Part of Northern Ireland Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Deputy Speaker in the Lords, Deputy spokesperson for Northern Ireland, Home Affairs spokesperson for police matters, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 4:15 pm, 11th March 2009

I will briefly speak to two of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass. On Amendment 1C, we feel that there is nothing in legislation to provide that four parties must always be in the Executive. The d'Hondt formula just needs to be applied until all ministerial posts are filled. If one or two parties have a sufficiently large number of Members, that could result in only two or three parties being in the Executive. Indeed, there could come a time when there are fewer than four parties in the Assembly.

Amendment 2A would prevent the First Minister and Deputy First Minister from holding the post of Justice Minister. Although we agree that this probably would not be ideal the first time that policing and justice powers are devolved, there may come a time when it is entirely appropriate. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, that my noble friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, while Deputy First Minister for Scotland, was also the Justice Minister. Although this model is drafted as being temporary and in effect only until 2012, the Assembly could like this model and agree to continue with it after May 2012. In the future, there may be a case for the post being held by the First or Deputy First Minister, so, with regret, we are not able to support the noble Lord in his amendments.