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Amendment No. 76 lays down reasonable conditions for disqualification from membership. They are very similar. If a person has been convicted in any one of a number of ways listed in the amendment, he has a criminal record, and clearly has no right to sit on a board in charge of a police force.
It is late in the evening and I shall not repeat the arguments that we have made before. The bottom line is that we do not want any slip of the pen in the wording of the Bill to leave a gap that could ever enable convicted terrorists to be in charge of our police force. I beg to move.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I support the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has spoken to them with great restraint. Had he known when he drafted them that a so-called loyalist multiple murderer would be wined and dined in this building today, he might have used rather stronger language. I admire his moderation. That incident makes one wonder whether there is any limit to what can happen in the United Kingdom Parliament. I have been here for 30 years and I am beginning to wonder.
Lord Monson: My Lords, I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and I hope that he will not take no for an answer on the amendments. I have to point out that there appears to be a drafting defect in Amendment No. 74. It should include the word "committed". However, that is no reason for him not to press the amendment, because drafting defects can always be cleared up at Third Reading.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I support the amendments. What the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland are being asked to put up with is unbelievable. The police are prepared in the course of their day-to-day duty to get injured in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Laird, described or to lay down their lives for the safety of the people of Northern Ireland or of any one of us who travels there. We are asking them to accept that their rules and regulations can be laid down not just by people who have committed a normal crime, but by those who have been convicted of the most heinous crimes. That beggars belief. I cannot imagine what we are up to. It is staggering.
I cannot imagine which way we are going. The Government have taken away the police's badge, their uniform, everything, and now they are prepared to put hardened criminals into decision-making positions. They insult the Roman Catholic population. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is not here, because he could say this 10,000 times better than I can. He is proud of being a Roman Catholic and I am very proud to have known and served with some excellent Roman Catholic police officers who have done their best and sacrificed their family life and their whole social being. It might be argued that it is fair enough that we have let these criminals out, but we cannot put them on the Policing Board. I wholly support the amendments and I am horrified by the way in which it looks as if we are going.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there have been consistent attempts to add provisions that would restrict membership of the board in a way that neither Patten nor the Good Friday agreement envisaged. The issue is one of inclusivity. The Government believe that those appointed to the Assembly should automatically be eligible for the board. Noble Lords disagree with that. We believe that the Good Friday agreement should be implemented in all its aspects, including policing reform and decommissioning. With regard to the latter, we believe that the IRA needs to re-engage with the commission to show that further progress will be made. However, this Bill stands on its own merits.
I believe that the removal provisions in the Bill provide a strong safeguard. Unlike the police authority of Northern Ireland at present but as under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, members of the board must be committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
The Government have listened to the points raised by noble Lords. We hear their concerns. However, having listened, we believe that the Bill meets the test of inclusivity in the Good Friday agreement while containing appropriate safeguards. In those circumstances, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down--I do not know whether I have to employ that strategy more than I am allowed at this point in order to make a speech--does he consider that the concept of inclusivity properly extends to including the confidence of those who serve in the police service of Northern Ireland? If he does, can he
It sounds clinical and almost consoling to speak of the offence as "scheduled". I know that it is rather bad form to recite incidents that have occurred. However, I believe that in order to inject a sense of realism it is necessary to recite one or two such incidents from people's experience. I recognise that my own experience is minuscule compared with that of many people who have lived in Northern Ireland. Perhaps I may take one example from either side of the community.
I was present at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland a few hours after a terrible massacre had taken place of people who were watching a football match. It was perpetrated by so-called loyalists. They sprayed the bar and killed seven people, including Mr Barney Green, aged 82. The floor was covered with what appeared to be treacle, but of course it was not; it was the blood of Mr Barney Green and various other people.
I take an episode from the other side. An RUC officer, PC Paul Slane, had both legs removed and an arm seriously injured by an IRA rocket installed in the roadside. The female police officer next to him was killed. That man survived and continues to serve in the RUC.
How can members of the RUC be expected to have confidence in arrangements which include on the board people who have perpetrated, no matter how long ago, that type of outrage? That is what I ask the Government to consider. It really is necessary to move away from the nice, clinical language of scheduled offences into the reality of life and death.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place made clear that those who are considered for appointment as independent members of the board will, as applies to the police authority at present, be subject to character checks. Such checks will include an obligation to disclose criminal records. On a large number of occasions we have also discussed removal criteria for both political and independent members who commit criminal offences after their appointment.
However, the Government take the view that those who have been elected to the Assembly have a right to serve on the board. That is consistent with the way in which they may hold ministerial office. As I have already made clear, if they or independent members do not remain committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, they may be removed. I believe that, as noble Lords know in relation to the Assembly, that is at the heart of the Good Friday agreement.
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