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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I did not want to anticipate the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, when I spoke earlier about the other amendment. However, I should like to put on record our support for Amendment No. 186.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Before I deal with this group of amendments, perhaps I may clarify some of the remarks that I made in relation to the previous group. I believe that I did not deal adequately with Amendment No. 184, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cooke of Islandreagh. I hope that I made clear in my response that we are prepared to accept that amendment in principle. It would restrict the defence to the offence of wrongful disclosure. The noble Lord has in fact already withdrawn the amendment, but I should tell him that we shall return to the matter with an amendment after we have consulted counsel about the precise wording. I do not think that I made that clear at the time.

I turn to the amendments now before the Committee. Amendment No. 185 proposes that the ombudsman should be removed from the list of consultees. We are not prepared to accept that the ombudsman should be removed. Clearly she has a role to play in commenting on a code that deals with police conduct. Accordingly, we oppose Amendment No. 185. In Amendment No. 186, my noble and learned friend Lord Archer proposes that we consult the Equality Commission. We agree, and accept the amendment.

The area that has attracted the most prolonged debate is that covered by Amendment No. 190; namely, compliance with the code and with human rights obligations. We fully accept the importance of the code of ethics and compliance with the human rights obligations being meaningful. Indeed, our Amendment No. 188 requires the Secretary of State to reflect the code of ethics in discipline regulations, as far as is practicable. That indicates the importance that we attach to that consideration. It is also worth pointing out that the RUC is undertaking a very full programme of training on human rights, which involves consulting the Human Rights Commission

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and lay experts. It is also developing a wider human rights programme, which involves the auditing of procedures and practices. We should commend the work of the police in Northern Ireland in relation to that area.

Equally, the code of ethics is important. I entirely echo the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Eames. Indeed, I know that that is the view that the Chief Constable also takes. I can assure the noble Lord that that will be taken forward with integrity. In his response to Patten, the Chief Constable said that the RUC wanted to secure the widest support for the code.

Having said all that, it is not appropriate, simply as a matter of practicality, to require police officers directly to comply with, or strictly abide by, the code of ethics. If one looks at the draft code of ethics annexed to the Patten report, one can see that it contains such aims as enjoining officers to,

    "accept responsibility for self-development".

Therefore, in the event of non-compliance, it would be quite difficult to make that part of a code of ethics the subject of disciplinary procedure. We agree with the sentiments. We simply believe that, as a matter of practicality, it would not be right to make it a disciplinary matter.

I turn, finally, to the question posed by my noble friend Lord Fitt as regards whether the code will apply to serving officers. Yes, it will.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for having listened in relation to Amendment No. 186, and for the other comments that he made about the intention to inculcate the sense of human rights. As to Amendment No. 190, well, you cannot win them all!

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 185 not moved.]

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 186:

    Page 27, line 1, after ("Commission;") insert--

("( ) the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Smith of Clifton had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 187:

    Page 27, line 11, after ("read") insert (", undertaken to abide by").

The noble Lord said: Although the Minister did not address my amendment in his remarks, I shall, nevertheless, not move it.

[Amendment No. 187 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 188 and 189:

    Page 27, line 15, leave out ("take such steps as he considers necessary to") and insert (", so far as practicable,").

    Page 27, line 17, leave out ("(taken as a whole)") and insert ("relating to conduct or discipline").

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On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 190 not moved.]

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 51 [Guidance as to use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order]:

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 190A:

    Page 27, line 21, at end insert--

("( ) On issuing any guidance the Secretary of State shall inform the Ombudsman.").

The noble Lord said: Before I speak to this amendment, I should like to apologise to the Committee for the lateness of the tabling of this amendment. The amendment relates to government Amendment No. 191, which will shortly be moved by the Minister. Once again, it concerns the role of the ombudsman, but, this time, it relates to the role of the ombudsman in advising on guidance regarding the use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order.

We on this side feel strongly about the amendment and the designated role for the ombudsman. We feel that the ombudsman should not get into a position of having ownership of this type of guidance to the police service. He should not be put in a position where he can be accused, perhaps while deliberating or giving the results of his deliberations, of having been part of the creation of the guidance and the operational decision-making process which led to the guidance.

I have some experience with the ombudsman for Northern Ireland. I had cause to make a complaint concerning a planning matter. Because of the distance that the ombudsman clearly is from departments concerned, I felt comfortable in talking to her, knowing and believing that her department clearly had an independent and clear-sighted role. At the end of the day--I probably would not have told the story if this had not happened--she found in my favour that the then DoE planning had been guilty of maladministration. She had had no part in the creation of the legislation which led to those planning laws.

It is important, and will become more so as time goes on, for the office of the police ombudsman to be seen to be clearly independent of the management and control of the police. The Minister discarded my noble friend's amendment to Clause 50. We shall certainly return to that. Guidance as to use of equipment for maintaining and restoring public order is a serious policing matter, not a matter for the ombudsman.

The purpose of moving the amendment now is to enable me to ask the Minister whether he will take more time to consider the position. Perhaps he would be good enough not to move his amendment today but to give us more time to discuss or debate it before Report, and to bring it back, for reasons which I also understand. Members of the Committee may have noted that I had discussions with the Minister. I am grateful to him and his officials for that opportunity. However, I ask him to be good enough not to move his Amendment No. 191 before Report. I beg to move

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government feel that the ombudsman will have valuable experience

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to bring to the guidance from the role of the ombudsman in investigating complaints. However, we appreciate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. We will consider it further before Report, including in discussions with the ombudsman. Therefore, I shall not move Amendment No. 191. In the light of that undertaking, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, feels able to withdraw Amendment No. 190A.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble Baroness. I am delighted to beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 190A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 51 [Guidance as to use of equipment for maintaining or restoring public order]:

[Amendment No. 191 not moved.]

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Regulations as to emblems and flags]:

[Amendments Nos. 192 to 198 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 198A:

    Page 28, line 2, at end insert ("; and

( ) any other person or body appearing to him to have an interest in the matter.").

The noble and learned Lord said: To some extent, this relates to Amendment No. 198. In that amendment there was a requirement to seek to require the Secretary of State to consult the Equality Commission before issuing regulations on flags and emblems. At present he is required to consult the board, the chief constable and the police association. I know that in the past we have resisted widening the list, but the Government have given further thought to the position. We now believe that there will be value in stating, on the face of the Bill, the scope for the Secretary of State to consult more widely. We think, therefore, that the scope should be widened for the Secretary of State, should he judge it appropriate to consult further people. That is the effect of Amendment No. 198A. I beg to move.

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