To ask Her Majesty's Government following the report of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on the possibility of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and the minority dissenting report which concluded the Commission had exceeded its remit, whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been asked to, or has considered, exercising his powers under paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 7 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to dismiss the Chief Commissioner or a Commissioner. [HL3881]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 19 May (WA 299), whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has built confidence amongst the community in Northern Ireland in the way outlined by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee on 1 April. [HL3913]
As can be seen from the uncorrected transcript of his oral evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee (available at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/ pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmniaf/uc404-i/uc40402.htm), the Secretary of State's reference to building confidence was a reference to the commitment made in the Belfast agreement, not to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. He said:
“I think that the original proposition at the time of the Good Friday agreement, to recognise that there might be human rights in Northern Ireland, which could be different from the rest of the United Kingdom, precisely because of the Troubles, was very important to identify and to use as mechanism to build confidence”.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland meant in saying at the meeting of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee on 1 April that many of the proposals of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission “go well beyond any proposals in either the Joint Declaration or the Good Friday agreement”. [HL3914]
The full uncorrected transcript of the Secretary of State's oral evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee on 1 April, in which he explained his meaning, can be found at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmniaf/uc404-i/uc40402.htm.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was given a specific brief to advise on a Bill of Rights reflecting the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. It is the Government's opinion that the Commission has gone further than expected by producing such a wide range of proposals. However the Commission is entitled to make these recommendations and has not exceeded its statutory powers by doing so. The Government will consult publicly on their response to the advice in due course.