Amendment 12

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 8:30 pm, 17th July 2019

The noble Baroness wants a piece of paper that has now become buried in the strata on my desktop. It is important that we now recognise the reality of the time we have. The holiday period primarily limits our ability to begin any serious consultation. We will have to design it carefully. We anticipate being able to initiate such a consultation in the early autumn. In an ideal world, we could see it being 12 weeks but we may be able to pull it forward to eight. We have to recognise thereafter that simply doing a consultation is not enough: we have to consider its elements. We are not able to deliver the outcome of that by the October date.

Oh, I have the piece of paper with the questions that the noble Baroness asked—forgive me. I think I will be able to answer the affirmative vote question, which we can take forward at Third Reading, if that is possible. The question of freedom of conscience rests within our human rights commitments, to which we remain committed. The guidance must be very clear that no doctor, health practitioner, nurse or anyone else will be compelled to act beyond their conscience or beyond their tolerance in that regard. She asked about events. I have no idea what is going to happen, but we must plan in a smooth and careful manner. I am not looking forward to any serious election issues; I hope that does not happen.

That touches on the answers to the questions, I think. On that basis, I look across the divide to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, in the hope that she is willing to consider it.