Northern Ireland news

Handling of Northern Ireland legislation 'verging on abuse of process'

Former UUP leader Lord Empey warned the UK government's handling of legislation for Northern Ireland was verging on "abuse of parliamentary process"

THE UK government's handling of legislation for Northern Ireland is verging on "abuse of parliamentary process", former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey has warned.

The veteran politician levelled the charge as the administration took steps to ensure that two bills affecting the north, including one that makes huge cuts to renewable energy subsidies, go through the House of Lords in one day.

On Wednesday night, MPs - including the DUP - unanimously approved massive cuts to RHI tariffs which Stormont had told businesses would be unalterable for 20 years.

Changes to the controversial scheme would see annual returns for the most common boilers reduced from £13,000 to £2,000 from April 1.

Raising concerns over legislation being "shoved through" without proper scrutiny, Lord Empey urged an end the practice.

He argued there had been "a pattern developing" in recent years where almost every piece of Northern Ireland legislation was being subject to a process which meant it being fast-tracked.

He also referred to objections raised by MPs "that no scrutiny of any significance was being provided".

"We know from time to time it is necessary to use these procedures and I accept that," he said.

"But what we have here is a pattern where every piece of Northern Ireland legislation is shoved through in one day on this basis without scrutiny."

He called on the leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, "to consult with her colleagues in government to try and bring this process to an end so that legislation is dealt with through a proper process".

Stressing the need for Northern Ireland legislation to be subject to normal parliamentary processes, he said: "Because I feel we are almost at the point that these matters are an abuse of the parliamentary process."

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