New clause 23 — Salary protection for office holders in Northern Ireland

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 4th November 2009.

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'(1) A person's salary determined under any of the following provisions may be increased, but not reduced, by further determinations.

(2) The provisions are-

(a) section 106(1) of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 (c. 25 (N.I.));

(b) section 12(1) of the Magistrates' Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 (c. 21 (N.I.)) as it applies in relation to persons appointed under section 9(1) of that Act.

(3) Subsection (5) applies if, in accordance with the terms of a person's appointment, the person is to be paid a salary (as opposed to fees) under any of the following provisions.

(4) The provisions are-

(a) section 2(1) of the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 (c. 15 (N.I.)) as it applies in relation to the remuneration of coroners (but not deputy coroners);

(b) section 70 of the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978 (c. 23);

(c) paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 to the Child Support Act 1991 (c. 48) as it applies in relation to persons appointed under section 23(1) of that Act;

(d) paragraph 7 of Schedule 2 to the Social Security Administration (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 (c. 8) as it applies in relation to persons appointed under section 50(1) of that Act.

(5) Under the provision in question the person's salary-

(a) must be determined and paid accordingly;

(b) may be increased, but not reduced, by further determinations.'.- (Mr. Wills.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

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Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

In speaking to the new clause, I hope I will address the final part of the remarks of Mr. Heath. The new clause provides a guarantee that the salaries of certain judicial office holders in Northern Ireland may not be reduced. As I said, the statutory salary protection is a crucial part of judicial independence. We have just passed clause 36, which provides it for tribunal office holders. With the inclusion of the provisions concerning England and Wales giving statutory protection for tribunal judges, we saw an opportunity to bring salary protection for the judiciary in Northern Ireland into line with that in England and Wales. That is what the new clause will do.

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Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), Without portfolio, Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Without Portfolio)

I welcome the Minister's comments on new clause 23. I have a couple of brief questions. I should be grateful if he could outline the extent to which there was consultation with the Northern Ireland Court Service and others in the Northern Ireland Office on the matter, given the current debate on the devolution of justice powers in respect of Northern Ireland.

Further to the questions posed earlier by Mr. Heath, can the Minister outline what the measure will mean in relation to those judicial and tribunal officers in Northern Ireland who are not covered? There is an extensive list in new clause 23 but what about the officers not covered? Are any posts in Northern Ireland specifically related to the Province not covered by salary protection provisions?

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Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome for the new clause and for his questions. We consulted everyone appropriate in Northern Ireland, including the Court Service, so I can reassure him on that.

On the question who is covered and who is not, the provision covers the salaried judiciary in the courts as well as social security and child support commissioners, but as I think the hon. Gentleman was suggesting, there are a number of other tribunal judiciary in Northern Ireland who are not included. That is because this is a matter for the devolved Administration. As I said, we have made the relevant Departments aware of our plans to introduce these changes. It is a matter for them whether they choose to follow suit.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 23 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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