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22 Mar 2010 : Column 79

Paul Goggins: It is rather simpler than that. Three of the four criteria on the basis of which the DPP decides whether to issue a certificate are related to proscribed organisations and therefore to terrorist matters, which are excepted. It is clear that the DPP must consider issuing a certificate in those circumstances. Matters relating to terrorism must remain excepted.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will recognise the progress that we are making in this regard. He will recall that in the 1980s, more than 200 juryless trials took place each year. In 2007-08, 29 certificates were issued, and in 2008-09 only 13 were issued. We are moving in entirely the right direction, and, as my hon. Friend knows, I have promised a comprehensive review of the powers in the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 before any decision is made about the renewal of those powers to allow trials without juries. I believe that it has been necessary over the course of this year and last year to retain that power, but I hope, as he does, that at some point it will be possible to remove those powers altogether, so that every trial is a trial by jury. When that happens we really will know that we have moved forward into a more peaceful future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Foyle also talked, as he does, about intelligence policing, and I wish to set the record straight about that. The PSNI remains responsible for all policing in Northern Ireland, and it is accountable to the Policing Board and subject to the scrutiny of the police ombudsman. All the intelligence gathered by the Security Service in Northern Ireland is fully transparent before the PSNI, and rightly so. I see, day in, day out, that that relationship works and saves lives, and it will continue to save lives beyond the date of devolution. I believe that everybody in this House should support that effort. If the Chief Constable requires additional military support-this was another issue that was mentioned-he can, of course, request it through the Secretary of State. However, the Chief Constable has made it absolutely clear that his preference is for mutual aid from other police services. Again, I think that that is a normalisation measure and a step in the right direction.

The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley mentioned two matters that are not being devolved. The first one he mentioned was the powers under the 50:50 arrangement, and I acknowledge again his strength of feeling, and that of his colleagues, on that issue. We stand on the threshold of the 30 per cent. target being achieved-we hope that that will happen by March next year-and we have just renewed the powers to facilitate that objective. I just put it to him that, despite all the differences that we have, reaching that 30 per cent. target has been fundamental to building confidence in policing among all sections of the community. That confidence in policing has been crucial to the political progress that we have been able to make.

Mr. Donaldson: The Minister and I both served on the Standing Committee that considered the order to renew the legislation, so he knows that I caused a Division and voted against. Will he again confirm to the House that in the event of the 30 per cent. target being reached within the year the Government will come back to the House at that point and rescind the legislation?

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Paul Goggins: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me of the commitment I made in Committee, and I am happy to repeat here that if the 30 per cent. target is reached before March next year Ministers will come back to rescind those special provisions. The target was 30 per cent. and as soon as it is reached we shall be happy to disapply those special arrangements, and we would then proceed in the normal way on recruitment.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned parading, the responsibility for which we anticipate will be devolved at the appropriate time. I acknowledge all the work that has been done and he has played a huge role in taking that work forward in very short order. I hope that in due course the Assembly will make the request for this matter to be transferred, and it is something that we stand ready to do at the appropriate time-I think that he understands that. He also made a very important point about the role of the Assembly committee, which will of course have a wider remit, examining not only policing, but prisons, the Youth Justice Agency, the probation service and criminal justice policy, and many other things. He is right to make the distinction as to who is accountable to whom. The committee in the Assembly will hold the Minister to account, and the Policing Board holds the Chief Constable to account. That is the appropriate set of arrangements, and I know that the hon. Member for North Down also makes that point clearly and strongly.

The central truth of all this is that devolving policing and criminal justice powers means that we really do have joined-up government in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) made the point that that is the key goal-I believe he said it was the "key prize"-and I can see a number of ways in which this will really move things forward. If the politicians in Northern Ireland are developing a resettlement strategy to reduce reoffending rates, they can do so more effectively when prisons and probation are joined up with health, employment services, housing services and so on. The big prize is that when devolution is completed the whole effort of government can be absolutely focused on young people, particularly those in hard-pressed areas, in order to give them a vision of something different, a way forward and a way out of antisocial behaviour or even worse. These are real prizes of devolution, and I know from listening to the debates of local politicians that they are very eager to grasp and move forward with them.

The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) demonstrated again his keen and long-standing interest in constitutional issues, and he reminded us of some of the history. We were all rather relieved that the violence and tumult to which he referred were not so evident in the Chamber tonight, despite the comments made by the right hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) about his feelings towards certain previous Secretaries of State-I shall come to those in a moment.

May I thank the right hon. Member for Belfast, East on behalf of the whole House for the efforts he made to get here tonight, having had First Minister's questions in the Assembly this afternoon? I congratulate him, the Deputy First Minister and all his colleagues on what is being achieved. The focus in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was on a Northern Ireland beyond sectarianism, and the whole House supports him in that aim, vision
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and objective. I know that he understands-he made this clear in his speech-that when policing and criminal justice is lined up with the rest of government it is more possible to deliver the vision about which he spoke.

I turn now to two stalwarts of this House who made tremendous speeches this evening, the first of whom was the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). As is his custom, he paid tribute to a great many people in his speech, but I wish to pay a huge tribute to him for all that he has done. He has remained deeply committed to the Committee that he has chaired so admirably in recent years. I know from my own personal experience that he has wise words of criticism, which are usually gently delivered, but effectively so, as well as huge warm encouragement to offer to Ministers, to other Members and to members of his Committee in order to achieve the big prize of trying to make progress. I thank him personally for the encouragement that he has offered me, and I know that I speak for others here too. He is a truly even-handed Chair of the Select Committee, and I thank him for all that he has done. He will be a great loss to this House, but we all wish him well for the future.

I turn now to the right hon. Member for North Antrim, about whom much has been said over the many years of what the right hon. Member for Belfast, East described as a "colourful" career. I think that we would all join in that opinion. Irrespective of whatever has been written about him, I have always found him in this place to be unfailingly courteous, kind, thoughtful, generous and deeply spiritual. Those things are the hallmark of the right hon. Member for North Antrim, who is right to say that there is no reason why people of strong views cannot live together if they can find common ground and work on the issues that separate them so that they can move forward together. His leadership has been crucial to the progress that is now being made in Northern Ireland. I remember his speech at St. Andrews-that crucial moment in the step forward to peace and progress in Northern Ireland-when he said that it was necessary to take the step for the sake of the children. Every time he speaks, he speaks about the future and the future for those children, and he does so in a heartfelt way. I wish to thank him for his contribution to this House and to political progress in Northern Ireland, and for what he has done to improve the prospects for people in Northern Ireland. He will, in the end, be remembered as the man who ultimately said yes.

I detect consensus in this place this evening, and that consensus has been vital in bringing us to this point, where we are on the eve of devolving policing and justice powers. The consensus has been in place here and outside this place. In particular, it was a consensus that many of us felt last week when we visited the United States. Successive Presidents-Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama-have all been involved and all been supportive in this process, as has Secretary of State Clinton, and they have all put real effort, time and support into the efforts of Northern Ireland's politicians. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley reminded us of the hurt and pain that people still experience and the uncertainty that it has brought with it. The encouragement and the partnership in this place and beyond this place have, I think, been important.

It is very important that that sense of support and solidarity remains in place. Devolution means full empowerment; it does not mean isolation.

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Mark Durkan: Will the Minister give way?

Paul Goggins: Devolving policing and justice powers means that Northern Ireland's politicians can really get on now, delivering peace and prosperity and building a better future for the people of Northern Ireland.

Mark Durkan rose-

Paul Goggins: I am sorry; I did not hear my hon. Friend. I am happy to give way.

Mark Durkan: I thank the Minister for giving way. In the context of his reference to people still suffering pain and hurt, will he acknowledge that there is a family in my constituency who are grieving as a result of a recent murder by the Real IRA? They have serious questions about MI5's involvement in the background to that murder-the interest to which it was subjecting that young man, the surveillance and the attention that it was giving him-and they are left believing that MI5 knows more about his murder than has been disclosed. I know that the family got the opportunity to talk to the Secretary of State, too. This is a very real issue in that context. Does the Minister acknowledge that and how does he see it being addressed? What assurances can he give that family?

Paul Goggins: First, I did not mean any discourtesy to my hon. Friend or to his constituents in not taking his intervention at first-I was not aware that he was seeking to make it. In the end, the devolution of policing and justice is about isolating those who would carry out such a dreadful deed. I bitterly regret the attack that was carried out on his constituent and I understand the distress and hurt that have been caused by that. If he wishes to pursue the issue with me beyond the debate I will be more than happy so to do-he knows that-and if there are things that I can do to support him and his constituents, I will be happy to do them. I can reassure him that the police are investigating that vile murder. If there are views that the family want to bring to my attention, I ask him please to encourage them to do so. I would be happy to meet him and to discuss that further.

I had concluded my speech, but let me say again that I wish all the politicians of Northern Ireland well in building that peaceful, prosperous future for which so many have worked so very hard.

Question put and agreed to.





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Adjournment (Easter)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 25),

Question agreed to.

Child Poverty Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)) ,

Question agreed to.

22 Mar 2010 : Column 84

Child Poverty Bill

Consideration of Lords amendments

7.23 pm

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this is will be convenient to take Lords amendments 2 to 12, 14, 15 and 19 to 21.

Mr. Timms: Let me take the opportunity to thank hon. Members in this House and noble Lords in another place for their contribution to the passage of this groundbreaking Bill. It aims to drive the lasting eradication of child poverty and establishes a framework for accountability by requiring annual reports to be made to Parliament on action taken on the Government's child poverty strategy.

Members of this House and peers in another place agreed that progress against the 2010 target to halve child poverty should be reported clearly and as part of the Bill. The Government accepted that proposal and Lords amendment 1 therefore requires the Government to make a report to Parliament on the 2010 target. The report must be made as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of the 2010 target year and in any event not later than 30 June 2012.

Lords amendments 2, 3 and 4 add to or clarify the policy areas that must be considered by the Secretary of State when preparing a child poverty strategy. There was wide agreement that the strategy should include a measure on support for parents, to increase their capacity to support their children's development. That is reflected in Lords amendment 2. Lords amendment 3 recognises the importance of addressing mental health in tackling child poverty. Lords amendment 4 ensures that the Secretary of State, in preparing a UK strategy, will not only focus on those children who are easy to lift above the poverty line, but consider those children whose disadvantage is greatest.

Hon. Members in this House and peers in another place agreed that there should be a direct requirement to consult children when preparing child poverty strategies. Lords amendments 5, 6 and 7 ensure that there is an explicit requirement for the Secretary of State, the devolved Administrations and local authorities to consult children and organisations working with them, as they see fit, when drawing up strategies.

Members of the other place also argued, rightly in my view, that consultation should be extended to parents, whose views should inform the development of the child poverty strategies, so Lords amendments 8, 11 and 12 place a duty on the Secretary of State, the devolved Administrations and local authorities to consult parents directly and to consult the organisations working with or representing them, as they see fit, when preparing their strategies.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): In the context of the proposals to introduce these measures relating to child poverty, does the Minister accept that a child can be in poverty not only by reference to the criteria set out in clause 24, but because the degraded circumstances and moral environment of the family in question induce
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it? The problem is not just socio-economic; it relates to how a child is brought up, how it is treated, as we have found so often in the tragic cases that have led to death in many instances.

Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman is right, of course, that all kinds of disadvantage can affect children. As the Bill makes clear, the child poverty strategy that the Government will draw up needs a broad base. The partnerships of local organisations that address it also need to be broad. In the end, poverty is about income and that is why the targets in this Bill are set and drawn in the way they are. There is a shared determination across the House, which has been reflected in the debates on this measure, to reduce the incidence of child poverty and of low income, which causes it.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): I am very interested in what the Minister has just said. Does he not accept that Lords amendments 1 to 4, in particular, take us back to what we argued for in Committee-that is, to an emphasis on the causes of poverty and not just on the financial amounts that are given?

Mr. Timms: We are all concerned about the causes of poverty. It is certainly true that in some respects-particularly, for example, as regards the amendment on the 2010 target-the Government have accepted what the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends were arguing for, and a report will be produced specifically on that target. However, I certainly would not agree with him that it was simply Conservative Members who were concerned about the causes of poverty. That concern was widely shared.

There were concerns in the other place that the Bill did not give enough recognition to the needs of "family and friends carers" who might look after a child full time but who do not have parental responsibilities. Lords amendment 14 extends the definition of "parent" to cover those who do not have parental responsibility but who are caring for children who live with them. The new definition, in conjunction with the provisions in clause 9, means that the Secretary of State must, when preparing a UK strategy, consider measures aimed at all persons who have parental responsibility for a child or who have a child living with them, including "family and friends carers".

Lords amendments 9 and 10 remove the definitions of "parent" and "parental responsibility" from clause 17. Lords amendments 14 and 15 move the revised definition of "parent" and the existing definition of "parental responsibility" into part 3, thus ensuring that the widened definition of "parent" applies to the whole Bill and not just to part 1. The requirement for local authorities to consult parents, in Lords amendment 12, will apply the new, wider definition of "parent".

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