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Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. The noble Lord is possibly not aware that the City of York, which has a population of about 100,000 people, is divided into four commands, as it were. That system works effectively. The noble Lord may like to consider that point before he comments further.
Lord Rogan: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her intervention. However, the City of York may not have the divisions of the City of Belfast, the consequences of which for policing are a matter of great concern to me.
I do not wish to labour this particular operational point at this stage of the Bill. I am, however, concerned at the likely consequences which would follow the establishment of 29 local area commands, and especially four in Belfast. These 29 area commands will all be mirrored by, monitored by and potentially dominated and influenced by district policing partnerships. Four such commands for Belfast is just too many, unnecessary and plainly planned for political reasons and not operational policing. But, what is worse, it has the potential to subject the police to intolerable sectarian and party political pressures at grassroots level.
The religious and political mix in the north and south of the city would at least ensure some measure of cross-community representation on the DPP sub-committee for those areas, but that is scant consolation. The idea behind this seems to be to create a Protestant/Unionist dominated DPP for Protestant areas and a Catholic/nationalist dominated DPP for Catholic areas. This simply cannot be acceptable. This is cantonisation of policing of the worst kind and would facilitate paramilitary linked parties increasing their influence over certain areas.
At least a Belfast-wide district policing partnership would dilute the influence of parties whose support is concentrated in particular areas. Sinn Fein/IRA might have nearly 70 per cent support in West Belfast, but across the city as a whole the figure is much lower. Just as it would be wrong to leave policing in West Belfast in the hands of republicans, so it would be wrong to place policing in East Belfast in the hands of loyalists. I want to see an effective district policing partnership and police force for all the people in every part of the City of Belfast and Northern Ireland.
If the purpose of the Patten report was to take politics out of policing, one needs only to look at this proposal to see just how completely it has failed. Instead of taking politics out of policing, it seeks to place politics at the very heart of policing. Whatever happened to the concept of treating people equally as citizens rather than as members of a particular religious or ethnic group? I believe that the more we focus on divisions in society, the more we risk reinforcing those divisions by constantly emphasising them, rather than seeking to concentrate on those factors which unite us. Twenty-nine sub-committees of the district policing partnership will hardly encourage unity. They will merely promote and reinforce ideas of separateness.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said, over the years the City of Belfast, and indeed other areas of Ulster, have seen the creation of far too many ghettos--Protestant and Catholic alike. It is my belief that in the new dispensation we should do all we can to create a new community in Northern Ireland. The proposed large number of DPPs will hinder that. They will be divisive; they will foster community tensions and, yet again, the police will be piggy in the middle.
I now turn to the matter of 50/50 recruitment. I am opposed to the concept of 50/50 recruitment to be introduced in the Bill. It is positive discrimination. I oppose all forms of statutory discrimination, whether positive or not. I wish to see any police force in Northern Ireland--indeed, throughout the United Kingdom--reflect the society that it polices: 50/50 recruitment will not remedy Catholic under-representation in the police force because it attempts to address the symptom rather than the cause.
We are all aware of the cause of Catholic under-representation in the police force--the lack of Catholic applicants and the pressures they were under. During the period between the cessation of military operations by paramilitary organisations and the suspension of police recruitment, Catholic applications to the RUC
Perhaps I may illustrate the point by reading a letter which was published in this morning's edition of the Irish News, a newspaper with a mainly nationalist readership. The letter was written by an officer of the RUC. He writes:
Targets and affirmative action measures encouraging applications from under-represented groups--from all under-represented groups--are the only means of securing a police force that reflects the society that it polices. Indeed, targets and affirmative action could include targets for female recruits and for recruits from ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland, thus redressing under-representation in other areas, not only Catholic under-representation.
It may have crossed the minds of some noble Lords, why not extend the quota system to female recruitment or to the recruitment of ethnic minorities? There are two points to be made in regard to this question. First, it would seem that it would be illegal under European law, in contravention of Council Directive 76/207/EEC on the Implementation of the Principles of Equal Treatment for Men and Women, to have this quota recruitment scheme apply to male/female recruitment. Secondly, many ethnic minorities would fall under the grouping of "other". Fifty/fifty recruitment is not 50 per cent Protestant and 50 per cent Catholic; it is 50 per cent Catholic and 50 per cent "other".
Therefore, not only will young Protestant applicants suffer reverse discrimination, but so will young Muslim applicants, as will young Jewish applicants, Hindu applicants, Sikh applicants, Baha'i applicants--need I continue? These are all religious groups prevalent in Northern Ireland society which will be discriminated against by being labelled "other" for recruitment purposes by this Bill.
The question of legality will be raised again in December 2002, when two directives flowing from Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty will be implemented. It appears from the draft of these directives that the 50/50 recruitment in this Bill would be contrary to these directives. I question the morality of legislating in the interim.
I know that the hour is getting late and that I have been speaking for some time, but I am going to be pedantic and further demonstrate my concerns by an example. The police have 100 vacancies for recruits: 150 "others" apply and there are 50 Catholic applicants. Fifty/fifty recruitment dictates that if all
The police force requires 100 recruits so it has a choice: it either accepts an under-strength force or lowers the standard for applicants to permit all 50 Catholic applicants to be recruited. This totally corrupts the merit-based system of recruitment; it is clearly unacceptable.
The only situation in which 50/50 recruitment would not cause reverse discrimination would be where 50 per cent of the population are Catholic and 50 per cent are "others" and where 50 per cent of the applicants are Catholic and 50 per cent are "others"--and if 50 per cent of the applicants were Catholics there would be no need for targets or affirmative action, never mind quotas.
This 50/50 recruitment will fail to tackle the problem of low numbers of Catholic applicants and can lead only to resentment within the police force. Inevitably one recruit will perceive another recruit to be there, not on merit but because of his religion.
As I have said, I wish to see a police force that reflects the society it serves. This can be achieved by affirmative action measures; it can be achieved in a morally and legally correct manner and it can redress under-representation in terms of sex, race and religion. In this regard, opinion formers from within the Roman Catholic Church in Northern Ireland and from within the nationalist community must play their part. Roman Catholic church leaders and nationalist leaders must encourage their young people to apply to join the police in Northern Ireland, and do so in the knowledge that all we want is a neutral, fair police force, accountable and respected. That is what we should aim for in policing in Northern Ireland, not statutory discrimination.
Perhaps I may leave the House with one final thought. On 12th November 1997, the Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Ronnie Flannagan, gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. One of the members told him:
Lord Fitt: My Lords, I deeply regret that this debate is taking place today. In the 36 years that I have been in this building I cannot recall a Bill of such significance getting a Second Reading on the day that the House was to break up for the Summer Recess. I believe that the people of Northern Ireland will see it that way; that the House is treating the people of Northern Ireland with contempt.
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