Progress reports

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:00 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1:00 pm, 18th July 2019

Mr Speaker, I will check the record, and where appropriate I will apologise to the hon. Gentleman for North Antrim. However, he certainly cast aspersions about cheap politics in his remarks. Let me make some progress because we have very little time.

The remedy for all these things lies in the hands of the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. When that Assembly decides to meet and the Executive are reformed, they can take the power to abrogate the bulk of what lies on the face of the Bill. This House has made that very clear commitment to the system of devolution and to the people of Northern Ireland.

I commend the words of the noble Lord Duncan, the Minister in the other House, who has talked about the need to make progress on the question of historical institutional abuse, saying:

“There is urgency…
I will commit, in the absence of a sitting Assembly, to the Government introducing primary legislation on historical institutional abuse before the end of the year”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 15 July 2019;
Vol. 798, c. 138.]

That is a very welcome commitment by the noble Lord on behalf of the Government.

I will confine my last few remarks to Lords amendment 1 and the manuscript amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn. This is a massively important constitutional issue. In a parliamentary democracy, no Parliament can abrogate both the right to sit and to take action, particularly against the constitutional challenge that a no-deal Brexit would pose and especially in the light of the fact that there will be a Prime Minister who will have a mandate not from the public in general but from a very narrow base within one political party. It is simply unconscionable that this House would not sit.

I say very firmly to my friends in this House from Northern Ireland that they have to recognise that there is nowhere in this United Kingdom of ours that will be more affected by a no-deal Brexit than Northern Ireland. I hope the Minister will respond to my next point, which is that if we are moving to a no deal as we get towards October, the Government will have to introduce direct rule in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly in order to effect the legislation to allow for that no-deal Brexit to take place. In that sense, this House must be in a position to meet to transform the law in order to protect the people of Northern Ireland against the possibility of that no-deal Brexit. This is not grafted on to Northern Ireland legislation; it is absolutely fundamental to the future of the people of Northern Ireland. That is why Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition will be supporting the manuscript amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central and any consequential amendments.