HC Deb 19 July 2001 vol 372 cc484-505 3.54 pm
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Jane Kennedy)

I beg to move, That the Police (Northern Ireland) Order 2001 (S.I., 2001 No. 2513), dated 18th July 2001, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th July, be approved.

I was tempted to move the order formally, but I see that some hon. Members are here to debate it.

The order, which was made in Privy Council yesterday under the procedure in section 85 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, makes three essentially technical amendments to policing legislation and comes into effect on 30 July. Before going into those in detail, I want to ensure that hon. Members are in no doubt: the order does not arise from the Weston Park talks. It addresses two issues that have arisen on new police recruits—referred to as police trainees—and takes the opportunity to make a technical amendment on parliamentary procedure, which I hope will be welcome.

I also want to set out for those not familiar with section 85 of the 1998 Act how it works. In brief, Her Majesty the Queen at Privy Council makes the order. It must then be approved by resolution of both Houses of Parliament within 40 sitting days. If it is not, then it ceases to have effect.

The order makes two amendments to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 and a further amendment to the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981. The main change concerns the appointment and training of the first new recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The first amendment relates to section 39 of the 2000 Act, which provides for the appointment of police trainees. As recommended by the Patten report and therefore as provided for in the Act, police trainees do not acquire the status and powers of police officers and are not subject to police terms and conditions until they have successfully completed their recruit training. As a consequence, section 41 of the Act provides for the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out the terms and conditions of trainees. It also requires that the Policing Board, among others, be consulted before the regulations are made.

In spite of the Government's considerable efforts to bring about the necessary agreement on outstanding policing issues to enable the Policing Board to be established, it is not yet in place; nor is it likely to be in time to be consulted before the regulations for the trainees are needed. It is planned that the trainees will be appointed in September. The order accordingly substitutes the Police Authority for Northern Ireland for the board for the purposes of consultation, and to undertake any of the board's functions under the regulations until the board is in place. Although that is not what we would have wanted to do, it is a sensible remedy. Put simply, it enables us to go ahead to set terms and conditions for the trainees.

On the second issue that affects recruits, the proposed amendment to the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 exempts trainees from the requirement to hold firearms certificates. That will avoid the necessity for the Chief Constable to issue individual firearms certificates to trainees for the purposes of firearms training. Again, I hope that that makes sense. Police officers United Kingdom-wide are already exempt.

Finally, the order will amend section 76 of the 2000 Act. As it stands, section 76 requires that a draft order to renew the 50:50 recruitment provisions, under section 47(3), and draft regulations on flags and emblems for the new policing service, under section 54, must be laid in Parliament for 40 days before they come into effect, but section 76 does not require that they be debated. The amendment applies the affirmative resolution procedure, which guarantees debates in both Houses, and allows the legislation to come into effect immediately thereafter.

To be frank, we thought that we had done that in an amendment to the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill in the other place in response to the report by its Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee which called for the affirmative procedure to be applied to the powers in those clauses. That is what we meant to do at the time and are now doing through the order. With those brief comments, I commend the order to the House.

3.58 pm
Mr. John Taylor (Solihull)

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the provisions of this short but none the less important order. The Conservatives will not oppose it if it is pressed to a Division.

I do not intend to follow the Minister by going into detail, but the order effectively enables the Secretary of State to consult the Police Authority for Northern Ireland on regulations for new recruits made under section 41 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 rather than the new Policing Board that was recommended by Patten and is legislated for in the Act.

The 2000 Act was, of course, debated at length in the previous Session. Although it was a highly contentious measure, the Opposition welcomed much of it, but there was also a great deal in it that concerned us or that we opposed—the name change; the scrapping of the cap badge; the inclusion on the Policing Board of former terrorists or the representatives of organisations that insisted on keeping their illegal weapons; and the district policing partnerships.

The House will be relieved to know that now is not the time to go over that territory again, but as with the Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections) Order 2001, which we passed on Monday, it is important that the House understands why we are debating this order. Quite simply, despite all the painful changes to the Royal Ulster Constabulary that have been, or are in the process of being, made—changes that have led to alarmingly low levels of morale among the police—republicans and nationalists still refuse to give their support to the new policing arrangements. As such, they refuse to take up their entitlement to nominate members of the Policing Board—rightly or wrongly, the central element of democratic accountability over policing in Northern Ireland proposed in the Patten report.

The nationalists' argument is that the legislation that we passed in the House last year does not faithfully implement the Patten report. That is a matter of debate. but I tend to agree with Dr. Maurice Hayes, who served on the Patten commission, that it is better to get 90 per cent. of something than 100 per cent. of nothing. Meanwhile, to the best of my knowledge, republicans have never even endorsed the Patten report—diluted or not. Their attitude seems to be that the Patten report was just a starting point in a process that would lead to their vision of a disbanded RUC.

The fact is that there was a good deal in the Patten report, or the legislation that followed, that none of us liked, but that is not an argument or an excuse for running away from our responsibilities to get behind the police and give them our backing in their efforts even-handedly and impartially to uphold the rule of law in extremely difficult circumstances. I cannot be alone in finding an inconsistency between politicians exercising ministerial functions in part of the United Kingdom, yet at the same time refusing to support the police.

Far from softening their stance, however, nationalist and republican demands on policing have merely increased. Despite the Patten report and the legislation passed in the House last year, policing is now placed on a par with decommissioning and so-called demilitarisation as one of the outstanding issues to be resolved before the full implementation of the Belfast agreement. Well, I am sorry if I missed something, but I was under the impression that the issue had been resolved when the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 became law last year. It seems that nothing will satisfy the republicans on the issue until the police have been left completely demoralised, gutted and unable to perform any effective function in Northern Ireland, while the whole paramilitary infrastructure is left untouched.

Policing formed a central part of the discussions at Weston Park last week, and it will certainly be a key element in the paper that the British and Irish Governments present to the parties in the coming days. May I tell the Minister that the Conservative party continues to have the gravest reservations about giving any more ground on the issue in advance of the clearest evidence that the war really is over, that weapons are being put beyond use and that the structures of terrorism are being dismantled? In particular, we are greatly concerned about any new measure that will compromise the operational independence of the Chief Constable; that removes the bar on independent members with criminal convictions serving on the Policing Board and the DPPs; that allows the DPPs to raise 3p in the pound to spend on additional policing services; that would prematurely phase out the full-time reserve or reduce police numbers; and that would put constraints on the equipment currently available to the police to maintain order.

In that context, we utterly reject the totally naive comments made yesterday by the chairman of the Human Rights Commission, who called for an end to the availability of plastic baton rounds. I ask for an assurance from the Minister that there can be no question of going down that route, which would put the lives of police officers seriously at risk.

As we have seen in the past few days and weeks, politically motivated and carefully orchestrated violence from republicans and so-called loyalists continues to scar life in Northern Ireland. It is left to the men and women of the RUC to hold the line. Once again, we pay tribute to the bravery, skill and sheer professionalism of the RUC in serving the whole community in Northern Ireland and to the Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, as he seeks to guide the force through such difficult times.

Recent violence in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland, in addition to the prevailing terrorist threat from dissidents or those organisations that have failed to decommission, highlights once again why we need effective policing in Northern Ireland. We need policing based on common sense, rather than a set of politically correct soundbites. We need a police service in Northern Ireland that is able to get on with the job without any operational interference from politicians and that has the capacity to combat terrorism and the resources that it needs to do so. In short, we need the RUC and the RUC is entitled to the support of the House.

4.6 pm

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)

It is a matter of regret that article 2 of the order, which substitutes the Police Authority for Northern Ireland with the Policing Board, has been required at all. A year has passed since the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 was introduced in the House, and it is disappointing that the board has not yet been set up.

To be frank, by declaring that they will not take their seats on the Policing Board, the members of the Social Democratic and Labour party have effectively held up many of the reforms that they wanted. I would counsel the SDLP to think hard about its position in the hope that it might reconsider it. Having said that, given the decisions made by the Northern Ireland parties, the Government can do little else if they want to maintain the effective and regular policing activities necessary across the United Kingdom and, obviously, in the Province, too.

I seek clarification of the circumstances of individual firearms training. I understand from what the Minister said that the arrangements under the order will bring police firearms training in Northern Ireland into line with the practice in the rest of the United Kingdom. I hope that she will confirm that that is the case in her concluding remarks. She spoke about whether Parliament should debate such orders, and it is very welcome that Parliament can now debate them. That is sensible and it will allow us to cover any outstanding issues.

We shall reconvene three months from now—a long time in politics and a very long time in the politics of Northern Ireland, and who knows what progress may have been made by then. I hope that we really have reached the endgame. We have to take a couple of steps back from time to time as we move questionably forward in the politics of Northern Ireland and the search for stable peace.

I remind the Minister of yesterday's exchange in the House on police funding. Without detaining the House too long, I remind her that the police are talking about the need for adequate resourcing. They estimate that there will be a shortfall of about £117 million in the money that they require to carry out fully the work expected of them in the Province. The Minister gave an assurance yesterday, and I hope that we shall spend more time discussing those issues than having to fall back on technical measures such as the order.

As I look around the Chamber, I see seven of the finest Labour Members and six of the nicest Conservatives that one could hope to meet.

Mr. John Taylor


Lembit Öpik

There are now seven, and it is only a matter of regret to me that the leadership campaign is not being fought between the Conservative Members who are here. I also see five of the most enjoyable and pleasant Northern Ireland politicians.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lembit Öpik

I shall give way to one of the finest Conservatives that one could hope to meet.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I agree with him. To complete the picture, how many Liberal Democrats does he see as he looks around the Chamber?

Lembit Öpik

We save the very best for these debates. I should clarify that my comments were about the right hon. Gentleman's personality not his sartorial elegance. [Interruption.] I am talking about his tie.

Considering the fine quality of politicians present, I hope that common sense will prevail and we shall not be driven to a Division. Such technical orders are an indication of the fact that there is still delay in Northern Ireland politics, as the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) said. There are individuals who could have prevented this order from being required. More to the point, there are those who have it in their capacity to deliver the outstanding issues in the Good Friday agreement.

No amount of technical discussion in this Chamber about police orders such as this will ultimately deliver the long-standing stability that we seek. I hope that we shall not have to make such coarse corrections too often on the way to such stability. I hope that people in Northern Ireland will recognise that the order puts more pressure on those who can deliver what they must in the Province to do so.

4.11 pm
Lady Hermon (North Down)

I apologise to Members, and particularly to the Minister, for not being present when the debate began. That was because the Police Federation for Northern Ireland has been in touch with me about the order, especially the pensions regulations. I shall mention those to the Minister later.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this order, which amends the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. As that Act implemented many of what we regard as the deeply flawed recommendations of the Patten report, it comes as no surprise to see it amended so soon. I remind the House that the Patten commission was given terms of reference under the Belfast agreement. The very first paragraph of those terms of reference urged the commissioners to come up with proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including means of encouraging widespread community support for these arrangements. However, and most regrettably, instead of encouraging such essential widespread community support, the Patten commission has managed to discourage it. The order, albeit a short one, serves to highlight two aspects of the Patten report that have greatly alienated Unionist support for police reform in Northern Ireland.

Mr. John Taylor

Does the hon. Lady agree that the Patten report was an attempt at a vision of policing in Northern Ireland on the far side of the total fulfilment of the Belfast agreement?

Lady Hermon

It would have been greatly appreciated had the Patten commission endeavoured to encourage widespread community support. Elements of the report have had completely the opposite effect.

The first aspect of the order to which I shall turn my attention is that concerning new police trainees. When I first read the Patten report, I was most impressed by its emphasis on human rights. However, that initial favourable impression quickly vanished. The Patten commission stated that a human rights based approach should be at the very core of the report. That was a welcome initiative. Despite that aim, new police recruits will be selected on the basis of their religion.

Since religious liberty and freedom from all forms of discrimination are basic essential human rights, it is totally repugnant that trainees will be selected on the basis of their religion. It will be enormously damaging to good Catholic recruits undergoing the procedure. They will be chosen on merit, but unfortunately, it will be implied that they have been selected on the ground of religion. That is very sad and will be damaging to them in the long run. I dislike reverse discrimination and religious discrimination enormously, and I am deeply concerned for the new trainees.

I also remind the House that in its third report of 1997–98, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee noted that the major reason preventing young Roman Catholics coming forward to join the RUC is the fear of violence which would be offered towards them and to members of their family. I therefore urge the Minister and her colleagues to ensure that effective measures are quickly implemented to bring an end to the vicious intimidation of young Catholics.

It is also essential that the Government ensure that the Gaelic Athletic Association repeals its offensive and discriminatory rule 21. That was recommended in the Patten report. The Government want full implementation of the Patten report, so will the Minister assure us that they will ensure that that discriminatory rule is abolished?

The Patten report also recommended a new purpose-built training college. The police recruits whom we are talking about have been given an extension for firearms training. All recruits need good, new training facilities and I would like the Government to commit themselves to such provision. There are rumours that the former Maze prison would be a good site for a college. I suggest that that recommendation be completely ignored. It would not be good for morale or anything else to put new police recruits on such a site.

The order makes provision for the Police Authority to carry on in the absence of the new Policing Board. The Patten commission recommended that politics be taken out of policing. Chris Patten said that he wanted "the depoliticisation of policing" in Northern Ireland, but the recipe that he suggested is not a sensible way of achieving that. He recommended a new Policing Board of 19 members, 10 of whom would be politicians—Assembly Members chosen on the same basis as their representation on the Assembly Executive. Consequently, we have given—I hope inadvertently, but it looks deliberate—a huge lever to Sinn Fein and the SDLP to extract even more concessions on police reform. No more concessions can be made on police reform without discouraging the essential widespread support that we need for it to occur.

The matters brought to my attention this afternoon by the Police Federation are serious, and I should like the Minister to address them in her winding-up speech if she can. During the 26 weeks of their training, the trainees will be a new breed of police officer in the United Kingdom. They will not be covered by the pension regulations that apply to other police recruits. So if officers who currently serve in the Metropolitan police or other English or Scottish police forces, for example, transfer to the new policing service, there will be no continuity of pension rights or any other benefits. That is a huge loophole. The trainees' pay has not been negotiated, either.

I am sorry to mention this, but when the training centre was in Enniskillen, it was bombed; if any trainees are injured, or worse still, murdered during their 26-week training, according to present arrangements, their families and relatives will not benefit under pension regulations. That issue was raised specifically by the Police Federation and needs urgent attention; I should be grateful if the Minister would comment at the end of our debate, if she can do so at such short notice.

4.20 pm
Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry)

The proposed Policing Board will experience the same problems that the Police Authority for Northern Ireland has experienced for many years. Many people in Northern Ireland did not give their full undiluted support to the authority. In fact, members of the republican community campaigned against those who would serve on the authority; they picketed their homes and subjected them to attack, both physical and verbal.

Unfortunately, the political representatives of many people in the republican community were associated with the criminal gangs who attacked members of the authority. People in the nationalist community, including members of the SDLP, would not support the authority, and there were many attempts by previous Governments to get members of the SDLP to give their support to the authority, and, indeed, to join it. There were consistent and prolonged campaigns to try to encourage greater nationalist involvement in the authority.

Unfortunately, the same effort was not expended in trying to get members of my community—those in the Democratic Unionist party—to join the authority. In fact, our many entreaties to previous Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland seem to have fallen on deaf ears. We were promised that if a position were to become available, a member of the DUP would be looked on favourably, given that other political parties seemed to have several nominees on the authority. In fact, some minute political parties, with no more than 2 per cent. support in Northern Ireland, seemed to have nominees serving on the authority.

Moving on to the problems that will be encountered now and in future, it appears that the greater the efforts of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to combat crime, the greater the support given by the community to assist, and the more successful that that all is, the greater the intensity of opposition to the RUC in sections of the republican community. Of course, like the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), I do not want to go back to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 and its provisions on insignia and symbols; that created many difficulties in the Unionist community and continues to do so.

The Policing Board will face problems, particularly in relation to 50:50 recruitment. Any recruitment in Northern Ireland that operates according to a quota will be attacked and criticised because the community will infer that people are being selected for service in the police according to their religious denomination rather than on merit and their ability to do the job. That will always create a problem. It should be remembered that in 1920, when the RUC was formed, 20 per cent. of its members were Roman Catholic. That figure diminished in the following decades because of a campaign of intimidation and, latterly in the 1970s and 1980s, a campaign of murder.

We are now faced with an unsatisfactory 50:50 quota arrangement to try to redress the unacceptably low number of Roman Catholics in the RUC. However, we must accept the rationale behind our present position: it is because of intimidation that only 8 per cent. of RUC police officers are Roman Catholic. It is not because Catholics are not acceptable in the RUC; they are. Last week, on television and in our newspapers, there were pictures of a fine woman police constable who faced up to a mob in Belfast and helped to save the life of a male colleague. She was a Roman Catholic.

Many constables, both male and female, Protestant and Catholic, have been attacked, and have been subject to attack, for many years in Northern Ireland. The Government and every Member of Parliament ought to give the police force total support. We want an excellent police service to be made even better. My community has problems with the proposed Policing Board because we do not believe that the essential elements for improving a good police service are present.

There will be other problems with the district policing partnerships. We see grave difficulties concerning possible participation by former terrorists in those partnerships, which will pose exceptionally grave difficulties for members of my community, and will only make the task of the police service in the wider community more difficult, rather than easier.

I shall close with an appeal to the Minister and the Government for greater resources for the RUC, an excellent police service which we should all strive to make better, more independent and more accountable to the people of Northern Ireland. Rather than attack and criticise the RUC or make life more difficult for them, we should try to improve what is already an exceptionally fine police service in Northern Ireland.

4.27 pm
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North)

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell). I endorse entirely his remarks on the quality of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. As someone who has witnessed at first hand in my constituency the vilest attacks on members of the police force, made as part of an orchestrated plan of violence by republicans, as the Chief Constable himself admitted last week, I believe that everyone in the House should pay tribute to the gallantry and bravery of members of the RUC and the work that they attempt to do protecting decent law-abiding people on all sides of the community.

One thing that has undermined morale at all levels of the RUC is the prospect that the Northern Ireland Policing Board, established under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, will, according to the Patten report and the Belfast agreement, comprise members of Sinn Fein-IRA. Many members of the RUC tell me and other elected representatives that when they stand on the front line trying to protect the community, they see members of the republican movement orchestrating violence, yet, in a short while, they could face the prospect of political representatives of that organisation serving on the Policing Board. For them, that is another reason for lack of confidence about the future and a growing concern about morale in the force.

I note that this is the second time that we have had to deal in the House with legislation relating to the fact that there are problems with the Belfast agreement. Last Monday, we debated elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are approaching 12 August and the six-week period for the election of a First Minister and Deputy First Minister is about to run out, so the Government had to come to the House to rush legislation through to deal with that. We are now dealing with another problem, to do with policing.

If the House were sitting after tomorrow, we would probably deal with other aspects of the agreement too, but all this proves that the agreement is not working as far as the people in Northern Ireland are concerned. Why is it not working? It is because—hon. Members may not like to hear it—the agreement has the support of virtually 100 per cent. of nationalists and republicans, but not of a majority of the Unionist community. That applies to the broad thrust of the agreement and policing reforms, which are a major part of the Belfast agreement and Patten report.

The Patten report flows inexorably and inevitably from the Belfast agreement. There are attempts among some people inside and outside the House to say that the Patten report took those who supported the agreement by surprise. The reality is that the terms and remit of Patten were set out in the Belfast agreement. Those of us who predicted that the commission set up to look at policing under the agreement would come up with the sort of proposals that Patten did, indeed, come up with were pooh-poohed and told that we were scaremongering. Our position has been vindicated.

Lembit Öpik

I understand that the Democratic Unionist party is not happy with the agreement as it stands. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could briefly summarise the alternative agreement that he believes would command the support of all sides of the community.

Mr. Dodds

I am grateful that someone from one of the major parties in the House is prepared to ask that question. It seems that the Government are not interested in asking what the alternative is. They were not even prepared to invite the Democratic Unionist party and like-minded Unionists who represent the majority of Unionists in the Province to come to discuss an alternative, so I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is showing an openness of mind and a willingness to listen.

We are saying clearly that we must find a way forward in Northern Ireland, based on the consent and agreement of both communities in Northern Ireland—not just nationalists but Unionists. We are prepared to sit down and play our part in trying to find a way forward, but it is clear from the remarks of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that at present he has a closed mind on that. That was witnessed by the fact that other parties were invited to the talks at Weston Park. The Democratic Unionist party has not been invited to take part in any discussions about an alternative way forward in Northern Ireland—so much for democracy.

To return to the order, as hon. Members have said, there is a crisis of morale among the membership of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The order adds to the uncertainty about the future of the force and what will happen. There is a question mark about what will happen to the name, the emblems and badges of the RUC.

What will happen come 1 September? What will happen over the coming months if the agreement is suspended? What will happen to the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary? What will happen on the issues of the emblems, badges and so on? It would be useful to hear from the Minister what the position is in relation to that particular aspect of the police legislation.

Lembit Öpik

I am sorry to detain the House further. I am pleased that the hon. Member feels that I am listening. I am receptive to views from all parties. Having accepted that, can he briefly summarise which proposals would have been put forward by the DUP to prevent us having to discuss the order today?

Mr. Dodds

Again, I am delighted. Our party will be happy to discuss with the hon. Gentleman and other constitutional democratic politicians at any time our proposals on those and a range of other issues, but there is widespread support within the community in Northern Ireland for the Royal Ulster Constabulary as it stands at present. Surveys that have been independently carried out show that the main reason why members of the minority community, the Roman Catholic community, were not joining the RUC was not concern about emblems, badges, names or anything else but fear of intimidation, threats and violence against them and their families. In the last year before the first ceasefire was called by the IRA, almost 25 per cent. of all applicants to the RUC were Roman Catholics. That is an indication of the widespread acceptance of the force.

The reality is that Patten has got it wrong. The police legislation is not endorsed by the vast majority of the people in Northern Ireland. People look, for example, at the issue of police numbers. As has been pointed out, the police are on the streets virtually every night in Belfast and other parts of the Province keeping the peace and maintaining law and order. What is Patten proposing on police numbers? He is proposing that numbers should be reduced from 13,000 to 7,500. That proposal has been accepted by Her Majesty's Government and is being implemented, even though we still have a crisis in terms of security, even though we have had some of the worst community violence for many years, even though so-called dissidents still pose a grave threat, in the words of the Chief Constable, to security and peace in Northern Ireland and even though the provisional IRA is still fully armed and intact. The proposal, however, is to reduce the number of police in Northern Ireland.

Rightly, in England, Scotland and Wales, both the major parties are vying with each other as to who can be the most macho in terms of the police and put more policemen and women on the beat. People in Northern Ireland are simply saying, "Why is it that in Northern Ireland for political expediency police numbers will be reduced?" I plead with the Minister and with hon. Members to have a bit of common sense on policing issues and to respond to what ordinary people on the ground are saying. Keep our police force, keep the Royal Ulster Constabulary and let us move forward, increasing the operational capacity of the police to deal with the problems that we have. The Government should not continue with political tinkering for the sake of appeasing IRA-Sinn Fein.

As the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) rightly said, many of us believe that Sinn Fein republicans will never be satisfied on the issue anyway. No matter what is done to reform the police, they will still come back for more. It is a disgrace that the police should be used as part of a bartering process.

Some told us that decommissioning would be the only issue on the agenda at Weston Park. Far from it—it is clear that policing, so-called demilitarisation and keeping the institutions in place were very much part of the agenda. People in Northern Ireland are already deeply concerned about the concessions that have been given on policing. If the Government come back and tell the people of Northern Ireland as part of their package of proposals—incidentally, they have told us that we are not even going to see that, even though we have five hon. Members in the House—that in exchange for another fudge on decommissioning more concessions will be given on policing, that will be resisted very strongly indeed.

4.38 pm
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

I will be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that you have given us a great deal of leeway in the debate on this narrow order and I understand why. Some pertinent points have been made beyond the scope of the order, including the point that was made by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) about pensions and compensation, which needs to be dealt with urgently.

The order represents further acceptance, I suppose, that the political process is failing again. The process started with the Good Friday agreement. We had a lengthy debate on the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, but we failed to reach 75 per cent. of the amendments that were tabled to it. A thorough debate on them might have led to greater understanding and could perhaps have obviated the need for today's predicament.

The order has been presented almost as an emergency measure because of the failure of the political process to resolve matters. It suggests a slide into crisis for the six counties. I fear that our last hope is the package that the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister will produce. It is important that all hon. Members, representing all perspectives, receive information on it. Although the House will be in recess, members of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs and other hon. Members who have consistently taken an interest in Northern Ireland would readily be brought together to discuss the package in detail, use our best offices in the dialogue about it, and perhaps pursue some of its measures to resolve the problems that arise from the gradual erosion of some of the principles of the Belfast agreement.

We face a three-month recess, and the position could become very dangerous in August and September. We could almost drift into war-like circumstances. If that happens, the House should be recalled for a full debate on the matter. The general populace on this side of the Irish sea do not understand the seriousness of the situation, and it behoves us to come together in August and September to discuss the matter if the package proposed by the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister does not resolve the problem of implementing and furthering the Belfast agreement and if the political dispensation that the Good Friday agreement created breaks down. My hon. Friend the Minister should consider that and raise it with the Leader of the House to ascertain the measures that can be put in place to effect that.

4.42 pm
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

There may not be many occasions when I can happily follow the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), but I concur at least with his last point. The Leader of the House and his colleagues should seriously consider recalling Parliament to discuss the package that is being drawn up by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, especially if it includes a requirement to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly. Hon. Members may wish to comment on that.

The order is a monument to the intransigence of nationalists and republicans and evidence of the Government's inability to move without their consent. That clearly shows that there is a nationalist veto, although the Government are always happy to go ahead without the support of the Democratic Unionist party, which speaks for the overwhelming majority of the Unionist community on the issues that we are discussing.

My view is different from that of the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon). I believe that the Patten recommendations were in line with the remit that the Belfast agreement gave the commission. It is clear from the detailed terms of reference in the Belfast agreement that the commission was asked to devise proposals on composition, recruitment, training, culture, ethos and symbols. The only restriction was that the outcome should enjoy widespread support from the whole community and the police service should be perceived as an integral part of it.

I challenged the hon. Member for North Down to say whether she was prepared to support the new police service. Both of us were called to order because we were straying wide of the subject of the debate. Of course, the answer is yes. Even though the hon. Lady does not like much of the Patten report, as an elected representative who supports law and order she could do no other than say that she supported the new police service despite her anxieties about the way in which it was set up and some of the changes.

The Patten report has therefore fulfilled the recommendations of the Good Friday agreement because the police force enjoys the support of the community. Even from my point of view, I have to say that people should support the police service, no matter how it is set up. That is the responsible position.

Lady Hermon

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that, on 9 September 1999, the day on which the Patten report was published, the Police Federation issued a public statement, which is in the public domain? The federation said that it was happy to welcome much that is in the Patten Report. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to comment on that?

Mr. Robinson

The hon. Lady knows that any report that contains hundreds of recommendations is bound to include something good. It would be a terrible travesty if not one of the recommendations was in the interests of the police service. I am content with the commission's recommendations on training and the new IT equipment. They are good for policing in Northern Ireland, but we must make a balanced judgment on the recommendations as a whole.

As the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) said, as a whole the Patten report was "a shoddy job". The hon. Member for North Down recalls the view of the Police Federation clearly; I am therefore surprised that she cannot remember that of her party leader. The Belfast agreement gave the Patten commission a specific remit. The right hon. Member for Upper Bann did a shoddy job in agreeing to a remit that allowed Patten and his team to introduce such proposals.

The order reveals something further. It shows that although the Patten proposals and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 made major concessions to nationalism, at the expense of good policing in Northern Ireland, nationalists are still not satisfied. Gaining 90 per cent. or even 99 per cent. of what they want is not enough. They will hold out until they get it all. Nationalists are not prepared to sit on the Policing Board and therefore the order has been introduced to allow the Government more time and the opportunity to make further concessions at the expense of policing.

The bottom line for ordinary citizens in Northern Ireland is an inferior police service because of Patten and concessions that the Government have yet to make. For example, we are told that the Government will consider whether all police officers, even existing members, should have to take the oath. I remember the Secretary of State telling us that we were not talking about the RUC being disbanded but about policing reforms and a moving on for the police service in Northern Ireland. There could be no clearer signal to policemen in Northern Ireland that the RUC is being disbanded than that they be required to re-take their oath of allegiance. That would be a clear signal to them that a line had been drawn under their past life in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and that a fresh and new start was being made with a new police service.

I hope that the Minister will address that issue, as it is causing major concern in Northern Ireland's police ranks. It would be greatly beneficial to policemen and policewomen in Northern Ireland if she could scotch that rumour, which started at the Northern Ireland Office, and say that they will definitely not be asked to re-take the oath to which they attested when they went into the job initially. That should certainly not be another concession to Sinn Fein-IRA.

Like the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside), I tabled a question for oral answer on the future of the full-time RUC reserve, to which I am sure both the hon. Gentleman and I have both received a written answer. In reading that answer, I was very concerned that the clear inference was that there is no turning back on the Government's position on the full-time reserve and that they still intend to wipe it out. That message also will cause real concern in the RUC.

At this very moment in Northern Ireland, full-time RUC reserve men and women are out there protecting our society. Recently, many of them have been injured, in north Belfast, in east Belfast and elsewhere. They are prepared to put themselves on the line without knowing what their future will be. I really think that the Government have to stand by those men and women in the full-time reserve. I have spoken to the Chief Constable, and he recognises the very real contribution that they have to make to policing in Northern Ireland. They are an essential part of the police service in Northern Ireland, and the Government should not have them destroyed on the altar of political expediency.

I should like finally to address the issue of the police authority itself. The Secretary of State is required by law to appoint, so far as he can, a police authority that is representative of the community as a whole. That is a legal requirement on the Secretary of State. Repeatedly, however, he has refused to appoint members of the Ulster Democratic Unionist party despite the fact that they belong to one of the four major parties in Northern Ireland. He has appointed representatives of the Alliance party—the 2 per cent. party in Northern Ireland—to the authority, but he has excluded from it a party that is able to obtain 22 per cent. of the vote in Northern Ireland.

Those people are willing to serve their community on the Police Authority for Northern Ireland, with all the risks that that entails in a society such as Northern Ireland, but the Secretary of State is not prepared to appoint them because they do not share his political views. That is contrary to the legal requirement that has been placed on him. If for a further time we remain with the Police Authority for Northern Ireland rather than going to the Policing Board, as envisaged in the recently passed Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, there will remain on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a duty to ensure that that board is representative of the community as a whole. He cannot fulfil that legal duty unless he appoints representatives from the Democratic Unionist party to the board.

4.52 pm
David Burnside (South Antrim)

Following the remarks of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), may I ask the Minister to comment on the position of the Royal Ulster Constabulary's full-time and, potentially, part-time reserve? Currently, 43 per cent. of constables in west Belfast are full-time reserves, and 25 per cent. of mobile support units in Northern Ireland are full-time reserves. Surely it is a dereliction of duty for the Government to wind down the full-time reserve and the RUC's operational capability at a time when the Provisional IRA—I stress the Provisional IRA, not Real or Continuity IRA—is engaged in procuring arms from continental Europe and the United States of America to re-arm. As the Minister should know, the IRA army council includes Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein; Martin McGuinness, current Minister of Education at the devolved Administration at Stormont; and Pat Doherty. They are procuring arms illegally from continental Europe. How can the Minister preside over the running down of the Royal Ulster Constabulary's manpower and its reserve when crime and the threat of terrorism are increasing? I ask for the Minister's reply.

4.54 pm
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

It is interesting to ponder just for a moment the provenance of this order. The Minister slightly glossed over why the order is here and where it came from. There are some clues, of course, even in the instrument itself. It says: Whereas it has been made to appear to Her Majesty that by reason of urgency this Order requires to be made without a draft having been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. So there was some urgency, and we have been given a hint as to why. It states on the Order Paper that the motion has not yet been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

Jane Kennedy

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The motion was considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments this morning; I am grateful to its members for calling an extraordinary meeting.

Mr. Forth

That is extremely helpful. It shows how flexible the House is that even between the printing of the Order Paper and today's debate we can have such an immediate response from the Joint Committee, which no doubt deliberated seriously and considered the matter closely. That leads one to ponder what scope there is for the House, either in full session, as we are now, or through the medium of the Joint Committee, for example, to consider an instrument of this kind given that it has emanated from no less a source than the Court at Buckingham palace.

We must not take our constitutional role in any way for granted. I shall leave aside for the moment, as you would not want me to digress, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether we might some day consider how far the House has any proper role to play in matters such as this. Northern Ireland is obviously a serious and sensitive subject and matters such as this, which the Government consider to be urgent, cannot be treated lightly—nor can Orders in Council emanating from the Court at Buckingham palace be dealt with lightly.

Having said that, and given the speedy response of the Joint Committee and the fact that we are now considering the matter, one is left wondering just what scope there is for proper consideration or indeed flexibility. Although the Minister, quite properly, made some little play on the fact that the Government's generosity was allowing us the affirmative resolution procedure, you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I know and everyone here knows that although those procedures look as though they are providing an opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny, they cannot be amended, so they are basically a take it or leave it job. I shall not use this opportunity to complain about that, except to note that we are left without the powers that the House of Commons would normally expect to have.

Presumably, when the Joint Committee sat in all solemnity this very morning and gave the matter its consideration, it was in the same difficult position. Perhaps some day we might return to this lacuna in our procedures.

I ask the Minister for some guidance. I am being tentative because I have rarely if ever sought to involve myself in Northern Ireland matters: I am conscious of the fact that those of us who have an imperfect understanding of such matters tread on the ground at our peril. However, I was slightly worried by the exemption of the need to issue individual firearms certificates to trainee police officers.

If I understood the Minister correctly when she said, very properly but rather briefly, that the measure would be of practical value and would bring the Northern Ireland force into line with those on the mainland, I was left wondering whether the argument was that trainee police officers would have no requirement to, and would not even be allowed to, use firearms during their training, or whether it was deemed acceptable that the safeguard of issuing individual firearms certificates and all that goes with it was now to be put to one side and a bulk certificate issued.

As a lay person in these matters, that would give me pause for thought, given the sensitivities about firearms generally. Tragically, there have been recent incidents involving the use of firearms by the police, so our mind should be concentrated on the issue, be it in Northern Ireland or on the mainland. Any measure to alter the arrangements for giving police trainees access to firearms should be considered very carefully.

Are we saying that police trainees are not required to be trained in the use of firearms, or that the existing safeguard of issuing individual licences is no longer necessary? That would worry me, because there must have been a long-standing presumption, which I share, that we should do everything that we can to be satisfied of the suitability of an individual to have access to a firearm, even in the context of all the disciplines of police training.

I am all in favour of proper measures to make all our police forces as effective as possible, but given the current environment, not only in Northern Ireland but here in London, and the anxieties that have arisen in the light of recent events, we should all show even greater sensitivity than usual.

I am sure that the motion will be approved, but we must not allow such procedures to happen too often. I would not want the Government to think that all they need to do is to come up with something that emanates from Buckingham palace, say how important it is, convene a meeting of the Joint Committee, have it nodded through and then put it before the House the day before we leave for the summer recess, reassuring Members that everything had been done properly.

Everything may have been done properly in a strict technical sense, and I am sure that the Minister is about to reassure us in her usual silken way that all is well and that we can go off on the recess without giving it another thought, but I want to put down a marker to say that this should not happen too often. We should not feel that this can become standard procedure. Let us always be aware that matters of such sensitivity and importance must be properly scrutinised.

In the normal course of events, I hope that such a measure would be allowed more time and that the plea of urgency would never be used to evade proper scrutiny. The presence of the Secretary of State and the Minister, with all their integrity, reassures me that that is not the case, but I want to make the point that this should be treated as an exception, not a rule.

5.3 pm

Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

I apologise for not having been here for the opening speeches, because of the collapse of the earlier debate.

We are having this debate because the Government are unable to proceed in establishing the new Policing Board, the nationalist parties, and the SDLP in particular, having failed to give the board their support. It is interesting that none of the SDLP's representatives is here to explain why the SDLP is not prepared to support it.

It is fairly clear to observers of such matters that the SDLP has not yet obtained enough concessions from the Government on policing to bring it to the point where it is prepared to support the board. That is most unfortunate, because we need all the political parties in Northern Ireland that have signed up to the democratic process to support the forces of law and order. It is regrettable that one side of the community has so far refused to support policing structures designed specifically to win its support.

Unionists have encountered many difficulties with the proposals on policing that emanated from the Patten report, as the Secretary of State knows. The Government need to be careful if they are minded to make further concessions to the nationalist community, and especially to the SDLP, to win its support for the new policing arrangements and for the membership of the new Policing Board. The effect of those concessions could be to undermine further the Unionist community's confidence in the new policing structures and arrangements so that we would find it difficult to embrace the changes. We already have significant difficulties, as the Secretary of State will be aware.

The uncertainty that arises from the refusal of the SDLP to back the new policing arrangements has had an enormous impact on the RUC's morale. Every day, my colleagues and I receive correspondence and telephone calls from police officers who see their position constantly being undermined. In particular, the full-time reserve members do not know what their future is. They hear rumours and read stories in the newspapers, but their future is being negotiated behind their backs, in secret.

I met the Chief Constable earlier this week. He told me that because of the pressures on his resources he cannot do without the full-time reserve. If we took the full-time reserve out of the equation in the near future, as the SDLP would like, the police could not cope with the present unrest in Northern Ireland, the increasing crime on our streets and the remaining terrorist threat posed by all the paramilitary organisations. I urge the Secretary of State, when he considers how he can win the support of the SDLP for the policing arrangements and the new Policing Board, to be careful not to leave the Chief Constable without the resources to respond to the security threat and the levels of violence on the streets. In that respect, we need the full-time reserve and officers on the streets. My colleagues and I find that the police are unable to cope with the level of crime.

Patrick Mercer (Newark)

Surely the most eloquent argument on police numbers is that when there has been a flash of violence, of any size or type, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Dodds), the RUC has had to be reinforced with soldiers from the British Army. To my certain knowledge, a policy has been in place in Ulster for the past 10 years for the British Army to step further and further back and for the RUC to move forward. If troops are deployed almost at the first sign of serious violence, it suggests that police numbers are woefully inadequate.

Mr. Donaldson

The hon. Gentleman is right, and during the talks last week I asked SDLP members whether they wanted the Parachute Regiment drafted into Ardoyne to deal with the riots. More than 100 police officers were injured, some of them seriously, in the riots in Ardoyne. In an earlier riot on the Garvaghy road in Portadown, more than 50 officers were seriously injured. Those injuries occurred because officers were in close-quarters contact with rioters. The rioters were able to get up close to the officers and inflict serious injury. That happened because of the concern in the police command structure that if they fired plastic bullets early in a riot, the police ombudsman would be on their case.

Plastic bullets are being fired only as a last resort, and after many officers have been seriously injured. That needs to be looked at carefully by the Police Authority for Northern Ireland. I and my colleagues reject yesterday's unrealistic call from the chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for the withdrawal of plastic bullets. Police officers must be able to defend themselves and the communities that they serve from horrific attacks. Plastic bullets are important in that respect.

I was pleased with what the Chief Constable said yesterday. I hope that the Secretary of State will back up the RUC in regard to the need to retain plastic bullets. I wish that we did not have riots in which plastic bullets had to be deployed, but we have, and the Secretary of State must resist calls to withdraw those bullets from use.

The Secretary of State must resist the other, unreasonable demands made by nationalists for further reductions in police numbers, especially in the full-time reserve. We need those police officers on the streets of Northern Ireland to deal with crime and riots. They need our support. The present uncertainty must be brought to an end.

I hope that the Secretary of State will put the needs and security of the people of Northern Ireland before political expediency, and that he will not make concessions—to the SDLP and others—that would undermine the RUC's operational capacity to provide effective policing on the streets of Northern Ireland. That is crucial.

In addition, I hope that the Secretary of State will not make concessions at this critical time: to do so would further undermine the morale of the RUC and the confidence in the policing arrangements that is felt by people in the Unionist community.

My party supports the forces of law and order, but we are very concerned about what is happening. The issue of illegal arms held by terrorist organisations is crucial, and we want it to be resolved, but the issue of policing is equally important to us. We will watch carefully to see what the Government do. The Secretary of State should not expect for one moment that we will simply roll over and accept whatever arrangements and concessions he makes with regard to the SDLP and others.

5.12 pm
Jane Kennedy

First, I should like to address some comments to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) and to the Opposition, who agreed to the meeting that took place this morning, and who allowed us to have this debate.

The process is already well under way to bring the first new trainees into the police service this autumn. The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 provides for their terms and conditions to be set out in regulations. It also provides for the Policing Board to be consulted on the regulations. I understand why some hon. Members missed my opening remarks, but I said then that the board will not be in place in sufficient time for the necessary consultation to take place. The order amends the 2000 Act to enable the Police Authority for Northern Ireland to fulfil the consultation role and any of the board's functions under the regulations until the board is established.

In addition, the order provides for trainees to receive firearms training without the administrative burden of issuing them, individually, with firearms certificates. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) and the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) both asked serious questions about these issues.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire made a speech—the elegance of which was second only to the sartorial elegance displayed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst—in which he asked whether the order would bring the training of police officers in Northern Ireland into line with training in England and Wales. I can tell him that police trainees in forces in Great Britain are also exempt from the need to have firearms certificates.

Mr. Forth

Is it sufficient simply to say that, because something is done on the mainland, it is okay for Northern Ireland? I ask that in the obvious context that, although Northern Ireland is rightly an integral part of the United Kingdom, we all recognise that conditions there vary in many crucial ways, as the Minister knows better than me. I ask also in light of the recent incidents involving the police and firearms. Against that background, are the Minister and Secretary of State happy that this is the time to do away with an administrative burden that may provide safeguards of the kind that people want?

Jane Kennedy

Let me try to reassure the right hon. Gentleman. Police trainees will not be issued with a service firearm until they have been trained in its safe handling and use, including public safety aspects. The recruitment process is such that suitability is tested in terms of firearms and all other aspects of policing. I take a great interest in this matter, given the tragic shooting in my constituency last Thursday night.

Lembit Öpik

Will the Minister confirm whether the arrangements are actually changing in Northern Ireland?

Jane Kennedy

The current arrangements will continue.

A number of arguments have been advanced. The order is concerned with the provisions on 50:50 recruitment and the regulations on flags and emblems, which have to be laid in Parliament before they take effect. I knew that this matter was bound to raise many of the questions that were debated at length in the House during the passage of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

The hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) asked about the Police Federation's concerns about pension and other arrangements. These concerns are being addressed and discussions are on-going. We are listening carefully to the representations of the federation.

Members have referred to 50:50 recruitment. Undoubtedly, intimidation is an important factor. We all want it to end immediately and we condemn it unreservedly, but there are other factors. They include, for example, a lack of identity with the RUC; a fear of loss of contact with family, friends and community; and a lack of encouragement from community leaders, which also plays a part. The Government urge all political, religious and community bodies to remove barriers to those wishing to join the police. It is important to remember and place on record that only 8 per cent. of the current police force is drawn from the Catholic community.

Mr. Donaldson


Jane Kennedy

I have explained some of the factors that affect recruitment. There has been a good cross-community response to recruitment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland under the new 50:50 provisions. I am not ideologically opposed to such provisions. In fact, I believe that, on occasion, it is necessary actively to seek to recruit from sections of the community that are not otherwise represented, particularly in such an important public service as the police.

The Government aim to develop a modern police service that is both effective and representative of the community that it serves, and commands the widespread confidence and support that it needs to be able to operate properly. Members made the point that the community within which the police will operate must support police officers in carrying out their duties. It is in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland and the police service to have that representative service in place.

The hon. Members for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) and for Belfast, North (Mr. Dodds) and others referred to the talks and to policing. I restate the Government's position. We are committed to implementing the Patten report and we are always prepared to consider matters when parties argue that we have not done enough.

Mr. John Taylor

I repeat a question that I asked the Minister earlier. Is it not the case that the Patten report was a prescription for policing in Northern Ireland once all aspects of the Belfast agreement had been fulfilled?

Jane Kennedy

No, I do not accept that. The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland himself said that the vast bulk of the Patten recommendations were about "good and effective policing." The Government and the police are keen to move forward to introduce such modern effective policing in Northern Ireland. [Interruption.] I will not deal with funds as we dealt with them yesterday in oral questions. I refer hon. Members to the comments that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I made then. I have no intention of adding to them today.

The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell) raised concerns about Democratic Unionist party membership on the police authority, and other hon. Members raised their involvement in the Weston Park talks. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have met the DUP regularly throughout the process. Indeed, I believe that the Secretary of State will meet the hon. Gentleman's party again soon. The talks at Weston Park were aimed at resolving difficulties and implementing the few remaining aspects of the agreement. Consequently, it was natural that those parties that backed the agreement should be invited.

Mr. Dodds

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Jane Kennedy

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way as I have only two minutes left. I will certainly discuss the matter with him afterwards.

I will not touch on the many questions about other issues that we may deal with in implementing the reforms to the police force in Northern Ireland, because they are not subject to the order.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) said that the order was an acceptance that the peace process was failing. That is not the case and I hope that he will not use that interpretation. He missed my opening comments, in which I said that, in spite of the Government's considerable efforts to bring about the necessary agreement on the outstanding policing issues, it has not been possible to establish the Policing Board, which we regret.

I have warm words for the full-time reserve. The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) referred to morale in policing, yet he then came out with the unfounded and inaccurate comment that the full-time reserve will be wiped out. The position is as I set it out yesterday. It will be phased out, but only when—[Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Gentlemen will care to listen to this. It will be phased out only when the prevailing security situation and policing requirements permit. Those will be reviewed in the spring.

I acknowledge that I have not been able to deal with all the points raised, but I hope that the House will accept the order.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Police (Northern Ireland) Order 2001 (S.I., 2001 No. 2513), dated 18th July 2001, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th July, be approved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)

We now come to the business motion. The Question is as on the Order paper.

Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

We now come to the motion on deferred Divisions. The Question is as on the Order Paper.

Hon. Members