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Further Disqualification For Membership Of Assembly

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

'In section 3(1) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Act 1973, at end there shall be added—

(e) if he is a minister of religion having a cure of souls;
(f) if he is, or has been, a member of a proscribed organisation.'.

In the course of debate on the Bill, we have been told over and over again that the House is considering a Bill to provide a framework, no more—an elastic framework—for the internal government of Northern Ireland.

There can be no valid objection to the Members of the proposed Assembly taking part in bodies within the United Kingdom. However, it is our view that the Members elected to the Assembly should be free to concentrate all their energies and intellectual powers on the task that they are being given by the Bill—to provide better government for Northern Ireland. We are not under any illusions. That will be achieved only in the long term.

In the Secretary of State's closing words in the previous debate, I detected the fatalistic view that the process of assisting in the government of Northern Ireland might never be reached. It seemed that he had become as convinced as the rest of us that, as time and our debates went by, it was less likely that we would get beyond stage one. However, Members of the Assembly should be free to concentrate on the limited task set out in the Bill, and to do so within the context of the United Kingdom. That is vital.

There can be no objection to Members of the Assembly participating in the deliberations of elected bodies within the United Kingdom. It would not make sense to exclude many of those who may become candidates from the valuable part that they are playing in local government in Northern Ireland. Given the restrictions on their powers, I have often thought it surprising that people of the calibre of those occupying seats in our 26 councils should have been attracted into local government in Northern Ireland. Without fear of contradiction I can say that they are of a much higher calibre than their predecessors who occupied seats at various levels when I was a county councillor in the 1960s. Indeed, I included myself in that category. There is talent in the ranks of those councillors and, as I have said before, it is a shame not to use it to the full. It is no small wonder that they become so very frustrated with every year that passes.

We would not want councillors, with their experience of the limited area in which they are allowed to operate, to be excluded from membership of the Assembly. At the other end of the scale, we see no reason why Members of either House of Parliament should be excluded from membership of the Assembly. Indeed, there might be advantages in duplicating membership in that way. It is just possible—although no more than that—that that would reduce the possibility of friction, tension and misunderstanding developing between this sovereign Parliament of two Houses and the Assembly.

However, there can be no justification for Members of the Assembly involving themselves in an ex officio or voluntary capacity in any type of foreign structure, even if it includes representatives from other parts of the United Kingdom. I do not hesitate to include in that category the European Assembly. I hope that the advice of my right hon. and hon Friends will be taken and that the Members of the proposed Assembly will be persuaded to concentrate their energies on what they have been elected to do, instead of wandering off to foreign institutions such as the European Assembly, or any other inter-parliamentary tier or union. Still less should they join any form of council for Ireland.

The new clause is very wide. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that a Member of the Assembly should not be a member of a body such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which allows Members of Parliament from assemblies throughout the world to meet, including Members from the Republic of Ireland?

I thought that I had made it clear that I meant bodies that at least claimed to have some legislative or administrative role.

I want to do all I can to concentrate the minds of Members of the Assembly on the almost impossible job imposed on them by the Bill.

I shall deal briefly with the other new clauses. It is proposed that a person should be disqualified from membership of the Assembly if he possesses dual nationality. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a body elected to govern part of the United Kingdom should consist of citizens of the United Kingdom and of British subjects. Therefore, those who sometimes take pride, and even glory, in the fact that they are citizens of another nation should not be able to become Members. Our clause covers a fairly wide area. We shall be interested to hear the views of other hon. Members and the thoughts of those who have tabled other new clauses.

We are debating an interesting group of new clauses. I hope that no one will take exception to the comment that they seem to be political grubbing dressed up as high principle.

The new clauses deal with four groups of people whom the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and his colleagues, as well as my right hon and hon. Friends, wish to exclude from membership of the Assembly. The first group consists of those who are Members of the European Parliament. It does no harm to ask why they should be singled out. Hon. Members will know that we are talking about three people. First, we are discussing Mr. John Taylor, who is a member of the same political party as the hon. Member for Antrim, South, but does not share his view about the future government of the Province. It is interesting that the leader of the party should seek to exclude a colleague from the Assembly when his commitment to devolution would stand a much greater chance of making the Assembly work.

The second person to be excluded is the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Mr. John Hume. One need not stretch one's imagination to see that it would be of political advantage to the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues if the leader of the SDLP were precluded from taking part in the elections and in the Assembly's deliberations. It is suggested that Mr. Hume might not be averse to this state of affairs, but that is irrelevant. The Assembly's chance of success would be greatly increased if the leader of the SDLP could take part in it.

The third person to be excluded is the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), with whom the hon. Member for Antrim, South wages many a political battle in the Province. Again, one need not strain one's imagination to see that the exclusion of the hon. Member for Antrim, North would be of considerable political advantage to the Official Unionists.

Therefore, the first group to be excluded could be safely said to have been barred on nothing more than plain, blatant political grounds.

The second group to be excluded consists of ministers of religion, or as the new Clause 20 states
"a minister of religion having a cure of souls".
With the frankness of an Ulsterman I must say that there is a degree of political motivation behind that.

7.30 pm

The reason for the proposal is to ensure that those in the Assembly are able to devote themselves to the Assembly's work. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) said that, having arrived in the House of Commons, he would not be actively engaged as a minister of religion. People such as he would not be covered by the new clause. Surely it is desirable that those who have "a cure of souls" should devote themselves to that instead of becoming political parsons.

I accept my hon. Friend's assurance. Nevertheless, that does not dispel the nasty suspicion in the back of my mind that there is at least a political consequence that has not escaped the House.

Whatever one's views of him personally, his party or his policies, the hon. Member for Antrim, North has made a contribution in Northern Ireland. He has a following and support in Northern Ireland which cannot be gainsaid. For the House, being aware of that, to approve such a new clause would be to attempt to destroy at the outset the Assembly from which he and others would be debarred. That might be consistent with the views of some hon. Members, but they have tried that tack and not succeeded. It should be made clear that they cannot succeed by the back door where they have failed by the front door.

I hope that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) will not be embarrassed if I relate that because of personal ties—as he was, in his capacity as a minister, the last person to speak to my sister before she died of a brain haemorrhage some years ago—I have a bond of friendship with him which transcends political differences. I do not wish to be party to anything that would deprive the Assembly of the contribution that he and other reverend gentlemen in the Province could make, if properly elected by constituents.

I can understand the logic of the argument, but where does the hon. Gentleman see the difference between members of the Anglican Church and members of the Church of Ireland who are prohibited from serving in this House? One hon. Member who was elected as my predecessor, the Rev. J. J. MacManamy, was elected and debarred from the House. Is it right to debar an Anglican or Church of Ireland clergyman and to permit in the House members of the Presbyterian and Free Presbyterian Churches and others with strange religious appendages? If we are to debar clergymen, we should debar the lot.

From its inception the Bill has been plagued by interventions leading hon. Members down byways far from the content of amendments under consideration. I have listened to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, encouraging others not to be so tempted, and I shall resist the temptation.

The third group debarred by the new clauses includes people with
"dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country".
It is interesting that the new clause dealing with that was tabled by two Englishmen. They appear to be unaware that, with the exception of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) who is an Englishman representing an Ulster constituency, Ulster Members are eligible constitutionally for dual citizenship. That is not something that the Unionists care to take up, but they can walk into an Irish embassy any day of the week when it is open and come out with an Irish passport. Some may have done that.

What applies to them applies to every other person in the Province. Each of the 1½ million people in the Province are eligible for dual citizenship. One can conclude only that the hon. Members who framed the new clause were unaware of that and that, having been made aware of it, they will wish to withdraw it. Alternatively, one is forced to the conclusion that the new clause is another means of trying to wreck the Assembly by the back door when attempts by the front door have failed.

I draw attention to the recent Falklands dispute. All the BBC bulletins from Buenos Aires were made by people with Belfast accents. That was because people with Belfast accents and Irish passports were more acceptable to the Argentinians. The BBC directed reporters born in Northern Ireland to apply for Irish passports.

Perhaps I can assist my hon. Friend in understanding the reasoning behind the new clause which he has criticised. My hon. Friend says that all Northern Ireland residents are entitled to citizenship of the Republic of Ireland. He says that that should be known by the hon. Members who put their names to the new clause. Surely there is a clear distinction between possession of, and eligibility for, such citizenship. Only when a person applies for an Irish passport does he become a citizen of that country. One might be entitled to dual citizenship, but that is not what is proscribed. Actual possession of dual citizenship is proscribed.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend who is a constitutional lawyer of eminence. I cross swords with him with trepidation and I may be slapped down. I do not believe that my hon. Friend is right. I am a British citizen, whether or not I apply for a British passport. My application for a British passport does not make me a British citizen. I possess British citizenship whether or not I seek an external manifestation of it. Similarly, according to the Irish constitution, I possess Irish citizenship, regardless.

That is not helpful. Whether I like it or not—I hasten to assure my hon. Friend that I have not applied for an Irish passport—I believe that I possess Irish citizenship regardless of whether I seek the external manifestation of it, which is a passport.

I do not want to trade on a long friendship but will the hon. Member for Peterborough admit that he is arguing in antipathy to the new clauses for a drastic revision of the law of this land? As long as Irish people travelling across the Irish Sea can immediately have full rights of citizenship here while citizens from Commonwealth countries cannot, it cannot be argued that there is not a colour bar in this country.

I am being tempted again and I shall resist except to say that the hon. Member for Belfast, South has a valid point and that at some time the House will have to address itself to his argument. I shall not be tempted further than that.

The fourth group of people to be covered by the new clauses are members of proscribed organisations. I am sure the House will agree that those are not the type of individuals whose commitment to the Assembly is likely to make it succeed or improve the chances of its success.

Having dealt with the four groups of people who are covered by the new clauses and having shown that they do not have the degree of substance sufficient to persuade the House to accept and add them to the Bill, one must say that the conditions that apply in the House should be good enough for the Assembly.

If the House is prepared to have people who are involved in other parliaments and other organisations, particularly in the European Parliament, what is good enough for the House should be good enough for the new Assembly. If the House permits ministers of religion, with or without a care of souls, to be a part of it, what is good enough for the House should be good enough for the new Assembly. If the House is prepared to accept as Members those who have dual citizenship, whether or not they have availed themselves of it, what is good enough for the House should be good enough for the new Assembly.

I am sure that the reasoned arguments that I have tried to lay before the House will be more than sufficient to persuade the Minister to say that the Government will have nothing to do with the new clauses.

I intervene briefly to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) said about members of proscribed organisations. Will the Minister give an absolute assurance, before we conclude this part of the debate, that he will accept new clause 20? If not, we shall have to divide the House.

7.45 pm

The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) in summing up his argument said that what was good enough for the House should be good enough for the Assembly. My hon. Friends and I and other hon. Members have been arguing that point throughout the proceedings, but we have been constantly denied the same franchise and democratic terms as the House enjoys. We have had imposed upon us principles of democracy that are contrary to the principles of the House. Therefore, I believe that the House should have further thought about this matter. Even allowing for the guillotine, there should be an opportunity for a last minute repentance. Perhaps before the night is over, and in the light of the appeal by the hon. Member for Peterborough, the House will reconsider and give the same standards of democracy to the Northern Ireland Assembly as are enjoyed by the House.

I understand the argument about debarring people. We are not keen to debar people, but we have had experience of the Northern Ireland Convention when, as a party, we encouraged Members not to seek a dual mandate. On that occasion, at least one Member decided to stand and he was elected. But, as has happened here, the business of two meeting places does not facilitate the performance of duties by individuals. We recognise the problem. If the Northern Ireland Assembly is to be a working body and if the House desires it to be a working body, those who practise not the cure of souls but the cure of bodies will recognise that it is not possible to be in the body and in a different place at the same time. If we are to achieve a working Assembly, the House should consider the merits of the arguments against dual membership.

New clause 1 dealt specifically with relations between a subordinate Assembly of the House and the sovereign Parliament of another nation. The House, having reserved to itself relations with foreign powers, should not devolve powers to a subordinate organisation to deal with a sovereign Parliament.

That was the heart of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). I have pleasure in supporting that plea and in asking the House to reconsider the tremendous plea made by the hon. Member for Peterborough to give us the same standards as apply here.

I wish to speak to new clauses 10, 11 and 20. I much enjoyed the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney). He drew attention to the many anomalies which already exist in the legislation governing membership of this House. There are many anomalies and it is about time we corrected them. I shall come to some of them during my speech.

Just because we tolerate anomalies in the House it does not follow that we should repeat those anomalies when setting up representative organisations and legislatures elsewhere. Indeed, perpetuation of error is a grievous sin and one which we should always try to avoid. In new clause 10, with regard to the eligibility for membership of the Assembly, it is proposed that we should exclude those who possess dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country. When one thinks of eligibility for membership of this place one is reminded that notoriously peers and lunatics are excluded.

How did the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) get through the net?

That is an exception which does not appear to be repeated in the provisions for the Assembly.

We have an extraordinary tolerance for residents who have all the normal civic rights of Britons but are not Britons. They can vote in our elections to choose the Government of the United Kingdom. We have the problem that has been highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough of citizens of the Irish Republic who are resident in this country. Irrespective of whether they have dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country, they, being resident in this country and registerable on the electoral list, are entitled to vote in our elections if resident on 10 October of each year. They can and do exercise an important influence over the Government of the United Kingdom because of their large numbers. They exercise also an equally important influence over the choice of Government. That is one of the anomalies that must be brought to a speedy end.

We went to a great deal of trouble last Session to revise our nationality law. We understand that the British Nationality Act 1981 will come into full effect on 1 January 1983. Unfortunately, the provisions of our nationality law, whether before or after the 1981 Act, do not cover voting rights. Those rights are conferred by separate legislation which was not amended by the British Nationality Act 1981. Unless we do something about that—I hope that we shall next Session—citizens of the Irish Republic who are resident in the United Kingdom will, after 1 January 1983, continue to be entitled to the full civic rights of British citizens without being British citizens and will be entitled to vote on the choice of Government in this country.

That is a historical anomaly. It has existed all the time that we have perpetuated the myth that all British subjects are entitled to vote in our elections. As "British subjects" means a group comprising about 900 million throughout the world, including all Commonwealth citizens and residents of the Indian subcontinent, clearly it is an anomaly that has to be changed.

When the British Nationality Act 1981 is brought into full effect, my understanding is that citizens of the Irish Republic will continue to be treated as if they are British subjects. Fortunately, we have rationalised the law and improved it in the 1981 Act. We have narrowed the definition of British national identity to a concept known as British citizenship. That is something that has never existed in our law before. We have therefore been able to resolve questions such as those which are raised in the new clause.

Dual citizenship is not excluded by the 1981 Act. Therefore, as matters stand, anyone seeking to be elected to the Assembly may be a British citizen and, in addition, a citizen of the Irish Republic. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough has said that he is probably a citizen of the Irish Republic. He may be, but if he is he is so by the law of the Irish Republic, which does not apply in the United Kingdom, and one might say "Thank goodness." There is only one law that applies to us all in the United Kingdom and it is the law that is passed by Parliament and interpreted and applied by our courts. Therefore, my hon. Friend's citizenship by English law is that of the United Kingdom and not of the Irish Republic.

Any country in the world, if it wishes—it is the wish of many—may confer citizenship on those who are resident in territories to which it lays claim. This is the point of the conferment by the Irish Republic of its citizenship on those born in Northern Ireland.

I do not follow the logic of the argument that my hon. Friend is advancing. British law confers only British citizenship. Therefore, the concept of dual citizenship is not conferred by British law. By definition, dual citizenship involves the law of another country. My hon. Friend can have it one way or the other but he cannot have it both ways. If there is such a thing as dual citizenship, that phrase by definition acknowledges that the law of other countries applies to some British subjects in a substantive way whereby they have more than one citizenship. If he excludes other than British law and talks only about British law, there is no such concept as dual citizenship. Which way would he have the House believe that he wants to have it?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his exposition of this point of law. I understand that English law provides that only by its own terms can a person become a British citizen—for example, for the purposes of the 1981 Act as it will be applied—and that it takes no regard of what other nations may provide in their laws so as to confer citizenship by their laws. We do not say "If X is the citizen of another country, he may not have British citizenship unless he renounces that first citizenship." That is the difference. That is all that is implied by a recognition by English law of dual citizenship. However, English law does not confer dual citizenship.

If I understand my hon. Friend correctly, he is saying that the Table Office should not have accepted the new clause because it refers to dual citizenship, which is not recognised by British law and, therefore, by definition is inappropriate in the context of this Bill.

I am not saying that. I am trying to make it clear that we are all under what lawyers call English law, although we should perhaps call it United Kingdom law. If it is stated in the Act, on the assumption that the Bill is enacted, that a person who possesses dual citizenship shall be ineligible for membership of the Assembly, that provision will have to be applied as it stands, subject to the provisions of English law. As I have said, I do not believe that it is necessary for us to go into this exercise and to accept that any other nation in the world has the right to confer its citizenship upon a British citizen. The difference is that British citizens—I am using the term as it will apply after 1 January 1983—may if they wish apply for citizenship, or the formal recognition of their citizenship of another country. There is no law against that. That happens when an application is made for a passport.

8 pm

Acceptance of a passport in English law is an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the authority issuing the passport. Therefore, I should have thought that an application for a passport for the Irish Republic involved an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the Irish Republic. Therefore, allegiance to that sovereignty is incompatible with British citizenship. In common sense or justice it cannot be possible that a man owes allegiance to two sovereignties. However, some people walk around with two passports. As my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough said, British citizens travel around the world with passports issued by the Irish Republic." The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that people had obtained such passports.

In obtaining those passports, people are expressing an allegiance to a foreign sovereign. It is one of the features of our tolerant society that we do not make that illegal and do not punish people for it. However, many States do. Many States say that it is incompatible with their citizenship for any of their citizens to owe allegiance to another sovereign. That is the position in the United States and a great many other Western nations.

It is part of our extraordinary relationship—it is not unique—with the Republic of Ireland that we in the United Kingdom allow so many anomalies and privileges to be conferred upon citizens of the Irish Republic, not only by way of voting rights but because they may continue to possess citizenship of their republic while at the same time becoming or being British citizens.

Therefore, the new clause is eminently sensible. Those who possess dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country should be ineligible to stand for membership of the Assembly because they have a divided loyalty and a divided allegiance—an allegiance not only to Northern Ireland but to the Republic of Ireland. When politicians try to frame a law that meets the anomalies, prejudices, tolerances and expediencies of our time, they are subject to muddled thinking, which gives much trouble to courts and lawyers who try to interpret it. We should not indulge in it. That is why I believe that the new clause is good and should be supported.

A similar point is made in new clause 11, which relates to the dual mandate and members serving two legislatures. We have great difficulties in the House about our relationship with the European Assembly, which will be perpetuated and complicated by this provision, whereby, but for the passage of the new clause, it may be possible for members of one assembly to be members of another. We have not worked out how to resolve those problems.

Such a conflict of interests leads to greater complications than we realise. We have had the recent spectacle of 11 Members of the European Assembly, including two Members of the House, voting to abolish the unanimity principle in the decisions of the Council of Ministers when dealing with the budget and other matters of vital interest to us, in which we are anxious to maintain the principle of unanimity.

How was it possible that those 11 members out of 80 or more representing this country voted in that other legislature in a way that appeared to be completely contrary to the interest of this country? They were entitled to do so, but the views that they expressed were diametrically opposed to almost all informed opinion in this country. They did so because at that moment they thought of themselves as serving the interests only of the European Community. They thought of themselves not as Members representing the United Kingdom in the European Assembly, but in the larger interest as members of the European Community—the 10 States of Western Europe.

It has been argued by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) that no progress will be possible in the European Community until voting in the Council of Ministers is by a majority on all matters, including the vital interests of individual States. That proposition is not acceptable to most of us.

The fact that those 11 Members voted in that way must be put down to the fact that their allegiance at the time was to the interests of another entity, albeit one that comprises ourselves, in which we are a small minority. More surprising is the fact that two of those Members are at the same time Members of the House. Those Members were not voting in that capacity. In the House they represent individual constituencies of the United Kingdom. No. doubt, when in the House, they think of themselves as striving for the greater good and interests of the British Nation, quite separate from the interests of the European Community. That is an attempt to rationalise and clarify the difference. I do not understand it. I could not do it.

The weakness is inherent in the concept of dual membership of assemblies. Therefore, will we not have similar problems when we apply that concept to the Bill and Members of the Assembly? One thinks of our tortuous relationship with the European Assembly and the fact that in the House we are jealous not only of our powers but of our premises. We do not provide members of the European Assembly with accommodation here or the right to come freely to our Galleries to observe what is going on. Few of the representatives are known to hon. Members. Their views and ideas are formed and canvassed in a separate realm from our own.

I have always been against the principle of devolution. I opposed the Scottish and Welsh devolution proposals. One of the main grounds on which I opposed them was that I saw subsidiary parliaments—such as this would be—as breeding a type of legislator who would be remote from membership of this place and who might therefore pursue a path with which we might ultimately collide. That would not serve the unity of the United Kingdom. Members of the Scottish Parliament—that is what it would have been called—would see themselves as representatives of the interests of Scotland. There would be rivalry between those representatives and members of this place representing Scottish constituencies. Whereas Members coming from Scotland to this place naturally would look upon the interests of the nation as a whole—they do, it must be said—those in the narrow confines of their Assembly in Scotland would see Scottish interests in sectional terms separate from those of the United Kingdom.

We have a united country—as we have had for centuries—and it would be a retrograde step to institute assemblies in which frictions might arise and be encouraged.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, though it is not often understood, it is quite different when this Parliament makes different law for different parts of the United Kingdom since it does that as the legislature of the whole kingdom? There is no real confusion between the two, although they often are confused.

I respectfully adopt the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Different parts of the United Kingdom sometimes need different solutions, albeit sometimes for the same problems. We do not all progress or deteriorate at the same rate, so it is perfectly proper for us legislate for the domestic problems of Scotland—the education system, for example—as a United Kingdom Parliament and for English Members to be present during the debates, although the debates are normally carried on by Members representing Scottish constituencies. Logically, in terms of good constitution making, that is as it should be. It is not proper in constitutional terms to provide that solutions for part of the United Kingdom should be provided by a separate legislature within that part. That is incompatible with the unity of the United Kingdom and the supremacy of the United Kingdom Parliament.

Whatever constitutional arrangements are made ultimately for the good government of Northern Ireland—I do not believe that the proposals in the Bill are suitable or appropriate or will be successful—I hope that Northern Ireland interests will be catered for in the same way. All hon. Members, whether they be English, Welsh, Scottish, or from Northern Ireland, may discuss the problems of Northern Ireland in the House and come to a conclusion that would be reflected in law passed by this Parliament and not by any subsidiary assembly. I support new clause 11, which happily includes my name among those proposing it.

8.15 pm

New clause 20 includes a most important proposed disqualification for membership of the Assembly. The proposed disqualification of ministers of religion
"having a cure of souls"
is something of which the hon. Member for Belfast, West approves. Being an amiable person, he is bound to want to agree with that if possible. It is one of the greatest anomalies that exists in this country with regard to membership of this place. If some clergymen can be Members of the House it seems indefensible, although no doubt there could be argument by some, that we should exclude only those of the Church of England.

I did not subscribe to the new clause. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) will be able to explain it. I understand that only ministers of religion
"having a cure of souls"
I take that to mean being in active practice as clergymen—should be disqualified, and if that is so we should still have an anomaly in the law governing the membership of this place, since the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—

He is a clergyman who is in practice, albeit, as the hon. Gentleman says, he may not have a cure for souls. Something has to be done about that anomaly. I hope that it will be considered by those responsible for the Bill.

The second part of new clause 20 is important and fundamental. I hope that the Government will accept it. Membership or past membership of proscribed organisations should lead to disqualification from membership of the proposed Assembly. I believed that that was obvious, because membership of proscribed organisations is already a criminal offence both in this country and in Northern Ireland. However, that does not stop members of proscribed organisations from standing for election. Unless the law is changed, that cannot be prevented.

There was considerable agony during the last Session over the steps to be taken to make those people who have been sentenced to imprisonment ineligible for membership of the House. It was with some difficulty that we eventually passed an agreed law to cover that matter. I suggest that we should anticipate that sort of problem in respect of the Assembly. There might be practical problems arising out of membership of the Assembly for this very reason. It is my hope that the Government will adopt that part of new clause 20.

One could be forgiven for believing that the filibuster continues. There have been many castigations of hon. Members for not taking part in the debate. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) argued that the problems of Northern Ireland should be debated by English, Scots and Welsh Members of this Parliament. The hon. Gentleman is a lawyer. It does not require such a qualification to be able to count. There are 11 hon. Members present. I do not think that there are any Scotsmen or Welshmen among us. There are only English and Northern Ireland hon. Members. I do not therefore consider that the House is paying a great deal of attention to what is regarded as a serious piece of legislation affecting Northern Ireland.

They are more concerned with the World Cup, about which I wish to comment in relation to Northern Ireland. I also wish to say something about passports.

New clause 4 starts by saying:
"Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act a member of the Assembly who, whether in pursuance of a resolution of the Assembly or otherwise, becomes a member of any body comprising representatives of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland …"
One need only consider the hundreds and, indeed, thousands of bodies that comprise Members of the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and of the Republic of Ireland. One has only to think of the Anglo-Irish group as it operates in this House, of the EEC organisations and of the European organisations. There are many bodies without a parliamentary basis to which parliamentarians from this House, from the Republic of Ireland and from Continental countries belong. The new clause cannot therefore be regarded as serious. I wonder who was responsible for the drafting of the new clause. Even more interesting is the fact that the sponsors of the new clause are the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross).

The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) will be aware that rumours are circulating throughout Northern Ireland that all hon. Members in this House, including myself, will be competing for seats in the newly created Northern Ireland Assembly in the election in October. It appears to me that those who drew up the new clause are disqualifying themselves from fighting for seats in the new Assembly. If the new clause is accepted, it will mean that those hon. Members, should they be successful in the competition for seats, could not, or would not, be Members of this House. They are, in effect, disqualifying themselves.

The construction of the new clause to which my name, along with others, is attached relates to

"a member of any body comprising representatives of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland".
—in other words, an Anglo-Irish parliamentary body. It does not purport to, and I believe does not, disqualify persons who are Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

That may be the intended effect. I believe that I am literate enough to recognise that members of the Anglo-Irish parliamentary body in this House would have to resign from that body, if not from this House, before they could take up a seat in the Assembly.

The hon. Gentleman said that the new clause would disqualify hon. Members of this House from being elected to the Assembly. The hon. Gentleman has now accepted that it disqualifies from membership of the Assembly those who are members of an Anglo-Irish parliamentary body.

I do not accept the argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. I still maintain my original stance. The clause would seem to make it more difficult for those who are sponsors of the new clause to seek seats in the Assembly. If that is true, it shows that they are not wholeheartedly in support of seeking seats in the Assembly.

The hon. Member for Peterborough tried to give some justification to what the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) said. I maintain the argument that if the Rev. J. J. MacManamy, a minister of the Church of Ireland, was disqualified from taking a seat in the House, the same principle should apply to every other reverend or so-called reverend gentleman. I shall speak later on new clause 20 about the saving of souls and ask who is saving souls.

New clause 11 deals with dual citizenship of the United Kingdom or any other country. We have already had an academic argument between the hon. Member for Peterborough and the hon. Member for Orpington about dual citizenship. The true position is that many Members of the House of Lords carry Irish passports, as do many Members of this House. I received word from the Minister within the past week that a new passport office or immigration office is to be opened in Belfast. At the moment there is no such office in Belfast and if one needs a passport to go on holiday or for any other reason the passport application has to be processed through Edinburgh or Glasgow.

However, anyone living in Northern Ireland can go to the Irish Tourist Office, fill in a form and with alacrity—there may be political undertones behind it—they are given an Irish passport. Many devoted Loyalists, Orangemen and upholders of the British tradition in Ireland were in Spain last week on Irish passports cheering the Northern Ireland football team. God be with them. I wish that I had the opportunity to go with them because the Northern Ireland team is entitled to be cheered by whatever passport holder. Many Loyalists in Northern Ireland hold Irish passports. Many of them are political representatives and many are in the Belfast corporation. They hold the passports for reasons of expediency. I am not in a postion to name names, as the right hon. Member for Down, South did this afternoon.

I know many people who have travelled on Irish passports for reasons of expediency but who are firm upholders of the present constitutional position of Northern Ireland and who would in no way wish to be put into the Republican tradition. Many are breaking the law since they have both a British and an Irish passport. A blind eye is turned to the practice. The fact that one may carry an Irish passport and yet live in Northern Ireland should not suggest that the holder of the passport is anti-British. Many carry an Irish passport purely as a matter of convenience. That does not suggest that they are disloyal or hostile to Britain. Many people living in the Six Counties may have an Irish passport for either sentimental reasons or for reasons of convenience.

Would the hon. Gentleman explain that the reason why so many people acquired an Irish Republican passport was to do with the Civil Service industrial dispute? Long delays occurred in passport applications and many people had pressing reasons to have one, such as a booked holiday. Perhaps that is why many of those who are in Spain now have such a passport. The Irish Republican passport was the only one handy.

I did not suspect that I would have support from such an unexpected quarter. The hon. Gentleman is right because there have been many Civil Service strikes in Northern Ireland. Many people will confirm that Northern Irish citizens obtained an Irish passport as a matter of convenience.

8.30 pm

I did not say that it was illegal to hold two passports. English law states that it is no offence to have dual citizenship, so the holding of two passports is not illegal.

The hon. Gentleman has clarified that it is not illegal, but in his previous remarks he seemed to be rather offended by people from Ireland being able to carry Irish and British passports. He entered into an immigration debate about Irish people residing here and drawing British benefits. That was the tone, if not the content, of his speech.

I was inclined to drop my opposition to new clause 11 because of the way in which the hon. Member for Orpington spoke of the European Assembly. It is not a European Parliament, but it seems to be accepted that its Members call themselves Members of the European Parliament. I agree that some of the attitudes adopted and the votes taken in the European Assembly could be inimical to the best interests of Britain and Northern Ireland. Members of the European Assembly sometimes suffer from delusions of grandeur and talk down to hon. Members. They believe that they have a greater knowledge of European affairs. Was the new clause directed at those people or at the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)? I am inclined to swing to the latter belief, because there is no doubt that the UUUC has disappeared. Those who were good friends when it was first formed now seem to be bitter enemies. It would be to the advantage of the Official Unionist Party if the hon. Member for Antrim, North were no longer to grace us with his presence in the House.

Might not new clause 11 have been directed towards the SDLP? Not only would John Hume, as leader, be debarred, but Seamus Mallon, as deputy leader, would also be debarred. Will the prospect of the Northern Ireland Assembly succeeding and bringing the communities together be enhanced if the leaders of the minority community are debarred from the Assembly?

I cannot answer the second part of the question because I must not make a personal comment, given my history in Northern Ireland. However, that would kill three birds with one stone. It would kill the hon. Member for Antrim, North and the leader and the deputy leader of the SDLP. Perhaps that was the intention. I could understand that if that was the intention of the new clause.

I vividly recall being an alderman of the Belfast corporation, deputy chief of the Assembly and a Member of this House at the same time. I was able to attend all three in one day. I hope that my presence at the three assemblies was helpful and enabled each to arrive at the right conclusion. Being a member of several bodies is no disqualification from getting an honest opinion.

New clause 20 should be unanimously rejected. It uses the words
"if he is a minister of religion having a cure of souls".
Who in the name of God drafted that clause? Who is to determine whether one has or has not a cure of souls? I am sure that the hon. Member for Antrim, North believes that he cures souls every five minutes of the day. The same response would not be forthcoming from the Vatican. When Pope John Paul was over here, it was a case of who was saving souls in Liverpool. The Pope blessed the hon. Member for Antrim, North. It does not seem to have done him much good. Who can take the wording of the clause seriously? "Having the cure of souls" indeed. I shall have a private word with the hon. Gentleman who drafted it.

I apologise for interrupting again. I listen to what the hon. Gentleman says on the new clause with some unease. I happen to be a member of the Methodist Church. Last year in the city of Cork, at the church's annual conference, I was congratulated on attaining 50 years as a fully accredited local preacher. We are accepted as part of the Methodist Church because of the scattered Methodist congregations in Ireland. It is necessary to use laymen to complement the ordained ministry. I have been wondering with unease whether I am included in the new clause.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) will appreciate the tale of two little fellows who were having an argument one day about the goodness of their fathers. One was the son of a Methodist minister, the other the son of a Methodist lay preacher. The argument waxed hot and heavy. Finally, the lay preacher's son, back against the wall and feeling somewhat defeated, believed that he would clinch the argument and said "Ah, well, your dad is paid for being good and my dad is good for nothing." That is the type of description that might be applied to me.

If it will please the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), I shall move a manuscript amendment to disqualify all such people, especially if they are fully accredited lay preachers. The hon. Gentleman's comments just go to show how dangerous such an amendment is. One is getting into deep water.

It is to some extent true that political priests in Ireland are not restricted to the Protestant side of the fence. There have been many Catholic ones, not as many as the Protestants have, but they are just as vociferous. Everyone knows what they are about. Last year, during the dangerous time of the hunger strike, some political priests made their opinions known in Northern Ireland. Their pronouncements did much to exacerbate the tension. At least they did not seek election to Parliament. Had they done so, they would not have been successful.

Paragraph (f) of new clause 20 seeks to disqualify a person
"if he is, or has been, a member of a proscribed organisation."
Who proscribed the organisation? Do we take it that it means proscribed by this House? Was it proscribed by a Labour Government or a Conservative Government? It would have been clearer to say:
"if he is, or has been, a member of a party or organisation proscribed by Parliament in this country."
All kinds of people can issue proscriptions.

Having got over that difficulty, however, is it not a fact that many people who have been members of proscribed organisations have repented of their ways and become very good citizens of this country or of other countries? Young people may be inclined by their age and the age in which they live to join organisations that might be described as revolutionary. When they grow up and the atmosphere or the conditions in the country have changed they may become stalwart citizens. It would be quite wrong to place an overriding ban on anyone who has been a member of a proscribed organisation even after the organisation has gone out of existence or the person involved has retired from it.

One has only to think of the Workers Party in Northern Ireland. Indeed, I was speaking to a gentleman from that party this afternoon. That party now has a great deal to commend it in the political structure of Northern Ireland. Yet at one time its members were members of the Official IRA, and 10 years or so ago they carried out some terrible crimes that were certainly worthy of condemnation. It is now desperately trying to get away from that murderous past and it is to be commended for its efforts. Therefore, in my view, those who are or have been members of the Workers Party in Northern Ireland or the Republic should not be proscribed from seeking election to this House or to the Assembly.

If we did not allow such people to seek election, we should make it more difficult for the Official IRA to change its ways and to become a legitimate political party. Is not that the real danger?

I agree. The Minister will have met members of the Workers Party and he will be aware that they have a turbulent past. Certainly Opposition Members have met members of that party. I have always opposed them because of their involvement with violence, but I am gradually being brought to the belief that they have finally cut all links with violence. I believe that those people should be helped along the way to maintain that position. In 1970 and 1971, immediately after internment, there was a serious escalation in emotional activity and it was easy for young boys of 15 or 16 to become involved. They have now got away from that and are trying to play their part in constructive politics in Northern Ireland. If the clause were carried, such people would be banned on the grounds that when they were 15 or 16 they supported an illegal organisation. That can only drive people out of politics. I do not think that sufficient thought was given to that part of the new clause.

For those reasons, although I could continue at much greater length, I believe that after all the debates on the Bill and on the timetable motion the debate on these new clauses, far from being constructive, is merely delaying a final decision on the Bill.

8.45 pm

I support part of the spirit of new clauses 11 and 20. Paragraph (c) of new clause 11 reads:

"if he has accepted nomination for, or is a member of a legislature or local authority outside the United Kingdom".
That would be a disqualification for membership of the Assembly. I am certain that my hon. Friend will argue that the wording of clauses 11 and 20 is defective. However, I earnestly ask him to look at the spirit behind new clause 11 and to accept, at least in part, the motives behind the framing of it.

It is with a certain amount of trepidation that I enter a sphere over which my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) has already demonstrated his considerable mastery. Section 1(1)(c) of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1957 provides that membership
"of the legislature of any country or territory outside the Commonwealth"
is a disqualification for membership of the House of Commons. I understand that would disqualify for membership of the Assembly anyone who is a member of such a legislature.

Perhaps my hon. Friend will also help me on the two other proposals put forward under paragraph (c) of new clause 11. If that is already covered by the 1957 Act, I shall be content. I have not found such a provision in the 1957 Act, but it is possible that I may have missed it.

If I am right that those two disqualifications are not in the 1957 Act, will my hon. Friend accept them as disqualifications for membership of the Assembly? If a prospective or existing Member of the Assembly accepts nomination for a legislature outside the United Kingdom, that presupposes that he would happy to be a member of an Assembly that is part of the United Kingdom and of a legislature that is not, thereby putting himself in an impossible position of divided loyalty.

I know that later we are to debate the form of oath or affirmation that Members of the Assembly should take. Members of this House go through an impressive and unforgettable swearing-in ceremony when they first arrive. Therefore, some such affirmation of loyalty should be considered by my hon. Friend before Members of the Assembly can take their seats. That would be an expression of loyalty to the Crown and all that flows from it.

For the sake of argument, the prospective member of the Assembly may be about to stand for membership of the Irish Parliament. I can easily understand—there have been several examples over the past few weeks—members of the Irish Parliament finding themselves in direct opposition to the interests of this country. During the Falklands crisis Ireland and Italy were not willing to renew sanctions imposed by the rest of the European Economic Community. Accepting nomination to another Assembly is as good as accepting membership of that Assembly. The intention is clear. Therefore, it becomes incompatible with membership of an Assembly which, however much we may dislike it, is nevertheless membership of an Assembly within the United Kingdom. Even if the drafting of that part of the new clause is defective, perhaps the Minister will consider introducing an amendment along the lines that I have outlined, if not here, at a later stage in another place.

As to membership of a local authority, again I must seek guidance from my hon. Friend and others who know more about the subject than I do. Is it now possible for a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament to be a member of a local authority outside the United Kingdom? If so, it is arguably less undesirable than prospective or actual membership of a legislature. I can envisage circumstances in which it might be desirable.

Nevertheless, the same arguments apply, at least in part, as those against membership of a legislature. In the case of Northern Ireland, do not those arguments apply even more, particularly in view of the proximity of the Republic and the difficulties of loyalty that from time to time may arise?

Much has already been made about whether or not ministers of religion
"have the cure of souls."
Again, I enter this argument with a considerable amount of trepidation, particularly in view of my history as one of the sponsors of a Ten-Minute Bill which, in some quarters of the Church of England, was considered to be a direct attack on the autonomy of that organisation.

Indeed, and that was one of the points that we tried to argue. I shall not, Mr. Deputy Speaker, be tempted along that interesting bypass. I know that you would call me to order if I attempted to do so. As always, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is keen that I should put some footnotes to the bulk of what I say and to follow them to their logical or illogical conclusion. I resist such a temptation.

Anomalies exist about membership of this House as it affects ministers of religion, and they have already been referred to. I have heard it said that clergymen are like beech trees and that nothing flourishes under them. From personal observation, I have considerable sympathy with that view. Therefore, at least emotionally, I am sympathetic to the provision proposed in the first part of new clause 20.

In this instance I must restrain my personal prejudices and content myself with observing that many clergymen seem to be involved in the politics of Northern Ireland. If they were precluded from taking part in the Assembly and its procedures, I suspect that not only would the character of Northern Ireland politics be radically altered—for all I know, perhaps for the better—but that, because of the amount of electoral support that they seem so regularly to get, many Northern Irish voters would be disfranchised. Reluctantly, therefore, I am inclined to ask the Minister to reject the first part of new clause 20.

As to the second part—this is where I hope the Minister will enter into the spirit rather than the letter of the new clause—despite the strictures of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), there is at least a nugget of a point. The hon. Member for Belfast, West, in spite of his understandable reservations about clergymen in Northern Ireland, reminded us of our Christian duty of forgiveness.

There is no doubt that many hon. Members would not be members of the Labour Party today had their Communist past been held against them. I think in particular of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who, I am told, was once a member of die Communist Party. Had the Labour Party in its wisdom banned ex-Communists from joining it, I suspect that many distinguished members of that organisation would never have joined and the Labour Party would be that much the poorer for it.

For that reason, I find myself in sympathy—

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that some Conservative Members are former members of the Communist Party?

If I were not so sensible of the amount of time that I have already taken, and if I had not felt that I might have been trespassing on the good will of the House, I should have gone on to make that point. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it for me, after I had mentally excised it from what I was about to say. The point was well made, and I accept it.

The words "or has been" in paragraph (f) of the new clause are perhaps a little restrictive. The arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Belfast, West were persuasive. However, I am sure that neither my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State nor any hon. Member could quarrel with paragraph (f) if the words "or has been" were excised. Will my hon. Friend consider giving an undertaking at some later stage to do that? After all, it can make little sense for members of a "proscribed organisation"—I understand that those two words have a technical meaning in the context of Northern Ireland—to become Members of the Assembly. It would surely make the whole exercise even more laughable than some of us believe it to be already.

The topics covered by the four new clauses being considered together in this debate are so diverse and fascinating that it has been difficult for hon. Members taking part in the debate—even the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who is temporarily absent—to have avoided the impression of having strayed into bad habits, and even doing a little filibustering. I am sure that this was merely due to the range and importance of the subjects.

I wish to resist even that temptation, however, with some exceptions. Much confusion has been caused in new clause 20 by the use of an expression perfectly well known and familiar to Anglicans, but unfamiliar, if not unknown, to those of other religious persuasions. A person with a "cure of souls" is, to an Anglican, a beneficed clergy. For the purpose of exclusion from this House, a clergyman is a person episcopally ordained. This is an Anglican usage and it is rather important for those of us who are Anglicans to remember that there is a certain ethos, even a certain vocabulary, peculiar to ourselves, of which we may not always be entirely conscious.

The use of the word "cure", so grossly misunderstood in the medical or theological sense by the hon. Member for Belfast, West is enshrined in the memorable phrase in the prayer for the church militant.
"Bishops and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge".
Curates are, in that case, beneficed clergy who have congregations who are in their charge. "Cure" is no more than "cura"—"care of."

9 pm

Having disposed of that barely more than philological point in connection with new clause 20, may I refer briefly to the remarks of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) in connection with new clause 10? As he was speaking, I was greatly tempted to return, and to return at large, to those lush pastures of the law of citizenship in which he and I grazed together for so many happy days and nights during the passage of the British Nationality Act in the last Session.

My observation, which was not fully dealt with in the hon. Gentleman's speech, is germane to the whole background of the Bill and to relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is an extremely serious observation. Under the terminology of dual citizenship, the hon. Member for Orpington was sometimes referring to the fact that, in the law of the United Kingdom, privileges otherwise available only to citizens of the United Kingdom or British subjects are accorded to those who are citizens of the Irish Republic although they are not also United Kingdom citizens or British subjects. That anomaly excites frequent comment and constant surprise on the part of British electors when they come to fill out the form for registration as an elector. It is a matter for serious and practical debate.

Many of those who discover and discuss that anomaly imagine that it is a demand made upon the United Kingdom by the Irish Republic, and that by discussing those privileges accorded in the United Kingdom we are entering upon sensitive territory where we would be in danger of causing offence, legitimate or otherwise, to the Irish Republic and its citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth.

That anomaly originated in December 1921 when the United Kingdom made the fatal mistake—a characteristic, self-deceiving mistake—of determining to pretend that the Irish Free State was still part of His Britannic Majesty's dominions and was analogous to the Dominion of Canada. In pursuance of that deliberate self-delusion, we continued to treat the citizens of the Irish Free State as what in our absurd and unrealistic view they were—British subjects—from which it automatically followed that they would have the privileges and rights of British subjects in Britain.

By the time that it became impossible for us to maintain that form of self-delusion, when the Irish Free State became an overt Republic, we had already devised the strange mechanisms of the British Nationality Act 1948, which enabled those who were not within the allegiance nevertheless to be treated as the equivalent of British subjects or Commonwealth citizens. Therefore, it was natural that the old delusion, embalmed in those anomalous privileges, should be carried from the period 1921 to 1949 into the period after 1949.

So far as I know, no Government of the Irish Republic—no Government of the Irish Free State—ever demanded or claimed those privileges for its citizens. Indeed, to do so would have contradicted the central proposition. This was an imposition which, in the interests of our own self-deception, we laid upon the Irish Republic and its citizens.

It is part of a regret that we can all retrospectively maintain that in 1921 we were unable to recognise that a new nation, as much a nation as ourselves, had come into existence. Therefore, there is a political reality behind the debate that has arisen from new clause 10. One day, I hope that we shall get round to recognising the separate nationhood of the Republic of Ireland in the proper and decisive manner by treating its citizens in the same way as we treat the citizens of other foreign, but normally friendly, independent nations. That is all that is being claimed by those who have argued this case.

I return to the subject of new clause 4, which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). Perhaps we shall be forgiven the parental partiality of regarding it as the most important of the four new clauses that are grouped together. In a sense, it is the counterpart to new clause 1. That new clause sought to oblige Members of the Assembly to participate in the parliamentary part of an Anglo-Irish Council whereas if this new clause is carried—and we shall insist on recording our opinion in the Lobby—it will write into the measure the reassurance that the Bill and the strange Assembly brought into existence by it is not a backdoor into an Anglo-Irish Council and is not designed to quote once again the immortal words of "Daily Notes No. 9":
"to pave the way into a federal union between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic."
Whoever, particularly those of us who served in our youth in the research and parliamentary sections of one of the political parties, would dream that the daily notes for candidates, which it was part of our chore to produce during an election campaign would, after a lapse of years, become the subject of intense discussion and debate on the Floor of the House? It only shows, as a wise man once told me on Turin station, "You never know one little bit". Whoever wrote "Daily Notes, No. 9" for the general election in 1979 did not know one little bit the notoriety that would attach to the words that he penned.

It is still necessary to request the Government to recognise how genuine and deeply founded are the fears of many of those who oppose the Bill that its precise object is
"to pave the way into a federal union between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic."
Many of those who have taken part in our debates have come to recognise that the likelihood of devolution and of devolved government being realised by the agency of the Bill is remote. Even the Secretary of State regards it as less, rather than more, probable. Therefore, the only thing that is certain about the Bill if it is enacted is that it will result in an Assembly. It is essentially a Bill to create an Assembly.

That is bound to ring ominous warning bells in the minds of Northern Ireland Members who have been told, in so many words, by those organising the Anglo-Irish Council that what is missing from its completion, what is missing from the adumbration of an eventual federal structure, is an Assembly—just an Assembly—that would enable Northern Ireland to be represented there, not as part of the United Kingdom, which it is, but as something separate and thereby destined to be differently associated in future from the rest of the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) coined a useful formulation when he said that, in effect, if the Assembly participated itself, or through its members, in the parliamentary tier of an Anglo-Irish Council, that would be a devolution of foreign affairs. That is because if the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic are independent nations, the relations between them will be foreign affairs and the participation of the Assembly in those affairs, by participation in the Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier as envisaged, would be a participation in foreign affairs.

Under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 foreign affairs is an excepted matter. It is placed beyond the reach and even the anticipation of a devolved Assembly and Government in Northern Ireland. Schedule 2 to the 1973 Act specifies excepted matters. It is interesting that paragraph 3 of that schedule states that excepted matters include:
"International relations, including treaties, the making of peace or war and neutrality, and matters connected therewith"—
So far, that might appear to be plain sailing. A devolved Government and Assembly inside the United Kingdom—an Assembly representing an integral part of the United Kingdom—could surely not take part in, take decisions on or legislate about international relations or external affairs as thus defined. But I have not quoted the rest of the paragraph. It continues
"but not—
(a) the surrender of fugitive offenders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland"—
I pass over that ominous sub-paragraph. The schedule continues:
"(b) the exercise of legislative powers so far as required for giving effect to any agreement or arrangement made under section 12 of this Act."
Section 12 of the Act is the Sunningdale section. It is the Council of Ireland section of the Act. Into the structure of the 1973 constitution was built this anomaly and contradiction. External affairs and foreign affairs are not devolved—except relations with the Irish Republic.

Some hon. Members, such as those who sit on the Opposition Front Bench, are saying today "The Irish Republic is just over the way. The Irish Republic is nearer physically to the United Kingdom than any other nation of foreign Power. The part to which it is nearest is Northern Ireland, so why the fuss? Is it not natural that it should be put in an exceptional position?"

I wish to answer that query. It is a natural query to come from those who do not live, as it were, with Northern Ireland. There is an answer. Those in Northern Ireland never forget that, by the constitution of the Irish Republic, the Province is part of the Irish Republic. They never forget that, they never can forget it and they never will forget it as long as that remains part of the constitution of that separate State.

9.15 pm

When one places into that context the proposition that relations with the Irish Republic should be an exception to the logical exclusion of external affairs from the sphere of a devolved Assembly or Government in Northern Ireland, one understands something of the suspicion, fear—even hatred—which is entertained for this Assembly-creating Bill. It is designed either to enable or, if the new clause which the House rejected had been carried, to enforce direct relations between a representative organisation of a part of the United Kingdom with the only nation which claims that part of the United Kingdom as its own territory.

I should have thought that any reasonable, detached person would see the implication. One does not have to be an Ulsterman to see the implication of saying that relations with the one power that claims the soil of Northern Ireland as its own shall be treated as if they were not external relations but as in some way internal relations. I should have thought that any reasonable, impartial observer of the scene would have said that that was a fundamental concession and admission going a long way towards accepting the assertion written into the constitution of the Irish Republic that Northern Ireland really belongs to it and that there is really therefore no foreignness between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

From that insight there follows the deduction that a Government and a Parliament who will legislate on those lines, who will pass schedule 2, paragraph 3, of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and who will pass a Bill to create an Assembly that the Secretary of State said this afternoon he hoped will behave as the Opposition amendment sought to oblige it to do, will recognise the significance of such a Bill.

The Bill declares the ambiguity and the ambivalence of this House and of Her Majesty's Government to the very question which creates all the division about which we talk when we discuss Northern Ireland—to which nation it is to belong. The Bill is another instalment in a long and unhappy story marked by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, and the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 in which, quite deliberately, the House has legislated ambiguously as to the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

Was there not an important Act in between those two Acts—the Ireland Act 1949? The right hon. Gentleman will recall that at that time Herbert Morrison said that the Irish Government did not wish to be in the Commonwealth and did not wish to be foreign and, so far as he was aware, they were equally sincere on both points.

Many of the records of the late 1940s—some of them have been referred to in the debate—are worth restudying at the present time.

It is the essential ambiguity of the Bill that the new clause seeks to destroy. It seeks to say "If you are going to set up an Assembly, at any rate set it up with this ambiguity ab initio removed and denied by making it impossible statutorily for it to perform the function which is envisaged for it by those who want to blur the transition and to pave the way."

The Secretary of State quoted again this afternoon the first section of the 1973 Act—the so-called guarantee. He asked "After that, what are you all afraid of? What is there to worry about if you have section 1 of the 1973 Act?" In fact, it was not unlike section 1 of the 1949 Act. I accept that it was unlike it in some respects, but in one essential it was the same.

I shall tell the Secretary of State why we are worried. We are concerned about the ambiguity that subsists between the declaration in the 1973 Act and the Bill, between the declaration of integral membership of the United Kingdom until the people themselves decide otherwise and the creation of a structure unique within the United Kingdom, of which one of the desired purposes—possibly the only practical intended purpose—is to enable Northern Ireland to participate as Northern Ireland in an Anglo-Irish Council, with all the implications which I have argued flow from that.

If the Bill is enacted, we shall be renewing the fatal ambiguity which I put to the House in the early 1970s and which it did not like me putting before it. I say again that the root cause of the destruction and murder in Northern Ireland is uncertainty. All the time all concerned can appeal to reason and ask "Is it not probable, from the behaviour of Her Majesty's Government and from the contradictions which Parliament ever and again creates, that sooner or later a way will be found and a way will be paved—the sovereign power, the mother country, clearly contemplates it—whereby Ulster will be taken out of the country to which it belongs and put into a context to which it has no voluntary intention of belonging?" It is that mischief against which the new clause seeks to provide. If it is not carried, that mischief will be put firmly upon the record on the day on which we pass the Bill.

We have had a long and interesting debate on four new clauses. I think that the House will have gathered in the process that the law on disqualification is exceedingly complex. It is clear that it contains some anomalies and I do not mean to begin this reply by trying to explain in detail all the ramifications of the law on disqualification. However, I want to make clear to the House the general principle that has guided the Government as it comes to a view on the clauses that are before it. It is the straightforward principle that the policy on disqualification from the former Northern Ireland Parliament and subsequently the Northern Ireland Assembly has followed closely, although not identically, the law on disqualification that applies to the House. The Government see no reason why this guiding principle should cease to apply to the new Assembly when it is elected.

I should remind right hon. and hon. Members that there is in process a review of the existing criteria for House of Commons disqualification. That disqualification criteria for the Northern Ireland Assembly are not identical to those for the House of Commons, but there is a close link. In general, it would be best to await the outcome of the review of the grounds for disqualification for the House of Commons and then decide whether an amendment to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 should be considered. That is the general principle.

New clause 4 is in the name of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) are right that, strictly speaking, the new clause would run wider than is the intention and would debar on a wider basis than is intended. The words of the new clause would achieve their end because the new clause is designed to achieve immediate disqualification of any Member of the Assembly who chose to participate in a possible Anglo-Irish body at parliamentary level. That is its purpose. It is on those terms that I shall deal with the new clause.

We know already that the unique relationship between the two Governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom has been given institutional expression by the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council. It has been contemplated that at some point in the future it will be complemented by an Anglo-Irish body at parliamentary level. As has been said time and again, that is a matter for the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to decide.

It has been demonstrated during proceedings on the Bill that the mere existence of a Whip does not guarantee compliance. Hon. Members come to the House to exercise their judgment. It would be wrong to prejudge the issue by denying Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly the right to take part in the new body, were it to be formed. Its existence must be regarded as hypothetical. However, were it to be formed, to deny Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly the right to take part would be wrong.

The Minister has reminded us of the ministerial Anglo-Irish council, which was designed to discuss and decide on matters of mutual interest. Will he inform the House whether that body was called into being during the Falklands crisis? If so, what conclusion did it reach?

The hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that. The council will continue and I am sure that in future it will do useful work.

The House has already debated the White Paper, upon which the Bill is based in many ways. We expect that if a parliamentary body comes into existence arrangements will be made for Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to participate, if they wish, alongside Members of that Parliament. That may be an important new means of developing close and more beneficial practical cooperation between the two parts of Ireland as well as between the United Kingdom Parliament and the Dail. Benefits have come from such co-operation in the past and I hope that new benefits will come in the future. That in no way calls into question the constitutional position of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, or arouses any of the fears about ambiguity or ambivalence mentioned by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Therefore, I cannot advise the House to approve the new clause when it is put to the test in a few moments, as he promised.

Will my hon. Friend consider whether, since the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council is an institution for the conduct of relations between two sovereign States—foreign affairs is not a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly—it might not be better if the Northern Ireland voice in that parliamentary institution, if it comes into being, came from those who are elected to this House from Northern Ireland?

9.30 pm

There is nothing to prevent them from playing that part as well. We envisage a role being played by members of the Assembly in any body that comes into existence.

My hon. Friend's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) suggested that he is putting Members of the Assembly on the same level as Members elected to the House from the point of view of the parliamentary tier of any all-Ireland council. That must be utterly wrong. Those who are elected here are elected to express their views on all matters—foreign affairs, defence and everything else. Those elected to the Assembly have, to begin with, probably a small role, and even if matters develop as the Secretary of State hopes—which I do not myself believe—they would still have not much more than local councillor status. That cannot be right. One cannot put the two on the same level.

It will be for the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to decide the terms upon which the body is established, and for them to decide what role within that body Members of the Assembly may have. It is certainly not for me to lay down any of that. Eventually, the Parliaments themselves will decide.

I cannot advise the House to support new clause 10 which seeks to disqualify individuals possessing dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country. As we have heard, many people in Northern Ireland—mainly, although not exclusively, from the minority community—enjoy both British and Irish citizenship. Even assuming that it were administratively possible to filter out candidates for the Assembly who possessed such dual citizenship, to do so would antagonise the minority community. It would be seen as an attack upon them. It would also run counter to the heart of the Government's policy as outlined in the White Paper, that there should he respect for the two traditions in the life of the Province so that members of both communities may achieve mutual respect and participate more creatively in the public life of the Province. If the new clause were to be read a Second time, it would be seen by the minority community in Northern Ireland—even if it were administratively possible—as an attack on that community.

The Minister seemed to be implying—perhaps he did not intend to— that respect for a minority point of view included the acknowledgement within the United Kingdom of those who by their claim to citizenship owed an allegiance different from that of the United Kingdom. That surely cannot be.

It has become the practice, for one reason or another—a number have been outlined in the House today—for a large number of people in Northern Ireland, not exclusively the minority but mainly them, to have dual citizenship. To pass this new clause and restrict their opportunities to take part in the Assembly would be perceived by them as an attack on their position. I cannot advise the House to support the new clause.

I have to give similar advice about new clause 11 which would disqualify candidates who were members of legislatures or local authorities outside the United Kingdom and candidates for or members of the European Assembly. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) has already drawn the attention of the House to section 1(1)(e) of the Northern Ireland Disqualification Act 1975 which provides that
"a person is disqualified from membership of the Northern Ireland Assembly who for the time being … is a member of the legislature of any country or territory outside the Commonwealth."
That of course includes the Irish Republic and is entirely consistent with the established procedures of the House over many years as well as that in the first Northern Ireland Assembly.

I do not believe that it would be right to change the existing rules for Assembly elections, although if we were in the future to alter the arrangements for the House of Commons we might decide that there were implications for the Assembly.

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that someone who is a Member of the Irish Senate will not be eligible for the Assembly?

That is exactly what I mean. I do not believe that it would be right to accept the arguments that have been put in the debate to exclude Members of the European Assembly from membership of the Northern Ireland Assembly when they can simultaneously be members of the European Assembly as well as of this House.

New clause 20 seeks to disqualify both ministers of religion and members of proscribed organisations. I shall not enter into the complexities of the disqualification of clergy for membership of this House and thus the Northern Ireland Assembly. A wide-ranging review of the rules for disqualification is taking place. I think that we should await its findings. It is right that the qualifications or disqualifications for the Assembly should stay firmly in line for the time being with those for the House of Commons. The Government would not wish to change that aspect of disqualification.

Of all the arguments put forward in the debate, the one to which I was most sympathetically inclined was the second half of new clause 20 which applies to the disqualification of members of proscribed organisations. Even here, however, I cannot advise the House that the Government would wish to accept the suggestion. The House should understand that individuals who commit serious crimes, including membership of proscribed organisations, are already, for the most part, excluded from the Assembly as they are from this House.

This was a consequence of the Representation of the People Act 1981 which was introduced to close a loophole in the law following the election last year of Robert Sands as Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The House will recall that the Act disqualifies anyone sentenced to be detained for more than one year. That will cover, I believe, most of the serious offences that hon. Members had in mind in tabling this aspect of new clause 20.

It is not simply a question of having committed a crime. Someone might stand for the Assembly in the name of a proscribed organisation. One cup is already full, with the veto being given to the minority community. If we are now to be told that official members of a terrorist organisation will be allowed to stand, this is too much. We shall vote against it.

Obviously my right hon. Friend must make up his own mind. The House gave serious consideration in 1981 to this problem in deciding what to do about supporters of organisations such as the UVF or the Provisional IRA who sought to stand for this House. The solution arrived at was incorporated in the Act. I am saying that the same criteria should apply in relation to the Assembly. We should march hand in hand with the provisions made for the House of Commons.

I should like to take the Minister back to an important remark he made earlier. Did he say that a senator in the Dail will not be allowed to stand for the Assembly and that under existing law he would be disqualified? Hon. Members know the two individuals we are talking about. If they are disqualified, this should be spelt out so that the individuals concerned are aware of the situation.

Under the terms of section 1(1)(e) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 a person would be disqualified from membership of the Assembly if he

"is a member of the legislature of any country or territory outside the Commonwealth".
That would clearly cover membership of the Senate in the Republic of Ireland.

Finally, following full devolution, it would be open to the Assembly to pass a resolution in accordance with the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 on which changes could be made to the law on disqualification for the Assembly. If, upon consideration, the Assembly wished to change any of the provisions regarding disqualification for membership of the Assembly, it would be for it to pass a resolution and then for an Order in Council to be passed under the terms of the Act. Therefore, I cannot advise the House to pass any of the four new clauses that are before us.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you tell my hon. Friends and myself whether you will permit a Division on new clause 20?

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 22, Noes 161.

Division No. 250]

[9.40 pm


Amery, Rt Hon JulianMorris, M. (N'hampton S)
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnPaisley, Rev Ian
Budgen, NickPowell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Cranborne, ViscountProctor, K. Harvey
Dunlop, JohnRobinson, P. (Belfast E)
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Goodhart, Sir PhilipStanbrook, Ivor
Kilfedder, James A.Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Lawrence, IvanWalker, B. (Perth)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
McCusker, H.Tellers for the Ayes:
Molyneaux, JamesRev. Martin Smyth and
Morgan, GeraintMr. Christopher Murphy.


Alexander, RichardLuce, Richard
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelLyell, Nicholas
Alton, DavidLyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Ancram, MichaelMacGregor, John
Arnold, TomMadel, David
Aspinwall, JackMajor, John
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Marlow, Antony
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Marten, Rt Hon Neil
Banks, RobertMates, Michael
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyMather, Carol
Beith, A. J.Mawby, Ray
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Berry, Hon AnthonyMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Best, KeithMayhew, Patrick
Bevan, David GilroyMellor, David
Blackburn, JohnMeyer, Sir Anthony
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Boyson, Dr RhodesMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Braine, Sir BernardMitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Bright, GrahamMoate, Roger
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Bryan, Sir PaulMudd, David
Buck, AntonyMyles, David
Bulmer, EsmondNeedham, Richard
Cadbury, JocelynNelson, Anthony
Campbell-Savours, DaleNeubert, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Newton, Tony
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaNormanton, Tom
Chapman, SydneyPage, Richard (SW Herts)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Parris, Matthew
Cockeram, EricPatten, John (Oxford)
Cope, JohnPattie, Geoffrey
Crawshaw, RichardPawsey, James
Critchley, JulianPenhaligon, David
Cryer, BobPink, R. Bonner
Dorrell, StephenPitt, William Henry
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Dover, DenshorePrior, Rt Hon James
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Rhodes James, Robert
Elliott, Sir WilliamRidley, Hon Nicholas
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Eyre, ReginaldRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fairgrieve, Sir RussellRoper, John
Faith, Mrs SheilaRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Fenner, Mrs PeggyRossi, Hugh
Fisher, Sir NigelRost, Peter
Fitt, GerardRumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Fookes, Miss JanetSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Forman, NigelSandelson, Neville
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Scott, Nicholas
Garel-Jones, TristanShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Goodlad, AlastairShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Grimond, Rt Hon J.Shersby, Michael
Grist, IanSilvester, Fred
Hamilton, Hon A.Sims, Roger
Hampson, Dr KeithSkeet, T. H. H.
Heddle, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Hicks, RobertSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Speller, Tony
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Stanley, John
Hooson, TomSteen, Anthony
Hordern, PeterStevens, Martin
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Howells, GeraintStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hunt, David (Wirral)Tapsell, Peter
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Irvine, Bryant GodmanThompson, Donald
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyTrippier, David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michaelvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineVaughan, Dr Gerard
Kimball, Sir MarcusViggers, Peter
Lamont, NormanWaddington, David
Lang, IanWainwright, R. (Colne V)
Latham, MichaelWaldegrave, Hon William
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Watson, John
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Wells, Bowen
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)Wheeler, John

Wickenden, Keith
Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Wolfson, MarkMr. Peter Brooke.

Question accordingly negatived.

I understand that the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) wishes to move new clause 20 formally.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. New clause 20 is in two parts. The first would outlaw

"a minister of religion having a cure of souls"
from standing for the Assembly. We know who that is directed against. The second has to do with membership of a proscribed organisation. I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would put the two matters separately to the House. If you cannot do that, I should also say that I would have to abstain from voting on the new clause.

It is not necessary for anyone in this place to explain if he does not go into the Lobby. I must put it as one new clause.