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Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointment Functions) (No. 2) Regulations 2023

Volume 833: debated on Thursday 26 October 2023

Motion to Approve

Moved by

My Lords, before I turn to the regulations, I am very conscious that this week marks the 30th anniversary of the Shankhill bombing, while next week sees the 30th anniversary of the Greysteel massacre, both heinous acts of terrorism for which there was never any justification whatever. In total, October 1993 saw 27 people killed in Northern Ireland as a result of the security situation, the highest number for any month since the 1970s, and the thoughts of the whole House will be with the victims and survivors of those atrocities. This also serves to remind us of how far we have come in the 30 years since the Downing Street declaration and the 25 years since the Belfast agreement, and how we can never tolerate any slipping back to the dark days of the past.

Turning to the regulations, the Government are, as I have stated on many occasions in this House, deeply committed to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement of 1998, and our priority is to see the return of locally elected, accountable and effective devolved government, which is and will remain the right way for Northern Ireland to be governed within our United Kingdom. In the continued absence of devolved government, the UK Government are committed to acting in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland to ensure that public appointments are maintained until such time as an Executive are restored. We all hope that that can be achieved at the earliest opportunity.

Primary legislation was brought forward in December last year, which, among other measures, addressed the need for urgent public appointments to be made to two bodies. The 2022 Act also provided for the Secretary of State to add to that list, by way of regulations, further urgent and necessary appointments that may arise during the continued absence of an Executive. In July of this year, further legislative action was taken to bring forward a statutory instrument which added a further 12 specified offices to the list under Section 6 of the 2022 Act.

Unfortunately, as we are well aware, the Executive have still not reformed. Therefore, following a request from the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and a further request from the Department of Justice in relation to senior appointments to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, a second statutory instrument was brought forward which includes a further list of specified offices which have been identified by the Executive Office as urgent and critical.

The instrument adds to the list in Section 6 of the executive formation Act, enabling the Secretary of State to exercise the appointment functions of a Northern Ireland Minister in relation to the offices, and will allow for appointments to be made to these bodies which will continue to safeguard the quality and delivery of public services within Northern Ireland—and of course these offices will include a new chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

These are important offices, and the exercise of appointment functions in the coming months is critical for the continuance of good governance in Northern Ireland. I therefore beg to move.

Motion agreed.