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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I should just like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, that there are quite a number of police officers from Northern Ireland serving in the Metropolitan Police. Indeed, one of them used to stand on duty by the door of your Lordships' House for many years. He came from County Down. On a lighter note, I should like to see the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, leading a mass baptism at Clonard monastery. I remind the noble Lord that you do not necessarily have to be a priest to conduct baptism: in emergencies it can be a layman.
I turn now to this group of amendments. I am doubtful about a series that tries to compress four clauses of the Bill into a very few words in Amendment No. 8. I am a little surprised that the amendment should have received support from the Official Opposition who, I notice, have not added their name to the sponsors.
I have mentioned my next point to various chief constables and Ministers. I refer to the possibility of recruiting in to the new police service of Northern Ireland Roman Catholics from outside that jurisdiction. I ask the Minister whether I am right in thinking that as many as 12 per cent of the adult population of Northern Ireland do not consider themselves to be either Protestant or Roman Catholic? The figure may be as high as 12 per cent if one takes into account people who have attended integrated schools, members of other faiths, agnostics--who have already been mentioned--and people who have been born outside Northern Ireland. If the figure is anything like as high as I have indicated, that opens the possibility of having 44:44 recruitment rather than 50:50. That might make things a lot easier.
Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, why does he imagine that young Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, any more than young Roman Catholics in the Province of Quebec, in France, Spain, Portugal, or Italy today, as opposed to 30 or 40 years ago, will do what their priests tell them to do? They do not do that any longer.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, the outcome that I am sure the whole House seeks is the creation of a police service that has the confidence of all the people in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, it is the delivery of the service and the people's confidence in it that matter.
I hope that the Minister can respond to my next point. There seems to be a distinction in the Bill between the clauses which deal with the formation of the police service and the schedules which deal with the formation of the board. As regards the exercise of the Secretary of State's powers in the schedule, the Bill refers to his duty to ensure that the body is representative. I wonder why the schedules deal with the matter in one way and the clauses in another. I am sure the whole House recognises that we have a difficulty; namely, how we change the culture that surrounds policing in Northern Ireland. Perhaps we might be helped if the Minister gave us some indication of the strategy that the Government are pursuing in the clauses. There may be some justification for imposing the measures in the clauses for a period of time if they result in a more balanced arrangement in terms of the formation of the service. I should be interested to know why the Government have chosen to move in one direction with regard to the formation of the board and in another with regard to the formation of the service.
Lord Eames: My Lords, I commence my remarks from a different starting point from that of many of the previous speakers in that I support the amendment. I do so not because of arithmetic or established quotas but simply because of the experience I have, and continue to have, in Northern Ireland.
The other day I spoke to a colleague in the Roman Catholic Church who occupies an extremely senior position. Not unnaturally, the conversation turned to the role of the Churches in the police debate. We discussed some of the details that are before your Lordships' House this afternoon. He said something which I believe that noble Lords should hear. He referred particularly to 50:50 representation in relation to recruitment and service. He said that no provision of the Bill is a greater judgment on the history of the Province of Northern Ireland than that it is necessary to talk in terms of the two communities. I entirely endorse the sentiments behind my colleague's words. It is a judgment on what some of us have allowed to fester, albeit we inherited that from previous generations. But the point is the following. A shudder goes through many of us when the word "discrimination" is mentioned, whether it be constructive discrimination or that corrosive discrimination which has, unfortunately, bedevilled the history of my homeland.
When I read the clauses in the Bill which concern the question of recruitment and 50:50 proportions I know exactly what Her Majesty's Government are attempting to do. I have no problem with that and entirely understand it. However, right across the House and, I dare to say, without a single exception, we all want the best possible police service for all the people of our divided community. Where we may differ is in emphasis or methodology. In this instance what we must look forward to is a situation where young, qualified Roman Catholics--despite some of the comments made on a previous occasion in this House, they exist in great numbers and deserve the same opportunities as their Protestant fellow citizens--can progress in any profession. They need to be viewed as wanting a police career not to make up some quota but because they want to serve the new community that is emerging. I hope that is the vision noble Lords have, not just for the police service but also for the people of Northern Ireland. I suggest that as the Bill is drafted at present with regard to recruitment and 50:50 ratios, the wrong message will be sent out to those who most need to hear the right message.
I have spent the past two days fulfilling my duties on the Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan border. As noble Lords know, a major atrocity could have occurred there recently but for the vigilance of the security forces in the area. During the past 48 hours I have talked to clergy and people in the area and have many reflections on those conversations, only one of which I shall relate. I refer to an isolated farmer on the border living miles away from his neighbours. Noble Lords may judge his religious designation from what I am about to say. That farmer said, "Is not this the argument? The fact is that this atrocity could have taken innumerable lives, but for its discovery. Is not
I earnestly believe that if we are stuck with a definitive quota such as this, it will send out the wrong message. I want to see a police service supported right across our community, effective because of its professionalism and its integrity. However, I believe that the way to achieve that will not be enhanced by this part of the Bill as it stands
Perhaps I may say a final word. From time to time, references have been made to Church leaders who encourage members of their flocks to join the police service. Noble Lords will forgive me if I say that I entertain a slight private smile when I hear statements of that kind. I have no illusions as to who would listen to me. I have no illusions as to what would be the private thoughts of Anglicans in Northern Ireland, were I to say, "Do this, do that and do the other". I have a feeling that ecumenism might well go out the window and their thoughts could turn to the Vatican. Indeed, I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, in front of the whole House that I am very encouraged to hear that, as a member of my flock, he is taking his ecumenism so far.
However, we are debating here an extremely serious issue, of which this is an extremely important part. I want to make a plea that we engender in this Bill the encouragement that Northern Ireland needs to recognise that people in a new police service will be respected because they want to serve the community. They want to be regarded as guardians of the law in a new era. I beg to suggest that the present wording would not enhance that view.
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