Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:15 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative 11:15 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, in this grouping I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 80, 81, 82, 83 and 83A. Several of these amendments stand in my name and the names of my noble friends. As the noble Lord, Lord Laird, has said, the amendments concern the members of district policing partnerships. There are two kinds of member. There are so-called independent members and so-called political members. Some of the restrictions on membership apply only to the independent members. There is no reason why they should not apply also to the political members.

The noble Lord referred to Amendment No. 79, which proposes that a political member should not be allowed to continue on the board--by contrast with an independent member--if he has failed to disclose a conviction. I shall not go into the detail of the amendments because they are similar.

However, I should draw your Lordships' attention to Amendment No. 82. Under paragraph 8(2) a person is disqualified from membership of a district policing partnership if he has at any time been convicted of an offence and has had a sentence of imprisonment passed upon him. But that applies only to the independent members. So some of these terrorists and other criminals could be appointed to the district policing partnerships. This was discussed earlier in connection with similar appointments at a higher level. Therefore I will not labour the point. Given the horrific crimes for which some of them have been responsible I do not think that they are suitable to serve on district policing partnerships.

One needs to remember in considering this that it is not just a question of helping to manage the police force as it might be in some part of England, Wales or Scotland. There are parts of Northern Ireland where the rackets are intense and exceptionally vicious. Many of the beatings and murders now taking place in Northern Ireland are connected with those rackets. They are entrenched in the community. They will have to be eliminated if Northern Ireland is to have a peaceful life in the future. If we allow criminals at that level to sit on the district policing partnerships, they simply will not work. What is more, they will help to undermine the police in all that they are doing and in their attempts to get on top of the rackets.

Ten years ago I was making speeches in Northern Ireland in which I said that part of the momentum of terrorism was the politics of the situation but that another part of the momentum of the terrorism--that was the case even then but it is more so now--was the rackets and the finances. The Mafia started as a political organisation. It has not been a political organisation for a long time but it has had a serious effect on the life of Sicily and other parts of Italy and it has spread out to many other parts of the world over the past century. The paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide are of exactly the same character. They try to control different sections of Belfast. It is those people that it is suggested could remain members of district policing partnerships. It is quite wrong and very dangerous for the future of Northern Ireland.