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Lords debates Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill

24 November 2022 (updated on 24 November 2022)

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Members of the Lords discussed the main principles and purpose of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill during second reading, on Wednesday 23 November.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill seeks to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the creation of a new independent commission for reconciliation and information recovery (ICRIR). The commission will also look into limiting criminal investigations and legal proceedings, extending the prisoner release scheme and ensuring experiences and events are recorded, studied and memorialised.

Debate on the draft law

Members discussed the main issues in the bill and drew attention to specific areas where they thought amendments (changes) were needed during second reading.

House of Lords raises concerns

Members highlighted issues around the bill, including in a motion to regret put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon. Members concerns included:

  • support of victims' and survivors' groups, Northern Ireland elected representatives and the wider community
  • involvement of the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • the consequences of legislating to end future prosecutions for murder and likelihood of convictions
  • whether the bill applies to crimes committed in England or Wales.

Government changes

In response to concerns, the minister outlined several changes the government will now make to the bill during its passage through the Lords. These include on criminal investigations, the independence of the commission, creating new offences for people who willingly mislead the commission and giving it the power to revoke immunity or shortened sentences.

Members speaking

Lord Caine (Conservative), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office, opened the debate and responded on behalf of the government.

Members speaking in the debate included:

  • Lord Bew (Crossbench), professor of Irish politics and chair of the Historical Advisory Panel for the Centenary of Northern Ireland Commemoration
  • Lord Cormack (Conservative), former chair of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee
  • Lord Eames (Crossbench), former co-chair of the Consultative Group on the Past in Northern Ireland and former Archbishop of Armagh
  • Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Labour), director of Co-operation Ireland and advisory board chair of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and former leader of the SDLP
  • Baroness Suttie (Liberal Democrats), former Lords Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Northern Ireland.

Two former Lord Mayors of Belfast - Lord Brown of Belmont (DUP) and Lord Dodds of Duncairn (DUP) - also took part in the debate.

Get involved

Watch and read the debate

Explore further information

Read background on the bill in the House of Lords Library  Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill briefing.

Next steps

Committee stage, the first chance for line by line examination of the bill, is scheduled to begin on Monday 12 December.

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Image: Dwickerham / Pixabay