Crime and Courts Bill [Lords]

– in a Public Bill Committee am ar 5 Chwefror 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

[Martin Caton in the Chair]

Written evidence to be reported to the House

C&C 13 Criminal Justice Alliance

C&C 14 The Howard League for Penal Reform

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 8:55, 5 Chwefror 2013

On a point of order, Mr Caton. I would welcome your view of developments in the relationship of the Bill to Northern Ireland. Yesterday, as you may be aware, the Northern Ireland Assembly considered the legislative consent motion in relation to the Bill, part 1 of which gives effect to the National Crime Agency—we considered that last week. The Northern Ireland Assembly voted 56 for and 39 against endorsing that legislative consent motion, but the vote was on a cross-community basis and the majority of nationalist and Unionist votes was not met, so that motion has not yet been carried, which has serious implications for our consideration of part 1.

My point of order is simply to welcome any statement that the Government might intend to make, at some point before the Committee’s proceedings are completed, about their approach to the legislative consent motion. Our discussions last week showed the importance of the Bill to Northern Ireland, so I would welcome clarification from the Minister on which Minister and which Department are taking the lead on developing negotiations with the parties in Northern Ireland on that matter, and on whether, as we discussed last week, amendments will be tabled about the substance of the impact of the Bill on Northern Ireland.

We are approaching the twilight of our period in Committee, and if any new clauses are to be tabled to part 1, that should be done in Committee, because if not, the Bill is shortly to return to the Floor of the House on Report, and Northern Ireland discussions take some time. My point of order is to seek, through you, Mr Caton, a statement from the Government as to how they propose to deal with the extremely serious matter of the current lack of consent for the National Crime Agency to operate in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

Thank you, Mr Hanson. It would be useful if the Government, either now or very soon, indicated how they will deal with that particular problem.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

I am happy to do so now, Mr Caton. The matter was addressed at an earlier stage in the emergence of the problem by the Minister of State, Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane, who said that

“we are carefully considering the part 1 provisions to see how they can…be modified to give the NCA some functionality in Northern Ireland”— in the absence of a legislative consent motion—and that we

“will aim to introduce any necessary amendments to the Bill on Report.”––[Official Report, Crime and Courts Public Bill Committee, 29 January 2013; c. 174.]

That is the current plan.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Further to that point of order, Mr Caton. I am grateful to the Minister for that. We understand that point, which we knew was the case before today. My point of order relates to how the Government will ensure that the end result is not just that the legislative consent motion is amended or carried, but that that is done to the satisfaction of all parties in the very fragile situation of the Northern Ireland Assembly. There is a clear division, and I want to know from the Minister, through you, Mr Caton, which Department—the Northern Ireland Office or the Home Office—is taking that matter forward and how it intends to do so.

Whatever amendments the Minister tables to give effect to the operation of the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland, the principal point is that several parties in Northern Ireland currently do not wish it to operate, which is why they have refused legislative consent. That has implications not just for the operation of the National Crime Agency, but for relations about the operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I am seeking, through my point of order, clarification of the Government’s view on that matter.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

I am not sure that that is a point of order, but I am happy to reassure the right hon. Gentleman that both the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are working with the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland to resolve the matter. Clearly, we must respect the devolution settlement, but with regard to what clearly is a point of order on the progress of the Bill, I would repeat what I have just said about the Report stage.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

We must now continue our line-by-line consideration of the Bill.