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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:36 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 10:36 pm, 28th October 2019

My right hon. Friend has raised the issue of Westminster’s powers consistently and has strongly represented these views. I believe that the best way to deliver for Northern Ireland is through the Assembly, and I am worried about the consequences that would flow, even though my opposite number has been very generous in offering to help, if needed, on this issue. This is not a good place for us to be; we have to focus on Stormont, and we have to focus on the Executive.

On the issue of legacy more broadly, my ministerial colleague my right hon. Friend Mr Hurd will be beginning meetings with a range of partners, including victims and victims’ groups and members of the armed forces, to make quick and substantive progress on this issue. We are clear that for colleagues across the House, Northern Ireland political parties and, most importantly, the people of Northern Ireland, we must move forward on this issue with broad consensus but also with renewed pace.

Alongside the substantive updates on Executive formation and the abortion law review, reports were published on the transparency of political donations, higher education and a Derry university, presumption of non-prosecution and troubles prosecution guidance. The section of the report on the transparency of political donations states that the regime in place for political donations and loans is specific to Northern Ireland. We recognise that the issue of retrospection is a sensitive one. While the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 allows for the publication of the historical record of donations and loans from 1 January 2014, we must remain cognisant of the fact that retrospective transparency must be weighed against possible risk to donors.

As we have previously made clear, the only Northern Ireland party that has written to the Government in favour of retrospection is the Alliance party. The Government have said that we will consult the Northern Ireland parties in due course about any future change to the nation’s legislation. For now, however, our focus remains on securing agreement to restore devolved Government for the people of Northern Ireland.