Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office 8:00 pm, 8th November 2000

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.