Belfast Telegraph

Westminster told to use powers to head off health service crisis in Northern Ireland

By Trevor Mason

Ministers have been warned of a potential "humanitarian crisis" in Northern Ireland's health service.

Former UUP leader Lord Empey said there were 280,000 people waiting for a consultant-led first appointment.

Lord Empey called on the Government to bring powers back temporarily to Westminster on "humanitarian grounds" to "offset what could be a potential humanitarian crisis in the winter".

Decisions had to be taken, Lord Empey told peers at question time in the Lords.

The Government had an "over-arching responsibility" to the people of Northern Ireland and could not "keep hiding behind the fact that there is no movement between the parties". His question came after recent protest rallies in Northern Ireland over the failure of Assembly members at Stormont to patch up their differences and get back to work.

For the Government, Viscount Younger of Leckie said no option was "off the table" and the Government "is prepared to step in to protect the interests of Northern Ireland to ensure the country is stable economically".

He said the Government's most important priority remained an Executive at Stormont.

For Labour, former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Murphy of Torfaen said it was time for fresh thinking.

He urged the Prime Minister to get involved and called for intensive all-party talks and possibly the use of an independent chairman.

Belfast Telegraph

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