Emergency Bill could encroach on devolution settlement, warns Tory MP

Former Tory minister Mike Penning has said he will not support legislation to give civil servants in Northern Ireland the power to make decisions.

The Tory MP raised concern that the emergency legislation, being pushed through Parliament in the absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland, could impose changes which encroach on the devolution settlement.

Mr Penning, a former Northern Ireland minister, pointed to amendments by Labour MP Stella Creasy which could force the Government to act to reform Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws and end the ban on same-sex marriage.

He said: “The Bill worries me, it worries me how amendable it is, it could impose things on Northern Ireland which are devolved matters.

“I, in a perfect world, would never like to see abortion, but we don’t live in a perfect world, we have abortion legislation here.

“I personally think it should happen in Northern Ireland, it should, but that is for the politicians that were duly elected in Northern Ireland.

“I think it will cause chaos and real division in Northern Ireland should the amendment be passed today, I will vote against the amendment if it’s brought forth.”

Mr Penning, who served with the Army in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, went on to hit out at ministers for not including provisions to protect veterans from prosecution in the Bill.

The former minister, in referencing the work of the Historical Investigations Unit which was set up in 2014 to review killings where there had been no prosecutions, said: “I find it inconceivable that a British Conservative Government is dealing with British ex-servicemen years and years and years after we served, after the investigation had taken place, are being treated like we were terrorists – and that is the way we feel.”

He added that protections “should be in this Bill”.