Executive Accountability

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th September 2017.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 12:00 am, 13th September 2017

If he will take steps to ensure that departments of the Northern Ireland Executive are accountable and accessible to the Northern Ireland electorate.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The people of Northern Ireland need a fully functioning Executive where strategic decisions can be made in the interests of the whole community. That is clearly in line with what they voted for in the Assembly election in March and that is the appropriate means to ensure local accountability and accessibility for all the people of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. We have Departments that have been rudderless since March, which is six months ago. The accountability that comes with an elected Minister is sadly lacking. If Sinn Féin continues to hold this Government and the people of Northern Ireland to ransom, will the Secretary of State step in to ensure that proper political oversight is provided for each Department, to ensure that accountability and accessibility are back on the cards, and how does he see that taking place?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Gentleman knows that time is running short. There is the lack of a budget in Northern Ireland and that cannot continue for much longer. The more we head into October the bigger the challenges will be. He makes a point about accountability. Obviously, as the UK Government we have a primary responsibility in respect of political stability in Northern Ireland, but I note the point he makes about responses from Departments within the Northern Ireland civil service and I will certainly raise that with David Sterling.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

While backing British farming both on the mainland and in Northern Ireland, may I ask my right hon. Friend, in the absence of the devolved Executive, what steps he and his Department are taking to ensure that the views of local politicians are being conveyed to Bombardier, Boeing and the Government of the United States?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement. I note that the leaders of both the DUP and Sinn Féin have issued a joint letter to the vice-president underlining the particular circumstances and the real significance of this matter to Northern Ireland, and I would encourage everyone to play their part in seeking a resolution.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

While the Secretary of State is trying to square that circle and get the DUP back to work in the Executive, will he acknowledge the opinion of the House of Commons Library that the Brexit Bill is a power-grab from the devolved Administrations? Will the Government he is a part of be asking the DUP Members here to vote to reduce the powers of the Assembly while it is not sitting? Do the other parties elected to Stormont agree with the power-grab?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Lady fundamentally mischaracterises what the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is about. It is about creating UK-wide frameworks to ensure that we have a smooth transition, and I would have thought that was in the best interests of all of the United Kingdom and that everybody should get behind it.