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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: What I am describing to the noble Baroness is what someone has to do to become a councillor. Those provisions are laid down in the Local Government (Northern Ireland) Act 1972. If, within the period of five years preceding the day on which the councillor is elected he has had a sentence passed on him of more than three months' imprisonment, he is disqualified from becoming a councillor. Five years is the relevant period.
Amendment No. 63 widens the defaults by a district council that the Secretary of State can remedy. Part III of the Bill is concerned with all matters related to DPPs. I wish we did not have this confusion with the Director of Public Prosecutions, who I hope feels suitably honoured. Clause 14(1) applied only to a council failing to establish a DPP. The amendment would include matters such as the council failing to arrange for a DPP report to be published and the council failing to send a copy of a DPP report to the board.
Amendment No. 67 defines the function of the DPP, removing the ambiguity which appears in paragraph (e) of Clause 16(1). We do not wish a new function to be the nationalist/republican demand of a budget and private security firms for some policing functions.
So far as Amendment No. 70 is concerned, it is clear that the purpose of DPPs is primarily to be consultative rather than to have executive responsibilities and the amendment is designed to ensure that the operational independence of the district police commanders is preserved. It is well worth making this explicit in the Bill and underlining the point that politicians and others on the DPP cannot interfere with the operational independence of the commander of the district. We want to take politics out of policing, particularly local policing.
Sometimes, district commanders have to make difficult decisions about all sorts of things and how they are going to deal with them--not least parades. It is important that DPPs stick to their consultative role and do not try to take over from the district commanders. They can, of course, as liaison committees have in the past, play an extremely valuable role in such problem areas. I think that the Secretary of State has repeatedly said that this is intended to be the case, so I hope the Government can accept that amendment, or something like it.
Regarding Amendment No. 71, your Lordships will recall that one of the controversial aspects of the Patten report was the proposal to allow district councils the power to raise up to 3p in the £ to buy in additional policing services within their area. It was said that some of that money might be spent on things like CCTV, although as a matter of fact the councils already have the power, and indeed use it, to spend money on those sorts of things to the great advantage of the public.
However, the Patten report also made clear that the money could be used for the hiring of security firms to carry out police-type duties. The implications of that, particularly in certain parts of Northern Ireland, are extremely worrying. There are parts where racketeering and extortion exist, and it is extremely difficult for the police to deal with these. There are parts of Northern Ireland where paramilitaries of all persuasions are attempting to "police" areas of the Province, and if certain district councils had the power they might seem to be giving backing to this by using the power.
I hope we are pushing at a half-open door here. The Secretary of State said on 19th January that he did not intend to extend the function of the DPPs in this way but did not rule it out entirely. He said that the function was being considered by the criminal justice review, and that would be still to come. So this idea has not been entirely buried. But it is, I believe, it is a bad and dangerous idea in the Northern Ireland context. That is why it seems to me right to put something into the Bill along the lines of Amendment No. 71. I would not necessarily insist on the precise wording of these amendments--it is the thought which counts--but I do believe that these are provisions which should appear in the Bill.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I rise to speak about Amendment No. 64, which is very similar to that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux of Killead. This amendment will give the Secretary of State the power to intervene where the DPP is not exercising its powers and functions properly.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: I intervene simply to mention my Amendment No. 66, which is included in this group. The principle which it raises was discussed earlier, and so I say simply, without prejudice to that principle, that I do not propose to move that amendment.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Amendment No. 63, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and Amendment No, 64 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, are further examples of the way in which people are trying to pull the Government in different directions. On the one hand, there are complaints of the overbearing approach by Government and of too much control in the hands of the Secretary of State and interference by him in accountability arrangements. On the other hand, we are asked in these amendments to enable the Secretary of State to decide whether or not a DPP has adequately discharged any of its functions and, if not, to direct it to do so.
This must be wrong in principle. I ask noble Lords to consider, for example, the powers of these bodies which are of an explanatory or consultative nature, and to compare them with the powers of the board. There is no call for the Secretary of State to have a similar override or to call for a provision for the latter. This is not to say that the DPPs are going to be able to act with impunity. For a start, they have statutory functions and the board can issue a code of practice covering the exercise of their functions. In addition, of course, councillors have to perform to hold on to their seats and members of the DPP may be removed by the board or the council, with the board's approval, if they do not comply with the terms of their appointment.
In short, the Government have sought to take a balanced approach and to give the Secretary of State powers and provide safeguards where we believe them to be necessary and justified. Regarding the requirement for a default power on councils to establish DPPs on general functions and obligations, these are matters for the policing board to monitor and manage in conjunction with the councils, who will have been consulted on the board's code on functions and will want it and DPPs to function effectively. I would therefore ask the noble Lord and the noble Baroness not to press Amendments Nos. 63 and 64.
Amendments Nos. 65 and 68 seek to place responsibility for formulating crime and disorder strategies on the DPPs. While the Government share their enthusiasm for strategies to tackle crime and disorder and recognise that their proposed aproach is similar to that already in place in England and
In addition, arrangements made for England and Wales should not be seen as precisely applicable in Northern Ireland as the situation is different here between the powers of councils in Northern Ireland and local authorities in England and Wales. In brief, local authorities have powers in the areas covered by those structures and councils and DPPs do not. I therefore ask noble Lords not to pursue Amendments Nos. 65 and 68.
Amendment No. 66 is similar to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord in regard to Clause 3, and he has indicated that he is not moving--
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