Clause 13

Part of Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 18th January 2007.

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Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office 9:15 am, 18th January 2007

I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mrs. Anderson. I shall respond briefly to the questions put by the hon. Members for North Down and for Tewkesbury. We are now at an important stage of the Bill dealing with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. As always, I applaud the work of the hon. Lady in looking at the detail of the clauses. I shall look carefully at the wording, to which she drew the Committee’s attention, to ensure that it is appropriate.

The hon. Lady is right that clause 13 gives power to the commission to institute legal proceedings provided that there is a victim, even if that is not the commission itself. Rather than a whole host of individuals pursuing legal proceedings, the commission could instigate a test case in order to clarify a point of law instead of relying on individuals to do so. That mirrors the provisions granted to the Commission for Equality and Human Rights in Great Britain through the Equality Act 2006. She drew attention to provisions elsewhere that will bring legislation on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in line with legislation in Great Britain. As long as there is a victim, the provisions enable the commission to take on a test case.