As you may know I am a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers recently made a statement to the House of Commons following the publication of Lady Justice Hallet’s inquiry commissioned by the Prime Minister following the collapse of the trial against John Downey which you may have read about in the news earlier this year. We have investigated the “on-the-runs” scheme extensively and I questioned the Secretary of State about whether she will ask authorities in Northern Ireland to make statements on the legal position of Northern Ireland courts.
You can read the full text of my question to the Secretary of State below:
Nigel Mills MP: I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. At its start she mentioned that she discussed this issue with the various authorities in Northern Ireland. At the Select Committee last week I asked whether she would consider asking those authorities to make a similar statement, so that we could be sure that the courts in Northern Ireland accept that this status is for the whole of the UK, not just the Secretary of State, given that she has no power over the courts in Northern Ireland. Has she taken that on board and ruled it out?
Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Chipping Barnet, Conservative): I did give that suggestion some thought and I discussed it with David Ford. I continue to be of the view that these statements were made by the UK Government—largely by the Northern Ireland Office, and by No. 10 in a couple of instances—so it is for the UK Government to clarify their status. The key factor is that this is the Government’s statement of what the letters now mean. In those circumstances I do not think it is necessary for an additional statement to be published by the Department of Justice or the devolved authorities, but, as I have told the House, they agree that this is the best way forward to do whatever we can to try to remove barriers to prosecution that might be created by the scheme.