Northern Ireland Executive Formation - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:06 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Empey Lord Empey UUP 1:06 pm, 16th January 2020

My Lords, I say as one who participated in the establishment of these institutions that they should never have been collapsed in the first place, but I am glad to see them returned.

However, I draw the House’s attention to the part of the Statement that says that this deal was accepted by the main parties

“as a basis to re-enter devolved Government.”

That is not true. This is not an agreement. It is a government Statement and a Statement of the British and Irish Governments collectively. It was shoved into our hands at 8.30 pm last Thursday. We had never seen a number of the matters contained in it before. Our participation in the Executive is based exclusively on our rights under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whereby our position in the Assembly is related to our electoral support. We have taken on the health portfolio, which I have drawn to the House’s attention on many occasions because it is in such a terrible state. I hope that we will succeed in that endeavour but I want to make it clear that, for instance, we have never seen the legacy proposals and this business of 100 days before—and we do not accept the legacy proposals. We never have. We have argued against them since Stormont House in 2014.

However, there are many good things in the Government’s Statement. There is potential. But do not create the impression that everybody accepts everything that is in this paper—we do not. It would be unfortunate if we clouded people’s thinking into believing that that is the case.

Nevertheless, we are there because we want to solve the problems that I and others have brought to the House’s attention time and again, such as the disgraceful state of affairs in our health service and many of our other public services. We will play as positive a role as possible but we will not be tied down to a Statement by two Governments containing provisions of which we had no knowledge and over which we had no say.