Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the commitment that I have already given will ensure that this House will have adequate time to discuss the matter before the process is complete. There will obviously need to be a ratification debate in this House and another place.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, My noble friend properly raised the issue of nuclear weapons in this connection. Does my noble friend agree that, although the Government have been commendably clear about their own position in the matter, they have shown no signs of wishing to spread the word among other NATO members? On some suitable occasions would it not be appropriate for NATO or, conceivably, some other UN organisation to tackle this matter so that the Government's ideas may be spread more widely than is the case at present?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we are in close contact with all our allies on these issues in NATO and in other contexts. The Government cannot be criticised for failing to make it clear to our allies and other countries where we stand on the issue of nuclear disarmament.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will the strategic concept embody the principle of equitable contribution from each of the European member states of the alliance? Will it also establish mechanisms for monitoring the achievement of that equitability?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, cost contributions will be considered in formulating the future strategic concept. However, the burden sharing has already been set for a

22 Jun 1998 : Column 9

number of years ahead. It will no doubt be reviewed from time to time. This exercise will not affect those proportions.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, will the Minister assure us that these important defence debates, not least the SDR debate, will not occur on a Friday or the last day before the Summer Recess?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the noble Earl will realise there are many things which are within my power to promise, but I cannot however promise time. That is a matter for the usual channels.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, can the Government confirm that in these discussions the United States evinces more enthusiasm for the European pillar of NATO than do the British Government?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the British Government, the United States Government and our European allies all recognise and agree that there has to be a strong European identity within NATO.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, is the noble Lord satisfied that Her Majesty's Government have done enough to assist those nations not in the first wave to meet the criteria which NATO will set so that they can join NATO as quickly as possible?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the House knows that considerable measures have ensured that all those eastern central European countries which have expressed a wish to join NATO have received military co-operation in various forms from us. The decision on further enlargement of NATO will depend on the success of the enlargement to be finalised in March of next year.

Millennium Dome: Award of Contracts

3 p.m.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy, when awarding contracts for the Millennium Dome project, for ensuring that British companies have the same opportunities as those from other countries.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the procedures adopted by the New Millennium Experience Company for procuring goods, services and equipment meet UK domestic and European Union requirements for fair and open competition among potential suppliers. My noble friend will be especially pleased to hear that UK companies have done exceptionally well in winning contracts for the Millennium Dome project with 29 of the 30 main trade contracts having been let to companies based in the UK.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that much of British industry will be

22 Jun 1998 : Column 10

pleased to hear the Answer he has given me? Although there has been much bad publicity about the millennium project, it is regarded as prestigious, in particular by overseas companies which wish to win contracts. Am I correct in interpreting my noble friend's Answer to mean that there will be a level playing field for British companies, and that the political lobbying, in particular from overseas governments, will not take precedence over commercial excellence?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, perhaps I may congratulate my noble friend on his birthday and express regret that our unfair sex discrimination laws mean that unlike a woman he will have to wait another five years for his bus pass.

My noble friend is right that the Millennium Dome contracts are prestigious. He can be assured that there is and will be a level playing field. Indeed, I should have thought that political lobbying by other governments would be a disadvantage rather than an advantage.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I speak as a member of the Millennium Commission. Is the noble Lord aware that the Millennium Commission has funded a considerable part of the project; that it has the spotlight of the Treasury and all others upon it; and that all procedures for procurement are under a microscope at all times on such a project?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord had the advantage of being invited to the topping-out of the dome this morning which I did not. In that sense, his information may be more up-to-date than mine. I can confirm what the noble Lord says.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, the construction of the dome has apparently been conducted within the time limits and the budget set. It is therefore a great success in that regard; and that distinguishes it from many other major projects recently undertaken. Will the procedures adopted to achieve that desirable result be fully documented and passed on to those who may be concerned with further major projects?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Prime Minister made the same point this morning. I am sure he will be grateful to the noble Lord for his comments about what has been achieved so far. I think that the noble Lord's suggestion about documentation will be well received.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, would the Minister like to express a view about the rather unusual figure that appears on top of the dome?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure that I understand the noble Viscount's reference to "on top of the dome". He may be referring to the large human figure which is to appear in one of the zones of the dome. I understand that discussions about the configuration of that figure (if that is the right word) continue.

22 Jun 1998 : Column 11

Petition: Sex Discrimination Act 1975

3.4 p.m.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, in conformity with the procedure of the House, I beg to present a Petition from Ms. Rachel Anderson, which prays that this House will call upon Her Majesty's Government to review the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 with the intention of enhancing the powers of the Act, so that discrimination such as that practised by the PFA against Ms Rachel Anderson at the PFA Awards Dinner be clearly against the law. The Petition is already on the Table of the House.


Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I make a short business Statement concerning this evening's Unstarred Question in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. A revised speakers' list has been issued to correct an error in the time allocated to speakers in the debate. With the exception of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn, who have 10 minutes and 12 minutes respectively, all other speeches should be limited to six minutes and not to nine minutes as stated in the original speakers' list.

Registered Establishments (Scotland) Bill

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

3.6 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 24 [Attestation of constables]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 1:

Leave out Clause 24.

The noble Lord said: My Lords with the leave of the House, perhaps I may speak at the same time to Amendment No. 5 which is consequential. If agreed to, the effect of this pair of amendments would be to retain the existing loyal oath for recruits to the RUC for the time being. Perhaps I may take a moment to set the scene. As the explanatory and financial memorandum reminds us, the Bill was conceived by the Labour Party in opposition. But no opposition party, however thorough its researches, can have access to all the facts

22 Jun 1998 : Column 12

as they evolve in the way that a government do. More importantly, events have developed at an astonishing pace.

Eighteen months ago no one could have foreseen the Good Friday deal or the appointment of the Patten Commission. What might have seemed desirable then may look very different today. Much of the Bill is fairly non-controversial. Few could seriously object to the idea of a police ombudsman, for example. But no matter what the police authority may say, altering the oath is a very different matter and not strictly integral to the Bill.

The senior ranks of the RUC appear to feel that publicly they must go along with the establishment view, whatever their private feelings may be. My information is that the far more numerous junior ranks are most unhappy about the position, as indeed they are with prisoner release and many other aspects of the "peace process". In the Financial Times of 2nd June--by no means a pro-unionist newspaper; if anything somewhat the reverse--its correspondent Jimmy Burns reported that the Royal Ulster Constabulary faced an uncertain future following the Good Friday peace agreement. He highlighted the Ulster Police Federation's's deep distrust of the Government's stance on police reform, and added:

    "To many RUC officers, the very word reform smacks of ungratefulness if not betrayal. 'We are the cement that held the province together in the Troubles' [the federation spokesman said] 'and suddenly we're told that we are the problem'".
It is in that context that Clause 24 and Schedule 2 must be viewed.

A number of dishonest commentators claim that the reason for the disproportionately small percentage of Catholics in the RUC is an anti-Catholic bias in the force. That claim is all too readily swallowed by a gullible mainland public. The real reason, as most of us in this House know and as the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, pointed out so forcefully and tellingly on Second Reading, is that Catholic officers are even more vulnerable to assassination by the IRA or the INLA than are their Protestant fellow officers. Remove that threat and Catholic enlistments will rise, perhaps quite sharply.

There is no inherent incompatibility between Irish Roman Catholicism and loyalty to the Crown. I knew a distinguished officer in the Royal Air Force, a charming, interesting and very able man, who happened to be a Catholic from Dungannon. The one thing which marred enjoyment of his career was that he could not visit his elderly and infirm mother in Dungannon because the IRA had threatened to try to kill him if he set foot in the town. How insulting to such a man, and there are many thousands like him, to suggest that Roman Catholics cannot reasonably be expected to be loyal to the Crown.

Perhaps it will be claimed that the revised oath is necessary to attract nationalists as distinct from Roman Catholics. Yet members of the SDLP, such as John Hume and Seamus Mallon, who after all represent the majority of nationalists, are content to take the oath upon entering the House of Commons. It may also be an attempt to justify the proposed change on the ground

22 Jun 1998 : Column 13

that the police in Scotland make a broadly similar attestation, yet the Scots form only about 8½ per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom.

A comparison with the Republic of Ireland is far more relevant given the push towards cross-border harmonisation and the fact that "parity of esteem" is the buzz phrase of the moment. Presumably, parity of esteem means the unionists in the south being treated with the same respect and consideration as nationalists in the north. Is the oath taken by those joining the Garda in the south purged of patriotic sentiment so as to avoid offending the tiny handful of unionists still living there who may wish to join? Not a bit of it. I shall read a condensed version of the rather long oath taken in the Republic:

    "I ... do solemnly and sincerely before God declare and affirm, and my word and honour pledge ... that I will render good and true service and obedience to Ireland and its constitution and government as by law established ... and that I will prevent to the best of my power all the offences against the same".
That is stirring patriotic stuff. And why on earth not? Unionists in the south accept it.

Questions relating to recruitment and to the culture, ethos and symbols of the RUC are matters for the Patten Commission to advise upon. The commission could recommend maintenance of the status quo. Or it could recommend that the oath should be altered, possibly in the form suggested in Schedule 2. If that were to happen it would be sad--but far better and far less demoralising to the rank and file of the RUC that it should come about as part and parcel of one final comprehensive package deal rather than as yet one more capitulation in the seemingly never-ending war of attrition; death by a thousand cuts.

Perhaps I may suggest a possible compromise. If the Minister will agree to an amendment on Third Reading to postpone the coming into operation of Clause 24 and Schedule 2 for 12 months, or until the Patten Commission has reported--whichever may be the sooner--I shall be glad to withdraw the amendment. The commission may recommend the status quo, in which case Schedule 2 could remain in limbo indefinitely. It may recommend a third, middle way for which there could be swift legislation. Alternatively, it may recommend acceptance of the wording proposed in Schedule 2, in which case it could be brought into operation immediately and without delay. With that offer, I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I am happy to support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Monson. The thrust of the Good Friday agreement was harmonisation between Northern Ireland on the one hand and the Irish Republic on the other. For understandable reasons, the wordsmiths were anxious to avoid specifics in many key areas and this is one. One would not have expected the two governments to reveal to the innocent the formula of November 1997 at which the wordsmiths were required to work--and I quote as I have in your Lordships' House many times:

    "While it would not be possible to grant the demands of Mr. Adams, we shall provide the mechanism to deliver them".

22 Jun 1998 : Column 14

That provides us all with food for thought.

The undertaking was established in full in the Good Friday agreement. The 71 per cent. endorsement was obtained in the referendum by a mixture of crude threats from some quarters and naked pressure from others. There was also a degree of manipulation of the news industry on a scale which sometimes made Dr. Goebbels look like a blundering amateur.

The torture is being repeated in advance of Thursday's assembly elections to ensure that the above-mentioned mechanism--namely, the promised conveyor belt--is set in motion as soon as possible thereafter. To some extent, the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill preceded formal approval of the agreement. It was then presented as a "confidence building measure"--wonderful words--not specifying whose confidence. Being interpreted, it means "increasing the confidence of terrorists and eroding the confidence of the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom in general".

As the text of the Bill stands, it is outdated by the Good Friday agreement which, by means of the conveyor belt, seeks to press forward measures to secure harmonisation over many areas. But the Bill before your Lordships, in Clause 24 and Schedule 2, creates a yawning gap between the declaration required of the police in the Irish Republic, quoted by my noble friend Lord Monson, and, in the case of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a mere affirmation to "discharge duties", which is not very different from the promise made by the Sainsbury recruit when interviewed for a job on the check-out.

The Garda recruit will not be enlisted unless and until he has declared before God that he will render good and true service and obedience to Ireland, and to its constitution, and to its government. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, asked what is wrong with that. I am not certain that many Members on the Benches to my left would in former times have pledged allegiance to the government which existed for some 18 years. Not only is the constitution by law established, but also the government. That is an intolerable demand to make of any policeman in any nation anywhere.

I find it curious that nowhere in the negotiations leading up to the so-called Good Friday agreement did any Dublin police federation draw attention to the inferior position in which the Irish police now find themselves. We are told that the convoluted text of the Good Friday agreement is sacred, even more so than the Dead Sea Scrolls, and that not even a word can be changed by either Prime Minister. I acknowledge that your Lordships' House cannot legislate to relieve such an imposition on the Irish police as our jurisdiction does not extend that far. However, Clause 75 of the Bill provides for implementation on different days for different purposes. Would it be possible to obtain an undertaking that Clause 24 shall not be implemented until the Government of the Irish Republic have had a reasonable opportunity to modernise their laws, and thus build confidence within the Irish police security forces?

22 Jun 1998 : Column 15

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page