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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport) 4:36 pm, 24th October 2018

It is with great sadness that we are here today, debating yet another Bill that should not have to be brought to this House. Unfortunately, we are in this position because of the intransigence of one party, as has been outlined by many speakers. Sinn Féin had the opportunity to go into an Assembly with us; it will not. I am not necessarily saying that we should be dealing with talks. I think that we should recall the Assembly, and that those who are willing and want to be there should be there and take part in business. That might bring about a need to change the way in which the Assembly is set up, but—let’s be honest—we can move things whenever we have to.

This legislation is about allowing civil servants to make decisions, although many such decisions have been challenged. I appreciate that this comes on the back of the Buick ruling, associated with the Mallusk incinerator site—I use the term “incinerator” because that is what it is—and because of that, we have ended up with many civil servants looking for reasons not to make decisions, instead of for reasons to make them. Unfortunately, the people of Northern Ireland suffer as a result.

It is vital that we move forward positively. We do not want to go back to where we were in the past, as has been mentioned by previous speakers. We have moved on quite a bit in the last 20 years; we do not want to go back, nor do we want to be held to ransom by the implementers of some of the troubles or those who brought about the some of the atrocities in our Province.

There are difficulties associated with some of these decisions. Many are simple, straightforward and uncontroversial—many of which are associated with major infrastructure. The difficulty is that people have attempted to put something in this Bill that is very controversial to people of Northern Ireland, and we should not be trying to muddy the waters on that matter. I appreciate that it is a difficult situation, and that many people have suffered because they are having a baby who may be born with a life-limiting condition. I understand and appreciate that, but we should not have to attach it to this Bill. If we get an Assembly up and running, these decisions should be made there. These items should not be made red lines before entering into a Government; they should be debated on the Floor of a Northern Ireland Assembly and addressed democratically through that process.

We missed another opportunity in not including something associated with the past—the way that the military have been hounded in relation to what happened when they were trying to bring about peace in Northern Ireland. They were there as custodians of the British Government to ensure that we were able to sleep in our beds at night.