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Lord Dubs: My Lords, I have listened to many speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, on the subject of Northern Ireland. I think that he has used the expression "appease the terrorists" against the Government on several occasions and on several different measures. So there is nothing unique about the accusations that he made today.
My noble friend Lord Fitt and I have been friends for many years. I have known him since he was in the Commons. I very much respect him as a person of integrity and as someone who has suffered from terrorism. I have been fortunate not to have suffered from terrorism although other Members of this House have so suffered. Anyone who has suffered directly from terrorism obviously speaks with more moral authority than those who have not. I think nevertheless that he will allow me to disagree with him on this occasion in the spirit of friendship which has always characterised our debates here and our friendly discussions outside.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, both said that the Bill is dangerous. They may disagree with the Bill. They may think that the Government have made an error of judgment. However, I believe that the word
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that with the Bill on the statute book our Government have every right to say to the Government in Dublin that they should reciprocate and pass measures to grant the same rights to British people to seek to enter the Dail as will be granted the other way in this legislation. However, the bottom line is that Northern Ireland is different and the relationship between the British Government and the Irish Government is different from the relationship we have with any other government in the world. Northern Ireland is pivotal to that different relationship.
There are all kinds of arrangements between the British Government and the Irish Government involving Northern Ireland which are quite different from the arrangements we have anywhere else; for example, the cross-border bodies, the north-south ministerial council, and so on. Therefore it is not that unusual that we should seek as a government to introduce a measure which is different from that which would in effect apply elsewhere. I understand that as regards the Commonwealth it would apply in the same way but it would have more bite as regards the relationship between this country and Ireland.
My understanding is that the Government of the Republic support the Bill, the SDLP supports the Bill and Sinn Fein also supports the Bill. This is not just a matter of dealing with Sinn Fein. Indeed, I believe that the main effect of having this Bill on the statute book--
Lord Laird: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Will he join me and others in this spirit of friendship in encouraging the Irish Government to ensure that they implement fully the Belfast agreement, applying human rights to the same standards that apply in our country to those people who are discriminated against on religious and political grounds in the Irish Republic? Will the noble Lord join me in that call to the Irish Government?
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I certainly will. I certainly call all the people who are parties to the Good Friday agreement to adhere to all elements of that agreement, be it opposition to discrimination, support of human rights or whatever. I gave that assurance at the Dispatch Box when I was a Northern Ireland Minister and I am happy to repeat it. I am happy to discuss the details of the matter with the noble Lord at any time in the friendly spirit which characterises our discussions.
The main effect of the Bill would be that a Member of Parliament representing a Northern Ireland constituency would be active in the Irish Parliament, in the Senate in Dublin rather than in the Dail. It is much more likely that Seamus Mallon or Gerry Adams would find a place in the Senate. Therefore they would not represent a constituency in the traditional sense in which Members of the House of Commons represent their constituencies.
I do not believe that that is such an untoward outcome. If it helps in the peace process, if it helps in better relationships between the British Government and the Irish Government but, above all, if it contributes to peace in Northern Ireland, I think that it is not a bad thing.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I join with the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in his total condemnation of terrorist violence. There is no justification for it and the guiding principle of this Government has been to counter the incidence of paramilitarism in every form and at every point. The people who support the Bill--the Irish Government, the British Government, the SDLP and the Women's Coalition--would not agree with the characterisation that this in any way promotes violence.
This Bill removes a disqualification for membership of the House of Commons. It is a Bill which the House of Commons has just passed, having put back Clause 1 by a substantial majority. It was not and could not have been in the manifesto because it is a product in part of the consequences of the Belfast agreement and the improving relationship between the British and Irish Governments. Both the Irish Government and the British Government believe that it would contribute to the peace process. They believe that it assists the relationship between the two governments which the governments believe are a substantial foundation for the improved relationships which have led to the continuation of the peace process.
That is a judgment that has been made by the British Government. It is a judgment that has been made by the Irish Government after very considerable thought and consideration of the issue. The Bill would allow Members of the Dail to sit in the House of Commons, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the other assemblies or parliaments in this country. The electorate would be able to decide for themselves whether they are prepared to countenance a Member who is or might be also a Member of the Dail.
I respectfully ask Members of this House to consider carefully the fact that the peace process is a matter where delicate judgments have to be made. Those are judgments which have to be made in part by the British and Irish Governments. They have made a judgment that this modest measure helps. I suggest that it would be wrong for this House to override that judgment.
Finally, in another place, my honourable friend Mr Howarth, the Under-Secretary of State, undertook to raise with the Irish Government the issue of reciprocity; that is, removing the requirement of Irish citizenship which is a requirement for membership of the Dail. I ask noble Lords not to insist on their amendment.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, we support the Belfast agreement, the British/Irish agreement and the cross-Border bodies to which agreement has given rise. The existence of those cross-Border bodies makes this Bill less necessary. They provide for the co-operation which has been spoken about.
The noble and learned Lord spoke a moment ago of this Bill as a consequence of the Belfast agreement. I remind noble Lords that the Belfast agreement was hammered out between the parties involved, line by line and word by word over agonising weeks and days, eventually through Maundy Thursday into Good Friday. Every word was carefully weighed; and this measure was not a proposal on the table let alone in the agreement at that time.
We are told that we should accept it in the interests of good will between ourselves and the Irish although, as the noble and learned Lord said in his opening speech, we have our separate interests. Of course we want good will. But we were told a few days ago that if we passed the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill we would see better co-operation. Not only has that not materialised, the measure has so far been rejected.
We still believe that the Bill has great dangers. I was standing by to deal with new points from the Government's side but there were none. No new points have been raised. I wish, therefore, to press the amendment and seek the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.