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MP vents anger over Troubles legacy ‘farce’

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After the debate finished and the House adjourned, Mr Francois could be heard saying "you call this a Government" and saying loudly that the situation was an "utter farce". Credit: Tim Ireland

After the debate finished and the House adjourned, Mr Francois could be heard saying "you call this a Government" and saying loudly that the situation was an "utter farce". Credit: Tim Ireland

After the debate finished and the House adjourned, Mr Francois could be heard saying "you call this a Government" and saying loudly that the situation was an "utter farce". Credit: Tim Ireland

A Tory MP confronted a Northern Ireland minister in the Commons after proceedings had finished – hitting out at the "utter farce" of delays to legislation addressing the Troubles legacy.

After yesterday’s sitting had concluded, former defence minister Mark Francois approached Conor Burns to vent his frustration.

Minutes earlier, during an adjournment debate questioning the Government's plans for the legislation, a number of backbench Conservative MPs pushed for the minister to say when the proposed Bill would come forward.

After the debate finished and the House adjourned, Mr Francois could be heard saying "you call this a Government" and saying loudly that the situation was an "utter farce".

He then marched up to the minister, who was still standing at his place by the despatch box, and said "that was a farce".

Standing close to the minister, Mr Francois made another statement that was not audible from the press gallery and said "do something about it" as he walked off.

The incident took place after TV cameras had cut away from proceedings for the day.

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Speaking in the debate, and explaining why the Bill had not yet come forward, Mr Burns said: "The Government published the command paper... in July. I joined the Government in September. There was a large amount of feedback on the back of that command paper.

"There has been a massive amount of engagement and the delay is to make sure that we get this right."

Conservative former minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the NI Secretary told him the Bill was "now sitting solely for sign off" and "it was ready to go before Christmas".

Mr Burns said the "central point" that "it is important before the Bill is brought forward it achieves the Government has for the Bill".

Conservative MP Julian Lewis (New Forest East) asked: "Who is blocking the Bill? The Bill is ready. Who is blocking it?"

The minister said: "No one is blocking the Bill. There is ongoing engagement across Government to make sure that the Bill, when it is brought forward... it is absolutely unambiguously, unequivocally, the commitment of the Government that this Bill will be brought forward and put before this House of Commons."

Mr Francois shouted out: "You've already broken multiple deadlines. We don't believe you."

Deputy Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton intervened to say: "That is not acceptable."

The minister closed by saying: "My right honourable friend is obviously and rightly angry.

"And I hope we will mollify him when we bring forward the Bill."

It was then that the House adjourned and Mr Francois vented his frustration.

The minister did not give a specific time commitment on when the Bill would come forward during the debate.


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