My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Shaun Woodward) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce that I am today publishing a consultation paper on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
The need for an additional human rights framework that reflects the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland was recognised in the Belfast agreement and given shape through the commitment to set up a Bill of Rights Forum as part of the St Andrews agreement. The launch of a consultation on a Bill of Rights follows through on those commitments.
I am very grateful to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for its commitment and energy in leading the debate on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and for its wide ranging and thorough advice to the Government, which has greatly informed this consultation paper and has made a substantial contribution to the debate on rights and responsibilities across the UK.
A positive future for the people of Northern Ireland must be firmly based on partnership, equality and mutual respect. Over the past 12 years, but particularly since the restoration of devolution in May 2007, Northern Ireland has made huge progress in building that positive future. The fundamental principle of mutual respect for the rights and freedoms of all the people of Northern Ireland has been at the heart of this progress, and still has a crucial role to play in its future success. For that reason, I urge everyone with the best interests of Northern Ireland at heart to study this consultation paper carefully and to give their views.
The consultation process will run until 1 March. Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.