|Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill
Mr. Garnier: My anger is getting the better of me, Mr. Pike. I am dismayed at the way in which the Government are treating the proper scrutiny of
Column Number: 135legislation, especially in relation to Northern Ireland. As there are only three Ulster MPs on the Committee, it seems incumbent on us to look all the more carefully when we are dealing with the interests of minority parties in a part of the United Kingdom that is not as well represented
The Chairman: Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made his point. I call Mr. Blunt to speak to the amendment.
Mr. Blunt: I just wonder whether the Attorney-General of England and Wales should have some responsibility for the proper scrutiny of legislation. Perhaps that would be a diversion from the purpose of the amendment.
It was my observation, and that of a number of contributors to the review process and to the consultation, that the duties of the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland are not defined in the Bill. The duties of the Director of Public Prosecutions are extremely clear and well laid out. The DPP is responsible to the Attorney-General and, where the Attorney-General has to exercise functions in relation to the DPP, those functions are clear. What is not clear is the detail of the role of the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland. I assume that it is as legal adviser to the Executive, the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the Assembly.
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all the functions that the Attorney-General usually exercises within England and Wales are, where appropriate, transferred to the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland. It can be put as simply as that. I look to the Government to explain why they oppose the amendment--if they do. If it assists in defining the role of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland, which is not done in the Bill, I hope that the Government will accept it. That will make the role of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland clearer.
Mr. Browne: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Reigate for explaining his amendment, and I can give him the reassurance that he seeks. In so far as the amendment is intended to ensure that the new Attorney-General takes up the existing functions of the post, it will have no effect on the Bill.
The Bill removes the link between the posts of Attorney-General for Northern Ireland and Attorney-General for England and Wales, which is set out in section 10 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. That removal will automatically confer the existing functions of the post on the new, locally appointed law officer. That is separate from the changes under schedule 7 to which the hon. Gentleman refers in his amendment, so I infer that he understands them. It is also separate from the functions transferred to the Director of Public Prosecutions under clause 41. The hon. Gentleman can be reassured that unless they are transferred somewhere else in the Bill, all the existing functions of the post will be transferred to the new Attorney-General.
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I have two lists in my hand. One sets out in about 30 lines the functions of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland as proposed in the Bill, and the other sets out the functions of the Advocate-General for Northern Ireland as proposed in the Bill. No one would welcome my reading those lists out, but I shall ensure that they are circulated to all Committee members so that they can have the parity that the hon. Member for Reigate says is missing.
I had understood that, during the process of consultation and advice that I had set up before the Bill was introduced, someone in the Conservative party had been given the lists. Perhaps they did not reach the hon. Gentleman; such things happen. I do not want to make a major point about that, but another copy can be sent to him if it will assist him. The reassurance that he seeks to add to the Bill through the amendment is already there.
The Chairman: Order. Before we move on, I have been asked to give guidance as to what time the sitting will end. As I suggested at the programming meeting that I chaired earlier in the week, afternoon sittings of the Committee start at 4.30 on a Tuesday and 2.30 on a Thursday, and can continue with a meal break until it is agreed that the Committee adjourn. That means that we can sit until 10 o'clock, 6 o'clock tomorrow morning or whenever, until the Committee agrees to adjourn.
The matter is not for the Chair to determine, but if we sat until such a timeI presume that we will notI would determine a meal break at some stage. I am sorry that I cannot say at what time the Committee will adjourn, as I do not know. [Interruption.] It has been indicated informally across the Floor that we shall adjourn at 6.30 pm.
Mr. Blunt: I have listened to the Minister and look forward to receiving the list of functions. I cannot recall having seen them, which he obviously suggests is either my fault or that of another member of my party who has not passed them to me. I am happy to take his word on that, and on the amendment's being unnecessary because what it would do has been achieved in the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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