Previous Section Index Home Page

4 Mar 2009 : Column 950

Sir Patrick Cormack: I want to be helpful. I understand my hon. Friend’s concern, and I admire his assiduous work for Northern Ireland considerably, but we are in a very unsatisfactory situation. The timetable is ridiculous. Would it not be sensible to confer with our friends in the other place, and then perhaps table an amendment? [Interruption.] If I could have my hon. Friend’s attention for half a second, if there is to be a Division, let it be after further mature consideration in the other place.

Mr. Robertson: I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns on the matter. We have carried out a great deal of consultation on the subject. The advice that we were given, which may contradict the advice in the document to which the Secretary of State refers, was that we really should revisit a situation in which the DPP is unsupervised and unprotected.

Mr. Woodward: I genuinely really want to help the hon. Gentleman. With huge respect, again, the criminal justice review is not just some document, or some piece of consultation. It is the document on which much of the present and future judicial system in Northern Ireland is based. If the hon. Gentleman’s advisers have failed to consult the document—they have had seven years to do so, and not just the afternoon—I honestly advise him not to press the amendment. It is in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland that he gives himself and his advisers time to reflect on the matter.

Mr. Robertson: I understand that we have 17 minutes left, and I know that one or two other hon. Members wish to contribute to this debate. Of course, we will listen to what they have to say, but I think that I have made the case for what we are proposing, and I shall leave the matter there.

Mr. Carmichael: I will not detain the House long. I have a lot of sympathy for the predicament in which the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) finds himself. The Secretary of State is right that the review has been around since 2002, but it is only 10 days ago that we knew how it would affect the legislation. I do not think that the hon. Member for Tewkesbury is to be criticised for probing the issue in the way that he has done.

I come to the question as a former career prosecutor. My experience informs me that the independence of the prosecution service is important. The reasoning behind the conclusions of the review were sound, and they ought to be supported. They should not be dismissed lightly. There is certainly a case to be made for ensuring proper accountability for the Public Prosecution Service, particularly in respect of its use of resources. That accountability is best done as it is in the Scottish model by the Lord Advocate answering questions in Parliament. I do not know whether the DPP has some audience rights within Stormont. If not, that would be the obvious cure for the defect identified by the hon. Gentleman and by others. Beyond that, the independence of the prosecution services in going about their work is of supreme importance and I would caution the hon. Gentleman against pursuing this matter too far.

6.45 pm

Mr. Peter Robinson: It is sufficient to say that I am not entirely persuaded by the argument that has been advanced so far. I will speak for only a few minutes,
4 Mar 2009 : Column 951
which may give the opportunity for a strategic withdrawal to be arranged, which would be sensible in the circumstances.

The amendment that I want to touch on relates to the Attorney-General. The Opposition spokesman is right that I intervened earlier to say that the Lord Chief Justice would be put in a difficult position by that proposition. The Lord Chief Justice would be asked to appoint an Attorney-General—one of the QCs, no doubt, who would be a member of the Bar—and any time that the Attorney-General would appear before the Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Chief Justice would be hearing the case from his chosen one, the one whom he had favoured, and unquestionably there would be people who would doubt the independence of any decision that would arise therefrom.

Mr. Djanogly: Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that there are conventions that deal with such conflicts?

Mr. Robinson: That would mean removing the Lord Chief Justice, the most senior Law Officer, from the most important cases; no doubt, those being taken in defence of the Government. That would not be a wise move.

Much of today’s debate has been on what appeared to be the unanimous decision of the House that greater independence was needed and that politicians should not be in the job of appointing judges. Now we have the proposition that the judges should appoint those who will go into the political arena to answer questions in the Assembly and to represent the politicians in the Government, and that is not a good way forward either.

The actual outcome was one of the easiest for the Deputy First Minister and I to come to an agreement on. I think it took only a few hours for us to agree who the best person might be for the post of Attorney-General when the moment came to make such an appointment, and we publicly said that our choice was John Larkin, QC. I have not heard one word of disagreement from any section of the community about that choice. The politicians were able to make that choice in a way that was responsible and would have merited confidence in the community. I suspect that the proposition offered by the Conservative party would not do that.

Mr. Djanogly rose—

The Chairman: I am sorry to have to say it in open Committee to the hon. Gentleman, but it is not permissible for two members of the Front-Bench team to speak in the debate or to intervene, so it is rather unusual for him to seek to speak when the amendment has already been moved from the Front Bench.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: On a point of order, Sir Alan. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) is not a member of the Northern Ireland Front-Bench team.

The Chairman: The instruction given on the Bench Note is that the Committee stage Front-Bench team would comprise the hon. Members for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) and for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly). As the amendment has been moved from the Front Bench, we must rest at that.

4 Mar 2009 : Column 952

Sir Patrick Cormack: My hon. Friends the Members for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) and for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson), who speak from the Opposition Front Bench, are being given advice by their adviser, my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly), who sometimes speaks from the Front Bench, so they cannot hear the advice that I am trying to give them, but I earnestly beseech them to recognise that, after due consideration, they have hit upon an important point, which clearly merits further consideration. I hope that, having heard what the First Minister said—I am sure they did—they will take carefully to heart his gentle, persuasive advice, have further discussions with our noble Friends who will debate this Bill for two whole days and arrange for a proper debate on a similar amendment in another place.

In the meantime, due consideration could be given to all the literature on this subject—particularly to the seminal document to which the Secretary of State referred. It can then be decided whether the proposal is sensible or whether it would be better to make another one. I urge my hon. Friends to ponder those points, and not to press for a Division.

Paul Goggins: It is time for a pause, to breathe and reflect. If the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) wishes to intervene to tease this issue out a little further, I will be more than happy to give way. However, like the Secretary of State, I have to put it to the hon. Gentleman that if he were to insist on a vote, he would seek to overturn a fundamental principle and part of the Northern Ireland criminal justice review of 2000 and the subsequent legislation. That would be a significant step.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: The fact that there was a review several years ago does not bind us today. That said, we try to deal with these matters on a cross-party basis. Given the advice of the Secretary of State, the Minister, the First Minister and the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee—and given the misunderstanding, no doubt our fault, that led to my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon not being able to contribute—we would like to reserve the right to return to the issue in another place. I will not press the amendment to a Division.

Paul Goggins: I am grateful for that. The hon. Gentleman and I spend a lot of time in Committee together, and I have always found his approach to such issues entirely practical. I thank him for that. The issue is as significant as I have set out, so I am pleased that he is taking further time to reflect. As Members of the other place consider the issue in the days ahead, I am sure that they will look at what the review document says.

Mr. Djanogly: The Minister keeps referring to the review. Although we appreciate that there has been a review and although, in contrast to what the Secretary of State said, we did read it, does the Minister not appreciate that we are still entitled to debate the issue? The Minister speaks as if we are not allowed to.

Paul Goggins: Any party is, of course, entitled to raise debate in this place; that is what this place is about. However, we also have to respect and recognise that in the process of improvement and change towards peace and progress in Northern Ireland, certain key staging
4 Mar 2009 : Column 953
posts have been reached. A very important staging post was the criminal justice review in 2000 and the subsequent legislation that went through the House. We have to respect that. Without that settlement, much development of the criminal justice process in Northern Ireland that has happened since would not have happened.

The question of independence is important. I return to what the document itself says:

Indeed, reference was made to Lord Mayhew’s comments during the passage of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002:

So it is a different system, but a system that, following the review, was felt to be highly appropriate for Northern Ireland. That does not mean that the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions do not have a relationship: they do; it is a very strong relationship that is bound by statutory consultation. As I said earlier, there will be robust exchanges between the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions in drawing up the code of practice for prosecutors. They have a statutory relationship in terms of consultation but not in terms of superintendence or direction.

Mr. Djanogly: I am pleased that the Minister is admitting that we will now be pulling away from the system that exists in this country, which did not seem to come across in his earlier remarks, but who is the DPP going to answer to?

Paul Goggins: The DPP will be answerable to the Assembly for the use of resources and the administration of its office—that is very clear—but not for individual prosecution decisions, which are entirely for the independent DPP. It is important at the point of devolution that that is made absolutely clear and enshrined in the institutions.

Mr. Donaldson: I chaired the Assembly and Executive Review Committee for a time. When we considered these matters, it was our understanding that when the Director of Public Prosecutions presented his annual report he would come to the Justice Committee in the Assembly and be subject to questioning, and the Committee would have the opportunity to consider his report. A degree of accountability is therefore built into the system.

Paul Goggins: The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right. This does not apply only to producing the annual report. If a Committee, particularly the Justice Committee, wished to take evidence from the DPP, the DPP could be invited to attend and such evidence could be given. Indeed, the DPP gives evidence to Select Committees in this House, as the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will know.

4 Mar 2009 : Column 954

Mr. Dodds: It is also worth pointing out, further to the intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson), that when all these issues were considered in the Assembly, I do not remember a single Member or party raising any concern on this particular point. The issue of independence, which we discussed in relation to a previous clause, has been accepted in Northern Ireland.

Paul Goggins: Indeed, it is broadly accepted, certainly in the conversations that I have with the Lord Chief Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions, or anybody else. The issue of independence is absolutely written through the whole system and is seen as highly significant.

It is not only the DPP who may be invited to give evidence and have to produce an annual report—the Attorney-General, too, may be so invited. Indeed, both will have speaking rights in the Assembly and be able to speak to and respond to Assembly Members, whether in the Assembly or in Committee. There is a very clear structure of relationships both between the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions and between those office holders and the Assembly.

The right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) touched on the appointment of the Attorney-General and pointed out the difficulties that would be faced were the Lord Chief Justice to make that appointment. There would also be a difficulty given that the Attorney-General has always been seen as somebody who would have a wider advisory role in giving legal advice, perhaps advising the Executive on certain key issues. It would be very uncomfortable, I suggest, for the Lord Chief Justice to appoint the person who would then advise the Executive. Any Lord Chief Justice would approach such a scenario with extreme caution. Of course, it is very important that the Attorney-General has independence, which should be safeguarded from inappropriate political pressure. The appointment of the Attorney-General, therefore, is made jointly by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, and the choice of John Larkin is, as far as I can tell, generally and widely welcomed.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: As previously indicated, and for the reasons that I gave, we will not press the amendment to a vote. We reserve the right to consider it further over the next few days, but we will not press it to a vote tonight.

7 pm

Debate interrupted (Order, this day).

The Chairman put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Order, this day), That the amendment be made.

Question negatived.

The Chairman then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Order, this day).

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 4 and 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1

Northern Ireland department with policing and justice functions

Amendment proposed: 2 , in page 8, line 22, at end insert—

4 Mar 2009 : Column 955
‘Minister ceasing to hold office 7A Paragraph 3D(11)(c) of Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act does not apply—

(a) before a resolution is passed for the purposes of paragraph 8(1)(a) below, or

(b) if no such resolution is passed, before 1 May 2012.’.— (Mr. Carmichael.)

The Committee divided: Ayes 56, Noes 376.
Division No. 54]
[7.1 pm


Alexander, Danny
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Brake, Tom
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Dai
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, Mr. David
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Laws, Mr. David
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
Moore, Mr. Michael
Mulholland, Greg
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Pugh, Dr. John
Rennie, Willie
Rogerson, Dan
Rowen, Paul
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Webb, Steve
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Alan Reid and
John Hemming

Abbott, Ms Diane
Afriyie, Adam
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Amess, Mr. David
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Begg, Miss Anne
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benn, rh Hilary
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bottomley, Peter
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Cash, Mr. William
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin

Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Greg
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dorries, Nadine
Drew, Mr. David
Duncan, Alan
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Field, Mr. Mark
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gauke, Mr. David
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Healey, rh John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hendry, Charles
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Herbert, Nick
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, Mr. John
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lammy, rh Mr. David

Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Mercer, Patrick
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Osborne, Sandra
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Pritchard, Mark
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Scott, Mr. Lee
Seabeck, Alison
Selous, Andrew
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Simpson, David
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Stanley, rh Sir John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Tami, Mark
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ms Dari
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, rh Mr. Don

Tredinnick, David
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Vaz, rh Keith
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Mr. Tom
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Chris Mole and
Steve McCabe
Question accordingly negatived.
Next Section Index Home Page