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Lord Fitt: I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Smith. Indeed, in a limited way I would have supported the previous amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis.

Noble Lords will be aware of the reservations I expressed throughout debates we have had on the police in relation to the criterion of one religion being used before they could be recruited to the new force. I still believe there will be great difficulty in ascertaining

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the exact religious qualification of potential recruits. To recruit a person to the PSNI means that one is asking that person to give his support to the state of Northern Ireland. That is what this is about. The recruitment to a force in Yorkshire or to any other part of the kingdom does not bring in any constitutional question but it does in Northern Ireland. That is why the IRA are bitterly opposed to any person of the Catholic religion joining the PSNI or its predecessor, the RUC. That would be tantamount to saying that those people were giving support to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, which is in total opposition to the idealistic approach by the IRA who want to do away with the constitution. Therefore, there will be great difficulty.

As regards recruits, the Lord Privy Seal has given the number of Catholic applications to join the PSNI. I should like to ask him a question to which I know he will not be able to give me an answer. If he were to give me an answer that would possibly put in danger the lives of potential recruits. Knowing Northern Ireland, I am certain that the persons who have applied to join the PSNI do not live in Ballymurphy, Turf Lodge, New Barnsley, New Lodge Road, South Armagh, the Creggan in Derry or the Bogside in Derry. All those areas are in the control and grip of the IRA in Northern Ireland. Any young man, no matter how he may feel he could contribute to society in Northern Ireland by joining the PSNI, cannot put on the PSNI uniform and go home to his mother, father, wife, brothers and sisters in any of the areas I mentioned.

There was, still is and, so far as I can see, will be for the foreseeable future massive intimidation. I have friends in Northern Ireland who are Catholic who joined the RUC two or three years ago but cannot serve in any of those districts. They are made to serve in a Protestant district. They live in daily fear of their lives that someone from the district where they live will see that they are wearing a police uniform in another part of Northern Ireland.

Patten's ideas may be totally acceptable. However, he was trying to foresee Northern Ireland not in a state of political unrest or political violence, but where it would become accepted and where there would be a normalisation of society with a normal police force. I wish I could have that vision and be that optimistic. However, we are living with reality. The police of Northern Ireland are not accepted in those republican areas.

There is another point I make to noble Lords of a unionist tradition. One can remember the great Troubles that took place at the parades at Drumcree on 12th July when the Orange Order insisted on marching on the Garvaghy Road. The police, the RUC as it then was, and even last year the PSNI, prevented what they regarded as an illegal march. One could see and hear on our television screens the rioters pointing at the Protestant policemen, saying, "We know where you live". They were threatening the Protestant policemen; indeed, many Protestant policeman had to shift from their homes, particularly in North Antrim and the Carrickfergus area. That shows the unstable way the police have to live.

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Unfortunately 302 of them had to die in trying to carry out their duties that were so envisaged by the Lord Privy Seal yesterday.

Once again, I would like to know—perhaps I could not be trusted with the information, but if someone wrote to me it would help me to make up my own mind—how many of the recruits come from those very troubled areas I have mentioned. Has any of them donned the police uniform of the PSNI and gone into Turf Lodge or Ballymurphy or South Armagh? Until people from those communities are able to stand up and be counted and throw off the yoke of oppression and dictatorship that is mounted on them daily by the IRA, we will never have the required number of police and we will never have the police force that we dearly want to see in Northern Ireland.

Viscount Brookeborough: The noble Lord, Lord Smith, will be delighted to hear that I support his amendment, for two reasons. First, I do not think it is unreasonable that we should be able to monitor year by year how this is going on. If it is a good story, as the Government and the rest of us in Northern Ireland hope, we should let the public know. The second reason I would like it to be monitored every year is that I believe that under the noble and learned Lord's plans I might not be here in three years' time and I would like to be here to see it monitored.

Lord Glentoran: Once again, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has brought reality to the Committee. I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Smith, for several reasons, but most importantly because of the desperate problem, so well outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, facing the Chief Constable and, to some extent, the Policing Board. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal has given us some encouraging numbers, but it is not going to get any easier to recruit Roman Catholic policemen and women; it is going to get more difficult until we have normalisation.

I believe it is an extremely good idea, now that the Province is so disturbed again and everything is so uncertain, that we should have the opportunity to review the recruitment situation, as suggested in the amendment. There was a time when we had two or three Acts of Parliament that we reviewed annually. Those have gone away now as a result of devolution, so we do not have a fixed monitoring debate perhaps once every six months on what is happening in Northern Ireland. This would be a very good way of focusing in on what I believe is the most serious problem left. The day we can get the police force up to strength and accessing and walking in the streets as part of the communities mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, we will not be sitting here worrying about Northern Ireland.

I also support the second part of the amendment. There is nothing like a straightforward target and this Government, more than any other, have been very fond of setting themselves targets. I am sure they have the same reason for setting targets as I used to have; you set a target to motivate people so that they will do

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everything they can to achieve that target. You may not achieve it, but at least you have something to aim for. I strongly believe that it is an exceptionally good idea to have a target in this context. I support the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I understand, as best I can, the very serious points that the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is making and I cannot disagree with his comments on the level of intimidation. The noble Lord will not be surprised that I do not have precise figures to hand, I understand from the advice I have had that there have been some recruits from the areas to which he refers. They must be exceptionally brave human beings to take that step.

I hope I do not gloss over the difficulties. When one sets up new Northern Ireland institutions in the Westminster context there is a serious danger of constant interference. This then means a lack of trust in the ability of new institutions, organisations, and structures to develop a life, validity and worth of their own.

I do not discard the general approach of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. He asked for a sunset clause and spoke of review. In Section 47(2), on page 24 of the 2000 Act, there is a sunset clause. It says:

    "The temporary provisions shall, subject to subsection (3), expire on the third anniversary of the commencement date."

The review is in March next year and the expiry of the temporary provisions is on the third anniversary.

In Section 47(3), the Secretary of State may order the continuance of the temporary provisions for a maximum of three years—not for a further three years, but for a period not exceeding three years. There is the target, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, or the sunset clause, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Smith, but also the necessary flexibility.

It is important to bear in mind Section 47(4). In deciding how to exercise his powers or whether to exercise them at all, the Secretary of State has to have regard to the progress that is being made, and, importantly I hope from the noble Viscount's point of view,

    "Consult the Board and take into account any recommendations made to him by the Board."

Therefore, if things go well, as we all hope, 10 years will not be a relevant figure. We have flexibility here and a degree of autonomy which the board and the Chief Constable need. I respectfully suggest to your Lordships that the scheme in Section 47 requires no such amendment, and indeed, any such amendment if ultimately carried on Report would damage the present system.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Smith of Clifton: I am grateful for the support that has been shown, particularly on Amendment No. 48. I have heard what the noble and learned Lord said about Amendment No. 49, and am grateful for his explanation.

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I believe that we will want to return to Amendment No. 48 on Report, particularly bearing in mind the widespread support it has received in Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]

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