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Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 2005

– in the House of Lords at 6:43 pm on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

My Lords, the main purpose of the draft Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 is to update and consolidate Northern Ireland law on local government audit, and to introduce provisions broadly in line with those already in force in England and Wales, through the enactment of Part 2 of the Audit Commission Act of 1998.

This order seeks to extend the powers of local government auditors, and to bring Northern Ireland law into line with current best practice. In particular, the order will give local government auditors the right of access for audit purposes to information and documentation relating to district councils that are held by third parties, and authority, when auditing the accounts of local government bodies, to make a report in the public interest on any matter coming to their attention in the course of an audit. It will also enable the chief local government auditor to commission value-for-money studies within local government.

The order will also introduce a number of miscellaneous provisions to enable district councils to engage in emergency planning, retain receipts from fixed penalties levied for littering and dog fouling, and regulate businesses carrying out cosmetic and semi-permanent skin colouring.

When I met officials the other day, I asked whether the regulation of such businesses replicated the English legislation. They showed that they had done their homework—they knew full well that when I worked on the legislation in this place, when I was at the ODPM, I came armed with my catalogue of sophisticated body adornments. That night I chickened out of listing the parts of the body that can be used, but I did say that there is no body part that cannot have a sophisticated body adornment attached to it. This can cause problems, and therefore there is a need to regulate businesses carrying out this kind of operation.

On behalf of the public, I commend the order to the House and I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 2 March be approved.—(Lord Rooker.)

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Spokespersons In the Lords, Northern Ireland

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that clear and enjoyable explanation of this order, and I support it. I will not ask to see the pictures.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Spokesperson in the Lords, Northern Ireland Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Police), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, it would have been helpful had the Minister been able to give us further information about that.

We support this order, but I have a question on Article 29. I would be grateful if the Minister could help, or write to me. This article gives district councils powers to make emergency planning arrangements with other bodies or persons to prevent or to mitigate the effects of any emergencies that might occur in their areas, and to implement those arrangements should any emergencies occur. I would like clarification on "in an emergency situation". Surely that depends on what the emergency is. Is the Minister able to clarify roles, especially the role of the police in emergencies, and especially in Northern Ireland?

I simply ask this because I remember, as a county councillor many years ago, being in on a clash of the Titans over who had primary responsibility in an emergency. It was during the time of major flooding in my county, and there was concern over who had primacy for direction of that emergency. We need to be clear who is in charge. I believe district councils in Northern Ireland are smaller and perform slightly different roles than in England and Wales.

Otherwise, these Benches support this order.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

My Lords, I will seek to answer the points raised by the noble Baroness. Several aspects of the Q and A here relate to Article 29 with regard to emergency planning.

Local authorities have already been carrying out emergency planning. It is a discretionary power. The lead responsibility falls to the Department of Agriculture—sorry, I am going to get that wrong. It is for the councils to co-ordinate, and they will be co-ordinated by the government department, but I will have to come back to the noble Baroness, as I have too much information here.

Obviously there is an issue over grants for emergency planning, which are made by the Department of the Environment to district councils for emergency planning purposes. There are some issues, but this work has already been going on. I cannot see any substantial difference within the new arrangements. Emergency planning is a slightly different issue from dealing with emergencies, but I had best come back to the noble Baroness with a precise answer to the question she has asked.

On Question, Motion agreed to.