Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Has the Secretary of State consulted Lord Ashdown, whose commission included both a senior republican and a senior member of the Orange Order, and was able to come to a consensus? Will she also talk to Roger Poole, whose chairmanship of the Parades Commission was very successful? There might be lessons there.
Mrs Villiers: I am happy to talk to both of those individuals. That would be very useful.
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Instead of saying, “It’s not me, guv,” and shuffling responsibility for the terrible level of disaffection among unemployed young people in Northern Ireland, why does the Secretary of State not accept that it is her Government’s macro-economic policies that are causing this disaffection? With the marching season coming up and the loyalist disorder just past, this is a very toxic situation and she is just walking away from it and shuffling responsibility on to the Northern Ireland Executive.
Mrs Villiers: Not at all. The Government’s macro-economic policy is focused on dealing with the deficit and creating the right conditions for growth so we can start to resolve problems in relation to youth unemployment. That is why we are focusing on such matters as keeping interest rates low by dealing with the deficit and reducing corporation tax; why we are investing in broadband capacity—that is why Belfast and Londonderry are going to become part of our super-connected cities programme; why we are offering tax breaks for high-end TV, another growth area of industry in Northern Ireland; and why the Prime Minister is bringing the G8 to Northern Ireland, to showcase it to the world as a great place to do business.
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I say to the Secretary of State that condemning the deplorable violence is the easy bit, and will she do two further things? First, given her national security responsibilities will she engage directly with the loyalist groups and be willing to talk even to those who may be on the fringes of the violence—as we did to positive effect in 2006-07—who feel excluded from the political process? Secondly, will she come up with a package of resources to tackle the deplorable level of youth unemployment? Some of the young republicans—and in recent times the young loyalists—involved in this violent activity have no stake in the society. That does not justify their violence but it does explain why it is happening.
Mrs Villiers: I certainly think that part of the way forward is an inclusive dialogue that must be led by Northern Ireland’s political parties. Indeed, as part of our work I and the Minister of State engage in regular conversations and listen to the concerns of people across the community. Addressing youth unemployment is one of the UK Government’s highest priorities. Employment figures across the UK have been improving over recent weeks but there is still a very significant problem, particularly in Northern Ireland. The issue continues to be one of our highest priorities and we will continue to work with the Northern Ireland Executive on ways to grapple with it. One reason David Cameron chose to bring the G8 to Northern Ireland was to demonstrate his commitment and attract inward investment.
Peter Hain says he is “astonished” that Justice Minister David Ford has spurned a chance to have the ancient offence of scandalising the court repealed.
A review is under way in England and Wales.
It follows a case earlier this year in which it was used against the former Northern Ireland secretary.
NI’s Attorney General John Larkin decided to charge Mr Hain over remarks he made about a High Court judge in his autobiography.
Mr Larkin’s move prompted 120 MPs to sign a motion backing the veteran Labour politician.
The Law Commission has been consulting in England and Wales to see if the ancient offence should be struck from the books.
Read full article on BBC website here
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I congratulate the Secretary of State on assuming her post. May I probe her on the link between security and her economic policies? It was no coincidence that Labour achieved the 2007 settlement with record jobs and record levels of growth. Now we have the very reverse, with young loyalists and republicans involved in all sorts of civil disturbances. There is a link.
Mrs Villiers: One reason we need to boost the Northern Ireland economy is that we must do all we can to choke off potential support for terrorism. It is also important that the UK Government, the community across Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive work on generating a genuinely shared future and on bringing down sectarian barriers. That, too, is an important part of our strategy to choke off support for terrorism.