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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, in this grouping I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 80, 81, 82, 83 and 83A. Several of these amendments stand in my name and the names of my noble friends. As the noble Lord, Lord Laird, has said, the amendments concern the members of district policing partnerships. There are two kinds of member. There are so-called independent members and so-called political members. Some of the restrictions on membership apply only to the independent members. There is no reason why they should not apply also to the political members.
However, I should draw your Lordships' attention to Amendment No. 82. Under paragraph 8(2) a person is disqualified from membership of a district policing partnership if he has at any time been convicted of an offence and has had a sentence of imprisonment passed upon him. But that applies only to the independent members. So some of these terrorists and other criminals could be appointed to the district policing partnerships. This was discussed earlier in connection with similar appointments at a higher level. Therefore I will not labour the point. Given the horrific crimes for which some of them have been responsible I do not think that they are suitable to serve on district policing partnerships.
One needs to remember in considering this that it is not just a question of helping to manage the police force as it might be in some part of England, Wales or Scotland. There are parts of Northern Ireland where the rackets are intense and exceptionally vicious. Many of the beatings and murders now taking place in Northern Ireland are connected with those rackets. They are entrenched in the community. They will have to be eliminated if Northern Ireland is to have a peaceful life in the future. If we allow criminals at that level to sit on the district policing partnerships, they simply will not work. What is more, they will help to undermine the police in all that they are doing and in their attempts to get on top of the rackets.
Ten years ago I was making speeches in Northern Ireland in which I said that part of the momentum of terrorism was the politics of the situation but that another part of the momentum of the terrorism--that was the case even then but it is more so now--was the rackets and the finances. The Mafia started as a political organisation. It has not been a political organisation for a long time but it has had a serious effect on the life of Sicily and other parts of Italy and it has spread out to many other parts of the world over the past century. The paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide are of exactly the same character. They try to control different sections of Belfast. It is those people that it is suggested could remain members of district policing partnerships. It is quite wrong and very dangerous for the future of Northern Ireland.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I believe that the independent members are being discriminated against. I shall not talk about the criminal activities--I made myself clear during the previous debate about the board. The DPPs will replace police liaison committees. Are the same indiscretions permitted on those committees? The liaison committees have been particularly instrumental in bringing the two communities together in a forum where they have been able to discuss policing and local crime. It is intended that community co-operation should be improved. If
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as under Schedule 1 in relation to the police board, Amendments Nos. 79 to 83 seek to tighten the disqualification and removal provisions for district policing partnership members and particularly for political appointments. Similar arguments apply in relation to these amendments as applied on the group of amendments which we recently discussed. The latter is particularly relevant for DPPs where the powers are so much more limited in relation to the police boards.
We must look at the safeguards which are in place and are in the Bill. For councillors, who represent the pool from which the political members are taken, there are already criminal record disqualifications. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, adverted to those earlier. In summary, individuals would be disqualified if imprisoned for three months or more, whether suspended or not, until their sentence and then a period of five years had elapsed. There are disqualification provisions for independents too--a sentence of imprisonment, whether suspended or not. Both independents and councillors are subject to removal provisions under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3; for example, if they are convicted or fail to comply with their terms of appointment or fail to disclose convictions. It is also relevant that the board makes appointments, and the Secretary of State will issue a code on how this should be done. There is also the default provision in Clause 15 which we have already debated.
As we said in Committee and earlier tonight, the Government believe that the Bill has an appropriate balance between inclusivity and safeguards. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, referred to the CPLCs. These bodies are established by the police authorities. As far as I am aware, those CPLCs involve councillors being appointed without checks beyond those which apply when they are seeking appointment as councillors. Thus, in relation to the political members of the DPPs and the councillor members on the CPLCs, the same principles would apply as regards whether or not a person could become a councillor. Subject to the point I made about the councillor members of the CPLCs, they are not statutory bodies and therefore there are no statutory disqualifications beyond those that apply to councillors.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.