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Lord Rogan moved Amendment No. 49A:

(1) In section 46 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (c. 32) (discrimination in appointments), for subsection (3) substitute—
"(3) The Secretary of State shall make an order under subsection (2) in relation to the making of appointments under section 39 if he is satisfied that—
(a) were those appointments to be made in compliance with subsection (1) (as originally enacted) the number of police trainees which the Chief Constable requires to be appointed on that occasion could not be appointed; or
(b) the number of serving officers is below that intended at the time of consideration."
(2) In section 46 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, for subsection (7) substitute—
"(7) The Secretary of State shall make an order under subsection (6) in relation to the making of appointments under section 4 if he is satisfied that—
(a) were those appointments to be made in compliance with subsection (5) (as originally enacted) the number of police support staff which the Chief Constable requires to be appointed on that occasion could not be appointed; or
(b) the number of police support staff employed is below that intended at the time of consideration.""

The noble Lord said: We are all familiar with the issue of 50:50 recruitment. I am sorry if yet again I labour the point, but it will not simply go away. In fact, it will get worse over time.

I was reassured by the figures given to us by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal, but I am more pessimistic than he is. Obviously, if I am right in suggesting that the potential recruits from the Roman Catholic community are slowing down—and at an alarming rate—that will have a dramatic effect on the overall recruitment figures to the police service of Northern Ireland.

The principle of equality of opportunity is central to the Belfast agreement, yet it is constantly being denied to recruits to the police service. This was one of the most contentious issues in the passage through the Lords of the 2000 Act. The result of the vote on the amendment on 15th November 2000 was 175 in favour of scrapping 50:50 and 185 against.

It has previously been alluded to by several speakers that the people of Northern Ireland are not simply Catholic or Protestant or Catholic and non-Catholic. Although young Protestants will be, and are being, discriminated against if they apply to serve in the police force, the same will happen to young Muslims, Jews, Turks, Hindus and, indeed, even young Welsh Methodists who do not attend Catholic schools.

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It is apparent that discrimination and recruitment is immoral. It is unfortunate that a measure which has been illegal elsewhere in Europe since 1st January 2003 is still legal in Northern Ireland because, I suggest, of the disgracefully expressed exception from the equal treatment directive that the Government appear to have negotiated for Northern Ireland policing recruitment. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: I support the amendment to some extent on the basis that I referred to earlier. There is a crisis in police recruitment. Young policemen are locked into barracks doing clerical jobs that could be done by civilians and there is a serious shortage of policemen to go on the beat.

By no means do I wish to do away with the 50:50 arrangement, but I believe that the amendment is well drafted. It can cover an emergency in recruitment of either uniformed trainees or civilian support staff. It does not seem to go against anything that is currently in the Bill but appears to be helpful, should the crisis in recruitment not improve or become worse. I support the amendment.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Perhaps I may infringe the general rule that it is a great mistake for people who have held responsibility to take trips down memory lane at the expense of their colleagues' time. I want to say something which is relevant to this matter and to what was said recently about what happens when police are overstretched.

The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, referred to Drumcree. What is called "second Drumcree" was not the most glorious episode of my five years in Northern Ireland. The reason was simply that, as has been pointed out, the police force was in danger of being overwhelmed by civil disorder at the hands of Protestants, not Catholics, and of loyalists, not republicans. They were attacked throughout the Province and in the middle of the week the time came when, as was made clear to the Chief Constable and subsequently by him, it was impossible for the RUC to hold its extended line. The consequences of that obliged me to come to the House of Commons and say that we had sustained a defeat for the rule of law. That is what happened.

To pick up the reference to Drumcree, which had not occurred to me before I entered the Committee this afternoon, I mention that simply in order to point out—if it needs to be pointed out—the abominable consequences that ensue to the rule of law if those whom we seek to employ in the police service are insufficient in numbers for the extremely dangerous and arduous duties that we impose upon them.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Again, I am not out of sympathy with the purposes that are desired by the amendments in this group. However, I remind the Committee that the 2000 Act and Section 46(3) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 gives the Secretary of State the discretion to make an order adjusting the 50:50 quota if the required number of police trainees could not otherwise be appointed. The important point is that before making any such order he is

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required to consult both the board and the Chief Constable. Section 46(7) gives the same discretionary power in respect of support staff appointments.

The power under the Act to set aside the quota has never been used. The response to all four police recruitment drives has been very good. It has produced enough qualified candidates from each community background to fill the police training college to capacity from the first year of the policy's operation. Grafton Recruitment, which deals with civilians—in other words, police support staff—has only recently been appointed since—I hope I recollect correctly—the Chief Constable's comment made earlier. It has produced sufficient Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic applicants to fully meet requirements.

I do not pretend—it would be foolish to do so—that police numbers have not reduced. There are shortages, to which noble Lords have referred, in some areas of skill and experience. Those are not difficulties which would be alleviated if the amendment were passed, because this deals with new recruits. The PSNI and the board have a strategy to consider current manpower difficulties. They are carefully considering civilianisation of parts of the police service.

In our discussion on Clause 18 I referred to the possibility of seconding experienced officers. I give the undertaking that if the Policing Board, in the context of the current skills shortage, want to agree on some limited change to the 50:50 provisions in respect of experienced officers at constable level, which is what we are discussing, the Government are prepared to give that serious consideration. It seems to me that that is the way forward. I hope that Members of the Committee will think that a decent response to the point of the amendment.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I am grateful to the Minister. I believe that the community from which I come would appreciate learning what the noble and learned Lord suggests may be possible. However, perhaps I may take up one or two points in his reply. I suggest that things are not always as they seem. The noble and learned Lord said that up until now training facilities for the PSNI have been fully subscribed by the number of recruits. That may be the case but will he admit that both the HMI (Her Majesty's Inspectorate) and Tom Constantine, the overseer of Patten, have criticised the fact that the Government have been tardy in providing the appropriate training accommodation required? What is available is currently considered to be totally and utterly inadequate. I raise that point simply for clarification and not to diminish in any way what has been said by the noble and learned Lord. I suggest that things are not always what they seem.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am bound to accept that as a proposition. However, given the undoubted difficulties, not least those referred to by my noble friend Lord Fitt, progress is being made. It is extraordinary that one has people of the fortitude and courage, as my noble friend Lord Fitt describes, to go into public service of a very difficult kind. I want personally to endorse, with great respect, what the

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noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said. We are asking quite young people to take on extraordinary responsibilities, as we did with quite young private soldiers serving in the Army.

Lord Rogan: I very much welcome the encouraging words of the Lord Privy Seal. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 [Disclosure of information and holding of inquiries]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): Before calling Amendment No. 50, I should point out that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 51 to 56.

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