Amendment 5

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Liberal Democrat 5:30 pm, 17th July 2019

My Lords, I want to make two points in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Empey, has done. He has been consistent over quite a period of time, particularly in raising issues regarding the health service.

For a long time, I worked as a doctor and psychiatrist in Northern Ireland; I am familiar with the situation there. I was asked to chair a Royal College of Psychiatrists commission for the whole UK on suicide, on which we produced a report. The noble Lord is absolutely right to keep asking this question and pressing the Government on a range of issues, particularly those regarding health- care. We want to see many other issues brought forward—the noble Lord mentioned RHI and libel law, for example —but he is right to point out that suicide and healthcare are matters of life and death and that the longer they are postponed, the more people’s lives will come to an inappropriate end. I welcome what he has done and support him in it. I ask the Government to support what he says.

There is another element that is very much the meat of the Bill. Effectively, the noble Lord points out that we are moving towards direct rule because, simply, there is no other way of getting any business done in Northern Ireland. There is no government there; that is an impossible position and it is simply not acceptable. I heard a lot of talk about what is democratic and what is not, but not having a Government is a very serious matter. There are a number of ways in which the Government can address this. The noble Lord, Lord McCrea, mentioned one that has been floated several times by a number of us: getting the Assembly to meet and debate these kinds of issues. We could have an election to an Assembly, although part of the point of this Bill is to postpone that; I accept that the summertime is not a good time to do that, but this situation cannot continue.

We will either have an election or move into direct rule. The Bill and the amendments to it take us in that direction. It is regrettable but inevitable that we move in that direction if there is no other option; we cannot continue not having a Government. I commend the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and point out the import of what he says about not just specific issues but the issues in this Bill. I plead with the Government to take serious action after the Summer Recess in respect of either an election or some other way of returning government to Northern Ireland.