Committee

Part of Northern Ireland Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Lord Mayhew of Twysden Lord Mayhew of Twysden Conservative 3:45 pm, 11th March 2009

I do not wish, through remaining silent while present, to be thought to have resiled from the position I took at Second Reading. I recall that, when we had a debate, back in 2002, on the recommendations of the criminal justice review committee, I supported the proposition that is reflected in the Bill, that the Attorney-General should be appointed in that way and that the DDP should be subject to no ministerial supervision. I do think, however, that it is very important to realise that it is not just a question of instances in which a DPP can be brought under political pressure; perception is almost as important in Northern Ireland as fact, and it was therefore entirely understandable and helpful that my noble friend's amendments should be put forward as alternatives. After all, they reflect a structure that has been tried over very many years in England and Wales and has been found to serve very well, in my estimation. It does, however, as we have just been reminded, turn upon the question of what the political atmosphere is like in Northern Ireland today, because the criminal justice review committee, back in 2002, specifically referred to the highly charged political atmosphere in Northern Ireland as a justification and an explanation for the proposal that it made.

We all know—I add my condolences to those expressed to the family of PC Carroll—that things have taken a very regrettable turn for the worse but we hope that they will go no further in that direction. Therefore, it is very helpful that this amendment will not be put to the vote. As I said on Second Reading, I would be content with either solution. Perhaps the sensible thing is to wait to see how we get on. In those circumstances, I do not think that I have anything more constructive or useful to add to this short debate.