New Clause 5 — Members of PSNI Engaged on Other Police Service

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 27th March 2003.

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'In section 27 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 (c. 32) (members of Police Service of Northern Ireland engaged on other police service) after subsection (6) insert—

"(6A) Regulations made by virtue of section 25(3) or (4) in relation to a member of the PSNI who has completed a period of relevant service within subsection (1)(d) may provide for a relevant procedure to be treated for the purposes of the regulations as carried out in accordance with procedures for which provision is made by regulations made by virtue of section 25(3).

(6B) In subsection (6A) "relevant procedure" means an investigation, hearing or other procedure carried out in relation to the person concerned in a country or territory outside the United Kingdom in connection with the person's relevant service."'.—[Angela Smith.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is related to but has no direct bearing on the provisions of clause 19, which allows the Chief Constable to make fixed-term appointments to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It is expected that the first application of the new clause, if enacted, would be to allow members of the Garda Siochana to undertake secondments with policing powers to the PSNI. Such secondments would also take place in the other direction, and the Irish Government will accordingly introduce legislation soon to allow secondments with policing powers from the PSNI to the Garda Siochana.

One of the fundamental issues in dealing with secondment is discipline. Usually, where a member of the PSNI is seconded, he may be dealt with under the PSNI's own conduct regulations for any breach of discipline that occurred during the secondment, as if that service had been with the PSNI. The new clause would allow the Secretary of State to modify the relevant regulations in respect of disciplinary matters, to enable investigations and hearings held in a country outside the United Kingdom to be taken into account by the PSNI in its own disciplinary procedures.

That means that, for secondments to the Garda Siochana, the PSNI would be able to take into account any investigation, hearing or other procedure undertaken in the Garda Siochana against a member of the PSNI during disciplinary procedures. Clearly, given the potential effect that the imposition of sanctions could have on any officer's career, the choice of penalty should remain the responsibility of the home service. However, in practical terms, it makes more sense for the host service to carry out the investigation and hearing, since those would take place in the jurisdiction in which the alleged offence would have occurred.

There are two points that I should like to make in the short time remaining. First, the arrangements will be reciprocal, so any Garda officer seconded to the PSNI against whom an allegation of misconduct was brought would be subject to investigation by the PSNI in exactly the same way as a PSNI officer. He will have taken the PSNI attestation and be subject to the excellent PSNI code of ethics, published last month. Equally, he would fall within the remit of the police ombudsman, if a complaint were made. Secondly, we hope and expect to have very little recourse to such regulations. I am confident that any member of the PSNI seconded anywhere in the world would behave as an ambassador for the PSNI, and that their conduct would be exemplary. However, legislation must provide for every eventuality.

I should explain to hon. Members why the clause is being brought forward at this stage. As we stated in Committee, negotiations between officials from both police services, the Irish Government and the Office of the Police Ombudsman have been going on for some time because of the complex detail and the agreement that was needed. Agreement on these difficult issues has just been reached. I can give the House an assurance that this will not be the only opportunity that hon. Members have to comment on the issue, as the details of the disciplinary procedures will be set out in regulations, on which there will be full consultation.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

We agree with the new clause and have nothing to add to what the Minister said.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.