North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, has joined the debate on the controversial regulations outlawing discrimination against homosexual people in the provision of goods and services. An attempt to annul the regulations has already been heard in the House of Lords and last Thursday it was the turn of MPs to air their views.
Speaking during the Committee debate scrutinising the regulations, the Ulster Unionist MP passionately reiterated her firm opposition to the manner in which the Government legislates for Northern Ireland during the ongoing suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Lady Hermon protested that: “This sensitive proposal is being taken through the Committee in two and a half hours by a horrible procedure of which I am highly critical: an unamendable Order in Council. It would have been much better for all concerned—I genuinely mean all—if the issue had been left to the Assembly, which will be restored.”
The local MP also launched a scathing attack on the Northern Ireland Office for the curtailed consultation period on the regulations. Referring to the Government’s own guidelines on consultations, which state that they should last for ‘a minimum of 12 weeks’, Lady Hermon said: “The Minister (David Hanson) has been in the Northern Ireland Office long enough to know that July is a particular busy holiday month, as is August…The reply to the consultation was demanded by 25 September, so consultation on the regulations was curtailed to a mere eight weeks. So, the serious matter of consultation as directed by the Cabinet Office’s code of practice was not followed through properly by the Northern Ireland Office.”
In acknowledging that opposition MPs were numerically outnumbered by those on the Government benches, the Ulster Unionist MP concluded by pleading with the Minister one last time: “I wish that the Minister, even at this late stage, would have the sense to exercise his discretion, withdraw the regulations and allow full consultation instead of having another judicial review, which I expect will go against the Northern Ireland Office for not following its own procedures on consultation.”
Continue Reading January 24th, 2007