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Baroness Park of Monmouth: I know that the RUC has already done immensely successful work in the community but I very much share the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, who is much better informed on these matters than I could ever be. I should like to quote one incident which was recently reported in the press. The CCTV cameras in Londonderry were damaged and removed and the very courageous, I think, SDLP local representative said that they should be restored because their absence damaged the possibility of catching criminals. The Sinn Fein people said, "Not so. We will police this area. To restore those cameras would help the RUC. We will not work with the RUC and therefore no one should restore the CCTV cameras. They represent the RUC and police power". I can see that such incidents could occur very frequently. Therefore, we need to be very careful about this matter.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Perhaps I may make the following suggestion. When we reach group 10 on the groupings list, a number of amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Cooke and Lord Glentoran, and other noble Lords concerning the issue of the membership of the district police partnerships will be debated. Perhaps I may reply at that point. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has come in slightly out of order.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 3 [District policing partnerships]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne): Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 were marshalled incorrectly. The correct order is Amendment No. 54 first.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Blood moved Amendment No. 54:

("( ) The Board shall ensure that, as far as is practicable, in appointing independent members at least one shall be drawn from existing Community Police Liaison Committee members nominated.").

The noble Baroness said: With the Committee's permission, I shall speak to the two amendments to Schedule 3 standing in my name. The reason for doing so is obvious. Both are about one issue and similar information surrounds both amendments.

A lot has been written, spoken and sometimes implied about Northern Ireland and we have seen many changes in the past four or five years. Indeed, there is a Chinese proverb which states, "May you live in interesting times". No one could deny that in Northern Ireland we are living in the most interesting times and the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill has had its fair share of public exposure and debate in recent months, not least in your Lordships' Committee today. I find it strange that I am moving this amendment in view of our first debate today about some parts of the community accepting the RUC and other parts of the community rejecting them.

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In the world today we often express ourselves with an abbreviation of the title of the organisations to which we are referring. For example, we refer to the different departments within government by italics only. It has become a form of shorthand that we are all used to. If I were to mention in this Chamber the IRA, the UDA, the UVF, the RUC and the NIO, most if not all Members of the Committee would know to whom I was referring. But in these amendments the group of people referred to is known as the CPLC. Few other than those of us from Northern Ireland who sit in this House would understand to whom that refers.

The simple answer is that these committees or groups are made up of "ordinary" people--I do not like to use that word but it is the only way I can find to describe them-- who live in local neighbourhoods, who have wanted to have an input in their own areas. Many have taken great personal risk to do so, during times when it has been very dangerous within both communities--yes, both communities--to show such an interest or involvement in such affairs. Despite the risk of being a member of such committees, the reality is that across Northern Ireland "ordinary" people have felt that it is a risk worth taking and that has been demonstrated through their active involvement over the past number of years.

The setting up of the CPLCs has been to the advantage of both the RUC and the local communities within the areas they operate from. Many have benefited from the formation of the CPLCs with issues such as crime and vandalism. Community safety and sometimes even the breakdown of community relations have been successfully addressed due to the enormous amount of good work carried out by the CPLCs. Unfortunately, most of this work has gone unnoticed.

The general public in Northern Ireland perceives the CPLCs as committees made up of people who want to make a contribution to the community within which they live. The RUC highly values this contribution along with the ongoing work and commitment of the CPLCs. Indeed, the police authority funds some of the work carried out by these groups. Under Schedule 3, with reference to the recruitment of the DPPs and also to the independents on the Police Board, I feel it would greatly enhance the operation of both if the experience that has been built up within the CPLCs was utilised and not lost. It would also be a very positive way of recognising the sterling work carried out over the years by the "ordinary" people of Northern Ireland, people who rarely are acknowledged let alone praised for being an essential component within the peace process.

The composite effect of the two amendments is to ensure that, as far as possible, a member of the current network of CPLCs attains an independent seat on each of the 29 DPPs that it is proposed will be established throughout Northern Ireland.

The basis of the argument in support of these amendments is that there exists already a network of police/community committees in Northern Ireland--CPLCs. The committees perform a similar role and comprise similar memberships to those proposed for

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the DPPs. As I have said, the CPLCs form a network of committees throughout Northern Ireland. They have been in operation for the past 10 years. During that time they have made an extremely valuable contribution to community and police relations.

Perhaps I may finish with a few statistics. There are 152 CPLCs based locally throughout Northern Ireland. The strength of these committees lies in the fact that they are made up of local people who represent local community and business interests, local statutory bodies such as the Housing Executive, the Department of the Environment, district councillors, local voluntary organisations, Churches, youth and ethnic minority interests, to name only a few. This type of structure is exactly that which has been proposed within the Bill by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for the DPPs. Indeed, one might question the need for another layer of committees.

I fully support the efforts being made by the Government to involve local, democratically elected representatives in the policing of Northern Ireland. I hope that the DPPs are successful in that respect. However, in my heart I know also that, given the new beginning we are to establish in Northern Ireland, this is an area in which the CPLCs have real and valuable experience. Given the opportunity, they could achieve a great deal. If the role and membership of the CPLCs and those proposed for the new DPPs are compared, the similarities are obvious. I ask the noble and learned Lord to consider the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Hylton: I rise to support the amendment. I believe that the most longstanding community police liaison committee is in the city of Derry. It dates back to the time of the commission. I had some contact with it a few years ago. So far as I know, it is still in existence and is still doing good work, despite the kind of problems outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. I hope that the Government will look favourably on these amendments.

Viscount Brookeborough: I rise to support this amendment. We need to retain a certain degree of continuity in this area. It is not enough merely to discuss new beginnings and, in so doing, discard all that has gone before. I have been informed that up to 30 per cent of the membership of community police liaison committees is Roman Catholic. For that reason, it is extremely important to ensure that we give credit to the hard work and degree of risk to which those members have been exposed in their effort to guide the police forces in those areas.

It would be quite wrong if members had to canvass wildly in order to secure positions on the new DPPs ahead of those who may have connections with terrorist organisations. I strongly support the suggestion that members of the CPLCs should be given an opportunity to serve on the new DPPs.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I, too, am very sympathetic towards the amendment. The community police liaison committees have done a great deal of good

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work. Furthermore, they represent a vast amount of painstaking effort on behalf both of the RUC and the memberships to build them up into effective bodies. Given the delicate situation, it would be a great shame to throw away that effort and experience. I hope that the membership will continue, to as great a degree as possible, into the DPPs.

On the question of abbreviations, I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blood, that I prefer CPLC to DPP. It seems to me that "DPP" could easily be confused with the abbreviation used when referring to the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is an undesirable set of initials in this context. However, I shall not oppose it.

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