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

That is an important point to make, and that matter should be progressed.

I have a final, broad point about the participation of Members of the Legislative Assembly. They have been elected to serve their people and wish to do so, and MLAs are required for good governance in Northern Ireland. There are many decisions that could be taken by civil servants, but there is no direction on what those decisions should be. The only way that civil servants can get a true appreciation of what politicians who have been elected to serve the people wish the direction of travel to be is to ask them—to include a participative process, and to encourage politicians to come in, share their views, and shape policy proposals and decisions for the future. The Bill does not take the opportunity to do that. We have mentioned the historical institutional abuse inquiry. That is a classic example of where elected MLAs could be engaged in discussions on how that matter is progressed.

Gavin Newlands referred to the Independent Reporting Commission, which published a report yesterday. How sad is it that, 20 years after the Belfast agreement, we still have an independent reporting commission on paramilitary activity? I have been in this House for only three years, and in that time, I have had a constituent murdered by the IRA; that is the Provisional IRA, not a dissident group. Another constituent—a serving prison officer—was blown up by dissident republicans, through an under-car booby trap bomb. He died of his injuries a week later.

People come to my constituency office every week because of the pressure that they face from paramilitaries in my community—loyalist paramilitaries; paramilitaries who intimidate young families out of their homes; paramilitaries who lend money and extort a return; and paramilitaries who sell drugs and destroy individuals and their communities. The Independent Reporting Commission report pleads for political direction and political involvement, and for the participation of the people who have been elected to serve our society and want to do so. That is the prize in restoring the Executive. That is what we want. That is what the people of Northern Ireland deserve, and though the Bill does not deliver that, it extends the time and opportunity for delivering that. It is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.