Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Letter from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee


  I thought that I should write to you immediately to clarify one point which arose during the meeting of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this morning.

  As you may recall, I had initially said that appointments to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission were not part of my responsibility, but had then explained that that was incorrect. It might be helpful if I set out in this letter the Government's position.

  Under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, appointments to the Human Rights Commission fall to me. The Act requires me, so far as practicable, to ensure that the Commissioners, as a group, are representative of the community in Northern Ireland. In placing advertisements for posts on the Commission widely, and issuing a press release, we tried to ensure that applications were received from as wide a selection of people as possible. The sift criteria for interview were adopted to ensure that the best candidates were interviewed. I then appointed a Chief Commissioner and Commissioners, making a judgement about the group as a whole being representative of the community in Northern Ireland. I am satisfied that the statutory requirement has been met.

  I am copying this letter to Jeffrey Donaldson, who asked the original question.

Marjorie Mowlam

19 May 1999

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