Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

– in the House of Lords at 3:09 pm on 25th October 2000.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office 3:09 pm, 25th October 2000

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 48 [Service by members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve with other police services]:

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 172:

Page 24, line 42, leave from first ("the") to end of line 43 and insert ("Police Service of Northern Ireland of references to the Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 49 [Registration of associations]:

Photo of Lord Boston of Faversham Lord Boston of Faversham Crossbench

In calling Amendment No. 172A, I must tell the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 173 to 177.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 172A:

Page 25, line 3, leave out from second ("a") to end of line 16 and insert ("notifiable membership if membership of the organisation in question might reasonably be regarded as affecting the officer's ability to discharge his duties effectively and impartially.

(1A) The Chief Constable may give guidance to police officers in connection with notifiable memberships.

(1B) Before issuing any guidance under subsection (1A), the Chief Constable shall consult--

(a) the Board;

(b) the Secretary of State; and

(c) the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.").

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

In moving Amendment No. 172A, I shall speak also to other amendments to Clause 49 standing in my name. Before doing so I apologise on behalf of the Government for the late tabling of this group of amendments which significantly alter the Government's approach to Clause 49. In summary, they replace the current list of specified "registrable associations" with a generic reference to "notifiable membership" and enable the Chief Constable to issue guidance to police officers in this connection.

The Government have received many representations from all sides about the listing of various organisations. There was a uniform reaction from those associated with listed bodies which saw the listing as pejorative, although it was not intended to be. This reaction is, admittedly, unsurprising, but the Government have found themselves with the almost impossible task of having to come up with a definitive list of organisations which might affect an officer's ability to discharge his duties.

The Government's conclusion is that we must place the burden of responsibility in the hands of the organisation most affected--the police. The new provisions put greater emphasis on the judgment of individual officers, with assistance from guidance issued by the Chief Constable. In turn the Chief Constable will be assisted by an obligation to consult the board, the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

I turn to the details. Amendments Nos. 177A, 177D, 178A and 184B are consequential on Amendment No. 172A, replacing references throughout Clause 49 to "registrable association" with references to "notifiable membership". Amendment No. 184D removes a reference later in the clause to the listed organisations.

Amendments Nos. 177B, 177C and 177E substitute references to "belief" in the context of an officer's notifiable membership of an organisation for existing references to "fact". This is also a consequence of the removal of the specific list of organisations.

Amendment No. 184C is, again, made in consequence of the main change to Clause 49. It removes subsection (11)(b) which requires the Chief Constable's annual report to contain an assessment of the extent to which officers have complied with the duty to register their associations. This is a less appropriate requirement given the removal of a cut and dried list.

Amendment No. 177F removes the offence of knowingly giving false information. Regardless of other changes, the Government have concluded that this is heavy handed and that the appropriate sanction lies in disciplinary arrangements. We do not need to provide for this in the primary legislation.

Amendments Nos. 179A, 181A and 182A clarify the provisions relating to disclosure. Amendment No. 179A makes it clear that only those who are entitled to make disclosure can do so and only for the purposes specified in subsection (7). Amendments Nos. 181A and 182A define more clearly, in relation to police support staff and the board and its staff, who is caught by subsection (7). Amendment No. 179B removes the proviso whereby only information relating to a senior officer may be disclosed to the board. If we did not make this amendment there would be potential conflict with the board's power to obtain reports. However, the Government do not envisage that the board would require reports about individuals' membership and certainly not lists of such membership. Amendments Nos. 183A and 184A correct drafting errors.

I invite the Committee to accept the amendments. They obviously have a substantial effect on amendments tabled by other noble Lords in relation to this matter. I hope that in the light of what I have said there will be no need to move any of the associated amendments. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Molyneaux of Killead Lord Molyneaux of Killead Crossbench 3:15 pm, 25th October 2000

Perhaps I may comment on what the noble and learned Lord said and refer also to Amendment No. 173. We welcome the Government's concession contained in the Minister's statement. He has greatly increased the standing of your Lordships' House by setting aside the truly ridiculous form of words which stood as a formula in Clause 49. Amendment No. 173 resembles very closely what the Minister said. We fully appreciate that the Minister cannot be held accountable for such clumsy drafting. I am sure he has identified those objectionable sections which are referred to in our amendment.

The Independent Loyal Orange Institution should never have been on the list. It is an evangelical body devoid of any political connection whatever. The other mysterious reference is to "the Masonic Lodge". I myself, unfortunately, am not a member of the Masonic order. Clause 49(1)(e) refers to "the Masonic Lodge", I should like to ask to which Masonic lodge throughout the civilised world does that refer? It is not "a Masonic Lodge"; the wording says "the Masonic Lodge".

I can speak with slightly greater authority on Clause 49(1)(h)--the Royal Black Preceptory--because I had the honour to be the worldwide leader of that institution for a good many years. The term "the Preceptory" could mean my own preceptory, no. 274, which has 33 members. It is one of 733 preceptories throughout the Commonwealth, the United States, where the members pay their allegiance to the head of that state, Ghana, and Togo, where the members respect their president. I cannot understand how such ridiculous phrases crept into the clause. I do not know whether the draftsman was unsupervised or given free rein, but it would be doing a disservice not to heed the lesson of this draftmanship and ensure, for the sake of all of us--Government particularly--that there is no repetition.

Photo of Lord Pilkington of Oxenford Lord Pilkington of Oxenford Conservative

I tabled Amendment No. 176. I can only echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux. The problems with the clause began in the other place where it was really a tit-for-tat provision and very unedifying to the dignity of Parliament.

I tabled my amendment before the Recess as I felt that it was unjust and wrong that members of Opus Dei should have to declare their membership if they were to become members of the police force, the assumption being that one might show prejudice and fail to fulfil one's duties.

It may surprise noble Lords that, as a clergyman of the Church of England, I have considerable knowledge of Opus Dei. It has shown generosity in asking me to participate in its philosophical seminars. I have also given talks to various of its groups. As far as concerns Britain, it is a devotional and Christian group whose object is to encourage lay people to live a fully Christian life in society. It is, like many evangelical groups in the Protestant Churches, dedicated to an ardent form of Christianity. That may not appeal to some pragmatists. But the devotion of its members is obvious.

So far as I have seen, Opus Dei plays no part in British politics. I should imagine that the members I have spoken to reflect the whole spectrum of political opinion. As in many evangelical groups--these are evangelical Catholics--the very nature of their devotion would encourage any member who held public office to act with integrity and impartiality. Therefore, although I am delighted that the Government have withdrawn the clause, like the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, I think it is very unfortunate that such a clause was ever placed in a statute before a British Parliament. Why it was not stopped in the other place I cannot imagine. It really is quite a disgrace. The Hansard reports of proceedings in Committee in another place when this provision was debated are not a good reflection on Parliament. It would be a caricature of justice to suggest that the ideals of Opus Dei would not be followed if someone became a member of the police force.

I am happy with the government amendment, but I would be shocked and would raise the matter again in this House if Opus Dei were to be designated as an organisation of which members of the police force had to declare membership. If it were so designated, the Evangelical Alliance and a whole range of other bodies would have to be designated also. When the Chief Constable considers this matter, he should consider the very poor drafting in the House of Commons and pay regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and I have said. In no case should political tit-for-tat be used in matters of genuine Christian dedication.

Photo of Lord Fitt Lord Fitt Independent Socialist

I congratulate the Government on their withdrawal of the qualification list. One has only to read the report of the debates in Committee in another place to realise that there was a totally tribal approach to this issue. Five of the listed organisations could be classified as non-Catholic; two of them could be classified as Catholic. If one reads the report of the debates in another place one can sense the animosity and hostility of those taking part. One must therefore congratulate the Government on removing the disqualifications.

Over the past few weeks tremendous pressure has been put on different people to ensure that particular organisations would not be included in the list. I am sure that the Masonic Lodge and the Orange Lodge were campaigning for their members to do that. I certainly know that Opus Dei organised an absolutely brilliant Catholic campaign to ensure that Opus Dei was not included. Now that those organisations have been removed, there are rumours to the effect that when the Bill returns to the House of Commons an attempt may be made to reinsert the disqualification of some of them. I hope that the Government will resist that attempt.

Although the Government are doing away with the list, Clause 49 provides that a constable will have to register his interests. How does one define "his interests"? Without being frivolous--this can be a serious matter in Northern Ireland--does support for Linfield Football Club, or Glasgow Rangers Football Club or Glasgow Celtic Football Club have to be registered? What about a darts match in the middle of Glasgow or a skateboarding contest in the Falls Park in Belfast? Those could all be taken as registrable issues. Who will have to decide? Let us suppose that the Chief Constable had evidence that someone attended a match at Linfield or Rangers and in a very hostile manner condemned his team's opponents. Would that person be acceptable?

I have spoken to policemen. They would like to know what will be regarded as registrable membership. This could be taken to ridiculous lengths and cover darts clubs, skateboarding, roller skating and so on. The Government should take this issue seriously. They should be certain about what will be regarded as registrable membership. Will any instructions be given to the Chief Constable, or will he take the decision in the light of his experience in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

I intended to speak in favour of the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. The Committee should be indebted to the noble Lord for raising this important question. Like many other noble Lords, I have made representations to the Government about the undesirability of creating this kind of list and picking out certain organisations, some of which are, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said, pietistic; others, as the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said, may be organisations of purely social activity. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said, they may be sporting organisations. What has been highlighted is the danger of creating such lists in the first place.

In the other place the Government were trying to highlight the danger of people using their membership of organisations to give some kind of secretive support to other people who might be seeking preferment or employment--in the police force or in any aspect of public life in Northern Ireland. One has to tread with great care in this whole area. Many of the measures which already exist, particularly those dealing with discrimination, can be used quite effectively to combat that kind of insidiousness. I hope that the Minister will look at those tools as a way of dealing with the abuse of power, the abuse of old boy networks or the abuse of informal liaisons and relationships that can take place because of networking inside one part of the community or another. It is against all our interests to accentuate any sense of tribalism.

This brief debate today has illustrated that we would be in grave danger of creating something that could accentuate a sense of tribalism. For that reason, we should all be grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for having walked with such sensitivity around these issues and for having brought before the Committee an amendment with which I hope that we and Members of another place can agree. If Members of another place have any sense, they will realise that this amendment has a great deal of wisdom to commend it.

Photo of The Bishop of Wakefield The Bishop of Wakefield Bishop

I had intended to speak in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. I am most grateful, as I know my colleagues on this Bench will be, for the statement that has been made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. I entirely endorse all the points that have been made. It would be most unfortunate if anything which came through this House or from another place were to exacerbate the tribalism that has already been spoken of. All of us who follow any denomination within the Christian faith regard the way in which our religion has been so used in such a tragic manner in Northern Ireland as something that we would want in every way to avoid in the future. I hope that lessons will be learnt from the unfortunate way in which this legislation was drafted. I hope, too, that noble Lords will support what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has said and will support his amendment.

Photo of Viscount Cranborne Viscount Cranborne Conservative 3:30 pm, 25th October 2000

Perhaps I may apologise to the Committee for not being present on Monday. I fear that I was indisposed and I therefore come in rather late in the proceedings at this stage. I very much welcome the Government's flexibility on this point. I intervene purely to seek a little clarification from the noble and learned Lord when he replies to the debate.

He will have noted--none is more likely to have done so--the commentary by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. Referring to Clause 49, the Select Committee makes it perfectly plain, in paragraph 7 on page four of its report, that Clause 49(1) and (2) as originally drafted incorporated a Henry VIII power.

The report makes it clear that any amendment removing, or indeed amending, the list of organisations would be of such political importance that it should be done by affirmative instrument. That judgment is clearly shared by the Government and by this Committee.

The importance and sensitivity of this matter has been recognised on all sides. Are the Government satisfied, therefore, that sufficient arrangements are in place to ensure public confidence in the judgment of those who will issue the guidance on notifiable memberships--in other words, the Chief Constable--and those whom he will consult: the board, the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission? Some reassurance should be given by the Chief Constable and those three bodies to the public at large about precisely which organisations will be categorised as notifiable organisations under the Bill, and what amendments will be made to the list.

Although we have properly accepted the Government's good sense in amending Clause 49 as proposed, the fundamental difficulty remains; it has been removed from the forum of Parliament and placed in the hands of the Chief Constable and those whom he has to consult. We still have a highly sensitive matter which could all too easily become a matter of some secrecy, particularly in Northern Ireland. That may or may not be a good thing. The more the publicity that is attendant on such judgments, the more likely it is that there will be controversy. Equally, the more secrecy there is, the more the conspiracy theories will flourish and, if in doubt, it is much better for the matter to be made public.

What arrangements do the Government have in mind for public accountability for actions relating to the list? When the Chief Constable comes to compile the list, will it mirror precisely that presently set out in Clause 49(1)(a) to (h), or does the Chief Constable have it in mind to change that list? If he does, how will he publicise the changes? What reasons will he give? What are the implications of the Chief Constable making that judgment? I imagine that, mutatis mutandis, the implications would be much the same as they would be for debate in this place under an affirmative resolution as proposed by the Select Committee.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

I, too, am delighted to welcome the amendment. When I was in southern Spain, I was approached by a number of Roman Catholics from various parts of the hierarchy of the Church who knew of this part of the Bill and were very concerned about it. Therefore, I began to take advice about it.

I believe that the Government have got matters about right in the amendment. I have listened to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Cranborne. In discussing the amendment yesterday with colleagues in preparing for today's Committee stage, we began to go down the thinking route that my noble friend has clearly chosen. After some time, we arrived at the opinion that at this stage the Government had got it right. I must admit that in our thinking time--which was not very long--we were unable to improve on the government amendment. When one considers how long it is hoped that the Bill will last, and, if it is successful, how the whole police force will evolve and develop, the amendment is a considerable improvement on the clause as presently drafted. I have no difficulty in supporting it.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

Perhaps I may say a brief word of welcome for the amendment and those that are consequential on it. The phrase "might reasonably be regarded" is wisely and prudently chosen. What we are all seeking to achieve is impartiality in the discharge of police officers' responsibilities. I hope that may be of slight assistance to the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne.

Photo of Lord Eames Lord Eames Crossbench

I, too, regret that, owing to responsibilities in Northern Ireland, I was unable to present in this place on Monday. Had I been here, I should have wanted to say simply that I believe that the vast bulk of people in Northern Ireland want to see an effective, impartial police service which will have the respect and accountability to the public that are essential for the future of a stable society. For that reason, I am delighted that the Government have introduced this amendment. I could not see a single section in the original wording of the Bill that would mitigate against the principle I have enunciated more than this.

However, perhaps I may mention one aspect to the Minister and his colleagues. Experience in Northern Ireland has shown that it is so often "situational ethics" which bring to the forefront a question of principle. I wonder whether the guidance given to the Chief Constable on drawing up a list of organisations or interests which may or may not militate against fair membership of the police service will relate chiefly to situations in which a person's loyalty is brought to the fore, and his reaction will then be to consider a list. Great caution is needed to ensure that adequate guidelines are given by Parliament to allow the Chief Constable adequate assurance, confidence and powers to deal with actual situations. Many of the organisations on the list that it is now proposed to withdraw will probably find that their membership will carry a public nuance in terms of demonstrations or conflict on the streets. Irrespective of some of the religious organisations mentioned in the original list, that cautionary note needs to be sounded. But I, too, greatly welcome the government amendment.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

I apologise if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has dealt with this point. Unfortunately, I could not be present until just after he had finished speaking. In replying, will he tell us what will be the practical consequences if a police officer finds himself classified as a notifiable member of one or other organisation and therefore, by definition, is judged not to be fully able to discharge his or her duties effectively and impartially? Will he be dismissed from the service? It does not seem so. Will his or her promotion prospects be adversely affected? That seems most probable. Will he or she have to prove impartiality despite membership of the organisation in question? Will the noble and learned Lord give us some guidance on this point?

Photo of Lord Cooke of Islandreagh Lord Cooke of Islandreagh Crossbench

I join other Members of the Committee in congratulating the Minister on his amendment to Clause 49. It comes as an enormous relief to us all. I cannot imagine another instance in which religion and politics would have become so mixed up; its effect would have been simply awful.

I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 180, 181, 182 and 183 which make minor changes to wording and bring about an improvement to the clause. Amendment No. 180 deals with Clause 49(7)(e) and suggests that "does" should be substituted by "could". I believe that that constitutes an improvement. Amendment No. 181 deals with the requirement that the need to have information is,

"in the course of their employment".

I believe that it is desirable to prevent requests for information on a whim. Amendment No. 182 is covered and much improved by the noble and learned Lord's amendment.

I believe that Amendment No. 183 introduces an improvement. It is important to make clear that an issue of bias is the only valid reason for the disclosure of information. It should not occur for any other reason. Amendment No. 184 is also important from the point of view of not allowing information to be used for anything other than proper purposes. The information must be obtained only by someone to whom the subsection applies. I believe that the amendment would assist the noble and learned Lord in his objective of improving the clause.

Photo of Lord Hayhoe Lord Hayhoe Conservative

I, too, warmly welcome the Government's amendment. I hope that when it is carried it means that this absurd, divisive and very partial list will be totally and utterly forgotten. I do not believe that the Chief Constable should pay the slightest attention to what was included in the original draft of the Bill.

Indeed, we should consider the way in which those words got into the Bill. As my noble friend Lord Pilkington mentioned, changes to the original draft were made following a poor debate in Committee in the other place. The amendment was tabled by the Government but, under a guillotine procedure, no debate took place on the clause at Report stage. As the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said, surely that underlines the immensely important role played by the House of Lords when legislation has been rolled through the House of Commons with no debate and no possibility of the issues being given proper consideration.

Therefore, I believe that this short debate--and, indeed, the Government's action in bringing forward this amendment--has once again underlined the importance of the House of Lords. I hope that we shall hear nothing more of this absurd and stupid list.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

Listening to this debate one has the impression that the original proposal was so bad that anything whatever must be vastly better. We should not assume that whatever is vastly better is perfect. Prompted by my noble friend Lord Cranborne, I am in some doubt as to how the proposal will work. There will still be a list but it will not be published. It will be drawn up by the Chief Constable. The noble and learned Lord shakes his head; I hope that he will confirm that audibly in a moment.

It appears to me that the Chief Constable will have to decide which of the organisations should be notifiable. The Secretary of State will still be involved, although not publicly, in conference with the Chief Constable. Parliament will be removed from the process--a relief, I believe, when we see how Parliament has behaved in the matter thus far. However, the fact is that the contents of the list will become public by some means or other, simply from the experience of constables who have found themselves subject to it. I hope that we shall be told how the process will work and how it will be controlled.

Photo of Lord Rogan Lord Rogan UUP 3:45 pm, 25th October 2000

I wish to speak to Amendment No. 178. In doing so, I shall pose a question. How should we discipline an officer who knowingly has given false information with regard to "the register" and what we hope is to be "notifiable membership"? Does the Committee believe that giving false information, wrong as it is, is worthy of a summary conviction--a criminal conviction in the magistrates' court? Wrong as I believe that it is to knowingly give false information to an employer, a superior or a boss, I do not believe that such an act is worthy of a criminal conviction, especially when it is a police officer who gives false information to the Chief Constable, not about his work but about his personal life.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I apologise for interrupting, but one effect of the amendment is to remove the part of the clause that would make the provision of false information a criminal offence. Instead, as I said in the course of my remarks when I introduced the amendment, if false information is given it will now simply be an internal disciplinary matter with which the Chief Constable will deal. It would not be appropriate for that to be on the face of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Rogan Lord Rogan UUP

I am grateful for that clarification. However, surely it would be much more sensible for a police officer to face the same disciplinary procedure in this case as he would in any other disciplinary matter? In other disciplinary matters, which I, for one, cannot distinguish from this one, officers up to and including the rank of superintendent are disciplined by the Chief Constable. Officers above the rank of superintendent are disciplined by the police authority and, in future, will be disciplined by the policing board. Therefore, why cannot the same be true of this disciplinary matter?

I suggest that this excessive measure, coupled with the soon-to-be-gone list, was designed to demonise perfectly lawful organisations. Fortunately, after listening to reasoned argument from Unionists both in this House and in another place, the Government have reconsidered the ridiculous list. I hope that, after listening to the arguments today, the Minister will reconsider this excessive penalty for false information. My doubts about the penalty--a criminal conviction--are founded on more than simply my belief that the regular disciplinary procedure would be infinitely more appropriate.

I believe that Clause 49(5) would fall foul of the Human Rights Act which we are all aware has only recently come into force. Article 8(1)of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees,

"respect for the right to a private life".

Although Article 8(2) of the ECHR allows that right under Article 8(1) to be qualified, in this case for the punishment, which is the means of achieving the objective, I do not believe that that qualification would be permissible as it is the effective criminalisation of lawful organisations.

Nowhere in the Patten report was it suggested that an officer would be subject to a criminal sanction with regard to the register of interests proposed in recommendation 126. Any logical approach to this clause will repeatedly bring us to the same conclusion.

There is currently in place a disciplinary code for the police in Northern Ireland. This matter is a disciplinary matter. Therefore it should be dealt with in the same manner, before the same tribunal and with the same punishment as any other disciplinary matter. I hope that the Minister will seriously reconsider this ludicrous extension of the criminal law in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I am grateful for the welcome to the amendment tabled by the Government which removes the list included in another place, and to the approach taken by the Government which, in effect, puts greater emphasis on the judgment of individual officers with assistance and guidance issued by the Chief Constable. In addition, the Chief Constable will be assisted by an obligation to consult the board, the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission before he issues his guidance.

Perhaps I can deal with the specific points raised in the course of this short debate. First, it was asked how it will work in practice. Stage one is for the Chief Constable to consult the three bodies specified in the amendment, the board, the Human Rights Commission and the Secretary of State; he may also consult any other person he wishes, and no doubt he will. Whether he will issue a definitive list, whether he will give more general guidance, whether he will deal with it by way of example is a matter for the Chief Constable to decide.

As I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, the criminal offence has been removed in relation to individual officers who fail to comply with the obligation. What is the appropriate disciplinary course, if any, in the context of non-disclosure is a matter for the Chief Constable to decide in accordance with existing disciplinary procedures; it is not a matter for this Chamber to deal with on the face of the Bill.

That is probably as far as it is sensible for me to go in relation to the working of the power. Perhaps I may deal with two specific points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. First, he asked whether the Chief Constable's guidance will be published. The answer is that it will. As I indicated, he may not produce a list. It is a matter for him to determine the form that his guidance takes. Secondly, the noble Viscount asked about the advice of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. The Secretary of State's order-making power has gone completely in relation to this clause as a result of the amendment. In those circumstances the question does not arise.

Finally, I deal with the point raised by my noble friend Lord Fitt, who said that there are rumours that the list may be put back in the House of Commons. I make it clear that the Government have no such intention.

I deal now with Amendments Nos. 180 to 183, which collectively seek to tighten the disclosure provisions. Amendment No. 180 substitutes "could" for "does" in subsection (7)(e) in relation to summaries of statistical information made by the Chief Constable. It suggests that no summary should be disclosed if it could be used to identify an individual. The Government's legal adviser says that that would be an extremely difficult standard to meet in practice. Members of the Committee will acknowledge that the Chief Constable is well informed about the security situation and the need to protect sensitive information. The Government have confidence in his ability to judge what should be released.

Amendment No. 184 seeks to narrow the circumstances in which disclosure of information is defensible. As regards Amendments Nos. 181 and 182, the Government responded to concerns raised in Committee in another place with government Amendments Nos. 179A, 181A and 182A. I note we seem to be taking different directions to achieve the same aim as regards Amendment No. 182 and government Amendment No. 181A. Amendment No. 184 will not work. It seeks to restrict disclosure to cases where there is an issue of bias. Presumably the Chief Constable would have to decide whether such issues were involved in all the circumstances, even where a complaint was involved. That tramples on the ombudsman's jurisdiction. However, the Government are prepared to accept Amendment No. 184 in principle, but it may have been overtaken by events.

For all the reasons I have given, I ask the Committee to accept the amendments in my name.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, can he say what will happen to a police officer who, despite all the safeguards being introduced, gets on to the black list--or perhaps grey list would be more accurate? How will it affect his or her career?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

The purpose of Clause 49 is that there be disclosure of membership of a notifiable organisation. That is all that the clause provides. The Chief Constable will determine what sort of disclosure should be made. But that is what the clause provides. It is saying no more than that there is a need for disclosure.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendments Nos. 177A to 177F:

Page 25, line 18, leave out ("registrable association") and insert ("notifiable membership").

Page 25, line 18, after ("officer") insert ("believes he").

Page 25, line 19, after ("he") insert ("believes he").

Page 25, line 19, leave out ("registrable associations") and insert ("notifiable memberships").

Page 25, line 19, leave out ("fact") insert ("belief").

Page 25, line 25, leave out subsection (5).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 178 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendments Nos. 178A and 178B:

Page 25, line 35, leave out ("member") and insert ("police officer").

Page 25, line 37, leave out ("registrable associations") and insert ("notifiable memberships").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 179 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendments Nos. 179A and 179B:

Page 25, leave out line 41 and insert ("is to be disclosed unless the person making the disclosure is a person to whom this subsection applies and the disclosure is made-").

Page 26, line 2, leave out ("in the case of information relating to a senior officer,").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 180 and 181 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Boston of Faversham Lord Boston of Faversham Crossbench

I must inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 181A is agreed to, I cannot call on Amendment No. 182.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 181A:

Page 26, line 14, leave out ("a member of the Board;") and insert ("the Board, each of its members and the members of its staff;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 182 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 182A:

Page 26, line 15, at end insert ("engaged in carrying out on behalf of the Chief Constable his functions under this section").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 183 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 183A:

Page 26, line 20, leave out ("(7)") and insert ("(9)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 184 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendments Nos. 184A to 184D:

Page 26, line 21, leave out ("that subsection") and insert ("subsection (7)").

Page 26, line 24, leave out ("registrable associations") insert ("notifiable memberships").

Page 26, line 26, leave out paragraph (b).

Page 26, line 29, leave out ("mentioned in subsection (1)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 50 [Code of ethics]:

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office 4:00 pm, 25th October 2000

moved Amendment No. 184E:

Page 26, line 32, leave out from ("ethics") to end of line 33 and insert ("for the purpose of--

(a) laying down standards of conduct and practice for police officers;

(b) making police officers aware of the rights and obligations arising out of the Convention rights (within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998).

( ) In preparing the code, the Chief Constable and the Board shall have regard to the terms of the declaration set out in section 38(1).").

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

In moving government Amendment No. 184E, I shall speak to other government amendments in the group. Amendment No. 184E makes two changes to Clause 50(1). The first is to meet more closely the recommendation in Patten that the code should integrate the European Convention on Human Rights into police practice. The other is made in response to concerns that, in drawing up the code of ethics, the Chief Constable and the board should have regard to the wording of the new declaration attested by constables under Clause 38.

Government Amendment No. 188 requires the Secretary of State to reflect the code of ethics in discipline regulations "as far as is practicable". This replaces wording which required the Secretary of State to take whatever steps he "considers necessary" to do this. This is a slight change which the Government have made after listening to concerns that the existing wording left too much discretion in the hands of the Secretary of State.

Government Amendment No. 189 is a technical amendment which corrects an erroneous reference to regulations taken as a whole. It is only necessary for the Secretary of State to reflect the code in conduct and discipline regulations, not in regulations dealing with pensions, for example, as the previous wording suggests. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

The Government's amendments are entirely understandable and can be supported. I want to speak to Amendment No. 185 which stands in my name. It seeks to remove Clause 50(4)(c), which obliges the board to consult the ombudsman, as well as the other organisations, before issuing a code of ethics. The ombudsman is an extremely important person who should be supported but our view is that his job is to deal objectively with complaints about the behaviour of policemen and others. Our concern is that she--at some stage it may be he--may be compromised in looking objectively at a complaint because she will have had some responsibility for the wording in the code.

It is not a major point but it is our view that it would be better if the ombudsman were not involved in drawing up the code. She would then be able to be more objective when later judging cases and would be seen to be so.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

I rise not to take issue with either of the noble Lords who have spoken, although I observe that at a later stage in our deliberations we shall be discussing the functions of the ombudsman. I rise to speak to my Amendments Nos. 186 and 190.

It is to be hoped that the code of ethics will perform two functions, and they will be important. First, it should impress upon police officers that human rights are not just a mantra which they are required to chant before going into action. I hope that those responsible for training will inculcate in trainees an approach to the code not as one more document on which they will have to answer questions but as integral to everything which they do and teach.

I remember a safety expert impressing on me that safety is not one subject additional to all the others which an industrial trainee or someone learning to drive a vehicle needs to master and will be taught to them when its turn comes; it is integral to everything in the course. One does not teach someone to control and steer a vehicle in 11 lessons and then say, "Now we come to lesson 12, which is how to do it safely". Safety is part of everything we teach as we teach it and I hope that that will be the authorities' approach to human rights.

That is the internal function of the code. The second is the external one which ensures that as regards those outside the force--the community among which it is to operate--the rights of everyone will be taken seriously. That will largely depend on the content of the code but also on how seriously it is taken within the force. If it becomes a joke, it will be a very sick joke.

I therefore make two suggestions. First, as regards Amendment No. 186, the element in human rights which will make the greatest demands on officers--where they will be watched with the greatest suspicion, where the tripwires lie thickest, where mistakes will have the most tragic consequences--is that of equal rights. In that regard, those who draft the code will be in the greatest need of advice from people with experience and expertise. It is therefore surprising that the Equality Commission is not among the list of those with whom there is a statutory obligation to consult. My amendment seeks to rectify that omission.

As regards Amendment No. 190, it is essential that the code is not simply something which a police officer receives when he is recruited and then consigns to a draw in the sideboard for the remainder of his service. He needs to read it and to understand it. I am indebted to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for this amendment. It would make a failure to comply with the code a disciplinary offence. If that is not done, it is certain to raise questions in the minds of the community as to how far all the talk about human rights is a placebo. Therefore, I believe that it should have the status of a disciplinary requirement.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

Perhaps I may put a question to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. It is not a rhetorical question; I should like to hear the answer if he knows it. Is there any other country in the world whose police force, dealing as it does every day with crime and the seamier side of human nature, has to put human rights above every other consideration?

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

First, I was not putting human rights above every other consideration. I was saying that it is one essential quality which the police are required to have in mind.

As regards the noble Lord's second question, I doubt whether any other police force in the world is confronted with quite so many problems as the police force of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Lord Smith of Clifton Lord Smith of Clifton Liberal Democrat

I rise to support the two amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and to speak to my Amendment No. 187. It complements the second of the noble and learned Lord's amendments, Amendment No. 190. In addition simply to reading the code of ethics, officers should undertake to abide by it. The mere intellectual act of reading might not result in the desirable behavioural change which we all seek. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether or not we should firm up the act of reading by requiring constables to undertake to abide by the code of ethics.

Photo of Lord Eames Lord Eames Crossbench

Of the amendments we are considering today, I can think of none more important than that tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, which is now before us. It is a consolation to many of us who want to see a fair and accountable police force in Northern Ireland that, as a result of the consultations which took place across the community during the drafting of the programme for training, the subject matter of the amendment was incorporated into the syllabus.

I cannot imagine wording more important to the heart and soul of a police service for Northern Ireland than that contained in the group of amendments now before us. Let us leave aside the words "ethics" and "standards" and think only of the performance in the eyes of the community as a whole of a police service. There, in the cold light of day, standards and ethics for the service concerned will have to be judged. There will be situations in which it will be tested by the individual reaction of officers.

However, as I see the history of Northern Ireland, and judging by the experience that I have come through, as well as listening to those from both communities, those people have every reason to say that, in the past, they believe that they would have questioned some of the actions of the police. They deserve to hear that we take very seriously the way in which a code of behaviour is implemented in a police service for the future.

It is for that reason that I welcome what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, said. I reiterate the importance of incorporating these principles in the training procedure. I should also welcome an assurance from the Minister that in whatever way this Bill eventually finds the light of day, strenuous efforts will be made to ensure that a code of ethics, a code of behaviour--indeed, a pattern for professionalism--is placed before the people of Northern Ireland in both communities in such a way that they can respect it and feel sure that it will be implemented with integrity and fairness.

Photo of Lord Fitt Lord Fitt Independent Socialist

I should like to support the amendment tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer and to ask my noble and learned friend the Minister to clarify any misgivings that there may be about the code of ethics that everyone accepts is so necessary in police behaviour. It has been said that the young trainees entering the police force will be made aware of this code of ethics during the period of their training. However, can my noble and learned friend the Minister assure the Committee that this code of ethics will apply to officers who are currently serving in the force? Can he confirm that the same code of ethics will be applicable both to those young people who are entering the force and those who have been serving in the force for many years?

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench

I, too, wish to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and to reiterate some of the earlier comments that have been made. This is an extremely important group of amendments. As someone who is interested in equality and in parity of esteem for all sections of the community, I certainly support the two amendments relating to equality.

I am chairman of Ulster Scots Agency in Northern Ireland, which is part of the cross-border body that has been set up, not at the behest of Ulster Unionists but at the behest of others. It is a cross-border implementation body. We are most interested in the entire process of human rights and equality. I am sure that Members of the Committee will be delighted to know that the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and I attended a meeting in this building last Thursday which was organised by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. There was a very interesting discussion at that time about police services, both in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic. As "parity of esteem and total equality" is defined in the Belfast agreement, we were thrilled and delighted that the Equality Commission offered us total support in the reconstruction of the police force in the Irish Republic, which, as noble Lords know, requires to be reconstructed alongside the parameters of the Belfast agreement--an agreement relating to total equality and parity of esteem. That includes not just a change of name but also, in this case, a change in training and of structure. I believe that to be extremely fair. I wish to place on record my delight about the Equality Commission's enthusiasm in its support for our aims.

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

I did not want to anticipate the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, when I spoke earlier about the other amendment. However, I should like to put on record our support for Amendment No. 186.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

Before I deal with this group of amendments, perhaps I may clarify some of the remarks that I made in relation to the previous group. I believe that I did not deal adequately with Amendment No. 184, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cooke of Islandreagh. I hope that I made clear in my response that we are prepared to accept that amendment in principle. It would restrict the defence to the offence of wrongful disclosure. The noble Lord has in fact already withdrawn the amendment, but I should tell him that we shall return to the matter with an amendment after we have consulted counsel about the precise wording. I do not think that I made that clear at the time.

I turn to the amendments now before the Committee. Amendment No. 185 proposes that the ombudsman should be removed from the list of consultees. We are not prepared to accept that the ombudsman should be removed. Clearly she has a role to play in commenting on a code that deals with police conduct. Accordingly, we oppose Amendment No. 185. In Amendment No. 186, my noble and learned friend Lord Archer proposes that we consult the Equality Commission. We agree, and accept the amendment.

The area that has attracted the most prolonged debate is that covered by Amendment No. 190; namely, compliance with the code and with human rights obligations. We fully accept the importance of the code of ethics and compliance with the human rights obligations being meaningful. Indeed, our Amendment No. 188 requires the Secretary of State to reflect the code of ethics in discipline regulations, as far as is practicable. That indicates the importance that we attach to that consideration. It is also worth pointing out that the RUC is undertaking a very full programme of training on human rights, which involves consulting the Human Rights Commission and lay experts. It is also developing a wider human rights programme, which involves the auditing of procedures and practices. We should commend the work of the police in Northern Ireland in relation to that area.

Equally, the code of ethics is important. I entirely echo the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Eames. Indeed, I know that that is the view that the Chief Constable also takes. I can assure the noble Lord that that will be taken forward with integrity. In his response to Patten, the Chief Constable said that the RUC wanted to secure the widest support for the code.

Having said all that, it is not appropriate, simply as a matter of practicality, to require police officers directly to comply with, or strictly abide by, the code of ethics. If one looks at the draft code of ethics annexed to the Patten report, one can see that it contains such aims as enjoining officers to,

"accept responsibility for self-development".

Therefore, in the event of non-compliance, it would be quite difficult to make that part of a code of ethics the subject of disciplinary procedure. We agree with the sentiments. We simply believe that, as a matter of practicality, it would not be right to make it a disciplinary matter.

I turn, finally, to the question posed by my noble friend Lord Fitt as regards whether the code will apply to serving officers. Yes, it will.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour 4:15 pm, 25th October 2000

I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for having listened in relation to Amendment No. 186, and for the other comments that he made about the intention to inculcate the sense of human rights. As to Amendment No. 190, well, you cannot win them all!

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 185 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

moved Amendment No. 186:

Page 27, line 1, after ("Commission;") insert--

("( ) the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Smith of Clifton Lord Smith of Clifton Liberal Democrat

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 187:

Page 27, line 11, after ("read") insert (", undertaken to abide by").

Photo of Lord Smith of Clifton Lord Smith of Clifton Liberal Democrat

Although the Minister did not address my amendment in his remarks, I shall, nevertheless, not move it.

[Amendment No. 187 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendments Nos. 188 and 189:

Page 27, line 15, leave out ("take such steps as he considers necessary to") and insert (", so far as practicable,").

Page 27, line 17, leave out ("(taken as a whole)") and insert ("relating to conduct or discipline").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 190 not moved.]

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 51 [Guidance as to use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order]:

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

moved Amendment No. 190A:

Page 27, line 21, at end insert--

("( ) On issuing any guidance the Secretary of State shall inform the Ombudsman.").

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

Before I speak to this amendment, I should like to apologise to the Committee for the lateness of the tabling of this amendment. The amendment relates to government Amendment No. 191, which will shortly be moved by the Minister. Once again, it concerns the role of the ombudsman, but, this time, it relates to the role of the ombudsman in advising on guidance regarding the use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order.

We on this side feel strongly about the amendment and the designated role for the ombudsman. We feel that the ombudsman should not get into a position of having ownership of this type of guidance to the police service. He should not be put in a position where he can be accused, perhaps while deliberating or giving the results of his deliberations, of having been part of the creation of the guidance and the operational decision-making process which led to the guidance.

I have some experience with the ombudsman for Northern Ireland. I had cause to make a complaint concerning a planning matter. Because of the distance that the ombudsman clearly is from departments concerned, I felt comfortable in talking to her, knowing and believing that her department clearly had an independent and clear-sighted role. At the end of the day--I probably would not have told the story if this had not happened--she found in my favour that the then DoE planning had been guilty of maladministration. She had had no part in the creation of the legislation which led to those planning laws.

It is important, and will become more so as time goes on, for the office of the police ombudsman to be seen to be clearly independent of the management and control of the police. The Minister discarded my noble friend's amendment to Clause 50. We shall certainly return to that. Guidance as to use of equipment for maintaining and restoring public order is a serious policing matter, not a matter for the ombudsman.

The purpose of moving the amendment now is to enable me to ask the Minister whether he will take more time to consider the position. Perhaps he would be good enough not to move his amendment today but to give us more time to discuss or debate it before Report, and to bring it back, for reasons which I also understand. Members of the Committee may have noted that I had discussions with the Minister. I am grateful to him and his officials for that opportunity. However, I ask him to be good enough not to move his Amendment No. 191 before Report. I beg to move

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

The Government feel that the ombudsman will have valuable experience to bring to the guidance from the role of the ombudsman in investigating complaints. However, we appreciate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. We will consider it further before Report, including in discussions with the ombudsman. Therefore, I shall not move Amendment No. 191. In the light of that undertaking, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, feels able to withdraw Amendment No. 190A.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

I thank the noble Baroness. I am delighted to beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 190A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 51 [Guidance as to use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order]:

[Amendment No. 191 not moved.]

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Regulations as to emblems and flags]:

[Amendments Nos. 192 to 198 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 198A:

Page 28, line 2, at end insert ("; and

( ) any other person or body appearing to him to have an interest in the matter.").

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

To some extent, this relates to Amendment No. 198. In that amendment there was a requirement to seek to require the Secretary of State to consult the Equality Commission before issuing regulations on flags and emblems. At present he is required to consult the board, the chief constable and the police association. I know that in the past we have resisted widening the list, but the Government have given further thought to the position. We now believe that there will be value in stating, on the face of the Bill, the scope for the Secretary of State to consult more widely. We think, therefore, that the scope should be widened for the Secretary of State, should he judge it appropriate to consult further people. That is the effect of Amendment No. 198A. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

I shall speak to Amendment No. 199 tabled in my name. This concerns the emblem of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Aside from the proposal to change the name, it is difficult to think of anything in the Patten report that has caused so much hurt in the past to serving officers of the RUC and their families than the decision to scrap the cap badge of the force.

Patten states that there should be a new emblem for the force which is free of association with either the British or the Irish states. The purpose behind this was genuine: to try to depoliticise the police force. However, in our view the assumptions on which it was based are entirely false. The Belfast agreement settled the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. It made it clear that Northern Ireland would remain an integral part of the United Kingdom on the basis of the consent of a majority of the people who live there. I make no apology for repeating myself at this stage of the Bill. It did not create joint sovereignty, or, as the Patten proposals seem to imply, a kind of constitutional hybrid or halfway house between the British and Irish states.

Anyone who doubts that should ask the Northern Ireland Secretary why he is bringing forward an order in the Commons this evening and in this place a little later, to make clear that the only flag which will be flown from government buildings in the Province is the Union flag. It is not some newly-created emblem free of constitutional associations; it is the flag of the country of which Northern Ireland forms an integral part. The notion that the police service should be free of association with the symbols and emblems of the state in which it operates and whose laws it seeks to enforce is frankly not good sense.

Police officers serve the Crown. They uphold the Queen's peace. It is for that reason that every police force in the United Kingdom carries on its emblem the Crown, and so it should be in Northern Ireland. But in Northern Ireland the emblem of the force is not exclusive to one tradition. We already have a kind of compromise. Anybody charged with the task of drawing up an emblem that represented both traditions in Northern Ireland could hardly have come up with a better design than the current one. It embraces the Crown, representing the British tradition, and the Irish harp and shamrock, representing the Irish tradition. I simply fail to see how that can be deemed offensive to one section of the community or another. The emblem of the RUC could cause offence only to those who are opposed to what the Royal Ulster Constabulary represents; namely, the rule of law itself. They are the people who will see this measure as a victory. They have never supported the police who represent the thin green line between them and that which democracy denies them.

The Bill, as drafted, gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations over an emblem for the police service following consultation with the board, the Chief Constable and the Police Federation. We welcome the commitment to consult and not to take a precipitous decision. But in reality we see no need for a new emblem at all. The existing one should be retained. It is a source of tremendous pride not just to those who currently serve in the RUC, but to retired officers and the widows of those who have been murdered wearing the proud insignia of that great force.

Our amendment will enable the existing RUC to carry on wearing its proud emblem and cap badge. Even if the Government succeed in their intention of giving the force a new operational name, it is all the more important to keep the badge and reinforce the continuity between the RUC and the newly named force that the Secretary of State is so keen to maintain. There is no evidence that the badge is a deterrent to Catholic recruitment. Retention of the badge would be widely welcomed within the RUC family and much more widely in the community. Nothing could better signify the fact that the RUC is not being disbanded than the maintenance of its badge and emblem. I urge the Government to take this amendment seriously and accept it.

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench 4:30 pm, 25th October 2000

I support the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and his very useful remarks in support of this amendment. Over the past few days there has been discussion in your Lordships' House about the state of opinion in Northern Ireland. We have talked about the state of unionist opinion. I wish to reiterate one point on the political side. In political terms this Bill has had a number of amendments, but not sufficient, in the opinion of anyone back home, to be supportive of the unionist community.

I said on Monday, and I underline it again, that if one wants a peace agreement, that can only be achieved with the support of both communities. The peace agreement can only be attained with the support of David Trimble. If we do not have his support because he cannot take his community with him, one will not get a peace agreement. I cannot see why that logic has not got through to the Government.

I endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. The RUC badge is a symbol, if anything is a symbol, of the cross-community nature of activities on the island of Ireland. The harp incorporated in the badge is a symbol of the state of the Irish Republic. It is the official seal of the president of that republic. Therefore, why are we told that it is offensive? The only people to whom it is offensive are the fascist thugs who wish to degrade and demoralise the RUC at all costs.

I draw a comparison with the work I am involved in with the cross-border language implementation body and the other major cultural activities with which we are concerned. Whereas we are engaged in reshaping the police force on the southern side of the border as part of the Belfast agreement of parity of esteem and total equality, it is not our view that sovereignty in the Irish republic remains anywhere else but in the sovereign government of that republic except that which it has conceded to us in the Belfast agreement. There is not joint soveignity on both sides of the border or Northern Ireland. When we require the name of the Garda Siochana to become the Garda Siochana Hainin-Polis, which is required under the Belfast agreement, we still recognise that it will be the police force of the Irish Republic. I support this amendment.

Photo of Lord Molyneaux of Killead Lord Molyneaux of Killead Crossbench

I support the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and my noble friend Lord Laird. It has been pointed out that the emblem is that of law and order and nothing else. Earlier this week, I stated that no criminal loves a policeman. Therefore, all criminals want rid of the police simply because it is a law enforcement agency. Whether the criminal is a republican or a so-called "loyalist" is neither here nor there; they equally loathe and hate the law enforcement body, which is the RUC.

My second point is that an additional community, the Mafia, is emerging. We have been told on good authority--it has not been rejected or denied--that three-quarters of the city of Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is now controlled by the Mafia. It perhaps hates the RUC and any police force even more vehemently than either of the two paramilitary organisations.

Photo of Viscount Cranborne Viscount Cranborne Conservative

I support this amendment. Before I come to its substance, when the Minister replies, I wonder whether he could address himself to the recommendation--once again I am beginning to sound like a cracked record--contained in the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation on Clause 52. The committee recommends at paragraph 8 that these matters are of such political importance as to require the endorsement of Parliament by application of the affirmative procedure.

The noble and learned Lord knows that both during my time as Leader of your Lordships' House before the last election, and I believe since that time, both Government Front Benches in your Lordships' House--

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

Amendments will be moved later which will give effect to that.

Photo of Viscount Cranborne Viscount Cranborne Conservative

In that case I am extremely grateful and I can spare the Committee yet another boring disquisition on the subject. I shall proceed to the subject of this amendment and look forward very much to what the noble and learned Lord has to say in due course.

It has been said by other noble Lords that one has to emphasise how important emblems are in human affairs. After all, man is not an entirely rational beast, to put it mildly, except perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Desai, who I believe is entirely rational. The rest of us do not enjoy the noble Lord's rather unique attributes. We mind very much about emblems. I notice that when a nation throws off the colonial yoke, one of the first things it does is to invent a new flag. That is a matter of enormous moment to that nation as it is to institutions acquiring their own emblems: not only a flag, but badges and all the other paraphernalia of nationhood.

There is good reason for that. In that symbolism is embodied--or we hope will be embodied--all that we wish for our country and all that we believe that it should stand for. In the flag and the emblems there is contained the shorthand of why we want our country to flourish. It seems to me that that should be as true of the United Kingdom as it is of India, South Africa or France. I sometimes wonder whether nowadays we have reached a condition in which all of us are browbeaten into being ashamed of being British when we have perhaps rather more to be proud of in our history and traditions than most other countries. The Committee may consider that a chauvinistic view, but it is one that I hold.

So long as the Province of Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom it seems to me to be entirely right that the institutions of Northern Ireland should reflect that fact. We should not be ashamed of that, particularly when we are talking about the emblems of the RUC, or of the police force that may or may not succeed it. The emblems that have been so important to the RUC as it has nobly discharged its duties, particularly over the past 30 years, encapsulate not just the symbols of what has come to be thought of as the dominating tribe in the Province but also, as my noble friend Lord Glentoran has said, symbols of Irishness itself. Surely it is sensible for us to think carefully before throwing away our history.

It is interesting to note that since 1997 it has been clearly implied, particularly by certain Members of this Government--although, I am sure, not by the noble and learned Lord--that history began in May 1997 and that we should begin to be ashamed of, and forget, what happened before that. I believe that one of the more recent Members of this Chamber chaired a commission which rather clearly implied that, although he was careful to deny it under questioning. It is interesting to note that while this process has been going on, the public's interest in history seems rather paradoxically to have increased. People are perhaps beginning to understand that history and our past are at least as important as anything else to our understanding of the present and future. There again it seems to me that there is an additional reason for our being careful before we idly throw away emblems which encapsulate a great deal of which we should be proud and which make an enormous difference to our perception of ourselves, our esteem of ourselves and the polity in which we live.

That is perhaps rather a blindingly obvious analysis, but there is another point which I believe makes it particularly important in the Province. I was never a soldier but I am perhaps one of the few people of mine and a younger generation who has been shot at and bombed. I have noticed that that rather unpleasant experience tends to concentrate the mind and to produce rather different assumptions among those who experience such dreadful events than among those who merely watch them at the movies. I notice that for soldiers, or people who are in the front line even if they are not soldiers but who are effectively policing a difficult situation, emblems and the traditions of the forces in which they serve become increasingly important. In my limited experience of such things--many Members of this Chamber have far greater experience than I of this kind of thing--it seems that these matters loom large in maintaining the esprit de corps, the traditions and the good behaviour of the bodies concerned, whether it be a regiment, a band of guerrillas or a police force.

Therefore, it seems to me that we may be asking rather more than the Government perhaps think if we remove the emblem of the RUC and expect the new police force to start afresh with traditions which emphatically will be very much the same as those which are embodied in the cap badge and the aspirations of those who wear it at the moment. I hope, therefore, that for those reasons the Government will think carefully before refusing to accept my noble friend's amendment, or at least a version of it.

I also hope that they will take into consideration one further point of which my noble friend, with his great experience of the Province, quite rightly made great play in his remarks. We are aware how delicate the peace process is and how delicately poised it is at the moment. I sense among the majority side in the Province at the moment a growing feeling that the Government perhaps do not realise to what extent they will depend on their good will if we are to pursue this process to its conclusion. One of the things the Government could certainly do to show that they at least hold the Protestant/Unionist tradition--indeed, as we know, there are many Catholic Unionists in the Province, although that is something many of us are prone to forget--on a par with the nationalist tradition is to look sympathetically at my noble friend's amendment. I suspect that that would make more difference than perhaps the noble and learned Lord might think to the prospects of Mr David Trimble this coming Saturday.

Photo of Baroness Blood Baroness Blood Labour 4:45 pm, 25th October 2000

I make two points in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. First, as he rightly said, the emblem reflects the community and the make-up of Northern Ireland. If someone had been asked to design it, they could not have done it better. It would be a serious matter to have a change of name and to throw out the emblem too. We are throwing out our past. We cannot have a future if we do not remember our past. We should not live in the past, but we must remember it.

Secondly, I agreed with what the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said, in that the Patten report has certainly concentrated the minds of people in Northern Ireland. I have lived in Northern Ireland all my life, but until recently I could not have said what the cap badge of the RUC consisted of. Now everyone is looking at it. When I saw the uniform as a child I knew that a policeman was coming, end of story. I did not look at his badge or even his name.

On Monday we discussed whether it was a matter of the Protestant community or the Catholic community accepting a change. Here we have a badge that adequately reflects both communities. What are we going to do? Are we going to tell a group of people to create a new badge? Who will be involved in that? Are we going to wrangle over what the badge will consist of and get no further? We have to take decisions. One of the decisions that I hope the Minister will consider in the light of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is not to change the symbols because, apart from the fact that they are held dearly, we have to retain something; we cannot throw out everything.

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Chair of Labour Peers

I think that the noble Baroness, for whose views I normally have enormous respect, conceded the point by saying that until recently no one had noticed the detailed design of the badge. I was thinking the same thing as the debate progressed. During two and a half years I frequently met RUC officers in uniform, but I never noticed the badge until the Patten report was published and the badge became part of the political debate.

In one sense this debate is a repeat of Monday's debate on the name except that on this occasion the Secretary of State has reserved for himself the ability to make a decision on this issue at a later date. That seems a sensible way forward. It gives the Secretary of State more time to discuss and to consult before arriving at a decision. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not press his amendment, but will withdraw it and enable the Bill, and therefore the Secretary of State, to consider these issues more carefully.

In previous debates on this issue, I have referred to the fact that when I was a Minister with responsibility for Northern Ireland I had meetings with RUC officers at various police stations in Northern Ireland. The object of those meetings was to discuss the Patten report. I am bound to say that although RUC officers were not happy with the suggestions in regard to the name and badge, they said that if those changes, and the others in the Patten report, achieved the aim of getting more Catholics into the police and giving the police the support of nationalist politicians, they would, reluctantly, go along with the changes. I believe that that view reflects common sense and logic.

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench

Can the noble Lord say what would happen if we make those changes but do not achieve those targets?

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Chair of Labour Peers

The objective of the Patten report and of the Government's Bill is to achieve just that. Sometimes matters in Northern Ireland do not work out as quickly and logically as one would wish. But I believe that this is the right way forward. The Patten report came from the Good Friday agreement. It is right that the Government should proceed with legislation to give effect to the Patten report in the hope of gaining the support of both communities. It is very difficult: if the Government move further in one direction, they are opposed from the other side.

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench

I am grateful to the noble Lord for again giving way, but will he answer the question? What happens if we make these changes but do not achieve the targets about gaining support in full measure from the Catholic Church, the SDLP, Sinn Fein and everyone else?

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Chair of Labour Peers

Given that resistance to some measures of the Bill come from the Catholic Church and the SDLP, I am not so naive to say that overnight that resistance will disappear. If the Government proceed with the Bill and send a signal to the people of Northern Ireland that there is to be a new beginning in terms of some of the Patten recommendations for policing in Northern Ireland, retaining--not disbanding--the police, I believe that increased support for the police from the nationalist population will be forthcoming. I believe that and I am hopeful that that will be the case.

I refer briefly to a point the noble Lord, Lord Laird, made earlier. I understand the difficulties that David Trimble is in. I understand that the Ulster Unionist Council is meeting on Saturday and there may well be problems for his freedom of action as regards his membership of the executive. I hope that that will not be the case, but it may be. Nevertheless, I believe that the Bill in a sense does not weaken David Trimble's position on the matter under discussion. It gives the Secretary of State the opportunity to make the decision at a later date, having consulted further. For that reason, and for the others, I hope that the noble Lord will not proceed with his amendment.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

I am amazed to find that we are still discussing this issue given the recommendations of the deregulation committee. I always greatly respect the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. However, in this case I think that his advice would send a distinct and terrible message to everyone concerned. No one has disputed that the present emblem embraces all traditions and must be pretty inoffensive since, first, the noble Baroness, Lady Blood--I greatly respect her for what she said--said that people do not notice it. Secondly, Catholics have not been prevented entering the RUC because of the emblem but because to do so has been dangerous and they would be killed if they tried. Those are the reasons; we keep trying to ignore them.

Since the nationalists are so very attached to the Belfast agreement, perhaps I may remind noble Lords that it states:

"All participants acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division".

I find it difficult to understand how the present emblem does anything but promote mutual respect. It covers every aspect of the Irish tradition. To throw it away is a negative act. It is not an issue which can simply be put off, to be thought about later. Shall we consult the Tate Modern or "Cool Britannia"? Who will think of a better symbol than already exists?

I strongly urge that we do not withdraw the amendment. I strongly support it.

Photo of Viscount Brookeborough Viscount Brookeborough Crossbench

I support the amendment and agree with those noble Lords who have said that it is all encompassing. The emblem contains the harp and the shamrock, both of which were around a long time before the IRA. Long before English people went there, the shamrock was growing for thousands of years in the boggy ground. It is a very appropriate emblem.

While someone may say that he knows the mind of the Secretary of State on whether he will change the emblem, Secretaries of State change and there are rumours that, come an election, this Secretary of State will change. Who will we have next? Will he wish to change the emblem? I believe that it should not be left to the Secretary of State at present. Although the position may be different in the future should the IRA cease all criminal activities and so on, I should still be reluctant to see the issue left to the Secretary of State.

We hear that RUC officers are reluctant but they might accept the change. The problem is that everything is discussed piecemeal. They are reluctant to see their uniform changed; they are reluctant to see the name changed; they are reluctant to see the emblem changed. As a whole, they are against all these changes together which fundamentally change the force. Therefore, I believe that at present it is a serious mistake to leave the matter to the Secretary of State. People should have the assurance that not everything is up for change now or later. If changes are to be made, let us get them over and done with--it is to be hoped not to the name or the badge--but do not let us have the matter dribbling on for years with one knock after another. I am much against that. I am sure that anyone who works in business or is a part of any group of people, social or otherwise, does not want to continue for ever to have changes.

Photo of Lord Fitt Lord Fitt Independent Socialist

I intervene with the intention of giving further employment to some of the cartoonists in the nationalist newspapers in Northern Ireland which I saw today. No doubt what I say here today will lead to further cartoons.

I listened with great attention to the noble Baroness, Lady Blood. She reflects my every sentiment at present in relation to the RUC and the badge.

The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and I are two of the oldest politicians in this Chamber who have had an interest in Northern Ireland for many years. On reading the Marshalled List today I see dotted throughout the words "flag" and "emblem". That brings back vivid recollections. In 1953 I sat in the distinguished Strangers' Gallery in Stormont when the Unionist government, as they then were, pushed through a flags and emblems measure which subsequently became an Act. While listening to the debate, I seethed with anger. The legislation was entirely directed at the Catholic minority community in Northern Ireland.

A few years later I began to fight elections. I had the honour to represent a small dock constituency for many years. I had to take a circuitous route because there were four Protestant houses at the top of Annadale Street. Those people did not like the flag I carried on my election platform. It was not the tricolour but the starry plough--the flag of the Irish workers which had been designed by James Connolly, the great Irish Labour leader. The four people living at the top of Annadale Street objected to that flag and I had to take it down as I passed those four houses. I was restricted from going where anyone objected to the flag. That flag and emblems measure created immense bitterness throughout the years I was in politics until it was taken out of the legislation by the Labour government under Harold Wilson.

I realise how one's blood can be affected by the emblems in Northern Ireland. The harp and crown is of such significance to the unionist community in Northern Ireland that if it is taken away it will be like taking away one of their limbs. If it is not taken away, the republican community--I would not say the nationalist community--will also feel that it has suffered. Again, in Northern Ireland there is no compromise; there are victories and defeats. If the badge is kept, the republicans will see it as a victory for unionism or Protestantism, or whatever other term is used. If it is not taken away, the unionists will be able to claim some sort of victory. I believe that they are entitled to that victory--here go the cartoonists--and to retain the cap badge, because it represents both communities in Northern Ireland. It represents the unionist community, which is currently the majority and it represents the Irish community with the shamrock and the harp.

No one could have designed an emblem that was more helpful in bringing together communities in Northern Ireland. The noble Baroness, Lady Blood, may be interested to know that only in the past two or three years have I looked at the RUC badge. I had never seen it as divisive, but it looms large in the politics of Northern Ireland now.

The First Minister, David Trimble, has a difficult meeting to get through. On the badge and the name, the question is whether we want the peace process brought to an end. I am not threatening that the peace process will be brought to an end if the Government do not agree with me or with David Trimble. Some people would quite like that, but I am not one of them. I hope that David Trimble will remain in place after the meeting on Saturday.

The Government can help the peace process in Northern Ireland by recognising what I have recognised since my earliest days in politics: there are two communities in Northern Ireland and one of them must not be allowed to triumph over the other. There is a wave of republicanism overtaking every aspect of life in Northern Ireland. As I said on Monday, the unionist majority population now feels as I felt until 1968 when the civil rights movement began in Northern Ireland. Many concessions have been made to terrorists on both sides, but in this case I am referring to republican terrorists. The ordinary poor Protestant worker sees his whole culture being taken away from him. Part of that culture is the badge of the police force that he believes has protected him over 30 years of violence. It would be helpful if the Government took into consideration the tremendous impact on community relations in Northern Ireland of allowing the badge to remain.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench 5:00 pm, 25th October 2000

I have deep respect for the strength of conviction with which many of your Lordships have spoken on Amendment No. 199, but I regret that I do not feel able to support it. It is too prescriptive and would go too far, upsetting the balance of the Bill. I follow the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who pointed out that Clause 52 as drafted is permissive and does not oblige the Secretary of State to do anything.

In a deeply divided society, as we all know Northern Ireland to be, the symbols of state should be as neutral and impartial as possible. I shall give one or two examples of how that has worked out in the recent past. The letterheads of government departments in Northern Ireland are in plain print, with no symbols representing any particular traditions. The oath or affirmation that a constable has to take on entering the police service has been redrafted and redesigned to tie in with upholding the law, respect for human rights, and so on. The same has been done with the oath or declaration expected of Queen's Counsel when they enter their new, grander status. We should follow such precedents.

Photo of Lord Biffen Lord Biffen Conservative

I have heard a great deal of the debate on the Bill, but I have had the proper diffidence of an Englishman in not wishing to make too assertive a comment. The debate echoes the constant desire for constitutional and social fine-tuning to bring about a more settled future for the Province.

It seems to me that, far from bringing about a greater settlement, new recognitions and new loyalty, the current proposals on the emblems will bring about uncertainty and resentment. The Committee would be wise to accept Amendment No. 199.

Photo of Lord Mayhew of Twysden Lord Mayhew of Twysden Conservative

As a member of the committee that has been referred to, I am grateful to the Government that they will at least provide for the affirmative resolution procedure. It is outside the jurisdiction of the committee to go much further than that. The issue is of such political and social importance that it is unwise to leave it at large for the Minister or Secretary of State to deal with in regulations at some future stage, if so minded, because the necessary order will be dealt with relatively briefly at a late stage in the proceedings of the House.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that the clause is permissive and not obligatory. However, it is a time bomb. I reinforce what my noble friend Lord Cranborne said. As the debate has shown, immense importance is attached to the emblem, primarily by those who bear it, those who have borne it and those who are related to those who have borne it, but also more widely than that.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, picked up on the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Blood, that many people had not noticed the badge. It is one thing not to notice something while it is there; it is very different when the proposal is to take it away.

When that proposal comes under consideration, one asks what the reasons are for taking away the symbol which so faithfully and felicitously represents the totality of the responsibilities of that police force. Surely it is entirely right, sensible and non-partisan that any police service should have on its badge a representation of the source from which the authority which it exercises flows. It is a matter of law that that source, in Northern Ireland, is the Crown.

Surely it is sensible that the badge should represent the place in which it exercises that authority. What could be more appropriate than the harp and the shamrock for the reasons mentioned already by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookebrough? It is that, which embraces so aptly all the principal factors which are germane to the jurisdiction of the police service in Northern Ireland--I use a neutral expression--which is to be taken away. People will ask themselves why that is to be taken away. I am afraid that many people will say that it is because the nationalist community, at whose behest the Government would be doing that, cannot tolerate a symbol which is so all-embracing. They cannot tolerate something which is a symbol of unity. That is extremely harmful and damaging.

I do not know whether or not my noble friend will seek to divide the Committee. But the opportunity of this debate has been extremely welcome because I am certain that it will, at the very least, serve to inform the Secretary of State of the strength of feeling on this and the reasons for that. I wonder how one could possibly fail to put enormous weight on the words of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, with whom, I am proud to say I share in, I think it is, the Irish News today, the cartoon to which he referred. It was particularly accurate in this respect: that he comes out of it much better looking than I do.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, asked why we are debating this in the light of the deregulation committee's report. In a sense that focuses on the nature of the provision which is a process provision. As I indicated to the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, we accept the recommendations of the committee and later this afternoon, we shall bring forward an amendment which will mean that any regulations produced under this provision must be dealt with by affirmative order so there will be a debate in both Houses of Parliament on any regulations brought before them by the Secretary of State in relation to emblems.

We recognise the significance and sensitivity of the emblems and have sought to deal with this in a way that recognises the significance of the current emblems for one side of the community but which recognises also, as Patten did, that there are those who do not identify with them. We believe that the best way forward is the way which the Government have proposed; namely, to allow the Secretary of State to regulate the flags and emblems after consulting the various parties, including the new police board, which will be representative of both the wider community and political opinion. There would be real advantage in obtaining the views of the board on that sensitive matter.

The amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, would prejudice the conclusions of the board. It would be much better to proceed by way of consensus, if that were possible. In another place, the Government said, when debating this very amendment, that this amendment makes an assumption about the emblem that should be used by the new police service. Although the Government are not unsympathetic to the view that the new emblem of the police service may not necessarily be free of association with both traditions, and have said so, the proposal restricts the movement of the Secretary of State who wants to consult the board. This provision merely lays out a process which is a sensible process. Therefore, I respectfully ask the noble Lord not to move his amendment.

Photo of Lord Strabolgi Lord Strabolgi Labour 5:15 pm, 25th October 2000

I remind the Committee that the amendment before the Committee is Amendment No. 198A, which has not yet been decided.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

Before the Minister sits down, I wish to respond in relation to my Amendment No. 199. I thank all Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate, which has been extremely demonstrative. The noble and learned Lord may not think that it has been useful, but it has been demonstrative.

The point has been made clearly that the hat badge and the emblem are now political subjects. It is the objective of Patten and, I think, the rest of us to set up an apolitical police force and an apolitical board. Therefore, in my view, it must be wrong that this major political problem should be one of the first matters with which the new board must deal.

The Minister says that the Government want more time to negotiate, discuss and consult. I tell the Government that they have until Report stage when we shall return to this matter. At that time, this decision and several others must be taken by the Government. Those decisions must be taken sooner or later. It is for the betterment of Northern Ireland, democracy and the future police force that those decisions are taken as soon as possible. Ideally, I should like to see them taken now. However, this afternoon, I notify the Government that we shall return to this in an equally strong, or stronger, manner on Report. Therefore, I shall not press my amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 199 not moved.]

Clause 52, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 [Co-operation with Garda Siochana]:

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

moved Amendment No. 200:

Page 28, line 8, leave out after ("shall") to ("co-operation") in line 10 and insert ("promote, wherever practicable,").

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

This is a small matter. It is not nearly as emotional or important as the matters discussed in the previous debate.

Clause 54 provides for co-operation between the RUC and the Garda Siochana. Clearly, we are all in favour of that, the more the better. However, it seemed to us that the way in which it is expressed may even limit the co-operation because the Bill provides that the board and the Chief Constable,

"shall implement any arrangements made ... between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland", dealing with co-operation on police matters.

We suggest that there should be a duty on the board and the Chief Constable to promote co-operation "wherever practicable". Of course, that means co-operation resulting from agreement between the two governments; but it means a lot more than that.

It means also co-operation between the two forces themselves and, indeed, at the lower levels between the individual units of the various forces. It was my experience, when I had responsibility for security in Northern Ireland, that the co-operation seemed to be better the lower down the scale you went. The station sergeants in police stations either side of the border were much more likely to telephone each other than were the people in the headquarters of the two police forces or--even less likely--the two governments. We had discussions about co-operation and we constantly tried to achieve more co-operation out of the government of the Republic at that point. I am talking about 10 years ago. The work was extremely sticky and difficult, whereas co-operation between the sergeants on day-to-day matters was, as far as I could detect, fairly good. I do not suggest that today co-operation at the top level is not equally good; certainly, it is now much better than at the time of which I speak. We believe that such co-operation should take place extremely widely.

Chapter 18 of the report of the Patten commission deals with co-operation and makes several sensible recommendations about how it can be improved, for example that there should be more joint planning, joint exercises and that kind of thing, protocols between the two police forces and agreements between the two governments. We seek to widen the clause so that the board and the Chief Constable are under an obligation to promote, wherever practicable, co-operation on policing matters between the RUC and the Garda Siochana. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Molyneaux of Killead Lord Molyneaux of Killead Crossbench

The Patten report advocated increased co-operation. Co-operation has existed for some time. One of my friends who is a Garda officer said:

"and we could do better if the politicians kept out of our way".

I have omitted an expletive. It is important to build on good relations. As the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, said, relations have always been extremely good at inspector level. As my noble friend Lord Laird said earlier, there is an understanding between us on the modernisation and re-equipping of the Garda. The flourishing economy of the Republic of Ireland is very reassuring. We may have difficulty persuading Her Majesty's Treasury to meet some of the costs of the necessary upgrading of the Garda. But I am confident that the Irish Government will be convinced of the necessity to upgrade the Garda and, at the same time, reduce political interference in line with the observation of my favourite Garda officer. There will be an imperative if effective co-operation is the result. Co-operation would be damaged if there was any evidence of infringement of the operational independence of the Chief Constable of the RUC by any source whatever.

In a sense the clause, which the noble Lord quoted, smacks of political interference. The provision opens the way to unnecessary political interference. What else is one to make of the third line of Clause 54 which speaks of "co-operation on policing matters"? That is a definite invasion of the territory of the two Chief Constables, North and South. It is their job to organise and implement co-operation on policing matters; it is nothing to do with politicians, great or small. As to those aspects of the clause, the board and the Chief Constable are entitled to firm reassurance.

Photo of Viscount Brookeborough Viscount Brookeborough Crossbench

I support the amendment, in that by inserting "promote, wherever practicable" it puts the objective in writing. Although certain arrangements are written down and dealt with officially they do not have much effect on the ground. From my service experience, the only arrangement that worked on the ground was almost secretive. When we or the Garda crossed the border in effect it had to be covered up, because if it had gone high enough up the ladder it would have created a diplomatic incident. I give two examples. At least 10 years ago in Fermanagh, unbeknown to us, there was a bomb on our side of the border near Rosslea. Luckily, the Garda found the command wire and followed it across the border until it reached the bomb. Obviously, that was a great benefit to us because we were not very close to it. The IRA did not take on the Garda, so it was a good way to find out where it was. Nothing was done about it. That happened on the ground and it was discussed between the police forces at local level.

Rather late one evening we defused a bomb in Belleek but could not be extracted by helicopter. ATO and his protection could not be moved. I was on the ground and conditions were extremely wet. Because of local chat between the two forces we were able to cross the border and enter the village of Belleek. The present arrangements are ridiculous; they should be pushed much further by government and the police forces so that those operations can take place without everybody being up in arms about encroaching across the border. I am all in favour of anything that persuades people to make greater efforts to ignore tiny infringements in order to end cross-border terrorism in particular.

Photo of Viscount Cranborne Viscount Cranborne Conservative

I am very confused by the existence of Clause 54 at all. At one level it could be read as anticipating that the two Governments might make arrangements to be imposed on the police force in Northern Ireland against the stated will of the board and the Chief Constable. I cannot conceive that any government should do that, particularly one that, from my reading of the Bill, appear to want to consult as widely as possible before bringing into operation any new arrangements. However, I sometimes wonder whether the Government will go their own sweet way whatever the results of the consultation. Perhaps that is what lies behind the clause.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord will provide me with a further explanation of this provision. I am entirely ignorant of the day-to-day circumstances, apart from once having had a modest interest in this matter as a junior Minister in the Ministry of Defence concerned with military rather than police matters. It is curious that we need the clause at all. It may be sensible for such matters to be taken out of legislative provision and for consultation on both sides of the border to continue on an operational level so that the objectives of the noble Viscount can be achieved in that way, rather than to take a sledgehammer to crack a nut and include a clause which creates more suspicions than it dispels.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

I, too, strongly support the amendment because of my considerable concern about this matter. The Belfast agreement, very properly, speaks of co-operation and discussion, but this clause refers to,

"an agreement"-- not just any agreement--

"between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland".

That suggests either that there may already be an agreement or that there could be a series of formal agreements which would then have to be implemented. Frankly, if the object is to depoliticise the RUC this is not the right way to go about it.

The Irish Government have always had their own political agenda. At the moment that agenda points to pleasing Sinn Fein/IRA as far as they possibly, and decently, can. In the past they have discussed with Sinn Fein troop levels in Northern Ireland and a number of other issues which are the business of a sovereign country. I am deeply disturbed that we are about to enshrine in legislation the right of the Irish Government to impose any kind of decision or view on the RUC in what is part of the United Kingdom. I do not think that it has yet been made clear enough exactly what will be the powers.

Furthermore, as I have said, I am concerned about the fact that, in the past, the Dublin government have been only too ready to advance their own point of view--to say the least--in negotiating with the IRA, thus landing us with consequences which we could not resist.

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Chair of Labour Peers 5:30 pm, 25th October 2000

Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask her a question. Does she agree that the Dublin government have held meetings with practically all the political parties in Belfast, including that headed by Mr David Trimble? To suggest that the Irish Government have an agenda simply to support terrorists in Northern Ireland is not a fair statement of their position.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

Not for a moment do I suggest that the Irish Government support terrorism. However, I am saying that, no matter how much consultation has taken place, they have, on a reasonably large number of occasions, negotiated and talked to the IRA in Dublin--on our behalf, I hasten to add. Necessarily, however, their interests and ours will at some point diverge. Very frequently, their future interests--with Sinn Fein likely to enter the Dail and to become a political partner--will affect their point of view. I believe that it would be dangerous for that point of view in any way to impinge on the operational activity of the RUC.

I accept utterly that splendid co-operation exists between the RUC and the Garda. It seems to me that that is enough and that there should be no more.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, outlined, this amendment would remove the board's and the Chief Constable's obligation to implement arrangements arising from an agreement between the UK and the Irish Government on police co-operation and would substitute a requirement to promote co-operation where practicable.

Perhaps I may begin by making it absolutely explicit that the purpose of this clause is designed to meet the recommendations in chapter 18 of the Patten report. The only way in which that can be done is through this clause. It has absolutely nothing to do with interfering with the operational independence of the RUC and the Chief Constable. The agreement between the UK and the Republic will not direct the Chief Constable in any way.

The matters in the agreement will cover the areas outlined in the Patten report; namely, annual conferences, written protocols, personnel exchanges, secondments, liaisons and joint training. It does not cover the kind of issues mentioned by noble Lords, whose worries I hope to be able to assuage.

Patten made it perfectly clear that there should be written protocols on co-operation between the two police services, building on the good relationships. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, when speaking of his experience, would agree that it is preferable to establish a formal framework in which the kind of activities he described as taking place in a faintly clandestine way--I do not intend that to be a derogatory reference--could be better achieved by other means. Patten recommended strengthening co-operation between the police on both sides of the border. That is exactly what this clause provides for.

I can reassure the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, that the Government would not reach an agreement without the Chief Constable being fully involved in the process. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the areas likely to be covered by such an agreement are those set out by Patten. Perhaps I may refer to them in a moment.

I am a little confused by the concerns expressed by several noble Lords as regards any framework that would increase co-operation to cover areas such as tackling the dreadful problem of paedophile rings, in particular on how they operate cross-border. That is the kind of area that we envisage being addressed here, along with financial crime and co-operation on drugs issues. None of these areas is in any way a party political matter. Furthermore, such areas, which would inevitably benefit from co-operation, are not in any way areas where the integrity and responsibility of the Chief Constable and the RUC would be impugned by greater co-operation being achieved. I assure the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, that this would be done through the protocol which sets out and establishes the framework under which such co-operation could take place.

We believe that this will be in the interests both of the police services and of good policing. I know from his contribution that the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, recognises that an enormous amount of good practice is already in place. Perhaps I may reassure noble Lords that this does not in any way concern political interference. It concerns the establishment of a framework to build on the good practice and exceptionally hard work that has already taken place--without the benefit of the backing of the protocol.

Photo of Viscount Cranborne Viscount Cranborne Conservative

Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she confirm that, in order to encourage such desirable co-operation--an aim shared by every Member of the Committee--it is clear that legislation is needed?

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

This is being done in order to implement Patten and to establish clearly--beyond peradventure and beyond doubt--a framework in which co-operation can take place. I assure the noble Viscount that those are the principal objectives. Given that, this clause is not only necessary; it is also extremely desirable.

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

I am astonished at the response of the noble Baroness. Clearly there has been a failure of understanding here. We are all in favour of the kind of co-operation she has outlined. Indeed, I and several other noble Lords have mentioned similar areas of policing where co-operation should take place. However, a clause of this character is not in any way recommended in the Patten report.

The Patten report does recommend that the two police services should have written protocols, but that does not mean that the governments should negotiate what is to be done. The report draws on the model of the Kent police. In paragraph 18.6, it states:

"Kent police have signed several protocols with police services across the Channel".

Paragraph 18.7 goes on to say,

"We recommend that the two police services"-- the RUC and the Garda--should sign protocols between themselves. However, the clause does not acknowledge that. It concerns an agreement that is to be reached between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland rather than the police services.

Nothing is required in the Bill to permit the police services to make agreements; there are already quite a number of them. Furthermore, nothing is required from the Bill to permit co-operation on paedophiles or any of the other matters that we have discussed.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

Perhaps I may reassure the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that the provisions under which the Kent police service operates are enshrined in law. Perhaps I may also reassure the noble Lord that, although the agreement sets out the scope, it most certainly does not instruct or empower anyone to interfere with the operational independence of the Chief Constable and the RUC. I believe that we are at cross purposes here. If it would be helpful to discuss this matter in more detail before Report, we would be only too happy so to do.

Photo of Viscount Brookeborough Viscount Brookeborough Crossbench

Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she tell us if the Irish Government have stated that they felt that they must legislate in exactly this way in order to keep their side of any bargain that may be in the offing?

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

I am afraid that I am unable to do that--just as I am unable to say whether the French had to change their legislation to enable the Kent police to co-operate with them. I cannot answer for the legislative procedure needed to operate such an agreement.

The agreement is the framework to allow and legitimise areas of co-operation--nothing more. Noble Lords' fears are unfounded.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

Before the noble Lord, Lord Cope, replies, my understanding is that "arrangements" in Clause 54 means "protocols". If a protocol is agreed, surely the governments responsible for those making the protocols must also be engaged.

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

We are at cross purposes. Part of my doubt, which the noble Baroness has not resolved, is that we are frequently told by lawyers in the course of debating Bills that giving legal authority to one specific matter implies that there is not legal authority for matters which are adjacent to it but for which authority is not given. That worries me.

So far as concerns the Kent police, I am aware that there are various agreements--I was involved in them during another stage of my career--in regard to the Channel Tunnel and the operations of the two police forces in a foreign jurisdiction. Under agreements, there are small areas of Kent and small areas of the Pas-de-Calais which are regarded as the territory of the other country. Obviously, such agreements have to be negotiated between governments.

However, we are not discussing that here. We are discussing the kind of thing that Patten discussed--that is, an annual conference between the two police forces, liaison officers, co-operation in training and so on. These do not require a government agreement; they require an agreement between the two police forces primarily. That is the level at which it should be done.

I am, of course, aware that policing in the Republic of Ireland is subject to much closer day-by-day political control--down to quite a low level in the police force--than would be acceptable in our tradition. Both jurisdictions and both police forces will have to take that into account in dealing with one another.

The amendment seeks to widen the responsibility of the Chief Constable and the board in order to improve co-operation in regard to the matters discussed. As the noble Baroness said, there seems to be a disagreement about the purpose of this and the extent to which it is made necessary by Patten, which I think it is not. In the circumstances we shall gladly take up her offer to discuss the issue further between now and Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Annual and other reports by Board to the Secretary of State]:

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendments Nos. 201 and 202:

Page 28, line 38, at end insert--

("( ) the level of public satisfaction with the performance of district policing partnerships;").

Page 28, line 39, after ("effectiveness") insert ("of district policing partnerships in performing their functions and, in particular,").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 203 and 204 not moved.]

Clause 55, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 [General duty of Chief Constable to report to Board]:

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour 5:45 pm, 25th October 2000

moved Amendment No. 205:

Page 29, line 40, leave out from ("it") to end of line 41 and insert ("concerns sensitive personal matters").

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

To his great regret, my noble friend Lord Desai has been suddenly and unavoidably called away. He asked me to do two things: first, to apologise to the Committee; and, secondly, to move his amendment. It may be convenient to the Committee if, in considering Amendment No. 205, we debate all the amendments down to Amendment No. 218, and then Amendment No. 236.

Before he left, my noble friend Lord Desai spent all of 45 seconds explaining to me the purport of Amendment No. 205. If my exposition appears a little inadequate, I trust that the Committee will find it in its heart to forgive me. As I understand it, he wishes to raise the question of whether the powers of the Chief Constable to decline the board's invitation to submit a report, or to frustrate the board's intention to hold an inquiry, are too wide.

The Patten commission said that he should have power to decline if the information concerned a sensitive "personnel" matter. That appears in the Bill as a sensitive "personal" matter. Whether that is deliberate, I am not sure--no doubt my noble and learned friend will be able to tell us--but I have thought for a long time that there is room for a book on how printers' errors and clerical errors have changed the course of history.

The difficulty is that there are a number of sensitive "personal" matters which may require a report and which may very properly give rise to an inquiry. If, for example, the question arose as to whether someone had a criminal record, that may well be a proper occasion for a report--but it would be of course a "personal" matter. That, as I understand it, is the purport of what my noble friend Lord Desai wished to raise. I am not sure that I can helpfully carry it much further.

However, I can speak to my own amendments, Amendments Nos. 209 and 210. We are considering the powers of the board to establish an inquiry into a matter of concern. It is obviously not intended that an inquiry should be held lightly. The power is activated only when the board is so concerned about the matter in question that it has required a report from the Chief Constable, and that report has persuaded them that it is a grave matter or that the circumstances are exceptional. The Patten commission believed that the freedom of the board to appoint an inquiry was important. That importance was emphasised in paragraph 6.23

The clause then goes into the hypothetical mode. Suppose the Chief Constable does not agree with the board that an inquiry should be held. I assume that that is not a view he would reach lightly. It would be virtually bound to become public that the board wanted an inquiry and the Chief Constable, as it might well be seen, wanted the matter hushed up. The Patten commission said that if there is a difference of opinion between the board and the Chief Constable as to whether an inquiry should be held, the issue should be referred to the Secretary of State. The Bill seeks to give effect to that and so lists the grounds which would justify the Chief Constable referring the issue to the Secretary of State. The grounds are carefully defined. We probably all agree that they are indeed grounds which would require careful consideration.

In that situation, the Secretary of State must decide between the board and the Chief Constable. It would not be an enviable position in which he would find himself. Whatever he decides would attract criticism. But we would expect him to make himself familiar with the grounds on which the Chief Constable had reached his decision to oppose the appointment of an inquiry. If the Secretary of State decides that one of the grounds listed in the Bill and specified by the Chief Constable is established, he must weigh the consequences of holding an inquiry against the consequences of not holding it. Up to that point, I have no quarrel with the Bill.

But suppose the Secretary of State is not satisfied that the Chief Constable has made his case; that he is not persuaded that, for the reason advanced by the Chief Constable, the inquiry ought not to be held? I apologise for the double negative; it probably requires a visual aid. If he reached that conclusion, one might have thought that that would be the end of the matter. But, no--the Secretary of State may also overrule the board and decide that there should be no inquiry if it,

"would serve no useful purpose".

The board has already decided that the matter is so grave that there should be an inquiry. The Chief Constable has argued why there should not be an inquiry. The Secretary of State has decided that he does not agree with him. After all that, the Secretary of State may still say, "Oh, but I do not think the inquiry would serve a useful purpose". Members of the Committee will remember that if the Chief Constable had not referred the matter to the Secretary of State, he would not have been involved at all. He would have had no opportunity to ask himself whether it would serve a useful purpose. But having decided that the reason why the question was referred to him will not hold water, he can now say, "But having got my hands on the matter I can decide it on a ground which was not previously ventilated".

This situation has arisen because in another place the Secretary of State was persuaded that he had gone too far in imposing limitations on the board and sought to modify his own powers. Members of the Committee will recollect that if the Chief Constable is required by the board to submit a report at the very inception of the process, he may at that stage appeal to the Secretary of state and argue that he should not be called on to submit a report--but only under one of the grounds set out in Clause 57. Even then he is not entitled to submit that it would serve no useful purpose. So why, when the board is so concerned that it proposes to hold an inquiry, is the Secretary of State given power to second guess it, but to do so only if the Chief Constable thinks there is some different objection to holding an inquiry?

If the Secretary of State ever exercises that power, one might imagine the outcry at the suspicion that something is being hushed up. None of the other objections to an inquiry has been argued or, if argued, upheld. But the Secretary of State tells us that it would serve no useful purpose. Later today your Lordships will be debating the Freedom of Information Bill where concern has been expressed that the Government are afraid to let go of nurse's hand and leave behind the culture of secrecy. Is this not a classic example?

I turn to Amendment No. 210. This is a very narrow issue. But in Northern Ireland, it is so often the narrow issues which spark off the controversies. Clause 58 states that the board, having decided to hold an inquiry, may appoint one of the persons listed in subsection (6) to conduct it. If it decides that there is a reason why it should not be conducted by one of those persons but by someone else, it may appoint another person. I understand that in that situation it would be wise to consult the Secretary of State. I have included that provision in Amendment No. 210. The Bill would go further. The Bill would require the approval of the Secretary of State; he can veto the proposal.

We would hope that the board would not take leave of its senses and decide to appoint someone who was wholly inappropriate. Surely those appointed to the board will be sensible and reasonable people who can be relied on not to go mad. If not, the whole scheme of the Bill collapses. Surely they should be permitted a measure of independence. I am bound to say that if, per impossibilia, I were the Secretary of State, I should not wish to be placed in a position where if I decided to overrule the board I would be widely suspected of being afraid of a serious inquiry and wishing to appoint my own nominee; while if I refrained from overruling the board and anything went wrong I would share the blame. So one would rather hope that the Secretary of State would not be minded to take advantage of the power. But would it not be wiser to allow the board to let go of nurse's hand and take responsibility for its own decisions? On behalf of my noble friend Lord Desai in relation to Amendment No. 205, I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat

I rise to support Amendment No. 209 tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and to which my name among others is added. I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 211 and 217 which stand in my name and in the name of my noble friend Lord Smith of Clifton.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, has eloquently expressed our concerns about the provision in Clause 58(5)(b) which would give the Secretary of State a veto over any inquiry called by the board. Clause 58(5)(b) is a catch-all clause, which would effectively allow the Secretary of State to object to an inquiry on any grounds whatever. It is not just belt and braces; it is double belt and braces. Have the Government so little confidence in the board, which the Bill sets up, that they think that the board would establish an inquiry which would serve no useful purpose whatever? How else can one read this provision? What credibility would the police board have in the community if it set up an inquiry every five minutes on anything under the sun? I simply cannot believe that would happen.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I may be able to shorten the debate. The Government have listened to concerns that the balance may have been too far in the direction of safeguards. They have made a number of changes as a result. In relation to Amendment No. 209, which was spoken to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, we are persuaded to make a further change by accepting his amendment. The Government believe that the balance struck by the Bill once that amendment has been made will be right. It removes paragraph (b) from Clause 58(5).

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for accepting the amendment.

Perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 211 and 217. Clause 58(9) suggests that the Government do not trust the board to appoint a suitably credible and independent figure to conduct an inquiry relating to an issue outside the remit of the ombudsman, the Comptroller and Auditor-General or Her Majesty's Inspectorate. That again is a poor show of confidence in the board.

Board members will need to be ready to compromise and achieve an apolitical approach, a subject about which we have heard a good deal this afternoon. That is what happens in England and Wales where we have both political and non-political members of police authorities. If the board cannot do that, it will achieve nothing.

On Monday we heard a good deal about the Patten report and the Government's keenness to implement the recommendations. A number of times it seemed to me that the Government's version of the Patten report differed from that published. On the point raised by Amendment No. 211, Patten stated that,

"the Board should have the power to request another agency to conduct an inquiry and should have the capacity to do so itself".

The Patten report said nothing about the board having to seek the approval of the Secretary of State on this matter.

I turn to Amendment No. 217. All that I have said before is completely irrelevant if the Board cannot initiate an inquiry because it does not have any money. As we all know, money talks. The financial provisions which we have already discussed mean that the board is wholly dependent for money on the grant made to it by the Secretary of State. The board can howl to the moon, but if it has no money to pay for an inquiry, it simply will not happen. This is really critical. Patten recommended that the board should be able to call for inquiries where appropriate, except where there was an issue of national security, personnel matters or matters which are sub judice. The Bill already excludes such circumstances by virtue of Clause 58(3) and (5). The Government have said that the Bill will implement the Patten report and that the board's functions will be effectively neutered if it cannot call for an inquiry. I ask the Committee to support the amendments.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative 6:00 pm, 25th October 2000

Much as I enjoy the straight logic of the arguments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell--I enjoy the way he takes us so clearly through them--and much as I respect the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for her expertise in this field, I am afraid that my rather cynical and, it may be argued, slightly less logical mind, tainted by years of living in Northern Ireland, understands very well why Amendment No. 209 should not be accepted, why paragraph (b) should remain in subsection (5), and why I should oppose Amendments Nos. 216 and 217.

As I understand the position, subsection (5)(b) was inserted into the Bill to give the Secretary of State the power to stop what might loosely be termed "politically motivated" board members raking over history by demanding inquiries into events such as--dare I say it?--Bloody Sunday and so on. If subsection (5)(b) is removed, there is no mechanism to stop a police board instigating inquiries into events long before its appointment and the setting up of the new police force. To allow that, and not to be in a position to stop it were that necessary, would be wrong.

The provision to which Amendments Nos. 216 and 217 refer is necessary to impose a financial discipline on the board and on the Chief Constable. When they prepare their budget for the year, they should allow a certain amount, which they probably will not get right in the first or second years, for the instigation of these inquiries. That will act as a discipline to stop a police board setting up inquiries into matters that are probably less than vital and necessary for the day-to-day well-being of policing in Northern Ireland. We do not support any of the amendments, including the amendment conceded by the noble and learned Lord the Minister. We shall consider the issues again before Report and will probably come back to both of them.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and to other noble Lords who have tabled amendments in this group. Before I deal with the amendments, I should just mention that there is a misprint in the Marshalled List concerning Amendment No. 205, which is properly described by page and line but should in fact refer not to Clause 56 but to Clause 57.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. It has also just been pointed out to me--I must have an out-of-date copy of the Marshalled List--that there is a misprint in that too. Having elaborated entirely on the difference between "personnel" and "personal", it has appeared in the Marshalled List as "personal".

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord. I was just coming on to the matter of "personnel" and "personal". The point is that "personnel" is what Patten included in his report. He wrote it referring to members of the police service. Therefore, it is a narrower expression than "personal", which could refer to any member of the public. In this context, it is desirable to be narrower rather than broader because the scope for inquiries initiated by the board should not be unnecessarily narrow.

Having said that, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, on having his Amendment No. 209 accepted by the Government and I should like to support as strongly as I can Amendments Nos. 211, government Amendment No. 213 and Amendments Nos. 216 and 217, which are closely connected with each other. As to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, I would just comment that precommencement matters are already dealt with in government Amendment No. 214. Before an inquiry can start, it will have to have the approval of a majority of the board. That will eliminate the possibility of frivolous inquiries being initiated.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred to financial discipline. I would put it to him that the board as such has a small and limited budget and therefore there will be little room within it for possibly any inquiries--certainly not for inquiries of a long and costly nature. However, such costly inquiries may be necessary and very much in the public interest. Therefore, I hope that there will be no financial provisions which would eliminate and make impossible the holding of inquiries.

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 207. The amendment is intended to address a flaw in Clause 58. It has been tabled in the interests of maintaining consistency in investigatory powers with respect to time-barring. Although Clause 58(12) prevents inquiries into matters that occurred before the coming into force of "this section", it differs from the rules with regard to the ombudsman under Clause 64.

In the case of the ombudsman, there is a long stop period for which time runs from the point of the alleged conduct which forms the basis of the complaint. That is not the case with regard to Clause 58. In "X" number of years' time the board will be able to demand a report on and an inquiry into conduct that takes place the day after the clause comes into force. The amendment applies only to conduct. Therefore, it would still be possible to conduct inquiries into trends over a long period of time.

All the amendment seeks to do is to harmonise the time-bar rules for inquiries and investigations by the board and by the ombudsman into the conduct of police officers. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Minister will reflect favourably on the amendment.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

Perhaps I may deal, first, with the amendments spoken to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, but which were in fact tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Desai. We proceed on the basis that the noble Lord, Lord Desai, meant that "personnel" should replace "personal". The Patten report said that intrusion into sensitive "personnel" matters should provide grounds for questioning whether a report or inquiry should be held. The Bill says "personal" instead of "personnel". It does so simply in order to be consistent with Section 2 of the Data Protection Act 1998 which refers to "sensitive personal data". It might be right for sensitive data about an individual to be protected if necessary. In the light of that, I ask the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, to withdraw the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Desai.

Perhaps I may deal with government Amendments Nos. 206, 213, 218 and 236. Amendment No. 206 replaces a reference to "one month" with "30 days" in Clause 57(4), thus ensuring consistency with the reference in Clause 58(4). Amendment No. 236 applies to the Bill general rules governing the calculation of periods of time.

Amendment No. 213 to Clause 58(9) effects a presentational change in respect of the roles of the Secretary of State and the policing board in the appointment of a person other than the Comptroller and Auditor General, the inspector of constabulary or a police ombudsman to conduct an inquiry under the terms of the clause. Under the amendment the Secretary of State would "agree" rather than "approve" an appointment. The change reflects the Government's desire to meet, where possible, concerns about the balance between the Secretary of State and the new policing board.

Government Amendment No. 218 reflects a commitment made in Committee in another place for the ombudsman to receive a copy of an inquiry report from the board. It must be right that the ombudsman should receive such reports as they may be relevant to her work.

Turning to government Amendment No. 214, Clause 58(11) sets out clearly that,

"An inquiry ... may not deal with acts or omissions which occurred, or are alleged to have occurred, before the coming into force of this section".

As Patten said, his report was about looking forward.

Recognising, however, that there may be facts that are relevant to a current inquiry, the Government accept that there are grounds for qualifying Clause 58(11) so that the inquirer may consider historical or pre-commencement material if it is necessary for him to do so in the course of an inquiry.

The inquirer would not have the same power as he would for post-commencement material. Were, for example, an inquirer to be given access to previous guidance on the use of plastic baton rounds, he would be able to consider that in an inquiry into the current use of plastic baton rounds. We should expect the inquirer to be provided with such statistical and general information but not necessarily information relating to specific cases.

This meets Patten's general principle that his recommendations are about a new beginning, not,

"a series of judgements about who was culpable for each of the tragedies and mistakes of the past".

As the Government have once again moved to meet concerns about the Bill on this subject, I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, will feel about not to move Amendment No. 215 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, which addresses the same point.

Amendment No. 207, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, would prevent inquiries into police conduct if that conduct took place more than a certain period before the inquiry was initiated. We believe that there are sufficient safeguards and it would be difficult to prescribe a straightforward period. For example, a matter may not come to light for several years. Remembering, therefore, that the inquiry can only deal with post-commencement matters as its subject, I invite the noble Lord not to move the amendment.

Amendment No. 209, seeks to remove paragraph (b),

"would serve no useful purpose".

I indicated the Government's position in response to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. We believe that the balance struck by the Bill is now right and I earnestly ask the noble Lord to consider carefully the whole balance of the Bill in relation to inquiries before making a decision about what to do at a later stage.

Amendment No. 210 tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, Amendment No. 211 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and Amendment No. 212 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, seek to remove the Secretary of State's approval for the appointment of a person to hold an inquiry, other than bodies listed in Clause 58(7); namely, the ombudsman, the inspector of constabulary or the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Amendments Nos. 210 and 212 require consultation with the Secretary of State instead. The board's powers in this area are unique in terms of UK police authorities and it is right that the Secretary of State should be assured of the competence of any person appointed to wield the considerable powers at the inquirer's disposal. I should emphasise that if one of the professional bodies to which I have referred is decided upon, the Secretary of State's approval is not required.

I turn finally to the funding of inquiries. Amendments Nos. 216 tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and Amendment No. 217 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, require the Secretary of State to pay for inquiries instead of the board, which is the present position under the Bill. The Government believe that resources should rest with those using them. The board will be expected to bid for its resources as the Police Authority of Northern Ireland currently does, but the Government cannot be expected to write blank cheques for the board to carry out inquiries. This is not a way to block the board's use of its power--it is government accounting. Naturally, the Government would consider carefully any bids by the board for additional resources but, as I have said, the Government cannot give the board a blank cheque. I invite noble Lords not to move their amendments.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour 6:15 pm, 25th October 2000

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for providing a further listening ear in relation to Amendment No. 209. I seem to be having my teeth drawn, but it is proving a painless extraction.

Secondly, perhaps I may express gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for having referred to my Amendment No. 216 and the noble Baroness's Amendment No. 217, which I simply overlooked in opening the debate.

This is not the moment to re-open the issue. I have heard what my noble and learned friend has said. However, he says that government budgeting is not a way of preventing people exercising their powers. I should have thought that that is precisely what it is, and precisely what the intention is. Whether it ought to be in a particular situation is a matter which we may debate on Report.

Finally, as to the amendments standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Desai, I am not sure that my noble and learned friend got the point. It was almost certainly my fault because of the way in which I spoke to them. He does not seem to have noticed that there is a difference between "personnel" and "personal". It is not simply a matter of drafting, as other noble Lords have said. I should have thought that the intention is that the word should be "personnel". However, we shall try again between now and Report. I am in a dilemma in any event because the amendment is not mine but that of my noble friend. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 206:

Page 30, line 4, leave out ("one month") and insert ("30 days").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 57, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 58 [Inquiry by Board following report by Chief Constable]:

[Amendments Nos. 207 and 208 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

moved Amendment No. 209:

Page 31, line 1, leave out paragraph (b).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 210 to 212 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 213:

Page 31, line 10, leave out ("approval") and insert ("agreement").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 214:

Page 31, line 15, leave out from ("with") to end of line 17 and insert ("a pre-commencement matter.

( ) But subsection (11) does not prevent a person conducting an inquiry under this section from considering facts relating to a pre-commencement matter if, and only to the extent that, consideration of those facts is necessary for him to be able to discharge his functions in relation to the subject matter of the inquiry.

( ) "Pre-commencement matter" means any act or omission which occurred, or is alleged to have occurred, before the coming into force of this section.").

The noble and learned said: I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Mayhew of Twysden Lord Mayhew of Twysden Conservative

Perhaps I may ask a question. I appreciate and thoroughly support the policy implemented in subsection (11) to fulfil Patten's desire that this procedure should look forward and not backwards. Therefore, subsection (11) states:

"An inquiry ... may not deal with acts or omissions which occurred ... before the coming into force of this section".

However, there is a proviso in Amendment No. 214, which states that that will not,

"prevent a person conducting an inquiry ... from considering facts relating to a pre-commencement matter".

I appreciate that the facts must be relevant to the inquiry. However, I do not believe that it is quite enough to say "facts". How is it to be established what is a fact and what is not? That can be established only by a process of inquiry and, in the type of inquiry which we are considering, I do not doubt that there will be provision for legal representation. However, that provides a way back into pre-commencement episodes which goes against the policy of Clause 11.

I do not expect the Minister to deal with the matter conclusively straightaway. However, I believe that he will see that it is possible to envisage that certain circumstances may arise in which an episode which perhaps occurred several years prior to the matter being inquired into will be said to be germane to the inquiry. I believe that that would be harmful. I wish that more people understood how difficult it is to establish the facts of an episode which occurred even one year ago, let alone many years ago. Therefore, if the Minister sees force in my submission, perhaps he will undertake to consider it and I shall be greatly assured.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

Of course I shall consider it. I believe that the noble and learned Lord has identified entirely accurately the intention that the inquiry should have as its subject matter only post-commencement issues. It is recognised that in looking at a post-commencement issue one may have to go back to look at facts because events do not fit into neat pre and post-commencement categories. However, the amendment states that the inquiry can consider the pre-commencement facts,

"only to the extent that, consideration of those facts is necessary for him to be able to discharge his functions in relation to the subject matter of the inquiry".

That sets a limit as far as it is sensible to do so, having regard to the post-commencement obligation in relation to the subject matter of the inquiry.

Photo of Lord Mayhew of Twysden Lord Mayhew of Twysden Conservative

But not in point of time. There is no backstop beyond which the inquiry, even with that proviso, cannot go. That seems to me the danger.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

However, it simply recognises the basic premise that certain facts before the starting date may be relevant.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 215 and 216 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat

had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 217:

Page 31, line 22, leave out subsection (13) and insert--

("(13) The costs incurred in respect of an inquiry under this section shall be defrayed by the Secretary of State.").

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat

I listened very carefully to what the Minister said about this matter. I was fairly disappointed, knowing that there will almost certainly be inquiries that the policing board will need to take into account. Bearing in mind the board's budget, it will be almost impossible for it to do so, and I ask the Minister to consider that point. However, there is a chink of light. I believe that I understood him to say that the policing board may bid for money to cover any inquiry that might be considered. I hope that the spirit of that will be sufficient for him to realise that we are making a very important point.

In light of the Minister's response, I shall not move my amendment.

[Amendment No. 217 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 218:

Page 31, line 28, after ("Constable;") insert--

("( ) the Ombudsman;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 58, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

I simply want to point out that the matter of "a sensitive personal nature" arises not only in Clause 57 but also in Clause 58(3)(b). I hope that at the next stage of the Bill government amendments will be tabled which cover both occurrences.

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 219:

Before Clause 60, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:MEDIATION

(" .--(1) After section 58 of the 1998 Act there shall be inserted--

"Steps to be taken after investigation - mediation.

58A.--(1) If the Ombudsman--

(a) determines that a report made under section 56(6) or 57(8) does not indicate that a criminal offence may have been committed by a member of the police force, and

(b) considers that the complaint is not a serious one, he may determine that the complaint is suitable for resolution through mediation.

(2) If he does so, he must inform the complainant and the member of the police force concerned.

(3) If the complainant and the member of the police force concerned agree to attempt to resolve the complaint through mediation, the Ombudsman shall act as mediator.

(4) Anything communicated to the Ombudsman while acting as mediator is not admissible in evidence in any subsequent criminal, civil or disciplinary proceedings.

(5) But that does not make inadmissible anything communicated to the Ombudsman if it consists of or includes an admission relating to a matter which does not fall to be resolved through mediation.

(6) If a complaint is resolved through mediation under this section, no further proceedings under this Act shall be taken against the member of the police force concerned in respect of the subject matter of the complaint."

(2) For subsection (1) of section 59 of the 1998 Act (disciplinary proceedings) there shall be substituted--

"(1) Subsection (1B) applies if--

(a) the Director decides not to initiate criminal proceedings in relation to the subject matter of a report under section 56(6) or 57(8) sent to him under section 58(2); or

(b) criminal proceedings initiated by the Director in relation to the subject matter of such a report have been concluded.

(1A) Subsection (1B) also applies if the Ombudsman determines that a report under section 56(6) or 57(8) does not indicate that a criminal offence may have been committed by a member of the police force and--

(a) he determines that the complaint is not suitable for resolution through mediation under section 58A; or

(b) he determines that the complaint is suitable for resolution through mediation under that section but--

(i) the complainant or the member of the police force concerned does not agree to attempt to resolve it in that way; or

(ii) attempts to resolve the complaint in that way have been unsuccessful.

(1B) The Ombudsman shall consider the question of disciplinary proceedings."

(3) After subsection (2) of that section, there shall be inserted--

"(2A) In a case mentioned in subsection (1A)(b), the Ombudsman shall, in considering the recommendation to be made in his memorandum, take into account the conduct of the member of the police force concerned in relation to the proposed resolution of the complaint through mediation."

(4) In section 64(2) of the 1998 Act (regulations)--

(a) in paragraph (b), after "resolution" insert "or mediation";

(b) in paragraph (c), after "informally" insert "or through mediation"; and

(c) in sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (d), after "informally" insert "or through mediation". ").

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

In moving Amendment No. 219, perhaps I may also deal with a number of other amendments in this group which are associated with government amendments.

The Police Ombudsman asked the Government to include a provision in the Bill to enable her to attempt to resolve complaints through mediation. She agreed the approach with a number of people, including Maurice Hayes, the author of the report which led to the establishment of her office, the Chief Constable and police staff associations. It is a sensible provision aimed at addressing as quickly and at as low a level as possible complaints which are not criminal or otherwise serious. In order to use mediation, the ombudsman must first obtain the agreement of the complainant and the officer concerned.

My noble friend Lord Desai tabled Amendments Nos. 220 and 221. With the Committee's permission, I should like to deal with those along with the related Amendment No. 222 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and government Amendment No. 222A. Amendments Nos. 220, 221 and 222 would enable the ombudsman to investigate police policies and practices. The Government do not accept that the ombudsman should have a roving role in commenting on such issues, and they do not believe that that is what Patten intended.

Furthermore, the Government see such an approach as inappropriate, given that it is the role of the policing board and not the ombudsman to deal with police policies and practices. The ombudsman's primary function is to investigate police conduct.

Nevertheless, taking account of concern in that area, the Government introduced Amendment No. 222A, which will enable the ombudsman to conduct research into reporting on policies and practices arising from her investigations into complaints. That is a sensible provision which I know the ombudsman will welcome.

I ask the noble Lord, Lord Desai, not to move Amendments Nos. 220 and 221, and I ask the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, not to move Amendment No. 222 as I shall be moving Amendment No. 222A at the appropriate moment.

Perhaps I may deal with Amendment No. 223 in the names of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Smith. When considered from the point of view of the policing board, that amendment appears most attractive. Of course, the Government must look at it from a number of different angles, including that of the ombudsman. There are a number of important points to be made. First, the board and the ombudsman are both independent bodies. Secondly, the ombudsman is already required to supply information to the board together with other general information which she considers should be brought to the board's attention under Clause 61. The current provision appears to be reasonable and sensible and, again, I ask for the amendment not to be pursued.

Government Amendment No. 223A deals with the recently enacted Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. It enables the Secretary of State to make regulations covering the relationship between the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Tribunal, which considers complaints under the 2000 Act, and the Police Ombudsman. The ombudsman is content with the provision, as are the police. The regulations would naturally be subject to consultation with the ombudsman. At this stage I shall not deal with Amendment No. 224 in the name of my noble friend Lord Desai. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour 6:30 pm, 25th October 2000

After my noble and learned friend has been so accommodating, it may sound almost churlish on my part if I reprimand him for a bad habit which the whole Front Bench are now getting into; that is, answering arguments before they have heard them. I have not even moved my amendment yet.

Perhaps I may say a word about Amendment No. 222. As at present drafted, the Bill envisages that the ombudsman will act only in relation to individual complaints and only when the process is initiated by an individual complainant. Indeed, in the other place the Secretary of State confirmed that that was the intention.

The problem is this. The ombudsman is really the only person provided for in the Bill who will be able to investigate the impact of policing on individuals. But there are ways in which policing can have an impact on individuals which do not readily lend themselves to individual complaints. Certainly it may not always be easy to single out a specific police officer against whom a complaint is made. One example cited to me is the incident at Drumcree in 1998. Plastic bullets were fired at people in the crowd. No individuals were willing to single themselves out as making a complaint, and it was virtually impossible to identify a specific police officer who fired a specific bullet. Yet it may well call for someone who is empowered to investigate the incident and, since we are all agreed that we want to avoid an unnecessary inquiry, preferably without the necessity of establishing an inquiry.

The clause says that the ombudsman may report on matters which come to his attention "under this part"--that means of the 1998 Act. Of course, we know that those are related to individual complaints. I am grateful for Amendment No. 222A, but, as I read it, it still confines any information which the ombudsman gives to matters arising from a complaint.

The Patten commission declared in its recommendation 38 that the ombudsman should take initiatives and not merely react to specific complaints received. So it is not clear why she is now denied that power. I must not look a gift horse in the mouth, and I must perhaps ignore old proverbs about Greeks bearing gifts. However, between now and Report stage I promise to look carefully at the half-way house where my noble and learned friend is meeting us and I shall not take this matter further this afternoon.

Amendment No. 223 is a probing amendment. Clause 61 imposes on the ombudsman an obligation to supply the board with necessary statistical information. The Human Rights Commission raised the question whether that exhausts all the useful information which he may give to the board. In paragraph 6.41 of the Patten report, it was recommended that he should compile data on trends and patterns, and that is no doubt what the provision addresses. But it goes on to say that he,

"should work with the police to address issues emerging from this [statistical] data".

So there should be what the commission calls a "dynamic cooperative relationship".

In particular the commission recommends that the ombudsman should supply data on,

"accumulations of complaints against individual officers".

Yesterday, on the Freedom of Information Bill, we became involved in an interesting debate as to what is and what is not a statistic. This afternoon the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, raised the question of what is and what is not a fact. One could spend a great deal of time on this issue in a seminar. If the ombudsman says that there is a complaint about a specific officer; that is a fact. If he says that there have been two complaints about the officer, that is a statistic. If he said that the officer was placed in a situation which made undue demands on him, that is not a statistic; it is simply information.

I do not propose to elaborate at great length; I am not being paid to deliver a lecture. But, having answered the argument which I had not then advanced, my noble friend may wish to think about it again.

Photo of Lord Rogan Lord Rogan UUP

I,too, wish to speak to Amendment No. 223. Its effect would enable the board to have sufficient information to adequately carry out the functions ascribed to it in Clause 3 of the Bill, in particular subsection (3)(c)(i).

The board must,

"keep itself informed [about] ... (police complaints and disciplinary proceedings) and trends and patterns".

It is my contention that pure statistical information for which the legislation provides between the ombudsman and the board, would not enable it to fulfil those obligations. While one could live in hope that the ombudsman would be generous in the supply of other information, as is common practice in Great Britain, I am anxious that that should happen in reality. My concern rests on the fact that Section 61(7) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 provided for,

"statistical or other general information", the latter may now only be provided at the discretion of the ombudsman.

I shall be grateful for the views of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, on how he sees the police board being able to fulfil the duties I outlined if it only has statistical information. Does he not agree that the board, in order properly to keep itself informed about the workings of the complaints and disciplinary proceedings, needs access to examine completed case files? That has certainly been the experience of the complaints monitoring committee of the current Police Authority for Northern Ireland.

Surely by not requiring the ombudsman to supply other information in effect renders the ombudsman less accountable and less transparent. I am keen to know why the legislation has been drafted so that the ombudsman is the sole determiner of what information the board will and will not need to carry out its duties effectively. I appreciate that that is how the 1998 Act was worded. But I should have thought that it makes a nonsense of openness and accountability and that this opportunity to rectify the legislation should be taken.

If this argument were to be followed through, then Clause 63 would require amendment to enable the board and the Chief Constable to determine the access to be afforded to the ombudsman in the exercise of her duties. For those reasons I ask the Minister to give Amendment No. 233 serious consideration.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

I welcome Amendment No. 219. Mediation can be extremely helpful and there will no doubt be circumstances in which the ombudsman could and should act as the mediator.

As I corresponded and had a session with Dr Maurice Hayes prior to his report, it may be an appropriate moment to offer best wishes to the ombudsman in the discharge of her duties, when she starts. No doubt they will be tricky and complicated and I am sure that she will need and receive support.

We know that the handling of police complaints was often unsatisfactory in the sense that examination never got to the root of the problem or went sufficiently deep. We hope that that will improve in future.

I am happy to support Amendments Nos. 222 and 223, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. I want to stress the principle that the police board should be able to decide what information it needs to carry out its functions and should not be limited only to statistical records of data.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

First, I apologise to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer for answering his amendments before he moved them. I did so because Amendment No. 222A is grouped with his amendments. The point he made in response to my comments about his still unmoved amendments was that the ombudsman should have a role, and he gave the example of Drumcree. The position under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 is that there does not require to be a specific complaint before an incident is investigated. The ombudsman may call herself in to investigate police conduct. That explanation may go some way towards dealing with the noble and learned Lord's point.

The other point most touched on during our short debate was the ombudsman's position in relation to providing information, other than statistical information, to the board in relation to carrying out its functions as regards police complaints. I believe that the provision that has been made is sensible. It places a duty on the ombudsman to provide such general information which she considers should be brought to the attention of the board in connection with the police board's relevant function. The ombudsman is a public body. Someone must decide what information shall be provided because a huge range of information, other than statistical, could be provided. It must be sensible that the ombudsman is under a duty to provide the relevant information but that she shall make the decision about what will be helpful in relation to the board's performance of that function. I believe the provision to be sensible and ask Members of the Committee not to move their amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 60 [Reports by Ombudsman to Chief Constable and Board]:

[Amendments Nos. 220 to 222 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 222A:

Page 32, line 11, at end insert--

("(2) The Ombudsman may carry out research into any matter which may be the subject of a report under subsection (1)."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 60, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 61 [Supply of information by Ombudsman to Board]:

[Amendment No. 223 not moved.]

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clause 62 [Time limit for complaints and references to Ombudsman]:

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 223A:

Page 33, line 7, at end insert--

("(d) to the extent that the subject matter of a complaint falls within the jurisdiction of a prescribed person or body, the Ombudsman shall not investigate it."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 62, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 63 [Access by Ombudsman to information and documents]:

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 224:

Page 33, line 10, at end insert--

("(2) Any person who knowingly withholds from the Ombudsman such information and documents as she has required under subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (2) shall be liable--

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to a fine, or to both.").

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

I hesitate to say "Not moved" because I may be arrogating to myself a prerogative which I do not have. My noble friend Lord Desai did not authorise me to say that, but he is not here to do so.

[Amendment No. 224 not moved.]

Clause 63 agreed to.

Clause 64 [The Commissioner]:

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 225:

Page 33, line 18, leave out from ("the") to end of line 20 and insert ("process of police reform in Northern Ireland").

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

I wonder whether I might be permitted formally to move the amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Desai if only because it gives me an opportunity to move my amendment which is part of the group. The list suggests that with this amendment the Committee might want to debate Amendments Nos. 225A, 226 to 229, 237, 238, 249 and 250. Arithmetically, that includes my Amendment No. 228.

Photo of Lord Ampthill Lord Ampthill Crossbench

The groupings are not binding so the noble and learned Lord can perfectly well speak to his amendment without moving that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, for which he does not seem to have the authority.

[Amendment No. 225 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 6:45 pm, 25th October 2000

moved Amendment No. 225A:

Page 33, line 19, after ("Ireland") insert ("including, in particular, those resulting from this Act,").

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

I am now in a little difficulty. As a result of considering the points which lie behind Amendment No. 225, tabled by my noble friend Lord Desai, we decided to table Amendment No. 225A, which will provide that the terms of reference of the oversight commissioner should include in particular those changes resulting from the Bill. The amendment puts it beyond doubt that the implementation of Patten's recommendations includes the changes in the Bill. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend Lord Desai, when he reads Hansard, will believe that his Amendments Nos. 225 and 227 are not necessary.

Perhaps I may speak also to government Amendments Nos. 226 and 229 to Schedule 4, which also deal with the oversight commissioner. The first honours a commitment given in another place to add a provision along standard lines dealing with the removal of the commissioner if he becomes unfit or unable to discharge his functions. The second removes an erroneous reference concerning the commissioner. I shall move those amendments when we come to them.

Given that the oversight commissioner is already in place on a designate basis, it is appropriate for the provision formally creating the office to commence on Royal Assent. Government Amendments Nos. 237, 238, 249 and 250 have that effect. I shall reply to points raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer on Amendment No. 228 if he moves it. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 64, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 [The Commissioner]:

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 226:

Page 54, line 8, at end insert ("; or

("( ) become unfit or unable to discharge his functions.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 227 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

moved Amendment No. 228:

Page 54, line 20, at end insert--

("(3) The terms of reference shall set forth the powers of the Commission to prescribe time limits for effecting such changes.").

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

My noble friend Lady Farrington announced that she would not reply to my argument before I made it. Over the years, I have learnt more from her than I can ever hope to acknowledge and I see that she is beginning to learn something from me!

I should, first, apologise for a printing error in the amendment that I failed to notice until last weekend: the word "Commission" should be "Commissioner". Paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 prescribes that the Secretary of State shall give the commissioner "terms of reference". Subparagraph (2) states that those terms of reference,

"shall, in particular, set out the changes in policing", that are now envisaged and which the commissioner is to oversee. It is significant that there are few time limits for these changes. I understand that they cannot take place overnight and that any attempt to rush them through would probably create more problems than it would solve. However, there may be those who are far from feeling a sense of urgency and who may not wish to lend any degree of acceleration to the changes. We are all familiar with situations where those who wanted to see the changes simply became exhausted and gave up because all their efforts at expedition had failed, and the inertia had ground them down. It would be a tragedy if that were to happen in this case.

My amendment simply seeks to suggest that the commissioner should have power to inject time limits where they are appropriate. I cannot believe that the commissioner would seek to do more than use such limits where it is fairly clear that they are necessary. That is the purport of my amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

This amendment would enable the commissioner to set time limits for change. At paragraph 19.5, Patten recommended that the Government, the police service and the policing board should provide the commissioner with objectives and timetables covering their responsibilities and that they should report on progress achieved at periodic review meetings and account for failures to achieve objectives. The commissioner can then comment on progress by way of a report. That is what will happen under the Government's proposals. It must be for the Government to set the timetable and then to be held publicly to account against it. That is what Patten recommended. However, my noble and learned friend's amendment goes beyond that which Patten called for and, therefore, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

I am grateful to my noble friend. I was concerned that someone should have power to impose time limits. Perhaps I should have read through the whole of the schedule. I would then have realised what my noble friend has just pointed out to the Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 229:

Page 54, line 40, leave out ("Police Reform Commissioner for Northern Ireland") and insert ("Commissioner appointed under section 64 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 65 agreed to.

Clause 66 [General duty of Secretary of State]:

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 230:

Page 34, line 6, at end insert--

("( ) In carrying out those functions, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the principle that the policing of Northern Ireland is to be conducted in an impartial manner.").

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

The Government committed themselves in another place to tabling an amendment to include a reference to the need to have regard to the principle that policing is to be conducted in an impartial manner. This amendment ties in with the requirement for the board, in exercising its function, to have regard to the same principle, as set out in Clause 3(4)(a). I believe this to be self-explanatory; indeed, it is not a novel measure. Under Section 37 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 the Secretary of State was obliged to issue a statement regarding policing principles. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

I have but one comment to make. It is extremely sad that we have to include such a clause; indeed, I do not think that it does the Bill any good.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

This is an excellent principle, but I just wonder whether the Government could find a rather more prominent position in the Bill to state this particular line of policy.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

All I can do is to acknowledge the fact that, on the one hand, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, believes that we have not gone far enough and that we should have placed more emphasise on this, while, on the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, feels that we should not have gone so far. Perhaps, therefore, the balance rests with the Government. I hope that the Committee will support this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 66, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 67 [The Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation]:

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 231:

Page 34, line 21, at end insert--

("( ) The foundation shall--

(a) make provision to support the development of the RUC Widows' Association and the RUC Benevolent Fund;

(b) make provisions for injured police officers, retired officers and their families.").

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench

I have talked on a number of occasions in this Chamber about the hardship experienced by widows and disabled policemen in Northern Ireland. I should like to put on the record the fact that I have had discussions with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and discovered that he is a compassionate man with regard to this topic. He has been helpful in preparing a way to secure better conditions, especially for the widows, some of whom have been living in scandalous circumstances. I do not want to rehearse the arguments that I put forward previously, but I should like to place on the record the case of one widow in Northern Ireland who has been widowed for several decades and who, after inflation, lives on a £134 per month RUC widow's pension.

We are asking that there should be recognition of the widows, the disabled and injured police officers and of retired police officers and their families. We ask that there should be support for them by way of inserting the additional points outlined in the amendment into Clause 67, which refers to the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation. Obviously, we have no objection to the latter; indeed, we believe that it is an extremely good idea. However, we urge the Government to help us with the widows, the disabled and injured police officers and with retired policemen and their families. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat

I support the noble Lord, Lord Laird, and the other noble Lords who have attached their names to this amendment. I agree wholeheartedly with its intention. It was an express recommendation of Patten that a substantial fund should be established to assist injured officers, both retired and serving, as well as their families and their widows. I congratulate the Government on having conducted a review of that recommendation and look forward to hearing the outcome, which, I believe, will be announced shortly.

The people whom this fund is intended to assist are, to my mind, entirely deserving of whatever assistance the Government can give. Some officers have paid the ultimate price for simply doing their duty. Although I feel for the widows left behind, I know that I cannot begin fully to imagine the pain that they must suffer each day. No amount of money can repay them for that pain. Other officers have sustained serious injuries as a result of doing their job--that is to say, upholding the law in Northern Ireland and preserving the peace for the citizens of the Province. They, their children, husbands, wives and those in the wider family circle are reminded on a daily basis of the sacrifice that they have given. Equally, they cannot be repaid for the price that they have paid.

None the less, if the fund is substantial and properly administered, I believe that it could help to ease some of the burden that I know is carried by widows of officers and by injured officers and their families. No one can compensate them for their loss, but they deserve to be looked after. I reiterate my support for a fund that would achieve just that aim.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative 7:00 pm, 25th October 2000

I, too, strongly support all that has been said. I am particularly concerned for the Disabled Police Officers Association. I know that there is a reference here to injured police officers, but there is a specific group which has suffered terribly. Many are tetraplegics and paraplegics. Their families necessarily live in extraordinarily painful conditions. Quite apart from poverty and pain, they have the considerable problem of trauma. To do anything about all of that costs money. I therefore hope that specific provision will be made for the Disabled Police Officers Association with the rest, and that as much money as possible will be made available. I should like to return on Report to pursue the point further in terms of bringing pressure to bear for their compensation to be reviewed.

Photo of Baroness Strange Baroness Strange Crossbench

I support the amendment, which is noble and honourable. This is something we should all do to support the widows and orphans. Those of us who are lucky enough not to be widows and certainly an orphan know how people feel. They suffer a great deal of pain. They have been pursuing their duty and we really owe this to them. I hope the Government will support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Eames Lord Eames Crossbench

Next Sunday I shall be dedicating a memorial window to officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in a certain area who have paid the supreme sacrifice. I can tell at this moment the congregation I shall look at. I simply say to the Minister that any generosity found possible by Her Majesty's Government in the days to come would be responding to a great need in our society at home. I would gladly welcome what was offered.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative

I have two comments: first, I made representations to the Minister and his right honourable friend on this subject some months ago. I support the idea and the principle of the amendment. I am a little concerned that maybe paragraph (b) could lay the foundation for getting involved with pensions and so forth. If the Minister is minded to accept the amendment, I would ask him to ensure that it is drafted in the Bill in such a way that the foundation is not laid for getting into an area in the statutory business of pensions. However, I support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

I am happy to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Laird. Indeed, bearing in mind what I said on Monday, I hope he expected that I would. However, perhaps I may put a small drafting point to the noble Lord and to the Government. It concerns the last word in the amendment; that is, "families". That may be too wide. The Minister may like to consider substituting "dependants", which is tighter wording that might prevent unnecessary or frivolous applications to the proposed foundation.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

It is only right that yet another voice from this side of the water should rise to support the principle of this excellent amendment.

Photo of Viscount Brookeborough Viscount Brookeborough Crossbench

I support the amendment. The widows, the injured and the retired are proud and honourable. Rather like the war widows, discussed in recent months in this place, they will not go begging. The reason we are here is to look after people who have given such service to their country. We should do that by introducing, if not this amendment, an amendment to the same effect.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

Lest it be thought that silence from these Back Benches betokens any lack of enthusiasm for the amendment, perhaps I may say that we are wholly behind it. We think that it is admirable and we are delighted to see it.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

The Government entirely agree with the sentiments expressed in the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Laird, has been a persistent and effective advocate on behalf of injured policemen and the widows of policemen. I readily acknowledge the work of the RUC Benevolent Fund and the fine job it does for members and former members. With regard to the RUC Widows' Association, the Government have already fully met Patten's recommendation 88 that it should be given an office free of charge and a regular source of finance adequate to run its organisation. I am pleased to report that the widows' association is now conducting its affairs from premises adjacent to the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust in Belfast and has agreed with the Secretary of State the amount of financial support which it believes is needed to provide reasonable funding for its organisation.

As regards the second part of the amendment, the Government are committed to implementing recommendation 87 of the Patten report which states that a substantial fund should be set up to help injured police officers, injured retired officers and their families, as well as police widows. Noble Lords will recall that I prefaced my comments at Second Reading on 27th July by announcing that the Government had appointed the highly respected former Northern Ireland Office civil servant John Steele to examine and make recommendations about the needs of those listed in this amendment and arrangements for establishing and administering such a fund. I know that his report will be presented to the Secretary of State by the end of this month. In substance, therefore, the Government are already going beyond what the amendment seeks to do.

I turn to the RUC GC Foundation. The noble Lord will recall that the Government set up this foundation in response to Her Majesty's fitting award of the George Cross to the RUC to mark the sacrifices and honour the achievements of the brave officers of the RUC and their families. A working group set up by the Secretary of State is currently considering how best to give effect to those proposals, though noble Lords will see listed in Clause 67 of the Bill that the general thrust of the foundation is towards the professional development of police officers and innovations in policing. Invitations to sit on the working group have been extended to the Police Federation, the superintendents and the Chief Police Officers Staff Association.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, referred on Monday to the possibility of fortification of the RUC GC Foundation with a royal charter. That, of course, is not something within the Government's gift. However, I understand that the Secretary of State would seek to support any such application that might be made by the foundation. For all those reasons I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Crossbench

I thank the Minister for his words, and other noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment. I am prepared to withdraw the amendment. However, I should like to discuss the issue with the Minister and perhaps refer back to it on another occasion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 67 agreed to.

Clauses 68 and 69 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office

moved Amendment No. 232:

After Clause 69, insert the following new clause--