HL Deb 08 January 2003 vol 642 cc1-46GC

(First Day)

The Committee met at half-past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale)

Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard. The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in the Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. The Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and will resume after 10 minutes. In this connection, the Chairman's watch is always right even when it is wrong.

Title postponed.

Clause 1 [Consultation with Board]:

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 5, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: First, I apologise for my voice. I hope it will last for four hours. There are those who may, before the day is out, hope that it fails me.

When we debated the Bill at Second Reading, I was initially more than surprised at the lack of substantive responses from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams, who, in my short experience in your Lordships' House, has been the very epitome of courtesy, understanding and helpfulness. Yet, in retrospect, I think I understand the Minister's reluctance to attempt to counter the widespread objections that I and others voiced in respect of the Bill, and recognise how he may have felt constrained by more than the time considerations on that occasion.

The extent to which he was unable to give assurance that what is before us is not a softening-up process for the Government's Text for Consideration, which accompanied the Bill has caused me some considerable anxiety. I hope that before today is out he will reassure me that further clauses deriving from the Text for Consideration will not be introduced to the Bill at a later stage or in the other place.

This amendment to leave out Clause 1(1) addresses the issue of policing objectives as society as a whole requires them to be. It seeks to contest how Government seek to tailor them so that terrorists and their political acolytes can participate in a process that is alien to them and to which they are antagonistic. There is no doubt about that antagonism or the ongoing involvement in terrorism of the very people that the Bill is designed to accommodate. Indeed, a local paper states that the, IRA now holds enough guns for 1,500 terrorists".

I do not think that any of us are surprised by that revelation in the Sunday Independent of 29th December, nor by the fact that the people whom the Government are seeking to accommodate are involved in very serious racketeering and carrying out acts such as so-called punishment beatings against those—some of their own people; some business people in the Irish Republic—who fail to hand over millions— millions that no longer; I say at least this with some thankfulness, come as easily from America, following the 9/11 incident.

In his response to me on Second Reading, at column 508, the Minister told me why Surrey would not allow criminals on district policing partnerships or its police board: basically, because it did not have to. But that means simply that terrorism pays. In other words, the pressure coming from Sinn Fein/IRA is such that we have to—Surrey does not—admit criminals to our police board.

The great danger with the Bill is that it is not here for our consideration because society requires parliamentary debate on the matters that it addresses but because our Prime Minister has already reached an exclusive understanding with a terrorist fraternity and requires Parliament to accommodate that agreement. That is why we are here, but that is not democracy—it is effectively government by diktat. The Bill undermines the very fundamentals of democracy, of law and of order. It simply means that terrorism pays.

Lest the Committee think that I stray from my amendment, let me try to illustrate what the Bill does and so put the clause in context. The Bill comes to us in a form in which any particular element is difficult to recognise as fundamentally undermining the democratic process. It is cleverly structured, but prepares the way for erstwhile terrorists, or criminals, to be members of the police board. It would reduce the number of board members who can cause an inquiry to be held from 10—a majority of the board—to eight, which is a minority. It would also reduce and dilute the basis on which the Chief Constable can object to an inquiry being held or, crucially, on which sensitive information can or cannot be made available.

If we put those three things together, we find that the Bill opens the door to exploitation of the institutions that are intended to protect society by terrorists whose objective has been to destroy the very structure of that society.

One has to understand this cumulative effect of the Bill to be able to recognise that Clause 1(1) is but a device to relegate the professional opinion and the influence of the Chief Constable to below a level that can be virtually dictated by some people who we would not permit to sit on the committee of our local sports club.

Amendment No. 2 tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Smith of Clifton and Lord Shutt of Greetland, which we are shortly to debate, would ensure that this was to happen. But even without that amendment, there is no evident let out for the Secretary of State should be fail in his efforts to obtain agreement on long-term policing objectives. He is given the task of obtaining agreement but if we have this weighting of boards to permit terrorists, criminals and those associated with them to be part of the board; if we reduce the numbers of those people who are able to bring about inquiries, we open the door to a landslide of complaints and mischievousness that will have huge repercussions for ordinary members of society.

It is of little consolation to be told—I have no doubt that I shall be told—that the Secretary of State ultimately would have no alternative but to go ahead without agreement after having sought to obtain it, if that were not possible. But that brings us back to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 and forces me to ask why we change it. That is properly structured; this is not. If I am right that the Secretary of State would go ahead if he failed to obtain agreement, no doubt the Minister will enlighten me. But if he is able to go ahead in the final analysis, could that decision then not be dictated by what the Prime Minister might agree with Sinn Fein behind closed doors, as happened at Weston Park? That is the problem I have with this clause. The Prime Minister can once again, through diktat, decide what arrangement will be provided for the benefit of Sinn Fein rather than for society as a whole.

If Clause 1(1) stands as drafted and the influence of the Chief Constable is relegated to the status of others, as in the current Clause 1, the Secretary of State could be deemed to be without justification for decisions he may take. Perhaps I may illustrate the dangers in that. Where we relegate the professional opinion, we seek agreement from those who represent the lowest common denominator. What will society as a whole benefit from that? Sometimes we find that we begin to mend things that ain't broken. For example, Patten has set in motion a very expensive inquiry into the use of baton rounds. I do not know how long the exercise has been under way—no doubt the Minister can tell me—but it has achieved nothing conclusive. We are now hearing that in Northern Ireland the police can use water cannons for crowd control. In 1970, 1971 and 1972 that was frowned on. Water cannons were withdrawn in those years because they were allegedly indiscriminate.

Worse still, we are now contemplating issuing police in Northern Ireland with CS gas. Nothing could be more indiscriminate as a means of crowd control than CS gas. In the final analysis, those of us who have lived, worked and soldiered in Northern Ireland and worked with the police there know that for as long as there is disruption on our streets, for as long as there are those who orchestrate violence, there will be a need to use baton guns.

I do not intend to stray from the amendment but throughout today's proceedings it will be important to look at how each element of the Bill affects every other element of the Bill and how it undermines the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. We must endeavour to persuade the Government. I hope that we will get a more definitive and perhaps sympathetic answer from the noble and learned Lord when we come to conclusions on each element to be debated here today. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Rogan

I support the amendment. The aim of subsection (1) is to promote and elevate the role of the board above others in determining the long-term policing objectives. As the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, has said, the duty to determine the long-term objectives rested with the Secretary of State under the 2000 Act. That will remain so under this clause. However, the changes made in the clause will elevate the board above the Chief Constable in importance in determining the long-term objectives. Under the 2000 Act the Secretary of State is obliged to consult the board, the Chief Constable and any other persons he thinks appropriate. This clause will oblige the Secretary of State to consult the board with a view to obtaining its agreement and merely to consult the Chief Constable and any other person as before.

Lord Glentoran

I should like to make a couple of generalities with your Lordships' permission. After I started putting together the amendments I realised that this is a very difficult Bill to have in Grand Committee because it amends two Acts. Noble Lords from all parties, including the Government, have tabled amendments to amend a Bill that is designed to amend two Acts. I hope that noble Lords will agree that most of the arguments have been made strongly at one time or another, either during the passage of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 or during Second Reading of this Bill. It will be difficult to try to amend amendments without being able to divide on them.

The major amendments that I have tabled for today propose that certain clauses should not stand part of the Bill. An amendment that a clause should not stand part is worthless without a Division. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal spoke to me about that before our proceedings began afternoon. From our side, to use the phrase of my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew, I propose that we should just canter through some of those amendments, so that when we reach Report, we can deliver the arguments in, I hope, a fairly full Chamber, and have some meaningful Divisions. That is how I hope that we shall proceed.

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, also folds into how the Bill is structured. As I understand it, the essence of the Bill is to change the balance of power between the Secretary of State and the Policing Board, and between the Policing Board and the Chief Constable. As I said outside the Chamber to the noble and learned Lord and others, I have no argument in principle with most of the Bill, because my party would certainly like the judicial systems and so on of Northern Ireland to proceed in parallel with other parts of the United Kingdom. Most of what is contained in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000—and, indeed some of the amendments to it if they are included—would be acceptable to a county or metropolitan police force in the mainland of the United Kingdom.

However, the timing of this is wrong. When I first read the Bill, I felt that it should not be rushed through Parliament but given time because of the context into which it is being placed. Perhaps when the Bill was drafted, the context in Northern Ireland was different. We had devolved power, we had a devolved Government; it looked as though things were going reasonably well. Sadly, we have no devolution at present. Things do not look as if they are going well. We could be without devolved power for some time. It is in that context that I have drafted most of my amendments.

As we stand today, although I do not wish to be associated with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, said in his opening remarks, I support the principle of the amendment.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Perhaps I may briefly follow up on what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. We are doing something rather dangerous if we make a change from what was legislated only two years ago: the character of the obligation to consult.

First, when it is proposed to amend an established text, it is normal to be told what has gone wrong with the established text in an Act that necessitates a particularly early amendment. I hope that we shall hear that from the Minister.

I do not believe that this instance is any exception to that rule. The Government thought it sufficient in 2000 that the Secretary of State should merely consult the board, the Chief Constable and such other persons as he thought appropriate. It is hard to discern what can have occurred during the last couple of years to make that rubric less than satisfactory. Something must have, yet now this change is proposed. If the Secretary of State has a proposal for a long-term policing objective, it will still be good enough for the Chief Constable that he, the Chief Constable, is simply consulted. However, that is not so for the Policing Board, which has to be consulted with a view to obtaining its agreement.

I have two objections to this provision which the noble and learned Lord may be able to dispel, and I shall be pleased if he can. First, as has been said, this change has the character of one in the eye for the Chief Constable. I think it may be perceived as such by his service if not by him, and neither he nor his service seems to me to be in need at this juncture of a slight, or a perceived slight, of that character. If there is any meaning in the text of the amendment, and I question that, surely the Chief Constable will ask why consulting with him should not also be with a view to securing his agreement. The implication is that getting his agreement is of no consequence to the Government, so one can just go through the motions with him. In the regrettable atmosphere of Northern Ireland, that is how this change is liable to be interpreted. That is an unnecessary slight, unless I am missing a rationale which at present eludes me which I should have seen.

My second objection is that I cannot see what the new formula means. The Government do not go as far as to say that the board must be given a veto. That would be conferred by Amendment No. 2, which we shall discuss shortly, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Smith. They do not say that no determination or revision shall be made without the consent of the board. In effect, it seems to me that they are inviting Parliament to say that it must be run past the board in draft form to try to get its consent. If that is not the purpose, what is it? How far must they go? What movement, if any, must they be prepared to make? How are their efforts to be judged judicially if the sufficiency of their efforts were, in some case, to be challenged?

At present, it seems to me that this is gesture drafting, which is always liable to be a source of uncertainty and difficulty, and is made less desirable still in that for the Chief Constable it seems to be rather a rude gesture.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I should like to add one small point to the cogent points been made by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew and the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Surely, the Secretary of State is there because he represents what is still a part of the United Kingdom. If, for instance, the matter under discussion were a major decision affecting the Special Branch, the Policing Board might well have a totally parochial view, which would be probably heavily influenced by political considerations. The Secretary of State would have the wider knowledge that the changes being proposed could have a serious wider effect on the coverage of terrorism as it affects the whole of the United Kingdom. He could then tell the board. That is another reason why we have to resist this, because it is essentially parochial.

4 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

Having reminded myself that this is not Second Reading, I intend, if the Committee will forgive me, to stick to the point of the amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, made plain, they are an attempt to strike out the whole of Clause 1. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran alluded to that. It is, in a sense, a clause stand part debate, to which I have no objection.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, asked me—and I am deviating from my own rule—about. Surrey. Paragraph 11 of Schedule 2 to the Police Act 1996 contains a prohibition on a person being a member of a police authority—the rough equivalent of the board—if he or she has within five years before the date of appointment been convicted and had a prison sentence of three months or more. After that five-year period is gone, however, there is no disqualification on someone sitting on the police authority in Surrey.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, also asked me about the Text for Consideration. I believe that the Government have acted openly and honourably. We published the text at the first possible opportunity. I was able to discuss it with all noble Lords who were interested and the Secretary of State was party to the later discussions. The Government's position is that the Text for Consideration represents what we would seek to introduce only in the context of acts of completion. It is possible—I do not know and cannot say—that the clauses might be introduced in your Lordships' House, in which case we would have the opportunity to discuss them fully. It is possible—I do not know—that they may be introduced in the Commons, in which case they would come back to us and I assure your Lordships again that we would have the opportunity to discuss them fully.

The clause provides for a slight balancing of consultation. The law currently requires the Secretary of State to determine—and from time to time revise—long-term objectives for the policing of Northern Ireland. This is therefore a question of long-term objectives, not a question specifically of how one deals with Special Branch, to take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, says essentially that the time is wrong. That again is a matter of political judgment upon which we will each maintain our view and neither will convince the other by argument, whether rational or not. I think, with great respect to him, that he is wrong and we are doing it right. In any event, that goes to his approach to the whole of the Bill and not simply to Amendments Nos. 1 and 5 to which I am speaking.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked why we were doing this. It is for a number of reasons. The Updated Implementation Plan was published as long ago as August 2001. In Recommendations 10, 11 and 12, the Government made certain responses. Clause 1 is simply to attend to the response that was made—I repeat—as long ago as August 2001. There will be a slight change of balance. I do not think that anything has gone wrong with the board, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, suggested. It is settling well. My understanding—I defer to others if theirs is different—is that it is proving by and large a success. Clause I simply requires the Secretary of State to consult the board—which he has to do anyway—with a view to obtaining its agreement to the proposed objectives or revisions. I see nothing by way of slight to the Chief Constable there. The board is there as the properly constituted statutory authority with a division of statutory responsibilities between it and the Chief Constable. There is a danger sometimes of looking for bogeymen behind the wardrobe when there is not even a wardrobe.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I apologise to the Committee. I did not realise that I had a second bite of the cherry.

Lord Dubs

It is not a bite; it is a nibble.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I shall take that advice, however intentioned. I am disappointed by the noble and learned Lord's response but I do not believe that that will surprise him. However, at least he appears to have confirmed my fears that, at some stage during the Bill, we shall have something that will not have the benefit of a Second Reading or Committee stage debate but will be introduced at a later stage without debate.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I distinctly did not say that. I said the opposite. I said that I did not know how history would unfold. I said that I did not know whether amendments would be introduced here or in another place but that, if they were introduced here, we would have a full discussion. If they are introduced in the Commons, they will have to come back here for full Lords consideration of Commons amendments. I said specifically that I shall ensure that we have ample time to discuss these questions and, indeed, your Lordships are entitled to demand that.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I am grateful that the noble and learned Lord has clarified that. It is some comfort. But the idea that the Bill is designed exclusively for the benefit of Sinn Fein/IRA when that organisation is involved in terrorist activity and in spying operations at the very heart of government and when, in other words, it is not to be trusted, is, to me, an absolute and utter folly. However sceptical Members of the Committee may be on the whole issue of policing in Northern Ireland, it is not to be taken lightly that a society which has, at first hand on home ground, had to endure 30 years of terrorism should now be sold out.

Members of the Committee who will have known me in another place know that I am not a scaremonger or someone who tries to agitate beyond what is reasonable. But, on this occasion, I feel that there is an element of selling out and of sleight of hand. I believe that the way that we are now arriving at the third police Bill in four years is simply an incremental surrender to the threat of violence, if not violence itself.

At a time when the Government are talking in tough terms about how they will fight a war at international level—but not on home ground, we hope—against international terrorism, we should remember that those whom we seek to accommodate have had associations with every other terrorist group that one could name throughout the world, with gangsterism and with organised crime in America and elsewhere.

I do not want to intrude on the Committee's time by commenting further but I have to underline the fact that nothing I have heard reassures me that there is not an alternative. This is not complementary law; this is not to underpin law; this is to undermine it.

Baroness O'Cathain

I think the Bill has been drafted by people who are not necessarily going through the whole 30 years of history, but it seems reasonable to me. We have the Secretary of State, who is the chairman; a non-executive board and the chief executive. In any organisation when considering objectives—the big word in this clause is objectives and the revision of the objectives—it is always the duty of a board to set the objectives for the organisation and then to consult. However, the consultation is not after the objectives are set; it would be ongoing. I cannot see the Chief Constable not being able to talk to the Secretary of State, or indeed members of the board, during the whole process of considering whether the objectives which are originally in their strategy are right for the circumstances, which are always dynamically changing, or whether they should be revised. I do not think it is put into little compartments. In the interests of the long-term peace and stability in Northern Ireland it is better to try to have a loose relationship, but the board would always have to be consulted in order to agree the objectives. Am I wrong or am I wrong?

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

With respect, I think the noble Baroness is wrong on this issue. She alludes to putting things into compartments. The Act is structured in the way that she imagines. The amendments to that Act put things into compartments as she implies would be harmful. Long-term objectives have more to do with political than operational issues. They are concerned with the structuring of policing. The Chief Constable has to interpret those in an operational manner. It is wrong to use the analogy of a company. That is a different situation. The board is the representative, and one would hope the honourable representative; people with integrity representing the best interest of society.

Of course the Secretary of State will consult. The Act allows him to consult but he has to consult with a view to obtaining agreement. It places an onus on him that is unreasonable and politicises those within the board who are not meant to be there for political purposes, in the narrowest sense, but rather for the purpose of representing the interest of the community in relation to how the Chief Constable interprets the objectives and implements them in an operational sense. That is where the difficulties arise. We are putting into compartments the relationship between the various elements as has not occurred in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

Lord Rogan

May I say a few words? If we are going to use the analogy of a board of directors of a commercial company, let us assume for the moment that the Secretary of State is the chairman. The Policing Board contains the non-executives and the Chief Constable is the chief executive or, in American terms, the chief operational officer. It is perfectly reasonable that the chairman would consult with his non-executives to obtain agreement for proposed objectives, but those are wide objectives and not necessarily the operational nitty-gritty of the day-to-day running of the company. In the day-to-day running of the company, the chief executive—in this case, the Chief Constable—has primacy.

If this clause goes through, that primacy will be taken away. Not only will the Chief Constable not have that primacy, but in fact he will have a lesser role than the board—or the non-executives. That is what we object to.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Smith of Clifton moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 8, leave out from "shall" to "to" in line 9 and insert "obtain the agreement of the Board

The noble Lord said: My noble friends and I are strong supporters of the Policing Board. We believe that it has been working well. That is the view of the Oversight Commissioner, who highlighted several achievements of the board since its creation. We would like to strengthen this aspect of the board by this amendment.

The clause appears to be designed to increase the power of the board. If so, the clause is welcome. However, it is difficult to decide whether this will make a difference in practice. We therefore believe that there is a need for legislation to tease out the differences between consultation, on the one hand, and consultation with a view to obtaining agreement. Our amendment proposes a tighter formulation. It would place an obligation on the Secretary of State to get the agreement of the board before he or she set out changes in the long-term objectives or codes of practice. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am grateful for the noble Lord's commendation of the board, which I believe is well justified. I cannot accept these amendments, or anything like them, because they would not simply enhance the power of the board, but give it an absolute veto on long-term objectives and codes of practice, whatever the strength of the argument and the conviction that the Secretary of State had. I do not think that any responsible Secretary of State at this stage could contemplate that. On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I invite the noble and learned Lord to deal a little more fully with the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Smith, about the difference between consulting and consulting with a view to securing agreement. I asked that question in my own rather halting remarks earlier but I did not detect an answer. I gave one or two illustrations of the difficulty to which this sort of drafting seems to give rise.

If you are inviting a contrast to be made between consulting, and consulting with a view to securing agreement, then the question arises as to what movement is expected to be made, and how one judges whether sufficient attention has been paid to what Parliament will be taken to have intended. Could the Minister help me a little on that, and at the same time help the noble Lord, Lord Smith?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Certainly. It seems to me that undoubtedly consultation with a view to securing agreement has a different shade of nuance from simply consultation. It is right, as the noble Lord, Lord Smith says, that this is a modest enhancement of the board's significance and authority. That is why we have done it, pursuant to our undertaking in August 2001.

Lord Smith of Clifton

Having heard what the noble and learned Lord said, we may reflect on this matter before Report. However, at this moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 3: Page 1, line 8, leave out from "Board" to end of line 9.

The noble Lord said: This amendment concerns the same topic as that of the previous two amendments but, in fact, it seeks to do the opposite of what the noble Lord, Lord Smith, attempted to achieve in Amendment No. 2. The argument about the difficulties in obtaining agreement was made extremely well by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew. I believe that the wording of that amendment was not helpful and my opening remarks follow on from that.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal said that the board is working well. I agree that it is working well but it is not complete—Members of the Committee will be aware that the problem children are not part of it. Therefore, we should not make a judgment as to whether it is or is not working well.

Another point that is sometimes forgotten is that we have 13,000 soldiers or thereabouts in Northern Ireland, who, led by their general, are in support of the civil power. As I understand it, beside the Secretary of State, who is the commander-in-chief, so to speak, come the Chief Constable and the Policing Board. Then come the general and the soldiers. The Policing Board and the Chief Constable are, on paper at least, in control of a serious and significant security force. When we start to mess about with the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 and spread powers down from the commander-in-chief—that is, the Secretary of State—into a Policing Board which is incomplete and then to a Chief Constable, I believe that at this stage we are on dangerous ground. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, rightly says that this amendment returns us to the earlier argument. The consequence of his amendment would be that the 2000 Act would remain unamended. Therefore, he is seeking the same objective by a different course. For the reasons that I have already outlined, that is not what we have undertaken to do and, therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for that and we shall await Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 4: Page 1, line 14, at end insert— (2B) Nothing in subsection (2) above shall prevent the Secretary of State from determining or revising objectives under this section."

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8. These two amendments seek to make perfectly clear that the executive power of the Secretary of State is to remain unfettered. The Policing Board should not be given additional powers because a government of any hue have abdicated their responsibility.

The purpose of long-term objectives is more political than operational, and submissions from the Chief Constable and the board should be of an operational and/or a feasibility nature. Enhancing the role of the board to that of a near partner involves it in the more political aspect of policing. These areas have not been devolved and this matter should not be effected by the back door. It is not consistent with Patten. Paragraph 6.3 of the Patten report states, the statutory primary function of the Policing Board should be to hold the Chief Constable and the police service publicly to account".

Paragraph 6.4 and the recommendation in paragraph 6.5 note the role of the board concerning objectives and priorities but not in setting long-term objectives. Indeed, it was in the 2000 Commons Committee Debate, where a member of the SDLP stated and first introduced the term "long term" into this section, in order to be consistent with Patten. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

These amendments are not necessary. They add nothing. Should be fail to reach agreement, the Secretary of State has the powers intact. On the basis of that assurance I hope noble Lords will withdraw the amendment. Incidentally, I remind myself that in Patten—the report, not the implementation document—paragraph 6.5 recommends that the Policing Board should set objectives and priorities for policing.

Lord Rogan

With those assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 8 not moved.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Board's policing objectives]:

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 9, leave out subsection (2).

The noble lord said: Here, there appears to be an absolute and total anomaly in so far as the board has a responsibility to determine and from time to time may revise objectives for policing in Northern Ireland. But those objectives in the Act were intended to be framed in such a way as to be consistent with the objectives brought forward by the Secretary of State. Now, with the removal of the part which states, but in any event shall be so framed as to be consistent with the objectives",

there is almost legal permission for the board's objectives to be at variance with those of the Secretary of State. Yet we have just debated the extent to which the Secretary of State, in determining his objectives, has to seek agreement or attempt to achieve agreement, with the board.

So what is this provision intended to achieve? Once again, it appears to be simply a removing of qualifications in such a way as will ultimately please those who have no real interest in the welfare of society or the policing of Northern Ireland. I would have thought that consistency would have been commendable rather than that that should be removed. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

It is probably appropriate that I speak now to my opposition to Clause 2 stand part because effectively that would achieve the same thing as the amendment currently under discussion.

Under Section 25 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 the Policing Board is required to frame its policing objectives to be consistent with the long-term objectives of the Secretary of State. Under Clause 2, the board will merely have to take account of the Secretary of State's long-term objectives. This represents another example of the Secretary of State's authority being eroded at the expense of the board. I cannot help but think that this is a political concession. It is a concession that at any time we could regret, again harping back to my original statements about timing and the general situation in Northern Ireland today. Now is not the time to start messing about with the powers of the Secretary of State in regard to the security of the Province and the people who live in it.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Perhaps I may revert to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis. I too find it difficult to understand why something that was considered appropriate two years ago, after a good deal of thought, is now apparently in need of amendment. The noble and learned Lord reassured us on the previous amendment about the Secretary of State's residual power to make long-term policing objectives. What is the point of the Secretary of State being able to do that if the board can make objectives stick that are inconsistent with them? It is extraordinarily difficult to understand. I am prepared to believe that there is some background material that I have failed to observe, but I would not be alone in benefiting from an explanation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I shall respond to all three of your Lordships who have contributed. I do not disagree with the result which has been outlined by those who have spoken.

The amendment would require the Policing Board to take account of the Secretary of State's long-term policing objectives set under Section 24. This is a change from the existing provision, which requires the board's objectives to be consistent with the Secretary of State's. I accept the comment made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, that this is a tilting of the balance. It would be wrong of me to suggest otherwise. It is a tilting of the balance in favour of the board, within the tripartite-type relationship. Again I go back to the noble and learned Lord's question. Why, after such a brief period since the passage of the 2000 Act, are we returning to this? The answer is that the board is in position. It is quite right, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, that not everyone is aboard—no pun intended. It is working well. It will give additional authority to the board.

That is essentially a judgment. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, thinks that the judgment has been made too early. I have to disagree. We are not in disagreement about what will be brought about. The question is whether it should be brought about at all, and if so, whether it should be brought about now. Essentially, that is the judgment we have had to make.

Lord Glentoran

Perhaps I may add one thing. Looking forward, we are not just balancing the Secretary of State with the board. As I understand it, in the case of full devolution, the Secretary of State will be replaced by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. Perhaps the Committee should bear that in mind when making judgments about this topic.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I have listened with care to the noble and learned Lord's characteristically lucid explanation, but I have found myself unable as yet to see an answer to my question. What is the point of the Secretary of State having this residual power, unaffected by anything that we have been discussing so far, to determine a long-term policing objective, when we are amending the law as it is at present—and has been only for the last two years—to allow the board itself to adopt a policing objective that is inconsistent with that? I know that it no longer has to be consistent but it follows from that that it may be inconsistent. That is fraught with future difficulties. Which is to prevail? What is to be the Secretary of State's attitude to the fulfilment of an objective arrived at by the board that is inconsistent with a long-term objective that he himself has made—having sought agreement but failed to get it?

When we pointed out the difficulties of interpreting what is meant by "with a view" to securing agreement, the noble and learned Lord said that, at the end of the day, the Secretary of State will be able to go ahead notwithstanding the fact that he did not get agreement. In practice, how will that work? How is the Secretary of State expected to respond in his executive capacity to steps being taken by the board to secure the fulfilment of an objective that is inconsistent with his long-term policing objective? Does not the noble and learned Lord see potential for real future difficulty here? I can see why it may be thought necessary to make a balance, shift, nuance, or whatever—the board may feel happier and there may be long-term political objectives to secure that—but the board should not be indulged at the expense of the future difficulty that I have tried to outline.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The current Act defines two different types of objective. Section 24(1) states: The Secretary of State may determine … long-term objectives for the policing of Northern Ireland". The analogy made by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, is not entirely misplaced. The Secretary of State sets the long-term policing objectives. The board has then to determine—and, it may be, devise—objectives for the policing of Northern Ireland. So the two are not exactly the same. I respectfully repeat that the amendment would mean that the Policing Board would have to take account of those long-term—one may call them strategic—objectives when it functions on an annual and day-to-day basis.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Glentoran

I have given notice that we oppose the Motion that the clause should stand part of the Bill, but we cannot take any action on that today, so I pass.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Public meetings of the Board]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 10: Page 2, line 13, leave out "Paragraph 19" and insert "In paragraph 19(2)

The noble and learned Lord said: I ought to have said earlier that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, abundantly explained to me his stance, which was that he reserved all his ammunition and all his subsequent positions on clause stand part. We all respect that.

Amendments Nos. 10, 11, 14 and 15 are minor amendments to correct an error in the original drafting. As originally drafted, the transitional provisions in Clause 3(4) were applied to the whole clause. It is not appropriate for them to apply to Clause 3(3), because that requirement does not operate by reference to a year. These rather esoteric amendments are simply to correct errors of drafting. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 11: Page 2, line 14, leave out from "Board)" to "for" in line 15.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Smith of Clifton moved Amendment No. 12: Page 2, line 15, leave out "eight" and insert "twelve

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment. We wonder why there is to be this reduction in the number of meetings of the Policing Board. After all, the Patten report recommended that, The Policing Board should meet in public once a month to receive a report from the Chief Constable".

The 2000 Act stipulated 10 times a year but the Bill will reduce that to eight times a year. The reduction of the number of public meetings that the board must hold each year is a clear departure from Patten. That is a retrograde step in transparency and public accountability. Nothing in the revised implementation plan, nor the public part of the Weston Park agreement, indicated that that departure was envisaged. We simply ask the Government to explain why they feel that that reduction in the number of public meetings is desirable. I beg to move.

Lord Rogan

I shall speak not only to Amendment No. 12 but to Amendment No. 13, which is similar. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, alluded to the fact that the 2000 Act provided for a minimum of 10 public meetings of the Policing Board in any given year. The Bill will reduce that figure to eight. However, it also removes a paragraph in the 2000 Act that prevents a meeting being held within 28 days of a previous meeting. It therefore removes a de facto maximum of about 12 per year. Patten recommendation 34, in paragraph 3.6, recommended that public meetings be held once per month. The clause is inconsistent with that recommendation. My amendment, Amendment No. 13, would provide flexibility to the board by not prohibiting more frequent meetings, yet provide protection to the Chief Constable not to be obliged to report to the board too frequently—for example, on a weekly or, indeed, daily basis.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am most grateful. I shall respond, if I may, to both Amendments Nos. 12 and 13. I must say that the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, are perfectly reasonable and it is legitimate to require an explanation. This change has been made at the specific request of the Policing Board. It wants greater flexibility about when it can hold meetings. On the noble Lord's point about accountability and transparency, I underline that the provision is simply a minimum requirement. To give only one example, there were occasions when the board was dealing with the problems of Omagh last year when it was difficult to have public meetings. In fact, there was no public meeting in either January or February. So the board is settling in well. It made the request for more flexibility

. That is also my answer to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, on Amendment No. 13. Again, the board wanted more flexibility in the management of its business, which may well mean that it will be able to meet more frequently in public if it chooses, because the 28-day limit will not obtain. I hope that that is considered to be a helpful response to Amendments Nos. 12 and 13. Those are the reasons.

Lord Smith of Clifton

In view of what the Minister said, I am reassured, but I very much hope that the board does not regress to holding merely eight meetings a year. Because it has requested this amendment, we must assume that it is acting in good faith, but there will of course be other boards in future. We may have to reconsider this question if it drops to the minimum of eight meetings a year. However, in the light of what the Minister said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

In calling Amendment No. 13, I should inform the Committee that, if it is agreed to, I cannot call government Amendment No. 14.

Lord Rogan had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 13: Page 2, line 16, leave out subsection (3) and insert— (3) In sub-paragraph (3) for "28" substitute "14".

The noble Lord said: In view of the response from the Lord Privy Seal, I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 14 and 15: Page 2, line 16, leave out "Sub-paragraph (3)" and insert "Paragraph 19(3) of Schedule 1 to that Act Page 2, line 17, leave out "Subsections (1) to (3) have" and insert "Subsection (1) has

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [Funding for pension purposes]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 16: Page 3, line 27, after "77" insert "(1)

The noble and learned Lord said: This is also to cure a drafting error. The clause separates the grant for police pension purposes from the rest of the grant for police purposes, which is a necessary first step to allow the board and the Chief Constable to draw up separate accounts for police officers' pensions and for other police purposes. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Accounts and audit]:

4.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 17: Page 3, line 43, leave out "Service of Northern Ireland

The noble and learned Lord said: This, again, is a corrective amendment. The RUC fund is now called the Police Fund and not the PSNI Fund and therefore this is to correct that error. For the avoidance of further confusion, the police fund here is not the same as the non-statutory police fund chaired by Sir John Semple. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Reports of Chief Constable]:

On Question, Whether Clause 8 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Glentoran

The discussion and debate concerning whether Clause 8 should stand part of the Bill is very similar to that relating to Clause 9. I will briefly go through the arguments here.

This is perhaps the most serious error in the Bill, if I may be polite and put it like that. It seriously reduces the power of the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable. It restricts the grounds on which the Chief Constable can refer requests for a report to the Secretary of State. It leaves out the provision—and this is the important part—that the Chief Constable can refer a request for a report to the Secretary of State if it would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders. I submit that this is direct interference in the operational powers. We will probably have a longer debate on Report but I give strong notice to the Government that we, in this party on this side of the House, wish to see that re-included in the Bill by dropping these clauses.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I want to add a few words in support of what my noble friend has just said. It is important to bear in mind that the 2000 Act does not give the Chief Constable a veto in any dispute between himself and the board over whether a report on a matter specified by the board should be made. It gives him the power to refer that dispute or issue to the Secretary of State provided that the issue arises where the Chief Constable has demurred from providing the specified report on one of the four grounds identified by my noble friend.

I agree that this has a bearing upon the constitutional doctrine of the operational independence of a chief officer of police. For many years I have regarded that doctrine as one of profound importance to the rule of law in any democracy. It is of special importance in Northern Ireland because, if one is frank, it was honoured more in the breach than in the observance before direct rule was imposed some 30 years ago. There is particular sensitivity in consequence of that in Northern Ireland. It is important that no perception should be encouraged that it is in any way being trenched upon.

Of those four grounds in the 2000 Act, three will continue to be present in the Bill as amended by this rather complex drafting and one will have been lost. It is worth seeing that they all have the same character.

The prevention of crime falls slap within the operational responsibility of the Chief Constable. The same applies to the detection of crime and the apprehension of offenders. Is there anything about the prosecution of offenders that is different? There is not. They all share the same character. They come within Section 59(3)(d) of the 2000 Act, the fourth group, and the one which is now to be removed. They share the same character as the matters identified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of that section.

I suggest that here we have an important matter. One wonders why, again within two years, this change is being sought. Given the sensitivity to which I have alluded, it seems to be particularly important to remember that at present the law does not give the Chief Constable a veto; it merely gives him the power to refer the matter to the Secretary of State. It is that power which is being taken away and which I believe is dangerous. There may be a good explanation which eludes me at present. However, I hope for a persuasive reply from the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I understand entirely the attitude that has been expressed by both noble Lords who have spoken. It may be convenient if we discuss this particular issue in detail when we come to Clause 19 because that clause will provide the new Section 76A. I am not ducking the issue because we need to examine this. However, in a curious way we will have a better opportunity when discussing Clause 19 than at this stage.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for that reply. As he pointed out, Clause 19 is very much part of this debate. It seems perfectly reasonable that we should have a full and interesting debate when we come to that clause.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Approval of proposals relating to inquiries by Board]:

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 18: Page 6, line 41, leave out "subsections (2) and" and insert "subsection

The noble Lord said: This clause concerns the number of members voting who can cause an inquiry. Again, I apologise to Members of the Committee as I am feeling decidedly unwell. I hope that they will forgive me and that they can hear what I have to say.

Essentially, the clause makes it easier for the board to cause an inquiry under the 2000 Act. The number of members currently required is 10 out of a board of 19. The clause would require only eight members to cause an inquiry and, in some respects, it turns a minority into a majority.

This issue was visited in Committee in the Commons during the passage of the Bill in 2000, and it is worth noting that the first copy of the Bill required that 12 members would be necessary to cause an inquiry. However, during the passage of the Bill the number was amended from 12 to 10 in order to placate the SDLP. In responding to Seamus Mallon on that occasion, Adam Ingram said the Secretary of State had already accepted that the number of members required to support an inquiry should be lower than the figure of 12, as given in the Bill.

I said earlier that I was minded to move to a majority of board members voting for an inquiry, whatever the size of the board. Then, Adam Ingram illustrated that if there were 19 members of the board, the figure would be 10; if there were 15 members, it would be eight; and so on. Any variation of that would apply only if there were direct rule. He said that he failed to understand why the honourable member for Newry and Armagh did not accept the reasonable proposition that for an inquiry to be triggered, a majority of board members should want it. It would be, in the words of Patten, an extreme measure, so it was not unreasonable to expect the majority to be convinced of the merits of an inquiry before it was triggered. That is the working premise on which this approach has been developed. Those are important words concerning the idea that an inquiry is an extreme measure. I believe that they should be dwelt on at some length.

Let us look at what is likely to happen if we reduce the number not from 12 to 10, as happened in the 2000 Act, but from 10 to eight. There will be a greater likelihood that inquiries will be called for trivial, provocative or malicious reasons merely as a hindrance.

Adam Ingram said that, given that Patten—we are trying to be true to Patten—referred to the power of an inquiry as an extreme measure, there can be nothing unsound in persuading a majority of the board to hold such an inquiry. What has changed? What is the reason? Again and again, I hear noble Lords ask the Minister what has changed. I do not hear any convincing answer that things have changed so radically that we need to have a root-and-branch tinkering of the 2000 Act.

Hence, I return to the point I made at the outset; that is, that this Government are prepared to do anything, however irrational that may be, however much that may contradict their original position in terms of policing, to ensure that those who are actively or passively associated with terrorism, whether they be Sinn Fein, IRA or both, become eligible to sit on the Policing Board. Amendments Nos. 18 to 22 run together. Amendment No. 18 simply opposes the clause standing part of the Bill. As I said, the number of members required has already been reduced and this would be the second reduction in two years. The other amendments seek to make it a little more difficult to cause an inquiry and they are in line with Patten.

The Minister must tell us why he believes, or the Government believe, that when it is convenient for the Government and whatever arrangements they made at Weston Park, we can deviate from Patten but when others suggest that Patten is less than adequate, we are told that no changes can be made. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

I have been looking at the numbers here and it seems that the amendment proposed cannot be right. This affects the number required for a quorum. For example, where the quorum with fewer than 16 members is 10, it is now suggested that there should be six required members. It was eight, but now it is suggested there should be nine. The idea that somehow, with as few as 10 members in a quorum of nine must agree and if there are only eight a resolution cannot go forward, does not seem to be right in any form of democracy. Therefore, I do not feel able to support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis.

Lord Rogan

In seeking to tease why these clauses are required, perhaps I may ask the Minister two or three questions. How many inquiries have been ordered since the board became effective? How many inquiries have failed to be ordered because the vote was insufficient? Finally, where would this change have made a difference over the past two years?

Lord Glentoran

Perhaps I may say a few words on clause stand part now, as the issues are similar. Clause 10 concerns the number of members of the board required to initiate an inquiry following a report by the Chief Constable. At present, no such inquiry can be held unless approved by the required number of members of the board—10 members out of 19, which is more than 50 per cent.

Clause 10 reduces that number to eight, as long as that represents the majority of the members present and voting. I see no purpose or virtue in this reduction. When the board consists of 19 members, it is perfectly reasonable that the required number of members present and voting to initiate an inquiry should be 10. If 50 per cent of the board cannot be there, it does not sound good, and I would not like the thought that an inquiry of this nature would be started with the support of less than 50 per cent.

We must be aware that it is quite possible under those circumstances that a decision of this nature could be hijacked by either side. The Bill moves powers around and facilitates certain things. My main purpose in opposing the clause is to deal with that.

I do not wish to be taken as a strong unionist or anything like it. My party has remained in a bipartisan agreement with Her Majesty's Government, and we are still there. I apologise for sounding pompous, but we are truly seeking to look after the security and the welfare of my fellow Ulstermen and countrymen.

We are talking about the management of our security force in a country that is riddled with violent crime and terrorism. We are nervous that the Government are going too far, too soon. That said, fiddling about with the numbers of the board required to make a certain type of decision is gerrymandering, and in my humble suggestion is not very intelligent in the current climate.

I give notice that we will come back to Clause 10 on Report and argue that it should not stand part. I hope that what I have said has gone some way to support the current amendment before your Lordships.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

Will the noble Lord consider whether it is proper to have a quorum? The quorums that are suggested here, that are in the Act, are two thirds of the total membership, rounded down to the nearest full number. Therefore, if it is right to have that as a quorum, do these other things not follow through from that in terms of best practice?

Lord Glentoran

I am completely content with the way that the numbers were laid out in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. I do not wish to change them.

Viscount Brookeborough

I, too, want to question the Government on their motives. I must declare an interest in being a member of the Policing Board, but anything I say is of a personal nature on this subject. I understood that the Government had put together this fairly complicated policing Act in order to get consensus on policing in Northern Ireland and, what is more, to show that it was cross-community and accepted by everybody, and that the decisions would be pure and unquestionable in terms of democracy and the rights of minorities, majorities and different sections of the population. The Policing Board has been in being for a year. We are told by the Government that it is working well and now they want to produce an amendment that immediately draws the whole thing into question.

It has been clear until now that a majority of the board was required. Now the Government want to enable certain decisions to be taken by a minority of the board. The credibility of the Policing Board should be uppermost in the Government's mind. Reducing the figures as they wish to—again I say this from a personal point of view—enables the undermining of the people and the system that the Government have put in place and continue to praise. I do not accept that that is right. I hope that we shall return to the issue in the future as a complete clause. We shall most certainly not give up at that stage.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Plainly, we shall need to have a full substantive debate on this proposal. I shall explain the thinking behind it, which would at least expose that thinking, even though it may not be universally applauded.

Line 43 at the bottom of page 6 of the Bill says: In sub-paragraph (5)"— of the 2000 Act— after "by" insert? — (a) a majority of members of the Board present and voting on the proposal". There is no prospect that a minority present and voting could bring about an inquiry. In fact, on my reading, those words, a majority of members of the Board present and voting on the proposal are not in the original Act at all.

This means that we are lowering the threshold to get an inquiry. The reason for that is plain. Those who see themselves to be in a minority on the board at the moment are concerned that the threshold is too high, because those whom they see as the majority representatives—I stress those words "they see as"—can simply stay away or abstain to block the motion.

The answers to the carefully crafted questions of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, which I shuddered to hear, are nought, nought and nought at the moment. He may well have been in possession of that information before he asked the question. It is a perfectly legitimate question. The Government have made this commitment to deal with complaints that have been expressed that there might be a proper case for an inquiry of this sort which could be stymied by those who have the majority on the board. It is as plain and simple as that. That is the judgment that has been made. It is in no sense a criticism of the board; it is the response to a feeling that exists. There still remains the override that I have described to your Lordships in page 6 of the Bill, to insert, a majority of members of the Board present and voting". Therefore, it is a lowering of the threshold but it is not in any way an empowerment of a minority to have its will over the majority of those present and voting.

Lord Glentoran

I am afraid that I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord on this occasion. I hear what he says, but by opening the opportunity to have fewer people in the boardroom allowed to vote, he is opening the doors to what I call a form of gerrymandering. Reducing the numbers allows the situation to encroach. I am sure many of us in less important situations and corners of the world have played this game on little committees, trying to make sure that we have the committee stacked with the people we want there and forgetting to tell the others that it is happening. I know that is frivolous, but it is behind my thinking to some extent.

There are legal methods used within government circles, in the Millennium Commission and others, such as postal voting. If a decision of this nature needs to be taken urgently by the board, there is nothing to stop the chairman or the chief executive ensuring that those members who cannot be present on the day when the decision needs to be taken have an opportunity by fax to put their signature to their vote and thus enforce them either to make a decision or knowingly abstain and live with the result.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Perhaps I may deal with that, because it is an important point. I do not think it is a fair representation of the safeguards in Schedule 1 of the 2000 Act. It is at page 50, if that assists Members of the Committee.

Paragraph 18 of Schedule 1 at page 50 of the 2000 Act says there have to be at least three members of the board making a written request asking for a meeting of the board to be called "to consider the matter"—the matter being the setting up of an inquiry. That is trigger number one.

Secondly—and this is mandatory—the chairman, shall, no later than three working days after the day on which he receives the request, call such a meeting. (3) The meeting shall be held no earlier than six, and no later than twenty-one, working days after that day. Importantly, (4) The chairman shall notify each member of the Board of the date and purpose of the meeting. Those are very strict safeguards against the sort of fiddling or gerrymandering to which the noble Lord referred. I accept that the noble Lord's concern is a legitimate one, but it is fully met by those safeguards.

Lord Glentoran

I accept what the Minister has said, in the light of those safeguards. I was aware of that, but I still wanted to make the point.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I have listened carefully to what has been said. I query the mathematics of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, who suggested that in our Amendments Nos. 20, 21 and 22 we were seeking to achieve two thirds of the board voting. Those amendments would increase by one each of the numbers required in the 2000 Act, for a fairly obvious purpose. That is to underline our concern at the changes that have been made and accentuate our feelings on the matter. However, even nine out of 16, if my mathematics are not at fault, is around 56 per cent—something over a half. Ten out of 18 would be 55 per cent, and 11 out of 19 is about 57 per cent, give or take a percentage point. There is no question of us going to ridiculous lengths and asking for two thirds.

However, I can envisage a situation in which there were only 15 people present, with four people unable to attend for some reason. If and when—perhaps I should just say when—we have Sinn Fein and other disreputables on the board, I can foresee a mischievous group of eight members taking advantage of the fact that only 15 members, or even fewer, are present and calling for an inquiry. Eight can cause an inquiry. If there were 17 people there I believe eight could still cause an inquiry. The Minister will clarify that, but I think we are talking about minimum numbers, we are not talking about democratic votes in terms of those who are present. I can foresee—and I hope the Minister will foresee—a situation where things get very tight, where the temperature rises in Northern Ireland and where, on a daily or weekly basis, a mischievous group get together and seek to call a meeting. As I understand it, we do not have to have eight to convene the meeting; eight can cause an inquiry to be held. A mischievous group of less than eight could regularly cause a meeting to be brought about until they find that they have the requisite eight and so an inquiry is called. You only have to win once when you are a terrorist. The issue is not the calling of an inquiry; it is the ability, through this ridiculously low number, to disrupt the working lives of other members of the board by calling a meeting on a whim and forcing this to happen again and again. I would be grateful if the Minister would address that issue.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Perhaps I may amplify what I said earlier, because I may not have been clear. I repeat that there has to be a majority of those present and voting to bring about a positive vote for an inquiry. If there were, for instance, 17 present of whom eight voted for an inquiry, that would not bring about an inquiry.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I admit that I am thinking less than clearly today, for obvious reasons. That was not what I intended to say. I intended to say that with the prospect of eight being able to cause an inquiry to be held, there will be increasing motivation to call meeting after meeting to test the waters and so disrupt the working lives of other members of the board. I doubt that one would be disrupting the working—with the emphasis on working—lives of Sinn Fein/IRA, they are quite flexible in all they do.

Viscount Brookeborough

As opposed to my noble friend Lord Maginnis, I am thinking clearly on this one. I meant a majority simply in the sense that if a decision is taken by eight people, whether it is a split decision or otherwise, it is a decision of the board. That board, as it sat, is capable of being less than 50 per cent of its full number. Therefore, the decision has been taken by a group consisting of under 50 per cent of the total board.

One may wish to split hairs, but when decisions were made on matters such as the police uniform and Omagh, one was not aware of people's personal thoughts in those meetings, how they came to those decisions or how people may have restrained from voting or voted one way or the other. One was presented with was a unanimous decision because 100 per cent of the board was present. One is in danger of being presented with a decision reached with fewer than 50 per cent of the board present. I believe that that undermines our credibility.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 19 to 22 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Investigations by the Ombudsman]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 23: Page 7, line 13, after "a" insert "current">

The noble and learned Lord said: In this group, we find Amendments Nos. 23 and 27. Amendment No. 23 is in my name; Amendment No. 27 is in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Maginnis and Lord Rogan. I believe that both amendments seek to establish a common point; namely, to clarify that the ombudsman's power to investigate police policies and practices is non-retrospective. I believe that Amendment No. 23 is preferable, and I shall try to explain why.

In answer to specific questions raised by noble Lords during Second Reading, I said that it was not the Government's intention that the power to investigate police policies and practices should be retrospective and that we would try to clarify that. I hope that I am fulfilling that undertaking.

Amendment No. 23 makes clear that the ombudsman's remit in relation to the investigation of policies and practices is restricted to practices that remain current. That is why the additional qualifying wordߞ"current"—is included. In investigating those, it might well be natural to inform herself of the way in which officers have conducted themselves in applying those policies and practices.

If we agreed to Amendment No. 27, the ombudsman would not be able to look at conduct in applying current practices and policies which had, for example, occurred only the week before Royal Assent. Therefore, in bringing forward our amendment, I hope that we have met the concerns expressed at Second Reading and elsewhere. The word "current" would limit the scope for investigation and the ombudsman would have to carry out her investigations on the basis that she was investigating current policies and practices. I take the point that she should not be usefully engaged in looking at policies and practices which had perhaps ceased 20 or 25 years ago. I hope that I have met the spirit of what Members of the Committee expressed. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I listened with interest to what the Minister told us and I think that it may go. I shall obviously study the matter at further length and no doubt we shall return to it on Report. Perhaps I may point out that my Amendments Nos. 27. 28 and 29 sought to achieve, first, what I think the noble and learned Lord has understood. They also sought to add that, insofar as policing is not a devolved matter, the Secretary of State should, as a matter of form, be sent a copy of any report. The Bill suggests that the report would be sent to the Chief Constable and to the board but, in so far as ultimate responsibility lies with the Secretary of State, a copy of the report should also be sent to him.

Moreover, where an investigation under the clause is completed by the ombudsman, the ombudsman should report on it to the Secretary of State if requested to do so. That may go without saying, but it is certainly not enshrined within the current drafting and is something that might usefully be added to the Bill.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Fitt

This debate has once again illustrated that policing in Northern Ireland is a highly sensitive issue. Even after so many years of debates and inquiries, many people in Northern Ireland feel that the Bill is totally unnecessary. I am certain that the previous Secretary of State who piloted through the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 saw no need for the inclusion of all these additions to it. Although it will be denied, I am also certain—as are many people in Northern Ireland—that the whole Bill is a result of discussions that took place at Weston Park.

In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy of Omagh, a name came into the public domain that was allegedly a pseudonym for Kevin Fulton. Kevin Fulton was allegedly an Army agent who was giving information to the police. When his name came into the public domain, it was to the effect that he had got in touch with the police and given them information that the bomb was to be exploded in Omagh that cost so many lives. After many hours of arguments and inquiries, it subsequently transpired that that was totally untrue and that the information that he gave could not and did not identify the town of Omagh as to be bombed that day. However, his intervention and his statement led to the ombudsman calling an inquiry into the activities of the police: what they did or did not do in relation to the Omagh bomb.

I do not have to illustrate to the Committee how emotive was that time in Northern Ireland, how the whole community stood back in revulsion at the terrible happenings of that day. I attended many of the funerals and met many of the relatives of the victims, and I know the emotion that there was about that.

The conclusions of the ombudsman's report into that, which, as I said, was triggered by the so-called information given by this agent, Kevin Fulton, led to a great deal of controversy in Northern Ireland. It appeared that the ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, was coming down firmly in a position that placed her in total opposition to the police. That is how the police saw it—and how I saw it, because I knew many of the policemen engaged in that inquiry, especially Chief Superintendent Eric Anderson, who was broken-hearted about what he had to do in the investigation into that complaint.

That is terribly dangerous. It seems to put the office of the ombudsman firmly in the nationalist as opposed to the unionist camp. Again, we have all the seeds of a bitter division. That division has not gone away.

I once spoke here to the ombudsman and told her of my great reservations about and hostility to the report that she then issued. She told me then, and it was confirmed by those who were in her company, that the report stated quite clearly at the outset that the police could not be blamed for allowing that bomb to be exploded in the town of Omagh. That is quite true, it was printed at the beginning of her report, but that is not how the people in Northern Ireland saw it. Even yet, depending on what district one goes to or what religious group one gets involved with, there are people who will say that the police stood back and let that bombing take place.

No later than this Monday, I was in Northern Ireland. One of our widely read newspapers, the Irish News, printed a front-page report. I was terribly distressed when I read it. It appears that the NIO agreed a pay deal to the so-called informant, Kevin Fulton. He has now left Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Office have agreed to buy him a home in England and to pay him a considerable sum of money, all to stop him from identifying the name of another IRA mole whom he allegedly knew in Northern Ireland. That report—which I do not contradict, but will speak to the Lord Privy Seal about after the Committee, because it is very annoyingߞstates: An NIO source last night admitted that attempts had initially been made to use the Police Ombudsman's Office as a conduit to offer the compensation deal to Fulton, but that was abandoned after Nuala O'Loan's office refused to get involved. But it is understood that one of Fulton's police handlers travelled to England late last year and advised the former agent he would receive 'compensation' if he dropped threats to reveal the identity of the IRA mole known as 'Steak-knife'. This man, Kevin Fulton, is on record at this especially emotive time of having gone to a British Sunday newspaper and signed a deal for £50,000 that he would identify this mole. The newspaper agreed to that, and then decided to make further enquiries. When those were made of the police, they immediately withdrew the mole.

That involves the use of taxpayers' money from everyone in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom. The NIO was prepared to give that man considerable compensation to set him up in a lifestyle here, outside Northern Ireland, on the ground that he does not divulge the name of the IRA mole. What is to prevent him from divulging that name to a Sunday newspaper in future, if he is so unreliable? He gave an interview to an English newspaper and the reporter said that his impression of him was that he was, a notorious double dealer behind a string of dubious hoaxes". If the Northern Ireland Office is to use British taxpayers' money to pay a scoundrel such as that to leave Northern Ireland and to set him up in a lifestyle to which he is rapidly becoming accustomed, I again pose the question: is there any guarantee that he will not at some time in future—irrespective of the compensation which he has been paid—run short of money and go to a Sunday newspaper to divulge the name of the IRA mole? Personally, I should be quite happy about that as I have no time for moles, and I do not care who the mole is. Some people say that people are so frightened of divulging the name of the mole because he may be in the upper echelons of the IRA. We do not know, but it is not right that the ombudsman's office should be used, or was used—I do not believe that it will ever be used again—to call into question the credibility, sincerity or compassion of the police of Northern Ireland in their investigation into that terrible tragedy.

Incidentally, I notice that the NIO has tried to use the ombudsman to act as a link with the alleged informant who is now living here in the United Kingdom. She has refused to do so. Nuala O'Loan may have learned her lesson from previous events. However, I believe that it is right for the Government either to agree with this or to let the people of Northern Ireland know how much money has been paid and what it has been paid for and whether they have any guarantees that this so-called informant will not divulge the name of the so-called IRA man in the IRA.

This report, which is in Monday morning's Irish News, is very disquieting. I have a copy of it here. The printing of such a report at this time could resurrect all the doubts and concerns that people have about some members of the ombudsman's office and, indeed, about the police in Northern Ireland.

Lord Glentoran

I want to say two things on this amendment. First, cautiously, I welcome it. I am certainly nervous about the ombudsman being able to investigate what is termed here "practice or policy". It is getting very close to investigating operational methods. There is a balance here but, on this occasion—the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal will probably not believe his earsߞI wish to give the benefit of the doubt to the ombudsman. I am grateful that this government amendment has been tabled today because it certainly makes me far more comfortable with the Bill as it stands.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am not seeking to conclude the discussion, which obviously I cannot do. In response to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, I simply want to say that I have not seen the cutting and am in no position to make any comment at all. However, my silence should not be taken as acquiescence. I am in no position to have any knowledge about it.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I differ slightly from my noble friend Lord Glentoran because I am concerned that one provision under which the ombudsman may decide to investigate a matter is when she has reason to think that there is significant public concern. It seems to me only too likelyߞ

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am trying only to be helpful, not discourteous. My later amendment takes away that offensive phrase and substitutes it with "the public interest".

Baroness Park of Monmouth

The noble and learned Lord has corrected me most helpfully. I accept that but still wonder whether it would not be more appropriate and more in line with what I believe all other ombudsmen do if, when she has reason to think that it is in the public interest that something should be done, she says to the Secretary of State, first, that she believes that an issue should be investigated. He may decide that she is not the proper person to do so because of the problems that it might create in the relationship between her and the police—relationships mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt—where a certain amount of mutual distrust might arise.

Therefore, I would want the ombudsman to take no initiative of that kind without previously consulting the Secretary of State. There may be room for that in the legislation, in which case, of course, I shall not pursue the matter further. However, I believe that he would be better placed than her to judge whether it is an appropriate issue for her to investigate. I make a total distinction between that and the normal work of all ombudsmen, which I believe is to listen to the complaints of the public against the police and to investigate those complaints. But this gives her power to investigate major areas of political public policy. There should be a safety mechanism built in somewhere to restrain her because once she has said to the Policing Board "I am going to do this", it will be meaningless that she afterwards mentions it to the Secretary of State. I should like to see some sort of built-in safety mechanism.

I may be making too much of this but a point was made earlier about how important it is that the public should trust the police. The activities of the ombudsman need to be considered in the light of the need not to destroy the reputation of the police without very good reason.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Perhaps I may respond to the noble Baroness. If the ombudsman decides to conduct an investigation, the Bill requires that: he must immediately inform the Chief Constable, the Board and the Secretary of State". It is not simply the board that has to be informed immediately, but the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State. If the suggestion is that the Secretary of State should have a veto on the ombudsman's work, I suggest that goes to the very virtue and nature of an independent ombudsman. If there are allegations of state malpractice, surely it should not be for the Executive to determine whet her or not investigations should occur.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I entirely accept that. I simply feel that the judgment of the ombudsman in such issues should be controlled to some extent by beginning with the Secretary of State, so that at least it is possible to say on an issue of timing, "This is the wrong moment to do that", or whatever other reservation he has. I recognise that I seem to be advocating the interference of the Executive in the operations of the police. I accept that and that is why I wish some sort of mechanism could be brought about which does not do that but which enables some thought to be given to it. To judge by the Omagh experience, the ombudsman may not necessarily have a strong understanding of the widening circles of damage that can arise from impulsive, though entirely honourable, intentions.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 24: Page 7, line 15, leave out from "that" to end of line 16 and insert "it would be in the public interest to investigate the practice or policy

The noble and learned Lord said: This aspect was touched on by the noble Baroness. The amendment concerns new Section 60A, which deals with investigations into police practices and policies. Your Lordships have now agreed that, The Ombudsman may investigate a current practice or policy…if… (b) he has reason to believe that the practice or policy is giving rise to significant public concern.

We have had a good deal of representations that have led us to the conclusion that that is not the best formulation. The better formulation would be "in the public interest". The reason for that is twofold. First— noble Lords have spoken about this—there can be a whipped up rather synthetic agitation based sometimes on misapprehension or sometimes on plain untruths, which would generate significant public concern. Having listened to the representations, we thought that those points were well made. We have suggested, "in the public interest". That would exclude a synthetic agitation because it would not be in the public interest to investigate that.

There is also a deeper point. There are some acts of wrongdoing which are not known to the public. It is in the public interest that they should be exposed and demonstrated but they cause no significant public concern because the public are not aware of them. We thought carefully about the representations we had. I hope this amendment commends itself to the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness O'Cathain

I am always concerned when I see reference to the public interest. Who determines what is the public interest? I know that public concern and public interest are different but I am slightly concerned about the use of words.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I take the point made by the noble Baroness and would make two observations. The ombudsman has to make judgments on public interest questions in the context of her other functions, not least, for instance, in deciding which information should be made public, if any. If her decision on what is in the public interest is irrational, she is subject to the control of the court through judicial review.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mostyn of Williams moved Amendment No. 25: Page 7, line 16, at end insert (1A) But subsection (1) does not authorise the Ombudsman to investigate a practice or policy to the extent that the practice or policy is concerned with conduct of a kind mentioned in section 65(5) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (c. 23) (conduct which may be within jurisdiction of tribunal established under section 65 of that Act).

The noble and learned Lord said: Amendments Nos. 25 and 31 are linked. They set out the parameters within which the ombudsman may operate. The two amendments seek again to address concerns raised. Amendment No. 25—this may chime well with the sort of concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth—makes clear that there is not to be an overlap between the ombudsman and the machinery set up under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. That was a matter about which we had to think carefully.

Amendment No. 31 explains that while the ombudsman is entitled to have access to all the information she may require to conduct an investigation of a current policy or practice, those responsible for handing over that information are required to identify it as sensitive and to flag up that in their judgment it should not be further disclosed.

We have tried to achieve a prudent balance. I hope Members of the Committee will think we have got it right. I remind the Committee that Section 63 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 contains a series of safeguards to prevent improper disclosure by ombudsmen of that type of information. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Perhaps I may point out to the Minister an old saying that there are no secrets in Ulster, and it is one to which he might give some cognisance. The reality is that the Chief Constable may well put an embargo on information passed to the ombudsman's office. As the Minister will recall, even the Secretary of State's office was not secure when it came to determined spying by the IRA. Nor have I any reason to believe that, whatever the integrity of the ombudsmanߞ-I do not, for one moment, call that into question—whatever the safeguards relating to her office and the administration in her office, it is unlikely that she could guarantee that sensitive, secret information could be adequately safeguarded.

Although the Minister's intentions are good, they are likely in practice to be ineffective. Therefore, I believe that the amendment is inadequate. It is intended to reassure us, but is not a realistic safeguard against the determination of subversives to gain information. It may be damaging not just to a person or a group of people, but to society as a whole.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I take the noble Lord's point but that does not derogate from my central proposition that one needs safeguards. After all, Mr Shayler was recently convicted by a jury for a breach of the Official Secrets Act. In the nature of things, that meant that he had breached it, but that would not bring me to the conclusion that we do not need an Official Secrets Act. One has to do the best one can, and we have a reasonable balance here of protecting legitimate interests of different sorts.

Lord Glentoran

I wish to make one point here, not with the amendment itself other than where it refers to Clause 76A(1). I would feel much happier if Clause 76A(1) were Clause 76.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I am sorry to be difficult again. I see that the general intention is very good. Subsection (2)(b) in Amendment No. 31 says, the person supplying the information is of the opinion that it ought not to be disclosed". Subsection (3) of the amendment goes on: The person supplying the information must— (a) inform the Secretary of State that the information has been supplied to the Ombudsman". That seems an extraordinary idea. If it is not suitable to be supplied, here we are accepting that it will have been supplied and then thought will be given to whether it should have been. Have I misunderstood that?

I should also like an answer some time—although obviously it cannot be now—on the security arrangements for vetting the members of the ombudsman's staff.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

In response to the first question raised by the noble Baroness, this brings into operation the requirement that the information should not be further disclosed by the ombudsman, not that it should not be disclosed to the ombudsman. Subsection (3)(b) says: inform the Secretary of State and the Ombudsman that, in his or its opinion, the information ought not to be disclosed on any of the grounds mentioned in section 76A(1)". In other words, it cannot be published by or on behalf of the ombudsman. I do not know the security vetting procedures for the ombudsman's office in detail. I undertake to find out and write to the noble Baroness and, if appropriate, I shall put a copy of the letter in the Library.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I take one further point from the noble and learned Lord, which is that in most busy organisations it is in practice unlikely that something will rest with the ombudsman alone. It is not practical. There will be a number of people around her who would need to know, for various reasons, what information had been supplied. Therefore, it is not quite as simple as it sounds to say that it stops with the ombudsman. In practice, unless she is a quite remarkable person, it cannot.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 26: Page 7, line 18, leave out "must" and insert "shall

The noble and learned Lord said: We have in this group Amendments Nos. 26 and 30. We are back to our old friends "must" and "shall", in Amendment No. 26. Amendment No. 30 would replace "enactment" with "statutory provision". There is no substantive change here. It is simply designed to ensure consistency with other legislation. Amendment No. 26 brings the wording into line with the rest of the clause and the 2000 Act. Amendment No. 30 brings the wording into line with the terminology used—as noble Lords well know and recall—in Section 1F of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Rogan

The night is getting late and I am going to be pedantic. I am somewhat troubled with the word "immediately". How is that defined? Perhaps defining a timescale—say within a 24 hour period or within one working day—would be better than using the word "immediately". I am in favour of specifying within 24 hours.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I think we have moved beyond "immediately". I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 26 and 30, which happily do not deal with anything immediate.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 28: Page 7, line 24, at end insert "; and (b) send a copy of his report to the Secretary of State.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

These amendments would alter the reporting arrangements. They would require the ombudsman to report to the Secretary of State as well as to the board and the Chief Constable, rather than only to the board and the Chief Constable, copied to the Secretary of State where appropriate. We see this as going against the spirit of Patten, which placed a greater emphasis on the role of the board rather than the Secretary of State. The main vehicle for accountability should be the Policing Board. II: was therefore to the board that Patten recommended, in paragraph 6.41, that the ombudsman should report on her findings.

Clause 11 already makes provision for the report to be sent to the Secretary of State in particular circumstances, such as when the investigation touches on an area of his responsibility or on an excepted matter, within the definition set out in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. We think this is an appropriate arrangement and sufficiently safeguards the Secretary of State's interests to be informed about the outcome of ombudsman's reports.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I am grateful for that clarification. None the less, I feel that it is contradictory, as in so much of this Bill. Back in Clauses 1 and 2, the Secretary of State has a specific role, taking into consideration that policing is not a devolved matter and the Secretary of State has the total responsibility. To ask the ombudsman to send a copy of her report to the Secretary of State is hardly infringing her independence. As the Secretary of State has the ultimate responsibility, it is reasonable for him to require the ombudsman to report on her investigation. That is consistent with what is in the Act and what government have proposed in Clauses 1 and 2. I make those points in the hope that the Minister will not be so assiduous in his pursuit of the independence of the ombudsman as to make her task and her place within the overall scope of things slightly ridiculous. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 30 and 31: Page 7, line 28, leave out "an enactment" and insert "a statutory provision Page 7, line 36, leave out from beginning to end of line 11 on page 8 and insert— "(2) Subsection (3) applies if—

  1. (a) the Chief Constable or the Board supplies information, or information contained in a document, to the Ombudsman under subsection (1) for the purposes of or in connection with an investigation under section 60A of the 1998 Act;
  2. (b) the person supplying the information is of the opinion that it ought not to be disclosed on any of the grounds mentioned in section 76A(1).
(3) The person supplying the information must—
  1. (a) inform the Secretary of State that the information has been supplied to the Ombudsman;
  2. (b) inform the Secretary of State and the Ombudsman that, in his or its opinion, the information ought not to be disclosed on any of the grounds mentioned in section 76A(1).""

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12 [Independent members]:

Lord Shutt of Greetland moved Amendment No. 32: Page 8, line 19, at end insert ", including in terms of gender and ethnicity

The noble Lord said: This relates to the appointment of independent members to the district policing partnerships. The clause suggests that: In appointing independent members of a DPP the board shall so far as practicable secure that the members of the DPP (taken together) are representative of the community in the district.

Clearly, being representative of the community in the district means being representative of the district. There would obviously be a different sort of representation in certain parts of Belfast to parts of Antrim or North Down, for example.

We have come back to words such as "representative". We have decided not to propose "reflective", but we could well do so. This also brings us to the word "community". I have always thought of community as rather a good word, but there is a sense in which, sometimes, it leads one into thinking— particularly in the case of Northern Ireland—that people are of one of two sorts, and we know what that means. This amendment is to include within that, in terms of gender and ethnicity".

I believe that to ensure that we are representative, reflective or whatever, we need to take a broad look at that community in achieving a district policing partnership. It is important that gender and ethnicity are considered and it is not just a matter of looking at unionists, nationalists and so on. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

Perhaps I may speak to clause stand part at the same time as speaking to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt. I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord's amendment, because my concerns are the interpretation of the description in the Act, which the noble Lord very eloquently outlined and, perhaps even more so, what I understand to be the Government's intention for Belfast—and probably not only Belfast. If there are to be four sub-DPPs for the greater Belfast area—north, east, south and west—unless one can find some clever drafting, it is almost certain that the east will be hijacked, almost entirely loyalist and run by loyalist paramilitaries, either up front or behind the scenes. The same will be true of west Belfast. It is not certain who controls the ground in north Belfast, so there may be a punch-up of some sort there. That proposal is not at all attractive to me.

In the light of that, it is dangerous to start placing restrictions and predetermining how the DPPs should reflect the district for which they are responsible. If we can find a way to broaden the provision, as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, is intended to do, that must be welcome.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I sympathise with what lies behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, but it would not produce the outcome that he wants. I entirely agree that "representative" is a broad term, which undoubtedly includes gender and ethnicity. It may include other categories in the statutory equality duties in Section 75 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998.

The code of practice will determine those appointments. After all, we should not limit "representative" simply to gender and ethnicity. There is also religion, disability, age and cultural background. The problem with good intentions, with which the noble Lord will be familiar, is that if we write in gender and ethnicity, it will seem that they are the only two categories that matter. It is better to have a code of practice and allow it to operate. I sympathise with what the noble Lord said. I am happy to reaffirm as boldly as I can that gender and ethnicity are to be taken into account when one considers representativeness.

I hope that, on the basis of what I have said, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Brookeborough

Before the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, rises to do so, may I assure him that we are in the process of selecting the members for DPPs. We shall begin next week, but they will not be announced until they have all accepted the posts and are all in place. However, every type of grouping, religion and gender that one can possibly imagine is being considered to ensure that those members are representative of the community. The noble Lord should have no worries on that score.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

I am delighted with the Minister's assurance that all these and other matters will be taken into account and that that is a matter of public record. I add only that good intentions are better than bad ones. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Disqualification]:

Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 33: Page 8, leave out lines 25 and 26 and insert—

  1. "(a) from membership of a DPP for a period of three years; or
  2. (b) permanently from membership of a DPP if his failure to make the necessary disclosure under paragraph 7 was intentional."

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 36. Clause 13 permits persons removed from office under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 to the 2000 Act—in other words, those who have made a false declaration about criminal convictions—to be eligible for reappointment next time round.

The effect of that will be that a person removed the day before a local election will be unaffected. He can immediately be reinstated in office after the election. Our amendments are intended to prohibit people for a period of five years—meaning that anyone who is suspended will have an actual period of suspension to serve. Further, they would permanently disqualify a person who intentionally made a false declaration. That is a serious intention to deceive and should not be treated lightly, as it appears to be in the Bill. The presumption should be that the failure is intentional unless the board has determined otherwise. We seek to remove any problem in determining an intention to deceive. I beg to move.

Baroness O'Cathain

On a point of clarification, earlier in our proceedings the noble and learned Lord said when discussing the issue of appointments with respect to the Surrey police that people could not be appointed within five years. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, is valid if someone who was disqualified one day when there were local elections the next was allowed to get back in. I support the amendment; I only wonder why the period is to be only three years if in the example of the Surrey police it would be five.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Perhaps I may immediately deal with those points. In the illustration of the Surrey police that I gave in answer to the continual tormenting of me by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, I simply pointed out that it is a disqualification from sitting on a police authority if one has a previous criminal conviction that has been punished by a sentence of three months or more.

The disqualification here may be for different reasons and Clause 13 introduces an equivalence between the members of the DPPs and the members of the board. A member of the board who is disqualified is disqualified until the next Assembly election. Having been removed, his disqualification runs until the next Assembly election. The point of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, remains: he could be disqualified close to an Assembly election and then be reinstated. We have tried to get some equivalence between disqualification and re-membership of a DPP with disqualification and re-membership of the hoard. That is simply a question of consistency.

Viscount Brookeborough

They are not appointed under the same rules, because the independent members of the board do not necessarily fall at the next election. The independent members of a DPP do, because local elections come about at prearranged times or after a certain length of time. They are therefore not similar to independent members of the main Policing Board.

Lord Rogan

If consistency is what we seek, I should be happy for MLAs to be disqualified for three or five years as well.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I cannot accept that offer on their behalf. My point is that in respect of elected persons, if one is removed one is eligible to go hack onto the board after the next election. It seems appropriate and, as I said, equivalent to have the same system for DPPs.

I turn to the second point—that there should be a presumption that there has been an intentional failure to make the necessary disclosure—raised by Amendment No. 36. The current code of practice on the appointment of independent members, which was published last August by the Secretary of State, already instructs the board carefully to consider whether failure to disclose an offence should rule out an applicant. I respectfully suggest that that deals with the mischief that the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, was addressing.

Lord Glentoran

Perhaps, for the sake of tidiness, I should speak to Amendment No. 35, which seeks to insert the words, for a period of five years". This matter is in the same vein as the one that we have just been debating. If a person happens to get thrown out of the DPP for a misdemeanour a week before the election, then the idea that he should be able to be readmitted the following week is nonsensical. If DPPs are to exist and to do their job, they will have to be groups of very serious and committed people. If one of those people, to use rather old-fashioned language, has let himself and the side down to the extent that he has been thrown off the DPP, it would be rather uncomfortable for the remaining members of the DPP to have to welcome him hack a couple of weeks later. If we are to have a situation where members of the DPP can be asked to leave for disciplinary reasons, then they should be asked to leave for a reasonable term. Five years would seem to be a fairly good, round time.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I wonder whether—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Committee appears to be in some confusion. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, spoke to Amendment No. 35, as he is perfectly entitled to do, but I am not sure whether we have dealt entirely with Amendment No. 33 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. Perhaps I did not hear what he wished to do. Does he wish to withdraw the amendment?

Lord Rogan

I was not requested to do so, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Shutt of Greetland moved Amendment No. 34: Page 8, line 25, leave out "for" and insert "from seeking

The noble Lord said: This matter is obviously in the same territory. In a way, this is a probing amendment but, in my view, it could stand well. At present, the clause states, is disqualified for membership of a DPP".

That is strange wording. We suggest that it should read, from seeking membership",

because there is a sense in which the clause as printed suggests that, once the next local election has taken place, the appointment is a shoo-in. I should have expected that, once the next local general election had taken place, that person would then become eligible and could therefore be considered either to be admitted or to be kept off. I believe that the matter would be clarified if the words "from seeking" replaced the word "for". I beg to move.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

The Oversight Commissioner, who has been looking at what has been done so far, says of the DPPs that the process of soliciting nominations for independent members and for selecting them is well under way. Can the noble and learned Lord tell me whether, if at all—I entirely take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland—there is any way of preventing nominations being made by members of the community whom the rest of the community would not wish to have a choice in the matter of membership of a DPP?

It has seemed to me all along that in the background—in some areas, at least—the power of the paramilitaries and of political parties is such that it would be very difficult for anyone to be genuinely independent. If people are to be nominated, that would seem to make it even more difficult for the sort of person whom we want to see in place to become an independent member of a DPP. Is there any way of watching that process to ensure that persons put forward are not nominated by groups of the community who will terrorise others. It seems to me that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, is relevant to that. He is saying that they must be solicited but by who?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

In response to the earlier question as to whether it would be a shoo-in after the election, appointments are governed by Schedule 3(4) to (6) to the 2000 Act. Those and the associated code of practice require the council to run a competition and then to make nominations to the board. The board then decides on suitability taking all factors into account. I am not sure that that is necessarily a complete answer to the question raised by the noble Baroness. I shall reflect on that and, if there is anything more useful to be said, I shall write to her and place a copy of my letter in the Library.

Viscount Brookeborough

Perhaps I may be of some help on that point. The people are not nominated to that first selection group; they nominate themselves. They offer themselves up and then go through a serious selection process, which is run by a professional business as advisors to the council. A shortlist of those who are eligible—some of whom would become ineligible—if they put forward their name, are then put forward to the board who select, using all the other criteria we have discussed.

Baroness O'Cathain

Perhaps I may ask a rather na? question. If someone is deemed not to be worthy to be a member of the DPP, surely they should be disqualified and not allowed to stand again?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

That is the difference between the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, and what is currently in the Bill. The critical point is that they should not be able to have substantive membership of the DPP. That is the important point. Whether or not they make an application is by the way. The real question is that they should be disqualified. The system described by the noble Viscount and which I indicated earlier, brings about what the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, wants.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment Nos. 35 and 36 not moved.]

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Core policing principles]:

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 37: Page 9, line 13, after "functions" insert "insofar as practicable

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment, because it appears that the Bill now confuses or mixes up core policing principles with police functions. There is a confusion as to what is a principle, what is a function and what is a priority. If, as suggested in the Bill, police officers shall carry out their functions with the aim of securing the support of the local community and acting in co-operation with it, and that is a finite statement, it strikes me that it may well be one which is in conflict with the general functions of policing as defined in Section 32 of the 2000 Act, where those general functions are defined as being to protect life and property; to preserve order; to prevent the commission of offences and to bring offenders to justice.

While it is commendable and desirable that those general functions as defined in Section 32 are carried out in a way which secures the support of the local community and acting in co-operation with the local community, there may be occasions when the two objectives are not concurrently attainable. I have no doubt that without me going into detail, the Munster will be able to understand the type of situation that perhaps exists today on the lower Shankhill, where the Adair faction, while having influence, are in conflict with other members of that community.

Where do the police seek to secure support when there are two factions in conflict with each other? I am sure that it happens in many other situations throughout Northern Ireland. Is it not a priority that the functions as defined in Section 32 should take precedence? Hence, would it not be helpful to add on page 9, line 13, after "functions", "insofar as practicable"? If that were inserted into that sentence there would be nothing irrational or contradictory in terms of new Section 31 A and Section 32 of the 2000 Act. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I support the amendment, or at least the thinking behind it. Many, if not all of us, visualise areas which can be described as communities where there is a general intention to defy and defeat what is required by proper policing in a certain set of circumstances which, regrettably, can occur quite frequently. There may be some difficulty in the drafting of the amendment: "insofar as practicable". Perhaps another way to tackle it might be to add after Section 32(1) a new subsection(1(a) or (2)(a), "subject to the foregoing duty, it shall be the duty of the police to", and then to proceed as drafted. I suggest something of that character. I believe that there is a realistic and practical justification for the amendment, which I hope the noble and learned Lord will consider.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

Amendment No. 38 is linked with this amendment. I return to the word "community" which I think of as a good word. However, it has been put to us that there are occasions in Northern Ireland where community means the local hard men. In such circumstances, acting in co-operation with the local community could have rather undesirable consequences. Policing should be left to the professionals. Therefore, consultation might be a better way to define this relationship, rather than co-operation.

I have been thinking about this since the amendment was drafted. I wonder whether a glossary of terms might be useful. The word "community" may mean different things in different places, even in the Bill. I should like to think that the word "community" had a good and warm feel to it about something which is real and genuine and certainly does not mean disruptive hard men. Therefore, this attempts to assist with that, bearing in mind that we are talking about core policing principles. I am not certain that that is right. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I think that the observations have proceeded on a misapprehension. As the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, says quite correctly, this clause deals with policing principles. It states: Police officers shall carry out their functions". A police officer is sworn to uphold the law. That has nothing to do with getting on happily or turning a blind eye in no-go areas. These are principles. The clause states: Police officers shall carry out their functions with the aim … of securing the support of the local community". That is so, but it relates to the support of the local community in discharging their functions, which are the upholding of the peace and the maintenance of law and order. Secondly, the clause states, acting in co-operation with the local community". Again, that is so in the context of carrying out their functions. Indeed, if one is talking about no-go areas and hard men, if someone is directed to consult them, I should have thought that that would have been rather less firm. This is a principle and it is admirably set out with absolute clarity. It is not an A to Z of how one carries out one's duty off the Shankhill Road; it concerns what one is supposed to be about and I suggest that it is admirably expressed.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I accept the good intentions and the clear definition given by the noble and learned Lord in response. None the less, I wonder whether, to some extent, he contradicted his advice to the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, on Amendment No. 32 when he suggested that, in defining things in terms of gender and ethnicity, he was defining something specific within what was intended to be a much broader field. Insofar as this part of the Bill seeks to define two areas, which I believe are referred to as "core policing principles", are those the only principles that one would apply to police and policing? I think not. Therefore, in the interest of consistency—although, if I remember an earlier part of the debate, the Bill is not particularly concerned with the concept of consistency—will the Minister concede that something needs to be done in order to tidy up this aspect of the Bill as I have attempted to do in Amendment No. 37?

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I continue to share the anxiety about this matter. I believe that it is an extremely likely scenario that the hard men in a community, whether loyalist or Sinn Fein/IRA, could—it would be in their interests to do so—cause, through influence, threats and the rest, someone to be put forward who would be accepted as an independent member and who himself or herself might be a perfectly respectable member of society whom the board could very properly accept.

However, if that person were under the control of the paramilitaries, then the position of the police would become extremely difficult. Presumably they would have to discuss the application of policing with such people in the community. I believe that it is very hard on the ordinary community for us not to recognise clearly in the Bill that there is a distinction between the ordinary people who are under the threat and the heel of the paramilitaries, and the paramilitaries who wish to put themselves forward as "the community", or to put their nominees forward. I hope that when we reach the next stage, somehow we can find the wording that makes it clear that when we say "community", we do not mean the paramilitaries or their nominees. I do not know how that can be done. It will make a laughing stock of the police if they are seen and known by the ordinary man in the street to be solemnly having to co-operate and consult with people whom the man in the street knows perfectly well to be representing not his normal interests, but those of paramilitaries, who may also be criminals.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I shall reply immediately to the noble Baroness on that. The answer is found in a combination of Section 31A on page 9 of the present Bill, which says: (1) Police officers shall carry out their functions with the aim—". I paraphrased what their functions were. They are amply described in Section 32 of the 2000 Act—on page 16, if that is helpful to the Committee. One needs to go back to the 2000 Act. The general functions of the police referred to are:

  1. "(a) to protect life and property;
  2. (b) to preserve order;
  3. (c) to prevent the commission of offences;
  4. (d) where an offence has been committed, to take measures to bring the offender to justice."
None of those would conceivably be compatible with giving into the hard men in the no-go areas, because they would not be preserving order, preventing the commission of offences or taking measures to bring the offender to justice. That is why one needs to take care in looking at Section 31A in the overarching context of Section 32, which remains unamended.

Viscount Brookeborough

The noble and learned Lord has linked this to Section 32. The DPP stands for co-operation with local communities. Co-operation is co-operation whether a community is hard-line or not. It is not that the police would not be trying to carry out their functions. If they were working in co-operation with a very hard-line community, it could mis-direct them and attempt to control them.

Section 16 of the 2000 Act deals with the functions of DPPs. DPPs do not have control of the police. They provide views, they monitor, they make arrangements for obtaining views and they act as a general forum. We had an argument about that when that Bill went through. Section 16(1)(e) says, such other functions as are conferred on it by any other statutory provision". This would appear to me to be that other statutory function which can now come in under the DPPs as the policemen, with the police having an obligation to co-operate with any local community if it is deemed as such. Since the Government in their wisdom seem to want to divide Belfast into hard areas, I can see no way that the DPP has anything other than a statutory duty to co-operate with that community under Section 16(1)(e) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

We are confusing two completely different things. We should go back to Section 31A and the functions of police officers defined in Section 32 of the Act. They are quite separate from the functions of the DPP in Section 16 of the Act. Someone on the DPP is not obliged to take measures to protect life and property, to prevent the commission of offences or to take measures to bring the offender to justice. We must keep these concepts distinct. What is said here is, "Under the general arch of your functions as defined in new Section 31A you must try, as a matter of principle, to secure the support of the local community and to act in co-operation with it". That is exactly what Patten said: "You will never have an effective police force unless you get local community support". That is a truism. We will not get effective policing unless we get the co-operation of the local community. That is an aspiration and a principle which is set down and is perfectly sensible.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, in his first response he said that the clause was admirably drafted. I wonder whether it can be quite so admirably drafted if it has given rise to the difficulties that have been voiced by our colleagues today, leave aside myself. All I ask is that the Minister should think again. It may be that on reflection it will occur to all of us that it is admirably drafted. At present I am not in that happy state. After all, we are trying to make life a little easier for ordinary police constables, who are faced with extraordinarily difficult public order situations from time to time, and for their immediate commanders on the ground. I should like the Minister to again consider this and to perhaps give a little less cursory response. I see the argument he put forward but whether that would be as clear if there were a declaratory sentence inserted into the Bill is perhaps for consideration.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Fitt

In the rarefied atmosphere of this Committee it is hard to realise the difficult situation we are discussing. Anyone in Northern Ireland last weekend would have been able to watch a BBC Northern Ireland programme called "Interface". On Sunday night the programme depicted what it was like to live on the Catholic side of a peace line and on Monday night—I have not seen it but I am getting the tape—what it was like on the other side. From what I saw of the Sunday night episode, in Ardoyne the police were being stoned, bottled and firebombed. There was no way that a policeman could enter that area without wearing all sorts of gear and protection from the army and the rest.

On the other side of the peace line, it was exactly the same. The so-called peace line between them is either barbed wire or a wall. Incidentally, there are 21 peace lines in Belfast. Where do we get a representative of that community, as it is called? Does that community take in a radius of 500 or 600 yards? We would have someone from the Catholic community and someone from the loyalist community, and the police would be faced with a terrible difficulty. So, do not let us underestimate the difficulty in trying to find a community representative who will be acceptable to both sides of the peace line. That will not happen. There will be one from the loyalist side and one from the other side. They are the people who will dictate, in no uncertain way, whether or not policemen are allowed into that area.

Lord Glentoran

The intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, made the point yet again that Patten was, in his own words, written for a normal, peaceful society. My point, which I have laboured all the way through, with which I shall continue and which stands, is that the time is not right for the Bill. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, for making the point so clearly.

Lord Rogan

Perhaps I may add to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. From what he says, the situation on the ground is far worse. Most people coming from Belfast would identify the Shankill as one area and the Falls as another. The Shankill is a very defined area of Belfast and has been for generations. In the minds of most people it would be a single community. Yet we all know that because of what has happened in the Shankill over the past few years it is at least two communities if not three, so it is worse than just across the divides.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I do not disagree with anything that has been said—certainly not with what the noble Lord, Lord Fitt said. I hope that my response was not cursory, because I have returned to the Act three times and explained it carefully. I urge the Committee to keep distinct the principle that attaches to a police officer's core functions and the problems that may inure from DPPs, which I do not overlook.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

I am somewhat disappointed that the noble and learned Lord has not responded to my serious point about consistency. We have not grasped the difficulty in a practical sense. It has perhaps been acknowledged but not grasped in a practical sense. I shall not enlarge upon what the noble Lords. Lord Fitt, Lord Rogan, or Lord Glentoran, have said on the matter.

Whenever the time may come for the Bill, it is not and should not be now. Society in Northern Ireland is not ready for it. The terminology that is being used here is confusing. Whatever leadership I had, I should not like to be a young police officer aged 19 or 20 trying to interpret what were my priorities as I policed some of the most difficult areas of Northern Ireland.

Nor, in fact, would I as a young policeman—or as a much older individual—be able to define what is a community in Northern Ireland. No one lives in a box. Whatever happens in one geographical area impacts on the adjacent one. The people who live in one geographical area interface with people in the adjacent geographical area, so there is no simple definition of what is a local community. None the less, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

Lord Shutt of Greetland moved Amendment No. 39: Page 9, line 15, at end insert ", and (c) protecting human rights

The noble Lord said: We are here in similar territory to that of previous amendments. The noble and learned Lord mentioned Section 32 of the 2000 Act. New Section 31A is to be inserted in front of that. The Act mentions "the police" and "general functions". The Government have deemed it necessary to insert New Subsection 31A, entitled "Core policing principles", in front of that. Whereas Section 32 deals with "functions" —we have heard that they include protecting life and property, preserving order, preventing the commission of offences and so on—the core policing principles come before that.

Although I am not certain whether new Section 31A(1)(a) and (b) are entirely correct and new Section 31A(2) mentions other functions, the new section seems really to be about the aim and purpose of policing. It is fair enough to say that it is about "securing the support" of local people and "acting in co-operation" with local people, but there is another dimension—we have human rights. If it is so important to have this clause of core principles, protecting human rights should be one of them. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I sympathise entirely with the thinking behind this and I hope I can reassure the noble Lord and the Committee that because of the Human Rights Act 1998, all police officers are obliged to act compatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights. The clause makes it clear that the code of ethics is the guide for all police officers, which they must attend to. That code is fully compatible with the ECHR and other international human rights standards. Apart from that, the board has a duty under Section 3(3)(b) of the 2000 Act to monitor the performance of the police in complying with the Human Rights Act and under Section 3(3)(d)(iv) to assess the effectiveness of the code of ethics. Therefore, one has here a deeply ingrained human rights protection and, on the basis of those assurances, I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

I shall reflect on those words. Bearing in mind that we are talking about core principles, it would be useful to have that on the face of the Bill so that everybody involved in policing was aware of it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

This may be a convenient moment, unless there is significant disagreement, for the Committee to adjourn until tomorrow at 3.45 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Thomas of Walliswood)

The Committee stands adjourned until tomorrow at 3.45 p.:m.

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