My Lords, I put my name to Amendment 105, not seeking to undermine Clause 126 in any way. I supported Clause 126 at Second Reading and spoke of the example of a Canadian Governor of the Bank of England. I am certainly not against, in principle, the notion of exceptional overseas candidates leading police forces in the UK. Like my noble friend Lord Blair, I am merely seeking to explore the additional challenges and hurdles of appointing an overseas candidate to one of the posts mentioned in the amendment. In particular, I would like to explore the challenges of appointing an American citizen to the post of commissioner. Without overpersonalising it, I believe we got reasonably close to an attempt to appoint an American the last time there was a vacancy for that post.
An American citizen has an unequivocal duty, first and foremost, to the laws, constitution and interests of the United States of America. Imagine an American appointed to the post of commissioner who finds himself or herself in the Cabinet Office briefing room with the Prime Minister and heads of the security services at a time of national crisis. This country and the United States of America might have subtle, or even significant, policy differences and interests at that time. In the recent past, for example, extraordinary rendition, Irish terrorism and mega-data collection have all led to subtle or significant differences between our country’s policy approach and that of the United States of America, one of our oldest allies. There are additional challenges which are not insurmountable but it is important to place on record that these issues must be taken account of at some stage when the Prime Minister and Home Secretary of the day get close to appointing an overseas candidate.
In addition, the commissioner has a personal role in protecting the monarch andthose in the line of succession, whether they are in this country or anywhere in the world. I had the honour of holding the post of commissioner for seven years and swore an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. There will be times in the future when there may be subtle or significant differences over protection arrangements for our monarch and the line of succession when they find themselves in other parts of the world. Again, these are not insurmountable challenges but they are important considerations to have on record. No other country, as my noble friend Lord Blair has said, has even come close to considering a foreign national in an equivalent security-sensitive senior police post.
I have two questions for the Minister. First, would there be any technical inhibitions around vetting that would prevent an overseas candidate either from carrying out the full range of their duties or from being appointed? If that hurdle is cleared, secondly, can the Minister give us some reassurance that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary of the day will take into account the issues that we have raised today before appointing an overseas candidate?