HL Deb 19 June 2002 vol 636 cc159-98GC

[The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara) in the Chair.]

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

Before I call the first amendment, perhaps I may remind noble Lords that, as the Leader of the House said yesterday, there will be a photographer present to take photographs of the proceedings at the beginning of this session. These are exclusively for the use of the House of Lords Annual Report.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

moved Amendment No. 231: Before Clause 65, insert the following new clause— Commissioner ROLE OF COMMISSIONER (1) The Secretary of State must, after consultation with the First Minister and deputy First Minister, appoint a Commissioner to oversee the implementation of changes in the criminal justice system of Northern Ireland described in his terms of reference. (2) A person for the time being holding the office of Commissioner under subsection (1) is referred to in this Act as the Commissioner. (3) On appointing the Commissioner, the Secretary of State shall give him writ ten terms of reference. (4) The terms of reference shall, in particular, describe the changes in criminal justice matters in Northern Ireland, the implementation of which it is the general function of the Commissioner to oversee. (5) The Commissioner shall publish annual reports. (6) The Commissioner may at any time make a report to the Secretary of State and the First Minister and deputy First Minister on matters arising in the course of his performance of his general function. (7) The Commissioner shall be appointed for an initial period of six years and shall be re-appointed for further periods of up to six years unless an order is made under subsection (8). (8) If the Commissioner makes a report to the Secretary of State and the First Minister and deputy First Minister under subsection (6) stating that he is satisfied that the implementation of changes in the criminal justice matters described in his terms of reference has been completed then the Secretary of State, after consultation with the First Minister and deputy First Minister, may by order provide that the office of Commissioner shall cease to exist. The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment. The new clause would become the first item under "Miscellaneous" in the Bill. I think that the proposal is rather more than miscellaneous, but for the moment that is where we have selected to place it.

This is a very important Bill for Northern Ireland concerned with the whole of the justice system. A couple of years ago we passed a Bill about the police service. In that Bill provision was made for an oversight commissioner. For us it seems to be an oversight that the same provision has not been made in this Bill. This new clause therefore seeks to place it in the legislation; namely, that somebody will be on watch, overseeing that the new arrangements work and that they work well.

It may well be that other ideas are put forward as to how this oversight should take place. Bearing in mind, however, that Parliament felt it necessary for oversight to be provided as far as the police were concerned, it is even more important that there should be oversight for justice as a whole. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

I have considerable sympathy with this probing amendment. The sentiments expressed on behalf of the Liberal Democrats by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, to the effect that we need to keep a watchful eye on the way through all these changes, appeals to me. Unfortunately we already have a number of commissioners overseeing various matters in Northern Ireland. We have many commissions per se. We have the inspector of the police, amongst others.

I wonder whether there could be some kind of overseeing responsibility, which I imagine would fall to the Lord Chief Justice or perhaps the Lord Chancellor if a commissioner is not appointed. It might be comforting if one of those two people had a very clear and specific duty to oversee the implementation of these changes during this rather difficult process.

I appreciate that this is a probing amendment, but I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in response.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

I wonder whether there is any significance in what appears to be an omission in line 2 of the amendment. That is where the legislation is at pains to specify in certain matters such as, for example, the hiring and firing of Her Majesty's judges, where the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will be "acting jointly". On Second Reading I pointed out the very great difficulty that the First and Deputy First Minister would have in acting jointly on such a serious matter, given that by law in previous legislation they are required to be of different religions and different political parties. It seemed to me that basically it would place an insuperable burden on them. I wonder if that difficulty has been recognised by the sponsors of the amendment. No reference is made to "acting jointly", although it does appear elsewhere.

Baroness O'Cathain

I seek a little clarification on this matter. Part 3 of the Bill concerns the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice. Would it not be appropriate for him to take on the role of oversight? Although Northern Ireland is an extremely important part of the United Kingdom, the Province has only 1.6 million inhabitants. We seem to be overloading it with bureaucracy.

Has any thought been given to the number of bureaucrats who are going to be generated by this Bill, all in addition to the huge overload of bureaucracy that is already in place? Could someone look at the position and work out how proportionate it is to other parts of the United Kingdom? I suspect that it will prove to be very top heavy indeed.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

I certainly echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. One wants to be very careful in this context to ensure that one does not simply add an additional layer of bureaucracy to what is, as Members of the Committee have all agreed, a complex set of relationships which needs to be worked through.

I do take the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Shutt and Lord Glentoran. This is an extremely important time for Northern Ireland and it is vital that public confidence in the review and its implementation should be sustained.

When this matter was raised in the Commons, the Secretary of State said that he would give the proposal careful thought. He has done so. Work is now under way—I hope that this is helpful—on the revised implementation plan which we plan to publish after the Bill receives Royal Assent. The revised plan will be a fuller document than the plan that was published last November. A number of respondents to the consultation exercise, following the publication of the original plan, said that they would like to have more detail, in particular in regard to time-scales. We shall certainly take that on board.

The revised plan will give more detailed information on how implementation is progressing and set out important milestones. It will make clear when particular actions are to be taken, and it will deal not only with matters in the Bill, but also with administrative recommendations that are going to be put into effect.

It will demonstrate clearly who is responsible for what. The responsibility here, of course, is divided between the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General but not, I believe, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. As noble Lords know, those three people are working together for a successful implementation.

My right honourable friend Dr Reid indicated that he was not minded to put in place a statutory oversight commissioner, but he did say that his mind was open. On that basis, the Government are certainly considering with an open mind a non-statutory commissioner. Given that, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment, and I hope that I have gone some way to meeting his concerns which I recognise are absolutely legitimate.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that response and we look forward to seeing in due course the documents which we have been promised. I am also grateful for the contributions of the noble Lords. In particular I was impressed with the argument about due economy expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. The over-arching nature of the matter is something that is clearly of concern, but nevertheless it is so important that it has to be got right. Bearing all that in mind, and considering the contributions yet to come, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 65 [Display of Royal Arms at courts]:

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 232: Page 57, line 31, leave out subsection (1). The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 235 and 236 in which I am joined by my colleagues from the Unionist Party.

In my opinion this is rather a sad stage of the Bill. We have had, up to this stage, serious debate about what, by and large, is a good, positive, devolutionary Bill.

We now come to Part 5, which is entitled "Miscellaneous". Somehow, most of the miscellany is pretty peripheral to criminal justice per se. It is subjective politics of typical—difficult—problems from Northern Ireland but not much of it seems to belong here. This group of amendments concerns the structures and the decoration of court houses throughout the Province. They are about the display of royal coats of arms in court rooms and on court houses. The Good Friday agreement makes it absolutely clear—we have pointed this out during the Bill's earlier stages—that interfering with emblems, architecture and the like for either, or any, of the various communities in the Province is not necessary.

It is accepted that Northern Ireland is, at this stage of its life, an integral part of the United Kingdom. It is absolutely necessary to be clear where the judicial authority comes from and how it is derived. Paragraph 5 on page 20 of the agreement states: All participants acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division. Arrangements will be made to monitor this issue and consider what action might be required". That is a pretty clear statement. When the noble and learned Lord replies, I shall be interested to hear him justify morally, logically, practically and in any way that he can, this part of the Bill. There seems to be no logic at all. I frequently visit the Republic of Ireland; I said in my maiden speech in this House many years ago that while I was British in most ways, when I go to Twickenham or elsewhere, you will find me carrying a tricolour—there are many of us like that. Equally, if you go to the republic you will find that the Lord Mayor of Dublin has King Billy on his chain. There is the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork and there are other royal institutions, including the Royal Agricultural Society. The royal title gets all sorts of usage. Royal coats of arms are certainly found around the Republic of Ireland—they were not destroyed or removed. In many places and on many occasions, the word "Royal" is perfectly acceptable in the everyday life of the Republic of Ireland. I beg to move.

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

I should point out that if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 232A, 232B and 233.

3.45 p.m

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

In supporting Amendment No. 232, I give notice that I shall raise the amendments to which the Principal Deputy Chairman alluded.

In so far as this clause is entitled, Display of Royal Arms of Courts", there is an horrendous contradiction in intent. One might suggest that this clause is designed to ensure that there is minimal display, internally and externally, in relation to crown courts. At this time, in view of the support for the Republic of Ireland and England teams at the World Cup, it would cause huge offence if somebody suggested that the display of emblems was insulting to anyone. Groups of people support their football team with pride and dignity, and we laud and praise that attitude. Many of us in Northern Ireland tried for more than a decade to thrash out something that was equitable but we find that our own Government are now conspiring to tinker around the periphery of that Belfast agreement in a way that will make it meaningless to one tradition.

We agreed that Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and, in so doing, agreed that the judicial, legal and political processes within Northern Ireland would in fact agree. However, a High Court decision was delivered by Mr Justice Kerr on 4th October 2001. Addressing the issue of the Union flag, he said: The Union flag is the flag of the United Kingdom, of which Northern Ireland is a part. It is the judgment of the Secretary of State that it should be flown on Government buildings only on those days on which it is flown in Great Britain. By thus confining the days on which the flag is to appear, the Secretary of State sought to strike the correct balance between, on the one hand, acknowledging Northern Ireland's constitutional position and, on the other, not giving offence to those who oppose it".

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

I must interrupt the noble Lord—there is a Division in the House. The Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes for that Division, after which the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, can continue his speech.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 3.47 to 3.57 p.m.]

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Before the Division, I was quoting from the judgment of Mr Justice Kerr, on 4th October 2001, in respect of flags. I think I had reached the point at which he said that the Secretary of State had been trying to create a balance. Mr Justice Kerr went on to say, That approach seems to me to exemplify a proper regard for partnership, equality and mutual respect and to fulfil the Government's undertaking that its jurisdiction in Northern Ireland shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of the identities and traditions". In my short time in your Lordships' House, I have come to have some confidence that the Lord Privy Seal would jealously guard the interests of the judiciary and the judicial process in Northern Ireland. I therefore suspect that he is as horrified as I am to see the mish-mash in Clause 65. The clause suggests that the royal arms should not be displayed in any courtroom. The coat of arms, however, is already displayed in courtrooms in Belfast, Armagh, Banbridge. Downpatrick, Magherafelt and Omagh. I might add, of course, that it was displayed in the courthouse in my home town of Dungannon until the IRA blew up that courthouse. Under the Bill, our new courthouse, for which we have worked long and hard for a considerable number of years, will not be able to have parity and equality with Belfast, Armagh. Banbridge and the other towns I have mentioned.

Perhaps I am arguing against myself here, but either it is right or it is wrong to have the coat of arms displayed in the courtroom. Perhaps it symbolises the impartiality of the legal process in Northern Ireland. Perhaps it indicates that every citizen stepping in to the courtroom to seek justice is assured that he will benefit from the impartiality of the Crown, from whom the process derives.

Moving from inside the courtroom to outside, it appears, although the Bill does not say so, that we might get the royal coat of arms on the outside of the new courthouse in Dungannon. The Bill says The Royal Arms must not be displayed— (a) on the exterior of an existing court-house I suppose that one could imply that the reciprocal is the case; if it is not displayed on an existing courthouse, it will be displayed on a new courthouse. What confusion. What utter, unadulterated nonsense the clause produces. I wonder if there is an alternative of ensuring that under this legislation people will he treated equally before the law, irrespective of the tradition, ethnic group, religion, sex or anything else to which they adhere or belong. Let us have equality with the rest of the United Kingdom.

It' I remember correctly, in our second sitting the Lord Privy Seal argued that I was wrong; he said that what I was talking about did not apply in the rest of the United Kingdom and had not traditionally happened in Northern Ireland. I wonder if he would be good enough to argue similarly on this occasion and to ensure that I do have parity of esteem with the rest of the United Kingdom and that some of the harmless but important traditions that we have had in the past should be sustained with equity.

I am delighted to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, is back again, because she joined in that form of argument two sittings ago. Whichever Minister responds, I hope that they will demonstrate some consistency.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I support the general thrust of all these grouped amendments. I recognise, as anybody with any common sense must, the sensitivity that surrounds the issue of emblems, symbols, flags and so forth.

I very much support what was said by my noble friend Lord Glentoran in opening. I share something of his personal experiences. He spoke of carrying the tricolour when he goes to watch Ireland playing rugby football. I did the same when I was very kindly invited to a match at Lansdowne Road by Mr Dick Spring, the Irish Foreign Minister, and, of course, I rooted for Ireland. Unfortunately, that gave rise to a photograph in the next day's Irish News, which showed Mr Spring on one side, me—the Secretary of State—on the other and, in between, the tricolour. With rare opportunism, Dr Paisley made considerable use of that as the frontispiece piece of his next election address. The caption was, "The flag they both uphold!" or words to that effect. I do not have the slightest regret that I behaved as I did.

I also claim acquittal of any charge of insensitivity on this issue. I was responsible in 1996 for the order that changed the oath that jurors in Northern Ireland took—it changed that oath to omit any reference to our sovereign lady the Queen. I was able to do that because one could point to the fact that that change merely reflected the modern practice in England and Wales. That was a balancing factor that reduced, if it did not completely remove—I think that it probably did—any sense of affront.

We are dealing with a much more important matter, which is a different case altogether. In a matter as sensitive as this, one is inevitably put in mind of the aphorism: Where it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change". I know that I can rely on the Lord Privy Seal to tell us who said that.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

It was Viscount Falkland.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I am grateful. I knew the noble and learned Lord would not let us down.

What is the practice in Northern Ireland at present? The review establishes that the practice varies. Apparently, inside every courtroom there is to be found the royal arms—generally it is behind the judge or the magistrate's chair. All courts appear to have that, but only 50 per cent of courts have the arms displayed on the outside of the building. It is reasonable to deduce from that that local practice reflects what is generally thought to be locally expedient—my comment is, "Quite right, too!". If that is so, it is desirable to make no change.

The Bill adopts that approach for the exterior of court buildings. As my noble friend Lord Maginnis has just pointed out, those buildings that have the arms on at the moment are to retain them. He pointed to a matter that I had missed, I am afraid; that is, that there is uncertainty as to what the position would be in a new courthouse. One would hope that the arms would be permitted to be there.

The Bill requires the removal of arms from inside every court. It may be helpful to refer the Committee to paragraph 8.30 on page 175 of the review report. It states: In one group it was felt that flags and proclamations were alienating but that the presence of a Royal Coat of Arms often went unnoticed and was not an issue. Views at seminars were not entirely polarised and there was often agreement that while flags and emblems could be provocative, removing symbols could be just as provocative". That struck me as a very helpful and fair statement of what is apparently a very considerable division of opinion in Northern Ireland. Yet it is on that passage that the case seems to be founded for the recommendation in the review, which is reflected in the Bill.

The presence of arms may be overlooked but the removal of arms most certainly will not he overlooked. The report rightly pointed out the opinion of those who expressed the view that removing something could be just as provocative as displaying it or flaunting it. The case for taking it away seems to be remarkably faintly argued in the review report. In paragraph 8.61, an opinion is expressed—it is not stated to be founded on any specific evidence—that the display of arms, could be regarded by some as off-putting". That is a remarkable statement. It is not a very strong foundation for what is proposed in the Bill. Paragraph 8—61 on page 184 states: On the other hand, we are conscious that the presence of the Royal Coat of Arms in a prominent position in the courtroom could be regarded by some as off-putting and inconsistent with the need for court proceedings to take place in a neutral environment". I consider that to be a very remarkable foundation for the ultimate recommendation in the Bill. We are not told whether people specifically said that that would apply to them, what position they held, what weight should be given or what place they held in the community. That could be seen by some as being off-putting.

As for a neutral environment, I very much endorse what was said by my noble friend Lord Maginnis. It is the very authority of the head of state, who happens to be the Queen, that guarantees neutrality—"impartiality", as he put it—and the neutral environment that is the very essence of adjudication in any state that upholds the rule of law. The head of state is the fount of justice and that establishes the neutrality of the court.

The problem about taking away those arms seems to be that if one accedes to the rather tentative opinion— I hardly call it an argument—that arms detract from a neutral environment, one is seen by implication as concurring with the charge that royal adjudication is somehow biased adjudication. We all know perfectly well that that is not the case and it has never been alleged to be the case in my time. We went over that in our first sitting.

I ask the noble and learned Lord whether the removal of the royal coat of arms has ever seriously been demanded, as part of the peace process or whatever one chooses to call it? If it has been, by whom and when? From the passage with which I have troubled the Committee, I do not have the impression that it has been. If that has become the Government's policy in the light of such a demand, what has that concession yielded in terms of a quid pro quo? My submission to the Committee is that principle and expedience demand that matters should be left as they stand. The review body has shown itself to be earnestly a good deal more sensitive than the sensitive.

Lord Rogan

Part 5 specifically deals with symbols and emblems. I am sure that Members of the Committee are aware of the fact that for many years in Northern Ireland, "symblems" have been important. As an aside, I believe that they are beginning to become important again in the rest of the kingdom, which I welcome.

I question why Part 5 should have been introduced into the Bill. Justice in Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the kingdom, is being delivered in the name of the Crown. Whether we like it or not, the symbol of the Crown is the royal coat of arms. I see no logic in removing the royal coat of arms from courthouses in any part of the kingdom.

I assume that the title of Part 5 is intended to give one an indication of what the clause is trying to achieve. The title of the first part of Part 5 is "Royal Arms and flags". I would have assumed that those provisions would maintain royal arms and flags but in fact Part 5 does exactly the opposite: it does not encourage the royal coat of arms and prohibits the use of arms in courthouses. The whole issue of royal arms and flags is indicative of and highlights the thrust of the Bill, which, we believe, runs against the Unionist ethos and tradition. We have a saying in Ulster that someone cannot be half pregnant: Part 5 is just that.

4.15 p.m.

Viscount Bridgeman

I shall take up the points raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew and the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, and not, I hope, in too simplistic a way. Almost transcending the importance of the royal coat of arms and its symbolism as such is the symbolism of the authority of the state in exercising justice. There can be few courthouses, if any, throughout the world where such a badge is not displayed on such a courthouse to distinguish it. The Belfast agreement, without question, recognises the authority of the United Kingdom as the realm in which Northern Ireland lies. For that reason, the symbol of the realm—or state, as some people would call it—is appropriate, and there can be no question that the proper symbol is the royal coat of arms. I support the amendment.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I support everything that has been said. I must also point out that the Government are, in any case, being totally inconsistent. They have, I am relieved to see, included the word "realm" in the oath. The word "realm" presupposes the monarch, surely, or at any rate the head of a state. I do not see why, if that has been done, it is suddenly so totally offensive to have the royal arms displayed, particularly as the people who are likely to object are, politically speaking, nationalists and wish for a united Ireland.

There are many people in the Catholic community who are happy with their allegiance to the Queen. They are happy with their membership of the United Kingdom and, as I said at an earlier sitting, they are happy to sign up as soldiers and policemen. We ought not to decide the matter in the context of a political free-for-all. There should not be a political aspect to the Bill: it should be about justice and the law.

Lord Laird

I agree with the Members of the Committee who have spoken clearly on the issue, and I support the amendments. I shall give one more—slightly different—view. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, the concept that we are discussing was not in the Belfast agreement. It goes much further than the agreement. The Committee should consider the position of those of us who have tried, with great political difficulty, to make something of the Belfast agreement from a Unionist perspective.

We know that large chunks of the Bill will come into being only after the next Assembly election and—if we read the signals right—only if there is a particular result in that election. They might not be brought in to being if the election of next year does not produce a particular set of circumstances. By continuing to act at the behest of Sinn Fein/IRA and moving the Belfast agreement in a direction that is suitable to them by changing it or making it flexible, the Government are undermining the position of those of us who have done our best and making it much more likely that the circumstances that would allow the earlier parts of the Bill to be implemented will not obtain. The situation after the next Assembly election will not be as the Government would like it to be.

Lord Hylton

It did not take many visits to Northern Ireland to convince me, as an Englishman, that symbolic issues were of the highest importance. I can see that royal coats of arms are highly symbolic; perhaps nothing is thought to be more symbolic. It is, indeed, a sacrifice to remove them, in some cases, or not to put them up, in other cases. Nevertheless, that sacrifice will be seen to be worthwhile if it avoids even one or two accused persons coming to court and refusing to accept the jurisdiction of that court.

The Belfast agreement has been mentioned during this Committee stage on this amendment. The agreement deferred the whole subject of criminal justice to a review, and the Bill we now have is the product of that review. I believe that a delicately balanced compromise has been achieved as the Bill emerged from the other place. It would be a great pity to undermine that compromise now, particularly in a Committee in which one Northern Ireland party is heavily represented and none of the others is. We might also run the risk of undermining the whole of the fruits of the criminal justice review, which is why I am not in sympathy with this group of amendments.

My final point is the precedent of the letterheads of government departments in Northern Ireland, which is another very symbolic matter. To my knowledge, they are always plain and do not have lions and unicorns all over them. That is a good precedent to follow.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

When the noble Lord uses the word "compromise", I suggest that he should be thinking in terms of the 1998 agreement, in which a compromise was something participated in by all the parties around the table. This is not a compromise; it is a form of diktat that interferes and changes the status of the compromise of 1998.

Lord Fitt

I have been provoked to take part in the debate by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, who said that one Northern Ireland party was heavily represented on this Committee, to the total exclusion of others. That is not the fault of that party. The reason why the SDLP or other nationalists are not sitting in this House is that they refuse to nominate anybody to come to this House. That is their fault. If they do not have anyone to put their case, the rest of the political members from Northern Ireland cannot be blamed.

As I have said so many times over so many years, without wishing to repeat myself, symbols are of the utmost importance in Northern Ireland. I remember sitting in the gallery in Stormont in 1953 when the Northern Ireland Unionist government promulgated the flags and emblems Bill, which was a total unionist concept to the exclusion of any other political or religious belief in Northern Ireland. They banned the flying of the tricolour, they banned the wearing of an Easter lily in the lapel of one's coat, they banned and made it a criminal offence for any show that was opposed to Unionism to be made available in Northern Ireland. One has only to look back in Hansard to see the great divisions that the promulgation of that Bill caused. I well remember being very bitter about it.

We are talking about the possibility of a defendant going into a court, seeing the royal coat of arms and saying that they do not agree with it. Most people in Northern Ireland, like most people throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, hardly ever notice the emblem that is on the wall. The only people who would seriously object have been Sinn Fein. In the 1950s and 1960s, before Sinn Fein took on their new political image, when any of their members were tried before a court for a terrorist or political offence they used to go into the courtroom and say, "I refuse to recognise the court". That is long before there was any question about symbols. It also made matters much easier for the Government, because if the defendant refused to recognise the court, the magistrate was compelled to sentence him right away without any defence being called on his behalf.

The symbol of the Crown in the courts in Northern Ireland has never been a divisive factor. Like many people, I wonder when the dialogue over the symbol came into the political arena. It was not brought in during the negotiations on the Good Friday agreement. The SDLP did not raise the matter of the royal coat of arms. It was Sinn Fein who did it, but not in the talks that led up to the promulgation of the Good Friday agreement; they did it at Weston Park or somewhere else.

What the Government have now taken up will he seen in Northern Ireland as a further concession. I know that my colleagues on the Government side of the House do not like me or anyone else continuously harping on to this word "concession", but it is the only word that can describe what the Government are doing in giving way to the demands of Sinn Fein/IRA. The SDLP were put in a position. They are the constitutional nationalist party, but they are in serious competition with Sinn Fein for votes at elections. They will be in even more serious contention with them come the Assembly elections next year. They do not want to diverge—or cannot be seen to be diverging—from Sinn Fein demands to an extent that may harm their electoral prospects.

I repeat the reason why I have taken part in this debate. The SDLP, which is the constitutional nationalist party, is not allegedly an extremist party.

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

I must interrupt the noble Lord. We have another Division in the Chamber. We will return in 10 minutes.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 4.27 to 4.38 p.m.]

Lord Fitt

I was about to conclude before we were called by a Division. On my way down to the Division I thought about the number of cases that come before the courts in Northern Ireland. There are drunks, wife beaters, robbers, people who break traffic regulations and a whole myriad others. I suggest that not many of those charged with such offences will object to the symbol in the court. Most people try to avoid going to any court, no matter what the symbol is above it. They want to try to keep out of court as much as they can. On the question of not recognising the court, I thought on my way here of an apocryphal story that was circulating in Northern Ireland some years ago. I have already alluded to the fact that there was a time when the IRA refused to recognise the courts. When a member of the IRA was charged and the charges were read out, the usual response was to say, "I don't recognise the court". That meant that he was sentenced.

The apocryphal story, which came out 30 or 40 years ago, was that a drunk was found lying in York Street in Belfast—an area that I know very well—at three o'clock in the morning, singing the "Soldier's Song" and shouting, "Up the Republic!". The policeman tried to quieten him but to no avail, and he was arrested and brought before the court. The court that he was brought to the next morning was different from the court that he had attended some months previously and it was in a state of disrepair. When he was brought into the new court, the policeman gave his evidence that he had been shouting, "Up the Republic!" and singing the "Soldier's Song". The magistrate asked the defendant what he had to say for himself. He said. "I don't recognise the court". The magistrate said, "That's a very strange plea for a simple charge of being drunk. What do you mean, you don't recognise the court?". He said, "Well, it's all changed and the seats are all different from the last time I was here!".

The serious point is that the Government will not be in a position to give us a definitive answer this evening. Who was it who first applied or made representations to the Government to have this clause in this Bill? Was it the SDLP? There are many people in Northern Ireland, and many Catholics, who voted for the SDLP, and they do not take offence at the royal coat of arms. They would be very annoyed if they found out that their political representative, the SDLP, had made forceful representations to have these provisions brought into effect.

We have to face the fact that that is a further concession to Sinn Fein's demands. I know the Government do not like that word, but it has to be used and used again; it cannot mean anything other than it does mean.

What does Sinn Fein have to offer in return for the Government making those demands? It will not engage in politics in Northern Ireland or play any significant part in bringing about the ideas in the Good Friday agreement. I know that what I am going to say inflames opinion on this side of the water but it has to be said and said again. Sinn Fein said, "If we don't get what we want, we may do another Canary Wharf. That is what is behind the Government's concessions.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said that he been provoked to speak by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and had not intended to do so. I rise to speak because of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. However, I hasten to say that he has encouraged rather than provoked me and I shall be briefer than the noble Lord.

In 1984, I attended the Commonwealth education Ministers' conference in Nicosia. The photograph of the conference was taken on the main steps of the president's residence in Nicosia, below the royal arms, which had persisted there for the 25 years since the settlement of the EOKA enosis crisis. It may have been that those royal arms had survived out of convenience; it is also possible that they had survived out of statesmanship.

In 1957, when Singapore became independent, in the post-independent mood of euphoria there was an effort to take down the statue of Stamford Raffles and to plough up or build over the cricket ground on the sea front. Lee Kwan Yew said, "We are a country of mixed race, a new state of mixed race, with 2–3 million people living in 219 square miles of marsh only a little above sea level. We are going to need every single piece of history we can find in order to keep this new society together. Stamford Raffles's statue will be taken down over my dead body and, provided that the cricket club is prepared to allow military parades on the outfield, it will be allowed to keep what must have become, apart from possibly the HAC ground, the most wealthy cricket ground in the world". That was unquestionably statesmanship.

Neither of those cases is the same as that which we are discussing today; I am the first to recognise that. However, the role of statesmanship is relevant. If the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is correct and the issue of the royal arms was introduced into the argument as a new counter at quite a late stage, statesmanship by the Government would be to allow the status quo, given the price that Northern Ireland may pay if the clause goes through without amendment.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

If the object of the legislation is to encourage trembling, reluctant nationalists to accept the presence of royal arms, 'we should remember that when Gerry Adams was asked, after the Omagh bombing, whether he would not say a word to indicate to his people that it was in order for witnesses to come forward—particularly as Sinn Fein/ IRA claimed that the atrocity had been carried out by dissidents—he replied, "No. We do not recognise British justice".

That has not changed, and we need only look at what happened over the police service. Every concession was made, but, in the end, Sinn Fein did not join the Policing Board and were not prepared—as the SDLP, I am glad to say, was—to say to the Catholic population, "Come forward, join, this is what we all want". On the contrary, they refused to do that, and their latest gesture—probably through another so-called dissident group—was to blow up a young recruit in his first week and to threaten his family. In the light of that, it is not much use treating this as a possible wonder move to secure the support of Sinn Fein.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

It is clear from our debate that it is a delicate and sensitive issue. To the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, I say that it is a question not of concessions but of how to mediate a way through to a long-term resolution with which both parts of the community will feel content.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said that it was a sad part of the Bill. I understand fully why he said that, but it will be a sad part of the Bill only if we make it so. The provision is only one of 300 that the review had to consider. It had to take a holistic approach because it knew, as we do, the prize that it wished to attain. If Members of the Committee examine the review report, they will find that the review took the advice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, and did not seek to mend that which was not broken. Where there was no need to make recommendations or do more than reiterate what the current state of affairs was, that is what the review did.

It is right, as all noble Lords have said, that emblems and symbols have always been a very sensitive issue in Northern Ireland. The review sought to help us craft a system for the future, once devolution has become a reality, an eventuality to which we all aspire. That was the goal. Because symbols and emblems are of huge significance, it was important that the issue was not left, as it could have been, to custom and practice. Custom and practice in Northern Ireland, similar in many ways to custom and practice in England and Wales, varies. Fifty per cent of the courthouses in Northern Ireland do not have the royal coat of arms outside. Noble Lords will know the history: the introduction of emblems and of the use of the coat of arms in courts occurred in the last century. It was not always so. The practice has evolved over a period of time. It is right that the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, should quote the Belfast agreement, and that the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, should say so too. However, this gives voice to what the Belfast agreement sought to do, because the review sought to implement the essence of that in relation to criminal justice.

On this issue, as on many others, the review group sought balance because, as the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass outlined, they understood the use and necessity for parity, so that both and all could feel part of what we hope will be a new beginning. This gives parity for Northern Ireland with England and Wales. It is important to remind ourselves what the review recommended. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, pointed out, the review said that there should be no change in the arrangements for displaying the royal coat of arms on the exterior of existing courthouses. However, in order to create an environment in which all those attending court can feel comfortable, we recommend that the interior of courtrooms should be free of any symbols. The members of the review group were not on a frolic of their own. They did not say that because they felt like it. They said it because, having consulted and spoken to all parties, they felt this was an appropriate way forward.

I hope Members of the Committee will agree that, overall, the review is a splendid piece of work for which the review group should be commended by us all, no matter on which side of the divide we stand. It was a very difficult thing to craft, and it is a splendid thing when we see that the dissonance between the parties is so small. We are talking not about the fundamentals hut, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, about the peripheral issues. I emphasise the word "peripheral". They are issues that do not go to the core or the essence of what we are seeking to achieve.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, mentioned the issue in relation to the judgment that was made by Mr Justice Kerr. That related to flags. Members of the Committee can see that it has been faithfully replicated in the proposed Bill. When it comes to these issues, the learned judge in that case sought to emphasise the importance of the Government seeking a sense of balance that accords due respect to both traditions. That is the aim of these clauses.

It is worth reminding ourselves that these principles underpin the provisions in Clause 65. The amendments would all move away from the balance that has been struck by the Government in implementing the review, albeit in two different ways. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, has not been here this afternoon to move his amendments, which went in entirely the other direction, seeking an aspiration of a total removal. That is the other side of the coin and the other part of the desire that is pursued here.

Members of the Committee will also remember that when this Bill originally came before the other place it provided for a prohibition on the display of royal arms in the interior of all courtrooms, on the exterior of existing courthouses where they are not already displayed and on the exterior of new courthouses first used after the section comes into force.

As a result of listening very carefully to the arguments that were made in the other place, we amended our view. The clause was amended on Report in the Commons to exempt a number of listed courthouses from the prohibition on the display of royal arms in courtrooms. The courts that are exempt are the Royal Courts of Justice, the Armagh, Banbridge, Magherafelt and Omagh courthouses and Courtroom No. 1 in Downpatrick.

That was an important concession because in the other place the Government were accused of architectural vandalism for seeking to remove these emblems. I should like to remind noble Lords of what the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said about the Republic of Ireland. He is right to say that in the Republic of Ireland, royal emblems and symbols remain in place in many buildings. What we seek to do in Northern Ireland will not be dissimilar in that regard to what already happens in the Republic of Ireland.

Those changes were made in order to reflect the sensitivities of the situation, and we think that they reflect them well. The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, with his usual acuity in relation to these matters, rightly points out that the Bill is silent in the placing of royal arms on the exterior of new courthouses. It follows therefore that there is no prohibition on so doing in the future. Whether royal arms are placed on the exterior of a new courthouse will be a decision taken in relation to each such new courthouse as and when the occasion arises. This reflects what happens in this regard at present where, as the review points out, past practice has not been wholly consistent.

I know that a number of noble Lords will point out that there are parts of the Bill that are internally inconsistent. I am new to this issue, but I hope that I will be forgiven for saying that that is the reality of Northern Ireland. In order to satisfy the people of Northern Ireland, occasionally one has to give a little in one direction and a little in another. That may appear inconsistent, but when put into practice, it can work well.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, is shaking his head. I know that his experience is far greater than mine, but we are seeking to craft something that will stand the test of time. The Government believe that they have the balance about right. I should like to reiterate the fact that the review tried valiantly—we believe that it succeeded—to strike a balance. This clause reflects that. As recommended by the review, it prohibits the display of royal arms within courtrooms with the exception of those courthouses that are architecturally or historically important. Royal arms will continue to be displayed on the exterior of existing courthouses where they are already displayed.

The Government are only too well aware of the sensitivities surrounding this issue. However, we feel that, along with the other recommendations, the review has got it about right.

I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, is anxious to speak.

Baroness O'Cathain

I am most grateful to the Minister. When she speaks of the reality of Northern Ireland and the need to please the people, which people of Northern Ireland is she trying to please? That is the problem here. This reeks of concession, concession, concession. So many people have given up a great deal in the interests of the agreement, yet all the time they are being asked to give up more. What are Sinn Fein/ IRA giving up?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

I would, of course, invite the noble Baroness to recall the amendments that were made in another place. They were made in order to satisfy what we thought to be the rights issues that were raised on behalf of a certain section of the people of Northern Ireland. It is a balance, and it is an attempt to mediate between two differing views that are strongly held and strongly advocated in Northern Ireland.

I come back to the review. As I said, this is only one among 300 recommendations made by the review team. One knows the sensitivity of the issue. If a recommendation could have been avoided, I am sure that it would have been. The Government think that the balance in the matter is about right, and I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

5 p.m.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I suggest to the Minister that she has left us in a worse position than we were in before we started our debate. In my home town, Dungannon, we had a courthouse in which the royal coat of arms was, in my recollection, displayed. I assure the Minister that I did not frequent the courthouse, but I believe that there was a coat of arms inside; there certainly was on the exterior. Will it be the case, going by precedent, that, as there was a coat of arms on the exterior of the previous courthouse, the new courthouse in Dungannon will fall within the criterion that entitles it to a coat of arms on its exterior? If that is intended, it could easily be enshrined in the legislation. It is unclear.

I shall share with the Committee another thought. I take deep offence when I see the Union flag flown from lamp-posts all over my former constituency and left exposed to the weather to fray and become little more than a rag. I do not like to see it treated like that. There are people of different aspirations from myself who feel equally strongly about the tricolour. When I went to groups of people and said, "Will you take these flags down? It is confrontational, and it does not help us in any way", the answer that I invariably got was, "If we don't fly the flag, our Government will not recognise us and will remove the last vestige of our British ness. Your agreement will leave us with nothing, and we will be British in name only". That is the dilemma, and the situation will be exacerbated by the clause.

The Committee will not divide on amendments, but I must give notice that the issue will not go away. We will return to it again and again.

Viscount Brookeborough

I shall pick up a couple of points with the Minister. She based her whole argument on balancing two differing views. She said that the amendments made in the Commons were made to create a balance and that she and the Government now believed that they had that balance. It is the sort of balance that we tend to see from people who cannot be totally aware of affairs in Northern Ireland.

The balance, if it is a balance, is one not only of a point of view, but also numerically of the number of people who hold either view—it can only be that. What the noble Baroness is trying to balance, which simply does not work, is that the vast majority of people—Roman Catholic, Protestant, ethnic minorities and those of no religion as we seem to include in some of the balances in Northern Ireland—have no objection to the present court system.

On the other side of her balance, the noble Baroness has those who object strongly, predominantly those who will not recognise the court whether it is there or not. Once it accepted that they will never accept the justice anyway, I suggest that the balance, on which she has based her argument, is not a balance in any possible interpretation of even-handedness, even weight, even numbers or even point of view.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I should like to pay tribute to the careful and extremely skilful way in which the noble Baroness has responded to the debate. We are entitled to take the words she has used and, in particular, the technical words she has used, in the knowledge that she appreciates their implications. She ended her speech as she began it, by saying that the Government are engaged in mediating. She knows that mediation takes place when both sides agree to abide by the result. Is there any indication that the Government have secured that agreement in response to this package, of which the question of royal arms is a part?

I shall pause for a moment while the noble Baroness takes instructions. Again, is there any indication that the outcome will be acceptance by Sinn Fein of the validity and the legitimacy of the justice system? Furthermore, is there any indication that the outcome will be acceptance and support on the part of Sinn Fein of the police service as a proper service for Northern Ireland? I very much hope that the answers will be yes. If there are any indications, I shall not press her to explain them. That may be too sensitive and too difficult. However, we are entitled to know, in the light of the assertion of mediation—which the noble Baroness cannot have intended to mean trying to find a middle way—whether there has been any indication that it will be accepted in the way that I have outlined.

The noble Baroness has properly referred us to the task of the review body, but she has implied that we must accept every item and every judgment they have made in producing what it hopes will be an acceptable package. But we have not done so. We are perfectly entitled to look at the justification on which that the review body claims to have founded each of their recommendations. Indeed, we have a duty to make our own assessment as regards its validity.

I drew the attention of the Committee to the passage at paragraph 8.61 in which the review body sets out the basis on which ultimately it founded its recommendation, we are conscious that the presence of the Royal Coat of Arms in a prominent position in the courtroom could be regarded by some as off-putting and inconsistent with the need for court proceedings to take place in a neutral environment". Perhaps I have failed, but I have tried to be as careful as the noble Baroness in her response to the Committee in identifying points of criticism in her argument. I do not believe that she found time to deal with these points in her reply. Perhaps she would consider doing so now.

Some people could find it off-putting. One does not want to be flippant about it, but are we really to suppose that, when asked to say anything in his own defence, a person will comment, "I had it in the front of my mind, but I have been put off by the damned royal coat of arms". That is not really a sensible notion.

I have suggested to the Committee and to the Government that, in the light of what rests on it, the review body made a remarkably flimsy and faint recommendation. I hope that the noble Baroness will allow us to make our own assessment of the validity of that which the review body itself identifies as justifying its ultimate recommendation and to ask whether something which will cause great affront—the removal of the royal coat of arms which has always been displayed inside courtrooms—makes the game worth the candle.

Here we have something which the review body itself comments is quite commonly overlooked, whose presence is described only as being capable of being off-putting or uncomfortable. Whether the game is really worth the candle; that is, to remove the coat of arms, with great resulting affront in the circumstances described by the review body, is highly debatable. I hope that the noble Baroness will look at this again.

I pay tribute to the Government for having moved in the other place. They found an architectural or cultural ground for doing so. That is all well and good, but they could perfectly well move a little further now. That would be entirely consistent with the Government's approach to finding a means by which people of Northern Ireland can be helped to live together in greater tranquillity together. That search will be aided greatly if they move in the direction suggested by the amendment of my noble friend.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

First, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, for his gracious compliments on my initial response. The noble and learned Lord is quite right to say that I did choose my words carefully. When he comes to read the transcript of our debate, he will find that I said, "Mediating a way forward"; that is, finding a route by which we can reach a resolution that suits us all. It was not a mediation between the parties, but a mediation of the route.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 5.12 to 5.22 pin.]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

I was replying to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew. Of course we accept that not every item that is recommended by the review would be accepted without question. Earlier, I made it clear that the Government took very seriously the review's recommendations. Where they found them to be sound, they complied with them or enforced them, but where they did not find that the evidence was made out they felt freer to go another way.

The body of the evidence heard by the review is not referred to in its entirety in the review; nor should it be. One does have the comfort of looking at Appendix A to the report, which sets out fully all those who provided written submissions or position papers to the review and the matters that they took into account. It would be fair to say that those consultations were very extensive indeed and, if I remember aright, they took some two years to undertake.

We know that the review looked carefully at this issue. The review group objective was to create an environment in which all those attending court could feel comfortable. We respectfully suggest that that was the right objective. In the light of the movement that the Government have made in this area, we think that that is significant because it reflects the essence of what the review recommended, although there was some adaptation to take into account the evidence culled from the consultation period. It is for that reason that we say that the recommendations are sound. I should also make it plain that those provisions will be subject to a commencement order—they will not have to await devolution but they will come into being relatively swiftly. I reiterate, however, that there is parity and that what happens in England and Wales will be reflected in what happens in Northern Ireland.

In relation to the court—the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, asked about Dungannon—there is no decision yet about what will be displayed in that court. That will take place nearer the time but the fact that the royal arms were previously on the outside of the court is obviously relevant to the decision. I emphasise, however, that no decision has yet been made.

Similarly, in England and Wales there is nothing written on whether and when emblems or symbols should be displayed outside or inside a court. So far as the outside of courthouses is concerned, however, the practice in England and Wales varies, as it does in Northern Ireland. A number of Members of the Committee have mentioned parity. I humbly suggest that there is parity in this regard. I hope that gives the noble Lord the sense of comfort that he wanted everyone to have.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My understanding is that the Minister has just said that there would be parity with the situation in England and Wales. However, in England and Wales, my experience is that the royal arms are to be found inside every court and that they are certainly not going to be ripped out.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

In England and Wales a decision is made about what is best in relation to each court. So far as the outside of new court buildings is concerned, that will be exactly the same for Northern Ireland. Decisions will be made judiciously in relation to each court and what is best in terms of the outside of the court building. I referred to that when answering the question of the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, on Dungannon.

Lord Glentoran

An hour and a half after we started this debate. I rise to wind up. Because we are in Committee, I will of course withdraw my amendment. Before doing so, however, I thank the Minister for her care and patience in handling our questions and contributions. I also thank all those who have taken part in this debate. The case has been made very strongly and soundly by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew. I do not feel able to follow him to any extent as an advocate.

I shall make two smaller points. I remind the noble Lord. Lord Hylton, that the Bill was not debated fully in another place. We have to be very cautious when referring to discussions that may or may not have taken place there. I confess that I do not know in detail—line by line —which parts of the Bill were debated and which were not.

I am definitely not convinced by the Minister's arguments, gallant though they were, for many reasons. In particular, the Government have changed their position as a result of the debate in the other place. My understanding, from what the Minister and others have said, is that the present position is that there is no need for a relevant provision in the Bill because there is no need for change. New courthouses will be built in reflection of the communities in which they are. The Minister told the Committee that some courthouses were built with coats of arms and others without them. The case has been well made that the amount of notice that is taken of the decoration and the coats of arms, either in or out, is so minimal that just to let the matter cool and not to raise it as a major political issue would be the prudent way forward. I do not believe that it is broken. The Government have not made the case that the situation is broken. The saying is, "If it's not broken, don't mend it". The system is not broken, and it does not need to be mended.

Finally, I am a little concerned about one aspect of it. If no new courthouses are allowed to carry the coat of arms, terrorists will feel encouraged to blow up courthouses that do, so that there will be a whitewash. That may be a cynical statement to make, but, unfortunately, in the world in which we live, that could, at some stage, become a reality, sadly. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 232A and 232B not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Lord Desai

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 233: Page 57, line 31, at end insert "or on the exterior of a courthouse The noble Lord said: First, I must apologise for not having been here. I thought we would have dealt with the matter by last evening. From what little I heard of the debate, I can say that, had I been here, a contrasting voice might have been heard. I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 233 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 234 to 236 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 65 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Glentoran

I give notice to the Committee that we will object to the passing of the clause on Report.

Clause 65 agreed to.

Clause 66 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 237 not moved.]

Clause 67 [Information about discharge and temporary release of prisoners]:

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 238: Page 59, line 21, leave out paragraph (c). The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 238 is a probing amendment. The clause deals with the concept of making information available to victims. We all accept that that should be done whenever possible and as fully as possible, apart from cases in which doing so might compromise the safety of the victim. However, subsection (8)(c) seems to give a loosely defined and wide power to the Secretary of State—after devolution, it will be the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister—to withhold that information. Can the Minister explain the Government's thinking on this? I beg to move.

Lord Hylton

Long before the Belfast agreement and long before the ceasefire, prisoners were released, sometimes on compassionate grounds, sometimes for Christmas or at other times of the year. As far as I know, it worked extremely well, without—I believe— relatives and next of kin being informed at all. Can the Minister throw any light on that? From where has the demand come that next of kin should be informed?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I shall deal with that point immediately before answering the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. A common criticism has been—rightly, in the opinion of many of us—that when people are released from prison either at the end of their sentence or on compassionate grounds, the victims and their family simply do not know. There was a notorious case with which I am extremely familiar in south Wales. A murderer was released and went back to live in his home village, but the widow of the murdered man did not know until she saw him. That is intolerable, and the pendulum has rightly shifted to the decent accommodation of those who have a reasonable right to know. I am in no doubt about the principle behind this.

As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran implied, we wanted to avoid detailed exceptions in the Bill. We want the flexibility to set out exceptions in the scheme. I will happily give some examples that inform our present thinking. The first relates to excluding cases in which the victim is not a natural person—a corporation or some body of that sort. Secondly, there may well be cases in which disclosure would be a contempt of court. Thirdly, the disclosure of the information might be contrary to the Human Rights Act, or, perhaps more significantly, the Data Protection Act. There might be some circumstances—I recognise that one has to put this delicately—in which giving the information might be a disproportionate interference with the rights of the prisoner. That is the sort of thinking we have and we would want the flexibility to develop over time.

Lord Glentoran

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that explanation and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 67 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 239 and 240 not moved.]

Clauses 68 to 70 agreed to.

Clause 71 [Local community safety partnerships]:

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 241: Page 60, line 37, leave out subsection (1). The noble Lord said: Is it necessary that this power should be given to the Secretary of State once again to divide up Northern Ireland into even smaller patches for the purposes of the community safety partnerships?

Clause 71 should not be in the Bill. It is here because of the political process; because of negotiations, wheeling and dealing, with the terrorists and with Sinn Fein/IRA. I submit as background that the Patten report and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act, refer to things called DPPs. Those district policing partnerships were to be set up and funded locally so that they were allowed to employ civilian-type heavies to help keep the peace.

During the debate on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill in another place, the right honourable Mr Peter Mandelson—then Secretary of State—decided, in his wisdom, to disallow the raising of funds by DPPs and others. That made the passage of that Bill a little easier. It downgraded the Bill as far as Sinn Fein were concerned and they did not like it, but he said that the Government would return to this issue at a later date. I believe this is the later date. The issue has resurfaced in the form of community safety partnerships and I believe that that is wrong.

I do not believe that this clause should be a part of the Bill. It opens the door wide to the distortion of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland by paramilitaries. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

This is a particularly important amendment addressing, dare I suggest, an issue that will come up again. Perhaps it will do so in a different form, but it will not go away.

I shall say a few words about the background to local community safety partnerships. Prior to the police Bill, we had a system that had been built up very slowly and meticulously within the community, and without a great deal of fuss. We had what were called the CPLCs, the community and police liaison committees. There were over 40 of those distributed throughout Northern Ireland, and perhaps even more. They were made up of groups of ordinary people who came together trying to understand the difficulties within their own communities, the difficulties faced by the police, and seeking to work out those difficulties in the common interest of everyone involved.

When we considered the police Bill, the CPLCs were completely ignored by Government. It was almost as though they repudiated the good work being done by the people. I name but one from the nationalist community, Monsignor Denis Faul. Over the years, while retaining his nationalist aspiration, he sought to understand the needs of both traditions within our community.

In so far as we have lost the CPLCs, I believe that we have taken a huge step backwards. We have been landed with police partnerships boards, which will be answerable or responsible to the Policing Board. They are the bodies within local areas of command that will seek to deal with policy issues on policing, and to consult with the community and the police. They are much more formal. Because of that, I think that they will find it a great deal more difficult to fulfil the role of the CPLCs.

Now we have developing—perhaps they might be seen as emanating from, or growing in parallel, or in place of the CPLCs—the local community safety partnerships. The great danger, of course, is that these LCSPs, as they will become known, will operate almost as autonomous bodies. They will not be tied, as I believe they must reasonably be tied, to the DPPs, the statutory policy and consultancy bodies in each local area of command.

I believe that the LCSPs could fulfil, in a practical sense, a very useful role. But I think that the PPBs will not have the opportunity to discuss the nuts and bolts of policing. I cite, for example, a factory having difficulty in protecting its workforce or suffering from attacks of vandalism; or perhaps how to deal with a disturbance in a specific street. All those would be useful roles and I would be the last to advocate that the community should not be involved directly with the police in terms of the day-to-day nuts and bolts of policing.

However, I fear that, as they are to be established under the Bill, the autonomous nature of local community safety partnerships will be hugely attractive to those groups with a very specific political agenda. They are not primarily interested in community issues, but rather in furthering their own political, perhaps subversive or pseudo-subversive, campaign aims. Therefore, as we move on to the next stage, it will become necessary to tighten up this area of the legislation. Nevertheless, I believe that the answer will be simply to conclude that we cannot have a totally separate body deciding on how areas are to be policed.

I refer specifically to "areas" because in the police Bill it was proposed that there should be a police partnership board for every district council area. That was promised by the Government, but the Government reneged on that promise in terms of Belfast where, because of pressure from Sinn Fein, they decided to chop the PPB into four, so that those predominantly in West Belfast, who are predominantly militant republicans represented by militant republicanism—by Sinn Fein/IRA—would have their own separate body to deal with the police.

I can see exactly the same kind of thing happening here. We have been told that the Secretary of State will be accountable as to what is to be an "area" for a local community safety partnership. I refer, for instance, to the rural and farming group of south Armagh. That is not its proper name; it has a very fine name that one might think would mean that it was concerned with the interests of the rural community. In reality it is a fairly one-sided, extreme campaigning group. Will the Secretary of State accord to that body the right to have a local community safety partnership? There will be very few people from the other tradition represented on that partnership, able to be on it or safe to be on it.

The reality is that, once again, the Government are manipulating the situation so that in fact they will overcome their own safeguards as far as the community as a whole is concerned. I repeat: they will overcome their own safeguards. That cannot be good legislation.

I conclude by saying that if in fact PPBs are primarily responsible for consultation and the implementation of policy overall, and if the Policing Board co-ordinates that policy, then at the subordinate level—I hope that it will be at the subordinate level—local community safety partnerships must be accountable through, and not working in conflict with, the PPBs.

5.45 pm
Viscount Brookeborough

First, I must declare an interest, because I am on the Policing Board in Northern Ireland. Secondly, I approve of the fact that this issue will come up on Report, when we can say more about it after listening to what is said here. Thirdly, I must apologise, because I have to go to another appointment, but I would like to come in on the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, that the partnerships could not be entirely independent. Looking at the situation in Great Britain, such partnerships are statutory in England and Wales and voluntary in Scotland and they work very well. Somebody has to look after safety, and they work well in that context.

It is interesting to see where they have gone. They have not remained entirely independent of other bodies within those areas. The initial intention was that they would be. A police research and management document from the summer of 1998 quotes the Local Government Association saying: Community safety is the concept of community-based action to inhibit and remedy the causes and consequences of criminal intimidatory and other related anti-social behaviour. Its purpose is to secure sustainable reduction in crime in local communities. Its approach is based on the formation of multi-agency partnerships between the public, private and voluntary sectors to formulate and introduce community-based measures against crime. That is a commonly used definition. It continues: Any community safety strategy that is worthy of the name will therefore impact upon every aspect of the way that a police organisation conducts its business. Operational strategies that address public order, crime, road policing, meeting public demand—which is what they will do after they have done their research—and so on, will inevitably be in support of the overarching community safety framework". Later it says, The positioning of the community safety strategy within the planning hierarchy, and the management of the process by which operational and functional strategies are interlink ed and integrated with it, becomes a vital consideration for police managers. We should not forget that safety partnerships and strategies work extremely well within the remainder of the United Kingdom, but they are not considered in total isolation from such equivalent bodies—or nearly equivalent, because they do not have the same powers—as the DPPs that we will have.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I am grateful to my noble kinsman on the other side of the committee room for having addressed the subject in the context of Great Britain, because I regard the amendment and the clause as extremely important.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis referred to the CPLCs. We took evidence from one such in the Select Committee report on the RUC in the last Parliament. In seeing them, one was comparing them with the police community liaison committees in one's own constituency. There were four in Westminster, so I had plenty with which to compare them. It was noticeable that in the context of Northern Ireland, paramilitary considerations, to which I do not propose to refer in my speech, were quite clearly affecting the working of the CPLC, which was from north Belfast, in a way that would not have applied to the very good committees that we had in my former constituency.

I do not want to talk about Sinn Fein or the paramilitaries, although I realise they may come into the debate at a later stage. I am concerned to establish by what means and process over the past two and a half years we have reached the point at which we now are. There seems to be a mild discontinuity in government policy. If I have misunderstood it, I am confident that the noble and learned Lord will correct me.

My first item is the remarks of the Secretary of State on 19th January 2000 on the Patten commission. He said, Patten proposed the creation of district policing partnership boards to provide an element of local accountability". He envisaged that they should have a primarily consultative role, with an ability to monitor police delivery against an agreed local plan; I endorse that. He also proposed an additional community safety role, with powers to purchase services on top of normal policing. The latter activity is currently being considered by the criminal justice review. Until decisions are taken on the review, which will be published shortly, I do not intend to extend the function in that way. It will be better, in any case, to concentrate initially on building up relationships at the local level, in what I propose to call district policing partnerships. I also intend to consider further the arrangements proposed for Belfast. I am not satisfied that it would be right to have four separate partnerships".—[Official Report, Commons, 19/1/00; cols. 846–71.] That was the matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, drew attention.

It was my impression from my noble kinsman, who has now left the Committee, that the DPPs are not yet operational. The Secretary of State, on Second Reading in January this year, referred to their role in the future rather than to something that was currently ongoing. As I said, the then Secretary of State suggested in January 2000 that it was important to, concentrate initially on building up relationships at the local level in what I propose to call district policing partnerships". I have to say that today is precisely 29 months since the Secretary of State made that remark. If establishing those relationships at the local level was of the importance that he attributed to it, the Government have not actually been hurrying to gain the advantage of it.

After 34 paragraphs of background and 10 paragraphs of analysis and argument, the Committee will recall that the Criminal Justice Review Group recommended that, rather than district policing partnerships, community safety and policing partnerships, chaired by local authority-elected members, should be established. That argument was developed.

I remark neutrally that the Government have, on a number of occasions in the course of the proceedings on this Bill in both Houses, used as their amulet what was said in the review. This is, of course, a case in which its recommendation has been discarded.

Recommendations on the Bill came out in March 2000 and the Bill became law in November 2000. There were five pages of very precise advice on what the DPPs were to consist of, which is contained in Schedule 3.

The fourth item is the implementation plan of November 2001—a month later—in which the Government stated their intentions. I realise that by only quoting a single sentence, I am not using the argument that led up to the word "accordingly". It stated: Accordingly, the Government believes that it would be premature to make firm decisions now on the future shape of local community safety arrangements". The fifth item is the statement by the Secretary of State on Second Reading in the House of Commons in January. He said: Another subject on which we have received a number of submissions is community safety. There was widespread support in the local government sector for a provision in the Bill to give councils clear statutory authority to undertake community safety work. I very much welcome the councils' intention to play an active role in community safety, which will contribute to reducing crime and the fear of crime in their localities. In order to facilitate that, I am minded, subject to consultation with the Northern Ireland Executive, to bring forward an amendment on those lines. The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 sets out the crucial role of the Policing Board in the development of district policing partnerships. It will have an important role to play in ensuring that the police contribute effectively to the partnerships necessary to deliver community safety. We do not envisage that the district policing partnerships will have the lead role in community safety, as that is not an issue for the police alone, and the other organisations which contribute to the delivery of community safety, such as housing and social services, are not included in the membership of those partnerships".—[Official Report, Commons, 21/1/02; col. 646.] I have to say that the Criminal Justice Review Group, in the 10 paragraphs that led up to its recommendation that these activities should in fact be conflated into a single one, dwelt on those considerations—and, incidentally, on the possibility of paramilitary activity.

The sixth item is the response of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in another place on 12th February to a debate on this subject. Again, I take only a single sentence. I realise the hazard, but I am trying to be brief. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary said: In the interim, community safety will be supported from the centre but that will be an interim measure. Detailed proposals will be set out in the draft community safety strategy to which I referred and which is referred to in the clause".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee F, 12/2/02; col. 371.] That is where we have got to, 29 months after the Secretary of State made his original comment on Patten in January 2000. I do not want to be cynical, but I must say that, in respect of the equality provisions, the Select Committee in the last Parliament had the greatest difficulty in getting decisions out of the Government on a several matters that related to Section 75. There was an embarrassing debate in Westminster Hall in which the Minister—in the previous government rather than the present one—was clearly adrift and astern of the agenda that the Select Committee had set.

It is also possible that the philosophy of Mr Micawber prevails and that people are waiting for something to turn up. I said that I would not refer to paramilitaries and Sinn Fein, and I have not. My reference to Mr Micawber was generic, rather than particular. The issue of community safety partnerships, however, is one of great importance. It was worth giving five pages of primary legislation to the district policing partnerships. I understand what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mr Browne, said about community safety being supported from the centre but on an interim measure and that, therefore, anything done on community safety would be done by order by the Secretary of State at a later date. However, the issue is sufficiently important that it ought to be dealt with in primary legislation. The delay—29 monthsx2014;means that we are not very far forward in getting that primary legislation.

6 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

That was an admirable speech. I direct the Committee's attention to subsection (3) and to subsection (7), which says: The Secretary of State may by order— (a) amend subsections (4) to (6)"— covering practically everything that the partnership will do— or (b) confer or impose on local community safety partnerships other functions relating to the enhancement of community safety in their areas". That would be a useful umbrella provision for removing or dissolving the DPPs and transferring what they do to these partnerships. As the Secretary of State—not for the first time—will nominate all the people, he will have immense power without any serious explanation of what it is for. The Bill states blithely, at subsection (4), that the partnerships must ascertain the issues, prepare plans, provide financial support, identify targets and goodness knows what else. However, the Secretary of State may, by order, amend those subsections or confer or impose on the partnerships other functions.

This part of the Bill is vague. It would be nice to see it a little more precise.

Lord Fitt

Over the many years that I have been in politics in Northern Ireland, I have noticed a great onrush of words and sentences into the political lexicon. I had never heard, until this Bill was published, of community safety. Safety from what? Safety for whom? I would like to see that analysed, so that we might know exactly what we are discussing. I have never heard of such a set-up in any civilised society. It must mean safety from the activities of paramilitaries, safety from those who would endanger people living within the area. The Secretary of State must devise a strategy for enhancing community safety. How is he going to do that? Who is he going to talk to about community safety in the given areas? He has to talk to people who live in that particular community. The communities we are thinking of now are readily identifiable. There is west Belfast, north Belfast, and now east Belfast and Crossmaglen—all areas where there has been very heavy political activity over the past number of years.

Who will speak for those areas? Who will elect the people there to act on whatever the committee for community safety may be? In Crossmaglen it will undoubtedly be pro-republican. In west Belfast it will undoubtedly be pro-republican. In the Short Strand area of Belfast it will be the Catholic republicans, and in east Belfast—the other side of the confrontational area we have seen this last week—it will be Unionist, UVF or UDA. So it will be the paramilitaries who will be talking about community safety.

Outside those areas, in the rural communities, I do not foresee any great difficulty because people are living together quite happily. I can see them cooperating to a great extent outside the paramilitary areas.

On looking at this, it immediately springs to my mind that Northern Ireland is one of the most over-governed areas in the United Kingdom. We have 108 Assembly Members and they are very happy with that Assembly going. If there is one success out of the peace process in Northern Ireland it is the 108 people who are getting salaries in the Assembly. They will do whatever they can—and I know many of them personally—to keep that going.

The next stratum is the councillors. There are six councillors and six Assembly Members for a constituency with 60,000 people. That makes 12 people. Then we have the forum, with another lot of people from that constituency. Now we are to set up another stratum of government called community safety committees. Who will finance them? It will be the Government, because I cannot see anyone else doing so, unless the paramilitaries are going to prove themselves to be extremely personal about the whole thing and finance their own activities. So here we have another stratum of government.

What all this boils down to is that not a single sentence of these provisions on community safety will become effective unless we have some success in policing those communities. That is the answer to the whole thing. If the paramilitaries decide to accept the Policing Board and their position on it and take an active part in enhancing community safety in those areas, this provision may work. If not and if the police are not acceptable in the areas that I have mentioned, it is a waste of time putting the provision into the Bill.

Lord Hylton

From what has already been said on this clause, there may well be a case for bringing together policing partnerships and safety partnerships, or even possibly going as far as merging them. I do not want to prejudge that issue.

In some ways Northern Ireland is an almost ideal place to work at crime prevention. By crime prevention I mean normal crime, not paramilitary crime, and associated anti-social behaviour. Yesterday I referred to my interest in NIACRO. We have done a great deal of work so far experimenting with local community groups directed towards preventing crime ever starting. This kind of work can begin with something as simple as a playgroup. It continues through something else that I have already mentioned; that is, truancy from school, suspension and eventually the exclusion of pupils. These are matters in which the local community can be extremely helpful, but it will need to have access to and responses from the statutory authorities. Therefore there is a correlation between local community development and statutory providers. That meshes in very closely with the whole idea and notion of civil society and active citizenship.

Baroness O'Cathain

If the calculations of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, are correct; that 12 people are required for a population of 60,000, then 320 people will be required to set up safety partnerships for a population of 1.6 million. Will it be possible to secure 320 men and women, good and true, prepared to spend all their time on these safety partnerships? I wonder whether the proposal will be feasible in its present form?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I must remind myself that I am replying to an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, which is perfectly precise. It states, "leave out subsection (1)". I do not wish to be disagreeable, but I ought to reply to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, to which, apart from the noble Lord, no one has spoken. I shall come to the wider issues, which in effect form a discussion on whether the clause should stand part of the Bill. We may as well have that discussion now as later. However, I ought to pay the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, the courtesy of dealing with his amendment.

The purpose of this power is to replicate, for those who live in Northern Ireland, the opportunity of the success—I am grateful for the tributes that have been paid—of the crime and disorder reduction partnerships in England and Wales. All Clause 71(1) does is allow the Secretary of State to base these partnerships on geographical areas of Northern Ireland. If the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, were to be carried, the Secretary of State would not have that power.

Being well informed, noble Lords will know that the Northern Ireland Executive has announced a review of public administration. There may well be significant changes made to existing roles and responsibilities, as well as a different structure relating to the delivery of services in Northern Ireland. It may affect the number of district councils. Because of that continuing review, this power is sought in the Bill to allow the Secretary of State to take account of any future structural and geographical changes. That is the only point of Clause 71(1).

I think that a certain amount of misapprehension has crept into this debate and possibly multiplied. I should say first to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, that the partnerships do not relate to several thousand people, but are to be made up of the statutory organisations responsible for the delivery of various different services. So one can cite examples like social services, health, education, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the police, probation and district councils. That is the kind of model that has worked well in England and Wales.

There is no suggestion here that the new bodies will control the police; they will not. Determination about how areas are policed is to be entirely a matter for the police. Because they deliver a public service, they ought to be represented on these partnerships on a statutory basis.

I turn now to one or two further specific replies, in particular in response to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, who asked two questions: community safety for whom and from whom? The concept is this. The safety of communities can be brought about if the organisations work co-operatively, because they have a common purpose, which is the reduction of crime and of the fear of crime. That involves not just criminal behaviour, but also anti-social behaviour, which, in my experience, is often much more distressing that actual crime to people who live in particular areas. They are both important if the duty of a government is to do their best to provide the opportunity for citizens to live peaceful and enjoyable lives in their own homes and communities. We are dealing with anti-social behaviour and with other factors that affect people's perceptions of safety. Very often, people fear crime when it does not affect them, but the fear does.

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, asked about consultations. The whole list is at Annex A in the consultative document, Creating a Safer Northern Ireland through Partnership, which was published in the spring of this year. I do not want to be too lengthy at this time of night, but the list of those consulted in Annex A includes the Belfast Education and Library Board, the Department for Education, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Extern, NIACRO, the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services Board, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the Northern Ireland Office, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Probation Board, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, Victim Support, Translink and the Youth Council for Northern Ireland. None of those, I think, could fairly be described as paramilitaries.

That is the sort of consultation that has gone on and the sort of model we hope to bring about—statutory organisations, designated to work in these local organisations. It is true that they will probably be called CSPs or LCSPs. That is the way of the world, I am afraid. At least they are not called KAFKAs, which I think the Lord Chancellor's department introduced in another context, despite my dire warnings that it would be Franz Kafka who would be thought of. However, nobody ever listens, so they have KAFKAs. I am just teasing my noble friend Lady Scotland. That is the purpose of it and I hope I have not been too lengthy in explaining things.

There is no suggestion of going out to find Bill or Ben—or Mrs Bill or Mrs Ben—who may have links with paramilitary organisations. I think that I can say to the unanimous approval of the Committee that these are all reputable organisations that have a vital, central part to play in the delivery of community safety.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for that explanation and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6. 15 p.m.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

moved Amendment No. 241A: Page 61, line 5, at end insert— () A person is disqualified from being a member of a community safety partnership if he has at any time been convicted in Northern Ireland or elsewhere of any offence and has had passed on him a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not). The noble Lord said: I very much take on board the very mild reprimand from the Lord Privy Seal that I strayed widely off the mark during the debate on the previous amendment. By way of excuse, I was trying to put that in context. He responded to this amendment during his response to the previous one, so he fully understands what I am about to say.

The amendment is designed to draw attention once again to the danger of undesirable people taking control of the local community safety partnerships—an issue that has been debated many times. I need say no more about that, because the Lord Privy Seal has responded on it.

The noble and learned Lord has responded with a great deal of faith and hope rather than with a huge amount of reassurance as far as I am concerned. However, I take his point. I wonder whether he has considered, as he listed the various agencies that would be participating in local community safety partnerships—housing executives and so on—whether greater amounts of money than he envisages might be channelled towards these LCSPs. Has he considered how that money is to be managed, how he is to ensure that it is not there to provide the opportunity for less desirable individuals to set up community safety patrols with people supplying cameras and so on? Those matters concern me—the looseness of the drafting concerns me; hence Amendment No. 241A. I do not need to explain it further. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis. I have tried to deal with the issue, which I know concerns him. We debated his principled objection at some length yesterday so I shall not weary the Committee, having given the Government's response yesterday, about whether or not paramilitaries, or those who have been convicted of particular offences, should be automatically excluded.

I simply reiterate, first, that I am not sure that that approach is needed. We are talking about organisations in these partnerships, not individuals. Secondly, there is the question of money, which is dealt with on page 61 of the Bill, where subsection (4)(d) allows a local community safety partnership to, provide any such financial or other support". Subsection (9) of the same clause empowers the Secretary of State to "make grants".

It is true that, in the nature of things, one will either be optimistic—although realistic at the same time-or intensely gloomy. If gloom is to be our only guide, then we are all wasting our time on the Bill. In the nature of things, if we are moving forward, there will be disappointments; nobody pretends differently. There will have been some disappointments in the experience in England and Wales but, by and large, the system has worked well and it is holding out the opportunity for a better life for everyone in Northern Ireland.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for those explanations and detailed responses. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Lord Maginnis

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 242: Page 61, line 34, leave out "may" and insert "shall The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 242 follows on from the debate that we have just had. The provision includes a requirement to publish a report on local community safety partnerships but it uses the word "may". It seems entirely appropriate, when new structures and organisations such as these are set up—I take what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said at face value—that we should be optimistic. We hope they will work but there will be hiccups. My amendment is appropriate. The provision should use the word "shall"—that provision should be forced on the partnership to deliver a report. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has concisely pointed out, this amendment, if accepted, would make the publications of all local community safety partnerships obligatory, not discretionary. We believe that those partnerships should operate in as open and transparent a manner as possible. The noble Lord's amendment improves that prospect and I happy to say that, at the appropriate time, I shall accept it.

Lord Glentoran

I wondered whether that day would come on this Bill! I thank the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am not sure of the technicalities—this is a novel experience. I am instructed by the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, that the amendment can be agreed to now.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 243 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 244: Page 61, line 40, leave out paragraph (b). The noble Lord said: Once again I criticise the extraordinarily wide powers that subsection (8) allows the Secretary of State. It allows the Secretary of State to specify bodies which must co-operate with the partnerships. Unless the Minister has already given us this information, which may be the case—if so, I apologise—my question is: what kind of bodies might the Secretary of State wish to specify? I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his courtesy. The answer is essentially what I indicated earlier. Because of the review of public administration, most people engaged in the review have come to the view that there are likely to be significantly different structures and potentially different changes of responsibility. All that is wished is that the flexibility should be allowed to the Secretary of State to add new functions and partners as appropriate, as issues develop.

There is the more fundamental question, of course, which is that as the partnerships develop and grow in confidence, it may be necessary to alter them simply to make them better. That is the flexibility that the Secretary of State is looking for. I have to say that the subcommittee of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee had no difficulty with this.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the Minister for that explanation. We had looked at the report before we came to Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 245 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 246: Page 62, line 3, at end insert "and Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 246 seems very appropriate to me in the context of subsection (8). Subsection (10) states: The Secretary of State must consult the First Minister and deputy First Minister before making an order under this section". It seems equally appropriate that, as well as the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, he should also consult the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. That would be logical and tie in—it is about safety. Policing and security clearly have a major role to play, particularly because paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (8) give quite a lot of scope. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I support the amendment. It is an excellent suggestion about the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and having someone who has an objective oversight of the entire Province. They should have the role that is envisaged in this amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I see the superficial attraction of this amendment. I do not mean that to be in any way disagreeable.

The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are in a different category. Plainly it is appropriate for the Secretary of State to discuss all the partners in community safety partnerships, and obviously the Chief Constable would be included in any consultation. He would not be singled out but would be one of the persons and organisations consulted in any event. I suggest that it is invidious simply to mention him rather than any one else.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness O'Cathain

Clause 70(4)(b) says that before devising or making alterations to a strategy, the Secretary of State must consult the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and then the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. If the Chief Constable is to be involved in devising the strategy, I would have thought that there was merit in getting him involved, along with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, under Clause 71(10).

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The difference is that Clause 70 deals with community safety strategy. Clause 71 deals with partnerships and their operation. Since the partnerships will contain many organisations, subsection (10) says that before the Secretary of State makes an order under Clause 71—not a decision under Clause 70—he has to consult the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. However, in the nature of things, any order that he makes under Clause 71 must inevitably affect the community safety partnerships. Therefore they would need to be consulted, as would the Chief Constable. My proposition is that it is unwise simply to select one consultee in Clause 71, where there are many potential consultees who ought to have their views addressed.

Baroness O'Cathain

To pursue the point for 30 seconds more, the community safety partnerships are the tactical end of the community safety strategy. I would have thought that the person who devised the strategy, along with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, should also be involved under Clause 71(10).

Lord Williams of Mostyn

He would be involved, but there is no necessity to specify him.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for that and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 71 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Glentoran

While we have heard some detailed explanations as to why Clause 71 should stand part of the Bill, there are a number of areas where the Government have not satisfied the Committee. These concern security, the amount of administration involved, the way in which the DPPs are to be tied into it and the total strategy into which it will fit. In particular the intervention by my noble friend Lord Brooke needs to be answered in more detail. It is therefore likely that we shall oppose Clause 71 on Report.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

The noble and learned Lord properly reprimanded me, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis.

Baroness O'Cathain

And me.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I appear to be in good company. It was based on a misunderstanding into which I was inadvertently led by another Member of the Committee. I apologise for having taken it in the wrong place.

I have a question, the answer to which I am happy to delay until Report. The implementation plan dealing with recommendation 196 of the criminal justice review is marked for further consideration with the NIO in the lead. Reading the remarks on Second Reading in the Commons, the remarks in the implementation plan and the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee in the House of Commons, it is not absolutely clear whether the Government have rejected for all time the bringing together of these two bodies at some stage in the future when they introduce primary legislation. Just as the noble Baroness drew our attention to the fact that it would be possible in the future to do something that is not prohibited in the Bill, I would be interested to know whether the Government have for all time ruled out that possibility on the wording of Schedule 3 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, or whether it is a subject on which they retain an open mind as the words "for further consideration" seem to imply.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am very grateful for the courtesy of the noble Lord. I shall draw together all the references which he kindly gave and write to him sooner rather than later, if that is acceptable.

Clause 71 agreed to.

Clauses 72 to 78 agreed to.

Clause 79 [Powers and duties of court security officers]:

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 247: Page 65, line 37, at end insert", or ( ) arrest any person in any court-house and must act in accordance with any general or specific instructions which have been given to him (whether orally or in writing) by a person in authority The noble Lord said: This is a minor amendment on a point of detail, but it seems to me that court security is vital. Court security in a country riddled by terrorism is even more vital. The court security officer has several powers, including the power to prevent someone from coming into the court, escorting a person out of the court and so on. It seems logical, and it might he necessary, for him also to have the power I suggest in my amendment in order to enable him to carry out the other activities with which he is charged. I beg to move.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

I think that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that an amendment in the terms he suggests is not necessary. The powers in Clause 79 are based on the powers of equivalent court security officers in England and Wales under Sections 77 and 78 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which do not contain provision for the power of arrest. We are not aware of any need being demonstrated for this power in England and Wales.

It is of course the case that court security officers have the power of arrest in relation to more serious offences under Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland)— Order 1989. Therefore we believe that court security officers have sufficient powers in the Bill to enable them to maintain order in the courtroom or surrounding court premises. In addition, the Bill already clearly provides that court security officers must act in accordance with instructions given by a person in authority.

It may be helpful if your Lordships were to cast an eye over Clause 79 concerning the extent of powers currently held by court security officers. They may search persons entering a courthouse and they may exclude or remove any person who refuses to permit such a search or who refuses to surrender an article which the court security officer reasonably believes may jeopardise the maintenance of order in the court. Furthermore, they exclude or remove any person from a courthouse, or to restrain any person in the courthouse, where such action is reasonably necessary to maintain order. In addition, court security officers have the power to detain a person misbehaving in court until the court has risen.

Of course it would be our expectation that if the need arose for the police to be called after the court security officer had discharged his extensive duties, then that would occur.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble Baroness for that explanation. It is because the security officer has those powers that I felt he also needed the power of arrest. Perhaps I was prompted to seek that power because a friend of mine who is a judge would hope to have—and indeed used to have—a policeman on duty in her court. Today, because of pressure on the police, it is often no longer possible for the police to be present in a court to support the security of the judges and the members of the legal profession who are represented there. If the Bill provided for the security officer to have the power of arrest, that would tidy things up a little. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 79 agreed to.

Clauses 80 and 81 agreed to.

Clause 82 [Reserved matters: new institutions]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 248: Page 67, line 2, at end insert— (za) in paragraph 9, after sub-paragraph (g) insert—", (h) local community safety partnerships.", The noble and learned Lord said: This is a technical amendment, the purpose of which is to add the local community safety partnerships to the list of organisations set out in Schedule 3 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The only effect is to make it possible for those partnerships to be devolved along with other criminal justice functions, once a decision has been taken to transfer responsibility for such matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly—and only then. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 82, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 83 and 84 agreed to.

Schedule 12 agreed to.

Clause 85 agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Repeals and revocations]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 249: Page 128, line 27, column 2, leave out "89(3), the words "10(4) or"" and insert "89(4), the words "9(4)," The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 249, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 250. The amendments derive from the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. That committee, to whose work we all pay tribute and careful attention, accepted that 16 powers contained in the Bill to amend this Bill or other legislation were an appropriate delegation. However, the committee said that there ought to be four changes in favour of an affirmative procedure.

The first is the Assembly's power to omit an office from those made subject to the Judicial Appointments Commission under Schedule 1 was of constitutional importance and ought to be subject to the affirmative procedure. The committee felt that any order removing an office from those in respect of which the oath must be taken or affirmation made merited similar affirmative procedure. The same applied to orders adding organisations to or omitting them from the list of organisations within the criminal justice inspectorate's remit. Finally, it was felt that affirmative procedure was appropriate for any decision to abolish the Court Service, because Parliament would wish to debate that.

We considered the report carefully, as always. The recommendations are persuasive, and the amendments give effect to those recommendations. I hope that that finds favour with the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I am sure that the Government's decision will be received with satisfaction. That was a rather gratuitous remark on my part.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 86 to 88 agreed to.

Clause 89 [Statutory rules]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 250: Page 69, line 34, leave out subsections (2) to (4) and insert— (2) An order containing provision made by virtue of section 2(2)(b) (whether or not together with other provision) shall be subject to affirmative resolution (within the meaning of section 41(4) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 (c. 33)). (3) An order containing provision made by virtue of section 2(2)(a) or (c) (whether or not together with other provision) which is not subject to affirmative resolution shall be subject to negative resolution (within the meaning of section 41(6) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 (c. 33)). (4) No order containing (whether or not together with other provision) provision made by virtue of section 9(4), 19(4)(b), 45(6)(a) or (b), 71(1), (3), (7) or (8) or 77 shall be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament. (5)The following instruments—

  1. (a) an order under section 10(4), 12(3), 19(4)(a) or (c), 28(2), 45(6)(c), 62(2), 71(2) or 84(2), Schedule 4 or paragraph 7(3) of Schedule 8, and
  2. (b) a scheme (or alterations to a scheme) under section 67,
shall, unless a draft has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament, be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament in the same manner as a statutory instrument: and section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 (c. 36) applies accordingly. On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 251: Page 69, line 42, after "84(2)" insert "or 86(1) The noble Lord said: I am a little nervous about this amendment at this stage, because it is technical. If I understand it correctly—and I hope that I do—it concerns the commencement of various parts of the Bill, which, as we know, can be brought into operation at different times when the Government think fit. I hope that this allows it to come before the House and to be prayed against and, to some extent, debated. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The amendment would require parliamentary scrutiny of the commencement of every provision in the Bill. That would be very unusual, although that is not necessarily a determinative argument, even in your Lordships' House. However, it would place a wholly disproportionate, unreal burden on Parliament and would delay the process of implementing the review. I pray in aid what I said on the last amendment, which was met with gratuitous acclaim. I am very sad that the former Attorney-General has fallen so much into poverty that he is now driven to making gratuitous remarks. I share his feeling of loss, as neither of us is at the Bar in practice any more.

We looked carefully at the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee's report. The committee said that we had got it wrong in four places, but was perfectly content with the rest. I am happy to follow that advice. The amendment would be exceptionally burdensome and rather counter-productive.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for that good-humoured response and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Dean of Harptree)

I apologise to the Committee. I should not have called that amendment because of pre-emption. I beg the Committee's pardon for wasting a little time.

Clause 89, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 90 to 92 agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

The Committee adjourned at twelve minutes before seven o'clock.