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Business of the House

Volume 827: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2023

Motion on Standing Orders

Moved by

That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Tuesday 7 February to enable the Northern Ireland Budget Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.

My Lords, the Northern Ireland Budget Bill is clearly very important to people in Northern Ireland. I fully understand why His Majesty’s Government want to get this legislation through in one day, but it is important that your Lordships remember the reason why we have to do this. We are doing this because there is no Executive and there is no Executive because of the protocol.

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill had its First Reading here in July, then we had Second Reading in October, three long days of Committee and then silence. As the Bill is so important, I want to query why this is. Can the Minister give us some idea of when this very important Bill, which should be going through while the negotiations are continuing, will come back to your Lordships’ House?

Every week something new happens that affects people in Northern Ireland because of the protocol. We have a ridiculous situation where, if I fly from Belfast to Faro or Mallorca, I do not get duty free. If I fly to London, I do not get duty free. If I fly from London to Mallorca or Faro, I get duty free. When I asked His Majesty’s Government why this is, I was not told the honest reason: Northern Ireland has been left in the EU and therefore the EU will not allow us duty free, and neither will His Majesty’s Treasury. We are in a twilight, limbo situation. Your Lordships must realise that this cannot go on. Will the Minister kindly tell us when the protocol Bill is coming back to this House?

Before my noble friend replies, could he accept that many of us wish the Government every possible success in their negotiations? This protocol came about as a result of a treaty negotiated by Her Majesty’s Government, as they then were. Therefore, we bear responsibility for it. They tried to fit things into a straitjacket when it should have been, as I said last week, a much more flexible garment, but the fact is that this should be sorted out by negotiation and not by a totally unsatisfactory Bill being driven through your Lordships’ House. It is a very great pity indeed that those who have been elected to represent people in Northern Ireland are sulking rather than meeting, as they should, in the Assembly to which they were elected to debate this and other things.

My Lords, I venture to say that we have a Motion before us relating to the Northern Ireland Budget Bill. I think we have heard from these short interventions the divergent opinion in your Lordships’ House about current matters and policy in Northern Ireland.

I cannot, as was alluded to earlier, give any specific response on timing, but all noble Lords will be united on the importance of getting this right and having full and due respect for the feelings and needs of all the people in Northern Ireland. That is something I think everybody in this House shares.

So far as this Bill is concerned, the noble Baroness said it is a pity that it is one day. Following the unfortunate events in 1909 to 1911, it is normal practice for a money Bill to be considered in one day. That will be the same for the Northern Ireland Budget Bill.

Motion agreed.