Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am not surprised to be told that Amendment No. 1 is unnecessary. At present, I shall do as the Minister suggests.

With regard to the compulsory transfer, it was no wish of mine that large numbers of this staffing concern should be made redundant. But the fact that it might happen may be a spur to them not to resist compulsory transfer--certainly not in large numbers. However, it might be desirable for there to be a voluntary element, rather than that PANI and the chief constable find themselves with a large number of staff who do not wish to work for them. That would not be a very good arrangement.

I have reflected on what the Minister said: that we should return to this at a later stage in our proceedings. However, for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

8 Jun 1998 : Column CWH15

Clause 4 [Power to transfer staff to employment of Police Authority]:

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clauses 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Setting of policing objectives by Secretary of State]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 7, line 33, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: Amendments No. 3 and 4 together make a single small point. Clause 14 provides for the setting of policing objectives by the Secretary of State. However, as drafted the Secretary of State "may" produce such objectives; and by implication may not if she, or he as it is expressed in the Bill, does not feel like it.

On the other hand, under Clause 15 PANI must determine annual objectives for policing. Those objectives under Clause 15 must be consistent with the objectives of the Secretary of State, which may not have been produced. We in Parliament are being asked to pass a law to lay a duty on PANI to frame objectives consistent with the objectives of the Secretary of State even if there are none. The Government propose duties for other people, but only a permissive clause for Secretaries of State. Therefore, perhaps we should say that the Secretary of State "shall" produce these policing objectives. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: As noble Lords will know, the provisions giving the Secretary of State the authority to set policing objectives broadly mirror those contained in Sections 37 and 38 of the Police Act 1996 which apply to England and Wales.

As it is the intention of the Government to maintain, as far as possible, parity with mainland legislation, perhaps it would be helpful if I were to address each of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, in turn.

Amendment No. 4 seeks further to clarify the responsibilities of the Secretary of State in relation to her discretion to revise her objectives. The Bill, as drafted, indicates that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State may determine, and from time to time revise, objectives for the policing of Northern Ireland. While I accept that the amendment seeks to make clear the discretion that the Secretary of State has, I believe that the position is already sufficiently implicit in the wording of the clause. In view of this, I believe that the amendment is superfluous.

Amendment No. 3, which has also been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, seeks to place a statutory requirement on my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to determine policing objectives. Such a requirement is not placed on my right honourable friend the Home Secretary under the Police Act 1996;

8 Jun 1998 : Column CWH16

the word used is "may". I do not believe that Northern Ireland should be treated differently. It is clear that the objective-setting mechanism that the Bill will put in Statute is already operating successfully. It has been tried and tested, both in Northern Ireland during the shadow exercise and in England and Wales.

It may be helpful if I say a little more about the 1998-99 objective-setting process. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced her objectives on 25th October 1997. These were finalised following consultation with the police authority and the RUC, and both welcomed them at their launch. The police authority subsequently launched its objectives for 1998-99 on 19th February, and the first Northern Ireland annual policing plan was jointly published by the chairman of the authority and the chief constable towards the end of March. The shadow exercise proved that the process is working effectively.

Perhaps I may make a further point about the amendment. The Secretary of State need not set objectives, but PANI's objectives must be consistent with any set by the Secretary of State. Accordingly, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Alderdice: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may make one comment. He has raised-- I have no doubt that this will come up again and again--the question of carrying out policing and other functions in Northern Ireland in the same way as in the rest of the United Kingdom. In many senses the process of "reading across" is rather helpful, but there are certain senses in which it manifestly is not.

The whole subject of policing is particularly questionable because the purpose of the police in Northern Ireland has been quite different, up until now, from that of the police in the rest of the United Kingdom. The RUC--and its predecessors, the RIC--was put in place to maintain the integrity of the state as well as to contend with ordinary civil policing matters. This is the kind of "reading across" which is simply not a possibility. The Police Authority for Northern Ireland is the subject of contention in the way that no police authority on this side of the water is, and its membership is not entirely balanced in the way that one would expect on this side of the water. The relationship between the Secretary of State, the police authority and the chief constable is radically different from the relationship between a Cabinet Minister here, police authorities and chief constables. Its very name--the very fact that it is called the "Royal Ulster Constabulary"--gives it a charter which I believe is shared with only the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The whole subject of policing is different in Northern Ireland. Although I have no great argument with the Minister on this matter, I would caution against repeatedly thinking that, by getting "reading across" on a contentious issue like policing, you are always solving the problem. Frequently, you are simply ignoring a problem which is there and which is not going to be resolved simply by "reading across", any more than it will be resolved by "reading up" from the Garda Siochana.

8 Jun 1998 : Column CWH17

5 p.m.

Lord Dubs: I take the noble Lord's point. That is why we have a separate Bill for policing in Northern Ireland and why we are having the Patten Commission, neither of which is comparable to anything happening in other parts of the United Kingdom. I was simply referring to the practice in England and Wales where we had tested a particular and, in this context of policing as a whole, a fairly minor but detailed point. It had been shown to work and it made sense to apply that to Northern Ireland. As a general principle, I accept the noble Lord's point that policing in Northern Ireland is different. The Government see it as being different; that is why we are addressing it in a way that is specially geared to Northern Ireland.

I may have misled the Committee a few minutes ago. I was making a point about the Secretary of State setting objectives. I should like to clarify that. It was in relation to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. If the Secretary of State were not to set objectives, PANI would simply have a wider discretion but it would still have to set objectives for the police service. That is the proper way of dealing with the point made by the noble Lord. I believe he has indicated that he will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: First, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that reading across from the rest of the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland is not always appropriate in these cases, although I am in favour of it as a general proposition as far as possible.

The point that I was making was quite small. It was really only a verbal point. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will set objectives; it would be astonishing if he did not set objectives under the clause. However, the clause only provides that the Secretary of State "may", whereas Clause 15(2) gives a clear impression that there will be such objectives. It says that the PANI objectives,

    "in any event shall be so framed as to be consistent with the objectives determined under [Section 14]".

However, I shall not press the matter. It is a small verbal point rather than one of principle. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clauses 15 to 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [General functions of Chief Constable]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 10, line 15, at end insert--
("and shall consult the Police Authority during the implementation of the plan.").

The noble Lord said: Apart from the objectives that we have been talking about, PANI also has to agree in public to the annual policing plan. This will be drafted in the first instance by the chief constable but it is PANI's plan in the end. The chief constable then has to have regard to the plan under this clause in running the police force.

8 Jun 1998 : Column CWH18

What lies behind the amendment is the fact that we all know that the best laid plans, particularly in situations such as are found in Northern Ireland, cannot always be followed. The first Earl of Stockton pointed out that "Events, old boy, events" are very significant in political and governmental matters. That led me to wonder what will happen when the plan cannot be followed exactly and when a variation from the plan is desirable. Therefore, I suggest in the amendment that the chief constable should consult PANI as the year progresses, not merely report at the end about how he has fared. I am sure that he will do so in practice. The amendment seeks to recognise that he is likely to do so by setting it out on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page