HL Deb 23 October 2000 vol 618 cc11-119

3.2 p.m.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, before that Motion is agreed to, I should just like to make a few points in relation to the Bill. It is more than three months since the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill received its Second Reading and it is considerably longer since it started its course through Parliament.

This is an extremely serious Bill and many things have changed. It has caused considerable concern within the police force in Northern Ireland but, during the whole of that period, the force has served its community with its usual professionalism and impartiality.

Also, many noble Lords will know that the government amendments to the Bill were tabled exceptionally late, the last ones coming on Thursday evening and being printed on Friday. I suspect that many noble Lords did not see those amendments on the Marshalled List until this morning. That has made it particularly difficult to respond as carefully and professionally as we might have done in different circumstances.

However, I understand and accept from the Government that the reason for that is that the amendments were being negotiated by the Secretary of State and his team right up until the last minute, with the parliamentary parties and others concerned in Northern Ireland.

However, we are today legislating for the policing of an integral part of the United Kingdom. However, it is the peace process which makes this legislation so delicate and difficult. There is a need for the balance of discussion to be so carefully weighed.

I submit, though, that the Government are now running to the end of the road on this Bill. I suggest that they have until Report stage to make some extremely key decisions. I hope that we shall have some very good debates in Committee which will allow Her Majesty's Government to make the right decisions in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the understanding that he has shown in relation to the amendments coming from the government side. The Second Reading of the Bill took place on 27th July and the vast bulk of the time since then has obviously been taken up by the Summer Recess.

Today, we are focusing on individual amendments to the Bill. I wish to spend a few moments, in response to the noble Lord's remarks, setting our discussions in a wider context.

This legislation flows directly from the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland—the Patten report. That commission took its terms of reference directly from the Good Friday agreement. Following publication of the Patten report, the Government have carried out a wide range of consultations. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland believes, as I do, that this is a balanced Bill. The Government have listened very carefully and have demonstrated that we are prepared to make changes where it is right to do so. Every proposal has been assessed against the key test: will it contribute to making the police a more effective representative service, a service which commands the widespread support and confidence of the people of Northern Ireland?

Patten himself recognised that his report would not be mechanistically implemented and that some fine-tuning would inevitably be required in translating some of his recommendations into legislation. This legislation is a key element in taking forward the Good Friday agreement. The goal—and it should be a shared goal for all the differences of opinion in relation to individual facets of the Bill—is to achieve a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland.

The Bill offers a unique opportunity for policing in Northern Ireland to move forward. All noble Lords share that aspiration and I welcome their support in helping the Government to deliver it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Name of the police in Northern Ireland]:

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff)

In calling this amendment, I should point out that if this amendment is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 2 to 7 because of pre-emption.

Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 11 and insert ("be styled as "The Royal Ulster Constabulary—Police Service of Northern Ireland"").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has an obvious purpose; namely, to create a double-barrelled name for the police service in Northern Ireland, that new name being the Royal Ulster Constabulary-Police Service of Northern Ireland. In my view, that is the best title for a police service in Northern Ireland and the best means of ensuring widespread cross-community support for the police.

I have said before that many aspects of Patten are to be welcomed and many are by no means objectionable. However, the few aspects which I find objectionable I find deeply objectionable. Those deeply objectionable aspects are only so because they are founded on misinformation, false logic and a misinterpretation of the Belfast agreement.

A point of misinformation is that young Catholics will not join the police service as they find its current title offensive. If that is true, why in the period between what paramilitaries term the "cessation of military operations" and the suspension of recruitment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, did Catholic applications to the police double from 11 per cent to 22 per cent?

That figure of 22 per cent is only the start. However it is clearly an impressive start and one not precipitated by any name change or name alteration. That fact should not be ignored. It should be given due weight in any discussion on the future name of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Exactly what is offensive about the title "Royal Ulster Constabulary"? Is it the fact that that name is associated with a police force that has protected both Catholics and Protestant people in Northern Ireland, providing that thin green line throughout 30 years of terrorism? I think not. So, it must be the "Royal" prefix. Are we to believe that young Catholic Irish men and women will not join a police service in Northern Ireland because it has a "Royal" prefix? The Republic of Ireland has many organisations that contain a "Royal" prefix. I have heard no reports of them experiencing recruitment problems because of that. There is no shortage of sailors at the Royal Cork Yacht Club; architects at the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland; or surgeons at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. There is no shortage of physicians at the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, possibly only a shortage of beds at the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook. Indeed, there is no problem of people failing to attend events at the Royal Dublin Society.

In the past, the Royal Irish Constabulary attracted Catholic recruits despite its name, as some may now suggest. Of course, the Royal Irish Constabulary began to suffer recruitment problems only when intimidation of its members became prevalent. If it is now clear that the prefix is not the central cause of the low number of Catholic applications to the police, an alternative cause must exist. That brings us to the central and widespread problem of intimidation.

For a long time young Catholics have been intimidated into not joining the police. Now, to a lesser extent, illustrated by the doubling of applications, that intimidation continues. The eradication of such intimidation and disbandment of paramilitary organisations will precipitate the continuing increase in Catholic applicants to become police officers in Northern Ireland and create the police service we all desire; one that reflects the community it polices in all its areas.

It must be remembered that any alteration to the name of the police service in Northern Ireland must be founded in logic. Yes, it is important to increase overt support for the police in nationalist and, if possible, republican communities. But one must maintain the level of support for the police from among Unionists that has existed until now.

The principle of consent is central to the Belfast agreement. Northern Ireland shall remain within the United Kingdom while the majority so desire. Northern Ireland is not state neutral, neither is the police. It is not unreasonable to maintain the name "The Royal Ulster Constabulary" because it is a British police force. However, our amendment offers more. It offers a new name that recognises the importance of the RUC, a double-barrelled name that symbolises something new and one that both communities in Northern Ireland should support. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Desai

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 2 and others tabled in my name in this grouping. At Second Reading I stated that, unlike many other noble Lords who spoke, I like the Patten report and would like to see it fully implemented. I do not believe that it is one-sided. It is a well worked out compromise. Fully implementing the Patten report is part of implementing the Good Friday agreement.

I have said before in this place that the situation in Northern Ireland is very peculiar. Although the events are taking place within the jurisdiction of Her Majesty's Government in a post-colonial situation, we are in an international context. The Good Friday agreement is an international treaty and we are bound to implement it, as we agreed to, with the Republic of Ireland. I am sure that Members of the Committee hardly need reminding that the Republic implemented its part of the bargain and changed its constitution. Therefore, one cannot say that this is a one-sided agreement.

Perhaps I may make one or two comments about the principles at stake. The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, is right that a principle of consent is part of the crux of the matter in Northern Ireland. Nothing in t he Bill or in my amendment detracts from that principle of consent. But there are other principles outlined in the Good Friday agreement. One is that we should recognise the right of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish, British or both. Another is that the agreement will guarantee parity of esteem and just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.

We have to strike a good balance. I agree that it is puzzling for people to object to the word "Royal" in the title of a police force within the jurisdiction of Her Majesty's Government. However, that has been part of the problem for the past 70 to 80 years. That is why we have been fighting this particular half-battle, half-truce in Northern Ireland. Therefore, it is not possible for us to say that we can forget about all that.

I agree with the tribute paid by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, to the excellent work done by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I completely share that. It has done a great job. However, we have to look to the future. If we are to have a sustainable peace in Northern Ireland, we have to make a new beginning, follow what we achieved in the Good Friday agreement and work out its consequences.

Last May Chris Patten stated: If you are going to get a police service which young Catholics as well as young Protestants … are going to join, then it can't be identified with the central political argument in Northern Ireland and it is as simple as that". I do not think that it is simple; it is complex. However, it is a central political argument. We cannot forget that. To stay with a half compromise of Patten will just not do.

The noble Lord, Lord Rogan—I concede he has more first-hand knowledge of this matter than I do—stated that young Catholics would be willing to join the service. On 11th June an opinion poll in the Sunday Times stated that 72 per cent of Catholics agreed that the RUC name should be changed to the Northern Ireland Police Service.

The differences are pretty straightforward. The present formulation tries to straddle both alternatives. I say we must make a clean break. We must call the new service the Police Service of Northern Ireland. That incorporates the Royal Ulster Constabulary, as my amendment says. But we have to have a clean break and go to a new era, a new regime in which all the parties agree to co-operate, as they did with the Good Friday agreement.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I greatly regret than an inescapable duty in Middle Temple, where I hold an office, will prevent me from playing as much of a part in today's proceedings as I should like. It makes me all the more glad that these amendments appear first on the Marshalled List.

It is always helpful at the outset of any discussion to try to identify the common ground, and it is not difficult to find the common ground that unites us all in this Chamber today; that is, that we all want to see more Catholics proportionately represented in the RUC. We all recognise that they are at present in the minority. The question is how we achieve that proportionality. The reasons for the present situation are too plain to need stating.

The Government's proposal for a new name in place of the RUC is designed to bring more Catholics in and to do it, so the argument goes, by removing something which at present keeps them out. But is that a sound argument? And even if it is, will the resulting pain and resentment running over into a loss of confidence be worthwhile? We need to be fair about this. For my part I am prepared to concede that there have been times, fortunately now long distant, when the RUC—not altogether unintentionally—was associated with the Protestant majority. We do not need to dwell on the reasons. It was harmful and it was wrong. In those days that would have deterred many a well-qualified Catholic from wanting to join.

But the driving factors for Catholic antipathy in those days were these: the political control; the management; the make-up of the RUC; and, it has to be said, on occasions the conduct of individual members. I suggest that the name itself scarcely signified, any more than the prefix "Royal" signifies today in those institutions in the Republic which were alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. Today, it is surely common ground that those blemishes are things of the past. The old political control of operational decisions has gone; the management of the RUC is quite transformed. Nobody today argues that there is sectarian favouritism. As for the conduct of the RUC, we need only need go back to the television pictures of the RUC standing eyeball to eyeball against the Orangemen at Drumcree year after year, losing in one year one officer who was murdered and scores more being gravely injured, to realise how the RUC today upholds its duty of impartiality. That is to say nothing of its record of this past 30 years of violence.

I would argue therefore that there has already been a new beginning of great significance to policing in Northern Ireland, and that is before one takes on board the fact that 85 per cent of Patten's recommendations are already implemented or in the pipeline to be so.

So what is it that still keeps Catholics away? How much, if anything, is it the name? Again, one cannot dispute that it plays some part, but I believe that it is a tiny, residual part. Much more serious is the part played by the failure—or is it the refusal?—of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, regrettably, to endorse service in the RUC as a worthy calling for a good Catholic. Much more is represented by the failure—or is it the refusal? —of leaders of the SDLP to urge membership of the RUC as a proper thing for good nationalists, as so many nationalists have already shown. Likewise—it has already been alluded to—is the part played by intimidation, not only of the candidate for the RUC who happens to be a Catholic, but of his or her family with dire consequences. What a difference the removal of all those factors would make in bringing us forward to what all of us in this Chamber tonight desire.

Today we must balance against a possible gain of slight proportion, the great wound to serving and past members of the RUC and to their families that will be caused by amputating their force's name and, as it were, chucking it into the waste bin as though it were some gangrenous material. The foundation proposed by the Bill is welcome and is a salve. I hope it will be fortified by a Royal Charter. Of course the name will live on in the RUC Widows Association; that cannot be taken away. But the trauma and pain will be very real, as will the consequential resentment and loss of confidence, which we can well do without. For my part, I feel it is quite disproportionate to any gain that we may reasonably expect in persuading more Catholics to join the RUC.

In conclusion, I realise—and I shall not forget this as the debates continue—that the Chief Constable of the RUC expressed the view that his men and women desire above all things for this issue to be brought to a speedy conclusion; they do not want it to become a political football. But today, for the reasons I tried to put before the Committee, I support Amendment No. 1.

Lord Glentoran

I too rise to support Amendment No. 1. My name is attached to Amendment No. 6 which proposes a slightly different solution. However, my arguments are that the republican and nationalist movements have, through the peace agreement, agreed to serve and take part in the government at Stormont for governing Northern Ireland, a Province of the United Kingdom. When I met with their representatives, I was told that they want ownership, in real terms, of the police so that their constituency can feel comfortable and at home with the people whose job it is to police their communities.

That is all very worthy. But if they want ownership and if they are prepared to take an active sharing part in the governance of Northern Ireland, then they should be prepared to give and take in the things that really matter to their communities as much as does the Unionist community.

One such matter is the name of the new police force which is destined to police Northern Ireland.

Let us not forget that the peace agreement, almost on the first page, states that Northern Ireland will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom while consensus for that remains; in other words, while a majority of people want it to be so. That indicates that more than 50 per cent of the people living in Northern Ireland want that to be and want to have a share of the police force.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, have made clear the non-effect on recruitment of Roman Catholics, nationalists and republicans into the police force as a result of the name. The name is a symbol and a part of history. It is to be hoped that the new name will become an integral part of history. I believe that for the peace process to continue—and I put it as seriously as that—a balance, a compromise, must be arrived at or a brave, courageous and firm line must be taken by Her Majesty's Government to ensure that there is seen to be a fairness and compromise in the naming of the new police force.

Not only are the members of the force excited about this part of the Bill; so are the electorate. They are those people who make up that 54 per cent; those people who did not vote for the Unionist party in South Antrim who are, what one might term, the soft, moderate, sensible, well off, middle-class of Ulster unionism. Those people feel very strongly, and I make the point to the Minister that we on this side of the Committee believe that there must be a compromise which in some way reclaims in part the name RUC GC or similar.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Sheppard of Liverpool

I recognise that had I been brought up in Northern Ireland I would have been part of the Protestant community. Now I try hard to stand in their shoes and understand.

For a good many years, together with Free Church and Roman Catholic leaders in Liverpool, I met twice a year with our opposite numbers in Belfast and Glasgow. I understand the deep feelings about the symbolism of the name and the badge of the RUC; the deep but different feelings held both in the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities. In the Protestant community, there is pride in the record of the RUC, often one of very great cost, and the change of name may seem to denigrate that record. But if I were part of that Protestant community in Northern Ireland I would want to build on all that is good about that history. Most of all I would want to know that the rule of law should run throughout the Province. I would know too well that the RUC was not accepted as "our" police service in many parts of the Catholic community.

In Britain, we have always believed that the rule of law needs mutual co-operation between public and the police. When that trust breaks down, citizens cease to think of the police as "our" police service. The issue of recruiting, mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, and others, follows—but it is not the only one—from confidence in "our" police force. Will citizens come forward as witnesses when there exists the crucial issue of whether or not they trust the police force as "our" police force and when people even start to talk of an army of occupation? We know that all that has happened in substantial parts of Northern Ireland.

In debates in this House in June or July last year some noble Lords spoke of the innocent being made to suffer along with the guilty. Which of us is innocent in Northern Ireland and in Northern Ireland history? It is not the English who brought in a community of settlers, giving them unjust advantages in employment, land and law. No, none of us can claim to be innocent. We need a fresh start which will win the assent of the whole community to the rule of law and the agents who enforce it.

We had an example in Liverpool. It is not quite the same but there is sufficient parallel to make it worth quoting. After the Toxteth riots in 1981, leaders in the Liverpool black community approached Church leaders asking whether we would help them to establish a law centre. They had not believed that policing was even-handed. In all our discussions, a simple hope led us forward; that this deprived community could come to see that the law could be a friend. It would have been a tremendous change. That hope needed to grow if, crucially, people were to give evidence and if black police officers were to be recruited.

Let us suppose that I had been brought up in the Roman Catholic community in Northern Ireland and that I had felt moved to become a police officer. Would my friends believe that I was joining "our" police service; that the law could now be a friend? Or would old memories that the RUC was really part of the Protestant community override that? If I had been brought up in the Catholic community, I would know that for many people the name and the badge have been regarded with great hurt.

Patten was right; there has to be a fresh beginning for policing that the whole community can accept. There is a lot of compromise about Patten and about this Bill. Unionists have often said that they want closer ties with Britain; the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, twice spoke today about Northern Ireland being an integral part of the United Kingdom. Yes, it seems to me to follow that the Northern Ireland police service should be placed on the same basis as other police forces in the United Kingdom. One does not have a Royal Metropolitan Police, with all the costs that it has suffered, or a Royal Merseyside Police. That title belongs to an old situation and Northern Ireland urgently needs a new beginning for the rule of law to be accepted in all parts of the community.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Lord sits down, will he accept that public opinion polls in Northern Ireland have revealed that the majority of Roman Catholics do not object to the title Royal Ulster Constabulary? They may not be madly enthusiastic about it but they are not particularly opposed either. There are those who are opposed but they represent well under 20 per cent of the entire population.

Lord Sheppard of Liverpool

I do not know from where the noble Lord has obtained his figure. My advice is that it is a cause of very real and wide offence in the Catholic community in Northern Ireland.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

We are in danger, as we often are, of subjecting ourselves to the tyranny of the minority and forgetting the majority. The majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for the peace agreement because they believed that there would be peace. They are still in a situation in which, if the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, will forgive me, many innocent victims are having to suffer the law of the paramilitaries and are unable to have recourse to where they should be able to go because the paramilitaries have decreed that no one may work for the RUC or join it. That is where the problem lies. Catholics have never had a problem in wanting to enter the RUC but they have a problem with the consequences for themselves and their families.

I cannot understand why we are constantly concerned about the wishes of the paramilitaries. A majority of the population—I am sorry to say it, but there is still a majority—want things to go on so that there will be law and order. The RUC has signally succeeded in providing that law and order: whether it confronts loyalists or anybody else, it has performed that duty.

One of the big problems so far is that IRA/Sinn Fein will not endorse even the new service. It wants the whole of the RUC, whatever its title, to be abolished and its own people's police. One cannot expect the majority to contemplate that with calm. The SDLP, according to press reports—I shall be happy if the noble and learned Lord is able to contradict me—has said that it will not join the police authority if invited to do so until it is satisfied that the new organisation will work well, which is a completely circular argument.

It was expressly said in the Belfast agreement that all parties acknowledged the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems, including the title which that force has had since its inception. That body, and the majority of ordinary people in Northern Ireland, believe that the retention of the reference to the Crown is one of the very few indications (I am sorry to say) that they, let alone Dublin, recognise that Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom. It is a very important symbol to them. If we are to respect the symbols of the other side, why can we not respect the symbols of the vast majority, particularly since many honourable and brave Catholic members of the RUC wish that force to succeed, prosper and behave well, as it has done.

We should not allow ourselves to be manoeuvred by the excellent media tactics of the paramilitaries into depriving the country of its due, which is law and order and a proper and well supported police force. As my noble and learned friend said, the RUC has already done most of the things that really matter in the community which Patten wanted. I hope that the Committee will help the RUC to retain its title and not allow itself to be manoeuvred into giving it up as yet one more minor concession. It is not a minor concession but a major symbol.

Lord Dubs

I take issue with the noble Baroness. I do not believe for one moment that this Bill is to do with appeasing or meeting the wishes of terrorist paramilitaries.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I did not for a moment intend to suggest that. I referred to the intention to abandon the title, not the Bill itself.

Lord Dubs

I see the change in the name of the RUC as an integral part of the Government's approach in this Bill. I do not believe that the change of name is anything to do with appeasing paramilitaries or terrorists; it is to establish a police service in Northern Ireland which has the consent of the vast majority of law-abiding individuals in both communities. That is the aim, and I believe that this Bill will achieve it.

Lord Laird

Can the noble Lord refer to any opinion poll anywhere that backs up his view?

3.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs

I am not sure that I should bandy opinion poll statistics, but I am prepared to deal with the opinions of people to whom I have spoken in Northern Ireland on both sides of the community. There are serving officers in the RUC and others who have said that the name does not matter, as long as they have a proper police service which has the consent of the people whom that service seeks to serve. Not everybody makes so much of the name. I agree that there are those who believe that the name is important, but we must look at what the Bill seeks to do in the round and how we should take it forward.

Lord Laird

If, as the noble Lord says, the name does not matter, why change it?

Lord Dubs

I do not suggest that. There are even officers in the RUC who do not believe that the retention of the name is that crucial. I use as an analogy the British Army regiments which lost their names when they merged 10 or 15 years ago under the previous government. There was a good deal of feeling that the traditions of many brave and illustrious British Army regiments would be lost if the names were changed. Eventually it was argued out, and most people associated with those regiments, which had a long history, accepted reluctantly that it was necessary to change the name and did not maintain that that meant a denial of the traditions of those regiments. I make a similar argument with regard to the RUC. In changing the name to meet the new situation as described in the Patten report one is talking about moving towards a police service in Northern Ireland which has the consent of the vast majority of people there.

I worry about the reference by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, to the amputation of the name of the RUC. With all deference to his long experience of and service to Northern Ireland, I am not sure that that kind of terminology is helpful: it implies that somehow one is damaging the history and traditions of the police in Northern Ireland, and I believe that that is not so.

I remind the Committee of one or two passages in the Patten report. I quote from paragraph 17.4 on page 98: Many people in Northern Ireland from the Irish nationalist and republican tradition regard the name, badge and symbols of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as associating the police with the British constitution and state. This contributes to the perception that the police are not their police". That is crucial. We want to achieve a situation in which people, from whatever part of the community they may come, believe that it is their police. The Committee may regret that that is the situation, but we are dealing with a situation that has arisen over many years.

At the end of the same paragraph, on page 99, the report states: The argument about symbols is not an argument about policing, but an argument about the constitution". In paragraph 17.6 it goes on to say: In our judgment that new beginning"— which we are now talking about— cannot be achieved unless the reality that part of the community feels unable to identify with the present name and symbols associated with the police is addressed. Like the unique constitutional arrangements, our proposals seek to achieve a situation in which people can be British, Irish or Northern Irish, as they wish, and all regard the police service as their own". It is crucial that the police in Northern Ireland have the support of the SDLP and the Catholic Church. One of the real challenges that face the Government is to ensure that that support is forthcoming. If it is, it will be much easier for young Catholics freely and willingly to join the police and serve the people of Northern Ireland. I am reminded of a story that. I heard about the head teacher of a Catholic school in West Belfast. He said that there was no difficulty about his school leavers joining the police: they joined the Strathclyde Police, the Metropolitan Police and the Garda Siochana. The challenge is to ensure that those young people who want a career in the police are willing to join the service in Northern Ireland.

Lord Glentoran

Before the noble Lord sits down, does he believe that if the name is changed, as in the Bill, the nationalist and republican community will come forward and take part in that police force?

Lord Dubs

It is one element in a package of measures described by Patten, to which this Bill gives effect, that will help to secure the confidence of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland.

Baroness O'Cathain

I support the amendment. A considerable amount has already been said about this matter, and I am sure that a good deal more will be said. As a preamble, for the past 31 years the RUC has defended virtually the undefendable in the Province of Ulster. During that time 302 RUC officers and men have died and countless numbers who have been wounded will carry their scars and disabilities to the end of their lives. One has in mind also the widows and children of officers who have been killed in the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, said that at this stage we need a new beginning. I believe that during the past 31 years a new beginning has emerged. It began when the whole Northern Ireland peace process started to take a positive hold in one's mind. The fact that, from the time of the cessation of terrorism, Catholic recruitment to the RUC has increased from 11 per cent to 22 per cent—recruitment has now been suspended—shows that there has been a new beginning. We need to balance that—it is not a compromise as such—with how far we are prepared to kick in the teeth the families of those who have given their lives.

It is quite unacceptable for people to say that unless we change the nomenclature of the police force in Northern Ireland, we cannot achieve the peace that we all dearly want. It is intimidation and not nomenclature that is at the root of the problem. But it is easy for us to say that we should change the name of the RUC.

I have spoken before in the House about the sad lack of active support by the Catholic hierarchy towards those of their flock who want to join the RUC. Greater efforts should be made by everyone involved to try to get the Catholic hierarchy to say, "Of course it is our police force".

People say that the only hurdle against continuing firm peace in Northern Ireland is the name of the RUC. That is not true. We need to root out the support for the paramilitary and terrorist organisations which is only there because of intimidation. Changing the Royal Ulster Constabulary's name to the Police Service of Northern Ireland will not achieve that.

Lord Hylton

I should just like to say to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, that, yes, it is vital that the widows of the RUC and its wounded members are properly cared for. That is precisely what is provided for under the terms of the RUC George Cross Foundation.

I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Liverpool, that what is needed is a new start and a new name. It would be a great mistake to have a name which is controversial to some people. It would be better to have a name which is neutral and which hopefully all sections of the community could support. Therefore, I support the Government on the amendment.

Lord Vivian

Before addressing the detail of the amendment, I should like to draw the attention of noble Lords to two general points. First, the majority of clauses in the Bill were proposed by the Chief Constable and members of the RUC. They are welcomed in many quarters and have much support on these Benches.

Secondly, there are still a number of controversial issues which will be discussed during the Committee stage. I believe that it is timely to remind noble Lords that this legislation was rushed through the other place with undue haste and insufficient debate and scrutiny. Therefore, it is beholden to Members of the Committee to allow sufficient time for careful scrutiny of the Bill and to keep in mind that the controversial issues of the Patten report will not be implemented until the level of violence has ceased and policing activity has returned to normal. This has not occurred.

I strongly support Amendment No.1. The Patten report stated that it was important that the link between the RUC and the new police force should be recognised. However, at the same time, the report says that many people in Northern Ireland from the Irish nationalist and the republican tradition regard the name, badge and symbols of the RUC as associating the police with the British constitution and state, contributing to a perception that the police are not their police. Ulster is part of the British constitution. Therefore, it is right and proper to associate the RUC with the British constitution, especially as the Belfast agreement means acceptance of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's constitutional status as part of the United Kingdom. It would be improper and weak to adopt any other line.

A recent survey of attitudes in Ulster in the Belfast Telegraph found that 61 per cent of Catholics are not offended by the RUC identity and name. That is in direct contrast to the Patten report statement.

While in the Army and patrolling in Belfast and in the countryside many years ago, apart from in the hardline areas, there was seldom any occasion when people showed hatred or dislike for the RUC. The Government are taking into account the views of a small element of extremists. One is drawn to the conclusion that the decision to change the name of the RUC is intended to appeal to that small element of hardliners who will never support any police force.

There is no greater or quicker way to demoralise a force than to remove its badge and change its title. That is the exact road that the Government have chosen to go down. A police force with low morale immediately becomes inefficient That leads to increased crime and greater acts of terrorism.

Clause 1 of the Bill lays down the provisions for the RUC's new name. I remind the Committee that Clause 1(1) states that, the Royal Ulster Constabulary shall continue in being as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary)". There is no need for any brackets or to change the name of the RUC. There is worse to come. Subsection (2) states that for all operational purposes it will be known as the Police Service of Northern Ireland. "Operational purposes" includes all working, public, legal, ceremonial, administrative, presentational and recruitment purposes. I have a strong belief that in the future the only place where the name will be seen in full will be on the statute book. It will not be used on the heading of writing paper, as the title outside police stations or referred to verbally.

It is for all those reasons that I strongly support the amendment.

Viscount Brookeborough

I support the amendment. The name of the police force is extremely important, not only to the force but to the people of Northern Ireland.

When we talk about a new beginning, we are talking about two new beginnings. The Government are talking about a new beginning where they hope—we all hope—that Roman Catholics will join the RUC. Sinn Fein/IRA is thinking about a different beginning. It is talking about a beginning without a police force.

At the moment, we do not suffer from as much terrorism as we did, but ordinary crime is on the increase, especially in rural areas. I live in Fermanagh and the whole county is rural. There crime is escalating. Who will solve the crime? Who believes that a police force can be plucked out of any community and be capable in a short length of time of so doing? Sinn Fein/IRA does not want ex-RUC members in the police force. It does not want a police force that is capable of solving ordinary crime. Indeed, in the urban areas one gets the impression that no Roman Catholic wants a police force. Sinn Fein/IRA or the loyalist organisations—I treat them equally—do not wish to have a police force that can sort out the crime level which has become endemic in those areas. An FBI report was quoted in the Belfast Telegraph last week as saying that the crime level is based on terrorist organisations. I suggest that if one asked the criminal underworld in London what they thought about the police force, one would hear a roughly similar point of view—do away with it and start again.

There are emblems in the badge of the RUC for all Ireland. If we think that we have a new beginning, how is it that the number of calls from Catholics from very hard areas of Northern Ireland—from Newry, the Creggan and the Falls—requiring the help of the police is increasing? The latest figures show a 20 per cent increase-25 per cent in some areas. Is the RUC really not accepted for sorting out the crime that is taking place? I would disagree with that. We are talking about a new beginning. The new beginning is partly there, but we cannot have that new beginning until the Roman Catholic Church in Northern Ireland, the SDLP and Sinn Fein support a modern police force that is capable, unfortunately for those involved, of taking on terrorist-related crime and ordinary day-to-day crime in Northern Ireland.

To those who say that they have never heard of a Roman Catholic speaking to the police or getting their help, perhaps I may say this. This morning, 100 yards from home, 38 sheep were killed through dogs worrying them. They belonged to a good friend of mine—he is a Roman Catholic from Brookeborough. Who was first on the scene? It was the RUC. What will my friend be demanding on television this evening? I say that because the television people came down. He will be demanding that the RUC get out there and deal with the normal, day-to-day problems. I totally refute the idea that Roman Catholics do not want anything to do with the RUC, although it may be so in areas where they are canvassed and intimidated and fear is instilled in their communities by those who do not wish to be caught in their acts of crime.

4 p.m.

Lord Elton

Those who have never lived or served in Northern Ireland probably see these problems in a different light from those who have. It is now 18 years since I was there and therefore my perceptions are clouded. But I hope the noble and learned Lord the Minister will accept that there are many who would like to consider the proceedings today before coming to a conclusion as the alternatives were only recently put before us. That is not a request for delay; it is a request for a chance to absorb what is being said, some of which is very powerful stuff.

I was very much touched by what the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard—I am never sure whether to call him a right reverend Prelate or a right reverend Lord—said about what we are trying to do. We are trying to produce a police force which is not only accepted but owned by—that is, felt to belong to—all the communities in the Province. What is the principal barrier to that? It is not the force's title; it is its composition. It is the lack of Roman Catholic representation among the membership. What is the cause of that? From what I have heard, it seems to me that there are two causes. The first is the lack of commendation on the part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and other bodies in the Province that young people should regard membership of the police as an honourable career; and the second is intimidation by terrorist forces. As long as those persist, it will not make a ha'p'orth of difference what we call the force; and that is not going to change.

We have the horse behind the cart. As one has, in legislation, to drive both the horse and the cart through the same gate at the same time, if this has to be done now, it should not be done in haste. I was very much impressed by what my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden and other noble Lords said about the emotive effect of a title. If the title is to be changed, it must be done in a manner which does not dishonour the dead. If one is changing the name of the Birmingham police force, one does not do anything to the amour propre of anyone in a sense where it really matters.

Perhaps I may break off to quote, almost irrelevantly but I cannot resist it, my favourite misprint of all time which appeared in the Coventry Evening Telegraph many years ago: The editor of the Coventry Evening Telegraph wishes to apologise for his reference in last night's edition to the Birmingham polite force. This, of course, should have been a reference to the Birmingham police farce". I say that merely to lighten the tone of the afternoon. But these are serious matters. We should not get them wrong.

The RUC is very like a regiment. I can understand that it has the feelings of a regiment. I have been in a regiment during an amalgamation and I understand how tender those feelings can be. But if all ranks share a determination to make the new body work, it will work. We have first of all to address the question of commendation and intimidation. This is a secondary matter.

Lord Fitt

Had I been looking after my personal interests, this is a debate which I could very well have avoided. If I as a Catholic—I am still a Catholic—educated by the Christian Brothers in Northern Ireland, were to say that I support the retention of the name of the RUC, as I intend to do, I can imagine the headlines tomorrow morning in the nationalist press in Ireland. I would be regarded as a traitor, as someone who had sold out my principles and as someone who was no longer a nationalist. All that would he said about me tomorrow morning. I could have avoided this debate. However, I think it right that this Chamber should be made fully aware of the complex issues involved in one's attitude towards the police of Northern Ireland.

I remember leading a civil rights march in Derry on 5th October 1968, a march which had been banned by the then Minister of Home Affairs, William Craig, because we were demanding civil rights in Northern Ireland which he found repugnant. Because we wanted to march down a certain street, we were beaten up by the police. I was one of the first to be beaten by the police. The pages of history will record that as a fact. So people have said to me within the past week, "How can you support the RUC when they hit you on the head with a baton on 5th October 1968?" Many years have elapsed since 1968 and many attitudes have changed. Most of the civil rights I was marching for in Northern Ireland have been granted. All the issues that were so paramount then have now come to be true in Northern Ireland.

Let us look clearly and distinctly at what the debate is about. The debate is in many ways a debate about the constitution of Northern Ireland. We cannot run away from that fact. It is a debate about the constitution and the existence of Northern Ireland as a state within the United Kingdom; a state which many people in Northern Ireland do not accept. During the course of my Second Reading speech I said that the Northern Ireland police are unlike any other police force in the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is the only state in the United Kingdom that has a land border with an independent country—the Irish Republic. That does not apply to the police in Yorkshire or any other police force.

Northern Ireland came into being as a six-county state in the wake of an awful amount of bloodshed. In the years before partition, members of the old RIC—the Royal Irish Constabulary—were brutally murdered because they were seen to be an arm of the British domination of the Irish Republic and, indeed, Ireland.

After partition, the RIC was reformed to become the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The force was given two facets to focus on in its policing work. The first was to find miscreants who robbed meters, to investigate house burglaries and to impose parking fines as well as dealing with the other elements of conventional crime. The second facet of its work concerned its obligation to defend the state of Northern Ireland. That was why it was formed as Northern Ireland's police force. The force was given the obligation to defend the six counties' border of Northern Ireland. No other police force had such responsibilities.

Certain positions were reserved for Catholics to join the RUC. It is not strictly correct to say that Catholics do not support the existence of Northern Ireland as a constitutional entity. That is simply not true. Survey after survey has proved that many Catholics do support the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. Perhaps those Catholics come from what might be called the middle classes. They are people in employment and those who, if the state were to be abolished, would find themselves in a very difficult position.

I ask my noble friends in this Committee to recall that one of the great supporters of the RUC over many years has been a very courageous priest by the name of Monsignor Dennis Faul. He has repeatedly come out in support of the RUC. Where has Father Faul been over the past two or three months—indeed, since the publication of the Patten report? I have not heard from him. I do not believe that Father Faul has been intimidated into silence by the IRA because he has shown so much courage over the past 30 years. Therefore we must address another question: has some other force told Father Faul not to say anything in support of the RUC? I find that extremely unhelpful and despairing in the present situation.

There we have it. As I said earlier, after partition vacancies were kept for Catholics to join the RUC. However, for Catholics that move was tantamount to agreeing to the declaration that: "If you join the RUC, you are a traitor to the ideal of a united Ireland. You are allying yourself to the unionist cause. You are a traitor to your religion." Very little has changed. That is what will be said about me by tomorrow morning in the pan-nationalist press of Northern Ireland. However, many Catholics think as I do; namely, that in the present situation, the RUC has been humiliated and demonised by a bloodthirsty band of murderers who have been carrying out the most atrocious crimes on the island of Ireland over the past 30 years.

But those Catholics who think as I do hesitate before they would say anything in public. They would hesitate before writing a letter to the Belfast Telegraph or the Irish News, because they know what would be the probable results. Let us not say that every Catholic is clamouring for the abolition of the RUC as regards its name, badge and insignia. Many Catholics in Northern Ireland have never had any difficulties with the RUC.

One could pursue the emotional vein and examine what has happened to the RUC over the past 30 years: 302 killed and 8,000 wounded. I have said before in this place that, had it not been for the RUC, Northern Ireland would have descended into a state of total anarchy. It was the RUC which prevented that happening.

Before 1968, namely, before the onset of the civil rights movement and the present troubles, why even then did not Catholics join the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Between 1922 and 1968, all kinds of doors were opened to help enable Catholics to join the RUC. However, they did not. Why not? I must observe that on occasion I have heard other speakers in this place demonstrate their infuriating ignorance of the situation when they declare, "If this Bill goes through, republicans and nationalists will join the RUC." That is a contradiction in terms. What does republicanism mean? Republicans do not wish to see the continuing existence of Northern Ireland. What does nationalism mean? Nationalists wish to see a united Ireland, but they wish to bring to an end the six counties of Northern Ireland. How can nationalists—who hold to their beliefs—and republicans—who want to see a resolution far more quickly than the constitutional nationalists—join together in a force which has declared that it is a part of the United Kingdom and has the royal insignia on its cap badge?

All the difficulties that have existed in Northern Ireland for many years are being opened up by this Bill. I do not believe that we shall see a rush of Catholics to join the RUC. Indeed, only over the past week or so in the Irish legislature, an SDLP councillor from Ballymena, Declan O'Lohn, came out and said that he would lend his support to Catholics who wished to join the RUC. He further said that a prolonged and vicious attack had been made on every aspect of unionist culture in Northern Ireland. The unionists now feel as I felt in 1968 when I marched for civil rights to be instituted in the state of Northern Ireland. They feel that their entire culture is being taken away from them, that pan-nationalism is ranged against them and that they have no one who can speak in their defence. A fortnight ago I saw what happened to Declan O'Lohn. As soon as he made that statement, all the SDLP members immediately rounded on him and declared that he was not speaking for them. He is a Catholic and an elected councillor for the town of Ballymena. For that reason, I have no doubt about how I shall be treated tomorrow in the pan-nationalist press.

Last week a vicious murder took place in Ballymurphy. A young man by the name of O'Connor was killed by the Provisional IRA. The organisation has denied it, but everyone knows that its members were responsible. The fact is that when their members took off their masks, they were identified as members of the Provisional IRA, an organisation which allegedly is on ceasefire. However, no one will go to the police and say, "I saw those men kill that other man. I saw them without their masks on." No one would be prepared to give such evidence in court, which is the only way to convict the murderers. It is simply not going to happen. As we have already seen, and as highlighted on the recent "Panorama" programme, people both North and South of the border on the island of Ireland know the identity of those who were responsible for the brutal tragedy in Omagh on 15th August 1998. But no one is prepared to go into the witness box. Anyone who did so would be putting his life in jeopardy.

I have noticed certain subtle differences of which noble Lords may not be aware. "The Good Friday agreement" is a term used by nationalists. Maybe it has something to do with Good Friday. It is used by Sinn Fein, by the SDLP, by the government in the Republic and by the Irish Americans. But the unionists in Northern Ireland, who find some of its recommendations very hard to stomach, call it "The Belfast agreement". So they differ even in the terminology and naming of the agreement.

Surveys which have taken place in Northern Ireland prove that there is not total objection to the RUC in the Catholic community and indicate that the change of name has been brought about by people who are determined to humiliate and condemn the RUC.

I repeat something that I said in my Second Reading speech. I shall say it again on Third Reading and go on saying it. There is a Mafia in Northern Ireland at the moment. An assistant chief constable said yesterday that three-quarters of Belfast is under the control of a Mafia, be it loyalist or republican; three-quarters of Belfast is, to some extent, caught up in the Mafia war which is currently taking place.

We only have to look at what has happened on the Shankill Road over the past two months with so-called loyalist organisations. "The Ulster Volunteer Force". Volunteers against what? "The Ulster Freedom Fighters". Freedom to do what? From whom do they want their freedom? If we look at what they call themselves, we can see what the police force in Northern Ireland has had to contend with.

When Patten was given this undertaking he was told to try to find a resolution to the divisions which were taking place within the RUC. In one part of his report he said that his job was to take the RUC out of politics. He has done exactly the reverse. He has brought the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the forefront of political divisions in Northern Ireland. If these are his conclusions, they do not augur well for sanity in Northern Ireland.

At the beginning of my remarks I said that you will get unionists, Protestants, maybe lapsed Catholics, who will speak out in support of the RUC. I am a Catholic; I have a Catholic education and a Catholic belief in the present and the hereafter, and I speak with a conscience in regard to this clause. I support the retention of the name of the RUC.

4.14 p.m.

Lord Laird

I am conscious that I am following the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. I pay tribute to his remarks. He is correct: his remarks will cause him trouble from the pan-national press and pan-national people back in Northern Ireland. It is important for the Committee to recognise that the noble Lord has made an extremely brave speech.

Noble Lords

Hear! Hear!

Lord Laird

This is a very sad period. I identify myself with the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, when he says that opinions have moved on over the past 30 years. I am one of those who have developed their thinking over that period in a way perhaps not dissimilar to that of the noble Lord.

But this is a difficult day. It is a day of considerable political significance. We all want peace in Northern Ireland and all that that means. Some of us are supporters of the Belfast agreement—with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But the political realities are that if the unionists, who have a culture based on their Britishness, continue to be marginalised in the way described by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, if they continue to have their culture broken and denigrated in the way described by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, we shall not get unionist participation in the Belfast agreement. It will be for others then to decide whether there is a Belfast agreement. You can push people only so far.

I was saddened and disturbed to hear a man of the stature and standing in the community of the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, speak about statistics and the information he had gleaned from individuals. No statistics I have come across show that the majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland take offence at the name "RUC". I was also disturbed by the noble Lord's interpretation of history, which, on reflection, he will recognise was terribly one sided and offered offence to people like myself. That is a part of the problem.

Many friends of mine were among the 302 members of the RUC who have been killed. Significantly, a number were members of the Roman Catholic faith. They were some of the finest people you could ever hope to meet, serving their community and serving it well. Their only crime—it is not a crime; the only thing they did wrong—was to be Catholic members of the RUC. My next door neighbour was shot for falling into that category. People living a number of houses away from me had their brains blown out by the IRA. If you have ever seen someone's brains over the road and over the furniture—the fate of some of my close friends who were Catholic members of the RUC—you possibly have a little more right to talk about policing in Northern Ireland. No one is keener than I to see more Roman Catholics join the RUC.

Perhaps I may draw a parallel with the Battle of Britain, which has been celebrated in some areas in the past couple of months. What would have been the reaction throughout the United Kingdom and in this Chamber if the few who stood as the thin line between peace and chaos and the chance of winning the war had been disbanded, disregarded and had had the names of their squadrons changed within months of fighting in the Battle of Britain? That is what you are asking the unionist community in Northern Ireland to accept. The RUC was the thin green line. I stand here today only because my life was saved time and time and time again by the RUC.

If you want statistics, if you want opinion polls, it is quite simple: go to the South Antrim constituency where we, as Ulster Unionists, lost the safe Unionist seat which my noble friend Lord Molyneaux of Killead represented with distinction for many years. That seat, in which the Ulster Unionists formerly had a 16,000 majority, was lost mostly on the issue of constant concessions. The perception at present is that the Belfast agreement does not deliver a two-way process.

I ask the Committee to consider these amendments long and hard. We are not talking about some faraway place—despite what the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said, this is not some colonial area. This is part of the United Kingdom, where British citizens like myself are proud and pleased to live. We want to live there, and we continue to do so by choice. But the indications are that if we do not achieve an equitable solution in regard to the name of the police force in Northern Ireland, it may be one bridge too far. I support the amendment.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Hylton

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may I draw his attention to lines 8 and 9 on page 1 of the Bill, which emphasise the continuity between the two forces.

Lord Laird

There is a difference between continuity in terms of people moving from one force to another and the name. The name is important. It has been made considerably more important by the activities of the Dublin Government, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and even the Roman Catholic Church. It has become an issue for the unionist community and for Northern Ireland. Dabbling with the name of the RUC might have difficult consequences for the Belfast agreement.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I hesitate to speak in the wake of the two previous speakers to the amendment. Not only were they born and bred in Northern Ireland and still live there, but they have given their lives to the politics of the Province and I have not.

One clear point unifies the debate. All in this Chamber and in Northern Ireland seek unanimously to make the RUC an even more effective instrument for the delivery of the peace.

The issue for me as an outsider—and I hope that the Committee will forgive my ignorance—is: what will render that state of affairs more likely? What underlies the present "inadequacy" of the RUC. It appears to be a matter of confidence. The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, made the telling point that since the Belfast agreement the number of applications from Catholics to serve in the RUC has risen from 11 to 22 per cent. It is striking that one needs to make that point, given that the Catholic community in Northern Ireland is not far short of half the population. Even now, we are talking about only 22 per cent of applicants being from that part of the population. It must be asked why that is. Then one gets into impossibly difficult historical waters—totally contested, totally without any form of agreement between the two principal sides.

My point is that 22 per cent is not nearly enough. What can be done to make it more? If the name of the RUC—which arouses such passion, and therefore carries such symbolism—is not changed as the Bill proposes, might that deter even 22 per cent of applications from the Catholic community in the future? I suggest that it well might. I suggest that the doubling of applications following the Belfast agreement was on the back of the optimism generated by that agreement.

If we follow Clause 1 of the Bill and change the name, will it undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of the RUC? No one, least of all those who have spoken against the change of name, has suggested that such a change would cause the Protestant community and existing RUC officers to withdraw their support in terms of their tremendous service to the RUC. No one has suggested that for the good reason that it would not be the consequence. There would be a great deal of hurt and hard feeling; some would feel rejected, some that their loved ones who died in the cause of duty were being spurned. But it would not be the case that changing the name would damage the legitimacy or effectiveness of the force.

On the other hand, if the name is not changed, could that affect support for, and hence the legitimacy of, the new police force in terms of the future in Northern Ireland for which we all hope? Because of the passion aroused by this debate and the symbolic significance attached to the name by both sides, it seems to me that retaining the name will damage that which we all want; namely, the adhesion of the Catholic community.

It may be that the Roman Catholic Church will change its policy and will cease to persist in what seems an outrageous refusal to grant that service in the police force in Northern Ireland is an honourable occupation.

Lord Elton

Will the noble Lord forgive my intervening? I do not want to spoil the flow of his speech. However, he has just used a turn of phrase that I keep hearing: "It may be that something will follow", "Let's do it and perhaps something will follow". But we have done so many things and nothing has followed. Is it not foolish not to wait for an undertaking by those concerned?

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

To deny those who are legislating the right to speculate on the consequences of that legislation would be to kill debate. I merely put it to the Committee that the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Northern Ireland might now feel extremely embarrassed by the fact that its failure to endorse service in the police force as an honourable occupation is being held up in this debate. I hope that it does feel embarrassed. It is permissible to speculate that if this further concession to the Catholics in Northern Ireland were to be made, they might change their view. If they did so, as is clear from all the contributions, it would have an effect. Similarly, it is not unreasonable to hope and expect some response as regards intimidation—although I am under no illusion as to the refusal of the real men of violence to change their mind.

On those grounds, despite the unanimity of view expressed by Members of the Committee from Northern Ireland, I look forward and I believe that this symbolic change would be of small but significant assistance in making this great force an even greater one in the future.

Baroness Blood

I did not intend to take part in this debate, but rather to speak to a later amendment. However, perhaps I may say a few words in support of the proposal before the Committee

It seems strange, given that we have debated this matter for almost an hour and a half, that no one has yet convinced me that a change of name will bring in more people. I find that the young people among whom I work go to the employer who will give them the best opportunities: the best salary and the best chances of promotion. Looking at the new RUC as envisaged by Patten—and reference has been made to the fact that 85 per cent has already gone through—we would see it as a possible step for young people to join the police force.

As the Committee is aware, I am a community worker. Like most of my other colleagues, I live on the peace line in Belfast, so I am well aware of the feelings around the RUC. I am well aware of the fact that, for five years, I had to have an RUC Land Rover sitting practically outside my door for 24 hours a day to keep the two communities apart. I am also well aware that there is, perhaps, bad feeling on the other side of the baseline. However, as I travel around Northern Ireland—as I do on a weekly basis—I must tell noble Lords that I cannot find any support for the idea that Catholics do not like the RUC. I will give the Committee a very simple example.

I was speaking recently in what would be considered a Catholic stronghold. I went to a women's meeting, at which just one man was present. It was absolutely amazing; indeed, I thought that he was very brave, but I did not know who he was. It turned out that he was a local chief inspector of the RUC who had come to the meeting to present the women with books for their library. I did not hear one woman at that meeting say anything about Catholics not liking the RUC. I have travelled around Northern Ireland and I believe that we are moving away from the issue here.

Obviously, we want the RUC to remain and to retain its title. That is neither a Protestant nor a Catholic point of view: it is the fact that the RUC deserves that recognition. The force deserves it for no other reason than it deserves it. We could all talk emotively about friends and neighbours who have been murdered. We have all been through that and have attended such funerals. That is not what this is about; this is about bringing forward a police force that young people can feel confident in joining. I fully support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. I believe that this could be a new beginning. We must get away from talking about that.

One of the things that is happening, as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, mentioned, is that this mafioso has grown up in our community. The RUC has been used as a political football for almost the past two years— "Will they?", "Won't they?", "Are they?", or "Aren't they?" In the mean time, my community is suffering. We have just been through the most horrendous imploding of a community, a Protestant community, simply because this kind of thing is going on. This Chamber must make a decision. I urge noble Lords to think carefully. If I can be persuaded that changing the name will mean that Catholics will flock to join the force tomorrow, I will agree to it. But I do not believe that that evidence is on the table.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster

Perhaps I may detain Members of the Committee for a few minutes. At another time I should feel that there was a good deal of logic about changing the name of this force. As far as I am aware, it is the only police force in the United Kingdom that carries the designation "Royal". There is a good reason that other police forces do not do so: first, it is very important that the police force should, above all, be seen as being the servant of the people; and, secondly, the area which it polices is not coterminous with the traditional boundaries of Ulster. Therefore, in those two respects at least, it is—or might be said to be nowadays—a misnomer.

However, from what we have heard from noble Lords this afternoon, there is no denying that the name carries great symbolic significance for both communities in Northern Ireland. Perhaps I may invite the Minister to consider whether we could take two courses of action. First, we could change the name not to what is proposed but to the "Northern Ireland Constabulary", which would put the force on all fours with other forces in the United Kingdom. Secondly, we could provide for the new name to come into effect on a day to be designated by statutory instrument at some later date, so that we do not insist upon the change at this particular moment in time in the affairs of Northern Ireland.

Lord Cooke of Islandreagh

It might be thought surprising that a comparatively simple amendment should bring such a long debate on something which really gets right to the bedrock of the constitution of Northern Ireland. We have heard all elements of it this afternoon. I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, for straightening out a great deal of the debate. Although my background is different from his, I support all that he said: first, that all Catholics do not hate the police. Indeed, my experience is that that is certainly not so. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, gave the example of a meeting he had this morning with a Roman Catholic farmer who was looking for the police.

Secondly, no matter what we do with this name to suit Sinn-Fein/IRA, I am pretty certain there will be no more jumping to join the police as a result. Those in the republican Sinn-Fein/IRA do not just want to change the name of the police; it is their job as paramilitaries to destroy the forces of law and order. That is what they have been doing. For them it is only part way to a united Ireland. They have made that quite plain. This change in the name will not help at all. It will just let them believe that they can have whatever they want.

In my view, it should have the natural title of "The Royal Ulster Constabulary—Police Service of Northern Ireland". I do not believe that it will have any significant, adverse effect on the recruitment of Roman Catholics, which we all want. The only thing that will bring them forward is time and the advances that the police force, the RUC, will make—which it is determined to make—in the way that it polices communities. Incidentally, that is a real problem because we are not at peace.

When Patten wrote his report, he assumed that the Good Friday agreement would be fully implemented and that we would be at peace. He assumed that it would be a simple matter of police service in communities. But, I am sorry to say, that is far from being the case. Indeed, in the past two weeks the Secretary of State drew our attention to the very serious situation that now exists. As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said, it is a mafia in three-quarters of Belfast where those concerned are controlling groups of people for their own reasons—partly by drug running and other racketeering. If anyone does not fit in with their wishes, that person is punished in some way, such as being knee-capped or having his bones shattered. Incidentally, 2,000 people have been banished from their neighbourhood and a few have been murdered.

I also understand that the IRA believes that murder is perhaps counter-productive and that it has taken medical advice to discover how much damage can be done to the human form without actually killing a person. It will take a long time and it will be very hard work for any police force to get over and deal with this mafioso; indeed, the force will need all the intelligence and all the hard work, of which I know it is capable. Those in the force will move as quickly as they can. It will not be soon enough for them when they are able to throw away their arms and walk singly wherever they wish through any community.

To change the name and leave out the "RUC" will not help the situation one little bit. However, it could do great damage because, as has already been explained by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, and others, the unionist community—that is to say, the community in favour of the Union—now believes that so much has been given away; for example, the fact that prisoners were released, the flag issue and now, apparently, the RUC is to be thrown away and become something else. That has had a very serious effect on the attitude of the community. That is something about which we should be very concerned. There is good reason to suppose that those in the community would be desolate to lose the name of the police force that has saved them from heaven knows what. There is no doubt that all of us in Northern Ireland recognise that the RUC has, somehow or other, helped keep the Province in some sort of state; indeed, more than 30 years of murderous attacks by the IRA would be unbelievable to anyone who did not live there. I support the amendment.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

Once the Patten commission had been appointed I suppose it was inevitable that it would recommend the virtual destruction of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. When I say "destruction" I mean eroding its morale, authority and everything else. After the publication of his report Patten defended his decision by asking, "What did the authors of the Belfast agreement expect me to recommend?" At least he was honest. There is a lesson there for all of us because that is exactly what the Bill invites us to do; namely, to comply with Patten but to cover up the destruction of a constabulary with layers of weasel words. The words are recycled from those which were used, for example, to destroy the Parliament at Stormont, the Special Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The same nicely concealed camouflaged terminology is always used.

However, as we embark on Clause 2, we are entitled to inquire whether the Government are preparing, or thinking about establishing, a new counter-terrorist constabulary in the light of the resurgence of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the alarming development of Mafia organisations. We have just heard on good authority that they now cover three-quarters of the City of Belfast.

The three brands of republican flavour and at least two of so-called loyalists are guilty—they are very guilty as those who have first-hand experience, particularly in the City of Belfast, will confirm—of putting an end to civilised behaviour and civilised communication as we had in Northern Ireland and as we hope to rebuild in the future.

The Bill is not final; it is only a step. The police service created by the Bill is modelled on a kind of super traffic warden. It could not be expected—and we should not expect it—to contain and defeat current terrorism and current Mafia behaviour, as did the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which of course is the very reason why terrorists on both sides want to get rid of it; it is self-evident that no criminal likes a policeman.

Today the Committee is invited to acquiesce in creating a vacuum. We are entitled to inquire gently about the replacement which the Government may have in mind. The Army in these days of over stretch cannot be expected to bear all of this developing new burden. Already back on the streets the Army is experiencing problems with over stretch, manning and everything else. But how can the Army support the civil power through co-operation with a police service—not a police force, not a constabulary—which will he hampered, hamstrung and continually weakened by government concessions to the demands of terrorists, paramilitaries and the new Mafia groups condoned or ignored by three governments and a misnamed process as phoney as its counterpart in the Middle East only yesterday proved to be?

The demands for a quite unnecessary change of title are designed to weaken morale and authority—that may not have been the intention of the Government but it will he the net result—but will depict the Government as a soft touch for all lawbreakers who will indulge in further mutilation of the constabulary as fresh demands are made.

We would all do well to reflect on the preliminary exchanges between the two Front Benches before the House went into Committee in regard to the delicacy of peace processes. In Northern Ireland we are doing rather better than our opposite numbers in the Middle East. For example, we have not as yet consigned anyone to Hell. Moderation still exists in Northern Ireland but the balance is delicate. The position of David Trimble is delicate by reason of the fact that he has been forced over the years by three sovereign governments to make concession after concession and has been hung out to dry with absolutely no reciprocity for those concessions. My plea is, do not push Mr Trimble over the edge for mere imaginary gains. Do not encourage Her Majesty's Government to endanger all that has been achieved over the past few years.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

All of the amendments in the group we are discussing relate to the name of the police in Northern Ireland. In addition to those which have been debated there are a number of technical amendments in my name which I shall discuss at the end of my remarks. Apart from those technical amendments, all of the amendments tabled oppose the Government's position and all of them would amend the current provision in Clause 1 which was tabled by the Ulster Unionist Party in another place and was accepted by the Government.

Of course the Government acknowledge that this is a deeply contentious issue and that for many it involves a painful change. The Patten report recognised that encouraging Catholic recruits to the RUC was not as simple as changing the name or removing the "Royal" prefix. Patten said that symbols associated with one side of the constitutional debate inevitably went some way to inhibit the wholehearted participation in policing of the other side. He did not recommend either no change or a complete change. He said that the name should change but that continuity should be recognised. That is what Clause 1 seeks to achieve. The Government accept that. Of course we accept that the reasons Roman Catholics do not join the police are many and complex. Of course we accept that they include intimidation. As has been said by a number of noble Lords, we also accept that the SDLP and other community leaders should encourage people from all communities to join the police force. But to achieve a new beginning we believe that it is necessary to have a new name.

As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said when the Bill received its Third Reading in another place, we have introduced a new name—the Police Service of Northern Ireland—and that name will be used for all operational and working purposes, including whenever and in whatever circumstances the police interface with the public.

Our intention has also been to ensure that the RUC is evidently incorporated into the new service in its founding legislation. As has been stated by the Secretary of State on several occasions, the purpose of the reference to the RUC in Clause 1(1) is to demonstrate with absolute clarity, and as a matter of fact and of law, that the RUC is not being disbanded, as the Patten report made clear should not happen.

At the same time it has to be acknowledged that the body of officers comprising the new service, like any body of officers, needs a clear identity to be effective and to which all can relate. That is one reason why the name is changing to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State has stated many times before the Government's view that introducing a dual name would not be good for the cohesion and unity and therefore the effectiveness of the police—a view which I understand is shared within the RUC.

Concern has been expressed that the Bill as drafted could possibly result in the name not being used in the manner I have outlined. We shall, as with all aspects of the legislation, keep this under review. We shall expect the oversight commissioner to include the issue in his regular reports and shall be willing to return to it if necessary. Although I recognise the strength of feeling that has been expressed, I ask the Committee to reflect on what I have said and consider the purposes behind Clause 1(1).

I turn briefly to the Government's own amendments. Clause 1 was added to the Bill on Report in another place. The changes made to Clause 1 entail many consequential amendments throughout the Bill. It is a tribute to the skill of the parliarnentary draftsman that these technical changes were effected in so short a time. Nonetheless a handful of amendments are required to tidy up stray references in consequence of the additions to Clause 1. When the time comes, I shall move the amendments in this group from Amendments Nos. 157 onwards concerning the consequential changes. I ask noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rogan

I thank noble Lords for their participation in this informative debate. I would ask them, and also the Minister, to take cognisance of the unanimity of the Peers from Ulster. I shall think about what has been said. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 2 to 15 not moved.]

5 p.m.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Northern Ireland Policing Board]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 17: Page 38, line 7, leave out sub-paragraph (1).

The noble Lord said: This is really a probing amendment and my main interest is in hearing what the Minister has to say. My research tells me that this clause was also in the 1998 Act; I assume that it was lifted straight out of that Act. It seems to me that, read in one way, it is another swipe at removing allegiance to and links with the Crown inasmuch as it says clearly that the board shall not be a servant or agent of the Crown. It says that property shall not be held on behalf of the Crown and proceeds in some detail to remove any links between the Crown and the new police force. I wonder why it was felt necessary to put this wording into the schedule. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The provision referred to in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 is a standard provision: there is nothing sinister about it. It clarifies that the board is an independent body, which is the position. The same provision appeared in the 1998 Act for the authority, as the noble Lord acknowledged. It is perfectly standard to have such a provision in a schedule such as this, and I would ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

I refer to Amendment No. 18 which is in this group. It is a technical amendment to make clear that the board has the powers of a body corporate in Northern Ireland in relation to its own resources as well as police resources. I shall move it in due time.

Lord Glentoran

Will the Minister say whether the paragraph which is the subject of my amendment is common to other police forces and whether other police forces within the United Kingdom do or do not have such a clause, either denying the fact that they have a link to the Crown or vice versa? Perhaps the noble Lord would like to write to me, as I do not wish to delay the work of the Committee.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

I am sorry that I cannot answer immediately. I shall write to the noble Lord.

Lord Glentoran

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 38, line 11, at end insert (; and, for the purposes of that section, the Board shall be treated as if it were established by an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly").

The noble and learned Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move it formally.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 19: Page 41, line 27, leave out ("specified") and insert ("prescribed").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 19 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 22. Amendment No. 19 corrects a drafting error. The wording should say "prescribed" rather than "specified" so as to be consistent with other references in the schedule.

With regard to Amendment No. 22, the intention is to make a similar amendment to the removal provision for a board established during devolution. Government Amendment No. 22 does that, and I shall move it in due time.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

It is not often these days that I intervene in matters relating to Northern Ireland. Those who know me will know that that does not reflect any diminution in my affection for my former friends in Northern Ireland. It simply reflects two anxieties which press upon me.

The first is that I am not so closely familiar now with events there as I was some years ago, and there always is a great danger of relying on yesterday's knowledge in addressing today's problems. Secondly, while there is great concern and sympathy in England for the people of Northern Ireland, I believe that those people are the best judges of their own welfare and it may be that those of us here who wish them well might do better sometimes to restrain our loquacity.

Of course the Government have to be a catalyst in the peace process and in bringing a healing to Northern Ireland, but for the rest of us it is sometimes easier to cause more harm, to widen the breaches and deepen the wounds, than it is to do the reverse. I am not saying that contributions should never be made. Those like my noble friend Lord Dubs who have been much concerned with events in Northern Ireland may well have something very useful to say but the rest of us can sometimes best serve by a self-denying ordinance

As I say, it is not often now that I intervene. I appreciate the very delicate task which confronts the Government. It is vital to any accord that there should be a police force which is subject to the law, and only to the law, which accords to every citizen the protection and respect to which they are entitled and which does so without distinction as to class, culture, religion, colour or sex. That will not he easy, because we are all prisoners of the past and the past has not been kind to the people of Northern Ireland.

However, there are those whose concerns I am trying to express because they invited me to raise today some of the issues which they think might be helpfully discussed. That is why I set down Amendment No. 20. I do not seek to improve either on the drafting or on anything said by my noble and learned friend on Amendment No. 19.

There is a great deal in the Bill about achieving a balance in recruitment to the police force between the various traditions within the community. That is wholly commendable, but surely it is equally important in determining the composition of the board, and that is the purpose of my amendment. Of course we assume that in making appointments for independent members the Secretary of State will have that principle very much in mind; but that may be said about any of the tasks addressed in the Bill. They are, nevertheless, in the Bill to emphasise their importance, to serve as a reminder to those who are given the tasks; and, in the last resort, to offer a prospect of challenging an action which simply ignores them. If the Bill provided only for the present Secretary of State, I should be more relaxed about the situation. But Secretaries of State come and go. Some future holder of the office may be less assiduous as to that principle than my right honourable friend.

I assume that the Government intend that there should be the balance which my amendment addresses. I simply ask: should it not be written in the Bill?

Baroness Harris of Richmond

I welcome and support the amendment. I again remind the Committee of my credentials. I am chairman of a police authority, albeit an English one. I am also deputy chairman of the National Association of Police Authorities which includes the present Police Authority for Northern Ireland. It is our great hope that the future Northern Ireland police board will also be among its members.

I recognise that there is already provision in paragraph 8 of Schedule 1 requiring the Secretary of State to ensure that the board is representative. The noble and learned Lord's amendment adds a specific requirement to ensure that there is the right ethnic and gender balance. My experience of many years in the police will confirm that such a specific requirement is necessary.

It also sends a positive message to those who are normally under-represented on such bodies—women, minority communities, young people and so on—that their presence is positively welcomed and encouraged.

The whole purpose of the police board is to secure accountability to the community for the police service. That should be accountability to all sections of the community. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of women and minority community representatives who would be only too well qualified to sit on the board. We must ensure that they are suitable role models so that others may follow. I ask the Committee to give the amendment full support.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Baroness sits down, she will agree that if the amendment is to be taken literally, 51 per cent of the membership of the board would have to be female if it was to be fully representative.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

If the noble Lord will forgive me, I do not want to enter into the argument about the 50:50 figure at this point. I simply support the noble and learned Lord's amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I am entirely happy with the wording of the two government amendments which, as the Minister said, follows from previous discussions.

I am not sure that Amendment No. 20 adds very much to the Bill but the noble and learned Lord makes a valid point. If we take the amendment literally with regard to ethnic constituents of the board, we should present the Secretary of State with a difficult problem. I understand that less than 1 per cent of the population of Northern Ireland is from the ethnic minorities. Less than 1 per cent of nine appointments is a small figure. I imagine that someone from the ethnic minority would have to attend for the odd week to fulfil that criterion. However, the principle is right and is more applicable to membership of the RUC itself.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

Does the noble Lord appreciate that having regard to ethnic elements in the community does not entail appointing someone from every minority

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I accept that. The figure of less than 1 per cent relates to all the ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland.

I wish to draw the Committee's attention to Amendments Nos. 23, 24 and 25 which are of considerable significance. They seek to prevent the appointment to the police board of those with criminal records—in particular terrorist records. We do not believe that it is right for those who have such records, or who are active members of political parties linked to paramilitary organisations, from either side of the community—they have failed to begin decommissioning and have a so-called ceasefire, but we all know that it is frail, and broken at frequent intervals—to sit on the police board and to hold the chief constable and the police force (whatever it is called) to account.

As I have said previously, I do not think that anyone who has been involved in security in Northern Ireland believes that decommissioning is a complete solution to the security problem. Of course it is not. Apart from anything else, one cannot decommission some of the components of bombs—for example, fertiliser. As regards the handing in of weapons, others can easily be purchased. Nevertheless, the failure to decommission at all by PIRA and so-called loyalist organisations is a clear and definite statement that they are not prepared to give up the use of force: indeed that they are prepared, and remain ready, to take up force again very quickly. By "force" I refer to additional force to the force they have already been using to which reference was made in our previous debate.

I believe that this is of the greatest importance for the future of the police force. It looks certain that even if the most optimistic scenarios come to pass in Northern Ireland there will be some continuing terrorism. That has always been so in the past and I have no reason to think that it will not be so in the future. That means that the RUC (whatever it is called) will have to continue combating a serious terrorist threat. We do not think that anyone who has been involved in that is qualified to sit on the board. If such a connection arises, that person should be removed from the board. That is what our amendments seek to achieve.

There is also the bargaining effect. I take one example. I believe that one of the mistakes made in the early part of the process was that the release of prisoners went ahead according to the two-year timetable even though other issues—in particular decommissioning which was supposed to go ahead under the same timetable—did not advance. At every stage the concessions have been made from the unionist side and the government side—and very large concessions too—with none from the other side. If republicans and terrorists can get what they want without having to give anything away, they will do so. But if they had to give up something themselves, if the prisoner releases had either not started or had been stopped because the remainder of the process was not taking place, then the bargaining counters would have been different. The biggest single bargaining counter that remains is the effectiveness of the police, particularly against terrorism. To weaken the effectiveness of the police is one of the great goals of terrorists on both sides of the divide. It is one that can still be achieved. The police would be weakened if the board contained those who still supported terrorism or were in close touch with terrorist organisations. That is why the amendments are of the first importance.

Lord Smith of Clifton

I shall speak to Amendment No. 21, which is in this group on the selection list. It is a probing amendment on a serious issue relating to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State may well be minded to include the Equality Commission under such other bodies as he considers appropriate in line 48, but I should like it specifically mentioned alongside district councils, because it plays such a vital role and has the primary responsibility for assisting with the pursuit of equality. I hope that the Minister will reassure me that it will be in the mind of the Secretary of State to include the Equality Commission.

Lord Vivian

I support Amendments Nos. 23 to 25. I agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Cope of Berkeley has said. Without the amendments, current or ex-terrorists could become members of a board and there would be no legal power to remove them. That could lead to a corrupt police force, which would undermine and weaken the authority of the police and make the task of the Chief Constable virtually impossible.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I, too, support Amendments Nos. 23 to 25, on three grounds. First, if there were people on a board with past connections with terrorist organisations on either side, the likelihood of the police being able to recruit and retain sources on terrorist operations would be greatly reduced, if not eliminated, because the sources would constantly fear that those members of the board would have access to certain knowledge and that their identity might be revealed. That would have a serious effect on the possible recruitment of sources.

Secondly, I should be glad to hear how it will be possible to avoid having such people on the board if some of them are to come from the Assembly, where, at least among Sinn Fein, there must be a number who, for one reason or another, have such connections.

Thirdly, when Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness have been asked over the past year whether they would encourage witnesses to come forward to testify on the Omagh bombing, they have said that they do not recognise British justice and can therefore see no point in doing such a thing. With that attitude, it might be difficult for the police, as the guardians of law and order, to work with them.

On those three grounds, it is essential that the amendments should be taken seriously.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

I shall deal first with Amendment No. 20, spoken to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond. I assure the noble and learned Lord that the Government are committed to ethnic and gender balance every bit as much as to political and religious balance. However, we are not convinced that the amendment would add to the effect of the current wording. "Representative" includes all constituents, including ethnic and gender constituents. The amendment could lead to a preference towards ethnicity and gender over, say, disability. I repeat that we are committed to ethnic and gender balance, but we do not support the amendment.

Amendment No. 21, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, is not required, because paragraph (8)(2)(c) enables the Secretary of State to consult such other bodies as he considers appropriate". That includes the Equality Commission. The Secretary of State has already consulted the Equality Commission on the occasion of the recent appointment process for the board. I ask the noble Lord not to move the amendment.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

I apologise for interrupting, but I wonder whether the Minister is satisfied with the wording. The Equality Commission is art amalgam of various commissions—at least four of them. Those of us who have had contact with the commissioners have got the impression that they feel somewhat aggrieved and slighted. They feel that they have been downgraded because they are not mentioned by name. That is not a quibble—they have a point.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

I note what the noble Lord says. We did not think it necessary to make a specific reference. We consulted the commission on the recent appointment process for the board. That should encourage and reassure those concerned that they will be consulted.

Amendments Nos. 23, 24 and 25, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, take us back to amendments that were tabled by the Conservatives in another place. I share their wish for safeguards in the appointment of independents and the removal of the independents and political members. The Bill provides such safeguards. The amendments would go too far.

We want a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland. Patten did not come up with the idea of political parties being represented on the boards of his own volition. The Good Friday agreement is clear on the issue. It says that the commission's proposal should be designed to ensure that there are clearly established arrangements enabling local people and their political representatives to articulate their views and concerns about policing. That means that those elected to the Assembly and selected under d'Hondt have a right to serve on the board because they have a mandate.

The Government have explained consistently that there are safeguards on the appointment of independents. For example, character checks will be conducted and appointments will be based on high standards of probity and integrity, as required by the guidance for public appointments.

Furthermore, the Bill has strong removal provisions. Members who commit criminal offences may be removed by the Secretary of State. Unlike the current police authority, members of the board are required to pass the test of upholding the principles of non-violence and commitment to democratic and exclusively peaceful means. That is already in the schedule. If they do not, they can be removed by the Secretary of State.

In another place, my right honourable friend the Minister of State said: There is a need to establish a Policing Board that is inclusive and forward looking and for appropriate safeguards to ensure a high standard of board members. Transgressions or wrongdoings can be dealt with under the current arrangements".—[Official Report. Commons Standing Committee B; col. 100.] I ask noble Lords to accept that we understand their concerns, but we believe that the provisions to which I have referred will enable us to deal with those who are not committed to peaceful means. I ask the noble Lord not to move the amendments.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I am sorry to come back on this. Perhaps I did not specifically emphasise that we are concerned primarily with political appointments. I accept that the Secretary of State has more control over independent members, but, even though political members can be removed by the Secretary of State if they are convicted of a criminal offence after appointment, if they are still connected to terrorist organisations and are careful not to be convicted of a criminal offence, they will remain on the police board. The working of the d'Hondt procedure will ensure that members of the police board belong to parties still linked to terrorist organisations which have not given up violence, in particular in the sense of decommissioning. That is why I believe that these amendments are very important.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Perhaps I may respond briefly to those comments. It is worth emphasising that paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 to the Bill states: The Secretary of State may remove a person from office as an independent or political member of the Board if satisfied that— … (c) he is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means". That provision applies not only to the independents but also to the political members of the board.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I realise that. From the Minister's last intervention, and in accordance with the part of the schedule which he read out, I should like to think that the Secretary of State would regard anyone connected to a paramilitary body which had not decommissioned as not therefore being committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means. However, experience suggests that the Secretary of State will not take that view and that a failure to decommission will not mean that he judges those connected with that failure to be not committed to non-violence.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 22: Page 42, line 23, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 27 not moved.]

Lord Desai moved Amendment No. 28: Page 45, line 34, leave out from ("by") to end of line 35 and insert—

The noble Lord said: This is a small amendment which simplifies the text and introduces slightly more flexibility. It changes the current wording in the schedule by referring to "a majority of" those present and voting and reduces the minimum number of votes required for a majority from 10 to eight. Basically, it provides a means for allowing business to be carried on when such inquiries are to be made. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

I am afraid that this time I cannot support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Desai. I believe that the numbers to which he refers in Amendment No. 28 are very sensitive. Whatever happens in relation to the different agreements, the numbers in this particular part of the Bill are extremely sensitive. I believe that the Bill should stand as it is without further flexibility being introduced, which, I understand, would be the effect of the noble Lord's amendment and, in particular, his Amendment No. 30. I believe that removing sub-paragraph (7) would again open up too many opportunities for subjective variation. I say to the Minister that we would object to those amendments.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The issues raised by Amendments Nos. 28 to 30 were debated at length in Committee in another place. They have been considered carefully by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. We are not convinced that a minority of the board should be able to reach a decision to hold an inquiry which would by definition be into a matter of some gravity or of an exceptional nature. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Desai

I understand what my noble friend says. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 29 and 30 not moved.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [General functions of the Board]:

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 31: Page 2, line 7, at end insert ("and compliant with all relevant international human rights standards").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 31, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 31 to 34, 34A, 35 to 37, 201 to 204 and 232.

Clause 3 is concerned with the functions of the board. I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Equality Commission and the Committee for the Administration of Justice in Northern Ireland for the great deal of help which they have given me in relation not only to these amendments but to a number of others.

Clause 3(2) requires the board to secure so far as possible two objectives: that the police are efficient and that they are effective. Subsection (3) imposes on the board a duty to monitor their performance and it adds an aspiration to the two objectives in subsection (2). They are to be monitored to see whether they comply with the Human Rights Act.

I have no quarrel with any of that. Of course they must be efficient and effective and, in doing so, they must comply with the Human Rights Act. However, some people believe that complying with the Human Rights Act adds nothing to the obligation incumbent on any police force to comply with the law. The Human Rights Act is part of the law. The Patten commission spoke in paragraph 4.12 of monitoring police performance in respect of human rights. Paragraph 4.13 declared that, they should perceive their jobs in terms of the protection of human rights". That most certainly includes the rights set out in the Human Rights Act. However, it goes further. Human rights include international human rights standards. Indeed, in paragraph 5.17 the commission specifically spoke of: Procedures to secure compliance with the law and with international human rights standards". Therefore, these amendments reflect the concerns both of those who assisted me and of the Patten commission.

As I understand it, the Government's concern is that the expression "international human rights standards" is not sufficiently specific. No doubt my noble and learned friend will tell me whether I have anticipated that correctly. He is nodding helpfully. Of course it is true. Hundreds, if not thousands, of provisions are included in that expression. However, in Clause 3 we are not concerned with specific requirements of the kind which we find, for example, in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Rather, we are in the realm of aspirations.

It would be curious if someone who read subsection (2) in relation to securing that the police shall be efficient were to ask, "In what precise respects are they to be efficient?" I do not believe that police authorities who are enjoined to comply with international human rights standards could be heard to complain that they cannot do so unless they have a long list of the precise duties which those standards impose upon them. We are not involved in that type of exercise in these two clauses.

However, I understand that there must be a balance between setting out broad inclusive standards and being clear as to what is required. If the Government object to my drafting on the ground that it is too wide, a solution might be found in listing a number of international human rights instruments which reflect specific concerns relating, for example, to the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. It may be that between now and Report stage we could explore that possible avenue.

This is not the occasion on which to indulge in a Dutch auction as to what they should be. It is not about that. It is about offering people reassurance as to the manner in which the police will go about their duties.

I now turn to the other amendments in this group. Paragraph (d) in Clause 3 very sensibly requires arrangements for obtaining the views of the public on the policing of the district. It then requires arrangements for obtaining the co-operation of the public with the police. Certainly, that is very much to be desired because, without it, no one will enjoy the advantages of being in a peaceful society under the rule of law, and that is a matter which a number of noble Lords emphasised in an earlier debate.

But I wonder whether that may be seen in a context where a well-intentioned signal may be misunderstood because that seems to imply three stages: first, obtaining the views of the public; secondly, deciding whether the authorities agree and declaring how the policing should be done; and, thirdly, getting the public to co-operate in the decision.

I am sure that it is intended that the police and the public should work together to ensure law and order. It will not be a case of the public being involved uncritically in what the police have decided to do. It will be a joint endeavour. The police will have a difficult enough task. It is essential that the public should feel that it is their task as well; that they have some ownership in the policy which is to be pursued. That is why, with this amendment, I seek to amend the wording to ensure that it is not a question of the police deciding on a policy and the public being asked to cooperate. The policy itself should be a joint enterprise. I beg to move.

Lord Desai

My Amendment No. 34A is in this group and, as the Committee will see, it is very much in line with what my noble and learned friend Lord Archer has already said.

I merely want to add a further couple of items to the list that he mentioned. International human rights standards can be elicited in certain documents. The two that I should like to mention are the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the UN Principle on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. Those are important matters for Northern Ireland. We have had the murder of Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane and those matters need to be investigated properly.

It is not just a matter of implementing Patten or what Patten said. If this whole process is to succeed, it is extremely important that we show sensitivity in relation to a variety of problems and pressures on all communities in Northern Ireland. To assess our policing against international human rights standards would add to the confidence that the community has in policing.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

As regards Amendments Nos. 31 and 34A, I have the difficulty to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, drew attention; namely, deciding what "international standards" means in this context. But in my view, the record of the RUC and, indeed, the security forces as a whole in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years stands up very well to any international comparison of any comparable situation.

Of course, those situations are never entirely comparable, but when I had some responsibility for security in the Northern Ireland Office, we were urged constantly by some people from this side of the water in particular, to take the gloves off the Army and so on. We at that time, my predecessors and those since have always held to the sort of policing and support by the Armed Forces which is in place. That is not so in every country.

It so happens that through my wife, who was born in Palestine, and her relations who still live there, I know a little about the situation there. I looked up the figures this morning. Throughout the troubles in Northern Ireland, there have been rather more than 3,600 deaths. Of those, the security forces as a whole—the police and the Army—have been responsible for 10 per cent. In the excellent book, Lost Lives, which has been referred to, about 52 deaths are ascribed to the RUC. That is 52 out of 3,600. That shows the amount of restraint that there has been on the part of all the security forces.

That can be compared with Palestine over the past few weeks where 114 Arabs have been killed and eight Jews. There, it is entirely the other way round. That is a land where two groups, two religions, two tribes, however one describes it, are wanting to live on and control the same ground. The comparison is not precise. The problem in Palestine is even older than that which exists in Ireland. Nevertheless there are similarities. But one of the differences is that the security forces of Israel use tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers against rioters. Those are all the things that we were urged to use at different times against the IRA but did not do so.

That is the background. That is the international human rights comparison. That can be taken into the treatment of detainees and right across the board.

There are other amendments in this group. Amendment No. 35 stands in my name and that of my noble friends. The effect of the amendment is to provide the policing board with the authority to undertake consultation with the public at a strategic level. It seems to us that the wording as it currently stands does not give the new board the ability to consult but it must rely on consultation through the new district policing arrangements which arc to be established. It would be right if the boards also were directly able to take the opinion of the public when they thought they needed to do so. It is a small point but if I have understood the wording correctly, the matter is worth raising.

Amendment No. 232 is also in this group in the name of the Minister. That provides for a new clause after Clause 69 by which the board shall make arrangements for places of detention to be visited by lay visitors and it sets out in some detail what they must deal with.

The arrangements as set out in the clause seem to me, in some respects, to be rather rigid. They require a report on each visit which deals with the conditions under which persons are held, welfare and treatment, adequacy of the facilities and such other matters as may be specified. Every time a lay visitor visits a detention centre, a full report must be made. That seems to rule out, if only by accident, calling in to look at a particular situation in the middle of the night. In my view, that should be done if the lay visitors are to do their job properly. They should not carry out only great formal inspections leading to reports. They should also be able to visit without reporting. The amendment states that the arrangements shall require a report on each visit covering the matters I listed.

The next detailed point on the amendment is that the power to interview persons being held in places of detention and to examine the records of such persons can be exercised only with the consent of the person concerned. The difficulty with that is that undoubtedly in the Northern Ireland situation, some of the lay visitors will be thought to be on one side of the great divide and some on the other. Therefore, some prisoners will refuse to allow anybody to talk to them or to examine their records unless that person is thought to be sympathetic to the prisoner concerned. It seems to me that that will lead to unbalanced inspections.

The third point concerns the people who may be appointed. Clearly, a lay visitor should not be a member of the board. That is sensible, and is the first provision. The second is that he or she should not be or have been a police officer. However, there is no provision which states that the lay visitor should not have been a former terrorist or convicted of serious offences. Perhaps there should be such a provision. The amendment was tabled very recently and we have not had the opportunity to table amendments to it, at least not at the speed required for them to be put on to the Marshalled List.

The arrangements apply to all designated places of detention except those which are designated under the Terrorism Act unless they have been designated by the Secretary of State. They can potentially apply to terrorist detention as well as to ordinary detention of suspects in a police station. The wording of the proposed new clause deserves careful attention, particularly the points I have mentioned. I am not against the idea of lay visitors. On the contrary, they can play a valuable part in reassuring the public about the effectiveness, efficiency and humanity of the police arrangements. At the time when I was in Northern Ireland, much rubbish was talked about detention. However, we were not in a position to have arrangements of this kind. It is desirable that we should have such arrangements, but we need to get right the detail of the wording.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

I support the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, in his Amendment No. 35. It is vitally important that if the board—be it the old board or the new board—is to do its job properly, it has to be in possession of the facts. It must be provided with the necessary facilities and back up to enable it to take soundings, not just by way of doing a doorstep poll, but by making use of independent bodies of integrity who would be in a position to give it sound advice on the particular problems with which it will be coping.

Lord Hylton

Since at least the late 1970s, it has been apparent that virtually all the Northern Ireland political parties were in favour of a Bill of rights. So far, we do not have one specifically for Northern Ireland, though I understand that a lot of preparatory work has been done in that direction. I know that we have a UK Act on the statute book. Nevertheless, the general direction of this group of amendments is helpful. In particular, Amendment No. 34A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, could be interpreted as referring to the difficult question surrounding defence lawyers, which I believe he mentioned.

I turn to Amendment No. 37. In the past, there has been no end of controversy about interrogation, Castlereagh and so on. Government Amendment No. 232 will no doubt be helpful in that context. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, that it is important to get right the wording. Later on in Amendment No. 37 there are arrangements for monitoring police action to control public disorder. I understand that as probably referring to marches and parades, of which there could be few more difficult and controversial questions. I hope that the Government will look with sympathy on this group of amendments.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Perhaps I may deal first with Amendments Nos. 31, 32 and 34A, which concern international human rights standards. I hope that it has been made plain that the Government believe that human rights should be at the heart of policing. That is why we have introduced new measures in the form of the code of ethics, the new human rights based declaration for constables and a statutory duty for the board to monitor police compliance with the Human Rights Act. All of those measures were recommended by the Patten report.

Patten does not recommend integrating international human rights standards into police practice. In recommendation 3 the report recommends, the integration of the European Convention on Human Rights into police practice, and that is the Government's policy.

Were we to require the board to secure compliance and to monitor compliance with a standard, we need to be specific as to exactly what that standard is. It is not clear what "international human rights standards" are. We cannot court ambiguity over those standards, even in Clause 3.

By requiring the board to monitor compliance with the Human Rights Act, by requiring officers to take a human rights-based declaration and by tabling an amendment to make it clear that the code of ethics is European Convention on Human Rights based, the Government have clearly placed human rights at the core of policing in a way which has clarity. We would not support the three amendments to which I referred.

I turn to government Amendments Nos. 33—

Lord Archer of Sandwell

Before my noble and learned friend passes on, in a spirit of helpfulness, would the Government be prepared to consider specific international human rights instruments, such as the United Nations code which I mentioned?

6 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Obviously I shall consider any proposal which is made. However, at present, there is enough clarity and human rights protection in the particular provisions we have made. Therefore, we think that we have done enough on human rights in relation to that point.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 33, 34, 201 and 202. I shall deal also with Amendment No. 204, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux and others. The Patten report places great emphasis on local accountability, community policing and working in partnership with the community. The Government fully support that approach. Patten's recommendations on community consultation and involvement at local level centre on the creation of district policing partnerships. As the central accountability body, we judge it right, as the Ulster Unionist Party argued in Committee in another place, that the board should be obliged to assess public satisfaction with and the effectiveness of district policing partnerships.

Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 give effect to that. Amendments Nos. 201 and 202 make consequential amendments to Clause 55, which concerns the board's reporting obligations. Amendment No. 204, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and others, has much the same effect as the government amendments and I trust that he will accept that we have sought to meet the intention of his amendment.

Amendment No. 232 relates to lay visitors and inspection of custody suites, in respect of which the noble Lord, Lord Cope, made a number of important points. First, I apologise for the late tabling of this amendment. The Patten report recommended that once the holding centres in Northern Ireland are closed, responsibility for inspecting all custody and interrogation suites should rest with the policing board.

The new clause, which will be inserted after Clause 69, will meet an undertaking given to the Liberal Democrats in another place to put the board's responsibility for lay visitors' inspection of places of detention on a statutory basis. At present the responsibilities of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland in this area are non-statutory. The provision was prepared following consultation with the authority and with the chief constable.

Lay visitors are provided for the protection of detainees and clearly we hope that detainees will not refuse a visit, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, suggested may be a possibility. But it is their right to refuse a visit. There are no provisions as such for lay visitors in the Bill. But the board will provide a recruitment process, as is presently provided by the police authority. It advertises, holds interviews and so forth. So the process is a sensible one.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also referred to the fact that the provision was quite "rigid"; namely, that a report had to be made after each visit. From where we sit, that seems to be a sensible provision because it will ensure that the proper reports are compiled. It exists to put on a statutory basis that which happens at the moment on a non-statutory basis under the Police Authority for Northern Ireland. I hope that. having heard what I say, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, will feel able to support the provision.

6 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Lord and am grateful to him for giving way. I felt that the rigidity lay in the fact that the report on each visit has to cover all the matters mentioned in subsections (3)(a), (b) and (c), as I read it. That makes it quite an elaborate report. I do not mean that visits should take place and nothing be said about them at all. But small, informal visits are just as useful as ones that lead to a complete report on the adequacy of the facilities and so forth.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

As I say, this provision was prepared after consultation with both the authority and the chief constable. The reports are the normal ones compiled after a visit. We felt it appropriate, if we are putting lay visitors' functions on a statutory basis, to set out what that involved.

I trust that that assures the noble Lord, Lord Smith, that the Government met the spirit of his Amendments Nos. 37 and 203 as regards inspections of custody suites. On other points in those amendments, Clause 3 already covers public order because the general functions of the police are covered in Clause 32, which includes public order. The training strategy will now appear on the face of the Bill in Clause 26.

Amendment No. 35, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, requires the board to make arrangements for obtaining the views of the public about policing. Those arrangements have already been made with the setting up of the district policing partnerships in Part III of the Bill and my amendments require the, board to assess their effectiveness. We believe that that deals with the points raised in that regard.

Lord Glentoran

I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I understand what he is saying in relation to DPPs. But, as I read the Bill, I would not want the DPPs to be the only part of the police board charged with testing public opinion.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

One of the general functions of the board in Clause 3(3)(d) is to assess, the level of public satisfaction with the performance of the police". So that point is already covered.

The Government welcome the laudable intention behind Amendment No. 36 and believe that the police should co-operate with the public. That is why Clause 32(5) requires police officers, in so far as it is practicable, to carry out their functions in cooperation with and with the aim of securing the support of the local community. As it stands, Clause 3(3)(e) already requires the board to monitor the relationship between the police and the public.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

I am grateful for the explanation given by my noble and learned friend. I do not believe there is any wide gulf between us. But there may be some scope and perhaps necessity for further discussions between now and Report stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 33: Page 2, line 35, at end insert ("and of district policing partnerships").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 34: Page 2, line 36, after ("effectiveness") insert ("of district policing partnerships in performing their functions and, in particular,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 34A to 37 not moved.]

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [Police support staff]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 38: Page 3, line 16, leave out ("numbers and").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 38 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 39 and 46. These are technical amendments, the latter being drafting changes. Amendment No. 38 tidies up an anomaly in Section 3 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. It removes the requirement for the specific approval of the Secretary of State for the number of police support staff. Since the coming into force of the 1998 Act, such matters are an issue of budgetary and resource allocation for the chief constable and the police authority.

Grouped with those amendments are Amendments Nos. 40 to 45. For the benefit of the Committee I shall respond to those when they are moved. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 39: Page 3, line 21, leave out ("namely").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Provision and maintenance of buildings and equipment]:

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 40: Page 4, line 18, after ("may") insert (", for the purpose of its functions,").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 40, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 41 to 45 in this group.

It is vital to protect the operational independence of the chief constable in the decisions he makes. But it is clear in any society that the needs of the chief constable must be balanced with those of the community he serves. That is nowhere more apparent than in Northern Ireland for the type of policing service which this Bill seeks to create will be based on community consultation and community requirements.

The emphasis that the Government place on ensuring that the community's needs are considered is clear in their attempt to ensure that the style of policing is a community-based consensual model designed to attract widespread support and confidence from all the communities in Northern Ireland.

The basis of the model must be transparency and accountability. Therefore, in moving the amendment I urge the Government to consider how the provision contributes to the objective of the legislation. By maintaining the current arrangements whereby the police authority, and through this Bill the policing board, takes ultimate responsibility for the policing of buildings and equipment, the Government will ensure continued transparency and accountability in this important area of resource and will reflect best practice in England and Wales. Will the noble and learned Lord confirm who, if the Bill is passed in its current form, will enter into contracts on behalf of the police service? I understand that that is not within the gift of the Chief Constable. I would therefore welcome the Minister's comments.

In tabling Amendments Nos. 44 and 45, I want to emphasise the importance of the independence of the new policing board. The new body will be a key contributor to ensuring a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland. I believe that it would be given as much control as possible over its own resources, including the land on which it is sited. It is conceivable that although the initial siting of the new body will be the responsibility of government, at some time in the future the board might decide to transfer to another location. Therefore, it is crucial that in ensuring its independence it is granted the freedom to do that. It is also proper that it should not be able to acquire land compulsorily for that purpose and my amendment clearly demonstrates that.

I ask the noble and learned Lord to put beyond doubt that the board can hold and acquire land for its own purposes. Anything else would negatively impact on the independence of that body.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

Amendment No. 44 attracted my attention because it would be surprising if the board could not acquire, hold and dispose of land for its own purposes as well as for policing purposes. It may be that policing purposes cover the board but it does not seem to me to do so. If not, one wonders how on earth the board will find an office for itself. I hope that it will not require too many offices but it may require some and presumably it will need a provision which allows it to do so.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

In dealing with the range of questions raised by Amendments Nos. 40 to 45, it might help if I made a few general points about police land, buildings and equipment under existing legislation. Clauses 6 and 7, which deal with these matters, by and large reflect the existing provisions of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act.

It may be helpful if I make explicit the fact that the board can hold land for the purpose of its own functions. Clause 7 sets out the responsibilities of the policing board with regard to the acquiring and disposing of land for police purposes. The board's ability to acquire land for its own purposes exists within Schedule 1.

The 1998 Act made important changes to the resource, finance and management of policing support functions. It placed management of service delivery in the hands of the Chief Constable and it placed strategic direction and accountability in the hands of the police authority. That remains our policy. The Patten report supported that policy, stating in paragraph 5.13 that the relationship between the police and the board should be one between a service provider and a regulator. The report also added in paragraph 5.13 that the previous arrangement which conflated those two roles was seriously flawed. That is why we feel unable to accept Amendment No. 43, which confuses those roles by injecting the board into the management of police buildings.

The Bill makes two significant changes to the 1998 Act. Both are designed to implement the Patten recommendations and to further existing government policy. First, the Bill clearly separates out the roles of the board and the police. Clauses 6 to 12 deal only with police buildings, land estimates, funds and accounts. Schedule 1, paragraph 1(1), to the Bill deals with the board in respect of these matters.

I understand that the police authority has concerns about the application of Schedule 1. I believe that that lay behind the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness. The Government, following advice from parliamentary counsel, have made an amendment to Schedule 1—it is Amendment No. 18, which we have already covered—in order to put the matter beyond doubt.

The amendments concern differentiating between the role of the board and the police. If the noble Baroness accepts my explanation she will find that the Bill is consistent with the majority of the points that are being made and that we largely agree on the intention of the legislation.

I hope that with that explanation the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

I thank the Minister for that explanation. I hear what she says and will consider that at some length. I may return at Report stage because we consider the issue to be important. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.15 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 41 to 43 not moved]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Acquisition and disposal of land hr Board]:

[Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 46: Page 4, line 43, leave out ("in the same manner").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 [Provision of advice and assistance to international organisations, etc.]:

Lord Smith of Clifton moved Amendment No. 47: Page 5, line 20, leave out ("outside the United Kingdom").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 are probing amendments. Clause 8 omits the UK receiving advice and assistance unless the assistance is to an international organisation working in the UK. It also appears to preclude the secondment of a civilian to a police force in Great Britain but not to Kosovo, for example, or to the Garda Siochana. The removal of the words will provide flexibility should there ever be a need to second specialist civilian staff to the UK.

As regards Amendment No. 48, Clause 8(2) enables police officers to serve outside Northern Ireland. There is a case that that should be extended to cover specialist civilian support staff— for example, scenes of crime officers—for whom there is much demand abroad. That keeps within the spirit of the Patten report in encouraging training and secondments outside Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

My noble friend and I have also put our names to this amendment. We know that even now the RUC is operating in the Balkans with great success. Perhaps we have not interpreted very well the intention of Clause 8. However, we believe that the main thrust of Amendment No. 47 is that the board should have ultimate flexibility to authorise members of the police force to operate wherever their special skills can best be used, if they can he spared from duty in Northern Ireland. If that is in the Republic of Ireland, the Balkans or elsewhere in the United Kingdom, so be it.

Amendment No. 48 seeks to clarify that one is talking not only about uniformed and non-uniformed full members of the police force but also support staff, some of whom would be highly skilled people who could be of great value, if they could be spared for duty elsewhere. I look forward to the response of the noble Baroness.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

I, too, regard this as a very necessary amendment given that, whether we like it or not, we are the world's number two policeman engaged in firefighting, as I believe it is called nowadays, regardless of the stretch on the Army and security forces. It is important that the line of authority is absolutely clear and I am delighted to support an amendment which does just that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I am grateful to Members of the Committee who have spoken, not least because it allows me to pay tribute to the outstanding work of members of the RUC in international situations, particularly the Balkans. As to that, I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.

Clause 8 enables the policing board, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State, to provide advice and assistance, including facilitating temporary secondments, to international organisations and to those persons or bodies outside the UK who are engaged in similar activities to those of the board and the chief constable. Therefore, we believe that Amendment No. 47 is inappropriate because it deals with UK arrangements. I hope that that clarifies the position for those Members of the Committee who are concerned to ensure that that kind of outstanding quality of work should not be inhibited in any way.

As to Amendment No. 48, it is right to be concerned about the position of police support staff and their ability to take advantage of opportunities outside their immediate functions. But we do not believe that we should alter the law in a way which may constrain those opportunities, which we believe is the effect of these amendments. Details of police service must be spelt out in the legislation because members are not employees but holders of the officer of constable under the Crown. But it would be a mistake to extrapolate from this and to regulate support staff. Under normal employment law and personnel arrangements they can be seconded to outside organisations. We believe that Amendment No. 48 is unnecessary and could be more constraining than noble Lords who support it would want.

Lord Smith of Clifton

I thank the Minister for her elucidation of the point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Grants to, and borrowing by, the Board]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 49: Page 6, line 7, leave out from ("amount") to ("under") and insert ("owing of money borrowed").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 49 I speak also to Amendment No. 50. I reserve the right to speak to the other amendment in the group until after the mover has spoken to it. Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 are technical and drafting changes. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 50: Page 6, line 12, leave out ("prior").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Accounts and audit]:

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 51: Leave out Clause 12 and insert the following new Clause—

  1. ACCOUNTS AND AUDIT 29,100 words
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