I am speaking of the Minister of State. That is not to cast any aspersions on the Secretary of State; I am talking about the Minister of State because he is the Minister who is here today to reply to this debate.
The Minister has been exemplary in the way that he has fulfilled his duties. He would be the first to admit, however, that his job has been made easier by the constructive support that he has received from my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State and, indeed, from the successive spokesmen for the Liberal Democrats. [ Interruption. ] Of course he has had support within Northern Ireland, but I am talking about this House, where he has had the support of the major UK parties. That must have made his task pleasanter and easier, and long may it continue. Whoever has responsibility for Northern Ireland in this House in the new Parliament-if it is a Secretary of State, they will be a Secretary of State shorn of many of the powers that the present one had when he first came to office-needs that cross-party, bipartisan support to ensure that we build on the achievements of recent years.
This is a modest Bill, but I think a good one. It is, rightly, permissive in giving Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly the right to decide how they will have their affairs regulated. There is one appeal that I would make to them. We have had a troubled year in the history of this Parliament; it has been the saddest year of my political career.