Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:33 pm on 5th December 2022.

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Photo of Lord Bruce of Bennachie Lord Bruce of Bennachie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Scotland) 5:33 pm, 5th December 2022

My Lords, first, I join others in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Weir, his maiden speech and his participation in the House. I am absolutely certain that we will hear a great deal more from him, with his detailed knowledge of Northern Ireland, and I think that the House will appreciate the contributions he can make. So I bid him welcome.

All of us are saying that we do not like the Bill or where we are, but we have to support it. However, we are all also saying that not only are elections not a solution but they will not be a resolution. So, in a sense, it is a very odd situation, where elections are not the issue of democracy; it is delivery that people are looking for. Most people would argue that all the indications suggest that an election would not bring about a very significantly different result, so we would not be any better off.

Nobody can be in any doubt whatsoever that the DUP, and indeed other unionists, are highly exercised by and oppose the protocol; they believe that it has to be either removed or dramatically altered. That is clearly understood; it would be very difficult to listen to this debate and not appreciate that. Frankly, I find it unacceptable that this is an argument that Northern Ireland politicians—Northern Ireland Assembly Members—cannot resolve because they have no power over it whatsoever. Not being there does not get us anywhere near a resolution of their perfectly legitimate concerns, but it leaves the people of Northern Ireland without effective governance. The DUP should be prepared to accept that their argument about the protocol, legitimate as it is, should not really justify not making the democratic process in Northern Ireland function.

The other thing I wanted to say—