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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I responded to what I thought the noble Viscount had said. The Government have been working closely with the RUC and the police authority to work out the details of how the recruitment process will work. I have set out in general terms how it will work; obviously, I cannot go into the precise details. Candidates will apply and will be selected to join a merit pool, and will obviously have to meet the qualifying standard. From the pool, an equal number of Catholics and non-Catholics will be selected, as required by Clause 46(1).

The noble Viscount answered his own question in relation to promotion. This does not affect promotion, because 50:50 measures do not apply in relation to promotion. I hope that that answers the point.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, the point is that, having got candidates for the pool, there will be a variation in the ability and aptitude of those people. The numbers will be greater than required--I do not mean in terms of Catholics or Protestants. It would be a fool who did not then choose people out of the pool according to their merits, in terms of either ability, aptitude or some form of qualification.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not sure that I follow the noble Viscount's point. Of course, all the candidates must satisfy the qualifying standard. The effect of discrimination in favour of a particular group will inevitably mean that some people, who would not perhaps have got in, get in because of the discrimination provision.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I am not talking about discrimination; I am merely saying that once these people are in the pool, there will be more people than are required and one must still, presumably, take the best of them first. Some people will have just scraped in according to the required level. A few others, however, may make wonderful chief constables by one's estimation. Does it mean that such a person will remain in the pool until he is required and until someone may pluck him out of it--remembering that there will be more people than are actually required?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, obviously, the best people will be selected, but subject as well to the provisions in relation to discrimination.

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, raised the question of redundancy in respect of existing officers. These provisions do not apply to existing officers; they apply only in relation to people who apply to join.

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The noble Lord also asked how someone's religion will be decided. The basis for monitoring community background is based on existing regulations: the fair employment monitoring regulations, which have been in place for a decade. The view of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is that these procedures work well and provide an accurate assessment of perceived community background.

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, then asked, as it were, the vital question: how do you get Roman Catholics to join the police force? We believe that it will be by implementing Patten's vision of a new beginning to policing by selecting an external recruitment agency of human resource professionals to carry out the recruitment. The Chief Constable hopes to make the appointments next month. The recruitment agency and the Chief Constable will work together to prepare an advertising and recruitment strategy. They will build on existing efforts, such as visits to schools and police recruiting sergeants.

Lord Fitt: My Lords, will the Minister give way? This matter is of tremendous importance. It has already been referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, who I believe alluded to my remarks. I said that the IRA on the one hand--the Catholic paramilitaries--and the loyalists on the other will determine whether anyone will be accepted into the RUC from the districts that they presently control. The noble Viscount said that Gerry Adams said only today that the Bill as presently constructed is totally unacceptable to Sinn Fein, and therefore to the IRA. That means that they will not permit or call upon any Catholic to join the newly-constructed police service. How do you get over that difficulty?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we have repeatedly encouraged all parties and community leaders to encourage their members to support the new arrangements, and it is very much hoped that they will do so. However, the fact that not every single leader in the community is prepared to endorse them is not a valid reason for failing to take steps to create a fair police force.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we will not regard their failure to do what the noble Lord suggests as a veto or a reason for not going forward with sensible steps to seek to achieve a fair and representative police force.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord. He has been most generous. However, with great respect to him, that really will not do. Would he agree that the present position of the SDLP in Roman Catholic areas is being eroded by Sinn Fein/IRA to the point of disappearance; that they increasingly control, by all sorts of extremely reprehensible methods, the streets and areas that were formerly controlled by the SDLP; and that his fond hope--I think we must describe it as

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such--will not be borne out by the reality on the ground? It is all very well to say that the Government encourage people to take these desirable steps, but the truth of the matter is that their writ does not run there.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, by moving this Bill through Parliament, the Government are setting up a situation which they believe will promote the creation of a representative police force. On 6th June, in another place, Seamus Mallon said:

    "we do not yet have a police service that can belong to all the people. That is what I and my party want to achieve, and we have striven to achieve that not in the comfort of debate or theory, but in places such as Derry, the Bogside, south Armagh, south Down and west Belfast...If we get the Bill right, I will go into the hardest parts of Northern Ireland and I will ask people to join the police service and to support it".--[Official Report, Commons, 6/6/00; col.196.]

That is the prize for which we are aiming. Although it is an incredibly difficult issue, the Government believe that they have got the Bill right. Noble Lords are right to point out that some terrorist and other groups do not encourage people to join the police force. However, that is not a reason for not proceeding with the Bill, which we believe promotes the aim for which we all strive.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord give way? As I understand it, in order to create the room for the 50 per cent quota, a number of existing officers will have to retire. I know that this will not come about for another two years. Nevertheless, a number of senior needed officers are retiring because space has to be made. Can we now afford to have that space made in pursuit of an aim which is generally suggested in the House to be pie in the sky?

4.45 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as I understand the position, the issue is about recruitment, not about existing officers. I shall write to the noble Baroness about whether or not there is any compulsory redundancy. I am not aware that that is the position.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised a question with regard to those parts of the population that are neither Roman Catholic or Protestant. About four per cent of the RUC is categorised as neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. I do not know the percentage figures with regard to the community as a whole, and I shall write to him about that.

The Right Reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford drew a comparison between the board, referred to in Schedule 1, and the make up of the police force. Dealing with the board, the Schedule sets out a very small number--19 or fewer public appointees, not employees. Patten called for the appointments to be representative. In addition, 10 members of the board are appointed by d'Hondt, a democratic process. Patten recommended the recruitment of about 400 police officers at each go, which is a totally different approach.

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Finally, I return to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Eames. He has expressed the same objective as the Government have. With regard to the particular provision that is sought to be removed, the Equality Commission commented as follows:

    "The Commission places great emphasis on the importance of the provisions of Clause 46, which allow for equal numbers of Roman Catholics and others to be recruited from a pool of qualified applicants. In Northern Ireland, a society coming out of conflict, a police service which has the confidence of the entire community is essential. That means that it is vital that change in the community composition of the police is rapidly effected. The Commission would therefore urge you to support this exceptional measure".

I agree that not every part of the community yet supports these measures, but surely the introduction of this Bill must be a step in the right direction. I therefore invite noble Lords to reject Amendment No. 8 and those that follow.

I deal briefly with Amendment No. 9, which I understand is not supported by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Amendment No. 9 removes Clause 45, which deals with the encouragement of lateral entry, as it has become known. Clause 45 would give effect to Patten's recommendations 127 and 128. The Clause will enable only the appointment of suitably qualified external candidates who have to compete in open competition against internal candidates. In this respect, Clause 45 is unlike the other 50:50 recruitment provisions. It deals merely with encouraging such applications. I accordingly ask the noble Lord not to move that amendment when the time comes.

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