The deputy Northern Ireland minister yesterday admitted he had not read the Good Friday Agreement for 16 years after being challenged by disappointed MPs from the Province.
Andrew Robathan was accused of destroying a “cordial” atmosphere in the Commons by dismissing calls for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights during a final debate on the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon rose to criticise the minister for his brusque replies, urging him to read more closely the Good Friday Agreement peace accord, also known as the Belfast Agreement.
Responding to the criticism in an intervention, Mr Robathan said: “I understood from the Belfast Agreement, which I have to confess I read some 16 years ago when it came out, that setting up a Human Rights Commission dealt with the particular issue. If I am wrong, I apologise.”
North Down MP Lady Hermon said: “If you had read the Belfast Agreement, you would understand in fact there is an entire page and chapter dedicated to human rights .
“In fact it creates the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and amongst other things it creates a statutory obligation to bring forward and to advise the British Government about a bill of rights for Northern Ireland, containing rights particular to Northern Ireland.”
Lady Hermon added: “That is an obligation which is in the Good Friday Agreement.”
Mr Robathan took his job at the NIO in October last year.