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Lord Glentoran: I should like to make a couple of generalities with your Lordships' permission. After I started putting together the amendments I realised that this is a very difficult Bill to have in Grand Committee because it amends two Acts. Noble Lords from all parties, including the Government, have tabled amendments to amend a Bill that is designed to amend two Acts. I hope that noble Lords will agree that most of the arguments have been made strongly at one time or another, either during the passage of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 or during Second Reading of this Bill. It will be difficult to try to amend amendments without being able to divide on them.
The major amendments that I have tabled for today propose that certain clauses should not stand part of the Bill. An amendment that a clause should not stand part is worthless without a Division. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal spoke to me about that before our proceedings began afternoon. From our side, to use the phrase of my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew, I propose that we should just canter through some of those amendments, so that when we reach Report, we can deliver the arguments in, I hope, a fairly full Chamber, and have some meaningful Divisions. That is how I hope that we shall proceed.
The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, also folds into how the Bill is structured. As I understand it, the essence of the Bill is to change the balance of power between the Secretary of State and the Policing Board, and between the Policing Board and the Chief Constable. As I said outside the Chamber to the noble and learned Lord and others, I have no argument in principle with most of the Bill, because my party would certainly like the judicial systems and so on of Northern Ireland to proceed in parallel with other parts of the United Kingdom. Most of what is contained in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000and, indeed some of the amendments to it if they are includedwould be acceptable to a county or metropolitan police force in the mainland of the United Kingdom.
However, the timing of this is wrong. When I first read the Bill, I felt that it should not be rushed through Parliament but given time because of the context into which it is being placed. Perhaps when the Bill was drafted, the context in Northern Ireland was different. We had devolved power, we had a devolved Government; it looked as though things were going reasonably well. Sadly, we have no devolution at present. Things do not look as if they are going well. We could be without devolved power for some time. It is in that context that I have drafted most of my amendments.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Perhaps I may briefly follow up on what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. We are doing something rather dangerous if we make a change from what was legislated only two years ago: the character of the obligation to consult.
First, when it is proposed to amend an established text, it is normal to be told what has gone wrong with the established text in an Act that necessitates a particularly early amendment. I hope that we shall hear that from the Minister.
I do not believe that this instance is any exception to that rule. The Government thought it sufficient in 2000 that the Secretary of State should merely consult the board, the Chief Constable and such other persons as he thought appropriate. It is hard to discern what can have occurred during the last couple of years to make that rubric less than satisfactory. Something must have, yet now this change is proposed. If the Secretary of State has a proposal for a long-term policing objective, it will still be good enough for the Chief Constable that he, the Chief Constable, is simply consulted. However, that is not so for the Policing Board, which has to be consulted with a view to obtaining its agreement.
I have two objections to this provision which the noble and learned Lord may be able to dispel, and I shall be pleased if he can. First, as has been said, this change has the character of one in the eye for the Chief Constable. I think it may be perceived as such by his service if not by him, and neither he nor his service
My second objection is that I cannot see what the new formula means. The Government do not go as far as to say that the board must be given a veto. That would be conferred by Amendment No. 2, which we shall discuss shortly, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Smith. They do not say that no determination or revision shall be made without the consent of the board. In effect, it seems to me that they are inviting Parliament to say that it must be run past the board in draft form to try to get its consent. If that is not the purpose, what is it? How far must they go? What movement, if any, must they be prepared to make? How are their efforts to be judged judicially if the sufficiency of their efforts were, in some case, to be challenged?
At present, it seems to me that this is gesture drafting, which is always liable to be a source of uncertainty and difficulty, and is made less desirable still in that for the Chief Constable it seems to be rather a rude gesture.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I should like to add one small point to the cogent points been made by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew and the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Surely, the Secretary of State is there because he represents what is still a part of the United Kingdom. If, for instance, the matter under discussion were a major decision affecting the Special Branch, the Policing Board might well have a totally parochial view, which would be probably heavily influenced by political considerations. The Secretary of State would have the wider knowledge that the changes being proposed could have a serious wider effect on the coverage of terrorism as it affects the whole of the United Kingdom. He could then tell the board. That is another reason why we have to resist this, because it is essentially parochial.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Having reminded myself that this is not Second Reading, I intend, if the Committee will forgive me, to stick to the point of the amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, made plain, they are an attempt to strike out the whole of Clause 1. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran alluded to that. It is, in a sense, a clause stand part debate, to which I have no objection.
The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, also asked me about the Text for Consideration. I believe that the Government have acted openly and honourably. We published the text at the first possible opportunity. I was able to discuss it with all noble Lords who were interested and the Secretary of State was party to the later discussions. The Government's position is that the Text for Consideration represents what we would seek to introduce only in the context of acts of completion. It is possibleI do not know and cannot saythat the clauses might be introduced in your Lordships' House, in which case we would have the opportunity to discuss them fully. It is possibleI do not knowthat they may be introduced in the Commons, in which case they would come back to us and I assure your Lordships again that we would have the opportunity to discuss them fully.
The clause provides for a slight balancing of consultation. The law currently requires the Secretary of State to determineand from time to time reviselong-term objectives for the policing of Northern Ireland. This is therefore a question of long-term objectives, not a question specifically of how one deals with Special Branch, to take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, says essentially that the time is wrong. That again is a matter of political judgment upon which we will each maintain our view and neither will convince the other by argument, whether rational or not. I think, with great respect to him, that he is wrong and we are doing it right. In any event, that goes to his approach to the whole of the Bill and not simply to Amendments Nos. 1 and 5 to which I am speaking.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked why we were doing this. It is for a number of reasons. The Updated Implementation Plan was published as long ago as August 2001. In Recommendations 10, 11 and 12, the Government made certain responses. Clause 1 is simply to attend to the response that was madeI repeatas long ago as August 2001. There will be a slight change of balance. I do not think that anything has gone wrong with the board, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, suggested. It is settling well. My understandingI defer to others if theirs is differentis that it is proving by and large a success. Clause 1 simply requires the Secretary of State to consult the boardwhich he has to do anywaywith a view to obtaining its agreement to the proposed objectives or revisions. I see nothing by way of slight to the Chief Constable there. The board is there as the properly constituted statutory authority with a division of statutory responsibilities between it and the
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