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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Glentoran because the practical workability of the arrangements is important. Unless, agreement is reached between the three parties—the Secretary of State, the board and the Chief Constable—their relationship will be difficult. It is, after all, the Chief Constable who will have to work out the strategy to meet these objectives. I am sure that the last thing the noble and learned Lord wants is difficult relationships in this area of activity.

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I see no reason why the words,

    "with a view to obtaining his agreement to the proposed objectives or revision"

could be disagreed with. Amendment No. 2 does not say that the Secretary of State must obtain the Chief Constable's agreement. He must consult only,

    "with a view to obtaining his agreement".

That gives a good deal of leeway for proper dialogue between the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable on the practical workability of the arrangements.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I, too, support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I wish to inject a long-term view. So far, the Policing Board is working very well. It seems to be learning and working as an admirable institution. But the political long-term intention is that Sinn Fein should also join the Policing Board. That would change the chemistry of the board, because Sinn Fein's views on policing are totally different from everyone else's. I will raise only one of the obvious problems with that. The Chief Constable will have to operate within the arrangements decided, and it will be more important than ever that his relationship with the Secretary of State should be as strong as possible. Otherwise, the arrangements will not work.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. I declare an interest as a member of the Policing Board. However, I stress that my remarks, unless I say otherwise, are as an individual on the board.

I support the amendment because "consult" means very different things to different types and groups of people. All too often, when politicians talk about consulting, they mean dictating. In certain debates and dealings with the Government, at least in this Chamber, many believe that when they say they have explored every avenue of consultation and talked to everybody, they mean that they have informed people.

The Secretary of State is a political figure, therefore there is no handicap in including the word "agreement". The Government cannot simply circulate a sheet of paper or inform bodies verbally of a decision and then say that they have consulted. A two-way process is needed. On that basis, I cannot see what danger would be imposed on the Government by stressing that negotiations, the passing of information and consulting are part of a two-way process, not a diktat.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for so carefully explaining the amendments. I remind your Lordships of the present position.

Under Section 24 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000—the present statute in other words:

    "The Secretary of State may determine, and from time to time, revise, long term objectives for the policing of Northern Ireland".

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Section 24(2) states:

    "Before determining or revising any objectives under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult—

    (a) the Board;

    (b) the Chief Constable; and

    (c) such other persons as he thinks appropriate".

That is the present requirement. If the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, is troubled about what consultation means, that is the present legal situation.

The noble Lords, Lord Maginnis and Lord Glentoran, asked about the nature of a long-term objective. Paragraph 6.16 of the Patten report refers to objectives in terms of a three to five-year span.

I sympathise with the thrust of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I should like to explain, briefly, how I see the distinction. I said on a number of occasions in Grand Committee and again today that the clause is designed to allow for a slight adjustment—the different nuance I mentioned—which the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, cited to me. It is a slight adjustment of power towards the board. The critical point is this. There is a distinction in this tripartite policing relationship between the role of the Chief Constable on the one hand and the board and the Secretary of State on the other. The latter have the responsibility for setting the strategic direction of policing in Northern Ireland. That is their broad purpose.

The duty of the Chief Constable is importantly, even if only subtly, different. That duty is the operational management of the police. His duty and obligation is to implement the objectives set by the board and the Secretary of State. That is a qualitatively different job. I am happy to say as firmly as I can that it is not the intention of the Government that policing objectives should be foisted on the Chief Constable with no regard to his wishes or views. I was glad to hear the endorsement of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, that the board is settling well and working well with a very new Chief Constable. That is a common view.

The purpose of the consultation is to listen to the views of the Chief Constable, have regard to them and pay careful attention to them. But there are the distinctions to which I pointed. Whether your Lordships agree with that description of difference is a matter for your Lordships. In my mind, it is a different quality of purpose and role and that is why we have this slight readjustment. I do not pretend that it is not intended to be a readjustment. I have said so on many occasions.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that response. There is still some difference between us. I have a certain amount of sympathy with his explanation of the role of the police board and the Secretary of State in setting long-term objectives together, as allowed for in the legislation. I also accept that it is the role of the Chief Constable to devolve the strategy and operational plans for carrying out this long-term strategy. Looking ahead four or five years or even longer, what a difference there may be in personalities such as the First Minister, Deputy First

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Minister, Secretary of State, certain members of the police board and the Chief Constable. We have had problems in the past. There were disagreements within that quorum of people during the 1980s and 1990s, which caused the government at the time considerable pain. I hope that by not accepting my amendment the Government do not store up trouble for the future in this vitally important area. I shall think further about the matter and take advice before Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 1, line 14, at end insert—

"(2B) Nothing in subsection (2) shall prevent the Secretary of State from determining or revising objectives under this section.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 6 is grouped with Amendment No. 3. I do not intend to press the amendment to a Division. It is more by way of a probing amendment to seek an assurance from the noble and learned Lord. This Bill is designed to accommodate Sinn Fein/IRA on the Policing Board and on district policing partnerships. That is the primary objective of the Bill, based on what happened at Weston Park.

I have experienced the mercurial nature of Sinn Fein. Last year, on my own district council, we had a Sinn Fein chairman. He was an excellent chairman. Everything went absolutely tickety-boo, as he would say, in terms of council business. This year, we have an SDLP chairman. The former chairman now sits down the chamber. I have seen him rise with a fistful of papers to fling them in the face of the SDLP chairman. That is the mercurial nature of Sinn Fein. If this Bill goes through, that could be the behaviour of Sinn Fein on the board and on partnerships.

The Secretary of State has to consult with a view to obtaining agreement to the proposed objectives or revision in terms of codes of practice. If that is not possible, how do we ensure that the business of policing and the respective roles of the Secretary of State and Chief Constable are not hindered to the detriment of society? I believe that by adding our Amendments Nos. 3 and 6 there would be enshrined in legislation a means whereby we could overcome this difficulty. I shall listen with interest to what the noble and learned Lord has to say on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I shall respond in the same spirit as the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis. I will be able to reassure the noble Lord. The approach encapsulated in the clause is that it is for the Secretary of State to consult the board with a view to obtaining its agreement. I am quite sure that the Secretary of State and his successors will make every effort to do so. However, I think the nub of the noble Lord's question was about what would happen if there was a disagreement. I can give an assurance; the situation is quite plain. In the unlikely event that no agreement is arrived at, the Secretary of State's powers remain intact. In other words, the board has no veto.

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The noble Lord's amendments are not needed; they do not affect the position. I hope that I have given him the assurance as plainly as he would have wished.

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