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The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lyell): My Lords, I advise the House that if Amendment No. 61 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 62 to 66 inclusive.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I shall be brief at this time of night. I agree with the substance and the sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.

I shall make a similar point to that which the noble Lord made on the Government's slowness in tabling amendments to Clause 45 that they have recognised are necessary. I am particularly, but not exclusively, concerned about the position of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, who has extremely limited accountability at present. The only alternatives to what the police ombudsman may decide are judicial review or an annual report to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. That was not the intention of Dr Maurice Hayes, whose report led to the establishment of the police ombudsman.

I do not want to speak for or appear to put words into the mouth of Dr Hayes, but it appears from some of his comments that he is not a little disquieted by the lack of accountability from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

It is essential that the remit of the new chief inspector of criminal justice is as comprehensive as possible in order that he or she can properly fulfil his or her functions. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, intimated, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Des Browne, accepted that point in Committee in another place. Therefore, in my interpretation, the Government have already accepted that the list of organisations which should be inspected by the chief inspector should be as comprehensive as possible. Why is there such tardiness in completing the list?

From correspondence which I have seen, I understand that, before the end of April, an additional 19 organisations including the police ombudsman were consulted about their possible inclusion in the list of organisations in Clause 45. As there has already been proper consultation, and as the Minister in another place has accepted the need for a comprehensive list of organisations, it is now wholly appropriate that the chief inspector's remit should be extended to include that list of defined organisations.

The point is particularly important in so far as, in Committee in another place, the Minister indicated that the role of the chief inspector of criminal justice would be to "cross cut" various organisations in the course of his or her inspection. Therefore, if a given case involved, for example, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the forensic department and the pathology lab as well as the police ombudsman, the chief inspector should be able to trace the case right through all those organisations. Currently, however,

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the chief inspector's cross-cutting inspection would be curtailed and the trail would run out when he or she reached the office of the police ombudsman.

Such a position is wholly unreasonable and untenable. It really is beyond my comprehension, as I imagine it is beyond the comprehension of many noble Lords, that the Government have been so tardy in trying to complete the list of organisations that will fall under the remit of the chief inspector of criminal justice.

At this time of night I shall not pursue other issues such as Consignia or the Financial Services Authority. I should hope that all such organisations will be included on the Government's list, which we hear about, of 19 other organisations. However, on the basis of events already occurring daily in Northern Ireland, of all those organisations, none has a greater impact and causes more concern in relation to unaccountability than the office of the police ombudsman.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for the approach of the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Maginnis. Perhaps I can remind the House that this group of amendments comprises Amendments Nos. 61, 63, 64, 65, 66 and 67. Amendment No. 61 is distinct and I shall deal with it separately if I may. However, Amendments Nos. 63 to 67 inclusive deal with a wish to include specified organisations.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, said that the Government had been tardy. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are in a process of consultation with about 20 bodies, with a view to adding to the list of specified organisations at Clause 45(1). My colleague, Des Browne, wrote to the organisations concerned on 28th February inviting responses by 19th April. We have had a number of meetings and interim correspondence with various of those organisations but many of them wanted more time to consider the issues. My colleague, Des Browne, agreed that the deadline should be extended to the end of June.

We are still having consultation with many of the possible candidates. Further organisations can, of course, be added by order by virtue of Clause 45(6). Because of the suggestion from the former Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee—to which, I have said on many occasions, we pay careful attention—we have put down a government amendment to Clause 89 making that order-making power subject to affirmative resolution, which constitutes a protection for the interests of this House.

I am sorry to say that Amendment No. 61 is misconceived but I understand from the spirit of the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that essentially it is a questioning if not a probing amendment. The trouble with Amendment No. 61, were it to be carried, is that the chief inspector could inspect only organisations in possession of criminal

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investigatory powers. However, that would exclude most of the organisations mentioned in subsection (1) of Clause 45. It would exclude, for example, the Compensation Agency, health and social services boards and health and social services trusts, the Juvenile Justice Board, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and so forth. The desired outcome would not be achieved by Amendment No. 61.

I believe that I set out the position as regards Amendments Nos. 63 to 67 inclusive. The Government have not been tardy. Organisations have understandably asked for a little more time and my colleague rightly gave it to them. I hope that that explanation is of assistance.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for those comments. He is right to say that Amendment No. 61 is entirely probing, as I said in my opening remarks. However, I hope that the Government will have something significant, solid and prescriptive in the form of an amendment by Third Reading.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I simply want to help the noble Lord as he is always extremely courteous and helpful to me. I do not believe that the consultation will be concluded by Third Reading. I do not want any misunderstanding to creep in.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that comment. Perhaps we could have some further meetings between now and then outside the Chamber. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, I have to advise your Lordships that Amendment No. 63 is identical to Amendment No. 66. Therefore, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 66.

[Amendments Nos. 63 to 68 not moved.]

Clause 46 [Further provisions about functions]:

[Amendment No. 69 not moved.]

Clause 48 [Reports]:

[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]

Clause 50 [Duties of Commission]:

Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 71:


    Page 30, line 40, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—


"( ) In performing its duties, the Commission may consult any equivalent national law commission."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at this late hour I beg your Lordships' indulgence to speak briefly to Amendment No. 71. Your Lordships will be aware that perceptions count for much in Northern Ireland. A perception which I am afraid will gain credence in Northern Ireland is that something strange is going on; in other words, that murky dealings are going on as regards the requirement for the Law Commission to be obliged to consult the Law Reform Commission of the Republic of Ireland.

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I remind your Lordships that the Bill states:


    "In performing its duties the Commission must consult".

What is the special reason why the Law Reform Commission of the Republic of Ireland should be put in the same privileged position as the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Commission? For what reason is the Republic of Ireland placed ahead of any other Commonwealth country and any other member state of the European Union? I again ask the noble and learned Lord the Minister to explain fully why the Government included the Law Reform Commission of the Republic of Ireland as a compulsory consultee. My fear is that there may be a resulting perception—or perhaps misperception—in Northern Ireland. That would be prevented if noble Lords agreed to the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, most noble Lords would be surprised if I did not endorse the amendment that was moved by my noble friend Lord Rogan.

Earlier this evening, I asked the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal a specific question about external influences in Northern Ireland in respect of judicial appointments and other matters pertaining to the judiciary. I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord understood the nature of my question. With respect, he bypassed it by alluding only to the specific amendment that I had moved.

It is important for us to discover here and now why there has to be a particular and specific reference to the Irish Republic in this context. We have to discover what part the Irish Republic currently plays—directly or indirectly—through government, government agencies, the law commission of the Irish Republic and any other way in the day-to-day work and structure of the judicial process in Northern Ireland. We need to know what the future intentions are. Will that arrangement be increased? If it currently exists—many of us suppose that it does—what are the intentions with regard to regularising it? It is totally and utterly unacceptable that such a situation should, in some opaque fashion, be allowed to occur.

There is a lack of confidence in Northern Ireland at the moment. There is a feeling that the efforts that we made to reach an equitable and fair agreement in the Belfast agreement in April 1998 are being constantly, deliberately and callously eroded to the extent that the whole process is in great danger. I therefore hope that, despite the late hour, the noble and learned Lord will give us a full and detailed answer about the dilemma that is facing us.


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