Top Tory says let Gerry Adams sit as MP

A strong call was made last night for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to be allowed to take their seats in the Commons. Anthony Bevins, Political Editor, reports on a bold and significant initiative.

Alan Clark, the senior Tory MP and historian, last night launched a surprise attack on the law barring the leaders of Sinn Fein taking up the places to which they were elected in May.

Mr Adams, the elected MP for West Belfast, and Mr McGuinness, the MP for Mid Ulster, are currently engaged in all-party talks on the future of Northern Ireland following the reintroduction of the IRA ceasefire.

As one of the party leaders engaged in the talks, Mr Adams is scheduled to meet Tony Blair for discussions at Number 10 before Christmas, on the same basis that David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, had talks with the Prime Minister in Downing Street yesterday.

But Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness have been barred from the precincts of the Commons on a ruling from the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, because they refuse to affirm their allegiance to the Crown.

While it is the law that no MP can sit, vote or speak in the Commons without having sworn or affirmed allegiance - under the terms of the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866 - without prompting a by-election, there is no law under which such dissenting representatives are barred from the precincts or facilities of the Commons.

That was the decision taken by the Speaker when it became clear that neither man would affirm allegiance to the Crown.

But in a characteristically independent intervention in a second reading debate on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill, Mr Clark challenged the law - arguing that it played into the hands of the nationalists who wanted to opt out of the United Kingdom. He said: "If we deny the right, effectively remove a constituency from the United Kingdom, we are in effect encouraging all those who argue the case that it should no longer be a part of the United Kingdom ...

"As for the oath, which would the House regard as being more honourable; to refuse to take it on grounds of conscience or commitment, or to take it as did the honourable Member for Newham North West [Tony Banks, now minister for sport] smiling at the television cameras, with his fingers crossed?"

Following the Speaker's ruling, the two MPs tried and failed to get a judicial review of her decision - but the courts have no power to interfere with the domestic affairs of Parliament, theoretically at least, the highest court of the land.

It has been suggested that they might try to get a ruling from the European Court, but there have also been reports that Miss Boothroyd has suggested a meeting.

The Commons last night gave an unopposed second reading to the emergency provisions legislation, which scraps internment powers and maintains the anti-terrorist legislation - pending the introduction of permanent UK-wide anti-terrorist laws, expected in 2000.

Adam Ingram, the security minister, said the loyalist ceasefire was holding, while Ronnie Flanagan, the Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable, believed the IRA ceasefire "remains remarkably stable". But the minister warned that some terrorist groups "on both sides remain active and could destabilise the peace process".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power