Northern Ireland news

Billy Caldwell must not become victim of Stormont crisis, MP warns

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy at Heathrow Airport earlier this month after having a supply of cannabis oil used to treat his severe epilepsy confiscated on their return from Canada.
Elizabeth Arnold, Press Association

The British government must make sure a severely epileptic boy is "not an unwitting victim" of Northern Ireland's "constitutional crisis", the shadow secretary of state has warned.

Labour's Tony Lloyd told MPs that many urgent decisions were now "piling up" in the north as the "voice of Stormont is silent".

Secretary of State Karen Bradley said she would bring forward legislation before the summer recess to put the Budget on a statutory footing for 2018-19 as she acknowledged that there were a "number of matters that are pressing".

Ms Bradley added that "across government we pressed to make sure that the case of Billy Caldwell was dealt with, with suitable respect and dignity for the little boy".

Speaking during Northern Ireland questions in the Commons, Mr Lloyd said: "It's not just Brexit, there are many urgent decisions that are now piling up in Northern Ireland, decisions that can't be made by civil servants, the High Court has decreed, can't be made by devolved minsters because there are none.

"The case of Billy Caldwell - it's urgent stuff for the home secretary to act here in England for her constituents and mine. What will she now do to make sure that Billy is not an unwitting victim of this constitutional crisis?"

Ms Bradley replied: "The matter of the use of medicinal cannabis is of course a matter for the Home Office for the whole UK and that's why I welcome (Home Secretary Sajid Javid's) decision to have a review into the use of medicinal cannabis and I want to assure him that during the whole of last week, officials from my department were in close contact with the health officials in Northern Ireland, and that across Government we pressed to make sure that the case of Billy Caldwell was dealt with, with suitable respect and dignity for the little boy."

The announcement of the review on Tuesday came days after Mr Javid intervened to permit the use of cannabis oil to treat severely epileptic 12-year-old Billy, who had been admitted to hospital with seizures after supplies his mother had brought from Canada were confiscated at Heathrow.

Billy's mother Charlotte, of Castlederg in Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, described it as "amazing news" which she applauded.

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