Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 10:00 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, Amendment No. 71 is on a theme which was also raised in Committee. The Government said then that, looked at from the board's point of view, it appeared to be attractive. But the Government must look at the role and functions of the two bodies, both of which are independent. The use of the word "reasonably" may be an advance on what was debated in Committee. However, the amendment still puts control of general information in the hands of the board, yet it is the ombudsman whom Parliament has decided should be in control of the police complaints system, not the board. The board has a different role, one part of which is to keep itself informed of police complaints. I can assure the noble Lord that the current provisions will enable that to happen.

Patten made it clear that the ombudsman should be responsible for compiling data, and trends and patterns in complaints against the police or accumulations of complaints against individual officers and that the board should use the data it received in developing or reviewing policies and practices; hence the provision requiring the provision of statistical information. Patten did not suggest that the ombudsman should be subservient to the board and said that the ombudsman should have a dynamic co-operative relationship. This is what we expect will be the case.

The board has a different role, one part of which is to keep itself informed of police complaints. The current provision will enable this. I know of no provision in the Police Act 1996 which places a duty on the Police Complaints Authority to provide information in England and Wales. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, that I shall check that matter. If I am wrong I shall write to him.

Another important point is that the ombudsman is already required by the Bill to supply information but the decision is rightly hers on what to send. We have no doubt that she will consult the board on what information it will find helpful to receive. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.