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Lord Hylton: My Lords, it might be helpful to the House if the noble and learned Lord could tell us how often Section 59 reports have been called for by the board; and how often the Chief Constable has felt obliged to rely on the safeguards at present built into subsection (3)?
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I return to my usual premise. Both the implementation plan and the Patten recommendations rested on the idea that Sinn Fein would support the new police arrangements, would join the board and would work with everyone. Sinn Fein has given clear indications that it wishes to destroy the present police; it has told its own young people not to join. That is not what was planned. In view of that, it is vital that the wise provisions of the 2000 Act are retained and we ensure that it is not possible for anyone who wishes to be a wrecker to wreck.
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I want to enlarge on a very sensible query posed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in terms of how many times the necessity has arisen for the Chief Constable to invoke
If the safeguard is removed and if at the same time the number of people on the Policing Board who are able either to demand a report from the Chief Constable or to seek an inquiry is reduced, we shall have a greater need for the safeguard that is sought today. I simply make that point. We cannot judge on what is happening now, but we must judge on what is likely to happen when Sinn Fein is brought on to the board, as clearly the Government intend.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I support Amendment No. 10. At the previous stage of the Bill, we asked the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, where the proposal had come from and who had asked for it. He said only that it had appeared in the Patten review and in a few other documents. Clearly, if that had been the sole reason for the proposal, the Government would have followed the Patten review in the first place. They did not do so then and have now introduced it for a different reason.
Who asked for the measure? The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, hit the nail on the head in saying that it was the SDLP and Sinn Fein. It is no secret within the Policing Board at present that the SDLP wishes to have the ability to inquire into everything. The SDLP is very much part of the working board, but there are one or two small issues that it likes to address from the point of view of its electorate. The SDLP wants to be able say to its electorate that it is part of a body which can investigate anything, anywhere, at any time, regardless of the consequences. Therefore nobodyfor even good judicial and crime detection reasonscan intervene or put anything in the SDLP's way.
Those to whom I have spoken, either in regard to policing or legal issues, have said that this can be only to the detriment of crime detection and prevention because the Chief Constable can refuse on the basis that the matter is already in court. The police may have a case which they have spent months investigating. Noble Lords will understand that cases cannot be investigated and reach court in less than a month, so this length of time is short enough. The Chief Constable can refer the matter to the Secretary of State and once it is under the jurisdiction of the court, it cannot be intervened with. However, before reaching court the whole case can be destroyed.
On speaking to someone who wants the measure, I put forward the pointit does not matter whether we are referring to the Stormont spy case or anything else, but that is a particularly long-running casethat if
The clause is nothing but a safety net. It is perfectly straightforward. It is obviously being used to buy Sinn Fein and to allow it and the SDLP to go to their electorate and say that they are on the board. I believe that the SDLP is talking purely to its electorate. Sinn Fein is talking to its electorate. We know what may happen at the next election; people may move to the extremes. The SDLP is being reasonable within the board, but it has backed this proposal because it knows that the Government are ready to sell out. That is totally unreasonable and totally impractical. I believe that it simply would not occur in any other jurisdiction one could imagine as being sane, sensible and working for peace.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, is right. First, he said explicitly that this probably is the issue that concerns your Lordships more than any other in the Bill. Secondly, he said implicitly that we are unlikely to agree. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, helpfully developed the issueto give it a proper and appropriate hearingto encompass the whole of the Clause 19 issues. It is probably helpful for me to respond in the same manner because if there is to be a Division it might as well be at this stage rather than when we come to Clause 19. The structure of the Act means that it is impossible to discuss these amendments without the wider issues of Clause 19.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. The report refers to the Chief Constable explaining decisions. I accept that that relates to decisions which the Chief Constable has made; decisions that have been taken. But he may be asked for information during an investigation and for the reasons why decisions may be
I do not believe that we are going to reach an agreement of minds here, partly because of the difference of fundamental approach. It is wrong to say that this is a Bill to benefit Sinn Fein; that it is a Sinn Fein benefit. In fact, the SDLP made representations during the passage of the first Bill stressing its discontent.
I have spent a little time on the general theme of Clause 19. These are not amendments that the Government are prepared to accept. Nor will we acceptI must say plainly at this stageany attack on the Question that Clause 19 shall stand part of the Bill, if that were to be made. I hope that your Lordships do not think that discourteous, but I have to put the matter beyond doubt.
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