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Viscount Brookeborough: Before the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, rises to do so, may I assure him that we are in the process of selecting the members for DPPs. We shall begin next week, but they will not be announced until they have all accepted the posts and are all in place. However, every type of grouping, religion and gender that one can possibly imagine is being considered to ensure that those members are representative of the community. The noble Lord should have no worries on that score.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: I am delighted with the Minister's assurance that all these and other matters will be taken into account and that that is a matter of public record. I add only that good intentions are better than bad ones. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

8 Jan 2003 : Column GC37

Clause 13 [Disqualification]:

Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 33:


    Page 8, leave out lines 25 and 26 and insert—


"(a) from membership of a DPP for a period of three years; or
(b) permanently from membership of a DPP if his failure to make the necessary disclosure under paragraph 7 was intentional."

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 36. Clause 13 permits persons removed from office under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 to the 2000 Act—in other words, those who have made a false declaration about criminal convictions—to be eligible for reappointment next time round.

The effect of that will be that a person removed the day before a local election will be unaffected. He can immediately be reinstated in office after the election. Our amendments are intended to prohibit people for a period of five years—meaning that anyone who is suspended will have an actual period of suspension to serve. Further, they would permanently disqualify a person who intentionally made a false declaration. That is a serious intention to deceive and should not be treated lightly, as it appears to be in the Bill. The presumption should be that the failure is intentional unless the board has determined otherwise. We seek to remove any problem in determining an intention to deceive. I beg to move.

Baroness O'Cathain: On a point of clarification, earlier in our proceedings the noble and learned Lord said when discussing the issue of appointments with respect to the Surrey police that people could not be appointed within five years. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, is valid if someone who was disqualified one day when there were local elections the next was allowed to get back in. I support the amendment; I only wonder why the period is to be only three years if in the example of the Surrey police it would be five.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Perhaps I may immediately deal with those points. In the illustration of the Surrey police that I gave in answer to the continual tormenting of me by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, I simply pointed out that it is a disqualification from sitting on a police authority if one has a previous criminal conviction that has been punished by a sentence of three months or more.

The disqualification here may be for different reasons and Clause 13 introduces an equivalence between the members of the DPPs and the members of the board. A member of the board who is disqualified is disqualified until the next Assembly election. Having been removed, his disqualification runs until the next Assembly election. The point of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, remains: he could be disqualified close to an Assembly election and then be reinstated. We have tried to get some equivalence between

8 Jan 2003 : Column GC38

disqualification and re-membership of a DPP with disqualification and re-membership of the board. That is simply a question of consistency.

Viscount Brookeborough: They are not appointed under the same rules, because the independent members of the board do not necessarily fall at the next election. The independent members of a DPP do, because local elections come about at prearranged times or after a certain length of time. They are therefore not similar to independent members of the main Policing Board.

Lord Rogan: If consistency is what we seek, I should be happy for MLAs to be disqualified for three or five years as well.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I cannot accept that offer on their behalf. My point is that in respect of elected persons, if one is removed one is eligible to go back onto the board after the next election. It seems appropriate and, as I said, equivalent to have the same system for DPPs.

I turn to the second point—that there should be a presumption that there has been an intentional failure to make the necessary disclosure—raised by Amendment No. 36. The current code of practice on the appointment of independent members, which was published last August by the Secretary of State, already instructs the board carefully to consider whether failure to disclose an offence should rule out an applicant. I respectfully suggest that that deals with the mischief that the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, was addressing.

Lord Glentoran: Perhaps, for the sake of tidiness, I should speak to Amendment No. 35, which seeks to insert the words,


    "for a period of five years".

This matter is in the same vein as the one that we have just been debating. If a person happens to get thrown out of the DPP for a misdemeanour a week before the election, then the idea that he should be able to be readmitted the following week is nonsensical. If DPPs are to exist and to do their job, they will have to be groups of very serious and committed people. If one of those people, to use rather old-fashioned language, has let himself and the side down to the extent that he has been thrown off the DPP, it would be rather uncomfortable for the remaining members of the DPP to have to welcome him back a couple of weeks later. If we are to have a situation where members of the DPP can be asked to leave for disciplinary reasons, then they should be asked to leave for a reasonable term. Five years would seem to be a fairly good, round time.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I wonder whether—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: The Committee appears to be in some confusion. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, spoke to Amendment No. 35, as he is perfectly entitled to do, but I am not sure whether we have dealt entirely with Amendment

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No. 33 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. Perhaps I did not hear what he wished to do. Does he wish to withdraw the amendment?

Lord Rogan: I was not requested to do so, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Shutt of Greetland moved Amendment No. 34:


    Page 8, line 25, leave out "for" and insert "from seeking"

The noble Lord said: This matter is obviously in the same territory. In a way, this is a probing amendment but, in my view, it could stand well. At present, the clause states,


    "is disqualified for membership of a DPP".

That is strange wording. We suggest that it should read,


    "from seeking membership",

because there is a sense in which the clause as printed suggests that, once the next local election has taken place, the appointment is a shoo-in. I should have expected that, once the next local general election had taken place, that person would then become eligible and could therefore be considered either to be admitted or to be kept off. I believe that the matter would be clarified if the words "from seeking" replaced the word "for". I beg to move.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: The Oversight Commissioner, who has been looking at what has been done so far, says of the DPPs that the process of soliciting nominations for independent members and for selecting them is well under way. Can the noble and learned Lord tell me whether, if at all—I entirely take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland—there is any way of preventing nominations being made by members of the community whom the rest of the community would not wish to have a choice in the matter of membership of a DPP?

It has seemed to me all along that in the background—in some areas, at least—the power of the paramilitaries and of political parties is such that it would be very difficult for anyone to be genuinely independent. If people are to be nominated, that would seem to make it even more difficult for the sort of person whom we want to see in place to become an independent member of a DPP. Is there any way of watching that process to ensure that persons put forward are not nominated by groups of the community who will terrorise others. It seems to me that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, is relevant to that. He is saying that they must be solicited but by who?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In response to the earlier question as to whether it would be a shoo-in after the election, appointments are governed by Schedule 3(4) to (6) to the 2000 Act. Those and the associated code of practice require the council to run a competition and then to make nominations to the board. The board then decides on suitability taking all factors into account. I am not sure that that is necessarily a

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complete answer to the question raised by the noble Baroness. I shall reflect on that and, if there is anything more useful to be said, I shall write to her and place a copy of my letter in the Library.


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