Clause 70 - Community safety strategy

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 7:15 pm ar 12 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) 7:15, 12 Chwefror 2002

I think that the hon. Gentleman has the point, because he anticipates my second argument. Another reason why creating powers for structures would be premature is that the Northern Ireland Executive announced in their programme for government that they would establish a review of public administration. That is likely to result in significant changes to existing rules and responsibilities in organisations that could be expected to contribute to community safety. In view of that important development, which the criminal justice review was unable to take into account, it would not be sensible to fix long-term arrangements before the future shape of public administration in Northern Ireland becomes clear. I think that we are at one thus far.

In the interim, community safety will be supported from the centre, but that will be an interim measure. Detailed proposals will be set out in the draft community safety strategy to which I referred and which is referred to in the clause. A key element will be to encourage the early formation of non-statutory community safety partnerships, building on current best practice to tackle relevant issues at local levels. In developing those arrangements, the Northern Ireland Office will consult departments on the scope for aligning the community safety partnerships with the new structure of local strategic partnerships established by the Executive.

Thus a significant amount of work remains to be done. The purpose of clauses 70 and 71 is not to give the Secretary of State powers that he will exercise willy-nilly, but to enable him to have a statutory structure in which he can respect and incorporate existing good practice in the interim and engage in necessary discussions, such as open discussions with the Executive. Unless that consultation takes place, in the context anticipated by clauses 70 and 71, we shall not be able to establish the structure. Given that much of the delivery of safety is to be by those who exercise transferred powers, it would be inappropriate for the Secretary of State to set out a shape for them, even in the interim. The Secretary of State does not seek to exercise the powers without proper scrutiny and discussion; he does so in order that we can have the

consultation in a changing environment, recognising the fact that people want the community safety work to take place in the interim. They cannot wait for the length of time suggested by the hon. Member for Reigate to have their communities made safer.

We have given as much detail as we can in the primary legislation of the Government's current thinking and will come back with proposals that can be debated. In that context, I ask the Committee to support the clauses as they are drafted.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.