There have been 17 exchanges between David Hanson and Northern Ireland Office
|Mon 21st October 2019||Northern Ireland: Restoring Devolution||3 interactions (54 words)|
|Thu 5th September 2019||Northern Ireland||3 interactions (54 words)|
|Mon 29th April 2019||Northern Ireland: Political Process||3 interactions (114 words)|
|Tue 23rd April 2019||Northern Ireland: Murder of Lyra McKee||3 interactions (142 words)|
|Wed 10th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (62 words)|
|Thu 21st March 2019||Northern Ireland Assembly Election||3 interactions (124 words)|
|Wed 6th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (12 words)|
|Wed 13th February 2019||Northern Ireland: Restoring Devolution||3 interactions (95 words)|
|Mon 21st January 2019||Northern Ireland: Security Situation||3 interactions (73 words)|
|Wed 21st March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (53 words)|
|Mon 12th March 2018||Northern Ireland Finances||3 interactions (81 words)|
|Tue 20th February 2018||Northern Ireland||3 interactions (65 words)|
|Wed 15th November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (43 words)|
|Mon 13th November 2017||Northern Ireland Budget Bill||7 interactions (242 words)|
|Thu 2nd November 2017||Northern Ireland Update||3 interactions (99 words)|
|Mon 3rd July 2017||Northern Ireland: Political Situation||3 interactions (104 words)|
|Wed 28th June 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (39 words)|
On the issue of customs and the protocol, we will be doing everything to work with Northern Ireland businesses to ensure that we deliver on unfettered access as we push the Bill through the House of Commons. I spoke to Northern Ireland businesses today and will be engaging with them on an ongoing basis as we move forward with the protocol.
May I first pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who did an exceptional job as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. She will know of the trauma that victims have suffered. It is now three years since the Hart report was published, and the work that she did means that the Bill could now be presented at the earliest opportunity. I hope that we will get that into the Queen’s Speech and ensure that we solve the issue once and for all.
I strongly believe that getting the talks up and running, and getting Stormont up and running, is in the best interests of Northern Ireland, and is the best route for decision making. Obviously, along with Cabinet colleagues, I am considering alternatives should that fail, but we have to try to get Stormont up and running.
If my hon. and gallant Friend will forgive me, I do not have the exact percentage, but I am happy to write to him. As for the talks and what will happen, if he will forgive me, today is the day for showing our encouragement for the talks starting, and our support for their succeeding. I will be happy to come back to this House later to give a progress report—hopefully with good news for the people of Northern Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman will have welcomed the fact that the first statement on the talks was a joint statement from the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach. We are looking carefully at all the successful talks processes of the past, and at those that perhaps were not so successful, to learn lessons and ensure the best chance of success this time.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a very powerful point. When I visited Londonderry on Saturday, I heard people say that they want this to end, that this was not what they wanted to see, that it was not the Northern Ireland they wanted to be part of and that these people did not represent them. The tragedy is that so many of the people involved are young people who were not even born at the time that the Belfast agreement was signed. They have been groomed by evil people who have put them in a position where they have ended up murdering an innocent journalist. We cannot allow that to happen. They will heard the unity of the House’s voice very, very loudly.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we will consider carefully all the points he made. He will know that the Fresh Start agreement committed not only money but resources to the tackling of paramilitary activity. One of the problems is that that agreement is a responsibility of the Executive Office, which is another reason why we need to see devolution restored. [Interruption.] I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, as he shakes his head, that this needs to be tackled and dealt with. He is right that tonight we need to think about a family who are grieving, but in future we need to think about such measures.
2. What recent steps she has taken to help restore devolution in Northern Ireland. 
On 26 March, I laid before Parliament a statutory instrument that extends the period for Executive formation until 25 August. This follows the recent engagement that I have had with the five main political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government. On the basis of those conversations, I have proposed a short, focused set of five-party talks aimed at restoring devolution and the other institutions at the earliest opportunity.
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I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman’s opening remarks, but I do want to look at what is the best way to achieve a successful outcome from the talks, and I am open to looking at all options for how to achieve that.
The right hon. Gentleman, who has considerable experience in this field and who will, I am determined, remain the last direct rule Minister, knows that there are some constitutional arrangements. The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018 was very carefully drafted so that it respected the separation and independence of the Northern Ireland civil service, and we mess with that at our peril.
With specific reference to the moneys secured under the confidence and supply arrangement, those moneys are being released as appropriate by the Treasury, and they are included within the Northern Ireland budget. We legislated two weeks ago to put the 2018-19 budget on a statutory footing, and we will of course do so for the 2019-20 budget later on. Clearly this is not a good situation, and none of us wants to be in this situation, but it is the least worst of the options that are available to us.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman; I want him to continue to be the very last direct rule Minister for Northern Ireland, and I am determined that we achieve that. But he will know, from his great experience, that St Andrews was the culmination of work that had happened with the parties to bring them together. A lot of work happened before that short, intensive period of talks. I am looking at what work we can do before we bring together the parties in that short, focused talks period.
My hon. Friend should not believe everything he reads in the newspaper. I assure him that I am working closely with the Defence Secretary, the Attorney General and Members on both sides of the House to ensure we can deliver a new system that works for the people of Northern Ireland, that works for the victims of terrorism and, very importantly, that works for our veterans and retired police officers.
I do not think it is any secret that sustainability of the Executive was one of the matters for discussion in the talks 12 months ago, and I am sure it will be a matter for discussion if we are able to find a way to get the parties back together. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has made proposals for a more sustainable Executive. My hon. Friend has great expertise, as former Chair of that Committee, and if he would like to make any suggestions, I am happy to take them to the parties.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks with great experience and knowledge of this matter. The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act allows for transparency in decision making, but there is of course a constitutional issue when it comes to elected politicians scrutinising the decisions taken by unelected officials. Although I understand the desire to see more scrutiny, we must remember that when the institutions are restored—I hope sooner rather than later—those officials are going to have to return to taking direction from political masters, and having political masters who may have scrutinised their previous decisions is probably not a situation in which we want them to find themselves.
I agree with my hon. Friend, and that is why we have consulted on how to reform the system for dealing with deaths in the troubles—to enable the PSNI to police today, not the past.
It is our intention not only to stay at the same level but to continue to improve our levels of animal welfare.
I set out—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] It is nice to be welcomed so loudly—[Interruption.]
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I set out the Government’s approach to restoring devolved government in my statement to the House on 12 March. As I said then, the UK Government remain determined to see devolved government re-established. We are continuing to work with all the Northern Ireland parties—and with the Irish Government, as appropriate—towards restoring the Executive and a fully functioning Assembly.
Specifically on the budget, I made sure that all the main political parties represented in Stormont had sight of it before I announced it, because I sincerely hope that they will be the parties that will actually deliver that budget. The right hon. Gentleman will also know from my statement of 12 March that I have had a number of representations and that I continue to receive suggestions about how we might get some form of functioning Assembly working in Stormont, and I am considering all those approaches.
My priority is to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland. For the good of the Union and for the good of the people of Northern Ireland, that is the right thing to do. It is also worth putting on the record that that is the primary aim of the Irish Government as well. I want to put on the record my thanks for their support in the talks process, and I know that they are committed to restoring devolved government, as we are.
All five parties were involved in the talks, including some roundtable talks. However, the clear point is that, for an Executive to be formed, the two large parties need to reach an accommodation. That is what we were working towards, and what I would like to happen in the near future.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman served as a Minister during the last period of direct rule. I have been led to believe that there was a small incident involving a football match—Wales versus Northern Ireland—when he possibly found it difficult to know which side to support. I have said that I will come back to the House on the budget.
Everybody in this House ought to celebrate the further economic progress in Northern Ireland and there being a strong Government who can deliver that and support economic progress for the whole United Kingdom.
Extraordinary behaviour! The right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished former Northern Ireland Minister; he is entitled to be heard with courtesy, at the very least by Members on his own Benches.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, that is not a step that I intend to take while there is an opportunity for an Executive to be formed. Discussions have been ongoing—as they were even last week—between his party and Sinn Féin to try to find a resolution to the outstanding issues between the parties that can form such an Executive. I think it is right that we continue to pursue that, but he is right to say that this situation is not sustainable into the long term. It is absolutely in the best interests of Northern Ireland and more generally that we continue to do all we can to restore an Executive and to ensure that the parties are able to resolve the outstanding issues and get devolved government back up and running at the earliest opportunity.
The right hon. Gentleman has made this point on a previous occasion. I understand the question of accountability, and I feel this issue very keenly at this point. At this stage, these issues remain devolved. We are seeking to set a headline, outline budget of top-line numbers for each of the different Departments of the Northern Ireland civil service, but we are not seeking to provide a higher level of specificity or detail. Of course I will continue to raise issues with David Sterling, the head of the Northern Ireland civil service, but ultimately he remains accountable under the emergency provisions in the Northern Ireland legislation. He remains subject to the duties outlined in that mechanism. That is the unsatisfactory situation that we remain in. I say to the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) that this might be sustainable for a time, but it cannot continue for an extended period.
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I would not disagree with that. I am sure that that is the view of constituents from all parts of the community in Northern Ireland. It is certainly a reflection of what I hear from constituents from all parts of Northern Ireland.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman, to his party and to the Secretary of State that this perhaps illustrates that we are not making a breakthrough by simply relying on dialogue between the two major parties. Those parties clearly have a mandate—a commanding mandate—in Northern Ireland, but they do not have a veto on the process, so one of the other options that the Secretary of State should be considering is roundtable talks. Such talks have also been difficult. They have sometimes been unwieldy and sometimes very, very problematic, but they have also been the reason for breakthrough. They have been points at which pressure and public scrutiny have been brought to bear. They have allowed the smaller parties to have their say and, perhaps more importantly, to bring in their ideas and put pressure on the other parties. I urge him to consider whether roundtable talks could have the role in the future that worked in the past.
Thirdly, such roundtable talks have worked particularly well when the authority and power of the office of the Prime Minister has been brought to bear to try to bring about a breakthrough. Whatever power and authority the current Prime Minister might have—some might think that she has a little less than some previous incumbents in the role—she should be deploying every last ounce of it to try to achieve a breakthrough. We are often told that she still persists in her difficult role at this difficult time because she has a great sense of duty and public service. I can think of no greater public service that she could do right now than serving the peace process in Northern Ireland by intervening personally —getting her hands dirty—to try to bring about the breakthrough that we all so desperately require. If she will not do so—if she persists in having only long-distance telephone calls, which, as I have said, I fear are neither use nor ornament in this process—why not? Why will she not invest more of her time and effort in trying to bring about a breakthrough? If this Government are so paralysed by the debacle that is Brexit that they cannot deploy their Prime Minister, it says something pretty damning about them.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his remarks, because he speaks with real, lived experience of this. He knows exactly what happened at St Andrews, and he knows that it has been precisely the role of Prime Ministers in trying to push through change and to get people to find agreement that has led to a breakthrough.
It is entirely true that not all the instances when we have deployed Prime Ministers have been successful. It may be that Prime Ministers in the current era enjoy less power and influence. Indeed, the Taoiseach may enjoy less power and influence over some of the players in this, too. However, this is another tool in the Secretary of State’s armoury, so I cannot understand why he will not deploy it. It is utterly inexplicable that the Prime Minister has been to Northern Ireland only once—and then for a scant 20 minutes—during her entire period in office. It is beholden on her now to get involved. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State is interjecting from a sedentary position. I do not think he has said anything that would lead me to believe that the Prime Minister has engaged personally in any of the talks process. She has made a few phone calls, but she has not, in any substantive fashion, sat down face to face in Belfast with any of the leaders of the parties, and she is not involved in a roundtable. There is a duty on the Secretary of State to lead—
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the point that he has made. As I indicated in my statement, should an agreement be reached that enables an Executive to be put in place quickly—however unlikely that is—I would obviously not want to introduce the budget Bill. There are important steps that we have to take, however. The civil service has underlined to us that the end of November is a crucial time, by which they need the budget to be in place. That is why I am taking the steps that I have outlined today. This is not about the UK Government setting the spending priorities; that remains firmly with the Northern Ireland civil service, which will continue to get on with that job, as it has done over recent months. That is why I have made the point that this is not about direct rule or UK Government Ministers setting the individual priorities. It is important to resolve the issue quickly for all the reasons we have heard today, and that is where our earnest focus must lie.
I acknowledge the presentation that the right hon. Gentleman, with the experience of his role in Northern Ireland, makes about the challenges and the fact that this is not the outcome we want. As we have made clear throughout the process, the budget Bill speaks to the main estimates that were put in place earlier this year. We are operating within that framework. It is open to the House to vote, through supplementary estimates, for further moneys to be made available to Northern Ireland during the course of the financial year; and votes in this House obviously matter. As a Government, we stand by our commitments, and as a party, we stand by the agreement reached with the Democratic Unionist party, and nothing I have said today changes that.
I know that this is an issue that my right hon. Friend and others have raised consistently in the House. I commend them for the focus they have provided. The Government remain committed to implementing the Stormont House institutions and that reform which is about fair, balanced and proportionate efforts in respect of the investigations of the past. That is what the agreement sets out clearly in applying the rule of law but, as I have said on a number of occasions in the House, I and others across Government will never tire of recognising the tireless contribution that so many in our security and armed forces made to ensure that we have peace today. Without their contribution, that simply would not have been possible.
There are clear needs in Northern Ireland, which is why I made the point that I did on the potential need for further clarification for the Northern Ireland civil service in respect of budgetary issues. I also underline that last week’s statement recognised the particular needs and circumstances of Northern Ireland and that there are some urgent and pressing priorities. That is why I think an Executive needs to be put into place, but clearly, in acting in Northern Ireland’s best interests, we will keep that very closely under review if it is not possible to form an Executive in the coming days.
The short answer is yes. Both I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will endeavour to ensure that security is at the forefront of all that we do.
The right hon. Gentleman will know that all such matters are for negotiation and are in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Brexit Secretary. We enjoy strong working relationships with our counterparts in the Irish Government. We intend to continue that, in the service of all the communities of Northern Ireland.