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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

I agree absolutely, and Members who have followed my contributions on this issue over the past number of years will recall time and again that I have shared correspondence that was sent from Michelle O’Neill, the then Health Minister, on 15 December 2016, when she indicated, “I am sorry, the armed forces covenant does not apply here.” She is wrong, but for as long as we refuse to take action, she is allowed to get away with her prejudice infecting the virtue of the armed forces covenant. It is not right.

Time and again, we have had updates in this Chamber and through the Defence Committee, on which it is a privilege to serve, where we hear in armed forces implementation reports that everything is great and that each of the eleven councils in Northern Ireland has an armed forces champion. Yet nobody ever then seeks to realise that our councils in Northern Ireland have no responsibility for health, for social services, for housing or for education. Indeed, in all the operative Departments where there is a meaningful a role to play and a meaningful gift to give to those who have served us so well, that responsibility falls to the Northern Ireland Executive. How bizarre!

My right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast North has relayed to the Chamber the fact that the head of the civil service said in a letter that he was sorry he could not attend the Veterans Board, because it was not previously agreed by the Executive. We are discussing an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill that says that if it is in the public interest, senior departmental officials can take decisions, yet Northern Ireland is left with a representative from the Northern Ireland Office, which has no ministerial responsibility for or operational involvement in our health, education, social services or schools—none—yet we rely on the Northern Ireland Office when we are discussing a Bill that gives a senior departmental official the ability to decide to attend. I think that that is clearly in the public interest.