Part of Northern Ireland Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Lord Browne of Belmont Lord Browne of Belmont DUP 5:30 pm, 11th March 2009

This is a strange and unnecessary amendment. I would expect that, if devolution of policing and justice takes place, this will only happen where there is agreement on who the Minister will be. The operation of the triple lock is such that we would not devolve without the matter being agreed. Indeed, it may even be possible to elect the justice Minister in advance of devolution, to be in post upon devolution. In the event, six months would be a very long time for such an important position to remain vacant. It would be constitutionally odd to have the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in charge of a Northern Ireland department. Although the Secretary of State is given certain powers under the Northern Ireland Act, I believe that this would not be a very good precedent. In such circumstances, it would be preferable for Westminster to resume control.