Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 8th November 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Vivian Lord Vivian Conservative 9:15 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I intervene briefly because I strongly support my noble friend's amendment. I can see no useful purpose, or any good reason, for any change to the cap badge and insignia of the RUC. The Patten report states in paragraph 17.4:

"Many people in Northern Ireland from the Irish nationalist and republican tradition regard the name, badge and symbols of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as associating the police with the British constitution and state"-- it is a very small minority who support that perception. The report goes on to say:

"The agreement about symbols is not an argument about policing, but an argument about the constitution".

There is no need to remind your Lordships that Northern Ireland is part of the British constitution. As such, the police force in Northern Ireland should represent the British constitution. It is clear from what has been said that there is a small minority of Irish nationalists and republicans to whom the Government are, once again, making concessions. What about the very large Catholic community and the Protestant community that support the RUC and wish for no change? Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that one of the aims of Sinn Fein/IRA has been to destroy the RUC. In my opinion, this Government are doing exactly that.

In my previous intervention I drew to your Lordships' attention that, for any organisation, the loss of its title will lead to low morale and inefficiency. Therefore, to take away its title and change its insignia would destroy all its ethos. It is that very ethos, built up over so many years, that makes the RUC such an effective force. I do not believe that the Government understand in any way what "ethos" means to a police force or for that matter to military units. However, without it, I can assure the Government that such organisations become totally useless. It is for those reasons that I support the amendment.