Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

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

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Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat 8:30 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 33 and to speak to Amendment No. 34 in my name and those of other noble Lords. The annual policing plan will, as now, be a key document. It should set out for the community what policing service it can expect. Broadly speaking, it should be a contract between the board and the Chief Constable about the policing service that is to be delivered.

Patten wanted to get rid of labyrinthine provisions, and we all support that. The aim of these amendments is to say clearly and simply on the face of the Bill what must be included in the plan. I am sure we all agree that there is no point in setting objectives as required by Clause 25 if we do not measure whether they have been achieved. Setting indicators and targets is crucial so that both the community and board can judge whether the police achieve them; they are an integral and important part of the planning process.

Equally, there are some fundamentals that any annual plan, whether for the police or any other organisation, should contain. What, for example, is one to do? How does one know whether one has achieved it? What resources can one devote to it? That is all that Amendment No. 34 in my name seeks to establish. Clause 3 sets out the role of the board, while Clause 57 sets out in detail the issues on which the board must report to the community each year. Clearly, any board must address such issues in its annual plan. Recommendation 22 of the Patten report indicated that there was no justification for government to second-guess the board in these matters.

Any government control over the content of the plan through regulations can lead only to the Government second-guessing the board. It reduces community ownership of the plan, diminishes the role and damages the credibility of the new policing board. I believe that the amendment has the support of all the Northern Ireland parties and could be conceded to the Government's advantage. I beg to move.