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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, although there has been a degree of unreality about the situation in Northern Ireland and here, in the capital of the United Kingdom, all who contributed to earlier debates will have gone a long way to correcting that. However, others must also contribute to reality and face the facts. That is not the practice of a great many people in a position to influence thinking and attitudes, especially in Northern Ireland.
For example, is it not passing strange that governmentspluralof the United Kingdom should be granting what one might call "annual last chances" to various terrorist organisations in Ireland, while the same governments in and of the United Kingdom should deal with similar terrorist organisations elsewhere in a far more robust fashion, both nationally and internationally?
There is one common response to all forms of terrorism. Over the past 30 years, in the immediate aftermath of each atrocity, there has been an assurance from all governments that the murderers will be,
Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for his full explanation of the order. One could not detect any embarrassment about this subject. However, I should remind the House that the background is one of policing and security in Northern Ireland. Some parts of the order are not innocuous, although that impression may have been given.
We work in a new background in Northern Ireland, in which there is a great shortage of police on the ground. The Patten report decimated the size of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Instead of being 12,500 or even 7,500, as Patten recommended for normal peaceful times, we are below 7,000. Therefore, the Army, which is there to support the civil powerto support policing in Northern Irelandis more necessary than ever. In fact, last Wednesday night the Army had to be used in the Shankill Road, in Larne and in Carrickfergus in support of the Police Service of Northern Ireland because of the small manpower available within that police service. Therefore, I find it interesting that it has been decided that, given the strength of the police service at the ports and along the border, it is no longer necessary to have personnel within the Army specified as examining officers.
The Irish Army is on the border supporting the Garda Siochana but for the first time this order states that Her Majesty's forcesthat includes the Royal Irish Regiment, the former UDRcan no longer act as examining officers along the border because there are sufficient police in Northern Ireland to do that.
There is a tremendous contradiction here. Who is getting it wrong? Has the Chief Constable said that he has adequate manpower, because he has told the Northern Ireland Policing Board that he has not? Are the Government saying that it is no longer necessary for the Army to operate along the border? Or is it simply the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, who is saying that? We need to have answers to those questions. Who will take responsibility for the decision to withdraw the Army and the Royal Irish Regiment from border areas? Will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal tell us, as members of Her Majesty's forces will no longer be examining officers at the border, how far inside the border they still have the power to be examining officers?
It is important to bear in mind what I said about the Army. As I said, Section 97(1) and (2) allows the Secretary of State to confer port and border control powers on the Army by specifying them as examining officers. That is to say, members of the Armed Forces could be designated to stand at airports and docks examining people arriving in Northern Ireland, just as police officers and customs officials may at present. The provision is important. This power has never been used and its use has never been sought. The police servicewe pay the closest attention to the present Chief Constable and his predecessorsbelieves that in the current situation there is no operational
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill): Before the Minister moves that the first order be considered, it may be helpful to say a word about the procedure for today's Grand Committee. Our proceedings are essentially the same as those of the House. Noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be reported in Hansard.
Since this is a new procedure, I should perhaps make it clear to noble Lords that this Committee is charged only to consider orders, not to approve or not approve them. The Motion to approve will be moved in the Chamber in the usual way.
The main difference between our proceedings and the proceedings on the Floor of the House is that the House has agreed that there will be no Divisions in a Grand Committee. Any Motion on which agreement cannot be reached should be withdrawn.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Perhaps I may apologise for the two or three minutes' delay. I explained to the Deputy Chairman that I would be answering the last Question in the Chamber. It slightly overran the proceedings in the Grand Committee, for which I apologise.
I am asked, before coming to the main business, to say a few words about the two Northern Ireland orders on the Order Paper for approval by the House today. On the Order Paper they are marked as dinner break business, but it has been agreed by the usual channels that it would be more convenient to continue with the Courts Bill until about 8 p.m. and then to take the orders.
The purpose of the order is to provide for the creation of a strategic investment board and to allow the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister to hold, manage, develop and dispose of the transferred military and security sites. Specifically, the order takes forward the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative which was announced in May last year. It was developed jointly under devolution by the Government and the devolved administration. I hope that Members of the Committee will regard this as a key initiative.
It will help the administration to take a long-term, strategic approach to investing in the infrastructure of Northern Ireland. It will offer an opportunity to turn symbols of conflict and division within Northern Ireland into ones of prosperity and regeneration. More directly, it will contribute to a tangible improvement for the people of Northern Ireland by improving public service infrastructure and the benefits to be derived for the social and economic regeneration offered by the former military and security sites.
The order therefore provides for a strategic investment board which will bring a new approach to managing and financing infrastructure programmes. It should bring greater expertise and management focus to the public sector. We hope that it will provide a centre of excellence; a source of advice to the Executive as it sets its overall investment plan and to individual Ministers and departments as they procure individual projects. This must be the best way to use such specialist resources.
The order provides for the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister to make use of the transferred military and security sites to achieve major economic and social regeneration. The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will work with other government departments and social partners in taking forward that regeneration.
The provisions of the order were subject to a number of consultation exercises held throughout Northern Ireland and the views of local political parties, businesses and the trade unions were obtained.
The Strategic Investment and Regeneration of Sites Bill reached the First Stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly. It did not receive a Second Reading. Some have said that the Bill would not have passed Second Stage in the Assembly, but I remind Members of the Committee that the Bill had previously been agreed by the Executive and had the full support of the two largest parties within the Assembly. Indeed, a project board made up of nominees of the four main political parties represented in the Executive advised both the Northern Ireland and direct rule administrations on the preparation of the legislation.
The idea behind the board has wide support on the clear basis that it will add value to make investment happen and will not undermine the responsibility of individual Ministers. The section on sites does not prescribe any particular course of action, but provides a range of options. In taking this forward, plainly we will look for the widest possible consensus.
We are here to carry through work previously agreed by the Executive Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I cannot see ultimate value in speculating what might have been, particularly at a difficult time for the institutions of Northern Ireland. I recognise that not every party in Northern Ireland supports all aspects of the order. That is not an experience I have found common in Northern Ireland at the present time. I know of the debate surrounding the need for a strategic investment board and the proposals for regeneration. I commend the order to the Committee.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the draft Strategic Investment and Regeneration of Sites (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)
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