Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]
Lord Fitt (Other)
My Lords, I feel compelled to support the amendment. It is honest and realistic, and takes into account all the circumstances in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that it represents an attack on the Patten report or an attempt to undermine its recommendations.
I have had many reservations about the 50:50 provision. I do not believe it to be realistic. It seems to generate the belief that there are many Catholics in Northern Ireland who want to join the new police service. I do not believe that to be the case. Not every individual wants to become a policeman. Given the history of Northern Ireland and the dangers under which policemen have to live, it is highly unlikely that there will be a great influx of Catholics into the PSNI.
The amendment suggests that if there is not a sufficient number of Catholics wanting to join the police force in Northern Ireland to make it possible to meet the 50:50 requirement, the Chief Constable could say that the force could take other people who are not of the Catholic faith. By the way, I have said repeatedly that this is not about Catholics and Protestants; it is about nationalists and unionists. People are not going to join or be rejected from the police force on account of their religion; it is because of what their political allegiance is likely to be.
If there is not a great influx of nationalists wanting to join the PSNI, the police force will be undermanned. We do not have sufficient numbers in the police force at the moment. Looking to the future, it will be necessary to have a police force that is able to deal adequately with all the circumstances in Northern Ireland. We need a higher level of policing than any other part of the United Kingdom.
The amendment is not a Tory or Unionist attack on Patten. I am neither, but I have lived all my life in Northern Ireland. I foresee great difficulties in restricting recruitment in Northern Ireland until there are a sufficient number of Catholics—or nationalists—wanting to join the police force. If the necessary figure is not arrived at and we do not have the numbers that we expect, when the Chief Constable determines what he believes to be the necessary complement of his force to engage with all the possibilities of what may happen in Northern Ireland he should have the right to depart from the principles laid down in Patten.