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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, Clause 59(3) sets out the grounds on which the Chief Constable may refer a board's request for a report on a policing matter to the Secretary of State because he believes that the information should not be disclosed. Clause 59(3)(b) provides that one such ground is,

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, wants to change the word "personal" to "personnel". We believe that that would be wrong for two reasons. First, there is a clear definition in the Data Protection Act. Secondly, when, as here, we are here dealing with matters which should not be disclosed "personal" is a more appropriate word, dealing with the private affairs of individuals, both employed and not employed, rather than "personnel", which is limited to matters of employment. Therefore, we believe that the draft is correct as it stands.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am grateful for the perhaps modified support offered by the noble Lord,

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Lord Cope of Berkeley. I have not convinced the Government and this is not a matter on which I wish to divide. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 70 [The Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation]:

Lord Laird moved Amendment No. 16:

    Page 37, line 18, at end insert--

("( ) shall enable the foundation to undertake joint initiatives with the Royal Ulster Constabulary Widows Association, the Royal Ulster Constabulary Disabled Police Officers Association or any other organisation or person within the Royal Ulster Constabulary family, as may be appropriate in matters of common interest;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 16 is very important. It proposes that the foundation shall,

    "undertake joint initiatives with the Royal Ulster Constabulary Widows Association, the Royal Ulster Constabulary Disable Police Officers Association or any other organisation or person within the Royal Ulster Constabulary family, as may be appropriate in matters of common interest".

It is easy to sit in this place and talk about the brave men and women of the RUC, of a thin green line which has protected us from anarchy. Words come cheap. It is easy to mouth platitudes and the Government have done plenty of that in both Houses. However, I want to focus for a moment on the reality behind the phrases; the reality as it affects the RUC family.

The current strength of the RUC constabulary is 8,500 full-time officers and 3,000 reservists. Throughout what we have euphemistically called "the troubles", many thousands of men have stepped forward to put on the bottle green uniform of the RUC. The RUC family extends far beyond the men and women who served in the force. The mothers and fathers of those officers, their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, cousins and in-laws could be said to make up the RUC family--and with good reason. Every time a loved one went out on duty those left at home lived with the worry and fear that whenever they saw or heard a news bulletin, or heard the telephone ring, or heard a knock at the door they would learn that he or she had been killed or injured.

The family of every police officer in the United Kingdom must live with the possibility that harm might befall the officer in the course of his or her duty. Thank God that such men and women exist in our society. But not every officer in the UK faced--and, as the events of the past few days have shown, still faces--the additional risk run by the men and women of the RUC. They were at risk on duty and off. On duty they had to respond to telephone calls for assistance, in many instances knowing that they were being lured into certain areas in order to be attacked by stones and petrol bombs, by gunmen, booby-trapped bombs or landmines. There was no respite off duty. Many officers were murdered while shopping; some were even killed on their way to or from church on Sundays. It takes a very special individual to run risks like these on behalf of others.

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It took very special people, Protestants and Roman Catholics, to wear the uniform, and their families are justifiably proud of them. And the families of the 302 murdered officers and the many thousands who were injured share that pride. As my noble friend Lord Rogan said, that is the reason why we fight so hard to retain the badge and name. The families of those who were murdered rightly believe that their sons and daughters defended society.

I have already spoken of the terrible injuries suffered by many officers. Young men and women have been blinded; others have lost limbs and must go through life with terrible wounds. One must never forget the families who have endured that pain and suffering with them. That is why the sacrifice and service to the force means so much to the families and to anyone who respects law and order. Any attack, physical or verbal, on the RUC is an attack on the memory of those killed or injured in the service of the force.

We are all indebted to the RUC, and it is a debt that money can never repay. Many people have been hailed for their contribution to the peace process, but if there is one group which deserves credit it is the RUC. That was the force which held the line between two communities and stopped Northern Ireland slipping into anarchy. I do not believe that I stretch a point if I say that civilisation in Northern Ireland was saved by the RUC. The force protected everyone in these islands. There are people alive today who are unaware that they owe their lives to the RUC. The RUC stopped loyalist bombs reaching Dublin and IRA bombs reaching the mainland, and all the while it undertook normal police duties.

This amendment proposes to recognise the sacrifice and service of the men and women of the RUC. Words are cheap. I know that money can never replace a loved one or take away pain and suffering, but support can demonstrate that this House cares enough about the sacrifice of the RUC to do something tangible rather than just talk about it. I urge noble Lords to support the amendment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it may assist the House if I speak first. The effect of this amendment is to enable the RUC GC Foundation,

    "to undertake joint initiatives with the Royal Ulster Constabulary Widows Association, the Royal Ulster Constabulary Disabled Police Officers Association or any other organisation or person within the Royal Ulster Constabulary family".

The Bill sets up the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation for the purpose of marking the sacrifices and honouring the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We support both the sentiment and wording of the amendment and, therefore, when the time comes we shall agree to it.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for agreeing to the amendment, which I intended to support. I simply add, although in a sense it is superfluous because the Government at least agree with it, that we are not concerned simply with atrocities committed years ago.

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Over the past few days while we have debated the Bill another police officer has been disabled. He had his leg blown off by a bomb in Castlewellan. That is one more statistic but a tragedy for that officer and his family. At this time we think of that officer as well as the more than 300 who have been killed and others. I am very glad that the Government propose to accept the amendment.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, we on these Benches are also grateful that the Government intend to accept the amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, at previous stages of this Bill I have consistently voted with the Government and followed all of this with deep personal interest, not least because of my family connections in both the north and south of Ireland. At an earlier stage I intervened to express the wish, which I know would be shared by all of my relatives and ancestors and my wife's relatives, that we put the past behind us as far as we can and see what can be done to move to a more peaceful future. It is my belief that the efforts of the present Government at least have a chance of success. For that reason, we have consistently supported the Government in the Division Lobby. In the case of this particular amendment, had it gone to a Division I would have voted against the Government. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Laird, expresses a very reasonable point, and I am delighted that the Minister intends to accept it.

Lord Eames: My Lords, it will not surprise the House that I too greatly welcome the indication by the Minister. Some months ago I had occasion to thank him for a similar gesture towards those who had suffered most. I make one slight plea to the Minister as he considers the way in which this will be implemented. We owe a tremendous debt for past service and sacrifice, but we are moving towards a new police service and, it is hoped, a new era in Northern Ireland. I suggest that Her Majesty's Government should try to view this particular part of the Bill in a continuing sense; in other words, they should concentrate on whatever sacrifice is to be made by those from--please God--both communities who serve in the new police service. Their sacrifice will not be dented simply because it is not a historic fact. Theirs is a continuing sacrifice on behalf of the law-abiding community in Northern Ireland.

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