Parliamentary Written Question (Correction)
Northern Ireland

Photo of Hugo Swire

Hugo Swire (The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office; East Devon, Conservative)

I regret that the answer given to Vernon Coaker on 19 March, Hansard, column 444W, contained an error. The answer stated that matters relating to the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s work in Northern Ireland fall under the responsibility of the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland.

This was inaccurate: although the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is a reserved body under schedule 3 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, it operates as a UK-wide body covering a mix of devolved and reserved matters.

SOCA is accountable to the Home Secretary. But in Northern Ireland (as in Scotland), responsibility for policing and criminal justice are devolved matters. SOCA’s strategic priorities (set by the Home Secretary after consultation with devolved Ministers) sets out the need for SOCA to work collaboratively with devolved Governments and law enforcement agencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) published its first organised crime strategy in February 2012. The strategy, which complements the OCTF annual report and threat assessment, addresses the specific local priorities agreed by the OCTF partners to tackle organised crime in Northern Ireland. SOCA will ensure its activities are consistent with partner agency actions to confront organised crime in Northern Ireland through continued membership of the OCTF and its various sub-groups. SOCA is accountable to the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland under the terms of a memorandum of understanding which has been in place since 2010.

The correct answer is as follows:

Mr Swire: Some matters relating to the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s work in Northern Ireland fall under the responsibility of the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland. SOCA is a reserved body under schedule 3 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, although it operates as a UK-wide body covering a mix of devolved and reserved matters SOCA is accountable to the Home Secretary.

My officials are working closely with their counterparts in the Home Office on the current proposals in relation to the National Crime Agency.

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