My Lords, I strongly support this amendment, which brings back to your Lordships’ House an issue of the first importance. Shortly after the passage of the Defamation Act 2013, I instigated a debate in Grand Committee about the overwhelming case for extending it to Ulster. I later brought forward probing amendments to a Northern Ireland Bill.
The Government at that time agreed that Northern Ireland ought to enjoy the benefits of the 2013 Act and deprecated the Province’s exclusion. It meant that, for the first time in our history, it would have a different libel law from England and Wales. Acute dissatisfaction was expressed across the House that the Northern Ireland Executive—which was then in being—failed to provide any explanation of their opposition to the incorporation of the 2013 Act in Northern Ireland. The Government pressed for an explanation but received none.
When I withdrew my probing amendment in 2014, I asked the Government what further action they would take if the Northern Ireland Executive failed to pursue this matter properly. Sadly, Ministers have been unable to give me any clear reply to that question since then. The issue seems to have slipped from the Northern Ireland Office’s sight. I am glad that it has again been given the prominence it deserves through this amendment.