New clause 1 - Discrimination in appointments

Part of Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 11th March 2003.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 3:15 pm, 11th March 2003

I am a member of the Liberal Democrats, and so I supported Partick Thistle. It is the third way and is rising in splendour and improving every year. However, to be less coded, the hon. Gentleman may be aware that I am an elder in the Church of Scotland.

The approach of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann made me slightly uncomfortable, and my discomfort grew as I listened to the exchange between the hon. Members for Spelthorne and for Glasgow, Cathcart. That was because what is being suggested puts inordinate policy-making power into the hands of the Chief Constable. That makes me uneasy. When we talk about big policy issues, we should remember that the job of the Chief Constable is to implement the policy that politicians give him, not to be its author.

The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell) made several points about the number of competitions there have been since section 46 was introduced. He said that that was unacceptable and shameful, and that is the point to which I return time and time again. There is no getting away from it. The Minister drew our attention to the fact that they are temporary provisions and reminded us that the matter will be visited again in Committee in March of next year. I can hardly wait.

However, Patten envisaged that competitions would last for 10 years. For a young person who wishes to join the police service, 10 years is a generation. People in that generation will feel aggrieved at having being denied the opportunities that they feel they have the merit to meet. That is why the Liberal Democrats feel that the 50:50 approach is wrong. I am mindful that time is marching on, and I do not wish to delay the Committee further in long Divisions. Accordingly, after discussions with the right hon. Member for Upper Bann, I shall withdraw my new clause on the understanding that his will be moved formally and that there will be a Division after all the points have been aired. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.