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Amendment 1

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Murphy of Torfaen Lord Murphy of Torfaen Labour 3:15 pm, 15th July 2019

As indeed does the Labour Party. I understand the rationale behind the amendments. We are in the holiday season—marching season. There is no Prime Minister, there could well be a new Secretary of State and Brexit looms over everything. It is not exactly the best time to try to come to an agreement. I understand the logic, but my fear—expressed by other Members of the Committee—is that there is a problem of drift.

The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, referred to the Good Friday agreement; he will remember when Senator Mitchell said that he was going home on 10 April. He had had enough and put down a deadline. It was ultimately because of that deadline that the political parties and Governments in Northern Ireland eventually came to a conclusion. If we take away a deadline, we take the pressure off the parties and the Government.

The parties obviously have a huge responsibility in trying to ensure a resolution. As I said at Second Reading, the issues that they have to resolve in Belfast at the moment pale into insignificance compared to those that had to be decided 22 years ago. There is nothing preventing this happening other than basic mistrust. I worry that the whole thing will inevitably drift towards direct rule if we keep on extending.