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Lord Williams of Mostyn: In response to the first question raised by the noble Baroness, this brings into operation the requirement that the information should not be further disclosed by the ombudsman, not that it should not be disclosed to the ombudsman. Subsection (3)(b) says:

In other words, it cannot be published by or on behalf of the ombudsman. I do not know the security vetting procedures for the ombudsman's office in detail. I undertake to find out and write to the noble Baroness and, if appropriate, I shall put a copy of the letter in the Library.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I take one further point from the noble and learned Lord, which is that in most busy organisations it is in practice unlikely that something will rest with the ombudsman alone. It is not practical. There will be a number of people around her who would need to know, for various reasons, what information had been supplied. Therefore, it is not quite as simple as it sounds to say that it stops with the ombudsman. In practice, unless she is a quite remarkable person, it cannot.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 26:

    Page 7, line 18, leave out "must" and insert "shall"

The noble and learned Lord said: We have in this group Amendments Nos. 26 and 30. We are back to our old friends "must" and "shall", in Amendment No. 26. Amendment No. 30 would replace "enactment" with "statutory provision". There is no substantive change here. It is simply designed to ensure consistency with other legislation. Amendment No. 26 brings the wording into line with the rest of the clause and the 2000 Act. Amendment No. 30 brings the wording into line with the terminology used—as noble Lords well know and recall—in Section 1F of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Rogan: The night is getting late and I am going to be pedantic. I am somewhat troubled with the word "immediately". How is that defined? Perhaps defining

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a timescale—say within a 24 hour period or within one working day—would be better than using the word "immediately". I am in favour of specifying within 24 hours.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think we have moved beyond "immediately". I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 26 and 30, which happily do not deal with anything immediate.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 28:

    Page 7, line 24, at end insert "; and

(b) send a copy of his report to the Secretary of State."

Lord Williams of Mostyn: These amendments would alter the reporting arrangements. They would require the ombudsman to report to the Secretary of State as well as to the board and the Chief Constable, rather than only to the board and the Chief Constable, copied to the Secretary of State where appropriate. We see this as going against the spirit of Patten, which placed a greater emphasis on the role of the board rather than the Secretary of State. The main vehicle for accountability should be the Policing Board. It was therefore to the board that Patten recommended, in paragraph 6.41, that the ombudsman should report on her findings.

Clause 11 already makes provision for the report to be sent to the Secretary of State in particular circumstances, such as when the investigation touches on an area of his responsibility or on an excepted matter, within the definition set out in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. We think this is an appropriate arrangement and sufficiently safeguards the Secretary of State's interests to be informed about the outcome of ombudsman's reports.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I am grateful for that clarification. None the less, I feel that it is contradictory, as in so much of this Bill. Back in Clauses 1 and 2, the Secretary of State has a specific role, taking into consideration that policing is not a devolved matter and the Secretary of State has the total responsibility. To ask the ombudsman to send a copy of her report to the Secretary of State is hardly infringing her independence. As the Secretary of State has the ultimate responsibility, it is reasonable for him to require the ombudsman to report on her investigation. That is consistent with what is in the Act and what government have proposed in Clauses 1 and 2. I make those points in the hope that the Minister will not be so assiduous in his pursuit of the independence of the ombudsman as to make her task and her place within the overall scope of things slightly ridiculous. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 30 and 31:

    Page 7, line 28, leave out "an enactment" and insert "a statutory provision"

    Page 7, line 36, leave out from beginning to end of line 11 on page 8 and insert—

""(2) Subsection (3) applies if—
(a) the Chief Constable or the Board supplies information, or information contained in a document, to the Ombudsman under subsection (1) for the purposes of or in connection with an investigation under section 60A of the 1998 Act;
(b) the person supplying the information is of the opinion that it ought not to be disclosed on any of the grounds mentioned in section 76A(1).
(3) The person supplying the information must—
(a) inform the Secretary of State that the information has been supplied to the Ombudsman;
(b) inform the Secretary of State and the Ombudsman that, in his or its opinion, the information ought not to be disclosed on any of the grounds mentioned in section 76A(1).""

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12 [Independent members]:

Lord Shutt of Greetland moved Amendment No. 32:

    Page 8, line 19, at end insert ", including in terms of gender and ethnicity"

The noble Lord said: This relates to the appointment of independent members to the district policing partnerships. The clause suggests that:

    "In appointing independent members of a DPP the board shall so far as practicable secure that the members of the DPP (taken together) are representative of the community in the district."

Clearly, being representative of the community in the district means being representative of the district. There would obviously be a different sort of representation in certain parts of Belfast to parts of Antrim or North Down, for example.

We have come back to words such as "representative". We have decided not to propose "reflective", but we could well do so. This also brings us to the word "community". I have always thought of community as rather a good word, but there is a sense in which, sometimes, it leads one into thinking—particularly in the case of Northern Ireland—that people are of one of two sorts, and we know what that means. This amendment is to include within that,

    "in terms of gender and ethnicity".

I believe that to ensure that we are representative, reflective or whatever, we need to take a broad look at that community in achieving a district policing partnership. It is important that gender and ethnicity are considered and it is not just a matter of looking at unionists, nationalists and so on. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: Perhaps I may speak to clause stand part at the same time as speaking to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt. I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord's amendment, because my concerns are the interpretation of the description in the Act, which the noble Lord very eloquently outlined and, perhaps even more so, what I

8 Jan 2003 : Column GC36

understand to be the Government's intention for Belfast—and probably not only Belfast. If there are to be four sub-DPPs for the greater Belfast area—north, east, south and west—unless one can find some clever drafting, it is almost certain that the east will be hijacked, almost entirely loyalist and run by loyalist paramilitaries, either up front or behind the scenes. The same will be true of west Belfast. It is not certain who controls the ground in north Belfast, so there may be a punch-up of some sort there. That proposal is not at all attractive to me.

In the light of that, it is dangerous to start placing restrictions and predetermining how the DPPs should reflect the district for which they are responsible. If we can find a way to broaden the provision, as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, is intended to do, that must be welcome.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I sympathise with what lies behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, but it would not produce the outcome that he wants. I entirely agree that "representative" is a broad term, which undoubtedly includes gender and ethnicity. It may include other categories in the statutory equality duties in Section 75 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998.

The code of practice will determine those appointments. After all, we should not limit "representative" simply to gender and ethnicity. There is also religion, disability, age and cultural background. The problem with good intentions, with which the noble Lord will be familiar, is that if we write in gender and ethnicity, it will seem that they are the only two categories that matter. It is better to have a code of practice and allow it to operate. I sympathise with what the noble Lord said. I am happy to reaffirm as boldly as I can that gender and ethnicity are to be taken into account when one considers representativeness.

I hope that, on the basis of what I have said, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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