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I merely want to add a further couple of items to the list that he mentioned. International human rights standards can be elicited in certain documents. The two that I should like to mention are the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the UN Principle on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. Those are important matters for Northern Ireland. We have had the murder of Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane and those matters need to be investigated properly.
It is not just a matter of implementing Patten or what Patten said. If this whole process is to succeed, it is extremely important that we show sensitivity in relation to a variety of problems and pressures on all communities in Northern Ireland. To assess our policing against international human rights standards would add to the confidence that the community has in policing.
Of course, those situations are never entirely comparable, but when I had some responsibility for security in the Northern Ireland Office, we were urged constantly by some people from this side of the water in particular, to take the gloves off the Army and so on. We at that time, my predecessors and those since have always held to the sort of policing and support by the Armed Forces which is in place. That is not so in every country.
It so happens that through my wife, who was born in Palestine, and her relations who still live there, I know a little about the situation there. I looked up the figures this morning. Throughout the troubles in Northern Ireland, there have been rather more than 3,600 deaths. Of those, the security forces as a whole--the police and the Army--have been responsible for 10 per cent. In the excellent book, Lost Lives, which has been referred to, about 52 deaths are ascribed to the RUC. That is 52 out of 3,600. That shows the amount of restraint that there has been on the part of all the security forces.
That can be compared with Palestine over the past few weeks where 114 Arabs have been killed and eight Jews. There, it is entirely the other way round. That is a land where two groups, two religions, two tribes, however one describes it, are wanting to live on and control the same ground. The comparison is not precise. The problem in Palestine is even older than that which exists in Ireland. Nevertheless there are similarities. But one of the differences is that the security forces of Israel use tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers against rioters. Those are all the things that we were urged to use at different times against the IRA but did not do so.
There are other amendments in this group. Amendment No. 35 stands in my name and that of my noble friends. The effect of the amendment is to provide the policing board with the authority to undertake consultation with the public at a strategic level. It seems to us that the wording as it currently stands does not give the new board the ability to consult but it must rely on consultation through the new district policing arrangements which are to be established. It would be right if the boards also were directly able to take the opinion of the public when they thought they needed to do so. It is a small point but if I have understood the wording correctly, the matter is worth raising.
The arrangements as set out in the clause seem to me, in some respects, to be rather rigid. They require a report on each visit which deals with the conditions under which persons are held, welfare and treatment, adequacy of the facilities and such other matters as may be specified. Every time a lay visitor visits a detention centre, a full report must be made. That seems to rule out, if only by accident, calling in to look at a particular situation in the middle of the night. In my view, that should be done if the lay visitors are to do their job properly. They should not carry out only great formal inspections leading to reports. They should also be able to visit without reporting. The amendment states that the arrangements shall require a report on each visit covering the matters I listed.
The next detailed point on the amendment is that the power to interview persons being held in places of detention and to examine the records of such persons can be exercised only with the consent of the person concerned. The difficulty with that is that undoubtedly in the Northern Ireland situation, some of the lay visitors will be thought to be on one side of the great divide and some on the other. Therefore, some prisoners will refuse to allow anybody to talk to them or to examine their records unless that person is thought to be sympathetic to the prisoner concerned. It seems to me that that will lead to unbalanced inspections.
The third point concerns the people who may be appointed. Clearly, a lay visitor should not be a member of the board. That is sensible, and is the first provision. The second is that he or she should not be or have been a police officer. However, there is no provision which states that the lay visitor should not have been a former terrorist or convicted of serious offences. Perhaps there should be such a provision. The amendment was tabled very recently and we have not had the opportunity to table amendments to it, at least not at the speed required for them to be put on to the Marshalled List.
The arrangements apply to all designated places of detention except those which are designated under the Terrorism Act unless they have been designated by the Secretary of State. They can potentially apply to terrorist detention as well as to ordinary detention of suspects in a police station. The wording of the proposed new clause deserves careful attention, particularly the points I have mentioned. I am not against the idea of lay visitors. On the contrary, they can play a valuable part in reassuring the public about the effectiveness, efficiency and humanity of the police arrangements. At the time when I was in Northern Ireland, much rubbish was talked about detention. However, we were not in a position to have arrangements of this kind. It is desirable that we should have such arrangements, but we need to get right the detail of the wording.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I support the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, in his Amendment No. 35. It is vitally important that if the board--be it the old board or the new board--is to do its job properly, it has to be in possession of the facts. It must be provided with the necessary facilities and back up to enable it to take soundings, not just by way of doing a doorstep poll, but by making use of independent bodies of integrity who would be in a position to give it sound advice on the particular problems with which it will be coping.
Lord Hylton: Since at least the late 1970s, it has been apparent that virtually all the Northern Ireland political parties were in favour of a Bill of rights. So far, we do not have one specifically for Northern Ireland, though I understand that a lot of preparatory work has been done in that direction. I know that we have a UK Act on the statute book. Nevertheless, the general direction of this group of amendments is helpful. In particular, Amendment No. 34A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, could be interpreted as referring to the difficult question surrounding defence lawyers, which I believe he mentioned.
I turn to Amendment No. 37. In the past, there has been no end of controversy about interrogation, Castlereagh and so on. Government Amendment No. 232 will no doubt be helpful in that context. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, that it is important to get right the wording. Later on in Amendment No. 37 there are arrangements for monitoring police action to control public disorder. I understand that as probably referring to marches and parades, of which there could be few more difficult and controversial questions. I hope that the Government will look with sympathy on this group of amendments.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Perhaps I may deal first with Amendments Nos. 31, 32 and 34A, which concern international human rights standards. I hope that it has been made plain that the Government believe that human rights should be at the heart of policing. That is why we have introduced new measures in the form of the code of ethics, the new human rights based declaration for constables and a statutory duty for the board to monitor police compliance with the Human Rights Act. All of those measures were recommended by the Patten report.
Patten does not recommend integrating international human rights standards into police practice. In recommendation 3 the report recommends, the integration of the European Convention on Human Rights into police practice, and that is the Government's policy.
Were we to require the board to secure compliance and to monitor compliance with a standard, we need to be specific as to exactly what that standard is. It is not clear what "international human rights standards" are. We cannot court ambiguity over those standards, even in Clause 3.