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Flags and Parades

Volume 594: debated on Wednesday 11 March 2015

5. What further steps the Government plan to take to resolve outstanding issues relating to flags and parades. (907936)

9. What further steps the Government plan to take to resolve outstanding issues relating to flags and parades. (907940)

The Stormont House agreement identified a clear way forward on parades and flags. [Interruption.] The Government will continue to work with the five parties in the Executive on the implementation of all the provisions of the agreement, including on these issues. [Interruption.]

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, although I must admit I had trouble hearing it. Unrest around the parades has an unsettling impact on the community, on local businesses and on tourism. What steps are the Government taking this year to try to ensure a peaceful parade season?

I urge everyone involved in parades or parades-related protest to ensure that all activity related to parades and protest is both peaceful and lawful and that the determinations of the Parades Commission, as the lawfully constituted authority, are complied with. I continue to have a series of meetings to try to find a way forward on the parading impasse in north Belfast.

In Belfast, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) recently said that securing the peace process and a strong economy went hand in hand. Does the Secretary of State agree, and will she support the Heenan-Anderson commission to ensure that people at the margins are not drawn to violence on issues such as flags and parades?

I agree that politics and economics are intertwined in Northern Ireland. Political stability is crucial for a successful economy. I note the Labour commission on this, but I think the crucial thing is to stick to the Government’s long-term economic plan, because that is delivering economic recovery in Northern Ireland.

Does the Secretary of State recognise the feeling of injustice in the Unionist community on the issue of parades? In my constituency we have waited 16 years to get a return parade—a church parade. When are we going to get a resolution?

I am very conscious of the concern felt in the community in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. It is crucial that the Parades Commission’s determination needs to be abided by, but it is also important to press ahead with a reformed and devolved system of parades adjudication, as envisaged by the Stormont House agreement.