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Mr. McGrady: On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I should like to propose for the approval of the House amendments Nos. 323, 324 and 325, which, under the heading of recruitment to the police, deal with the support staff for the new police service.

The present quota for civilian staff applies when 10 vacancies arise at roughly the same level at the same time. I am pleased to note that the Government, in Committee, reduced the number to 10. We believe that it should be two, and in that we are encouraged by the similar attitude of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

The reason for amendment No. 323, as for many of our amendments, is simply to achieve a full and faithful implementation of the Patten report. Patten said in this respect that the quota system

However, at the moment clause 43(5) imposes that artificial limit for the quota for police support staff. It applies only when there are 10 vacancies at any time at the same level.

We believe that it is unlikely that 10 such vacancies will ever arise at the same time and at exactly the same level. The Government are proposing to reduce the number to six. We apply the same argument--that it is unlikely that six such vacancies will frequently arise in the same place, at the same time, at the same level. Amendment No. 323 provides instead that the quota shall apply where two similar vacancies arise at the same

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time--in line with the views of the Equality Commission. However, the Government have argued that such a provision would be too inflexible. We have tried to take that on board, and we believe that we have found a way forward that meets the Government's problem, our requirements and those of Patten and the Equality Commission.

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We believe that the Chief Constable should be under a duty as far as practicable to recruit according to the 50:50 principle for between two and five appointments, but if that is not practical in the narrow sense, it should not apply, and the Chief Constable should have the discretion to balance the need to apply the quota against competing needs. However, he would have to account for that course of action, presumably in his annual report. We believe that that is a sensible and practical resolution of the difference between us and the Government, it is a better and fuller implementation of Patten, and it adheres to the views of the Equality Commission. I should like to think that the Government consider the amendment appropriate.

Mr. Trimble: I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 301, 53 and 54. Taken together, the amendments would delete from the Bill subsections (3) to (6) of clause 43 and all of clauses 44 and 45. They would in effect remove the provisions to which objection has been taken by my party and by virtually all the parties in the House. The Government should realise that on this issue they stand alone. I am pleased to see that the Liberal Democrats have signed our amendments Nos. 53 and 54. I assume that they have not signed amendment No. 301 owing purely to an oversight.

Mr. Öpik: Administrative error.

Mr. Trimble: We of course have been happy to support the Liberal Democrats' new clauses 1 and 2.

We share with everyone in the House the objective of a police service that is broadly representative of the community. That should not be controversial. It was a stated objective when the RUC was created. About 900 officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary transferred to the RUC, my grandfather among them, and that group was representative of society in Northern Ireland. It was also the policy of the first Unionist Administration in Northern Ireland to achieve a police force that was representative. At one stage, they endeavoured to reserve one third of places for Roman Catholics. Unfortunately, recruitment never matched that target. We do not have the time this evening to go into the reasons why it did not, but the target was there. In that sense, we have no difficulty with the suggestion made by the Liberal Democrats of targets for recruitment and action to persuade people to come forward and join the police service. That is admirable, and I hope that, whatever arrangements are included in the legislation, they will be in those terms.

The Government are however profoundly mistaken in deciding to discriminate in the legislation. Let us not have any nonsense about it. It is not affirmative action, and "positive discrimination" is a mealy-mouthed phrase meaning: "We are going to discriminate and treat one section of the community unfairly." That unfairness is demonstrated in the figures that the hon. Member for

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Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) has mentioned. In the target age group--18 to 25--the numbers of Protestants and Catholics are roughly even. The figures that he gave were 44 and 45 per cent. However, 11 per cent. do not state their religion and the legislation will add that 11 per cent. to the Protestant side. So 50 per cent. of recruits will be taken from 45 per cent. of the population and the other 50 per cent. will be taken from 55 per cent. That is clearly discrimination.

Mr. Corbyn: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way on this important point. I have listened carefully to what he has said. He has admitted openly that objectives and targets in the past 80 years have not achieved parity within the RUC. Is there any reason to suppose that setting targets again without the force of law will achieve anything other than the continuation of the obvious imbalance in the RUC membership?

Mr. Trimble: The hon. Gentleman wishes to take me down a road that we do not have time to travel. It is a question of exploring why this has not succeeded and whether there is now a new situation. I hope that there is, and in that new situation there is every reason to expect that there will be a different pattern of recruitment. That will probably happen irrespective of what is enacted here, but what is enacted here is in danger of doing a serious injustice. I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear that in mind.

My view is that this arrangement will probably collapse, for a number of reasons, if the Government proceed in the way they propose. For example, in a situation in which the communities are roughly equally balanced, if there is an equal response from both communities of people wishing to join the police service, there will be roughly 50:50 recruitment. If there is not an even response, an unbalanced group of people will move into the pool, and then if we are drawing down on a 50:50 basis from a pool that is not 50:50, a significant number of people who will have been selected as suitable and qualified to join will go into the pool and remain there, month in, month out, for who knows how long.

That will give rise to a justifiable sense of grievance and injustice that no one will be able to defend. Any Administration with any element of conscience will have to address that situation. For that practical reason, I do not think the arrangement will survive.

There is another reason. As the Government know, it involves the consideration of other provisions. The Patten report says that human rights are at the heart of its proposals. Here, they are not. This is a shameful aspect of the Patten report, of the Government's proposals and of the parties that are supporting them. Human rights are at the heart of the proposals? On the one concrete issue where it counts, is anybody paying any attention to human rights? No. The position of hon. Members opposite who are lending the proposal their support is utterly shameful. They should address the matter.

Furthermore, European law will compel a new approach. Article 13 of the Amsterdam treaty, signed in 1997, provides for the introduction of provisions to combat discrimination. The equal treatment directive, coming into operation in December 2002, will have an impact.

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In 1998 the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) proposed amendments to legislation going through the House that would have tried to provide a degree of what she might have called positive discrimination for women. From a report by the constitution unit of University College London, entitled "Women's representation in UK Politics: what can be done within the Law?", I wish to quote two paragraphs, because they are quite important. They show why the provisions proposed by other parties are wrong; and they know they are wrong, because they rejected these proposals in 1998. The report says:

That is a reference to the hon. Lady's proposals for positive discrimination and other similar proposals.

that is, European Court of Justice-proof.

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