Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 07 February 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Jeffrey Donaldson (Chairperson)
Mr Raymond McCartney (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mrs Carmel Hanna
Mr Danny Kennedy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Ian McCrea
Mr Alan McFarland
Ms Carál Ní Chuilín
Mr John O’Dowd
Mr George Robinson

Witnesses:

Mr Peter May ) Northern Ireland Office
Ms Clare Salters )

The Chairperson (Mr Donaldson):

Members have copies of a letter from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). It is dated 6 February 2008 and provides clarification on several matters that were raised in a letter from the Committee Clerk on 18 January 2008. Those matters relate to: the Attorney General; the role of the Police Ombudsman; what will happen to the North/South agreements in the event of the devolution of policing and justice, and the Northern Ireland Police Fund.

I will not go into detail on the letter at this stage, because members have had time to read it, and we will return to each issue in our discussions later. Members should also have copies of a covering letter from the Northern Ireland Office and the indicative legislative proposals for the devolution of policing and justice matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.

As no one has any queries on the correspondence, we move on to hear evidence from the NIO officials, and I welcome Peter May and Clare Salters. I declare an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB) and the Privy Council. As no other member has any interests to declare, I invite Peter and Clare to make a short opening statement, after which members will have the opportunity to explore particular issues. I thank Peter, Clare and their colleagues for providing illustrative examples of the draft proposals for legislation, which the Committee received yesterday. I seek their assurance that today’s engagement should not be regarded as any form of consultation on the draft proposals for legislation, and it is important that the record reflects that.

Today is really only an explanatory session, not a formal consultation by the Committee for itself or on the Assembly’s behalf.

Ms Clare Salters (Northern Ireland Office):

That is absolutely right.

The Chairperson:

Thank you, Ms Salters. I invite you to make a short opening statement.

Ms Salters:

Thank you, Chairperson. You mentioned the illustrative draft legislation that we shared with the Committee yesterday. I thought that it might be helpful if I began by saying a little bit about the purpose of sharing the texts with you at this stage and about their status, which ties in with the assurance for which you have just asked.

As I am sure that you are aware from the letter that accompanied the texts, the legislation very much represents work in progress at this stage. It is incomplete in several ways, as well as the obvious fact that it will need to be adjusted in the light of the Assembly’s eventual decisions about what matters it wants to have transferred and to what structure. The text has not yet been cleared by parliamentary counsel and there are gaps where the draftsmen, frankly, ran out of time so that it could be shared with the Committee while it compiles its report. The gaps are primarily in the field of criminal justice and explosives. Work is in hand to take those matters forward.

At present, therefore, the legislation is by no means final. However, we believed that it would be helpful to allow the Committee and, in due course, the wider Assembly to see the broad shape of the transfer legislation. You will see that it does not create new law; it merely separates out the matters that will be devolved from those that will not. It also provides an early example of the progress that is being made by the Northern Ireland Office in order to prepare for May.

With regard to the content of the papers, I hope that the covering commentary and the table at annex F are helpful in enabling the Committee to find its way around the orders. I appreciate that even by legislative standards they are particularly dry and impenetrable. There are four orders included in yesterday’s bundle; the section 4 order that transfers legislative competence; two orders under section 86 that transfer Executive functions and make consequential amendments to make the transfer work; and a separate order under section 86A that transfers certain Executive functions that relate to extradition and international mutual legal assistance, which remain excepted matters. There will eventually be two further section 86 orders; one that deals with subordinate legislation and another that deals with the transfer of property and assets. Work is in hand on both of those. They will be ready by May if required.

For completeness, I must also mention that work is also in hand to commence several of the provisions that are contained in the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 and the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006, both of which made amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998. We hope to make the necessary commencement orders in March 2007. In commencing those provisions, which include updating the triple lock and the various models from which the Assembly may choose how to structure a Department with responsibility for policing and justice matters, NIO is simply ensuring that the necessary provisions are in place for devolution when the Assembly requests it. There is nothing in the legislation about devolution.

That is all that I have to say by way of an introduction. Obviously, we are happy to take whatever questions the Committee wants to ask.

The Chairperson:

Thank you very much. The covering letter that arrived with the indicative proposals stated that it was the NIO’s intention to publish updated and more complete proposals for draft legislation alongside the Committee’s report. I am somewhat concerned that clarity on that is needed. It is important to avoid creating the impression that the Northern Ireland Office is anticipating the Committee’s report or, indeed, responding to it in advance of the report’s publication. For example, if the Committee were to recommend that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) should be located in any new Department for policing and justice, rather than its funding coming from OFMDFM, what implications would that have for the legislation that NIO is drafting? In other words, the Committee is clear about the present proposals and, obviously, the NIO is drafting the legislation to reflect the current proposals. However, it is possible that the Committee will make a recommendation to the Assembly that would be at variance with some aspect of NIO’s proposals. Yet, if NIO publishes the draft legislation alongside the Committee’s report, the question will arise as to what implications there will be for the legislation if the Committee’s report varies from NIO’s proposals?

Ms Salters:

At this stage, the draft legislation is illustrative — the final legislation will be what the Committee comes up with and what the Assembly approves. The draft legislation simply serves to provide an idea of the context and shape, and to show the Committee and — we hope in due course — the Assembly how the transfer of powers would be effected.

We are not trying to respond to, or pre-empt, the Committee’s report. The publication of the draft legislation is to set the context. We had intended to make an updated and more comprehensive version of the document available to all Members at the same time that the Committee’s report was made available to them so that they could see the same context that the Committee is seeing at present.

Updating the document is simply to fill in the gaps without narrowing any of the policy options that we know the Assembly still has to take a view on. The document cannot be finalised until the Assembly has made a decision, so anything that we publish is without prejudice to the Committee’s report and the eventual decisions made by the Assembly. We sought to make the introductory sections of the reports clear on that issue so that people would understand it was about context. We are happy to take suggestions on how to make that clearer, and we will work closely with the Committee Clerk on the timing of publication to ensure that it does not pre-empt the Committee’s report and that it is subject to the same embargoes.

The Chairperson:

I accept your point about the wording of the introduction. However, the Secretary of State could be more explicit in his foreword when he states that he is publishing the proposals for draft Orders and an accompanying commentary, which he hopes will explain how devolution will work in practice and help inform Assembly discussions about the transfer of those powers. It could be stated a bit more explicitly that there may be a variance — he does not have to put it in those terms, but he must make it clearer that the Assembly has the right to bring forward proposals that may require changes to the legislation. Although that is stated in the introduction, people often skip that after reading the foreword by the Secretary of State. Using terms like "without prejudice" would be helpful.

Mr Attwood:

How long does it take for a draft Order to get Royal Assent after it is tabled?

Ms Salters:

Although the process can be very quick, a lot depends on the dates of parliamentary recess. Normally, three or four weeks are allowed to get a draft Order through, but a lot depends on the other pressures on Parliament at the time, the degree of complexity of the draft Order and the amount of notice given.

The Chairperson:

As the draft legislation is made up of Orders in Council, rather than Statutory Instruments, a Standing Committee would have to consider them.

Ms Salters:

That is correct.

The Chairperson:

Would each draft Order be considered separately?

Ms Salters:

That is a matter for the parliamentary authorities, but as the Orders all address different facets of the same issue, it makes sense for them to be considered together.

Mr Attwood:

That is helpful — I did not know that although I should have.

Given that the Assembly may only get the opportunity to debate the report to the Secretary of State on 10 or 11 March, the Secretary of State would not receive a report from the Assembly until, say, 11 March, which is only seven weeks before the May date — if there is to be a May date. I am also mindful that there will probably be at least two weeks of recess in Westminster between then and now, too. Given your response to the Chairperson about the need for a Committee, could all this be turned around in four or five weeks?

Mr Peter May (Northern Ireland Office):

The date has always been May 2008 rather than a specific date in May 2008. Therefore, as far as we are concerned, devolution at any point in May 2008 would meet the St Andrews Agreement timescale. On the basis of what we know at the moment, we believe that it would be possible to deliver the legislative processes through Parliament in time for May 2008.

The Chairperson:

Alex, for information, I can tell you the recess dates. For once my dual mandate can assist the Committee.

Mr Attwood:

Your triple mandate.

The Chairperson:

I am thinking of legislatively.

Parliament is in recess from Monday 7 April until Friday 18 April, so there will be a full two-week recess in the second and third week of April.

Mr Attwood:

I will ask my next question, but I can anticipate the answer. If we do not reach agreement on the transfer of justice and policing powers by May, can you advise the Committee of the Secretary of State’s intentions, given the documentation that was passed previously to the Assembly on the Hain proposal?

Ms Salters:

The position is set out in statute. The provisions for transfer are set out in section 4 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The powers of the Secretary of State are limited to what the Assembly has voted to have transferred to it, and, if the Secretary of States believes that the Assembly will be unable to reach a decision, he is allowed to impose one particular departmental model. Those are the constraints on his powers.

Mr Attwood:

Has the Secretary of State indicated to you that if we have not managed to get this matter over the line by, say for the sake of argument, the first or second week of May, he may, at that stage, rely on the legislative powers that he has?

Ms Salters:

I have just outlined the powers that he has.

[Laughter.]

Mr Attwood:

The Committee received these papers late, through no fault of ours or yours, so there will be many questions. One issue that jumped out at me was that, subject to the Secretary of State’s consent, the Assembly could legislate around the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Page 10 of the submission states that this matter will remain a reserved matter, not an excepted matter.

Ms Salters:

Some aspects of RIPA are excepted. Its subject matter is generally excepted by virtue of schedule 2 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, except in so far as it relates to the provisions on the prevention and detection of serious crime, which are currently reserved. We are saying that they will continue to be reserved. At the moment, the Assembly could, if it wanted, legislate on the reserved aspects of RIPA with the Secretary of State’s consent, and that would continue to be the case.

Mr Attwood:

Is any part of RIPA excepted?

Ms Salter:

Yes.

Mr May:

Most of it is.

Mr Attwood:

So the Assembly could deal with the reserved end, which is the softer end.

Mr May:

It would involve the provisions that deal with serious crime.

Mr Attwood:

So the Assembly could deal with serious crime, but not national security. I did not know that. That is a pretty significant power to have, if the Secretary of State would agree to us using it.

Paragraph 11.15 of page 22, confirms that:

"Following devolution, it will be possible, without committing an offence, to share sensitive information — other than that relating to national security — with the Minister and Department of Justice.

Going back to your previous correspondence with the Committee, will there be written protocols on that sharing of sensitive information with the Minister for justice?

Ms Salters:

Provisions in the legislation, particularly in the draft section 86 of the Order, deal with paragraph 11.15. However, there will also be some general protocols in the Assembly, similar to those between devolved and non-devolved Departments.

Mr Attwood:

Will the Assembly’s protocols be modelled on that?

Ms Salters:

They are all tailored to the particular circumstances.

Mr Attwood:

Are those protocols being prepared at the moment?

Mr May:

Yes.

Mr Attwood:

Without prejudice to their final form, can you share the working draft of those protocols with the Committee?

Mr May:

The protocols are not yet at a stage where they can be shared with the Committee. In due course, they will be public documents.

Mr Attwood:

When will you be in a position to share the working protocols with the Committee?

Mr May:

It is hard to know, because we have not sought a ministerial view on the protocols as they are being developed. However, it will probably be March or April before they can be more widely shared.

Mr Attwood:

I want to see them at that stage.

I acknowledge that even a quick perusal of your presentation on the draft legislation provides clarification, particularly on issues such as the North/South arrangements for policing and justice, about which I had been confused. It does not try to guide the Committee but usefully sets the scene, and I appreciate your assistance.

Mr McFarland:

To follow on from Alex’s point, the Committee had a lengthy discussion with the Secretary of State in the Senate Chamber on 3 October 2007. Members pressed him on what Plan B would be should policing and justice not be devolved in May 2008. As I recall, he said that he could see no circumstances in which he would impose the devolution of policing and justice on the Assembly. Is that a fair assessment of what the Secretary of State said? He excluded the possibility of taking unilateral action and imposing a model on the Assembly should the First Minister and deputy First Minister not have requested that those powers be devolved. Am I correct in saying that the plan was that the Assembly would identify Ministers by 28 March 2008?

Mr May:

You may be referring to the remit of the Assembly contained in the St Andrew’s Agreement.

Mr McFarland:

Did that not extend beyond that agreement?

Mr May:

No, although it may be part of the terms of reference on reaching a view on the ministerial arrangements for the Department by 27 March 2008, which is the date that I recall.

Mr McFarland:

I remember that there was a specified date by which, in theory, the Assembly had to identify the new Ministers.

The Chairperson:

The identification of the individual Ministers fell by the wayside. However, Peter is correct that part of the remit, or the preparatory work that the Assembly must undertake, is to agree the ministerial/departmental model. When the model of selecting Ministers changed to a cross-community vote in the Assembly, the requirement for the individual Ministers to be identified fell.

In paragraph 478 of the Minutes of Evidence from 3 October 2007, the Secretary of State said:

"There was a suggestion at one stage, before the legislation was put in place, that the Secretary of State might impose a Minister to take control of policing and criminal justice. That was never included in the legislation. Alan has fought nobly on and discussed that issue a number of times, and I understand why. However, I think that there has been a misunderstanding, because there is nothing in the legislation that gives me the power — even if I was daft enough to want to — to impose a Minister. I reassure the Committee that nothing in the legislation enables me to do that. Even if there was, I would not want to do it anyway."

Mr May:

Perhaps it is worth making the distinction between the ministerial model and the Minister. Mr McFarland’s question was about the model rather than the Minister.

Mr McFarland:

I want to be clear: the original plan was that if the Assembly could not agree by May, the Secretary of State would devolve the policing and justice powers anyway.

The argument has always been about whether the Secretary of State had that right. Originally — way back in discussions — there was that right, in that if we could not agree by May, he could impose it. That then changed. We pinned the NIO specifically on that question — and it did not relate specifically to Ministers — as to whether the Secretary of State could impose policing and justice on the Assembly if the Assembly had not asked for it? My understanding of the Secretary of State’s answer was that he would not be daft enough to impose policing and justice on the Assembly if it did not ask for it. As I understand your answer to Alex, the legislation allowed the Secretary of State to do so. Is that not correct?

Ms Salters:

No, it explicitly does not allow him to do so.

Mr May:

The legislation allows the Secretary of State to decide on a ministerial model if, in his judgement, that is the only matter that is holding the Assembly back from being able to take devolution —

The Chairperson:

— and to put that into the legislation. I understand that it does not go beyond that.

Mr McFarland:

OK. Are we saying that if the First Minister and deputy First Minister went through the triple lock and asked for devolution, and the Assembly agreed but the parties could not agree on the model, that the Secretary of State has the ability to decide on the model?

Mr May:

The Secretary of State has the ability to implement one particular model.

Mr McFarland:

It would have to have passed all the first hurdles.

Mr Attwood:

All the big hurdles are over here.

Mr McFarland:

I am now clear.

The Chairperson:

In relation to the budget, the NIO’s letter of 15 October 2007 identified baseline figures, and your more recent letter of 6 February 2008 stated that you expect budgets for the comprehensive spending review (CSR) period for 2007 to be agreed shortly. Is there a precise date as to when the details will be published? The Assembly will have a particular interest in this matter, and a number of parties have expressed the view that there would be a concern to ensure that the budget is right before devolution take place. Do you have anything to add as to the precise date of when you would expect the budget for CSR 2007 to be published?

Mr May:

I understand that the overall quantum available for the Northern Ireland Office is already publicly available; it is just a matter of how it is split between the different elements of public expenditure. I do not have a specific date, but I can write to the Committee Clerk with that information when the date is known — obviously, that would have to be done before the end of March for the forthcoming financial year.

The Chairperson:

It would be useful if you could indicate, in writing, the date.

Mr Attwood:

I want some points of detail clarified. Let us say for the sake of argument that the end of May was the date for transfer. Is there anything to stop the appointment of an Attorney General between now and then, so that on the day of devolution we would have our own Attorney General in place able to fulfil his or her statutory functions?

Mr May:

The First Minister and the deputy First Minister must make that appointment.

Mr Attwood:

Yes, but is there any legal impediment that would not allow OFMDFM to put in place a process leading to the appointment of an Attorney General by the end of May, so that if devolution were to happen then, an Attorney General for Northern Ireland would be in place?

Ms Salters:

I would need to double-check the precise terms of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002. My guess is that running a competition and coming to the verge of making a decision would not require any statutory powers — actually making the appointment might require those provisions to be commenced.

The Chairperson:

The memorandum from the Northern Ireland Office distributed prior to the Committee’s oral evidence session on 8 January 2008 stated that work continues on the development of the concordats and memoranda of understanding that must to be in place at the time of devolution. It is expected that those concordats will relate to the independence of the judiciary and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), as mentioned in your discussion document published in February 2006.

Although your letter of 6 February 2008 made passing reference to that issue, can a list be made available to the Committee of the concordats and the memoranda that the NIO are developing on policing and justice agencies, as well as a summary of the content?

Mr May:

Four protocols or memoranda are under development. You mentioned two of them, which are to do with prosecutorial independence and judicial independence. A third addresses how the policing bodies will interact, particularly on the issue of how the Policing Board and an Assembly Committee would work together, as well as more generally. The fourth memorandum considers national security related matters, which have already been mentioned by the Committee. Work is ongoing in those four areas, but we are not yet in a position to share drafts with the Committee.

The Chairperson:

Do you have any idea when you might be able to share the drafts?

Mr May:

Previously, I suggested that it would probably be March or April 2008.

Mr McFarland:

We have spent time discussing interaction with the Policing Board because it has a major effect on how we do business. Did you say that a memorandum was being developed to address how that will work?

Mr May:

Yes. One of the reasons that that is not yet final is that we wanted to hear what the Committee had to say on that issue. I understand that there is a consensus among the political parties that the role of the Policing Board should not be diminished in the event of devolution of policing and justice. We must be clear about how the Policing Board’s role is carried forward. I understand that the Committee has considered the issue of mandates — whether members of the Policing Board could sit on the justice Committee — and how MLAs would oversee other MLAs.

Mr McFarland:

Will you take on board whatever view the Committee or the Assembly has on the matter, or might the NIO take a separate view and impose a system on the Assembly as part of the memorandum?

Mr May:

It is not clear that the NIO could impose any approach to how the Assembly would operate in relation to the policing institutions, because the statutory basis upon which the Assembly operates will not change. The NIO is interested in, and will want to take account of, the views of the Committee. Without having seen the proposals, one cannot make any guarantees about exactly how that would operate. The objective is to find a means of allowing all of the institutions that are set up in relation to policing to operate effectively in the devolved scenario.

Mr McFarland:

A system was set up in which Northern Ireland and Irish Ministers meet, and in which the civil servants have a work programme on cross-border justice issues. Your letter of 6 February 2008 says that all of those arrangements will fall on devolution. Technically, the Minister here will set up whatever systems we wish to have to deal with our colleagues in the South. Will the work programme that has been done so far be made available to the Assembly for it to potentially take on, or will it be hidden away in archive and we start from scratch?

Mr May:

It has been suggested that, if that agreement falls, it will become an empty shell with no ongoing role. On arriving at the new Department, the Minister would be given a briefing on that, along with other matters to do with the remit of justice and policing. That would cover the areas of cross-border co-operation that had been ongoing. Briefings would also be given to the Assembly Committee in due course.

Mr McFarland:

Teams of civil servants have been beavering away on those issues for years. Presumably, that involves much forward thinking and paperwork on their thoughts and plans. Logically, if that is good work, we should be able to pick it up and continue with it. Will that happen, or will we be told otherwise? As you know, we are not allowed to see papers from previous Administrations.

Mr May:

There will be a full briefing on any work that has been done, and information about any inter-governmental agreements will be made available to the Committee and the Minister.

Mr McFarland:

Is that a "yes" or a "maybe" to see the work programmes?

Mr May:

There will be a means of making the content available. As you said, we must consider the convention that formalises access to papers. However, gaining access to that information should be more straightforward because that work was carried out on an inter-governmental basis. The objective would be to ensure that the Minister and the Assembly are fully aware of all the North/South work that was going on, the point it has reached, and what plans are in place to advance it.

Mr McCartney:

On a small point concerning the foreword written by Shaun Woodward, are you working on anything that might be problematic before the end of May, or are all the practical arrangements on course to be in place for then?

Mr May:

If the Assembly requests devolution for the end of May, we can deliver all that must be delivered.

Mr Attwood:

Subsequent to this meeting — and it should not be too much work — will you inform us of all the ongoing Crown appointments in the North that will still be in the gift of the Prime Minister?

Mr May:

After devolution, all Crown appointments will remain — which ones are you referring to?

Mr Attwood:

The position of Lord Chief Justice is a Crown-appointment made on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, as is that of the Police Ombudsman.

Mr May:

Do you only want to know about appointments that relate to devolved policing and justice functions?

Mr Attwood:

No, we wish to know about appointments across the board. I do not know whether there are any beyond policing and justice functions.

Mr May:

That would cover a wide range of public appointments.

Ms Salters:

The majority of such appointments are proposed to be made here. However, the matter has been flagged up, and I am sure that we will be able to give you the information that you have requested. Is it Crown appointments rather than public appointments in general that you are interested in?

Mr Attwood:

Yes, Crown appointments. The four protocols are important — particularly those relating to the composition of the policing board and national security — and we must see the relevant information in order to build up a full picture.

Mr May:

It is worth highlighting that the protocols build on established legal principles and the existing policy framework. We are not changing any legislation by means of the protocols — they will not be legislative instruments. We will merely be putting more flesh on the bones of how the devolution of policing and justice might work in practice. I hope that that reassures you.

The Chairperson:

Thank you Ms Salters and Mr May for your assistance. There are one or two points on which you will get back to us in writing, and we appreciate that.

Members, we are still in public session, and there are some other matters that ought to appear on the record and that we can deal with before moving into private session.

First is the name of the Department. In our report to the Assembly, we may wish to recommend a name for the new Department. Obviously, that would enable NIO officials to include appropriate references in the draft legislation.

In the Irish Republic, there is the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. At Westminster, policing and justice matters were dealt with by the Home Office alone, but they have now been divided between two Departments: the Ministry of Justice deals with the criminal-justice system and the Home Office deals with policing. In Northern Ireland, the consensus seems to be that there should be one Department for policing and justice matters. At any rate, it seems to be the consensus among the four parties that are represented around this table.

That being the case, there is then the question of whether to choose a name such as the Department for policing and justice, or some variation on that theme. This is a practical issue, but it would be good to sign off on it at least. We have all had to use different names for the proposed Department. The NIO uses the generic term "the Department of Justice" in the draft legislation, but I am not sure that that fully reflects the nature of the Department.

Mr McFarland:

I suggest that the Committee Clerk write down two or three options for us to consider. I would have to consult my party colleagues on the title, because we have not discussed it yet, but I could come back with a recommended choice.

The Chairperson:

There is the matter of one little word: we must decide whether to use "of" or "for" in the title. I asked the Committee Clerk to provide the full titles of all the Northern Ireland Departments. The Departments that have "of" in their title are: the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure; the Department of Finance and Personnel; the Department of Education; the Department of the Environment; the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment; the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister; and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The Departments that have "for" in their title are: the Department for Employment and Learning; the Department for Social Development; and the Department for Regional Development. Members may want to consider whether they would prefer to have a Department of policing and justice or a Department for policing and justice.

In my opinion, the Department for policing and justice would be the better choice because the Department will not dispense policing and justice — as the use of the word "of" would imply — rather it will deal with issues that relate to policing and justice.

Mr McFarland:

The guidance of the Chairperson is to opt for "for".

The Chairperson:

I am simply reflecting some initial thoughts. The title "Department of policing and justice" almost implies that the Department supplies policing and justice services, but the title "Department for policing and justice" implies that the Department deals with those matters but does not necessarily dispense them.

Mr G Robinson:

Agreed.

The Chairperson:

It is just a thought.

Could the four parties represented in the Committee give some consideration to that issue, and perhaps provide some feedback by next Tuesday? It is not a major issue, but having some clarity about the name of the Department would help the Committee Clerk in preparing the report and the NIO in preparing the draft legislation. Other political parties do not necessarily have an input around this table, so should the Committee write to them to ask for their view on that title, or will they have an opportunity to comment on it when the report is presented to the Assembly?

Mr McFarland:

Should the four parties reach an agreed solution, one option would be to write to the other parties to ask them to confirm that they are happy with it.

The Chairperson:

The other option is to simply embody it in the report, and let those parties comment on it, if they wish, when the report is being considered by the Assembly. I ask members to consult with their party colleagues and report back by Tuesday. Let me emphasise that selecting a name does not mean that the balloon is about to go up or anything like that — I say that lest a firing squad should appear out the back. [Laughter.]

I now turn to the outstanding matters to be transferred. Members are aware that a number of matters to be transferred were agreed by consensus at the Programme for Government Committee and were included its January 2007 report on policing and justice. However, this Committee has not specifically addressed those matters. For the purpose of completeness in our inquiry report, we must establish whether there is continued agreement for the transfer of those matters.

These are matters on which there was a broad consensus in the Committee on the Programme for Government. In order to assist the Committee Clerk in preparing the report, and so that everyone is aware of the issues when the report is presented to us, it might be helpful if he could run through the outstanding matters in order to establish if there is broad agreement at this stage, under the proviso that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. I want to establish whether members are content that these are matters that do not require further examination.

The Committee Clerk:

The first issue that occurs is mentioned in chapter 9 of the discussion document, and is related to the Compensation Agency on the one hand, and the criminal injuries compensation appeals panel. As you have suggested, there was no controversy around this issue in the Committee on the Programme for Government. The proposals are that they be funded by the new Department for policing and justice, and that the Minister or Ministers would be responsible for the appointments, in particular to the panel. The Committee on the Programme for Government agreed that compensation should be devolved as proposed in the NIO discussion paper at that time. It affects the language that you have been using in relation to matters to be transferred. It is proposed that the Committee would agree that the reserved matters described in the discussion paper should be transferred.

The Chairperson:

Are members content that we stick with what was agreed in the Committee on the Programme for Government in relation to the reserved matters?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:

In relation to excepted matters, is it possible that we continue to use the accepted formula that we agreed on in our meeting of 9 October 2007, namely:

"There were diverse opinions about the transfer of those matters which are "excepted" and there was no consensus on seeking an amendment to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to allow for a request to be made by the Assembly for the transfer of these "excepted" matters."?

I assume that those are matters relating to compensation generally?

The Committee Clerk:

They would be excepted matters as opposed to reserved matters, but which fit into issues relating to compensation.

The Chairperson:

Are members content? It is the sort of thing that can be revisited by a future scrutiny Committee.

Mr McFarland:

I am slightly confused. We are talking about reserved matters. There are some reserved matters that we have agreed should not be transferred. Are we still talking about compensation only?

The Chairperson:

We are. It is purely about compensation. Are members content?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:

We now move on to community safety partnerships.

The Committee Clerk:

The Committee on the Programme for Government agreed that the responsibility for the community safety partnerships should be devolved as proposed in the discussion document.

Mr McFarland:

That is at chapter 8 in the legislation?

The Chairperson:

Yes. There are no excepted matters; they are all reserved matters, and can all be devolved.

Are members content?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:

OK. The next item relates to the post of chief inspector of criminal justice. The Committee on the Programme for Government agreed that responsibility for that post should be devolved as proposed by the Northern Ireland Office. This is a reserved matter, and can be devolved, as was set out in the discussion paper of February 2006.

Are members content?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:

The Criminal Justice Review recommended the establishment of an independent Northern Ireland law commission to keep criminal and civil law under review. A chief executive has already been appointed. This is a reserved matter, and the Committee on the Programme for Government agreed that the responsibility for the Northern Ireland law commission should be devolved as proposed by the Northern Ireland Office.

Are members content?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:

That completes the outstanding matters to be transferred. We will now move into private session.

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