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 Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative 11:43 pm, 23rd July 2001

My Lords, we have to support this order because I can quite see that, given the haemorrhage of experienced officers, we shall need recruits. After Omagh, the House was recalled to introduce measures to deal with the terrorists. It has proved impossible to bring them to justice. I presume that the amnesty that is said to be under consideration is intended to solve that little problem.

We now have a potentially serious crisis and this is our only opportunity to discuss it. That is a scandal in itself. Can the noble and learned Lord tell us whether as part of the continuing negotiations there are plans to offer concessions next month to the further demands of Sinn Fein/IRA which could include the admission of former terrorists to serve in the RUC? That will keep many experienced officers in the force! Will there be more retrospective Bloody-Sunday-type inquiries aimed at the RUC or are the amnesties intended to reverse that? Will powers be given to local police authorities to sub-contract?

Is it intended to offer such further concessions even though Sinn Fein and the SDLP have, by refusing to nominate their representatives to the police authority, made it impossible to create the new police force and have left the power with the Secretary of State and the chief constable, making this order necessary?

The Minister will say that he cannot discuss what is being negotiated and it is difficult to argue against that. But I believe that we need to hear from him that the Government will not make such concessions before coming back to Parliament to amend the legislation in due process so that the issues can be debated. We cannot have a situation in which an Act which took months to pass through this House can be lightly amended because it happens to help the negotiators.

The Government must surely recognise that in all the years since the Belfast agreement was signed there has been one-way traffic, concession after concession to the IRA, and nothing in return. How much longer is the farce of the decommissioning commission to continue when it is nothing but a fig-leaf for the IRA? We should face facts and abolish a body whose existence has enabled the IRA to play its own game and to give absolutely nothing. Why do we never debate the reports of that commission? The latest, published on 30th June, admits that the commission has been unable to ascertain how the IRA will put its weapons beyond use--and they have been talking for three years. It never will learn that from the IRA because the IRA will never do so. It has always said it will never do so.

In the light of that undoubted fact, can the Government really contemplate further concessions designed to weaken the already severely depleted forces of law and order and to destroy the RUC at a time of great instability? The IRA, having gained all it can politically, is already returning to what it knows best--violence. The Government should have recognised that long ago and if they had done so they would have been respected by the people of Northern Ireland and by us. Instead, they have persisted in giving more and more and that is nothing less than a betrayal of the unfortunate people of Northern Ireland who trusted them. There was never a better example of the saying that the floor of hell is paved with good intentions.