Police (Northern Ireland) Order 2001

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:43 pm on 23rd July 2001.

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Photo of Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit Conservative 11:43 pm, 23rd July 2001

My Lords, from what has been said already this evening, the situation in Northern Ireland is not, at the moment, improving. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, has described a situation of armed robbery, which, if it took place on the mainland, would be regarded as a crisis. There would be calls for debates, the press would be full of it and there would be great public anger. However, this evening we have this order that we all agree should go through, but no proper debate on the affairs of Northern Ireland.

What is the situation in your Lordships' House? Just look around. Perhaps I should spell it out so that it is recorded in the official record: three Members of Her Majesty's Government on the Front Bench; not a single supporter behind them--not one; two Cross-Benchers from Northern Ireland; half a dozen or so Conservatives and two Liberal Democrats. We are discussing a crisis of confidence in the policing of Northern Ireland, a haemorrhage of police officers on a scale which, if it were to take place, as has been said, in any police force on the mainland, would cause outrage.Are we supposed to shrug and say, "Well, that is the way it is"? We are not even graced this evening by the presence of my noble friend Lord Patten, who could tell us how successful his reforms and proposed reforms have been. It would have been interesting to hear his views on why we have this haemorrhage of police officers.

My noble friend Lord Glentoran was brief but to the point. I have only one disagreement with him, and it is a serious one. He referred to the Government's policy of appeasement. I have never found this Government guilty of appeasement of Sinn Fein/IRA. Collaboration, yes; appeasement, no. Collaboration because their objective is precisely the same as that of Sinn Fein/IRA. It is a united Ireland, under the rule of Dublin, by what is grandly called consent--the consent of a people left without an adequate police force, at the mercy of a terrorist army which has not been required to give up a single weapon, bullet, gun, or one pound of explosive.

We have just endured the interminable communiques and rumours from the discussions between the parties, the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister, which appear to have got nowhere. If they had got anywhere, we might have had a statement to that effect. We are now supposed to go away for two or three months in the expectation that things are going to get better. I doubt that they will.

I should like to hear from the Minister--and I have every sympathy with him, for he is not in the Northern Ireland Office and can only read from the brief that his officials will no doubt hand to him in a few moments--precisely what strength he expects the RUC to reach by the time we return in October. What would he regard as a crisis? Below what level would the Government act? There must be some view on the part of the Government. What does he expect to happen? Does he expect the numbers to begin to rise again, or is he complacent? Not he. But I do not want to put it in those personal terms. Are Her Majesty's Government simply complacent about this fall, or will they do something to arrest it?

It is a scandal, it is a shame, it is to be deplored, that Parliament and the Province of Northern Ireland should be treated in this way. It will not be forgotten, either in Northern Ireland or here. It seems to me quite extraordinary that in recent weeks we have been treated to the trumpeting of Ministers on the success of bringing Mr Milosevic to trial as a terrorist, when they have put terrorists into government in this Kingdom.