Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 226:

("( ) become unfit or unable to discharge his functions.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 227 not moved.]

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 228:

    Page 54, line 20, at end insert--

25 Oct 2000 : Column 386

("(3) The terms of reference shall set forth the powers of the Commission to prescribe time limits for effecting such changes.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My noble friend Lady Farrington announced that she would not reply to my argument before I made it. Over the years, I have learnt more from her than I can ever hope to acknowledge and I see that she is beginning to learn something from me!

I should, first, apologise for a printing error in the amendment that I failed to notice until last weekend: the word "Commission" should be "Commissioner". Paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 prescribes that the Secretary of State shall give the commissioner "terms of reference". Subparagraph (2) states that those terms of reference,

    "shall, in particular, set out the changes in policing",

that are now envisaged and which the commissioner is to oversee. It is significant that there are few time limits for these changes. I understand that they cannot take place overnight and that any attempt to rush them through would probably create more problems than it would solve. However, there may be those who are far from feeling a sense of urgency and who may not wish to lend any degree of acceleration to the changes. We are all familiar with situations where those who wanted to see the changes simply became exhausted and gave up because all their efforts at expedition had failed, and the inertia had ground them down. It would be a tragedy if that were to happen in this case.

My amendment simply seeks to suggest that the commissioner should have power to inject time limits where they are appropriate. I cannot believe that the commissioner would seek to do more than use such limits where it is fairly clear that they are necessary. That is the purport of my amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This amendment would enable the commissioner to set time limits for change. At paragraph 19.5, Patten recommended that the Government, the police service and the policing board should provide the commissioner with objectives and timetables covering their responsibilities and that they should report on progress achieved at periodic review meetings and account for failures to achieve objectives. The commissioner can then comment on progress by way of a report. That is what will happen under the Government's proposals. It must be for the Government to set the timetable and then to be held publicly to account against it. That is what Patten recommended. However, my noble and learned friend's amendment goes beyond that which Patten called for and, therefore, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am grateful to my noble friend. I was concerned that someone should have power to impose time limits. Perhaps I should have read through the whole of the schedule. I would then have realised what my noble friend has just pointed out to the Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

25 Oct 2000 : Column 387

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 229:

    Page 54, line 40, leave out ("Police Reform Commissioner for Northern Ireland") and insert ("Commissioner appointed under section 64 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 65 agreed to.

Clause 66 [General duty of Secretary of State]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 230:

    Page 34, line 6, at end insert--

("( ) In carrying out those functions, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the principle that the policing of Northern Ireland is to be conducted in an impartial manner.").

The noble Baroness said: The Government committed themselves in another place to tabling an amendment to include a reference to the need to have regard to the principle that policing is to be conducted in an impartial manner. This amendment ties in with the requirement for the board, in exercising its function, to have regard to the same principle, as set out in Clause 3(4)(a). I believe this to be self-explanatory; indeed, it is not a novel measure. Under Section 37 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 the Secretary of State was obliged to issue a statement regarding policing principles. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: I have but one comment to make. It is extremely sad that we have to include such a clause; indeed, I do not think that it does the Bill any good.

Lord Hylton: This is an excellent principle, but I just wonder whether the Government could find a rather more prominent position in the Bill to state this particular line of policy.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: All I can do is to acknowledge the fact that, on the one hand, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, believes that we have not gone far enough and that we should have placed more emphasise on this, while, on the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, feels that we should not have gone so far. Perhaps, therefore, the balance rests with the Government. I hope that the Committee will support this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 66, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 67 [The Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation]:

Lord Laird moved Amendment No. 231:

    Page 34, line 21, at end insert--

("( ) The foundation shall--
(a) make provision to support the development of the RUC Widows' Association and the RUC Benevolent Fund;
(b) make provisions for injured police officers, retired officers and their families.").

The noble Lord said: I have talked on a number of occasions in this Chamber about the hardship

25 Oct 2000 : Column 388

experienced by widows and disabled policemen in Northern Ireland. I should like to put on the record the fact that I have had discussions with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and discovered that he is a compassionate man with regard to this topic. He has been helpful in preparing a way to secure better conditions, especially for the widows, some of whom have been living in scandalous circumstances. I do not want to rehearse the arguments that I put forward previously, but I should like to place on the record the case of one widow in Northern Ireland who has been widowed for several decades and who, after inflation, lives on a £134 per month RUC widow's pension.

We are asking that there should be recognition of the widows, the disabled and injured police officers and of retired police officers and their families. We ask that there should be support for them by way of inserting the additional points outlined in the amendment into Clause 67, which refers to the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation. Obviously, we have no objection to the latter; indeed, we believe that it is an extremely good idea. However, we urge the Government to help us with the widows, the disabled and injured police officers and with retired policemen and their families. I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: I support the noble Lord, Lord Laird, and the other noble Lords who have attached their names to this amendment. I agree wholeheartedly with its intention. It was an express recommendation of Patten that a substantial fund should be established to assist injured officers, both retired and serving, as well as their families and their widows. I congratulate the Government on having conducted a review of that recommendation and look forward to hearing the outcome, which, I believe, will be announced shortly.

The people whom this fund is intended to assist are, to my mind, entirely deserving of whatever assistance the Government can give. Some officers have paid the ultimate price for simply doing their duty. Although I feel for the widows left behind, I know that I cannot begin fully to imagine the pain that they must suffer each day. No amount of money can repay them for that pain. Other officers have sustained serious injuries as a result of doing their job--that is to say, upholding the law in Northern Ireland and preserving the peace for the citizens of the Province. They, their children, husbands, wives and those in the wider family circle are reminded on a daily basis of the sacrifice that they have given. Equally, they cannot be repaid for the price that they have paid.

None the less, if the fund is substantial and properly administered, I believe that it could help to ease some of the burden that I know is carried by widows of officers and by injured officers and their families. No one can compensate them for their loss, but they deserve to be looked after. I reiterate my support for a fund that would achieve just that aim.

25 Oct 2000 : Column 389

7 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I, too, strongly support all that has been said. I am particularly concerned for the Disabled Police Officers Association. I know that there is a reference here to injured police officers, but there is a specific group which has suffered terribly. Many are tetraplegics and paraplegics. Their families necessarily live in extraordinarily painful conditions. Quite apart from poverty and pain, they have the considerable problem of trauma. To do anything about all of that costs money. I therefore hope that specific provision will be made for the Disabled Police Officers Association with the rest, and that as much money as possible will be made available. I should like to return on Report to pursue the point further in terms of bringing pressure to bear for their compensation to be reviewed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page