House of Lords - Explanatory Note
Police (Northern Ireland) Bill - continued          House of Lords

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Clause 36, 37 and 39-41: Appointment of other police officers

54.     These clauses make provision for the appointment of non-senior police officers. The Chief Constable will continue to appoint and promote all police officers below the rank of Assistant Chief Constable (clause 36) and reserve officers (clause 37). Clauses 39, 40 and 41 deal with a new category of "trainee" police officers. The creation of trainees is a consequence of the Patten Report's recommendation that recruits to the police should be attested as constables - and, therefore, acquire the powers of a constable - only upon successful completion of their recruit training. Under previous legislation (section 24 of the 1998 Act) recruits became constables immediately upon appointment before they had undertaken any training as a police officer. Subsection (2) of clause 36 requires that no one may be appointed as a constable unless they have completed recruit training. Clause 41 applies a number of provisions which apply to police officers (such as the Chief Constable's liability for wrongful acts and the prohibition on membership of trade unions) to trainees, and enables the Secretary of State to make regulations for the terms and conditions of trainee officers.

Clause 38: Attestation of Constables

55.     Clause 38 provides for a new form of the declaration made by recruits on appointment to the police. The clause replaces section 24 and Schedule 2 of the 1998 Act. The new declaration contains references to upholding human rights and according equal respect to all individuals and their traditions and beliefs (provided these are lawful). As under the 1998 Act, recruits assume the powers of a constable upon making the declaration but new provisions (see above) require that they successfully complete their training first. The clause also requires the Chief Constable to bring the terms of declaration to the attention of all serving officers, and to ensure that they understand it.

Clause 42: Police Cadets

56.     Allows for police cadets to be appointed by the Board, with the approval of the Chief Constable.

Clauses 43 and 44: Recruitment Arrangements

57.     The Patten Report recommended that, while the Chief Constable should remain responsible and accountable for recruitment, the technical work of recruitment should be contracted out to an outside agency. Clauses 43 and 44 give effect to this recommendation by enabling the Chief Constable to appoint an agent to carry out the recruitment of police officers below the rank of Assistant Chief Constable and members of the police support staff who are not senior employees in accordance with any regulations made by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State must consult the Chief Constable, the Board, the Equality Commission and the Police Association on the regulations. Subsection (4) of Clause 43 makes it clear that the Chief Constable retains overall responsibility for the recruitment process.

58.     Detailed matters concerning the recruitment process will be set out in regulations made by the Secretary of State under Subsection (1) of clause 44. The Secretary of State must consult as under clause 43. Subsection (3) of clause 44 sets out matters which must be covered in the regulations governing the recruitment process, including the involvement of lay representatives on recruitment panels and independent validation of decisions to reject candidates. Subsections (4), (5) and (6) require that the regulations provide for pools of qualified candidates for the police and its support staff to be selected. Candidates for selection to the police (at constable level) will be selected from a pool for the purposes of appointment under clause 45(1) (see below). In respect of police support staff, only where there are 6 or more posts of a similar nature and level to be filled at about the same time will selection be from a pool for the purposes of appointment in accordance with clause 45(4) (see below).

Clauses 45 and 46: Temporary Provisions Concerning Composition of the Police

59.     The Patten Report recommended exceptional recruitment measures to address imbalances in the perceived religious background of the membership of the police. The Report said that candidates should reach a specified standard of merit and be selected from a qualified pool on the basis that one half would be Roman Catholics. The Report recommended that police support staff be recruited in similar fashion and that Part Time Reserve members of the police be recruited locally. In accepting the recommendation on recruitment to the police the Secretary of State said (statement of 19 January 2000) that the provisions would be reviewable triennially. Clauses 45 and 46 give effect to these measures.

60.     Clause 45 requires the Chief Constable to appoint, from a pool of qualified candidates for the police and its support staff (where there are 6 or more vacancies), an even number of candidates one half of whom are to be persons who are treated as belonging to the Roman Catholic community in Northern Ireland. Subsections (2), (3), (5) and (6) provide for the Secretary of State, after consulting the Board and the Chief Constable, to make an order modifying the 50:50 recruitment provisions for police trainees and police support staff where insufficient numbers of qualified candidates of one community background have come forward to fill one half of the vacancies; or in the case of police trainees for the purpose of redressing any imbalance arising where one or more such orders have been made in the previous three years. Subsections (7) and (8) apply existing fair employment monitoring procedures for the purpose of determining perceived community background. Subsections (9) and (10) amend fair employment and race relations legislation to except selection of qualified candidates from the pool of qualified candidates on the basis of perceived religious background. The amendment to fair employment legislation also excepts local recruitment of Part Time Reservists from being unlawful under the terms of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

61.     Clause 46 provides that the exceptional measures concerning the composition of the police and its support staff will expire on the third anniversary of their coming into force unless they are specifically renewed by order by the Secretary of State. In deciding whether the provisions should be renewed the Secretary of State must take account of the progress which has been made towards securing that membership of the police and police support staff is representative of the community in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State must also consult the Board.

Clause 47: Severance Arrangements

62.     The Patten Report envisages a reduction in the overall size of the police service from 8400 officers to 7500. To achieve this reduction and to enable recruitment, approximately 4500 officers will leave the police over a 10-year period. The Full Time Reserve (2700 officers) will be phased out. Clause 47 provides for the Secretary of State to make regulations to provide for the introduction of a time bounded voluntary early retirement and early severance scheme. It is intended that the scheme will apply to all members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve with 5 or more years' service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and will offer enhancements to existing pension arrangements and special compensatory lump sums. These provisions will not be subject to consultation with the Police Negotiating Board.

Clause 48: Service by the Police Service Reserve of Northern Ireland with Other Services

63.     This clause makes an amendment to section 27 of the 1998 Act. That section deals with the terms and conditions of police officers while engaged in police services outside the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Hitherto the section only provided for regular members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to engage in such service. The amendment to section 27 allows reservists also to participate.

Clause 49: Registration of Associations

64.     Under this clause the Chief Constable will require each member of the police to inform him of any "registrable association". Certain registrable interests are listed in the Bill and these may be amended by the Secretary of State by order.

65.     The clause places safeguards on the handling and disclosure of information provided to the Chief Constable and makes it an offence to provide false information. The information will be made available, on request, to the Police Ombudsman and statistical information must be published by the Chief Constable in his annual report.

Clause 50: Code of Ethics

66.     This clause requires the Board to issue, after consultation, and publish a code of ethics on standards of conduct and practice for police officers. The code will be drafted by the Chief Constable for the Board's approval. The Chief Constable will take such steps as he considers necessary to ensure that all officers have read and understood the Code. The Secretary of State must take steps to ensure the provisions of the code are reflected in police conduct regulations.

Clause 51: Guidance on Public Order Equipment

67.     This clause allows the Secretary of State, after consultation*, to issue guidance to members of the police on the use of public order equipment. The clause is, in particular, intended to allow the Secretary of State to issue guidance on the use of plastic baton rounds. Any guidance issued is to be published.

* The Government intends to propose that the Police Ombudsman be added to the list of consultees.

Clause 52: Regulation as to Emblems and Flags

68.     Clause 52 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations governing the design and use of emblems and flags for policing. Before issuing such regulations he must consult the Board, the Chief Constable and the Police Association.

Clause 53: Identification of Members of the Police

69.     Clause 53 requires the Chief Constable to make arrangements for police officers to have a unique identification number which should be clearly visible while they are in uniform.

Clause 54: Co-operation with the Garda Siochana

70.     Clause 54 requires the Board and the Chief Constable to put into place any arrangements for cross border co-operation between the police and the Garda Siochana which are agreed between the British and Irish Governments.

PART VII: REPORTS AND INQUIRIES

Clause 55: Annual and Other Reports by Board to Secretary of State

71.     Clause 55 replaces section 47 of the 1998 Act and requires the Board to issue an annual report and report to the Secretary of State as required. Subsection (2) requires the Board's annual report to include an assessment of its general functions under clause 3. *

* The Government intends to propose that the Police Ombudsman be added to the list of consultees.

Clause 56: Annual Report by Chief Constable to the Board

72.     Clause 56 replaces section 48 of the 1998 Act and requires the Chief Constable to publish an annual report.

Clause 57: General Duty of Chief Constable to Report to the Board

73.     Clause 57 requires the Chief Constable to submit a report on any policing matter at the request of the Board. The clause replaces section 48 of the 1998 Act. Under Schedule 1, paragraph 17(6) and (7), the Board must determine, publish and comply with procedures for exercising its power to call for reports under subsection (1). The Chief Constable can refer to the Secretary of State requests by the Board for reports dealing with national security, sensitive personal matters, ongoing court cases, or matters which would prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. In these cases the Secretary of State is required to determine, normally within one month, whether the Chief Constable should provide a report to the Board.

Clause 58: Inquiry by Board Following Report by Chief Constable

74.     This clause introduces a new power recommended by the Patten Report, enabling the Board to order an inquiry into any matter upon which it has received a report if it considers the matter, or any related matter in the report, is grave or there are exceptional circumstances. A decision to hold an inquiry requires the support of a majority of members (as does the appointment of an inquirer). The exact number required, which depends on the size of Board, is specified in Schedule 1 para 18. Only the Secretary of State had power to order an inquiry under the 1998 Act. The Board must inform the Chief Constable, Police Ombudsman and the Secretary of State if it intends to hold an inquiry and the Chief Constable can refer the matter to the Secretary of State on the same grounds as under clause 57(3) (reports). The Secretary of State may overrule the Board, normally within one month, on the grounds mentioned in clause 57(3) or if it would serve "no useful purpose.

75.     The Board can ask specified statutory agencies to carry out an inquiry. Alternatively, it may ask any other person to conduct it, but only with the approval of the Secretary of State. Inquiries should be held in public except where it is not in the public interest to do so. The Board cannot hold inquiries into matters that occurred before its establishment and it must meet the costs of any inquiry.

Clause 59: Reports by Chief Constable to Secretary of State

76.     Clause 59 replaces section 49 of the 1998 Act. It provides for the Chief Constable to make reports to the Secretary of State.

PART VIII: THE POLICE OMBUDSMAN

77.     Clauses 60-62 add provisions to Part VII of the 1998 Act (Police Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings).

Clause 60: Reports by Ombudsman to Chief Constable and Board

78.     This clause enables the Ombudsman to make reports to the Chief Constable and the Policing Board on matters concerning police practices and policies which the Ombudsman identifies from investigations.

Clause 61: Supply of Information

79.     This amendment to the 1998 Act requires the Ombudsman to compile and supply statistical and other general information to the Policing Board to enable it to carry out its duty of keeping itself informed about trends and patterns in complaints (under clause 3).

Clause 62: Time Limit for Complaints and References to Ombudsman

80.     This clause inserts an additional regulation making power in section 64 of the 1998 Act which will enable the Secretary of State to set time limits for the investigation of complaint and non-complaint cases by the Ombudsman. Draft regulations have been prepared and are available from the Northern Ireland Office.

Clause 63: Access to Information

81.     This clause provides for access by the Ombudsman to information and documents where these are required for the Ombudsman's exercise of his functions. It would cover, for example, access to registered information under clause47.

PART IX: MISCELLANEOUS AND SUPPLEMENTARY

82.     Part IX covers a number of miscellaneous provisions and also deals with technical provisions and definitions. Noteworthy provisions are described below.

Clauses 64 and 65: The Commissioner

83.     Clauses 64 provides for the appointment of a Commissioner to oversee the implementation of changes in the policing of Northern Ireland described in his terms of reference. Clause 65 requires the Commissioner to make reports and for the Secretary of State to lay them before Parliament and publish them.

Clause 67: The Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation

84.     This clause enables the Secretary of State to establish by regulations, and make payments to, a foundation to mark the sacrifices and honour the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Clause 69: Video Recording of Interviews

85.     This Clause amends the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 to require the Secretary of State to issue a code on the video recording of police interviews with people being questioned other than under anti-terrorism legislation. The Terrorism Act 2000 will deal with the video recording of those being questioned about terrorist crimes.

Clause 70: Application to Police of Anti-discrimination Legislation

86.     This clause, together with Schedule 5 to the Bill, replaces existing provisions which apply anti-discrimination legislation to police bodies. The main change is to provide for the vicarious liability of chief officers of police for acts of their officers in the provision of goods, facilities or services. The changes, in part, reflect those being made in the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill and arise from a recommendation of the report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Clause 73: Interpretation

87.     This Clause provides for the interpretation of terms used in the Bill.

SCHEDULE 1: THE NORTHERN IRELAND POLICING BOARD

88.     This Schedule sets out how the Board is to be established and outlines the arrangements for its proceedings.

Part I: Status and Membership

89.     The Schedule contains different provisions depending on devolution or direct rule. Paragraph 2 explains that Part II of this Schedule applies during direct rule and Part III during devolved government. After a change from direct rule to devolved government, or vice versa, members of the Board cease to hold office, but may be appointed again.

Part II: Membership During Suspension of Devolved Government

90.     Paragraph 3 sets out the arrangements for appointment to the Board by the Secretary of State during direct rule. Sub-paragraph (3) requires the Secretary of State to ensure, as far as practicable, that membership of the Board is representative of the community in Northern Ireland.

91.     As under the 1998 Act, before making any appointment the Secretary of State must consult district councils and any other body he considers appropriate (sub-paragraph (4)). There is no requirement for consultation where the Secretary of State is making the first appointments to the Board after the Assembly is suspended when devolution had been restored (sub-paragraph (6)). The effect of this provision would be to allow swifter appointment of 10 independent members to replace the 10 members appointed from the Assembly.

92.     Sub-paragraph (7) outlines grounds for disqualification. Sub-paragraphs (8)-(10) specify that there shall be a chairman and vice chairman initially appointed by the Secretary of State, but, thereafter, appointed by the Board from among its members. The quorum for a meeting making such an appointment is specified under paragraph 17(2)). The quorum is 12 when there are 19 members; 11 for a Board of 16, 17 or 18; and 10 when the Board has fewer than 16 members.

93.     Paragraph 4, sub-paragraph (5) sets out the grounds for removal.

Part III: Membership During Devolved Government

94.     Paragraph 6 provides that during devolved government the Board will have 19 members, 10 of whom will be appointed from the Assembly and the other 9 appointed by the Secretary of State.

95.     Sub-paragraph (2) sets out that the 10 members nominated from the Assembly will be known as 'political members' and that the 9 members appointed by Secretary of State will be known as 'independent members'.

96.     Paragraph 7 outlines the process (d'Hondt) for selecting the 10 political members of the Board. The provisions are based on those in the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

97.     Paragraph 8 provides for the appointment of independent members after consultation with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, councils and such other bodies as the Secretary of State considers appropriate. Under sub-paragraph (4) the Secretary of State is required to consult only the FM/DFM where the Board is first appointed after the restoration of devolution. The effect of this provision is to allow swifter appointment of independents to the Board. The Secretary of State must exercise his powers of appointment to secure, as far as practicable, that the Board is representative of the community in Northern Ireland.

98.     Paragraphs 9-10 cover the grounds for removal of Board members from office and disqualification from membership. Grounds for removal include conviction of a criminal offence*, not being committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means and being unfit.

* As with paragraph 4 sub-paragraph (5), the Government will be seeking to amend the removal on conviction provision so that independents may be removed if they do not disclose criminal records and independents and political members may only be removed if convicted after appointment.

99.     Paragraph 11 specifies that there shall be a chairman and vice chairman, initially appointed by the Secretary of State after consultation with First Minister and Deputy First Minister, but, thereafter, appointed by the Board from among its members. The quorum for a meeting making such an appointment is specified under paragraph17(2) as 12.

Parts IV-VI: Staff, Funding Procedure

100.     Parts 12-21 deal with* the Board's staffing, require the Secretary of State to make a grant to the Board to cover its expenses and set out procedural provisions.

* As with paragraph 4 sub-paragraph (5), the Government will be seeking to amend the removal on conviction provision so that independents may be removed if they do not disclose criminal records and independents and political members may only be removed if convicted after appointment.

SCHEDULE 2: TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS, ASSETS, LIABILITIES AND STAFF OF POLICE AUTHORITY FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

101.     This Schedule provides for the Policing Board to exercise the functions, hold the property, have the rights and liabilities and employ the staff, which were the responsibility of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland, upon the dissolution of the Police Authority. Paragraph 4 transfers the employment of directly employed staff of the Police Authority to the Board. This applies to staff working directly to the Police Authority and to "police service staff" who are under the direction and control of the Chief Constable. The latter group will remain under the direction and control of the Chief Constable. Paragraph 5 transfers the secondment of civil servants from the Police Authority to the Policing Board. Those civil servants seconded to the Police Authority who are under the direction and control of the Chief Constable will continue in that capacity. Secondees working for the Authority will work for the Board upon transfer.

SCHEDULE 3: DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS

102.     This Schedule sets out how a district policing partnership is to be established and the arrangements for its proceedings.

103.     Paragraph 2 details the size and composition of a district policing partnership (15, 17 or 19 members). It also provides that, in all cases, the number of political (council) members shall be one more than the number of independent members.

104.     Paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 set out the arrangements for political and independent members to be appointed, when they will cease to hold office, appointments to fill casual vacancies and eligibility for re-appointment. The district council is obliged to ensure that the political membership of a partnership reflects the balance of parties prevailing among the members of the council immediately after the last local general election.

105.     Paragraph 5 requires the district council to nominate independent members for appointment by the Policing Board.

106.     Paragraph 6 enables the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Policing Board, district councils and the Equality Commission to issue a code of practice to the council and Board on the appointment of independent members to the district policing partnership. This code will set out best practice to be followed in the appointment process.

107.     Paragraph 7 sets out the circumstances in which members of the district policing partnership can be removed by the Board, or the council with the approval of the Board, for instance, if convicted of a criminal offence. Paragraph 8 sets out the circumstances in which persons are disqualified for membership of the district policing partnership. For independents these include conviction for any offence leading to a term of imprisonment (whether suspended or not).

108.     Paragraph 9 provides for the appointment of a chairman and vice-chairman of a district policing partnership from the political members. As recommended by the Patten report, the positions must, so far as practicable, be held by members of different political parties and the office of chairman is to be held in turn by each of the four largest parties on the council.

109.     Paragraph 11 requires the Policing Board to make a grant to the district council amounting to three-quarters of the reasonable costs of establishing, and carrying out the functions of a district policing partnership. The remaining quarter of the cost will be paid by the district council.

110.     Paragraph 16 enables the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Policing Board and the councils affected, to provide by order that two or more councils can establish a joint district policing partnership for their districts.

SCHEDULE 4: THE COMMISSIONER

111.     This Schedule provides for the appointment of a Commissioner to oversee the implementation of changes in policing in Northern Ireland. The Schedule also provides for procedural matters such as remuneration, pensions, staff, exercise of functions and finance.

SCHEDULE 5:APPLICATION OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION

112.     This Schedule makes amendments to sex discrimination, race relations and fair employment and treatment legislation in its application to police bodies (see clause 70).

SCHEDULE 6: AMENDMENTS

113.     This Schedule lists amendments to existing legislation.

SCHEDULE 7: TRANSITIONAL AND TRANSITORY PROVISIONS

114.     Paragraph 1 of Schedule 7 will provide for references to the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the Bill* to be construed in accordance with current legislation as references to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its Reserve respectively until the new terms are brought into effect (by the coming into operation of clause74(2)) which the Government has stated it will do in Autumn 2001.

* This paragraph needs to be amended to take account of the revisions to the name which were made at Report in the Commons.

SCHEDULE 8: REPEALS

115.     This Schedule makes repeals, including to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. Parts of that Act will remain and, together with the Bill, form the "police acts".

EFFECTS ON PUBLIC EXPENDITURE AND PUBLIC SECTOR MANPOWER

116.     The Bill will entail significant additional expenditure on policing in Northern Ireland over the medium term - to achieve downsizing and compositional change through funding police severance arrangements - currently estimated at £200m over 5 years. In the longer term there should be a decrease in overall police expenditure as the police Full Time Reserve, 2700 officers, is phased out and the number of regular officers reduces from 8400 at present to 7500. These savings need to be set against the costs of an enlarged Part Time Reserve of up to 2500 officers (the current figure is 1200).

117.     There will be significant start up costs for the new Policing Board - but the Board's running costs should be comparable to, and can be transferred from, the Police Authority, which is to be disbanded. In addition, there will be running costs for the new district policing partnerships and for new police recruitment agency arrangements. There will also be costs associated with the introduction of a new name and badge for the police. The total estimated cost of implementing the Patten report's non-severance recommendations is £178m over 5 years.

 
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Prepared: 21 July 2000