My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 3. Please let us for a moment reflect on why we are discussing the RUC name at all. The future name of the police service in Northern Ireland is being debated here today because some have mistakenly suggested that the current title "The Royal Ulster Constabulary" is a substantial barrier to creating a police service in Northern Ireland which reflects the society that it polices.
As I stated in Committee, the objectionable aspects of this Bill are founded on misinformation, false logic and a misinterpretation of the Belfast agreement.
Before the debate on Clause 1 progresses any further, I wish to address an important point of misinformation. Dropping the three words "Royal", "Ulster" and "Constabulary" from the name of the police in Northern Ireland will not--I stress, will not--solve the problem of Catholic under-representation in the police service. Dropping those three words will serve only to increase unionist disaffection with the manner in which the Belfast agreement has been implemented so far.
The Government are continuing to consider the problem of Catholic under-representation in the police service, first, in ignorance of the most significant contributory factors; and, secondly, in ignorance of information that points towards those contributory factors as being the significant contributory factors.
The Government are ignoring the issue of intimidation. The under-representation of Catholics in the current police service has been largely contributed to by intimidation. We all know that republicans intimidate young Catholic men and women not to join the police. When those young Catholic men and women, whose strong sense of public duty enabled them to overcome those obstacles so that they joined the police, the IRA then targeted them as a priority--a priority for murder. The IRA prioritised those Catholic officers for murder simply to deter any potential police recruits from their community and to deter other people from defying their dictates.
Without an end to that despicable intimidation, dropping the "Royal" prefix will not provide us with the high numbers of Catholic applicants that we all desire.
On Second Reading, I read a letter to the House on this very issue of intimidation. I feel it is necessary to repeat what I then read. The letter states:
"I want to make my position clear to my co-Catholics in this part of Ireland. I joined the RUC in 1971 when living in Derry with my mother.
My father died in 1964, leaving us a poor family financially. I joined the police to help my mother 'make ends meet'.
When a prominent republican heard of this, he and three of his 'henchmen' called at my mother's house in the dead of night and threatened her, physically, over my job.
She was told what they would do to her if I wouldn't resign, and her windows were broken to emphasise the point.
That's the type now in government, that's why Catholics don't join the RUC. Pity these 'henchmen' don't have the background and good character required for the RUC".
That letter, simply signed "good Catholic", was published in the Irish News on 27th July of this year. Even then, the "good Catholic" was anonymous for fear of intimidation. Republican "henchmen" still offer that brand of advice to young Catholics and they still expect it to be heeded.
The Government are also ignoring the implicit discouragement by community leaders of the under-represented groups. Indeed, those community leaders are apparently in ignorance themselves of paragraph 15.2 of the Patten report. Community and other leaders of under-represented groups have continually failed to encourage young people from their communities to join the police.
That encouragement is essential. As it is, that current lack of encouragement can only be perceived as discouragement by the under-represented groups themselves. The Patten report, in paragraph 15.2, stated the need for those community leaders to encourage under-represented groups to apply to join the police. Patten did not state that that paragraph was conditional on any other aspect of Patten. Indeed, Patten stated that the removal of all discouragements should be a priority.
Those who view Patten as flawless should contemplate what has been done since the report was published to achieve the removal of discouragements at all, never mind as a priority. We all know what the answer is and "could do more" is a polite version.
The Government are also ignoring the recent increase in Catholic applicants to the police service. As has been stated in this House and in another place, during the period between the paramilitary-termed "cessation of military operations" and the suspension of recruitment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Catholic applications to the police doubled from 11 per cent to 22 per cent. That doubling of applicants occurred despite the lack of encouragement from community leaders of under-represented groups and despite the continuation of intimidation and, of course, despite what we are supposed to believe is the major bar to Catholic applicants, despite the name of the police having a "Royal" prefix.
The Government are also in ignorance of the fact that young Irish Catholics simply do not avoid organisations with a "Royal" prefix. On the issue of that "Royal" prefix, I made my point clear in Committee. To my understanding, there is still no lack of young Irish Catholic sailors at the Royal Cork Yacht Club.
I mentioned a list of organisations in Committee, including the Royal Dublin Society, and I will not labour that point again save to note that the Sinn Fein leadership had no problem holding its annual conference at the RDS in Dublin in 1999. The venue of the RDS, or the Royal Dublin Society, was not a cause for non-attendance at that Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.
The Government are ignoring the unanimity of the Ulster peers in expressing their view in Committee in this House on the name change. Surely they cannot and should not continue to consider the name of the police service in Northern Ireland in ignorance of the continuing existence and effect of intimidation; in ignorance of the lack of support for under-represented groups from their community leaders; in ignorance of the recent rise in Catholic applicants without any name change; in ignorance of the polls in the Belfast Telegraph; and in ignorance of the views of the Ulster peers in this House.
We have a reputation in Ulster for speaking plainly. I am speaking plainly now. Please remove the blinkers and stop reasoning by a process of selective causation. Patten recommended a new name for the police in Northern Ireland. The amendments I am putting forward this evening offer that new, double-barrelled name. Patten recommended continuity between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the reformed police service. These amendments provide that continuity, respectfully recognising the dedication and sacrifice of officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
These amendments provide a means of dealing with the name issue within the parameters of Patten. They provide the best means of reversing increasing unionist disaffection with the implementation of the Belfast agreement and reversing increasing unionist disaffection with policing reform. Dispensing completely with the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not significantly increase the number of Catholic applicants to the police. That fact must now be clear.
As I have already stated, Patten identified the best means of redressing under-representation in the police force in paragraph 15.2. Let me briefly remind your Lordships, and especially the leaders of under-represented groups, what it said. Patten stated,
"We therefore recommend that all community leaders, including political party leaders and local councillors, bishops and priests, schoolteachers and sports authorities, should take steps to remove all discouragements to members of their communities applying to join the police, and make it a priority to encourage them to apply".
Just as strongly as I urge your Lordships tonight to support Amendments Nos. 1 and 3, I urge those leaders to re-read paragraph 15.2 and make that encouragement a belated priority. I beg to move.
My Lords, on 23rd October, on the first day of Committee on this Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, made a notable and courageous speech. In it he said that the debate on the precursor to Amendment No. 1 was really a debate about the constitution of Northern Ireland. He said that survey after survey showed that many Catholics support the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and that unionists now feel as he did when, in 1968, he marched in support of a campaign to secure civil rights for Northern Ireland under the Stormont regime. He spoke as one who still retained a bloodstained shirt from the blow that he received from the RUC on that occasion. He said that the unionists felt that their entire culture has been taken away from them; that pan-nationalism is ranged against them and that they have no one who can speak in their defence.
The noble Lord said that he spoke as a Catholic; that he spoke with a conscience, and he said,
"I support the retention of the name of the RUC".--[Official Report, 23/10.00; col. 26.]
I recognise that there is a tendency among those of us who have lived for even a few years in Northern Ireland and sometimes less, to speak as though we know it all; and perhaps some of us know some of it. But none of us knows it as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and other Members of your Lordships' House know it who live and have always lived in the Province. I believe the noble Lord was right to say that this is essentially a debate about the constitution. No police service, in any democracy, can exercise authority save by virtue of the constitution of the state which it is there to serve. In the case of the RUC that state is, by consent, the United Kingdom.
The RUC therefore is a police service empowered by the Crown. So long as the Union persists, any police service in Northern Ireland, by whatever name we call it, will be and will remain a service empowered by the Crown. As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, also said, there are also Catholics--no doubt they are in the majority--who are nationalists and object to any jurisdiction of the Crown in Northern Ireland. They continue to object to it notwithstanding the Belfast agreement, and that is their right. They will have nothing to do with the Crown in any of its manifestations.
So it follows that no police service in Northern Ireland empowered by the Crown will ever be seen by Catholics of that opinion as being "their" police service. I pick up the phrase the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, made much of in his speech, when he spoke so helpfully last time about Liverpool; but nobody who feels like that will feel about any police service that derives its authority from the Crown that it is "their" police service. So they will not join it and in that regard the Government--I regret to say--are in pursuit of a chimera for so long as the Union persists.
Does that put paid to our efforts, which we all share, to add to the number of Catholics in the police? It does not. As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, again pointed out, there are other powerful factors which inhibit Catholics from joining. The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, adverted to some of them. He cited hideous intimidation; the withholding of endorsement of that profession by the Catholic hierarchy and even by the constitutional nationalist party, the SDLP. He might have added the lack hitherto of the substantial improvements--they constitute about 85 per cent of the recommendations of the Patten report--which are now either already in place or provided for in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in support of his argument, pointed to the surge in Catholic recruitment to the RUC which took place after the cease-fire of August 1994 and to its ebbing away when intimidation seemed to be sustained and much sectarian violence also continued.
On that occasion no answer was put forward from the Government Front Bench to the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, or other noble Lords who made similar points. I, from my slender experience in comparison with that of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, believe that there is no answer. As yet we are still invited to adopt a name in which the words Royal Ulster Constabulary will, except in the most formal of legal contexts, by the Government's own design and desire, never be used. The sole purpose is the vain hope of getting more Catholics of a nationalist character, such as I have described, to join the police service, and they will not.
The recommendations of the Patten report have elevated the issue of the name into most dangerous prominence and significance, and I wish that it had not been so. But we are where we are. Like the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, I am deeply worried about the condition and state of the unionist community in Northern Ireland. And by that I do not mean the extremities of that community.
The ferocity with which a change of name is demanded, and with no promise of nationalist support at the end--there are only threats of regression if a change is not made--has reinforced the siege mentality with which so many unionists have for so long been cursed. They see the name of the RUC as an incident of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, and I wish that it were otherwise. They see the pressure for change as a denial of that status. They see the implementation of a change as a harbinger of the further and worse inroads that they fear. And until there is some beginning to decommissioning, they feel that they have had enough. Those mounting perceptions, and especially the loss of the RUC name, are deeply dangerous to the position of Mr Trimble.
I have the utmost admiration for the courage, perception and wisdom of Mr Mallon in this long process. He is reported as saying that no one is indispensable to the political process in Northern Ireland. I fear that he is wrong. At least one man is and at this juncture it is Mr Trimble. It is now a political imperative that Mr Trimble remains in place. He could not be restored. I believe that that imperative now requires that the amendment be agreed to.
My Lords, I rise to oppose the amendment. In Committee I introduced several amendments which went in the Patten direction, but this amendment moves further away from Patten than even the Bill proposes.
I cannot claim to have lived or to have worked in an administrative capacity in Northern Ireland. However, for the past 50 years, since I was a small child in India, I have read about Ireland and Northern Ireland. We forget that the entire issue should be seen against a background history of 80 years, not just the past 30. It is strange that a majority community which has all the instruments of power at its disposal has, after 30 years in an embattled state, achieved a good agreement--call it "Belfast" or "Good Friday"--but it is a compromise between the Republic, the United Kingdom and various communities in Northern Ireland.
Having achieved such a delicate compromise, people want to return to the status quo. But the old status quo did not work. It is not a question of whether the Royal Ulster Constabulary was a brave force of law. It was and it made many sacrifices. But, as Patten said, if the new police service is identified with the centre of political argument of Northern Ireland, there will be two consequences: first, whatever people say, there will be problems with recruitment; and, secondly, the service will not command the free support and loyalty of everyone in Northern Ireland.
It is not merely a matter of recruitment; people have to like their police service. Like it or not, the truth is that a substantial minority does not approve of the police service. They will if we move away from the past and rename the service "Police Service of Northern Ireland". I do not like the compromise of incorporation but I can live with it. We must compromise; we cannot return to the old position because that got us into all this trouble.
My Lords, I support the position which the Government have put to the House tonight. I do so recalling my maiden speech in this House. I said that I came from a mixed marriage of a Catholic and a Protestant. My late mother was from the west of Ireland and was an Irish speaker. On my father's side, my uncle died when serving in the RAF and my father served in the 8th Army. I said that you did not have to hate one country because you loved another. The dilemma for the nationalist community in Northern Ireland is learning to love their police force; learning to like and love the institutions in Northern Ireland, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, described.
In another place, I readily rose to support the then Northern Ireland Secretary, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden. He performed an enormous service in bringing about reconciliation and progress in the north of Ireland and I rarely found myself in disagreement with him. However, I believe that on balance the expectation has been raised through Patten that there will be a change in name and ethos in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and that if that is not now delivered it will in turn endanger the peace process.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord that the position of David Trimble is crucial and that your Lordships and another place must do nothing whatever to undermine his position. He is crucial to facilitating the process. I also agreed with the noble and learned Lord that we must learn to place ourselves in the shoes of those on the other side of the community. After 70 years of, certainly perceived, discrimination and prejudice in Northern Ireland, it has been difficult for nationalists to make a transition and to understand that there is fear, but uncertainty, in the unionist community and that they must make that transition.
In 1985 I served as a member of the then Liberal/SDP Alliance commission which examined the politics of Northern Ireland. Another member of the group was the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who had given distinguished service to the British military, had climbed Everest and had also written a significant report on the reform of the UDR. Lord Donaldson was also a member of the group. He had been a Minister in a previous Labour government and had served in Northern Ireland. We were given wide access to all the senior figures in the RUC and the military in Northern Ireland. Time and again, while we were able to see the work that was being done we could see the need for change. Even at that time our recommendations called for a change in the name of the RUC.
As the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, rightly told your Lordships, the number of applicants rose after the cease-fire but has since ebbed away, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, described. However, approximately 93 per cent of the RUC remains Protestant, despite the fact that in the general demography of the population of Northern Ireland 40 per cent are Catholic.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, said that many other institutions have the prefix "Royal" in their name and he gave as an example the Royal Yacht Club. However, I put it no higher than that to equate a yacht club with the police force in Northern Ireland is to misunderstand the depth of feeling. I do not believe that that will help to dispel the mistrust which many people in the north of Ireland still feel.
When I was in the Province last week, I made a point of speaking to a number of people in the nationalist community and in the Catholic hierarchy. I read the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and felt that a number of points should be pursued. People in the nationalist community reiterated the kind of points made by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, in his first-class address in Committee. They said that the RUC did not represent or protect them and still believed that there was some collusion with Protestant paramilitaries. They still talked about the killings. They referred to the lawyer Rosemary Nelson, who was blown up as she drove to work last year, and said that despite all of the representations to provide her with greater protection none had been given.
Despite the bravery which the RUC has undoubtedly shown, not least at Drumcree and on many other occasions, and its commitment to duty and professionalism, the perception of that community is all. Until that changes it is difficult to see how we shall secure the four points referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, in Committee: political control, management, composition and conduct. It is difficult to see how one can properly and adequately bring those four points into perspective and ensure that the concerns which have always been raised become matters of the past.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Can he explain why the views of the Catholic community that he reflects are not also reflected in public opinion polls run by any reputable newspaper in Northern Ireland or any other body?
My Lords, I hope that noble Lords understand that I do not seek to reflect the views of the Catholic community. I give my own views based on conversations last week in Northern Ireland. It was the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, who, from the same Benches, told Her Majesty's Government that since the peace process began the key issue was intimidation. If the noble Lord reads what I have said previously in your Lordships' House and in another place, he will see that I have regularly criticised the knee-capping and intimidation campaigns of organisations like the IRA to try to impose lynch-mob rule. That is wholly unacceptable. I passionately believe in upholding the law and a police force which does that by consent. I believe that that unites everybody in the Chamber today.
Last week I asked a Catholic bishop why the hierarchy had not urged members of its community to play a greater role in the police force. He said that the hierarchy had never asked people to join the Garda. I said that that was not in itself an adequate response, given the circumstances in Northern Ireland. I support the observations made last week that the hierarchy in Northern Ireland must do more to encourage members of the nationalist community to accept the police service and join it. They should be convinced that the service is there for all members of the Northern Ireland community and participate in it. Therefore, in these unique circumstances the Church has a duty to underline the necessity of policing by consent and encourage Catholics to play a full part in that service. Patten recommended a neutral name, badge and flag.
The Secretary of State made clear in his remarks on 15th June that those were issues upon which he would act. He said that he remained absolutely determined to implement the Patten recommendations and achieve an effective and representative policing service which was accepted by every part of Northern Ireland. He is right. I believe that the Government deserve our full support for the proposals that they have placed before your Lordships' House. In turn, they deserve the wholehearted support of the Catholic community and its hierarchy in the creation of a police force which can serve both traditions in Northern Ireland in a fair, impartial and scrupulous manner.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may put a question to him since he complained about the ethos of the RUC being unattractive to Roman Catholics. He advances that proposition as one of the reasons why proportionately there are too few Catholics on the force. Can the noble Lord tell the House what proportion of the Garda is made up of Protestants? Is it not less than 1 per cent, and should there not be some symmetry in these matters?
My Lords, there is certainly symmetry in the arguments which I have placed before your Lordships' House. I hope that, although there is a much smaller percentage of Protestants living in the Republic of Ireland than there are Catholics living in Northern Ireland, nevertheless they would join Garda Siochana in the same way as I argue that nationalists in Northern Ireland should join the police force there. I refer the noble Lord to paragraph 17.4 on page 98 of the Patten report where it is said:
"Many people in Northern Ireland from the Irish nationalist and republican tradition regard the name, badge and symbols of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as associating the police with the British constitution and state. This contributes to the perception that the police are not their police".
That is the issue before your Lordships' House.
My Lords, I rise to support these amendments. I say to both the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Desai, and the Government that their arguments sound plausible but are based on one major assumption. They are wrong to assume that, having changed the name, there will be increased participation in, and enthusiasm for, the service by the Catholic Church, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Many noble Lords and Members of another place have said that the price for future recognition of the police force by those communities is the change of name. I beg to differ. That is an incredibly naive attitude. People hide behind the Patten report and say that it says this or that. Many things have been written down on paper which do not take place. Patten assumed that that might be right before the proposals were put to those sections of the population. Those sections of the population have said categorically that, regardless of the change of name, they will not support the proposals. Therefore, this is not a compromise that is of benefit to our community in Northern Ireland and will get us nowhere.
Like the Patten report, the Bill is divided into two parts. One is concerned with operational reforms. We are entirely behind operational reforms which bring us up to date with other police forces in the United Kingdom and enable us to learn lessons from other nations. There are also cosmetic reforms. The alteration of the name, badge and so on are straightforward cosmetic changes as the price for the involvement of that community. One does not buy something like that if one receives nothing in return. There is no reason why these groups in our society should fail to come forward, except that the new beginning about which the Government and some noble Lords speak is not the same as the new beginning in the mind of some groups, especially Sinn Fein, which control through the intimidation that people agree exists.
Their new beginning, which is not ours, means the continuation of racketeering, beatings and other criminal activities. Such activity does not simply occur on the streets of Belfast on a day-to-day basis; it is deep-seated fraud which will require an extremely experienced unit of any police force to tackle. What they want is the police service as it is now out of the way. If they achieve that they will continue what they are doing now.
That is what is happening, and until we realise it we shall get nowhere. Even the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, envisages a change of name. But surely there should be a return from the other side for these cosmetic changes. We cannot see anything in the near future, and we are nowhere nearer to it than when we started. I shall not return to the release of prisoners. They have demanded this and that and have decided not to play a part in the law and order of their own society because, through their corrupt ways, they want to maintain a hold on it. I support the amendments.
My Lords, I was unable to take part in the earlier stages of the Bill but, as far as I could, I followed the written word. Sadly, the written word does not always give one quite the flavour of the occasion. I rise this evening to support this group of amendments. It seems to me that there are two or three points which may be worth making. I hate to differ from the noble Lord, Lord Desai, because I often find myself in a good deal of sympathy with what he says on other subjects. But I think the point which he neglects is that the function of a police service in the United Kingdom is to uphold the Queen's peace. That is what it is there for: the upholding of the Queen's peace. Unless and until Northern Ireland is transferred to another jurisdiction, it is the Queen's peace which must be upheld. It is a police force of the state of the United Kingdom. It is not surprising that it should expect to carry in its uniform and its title a recognition of that fact. I find that wholly unsurprising. I do not expect the Garda to do so. I fail to see why anyone should expect the police force in Northern Ireland not to carry those symbols in its work of upholding the Queen's peace.
I hate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but he spoke of the nationalists' expectations which had been aroused by the Patten report. Quite so, but unionist expectations were aroused by the Good Friday agreement; not least the expectation that violence would cease and that private armies would be dismantled and their weapons decommissioned. Those expectations were aroused; they have in no way been satisfied. To move on and say that because Patten has aroused expectations, we must give in, we must give something else, is a one-way traffic situation. Of course, in a rational world perhaps the unionist community and the police force in Northern Ireland could be generous and relaxed about losing some of these symbols had they received anything in exchange for what they have already given up under the Good Friday agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, like other noble Lords, spoke of the desirability of a police force which could police by consent. But he knows, as we all know, that there is a minority in Northern Ireland which will not consent to any police force which is under the jurisdiction of the British Crown and of this Parliament. It would not matter what one called the police force. It would not matter if we re-christened it the Garda. It would still not accept its jurisdiction and its authority while that authority came from Her Majesty and the constitutional monarchy and the Parliament of this Kingdom. Therefore, I fail to see any evidence from our experience of the past years since the Good Friday agreement that making this concession to the republicans will make any difference whatever to their conduct--none at all. What it will do will be once again to disappoint and to anger the majority community which feels that the Good Friday agreement has not been implemented by the republican and nationalist community in Northern Ireland.
When we talk of the desirability of sustaining Mr Trimble and his pivotal place in the peace process, surely we do not want to do something else which will put him into greater difficulty with the unionist community which rightly says, "Why have we been betrayed in this manner?".
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he not agree--to continue his argument a little further--that these terrorist crimes are not just committed in Northern Ireland in ignorance of the Northern Ireland police, but also in the Republic of Ireland where there is a police force which is loyal to the government there?
My Lords, I want to support the Government's position on the Bill and to speak against this group of amendments.
I have spent much time over the past few years in Northern Ireland. It is a place I have learned to enjoy and its people are a people whose bravery I much admire. All my contact with the new generation of parliamentarians has shown me a generation of able politicians committed to making a real change. I have learned two things about the politics of Northern Ireland: first, things are rarely as they seem; and, secondly, there are no absolutes.
There is little we can do here to move the peace forward, but there is much we can do to undermine the process. If we load the Bill with unintended, unnegotiated amendments, we shall only upset this fragile process. We all share the outrage, anger and loathing at what sometimes goes on in the name of peace. But this peace process is just that--a process--and there are still important steps to take.
The Bill is a further important step. It has been brought before us to implement the recommendations of the Patten commission. That commission was designed to bring forward proposals which would produce a police service capable of gaining sustained support across all communities in Northern Ireland. The Bill is important and complex. It sets out a whole series of changes which will transform the nature and culture of the police service in Northern Ireland; none more so than this change of name.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place said that while he was committed to implementing the full recommendations of the Patten report, he was willing to listen to any constructive comments on the Bill itself. He would make changes where constructive comments were made. I welcome the fact that he and the Government chose to accept the new clause moved by Ken McGuinness. Clause 1 provides that,
But also allows that it,
"shall be styled for operational purposes the 'Police Service of Northern Ireland'".
The amended Bill now offers a less than perfect way forward, but none the less it is a way forward. The new name of the "Police Service" signals, one hopes, a new start, a new beginning. Yet the full name which will be in the title deeds of the service keeps a link with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and all those who fell in service during the Troubles.
I have said that we here at Westminster can do little practically to speed the peace process. In a very real sense it is the people's future and it is for them to make that future for themselves. However, tonight we have an opportunity to assist them in moving forward with a solution. We are--if noble Lords will pardon the expression--caught between a rock and a hard place. I am sure that all involved in the peace process will examine our comments and read Hansard with care. By the end of today we shall have put our advice and counsel on record. I believe that we shall have done our bit.
This may not be a perfect Bill. It may not even be a perfect peace. But we do not live in a perfect world. I urge noble Lords to support the speedy passage of the Bill and to leave it unencumbered so that those who are in the business of negotiating peace have all that they need to move forward. I wish them Godspeed in their endeavours.
My Lords, I am a great believer in the letter of the law and what governments officially say. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that in the Belfast agreement it was agreed that,
"it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people".
It then went on to say that,
"the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality".
What we are looking at is partiality; the tyranny of the minority; and the effort to give one more sop to terrorists.
I should like to quote also from the security statement in the Northern Ireland Office Departmental Report. It states that the objective is to,
"keep security policy ... under continuous review in the light of changes in the level of threat from terrorism".
There have indeed been changes--for the worse. Therefore, to make this move and to ignore the feelings of the majority of the people and of the experienced officers of the RUC is very dangerous.
I remind the House that, pragmatically, we on this side of the water need an efficient and effective police force. Although the officers of the RUC are loyal and highly intelligent and wish largely to get on with their jobs, nevertheless this issue matters greatly to them. It matters also to the Catholics among them who are not deterred from joining and who wanted to join, as has been mentioned, in the face of intimidation. It is wrong that, for reasons of political correctness and to please the IRA--that is what it is--we are trying to do something but are once more ignoring another important aspect of the Belfast agreement with which we are so often inflicted. It states:
"All participants acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need ... to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division. Arrangements will be made to monitor this issue".
We are looking at a symbol which really matters to the people who are serving in the RUC. Even if this change goes ahead and the force is required to have a 50 per cent quota of Catholics, there is no certainty that the IRA will allow anyone to join the RUC. One will therefore see a drain of highly efficient and experienced officers, who will feel that they have been totally rejected and their interests set aside in favour of a very, very doubtful quota which may or may not come in, and, if it has Catholics at all, may well contain "sleepers" who are there for reasons which will not be helpful to security.
I remind the House that Gerry Adams has said many times that whatever is done to the RUC he and his supporters will not recognise it and will not support it. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, also made that point. If they will not support it and continue to make it extremely dangerous to join, except with special permission, I cannot see the point of hurting and insulting indeed the majority in favour of a tiny minority which is utterly convinced that it will not co-operate. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.
My Lords, I wish to speak to my Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 5, and to support Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan.
It has been a wide-ranging debate and we have heard most of the arguments before. What is sad is that progress is very slow. The situation does not change. Let us consider for a few moments the environment that pervades in Northern Ireland. How did we get to the peace agreement, the Good Friday agreement, the Belfast agreement, or whatever it is called? Why was it necessary? The main objective of the agreement was to stop Sinn Fein/IRA murdering people and to attempt to remove the motivation for loyalist terrorists to murder people. That is why we are there; let us be quite clear about that. Let us also be quite clear that this debate is not about one of the finest police forces in the world. It is about the name of a police force. Thanks to the Patten report, that proud name has been lifted from the force and put into the political arena as a football or rugby ball to be kicked around, unfortunately by politicians from all parties and several nations, with scant regard for the members of that proud force.
We need a police force in Northern Ireland. We have a serious crime situation. We have a serious terrorist situation, whether anyone likes it or not. It is vital that we have a fine, well-trained, well-equipped, loyal and neutral police force. That police force--what is today the RUC--has proved itself in recent years to be all of those things. I accept that in the days of my father and others in Stormont things were different. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned his maiden speech. I used Bernadette Devlin's maiden speech as a basis for my maiden speech in this House. I made the point then that she was right in most of what she said in her maiden speech. But the environment had changed. We had an equality commission and a fair employment commission. The environment over there had changed. There was not a need for that kind of uprising and trouble making. But, of course, the IRA jumped on the band wagon and attempted to pursue a campaign, which it did very successfully for 30 years, to unite Ireland by force. All sides have been protected and cared for by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The Good Friday agreement is about sharing. It is about an inclusive community. It is about bringing together various groupings who have been at war with one another and have been forced to create barriers between each other. It is about creating an all-inclusive society to live in this kingdom in a law-abiding manner. I suggest to the House that Her Majesty's Government, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Armed Forces and people in many walks of life, from those who work in industry, the Civil Service and quangos to those who serve in the police force, have worked extremely hard to bring about that society. Who has not played a part in bringing about that society? Who has so far given nothing? The answer is the IRA--the terrorists--and to a large extent, although I know that people will talk to me about Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, the Irish Government.
To return to my theme of sharing, surely to goodness, if we are to have an all-inclusive society, we must have one police force. And surely to goodness that one police force must consist of people from all the different quarters of the Province. We need people from Derry, West Belfast, Armagh, Enniskillen, South Tyrone and elsewhere to make that an inclusive police force. That is vital. What is stopping it? The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, made the point very clearly. It is the nationalist community and the Roman Catholic Church. I am delighted that many noble Lords and many people outside have, privately and publicly, put tremendous pressure on the Roman Catholic hierarchy in an attempt to get that changed.
However, the purpose of my comments tonight is this: the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not make any difference to the content or the performance of that police force. If the nationalist and republican communities--who, as I have said already, have agreed to serve in one of Her Majesty's governments--are prepared to join in, why are they not prepared to share in the name? That is the nub of our amendment. A shared name allows those who attach memories to it, to whom it means a huge amount and who believe in it, to feel comfortable. Let us also incorporate another name, the "Northern Ireland Police Service", which is new and has been created in the new image of sharing and community spirit. Let the two names come together in agreement. Do not let them become belligerent, bitter, antagonistic and obstructive. That is of no use to anyone.
I do not believe that the total removal of the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is right. A form of shared option is the correct course. In conclusion, perhaps I may lighten the tone of my speech by giving the Government a little piece of advice. Appeasement never won a race yet: "Bad horse, bred by good intentions, out of paralysis of will". The Irish people are a racing fraternity and they will understand that.
My Lords, it is clear that this debate goes to the heart of many of the issues affecting Northern Ireland. To me, it is a matter of great regret that in this House there is no voice to represent democratic constitutional nationalism for Northern Ireland. That would bring balance to our debate and would ensure that we were able to hear directly the voice of a large group of people in Northern Ireland who have serious concerns about the way in which their communities have been policed over the past 30 to 50 years.
If I were an officer in the RUC, my reaction to this debate would be, "For heaven's sake, get on with the Bill. Get it out of the way. We don't want to be a political football any more". The officers of the RUC, of whom I have met quite a few over the years, just want to be able to get on with their jobs. They do not want to become an element in party politics. They do not want to be kicked around by politicians, which has been going on since the Patten report was published; indeed, even before that. They simply want to do their jobs. However, as with all police officers everywhere, they want to be able to do their jobs knowing that they have the consent and support of the communities which they are policing. It seems to me as regards the average RUC officer, who is dedicated, brave and professional, that we are asking a great deal of them when we ask them to police areas of Northern Ireland where they are not operating with the consent of the people in the local community.
I understand that surveys have shown that Catholics are supportive of the RUC. However, they do not demonstrate support to the same extent as Protestants. Catholic communities do not have that bedrock of consent that ought to be in place in order to achieve good policing. Surely that is what Patten set out to put right and forms the basis of the Bill which the Government have put forward.
It was a great source of regret to me that, within hours of the Patten report being released--I was still a Minister in Northern Ireland at the time--shrieks and shouts of condemnation were aimed at it even before many people could have had a chance to do more than open the first page or two. That set the tone for a debate which has never been calm or sufficiently dispassionate to put first and foremost the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. Set positions have made life in Northern Ireland difficult. They have also made policing in Northern Ireland very difficult indeed.
What matters here is this: so far as concerns policing, this is a battle for the hearts and minds of the vast majority of peaceful members of the national community. I do not believe that any Bill would persuade Sinn Fein or the IRA to say, "Wonderful. This is the best thing ever". But that is not the intention here. We need to address the constitutional nationalists; namely, the ordinary, decent, peace-loving members of the Catholic community. It is their support that we want for policing in Northern Ireland, because once their support has been secured, then the men of violence will be marginalised and those that do not like proper policing in Northern Ireland will also be marginalised.
I think that Patten addressed that intention very clearly and achieved a pretty good outcome. The Bill before the House is a reflection of it. What we want to see is a representative police service. As long as 93 per cent of police officers are Protestant, how can the average Catholic feel that this is, "our police force"? It is impossible to expect that.
No single proposal in the Patten report will change everything, and thus we have to consider all the detail. The right approach is to view the Patten proposals as a package. The different elements contained in the Patten report, as reflected in this legislation, can and will contribute to a successful conclusion. I believe that, once this legislation has been passed, it will send a clear signal to all the people of Northern Ireland that we are entering a new age when policing will be conducted with the consent of everyone. That will happen only when we get rid of the symbols, emblems and other items of a police force which indicate that it is not a force for the whole community. That is an important and worthwhile aim. A little vision is required in order to carry this through for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland. That is why I feel that these amendments are wrong in principle and damaging in practice. I hope that the House will reject them.
My Lords, in speaking to the first group of amendments, and in opposing them, I shall begin with an observation. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has pointed out, debates on Northern Ireland issues in your Lordships' House inevitably lack an important dimension. While the concerns of the Unionist community are given a full airing--and quite properly so--those of the nationalist community, almost axiomatically, are not so directly heard. The other place has at least the constitutional Nationalist opinion expressed by the three SDLP Members of Parliament. There is no authentic nationalist voice in our debates, in the same way that the British-Irish interparliamentary body is deprived of any direct unionist contribution to its debates because the unionists decline to participate in its activities.
I am neither pro-unionist nor pro-nationalist, but I think that it is important to stress the disadvantage under which noble Lords labour by not having nationalist opinion directly reflected in their debates in the same way as that of unionist opinion. As I have said, I am not in any way partisan as between any legitimate aspirations, be they unionist or nationalist, but I recognise the objective fact here; namely, the strength of nationalist feeling on the issues of policing in Northern Ireland.
In my time in Northern Ireland, I can honestly say that I never came across either a Catholic family or a Catholic authority that would encourage younger members of their community to consider a job in the RUC. I accept the fact of intimidation, but that is by no means the whole story. The name, with its distant historical legacy, is an impediment to Catholic recruitment. Members on all sides of your Lordships' House have expressed a strong wish to see Catholics serve in much greater numbers in the newly established police service--ultimately to the point where the number of Catholic police officers is proportional to the number of Catholics in the population as a whole. That will not happen, as Patten recognised, unless Catholic parents, Catholic political leaders and the Catholic hierarchy feel able to encourage Catholic recruitment to the police service.
A number of noble Lords have already said that a change of name is a necessary prerequisite for the new start for policing in Northern Ireland, based on the consent of both communities. Such a change need in no way detract from the achievements of the RUC in the recent past, but a change of name addresses the future purposefully and positively.
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. Your Lordships may remember that I spoke to this issue at the Committee stage. I rise to speak to it again because I was not satisfied with the Minister's statement at the end of the previous debate.
With due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, let me say at the outset that it is the Government who have turned the policing issue in Northern Ireland into a political football. However, I can assure the House that I shall confine my remarks to the amendment.
It would appear that the Government use the Patten report when it suits them but disregard it altogether when it does not accord with their demands. Chapter 17.7 of the Patten report states:
"We consider it important that the link between the RUC and the new Northern Ireland Police Service be recognised".
No real link with the RUC will be retained if we change the title, the cap badge and the insignia, and retain only the green-coloured uniform. Perhaps I may ask the Minister: where are and what are the links that will be retained, as proposed in the report? There will certainly be no linkage if the title becomes the "Police Service of Northern Ireland (RUC)". If the title "Police Service of Northern Ireland" without "(RUC)" is to be used for all operational purposes--working, public, legal, ceremonial, administrative, presentational and recruitment--and, as I expect, on letter heads, the name of the RUC will soon be totally and completely forgotten. It may be that that is the Government's intention. It may be that they want to ensure that the title of the RUC is totally forgotten.
The Secretary of State has said that introducing a dual name would not be good for the cohesion and unity--and therefore the effectiveness--of the police. I totally disagree. Is the Minister aware that, for any organisation, a loss of identity leads only to low morale and inefficiency? Is this what the Government are trying to achieve at a time when policing in Northern Ireland is as difficult as it ever was? I have been a member of an advisory board for two regimental amalgamation committees over the past years. Unless the best is taken from the old organisation and included into the new organisation, the new body quickly becomes dissatisfied and performs badly. Surely this is not what we are trying to achieve.
As has been said repeatedly, a survey in the Belfast Telegraph some time ago indicated that 61 per cent of the Catholic community are not offended by the name and identity of the RUC. Many of this community strongly support being a part of the United Kingdom. It is intimidation that stops many Catholics from joining the RUC; it has nothing to do with the title.
I was not satisfied with the Minister's response at the Committee stage. It is for these reasons that I strongly support the amendment.
My Lords, the key to this debate is the assertion by those noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the amendments that if the name is changed to the one in the Bill, and if the "Royal Ulster Constabulary" is abandoned as the name, that will have no impact on the composition of the police force in Northern Ireland thereafter. If that be true, I would have to vote in favour of the amendments. I am sure that most noble Lords would feel the same.
However, it seems to me an improbable assertion--and it is an assertion. It is improbable in one obvious particular--namely, that the very passion with which the argument that there must be no change in the name is advanced, must surely beget in the Catholic community an equal and opposite sense that there is a great significance in the continuance of the name "Royal Ulster Constabulary".
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. My discussions, such as they have been, with Sinn Fein have led me to believe that it has little or no intention of recommending to members of the nationalist community that they should join the police force should the name be changed. Despite much persuasion and discussions with the Roman Catholic Church, its response has been the same.
My Lords, I am grateful for that information. I would not seek to deny it. However, I would suggest that the view of Sinn Fein and the view of the Catholic Church are not all commanding in Northern Ireland. The fact that 7 per cent of the RUC at the moment are Roman Catholics is evidence of that; the fact that the numbers applying to enter the RUC have risen from 11 per cent to 22 per cent since the Belfast agreement is evidence of that.
I suggest that the best thing we can do in this House is to reach out to the majority of reasonable Catholics in Northern Ireland who have some mind of their own; who are influenced by the efforts being made on all sides to try to end these historic divisions. Painful though it is, I believe that Patten did not reach this conclusion in a quixotic frame of mind but on the basis of the extensive soundings and evidence that he and his commission had taken.
I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, who made the point that there is at present in Northern Ireland a massive amount of fraud, intimidation and criminality. Plainly, one element in the amelioration of that dreadful state of affairs has to be a more effective police force in the province. For those reasons, I am afraid that I shall have to vote against the proposed amendments.
My Lords, at the Committee stage we spent some two-and-a-quarter hours debating this difficult subject. The debate so far today seems to have followed very much the same pattern as the debate in Committee. One does not make any criticism of that--it is a difficult issue--but I wonder whether it is in the interests of the Bill. There is still much to be done. Your Lordships will certainly wish to see that it is done and that there is a reasonable amount of time in which to discuss these matters, but perhaps the House believes--like me--that we should gracefully bring this particular discussion to a conclusion.
I do not know whether the Leader of the House can suggest any procedure under which this can be achieved. I do not think so. I think it is a matter for the assent of the House. If we were to proceed in this way, I suggest that, after the Minister has spoken, those noble Lords who have brought forward the amendments should make their final remarks and that we should then reach a conclusion one way or the other.
My Lords, the noble Lord said that he would like to draw the debate on the amendment to a close. I should make some little contribution on this issue. I have said before in the House that I am a Catholic. I hope that I continue to be a Catholic for many years to come or for as long as I live. So this is not particularly a Catholic and Protestant issue in relation to the RUC.
I want to address noble Lords on this side of the House. I do so with a great deal of sensitivity. For many years, as a Member of another place, I was involved in numerous controversial issues. On some matters about which I felt passionately, I was able to enlist many of my friends, some of whom were Left-wing and some of whom were middle-of-the-road. Many times, against the wishes of the government--a Labour government--we took our attitudes to a Division. People did not like it; they were very annoyed that we did so. Sometimes it involved 20, 30 or 40 Members.
That does not happen in this House. I say this with a good deal of regret--and I shall probably not be contradicted. There are many Members on this side of the House who agree with the amendments that have been proposed, and who would have agreed with the attitude I advanced on the Disqualifications Bill. But there is a Whip on this side of the House. Many of those to whom I refer--I know them well and have spoken to them on these issues--were "old Labour" MPs when I was in the House of Commons. I can think of at least half a dozen or a dozen who agree with the amendment. But, whatever they may think about the justification for the Bill, they will not be able to enter the Lobby in support of the amendment.
The same is true of the Liberal Democrat Party. I spoke to a Liberal Democrat yesterday who told me that he agreed with the speech that I made on the Disqualifications Bill. He said: "I should like to support you"--and he put it very crudely--"but we are in bed with Blair". Therefore, the support for the Bill on the Liberal Democrat Benches does not surprise me.
On this side of the House, there is the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble Lord, Lord Desai--who takes an interest in Northern Ireland affairs; and I am grateful for some of the very reasonable statements that he has made. But apart from those two, there must be many Members on this side of the House who have an opinion one way or the other on this great controversy that has been brought about by the proposal to rename the RUC.
The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has had some service in Northern Ireland. I do not know whether he had his tongue in his cheek when he said: "Isn't it a pity that there is no constitutional nationalist voice in this House?" I will tell him why. Although they have been offered seats here, constitutional nationalists will not come to this House. When I was a member of the SDLP, a constitutional nationalist party, there were some members of that party who took MBEs and OBEs; and, once they accepted them, they were dismissed and thrown out of the SDLP. That is one of the reasons why there is no constitutional nationalist party member in this House. I only wish that there were. I should relish sitting here with some of my former colleagues or other members of the SDLP who could advance the constitutional nationalist point of view. I do not blame this House for not being able to hear them.
I am a Catholic, as I keep repeating. But even my intervention in this debate will be grossly misconstrued by nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland. I recently made a speech in Committee on this Bill and the next morning I was the subject of nasty cartoons in the press. I was classified as a Unionist. I was almost classified as anti-Catholic, because I supported the retention of the name of the RUC.
Perhaps my reason for supporting the retention of the name is a heart-over-mind matter. I am prepared to admit that that may be so. But I have carried the coffins of so many RUC men who were killed by terrorists, both loyalist and so-called IRA. I met their wives and children, and I know how deeply they feel that they are being humiliated and demonised by Sinn Fein/IRA. I know how they feel. I was in their houses 10 minutes after their husbands were killed and sometimes five minutes after their fathers and their brothers were killed. I repeat--and, again, I received a headline in a nationalist newspaper for stating this--that, if it had not been for the RUC, Northern Ireland would have sunk into a pit of anarchy. However much I may be abused for repeating it, I shall do so.
Who is to deny that, without the courage and resolution of the Northern Ireland police force throughout these terrible 30 years, civilisation as we know it in Northern Ireland would have gone by the board? Only last week, a bomb went off outside a police station in Castlewellan. Two RUC men were grievously injured; one lost a leg and is in danger of losing the other. At the time, everyone jumped to the conclusion that it must be the work of the Real IRA, a dissident republican group. But the police were able to issue a statement that the type of device used in the bomb was from the loyalist community. So loyalist dissidents, representatives of loyalist murderers, are now intent on killing the RUC.
Seamus Mallon, who is a former colleague of mine, has said that if the SDLP does not get its way in the Bill, he will not call upon Catholics to join the new police service. I can tell Seamus Mallon--who is no fool--that whatever he may say, it will not determine one way or another whether Catholics will join the RUC. Sinn Fein/IRA control many areas of West Belfast, parts of Crossmaglen and many other areas of Northern Ireland; and the loyalists are in control of their areas in the Shankill Road in West Belfast. They are the people who will determine who will join the new police service. It will not be determined by any siren call by constitutional nationalists.
All the recommendations in the Bill could easily have passed a Committee stage in this House in half an hour. The RUC itself recommended many of them. No one is objecting to the reform of the RUC. It has been in existence since 1920. I think I have illustrated in this House how it came to be demonised by so-called republicans. But its name has a symbolism.
One Liberal Democrat Member has said that the symbolism of the RUC is offensive to Northern Ireland Catholics. But taking away that symbol will be offensive to Protestants--by removing the alienation of one community, we alienate the other. What does it mean to take away the name of the RUC? There will be many widows, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers who will be grievously offended if the name is taken away.
Again, when I spoke in Committee, letters were sent to nationalist newspapers saying: "Does he forget that the RUC hit him over the head with a baton when he was leading a civil rights march on 5th October 1968?". I do not forget that at all. O thought it very wrong of the RUC to attack me and others when I was engaged in demanding civil rights for everyone in Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants. But it is 30 years since that happened. Many changes have taken place in the RUC over that period.
I believe that the RUC as presently constructed, together with these reforms when they are implemented, will turn out to be a totally different force from what it was under unionist domination over many years. On Monday of this week, a Catholic ombudswoman opened up her office in Northern Ireland for the purpose of looking into complaints against the RUC. I welcome that development; indeed, the RUC's Chief Constable also welcomes it. The RUC is not against change that will make it a better and a more acceptable force. By rejecting the name, we shall offend many, many people in Northern Ireland. It will not bring support from that section of the community which has been so opposed to it over the past 30 years.
My Lords, all the amendments in the group that we are now discussing relate to the name of the police in Northern Ireland. All the amendments would change the current provision in Clause 1. I should remind the House that the clause that is sought to be amended was tabled by the Ulster Unionist Party in another place and was accepted by the Government.
All these amendments would mean that the police service would be known, for at least some purposes, by a dual name: the Royal Ulster Constabulary--Police Service of Northern Ireland. Much as I understand the feelings that lie behind that proposal, the Government do not believe that it is either a workable or the right solution. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has stated on a number of occasions the Government's view that introducing a dual name would not be good for the cohesion and unity and, therefore, the effectiveness of the police service. As I observed previously on 23rd October, I understand that that view is shared within the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Moreover, it would not be consistent with the recommendation in the Patten report.
However, perhaps I may emphasise that I fully understand the conviction with which many noble Lords have spoken on this subject. The Government fully recognise that this is a deeply contentious issue and one that involves, for many, a painful change. The Patten report recognised that encouraging Catholic recruits to join the police service was not as simple as removing the Royal prefix or changing the name. Of course we accept that paramilitary intimidation has undoubtedly been an important reason for Catholics not coming forward to join the police. Those who have done so in the past have paid a disproportionately high price in attacks on themselves and their families. I salute their courage.
However, intimidation is not the only reason. There are certainly other causes. They include lack of identity with the police; fear of loss of contact with family and friends; and lack of support and encouragement within the nationalist community. That is why it is so important that the opportunity is seized to create a more representative police force, and one that commands broad support across the whole community. Let us be clear about the prize. It is demonstrated by the words--important words--used in Committee in another place by Seamus Mallon on 6th June. He said that,
"we do not yet have a police service that can belong to all the people. That is what I and my party want to achieve, and we have striven to achieve that not in the comfort of debate or theory, but in places such as Derry, the Bogside, south Armagh, south Down and west Belfast ... if we get the Bill right, I will go into the hardest parts of Northern Ireland and I will ask people to join the police service and to support it".--[Official Report, Commons, 6/6/00; col. 196.]
Those words illustrate the prize, which will be in jeopardy if we do not implement Patten on this issue.
Noble Lords have pointed to surveys that suggest that the Royal prefix in the current title is not a major deterrent. Like noble Lords, I accept that intimidation has played its part. But Patten said that symbols associated with one side of the constitutional debate inevitably went some way to inhibiting the wholehearted participation in policing of the other side. It is important to understand his conclusions. He did not recommend either no change or a complete change. What he did say was that the name should change, but that continuity should be recognised. That is what Clause 1 of the Bill now represents--continuity and change. It spells out that the RUC shall continue as the "Police Service of Northern Ireland".
Some noble Lords have suggested that that approach dishonours the proud tradition of the RUC, or that it belittles the sacrifice that the police and all associated with them have made over the past 30 years. I want to assure the House that this is neither the Government's intention nor their view. Only yesterday the Government published the report by John Steele on the proposal for a new police fund. The Government made a very positive response. In welcoming the report, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said that he hoped Mr Steele's recommendations would go some way towards recognising the profound debt that we owe to these courageous men and women, and their families.
I referred earlier to continuity and change. The continuity comes from ensuring that the RUC is clearly incorporated into the new service in its founding legislation. That is what Clause 1(1) and (3) achieve. The name of the RUC will also be evidenced in the RUC GC Foundation, provided for in Clause 70 of the Bill. Clause 1(2) and (4) provide the clear basis for change. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has stated frequently, the new name--the Police Service of Northern Ireland--will be used for all operational and working purposes, including whenever and in whatever circumstances the police interface with the public. Lest there be any doubt, I want to emphasise that police officers recruited following the passage of this legislation will be joining the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The Government have had many discussions with a wide range of representatives since the Patten report was published. In all its consultations with the SDLP, the Catholic Church and other representatives of the nationalist community, one point has consistently been made to us: the name must change if we are to succeed in the task of achieving a more representative and effective police service. Doing that means creating a service capable of commanding the support of the whole community, and one which Catholics are prepared to join. That is the goal that the Government are working so hard to achieve. It is a goal shared by many--indeed, if not all--in the House tonight. In the Government's judgment, the amendments that have been proposed run directly counter to that objective. Although I respect the conviction with which they have been advanced, I would ask the House to reject this amendment.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have said so much in support of my amendments tonight. However, I regret that I cannot accept the arguments put forward by the Government. I seek to test the opinion of the House. In so doing, I invite noble Lords to heed to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, rather than those of a certain Mr Gerry Adams.
My Lords, a theme which ran consistently through the previous debate and through all those in Committee on the Bill was that we need a force, which is now being created--perhaps, more accurately, recreated--to be representative in its membership of all the people of Northern Ireland and in particular of both historic and cultural traditions. It should be a force which a nationalist can join without diminishing his credentials as a nationalist.
Throughout the previous debate and all those in Committee, noble Lords have expressed regret at the discouragement encountered by young nationalists who desire to enlist in the police. I share that regret. But those of us who wish the peace process well have two alternatives. We can regret it, leave it there, declare that the issue is insoluble and walk away. Alternatively, we can try so far as can be achieved to encourage the nationalist community--not the paramilitaries, as my noble friend Lord Dubs pointed out--in the belief that the force really is dedicated to justice without discrimination. Anything which will reinforce that confidence can only be of benefit to recruitment and to the peace process.
My noble friend on the Front Bench will remember that in Committee I moved amendments to Clause 3 to add to the board's obligations a requirement to ensure that the police comply not only with the Human Rights Act but also with international human rights obligations. My noble friend replied that the number of human rights obligations which exist as actual or potential obligations in international law are so legion that it would be impossible to monitor them all in any meaningful way.
Whether or not we have a listening Government, we have a listening Back Bench. Therefore, I have modified the suggestion which I ventured to make in Committee. I now suggest that there might be three specific international instruments, each specifying particular obligations and all of which, I hope, create standards which the Government would wish to see achieved and monitored. I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Commission on Human Rights, the Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Committee on the Administration of Justice for the assistance they have given me with this theme and the measure of assurance they have been able to give me that it really would make a difference to the feeling in the nationalist community that it would be appropriate to enlist.
The United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms and the Council of Europe Declaration on the Police consist of clear and specific recommendations. I do not believe that there is anything in any of them which we would not all wish our police to observe. If they were included in the Bill, I believe that it would achieve two things. First, I believe that any police officer of whatever rank would approve of all those recommendations if asked. But the problem is not when someone asks his opinion; it is when the pressures are on, when the situation is an emergency and when the chips are down that the test arises. It is then that words which they have been required to learn and note as part of their reading and training will register in what they do.
Secondly, if hearts and minds are to be won for the process of supporting the police and persuading their sons and nephews to enlist, this amendment would send a message which might help in the winning. I beg to move.
My Lords, I find this a somewhat offensive amendment. Once again, it seeks to bring aspects of extraterritorial jurisdiction into our affairs and I am in general opposed very strongly to extraterritorial jurisdiction. I am opposed to the way in which so many international bodies produce rules, laws and regulations which we are expected to observe without this Parliament having adequately discussed them and legislated upon them.
I am sure that the noble Lord is right and that there is much virtue in many of the things which are contained in all these resolutions. I would much have preferred the noble and learned Lord to have set out all those good things in these resolutions on the face of the Bill. That would be the appropriate way for a sovereign parliament to legislate.
My Lords, I suspect that there is an unbridgeable gap between us. However, would it offer the noble Lord comfort if the codes suggested enjoyed approval not only in this country but also across the whole civilised international community?
My Lords, I am not sure that the United Nations necessarily always speaks for the whole civilised community of this world. It does not do me much good to know that some of these resolutions have been supported by some of the most repulsive regimes in the whole of this world. Of course they will support them. They will not do anything about them, as we know. But I believe that good intentions of this kind should be set out clearly on the face of the Bill.
That is not just a matter of principle for me. It also reflects what the noble and learned Lord said. If the amendment is to have any effect, the words have to be clear in the minds of police officers on the streets. Can one imagine a member of the police force in Northern Ireland confronted with the situations which we have seen in Northern Ireland in the past? Standing there, suddenly there come before him, like the life of a drowning man, umpteen resolutions from the United Nations. He would see them all in his mind and suddenly know what to do! Of course he would not. But he just might if the matter was on the face of the Bill, having been filleted out and put into plain common sense language.
My Lords, I would settle for having them set out clearly in the Bill, for us to legislate upon them and, if necessary, amend provisions, because I might not like every bit of the provision and this sovereign House has every right to object to some of it. I shall not detain the House longer. I think it wise that these points are made.
My Lords, perhaps I may put a different question to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. When he replies, can he tell us whether the police forces of England, Scotland, Wales and the Irish Republic are monitored for compliance with the various codes and declarations which he extols?
My Lords, with the Minister I was one of those noble Lords who criticised the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, for the vagueness of his amendment in Committee. I acknowledge that he has listened to those criticisms. I agree with him that we all want and believe that the RUC--whatever it will be called--will follow very high standards on these lines. But I do not want to see them made into a statutory provisions for the reason that my noble friend Lord Tebbit summarised.
The police in this country generally, and the RUC in particular, are already subject to a whole lot of restraints. They are, I think, the most inspected, examined, monitored and supervised group of individuals that we have, with many bodies looking at them continuously--both official bodies and unofficial bodies in the media and so on. They inspect their every action, rethinking over a long period every split-second decision if it goes wrong. If we overdo that, we are in danger of making their lives impossible. We should also remember that the terrorists with which this particular police force has had to contend and may well have to contend again do not follow any remotely comparable codes. On the contrary, their standards are appalling.
My Lords, the amendment raises the question of applying international human rights standards to the police. I concede that we have come a little further in identifying which instruments we are talking about. For that I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell.
However, to give one example, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials refers to dozens of other international instruments. None of the three instruments specified in the amendment has been formally ratified by the UK or is legally binding in international law in the same way as is a treaty. The documents are aspirational statements. It is difficult to require in statute that the police should comply with them. It would also be difficult to identify the exact text of the instruments, because they are subject to change from time to time. We are still in doubt about exactly what standards the police are being asked to adhere to. That cannot be right.
Any particular issue in these or other instruments that could help to inform the standards that police officers should strive to achieve should be made explicit. I hope that I can reassure my noble and learned friend that we are confident that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will comment on the issue during consultation on the code of ethics. We cannot accept the statutory application of aspirational standards for the police rather than clearly defined ones.
We all agree on the need for very high standards to be drawn fairly and clearly to the attention of those who are asked to live up to them. This debate is about the best means of achieving that. I hope that I have been able to reassure my noble friend that we are at one in that cause and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, the amendment was an attempt to answer the problem that many of your Lordships have repeated during our debates: how do we gain the confidence of the nationalist community--not the paramilitaries--that the police force will be concerned with human rights and equality? The alternative seems to be not attempting to answer that question.
I understand the arguments. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and I must agree to differ about the value of internationally agreed standards. This is not the first time that we have differed on the subject and I dare say that we will go to our graves on different sides of that argument.
I confess that I do not know how many police forces are required to observe the standards, for which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, asked. However, I am pretty sure that hardly another police force in the world is confronted with so many problems as the police force of Northern Ireland. If it is a special case, we all understand why.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, if I were a policeman I would probably feel that I was a little over-supervised sometimes, but if I knew that the reason was that we were trying to secure the confidence of a section of the community that was currently doubtful about the force, I might consider it a price worth paying.
However, I know when I am licked. I am grateful for my noble friend's assurances. No purpose would be served by seeking to persuade her to change her mind. I am sure that her comments will provide some reassurance to those who suggested that I table the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
It is vital to protect the operational independence of the Chief Constable in all his decisions. In the current policing debate, the Government have placed great emphasis on considering the needs of the community--or communities, if one prefers it that way--that are to be served and seeking to ensure a policing service that is consensus-based and enjoys the support and confidence of the people whom it serves and protects.
To operate effectively, such a service must have transparency and accountability at its core. Under the current arrangements, while the Chief Constable is responsible for managing RUC buildings, strategy and general procurement, approvals must be sought from the Police Authority, which therefore takes ultimate responsibility for the provision of buildings and equipment.
The amendments would give that responsibility to the policing board, thereby ensuring the retention of the existing system and continued transparency and accountability. It goes without saying that the operational management of the buildings and procurement strategies would remain the responsibility of the Chief Constable. The amendments are non-contentious and are not motivated by party political considerations. They would reflect best practice in England and Wales.
Should the Bill remain as it stands, I ask the Minister to confirm who will enter into contracts on behalf of the police service, as it is my understanding that an individual--such as the Chief Constable--is unable to do so, as he is not a legal corporation, or, to be exact, a corporation sole. If that is the case, the policing board would inevitably have to be signatory to such contracts without having any accountability for them.
Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 would increase the policing board's ability to hold and dispose of land, not only for police purposes, but for its own purposes. That would be an important aspect of the board's independence, although it does not mean that it would be able to acquire land compulsorily for its own purposes. The power to vest land compulsorily should still apply only to land acquired for police purposes.
The current Police Authority feels that being able to decide on its own location and retaining the flexibility to change that location is crucial to establishing its independence at the outset. There is no logical reason for the new board not to be permitted to hold land for its own purposes. As I have said, that will not apply to compulsory acquisition.
I strongly urge the Minister to accept the amendments, which could only have positive consequences for the new era of policing in Northern Ireland. I beg to move.
My Lords, in his reply I wonder whether the Minister can clarify something for me. In the Patten report it was recommended that police stations built from now on should have so far as possible the appearance of ordinary buildings. They should have low perimeter walls and be clearly visible from the street. I hope that any amendment that is accepted will not give the board the power to do that to police stations until the security situation has changed considerably. I cannot help feeling that I should feel extremely unsafe if I had been taken into custody and knew that it was only too easy for a paramilitary force which disapproved of me to get at me a great deal more easily in an open, cheerful, villa-like building.
My Lords, after replying to the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, I shall refer in detail to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Park. Perhaps I may reassure her, as I have done before, that all decisions taken with regard to security in Northern Ireland are taken in the light of advice given about the level of security that is necessary.
These amendments have been debated before and the position remains unchanged. Clauses 6 and 7 give effect to Patten's comments at paragraph 5.13 of his report. Patten said that the relationship between the police and the board should be as between a service provider and a regulator, and that the previous arrangement, which conflated those two roles, was seriously flawed. It should not be imagined that the board lacks the means to hold the police to account in this area. The board will have detailed financial controls and is responsible for the acquisition and disposal of land for policing purposes.
I can answer the detailed questions that were asked in relation to the point concerning control and power. Under Clause 7(3) the board can compulsorily acquire land for police purposes but not for its own purpose. It cannot compulsorily acquire buildings. The arrangements for the board in relation to land and buildings are different from those pertaining to planning. I can assure the noble Lord that under Section 5(6) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 there is no difference between the board's powers in relation to buildings and land. The board will be able to change location and will be able to enter into contracts on behalf of the police service.
However, the noble Lord's amendment, and particularly Amendment No. 9, confuses the roles by seeking to inject the board unnecessarily into the management of police buildings. It would insert unnecessary additional bureaucracy and there would be no additional effect on accountability.
The other amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 8, 10 and 11, are based on the false premise that the board's powers to acquire land and buildings for itself are somehow deficient.
I hope that the detailed answers that I have given have helped to reassure noble Lords. Clauses 6 and 7 deal only with police buildings, and paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 1 to the Bill deals with the board in respect of these matters. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, that there is no legal difficulty in the board providing its own land and buildings. If the noble Lord has further detailed factual questions that he wishes to raise, I shall of course be happy to write to him. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may take her back to what she said a few minutes ago in reply to my noble friend Lady Park. She said that all security decisions are taken in the light of security advice from the relevant authorities. Perhaps I may press her a little on that point. During the time that I had responsibility in Northern Ireland, the formula universally employed was in conformity with security advice. Perhaps I may ask her--she may need a little time to consider this--whether the same applies today. In particular, will that formulation in conformity apply to the surveillance powers along the border in County Fermanagh and South Armagh?
My Lords, I can assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, that changes to buildings are described in exactly the same way as are issues relating to security advice. All judgments taken by the Secretary of State are based on the best possible advice--in particular, that of the Chief Constable.
The noble and learned Lord pressed me on the exact wording of the legislation with regard to the procedure for accepting advice. I should prefer to write to him on that narrow and extremely important point.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for the enlightenment that she has provided. However, as she herself said, this is a very complex matter. Although I entirely accept most of what she said, I have a feeling that the issues are not quite clearly understood by the various elements involved in these matters. I shall certainly study carefully in Hansard what the noble Baroness said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 12:
Leave out Clause 12 and insert the following new clause--
:TITLE3:ACCOUNTS AND AUDIT
(" .--(1) The Policing Board shall--
(a) keep proper accounts and proper records in relation to the accounts; and
(b) prepare a statement of accounts in respect of each financial year.
(3) The statement of accounts shall contain such information and shall be in such a form as the Secretary of State may determine.
(4) The Chief Constable or any other body to whom power is delegated under subsection (2), shall submit the statement of accounts to the Board within such period after the end of the financial year to which they relate as the Board may determine.
(5) The Board shall send copies of the statement of accounts to the Secretary of State and the Comptroller and Auditor General within such further period as the Secretary of State may determine.
(6) The Comptroller and Auditor General shall--
(a) examine, certify and report on each statement of accounts received by him under this section; and
(b) lay copies of the statement of accounts and of his report before each House of Parliament.").
My Lords, Amendment No. 12 stands in my name and those of other noble Lords. I raised this issue in Committee, but it is such an important matter that I feel I must bring it to your Lordships' attention again.
My concern is to ensure that transparency and accountability exist in relation to police expenditure. The Government said that Patten was critical of the existing financial arrangements. Patten was critical--and rightly so--of the authority's role in supplying services directly to the RUC. However, that all changed under the 1998 Act. Since then, the role of the police authority has been the same as that of police authorities in England and Wales.
Under the Government's proposals, the police budget will pass through the police board. However, it seems that the board will not have overall financial responsibility. I should welcome the Government's assurance that under the new arrangements there will be a code of financial management which is as robust as the code which is currently in place. In particular, will the new code recognise, as Patten recommended in paragraph 6.46, the importance of the board having a strong internal audit department? That will be essential if the board is to fulfil a proper scrutiny role in ensuring that money is properly spent and that the force is making the most efficient and effective use of resources.
However, if, as the Government propose, the Chief Constable is responsible for the preparation of accounts, he will surely need his own internal audit function. Will that not lead to duplication? Is that really a good use of public funds?
In Committee, I asked who would enter into contracts, given that the Chief Constable is not a corporate body. If it is to be the policing board--I am not sure what else it could be--should not the board be accountable for that expenditure?
I am convinced that we all want to achieve the same end: to give the Chief Constable responsibility for day-to-day financial management and for the board to have a strategic role and to hold the Chief Constable to account for the use of those resources. But if the board is to exercise that important oversight, then, to my mind, it must have responsibility for accounts, along with the Chief Constable, as Patten recommended in paragraph 6.47. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment No. 12 has been debated before in Committee. Clause 12 addresses the important but detailed issues of police accounting and audit arrangements. We are extremely grateful for the assistance that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has provided to us in discussing the detail of those important arrangements.
Amendment No. 12 requires the board, as the noble Baroness very fairly said, rather than the Chief Constable, to keep proper accounts and records but enables the board to delegate its functions if it chooses to do so. That would continue the present position, whereby the policing board's chief executive is the accounting officer for the police grant as well as the authority's own grant which Patten said should be changed in his 43rd recommendation.
The Government introduced the change recommended by Patten to require the Chief Constable to sign off the accounts in respect of the money he receives from the board. The Government support Patten's recommendation because it contributes to clarifying the role of the Chief Constable as the manager of the police service and the board as regulator.
Clause 12 still requires the Chief Constable to submit his accounts to the board (not the Secretary of State) and Clause 12(2) makes it clear that the function is being exercised by the Chief Constable on behalf of the board. The board is not circumvented; its financial accountability role is not diminished; and it can still scrutinise the police accounts to a level it considers appropriate to discharge its duties. I assure the noble Baroness that there will be a code of financial management as robust as the present one. I assure her also that the Government intend the board to have a strong internal audit role. Indeed, the best value provisions of the Bill will enhance the board's ability to assess whether police expenditure is being made effectively, efficiently and economically.
The board does not need to do the actual detailed record-keeping to exercise its role of financial accountability in respect of the police. The Chief Constable, under Clause 10, will have to submit estimates of police expenditure to the board for its approval. The money, under Clause 9, goes to the board to distribute to the Chief Constable and it will exercise detailed financial controls in doing so as the Police Authority for Northern Ireland does at present. That is not an arrangement which leaves the board without power. On the contrary it gives it control, which is one of the critical issues.
I would also quote the Chief Constable's useful comments in response to Patten's Recommendation 43 which were as follows:
"No objection, although this recommendation seems to be on the basis that the Commission regards such an arrangement as improving visible accountability. Under current arrangements the Chief Constable already formally signs off final police accounts. These are then consolidated with the Police Authority accounts and signed off by the Chief Executive, as the sub-accounting officer. As the police budget will continue to be delivered through the Police Board and this is the body to whom the Chief Constable is primarily financially accountable, no change is anticipated in the process whereby end of year accounts are submitted through the Board. It is accepted that the proposed arrangements introduce a formal process, through which the Chief Constable might be called before the Public Accounts Committee, although he undoubtedly could be so called under present arrangements".
Noble Lords will see from that response that the Chief Constable does not believe that his financial accountability to the board is diminished by this change.
In a moment, I shall deal with the Chief Constable contracting out, or who contracts, which is a question that I must answer in the course of my remarks.
That change, albeit a small one, is part of the new beginning recommended by Patten. We must move forward and not simply stick to current arrangements because that is the way that things have always been done.
As to who will enter into contracts with the Chief Constable, the board will sign contracts for the police as the Police Authority for Northern Ireland does at present.
I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for raising those issues and, as I said before, for the genuine assistance which she has given, which we have found very helpful. I hope that she will read the detailed response that I have given in relation to this amendment and that, in the mean time, she will withdraw it.
My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's response. I shall indeed read with great care the response that he has given. It goes some way towards making sure that the code will be as robust as the present one--he has reassured me on that point--and that there will be an internal audit role for the policing board.
I shall read what the noble and learned Lord said with great care. I thank him for his very kind remarks. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 20. Those all concern the district councils and the district policing partnerships. They have a single purpose; namely, to ensure that the councils and the district policing partnerships carry out what they are intended to do and, if they fail to do so, that there is some recourse. In its present form, the Bill does not achieve that to the extent necessary.
Amendment No. 13 is designed to strengthen Clause 15. As it stands, the Secretary of State can compel a district council to rectify a default only if that council has failed to comply with the provisions of Clause 14(1) or Schedule 3. Our amendment seeks to change that.
Amendments Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 20 relate to Clause 16 which is concerned with the general functions of the district policing partnerships. Amendment No. 14 is based largely on the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. I believe that it is positive to have the district policing partnerships obligated to formulate a strategy for the reduction of crime and disorder. Surely it is important that that should be done.
Like Amendment No. 14, Amendment No. 16 is drawn from the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, applicable in England and Wales. What objections does the Minister have to increasing the role of district policing partnerships in that positive manner?
Amendment No. 15 is a consequence of my objection to policing partnerships in the future acquiring a budget to enlist private security firms for policing functions. That should not happen.
Amendment No. 20 relates to Clause 18 and is, again, in the same vein. If a DPP fails to meet any of its obligations under this clause, the board shall make such an order as it deems necessary to ensure that it complies with its duties in that regard.
The amendments have been tabled for a particular reason. It is known that some of those district councils are within areas where councillors will be representing one side or another, or one paramilitary side or another. They may well wish to carry out those actions which suit them and distort the working of the police in their area. These amendments are tabled simply to ensure that if they do that, they can be brought to book by the police board. I hope that the amendments will be approved by the House and that the Minister will look at them favourably. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment No. 13 would enable the Secretary of State to act if a council was in default under any part of Part III, instead of the current provision which gives the Secretary of State default powers on appointments.
Amendment No. 20 would enable the board to make an order requiring the DPP to comply with its report-making responsibilities. The amendments seek to place what we regard as undue control in the hands of the Secretary of State or the board. The Government sought to put proportionate safeguards in the Bill, bearing in mind theconsultative and explanatory nature of these bodies, and the amendments would not meet that test. They are overbearing.
For example, proportionate safeguards include the fact that appointments will be properly made or there is a default provision; appointments are to be made by the board, not councils; the board will be required (if government Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are accepted) to issue a code of practice; if DPP members fail to comply with their terms of appointment or are unable or unfit to discharge their functions, the board, or the council with the approval of the board, may remove them under Schedule 3, paragraph 7. As the Government said in Committee, we recognise the concerns raised about DPPs and have therefore put in place safeguards where we believe them to be necessary and justified.
Amendments Nos. 14 and 16 seek to place a responsibility on DPPs to formulate crime and disorder strategies in their areas. While the Government have sympathy with the need to tackle crime and disorder in a more strategic way, our position is that set out when responding to Patten on 19th January; that is, that DPPs will not be given a wider community safety role until decisions have been taken on the Criminal Justice Review. The Government are still considering the detailed responses to consultation and will make a further announcement in due course.
Amendment No. 15 has not yet been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and therefore I shall not deal with it. Amendment No. 17 would require a DPP to comply with the board's code of practice. DPPs are governed, even if there was no guidance, by their statutory functions. Guidance can only explain the functions. The Government do not think it right that the guidance should be prescriptive. Although a matter for the board, we anticipate that it may well apply differently to different DPPs. So in Belfast or Lisburn, for example, it may comment on the need to have local consultative arrangements involving solely business interests. There may not be such a need in every DPP area.
The other amendments in this group have not yet been moved and I shall therefore not address them at this time. In the light of my remarks, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I listened to the noble and learned Lord with care and am pleased to note that in one instance he will be issuing a statement later. I hope that in due course the Government do not wish they had accepted some of these amendments, because they may have trouble with the DPPs. But that will be their problem. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 21, it may be convenient also for me to speak to Amendments Nos. 22 to 26.
In Committee on 23rd October the Government accepted in principle an amendment tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Cooke, Lord Rogan, Lord Laird and Lord Molyneaux, placing a requirement on the policing board to issue a code of practice to DPPs. Amendments Nos. 21, 23 and 24 give effect to that change. Amendment No. 24 also seeks to meet concerns about the overpowering role of the Secretary of State in consenting to the code. That has been changed to agreement.
Amendment No. 22 is on the same point as my Amendment No. 21. I will not deal with Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 until they are spoken to later. I beg to move.
moved Amendments Nos. 23 and 24:
Clause 19, page 9, line 33, after ("and") insert ("may").
Clause 19, page 9, line 34, at end insert--
("( ) The Board shall obtain the agreement of the Secretary of State before issuing a code of practice, or revised code of practice, under this section.").
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]
My Lords, nothing in Clause 19 should require a district commander to answer questions or disclose information that would compromise his general duty as an officer. When one reads the general duties of a police officer in Clause 32, one sees they involve protecting life and property, preserving order and preventing crime.
We cannot at this point be certain that all DPPs will have the desired goal of facilitating community consultation and reducing crime within the district in partnership with the police services. Therefore Amendment No. 26 provides protection to sensitive information of which the district commander may have knowledge and protects against DPPs or members of DPPs who wish to use their position for destructive rather than constructive purposes. I beg to move.
In Committee I explained that, while I expect the police to work with DPPs--indeed, I am sure they will want to do that--they are not required by the Bill to breach their duty in their dealings with them. The bodies are consultative and explanatory; there are no obligations on officers to answer specific questions. In the light of that explanation, I hope the noble Lord will not feel the need to press the amendment.
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 27 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 28 and 29.
As I have said before, there are many aspects of Patten and of the Bill which are positive, particularly those of an operational nature, and I have no difficulty in supporting them. However, there are areas of the Bill which I believe to be fundamentally flawed and which will not produce an effective police force. The proposal that Belfast should be divided into four district policing partnerships falls into that category.
These amendments are designed to rectify that and to ensure that policing the City of Belfast is not balkanised into four sub-divisions, which sadly afflict too many parts of the city of which I am proud to be a citizen.
In mainland terms Belfast is not particularly large; there are no more than 300,000 or so electors. While Belfast may currently be divided by the RUC into four local areas of command, they do not mirror the four parliamentary constituencies and they extend out far beyond the city boundaries.
I have no doubt that 300,000 could be more effectively and efficiently served by one police local area command. I am concerned about the likely consequences which would follow the establishment of four local area commands in Belfast. Those four commands will all be mirrored, monitored, potentially dominated and influenced by district policing partnerships. Four for Belfast is just too many.
At grass-roots level, the police would be put under intolerable sectarian and party-political pressures. If anyone doubts that, let them imagine for a moment just how the recent loyalist paramilitary feud in the Shankhill area and more recently in other parts of north Belfast might have been policed if policing was subject to local policing boards. The political representatives of the UVF and the UDA would have used their positions on the north Belfast sub-committee to bring pressure to bear on the police to take sides in their own internecine feud.
One can scarcely imagine just how keenly the paramilitary front parties would support the police in their attempts to crack down on drug dealing and racketeering. Furthermore, the west Belfast sub-committee of the DPP would be almost exclusively republican nationalists; effectively Sinn Fein/IRA. Just how would that square with police investigations into the recent murders in that area allegedly carried out by their allies and the Provisional IRA?
In a similar vein, the east Belfast DPP sub-committee would be almost exclusively loyalist and unionist; again with a substantial degree of input from the UDA and the UVF. The religious and political mix in the south of the city, an area in which I live, would at least ensure some measure of cross-community representation on the DPP sub-committee for that area, but there is no question that a city-wide committee would provide the best opportunity for diluting the insidiousness of the paramilitaries.
A Belfast-wide district policing partnership would dilute the influence of parties whose support is concentrated in particular areas. While Sinn Fein/IRA might have near 70 per cent support in west Belfast, the figure is much lower across the city. Just as it would be wrong to leave policing in west Belfast in the hands of republicans, so it would be wrong to place policing in east Belfast in the hands of loyalists. The decent law-abiding citizens of these areas should not and cannot be abandoned to their fate--and what a fate it would be if we allowed that to happen.
Perhaps I may leave your Lordships with this thought: the City of Belfast is divided enough as it is. It is scarred by peace lines and sectarian ghettos. Just about the last thing it needs is a police force divided into four and under the control of the malevolent forces which deal in the violence, fear and terror which have cursed its streets for too long. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendment. I believe that the police district commands, as they were taken on from Great Britain police forces, are defined as being areas which can operate under normal circumstances without outside support. In no way can one consider dividing Belfast, which is a small area, into self-contained units which do not need outside support. Any crime committed in Belfast inevitably impinges on all areas of the city. And as regards terrorism, police commands of that size undoubtedly need outside support.
I therefore believe that Belfast should be one unit and controlled as such. There should not be so many police districts.
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 are linked and remove the provision that there shall be up to four police districts in Belfast as determined by the Chief Constable.
There are currently four police districts in Belfast and I do not understand why the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, would expect the Chief Constable to have one when that is not what he wants. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I shall return to that matter but move on to later amendments. Amendment No. 29 is related to Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 in that it reflects an opposition to Belfast sub-groups to which the main burden of the speeches related. The Government were pressed on this issue during their consultations on Patten and the Bill and they sought a sensible solution. They take the view that there should be sub-groups, also referred to by Patten as sub-committees, but that these should be based on the police districts under Clause 20, which Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 attack. The sub-groups will match police districts; the members will come from the DPP; there are no special arrangements for appointments to the bodies from elsewhere; and the four are part of and will account to the overall Belfast DPP.
I would further point out that the provision on the sub-groups reflects Patten; is for sub-groups to be in line with police districts; provides for limited functions so as not to detract from the overall DPP; provides for appointment to sub-groups from the DPP; and provides for the board's guidance to cover them.
Under the Bill, for Belfast the boundaries of the police districts must coincide with the district council area, but within that the Government have concluded that it is right that the Chief Constable should have flexibility to determine the number of police districts up to a maximum of four. He has four at present and I do not believe that he has any plans to change them.
We are aware that the sub-divisions are not entirely consistent with the Belfast council area, but there are only a few exceptions. That will not constrain the operational independence of the Chief Constable. In the light of that explanation, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, we are getting bogged down in geographical niceties. I suggest that the north Belfast police board stretches as far as Aldergrove airport and to Toome, which are hardly within the city boundaries of Belfast. However, I hear what the Minister said and with those assurances beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 30 and 30A aim to strengthen the consultative process. In particular, Amendment No. 30 compels consultation with other organic community bodies in the style of community police liaison committees (CPLCs) which can and, it is hoped, will continue to operate. Amendment No. 30 may not be entirely perfect, but I believe that its intention is reasonable and modest. Amendment No. 30A is designed to make it clear that the police will retain the right to initiate any community policing consultation measures that they see fit, in addition to measures put forward by either the board or DPPs. I beg to move Amendment No. 30.
My Lords, I speak to Amendments Nos. 30 and 30A. Under Clause 22, before issuing or revising a local policing plan the police district commander must consult the local DPP and take account of any views expressed. Amendment No. 30, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, which is identical to one tabled in Committee, would oblige the police district commander also to consult any local consultative groups set up under Clause 23(2). The majority of such groups, if not all, should be established under subsection (1). It may be that the amendment is intended also to cover that. Notwithstanding that, we do not believe that the police should have to deal with DPPs and all the local bodies set up by the board or DPPs. We believe that the DPPs should co-ordinate the views of the latter; and, as we said in Committee, if the board is convinced that that is the right way forward it can include such an arrangement in its code. The code can cover the arrangements for monitoring the performance of the police in carrying out the local policing plan. With that assurance, I hope that the noble Lord does not feel it necessary to press Amendment No. 30.
I turn to Amendment No. 30A. I am happy to be able to reassure the noble Lord that the Bill does not prevent police consultation outside DPPs or other arrangements made under Clause 23. The Bill simply seeks to establish a framework for accountability and formal consultation as recommended by Patten. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent police consultation as envisaged by the amendment; otherwise, it would be impossible even for noble Lords to be consulted. I hope that, with that assurance, the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, will not pursue that amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for those explanations. She has provided considerable help as to the giving of guidance to people involved at different levels. I believe that we should experiment and see how it works. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 30.
My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships will be assisted if I speak to government Amendment No. 60, which is grouped with the amendments moved and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Government Amendment No. 60 is the same as an amendment which the Government did not move in Committee. It would add the ombudsman to the list of those to be consulted under Clause 53(2) on guidance on the use by police officers of public order equipment. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked the Government in Committee on 25th October (at col. 347) to take more time to consider their amendment. He was concerned about the ombudsman having been involved in the creation of the guidance.
For the record, we have since discussed the matter and looked extremely carefully at the noble Lord's points. In the light of those, the Government have considered their amendment further, taken legal advice and consulted the police ombudsman. Our conclusion is that, although we appreciate the noble Lord's view, the Secretary of State would be bound to consult the ombudsman, because inevitably she would clearly have a great deal of experience (from the investigation of complaints into public order-type incidents) which would help to inform--I stress that word--the guidance. I emphasise that the ombudsman is only consulted. Ultimately, the guidance is a matter for the Secretary of State; it is his guidance, not the board's or the ombudsman's.
It is quite clear that the annual and special reports produced by the ombudsman are in the public arena. Therefore, it is inevitable that the Secretary of State will have regard to the views of the ombudsman and take into account all factors in drawing up guidance, which is ultimately a matter for him. I hope that, in the light of us being convinced by his Amendments Nos. 31 and 32, the noble Lord in turn will be convinced by government Amendment No. 60.
My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, for the time that they gave me and my noble friend yesterday. A good deal of time was spent discussing these amendments, for which I am most grateful. I am not convinced by Amendment No. 60. However, I shall consider it further. I doubt that I shall return to this matter at Third Reading, but I do not commit myself to that.
moved Amendment No. 33:
Clause 25, page 12, line 18, at end insert--
("( ) The Board shall establish levels of performance (performance targets and indicators) to be aimed at in seeking to achieve--
(a) any objectives established by the Secretary of State under section 24; and
(b) the objectives determined by the Board for a financial year under this section.").
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 33 and to speak to Amendment No. 34 in my name and those of other noble Lords. The annual policing plan will, as now, be a key document. It should set out for the community what policing service it can expect. Broadly speaking, it should be a contract between the board and the Chief Constable about the policing service that is to be delivered.
Patten wanted to get rid of labyrinthine provisions, and we all support that. The aim of these amendments is to say clearly and simply on the face of the Bill what must be included in the plan. I am sure we all agree that there is no point in setting objectives as required by Clause 25 if we do not measure whether they have been achieved. Setting indicators and targets is crucial so that both the community and board can judge whether the police achieve them; they are an integral and important part of the planning process.
Equally, there are some fundamentals that any annual plan, whether for the police or any other organisation, should contain. What, for example, is one to do? How does one know whether one has achieved it? What resources can one devote to it? That is all that Amendment No. 34 in my name seeks to establish. Clause 3 sets out the role of the board, while Clause 57 sets out in detail the issues on which the board must report to the community each year. Clearly, any board must address such issues in its annual plan. Recommendation 22 of the Patten report indicated that there was no justification for government to second-guess the board in these matters.
Any government control over the content of the plan through regulations can lead only to the Government second-guessing the board. It reduces community ownership of the plan, diminishes the role and damages the credibility of the new policing board. I believe that the amendment has the support of all the Northern Ireland parties and could be conceded to the Government's advantage. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 have been debated at length. The Government have said that they will include these areas in regulations to achieve Patten's requirement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, said, we should simplify the legislation, which Patten rightly described as labyrinthine.
In Committee we said that these regulations are available and show that there is little separating the Government in terms of policy from noble Lords who support amendments in the group. The question is one of form. The regulation sets out the detail of what matters should as a minimum be covered in the policing plan--not, I should emphasise, and I hope this reassures the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, the actual contents of the plan--or in primary legislation. The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation looked at precisely this issue and concluded in its recommendation,
"that the great majority of powers in the Bill are appropriately delegated."
The committee went on to suggest some changes which the Government have adopted.
The noble Baroness appears to be confusing the regulations with the policing plan itself. It may be the way in which her points were responded to when the matter was dealt with in Committee. Responsibility for the plan remains in the hands of the board. The regulations prescribe the contents of the policing plan in exactly the same way as Clauses 14 to 17 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. The regulations prescribe only the areas which the plan should cover. The actual contents of the plan will continue to be determined by the board after consultation with the community.
I could go through in great detail different aspects of the appropriate primary legislation should the Government accept the principle that primary legislation is the best means of setting out the detail. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, who has rightly and helpfully pointed out the importance of tying the best value performance plan under Clause 28 into the overall police planning process. The Government's draft regulations do that.
We believe that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee has considered this matter carefully. I hope the noble Baroness feels reassured by my reply. I apologise if earlier answers misled her as to the circumstances in which the government were making these proposals.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, for her explanation. I am not entirely convinced by it because the Explanatory Notes suggest that the regulations set out only the minimum requirements for the plan. They appear still to give the Secretary of State more control over the police planning process than was envisaged by Patten. I shall read carefully what the noble Baroness says and see whether we need to discuss the matter further before Third Reading and in case there are points that, as she suggests, I have not quite understood or muddled up.
My Lords, I stress that what I was saying was not that the noble Baroness had not understood points. It may be that they were not expressed clearly enough. I shall write to her if she would find that helpful.
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 35, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 37 and 38. Amendments No. 35 and 38 stand also in the name of other noble Lords. I very much welcome the Government's recognition of the board's primary responsibility for best value. I can see that the Government have listened and tried to respond to the concerns which I and other noble Lords on all sides of your Lordships' House raised at Committee stage.
I have looked carefully at the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord the Minister. May I say that I fully understand the reasoning behind the Government's amendments. Therefore, I have tabled Amendment No. 37, which departs from the existing best value model elsewhere, but which seeks to provide the reassurance which may be needed.
I do not believe that anyone in the country, let alone in your Lordships' House, would claim to be an expert on best value. But I have some experience as chairman of a police authority, albeit in England, of the operation. I hope that I can help your Lordships by sharing some of that experience. Best value helps police authorities to focus on corporate priorities and monitor the performance of the police force against them by asking meaningful questions. To do that, the police authority members need to understand the way that the service is structured and how in broad terms departments operate, while at the same time recognising the sensitive role it must play in appreciating the chief constable's operational responsibilities.
That does not mean that police authorities should not question whether the chief constable is carrying out those functions in an effective and efficient way. Mutual co-operation and dialogue are the only way to achieve that and to make progress towards a properly accountable police service in which the whole community can have confidence. I assure your Lordships that best value reviews are not about reviewing or scrutinising decisions in individual cases; nor are they about investigating the chief constable's operational decisions.
Best value reviews involve rigorously examining broad functions such as procurement, estates management, people management and relationships with partner organisations, training, core management and so on. They are about asking questions such as: what does one do; how do we do it; and how can we give the community a better service? That is what best value is all about. Clarity of responsibility is absolutely essential. We must not create the possibility that there is a stalemate where there is no agreement on the way ahead. I fear that that could happen if we adopt the Government's proposed amendments. That could only damage the credibility of both the board and the police service in the eyes of the community.
My amendment adopts the approach and wording used throughout the Bill. Our aim is to achieve a compromise and strike the right balance. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wish to speak to government Amendments Nos. 36 and 38 to 42. Other noble Lords have put their names to Amendment No. 38, which removes Clause 28(3) of the Bill. The effect of this is to give to the board the primacy for reviewing police functions to achieve "best value". There seems to be broad agreement for this change. I want to put it beyond doubt that the Government see the board as having the lead role in these arrangements, and the Bill will now reflect that.
Government Amendment No. 38 goes hand in hand with Amendment No. 36. This requires the board to act together with the chief constable in striving to achieve best value in respect of police functions. But again I wish to stress that the Government see the primary duty to achieve best value as falling to the board in respect of its own and police functions. In tabling these amendments, we have been influenced by what the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has said to us. My right honourable friend Adam Ingram, the Minister of State, and I have found those discussions extremely valuable. There is now little between us, and the proposed provisions are very close to those in England and Wales.
There are two reasons for Amendment No. 36. The first is management. We want the board and the chief constable to work together to achieve best value on the vast resources it takes to provide policing in Northern Ireland. We want the board to lead in taking forward the best value agenda, including in reviewing police functions. We want the board fully to involve the police. It is simply good management practice that the organisation under scrutiny should be involved in looking at the way it does things rather than have someone come in and tell it how to do things.
The second reason for requiring the chief constable and the board to work together is that we have provided for the board to have very wide powers in this area. We need to ensure that a sensible balance is achieved between the chief constable's operational independence and the board's review power. Clearly, the board's review power should not extend to reviewing a particular arrest or second guessing the chief constable's operational judgment. That is not remotely what the best value provisions are about. I see that the noble Baroness agrees with that. The Government would not wish to leave any doubt that there are sensible limits to what should be reviewed within the context of the board's primacy in this area.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 35 and 37, which cover the same ground as the Government's Amendments Nos. 36 and 38. I have to say that we have moved a long way on the best value provisions. I think the noble Baroness acknowledges that. As I said earlier, I believe the noble Baroness shares our objective. We both want the chief constable and the board to work together to achieve best value and this will clearly involve the sharing of each other's views. It is our judgment that Amendment No. 36 takes better account of Northern Ireland's unique circumstances than does Amendment No. 35. While our goal is very much a normal security environment, until that position is reached we believe it is prudent to provide the explicit assurance that both parties will act together. That is, after all, an accurate description of how it should work in practice. Amendment No. 35 seeks to reinsert a reference to the chief constable in Clause 28(2). That is unnecessary as Clause 28(2) deals with reviews which are a part of the overall best value arrangements mentioned in Clause 28(1). Subsection (1) already requires the board to make best value arrangements in respect of police functions.
I shall now turn briefly to other government amendments in this grouping. Amendment No. 39 to Clause 29(4)(c) requires the Comptroller and Auditor General to assess the reasonableness of the board's performance indicators and standards in relation to its own and police functions. The Bill as drafted caters only for the latter. This responds to a suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in Committee. As I indicated at the time, I am grateful to him for highlighting the point. Amendment No. 42 makes a consequential amendment to Clause 31(1)(b) in light of that change.
Amendment 40, to Clause 29(6), requires the Comptroller and Auditor General to publish his audit of the board's performance plan rather than have the board publish it as currently required. Again, that anomaly was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in Committee. Perhaps I may say specifically that his contribution has helped to improve the drafting of the Bill in this area. Amendment No. 41 is a drafting change.
As is apparent, we have made a number of changes to the provisions dealing with best value. From where we are at the moment, we think that this is the right regime. But in the light of the assistance we have had from the noble Baroness, we shall consider carefully what she has said. That is not to give any suggestion that we will move. We think that we have reached the right place but it is only fair that we should consider carefully what she has said. In those circumstances, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, perhaps I may say that I think that he has got it right too. I am grateful to him for his remarks about my contribution in this area. I think that he is properly reflecting the special position of Northern Ireland, and particularly of the chief constable, at the present time.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Minister for his comments. We have indeed moved a long way. We are all learning about what best value means. I make no criticism whatever in suggesting that any help I might have given has not been understood. We share the same objectives. We may well differ on "act together with" and "have regard to". As the noble and learned Lord suggested, we may discuss the matter a little further to see whether before Third Reading we can agree on a form of words. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his remarks. I shall read carefully what he has had to say. We shall probably be in dialogue before Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendments Nos. 39 to 41:
Clause 29, page 14, line 30, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Comptroller and Auditor General").
Clause 29, page 14, line 32, leave out ("(10)") and insert ("(11)").
My Lords, these debates have become a constructive dialogue between the Government Front Bench and the various sections of the House. I hope that that process will not be interrupted at this point.
Clause 38 prescribes the oath which every officer will be required to take on appointment. It sets out the standards which we would expect from a good and conscientious officer and it is confidently to be hoped that the police in Northern Ireland would accord us no less. The question then arises: why is it only to be new recruits who are to take the new oath? Surely the Bill is intended to represent a new beginning for everyone. That is what the Belfast agreement was about. So why not a new beginning for existing officers? Surely every member of the force would be happy to pledge himself to observe those standards. That is what the Patten commission recommended. In paragraph 4.7 the report emphasised the importance of human rights as the very purpose of policing. It then formulated the oath, which the Government have adopted in the Bill, and introduced it as,
"a new oath to be taken individually by all new and existing"--
I emphasise "and existing"--
Then, in paragraph 15.15, after emphasising that, to whatever other organisation an officer may belong, his primary loyalty should be to the police service, it states:
"The new oath we have recommended (in paragraph 4.7) is drafted with this point in mind. All officers"--
I emphasise again, "all officers"--
"should in our view swear to 'accord equal respect to all individuals and to their traditions and beliefs'. This undertaking should have precedence over any other oaths or qualifications associated with other organisations to which an officer may belong".
That is what was said by the Patten commission. It is not clear for what reason Patten's "new and existing officers" and "all officers" have now become only "new officers". The change is likely to be seen as part of a process of whittling down Patten, and that is hardly likely to inspire confidence in the new beginning.
I should like to ask my noble and learned friend who, if anyone, objects to taking the new oath? If the answer is "no one", why not enact accordingly? I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment No. 43, tabled in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell, would require serving police officers to take the new "oath" within three months of this Bill coming into effect.
The primary purpose of the declaration (or oath, as it is commonly called) is to confer constabulary status upon the individual who makes it. To require existing officers to take the oath would, in effect, entail removal of this status and would thereby be in conflict with Patten's clear recommendation that the RUC should not be disbanded.
I can assure my noble and learned friend that the Government have already gone a considerable way in attempting to take account of what, in this instance, are conflicting recommendations from Patten. The provision was amended in another place to require the Chief Constable to bring the terms of the declaration to the attention of serving officers and to ensure that they understand the need to carry out their duties in accordance with it.
I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his reference to constructive dialogue. I hope that, with this explanation, I have been able to assure my noble and learned friend that such constructive dialogue continues. I therefore invite him to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I was advised by my lawyer that I do not have to answer questions of that kind! I am grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, although he will forgive me for noting that he announced simply that he would oppose the amendment. He did not give any reasons for so doing. If he opposes the amendment, I suppose that I shall have to bear that with fortitude.
My noble friend has exposed the difficulty here. I am not quite sure that I agree with what she said at the outset but, if that is the case, Patten has made conflicting recommendations. That is rather surprising because, until now, I have not seen that pointed out.
I do not find the explanation given by my noble friend wholly convincing, but I do not think that this is the appropriate time to interrupt what, but for this amendment, would appear to be a constructive dialogue. I propose to ask leave to withdraw the amendment, but I shall not give an undertaking for future good behaviour. We have yet to reach Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 44 and to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 45. Other amendments have been tabled within this grouping, but I shall speak to them only after they have been spoken to by other noble Lords.
Amendment No. 44 ensures that the Chief Constable can make such arrangements as may be necessary with the recruitment agent for the discharge of functions other than those strictly prescribed by the recruitment regulations. Put simply, it is designed to ensure that the Chief Constable has some room for manoeuvre in the contracting-out of the recruitment process, and is not rigidly bound by the need to have every last detail set out in the regulations.
Amendment No. 45 is a technical drafting amendment to Clause 46(8) to insert a missing reference. I beg to move.
My Lords, my colleagues and I have added our names to some of the subsequent amendments which have been tabled in this grouping. However, for the moment, we do not wish to speak to them because some developments have taken place since noble Lords debated this matter in Committee. For that reason, we do not propose to move these amendments.
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 46 and speaking to Amendment No. 47, we seek to encourage the Government not merely to allow the Chief Constable to devise action plans to try to encourage more women into the police, but also for the action plans to extend to ethnic minority groups, the disabled and other under-represented groups.
In particular as regards the case of the disabled, we see that developments in information technology and so forth in police work enable many people to work appropriately in the service who, in an earlier age, might not have been able so to do.
If the Government were to accept our amendments to this new clause we would be extremely comforted by the Government's realisation that Northern Ireland is an increasingly multicultural society and that there are other groups who feel marginalised in that society apart from the two main communities. There are regularly around 12 per cent of people in Northern Ireland who do not describe themselves as Catholic or Protestant on census forms. In fact, Chinese is the second most commonly spoken language in Northern Ireland. It is time that the Government moved away from their traditional "two communities" thinking and recognised that there are many sections within the Northern Irish community. We are moving towards a more richly diverse society and that should be cherished and valued highly.
There is marked under-representation of women and ethnic minority groups in the police. The current female proportion is 11.1 per cent; it has been estimated that the number of people from minority ethnic communities in the police in Northern Ireland is fewer than 10. The introduction of monitoring and action plans will ensure a focus on equality of opportunity and the introduction of proactive measures to increase the representation of all under-represented groups within the police. I beg to move.
My Lords, similar amendments were tabled in Committee, although they have now been extended to include, in addition to ethnic minorities, disabled people and any other under-represented group.
It is important to bear in mind that the object of the Bill, first and foremost, is to give effect to Patten's recommendations. In the commission's estimation,
"the imbalance between the number of Catholics ... and Protestants ... is the most striking problem in the composition of the RUC".
It must therefore be right that this should be our central focus in this legislation. Patten's recommendation, which we have accepted, was that other under-represented groups, such as ethnic minorities, should be targeted by means of an imaginative advertising strategy.
However, notwithstanding that, the Government have already recognised the issue, in equality terms, with the action plan on female representation. We should not lose sight of the fact that the Bill provides for the immediate application of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to the police. This places a duty on the police and other policing bodies to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity as between various categories of people based on race, gender, religion, disability and other distinctions.
We believe that this provides an appropriate vehicle under which the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, in Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 can be taken forward. In the light of this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdrew his amendment.
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 50 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 57.
Amendment No. 50 requires the Chief Constable to publish any guidance which he may issue to police officers in connection with notifiable memberships. This responds to points made by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in Committee. I thank them for their contribution. The theme of this provision--as with so much of Patten--is to enhance transparency and openness within the police service, and this will aid that policy.
Turning to Amendment No. 57, in Committee we undertook to consider some means of qualifying the circumstances in which disclosure of information on notifiable memberships is defensible. This was in response to points made by the noble Lord, Lord Cooke of Islandreagh, who is not in his place. The amendment makes it clear that the defence is not available if it is shown that the person concerned used his position in some way to obtain the information in question. This is an important safeguard to ensure that those who have access to this sensitive information do not abuse their positions.
moved Amendment No. 57:
Clause 51, page 27, line 16, at end insert--
("( ) But subsection (10) does not provide a defence if it is shown that the person concerned used his position as a person to whom subsection (7) applies in order to obtain the information.").
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 52 [Code of ethics]:
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, mentioned to me yesterday that, unavoidably, he has to be absent. He greatly regrets it. He asked me to add my name to his amendment and to move it. I thought that I had added my name; however, it does not appear on the Marshalled List. However, I understand that that does not preclude me from moving the amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was kind enough to write out for me what he would have said had he been present. Perhaps the fairest thing I can do is to try to follow it as closely as I can without being tiresome.
The noble Lord says that in drafting the amendment he has tried to follow as closely as possible the intention and language of the Bill. Clause 32 provides that police officers shall be guided by the code of ethics referred to in Clause 52. The clause states that the Chief Constable shall ensure that all police officers--that is, existing officers and new constables--have read and understood the code. The noble Lord seeks to strengthen this wording by providing that they must not only read the code, but must also undertake to be guided by it in all aspects of their general duty and functions.
There is good reason for this. There are those who suspect that existing officers may read and understand the code but then proceed to forget about it. That is why the noble Lord wishes all officers to undertake freely to be guided in their work by the code. Impartiality and good standards of conduct and practice, mentioned earlier in this clause and in Clause 38, depend on it. Officers must not only be aware of convention rights; they must also be continually guided by the explanation of such rights given in the code. The noble Lord says that he wants to see a police service that is acceptable to all sides of the population.
That is what the noble Lord kindly wrote out for me. I merely add: so do I. I beg to move.
My Lords, in responding, perhaps I may speak also to government Amendment No. 59. Amendment No. 59 requires the board to review the steps taken by the Chief Constable to ensure that the code of ethics is brought to the attention of officers. This makes a link to the board's duty to assess the effectiveness of the code under Clause 3(3)(d)(iv), and thereby facilitates that role.
The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, requires the Chief Constable to ensure that officers undertake to be guided by the code of ethics in carrying out their general duty. Police officers are already required to be guided by the code of ethics in carrying out their functions by virtue of Clause 32(4). So it makes little odds whether or not they undertake to be guided by the code; the fact of the matter is that they must be guided by it.
I believe that the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, are at one on the policy; therefore, I invite the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, on behalf of the noble Lord, to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I had intended to commend my noble and learned friend's amendment, and I had ventured to hope that he might reciprocate. There are those who will be comforted by the explanation that he has given. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 59:
Clause 52, page 28, line 11, at end insert--
("( ) In order to enable it to carry out its function under section 3(3)(d)(iv), the Board shall keep under review the steps taken by the Chief Constable under subsection (8).").
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 53 [Guidance as to use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order]:
My Lords, in moving this amendment, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 62 to 66, which all stand in my name. Noble Lords may recall that I had tabled these amendments for debate in Committee but at that time there was a sensitive situation regarding flags so I did not pursue them.
The point is simple and, given the lateness of the hour, I shall be brief. The crux of the proposition is in Amendment No. 62. Clause 54 allows the Secretary of State to prescribe the design of an emblem or flag. My amendment says in effect that, in prescribing a design, we should be careful not to hurt the feelings of either community; therefore, we should avoid as far as possible association either with the state of Ireland or with the United Kingdom because either would offend one community or the other. Such a provision would allow the Secretary of State to create a wholly new symbol for a flag or emblem that would unite rather than divide the community. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 67, which has been included in this group. I shall not do so at any great length because I seem to remember making a rather lengthy contribution in Committee. However, what I have to say follows on from what I said earlier when we discussed Amendment No. 5. This is all about building partnerships and trying to get a police force that is acceptable to the whole Province and all the communities within it, yet one which is proud, which has a hat badge that it can wear with pride and which represents all of Ireland and the United Kingdom. For goodness sake, that is what the Good Friday agreement is about.
The three major symbols for Ireland and the United Kingdom are the shamrock--we wear it on St Patrick's Day; the harp, in the national emblems of Ireland and also for Guinness; and, finally, our own Crown. That is what our amendment is about. We do not make any specific requests in this amendment as to what should surround the emblem or what shape it should take; or, indeed, for anything else. However, we say that here is an emblem of which the whole of Ireland can be proud. If the amendment is not accepted, in the light of my last few words when speaking to Amendment No. 5, I shall consider this to be another concession to the republican movement.
My Lords, I intervene briefly because I strongly support my noble friend's amendment. I can see no useful purpose, or any good reason, for any change to the cap badge and insignia of the RUC. The Patten report states in paragraph 17.4:
"Many people in Northern Ireland from the Irish nationalist and republican tradition regard the name, badge and symbols of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as associating the police with the British constitution and state"-- it is a very small minority who support that perception. The report goes on to say:
"The agreement about symbols is not an argument about policing, but an argument about the constitution".
There is no need to remind your Lordships that Northern Ireland is part of the British constitution. As such, the police force in Northern Ireland should represent the British constitution. It is clear from what has been said that there is a small minority of Irish nationalists and republicans to whom the Government are, once again, making concessions. What about the very large Catholic community and the Protestant community that support the RUC and wish for no change? Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that one of the aims of Sinn Fein/IRA has been to destroy the RUC. In my opinion, this Government are doing exactly that.
In my previous intervention I drew to your Lordships' attention that, for any organisation, the loss of its title will lead to low morale and inefficiency. Therefore, to take away its title and change its insignia would destroy all its ethos. It is that very ethos, built up over so many years, that makes the RUC such an effective force. I do not believe that the Government understand in any way what "ethos" means to a police force or for that matter to military units. However, without it, I can assure the Government that such organisations become totally useless. It is for those reasons that I support the amendment.
My Lords, I do not believe that the strength of the police in Northern Ireland would be weakened by the proposed changes in the way suggested by the noble Lord. The Government do not intend to destroy the police in Northern Ireland; but rather they wish to build on its strengths and give it a "new beginning", as indicated in the Patten report.
Patten said very clearly that there should be a new badge and a symbol so that one could indicate that there was a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, while respecting the achievements and sacrifices made by the RUC over many years. Surely that is a worthy set of aims. The new beginning will require a new badge, but quite properly the Secretary of State has decided that he will listen to the policing board, among others, and seek its guidance and advice on what it thinks the new badge should comprise. It surely is proper to leave it to people on the policing board from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, from politics and outside politics, to recommend what they consider to be the best way forward with regard to the emblem.
I refer to Amendments Nos. 61A and 63A in which it is suggested that the George Cross, so well deserved and earned by the RUC, should be included in the new emblem. I am not sure that that is a good idea, much as I was pleased when the George Cross was awarded to the RUC for what it had achieved and for the sacrifices of the past. But here we are looking to the future. I should have thought that it would not be appropriate to use the George Cross to symbolise the future but rather as a sign of respect for what has happened in the past. I hope that those amendments will not be taken further.
My Lords, I support broadly the amendments standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and oppose Amendments Nos. 61A, 63A and 67A. I note that in Committee when discussing the cap badge and emblems of the RUC a number of noble Lords urged their retention. They did so on the grounds that, containing the Crown, harp and shamrock as they do, the existing insignia were neutral, being symbolic of the two communities by reflecting both the British and Irish elements that largely comprise the divided society of Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said with passion,
"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".--[Official Report, 25/10/00; col. 349.]
But that is precisely the point: no matter that in the abstract the current badge could be seen to reflect the symbols of both communities, the historical fact is--this is the point Patten made--it was seen, and would continue to be seen, in the Catholic community as representing the past. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, a new beginning requires a new set of emblems to symbolise that a new start is being made. It is an earnest of real intent. A new logo for a new launch is a commonplace in the worlds of industry, commerce and the voluntary sector, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Laird, would confirm in his professional capacity.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, also said in Committee at col. 349:
"There is no evidence that the badge is a deterrent to Catholic recruitment".
With great respect, that is somewhat disingenuous. Without appropriate market-testing, we do not know that. It may or may not be a deterrent. As I observed earlier this evening, in my time in Northern Ireland I never came across Catholics who would encourage their co-religionists to join the RUC. Certainly some would be fearful of possible intimidation, but there was an overwhelming sense that a job in the RUC was inconceivable given a history, however recently improved, that included the notorious work of the "B" Specials.
And yet almost every noble Lord wants to see a dramatic increase in Catholics working in the new police service. That will only come about if it is actively endorsed by all sections of the Catholic community--the Church, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. That will not be forthcoming unless they see a truly fresh start, and that means a new set of emblems symbolic of that fresh start. More importantly, it would lead to the development of a police service that could go into the existing "no go" areas, currently the fiefdoms of the Mafia that has grown out of the paramilitary organisations, where they would be welcomed by the majority of decent citizens. That must surely be our overriding goal.
My Lords, I must admit that I probably move in lower social circles than the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. Perhaps for that reason, and as a Member of Parliament for getting on for 27 years, I have lost count of the number of occasions when I have been approached by young Catholics to provide a supporting reference for their applications to join the RUC. Parents would say, "Eammon wants to join the force. He hasn't time to come and see you. Would you prepare a reference? We'll collect it on Saturday". It was quite a common occurrence. I am sorry to disagree with the noble Lord, but I have been a native of too long standing--80 years or so.
Noble Lords who have today proclaimed the virtues of ditching the present all-Ireland emblem remind me of citizens of various parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in that area of London where I reside for four or five days a week, who confess that they have switched their votes to another party, "Because it was time for a change". When asked, "Change to what?" they reply, "We don't get involved in politics and so forth. It's just time for a change".
So this is a change to what? We shall ditch something which should appeal to people in all parts of Ireland and Irish people abroad. Shall we switch, for example, to something as meaningless as a Sainsbury or Texaco logo? Is that the kind of logo to which we shall descend? If that is so, it is far better for us to forget about it altogether.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, urges us to leave the decision on any new emblem to the Secretary of State after consultation with all interested parties. That sounds reasonable in the abstract. In practice we know exactly what will happen. It will not be the views of the 80 per cent or 85 per cent of the population who are either perfectly happy with the existing insignia, indifferent or mildly opposed to it which will prevail, but those of the 15 per cent (at most) hard-line republicans, as has happened so often in the past few years.
My Lords, I am reminded of the earnest endeavours of British Airways when it got rid of the tail-fin emblem and produced a most interesting collection of colours which meant nothing to anybody and rapidly became extremely unpopular.
I, for one, would be happy for the Secretary of State to have a voice on this. He might well understand that, as we have said, the harp, the crown and the shamrock are hardly to be improved on to represent all the three aspects of society in Northern Ireland. People are happy with it. I cannot believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said, that a meaningless logo can do any good. It will probably do a great deal of harm. It seems extraordinary for us to reject something which represents the coming together of all aspects of Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I cannot agree with Amendment No. 62. I believe that the emblem should stay. Failing that, we should not tie the Secretary of State's hands as does the provision in Amendment No. 62 that any emblem,
"shall be entirely free of any association with".
That seems ludicrous. The Secretary of State already has to consult the board, the Chief Constable, the police association and any other person or body appearing to him to have an interest. If we cannot trust the Secretary of State to consult them, I believe that it is wrong to tie his hands in this way.
My Lords, it is right that we should have spent a good deal time considering issues of symbolism. Names, emblems and uniforms are important issues for many organisations, but they are of particular significance and sensitivity for police officers and others who are called on to maintain public tranquillity and enforce the law on behalf of the whole community and who generate a strong collective bond and loyalty to their organisation in the process.
Our starting point has to be the Good Friday agreement, where all the signatories recognise that it provided,
"the opportunity for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole".
The dilemma which the Patten commission had to face--it is one with which the Government have had to grapple subsequently--is how to deliver that new beginning and achieve the cross-community support that we all seek without in any way diminishing or dishonouring the extraordinary achievements of the RUC, particularly over the past 30 years, when it has come under sustained and wicked attack from ruthless terrorist organisations.
A decent argument has been advanced by several noble Lords that the root cause of the current imbalance in community support for the RUC has little or nothing to do with its name, badge or flag and is due instead to intimidation by republicans. Set against that view are the many representations that have been made to the Government that the existing symbols would continue to be a barrier to the recruitment of many law-abiding Catholics, even if paramilitary intimidation were a thing of the past. Whatever the precise truth, the hard question that we have to face is what will most effectively mark the new beginning that we seek and offer the best chance of securing it and achieving support from across the community.
Painful though it undoubtedly is, the Government's conclusion is that a new beginning requires a new name and that a new name requires a new badge. If it could have been done otherwise without those symbolic changes, we wouldcertainly have done so, as the Secretary of State has said many times. We honour and revere the sacrifices of the past, but we also have to demonstrate the courage to start a new chapter with new symbols designed to command the loyalty and respect of all law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland.
Undoubtedly, the best outcome will be if the new Policing Board can, on a cross-community basis, agree a new emblem and a service flag based on it for the new Northern Ireland Police Service. That is not an impossible hope. In as much as there are any precedents, they point both ways. On the one hand, the Northern Ireland Executive was not able to agree arrangements for flag-flying over government buildings--hence the flags order that the House approved last week. On the other hand, the Northern Ireland Assembly was able to agree an emblem that was acceptable to unionists, nationalists and republicans alike.
It is consistent with our approach to devolution, under which local people attempt to reach their own solutions to problems rather than having them imposed by the Government, that we should be hesitant about prescribing the outcome in advance. I urge the House to exercise great caution over concluding that it ought to predetermine the outcome, particularly as that would inevitably be seen by one side as a partisan decision favouring the other tradition.
My Lords, I think that it is more appropriate for me to go on with my remarks following that intervention.
Of course we have to recognise that consensus may not be achievable. That is why the Bill provides for regulation-making powers on flags and emblems. Those regulations will now have to come before both Houses of Parliament for approval. That is already a substantial safeguard.
However, I recognise that in taking that power the Government have an obligation to say something about the approach that my right honourable friend intends to adopt if the relevant clause reaches the statute book in its present form. The plan is that the shadow Policing Board will come into being during January and that the new badge and flag will come into use in the autumn, when the first recruits join the new service. However, before that, when the recruitment process starts in April, potential recruits will want to know what has been decided. To allow the necessary preparations to be made, a conclusion on the issues will need to be reached as soon as the board can be formally consulted.
Rather than confronting the shadow board with a blank piece of paper, my right honourable friend will discuss a range of ideas with it, consistent with the objective of securing cross-community support for the new service. It will be open to the board to endorse those ideas or to come forward with alternative proposals.
If the board is able to reach a consensus on an emblem and a flag based on it that is capable of commanding wide support in the new police service and is also acceptable to the Chief Constable, my right honourable friend cannot conceive of circumstances in which he would wish to take a contrary view. That is the simple scenario, which, as I say, is not impossible.
However, matters may not be simple. Therefore, in the absence of a consensus and in the light of comments received, my right honourable friend will need to decide what proposals to lay before Parliament. He has already made it clear that he does not accept that the new symbols must, as a matter of principle, be free of all association with both traditions. Equally, it would be entirely counter-productive to seek to prescribe symbols which have a high probability of being objectionable to one part of the community or another.
So much is obvious. It is not whether we have the right to insist, but rather whether it would deliver the desired new beginning in policing if we were to attempt to impose something that sparked such controversy that it could deter one side of the community from joining or supporting the new police service.
I recognise that what I have said will not be sufficient for those who want absolute clarity before the new board has had the opportunity to consider the options; nor will it be sufficient for those who are determined to hold on to the old symbols for reasons which I well understand. However, I believe that the process that I have outlined provides the best hope for achieving an acceptable and sensitive solution to this most difficult issue. Therefore, I urge the House not to insist on a change to the Bill.
Perhaps I may deal briefly with the specific amendments. I have largely dealt with the points that have been made. The amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Desai--Amendments Nos. 61 to 66--would require that the emblem be entirely free of association with both states. As I said, my right honourable friend has made it clear that he does not accept that the new symbols must, as a matter of principle, be free of all association with both traditions.
Amendment No. 67, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, would have the effect of requiring that the current emblem remain the emblem of the police service and be included in the flag. For the reasons that I have already advanced, my right honourable friend has concluded that a new badge is required. Amendments Nos. 61A and 63A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, and others, would require that the design of the emblem and flag reflect the traditions of both communities in Northern Ireland and the award of the George Cross to the RUC.
I understand the sensitivity of the amendment and the significance of the award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. However, I do not believe that it would be right to fetter my right honourable friend's hand in this way in the discretion that he might need in approaching the potential situation that I outlined earlier. Therefore, I invite noble Lords to reject the amendment.
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, do the Government still believe that one of the best ways to take politics out of policing is to make responsibility for the design of this emblem one of the first duties of the new board?
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate which I sparked off. My purpose was to return to this issue, discussed in Committee, but with perhaps a more constructive approach. I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for the detailed answer that he gave.
"Change? Why do people want change? Aren't things bad enough as they are?"-- and those of us who believe passionately that, if we are to make a new beginning, a change must take place. I am sure that the hands of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State should be as free as possible. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, no; it was not moved. That is it. I am dealing with Amendment No. 67A, which concerns a different subject; namely, co-operation with the Garda. The previous amendment was a much more partisan matter and the Government's insistence on dropping the present badge will be regarded as a very highly partisan decision by a large number of people, including myself. But I do not want to become involved in a discussion on that because, at present, I am moving Amendment No. 67A about co-operation with the Garda, which is not a partisan matter.
We all wish that there should be the maximum co-operation. There is a great deal of co-operation now. In chapter 18 of his report, Patten recommended some specific measures for increasing co-operation. The only difference between us is the precise wording in the Bill.
The Bill suggests that the board and the Chief Constable shall implement arrangements in pursuance of agreements between the two governments--the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Republic. However, Patten suggested that there should be agreements between the police forces. He used the analogy of the agreements that the Kent Police Force has with some of the continental forces. There are a large number of agreements and co-operation in different fields between the different forces.
I am all in favour of police forces co-operating and, as a general rule, although it is not Holy Writ, as it were, the lower the level at which that co-operation takes place, the better. It was my observation, when I was responsible for those matters in Northern Ireland, that the co-operation at a low level between Garda individual police stations and the individual police stations of the RUC could be very good, and closer than the government in the South wanted it to be, as far as I could see at that particular time. Such co-operation is extremely good and it is that sort of co-operation which Patten is suggesting in terms of joint training and other such measures.
I want to see not only co-operation with great agreements between the two governments--because there is a place for that; but the co-operation needs to be much wider and deeper than that, as Patten suggested. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, with his great experience in these matters, has said. Surely if this amendment is not agreed to, we shall effectively have political interference in the day-to-day or week-to-week operation of the police force. That is totally undesirable in any country. I shall be interested to hear what the Government have to say on the matter.
My Lords, if I understood the noble Lord, Lord Cope, correctly, he said that he thought that there was, on occasion, the need for co-operation between the two governments and yet his amendment seems to preclude such co-operation which is, at present, provided on the face of the Bill. I hope that I have not misinterpreted what he said, but that is certainly what I understood him to say.
Perhaps I may say why I am not happy about the amendment. Certainly, from my time in Northern Ireland, I recall that frequently there was good co-operation between the two governments on a whole range of matters. Indeed, there was also good co-operation between the RUC and the Garda Siochana. Such co-operation at both local and governmental levels seemed to me to be desirable in the interests of all the people in Northern Ireland.
There may be occasions when it will be appropriate for the two governments to reach an agreement, particularly if, as seems likely, there is a need for legislation in the other jurisdiction. It would be sensible if there was agreement between the two governments so that the legislation in the other jurisdiction fitted in with the arrangements. That could deal with a whole range of matters, such as inter-service secondment, which has been discussed, or possibly pension arrangements. Those items would not concern the operational independence of the Chief Constable. I should have thought that that was a sensible arrangement. It is not helpful to have an amendment which would preclude the possibility of such an arrangement between the two governments.
My Lords, I rise to support this amendment. I do not see why we need on the face of the Bill the possibility or availability of co-operation. I do not see why it cannot be on a much more casual and flexible basis when it comes to the two police forces.
I accept that governments may need legislation to permit them to do certain things between themselves. But the police forces are already beginning to co-operate. There are already RUC officers at the Garda training school. The secondment about which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, spoke, does not need an Act of Parliament to take place. I do not believe that it needs such an Act of Parliament for that to take place between any states in Europe. We are talking about Europe as an open market, about co-operation on crime. Everything we do with the Garda should be taken within that context. I do not want to see such a provision on the face of the Bill. I support the amendment.
My Lords, this clause is designed to implement Patten's recommendations that there should be closer co-operation between the two police forces.
Amendment No. 67A was raised in Committee, when one of the central points of the debate seemed to be a concern, echoed by noble Lords tonight, that the clause would impact on the board's role and the Chief Constable's operational independence. We wrote to noble Lords reassuring them that the Government would not envisage agreeing to protocols without signing the board and the Chief Constable up to them first. So there is no question--I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Monson--of undermining the Chief Constable's operational independence in any way.
Another concern, and an effect of Amendment No. 67A, was that the Government need not be involved; that protocols would be sufficient. But the example given by Patten in paragraph 18.6 of co-operation between the Kent Constabulary and neighbours in France and Belgium is backed by legislation made by government.
Furthermore, the Government want to ensure that there is reciprocal agreement on this matter and that can best be achieved at this level. The Irish Government will proceed with arrangements for an intergovernmental agreement and for the appropriate protocols and will take all required measures, including legislative measures if necessary, to implement them. Of course, that is dependent on the final shape of the Bill before the House.
I hope that I have managed to assuage the fears of noble Lords. I pay tribute to the work already being done in certain areas of co-operation. The measures in this clause would enable that work to be strengthened and extended.
My Lords, first, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that my amendment would not preclude any agreements between governments. It is not intended to do that and I do not believe it would preclude them in legal terms. The British Government do not need legislation to enter into agreements and treaties. Some people think that it should be required--and quite often legislation is necessary to implement our half of a treaty.
My amendment would not preclude government-level agreements. However, it is intended to extend the provisions of the Bill so as to make clear that we want to see maximum co-operation between the police forces at every level and, for that matter, relevant services such as Customs and Excise.
My experience may be a little different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. When I was Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, the Taoiseach was Charles Haughey, who was perhaps not so sympathetic to agreements between the two governments. Although there were frequent meetings and we constantly pressed them for further and better agreements and co-operation with the police, it was sticky, slow work. I am sure that that is not the situation today and that it is much improved, but that experience may colour my view.
We are all agreed that, as Patten recommended, there should be co-operation at every level. Patten did not recommend that it should be confined to treaties and saw it occurring at all levels and in all ways. That is what we all want and therefore, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 67B:
Clause 57, page 29, line 44, at end insert--
("( ) the effectiveness of district policing partnerships in the carrying out of their functions;
( ) the level of public satisfaction with the performance of individual district policing partnerships").
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 67C:
Clause 60, page 31, line 21, at end insert--
("(1A) No inquiry shall be caused under subsection (1) if it relates to the conduct of a member of the police force which took more than the prescribed period before the date on which a report under section 59 was submitted to the board.
(1B) The prescribed period shall be the prescribed period determined by the Secretary of State under section 64 of the 1998 Act.").
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 68, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 69. At col. 377 of the Official Report of 25th October, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, who unfortunately is not in his place, queried the use of the word "facts" in Clause 60. In the light of his concerns, we have looked at the provision again and concluded that the word "information" should be substituted in its place. That is the effect of Amendments Nos. 68 and 69. They are intended to remove the connotation that an inquiry can be used to delve into the past to establish pre-commencement facts. Rather, the Government's intention in Clause 60(12) is to make it clear that an inquiry into a current matter can consider relevant information which predates the commencement of Clause 60.
I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and other noble Lords will accept the change and I beg to move.
My Lords, when I raised the issue in Committee I was heartened by the Minister's signal that the Government would look carefully at any requests the board made for funds to cover the cost of an inquiry. If the board has met all the other stringent criteria for initiating an inquiry, I am sure that no government would lightly refuse to meet the costs, otherwise the board would be unable to exercise the powers which the Bill confers on it.
I would welcome the Government's further assurance that they would be prepared to look at such funding requests as the need for an inquiry arises, rather than wait for the annual budget negotiations. That could significantly delay an inquiry and damage the credibility of the board. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Government have already said that they believe that resources should rest with those who use them. We shall consider carefully any request by the board for additional funding for an inquiry. The Government have shown that they are prepared to take on difficult inquiries but they cannot give the board a blank cheque. On that basis, I ask the noble Baroness not to press her amendment.
My Lords, like the current police authority, the policing board will have a statutory duty to keep itself informed about the workings of the police complaints and disciplinary system. Amendment No. 71 certainly does not seek to erode the independence of the ombudsman or question the validity or integrity of the new police complaints system in Northern Ireland. The amendment is an attempt to rectify some flaws in the Bill.
The police authority currently has access to a wide range of information, including completed files on cases of complaint, in order to carry out its duty. According to Clause 64, the only information that the ombudsman must supply is statistical. There is no obligation to supply any other material--for example, completed case files. That will create an anomaly whereby Northern Ireland will be treated differently from England and Wales, where police authorities receive information from the forces that they oversee. In Northern Ireland, however, with the change in the complaints system, all police complaints will be dealt with by the police ombudsman, unlike in England and Wales, where only the more serious cases are referred to the Police Complaints Authority. The supply of information will, therefore, be at the discretion of the ombudsman.
Although it is established custom and practice in Great Britain that police authorities are provided with complaints files, I believe it is preferable if the Bill contains a requirement to provide information. If the board is to be a strong independent body in its own right, it is unhelpful if it must rely on the discretion of the ombudsman to provide the information that it needs to do its job effectively.
Furthermore, one of the statutory duties of the new board is to ensure police compliance with the Human Rights Act. It will be unable to perform that function if it is entitled to receive only statistical information about complaints. Access to a broader range of information is, therefore, required. For example, what would happen if the board requested information other than statistics and the ombudsman refused to provide it? Such a turn of events, especially if made public, would hardly help to build confidence in the transparency and accountability of policing in Northern Ireland. For the reasons briefly outlined, I urge noble Lords to support the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment No. 71 is on a theme which was also raised in Committee. The Government said then that, looked at from the board's point of view, it appeared to be attractive. But the Government must look at the role and functions of the two bodies, both of which are independent. The use of the word "reasonably" may be an advance on what was debated in Committee. However, the amendment still puts control of general information in the hands of the board, yet it is the ombudsman whom Parliament has decided should be in control of the police complaints system, not the board. The board has a different role, one part of which is to keep itself informed of police complaints. I can assure the noble Lord that the current provisions will enable that to happen.
Patten made it clear that the ombudsman should be responsible for compiling data, and trends and patterns in complaints against the police or accumulations of complaints against individual officers and that the board should use the data it received in developing or reviewing policies and practices; hence the provision requiring the provision of statistical information. Patten did not suggest that the ombudsman should be subservient to the board and said that the ombudsman should have a dynamic co-operative relationship. This is what we expect will be the case.
The board has a different role, one part of which is to keep itself informed of police complaints. The current provision will enable this. I know of no provision in the Police Act 1996 which places a duty on the Police Complaints Authority to provide information in England and Wales. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, that I shall check that matter. If I am wrong I shall write to him.
Another important point is that the ombudsman is already required by the Bill to supply information but the decision is rightly hers on what to send. We have no doubt that she will consult the board on what information it will find helpful to receive. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps she can take into account in preparing the letter to my noble friend that this ombudsman--I am not certain whether we are being politically correct and should refer to ombudsperson--referred to in the legislation is not someone who is isolated like a High Court judge. She--she happens to be an ombudswoman--is already inserting herself into various groupings and committees and sitting in on discussions. The experience and wealth of knowledge that she will acquire in those fields could be of enormous help to the police authority and to the chief constable. We are not talking of classified and confidential information which she will acquire in the way that a normal ombudsman does; it is because she is--I think wisely--involving herself in all manner of discussion groups, in bodies and so forth, that I think she could be a great source of assistance to the bodies we have mentioned.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, is right in what he says. It is for that reason that we support Patten in its aim--followed through in the Bill--to ensure that there is constructive dialogue and that that is followed through between the ombudsman and the board.
The noble Lord tempts me into the field of discussing whether we should refer to ombudsperson, ombudsman or ombudswoman. I should tell the noble Lord that during the passage of the Greater London Act we had a constructive dialogue on that Bill which has been referred to tonight. It progressed steadily during the course of the evening until two things happened at the same time: first, someone raised the question of chair or chairwoman; secondly, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch--the noble friend of the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Glentoran--appeared in the Chamber and the debate that followed lasted three-quarters of an hour. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, does not want to tempt me into that situation.
My Lords, that was the kind of comment that sparked the lengthy debate. In asking the noble Lord not to press Amendment No. 71, the Government realised, in tabling an amendment in Committee to Clause 65 which adds subparagraph (d) to Section 64(2A) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, that it was a little less specific than it wanted to be.
Government Amendment No. 72 seeks to remedy that by making it clear, as the Government said in Committee, that this was intended to cover the ombudsman's relationship with the commissioners and the tribunal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. When we reach that amendment, I shall move it. Government Amendment No. 73 is purely a drafting change to alter a reference to the ombudsman in Schedule 1. I shall move that amendment too at the appropriate time.
moved Amendment No. 72:
Clause 65, page 35, line 34, leave out ("a prescribed person or body") and insert ("--
(i) the tribunal constituted under section 65(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, or
(ii) a person appointed under Part IV of that Act").
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 70 [The Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation]:
My Lords, in moving this amendment, I am conscious that events have moved on with regard to RUC widows. I have brought this issue to your Lordships' notice on many occasions. I had a sympathetic hearing from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, who has been helpful in dealing with the issue. As a result of representations made on behalf of the widows, Mr John Steele, a very distinguished retired Northern Ireland civil servant, was asked to look into what could be done for the two categories of RUC widows: those who were widowed prior to 1982 and those who were widowed after 1982. Mr Steele has produced a report which I shall be looking to the Government to implement in full. In fact, I shall be looking to the Government to enhance what is proposed.
While it seems on the surface that the payments to the widows are generous, I would have to put them into context. I have mentioned in the House on two separate occasions that one RUC widow has been widowed for 30 years. After 30 years' inflation, her pension is £134 a month. That is a shame and a scandal. It is an emotive issue. It has become a major theme of the Belfast Telegraph, a Belfast evening newspaper, and has now been picked up by one of the morning papers, the News Letter. Under Mr Steele's proposals, that widow would receive £1,000 per year for every year since her husband died. That is £30,000. That is £20 a week for the loss of her husband in most cruel and dreadful circumstances.
On a night like this we debate matters of extreme importance. Those of us who live in Northern Ireland sometimes become a little frustrated with noble Lords who do not have the considerable benefit of living in Northern Ireland and therefore have not seen the work of the RUC and have not had their relations and next door neighbours--in my case, my boss at work--shot dead. In some cases they were mistaken for RUC men and in other cases they were RUC men. My next-door neighbour was one of the finest men I have ever met. He was shot by the IRA. Despite what has been said in this Chamber by Liberal noble Lords--I know personally the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, and I know that he means well--I must stress that my next-door neighbour's only crime was that he was a member of the Roman Catholic faith.
We owe an awful debt. I owe my life to the RUC, the police service which has looked after me. I feel morally bound to be on the side of the widow and on the side of the injured policemen, of whom there are many, far too many. There are men with no legs, men with only one arm, blind, deafened or mentally impaired. We owe them a debt which no one in this Chamber, in Northern Ireland or anywhere else could adequately express. It makes me emotional to consider just what we owe these people.
I am grateful for the help given to us by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, through the John Steele review. However, my amendment seeks to take that help one step further. Clause 70 covers the establishment of a foundation to be known as the,
My amendment seeks to add a subsection which would require that foundation to make provision to support the development of a widows' association and a benevolent fund. It would also make provision for,
"injured police officers, retired officers and their families".
My colleagues and I happen to be Cross Benchers, but we are also members of the Ulster Unionist Party. We are people who live in Northern Ireland. So far we have received only thin gruel as this Bill has passed through its stages. I should like this amendment to be considered seriously as a method of recognising the good people--the widows and the injured policemen--back home. We should demonstrate the kind of esteem in which this House holds that tragic but gallant section of the population, whose sacrifice cannot be measured. I strongly recommend this amendment to the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should like to express my very strong support for this amendment. I have had a good deal to do with the association representing disabled police officers in Northern Ireland. Many officers are tetraplegics or paraplegics. All of them suffer from terrible stress, as do their families. The children have to live with a man who may have no arms or legs. They have to see him living still in danger and still under threat. This group deserves very special recognition.
That is particularly the case since Sir Kenneth Bloomfield looked into the issue of victims. Both his report and the government reached the conclusion that nothing could be done retrospectively over the issue of compensation. Many of those affected received compensation which had been fixed 30 years ago. They received less then than they would ever have received had they suffered from industrial injuries. They were badly advised. Most of them were poor and did not have access to good solicitors. Many ended up with disgracefully low settlements.
Nothing can be done because--I can understand it--no government would be prepared to consider retrospective compensation. However, in view of the splendid gesture towards the Japanese prisoners of war, we ought to think carefully about a special, one-time compensation for those people. I would strongly support a special provision in the Bill specifically for those victims.
A great deal of money has been spent on victims in Northern Ireland during the past three years--government money, EU money and private money--but, necessarily, an awful lot of it has gone not to the RUC and their dependants but to the people who put them in that situation--the children of prisoners. The children, of course, are blameless. Nevertheless, I know, for instance, that the DPOA wanted some computers which were being made available to victims for educational purposes. It was told that its members could not have them because they did not comply with one of the conditions--namely, that they had to have had an uninterrupted education. Most of them became officers at the age of 18 or 19; very often they were blown up when they were 22. They never had much chance to have an education. It is not that they had it interrupted--they just did not have it. But, nevertheless, they were excluded.
Something very special should be done for this not very large and dwindling--because they are dying--group of people. This would be something tangible that people could see and understand.
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment and the sentiments expressed. I know John Steele. He was, indeed, an excellent civil servant and official in the Northern Ireland office. I have not yet seen his report in full, only a quick summary, but clearly it is important. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House a little more about how the Government have received the report and what they intend to do about it.
I shall not try to gild, as it were, what has been said by my noble friend in support of the amendment, except to say that we all owe a huge debt to the widows and to the injured police officers--particularly, if I may say so in the light of our earlier debates, to the Catholic officers of the RUC. I remember several such officers with whom I became friendly, some in senior positions and some in junior positions. Life was in any case exceptionally difficult in those days if you were a Catholic officer in the RUC.
Among other things, I remember one officer telling me that he could not have a parish life. It was necessary for him to go to a different church to mass each week. If he had gone to the same church with his family there was a possibility of someone seeing him there and then seeing him in his police role, and that would have led to him being targeted. It was exceptionally difficult from that point of view.
It is true, of course, that the casualties and the murders among the Catholic officers of the RUC were much higher than among the Protestant officers. That is why there have been comparatively few Catholics in the RUC over the years. It is not only that someone is killed or wounded in an incident, there is the also the particular horror of knowing that a horrible death or terrible injuries have been deliberately caused by someone targeting the individual concerned. That adds an element to the wounding and death over and above that which might similarly have occurred in a car accident and so on.
As to the details of Amendment No. 72A, I am not exactly clear what the foundation will do, but it seems to me that this might well be one of the elements of its work.
My Lords, the Government have repeatedly given their support to the sentiments expressed in Amendment No. 72A, which stands in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Rogan, Lord Laird and Lord Molyneaux, and which was so effectively spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Laird.
As we said in Committee, the Government have already fully met Patten's Recommendation 88 with regard to supporting the RUC Widows' Association with funding. This amendment will not add to what the Government are already doing in that respect.
With regard to paragraph (b) of the amendment, I am pleased to refer to an announcement made yesterday by my right honourable friend in response to the Steele report. Steele was asked to review the Patten proposal for a new peace fund. We have placed a copy of his report in the Library. I pay particular tribute to the noble Lords, Lord Laird and Lord Rogan, for their effectiveness in pursuing this issue, which led to the setting up of the Steele inquiry.
The Government will now be taking forward implementation of this important report as quickly as possible. I know that that is my right honourable friend's intention. In the announcement that he made about the Steele report, he made it clear that the lump sum payments would be made to the widows of police officers killed by terrorist activity before 25th November 1982 without undue delay. I understand that he hopes to be able to make those payments before the end of the current financial year. He will also move to set up the trust fund proposed by Mr Steele as soon as practicable.
In the interests of getting on with implementation, my right honourable friend has chosen not to have a formal consultation period so that it can be moved forward as quickly as possible. But I know that he and my right honourable friend the Minister of State will be glad to receive the views of any interested parties as to the form and detail of the fund. I am sure that he would welcome any further input and co-operation from the noble Lords who have proposed this amendment.
The Steele report properly recognises the sacrifice of a part of society in Northern Ireland that understandably feels that its concerns have been neglected for too long. I welcome that recognition and I know that the House joins with me in that respect.
Amendment No. 72A seeks to bring together the role of the RUC GC foundation and the trust fund to which I referred. The Government believe that the two bodies--and the interests of those they will serve--are best kept separate. As I have said, the Government intend to press on as soon as reasonably practicable with the implementation of the Steele report.
The RUC GC foundation on the other hand will inevitably take a little longer to set up. A working group has been set up by my right honourable friend to come up with proposals. Clause 70 of the Bill sets out its general thrust, which is towards the professional development of police officers and innovations in policing. Representatives of the Police Federation and of the superintendents' and the chief police officers' staff associations have been invited to sit on this group and the Government look forward to hearing its views. There will certainly be a research element in its work.
To conclude, the Government appreciate and share the sentiments that underlie the amendment. What divides us is the means rather than the end. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, is he aware that there is a body of opinion that has put forward a proposal that the foundation shall be supported by Royal Charter? I realise that he will not be in a position to give an answer to this specific point tonight. However, will he recognise that those whom the foundation is intended to benefit would receive considerable comfort if a Royal Charter were to represent the kind of support for the foundation that can uniquely be given by those means?
In the light of the failure to carry an earlier resolution about the name of the RUC, it would be seen as of great importance if that could be achieved. I realise that the noble and learned Lord cannot give a specific answer, but will he kindly take note that there is this feeling?
My Lords, I do take note of that. I am aware of that feeling. It is not a matter for the Government; however, I hope that the Government will be able to respond and indicate their views in the near future.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment. I also thank the Minister for his remarks. I appreciate what he has said and I am very pleased. That is in no way complicated by my amendment. My amendment seeks to,
"make provision to support the development of the RUC Widows' Association and the RUC Benevolent Fund".
It is a process of linking those sections of our community who have made sacrifices to the fund outlined in Clause 70. Everyone recognises that RUC widows and those who have been injured and disabled have made sacrifices. We wish to link the association and the benevolent fund to the foundation established in the Bill,
"for the purpose of marking the sacrifices and honouring the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary".
If we must have things in black and white and written in tablets of stone as regards the relationship between the Northern Ireland police force and the Garda Siochana, surely it is a very small request to ask that the sacrifice of those people back home, who were initially grievously hurt and injured physically and then mentally by the release, in many instances, of the murderers and the attackers--the terrorists--should be reflected in the clause. Is it too much to ask--it is a very small price-- that this amendment be accepted so that we may form a link in some way with the organisation called the "The Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation" for the purpose of marking the sacrifice and honouring the achievements of the RUC?
I do not believe that I am making an unreasonable request. It would be well received by the community from which I come in Northern Ireland, who have not gained much else from the past few days' activities in this House. Indeed, it would be received very well. I wish to test the opinion of the House on the amendment.
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 relate to the removal of members from office on the police board. Amendment No. 76 relates to disqualification for membership of the police board.
The amendments are clear. They follow through our determination to ensure in the Bill that we cannot have our police force run by people with criminal records. As the Bill is drafted, that is not clear. If Amendment No. 74 is not agreed to, one could assume that if a member had committed some heinous crime, had been in the Maze, or whatever, before becoming a political member (or whatever) of the police board, that would be all right. That cannot be so. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, clarified that if individuals have a conviction of any kind they are disqualified from being members of a council or the Assembly for the full term of their sentence, assuming that they were released before the end of their sentence, plus five years. I do not think that that is good enough. We do not want people who have terrorist records on our police board--ever.
Amendment No. 76 lays down reasonable conditions for disqualification from membership. They are very similar. If a person has been convicted in any one of a number of ways listed in the amendment, he has a criminal record, and clearly has no right to sit on a board in charge of a police force.
It is late in the evening and I shall not repeat the arguments that we have made before. The bottom line is that we do not want any slip of the pen in the wording of the Bill to leave a gap that could ever enable convicted terrorists to be in charge of our police force. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has spoken to them with great restraint. Had he known when he drafted them that a so-called loyalist multiple murderer would be wined and dined in this building today, he might have used rather stronger language. I admire his moderation. That incident makes one wonder whether there is any limit to what can happen in the United Kingdom Parliament. I have been here for 30 years and I am beginning to wonder.
My Lords, I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and I hope that he will not take no for an answer on the amendments. I have to point out that there appears to be a drafting defect in Amendment No. 74. It should include the word "committed". However, that is no reason for him not to press the amendment, because drafting defects can always be cleared up at Third Reading.
My Lords, I support the amendments. What the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland are being asked to put up with is unbelievable. The police are prepared in the course of their day-to-day duty to get injured in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Laird, described or to lay down their lives for the safety of the people of Northern Ireland or of any one of us who travels there. We are asking them to accept that their rules and regulations can be laid down not just by people who have committed a normal crime, but by those who have been convicted of the most heinous crimes. That beggars belief. I cannot imagine what we are up to. It is staggering.
The Government say that they want participation from both sides of the community, but do they honestly believe that they have to go into the criminal sectors on both sides to get it? If they believe that, they should go to Northern Ireland and see. Are they saying that they cannot find a decent Protestant or a decent Roman Catholic without picking up one of those who have been involved in the criminal activities of the past 30 years? We are talking about the type of person who killed one of my soldiers, hitting him in the front of a school bus full of children, chasing him to the back and blowing his brains out over the children--and he went away down the road cheering. We may know who he was but we cannot convict him. He cannot be said to have suffered battlefield stress from being in a so-called war. He went away and celebrated with his friends all night.
I cannot imagine which way we are going. The Government have taken away the police's badge, their uniform, everything, and now they are prepared to put hardened criminals into decision-making positions. They insult the Roman Catholic population. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is not here, because he could say this 10,000 times better than I can. He is proud of being a Roman Catholic and I am very proud to have known and served with some excellent Roman Catholic police officers who have done their best and sacrificed their family life and their whole social being. It might be argued that it is fair enough that we have let these criminals out, but we cannot put them on the Policing Board. I wholly support the amendments and I am horrified by the way in which it looks as if we are going.
My Lords, there have been consistent attempts to add provisions that would restrict membership of the board in a way that neither Patten nor the Good Friday agreement envisaged. The issue is one of inclusivity. The Government believe that those appointed to the Assembly should automatically be eligible for the board. Noble Lords disagree with that. We believe that the Good Friday agreement should be implemented in all its aspects, including policing reform and decommissioning. With regard to the latter, we believe that the IRA needs to re-engage with the commission to show that further progress will be made. However, this Bill stands on its own merits.
I believe that the removal provisions in the Bill provide a strong safeguard. Unlike the police authority of Northern Ireland at present but as under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, members of the board must be committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
The Government have listened to the points raised by noble Lords. We hear their concerns. However, having listened, we believe that the Bill meets the test of inclusivity in the Good Friday agreement while containing appropriate safeguards. In those circumstances, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down--I do not know whether I have to employ that strategy more than I am allowed at this point in order to make a speech--does he consider that the concept of inclusivity properly extends to including the confidence of those who serve in the police service of Northern Ireland? If he does, can he imagine the consequence for officers who expose themselves daily to the risks that have been recited so often in this House? Can he imagine the effect on their confidence of having as participants in the board people who have committed the type of scheduled offence with which we are concerned?
It sounds clinical and almost consoling to speak of the offence as "scheduled". I know that it is rather bad form to recite incidents that have occurred. However, I believe that in order to inject a sense of realism it is necessary to recite one or two such incidents from people's experience. I recognise that my own experience is minuscule compared with that of many people who have lived in Northern Ireland. Perhaps I may take one example from either side of the community.
I was present at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland a few hours after a terrible massacre had taken place of people who were watching a football match. It was perpetrated by so-called loyalists. They sprayed the bar and killed seven people, including Mr Barney Green, aged 82. The floor was covered with what appeared to be treacle, but of course it was not; it was the blood of Mr Barney Green and various other people.
I take an episode from the other side. An RUC officer, PC Paul Slane, had both legs removed and an arm seriously injured by an IRA rocket installed in the roadside. The female police officer next to him was killed. That man survived and continues to serve in the RUC.
How can members of the RUC be expected to have confidence in arrangements which include on the board people who have perpetrated, no matter how long ago, that type of outrage? That is what I ask the Government to consider. It really is necessary to move away from the nice, clinical language of scheduled offences into the reality of life and death.
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place made clear that those who are considered for appointment as independent members of the board will, as applies to the police authority at present, be subject to character checks. Such checks will include an obligation to disclose criminal records. On a large number of occasions we have also discussed removal criteria for both political and independent members who commit criminal offences after their appointment.
However, the Government take the view that those who have been elected to the Assembly have a right to serve on the board. That is consistent with the way in which they may hold ministerial office. As I have already made clear, if they or independent members do not remain committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, they may be removed. I believe that, as noble Lords know in relation to the Assembly, that is at the heart of the Good Friday agreement.
My Lords, may I continue? How is it possible to equate the statements that, for example, Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness have made that they are committed to non-violence with the fact that when the bodies were recently supposed to be being returned by the IRA, Gerry Adams, leader of the West Belfast Brigade, went round and told the people who might be getting the bodies back that they must receive them quietly and bury them quietly?
Whatever those people have said in political terms, they are surely not fit to be in charge of the police and legal proceedings of the country, particularly since Gerry Adams has said that he does not recognise British justice. I can see that as a member of the Assembly he may have a valuable contribution to make. But that is surely absolutely different from being responsible for the policing of the country.
My Lords, it would be helpful for the purposes of debate, and I hope it would be helpful for the noble Baroness, if I were to repeat what it says in the Companion about Report. It says that only the mover of an amendment or the Lord in charge of the Bill should speak after the Minister on Report, except for short questions of elucidation to the Minister or where the Minister speaks early in order to assist the House in debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, seems to have a problem with that. Perhaps he would like to rise and make his point.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, who is very well-informed and has made many serious and sensible contributions to the debate, has made her point. I am reminding the House about procedure.
I have been asked by the noble and learned Lord to withdraw the amendment. I listened to what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew and other noble Lords who have had great experience of Northern Ireland. How many noble Lords on the government side of the House are thinking through this for themselves?
I understand parliamentary democracy. But I ask you all, when you go home tonight, to think about the truths that you have heard about the happenings in our country. And then I ask you to ask yourselves privately, with peace of mind, whether you would like to have one of those released terrorists in charge of your police force.
I do not believe that the removal clauses are strong enough. But they are certainly better than the provisions in relation to disqualification. I shall seek to test the opinion of the House on Amendment No. 76.
moved Amendment No. 75A:
Schedule 1, page 46, line 43, at end insert--
(vi) a Junior Minister in the Government of Ireland;
(vii) a chairman or deputy chairman of--
(c) a joint committee of the Oireachtas (National Parliament of Ireland").
My Lords, Amendment No. 75A stems from the Disqualifications Bill Committee stage on Monday 6th November. During that debate it was established that, via the Disqualifications Bill, a Minister of the Government of Ireland could sit on the Northern Ireland Assembly. By virtue of their being a member of the Assembly they would have the possibility of receiving a party selection for the police board via the operation of the d'Hondt system. Yet Ministers and junior Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive are expressly excluded from being on the police board. This simple amendment aims to address that anomaly. I beg to move.
My Lords, the effect of Amendment No. 75A is to add to the list of offices which, if held, would disqualify the postholder from appointment to the board. It was raised on Monday night when we discussed the Disqualifications Bill. I can assure the noble Lord that we will look at this issue and talk to him about it before reaching the issue on Report in the Disqualification Bill. In the light of that, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.
moved Amendment No. 76:
Schedule 1, page 46, line 49, at end insert--
("(d) he has at any time been convicted of a scheduled offence under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 or Part VII of the Terrorism Act 2000;
(e) he has at any time been convicted in Northern Ireland or elsewhere of any offence and has had passed on him a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not);
(f) the political party of which he is a member is linked to any organisation which has failed to begin the decommissioning of arms and explosives in a manner verified by the Commission referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997;
(g) he is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means; or
(h) the political party of which he is a member is linked to an organisation that has failed to satisfy any of the four factors set out in section 3(9)(a), (b), (c) and (d) of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998").
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 77, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 78. These amendments are of a pragmatic nature. Together, they would remove the detailed provisions that dictate the procedure for calling a meeting to discuss the possibility of initiating an inquiry. Surely, the details should be related to the meeting at which the decision to initiate an inquiry is taken. The current elaborate procedures in the Bill are totally impractical and place an unnecessary fetter on the ability of the board to call for reports and inquiries. It is the power to call for reports and inquiries which enables the board to hold others to account and thus creates transparency in policing.
I suggest that a safeguard is already provided, in that a substantial number of board members must approve an inquiry before it is initiated. What is the value of that unnecessary and bureaucratic red tape? I urge noble Lords to embrace a pragmatic approach to the procedures by adopting the two amendments and creating a situation in which it is feasible for the board, where necessary, to call for that report or inquiry. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 seek to remove the provision requiring the chairman of the board to notify members of a meeting to consider a request for an inquiry. The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, tabled similar amendments in Committee.
The Government's view is that the provisions in the Bill, Schedule 1, paragraph 18, which are based on arrangements already in place in local government legislation in Northern Ireland--the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972--are unexceptional. The use of the inquiry power itself would only arise in grave or exceptional circumstances. It seems to the Government that a mechanism should be in place to ensure that all members are aware of meetings to discuss such important issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, referred to the safeguards that are in place at a subsequent meeting at which a decision would be taken as to whether or not to proceed with the inquiry. We believe it is important that all members of the board should be aware of a meeting that is to discuss that possibility. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, not to press the amendment.
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 79. It is not equitable or fair that there should be a distinction made between those people who are political members or independent members of a district policing partnership. The amendment would mean that a political or independent member could be removed from the district policing partnership prior to appointment for failing to disclose a criminal conviction. I think that is important. We think that is important. It is difficult to see why there should be that distinction. I beg to move.
My Lords, in this grouping I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 80, 81, 82, 83 and 83A. Several of these amendments stand in my name and the names of my noble friends. As the noble Lord, Lord Laird, has said, the amendments concern the members of district policing partnerships. There are two kinds of member. There are so-called independent members and so-called political members. Some of the restrictions on membership apply only to the independent members. There is no reason why they should not apply also to the political members.
The noble Lord referred to Amendment No. 79, which proposes that a political member should not be allowed to continue on the board--by contrast with an independent member--if he has failed to disclose a conviction. I shall not go into the detail of the amendments because they are similar.
However, I should draw your Lordships' attention to Amendment No. 82. Under paragraph 8(2) a person is disqualified from membership of a district policing partnership if he has at any time been convicted of an offence and has had a sentence of imprisonment passed upon him. But that applies only to the independent members. So some of these terrorists and other criminals could be appointed to the district policing partnerships. This was discussed earlier in connection with similar appointments at a higher level. Therefore I will not labour the point. Given the horrific crimes for which some of them have been responsible I do not think that they are suitable to serve on district policing partnerships.
One needs to remember in considering this that it is not just a question of helping to manage the police force as it might be in some part of England, Wales or Scotland. There are parts of Northern Ireland where the rackets are intense and exceptionally vicious. Many of the beatings and murders now taking place in Northern Ireland are connected with those rackets. They are entrenched in the community. They will have to be eliminated if Northern Ireland is to have a peaceful life in the future. If we allow criminals at that level to sit on the district policing partnerships, they simply will not work. What is more, they will help to undermine the police in all that they are doing and in their attempts to get on top of the rackets.
Ten years ago I was making speeches in Northern Ireland in which I said that part of the momentum of terrorism was the politics of the situation but that another part of the momentum of the terrorism--that was the case even then but it is more so now--was the rackets and the finances. The Mafia started as a political organisation. It has not been a political organisation for a long time but it has had a serious effect on the life of Sicily and other parts of Italy and it has spread out to many other parts of the world over the past century. The paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide are of exactly the same character. They try to control different sections of Belfast. It is those people that it is suggested could remain members of district policing partnerships. It is quite wrong and very dangerous for the future of Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I believe that the independent members are being discriminated against. I shall not talk about the criminal activities--I made myself clear during the previous debate about the board. The DPPs will replace police liaison committees. Are the same indiscretions permitted on those committees? The liaison committees have been particularly instrumental in bringing the two communities together in a forum where they have been able to discuss policing and local crime. It is intended that community co-operation should be improved. If we discriminate against the independent members and the political members, that will not be conducive to such co-operation.
My Lords, as under Schedule 1 in relation to the police board, Amendments Nos. 79 to 83 seek to tighten the disqualification and removal provisions for district policing partnership members and particularly for political appointments. Similar arguments apply in relation to these amendments as applied on the group of amendments which we recently discussed. The latter is particularly relevant for DPPs where the powers are so much more limited in relation to the police boards.
We must look at the safeguards which are in place and are in the Bill. For councillors, who represent the pool from which the political members are taken, there are already criminal record disqualifications. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, adverted to those earlier. In summary, individuals would be disqualified if imprisoned for three months or more, whether suspended or not, until their sentence and then a period of five years had elapsed. There are disqualification provisions for independents too--a sentence of imprisonment, whether suspended or not. Both independents and councillors are subject to removal provisions under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3; for example, if they are convicted or fail to comply with their terms of appointment or fail to disclose convictions. It is also relevant that the board makes appointments, and the Secretary of State will issue a code on how this should be done. There is also the default provision in Clause 15 which we have already debated.
As we said in Committee and earlier tonight, the Government believe that the Bill has an appropriate balance between inclusivity and safeguards. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, referred to the CPLCs. These bodies are established by the police authorities. As far as I am aware, those CPLCs involve councillors being appointed without checks beyond those which apply when they are seeking appointment as councillors. Thus, in relation to the political members of the DPPs and the councillor members on the CPLCs, the same principles would apply as regards whether or not a person could become a councillor. Subject to the point I made about the councillor members of the CPLCs, they are not statutory bodies and therefore there are no statutory disqualifications beyond those that apply to councillors.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, did not speak to Amendment No 83A, so I shall not reply to it.
My Lords, as the proposer of Amendment No. 79, I have listened carefully to what has been said by the Minister. I shall couple that with the fact that noble Lords on some Benches in this House have attempted to allow opportunities for the peace process in Northern Ireland to be enhanced rather than put under stress and strain, as it has been tonight. I wonder how some of the activities we have seen tonight will be reported in the Northern Ireland press, especially in terms of support for those people whose sacrifice has been extreme. I propose to test the opinion of the House on this amendment.