Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence) 3:09 pm, 24th October 2018

I intend to speak, Mr Deputy Speaker, but you knew that anyhow.

I say respectfully to the hon. Lady—an honourable Lady in name and nature—that that is a fair question, but if she follows the logic of what I am saying, she will see that it is not one for us. We want to see the restoration of an Executive. We have indicated no red lines. We made an offer of an olive branch last August, and it was rejected in 35 minutes; it was not considered. We have the clearest of clear indications from Sinn Féin that it does not envisage having Ministers appointed until April 2019. It is a disgrace, and it bears no resemblance to the needs, the frustrations, the angst, the wishes or the aspiration of every single person who lives in Northern Ireland.

I have mentioned that this Bill lacks certainty. That is a product of the way in which it is framed, and the Secretary of State has sought to issue guidance. It is right that the civil service has been empowered to advance decisions that are couched within the public interest. However, I have no certainty whether a planning decision for the power plant envisaged in my constituency will be advanced by civil servants. Why is it necessary? Because some of our older power stations are coming offline. There is a need for this planning approval to be given so that the power station can form part of a capacity auction this autumn for future years. If it is not advanced, we will be in a difficult situation in Northern Ireland. The same can be said for the north-south interconnector. It is a necessary part of infrastructure that we support—we think it is imperative for the future of our energy arrangements—yet there is no certainty that this Bill will advance a decision on the north-south interconnector.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast South raised the transport hub in the south of the city. It is an important project that has regional significance in that it connects every part of Northern Ireland to our city. It has significant public resource allocated to it, and it will be necessary for the future development and aspirational growth of Belfast city and Northern Ireland. Is there any certainty that this Bill will advance that decision? Regrettably, there is none. Professor Bengoa—