Northern Ireland Budget Bill - Second Reading (and remaining stages)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:13 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 12:13 pm, 31st October 2019

I believe that there is clarity there. I have answered that question before but, again, for the benefit of all, I will make sure that that information is included in my answer to ensure that there is an appreciation of how the tariff in Northern Ireland sits alongside tariffs in the rest of the British Isles, so that it can be understood. The noble Lord will recall that when we discussed this issue, we looked at different elements which created the need for differential tariffs for particular time periods and baselines. Rather than explaining this at greater length, I will put it in the response that I will lodge in the Library tomorrow.

Yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked about welfare and I believe that I gave a positive response. She has subsequently written to me and I will respond in a similarly positive manner. I do not wish to see a situation develop in Northern Ireland where those who are experiencing these challenges and facing potential hardship suffer in any way—I repeat, in any way—as a consequence of the absence of an Executive. I will happily share that letter with noble Lords. I will put a copy in the Library, so that they can see what I believe we should be doing to ensure not only that we address this matter expeditiously but that the people of Northern Ireland can appreciate that it will be done, so they will not face the hardship which might indeed have been on the horizon had we not been able to move forward in this regard.

On the role of an incoming Executive, it is not going to be easy for them because in truth, a number of the bigger problems—not least in the health service and education—stem from before the collapse of the previous Executive; they did not start with the collapse of this one. There are long-standing issues which have not been addressed for a range of reasons, and there will be a serious challenge for any incoming Executive or whomsoever has to administer governance in Northern Ireland. For obvious reasons, I hope that it is an incoming Executive, but I am aware that there is only so long that this can continue. I have made a number of statements about this in the past and events have made a liar of me. I do not wish to repeat those statements, but I shall repeat a simple one: the people of Northern Ireland deserve much better than they have got, and we have to move forward in a sensible manner.

The noble Lord, Lord McCrea, asked why certain issues have been taken forward in this place and not others. The only thing I would note is that if we end up with direct rule, I am afraid that this House and the other place will decide which issues are going to be taken forward and in what order. I do not believe that that is the right way forward at all, and it may well be that they do not marry up with the situation in Northern Ireland, even though I would wish it to be so. That is a portent and a warning.

The noble Lord, Lord Murphy, raised the question of the Barnett consequentials. I do not have the exact answer but I will find out and report back to the noble Lord if he will allow me to do so.

If I have failed to address any particular issue, I will happily write to noble Lords.