Hain questioned by his committee

Don’t expect any revelations, but Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, etc, etc, Peter Hain, is was facing questions from his Preparation of Government Committee on law and order.. live coverage here[Real Player].. and other links here – transcript later available here. More below Updated again.During the questions, Peter Hain re-affirmed his view that all parties in the Assembly, in particular those holding Ministerial office should be fully signed up to policing.

He also touched on the topic raised in a post yesterday – on those certain other things.

Hain made it clear that, again in his view, the Birtish Government has fulfilled its commitment on bringing forward legislation on devolving powers for policing and justice – a commitment that in May he stated that he expected would mean that SF would have moved to endorse policing in July.

Martin McGuinness responded by restating his view that the commitment was to actually devolve the powers.

A conundrum that focuses, once again, on the quadruple lock – which requires, from within a functioning Executive, the First and Deputy First Ministers to jointly propose to the Assembly that such powers should be devolved before that can happen.

Update As mentioned previously, the relevant section from the transcript

Mr Weir: I did not think otherwise.

It is worrying that a report at the weekend suggested that the leader of Sinn Féin had indicated that he would seek his party’s support for policing once the Govern­ment had fulfilled promises that they had made to Sinn Féin. Can the Secretary of State indicate whether the British Government made promises to Sinn Féin that remain unfulfilled? Can he give us an assurance with regard to policing structures and any other policing matters that no changes will be made simply to accommodate one party so that it will join the rest of us on a level playing field with regard to policing?

Mr Hain: I cannot speak for the Sinn Féin president. Perhaps Sinn Féin representatives can assist me. I do not believe that he would want me to speak for him.

The big commitment that the Government agreed to with Sinn Féin, the Irish Government and others who were involved in the talks process was that legislation would be introduced that would devolve policing and justice matters. We have honoured that commitment. However, that legislation has not yet been implemented. I cannot force the devolution of policing and justice on institutions that do not exist; even when they do exist, I cannot do that without consent. That is possibly what Gerry Adams had in mind. As far as I am concerned, with regard to the bigger picture, the British Govern­ment have honoured their commitment to introduce the legislation that provides for the devolution of policing and justice. That legislation is on the statute book.

Mr Weir: Can the Secretary of State give a reassurance that no changes will be made to policing and its structures simply to accommodate one party and to allow it to come on board with the other parties that have always operated on a level playing field?

Mr Hain: I am not aware of any proposal to change the structures of policing.

Mr Weir: I ask for reassurance that no changes will be made.

Mr Hain: I am not aware of any demand for changes. There are outstanding differences and a disagreement on national security matters, which is a matter of concern for the SDLP. That has been mentioned today. I am not aware of any other structural issues. Perhaps a member can assist me with that.

Mr M McGuinness: I can assist the Secretary of State. The agreement that Sinn Féin made with the British Government concerns more than simply the introduction of legislation on the transfer of powers. It is about the transfer of powers to a locally elected and accountable Administration. That raises the question of what must be done if that is not achieved. I have already said that Sinn Féin wants there to be success. As the talks in Scotland approach, Sinn Féin hopes that all parties will recognise the need to assist one another in order to bring about a resolution of all our difficulties. Sinn Féin recognises that unionists have difficulties, and it is determined to tackle those issues. However, those powers must be transferred to a locally elected Administration — with a First Minister, a Deputy First Minister and an Executive that includes a Minister for justice.

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