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Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]

Volume 800: debated on Thursday 31 October 2019

Committee (and remaining stages)

My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to the Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. With the agreement of the Committee, I will now report the Bill to the House without amendment.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment. Report and Third Reading agreed without debate.


Moved by

My Lords, the Minister kindly offered to report to the House—I see that the Chief Whip is sitting next to him—on likely progress in the House of Commons following this Bill going through.

I thank the noble Lord for this opportunity to do so. I agreed to come back on certain specific points. The first was the question of whether the Bill could be included in a wash-up. From speaking with parliamentary lawyers, I understand that the wash-up exists only between Sessions, not between Parliaments, so it would not be possible for the Bill to fit into that category. I understand that there are ongoing discussions at the other end about whether there will be opportunities to take this matter forward there. Unfortunately, I cannot give a commitment here on behalf of the other place but, as I said, I understand that those discussions are ongoing.

It is clear that there has been a very strong consensus—not just one based on the natural rhythm of the House but one that has been adapted to make that point crystal clear. We send that message to the other House with a degree of unanimity, which is perhaps rare in a number of areas, not least in the area of Northern Ireland. On that basis, I hope that it will be received in the same manner in which it has been received here and that the usual channels will reach what I believe to be the right conclusion. However, I cannot commit to that on their behalf, although I wish that I could.

My Lords, I associate myself with my noble friend Lord Hain and indicate that the Opposition entirely agree with the Government on this Bill. It was, after all, a government Bill—the very first introduced in the House of Lords. We will do nothing at all to obstruct its passage either in this House or in the other place. To the contrary, we wish the Minister and his colleagues well in trying to get this legislation on to the statute book before the general election, because there are literally hundreds of people in Northern Ireland waiting on the Government’s decision on this matter.

My Lords, I understand and agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, has said. Perhaps the Minister could get across to his colleagues and the business managers in the other place the degree of anguish that would be caused by a failure to deliver this legislation, given that everybody in both Houses and in every party, both here and in Northern Ireland, supports it—a situation that is very rare. Such a failure cannot be explained away. We know that there is time next week—there will be two sitting days in the other place—and I cannot imagine that it is not possible to achieve this. I urge the Minister to make that point strongly to the Government.

Given the nature of the victims of this abuse and given that inquiries are also taking place in England, it behoves us all to show an example—to show that we are serious about it and that we intend to alleviate the suffering. I think that people would find it inconceivable that we would be incapable of delivering this legislation.

My Lords, I endorse what has been said without repeating the multiplicity of words. It will not be understood if this Bill does not reach the statute book. It is incredible that here we have something that unites everyone, yet we now find that we are struggling to get it to its last point. That will not be understood at all, and I find it incredible that we are even questioning whether that might arise.

My Lords, if we had not had our concerns about what the other place would do, I think Hansard would have recorded that this Bill went through all its final stages in about three minutes. It is beyond belief that, at the other end, the House of Commons cannot find a few minutes to deal with the Bill, given that I cannot believe that any Member of Parliament would raise any objection from any quarter. And even if they did, it would be on the head of the Member concerned. If this is not put to the House of Commons, I am sorry to say that it will be on the head of the Government, and I do not believe that the Government would want to go into an election having failed to deliver this.

I know that the Minister is entirely with us. Everything that we have done and said here is to support him, and indeed his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office. I want to impress on the Government, through him, that this is something they would be well advised to find time for. They should recognise that there will be no understanding of an incapacity to find the few minutes that would be needed.

My Lords, I echo what has been said but simply add one point. If this historical institutional abuse of the most horrible kind had taken place in Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Yorkshire, or any one of the regions of England or in the nations of Scotland or Wales, do we seriously imagine that this Bill would not be speeding through the House of Commons immediately it followed its passage here? The answer is surely self-evident: it would have been dealt with. I would not like this Parliament to be in the position where it has failed the people of Northern Ireland, where it would not have failed anybody in Great Britain, because the MPs in Great Britain would make sure that the ruling party was held to account, as I know the Minister wants it to be.

My Lords, in my time in the Northern Ireland Office, I can say that this is the most important Bill, and one which, I think, we can take forward. It will leave here in rapid order, having been discussed for a needful time, but remarkably quickly. I thank all noble Lords for their work on this, which I know has been challenging and sometimes very difficult. The Government are very much of the view that this is an important Bill. That is why it was in the Queen’s Speech and first off the blocks to come into our House, so that we could move it forward. I hope that it will leave here with the momentum to carry it to where it needs to be. I hope that all those who have a role in this will fulfil that role.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned at 4.36 pm.