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Northern Ireland: Bill of Rights Forum

Volume 699: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What meetings the chairman of the Northern Ireland human rights forum has had since his appointment; on what dates; for what purpose; and whether they will place copies of the minutes of all meetings in the Library of the House.[HL1974]

Chris Sidoti was appointed chair of the Bill of Rights Forum on 15 March 2007. His meetings and activities since that date are a matter for the forum and I would suggest that the noble Lord write to the forum on this issue.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a business case was prepared for the funding of nearly £500,000 to the Northern Ireland human rights forum; and, if so, whether they will place a copy of the case in the Library of the House.[HL1975]

In establishing the Bill of Rights Forum, the Government were implementing the commitment made in the St Andrews agreement and the proposals outlined in the subsequent consultation document A Forum on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland (14 November 2006) and response to the consultation. No separate business case was prepared.

The forum made a detailed forecast of its expected costs at its inception and these costs have been met from the existing budget of the sponsoring division within the Northern Ireland Office. A management statement was agreed between the forum and the NIO at the forum's inception, which includes detailed financial guidance to which the forum is required to adhere.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What salary the chairman of the Northern Ireland human rights forum is paid; how it was calculated; and by whom.[HL1977]

Chris Sidoti was appointed chair of the Bill of Rights Forum on 15 March 2007 and is due to conclude his work when the forum provides its recommendations to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on 31 March 2008.

His salary for this period is forecast at £56,645 gross. This was calculated by the Northern Ireland Office, based on the salaries of other similar appointments, and was subject to ministerial approval.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What staff the Northern Ireland human rights forum has; how the staff were recruited; by whom they were recruited; and what their community backgrounds are.[HL1978]

The Bill of Rights Forum has six members of staff. The secretariat is comprised of two seconded civil servants; data on their community backgrounds is held by the Northern Ireland Office. Their community backgrounds will not be disclosed, given the small number of staff involved.

In addition, four part-time outreach workers have been seconded to the Bill of Rights Forum. The community backgrounds of the outreach workers are monitored in line with equality requirements by their permanent employers and not the Northern Ireland Office.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 5 February (WA 172) concerning the Northern Ireland human rights forum, how that body's budget was set; by whom; and what are the detailed headings and amounts. [HL2014]

The Bill of Rights Forum, in discussions with NIO officials, made a detailed forecast of its expected costs at its inception and these costs have been met from the existing budget of the sponsoring division within the Northern Ireland Office. The budget is broken down and shown in the following table.

Description

Cost (£)

Staff Costs

194,600

Travel Costs

71,000

General Office Expenditure

82,000

Consultancy Fees

67,000

Publication, Communication and Advertising Costs

27,000

Total

441,600

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the appointment of Chris Sidoti as chairman of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum was in accordance with their policy contained in A Guide to Public Appointments in Northern Ireland. [HL2035]

I am advised that A Guide to Public Appointments in Northern Ireland is a guidance document developed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of Chris Sidoti's application, including the curriculum vitae, for the post of chairman of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum. [HL2036]

As set out in my Written Answer of 5 February (Official Report, col. WA 171), the post of chair of the Bill of Rights Forum was not advertised. Applications including curriculum vitae were therefore not received.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 45), how many candidates were identified for the post of chairman of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum. [HL2037]

The Northern Ireland office compiled a shortlist of six candidates as potential chair of the Bill of Rights Forum.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the selection criteria for the appointment of the chairman of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum; how the criteria were created; and by whom. [HL2038]

The selection criteria are set out in my Written Answer (WA 45) of 19 February. These criteria were drawn up by officials in the Northern Ireland Office and were subject to ministerial approval.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum has considered the human rights implications of its chairman's appointment; and, if so, what are those implications. [HL2039]

The Bill of Rights Forum is an independent body. The noble Lord may wish to write to it on this matter.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 45–46) on the Northern Ireland human rights forum, whether they will place a copy of the equality scheme screening forum in the Library of the House. [HL2059]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 45–46) on the Northern Ireland human rights forum, whether the lack of applications by or interviews of applicants has an impact on equality. [HL2060]

I am not aware of any impact on equality arising out of the arrangements of filling the post of chair of the Bill of Rights Forum.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 43) concerning the Northern Ireland human rights forum, which officials assessed candidates for its chairmanship; and what are their positions and knowledge of human rights. [HL2099]

Officials in the Human Rights and Equality Unit, together with senior Northern Ireland Office colleagues, assessed the candidates.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 46) concerning the Northern Ireland human rights forum, whether they have considered the current advertising campaign of the forum against its terms of reference; if so, what is their conclusion; and, if not, why not. [HL2100]

I am advised that the Bill of Rights Forum has undertaken the following advertising activities:

advertising for the posts of two outreach workers;

developed an information leaflet, outlining the work of the forum; and

developed a website as an information point, also outlining the work of the forum.

In my view, these activities are consistent with its terms of reference.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 45) concerning the Bill of Rights Forum, whether the members of the forum reflected a diverse range of opinion on the need for a separate Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland at appointment; and who were the members and their opinions at that point. [HL2101]

It is my view that on appointment, members of the Bill of Rights Forum reflected a diverse range of opinion on the need for a separate Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Membership of the forum is set out on the forum's web page, to be accessed at www.billofrightsforum.org/index/forum/forum_members-link. The noble Lord will understand that I could not attempt to reflect the opinions of individual members of the forum.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 46) concerning the Northern Ireland human rights forum, how many names each of the organisations listed provided to the Northern Ireland Office. [HL2102]

I am advised that the numbers of names provided are as follows:

the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission: 10;

the then Department of Constitutional Affairs: 5;

the Northern Ireland Office: 6;

the Irish Government: 3;

the UK Mission to the UN, Geneva: 3; and

the British Embassy, Dublin: 1