Part of Northern Ireland Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:17 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Lord Bew Lord Bew Crossbench 5:17 pm, 11th March 2009

I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Kingsland. We have made great progress with the Bill since the first elusive reference to it in the Queen's Speech, but this is a most essential matter. In our debates this afternoon, noble Lords have disagreed on the possible pressures that a Minister of Justice, an Attorney-General or the DPP might come under with the new arrangements. There is genuine room for disagreement and uncertainty about the political context in which those officers might operate. However, there can be no doubt at all, in the light of the past few days, that the operational integrity of the chief constable could come under challenge. We saw a bitter debate, before the tragic murders of the past few days in Northern Ireland, when the chief constable made his decision to call in Special Forces, and it is to be remembered that the anger expressed over that came from one of the key parties to the agreement we are moving to implement today. It is therefore vital that we do what we can to underline the operational integrity of the chief constable. In this case, it is not a matter of speculation or debate. This is a fraught political position and everything we can do or say, every signal that the Government can send—I am sure the Government fully accept the validity of the point that the chief constable should have operational freedom of manoeuvre—is vital.