; and, as we have been reminded, members of the legislature of any country outside the Commonwealth. If all those people can be disqualified, why cannot we also have a disqualification for a Minister in another country? That seems to me a simple, clean amendment. It does not go off at a tangent nor relate to a matter which is unrelated to the purpose of the Bill. I beg to move.


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