Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

("( ) The Board shall, in making arrangements which relate to the functions of the Chief Constable, act together with him.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 37 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 38:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Audit of performance plans]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 39 to 41:

    Clause 29, page 14, line 18, leave out (", so far as relating to the functions of the Chief Constable,").

    Clause 29, page 14, line 30, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Comptroller and Auditor General").

    Clause 29, page 14, line 32, leave out ("(10)") and insert ("(11)").

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1635

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, these amendments have all been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 31 [Enforcement of duties under section 28]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 42:

    Clause 31, page 16, line 7, leave out (", so far as relating to the functions of the Chief Constable").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Attestation of constables]:

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 43:

    Clause 38, page 18, line 42, at end insert--

("( ) Every police officer serving at present shall within three months of the coming into force of this Act, make a declaration in the form prescribed in subsection (1) above before a Justice of the Peace.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, these debates have become a constructive dialogue between the Government Front Bench and the various sections of the House. I hope that that process will not be interrupted at this point.

Clause 38 prescribes the oath which every officer will be required to take on appointment. It sets out the standards which we would expect from a good and conscientious officer and it is confidently to be hoped that the police in Northern Ireland would accord us no less. The question then arises: why is it only to be new recruits who are to take the new oath? Surely the Bill is intended to represent a new beginning for everyone. That is what the Belfast agreement was about. So why not a new beginning for existing officers? Surely every member of the force would be happy to pledge himself to observe those standards. That is what the Patten commission recommended. In paragraph 4.7 the report emphasised the importance of human rights as the very purpose of policing. It then formulated the oath, which the Government have adopted in the Bill, and introduced it as,

    "a new oath to be taken individually by all new and existing"--

I emphasise "and existing"--

    "police officers".

Then, in paragraph 15.15, after emphasising that, to whatever other organisation an officer may belong, his primary loyalty should be to the police service, it states:

    "The new oath we have recommended (in paragraph 4.7) is drafted with this point in mind. All officers"--

I emphasise again, "all officers"--

    "should in our view swear to 'accord equal respect to all individuals and to their traditions and beliefs'. This undertaking should have precedence over any other oaths or qualifications associated with other organisations to which an officer may belong".

That is what was said by the Patten commission. It is not clear for what reason Patten's "new and existing officers" and "all officers" have now become only "new officers". The change is likely to be seen as part of a process of whittling down Patten, and that is hardly likely to inspire confidence in the new beginning.

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1636

I should like to ask my noble and learned friend who, if anyone, objects to taking the new oath? If the answer is "no one", why not enact accordingly? I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I rise to say that I am slightly surprised that this amendment has been tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. I do not think that it would in any way be helpful. For that reason, I should tell him that we on these Benches would oppose it.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, Amendment No. 43, tabled in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell, would require serving police officers to take the new "oath" within three months of this Bill coming into effect.

The primary purpose of the declaration (or oath, as it is commonly called) is to confer constabulary status upon the individual who makes it. To require existing officers to take the oath would, in effect, entail removal of this status and would thereby be in conflict with Patten's clear recommendation that the RUC should not be disbanded.

I can assure my noble and learned friend that the Government have already gone a considerable way in attempting to take account of what, in this instance, are conflicting recommendations from Patten. The provision was amended in another place to require the Chief Constable to bring the terms of the declaration to the attention of serving officers and to ensure that they understand the need to carry out their duties in accordance with it.

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his reference to constructive dialogue. I hope that, with this explanation, I have been able to assure my noble and learned friend that such constructive dialogue continues. I therefore invite him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I was advised by my lawyer that I do not have to answer questions of that kind! I am grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, although he will forgive me for noting that he announced simply that he would oppose the amendment. He did not give any reasons for so doing. If he opposes the amendment, I suppose that I shall have to bear that with fortitude.

My noble friend has exposed the difficulty here. I am not quite sure that I agree with what she said at the outset but, if that is the case, Patten has made conflicting recommendations. That is rather surprising because, until now, I have not seen that pointed out.

I do not find the explanation given by my noble friend wholly convincing, but I do not think that this is the appropriate time to interrupt what, but for this amendment, would appear to be a constructive dialogue. I propose to ask leave to withdraw the amendment, but I shall not give an undertaking for future good behaviour. We have yet to reach Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1637

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 43 [Contracting-out of certain recruitment functions of Chief Constable]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 44:

    Clause 43, page 21, line 5, at end insert--

("( ) Nothing in this section affects any other power which the Chief Constable has to enter into arrangements concerning the discharge of functions of his which are not prescribed under subsection (1).").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 44 and to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 45. Other amendments have been tabled within this grouping, but I shall speak to them only after they have been spoken to by other noble Lords.

Amendment No. 44 ensures that the Chief Constable can make such arrangements as may be necessary with the recruitment agent for the discharge of functions other than those strictly prescribed by the recruitment regulations. Put simply, it is designed to ensure that the Chief Constable has some room for manoeuvre in the contracting-out of the recruitment process, and is not rigidly bound by the need to have every last detail set out in the regulations.

Amendment No. 45 is a technical drafting amendment to Clause 46(8) to insert a missing reference. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, my colleagues and I have added our names to some of the subsequent amendments which have been tabled in this grouping. However, for the moment, we do not wish to speak to them because some developments have taken place since noble Lords debated this matter in Committee. For that reason, we do not propose to move these amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 44A to 44C not moved.]

Clause 46 [Discrimination in appointments]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 45:

    Clause 46, page 23, line 22, after ("(1)") insert (", (4)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 45A not moved.]

Clause 47 [Expiry, renewal and repeal of temporary provisions]:

[Amendment No.45B not moved.]

Clause 48 [Action plans]:

Lord Smith of Clifton moved Amendment No. 46:

    Clause 48, page 24, line 32, after ("women") insert (", members of minority ethnic groups, disabled persons and members of other under-represented groups").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 46 and speaking to Amendment No. 47, we seek to encourage the Government not merely to allow the Chief Constable to devise action plans to try to encourage more women into the police, but also

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1638

for the action plans to extend to ethnic minority groups, the disabled and other under-represented groups.

In particular as regards the case of the disabled, we see that developments in information technology and so forth in police work enable many people to work appropriately in the service who, in an earlier age, might not have been able so to do.

If the Government were to accept our amendments to this new clause we would be extremely comforted by the Government's realisation that Northern Ireland is an increasingly multicultural society and that there are other groups who feel marginalised in that society apart from the two main communities. There are regularly around 12 per cent of people in Northern Ireland who do not describe themselves as Catholic or Protestant on census forms. In fact, Chinese is the second most commonly spoken language in Northern Ireland. It is time that the Government moved away from their traditional "two communities" thinking and recognised that there are many sections within the Northern Irish community. We are moving towards a more richly diverse society and that should be cherished and valued highly.

There is marked under-representation of women and ethnic minority groups in the police. The current female proportion is 11.1 per cent; it has been estimated that the number of people from minority ethnic communities in the police in Northern Ireland is fewer than 10. The introduction of monitoring and action plans will ensure a focus on equality of opportunity and the introduction of proactive measures to increase the representation of all under-represented groups within the police. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page