Clause 36 - Information for Director

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:00 pm ar 5 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 6:00, 5 Chwefror 2002

The hon. Gentleman rightly points out that the clause is about the orderly circulation of court papers. Like all other parts of the Bill that relate to the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland, it is about what lawyers call procedure. Issues to do with

disclosure are in a different body of the law: that of evidence. No part of the Bill deals with the law of evidence.

That does not mean that we cannot mention disclosure in the context of information, as the hon. Gentleman appropriately did with reference to paragraph 4.143 of the review. I am not privy to the review's discussions on the issue, but I sincerely doubt whether a review that involved the passing of information could take place in any jurisdiction without the legal profession raising disclosure. Even with reference to full disclosure, I am sure that the legal profession would raise the subject for discussion. In practice, it is a complex aspect of the law.

The review did not consider disclosure, but I do not accept that it ducked the issue. It flagged it up as something for consideration by those with expertise. We should bear in mind the fact that the review recommended that such people be formed into a commission, as they had the skills to consider such complex matters. In the face of that recommendation, it is incumbent on the Government to set up a law commission to do such work. The Secretary of State will then remit certain matters to that law commission to consider, and the Committee can rest assured that when priorities are set for it, issues specifically referred to by the review such as disclosure will be considered for priority.

Other bids for priority will be made from other sections of the community of Northern Ireland. I can guarantee that at least three or four bids will be made from lobbies to do with children, suggesting that a law commission address the welfare of children as a matter of priority. The Secretary of State will then need to apply some consideration as to what is priority. That is the Government's position. It is not a position of no action—

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—