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The Union

Volume 743: debated on Wednesday 17 January 2024

6. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to strengthen Northern Ireland’s place in the Union. (900953)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I wish to reassure him that the UK Government are fully committed to protecting and upholding Northern Ireland’s place in the Union. I regularly discuss matters of the Union, and the importance of Northern Ireland within it, with Cabinet colleagues and frequently meet the Secretaries of State for Wales and for Scotland.

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the Union is now stronger than ever, particularly with the decline of the SNP, and that its vital importance can be seen not only in Northern Ireland but in border constituencies such as mine, Clwyd South, particularly in shared services across the border with neighbouring North Shropshire, such as the Gobowen to Wrexham line, the A5/A483 and the Chirk-St Martin’s GP partnership?

As we can see, all politics is local, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on the success of shared cross-border services in his constituency; he is absolutely right. I know he is a great champion of connectivity across the United Kingdom, and I am sure that his constituents appreciate his efforts on those matters.

Every devious, deceitful and dishonest tactic is being used to try to bribe, bully and beat Unionists into accepting the Windsor framework and the Northern Ireland protocol, despite the impact it has on our citizenship and on the Union. It seems that the latest recruit is the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, the right hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland), who only this week told the BBC that Unionists should get back to Stormont, because constitutional issues are the responsibility of the EU and the Irish Government, in any settlement, would have a say in the future of Northern Ireland. Can the Secretary of State confirm that this Conservative and Unionist Government have not handed constitutional control of Northern Ireland to the EU and that the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has either become an over-zealous advocate of the scare tactics or is talking through his hat?

Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] Based on that cheer, the Select Committee Chair has a lot of work to do to increase his popularity in this House. As ever, the right hon. Gentleman asks a question in his characteristic shrinking violet way. I completely disagree with what he says about my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland). We need to get a deal done now. The people of Northern Ireland want to get a deal done. It is time for a deal to be done. Let us get the Executive back up and running.

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I am pleased to inform the House that, since last week, we have been providing British Sign Language coverage on all questions and statements as a matter of course. This is available directly on, and it is also available to broadcasters and media outlets who may be interested in taking up the live feed. I am delighted that the House service has been able to deliver this significant improvement in the accessibility of our proceedings.