Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Sixteenth Report


Annex 2

POLICE (NORTHERN IRELAND) BILL

Additional Memorandum by the Northern Ireland Office

204.  This is in addition to the memorandum from the Northern Ireland Office on this Bill dated 5 December 2002.

205.  References to clause numbers are to the Bill as brought from the House of Lords on 30 January 2003 and ordered to be printed by the House of Commons on that date. References to amendments, new clauses and new Schedules are in accordance with the List of Commons Amendments for consideration by the House of Lords dated 27 March 2003.

CLAUSES IN THE BILL Clause 27: Complaints and misconduct

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Regulations by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Negative resolution procedure

206.  Under clauses 23 and 24 of the Bill the Chief Constable is given the power to designate police support staff and contracted-out staff as investigating officers (police support staff only), detention officers or escort officers. Limited police powers may be conferred on civilians who are designated in this way. Clause 27 provides that the Secretary of State may make regulations providing for the handling of (a) complaints and (b) instances of misconduct relating to the exercise of functions by a designated person. Clause 27(3) provides that regulations may in particular apply with modifications any provisions in Part 7 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 ("the 1998 Act") to such persons. Part 7 confers functions on the Police Ombudsman in relation to complaints and misconduct concerning police officers. Clause 27(4) requires the Secretary of State to consult various bodies before making regulations under this provision.

207.  We consider that it is appropriate to deal with the application to designated persons of the police complaints system as set out in Part 7 of the 1998 Act by means of Regulations. This is likely to involve detailed provisions which we consider can be more appropriately dealt with in subordinate legislation. The negative resolution procedure seems to offer the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny for such regulations, particularly since clause 27(3) of the Bill envisages that the Regulations will apply the existing police complaints procedure with modifications.

Clause 30: Code of Ethics

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Negative resolution procedure

208.  Clause 30 enables the Secretary of State by order to apply with modifications to designated civilians the code of ethics issued by the Northern Ireland Policing Board under section 52 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 ("the 2000 Act"). The code deals with matters of conduct and practice and in particular with human rights issues. Many, but not all, provisions in the code will be relevant to designated civilians, given that they will exercise limited police powers, and accordingly it is likely that the code will need to be modified in its application to such civilians. We consider that it is appropriate to deal with such matters of detail in subordinate legislation rather than on the face of the Bill. The negative resolution procedure seems appropriate for such an order, since the principle that the code may be applied to designated civilians has been established by the Bill.

Clause 34: Intimate Searches

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  None

209.  Clause 34(2) provides for clause 34(1) to be brought into force by order. In accordance with usual practice we have not provided for any parliamentary procedure for such a commencement order.

Clause 35: Intimate Samples

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  None

210.  Clause 35(6) provides for clause 35(1) to (5) to be brought into force by order. In accordance with usual practice we have not provided for any parliamentary procedure for such a commencement order.

COMMONS REPORT STAGE AMENDMENTS

Amendment 13: Declaration against terrorism

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Draft affirmative resolution procedure

211.  Amendment 13 provides for independent members of district policing partnerships to make a declaration against terrorism and for such a member to be capable of being removed from office if he breaches such a declaration. Subsection (6) provides for the preceding provisions of the clause to be commenced by order and for such an order to be subject to the draft affirmative procedure. Given the political sensitivity of this issue and, in particular, of the timing of the commencement of these provisions, we consider that it is appropriate that there should be a further debate in both Houses of Parliament before the provisions are brought into force.


Amendment 14: Disqualification of independent members

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Draft affirmative resolution procedure

212.  Amendment 14 relates to the disqualification from membership of independent members and subsection (2) provides for subsection (1) to come into force by order subject to the draft affirmative resolution procedure. For the same reasons as mentioned in paragraph 8 above we consider this to be the appropriate procedure.

Amendment 15 makes provisions for Amendment 52

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Draft affirmative resolution procedure

213.  Amendment 15 provides for Amendment 52 to have effect and subsection (2) provides for the provision to be brought into force by commencement order subject to the draft affirmative resolution procedure. Amendment 52 makes various provisions in relation to district policing partnerships and sub-groups in Belfast. For the same reasons as mentioned in paragraph 8 above we consider this to be the appropriate procedure.

Amendment 52, paragraph 2: Default of council

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Negative resolution procedure

214.  Paragraph 2 of Amendment 52 provides for the Secretary of State to make an order empowering the Policing Board of Northern Ireland to exercise the functions of Belfast District Council so far as is necessary or expedient to secure that a sub-group of the Belfast district policing partnership is established for each Belfast police district. This power only becomes exercisable if the council is in default of relevant obligations and if it has failed to comply with a direction of the Secretary of State to remedy such default. An order under this provision can provide for provisions in Schedule 3A to the 2000 Act (which is inserted in the 2000 Act by Amendment 52) to have effect, with or without modifications, in relation to the exercise by the Board of any function of the council. Schedule 3A makes detailed provision for the Belfast sub-groups. An order may also give the Board the power to remove any member of a sub-group.

215.  These provisions mirror those set out in section 15 of the 2000 Act in relation to district policing partnerships. If the council were in default in the circumstances provided for by this amendment, it might be necessary for specific provision to be made as to the particular functions of the council that should be exercisable by the Board and the provisions of Schedule 3A that need to be applied in order to enable the Board properly to exercise these powers. The power to remove a member may be required in order to comply with provisions in Schedule 3A as to the composition of sub-groups. Since the powers that might be conferred on the Board by such an order would be in essence those conferred by the Bill, with its proposed amendments, on the council, we consider that the negative resolution procedure will give a suitable level of parliamentary scrutiny to such an order.

Amendment 22: Appointment of constables with special policing skills

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  Negative resolution procedure

216.  Amendment 22 enables the Policing Board for Northern Ireland, at the request of the Chief Constable, to authorise in specified circumstances limited appointments to the rank of constable in the Police Service of Northern Ireland outside the 50:50 provisions that generally apply to such appointments. These provisions expire two years after the Bill obtains Royal Assent. Subsection (7) enables the Secretary of State by order to extend the provisions for one further period of two years. No further extensions are allowed and such an order can only be made with the authorisation of the Board, approved by all members of the Board present and voting on the matter. In these circumstances we consider that the proposed parliamentary procedure is appropriate.

Amendment 23: Members of PSNI engaged on other police service

217.  This provision amends an enabling power, relating to disciplinary and appeals procedures for members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, set out in section 25(3) and (4) of the 1998 Act. The amendment provides that, in the context of disciplinary and appeal procedures concerning a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and matters arising while he was on secondment to another force, investigations, hearings or other procedures carried out outside the United Kingdom may for the purposes of such regulations be treated as carried out in accordance with those regulations. Since this is a minor amendment to an existing vires it does not seem necessary to make any adjustment to the parliamentary procedure involved.

Amendment 24: Protected disclosures by police officers

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Power exercisable by:    Order by statutory rule

Parliamentary procedure:  None

218.  Subsection (4) provides for subsections (1) to (3) to be brought into force by order. In accordance with usual practice we have not provided for any parliamentary procedure for such a commencement order.

31 March 2003


 
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