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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps she can take into account in preparing the letter to my noble friend that this ombudsman--I am not certain whether we are being politically correct and should refer to ombudsperson--referred to in the legislation is not someone who is isolated like a High Court judge. She--she happens to be an ombudswoman--is already inserting herself into various groupings and committees and sitting in on discussions. The experience and wealth of knowledge that she will acquire in those fields could be of enormous help to the police authority and to the chief constable. We are not talking of classified and confidential information which she will acquire in the way that a normal

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ombudsman does; it is because she is--I think wisely--involving herself in all manner of discussion groups, in bodies and so forth, that I think she could be a great source of assistance to the bodies we have mentioned.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, is right in what he says. It is for that reason that we support Patten in its aim--followed through in the Bill--to ensure that there is constructive dialogue and that that is followed through between the ombudsman and the board.

The noble Lord tempts me into the field of discussing whether we should refer to ombudsperson, ombudsman or ombudswoman. I should tell the noble Lord that during the passage of the Greater London Act we had a constructive dialogue on that Bill which has been referred to tonight. It progressed steadily during the course of the evening until two things happened at the same time: first, someone raised the question of chair or chairwoman; secondly, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch--the noble friend of the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Glentoran--appeared in the Chamber and the debate that followed lasted three-quarters of an hour. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, does not want to tempt me into that situation.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, my own preference is to use chairman or chairwoman but not chair because that conjures up visions of woodworm.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, that was the kind of comment that sparked the lengthy debate. In asking the noble Lord not to press Amendment No. 71, the Government realised, in tabling an amendment in Committee to Clause 65 which adds subparagraph (d) to Section 64(2A) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, that it was a little less specific than it wanted to be.

Government Amendment No. 72 seeks to remedy that by making it clear, as the Government said in Committee, that this was intended to cover the ombudsman's relationship with the commissioners and the tribunal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. When we reach that amendment, I shall move it. Government Amendment No. 73 is purely a drafting change to alter a reference to the ombudsman in Schedule 1. I shall move that amendment too at the appropriate time.

Lord Rogan: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her comments. I may well come back to the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 65 [Limits on complaints and references to Ombudsman]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 72:

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    Clause 65, page 35, line 34, leave out ("a prescribed person or body") and insert ("--

(i) the tribunal constituted under section 65(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, or
(ii) a person appointed under Part IV of that Act").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 70 [The Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation]:

Lord Laird moved Amendment No. 72A:

    Clause 70, page 37, line 6, at end insert--

("( ) The foundation shall--
(a) make provision to support the development of the RUC Widow's Association and the RUC Benevolent Fund;
(b) make provisions for injured police officers, retired officers and their families.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I am conscious that events have moved on with regard to RUC widows. I have brought this issue to your Lordships' notice on many occasions. I had a sympathetic hearing from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, who has been helpful in dealing with the issue. As a result of representations made on behalf of the widows, Mr John Steele, a very distinguished retired Northern Ireland civil servant, was asked to look into what could be done for the two categories of RUC widows: those who were widowed prior to 1982 and those who were widowed after 1982. Mr Steele has produced a report which I shall be looking to the Government to implement in full. In fact, I shall be looking to the Government to enhance what is proposed.

While it seems on the surface that the payments to the widows are generous, I would have to put them into context. I have mentioned in the House on two separate occasions that one RUC widow has been widowed for 30 years. After 30 years' inflation, her pension is £134 a month. That is a shame and a scandal. It is an emotive issue. It has become a major theme of the Belfast Telegraph, a Belfast evening newspaper, and has now been picked up by one of the morning papers, the News Letter. Under Mr Steele's proposals, that widow would receive £1,000 per year for every year since her husband died. That is £30,000. That is £20 a week for the loss of her husband in most cruel and dreadful circumstances.

On a night like this we debate matters of extreme importance. Those of us who live in Northern Ireland sometimes become a little frustrated with noble Lords who do not have the considerable benefit of living in Northern Ireland and therefore have not seen the work of the RUC and have not had their relations and next door neighbours--in my case, my boss at work--shot dead. In some cases they were mistaken for RUC men and in other cases they were RUC men. My next-door neighbour was one of the finest men I have ever met. He was shot by the IRA. Despite what has been said in this Chamber by Liberal noble Lords--I know personally the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, and I know that he means well--I must stress that my next-door neighbour's only crime was that he was a member of the Roman Catholic faith.

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We owe an awful debt. I owe my life to the RUC, the police service which has looked after me. I feel morally bound to be on the side of the widow and on the side of the injured policemen, of whom there are many, far too many. There are men with no legs, men with only one arm, blind, deafened or mentally impaired. We owe them a debt which no one in this Chamber, in Northern Ireland or anywhere else could adequately express. It makes me emotional to consider just what we owe these people.

I am grateful for the help given to us by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, through the John Steele review. However, my amendment seeks to take that help one step further. Clause 70 covers the establishment of a foundation to be known as the,

    "Royal Ulster Constabulary [George Cross] Foundation for the purpose of marking the sacrifices and honouring the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary".

My amendment seeks to add a subsection which would require that foundation to make provision to support the development of a widows' association and a benevolent fund. It would also make provision for,

    "injured police officers, retired officers and their families".

My colleagues and I happen to be Cross Benchers, but we are also members of the Ulster Unionist Party. We are people who live in Northern Ireland. So far we have received only thin gruel as this Bill has passed through its stages. I should like this amendment to be considered seriously as a method of recognising the good people--the widows and the injured policemen--back home. We should demonstrate the kind of esteem in which this House holds that tragic but gallant section of the population, whose sacrifice cannot be measured. I strongly recommend this amendment to the House. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I should like to express my very strong support for this amendment. I have had a good deal to do with the association representing disabled police officers in Northern Ireland. Many officers are tetraplegics or paraplegics. All of them suffer from terrible stress, as do their families. The children have to live with a man who may have no arms or legs. They have to see him living still in danger and still under threat. This group deserves very special recognition.

That is particularly the case since Sir Kenneth Bloomfield looked into the issue of victims. Both his report and the government reached the conclusion that nothing could be done retrospectively over the issue of compensation. Many of those affected received compensation which had been fixed 30 years ago. They received less then than they would ever have received had they suffered from industrial injuries. They were badly advised. Most of them were poor and did not have access to good solicitors. Many ended up with disgracefully low settlements.

Nothing can be done because--I can understand it--no government would be prepared to consider retrospective compensation. However, in view of the splendid gesture towards the Japanese prisoners of war,

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we ought to think carefully about a special, one-time compensation for those people. I would strongly support a special provision in the Bill specifically for those victims.

A great deal of money has been spent on victims in Northern Ireland during the past three years--government money, EU money and private money--but, necessarily, an awful lot of it has gone not to the RUC and their dependants but to the people who put them in that situation--the children of prisoners. The children, of course, are blameless. Nevertheless, I know, for instance, that the DPOA wanted some computers which were being made available to victims for educational purposes. It was told that its members could not have them because they did not comply with one of the conditions--namely, that they had to have had an uninterrupted education. Most of them became officers at the age of 18 or 19; very often they were blown up when they were 22. They never had much chance to have an education. It is not that they had it interrupted--they just did not have it. But, nevertheless, they were excluded.

Something very special should be done for this not very large and dwindling--because they are dying--group of people. This would be something tangible that people could see and understand.

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