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Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a topic of great seriousness. It may be the most important aspect of our discussions at this stage. The debate has addressed all the issues relating to Clause 19. I do not say that in a chiding way, because the debate has been helpful. I hope the Committee will find it helpfulif not ultimately persuasiveif I address all the issues contained in these amendments .
We need to see what the present state of the law is, what it would be if the amendment was passed, and what is the genesis of these changes. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, not being a lawyer, had the benefit of great economy because he simply asked the question why, which is always the cruellest question. I will try and deal with that. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, developed the constitutional approach. The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, then stressed the importance of reflecting on the possible dangers to individuals, whether in the Police Service of Northern Ireland or as he said at the end, law-abiding or non-law-abiding members of the community.
Viscount Brookeborough: I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. Section 59 says "agreed" between the Chief Constable and the board. As an individual I am quite happy that if the board and the Chief Constable agree, then the Act does not have to be used to produce the information that may have been asked for. This is quite clear because the board has had instances of the police service not refusing to give information, but being slightly slow about doing so. We have discussed, for the future, how we would force them to do so if they ever refused. The answer is that we would cite the Act and that is when it would be cited. If we ask how many car accidents there have been in the last week, we do not say, "Under Clause 59 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 you will do this or we will take you to court". We ask for the information and it is given.
We are talking about more sensitive information but let us say that the board is, in the Chief Constable's terms, not as reasonable as it is at the moment and asks him for information that he says it should not have. The board can go to the law and say, "You have to give it" and, under the terms of this, there must be agreement. However, there is no agreement and the statute is on the side of the board to interfere with an operational matter within the one-month period, regardless of whether it is deemed that that information would be detrimental in terms of solving a crime or carrying out the law. Therefore, this is important because the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 will only be brought in behind it if there is not an agreement. I accept completely and we really do agree with the Chief Constable over virtually everything, but this is brought out in case we do not. That is the point.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: What the noble Viscount has said reinforces the theme that I was about to develop. There is that flexibility in subsection (2)(b). He has already said, from his individual experience, that he was not speaking for the board, but there are accommodations between the Chief Constable and the board at the moment. That is the flexibility to which I am drawing attention. I will go on, if I may, immediately to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis. The current exclusions in Section 59(3) are, "national security", because it "relates to an individual" and is of a "sensitive personal nature",
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, that there is nothing there for the protection of the individual. However, he will find precisely that in our new formulation on page 11 of the new Bill. We have met his concerns, I hope. We all know that "national security" is a consideration. Another ground is,
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. Will he just develop my point a little further and indicate whether "may" would not in fact give the level of individual safety that "would be likely" does not give? "Would be likely" requires a level of proof, at present undefined, as distinct from an instinct, a professional training or a professional opinion, which should be what governs that issue.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I shall address that point and am grateful for the noble Lord's courtesy. This is a judgment to be made by the Chief Constable, which does not require admissible evidence. It is the sort of judgment that every experienced police officer has to make day in and day out. It may be on unattributable intelligence or second-hand hearsay. It may be that the individual is in a category of those who might be liable to be attacked. It does not have to be specific to an individual; it may be general information. The Chief Constable has to decide on a professional basis, "I think that the disclosure of this is likely to put an individual in danger". I agree with the noble Lord that those are slightly different thresholds but it seems to me that this is about right, particularly as the Chief Constable then goes to the Secretary of State who has the final view.
The question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is not dissimilar to the constitutionalist approach adopted by the noble and learned Lord. The answer to the question "Why?" is twofold: first, Patten; secondly, implementation. The answer to Patten is "Patten preceded the 2000 Act", which it did. However, my answer to that is that it was always the policy and, indeed, has been put into effect, that we would have a review and an updated Implementation Plan. That Implementation Plan, as I reminded noble
That is paragraph 6.22 of Patten. I readily concede that it is not what was in the 2000 Act. However, the Implementation Plan is August 2001. We find there in the second paragraph on page 10, Recommendations 25 and 26. I do not omit anything wilfully or wrongly; noble Lords have it before them. It states:
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