Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative 9:45 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, first, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that my amendment would not preclude any agreements between governments. It is not intended to do that and I do not believe it would preclude them in legal terms. The British Government do not need legislation to enter into agreements and treaties. Some people think that it should be required--and quite often legislation is necessary to implement our half of a treaty.

My amendment would not preclude government-level agreements. However, it is intended to extend the provisions of the Bill so as to make clear that we want to see maximum co-operation between the police forces at every level and, for that matter, relevant services such as Customs and Excise.

My experience may be a little different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. When I was Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, the Taoiseach was Charles Haughey, who was perhaps not so sympathetic to agreements between the two governments. Although there were frequent meetings and we constantly pressed them for further and better agreements and co-operation with the police, it was sticky, slow work. I am sure that that is not the situation today and that it is much improved, but that experience may colour my view.

We are all agreed that, as Patten recommended, there should be co-operation at every level. Patten did not recommend that it should be confined to treaties and saw it occurring at all levels and in all ways. That is what we all want and therefore, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.