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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, asked a range of questions and I shall try to answer them as quickly as possible. The Government will not leave the people in Northern Ireland or in the United Kingdom as a whole unprotected from terrorism. The Statement makes it clear that, for example, progress on the size of the police service will be critically dependent on the Chief Constable's assessment of the security threat and the public order issue.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made absolutely clear our commitment to the implementation in full of all parts of the Belfast agreement. Therefore, I cannot possibly agree with the noble Lord that the real issue, which he claims is hidden, of neutralising the effective anti-terrorist role of the RUC is a valid point of view.
Decommissioning is required under the Good Friday agreement and the Government want to see the implementation of all areas. The Patten Report also points out that the implementation of some recommendations will, as is mentioned in the Statement,
In conclusion, we believe that the situation on the streets of Northern Ireland for the men and women of the police service will be safer if the whole community feels supportive and with ownership of the police service.
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, not least for her assurance that none of the Patten reforms will be implemented until after 1st May, which is the terminal date for the handing in of terrorist weapons.
On the difficult and sensitive issue of symbols and the name of the RUC, I regret that so intelligent and normally sensitive a man as Chris Patten made such recommendations. I also regret that the Government have felt obliged to accept them.
Is not the real reason for changing the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary not that if we retained it we should fail to attract Catholic and Republican recruits to the constabulary, but because the word "Royal" indicates an allegiance to this country, this Crown, this Parliament and this Government? Is it not simply because Sinn Fein will not accept it? It is the bone in its throat and unfortunately, in my view, we have agreed to go along with it.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I begin by making clear to my noble friend that the Patten Report is not tied to other aspects of the Good Friday agreement such as decommissioning. Changes in policing need to be considered in their own right. In that context, some of the recommendations of the Patten Report were already being implemented by the
My noble friend passionately raised the point of the name change. If we are to achieve peace and stability in Northern Ireland, it will be dependent on mutual respect for the opinions of both traditions within the community. That can be the only way in which we can move forward.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, will the Minister accept that if there ever had been such a plan as that adumbrated by my noble friend Lord Molyneaux of Killead, it was successfully concealed from me during some five years as Secretary of State and nine years as a Law Officer? However, that may have been because those responsible for it hoped to confide it to someone more likely to be in sympathy with it.
Will the Minister also accept that I welcome in the response to the Patten Report the retention of a unified police service for the whole of Northern Ireland rather than the fragmented service which had been bruited and argued for in some quarters? I equally welcome the retention of a special branch within it. That is absolutely essential to the continuance of the RUC's ability to counter terrorism in Northern Ireland. I also welcome the fact that the police will not have to coexist with locally recruited bands of irregulars, at least for the present, and I hope that they never will.
I particularly welcome the properly generous tone of the language in which the Secretary of State pays a well deserved tribute to the members of the RUC, 302 of whom have died with some 9,000 injured. That generosity and warmth of tone was, as the Minister fairly recognised, sadly and inappropriately missing from the Patten Report; something which occasioned much hurt.
Finally, I welcome the recognition in the Statement that nationalists should support the police service in Northern Ireland. I also welcome what has been said about the desirability of their being encouraged to do so by their political representatives. Perhaps the Minister will allow me to add a gloss to that: it would be an enormous help and long overdue if leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were to indicate that it would be an entirely proper service for good members of their flock.
The Government know that members of the RUC, including Roman Catholics and their dependants, have a burning pride in the name of the RUC. The force has carried the name throughout the protracted period of valiant service, properly recognised now by the George Cross. If so prominent a Roman Catholic leader as Monseigneur Dennis Faul has recommended that the name of the RUC should continue in some amalgamated form--a recommendation which attracted instant condemnation from Sinn Fein, as the noble Lord, Lord Shore, will not be surprised to hear--I ask the Minister this question. Would it not be
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I welcome the support from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew. While many people may have been deceived on many occasions in the past, I cannot believe that anyone would have got that kind of plan and scheme past him during his distinguished period of office.
On the issue of the name, we are sympathetic to both sides of the argument but have been persuaded, after considerable and careful thought, that the name is an obstacle to change. The RUC does not belong solely to those who serve in it, however gallant and distinguished that service has been--and it has. It belongs, as a public service without parallel in these islands, to all the people of Northern Ireland whom the police exist to serve and protect. We believe that the name should command the respect of all sections of the community.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am grateful for the comments made by my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. The House will not be surprised if I give my support to the Statement by the Secretary of State today. Many members of the RUC who served bravely and steadfastly, in the most difficult circumstances, deserve to have some assurances about their personal futures. Some are liable to lose their jobs.
I ask my noble friend to give an assurance that the Government will give sympathetic and generous treatment to those members of the RUC who may have to lose their jobs as a result of the changes. I ask that they be given adequate training to prepare them for careers outside the RUC and that the Government consider possible opportunities for RUC officers to serve in other police forces in Britain where there are recruiting difficulties, such as in London.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend Lord Dubs that discussions have started. The Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State have assured all concerned that arrangements will be generous and sympathetic. It is too early to say when the packages will be agreed, but discussions are already taking place with my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Detailed work by the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust and the Training and Employment Agency and LEDU will all offer assistance and advice and we will explore all opportunities to offer people the chance of moving to other police services.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, there are two issues I wish to mention. The Patten report and the Government mention the speed of implementation being governed by how the security situation develops. The yardstick for gauging the security situation seems to mean two entirely different things to different people. On the one hand, to most people who live outside Northern Ireland it means the level of violence and the number of terrorist incidents as portrayed on the news. To those of us who live in the Province, that is only part of the story. At present there is continued violence and intimidation on the same scale as prior to the cease-fire, instigated by those who are not on cease-fire and either instigated or previously set up by those who are on cease-fire.
Can the Minister give a reassurance that the Government will take fully into account not only the security situation as it hits the headlines, but also the level of organised crime, before they implement the measures, especially cutting the force by half?
The second issue is the name and the badge change. For many reasons, I do not support what is proposed; I am entirely against it. The Government say that it will make the force more acceptable in nationalist areas and encourage recruiting. I feel they are being a little economic with the facts. The Statement says that the RUC,
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