Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:24 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley 2:24 pm, 24th October 2018

I am grateful to be called in this important debate and am happy to support this Bill. The measures within represent a sensible compromise, but this is like trying to find the least bad of all the really bad options. We would all agree that by far the best situation would be to have an Assembly and to have Ministers of the Executive in place taking such decisions, but that is not the situation that we are in, and it is not one, based on the dates set in this Bill, that I suspect we are going to see in the next six, eight or even 10 months. The question now is about what we should do here for the people of Northern Ireland to try to get important decisions taken to deliver public services as best as they can be delivered, to try to improve the economy in Northern Ireland, and to try to improve the lives of ordinary people.

There are no easy options here, and the most extreme would probably be to appoint direct rule Ministers from this Parliament to take such decisions. That would lead to sensitivities in the relationship with the Irish Republic and the nationalist community, which is sadly not represented in this House—at least not by any nationalist MPs. That is a radical decision that the Government are not keen to take. However, we could have been pursuing other possibilities to try to get a bit nearer to a situation in which we could take some of the decisions that need to be taken. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee published a report that discussed how we could at least have a shadow Assembly or allow the committees to meet just to get some local engagement and local scrutiny to allow some decisions to be taken from here that have some level of accountability in Northern Ireland.