HC Deb 21 November 2000 vol 357 cc222-48

Lords amendment: No. 24, in page 12, line 2, leave out paragraph (c).

Mr. Mandelson

I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 25, 27, 28 and amendment (a) thereto, and Lords amendments Nos. 93, 94 and 101.

Mr. Mandelson

This group of amendments deals with consultation on a range of issues. Amendment No. 24 will remove the ombudsman from the list of those to be consulted by the Secretary of State when determining long-term policing objectives and amendment No. 25 will similarly remove her from the list of those to be consulted by the Policing Board on its objectives. Consultation with

the ombudsman was raised by Conservative peers in Committee in the other place and, having discussed the issue with the ombudsman, we accept that her role in planning would be relatively limited and that a formal consultative role would be excessive—hence amendments Nos. 24 and 25.

Amendment No. 27 specifies that, before prescribing the statements and particulars that the Policing Board should include in the policing plan, the Secretary of State shall consult the board and the Chief Constable. It responds to concerns that the Secretary of State would make regulations altering the content of the plan without consultation. That was never the intention.

Amendment No. 28 will oblige the Secretary of State to consult other appropriate persons or bodies—in addition to the Policing Board and Chief Constable—before issuing or revising a code of practice issued under clause 27. That meets concerns that, when relevant—obviously it will not always be—the views of bodies such as the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission or the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland should be sought.

Amendment No. 93 includes the ombudsman in the list of those whom the Secretary of State should consult before issuing or revising guidance on the police's use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order. It is clear that, through her investigations, the ombudsman will gather information that will be relevant to the guidance. For example, in investigating complaints about the use of plastic baton rounds, she may have details to feed in on their usage, by police district, on the occasions most likely to lead to injury, and so on.

Amendment No. 94 widens the scope for the Secretary of State to consult on the regulations as to emblems and flags before coming to any decisions. He is currently obliged to consult the board, the Chief Constable and the Police Association. The Government's consistent position has been that a new beginning requires a new name for the police service, and that a new name requires a new badge and a new flag based on it. The new name is prescribed by the legislation that also gives me the power to prescribe the badge. However, I want to try to obtain cross-community consensus on that if I possibly can. It is important to do so given that these matters are extremely sensitive and fraught.

Patten's view was that the badge should be entirely free from any association with either the British or the Irish state. I said in June that the Government did not accept that this should necessarily be so. That is still my view. I have never seen the symbols of the police service for Northern Ireland as an issue of sovereignty or of getting symbols that represent the British state.

However—we must be frank about this—that is not how others see the issue, and we must understand and appreciate why that is so.

I illustrate my point from some of the contributions that were made in the other place when a specific amendment was tabled suggesting that the existing badge of the RUC—crown and all—should be carried over to the new police service for Northern Ireland. The amendment was moved, debated and defeated in the other place, but I refer to that debate only to show how difficult and fraught the issue becomes when it is mixed up with the issue of sovereignty and the constitutional argument in Northern Ireland.

In the debate, one Conservative viscount said that the crown should be retained in the police badge because it symbolises Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom and that, if it were removed from the badge, that would be an attack on the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. I attended the debate and listened from the Bar of the other House to all the contributions that were made. Another Conservative peer said that the crown should be retained because it is dear to Unionism.

I am the first to acknowledge—I readily do so—that the crown is dear to Unionism for all the obvious reasons. However, that shows why the presence of the crown on the badge is objectionable to many nationalists. It clearly identifies the police service with one side of the constitutional argument in Northern Ireland, not with the community as a whole. Conservative Members of the other place made that clear in their contributions to the debate on whether the RUC's existing badge should be maintained and carried over. That illustrates the difficulties in reaching a cross-community consensus—which we need to do—on the badge and emblems of the new police service. The last thing that I should like to happen—I hope that other hon. Members would agree—is for the new police service to be a platform for resuming the age—old constitutional quarrel that has dogged and divided Northern Ireland society for so long.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)

Is there not another reason—perhaps the same one as was raised when we discussed flags orders? It is a matter not of allegiance, but of reality. A police officer, even if we change the oath as we have, is a Crown officer. All law in this country derives from the Crown. Are we not in danger of entering a state of unreality when we remove that? Is it not better to stick to the reality of the situation while we seek to implement the other changes?

Mr. Mandelson

In logic and legislative premise, the hon. Gentleman may be absolutely correct, but I must bring him back to reality. When we invoke a symbol of the British state—such as the crown—in such constitutional terms when debating or determining the emblem of a police service that we are trying to draw from the community as a whole and to which the entire community, with two distinctive traditions, wants to owe allegiance, he will appreciate that there is more than one reality.

I want to create a police service with a uniform, badge and emblems that every member of the service is comfortable with and proud to wear. On that basis, it behoves us to ensure that there is nothing about the police service's name, uniform or badge that drives away one side of the community because it is construed as offensive to one tradition or another. Above all, in practical terms, we do not want to make it harder to recruit people from both traditions.

Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

When the Secretary of State talks of the crown, he will be aware that that is only one aspect of the current insignia, and that the harp is also important. While the crown symbolises British Government and law, the harp is used on all official documents of the Irish Government and on Irish passports. Unionists can accept the incorporation of the harp within the badge and do not get offended or upset, because we see our tradition represented by the crown. Can we not have a bit of maturity and use the shamrock and harp to represent the nationalist tradition and the crown to represent the Unionist tradition? The Secretary of State is in danger of misleading the House by focusing simply on the crown. He knows that the insignia cover more than that and are a cross-community symbol that draws on the traditions of both communities.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is becoming a speech. He has made his point.

Mr. Mandelson

The hon. Gentleman has made his point extremely well. His comfortableness with the presence of the harp, a symbol that he associates with the Irish state, reflects the strength, security and self-confidence that he feels in such matters. He has to understand, however, that people from the other tradition in Northern Ireland are not as relaxed about symbols of the British state.

6.45 pm

It is true that the current insignia of the RUC badge contain the crown and the harp, and the hon. Gentleman would be making a good point if he was saying that the design was intended to provide a balance, an equality and a parity of esteem—although I am not sure that he was. To follow his logic, that is why, given that elements of the badge are associated with both traditions, I would be rather relaxed about continuing that balance and reflection of both traditions, as I have already said.

However, my point is different and important. It is illustrated, as I tried to explain, by Members of the other place who, in seeking to justify the continuation of the present badge and the retention of the crown, made it clear that it symbolises not a parity of esteem or a reflection of both traditions but, as the noble viscount explained, Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom. In their view, removal of the crown would constitute an attack on the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.

Such an argument puts us in danger of crossing the line from what is a proper—and, in some people's view, even appropriate—reflection of both traditions in Northern Ireland to a position where we are using the crown, insignia and badge of the police service to provide a proxy for continuing the constitutional argument and quarrel in Northern Ireland; and that is precisely what we should all be united in wanting to remove from the police service, as the Patten report originally proposed.

Hon. Members will know that I have never been entirely persuaded by the argument in favour of neutrality, but if we have equality and not neutrality, the argument about the symbols cannot be played out as a proxy fight to continue the constitutional quarrel about the status of Northern Ireland.

Mr. McNamara

Has my right hon. Friend considered the heraldic significance of the badge, which displays not parity of esteem but all power coming from the Crown? That is why people who do not accept that interpretation cannot be comfortable with it.

Mr. Mandelson

Well, now: careful, careful.

Mr. McNamara

Have a word with the Duke of Norfolk.

Mr. Mandelson

I will indeed have a word with the Duke of Norfolk, but it will have to wait for another day. I hope that my hon. Friend does not mind if, instead, I conclude my remarks.

The battle is to achieve something that will get us consensus rather than controversy. I cannot conceive of rejecting the board's proposals for the new police service badge, and it is to the board that I shall turn in the first instance for its views and agreement on the new badge. I cannot conceive of rejecting the board's proposals if they reflect a genuine consensus within it and are capable of receiving community-wide support in the new police service. Incidentally, by consensus I am not talking about a 10:9 vote, or even a 14:5 vote if all the nationalists or all the Unionist Assembly Members of the board voted against. My hope is that the whole board will be able to rally round a preferred option, and there will not be a narrow vote with a thin majority to try to drive through someone's view and overcome the sensitivities of others.

Even if unanimity cannot be achieved, I am looking for the board to come forward with proposals that command genuine cross-community support. That is majority support from each tradition on the board. If the board fails to do that, as I have said, and as the Bill provides, I shall have to call the matter myself. In those circumstances, I would not impose an outcome which would deter recruitment from either side of the community. That would be the ultimate folly, and completely self-defeating. Having come all this way with all the pain that this legislation has involved, it would be folly if we were to throw away the ultimate prize on a wrong call over the badge or emblem of the police, which then succeeded in sparking controversy and alienating one side and deterring recruitment.

Mr. Robert McCartney

The Minister has said that he does not wish to extend the constitutional debate to the issue of insignia. However, has not the right hon. Gentleman claimed that in one sense the constitutional issue has been settled on the basis of the principle of consent, and that Northern Ireland will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom until a majority decides otherwise? That being the case, what objection can there be to the badge of a force that is upholding the Queen's peace? The Queen's peace is upheld in the mainland and Northern Ireland, the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What objection can there be to the use of the crown as an emblem? It is not—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman's intervention is becoming a speech.

Mr. Mandelson

I take the hon. and learned Gentleman's point. Not for the first time, and although I would not follow him in all his language, he has probably put my argument better than I did. I believe that the principle of consent has resolved the age-old quarrel, and

that enables us to put that quarrel and the violence that is associated with it behind us once and for all. That does not mean that people will not pursue their legitimate aspirations and political objectives, depending on the tradition from which they come. However, they do so by peaceful and democratic means on the basis of the principle of consent that the hon. and learned Gentleman has described. I accept that.

The problem arises when others come in and reinterpret the meaning or implications of the inclusion of such symbols as the crown in the police insignia, and start reading into it certain constitutional implications which I fear would reignite the quarrel. The police service would be embroiled in a quarrel which I believe is a matter for politics and not for policing. The quarrel should be resolved on the basis of the principle of consent and not by some proxy means involving various and different symbols.

Lords amendment No. 101 adds the ombudsman to the list of those to whom the Policing Board shall send a copy of any reports of inquiries held. There is already a requirement to notify the ombudsman of inquiries under clause 58(2)(a). With those words, I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)


Mr. Thompson


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. William Thompson.

Mr. Thompson

It is—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I did not see that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), was rising as fast as he did, because he remained on his feet while I was on mine.

Mr. MacKay

I hope that I rose as quickly as I was allowed to do, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would not like to embarrass you.

Lords amendment No. 93, which worries my colleagues and me, relates to the ombudsman. I shall speak only on this amendment, and I shall do so relatively briefly. To summarise, the amendment would insist that the ombudsman be consulted in simple terms when, for example, the police might be using baton rounds. That is extremely dangerous, and I shall explain why. I refer to the definition of ombudsman in the "New Oxford Dictionary". It reads: An official appointed to investigate individuals' complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities. I submit that the position of the ombudsman is severely compromised by her having a view on issues such as baton rounds publicly expressed, when she might well in future have to investigate complaints—many of them perhaps legitimate—about police action involving baton rounds. That puts her in an invidious position. It is wrong that the ombudsman should be so consulted.

Without being disrespectful to the present or any future ombudsman, I do not believe that that is her role or anything to do with her. She has plenty to do in investigating complaints. I think that the Minister will confirm that we supported the setting up of the ombudsman. There was nothing between us on the issue. I believe that the ombudsman should sit in judgment on complaints that are sent to her. It is not possible for her to do so if she has already given a view on the matter. If that were to happen in any other court or on any other occasion where an independent person was considering an appeal, I think that there would be judicial review. I think also that the person sitting in judgment would be ruled ineligible to make a judgment and a decision.

I am sure that the Minister of State and the Secretary of State do not wish to put the ombudsman in that position. I do not want to do so either. We oppose the amendment because we think that it is distinctly unhelpful.

The Secretary of State occasionally, and the Minister of State perpetually, complain that I do not stick to the letter of the Patten report. I do not think that the letter has to be stuck to, but they do. The Patten report states that the ombudsman should be notified, not consulted. I suggest that that goes far enough, and that we should return to that position.

Having explained why we are opposed to Lords amendment No. 93, we run into a slight technical problem. The amendment will not be called to be voted upon for quite some time. This debate and another four debates on other amendments will take place before it is reached. It is now almost 7 o'clock and we have only another three hours because of the timetable motion, to which many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House objected. I am in the slightly difficult position of wishing to advise my colleagues to vote against the amendment when they will probably not be able to do so.

As a protest, it could be that we shall have to divide the House on Lords amendments Nos. 24 and 25, to which we have no particular objections. It seems that that is the only way in which we can express our legitimate concerns by way of a vote. That well illustrates why so many of us voted against the timetable motion. It makes a mockery of debate in this place.

7 pm

Mr. McDonnell

I have a question for the Minister who will respond to the debate. Lords amendment No. 28, relating to consultation, would result in clause 27(2) providing that, before issuing a code of practice, the Secretary of State would be required to consult the board, the Chief Constable and any other parties, as he saw fit. Amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 28 is an attempt to include the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. I support amendment (a), especially in light of the emphasis that has been placed tonight on the importance of human rights development within the Northern Ireland police service. My question is this: in the process of deciding which bodies he considers it appropriate to consult, will the Secretary of State publish any protocol or guidance relating to the matters on which he intends to consult? It would be useful to have some assurances regarding the transparency of the decision-making process relating to consultation arrangements.

Mr. Thompson

The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) has already spoken to the amendment that I intended to address—Lords amendment No. 93. I, too, think that it would be wrong to consult the ombudsman on matters such as plastic bullets, whose use is part of the normal operations of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The other place agreed to remove from clauses 24 and 25 the requirement to consult the ombudsman, and it strikes me as right to remove it from clause 51. Such consultation might prejudice any decision the ombudsman had to make and it would make some people highly reluctant to make complaints to her, for fear that she would be biased.

The Secretary of State commented on the emblems of the RUC. Apparently, people think that there are two equal communities in Northern Ireland. There are not. There is a majority community that wants to remain part of the United Kingdom and a minority community that wants to break that link. The two communities are not equal. Attempting to please everybody results in the majority tending always to lose out, no matter what its members think, so that the minority is placated.

The Secretary of State tells us that he would have been happy to retain the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but he felt unable to do so because the minority would not accept it; therefore, there has to be a new name. He says that he would have no particular objection to retaining the crown, but, again, the minority will not accept it; therefore, the likelihood is that we shall end up with a badge without a crown. The right hon. Gentleman should understand that, by trying to placate a minority, he loses the confidence of the majority of Northern Ireland's people.

The vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland, whether Unionist or nationalist, were quite happy with the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and with the badge and emblems of that fine force. The Secretary of State should be careful about making changes.

Dr. Palmer

In his introduction, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State offered an honest and intelligent analysis of the problem and stated clearly what we all regard as the central issue on the question of badges. It is not clear to me that every police force requires a badge, especially if it is likely to be a divisive symbol. There was a time when the Labour party had a badge. Giving it up was one of the reforms introduced by the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), as part of the new Labour approach. We all seem to have survived its loss. On the issue of the crown and the harp, in principle a balance of symbols is unlikely to be objectionable, but it seems to me—I stand to be corrected if I am wrong—that the harp has rarely in the history of Ireland been perceived as a divisive political symbol, whereas the crown has been the subject of controversy, for reasons with which we are all familiar.

The hon. Member for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson) says that the two communities in Northern Ireland are not equal—at least in power. One community is a majority community. He says that we should not try to please everybody, and I do not think that I am over-interpreting his words when I say that he thinks that, if we have to choose, we should choose to please the majority rather than the minority. Such an approach might be appropriate when deciding where to put a motorway, but as a guiding principle for a police force it is profoundly misguided.

A police force needs to represent and be seen to represent the common interests of both communities. A supremacist view, placing the interests of one community over those of another, has as little place in the conduct of the police as it would in the conduct of the Army, the judiciary or any other organisation or body that aspires to represent the community as a whole. In common with the overwhelming majority of people, I believe that we have to move beyond that sort of sectarianism.

The hon. Member for West Tyrone should bear in mind that militant Unionism constitutes an extremely small minority among the people of the United Kingdom. The interests of the people of the United Kingdom are certainly not served by a policy that promotes division within Northern Ireland.

Mr. Robert McCartney

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that an extremist minority of the nationalist minority has consistently used violence, including against the majority on the mainland. That has never been a feature of the Unionist people.

Dr. Palmer

I am not entirely sure that no Unionist has ever been guilty of violence, and even if that were true, it would not necessarily follow that every peaceful view of the nationalist community should be overridden in the interests of the majority. We should seek a solution that is acceptable to both sides, because that is the only plausible basis on which to build a police force.

It has been suggested that some officers in the existing RUC would feel uncomfortable in a police force whose badge did not include the crown. It seems to me that an officer to whom the constitutional debate is so crucial that he feels unable to serve because of a badge that does not reflect the traditional sectarian divide, is probably best advised to consider whether he will be well placed in the new police force. We need a police force that is acceptable to both communities, we need officers on that force who are ready to serve both communities, and we need a symbol that reflects that resolve.

Mr. Trimble

It will come as no surprise to hon. Members if I say that I do not believe that the report of the Patten commission should be treated as holy writ. The members of that commission were ordinary human beings—that is a compliment to some of them—and like all human beings, they are fallible. That applies, of course, to the chairman, Mr. Chris Patten. He is equally fallible. One of the mistakes that Patten made was in the treatment of certain symbolic matters, as they are called. From the comments that he made at the time that the report was published, it is clear that he was profoundly confused about political and constitutional issues.

The Secretary of State made an important point when he said that he did not want the symbolic issues to be used as a means of reigniting or reopening the constitutional issue. Symbols are important at many levels, one of which is that they are indicators of constitutional issues. The most important point about the Belfast agreement, from the point of view of Unionists, is that if the agreement is accepted and applied, it settles the constitutional issue. If the agreement does not do that, it is of little value.

The most important thing, for Unionists, is that the agreement settles constitutional issues, if it is applied. On the constitutional issues, the agreement is clear. It goes beyond an acceptance of a consent principle—it accepts

the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's position as part of the United Kingdom. That is spelled out explicitly in the very first paragraph of the agreement, and the term "legitimacy" is used repeatedly.

All those who say that they accept and are committed to the Belfast agreement must, if they are being sincere, also say that they accept that Northern Ireland is a legitimate part of the United Kingdom. I am sorry to have to say that in dealing with the symbolic issues and with the flag and the crown, nationalists are demonstrating that, deep down, they do not accept the agreement. That is what it boils down to. Nationalists have raised the issue of the Union flag and the crown, and in so doing are saying to us, "We do not really accept that Northern Ireland is a legitimate part of the United Kingdom. We do not really accept one of the fundamental building blocks of the Belfast agreement."

It may be that people have not thought the matter through correctly. They may not have fully internalised what the agreement means. The chief value of the agreement, from the point of view of the Unionist community, is that it settles the constitutional issue. If we find that the constitutional issue is reopened by constant challenges to the expressions of that legitimacy, support for the agreement will rapidly unwind. Because I do not want that, I am anxious that we get the issues right and that we stick to the agreement. Where there is a conflict between the agreement and Patten, the agreement overrides. Let us be clear about that. That is relevant, too, to a later group of amendments, in which, to the Government's eternal shame, they are legalising discrimination. The agreement should override that also, but we shall deal with that argument shortly.

7.15 pm

When the Secretary of State comes to deal, as he must, with the difficult issues that relate to the flag and the badge, he must bear in mind that the Union flag and the crown are symbols of the constitutional position. The next time that the Secretary of State goes to visit the Chief Constable at RUC headquarters, which I trust he does from time to time, I recommend that he pauses to look at the display cases there, containing memorabilia of police history. Included among that, he will see one panel displaying the badges of the other 66 constabularies in the United Kingdom—all the badges of every police constabulary in Wales, Scotland and England. He will see that on all 66 badges there is a crown. I am sorry to have to tell him that the crown is right at the top on all 66 police badges.

If Northern Ireland ends up with the only constabulary in the United Kingdom without a crown at the top of its badge, we clearly have an anomaly, which points out something of considerable significance. It will be so interpreted and so read by many people—not just by those who vote Unionist, but by a much wider range of people.

We are dealing with a political ramp, which misunderstands and misinterprets the agreement. There is an absolute imperative on the Secretary of State to sustain the agreement. He should not take the view that whatever is said from the Unionist Benches, Unionist compliance with the provisions can be assumed. We regard the Unionist community as being generally law-abiding and wishing to uphold the law and support the police service, but that was not always the case.

That has not always been the case in some localities in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years, and historically it has not always been the case. In the 1880s and 1890s, there was a very low level of acceptance of the police force by the populace of Belfast because of the way in which the force had behaved in disturbances in Belfast at that time. Unionist compliance with the measure should not be taken for granted.

The present RUC badge is, in fact, the badge of the Royal Irish Constabulary. It was developed in the 19th century, which is why it includes the shamrock and the harp. The harp has always been a symbol of Irish nationalism, which is why, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, it is found on the Irish passport and on Irish Government documents. It has always been a specifically nationalist symbol. Although Unionists have tolerated it in the police service and on Army badges, that has been on the basis that it is accompanied by a crown to balance it.

That badge was originally developed in the 19th century as the badge of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Interestingly, in 1922, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary was being formed, the then Unionist Government proposed that there be a new badge, which would have been, one might even say, unambiguously Unionist, as it would have embodied what we call the Northern Ireland flag surmounted with the crown. However, members of the RUC at the time, most of whom had come from the Royal Irish Constabulary, refused to accept the badge. Five thousand new badges had been made and were about to be issued, and the men refused to take them. The Government climbed down, scrapped the new badge, and allowed the old badge to be retained. History sometimes repeats itself. Again, compliance should not be assumed in the present situation. I make the point as a warning. What happened in the past is well known to the people concerned, even if it comes as a surprise to some on the Government Front Bench. Compliance should not be assumed on these matters, and the Government would be well advised to move carefully.

Finally, something that the Secretary of State said gravely concerned me and my colleagues. He asked what was the point of coming all this distance and suffering all this pain if we end up losing the prize as a result of symbolic issues. That line of argument will lead him into endless appeasement and will result in him facing endless demands as part of the purely political ramp that does not have a significant resonance within the community at large. The existence of the badge and the name of the Union flag did not deter people after the first ceasefire, when there was a remarkable increase in the number of those from nationalist and Catholic backgrounds applying to join the RUC. A number of people who are not in party politics but who come from that community believe that there will be an increase in recruitment, and the Secretary of State must not be put off by people who are advancing a purely political ramp.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I want to speak about the badge and the emblems for a moment or two. What the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) said is not accepted by the vast majority of Unionists, who do not believe that the agreement brought about the end of the dispute. The Secretary of State said that the dispute over sovereignty was at an end and asked why we should resurrect it by having an argument about the badge. No Unionist in Northern Ireland worth his salt believes that the dispute is at end because after the agreement was made a series of things was added to it. In Stormont, a Sinn Fein Member made the ridiculous suggestion that poppies should not be allowed in the foyer of the Parliament buildings on Remembrance day and should thrown out on the street. He said Sinn Fein Members would see that there would be no poppies in the building next year.

All down the line, there has been an attack on those emblems that say that we are a legitimate part of the United Kingdom. What about the Union flag? The Secretary of State thought that he had taken that away as part of the devolved right of the Stormont Administration, and that he had the settling of the issue. Perhaps he thought that things would come right, but to his cost, he has found that they have not. Two Sinn Fein Ministers moved out of their offices as soon as the flag was erected. If Northern Ireland is a legitimate part of the United Kingdom, there should be no argument about the flying of the national flag. If the matter is settled, it should be beyond dispute. However, it is not settled, as Sinn Fein and other nationalists are prepared to carry on the battle until they get what they want. They think that if they do so, the majority Ulster population will eventually be forced to agree.

I, together with the people whom I represent, do not accept that the Belfast agreement made Northern Ireland legitimate within the United Kingdom and was a final end to the battle. That is not so, as the battle for the Union is raging in this debate. The crown, the harp and the shamrock, for example, are on the badge. As is regularly said in the House, there is a history behind that, which corresponds with that of other police forces in the United Kingdom. Nationalists who accept the agreement say that Unionists have nothing to worry about, as the legitimacy of the union is upheld. Why must the nationalists make such an outcry about the badge? After all, it has the symbol of Ireland on it because, as has been said, southern Ireland claimed the harp. I would like to think that all of us hope to play a harp some day—but perhaps I would be ejected from a republican heaven and not allowed to hold such an instrument.

Mr. McNamara

The hon. Gentleman would be welcomed immediately.

Rev. Ian Paisley

One thing is certain, and that is that I will not be in purgatory, so the hon. Gentleman need not worry.

We are going to have police stations that will never have a union flag up, although I thought that we were a legitimate part of the United Kingdom and that the argument was over. We are going to have police stations that can never have a portrait of the Queen on their walls simply because that would raise the matter again, although I thought that it had been settled. The Secretary of State stood at the Dispatch Box and said that he was worried about those matters being raised again, and that we might miss the prize. However, that prize involves taking away from Northern Ireland every symbol, every practice and every flag that is flown, so that there can be development through a sort of condominium into the final united Ireland. That is the target for Sinn Fein-IRA and the republican and nationalist movement. The badge should be left alone, and the arguments should cease. Those who say that the argument about legitimacy is past can prove that they are sincere by leaving the badge alone.

The serious problem is that the structures of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will be changed. If the Secretary of State had appointed as ombudsman a woman who was the wife of a prominent official Unionist councillor, there would have been riots in the House, as people would want to know how she could possibly be a fair party. Yet the majority population was prepared to accept the appointment of an ombudswoman, a constituent of mine, whose husband is a prominent member of the SDLP, and who was very much engaged in his activities. If I stood up in the House and said anything about that appointment, Members would have roared me down. However, we have to accept that appointment because we are told that is the way that things are going to be.

There has been talk in the House about the Human Rights Commission. When it was appointed, I advocated to the then Secretary of State that my party be represented on it, but she told me that we would not have that representation. If Members of Parliament want us to accept a commission, it should represent the opinion of people in the country. However, the Human Rights Commission does not, which is why people have no faith in it. A lot of people on the nationalist and unionist sides do not have faith in it because it was not fairly appointed and does not reflect the opinion of people in Northern Ireland.

The matter of recruitment will come up later, although it has been briefly stated that it is all right, as it is in keeping with European law. However, the recruitment matter will not go away simply because people say that it is in keeping with European law. It is not right to set targets for employment on the basis of people's religion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. As the hon. Gentleman has flagged up himself, that matter is more relevant to a later group of amendments, so I hope that I can deter him from speaking on it now.

7.30 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley

As the matter was mentioned by previous speakers, including the Secretary of State, I am entitled to make my brief comment thereon. I was tempted on to the forbidden ground, but I shall now go on to ground that you cannot forbid me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that is the issue before us, which goes to the heart of the matter. People in the majority community, who are not always Protestants, will have to be prepared to give consensus to what has been done with regard to the police, but we cannot have their consensus unless the Bill is in a form that they can accept, and they can see that there is no undercurrent running in the direction of bringing about the aim of the republican campaign—a united Ireland.

Mr. McNamara

This has been an interesting debate. With regard to Lords amendment No. 28, the Secretary of State mentioned the Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and I should be grateful if, when the right hon. Gentleman replies, he could say more firmly that they will be consulted, rather than may be consulted.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has left the Chamber because I wanted to address myself to some of his remarks and the political ramp that he accused the nationalists of being engaged in with regard to the cap badge and the flag. I am sorry that he has gone, not least because of the hint that he gave of a mutiny in the present RUC if a cap badge that it is not willing to accept is introduced. That was a dangerous thing for a party leader to say. He recalled the history of the 1920s and said that we should remember what happened then. The implications of that statement were stark and clear.

Mr. Donaldson

With all due respect, that is not what my right hon. Friend said. He referred to the new police service, not to the existing RUC, and he said that the members of the new police service may reject the cap badge. They will have representatives in the form of a federation. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it is illegitimate for members employed in a police service to reject, through their federation, something that they find unacceptable?

Mr. McNamara

In no other force would it be acceptable. To question the uniform would be to defy the decision of the Secretary of State. What the right hon. Gentleman said was without the qualifications that we have just heard. He was specific and direct.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the spirit of the Good Friday agreement, and said that the changes in the cap badge and the flag were going against that agreement. He said that they were being pushed too hard; that there was a political ramp, a secret agenda. But annexe A of the Good Friday agreement refers to the Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland and states: Its proposals on policing should be designed to ensure that policing arrangements, including composition, recruitment, training, culture, ethos and symbols, are such that in a new approach Northern Ireland has a police service that can enjoy widespread support from, and is seen as an integral part of, the community as a whole. That is the political ramp about which the right hon. Gentleman complained. It is that which he accepted verbally on Good Friday. The Good Friday agreement is the document in which he accepted the change in symbols. It is he who seeks to rewrite the Good Friday agreement.

Mr. Robert McCartney

The hon. Gentleman completely misrepresents the substance of that paragraph. The confidence of the entire community cannot be obtained by placating the minority at the expense of not obtaining the consent and approval of a majority.

Mr. McNamara

I understand what the hon. and learned Gentleman says, but he did not put his name to the document, or accept it on Good Friday; the right hon. Member for Upper Bann did. It states: Its proposals on policing should be designed to ensure that policing arrangements, including…ethos and symbols, are such that in a new approach Northern Ireland has a police service that can enjoy widespread support from, and is seen as an integral part of, the community as a whole. One thing is certain, if the symbols are unacceptable to the minority, there will not be widespread support from the community as a whole. If the symbols are not acceptable to the majority, there will not be widespread support from the community as a whole. But equally certain is why Patten then, despite the reservations of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, said that we should have neutral symbols, which do not show an alliance to either the Irish or the British state. That is precisely why that was done.

We have seen in the course of this debate how such demands polarise opinion. We have seen that today in the defence and counter claims that have been made across the Floor of the House. We should remember that the Good Friday agreement—the right hon. Member for Upper Bann, alone among the Unionists present in the House, gave his assent to it, so I am sure that he will be delighted that the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) came rushing to his support—has the support of the majority of the population in Northern Ireland, and of the majority of the Unionist community there. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman should cease claiming that he has been sold down the river, or that this is a nationalist ramp. He should accept what he said that he would accept, which is in the Good Friday agreement.

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

Following the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) makes me conscious of the need to observe self-restraint on a night such as this. I shall not speak tonight of the symbols or the emblems, which the Select Committee, whose report on the RUC was commended by the Minister of State in his wind-up speech on the second group of amendments, saw no reason to change. I spoke on the subject on Second Reading. Repetition by a bystander on such a night as this would be self-indulgent, and I stand by what I said then.

I rise in particular to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and his remarks about Lords amendment No. 93—but from a specialist perspective. I should declare an interest, as for the past four and a half years, I have been chairman of the Building Societies Ombudsman Council, a post in which I succeeded the noble Lord Barnett. The building societies ombudsman scheme was set up by statute and in that respect is unusual among financial services ombudsman schemes. The Government have chosen to amalgamate the schemes in a single scheme under the Financial Services Authority. I simply report as a matter of fact that all associated with the integration of the various schemes, representing all aspects of the debate, were united in keeping the practical, operational role of the new financial services ombudsman completely separate and distanced from the regulatory role of the Financial Services Authority.

Nothing that the Secretary of State has said tonight explains why the same principle should not apply in a policing context.

Mr. Robert McCartney

Symbols, whether cap badges or flags, are rarely important in a state or society where the substance that they represent is sure and certain. However, when the substance—in this case, Northern Ireland's part in the United Kingdom, and the British citizenship of the majority of its citizens—is questioned, symbols such as the badges, the crown and the Union Jack become significant. A threat to them is merely a reflection of the underlying erosion of the identity that they represent.

The Secretary of State said that the constitutional issue had been settled. I believe that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) also said that. However, it is far from being settled. It has been settled that the title deeds of Northern Ireland will not pass to the Republic, that the formal transfer of de jure sovereignty to the Republic will not occur until a majority consents to it. However, that does not prevent the Government from establishing institutions whose purpose is to create an actual, economically functional united Ireland, which will ultimately render the legal transfer of sovereignty unnecessary or inevitable. That is consistent with Government policy, as declared in their policy statements.

The basic suspicion of the majority that the substance of their constitutional future and their political and national identity is under threat makes them cling—perhaps rather pathetically in some cases—to the symbols that represent the substance that they wish to retain. When those in the mainland United Kingdom dismiss the Unionists and the majority in Northern Ireland as people who prattle on and have endless disputes about flags and symbols, they miss the point. The inhabitants of the mainland are so confident, assured and certain of their political and national identity and its permanence that they can afford to take a laid-back attitude to symbols. They have the substance; why bother about the symbols?

Equality of esteem is often discussed in the context of Northern Ireland. For a long time, I found it difficult to understand what was meant by equality of esteem. As a liberal democrat in the widest sense, I believe totally in equality of esteem: in equality of opportunity, of access to education and to the law—all the equalities in a modern democracy. Yet I found that my interpretation was wrong because when nationalist politicians talk about equality of esteem, they mean the equality of the minority with the majority in the right to determine the constitutional and national identity of the state. Debates about symbols are addressed to that basic argument.

When we talk about the crown as a symbol, people forget that the crown appears in the courts because the peace that is enforced throughout the United Kingdom is the Queen's peace. One of the fundamental rocks of the development of constitutional government in the United Kingdom—in England—was observance of the ruler: the King's or the Queen's peace, and hence the peace of the Crown. The 67 or 57 constabularies in the United Kingdom use the crown as a symbol because their fundamental function is enforcement of the Queen's peace.

7.45 pm

Since the glorious revolution, the monarchy, the House of Commons and, until recently, the House of Lords have become a constitutional trinity. However, when we talk about the Crown and its prerogatives, we mean the enforcement of the Queen's peace. Is Northern Ireland to be different? I do not believe that the Government think that the consent argument has been settled. However, if, for the purposes of argument, we accept the words of the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister that the consent argument has been settled and that Northern Ireland will not be excluded from the United Kingdom until a majority of our citizens say so, we are not only the subjects of the United Kingdom Government, but of the Queen and the Crown.

In those circumstances, why has the crown suddenly become anathema for nationalists? That does not apply to the majority of nationalists. Anyone who reads the opening paragraphs of the Patten report will realise that the Royal Ulster Constabulary enjoys a higher rate of public approval than the majority of police forces in other European states and other parts of the world. Why, therefore, is there such opposition to the symbols? It has nothing to do with the impartiality or the integrity of the RUC as a police force, but everything to do with its role in maintaining what is perceived to be a constitutional status quo. If consent exists, and the status quo is that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom, why should the symbols of the United Kingdom be cast aside?

Between 1918 and 1921, the Royal Irish Constabulary had a Roman Catholic chief constable. Forty per cent. of its officers and 70 per cent. of its constables were Roman Catholic. There was no objection to the RIC's ordinary policing duties. Yet between 1918 and 1921, more than 400 members of that force—more than 70 per cent. of them Catholic—were slaughtered. The RIC was subjected to the same vilification and dangerous propaganda that is now employed against the RUC. It is a case of deja vu. However, on this occasion, a clear majority of the people of Northern Ireland retain confidence in the RUC. I believe that that is felt not only in the Unionist community but by a majority of the nationalist community.

Mr. Mallon

I rise reluctantly to make two points, which have not been given the prominence that they should receive in the debate. When we speak about the report that Chris Patten compiled, we must bear in mind that it was not a nationalist, Catholic, Irish plot to destabilise Unionism. The Patten commission was chaired by an eminent member of the Conservative party, a former Cabinet Minister in a Conservative Government, now a European Commissioner, who spent untold hours trying to get to the heart of the issues with which he was dealing. It is sometimes forgotten that Chris Patten's recommendations were in effect garnered from his, and his commission's, experience of talking and listening to people in Northern Ireland. I accept that the situation there is unique. If it had not been, there would have been no Patten commission and no Bill.

I have a lot of sympathy with some of the points that Unionist representatives and the Unionist community make because the reality is that if Patten is to be adhered to, there is one choice to be made about flags and emblems. The Bill says that the Secretary of State will consult the Policing Board and that, if there is consensus, he will move forward on that basis. However, is it feasible that there will be consensus on the Policing Board on those two issues? I would love to think that there would be cross-community consensus, but, simply, I do not see it.

Although the Bill does not say as much, the reality is that, in effect, the Secretary of State will decide whether to implement Patten or not. His decisions could lift those issues on to a different plane or destroy it completely. That is why my party and I were keen for the Bill to contain at least a basic honesty about how those issues would ultimately be dealt with. That basic honesty might—I stress that word—have been able to short-circuit some of the heat that has been engendered. However, I repeat that, ultimately, those issues will be decided not through consensus on the Policing Board, by Parliament or the people in the north of Ireland, but by the Secretary of State. I do not envy him his choice or the position that he will ultimately be in, but it would be much more honest to face up to the situation.

Legislation should involve certainty and clarity—especially when it deals with controversial issues, those must be present—but I do not find them in the Bill. When my colleagues on the Unionist Benches and I leave the Chamber, we shall not have certainty or clarity on those issues; nor will my colleagues on these Benches. The same will be true for the people in the north of Ireland and the young people in the nationalist community, who might, for the first time, be thinking about a career in the police service. That is the ultimate strength of the neutral position that the Patten report recommended.

I can understand the affection that Unionists feel for the RUC—they would be less than human if they did not have such affection because they have regarded it for so many years as their police service. It is easy to understand that on a human level. I ask, once again, that people understand the position of, in particular, the young in a community that has been divided and has held certain opinions on those issues since the state was formed. Such people—indeed, all of us—are desperately seeking a means by which to introduce changes that will alter policing for ever and establish effective policing for the first time, because policing will be based on consent. That con[...]sent should mirror the consent in the Good Friday agreement and in the political process that we are operating.

If we and the Unionists had such clarity on those two issues, that would not make them any easier to deal with, but at least the Bill would contain honesty. We have been dealing with it for roughly a year and two months and we should be able to say, "Yes, I know what the Bill says; yes, its implications are clear; yes, it has the clarity that such legislation should contain."

I hope that all of us understand people's human and emotional attitudes. If we are to move on from debates such as this and into the future, we should, when we draw up legislation, at least be honest enough to say at the end of the process that it contains sufficient clarity and that we know what it means.

Mr. Donaldson

I shall be brief. I want to respond to some of the points that have been made.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) rightly said that humanity and human emotions have a big part to play in the debate. My cousin, Samuel Donaldson, was the first police officer to be blown up by the IRA in the violence of the past 30 years. Ironically, he was murdered in South Armagh, in the constituency that the hon. Gentleman represents. My cousin died serving the whole community and responding to a call to protect the community of South Armagh from the violence of extremist republican terrorists. The religion or politics of the individuals whom he served did not matter to him.

I reject the hon. Gentleman's assertion that we in the Unionist community regard the RUC as our police service. He has only to look at the annual events at Drumcree to understand that the RUC is not a Unionist police service—it is placed in the middle. He should examine the events of the past 30 years and ask who put all those loyalist terrorists behind bars to protect the nationalist community, if not the RUC. Who imprisoned Michael Stone and Johnny Adair, if not the RUC? Did it not do that to protect the whole community, including those from the nationalist tradition? The hon. Gentleman was unfair to the RUC when he suggested that it was the preserve of one tradition or community. That is not the case—I regard it not in that way, but as the upholder of law and order.

The hon. Gentleman touched on another important point. Implicit in his remarks was the suggestion that if nationalists do not win the debate about symbols, that will have serious consequences for his, his party's and the nationalist leadership's ability to endorse the new police service. That is a serious matter because it amounts to a threat.

We in the Unionist community are being asked to accept things that we find extremely difficult. We are being asked to swallow them all. We are being asked to accept this new police service, with all the problems that it places on us as Unionists. The hon. Gentleman, however, is saying that unless he gets his way he cannot support the new police service, and I think that that goes to the heart of the matter. I hope that the Secretary of State will not be influenced by approaches of that kind in reaching key decisions on symbols.

8 pm

The hon. Gentleman talks of neutrality, but Northern Ireland is not a neutral place. It is part of the United Kingdom, and the symbols associated with the United Kingdom cannot, in that sense, be regarded as somehow to be set aside. What we are looking for—and what the hon. Gentleman seems to be looking for—is a compromise, but nothing in what I heard the hon. Gentleman say suggests that he is willing to compromise. Indeed, his conclusion that the police board will not be able to reach a compromise, and that it will be down to the Secretary of State, implies that he himself is not prepared to compromise with Unionists on the issue of symbols. The Secretary of State must have regard to that. I hope that he will not allow himself to be cajoled in this manner, and that he will reflect on what Unionists have said about the importance of symbols.

I accept that symbols are important to the nationalist community as well, but I think it sad that, after all we have been asked to accept, and at the end of all the compromises that have been made by the Government to accommodate and facilitate the hon. Gentleman and his party, the SDLP seems not to be prepared to endorse the new police service and join the new Policing Board. If that is indeed so, many in the Unionist community will probably ask what it was all about in the first place.

We need an answer to that question. I do not believe that, at the end of all this, the hon. Gentleman has the luxury of opting out of support for the forces of law and order—just as I do not have that luxury, because in the end I shall have to make the judgment. Let me say here and now—I give my commitment to the House—that I will support the forces of law and order in Northern Ireland. I only hope that the hon. Gentleman and his party will reflect on their position, and will give a firm commitment to support the forces of law and order in upholding the law in Northern Ireland. That is crucial. Were they to opt out, it would have serious consequences for the whole political process.

Mr. Grieve

This has been a fascinating, slightly sombre and rather odd debate, in some ways. It is extraordinary that we should be having a debate of this importance on what was effectively a minor amendment in the House of Lords, and I think it reflects badly on the House of Commons that an issue of such importance should have been left until this stage before being heard.

On Lords amendment No. 94, I hope that the Opposition's stance was made clear by my earlier intervention on the Secretary of State. We believe that there are compelling reasons why the crown and cap badge of a police officer anywhere in the United Kingdom are merely a straightforward reflection of the job that he carries out.

The Secretary of State has taken upon himself the extremely difficult task of balancing conflicting views. It is in the Bill that it is his decision, and in the amendment he is widening the scope of his consultation. We have no reason to do other than welcome that. It is dispiriting to hear the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) seem to suggest an unwillingness to accept the decision that the Secretary of State might eventually make if it is not acceptable to him. I hope that the Secretary of State will disregard that.

I also hope the Secretary of State will assure us that he is not treating this evening's inadequate debate as consultation with the House, if he is minded to carry it out. I must tell him that stimulating this debate on a very minor amendment to the procedure that he intends to adopt constitutes a funny way of going about things, which certainly does not commend itself to us. It gives us no opportunity to vote—if a vote is indeed what is desired—because on the face of it the amendment is innocuous and straightforward, and adds to the Secretary of State's scope for consultation. I hope very much that the Secretary of State will assure us that he did not intend to do that. [Interruption.] I am glad to see that he is nodding.

Mr. Mandelson

I was not nodding. I am afraid that I said, from a sedentary position, that I had not the foggiest idea what the hon. Gentleman was talking about.

Mr. Grieve

All I can say is that the Secretary of State's concentration, which is normally so acute, must have been wandering. He has proposed an amendment widening the scope of the consultation that he intends to carry out before deciding on the symbols for the cap badge of the Northern Ireland police service.

Mr. Mandelson

The amendment was tabled in the House of Lords.

Mr. Grieve

It was, but I understand that the Secretary of State has accepted it, or intends to accept it, and, according to my understanding, he thus commends it to the House of Commons. If that is the case, I can only tell the right hon. Gentleman that we consider it very sensible. [Interruption.] Will the Secretary of State listen for a moment? We have no reason for complaint, except in so far as the Secretary of State may assume that this evening's short debate on the amendment constitutes his consultation with the House of Commons. I hope he will tell us that that is not the case, because, when there is no possibility that the House can vote, it is not a sensible way of proceeding—especially in view of the strong feelings generated by the issue. That is for the Secretary of State to respond to; but it is disingenuous of him to suggest that no issue arises.

Let me now deal with another matter on which we commented earlier. I refer to the role of the ombudsman, the issue on which we wish to concentrate in the context of the amendments. When Standing Committee B considered the Bill, there were some exchanges of views. In particular, the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) wanted the Government to adopt a system whereby the board would have a final say on the guidelines. At that stage, the Under-Secretary indicated, very properly in my view, that he fully appreciated that on an issue of such importance the buck stopped with Ministers. There was quite an interesting debate. The views of the Under-Secretary can be seen in column 368 of the Official Report of the Committee's proceedings for 29 June 2000.

In the circumstances to which I have referred, we find the ombudsman's role a cause of anxiety. Ombudsmen fulfil a quasi-judicial role. I do not see how it is possible to consult the ombudsman on the guidelines and how then—if a complaint is made about the operation of those guidelines—the ombudsman's subsequent criticisms will not be tainted by any comment that has been made previously.

We have a good system in this country: one does not go off to the judiciary to seek answers to hypothetical questions. I strongly recommend that the Secretary of State drop the idea of the ombudsman's having such a consultative role in drawing up guidelines. It is the ombudsman's role to receive complaints, and it does no service to the ombudsman—I hope that the Secretary of State will register this—if she is involved in the preliminary process.

Dr. Turner


Dr. Palmer


Mr. Grieve

No, I will not give way; I want to finish my speech.

I simply ask the Secretary of State to note what I have said. We are trying to be constructive, and we do not think that the ombudsman should have a role in this matter.

Mr. Mandelson

In contrast to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), I take an entirely different view of the debate. I think that it has been well reasoned, considered, well informed, passionate and honest. It reflects extremely well on the House that Members should have contributed and exchanged views in a well-mannered way, given the strong passions that are stimulated and evoked by such matters in Northern Ireland.

I gently say to the House—it might be entirely futile to do so—that we are on the fourth group of amendments. We have another nine to go before we terminate proceedings at 10 o'clock. I point out gently and respectfully that there are matters of importance for later debate, before we reach the closure at 10 o'clock.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mandelson

No, I will not.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) asked whether guidance would be issued on codes of practice. I have no intention of publishing protocols, or guidance on the arrangements for issuing codes. With respect, that would be surplus to bureaucratic requirements. The production of codes is a matter of common sense, but the codes themselves, which are the most important matters for us to consider, are likely to be made public in all instances. Obviously, they can be revised.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) asked about the role of the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission. The codes that we will issue are likely to concentrate on the interrelationship between the three public authorities: the Secretary of State, the Chief Constable and the board, which make up the tripartite structure for the new policing service. That does not seem an obvious area where the European convention on human rights would be directly engaged. For example, the only existing code concerns financial arrangements and detailed delegations, so there is no obvious need to consult the Human Rights Commission. Having said that, I give him the undertaking that wherever it is appropriate or relevant to do so I will voluntarily, whatever the legislation says, consult both the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission.

Two main subjects dominated our debate. One concerned symbols, insignia, emblems and badges; the other concerned the ombudsman. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), who I think did not have the benefit of hearing my remarks earlier in the debate, as a result of an enforced absence from the Chamber, would have heard me set out in some detail the approach that I intend to take in consulting the Policing Board and in finally reaching a position on the vexed question of the badge and insignia for the new police service. I will not, if he does not mind, rehearse all that I said. If he were to do me the courtesy and justice of reading my remarks tomorrow, he would find that they stand scrutiny.

8.15 pm

It is not fair to condemn the legislation, as the hon. Gentleman seemed to do, because it did not provide complete certainty on every issue. One of the points of such legislation is to provide, among other things, the framework within which decisions are subsequently taken. I do not think that it is unreasonable for me to provide the basis for consulting the Policing Board—the local representative board, which should be drawn from the community as a whole—on its views on what the emblem and badge should be.

Although I appreciate that it is irritating at the least to have continued uncertainty on the matter, that uncertainty need not and should not continue for long. If it is possible, as I hope it will be, to constitute the Policing Board in shadow form by mid-January or, at the latest, the end of January, it will be possible in early February to consult the board, to invite it to arrive at a genuinely cross-community consensus on the issue and to resolve the question of the badge well ahead of our advertising for recruits to the new police service, which will not happen until April next year. Therefore, young Catholics and young nationalists who are thinking about their career prospects and possible recruitment to the police service of Northern Ireland will know and have all those matters and every other matter properly clarified for them—all the pieces of the jigsaw will be in place—by April, which is the point at which we will invite people to consider joining the police service.

I shall deal with the comments of the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney), the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), neither of whom are still with us, and the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), who, as ever, is still with us. May I say first, however, that, of all the contributions I probably most enjoyed that of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer). He offered an inspiring and visionary contribution when he drew the parallel between the new beginning in policing and the new beginning of the Labour party some years ago. I am not sure whether my commending to the Policing Board the introduction of the red rose as the new emblem for the police service would command universal support. It might challenge even my powers of persuasion, but we will see.

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann says that the sensitivity to symbols does not have any significant resonance in the community at large. I do not think that that is true either for his side of the community or for the nationalist side of it. On the contrary, those matters have huge resonance, which is why they are capable of stimulating such controversy.

I follow the logic of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Good Friday agreement and the principle of consent. All I say to him is that it is not me whom he needs to persuade in the first instance. It is nationalists—nationalist members of the new Policing Board—whom Unionist members of the board must seek to persuade and to bring round to their view. However, whatever the outcome of that discussion in the Policing Board, my view is clear: that outcome must be based on genuine cross-community consensus. Nothing that falls short of that will do. We cannot resolve those matters on any other basis.

Of course, I do not want to do anything that would jeopardise the Good Friday agreement. Of course, I accept the right hon. Gentleman's logic and his position that we want to sustain the agreement in every respect, but we also want to ensure a proper and successful new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland. Both are important and not mutually exclusive goals.

I turn to the point made by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield about the ombudsman. They are in danger of making far too much of the issue. I do not think that it quite merits the language that they used.

As a general proposition, I agree that the role and responsibility of the ombudsman is to deal not with general policing policies but with individual complaints about policing. However, nothing can stop the ombudsman offering her views on matters such as the police use of baton rounds, and she can make her comments in public. She is an entirely independent person, with strong views, and she can say what she likes on such matters. Listing her as a consultee merely recognises the reality and puts this within a formal and appropriate framework and setting. To be perfectly honest, I would rather consult her as a formal consultee than as a public referee, because as a consultee she would be offering her views to me in private.

Mr. Öpik

I understand that the Opposition might push Lords amendment No. 24 to a vote because they object to the inclusion of the ombudsman in the public order consultation process. By doing that, they will be voting against an amendment that removes the ombudsman from the list of those to be consulted by the Secretary of State on determining or revising long-term policing objectives. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that is the wrong signal to send from the Chamber and that the record will not be sympathetic to what Conservative Members are trying to do in this instance?

Mr. Mandelson

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I have enough on my plate without resolving the self-evident contradictions of the Conservative party's position on the amendment.

The hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) made a contribution that I believe a lot of people will have thought seriously about. I appreciate the sincerity with which he spoke. He criticises Labour Members and the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh for objectionable talk about boycotts, but I remind him that the leader of his party talked earlier about a possible refusal to comply-so one person's boycott is another person's refusal to comply. We could do with less talk of that sort from both sides of the House.

The Bill, like the Good Friday agreement, is not and will not be perfect from anybody's point of view. Nobody will be entirely happy with what has been agreed when the legislation leaves this House. However, the Bill, like the Good Friday agreement, is based on the principles of consent and equality. Ultimately, it is shaped by what is workable in the real world. The next test of workability will be in the shadow Policing Board, when it is constituted in the early part of next year.

Question put, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 280, Noes 121.

Division No. 345] [8.23 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Betts, Clive
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Blackman, Liz
Ainger, Nick Blears, Ms Hazel
Alexander, Douglas Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Allan, Richard Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Allen, Graham Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bradshaw, Ben
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Brake, Tom
Ashton, Joe Breed, Colin
Atherton, Ms Candy Brinton, Mrs Helen
Austin, John Brown,Russell (Dumfries)
Baker, Norman Browne, Desmond
Ballard, Jackie Buck, Ms Karen
Barnes, Harry Burgon, Colin
Barron, Kevin Burnet,John
Battle, John Burstow, Paul
Beard, Nigel Butler, Mrs Christine
Begg, Miss Anne Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Bennett, Andrew F Campbell, Mrs Anne (Cbridge)
Bermingham, Gerald Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
Best, Harold (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hill, Keith
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hinchliffe, David
Cann, Jamie Hood, Jimmy
Caplin, Ivor Hope, Phil
Caton, Martin Hopkins, Kelvin
Cawsey, Ian Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Howells, Dr Kim
Clapham, Michael Hurst, Alan
Clark, Dr Lynda Hutton, John
(Edinburgh Pentlands) Iddon, Dr Brian
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Illsley,Eric
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Clelland, David Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Clwyd, Ann Jenkins, Brian
Coffey, Ms Ann Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Coleman, Iain Johnson, Miss Melanie
Colman, Tony (Welwyn Hatfield)
Connarty, Michael Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Corston, Jean Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Cotter, Brian Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cousins, Jim Keeble, Ms Sally
Cox, Tom Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Cranston, Ross Kemp, Fraser
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Kennedy, Jane (Wavetrtree)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Khabra, Piara S
Cummings, John Kidney, David
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
(Copeland) King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'tty S) Kirkwood, Archy
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Kumar, Dr Ashok
Darvill, Keith Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Lepper, David
Davidson, Ian Leslie, Christopher
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Levitt, Tom
Dawson, Hilton Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Dismore, Andrew Livsey, Richard
Dobbin, Jim Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Llwyd, Elfyn
Donohoe, Brian H McAvoy, Thomas
Doran, Frank McCafferty, Ms Chris
Dowd, Jim McDonagh, Siobhain
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Macdonald, Calum
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) McDonnell, John
Edwards, Huw McGrady, Eddie
Etherington, Bill McGuire, Mrs Anne
Fitzpatrick, Jim Mackinlay Andrew
Flint, Caroline Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Follett, Barbara McNamara, Kevin
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) McNulty, Tony
Foulkes, George MacShane, Denis
Gardiner, Barry McWalter, Tony
George, Andrew (St Ives) Mallaber, Judy
Gerrard, Neil Mallon, Seamus
Gibson, Dr Ian Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Gidley, Sandra Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Godman, Dr Norman A Marshall—Anderws, Robert
Godsiff, Roger Martlew,Eric
Goggins, Paul Maxton, John
Golding, Mrs Llin Meale, Alan
Gordon, Mrs Eileen Merron, Gillian
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Michie, Bill (Shelld Heeley)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Grocott, Bruce Mitchell, Austin
Grogan, John Moffatt, Laura
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Moran, Ms Margaret
Hanson, David Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
Harvey, Nick (Bham Yardley)
Healey, John Mountford, Kali
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Mudie, George
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Mullin, Chris
Heppell, John Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Soley, Clive
Norris, Dan Starkey, Dr Phyllis
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Steiberg, Gerry
Olner, Bill Stevenson, George
Öpik, Lembit Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Organ, Mrs Diana Stoate, Dr Howard
Palmer, Dr Nick Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Pearson, Ian Stringer, Graham
Pickthall, Colin Stuart, Ms Gisela
Pike, Peter L Stunell, Andrew
Plaskitt, James Sutcliffe, Gerry
Pollard, Kerry Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Pond, Chris (Dewsbury)
Pope, Greg Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Powell, Sir Raymond Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Temple-Morris, Peter
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Purchase, Ken Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Timms, Stephen
Quinn, Lawrie Tipping, Paddy
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Tonge, Dr Jenny
Rendel, David Touhig, Don
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Trickett, Jon
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Truswell,Paul
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Turner, Dennis (Wolverhton SE)
Rowlands, Ted Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Roy, Frank Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Ruane, Chris Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Ruddock, Joan Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Ryan, Ms Joan Tyler,Paul
Sanders, Adrian Vis, Dr Rudi
Sarwar, Mohammad Walley, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm Webb, Steve
Sedgemore, Brian White, Brian
Sheerman, Barry Whitehead, Dr Alan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wicks, Malcolm
Shipley, Ms Debra Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Skinner, Dennis Winnick, David
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Worthigton, Tony
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Smith, Miss Geraldine Wright, Tony (Cannock)
(Morecambe & Lunesdale) Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Mr. David Jamieson.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Duncan Smith, Iain
Amess, David Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Evans, Nigel
Beggs, Roy Fallon, Michael
Bercow, John Fight, Howard
Beresford, Sir Paul Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Blunt, Crispin Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Body, Sir Richard Fox, Dr Liam
Boswell, Tim Fraser, Christopher
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Gale,Roger
Brady, Graham Gamier, Edward
Brazier, Julian Gibb, Nick
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gill, Christopher
Browning, Mrs Angela Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Burns, Simon Green, Damian
Cash, William Greenway,John
Chapman, Sir Sydney Grieve, Dominic
(Chipping Bamet) Gummer, Rt Hon John
Clappison, James Hague, Rt Hon William
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Collins, Tim Hammond, Phillip
Cran, James Hawkins, Nick
Curry, Rt Hon David Heald, Oliver
Day, Stephen Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Donaldson, Jeffrey Horam, John
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Hunter, Andrew
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Robertson, Laurence
Jenkin, Bernard Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Key, Robert Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxboume)
King,Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Laign, Mrs Eleanor Ruffley, David
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Sayeed, Jonathan
Leigh, Edward Shepherd, Richard
Letwin, Oliver Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Lidington, David Soames, Nicholas
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Spring, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Loughton, Tim Streeter, Gary
Luff, Peter Swayne, Desmond
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Syms, Robert
McCartney, Robert (N Down) Tapsell, Sir Peter
McCrea, Dr William Taylor,John M (Solithull)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Taylor, Sir Teddy
Mclntosh, Miss Anne Thompson, William
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Trimble, Rt Hon David
Maclean, Rt Hon David Tyire,Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick Walker, Cecil
Madel, Sir David Waterson,Nigel
Maples,John Wells,Bowen
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Whitney, Sir Raymond
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brain Whittingdale, John
Moss, Malcolm Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Nicholls, Patrick Wilkinson, John
Norman, Archie Willetts, David
OBrien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Wilshire, David
Page, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Paisley, Rev Ian Yeo, Tim
Pickles, Eric Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Prior, David
Randall, John Tellers for the Noes:
Redwood, Rt Hon John Mr.Keith Simpson and
Robathan, Andrew Mr.James Gray.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No.25 agreed to

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