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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I support 50:50 entry to the police service, or at least some proportion close to it, which is necessary in view of northern Irish history and in particular of the disputes in the past over policing. It is also necessary to bridge the Protestant-Roman Catholic divide, which is still very real despite much valiant inter-Church and ecumenical work.

I am less happy about the way in which the principle has been put into practice. Section 46(1) of the 2000 Act was badly drafted. It states that half shall be persons who are deemed to be Roman Catholic and half shall be others. I cannot see why atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and members of other minority religions should be deemed to be Protestants. As many as 15 per cent of the whole population may be agnostic, non-believing or adherents to minority faiths. Surely such people can be trusted to act impartially as between Protestants and Catholics, since by definition they do not share their convictions.

I therefore suggest that there is much scope for new thinking on how the 50:50 principle should be applied. Will the Secretary of State vary the ratios in some helpful way? As I said at Second Reading, I am very concerned at the overall shortage of police officers, especially detectives and other ranks, and the shortage of officers to provide cover at night. The recruitment of civilians and the new police support staff may, and I hope will, do something to relieve the situation.

I was glad to hear of the campaigns that the recruitment consultants are now running. I should like to propose that police volunteers to serve in Northern Ireland, coming from Britain and the Commonwealth, should be treated as additional to 50:50 local recruitment. Their education, training and previous service make them fully aware of the need for total impartiality. They should be free from sectarian suspicion. The Chief Constable has told me that he advertises twice a year to attract British and Commonwealth applicants. Is that enough? I should like to see an appeal made to the heads of British and Commonwealth police services to second some of their best and most experienced officers.

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In my view, on those grounds, Amendment No. 29A is not geographically, sufficiently widely drawn. Surely the United States of America should also be included in both advertisements and appeals. That country has been generous to Northern Ireland by providing the services of the former Senator Mitchell and by arranging sundry presidential visits. I should have thought that the USA could afford to spare a few police officers.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I said this morning that I was asking a stand-alone question. The question that I ask now is a stand-alone question also. It is tangential to my noble friend's amendment. I shall understand if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal says that he would like to write to me.

About a year ago, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and I, under the auspices of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, had the opportunity of talking to the recruits at Garnerville in one of the earliest cohorts. One of the concerns that arose—I return to what my noble friend said about Sinn Fein pressure—was that recruits were being told specifically where they were going to go and where they were going to serve. They had some opportunity for consultation but, ultimately, it was going to be an order that they might have to go to an area which might not be ideal in terms of their own particular background.

We raised that same matter with the Policing Board in the afternoon and the Policing Board knew nothing of it and, initially, was disturbed. The nature of my question is whether, during the course of the past year, that problem has been solved.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I have some sympathy with Amendment No. 10 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and his noble friends. I see the danger as enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. What is being attempted in order to resolve a short-term problem will not, in effect, resolve the underlying problem that exists within Northern Ireland.

I may be guilty of going back too far in history, but perhaps I may remind your Lordships of the situation in the early 1970s when the Army was brought into Northern Ireland to resolve a problem. The Army was welcomed with open arms right across the community. It appeared to be that dodging the issue at home and bringing in the Army from Great Britain was to be the answer at that time. That did not last. One cannot, and should not, discount the nature of terrorism when endeavouring to resolve a problem in the short-term.

In effect, it was a very short period before the Army— who were initially being given cups of tea and had been welcomed at doors throughout both areas of Belfast and elsewhere—were being shot at and were being seen as legitimate targets because they underpinned, and were seen to underpin, the Britishness of Northern Ireland.

I have some sympathy with the amendment, but I fear that, ultimately, the same situation would arise. Those who are brought in, for the best of reasons, would be seen as sustaining something that terrorist elements oppose. Hence, they would become targets.

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I do not know the answer; I wish I could tell your Lordships what the alternative is. I do not know what it is. But I simply urge caution in terms of short-term measures that may not actually tackle the underlying problem that we must face.

3.45 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I, too, have sympathy with Amendment No. 10. For once, I am delighted to say that I am entirely in favour of what the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, and thank him for his support.

We need help in recruiting policemen. I feel that the Government do not do everything in their power to help to resolve the situation in the short-term, although there are long-term aims. When we talk of lateral entry from other forces, there is no question but that certain issues could be eased. It is also true that a policeman from the Wild West of America cannot go into West Belfast and be a policeman there. One accepts that.

However, there must be a point at which a certain amount of police training is common to virtually all police forces. There would also be a certain amount of training that was simply either inappropriate or had to be re-run in the context of Northern Ireland. Although the Government may say that they could do something, I should like to see some action. We need measures that will provide properly qualified policemen.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, mentioned the training college at Garnerville, where new recruits may have to attend for a time. Lateral entry is perhaps for the more mature person who is a policeman already, as opposed to a raw recruit. Therefore, he may be married; he may be a family man; he may be 35 years-old; he may be even older. Garnerville is an absolute disgrace. On one occasion a mother of three had to go into one of these almost cell-like rooms in Garnerville, where she had to clean the floor and was given virtually no implements. Your Lordships may say that I am on the Policing Board and am therefore responsible for that. I shall turn to that point in a moment. The woman had to try to lift the dust with sellotape. "Degrading" is not the word for it.

It is not the Policing Board's fault. We are doing what we can. The Oversight Commissioner pointed out in his last report that the Government have done nothing about Garnerville in three and a half years. Proposals were put forward when the Policing Board was first set-up. The Government have side-stepped them in every way possible. The Maze prison site may be used for new facilities, and there are arguments for and against. But that has happened throughout. Perhaps the Maze site is inappropriate for this college.

However, the Government side-stepped the issue at first and said that the task had been given to the Executive. They said that they could do nothing. But as they have a responsibility for security, what would they do if, having given it to the Executive, they had then to get it back? That would be rather unusual.

However, as the Assembly is not operating at the moment the Government own the premises again. If they had wanted to, they could have done something

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about it and brought a proposal before Parliament, if that were necessary. They did absolutely nothing. It is a disgrace, and the Oversight Commissioner is fully aware of it. So is everyone else. We have been badly let down.

The Minister will tell us that a committee is trying to resolve the issue. The Oversight Commissioner says that the college cannot be in place for another three and a half years. It was a major item in the Patten report and so far as the Oversight Commissioner was concerned. If Patten is always right, why have the Government not provided the facility?

Lord Monson: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Hylton about the possible merits of recruiting people from the British mainland. However, I would totally oppose recruiting anyone from the United States, given the widespread support for militant republicanism in that country until recently. Furthermore, there is an amazing ignorance of the Province among Americans, even the most highly educated.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, in so far as I can, I shall try to confine myself to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. It is not correct that nothing has been done by the Government about Garnerville. I accept that there are significant considerable deficiencies there. We have made 2 million available for new works and the refurbishment of existing facilities and we remain committed to the Patten recommendations for a new police college.

As I see it, there are two elements in the noble Lord's amendments. He says candidly that he recognises that the drafting may not be perfect. The first element is suspension of the 50:50 recruitment provisions. That is not going to help in the context of what he described as gaps in skill and experience because 50:50 refers to new entrants.

I remind your Lordships that the Chief Constable already has the power to appoint officers of any rank, from sergeant to chief superintendent, from Great Britain constabularies. He already has that power. He does not have the power in regard to constables and I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. However, I understand that the Policing Board has already queried with the Chief Constable the scope for reducing the full period of training for experienced constables who join on a 50:50 basis. If the Chief Constable and the board want to put forward a proposal, certainly the Government would give it careful consideration and we can make a change through the regulations, not through the Act.

We have met the 50:50 target for police trainees—I gave the figures before lunch—and we have met the 50:50 target for police support staff appointments since September last year. As I say, we are always willing to be as flexible as possible within the parameters of the policy principles we have adopted.

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As regards other secondments, it is possible under Section 98 of the Police Act 1996 to allow for secondment at all ranks from UK forces. I understand the concerns, but I do not believe that this is the mechanism to deal with them.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked about atheists and others. At paragraph 15.10, the Patten report specifically recommended that recruitment be 50 per cent Catholic and 50 per cent Protestant or undetermined.

I agree with what the noble Lords, Lord Maginnis and Lord Glentoran, said about intimidation and the Patten report makes some strong comments on that. The Unionists and the SDLP have delivered in that regard and I repeat, as I have on so many other occasions, that it is for Sinn Fein also to join with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and encourage Roman Catholics generally to join the police force and serve the public in that way.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, raised a particular question. I was aware at the time—it was about 12 months ago—of concerns but I have no information about current concerns. However, I shall research the matter and write to the noble Lord when I have material. I shall write to him even if there is no further material.

I shall not get involved in the question of whether someone from the Wild West ought to be stationed in west Belfast—nor shall I speculate on whether such law officers in the Wild West would wish to volunteer.

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