Northern Ireland

Conor Burns quits Northern Ireland Office over Lords reform plan

Media captionConor Burns said he regretted he would not be able to continue his work on Northern Ireland issues

Conservative MP Conor Burns has resigned as a ministerial aide to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson.

He stood down on Tuesday in protest at the government's plans to reform the House of Lords.

The Belfast-born MP for Bournemouth West had been an aide since last autumn.

It is the second time in less than a year that an aide to Mr Paterson has resigned.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Burns told MPs he "genuinely regretted" that he would no longer be able to contribute to the government's work in Northern Ireland.

"As someone who was born in north Belfast and spent the early part of my years there, as someone who is a Catholic and a unionist and recognises and understands and indeed feels both traditions in Northern Ireland, I think that is a matter of great regret.

"But I do it with confidence that it is the right thing to do."

'Mainstream'

The coalition dropped its plans for a crucial vote on its proposals to reform the House of Lords after it faced likely defeat over the issue.

Up to 100 Conservatives were expected to defy the government and oppose the plan to limit the time available for debating plans for a mainly elected second chamber of Parliament.

In his resignation speech, Mr Burns said his support for retaining a fully-appointed Lords was a "mainstream" Tory position.

Mr Burns warned MPs they were "setting off on the conveyor belt to conflict" between the Commons and Lords.

"It is an unsightly and unseemly act for the government," he said.

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