Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 7:45 pm, 8th November 2000

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.