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Clause 42 — Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice

Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 10th May 2007.

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Lords amendment: No. 4.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

I beg to move, That this House
agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

With this we may discuss Lords amendment No. 5.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

The Secretary of State is required to make an order abolishing the deputy Justice Minister post three years after the devolution of policing and justice functions, unless the Assembly has resolved that it be abolished earlier or, alternatively, that it be retained beyond that time. As originally drafted, the Bill made such an order subject to the negative resolution procedure. However, the Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform considered the order-making power and observed that the circumstances specified in the Bill in which the Secretary of State is required to act are matters of ascertainable fact, not of opinion, and the timing, too, is preordained. In other words, the time scale is set, the period of three years is in statute, and it will be a matter of fact that either the three years have been completed or the Assembly has made a specific request.

In the consequent absence of any element of discretion for the Secretary of State, the Committee argued that the negative procedure was unnecessary. We are content to accept that recommendation, and the amendments give effect to it.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

Having discussed this matter with the Minister, I am satisfied that this is the correct way to proceed.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

I welcome the fact that the Minister is moving to tidy up an absurdity that had been built into the legislation, for all the procedural and logical reasons that he has pointed out. There was a political anomaly underlying the whole Justice Minister concept—the concept of the creation of a temporary Justice Minister post. I am aware of the circumstances in which the Government produced this idea. It was one of a number of vacuous models that were produced to deal with the issue of justice and policing in relation to departmental structures. We do not need to get hot and bothered about this matter beyond the procedural and logical points that the Minister has raised, because I do not think that this option will have to be pursued, and certainly not for the reasons that the Government thought they should introduce it in the first place.

Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

We, too, support the Government on this amendment. As the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has pointed out, these matters are matters of discernable fact and not of opinion, and the timing is laid down. As the Secretary of State has no discretion, there is no point in having a parliamentary procedure, so we support the amendment.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments No. 5 to 8 agreed to.