Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 8th November 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Smith of Clifton Lord Smith of Clifton Liberal Democrat 9:00 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 46 and speaking to Amendment No. 47, we seek to encourage the Government not merely to allow the Chief Constable to devise action plans to try to encourage more women into the police, but also for the action plans to extend to ethnic minority groups, the disabled and other under-represented groups.

In particular as regards the case of the disabled, we see that developments in information technology and so forth in police work enable many people to work appropriately in the service who, in an earlier age, might not have been able so to do.

If the Government were to accept our amendments to this new clause we would be extremely comforted by the Government's realisation that Northern Ireland is an increasingly multicultural society and that there are other groups who feel marginalised in that society apart from the two main communities. There are regularly around 12 per cent of people in Northern Ireland who do not describe themselves as Catholic or Protestant on census forms. In fact, Chinese is the second most commonly spoken language in Northern Ireland. It is time that the Government moved away from their traditional "two communities" thinking and recognised that there are many sections within the Northern Irish community. We are moving towards a more richly diverse society and that should be cherished and valued highly.

There is marked under-representation of women and ethnic minority groups in the police. The current female proportion is 11.1 per cent; it has been estimated that the number of people from minority ethnic communities in the police in Northern Ireland is fewer than 10. The introduction of monitoring and action plans will ensure a focus on equality of opportunity and the introduction of proactive measures to increase the representation of all under-represented groups within the police. I beg to move.