Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

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

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office 8:15 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I shall return to that matter but move on to later amendments. Amendment No. 29 is related to Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 in that it reflects an opposition to Belfast sub-groups to which the main burden of the speeches related. The Government were pressed on this issue during their consultations on Patten and the Bill and they sought a sensible solution. They take the view that there should be sub-groups, also referred to by Patten as sub-committees, but that these should be based on the police districts under Clause 20, which Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 attack. The sub-groups will match police districts; the members will come from the DPP; there are no special arrangements for appointments to the bodies from elsewhere; and the four are part of and will account to the overall Belfast DPP.

I would further point out that the provision on the sub-groups reflects Patten; is for sub-groups to be in line with police districts; provides for limited functions so as not to detract from the overall DPP; provides for appointment to sub-groups from the DPP; and provides for the board's guidance to cover them.

Under the Bill, for Belfast the boundaries of the police districts must coincide with the district council area, but within that the Government have concluded that it is right that the Chief Constable should have flexibility to determine the number of police districts up to a maximum of four. He has four at present and I do not believe that he has any plans to change them.

We are aware that the sub-divisions are not entirely consistent with the Belfast council area, but there are only a few exceptions. That will not constrain the operational independence of the Chief Constable. In the light of that explanation, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.