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 Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit Conservative 6:15 pm, 8th November 2000

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?".