Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) (No. 2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 4:23 pm, 5th March 2019

When John Major was engaged in the talks process leading up to the Good Friday agreement, and Tony Blair even more intensely so, there were many preconditions on the table—of course there were. That is the nature of a talks process. Anybody who has ever engaged in meaningful negotiations knows that people do not walk in with no agenda, but the talks process has to get them together and iron out the differences. It has, in the end, to say what is held more in common and what is more important.

I will go through some of the things that, in the end, are more important when we look at what is not taking place in Northern Ireland now—some of the things that hon. Members have already raised. Lady Hermon mentioned the Hart inquiry. The Secretary of State has heard the demands in this Chamber, on a regular basis, that she take action. We have to look at the people across Northern Ireland. The politicians from all sides say that they want to get back to Stormont. Yes, we have to test the competence and the willingness of politicians really to negotiate, but the trade unions, the business community and civil society are also saying, “Let’s get Stormont back working.” That is so important, because without it the decisions are not being made that can make a material difference.

The business community and the trade unions have recently said to me that they cannot get decisions made on infrastructure investment. I know that Mr Campbell will agree that the Derry and Strabane city deal is fundamental, and my hon. Friend Karin Smyth will talk later about the pressing importance of a decision on the medical school there. Decisions are required on the upgrading of the A5 and the A6 and on higher and further education. This might sound like a trivial issue, but decisions are required on sewers in Belfast. The sewerage system in Belfast requires £800 million. People may wonder why that matters, but from 2021, no new facility will be connectable to that water and sewerage system. We want to see the Belfast city deal bring in new offices, industries and hotels, but that will not be viable if the sewerage system is not capable of taking them on board. That is not a joke; it is very serious.