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 9:40 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 9:40 pm, 9th September 2019

My hon. Friend says that it is a harsh comment. She may have read reports in the newspapers today of a senior adviser at No. 10 effectively saying that as far as he is concerned Northern Ireland can fall into the—Members can insert the expletive—sea. That seems to me to suggest a rather lackadaisical approach to these affairs. If we were taking them seriously—and I only wish that my hon. Friend and fellow member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee were right—we would have taken far more time over them.

My hon. Friend knows, probably even better than I do, about the increasing complaints, in the Committee and elsewhere, about the ad hoc and emergency nature of legislation governing Northern Ireland. We know from reliable reports of the growing problems in the delivery of healthcare in Northern Ireland, the problems in education, and the need for urgent attention in the sphere of welfare. We are caught in the trap of no Assembly and the ability of civil servants, on an ad hoc basis, to deliver funds only in the context of pre-agreed political policies.

That is not serving the people of Northern Ireland—and that is before we face leaving the European Union without a deal. I do not comment on the merits or demerits of leaving without a deal, but civil servants will not be able to mitigate or address any pressing social or economic concerns that arise in Northern Ireland in the absence of the Assembly.

We are all very keen to see Stormont back up and running, but while Westminster continues to deliver on the socially progressive policies that Sinn Féin wishes to see, why on earth would Sinn Féin wish to see Stormont restored? It gets two goes for its money because it gets the policies it wants and is able to blame Westminster for effectively declaring direct rule by the back door. That is not a way to deal with fellow citizens, who I, as a Conservative and Unionist, believe to be ranked pari passu with me and my constituents.