Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Section 3(2)

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 (Rule of Law) – in the House of Commons at 9:25 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 9:25 pm, 9th September 2019

I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the members of his own party who are taking part in the negotiations have a duty on them. Yes, of course, that duty extends to representatives of Sinn Féin. I want all parties to get around the table. I will come on to that a bit later on, but he cannot avoid the responsibility that members of his own party have in getting Stormont up and running. For nearly three years, we have had the absence of Stormont—three years of people making excuses about the fault lying elsewhere—and it is now time that people accepted responsibility for their actions.

I have to ask the Secretary of State, or perhaps the Minister who responds to the debate, about abortion. The House has committed to offering safe and legal abortions to women in Northern Ireland. There needs to be confidence in the law, those we expect to operate it and the way that it works. The point made by my hon. Friend Diana Johnson, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, is important. Consultation is fundamental to all this, but again, Prorogation has dealt the Secretary of State a very difficult hand, because the House will return on 14 October, and on 22 October the legislation will come into effect. That means that the capacity for the House to make decisions to fill the legal gap that will exist between 21 October and 31 March is real. The consultation needs to take place now, and the House has to be ready to implement legislative change as soon as we are back, in the middle of October.

On veterans, the Secretary of State made some very important points—I know that he comes under pressure on this. If Mr Duncan Smith is saying that we as a House are very clear that illegality by members of the armed forces, like any other member of society, like members of the IRA and like members of loyalist terror groups, will have the same outcome—that the law will be applied—that is really helpful, because we are then talking about how we move forward in a way that allows independence of investigation and of prosecution, which the Secretary of State referred to. In the end, it is important that the Stormont House bodies, which were agreed to by all parties in Northern Ireland, are allowed to operate, because victims who saw their loved ones killed and who were themselves victims of terror have rights in this, including the right to know that there is a proper investigation, whoever and whatever was the cause of their victimhood.