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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am delighted with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Perhaps I may make certain that the Committee understands that we accept the amendment in principle but want to check the precise wording with counsel. I believe that that is important. I say to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer that it is a refreshing change for the Government to be told that placing certain items on the face of the Bill sometimes causes difficulty because, by definition, others may be deemed to be less important or excluded in some way. I am sure that I shall recall his wise words when we come to deal with other Bills. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for her contribution.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 73 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 74:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 18 [Reports by district policing partnership to Board]:

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 78 not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Code of practice for district policing partnerships]:

Lord Laird moved Amendment No. 79:

    Page 9, line 30, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: If I understand it correctly, the Government have accepted this amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government have accepted the amendment in principle but would prefer the noble Lord not to press the matter to a Division tonight while we receive the advice of counsel.

Lord Laird: In view of that clarification, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 80:

    Page 9, line 30, leave out (", with the consent of the Secretary of State,").

The noble and learned Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if with this amendment we debate all the amendments up to and including Amendment No. 85.

Amendment No. 80 is largely a probing amendment. Clause 19 empowers the board to issue or revise a code of practice for district policing partnerships. That is sensible. However, the clause then provides that they may do so only with the consent of the Secretary of State. I wonder why. The

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board is charged with ensuring that policing in Northern Ireland is carried out properly. Why does one not let them get on with it? One assumes that the people appointed to the board will be responsible and sensible. Clearly, ultimate responsibility lies with the Secretary of State. However, we all know that when the Secretary of State moves over from policy to more detailed matters, he is likely to spark off inflammable material and store up trouble for himself. Therefore, I ask simply: what is the thinking behind that requirement?

I turn to Amendment No. 83. Clause 19 empowers the board to issue a code of practice. Subsection (2) very sensibly provides that, before doing so, it,

    "shall consult ... district councils; and ... the Chief Constable".

This amendment simply seeks to explore whether all the other obvious consultees are to be left out of the process. If the answer is that it is unnecessary to make specific provision because they would be consulted without specific provision, then if my noble friend and I can continue our tennis match, perhaps I may lob the ball back over the net and say that, if specific consultees are listed, are the others not relegated to the second division? I wonder why there should be that distinction.

First, there is the district policing partnership itself. Should it not be consulted about the code of practice which is to be imposed on it? I cannot believe that it is intended that the code should be sprung on it as a fait accompli. However, if the argument is that it is unnecessary, we return to the question of whether that is not also true of the many provisions in the Bill where an authority is enjoined to consult.

In Clause 5(5), before making regulations for the transfer of staff the Secretary of State is required to consult the board, the chief constable and organisations representing the interests of those affected. Does that imply that in the absence of a statutory requirement he might not consult them? A requirement to consult serves as a reminder. Perhaps that resolves the issue between my noble friend and myself. It is a reminder to officials to consult when working on a project and, perhaps only in the last resort, it is a trigger for a challenge to an unco-operative Secretary of State.

The amendment would also require consultation with the Police Ombudsman. He or she should provide a mine of information. The ombudsman has been learning where the shoe pinches. Then there is reference to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission, which over the years have developed substantial expertise. To make a case for consulting them is superfluous and I shall not take up the Committee's time. It would be an insult or an act of madness to produce a code without inviting their comments.

At the risk of being tiresome, perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No. 84. This amendment serves as another reminder. Subsection (3) relates to some of the matters with which the code of practice may deal. Surely the DPPwill wish to have ongoing consultations

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with those organisations which have something to contribute to the combined wisdom and whose support would ensure that the public are informed about and agree with the arrangements for policing in the area. That has been the subject of an earlier debate and I shall not elaborate on it.

The code of practice is to set out various arrangements. Would it not be wise to set out how the consultation process will operate: how those concerns will be notified as to what is to happen or what is proposed and how they will be invited to submit their concerns; at which point should those views be fed into the machine; and most particularly, how far the process should have proceeded before various people are consulted and in what order they should be consulted? Very often, such matters can touch off an explosion. As we all know, sometimes an unnecessary crisis is sparked off because A was told about something before B. Would it not be wise to have a structure in place to ensure that no crisis occurs before someone's attention is distracted at the wrong moment? I beg to move.

Baroness O'Cathain: I seek clarification on this point. I can see the reason for the comment by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, about consulting. Am I correct in thinking that he suggests that, in spite of his amendment listing those bodies--the ombudsman, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and so on--he would be happy with Clause 5(5)(c) in place which refers to,

    "such organisations as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of persons affected by the regulations"?

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am grateful to the noble Baroness and I am sorry if I failed to make myself clear. I was simply saying that in Clause 5(5)(c) it was felt necessary to set that out. I am only wondering why it was not felt necessary to set it out here.

Baroness O'Cathain: So the noble and learned Lord would be quite happy with the words included in Clause 5(5)(c)?

Lord Archer of Sandwell: Yes.

Lord Glentoran: We are moving onto the area of the ombudsman. I do not believe that it is necessary but I should feel more comfortable to declare an interest in this regard in as much as the present ombudsman, Mrs O'Loan, is somebody with whom I worked on a government committee for some time. I know her quite well and have a great deal of respect for her. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will accept that any comment I may make about the ombudsman's role or position in relation to this Bill is objective and not in any way subjective. It reflects in no way whatever on Mrs O'Loan, for whom I have an enormous amount of time.

With regard to Amendment No. 82, the Minister may perhaps be surprised to hear that on this side of the Committee we like the idea of keeping the Secretary of State's hand on the helm at this stage.

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When, it is hoped, the powers in relation to policing and so on are devolved to the Assembly, those powers will be needed in the early stages. Ultimately, I believe that it would be better if the decision for the Secretary of State to withdraw were taken at the time when the power becomes devolved. Therefore, I support those amendments which seek to keep the Secretary of State's hand on the helm; that is, I support Amendment No. 80.

I do not wish to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and nor do I wish to support Amendment No. 82. We wish to increase the role of the Secretary of State as much as possible. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, was clear on his thoughts in relation to that matter.

On Amendment No. 83, I should be worried and concerned if that field of consultation were made too ridiculously wide. That was the sense of feeling which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, was coming across with too. I understand where he is coming from. He wants reminders. I like reminders too but not lists.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I support my noble friend. We need the Secretary of State involved, at least until we can see, in the next year or two, how things are going.

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