We have now reached the longest period of time where Northern Ireland has been without a government. We are in a limbo without local rule and Direct Rule from Westminster and as such projects are being delayed, investment is being left unspent and decisions are not being made.
Currently, MPs can only question the UK Government on the funding settlement to Northern Ireland. Unlike other departments we cannot ask Written Questions on the outcomes of schemes in place or the management of Northern Ireland by the Civil Service. This was put in place to ensure that Westminster respected the governance structures in Northern Ireland. But as we have been so long without a government there it is time that we were allowed to scrutinise Northern Irish Civil Servants activity.
I was disappointed that the Secretary of State would not entertain this idea and I will continue to press for it.
Despite the Government benches getting a bit over keen when the Prime Minister entered the Chamber for PMQs, I was able to question the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps she was taking to ensure that all political parties represented in Stormont were given the ability to scrutinise the Northern Irish budget.
Despite the collapse of devolved rule in Northern Ireland we must make sure that all political parties are involved in the budget that will need to be implemented by Westminster. It will ensure cooperation and hopefully provide a platform for all parties to reenter into power sharing once more.
The ability to track down those who have committed crimes and terrorist atrocities in Northern Ireland, who may very well be in the Republic of Ireland, is dependent on the police and security forces having access to EUROPOL and the European Arrest Warrant.
If we lose access to these important tools following Brexit we could see our police and security forces hampered in bringing about justice. The Secretary of State was able to praise the current work of all police forces on the island of Ireland, but failed to say if we will maintain our partnership in EUROPOL and the European Arrest Warrant.
Now that the UK Parliament has had to take action to ensure Northern Ireland’s civil service continues to receive funding – following the collapse of power sharing – I wanted to know what discussions the UK Government has had with all parties within the Northern Irish Assembly.
I am worried that it has only been a discussion between the UK Government, DUP and Sinn Fein. There are many other parties in Northern Ireland that all must be included in any budget agreement. If they are not we will not see a return to devolved government in Northern Ireland anytime soon. This is not what people want in the area and will only undermine a long-lasting settlement in the region.