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Lord Desai: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate which I sparked off. My purpose was to return to this issue, discussed in Committee, but with perhaps a more constructive approach. I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for the detailed answer that he gave.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, no; it was not moved. That is it. I am dealing with Amendment No. 67A, which concerns a different subject; namely, co-operation with the Garda. The previous amendment was a much more partisan matter and the Government's insistence on dropping the present badge will be regarded as a very highly partisan decision by a large number of people, including myself. But I do not want to become involved in a discussion on that because, at present, I am moving Amendment No. 67A about co-operation with the Garda, which is not a partisan matter.
We all wish that there should be the maximum co-operation. There is a great deal of co-operation now. In chapter 18 of his report, Patten recommended some specific measures for increasing co-operation. The only difference between us is the precise wording in the Bill.
The Bill suggests that the board and the Chief Constable shall implement arrangements in pursuance of agreements between the two governments--the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Republic. However, Patten suggested that there should be agreements between the police forces. He used the analogy of the agreements that the Kent Police Force has with some of the continental forces. There are a large number of agreements and co-operation in different fields between the different forces.
I am all in favour of police forces co-operating and, as a general rule, although it is not Holy Writ, as it were, the lower the level at which that co-operation takes place, the better. It was my observation, when I was responsible for those matters in Northern Ireland, that the co-operation at a low level between Garda individual police stations and the individual police stations of the RUC could be very good, and closer than the government in the South wanted it to be, as far as I could see at that particular time. Such co-operation is extremely good and it is that sort of co-operation which Patten is suggesting in terms of joint training and other such measures.
I want to see not only co-operation with great agreements between the two governments--because there is a place for that; but the co-operation needs to be much wider and deeper than that, as Patten suggested. I beg to move.
Lord Monson: My Lords, I support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, with his great experience in these matters, has said. Surely if this amendment is not agreed to, we shall effectively have political interference in the day-to-day or week-to-week operation of the police force. That is totally undesirable in any country. I shall be interested to hear what the Government have to say on the matter.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, if I understood the noble Lord, Lord Cope, correctly, he said that he thought that there was, on occasion, the need for co-operation between the two governments and yet his amendment seems to preclude such co-operation which is, at present, provided on the face of the Bill. I hope that I have not misinterpreted what he said, but that is certainly what I understood him to say.
Perhaps I may say why I am not happy about the amendment. Certainly, from my time in Northern Ireland, I recall that frequently there was good co-operation between the two governments on a whole range of matters. Indeed, there was also good co-operation between the RUC and the Garda Siochana. Such co-operation at both local and governmental levels seemed to me to be desirable in the interests of all the people in Northern Ireland.
There may be occasions when it will be appropriate for the two governments to reach an agreement, particularly if, as seems likely, there is a need for legislation in the other jurisdiction. It would be sensible if there was agreement between the two governments so that the legislation in the other jurisdiction fitted in with the arrangements. That could deal with a whole range of matters, such as inter-service secondment, which has been discussed, or possibly pension arrangements. Those items would not concern the operational independence of the Chief Constable. I should have thought that that was a sensible arrangement. It is not helpful to have an amendment which would preclude the possibility of such an arrangement between the two governments.
I accept that governments may need legislation to permit them to do certain things between themselves. But the police forces are already beginning to co-operate. There are already RUC officers at the Garda training school. The secondment about which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, spoke, does not need an Act of Parliament to take place. I do not believe that it needs such an Act of Parliament for that to take place between any states in Europe. We are talking about Europe as an open market, about co-operation on crime. Everything we do with the Garda should be taken within that context. I do not want to see such a provision on the face of the Bill. I support the amendment.
Amendment No. 67A was raised in Committee, when one of the central points of the debate seemed to be a concern, echoed by noble Lords tonight, that the clause would impact on the board's role and the Chief Constable's operational independence. We wrote to noble Lords reassuring them that the Government would not envisage agreeing to protocols without signing the board and the Chief Constable up to them first. So there is no question--I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Monson--of undermining the Chief Constable's operational independence in any way.
Another concern, and an effect of Amendment No. 67A, was that the Government need not be involved; that protocols would be sufficient. But the example given by Patten in paragraph 18.6 of co-operation between the Kent Constabulary and neighbours in France and Belgium is backed by legislation made by government.
Furthermore, the Government want to ensure that there is reciprocal agreement on this matter and that can best be achieved at this level. The Irish Government will proceed with arrangements for an intergovernmental agreement and for the appropriate protocols and will take all required measures, including legislative measures if necessary, to implement them. Of course, that is dependent on the final shape of the Bill before the House.
I hope that I have managed to assuage the fears of noble Lords. I pay tribute to the work already being done in certain areas of co-operation. The measures in this clause would enable that work to be strengthened and extended.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, first, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that my amendment would not preclude any agreements between governments. It is not intended to do that and I do not believe it would preclude them in legal terms. The British Government
My amendment would not preclude government-level agreements. However, it is intended to extend the provisions of the Bill so as to make clear that we want to see maximum co-operation between the police forces at every level and, for that matter, relevant services such as Customs and Excise.
My experience may be a little different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. When I was Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, the Taoiseach was Charles Haughey, who was perhaps not so sympathetic to agreements between the two governments. Although there were frequent meetings and we constantly pressed them for further and better agreements and co-operation with the police, it was sticky, slow work. I am sure that that is not the situation today and that it is much improved, but that experience may colour my view.
We are all agreed that, as Patten recommended, there should be co-operation at every level. Patten did not recommend that it should be confined to treaties and saw it occurring at all levels and in all ways. That is what we all want and therefore, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.