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

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 have been debated at length. The Government have said that they will include these areas in regulations to achieve Patten's requirement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, said, we should simplify the legislation, which Patten rightly described as labyrinthine.

In Committee we said that these regulations are available and show that there is little separating the Government in terms of policy from noble Lords who support amendments in the group. The question is one of form. The regulation sets out the detail of what matters should as a minimum be covered in the policing plan--not, I should emphasise, and I hope this reassures the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, the actual contents of the plan--or in primary legislation. The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation looked at precisely this issue and concluded in its recommendation,

"that the great majority of powers in the Bill are appropriately delegated."

The committee went on to suggest some changes which the Government have adopted.

The noble Baroness appears to be confusing the regulations with the policing plan itself. It may be the way in which her points were responded to when the matter was dealt with in Committee. Responsibility for the plan remains in the hands of the board. The regulations prescribe the contents of the policing plan in exactly the same way as Clauses 14 to 17 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. The regulations prescribe only the areas which the plan should cover. The actual contents of the plan will continue to be determined by the board after consultation with the community.

I could go through in great detail different aspects of the appropriate primary legislation should the Government accept the principle that primary legislation is the best means of setting out the detail. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, who has rightly and helpfully pointed out the importance of tying the best value performance plan under Clause 28 into the overall police planning process. The Government's draft regulations do that.

We believe that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee has considered this matter carefully. I hope the noble Baroness feels reassured by my reply. I apologise if earlier answers misled her as to the circumstances in which the government were making these proposals.