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Lord Monson: I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. To an even greater extent I find this a most extraordinary clause. It is true that in certain circumstances foreign nationals, in addition to Commonwealth and Irish citizens, can join our Armed Forces. I give just one example. We shall be eternally grateful to the Poles who joined the RAF before the Battle of Britain. But there is one very significant difference. Our Armed Forces do not have authority over British civilians and do not find themselves in confrontation with them, except in quite exceptional circumstances. On the other hand, the police do.
Can the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, say which other major countries, if any, allow foreigners to join their police forces? I cannot imagine the French or the Americansto take just two examplesallowing such a thing to happen.
Lord Renton: I earnestly hope that in the national interest the Government will drop Clause 60. I shall give my reasons for saying that. In my opinion, not only is it the worse clause in the Bill, but it would become a most unfortunate provision in our statutory police law, which goes back many years. Indeed, for the past 50 years I have been involved in it on and off in England and Wales.
To enable foreigners to be police officers of the United Kingdom would be fatal. It would be a big mistake. At present our police do not get the support that they need from masses of people, especially in many of the urban areas. If foreigners also became police officers, our police would get even less support from the public. Crime would therefore increase. In addition, even if foreigners whose English is fluent and who seem to be of good character are chosen to be police officers, many will not understand the local dialects and languages. They are unlikely to have sufficient knowledge of our criminal law, the customs, habits and traditions of our people. Unlike British subjects, they have no obligation of loyalty to the Crown.
Lord Hylton: The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, mentioned that police officers in this country should be fully proficient in the English language, and we all agree. However, in some circumstances, it would be helpful to have police officers who are proficient also in other languages spoken in this country by people who may not speak English themselves. On those grounds, there is a strong case for recruiting people who come from countries of the Commonwealth and the European Union.
However, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is right to query Clause 60. It would be helpful if the Minister, in his reply, could reassure us that, for example, all potential police officers who are not British citizens will be required to undertake the form of declaration given in Clause 61 and that that form of declaration will supersede and annul any commitments they may have given previously to foreign states. That is of primary importance. It would clear the air a great deal if Committee Members could be told that.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I agree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Renton. However, the Government's insistence that Clause 60 be included in the Bill conveys a rather sombre message: either that our own citizens lack a sense of duty or service, or that the terms offered to them for performing that service are so inadequate that they cannot afford to do it.
Lord Rooker: Taken in isolation, quotations from some of the contributions could be sadly misinterpreted outside the House. That is probably the result of our not having had a debate on the issue beforehand. We have simply come straight to the clause stand part.
Earlier, a Committee Member asked me a question through a note on the board. I responded without referring the matter to the Civil Service. Having read more on the detail of the matter and listened further to Members of the Committee, I now realise that I have probably given the noble Lord misleading information. That was my fault because I did not take advice.
If we want the police service to reflect society, we should enable it to improve its diversity and remove hurdles. That would require the removal of unnecessary barriers such as nationality. Clause 60 provides for the removal of the existing nationality bar on the employment of non-British nationals in the police services of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That includes the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, the British Transport Police, the Royal Parks Constabulary, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Constabulary and the Special Constabulary. In short, the effect is to render eligible the members of other European Economic Area states and foreign nationals, in addition to British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens, who are already eligible. Therein lies part of the error in my private note to the noble Lord.
That provision would not lead to a reduction in the quality of police recruits because all applicants, whether British or not, will have to meet the same criteria to the same standards before they can qualify for appointment. They will have to demonstrate that they have at least the key competencies required for policing, which is a number one priority. An applicant's place of birth or nationality would be irrelevant in determining whether he or she has the competencies that are required for policing. In particular, an applicant must be able to communicate in oral and written English. Foreign nationals will need to have the right to an unrestricted stay in the United Kingdom; in other words, their immigration status must be satisfactory. In addition, they will need to satisfy the rigorous vetting procedures. Selection will be based on skills and ability, and the same basic tenets should apply to everyone.
Posts that are particularly sensitive on grounds of national security may, if necessary, be reserved for UK nationals. The exercise of that power will take account of equal opportunity and human rights issues. I wish to make it clear that nobody in post would lose his or her job as a result of those changes. This measure is not the same as active recruitment from abroad. Rather its aim is to allow those who live in the United Kingdom free of restrictions to join the police service.
The United Kingdom and most countries permit dual nationality, but many do not. On account of the movement of families and other factors, some people who have lived in this country for years will not, or cannot, become British nationals because the price would be to give up their current nationality. Under the law of some countries, the inheritance or property rights of a citizen who wishes to change nationality might be affected. People cope with that, and it is not a problem for us. Those people live and work here, but they cannot become British citizens because of dual nationality restrictions. However, they can be as loyal, active, qualified and skilled as anybody else in this
As I say, this is not the same as active recruitment from abroad. Constables in England and Wales will take the oath of allegiance as amended by this Bill. Everybody will take the oath of allegiance as amended by the Bill, which is clearly set out in Clause 61. Extending the eligibility simply widens the pool of potential recruits giving the police service a more diverse and broader base. I have no idea as to what the potential is. We want to ensure that there are no irrelevant barriers to a person becoming a member of the police service. If anyone wants to argue that we should have irrelevant barriers to being a member of the police service, they are free to do so; but they will find that the argument falls on stony ground.
Lord Fowler: Can the Minister answer the important point as to whether there are reciprocal arrangements with other European Union countries? In other words, if a British citizen wanted to join the CRS in France or wanted to join the Dutch police, would he be able to do so?
Lord Rooker: I have no idea, but the answer is not relevant to this debate. This is not a quid pro quo. We are not arguing on the basis of, "You do it and we will do it". We are talking about the British Government, the British people and British policing on our land. We do not want any artificial barriers. What the French do is up to them. We are not looking for a quid pro quo. I can answer the noble Lord, but the answer is not relevant to this clause.
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