I am one of the signatories to amendment (a) and am therefore rising to support it and the Lords amendments. This is, in fact, the first time that I have spoken on Northern Ireland matters in 14 years in this House, but let me put on record my huge affection for Northern Ireland. I have many friends who live in Northern Ireland and I regularly visit. In fact, let me put it on the record that I bought my first ever lottery ticket on the day of the lottery launch in Ballymena. As Culture Minister, I have visited Derry/Londonderry, which I am pleased to say was the first UK capital of culture, and of course I have visited Belfast many times, not least the Titanic Quarter which has become a fantastic creative hub for Northern Ireland and is where “Game of Thrones” was filmed.
I should also put it on record that it is a matter of profound regret to me that in the past eight weeks of leadership hustings, the two leadership candidates have not visited a single museum, art centre, theatre, architecture firm, design company or film studio, or indeed barely mentioned the fantastic success of the creative industries not only in Northern Ireland, but in the whole of the UK.
One reason why this is the first time I have spoken on Northern Ireland matters is that of course Northern Ireland matters are meant to be devolved. I therefore have enormous sympathy with the points that have been made by the members of the Democratic Unionist party and, indeed, by my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce, but the fact remains that there is no Executive in residence in Northern Ireland, and there has not been for some considerable time, which is why we are debating Northern Ireland matters—[Interruption.] I wonder whether I have got something wrong, given Mr Speaker’s expression. On the issues of abortion and, indeed, of equal marriage, I have to say to my friends in the DUP that if these matters do come up for debate in this House—and they were conscience votes and free votes—they should not be surprised at all if English Members and Members from other parts of the Union express a view. We also know that those amendments have been put down in such a way that no legislation, no change to the law, will happen if a devolved Executive return to Government.