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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I join in the tributes which have been paid to both the existing police authority and its past members. I deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. The aim of the change is to give an assurance that the board will lead in making best value arrangements. But also it is intended to preserve the position whereby the board and the Chief Constable, with the board in the lead, work together to achieve best value. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, suggests that "effectiveness" should come first as a recognition of the very difficult circumstances in which the police force operates. I readily acknowledge those difficulties. I am not sure that there is any disagreement between us on the three aims which we seek to achieve.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, will he respond to the closing remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux? The noble Lord feared that the board would be composed of people with diametrically opposite views and, therefore, counsels would be divided. I believe that the noble Lord made a very serious point. The noble and learned Lord has not touched on that matter and I believe that he should.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord for not dealing with it. It is plain from the terms of the amendment, which deals with best value, that its aim is that the Chief Constable and board should work together. The noble Lord is much better aware than I of the position in Northern Ireland, but I do not believe any of us doubts that the objective is that the board and the Chief Constable should work together.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 44 [Recruitment arrangements: trainees and support staff]:

3.30 p.m.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 8:

(5A) For the purposes of subsection (5) targets shall be set and schemes shall be put in place with the aim of encouraging applications from persons who are under-represented in the police service.
(5B) Before devising any schemes under subsection (5A) the Chief Constable shall consult--
(a) the Board;
(b) the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland; and

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(c) the Police Association.
(5C) The Chief Constable shall report annually to the Secretary of State on the progress being made in the fulfilment of the aim of subsection (5A).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 8 and the others in the group would remove the discriminatory 50:50 system of recruitment and replace it with measures to target and encourage applications from the under-represented sections of society in Northern Ireland. I am within the minority that could potentially benefit from this measure. For the purposes of this Bill, which takes guidance from the Fair Employment Agency, having been educated at a Roman Catholic school, I am, in the words of the Bill, perceived to be a Roman Catholic. In my leisure moments I wonder whether, with my RAF added years, I can possibly benefit from the provisions to do with what may be called lateral entry.

However, I am opposed to so-called 50:50 recruitment for the straightforward reason that I am against discrimination in general. Positive discrimination may be all very well but it is still discrimination. In another place Mr Lembit Opik on behalf of the Liberal Democrats vigorously opposed this measure on the same grounds. Although in this House the Liberal Democrats have to an extent acquiesced in the discrimination provisions thus far, I am sure that they will welcome the opportunity afforded by today's debate to refute the kindly suggestion at Report stage by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, that their actions were limited because they were "in bed with Blair", by voting against this discriminatory measure in the Lobbies.

Given that human rights are so central to Liberal philosophy, they will be aware of the consequences of permitting the discrimination genie to escape from the bottle. Once it is established that discrimination anywhere is acceptable, it is only a matter of time before statutory discrimination is extended beyond police service recruitment in Northern Ireland to what may be called "others". Those who support statutory discrimination for police recruitment in Northern Ireland must ask themselves why they support this measure. The answer is that there is under-representation of Catholics in the police service in Northern Ireland. No credit is awarded for correctly identifying the problem if one fails to question the causes of that problem.

It is important to remember that there has never been inequality of opportunity at any time in recruitment to the police service in Northern Ireland and that the under-representation of Catholics is a consequence of insufficient Catholic applicants to the police. Perhaps later the Minister can explain exactly how positive discrimination addresses the problem of insufficient Catholic applications to the police service. Surely encouraging applications from under-represented sections of society--all under-represented sections of society--is the only effective means of addressing the problems of under-representation to achieve the prize of a police service that reflects the society that it polices.

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For noble Lords not familiar with the precise system of discrimination proposed by the Bill, perhaps I may highlight one or two aspects. As I mentioned earlier, I would be classed as a Catholic for the purposes of this discrimination. The system proposes that 50 per cent of recruits be Catholic and 50 per cent be "others" or non-Catholics. All sections of Northern Ireland society which did not attend Catholic schools will be discriminated against. Young Catholics who do not attend Catholic schools will be perceived as "others" and discriminated against if they apply to serve in the police.

But the people of Northern Ireland are more than just Catholic and Protestant. Although young Protestants will be discriminated against if they apply to serve in the police force, so will young Muslims, young Jews, young Sikhs and young Hindus who do not attend Catholic schools. On an earlier occasion I reported that the ethnic groupings in Northern Ireland, despite our track record of terrorism, have increased probably at a faster rate than any other community in Northern Ireland.

In order to ensure that noble Lords are completely aware of how this discrimination will actually happen, I shall refer briefly to the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, at Second Reading. The noble Lord gave an example of one of many discriminatory scenarios created by the Bill. In this scenario the police have 100 vacancies for recruits. Using the current application ratios, this would assume that 150 "others" apply and there are 50 Catholic applicants. The 50:50 recruitment system dictates that if all 100 vacancies are to be filled, 50 must be from Catholic applicants and 50 from "other" applicants; that is, Protestants and the various ethnic groupings that I have mentioned. Logically, there would be a standard for a successful application. Therefore, we could assume that both 60 per cent of the "other" grouping and 60 per cent of the Catholic grouping make that standard.

As a consequence, we now have 120 applicants who make the grade for 100 vacancies. With positive discrimination, 30 of the 50 Catholic applicants, being 60 per cent, would have made the grade, but although we have 90 applicants from the "other" group who have made the grade, only 30 can be employed. The police require 100 recruits. So does one either accept an under-strength force by lowering the standard for applicants to permit all 50 Catholic applicants to be recruited, thereby corrupting what I would call the merit-based system, or proceed with insufficient recruits?

As the Government have indicated that they do not wish to lower the standard for applicants--we would all agree--the Bill has been furnished with subsections (2) and (3)(b) of Clause 46. The Secretary of State may, by order, vary the percentage of 50:50 under Clause 46(2) so that the police do not become too ridiculously under-strength, an implicit admission that the system is seriously flawed. However, if the Secretary of State makes one or more of what should

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be termed "his desperate need for recruit orders" in the "previous three years", under Clause 46(3)(b) he can vary the 50:50 system to redress the imbalance.

Therefore, if a prolonged shortfall in Catholic applicants continues for a period, and the Secretary of State makes orders so that more "others" can be recruited to maintain police strength, in a few years it could be 75 per cent perceived as Catholic recruits and 25 per cent perceived as "others".

It is apparent that discrimination in recruitment is immoral. It is unfortunate that the measure, which will be illegal elsewhere in Europe on 31st December 2002, will be legal in Northern Ireland because of the disgraceful express exception from the equal treatment directive that the Government appear to have negotiated for Northern Ireland policing recruitment.

A legal challenge to statutory discrimination in Northern Ireland may still be an option. Will the Minister, who has given much thought to the Human Rights Act declaration of compatibility for the Bill, indicate whether he has considered the following issue? Article 9.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in Schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act, states:

    "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance".

Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides a general prohibition on all forms of discrimination in relation to convention rights. It states:

    "The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status".

Although Article 14 cannot stand alone, it is--I quote from one of the linked organisations--

    "an integral part of each of the Articles laying down rights and freedoms".

The 50:50 recruitment system as provided for in Clause 46 infringes Article 14 when coupled with Article 9 of the convention, regardless of whether the 50:50 principle infringes the Article 9 right to freedom of religion standing alone.

In the first article of the European Convention on Human Rights it is clearly stated that the rights and freedoms contained in the convention,

    "shall be secured to everyone within their jurisdiction".

Therefore, I question whether the Government can legally discriminate between police recruits within the jurisdiction; that is to say, police recruits in Northern Ireland and police recruits elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

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I accept that differences in treatment are permissible in exercising a right of freedom as laid down in the convention. However, only in two definite circumstances are differences in treatment permissible. This particular difference in treatment has,

    "No objective and reasonable justification",

or any,

    "reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be realised".

Quotas based on religion are surely correctly described in the directive as "excessive and disproportionate" to the objective of boosting Catholic recruitment to the police. It is at this point that one returns to the key point that the Government have chosen to ignore. The 50:50 recruitment system will not itself increase Catholic applications to the police service. Indeed, the latest census statistics indicate that, on a demographic basis, there are approximately equal numbers of young Catholics and Protestants in the 17 to 23 age range, which is the very grouping with which we ought to be concerned. If intimidation were to be removed from the equation, targets not quotas would produce the desired objective of Catholic recruitment.

Discrimination in society is unacceptable and discrimination in police recruitment is unacceptable. Senior RUC sources are extremely concerned that this measure will, if brought into practice, either corrupt the merit-based system or leave the police short of manpower. That is too horrible to contemplate given that, whatever may be said, the reality is that terrorism is still a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, though, these sources are unable vocally to oppose discrimination because Patten, in taking,

    "politics out of policing",

has managed to silence police officers by making the police such a political issue. Then again this is the same Patten who, in,

    "putting Human Rights at the Heart of Policing",

has managed to place statutory discrimination at the very heart of policing. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I rise to speak to and support Amendment No. 8. However, we on this side of the House do not support Amendment No. 9. Amendment No. 8 is tabled in practical terms. On today of all days, as we move towards the end of the proceedings on the Bill, it is important to ensure that what is on the face of the Bill leads to practical solutions on the ground in Northern Ireland.

I understand that there are political issues, balancing acts and many imponderable and insoluble problems. I say again that we support a large percentage of the Bill and disagree with small parts, all of which will be highlighted today. Amendment No. 8 is a practical amendment. It does all that we should be

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required to do in moving as fast as possible towards a police force which directly reflects the composition of the population of Northern Ireland.

With regard to the 50:50 provisions for acceptance into the police force, the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, has argued the case extremely logically in relation to discrimination and human rights and probably in relation to the practical effects. If, as I have said umpteen times during the proceedings on the Bill, the republicans, the nationalists and the Roman Catholic Church support what comes out of the Bill and support the new police force, we shall not have to worry about the 50:50 business because there are many very good young men and women who would like to join the RUC or the Police Service of Northern Ireland, as it is about to be. I am certain that we can get the balance right--by "right" I mean in relation to reflecting the population--within the force in a short space of time.

I do not think that the Bill as it stands will help in any way to do that. As the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said, it leaves political items at the heart of the policing service. We do not want that and I know that the Government do not want it. I believe that an amendment on the lines of Amendment No. 8, an amendment that does not fly in the face of European human rights legislation, should be accepted. I am sad that I have not heard a view on the human rights aspects from the Liberal Democrats. I hope that I shall hear one in a few moments. I am sorry to see a Bill being passed which flies in the face of human rights legislation and which inevitably at some stage must cause problems.

I support the amendment. The business of 50:50 recruitment and of reaching the right balance in reflecting the population is necessary, but there is a better way of doing it than the way proposed in the Bill. I hope that the Government will be able to find a way and not be stuck with something that is rather meaningless. As I have said, once we get open season for the nationalist population to join the RUC, we are home and dry.

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