|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I rise to support Amendment No. 8. I fully support the intention of gaining the 50:50 balance or at least of ensuring that Roman Catholics and other groups are correctly and proportionately represented within the police. I would point out that the system being discussed is also applicable, under Clause 46(5), to the police support staff. They should all come under the same provisions. However, the arguments put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Molyneaux and Lord Glentoran, have covered all there is to be said about our disgust for discrimination and, as it appears to us, the dodgy way in which it is proposed to be dealt with. It would not be necessary if the right atmosphere and the right support from various quarters were present.
In Committee, the Minister stopped me in my tracks by saying me that I was going round and round in circles when I was talking about how the provisions would work in practice. It is worth looking at how the system works at the moment. There are successive
Many people pass--I think sometimes in their thousands; the noble and learned Lord may have a more accurate figure--and are placed in the pool. But the Chief Constable does not leave them in the pool, shut his eyes and pluck out 90 for this cadre and 90 for that cadre. He selects people in an order of merit and offers them a chance to join the force. This enables him to achieve a police force which is worthy of the name and worthy to carry out its functions in society to the best of its ability.
What the Minister is insisting on here--this is where the noble and learned Lord said that I was going round and round in circles--is a pool containing lots of people. When the Chief Constable wants another cadre, he will come along one day and simply take out another 90 names. That will happen even without the discrimination that we do not like, which will distort the selection system even more.
Such a situation is virtually impossible to work. I felt that the Minister rather glossed over it and said "Do not worry. The NIO and the RUC will sort it out". I have tried to break out of that circle. I have approached extremely senior representatives of the RUC, and they say categorically that they have asked the Northern Ireland Office--and, through it, the Government--how on earth they can work such a system. They have been to recruiting agents and outside consultants, not one of whom has heard of anyone recruiting in such a way.
What would happen if a recruit who had a degree in criminology and was an extremely good leader passed the qualification test? He may be suitable to become a future chief constable but, because the names will be plucked out of the pool without any order of merit, he will be lucky to be chosen.
This will have two effects. First, how long will somebody who has the kind abilities that we want for the police force sit around and wait on the off chance that someone will pick his name out of the hat? I would guess not very long. The police force is a well paid and professional body. The people who go into it are not fools; they want a well paid and professional job. If they see that they cannot get it on their merits, they will not be there to take it. Perhaps the Minister can say how this will work. I want--we all want--the best police force we can have.
The second effect is this. Having got people from a lower grade through, and having distorted selection to correct the imbalance--perhaps by enlisting Roman Catholics who did not achieve the grade but who are necessary to meet the 50:50 requirement--what
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I have not taken part in the debates on the Bill, largely because I did not think that there was anything helpful I could say. Having reached the present stage, it is not easy to see an alternative step to that represented by the Bill. It is one more lesson that, if you appease violence, you are almost certainly going to have to take one step after another which you would not take had you had a chance to look at them ab initio.
You also have to face the fact that you have given notice to the people who have relied on violence--and who have got their way by using it--that they cannot lose. You find yourself in this kind of desperate situation where there is no happy solution. No one could have listened today to the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, without great sympathy and great sadness. It was the speech of a brave man who has been through very difficult times.
While I do not suppose the noble Lord will wish to divide the House--I do not know--on the three amendments which seek to leave out Clauses 45, 46 and 47, he was nevertheless right to challenge them. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of what the clauses cover. They cover recruitment arrangements, the question of discrimination in making appointments and the temporary provisions. One accepts that all three are necessary.
My difficulty--I have only one substantial point to put to the noble and learned Lord--is that all those provisions are workable only with trust. As far as I can see, there is no sign of there being any sudden, dramatic change of heart by men who have never hesitated to use violence and who have never yet made any concession. When it comes to sitting round a table and discussing quite difficult issues, one wonders whether there will be any will to give at all. There has not been in the past. I do not know how those who have really suffered will be able to find any confidence in working together, quite suddenly, to build a new society. I find it difficult to believe that it will come about. Right throughout, the whole thing is stitched through with wishful thinking.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, I, too, support Amendment No. 8. The fact that the amendment had to be moved in this House highlights the total difference that exists between the RUC in Northern Ireland and any other police force in the United Kingdom. We certainly would not have to talk about Roman Catholics and Protestants in any other police force in England, Scotland and Wales. We may have to talk about ethnic minorities, coloured people and different groups, but we would not have to talk about religion. The issue is specific to Northern Ireland.
The amendment seeks clarification of how the new police force will be constructed. I remember that in 1976, in another part of this building, when we were legislating for fair employment we met with great opposition from the Tories. Many Northern Ireland Unionists were also opposed to it. For some 24 years afterwards--until it was replaced this year by the Equality Commission--the legislation highlighted the tremendous difficulties in Northern Ireland. The Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act was not restricted to the RUC--it covered all employment--and yet we saw the tremendous difficulties we had there.
I have asked before in the House and I shall ask again--we will have to see what happens when the Bill becomes law in Northern Ireland--how do you pick a Catholic who is suitable to join the RUC? Does he have to have academic qualifications? Does he have to have religious qualifications to the extent that he went to a Catholic school and lived in a Catholic district? Will they be sufficient qualifications? I know many members of the RUC who do not have academic qualifications. Many members of the Metropolitan Police in London do not have academic qualifications. It is the same throughout all the other police forces in the United Kingdom. You do not have to have the qualifications of a brain surgeon to join the police in this country.
So what will the criteria be in Northern Ireland? However one may approach this Bill, there are many practical problems in relation to the police in Northern Ireland. Catholics who join the RUC at present cannot live in their own towns and villages. Many have had to give up all contact with their families because they have joined the police force. They are unable to go home to the villages where they lived. I refer especially to Crossmaglen and other areas.
I recall a time before 1969 when there were policemen living in Catholic districts in Northern Ireland. They lived in an area adjacent to Turf Lodge and there was one in Andersonstown; indeed, I can think of a dozen of them. Once the Troubles broke out those policemen were either killed or maimed. They had to leave those areas. That led to the situation where the only safe place for a policeman to live was in a Protestant district. That is where they live now. You do not get any policemen living in Catholic areas. If they do, they cannot live there with their relatives. They have to give up their relatives. Sometimes, indeed, Protestant areas are not very safe for the police. Once can recall last year, and the year before, when the RUC was called upon to deal with riotous situations in Drumcree. Many of the rioters there pointed their fingers at the RUC men--we saw it on television reports--saying "We know where you live". In fact, in Carrickfergus, where many RUC men had decided to live, houses were wrecked because they had dealt with a loyalist mob at Drumcree.
Therefore, to attract Catholics, we shall have to look into all sorts of other ramifications; for example, where the potential recruit will live. Will he be allowed to live in a Catholic area? Is he prepared to give up his
Can we imagine a policeman living in Turf Lodge, in Ballymurphy or in Andersonstown? I know those areas street by street, district by district. I know them; I represented that area for 18 years. Those areas are completely in the grip of the different IRAs--the Provisional IRA, now the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA. They are in the grip of paramilitaries. Can anyone put his hand on his heart and say that some young man living in those areas will want to become a policeman in the new Northern Ireland police service? I think it highly unlikely.
I should be delighted if I were proved wrong. However, in the years that lie ahead, I can see that the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland will dictate events. Sinn Fein will want to see the police service built up to its specifications. There is absolutely no doubt about that. As we saw in the Shankill Road riots just a few weeks ago, those particular people, whether loyalists or paramilitaries, have no great admiration for the RUC when it appears that it is not acquiescent to their demands.
However, the biggest question at the back of my mind is: how do we determine whether someone is a Catholic? Is it because he went to a certain school? Is it because he goes to Mass? I was speaking to an RUC friend of mind just recently--believe it or not, I still have some friends in the force, both Catholics and Protestants--who said, "A whole lot of my colleagues here in the RUC are agnostics. They do not pay any regard to any particular religion. But they are put into the category of being Protestants; and they don't like it. In fact, I have suggested to them that we get a whole gang of them all lined up and go down to Clonard monastery in the middle of the Falls Road, which is run by the Redemptorists, and get them all to become Catholics. That will save many of them from the threat of redundancy that they now face".
The amendment before us is a reasonable one. It says that before appointments are confirmed reference should be made to the Chief Constable, the Equality Commission and the "Police Association"--I take that to be the federation that represents some of them. Who could possibly object to that? I believe that to be a most reasonable set of words. It states that, before recruits are taken on, reference should be made to those three bodies. I do not suppose that the Minister will accept the responsibility for telling us what his ideas are on recruitment; indeed, I think that he has enough problems already without getting involved in that respect. However, we should be given some indication.
In my lifetime in politics there have been occasions in Northern Ireland when I was able to refer to a speech that was made in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords in defence of someone I was
I was speaking to someone only yesterday in Belfast. He observed that the Catholic Church had not said very much about the police. Many bitterly regret that fact. But someone suggested that young Catholic boys who attend St Mallacy's College in Belfast, or some of the other academic institutions, would want to join the RUC. We must disabuse our minds of that thinking: there is no pool of young Catholics who want to join any police force. Indeed, there are not that many people in this country who want to become policemen. Sometimes it can be a very nasty and dangerous job, particularly in Northern Ireland. I cannot see any of the academic institutions in Northern Ireland pushing all their Catholics into the newly created police service. There are tremendous difficulties to be faced. I believe that Amendment No. 8 attempts to deal with them by making reference to the fact that the Chief constable should consult the "Police Association" and the Equality Commission on the issue. This will be the stone--the brick--on which the whole police force is built in Northern Ireland.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page