Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 8th November 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 8:30 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships will be assisted if I speak to government Amendment No. 60, which is grouped with the amendments moved and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Government Amendment No. 60 is the same as an amendment which the Government did not move in Committee. It would add the ombudsman to the list of those to be consulted under Clause 53(2) on guidance on the use by police officers of public order equipment. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked the Government in Committee on 25th October (at col. 347) to take more time to consider their amendment. He was concerned about the ombudsman having been involved in the creation of the guidance.

For the record, we have since discussed the matter and looked extremely carefully at the noble Lord's points. In the light of those, the Government have considered their amendment further, taken legal advice and consulted the police ombudsman. Our conclusion is that, although we appreciate the noble Lord's view, the Secretary of State would be bound to consult the ombudsman, because inevitably she would clearly have a great deal of experience (from the investigation of complaints into public order-type incidents) which would help to inform--I stress that word--the guidance. I emphasise that the ombudsman is only consulted. Ultimately, the guidance is a matter for the Secretary of State; it is his guidance, not the board's or the ombudsman's.

It is quite clear that the annual and special reports produced by the ombudsman are in the public arena. Therefore, it is inevitable that the Secretary of State will have regard to the views of the ombudsman and take into account all factors in drawing up guidance, which is ultimately a matter for him. I hope that, in the light of us being convinced by his Amendments Nos. 31 and 32, the noble Lord in turn will be convinced by government Amendment No. 60.