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 Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 5:30 pm, 17th July 2019

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Empey, has raised important issues and made some very valid points, and I add my name to those who have expressed their gratitude to him for doing so. My noble friend Lord Duncan has been keen to update the House on progress in establishing the RHI hardship unit, and I am very happy to accept the requirement to publish this report by 21 October or earlier. The reports that the noble Lord requests are on libel and suicide strategy.

I note the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble and right Reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and I have taken note of the tragic anecdotes that have been told. The issues of NHS waiting times and welfare mitigations were also raised. All are matters of great importance, as my noble friend Lord Duncan set out in Committee earlier this week, and we fully understand the reason for raising them in this place. We are without a sitting Assembly in Northern Ireland to debate these matters and to consider ways forward that serve all of the people of Northern Ireland.

These are all devolved matters. It is this Government’s fervent hope that Northern Ireland’s political leaders can see their way to agreeing to restore the devolved institutions. We have had some passionate speeches to this effect during this short debate. As these are devolved matters, I do not purport to be able to significantly enlighten the House on the substance of the important issues the noble Lord has raised. But in light of the great value of these amendments, I am happy to accept them today and to commit to one-off reports on the issues specified.

In conclusion, I will answer a question that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, on what might happen upon the production of the reports. I say on behalf of the Government that it is our sincere hope that the incoming Ministers in Northern Ireland will draw from these reports to make progress on these important issues. They will be published and will therefore be public documents.