Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

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

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Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 9:00 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, similar amendments were tabled in Committee, although they have now been extended to include, in addition to ethnic minorities, disabled people and any other under-represented group.

It is important to bear in mind that the object of the Bill, first and foremost, is to give effect to Patten's recommendations. In the commission's estimation,

"the imbalance between the number of Catholics ... and Protestants ... is the most striking problem in the composition of the RUC".

It must therefore be right that this should be our central focus in this legislation. Patten's recommendation, which we have accepted, was that other under-represented groups, such as ethnic minorities, should be targeted by means of an imaginative advertising strategy.

However, notwithstanding that, the Government have already recognised the issue, in equality terms, with the action plan on female representation. We should not lose sight of the fact that the Bill provides for the immediate application of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to the police. This places a duty on the police and other policing bodies to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity as between various categories of people based on race, gender, religion, disability and other distinctions.

We believe that this provides an appropriate vehicle under which the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, in Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 can be taken forward. In the light of this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdrew his amendment.