Exiting the European Union (Armorial Bearings, Ensigns and Flags)

Part of Rating and Valuation – in the House of Commons at 8:08 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 8:08 pm, 20th March 2019

The hon. Gentleman is right that it causes concerns and I doubt that many people will automatically and instinctively know or understand the various different lists of regulations that I have just explained to the House, and therefore why should anybody have anything like the level of expertise of the hon. Gentleman, who served as mayor of Belfast during a time when a very contentious issue had to be dealt with and debated? It was handled very carefully and resolved in the end, but he will know better than perhaps anybody how difficult that path was to tread.

The difficulty we have with the regulations we are debating and I hope amending today is that, other than the one we are able to amend today because we are amending it through the leaving the EU Act itself, they can only be amended through a very particular process that requires the Stormont Assembly to be in operation and sitting. In fact, to be precise, it requires the Secretary of State to refer to the Assembly any amendments to these regulations. The Assembly then has to report to the Secretary of State the views expressed on the proposed amendments and the Secretary of State has to have considered the Assembly’s report.

I therefore completely take the hon. Gentleman’s point that it would be hugely desirable to be able to address any upcoming changes and proposals that might stem from any sides of the different communities in Northern Ireland, but that would have to be done with great care in the same way as he has described happened in Belfast. That cannot only best be done but probably only properly be done with a functioning Assembly in Stormont, to make sure all sides of the community have their views represented and that difficult and sometimes painful path can be trodden as it was in Belfast when the hon. Gentleman was there.