HC Deb 06 April 2000 vol 347 cc1210-53
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

I should inform the House that Madam Speaker has accepted the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

Before I call the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), I should make a short statement. Madam Speaker has had to impose a 10-minute rule on Back-Bench speeches between the conclusion of the opening speech and the beginning of the speech of the hon. Member who winds up on behalf of the Ulster Unionist party.

4.2 pm

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

I beg to move, That this House welcomes the well-deserved award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary; condemns the Government's decision to remove its Royal title; and calls for the postponement of the implementation of other controversial recommendations in the Patten Commission Report on Policing in Northern Ireland until the 'new dispensation' on which it was predicated has truly arrived. Before I turn to the substance of the debate, may I express my condolences and those of my colleagues to the families of the two Royal Engineers who died in an accident at Lough Foyle. We do not know the details of how the tragedy occurred, but we extend our sympathies to the families.

On the Patten report and the position and title of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it is ironic that the Government amendment almost quotes from the terms of reference given to the Patten commission under the Belfast agreement. The first sentence of the terms set out in the agreement requires the Patten commission to bring forward proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including means of encouraging widespread community support for those arrangements. We would agree with those objectives, but the flawed and shoddy Patten report fails to meet those terms of reference.

Instead of producing proposals that would encourage widespread support for the police, the report will discourage such support. It has already discouraged support by its total lack of recognition of the service and sacrifice of police officers. On 29 October 1999, in a thoughtful interview in the Belfast News Letter, Monsignor Denis Faul commented on that point, saying: An opportunity for unity was lost this year in the failure to honour and respect the 302 RUC men and women who were murdered and almost 9,000 who were severely injured defending the Catholic and Protestant parts of the community. Even the Patten Report itself inexplicably failed to pay a sufficient decent and detailed tribute to the 302 dead and the thousands wounded. The report has also discouraged support for policing by ordering a change of the title of the Royal Ulster Constabulary without presenting any rational argument for that or a shred of evidence in support of the change. By contrast, the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs commented in a 1998 report that: Until there is a change in the status of Northern Ireland, inevitably many of the symbols of government will be British. There is no clear reason to make a special case for the RUC by changing its name without changing the name of other organisations which are also either "Royal" or "British". The official symbols associated with the force are not central to the status of the RUC in the eyes of the community. They attract the loyalty of many in Northern Ireland. There is no good reason to change them. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee took that view just two years ago, and the Government should hold it today.

In 1995, in a community attitude survey for the Police Authority for Northern Ireland, Catholic respondents divided equally on the question of a name change. The name was not seen as a major reason for low Catholic recruitment. We all know that there are different reasons for that. After the Patten report, the authority commissioned a new survey to see whether that position had changed. It had not. Fewer than half—45 per cent.—of Catholic respondents thought that the Catholic community would give more support to a renamed police force. A similar number—41 per cent.—thought that a name change would make no difference at all to Catholics.

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that if a mere change of name would increase support by 45 per cent. of the Catholic community, it would be worth doing?

Mr. Trimble

I was making the point that there was a near equal division within the Catholic community on the significance of a name change, even after the Patten report. I shall come later to Catholic support for the RUC, and the hon. Gentleman may be interested by the figures that I shall give.

The Police Authority survey also found that a significant proportion thought a name change would decrease Protestant support for the police. My conclusion is that the change would bring little gain, and appreciable loss.

The Patten report has further discouraged widespread support through its proposed changes to the badge of the RUC. Again, it offers no evidence or argument for discarding symbols that are in fact inclusive. There are three symbols—the Crown, the shamrock and the harp of Brian Born. A member of the Government—whom I shall not name—told me that he had seen the RUC badge only comparatively recently, and that he thought that anyone who set out to design a badge of an inclusive nature for the police force of Northern Ireland would find the existing badge ideal. 1 agree entirely with the good sense of that member of the Government, but I would never dream of outing him.

Patten discourages support for the new arrangements by its ban on the Union flag. Once again, it disregards the report of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which said, in 1998: As Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, the Union Flag is the appropriate flag to be flown over police stations. Patten also discourages support by its insensitivity towards RUC widows and disabled police officers. The report contains just a score of lines about widows and disabled police officers. It recommends that additional resources be made available to help those people, which is welcome, but the scant recognition for them, added to the grievous insult of removal of the force's royal title and symbols, has added to their pain.

Patten also discourages support for the new arrangements by proposing that there should be discrimination against Protestants in the recruitment of regular and part-time police officers. That is a clear departure from the Belfast agreement, in which the Government undertook as a particular priority to create a statutory obligation on various public authorities to promote equality of opportunity in relation to religion and political opinion. That obligation was carried into law by the section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, but, within two years, Parliament is being asked to derogate from that priority by enabling what is called 50:50 recruitment of regular officers and a targeted recruitment of 1,000 new reservists only from Catholic nationalist areas, however those may be defined. In the report, Patten claimed that he would put human rights at the core of policing. Those measures make a mockery of that claim. In all the ways that I have mentioned, Patten fails to fulfil its terms of reference.

In a press release in September last year Mr. Patten, in presenting the report, said that one of the key objectives of the report was to: take politics out of policing. That is a nice little soundbite, but it does not stand up in the light of the report. Many people in Northern Ireland find it ironic that someone who says that he is taking politics out of policing proposes a police force that is to be dominated by politicians and district policing partnerships, again dominated by politicians—and constructed, particularly with the gerrymandering of Belfast, in such a way as to enable certain paramilitary-related politicians to exercise undue influence over policing. That is not taking politics out of policing. Not that I think that that objective is correct: in the right way, politics should be involved in policing; it is proper for elected politicians to be involved in police policy and the accountability of police officers.

Patten is trying to do something quite separate and he has got himself confused. He is trying to take the constitutional issue out of policing, as if it was still a live issue. He is trying to deal with the situation as if the state and institutions of Northern Ireland should be neutral as between the two competing national identities. The agreement itself would take the constitutional issue out of Northern Ireland politics and institutions if parties would accept and implement the agreement in its entirety. The commission failed to observe key constitutional aspects of the agreement.

On constitutional matters, the agreement went beyond a mere acceptance of the consent principle. The relevant section of the agreement is paragraph 1, which states that the parties recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status. The key word there is "legitimacy". The same paragraph states that the parties acknowledge that that choice freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union. Again, the emphasis is on legitimacy. The parties are recognising the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom. Put simply, all the parties to the agreement, whether or not they will acknowledge it, are accepting British sovereignty in Northern Ireland. There cannot then be any objection to the normal and reasonable expression of that sovereignty.

The Belfast agreement did not create a neutral state or envisage only neutral symbols. There is only one sovereignty in Northern Ireland and there should be no unreasonable restriction on the exercise and display of that sovereignty. The agreement acknowledges that there should be sensitivity in the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, but there would be no need to acknowledge the need for sensitivity if we were dealing with a state that was neutral.

Patten seems to have assumed that there should be such neutrality. In doing so he was following an out-of-date agenda associated with one interpretation of the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985 with its overtones of joint sovereignty. But the Anglo-Irish agreement has been replaced by the Belfast agreement with its clear line on sovereignty. I am sorry to see that some people still seem to operate within the pre-Belfast agreement mentality. I was particularly disappointed in an article by Sean Farren, a leading member of the SDLP, which seemed to indicate that that party has not yet fully absorbed the implication of the Belfast agreement provisions on sovereignty.

On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has somewhat greater awareness of this. I noticed in a speech that he made last week a reference to a need for a reasonable balance and: a sensitive use of symbols, so that more than lip service is paid to the principle of consent. Patten did not even pay lip service to that principle. Clearly, I agree with the Secretary of State that we need more than lip service to be paid.

There is also a striking contrast with the recently published report of the review of criminal justice in Northern Ireland. Its recommendations with regard to the courts are in complete contrast to Patten's recommendations on the police. The review suggests that the title should remain the royal courts of justice, that the badge which is the royal coat of arms should be retained and that the Union flag should continue to be flown.

The police and the courts are part of the same system. It would be wrong to have such a completely different approach to symbols within the same system. There should be consistency and it is clear what that consistency should be. The Government have not yet responded to that review. I hope that they are not so determined to defend Patten's mistakes that they extend his mistaken approach to the courts system itself.

One of the interesting aspects of the review is its survey into community attitudes. The opening part of the review makes a brief reference to symbols, merely saying that the Crown symbols "did not feature prominently". The review reports that the courts achieved high confidence ratings from the public: 70 per cent. of those surveyed had confidence in the fairness of the system. Ratings for component parts of the system in some cases were higher: 77 per cent. had confidence in the judges, 75 per cent. in juries, 74 per cent. in the police and 72 per cent. in lawyers—a finding that will come as a considerable surprise and as a great relief to many hon. Members. In each case when those overall figures are analysed in terms of religion, there is a spread between Catholics and Protestants of about 10 to 15 per cent, with Protestants having higher confidence levels.

The breakdown for confidence in the police is interesting: 85 per cent. of Protestants have confidence, whereas with Catholics the figure is 59 per cent. Patten's equivalent references to surveys of popular opinion are slightly different. The approval rating for the police is 81 per cent. for Protestants and 43 per cent. for Catholics. The surveys took place only one year apart. The contrast between the 59 and 43 per cent. ratings for Catholic approval of policing—the 59 per cent. showing in the later of the two surveys—should be followed up.

Interestingly, there is published in the Belfast Telegraph tonight an opinion survey in which 61 per cent. of Catholics indicate that they have confidence in the police. The suggestion that the Catholic community has a serious problem with the police needs to be looked at more closely. Yes, tonight's opinion poll indicates that 31 per cent. of Catholics say that they have no confidence in the police, and that figure is higher than one would want, like or expect in a normal society, but it is not so high as to justify provisions such as those in Patten.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead)

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that Patten distinguishes clearly between those who have a generalised confidence in the police and those who have specific local confidence? Patten says that Catholics often have greater confidence in their local police than they do in the police taken as a whole. Patten has identified the components that the right hon. Gentleman is describing.

Mr. Trimble

The hon. Gentleman anticipates precisely my next sentence. One must draw a distinction between the generalised opinion given and opinions given on the basis of knowledge of people in the locality and direct personal experience with them, and compare like with like. The figures that I gave were comparing like with like. As the hon. Gentleman said, Patten reported that when people were asked about their local police, the police were given a higher approval rating. There is an even higher approval rating from Catholics who had direct personal contact with the police—69 per cent.—although the approval rating from Protestants was a little lower at 77 per cent. Perhaps people were moving away from making a generalised political statement to one based on experience, and what matters is experience.

It is also worth noting that the reporting of crimes in Catholic areas is at the same level as in Protestant areas. In terms of what people do as opposed to what they say, in an abstract way there is a clear message coming across that there is a high level of confidence. Anyone taking a sensible approach to these matters should have focused on that.

The conclusion to be drawn is that although there are problems, they are exaggerated and exacerbated by the political attitudes that are struck by some. The politics that needs to be taken out of policing is the politics of agitation and hostile propagandising against the police. I fear that far too many nationalist politicians have engaged in that. If nationalist politicians adopted a more responsible attitude, that would achieve much more than everything in Patten. Without such a responsible attitude, Patten is a waste of time which has caused needless hurt to many and serious harm to policing.

I shall not go into detail on the proposed changes to the structure and size of the police, because I consider such discussion to be premature. However, the Secretary of State knows of our concerns about downsizing, the full-time reserve, the command structure, recruitment, special branch and local control of policing. On the latter point, I am dismayed at the ideas in the criminal justice review about so-called restorative justice and the so-called community, safety and policing partnership. Both will offer too many opportunities for paramilitaries to supplant the police and legal systems. No responsible person should countenance such dangerous suggestions.

There is a simple reason for my belief that discussion of structural matters is premature. The provisions on policing in the agreement were predicated on change. The relevant section begins by stating that the participants believe that the Agreement provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing. That phrase occurs in the Government's amendment. The participants to the agreement note that it offers a unique opportunity to bring about a new dispensation. The policing provisions in the report are predicated on that new dispensation. But has it arrived? At present, the answer is simply and clearly no. Should the changes be rushed through in advance of that new dispensation? Again, the answer is obviously no, especially as, because of the refusal of all the paramilitaries—particularly the republican movement—to respond even after everything that has been done for them, there is little confidence in the community that the new beginning, or the new dispensation, will ever happen.

Much of Patten is not controversial. The uncontroversial aspects are largely drawn from the RUC's fundamental review of policing, started in 1994. It contemplated three security situations. In the first, there was a high level of terrorist activity, with bombings, shootings, intimidation and public disorder. The review stated that the response to that should be a high level of policing, supported by the Army.

The second scenario was one of intimidation, so-called punishment beatings and racketeering, with terrorist organisations remaining fully armed. In that case, the fundamental review envisaged a high level of policing, but with the Army withdrawn.

In the third scenario, terrorist organisations were dismantled and community relations had improved. In that case, a different form of high-quality, effective policing was needed. Only in that scenario would the fundamental review have introduced significant downsizing and a change in policing strategies.

With the ceasefires and the agreement, we moved from scenario one to scenario two. With the refusal of the paramilitaries to disarm and disband, we have obviously not moved to the third scenario. If anything, with the increased activity of dissident republicans, we are in danger of slipping backwards.

It is wrong to press on with security-sensitive changes. In his January statement, the Secretary of State referred to the fact that changes would be made in some cases only when the security situation permitted. We must ask him to hold back those changes and, indeed, the controversial aspects of Patten, until after the disarmament and disbandment of terrorist organisations that was envisaged by the agreement and on which the fundamental review was predicated.

There is an easy solution for the symbolic issues that have exercised us so much this evening. We should follow one of the general thrusts of the agreement, on which both Patten and the criminal justice review concur. We should devolve responsibility for the police and the courts to the Northern Ireland Assembly and let them settle it: who better to decide those matters than the people who will be affected by them.

4.24 pm
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Mandelson)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: 'welcomes the well-deserved award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary; notes that the award was made by Her Majesty in recognition of the service and sacrifices of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which must never be forgotten; reiterates its commitment to maintaining an effective police service in Northern Ireland capable of protecting the public and maintaining law and order; and reaffirms the objective in the Good Friday Agreement of creating a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole.'. I shall come to the name of the RUC and symbolic matters later in my remarks. In the meantime, I echo the comments of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) on devolution. I look forward to the time when responsibility for policing and criminal justice matters is properly devolved, as we envisaged under the legislation. That will, of course, mean an early reactivation of the Executive and the institutions in Northern Ireland. I look forward to agreement being reached on that as quickly as possible.

I welcome this opportunity to debate reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as a whole—not simply of its name and its symbols, although I readily acknowledge their importance. The debate is not between those who are pro or anti the police, or between those who are for or against the RUC. All of us are for the most effective and representative police service that can be created in Northern Ireland.

During 30 years of conflict, the RUC has been both the bulwark against and one of the principal victims of a sustained and brutal terrorist campaign. That position has led—unfairly—to its being identified more with one side of the community than the other. That, of course, is exaggerated by some for political reasons—I readily acknowledge that—but it does not remove the essential truth that the RUC tends to be associated more with one side of the community.

Policing in Northern Ireland arouses great passions. I have heard—often at first hand—the resentment that some of the proposed changes to the RUC have sparked. I understand the pain that proposed changes to the name and symbols have caused—especially among the families, friends and colleagues of murdered RUC officers. The name, rightly, is a source of great pride to the RUC family. I respect that.

We all owe the RUC a deep debt of gratitude. We shall never forget the 302 officers who were killed and the thousands more who were injured. Like the right hon. Member for Upper Bann, I whole-heartedly support the award of the George Cross by Her Majesty to the RUC. It is a richly deserved recognition of the courage and dedication of the RUC; I include regulars, reserves, full-time, part-time and, indeed, support staff. It is a fitting memorial to those who gave their lives.

In January, when I announced my decisions on reform of the RUC, I was mindful of that history and of the concerns that change provoked. Then, as today, I was clear on one point: the reforms are—emphatically—not an attack on the RUC. They are not about disbanding the RUC. Those who advocated that course lost the argument. The proposed changes do not result from the RUC's failure—quite the opposite.

The RUC has provided a first-class service to the people of Northern Ireland and it continues to do so. That has not changed. However, the world, and Northern Ireland, are changing dramatically, and for the better. We must prepare and equip the RUC to embrace that change for the future.

An opportunity has been offered to create an outstanding modern police service—to allow the police to develop in a way they themselves have wanted to do for years. They will be able to make the transition from an anti-terrorist security force—as they inevitably had to be—to a community-focused and community-based police service working in partnership with the whole community. The new peace in Northern Ireland gives us the opportunity to allow the RUC to do what they wanted and still want to do—I stress that point.

Indeed, many of the central planks of the Patten report—for example, on the size and structure of the police service, on police training, on civilianisation, on community partnership policing, on normalisation of policing, including the amalgamation of special branch and crime branch, the phasing out of the RUC reserve and other proposals that Patten has made—flow directly from the Chief Constable's own fundamental review conducted three years ago. As Les Rodgers, the chairman of the Police Federation, pointed out, Patten was the adoption in the main of the Fundamental Review. Even so, when I was appointed to this job a month after Patten delivered his report, I decided to re-examine all the commission's recommendations and to reassess them on their merits. I subjected each to the same test: did it contribute to our aim of securing a modern, effective police service for Northern Ireland capable of attracting widespread community support? In a number of cases, I found it necessary to modify or alter the way in which a recommendation was to be implemented.

I have decided, for example, that the new police oath should not be taken by serving officers, who have already been attested as constables. That would suggest that, in some sense, the RUC, was being disbanded. It is not; that view has been rejected. I also decided that the district policing partnerships should initially be purely consultative bodies and that there should be safeguards to exclude anyone convicted at any time of a terrorist offence from being appointed as an independent member of a district policing partnership. In other matters too, I have gone to every length to ensure the operational independence of the Chief Constable and his officers from political interference.

I am determined to advance these and other changes in a sensitive and balanced way. However, we cannot allow emotions to blind us to the pressing need for change—change that the RUC itself has already acknowledged is necessary and desirable.

The hard reality of policing in Northern Ireland and the reason policing was remitted to the Patten commission in the first place is this: although 80 per cent. of Protestants are content with policing, fewer than 50 per cent. of Catholics are satisfied, as reported by Patten; the annual community attitudes survey—leave aside what the Patten commission established—shows that although 70 per cent. of Protestants think that police treat the two communities equally, only 30 per cent. of Catholics agree. I am not endorsing that statement; I am not saying that it is true. However, we cannot dispute the perception that exists among the Catholic population.

In the same survey, three quarters of Catholics and 60 per cent. of Protestants hold the view that there are too few Catholics in the police service. The reason for that is that 88 per cent. of the police are from the Protestant side of the community. That is in spite of the great efforts made by the Chief Constable and by the police authority to achieve a more balanced service.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

The Secretary of State must keep in mind the fact that, when Roman Catholics join the police, they often lose their right to go home. Many Roman Catholics in my constituency are members of the police, and they cannot go to their own homes; their homes are under threat. Sometimes their parents have to meet them outside Northern Ireland. Surely that is why we do not have the input into the present RUC that we did in the old days when about a third of the force were Roman Catholics.

Mr. Mandelson

I entirely accept what the hon. Gentleman says. 1 know that IRA intimidation—in the past, including murder—has been a significant factor in preventing Catholics from joining the RUC. Such intimidation is absolutely disgraceful, and it must stop.

I say to the hon. Gentleman, however, that intimidation is not the only factor. Peer pressure, lack of community support, lack of identification with the RUC, fear of loss of family contact and an expectation among Catholics of having to submerge their nationalist identity should they go into the RUC—I am not suggesting that they will; that is the fear and apprehension among Catholics—are factors and they have all played a part. It is those factors that we are addressing and trying to remedy in the changes that we advocate today.

Northern Ireland is a divided society and the issue of policing throws those divides into sharp relief. To be fully effective a police force must be representative of the community that it serves and it must also command widespread support across that community. That is why I was persuaded that serious and radical changes were needed to redress the extreme religious imbalance in the composition of the RUC. That included changing the name.

Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, between 1918 and 1921, the Royal Irish Constabulary comprised 70 per cent. Catholic constables? However, exactly the same process of demonisation, propaganda and murder—more than 400 officers were murdered—did not solve the problem. Does he not accept that the change of name, or even an increase in Catholic representation in the ranks of the RUC or the new police force, will not solve the problem?

Mr. Mandelson

I believe that the changes taken in the round will address the problem and, over time, they will bring about the change in perceptions and attitudes among Catholics and nationalists which is necessary if we are to promote and secure the applications, the recruitment and the different composition of the RUC that everyone agrees is necessary. Nobody disputes the need for that. Where there are divided opinions is over the type of measures—the form the measures will take—and how quickly they should be applied to redress the religious imbalance that exists.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

As the Secretary of State rightly said, the whole House would wish to see a police service in Northern Ireland that commanded the widest possible cross-community support. In his recommendations on the Patten report, he has put forward some pretty fundamental changes that will obviously cause concern. What confidence does he have that the leaders of the nationalists—and republican elements as well—will be prepared to endorse and support people joining a new police force under the structure that he has proposed?

Mr. Mandelson

I believe that my confidence matches my hopefulness that that endorsement and those calls will come from leaders of the nationalist community. I have been encouraged by what leaders of the nationalist community have said and, if one takes what they have said at face value, I believe that, if we faithfully implement what we have said we will do, that support and encouragement will be forthcoming. I certainly hope that it will be.

Mr. John Hume (Foyle)

In reply to the point made by the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King),there is no doubt that we want a police service that has the loyalty of the entire community and membership from all sections of our community. As I have often said, the basis of law and order in our society is fundamentally agreement on how it is governed; where that is absent, the police, no matter who they are, will be seen as being on one side or the other. They are therefore victims of politicians' failure to reach the agreement that we have now reached, including the implementation of the Pattern report, will provide the basis for a police service that has the membership of all—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am reluctant to stop the hon. Gentleman, but this is an intervention, not a speech.

Mr. Mandelson

It was a very welcome intervention, and an important one because the hon. Gentleman has remarked that if, in implementing the Good Friday agreement, we implement what the Patten commission has recommended, the police service will, in his opinion, command the loyalty of all sections of the community. That is a welcome and important statement, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

May not the House be missing the point when we say that of course we look for support for the changes from nationalist and republican groups in Northern Ireland? Nationalist and republican positions are totally legitimate, but is not the real problem that a very small minority have guns, and they have an influence out of all proportion to their number? The changes might well have the overwhelming support of nationalist and republican opinion in Northern Ireland, but the crucial group with whom we have to deal are those with guns who terrorise.

Mr. Mandelson

My right hon. Friend makes a reasonable point, but it is no more necessary or desirable to have our views about policing and the proposed changes dictated to us by those who hold guns than it is to have the future of our devolved and political institutions, and their establishment in Northern Ireland, dictated to us by those who hold guns. I do not want any blackmail on any decision or policy to be perpetrated by people who insist on carrying arms as members of paramilitary organisations.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe)


Mr. Mandelson

I am afraid that I must press on, but I shall be glad to give way later in my remarks.

Mr. Howard

My intervention is on this point.

Mr. Mandelson

I defer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Howard

The right hon. Gentleman is generous in giving way and I am grateful. On the point about the name, is he aware that the police force that is singled out for most praise in the Patten report, and which operates in not entirely dissimilar circumstances to the RUC, is the Royal Canadian mounted police? Is he aware that the Canadian high commission has confirmed that there are no plans to change the name of the Royal Canadian mounted police?

Mr. Mandelson

With respect, the right hon. Gentleman is rather dramatically missing the point. If the Royal Canadian mounted police were operating in a society as divided as that in Northern Ireland and the policing itself were as controversial and evoked such passion and anger as the policing in Northern Ireland, they would be addressing the nature, the form and even the name of the force, just as we are doing with the RUC.

That brings me to the issue of the name. The Patten report concluded that the name of the RUC…had become politicised—one side of the community effectively claiming ownership of the name and that the use of those words…must inevitably go some way in inhibiting wholehearted participation in policing. To be absolutely frank, my starting point was to challenge that view. I recognised the pain that changing the name would cause and questioned whether it was really necessary and indispensable in attracting a balance in recruits. After a lot of thought and genuine consideration, I concluded that it was necessary.

I concluded, however, that small but significant changes to Patten's recommendations were called for. For example, the new name—Police Service of Northern Ireland—has been modified and will be adopted only when the first new recruits enter through the new recruitment procedures in autumn 2001. Nothing that we are doing is overhasty or accelerated. Logically, the new badge of the police service will be introduced at the same time, but I have not decided what the badge should be, and I am not convinced that it need be entirely free of association with both traditions.

I have listened carefully to the arguments made by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann. I acknowledge that many Unionists and many in the police family vigorously oppose the change and I have experienced at first hand their continuing opposition. Equally, however, it is very clear to me from all that I have heard from nationalist political, church and community leaders that, in their opinion, a change in the name is essential if the changes to the police are to succeed in changing not only people's perceptions of the police, but their attitudes to volunteering and recruitment to the police service in the future.

That view is not confined to nationalists. Editorials in the Belfast Telegraph on 19 and 20 January at the time of the announcement of the Government's decision recognised that while the sacrifices of the RUC should be remembered in a new policing era, sadly, there would have been little chance of progress towards a broadly acceptable force without some change in the name and symbols, which were a legacy of the past. The Belfast Telegraph got it right.

The Belfast Newsletter said that Unionists would do well to take their cue from the police who would take all the changes in its professional stride. I want to make it absolutely clear: changing the name has nothing to do with the issue of sovereignty or Northern Ireland's constitutional status. Northern Ireland will remain a part of the United Kingdom for so long as that is the wish of a majority of its people. No matter how much smoke some people create, the name change is about effective and representative policing—nothing more and nothing else.

Some have accepted, reluctantly, that the change of name is necessary and have expressed the hope—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name them."]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate has been conducted properly until now, and there is no point in hon. Members making seated interventions.

Mr. Mandelson

Some have accepted the necessity of the change, including some in the Unionist community and, indeed, some in the party of those hon. Gentlemen who are calling out to me. I know that because I have met members of the party who reluctantly accept that the change is necessary. They have also expressed the hope that it will be possible to find a way of commemorating the title and the service of the RUC in some form, not least in honour of those who have lost their lives. I strongly share that view, and I can announce that I have set work in train to identify appropriate ways of honouring the name of the RUC in perpetuity by associating it with suitable and agreed initiatives.

Ultimately, what the police do, how representative they are, and how they are trained and equipped matter more than what they are called. The Government are determined to ensure that the police have the necessary resources and capabilities to protect the community and uphold law and order.

We must tackle the live, day-to-day issues: the all-too-frequent paramilitary attacks that inflict terrible suffering and mock the principles of fairness and justice; the arson attacks; and all the other crimes of violence that wreck lives, wreck homes and deny whole communities their basic right to live free of fear.

There are parts of Northern Ireland in which paramilitaries think not just that they are above the law but that they are the law. The paramilitaries' grip on such communities needs to be tackled and broken, but to achieve that, the police service must have the confidence of law-abiding people in such communities. The police service needs to be more representative of them if confidence is to be built up, if the police service is to command the confidence that it needs in all parts of the community, and if it is to do its job effectively and successfully and take on and defeat the paramilitaries' grip. That is our objective.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The Secretary of State slips his tongue across descriptions of certain parts of the community in Northern Ireland. He describes them at one moment as nationalists, at another as republican and at another as Catholics. I am not sure that those descriptions necessarily all represent the same interest or objectives. Is it one of the right hon. Gentleman's intentions to have sections of the police force who wish to bring Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom? Is that in his mind?

Mr. Mandelson

I do not know quite what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He seems to be asking whether there will be a separately constituted section of the new police service of those who are dedicated to persuading their fellow citizens to leave the United Kingdom. I must say that that would be an odd way of constituting a police service. All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that the Chief Constable is responsible for the recruitment of members of the police service and were he to make such a proposal to me, not only would I be extremely surprised but I would have no reluctance in questioning and rejecting the proposal.

The motion also calls for the implementation of controversial recommendations to await a new dispensation. I want to take up what the right hon. Member for Upper Bann has said about that, because he made some important points and I take them seriously. I ask the House to think for a moment about the right hon. Gentleman's argument and what he has said. The British and Irish Governments, and all the Northern Ireland political parties, have to play a part in creating a new social and political climate in Northern Ireland. Reform of the RUC is not a consequence or a by-product of the climate that we want to create in Northern Ireland. Reforming the police is crucial to creating that climate and building up the new dispensation that the Good Friday agreement foreshadowed and which all of us who support the agreement want to usher into Northern Ireland as a new era of inclusive government and unbreakable peace. I say to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann that I believe that reform of the police has an important contribution to make towards creating that climate and ushering in that era, which all of us want to see in Northern Ireland.

None the less, I can reassure the House that there will be no question of rushing forward with change in the absence of a stable security environment. From recent events, including the explosion today, it is clear that we still have some way to go before we have created that entirely stable security environment.

A number of recommendations depend absolutely on the Chief Constable's assessment of the level of threat—recommendations such as phasing out the full-time reserve; amalgamation of special branch and CID; progress towards an unarmed police service; and changes to police buildings and vehicles.

Those changes will be carried forward only on the Chief Constable's advice, and on the basis of his assessment of the security threat in Northern Ireland. That is what Patten said, what I have accepted, and what the Government's policy is—taking account of the security situation and, against that background, the capability of the police as an organisation to absorb the huge changes that are set out.

Some changes can occur quickly. The Chief Constable has begun the process, and we will see the start of down-sizing and the creation of new district command units this November. That is his choice and his decision. Other changes will take longer. For example, Patten envisages the composition of the service changing over a period of 10 years.

In conclusion, I want to say this about the RUC: in its planning and preparation for change, the RUC has shown the same sort of typical professionalism as it has shown throughout 30 years of dealing with terrorism. I have met those responsible in the RUC—the change management team and the assistant Chief Constable, who has an excellent team. I am thoroughly impressed by the conscientiousness of those responsible and by their dedication to the task of bringing about the change, some aspects of which they may not like, but all of which, as professionals, they will embrace, if that is the will of Parliament once the legislation is enacted. They deserve our gratitude and our unfailing support. They certainly have mine.

I want also to pay tribute to the role of the Army in supporting the police in the fight against terrorism. The Army, too, has shown enormous courage in helping the police to uphold law and order and in protecting all sides of the community in Northern Ireland from violence. It, too, has paid a very heavy price, with the loss of 655 soldiers since 1969. In that context, let me join the right hon. Member for Upper Bann in expressing my sympathy to the families and colleagues of the soldiers lost in the tragic accident on the River Foyle last night.

Those who care about the police must resist all temptation to project self-interested political arguments on to the RUC. [Interruption]

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Mandelson

Whether in support or condemnation, that does the police absolutely no service and it makes their job harder, as the chairman of the Police Federation in Northern Ireland reiterated this morning, when he asked for politicians and the political parties in Northern Ireland to debate all the changes, but not to seek to link those changes and the future of the police in Northern Ireland to the interests of one section or one political party alone in Northern Ireland.

Therefore to Unionists I say: "You are not being asked to relinquish your pride in or your sense of community with the RUC. You are being asked to share it with others in the whole community in Northern Ireland."

To nationalists, I say: "You must meet Unionists halfway. We can create a service of which nationalists can feel a proper sense of ownership, but it is up to you to embrace it and to join the new police service when it is created."

Our success in achieving a new balance and a new composition will be the litmus test of the reforms. This is an ambitious programme of change. The RUC has risen positively to the challenge, and we must follow the example that it has set in Northern Ireland. We have a framework and the commitment to create a modern, effective police service, drawing support from and putting down roots in all parts of the community. That is the prize. Now we must grasp it.

5.1 pm

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

The House is grateful to the Ulster Unionist party which, by using its precious single Supply day to propose a motion on policing in Northern Ireland, has given us an opportunity to comment on what should be contained in the legislation that the Secretary of State will introduce shortly.

I want again to underline the Conservative Opposition's respect for the Royal Ulster Constabulary. During the past 30 years, the RUC has constituted the thin green line in the Province between the rule of law and anarchy. We owe the RUC a huge debt of gratitude on the mainland, in the Province and in the Republic.

Members of the RUC have paid the most horrendous price: 302 officers have been murdered, more than 10,000 have been cruelly maimed or wounded while trying to protect innocent life. In the international context, the police force in Northern Ireland is regarded throughout the world as the best counter-terrorism force ever. Those who recently visited the Balkans, especially Kosovo, know of the excellent work that RUC officers are carrying out there under equally difficult circumstances.

The whole House was therefore delighted when Her Majesty chose to recognise the RUC by awarding it the George Cross. Never has an award been more deserved. Conservative Members fully understand why the Secretary of State will not be with us for Question Time next Wednesday. He will rightly be with Her Majesty in the Province for the exciting occasion of the awarding of the George Cross. We are delighted that that will happen.

I shall repeat the comments that I made when the Patten proposals were published in September. We believe that they offer an interesting and helpful basis for policing in the Province when there is no longer a terrorist threat. However, the terrorist threat remains. In the past 24 hours, a serious explosion has occurred at the Eglinton barracks. A couple of weeks ago, a car was intercepted on the road between Hillsborough and Lisburn, and 500 lb of home-made explosives were found. In the run-up to St. Patrick's day, those explosives would have been used in a dangerous and evil way. 1 hope that no hon. Member believes that there is no continuing terrorist threat from republican and so-called loyalist paramilitaries. Hopefully, it comes only from splinter groups.

We believe that it would be decidedly premature to introduce some of Patten's security-sensitive recommendations. There are 175 recommendations in all, the great majority of which are straightforward, sensible and necessary. Many were mirrored in the Chief Constable's earlier review and we believe that they should be implemented forthwith. We can get those out of the way immediately.

We have reservations about the proposed name change. Worse than that, I do not believe that we can support the Government when the legislation comes before the House. We see no need to change the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. As the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) were good enough to point out, this is an extremely sensitive issue, particularly for those who have lost loved ones serving in that force. Therefore, any change of name must not be taken lightly by the House.

The biggest reason that we are given for a name change is that that change would increase confidence in the nationalist-republican community. I rebut that by quoting the Police Authority survey, which was concluded only in October last year—no more than six months ago. It says that a name change will cause major offence in the Protestant community but will not lead to significant improvements in support for the Police among Catholics. I endorse that. In other words, a recommendation to scrap the name of the RUC would create considerable grief and pain in one community without achieving much consequent gain in the other. That has been further endorsed today by the survey in the Belfast Telegraph, which shows that 61 per cent. of the Catholic community not only have confidence in the police, but do not believe that there is any need to change the name. I hope that, at this late hour, the Secretary of State will think again. To give him advance notice, I must tell him that, if he does not, we shall seek to remove that provision from the legislation and will press the matter to a Division, both here and in the other place, until we can persuade him to do so.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

One of the specious arguments in favour of changing the name is that people speak of the RUC as "our police force". Perhaps those who use that argument have forgotten that that is an Ulster form of expression. We speak about "our Government" in this place, although no one from either the Labour or the Conservative side stands for election there. Surely that expression acknowledges that the RUC is part of our society and that we are part of it.

Mr. MacKay

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not asking me to refer to them as "our Government". On a more serious note, he and I agree, as does the Secretary of State, that the police force in Northern Ireland—the Royal Ulster Constabulary—is for everybody in Northern Ireland, with the possible exception of the men of violence in both communities who want to break up the process and are rightly scared of the RUC because of the success that it has had.

I want to discuss the security-sensitive measures. I listened very carefully to the Secretary of State. He rightly identified most of them, but 1 put it to him that they should not be incorporated in the legislation at this stage. Only when he, the Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland, believe that there is no longer a terrorist threat—in other words, when Belfast is the same as Bracknell—should they be considered by the House for implementation.

Mr. Mandelson

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should introduce two Bills? Is he suggesting that we should introduce a Bill to pave the way for half the changes, and a subsequent Bill that would be necessary for us to provide for the restructuring of the force and other matters—for instance, those relating to the Special Branch? Is he saying that none of those matters should be dealt with until the security situation changes, at which point we would introduce a further Bill? Is he really suggesting that?

Mr. MacKay

I am delighted that I have made myself so clear. I believe that, in the legislation that the Secretary of State will present to the House, we should implement only the Patten recommendations that are not security-sensitive. I would then leave the remaining recommendations until there is a lasting peace. The Secretary of State knows full well that, sadly, we are a long, long way from no longer facing a terrorist threat.

There is no doubt that there is still a terrorist threat. It would be extremely foolish for us to put on the statute book recommendations from Patten that are security-sensitive, would potentially harm the police force, and, more important, would lead to a loss of life here, in the Province and in the republic.

Mr. Mandelson

Let me put on record my gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for changing the formulation of what he said in his earlier contribution, when he referred to delaying the implementation. Delaying the implementation is one thing; providing for changes in legislation is quite another. It is possible to provide for something in legislation without immediately implementing it. The implementation can wait for the security situation to permit it, and for the Chief Constable to give the appropriate advice, but I think that it would be very odd not to take the powers and not to make the provision at all.

Mr. MacKay

Obviously, we do not believe that there should be implementation until it is safe for that to happen. Equally, we do not want the recommendations to be implemented merely by affirmative order, by a nod and a wink from the Secretary of State, or by the imposition of political pressure on anyone else. They should be implemented in fresh legislation on the Floor of the House, with us, the Members of this House, making a final decision.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Is not the pity of this the fact that the Government have not learned the lesson of the folly of releasing large numbers of terrorists into the community, which everyone with any common sense knows was a dreadful mistake, and the fact that they now insist on going the whole hog on the Patten proposals when, although everyone acknowledges that much in Patten is extremely good and should be implemented immediately, the name change is a change too far?

Mr. MacKay

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. I shall return to the subject of decommissioning and terrorist prisoner releases shortly; first, however, I want to regain the Secretary of State's attention, because he is anxious for me to make absolutely clear where we stand on security-sensitive legislation.

What we object to most is the setting up of new district policing partnership boards, which will include locally elected representatives. That means that Sinn Fein councillors and so-called loyalist councillors, with their clear links to the paramilitaries, will be able to sit on the boards—and, under legislation from this House, the area police commander will be legally obliged to give them security-sensitive information. I hope the Secretary of State agrees that that would be entirely inappropriate, and would put lives at risk.

The idea that any of those elected councillors can sit on any police board at any time while their paramilitary associates—with whom, according to the Prime Minister, they are inextricably linked—have failed to decommission one gun or one ounce of Semtex is outrageous. We would not in any circumstances wish to support the setting up of such boards, even by means of an arrangement that could be implemented later if the peace lasted. We would want fresh legislation. We would want the House to look very carefully to satisfy itself that that has happened.

Mr. Mandelson

I have already made it clear that they are not being set up as executive boards. I have already decided that they will be set up as consultative forums.

As for the right hon. Gentleman's other point about people from Sinn Fein, notably, being part of the forums, he must realise that, by then, it must be assumed—I certainly hope that he assumes it—that Sinn Fein will be part of the government of Northern Ireland, let alone the district partnerships. He should know from his knowledge of Northern Ireland that many of those partnership boards exist already in relation to a host of other policies and activities throughout Northern Ireland, almost all of which include representatives of Sinn Fein sitting down with representatives of other political parties. There is nothing new in all this.

Mr. MacKay

There is something entirely new about recommendations under Patten—which we are still not clear whether the Secretary of State will implement—actually saying that the area police commander, under statute, must give security-sensitive information to the police board, when those people sitting on the police board are inextricably linked, so do we have an absolute guarantee that the board has been scrapped for good?

Mr. Mandelson

I repeat: I have already announced my decision not to accept that aspect of the Patten commission's recommendations. They are not being set up as district executive boards. The district commanders will not have the relationship that the right hon. Gentleman has described to the district partnerships, which will be consultative forums that will not deal with security-sensitive matters and material.

Mr. MacKay

I think that we have to pursue the Secretary of State just a little further, so that we are absolutely clear. He has said that the boards are not going to be set up. They are not going to be set up for good— is that right? There is not going to be something in the legislation that says that the boards can be implemented once certain criteria have been reached. That is what we want to know. Police boards are forgotten now—is that correct?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I know that there are many questions to which the right hon. Gentleman wants an answer, but he must give the House a speech. We cannot have a situation where the Secretary of State keeps intervening because there are others who wish to contribute to the debate.

Mr. MacKay

With the greatest respect, let me say that the Secretary of State has been making certain suggestions, which need to be clarified. I would like to have those clarified now. I want a guarantee from him that there will be no police boards in the legislation. [Interruption.] I hear the Secretary of Sate say that he has said that. Okay. We have now accepted that there will be no police boards and no mention of police boards in the legislation. I am delighted. I hope that I am right.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

Is the Secretary of State sure about that?

Mr. MacKay

I share the view of my hon. Friend: I am doubtful.

I move to the other security-sensitive areas that I wish the Secretary of State to exclude from the legislation.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacKay

I will in one moment. It is important that I put this on the record.

We believe that there should be no changes to special branch until there is no longer a terrorist threat and that that should not be in the legislation. We believe that the cutting of the strength of the force should not be in the legislation, but, instead, should be left, as it always has been, to the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding, after judging the terrorist threat. That seems right and proper. We believe that there should be no tampering with the full-time reserve until, again, there is a lasting peace and no longer a terrorist threat. I hope that that will be borne in mind.

Mr. Maginnis

I do not want to delay the right hon. Gentleman, but he might reasonably inquire what body will replace the Police Authority for Northern Ireland because I think that he is being misled by the Secretary of State in terms of both the police board and district policing partnership boards.

Furthermore, the Secretary of State has told us that he would not implement the district policing partnership boards until such times as the criminal justice commission reported, but it has now recommended the implementation of those district policing partnership boards. Is he giving us a firm commitment, then, that he will not take the recommendations of the commission?

Mr. MacKay

Although I cannot answer for the Secretary of State, I should like briefly to observe that the hon. Gentleman—who has more experience of security and police matters than any other hon. Member—and the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), who is nodding, share the concerns felt by me and my right hon. and hon. Friends about the Secretary of State's comments. I also note that the hon. Gentleman will be replying to the debate for the Ulster Unionist party and can undoubtedly raise those issues with the Minister of State—who is nodding and listening very carefully to the debate. I am sure that the Minister will address those issues in full.

The only other matter that I wish to discuss is Catholic recruitment to the force. I entirely endorse almost everything that the Secretary of State said on that matter. I hope that no hon. Member is not deeply disappointed that the Royal Ulster Constabulary does not more evenly reflect the composition of the two communities. It is patently clear that it would be in the best interests of the Province if the force did so. Those aspects of the Patten report that encourage recruitment of young Catholic men and women to the force are to be commended.

It is, however, very important that we ask why there are so few of them in the force, despite—as the Secretary of State rightly acknowledged—the tremendous work that the Chief Constable and many of his officers have done to try to increase that recruitment. The simple truth is that those men and women have been intimidated within their own communities, not merely by the IRA and other republican terrorist groups, but by peer pressure and the community at large. I call upon the leaders of that community—the politicians, churchmen, local councillors and others who have influence—now to encourage their best men and women to come forward and join the police force. I believe that that is absolutely essential.

My colleagues and I shall be voting for the motion because we believe that the concerns expressed by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann and his co-signatories to the motion are absolutely correct. We wish to see a successful, broadly based police force in Northern Ireland. Again, I call on the Secretary of State and the Minister of State to listen very carefully to this debate and the concerns.

I should much prefer for us not to have votes when we consider the legislation. However, we shall have votes if Ministers proceed with the name change without any compromise and if we are not satisfied with their sort-of assurances—which we found far from clear—on the security-sensitive recommendations that we believe should not be in the legislation.

We await the Bill's publication and First Reading with great interest. Meanwhile, we shall enthusiastically support today's motion.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I once again remind the House that Back-Bench speeches will be limited to 10 minutes.

5.23 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

I should like to put this debate and the motion into the original context—a programme for peace and for ensuring the stability of that peace. The legislation will not be an isolated consequence of the Patten commission, but part of a very complex series of agreements made by the pro-agreement parties, including the Ulster Unionist party, on how to achieve that peace, permanent stability and good government in Northern Ireland. It is part of a mosaic that included the recognition of the status of Northern Ireland, the equality agenda, the amendment of articles 2 and 3 of the constitution of the Republic of Ireland, the police review, the criminal systems review and decommissioning. Those issues are all intertwined, interlinked and interdependent.

Through the Good Friday agreement, we are trying to resolve a 300-year conflict that has been so bitterly and tragically expressed in the past three decades in our society in Northern Ireland. Opposition Members regularly speak with apparent expertise on what the nationalist community thinks and wants. Not one of them lives in that community and very few of them even visit it when they come to Northern Ireland. Let us not pretend that Opposition Members know about the nationalist community of Northern Ireland and what it desires.

Whether we like it or not, there is a perception that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is the police force of one section of the community. One of the primary reasons for that perception is the antics of the Ulster Unionist party over many years. They must take part of the blame for that partisan attitude to the police service in Northern Ireland. Many statistics have been quoted at us today, but one of the most vital is the percentage of participation by the nationalist community in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There are many reasons for that, some of which have been articulated this afternoon, including intimidation and the conflict to which I have referred. However, the situation was similar even before 1969–70. That was not the result of intimidation or violence. The problem was the ethos pertaining at the time, which is carried through to this day.

The motion is flawed, because it calls for the postponement of the implementation of the Patten report until the "new dispensation" on which it was predicated has truly arrived. The new dispensation cannot be arrived at until the report is implemented, along with all the other issues. We are trying to create an environment in which the community fully respects, fully participates in, fully supports and fully endorses its Northern Ireland police service or the police service of Northern Ireland. The Government amendment catches that aspiration well. It talks of creating a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole. Opposition Members should support that, not the motion. The motion is exclusive and is not part of the Good Friday agreement, which the Opposition say they will support and have supported.

Our attitude to the Patten commission and its recommendations is based on our experiences in our community. The Patten commission did not recommend everything that we asked for, but the report is a reasonable presentation that should have the support of the entire community. Law, order and justice have always been the kernel of the conflict in Ireland over many years. We are trying to resolve that conflict once and for all. We are here to engage not in party political point scoring, but in a genuine attempt to establish a police service of a kind that we have not had since the creation of the Northern Ireland state, whose status has now been recognised, subject to the will of the people. That is what we are about.

I regret that the centre of the attack, as it were, on the Patten commission is centred on the name and emblem change. That was one aspect of the commission's remit. Symbols are important, because they are symbolic of what they represent; but the Patten commission did what it was told to do. Why was it told to do that? It was because the terms of reference were directly translated from the Good Friday agreement. The second paragraph on page 23, annex 1, specifically requires the commission to address the problem of partisan symbols within the RUC, and that is what it has done.

It annoys me and the community from which I come that by supporting changing the name of the RUC we are somehow denigrating, trampling on or ignoring the sacrifices of RUC men and women and their families over the years. Are memories so fragile in the community that the continuance of a name is needed for sacrifices to be remembered? That is nonsensical. Two world wars were fought and men and women died. Their regiments were renamed or disbanded and nobody advanced the argument that the war dead had been dishonoured.

There is an attempt to create—

Mr. Trimble

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McGrady

have only 10 minutes and I am not giving way to anybody.

There is an attempt to make a political football of the problem that we have in the context of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the new Northern Ireland police service. We are striving for change and a new beginning, and the Patten commission is the way in which, by and large, we think that a change in security can be achieved.

Much was made by those on the Opposition Benches, particularly by the official Opposition, about holding everything in abeyance until the security situation is dealt with and clarified. They have missed the point entirely. It cannot be dealt with and violence cannot be finally eradicated until we have the new police service supported and endorsed.

Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

That is the real position.

Mr. McGrady

I am talking about practical politics on the ground. Until the entire community feels confident to embrace, join and be active in that service, it will not be reflected in that service. Peace and stability in Northern Ireland depend entirely on the commitment that is given to the service by both communities.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McGrady

I have said already that I am not giving way. There are only a few minutes left to me.

I ask the House, including the Opposition, despite what they have said, to support the endorsement of a new police service that is capable of being supported by the entire community in Northern Ireland. Otherwise, we have failed. We have failed with the Good Friday agreement and we have failed to map out the way that we are going forward. I could argue—

Mr. Deputy Speaker



Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)

Let us remember that the debate is part of the on—going peace process, wherein the Patten report has always played an important role, as we have just heard. The group Friends of the Good Friday Agreement has arranged a conference for the weekend after next, where once again the Patten report will form a key part of the discussions. Yesterday, a student section of that body was launched by the National Union of Students executive member, Sophie Bolt. Again, some conversation was focused on the Patten report.

We need to remember that many people are watching to see what happens to the police force in Northern Ireland. They are judging the actions that are taken and the promises that are made to create an inclusive police force by the degree to which the Patten report is implemented.

The fundamental police role is to uphold law and order. We have heard a lot about that and, in general, the RUC has performed that role admirably in the most extreme conditions. Thanks to the sacrifices of RUC officers and their families, law and order generally has not broken down in large parts of the Northern Irish community. I believe that the George Cross is a fitting tribute for that sacrifice, and I hope that hon. Members of all parties can agree on that.

However, we cannot get away from the fact that a substantial section of the population has had a more strained relationship with the RUC, despite the committed hard work of the overwhelming majority of officers, regardless of their religious denomination. The reasons for mistrust vary, but some tensions are the direct result of the troubles and of matters that have been set out already. As a result, some communities have turned to paramilitaries to enforce some form of trumped-up justice. In some areas, the paramilitary beatings have almost become part of the process of keeping order, although—most evidently—they are not part of the process of law.

The Patten report offers a way to stop that ethos. The Good Friday agreement stated clearly that the participants in the agreement believe that the agreement provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole. That is the crucial point in this debate. We must all acknowledge what has been mentioned already—that the polls show that a large proportion of people in Northern Ireland do not regard the RUC as their police force. The Good Friday agreement was signed up to by almost everyone here today. The words that I quoted outline the challenge that the Patten commission sought to answer.

The Liberal Democrats broadly welcome the report as a basis for progress. Changes in the police service had to take place, and they had to be by evolution rather than revolution. In that context, I believe that there can be no question of abandment. We must retain the vast range of talents and expertise in the RUC. We must also recognise—as the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) did—that the RUC is a world authority on some aspects of policing, as a result of the difficult circumstances in which it has operated.

Many of the recommendations in the report are not controversial and I am sure that they will be agreed without much dissent. I was especially pleased at the emphasis that it placed on human rights. That emphasis is key to the well-being of a democratic society, and to the healing process that has to take place in Northern Irish politics, where human rights have not always been respected.

For a police force, limiting a person's human rights limits the degree to which that person can trust the force. For example, arrest, stop-and-search operations and house searches can lead to very bad community relations if they are carried out in an unsympathetic way. It takes only a small amount of distrust to render effective policing virtually impossible. A police force can barely operate without community support unfortunately, that is what has happened in some parts of Northern Ireland.

We therefore especially welcome the inclusion of a commitment to uphold human rights in the police service oath. In themselves, those words will not solve the problem, but they make a lot of sense in terms of the direction in which we must go. The Patten reports suggests that the RUC can enhance its human rights practice further. We certainly welcome the report's recommendations, and hope that they will be implemented.

The Liberal Democrat submission emphasised the need for the police to work with the local community. Successful forces tend to be accessible to ordinary people. Given the security situation in Northern Ireland, that has not always been easy there, but a speedy implementation of the Patten report's proposals should help.

Even so, a start can be made now on building and developing trust. As always, there has been much discussion today about culture, ethos and—most important—symbols. All hon. Members, regardless of party, must recognise the sensitivities involved. I recently visited the Province with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy). Our conversation with police representatives underlined the real worries that the proposed changes have caused. There is a real feeling that they are disrespectful to the many people who have suffered loss or injury during the many years that the RUC has been in the front line. These feelings must be taken seriously. The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) spoke with great authority and insight.

On balance, this is a matter not of principle but of judgment about how to balance the need for reform with the need to respect those sensitivities. Given that the police are there to serve not one or even two sections of the community but all the citizens of Northern Ireland, it is necessary to put that sense of ownership very high on the agenda for reform. Patten believes that the name is a real sticking point and that the historic symbolism, cherished by so many, also causes a proportion of nationalists and republicans to regard the RUC as someone else's police force or one connected with factions rather than individuals. It is a hard call. In my view, the changes must take account of the memory of those who have sacrificed so much, but it would be a far bigger tragedy if, after all that sacrifice, the RUC continued to be seen as a partisan force on account of its name.

This is not the time to discuss what the new name should be. As I have said in the past, I have concerns about the proposal: I still think that the name "Northern Ireland Police Department" would be better. However, it sounds as though we will have an extensive debate when the legislation comes before the House, and I hope that we can then fully air the concerns that have been expressed to us.

The Liberal Democrats also welcome other aspects of the report, such as video recording in custody suites, an effective complaints procedure, formalisation of co- operation with the Garda, and new and extensive information technology and telecommunication systems for local police stations. Those proposals can all make a practical difference to the effectiveness of the force.

We are, however, concerned about sections of the report, primarily recommendation 121. In attempting to address the imbalance between the number of Protestants and Catholics in the police, it says: An equal number of Protestants and Catholics should be drawn from the pool of qualified candidates. We fully support the need for equalisation, but the imbalance will not be fixed by demanding that an equal number be recruited from qualified pool of candidates. That would simply tackle the symptoms and not the cause, because quotas ignore the fundamental issue. There are so few Catholics in the RUC, not because Catholics have been rejected by the RUC but because the RUC has lost the confidence of so many Catholics who might otherwise apply. There is little incentive to apply. Added to peer pressure, community pressure and, sometimes, paramilitary pressure, that makes it much more difficult for a Catholic to apply to be in the police.

I met Relatives for Justice this afternoon. The group represents people with grievances about the injury or death of members of their family that they allege are a result of state force activity. Having listened to them, I am sure that there is a case to answer. However we may deal with their claims, these people are genuinely aggrieved that their concerns have not been raised sufficiently in the past. In that context, it is not surprising that there continues to be an imbalance.

We need affirmative action. I think that community leaders such as politicians, Church leaders and teachers could actively promote applications to join the police. There are no quick fixes here, and we must not deceive ourselves by thinking that quotas will solve the problem. The goes for the recruitment of other unrepresented groups such as women and ethnic minorities.

The point about district councils and boards led to an interesting mini-Northern Ireland Question Time between the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay). However, this did not clarify the situation, and I would be grateful if we could have an unequivocal explanation of what is going to happen. I was reassured that safeguards exist to prevent district councils from being infiltrated by paramilitary involvement, but we have to be careful, because I think the right hon. Member for Bracknell was right to raise the issue.

My final point is about downsizing. The right hon. Member for Upper Bann is right to say that we cannot start downsizing when we do not know where we will end up. If there is downsizing, however, we must ensure that retirement packages and severance payments are very generous. That would not cost the taxpayer a lot, and it would be fair to those who have given so much.

Northern Ireland needs the implementation of the Patten report's proposals. The Minister of State has assured me several times that the Government will press ahead with reform of the RUC, and I was glad to hear that the Secretary of State shares the timetable Today's motion begins with the George Cross, so I shall end on it. Wherever we stand on the details, all hon. Members should honour the supreme sacrifice made by so many. We are for ever in the debt of those who lost their lives


Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

Except for the reference to the award of the George Cross, I, as a humble Back Bencher, cannot accept the motion. I am pleased that we are holding the debate, however, although I regret that we do not have five or six hours in which to allow more hon. Members to participate.

As we approach the second anniversary of the Good Friday agreement—a few days hence—I should like to be told that the Government seek, in harmonious co-operation with the Irish Government, to do all in their power to implement all of the agreement. I am confident in the Government.

The Government's amendment rightly pays tribute to the courageous service and sacrifices of the officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, emphasising that that must never be forgotten. I pay my own tribute to those brave men and women.

The amendment also demonstrates, plainly and uncompromisingly—as the Secretary of State did in his speech—the Government's determination to press on with reform of policing in Northern Ireland. I look forward to the early introduction of a Bill—the Police Reform (Northern Ireland) Bill would be my suggested title. I agree with the view voiced at the Ulster Unionist council meeting by Michael McGimpsey that change is not something to be frightened of as long as it is constructive change that enhances the ability of the police to carry out their duties. Mr. McGimpsey has said many other things, but I certainly support him in that.

I do not altogether agree with Mr. McGimpsey's criticism of the Patten report's "scant and fleeting" acknowledgement of the sacrifice made by RUC officers and their families. Some 302 officers have been killed, and almost 9,000 injured during the troubles. I hope that Mr. McGimpsey will not criticise me for my scant reference to the remarkable bravery and stoicism of those people, but I have only 10 minutes.

In Kosovo, recently I met constituents of some of the Northern Irish Members on the Opposition Benches. I met officers of the 60-strong Royal Ulster Constabulary contingent. They have no objection to my mentioning their names, and they are Superintendent John Middlemiss, Inspector Tim Hanley, Inspector John Adams and a remarkable young officer, Albert McWilliams of N division in Tyrone, who is based in a village that suffered a dreadful massacre. That village policeman is working with Canadian KFOR and doing a remarkable job.

I was so impressed by those officers that I wrote to their Chief Constable when I returned home, and I await his reply. I am happy to quote a letter of my own in the Chamber—I think that this is the first time that I have done so. I wrote: We discussed the duties they had to perform in that conflict-ridden province and I came away deeply impressed by their professionalism. More importantly, I was told by their chief, whom I believe Ronnie Flanagan had met, that the sixty-strong RUC contingent was among his best group of international police officers. Similar compliments were paid to your officers by senior UN officials, army officers and representatives of NGOs. The RUC can be justly proud of these fellow-officers. Incidentally, the chief of the United Nations international police force said, "Do your best, Norman, to get some more RUC officers over here." I would not volunteer.

Within 36 hours of my return home from Kosovo I visited the RUC station in Musgrave street which covers the markets area. A couple of hon. Gentlemen know about my visit. I met Sergeant Jones and his colleagues who are remarkably positively establishing community policing, such as has been referred to. I need hardly say that that is a Nationalist area. Rightly, they have won a community policing award.

In the few minutes left to me, I had better say something about the Patten report. I have read the UUP's response to the Patten report and I reject the criticism that it is riddled with deep flaws. However, I share the concerns over the creation of district police partnership boards and I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State's emphatic assurance this afternoon. I would not want to see such boards introduced into Strathclyde police. There should be consultation between all groups at local level with local police officers. No one can object to that development in a new police force.

Many of the recommendations are utterly non-controversial. I am not very happy with recommendation 154 on page 121 under the heading "Culture, Ethos and Symbols". Patten and his colleagues recommend: The colour of the current police uniform should be retained. I disagree. If we are to have comprehensive reform of all aspects of policing, why not, with the recommended design of a new, more practical uniform, substitute green for navy blue? As psychologists would say, the population stereotype and the colour we all recognise vis-a-vis police officers is navy blue. Let us switch colour.

This morning, after the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) met the women from the Relatives for Justice group, they told me that they were not at all happy with the Patten report but they were willing to accept it. They accept what Monsignor Raymond Murray, their convener, said in a letter to all hon. Members: The Patten Report on Policing is seen as absolutely the most essential element of addressing the need for change. The confidence of our membership in the Good Friday Agreement was won by the possibility that policing would be properly and thoroughly addressed. I agree with those sentiments, but that is a most formidable challenge.

Last night's editorial in the Belfast Telegraph began with the sentence: In the seemingly endless search for a political settlement in Northern Ireland, it is clearly essential to know what core attitudes in the two communities are to be reconciled. The last sentence of the editorial reads: There is no escaping the unwelcome conclusion that changing the name and symbols of the RUC, and producing a police force sufficiently supported by a large majority, will be a crucial issue. I agree. This Government and this House of Commons with the people and police officers of Northern Ireland have to be equal to that immense challenge. It would be much, much better if these issues could be resolved in the Northern Ireland Assembly based on genuine consultation with all communities in the Province. I should love to see the early reinstitution of the Assembly.

However, if the House of Commons has to introduce that legislation, let us do so constructively—based on genuine consultations with the people of both communities in Northern Ireland. I support the Patten recommendations and look forward to early legislation implementing some if not all of them.


Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

I associate myself with the tributes that have been paid to those who have given their lives in the battle against terrorism in Northern Ireland—especially members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and their constabulary reserve and members of the Army.

After 22 months, the Belfast agreement was suspended, but it seems to be a partial suspension, because we are talking about something that is part of the agreement—as the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) emphasised. If the agreement is suspended, why are we talking about parts of it? [Interruption.] I listened to the Secretary of State and I do not think he knows whether he is suspended or it is suspended. There is no clear message about which parts we can or cannot talk about and legislate for.

The hon. Member for South Down made it clear that nationalists want complete implementation of the agreement before they can give their full support to the suggestions on the police. That will be clear when we read Hansard. That represents what the nationalists are saying. Of course, IRA-Sinn Fein is not in agreement with the Patten report, as we hear from its spokesmen. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is happy about Patten. Everything in the SDLP's document on policing has been accepted by Patten—so the hon. Gentleman should be extremely pleased.

When the Patten commission was set up, many tributes were paid to it—by Unionists and nationalists. The leader of the Ulster Unionist party, the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), said: The RUC have nothing to fear from the Patten inquiry. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said: If we are going to have a sensible look at the RUC then I believe that Chris Patten's appointment is progress. Some progress-as we see today. On 4 June 1998, the hon. Gentleman said that he was very happy with the make up of the Patten commission. I think practically we could not have hoped for anything better. When there was opposition in the Province, those who dared to say anything about the Patten commission were hammered down. However, when the report was issued, the Ulster Unionist council passed a resolution stating that it was deeply flawed and objectionable to the greater number of law-abiding people in Northern Ireland. The resolution referred to the need to bring forward proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including means of encouraging widespread community support for those arrangements. The council felt that the Patten commission was supposed to do that, but had not done what it was asked to do.

Mr. Patten himself does not keep silent on these issues. He said: What on earth did these people think they were going to get when they signed up to the Belfast agreement?

I don't say this provocatively, but it really does seem to me that we were given a very clear agenda, and I'm surprised that those who gave us that agenda did not understand what the consequences would be. The leader of the Unionist party said: Nothing the Government say or do can dishonour the RUC and the men who have served in it. I agree with him on that. He continued but they can dishonour and are dishonouring themselves. I agree with that too. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone has asked the Secretary of State: Does he realise that despite his euphemistic language, my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble)—the leader of the Ulster Unionist party—is absolutely right to say that what has been announced today degrades, demeans and denigrates an honourable force … —[Official Report, 19 January 2000; Vol. 342, C. 852.} Today we see the consequences of the commission. It is a serious matter that runs right to the heart of the debate. Those on the Front Benches have argued whether terrorists can have influence in the new set-up. The argument should have been not about the partnerships but about the main police board that is proposed. That is because the main board will have 10 members who will be appointed by the d'Hondt principle from those who are in the Executive.

The Secretary of State is working and sweating to get IRA-Sinn Fein back into the Executive. That is his purpose; he tells us that it must get back in because the Executive must be all inclusive. If the board is all inclusive, it will not be consultative—it will be the top body. The hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) said that he would not want such a fixture in his country; we do not want it in our country, either.

It is all right saying that if a person has been convicted he cannot serve on a partnership, but what about those people against whom the charges have been put in abeyance because of the agreement? We do not know whether they are guilty or not guilty, but there are many unsolved cases of murder, maiming, wounding and bombing. I do not think that anyone who has any link with paramilitaries or with destructive elements should be on the board. We will not solve the problems of Northern Ireland—they cannot be solved—in the way that has been suggested.

Of course, there is real feeling about the name. I am sorry that the hon. Member for South Down does not realise that. I have heard strong discussions in the House about holding on to the names of regiments in the British Army, so such issues do not concern Northern Ireland only. People feel very strongly about them. They feel that their friends or families who have served in the regiments are slighted if the names are changed. How much more do people feel about the Royal Ulster Constabulary?

I was in the House when a spokesman told us that, if we could get rid of the Ulster Special Constabulary, all would be well. I remember standing on my own in the House to defend the Ulster Special Constabulary. They got rid of it, but did that make any difference? I pay my tribute to the Ulster Special Constabulary, which not for the money-its members were paid a mere pittance—kept the IRA at bay for years. The historian of the IRA, Tim Pat Coogan, acknowledges that in his book on the history of the IRA.

We then came to the Ulster Defence Regiment. I heard people say in the House that, if we got rid of the Ulster Defence Regiment, the troubles would all be settled and all would be well. We were to get a new regiment, the Royal Irish Regiment, but that is now to be seriously cut in size. Its headquarters are in Ballymena in my constituency and I got word the other day that a very big pruning will take place under proposals that have been made.

All those things happened, but there is no end to the problem. We must be prepared to deal with those who are prepared to take up arms and to kill, maim and bomb. Such people come from both religious sections of the community; there are terrorists and evil men in the Protestant—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Order. The hon. Gentleman's time is up.


Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

I am grateful to be called because I want to place on the record—mercifully, briefly, Mr. Deputy Speaker—the reasons why I cannot support the Government in the Division Lobby this evening. It would be grotesque for me to move on to that stage of the debate without underscoring the messages that the House is putting out this evening to those who served in the police force in Northern Ireland and who were murdered. Similarly, it would be grotesque not to underscore our thanks to them, their families and their children. Although that point may not take up most of our time this evening, I would not want anybody anywhere in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, to think that because we do not keep stressing it, it is not as much a part of our thinking today as it is at other times in the parliamentary process when we are not debating Northern Ireland.

The House can also be careless about its own Members. I proudly represent an English constituency, and I do not want my contribution to go by without my drawing attention to the additional pressures faced by hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent Northern Ireland constituencies. Sometimes we think that our task is difficult, but it is nowhere near as difficult as theirs. I would not want us, in the casual and careless way in which we sometimes approach issues here, to fail to underscore how mindful we are of their personal bravery and commitment.

Similarly, I do not want the debate to go by without saying something about those on the Treasury Bench who look after Northern Ireland affairs. It is not always easy being a Minister, but the Northern Ireland brief is the most difficult one. The pressures, worries and uncertainties and the horrors that happen when politics breaks down and people resort to violence to settle disputes are terrible. I was going to say that our Northern Ireland Ministers are on the front line; I hope that they are not, but they have to face risks that the rest of us do not have to face. That makes it even more difficult to disagree with them on an issue such as this.

I shall explain how the question of the Patten report breaks down for me. It is not that there are not many recommendations in the report about which we can all agree. I want to concentrate on those proposals which if they were implemented quickly would be seen as a victory by one side and a defeat by the other. My hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), better than anybody who has spoken so far-I do not knock anybody else because we are all making our own points-has encapsulated the political strategy that the House and the country have to face.

The House and the country are dividing, and I fear will continue to divide, along the following lines: there are those who believe that if further concessions are made, we can bring people who have been used to using methods of murder into the political process; there are, on the other hand, those who believe that that process has been tried and that for us to continue to engage them in the political process requires concessions from them. While we have not made much of it tonight, it is a debate, as the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) was saying as the time limit came down on him, about what happens to guns and bombs and the people who use them.

In my short speech and in, sadly, not supporting the Government in the Division Lobby tonight, I wish to say that increasingly people will want to see more progress on the handing over and decommissioning of the methods and weapons of murder before further concessions are made. So while one of course looks for progress in implementing those parts of a settlement that neither side thinks is a victory or a defeat, there are proposals in the Patten report that one side will crow about and that will cause the other side even greater anguish.

We cannot realistically move further in the peace process that all of us want until we make more progress, or one might say at least some progress, on the decommissioning of arms. So, although this debate is not about the decommissioning of arms, it is about that for me. Although the debate is not about paying tribute to those people who have been murdered on both sides in Northern Ireland, it is about that for me. Although the debate is not about being mindful of the families on both sides of the divide who will never be able to recover from the murder that the terrorists on both sides have inflicted on Northern Ireland, I merely wish to put down a marker to my Government, whom on many fronts I am so proud to support, that while 1 may be expressing a minority view among Members, those views I believe are not a minority view among our supporters in the country.


Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

The motion in the name of the Ulster Unionist party refers to the award of the George Cross. One of the main reasons, if not the reason, for the award of the George Cross by Her Majesty is the sacrifice of the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Many officers have paid the ultimate price. In the past 30 years, 302 have been murdered and many more have been seriously injured and disabled.

Two of those 302 officers were members of my family circle. Constable Samuel Donaldson was murdered in 1970 on 12 August in Crossmaglen. He was the first officer to be blown up by the IRA in the conflict that has become known as the troubles. Another constable, Robert Miller, died with Samuel that day. Samuel's brother, Chief Inspector Alexander Donaldson was murdered by the IRA at Newry when it mortared the police station and killed nine police officers, two of them women.

So my family knows something of the sacrifice of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Today, I salute their memory. The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) said that the name of the RUC and our desire to retain that name was rather a tenuous link to our desire to mark the sacrifice, but I have to say to him that I do not believe that he is right. I must respectfully disagree with him.

I quote to the hon. Gentleman and the House the words of Rosemary Graham, who attended a public meeting in Portadown hosted by Chris Patten as he considered the issues relating to policing. Rosemary Graham, who is the widow of constable John Graham, murdered by the IRA in Lurgan, said to Mr. Patten: The RUC must remain intact so that my husband John did not die in vain. My husband was a family man. He was not political, he was not sectarian, he was not a Catholic and he was not a Protestant. but a Christian. He was very fair, he treated people equally and I was proud to be his wife. I put the words Royal Ulster Constabulary on my husband's gravestone. That is what he died for, and I do not want to see that changed. I leave the words of Rosemary Graham with the hon. Member for South Down. I hope that he will understand the depth of feeling that exists within Northern Ireland on this matter. Rosemary gave me her permission to use her words in the debate today, because she wants the House to understand what the name "Royal Ulster Constabulary" means to her and to many others in Northern Ireland.

We have heard much talk about the controversy surrounding the name, yet as the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), the leader of my party, mentioned earlier in the debate, that is not borne out by the attitude surveys carried out in Northern Ireland. Just last evening, yet another of those surveys was published in the Belfast Telegraph. Of the people from the Roman Catholic tradition who were questioned, only 31 per cent. found the name of the RUC to be offensive; 61 per cent. were not offended by the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. One wonders why there is such a great necessity to scrap the proud name of the RUC. In his contribution today, the Secretary of State made much of the professionalism of the force. His comments have been echoed by other hon. Members on the Government side.

It is easy to talk about the professionalism of the RUC, and when that is set against the propaganda—particularly of the republican movement, which has sought to undermine the RUC—many people, especially those living in Great Britain, ask why there is a need for reform. But when people hear the propaganda set alongside the Government's desire to reform the RUC, they conclude that there must be something to the propaganda, and no longer hear the comments about professionalism.

One must conclude that many of the changes proposed in the Patten report are not about organisational aspects, although there are proposals that deal with organisation. There are proposed changes, particularly those that relate to symbols, that are motivated simply by a desire to appease a small but vocal minority in our community.

We hear about the need to recruit more Roman Catholics to the RUC. As a member of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs who was a party to the report referred to by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann, I want to see more Roman Catholics serving in the RUC.

It is worth noting that since the IRA ceasefire, the number of applicants to the RUC from the Roman Catholic tradition has doubled. Does that not indicate some linkage between the violence and intimidation of the IRA, and the shortfall in recruits from the Roman Catholic community? I do not buy into the argument that the name and the symbols are a barrier to Roman Catholics joining the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

We hear also of bias by the RUC. Bias in favour of whom? If one visits the Maze prison in my constituency—if there are any prisoners left—one would observe as many loyalist prisoners for terrorist offences as republican prisoners. The RUC's conviction rate against loyalist paramilitarism is much higher than that against republican paramilitarism.

How can one say that the RUC has been biased? It has pursued terrorism from whichever quarter it has come. It has defended and protected the whole community, regardless of politics or creed. It is an insult to the RUC's professional integrity that the Government intend to pursue many changes that have nothing to do with professional policing but are politically motivated.

Sinn Fein-IRA has conducted a carefully orchestrated campaign against the RUC. Hon. Members should consider the disgraceful treatment of Monsignor Denis Faul and his colleagues who participated in a police liaison committee meeting in County Tyrone and the intimidatory tactics of the republican movement on that occasion. Hon. Members should consider the republican movement's bullying tactics against headmasters in schools when it seeks to prevent the RUC from teaching schoolchildren about road safety and the dangers of drugs. Hon. Members should consider the republican movement's intimidation of football teams that are drawn against the RUC team.

What does that tell us about the republican movement and its idea of justice and policing? Recently, we have seen much of the justice that it metes out. I could go through a catalogue of incidents that involve the republican movement and its idea of justice. It is the justice of the baseball bat, the bullet through the kneecap or, worse still, the justice of the kangaroo court: no judge, no jury and execution by a bullet through the back of the head. That is the republican movement's idea of justice, yet so much of the Patten report is designed to appease it. That is why so much of the Patten report is unacceptable to people in Northern Ireland.

Patten was given the task of securing a police service that could command widespread community support. He failed to achieve that. The Patten proposals do not have the support of many people in Northern Ireland. I therefore urge the Government to think again, to listen to the voice of the many in Northern Ireland, not to scrap the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and not to dishonour the proud memory of the men and women who gave their all to defend us all throughout the United Kingdom. I hope that the Government will draw back from implementing the many unacceptable aspects of the Patten report.


Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

I should like to raise six points in the 10 minutes available. First, I want to consider the question that was implicit in many speeches: is there a problem with the RUC as it stands? Many statistics have been cited, and we could continue for a long time. However, I shall cite only two.

Fewer than 5 per cent. of Catholics have a lot of confidence in the police force. The level of Protestant confidence is seven times higher. Only 19 per cent. of working class Catholics believe that equal treatment was shown to both communities. The figure for working class Protestants was four times higher.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) referred to the fact that in Northern Ireland it is common to speak about "our police". The Patten report notes that that form of expression was heard from Protestant but not Catholic contributors. A problem therefore exists, and we are sticking our heads in the sand if we do not acknowledge that.

Secondly, will the Patten changes help to build Catholic, nationalist confidence in the police? We need look no further than the statistic that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) cited. He said that 45 per cent. of the Catholic community claimed that the Patten changes would increase their confidence. I appreciate his point that a further 41 per cent. said that it would neither increase nor decrease their confidence. However, if the confidence of half the Catholic population is increased, that constitutes a substantial improvement.

Mr. Trimble

I put it to the hon. Gentleman that it is possible that the 45 per cent. are contained in the 59 per cent. who in the same survey said that they found the police acceptable.

Dr. Palmer

I accept that point. However, we are seeking ways to increase acceptance and, under my first point, some people who feel that certain aspects are acceptable still lack confidence in the force.

Thirdly, would the changes reduce support for the police among the Protestant community, as some speakers have implied? Speaking as politicians, we have to say that people will blame us for the change, not the police. They will not support the police force less because we have decided, in the national interest, to change its name. The net effect will be that the Catholic side of the community will strengthen its support, but the Protestant side will not lose confidence in their police.

Fourthly, are there major substantive objections? It has been noticeable throughout the debate that criticism has focused overwhelmingly on the symbolic issues. The right hon. Member for Upper Bann has stressed the need to implement the whole Good Friday agreement and I believe that the overwhelming majority of Members here would agree with that. However, his position has to take account of the fact that recently his party has twice become a substantial obstacle to that fulfilment. Because of the importance of decommissioning, we can, with some difficulty, understand why the party imposed an interim deadline for commencement. It is comprehensible, if unfortunate in effect, that that ultimatum was given. Making participation in the Executive dependent on the name of the police force is a position that most people in Britain find totally incomprehensible. Frankly, no simpler proof could be given that the RUC is seen not only by nationalists, but by Unionists, as a Unionist police force. That problem needs to be addressed.

Fifthly, hon. Members may ask, "Does mainland British opinion matter? Why should it? Surely this is purely an internal matter for people in Northern Ireland. It is their police force and their security." Okay, there may be a day when Ulster is separate from Britain as an independent Province or part of Ireland or part of some larger European unit—who knows? However, as long as Ulster is part of this country, the opinion of the rest of the country matters. To those who claim loyalty to the Union, I say that it will survive only on the basis of mutual consent. I suggest to hon. Members that the opinion of people on this side of the Irish sea will continue to matter.

Finally, it is vital that we do not give any excuse to paramilitaries to withhold the commitment to peace on the ground that we have not played our part in the agreement. I understand that some hon. Members may not be entirely happy with every aspect of the report, but it was commissioned and it cannot be wished away. We must not flinch at implementing it—not as a concession to paramilitaries, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) suggested, but as part of our commitment to fairness in Northern Ireland and to peace in the United Kingdom as a whole.


Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) is to be congratulated on the analytical and perceptive content of his contribution. My regret is that the same qualities were not brought to bear on the remit given to Mr. Patten and his colleagues when they set about the business of preparing the report. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the terms of reference of the Patten commission were to introduce a series of proposals designed to secure widespread support so that the police force it produced could be seen as an integral part of the community as a whole. The commission has signally failed to achieve that.

I do not believe that a single Member representing the pro-Union community endorses these reports. Indeed, a nationwide petition that is particularly relevant to the subject of today's debate—the name and insignia of the RUC—attracted 400,000 signatures, 300,000 from Northern Ireland. It is difficult to imagine how, in such circumstances, the Government can conceivably say that these proposals are designed to bring about widespread support.

The vast majority of Unionists believe that the core of the Patten proposals are a number of political concessions and articles of appeasement to organised terror, wrapped up in technical and administrative reforms to which agreement is largely present, and which were the subject of the chief constable's on-going report from 1994. The changes in the name and insignia were clearly political, rather than policing, imperatives.

The reasons given for such changes have no real foundation in fact. Indeed, the opening paragraphs of the report, particularly those on page 13, suggest that the degree of overall support for the RUC was higher than the support afforded to any continental police force. Indeed, it was comparable with the support given in other parts of the United Kingdom, when we take into account the specific and peculiar difficulties faced by a police force in Northern Ireland.

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann was, I think, right to emphasise the fact that the polls showed a much higher percentage of support among the Catholic community for local policing, in relation to the overall perception of the acceptability of the RUC in the Province. Therein, I believe, lies the real issue. The reality, as exhibited by the support for the local police, is that there was no real objection to the RUC. The perception was the product not of the reality but of enforced propaganda and intimidation—especially in urban areas—imposed by the control of the paramilitaries in ghetto areas in the urbanised regions of Northern Ireland.

Criticism of the RUC is largely directed at its role as an anti-terrorist or counter-terrorist organisation. I know of no great criticism of the RUC's discharge of its normal functions in dealing with rape, depravity involving children, theft, burglary and fraud: little valid criticism is made of the RUC in that context. The criticism relates to its direction of its activities towards the political terrorism of paramilitary organisations and their associated criminal gangsterism.

The same could be extrapolated in regard to criticism directed at the judiciary. Its discharge of its civil functions—from commerce to personal injury and domestic problems—attracts no criticism. Why, then, do its members suddenly become monsters of bias and discrimination when they exercise their judicial function in relation to terrorism?

I believe that the efforts of Government politically to appease and to placate terrorism have effectively increased lawlessness in Northern Ireland. They have broken down the moral infrastructure and civil obedience of a region of the United Kingdom that once had the best record in the UK for observation of the laws, and for lack of crime.

Let me perhaps put in context what it is to live in Northern Ireland under the policies of the Government. How can we expect ordinary people to respect law enforcement agencies or the judiciary, when a Government apply policies that enable, for example, the sniper gang in South Armagh, Carragher and McGinn, who were sentenced after due process to 490 years, to wave to relatives, including, incidentally, those of Lance Bombardier Restorick, and say, "We will be out in 15 months"? How can the murderers of the cross-community chums Allen and Trainor be given a life sentence, yet sneer and snigger at the mother of Damien Trainor because they will be out in a year?

I have personal experience of that because I received a letter bomb, as did Mr. Trimble and Mr. Donaldson—I should give their constituencies.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman should, indeed, give them.

Mr. McCartney

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In haste, I perhaps overlooked custom, but I beg their pardon: the right hon. Member for Upper Bann, the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) and I all received a bomb. Those responsible were apprehended. After due process, they were convicted and given five years. They were out in six weeks. One of them, Gerry McQuoid, was one of those apprehended a month ago with a 500 lb bomb.

The policies applicable to such people, who are fighting turf wars over drugs and racketeering, are demoralising the police force, which sees those people, whom it has risked life and limb to secure, released back into society. If we destroy the morale of those in the force and take away their pride, if they feel that they are not valued in the community, ultimately that policy will be the harbinger of an even greater terror, and an obstruction and obstacle to the peace that we all desire.


Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

The Secretary of State wound up his contribution very cleverly, by suggesting by inference that this is a party political issue, not an issue to do specifically with the men and women who serve as officers of the RUC. It is not a party political issue. It has been brought forward by my party perhaps only in so far as it is the only party in the House from Northern Ireland that has consistently supported the police through thick and thin, as they have carried out their difficult and dangerous duties over the past 30 years.

We are talking about the future of men and women: not some amorphous mass of people, but the individual men and women who will be called upon to serve in the RUC in years to come, just as tens of thousands have served in it from 1921 until today.

It is important that, if we expect those men and women, who are our police men and women now, and will be in future, to deliver the sort of service that they have delivered, and if we call on them to make the sort of sacrifice that they have made in years past, they must have confidence in the guardians of the democratic system that they are setting out to protect. They must have confidence in the Government, whichever party is in power. They must also understand that they will not be sold short in the face of violence and intimidation from sections of our society, from whichever tradition those small groups emerge.

The reality is that police are the victims of criticism simply because they have been in the front line. More than anyone else, they have had to carry the fight right to the terrorists' door and face them down the barrel of a rifle. They have had to put at risk their lives, and those of their comrades and families, to maintain some form of democracy in Northern Ireland, to stop us from falling into chaos.

In so doing, their greatest enemies have been those who would create chaos. Hence, we have heard story after story and words such as collusion being thrown around. However, if the force that receives more intelligence than could be imagined—intelligence about those who commit those acts of terrorism—had used that intelligence illegally or in concert with other illegal organisations, it would have brought about the slaughter of hundreds of people, particularly of those who now sit in democratic chambers and call themselves Sinn Fein, which we know is still inextricably linked to terrorist organisations. That would have been the outcome, but that did not happen.

It did not happen because of the men and women who have served in the RUC. It did not happen because of those men and women's diligence and honour in performing their duties. Compare that with the 2,200 people—including more than 300 police men and women—who were murdered by the IRA. Consider the thousand, again including some police officers, who were killed by loyalist paramilitaries. The fact is that 3,600 people have been killed in Northern Ireland, the majority of them by illegal organisations. If we had had anything but the most disciplined police service, the death toll would have been two, three or four times that. The Secretary of State is nodding.

I do not want to spend all day—I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I do not have all day—again addressing the issue of the name change, which is a serious matter. However, by changing the name of the RUC, we shall be disbanding the RUC.

Today, the Secretary of State again let the cat out of the bag. In this debate, he has talked constructively—in a manner that was meant to be kindly and considerate—about means of commemorating the RUC. One commemorates not something that is alive, but something that has disappeared. That would happen while the IRA retains not only its name, but its structure, constitution and desire to bring about change by the use of violence. If that happens, we shall be diminishing those men and women who have served, suffered and died. We shall also be presenting to those who succeed them a legacy that says, "You cannot trust the democratic system that you have been commissioned to defend."

In the short time left, I should deal with the proposed structural changes to the RUC. Many of them would be welcome and would make the RUC more efficient under more normal circumstances. Already, the Chief Constable has proposals to devolve more authority to commanders at local level. That takes time. The Secretary of State should make it clear, as he has not done so far, that, in restructuring for normal police duties, he will ensure that there are sufficient police men and women to prevent society from being put at risk. Society is at risk from a mafia ethos derived from 30 years of terrorism. The void of the present lower level of terrorism, which we all welcome, is being filled by evil men and organisations.

I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us that the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve will be retained, and strengthened if necessary, during the period of transition, if such a period can be undertaken. I hope that he will ensure that, while the core structure of the RUC is being dealt with, those men and women, who have played an important role, will be given some reassurance. The men and women of the RUC Reserve are the least assured about their future. Common sense suggests that the anxiety that I come across almost daily should be removed.

My party wants to ensure that the RUC is able to recruit properly so that it reflects the make-up of our society. That will not be done by removing a name or by any gesture made to the IRA—or to the republican movement, as it likes to call itself. There are families in my constituency who would not let their sons and daughters join the Garda Siochana, let alone the RUC, irrespective of its name. There will be no continuing tradition if we undermine the confidence of the police or diminish the level of entry to it. All those issues must be addressed.

It is a question not simply of gestures, but of the confidence of society when people go home, close their door and begin to consider where their protection of life, limb and property rests. It is not in some hall filled with pseudo politicians that such true feelings are made. It is when people are talking privately that they tell us the name that they respect and the name that they will call upon when they are in trouble. Let us remember that these are men and women and not an amorphous bunch in green uniforms. They are men and women who run huge risks and who should be honoured by the House. The implications of the Patten report should be more carefully considered than they have been heretofore.


The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram)

I have listened carefully to the debate, and there have been some extremely thoughtful contributions. Much of what has been said I can agree with: the Government, too, recognise the huge contribution of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We will never forget the sacrifices of the 302 officers who have been killed or the thousands who were injured.

As the Minister with direct departmental responsibility for policing in Northern Ireland, I have met many officers at all levels within the RUC. I have been impressed by the professionalism, commitment and bravery of serving officers as they carry out their duties in the most difficult of circumstances.

Two examples stand out. First, the role played by the RUC in protecting the nationalist community in and around Garvaghy road highlights all too graphically the balanced way in which it discharges its duties. It should not be forgotten that the last RUC officer to be killed was a Catholic, who was brutally murdered by so-called loyalist paramilitaries as he stood on duty at Drumcree in 1998.

The second example is the role played by RUC officers in a peacekeeping role in Kosovo, which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman). These officers have received plaudits from all quarters for the work that they are doing. They are held up as an example to the other police forces serving in Kosovo. Their professionalism and competencies are of the highest standard, and those who criticise the RUC should bear in mind these two examples and many others when they parade their prejudices against the RUC in their own communities in Northern Ireland and further afield. Those who do so show a lack of the tolerance and reconciliation that are the cornerstones of the Good Friday agreement.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the Government have welcomed in a fulsome way the award of the George Cross as a fitting tribute to the RUC and all that it has done over the past 30 years. That is recognised in the motion and in the Government's amendment.

In the time available, I shall respond to as many points as I can. First, I shall clear up a misunderstanding that still rests in the mind of the right hon. Member for Bracknell. He raised issues about policing boards and, in his exchange with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, it was clear that he had not done his homework. He had misunderstood the pith of the debate. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was talking about district policing partnerships when he was referring to boards. He then moved on to the debate about the policing board itself.

The Government will make provision in the new legislation to require each district council to create a district policing partnership. The legislation will provide that these partnerships have a purely consultative role. They will have no executive or expenditure functions. The legislation will create also a new policing board to replace the Police Authority. The composition of the board will depend on whether we have a devolved Administration. Much flows from the political settlement, and different concepts will have to be put in place if a political settlement does not prevail.

Mr. MacKay

Will the Minister of State try to put my mind at rest by giving a guarantee that neither the board nor the consultative bodies will receive from the Chief Constable, if it is against his will, any security-sensitive information that will go to Sinn Fein or so-called loyalist councillors?

Mr. Ingram

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman understands the relationship between the Chief Constable and the political Executive. It is part of the Chief Constable's operational responsibility to decide how to deal with those bodies and how his officers communicate with them. It would be a matter for the Chief Constable and his officers to decide how to communicate any information that they have in their possession. It would be wrong for me to restrict the Chief Constable' s operational independence in the way suggested by the right hon. Gentleman's question.

The hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) referred to the allegation that the RUC is being disbanded. I want to refute that suggestion. The RUC is not being disbanded, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made very clear when he opened the debate.

Those who suggested that the RUC should be disbanded lost the argument. The RUC is being renamed, as part of creating a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland. I repeat that changing the name is essential if we are to make the RUC more representative of the community that it serves. That is what both the House and the RUC want to happen.

The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) intervened to say that the Canadian Government had no plans to change the name of the Royal Canadian mounted police. It is worth bearing in mind that policing in Canada has undergone change. I stand to be corrected on this matter, but I think that the name of the police force in Quebec was changed in 1968, and that its badge was changed in 1970. Those changes were made to take account of the cultural and traditional identities in that very divided community. Moreover, the force's literature is in French because of the divisions in that community.

Mr. Howard

I have checked that point, and it is true that the name of the force in Quebec is in French. However, it is French for Royal Canadian mounted police.

Mr. Ingram

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. I researched the internet so that I could respond to that point, but there are much more important matters to debate. [Interruption.] The Quebec force, the provincial force dealing with local matters, is called la Sûreté de Quebec. That is not the French version of the Royal Canadian mounted police. I shall write to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make sure that he is fully aware of the situation. [Laughter.] I see that the comedians have taken over the Opposition Front Bench, but this is a very serious matter.

From consultations, statements and from face-to-face meetings, I know the strength of feelings of Unionists and police families on this matter. However, it is also clear from the contributions made by the hon. Members for South Down (Mr. McGrady) and for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik), and by my hon. Friends the Members for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) and for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) that there is another element to the debate that is shared by people in the Catholic community.

The survey in yesterday's evening edition of the Belfast Telegraph has already been referred to. It is open to many different interpretations, but I note that it reported that only one in eight Catholics cherished, or identified with, the name of the RUC, and that 87 per cent. of Catholics do not. That reinforces my belief that we need a service with which both sides of the community can identify.

Rev. Martin Smyth

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question to be now put put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the orginal words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 118, Noes 264.

Division No. 153] [6.59 pm
Amess, David Green, Damian
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Greenway, John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Grieve, Dominic
Baldry, Tony Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Beggs, Roy Hammond, Philip
Bercow, John Hawkins, Nick
Beresford, Sir Paul Heald, Oliver
Blunt, Crispin Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Boswell, Tim Horam, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Brazier, Julian Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hunter, Andrew
Browning, Mrs Angela Jenkin, Bernard
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John Key, Robert
Chope, Christopher King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Clappison, James Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Collins, Tim Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Cran, James Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Lansley, Andrew
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Leigh, Edward
Day, Stephen Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Donaldson, Jeffrey Lidington, David
Duncan, Alan Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Duncan Smith, Iain Loughton, Tim
Evans, Nigel Luff, Peter
Faber, David Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fabricant, Michael MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Field, Rt Hon Frank McIntosh, Miss Anne
Flight, Howard MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Maclean, Rt Hon David
Fox, Dr Liam McLoughlin, Patrick
Fraser, Christopher Madel, Sir David
Gale, Roger Maginnis, Ken
Garnier, Edward Malins, Humfrey
Gibb, Nick Mates, Michael
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Gray, James Moss, Malcolm
Norman, Archie Tapsell, Sir Peter
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Page, Richard Thompson, William
Paice, James Tredinnick, David
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Trend, Michael
Prior, David Trimble, Rt Hon David
Randall, John Tyrie, Andrew
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Viggers, Peter
Ruffley, David Walker, Cecil
Sayeed, Jonathan Walter, Robert
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Wardle, Charles
Shepherd, Richard Waterson, Nigel
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Soames, Nicholas Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Spring, Richard Yeo, Tim
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary Tellers for the Ayes:
Swayne, Desmond Mr. Clifford Forsythe and
Syms, Robert Rev. Martin Smyth.
Abbott, Ms Diane Coffey, Ms Ann
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cohen, Harry
Alexander, Douglas Coleman, Iain
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Colman, Tony
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Corbett, Robin
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Corbyn, Jeremy
Austin, John Corston, Jean
Banks, Tony Cotter, Brian
Barnes, Harry Cousins, Jim
Bayley, Hugh Cranston, Ross
Beard, Nigel Crausby, David
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Darvill, Keith
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Bennett, Andrew F Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Benton, Joe Davidson, Ian
Bermingham, Gerald Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Berry, Roger Dawson, Hilton
Best, Harold Dean, Mrs Janet
Betts, Clive Denham, John
Blears, Ms Hazel Dismore, Andrew
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Dobbin, Jim
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Donohoe, Brian H
Bradshaw, Ben Dowd, Jim
Brinton, Mrs Helen Drown, Ms Julia
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Browne, Desmond Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Buck, Ms Karen Ellman, Mrs Louise
Butler, Mrs Christine Ennis, Jeff
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Fearn, Ronnie
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Caplin, Ivor Foster, Don (Bath)
Casale, Roger Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Caton, Martin Gardiner, Barry
Cawsey, Ian George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Gerrard, Neil
Clapham, Michael Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Godman, Dr Norman A
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Clelland, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clwyd, Ann Grogan, John
Hain, Peter Moffatt, Laura
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Moran, Ms Margaret
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Morley, Elliot
Healey, John Mountford, Kali
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Mullin, Chris
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hepburn, Stephen Naysmith, Dr Doug
Hesford, Stephen O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hill, Keith Olner, Bill
Hinchliffe, David O'Neill, Martin
Hodge, Ms Margaret Öpik, Lembit
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Osborne, Ms Sandra
Hope, Phil Palmer, Dr Nick
Hopkins, Kelvin Pearson, Ian
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Perham, Ms Linda
Hume, John Pickthall, Colin
Hurst, Alan Pike, Peter L
Hutton, John Plaskitt, James
Iddon, Dr Brian Pond, Chris
Illsley, Eric Pope, Greg
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam Pound, Stephen
Jackson, Helen(Hillsborough) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jamieson, David Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jenkins, Brian Primarolo, Dawn
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Prosser, Gwyn
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Raynsford, Nick
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Rogers, Allan
Keeble, Ms Sally Roy, Frank
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Ryan, Ms Joan
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Salter, Martin
Kelly, Ms Ruth Sarwar, Mohammad
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W) Sawford, Phil
Sheerman, Barry
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Sheerman, Barry
Khabra, Piara S Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Kidney, David Shipley, Ms Debra
Kilfoyle, Peter Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Singh, Marsha
King, Ms Oona(Bethnal Green) Skinner, Dennis
Kirkwood, Archy Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Laxton, Bob Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Lepper, David Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Leslie, Christopher Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Levitt, Tom Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Snape, Peter
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Soley, Clive
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Spellar, John
Love, Andrew Starkey, Dr Phyllis
McAvoy, Thomas Stevenson, George
McCabe, Steve Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
McDonagh, Siobhain Stinchcombe, Paul
McDonnell, John Stoate, Dr Howard
McGrady, Eddie Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Mclsaac, Shona Stringer, Graham
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mackinlay, Andrew Stunell, Andrew
MacShane, Denis Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mactaggart, Fiona Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Temple-Morris, Peter
Mallaber, Judy Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Timms, Stephen
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Tipping, Paddy
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Todd, Mark
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Tricked, Jon
Maxton, John Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Merron, Gillian Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Miller, Andrew Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan Winnick, David
Ward, Ms Claire Wood, Mike
Wareing, Robert N Woolas, Phil
Watts, David Worthington, Tony
White, Brian Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wicks, Malcolm Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wicks, Malcolm Wyatt, Derek
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen) Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Williams, Mrs Betty (Convey) Mr. Don Touhig.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


That this House welcomes the well-deserved award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary; notes that the award was made by Her Majesty in recognition of the service and sacrifices of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which must never be forgotten; reiterates its commitment to maintaining an effective police service in Northern Ireland capable of protecting the public and maintaining law and order; and reaffirms the objective in the Good Friday Agreement of creating a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole.