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Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I appreciate the opportunity to make some comments following the speeches of Government Members. I welcome the more balanced position of the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), and I take on board his reference to the fact that he trained some folk for the SHNC. The RUC possibly has many more academic people than any other comparable police force in the United Kingdom. For years, the RUC has worked with external education authorities to train its members in different aspects. As part of a parliamentary police scheme, I spent six days working specifically with the RUC and understand some of the issues that have been raised.
I want to consider specifically the remarks of the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). Unless I misheard him completely, there was a contradiction in one of his statements. He said that no one reacted, but shortly afterwards he said that one person objected. We seem to be cherry picking from a report, and I thank the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde for his more balanced position and the tribute that he paid to what is happening.
Long before the Human Rights Commission was set up, the RUC consistently brought in people from outside to try to share with new recruits and older hands the different feelings in the community so that they would understand the issues that they had to face.
It is unfair to use such an opportunity to deal with one aspect of policing--human rights--without bearing in mind that police officers have human rights, too. I should have been more encouraged if a Labour Member had spoken of the pressures under which the RUC works. At the weekend, I asked a young man whether he was working and he said, "I've just finished two weeks' leave--TOIL: time off in lieu." The force cannot pay its men and women for the overtime that it demands of them, and the RUC's morale has been affected as a result. The rights of the police, as well as those of others, should be given a little more consideration in the House.
Dr. Godman: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for showing me his usual courtesy. I sometimes think that that costs me votes back home, but that is another story. I was not paying tribute to the training that the officers have undergone, but--perhaps in Delphic terms--severely criticising its sparsity and what appears to be the incompetence, to put it mildly, of some of the trainers.
Rev. Martin Smyth: I appreciate that if we had been considering a report on Ofsted, many right hon. and hon. Members would have criticised Ofsted, but the whole training system is being challenged because one person has been criticised.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): I had not intended to speak in this debate, but there seemed to be a danger of polarisation and I thought that, as a self-confessed, paid up custard dribbler, I might add something, especially as last year I had the pleasure of attending an RUC training day in which the specific topic was human rights. I attended with considerable enthusiasm because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), my background is in teaching such subjects. As most hon. Members know, I was a lecturer in philosophy before I became a Member of Parliament, so I had a professional interest in the training as well as other interests.
I was extremely impressed by the content of that day's training. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) will be disappointed when I say that. I was impressed by the serious way in which the police had taken the need to make junior recruits understand the limitations of their own views in relation
I felt that the content of the training was good, but I agree with the human rights report that it had significant limitations. I do not believe that they were a product of some nasty plot by the RUC or a desire to do the job shabbily. In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde, I believe that the time devoted to the training was much too short. I also agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North said. There was a definite lack of an international dimension.
After the training session, we had a debriefing about what had gone on during the day. The RUC officers and the Chief Constable in particular were interested in the comments made by the members of the Select Committee. They wanted to take the comments on board positively and to see how they could improve the programme so that it would be much more responsive.
It is right that we flag up the issue of human rights; whether it needs to be written into the Bill, I am not sure. Some of the comments that have been made tonight have not been terrifically helpful. My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North gave a good speech in favour of sacking a certain tutor, and I am sure that the House supports that, not because of the quality of his jokes but because some things that he said showed that he did not understand the role of a human rights agenda.
There is much that is valuable in the Human Rights Commission report. I believe that the RUC is more than willing to respond positively to many of the ideas in it, and I look forward to being invited back to Northern Ireland.
Mr. McNamara: My speech was based on a report sent to me in reply to a parliamentary question. It was not something that I made up. I have a copy of the report here that my hon. Friend can read. It is outrageous. My hon. Friend suggested that I delighted in it. I did not, because I want the thing to work. I want the police to adopt the ideas in it. I want a balanced police force drawn from both communities.
Mr. McWalter: All that I am saying is that there is still a long way to go. I agree with the report to that extent. I agreed with the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) when he said that a bit of cherry picking had been going on. Overall, big changes are being made that are welcome and that the Chief Constable and other senior officers in the RUC are taking seriously. I know from the time that I served on the Select Committee that my colleagues on the Committee agree with those remarks.
I hope that we can read the comments in the report not as comments made by people whom we do not trust, as the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) said, but as comments containing a grain of truth. The police are responding positively to the solid core of criticism that the report contains. I hope that out of that more balanced picture we will begin to see a more positive way forward in police training and education in human rights and the laws that relate to them.
Mr. Ingram: I shall deal first with the points made by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik). I welcome his comments. As I said in the debate on the allocation of time motion, he and his party were very much involved in the consideration of a wide range of issues aimed at improving the original draft.
I confirm the hon. Gentleman's assessment of the amendments to which he alluded. He asked how amendments Nos. 110 and 111 would be put into effect. As I said in my opening remarks, they give effect to the recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. They provide for orders and regulations under clause 46--the renewal of the 50:50 provisions--and under clause 52, on emblems and flags, to be made by the affirmative procedure. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question whether the orders and regulations would be debated is yes.
The main thrust of our consideration has been the wider issue of human rights and related matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) spoke to amendment (a) to amendment No. 26. I shall deal with the amendment and then with the wider issues raised by the report to which he referred. Amendment (a) specifies that the training strategy should refer specifically to human rights.
Paragraph 16.4 of the Patten report contains a list of areas that the training strategy should cover. As well as human rights, the report said that the strategy should cover accountability, communication, partnership policing, decentralisation and all the other areas of change covered by the recommendations. I know that my hon. Friend will agree that the Government's commitment to human rights cannot be in question. I remind the House that it was an early act of the new Labour Government to incorporate the European convention on human rights in domestic law and set up the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. People might have questions about the make-up of the commission, but its establishment was an important step. I pay tribute to the work of members of the commission as they have begun to learn how to conduct their business. They are on a learning curve. They may have expertise in human rights, but they all bring different expertise to the table. I am sure that as they evolve they will become sharper and more knowledgeable and that they will learn from experience as the process goes forward.
The Government are also committed to the other areas mentioned in the Patten report--accountability, communication, partnership policing, decentralisation and the other recommendations. I believe that they are all complementary; they are all part of a whole. It would be wrong to single out one issue for special attention, even though we recognise the importance of human rights and the fact that the concept of human rights underpins everything that we have sought to do in the Bill and beyond.
I have listened to the arguments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North on the specifics of the amendment. I hope that he hears what I am saying. We give due prominence to human rights, but we have to take all the other areas into account.
The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) was not in the Chamber for part of the debate, but I am sure that he remembers only too well the third report of 1997-98 of his Committee, the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs, on the composition, recruitment and training of the RUC. The report, which predated the introduction of the human rights approach as envisaged in the legislation, complimented the RUC on its training methods--its use of awareness programmes and other elements. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter) made a helpful contribution in that regard, on the basis of his practical experience of observing a training programme that was being conducted predating--