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Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 (Amendment of section 46(1) and paragraph 7(2) of Schedule 8) Order 2003

6.52 p.m.

Baroness Amos rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 27th November be approved.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, noble Lords will recall that, following debate during the passage of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 and the consultation process with a range of organisations in Northern Ireland about their inclusion within the remit of the criminal justice inspectorate, an additional eight organisations were included within the remit of the chief inspector of criminal justice by order last December. Today, we consider a further three additions to the list of organisations in the Act which are subject to inspection by the criminal justice inspectorate before it becomes operational next autumn.

The additional organisations listed in the order have all been considered appropriate for inclusion based on information provided by them and their representatives during the consultation process. They all consented to their inclusion. The basis of the decision for their inclusion is that each of the bodies has an investigatory and prosecutorial role, all operate their own police services, and the extent of their policing powers are comparable with other bodies listed, such as the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

The order also includes an addition to the list of organisations named in the Act to which the chief inspector may wish to delegate his functions in delivering his work programme. For those organisations currently listed in the Act, it is expected that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation will be able to provide extensive knowledge and expertise in specific areas, which will be of benefit to the chief inspector.

When considering both those issues, noble Lords may wish to note that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considered the order earlier today and has confirmed that it is content.

The order finalises the round of consultations resulting from previous debates, but does not necessarily finalise the lists of organisations which

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should come within the chief inspector's remit or to which the chief inspector may delegate functions. Both lists will be kept under review. I am willing to hear further representations from all sides. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 27th November be approved.—(Baroness Amos.)

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for moving this small order so succinctly. I welcome it from these Benches, in particular as I pressed the Government to keep open the list of organisations that could come within the remit. I am delighted that 11, if my arithmetic is correct, have been accepted so far. I was also delighted to hear the noble Baroness say that the list was not closed—that it is still open to further opportunities, if it seems right for other organisations as they appear, to join the list.

That is particularly important in some ways. I have been approached about the fact that there are some difficulties between the management of Belfast International Airport Ltd and the security police. A friend of mine in the other place is also looking into the matter. It may be worth taking a little comfort from the fact that, if there is a problem, there is an inspector to oversee it. The order makes what I hope is a very small point, and I welcome it.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I, too, welcome the order. We on these Benches support it.

Lord Laird: My Lords, I very much welcome the order. My only regret is that the legislation must be considered here, in Parliament, as an Order in Council. While we are getting quite used to debating such matters here once again, and I sincerely respect the ability of Members of this House and another place to do so, I trust that we will not be doing so for much longer. The recent elections, however, have not brought us any further to the restoration of the Assembly; the situation remains unchanged and I urge the Government not to take their eye off the main issue—the failure of republicans to deliver peace and the winding-up of all paramilitary organisations.

I am very pleased to see Belfast International Airport Ltd, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Larne Harbour Ltd on the list of organisations subject to inspection by the chief inspector of criminal justice. When a similar order was considered a year ago in another place, my colleague, Lady Hermon, expressed concern at their omission. As the whole purpose of the chief inspector of criminal justice is to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the criminal justice system, it appears to be logical and common sense that the organisations should be included within the remit of the inspectorate. I therefore welcome the order wholeheartedly.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for welcoming the order. I shall respond to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, on Belfast City Airport. It has not been included in the list as it

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does not yet operate its own police service. However, its inclusion in its own right will be kept under review.

The noble Lord, Lord Laird, is aware that we are working very hard to restore effective devolved government as soon as possible for Northern Ireland. Our discussions to help to progress that will continue.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Modification) Order 2003

6.58 p.m.

Baroness Amos rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 27th November be approved.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like to explain the background to the order. It was clear to the Government following the recent elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly that, in the short term at least, restoration of the devolved institutions would not lead to stable and inclusive devolved government. The Government believe that it would be wrong to restore before there is a real prospect of such an administration being formed. It remains our firm wish, however, that restoration should take place as soon as possible, and to that end we will be talking to all the parties in the days and weeks ahead to explore how it can be achieved.

The order was originally laid before the House on 27th November and has the effect of amending the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Section 47(9)(a) of that Act provides that a person's membership of the Northern Ireland Assembly begins, for the purposes of remuneration and pension, on the day when he takes his seat in accordance with the Assembly's Standing Orders. Standing Order 3(3) in turn provides that Members shall take their seats by signing the Roll of Membership at the Assembly's first meeting. Therefore, unless corrective measures had been taken, the new Members of the Assembly would not have been eligible to receive pay or allowances.

This order therefore provides that, for pay and allowances purposes, membership of the Assembly began on 5th December 2003. That date was chosen as it was the latest date on which the first meeting of the Assembly could have taken place had restoration been possible on election day.

Newly elected MLAs needed to know, as soon as possible after the election, whether or not they were to be paid and, if they were, at what rate. It is not unreasonable for them to ask for some degree of financial certainty for the purposes of running constituency offices and carrying out their duties. That is why it was necessary to make this order under the urgency procedure. A draft of the order was considered earlier today by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and it confirmed that it is content.

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I recognise that any decision to pay salary and allowances to Members of an Assembly which cannot presently meet may attract a degree of scepticism. It is clearly not right that Members should receive full salary in these unusual circumstances. However, the new MLAs have a fresh mandate and significant constituency responsibilities. Moreover, many of them will be contributing to the review of the Good Friday agreement which will begin soon. It is right that they should be paid for those activities.

We have therefore announced our intention to pay salaries at the rate of 31,817 per annum for the time being. That is what was paid following the suspension of the previous Assembly in October 2002 until its dissolution in April this year. We believe that this level of salary is appropriate, given the reduced level of the MLAs' responsibilities.

We have arranged for newly elected MLAs to receive a package of allowances to facilitate their work. We shall also expect this package of salary and allowances to cover the costs of the parties' participation in the forthcoming review. I must stress that these salary and allowance arrangements will remain under close review in the light of political developments.

I am sure that all noble Lords share the Government's hope that we shall be able to restore effective devolved government in Northern Ireland as soon as possible. I hope that noble Lords will agree that this order is a necessary response to this unusual situation. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 27th November be approved.—(Baroness Amos.)

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, once again, I thank the noble Baroness the Lord President for presenting the order to us. She has made clear that its purpose is to enable Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, elected on 26th November, to be paid for the time being at 70 per cent of the full MLA salary. We shall not oppose the order, although we feel that this situation cannot go on indefinitely.

We have this situation because, despite the elections taking place, the Assembly remains suspended—it has been since October 2002—and Members are unable to take their seats. We hope that this state of affairs will soon end. We would like to see the Assembly sit and we would like to see devolution and the Executive restored at the earliest opportunity.

Regrettably, after the elections—as before—there is still not the necessary trust and confidence between the parties for that to happen. As the Government recently pointed out, the situation now is, if anything, more difficult with the DUP and Sinn Fein the largest parties within their respective communities. The prospect of an immediate end to direct rule seems remote.

What is required now is to build that elusive trust and confidence between the parties, something which the Government have notably failed to achieve to date. Naturally, we wish the Government well in the talks that will be held with the parties next week. We believe

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that the review, provided for in the agreement, should proceed as the Government have indicated that it will, and we sincerely hope that all parties will participate.

Yet, despite the elections having been held, the central issue still remains the same as it was before they were called—the continued existence of armed and active paramilitary organisations, republican and loyalist. There must be an end to all forms of paramilitary activity, as set out in paragraph 13 of the British and Irish Governments' Joint Declaration. And we need to be confident that the IRA's so-called war is over. We must see an end to both the IRA and the so-called loyalists as effective paramilitary organisations.

The Government, too, need to learn lessons. They have to ask themselves how a pro-agreement unionist majority has in five and a half years been turned into a clear anti-agreement unionist majority. They have to ask whether this is a consequence of too many side deals and one-sided concessions to republicans and, I regret to say, broken pledges by the Prime Minister on both weapons and prisoners.

I urge the Government to think seriously about how they are going to restore balance and fairness to this process. I urge them to consider how they are going to tackle the crisis of confidence in the political process among moderate unionists. And I urge them, along with the Irish Government, now to place all possible pressure on the republican movement to do what should have been done three and a half years ago.

It has been clearly demonstrated that the democratic process in Ireland, or anywhere else for that matter, cannot survive with political parties operating private armies.

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