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Clause 2 - Membership of the Commission

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 25th March 2004.

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Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party 10:45 am, 25th March 2004

Again, I return to the fact that the Minister is talking about the confidence that he implies he would have in the non-commission members, who could easily form a majority of a committee or sub-committee. He implies that they are to be trusted enough not to have what they are doing overseen by the rest of the commission.

Who are these people? We do not know. They could be anybody. The duty that the commission should be reflective of the community that the clause provides for does not apply to the committee or the sub-committee—that is, unless the Minister wants to introduce an amendment. Why is there no provision about the character of the appointments? That is not a matter that the criminal justice review appears to have contemplated, although I stand to be corrected—and there are some here who are in a position to do so. However, the commission can delegate any of its functions to committees. That needs to be thought about carefully. We need to receive some information about that.

With respect, the Minister has provided no information at all. The delegation includes the core activity of the commission, namely making appointments. Surely we should know more about this. We are touching on the core matter—one that I consider of huge importance. He may be able to give more detailed comments later, and in the absence of some real explanation of this important issue, which some hon. Members might consider worth a vote, my inclination would be not to press it to a Division now. I want to give him a chance to return to it.

I should be anxious to pursue the matter on Report, if we get to Report, because it appears that a little paragraph tucked into the provisions will open up a huge hole in the operation of the commission. In view of the political and religious considerations, there is a need for something to be spelled out in detail. The Bill does not include that, and unless I have overlooked it, neither does any of the material that we have before us.