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Eastbourne & Willingdon Lib Dems

Parliament should show greater respect for Northern Ireland - says MP

October 22, 2013 9:53 AM

The front bench spokesman for Northern Ireland is calling on MPs to show more respect during Northern Ireland Questions in parliament.

Stephen Lloyd is the MP for Eastbourne, and the Liberal Democrats' Northern Ireland Spokesman. Approximately every 6 weeks, MPs in the House of Commons have a thirty minute session to ask Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers MP, questions on her brief. The sessions always fall on a Wednesday, immediately before the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in which David Cameron and Ed Milliband exchange verbal blows. The scheduling of NI Questions immediately prior to PMQs ensures that it also often takes place in a very noisy environment - with large numbers of MPs streaming into the chamber, chatting loudly to colleagues throughout the session and ignoring the NI debate.

"Northern Ireland isn't a done deal by any stretch of the imagination" said Mr Lloyd. "The serious public disorder in recent months highlighted how there are still important issues around security, prosperity and equality being addressed. To my mind it shows a basic lack of courtesy, even respect, toward these important matters for large numbers of MPs to sit in the chamber talking loudly amongst themselves whilst completely ignoring the business".

"The level of noise at the last NI Questions on 16th October was, put simply, intolerable. I'm used to it so just got on with asking my question on inward investment into Northern Ireland but over the weekend I was reminded how deplorable the situation was when contacted by a colleague from Northern Ireland. He told me he'd tried to watch proceedings on BBC iPlayer and had been utterly appalled at the level of extraneous noise going on in the Chamber; all utterly unrelated to Northern Ireland Questions. And, frankly, he's right. The sheer lack of respect for the issues we were addressing that affect people in Northern Ireland, sometimes life and death issues, did the House of Commons no credit."

He added: "Speaker Bercow was forced to ask MPs to keep the noise down once but with so many people entering the Chamber afterwards it just got worse. What sort of message does that send to the public about how seriously or not, that MPs view Northern Irish affairs?"

"I've written to Speaker Bercow supporting him in his efforts to remind MP's to show more courtesy in the debates scheduled just before PMQ's, and with the next Northern Ireland Questions at Westminster being scheduled to take place on 27th November, I hope that session will be shown the respect in parliament it deserves."