Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey has tabled a number of significant amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill currently passing through Parliament. Each of his five amendments will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday during the Committee Stage of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.
Lord Empey said:
“As someone who was involved in the negotiations of the Belfast Agreement and who served as a Minister in the first and second Stormont Executives, I find it immensely disheartening that Northern Ireland has now been without a functioning Government for two and half years.
“I have also been growing increasingly frustrated with the UK Government for allowing the impasse, and general deterioration across all key public services, to run on for so long. The situation locally is so serious in our health service for instance that I believe the deliberate inaction of the Government has amounted to reckless endangerment of people's lives.
“Whilst I would have much preferred the local talks coming to a successful conclusion it was always going to be a long shot until there was a genuine recognition from both the Secretary of State and the DUP & Sinn Fein that major and lasting reforms were required.
“Yet there has still been no such recognition and that is why the UK Government has once again been forced to introduce new legislation at Westminster and why I have taken the decision to table my amendments.
“The waiting times in our health service are scandalous, and yet the fact remains that as the gap between demand and capacity continues to widen daily, waiting times will inevitably continue to increase. That is why I have tabled an amendment which would force the UK Government to be upfront and acknowledge that we simply do not have enough beds and permanent staff to treat the numbers of patients coming forward. My amendment would then also see the Government required to explain in detail what steps it, along with the Department of Health locally, are taking to tackle the problem and reduce waiting times.
“Recently I secured concessions for genuine applicants of the RHI scheme who are being financially penalised through no fault of their own after the latest cuts to the tariffs. Yet the UK Government has still to deliver on it’s commitment to me of a Hardship Unit in DfE. One of my new amendments would force the UK Government to produce a report by September on the progress of the unit.
“I’ve also tabled amendments on a range of other key areas such as calling for the introduction of Northern Ireland’s long overdue suicide prevention strategy, bringing our local libel laws into line with the rest of the United Kingdom’s and crucially forcing the UK Government by December this year to detail what welfare mitigations will be in place whenever the existing support measures expire in March 2020.
"These are all issues that can wait no longer.”