HL Deb 20 May 1998 vol 589 cc1732-3

8.24 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs)

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th May be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before proceeding to the detail of the order, I would like to pay tribute to the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade. For many years the brigade has played a vitally important role in the life of Northern Ireland. Firefighters have responded, under particularly difficult circumstances, to all types of emergencies with impartiality and dedication second to none.

This order would amend the Fire Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1984 to bring Northern Ireland into line with Great Britain with respect to legislation dealing with the fighting of fires at sea and, in relation to firefighters' pensions, will provide a specific power for determining appeals. It would also enable a change to be made to the means by which certain nominations are made for membership of the Fire Authority for Northern Ireland.

Article 3 would make it possible for the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade, any fire engine, appliance or equipment to be used outside Northern Ireland at sea. That is designed to bring Northern Ireland into line with the comparable law in Great Britain.

Article 4 is necessary to clarify the basis upon which the department can consolidate the existing firemen's pensions scheme in Northern Ireland and introduce a new scheme should that be appropriate. The amendment would provide for the determination of questions arising under the pension scheme and for the means to appeal against decisions relating to such determinations.

Article 5 concerns the membership of the Fire Authority for Northern Ireland. The authority currently consists of 17 members appointed for four-year terms. At present Belfast City Council and the Association of Local Authorities of Northern Ireland are the only bodies with nomination rights: each has the right to nominate four members.

However, a review of the constitution of the authority recommended a change to the method of nomination. Accordingly, this amendment would extend nomination rights by introducing a procedure whereby appointments would be made following consultation with all district councils and associations representative of councils. The new procedure would first be effective for appointments to the authority in 2001. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th May be approved.—(Lord Dubs.)

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, this order puts in place several useful improvements to the arrangements for fire cover in Northern Ireland. In particular, the third provision, which makes new provision with respect to members of the authority to be nominated by certain councils and associations, is in the direction of devolving government rather more to the people of Northern Ireland. In that sense, it is well in tune with present trends and is extremely desirable. I am content with the order before the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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