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 Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office 11:15 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, as under Schedule 1 in relation to the police board, Amendments Nos. 79 to 83 seek to tighten the disqualification and removal provisions for district policing partnership members and particularly for political appointments. Similar arguments apply in relation to these amendments as applied on the group of amendments which we recently discussed. The latter is particularly relevant for DPPs where the powers are so much more limited in relation to the police boards.

We must look at the safeguards which are in place and are in the Bill. For councillors, who represent the pool from which the political members are taken, there are already criminal record disqualifications. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, adverted to those earlier. In summary, individuals would be disqualified if imprisoned for three months or more, whether suspended or not, until their sentence and then a period of five years had elapsed. There are disqualification provisions for independents too--a sentence of imprisonment, whether suspended or not. Both independents and councillors are subject to removal provisions under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3; for example, if they are convicted or fail to comply with their terms of appointment or fail to disclose convictions. It is also relevant that the board makes appointments, and the Secretary of State will issue a code on how this should be done. There is also the default provision in Clause 15 which we have already debated.

As we said in Committee and earlier tonight, the Government believe that the Bill has an appropriate balance between inclusivity and safeguards. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, referred to the CPLCs. These bodies are established by the police authorities. As far as I am aware, those CPLCs involve councillors being appointed without checks beyond those which apply when they are seeking appointment as councillors. Thus, in relation to the political members of the DPPs and the councillor members on the CPLCs, the same principles would apply as regards whether or not a person could become a councillor. Subject to the point I made about the councillor members of the CPLCs, they are not statutory bodies and therefore there are no statutory disqualifications beyond those that apply to councillors.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, did not speak to Amendment No 83A, so I shall not reply to it.