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I should like to make a double appeal, first to your Lordships and, secondly, indirectly to the two main political traditions in Northern Ireland. In considering the Bill, I trust that it will be possible to bear in mind the principles underlying the Belfast agreement: consent and the upholding of the human rights of the whole population. If we can always seek the common good of all, despite the many fears and distrusts that still exist, we shall make progress.
Everyone needs the services of the police at some point in their life. They will be grateful when a missing child is rescued or help comes quickly after a car crash. Not everyone will be wholly satisfied, but we should seek solutions which meet real human needs and which try to maximise the win-win outcomes.
It will be important to distinguish between the symbolic, identity-related issues, which are divisive by nature, and the practical issues, around which it should be possible to build consensus and common acceptance of a remodelled police service.
Concerns have been expressed that the Bill waters down the recommendations of the Patten commission. I trust that the published implementation plan and the appointment of a distinguished and neutral oversight commissioner go some way to allay those concerns. Accountability will be a key principle of the future system, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, has already explained clearly. It will be helpful in Committee to strengthen the powers of the police board and the ombudsman, particularly their powers of inquiry.
I note the reorganisation of the police service in units corresponding with the existing district council areas. I trust that district police partnerships will build on the successes of local partnerships' dealings with the European Union's peace and reconciliation funds. The DPPs are likely to be crucial to the acceptance at local level of the new police service. For that reason, we shall have to look carefully in Committee at the proposed disqualifications in Schedule 3(8), which exclude from membership anyone who has ever received a prison sentence anywhere. The drafting seems to be contrary to the existing law on the rehabilitation of offenders. I know a number of ex-prisoners who do excellent work in a variety of community organisations. Others have been elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly or to district councils. I am glad that the Northern Ireland Association for
Local community restorative justice is outside the terms of the Bill, but it has already been successfully pioneered in Unionist and nationalist areas. I emphasise that it is not a replacement for police services, but rather a complement and supplement to them. It involves offenders and troublemakers, as well as those aggrieved or victimised. It enables damage to be repaired, restitution to be made for offences, and relationships to be healed. What is more, it often works much more quickly than traditional police and court procedures.
I wish the Bill well. I am glad that there will be a long pause for reflection before the Committee stage. The Bill can and will be significantly improved. I repeat my earlier plea that we should examine it in the light of the common good of the whole of Northern Ireland. We should guard against any dilution of the Bill, remembering the advice of the Patten commission:
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, we have had in this debate some powerful and moving speeches from noble Lords who have lived all their lives in the Province of Northern Ireland. I thought long and hard about taking part in this debate at Second Reading of the Bill, as I have much less experience of the Province than almost all the contributors to the debate. However, although I have never lived in Northern Ireland, it has featured strongly in my past. My father was born in Belfast. Sadly, my memories of that beautiful part of the island of Ireland are not all joyous.
Growing up in the south of the island of Ireland, I was always conscious that north of the Border there were stresses and strains of a nature that I was unable to comprehend. Listening to adults talking, I heard tales of bombings, arson attacks, people having to move to other parts of the United Kingdom or to the south. To an impressionable child, this was more than slightly frightening.
That, of course, was a long time before the events of 1969. Many people do not realise that, to a greater or lesser extent, the troubles have been part of the island for almost the whole of the 20th century. Indeed, we have this evening heard a passionate speech about that fact from the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. It was a very depressing speech, with almost no hope, and I can absolutely understand why. But now I want to believe that there is a real chance that the Province can and will be seen as the magical and peaceful place that it should and could be. This may seem utterly unrealistic, but please let us be hopeful. It requires genuine goodwill, a sense of repentance for past wrongdoings on all sides, and an attitude of change, encompassed by the words, "Today is the first day of the rest of our lives". This may be difficult; it is not
We all recognise that, rightly or wrongly, the police force in Northern Ireland has been perceived--and I stress the word "perceived"--as being aligned to one section of the community. This has to change. It is imperative that all sections of the community should regard the police force as utterly reliable, supportive of justice, fair and belonging to them.
Living in the United Kingdom for the greater part of my life, the very presence of a policeman or a policewoman instils in me a sense of security. I instinctively know that they are there to protect me. It is my fervent wish that every inhabitant of Northern Ireland should feel the same. The police have to be seen to be a part of every section of the community. When they are, my wish will be well on the way to being granted, but there are no fairy godmothers to make it happen.
As a committed Christian, I fundamentally believe that only through the working together of the separate members of the Christian churches can this happen. I am not, of course, excluding members of other faiths, or indeed of none. But the fact is that much the greater part of the current suspicion and latent (and not so latent) animosity in the Province derives from a conflict between the two main branches of the Christian Church. It is surely time for both to adopt a forward-looking approach and to support the police in such a way that their respective flocks will do likewise.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, called upon the Roman Catholic Church effectively to stand up and be counted. The power of the Roman Catholic Church is still massively influential in the nationalist community. It is in the potentially powerful position of being an overwhelming force for good, if it would enthusiastically encourage recruitment from its flock into the police.
The generations of my father and grandfather have long since gone. There is a new, lively, world-aware generation in Northern Ireland which can be encouraged to think about the police as a real career opportunity--an opportunity not only for personal advancement but also an opportunity to do something for others. I believe that the Roman Catholic Church could be that encourager. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has already referred to that.
The Roman Catholic Church has rightly on occasions been vociferous in its condemnation of the past demeanours of the police. Now is the time to show Christian forgiveness, always remembering the stricture:
What must be avoided, of course, is an over-identification of one part of the Christian Church with an attempt to get the nationalist community to consider the police as a career choice. All church leaders--not just the cardinal, the archbishop and the bishops--should together take a stand to encourage all sections of the community to identify with the police and to see them as a respected, necessary and supportive band of people who can instil the feelings of security which I have already described.
This month, we had the experience of seeing the leader of the Protestant Church, the noble Lord, Lord Eames, denouncing the attacks on the RUC at Drumcree. I just wonder why Cardinal Archbishop Brady did not do likewise. Perhaps he felt he could not support the noble Lord. What a pity that is. That would have send a powerful message to the whole community.
I feel passionately that the answer to unblocking the history of years of suspicion and doubt lies with the recruitment of a much greater number of people from the nationalist community into the police force. It will be difficult to achieve that. I make a plea that quotas should not be employed. The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, made the case against quotas. They are almost always a failure. One has only to look at the history of positive discrimination based on quotas for women in senior positions in the United States. That is not a happy story. Targets are a different matter and they should encourage new recruits who may not apply if they feel that they are merely part of the numbers game of quotas.
Finally, I hope that the Roman Catholic Church will have the courage to encourage young people to aspire to a career in the police. This is truly a new beginning, a new chapter. Let us give it a chance.
Lord Cooke of Islandreagh: My Lords, I hope that the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill, when passed, will have a great influence on the progress to a peaceful and law-abiding Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, it has had a bad start. To drop the name "Royal Ulster Constabulary" has caused much hurt to the majority in both religions in Northern Ireland who have had a great regard and respect for the RUC and the steadfast manner in which it has for many years defended communities against the mindless attacks by the IRA.
Over the past fortnight, the RUC has acted similarly against absurd attacks by so-called loyalists, who have sought to bring the Province to a standstill. More than 100 members of the RUC were injured by those so-called loyalists.
This week there is also great concern about the early release of prisoners. Many, both IRA and loyalist, were convicted of the most horrendous crimes. They will all be released at the end of this week and it will be surprising if some of them at least do not return to what they do best.
It is a credit to those who feel pain and despair that they know that violence is not the answer despite the fact that the Government have shown the IRA that it pays. I ask the Secretary of State to take care that he does nothing to make it more difficult for our First Minister or Deputy First Minister of the Executive. We desperately need local democracy in Northern Ireland and, without the Executive and the Assembly, the Good Friday agreement would soon unravel.
I believe that it is ironic that by removing the name "RUC", the Government are in breach of the Good Friday agreement. Article 1, Section V requires full respect for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.
This Bill assumes that the police service will work within communities at peace and it sets out in great detail how organisations and relationships will be set up. I believe that it is too early for that and I am glad that we have two months between now and Committee stage.
The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, spoke accurately and feelingly about the terrorist organisations that control areas, the so-called loyalist and IRA organisations. They are determined to retain control of those areas. First, the IRA has a political objective. Although officially there is a ceasefire, it is doing its utmost to ensure that it controls areas in order to prove that the Province is ungovernable. I see no sign that that attitude is changing.
In addition, the financial rewards from racketeering and drug running are very attractive. Perhaps that says something about the difference between the IRA and the loyalist terrorists: loyalist terrorists control drug running themselves, but the IRA franchises it. The brutality of both paramilitaries makes it difficult for the police to obtain evidence to convict the criminals responsible. It may not be generally known that since April 1998, when the agreement was signed, six murders have been attributed to the IRA and 12 to the loyalists, and 87 shootings and mutilations have been attributed to the IRA and 128 to the loyalists. Beatings and hospitalisations are different and 281 are attributed to the IRA and 276 to the loyalists. The IRA have exiled 917 and the loyalists have exiled 1,015.
Those figures indicate the scale on which the terrorist organisations on both sides control their districts. The first objective must be to overcome and break up those areas before proper peaceful policing can take place.
I have been surprised that that situation has been ignored by the Northern Ireland Office. But I was pleased on Tuesday of this week when the Secretary of State spoke out about the menace of terrorists. It must be the first task for the police and the community generally.
The Bill contains serious flaws. But they have been highlighted and well explained by other noble Lords. The 50/50 quota system is reverse discrimination, which is illegal in the UK. It is also unworkable for the reasons already explained. Whatever encouragement is given to Catholic young people to join the police, they will not want to join immediately for fear of being set upon by those committed to violence. So it is unlikely that 50 per cent of recruits will come from the Catholic quarter and therefore the number of recruits coming from other quarters must be reduced accordingly. The system is unworkable.
I listened with great interest to the debate. We heard some excellent contributions from many noble Lords. But I humbly suggest that your Lordships' attention to the Committee stage of this Bill will be necessary. There is much work to be done on this Bill, as has been done on other Bills recently brought before this House.
It was in 1964 that the then Attorney-General of the United States, the late Robert Kennedy, attempted to philosophise on the links between society and policing in a lecture to the American Bar Association. In the course of that lecture, he said:
Rarely has any legislation on policing before this House brought nearer the surface than at the present moment the connection between the society that the police seek to serve and the necessities of that police service. For we heard tonight vivid explanations of the problems of Northern Ireland, among which many of us live. We heard descriptions of how those problems arose and there have been many grave attempts in your Lordships' House to describe the solution.
I speak with some feeling because, as many noble Lords will gather, most of my leadership has been exercised within that community. Until the day I die, I shall not forget my memories of the numerous funerals of policemen and women that I have had to conduct with my clergy. I have had to get to know the children who would grow up without a father and the young widows. Here I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Laird, and to the Minister in this respect. I speak of a persistence with which I am very familiar because of the school that he attended; namely, the persistence of the noble Lord, Lord Laird, in relation to police widows. It will be excellent news for Northern Ireland when it is known that the noble and learned Lord has responded in the way that he has.
I have also had to try to bring what I hope is Christian pastoral care to young adults who were, perhaps, aged about three or four when their father was taken from them simply because of the uniform that he wore. Therefore, is it any wonder that whenever I think back to those 30 years that have been referred to so often tonight, I have to say again--indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, reminded us some time ago--that, so often, the RUC was asked to do what the whole of society could not do? That must be borne in mind in as objective a way as possible when we consider this police Bill.
Am I alone tonight in detecting something close to hypocrisy from any part of the community which claims loyalism, which claims allegiance to its dying breath to the British Crown, which wants to bring to the attention of the world the injustice of the removal of a badge or a name and, yet, is silent when the effigy of a policeman is burned in a bonfire; and when families of policemen who are on duty at Drumcree are chased out of their homes in the name of loyalism? The noble Baroness who spoke a few minutes ago was kind enough to refer to the actions that I took at Drumcree this year. There was quite a cost to pay. But I am absolutely convinced that the way forward is not the way of dragging the name of "loyalism", whatever way it is defined, into the muck and mire by actions such as those that I have described.
Therefore, when people talk about the sacrifice paid by the Royal Ulster Constabulary over the past 30 years, I beg noble Lords to put that in its context; to put it into its human context, because they are real people. They have their own fears, their own financial worries and their own education problems for their children. We have asked the RUC--I include myself in this; indeed, I venture to suggest, all of us living in Northern Ireland are as guilty as I am--to do things that society either did not wish to do, or did not have the courage to achieve for itself. That is the police force. That is the police family that is under scrutiny in this House tonight and will be so, again, when we reach Committee stage.
So what do we say about that? In preparation for this debate I talked extensively to Unionists and to nationalists and, yes, to republicans. I have talked to policemen of all ranks and ages; and, indeed, with all experiences. I have also spoken to police widows. It will not surprise noble Lords to hear that the reactions were varied. However, I am convinced that a substantial number of current members of the police force in Northern Ireland would say, "We regret deeply and we feel hurt that we may lose our badge and our name, but we are professionals who have come through the fire and the fury of the past 30 years. We long to have the confidence of the whole community and to get on with a professional job for the good of that whole community". That is the test of the legislation before us. That poses the question that we should ask: does the legislation take us further down that road?
There is also the question of the perception of the community. It is a divided community. A book was written not so long ago about the history of the RUC entitled A Force Under Fire--what an understatement! Many noble Lords may have read that book. In it Chris Ryder spoke vividly of the kind of emotional reaction that I have tried to describe tonight. He states that if there is a future for the current RUC in Northern Ireland, it is a future that will go forward through various stages of change. I thought of those words when one of the widows to whom I spoke last week said, "Of course, I want to see the police move forward, but please God, tell them in London to be careful as you walk on my memories".
I believe that this past summer Northern Ireland has taken a turn for the better. That may sound strange in the light of the pessimism of which we have heard a little too much tonight. But I am conscious that, bad and dangerous though the situation has been this past summer, we have turned some kind of a corner. However, I beg Her Majesty's Government not to consider for one moment that we have reached the Utopia of lasting peace. As we saw at Drumcree earlier this month, there is still the threat of the paramilitary forces, and they are not all republican.
I am sorry that a certain noble Baroness is not sitting on the Back Benches, for she would have spoken vividly to us tonight of the Shankill. We know that the intimidation that was exhibited in the Shankill among loyalist paramilitaries at the height of the Drumcree
As I have tried to illustrate, I have a personal reason for saying something about the experience of the police. I was disappointed when I read the Patten report. That sentiment has already been expressed this evening by several noble Lords. I did not expect Chris Patten to use colourful language in paying tribute to those who had died or been horribly injured in service; I just looked for recognition. But I am sorry to say that I did not find it. That is the reason that I paid tribute just now to the work of some noble Lords with regard to widows who have been dreadfully penalised.
It is for that reason that I want to give voice at this moment--for they are not here to do it--to those who are not politically or party politically oriented in Northern Ireland; to the ordinary, decent majority of Protestants and Roman Catholic people who would say and beg with us, "Please do not reduce the level of protection or the sophistication of that protection until we can sleep in our beds in peace". I cannot say it more strongly. As I have said, I do not speak in a party political sense; I speak for those I know and work with.
So much more has been said, and I shall not go over it again in what I want to say. The future Northern Ireland that so many of us pray for and work for with others is a Northern Ireland that is at peace with itself, at peace with its memories, at peace with its future, and, above all else, at peace without fear. But fear has not yet been removed from our Province and, as long as that maintains, we shall still look to the bravery of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to look after the society in which we live.
I wish to put two questions to the Minister in relation to the legislation. He will forgive me if I dwell on them before I conclude. First, does the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill lead us towards those demands for which the ordinary people are asking--a peaceful society? Secondly, is our community prepared to play its part in what Robert Kennedy spoke of as the,
As a Churchman dedicated to reconciliation and committed to what I can do myself with others towards gaining a just society for Northern Ireland, perhaps I may mention briefly two aspects of the Bill. I refer first to recruitment. On 25th July, Mr Mandelson, the Secretary of State, said in my own city of Armagh:
I can understand the thinking which has gone into the way in which the Patten report has been produced and the thinking that Her Majesty's Government have put forward in this legislation, but after very much thought--I underline that--I have to ask Her Majesty's Government: is quota more important than targets to aim for? Have the Government duly and adequately considered the European legal situation in this regard? I am rusty on all this now; I simply mention it.
However, on a more practical level, perhaps I may refer to the remarks that have been made about the influence of the Church. One of the finest moments for me in regard to my colleague, Archbishop Sean Brady in Armagh, was when he walked with me on the lawn in Hillsborough the day that the George Cross was awarded to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It was an action of bravery and I pay tribute to him for it.
But, as the noble Baroness reminded us, it is incumbent on all Church leaders in the society of Northern Ireland to ask about fundamental issues at this time; about what is their obligation in encouraging young men and women to join the police. Irrespective of its name; irrespective of its badge; irrespective of the society in which it serves; what is our Christian obligation in terms of community responsibility? I have no doubt what mine is. I simply say to my colleagues that they should think long and hard about what they can say.
My second point relates to accountability. That is the key to the misfortunes and problems of the RUC over the years. I have to ask myself whether the present legislation contains the potential to improve police accountability in Northern Ireland. I have to ask her Majesty's Government whether they really are satisfied that the policing board, as described in the terms of the legislation, can operate as a strong, independent and fully accountable body which will benefit every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland, to say nothing of the police themselves. That will come up in Committee. I simply put the pointer down in the context of what I have been saying.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, I rise in trepidation to speak about Northern Ireland and its proposed new police service. I say "in trepidation" because I look at the gallery and galaxy of speakers in tonight's debate whose knowledge of Northern Ireland is unparalleled and way beyond my reach. I am very aware, as one of my noble colleagues kindly put it, that I am not one of the usual suspects on the Northern Ireland speaking list. Indeed, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if during this speech I make a mistake, like Ali G, of confusing the RUC with the RAC.
But perhaps because I have no first-hand experience of living in or indeed of the policing of Northern Ireland, I can voice some of the thoughts of my fellow countrymen on the mainland--that absent majority who wish the people of Northern Ireland well but whose regular fare, as provided by the media, has been the diet of violence and mayhem of past years and more lately the scenes of politicians experiencing frustration in trying to implement the Good Friday agreement.
Even my pre-conceived notions about Northern Ireland took a knock on my one and only visit to the Province. It was for me an inspiring experience and one about which I want to tell your Lordships. Three years ago, as an MEP and associated with the British presidency of the European Union, I attended a conference in Belfast dedicated to the welfare of children and young people in Europe. One evening, the conference done, I left my hotel--the appropriately named Hotel Europa, reputedly the most bombed hotel in Europe--and crossed the street to the bar opposite, a bar seemingly devoted to young people half my age and younger. Perhaps I should add here that Lady Harrison is fully aware of my nocturnal wanderings, especially in search of truth, enlightenment and Guinness.
The bar was so crowded and so noisy that I could hardly hear myself order. Nevertheless, pint in hand, I fell into conversation with a young Protestant woman who doubtless pitied this grey-haired Englishman lost in Belfast. As we shouted at each other in conversation, she suddenly waved to a stranger across the crowded room. It was her boyfriend, a handsome Catholic lad who, she told me, was profoundly deaf. But--here is the rub, my Lords--she then conversed and communicated with her boyfriend using the sign language skills which she had picked up from her father, who worked with the hard of hearing.
That is the marvellous paradox. These two young people, from the two different traditions in Northern Ireland, had found a language in which to speak to each other across the divide; across the clatter and chatter of this packed bar. For me, these star-crossed lovers represented a symbol of hope for a better future and a peaceful Northern Ireland.
Our chance encounter concluded with her plea to me to tell my friends on the mainland that Northern Ireland's media image of guns and destruction was a distortion of the truth and failed to report the warmth and welcome of the people of Northern Ireland,
The people of Northern Ireland need a police force, where all its citizens can go up to a policeman and ask the time; a police force which treats all its customers on a first come, first served basis; the kind of policing that we, on this side of the water, enjoy for the most part without giving the matter a second thought. At this point I place on record my profound awe and admiration of the job done by the RUC. No body of men or women could have traversed better the bitter 30 years of war that has riven the Province. The ultimate test of what I say is that I would not have had the courage to do what they have done. That their name should be enshrined in the title deeds of the PSNI is an unambiguous testament to that legacy. But out of the shell of such sacrifice and dedication must emerge something new and distinct; a modern police force in a modernising land. The pattern of change must be the Patten report; a police service which serves all its people; retains the confidence of all its people; and which, ultimately, in its make-up, reflects the diversity of its people and their traditions.
The ambition to achieve 50/50 recruitment in the new police service will feature strongly in our debates at the Committee stage. I look forward with your Lordships to playing a part in improving the Bill, which has already undergone constructive refinement in its passage through another place. We will need to look at the question of accountability of the new force. I applaud the fact that it will be the most scrutinised force in Europe, but I do hope that, in fulfilling these democratic imperatives, the police will still have time to police.
We will need to look at the role of the Secretary of State and his long-stop powers. I welcome the moves towards greater devolution. But we cannot absolve the Secretary of State from his responsibilities to the Treasury. The PSNI will be unique in the United Kingdom in being wholly funded by central government.
I salute the work of the Secretary of State and his team for the sensitive and sensible way in which they have gone about the task of implementing Patten. But I want to use my last few minutes in highlighting one other set of challenges confronting the new police service of Northern Ireland which might otherwise go unremarked. The new force must be a modern police force in a changing Britain and a developing Europe. Indeed, in its engagement with the challenge of Europe, including the single market, the PSNI has the opportunity to become the market leader, to show the way for other police forces in Britain and Europe to follow.
I shall explain. In the Belfast conference to which I alluded earlier, I was invited to speak on the subject of the safety of children in the single European market. It was thrilling to see Northern Ireland children visiting the conference mix and mingle with their contemporaries from across the European Union, but
The complementary concept of the free movement of goods also has implications for the police in the forms of smuggling, drugs and organised crime. Such challenges are particularly alive in Northern Ireland where such nefarious activities habitually use as cover the cloak of sectarian violence. The PSNI will need to be vigilant to new and intensified threats brought about by the deepening single European market and by the sweeping away of borders and barriers impeding the free flow of business, trade and commerce. In this, it will need to strengthen links, not only with the mainland police forces and the Garda, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Dubs, but also with their continental counterparts.
In 18 months' time the arrival of euro notes and coins will furnish new opportunities for fraud and deception to be practised on an unsuspecting public. After all, Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which shares a land border with Euroland. The new police force must be ready for the currency counterfeiters.
Inland tourism, an industry which grew by 27 per cent following the first ceasefire, and of great interest to the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, will require the protection of the police, guaranteeing the safety of foreign tourists who, incidentally, are likely to be the bearers of those self-same euro notes and coins.
Inward investment from the European Union, in the wake of the European Union grants that have funded peace initiatives--those were mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton--and economic reconstruction will continue to be secured for Northern Ireland only if there is a secure environment for such investment. The police are crucial to the economy. That cannot be said too often.
The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into the PSNI will be pivotal in fostering change. Indeed, it is likely that the police service of Northern Ireland will be pioneers in the United Kingdom and in Europe in this welcome development.
Like others, I also foresee a leading role for retiring RUC officers to redirect their considerable skills, honed in the art of peacekeeping, in advising and participating with other continental police forces in the European Union and in NATO initiatives related to peacekeeping duties. The announcement made at the EU Lisbon Summit of the formation of a 5,000-strong EU peacekeeping police force may turn out to be the ideal vehicle for redirecting the skills and experience of RUC officers at the European level, while also abetting the task of equalising representation from the two traditions in the emerging PSNI. The putative EU police college for teaching serving officers may also be a new and welcome outlet for promoting change.
Finally, I am struck by the ambition of the European Union to recognise that diversity is strength. Ever closer union is built on recognising the histories, traditions and cultures of Europe's many different nations and regions. Am I alone in hoping that Northern Ireland and, indeed, all the people on the island of Ireland, growing in an expanding Europe, may also take the opportunity to do things together which strengthen local communities, while continuing to acknowledge and, indeed, celebrate the cultural diversity which is their inherent strength?
Lord Monson: My Lords, in contrast, I fear, to the two previous speakers, perhaps I may start on a slightly grating note by echoing the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. I am not blaming any individuals, but it is somehow symbolic of the subconscious patronising attitude of metropolitan England towards Northern Ireland--I am not just thinking of the Guardian newspaper--that the debate on this extremely important Bill did not start until half-past six on virtually the last day of the term and was scheduled to follow mini-debates on what, objectively, were much less important topics. The result was that two or three distinguished noble Lords have had to scratch. I had a rather more relaxing engagement lined up for this evening and had not intended to speak--until I looked at the provisional list of speakers some days ago. It has since changed, but then there were extremely few English, Welsh or Scottish speakers on the list. I thought it vital that there should be at least one more representative from the rest of the United Kingdom to pay tribute to the brave men and women of the RUC and to deplore the effective consignment to history of that admirable institution.
The deplorable aspects of the Bill--I readily concede that it has a number of good points--have their origin in the Patten report. My views on the report would not be fit for your Lordships' tender ears. I was interested, when going through my files this morning, to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, had the same reaction when she first saw it. But what can one expect, given the composition of the committee?
Can one imagine the French--a people who have pride in their nation and its institutions--contemplating for one single second allowing the Americans and the Italians to help dictate the future composition of the Corsican police force? As for the idea of the Americans allowing foreigners to reform the New York City or Los Angeles police forces, the mind boggles!
Of course, the Patten report is a fait accompli and, as such, cannot be ignored. But despite what republicans both north and south of the Border claim, no British Government are legally or by convention under any
But the Government have gone even further than the Patten report in claiming that intimidation by the IRA and INLA plays only a subsidiary role in the reluctance of Catholics to joint the RUC. Frankly, that claim will not stand up. Just as hundreds of mainly Catholic members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were murdered, wounded and driven permanently from their homes by the IRA throughout Ireland 80 years ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, reminded us, so in the past 30 years intimidation has played a major role in deterring Roman Catholics from enlisting in the RUC.
Moreover--and this is highly significant--an opinion poll in the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year (one of several polls which produced similar results) revealed that only 31 per cent of Roman Catholics found the RUC name and identity to be offensive. In other words, all the proposed hurtful changes to the name, badge and other symbols are designed to placate a mere 12 to 13 per cent of the population of the Province (those with strong republican traditions), totally ignoring the feelings of the 87 to 88 per cent who either positively want the status quo or at least are comfortable with it. In proportional terms, the 87 to 88 per cent whose feelings are ignored are equivalent to the population of apartheid South Africa 10 years ago who were black, coloured or Asian. In the same way, the views of the 13 per cent prevailed over the majority, which is an interesting statistic to ponder.
There are other worrying aspects of the Bill, many of which were referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and others. A most interesting article by Eamonn McCann, who is not a Unionist of any description, appeared in yesterday's edition of the Independent. That article rather reinforces some of the points made by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. Mr McCann deplores the way in which government policy is, perhaps unwittingly, reinforcing sectarianism:
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I hope that, despite the lateness of the hour, I may have leave to speak briefly in the gap. I had hoped to speak earlier but, to my great regret, duties connected with the call of students to the Bar in Middle Temple tonight made it absolutely obligatory for me to be there. I had very much feared that my perceived silence in this Second
Tonight there is time for me to express only one thought, save to add my expression of immense gratitude at having had the opportunity to listen to many fine speeches in this debate. My principal hope is that whatever police service, under whatever name, emerges from this legislation it will none the less permit those who serve in it to find the motivation to be as professional, fair and brave as the RUC that I had the privilege to know.
I am sure that your Lordships will vividly remember the photographs--if your Lordships did not see it in the flesh--of the pageant in celebration of the centenary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Noble Lords may also recall a little earlier the sight of an RUC police constable receiving the George Cross. That police constable, Paul Slane, is known to me. Shortly before I arrived in the Province in 1992 he had lost both legs and sustained a severe injury to one arm. His companion female officer had been murdered beside him. After that I saw him in church frequently at Hillsborough--he was my neighbour--and I never forgot him. For me, he epitomises the courage of the RUC and the cost of its George Cross. I was deeply touched to receive a Christmas card from him last year. That is the kind of memory that we must keep well in mind as we focus in greater detail, as we shall, upon the detail of the Bill.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, this has been a truly memorable debate in the tradition of debates on Northern Ireland. It has been blessed with some wonderful speeches, in particular that of the noble Lord, the Archbishop of Armagh, who reminded of us of the Christian principles involved in our thinking for the future and as regards the past.
It is not one of the most pleasant Bills I have had to deal with; in fact rather the opposite. However, the Government's handling of it has been appalling when one considers how many people's lives and emotions the Bill will touch. It might interest noble Lords to be reminded that the Patten report was published on 9th September 1999. On 11th July, last week, the Bill went to the Commons for Report stage and Third Reading. At that stage the Government, in their wisdom, thought fit to guillotine the Bill. That guillotine meant that only three people were able to speak at Third Reading. That excluded the First Minister for Northern Ireland.
Important government amendments were tabled in another place. Because of the guillotine they were not debated. We do not know whether the Government intend to reintroduce them. The Bill has not had a proper examination in another place. It is, therefore, difficult to know the Government's position on the Bill.
I have been upset considerably by other matters which have come to my attention regarding the Bill. It might interest noble Lords to know that during the Committee stage in another place a delegate from the Irish Government, an official well known in this Palace, was in the gallery. The PPS to the Secretary of State was seen regularly to be discussing amendments with the member of the Irish Government. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. What right, I ask your Lordships, do the Dublin Government have to be directly involved in a Committee stage in this Palace of a Bill about Northern Ireland?
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