Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Brookeborough: I too support the aims of the 50:50 proposal, as do most other Members of the Committee who come from Northern Ireland. I do not believe that there is any question about that.

On the other hand, if we have that pool of people who have passed the entry exam to become part of the recruitment pool, how are they rated within that pool? I have a note from the noble and learned Lord which says:

Does that mean that there is absolutely no order of merit at all and provided that people achieve a certain level, thereafter, their names are taken out of a hat, except that under the 50:50 rule, more Roman Catholics will be taken in order to try to equalise the numbers? I cannot believe that any police force or business has a pool of applicants ready to come in who are not rated in an order of merit in some way.

If they were left on an even plain, how long do the Government realistically think--and remember that there are 4,000 entrants to each competition which may fill up to three recruit cadres--that some people, who may have degrees and feel that they are particularly suited to this will wait for a person to merely pull them out of that pool by sheer luck? I cannot believe that it will be long. There will be an order of merit, because, quite clearly, no chief constable would want to lower the standards or fail to attain the standards within his force which he would wish to see.

If there is a pool by merit, then there is discrimination, let alone on grounds of sex.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Three separate points arise. First, I deal with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, about the effect of the EU directive. As the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, rightly pointed out, a directive was agreed pursuant to the terms of Article 13 last Tuesday at the Council of Ministers. It includes an explicit exception for the provisions of this Bill, for the 50:50 recruitment. So with that exception, we are satisfied that there is no breach of the provisions of Article 13, nor is there a breach of the provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty.

23 Oct 2000 : Column 130

Therefore, it is not contrary in any way to EU law. Reference was made to the comparison with gender. However, the gender comparison is not appropriate. There is no exception for gender. The answer to that is that 50:50 recruitment will not be contrary to EU law now or in the year 2003.

We note the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. However, we had that debate earlier. As far as concerns the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, the position is that minimum standards will have to be met before somebody gets into the pool. There will be an order of merit but selection will be on the basis of 50:50 in accordance with Clause 45. There will be no lowering of standards.

Viscount Brookeborough: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. We do not have those numbers at present. Surely by virtue of what the Minister said, if out of 2000 people that pass this level there are only 20 Roman Catholics in the top 50 for the first course, once you have chosen the 20 plus 50 Protestants, or ethnic minorities being other than Roman Catholic, you will have to search lower down the order for your remaining 30 Roman Catholics, if they exist. Therefore, you may be taking number 550 in order of merit and number 2100. How does that work?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The standards are not lowered because there are minimum standards before one can be selected to join the police service.

Viscount Brookeborough: But you will therefore have accepted somebody from lower down the order of merit than others of either an ethnic minority or Protestant, something other than Roman Catholic who are higher. Numbers 51, 52 and 53 could be Muslim, Chinese or whatever. However, you have gone to number 250 in the order of merit to achieve 50:50 by taking a Roman Catholic from further down the list.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I think that we are going round in circles. The point is that all must pass a particular standard of merit to get in.

Lord Cooke of Islandreagh: One could never always have people of equal merit. Some will pass the minimum standard by a considerable amount. Does that mean that whichever they are, they will be omitted and people from a lower standard from the other side will be appointed?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: That will obviously depend upon the numbers that apply. As I keep stating, there will be a minimum standard above which everybody has to reach before they are admitted.

Clause 45, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment 159 not moved.]

23 Oct 2000 : Column 131

Clause 46 [Expiry, renewal and repeal of temporary provisions]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 160:

    Page 23, line 32, after ("(6);") insert--

("( ) section (Recruitment arrangements: other ranks);").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Desai moved Amendment No. 161:

    Page 23, line 34, leave out ("subsection (3)") and insert ("subsections (3) and (3A)").

The noble Lord said: This simple group of amendments is designed to extend the time limit for administering the quota. Currently, there is a three-year expiry limit unless the Secretary of State renews it. Experience from other countries shows that it takes much longer for this sort of discrimination to be over and for quotas to be properly fulfilled. I never suggested that quotas should be allowed to continue indefinitely. However, if the Secretary of State concludes that enough progress has been made after three years, he can review the situation and end the quota. The amendment allows flexibility so that if it is achieved within three years, that is fine. However, if it is not achieved, we have the flexibility to extend it. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Amendments Nos. 161 to 164 would remove the provision requiring the Secretary of State to review and renew the 50:50 recruitment arrangements every three years. They would only require renewal after 10 years unless the Secretary of State chose to intervene to remove the provision by order after three years.

We are not persuaded that these amendments represent an improvement to the existing provisions. They only require the renewal of 50:50 recruitment after 10 years, regardless of how much the composition of the organisation has changed. Patten did say that 50:50 recruitment should endure for "at least ... 10 years". But a triennial review appears reasonable for such exceptional measures.

The sensible approach is surely to allow for its ultimate duration to be subject to regular review, based on the level of impact it has produced on the overall composition of the service, which is what the Bill's existing provisions allow. In those circumstances I invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Desai: I thank my noble and learned friend for that answer. In view of the lateness of the hour, I shall read it tomorrow. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 162 to 164 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 165:

    Page 23, line 43, leave out ("force").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

23 Oct 2000 : Column 132

Clause 46, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 166 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 167:

    After Clause 46, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) The Board shall make, and from time to time revise, a plan (its "action plan") for monitoring the number of women in--
(a) the police,
(b) the police support staff, and
(c) the Board's staff,

    and, if they are under-represented, for increasing that number.

(2) The Chief Constable shall, if requested to do so by the Board, prepare and submit to the Board a draft plan for monitoring the number of women in the police and, if they are under-represented, for increasing that number.
(3) The Board may adopt the draft submitted to it under subsection (2) as part of its action plan, either--
(a) as submitted; or
(b) with such amendments as the Board may determine, after consultation with the Chief Constable.
(4) Before making or revising its action plan, the Board shall consult--
(a) the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland;
(b) the Chief Constable; and
(c) the Secretary of State.
(5) The Board may publish its action plan in such manner as it thinks appropriate.").

The noble Baroness said: The Government gave an undertaking during Committee in another place to look at the question of female representation in the police. As has been pointed out, the RUC suffers not only from a marked imbalance in terms of community background, but also in terms of gender. Only 12.6 per cent of police officers are women, one third of whom are in the part-time Reserve. Of course, the problem is not peculiar to the RUC but is a feature of police forces everywhere. While recent recruitment figures suggest that the situation may be improving, nevertheless we consider the imbalance to be of sufficient concern to justify special measures.

Amendment No. 167 enables the policing board to monitor the representation of women in the police, the police support staff and the board itself, and to take measures to increase their representation if necessary. The board may invite the Chief Constable to draft the plan, which may then be accepted or amended by the board. Consultation is required with the Equality Commission, the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State before the plan is made or revised. Publication of the plan will be a matter for the board.

The noble Lord, Lord Smith, tabled Amendments Nos. 168 to 171 to this clause, and I shall respond to those after he has spoken to them. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page