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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the discussions with respect to the updating of the strategic concept are being conducted in confidence. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on what will be in the final document, because it is still subject to negotiation. I should be surprised if none of the matters to which the noble Lord alludes is covered by the document. There are no plans at present to consult the House before the negotiations are completed.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Government will ensure that the new concept contains a provision that no NATO country will be the first to use nuclear weapons?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, my noble friend always tries to seduce me down that path. I can do no better than repeat what I have just said to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. It would be pointless for me to speculate at this stage on what will be in the strategic document.

Lord Carver: My Lords, in revising the strategic concept, will the Government do their best to encourage their fellow members of the alliance to ensure that, before there is any question of enlarging the alliance

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further, the stark, uncompromising commitment of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty will be reconsidered?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, there are no plans of which I am aware to consider revising Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, or any other article of it.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the noble Lord inform the House of the extent, if any, to which the European Commission has been involved in, or has been informed of, officially or unofficially, the content of the various drafts?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am unaware of any consultations up to now involving the European Commission in such matters. I should be very surprised if it were involved at any stage in the future.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind the success of the Strategic Defence Review, conducted by Her Majesty's Government over the past 18 months, will my noble friend suggest to our Government's colleagues in NATO that that model of public consultation not only with experts in the military establishment, but ranging much wider than that, would be beneficial in the construction of the new strategic concept for NATO?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for his complimentary remarks about the way in which the Government conducted the recent Strategic Defence Review. However, I have to say that this is a consultation with respect to the new strategic concept for NATO, which is being conducted among 16 countries. Shortly, with any luck, three new adherents will be taking part in the final stages of the discussions. It would be inappropriate for us--indeed, quite futile--to try to impose on them at this late stage of the negotiations any method of proceeding other than the one in which we are currently engaged.

Police: Discipline and Retirement

2.50 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to amend the law to enable police disciplinary proceedings to be initiated or continued following the retirement of a police officer.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the Government have no plans at present. We will consider this issue in the light of Sir William Macpherson's report on his inquiry into matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend the Minister for that reply. However, apart from the police and probation officers, can my noble

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friend say whether there are any other professions or occupations where members can escape disciplinary proceedings simply by retiring? Indeed, what justification can there be for such a situation? Further, will my noble friend take this opportunity to deprecate attempts which have been made by police sources to denigrate the Macpherson inquiry in advance of the publication of its findings?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not know of any other profession where a similar immunity, as it were, would arise following retirement. Certainly, if one has left regular practice at the Bar, one still remains liable to complaints from disenchanted members of the public. If there has been any concerted effort to interfere with, or pollute, the prospective findings of the report of Sir William Macpherson, I certainly deprecate them. I have known him for some years and he is a very considerable public servant carrying out a very difficult public duty. It would be best for all of us to wait and see what he has to say and then ponder it with very great care.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is one other profession--if that is the right word for it--where one can escape the consequences of malfeasance, short of criminal actions, by retirement? It is the House of Commons.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is so, my Lords, but they do not escape unscathed, because many of them end up here.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, including me! However, does the Minister agree that a difficult transition has been taking place over the past few years from the old attitude of chief constables who automatically defended any policeman who was criticised to the present much better attitude of chief constables who openly investigate and root out those who fall short of the very high standards required? Surely this is essential for the maintenance of the justifiably high reputation of our police force in the world.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I believe that there has been a cultural change. I listened this morning to the broadcast on the radio of the interview with Deputy Assistant Commissioner Grieve. I do not think that anyone could suggest that he is not entirely alert and alive to such matters. However, it is true that there has been serious concern about the number of officers retiring on medical grounds. Fortunately the percentage fell from 50 per cent. of all retirements in 1994-95 to 36 per cent. for the year 1997-98. Indeed, we are looking to meet the target of not more than 33 per cent. by the year 1999-2000.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the investigation of murder is not an exact science? Indeed, I cannot think of one such inquiry in a decade in the CID which I can look back on and say that I would probably have carried

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it out in exactly the same way. Therefore, does my noble friend accept that any McCarthy-type witch-hunt of individual officers long after the event could risk injustice being heaped upon injustice? Does he further agree that to make sweeping generalisations about racism in the police service is to indulge in the very hallmark of stereotyping--the sign of racists themselves--which, in my belief, does grave injustice to all those hard-working, competent and honest police officers patrolling the streets day and night on our behalf?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, in my experience, the investigation of murders varies quite substantially. Some murders are extremely easy to investigate and solve--much easier than other types of crime. Some, as my noble friend indicated, are extremely difficult. When one gets a racist overtone, they may become even more difficult. I do not think that one wants McCarthyism, I do not think one wants assertion and I do not believe that one needs to pretend, or persuade oneself, that racism is not a serious problem in many different sections of our country. As I said, it would be best for us not to ponder on McCarthy but to wait for Macpherson. The inquiry which is being carried out is a most difficult one. There will be very significant long-term lessons for us all to heed and to try to learn from.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence clearly demonstrated the inadequacy of the police disciplinary procedure and, more importantly, the inadequacy of the system on the basis that even the people who committed the murder have escaped justice? Will the noble Lord take into account the recommendation made by the Police Complaints Authority to the Home Affairs Committee that one way of dealing with this particular aspect would be to ensure that police officers, even if they retire on medical or other grounds, will still be subject to the disciplinary procedure up a period of four years after retirement? Alternatively, will the noble Lord take into account the view that no officer should be allowed to retire on health or other grounds if he or she is subject to a public complaint which is being investigated?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the report of the Home Affairs Committee is an admirable document; indeed, I believe that it was the first one under the chairmanship of Chris Mullin, who has laboured in this field for a very long time. The Home Secretary accepted those recommendations, some of which will require primary legislation. However, one needs to bear in mind the fact that in cases where a police officer is suspended by his chief constable during a disciplinary investigation, retirement cannot automatically take place.

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