My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I have arranged for copies of the second report of Robert Whalley CB, independent reviewer of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (the 2007 Act), to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
This second report provides an assessment of the operation of Sections 21 to 32 of the 2007 Act and the procedures adopted by the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints. The report covers the period 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2009.
The report highlights the seriousness in the security position this year, with the reviewer reporting that the use of the powers under the 2007 Act has remained entirely appropriate and proportional. The reviewer makes clear that, in light of the activities of dissident republicans, the balance of argument for continuing the powers is persuasive.
The independent reviewer notes that while the low level of general complaints regarding military activity has been maintained, there has been an increase in the number of complaints in relation to helicopter flying. The reviewer does, however, assess that the procedures adopted by the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade for dealing with these complaints is positive and he is satisfied that the staff concerned with addressing the complaints are aware of the importance of pursuing their inquiries fully and expeditiously. This is important, as these training flights are necessary and reflect the Armed Forces’ wider strategic commitment, particularly in Afghanistan.
There has also been a major change recently with the closure of RAF Aldergrove. While air activity will continue under the Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove, the reviewer has indicated this change presents an opportunity to review how best to reconcile military needs with the impact on the community, through the fullest possible engagement with the community.
The chief constable and the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade have both welcomed the independent reviewer’s report and the recommendations made. I, too, welcome the recommendations made by Robert Whalley in his second report and I will consider them carefully.