The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill provides for a period in which an Executive can be formed at any time without an election having to be called. I have remained in contact with the Northern Ireland parties during the passage of the Bill and will discuss its implementation and next steps in a roundtable meeting with them tomorrow.
The Secretary of State will be aware that the Independent Reporting Commission concluded last week that key factors in bringing paramilitarism to an end were political leadership and the re-establishment of political structures in Northern Ireland. Does the Secretary of State agree? If so, can she explain the absence of formal talks between the political parties since February?
As I said earlier, the best thing for the people of Northern Ireland would be if the politicians whom they elected come together to form an Executive, get back into the Assembly and make decisions on their behalf. As a member of this Government, I support devolution across the whole United Kingdom, and I want to see it operating properly.
Does the first report of the Independent Reporting Commission not illustrate that the political parties of Northern Ireland must choose one of two sides at this point? They are either on the side of getting the Executive back up and running, or else they are on the side of growing paramilitarism and all the attendant dangers that that brings.
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The Independent Reporting Commission’s first report is clear that the decisions that would benefit everybody in Northern Ireland must be made by Ministers. We have passed a Bill that will enable civil servants to make decisions to allow the continued running of public services, but they are clearly no substitute for elected politicians and Ministers in Stormont.