Northern Ireland – Public Order

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): May I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s statement? Anybody who has done her job will know its difficulties. However, may I press her to be more directly engaged, despite the meetings she has had, with the different groups that are very sensitive on this issue: from the Orange Order to republican groups, dissident groups and loyalist groups? There is a feeling in Northern Ireland, fairly or unfairly, that she is not rolling up her sleeves enough and getting people around the table. Is the Parades Commission perhaps being too aloof and legalistic in the way it is proceeding? It, too, needs to get into the negotiation business and not simply make determinations.

Mrs Villiers: I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have been engaged in a whole range of discussions with the Orange Order, residents’ associations and a long list of people involved in these matters. I got the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, the PSNI and the Parades Commission around the table to talk about these issues. As far I am aware, that has never happened before. All of that took place in the months running up to 12 July —there was not a last-minute series of meetings immediately before the parades that has sometimes happened in the past. I am always keen to roll up my sleeves to get involved and do whatever I can. The reality is that this remains an extremely difficult problem to resolve, but I will be doing my very best, working with Northern Ireland politicians.