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 McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown DUP 5:15 pm, 17th July 2019

My Lords, in the debate on Monday evening I joined many noble Lords in supporting the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, has brought before the House. These amendments certainly focus our minds on issues that in many ways cross every boundary in Northern Ireland and are not divisive. If your Lordships were to speak to practically every party in Northern Ireland, they would find that they came together on these issues. As we have suggested before, is it not possible that the Assembly could come together and an Executive could be formed, that they could function and take forward these priorities which unite us, and that in the talks process they could continue on the other contentious issues that divide us? Until now, that has gone unheeded. I believe that most parties agree with that manner of taking things forward, but unfortunately that has been hindered.

The noble Lord, Lord Empey, rightly says that the Front Bench is not currently responsible for many of these issues. I could accept that, but it does not have the responsibility for two major social issues on which it is legislating in the Bill. It feels that it can take those issues forward, but it leaves this behind. What is more important? People are left dying while waiting for operations or cancer treatment—left lying on trolleys, waiting for their operations or even appointments to take place. There is a long waiting list for appointments to see a medical practitioner. The elderly are left without community care. These are life and death issues.

I agree with each and every one of the amendments. In the previous debate, my noble friend Lord Morrow, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, gave a list of other things which are certainly sitting there. The noble Lord, Lord Empey, is right to give the example of suicide. The strategy is there, but it has not been operated. The Government feel that they can get involved and have agreed to take forward in legislation the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion, but they will not get involved in something which is indeed life and death.

The House may not have realised that, before this debate, we debated the wild animals in circuses Bill. I know there are plenty of clowns in circuses, but nobody is laughing in Northern Ireland over the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, has raised. They bring great concern to the people of Northern Ireland. We could debate each one, but I will not take the time of the House, because I have spoken on them before. It is right that we should have a report on suicide. Amendment 7 says that:

“The Secretary of State must, on or before 21 October 2019, publish a report on progress of the implementation of the Protect Life 2—Strategy for Suicide Prevention in Northern Ireland”.

It is sitting on a shelf. We certainly want to see progress. I therefore believe that the debate has allowed us to raise issues that are very relevant to life and death in our Province at this time.