Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill [ Lords]

Part of Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:46 pm on 11th March 2010.

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Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 3:46 pm, 11th March 2010

I can see the hon. Gentleman nodding vigorously, and I know that you share those views, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

It has not been a good year. I do not want to make any criticisms of anyone in particular, but to a degree this House has been panicked into making certain decisions and setting up certain bodies. I am glad that our pay and allowances will be regulated and decided upon by an outside body, but the way in which we rushed to this means that I am not entirely convinced that those who are in charge of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority completely understand what it means to be a Member of Parliament. I would say this to our friends in Northern Ireland: you have time to avoid that problem, so if you are going to have an independent body, be it an offshoot of IPSA or a wholly different body based in and drawn entirely from the Province itself, for goodness' sake make sure that you take your time and that you are not bounced into a series of rules and regulations that could infringe upon the sovereignty of your Assembly just as I fear that some of the rules and regulations that are being drawn up will infringe upon the sovereignty of this Parliament. I will not be part of it, any more than Andrew Mackinlay or my hon. Friend Christopher Fraser will be. Nor, indeed, will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that I can speak for all of us in saying that we will miss this place enormously, because we all love it, but it is passing into uncharted waters. It is terribly important that those who regulate our financial affairs do not do so in a way that deters those who are determined on public service and militates against the family man or woman of modest means. We are in danger of making those mistakes here, and I hope that those who represent their constituency in the Assembly in Northern Ireland will learn from our mistakes and take their time in deciding upon and setting up any independent institutions.

With those words of caution, which I hope are entirely relevant and which are meant to be entirely helpful and constructive, I commend the Minister and the Bill. I wish all those who will have to wrestle with these problems in Stormont every possible success in so doing.