Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, perhaps the Minister will inform the House what the agricultural minimum wage is in Scotland. My impression is that it is a good deal higher.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, it would be useful to have some clarification on the record, if not today perhaps in correspondence, about exactly where the line is drawn between the degree of devolvement and the compatibility with the original legislation, so that there is no difference. Intuitively, the answer is reasonably clear, but it would be useful to have some clarification on the record.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall deal first with the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. No, I cannot give an assurance that the legislation will be identical. That is a matter for the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament. If they want to do it in a different way, or even if they want to do something different, that is their privilege. That is the meaning of devolution.

I do not know the answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, as to whether agricultural minimum wages are higher. I am not sure that I should apologise for that, as it is a devolved matter on which I am not supposed to be informed, let alone responsible.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Lea that there should be the utmost clarity in what matters are covered, reserved and devolved. I do not believe that there is any lack of clarity. I think that the Scotland Act provision that employment matters be reserved and agriculture be devolved, combined with the provision for either separate legislation or a Sewell resolution, covers any conceivable confusion, but if I am wrong I shall write to my noble friend on that point.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]

11.32 a.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Consultation with Board]:

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4.

I shall begin briefly by outlining my overall objection to this dishonourable Bill, an objection that colours my attitude to each and every element that we will consider today.

The Bill is devised in a form that is intended to hand over undue influence, if not control, to an element in our society that has sought to undermine the

23 Jan 2003 : Column 847

democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. That is Sinn Fein/IRA, to which new Labour and the Prime Minister felt obliged to capitulate at Weston Park, at the same time as they pretended to give consideration to the overall interests of society in Northern Ireland.

Ordinary society in Northern Ireland feels that all the comprise that it made to accommodate everyone in the political process is worthless. It feels that promises made publicly again and again by the Prime Minister are worthless. Also, it feels that when we get to the stage of relegating the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to bit-player, as the clause does, that makes policing and the rule of law a charade.

Lessons have not been learned from the lack of substantive contributions made by Sinn Fein/IRA to the Mitchell principles. Have we by any chance forgotten the Mitchell principles? I have to ask the Minister what has changed or is about to change. Will he tell the House whether, and if so when, we will reach that defining moment when the paramilitary Sinn Fein/IRA disarms and disbands? If I have a satisfactory answer to that question, I and others may be able to view the Bill in a different light from that in which I presently do.

For those who may presume to tell me that Sinn Fein/IRA is not the only paramilitary grouping in Northern Ireland, I simply say that I am hardly unaware of that. However, the Bill is not intended to create inequitable privileges for loyalists, and neither am I. The Bill is intended to create inequitable privileges for Sinn Fein/IRA and it alone.

Did the Minister really mean what he said to me at Second Reading when we mentioned what would happen in comparable circumstances in Surrey? He drew attention to the fact that I had asked why criminals should be allowed on DPPs when they would not in Surrey. He told me:

    "The answer is that Surrey has not had the agonising history of Northern Ireland".—[Official Report, 16/12/02; col. 508.]

In other words, there is not the pressure on policing anywhere else in the United Kingdom that necessitates, as in the clause, the relegation of the professional side of policing to something right at the bottom of the pile. I have been in this Parliament for 20 years. I know the value of the democratic process and I subscribe to it, but I also know that it will suffer if we relegate those responsible—the guardians of law and order, the enforcers of the law—to the bottom of the pile. That is why I suggest that we leave out subsections (1) and (2). I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I should point out that, if the amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 2 or 3.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, I do not apologise in the slightest way for giving the obvious reminder to noble Lords that the history of Surrey has not been the same as the history of Northern Ireland.

23 Jan 2003 : Column 848

The noble Lord said that the clause relegated the Chief Constable to the role of bit-player. That is an absurdity, if I may say so. The noble Lord knows that I am not criticising him personally, because we have the best of personal relationships, but it is simply not an accurate reflection of what the clause does. He says that the forces of law and order are being put at the bottom of the pile, which is simply not realistic.

I will repeat briefly what I said at length in Committee about what the clause does. It reflects a small but important change in the balance of the relationship over policing between the Secretary of State and the Policing Board. The clause does not give the board a veto over the Secretary of State's objectives. We may need to return to that point on Amendments Nos. 3 and 6. It requires the Secretary of State to try to ensure that he and the board work collectively and harmoniously to develop policing objectives.

We think it right to make those changes to Sections 24 and 27 of the 2000 Act. The Patten report was particularly critical of the previous arrangements. The simple, single effect of Amendments Nos. 1 and 4, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Maginnis and Lord Rogan, would be to maintain the status quo. For the reasons I have set out, that would be inappropriate. I am not in a position to, nor do I wish to, accept the amendments.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, there can be no doubt that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and I are opposed on this issue. None the less, it is not an appropriate time to discuss the matter. I do not promise that we shall not return to it at Third Reading, but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 1, line 12, after "Constable" insert "with a view to obtaining his agreement to the proposed objectives or revision"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 2 and 5, which are grouped, would ensure that the Secretary of State would consult with the Chief Constable,

    "with a view to obtaining his agreement",

before making changes to, or determining, long-term policing objectives or issuing or revising a code of practice.

It is appropriate that a working partnership be consolidated between the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State in addition to that between the board and the Secretary of State. These amendments would put consultation with the Chief Constable on an equal footing with consultation with the board. Two different relationships in this triangle must be developed. My amendment tries to balance them in a way that is probably correct.

I was grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for his explanation in Grand Committee. But these amendments are concerned entirely with long-term objectives as a long-term

23 Jan 2003 : Column 849

proposal. The noble and learned Lord also stated that the police Bill had a different shade of nuance from the police Act 2000. What has changed since the 2000 Act was passed? What are the practical implications of such a change? What is the difference between consulting and consulting,

    "with a view to obtaining . . . agreement"?

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, for sharing his interpretation of "long-term objectives". He said that they have more to do with political issues than operational ones, and that the Chief Constable then interprets such objectives in an operational manner. Although it is Northern Ireland we are discussing, that seems a little bogus. There is something wrong in that approach. I shall be interested to hear the interpretation of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal of "long-term objectives", which I understand to be the justification for the amendments to the police Act 2000, in Clause 1.

My key points are that the balance of relationships should be maintained, bearing in mind that for "Secretary of State" we could, I hope, soon be reading "First Minister and Deputy First Minister". There must be a balance in the relationships between the board, which is quasi-political, the Secretary of State, who is obviously political, and the Chief Constable, the operational person responsible for the security, safety and policing of the Province. A consensus on the long-term objectives should be reached between the three different groups. My amendment would ensure that the Secretary of State would consult the Chief Constable,

    "with a view to obtaining his agreement",

on the "long-term objectives", to use the words of the noble and learned Lord in Grand Committee. I beg to move.

11.45 a.m

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, underpins, perhaps in less trenchant terms, exactly what I said earlier. His amendment gives the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal an opportunity at least to concede a provision that simply intimates that consultation with the Chief Constable will be given the same consideration as consultation with the board. It would alleviate my problem of the Chief Constable's relegation to a position of secondary importance in the consultation process. The qualification proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, would help to alleviate our difficulty.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page