|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
'within 6 months of the commencement of this Act'.
'within one month of receipt of the nominations'.
' ; before making such appointments the Council shall satisfy itself that it has taken all reasonable steps to make the district community aware that nominations are due to be made, that it has invited applications from that community and that, following thorough consideration of all applications, that the persons nominated, so far as is practicable, reflect that community.'.
'(2A) The Board or the council, with the approval of the Board, shall remove a person from office as a political or independent member of a DPP if satisfied that--
(a) he is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means;
(b) the political party of which he is a member is linked to an organisation that has failed to begin the decommissioning of arms and explosives in a manner verified by the Commission referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997;'.
'with the agreement of the Board'.
Mr. Ingram: I said at the fourth sitting of the Committee on 20 June that the Government were considering Patten's recommendation No. 28 that there should be four sub-groups of the district policing partnership in Belfast. I said that, if the Government decided to amend the Bill--we indicated that we were considering doing so--we would do so on Report. New clause 3 will make that amendment.
The Government concluded that, with an area the size of Belfast, it made sense to establish not four separate DPPs, as some have called for, but four sub-groups of the Belfast DPP, to be established by the council. Each sub-group is to consist of at least six members of the partnership, appointed by the partnership.
The Policing Board's code of practice under clause 19 will cover the operation of those sub-groups. Their function will be to provide views to the police and to the partnership. As the new clause stands, it refers in line 4 to "the Board". That should, of course, be "the partnership". That will be corrected in the other place.
By tabling the new clause, we have implemented Patten's recommendation in paragraph 6.27 of the commission's report, but we have done so in a way that recognises the concerns that have been expressed about
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): The Minister mentioned the relationship between the sub-groups and the Belfast DPP as a whole. To what extent will the sub-groups work with the partnership and to what extent will they take over functions from the partnership? Those questions raise a series of issues on which the new clause gives no information, but which are matters of great concern to us. The Minister should deal with those issues in some detail.
Mr. Ingram: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman because it is important for hon. Members to understand the way in which the DPPs will operate, which is in terms of the codes of practice that will be laid down by the Policing Board and conditioned by the Secretary of State's consideration of how they are actually operating. For instance, if a district is not delivering as it should, the Secretary of State will involve himself in that area.
Let me deal with the specific point raised by the right hon. Gentleman; the four sub-groups will report to the Belfast DPP and their work will be conditioned by the other clauses under which the DPPs come under the scrutiny of both the Policing Board and the Secretary of State. They will not be four entities in their own right, but four sub-groups that report to the central DPP.
Mr. Ingram: No. I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that that would not be the case. They would be not separate entities in their own right, but four sub-groups reporting to the DPP, conditioned obviously by the way in which the board interfaces with that and the way in which the Secretary of State can, in consultation with the board and under his own powers, deal with it.
The sub-groups will be an integral part of the Belfast DPP and will report to that district partnership. It is important to understand that they will have purely consultative functions. All the functions of the Belfast DPP remain as for the other DPPs. There is no difference between Belfast DPP and the other equivalent DPPs that will be set up under the structures envisaged. The sub-groups have no role in the local policing plan for Belfast. That remains the responsibility of the Belfast DPP. In that sense, the groups are consultative.
Government amendment No. 213 is a consequential amendment arising from one that was accepted in Committee on the membership of the direct rule Policing Board. Columns 38 to 45 of the Official Report of Standing Committee B contain references to that matter. The Committee accepted that, during direct rule, there should be between 14 and 19 members on the Policing Board. The amendment alters schedule 1(3)(2) to reflect the fact that, instead of one number, there is now a set of numbers. We want a sliding-scale approach. On that basis, I ask the House to accept the amendment.
Government amendments Nos. 215 and 216 honour a commitment that I made to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) in Committee--I said in column 94 of the Official Report of Standing Committee B that I would table amendments on Report. These amendments affect paragraph (4)(5) of schedule 1, which sets out the provisions for removal from the board during direct rule. Amendment No. 215 provides that removal for a criminal conviction applies to convictions after the date of appointment.
Amendment No. 216 adds to that provision by enabling the Secretary of State to remove a person from the board for non-disclosure of a criminal conviction at the time of appointment. We will want to table similar amendments in the other place for a board set up under the devolved structure. Here, we are dealing only with that set up under the direct rule structure. Similar amendments were made and accepted by the Committee on exactly this issue in relation to the DPPs, as can be seen from column 212 of the Official Report. I ask the House to accept Government amendments Nos. 215 and 216. They honour commitments made in Committee.
On Government amendment No. 218, in Committee on Tuesday 27 June--Official Report columns 114 to 118--I said that the Government would produce amendments to clarify the position on quorums both for appointments of the second and subsequent chairperson and vice-chairperson posts, which are dealt with in schedule 1(17)(2), and the numbers required to determine an inquiry under paragraph (17)(4), which of course relates to a board set up under a devolved Government. Government amendment No. 218 meets that commitment and I ask the House to accept it.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): I shall speak to the amendments that stand in my name and those of my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench--amendments Nos. 303 to 307. In the limited time available to the House due to the guillotine motion, I shall restrict my remarks to those amendments, which centre on who should sit on the Policing Board and on the district policing partnerships.
It should be common ground on both sides of the House and in all parts of the House that it cannot be right and proper for people who have committed violent criminal and terrorist offences, or who are associated with terrorist groups that have not entered a ceasefire, to sit on the board or the partnerships.
Let me expand a little: first, we are insisting that political representatives--elected politicians--who are associated with paramilitaries can sit on the board or the partnerships only if the paramilitaries to whom they are inextricably linked have started properly and comprehensively to decommission their illegally held arms and explosives. The Minister will confirm that they are legally obliged to do so under the Belfast agreement, which they signed.
Whereas I would have no objection to the names of people who are to sit on the board and the partnerships being made public, I feel that they should not be able to take their seats until their paramilitary associates have moved considerably towards fulfilling their obligations under the agreement to decommission all their illegally held arms and explosives.
Secondly, anyone sitting on the board or on a partnership must, both in practice and in word, have renounced violence in all its forms for good. I note that that applies to members of the board and of the partnerships who are not elected representatives; obviously, it must also apply to those who are elected.