HC Deb 13 January 1977 vol 923 cc1620-1
3. Mr. Dunlop

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the members of the Police Complaints Board for Northern Ireland.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. James A. Dunn)

The Order in Council which will establish the Police Complaints Board is expected to be made shortly. Thereafter, members of the board can be appointed. The names of the members will be made public in due course.

Mr. Dunlop

I am sure that the Minister will concede and agree that the members of the board will all be civilians—people without any experience of police work. I am sure that he will also agree that the terms of the draft order provide that the civilian board will be able to over-rule the Chief Constable, and that the Chief Constable is held in the highest esteem by the Government in Northern Ireland and by the majority of the people. Does the hon. Gentleman not think that a situation in which a civilian board may over-rule the Chief Constable is worthy of being described by what has become a famous phrase over the past year, namely, a thundering disgrace?

Mr. Speaker

That was a thundering long question.

Mr. Dunn

I hope that my reply will give no thunder. I believe that the proposals are in the interests of those who serve in the constabulary. If an independent board is seen to be operating independently, it will be to the advantage of those in the force. It is clear that for some time there have been questions about inquiries or investigations undertaken by the police into accusations of maladministration or malpractice. I believe that in that respect the complete independence of all members of the board will be helpful. I must correct one wrong impression. The board will be able, in limited circumstances, to direct that an inquiry be held, or that further consideration be given to any complaint that is made to it, but it will not be able to over-rule the Chief Constable in any other sector of his operations. "Over-rule" is a strong word.

Rev. Ian Paisley

What consultations will the hon. Gentleman have, and whom will he consult before he appoints the members of the board?

Mr. Dunn

Account will be taken of a number of representations that have already been made to us as to who shall comprise the board. We shall be only too willing to listen to further representations. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the invitation and make known his views, which will be taken into account.