My Lords, as somebody who spent the best part of two and a half years working on this agreement, I warmly welcome the Government’s Statement today and congratulate them on their tremendous achievement in restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland. Like other noble Lords, I also commend the work of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I know from long experience how much effort has gone into this, not just from the current Secretary of State but from his immediate predecessors. Indeed, the text of the agreement reached last weekend is to some of us strikingly familiar.
I have a couple of questions. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that this agreement and financial package finally afford us the opportunity to put the political paralysis of the past three years firmly behind us and to start to build a brighter, more prosperous future for Northern Ireland? Does he agree that devolved power-sharing government is the surest foundation for the governance of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom?
Finally, on the point raised about the joint board by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, I spent many years in the Northern Ireland Office. If there is a department that is sometimes guilty of “devolve and forget”, it is the Northern Ireland Office. So I welcome the establishment of the joint board as a very positive development.