Amendment 5

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bruce of Bennachie Lord Bruce of Bennachie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Scotland) 5:15 pm, 17th July 2019

My Lords, I support these amendments, which I hope the Government will be able to accept—I think they have indicated that they will, as they are asking for reports. This is valuable work that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, is recommending, covering what I regard as the people’s priorities in Northern Ireland. The reality right now is that these issues are adversely affecting people in a whole range of services across the Province, as he rightly says. I respectfully and slightly diffidently suggest that these are probably the issues that exercise people day to day, more than some of the issues that apparently divide the parties in the talks. Those who are in talks should look at these issues and the consequences of their not being able to establish an Assembly to address them, because I think that is what the majority of people in Northern Ireland want their Assembly to do.

As I said on Monday, in one sense it is easy to ask for reports and easy, perhaps, for the Government to agree to reports, but I underwrite what I said on Monday: if those reports are going to happen, can they be considered and produced with a view to being the basis of policy action, rather than just a statement of events? That at least will have made use of the time that has been lost, so that if, as I hope, we have an Executive and Assembly in place, they will have some meat that they can start to action sooner rather than later. If the worst happened—even direct rule—there would not be a hiatus before we got to grips with things. The situation has gone on for so long that the consequences are becoming more serious every day. As the noble Lord, Lord Empey, says, we are talking about lives being lost. The longer it goes on, the harder and more costly it will be and the longer it will take for Northern Ireland to catch up.

My plea to the Minister, which I hope he will take positively, is that this not be just a gesture of good will —that there is a real, practical determination to ensure that, if reports are produced, they are valuable and help to implement policy decisions sooner rather than later in the event of the Assembly being established, or of Parliament or the Government recognising that action needs to be taken even in the absence of an Assembly.