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Police (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

11.38 a.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th July be approved.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of the draft Police (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) order 1995 is to make changes to police powers, police discipline and police complaints procedure.

The changes to police powers and discipline procedure are similar to those made in England and Wales by provisions of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 respectively. I should like to comment briefly on the main parts of the order.

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Part II of the order makes changes to police powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989. The principal amendments are: the application of the order to persons in custodial establishments who are brought to police stations for interview; powers of arrest without warrant for persons unlawfully at large or who fail to answer to police bail; the extension of sampling powers to recordable offences and the ability to make speculative searches of fingerprints and samples held by or on behalf of police; and the removal of mouth searches from the interpretation of an "intimate search".

Part III of the order makes changes to disciplinary procedures which will have the effect of raising standards still further. The main changes are a wider power for the Secretary of State to make regulations for dealing with poor performance as well as simplified procedures for dealing with misconduct, and the removal of the so called "double jeopardy" rule whereby disciplinary proceedings can be brought against an officer who has been convicted or acquitted of a criminal offence.

Turning to the police complaints procedures in Part IV of the draft order, the majority of the changes give effect to certain recommendations made by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints which have been accepted by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

There was wide consultation on all aspects of the draft order—policing matters are always of great concern in Northern Ireland—and one amendment was made as a result. The Independent Commission for Police Complaints will be included at Article 29 as a body which the Secretary of State must consult about regulations made under Part V of the order.

In summary, the provisions of the order will ensure that, in several important areas of policing policy, changes which the Government have implemented in England and Wales will also be given effect in Northern Ireland. The reforms represent a balanced package of measures which will allow the Royal Ulster Constabulary to take full advantage of developments in the investigation and detection of crime while enhancing police accountability through the modernisation of complaints and discipline procedures. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th July be approved.—(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the Minister indicated that it was intended to set up a scheme in Northern Ireland similar—I use her word—to the scheme provided by the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act in this country. That is incorrect. The scrutiny and severe criticism which your Lordships applied to that Bill in this House led to its amendment in significant respects. In particular, the measure provided that there should be full representation on a police authority of those who are not the nominees or place people of the Home Secretary. Why is the police authority in Northern Ireland to continue to be staffed by such persons—in other words, nominees of the Secretary of State? If that is necessary for the time being, can the Minister indicate

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that the Government hope to ameliorate the situation reasonably soon? That is a question of fundamental principle.

I have one question only on detail. In Article 14, on page 15 of the draft order, one sees that appeal tribunals are available for officers who are dismissed, required to resign or reduced in rank. Is there to be no appeal for an officer who is disciplined and penalised by loss of earnings? I shall be grateful for that question to be addressed because it causes a great deal of anxiety to serving officers in Northern Ireland.

11.45 a.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, the noble Baroness said that there was widespread consultation on the order, and I welcome that. That being so, it has been possible to reach a substantial measure of agreement. As the Minister said, some provisions give additional powers to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, particularly in relation to body samples taken in connection with serious criminal offences. That has proved of considerable value to police forces in England and Wales and it is highly desirable that it should apply also in Northern Ireland.

I wish to refer to the question of police conduct and discipline dealt with in Part III of the order. First, I repeat the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. Why has it been decided not to allow access to an appeal tribunal in a case where an officer has been fined? The implications of a heavy fine are considerable; in some circumstances there are implications in relation to pension rights. I shall be grateful if the Minister will explain that. Also, what assumption of public expenditure is the noble Baroness making in relation to the tribunals and what additional costs would arise if fines were included in the provision?

I want to touch on the Independent Commission for Police Complaints. There is to be a review. That is sensible, especially in the light of the new situation in Northern Ireland. When will it begin and who will conduct it? I am sure that the Government have made provisional decisions already; it would be helpful if we could be told what the timescale is to be.

I welcome the robust attitude of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland towards some of the most foolish recommendations of the committee of Sir Patrick Sheehy. One of the great accomplishments of Sir Patrick Mayhew is that he saw off Sir Patrick Sheehy. Unhappily, the Home Secretary did not, and a whole series of ill-judged provisions were included in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, some of which were removed in this House, but others were not. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland simply declined to accept some recommendations. To give one illustration, the rank of deputy chief constable was removed from the ranking structure of police forces in England and Wales, but it continues in Northern Ireland. I welcome that and pay tribute to Sir Patrick Sheehy—not Sir Patrick Sheehy; the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—for not adopting many of the

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recommendations of Sir Patrick Sheehy which have done considerable damage to the police services in England and Wales.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I have but one question for the noble Baroness. In England and Wales—I am not sure of the position in Scotland—an intimate sample can only be taken from somebody who is in police detention on suspicion of a serious offence. Looking at Article 10 on page 9, it would appear that under the terms of the order an intimate sample may be taken from a person who is not in police detention, under certain restrictive circumstances. Can the noble Baroness say whether or not I am correct in my assumption that the proposed law differs in Northern Ireland from that in England and Wales, and if so, why?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their interest and comments. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, in relation to the appointment of members of police authorities by the Secretary of State, conditions are still different in Northern Ireland. We must proceed slowly with change. The review in the White Paper will consider the reform of policing structures and that will come forward. I can say to him that we must be unique in our characters as Ministers in that, if we are successful, we are working ourselves out of a job in the long term, but that is our intention.

I sympathise with the confusion of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, in relation to the two Sir Patricks. We, in Northern Ireland, have the same problem occasionally in relation to the burial places of Saint Patrick, which also seem to be numerous and extensive. But in relation to why appeal to the tribunal is restricted to punishments of dismissal and so forth and not to lesser crimes, police officers other than senior officers will have the right of appeal against all punishments—in the first instance to the chief constable—but lesser punishments are considered essentially a matter for internal police management. It would be inappropriate for an officer to appeal the punishment of a fine all the way up to a tribunal. We hope that the review will start in November and we expect to announce the name of the reviewer very shortly. Progress is being made on that. I am afraid that, despite the courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, I shall have to write to him on that issue, but I shall do so as quickly as possible. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

11.50 a.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th October be approved.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is the latest in a series of such orders which are required every two to three years. The main purpose of the orders is to

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adjust certain statutory limits and to deal with other routine financial matters. I shall describe the main provisions.

Article 3 provides that the Department of Finance and Personnel may amend the requirement routinely to seek its consent or approval. That will help to ensure more efficient administrative arrangements.

Articles 4 to 6 are of a technical nature. They amend the Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 in relation to the reserves, public dividend capital and borrowing limits of trading funds. That will bring Northern Ireland into line with the position in Great Britain.

Article 4 permits the net assets in a trading fund's opening balance sheet to be financed by accounting reserves, as well as by deemed debt and public dividend capital. When the 1993 legislation was enacted, all trading funds were using cash accounts and traded as a new business in accounting terms. However, future trading funds are likely to have accruals-based accounts and it is sensible to treat them as a continuing business.

Article 5 extends the powers to issue public dividend capital so that it can be used to finance any expenditure undertaken by a trading fund—not just opening capital. That will provide additional flexibility where, for example, a trading fund needs to finance a large capital expenditure programme.

Article 6 makes changes to trading funds' borrowing limits. It brings public dividend capital within the maximum borrowing limit which applies to an individual fund and the maximum amount of borrowing which may be undertaken by all trading funds.

Article 7 extends the time limits for the presentation and audit of certain accounts. Article 8 removes the current requirement that a loan made to Enterprise Ulster must be repaid within the same financial year. That should help Enterprise Ulster plan its financial arrangements more efficiently. I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th October be approved.—(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

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