Earlier this month, Left Foot Forward reported on the crucial negotiations over the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Government. Following these negotiations, Downing Street yesterday published a letter sent to all members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, outlining the financial basis upon which the devolution of policing and justice could take place.
In writing the letter, Gordon Brown described as a “good settlement” a package that includes:
• The Chancellor will make an additional £37.4 million available to help with the process of devolving policing and justice in 2010/11.
• Extra investment to be made available for the purposes of legal aid provision.
• The Westminster government will gift four military bases to the Northern Ireland Executive, which can then be sold to provide further revenue for a newly established Justice Department.
• In conjunction with the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State will ensure front line policing is both protected and working as efficiently as possible.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson welcomed the publication of the letter, and his Sinn Fein deputy, Martin McGuinness, described as “a good night’s work” the overnight meeting on Tuesday evening which saw the package finalised in meetings in Downing Street.
The proposals will now be put forward to all parties in Northern Ireland to consider. It comes as the Conservatives pledged to uphold the financial package agreed, following a meeting between Mr McGuinness, Mr Robinson and Tory leader David Cameron, who had never before met the Deputy First Minister.
The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee has announced its decision to enquire into co-operation and communication between the governments in Wales and Holyrood.
The move comes following the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny McAskill, to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, on compassionate grounds – a decision which was met with widespread condemnation across the political spectrum both here and in the US.
The inquiry will in particular focus on the mechanisms in place to assess the impact that UK foreign policy has on Scottish interests and vice versa. It comes as Megrahi’s lawyer was forced to deny that his client had passed away in Libya.
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