My Department has been examining the current system of planning and appeals in Northern Ireland in the context of human rights legislation and believes that current arrangements will meet the requirements of that legislation. This, of course, is an evolving area, and in consultation with relevant Departments throughout the United Kingdom, I will continue to keep procedures and policy under review.
Is the Minister aware that a case has already been taken against the Scottish Executive under the human rights legislation, and that that case was lost by the Scottish Executive? The situation in Northern Ireland is that the Planning Service can overrule the decisions of the Planning Appeals Commission. Does he believe that in that situation, human rights legislation will rule against this Administration as it did against the Scottish Administration?
I am aware of the current interest in human rights and the possible implications for the planning process. We will be keeping related policies under review. I must emphasise, again, that my Department, in consultation with its legal advisors and with relevant Departments in Great Britain, has examined its key processes and procedures. My Department is generally satisfied that current procedures will meet the European Convention on Human Rights requirements.