Bill of Rights (Northern Ireland)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:11 am on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 11:11 am, 16th July 2013

I can give the hon. Gentleman reassurance of that nature. As I have said, it would be virtually impossible to adopt a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland without extensive cross-party support. If it were not possible to persuade the major political parties of the merits of the Bill of Rights, I do not see how it would be possible to deliver one.

In conclusion, this has been a worthwhile debate. I noted the reference made by the hon. Member for Belfast East to the Richard Haass working group, which starts its work soon on parades and flags and the past. Naturally, if it wishes to look at Bill of Rights matters, we will consider what conclusions it reaches. The Government will continue to examine seriously any other proposals to resolve the issue. Yet this issue should not deflect us from other important objectives for Northern Ireland that we are focused on, particularly in light of the weekend’s events.

We have to continue our efforts to rebalance the economy and help Northern Ireland compete in the global race for investment and jobs. We need to press ahead with the implementation of the economic package agreed at Downing street last month, between the Prime Minister, myself and the Deputy First Minister. And we must continue working with the Executive to tackle sectarianism and build a genuinely shared future for everyone in Northern Ireland.

The riots that we have seen on the streets of Belfast and other places in Northern Ireland over recent days are disgraceful. It is important that we start to address the underlying social divisions that can contribute to tensions around issues such as parading in Northern Ireland. I look forward to addressing the House on that matter in about an hour’s time.

Sitting suspended