Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Vivian Lord Vivian Conservative 6:45 pm, 8th November 2000

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.