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Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 3:


The noble Lord said: This amendment concerns the same topic as that of the previous two amendments but, in fact, it seeks to do the opposite of what the noble Lord, Lord Smith, attempted to achieve in Amendment No. 2. The argument about the difficulties in obtaining agreement was made extremely well by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew. I believe that the wording of that amendment was not helpful and my opening remarks follow on from that.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal said that the board is working well. I agree that it is working well but it is not complete—Members of the Committee will be aware that the problem children are not part of it. Therefore, we should not make a judgment as to whether it is or is not working well.

Another point that is sometimes forgotten is that we have 13,000 soldiers or thereabouts in Northern Ireland, who, led by their general, are in support of the civil power. As I understand it, beside the Secretary of State, who is the commander-in-chief, so to speak, come the Chief Constable and the Policing Board. Then come the general and the soldiers. The Policing Board and the Chief Constable are, on paper at least, in control of a serious and significant security force. When we start to mess about with the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 and spread powers down from the commander-in-chief—that is, the Secretary of State—into a Policing Board which is incomplete and then to a Chief Constable, I believe that at this stage we are on dangerous ground. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, rightly says that this amendment returns us to the earlier argument. The consequence of his amendment would be that the 2000 Act would remain unamended. Therefore, he is seeking the same

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objective by a different course. For the reasons that I have already outlined, that is not what we have undertaken to do and, therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble and learned Lord for that and we shall await Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 4:


    Page 1, line 14, at end insert—


"(2B) Nothing in subsection (2) above shall prevent the Secretary of State from determining or revising objectives under this section.""

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8. These two amendments seek to make perfectly clear that the executive power of the Secretary of State is to remain unfettered. The Policing Board should not be given additional powers because a government of any hue have abdicated their responsibility.

The purpose of long-term objectives is more political than operational, and submissions from the Chief Constable and the board should be of an operational and/or a feasibility nature. Enhancing the role of the board to that of a near partner involves it in the more political aspect of policing. These areas have not been devolved and this matter should not be effected by the back door. It is not consistent with Patten. Paragraph 6.3 of the Patten report states,


    "the statutory primary function of the Policing Board should be to hold the Chief Constable and the police service publicly to account".

Paragraph 6.4 and the recommendation in paragraph 6.5 note the role of the board concerning objectives and priorities but not in setting long-term objectives. Indeed, it was in the 2000 Commons Committee Debate, where a member of the SDLP stated and first introduced the term "long term" into this section, in order to be consistent with Patten. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: These amendments are not necessary. They add nothing. Should he fail to reach agreement, the Secretary of State has the powers intact. On the basis of that assurance I hope noble Lords will withdraw the amendment. Incidentally, I remind myself that in Patten—the report, not the implementation document—paragraph 6.5 recommends that the Policing Board should set objectives and priorities for policing.

Lord Rogan: With those assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 8 not moved.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Board's policing objectives]:

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 9:


    Page 2, line 9, leave out subsection (2).

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The noble lord said: Here, there appears to be an absolute and total anomaly in so far as the board has a responsibility to determine and from time to time may revise objectives for policing in Northern Ireland. But those objectives in the Act were intended to be framed in such a way as to be consistent with the objectives brought forward by the Secretary of State. Now, with the removal of the part which states,


    "but in any event shall be so framed as to be consistent with the objectives",

there is almost legal permission for the board's objectives to be at variance with those of the Secretary of State. Yet we have just debated the extent to which the Secretary of State, in determining his objectives, has to seek agreement or attempt to achieve agreement, with the board.

So what is this provision intended to achieve? Once again, it appears to be simply a removing of qualifications in such a way as will ultimately please those who have no real interest in the welfare of society or the policing of Northern Ireland. I would have thought that consistency would have been commendable rather than that that should be removed. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: It is probably appropriate that I speak now to my opposition to Clause 2 stand part because effectively that would achieve the same thing as the amendment currently under discussion.

Under Section 25 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 the Policing Board is required to frame its policing objectives to be consistent with the long-term objectives of the Secretary of State. Under Clause 2, the board will merely have to take account of the Secretary of State's long-term objectives. This represents another example of the Secretary of State's authority being eroded at the expense of the board. I cannot help but think that this is a political concession. It is a concession that at any time we could regret, again harping back to my original statements about timing and the general situation in Northern Ireland today. Now is not the time to start messing about with the powers of the Secretary of State in regard to the security of the Province and the people who live in it.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Perhaps I may revert to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis. I too find it difficult to understand why something that was considered appropriate two years ago, after a good deal of thought, is now apparently in need of amendment. The noble and learned Lord reassured us on the previous amendment about the Secretary of State's residual power to make long-term policing objectives. What is the point of the Secretary of State being able to do that if the board can make objectives stick that are inconsistent with them? It is extraordinarily difficult to understand. I am prepared to believe that there is some background material that I have failed to observe, but I would not be alone in benefiting from an explanation.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I shall respond to all three of your Lordships who have contributed. I do not disagree with the result which has been outlined by those who have spoken.

The amendment would require the Policing Board to take account of the Secretary of State's long-term policing objectives set under Section 24. This is a change from the existing provision, which requires the board's objectives to be consistent with the Secretary of State's. I accept the comment made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, that this is a tilting of the balance. It would be wrong of me to suggest otherwise. It is a tilting of the balance in favour of the board, within the tripartite-type relationship. Again I go back to the noble and learned Lord's question. Why, after such a brief period since the passage of the 2000 Act, are we returning to this? The answer is that the board is in position. It is quite right, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, that not everyone is aboard—no pun intended. It is working well. It will give additional authority to the board.

That is essentially a judgment. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, thinks that the judgment has been made too early. I have to disagree. We are not in disagreement about what will be brought about. The question is whether it should be brought about at all, and if so, whether it should be brought about now. Essentially, that is the judgment we have had to make.

Lord Glentoran: Perhaps I may add one thing. Looking forward, we are not just balancing the Secretary of State with the board. As I understand it, in the case of full devolution, the Secretary of State will be replaced by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. Perhaps the Committee should bear that in mind when making judgments about this topic.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: I have listened with care to the noble and learned Lord's characteristically lucid explanation, but I have found myself unable as yet to see an answer to my question. What is the point of the Secretary of State having this residual power, unaffected by anything that we have been discussing so far, to determine a long-term policing objective, when we are amending the law as it is at present—and has been only for the last two years—to allow the board itself to adopt a policing objective that is inconsistent with that? I know that it no longer has to be consistent but it follows from that that it may be inconsistent. That is fraught with future difficulties. Which is to prevail? What is to be the Secretary of State's attitude to the fulfilment of an objective arrived at by the board that is inconsistent with a long-term objective that he himself has made—having sought agreement but failed to get it?

When we pointed out the difficulties of interpreting what is meant by "with a view" to securing agreement, the noble and learned Lord said that, at the end of the day, the Secretary of State will be able to go ahead notwithstanding the fact that he did not get agreement. In practice, how will that work? How is the Secretary of State expected to respond in his executive capacity to steps being taken by the board to secure the

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fulfilment of an objective that is inconsistent with his long-term policing objective? Does not the noble and learned Lord see potential for real future difficulty here? I can see why it may be thought necessary to make a balance, shift, nuance, or whatever—the board may feel happier and there may be long-term political objectives to secure that—but the board should not be indulged at the expense of the future difficulty that I have tried to outline.


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