Extension of period for forming an Executive

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 6:15 pm, 9th July 2019

I have no difficulty in agreeing with the hon. Lady. The Victims’ Commissioner has sought not to change the definition of victim, which was fixed in 2006, because she also wants to move on. I am sure we will return to that.

On the armed forces covenant, I have considerable sympathy with the arguments made by the right hon. Member for Belfast North. We need to see what a report can bring forward and how far that can be of use without causing other problems.

I must refer to the important amendments in the name of Mr Grieve, which go to the heart of our role as parliamentarians. Parliament can never abrogate its responsibilities and pass them to an Executive, or even to a new Prime Minister appointed by as many as 160,000 of our fellow citizens. That is unconscionable. We must insist that Parliament continues to sit.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman was right to say that nowhere would be as badly affected as Northern Ireland by a no-deal Brexit. I think he said that was “arguable”; it is actually unarguable. It would be catastrophic for security and the economy, and in its capacity to induce terrorism, as well as for the important question of identity. For many reasons, Northern Ireland needs us to prevent a crash-out Brexit. We had that debate yesterday, and I can think of few organisations in Northern Ireland that would disagree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we cannot afford a no-deal Brexit. The Northern Ireland national farmers union, the CBI, Manufacturing Northern Ireland and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are all of the view that it would be disastrous. Parliament must be here to protect the people of Northern Ireland, to debate their future, and, in particular, to say that if this House of ours chooses to vote for a no-deal Brexit, it will have made a conscious choice. What we cannot allow is the House to be offered no choice at all, and the people of Northern Ireland to be held hostage to the ideologies of those who do not serve their interests.