Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 18 May 2023.

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Photo of Viscount Stansgate Viscount Stansgate Labour 12:30, 18 May 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the gap and make one point, which is about the relationship of science to the Bill. I begin by associating myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Caine, about Lord Brooke. It is right that his contribution and the work he did over many years is acknowledged in a debate of this kind.

Science, and the science community in Northern Ireland, needs an Assembly as much as any other community. Much excellent work is done on science in Northern Ireland, as well as elsewhere in the UK. It was no coincidence that on the recent visit of the President of the United States, he went to the University of Ulster to open the new premises, because good work is done in Ulster, as well as elsewhere.

I have reason to share the view of the scientific community that it needs a working Assembly. For many years, in a former capacity, with colleagues in the science community, I used to organise the science event known as “Science and Stormont”, which was held every year in Stormont with a working Assembly. Science is a refreshingly non-partisan area of endeavour, and at those meetings, year after year, representatives of all the major parties would come to this event to speak: we would have a sort of round table. Sometimes we went to listen to the Assembly in action later. These were very successful events and they mattered to the scientific community in Northern Ireland.

I understand entirely why the Bill is necessary, and I support it. Beyond that, I simply wanted to use my moment to make the point that science really matters, and science needs a working Assembly, and I very much hope that it will not be too long before we see that.