§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 9th January be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee.]
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, before I go into any detail, I shall reiterate the tribute that we rightly, full-heartedly pay to members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, now the Police Service of Northern Ireland. On Friday, I had the great privilege of having a lengthy conversation with the incumbent Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan.
We must bear in mind, not least in the context of this debate and the Second Reading debate that we had a few moments ago, that 302 of the men and women of the RUC' were murdered simply because they were police officers. Of course, an infinitely larger number mourn them, and a very large number were injured while simply carrying out their work.
The regulations that I commend to your Lordships regulate the symbols and flags of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The independent commission on policing in Northern Ireland said that the,
new beginning to policing cannot be achieved unless the reality that part of the community feels unable to identify with the present name and symbols associated with the police is addressed".
The regulations are intended to come into operation on 5th April, the date on which the first batch of new recruits will graduate. We hope to have the new emblems ready for the new recruits to wear as they complete their training.
The Northern Ireland Policing Board has achieved something remarkable. The noble Lords, Lord Brookeborough and Lord Kilclooney, are members of that body. It reached unanimous agreement on a design for the new emblem. That would have been a surprise to most of us. The emblem is in Schedule l to the regulations. Regulation 3 enshrines it as the new emblem for the PSNI. The Chief Constable and other police representatives have also agreed to the new design. Regulation 4 makes it clear that it is the only emblem or badge that may be used in connection with the police—on uniforms, stationery, forms, police stations and police vehicles.
1376 Regulation 6 is important. The Government honour the contribution that the RUC has made. The award of the George Cross was a public and considered mark of that recognition. The RUC George Gross Foundation honours the achievements and sacrifices over the years. The Northern Ireland Police Fund has been set up to provide support for police officers and their families. Regulation 6 makes it clear, in line with Patten's recommendations, that memorials will stay as they are and where they are.
Regulation 7 prescribes the form of emblems of rank, which are illustrated in Schedule 3. We want to give the Chief Constable maximum operational flexibility, both for the present and in the future. Regulations 8 to 11 deal with the question of flags. The new police service flag is the PSNI emblem on a dark green background. The service flag is the only flag that can be used in connection with the police. Regulation 10 provides for the royal standard to be flown on the occasion of a visit by Her Majesty the Queen to a police building.
I repeat that the measures contained in the regulations are intended to look ahead. They are not intended to discredit or dishonour those who served in the RUC under different symbols. The change is necessary in order to secure for Northern Ireland a police service that has the support of all members of the community—and can, therefore, be more effective. I hope that the badge will not be seen as a neutral badge or a badge of controversy but as a badge that esteems a number of different traditions.
It is remarkable—I repeat myself deliberately—that the board was able to agree unanimously on the badge. I commend the regulations to the House.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 9th January be approved [15th Report front the Joint Committee].—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for bringing the Motion before the House. I say outright that I support it.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord that the policing board has done a seriously excellent job in approving the new badge for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, including the three key symbols that were already in place—the crown, the harp and the shamrock. The colours, as far as one call tell from the photocopies, are very reasonable.
I have spoken once or twice recently about the problems with morale in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It is important for morale that a service of that type should have an emblem to wear of which it can be proud. I sincerely hope that the politics of the new badge is now over and that the police will be wearing it proudly very soon.
I am, of course, sad that one significant part of the population is not represented in the result. Sinn Fein has been conspicuous by its absence. The Roman Catholic Church came on hoard. The SDLP took courage and came on hoard, as did everyone else—but 1377 not Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein has its own reasons for that, and most of us will be able to guess at them in one shape or another.
There is no occasion on which the national flag may ever again be flown from police stations in Northern Ireland. That is another aspect of the regulations that is sad and will be seen by part of the population as bad. The Union Jack is the national flag of Northern Ireland, and it is wrong that it cannot be flown ever again. It sends out a sad message. I would have understood if there had been provision to identify certain days of the year on which the national flag could and should be flown on police stations. However, that is not to be, and I hope that, as the years go by, it will be seen to have been a detail, and the least important at that.
§ Lord Shutt of Greetland
My Lords, I too thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for introducing the regulations. I also associate those of us on these Benches with his words regarding the work of the RUC during the past years.
1378 I shall make it clear that there can be many alternatives to these plans. Already, I have heard a suggestion that within the service emblem there should, perhaps, be a hand. I have looked at the torch and wondered whether it had anything to do with the Conservative Party. Where is the bird of liberty? Should there be a rose? I wonder whether the clover—is it a clover, with three leaves?—should not have four leaves, for good fortune. That would be wonderful. I am certain that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is delighted that we are not discussing the Emblems (Drawing up the plans thereof) Bill.
It is wonderful that we can rejoice that there is unity on the emblems for the new Police Service of Northern Ireland.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at eleven minutes before six o'clock.