Amendment 8

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Empey Lord Empey UUP 5:00 pm, 15th July 2019

My Lords, the proverbial visitor from outer space might have been somewhat surprised a short time ago when we were discussing the previous set of amendments about what piece of legislation we were debating. It is the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill. I was so pleased to see a packed Chamber and all these people taking such a keen interest in Northern Ireland, but they have deserted us all of a sudden. The great, the good and the not so good have gone. It just shows how fickle fortune is in the political arena.

On a more serious note, I think that there is merit in this amendment. At the end of the day, since the 2014 date, donors have known that their details might potentially be released. I accept that it would not have been fair to release the names of donors who donated before that date because they would not have known at that stage that their names might end up in the public domain. There is a perfectly solid and reasonable case for that. Subsequent to that, people have known. I therefore see no reason why 2017 was called into account when 2014 was the kick-off date for this process. That is not an unreasonable thing to suggest and therefore I am supportive of it.

I would like to make a serious point about the proceedings relating to the previous amendment. I am sure that, when we talk about Prorogation, the people on the streets of Belfast talk of little else. They will be bemused that we have been caught up in this firefight which is not strictly speaking relevant to this legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is not in his place at the moment, but he was more than right when he called this a Christmas tree Bill last week. In fact, Christmas implies celebration and something to look forward to, so maybe that is not the right phrase for it; it is a jumble, a mess and a sorry piece of legislation, with all these things included. Then we find ourselves getting involved in a national debate on a totally different matter. Her Majesty’s Government will have to look at this. I must say to colleagues in the other place as well that I know things can be drawn too tightly, but we have gone to the other extreme with this legislation. However, I would be more than content to support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce.