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Northern Ireland

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:34 pm on 7th October 2019.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scotland Office) (jointly with the Northern Ireland Office) 8:34 pm, 7th October 2019

I thank the House for what has been a sensible and consensual debate on this statutory instrument. It is a pleasure to follow Stephen Pound, who described the debate as bittersweet. I think that we all recognise that concern. It is somewhat bittersweet to be welcomed by him to the Dispatch Box after three years, although perhaps people were fed up with hearing from me as a Minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union and are pleased to hear from me in a new capacity.

Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson said that he welcomed the instrument but not the basis of it. I absolutely recognise that. I think that we would all rather that these appointments were made by a properly constituted Executive and supported by a properly constituted Assembly. These are important offices, as we have heard from Northern Irish Members. As Jim Shannon neatly illustrated when he talked about people turning the wheels, these are offices that are necessary for the functioning of government. The other place has already approved this statutory instrument. So long as this House approves the motion today, we can get on with making these important appointments.

Stephen Pound asked about the process of consultation. All these appointments are ones that have been recommended by the Northern Ireland civil service, which will of course engage in appropriate consultation. I can also reassure him that the Commissioner for Public Appointments will continue to regulate all these appointments, which will ensure an important check.

The people of Northern Ireland deserve strong political leadership from locally elected, accountable devolved Government. Achieving that and delivering a positive outcome from the talks remains our absolute priority. Northern Ireland has made huge progress in recent years. While the UK Government will do all that is necessary to ensure that good governance and public confidence is maintained in Northern Ireland, we can achieve even more with a devolved Government and legislature that unlocks all the potential that Northern Ireland has to offer. We remain focused on achieving that outcome. As we have heard again today, it is an outcome that we all want to see. I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.