§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Name of the police in Northern Ireland]:
§ The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Serota)
My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 1, I should point out to the House that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 2.
Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 1:
Clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 11 and insert ("be styled as "The Royal Ulster Constabulary—Police Service of Northern Ireland"").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 3. Please let us for a moment reflect on why we are discussing the RUC name at all. The future name of the police service in Northern Ireland is being debated here today because some have mistakenly suggested that the current title "The Royal Ulster Constabulary" is a substantial barrier to creating a police service in Northern Ireland which reflects the society that it polices.
§ As I stated in Committee, the objectionable aspects of this Bill are founded on misinformation, false logic and a misinterpretation of the Belfast agreement.
§ Before the debate on Clause 1 progresses any further, I wish to address an important point of misinformation. Dropping the three words "Royal", "Ulster" and "Constabulary" from the name of the police in Northern Ireland will not—I stress, will not—solve the problem of Catholic under-representation in the police service. Dropping those three words will serve only to increase unionist disaffection with the manner in which the Belfast agreement has been implemented so far.
§ The Government are continuing to consider the problem of Catholic under-representation in the police service, first, in ignorance of the most significant contributory factors; and, secondly, in ignorance of information that points towards those contributory factors as being the significant contributory factors.
§ The Government are ignoring the issue of intimidation. The under-representation of Catholics in the current police service has been largely contributed to by intimidation. We all know that republicans 1585 intimidate young Catholic men and women not to join the police. When those young Catholic men and women, whose strong sense of public duty enabled them to overcome those obstacles so that they joined the police, the IRA then targeted them as a priority—a priority for murder. The IRA prioritised those Catholic officers for murder simply to deter any potential police recruits from their community and to deter other people from defying their dictates.
§ Without an end to that despicable intimidation, dropping the "Royal" prefix will not provide us with the high numbers of Catholic applicants that we all desire.
On Second Reading, I read a letter to the House on this very issue of intimidation. I feel it is necessary to repeat what I then read. The letter states:
I want to make my position clear to my co-Catholics in this part of Ireland. I joined the RUC in 1971 when living in Derry with my mother.
My father died in 1964, leaving us a poor family financially. I joined the police to help my mother 'make ends meet'.
When a prominent republican heard of this, he and three of his 'henchmen' called at my mother's house in the dead of night and threatened her, physically, over my job.
She was told what they would do to her if I wouldn't resign, and her windows were broken to emphasise the point.
That's the type now in government, that's why Catholics don't join RUC. Pity these 'henchmen' don't have the background and good character required for the RUC".
That letter, simply signed "good Catholic", was published in the Irish News on 27th July of this year. Even then, the "good Catholic" was anonymous for fear of intimidation. Republican "henchmen" still offer that brand of advice to young Catholics and they still expect it to be heeded.
§ The Government are also ignoring the implicit discouragement by community leaders of the underrepresented groups. Indeed, those community leaders are apparently in ignorance themselves of paragraph 15.2 of the Patten report. Community and other leaders of under-represented groups have continually failed to encourage young people from their communities to join the police.
§ That encouragement is essential. As it is, that current lack of encouragement can only be perceived as discouragement by the under-represented groups themselves. The Patten report, in paragraph 15.2, stated the need for those community leaders to encourage under-represented groups to apply to join the police. Patten did not state that that paragraph was conditional on any other aspect of Patten. Indeed, Patten stated that the removal of all discouragements should be a priority.
§ Those who view Patten as flawless should contemplate what has been done since the report was published to achieve the removal of discouragements at all, never mind as a priority. We all know what the answer is and "could do more" is a polite version.
§ The Government are also ignoring the recent increase in Catholic applicants to the police service. As has been stated in this House and in another place, during the period between the paramilitary-termed "cessation or military operations" and the suspension 1586 of recruitment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Catholic applications to the police doubled from 11 per cent to 22 per cent. That doubling of applicants occurred despite the lack of encouragement from community leaders of under-represented groups and despite the continuation of intimidation and, of course, despite what we are supposed to believe is the major bar to Catholic applicants, despite the name of the police having a "Royal" prefix.
§ The Government are also in ignorance of the fact that young Irish Catholics simply do not avoid organisations with a "Royal" prefix. On the issue of that "Royal" prefix, I made my point clear in Committee. To my understanding, there is still no lack of young Irish Catholic sailors at the Royal Cork Yacht Club.
§ I mentioned a list of organisations in Committee, including the Royal Dublin Society, and I will not labour that point again save to note that the Sinn Fein leadership had no problem holding its annual conference at the RDS in Dublin in 1999. The venue of the RDS, or the Royal Dublin Society, was not a cause for non-attendance at that Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.
§ The Government are ignoring the unanimity of the Ulster peers in expressing their view in Committee in this House on the name change. Surely they cannot and should not continue to consider the name of the police service in Northern Ireland in ignorance of the continuing existence and effect of intimidation; in ignorance of the lack of support for under-represented groups from their community leaders; in ignorance of the recent rise in Catholic applicants without any name change; in ignorance of the polls in the Belfast Telegraph; and in ignorance of the views of the Ulster peers in this House.
§ We have a reputation in Ulster for speaking plainly. I am speaking plainly now. Please remove the blinkers and stop reasoning by a process of selective causation. Patten recommended a new name for the police in Northern Ireland. The amendments I am putting forward this evening offer that new, double-barrelled name. Patten recommended continuity between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the reformed police service. These amendments provide that continuity, respectfully recognising the dedication and sacrifice of officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
§ These amendments provide a means of dealing with the name issue within the parameters of Patten. They provide the best means of reversing increasing unionist disaffection with the implementation of the Belfast agreement and reversing increasing unionist disaffection with policing reform. Dispensing completely with the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not significantly increase the number of Catholic applicants to the police. That fact must now be clear.
As I have already stated, Patten identified the best means of redressing under-representation in the police force in paragraph 15.2. Let me briefly remind your Lordships, and especially the leaders of under-represented groups, what it said. Patten stated,
We therefore recommend that all community leaders, including political party leaders and local councillors, bishops and priests, schoolteachers and sports authorities, should take steps to remove all discouragements to members of their communities applying to join the police, and make it a priority to encourage them to apply".
§ Just as strongly as I urge your Lordships tonight to support Amendments Nos. 1 and 3, I urge those leaders to re-read paragraph 15.2 and make that encouragement a belated priority. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mayhew of Twysden
My Lords, on 23rd October, on the first day of Committee on this Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, made a notable and courageous speech. In it he said that the debate on the precursor to Amendment No. 1 was really a debate about the constitution of Northern Ireland. He said that survey after survey showed that many Catholics support the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and that unionists now feel as he did when, in 1968, he marched in support of a campaign to secure civil rights for Northern Ireland under the Stormont regime. He spoke as one who still retained a bloodstained shirt from the blow that he received from the RUC on that occasion. He said that the unionists felt that their entire culture has been taken away from them; that pan-nationalism is ranged against them and that they have no one who can speak in their defence.
The noble Lord said that he spoke as a Catholic; that he spoke with a conscience, and he said,I support the retention of the name of the RUC'.—[Official Report, 23/10.00; col. 26.]I recognise that there is a tendency among those of us who have lived for even a few years in Northern Ireland and sometimes less, to speak as though we know it all; and perhaps some of us know some of it. But none of us knows it as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and other Members of your Lordships' House know it who live and have always lived in the Province. I believe the noble Lord was right to say that this is essentially a debate about the constitution. No police service, in any democracy, can exercise authority save by virtue of the constitution of the state which it is there to serve. In the case of the RUC that state is, by consent, the United Kingdom.
The RUC therefore is a police service empowered by the Crown. So long as the Union persists, any police service in Northern Ireland, by whatever name we call it, will be and will remain a service empowered by the Crown. As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, also said, there are also Catholics—no doubt they are in the majority—who are nationalists and object to any jurisdiction of the Crown in Northern Ireland. They continue to object to it notwithstanding the Belfast agreement, and that is their right. They will have nothing to do with the Crown in any of its manifestations.
So it follows that no police service in Northern Ireland empowered by the Crown will ever be seen by Catholics of that opinion as being "their" police service. I pick up the phrase the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, made much of in his speech, when he spoke 1588 so helpfully last time about Liverpool; but nobody who feels like that will feel about any police service that derives its authority from the Crown that it is "their" police service. So they will not join it and in that regard the Government—I regret to say—are in pursuit of a chimera for so long as the Union persists.
Does that put paid to our efforts, which we all share, to add to the number of Catholics in the police? It does not. As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, again pointed out, there are other powerful factors which inhibit Catholics from joining. The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, adverted to some of them. He cited hideous intimidation; the withholding of endorsement of that profession by the Catholic hierarchy and even by the constitutional nationalist party, the SDLP. He might have added the lack hitherto of the substantial improvements—they constitute about 85 per cent of the recommendations of the Patten report—which are now either already in place or provided for in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in support of his argument, pointed to the surge in Catholic recruitment to the RUC which took place after the cease-fire of August 1994 and to its ebbing away when intimidation seemed to be sustained and much sectarian violence also continued.
On that occasion no answer was put forward from the Government Front Bench to the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, or other noble Lords who made similar points. I, from my slender experience in comparison with that of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, believe that there is no answer. As yet we are still invited to adopt a name in which the words Royal Ulster Constabulary will, except in the most formal of legal contexts, by the Government's own design and desire, never be used. The sole purpose is the vain hope of getting more Catholics of a nationalist character, such as I have described, to join the police service, and they will not.
The recommendations of the Patten report have elevated the issue of the name into most dangerous prominence and significance, and I wish that it had not been so. But we are where we are. Like the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, I am deeply worried about the condition and state of the unionist community in Northern Ireland. And by that I do not mean the extremities of that community.
The ferocity with which a change of name is demanded, and with no promise of nationalist support at the end—there are only threats of regression if a change is not made—has reinforced the siege mentality with which so many unionists have for so long been cursed. They see the name of the RUC as an incident of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, and I wish that it were otherwise. They see the pressure for change as a denial of that status. They see the implementation of a change as a harbinger of the further and worse inroads that they fear. And until there is some beginning to decommissioning, they feel that they have had enough. Those mounting perceptions, and especially the loss of the RUC name, are deeply dangerous to the position of Mr Trimble.
1589 I have the utmost admiration for the courage, perception and wisdom of Mr Mallon in this long process. He is reported as saying that no one is indispensable to the political process in Northern Ireland. I fear that he is wrong. At least one man is and at this juncture it is Mr Trimble. It is now a political imperative that Mr Trimble remains in place. He could not be restored. I believe that that imperative now requires that the amendment be agreed to.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, I rise to oppose the amendment. In Committee I introduced several amendments which went in the Patten direction, but this amendment moves further away from Patten than even the Bill proposes.
I cannot claim to have lived or to have worked in an administrative capacity in Northern Ireland. However, for the past 50 years, since I was a small child in India, I have read about Ireland and Northern Ireland. We forget that the entire issue should be seen against a background history of 80 years, not just the past 30. It is strange that a majority community which has all the instruments of power at its disposal has, after 30 years in an embattled state, achieved a good agreement—call it "Belfast" or "Good Friday"—but it is a compromise between the Republic, the United Kingdom and various communities in Northern Ireland.
Having achieved such a delicate compromise, people want to return to the status quo. But the old status quo did not work. It is not a question of whether the Royal Ulster Constabulary was a brave force of law. It was and it made many sacrifices. But, as Patten said, if the new police service is identified with the centre of political argument of Northern Ireland, there will be two consequences: first, whatever people say, there will be problems with recruitment; and, secondly, the service will not command the free support and loyalty of everyone in Northern Ireland.
It is not merely a matter of recruitment; people have to like their police service. Like it or not, the truth is that a substantial minority does not approve of the police service. They will if we move away from the past and rename the service "Police Service of Northern Ireland". I do not like the compromise of incorporation but I can live with it. We must compromise; we cannot return to the old position because that got us into all this trouble.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, I support the position which the Government have put to the House tonight. I do so recalling my maiden speech in this House. I said that I came from a mixed marriage of a Catholic and a Protestant. My late mother was from the west of Ireland and was an Irish speaker. On my father's side, my uncle died when serving in the RAF and my father served in the 8th Army. I said that you did riot have to hate one country because you loved another. The dilemma for the nationalist community in Northern Ireland is learning to love their police 1590 force; learning to like and love the institutions in Northern Ireland, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, described.
In another place, I readily rose to support the then Northern Ireland Secretary, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden. He performed an enormous service in bringing about reconciliation and progress in the north of Ireland and I rarely found myself in disagreement with him. However, I believe that on balance the expectation has been raised through Patten that there will be a change in name and ethos in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and that if that is not now delivered it will in turn endanger the peace process.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord that the position of David Trimble is crucial and that your Lordships and another place must do nothing whatever to undermine his position. He is crucial to facilitating the process. I also agreed with the noble and learned Lord that we must learn to place ourselves in the shoes of those on the other side of the community. After 70 years of, certainly perceived, discrimination and prejudice in Northern Ireland, it has been difficult for nationalists to make a transition and to understand that there is fear, but uncertainty, in the unionist community and that they must make that transition.
In 1985 I served as a member of the then Liberal/SDP Alliance commission which examined the politics of Northern Ireland. Another member of the group was the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who had given distinguished service to the British military, had climbed Everest and had also written a significant report on the reform of the UDR. Lord Donaldson was also a member of the group. He had been a Minister in a previous Labour government and had served in Northern Ireland. We were given wide access to all the senior figures in the RUC and the military in Northern Ireland. Time and again, while we were able to see the work that was being done we could see the need for change. Even at that time our recommendations called for a change in the name of the RUC.
As the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, rightly told your Lordships, the number of applicants rose after the cease-fire but has since ebbed away, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, described. However, approximately 93 per cent of the RUC remains Protestant, despite the fact that in the general demography of the population of Northern Ireland 40 per cent are Catholic.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, said that many other institutions have the prefix "Royal" in their name and he gave as an example the Royal Yacht Club. However, I put it no higher than that to equate a yacht club with the police force in Northern Ireland is to misunderstand the depth of feeling. I do not believe that that will help to dispel the mistrust which many people in the north of Ireland still feel.
When I was in the Province last week, I made a point of speaking to a number of people in the nationalist community and in the Catholic hierarchy. I read the 1591 speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and felt that a number of points should be pursued. People in the nationalist community reiterated the kind of points made by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, in his first-class address in Committee. They said that the RUC did not represent or protect them and still believed that there was some collusion with Protestant paramilitaries. They still talked about the killings. They referred to the lawyer Rosemary Nelson, who was blown up as she drove to work last year, and said that despite all of the representations to provide her with greater protection none had been given.
Despite the bravery which the RUC has undoubtedly shown, not least at Drumcree and on many other occasions, and its commitment to duty and professionalism, the perception of that community is all. Until that changes it is difficult to see how we shall secure the four points referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, in Committee: political control, management, composition and conduct. It is difficult to see how one can properly and adequately bring those four points into perspective and ensure that the concerns which have always been raised become matters of the past.
§ Lord Laird
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Can he explain why the views of the Catholic community that he reflects are not also reflected in public opinion polls run by any reputable newspaper in Northern Ireland or any other body?
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, I hope that noble Lords understand that I do not seek to reflect the views of the Catholic community. I give my own views based on conversations last week in Northern Ireland. It was the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, who, from the same Benches, told Her Majesty's Government that since the peace process began the key issue was intimidation. If the noble Lord reads what I have said previously in your Lordships' House and in another place, he will see that I have regularly criticised the knee-capping and intimidation campaigns of organisations like the IRA to try to impose lynch-mob rule. That is wholly unacceptable. I passionately believe in upholding the law and a police force which does that by consent. I believe that that unites everybody in the Chamber today.
Last week I asked a Catholic bishop why the hierarchy had not urged members of its community to play a greater role in the police force. He said that the hierarchy had never asked people to join the Garda. I said that that was not in itself an adequate response, given the circumstances in Northern Ireland. I support the observations made last week that the hierarchy in Northern Ireland must do more to encourage members of the nationalist community to accept the police service and join it. They should be convinced that the service is there for all members of the Northern Ireland community and participate in it. Therefore, in these unique circumstances the Church 1592 has a duty to underline the necessity of policing by consent and encourage Catholics to play a full part in that service. Patten recommended a neutral name, badge and flag.
The Secretary of State made clear in his remarks on 15th June that those were issues upon which he would act. He said that he remained absolutely determined to implement the Patten recommendations and achieve an effective and representative policing service which was accepted by every part of Northern Ireland. He is right. I believe that the Government deserve our full support for the proposals that they have placed before your Lordships' House. In turn, they deserve the wholehearted support of the Catholic community and its hierarchy in the creation of a police force which can serve both traditions in Northern Ireland in a fair, impartial and scrupulous manner.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may put a question to him since he complained about the ethos of the RUC being unattractive to Roman Catholics. He advances that proposition as one of the reasons why proportionately there are too few Catholics on the force. Can the noble Lord tell the House what proportion of the Garda is made up of Protestants? Is it not less than 1 per cent, and should there not be some symmetry in these matters?
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, there is certainly symmetry in the arguments which I have placed before your Lordships' House. I hope that, although there is a much smaller percentage of Protestants living in the Republic of Ireland than there are Catholics living in Northern Ireland, nevertheless they would join Garda Siochana in the same way as I argue that nationalists in Northern Ireland should join the police force there. I refer the noble Lord to paragraph 17.4 on page 98 of the Patten report where it is said:Many people in Northern Ireland from the Irish nationalist and republican tradition regard the name, badge and symbols of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as associating the police with the British constitution and state. This contributes to the perception that the police are not their police".That is the issue before your Lordships' House.
§ Viscount Brookeborough
My Lords, I rise to support these amendments. I say to both the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Desai, and the Government that their arguments sound plausible but are based on one major assumption. They are wrong to assume that, having changed the name, there will be increased participation in, and enthusiasm for, the service by the Catholic Church, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Many noble Lords and Members of another place have said that the price for future recognition of the police force by those communities is the change of name. I beg to differ. That is an incredibly naive attitude. People hide behind the Patten report and say that it says this or that. Many things have been written down on paper which do not take place. Patten assumed that that might be right before the proposals 1593 were put to those sections of the population. Those sections of the population have said categorically that, regardless of the change of name, they will not support the proposals. Therefore, this is not a compromise that is of benefit to our community in Northern Ireland and will get us nowhere.
Like the Patten report, the Bill is divided into two parts. One is concerned with operational reforms. We are entirely behind operational reforms which bring us up to date with other police forces in the United Kingdom and enable us to learn lessons from other nations. There are also cosmetic reforms. The alteration of the name, badge and so on are straightforward cosmetic changes as the price for the involvement of that community. One does not buy something like that if one receives nothing in return. There is no reason why these groups in our society should fail to come forward, except that the new beginning about which the Government and some noble Lords speak is not the same as the new beginning in the mind of some groups, especially Sinn Fein, which control through the intimidation that people agree exists.
Their new beginning, which is not ours, means the continuation of racketeering, beatings and other criminal activities. Such activity does not simply occur on the streets of Belfast on a day-to-day basis; it is deep-seated fraud which will require an extremely experienced unit of any police force to tackle. What they want is the police service as it is now out of the way. If they achieve that they will continue what they are doing now.
That is what is happening, and until we realise it we shall get nowhere. Even the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, envisages a change of name. But surely there should be a return from the other side for these cosmetic changes. We cannot see anything in the near future, and we are nowhere nearer to it than when we started. I shall not return to the release of prisoners. They have demanded this and that and have decided not to play a part in the law and order of their own society because, through their corrupt ways, they want to maintain a hold on it. I support the amendments.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I was unable to take part in the earlier stages of the Bill but, as far as I could, I followed the written word. Sadly, the written word does not always give one quite the flavour of the occasion. I rise this evening to support this group of amendments. It seems to me that there are two or three points which may be worth making. I hate to differ from the noble Lord, Lord Desai, because I often find myself in a good deal of sympathy with what he says on other subjects. But I think the point which he neglects is that the function of a police service in the United Kingdom is to uphold the Queen's peace. That is what it is there for: the upholding of the Queen's peace. Unless and until Northern Ireland is transferred 1594 to another jurisdiction, it is the Queen's peace which must be upheld. It is a police force of the state of the United Kingdom. It is not surprising that it should expect to carry in its uniform and its title a recognition of that fact. I find that wholly unsurprising. I do not expect the Garda to do so. I fail to see why anyone should expect the police force in Northern Ireland not to carry those symbols in its work of upholding the Queen's peace.
I hate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but he spoke of the nationalists' expectations which had been aroused by the Patten report. Quite so, but unionist expectations were aroused by the Good Friday agreement; not least the expectation that violence would cease and that private armies would be dismantled and their weapons decommissioned. Those expectations were aroused; they have in no way been satisfied. To move on and say that because Patten has aroused expectations, we must give in, we must give something else, is a one-way traffic situation. Of course, in a rational world perhaps the unionist community and the police force in Northern Ireland could be generous and relaxed about losing some of these symbols had they received anything in exchange for what they have already given up under the Good Friday agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, like other noble Lords, spoke of the desirability of a police force which could police by consent. But he knows, as we all know, that there is a minority in Northern Ireland which will not consent to any police force which is under the jurisdiction of the British Crown and of this Parliament. It would not matter what one called the police force. It would not matter if we re-christened it the Garda. It would still not accept its jurisdiction and its authority while that authority came from Her Majesty and the constitutional monarchy and the Parliament of this Kingdom. Therefore, I fail to see any evidence from our experience of the past years since the Good Friday agreement that making this concession to the republicans will make any difference whatever to their conduct—none at all. What it will do will be once again to disappoint and to anger the majority community which feels that the Good Friday agreement has not been implemented by the republican and nationalist community in Northern Ireland.
When we talk of the desirability of sustaining Mr Trimble and his pivotal place in the peace process, surely we do not want to do something else which will put him into greater difficulty with the unionist community which rightly says, "Why have we been betrayed in this manner?".
§ Viscount Brookeborough
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he not agree—to continue his argument a little further—that these terrorist crimes are not just committed in Northern Ireland in 1595 ignorance of the Northern Ireland police, but also in the Republic of Ireland where there is a police force which is loyal to the government there?
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, the noble Viscount makes a good point. Indeed, the crimes are also committed on this side of the water.
§ Lord Alli
My Lords, I want to support the Government's position on the Bill and to speak against this group of amendments.
I have spent much time over the past few years in Northern Ireland. It is a place I have learned to enjoy and its people are a people whose bravery I much admire. All my contact with the new generation of parliamentarians has shown me a generation of able politicians committed to making a real change. I have learned two things about the politics of Northern Ireland: first, things are rarely as they seem; and, secondly, there are no absolutes.
There is little we can do here to move the peace forward, but there is much we can do to undermine the process. If we load the Bill with unintended, unnegotiated amendments, we shall only upset this fragile process. We all share the outrage, anger and loathing at what sometimes goes on in the name of peace. But this peace process is just that—a process—and there are still important steps to take.
The Bill is a further important step. It has been brought before us to implement the recommendations of the Patten commission. That commission was designed to bring forward proposals which would produce a police service capable of gaining sustained support across all communities in Northern Ireland. The Bill is important and complex. It sets out a whole series of changes which will transform the nature and culture of the police service in Northern Ireland; none more so than this change of name.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place said that while he was committed to implementing the full recommendations of the Patten report, he was willing to listen to any constructive comments on the Bill itself. He would make changes where constructive comments were made. I welcome the fact that he and the Government chose to accept the new clause moved by Ken McGuinness. Clause 1 provides that,the Royal Ulster Constabulary shall continue in being as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary)".But also allows that it,shall be styled for operational purposes the 'Police Service of Northern Ireland—.The amended Bill now offers a less than perfect way forward, but none the less it is a way forward. The new name of the "Police Service" signals, one hopes, a new start, a new beginning. Yet the full name which will be in the title deeds of the service keeps a link with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and all those who fell in service during the Troubles.
1596 I have said that we here at Westminster can do little practically to speed the peace process. In a very real sense it is the people's future and it is for them to make that future for themselves. However, tonight we have an opportunity to assist them in moving forward with a solution. We are—if noble Lords will pardon the expression—caught between a rock and a hard place. I am sure that all involved in the peace process will examine our comments and read Hansard with care. By the end of today we shall have put our advice and counsel on record. I believe that we shall have done our bit.
This may not be a perfect Bill. It may not even be a perfect peace. But we do not live in a perfect world. I urge noble Lords to support the speedy passage of the Bill and to leave it unencumbered so that those who are in the business of negotiating peace have all that they need to move forward. I wish them Godspeed in their endeavours.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, I am a great believer in the letter of the law and what governments officially say. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that in the Belfast agreement it was agreed that,it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people".It then went on to say that,the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality".What we are looking at is partiality; the tyranny of the minority; and the effort to give one more sop to terrorists.
I should like to quote also from the security statement in the Northern Ireland Office Departmental Report. It states that the objective is to,keep security policy … under continuous review in the light of changes in the level of threat from terrorism".There have indeed been changes—for the worse. Therefore, to make this move and to ignore the feelings of the majority of the people and of the experienced officers of the RUC is very dangerous.
I remind the House that, pragmatically, we on this side of the water need an efficient and effective police force. Although the officers of the RUC are loyal and highly intelligent and wish largely to get on with their jobs, nevertheless this issue matters greatly to them. It matters also to the Catholics among them who are not deterred from joining and who wanted to join, as has been mentioned, in the face of intimidation. It is wrong that, for reasons of political correctness and to please the IRA—that is what it is—we are trying to do something but are once more ignoring another important aspect of the Belfast agreement with which we are so often inflicted. It states:All participants acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need … to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division. Arrangements will be made to monitor this issue".We are looking at a symbol which really matters to the people who are serving in the RUC. Even if this change goes ahead and the force is required to have a 50 per cent quota of Catholics, there is no certainty that the 1597 IRA will allow anyone to join the RUC. One will there fore see a drain of highly efficient and experienced officers, who will feel that they have been totally rejected and their interests set aside in favour of a very, very doubtful quota which may or may not come in, and, if it has Catholics at all, may well contain "sleepers" who are there for reasons which will not be helpful to security.
I remind the House that Gerry Adams has said many times that whatever is done to the RUC he and his supporters will not recognise it and will not support it. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, also made that point. If they will not support it and continue to make it extremely dangerous to join, except with special permission, I cannot see the point of hurting and insulting indeed the majority in favour of a tiny minority which is utterly convinced that it will not co-operate. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, I wish to speak to my Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 5, and to support Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan.
It has been a wide-ranging debate and we have heard most of the arguments before. What is sad is that progress is very slow. The situation does not change. Let us consider for a few moments the environment that pervades in Northern Ireland. How did we get to the peace agreement, the Good Friday agreement, the Belfast agreement, or whatever it is called? Why was it necessary? The main objective of the agreement was to stop Sinn Fein/IRA murdering people and to attempt to remove the motivation for loyalist terrorists to murder people. That is why we are there; let us be quite clear about that. Let us also be quite clear that this debate is not about one of the finest police forces in the world. It is about the name of a police force. Thanks to the Patten report, that proud name has been lifted from the force and put into the political arena as a football or rugby ball to be kicked around, unfortunately by politicians from all parties and several nations, with scant regard for the members of that proud force.
We need a police force in Northern Ireland. We have a serious crime situation. We have a serious terrorist situation, whether anyone likes it or not. It is vital that we have a fine, well-trained, well-equipped, loyal and neutral police force. That police force—what is today the RUC—has proved itself in recent years to be all of those things. I accept that in the days of my father and others in Stormont things were different. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned his maiden speech. I used Bernadette Devlin's maiden speech as a basis for my maiden speech in this House. I made the point then that she was right in most of what she said in her maiden speech. But the environment had changed. We had an equality commission and a fair employment commission. The environment over there had changed. There was not a need for that kind of uprising and trouble making. But, of course, the IRA jumped on the band wagon and attempted to pursue a 1598 campaign, which it did very successfully for 30 years, to unite Ireland by force. All sides have been protected and cared for by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The Good Friday agreement is about sharing. It is about an inclusive community. It is about bringing together various groupings who have been at war with one another and have been forced to create barriers between each other. It is about creating an all-inclusive society to live in this kingdom in a law-abiding manner. I suggest to the House that Her Majesty's Government, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Armed Forces and people in many walks of life, from those who work in industry, the Civil Service and quangos to those who serve in the police force, have worked extremely hard to bring about that society. Who has not played a part in bringing about that society? Who has so far given nothing? The answer is the IRA—the terrorists—and to a large extent, although I know that people will talk to me about Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, the Irish Government.
To return to my theme of sharing, surely to goodness, if we are to have an all-inclusive society, we must have one police force. And surely to goodness that one police force must consist of people from all the different quarters of the Province. We need people from Derry, West Belfast, Armagh, Enniskillen, South Tyrone and elsewhere to make that an inclusive police force. That is vital. What is stopping it? The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, made the point very clearly. It is the nationalist community and the Roman Catholic Church. I am delighted that many noble Lords and many people outside have, privately and publicly, put tremendous pressure on the Roman Catholic hierarchy in an attempt to get that changed.
However, the purpose of my comments tonight is this: the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not make any difference to the content or the performance of that police force. If the nationalist and republican communities—who, as I have said already, have agreed to serve in one of Her Majesty's governments—are prepared to join in, why are they not prepared to share in the name? That is the nub of our amendment. A shared name allows those who attach memories to it, to whom it means a huge amount and who believe in it, to feel comfortable. Let us also incorporate another name, the "Northern Ireland Police Service", which is new and has been created in the new image of sharing and community spirit. Let the two names come together in agreement. Do not let them become belligerent, bitter, antagonistic and obstructive. That is of no use to anyone.
I do not believe that the total removal of the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is right A form of shared option is the correct course. In conclusion, perhaps I may lighten the tone of my speech by giving the Government a little piece of advice. Appeasement never won a race yet: "Bad horse, bred by good intentions, out of paralysis of will". The Irish people are a racing fraternity and they will understand that.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Dubs
My Lords, it is clear that this debate goes to the heart of many of the issues affecting Northern Ireland. To me, it is a matter of great regret that in this House there is no voice to represent democratic constitutional nationalism for Northern Ireland. That would bring balance to our debate and would ensure that we were able to hear directly the voice of a large group of people in Northern Ireland who have serious concerns about the way in which their communities have been policed over the past 30 to 50 years.
If I were an officer in the RUC, my reaction to this debate would be, "For heaven's sake, get on with the Bill. Get it out of the way. We don't want to be a political football any more". The officers of the RUC, of whom I have met quite a few over the years, just want to be able to get on with their jobs. They do not want to become an element in party politics. They do not want to be kicked around by politicians, which has been going on since the Patten report was published; indeed, even before that. They simply want to do their jobs. However, as with all police officers everywhere, they want to be able to do their jobs knowing that they have the consent and support of the communities which they are policing. It seems to me as regards the average RUC officer, who is dedicated, brave and professional, that we are asking a great deal of them when we ask them to police areas of Northern Ireland where they are not operating with the consent of the people in the local community.
I understand that surveys have shown that Catholics are supportive of the RUC. However, they do not demonstrate support to the same extent as Protestants. Catholic communities do not have that bedrock of consent that ought to be in place in order to achieve good policing. Surely that is what Patten set out to put right and forms the basis of the Bill which the Government have put forward.
It was a great source of regret to me that, within hours of the Patten report being released—I was still a Minister in Northern Ireland at the time—shrieks and shouts of condemnation were aimed at it even before many people could have had a chance to do more than open the first page or two. That set the tone for a debate which has never been calm or sufficiently dispassionate to put first and foremost the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. Set positions have made life in Northern Ireland difficult. They have also made policing in Northern Ireland very difficult indeed.
What matters here is this: so far as concerns policing, this is a battle for the hearts and minds of the vast majority of peaceful members of the national community. I do not believe that any Bill would persuade Sinn Fein or the IRA to say, "Wonderful. This is the best thing ever". But that is not the intention here. We need to address the constitutional nationalists; namely, the ordinary, decent, peace-loving members of the Catholic community. It is their support that we want for policing in Northern Ireland, because once their support has been secured, then the 1600 men of violence will be marginalised and those that do not like proper policing in Northern Ireland will also be marginalised.
I think that Patten addressed that intention very clearly and achieved a pretty good outcome. The Bill before the House is a reflection of it. What we want to see is a representative police service. As long as 93 per cent of police officers are Protestant, how can the average Catholic feel that this is, "our police force"? It is impossible to expect that.
No single proposal in the Patten report will change everything, and thus we have to consider all the detail. The right approach is to view the Patten proposals as a package. The different elements contained in the Patten report, as reflected in this legislation, can and will contribute to a successful conclusion. I believe that, once this legislation has been passed, it will send a clear signal to all the people of Northern Ireland that we are entering a new age when policing will be conducted with the consent of everyone. That will happen only when we get rid of the symbols, emblems and other items of a police force which indicate that it is not a force for the whole community. That is an important and worthwhile aim. A little vision is required in order to carry this through for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland. That is why I feel that these amendments are wrong in principle and damaging in practice. I hope that the House will reject them.
§ Lord Smith of Clifton
My Lords, in speaking to the first group of amendments, and in opposing them, I shall begin with an observation. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has pointed out, debates on Northern Ireland issues in your Lordships' House inevitably lack an important dimension. While the concerns of the Unionist community are given a full airing—and quite properly so—those of the nationalist community, almost axiomatically, are not so directly heard. The other place has at least the constitutional Nationalist opinion expressed by the three SDLP Members of Parliament. There is no authentic nationalist voice in our debates, in the same way that the British-Irish interparliamentary body is deprived of any direct unionist contribution to its debates because the unionists decline to participate in its activities.
I am neither pro-unionist nor pro-nationalist, but I think that it is important to stress the disadvantage under which noble Lords labour by not having nationalist opinion directly reflected in their debates in the same way as that of unionist opinion. As I have said, I am not in any way partisan as between any legitimate aspirations, be they unionist or nationalist, but I recognise the objective fact here; namely, the strength of nationalist feeling on the issues of policing in Northern Ireland.
In my time in Northern Ireland, I can honestly say that I never came across either a Catholic family or a Catholic authority that would encourage younger members of their community to consider a job in the RUC. I accept the fact of intimidation, but that is by no means the whole story. The name, with its distant 1601 historical legacy, is an impediment to Catholic recruitment. Members on all sides of your Lordships' House have expressed a strong wish to see Catholics serve in much greater numbers in the newly established police service—ultimately to the point where the number of Catholic police officers is proportional to the number of Catholics in the population as a whole. That will not happen, as Patten recognised, unless Catholic parents, Catholic political leaders and the Catholic hierarchy feel able to encourage Catholic recruitment to the police service.
A number of noble Lords have already said that a change of name is a necessary prerequisite for the new start for policing in Northern Ireland, based on the consent of both communities. Such a change need in no way detract from the achievements of the RUC in the recent past, but a change of name addresses the future purposefully and positively.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, the noble Lord deplores the historical legacy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but does he realise that the RUC stems from the Royal Irish Constabulary, the great majority of whose members were Roman Catholic?
§ Lord Vivian
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. Your Lordships may remember that I spoke to this issue at the Committee stage. I rise to speak to it again because I was not satisfied with the Minister's statement at the end of the previous debate.
With due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, let me say at the outset that it is the Government who have turned the policing issue in Northern Ireland into a political football. However, I can assure the House that I shall confine my remarks to the amendment.
It would appear that the Government use the Patten report when it suits them but disregard it altogether when it does not accord with their demands. Chapter 17.7 of the Patten report states:We consider it important that the link between the RUC and the new Northern Ireland Police Service be recognised".No real link with the RUC will be retained if we change the title, the cap badge and the insignia, and retain only the green-coloured uniform. Perhaps I may ask the Minister: where are and what are the links that will he retained, as proposed in the report? There will certainly be no linkage if the title becomes the "Police Service of Northern Ireland (RUC)". If the title "Police Service of Northern Ireland" without "(RUC)" is to be used for all operational purposes—working, public, legal, ceremonial, administrative, presentational and recruitment—and, as I expect, on letter heads, the name of the RUC will soon be totally and completely forgotten. It may be that that is the Government's intention. It may be that they want to ensure that the title of the RUC is totally forgotten.
The Secretary of State has said that introducing a dual name would riot be good for the cohesion and unity—and therefore the effectiveness—of the police. 1602 I totally disagree. Is the Minister aware that, for any organisation, a loss of identity leads only to low morale and inefficiency? Is this what the Government are trying to achieve at a time when policing in Northern Ireland is as difficult as it ever was? I have been a member of an advisory board for two regimental amalgamation committees over the past years. Unless the best is taken from the old organisation and included into the new organisation, the new body quickly becomes dissatisfied and performs badly. Surely this is not what we are trying to achieve.
As has been said repeatedly, a survey in the Belfast Telegraph some time ago indicated that 61 per cent of the Catholic community are not offended by the name and identity of the RUC. Many of this community strongly support being a part of the United Kingdom. It is intimidation that stops many Catholics from joining the RUC; it has nothing to do with the title.
I was not satisfied with the Minister's response at the Committee stage. It is for these reasons that I strongly support the amendment.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, the key to this debate is the assertion by those noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the amendments that if the name is changed to the one in the Bill, and if the "Royal Ulster Constabulary" is abandoned as the name, that will have no impact on the composition of the police force in Northern Ireland thereafter. If that be true, I would have to vote in favour of the amendments. I am sure that most noble Lords would feel the same.
However, it seems to me an improbable assertion—and it is an assertion. It is improbable in one obvious particular—namely, that the very passion with which the argument that there must be no change in the name is advanced, must surely beget in the Catholic community an equal and opposite sense that there is a great significance in the continuance of the name "Royal Ulster Constabulary".
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. My discussions, such as they have been, with Sinn Fein have led me to believe that it has little or no intention of recommending to members of the nationalist community that they should join the police force should the name be changed. Despite much persuasion and discussions with the Roman Catholic Church, its response has been the same.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, I am grateful for that information. I would not seek to deny it. However, I would suggest that the view of Sinn Fein and the view of the Catholic Church are not all commanding in Northern Ireland. The fact that 7 per cent of the RUC at the moment are Roman Catholics is evidence of that; the fact that the numbers applying to enter the RUC have risen from 11 per cent to 22 per cent since the Belfast agreement is evidence of that.
I suggest that the best thing we can do in this House is to reach out to the majority of reasonable Catholics in Northern Ireland who have some mind of their own; who are influenced by the efforts being made on all 1603 sides to try to end these historic divisions. Painful though it is, I believe that Patten did not reach this conclusion in a quixotic frame of mind but on the basis of the extensive soundings and evidence that he and his commission had taken.
I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, who made the point that there is at present in Northern Ireland a massive amount of fraud, intimidation and criminality. Plainly, one element in the amelioration of that dreadful state of affairs has to be a more effective police force in the province. For those reasons, I am afraid that I shall have to vote against the proposed amendments.
My Lords, at the Committee stage we spent some two-and-a-quarter hours debating this difficult subject. The debate so far today seems to have followed very much the same pattern as the debate in Committee. One does not make any criticism of that—it is a difficult issue—but I wonder whether it is in the interests of the Bill. There is still much to be done. Your Lordships will certainly wish to see that it is done and that there is a reasonable amount of time in which to discuss these matters, but perhaps the House believes—like me—that we should gracefully bring this particular discussion to a conclusion.
I do not know whether the Leader of the House can suggest any procedure under which this can be achieved. I do not think so. I think it is a matter for the assent of the House. If we were to proceed in this way, I suggest that, after the Minister has spoken, those noble Lords who have brought forward the amendments should make their final remarks and that we should then reach a conclusion one way or the other.
§ Lord Fitt
My Lords, the noble Lord said that he would like to draw the debate on the amendment to a close. I should make some little contribution on this issue. I have said before in the House that I am a Catholic. I hope that I continue to be a Catholic for many years to come or for as long as I live. So this is not particularly a Catholic and Protestant issue in relation to the RUC.
I want to address noble Lords on this side of the House. I do so with a great deal of sensitivity. For many years, as a Member of another place, I was involved in numerous controversial issues. On some matters about which I felt passionately, I was able to enlist many of my friends, some of whom were Left-wing and some of whom were middle-of-the-road. Many times, against the wishes of the government—a Labour government—we took our attitudes to a Division. People did not like it; they were very annoyed that we did so. Sometimes it involved 20, 30 or 40 Members.
That does not happen in this House. I say this with a good deal of regret—and I shall probably not be contradicted. There are many Members on this side of the House who agree with the amendments that have been proposed, and who would have agreed with the attitude I advanced on the Disqualifications Bill. But there is a Whip on this side of the House. Many of 1604 those to whom I refer—I know them well and have spoken to them on these issues—were "old Labour" MPs when I was in the House of Commons. I can think of at least half a dozen or a dozen who agree with the amendment. But, whatever they may think about the justification for the Bill, they will not be able to enter the Lobby in support of the amendment.
The same is true of the Liberal Democrat Party. I spoke to a Liberal Democrat yesterday who told me that he agreed with the speech that I made on the Disqualifications Bill. He said: "I should like to support you"—and he put it very crudely—"but we are in bed with Blair". Therefore, the support for the Bill on the Liberal Democrat Benches does not surprise me.
On this side of the House, there is the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble Lord, Lord Desai—who takes an interest in Northern Ireland affairs; and I am grateful for some of the very reasonable statements that he has made. But apart from those two, there must be many Members on this side of the House who have an opinion one way or the other on this great controversy that has been brought about by the proposal to rename the RUC.
The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has had some service in Northern Ireland. I do not know whether he had his tongue in his cheek when he said: "Isn't it a pity that there is no constitutional nationalist voice in this House?" I will tell him why. Although they have been offered seats here, constitutional nationalists will not come to this House. When I was a member of the SDLP, a constitutional nationalist party, there were some members of that party who took MBEs and OBEs; and, once they accepted them, they were dismissed and thrown out of the SDLP. That is one of the reasons why there is no constitutional nationalist party member in this House. I only wish that there were. I should relish sitting here with some of my former colleagues or other members of the SDLP who could advance the constitutional nationalist point of view. I do not blame this House for not being able to hear them.
I am a Catholic, as I keep repeating. But even my intervention in this debate will be grossly misconstrued by nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland. I recently made a speech in Committee on this Bill and the next morning I was the subject of nasty cartoons in the press. I was classified as a Unionist. I was almost classified as anti-Catholic, because I supported the retention of the name of the RUC.
Perhaps my reason for supporting the retention of the name is a heart-over-mind matter. I am prepared to admit that that may be so. But I have carried the coffins of so many RUC men who were killed by terrorists, both loyalist and so-called IRA. I met their wives and children, and I know how deeply they feel that they are being humiliated and demonised by Sinn Fein/IRA. I know how they feel. I was in their houses 10 minutes after their husbands were killed and sometimes five minutes after their fathers and their brothers were killed. I repeat—and, again, I received a headline in a nationalist newspaper for stating this— 1605 that, if it had not been for the RUC, Northern Ireland would have sunk into a pit of anarchy. However much I may be abused for repeating it, I shall do so.
Who is to deny that, without the courage and resolution of the Northern Ireland police force throughout these terrible 30 years, civilisation as we know it in Northern Ireland would have gone by the board? Only last week, a bomb went off outside a police station in Castlewellan. Two RUC men were grievously injured; one lost a leg and is in danger of losing the other. At the time, everyone jumped to the conclusion that it must be the work of the Real IRA, a dissident republican group. But the police were able to issue a statement that the type of device used in the bomb was from the loyalist community. So loyalist dissidents, representatives of loyalist murderers, are now intent on killing the RUC.
Seamus Mallon, who is a former colleague of mine, has said that if the SDLP does not get its way in the Bill, he will not call upon Catholics to join the new police service. I can tell Seamus Mallon—who is no foot—that whatever he may say, it will not determine one way or another whether Catholics will join the RUC. Sinn Fein/IRA control many areas of West Belfast, parts of Crossmaglen and many other areas of Northern Ireland; and the loyalists are in control of their areas in the Shankill Road in West Belfast. They are the people who will determine who will join the new police service. It will not be determined by any siren call by constitutional nationalists.
All the recommendations in the Bill could easily have passed a Committee stage in this House in half an hour. The RUC itself recommended many of them. No one is objecting to the reform of the RUC. It has been in existence since 1920. I think I have illustrated in this House how it came to be demonised by so-called republicans. But its name has a symbolism.
One Liberal Democrat Member has said that the symbolism of the RUC is offensive to Northern Ireland Catholics. But taking away that symbol will be offensive to Protestants—by removing the alienation of one community, we alienate the other. What does it mean to take away the name of the RUC? There will be many widows, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers who will be grievously offended if the name is taken away.
Again, when I spoke in Committee, letters were sent to nationalist newspapers saying: "Does he forget that the RUC hit him over the head with a baton when he was leading a civil rights march on 5th October 1968?". I do not forget that at all. O thought it very wrong of the RUC to attack me and others when I was engaged in demanding civil rights for everyone in Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants. But it is 30 years since that happened. Many changes have taken place in the RUC over that period.
I believe that the RUC as presently constructed, together with these reforms when they are implemented, will turn out to be a totally different force from what it was under unionist domination over many years. On Monday of this week, a Catholic ombudswoman opened up her office in Northern 1606 Ireland for the purpose of looking into complaints against the RUC. I welcome that development; indeed, the RUC's Chief Constable also welcomes it. The RUC is not against change that will make it a better and a more acceptable force. By rejecting the name, we shall offend many, many people in Northern Ireland. It will not bring support from that section of the community which has been so opposed to it over the past 30 years.
§ The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
My Lords, all the amendments in the group that we are now discussing relate to the name of the police in Northern Ireland. All the amendments would change the current provision in Clause 1. I should remind the House that the clause that is sought to be amended was tabled by the Ulster Unionist Party in another place and was accepted by the Government.
All these amendments would mean that the police service would be known, for at least some purposes, by a dual name: the Royal Ulster Constabulary—Police Service of Northern Ireland. Much as I understand the feelings that lie behind that proposal, the Government do not believe that it is either a workable or the right solution. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has stated on a number of occasions the Government's view that introducing a dual name would not be good for the cohesion and unity and, therefore, the effectiveness of the police service. As I observed previously on 23rd October, I understand that that view is shared within the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Moreover, it would not be consistent with the recommendation in the Patten report.
However, perhaps I may emphasise that I fully understand the conviction with which many noble Lords have spoken on this subject. The Government fully recognise that this is a deeply contentious issue and one that involves, for many, a painful change. The Patten report recognised that encouraging Catholic recruits to join the police service was not as simple as removing the Royal prefix or changing the name. Of course we accept that paramilitary intimidation has undoubtedly been an important reason for Catholics not coming forward to join the police. Those who have done so in the past have paid a disproportionately high price in attacks on themselves and their families. I salute their courage.
However, intimidation is not the only reason. There are certainly other causes. They include lack of identity with the police; fear of loss of contact with family and friends; and lack of support and encouragement within the nationalist community. That is why it is so important that the opportunity is seized to create a more representative police force, and one that commands broad support across the whole community. Let us be clear about the prize. It is demonstrated by the words—important words—used in Committee in another place by Seamus Mallon on 6th June. He said that,we do not yet have a police service that can belong to all the people. That is what I and my party want to achieve, and we have striven to achieve that not in the comfort of debate or theory, but in places such as Derry, the Bogside, south Armagh, south Down 1607 and west Belfast … if we get the Bill right, I will go into the hardest parts of Northern Ireland and I will ask people to join the police service and to support it".[Official Report, Commons, 6/6/00; col. 196.]Those words illustrate the prize, which will be in jeopardy if we do not implement Patten on this issue.
Noble Lords have pointed to surveys that suggest that the Royal prefix in the current title is not a major deterrent. Like noble Lords, I accept that intimidation has played its part. But Patten said that symbols associated with one side of the constitutional debate inevitably went some way to inhibiting the wholehearted participation in policing of the other side. It is important to understand his conclusions. He did not recommend either no change or a complete change. What he did say was that the name should change, but that continuity should be recognised. That is what Clause 1 of the Bill now represents—continuity and change. It spells out that the RUC shall continue as the "Police Service of Northern Ireland".
Some noble Lords have suggested that that approach dishonours the proud tradition of the RUC, or that it belittles the sacrifice that the police and all associated with them have made over the past 30 years. I want to assure the House that this is neither the Government's intention nor their view. Only yesterday the Government published the report by John Steele on the proposal for a new police fund. The Government made a very positive response. In welcoming the report, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said that he hoped Mr Steele's recommendations would go some way towards recognising the profound debt that we owe to these courageous men and women, and their families.
I referred earlier to continuity and change. The continuity comes from ensuring that the RUC is clearly incorporated into the new service in its founding legislation. That is what Clause 1(1) and (3) achieve. The name of the RUC will also be evidenced in the RUC GC Foundation, provided for in Clause 70 of the Bill. Clause 1(2) and (4) provide the clear basis for change. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has stated frequently, the new name—the Police Service of Northern Ireland—will be used for all operational and working purposes, including whenever and in whatever circumstances the police interface with the public. Lest there be any doubt, I want to emphasise that police officers recruited following the passage of this legislation will be joining the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The Government have had many discussions with a wide range of representatives since the Patten report was published. In all its consultations with the SDLP, the Catholic Church and other representatives of the nationalist community, one point has consistently been made to us: the name must change if we are to succeed in the task of achieving a more representative and effective police service. Doing that means creating a service capable of commanding the support of the whole community, and one which Catholics are prepared to join. That is the goal that the Government are working so hard to achieve. It is a goal shared by 1608 many—indeed, if not all—in the House tonight. In the Government's judgment, the amendments that have been proposed run directly counter to that objective. Although I respect the conviction with which they have been advanced, I would ask the House to reject this amendment.
§ Lord Rogan
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have said so much in support of my amendments tonight. However, I regret that I cannot accept the arguments put forward by the Government. I seek to test the opinion of the House. In so doing, I invite noble Lords to heed to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, rather than those of a certain Mr Gerry Adams.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 99; Not-Contents, 198.1610
|Division No. 2|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Hogg, B.|
|Barber, L.||Howe, E.|
|Belstead, L.||Hunt of Wirral, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Hurd of Westwell, L.|
|Bowness, L.||Knight of Collingtree, B.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Laird, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Liverpool, E.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Mayhew of Twysden, L.|
|Buscombe, B.||Miller of Hendon, B.|
|Butterworth, L.||Molyneaux of Killead, L.|
|Byford, B.||Monro of Langholm, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Monson, L.|
|Campbell of Cray, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Moynihan, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Northbrook, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Cooke of Islandreagh, L.||Norton of Louth, L.|
|Cope of Berkeley, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Craigavon, V.||Palmer, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Crickhowell, L.||Pilkington of Oxenford, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Rawlings, B.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Renton, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Roberts of Conwy, L.|
|Elles, B.||Rogan, L. [Teller]|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Elton, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Ferrers, E.||Selsdon, L.|
|Fitt, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Flather, B.||Shaw of Northstead, L.|
|Fookes, B.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Glentoran, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hanham, B.||Strange, B.|
|Harris of Peckham, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Henley, L. [Teller]||Swinfen, L.|
|Higgins, L.||Tebbit, L.|
|Thomas of Gwydir, L.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Trefgarne, L.||Wakeham, L.|
|Vivian, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Waddington, L.||Young, B.|
|Acton, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Addington, L.||Greaves, L.|
|Ahmed, L.||Greengross, B.|
|Alli, L.||Grenfell, L.|
|Alton of Liverpool, L.||Hamwee, B.|
|Amos, B.||Hardy of Wath, L.|
|Andrews, B.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Harris of Haringey, L.|
|Ashley of Stoke, L.||Harris of Richmond, B.|
|Ashton of Upholland, B.||Harrison, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Haskel, L.|
|Bach, L.||Haskins, L.|
|Barker, B.||Hattersley, L.|
|Bassam of Brighton, L.||Hayman, B.|
|Bernstein of Craigweil, L.||Hollick, L.|
|Billingham, B.||Hollis of Heigham, B.|
|Birt, L.||Howells of St. Davids, B.|
|Blackstone, B.||Hoyle, L.|
|Borrie, L.||Hughes of Woodside, L.|
|Bragg, L.||Hunt of Chesterton, L.|
|Brennan, L.||Hunt of Kings Heath, L.|
|Brett, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.|
|Brookman, L||Islwyn, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Jacobs, L.|
|Burlison, L.||Janner of Braunstone, L.|
|Carter, L. [Teller]||Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)|
|Castle of Blackburn, B.|
|Chandos, V.||Jeger, B.|
|Christopher, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Clarke of Hampstead, L.||Kennedy of The Shaws, B.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||King of West Bromwich, L.|
|Clement-Jones, L.||Layard, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Lea of Crondall, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Lester of Herne Hill, L.|
|Cohen of Pimlico, B.||Linklater of Butterstone, B.|
|Crawley, B.||Lipsey, L.|
|Currie of Marylebone, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Dahrendorf, L.||Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.|
|David, B.||McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]|
|Davies of Coity, L.|
|Davies of Oldham, L.||McIntosh of Hudnall, B.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||MacKenzie of Culkein, L.|
|Desai, L.||Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.|
|Dholakia, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Diamond, L.||McNally, L.|
|Dixon, L.||Maddock, B.|
|Donoughue, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Dubs, L.||Mar and Kellie, E.|
|Eatwell, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Elder, L.||Methuen, L.|
|Elis-Thomas, L.||Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.|
|Evans of Parkside, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Evans of Temple Guiting, L.||Mitchell, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Falconer of Thoroton, L.||Morgan, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Newby, L.|
|Faulkner of Worcester, L.||Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.|
|Filkin, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Gale, B.||Northover, B.|
|Gibson of Market Rasen, B.||O'Neill of Bengarve, B.|
|Gladwin of Clee, L.||Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.|
|Goldsmith, L.||Orme, L.|
|Goodhart, L.||Oxford, Bp.|
|Goudie, B.||Parekh, L.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Patel of Blackburn, L.|
|Grabiner, L.||Peston, L.|
|Phillips of Sudbury, L.||Simon of Highbury, L.|
|Plant of Highfield, L.||Simpson of Dunkeld, L.|
|Powell of Bayswater, L.||Smith of Clifton, L.|
|Prys-Davies, L.||Smith of Gilmorehill, B.|
|Puttnam, L.||Smith of Leigh, L.|
|Ramsay of Cartvale, B.||Stone of Blackheath, L.|
|Razzall, L.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B|
|Rea, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Redesdale, L.||Thomas of Walliswood, B.|
|Rendell of Babergh, B.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Rennard, L.||Thornton, B.|
|Renwick of Clifton, L.||Tomlinson, L.|
|Richard, L.||Tope, L.|
|Richardson, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.||Turnberg, L.|
|Rogers of Riverside, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Roll of Ipsden, L.||Uddin, B.|
|Roper, L||Wakefield, Bp.|
|Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Russell, E.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Sainsbury of Turville, L.||Walmsley, B.|
|Sandwich, E.||Warner, L.|
|Sawyer, L.||Warwick of Undercliffe, B.|
|Scotland of Asthal, B.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Scott of Needham Market, B.||Whitaker, B.|
|Serota, B.||Whitty, L|
|Sewel, L.||Wilkins, B.|
|Sharman, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Sharp of Guildford, B.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Shepherd, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Sheppard of Liverpool, L.||Woolmer of Leeds, L.|
|Shutt of Greetland, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Simon, V.||Young of Old Scone, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ [Amendments Nos. 2 to 5 not moved.]
§ Clause 3 [General functions of the Board]:
Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 6:
Clause 3, page 2, line 15, at end insert (", the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms and the Council of Europe Declaration on the Police").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, a theme which ran consistently through the previous debate and through all those in Committee on the Bill was that we need a force, which is now being created—perhaps, more accurately, recreated—to be representative in its membership of all the people of Northern Ireland and in particular of both historic and cultural traditions. It should be a force which a nationalist can join without diminishing his credentials as a nationalist.
§ Throughout the previous debate and all those in Committee, noble Lords have expressed regret at the discouragement encountered by young nationalists who desire to enlist in the police. I share that regret. But those of us who wish the peace process well have two alternatives. We can regret it, leave it there, declare that the issue is insoluble and walk away. Alternatively, we can try so far as can be achieved to encourage the nationalist community—not the paramilitaries, as my noble friend Lord Dubs pointed out—in the belief that the force really is dedicated to 1611 justice without discrimination. Anything which will reinforce that confidence can only be of benefit to recruitment and to the peace process.
§ My noble friend on the Front Bench will remember that in Committee I moved amendments to Clause 3 to add to the board's obligations a requirement to ensure that the police comply not only with the Human Rights Act but also with international human rights obligations. My noble friend replied that the number of human rights obligations which exist as actual or potential obligations in international law are so legion that it would be impossible to monitor them all in any meaningful way.
§ Whether or not we have a listening Government, we have a listening Back Bench. Therefore, I have modified the suggestion which I ventured to make in Committee. I now suggest that there might be three specific international instruments, each specifying particular obligations and all of which, I hope, create standards which the Government would wish to see achieved and monitored. I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Commission on Human Rights, the Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Committee on the Administration of Justice for the assistance they have given me with this theme and the measure of assurance they have been able to give me that it really would make a difference to the feeling in the nationalist community that it would be appropriate to enlist.
§ The United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms and the Council of Europe Declaration on the Police consist of clear and specific recommendations. I do not believe that there is anything in any of them which we would not all wish our police to observe. If they were included in the Bill, I believe that it would achieve two things. First, I believe that any police officer of whatever rank would approve of all those recommendations if asked. But the problem is not when someone asks his opinion; it is when the pressures are on, when the situation is an emergency and when the chips are down that the test arises. It is then that words which they have been required to learn and note as part of their reading and training will register in what they do.
§ Secondly, if hearts and minds are to be won for the process of supporting the police and persuading their sons and nephews to enlist, this amendment would send a message which might help in the winning. I beg to move.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I find this a somewhat offensive amendment. Once again, it seeks to bring aspects of extraterritorial jurisdiction into our affairs and I am in general opposed very strongly to extraterritorial jurisdiction. I am opposed to the way in which so many international bodies produce rules, laws and regulations which we are expected to observe without this Parliament having adequately discussed them and legislated upon them.
1612 I am sure that the noble Lord is right and that there is much virtue in many of the things which are contained in all these resolutions. I would much have preferred the noble and learned Lord to have set out all those good things in these resolutions on the face of the Bill. That would be the appropriate way for a sovereign parliament to legislate.
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, I suspect that there is an unbridgeable gap between us. However, would it offer the noble Lord comfort if the codes suggested enjoyed approval not only in this country but also across the whole civilised international community?
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I am not sure that the United Nations necessarily always speaks for the whole civilised community of this world. It does not do me much good to know that some of these resolutions have been supported by some of the most repulsive regimes in the whole of this world. Of course they will support them. They will not do anything about them, as we know. But I believe that good intentions of this kind should be set out clearly on the face of the Bill.
That is not just a matter of principle for me. It also reflects what the noble and learned Lord said. If the amendment is to have any effect, the words have to be clear in the minds of police officers on the streets. Can one imagine a member of the police force in Northern Ireland confronted with the situations which we have seen in Northern Ireland in the past? Standing there, suddenly there come before him, like the life of a drowning man, umpteen resolutions from the United Nations. He would see them all in his mind and suddenly know what to do! Of course he would not. But he just might if the matter was on the face of the Bill, having been filleted out and put into plain common sense language.
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord again. However, would he settle for having these texts set out in schedules to the Bill?
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I would settle for having them set out clearly in the Bill, for us to legislate upon them and, if necessary, amend provisions, because I might not like every bit of the provision and this sovereign House has every right to object to some of it. I shall not detain the House longer. I think it wise that these points are made.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, perhaps I may put a different question to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. When he replies, can he tell us whether the police forces of England, Scotland, Wales and the Irish Republic are monitored for compliance with the various codes and declarations which he extols?
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, with the Minister I was one of those noble Lords who criticised the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, for the vagueness of his amendment in Committee. I acknowledge that he 1613 has listened to those criticisms. I agree with him that we all want and believe that the RUC—whatever it will be called—will follow very high standards on these lines. But I do not want to see them made into a statutory provisions for the reason that my noble friend Lord Tebbit summarised.
The police in this country generally, and the RUC in particular, are already subject to a whole lot of restraints. They are, I think, the most inspected, examined, monitored and supervised group of individuals that we have, with many bodies looking at theirs continuously—both official bodies and unofficial bodies in the media and so on. They inspect their every action, rethinking over a long period every split-second decision if it goes wrong. If we overdo that, we are in danger of making their lives impossible. We should also remember that the terrorists with which this particular police force has had to contend and may well have to contend again do not follow any remotely comparable codes. On the contrary, their standards are appalling.
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, the amendment raises the question of applying international human rights standards to the police. I concede that we have come a little further in identifying which instruments we are talking about. For that I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell.
However, to give one example, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials refers to dozens of other international instruments. None of the three instruments specified in the amendment has been formally ratified by the UK or is legally binding in international law in the same way as is a treaty. The documents are aspirational statements. It is difficult to require in statute that the police should comply with them. It would also be difficult to identify the exact text of the instruments, because they are subject to change from time to time. We are still in doubt about exactly what standards the police are being asked to adhere to. That cannot be right.
Any particular issue in these or other instruments that could help to inform the standards that police officers should strive to achieve should be made explicit. I hope that I can reassure my noble and learned friend that we are confident that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will comment on the issue during consultation on the code of ethics. We cannot accept the statutory application of aspirational standards for the police rather than clearly defined ones.
We all agree on the need for very high standards to be drawn fairly and clearly to the attention of those who are asked to live up to them. This debate is about the best means of achieving that. I hope that I have been able to reassure my noble friend that we are at one in that cause and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, the amendment was an attempt to answer the problem that many of your Lordships have repeated during our debates: 1614 how do we gain the confidence of the nationalist community—not the paramilitaries—that the police force will be concerned with human rights and equality? The alternative seems to be not attempting to answer that question.
I understand the arguments. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and I must agree to differ about the value of internationally agreed standards. This is not the first time that we have differed on the subject and I dare say that we will go to our graves on different sides of that argument.
I confess that I do not know how many police forces are required to observe the standards, for which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, asked. However, I am pretty sure that hardly another police force in the world is confronted with so many problems as the police force of Northern Ireland. If it is a special case, we all understand why.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, if I were a policeman I would probably feel that I was a little over-supervised sometimes, but if I knew that the reason was that we were trying to secure the confidence of a section of the community that was currently doubtful about the force, I might consider it a price worth paying.
However, I know when I am licked. I am grateful for my noble friend's assurances. No purpose would be served by seeking to persuade her to change her mind. I am sure that her comments will provide some reassurance to those who suggested that I table the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Clause 6 [Provision and maintenance of buildings and equipment]:
Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 7:
Clause 6, page 4, line 18, after ("may") insert (", for the purpose of its functions,").
§ The noble Lord said: It is vital to protect the operational independence of the Chief Constable in all his decisions. In the current policing debate, the Government have placed great emphasis on considering the needs of the community—or communities, if one prefers it that way—that are to be served and seeking to ensure a policing service that is consensus-based and enjoys the support and confidence of the people whom it serves and protects.
§ To operate effectively, such a service must have transparency and accountability at its core. Under the current arrangements, while the Chief Constable is responsible for managing RUC buildings, strategy and general procurement, approvals must be sought from the Police Authority, which therefore takes ultimate responsibility for the provision of buildings and equipment.
§ The amendments would give that responsibility to the policing board, thereby ensuring the retention of the existing system and continued transparency and 1615 accountability. It goes without saying that the operational management of the buildings and procurement strategies would remain the responsibility of the Chief Constable. The amendments are non-contentious and are not motivated by party political considerations. They would reflect best practice in England and Wales.
§ Should the Bill remain as it stands, I ask the Minister to confirm who will enter into contracts on behalf of the police service, as it is my understanding that an individual—such as the Chief Constable—is unable to do so, as he is not a legal corporation, or, to be exact, a corporation sole. If that is the case, the policing board would inevitably have to be signatory to such contracts without having any accountability for them.
§ Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 would increase the policing board's ability to hold and dispose of land, not only for police purposes, but for its own purposes. That would be an important aspect of the board's independence, although it does not mean that it would be able to acquire land compulsorily for its own purposes. The power to vest land compulsorily should still apply only to land acquired for police purposes.
§ The current Police Authority feels that being able to decide on its own location and retaining the flexibility to change that location is crucial to establishing its independence at the outset. There is no logical reason for the new board not to be permitted to hold land for its own purposes. As I have said, that will not apply to compulsory acquisition.
§ I strongly urge the Minister to accept the amendments, which could only have positive consequences for the new era of policing in Northern Ireland. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, in his reply I wonder whether the Minister can clarify something for me. In the Patten report it was recommended that police stations built from now on should have so far as possible the appearance of ordinary buildings. They should have low perimeter walls and be clearly visible from the street. I hope that any amendment that is accepted will not give the board the power to do that to police stations until the security situation has changed considerably. I cannot help feeling that I should feel extremely unsafe if I had been taken into custody and knew that it was only too easy for a paramilitary force which disapproved of me to get at me a great deal more easily in an open, cheerful, villa-like building.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux. In particular I support Amendment No. 9, which appears to put the police board properly in charge of certain things which I do not believe chief constables should be asked to do.
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, after replying to the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, I shall refer in detail to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Park. Perhaps I may reassure her, as I have done 1616 before, that all decisions taken with regard to security in Northern Ireland are taken in the light of advice given about the level of security that is necessary.
These amendments have been debated before and the position remains unchanged. Clauses 6 and 7 give effect to Patten's comments at paragraph 5.13 of his report. Patten said that the relationship between the police and the board should be as between a service provider and a regulator, and that the previous arrangement, which conflated those two roles, was seriously flawed. It should not be imagined that the board lacks the means to hold the police to account in this area. The board will have detailed financial controls and is responsible for the acquisition and disposal of land for policing purposes.
I can answer the detailed questions that were asked in relation to the point concerning control and power. Under Clause 7(3) the board can compulsorily acquire land for police purposes but not for its own purpose. It cannot compulsorily acquire buildings. The arrangements for the board in relation to land and buildings are different from those pertaining to planning. I can assure the noble Lord that under Section 5(6) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 there is no difference between the board's powers in relation to buildings and land. The board will be able to change location and will be able to enter into contracts on behalf of the police service.
However, the noble Lord's amendment, and particularly Amendment No. 9, confuses the roles by seeking to inject the board unnecessarily into the management of police buildings. It would insert unnecessary additional bureaucracy and there would be no additional effect on accountability.
The other amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 8, 10 and 11, are based on the false premise that the board's powers to acquire land and buildings for itself are somehow deficient.
I hope that the detailed answers that I have given have helped to reassure noble Lords. Clauses 6 and 7 deal only with police buildings, and paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 1 to the Bill deals with the board in respect of these matters. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, that there is no legal difficulty in the board providing its own land and buildings. If the noble Lord has further detailed factual questions that he wishes to raise, I shall of course be happy to write to him. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Mayhew of Twysden
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may take her back to what she said a few minutes ago in reply to my noble friend Lady Park. She said that all security decisions are taken in the light of security advice from the relevant authorities. Perhaps I may press her a little on that point. During the time that I had responsibility in Northern Ireland, the formula universally employed was in conformity with security advice. Perhaps I may ask her—she may need a little time to consider this—whether the same applies today. In particular, will that 1617 formulation in conformity apply to the surveillance powers along the border in County Fermanagh and South Armagh?
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, I can assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, that changes to buildings are described in exactly the same way as are issues relating to security advice. All judgments taken by the Secretary of State are based on the best possible advice—in particular, that of the Chief Constable.
The noble and learned Lord pressed me on the exact wording of the legislation with regard to the procedure for accepting advice. I should prefer to write to him on that narrow and extremely important point.
§ Lord Mayhew of Twysden
My Lords, I believe that the Minister has given me the assurance that I need. It is not a matter of legislation; it is simply a matter of practice. If, on reflection, the noble Baroness finds that that is not the case, I should be most grateful to hear from her.
§ Lord Molyneaux of Killead
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for the enlightenment that she has provided. However, as she herself said, this is a very complex matter. Although I entirely accept most of what she said, I have a feeling that the issues are not quite clearly understood by the various elements involved in these matters. I shall certainly study carefully in Hansard what the noble Baroness said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 not moved.]
§ Clause 7 [Acquisition and disposal of land by Board]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.]
§ Clause 12 [Accounts and audit]:
Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 12:
Leave out Clause 12 and insert the following new clause—