MPs urge Bradley to do more to restore Stormont institutions

British government urged to move beyond ‘sticking plaster’ approach to collapse of devolved institutions

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley:  the Northern Ireland affairs committee welcomed her  decision to cut the pay of MLAs while the Assembly is suspended. Photograph: Getty Images

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley: the Northern Ireland affairs committee welcomed her decision to cut the pay of MLAs while the Assembly is suspended. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Northern Ireland affairs committee at Westminster has urged Northern Secretary Karen Bradley to take more action to restore the Assembly and Executive at Stormont.

Conservative MP Andrew Murrison, who chairs the committee, said the British government needed to move beyond a “sticking plaster” approach to the collapse of the devolved institutions.

“We are glad that the Secretary of State has acknowledged that more clarity is needed on the powers of civil servants to take decisions in the light of recent legal challenge.

“However, whilst we keenly await further detail on this we are clear that civil servants should not continue to be expected to make determinations that in a functioning democracy fall to ministers,” he said.

“There is no evidence in the government response to our report, nor in the Secretary of State’s comments last week, to suggest that talks to restore devolution are imminent. We must move beyond a sticking plaster approach, and do more to facilitate sustainable governance in the region, with proper accountability and scrutiny mechanisms.”

Dr Murrison was speaking after the committee published the British government’s response to its report on devolution and democracy in Northern Ireland. The committee welcomed Ms Bradley’s decision to cut the pay of MLAs while the Assembly remains suspended, and her acceptance of its recommendation to reconstitute the Policing Board.

Hart report

It expressed disappointment, however, at the Northern Secretary’s refusal to take forward the recommendations of the Hart report on child abuse in children’s homes and other residential institutions in the North.

Anthony Hart, a retired High Court judge, recommended last year that compensation should be paid to the survivors of abuse, and that a commissioner for institutional abuse should be appointed.

“When crucial measures, such as those set out in the Hart report, are left to drift we cannot be satisfied with the status quo,” Dr Murrison said.

“The reticence to become involved in any decision-making is understandable, but with so much time having passed, with so little visible progress made, we urge the Secretary of State to consider further options, and build on the steps she has taken in the past week.”