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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I rise to say a few words against the amendment. The RUC Reserve has played a most important role over many years. It was originally recruited for a three-year term, which I believe has been renewed 10 times in some cases, for the duration of the emergency as it were, to assist the regular RUC. It is true that reservists are not trained to the same high degree as the regular RUC. They are used a great deal for guard duties and important matters of that kind. One regularly finds RUCR officers on the gates in the sangars around police stations and around other vulnerable points, such as the courts of justice and so on. Those duties do not require a fully trained officer and a reserve officer can

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readily do the task. Many of them--the majority as far as I know--are full time, and have been for many years.

When I was in the Northern Ireland Office the question of their pension arose. There had not been proper pension provision initially because they were supposed to serve only for three years. But after their contracts had been renewed seven times, some of them had served for 21 years and it was necessary to think of that.

When peace fully arrives--we have not yet arrived at it by quite a long way--the RUCR can be phased out altogether. I hope we shall thank them in a generous way for what they have done. They have been just as exposed to the terrorists as have the regular RUC. Many have been murdered or injured, some while serving and some after retirement. I remember one particular incident when that happened. It is sensible to suggest that in future they should serve only on a part-time basis. On the contrary, it is important that many of them remain on a full-time basis, at least until peace fully comes.

I did not recall that the Patten commission suggested that they should only serve on a part-time basis. Perhaps I missed that. I have just looked back at the reference which the noble and learned Lord gave. I did not see it there.

I support the recommendation that new reserve police officers be recruited from the Catholic nationalist areas as much as possible. But we know the difficulties with that. We discussed the difficulties earlier; namely, intimidation and so on. That applies equally to the reserve officers as to the regular RUC officers. Therefore, this is not an acceptable provision.

In passing, I should like to pay tribute to the members of the RUCR and the contribution they have made to democracy and preserving democracy over the past 30 years.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I, too, pay tribute to the work that has been done and the danger that has been faced by the RUCR.

Amendment No. 148 requires that appointments to the police reserve should henceforth be on a part-time basis only. In effect, it would prohibit any further appointments to the full-time reserves. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that it was recommended in the Patten recommendations--recommendation 103--that the future police service should not include a full-time reserve. I can reassure my noble and learned friend that the Government's intention is that the full-time reserve will be phased out over a three-year period by means of non-renewal of contracts and through enhanced severance arrangements. Neither the Government nor the Chief Constable have any intention of recruiting to the full-time reserve. Draft outline regulations on recruitment, which have been placed in the Library and the Printed Paper Office, make that clear. This also fulfils a commitment given at Second Reading to produce these outline regulations.

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However, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, acknowledged, the policy of the Government with regard to security support in Northern Ireland is based on the security situation. The security and public order climate in Northern Ireland is unpredictable and we are simply not in a position absolutely to guarantee future stability. The Chief Constable must therefore be allowed operational discretion and flexibility in determining future policing needs. However, in saying that to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer, perhaps I may repeat and stress that the intention is that the full-time reserve will be phased out over a three-year period. I accordingly ask that his amendment be withdrawn.

11 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for drawing my attention to the specific recommendation, but I would point out that the Patten commission said that the RUC's own fundamental review in 1996 proposed that in the event of a sustained improvement in the security situation the full-time reserve should be disbanded. I said myself that when we have peace--that is another way of expressing it--the role of the full-time reserve will be over. It was recruited for the emergency situation, even if it has lasted for 30 years instead of three years. I do not disagree with that. But I do not think that we are there yet and I do not think that we should write into the Bill a provision of this character.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I readily acknowledge the debt we all owe to the full-time reserve. Nothing in my amendment was intended to cast any doubt on that. I am grateful to my noble friend, first, for pointing out recommendation 103. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I think that the reference I gave was erroneous. I am grateful to my noble friend too for pointing out what is intended when the time comes. I do not believe that it would be right to carry the matter any further today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clauses 38 to 43 agreed to.

Lord Carter: I think that now may be a convenient moment to break. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Speaker of the House of Commons

11.3 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I beg to acquaint the House that a Commission has been issued under Her Majesty's Great Seal to several Lords

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therein named authorising the said Lords to declare in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty Her Majesty's Approbation of the choice of the Commons of Mr Michael Martin to be their Speaker.

Then, the Lords Commissioners (the Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg), the Baroness Jay of Paddington, the Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, the Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank and the Lord Weatherill) being robed and seated in front of the Throne, the Lord Chancellor directed Black Rod as follows: Let the Commons know that the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in this House.

Then, the Commons being at the Bar, Mr Speaker-Elect (Mr Michael Martin), addressing the Royal Commissioners, said: My Lords, I have to acquaint your Lordships that, in obedience to the Royal Command, Her Majesty's faithful Commons have, in the exercise of their undoubted rights and privileges, proceeded to the election of a Speaker, and that their choice has fallen on myself.. I therefore present myself at your Lordships' Bar and submit myself with all humility for Her Majesty's gracious Approbation.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, it not being convenient to Her Majesty to be present in person at this time, a Commission has been issued under the Great Seal commanding us and several other Lords therein named to notify and declare Her Majesty's Approbation of the choice of her faithful Commons of Mr Michael Martin to be their Speaker, which Commission you will now hear read.

Then, the Commission having been read at the Table, the Lord Chancellor said: Mr Martin, we have it in command from Her Majesty to declare Her Majesty's entire confidence in your talents, diligence and sufficiency to fulfil the important duties of the high office of Speaker of the House of Commons to which you have been chosen by that House, and in obedience to the Commission which has been read and by virtue of the authority therein contained, we do declare Her Majesty's royal allowance and confirmation of you, sir, as Speaker of the House of Commons.

The Speaker: My Lords, I submit myself with all humility and gratitude to Her Majesty's gracious Commands. I pray that, if in the discharge of my duties and in the maintenance of the rights and privileges of the Commons I shall inadvertently fall into any error, it may be imputed to myself alone, and not to Her Majesty's most faithful Commons.

The Speaker and the Commons then retired.

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

11.31 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 44 [Recruitment arrangements]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 149:

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    Page 21, line 27, at end insert--

("( ) In making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall have regard, in particular, to the need to secure that information is not disclosed contrary to the public interest.").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 154 and 248. This amendment is designed to ensure that the various lay representatives who are to participate in the recruitment process--both the assessment and vetting of candidates--are bound by the regulations not to disclose information that could be potentially damaging for the public interest.

I am sure that the Committee will agree that, while increased transparency can only be a good thing, the integrity of the system and the interests of the candidates must be protected. It is entirely appropriate that such safeguards should be built into the regulations. Amendment No. 154 is complex and may be worth a brief explanation. Patten said (in paragraph 15.10):

    "In the event that the level of Catholic application does not initially produce enough qualified candidates ... it may be necessary to aggregate the figures over two or three years".

As it stands, the Bill allows for the 50:50 recruitment quota to be adjusted for the purposes of recruiting police trainees, not police support staff, in two sets of circumstances: first, where there is an insufficient number of candidates of either community background to fill the number of required posts, the Secretary of State may make an order to set aside 50:50 (this is known as a set aside order). Secondly, where at least one such set aside order has been made in the previous three years, the Secretary of State may make an order to aggregate the quota for the purposes of redressing, or partly redressing, any imbalance that has arisen as a result. This is known as an "aggregation order". It is the latter that will be affected by this amendment.

It has been suggested that, as the provision stands, the Secretary of State could, in theory, adjust the quota to permit 100 per cent recruitment from members of either community background group--Catholic or non-Catholic. In effect, this would exclude members of the other group from being recruited in that particular competition. Accordingly, this amendment sets a ceiling on the Secretary of State's power to aggregate the quota at 75 per cent. That ensures that any aggregation order must require a minimum of 25 per cent of either community background group to be appointed.

Members of the Ulster Unionist and Liberal Democrat parties have brought this issue to the Government's attention and we are grateful for that fact. We trust that this amendment will allay concerns that there could be extreme and undesirable consequences to the 50:50 recruitment policy. Amendment No. 154 will prevent that happening.

Amendment No. 248 will enable references to "the Board" in the provisions dealing with recruitment to be construed as references to "Police Authority", in advance of the board being established. In effect, this will enable subordinate legislation, in respect of which the Secretary of State is obliged to consult the board,

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to be progressed. Given the tight timescale involved--the aim is to have a recruitment agent in place by January 2001, with the next recruitment competition beginning in April--progress simply cannot be delayed pending the board's appointment. I ask the Committee to accept Amendment No. 149. I shall not deal with the other amendments in this group until Members of the Committee have spoken to their own amendments. I beg to move.

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