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Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he not agree--to continue his argument a little further--that these terrorist crimes are not just committed in Northern Ireland in
I have spent much time over the past few years in Northern Ireland. It is a place I have learned to enjoy and its people are a people whose bravery I much admire. All my contact with the new generation of parliamentarians has shown me a generation of able politicians committed to making a real change. I have learned two things about the politics of Northern Ireland: first, things are rarely as they seem; and, secondly, there are no absolutes.
There is little we can do here to move the peace forward, but there is much we can do to undermine the process. If we load the Bill with unintended, unnegotiated amendments, we shall only upset this fragile process. We all share the outrage, anger and loathing at what sometimes goes on in the name of peace. But this peace process is just that--a process--and there are still important steps to take.
The Bill is a further important step. It has been brought before us to implement the recommendations of the Patten commission. That commission was designed to bring forward proposals which would produce a police service capable of gaining sustained support across all communities in Northern Ireland. The Bill is important and complex. It sets out a whole series of changes which will transform the nature and culture of the police service in Northern Ireland; none more so than this change of name.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place said that while he was committed to implementing the full recommendations of the Patten report, he was willing to listen to any constructive comments on the Bill itself. He would make changes where constructive comments were made. I welcome the fact that he and the Government chose to accept the new clause moved by Ken McGuinness. Clause 1 provides that,
I have said that we here at Westminster can do little practically to speed the peace process. In a very real sense it is the people's future and it is for them to make that future for themselves. However, tonight we have an opportunity to assist them in moving forward with a solution. We are--if noble Lords will pardon the expression--caught between a rock and a hard place. I am sure that all involved in the peace process will examine our comments and read Hansard with care. By the end of today we shall have put our advice and counsel on record. I believe that we shall have done our bit.
This may not be a perfect Bill. It may not even be a perfect peace. But we do not live in a perfect world. I urge noble Lords to support the speedy passage of the Bill and to leave it unencumbered so that those who are in the business of negotiating peace have all that they need to move forward. I wish them Godspeed in their endeavours.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I am a great believer in the letter of the law and what governments officially say. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that in the Belfast agreement it was agreed that,
I remind the House that, pragmatically, we on this side of the water need an efficient and effective police force. Although the officers of the RUC are loyal and highly intelligent and wish largely to get on with their jobs, nevertheless this issue matters greatly to them. It matters also to the Catholics among them who are not deterred from joining and who wanted to join, as has been mentioned, in the face of intimidation. It is wrong that, for reasons of political correctness and to please the IRA--that is what it is--we are trying to do something but are once more ignoring another important aspect of the Belfast agreement with which we are so often inflicted. It states:
I remind the House that Gerry Adams has said many times that whatever is done to the RUC he and his supporters will not recognise it and will not support it. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, also made that point. If they will not support it and continue to make it extremely dangerous to join, except with special permission, I cannot see the point of hurting and insulting indeed the majority in favour of a tiny minority which is utterly convinced that it will not co-operate. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.
It has been a wide-ranging debate and we have heard most of the arguments before. What is sad is that progress is very slow. The situation does not change. Let us consider for a few moments the environment that pervades in Northern Ireland. How did we get to the peace agreement, the Good Friday agreement, the Belfast agreement, or whatever it is called? Why was it necessary? The main objective of the agreement was to stop Sinn Fein/IRA murdering people and to attempt to remove the motivation for loyalist terrorists to murder people. That is why we are there; let us be quite clear about that. Let us also be quite clear that this debate is not about one of the finest police forces in the world. It is about the name of a police force. Thanks to the Patten report, that proud name has been lifted from the force and put into the political arena as a football or rugby ball to be kicked around, unfortunately by politicians from all parties and several nations, with scant regard for the members of that proud force.
We need a police force in Northern Ireland. We have a serious crime situation. We have a serious terrorist situation, whether anyone likes it or not. It is vital that we have a fine, well-trained, well-equipped, loyal and neutral police force. That police force--what is today the RUC--has proved itself in recent years to be all of those things. I accept that in the days of my father and others in Stormont things were different. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned his maiden speech. I used Bernadette Devlin's maiden speech as a basis for my maiden speech in this House. I made the point then that she was right in most of what she said in her maiden speech. But the environment had changed. We had an equality commission and a fair employment commission. The environment over there had changed. There was not a need for that kind of uprising and trouble making. But, of course, the IRA jumped on the band wagon and attempted to pursue a
The Good Friday agreement is about sharing. It is about an inclusive community. It is about bringing together various groupings who have been at war with one another and have been forced to create barriers between each other. It is about creating an all-inclusive society to live in this kingdom in a law-abiding manner. I suggest to the House that Her Majesty's Government, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Armed Forces and people in many walks of life, from those who work in industry, the Civil Service and quangos to those who serve in the police force, have worked extremely hard to bring about that society. Who has not played a part in bringing about that society? Who has so far given nothing? The answer is the IRA--the terrorists--and to a large extent, although I know that people will talk to me about Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, the Irish Government.
To return to my theme of sharing, surely to goodness, if we are to have an all-inclusive society, we must have one police force. And surely to goodness that one police force must consist of people from all the different quarters of the Province. We need people from Derry, West Belfast, Armagh, Enniskillen, South Tyrone and elsewhere to make that an inclusive police force. That is vital. What is stopping it? The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, made the point very clearly. It is the nationalist community and the Roman Catholic Church. I am delighted that many noble Lords and many people outside have, privately and publicly, put tremendous pressure on the Roman Catholic hierarchy in an attempt to get that changed.
However, the purpose of my comments tonight is this: the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not make any difference to the content or the performance of that police force. If the nationalist and republican communities--who, as I have said already, have agreed to serve in one of Her Majesty's governments--are prepared to join in, why are they not prepared to share in the name? That is the nub of our amendment. A shared name allows those who attach memories to it, to whom it means a huge amount and who believe in it, to feel comfortable. Let us also incorporate another name, the "Northern Ireland Police Service", which is new and has been created in the new image of sharing and community spirit. Let the two names come together in agreement. Do not let them become belligerent, bitter, antagonistic and obstructive. That is of no use to anyone.
I do not believe that the total removal of the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is right. A form of shared option is the correct course. In conclusion, perhaps I may lighten the tone of my speech by giving the Government a little piece of advice. Appeasement never won a race yet: "Bad horse, bred by good intentions, out of paralysis of will". The Irish people are a racing fraternity and they will understand that.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, it is clear that this debate goes to the heart of many of the issues affecting Northern Ireland. To me, it is a matter of great regret that in this House there is no voice to represent democratic constitutional nationalism for Northern Ireland. That would bring balance to our debate and would ensure that we were able to hear directly the voice of a large group of people in Northern Ireland who have serious concerns about the way in which their communities have been policed over the past 30 to 50 years.
If I were an officer in the RUC, my reaction to this debate would be, "For heaven's sake, get on with the Bill. Get it out of the way. We don't want to be a political football any more". The officers of the RUC, of whom I have met quite a few over the years, just want to be able to get on with their jobs. They do not want to become an element in party politics. They do not want to be kicked around by politicians, which has been going on since the Patten report was published; indeed, even before that. They simply want to do their jobs. However, as with all police officers everywhere, they want to be able to do their jobs knowing that they have the consent and support of the communities which they are policing. It seems to me as regards the average RUC officer, who is dedicated, brave and professional, that we are asking a great deal of them when we ask them to police areas of Northern Ireland where they are not operating with the consent of the people in the local community.
I understand that surveys have shown that Catholics are supportive of the RUC. However, they do not demonstrate support to the same extent as Protestants. Catholic communities do not have that bedrock of consent that ought to be in place in order to achieve good policing. Surely that is what Patten set out to put right and forms the basis of the Bill which the Government have put forward.
It was a great source of regret to me that, within hours of the Patten report being released--I was still a Minister in Northern Ireland at the time--shrieks and shouts of condemnation were aimed at it even before many people could have had a chance to do more than open the first page or two. That set the tone for a debate which has never been calm or sufficiently dispassionate to put first and foremost the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. Set positions have made life in Northern Ireland difficult. They have also made policing in Northern Ireland very difficult indeed.
What matters here is this: so far as concerns policing, this is a battle for the hearts and minds of the vast majority of peaceful members of the national community. I do not believe that any Bill would persuade Sinn Fein or the IRA to say, "Wonderful. This is the best thing ever". But that is not the intention here. We need to address the constitutional nationalists; namely, the ordinary, decent, peace-loving members of the Catholic community. It is their support that we want for policing in Northern Ireland, because once their support has been secured, then the
I think that Patten addressed that intention very clearly and achieved a pretty good outcome. The Bill before the House is a reflection of it. What we want to see is a representative police service. As long as 93 per cent of police officers are Protestant, how can the average Catholic feel that this is, "our police force"? It is impossible to expect that.
No single proposal in the Patten report will change everything, and thus we have to consider all the detail. The right approach is to view the Patten proposals as a package. The different elements contained in the Patten report, as reflected in this legislation, can and will contribute to a successful conclusion. I believe that, once this legislation has been passed, it will send a clear signal to all the people of Northern Ireland that we are entering a new age when policing will be conducted with the consent of everyone. That will happen only when we get rid of the symbols, emblems and other items of a police force which indicate that it is not a force for the whole community. That is an important and worthwhile aim. A little vision is required in order to carry this through for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland. That is why I feel that these amendments are wrong in principle and damaging in practice. I hope that the House will reject them.
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