HC Deb 17 April 1975 vol 890 cc638-40
2. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consideration he has given to the Gardiner Committee's proposal for an independent means of investigating complaints against the police and for the possible extension of such procedures to deal with complaints against the Army.

Mr. Moyle

We intend to introduce in Northern Ireland an independent element into the procedure for dealing with complaints against the police. My right hon. Friend is considering an interim report from the working party set up to consider this. It recommends that any new procedure should follow the adoption of a new procedure in Great Britain.

The question of extending such a procedure to the Army would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Beith

While I welcome the Minister's statement, may I ask whether he accepts that many of us do not share the view that the matter should be delayed until action is taken in the remainder of the United Kingdom, where it is overdue? Does he not agree that it is important, not only for restoring the confidence of some sections of the community in the police but also for avoiding the incident centres being used as complaints machinery, for which they are entirely inappropriate?

Mr. Moyle

The incident centres are not used as complaints machinery against the police. Some people are in favour of proceeding in Northern Ireland ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is anxious to get this matter right. It is a contentious issue. When we have found a solution, it is desirable that it should be applied similarly throughout the United Kingdom. For that reason we are not making an announcement at this stage. I agree that it was the view of the Gardiner Committee that this would improve the acceptability of the police in certain sections of the population in Northern Ireland. We certainly intend to introduce an independent element and to do our utmost to ensure its acceptability.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my hon. Friend consider the recommendation in the Gardiner Report that there should be an end to the quasi-judicial procedure which takes place before custody orders are made, on the basis that this brings legal procedures into contempt? Does he agree that it would be better if these orders were made by executive action only?

Mr. Moyle

All these aspects are being studied, but if my hon. Friend wants a specific answer to those questions, which do not arise from the Question on the Order Paper, perhaps he would like to put down a Question.

Mr. Molyneaux

Will the Minister be assured that in Northern Ireland there will be widespread support for his view that whatever complaints procedure is adopted should be in line with that adopted in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Moyle

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said.