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New Clause 4
'.--(1) The Secretary of State may appoint a Commissioner to discharge the general function mentioned in subsection (3).
(2) A person for the time being holding the office of Commissioner under subsection (1) is referred to in this Act as "the Commissioner".
(3) The Commissioner's general function is to oversee the implementation of changes in the policing of Northern Ireland described in his terms of reference.
(4) Schedule (The Commissioner), which makes further provision about the Commissioner, shall have effect.
(5) The office of Commissioner shall cease to exist on 31st May 2003, unless before that date an order is made under subsection (6).
(6) The Secretary of State may by order provide that the office of Commissioner (whether or not it then exists as a result of a previous order under this subsection) shall continue to exist for a period not exceeding three years from the date on which the order comes into operation.'.--[Mr. George Howarth.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. George Howarth):
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin):
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment (a) to the proposed new clause, in subsection (3), leave out from second "the" to end and insert--
Appointment etc. of the Commissioner
'process of police reform in Northern Ireland'.
Government new clause 5--Reports by the Commissioner.
Amendment No. 23, in clause 27, page 12, line 29, at end insert--
'(1A) Before making an order the Secretary of State must consult the Oversight Commissioner.'.
Government new schedule 1--'The Commissioner--
1.--(1) Subject to the following provisions of this paragraph, a person shall hold and vacate office as the Commissioner in accordance with the terms of his appointment.
(2) An appointment as Commissioner may be full-time or part-time.
(3) The first appointment as Commissioner shall come to an end on 31 May 2003.
(4) Any other appointment as Commissioner shall be for a period not exceeding 3 years.
(5) A person may at any time resign his office as Commissioner by notice in writing to the Secretary of State.
(6) The Secretary of State may call upon the Commissioner to retire if satisfied that the Commissioner has--
(a) been convicted of a criminal offence; or
(b) become bankrupt or made a composition or arrangement with his creditors.
(7) Before calling upon the Commissioner to retire, the Secretary of State shall give the Commissioner an opportunity to make, either personally or otherwise, representations to him and shall consider any representations that he makes.
(8) A Commissioner who is called upon to retire under sub-paragraph (6) shall retire on such date as the Secretary of State may specify or on such earlier date as may be agreed between him and the Secretary of State.
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Terms of reference
2.--(1) On appointing the Commissioner, the Secretary of State shall give him written terms of reference.
(2) The terms of reference shall, in particular, describe the changes in policing in Northern Ireland the implementation of which it is the general function of the Commissioner to oversee.
Remuneration, pensions, allowances, etc.
3.--(1) The Secretary of State may pay, or make such payments towards the provision of, such remuneration, pensions, allowances or gratuities to or in respect of a person appointed to the office of Commissioner as he may determine.
(2) Where a person ceases to hold office as Commissioner otherwise than on the expiry of his term of office, and it appears to the Secretary of State that there are special circumstances which make it right for that person to receive compensation, the Secretary of State may make to that person a payment of such amount as the Secretary of State may determine.
4.--(1) The Commissioner may, with the approval of the Secretary of State as to numbers and as to remuneration and other terms and conditions of service, employ such persons as he thinks fit to enable him to carry out his functions.
(2) The Commissioner may make arrangements for administrative, secretarial or other assistance to be provided for him by persons employed in the civil service.
(3) Employment by the Commissioner shall be included among the kinds of employment to which a scheme under section 1 of the Superannuation Act 1972 can apply and accordingly in Schedule 1 to that Act, at the appropriate place in the list of "Other Bodies" there shall be inserted--
"Employment by the Police Reform Commissioner for Northern Ireland.".
5. The Employers' Liability (Defective Equipment and Compulsory Insurance) (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 does not require insurance to be effected by the Commissioner.
Exercise of functions
6.--(1) Any functions of the Commissioner under this Act may be performed by any officer of the Commissioner authorised for the purpose by the Commissioner.
(2) "Officer of the Commissioner" means--
(a) a person employed by the Commissioner under paragraph 4(1);
(b) a person providing assistance to the Commissioner in pursuance of arrangements made under paragraph 4(2).
7. A document purporting to be duly signed by, or on behalf of, the Commissioner shall be received in evidence and, unless the contrary is proved, be taken to be so signed.
8. The Secretary of State shall pay to the Commissioner such sums as appear to the Secretary of State to be appropriate for defraying the expenses of the Commissioner under this Act.
9.--(1) The Commissioner shall--
(a) keep proper accounts and proper records in relation to the accounts;
(b) prepare in respect of each financial year a statement of accounts in such form as the Secretary of State may direct; and
(c) send copies of the statement to the Secretary of State and the Comptroller and Auditor General before the end of the month of August next following the financial year to which the statement relates.
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(2) The Comptroller and Auditor General shall examine, certify and report on each statement received by him under this paragraph and shall lay copies of each statement and of his report before each House of Parliament.'.
Amendment (a) thereto: leave out paragraph 2.
Government amendments Nos. 264 to 266.
New clauses 4 and 5 and new schedule 1, which were tabled by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, honour the commitment, which the Government gave to the Committee during its 11th sitting on 7 July, to put the office of oversight commissioner on a statutory footing. We have done so in a manner that is consistent with, and faithful to, the Patten report.
Patten recommended at chapter 19 of the report that there should be a commissioner to oversee change and to provide assurance to the community about progress. It is worth reminding the House exactly what Patten said. I know that, as ever, my hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) is mindful of the Patten recommendations and how the Bill conforms to them. Paragraphs 19.4 states:
an eminent person, from a country other than the United Kingdom or Ireland, should be appointed as soon as possible as an oversight commissioner with responsibility for supervising the implementation of our recommendations.
Paragraph 19.5 states that the Government, police service, Policing Board and direct policing partnerships should provide the oversight commissioner with objectives and timetables covering their responsibilities and should report on their progress in achieving them. It also states that the commissioner should report publicly after each review, giving his observations on the extent to which objectives have been met. Paragraph 19.6 states that the commissioner should be appointed for five years.
Government new clause 4, together with Government new schedule 1, will place the post on a proper statutory footing. As we said in Committee, we have introduced those provisions in part to show our commitment to the office and because they will add to the commissioner's status. The commissioner will oversee the implementation of changes to the policing of Northern Ireland as described in his terms of reference.
The terms of reference for the commissioner, who was obviously appointed before any statutory provision was introduced, have been published and are available in the Library. Subject to a renewable appointment for three years, rather than Patten's recommendation of five years, they show that we have been entirely faithful to Patten. Patten suggested that the commissioner should review progress three or four times a year. Government new clause 5 provides for the commissioner to make periodic reports at least three times a year.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde):
If the commissioner thinks that certain elements of the legislation do not work or impede progress towards the Government's laudable objectives, will he have the right to make that known in one of his periodic reports? For example, if he thought that the colour of the uniform should be changed to blue to make it more compatible with those of neighbouring police forces, could he make such a recommendation?
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