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Lady Hermon: I accept the Minister's first point that the Government do not intend to transfer any extradition policy to the Northern Ireland Assembly. I tabled the amendment because I wanted such clarification, so he has reassured me.

4 pm

I am rather hesitant to accept the assurance on the second point, however. It has already been pointed out that the British Government have implemented their part of the new extradition arrangements with America in that white-collar workers and executives who are being investigated by the American authorities for criminal offences of a commercial nature have been extradited to America without a prima facie case being made against them. I refer the Minister to an interesting article that was published not so long ago in a newspaper that he perhaps occasionally reads—The Guardian. On 15 December 2005, a certain Larry Elliot—he is not a constituent, so I have no personal axe to grind—wrote:

Although I accept that the Minister cannot influence an American Committee or a different jurisdiction, extradition is in the Bill and is thus a legitimate matter
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to raise. Individuals who committed the most heinous crimes in Northern Ireland are still on the run in America, enjoying their freedom. They have never faced the courts. I urge the Minister to have a quiet, dignified word with the Home Secretary to ensure that there is no blockage at all to the reciprocal arrangements.

Mr. Hanson: I assure the hon. Lady that my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General are, as they say in common parlance, on the case. They raised the issue with the United States Attorney-General at the G8 meeting in Sheffield last summer. The US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee met in November 2005 to examine the matter and plans to hold another hearing shortly. The Home Secretary raised the matter again this year with Alberto Gonzales, the US Attorney-General, and we are keen to get it resolved as a matter of urgency. Whatever delays are occurring, they are not delays on the part of the British Government.

Lady Hermon: I am genuinely grateful to the Minister for that intervention, which was much more helpful than his earlier comments. It gave me the reassurance that I needed on both points, so I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 21 and 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 6

Police Service Northern Ireland 50–50 recruitment policy

'The following provisions of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (c. 32) are repealed—

(a) subsections (5), (6) and (7) of subsection 44 (pools of applicants);

(b) section 46 (discrimination in appointments); and

(c) subsection (1)(a), (b), (c) and (e) of section 47 (temporary provisions).'.—[Mr. Peter Robinson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Peter Robinson: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Second Deputy Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 7—Repeal of temporary provisions about quotas, etc—

(a) section 44(5), (6) and (7) (pools of applicants);

(b) section 46 (discrimination in appointments); and

(c) section 47(1)(a), (b), (c) and (e) (temporary provisions).

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New clause 8—Equality of Opportunity—

Mr. Robinson: New clause 6 relates to the recruitment policy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and, especially, its discriminatory 50:50 recruitment policy. I state on behalf of all my colleagues on these Benches that we want the best of our citizens in Northern Ireland in the ranks of the PSNI, irrespective of their religious or community background. We want the composition of the PSNI to reflect our whole community, and to represent both its religious groups and the smaller ethnic groups. It adopted its present policy because of the low numbers of Roman Catholic recruits in the past years and decades to the PSNI and, before that, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. That was a direct result of the activities of the Irish Republican Army, which targeted Roman Catholics, who were less likely to apply to, and join, the RUC. Happily, many of them defied the terrorists and became members of the RUC, many of them serving in high-ranking posts with considerable bravery and distinction.

Discrimination is wrong. It is offensive, and it is against European human rights legislation, but it is authorised in recruitment to the PSNI. Some people may describe it as positive or benign discrimination, but it is still discrimination. Hundreds of fully qualified Protestants have been denied employment on the basis of their religion simply because there has not been a corresponding uptake from the Catholic community. The 50:50 recruitment policy requires a 50 per cent. intake from the Roman Catholic community and a 50 per cent. intake not just from the Protestant community—the largest community in Northern Ireland—but from all other non-Christian and ethnic groups. On 12 October 2005, the Secretary of State revealed in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell) that of the 4,413 applicants from the Protestant community who were considered suitably qualified to hold a post only 972 were appointed. That is a success rate of only 20 per cent. for applicants from a Protestant background. Of the 1,568 Roman Catholic applicants, however, 991 were successful, which is a success rate of over 60 per cent. To be successful in gaining admittance to the PSNI merit pool, non-Roman Catholic applicants were expected to score an average of 59 marks or 84 per cent., whereas Roman Catholic applicants were expected to score an average of 43 marks or 62 per cent. in the examination. It is entirely unacceptable that non-Roman Catholic applicants should be expected to score an average of 22 per cent. more than Roman Catholic applicants to gain access to a merit pool, in which Roman Catholic applicants are over three times more likely to be successful in achieving selection.

As Roman Catholic recruits do not need to score as highly as their non-Roman Catholic counterparts, there is a valid charge that less qualified Roman Catholic recruits have been successful while than their non-Roman Catholic counterparts have not, even though they achieved a much higher score. That creates the
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impression in the community that police officers working in the area are not there because of their ability to do the job but simply because of their religious background. That does not help increase the community's confidence in the effectiveness of the PSNI. The Government are prepared to introduce legislation to increase the number of recruits from the Roman Catholic community, but as non-Christians and ethnic minorities are classed alongside Protestant applicants, there is clear discrimination against both Protestant applicants and individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds. At a time when race hate crimes are increasing in Northern Ireland, the Government should be doing more to encourage members of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland to join the PSNI.

The imbalance in the RUC was mainly the result of intimidation of Roman Catholic recruits by the IRA. Applications from the Roman Catholic community were shown to rise from 11 per cent. to 22 per cent.—double—after the first IRA ceasefire, without any anti-discriminatory legislation being put in place. It is therefore clear that it was the removal of the threat against those applicants, rather than any unfair recruitment policies, that brought about a significant increase in applications.

The Patten commission took no heed of that fact in its report. It is inconceivable that anyone who was taking a serious look at the reasons behind the community imbalance in the RUC could have ignored the No. 1 reason why Roman Catholics were not joining. That meant that Patten was taking no account of the effect that the removal of that threat would have upon applications to the police.

Catholics had shown that they had the opportunity to rise through the ranks of the RUC—16 per cent. at very senior officer level were Roman Catholic. People simply want more officers on the street. They do not care what religion they come from or what their background may be. They simply want the best qualified officers who are best able to do the job of tackling crime.

Although the scheme is designed to encourage Catholic participation in the police, the operation of the scheme is alienating many young Protestants, who are told that they are of the wrong community background to get a job in policing. There is a danger that in trying to solve one problem, 50:50 recruiting will end up creating another. Every Member from Northern Ireland has had experience of this with the young people in their constituency.

The money being used to administer such official discrimination could be better spent on front-line policing services in Northern Ireland. While direct rule Ministers constantly lecture the people of Northern Ireland about paying their own way, the Government are spending huge amounts of money on a discriminatory scheme. In recent weeks there was much publicity about the problems surrounding the provision of a new police training college in Northern Ireland. We are told that there is a lack of funding available to help build that college, and that it may be necessary to look for foreign investment to build it. At the same time we are spending millions of pounds enforcing the 50:50 recruitment scheme. The Government could help deliver world- class police training facilities, rather than enforcing discrimination in Northern Ireland.
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The former vice-chairman of the Policing Board admitted that 50:50 recruitment to the PSNI is an "aberration" and said that

Those comments by the Roman Catholic former vice-chairman of the Policing Board were supported not just by members of the Unionist community, but by the Alliance party, which does not support mechanisms that run contrary to human rights norms. It has recognised that the imposition of 50:50 recruitment has promoted division and led to more distrust in the police among various communities.

It is somewhat ironic that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is supposed to be one of the police forces most trained in human rights. We are told that the PSNI is a world leader in this area. However, it would seem that human rights become important within the PSNI only when people have been successful in joining the service. The human rights of those who are unfortunate enough to be rejected on the grounds of their religion are ignored. Recruitment levels in the PSNI have ensured that the membership of the force from the Roman Catholic community is around 30 per cent. It is expected that by the time the review takes place, it will be around 40 per cent., in line with the percentage of the population that is from the Roman Catholic community.

When he responds to the debate, will the Minister give a clear commitment that at the time of the review, if not immediately, the 50:50 recruitment policy will cease, and that the Government will recognise that they cannot continue with a policy that sets quotas for those who will get jobs in Northern Ireland, which is contrary to any human rights norm anywhere in the civilised world?

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