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Devolution (Policing and Justice)

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2010

On 9 March 2010 the Northern Ireland Assembly voted, on a cross-community basis, to request the devolution of matters relating to policing and justice. The legislation required to give effect to the transfer of these powers will be debated in the House next week.

To underpin the practical arrangements relating to policing and justice post-devolution to the Northern Ireland Assembly, several documents have been developed or revised. These documents are, in summary:

A Protocol on National Security

The national security protocol sets out how the Secretary of State and the Justice Minister will work together where there is an interface between the Justice Minister’s responsibilities for policing and justice and the Secretary of State’s statutory responsibility for national security.

Concordats on Judicial Independence and on Prosecutorial Independence

Concordats are non-legally binding agreements between the UK Government and the devolved Administration. Both of these documents underscore the principles of judicial and prosecutorial independence enshrined in legislation, and reflect the constitutional position that there should be a clear separation between the executive arm of Government and the administration of the law.

Intergovernmental Agreements on Criminal Justice Co-operation and on Police Co-operation

There are existing agreements in these fields between the two sovereign Governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland and they are binding in international law. They now incorporate minimal amendments that are necessary to take account of the devolution in responsibility for policing and justice. The purpose of the agreements is to underpin cross-border co-operation on policing and criminal justice.

A separate protocol on policing architecture is in development and will be finalised by the Northern Ireland Executive after devolution. I expect to be able to share this with Parliament at a later date.

I have arranged for copies of each of the documents to be placed in the Library of the House.