HL Deb 04 July 2002 vol 637 cc366-416

4.19 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 53 [Reparation orders]:

[Amendment No. 72 not moved.]

Baroness Park of Monmouth

moved Amendment No. 72A: Page 32, line 15, at end insert "from the membership of appropriate statutory organisations The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 73A, 74A, 75A, 75C and 77A. They all deal with the perceived need to define more precisely the power of the Secretary of State and, after him—upon devolution—of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister acting together.

My concern was about the object, however well intentioned, of being, as the politically correct would say, inclusive. Those Ministers might for perfectly understandable political reasons appoint persons whose agenda would be to achieve power over, rather than to serve, the community, and who might be representing the very paramilitaries who make their own people's lives a misery.

When the question was first debated in Committee, the noble and learned Lord quoted a number of organisations whose members might be seen by the Government as falling into the third category of designation that is provided for in the Bill, and which is now under consideration. He subsequently wrote a most helpful letter—one of many—to which he attached a list of such organisations. I found that very helpful and reassuring. However, I hope that he will nevertheless be able to accede to the amendment, which clarifies the position and gives the necessary reassurance that only persons from recognised organisations with professional expertise to offer can be considered for that powerful third discretionary slot, which recurs throughout the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, in so far as it is very much in line with a helpful government amendment, to which we shall come later, about the membership of community safety committees. The Government, having reflected on what was said in Grand Committee, have recognised the inherent danger in the Bill in respect of community safety partnerships. The noble Baroness has done nothing more than extend the logic of what is now the Government's position by trying to ensure that those who will have responsibility—a very important responsibility—will be people of some substance and will be accountable. I fully support the amendment.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend's amendment. The amendments that I had tabled but which I did not move were fairly negative. I hope that the noble and learned Lord agrees that those amendments that have superseded it and which are in the name of my noble friend are very positive. They do not simply involve youth justice; they also relate to other parts of the Bill, including the provisions on safety partnerships.

The Bill, which I hope will be enacted, will devolve a criminal justice system to Northern Ireland. That criminal justice system will be used to guide, force and manage the law over people living in Northern Ireland for many years to come. As I have—really rather drearily—said several times before in different ways, we are very anxious not to leave much flexibility in the Bill. It should be a technical Bill and, largely, it is such a Bill but it contains some extremely good and interesting innovations. We feel that it is inappropriate to leave in such a Bill open clauses involving the Secretary of State's powers—or the powers of whoever they are devolved to in future—which mean that the Secretary of State or those other people are free to do more or less what they want at the time.

There are quite a few amendments in the group that is before us—Amendments Nos. 72A, 73A, 74A, 75A, 75C and 77A. They thread through this and other parts of the Bill and involve instances of the open clause, which we on this side of the House do not like. We are suspicious of it and do not feel that it would be responsible to leave it in. I hope that the noble and learned Lord feels that my noble friend's amendment is positive, reasonable and could be lived with. I support the amendment.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I am inclined to think that Amendment No. 72A is somewhat over-prescriptive; the same may well apply to other amendments in this group. In Committee, I advanced the case in which a young person might not at the time of his offence be known to a probation officer or a social worker. Therefore, in order to get a sensible report, the Secretary of State might need to have recourse to some other person, whom he would designate. I have not really shifted from that position. I hope that the Government agree with me.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, briefly but sincerely, I support the noble Baroness's amendment. However, I am at variance with my noble friend Lord Hylton, who I believe is too much of an innocent in advising that the Government should take into account his reservations. With all due respect to him, I do not think that he understands the sheer villainy of paramilitary organisations on both sides of the divide or their ability further to deepen the penetration by terrorist organisations into all of our various communities throughout Northern Ireland. As the Bill is drafted, we have the right respectfully to ask the Government: what guarantee can they give that such orders as have been mentioned in this regard will not be used to, one might say, "contract out" court-imposed penalties to those who exercise community control cynically by operating on the fringes of the law?

Lord Smith of Clifton

My Lords, I very much support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. The approach is over-prescriptive. I understand the views of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, who speaks from his own experience; he suggested that we may perhaps be unduly naive in this regard. The Bill must be presented with a degree of optimism and against all the odds. There is a case for giving Northern Ireland the chance to develop a mature judicial system.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, I rise in the context of a mild paradox as regards Amendment No. 75C. I apologise to my noble friend Lady Park for not having given her warning that I was going to make an observation. I am not absolutely confident that that amendment makes sense in the context of the Bill. I believe that it has been included in a particular list on the grounds that the amendments were all the same. Amendment 75C relates to a matter which I raised at the end of Clause 55 stand part of the Bill.

The Minister said in response to me that it really was not a matter of great importance as it was only the rendering of a notice. I retreated abashed from the field and I acknowledge that his point is right. However, the original words in the Bill, such as the Secretary of State may designate were the same as those which occur in the other cases. The Minister, in responding to the other amendments of this kind in Grand Committee, had explained that, such person as the Secretary of State may designate would refer to people from particular statutory organisations, which is the theme of the amendments to which my noble friend Lady Park has spoken. The case that I am citing relating to the passage in Amendment No. 75C did not matter at all. The problem is that if the wording is the same between the amendments which matter and those which do not, the man on the Clapham omnibus might have the impression that they are the same and that the meaning which the Minister has given to, such person as the Secretary of State may designate is not carried if the same words are being used in a much more nominal place somewhere else in the Bill.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, as noble Lords have indicated, we discussed this matter quite fully at Committee. I am speaking to the amendments helpfully enumerated by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, grouped in this section.

They seek to cover the same area and therefore perhaps I should deal with one by way of example, which is Clause 53, page 32, line 15. It refers to Clause 53(4) which states, Before making a reparation order, the court must obtain and consider a written report by—

  1. (a) a probation officer
  2. (b) a social worker of the appropriate authority; or
  3. (c) such other person as the Secretary of State may designate".
The noble Baroness's amendments would limit the designation to statutory organisations. That is the point of these amendments.

We need to remember that before the court makes a reparation order, it must obtain a report on the requirements it might impose as part of that order. So a court has a duty to obtain a report but, rightly, it has the judicial discretion to decide the source of that report. I agree that in the majority of cases the report writers will be either a probation officer or a social worker.

But to take up and echo the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Hylton, and Lord Smith, there are those who can give extremely valuable assistance who are not statutory bodies, for instance, Extern, the YMCA, and other bodies which we have spoken about. They do work and they have vast experience with marginalised and vulnerable children. What we do not want to do is to exclude the possibility of those bodies providing such assistance to the court if it considers that they have an important contribution to make.

The noble Baroness's amendment would exclude all those extremely valuable and worthy voluntary organisations. I understand the fears which have been expressed, but these amendments do not cure that real or imagined mischief. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is quite right. If one is dealing with the needs of victims and offenders one needs a decent amount of flexibility. I remind noble Lords that not any body or person would be eligible for a mandatory report. It has to be, according to subsection 4(c), such other person as the Secretary of State may designate". So it has to be a designated organisation. Therefore, the only difference is whether some voluntary organisations are rightly to be considered as worthy of designation. I can go through all the amendments, but the approach is similar. As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, we do not want to be unduly prescriptive. We want to have flexibility, stressing as I do that any such organisation in any of the relevant contexts referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, would first have to be designated by the Secretary of State.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, I seek a little clarification. I see the point about Amendment 75C for which I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooke for identification. That is in a different category and I entirely accept that my amendment is not appropriate in that case.

However, do I understand that the Minister is unable to accept all the other amendments that I propose or not? I am not perfectly clear.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, that is my position. I am quite happy to go through them all, but my point is a common one although it has to be varied according to the amendments; namely, that one requires the flexibility referred to. It is a mistake to exclude from the possibility of assistance voluntary organisations because the noble Baroness limits everything to statutory organisations and does not allow the Secretary of State even to consider the most worthy, experienced and well regarded of voluntary organisations.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in support of my amendment. I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

4.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 72A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 84; Not-Contents, 151.

Division No. 1
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Higgins, L
Ampthill, L. Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L
Anelay of St Johns, B. Holdemess, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Hooper, B.
Blaker, L. Howe, E.
Blatch, B. Howe of Aberavon, L.
Boardman, L. Kilclooney, L.
Bowness, L. King of Bridgwater, L.
Brigstocke, B. Kingsland, L.
Brittan of Spennithorne, L. Knight of Collingtree, B.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Laird, L.
Brookeborough, V. Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mancroft, L.
Burnham, L. Marlesford, L.
Byford, B. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Caithness, E. Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Monro of Langholm, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Monson, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Montrose, D.
Clark of Kempston, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Colwyn, L. Moynihan, L.
Cooke of Islandreagh, L. Noakes, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller] Norton of Louth, L.
Cox, B. Park of Monmouth, B.
Craig of Radley, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Crathorne, L. Rawlings, B.
Crickhowell, L. Reay, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Rees, L.
Denham, L. Renton, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Elles, B. Rogan, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Rotherwick, L.
Elton, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Ferrers, E. Selsdon, L.
Fookes, B. Strange, B.
Fowler, L. Swinfen, L.
Freeman, L. Tebbit, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Glentoran, L. Trefgarne, L.
Goschen, V. Vivian, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L. Weatherill, L.
Hayhoe, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Acton, L. Ashton of Upholland, B.
Addington, L. Avebury, L.
Ahmed, L. Bach, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L. Barker, B.
Amos, B. Bassam of Brighton, L.
Andrews, B. Berkeley, L.
Archer of Sandwell L. Bernstein of Craigweil, L
Blackstone, B. Lea of Crondall, L.
Borne, L. Levy, L.
Bragg, L. Lipsey, L.
Brennan, L. Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Brett, L. Lockwood, B.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Brookman, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. [Teller]
Burlison, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Campbell-Savours, L. MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Carter, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L
Chandos, V. McNally, L.
Chorley, L. Maddock, B.
Christopher, L. Mar and Kellie, E.
Clark of Windermere, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Clement-Jones. L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L. Mitchell, L.
Crawley, B. Morgan, L.
David, B. Morris of Aberavon, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Morris of Manchester, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Desai, L. Newby, L.
Dholakia, L. Nicol, B.
Dixon, L. Parekh, L.
Donoughue, L. Patel of Blackburn, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Pendry, L.
Dubs, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Elder, L. Pitkeathley, B.
Evans of Parkside, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Rea, L.
Falkender, B. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Falkland, V. Rennard, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Richard, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Filkin, L. Roll of Ipsden, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B. Roper, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L. Russell, E.
Gale, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Gavron, L. St John of Bletso, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Sandberg, L.
Gilbert, L. Sawyer, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Golding, B. Scott of Needham Market, B.
Goodhart, L. Serota, B.
Goudie, B. Sham of Guildford B
Gould of Potternewton, B. Sheldon, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Simon, V.
Greaves, L. Smith of Clifton, L.
Grenfell, L. Smith of Leigh, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller] Stone of Blackheath, L.
Hamwee, B. Strabolgi, L.
Harris of Haringey, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L
Harris of Richmond, B. Temple-Morris, L.
Harrison, L. Tenby, V.
Haskel, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Turnberg, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B. Uddin, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Walmsley, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Whitaker, B.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Wilkins, B.
Hylton, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jones, L. Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Layard, L. Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.47 p.m.

[Amendments Nos.73 and 73A not moved.]

Clause 54 [Community responsibility orders]:

[Amendments Nos. 74 and 74A not moved]

Clause 55 [Custody care orders]:

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 75C not moved.]

Clause 56 [Youth conferences and youth conference plans]:

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 76: Page 43, line 42, at end insert"; or () the probation board of Northern Ireland The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 76 returns to my questions and suggestions on the inclusion of the Probation Board of Northern Ireland in this issue. In Grand Committee the Minister explained that existing probation officers who meet the required criteria for youth conference coordinators will be welcome to apply for such posts. I refer noble Lords to col. CWH 146 of Hansard of 18th June 2002. I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation, and I understand why the probation board does not appear on the face of the Bill.

However, I am concerned that such people may not be aware that they are able to apply for posts as youth conference co-ordinators. The board was anxious for us to raise the issue. It believes that existing probation officers are some of the best people to carry out the role of conference co-ordinators. The Minister suggested that our proceedings are scrutinised carefully in Northern Ireland. I agree with him. Perhaps the issue could be explained again on the Floor of the House and we could flag it up to ensure that people in the Northern Ireland probation service understand that they are qualified to play that role and know how to set about it. If the Government could give me some indication that through the administration a letter or pamphlet would go to members of the board informing them that they would be welcome and qualified to play that role, I would be happy. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has been modest in his requirement. He knows that if one were to ask the proverbial man in the street which body would be best qualified to deal with this delicate matter, the name that would automatically come to his tongue would be the Northern Ireland Probation Board. It is respected throughout the entire community. It is seen and held to be impartial and I cannot think of any body better qualified to deal with the matter.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am most grateful for the way in which the noble Lord put his amendment. I hope that I can say unambiguously words that will assist his purpose. As noble Lords will know, I wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, on 25th June and copied the letter to all noble Lords who had shown an interest in our earlier proceedings, but I am happy to make the matter plain on the record again.

Existing probation officers who meet the required criteria for youth conference co-ordinators will be most welcome to apply for posts. If successful, they will then—as the Bill indicates—become civil servants within the youth conferencing agency. Recruitment will be by means of public advertisement. Everyone who is qualified—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, that that may include a large number of probation officers, some of whom may not wish to apply and some of whom will—may apply. To assist further the House, and in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, I will undertake that the Northern Ireland Office will write formally to the head of the probation service in Northern Ireland indicating what I have just said. I hope that that is of assistance.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his patience and for that statement. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 77 and 77A not moved.]

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 78: Page 45, line 17, at end insert— () No youth conference may be convened until the rules specified in subsection (1) have come into effect. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope to clarify through the amendment a careful explanation from the Minister, who in Grand Committee said that Amendment No. 78 would ensure that youth conference co-ordinators are equipped with guidelines and rules of procedure before convening.

The Minister explained that conference coordinators will have such guidelines and that they will be published in due course. All the conferences will be unfamiliar. I therefore think it would be wise to place that information in the Bill with the added provision that youth conferences may not be convened prior to the circulation of guidelines.

The Bill specifies that the Secretary of State will provide a code of practice or guidelines as to how the conferences will work. Clause 86 allows the date of devolution to be flexible for different parts of the Bill. We support that. I should like to feel that this part of the Bill will not be devolved until the Secretary of State and his staff have had time to put together the guidelines so that conferences are not called and coordinators asked to do a job before the Government's guidelines for their management have been laid down. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am happy to offer the clarification to which the noble Lord alluded. As he rightly said, in new Article 3B(1), the Secretary of State may make rules governing the procedure of youth conferences. I confirm that it is the clear intention that such rules will be made. Without such rules, the proposed system will not be able to operate.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that confirmation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 79: Page 46, line 12, at end insert— (8) The Secretary of State may make procedural rules about youth conference plans which may (in particular) include provision about the period within which functions of persons required to monitor compliance with youth conference plans must be performed. (9) Rules under paragraph (8) are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament in the same manner as a statutory instrument; and, accordingly, section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 (c. 36) applies to such rules. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 80. New Article 3B(1) provides that the Secretary of State may make rules—to which the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred in the previous amendment—governing the procedure of youth conferences. It is expected that the rules will be used to set time limits for the various stages of the process and for the performance of the functions of the coordinator.

They cannot be used to make provision about youth conference plans, in particular to set a time limit within which the person monitoring compliance with a plan arising from a diversionary conference must submit the final report to the director.

Since the director may, having received a report on compliance or non-compliance, still instigate proceedings against a child if he is of the view that the plan has not been complied with to a significant extent, it must be right to set a time limit for that stage of the process. Without it, the child might wrongly and unfairly have the threat of prosecution hanging over him for an indefinite period.

Amendment No. 79 therefore empowers the Secretary of State to make rules establishing a time limit for the submission of the report to the director. Since we intend to specify a time limit, it is not appropriate for the Bill to have the words relating to the making of the report, as soon as reasonably practicable", which Amendment No. 80 deletes. I hope that your Lordships will feel that that is a tightening up and improvement of the protection for a possible child defendant. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 57 [Diversionary youth conferences]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 80: Page 49, line 35, leave out ", as soon as reasonably practicable,

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 58 [Court-ordered youth conferences]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 81: Page 52, line 5, leave out from beginning to "unless" in line 7 and insert "A court must not make a reference under Article 33A The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, new Article 33C(1) provides that a child may be referred to a conference only if he lives in an area where the new system is in place, so that we can pilot the new arrangements and, if necessary, stagger the subsequent roll out of the conferencing system. The amendment is simply to clarify that that applies equally to mandatory referrals to a conference—provided for at new Article 33A(1)—and to discretionary referrals, provided for at 33A(3) and (4). It is a tidying-up clarification. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 65 [Display of Royal Arms at courts]:

Lord Rogan

moved Amendment No. 82: Page 58, line 8, leave out "not The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 83, 84 and 85.

The question of display or lack of display of royal arms at courts is the first of—and indeed, exemplifies—the measures in the Bill we believe to be wrong. I imagined that the clause heading would give an indication of the purpose of that clause. However, these headings are more than misleading. The heading of Clause 65 is, Display of Royal Arms at courts"; yet its purpose is not to encourage but indeed to discourage the use of royal arms at courts by largely prohibiting them. The amendments standing in my name and that of my colleagues are designed to change the purpose of this clause to one more in keeping with its heading, and in a sense to uphold the continued use or display of the coat of arms in the courts in Northern Ireland.

The purpose of the royal coat of arms is to represent the state—or, more accurately, the Crown. Courts throughout the kingdom display the coat of arms both inside the court and on exterior buildings. Therefore why should one part of the kingdom be treated differently from the remainder?

This is a matter, as with the issue of flags, of treating Northern Ireland in the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom. As some noble Lords may be aware, the flags regulations were tested for their compatibility with the Belfast agreement. As my noble friend Lord Magginis of Drumglass mentioned in Grand Committee, a High Court decision was delivered by Mr Justice Kerr on 4th October 2001. It had been claimed that regulations pertaining to flags were incompatible with the Belfast agreement. But Mr Justice Kerr upheld that the regulations were indeed compatible with the agreement. He said: That approach seems to me to exemplify a proper regard for partnership, equality and mutual respect and to fulfil the Government's undertaking that its jurisdiction in Northern Ireland shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions". Therefore the correct balance and acting with rigorous impartiality was not to be compromised with treating Northern Ireland on the same basis as the rest of the kingdom on an issue that acknowledged, and therefore reflected, Northern Ireland's constitutional position.

My next point has been mentioned in this House before but I shall repeat it. The Belfast agreement, and more importantly those of us who endorsed the agreement, acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division". I emphasise, symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division". The agreement does not prohibit the use of symbols. I suggest that the approach taken by this Government goes against the spirit of that agreement, which accepted that symbols, and symbols of state, would remain in post-agreement Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords, in Grand Committee I spoke at some length on the contradictions that exist in relation to this clause. I am afraid that that seems to have been misunderstood. If it was not understood, then it was totally ignored, for nothing has been done in the interim to resolve those contradictions.

Perhaps I may, as briefly as I can—I do not want to detain the House to an undue extent by repeating what I said in Grand Committee but it is important—remind the House of my arguments. Clause 65(1) suggests that, The Royal Arms must not be displayed in any courtroom". But Clause 65(2) then goes on to list a number of courtrooms to which that rule does not apply. They include the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast, the courthouses in Armagh, Banbridge, Magherafelt, Omagh, and Court No. 1 in the courthouse in Downpatrick. Why do we have that contradiction? Simply because the IRA have not managed to blow up those courtrooms. The courts are still there; the coats of arms are still on the walls and it has been decided that it would not be the wisest thing in the world to deface those courtrooms by hauling down the coats of arms that exist there.

That leads me to ask the question: if the Government are intent on being so political; if the Government believe that those who object to the coats of arms are right to the extent that they can be offended by their presence; and if in recognising that they repudiate to some extent the very source through which justice is administered—that power that devolves from the sovereign, from the Crown—then it is a sad day not just for Northern Ireland, but for the whole of the United Kingdom. However, if the Government accept that people will be offended, are they telling me that they should not be offended in any new courtrooms, but it is all right for them to continue to be offended in existing courtrooms where the royal coat of arms is displayed? That is the ridiculous depths to which this argument descends.

The problem is that the contradiction does not confine itself to the courtrooms; it extends to courthouses as a whole. In Clause 65(3) we are told that: The Royal Coat of Arms must not be displayed … on the exterior of an existing court-house … unless they were displayed there immediately before the coming into force of this section". There is a huge vacuum in terms of information relating to new courthouses. I raised this matter in Grand Committee and it was acknowledged by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, who indicated that the Bill, as she put it, is silent in the placing of royal arms on the exterior of new courthouses".—[Official Report, 19/06/02; col. CWH 174.] So every time a courthouse is repaired or rebuilt, or newly built, there will be a political argument which impacts on the whole judicial and legal process in Northern Ireland; an ongoing source of conflict in an area where for 30 awful years there was no conflict.

I cannot believe that the Government intend to continue to behave in such a naïve and illogical manner in relation to Clause 65. Either it is right to acknowledge where the source of justice exists, and what is acknowledged in one courtroom should be acknowledged in another, or it is right—"and" it is right, perhaps—to acknowledge the symbol so far as concerns the exterior of the courthouses.

I raised the issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, about the new courthouse in Dungannon. I posed the question that since the old courthouse had a coat of arms on its exterior what would happen to the new courthouse? She whetted my appetite by suggesting that there might be a precedent. But nothing has come forward between Grand Committee and this Report stage which indicates that a source of resentment, of conflict, and of ongoing turmoil will be addressed in a sensible and dignified manner by your Lordships' House. That is wrong. I support the noble Lord, Lord Rogan.

Lord Kilclooney

My Lords, I support these four amendments. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, that the title of Clause 65 is misleading. It is entitled, "Display of Royal Arms at courts". But that is not what the clause is about; it is about the lack of display of coats of arms at courts. There is a bit of government spin here. But the people of Northern Ireland see through that.

My colleagues and I raised the issue in Grand Committee. I am disappointed that on this issue we do not have a listening government. This is an important matter back home in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister is there today in order to attend a serious conference on the future—or lack of it—of the Belfast agreement. The Government could make a political decision, a political gesture, and they could listen to the voices from Northern Ireland. But there has been no positive response.

The clause states that the royal coat of arms will be displayed on the exterior of some courthouses and not outside others. That is totally contrary to the recommendation of the review committee on the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. It recommended that the coat of arms should be displayed externally on all courthouses in Northern Ireland. Therefore, the Government must explain why they have gone against the review body's recommendation and why they have decided that these coats of arms should be on the external parts of some courthouses and not on others.

Such confusion sends a message to the IRA. We know how they think. "We will now blow up the courthouses that still have the coats of arms outside" is the message being sent. The Government are in a state of confusion because they have rejected the recommendation of the review committee. I hope that further consideration will be given to the matter.

The situation in relation to the courtrooms is even more confusing. In some courthouses the coat of arms will be in the courtrooms; in others it will not; and in a third type of courthouse it will be in one courtroom but not in the courtroom next door or down the corridor. That is totally confusing. The Government should pay attention to a recommendation made by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, a body not noted for its favourable comments on royal coats of arms and Union flags. It stated: If Parliament determines that the display of the Royal Arms … is indeed consistent with equality, impartiality and independence, then it ought to consider adopting an approach that is consistent across the region. It ought not to allow the perception, however unfounded, that some court-houses or courtrooms are more British or more monarchist than others administering the same laws". There is consistency from the human rights commission. I appeal to the Government—please listen to the voices from Northern Ireland.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, I rise to speak on Amendments Nos. 82 to 85. In one respect I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Kilclooney and the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, about the need for consistency in the way we approach these matters. Although tonight I shall be supporting the Government on the issue, I believe that the clause sends out contradictory messages. In some courthouses we shall have one set of symbols and in others we shall have a different set, even to the point where the Belfast courthouse, which is due to be completed this summer, will have the coat of arms, whereas others will not.

That will cause problems for the future in showing what we mean by the administration of justice. It starts to look as though we have one system of justice in one part of the Province and a different system of justice in the other. We either go for an "all" or for a "nothing" solution. Personally, I would go for the "nothing" solution. That is where I disagree with the noble Lords. I believe that signs and symbols have bedevilled the past 70 years of Northern Ireland's history. The more one can remove signs and symbols that can be an affront to any member of the community perhaps the better.

However, if the "nothing" solution is not to be adopted then the "all" solution surely would be that it is legitimate to show both our coat of arms and the insignia of the Irish Parliament. That may be provocative. Noble Lords ask the question: what is the source of justice—that surely is the key issue—for the defeat of terrorism and for the defeat of those who would destroy our institutions? Surely the source is, "Yes, the monarchy in the United Kingdom, but our Parliament which sits under Her Majesty the Queen, and in Ireland, the Dail, the elected Parliament of that democracy". Is it so unreasonable to think that if we are to have symbols and signs that we should show precisely where the power of our judiciary comes from? It is from an elected parliamentary process in both countries. If we are to have symbols I believe that that would he a better way to go about it.

I remind your Lordships of the review and what it had to say. Four matters struck me. The first was that we should seek to, create an environment in which all those attending court can feel comfortable". The review pointed out that all parties to the agreement acknowledged the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purpose and the need to ensure that they were used in a manner that promoted mutual respect. That is the key for me—the idea of mutual respect from both sides of the divide. The review might also be recalled for the guarantee it gives of just and equal treatment and parity of esteem for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.

I know that the noble Lords who have just contributed to the debate would agree that the key, surely, for long-term stability and peace in Northern Ireland is to draw the minority community into our processes, if we fail to do that, the agreement will never work. Until that becomes a reality, and there is a real belief in civil society, its institutions, the upholding of the law, and government by democracy, then we cannot succeed in our objectives, however many agreements we sign or however much legislation we pass. I believe that sometimes we pass too much legislation and do not give it a chance to bed down and allow relationships to prosper. However much we act in these areas, whatever is produced will not be worth the paper it is written on unless we draw into the processes the minority community in Northern Ireland.

Secondly, the review draws down on the issue of identity. I remind your Lordships of the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities which said that the agreement does not merely protect identity, or should not protect identity, which is, I think, construed quite narrowly by the framework convention, but also aspirations which, in the context of Northern Ireland, plainly refers to national aspirations. That is why the agreement says that the people should be able to identify themselves "and be accepted as" British or Irish or both. So the review's neutral approach to this question should be observed as regards all national symbols. We must get this right. Incidentally, I am also dubious about the rationale for flying flags on designated days because they are days on which flags are flown on government buildings. The courts are a separate organ of government from the executive and the rules for the one should not necessarily apply to the other.

Thirdly—to cite the review again— in time it may be more fitting to move towards symbols that emphasise the separation of the courts from the Executive". I hope that the Minister will explain how it is envisaged that that recommendation will be implemented.

Finally, the review recommended that the interior of courtrooms be free of any symbol. But the Bill outlaws only the royal coat of arms. Other symbols are not affected. What is the Government's thinking here? How will they deal with that contradiction, which my noble friend rightly pointed out?

Lord Fitt

My Lords, I have been watching and listening to the news bulletins emanating from Northern Ireland today. It is obvious that a great crisis is emerging in relation to the Good Friday agreement. Brave politicians have given their opinion and political commentators all consider a dangerous period now to exist in relation to the Northern Ireland agreement—the Belfast agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, said that he would like symbols to be created that would include the minority community in Northern Ireland. But what is happening now? In the course of trying to bring in the minority community, the majority community is being totally excluded. It is that majority which at present is in absolute crisis. The legislation passing through this House in so many aspects appears to be driving the Northern Ireland process in the direction of joint authority. Joint authority will never be the answer to Northern Ireland's problems.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, said that there could be two sets of insignia: one royal and one depicting the involvement of the Irish Government. If that were to happen, it would cause an awful uproar in Northern Ireland. That would be seen as joint authority. Joint authority would not be acceptable even to the IRA. It does not want joint authority either; it wants to have its input into the political processes in Northern Ireland.

I rise only to support what has been said from Northern Ireland. Here, we are a million light years away from what is happening at Hillsborough this afternoon. We are entering the month of July. There is a real danger. I am not sure how many people will read or hear reports of this debate. Anyone who does so will be further alienated from the so-called peace process of Northern Ireland.

On the question of which courts are designated, it appears from careful reading of the provision that the Government are in danger of having particular insignia in Catholic areas and different insignia in Protestant areas. That is not the way to bring about cohesion and support for the agreement. It will only further alienate the communities in Northern Ireland. That is the last thing we want at this time.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, when the noble and learned Lord replies, perhaps he will tell the House what nation in the civilised world does not display either in or on its courts its national symbol.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, I shall not detain the House for long. My support for the amendments springs from my objection to the greater part of the Bill. It is, as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said, another one-way street of legislation. It is in danger of alienating the majority community. On Monday, I said: The more the Government talk about the peace process, the normalisation of affairs in Northern Ireland and the end of emergency, the more frequently we find them legislating to make permanent a different standard of justice in the two parts of the kingdom".—[Official Report, 1/7/02; col. 90.] Here we are again. The symbols of justice will be different in the two parts of the kingdom. That does not bring communities together; it drives communities apart. We shall even have the ultimate absurdity of having two standards in Northern Ireland itself. That cannot make sense.

My feelings about these matters are unchanged. The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, asked the Government to listen to the voices of the people of Northern Ireland. I think that that was also the message of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. The trouble is that all too often the Government do not listen to people's voices. They listen to the gunfire, react even to the clicking of a safety catch and run to offer more concessions to those with the guns and to alienate further those who would walk the path of peace.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Alton on a wide variety of subjects, but I am bound to say that I find his suggestion bizarre in the extreme. One might as well recommend that courtrooms south of the border should be obliged to display royal symbols as well as republican ones.

Lord Kilclooney

My Lords, is it not surprising that the British Government are proposing to remove the royal coat of arms from the external walls of Northern Ireland court houses when, 80 years after independence in the Republic it remains on the external walls of courthouses south of the border?

Lord Monson

My Lords, that is an interesting piece of news. I did not know that. However, I do not think that there is any suggestion that new coats of arms be erected when new courthouses are built. In any case, it is impossible to imagine that the French would ever allow the symbols of the French state to be removed from the exterior or interior of courthouses in Corsica, whatever the pressure from a terrorist minority on that island.

Once again, as on the matter of the judicial oath, the Government appear to be capitulating to a hardline minority—to be precise, not simply a minority but a minority of a minority, amounting to no more than 12 to 13 per cent of the population of the Province.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, ever since the Belfast agreement—indeed, since the run-up to it—there have had to be compromises in Northern Ireland. Every Secretary of State has said so and has said that each community must make concessions, that no one can have everything that they want, but that by achieving a compromise—compromises are necessary—we can move forward on the basis of some sort of consent. That has been the basis of the agreement.

As I have said previously, I regret that the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the main voice of nationalism in Northern Ireland, is not heard in this House. Our debates are the poorer for the lack of that voice. I cannot possibly speak for one side or the other in Northern Ireland; I make no claim to do so. But no one else in this House can do so either. There is therefore a weakness in that we do not reflect the many views in Northern Ireland.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, the noble Lord has previously made this point about the lack of representatives of the SDLP and a legitimate view in Northern Ireland. Last time, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, put him right. He told him: they have been offered the chance; they refused it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, before my noble friend continues, I remind your Lordships that we are on Report and that we have different rules and conventions on Report from those in Committee.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I make that point simply because I am trying to get a sense of the views expressed in the House and to balance them against other views held by many people—not the majority—in Northern Ireland. It is on that basis that we must decide whether the Government have got it right in the Bill and therefore whether the amendments are appropriate. I contend that the Government have had to compromise. It is not possible to move forward in any way other than by compromise. I fully understand the strength of view on the unionist side; I understand the views on the nationalist side.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords—

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I remind the House that noble Lords may speak only once on each amendment on Report. No one may speak after the Minister has spoken.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I shall not detain the House for more than a moment or two. I contend that the Government have sought to achieve a compromise on the difficult issue of the royal coat of arms. They have achieved a worthwhile compromise, which, with good will, could be accepted by all people in Northern Ireland.

It is not a matter of making concessions to one side or the other; it is a matter of saying, "Let's have a compromise because that is the best way forward". In the end, the most important issue relating to the courts in Northern Ireland is the quality of the justice that they dispense.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, we have been over this ground a good many times. Nevertheless, I want to follow on from what the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said. In Committee, I mentioned the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly had chosen the flax flower as its shared symbol. I commended that as a highly sensible and constructive decision on what we all acknowledge to be a deeply divided society.

I have been listening to the debate, and it has just occurred to me that, here in London, on the outside of the Old Bailey, there is a large figure of Justice holding the scales evenly balanced. Could that be a suitable symbol for the exterior—or even the interior—of courts in Northern Ireland?

Lord Cooke of Islandreagh

My Lords, the matter is simple. It is a fundamental part of the agreement that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and will remain as such, so long as the majority desires that. It is fundamental that, in part of the United Kingdom, the courts of justice are the courts under the Crown, and it is only proper to show that that is so. It should show people that the courts have nothing to do with politics and administer justice under the Crown. So far as I am aware, no one has ever objected to having the crown on a courthouse as such.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, the noble Lord has, essentially, said what I was going to say. However, it bears saying again.

We arc frequently reminded of the sanctity of the Belfast agreement and the importance of the peace process. That agreement states clearly that, while, the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union", that shall be the position. Why are we trying to anticipate what may—or may not—happen after May 2003 or later? We are treating an important matter as a political football and ignoring the words used by the Government themselves when they remind us—as they do frequently—how sacred the Belfast agreement is.

Lord Smith of Clifton

My Lords, in response to what the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, has said, one could say that it is precisely because the agreement acknowledges that, for the time being and until there is a vote the other way, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, that there must be concessions, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, suggested. That is why there must be a compromise. That is why the two communities must adjust and acknowledge the outcome of the Belfast agreement, which is that there must be some form of compromise. That is implicit in the overall principle that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom until the citizens of Northern Ireland decide otherwise.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, we have had a long debate on the subject, and it might be appropriate if, with the agreement of your Lordships, I were to speak to Amendment No. 86, which would leave out Clause 65, even though it is not in this group of amendments.

Many views have been expressed in the House. I have listened many times to the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and have done so with admiration for the sincerity of what he said. I still admire his sincerity, but, today, I feel that he is, perhaps, not quite in the real world on these matters.

My reason for tabling an amendment to leave out the whole clause goes back to the theme of the arguments that I have made throughout the passage of the Bill. First, as has been said, Northern Ireland is wholly and integrally a part of the United Kingdom. There is no question about its sovereignty or about where that sovereignty lies. Secondly, the Good Friday agreement is, as the noble Lords, Lord Smith of Clifton and Lord Dubs, said, a compromise agreement. It is full of compromises. As I said from the Dispatch Box on Monday night, we should congratulate the Government on setting it up and getting it to where they got it. However, this Bill is about the judicial system of a part of the United Kingdom. Political compromise should be no part of a judicial system, for goodness' sake.

The judges do not take their authority from Mr Trimble or Mr Adams or whoever the First Minister or Deputy First Minister is. Where do they take it from? They take it from the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. If the judges take their authority from the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, everybody who lives in Northern Ireland—of whatever persuasion—is bound by the law of Northern Ireland. That law is operated under the authority of our Sovereign. If that is the situation—leaving aside the objections of those who refuse to accept the authority of the legal system in Northern Ireland, of whom there are a few—what is wrong with having Her Majesty's coat of arms displayed where it has always been and where it is to be found in every courthouse in the rest of the United Kingdom?

I have also criticised the Government for raising hares that should not have been raised. They have raised the temperature unnecessarily on some matters. In the agreement, it was accepted by all parties that there were flags, symbols and emblems that were sensitive matters for all parties to the agreement and that, where possible, they should not be removed or banned. The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, spoke just now about the fact that the coat of arms can be found on courthouses in the Republic. I asked Jonathan Caine, who works for us in Central Office, to find out for me how often the royal title is used in the Republic of Ireland. He found, I think, two pages of ''Royal This", "Royal That" and "Royal The Other" in the Yellow Pages. What is more, if noble Lords go to Leinster House, they will see the shamrock well painted on the gates: they will also still see the crown. If the Government of the Republic of Ireland are content to operate in and around the crowns, thistles and other symbols of the United Kingdom and of the Ireland of the old days, why must we be so destructive in this way? It is not necessary to raise these hares.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My Lords, as it is, apparently, in order to speak to Amendment No. 86, I shall make the contribution that I was waiting to make to that debate.

I hope that I do not need to be told that it is necessary to look for compromises. My mind goes back to the agreement of 1993, the framework documents and other instruments over which we laboured for months and—it sometimes seemed—for years, seeking the kind of compromise that would help matters forward. So, I trust that I do not need to be reminded of the need for give and take. But it does not follow from the need to give and take that this part of the legislature has to accept in total the compromise that has been put forward either by the review body or, as is the case here in a rather rare instance, where the Government have departed from the strict letter of that compromise.

The review body was infinitely earnest, hardworking and admirable, but it has come to a view and, in turn, we are entitled to come to a view. The difference between us and the membership of the review body is that we are vested with a legislative right and a legislative duty. It is for us to make up our own minds. While there is much in the review that is quite admirable, here I believe the membership has gone wrong.

I look forward to hearing from the noble and learned Lord who is to reply whether the Government are acting in pursuit of a principle here. I do not know what that principle could be, but if there is one then I should be glad to learn it. I think that the answer is more likely to be that the proposal is based on expedience. There is nothing wrong with expedience, so long as it turns out to be expedient.

What appears to have been balanced here by the review body is the virtual certainty that the provision in the Bill seeking to deny the royal coat of arms to be displayed in certain courts is going to cause deep affront to those who support the Union and its continuance. It will do so because, as has been made clear during our previous discussions, it will seem to confirm the notion that there is something incompatible with neutrality and impartiality in the court system if the royal arms are displayed.

We know what will cause affront, so let us look at what will be the benefit. It will be the avoidance of what the review body states at paragraph 8.61 as follows, we are conscious that the presence of the Royal Coat of Arms in a prominent position in the courtroom could be regarded by some as off-putting and inconsistent with the need for court proceedings to take place in a neutral environment". The review body is perfectly entitled to take that view, although it is difficult to understand how anyone appearing in court could be put off by seeing the royal coat of arms, or that the body seriously thinks that the royal coat of arms might detract from the neutrality of the court environment. I say that because, as has already been pointed out, judges owe their duty not to the government of the day but to the Sovereign. In that regard, the presence of the royal coat of arms serves as a reminder of that impartiality rather than a kind of allusion to partiality or detraction from neutrality.

We have to ask the question: must we accept the package and every item in it simply because it is a package? I advance the view earnestly that we would be failing in our duty as legislators if we delegated to the review body, distinguished as it is, that duty. We have to think about each and every component of the package, as well as considering the influence of each item on the package as a whole.

Along with other noble Lords and, I am sure, the noble and learned Lord on the Government Front Bench, I have listened with great care to the debate. Certain aspects of the proposals in this Bill, if they were not so serious, could be described as ludicrous. The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, has alluded to them. Other aspects are not ludicrous; they are very grave indeed. I shall not go over them because that would detain the House unjustifiably. However, when he looks at the end of his brief and sees the word "Resist" printed there, I urge the Minster to add, in his mind's eye, a further amendment which does not appear on the Marshalled List. It would read as follows: "Delete `Resist' and insert 'Think again'".

5.45 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I rise briefly to say that I tabled amendments in Grand Committee which proposed the exact opposite of what has been proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. For various reasons I did not move them. However, I should like to echo the remark of my noble friend Lord Dubs: there is another view. That other view has to be presented. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, pointed out, we should not pretend—at least not in Northern Ireland and in the context of the Belfast agreement—that certain symbols are neutral. We all know that there are very few neutral symbols in Northern Ireland.

I should like to respond to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, about the Republic of Ireland. If the Republic can display symbols that go against its principles but not be bothered by them, that is because justice is conducted according to the law of the land. What do symbols matter when that is the case? Symbols are not important and the fewer of them we have on either side, the better it shall be.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

My Lords, in many ways this has been a somewhat sad and troubled debate. I should like first to respond to some of the comments made in rather trenchant terms by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. I think it was he who said that this legislation is a "one-way street"; that it listens to gunfire and the clicking of the safety catch; and that it alienates those who walk the path of peace. I wish to say to noble Lords that the reverse is true. I have said this before, but I shall repeat it. It took the courage of the good people of Northern Ireland, from both communities, to lend their voice to peace. It is their courage that we celebrate and it is their courage that we now seek to reinforce.

The judicial system in Northern Ireland has operated well and Her Majesty's Government will jealously protect it, both now and in the future. I have also said this before, but I shall repeat it. Only when the institutions of Northern Ireland are ready will the system enable devolution of justice and its administration to be transferred. Symbols are just that: symbols. If we consider the reality of the Northern Irish courts, they have dispensed justice with integrity for a great many years. Nothing is about to change.

I am aware that this is a vitally important issue. It was closely debated in another place and then debated in detail by noble Lords in Grand Committee. Those debates were exhaustive, but some would say that they were not exhaustive enough because many of the arguments have been rehearsed again this afternoon.

My noble friend Lord Desai mentioned that two sets of amendments were tabled in Grand Committee. Those two groups of amendments sought to achieve the opposite effect. If no other proof were needed, that alone demonstrates the difficulty of striking the right balance in this area. Again, as I have remarked before, balance is the key to this clause. We seek to strike a balance between the sensitivities of the various communities in Northern Ireland and the constitutional position of the courts. We seek to strike a balance between the exterior and the interior of courtrooms, as well as a balance regarding a neutral environment and courthouses of historical and architectural merit.

Amendments Nos. 82 and 84 require the royal coat of arms to be displayed in all courtrooms. Amendment No. 85 requires the royal coat of arms to be displayed outside all courthouses and removes the prohibition on their display on the exterior of existing courthouses where they are not already displayed. These amendments fly in the face of the balance which has been struck and I urge the House to resist any challenges.

We have to recognise that the reality in Northern Ireland is that at present there is a variation from court to court as to the symbols displayed. Contrary to what was asserted by the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, it does not appear that this is dependent upon whether it is a Catholic area or a Protestant area. They vary. The noble Lord is shaking his head. If it was not he, I apologise to him. It may have been another noble Lord who made that point. In fact, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Fitt.

So we already have to deal with a variation. Perhaps I may give an example. There are coats of arms in Newry, but not in Ballymena. So we already have a degree of inconsistency with which Northern Ireland has lived in a relatively contented way.

We should remind ourselves of what was said in the review. I know that the noble and learned Lord made reference to paragraph 8.61, but that paragraph should be read in its entirety because it first refers to the Belfast agreement. It also has to be read in conjunction with what the review said about the way it would deal with the past.

Noble Lords will know that the review met for the first time on 1st July 1998; it had 45 days of plenary meetings; it issued more than 5,000 copies of its consultation paper; it held more than 70 meetings with interested groups and organisations; it received 90 written submissions; and it spoke to many, many ordinary men and women on the ground to seek their views—not only legislators' views, not only interested parties' views, but the views of the ordinary men and women of Northern Ireland—of what they thought should happen. A series of nine seminars were held across Northern Ireland in May and June 1999, to which more than 3,000 individuals, groups and organisations were invited and more than:300 attended.

What did the review say after all this? It talked about the past and about the future. I draw your Lordships' attention to what is said at paragraph 1.19 on page 6 and 1.20 on page 7. At paragraph 1.19 the review states: we heard some suggestions that, if the system was working, change should not be introduced for the sake of it … There was, of course, a range of opinions between these positions and there was much discussion about the workings of particular parts of the criminal justice system". At paragraph 1.20 it continues: But we did listen carefully to genuinely and strongly held views, from differing perspectives, about past events. It was important for us to understand these points of view if we were to develop recommendations for arrangements most likely to inspire the confidence of all parts of the community in the future. We do not express any opinion about the validity of the views about past events and wish to stress that where we suggest change, this should not in itself be taken as implying criticism of what has gone before". So the changes in the review were recommended to create the prospect of a happier future for all the people of Northern Ireland, from both sides of the community.

I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, that we are not delegating the duty to this body, but we believe that its work deserves our attention and that we should listen. We are listening.

The review clearly states that it makes these recommendations because the presence of the royal coat of arms, could be regarded by some as off-putting and inconsistent with the need for court proceedings to take place in a neutral environment". The Government also acknowledge that there are those who may feel that way. We seek therefore to minimise those sensitivities, consistent as far as possible with the sensitivities of others. It is a fine balance.

Many noble Lords have in other debates rightly and eloquently supported the outstanding contribution of the Northern Ireland judiciary to the justice system. We cannot allow this one narrow issue to cloud that system, which has so much to commend it. That is why the review made that recommendation and that is why the Government have accepted it.

This is the history and the background to the clause. As I have said from the outset, I am aware of the sensitivities surrounding this matter, but the review is persuasive. This clause should be seen in the context of the Belfast agreement's adherence to the principle of mutual respect which forms the basis of the new Northern Ireland.

By way of conclusion, I say again that the review struck a balance, and this clause reflects that balance. As recommended by the review, it prohibits the display of royal arms within courtrooms, though with the exception of those courthouses which are architecturally or historically important. Royal arms will continue to be displayed on the exterior of existing courthouses where they are already displayed.

I hope that your Lordships will feel that the Government have striven, honestly and with integrity, to chart a path with which both parts of the community in Northern Ireland will be content, but also making clear that justice will never be subservient to mere symbols.

Lord Rogan

My Lords, I am far from content but there will be an opportunity to test the opinion of the House on this wide-ranging debate on Amendment No. 86. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 83 to 85 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 86: Leave out Clause 65. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am not persuaded. I have a slightly different argument. I believe that we should maintain the status quo. It was quite unnecessary to raise this hare and the Bill would be considerably better without this clause. This would leave some courthouses in certain parts of the Province with coats of arms and other courthouses in other parts without them. As the noble Baroness said, they do not necessarily reflect the persuasions of the communities, so why do we have to interfere? The Bill will be considerably better without this clause. I wish to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.

5.59 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 86) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 88; Not-Contents, 145.

Division No.2
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Howe of Aberavon, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Howie of Troon, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Inglewood, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Kilclooney, L.
Blaker, L. Kingsland, L.
Blatch, B. Kirkhill, L.
Boardman, L. Laird, L.
Bowness, L. Lucas, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Brittan of Spennithorne, L. Maginnis of Drumglass, L
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Mancroft, L.
Brookeborough, V. Marlesford, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Bumham, L. Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Byford, B. Monro of Langholm, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Monson, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Montrose, D.
Chadlington, L. Moynihan, L.
Chalfont, L. Noakes, B.
Clark of Kempston, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Colwyn, L. O'Neill of Bengarve, B.
Cooke of Islandreagh, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller] Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Cox, B. Rawlings, B.
Craigavon, V. Reay, L.
Crickhowell, L. Rees, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Renton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Elton, L. Rogan, L.
Ferrers, E. Rotherwick, L.
Fitt, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Fowler, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Freyberg, L. Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Selsdon, L.
Garel-Jones, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Glentoran, L. Stewartby, L.
Goschen, V. Strathclyde, L.
Hambro, L. Swinfen, L.
Hayhoe, L. Tebbit, L.
Higgins, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L. Vivian, L.
Holderness, L. Weatherill, L.
Hooper, B. Wilcox. B.
Howe, E. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Acton, L. Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Addington, L. Brookman, L.
Ahmed, L. Campbell-Savours, L.
Alli, L. Carter, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L. Chandos, V.
Amos, B. Christopher, L.
Andrews, B. Clark of Windermere, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Clement-Jones. L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. Clinton-Davis, L.
Avebury, L. Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Bach, L. Crawley, B.
Barker, B. David, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Davies of Coity, L.
Berkeley, L. Davies of Oldham, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Desai, L.
Blackstone, B. Dholakia, L.
Borrie, L. Donoughue, L.
Bragg, L. Dormand of Easington, L.
Brennan, L. Dubs, L.
Brett, L. Elder, L.
Briggs, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Morris of Manchester, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Newby, L.
Filkin, L. Nicol, B.
Finlay of Llandaff.B. Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L
Fyfe of Fairfield, L. Parekh, L.
Gale, B. Pendry, L.
Gavron, L. Pitkeathley, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Plant of Highfield, L.
Gilbert, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Golding, B. Razzall L
Goodhart, L. Rea, L.
Goudie, B. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Rennard, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Richard, L.
Greaves, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Grenfell, L. Roper, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller] Russell, E.
Hamwee, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Harris of Haringey, L. Sandberg, L.
Harris of Richmond, B. Sawyer, L.
Harrison, L. Scotland of Asthal. B.
Haskel, L. Scott of Needham Market, B.
Hayman, B. Serota, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Simon, V.
Howarth of Breckland, B. Smith of Clifton, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Smith of Leigh, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Stern, B.
Hylton. L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor) Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Jones, L. Thomas of Gresford, L.
King of West Bromwich, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Layard, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Lea of Crondall, L. Tomlinson, L.
Lipsey, L. Tope, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L. Turnberg, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.[Teller] Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B. Walker of Doncaster, L.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L. Walmsley. B.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Warner, L.
McNally, L. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Maddock, B. Whitaker, B.
Massey of Darwen, B. Whitty. L.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Wilkins, B.
Milner of Leeds, L. Williams of Crosby, B.
Mitchell, L. Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord privy seal)
Morgan, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L. Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.8 p.m.

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

Baroness Park of Monmouth

moved Amendment No. 86A: Page 59, line 9, at end insert— () A victim information scheme must also apply in respect of persons in the category of OTRs ("on the runs") who, after due process, may be released into the community. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I hope to persuade the Government to make specific provision for the right of members of the community who have lost friends or family because of the terrorist activities of those persons known as "on the runs" to be informed in advance of those persons' impending return to the community.

The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed with Sinn Fein at the Weston Park talks in July to do something to enable such fugitives, who have never been brought to justice, to return to their communities. The Prime Minister has recently given assurances that there was no offer of amnesty nor was one asked for. The Prime Minister nevertheless considers himself committed to finding a solution.

The OTRs include those who have planted the Enniskillen bomb. Their identities and the crimes for which they were responsible are already well known to the community, and the fact that they have fled and never dared to return suggests at least a recognition of guilt.

Since the intention to allow them to return became known, there has been widespread grief and rage in both the Unionist and the republican communities. That grief and rage are all the greater since there are no plans for the return of the many families exiled to the mainland under threat of death if they return. They are exiles solely because they displeased the violent and armed paramilitaries who still rule the streets in Belfast, four years after the Belfast agreement. These victims dare not testify against their oppressors and the police cannot act. So the innocent must remain exiles, while the OTRs, each with a record of crime, violence and murder, are to return and be welcomed home by their paramilitary community.

That is why I have tabled this amendment. I believe that the victims of the OTRs are entitled to be consulted and warned. The Government may well say that of course the scheme will cover them. Without explicit provision on the face of the Bill of the kind that I have proposed, it will not.

First, the present scheme refers to released prisoners. We still do not know whether the OTRs are to serve any prison term. Secondly, the existing early release information scheme states that the scheme does not apply to, a person convicted who may not have served a prison sentence", or, a prisoner who has not received a sentence of five years or more". Finally, the scheme lays down that, for the protection of some of the individuals involved, specific information may not be provided". We do not know what formula will be invoked to fulfil the commitment made by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach that they would, take such steps as are necessary in their jurisdiction to resolve the difficulty so that those concerned are no longer pursued"— although I welcome the Prime Minister's intention, as I understand it, to bring those proposals to Parliament.

The Government have argued that, Such people would, if convicted, stand to benefit by early release", and, it would be a natural development of the scheme for such prosecutions not to be pursued". On all those counts, it seems certain that under the provisions of the present early release scheme which I have cited, and perhaps particularly under the provision for, the protection of the individuals involved", the victims of the crimes of the OTRs would not be entitled at present to have advance warning of their triumphant reappearance on the streets where their victims live.

I believe that we owe it to the victims of the OTRs to ensure on the face of the Bill that their rights are expressly preserved. I have considerable faith that the noble and learned Lord will recognise the justice and the timeliness of this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. The noble and learned Lord may tell us that it is not necessary and that the point is covered. But we do not believe that it is adequately covered in the Bill as it stands. I know of the noble and learned Lord's concern for victims and I have personal knowledge of similar happenings, with violent people being released from prison without their release being made known to their victims. In Grand Committee we heard the story about the happening in Wales.

This would not be a difficult provision to include in the Bill. It is not political in any way. It would merely provide a good safeguard to ensure that the "awful happening" did not in fact happen—by that, I mean, for example, the mother, father, husband or wife of a victim of the Omagh bombing running into the person who is known to have committed that atrocity in the street without having been warned that it might happen. I strongly support the amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Smith of Clifton

My Lords, I have great sympathy with the amendment and with the sentiments behind it. As I have said previously, we on these Benches would not support a fudge. We believe that true democratic parliamentarians should abide by two cardinal rules: first, that elections are free and fair; and, secondly, that the rule of law is upheld. So we should not be party to any sort of fudge or amnesty declared before due process.

That said, I understand that such terms as "OTRs" are not appropriate in the Bill and that the amendment would need to be better drafted. I understand also that the amendment as drafted is slightly contradictory and is not quite what the noble Baroness intends.

We shall listen to what the Minister has to say. But unless there is satisfaction here, we should support such a proposal at Third Reading if the noble Baroness were to redraft her amendment and if we were not satisfied with the Government's response.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, it may be helpful in dealing with the noble Baroness's amendment and the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, to return to the Bill itself, and to page 59. This part of the Bill deals with information about discharge and the temporary release of prisoners. So one has the two possibly damaging circumstances: either a temporary release—which has historically been more liberally used in Northern Ireland than in England and Wales—or the discharge at the end of the sentence.

Clause 67(1) states: The Secretary of State must make a victim information scheme and may from time to time make a new scheme or alterations to a scheme". We need to inform our minds about what a victim information scheme is. It is: a scheme requiring the Secretary of State to make available information about the discharge or temporary release of persons serving sentences of imprisonment in Northern Ireland imposed in respect of the commission of offences … to victims of the offences who wish to receive it". So first of all it is available to those who wish to receive it—many do not—but it is about the discharge or temporary release of persons serving sentences of imprisonment. If those to whom the noble Baroness refers are sentenced after due process, to use the words in the amendment, they are covered anyway.

The noble Lord, Lord Smith, is right. There is no definition of "OTRs"—"on the runs". I agree that we have all used the term as our own shorthand, but there is no legal definition known to me, and I do not believe that it would be possible to find one. After all, I know what the noble Baroness is referring to. I think she means those who have committed offences which might generally be described as "terrorist" or might be scheduled offences. But the departed burglar is "on the run" in the same way as the departed terrorist is.

I am saying that, first, the amendment is flawed. I appreciate that that does not go to the substance of the matter, but it would be quite improper—I hope I use that word without offence—to include a term as flawed as that in a Bill of any sort. But, in any event, if these prisoners are discharged or are temporarily released, they are covered in any event by Clause 67(2).

As a further assistance to your Lordships, one needs to look at Clause 67(9). I take the point that is implicit in the noble Baroness's approach and, I believe, that of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran: what about someone who has been convicted but perhaps not sentenced because he escaped, as some did, before being sentenced? That is dealt with in Clause 67(9) which states: A scheme may make different provision in relation to…imprisoned offenders convicted or sentenced at different times". I would make two points. The first may be thought by the noble Baroness to be an ignoble lawyer's point, but it is an important one when dealing with any statute, especially with a Bill of this importance. Secondly, if offenders have been imprisoned or discharged on temporary release, they are covered in any event.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, with gratitude and appreciation. It was extremely helpful.

Will the Minister clarify whether he is considering the possibility that I might come back at Third Reading with an amendment related to subsection (9)? I agree that that would be a more appropriate place, but the problem remains. Those OTRs are likely to be released by the time the Bill becomes law. Therefore, I am concerned that the legislation should provide for that. Will the noble and learned Lord consider the issue further and advise me with his admirable expertise how I might bring into the Bill—possibly at Clause 67(9)—an amendment that would have that effect? I believe that I would have the House with me on that, as well as the noble and learned Lord. Will he clarify the issue?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am not encouraging the noble Baroness to come back at Third Reading. I am perfectly happy for the sense of the House to be taken this evening.

I return to the fundamental point, which is not about drafting, as the noble Baroness concedes. If OTRs, as they are known, though not in law, are sentenced to imprisonment, discharged or temporarily released, they are covered by the Act in any event. They are no different from any other criminal.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, may I be allowed to pursue the question further? I really do not understand.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, we never pay attention to them when the noble Baroness is speaking.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I shall try not to take advantage of that.

I am seeking help in finding a way to ensure that the victims are notified when those people are about to be returned to the streets precisely because it seems quite possible that they will not be convicted and will not therefore be discharged. Nevertheless they will be known to have committed those crimes and would not have stayed away for 15 years had they not committed them.

We need a formula to cover that. I recognise that the Minister has quoted exclusions in the Bill that will exclude them, but how can we include them?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, if the noble Baroness intends to withdraw her amendment, as I suspect, I must not detain the House too much longer. I take her point that what she wants cannot be achieved in this way. I am more than willing to speak to her informally if she so wishes, but I cannot assist in the drafting at this stage. I should make it plain that no decision has been made in respect of those who are fugitive from the jurisdiction.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, since I understand from those remarks that there is no possibility of returning to the issue at Third Reading, I should like to test the opinion of the House, if only to make the point.

6.25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Ampthill)

My Lords, the Question is that Amendment No. 86A be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content". I think the Not-Contents have it. Clear the Bar.

Division called.

6.28 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, the Question is that Amendment No. 86A be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content".

Noble Lords

Not content.

The Deputy Speaker

The Not-Contents have it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

6.32 p.m.

Clause 71 [Local community safety partnerships]:

Lord Glentoran

moved Amendment No. 87: Page 61, line 14, at end insert— () No local community safety partnership may be established until the Secretary of State has issued practical guidance about the way in which local community safety partnerships will operate. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise Ito noble Lords for that disturbance. It was clearly demonstrated by the chairman when he started speaking that the loudspeaker was not on. By the time he finished it was. I wear hearing aids and link into the loop. If the loop is not on, I do not hear. I apologise for the failure to follow through the Division that was intended.

Amendment No. 87 would ensure that no local community safety partnership is established until practical guidance has been issued by the Secretary of State. I return to the point that practical guidance should accompany new introductions to the criminal justice system. I remain unsure as to how the new local community safety partnerships will sit alongside existing community safety structures and DPPs in Northern Ireland. My noble friends the Ulster Unionists have some points to make on that matter. Therefore, I shall not expound, except to say that it is not clear as it stands how those responsible for implementing the partnerships are supposed to proceed within the existing framework.

The amendment is similar to one that I moved on a different subject earlier today. I am not suggesting that we do not want to see community safety partnerships operating satisfactorily and well. However, the legislation needs to be tidied up so that the necessary codes of practice or guidance notes are in place before any particular partnership, or the partnership scheme as a whole, gets under way. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords, while I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, intends with Amendment No. 87, I doubt he is other than optimistic in proposing it. Not setting up or establishing local community safety partnerships until such times as the Secretary of State has issued practical guidance is no guarantee that safeguards will be forthcoming. When we move to the next group of amendments I shall illustrate the futility of depending on any Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, or on the Northern Ireland Office, for practical guidance.

Although I support, in principle, the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, I believe this amendment will not achieve his proposals.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I understand the reservations expressed by my noble friend Lord Maginnis. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has served a purpose in highlighting the problem. Speaking to people who will be involved in those partnerships, it is apparent that there is a need for real clarity before we go too far down that road. It is important that the partnerships start on a firm footing, with no confusion over exactly what their role will be, and before we think about nominations.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, I shall be brief. I, too, support my noble friend Lord Glentoran. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, implied that it was impossible for a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland ever to come forward with a practical solution to one of the problems of the Province. We Secretaries of State must stick together. I must dissent from him in that. I shall not rehearse again the 29 months since the Secretary of State made a preliminary Statement in January 2000 about these matters. An enormous amount of printer's ink has been spilt on those issues in the ensuing 29 months.

If anyone has taken the trouble to read through all that has been said, there is some lack of clarity—partly because of changes in policy direction during the 29 months. I believe my noble friend has done the House a considerable service by tabling a preliminary and cautionary amendment to ensure that when we move into active mode there will be a hymn sheet from which everyone can sing.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I shall remind your Lordships that we have made a number of order-making powers in the clause subject to affirmative resolution. Therefore, we have further parliamentary scrutiny and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has approved that. A number of voluntary partnerships have already been established in district council areas. More partnerships are being developed by the statutory organisations.

Certain guidelines have already been issued and are in place—for instance, how to perform a community audit. Others will be produced as needs are identified—for example, the steps to go through in setting up a partnership. Guidelines are a source of advice, but they are not compulsory. That is going to develop incrementally. The amendment would delay progress without any ascertainable benefit.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that explanation. I believe that he understands the point I am trying to make. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

moved Amendment No. 87ZA: Page 61, line 15, leave out from "State" to "a" in line 16 and insert "within each district council area establish The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is important to give some background on how local community safety partnerships have developed. The process has been without order or logic. To some extent. what we are doing today is belated and out of time.

The consultative document, which I hold in my hand, was produced on 16th April this year. I shall not go through it in detail. Despite that document arriving on our desks only on or after that date, one month later—on 17th May—a letter from the Northern Ireland Office was delivered to district councils, stating the Government's intention to encourage the formation of local community safety partnerships. The letter advised district councils of the availability of funding for the post of community safety coordinators for the local partnerships. It went on: We are taking this step in advance of the completion of the consultation on the strategy because we have been asked by a number of existing and prospective partnerships to make it available now". I ask your Lordships to ponder on that sequence of events and on that letter, which shows that whatever bona fide consultees may have contributed and irrespective of what may be decided in your Lordships' House and in another place, decisions have already been implemented. The letter that I have in my hand goes on to say that £30,000 is immediately available towards administrative support and to the post of community safety co-ordinator for local partnerships.

Your Lordships will understand if I, as a borough councillor and as a Member of your Lordships' House, begin to wonder what my role and that of your Lordships is. I have no indication of which existing or prospective people have been so pressuring the Government that money is already being thrown at district councils.

After Grand Committee, I went to a meeting to be addressed by some of those responsible for explaining the role of community safety partnerships. After I had heard some detail, I pointed out that we were creating but another talking shop. Northern Ireland already has more than 600 councillors, 108 Members of the Assembly, 18 Members of Parliament and three MEPs, not to mention those from Northern Ireland who sit in your Lordships' House or the innumerable multitude of quangos, committees, sub-committees and amalgams of committees.

It is only fair that your Lordships understand that we are being told that these groups coming together will have funds and will contribute funds to make something positive happen for community safety. I asked officers of the housing executive and found that they have no money. They have less money for ordinary maintenance this year than they had last year. When I asked any of the statutory bodies that have been mentioned about providing money to local community safety partnerships, they said that maybe the Government would give them money. Bluntly, a lot of them are going to be there, simply because they think that more money might be thrown at the problem. We do not know.

We do not even know what role in society the local community safety partnerships may have. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal was good enough to write to us on 20th June, sending us a briefing paper prepared by the Northern Ireland Office on community safety and community safety partnerships. Paragraph 11 of that paper said that the functions of community safety partnerships and district policing partnerships are very different. It went on to say that the district policing partnerships, are established as an accountability body for the police at local level". Section 16 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 contains no provision to delegate accountability—I emphasise that word—for police at local level to DPPs.

It is worth pondering Section 16 of that Act a little further. It lists the functions of a district policing partnership. I shall not bore the House with that information in detail—noble Lords can find it themselves—but within the functions of district policing partnerships are the same duties as are now being delegated to community safety partnerships. The two lists are not identical in every detail, but there are many similarities. For example, district policing partnerships have to make arrangements, to act as a general forum for discussion and consultation on matters affecting the policing of the district". That duty is being imposed on community safety partnerships. Section 16(1)(e) of that Act says that a DPP can make arrangements for obtaining various things and, such other functions as are conferred on it by any other statutory provision". So we did not have to have duplication; I draw that firmly to the attention of noble Lords.

I must enter a caveat at this stage. I do not want it to be interpreted that somehow I am against community safety endeavours, just as it was somehow interpreted earlier—I was about to intervene—that because I have certain opinions about symbols, I do not know how to compromise with those who differ from me. I do not want to digress, but I thought that in that regard it was fully understood that the compromise was the Belfast agreement 1998 and that whatever happened should happen within the context of that agreement and should not be outside it, embellishing it or eroding it.

I return to community safety partnerships. There was a meeting yesterday, I am led to believe, of the Policing Board, at which the SDLP, the DUP., Ulster Unionists and independents joined together to say that they did not want community safety partnerships. That conveys the difficulty—the conflict—that many of us have to face up to. Do we take the adamant view that we do not want community safety partnerships because they duplicate the responsibilities that are already vested in the DPPs—they divert essential members of other statutory bodies away from the work that they know and do best—or do I try to seek some sort of compromise, so that we give some sort of acquiescence to community safety partnerships but ensure that those community safety partnerships work under and are subordinate to DPPs?

There are other considerations in this regard. The areas of responsibility of DPPs are coterminous with district council areas. The local police areas of command are coterminous—

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, for clarity, is the noble Lord speaking to Amendments Nos. 89B. 89C and 90A, which refer to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and DPPs, as well as to Amendment No. 87ZA?

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Yes, my Lords. I am trying, without impinging on the time of noble Lords, to paint the overall picture of how all of these matters impinge on each other.

I was saying that district council areas are coterminous with police areas of command and with DPPs but that there has been no clarity about whether they are coterminous with the proposed community safety partnerships. We must now look critically at the whole concept and discover whether we can put in place an arrangement that will benefit society, that will secure value for money and which will not be exploited—that has been the huge difficulty that we have had so far.

I was diverted for a moment by the noble Lord. Lord Glentoran, who asked whether I was speaking to Amendment No. 89. I thought that we had moved on to Amendments Nos. 89B and 89C.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, perhaps I can help; I think that there is some confusion. We are actually dealing with Amendments Nos. 87ZA and 89A. I think that the noble Lord has not been speaking to those amendments, which is why the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, courteously inquired whether the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, had perhaps misheard the Deputy Speaker call the amendments. Amendments Nos. 87ZA and 89A are both limited amendments. With great respect, I do not think that the noble Lord is speaking to the amendments that have been called.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords, I apologise to noble Lords. I did mishear. Although I have strayed beyond the scope of those amendments, my comments apply very much to Amendment No. 87ZA. I obviously cannot withdraw the points that I have made. However, they are pertinent to the whole question of whether we should establish community safety partnerships—if they are established—within the context of existing boundaries where other agencies and partnerships are coterminous with the district council area.

I turn to Amendment No. 89A. I have rightly, if accidentally, indicated our problems. My proposal in Amendment No. 89A is that if there is to be a community safety partnership, that must be vested in local government membership. We have had a couple of unfortunate instances of amalgams and partnerships that did not have clarity about who had primacy and which ran into financial difficulty in terms of accountability. If we have an area that is coterminous with all of those various agencies and if we have a district council controlling whatever amount of money may be become available if the partnerships are established, those of us who are publicly accountable will know exactly what is happening. One reason why that should be the case is that, otherwise, pressure will be put on civil servants, who have no chance to answer back when certain responsibilities are imposed on them which are outside the spirit of what I believe is intended to be achieved in this regard.

I apologise to noble Lords for moving beyond the scope of the amendment. But that saves the House from having to listen to me at greater length later on. I am grateful.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, it would help me if he could indicate whether he wishes to move Amendment No. 87ZA and speak to Amendment Nos. 89A, 89B, 89C and 90A. I believe that it would assist the House were he to agree that in effect that is what he has done and then we can have one debate.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that it would always be my intention to try to assist the House. I may, in error, have managed to bring together five amendments. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, has exhibited his usual charm in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, for the sensible way forward that she has suggested. He is quite right in saying that the amendments in the second group which have been referred to touch on the same subject.

The reason why, on balance, I disagree with my noble friend is that certainly from my own experience of local government on Merseyside where partnerships were established, they were enriched by other statutory organisations becoming involved in them. If they become too local government focused and orientated, I do not believe that that would necessarily be to the advantage of the partnership.

I believe that the noble Lord is well aware that membership of the partnerships is designed to include health and social services boards, education, library and probation boards, the police, the Northern Ireland housing executive and other statutory organisations. When the Minister replies perhaps he will be able to confirm that the problem is that with the review of public administration which is currently under way by the executive, it is necessary in the meantime to reserve power to the Secretary of State because until the review has been concluded we do not know exactly who the statutory agencies are.

The effect of Amendment No. 89A, were it to be passed by your Lordships this evening, reserving, for instance, the chairmanship and the administration in the local government membership of that partnership, would stunt and limit it. By reserving power to people who are elected representatives in local government would make the position far too narrow. It is right to trust the Secretary of State in this matter. I believe that the partnerships will be to the advantage of Northern Ireland if they work out as they have done in other urban areas in England. I know how passionate and committed is the noble Lord to the upholding of law and ensuring that the policing agencies get the public support to which they are entitled and that those responsible for breaking the law are brought to justice.

If he were right in any sense that people not committed to upholding the law were able to infiltrate these partnerships and take them over, I am certain that in those circumstances the Secretary of State would remove those members from the partnerships who behaved in that way. It would help if the Minister were able to confirm that to be the case when he replies. In any event, knowing the noble and learned Lord and the Secretary of State, it is pretty unlikely that the people about whom all of us would have deep fears and reservations would be appointed to such bodies in the first place.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Maginnis and what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has said about the Safer Merseyside Partnership. I am sure that he is aware, as I am, that the chairperson of that partnership is a member of the Merseyside Police Authority. The chief constable is also a member.

When I come to speak to Amendment No. 91, I shall refer to the question of whether they can be amalgamated to a certain extent or whether they should work together. Because Merseyside is one of the best practice examples in this country, it is absolutely clear that it is not the case that the safety partnerships cannot be linked with DPPs.

Lord Kilclooney

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is correct. There is a need for the work of the community safety partnerships. What is that work? It is to assist in the reduction of crime and to bring about a reduction in the level of fear of crime to the people in the community and enhance community safety. But some of these things can also be carried out by the district policing partnerships.

People believe that there is now duplication. As the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, said, there are already far too many quango organisations being created right across Northern Ireland in each district council area. In the council area of Moyle there are only 15,000 voters and yet massive community organisations are being created.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, fairly often points out that there is no one here from the SDLP. He very often speaks in a way which presents their case. I can say to the noble Lord that I can speak on behalf of the SDLP today because there is only one party in Northern Ireland which supports the Government as regards community safety partnerships and that is Sinn Fein.

If the Government are up to speed, they will know that yesterday, at a meeting of the policing board, which I attended, the SDLP, the Unionists, the DUP and the independent members which the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, mentioned, unanimously rejected the idea of the community safety partnerships. What is more, they instructed the chairman of the policing board to contact the Northern Ireland Office immediately and request that a Minister come before the policing board to explain what he is doing. That is the position of the SDLP on this matter.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, just to remind ourselves, following on the very helpful intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, I am now speaking to Amendments Nos. 87ZA, 89A, which was in the original group, also Amendments Nos. 89B, 89C and 90A, which was the response of the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington. I start with Amendment No. 87ZA.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is absolutely right. He quite rightly reminds us that the Northern Ireland Executive has launched a comprehensive review of local public administration in Northern Ireland. It may well impact on many statutory organisations, not least the district councils. The noble Lord is further correct in indicating that the only purpose of the clause in the Bill is to allow the Secretary of State flexibility to take account of any changes when he comes to place the CSPs on a statutory footing. There is no more to it than that.

As regards Amendment No. 89A, the chairmanship and administration of the local CSP shall be vested in the local government membership of the CSP, which, I suppose, in a Sinn Fein-controlled district council would inevitably give Sinn Fein the chairmanship and administration. I am not sure that the law of unintended consequences always works quite so ironically. I do not believe that that is what the noble Lord wants.

However, more fundamental than that, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who has vast experience, is absolutely right. We do not want to nominate a lead partner. We want a partnership of equals with every one having a degree of moral ownership of the work of the partnership. That deals with the first two amendments.

The next group is Amendments Nos. 89B, 89C and 90A. It will be remembered that in Grand Committee I accepted the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that the Secretary of State should be required to publish the reports. Therefore, there is no purpose in having the Police Service of Northern Ireland and other organisations specified in Amendment No 89B receiving the reports directly because I have accepted the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that they be published. The reports will be available in any event.

Amendment No. 89C requires the CSP to have regard to the statutory functions of the DPP. But to echo the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, the CSP will have to have regard to the statutory functions of all its members. Therefore, I respectfully suggest that Amendment No. 89C is inappropriate. Amendment No. 90A defines a district police partnership, and I say nothing further about it.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords, when we come to debate Amendment No. 91 we shall have an opportunity further to develop the argument in the light of the comments made by the noble and learned Lord. On those grounds, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment 87A: Page 61, line 24, leave out subsection (3) and insert— (3) A local community safety partnership is to consist of such number of persons nominated by such organisations exercising statutory functions as the Secretary of State may by order specify; and "statutory functions" means functions conferred or imposed by or by virtue of any enactment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 87B not moved.]

Lord Glentoran

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 88: Page 61, line 24, leave out from "be" to end of line 25 and insert "made up of the statutory organisations responsible for the delivery of various different services; and membership will include—

  1. (a) social services,
  2. (b) health authorities,
  3. (c) education authorities,
  4. (d) the Northern Ireland Housing Executive,
  5. (e) the police service for Northern Ireland,
  6. (f) the probation service for Northern Ireland, and
  7. (g) district councils"
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 87A tabled by the noble and learned Lord does considerably better the job which I intended. In the light of that, I shall not move Amendment No. 88.

[Amendment No. 88 not moved].

[Amendment No. 89C not moved].

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 90: Page 62, line 9, leave out "shall" and insert "must The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have written to all noble Lords to explain why we decided to change "shall" to "must". I know that your Lordships will accept that that is a technical point to achieve consistency. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 90A not moved.]

Lord Rogan

moved Amendment No. 91: Leave out Clause 71. The noble Lord said: My Lords, we are grateful for the amendment on the composition of the safety partnerships. However, I am still unhappy about the fact that two separate bodies deal with one issue; that is, crime. Therefore, I tabled Amendment No. 91. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment. First, I declare an interest. Like my noble friend Lord Kilclooney, I serve on the Policing Board. I serve also on the sub-committee for community affairs, which deals with DPPs. My support for a measure which provides community safety is absolute. There is no question of that. However, I believe that the partnership should be much closer to, or even part of, district policing partnerships.

However, there are two misconceptions. The first is that DPPs are police. No members of DPPs are policemen; they are councillors and independent members not chosen by but approved by the Policing Board. There will be very few grounds for disapproving. DPPs are put before the board for approval. The partnerships could better be called "district partnerships on policing matters". The idea of a district policing partnership automatically leads one to believe that it is a policing institute. However, that is beside the point. The police attend only to discuss issues and to put forward their local policing plan. They are not in attendance the whole time.

The second misconception is that the Government know what they are talking about and no one else does. That is not always true, as a number of noble Lords believe is the case here. In his consultation document, the Secretary of State said: The development of this strategy is one of the key recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review". Development of the strategy is, but not into separate bodies. That is clearly stated in paragraph 11.11. The Government take the review and spill it out. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, who is not in her place, said a great deal about how wonderful the review was—when it suited her. It obviously did not suit the Government on this occasion. The Secretary of State failed to state that that was in the review. However, a letter from the private secretary to Des Browne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, stated that Ministers were conscious that DPPs were established as a mechanism to hold the police to account. That is wrong.

As my noble friend Lord Maginnis said, that is not stated in the Act. Unlike my noble friend, I shall go through the functions because I am speaking to the right amendment, and cannot be interrupted. Section 16(1) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 states: (a) to provide views to the district commander… (b) to monitor the performance of the police… (c) to make arrangements for obtaining— (i) the views of the public… (d) to act as a general forum…". Those tasks are set out in the 2000 Act. However, they are amazingly similar to the tasks for safety partnerships outlined in Clause 71. We have heard about the measure for the provision of finance.

In the minutes of a meeting with the Community Affairs Committee of the Policing Board, the head of the Criminal Justice Services Division stated that community safety partnerships could become a subcommittee of DPPs. I heard him say that; he said it relatively freely. However, I accept that when he returned to the office he had second thoughts. He wrote a letter which states: While I did agree, in response to a question, that it might be possible to develop a model involving a sub-committee of the DPP as suggested, I fear that your letter rather misrepresents my position on this. I would not advocate such an arrangement. Our legal advice is that taking a direct role in relation to community safety would be outside the vires of the DPP". He continues: You suggest that I might be able to explain to the Committee how a sub-group of the DPP might work. I am afraid that I would not be qualified to do this. I have only a basic understanding of the DPP, limited to their role and function". If he has such a basic understanding of it, what serious right has he to say that it should not be? I fail to see that.

The examples I have quoted show a total lack of understanding and a lack of joined-up government and thinking. How on earth can the two departments in the Northern Ireland Office, one involved in the policing Bill and the other in this Bill, not understand what each is doing, and argue the point? I cannot discover why the NIO is so determined to keep these two bodies separate. It is flying in the face of overwhelming opposition against its strategy for two separate bodies.

Unlike the NIO, the conclusions of those against the strategy came about as a result of well-informed, thoroughly consulted and well-justified research of both sides of the argument. One has to know who the bodies are and why they are doing this, and then ask why the Government are hell bent on their course. Perhaps it is jobs for the boys; I do not know. People have been working on this for a long time.

We have heard about the consultative document. However, the closing date for responses was 3rd July; that is, midnight last night, and that has been extended. Yet here we are debating the Bill. That is brilliant. In his foreword, the Secretary of State says, I will carefully take into account all the views". He has done well since midnight. At the end of the document, the following questions are asked: Is the strategy structured correctly? Is the scope relevant? Before the Minister states that the consultation affects only issues outside the Bill, we must realise that that is not so, as the questions show. Structure and strategy are what the Bill is about. It is not about the detail. We do not have the codes of conduct or the suggestions for how they will operate. Therefore, this concerns the Bill.

Clearly, in order to justify separation of the two bodies, their tasks must be separate. However, the nine key issues for community safety as laid out by our friends, the Community Justice Service Division, not by me, are car crime; domestic burglary; business and retail crime; offences against women; youth offending; offences of prejudice and hatred—sectarianism and racism; fear of crime; drugs and alcohol; and street violence. Is the prevention of any of those not connected closely with the police? The answer is not one; not even the fear of crime, which is not a crime in itself. If one looks in the police documents, which should be available to the Minister, it says clearly that they have to come back to fear of crime in the coming years. Therefore, although it is not a crime, it is included.

Only this department of the NIO, which admits that it knows virtually nothing about DPPs—it said so, not me—after working on it for three years, is supporting it. That is the core of the problem. It is not about parties, political beliefs, sectarianism, Roman Catholics, Protestants or ethnic minorities. It is straightforward management of one's affairs in the correct and proper way.

Who is against the strategy? The Criminal Justice Review Group is against having two different bodies. The Government fly in the face of that. At least 25 out of 26 councils are against it and have stated so. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is against having two parties. It is not against community safety; it has community safety officers. Are we about to appoint them? The big political term is community policing. Are we about to say that it has no role because we have community safety partnerships? No.

Your Lordships have just heard that the Policing Board is against the provisions across the political divide. There are other consultees. If one looks at the list of consultees—I am not going to go through it—some will support the implementation plan. But like the Criminal Justice Services Division of the NIO, they will know little about the tasks of DPPs. So I would expect them to be pro a safety plan, as I am, but when one knows a little more about DPPs, one realises that they should not accept it.

The question is not if, but how. I have already detailed the response of the Criminal Justice Review Group and I do not have to say any more. My noble friend Lord Maginnis mentioned most of the points about the councils. The Policing Board has come through to us with several additional problems.

What is the legal status of the bodies? Non-statutory. Who indemnifies the bodies? The councils are worried about that. They are being provided with £30,000 for staffing. They do not have indemnity cover. If many councils over here are not strapped for cash, I assure your Lordships that ours are. Who indemnifies the members? That is a problem. Who has the responsibility for audit and to whom are they accountable?

The DPP is a statutory nominated body, but this is not. For example, Belfast has said that it cannot staff its four bodies. How will it be done? They will be run as a group of committees together with the DPP. Another noble Lord has dealt with the issue of the chairman.

The Safer Merseyside Partnership, to which my noble friend Lord Alton referred, is a classic example of how to do it, but it does not have DPF's with the strength of ours. That Is probably why the police are on it. But the police have to be there. It is pie in the sky that someone can deal with safety in one corner of the town without the police knowing. It is no good saying that the bodies will talk to one another. Our police are strapped. They will have to attend DPPs by law. If they are pushed for staff they will not attend the community safety partnerships; they do not have to and why should they? They are accountable through the Policing Board, not the DPP.

The Police Service's response was luckily submitted before midnight or the later date, so the Secretary of State should have it. It says that the information about the commonality of the issues dealt with by DPPs and safety partnerships is, further evidence of the need for the work of DPP's and community safety partnership to be integrated as far as possible". The police are accountable to the Policing Board through the Northern Ireland policing plan. They are not accountable to the DPPs. The DPPs monitor, ask questions and make suggestions.

Paragraph 4.51 of the consultative document refers to key relationships. It says on safety partnerships, It will be important that policing plans also reflect the Government objectives for the reduction of crime …It will be vital therefore for the Car to establish an effective working relationship with the Policing Board, in view of that body's direct responsibility for policing", which is fine, but we are talking about the local level. That is why we have the safety partnerships. It continues, most critically, for local CSP's to have close links with the District Policing Partnership established in their area to hold the police to account". That is their phraseology, but it is incorrect.

It is all about linking closer together, yet the Government are trying to push the bodies apart. I am sorry that this is taking a while but it is about how this is meant to work. The board is under a statutory obligation to produce a draft code of practice. It has done so, and in paragraphs 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and 7.4—I shall not read them to your Lordships—it says that the DPPs would have to have a close working relationship with the community safety partnerships and all local bodies statutory and otherwise.

When the document was presented to the Northern Ireland Office, it said, "take it out". The provision was taken out, which is amazing. Ultimately the Policing Board through the police is responsible for the nine key issues we discussed, at present laid down for safety partnerships. As it stands, DPPs and safety partnerships are separate bodies, but they are doing the same thing: studying and getting returns on causes and deterrents; solving crimes. There are bound to be differences in their surveys.

The safety partnerships could and should be part of DPPs or much more closely linked; as a subcommittee, for example. Yet the legal advice to the Criminal Justice Service Division seems to be incorrect. The head of that division said in his letter: Our legal advice is that taking a direct role in relation to community safety would be outside the vires of the DPP…in comments on an early draft of your code on the DPP functions". Section 16(1)(e) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 states in relation to the functions of the DPP—and it was left wide open for precisely this purpose, such other functions as are conferred on it by any other statutory provision". So we could do it now. It would be easy; a quick amendment and it would be done.

Immediately the response will be that subcommittees are not allowed. So Section 21, which is significantly in relation to Belfast but easily amended, permits sub-committees and people from outside who are not in the partnership in the beginning. There is no problem with including statutory bodies, so what is the problem?

I turn to the funding of £2.5 million per year. It is said that there will be Lottery money, peace and reconciliation money, and so on. Between 26 partnerships, £2.5 million is not a great deal of money; I wish there was more. Do any noble Lords have an idea how much CCTV cost in North Belfast in the past month? I believe it was £1.25 million. We need more money.

With reference to the Lottery and other cross-border funds, are noble Lords aware that in Northern Ireland they hate joint funding? They like to fund things straight off. If the NIO is funding around the corner to the safety partnerships and if it is a reserve function such as security, there should be joint security through the DPPs. If not, why are they funding at the bottom level within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, department of housing and so on? I suggest that it is bypassing the Assembly. I support the amendment and I should like the Government to propose something in its stead.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I am as strongly opposed to unnecessary bureaucracy and redundant organisations as anybody else in your Lordships' House. Having made that point, perhaps I can make just one point about policing and one point on community safety.

I know that over the years in Northern Ireland bodies called police and public liaison committees were set up. They existed in the worst of times and in face of considerable hostility to the police from a number of different quarters. Some of them, for example the one in Derry, still managed to do good work. I hope that the work of those bodies will not be lost sight of but will be carried forward into such district policing partnerships as may occur in future.

On the matter of community safety, for many years some very good work has been done on crime prevention by, for example, Extern, which was mentioned earlier, by NIACRO, of which I have the honour to be president, and by quite a variety and range of youth organisations and other voluntary bodies. I hope that that work will not be lost in the sand but will be carried forward into this wider concept of community safety, which has quite a lot going for it.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, briefly I too should like to speak on Clause 71 and oppose its removal from the Bill. Though I understand the points made by my noble friend Lord Brookehorough this afternoon, I disagree with him about the need to take out this clause, not least because it is extremely flexible, on any reading.

The power in the clause can be exercised only after discussion with the executive and the best way forward determined. It also recognises that bodies like the police could and should be involved in the local community safety partnerships and the Secretary of State is given the right in subsection (3) to specify, by order, who the membership of those bodies should be. So here is the opportunity to involve the police and I am certain that, given the experience of the Mersey partnership—referred to several times this evening—that is the way to do it.

Five years ago, when I had the honour to become a Member of your Lordships' House, I made my maiden speech on the subject of punishment beatings and the continued anarchy that reigned in many parts of Northern Ireland. Even to this day we know that there are people from both sides of the divide who have no respect for the law, who are not working with the police to maintain law and order in Northern Ireland and who ride roughshod over the wishes of the people in the community. But any of us who travel in Northern Ireland and meet people from both sides of the divide know that there is a common wish to see law and order established; the removal of the no-go areas; the drug barons dealt with; and an end to the kind of tensions there have been, especially involving youth crime. I am certain that the tools of local community and safety partnerships are a useful part of the armoury in dealing with those issues.

Noble Lords today have warned about the dangers of unrest during this month and in the month that will follow in various parts of Northern Ireland. I understand in the context of the earlier debate on flags and symbols that in some parts of Northern Ireland the Palestinian flag is being flown in the nationalist communities and the Israeli flag in the unionist community, entrenching even further division. That is not a good example on which to build if we want hope for Northern Ireland. This enabling clause is one way forward. The Government have shown some imagination in the way they have drafted this Bill. It will be a great tragedy now to remove this clause.

Though I recognise the arguments about creating too many quangos and appointed bodies, the Secretary of State has the power in this clause to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication and replication. I am sure that he will take into account the need to have clear lines established, with authority given to perhaps just one body dealing with those issues. I hope that that will be vested in something like a local community and safety partnership rather than just a policing partnership.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I rise simply to say that we are privileged to have heard the views of two distinguished members of the Policing Board, who have expressed to your Lordships not just their own views but the views of all the parties across the board who serve on the Policing Board. With respect I say that your Lordships and the Government would be unwise to disregard those views.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, when I first came to this Bill, I felt that Clause 71 should not be part of it. I did not feel it was a part of the total judicial process. As the Bill has progressed I have changed my opinion.

I agree, and am delighted to do so, with the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. On the other hand, what the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, had to say was both extremely interesting and worrying. On this side of the House we have been seriously concerned about the DPPs per se; about the potential conflicts of interest and over-bureaucratic management in such a small community and in particular—small items but they will be important at the time—the time that the police force will have to give to servicing those different groups when they could probably be spending their time in a more worthwhile way.

Without making a long speech I simply say that, on this side of the Chamber, we do not believe it is right to attempt to remove Clause 71 tonight. But we shall continue to chase the Government to tidy up their act in regard to the relationships between district policing partnerships, local authorities, community safety partnerships and so forth. There are too many local authorities—we hope Stormont will tackle that. As a result of there being too many local authorities there will be too many DPPs; as a result of that there will also be too many community and safety partnerships. In general, too much money will be wasted and there will be too many people going round in circles to achieve what we all want to see achieved; that is, a clearing of the decks and a clear strategy for improving community safety in Northern Ireland involving the people of all communities.

It is with regret that I say to noble Lords on the other side of the Chamber that we will not be supporting the removal of Clause 71.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

My Lords, before the Lord Privy Seal rises to respond, I must indicate that such is my concern—I hope I spelt it out in general terms earlier in previous amendments; my noble friend Lord Brookeborough spelt it out in detail—that I appeal to the Lord Privy Seal in terms of his response that he does not, as he did with me on the last group of amendments, ridicule by implication what has been said here this evening.

The Lord Privy Seal suggested that, by asking that the chairmanship should be vested in district councils, I was somehow promoting Sinn Fein, which may well have chairmen on some district councils. But the Lord Privy Seal well knows that there are members of Sinn Fein in many organisations. I sought to have district councils in the forefront because, irrespective of who may be the chairman or who may be in control, they are open to public accountability and to public scrutiny in a way that statutory bodies cannot be without further huge costs to the Exchequer and individual departments.

The Lord Privy Seal did not address the issues that were raised in relation to the precipitate way in which things were being put into place before there were any fundamental ground rules. I hope that on this occasion he will take the opportunity to enlarge on some of the points he may have missed earlier in the evening.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, I understand the frustration of the noble Lord. Lord Maginnis, and my noble kinsman the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, on the details of Clause 71. I much admire the calm and good sense of the Minister in continuously bringing us back to the text of the Bill and its relationship to the amendments. One of the problems which those noble Lords trying to deal with this Bill have is that we are dealing with a real-time process on the Government's side which is operating in parallel to the examination and scrutiny of the Bill.

Perhaps I may give a tiny example in order to make the point. On Monday, the noble and learned Lord the Minister resented the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, that the Government's conduct was tardy in an area of the consultative process relating to a particular list of organisations. The Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Browne—whom I greatly admire—said on 5th September in Committee in the other place that he hoped he would be able to complete the process that we are discussing by Report stage in the House of Lords. We now know from the noble and learned Lord's statement on Monday on Report. that Mr Browne did not actually write until 28th February to consult the bodies involved in the exercise. That was only six days before the Report stage in the Commons. I realise that that was not necessarily tardiness, but inevitably the two processes are not proceeding at the same pace. That places us all in some difficulty.

In this instance the consultative document was not sent out until the middle of April, which is a full six weeks after the Bill had its Third Reading in the House of Commons. Just as we are doing our best to sympathise with the noble and learned Lord the Minister, I hope that he will have some sympathy with our difficulty in following the detail of the Bill.

The Minister perfectly properly picked up my noble friend Lady Park on the definition of OTRs and the difficulty of putting such individuals in the Bill. We have a similar difficulty in terms of how the detail will work when the process is going on in parallel and, if anything, a little behind the progress of the Bill.

When the Secretary of State published his foreword to the consultative document he said: I am pleased to present this consultation paper setting out our ideas on a new inclusive partnership approach to creating a safer Northern Ireland. The development of this strategy was one of the key recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review". What he did not do was to specify which recommendation in the criminal justice review he was referring to. He may have been referring to paragraph 11.51, which was obviously a strategic statement, because the Government immediately resisted and rejected the criminal justice review's recommendation in paragraph 11.61. The Minister courteously explained to me in a letter between Grand Committee and Report stage why it was not possible to consider the criminal justice review's recommendation in paragraph 11.61, which underlies some of the frustration expressed from the Cross-Benches in terms of the relationships between district police partnerships and community safety partnerships.

I confess that I am not wholly clear where the Government are going, or even whether the Government know where they are going. If one does not know where one is trying to get to, any road will get one there.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, perhaps I may say something further on this issue. I quote from the noble and learned Lord's helpful letter of 3rd July about Amendment No. 87A. He said: As I explained, the Northern Ireland Executive has launched a Review of Public Administration, which is likely to result in significant changes to existing roles and responsibilities across organisations that could be expected to contribute to community safety. It would not be sensible to fix long-term arrangements now until the future shape of public administration in Northern Ireland becomes clearer". That seems to me to support what my noble friend Lord Brooke has just said.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I shall just do as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, commended me for doing and go to the text of the amendment, which I know may be wearisome. The amendment simply states: Leave out Clause 71". So, if noble Lords are minded to have local community safety partnerships they would vote against the amendment and if noble Lords thought that there was no purpose in them they would vote for the amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, said that I was ridiculing his earlier proposition. I was not. I was demonstrating that if one set out prescriptive rules in statute in some local authorities one would actually vest the administration and the chairmanship of a relevant body with Sinn Fein. That is one of the dangers of having over-prescriptive legislation.

I do not think that I can put the Government's approach better than the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Glentoran, have. Both said exactly what I have said: if noble Lords are in favour of these partnerships, which have a role to play, they should vote against the amendment.

There is a difference between these partnerships and the policing partnerships, the DPPs. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, is quite right to say that all their functions are set out in Section 16(1) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. They are not the same functions as one finds in Clause 71 of the Bill. I believe that the experience referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in Merseyside offers an opportunity for local community safety partnerships to do work which is quite different from the work of the district policing partnership. I shall not read out Section 16 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, but I just remind your Lordships of its existence and its contents.

The local community safety partnerships have various duties which are clearly set out in Clause 71(4). I shall not read them out. They are on pages 61 and 62 of the Bill. The cautionary note that was sounded by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is one that the Government ought to pay attention to. Other noble Lords quite reasonably spoke of the possibility of over-bureaucratic solutions and a duplication of effort.

The Police Service for Northern Ireland will be represented on the community safety partnerships, but the primary focus of the DPP is on policing issues. The CSP has a much wider remit. One has only to look at Clause 71(4)(c) and (d). That duty is utterly different from that which a policing authority would normally be carrying out.

This is an opportunity for flexible systems for a divided community. I cannot assist further. I believe that Clause 71 is perfectly straightforward. If one supports it, one votes against the amendment; if one thinks there is no purpose in having them one votes for the amendment.

Lord Rogan

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I wish to give him time perhaps to speak and consider the matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, so that we can return to this at a later date. But at this stage I wish to withdraw our amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 12 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 92: Page 120. line 21, leave out from beginning to "(reserved" and insert— 62 The Northern Ireland Act 1998 has effect subject to the following amendments. 62A In section 75(3) (duty on public authorities to have regard to need to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different groups), after paragraph (cd) (inserted by section (Equality and non-discrimination) of this Act) insert— (ce) the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland; (cf) the Northern Ireland Law Commission;". 62B In section 76(7) (discrimination by public authorities), after "Probation Board for Northern Ireland;" insert— (fa) the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland; (fb) the Northern Ireland Law Commission;". 62C (1) Schedule 3 The noble Lord said: My Lords, there are two new institutions under the Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill, which are set out in Part 3. They are the criminal justice inspectorate and the law commission. The amendment designates them for the purposes of Sections 75 and 76 of the Northern Ireland Act. Your Lordships responded with approval on Monday when we did the same with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I hope that we have been responsive to the mood of your Lordships. I commend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Repeals and revocations]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 92A: Page 129, line 23, column 2, leave out "entry relating to" and insert "entries relating to the Advisory Committee on Juvenile Court Lay Panel (Northern Ireland) and The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a purely technical amendment. It seeks to omit the reference to the, Advisory Committee on Juvenile Court Lay Panel (Northern Ireland)", from the list of public authorities prescribed by Part 7, Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Advisory Committee on Juvenile Court Lay Panel (Northern Ireland) members is rendered obsolete by the new arrangements for lay magistrates. Therefore, we do not need the reference. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 88 [Transitionals and savings]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn

moved Amendment No. 93: Page 69, line 25, leave out from "to" to end of line 29 and insert "take over the conduct of all proceedings of the description specified in that subsection, he is under a duty to take over the conduct of only such proceedings of that description as it is reasonably practicable for him to conduct until the earlier of—

  1. (a) the time when it is first reasonably practicable for him to take over the conduct of all proceedings of that description, and
  2. 416
  3. (b) the end of the period of five years beginning with the day on which that subsection comes into force."
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is again not grouped. I think that there must be some slight error here with which I shall amuse your Lordships, because it is an amendment in my name but my instructions are to "resist everything". I am sure that that was placed there to make sure that I was carefully following my instructions.

When my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General made the proposals for the expansion of the existing department of the Director of Public Prosecutions, your Lordships were grateful for his great care. We listened carefully to various questions and thoughts offered by your Lordships. I hope that your Lordships regard this as a response to concerns expressed, but we did not think that the timescale to establish the new service should be left open-ended. My noble and learned friend has therefore agreed that we should include a sunset clause in the Bill that would set a time limit of five years for that establishment—although I think that every Member of the House would hope that the actual timescale would he shorter.

We have therefore accepted—I do not say this with any sense of self-congratulation—that there ought to be a sunset clause provision of five years. But I ought to say that the updated implementation plan will give further detail on timescale as events develop. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to