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Lord Desai: My Lords, in an ideal world, we would have no quotas for gender, ethnic minorities, Catholics or Protestants. But if we are to reach that ideal world from one that is currently far from ideal, we need to do more than simply hope that the world will become a better place. The noble Lord, Lord Eames, spoke truly: it is an indictment of all of us--not only of those who live in Northern Ireland--that a 50:50 split has to be considered. That is because people on the mainland have tolerated so much of what has happened and, for many years, have not done anything about it. That is an indictment, but that is not to say that it is a false indictment. It represents the true crisis of Northern Ireland.

Whenever proposals for positive discrimination are put forward, a certain set of arguments is always employed; namely, that people will get in, not because they want to get in, but because it will be easy to get in. Promotion will take place not on merit, but on grounds of colour, gender or religion. Alternatively, the quality of whichever professional body is concerned will be downgraded. Those arguments make two assumptions. First, that the present force--which is based, after all, on corrosive discrimination--has within it people who are all fully qualified and merit their success. That cannot be true. Secondly, around the world, a great deal of experience has been gained of positive discrimination. We are not the first

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to have tried it. In the early 1960s, I was a young student in the United States. The problem of integration in police forces was then prevalent. I heard all the arguments: there were no qualified black people who could possibly join the police force; they would be corrupt; they would not be able to hold down the job and so forth.

In our debates discussing the provisions of Clause 1 on Second Reading, in Committee and, on Report, it has been stated that there are a great many well-qualified Catholics who would join the force. However, they cannot join because of paramilitary threats. We are told that there is a pool of talented Catholics and that what is required is for Sinn Fein/IRA to remove its sanctions. I feel that part of the removal of those sanctions requires a 50:50 recruitment to be put on to the face of the Bill.

We may differ on this view. Indeed, it is a moot point whether it would violate the Human Rights Act. I am sure that my noble and learned friend will respond to that. However, we should be under no illusion that, unless a dramatic gesture is made here--a gesture made in the full knowledge that it should be removed as soon as possible, because under any circumstances it is somewhat invidious--we shall not give a clear signal of our serious intention to reverse the decades of corrosive discrimination which has existed in Northern Ireland.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I should like to say briefly that this Government, along with other governments before them, have sent signal after signal and made confidence-building gesture after confidence-building gesture, but have never received anything in return. Have the Government asked Sinn Fein/IRA and the SDLP to make a public declaration that they do not oppose the existence of the RUC and that they do not oppose the entry of Catholics into the RUC? That is the central issue here and those are very simple questions which could be answered simply and quickly.

I do not understand how anyone could be expected to watch those people serve on the board of the new police authority if they are not prepared to make a statement now--that is, before the Bill is passed. At any rate, that must be done before any steps can be taken towards changing the quality and nature of recruitment. It is a very simple bargain. We have always negotiated with these people in exactly the way in which they wish the negotiations to move: we offer; they take and give nothing in return. All they need to do is to make a public statement of support to their supporters. That has never been done.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the collective effect of Amendments Nos. 8, 10 and 11 would be to remove the so-called 50:50 recruitment provisions and to replace them with a provision to require the implementation of affirmative action measures to bring the composition of the police service into line with that of the Northern Ireland population. This is a

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critical part of the Bill and these provisions--rightly--have been fully debated on a number of occasions both in another place and here in your Lordships' House.

The starting point of this debate is always the same place, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Eames. Perhaps I may begin by quoting from the Equality Commission, which has stated that:

    "The creation of a police service which is representative of the community is essential both to the effectiveness of the police service and to the establishment of a peaceful Northern Ireland ... a police service which has the confidence of the entire community is an essential element of the new society ... which was envisaged by the Agreement".

The issue is how to set about achieving this.

The Patten report fully recognised, as do the Government, the significance of affirmative action methods in bringing about compositional change. At paragraph 15.2 of the Patten report, it states that,

    "The key to making [the] police service representative of those communities--indeed the key to the successful implementation of nearly everything in this report--is that the leaders of those communities now actively encourage their young people to join the police service".

The report contained a range of specific recommendations to that effect. For instance, in relation to the role of community leaders, the establishment of links between schools and universities and the police service and advertising strategies. Patten's clear view, which is shared by the Government, is that the imbalance between Catholic/nationalist and Protestant/unionist is so extreme that exceptional measures are justified. As the Equality Commission has highlighted, the proportion of Catholics in the police has increased by just over 1 per cent--from 7.3 to 8.4 per cent--in the past 10 years. This is in spite of the fact that the proportion of Catholics in the population has been on the increase, and in spite of the various affirmative action measures which have been implemented by the RUC. The commission has expressed the view that,

    "goals and timetables and affirmative action measures ... are unlikely to produce the necessary change in the composition of the police for a considerable period".

Fifty:fifty recruitment is an exceptional means of addressing an exceptional problem. Because it is exceptional it will remain subject to regular review and renewal, on the basis of the impact it is producing. Most importantly, the merit principle will be preserved, in that candidates will still be required to meet the qualifying standard for entry to the police.

The Government went some way in Committee to address concerns in relation to the 50:50 provisions by placing a ceiling on the Secretary of State's power to aggregate the quota at 75 per cent. This will ensure that no fewer than 25 per cent of either community background group must be appointed. It is therefore explicit in the Government's position that this exceptional measure is required to achieve the aim of a police service which is representative of the community as a whole.

I shall now deal with some of the points made during the course of the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, made the point that intimidation is a

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reason for low Roman Catholic recruitment. The Government accept that intimidation has been a major reason why Roman Catholics have not come forward. But there are also other reasons. We do not say that 50:50 recruitment on its own can solve matters. Indeed, Patten recognises that Roman Catholic community leaders and Roman Catholic political leaders need to encourage Catholics to join the police service. However, we believe that 50:50 recruitment will lead to that process being reached much more quickly.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Lord. He will have noticed, as will the rest of the House, that the leaders of the Provisional IRA/Sinn Fein are saying that the Bill is inadequate for their purposes. If they maintain that position, is it likely that intimidation will cease in the way that he describes?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we believe that all community leaders should, first, denounce intimidation and, secondly, encourage young people from their communities to join the police service. We believe that the exceptional measure of 50:50 recruitment will bring closer the day when the police service has cross-community support.

The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, asked me to explain how positive discrimination could deal with a situation where there was an insufficient number of applications to the RUC from the Roman Catholic community. The recruitment provisions in the Bill are designed to deal with appointment. They cannot on their own make Roman Catholic applicants come forward. However, the Government hope that the measures will engender confidence. As I keep saying, on their own these measures cannot do it; other measures are required as well.

The noble Lord then gave a particular example of numbers in relation to applications. I repeat: all candidates must achieve a single standard of merit, as provided for in Clause 44(5). If that standard of merit is not reached, the individual applicant may not become a member of the police service. I shall come later to the detailed questions asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough.

The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, asked also about human rights compatibility. The issue of human rights has been considered carefully in relation to the compatibility of this provision with the Human Rights Act and the human rights convention. The clear view is that it is compatible with the human rights convention because the effect of the Bill is not to give anyone a vested right to a job; therefore, it does not engage the human rights convention.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, also asked about the human rights convention, and I have dealt with the point. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, raised a number of questions about how the provision will work in practice. He said that senior sources in the

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RUC say that this approach will not work. The Government have worked closely with the RUC and the police authority to work out the details.

4.45 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I did not say that they said it would not work, or that they said anything like that about the Bill. What I said was that they did not know how to work this system.

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