Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Viscount Brookeborough Viscount Brookeborough Crossbench 6:15 pm, 8th November 2000

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.