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Lords continues line by line check of Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill

1 February 2023

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Members of the Lords continued their detailed check of the  Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill in committee stage on Tuesday 31 January.

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.

Line by line examination

Committee stage is the first chance to check the bill in detail and make changes.

Proposed changes  

Members speaking on day two of committee stage put forward amendments (PDF) (changes) to the bill to be discussed. 

The amendments covered a range of subjects, including: 

  • independence of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission
  • conditions for granting immunity for certain offences
  • prosecution for terrorism related offences.

Catch up

Explore further information

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

Next steps

A further day of committee stage is yet to be scheduled

What's happened so far?

Committee stage day one: Tuesday 24 January

Proposed changes 

Members speaking on day one of committee stage put forward amendments (PDF) (changes) to the bill to be discussed. 

The amendments covered a range of subjects, including: 

  • setting criteria for new investigations started by the ICRIR
  • the inclusion of victim impact statements in final reports
  • allowing the continuation of investigations such as Operation Denton.

Members also considered a motion put forward by Baroness O'Loan to pause the progress of the bill before third reading until the Northern Ireland Assembly has agreed a legislative consent motion.

Following a debate on the floor of the House, the motion was withdrawn.

Catch up

Second reading: Wednesday 23 November

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.

Catch up

Image: Dwickerham / Pixabay