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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. In view of the great importance of cross-Border co-operation for security, trade, tourism and almost any subject you like, I fail to see the impropriety of what he describes.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I am sorry the noble Lord fails to see it. I do not understand the connection between trade and the other issues to which he refers and the name, the hat badge or the recruiting figures of the RUC, or the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
My view is that where we are today, post the Good Friday agreement, is not where we would like to be. I believe that we have had far too much appeasement and far too big a part has been played by the Irish Government. The noble Lords, Lord Cooke and Lord Rogan, mentioned that today.
Many issues have been raised which I hope will be the subject of amendments. Many noble Lords discussed quota versus target. When looking at the Bill and its proposals for the Northern Ireland police force, or the RUC, one must be realistic and look at the climate. Many noble Lords have said that they agree with much of the content of the Bill and the Patten report. However, in several places the report specified certain necessary timings; that certain situations had to prevail.
As was made clear by many noble Lords today, we do not have bombs and bullets in this country but we still have them in Northern Ireland. They are not apparently PIRA but the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA and others. We have terrorism, whether we like it or not, but worse--we are talking about a Northern Ireland police force having to police what is probably the most difficult part of the UK to police, and not only because of the religious divides. There are serious turf wars between groups of paramilitaries, or former paramilitaries, and there are serious drug smuggling and fraud problems. In fact, there is every kind of crime in a small community. It has been said several times today that there are still no-go areas for the police force. That is one aspect of the climate.
A second aspect of the climate is that members of the communities want to be policed, want peace and believe in the Good Friday agreement but now, sadly, are frightened to join the force. Many noble Lords have said that the problems of balancing the police force with different parts of the community is not an unwillingness to join but the fact that people are frightened to join. But they have to join in order that change can take place.
We all believe in community policing. We would like to feel that the local constable was our friend. But if members of the communities in West Belfast are not allowed--I might go so far as to say are forbidden--to join the police force by their church and by the leaders, possibly being threatened with death or expulsion, how do we break the circle? We are setting a quota or target for a new police force, which is the same one but under a different name, with a different shape and guise and probably lower morale. Who knows how it will work out? That is the environment in respect of which we are passing this Bill. Noble Lords must take that on board.
As regards policing, terrorists on both sides, and in particular the republican terrorists at the time of the Good Friday agreement, had only one objective; that was to get rid of the police force in order to give them more freedom to move. There is little doubt about that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, talked about policing in York. Clearly she has some expertise in that field. I hope that we shall hear more from her and have closer arguments in Committee when we try to improve the Bill.
As I believe was made clear by my noble friend Lady Seccombe, this party supports the Bill but does not support it in its present state. There are certain key areas on which we must concentrate. Most of them have been raised by noble Lords around the House. We have discussed timing and recruiting. With regard to the name of the police service, I should like the Minister to give us an undertaking as to where Clause 1 stands; that is, whether the Government intend to amend it further, as put forward and then withdrawn in the Commons. I hope that Clause 1 will be allowed to remain and that "operational" will not be more clearly defined than it is at the moment elsewhere in the Bill.
A number of points have been made with regard to the DPPs--the district policing partnerships. This party is absolutely determined that those who have a prison or police record should not be allowed to sit on the DPPs, whether they are from political parties or privately elected. The same applies to the policing board. We hope that the Government will not proceed with giving the DPPs more powers or the right to raise taxes in order to pay for external policing.
It has been a long debate. I fear that this has not been one of the greatest summing-up speeches in a debate in your Lordships' House. However, as I read my notes, I see that most of the points that I had intended to raise have been covered from all sides of the House. I merely suggest to the Minister that there
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that this has been a most impressive debate. It has been extremely informative and has, I believe, contained speeches of real power. It has indicated clear areas of concern in relation to the Bill to which no doubt we shall return in Committee. However, I believe that it is also fully recognised that the Bill contains many important building blocks for policing changes for which there appears to be widespread support on every side of the House.
Without doubt, one thing that came out loud and clear throughout the debate was the universal recognition of the sacrifice made by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and by the relatives and families of its members. I hope that I made it clear in my opening remarks that the Government explicitly associate themselves with that recognition.
It was hard not to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Eames, the Archbishop of Armagh, who spoke openly and honestly about his relationship with members and former members of the RUC and their families.
It would not be wise or sensible for me to go through every point that has been raised in detail, but I should like to pick up on some of the main points and concerns to set a framework for our debates on subsequent stages.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, the noble Lord, Lord Cooke, and the noble Lord, Lord Eames, all urged us not to introduce the Bill too quickly and to have regard to the security situation in Northern Ireland. I hope that this does not need saying, but I assure the House that the Government take very seriously our responsibility to protect the people of Northern Ireland. We shall not shirk that responsibility.
Moreover, I reassure the House that we agree with Patten's recognition that a number of his recommendations would require an enabling security environment before they could be implemented. That is why we have specifically recognised in the implementation plan that a number of recommendations, including many of the specific ones mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, cannot be taken forward yet. The Secretary of State gave many assurances in another place that the Government would take and accept the advice of the chief constable on the timing of the implementation of those recommendations. I repeat those assurances.
The Government entirely agree with that. We will not run risks with people's lives. We will ensure that the police service is as capable of dealing with the problem of terrorism as with all other types of crime.
The noble Lord, Lord Eames, raised a slightly different point about the policing board. He said that accountability was the key. Looking at the issue from the other end of the telescope, he asked whether the board had sufficient powers. The Government have sought to implement Patten, including creating a new policing board that, as Patten said, is
In another place, we accepted some changes to the powers that improved the Bill. Other powers, such as those on best value and inquiry, will be subject to further change in Committee in this House. We are determined to ensure that the board has the powers that it needs and that the operational independence of the chief constable is not unreasonably interfered with.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, expressed concern about the membership of the board and also of the district policing partnerships. We think that it is important to recognise that the Government have included safeguards in relation to that, where these are appropriate. But the Bill is about inclusivity. We have to move forward. We have to accept the democratic wishes of the people. That is why Patten recommended the involvement of elected representatives. In doing so, he was reflecting his terms of reference as set out in the Good Friday agreement, which was overwhelmingly supported by the people of Northern Ireland and which states that there should be,
On the appointment of the independents, I am aware particularly of concern in this area as regards district policing partnerships. In that respect, however, there are sensible and proportionate safeguards in the