|Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill
Mr. Blunt rose—
The Chairman: Order. Before I call Mr. Blunt, I want to clarify the position. The Minister referred to amendment No. 44—a delete clause amendment—which is not selected. Clause 9 stand part is, however,
Column Number: 54included within this debate. When we reach that stage, we will take a formal vote but not debate it.
Mr. Browne: I am grateful for that clarification, Mr. Pike. I was just pointing out that amendment No. 44 was the principal amendment and that the rest were consequential. The deletion of the clause causes all the other consequences, although it is not being debated in this group.
The Chairman: The Minister is absolutely right. We are debating clause stand part with this group. The amendment is not selected, but the principle behind it is.
Mr. Blunt: I am not entirely sure that I am grateful to the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne for her literary knowledge. However, the Minister was gracious enough to accept the description—other than the master of foxhounds, which I thought had merit—allotted him, so I should assume to myself the description of a hapless English gentleman. I was not suggesting that the Minister was really like the character; I was interested in the characterisation of the relationship between Flurry Knox and Major Yates—the friendship and the inveterate antagonism across the Floor.
I welcome the Minister's looking further into the issue with an open mind. It is quite proper for him to talk again to consultees. The issue was raised by resident magistrates and was in a sense created by the review, which I regret. Had it been left well alone, no one would have raised any objection. Changing the name does not take matters any further.
The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire is slightly embarrassed by his enthusiastic lapdog loyalty to the Government. Had he been present when I introduced the amendments, he would have noticed that I read out precisely the part of the review that he read out—only I did so to mock it as an example of bureaucracy gone mad and he did so to laud it and pray it in aid. I shall leave it to the Committee and the wider world to establish which clause in the report is most appropriate.
Lembit Öpik: I thank the hon. Gentleman for teaching me humility once again.
Mr. Blunt: I am getting used to the fact that we are all learning that.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): Would the hon. Gentleman accept that the conjectural history outlined by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh regarding the origin of the expression ''resident magistrate'' might turn out to be real history? That would provide a major argument against retaining that term.
Mr. Blunt: If that turned out to be correct and resident magistrates were regarded with outrage throughout the history of jurisprudence in Ireland, there would be no point in retaining it. I believe, however, that the reverse was the case and that the role of resident magistrates was to deal with concerns about the administration of justice in late 19th century Ireland. As I said when I intervened on the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, we might justify retaining the name because of the principle of the
Column Number: 55independence of the judiciary for which magistrates stood when the administration of justice was even more controversial than it is today.
Mr. Garnier: The Minister has made a valuable contribution to judicial history in Northern Ireland, and I hope that if the Government retain their current position on Report, my Front Bench colleagues will ensure that we have time to re-argue the point. Many amendments and huge tranches of the Bill are often left undebated on Report because we are guillotined into a tight timetable. I would not want the Government to lead us into a trap of our own making, which is to lull us into a sense of security and return on Report having done nothing but without giving us any time to register a complaint. I am positive that this Minister, of all Ministers, would not think of behaving like that, but unfortunately he does not control the timetable. Others who are not here may take a different view about the use of the time. I put that point up for consideration while we are happily engaged in agreement with the Government.
Mr. Blunt: I thank my hon. and learned Friend. That is one of the consequences of the extremely tight programme under which we will have to consider the points, but I know that the Minister said that he wants to revisit this discussion, and I take it that the Government's intention is now to retain the name of resident magistrates unless the Minister is convinced otherwise following his consultations.
The default position is that the Government will introduce amendments, and they have more resources than me to ensure that they are comprehensive and technically correct. I thank the Minister for his attitude and open mind, which is appreciated on the Opposition Benches. We hope sincerely that we can continue Committee proceedings in the spirit with which we have discussed these amendments. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 29 January 2002|