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Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 29 January 2009

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission represents the community in Northern Ireland; and, if so, which commissioners represent which sections or interests. [HL602]

To ask Her Majesty's Government in determining the composition of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which of the members is considered to be (a) a Nationalist, (b) a Unionist, (c) a communist, (d) a Protestant, (e) a Roman Catholic, (f) a non-believer, and (g) a non-Christian. [HL747]

As previously indicated to the noble Lord, under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 the Secretary of State is obliged, when making appointments to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, to secure so far as practicable, that the commissioners as a group are representative of the community in Northern Ireland. The composition of existing commissioners is taken into account when appointments are made, so that this obligation can be met.

Given the small number of individuals concerned, their community backgrounds will not be disclosed.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 17 December 2008 (WA 55) concerning the membership of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, how decisions of the Secretary of State can be verified to ensure that appointments to the commission represent the entire community in Northern Ireland. [HL746]

Section 68(3) of the Northern Ireland Act requires that in making appointments to the commission the Secretary of State must, as far as practicable, secure that the commission is representative of the community in Northern Ireland. As stated in my Written Answer of 17 December 2008 (Official Report, col. WA55) the Secretary of State has complied with this obligation in every appointment that has been made to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

In exercising his power to appoint commissioners under the Act, the Secretary of State is under his usual public law duties to act reasonably and fairly and any appointment decision he makes would be susceptible to judicial review in the usual way.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 18 December 2008 (WA 74), what is meant by being independent of Government within a statutory framework; and who sets the policy framework for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. [HL922]

As set out in my previous Answer the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is independent of government. This is in the context of the provisions set out in the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

A policy framework for the commission is not specified in the Act.

For clarification, my previous Answer referred to a policy framework in relation to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in respect of which both the Government and the Northern Ireland Policing Board have responsibilities.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 18 December 2008 (WA 74), (a) which non-departmental public bodies other than the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission work independently of Government and Ministers; (b) which other non-departmental public bodies do not answer questions tabled in the House of Lords on operational matters; (c) whether that arrangement was sought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and, if so, when it was decided and agreed; and (d) whether the Equality and Human Rights Commission has sought such an arrangement. [HL923]

(a) The Northern Ireland Departmental Report 2008 (Command Paper Cm 7405) lists the NDPBs sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office. These are as follows:

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland;

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland;

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission;

Northern Ireland Police Fund;

Northern Ireland Policing Board;

Parades Commission for Northern Ireland;

Office of Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland;

Probation Board for Northern Ireland;

Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation;

Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland;

Independent Assessor for Police Service Northern Ireland Recruitment Vetting; and

Northern Ireland Law Commission.

(b) The policy of referring noble Lords to the NDPB on operational questions applies to all of the Northern Ireland Office's NDPBs listed above.

(c) No.

(d) The Equality and Human Rights Commission is an independent body sponsored by the Government Equalities Office. The policy in relation to questions for that body is therefore a matter for the Government Equalities Office.