David Ford said: “In a thinly veiled attack on Alliance at the weekend, the leader of the UUP referred to a so-called ‘puppet’ Minister of Justice under the direction of the First and Deputy First Ministers.
“Alliance made it clear over a year ago that there was no possibility of an Alliance Minister unless they had full Ministerial duties and responsibilities. There was no chance that we would provide a second class Minister. Since then, the Act passed at Westminster makes it clear that the Minister of Justice will be a full Minister, with all that that implies in terms of their proper role in the Executive and in collective decisions.
“Either Reg Empey is unaware of this legislation or he is misrepresenting things. Whichever is the case, he is wrong, as I am sure his Conservative friends who supported the Bill could confirm.
“The UUP leader has talked a lot about finding agreement between the parties on justice issues. It is therefore a great pity that he has not responded to a letter I sent him two months ago seeking talks between our parties on the policies to be implemented if justice is devolved.
“Although it is hard to take the Ulster Unionist claims seriously, I am prepared for talks on justice at any time if they are genuine.”