Irish MPs Bill clears Commons after 26-hour debate

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The Independent Online

A Bill to enable members of the Irish legislature to also become Westminster MPs cleared the Commons on Wednesday night after the longest sitting for more than a decade.

A Bill to enable members of the Irish legislature to also become Westminster MPs cleared the Commons on Wednesday night after the longest sitting for more than a decade.

After nearly 26 hours of continuous debate, the Disqualifications Bill was given a third reading by 326 votes to 141, Government majority 185, and now goes to the Lords.

Angry Conservative and Ulster Unionist MPs kept the Commons sitting all through Tuesday night in protest at the Government's "bulldozing" of the Bill through Parliament.

As the marathon debate went on into the afternoon, yesterday's sitting of the Commons was lost, wrecking the prospect of Tory Leader William Hague challenging the Prime Minister on his 1000th day in office.

It was the first time a sitting had been wiped out since June 1988 when objectors to the Housing Bill kept the Commons sitting from 2.30pm on a Tuesday until 8pm on the Wednesday.

The Government had planned to rush the Bill through the House, completing all its Commons stages in just two days.

But after gaining a second reading on Monday, the measure ran into trouble with both Tories and Ulster Unionists complaining more time was needed to give it adequate scrutiny.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Andrew Mackay led the protests, accusing ministers of trying to "bulldoze" the Bill through in an "abuse" of parliamentary procedure.

Other senior Tories warned it would bring about "conflicts of loyalty" and Unionists denounced it as a sop to Sinn Fein.

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