Queen’s Speech - Debate (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:17 pm on 27th June 2017.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 10:17 pm, 27th June 2017

I think the noble Lord already has—but I thank him, as always, for his courtesy. We can perhaps disagree on some of the interpretation of that issue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, asked questions about the tolls. We are working on how we intend to deliver that, and on matters in relation to the main line north and south as well. I will cover in a letter the more detailed point on S4C funding as I do not have that to hand.

I will turn swiftly to Northern Ireland. Many noble Lords rightly focused on the importance of delivering on power sharing. I can confirm that the Government are very much committed to the Assembly. That is central to everything that we are doing in terms of policy in Northern Ireland, along with other parties here. I thank many noble Lords for the kind and accurate things they said about the Secretary of State, who is working in Belfast on the power-sharing position as we speak.

I understand that views will differ on the agreement with the DUP, but I should say first of all that it does not cover any of the social conservative issues that people understandably would raise if it did. However, it does not. I think in practice that is helping with the position in Northern Ireland. It is worth noting that Gerry Adams said, “Well done, Arlene”—so perhaps that is an indication that it is helping rather than otherwise. I hope we can all agree that power sharing is important. It is central to what happens in Northern Ireland.

The other issue I would like to cover on Northern Ireland—I cannot claim to be in any way an expert, but I was there last week and I will be there again tomorrow—is that you do not have to be there long to see that it is very different from England, Scotland and Wales. Different considerations apply and we have to recognise that. There is a legacy in all sorts of ways. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, said that we now have peace, which is essentially true. However, there are fragilities there in terms of many aspects of life in Northern Ireland, as he will know. Now we have a generation of people who have known nothing but peace. We have to work to ensure that that continues to be the case, and that before too long we will have two generations who have known nothing but peace.

I thank those noble Lords who have contributed on Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Reid, speaks with massive experience and is rightly listened to with great respect. Along with other noble Lords here— for example, the noble Lord, Lord Murphy—he is remembered with fondness in Northern Ireland for what he has contributed. They obviously speak with great experience.

I also listened with great interest to my noble friend Lord Empey, the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont, my noble friend Lord Trimble, the noble Lord, Lord Hay, my noble friend Lord Dunlop and many others, including the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, who spoke with great passion about how we must deliver for Northern Ireland, the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, the noble Lord, Lord Rana, and many others, including the noble Lord, Lord Laird. It is a pivotal moment and I repeat that the Government are truly committed to power sharing and to the Assembly. It is the way forward, as is ensuring that we have travel to work across the border.

I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Steel, who spoke about the importance of confidence and supply and the way that is delivered and advertised; I listened to that with great interest.

Many points were raised today on the situation of our housing market. We remain committed to the White Paper—many noble Lords raised that issue. Much or probably most of that can be delivered without legislation. However, as I say, at the moment we are only talking about two of the five years, and obviously, when legislation is needed, we will look at that. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, who I know speaks with great authority on housing, for her welcome of much of what is in the White Paper. We are very happy to work across the aisle, as it were, with other political parties to ensure that we deliver not just on affordable homes but also on social housing, which has for understandable reasons been the focus of our attention recently.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, put many important points, which I will cover in the letter, on housing, land banking, and so on. Those were addressed in the housing White Paper and are very much still in play. As noble Lords appreciate, we will deliver on the tenant fees Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked about the position on guaranteeing the position of people who are subject to domestic abuse and therefore need that guarantee. That is still on the table, as we discussed previously, so if she wants another chat about how we will do that, I will be happy to meet her.

On Grenfell Tower, briefly, this was another dreadful situation. Once again, I pay tribute to all those people who helped there—certainly the emergency services, voluntary organisations, individuals on the ground, faith organisations and people from all sorts of backgrounds. Yes, there was a slow start there in dealing with what was pretty much, thank goodness, an unprecedented situation. Now we are garnering resources and moving forward with the testing, and doing what is necessary on a national basis, because this demands a national response. I am grateful for the way that noble Lords have dealt with this rather than the more emotive way others have, characterising it as murder, which was grossly irresponsible. I thank noble Lords and I am grateful that noble Lords in this House have treated it very differently.

I will quickly deal with some other issues if noble Lords indulge me—I am moving through this. The independent advocate is important—the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and my noble friend Lady Newlove referred to it.

On the courts Bill, I will deal with the detailed points made by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and others, as I will on prisons legislation. I thank noble Lords who have given a welcome to the role of David Lidington, who regards prison reform as important; it is on his radar. Much of this—not all of it—can be delivered without legislation. However, I take very seriously the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who speaks with massive experience. I am sure that this debate will be picked up by the Lord Chancellor anyway, but I will make sure that he is aware of what was said; points were made by the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord German, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and other noble Lords.

I will deal with some individual points, some of which were a little bit left-field. However, I will make sure that they are picked up. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, talked about the content filter and extreme pornography; I will certainly make sure that we get a response on that.

My noble friend Lord Empey spoke about House of Lords reform. It was very courageous of him to mention that in the body of this Chamber. I think that the Lord Speaker is taking that forward, but I will make sure that my noble friend gets a response.

My noble friend Lord Goschen spoke about motorbike crime. My noble friends Lord McColl and Lady Manzoor raised issues concerning modern slavery. I know that my noble friend Lady Williams will be very happy to meet them to discuss how that issue can be taken forward.

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, along with others, mentioned the Casey review, which is still very much a live issue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, made a very powerful speech, if I may say so. Again, I shall be very happy to meet her, along with my noble friend Lady Williams. I think that there are issues worthy of being looked at, and I say, “Well done on getting the Daily Mail on side”.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, asked a specific question, but I cannot remember what it was.