|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Cooke of Islandreagh: It might be thought surprising that a comparatively simple amendment should bring such a long debate on something which really gets right to the bedrock of the constitution of Northern Ireland. We have heard all elements of it this afternoon. I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, for straightening out a great deal of the debate. Although my background is different from his, I support all that he said: first, that all Catholics do not hate the police. Indeed, my experience is that that is certainly not so. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, gave the example of a meeting he had this morning with a Roman Catholic farmer who was looking for the police.
Secondly, no matter what we do with this name to suit Sinn-Fein/IRA, I am pretty certain there will be no more jumping to join the police as a result. Those in the republican Sinn-Fein/IRA do not just want to change the name of the police; it is their job as paramilitaries to destroy the forces of law and order. That is what they have been doing. For them it is only part way to a united Ireland. They have made that quite plain. This change in the name will not help at all. It will just let them believe that they can have whatever they want.
In my view, it should have the natural title of "The Royal Ulster Constabulary--Police Service of Northern Ireland". I do not believe that it will have any significant, adverse effect on the recruitment of Roman Catholics, which we all want. The only thing that will bring them forward is time and the advances that the police force, the RUC, will make--which it is determined to make--in the way that it polices communities. Incidentally, that is a real problem because we are not at peace.
When Patten wrote his report, he assumed that the Good Friday agreement would be fully implemented and that we would be at peace. He assumed that it would be a simple matter of police service in communities. But, I am sorry to say, that is far from being the case. Indeed, in the past two weeks the Secretary of State drew our attention to the very serious situation that now exists. As the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said, it is a mafia in three-quarters of Belfast where those concerned are controlling groups of people for their own reasons--partly by drug running and other racketeering. If anyone does not fit in with their wishes, that person is punished in some way, such as being knee-capped or having his bones shattered. Incidentally, 2,000 people have been banished from their neighbourhood and a few have been murdered.
I also understand that the IRA believes that murder is perhaps counter-productive and that it has taken medical advice to discover how much damage can be done to the human form without actually killing a person. It will take a long time and it will be very hard work for any police force to get over and deal with this mafioso; indeed, the force will need all the intelligence and all the hard work, of which I know it is capable. Those in the force will move as quickly as they can. It will not be soon enough for them when they are able to throw away their arms and walk singly wherever they wish through any community.
To change the name and leave out the "RUC" will not help the situation one little bit. However, it could do great damage because, as has already been explained by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, and others, the unionist community--that is to say, the community in favour of the Union--now believes that so much has been given away; for example, the fact that prisoners were released, the flag issue and now, apparently, the RUC is to be thrown away and become something else. That has had a very serious effect on the attitude of the community. That is something about which we should be very concerned. There is good reason to suppose that those in the community would be desolate to lose the name of the police force that has saved them from heaven knows what. There is no doubt that all of us in Northern Ireland recognise that the RUC has, somehow or other, helped keep the Province in some sort of state; indeed, more than 30 years of murderous attacks by the IRA would be unbelievable to anyone who did not live there. I support the amendment.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: Once the Patten commission had been appointed I suppose it was inevitable that it would recommend the virtual destruction of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. When I say "destruction" I mean eroding its morale, authority and everything else. After the publication of his report Patten defended his decision by asking, "What did the authors of the Belfast agreement expect me to recommend?" At least he was honest. There is a lesson there for all of us because that is exactly what the Bill invites us to do; namely, to comply with Patten but to cover up the destruction of a constabulary with layers of weasel words. The words are recycled from those which were used, for example, to destroy the Parliament at Stormont, the Special Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The same nicely concealed camouflaged terminology is always used.
However, as we embark on Clause 2, we are entitled to inquire whether the Government are preparing, or thinking about establishing, a new counter-terrorist constabulary in the light of the resurgence of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the alarming development of Mafia organisations. We have just heard on good authority that they now cover three-quarters of the City of Belfast.
The three brands of republican flavour and at least two of so-called loyalists are guilty--they are very guilty as those who have first-hand experience, particularly in the City of Belfast, will confirm--of
The Bill is not final; it is only a step. The police service created by the Bill is modelled on a kind of super traffic warden. It could not be expected--and we should not expect it--to contain and defeat current terrorism and current Mafia behaviour, as did the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which of course is the very reason why terrorists on both sides want to get rid of it; it is self-evident that no criminal likes a policeman.
Today the Committee is invited to acquiesce in creating a vacuum. We are entitled to inquire gently about the replacement which the Government may have in mind. The Army in these days of over stretch cannot be expected to bear all of this developing new burden. Already back on the streets the Army is experiencing problems with over stretch, manning and everything else. But how can the Army support the civil power through co-operation with a police service--not a police force, not a constabulary--which will be hampered, hamstrung and continually weakened by government concessions to the demands of terrorists, paramilitaries and the new Mafia groups condoned or ignored by three governments and a misnamed process as phoney as its counterpart in the Middle East only yesterday proved to be?
The demands for a quite unnecessary change of title are designed to weaken morale and authority--that may not have been the intention of the Government but it will be the net result--but will depict the Government as a soft touch for all lawbreakers who will indulge in further mutilation of the constabulary as fresh demands are made.
We would all do well to reflect on the preliminary exchanges between the two Front Benches before the House went into Committee in regard to the delicacy of peace processes. In Northern Ireland we are doing rather better than our opposite numbers in the Middle East. For example, we have not as yet consigned anyone to Hell. Moderation still exists in Northern Ireland but the balance is delicate. The position of David Trimble is delicate by reason of the fact that he has been forced over the years by three sovereign governments to make concession after concession and has been hung out to dry with absolutely no reciprocity for those concessions. My plea is, do not push Mr Trimble over the edge for mere imaginary gains. Do not encourage Her Majesty's Government to endanger all that has been achieved over the past few years.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: All of the amendments in the group we are discussing relate to the name of the police in Northern Ireland. In addition to those which have been debated there are a number of technical amendments in my name which I shall discuss at the end of my remarks. Apart from those technical amendments, all of the amendments tabled oppose the Government's position and all of them would amend the current provision in Clause 1 which was tabled by the Ulster Unionist Party in another place and was accepted by the Government.
Of course the Government acknowledge that this is a deeply contentious issue and that for many it involves a painful change. The Patten report recognised that encouraging Catholic recruits to the RUC was not as simple as changing the name or removing the "Royal" prefix. Patten said that symbols associated with one side of the constitutional debate inevitably went some way to inhibit the wholehearted participation in policing of the other side. He did not recommend either no change or a complete change. He said that the name should change but that continuity should be recognised. That is what Clause 1 seeks to achieve. The Government accept that. Of course we accept that the reasons Roman Catholics do not join the police are many and complex. Of course we accept that they include intimidation. As has been said by a number of noble Lords, we also accept that the SDLP and other community leaders should encourage people from all communities to join the police force. But to achieve a new beginning we believe that it is necessary to have a new name.
As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said when the Bill received its Third Reading in another place, we have introduced a new name--the Police Service of Northern Ireland--and that name will be used for all operational and working purposes, including whenever and in whatever circumstances the police interface with the public.
Our intention has also been to ensure that the RUC is evidently incorporated into the new service in its founding legislation. As has been stated by the Secretary of State on several occasions, the purpose of the reference to the RUC in Clause 1(1) is to demonstrate with absolute clarity, and as a matter of fact and of law, that the RUC is not being disbanded, as the Patten report made clear should not happen.
At the same time it has to be acknowledged that the body of officers comprising the new service, like any body of officers, needs a clear identity to be effective and to which all can relate. That is one reason why the name is changing to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State has stated many times before the Government's view that introducing a dual name would not be good for the cohesion and unity and therefore the effectiveness of the police--a view which I understand is shared within the RUC.
Concern has been expressed that the Bill as drafted could possibly result in the name not being used in the manner I have outlined. We shall, as with all aspects of the legislation, keep this under review. We shall expect the oversight commissioner to include the issue in his regular reports and shall be willing to return to it if necessary. Although I recognise the strength of feeling that has been expressed, I ask the Committee to reflect on what I have said and consider the purposes behind Clause 1(1).
I turn briefly to the Government's own amendments. Clause 1 was added to the Bill on Report in another place. The changes made to Clause 1 entail many consequential amendments throughout the Bill. It is a tribute to the skill of the parliamentary draftsman that these technical changes were effected in
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|