Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:41 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office 10:41 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, there have been consistent attempts to add provisions that would restrict membership of the board in a way that neither Patten nor the Good Friday agreement envisaged. The issue is one of inclusivity. The Government believe that those appointed to the Assembly should automatically be eligible for the board. Noble Lords disagree with that. We believe that the Good Friday agreement should be implemented in all its aspects, including policing reform and decommissioning. With regard to the latter, we believe that the IRA needs to re-engage with the commission to show that further progress will be made. However, this Bill stands on its own merits.

I believe that the removal provisions in the Bill provide a strong safeguard. Unlike the police authority of Northern Ireland at present but as under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, members of the board must be committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

The Government have listened to the points raised by noble Lords. We hear their concerns. However, having listened, we believe that the Bill meets the test of inclusivity in the Good Friday agreement while containing appropriate safeguards. In those circumstances, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.