My Lords, this clause is designed to implement Patten's recommendations that there should be closer co-operation between the two police forces.
Amendment No. 67A was raised in Committee, when one of the central points of the debate seemed to be a concern, echoed by noble Lords tonight, that the clause would impact on the board's role and the Chief Constable's operational independence. We wrote to noble Lords reassuring them that the Government would not envisage agreeing to protocols without signing the board and the Chief Constable up to them first. So there is no question--I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Monson--of undermining the Chief Constable's operational independence in any way.
Another concern, and an effect of Amendment No. 67A, was that the Government need not be involved; that protocols would be sufficient. But the example given by Patten in paragraph 18.6 of co-operation between the Kent Constabulary and neighbours in France and Belgium is backed by legislation made by government.
Furthermore, the Government want to ensure that there is reciprocal agreement on this matter and that can best be achieved at this level. The Irish Government will proceed with arrangements for an intergovernmental agreement and for the appropriate protocols and will take all required measures, including legislative measures if necessary, to implement them. Of course, that is dependent on the final shape of the Bill before the House.
I hope that I have managed to assuage the fears of noble Lords. I pay tribute to the work already being done in certain areas of co-operation. The measures in this clause would enable that work to be strengthened and extended.