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National Crime Agency

Volume 587: debated on Wednesday 29 October 2014

Justice Minister Ford has submitted a paper to the political parties which sets out enhanced accountability arrangements for the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland. I would urge all parties in the Executive to accept the full implementation of the NCA’s remit without further delay.

Bearing in mind last week’s statement by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) that the consequences of not acting on the NCA was potentially devastating, with drugs and violence on our streets, children being abused and vulnerable people defrauded, how can the Secretary of State justify that Minister going on to say

“If agreement is not reached, we will have to accept that the NCA will not be fully operational for the foreseeable future”?—[Official Report, 22 October 2014; Vol. 586, c. 967.]

Surely that is an intolerable situation, handing a veto to Sinn Fein.

The Government take their obligations under the devolution settlement very seriously, but there is no escaping the fact that this is a matter for the political parties in Northern Ireland to decide, and that choice has consequences. As the hon. Gentleman said, the decision by the two nationalist parties to reject the NCA’s remit means criminals not arrested, assets not seized, and victims suffering.

Order. These are very important matters appertaining to Northern Ireland. Let us have a bit of quiet for Lady Hermon.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. That was very gracious of you.

In the absence of the operation of the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland, what steps are this Government taking to ensure that Northern Ireland does not again become a honeypot for human traffickers, drug traffickers and other gangs of organised criminals?

We have been working with the NCA, Minister Ford and the Police Service of Northern Ireland to ensure that the NCA can do everything possible to help Northern Ireland, within the constraints of being able to operate only within the devolved field. It is able to do some work on human trafficking, for example, and significant effort has gone into ensuring that it can take over the cases involving proceeds of crime that it inherited from the Serious Organised Crime Agency. We are doing all that we can to maximise the support that the NCA can give in Northern Ireland, within the limitations set by the Executive.