Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

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

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Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Chair of Labour Peers 9:15 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I do not believe that the strength of the police in Northern Ireland would be weakened by the proposed changes in the way suggested by the noble Lord. The Government do not intend to destroy the police in Northern Ireland; but rather they wish to build on its strengths and give it a "new beginning", as indicated in the Patten report.

Patten said very clearly that there should be a new badge and a symbol so that one could indicate that there was a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, while respecting the achievements and sacrifices made by the RUC over many years. Surely that is a worthy set of aims. The new beginning will require a new badge, but quite properly the Secretary of State has decided that he will listen to the policing board, among others, and seek its guidance and advice on what it thinks the new badge should comprise. It surely is proper to leave it to people on the policing board from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, from politics and outside politics, to recommend what they consider to be the best way forward with regard to the emblem.

I refer to Amendments Nos. 61A and 63A in which it is suggested that the George Cross, so well deserved and earned by the RUC, should be included in the new emblem. I am not sure that that is a good idea, much as I was pleased when the George Cross was awarded to the RUC for what it had achieved and for the sacrifices of the past. But here we are looking to the future. I should have thought that it would not be appropriate to use the George Cross to symbolise the future but rather as a sign of respect for what has happened in the past. I hope that those amendments will not be taken further.