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Lord Smith of Clifton: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his elucidation of his proposed amendment which I welcome. The Committee will remember at Second Reading these Benches were much exercised on the issue of the merits of targets versus quotas. Amendment No. 159 which stands in my name, as does Amendment No. 166, concern this matter.

Amendment No. 154 has done much to modify the bald impact of quotas as they originally appeared in Clause 45. Roman Catholic under representation is considerable and has proved resistant to change. The proportion of Roman Catholic officers has increased by just 1 per cent over the past 10 years. In 1990 it was 7.3 per cent and this year, only 8.4 per cent. In the past the RUC has had targets set for it and has failed to meet them. Quotas may not succeed, but I have been persuaded since Second Reading that targets certainly have not.

Moreover, since Second Reading the Government have achieved a derogation from the European Union's protocols on employment discrimination so the quotas are now legal. Therefore this reservation has also been removed. In supporting Amendment No. 154, I propose not moving Amendment No. 159 standing in my name although I shall still want to see Amendment No. 166 considered as I believe the necessary affirmative action is now vitally necessary.

Lord Glentoran: I support Amendment No. 149. Amendment No. 154 is undoubtedly helpful. However, there is the whole question of quotas versus targets and of realism versus hope and--I do not mean this in a derogatory way--hopeful imagination. As we discussed much earlier today in relation to recruitment to the RUC, if we are not to get the support and the backing of the nationalists, the republicans and the Roman Catholic Church, we can legislate as much as we like but we shall not meet the quotas. My only fear with Amendment No. 154 is that if the nationalist/republican community continue to dig in their toes and refuse to join the RUC, the police force--whatever its name may be--will start to operate under strength. That is a matter of concern.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Patten said that real community policing is impossible if the composition of the police bears little relationship to the composition of the community as a whole. As the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, pointed out, the present composition of the RUC is 8 per cent Catholic, as against 88 per cent Protestant, some 3.9 per cent being classified as non-determined.

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Affirmative action measures, referred to in Amendment No. 166 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Smith, target setting, and so on, have been attempted for many years but their impact has not been sufficient to bring about the representational balance that is needed. Fifty-fifty recruitment--as it has come to be called--has been accepted by the Government as an exceptional remedy to an exceptional problem. The aim is to bring about a sharp upturn in the level of Catholic representation in the shorter term.

Selection will continue to be based on merit and the system will remain under regular governmental scrutiny, as provided for by Clause 46. We accept the exceptional nature of the problem and we also accept, as I indicated earlier, that we would strongly welcome the Patten suggestion of the SDLP and Church members calling for members of all communities to join the police service. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Smith, for having indicated that he will not be moving some of his amendments. I would also ask him to do the same in respect of Amendment No. 166.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 150 and 151 not moved.]

Lord Desai moved Amendment No. 152:

    Page 21, line 37, leave out ("6") and insert ("2").

The noble Lord said: This amendment runs along with Amendments Nos. 155 and 156. They are all in the same spirit that the noble and learned Lord has spoken about. We all want to encourage 50:50 recruitment. Amendment No. 152 allows for a change in the minimum number of vacancies to be declared before the quota applies. Currently it says that there have to be six vacancies in civilian support staff before this quota kicks in, and my amendment reduces this to two. That makes it easy.

It may be that this is a difficult thing to do. If there are only two vacancies arising in a particular area, it may be difficult to apply a quota. My amendment is in line with the stated position of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. What I propose in the other two amendments is that for any vacancies between two to five the 50:50 principle should be applied by the Chief Constable as far as is practicable. If it is not practicable to apply the quota then it simply does not apply and a chief constable will have discretion to balance the need to apply the quota against any other competing needs. He has to account publicly each year and report on how he has exercised his discretion.

This group of amendments will allow for the quota requirement to kick in at a much lower level of vacancies. They also allow flexibility for a chief constable to balance the needs of quota fulfilment with other needs. I think it is quite sensible and recommend it to my noble and learned friend. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The noble Lord, Lord Desai, has tabled Amendments Nos. 152, 155 and 156 relating to the recruitment of police support staff.

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These amendments would reduce the threshold for the application of 50:50 recruitment from six to two, with the proviso that where the number of vacancies is five or less the quota will be applied when it is practicable to do so. The Government do not accept that the 50:50 mechanism could properly or effectively be used where such small numbers are involved. For instance, in practical terms, how could 50:50 be applied where there are three or five places to be filled? To apply a quota to such tiny numbers would, to all intents and purposes, negate the merit principle completely, even with the proviso referred to. The impact on overall composition at such levels would clearly be negligible. I therefore invite my noble friend to withdraw Amendment No. 152.

Lord Desai: I thank my noble and learned friend for those remarks. I was worried that six vacancies may not arise at one particular time, but I shall read his remarks in Hansard with care. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.45 p.m.

Clause 44, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 153:

    After Clause 44, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) In exercising its functions in relation to the appointment of senior officers, the Board shall take such steps as it considers necessary to encourage applications for appointment from suitably qualified external candidates.
(2) In exercising his functions in relation to the appointment of police officers (other than senior officers), the Chief Constable shall take such steps as he considers necessary to encourage applications for appointment from suitably qualified external candidates.
(3) In complying with subsections (1) and (2), the Board and the Chief Constable shall have regard to the progress which has been made towards securing that membership of the police is representative of the community in Northern Ireland.
(4) "Suitably qualified external candidates" means candidates who--
(a) are not currently serving in the police; and
(b) satisfy the qualifications for appointment which--
(i) are prescribed in regulations made under section 25 or 26 of the 1998 Act; or
(ii) are otherwise determined for the rank in question.").

The noble and learned Lord said: Patten recommended that,

    "the recruitment agency should seek to identify such officers (ie. Catholic police officers from Northern Ireland serving in police services elsewhere), contact them and encourage them--particularly those in more senior ranks--to apply for positions in the Northern Ireland police".

He also went on to say that secondments or recruitment from non-police organisations should be encouraged. This proposed new clause is designed to encourage what has become known as lateral entry.

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I should explain that lateral entry already happens between UK police forces although in the RUC only a few posts are filled each year in this way. This provision provides the basis for a wider degree of lateral entry including from the Garda.

As Patten highlighted, the proportion of Catholics in the senior ranks of the RUC--that is superintendent and above--stands at around 16 per cent and is therefore significantly higher than in the service as a whole. Nevertheless, it is still not reflective of community composition.

Our aim is to provide for lateral entry at all levels within the police service. But selection will be based on open competition and merit as Patten recommended. The provision does not provide for a sudden influx of, say, Garda officers by some preferential route. The Government hope that the provision will assist in bringing about compositional change; but, I repeat, all such recruitment must be on merit.

The provision will be defined at Clause 46 as a temporary one. It will, therefore, be subject to review and renewal every three years by the Secretary of State, as with the 50:50 recruitment arrangements. In deciding whether to renew, the Secretary of State must take account of the extent to which the police service is representative of the Northern Ireland community. I beg to move.

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