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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links