The Government has been accused of pushing through legislation that will finalise the handover of powers for policing and justice to Northern Ireland.
Laws that will allow the completion of devolution will be introduced on February 23 when MPs return from recess and will be debated on March 4. It is expected it will |complete the parliamentary process on that day.
Critics claim the legislation, which includes the model for the justice department, is being forced through parliament too quickly. Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay told Commons Leader Harriet Harman it was an abuse of the House to try to rush it.
“This goes to the heart of policing in Northern Ireland,” he said. “It is a major piece of legislation. I really do protest that we should push this through all at once.”
But the Government, which wants the legislation in place to allow the transfer as soon as the Assembly requests the power, insists MPs will have more than a week to consider the Bill’s details before it reaches the debate stages. It also points out that it is a technical Bill as the principles of handing over responsibility have already been agreed.
Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said: “We gave a commitment at St Andrews to ensure when the parties were ready to complete devolution with the transfer of policing and criminal justice, the legislation would be in place.”