HC Deb 06 June 2000 vol 351 cc177-263

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

I should inform the House that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. I also remind hon. Members that there is a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

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

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I gather that several colleagues have been delayed by late flights. Doubtless they will join us shortly. [Interruption.] The flights were not fixed by me.

The Bill paves the way for the most complex changes in policing practice and culture ever attempted—changes that, if successful, will provide as good a model for policing as can be found anywhere in the world. The philosophy, size, structure, composition, training, accountability, human rights ethos, planning and information systems and community base of Northern Ireland's police will all change if the Bill is enacted.

It is therefore hardly surprising that such a complex task should spark controversy. As well as setting out a radical vision of modern civic policing that is rooted in the whole community—and will draw its legitimacy and strength from its support in all parts of the community—the Bill seeks to create a police service that has entrenched respect for human rights without compromising its effectiveness, and offers full accountability to the public without denting its operational efficiency.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

We acknowledge that the Secretary of State has a parliamentary job to do today. However, it would have been more fitting to start with a whole-hearted tribute to the astonishing achievements, courage and effectiveness of the Royal Ulster Constabulary over many years, during which it has proved itself to be probably the most courageous police force in the land.

Mr. Mandelson

I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, simply because I have done as he asked on many occasions and I shall—

Mr. Soames

Do it again.

Mr. Mandelson

And I shall do so again shortly.

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Mandelson

No, I wish to continue with my speech.

The achievement of the goals that I described will generate considerable debate about the Bill in the Chamber and in Committee. I intend to approach that debate with an open mind. I readily accept that the Bill will require fine tuning as we proceed with the legislative process.

Nevertheless, I contend strongly that as people turn from the generalisations to the detail of our proposals, and when they study the reality of the Bill's contents as opposed to some of the rhetoric and the hyperbole that has surrounded it recently, they will recognise that, in spirit as well as letter, we are implementing the commission report that has given rise to the Bill and is named after its chairman, Chris Patten, to whom I pay tribute.

Of course, such reports inevitably set objectives, without always specifying how they are to be achieved, and not every aspect needs legislation for its implementation. If an aspect does not appear in the Bill, that does not mean that it is not happening or that it will not happen. The House will wish to know that I am today publishing in Belfast a detailed plan setting out the Government's implementation of each of Patten's recommendations. Copies of that plan will be available in the Vote Office this evening.

The important thing is to ensure that the principles for policing originally laid down in the Good Friday agreement have been fulfilled, and I firmly believe that they will be. It is as well to recall those principles, as they go to the heart of the cross-community support that our reforms are seeking, which is vital for the new beginning that we want.

The agreement wanted a police service that is professional, effective and efficient; fair and impartial; accountable, but free from partisan political control; representative of the society that it polices and conforming with human rights norms; capable of maintaining law and order, including responding effectively to crime, any terrorist threat and public order problems; capable of delivering a policing service in constructive and inclusive partnerships with the community at all levels; and with the maximum delegation of authority and responsibility throughout its structure and ranks. We are fulfilling all those principles in the Bill, and in doing so we are creating a unique opportunity for policing in Northern Ireland to move forward.

The RUC has led the world in counter-terrorist policing. We now want it—as Northern Ireland passes into a more peaceful environment—to lead the world in normal community partnership policing as well. I would add one further principle to those that I have listed: the principle that a police service, and the public that it serves, should honour, not denigrate, its members, especially those who have made sacrifices in the course of their professional duties that the rest of us would not dream of having to make in the course of our entire lives. For this, the RUC rightly received the signal honour of being awarded the George Cross by Her Majesty the Queen. No one will now take that honour from those who have served during this terrible period of conflict.

Of course, policing in Northern Ireland has been controversial. For some people, the police can do no wrong; for others, they can do no right. That is an inevitable source of division. I do not want to dwell on the past except to say this: in the terrorist war that Northern Ireland has experienced, injury, fatalities, indignity and suffering were routinely incurred by many in the community.

We will not forget those who have borne the brunt of this conflict. For those RUC officers who have paid dearly, I say that their legacy will endure, their memorials will be maintained, and the permanent RUC George Cross foundation, for which the Bill makes provision, will keep their name alive for ever. We should think of doing no less, however much we wish to concentrate—as the Bill does—on creating a police service for the future, rather than on raking over the coals of the past.

I earnestly believe that this is what the police themselves want. They want to draw a line. They want a fresh beginning in the conditions of peace and normal policing that the new situation in Northern Ireland offers to them, but they want to move forward without dishonouring the past. I am determined that it should happen in this way.

What, then, is the future for policing envisaged in the Bill? The Patten report is clear that policing is a matter for the community as a whole, not simply for the police. The police will undoubtedly remain the principal actors, but they should work in partnership with the community and other agencies. That new civic-based concept is embodied in the Bill's provisions for community policing, the restructuring of the police service into more autonomous district commands, the creation of new district policing partnerships and the provision of consultative forums between the police and the community at local level.

The report made sweeping recommendations to improve police accountability. The Bill provides for the Chief Constable to be publicly accountable to a strong and independent policing board. The board will set policing objectives, priorities and performance targets and will be able to obtain explanations from the Chief Constable for his operational decisions, while those will remain, rightly, his alone. The board, in other words, will be regulator to the Chief Constable's service provider.

In addition, the new office of police ombudsman is being created and will become operational in October, with enhanced powers to investigate complaints about police conduct. I believe that I am right to resist the suggestion that the ombudsman should also have powers to review the policies and practices of the police service—although if, in the course of investigating individual complaints, she wishes to raise wider issues, she may of course do so.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North)

Will there be provision for that in the Bill?

Mr. Mandelson

There will be full provision for those and all the functions and responsibilities of the ombudsman.

The Bill will lay the foundations for a human rights-based approach to policing. There will be a new oath affirming commitment to fundamental human rights and according equal respect to the legitimate and democratic beliefs and traditions of all individuals. A new code of ethics will lay down standards of conduct and practice to which both current and future members of the police service will sign up. Finally, there will be a new training, education and development strategy for the police service. Human rights training for all officers will be a fundamental requirement of the new strategy.

The House will start to appreciate just how far reaching are the provisions of the Bill, and I want briefly to highlight the different parts of it. Part I creates the new policing board, as I have already described. That will replace the current Police Authority, and I shall come back to it in a moment.

Part II makes provision for district and community policing arrangements. The new partnerships will serve as consultative forums between the community and the police. We will examine whether they should have power to purchase services on top of normal policing following the outcome of consultation on the criminal justice review, but for now I do not believe that it is advisable for the district partnerships to have an executive or expenditure role, as that would risk undermining the police service's local operations.

Part II also provides for the restructuring of the police service into district commands. That is essential for the development of community partnership policing. The district commander will issue a local policing plan setting out arrangements for the policing of the district. Those plans will be drawn up in consultation with the district policing partnership.

Part III reforms the police planning process in accordance with Patten's recommendations. The board, not the Secretary of State, will have the lead role in the planning process. It will agree and issue the annual policing plan, prepared by the Chief Constable.

Part IV places a duty on the policing board and the Chief Constable to secure "best value" in the way in which their functions are exercised in terms of the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of expenditure. It has been argued that the board will have a narrower function in those matters than the present authority. That is not the case. The board will have much greater powers and responsibility than the authority in terms of planning and objective setting for policing, monitoring police performance and holding the police to account.

Part V deals with the functions of the Chief Constable and the police service. It requires all officers in carrying out their functions to have regard to the code of ethics issued by the Chief Constable, which will bring the new focus on human rights into all aspects of policing and will be issued in conjunction with the policing board.

Dr. Norman A Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be no limit on the policing board's ability to initiate an inquiry?

Mr. Mandelson

I should like to come to that in a moment.

Part V provides for the police service to be under the direction and control of the Chief Constable, as Patten insisted. That is a fundamental principle. The police must retain operational responsibility, but must also account for their actions. Part V also makes provision for the recruitment of police officers and police service support staff. However, I should stress that, notwithstanding an element of independent validation of recruitment, the Chief Constable will be the final arbiter of who is admitted to the police and the police reserve based on merit. Part V includes special measures to change the religious composition of the police service—the so-called 50-50 recruitment.

The Bill makes provision for periodic review of the need for that measure. I have listened to concerns about the provision that will cause it to fall absolutely after 10 years, and I accept that that time limit will be unnecessary if the system is being reviewed regularly. I also believe that it is desirable to aggregate out the balanced recruitment that we want over a period of years if it falls short in a particular year.

Part V enables regulations to be made to enhance pensions and gratuities for officers leaving the police service under voluntary severance arrangements. The Government have made it clear that we will be sympathetic and generous in our approach to officers leaving, whether they are regulars or reserves. The provision enables me to take that approach. It also requires members of the police service to register their interests and associations. Finally, part V will enable me to regulate the emblems and flags of the police service and issue guidance on the police service's deployment of equipment designed for use in maintaining or restoring public order. Naturally, I am obliged to consult before doing so.

Part VI includes enhanced powers for the policing board to require reports from the Chief Constable on any matter connected with the policing of Northern Ireland. It also makes provision for a new power for the policing board to initiate an inquiry into any aspect of the police service. The Government agree with Patten that the policing board needs that power to enable it to hold the Chief Constable to account effectively. However, Patten acknowledged that that was an extreme power, ranking it alongside the board's ability to call on the Chief Constable to retire. The Government have therefore included safeguards on the exercise of the power, which Patten said would be necessary.

Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)


Mr. Mandelson

I shall give way to the hon. and learned Gentleman in a moment.

I have listened to a wide range of opinions, which hold that the Government have taken those safeguards too far and set too many limitations on the use of that power. I am prepared to strike a different balance on that, but am concerned to protect the police from the risk of vexatious, repetitive or capricious behaviour by the board in initiating inquiries and reports. That probably meets the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara).

Mr. McCartney

On balanced recruitment under part V, has the Secretary of State taken into consideration equality legislation and human rights under the European convention on human rights, which would preclude members of one community having the same rights as members of another?

Mr. Mandelson

All existing and proposed legislation is checked to ensure that it complies with current EU directives. Obviously, if future directives have a bearing on the Bill, we will seek to ensure that there is consistency and compliance or, where necessary, derogations.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

Returning to recruitment, the Secretary of State will know that I spent time patrolling the streets of Northern Ireland with the RUC, including Catholic members who made it clear to me why there were so few Catholics in the RUC. He will know also that a survey showed that 70 per cent. of Catholics believe that the main reason why Catholics do not join the RUC is intimidation and threats from the IRA and others. What reason will Catholics now have to join the RUC when the IRA remains fully armed and, as he will know from security reports and beatings in west Belfast, threats and intimidation continue?

Mr. Mandelson

I am not sure that I follow the connection between the hon. Gentleman's two statements. In response to his first point, I readily accept that intimidation by the IRA has discouraged and, in some cases, stopped members of the Catholic side of the community who would otherwise be prepared to join the RUC. However, I cannot accept that that is the only reason why Catholics and nationalists have not joined. The hon. Gentleman has only to consider the latest survey evidence, which was issued as recently as February, to realise why they have not joined.

One third of Catholics believe that the police do not treat both sides of the community equally. Three quarters of Catholics and nearly two thirds of Protestants believe that there are too few Catholics in the police force. The fact that there are too few Catholics in the RUC and that there is not, among parts of the Catholic and nationalist community, a sense of acceptance of the police directly discourages individuals from offsetting that imbalance and signing up. We are implementing the Patten recommendations to overcome that extreme religious imbalance in the composition of the police and the perception among some on the Catholic and nationalist side of the community that the police are not owned—in the most general sense of the term—by the community as a whole.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with inquiries, and he will recognise that the power to order an inquiry is very important. What steps are provided for, in the Bill or otherwise, to ensure that those inquiries are held in a judicial manner and in accordance with the principles of natural justice, that those who appear before an inquiry are properly represented and have the opportunity of cross-examination and that relevant witnesses have to give their testimony on oath?

Mr. Mandelson

We are not constructing or making available to the board courts of law in order that it can make what may be simple and straightforward inquiries into police behaviour and practices. I am satisfied that we will be able to agree with the board the approach that it will take. I am concerned that the principle of accountability and the right of the policing board to make inquiries, obtain information and issue reports as it thinks fit should be properly supported in legislation and by me.

I am concerned only that that right and power, which has been described as extreme, should not be abused in any way. That is why I propose to put in place limited safeguards, although I readily accept that in the Bill as drafted, I have probably gone too far in the limitations that I seek to impose on the policing board in exercising that power.

Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone)

Does the Secretary of State accept that Roman Catholics failed to join the RUC not just because of intimidation, but because they had a more important political objection? The RUC was a British police force, and, as nationalists, Roman Catholics did not wish to be identified with such a force. Will that objection not remain despite all the changes?

Mr. Mandelson

The hon. Gentleman seems to be making a case for us to address the issue of the symbols, the insignia and the associations that the RUC has had with the British state. I am somewhat surprised that he should lead us down that road, but perhaps I can deal with his point in a moment, when I come to it in my speech.

Part VII deals with changes to the powers and functions of the police ombudsman. I believe that she is broadly happy with them, but she will want to be assured that she has all the papers and information necessary for her to do her job. I am sympathetic to that need, and will ensure that it is properly met by the Bill.

Part VIII deals with a number of what are termed miscellaneous and supplementary provisions, including the establishment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation. I am delighted that that provision has met with wide approval in Northern Ireland, because, as I have said, I think it essential for us to honour the sacrifices and the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, while preparing the police for the new beginning that they need.

All these reforms present a radical agenda, and we need help with their implementation. Last week, I was pleased to be able to announce the appointment of the independent commissioner who will oversee the reforms. The appointment of Tom Constantine, a widely respected former head of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, has been widely supported in Northern Ireland. None the less, I have listened carefully to representations made to me that the office of oversight commissioner should be put on a statutory basis in the Bill. I have been persuaded by the arguments, and intend that to happen.

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

I am anxious that the Secretary of State should not leave the subject of part VIII without answering a question.

My understanding is that clauses 69 and 70 allow for the continuation of a police reserve, but do not assert the case for its continuation. Will the right hon. Gentleman at some point clarify the position? Will he explain his intentions in regard to the reserve? I understood from the debate generated by Patten that Patten sought to have it removed.

Mr. Mandelson

I announced in the House on, I think, 19 January that we had accepted Patten's proposal that the full-time reserve should be phased out, and that will indeed happen. It will, of course, depend on the chief constable's assessment of the security situation, but it does not require a power in the Bill. However, if the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that clarity is needed, I should be prepared to consider an amendment making it clear that I have the power to implement the recommendation for the phasing out of the full-time reserve.

Finally, let me address the question of the name of Northern Ireland's police, which, in Patten's and the Government's view, is strongly linked to the new start that we want in policing. Many people in Northern Ireland—I mean largely, but not exclusively, Unionists—have never set their face against change, accept the case for reform allowing recruitment from all parts of the community, but equally are determined to protect the good name, the honour and the record of the RUC and, in particular, want it to be clear that the RUC is not being denigrated or disbanded. I believe that the final form of the Bill will achieve that.

On 17 May, in the House, in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), I said that I believed that the sensible way forward was to provide in the Bill a legal description that incorporates the Royal Ulster Constabulary—effectively the title deeds, as I put it, of the new service—making it clear that disbandment is not taking place, while at the same time introducing a new name, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which will be used for all working and operational purposes. That remains my view and my preferred option, and it remains the Government's judgment of the sensible way forward. It also corresponds to what Patten himself said. Paragraph 17.7 of the report stated: the link between the RUC and the new Police Service should be recognized. I think that, in the provision that I have potentially described, we will satisfy not only those who want to see that the RUC is not being disbanded and that that body of constables is being carried over, evolving into the new police service, but, equally, those who—rightly, in the Government's view—believe that the new working, day-to-day, operational name for police in Northern Ireland must change to signal the new beginning that we are creating, without which we do not believe that it will be possible to recruit from all parts of the community, as is desirable and necessary for that new beginning to take place.

The Bill is intended to lay the foundations for, as I said, a genuine new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland. I have already said that the Bill may not yet be perfect in every respect. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, and I will consider further constructive changes and amendments to the Bill as it progresses in Committee. We have open minds. I have already had extensive discussions with all the parties, all of whom have already suggested a host of improvements and changes—most of which I can already see are acceptable to the Government, because they are entirely consistent and compatible with the Patten recommendations and the thrust of the Bill. Suggestions must, however, be aimed at creating a more modern, efficient, representative and accepted police service.

I am not prepared to assist those who are more interested in constraining the police service than in strengthening it, or who are keener to look backwards to old scars, divisions and disputes, than to look forwards to the new era in policing that we are trying to create. That is what the Good Friday agreement called for. It is also what Patten is about and what the Bill, I am confident, will achieve.

On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.

4.58 pm
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

I beg to move, To leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House declines to give the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill a Second Reading as it fails to preserve the proud title and insignia of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; enables the political representatives of paramilitary organisations to sit on the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships without a start to the decommissioning of illegally-held arms and explosives; provides inadequate safeguards against people convicted of terrorist offences serving on the Policing Board or the District Policing Partnerships; and threatens significantly to increase the politicisation of policing in Northern Ireland. I begin by expressing total admiration for the courage and achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, George Cross. For the past 30 years, the RUC has stood as the thin green line between the rule of law and a descent into anarchy. In doing so, it has borne the brunt of the most wicked and vile acts of cowardly terrorism.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacKay

I have only just begun—but go on.

Mr. McWalter

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his reasoned amendment is not exactly even-handed between those who are of the nationalist persuasion and those who are of the Unionist persuasion?

Mr. MacKay

It might be helpful if I explained my amendment in due course, rather than in the first sentence of my speech.

Recently, Lord Fitt said: The RUC are the people who have held together the community in Northern Ireland. There would have been absolute anarchy but for the efforts of the RUC. Lord Fitt is absolutely right. Without the RUC, the opportunities for a lasting peace created by the Belfast agreement would not exist. It is largely thanks to the RUC, supported by the armed forces, that we can be confident that the future of Northern Ireland will be determined only by democracy and never by violence.

The RUC has responded to violence with the highest standards of discipline and professionalism. I utterly reject the claims of those who describe the RUC as a sectarian force. In our view, it has more than demonstrated its even-handedness and impartiality. Most recently, it has stood literally in the middle between loyalists and nationalists at Drumcree. The last time that a RUC officer was murdered was there, in 1998—a young Catholic man was killed by loyalist thugs as he sought selflessly to serve the whole community.

The RUC's contribution has not been apparent only in Northern Ireland. It has stood as the first line of defence against terrorism in mainland Great Britain and also in the Republic, where it has thwarted many potential loyalist atrocities. Anyone who doubts that should talk to the Metropolitan police, the Garda Siochana and the many other professional police services throughout the world, including the FBI, which over the years have benefited from the RUC's expertise. Only recently, RUC officers have been serving with distinction in the Balkans, in the most difficult of circumstances.

The RUC has time and again proved itself to be the most effective and professional anti-terrorist force in the world. I say without hesitation that everybody on these islands who cares about the rule of law owes the most profound debt of gratitude to the RUC. We should never forget the terrible price that has been paid. The facts bear constant repetition. The House will be aware that 302 officers have been murdered and that more than 10,000 have been maimed or injured. The RUC's sacrifice is without equal. That is why the award of the George Cross by Her Majesty in the deeply moving ceremony at Hillsborough in April was so richly deserved.

The RUC's record makes even more despicable the campaigns of vilification that have been waged against the force by paramilitaries—republican and so-called loyalists—and their political representatives. Their opposition to the RUC is based upon what the force stands for, which is law, order and liberty. They have used every possible means to discredit and undermine it. They have been out to destroy the RUC and to take over the policing of what they regard as their areas. That is part of the political motivation that lies behind the mutilations, shootings, beatings and expulsions that are still being carried out by organisations that are supposedly on ceasefire.

These people wish the rule of law to be supplanted by the bullet and the baseball bat, with paramilitaries acting as self-appointed judges, juries and executioners. That would be justice, paramilitary style. Thankfully, the RUC has prevented them from succeeding. It is worth reminding those with a misinformed view of the RUC that, in facing the sustained terrorist campaign, the RUC has not been given any special privileges or immunities that have put it beyond or above the law. Its officers must operate within the rule of law, and they are as accountable to the law as anyone else in the United Kingdom. The RUC remains resolutely independent of politicians and attempts at political interference. In a democracy, we should not have it any other way.

Nor is the RUC a force that has resisted change. It is now almost unrecognisable from the force of 30 years ago. As the Chief Constable has said, no one has been more embracing of change than the RUC. Given its record, it is hardly surprising that the RUC scores among the highest overall acceptability rates of any police service in western Europe.

Mr. McWalter

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacKay

I shall in a second. I have given way once. It was not very constructive last time.

In the most recent review of community attitudes, 85 per cent. of Protestants and 59 per cent. of Catholics expressed confidence in the police, while in the Patten report itself the figures are 81 per cent. and 43 per cent. respectively. At a local level, according to Patten, the approval rating from Catholics who had direct contact with the police was 69 per cent., while for Protestants it was 77 per cent.

Those are hardly the kind of approval ratings given to a police service that is unacceptable in nationalist areas or, as Sinn Fein-IRA disgracefully claim, that is nothing more than the armed wing of Unionism, so let us hear no more of the smears, distortions and downright lies that are levelled against the RUC. No one has suffered more. No one is more deserving of our praise and no one stands to gain more from the establishment of a lasting peace. It has been a real force for stability in Northern Ireland. The RUC is a police force that, after 30 years, can truly walk with its head held high.

The Bill gives effect to those recommendations in the Patten report on policing in Northern Ireland. One of the most serious deficiencies of that report is its singular failure to give all but the most cursory of recognitions to the achievements and sacrifices of the RUC. Therefore, I am pleased that the House has the opportunity to put that right today and that the Bill proposes the establishment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation. That is a welcome initiative, and one that we fully support.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

The right hon. Gentleman has said on many occasions that he supports the Belfast agreement. He implied some months ago that his party supported the Patten report but, on the basis of what he has just said, it does not seem that he is saying anything positive about Patten. Can he clarify the position of his party? Is his support for the Belfast agreement nothing more than words? Is the reality that he is some sort of Conservative Leninist, adopting an approach of supporting the report on the basis of a rope supporting a hanging man?

Mr. MacKay

The hon. Gentleman takes a keen interest in matters Northern Ireland. I think that he has attended virtually every debate on that subject. Therefore, he has heard me say on a number of occasions that we strongly support the Belfast agreement as the best way forward for the people of Northern Ireland. The agreement is based on a process that was started by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) and by Lord Mayhew when we were in power, so it is natural that we should support it.

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me say on a number of occasions when we have debated policing and the Patten report—I said it on the day in September last year when the report was published—that it was a useful basis for moving policing forward in Northern Ireland and that we believed that the great majority of the recommendations should be implemented straight away but others should be implemented only when there was no longer a terrorist threat: as I continually say, when Belfast is the same as Bracknell, which it is not at the moment, as is patently clear after the bomb at Hammersmith bridge last week and from the many events that are going on in Northern Ireland. I think that that is a full and comprehensive answer to the hon. Gentleman. As always, I am grateful to him for allowing me to clarify the position.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

In the interest of historical accuracy—I have a certain personal interest in the matter—let me say that the peace process goes back even further than that: the previous Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher and the signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement initiated the process from which this has derived; this is supposed to subsume the Anglo-Irish agreement, as I understand it. That led to a certain development, but one matter was interesting and bears out what my right hon. Friend has said. I had personal reason on that occasion—others in the Province had good opportunity to see—to ensure that the RUC stood determinedly for the rule of law. He will remember the demonstrations at Maryfield for example, where the RUC was an essential green line against a determined attempt to destroy that agreement.

Mr. MacKay

I fear that I have neglected my past duties as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to my right hon. Friend. I am sure that my predecessor on the Front Bench, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), who is in his place, would not have made the same mistake. I am happy to acknowledge that a process has been evolving over a number of years. Much of the work was carried out by Conservative Administrations, as I am sure that the Secretary of State readily acknowledges. I see him doing so and I am grateful to him for yet again generously confirming that.

We regard the overwhelming majority of the proposals in the Patten report as non-controversial. Many of them could and should be implemented quickly. We welcome the fact that the Secretary of State accepted in January Patten's recommendations on issues such as information technology, the case for a new police college and the generous severance arrangements for police officers—regular and reservist—Who choose to leave the service early. We look forward to rapid progress in those areas.

The bulk of the Patten proposals formed a useful basis for what policing in Northern Ireland could be like when the main terrorist threat is finally over, but there are other areas, such as the scrapping of the RUC's royal title, to which we are implacably opposed. The security-sensitive recommendations should be considered only when there is a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

Most of Patten was foreshadowed in the fundamental review of policing that the Chief Constable initiated following the first IRA cessation in 1994. That review envisaged three scenarios: first, a continuing high level of terrorist activity; secondly, an end to bombings and killings, but the terrorist organisations remaining fully armed and engaged in shootings, beatings, mutilations and racketeering; thirdly, an end to terrorism, with the terrorist organisations dismantling and decommissioning their weapons. Only in that third scenario was it envisaged that there should be a fundamental change to policing and, importantly, significant reductions in the size of the RUC.

Regrettably, we are still a long way from the third scenario. Despite the re-establishment of the Executive and the Assembly, coupled with the IRA's offer to put its weapons completely and verifiably beyond use and to engage in confidence-building measures, there has been no decommissioning and the main terrorist threat remains. In the event of a permanent end to violence by the main terrorist organisations, the threat from the dissidents, particularly on the republican side, will remain potent. We know that they are recruiting members, that they have access to more sophisticated weaponry and that it is only through the skill of the police and the Army that recent attacks have not resulted in more serious damage and loss of life.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am not unsympathetic to some of the points that he is making at the moment, but I am confused about the Conservative reasoned amendment. He says that the parentage of the process belongs to the Conservative party and argues that many of the provisions in the Bill are worthy of support. He has heard the Secretary of State say that there will be fine tuning in Committee. Is not the amendment premature, given the right hon. Gentleman's overall attitude?

Mr. MacKay

The hon. Gentleman and I share a number of views on the subject. I have great respect for his keen interest in Northern Ireland and the great sincerity of everything that he says on these issues. The Conservatives feel strongly about each of the points made in the amendment, as I shall illustrate. We think that it is proper that it should come before the House on Second Reading. I acknowledge that, if we are defeated in the Division, we shall need to come back to the issues in Committee and on Report—and no doubt in another place as well. It is right that we should properly discuss the issues on Second Reading and have a vote at the end of today's debate.

While any of the fringe groups that have not signed up to the agreement remain active and retain their capability, it would be absolute madness to introduce any of the controversial security-sensitive measures recommended by Patten. That is why we do not believe that the time is right to make cuts in the strength and capability of the police, or at this stage to begin phasing out the full-time reserve. Nor do we believe that it is right to tamper with Special Branch in a way that could undermine its intelligence efforts and effectiveness.

Above all, no changes must be made for political reasons—they should be made only with the full support of the Chief Constable. Nothing must be done that in any way undermines the ability of the RUC to uphold the rule of law and to protect all the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Robert McCartney

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that the recent bomb on the Hammersmith bridge demonstrates teat those allegedly proxy groups now have the logistical capacity to deliver the same sort of blow and threat to the city of London as did their progenitors, the Provisional IRA?

Mr. MacKay

Yes, and that was the thrust of what I was saying.

We accept the appointment of the oversight commissioner last week, but he must not be allowed to interfere in, or cut across the responsibilities of, the Chief Constable of the RUC. The Secretary of State made that clear. He has just confirmed it again now, and we are grateful for that. It is the correct decision.

The Chief Constable must be allowed to run the police service without interference from any politician or group of politicians, whoever they may be. That goes for the new policing board that will be set up by the Bill to replace the existing Police Authority. The new policing board will be made up of a majority of politicians from parties represented in the Executive.

As we said in our submission to Patten, we do not in principle set ourselves against the greater representation of locally elected politicians on the Police Authority, although with safeguards. However, we have real anxieties about the scope for political interference by the board that could result from the Patten recommendations—especially when we consider that the board will contain parties which, even now, cannot bring themselves to support the police.

The problems will be more acute on the district policing partnerships, especially in areas where one political party or one tradition might be dominant. Rather than satisfying Patten's totally legitimate aim of taking the politics out of policing, this could have exactly the opposite effect—politicising the police to a greater extent than at any time since before 1970. As drafted, the Bill goes some way to addressing our concerns on this, and we are grateful for that. The safeguards that it contains are essential if the operational independence of the Chief Constable is to be preserved and the police are able to get on with the job of tackling crime, rather than turning it into a political football.

However, the safeguards do not go far enough. We remain totally opposed to the inclusion on the policing board of members of political parties who remain inextricably linked with terrorist organisations that have not even begun to decommission their illegally held arms and explosives. We find it completely unacceptable that the Bill will not explicitly provide for the disqualification of political or independent members from sitting on the board who have been convicted of scheduled or so called terrorist-type offences.

Similarly, we are concerned about the district policing partnerships that are to be established by the Bill to mirror the reorganisation of the police into districts based on the existing local government boundaries. We would not have proposed the establishment of the DPPs and would have preferred it if Patten had been content to build on the police-community liaison committees.

Despite our huge reservations, we recognise that the DPPs form a key part of the Patten report and therefore we will not oppose them. Again, the Bill goes some way to addressing our concerns about the DPPs. It rightly does not include the ludicrous plan to give councils powers to raise money to buy in additional policing services, paving the way for paramilitaries to come in through the back door. We welcome the fact that the DPPs will have only a consultative role, although we remain concerned that they will still interfere in the operational decisions of the district commander. However, we believe that it is wrong for any party, so-called loyalist or republican, to be represented on the DPPs if their paramilitary associates have not decommissioned a single gun or an ounce of Semtex. The provision to disqualify from sitting as an independent member any person who has been convicted of a scheduled offence should also apply explicitly to any political members with previous terrorist convictions.

Dr. Godman

In Strathclyde, the police board is made up of local authority representatives, so I am keenly interested in the composition of the DPPs. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that Patten recommended that they meet in public, in order to enhance their accountability to the local community. Does he agree?

Mr. MacKay

In principle, I am in favour of the DPPs meeting in public, but the hon. Gentleman, from his considerable experience of Northern Ireland, will agree that occasions may occur when they need to meet in private as well. I see that the Secretary of State is taking a keen interest in this exchange and I am sure that the issue will be explored further in Committee. I am willing to be convinced on the point and we will no doubt hear further from the hon. Gentleman when he makes his own speech.

The composition of the policing board and the DPPs would be sufficient on its own to warrant discomfort with the Bill. Combined with its failure to preserve the proud name of the RUC and its cap badge insignia, it means that the Opposition cannot support Second Reading, and that is why we have moved a reasoned amendment.

Mr. Robathan

As I understand it, the proposed composition of the police board means that Martin McGuinness could be put on it. He has all but admitted to having been on the army board of the IRA. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that would be putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop?

Mr. MacKay

I prefer to stick to our amendment, because in it we say that people who have been convicted of a scheduled offence should not be allowed to sit on the board or the DDPs. That is a straightforward and conclusive proposal, because such people are clearly guilty of an offence and have been convicted in a court. I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend's point, but it would dangerous to rely on circumstantial evidence, however strong.

Mr. Mandelson

The right hon. Gentleman said a few moments ago that it was not possible for the Opposition to vote in favour of Second Reading. Surely it is an option for the Opposition, in the event of their amendment being defeated, to support Second Reading, given how much of the Bill he says that they support, given that they supported the original objectives and terms of reference of the Patten commission and given that it is an integral part of the Good Friday agreement. Surely in view of the Opposition's support for all those things, it would be better from everyone's point of view if, having voted for their amendment, they then did not vote against Second Reading.

Mr. MacKay

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for the chance to clarify our position. If we lose our amendment tonight—clearly, he will bring his massed troops into the Lobby to defeat us—we will still be unhappy with important aspects of the Bill. In those circumstances, sensible observers would think it odd if we supported the Bill. What we will do, subject to listening carefully to the winding-up speech by the Minister of State, whom I am glad to see in his place, is to abstain on Second Reading and try to win the arguments in Committee, on Report and in the House of Lords. I hope that that makes the Opposition's position abundantly plain to the Secretary of State, but I repeat my perfectly legitimate proviso that we will listen to the Minister of State. He is a man who uses his words carefully, but I am sure that he will want to sum up at some length. We will be very alert during the final 15 or 20 minutes of the debate.

I return to Patten's proposals to take away the proud name of the RUC, and its cap badge. They are the most controversial element of the report, have caused significant hurt and anger, and are wholly without justification. We profoundly disagree with the assertion that the police service should be entirely free of any association with the symbols of the state, especially when acceptance of the Belfast agreement means acceptance of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's constitutional status.

With regard to the cap badge, I can only repeat what I and others have said many times before—that is, that it would be difficult to come up with anything that better encompasses the British and Irish traditions than the cap badge. To change it seems crass and stupid.

With regard to the name, the Patten report can offer no convincing evidence to support the scrapping of the royal title because no convincing evidence exists. As the most recent report from the police authority in Northern Ireland concluded, implementing the proposal will cause major offence in the Protestant community but will not lead to significant improvements in support for the Police among Catholics. That fear was echoed again recently by the Chief Constable. In other words, the proposal is all pain and very little gain. Why has it been put forward, when all the evidence suggests that the name is not the problem? An opinion poll in the Belfast Telegraph in April showed that 61 per cent. of Catholics in Northern Ireland had no difficulty with the name of the RUC. The Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs looked at the matter two years ago and recommended that the name should be retained.

The inescapable conclusion is that the decision to drop the royal title is designed to appeal to a minority of a minority, whose members have never supported the police. In all honesty, they are unlikely ever to support a police force other than one that they control.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

My right hon. Friend has rightly described to the House how the terrorist threat remains. In those circumstances, the Secretary of State has decided to go ahead with proposals such as removing the name of the RUC and allowing former activists and supporters of terrorist organisations to control the police. The right hon. Gentleman said earlier that he had listened to all parties in Northern Ireland. Does not his determination to press ahead with the proposals lay him open to the justifiable accusation that he has listened rather more closely to those parties that have held a gun to his head?

Mr. MacKay

I have a lot of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. Like many hon. Members in the Chamber today—but not all of them—he has long taken a keen interest in Northern Ireland matters, and I know that he visits the Province regularly.

The Patten proposal to drop the RUC's royal title does not have widespread support in the community. It should be reconsidered and, even at this late stage, I urge the Secretary of State to do so. The Bill does not require him to take an immediate decision, but allows him to defer it for some time. It leaves the matter in the right hon. Gentleman's hands. The Opposition, at the Dispatch Box and elsewhere, have advocated adopting a title that incorporates the RUC alongside a new title for the force. We have been supported in what seems to be the entirely correct compromise by many distinguished figures, including Monsignor Denis Faul.

Three weeks ago, the Secretary of State told the House that it should be possible to incorporate the name of the RUC in any new title. We shall obviously give him the opportunity to do just that. However, what he has said today, what the Bill says and what he has been saying in the media recently about the title not including the RUC, but having some legal definition that it is, does not go far enough unless there is much more clarity. I do not think that anyone is convinced of that yet; we do not see it, as he clearly does, as a satisfactory compromise.

We will seek to amend the Bill in Committee so that the proud name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary can stand alongside the working title of Police Service of Northern Ireland. We look forward to the Government joining us in the Lobby in support of that.

Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire)

Does my right hon. Friend welcome the fact that the Secretary of State said that, during the passage of the Bill, he would listen carefully to the arguments deployed? Does my right hon. Friend remember the Secretary of State saying earlier that he did not envisage making the name change until the middle of next year? Does my right hon. Friend think that it would be helpful if, in his winding-up speech, the Minister of State indicated the sort of circumstances that might occur over the next 12 months before the proposed name change that might have some influence on the Secretary of State's thinking?

Mr. MacKay

My understanding is that it is a date in September. The Secretary of State is nodding, so we have an even longer time of 15 months. I see the Minister of State smiling. Whether that is a positive sign, I do not know. [Interruption.] His fellow Ministers say that he has a sunny disposition. Well, some of the time.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) has vast practical experience of Northern Ireland affairs in a variety of capacities, not just ministerial. His comments are worth serious consideration by the Minister of State who will, I hope, address them and the related points that I have made when he is winding up the debate.

Mr. Thompson

Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that such a compromise, in which the names of the RUC and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are incorporated as one, is not what the people of Northern Ireland believe that the Tory party was proposing? Surely when the Tory party talks about maintaining the proud name of the RUC, it should mean exactly that, and not this unhappy compromise.

Mr. MacKay

I am disappointed at the hon. Gentleman. He normally attends our debates and will have heard me say on a number of occasions that I think that it a reasonable compromise to incorporate both names. I would be the first to admit that the name of the police force can, at times, be a sensitive issue to both communities. That is why, to acknowledge that sensitivity in both communities, we have suggested the joint name. It is cumbersome, it is boring and it is almost pedantic, but I think that it is the best way in which to bring people together on the issue.

The hon. Gentleman has badly misinterpreted what I said. Again and again, on radio and television in the Province, here on the mainland and from this Dispatch Box, I have made it clear that we have never said that the name must stand alone and not be changed. We have always said that we want it included in the new title, while not exclusively being the new title. I regret that, unusually on this occasion, the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have great regard, is mistaken.

We all agree that there must be change in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The RUC, under Sir Ronnie Flanagan's fine leadership, recognises this. It is wrong that the force is so overwhelmingly Protestant. I agree with the Secretary of State about that, and I agree with Patten wholeheartedly. The RUC has for many years sought to recruit more Catholics. However, let us be clear: the biggest single disincentive to Catholic recruitment, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) in his intervention, remains intimidation and the threat of murder. Anybody who doubts that should recall how the number of Catholic applicants to the RUC doubled after the first IRA ceasefire in 1994, only to fall back again when the ceasefire broke down. Nor has the situation been helped by the refusal—

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacKay

I will in a moment. What I am about to say will encourage the hon. Gentleman to make an even longer intervention, so I shall finish my remarks before giving way.

The situation has not been helped by the refusal of nationalist politicians and members of the Catholic clergy to recommend to young Catholic men and women that they should join the police force. I very much hope that that will change. There can be no justification whatever for that refusal. I willingly give way to the Deputy First Minister.

Mr. Mallon

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I put it to him, as gently as I can, that, as a Catholic who has lived all his life in the north of Ireland and who knows exactly what people feel about that issue, it seems to me somewhat patronising at times to be told why we as a people and we as a community do not do this or that. There is much more to the reasons why members of the Catholic community have not joined the police service than the point that has been made today.

Furthermore, unless we start to face realities, we shall not solve the problem. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the Catholic Church. The Church is important not because it is a church, but because we are talking about Catholics and, last week, it issued a statement, through Father Tim Bartlett. I shall make reference to that statement, if I catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. MacKay

Obviously, I hope that the Deputy First Minister catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as there was an omission from his remarks. I was hoping that he would say that he and his colleagues would strongly encourage the best young men and women from his community to join the RUC in large numbers, so that we can achieve what he and I want—a more balanced police force that broadly represents the two communities in Northern Ireland. It is a pity that he did not do that, although it was probably an oversight because he wanted to make other points. When he makes his speech, I am sure that he will put that right.

Mr. Mallon

If the right hon. Gentleman believes that I omitted something, I should like to put that right. The matter is as simple as this—I shall repeat the point later because it bears repeating: get this Bill right and we shall do that; get it wrong, and the objectives of Patten cannot be achieved.

Mr. MacKay

I did not quite understand the pause after "get it wrong" and then the heavy hint. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's comments will not be misinterpreted outside this place, because they were not what I would have expected from someone for whom I have great respect. In everybody's interest, he will need to clarify that matter when he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I hope that we all share the objective that the composition of the police force should more accurately reflect the make-up of the community in Northern Ireland. We all want the RUC routinely to go unarmed, with no need for flak jackets and armoured vehicles, and to patrol all parts of Northern Ireland without the need for support from the Army.

The biggest contribution to that—it would transform the policing environment in Northern Ireland—would be for the paramilitaries, republican and so-called loyalist, to end terrorism for good; to dismantle their organisations and to begin decommissioning their illegally held weapons, as they promised to do under the Belfast agreement. When that happens, it should fall to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, with its proud name and symbols preserved, to rise to the challenge of policing the peace as valiantly as it has policed Northern Ireland throughout the darkest days of terror. The RUC deserves our support; without our amendment, the Bill does not.

5.39 pm
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

I again thank the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) for allowing me to intervene earlier.

I have put my party's view on the issue for many years—almost 30 years—and I will not bore hon. Members with what they have heard before. I want to make two points and to emphasise that this is not a stand-alone issue; it is interlocked with the political and constitutional dimension that is Northern Ireland, and it takes two parts of the interlocking to deal with the problem. The first is the alienation of a section of the people from a constitutional arrangement about which they were not consulted and of which they are not particularly enamoured. That may not sound good, but it is the reality—however, we can deal with that reality through the terms of the Good Friday agreement. Secondly, policing belongs to the people; it does not belong to a Government, a state or a Secretary of State. As such, it must belong to all the people if we are to have successful policing.

I make those two brief points because we have the institutions in Northern Ireland—between north and south, between east and west and between Britain and Ireland—but we do not yet have a police service that can belong to all the people. That is what I and my party want to achieve, and we have striven to achieve that not in the comfort of debate or theory, but in places such as Derry, the Bogside, south Armagh, south Down and west Belfast. That was not easy, and it will not be easy in the future. Let us put all the theories aside—my colleagues and I do not have time for such luxuries—because if we get the Bill right, I will go into the hardest parts of Northern Ireland and I will ask people to join the police service and to support it. That is what I and my colleagues will do. However, we must get the Bill right.

The name "Patten" has been cited repeatedly in the debate, and rightly so. However, it is perhaps time that I reminded the House of who he is. He is no rabid nationalist or someone from south Armagh, like myself, and he is not an erstwhile supporter of any paramilitary group. He was a former chairman of the Conservative party, he was a Minister in the Northern Ireland office where he represented the Conservative party, he was an Education Minister in a previous Government, he was the former Governor of Hong Kong and he is currently a Commissioner in the European Union. Let us not doubt his credentials, and I say that as someone who is not a Conservative. Let us not doubt his ability, and I say that as someone who has admired him for a long time. Let us not disown him, but have seen traces of that from members of the Conservative party. He still belongs to the same party as the right hon. Member for Bracknell.

How do we deal with Patten? I have considered the ways in which people have tried to deal with him. One can abuse him verbally, and that has happened—although, thankfully, he is not the type of man who lies down in the face of such abuse. One can scorn his report, and I have witnessed that. One can question his motives and those of the other commissioners, and I have seen that. However, I did not see the clever way of dealing with Patten until the Bill was produced. One takes the report, espouses it and then emasculates, diminishes and reduces it from what it was intended to do. That is the clever way to deal with Patten.

I remind the House of what Patten said and what he was charged to do. He was charged to create a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole. The report was published last September. It did not contain everything that we as a party wanted, but we recognised it as a blueprint for a system of policing with which everybody could identify—policing for which all could assume responsibility and a police service working with and for all the community.

We went further than that—much further. We indicated that we would put people on the policing board and encourage people to join the police, on the basis of the implementation—full and faithful—of the Patten report. We also indicated that we would ask young people to stand against the forces in their own community to do the same. We indicated that we would do that not in a theoretical way, but up front, on the streets, where it counted. Having expressed a willingness to accept our responsibilities, I must express disappointment that others did not accept their responsibilities in the same way.

Our concerns relate to points right through the Bill. It leaves the Secretary of State to decide whether to implement key Patten recommendations on symbolic matters. I shall not get into the hang-ups about symbols; I have much too much respect for Unionism and the problems of Unionism to do that. However, I remind everybody of what Patten said. He stated that the Royal Ulster Constabulary should henceforth be named the Northern Ireland Police Service. He continued: The Northern Ireland Police Service should adopt a new badge and symbols which are entirely free from any association with either the British or Irish states. That was recommended not by us, but by Patten—a former Conservative Minister. He recommended also that the Union flag should no longer be flown from police buildings. Those are Patten's words, not mine.

Mr. Robert McCartney

He is not God.

Mr. Mallon

Patten is not God, but he is the first person in the history of the Northern Ireland state to lay down the basis on which we may—I repeat may—solve policing.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I follow his argument, but I am sure he will agree that in a democratic society a police force must uphold the rule of law, which comes from the state and its identity. Divorcing one from the other can be very difficult. There are communities where people's understanding of the rule of law is skewed in such a way that the hon. Gentleman would have to acknowledge that it was not the rule of law at all. Why is he so confident that people would be willing to accept the changes that he supports and to participate in community policing along the lines that he advocates? I find it difficult to believe that that will come about.

Mr. Mallon

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Let us hear Patten's views on that question. I shall quote him directly. He said that if you are going to get a police service which young Catholics as well as young Protestants … are going to join, then it can't be identified with the central political argument in Northern Ireland and it is as simple as that. That is Patten's view, and it is shared by our party. It is a view that has been expressed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the past week.

The Police Authority for Northern Ireland appointed by the Government has expressed the view that, in effect, some aspects of the Bill are ludicrous and quite unacceptable. Dr. Lynch, a member of the Patten commission, believes that Patten has been got at. That view is therefore not a communal prejudice that exists only in parts of Northern Ireland. We are not considering an argument between nationalism and Unionism, but the governance of the north of Ireland grappling with factors that have to be tackled to solve the problem.

I realise that I am running out of time. I shall make one last point. There comes a time to say exactly what is needed to solve a problem. We will not solve the problem by trying slickly to get into the middle, no matter where it might be. We shall not solve the problem by trying to diminish—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has run out of time.

5.51 pm
Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

It is a great privilege to follow the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). He will remember that I used to say that the ancestor of our mutual friend Richard Needham had been the hon. Member for Newry while my ancestor had been the hon. Member for Armagh and that we were both spiritual ancestors of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. I hope he will not misunderstand me when I say that we greatly appreciate and are proud of his contribution to Northern Ireland history.

I apologise to the Secretary of State for arriving late. The Standing Committee on which I serve had not reached a conclusion at 1 pm after three and a half hours of debate, although we divided shortly after resuming at 4.30 pm.

I declare an interest as Chairman of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs, which published a report on the composition, recruitment and training of the RUC—now the RUC George Cross Foundation—in 1998, before the Patten commission began its inquiry. The Select Committee has 13 members: seven from the Labour party, four from the Province—three Unionists and one Social Democratic and Labour party member—and my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) and me from the Conservative party. So far, we have published 10 reports in this Parliament, nine of which have been unanimous. The exception was the report on the RUC, on which we divided twice: on membership of outside orders and on flying flags.

It is notable that we did not divide on uniform, cap badge or name. On those matters, we did not resile from the status quo. The members of the Committee who are not Labour Members have remained unchanged in this Parliament. There have been six changes among the seven Labour Members. Opinion has shifted a little in the Committee since the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) left us to concentrate on the mayoralty of London. However, he was a member of the Committee when we agreed the RUC report in 1998. It is reasonable to assume that the initial seven Labour Members, some of whom are present tonight, were among those in the Labour party who were most interested in Northern Ireland. I remark neutrally that the Select Committee, with the membership that I described, reached a different but unanimous conclusion, on uniform, cap badge and title from that of the Patten commission.

Policing in Ireland goes back a long way. The younger Pitt's first efforts to set up a metropolitan force after the Gordon riots foundered on my constituents in the City of London; they refused to have anything to do with it. He withdrew the Bill in 1785 with the disclaimer that it was a subject of which he was not the master. However, in 1786, the then Irish Parliament established a force in Dublin along Pitt's lines. Robert Peel, who was Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1812 and 1818, observed its workings and returned to London as Home Secretary in the 1820s, armed with that knowledge. The rest is history.

Those of us who support the Belfast agreement must adjust in future months to a minuet of claim and counter-claim, concession and counter-concession between the parties that make up the Executive. We must pray that it is not always a zero-sum game, especially as the experience of working together grows, as it does in a Select Committee. In the meantime, it is ironic that the viceregality of the Secretary of State's role will grow rather than diminish, not least through the Bill's provisions. How well that marches with the Home Secretary simultaneously surrendering his unique powers in relation to the Metropolitan police to a new Police Authority in London will be a matter for historians. However, I hope that rumours that the Secretary of State is marked out for a more central role on the Whitehall stage or that he can, post devolution, run Northern Ireland in his spare time from running the Labour party's re-election campaign, are untrue. Such a hybrid portfolio would be an insult to the Province, and not least to the RUC. However, I intend it as a compliment to the Secretary of State that I hope he remains in the Province.

I asked the Secretary of State twice, publicly and on the record, about the morale of the RUC. I asked once after his statement on the Patten report on 19 January and once three months later, when he gave evidence to the Select Committee. I have only 10 minutes in which to speak and I therefore hope that the Secretary of State will forgive me if I characterise his answers, which were effectively the same, as, "could be better, but pretty good, all things considered." He explained to me how he took every opportunity to test RUC opinion. I did the same after November 1989, when, in answer to a direct question, I opined to the Press Association that I did not rule out future conversations with the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams). Although I was deeply impressed, as the Secretary of State has been, by the responsibility and correctness of RUC reactions—in my case, to me and what I said—I would not have been so brave as to calibrate RUC morale at that time.

A Secretary of State cannot go incognito among the RUC as Henry V went among his men clad in the cloak of Sir Thomas Erpingham on the eve of Agincourt. The Secretary of State carries his own legend of the prince of darkness, but the RUC cannot be treated as a common or garden focus group. My more informal soundings of RUC opinion do not confirm the Secretary of State's more sanguine findings about morale.

One of the bravest hon. Members who ever sat in the House told me shortly after I entered Parliament about a conversation that he had held with a Labour Member in the 1974–79 Parliament. That Member told him that trade unions mattered to Labour as much as old schools and regiments mattered to the Tories. The importance of morale in outside bodies is therefore familiar to hon. Members from both parties.

The RUC's historic role was derived in no small part from its knowledge of the way in which it was upholding the state in times of crisis. I used to say during the more troubled times of the troubles that the RUC, assisted by the Army, made life in Northern Ireland fifteen sixteenths normal. I therefore echo the words of Lord Fitt that were quoted earlier.

The Secretary of State's immediate predecessor said on the publication of the Patten report: It has been the RUC who have held the fabric of this society together over the past 30 years. However, some lines by Housman are also relevant: To skies that knit their heartstrings right, To fields that bred them brave, The saviours come not home tonight, Themselves they could not save. In our day and age, it is sad for the average RUC family of a certain age to look at their wedding photographs and see the missing faces. How much worse it is for the families of those who died. It is said that every family in Northern Ireland knows someone who has died.

When I was Secretary of State, like my predecessors and doubtless my successors, I wrote a longish letter in my own hand to the next of kin of every RUC member who was killed in the troubles. A decade later, it has been deeply moving to hear privately from members of the RUC whom I meet in the Province how much those letter continue to matter to the bereaved and in the families. If a life of whatever tradition is given in the service of the state, it remains important that that life and its loss should continue to be remembered, acknowledged, understood and valued. Any diminution of the force to which those people belonged increases the sense of loss and thus the force's morale.

I realise that the Patten commission was an international body and was considered the stronger for that. However, the regimental tradition is less strong in some other countries than it is here, just as the reputation of the British Army exceeds that of some other forces, and the RUC are regarded in Kosovo as model international policemen. The regimental tradition in all its forms is crucial to morale in our culture. However, I acknowledge that it is a living thing and not simply of the past.

I declare another interest. I am still haunted by a solecism that I once committed on the media of the Republic of Ireland. I know how it happened, but it is no comfort when compared with the hurt that I inflicted on a multitude of people, and especially a particular handful. The Secretary of State also committed a solecism on the media of the Republic of Ireland. Perhaps for understandable reasons, he had my especial sympathy. My solecism was much worse than his, but because his was related to the Brigade of Guards, it has an unfortunate read-across to the current issue.

I do not know how the Secretary of State, who has some of the technical characteristics of Houdini, will extricate himself from the crux into which the Patten commission's recommendations and his reactions to them have placed him. I detect from his recent actions that he has an instinct about the potential cost of the current course to him and to Northern Ireland. To avoid any charge of political advantage, I shall make an even-handed observation about Governments of both parties. The previous Conservative Government set universities a tough challenge in downsizing their faculty numbers, with genuine consequences for future quality. The previous Labour Government created a genuine problem for policing in the 1980s by letting so many experienced police sergeants of around the age of 35 retire dispirited in the mid-1970s—

Mr. Deputy Speaker


6.1 pm

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North)

It is a delight to follow the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke). I remember well the solecism that he made and the cry that he should resign. I also remember saying at the Dispatch Box that I saw no reason why he should resign. He was the most subtle, most far-reaching and cleverest Tory Secretary of State we ever had. That is a rare tribute for me to make to a Conservative politician, but it is one that he deserves.

The last phrase of the Tory amendment states that the Bill threatens significantly to increase the politicisation of policing in Northern Ireland. That is precisely what the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) is doing under the amendment. He is increasing politicisation given that the Patten report is aimed at and based on taking the police out of politics in Northern Ireland.

I am second to none in my praise of the integrity and courage of those members of the RUC—men and women—who have fought strongly to uphold the rule of law impartially. There are many such brave men and women, but I could not say that there has been no problem in the RUC. That problem still remains; if it did not, we would not be debating the Bill or discussing Patten tonight.

The first incident in the current problems occurred when nine policemen savagely beat Samuel Devenney in Derry in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). A senior British police officer was appointed to inquire into that incident, but he could find out nothing because of a conspiracy of silence by the policemen who were in the area at the time. The police were standing by while Robert Hamil was cruelly murdered and while the streets of Belfast burned. The police were involved in shoot-to-kill policies. I am not raking over old history to score political points; I am saying that that is part of the problem. The sooner that hon. Members, especially those on the Unionist Benches, realise that we are considering a police force that, rightly or wrongly, has been associated by people in the minority population with being part and parcel of a state that has been hostile to them, the better; it has been used to persecute them as it regarded the minority as the enemy within the state in the past. Until people are prepared to recognise that that is part and parcel of what Patten has tried to address, we are in considerable difficulty.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe)

What part does the hon. Gentleman think is played in what he describes as the problem by the worth of the president of Sinn Fein, who in January of this year described someone who was convicted of murdering an RUC officer as a "republican role model" and "morally superior" to those who sought to criminalise him? What part does he think language of that kind plays in the problem?

Mr. McNamara

I find that language despicable. I hold no brief whatever for the killing of police officers. I pay tribute to those men who courageously held the line, for example, at the time of the Hillsborough agreement, in which a Government of whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman was a member were involved. Many police officers have behaved with enormous courage in grave difficulties. He should not ask me to defend the words of the president of Sinn Fein—that is a matter for him—nor should he suggest that I can explain away those terrible things in some way.

My hon. Friends the Members for Foyle, for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), for South Down (Mr. McGrady) and I have always fought to have a police force that would be acceptable to the community as a whole in Northern Ireland, and which could earn the respect of both sides of the community. That is what Patten is trying to do. Patten produced a report that met his terms of reference, but the problem is that the Bill does not do so. The Bill is a cadaver of Patten; it does not contain the spirit and the letter of Patten as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggested. Much of what he said did, but the Bill does not.

The briefing that the Northern Ireland Office supplied for Second Reading bears very little relation in many substantial parts to what my right hon. Friend said today. I regard the Bill as mean, and its meanness can be seen in the discussion of the objections to the Bill contained in the briefing. He has stood many of those things on their head, so he presumably had nothing to do with the briefing, but, for example, paragraph 10, on traditions and beliefs, states: Patten recommends that the new oath should require officers "to accord equal respect to all individuals and to their traditions and beliefs". The Bill omits "traditions and beliefs" on the basis that it would be wrong to accord some of them "equal respect". What clever little man, with his grubby little jammy fingers, thought of that?

The paragraph continues: For example, the "tradition" of violence and the "belief' that it is legitimate to use violence for political ends. That must be aimed at the shoot-to-kill policy, at Gibraltar and at Derry. Is that what was meant? What nasty minds suggested that the SDLP's traditions and beliefs were ones of violence—the people most keen to ensure that the Bill should be considered in that way? Therefore, we are asked to say what have we found wrong with the Bill and why it is a cadaver.

The ombudsman's powers have been taken away and limited. To that extent, my right hon. Friend has gone some way to meet the concerns, but there are others about the proposed powers of the new policing board. The Police Authority said: the Secretary of State's intention threatens to undermine the credibility of the new body before it even gets off the ground. We are extremely concerned that if the legislation goes through as it stands, the Policing Board could actually have less power than the current Police Authority—a ludicrous situation … It is strange that the code of ethics for the police has already been drawn up by Sir Jack Hermon, who was Chief Constable. It was obviously lacking, otherwise we would not need a new one, but the person who has Hermon's job will be responsible for it.

According to the draft implementation scheme that happened to fall into my hands, 133 of the 175 recommendations will be implemented by the police, and the Chief Constable will have sole responsibility for 29. On recruitment, the Bill will never achieve the critical mass that Patten wants; on the implementation oversight, I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to alter it. An implementation officer with no powers—unable to enforce, to goad, to demand or to make regular checks—is no use. The Bill has been drawn up by the security services and the Northern Ireland Office, which thought, "How can we best emasculate, neuter or castrate the Patten report?" That attempt has failed.

If the Bill is passed in its present form, it will not carry with it the confidence of the nationalist community. That is what we must look for. There has been a lack of confidence throughout, which is why policing has been one of the major problems facing Northern Ireland and the achievement of a settlement. The association of the police with the organs of the state—the one as the political extension of the other—has to stop. Patten gives us that opportunity, and I hope that we seize it.

6.11 pm
Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)

Back in the old days, when I was young and lived in Northern Ireland, I talked to the police almost every day. My dad had a Volvo and no Royal Ulster Constabulary officer would believe that he had lent it to me. That concern turned out to be well founded, as I wrote the vehicle off on 1 January 1984. I apologise to the police for wasting their time and to my father for wasting his car.

The Secretary of State referred to "as good a model for policing as can be found anywhere in the world." He also said that he would approach the debate with an open mind. Also, as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said, the principle that we are debating represents the best opportunity for taking Northern Ireland policing forward, and I welcome the prospect of profoundly improving the trust with which communities in the Northern Irish population regard the police service—although I shall outline areas that are in serious need of improvement, which we may refer to in amendments.

Patten focused on the vision for policing for Northern Ireland, as outlined in the Good Friday agreement, which said that the police service should be accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms… That is also the Liberal Democrat vision for the police in Northern Ireland: a single, integrated police service with the confidence and respect of the whole community.

We all know the benefits of that, but one that has not been mentioned is the prospect of an end to most of the paramilitary beatings, a relatively large number of which still occur. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one must be the fact that self-appointed law keepers—vigilantes—think that their role is to step in when the RUC is seen to be ineffective. Clearly, there are no grounds to justify paramilitary beatings, but the fact that they happen is symptomatic of a deep-seated public order problem at a number of different levels. If we get the Bill right, perhaps we can address them successfully.

Mr. Grieve

The hon. Gentleman seems to be getting to the heart of the matter. He has spelled out a vision and said that Liberal Democrats share it—I can assure him that Conservatives share it as well—but he has also pointed out that certain elements in the community want to distort it for their own advantage. Some changes may simply be used as instruments with which to beat the police over the head in one meeting of the policing board after another, and some ratcheted political advantage may be sought, rather than being used to create consensus community policing, which is the reason for the new force's creation. Is not that a problem with the Bill, and a reason why it causes so much difficulty?

Mr. Öpik

The hon. Gentleman is correct that the issue is politically charged. Enormous symbolism is attached to it. Although that does not make the debate a bad thing, it makes it more difficult for us to steer an acceptable course from here to the end of proceedings on the Bill. With respect to him, I fear that on occasion, his party may be in danger of using the Bill as a political opportunity, which is not healthy. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) is not present to hear this point, but I ask him and his colleagues to assure us that they will not persist in trying to score party political points on the United Kingdom mainland when we need a more rational and more measured approach.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) has made an important point about community policing, and a good aspect of the Bill is the recognition that we must move to a more usual form of policing if the police service is to win the trust of the local community. That has not been achieved, for obvious reasons, in parts of Northern Ireland, but only when it occurs will the police service be seen by all as the legitimate law-keeping force. Therefore, clause 15 is welcome. It provides a general function for the new district policing partnerships, with plans for obtaining the views of the public as a whole on matters of local concern. The partnerships will seek the public's co-operation in preventing crime and act as general forums for discussion and consultation on matters affecting local policing.

We are also encouraged by clause 21, which will allow the policing board to make arrangements to facilitate consultation if a district policing partnership has not done so. It also stresses the crucial importance that Patten—and, in fairness I must add, the Government—have placed on that issue. We welcome the duty to publish a variety of reports and codes, which are referred to in the Bill. They will go some way to ensuring that the police are seen as open and transparent. Bits of paper alone will not achieve that, and the attitude of the reformed police service will be the crucial driver.

The annual report on the policing of Northern Ireland must include a section on police compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998. The Liberal Democrat response to Patten praised the emphasis on human rights, which are essential to the well-being of a democratic society. The police must be seen to follow up and uphold the highest standards of international human rights. The Government seem to have accepted Patten's recommendation to include in the police service oath taken by new recruits a commitment to uphold human rights. That represents progress. I do not want to discuss just how the oath should be applied retrospectively, but I note that there are very strong, reasonably expressed views on both sides. That subject is best left until we can discuss it and related specific amendments in Committee.

Some issues were missing from Patten, but the establishment of the RUC George Cross Foundation goes a long way to correcting the omission of any recognition of the dedication and sacrifices of police officers and their families throughout the years of the troubles. We have emphasised that it is vital for officers who have served in the RUC to be treated with dignity, respect and generosity. Therefore, we also welcome the special provisions for severance and retirement packages in clause 45, although the detail will be important in establishing the extent to which those measures fulfil our hope that the respectful wishes of most Members of the House are carried out.

Several provisions, some of which have been alluded to, still cause much concern. For the Liberal Democrats, clause 43, which deals with quotas, is the most significant problem. We fully support the need to make the police more representative, especially in relation to Catholics, but the imbalance in the proportion of Catholics applying for work in the police will not be fixed by demanding that an equal number be recruited from the qualified pool of candidates. Quotas are essentially a public policy tool for tackling discrimination at the point of selection. That is not the issue in Northern Ireland. The problem arises at the point of application.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh made the point clearly: there is under-representation because an insufficient number of Catholics apply for jobs in the police. However, the solution lies not with a quota, but with the community attitude to the police. That cannot be handled by using quotas at the stage envisaged by the Government. Quotas miss the fundamental point that there are few Catholic applicants. That is not because Catholics have not been accepted by the RUC, but because, given the reasons that we have heard about, they have not had enough confidence in the idea of being in the police force to make applications. I have already discussed at length the importance of ensuring that the police are seen to be fair and impartial. They have not been viewed as such in the past, and some members of the community have not had enough trust in the police to consider a career with them.

The 18 to 30 population in Northern Ireland, which is the likely source of new recruits, already has a rough balance between Protestants and Catholics: 45 per cent. are Catholics, 44 per cent. are Protestants and 11 per cent. are from other groups. If reform works, the natural rate of recruitment should therefore be balanced. If we get the applications right at the start, I believe that recruitment will work out in the end and quotas will become unnecessary, serving little more than a cosmetic purpose and giving a psychological guarantee of fair treatment. However, if, for whatever reason, the Catholic population does not apply to the police service, the use of quotas will not overcome the problem. They provide a tactical solution to a strategic issue.

It would therefore be far more beneficial to initiate a strong programme of affirmative action to encourage more Catholics to apply to the police. Leaders of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland, such as politicians, church leaders and teachers should actively promote that and encourage young people to consider policing as a career option. That can be done only if community leaders go into those communities, as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said, and can point to a police service that they trust and which they can be seen to promote in a credible way.

Other under-represented groups such as women and ethnic minorities should be actively targeted and encouraged to join the police. New recruits from the pool of qualified candidates should then be monitored to ensure equity in recruitment opportunities. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's view on that approach to an up-front percentage increase in applicants, which contrasts with going to the tail end of the recruitment process and seeking to address the problem long after it has been created.

We must also watch out for quotas because, inadvertently, they may be more divisive for the police service, sectarianising what would otherwise be an integrated force. New officers benefiting from positive discrimination on, for example, religious grounds, could be put in a rather difficult position, as there is some evidence that positive discrimination can cause resentment in organisations.

I shall underline an issue that has already been raised, and question the legality of such a move. The Bill proposes to amend current fair employment legislation to make room for quotas, which sets a dangerous precedent. Quotas are banned under that legislation because they are not regarded as a fair solution to an imbalance. I therefore seek guidance from Ministers on whether quotas are permissible under European law.

Patten himself admits that the use of quotas for gender would be illegal. Even if quotas based on religion are currently legal, it is likely that they will become illegal in a year or so as a result of two directives under the Amsterdam treaty. There are proposals for a council directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, and for a council directive implementing the principle of equal treatment of people, regardless of racial or ethnic origin. Once again, therefore, I ask the Government to review their decision to include quotas in the Bill, and to examine those directives. We shall table amendments on those points later: this is a principle on which Liberal Democrat Members will push very hard indeed.

The code of ethics is the primary legislative tool for achieving a human rights agenda in the police. However, the drafting of the code is left to the discretion of the Secretary of State, without bodies such as the Human Rights Commission being granted explicit rights to be consulted. That should be rectified. Clause 30(4) requires members of the police only to "have regard" to the code of ethics. That should be amended to require them to comply with it. The phrase "have regard" is hardly a vote of confidence in the whole process, and the Bill should be more assertive.

Earlier, I welcomed aspects of the Bill which will help to improve the accountability, openness and transparency of the police.

Mr. McNamara

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We were under instructions that Back Bench speeches could take only so much time. If the hon. Gentleman qualifies as a Front Bencher, does that not also apply to my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), whose speech was stopped?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The understanding in the House has always been that, under Standing Orders, the exemption from time limits extends only to the spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party and to no one else.

Mr. Öpik

For once, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel special. Thank you.

Mr. MacKay

Make the most of it.

Mr. Öpik

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support.

The Patten report expressed hope that the new policing board would be considerably stronger than the Police Authority which it replaced. However, the Bill assigns many powers to the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable, rather than the Board. We agree that the Secretary of State needs to have a role in policing, and would like a Justice Minister in the Assembly to carry out those functions. We have a strategic concern about the proposed future structure and are anxious that the relationship between the Secretary of State, the Chief Constable and the board is out of balance and favours the Secretary of State.

Recommendation 26 of the Patten report specified that the policing board should have the power to initiate an inquiry into any aspect of the police service or police conduct. Depending on the circumstances, the Board should have the option to request the Police Ombudsman, the Inspectorate of Constabulary or the Audit Office to conduct or contribute to such an inquiry, or to use the Board's own staff, or even private consultants for such a purpose. I echo other Members' concerns about the board's opportunities and power to have an inquiry. I shall not deal with the seven hurdles that prevent the board from exercising that power now, but I intend to raise them in Committee.

None the less, I welcome the Secretary of State's assurance that he is reviewing the opportunities for the board to call an inquiry. I shall not dwell on the matter here, but it requires clarification, as those who think that the board is insufficiently powerful are nervous about its influence in such areas.

The police authority was responsible for setting objectives and targets in a police plan. Under the Bill, the new board will be responsible only for setting targets for objectives established elsewhere. The Secretary of State has the power to make regulations on the content of the annual policing plan—which, again, makes the holder of that office very powerful in relation to the board, not least because under the Bill, the Chief Constable need only "have regard" to the policing plan. We believe that it would be better if he were required to adhere to it, except when the board gives its approval for him not to do so.

Similarly, under the Bill, responsibility for accounts and audit has been transferred from the police authority to the Chief Constable, not to the board. Given the lack of statutory reference to a chief executive or a secretary to the board, one can only conclude that the Chief Constable is to perform both those roles, so there will be a huge centralisation of power in that position. A privately run business would have no problem with that, but we are discussing a publicly accountable organisation. That is our primary reason for being concerned that the power is over-centralised in two individuals, rather than being devolved to the board. I look forward to the Minister's reply on that subject.

There have been many discussions about names, and, as everyone knows, I support the title "The Northern Ireland Police Department". However, I am a realist and, although you have given me leave to make a Front-Bench speech, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not believe that I could muster the necessary votes for my proposal. Nevertheless, it seems for Her Majesty's Opposition to push for a reasoned amendment on a tactical issue that is primarily of symbolic importance. Were they to succeed in mustering enough votes for that, it would mean an end to the Bill. We would not move forward at all on the Patten proposals, whether such a step were faulty or not.

Will the right hon. Member for Bracknell reconsider? Are his concerns so great that he cannot wait for the Bill's Committee stage? That, I believe, is the appropriate point at which to raise an issue on which, no doubt, we shall spend a lot of time Does he really need to register a vote against the whole Bill when he himself has said, and others have reiterated, that there is much in it that the Opposition support?

Similarly, the Opposition's concern about involving ex-prisoners who were imprisoned as a result of the conflict is valid, but the issue has a far deeper significance than the simple concern about having ex-cons involved in the process. We must bear it in mind that about 15,000 people in the nationalist community have, at some time, been prisoners, and would therefore be excluded from the process if ex-prisoners were not allowed to participate.

Mr. Mallon

We must be very careful about this point. The Bill refers to scheduled offences. More than 90 per cent. of people convicted of a scheduled offence over the years were guilty of parking their car in the wrong place—that was a scheduled offence. I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that a person of good will who happened to park his or her car in the wrong place should not, under the Bill, be allowed to serve in a police partnership.

Mr. Öpik

I can relate to the hon. Gentleman's point, because I got a parking ticket last week.

Mr. Mallon

That was not a scheduled offence.

Mr. Öpik

That is true. Of course I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I agree with him: I am saying that I am concerned about the fact that people convicted of scheduled offences will be excluded from being independent members of a DPP. Those seeking to be political members will be allowed to proceed even if they have fallen foul of the scheduled offences rule, but independent candidates will not.

Mr. Robert McCartney

One of the people whom we hope will be excluded was in the Lobby of the House today. I refer to Mr. Gerry Kelly, who planted the bomb at the Old Bailey, killed three people—one was an anaesthetist—and shot a guard in making his escape. I hope that the hon. Gentleman would agree that such a person should be excluded.

Mr. Öpik

I am saying that this is a more sophisticated debate than can be covered in a reasoned amendment. We have already seen that there are two, or perhaps more, strongly held views on this issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is yours?"] I ask hon. Members to listen; they will then hear my view. Many of the people whom we are discussing have played an integral role in moving us from the bad old days to the relatively peaceful present. I happened to speak to Gerry Kelly today, and I believe that there must be a proper debate rather than the emotive reaction of automatically excluding such people from the political process.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Öpik

Yes, but then I will take no further interventions.

Mr. Robinson

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will refine his opinion when I tell him that the BBC in Northern Ireland is running as its lead story this evening the involvement of the Provisional IRA in the killing of Edmund McCoy 10 days ago in Dunm[...]rry.

Mr. Öpik

I shall go further: I am happy to refine and clarify my view on the basis of a sensible debate in Committee to decide who should be involved in the process and who should not. If we need evidence that there is this very debate to be had, we can consider what has happened in the Chamber in the past few minutes. Sometimes it is hard for people to entertain the possibility that on this matter there is a view different from their own, because, for understandable reasons, it provokes strong feelings.

I do not necessarily ask hon. Members to accept my view, and I stress again that I am willing to refine my view on the basis of argument, because, as the Secretary of State said, we must keep an open mind on these important issues. I simply ask hon. Members to recognise that there must be a debate, and we will not have that debate if we simply try to shout each other down or find reasons not to listen to alternative views before rejecting them.

As for the Patten proposals, as the hon. Members for Newry and Armagh and for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) have said, we have to be consistent on them. At times the Government have said that they cannot do x or y because it is not a Patten recommendation. If that is the case, they must be true to his recommendations throughout. However, for understandable reasons the Government have chosen not to proceed with various of the recommendations. The process is either pick-and-mix or it is not. It will be simpler if it is not pick-and-mix, but I suspect that Ministers have taken a different view. If so, they cannot argue that proposals made in the House that are not in the Patten report, such as a change in the quota process, are not acceptable because they are not in the report. Each proposal must be decided in its merit.

Most hon. Members want the Bill to be passed, and I hope that our amendments in Committee will be seen as contributing to improving the Bill. I hope also that we will be able to discuss these matters constructively, and that in doing so we have a good opportunity to listen to the views of different parties. We can then make an informed decision. The most dangerous thing that we could do would be to entrench ourselves in existing views, which have been rehearsed here many times, and have rarely led to progress such as movement by any side in the process.

I hope that we will use the Bill as a way to move forward, perhaps beyond its current contents to measures that are much closer to Patten's full recommendations. Liberal Democrats hope to make a positive contribution, and we sometimes make remarks that people find uncomfortable because we believe them to be right or because sometimes it is important for individual Members to break taboos to get to the truth. If that is the spirit of the debate, it will be constructive. I hope more than anything else that by doing so we can improve the quality of policing in Northern Ireland, and thus also the quality of life.

6.37 pm
Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik). I entirely agree that the Bill cries out for a Committee stage, which must be constructive because we have to get it right, as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) told us forcefully. A cry went out, "Get it right for whom?", and I humbly suggest that we have to get it right for Northern Ireland.

From the beginning of the process, the Secretary of State's clear attitude has been that he will approach the debate with an open mind. That augurs well for the Committee stage, but the Bill will need fine-tuning. Indeed, on an important point about safeguards in inquiries, my right hon. Friend indicated that he might have gone too far. I hope that he will not be overcome with generosity because we need safeguards.

I welcomed much of what the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said. I do not agree with the amendment in his name, but I entirely respect it, his right to table it and his party's right to vote on it. I hope that, subject to the eloquence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, in which I have every confidence, members of my former party will abstain in the main vote. I would be relieved if they did so and I would commend them for it. We can and should have a vigorous Committee stage. Bearing in mind that there is such a basis of agreement on Patten and on the Bill, we can also have a decent Report stage and Third Reading when we can express reservations.

I know that I am not the ideal person to suggest to members of my former party how they might vote—

Mr. McNamara

Yes you are.

Mr. Temple-Morris

I am encouraged by my hon. Friend's remark. I suggest with all humility that, if Conservative Members support the Bill, they will make a major contribution to delivering peace to Northern Ireland.

I want to quote from a paper that I do not read very much these days; I thought that no one could doubt me if I did so. The Daily Telegraph of 9 September 1999 expressed reactions—admittedly they were mixed—from RUC officers to the Patten report. One quote says it all in my view: A sergeant based in the south of the province said: "Did anyone ever expect Patten to come back and say, Keep it up, you're doing a great job? Of course the name change will offend some people, but at the end of the day, his plans would just turn us into a normal British force. Change is not a problem for us, we only hope that the Catholic community responds and that we are allowed to change without the threat of terrorism hanging over us. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House may agree that that says, at least, most of it.

I wanted to quote the views of an RUC sergeant for obvious reasons. The Bill is about change. It is about normalisation: it is about a normal British force. It is about a change of culture—about a change from policing the troubles to policing with and for the people. It is about each community responding. It is also, of course, about the withdrawal of the constant threat of terrorism. It is part of a wider peace process. I ask everyone to take a constructive approach, not least in Committee. I believe that if we fail with the Bill, and if we fail with the implementation of the Patten recommendations, the peace process will go into a decline that none of us wants. We must therefore get it right.

The question of the Patten report and the institutions is pivotal: it is a cornerstone of peace. It is regrettable that the Bill and the Patten report have come into the front line; the reform would have been much easier if the institutions were up and running and decommissioning was under way. That, however, is not an option. There can be no going back, and no slackening of the pace. In no way is the past an option.

One of my main worries relates to the RUC, and to its concerns. At the heart of those concerns is the feeling that a police change should not run ahead of progress towards peace—that demilitarisation should not include changes in the size of the police service while the terrorist threat remains. We all appreciate the dangers, but we are dealing with changes and normalisation that will take years. Even after 10 years, if Patten's recommendation is followed, there will be a substantial force of 7,500. I am confident that, if there is a threat, the Government—this Government, or the Government of the day—will meet that threat. They might be much better able to meet it if there were a force that was more acceptable to all the people of Northern Ireland. The RUC is not just policing the change; it is an integral part of the change.

Let me turn to specifics, and to cultural issues. Whatever we call the force—the Police Force of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Police, or whatever—the name must change. Patten is clear about that, for the right reasons. I think that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to recruit young Catholics without changing the name first, although there are many other aspects of the problem.

We do, of course, salute the RUC for its role in the front line against terrorism. I especially remember the "Ulsterisation" policy of the mid to late 1970s. I am sure that a number of British soldiers owe their lives to the sacrifice that was made by RUC officers. Nevertheless, in terms of historical associations across the communities of Northern Ireland, I think it goes without challenge that the past of the RUC—and that of the Royal Irish Constabulary before it—while it has been commendable in recent years, has not always been clothed in glory. It is regarded very differently by the two communities, for obvious historical reasons.

We need a fresh start, but the fresh start will not work unless the RUC, through its experience and tradition, forms the basis for its successor—of which it will be very much part: indeed, the successor force will not work without it.

Let me say something about the badge. We have talked about a crown and a harp—about the emblems of the two countries. I was the founding co-chairman of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body; I believe that the right hon. Member for Bracknell was on the steering committee with me. At that time, we tried to create an emblem, or logo, for the body. Having considered the crown over the harp, the harp over the crown, the crown around the harp and the harp around the crown, we eventually threw up our hands and said that we could proceed no further. I therefore sympathise with Patten's view that perhaps no association with the emblems of the British or the Irish states would be advisable, and that we need a new badge and a new flag. I am delighted that the Northern Ireland Assembly has made progress in that direction.

Let me say a little about accountability, reports and inquiries. I mentioned safeguards at the outset. I believe that the present position will be challenged in Committee—the provision, that is, that a minimum of 12 members of the policing board should vote in favour, which means that seven would be voting against.

The minority is just as important as the majority in the context of establishing a permanent peace in Northern Ireland. Whoever constitutes the majority and whoever constitutes the minority, that must surely be the case. The arrangement cannot work if one overrides the other. I do not think that, if the board demanded an inquiry into a public-order incident at Drumcree, for instance, it would get off to a good start with a majority of 10 to nine. For the moment, I defend the Bill, and the Secretary of State's reserve powers. He is the democratic bottom line during a continuing transfer of authority.

The same applies to codes of practice. The Patten report recommends that control be transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly as soon as possible, but for the moment it rests with the House of Commons and the Secretary of State, who has responsibilities—not least for security matters. Codes of practice are therefore necessary.

6.47 pm
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I apologise for the fact that, owing to a late flight, I could not be present for the Secretary of State's speech.

I am no admirer of the Patten report, nor does my party admire it. It is not that we have made a predetermined judgment; like the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), we recognise that Patten is a man of huge ability. Often, the difficulty with people of huge ability is that they know of that huge ability, which makes them arrogant and conceited. Patten felt that he could override the basic tenet of the Belfast agreement—that, for as long as the people of Northern Ireland so determined, Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom.

Some people think that that goes too far; but what does it mean? How does one remain part of the United Kingdom? It means that one shares things that are common within the kingdom—the flag and other insignia—but not in an aggressive or offensive way. Flags have become aggressive symbols only in so far as they are used by one small section of society to intimidate another, and vice versa. That was not what was intended by those who conceived the Belfast agreement, but Patten cast aside all regard to the agreement.

Sadly, I can imagine Patten's having the support of Sinn Fein-IRA, which has much to learn about democratic politics. It has not convinced some of us—and if hon. Members had been where I was on Saturday night, they would have been even less convinced—that some of its members have become reconstructed. But it is much more saddening to find that not only Sinn Fein but the SDLP and the Irish Government, while paying lip service to the practical aspects of the agreement, do not give proper recognition to the spirit of it. That is one of the difficulties deriving from the debate.

It is no good the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) reading us all a lesson on how we should move the process forward if there is no clear recognition of the rights of the people of both traditions in Northern Ireland. It should be a question not of pandering again and again to one tradition, but of whether we can have mutual respect.

Patten also showed no awareness of the needs of, or the sacrifice made by, the RUC. I think of a late friend of mine, a Roman Catholic RUC sergeant, who was murdered by the IRA, in November 1975. His widow—Patten and his commission would have known this—was awarded £4,000, and £3,500 was awarded for each of her children. I think of another police widow who was awarded zero—nothing—but who, on appeal, was awarded £6,000. Those events occurred back in 1975 and 1976.

It would have been reassuring if Patten had recognised that the sacrifice of the RUC goes wider and deeper than the men and women who died: it affects families and children. I have been associated with an organisation that is dealing with the trauma affecting police men and their families. Even today, one sees eight-year-old children requiring treatment because of the stresses and strains placed on RUC members and on their family life. Patten disregards that.

When we consider a Bill, we cannot afford to disregard such matters. I hope that there is something to be done for those women—wives of RUC officers who were killed 25 years ago—who are living in poverty. However, that is another issue.

I recognise, too, that Patten took a huge amount of the content of his recommendations from Ronnie Flanagan's fundamental review. I also recognise that the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, with which I have had some association, wholeheartedly and without reservation accepted—it would not have been my recommendation—a fundamental review. Regardless of whether Flanagan or the federation was right or wrong, each made proposals based on three criteria. As those criteria have already been rehearsed in the debate, I shall not waste my time rehearsing them again. However, the criteria are based on the level of violence and on change in response to society's needs.

I should like to touch very briefly on the needs of society, because no hon. Member has yet talked about policing in terms of delivering something that society cannot do without. Currently, in Northern Ireland, we have a mafia sub-culture. It might have developed inevitably, because of the age that we live in, but I think that it has developed because we live e in the wake of 30 years of hideous terrorism.

The sub-culture is corrupting our young people. The extent to which drugs are being used in Northern Ireland is frightening. There is some success, but not enough of it, and the drug dealers are winning the battle with the police. We need to keep a level of policing that can deal with that.

There is worse. There is a multi-million pound business in smuggling fuel—diesel fuel, heating fuel, motor fuel—not only into Northern Ireland, but into Great Britain. The tentacles of that organisation stretch far and wide. The business is depriving the Exchequer of nearly £1 billion annually. The Government admit to a £100-million figure for the trade, but that figure is rubbish. It is certainly more than £500 million, and information that I have recently received suggests that it is approaching £1 billion.

Almost nothing is being done about the business. There are no special arrangements to deal with it, and there is no co-ordinated approach to tackling it between Customs and Excise, police, health and safety agencies, other planning bodies and everyone who could play a part. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh is nodding. The business is a scandal, but the Government have not attempted to do anything substantial about it.

I leave the House with the reality of the policing situation. I wanted to touch on other issues in my speech, but I do not have time. If I am fortunate enough to be selected to serve in Committee, I shall touch on many of them.

I should mention one matter now. The Bill mentions codes of ethics, codes of practice, codes of this and codes of that—but when will we see them? We have to see them now. Quite bluntly, I do not trust those who are tasked with producing those codes not to pervert what we are attempting to do here today.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

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

6.57 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to participate in the debate. It might sound rather grandiose, but today we are engaged in part of an awesome task—to create a peaceful community in Northern Ireland that is based on inclusivity and trust. The beginnings have begun in re-establishing the Executive, but we must now deal with the problems of the other institutions of state. In that context, we must address the issue of renewal or reformation—whatever one wants to call it—of the police service, to provide Northern Ireland with a new start and new dimension in policing and in security, which, as has been said so often in today's debate, has been supported by both sections of the community.

It has also already been said that it would be disastrous if we missed this opportunity to address the policing issue. Our peace, security and prosperity will depend largely on policing. It is therefore incumbent on us all, regardless of which part of the community we come from, to listen, to learn, to advise and to give so that we can reach a consensus that produces acceptability.

Every day, the communities in which I and many other Northern Ireland Members live see what has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis): a Mafia-type infiltration of our communities. We do not know the source of the infiltration—perhaps ex-paramilitaries. Perhaps it is simply a product of the ethos created by 30 years of violence. As I have said in the House before, after the psychological conditioning that has occurred in our community, we cannot and should not be expected simply to switch off violence.

Some things must be said rather boldly and up front. Much has been said today about recruitment and about how the problem of recruitment from the community from which I come and into which I was born—the Catholic community; but I represent the entire community—is the result only or primarily of the paramilitaries, particularly the IRA, preventing recruitment. That is a red herring.

Let us bear in mind the recruitment figures from the establishment of the police force in Northern Ireland to 1970, before the violence occurred. Those figures showed a continuing decline in participation by the Catholic community. In addition, the ethos was created that there was a Protestant state for a Protestant people, and a Protestant police force for a Protestant people. That was an insult to the members of my community who joined that police force. However, that was the perception and reality of the situation then and today.

No greater force promoted that ethos than the party represented by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. He spoke about flags. I did not quite catch his reference, but he suggested that a minority categorised or classified flags as emblems of being part of its own community. There is no party more than the Ulster Unionist party that flew the flag of the United Kingdom as a party political flag. It was flown at every meeting and at every platform. That practice extended even to the paramilitaries. That is where symbolism becomes so important. That being so, it is equally important that we set forth on a new beginning, move away from the symbolism and attitudes of the past and create a new peace in our society for the community from which I come and the community of the Protestants or Unionists, however we might designate them. I hate using those words but they have already been used this afternoon. There is a need for a new police service which both communities can fully participate in and support. If that does not come about, the present situation will continue.

I am talking not about what is happening in no-go areas, but in go areas. Heavies are visiting our streets and local communities and putting to rights, as they see it—the right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) referred to the jury, judge and executioner—relatively small crimes. At the same time, we have the overpowering and overreaching problem of drugs. That is the ethos that we are trying to change.

We in the SDLP have a broader vision of the policing service that goes beyond the Bill. The Secretary of State has announced that he has published an implementation plan, which I have not yet seen. There is also the work of the oversight commissioner. There must be overall delivery if the Patten report is to be implemented.

It seems that Patten has been presented today as a demigod. He was only one member of an international commission that took evidence at every crossroads in Northern Ireland. It presented a compromise that it thought would work in our society. The Patten report is or was the compromise. That is why we in the SDLP, with some misgivings in certain areas, broadly support the Patten concept.

We are worried that the Bill does not reflect the Patten report and the compromise. We have identified 44 areas of concern where the Patten report will not be implemented, or not fully implemented. If we are to be successful in creating a new police service for our communities, these matters must be addressed.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary of State said that he had an open ear and that the Government would consider constructive amendments to the Bill. That is to be welcomed. However, we must deal with what is in front of us and not with what we are promised.

I do not have time to go into the many areas that constitute the 44 problems that we have identified. However, one of the major areas of concern is the lack of powers of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. The Patten report proposed a new police board that would ensure accountability, especially in terms of reports and the initiation and conduct of inquiries. We feel that the Bill falls far short of those proposals in many instances.

For example, the Chief Constable can refuse to allow the board to undertake an inquiry. The Secretary of State will be able to stop an inquiry taking place if it is deemed that it would not be in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness. What does that mean? How is that to be interpreted and who is to interpret it? An inquiry can be initiated only if the re is a weighted majority of the board. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) referred to 12 out of 19. That is perhaps significant because 12 is two more than the number of elected representatives that will be appointed to the board.

The elected representatives will come from a broad cross-section of political representation. They should not be deemed to have common cause on a party or partisan basis. The 10 elected persons, of the 19, should with others have the right of a normal majority to make a decision.

There are many other issues that I should like to touch on—for example, the code of ethics. Why should such a code or a code of conduct, which would be desirable or acceptable, not be applicable to all members of the new police service? Why should it relate only to new recruits? Surely all members of the service do the same job on the same basis, with the same ethics.

I look forward to consideration of the Bill in Committee. The Secretary of State has said that he will have an open ear and I hope that he and the Government will consider constructive proposals for change.

7.7 pm

Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire)

It is a privilege to be able to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady). I share his perception of the importance of policing in developing the new arrangements in Northern Ireland.

I repeat what I have said previously in the House, by declaring an interest. RUC officers guarded me for a number of years. As a former Minister with responsibilities for security in Northern Ireland, I appreciated their professionalism and dedication. Anything that I say is shaped by those experiences, and I make no apology for that.

I welcome much of what is in the Bill. On a previous occasion, I said that the Secretary of State was right to seize the opportunity to make radical changes to the policing system in Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that during the past 30 years it would have been exceptionally difficult to make such radical changes. He has an opportunity, and he is right to take it. He is right also to try to establish good practice. If I may say so, he is right in addition to distance himself as far as possible from policing matters to allow local influences much more to be brought to bear. He should remain the democratic last resort. Recent history in Northern Ireland suggests that from time to time that may be important.

There may have been a change of Government in 1997, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the ethos of the Northern Ireland Office and the advice that the Secretary of State has received have probably not changed as much. An innate conservatism has encouraged the right hon. Gentleman to move a certain distance but not to get too radical. I suggest that he has an opportunity to be more radical than perhaps his advisers would wish him to be. The new policing board does need to be set up. I had inside knowledge of the difficulties that we had with the old Police Authority for Northern Ireland. My colleagues and I spent too much of our time trying to resolve issues that arose between the Chief Constable and the chairman of the authority. The policing board provides a wonderful opportunity. The Secretary of State should give it as much power and significance as his radical instincts will permit, always protecting his role as Secretary of State ultimately.

What bothers me about the Bill—I pick up the word "interlock" that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) used—is that it is too much in a politicised setting. Like others in the Chamber, I can reflect back 50 years and more. The police in Northern Ireland were always seen in a political context. The hon. Members for South Down and for Newry and Armagh both know of my long concern that the majority of 1aw-abiding people in the nationalist community got caught up in the wash of the tough policing that had to be undertaken to try to detect and prevent terrorism. Their political views were influenced by it, although they were not to blame.

I therefore accept the point that those two hon. Members have made—that it is too simplistic to say that there were always voices that said, "We will intimidate you out of the RUC." It is much more complex than that, although both would, I think, agree that hard-line republicans link support of the police with support of the state, to the detriment of both.

I hope that the Secretary of State will not be over-influenced by some of the more emotional voices in the Unionist community. People are wrapping their arms around the police as if they were, in perpetuity, Siamese twins, but, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I remember how a number of people behaved in the aftermath of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I remember the loyalist and Unionist attacks on the police. I remember the rhetoric when policemen were burned out of their homes because they were not bowing to the will of the anti-agreement faction and were upholding the law of the land. Therefore, I take with a pinch of salt—

Mr. Maginnis

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Brian Mawhinney

No. I have only five minutes. I will go on.

I would be somewhat concerned about attaching too much attention to those points. Having said that, the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear me say that, underneath that disgraceful behaviour, there was a core of solid, respectable, loyal, law-abiding Unionists who attached themselves to the state, who gave significance to their British citizenship and who saw the RUC and policing issues in that context. If the hon. Gentleman had allowed me to make that point without interruption, I would have gone on to say that I agreed with much of what he said.

The point I am making to the Secretary of State is that we are in danger of getting politicised, at a time when there is an opportunity to move away from politicisation. In that regard, I have particular concern about clause 15 and the district policing partnerships. I understand why they are there. I understand the importance that he attaches to them, but they are a recipe for considerable political mischief, as are clause 43 and the quotas.

The Secretary of State got lumbered with the Bill as part of the Good Friday agreement. It would have been better if it had not been part of the agreement and if there had been a separate but parallel determination to deal with policing issues, but he is lumbered and it is now politicised.

I say something to the Secretary of State that he has heard me say before. He has two options. He can use his considerable political skills, to duck and weave, zig and zag and produce an Act that satisfies no one; or he might decide to go ahead, to implement the 80 to 90 per cent. of the Bill that should be implemented, then to draw on the political strength of arrangements that are in place and will get better with the passage of time, and use that political strength some time in the future to implement the rest of Patten as Patten was written. I fail to see how an Act that ultimately satisfies no one will aid him as he seeks to develop the peace process.

7.15 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

As I look around the Chamber, I think that I am just about the only Member who has ever served in a police force with the prefix "Royal". I refer to the Royal Military police. I say to some of the hon. Gentlemen across the way that some of those who campaign to retain the title "Royal Ulster Constabulary" remind me of some of the campaigners who sought to retain the titles of our ancient regiments and warned of all sorts of dire consequences over the amalgamations that successfully took place.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response to my question concerning what I see as the inferior role of the policing board vis-à-vis the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State. I will study his answer with care tomorrow, but I am grateful for his response and hope that that indicates—as some of his other responses did—that he will be open-minded when we come to amend the Bill in Committee and on Report. The Bill needs it; it needs radical amending.

Among many other things, the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) talked about the need to bring Northern Ireland more closely into kilter with other nations and regions of the United Kingdom. One way of doing that, if that is what he seeks to achieve, is by normalising the police service in Northern Ireland. I need hardly remind him that, in my part of Scotland, the chief constable is responsible to the police board, which is made up of local representatives from the councils that make up Strathclyde. The legislation for that police force and for the policing in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

I have done this before: I, too, offer my tributes to the many brave members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In preparation for the debate, I sought to meet as many as I could. I met members of the Police Federation, widows of RUC officers and disabled officers.

I offer my compliments to the federation's members for taking their case to Dublin, where I met them again. They themselves said that they had had a fair hearing from the Taoiseach, his colleagues and officials. I have listened to their understandable concerns about what they see as the unintended—as well as intended—consequences of police reform, but, in all those meetings, I said that I supported the case for radical police reform.

In the time that I have available, I want to offer a couple of criticisms of the Bill and to ask the Secretary of State a couple of questions with which I hope that he will deal. As has been said, Patten and his colleagues argued for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland. As hon. Friends have said, we must aim to enact legislation that will allow leaders in both communities to say to young people, if they are of a mind, "You can pursue a career, a fine and decent career, in the police service—in that area of public service." I can say that to young men and women in my constituency and I hope that the day will dawn when Members in both communities can say the same to their young people.

The Bill falls short of that aim, particularly in the requirement for democratic accountability and impartiality. Despite what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about the policing board, it will be the junior partner in its relationship with the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State. I want the policing board to be strengthened.

It is essential that Mrs. O'Loan, the police ombudsman, should be given unrestricted access to information that she believes is germane to any investigation that she initiates. Clause 61 needs to be amended to enable her to conduct examinations efficiently and effectively—a familiar phrase to us all. At the least, the word "reasonably" should be struck out of the clause. Part VII, which is concerned with the role of the ombudsman, needs to be amended. As she goes about her work, she must have due regard to the public interest as she sees it. Similarly, she must be actively engaged in the drafting of a code of ethics. The role of the ombudsman is critical to the creation of a new and widely respected police service. That important role has to be acknowledged in the Bill.

There are many other concerns, including the three-year review. It has to be a thorough-going analysis that leads to prescriptions for the improvement of procedures. The 10-year date must be checked again, as must the question of aggregation. As a frequent visitor to Northern Ireland, I have serious concerns about the subject. My right hon. Friend should give serious consideration to a new oath incorporating a commitment to full respect for the traditions and beliefs of both communities, as recommended by Patten. He should ensure that the substance of the oath is applicable to all serving officers, as well as to the new recruits who I hope will come forward from both communities.

Patten recommended that district policing partnerships should meet in public. The Bill does not provide for that, but I think that they should do so wherever and whenever possible to uphold the principles of local accountability.

Patten also recommended that the recruitment agency should be able to target Catholics originally from Northern Ireland but working in police services outwith Northern Ireland. I know that there are some in Scotland. He also recommended lateral entry of such experienced officers. That could be used as a tool to ensure representativeness at senior levels of the police service. I hope that my right hon. Friend will assure us that the recruitment agency will be able to target such personnel.

Patten also said: it is not satisfactory to suggest, as some people have, that one should somehow accept that every organisation has … "bad apples." They should be dealt with. If the House will forgive me for mixing metaphors, bad apples should be rooted out and the policing board should have the power to do that. We cannot afford that kind of officer in the new police force.

Finally, I shall address some of my pet concerns. If we are to have new policing and want to talk about badges and changing the design of the uniform, which needs to be redesigned—I think that Patten is wrong on that—why not change the colour of the uniform? All the police forces round about, including Strathclyde and the Garda Siochana, have blue uniforms. The new police service in Northern Ireland should also have a blue uniform. Given that the words "Royal Ulster" strike such a resonance with some Opposition Members, if they cannot accept the Patten recommendation for a new title, why not call it the Northern Ireland constabulary? We have the Fyfe constabulary in Scotland, so why not the Northern Ireland constabulary? We need a police Act that enables people in both communities to believe that they can follow a good career in the police service.

7.25 pm
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

This is a rotten Bill. Future generations will rise up and curse the name of the Secretary of State for having introduced a Bill that rewards terrorists and punishes the police service. It is a sad and ugly irony that on the day that the police in Northern Ireland have given details to the BBC's security correspondent of their investigations into the murder of a man in Dunmurry 10 days ago at the hands of the Provisional IRA, the Secretary of State has introduced a Bill asking us to put on to police boards and partnerships throughout the Province people who are tied to the organisation that carried out that killing.

No doubt, under the Bill, there will be a choice of former and present IRA army council members for membership of the new police board. In the partnerships across Northern Ireland, there will be a choice of many activists and leading members of Provisional IRA. It will be of no comfort to the community in Northern Ireland that the Secretary of State is prepared to proceed with a Bill that will bring the Provisional IRA a role in policing in Northern Ireland even though they are still active in terrorism there. What confidence can that give to the people of Northern Ireland? It will give no confidence to the people of the community that I represent.

The Bill is the child of the Belfast agreement, as well as of the Patten commission report. Those who negotiated the Belfast agreement, those who signed it, those who went out into the roads of Northern Ireland and asked people to support it and those who voted for it in the referendum have cost us dearly in terms of the future policing of Northern Ireland. Whatever one might say about Patten, he faithfully represented the remit given to him in the Belfast agreement. There is no getting away from the fact that that agreement gave explicit and detailed instructions to the Patten commission. Those who were involved in the Belfast agreement cannot wash their hands of the destruction of the RUC under the Bill. The genealogy is clear and damning.

Many words of praise and tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary have been spoken. The right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) suggested that anyone who has ever criticised any action of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was not entitled to support its continuation and maintenance. It has been used on many occasions to uphold a political decision. That is a fact of life and we all know it. The fact that many people have disagreed with those political decisions and made known their opposition to them in no way undermines or diminishes their regard or support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

I have many members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in my family. The force has acted with distinction through all its years of service in Northern Ireland, and has acted efficiently and even-handedly. It has acted with gallantry and devotion, and it has been punished by this Government for the many sacrifices that it has made.

The reality is that over 300 RUC members were murdered in this campaign of terrorism. Thousands of its members have been maimed and mutilated. Many will bear the scars of terrorism upon them for the remainder of their days. While the RUC is to be destroyed under this Bill, the IRA remains intact. While all the operational effectiveness of policing is to be diminished under the Bill, the IRA still holds on to its arms, its bombs and its operational capacity. That is the realty. What kind of topsy-turvy world is it when this House—the cradle of democracy and the mother of Parliaments—decides to reward terrorists and to punish those who are responsible for the exercise and functions of law and order?

I had expected this evening that the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) would be here. I was hoping that, during his remarks, he would produce from his inside pocket the letter with which he tantalised the Ulster Unionist council and which he indicated had been of such profound significance that it had caused him to move from being a sceptic to a supporter during that famous occasion only a Saturday or so ago.

The indication was that the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with the assurances that he had received earlier that week. However, the contents of the piece of paper in his pocket—I am not sure whether it was from the Secretary of State, who may want to make a confession, the Prime Minister or Leo—were of such significance that they caused the right hon. Gentleman not only to vote in favour of the restoration of the Executive, but to advise and encourage others to do so.

If the Secretary of State has given some assurances, undertakings, commitments or promises to the right hon. Member for Strangford in that grubby little piece of paper in his inside pocket, the Secretary of State owes it to the House, as we debate this Bill, to divulge what those undertakings, commitments or promises may be. It would be of no service to this House if the Secretary of State held back from us some additional commitment that was not in the public arena.

I hope that, in winding up the debate, the Government representative will indicate in the clearest terms whether the right hon. Member for Strangford has in his inside jacket pocket some assurances that have not yet been announced publicly. It would be of no avail if we were to go into Committee without the opportunity to see what this matter of such importance was that caused the Damascus road experience of the right hon. Member for Strangford.

I will oppose this Bill at every possible stage. The people of Northern Ireland deserve better from this Government. The people of Northern Ireland have a right to be proud of the RUC and want to continue to give support to it, no matter from what section of the community they may come. It is an organisation with a fine tradition; an organisation whose bonds have been cemented by the many sacrifices that have been made. This House will do a disservice to the RUC if it disregards the service it has given.

7.34 pm
Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North)

In my limited experience in this House, I have heard many right hon. and hon. Members say that great speeches have been made. On many occasions, that has been polite rather than true. However, tonight I have heard speeches from the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) and the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) that rank high in the parliamentary canon, and I feel privileged to have heard them tonight.

I wish to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who has recovered from an unfortunate incident in Dungannon last week. He is a gentleman whose integrity and courage have earned him many friends and admirers within this building—many from among those who one would not usually associate with those categories. I am proud to be one of them and I hope that the House will welcome the hon. Gentleman back following that unfortunate injury.

There has been talk that the implementation of the Patten report and the Bill is somehow a peripheral matter in the broad sweep of modern history and in comparison with the Good Friday agreement. If I say nothing else tonight that is remembered, I wish to say that this Bill is vital not just to the development of peace in Northern Ireland, but to the furtherance of the Good Friday agreement.

Last night, I heard Pat Doherty MLA state that, in his opinion, the Bill was more important than the Good Friday agreement. I disagree. It is not more important, but the successful implementation of Patten is central to the Good Friday agreement. That is why it is vital that we do not lose track of what the Secretary of State is trying to do. As has been said, this is not Patten pure or Patten pale. It may be Patten pragmatic, but it is Patten with potential for peace and progress.

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West)

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that it is incumbent upon the Secretary of State and the Government to implement every jot, comma and semi-colon of Patten? The Government were obliged—and committed—to deliver an independent commission and then debate its recommendations. Surely we are not bound by every single dot, comma and syllable of Patten.

Mr. Pound

The fact that Secretary of State is assailed by the Scylla and Charybdis of Unionism and nationalism on either side indicates to me that he is doing a fairly good job. If the House were unanimous in either condemnation or support, I would be worried. My hon. Friend is correct that that is not our remit tonight.

We must be aware also of the position of the Government of the Republic of Ireland, who are our supportive partners in the implementation of the Good Friday agreement. Any casual glance at the press and media in the Republic of Ireland will confirm that we cannot underestimate the significance of the implementation of Patten in the other 28 counties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Twenty-six."] I apologise. It has been many years since my family sprang from the fertile soil of county Cork.

I have been pleased to hear that some of the concerns expressed today have been addressed by the Secretary of State, or that he has indicated that he is responding to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) asked about the restriction of the ombudsman' s powers, and we had an indication that that was under review. The question of the restriction of district policing partnerships to sub-groups for the Belfast area has been raised. I see from the Bill that it is now suggested that there will be sub-groups within the Belfast area, and I am delighted to see that.

The question of the oath has been raised by many people. We have been told that for the oath to be attested by serving men and women of the RUC would be illegal; that it would somehow create a new RUC; that it would be impossible; and that it would be subject to legal challenge. I implore my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to look again at this subject. If there is one thing that would draw a line in the sand and say that we were starting the new policing of Northern Ireland from this day and in this way, it is the symbolic significance of the oath. Oaths and symbols, as we know, are important.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) referred to the question of political appointments and was concerned about a political ratcheting. In many ways, it is the hardest possible thing for someone who lives in the safety of west London—distant from the issue, albeit close to Hammersmith—to ask men and women who have lived their political lives, in many cases their whole adult lives, in the shadow of the gunman and the bomber, to accept that there is such a thing as redemption. Is that so presumptuous of me? I ask whether it is not better, in some ways, for people such as Cathal Crumley, who was elected mayor of Londonderry last night, to be inside the political process than to be outside on the streets with the guns.

I may be being presumptuous, and it may be intensely difficult or even impossible for hon. Members, but I implore them at least to consider the prospect that some people who have engaged in gangsterism—or terrorism or freedom fighting, call it what one will—have a future in a democracy. That future will not exist if they are excluded. They must be brought in and included if the process is to mean anything at all.

Birth is a painful process, and rebirth can be equally painful. However, the glittering prize is almost in sight. The innate genius and extraordinary talent of the six counties of Northern Ireland—that great powerhouse with one of the best educational systems in Europe, which produces engineers, architects, poets, musicians, painters and playwrights in profusion—depend on the process. The brakes can be taken off that extraordinary culture and it can achieve its full potential. Please let us look to the future, not the past. We can fight 1690 over and over again, but I am more concerned about 2090. There is talent in the Chamber tonight, and there is so much talent in Northern Ireland. Let us see that flower. Let us discuss the minutiae in Committee, but let us keep our eyes on the far horizon—on the future—and not over our shoulders to the blood-stained past.

7.42 pm
Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) has asked us to raise our eyes to the future and to leave the detailed dissection of the Bill to Committee. Perhaps he is correct. Perhaps this debate on the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary should be viewed in its overall political context.

Immediately after the signing of the Downing street declaration, which stated that Britain no longer had any selfish economic or strategic interest in remaining in Northern Ireland, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the then Prime Minister, made a national broadcast. He declared that the only people who could give peace were the men of violence, but everyone knows that peace from such men could come only from their suppression or their appeasement. I say with some regret and sadness that both the right hon. Gentleman and his successor chose appeasement. This Bill forms part of that appeasement.

The IRA finally gave its answer to the plea for peace in its recent statement. It said that there would be no lasting peace until the British abandoned their claim to Northern Ireland and ended partition. All else in the statement was conditional on that. It also made it clear that the guns and the bombs would remain silent only for as long as the full implementation of the Belfast agreement facilitated the success of its objectives. The threat to the British mainland remains, as the recent bomb on Hammersmith bridge demonstrates. The retention of the IRA arsenal and the destruction and demoralisation of the RUC are the twin pillars of IRA strategy for attaining its political aims of the abandonment of the British claim to any part of Ireland and the end of partition.

Ulster Unionists were lured into voting for re-entry into the Executive with Sinn Fein, partly on the promises of the published contents of this Bill. We should bear in mind the fact that the police board could include members of Sinn Fein, aka IRA, as could some of the local boards, but the Secretary of State had prudently withheld to himself and the Chief Constable certain powers. Now what has happened? There has been an immediate outcry from the SDLP which, acting as proxies for Sinn Fein—whose members do not grace this Chamber—has put forward amendments to which the Secretary of State has indicated he may agree. That will all be done to prevent the IRA from returning to violence. However, to adopt a policy of reducing security defences against terrorism and demoralising the RUC in the face of terrorists determined to remain armed is worse than a mistake. It is a crime. It is a crime that will be perpetrated on the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland, who have for 30 years suffered death and destruction at the hands of terrorists.

Those members of the armed forces and the RUC who have died in their hundreds—I see that this is a humorous subject for some on the other side of the Chamber—and been maimed in their thousands in defence of democracy and the rule of law will all have suffered in vain, because terror and the threat of terror will have succeeded in achieving their objectives. No disciplined force, regardless of the quality of its administration or technology, will succeed if its morale is destroyed. The members of the RUC who risked all to remove terrorists from the community upon which they preyed have seen all those terrorists—murderers and violent psychopaths—returned to that community. The members of the RUC see serving members of the IRA army council installed as Government Ministers in charge of the education of their children. Those RUC members witness provisions in the Bill that will place members of Sinn Fein, whom the Prime Minister himself tells us are inextricably linked with the IRA, placed on the police board to which the Chief Constable will be accountable.

RUC members know, as do the Chief Constable and the present police authority, that the removal of the RUC name will scarcely alter the idea of balanced recruitment. However, the imbalance is almost entirely due to the violence, social exclusion and intimidation offered to Catholic recruits, and that will continue until any police force is completely neutered of any anti-terrorist capacity, and it is that capacity that is the central issue.

I shall draw a comparison from history. In 1918, the Royal Irish Constabulary—the predecessor of the RUC—which performed similar paramilitary duties against terrorism had a Catholic Chief Constable. Some 40 per cent. of its officers were Catholic and more than 70 per cent. of its constables on the ground were Catholic. That did not prevent Sinn Fein-IRA slaughtering more than 400 members of the RIC between 1918 and 1921. So the idea that a manufactured balance of Catholic recruits will make a difference is false.

I come now to the use of the word "Royal" in the RUC's title, and in doing so I shall make some personal observations. My family has served the flag and the Crown of the United Kingdom for generations. As a common seaman, my father fought in the Royal Navy at the battle of Jutland. My maternal uncles fought in France: one of them died there, and the survivor served for a further 25 years in the Royal Marines. All my sisters and brothers served in the armed forces when they were of age. My brother served in the Royal Ulster Rifles and was wounded in Italy. My two sisters served in the Women's Royal Air Force.

As a child of five, I saw the dead piled high after German raids hit within 100 yd of where I lived. In the morning, and at the going down of the sun, will we remember them? Or will we barter away their flag, identity and sense of belonging to appease those who hate everything for which they fought and died? This month, we celebrate the miracle of Dunkirk. A policy of appeasement almost destroyed the British Army and threatened the existence of this country and of democracy itself. Have we learned nothing from that?

In 1938, to keep bombs out of London, the British Government abandoned the Czechs as they would now abandon the pro-Union people of Northern Ireland. Our national reputation reached its lowest ebb then. Its finest hour was to come, when the British Government stopped appeasing terror and confronted it. This country, which saved democracy for the world, cannot have declined so far that it cannot preserve democracy in a part of its own kingdom.

Lord Palmerston stated the infamous doctrine of realpolitik when he said that England had no long-term friends or enemies, only interests. For the sake of Northern Ireland and the continuance of the United Kingdom, I hope that he was wrong.

7.52 pm
Mr. Shaun Woodward (Witney)

This has been an extraordinary debate, in which hon. Members from all parties have made striking speeches. The Bill is significant and important, but equally important is the climate in which it passes through the House.

I was struck by the speech of the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), and by his wish that we could somehow move away from the politicisation of the RUC—but almost every other speech has made it clear just how political the issue is.

I do not share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) that the Bill is rotten. I consider it to be a Bill of hope and optimism, and I believe that the changes that will flow from it will bring about lasting peace in Northern Ireland. It undoubtedly arouses passion, which is why I regret the fact that the Conservative party, although it says that it broadly supports the Bill, will nevertheless decline to give it a Second Reading.

The Bill's success depends on more than merely gaining sufficient votes to secure a Second Reading. For real success, it will require a climate in Northern Ireland in which success can prosper. That is why I hope that the Conservative party will at least reconsider whether it is right not to support Second Reading.

The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) began his speech with a substantial tribute to the RUC. No hon. Member would wish to dissent from a word of that tribute, as we all recognise the bravery, courage and enormous sacrifice of RUC members. The organisation rightfully deserves the George Cross that has been conferred on it. I can assure the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) that we will always remember.

Patten's role was to judge the competing evaluations of police reform. We must remember the importance of the exhaustive consultation process, which involved all communities in Northern Ireland. Patten produced a reasonable and fair assessment of the broad range of attitudes towards the RUC.

I regret that a Conservative party briefing note should state that the party considers there to be no justification for changing the name of the RUC, and that the Patten report can offer no evidence to support the proposal because none exists. I draw the attention of the House to that note because the Patten report consultations contained endless justification and evidence for the implementation of the proposed change. It would be irresponsible to ignore that evidence and that justification.

Beyond Patten, there is a great deal of survey data from Northern Ireland to show that there is strong support for the proposal among the Catholic and nationalist communities, and a widespread disenchantment with the RUC. That disenchantment may or may not be fair, but there is a widespread and deeply held perception among Catholics and nationalists that the RUC is biased towards Protestants.

It has been noted this afternoon that the intimidation of Catholics has prevented some from joining the RUC in the past. Many other factors are involved, but the intimidation of Catholics does not by itself constitute a sufficient reason to resist change. We must hope that we can change things in Northern Ireland. If we lose that hope and optimism, there will be no change and the status quo will persist. The deaths, maimings and bombings will continue, as will the tragic loss of life—among ordinary people and among future soldiers, policeman and RUC members. We have to hope that change can happen, and that it can be achieved.

I disagree with the Conservatives when they say that there is no justification for changing the name of the RUC. The communities in Northern Ireland have made it clear that they want change to come. Surveys show that Catholics feel that reform of the police service is essential to a lasting settlement. Substantial changes have to be made to achieve a lasting peace. The evidence is that many people feel that the RUC must be reformed, but not disbanded.

We in this House must be careful to avoid stereotypes. The changes are not desired only by nationalists, nor are Unionists their only authentic opponents. The Bill will create change that is fair to everyone, regardless of community or religious belief. It is fair in spirit and letter.

The Bill is about a commitment to change, but it in no way undermines the historic and courageous role of the RUC in the past, in the present and in the future.

Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)


Mr. Woodward

To suggest otherwise is deliberately mischievous. The Bill recognises the need for change to build on the success of the past in order to deliver a lasting peace. That peace will be for those who serve and have served in the police forces but—crucially—it will also be for the people of Northern Ireland, regardless of their religion, faith or community background.

I am 41 years old. I grew up watching the violence in Northern Ireland, and I know from friends and members of my family what living through that violence has been like. Many hon. Members have closer experience of that than I do, but that does not mean that we cannot make the situation better. The Bill offers hope and a chance for change.

Names are not carved in stone. A change of name will not take away pride in the RUC's achievements, nor will it detract from the heroism of RUC members. To suggest otherwise is, again, wholly misleading. The Tory motion proposes that the House decline to give the Bill a Second Reading because it fails to preserve the proud title and insignia of the RUC.

That is wholly disingenuous. It is not what the Secretary of State has said; it is not what the Bill says. It is a recognition that to bring those communities together for the future, for those young people, we need change. If that requires a change in the name, what are we really standing for? Are we standing for the past or for the future? Do we work for the young people in Northern Ireland, with their hopes and dreams, or do we simply say to them that, because of the past, we are stuck and we cannot change? We listened, and we heard that change must come if we are to deliver that trust.

That is what the Bill is about—trust. If Ronnie Flanagan can say that if the sacrifice of a change of name is required he will endure it, however painful, and if others supporting the police forces can say that if a change of name is necessary they will deliver on that, however painful, however long the consultation period and whether it is justified or not, are we right to politicise this matter by refusing to give the Bill a Second Reading even though the Opposition apparently agree with so much of it? Is it right not to assist in creating the climate for change? If we deliver, and if we create that climate, we will, through the Bill, have contributed in a real and positive way to ensuring a lasting peace.

8.1 pm

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

I hope that the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) will allow me to congratulate him on a speech that he concluded 10 minutes ago, and to say that I endorse every word that he said.

In theory, there, is no organisation or institution that cannot from time to time benefit from reform. Efficiency and effectiveness can generally be improved, and in this respect, the Royal Ulster Constabulary is no exception. It has been pointed out that a number of the Patten proposals are non-controversial, and that several reflect the findings of the Chief Constable's fundamental review of five or six years ago. However, that is not the point tonight. The point is the wider political context in which the Bill has come into existence and of which it is part. That context, I argue, makes the Bill wholly unacceptable. Its implementation will be an affront to decency and democracy. It is the ultimate denigration of a magnificent police force.

We should have no illusions about the wider political context. The unconditional release of their prisoners, retaining their weapons until their political objectives have been achieved, and the abolition of the RUC, are among the key demands of the Provisionals, in return for scaling down their armed struggle. Their first two demands have been met, or partially met; all terrorist prisoners entitled to early release will have been released before long. They are back in the Executive without decommissioning, and they have no intention of decommissioning. With this Bill, their third demand is met—the RUC will soon be no more. It matters very little, if anything, whether the name remains on some title deeds, whatever those may be.

There are convincing pragmatic security arguments as to why the Bill should be rejected. The principal argument is, I maintain, overwhelming. On security grounds, it can and should be argued that the terrorist threat remains real. The terrorists' capability is undiminished. While that is the case, it is sheer madness to move towards or implement changes that endanger our ability to counter terrorism. I have in mind the broad thrust of the Patten proposals that the Bill facilitates—reductions in the strength and capability of the police force in Northern Ireland, the abolition of the RUC reserve, and changes to special branch, which would undermine its intelligence-gathering and intelligence-monitoring capability. In particular, it is wholly unacceptable that the political representatives of terrorist organisations should sit on the policing board and on district policing partnerships while those organisations retain the capability to wage their armed struggle. It is unacceptable that those representatives could include people with a track record of personal involvement in terrorist violence.

The Bill matters so much to the Government, the Provisionals and their fellow travellers in the pan-nationalist front because it is an integral part of the winding down of the British state it Ireland, as the Provisionals put it—British withdrawal, preceded by a progressive process of disengagement, as a Labour party paper put it. That is the understood agenda for the Provisionals, but not for others, not to renew their mainland campaign.

As for the context of the Bill, violence and the threat of violence have dictated every phase of this wretched process. Over the years, violence and the threat of violence have drawn concession after concession from successive British Governments. Most recently, it led to the Ulster Unionist council's capitulation on 27 May. It is the reason why we have this Bill, and why the RUC is, effectively, to be abolished.

One speculates that the Bill may prove not to be the British Government's final act of appeasement, but it is certainly one of the most sordid.

8.7 pm

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

I do not want to pursue the apocalyptic rejectionist vision that we have just heard. I want to talk about the difficulties of policing in any democratic society. There is no such thing as an ideal world in which to police. The police have to deal on a day-to-day basis with traffic problems, neighbour disputes, crime, robbery, violence and drunkenness. In Northern Ireland they have to deal with other matters as well. The Patten report was produced not just with those other matters in mind, and I do not think that we should spend the whole of this debate talking just about those matters.

The Bill, and the Patten report on which it is based, which, as the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) pointed out earlier, came out of the Good Friday agreement, are about improving the system of policing in Northern Ireland, as well as dealing with the wider questions of legitimacy and the involvement of the whole community.

The Bill has been introduced because the commission was set up to make recommendations for future policing arrangements in Northern Ireland including means of encouraging widespread community support for these arrangements … It was set up to make recommendations, not to make conclusions that the Government had to accept lock, stock and barrel. There is a danger of cherry-picking, and I therefore have some sympathy with the night hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), who referred to this earlier. However, it is important to recognise that the Government have to take account of the reactions, consultation process and discussions that there have been since the Patten report was published.

The report deals with a large area under the heading "Culture, Ethos and Symbols". Paragraph 17.6 states: In our judgment that new beginning cannot be achieved unless the reality that part of the community feels unable to identify with the present name and symbols associated with the police is addressed. Like the unique constitutional arrangements, our proposals seek to achieve a situation in which people can be British, Irish or Northern Irish, as they wish, and all regard the police service as their own. That must be the basis for our way forward. Otherwise, that persistent problem will continue to bedevil policing in Northern Ireland.

I speak as a London Member of Parliament. We know that in our city we have not managed to recruit ethnic minority police officers. One third of my constituents are members of ethnic minorities, but only a small number are police officers. After the Macpherson report, the Metropolitan police service designed measures to deal with that. We have not done all that we need to do and there is still a problem.

I refer to that, because in Northern Ireland, it could well be that, even though the top people in the police service are committed to change and to the new agenda—as they have been for many years—nevertheless a canteen culture has developed that makes it difficult to implement those changes locally. For that reason, I hope that the question of the oath is reconsidered in Committee. We need to challenge the persistent old-style canteen culture, which could act as an impediment to what the leadership of the police service, the Government and the Assembly are trying to achieve throughout society.

Another problem that affects society throughout the world is that, in some communities, it is not acceptable for people to co-operate with the police—that is not encouraged. That is certainly true in some areas of London and other big cities. As Patten stated in paragraph 17.9: The aim must be that the police service should recruit not only more Catholics, but nationalists (of whom there are some but not many at the moment) and republicans (of whom there are almost certainly none now); and that there should be many more women, and, we hope, also more members from ethnic minorities and greater tolerance of sexual diversity. That is an important part of the report. It is not enough to recruit Catholics only from areas where they are under no pressure. We shall be able to say that the police service in Northern Ireland represents the whole community only when people from the Shankill and the Falls, from north and east Belfast, from Derry—from Londonderry—can join that police service while continuing to live and to be accepted in their own communities, where they went to school.

Unfortunately, there have been several occasions over the years when people have had to leave their homes because they were terrorised—burnt out and driven out—and their families were threatened. The obligation on this place, on everyone in Northern Ireland and on all those who signed the Good Friday agreement is to encourage people to join the new service and to ensure that, when they do so, they do not have to leave their communities because of that fear of intimidation that has occurred in the past.

It was interesting to see members of the RUC helping in Kosovo and to see British and Irish police officers working together in conflict areas throughout the world—for example, in Palestine. The Department for International Development and the Home Office are supporting training schemes whereby British, Irish and Northern Irish policemen and women are making a major contribution to instituting best practice throughout the world. That is good. Let us hope that, in future, there will be best practice in all parts of Northern Ireland and the UK; that we shall learn from diversity and that we shall reflect all communities in our police service.

8.15 pm
Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

I have grave concerns about the Bill. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward) is leaving the Chamber. As someone who represents a large constituency in Northern Ireland, I have to say that the hon. Gentleman's contribution to the debate was condescending in the extreme and insulting.

I represent many people in Northern Ireland—many young people. I happen to be the youngest Member of Parliament who represents a Northern Ireland constituency. Many young RUC officers and their families live in my constituency. The hon. Member for Witney has not listened to what those young people are saying. They find what is happening to the Royal Ulster Constabulary deeply hurtful, painful and insulting. He may have observed the events of the past 30 years from afar—I lived and breathed them. My family lived and breathed them.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) spoke earlier. Two members of my family were carried out of his constituency—members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, murdered by the Provisional IRA. What is their sacrifice worth today? We are told that the name of the RUC is not in tablets of stone. With respect, it is on the tablets of stone that litter the graveyards of Northern Ireland.

I have talked to the widows—many of them; I have talked to the disabled police officers and to the families of the officers who gave their lives. They find what the Government are doing deeply hurtful. Let us not swipe them aside as though they matter nothing—as though their views do not count; or as though some greater good means that they are not entitled to have their voice heard. Nor should the views of Ulster Unionist Members, who represent those people, be swept aside, as though they do not count either—because they do.

Mr. Patten told us that his objective was to achieve a police service that could command widespread community support. Do the thousands of people in my constituency whom I represent not count when we add up that widespread community support? Do the people represented by my hon. Friends not count? Of course they do. I ask the Government and all hon. Members who support the Bill to consider how they will achieve widespread community support when many decent people in Northern Ireland—law-abiding people who have stood by the police and supported them through thick and thin—cannot support the Patten proposals. Where will the widespread community support come from?

We have heard quotations from the Chief Constable and others, but the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents ordinary police officers, has a clear view. The federation opposes the name change and has said so. Its magazine, "Police Beat", states that the deepest hurt of all is the removal of our proud title. I have met many RUC officers of all ranks who find that proposition unacceptable.

A petition of 400,000 signatures calling for the retention of the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was presented to No. 10 Downing street. Yes, we have had surveys, but the reality is that we have heard the voices of the people. They have spoken in election after election; a clear majority, represented by Ulster Unionist Members, finds the Patten proposals objectionable. However, it seems that we do not form part of the new consensus on widespread community support.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) has supported the Belfast agreement but, like me, he objects to many aspects of the Patten report. Although we have a difference of opinion about the agreement, there is a broad consensus in my party about many aspects of Patten, including on the removal of the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The fudge that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has come up with, which is about incorporating the words "Royal Ulster Constabulary" in the title deeds, simply will not do. That does not mean retaining the name of the RUC as a working title for the police service.

We have heard much about recruitment. I am a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and I listened to the comments of the Committee Chairman, the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke). He spoke about the contribution that had been made by Labour Members to the Committee's report, which called for the retention of the Royal Ulster Constabulary's name and insignia. The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter) shakes his head, but I suggest that he read the Committee report to which he was a party. He will see that it concluded that the name and the symbol should be retained. That is a matter of fact and of record. However, it now seems that Labour Members have changed their view.

We are told that the Bill will lead to more recruitment of Roman Catholics and I want that to happen. The Select Committee report called for that and we set out what I thought were reasonable, fair and balanced proposals that could achieve that aim. However, we should not underplay the efforts of the Provisional IRA and the impact that it has had on the recruitment of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. People can down play that fact all they want, but that is the reality and Roman Catholic officers who were courageous and joined the RUC were specifically targeted by the Provisional IRA. They were singled out for special attention and their families were targeted. That was a major deterrent against young Roman Catholics joining the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) referred to the murder in my constituency just over a week ago of Mr. Edmund McCoy. It now appears from the RUC that that murder was carried out by the Provisional IRA. No doubt, the Government will take their customary approach and turn a blind eye to the murder. Terrorist prisoners will continue to be released in spite of what the legislation passed by this Parliament says and Mr. McCoy's murder will go unnoticed. I am aware of Mr. McCoy's background but, whatever it was, it does not justify the Provisional IRA taking the law into its own hands and murdering him in cold blood.

However, that is the IRA's idea of justice just as its idea of justice is what it did to the young man who is lying in a hospital in west Belfast, his body scourged by the Provisional IRA. He was beaten to a pulp and left for dead—that is IRA justice. However, We now want to put its members on to the police board. What standards will that set? What about the district policing partnerships and the potential for influence from paramilitaries through their political representatives? I am concerned about that and the shape of the district policing partnership in west Belfast and the influence that it will have in that area. What safeguards will we have to ensure that paramilitaries do not have an undue influence on policing in such areas?

There has been talk of downsizing the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The local police commanders to whom I have spoken are finding it difficult to cope at the moment with present levels of policing, so I am not sure how they will cope if police numbers are reduced significantly. We are told that we are bringing the RUC into line with other parts of the United Kingdom, but problems that are unique and distinct to Northern Ireland have not gone away. Dissident republican terrorism and loyalist terrorism continue and are a problem. I hope that the Government will give a firm commitment that they will retain the strength of the Royal Ulster Constabulary for as long as it is needed to combat the threat of violence and the levels of violence that exist in Northern Ireland.

Car theft, joy riding, murder and beatings all continue. In my constituency, I see that everyday. Thieving emerges from west Belfast, thieves steal cars in Lisburn, Moira and Dunmurry and they attack properly. They can get away with that because police commanders do not have the personnel on the ground. The Government's policy of not recruiting does not help.

I also appeal to the Government on behalf of the RUC Reserve. It is important that it be treated with equity and fairness in the process. It did a good job, it was professional and it acted with integrity. It should not be given a raw deal at the end of the process.

I want to finish—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must finish now; he has had his 10 minutes.

8.26 pm
Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)

I tend to approach Northern Ireland debates with a certain trepidation as I am aware of the sensitivities of the situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) made an excellent speech; Scylla and Charybdis are comparatively minor navigational problems at times in comparison with the issues that we are discussing.

It is interesting to note that, for all the criticisms that have been made of the Patten report, the RUC in practice found the majority of it acceptable, and the majority of people of good will in both communities found the majority of the recommendations acceptable. It is worth remembering that. However, the report should not be seen as holy writ or like the law of the Medes and the Persians, if I may say so to my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). It was never intended to be that.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) said, the Good Friday agreement said that the report should come forward with recommendations that would then be the basis for consultation. Within reason, there should be a measure of flexibility. I recognise that there are major concerns about the Bill. However, as the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) suggested, there is room for those to be considered in Committee.

I recognise the concerns of nationalists about accountability and the balance of powers between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the police board, the ombudsman and the oversight commissioner. However, what my right hon. Friend said about the police board should be remembered. The intention is that there should be a steady evolution in parallel with an improvement in the security situation. In those circumstances, a sensitive and pragmatic compromise may be a more sensible way of proceeding than statute. I remind the House that my right hon. Friend said that he wishes to avoid capricious or vexatious use of the power of the bodies.

It is fair to say that while the concerns of the nationalist community are more about organisational matters, those of the Unionist community have been more about what might be termed symbolic and cultural matters such as the force's name. My right hon. Friend has made it clear that, although we shall adopt a new name as was implied in Patten, the title deeds will recognise continuity with the RUC. Frankly, in most places probably the same name will be used on most vehicles and badges as is used throughout most of Europe. That is simply the word "police", which is not offensive to either community.

Mr. Mallon

Other hon. Members share my concern. Will the hon. Gentleman explain to us all what the title deeds of the Bill are?

Mr. Savidge

I take it to mean that there will be a record of the fact that the proposed police service for Northern Ireland will be established from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and preceding forces. I know that I am allowed further time for my speech if I accept interventions, but I cannot find time to add to my reply.

With the short time at my disposal, I shall concentrate on the issue of symbols. Patten suggested that that was not as large a problem as the name. He acknowledged that to some extent there was a problem of gaining acceptance in both communities. He suggested that we should adopt a symbol that was free from all association with the British or the Irish state. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh, the Deputy First Minister, supports that view.

Let us consider the view taken in a previous debate by the First Minister, the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). That view was supported by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) today. It was suggested that the present symbols—the crown, the shamrock and the harp of Brian Born—were inclusive, so inclusive that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann suggested that some mystery member of the Government had said that if he were looking for inclusivity, that badge would be ideal.

I have deep respect for the right hon. Member for Upper Bann and I obviously respect members of the Government, however anonymous. I have less respect, perhaps, for the right hon. Member for Bracknell, but I would give serious consideration to their suggestion. However, I would be naive if I did not first say that I doubt whether it would be entirely acceptable to nationalists.

One should remember the associations that symbols acquire. For example, let us suppose that I suggested an alternative inclusive badge—a badge that would symbolically represent the Unionist community and the nationalist community, give exactly equal representation to both in size and in prominence, and place a symbol of peace between the two. I am referring, of course, to the original intention behind the green, white and orange tricolour. That is precisely what it was intended to do. Therefore, people could say that it was a wonderful symbol of peace.

If I suggested to hon. Members in the Unionist parties that that would be an acceptable symbol of peace to be flown around Northern Ireland. they might say that I was naive and disingenuous, and some Unionists outside the House might use even stronger language than the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), who spoke of being cursed for ever and who might use more colourful language to describe such a proposal.

However, I take seriously the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann, and I notice that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he takes it seriously. An alternative to the proposal to use the symbols of neither state, as supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Newry and Armagh and for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris), is to consider the possibility of using the symbols common to both states—for example, the harp of Tara, or Boru, as it is sometimes described, and the shamrock.

Obviously, the one symbol that is not equally acceptable to both communities is the royal crown. The royal crown is used in the cap badges of all English and Welsh police forces, although not necessarily in their other insignia. The royal crown is not used in the collective badge or most individual badges of the Scottish police forces; those that use a crown at all use a distinctively Scottish crown.

Interestingly, Ireland has its own distinctive crown. Before Henry VIII adopted the harp as a symbol for Ireland, the traditional symbol of Ireland was the three antique gold crowns on a blue background, which was the mythical coat of arms of St. Edmund the Martyr. Is that a possibility? Would an antique gold crown that was uniquely Irish be acceptable to both communities? That coat of arms is still retained by the province of Munster, and therefore is part of the arms of the Republic of Ireland.

I offer that as a suggestion, and wonder whether some design based on a permutation of the harp, the shamrock, the Irish crown, and possibly the blue flax flowers that have been accepted by the Northern Ireland Assembly, might show the continuity with previous policing, but the distinctiveness from it. I am sure that many other suggestions could be considered.

When we speak of continuity with previous policing, we should not look back just to 1922 and the RUC. Why not look back to the common tradition from 1822 of the first ever police force in the British Isles in Ireland, and include the tradition of the Constabulary (Ireland) Act 1836, which specifically set out to get 50:50 membership from the Catholic and Protestant communities? That continuing tradition could run through into the Patten proposals. I am pleased that there seems to be general acceptance of the idea of trying to get equal membership from both communities.

We must assert the rule of law throughout Ireland. We need to end the existence of pretend policing and mock justice, whereby paramilitary thugs carry out their own vendettas using knee-cappings, beatings and, above all, murders.

In view of the time, I shall close by saying that I in no way underestimate the enormous difficulties to be overcome and the enormous differences over policing matters between the two communities. I remain cautiously optimistic that, given sufficient good will and flexibility on both sides, those problems are not insuperable.

8.36 pm
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) had an interesting idea about the crown, although I am not sure that I entirely agree with it. However, I agree with him about the need for the rule of law to run throughout Ireland, particularly Northern Ireland. That is why many of us are concerned about the Bill.

I worked closely with the Royal Ulster Constabulary for some time when I was in the Army and I tabbed the dismal streets of west Belfast with members of the RUC, both Protestant and Catholic. I saw them, warts and all. I saw prejudice in some members of the RUC. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Brooke) will recall that the first time we met, I berated him with my views on the RUC and how it was not pursuing as quickly as I wanted a victory in the terrorist war.

However, I found the members of the RUC extremely brave, especially the Catholic members. After we had spent our five months in Belfast, we went home, but those who had to star behind—the policemen and women, Catholic and Protestant—had to live every day with the threat of a bomb under their car, their children being abducted, their wives being harassed, and so on. They are very brave, as we should all remember.

In considering the Bill, I have spoken to friends in the RUC, including one particularly good senior officer, who has given me some interesting insights into it. They support much of what Patten said, as we have heard in the debate. Much of it deals with modernising policing in Northern Ireland, which needs to happen. We need to get rid of armoured Land Rovers, for example.

I want to consider why there is a determination to change the symbols, and why we seem to be about to allow terrorists to take charge of policing in Northern Ireland through the policing board. First, on symbols, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said that he had spoken to his constituents, who did not want to join the RUC because of various anti-police, anti-establishment views, if I may paraphrase the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that he is right. There is tremendous feeling against the RUC among many people. I have also observed that. However, the Government and the Patten report found that the main reason for that was the fear of intimidation.

The Government published a report in April 1998. It stated: More than half of all respondents reported that they thought there were too few Catholics in the police force … The main reason given for this by Catholic respondents was that Catholics would not join because they "fear intimidation or attack themselves or their relatives. It is not the only reason, but it is the main reason. The Patten report states: 70 per cent. of Catholic respondents to the latest Community Attitudes Survey cited intimidation or fear of attack as the main reason why Catholics were deterred from entering the police … That is straightforward, and my experience confirms it.

Let us consider the title "Royal Ulster Constabulary", to which many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North, referred. It is interesting to note that there is a Royal Irish Academy, which is supported by the state. Seamus Heaney is a member. There are no riots on the streets of Dublin about that. The Lord Mayor of Dublin is vice-president of the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Ireland has a Royal Academy of Medicine, of which Patrick Hillery is a fellow. There is also the Royal Dublin Society; the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland; the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; the Royal Victoria eye and ear hospital, Dublin; the Royal Irish yacht club; and the Royal Dublin golf club. Charles Haughey, who is not renowned for his Unionist tendencies, is a member of the Royal Cork yacht club. There is little evidence of the antipathy that we are told exists towards the word "royal".

It is unfortunate that the debate has become such a party political matter. We must get away from the idea that every nationalist or republican in Ireland is opposed to the word "royal". Furthermore, many Irish people live in this country. I can see at least a couple of Labour Members of Irish descent in the Chamber. Some 8 million people on the mainland of Great Britain claim Irish descent—many more than the 5.3 million on the Island of Ireland. If they hate the crown and royal insignia so much, why are people, such as the Labour Members to whom I referred, willing to live here? I believe that they do not hate the word "royal" in the way people pretend. Perhaps they hate what they perceive to be a particular manifestation of "royal" in recent times.

When I was in the Army, I met many Catholic soldiers from nationalist areas. In 1976 in Ballymurphy—a hard area—I bumped into someone who had been a Royal Irish Ranger and had trained with me a couple of months previously. He had joined after the beginning of the latest troubles. He did not mind serving in the "Royal" Irish Rangers. I regret that fewer Catholics join nowadays because of intimidation.

Let us consider the policing board. The idea of Mr. McGuinness or Mr. Adams, both of whom, it is commonly believed, are members of the IRA army council—Mr. McGuinness has admitted as much—sitting on a policing board for Northern Ireland is outrageous. "Outrageous" is an awful term, but it is appropriate; it is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. We should not allow it.

Peace may mean that we have to assent to many matters that we do not want to accept. Like others, I might be prepared to accept Adams and McGuinness running policing in Northern Ireland if the IRA had moved. However, apart from one recent statement about arms, it has not moved. No decommissioning has taken place; no weapons have been handed in. As the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) pointed out, beatings, murders and intimidation continue.

Martin McGuinness is a Minister in the devolved Northern Ireland Executive. If he is also a member of the IRA army council, he will know who was responsible for the Omagh bombing nearly two years ago. He is a former member of the IRA and it would be easier to believe in the good faith of McGuinness and Adams if they co-operated and handed over the people responsible for the Omagh bombing and other atrocities. However, we hear nothing.

What about Hammersmith bridge last week? Where did the Semtex or explosives that blew it up come from? I assure hon. Members that it came from an IRA dump somewhere. Somebody in the cell will know who is responsible and therefore the IRA high command will know it. Again, we hear nothing.

I might accept the change that the Bill proposes if all aspects of the Belfast agreement were implemented. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh quoted Patten, a Conservative, and said that we should agree with him. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph in October 1999, Lord Mason stated: Above all, the suggestion that Sinn Fein/IRA be given "ownership" of the force by allowing them to be represented on the province's new policing board and on local committees is a madness worthy of Ken Livingstone's GLC, circa 1981. It has a particular piquancy for me, since I know that Sinn Fein/IRA have not given up violence. Earlier, the morale of the RUC was discussed. It is difficult to assess morale. My friend, whom I mentioned earlier, spoke of the genuine anguish that he and his colleagues feel as the Patten report is implemented. He is an intelligent, senior person and a decent man. He is a bit of a liberal, dare I say it. Many of his colleagues asked him whether they should vote for the Belfast agreement. He told them that they should because he believed that it was the best way forward for peace. He says that people now tend to avoid his eyes because matters are not progressing as he had hoped. The Patten report is one of those matters.

The Royal Irish Constabulary used to be known—I may be wrong—as the black bastards because of the colour of the uniform. I have certainly heard the RUC referred to in similar vein in Belfast, but by Protestants and Catholics; it was not a sectarian matter. The IRA terrorised and killed RIC constables before partition. That was its tactic then, and it is its tactic now. I regret that the Government in the Bill and Christopher Patten in his report seem to be pandering to Sinn Fein and the IRA. It appears that they are looking for peace, but peace is not built on sand.

The Bill is designed to change the sectarian composition of the force, and I welcome that entirely. Let us get more Catholics into the force, but I tell the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and Messrs Adams and McGuinness, who claim to support peace, that they have done nothing so far to encourage it. As the Patten report says, they could encourage people to join the RUC. They could change it now; they do not have to wait for a new order.

Mr. Mallon

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robathan

I fear that I cannot.

It is wishful thinking to believe that Sinn Fein and the IRA will change; there is no evidence or experience to show that they will. By emasculating the RUC, we are pursuing the IRA's aims.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)


8.46 pm
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead)

One of the joys of speaking relatively late in the debate is that, although most of what I was thinking of saying may have been said already, it provides an opportunity to consider carefully the main lines of opposition to the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Woodward) said, the debate is not only about trying to give the Bill a following wind and a Second Reading, but about trying to achieve as much rapprochement as possible with those who feel deeply uneasy or hostile about it.

I am struck by the fact that the efforts and impetus of those Opposition Members who have opposed the Bill in this debate and a previous one on an Opposition motion come back to their attitude to the decision in Patten report to put history to one side. That is a brave decision by Patten, but it has unquestionably created absolute fury among Unionist Members. They claim that putting history to one side means that the signal courage and achievements of the RUC are also put to one side.

If we are to revisit history and ignore Patten's advice, we must do so even-handedly. We cannot incorporate into whatever arrangements we make a large chunk of Unionist history but very little nationalist history. Even-handedness is an absolutely vital part of the method of achieving progress. I shall spend some time on the history because, last year, I had the pleasure of talking for the last time to my then 97-year-old Uncle Tom, who died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 98 and a half. My cricket was never good enough to make a century, but I had hoped that either my Uncle Tom or my Uncle John, who died at the same age, might have done so. They moved away from Galway—which shows which side of the debate they were on—in 1926. The fact that someone's name or point of origin shows which side he or she supports is part of the issue. My uncles moved to America from a shattered and fragmented land that had been at civil war, but they never forgot it.

I listened to music from what passed for a record player in my old uncle's house and he played a song called "Four Green Fields". The four green fields were the provinces of Ireland, and the song said: Each one was a jewel. 'Till strangers came, and tried to take them from me. The song was republican; the strangers were Unionists. In 1926, the aspiration of people in Ireland was to drive the Unionists out and have a Catholic country for a Catholic people. Equally, there was a strong desire on the Unionist side of the border to erect a type of Berlin wall to ensure the continuance of a Protestant state for a Protestant people. Those attitudes of mutual hostility did not stop in 1926, 1936, 1956 or 1996. Deeply peaceful people such as my Uncle Tom, who was still cutting hair at 95— he had some customers, although he was not much good for me—still felt that Unionists were strangers who had tried to take something and should not be accommodated.

I have heard a lot of talk about the word "royal", but nobody in southern Ireland cares about it because it poses no threat to nationalists. However, in Northern Ireland it is considered by nationalists to be a symbol of their crushing defeat, as is the word "Ulster". Historically, Ulster was one of the four green fields and had nine counties, so the nationalist side viewed its incorporation in the RUC's title as triumphalist: "We can even redefine the historic provinces of Ireland if we feel like it. We can redefine who has a vote in the new Ulster and who has not. The old Ulster would have contained too many Catholics."

History is often held too deeply in Ireland. People relive it instead of using it to establish a heritage that they can cherish and from which they can work to recognise other people's concerns in a way that the old Irish debate never did. My uncle's generation was wrong to think that Unionists were strangers; they of course had every right to be regarded as British and Irish. Equally, those in the new Ulster who had absolutely no time for those old people did not understand what caused their hostility to the embodiments of what they regarded as the British conquest.

Many members of my family were serving police officers. Several joined the Garda Siochana, but they would not have joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Alas, those in the older generation communicated that feeling to later generations; they had no time for the RUC, which they regarded as imposing illegitimate and unjust law. However, that is not our analysis, because our analysis is that it is possible to achieve an inclusive Northern Ireland. A fundamental prerequisite to that is an inclusive Northern Ireland police force.

The Select Committee did not call for the retention of the title "Royal Ulster Constabulary", but in 1998 we were willing to live with that as the first stage of the move to the inclusive new police force. However, at the last minute, there was a division over flags. Nothing much changes. The instruments of history cannot be presented to us again and again.

Patten was right to say that we must seek a fresh start and a new beginning for an inclusive police force in Northern Ireland that everyone in that community will own. I sincerely hope that those who want to pull a little history into our debate recognise the dangers of reactions against that beginning and accept that we should work with Patten's ideas in this important Bill.

War is made in the minds of men and women. We have moved so far that the previous generation's attitude to war has become less prevalent in the new Northern Ireland. I sincerely hope that the next generation in that country will see the real benefits of legislation such as the Bill.

8.56 pm
Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone)

As we approach the end of our debate, we have covered much in relation to the police of Northern Ireland and the Bill. I have the advantage of sitting on this side of the House. I come from Northern Ireland and have lived there all my life. I live in a predominantly nationalist area and represent a pr dominantly nationalist constituency. Indeed, for the past 30 years, I have conducted a business the majority of whose customers are Roman Catholics and nationalists. Unlike some others, I can therefore speak with experience of the real situation in Northern Ireland. I sometimes think that it is presumptuous of people to lecture me on what is best for Northern Ireland.

We have been here before. In the early 1970s, the Hunt commission recommended great changes to the RUC. It wanted their guns to be taken away, said that they were to act like ordinary English bobbies, and so on. At least Hunt had some sense, as he recognised that a change in the RUC's name would offend more than it would appease. Nothing much has changed since then.

We have sat here many times as various Governments recommended wonderful changes to bring utopia to Northern Ireland, despite the opposition of the majority of those Members of Parliament who come from there. It seems that everyone's views are recognised, except those of the majority of Northern Ireland's elected Members, whose opinions—whatever people say—are ignored and overridden.

I have been associated with the Royal Ulster Constabulary for many years and am proud of its members and their sacrifices. Unfortunately, I have sometimes had to walk behind the coffin at their funerals, after policemen have been murdered by the IRA. Close to my home are many graveyards in which there are policemen murdered by the IRA. In my experience, I have never found any great antipathy in the nationalist community to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Had the SDLP asked the nationalist community to support and join the Royal Ulster Constabulary, there would be many more Roman Catholics in the RUC today.

There are two basic political reasons why Roman Catholics did not join the RUC. The nationalist community would not look kindly on them if they did so, especially when the nationalist political party was opposed to that. In addition, Catholics who joined the RUC were subject to intimidation, and many were unable ever to come home again. That is why there are so few Roman Catholics in the RUC. However, if they had more support from their political leaders, plenty of them would join. Many young people would be delighted to join because it is a good, well-paid job, and they could rest assured that they would be rushed to the top.

Once again, a name change is recommended. The IRA and Sinn Fein hate the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and we have listened to Bairbre de Brun's remarks about it. They are determined to destroy it, as they destroyed they Specials, the Ulster Defence Regiment and other organisations, and now they have the opportunity to do so because they have the Secretary of State over a barrel. The success of the Bill's recommendation that nationalists join the RUC depends on the SDLP and on Sinn Fein. However, Sinn Fein says that it will not make that recommendation unless it gets all the changes recommended by Patten. Even then, it will not recommend that nationalists join the future police service of Northern Ireland.

I would be surprised if Sinn Fein ever made that recommendation because, irrespective of the changes to the name or the service, one thing that will not change is that it represents the British Government in Northern Ireland. It will therefore be difficult, if not impossible, for Sinn Fein ever to recommend that nationalists or republicans join the new police service.

The RUC will be destroyed, and even when we have the wonderful, utopian new police force, we will still find that Roman Catholics will not join. All that will be gained is that the republican movement will have won another propaganda victory against the Unionist and British people of Northern Ireland.

Unionists do not object to changes to the police that are reasonable and come about through the improving security situation. We object to the fact that the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which has served Ulster so well and been recognised by the presentation of the George Cross, will get a slap in the face. It will be done away with and replaced by a so-called police service, when there is no guarantee that any more Roman Catholics will join it, hut Sinn Fein-IRA will have claimed another propaganda victory.

9.4 pm

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

Throughout this process, the Government's task is to hold together the coalition which supported the Good Friday agreement and wants it to be implemented. There are Members who did not support the agreement—who honestly did not support it—and who will never support any legislation that stems from it. The problem with the Bill is that it has generated such strength of feeling, indeed anger, among those committed to the implementation of the agreement.

Many of us feel that the Bill undermines the spirit and, indeed, the letter of Patten. We wanted a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland, and that will not be achieved by a Bill that proposes a simple limited reformulation of the RUC. We want the Patten principles to be integral to the Bill. Depoliticising must be the key to the new beginning, so that all can participate in the new arrangements for policing in the six counties. That will result from the creation of real accountability, a genuine community partnership, a clearing out of the partisan symbolism of the past, and a commitment to attaining a critical mass of Catholic/nationalist representation in the police service at every level.

So far, certain general attitudes have been displayed in the debate. It has also given us an opportunity to specify the bottom lines that should be addressed if the Bill is to be supportable. As it should form the new constitution of the police service, it ought to address the question of the name, the flags and the emblems. The bottom line for many, however, will be that the Secretary of State's power should prescribe a new emblem and new symbols that are free of any association with either the British or the Irish state. The regulation of emblem and flag by the Secretary of State should be based on consultation, and achieving consensus with the policing board, the Chief Constable, and human rights organisations in the community generally.

Parts I and VI relate to the policing board. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken of the need to strengthen its powers. Those parts of the Bill should encapsulate the Patten principles of accountability and transparency, but the board's powers are curtailed throughout by the Secretary of State. For instance, the board should be required to meet in public. It should have the power to draw up education and training strategies, working with the police service, human rights experts and the community. The Secretary of State's power to halt a policing board inquiry on grounds other than those set out by Patten should, in my view, be withdrawn from the Bill.

Patten said that the presumption should be that everything should be available for public scrutiny unless it was in the public interest—not the police interest—to hold it back. Clause 56(4) enables the Secretary of State to halt an inquiry if it is not in the interests of the efficiency or effectiveness of the police force. That flies in the face of the principles of the Patten proposals. There should be no obstacle to the board's ability to initiate inquiries.

Inquiries should be in line with the Patten principles, in that they should be held in public. The time limits on inquiries and non-publication of reports are against the spirit of Patten. Appointments to the board should be based on the requirement for the Secretary of State to consult, but there should be a time limit on consultation—three months, for example. The first chair and the vice-chair should be elected by the board itself, subject to the agreement of the First and Deputy First Ministers of the Assembly.

I want to say something about district and community policing arrangements. The Bill establishes arrangements for community involvement in policing and for local accountability, but again it fails to live up to the Patten proposals. We should set time scales for the establishment of district partnerships. I want clarification in the Bill of the provision for Belfast sub-groups, which has been discussed before. I also regret the fact that the 3p levy is not included, because it could have funded local policing initiatives.

The district partnerships should meet in public, and members of the public should be able to question their members, including local commanders. District commanders will play a pivotal role in the whole exercise, and should therefore be appointed by the chief constable, but there should be consultation with the board. Because they will play such a pivotal role in the preparation of the local policing plan, they should be responsible for consulting on it with partnerships and with the whole community. The councils that appoint independent members should be transparent in their actions and should base appointments on consultation with the local community.

Part III deals with policing objectives and codes of practice. It gives the Secretary of State power to determine and revise the objectives of the policing service. I consider that that should require the approval of the policing board. The policing plan should be published in full.

The Bill gives the Secretary of State power to determine changes in the codes of practice. Exercise of that power should be based on full consultation, not only—of course—with the Chief Constable, but with the policing board and the community. All codes should be published in full.

In part VI—on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the police service—overall control is again placed in the hands of the Secretary of State. I propose that the function of the board and of the Chief Constable should be overseen by the oversight commissioner. The board should be presented with the task of managing, implementing and monitoring change under the oversight commissioner's direct supervision. Change should be decided not by the Secretary of State or by the RUC, but by the policing board itself, working with the oversight commissioner.

In this period of change, policing practice must be viewed critically, and we must ensure that it is open, transparent and in line with the spirit of Patten. The code of ethics is, therefore, critical. Today, we have heard criticism from both sides of the House that we have not seen the code's detail in sufficient time. Many hon. Members believe that the code should be, as Patten suggested, included in the Bill.

All officers should operate in line with the central duty imposed by, for example, the United Nations code on conduct of law enforcement, which entails respect for and protection of human dignity and maintenance of the human rights of all people.

The oath is critical. It will, in a time of new beginnings, give confidence in policing practice to all. The oath should be applied to all officers and based on the protection and upholding of fundamental human rights and on equal respect for all individuals and their traditions and beliefs.

The special quota arrangements in recruitment are important, but they will require time to be effective. Therefore, the 10-year review period should be maintained and the proposal for a three-year period rejected. There should be a register of all interests and of membership of all organisations for members of the new police service.

The police ombudsman will play a crucial role in establishing confidence in the new service. Therefore, there should be no time limits on the ombudsman's ability to initiate inquiries. The ombudsman's powers of investigation should be stated in the Bill. Similarly, the oversight commissioner should be given statutory duties and powers in the Bill.

I believe that, in its current form, the Bill should be sent back, but I accept that we shall not have the opportunity today to vote on that matter. The onus is therefore now on the Committee to redraft the Bill in detail, so that it is in line with the original Patten proposals and inspires the confidence of all the communities.

I respect the views that have been stated today by those who live in and represent the six counties of Northern Ireland. However, policing of the six counties is critical to us all, because it is part of the peace process itself. I believe that the Bill's proposals are not in line with the overall Good Friday agreement, undermine confidence in the agreement itself and threaten some of the ways forward that we envisaged when people signed up to the agreement. I therefore look forward to hearing the Minister say in his reply that the Bill will be thoroughly reviewed in Committee.

9.13 pm
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)

There is much in the Bill to be commended. As many hon. Members have already said, there is much in the Bill that is common ground. Clearly, the police service in Northern Ireland—or whatever its name may be—can do with reform. We have a common aim and ambition: to transform it into something very different from what it is today— ultimately, we hope, into an unarmed police force doing exactly the same type of job as other police forces do elsewhere within these islands.

The problem, however, has been inherent ever since the process was embarked upon, and it was quite apparent when the Patten report was published last autumn. As I realised at that time, when I attended a British-Irish conference, the timing of the process has got completely out of kilter. That fact cannot be escaped. The principles established in the Belfast agreement were intended to produce a set of circumstances by which we would move to establishing political structures, there would be decommissioning and the community as a whole could start looking carefully at the way in which policing was done. Instead of which, we find ourselves considering the Bill at a time when the Assembly and the Executive are only totteringly back on their feet, and when the issue of decommissioning remains up in the air, a sword of Damocles that is hanging over the peace process.

It is already apparent from the way in which the Belfast agreement has been interpreted that there are substantial areas of disagreement in its interpretation which go to its very root. I think that these are reflected in some of the problems we have with policing. In a nutshell—as there is so little time to develop these matters—I simply say that it is apparent from comments made, for example, by members of Sinn Fein—which I heard when in Northern Ireland—that there are diametrically different views on whether the Belfast agreement is setting up a structure where United Kingdom sovereignty remains but tremendous institutional changes are implemented to create harmony and participation by all people, with the prospect of reunification if a majority ever wants it in future, or whether we are proceeding through a process of cantonisation and condominium where individual communities can set up themselves and their rights against others and insist on structures which suit them and not the community as a whole.

I regret that that has been fostered in part by people who should know better, such as the Foreign Minister of Ireland in his ill-considered and ill-judged comments. It is a strand that runs through the way in which the agreement has been interpreted in republican circles. It is not surprising if that strikes at the root of the confidence that is required to carry out the sort of changes in policing that the Secretary of State has put forward, and which in many ways appear perfectly reasonable—and might appear even more reasonable if the right climate existed for their implementation within the community. It is with that in mind that I must approach how I vote or whether I abstain this evening. I will certainly vote on the Opposition amendment.

Let us consider one or two of the issues that are raised. There is the question of the boards and the district boards. Having served on the Lambeth police community consultative group, I know the value of engaging the police with a community that may have built-in hostility to it. It is a creative process, as long as there is a willingness for dialogue and not an attempt to undermine one side or the other.

My anxiety about aspects of the Bill is that they provide fertile ground for precise undermining—the cantonisation. I well remember that when we discussed these issues at British-Irish conferences two years ago, it was suggested at one stage that there should be a two-tier police service with a sort of reserve gendarmerie to deal with one aspect, with locally based community police services to deal with others. I thought that that would be highly undesirable for all concerned. There is real anxiety that the structures that we shall set up will contribute to endless and rancorous debate, as they are used as a blunt instrument to bludgeon the police into the further process of cantonisation, which is contrary to the spirit of the Belfast agreement.

These are matters that we can consider in Committee, and I hope that we shall be able to do something with them. I have an open mind on some aspects, but I have real reservations about whether the proposals will create the clarity that is desired and wanted to make the proposed legislation work in practice.

The same considerations apply to all the other issues that seem to concern us so endlessly. In a funny way, and perhaps iconoclastically, I am not sure whether I mind very much what the oath is. Equally, I am not sure that I very much mind what the symbols may be. However, we cannot get away from the fact that as we are dealing with a part of the United Kingdom, all judicial offices—the Secretary of State acknowledged this when he was dealing with the courts—and the police service are Crown appointments. A constable holds an office under the Crown. To perform elliptical somersaults to get away from the fact that all power derives from the Crown within the United Kingdom—and as long as Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom we should seek to make that the impartial mechanism by which the legal system and the police service is provided—is to venture on to difficult ground from which we shall never succeed in extracting ourselves.

Therefore, I say to those on the Treasury Bench that I am happy to look at all sorts of possible solutions, but they cannot fudge the reality. If they try to fudge the reality, they are contributing to the cantonisation and condominium procedure, which the Belfast agreement does not seek to do, but which the enemies of the agreement—or at least the cherry-pickers of the agreement—want. It is small wonder that Ulster Unionists feel strongly about the issue when they see what appears in many ways to be a fairly clear document being muddled in that fashion.

As for the quotas, I confess that I am amazed. I do not see how putting quotas in the form in which they appear in the Bill is compatible with the European convention on human rights—forget about European legislation. I am 100 million times in favour of increasing Roman Catholic representation within the police service in Northern Ireland, whatever name it may have. I could not care less what figure it reaches. If it reaches 60 per cent. or 70 per cent., I will sleep quietly in my bed at night, but to enshrine a 50:50 split in the system seems to be questionable. An aspiration that it should reflect properly the constituent make-up of the community from which it is drawn seems totally unexceptionable, but the 50:50 quota raises far more problems than it will solve.

I hope that, later in the passage of the Bill, I may be able to contribute further. As I say, the Government are to be commended. They have tried to work their way through a minefield. I am sorry that that has come about in the way in which it has. The fault lies with those who have prevented the Belfast agreement from getting up and running to the point where we could have some clarity of discussion on the future of the police, but we must live in the real world. We must be careful of listening to too many siren songs about a few more somersaults or convolutions solving the problem.

The past year has shown that it is when the Secretary of State is prepared to express himself clearly that we make progress. It was regrettable that he had to come along and to start telling us all about flags. The fact that we had to spend an evening dealing with flags reflects rather badly on the way in which the whole process has been developing, but at least we cut through that.

We need to be willing to cut through some of this, too. Otherwise, we will get ourselves into an increasingly complex situation, where we do not provide the sort of police service that I am convinced the majority of people in Northern Ireland want.

9.23 pm
Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull)

Second Reading debates with 10-minute limits on Back-Bench speeches seem to pose minor problems in the management of the business of the House. I rather thought that I would rise to my feet at about half past the hour and that I should preface my remarks by mentioning the limited time available to me. In fact, I am under no such handicap. There is a fair open space of time ahead of me.

Mr. McNamara

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Taylor


Mr. McNamara

Seven minutes?

Mr. Taylor

That was a disappointment.

I am one of those Englishmen who is particularly fond of the Province of Northern Ireland—after all, it is part of my country. I agree that it seems a desperate shame that such nice people can find a gruesome divide to quarrel across. I used to wonder whether I could be part of the generation that helped to solve it. I thought to myself as a young man that I might never find the answer, but that I owed it to myself at least to try to understand the question.

I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to understand the question. Northern Ireland is such a beautiful and promising country that does so many things so extraordinarily well and is, in its own way, eminently capable of enjoying itself. It has so much to offer to tourists. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), the shadow Secretary of State, will attest to the fact that some of the finest golf courses in the world are in Northern Ireland. It would be nice if people were not made nervous about playing on those beautiful golf courses and fishing in the beautiful streams of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Mallon

The names of at least two of those golf courses begin with the word "Royal". I invite anyone to visit them and play.

Will the hon. Gentleman help us all out? For some time I have been on a chase that has become a personal odyssey. I have tried everybody else and failed, so can the hon. Gentleman tell us, from his great depth of experience of parliamentary legislation, what the title deeds of a Bill are?

Mr. Taylor

As a lawyer, that expression is technically known to me as gobbledegook. I studied the law as a young man and practised it for 22 years. I know what a Bill is, I know what an Act of Parliament is and I know what title deeds to real property are, but I have no idea what the title deeds to a Bill are.

Incidentally, of the two golf courses in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon)—Royal County Down and Royal Portrush—

Mr. Mallon

They are not in my constituency.

Mr. Taylor

This may be a minor diversion and the House may not wish to know it, but I am playing Portrush in October.

The hon. Gentleman may be trying to explore another area that is worthy of exploration. I have seldom known a Bill with so many collaterals to it—so many codes of practice that arc not in the Bill and so many reserve powers for the Secretary of State. It will be difficult to handle the Bill in Committee, because we will be asked to accept in good faith a lot of closed and inaccessible items. That can sometimes be asking a lot on such important issues.

I shall start my remarks proper by endorsing the Conservative reasoned amendment, which defines our dissatisfaction wrath the Bill because it fails to sustain the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross in the way that we would like, and leaves the way open for representatives of paramilitaries and even persons convicted of terrorist offences to serve on the policing board and district policing partnerships, and because all that will happen without even a start having been made on decommissioning.

I do not embrace all of the Patten report, but it is irrelevant to dispute whether the Bill lives up to that report, because Patten set out to address the question of policing on the far side of the full implementation of the Belfast agreement. We are not in that position, because one aspect of the Belfast agreement has not been implemented—many would say not even in the slightest degree.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury)

The terms of reference for the Patten report were to provide a framework for the policing of a peaceful Northern Ireland on the completion of all aspects of the Belfast agreement. As we do not yet have that, is not the Bill in many respects premature?

Mr. Taylor

My hon. Friend makes that point fairly, and I concur; in short, he is right.

Mr. McNamara

I have the terms of reference of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland before me, and they contain none of the caveats mentioned by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien).

Mr. Taylor

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend can resolve that dispute. As far as I am concerned, my hon. Friend is correct. The ethos of Patten is that it is a formulation for policing in Northern Ireland on the far side of the fulfilment of the Belfast agreement. That is why I say that my hon. Friend is correct. Patten predicated peace as a premise to new policing, and we are not there.

Mr. McWalter

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that a solution to the policing difficulties should be a causal factor in the development of peace rather than something that comes only after peace is firmly established?

Mr. Taylor

All the elements are interdependent, and we are entitled to see progress with all of them.

On a separate and lighter note—there are not many lighter notes in Northern Ireland politics—as an Englishman who attends his own local police consultative committee whenever he can, I was surprised by the number of layers of monitoring and consultation provided in the Bill. There are the policing board, district policing partnerships, community committees and police liaison committees, to name but four.

I was reminded of my friend Barry Field—the former Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight—who said that given the number of parish and district councils on the island as well as the county council, he sometimes felt that almost everybody on the island was a councillor of one kind or another. Here it may be that anyone in Northern Ireland who is not a police consultee might feel a sense of exclusion.

That may be a virtuous tendency, and of course, it is far better than too little consultation. However, as Patten predicts a reduction in police numbers in Northern Ireland, one feels entitled to ask whether a serious and realistic assessment has been made of the amount of resources and police time that will be absorbed in those processes over and above crime fighting and enforcement of the law.

As for the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a survey of how Ulster people see themselves was conducted by the Belfast Telegraph in April this year. It found not merely that 93 per cent. of Protestants had no objection to the RUC identity and name, but that 61 per cent. of Catholics had no such object on either. Such police satisfaction figures are almost unknown elsewhere in the civilised world.

I have been struck tonight by the extent to which the Bill is friendless in those parts of the House where support might have been thought to be most significant. A near-friendless Bill is setting out to make a nearly gratuitous change of name.

Dr. Godman

It has been suggested that the proposed title—the Northern Ireland Police Service—is, to put it mildly, somewhat inane. How does the hon. Gentleman feel about the suggestion that the new title should be the Northern Ireland Constabulary?

Mr. Taylor

I find more attractive the suggestion made earlier in the debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell, who felt that the names Northern Ireland Police Service and Royal Ulster Constabulary should both find their way into the name of the service. If they were combined, the name might be clumsy, but at least it might avoid offending either of the parties.

Mr. Robert McCartney

The hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) suggests the name the Northern Ireland Constabulary, but would the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) object to the Royal Northern Ireland Police Service?

Mr. Taylor

I have reached the point of asking for answers on a postcard, please. I am not sure that I can handle all the various suggestions that have been made, but I am a loyal proponent of the name offered by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Mallon

The suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) is interesting, except that when that name is shortened, people will say, "I was nicked by the NICs."

Mr. Taylor

I am sorry that I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman on that, except to say that when I was at the Lord Chancellor's Department, the NICS was the Northern Ireland Court Service. There are too many initials and acronyms these days. DPP now stands for district policing partnerships, but I always thought it was the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr. Pound

In your personal experience?

Mr. Taylor

Yes, of course it was my personal experience. We have a logjam of acronyms. By the way, the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) made an exceptionally good speech, which was passionate and full of great eloquence and oratory. I did not agree with any of it.

Mr. McNamara

You did not understand it.

Mr. Taylor

Do you know, I think I did.

The first time I ever went to Northern Ireland was in the 1960s when I was in my mid-20s, having been rather surprisingly selected to play golf for the English solicitors against the Northern Ireland solicitors. When we met our hosts—their hospitality was legendary—introductions were made and the usual get-to-know-you small talk ensued. I was asked about my home club—the golf club of which I was a member. I replied that I was a member of North Warwickshire golf club. My host asked me whether it was a Protestant club or a Catholic club. That was my first, sharp realisation that I was in a part of my own country, but one with a completely different culture.

The last time I was in Northern Ireland, earlier this year, I travelled up the Shankill road and down the Falls road, and passed uncompromising political slogans and a police station fortified as I had never seen before. I regret to say that we have some way to go towards peace. This is a Bill for policing in peace, and that is the mismatch and the flaw in it. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) said, I cannot see how an Act that ultimately satisfies no one will aid the Secretary of State in his efforts to advance the peace process.

Mr. Öpik

Am I right to assume from the reasoned amendment that the hon. Gentleman and his party cannot think of one person who has been convicted of terrorist offences, on either side of the sectarian divide, who would be able to make a meaningful and positive contribution to either the policing board or one of the district policing partnerships?

Mr. Taylor

I am unable to give the hon. Gentleman the name of a convicted criminal who would be able to serve helpfully, but I do not have an encyclopaedic list of names. I can answer him only in principle, not in particular. My answer in principle is, "No, I can't think of one."

This has been a tense and sometimes awkward debate. Many hon. Members have contributed, in a series of exchanges that could hardly be called consensual. I have not heard many satisfied voices from any quarter—in fact, I have seldom heard so little satisfaction in a Second Reading debate.

The Opposition are not satisfied either. We cannot support the motion to give the Bill a Second Reading, and I urge my colleagues and others to support the reasoned amendment.

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

This has been an informative debate. There is no question but that the future and past of policing in Northern Ireland provokes intense and strong views on all sides of the argument. To some—although not to many Members of this House, I must say—the RUC is the embodiment of all that is wrong in Northern Ireland, and the root of many of the deep problems facing people there. I believe that that is palpable nonsense.

Others believe that the RUC can do no wrong, that it should not be modernised or changed, and that it should not be subject to critical comment. That is equally palpable nonsense. The Good Friday agreement and the independent commission under Chris Patten occupied the large middle between the two irreconcilable extremes, and set out to define a new way forward for policing in Northern Ireland. In the words of the Good Friday agreement, the proposal 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. The Bill makes it clear that the Government intend to deliver on that objective, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his opening remarks.

The matter does not end there. The Bill is large and complex, and it is likely to be subject to fine tuning and amendment under the detailed scrutiny that it will receive in Standing Committee. My right hon. Friend and I have been involved in detailed discussions with the relevant parties since the Bill was published. All manner of views have been expressed, and I believe that the process of clarification has been helpful.

As my right hon. Friend said earlier, the Bill will be subject to possible amendment, but I want to make it clear that, as it stands, it is faithful to the objectives of the Good Friday agreement and to the recommendations of the Patten commission. The Bill provides a comprehensive framework to achieve a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland.

I turn now to the detail of the debate, which centred on a number of key issues at the heart of the Bill. However, I shall deal first with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay). As I understand it, the import of the reasoned amendment is that the Conservative pasty opposes elected members who have been convicted of schedule offences becoming members of the policing board. Given that the new political settlement depends on inclusivity, which is the purpose and driving ethos of the Good Friday agreement, that appears a rather strange view to adopt.

As an extension of the point of view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, it could be argued that he would be equally opposed to the same elected members serving as Ministers in the devolved Administration.

Mr. Robert McCartney

We are.

Mr. Ingram

I understand that some hon. Members take that view, but I want to know whether it is the opinion of the right hon. Member for Bracknell. He should make himself clear on this point. If that is the logic of what he said, the next logical development is to assume that he is against the restoration of the Executive. Why should Ministers who are in charge of many billions of pounds of taxpayers' money have only a minority voice on a regulatory policing body?

Mr. MacKay

I am happy to clarify that point for the Minister. The Opposition straightforwardly believe that it is totally and utterly wrong to have people sitting on policing boards and taking part in police district partnerships who are convicted terrorists when there is still a terrorist threat. If the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with that, it is very sad for this country that he should be a Minister.

Mr. Ingram

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. I am asking him to put forward his point of view logically. If that is his point of view, and if he supports the Good Friday agreement, there is an inherent contradiction in that. If he is saying that Sinn Fein should not be allowed to run Northern Ireland or be part of the Administration that runs Northern Ireland, he should have strongly resisted the restoration of the Assembly. That would clearly have been detrimental to the continuing development of the peace settlement that we are all seeking to achieve.

Mr. MacKay

This is very simple to answer. I should have thought that even the Minister could have followed this logic. Under the Belfast agreement, which we support, it is up to the people of Northern Ireland to decide who their Ministers will be by whom they elect to the Assembly. We have always accepted that a sufficient number of Sinn Fein members were elected to the Assembly to entitle two of them to become Ministers, under the d'Hondt formula. That seems straightforward. Nothing in the Belfast agreement says that they are elected by the people to be part of a police authority. As I said earlier, having convicted terrorist criminals on police boards or district police partnerships is wrong, and I am amazed that the Minister cannot see it.

Mr. Ingram

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has never been a Northern Ireland Minister, although he served previous distinguished Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland for an extensive period. With the new devolved settlement, there will be an interface between myself as security Minister and devolved Ministers, of the type that he suggests. We will be discussing issues that may have a policing interest, such as the curtailment of drug use, and crimes on the street involving paedophiles and sex offenders. There are many other such areas. How would he resolve that anomaly? Should I not speak to those Ministers?

There are many weaknesses in the argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not want to overstate the point—

Mr. Robert McCartney

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ingram

I will deal the hon. and learned Gentleman's contribution later in my summing up—I am conscious of the time available. I want to deal with a range of points, but I make that request based on logic, to the right hon. Gentleman. He has to square the circle in some way.

The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) made a strong plea about the name of the RUC and the pride that it engenders. I am sure that he accepts that the Secretary of State made clear his endorsement of that view, not just in what he said this evening but in every other contribution that he has made. The Bill also reflects that in a number of ways. It seems to me that nothing can diminish the proud achievements and sacrifices of the RUC. But nothing stands still. Let me explain what I mean by that.

We are now 60 years on from Dunkirk. My Uncle Jim, as a British soldier, escaped north of Dunkirk as part of the 51st Division. He fought in north Africa and lost his brother Harry in the line. He fought in the Italian campaign. He was there in the early days of Normandy. He fought through France and Germany, and was in Luneberg Heath when peace was signed in 1945. He was not unique. Many tens of thousands co British soldiers could recount many other brave examples. He was a proud soldier, and he was proud of his regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders. That regiment no longer exists. Did that take away his pride? No, it did not. Did it diminish his contribution? No, it did not. Did it diminish the sacrifice made by my family and many tens of thousands of other families during the second world war, whose regiments have equally been disbanded and amalgamated? No, it did not. That pride and those sacrifices live on in their hearts and heads, and in the traditions of their families.

Mr. McCartney

Will the Minister gave way?

Mr. Ingram

I will come to the hon. and learned Gentleman later in my speech.

We are not doing what previous Governments have done to British regiments. The name of the RUC will be reflected fully in the Bill. It will be honoured in so many meaningful ways, not least in the RUC George Cross Foundation.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Gentleman has just walked into the debate.

Dr. Lewis

I have been here for half an hour.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way. That should be enough for the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis)—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman should not argue with me.

Mr. Robathan


Mr. Ingram

Will hon. Members let me develop my case? The hon. Gentleman, too, has hardly been in the Chamber during the debate. He was here at the beginning, disappeared for hours and has come back to try to be a clever lawyer. I shall restate the point that I was making in response to the speeches of the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster and other hon. Members.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he believes that the sensible way forward is to provide a legal description in the Bill that incorporates the RUC—in effect, he said, in the title deeds of the new service—making it clear that disbandment is not taking place, while introducing a new name, the Police Service of Northern Ireland. That name will be used for all working and operational purposes.

Mr. Mallon

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram

I was about to turn to the speech made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Mallon

Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr. Ingram


Hon. Members


Mr. Mallon

I thank the Minister for giving way. I have been trying to intervene all day. As a matter of fact, I have been trying to do so for more than a month.

Will the Minister inform us of what the title deeds of the Bill are?

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Gentleman should listen to what the Secretary of State said. That is why I referred to it. He said, in effect, the title deeds. That was a careful choice of words. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are meaningless."] We can have hilarity or a serious debate.

I regret that the hon. Gentleman's speech was cut short, although I understand and accept the 10-minute limit. I also regret his assessment of the way the Government approached the Patten report. I do not accept his point of view. As he knows, both my right hon. Friend and I have spent many hours in close discussion with him and with members of his and other parties. We have tried to deal with their concerns. We shall continue such detailed examination in Committee, where I know his party's view will be strongly represented.

The hon. Gentleman made a telling intervention on the right hon. Member for Bracknell and pointed out the strength of feeling in large parts of the Catholic community as to the need for a change in policing. He warned the right hon. Gentleman that people who do not live in Northern Ireland should not express paternalistic views or comments. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman pay careful heed to those words.

Mr. MacKay

The Minister does not live in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Ingram

That is true, but I spend a considerable amount of time there—devoting much energy and effort, on behalf of the British Government, to helping people in Northern Ireland to find a way forward. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's paternalistic approach might not be helpful in finding a way forward.

The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) highlighted several detailed concerns—rightly pointing out that his party had identified 44 matters. He referred particularly to powers of inquiry and to the code of ethics. In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that the Bill might not be perfect, but that we would consider constructive changes. However, they must be aimed at creating a modem, efficient, representative and acceptable police service. I know that the hon. Gentleman will share that sentiment.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the inquiry power of the policing board. My right hon. Friend said that we want to strike the right balance; we are prepared to reconsider that balance and how better to refine and define it. The hon. Gentleman said that the code of ethics should apply to all officers—existing and new. That is exactly what the Bill says. Clause 30(4) states: In carrying out their functions the members of the police force shall have regard to the code of ethics under section 48. I hope that deals with the points that he raised.

I thank the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) for his considered response to the Bill. I recognise the strong views that he has about key elements of the Bill and about 50:50 representation, not least on gender and race issues. He also expressed his view on who should and should not be entitled to serve on the policing board and the district policing partnerships. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) pointed out, those detailed issues are worthy of consideration in Committee.

Many of the issues that we have considered in this debate will be helped by the implementation plan, which, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his opening speech, was published in Belfast. The plan is now available in the Vote Office for hon. Members to consider and to develop their understanding of the Bill.

On the point that the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire made about 50:50 representation, we clearly have to take European Union directives into account, comply with them and, if it is appropriate, we may have to seek derogation. On the make-up of the board and the district policing partnerships, it is important that we do not take action that works against the grain of the new inclusive approach on which the future of Northern Ireland depends.

As the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has said elsewhere, the fact that someone has a past does not mean that he cannot have a future. That must be the right approach, and I know that the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire accepts that. I hope that other hon. Members will, on reflection, consider that point. The Bill is right to contain effective safeguards as to who can and who cannot serve on the bodies in an independent capacity. It does that and, even though others may take a view on that, the Bill makes clear the process that will be involved.

The hon. Gentleman also said that the Chief Constable should be required to comply with the annual policing plan. He said that he wanted the Government to go beyond Patten's recommendation and that, therefore, the board's powers should be increased under the Bill. At present, the Police Authority issues an annual plan and the Chief Constable issues a strategic plan. He then has to pay regard to the annual plan. Under the Bill, the policing board will issue both the strategic and the annual elements in a single plan and again the Chief Constable will have to have regard to that. To go further than that would infringe his operational independence. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will give further consideration to that point.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), as usual, made robust arguments in support of his case. I could take issue with him on a number of detailed points, but I look forward to our debates in Committee. I do not for one minute doubt his sincerity and integrity; nor do I criticise the determination that he has shown in promoting his views and those of his community.

I recognise the role of the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) as a former Northern Ireland Minister. He called for the Secretary of Stale to be radical, but it is bit difficult to accept such a suggestion from a member of the previous Conservative Administration. Anything they did was clearly of a damaging nature. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman called for a loosening of the powers of the Secretary of State relative to the policing board. In at least five significant areas, the Secretary of State will give powers to the policing board that do not apply to the existing Police Authority. That may or may not be radical.

I understood that I was to be given much more time to sum up. The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) rightly used up the time available to him, but unfortunately I am not able to deal with all the detailed issues. I look forward to their being considered in Committee. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I instruct the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 142, Noes 342.

Division No. 217] [9.59 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Beresford, Sir Paul
Amess, David Blunt, Crispin
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Body, Sir Richard
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Boswell, Tim
Baldry, Tony Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Beggs, Roy Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Bercow, John Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian McCartney, Robert (N Down)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Browning, Mrs Angela McIntosh, Miss Anne
Burns, Simon MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Butterfill, John Maclean, Rt Hon David
Cash, William McLoughlin, Patrick
Chope, Christopher Madel, Sir David
Clappison, James Maginnis, Ken
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Major, Rt Hon John
Maples, John
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Mates, Michael
Collins, Tim Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Cormack, Sir Patrick Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Cran, James Moss, Malcolm
Curry, Rt Hon David Nicholls, Patrick
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Norman, Arche
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Donaldson, Jeffrey Ottaway, Richard
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Page, Richard
Duncan Smith, lain Paice, James
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Paisley, Rev Ian
Evans, Nigel Paterson, Owen
Faber, David Pickles, Eric
Flight, Howard Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Prior, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Randall, John
Fox, Dr Liam Redwood, Rt Hon John
Fraser, Christopher Robathan, Andrew
Gale, Roger Robertson, Laurence
Gamier, Edward Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Gibb Nick Roe, Mrs Mar[...]on (Broxbourne)
Gill, Christopher Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Sayeed, Jonathan
Gray James Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Green Damian Shepherd, Richard
Greenway, John Simpson Keith, (Mid-Norfolk)
Grieve, Dominic Soames, Nicholas
Gummer, Rt Hon John Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Hague, Rt Hon William Steen, Anthony
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Streeter, Gary
Hammond, Philip Swayne, Desmond
Hawkins Nick Syms, Robert
Hayes, John Tapsell Sir Peter
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Taylor, Ian Esher & Walton)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Taylor John M (Solihull)
Horam, John Thompson, William
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Tredinnick, David
Hunter, Andrew Trend, Michael
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Trimble, Rt Hon David
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Tyrie, Andrew
Jenkin, Bernard Viggers, Peter
Key, Robert Walker Cecil
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Walter, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Waterson, Nigel
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Wells, Bowen
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Whitney, Sir Raymond
Lansley, Andrew Whittingdale, John
Leigh, Edward Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Letwin, Oliver Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Yeo, Tim
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. Stephen Day and Mr. Peter Atkinson.
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Abbott, Ms Diane Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ainger Nick Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton Joe
Alexander, Douglas Atherton Ms Candy
Allan, Richard Ballard, Jackie
Allen, Graham Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry Dismore, Andrew
Barron, Kevin Dobbin, Jim
Battle, John Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Bayley, Hugh Donohoe, Brian H
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Doran, Frank
Begg, Miss Anne Dowd, Jim
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Edwards, Huw
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Efford, Clive
Bennett, Andrew F Ellman, Mrs Louise
Benton, Joe Ennis, Jeff
Bermingham, Gerald Field, Rt Hon Frank
Berry, Roger Fisher, Mark
Best, Harold Fitzpatrick, Jim
Betts, Clive Flint, Caroline
Blears, Ms Hazel Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Blizzard, Bob Foster, Don (Bath)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Borrow, David Foulkes, George
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Gapes, Mike
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Gardiner, Barry
Bradshaw, Ben George, Andrew (St Ives)
Brake, Tom George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gerrard, Neil
Browne, Desmond Gidley, Sandra
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Buck, Ms Karen Godman, Dr Norman A
Burgon, Colin Godsiff, Roger
Burnett, John Goggins, Paul
Burstow, Paul Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Butler, Mrs Christine Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Grogan, John
Campbell-Savours, Dale Gunnell, John
Caplin, Ivor Hain, Peter
Casale, Roger Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Caton, Martin Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hanson, David
Chaytor, David Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clapham, Michael Harvey, Nick
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Heppell, John
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clelland, David Hinchliffe, David
Clwyd, Ann Hodge, Ms Margaret
Coffey, Ms Ann Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Coleman, lain Hope, Phil
Colman, Tony Hopkins, Kelvin
Connarty, Michael Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howells, Dr Kim
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoyle, Lindsay
Corston, Jean Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cotter, Brian Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cranston, Ross Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Crausby, David Humble, Mrs Joan
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Hume, John
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hutton, John
Cummings, John Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland) Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Dalyell, Tam Jenkins, Brian
Darvill, Keith Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Denham, John Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Olner, Bill
Keetch, Paul O'Neill, Martin
Kemp, Fraser Öpik, Lembit
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W) Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Pearson, Ian
Khabra, Piara S Pendry, Tom
Kilfoyle, Peter Perham, Ms Linda
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Pickthall, Colin
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Pike, Peter L
Kirkwood, Archy Pollard, Kerry
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Pond, Chris
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Pope, Greg
Laxton, Bob Pound, Stephen
Lepper, David Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Leslie, Christopher Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Prescott, Rt Hon John
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Primarolo, Dawn
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Purchase, Ken
Livsey, Richard Quinn, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Llwyd, Elfyn Quinn, Lawrie
Lock, David Rammell, Bill
Love, Andrew Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
McAvoy, Thomas Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
McCabe, Steve Rendel, David
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
McDonagh, Siobhain Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Macdonald, Calum Rooney, Terry
McDonnell, John Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McGrady, Eddie Rowlands, Ted
McGuire, Mrs Anne Roy, Frank
McIsaac, Shona Ruane, Chris
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Ruddock, Joan
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert Russell, Bob (Colchester)
McNamara, Kevin Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
MacShane, Denis Ryan, Ms Joan
Mactaggart, Fiona Salter, Martin
McWalter, Tony Sanders, Adrian
McWilliam, John Sarwar, Mohammad
Mahon, Mrs Alice Savidge, Malcolm
Mallaber, Judy Shaw, Jonathan
Mallon, Seamus Shipley, Ms Debra
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Snort, Rt Hon Clare
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Singh Marsha
Martlew, Eric Skinner Dennis
Maxtor, John Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Meacher Rt Hon Michael Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington s)
Merron, Gillian Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) smith, John (Glamorgan)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Miller, Andrew Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Mitchell, Austin Soley, Clive
Moffatt, Laura Southworth, Ms Helen
Moonie, Dr Lewis Speller, John
Moore, Michael Squire, Ms Rachel
Moran, Ms Margaret Steinberg, Gerry
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway) Stevenson, George
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Stewart, Ian (Eccles>
Moms, Rt Hon Ms Estelle(B'ham Yardley) Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon) Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mountford, Kali Stunell, Andrew
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mudie, George Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Temple-Morris, Peter
Oaten, Mark Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Tonge, Dr Jenny Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Touhig, Don Willis, Phil
Trickett, Jon Wills, Michael
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Winnick, David
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Turner, Neil (Wigan) Wood, Mike
Twigg, Derek (Halton) Woodward, Shaun
Tyler, Paul Woolas, Phil
Tynan, Bill Worthington, Tony
Walley, Ms Joan Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Ward, Ms Claire Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wareing, Robert N Wyatt, Derek
Webb, Steve
White, Brian Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Tony McNulty and Mr. David Jamieson.
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 329, Noes 14.

Division No. 218] [10.18 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Burstow, Paul
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Butler, Mrs Christine
Ainger, Nick Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Allen, Graham Campbell-Savours, Dale
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Caplin, Ivor
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Casale, Roger
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Caton, Martin
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Atherton, Ms Candy Chaytor, David
Ballard, Jackie Clapham, Michael
Banks, Tony Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Barnes, Harry Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Barron, Kevin Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Battle, John Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Bayley, Hugh Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Begg, Miss Anne Clelland, David
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Clwyd, Ann
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Coffey, Ms Ann
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Coleman, Iain
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Colman, Tony
Bennett, Andrew F Connarty, Michael
Bermingham, Gerald Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Berry, Roger Corston, Jean
Best, Harold Cotter, Brian
Betts, Clive Cranston, Ross
Blears, Ms Hazel Crausby, David
Blizzard, Bob Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Dalyell, Tam
Bradshaw, Ben Darvill, Keith
Brake, Tom Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Browne, Desmond Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Buck, Ms Karen Dawson, Hilton
Burgon, Colin Denham, John
Burnett, John Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Kemp, Fraser
Donohoe, Brian H Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Khabra, Piara S
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Kilfoyle, Peter
Edwards, Huw King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Efford, Clive King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kirkwood, Archy
Ennis, Jeff Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Fisher, Mark Lawrence Mrs Jackie
Fitzpatrick, Jim Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Flint, Caroline Leslie, Christopher
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Levitt Tom
Foster, Don (Bath) Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Foulkes, George Livsey, Richard
Gapes, Mike Lock, David
Gardiner, Barry Love, Andrew
George, Andrew (St Ives) McAvoy, Thomas
George, Bruce (Walsall S) McCabe, Steve
Gerrard, Neil McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McDonagh, Siobhain
Godman, Dr Norman A Macdonald, Calum
Goggins, Paul McGrady, Ed[...]ie
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McGuire, Mrs Anne
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McIsaac, Shona
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McNamara, Kevin
Grogan, John MacShane, Denis
Gunnel, John Mactaggart, Fiona
Hain, Peter McWalter, Tony
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McWilliam, John
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Hanson, David Mallon, Seamus
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Harvey, Nick Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Martlew Eric
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Maxton, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Heppell, John Merron, Gillian
Hewitt, Ms Patricia Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Hinchliffe, David Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Hodge, Ms Margaret Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Miller, Andrew
Hope, Phil Mitchell, Austin
Hopkins, Kelvin Moffatt, Laura
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Howells, Dr Kim Moore, Michael
Hoyle, Lindsay Moran, Ms Margaret
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hume, John Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Hutton, John
Mountford, Kali
Illsley, Eric Mudie, George
Ingram, R Hon Adam Mullin, Chris
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Murphy Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Jenkins, Brian Naysmith, Dr Doug
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Olner, Bill
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Öpik, Lembit
Keeble, Ms Sally Organ, Mrs D[...]ana
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian Steinberg, Gerry
Pendry, Tom Stevenson, George
Perham, Ms Linda Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Pickthall, Colin Stoate, Dr Howard
Pike, Peter L Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Pollard, Kerry Stringer, Graham
Pond, Chris Stuart, Ms Gisela
Pope, Greg Stunell, Andrew
Pound, Stephen Sutcliffe, Gerry
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Primarolo, Dawn Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Purchase, Ken Temple-Morris, Peter
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Quinn, Lawrie Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rammell, Bill Timms, Stephen
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Tipping, Paddy
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Rendel, David Touhig, Don
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Trickett, Jon
Roche Mrs Barbara Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Rooney, Terry burner, Neil (Wigan)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Rowlands, Ted Tyler, Paul
Roy, Frank Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ruane Chris Ward, Ms Claire
Ruddock Joan Wareing, Robert N
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Webb, Steve
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) White Brian
Ryan, Ms Joan Whitehead, Dr Alan
Salter, Martin Wicks, Malcolm
Sanders, Adrian Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Shaw, Jonathan Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Shipley, Ms Debra Willis Phil
Short, Rt Hon Clare Winnick, Michael
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Winnick, David
Singh, Marsha Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Skinner, Dennis wood, Mike
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Woodward, Shaun
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S) Woolas, Phil
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Worthington, Tony
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Wyatt, Derek
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. Tony McNulty and Mr. David Jamieson.
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Donaldson, Jeffrey Swayne, Desmond
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Thompson, William
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Trimble, Rt Hon David
Hunter, Andrew Walker, Cecil
McCartney, Robert (N Down) Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Maginnis, Ken
Paisley, Rev Ian Tellers for the Noes: Mr. William Ross and Mr. Roy Beggs.
Robertson, Laurence
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).


Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52 (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills), That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

  1. (a) any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State under the Act; and
  2. (b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment.—[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

Question agreed to.