Clause 1

Part of Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Affairs, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Welsh Affairs 5:45 pm, 16th January 2007

I am grateful for this opportunity. However, it will not be constructive if we all simply repeat the arguments that we have already made. I would like to discuss why I oppose the clause as it stands.

The Minister has not taken on board our strategic concerns about not permitting a judge to be at the heart of the issue of a certificate. His adherence to an administrative approach is profoundly wrong for the reasons that we have discussed. Given the debate that we have just had, it is quite obvious that many of us have the gravest reservations about what the definitions actually mean. I was only half joking when I said that it will be difficult to find individuals who do not fall foul of all the conditions—a large proportion of the Northern Ireland population is related to itself. In addition, if individuals try to cheat the system, they are unlikely to volunteer information regarding their relationship with other people. The Minister must give some thought to that.

I am encouraged by Minister’s indication of his willingness to consider the import of amendments Nos. 3 to 6, and I hope that he will take on board the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute has made about the wording, which is once again vague and leaves great latitude for interpretation. That latitude is bound to be taken advantage of by those people who have evil intentions. It would make it easier for everybody if, on reflection, he chose to make a few minor modifications, perhaps in line with what the hon. Member for North Down has suggested.