Extension of period for forming an Executive

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence) 6:30 pm, 9th July 2019

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Johnny Mercer, and I hope he and his colleagues the right hon. Members for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) and for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon) recognise that we will be supportive of their amendments.

I rise to speak to amendment 18. I will not refer to amendment 19; I have signed it so we can take as read that it has my support. Amendment 18 requires a report to be brought forward about the implementation of the armed forces covenant in Northern Ireland. Members may remember that I brought forward a private Member’s Bill on 6 February. It was supported by Members of Parliament right across the Chamber and from right across the country, all of whom accept that the armed forces covenant is a national commitment to those who served us. It does not respect devolution; it does not respect borders. It was our way as a nation of saying the service that individuals have given and the sacrifice they themselves have made, and their families in support of them, is worthy of recognition. As has been outlined by my right hon. Friend Nigel Dodds, it does not offer preferential treatment, but it ensures that those who served our country so well do not suffer any disadvantage: they are not precluded from accessing services because they have to move around, for example, or they do not lose out in their children’s applications to schools because they were not living within the catchment area at the time of application.

It is fundamentally wrong, fundamentally immoral, fundamentally unacceptable that the armed forces covenant does not apply equally in Northern Ireland. If every Member of this House accepts that to be the case, it is incumbent upon us all to support this Government bringing forward legislation that will ensure no Minister in a Northern Ireland Executive has the opportunity or is given the freedom to abide by their political prejudice and frustrate the implementation of the armed forces covenant in Northern Ireland.