Motion to Approve
Today marks the first anniversary of the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll and I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our thoughts to his wife, Kate, and their family and friends.
It is also appropriate to mention the debate that took place earlier this afternoon in the Northern Ireland Assembly, on the transfer of policing and justice powers. Today is an historic today for Northern Ireland. The Assembly voted, on a cross-community basis, to request the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. This is a key moment in the process first envisaged in the Belfast agreement of 1998 and restated by the Joint Declaration of 2003 and the St Andrews agreement of 2006.
Most recently the agreement at Hillsborough Castle set out a timetable which would see the transfer of powers by 12 April. The vote today will enable the Secretary of State to bring forward legislation in Parliament to give effect to the transfer of powers by this date. He will lay these orders tomorrow.
The Government have long maintained that it is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland that decisions on policing and justice matters should be made by local politicians. The vote today means that the completion of devolution is now a reality and I welcome the decision of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I look forward to the debates on the orders in this House in due course.
I turn to the renewal order which continues the temporary provisions for the appointment of police officers and police support staff for a further—final—year to March 2011. There are two reasons for bringing forward this further renewal order. First, we are committed to achieving our target of 30 per cent Catholic composition and, secondly, appointments from the latest campaign and outstanding appointments from earlier campaigns ought to be made on the same basis and under the same provisions.
As many of the noble Lords are aware, the temporary provisions have been debated extensively both here and in another place on numerous occasions. Indeed, this is the third renewal of these provisions. However, much has changed since the first renewal in 2004. At that time, some elements of Northern Ireland’s community remained uncommitted, unsupportive and unco-operative with the police service. Today, the climate is noticeably different. All main parties support policing and the rule of law and we all look forward to 12 April when the final piece of the devolution jigsaw will fall into place and policing and justice transfers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Government are committed to the need for this legislation. To drive forward the vision of policing with the community, the police service must have the confidence of the community and this requires the service to be reflective of the community. As the composition has changed, confidence in the police has increased. From a baseline of 72 per cent in 2003-04, 82.2 per cent of survey respondents today feel that the PSNI treats both communities equally. These temporary provisions are one of the most significant reasons why public confidence in policing is increasing across the community.
In the 16 competitions since the PSNI formed in 2001 there have been in excess of 107,000 applications from across the community. The latest campaign was launched on 14 January 2010, less than a week after the murderous attempt on Constable Peadar Heffron. When this campaign closed on 12 February, there had been 9,008 applications. This is a clear indication that the work of a minority who are attempting to disrupt the peace process is not accepted by the majority of people in Northern Ireland, who are intent on making it work.
The first new recruits joined the PSNI in November 2001. They joined a service that was only 8.3 per cent Catholic. Today, thanks to the temporary recruitment provisions, the Catholic composition in the PSNI stands at 27.88 per cent, and 3,807 young men and women have been appointed to the PSNI. They have helped to bring about tremendous change to policing in Northern Ireland, making the PSNI a world-renowned police service.
It is clear that the temporary provisions are achieving their aim of a more representative police service within a limited timescale. I acknowledge that certain noble Lords remain opposed to these measures, but I believe that the benefits that these provisions have had on increasing Catholic composition, as well as the positive impact on increasing community confidence in policing, justify the continuation of the provisions for a final year.
I of course sympathise with individuals who, although qualified, have not been appointed as a direct consequence of the temporary provisions. In the first 14 competitions, there were 88,822 applications; 10,854 reached the merit pool, and 3,749 were appointed. Of the 7,105 who were not appointed, only 984 were unsuccessful because of 50:50. The rest would not have been appointed, regardless of 50:50, as they did not score highly enough in the merit pool. In other words, less than 3 per cent of all non-Catholic applications have been affected by these measures.
The community in Northern Ireland is becoming increasingly diverse. The PSNI has implemented a number of outreach measures that are aimed at encouraging recruits from ethnic minority backgrounds, including attendance at community events such as the Belfast Mela. There are currently 32 ethnic minority officers in the PSNI from a variety of backgrounds, including Indian, Chinese and black Caribbean. This represents 0.44 per cent of the regular officers: a figure that is comparable with the overall level of the working age ethnic minority population in Northern Ireland, which is 0.48 per cent. The proportion of females in the PSNI has also increased significantly since 2001. At the time of the Patten report, female composition stood at just 12.6 per cent. Today, it is 24.87 per cent. The gender action plan will ensure that measures are put in place to retain these female officers and monitor their progression through the ranks.
The increase in composition of all these under-represented groups is to be welcomed. A more representative police service will assist the PSNI to engage consistently and effectively with all sections of the community, thus helping officers to solve crimes and keep our communities safe. The renewal order that we are considering today will continue the temporary provisions that are in force for a final year to 28 March 2011. However, the Government are committed to returning to Parliament to end the provisions at whatever point in the year it is clear that we shall reach the 30 per cent target.
As we look forward to a new future in Northern Ireland, following the vote in the Assembly this afternoon, with all sides working together constructively, it is important that the temporary provisions are continued for a final year. This will ensure that the Government’s target of 30 per cent Catholic composition is achieved and that the new Northern Ireland has a police service that works with and for the community. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for what she has said. She has significantly broadened this debate, as I had hoped. This might not happen tonight, but she has opened the doors on several fronts. First, I associate myself with her comments on the anniversary of the deaths of Stephen Carroll and the two soldiers at Massereene. That was a terrible time, but sadly this is still going on.
On the vote today, my party and I are absolutely delighted that the issue of policing and justice has been brought to a conclusion, but had we not had the interference of Americans and goodness knows who else, and had the Secretary of State behaved very differently—he tried to bully us as well as everyone else—we might have had a unified vote as opposed to a divided one. That was entirely down to Mr Woodward and his attitude and behaviour to Northern Ireland. He must be the worst Secretary of State in my 11 years here with whom I have ever had to deal. In fact, I have not had to deal with him because he does not speak to me. Those are my views on where we are. As I said, I am delighted, and so is my party, that we got there and that policing and justice have been devolved. I am disappointed that the vote was not 100 per cent for devolution, but it could have been in different circumstances. That is the frustration. I like perfection and I like things to be done well. This was not.
My party entirely agrees with the renewing of the order for one more year. I believe that the noble Baroness will reassure us when she winds up the debate that it will be renewed for one year and only one year. Where has it left us? It has achieved a great deal. The PSNI—she gave us all the figures—is a very different force from the Royal Ulster Constabulary. However, it has suffered from a significant lack of experience and ground intelligence throughout the process and there is still a serious void in detectives to investigate and keep up with the ever increasing sophistication of the terrorists who still attempt to destroy our Province.
The other thing that needs to be noted and that should concern us is that almost as many Roman Catholics are leaving the service as are being recruited. That, too, is a very sad reflection on where we are. One recruit said a few months ago that he did not join the PSNI to be shot at. It was reported in the press that it was not the sort of job that he had expected when he joined the PSNI. I have some sympathy with him, although I am not sure that I have a great deal, because that has been the nature of policing in Northern Ireland ever since time was.
The noble Baroness mentioned diversity and ethnic minorities. She is right. The number of ethnic minority members has increased and they are playing an ever increasing part in the social structure and fabric of the Province. Most contribute extremely well, because they are great entrepreneurs. A large number of them are being supportive and helpful.
To sum up, we are delighted that policing and justice have been devolved. We are prepared to agree to the Government extending the provisions for one more year and we hope that that will be the end of it. We hope that the PSNI will be able to hold its recruits for a little longer, however that needs to be done—whether through pay, training, accommodation or managing the areas in which they live. A lot of these people are very brave; they live in areas in which their enemies are down the road and are increasing. Overall, I support the order.
My Lords, I, too, thank the Leader of the House for introducing this order. Before I debate its merits or otherwise, I pay tribute, as others have done tonight, to the PSNI and in particular to all officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We particularly remember Constable Stephen Carroll, who was murdered by dissident republicans in Craigavon on this day in March last year. We place on record our gratitude to the officers of the PSNI, who are doing so much to move policing forward in Northern Ireland in continually difficult circumstances.
We remember the Patten report and its recommendation that in order to address the religious imbalances in the police in Northern Ireland,
“an equal number of Protestants and Catholics should be drawn from the pool of qualified candidates … We believe that the ratio of recruits should be kept to 50:50, at least for the ten years of the model”.
That was implemented in Section 46 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. It is worth remembering what the Act said on the matter:
“In making appointments under section 39 on any occasion, the Chief Constable shall appoint from the pool of qualified applicants formed for that purpose by virtue of section 44(5) an even number of persons of whom one half shall be persons who are treated as Roman Catholic and one half shall be persons who are not so treated”.
I remember that section well because it was the first time that I ever spoke on Northern Ireland matters in your Lordships’ House. I had come from a background of working with the police in England and Wales, as a member and, latterly, chair of a police authority. I had no idea at all of the differences that I would find in the policing of Northern Ireland. I remember the late and much missed Lord Fitt—Gerry Fitt. He told me in no uncertain terms in this Chamber that I did not have the first idea how Northern Ireland was policed. He soon put me right.
I also remember saying at the time that such a move as was being proposed could and should last for as short a time as possible. As we have seen over the intervening years, it has proved to be a difficult issue in Northern Ireland. It was important at the time—and let us not forget that—to get the SDLP to join the Policing Board, but it has also caused great concern among the Protestant community. It even led to a High Court case from a Protestant applicant who, while being included in the pool of qualified candidates, was nevertheless not picked to go forward. The High Court subsequently upheld the 50:50 recruitment policy.
The 50:50 recruitment provisions were initially implemented for three years, from 2001 to 2004, and the provisions were renewed in 2004 and 2007 for two further three-year periods. That made a total of nine years altogether. In 2007, these Benches told the Government that we would not support a further extension of three years for this provision, but that we would support an extension of one year, bringing the total length of time during which the provisions have been in place to 10 years.
We all want to see adequate representation of the Catholic community in the police, but this selection cannot go on for much longer. It has transformed the number of Catholics who have entered the police service and I hope sincerely that they will continue to join it. However, they still join with some trepidation and they have had to face extraordinarily difficult and sometimes dangerous forces not faced by the range of diversity within policing in other parts of this country. Their bravery in the face of sectarian and thuggish opposition to them taking their rightful place in helping to keep the peace in Northern Ireland for the whole community has been nothing short of heroic and I commend them for that.
As we have heard, in 2001 Catholic composition within the police service was 8.3 per cent. On 1 February this year it was 27.88 per cent. That is a quite remarkable turnaround and a major achievement. However, it must not stop there. Northern Ireland is becoming more diverse and we will be watching closely to see how that diversity is mirrored in its police service. In particular, we hope that the increase in the recruitment of female officers, from 13.3 per cent in 2001 to 24.87 per cent today, will continue.
The PSNI has worked hard to promote equality and diversity at a wider level and we commend it for this. Its diversity strategy, Policing a Shared Future, is an impressive document, which rightly recognises that, as well as sectarianism, gender and race, the police must also address dependency, political opinion, sexual orientation, domestic violence, age and disability. It is, of course, important for anyone who has suffered from a hate crime to be confident that they can report it to a police service that is committed to promoting equality and diversity.
When does the Leader of the House expect the 30 per cent target to be achieved? Will she ensure that, as soon as that happens—even if that falls before the end of one year—she will come before Parliament and remove the stricture on the recruitment process?
These Benches are grateful to the Government for holding fast to their commitment that the quotas would be in place only for 10 years, so we are pleased that this will be the last time that we debate this issue. Many good applicants from both communities have been lost to the service because of this provision and we hope sincerely that recruiting can take place from now on in a spirit of openness, trust and clarity and that all the people in Northern Ireland will get behind their police service and support it in the difficult work that it has to do.
My Lords, year on year I have spoken on how wrong I believe this order to be. As someone who believes passionately in equality, I think that it flies in the face of all my beliefs. I am not making a sectarian point, but I believe that people should be judged on their merits, not on their religion. In this order on recruitment, 50 per cent have to be Catholic and the other 50 per cent are termed non-Catholic. How is that fair, given that Northern Ireland has a growing ethnic community and many others who have no wish to have a religious tag at all? We also read that the Government are committed to achieving a representative police force in Northern Ireland from all community backgrounds. Surely this order means that the Government are guilty of discrimination in this instance. But we are where we are and I ask the Minister to give this House an assurance that this will be the last year that this House is asked to support such a poor order. The reason why I ask for this assurance is that, back in Northern Ireland, there is already talk afloat about extending the order for a future number of years until the PSNI has a 40 per cent Catholic intake. I would like to hear the Minister’s assurance on this.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her statement today and I should like to be identified with her remarks about the gallant members of both the RUC and the PSNI and the brave young policeman who died one year ago tonight. I have debated this issue in this House on quite a number of occasions and I think that my views are well known. I am totally opposed to this concept of discrimination. To me, this is about whether you believe in discrimination; it is about whether you believe in the idea of human rights being available to groups collectively or to people individually. I go down the individual line.
The order is interesting for me and perhaps for the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, as we are both former Members of the Northern Ireland Parliament—the House of Commons there. We could never have passed any piece of legislation so clearly sectarian as this order tonight. Under the Government of Ireland Act, anything that we did that was in any way sectarian was immediately null and void. In fact, the Government of Ireland Act had to be repealed in 2000 to allow this piece of legislation, and others offering discrimination, to go through. If only Members of this House realised the amount of hurt and discontent there is among the unionist and other communities in Northern Ireland about this form of discrimination.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, made the point that the ratio is 50 per cent Protestant and 50 per cent Catholic, but then she went on to say it is 50 per cent Catholic and 50 per cent others, which is a significant difference. It is not 50 per cent Protestant: it is 50 per cent others. I would like to see and to live in a diverse, cosmopolitan-style Northern Ireland. I revel in all our new people who came from all around the world in a similar way to which my people came to the island of Ireland 400 years ago this year. I have no problem with a diverse police force and no problem with a diverse population and I would like to see the police reflect the diversity of the community.
It is interesting to note that there has been no 50:50 quota or any form of discrimination for female police officers, whose numbers have moved up from 13 per cent to 24 per cent. However, there has had to be discrimination for the Catholic section of the community. Does this imply that the females are cleverer than the Catholics? I am not sure exactly what it means, but it is simply unfair. Why could not the same type of procedure to encourage more females to enter the police force be applied to the Catholic community? I want to see more Roman Catholic members of the police force. A lot of my close friends are of that denomination and are members of the force. They do an extremely good job. I just do not want to see them at the cost of people from another community feeling deeply hurt that they and their sons or their daughters are unable to get into the force because of what they see as discrimination. I am talking about highly qualified members of the public and highly qualified officers from other police forces on the mainland.
I identify myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, when he referred, I think, to the threats and attitude of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the debate that took place in Stormont earlier this afternoon. I want to see the devolution of policing and justice to the Stormont Assembly, but not now. It is hard to find anybody in Northern Ireland who, when you ask them how their lives have been changed through the existence over the past three years of the Northern Ireland Executive, can think of anything. The Northern Ireland Executive have not exactly been a success; they are rather dysfunctional. Therefore, it is extremely worrying that we are now in the process of devolving security and justice, one of the major aspects of government in Northern Ireland, to a dysfunctional Assembly. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, when he implied that the Secretary of State had attempted to bully members of the community in Northern Ireland into supporting police and justice coming to Northern Ireland. If anybody knows the character of the people of Northern Ireland—and the Secretary of State should—they would know that the last thing that we are going to do is give way to threats, bullying or bribery. In fact, I would suggest that no one from any part of this House would be prepared to do that.
I am also a bit disturbed to hear that the new chief constable is reported to have said today that he hoped that the vote at Stormont would be in favour of the devolution of policing and justice. The chief constable must keep out of politics. If he made those remarks, it was ill advised and I would like the Government to draw that to his attention.
I and other members of my party do not support the order and we have aired our case a number of times. Obviously it is going to go through, but we hope that this is the last occasion on which we have to stand up and make these points.
My Lords, I served as Minister for Home Affairs in the Northern Ireland Parliament working with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and then I served on the Northern Ireland Policing Board to implement the report on the reform of policing. Therefore I have watched these developments with great interest. I must therefore place it on the record that the Royal Ulster Constabulary had a much higher percentage of Roman Catholic members than the figure quoted at the time of the changeover. At one point it reached 20 per cent, but of course the reason it fell rapidly was because of the intimidation of Roman Catholics who were trying to join the RUC, and the fact that Roman Catholics who, having joined the RUC, were then intimidated by Irish republican terrorists. So the percentage of Roman Catholics in the RUC fell. The reason the percentage fell must be made clear: it was not the result of discrimination by the Protestant majority.
This order is of great interest to Northern Ireland. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, pointed out, over the years it has caused a lot of offence to the Protestant majority because it is, after all, an exceptional recruitment arrangement. It is, on the bottom line, discrimination on the basis of religion; but in these circumstances it may be wise, and that is the problem we face. What is required is a police service that has the consent of the overall community, and that is the bottom line as well. But it is an exceptional measure, and that is why it must be limited in duration. We must reach a stage where people are selected for the Police Service of Northern Ireland irrespective of their religion.
The Explanatory Memorandum states that there was consultation. Funnily enough, only 21 organisations were consulted—and badly at that because it was the Government who selected which organisations should be consulted. It sounds as if they were trying to control the result of the consultation. Even having done that, of the 21 bodies consulted, only seven came out in favour of this order, seven opposed it and the other seven were neutral. I would like more information about the degree of consultation. We know that this order causes offence to the Protestant majority. Again, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, pointed out clearly that not even 50 per cent of police service recruits can be Protestant; they have to be non-Roman Catholics. In other words, Protestants only make up 40 to 45 per cent of the successful applicants, although Protestants probably comprise around 60 per cent of the population of Northern Ireland. So one can understand the resentment at the grass roots, as we call it in Northern Ireland, and one has to be able to explain it and show that it is good for Northern Ireland over the longer term and into the future.
I would like to know whether organisations that speak for the Protestant community in Northern Ireland were consulted. Was the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, which operates in Northern Ireland, consulted? Was the Anglican Church of Ireland consulted? Was the Orange Order consulted? It also speaks for a large number of Protestants. These are people who have interests in the Protestant community. Sometimes the churches have not really defended the interests of the Protestant community, so it is important to ensure that everyone is fairly consulted, whether or not you like their views.
It is said that we want to make sure that we have a police force that represents all community backgrounds. I was interested to hear that there are now 32 Chinese members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. But today more people speak Mandarin or Cantonese on a daily basis than speak Irish in Northern Ireland. It is interesting to note that spoken Chinese is now the second most used language in Northern Ireland. Many others may know how to speak Irish but they certainly do not use it on a daily basis, whereas the Chinese do because they have restaurants in nearly every town and village across Northern Ireland. We have a large Chinese community, and that is why there are, quite naturally, Chinese members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I want to see that continuing, because we have large ethnic communities in the province. We have many Polish and Lithuanian people, and they too have to be incorporated in some way into the police service so that it is representative of the entire community.
I was interested to note that the Leader of the House has said that the Government will return an order to Parliament, when we reach the target of 30 per cent of Catholics in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to end these provisions. But I thought that by that time the Government would have no say in the policing of Northern Ireland, and that by then it might well be a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly, after the transfer of policing and security matters to Northern Ireland. Does this assurance by the Government mean that the new system of political control of policing in Northern Ireland is equally committed to bringing a measure before the Stormont Assembly to end 50:50 recruitment if 30 per cent of the police service becomes Roman Catholic? Or is this a meaningless guarantee by the Government because by that time all these matters will have been transferred to the control of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its new Minister?
The other aspect of this order is lateral entry, whereby efforts are to be made to find Roman Catholic recruits from other existing forces. Police officers must be Roman Catholic and in other forces. This means, in practice, the southern Irish police system—the Garda Siochana. I would like to know how many Roman Catholics from the Garda Siochana have now been enrolled into the police service in Northern Ireland and how many Roman Catholic members from various police forces within Great Britain have also been transferred into the police service in Northern Ireland.
Finally, I accept this order on the assurance that within a year or so it will cease to operate in practice. I was interested to hear it being welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and yet not welcomed by my noble friend and colleague Lord Laird. They belong to two political parties that are now joined together in one political system. I find it confusing that they belong to one electoral system yet take different views on things such as the renewal of this order and even the devolution of policing to Stormont in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I rise to thank the Leader of the House for introducing this draft order and to express my support, albeit reluctant, for the reasons given so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Blood. There are real issues here of equality and discrimination which are very difficult and have caused enormous problems in the history of Northern Ireland. It is a relief, at least, that what we have been asked to deal with today is simply a temporary measure lasting only one year.
I wish to focus on only one point. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House explained that Catholic recruitment to the police service in Northern Ireland is at just under 28 per cent at the moment. I strongly suspect that one further year will take that figure to 30 per cent. The difficulty here is that, for reasons already hinted at by the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Kilclooney, there is no iron law of history that says that it must stay at 30 per cent or indeed that it will continue to creep upwards. With the attacks on Catholic police officers, there are pressures at the moment on Catholic membership of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
There are other considerations as well in the broader society of Northern Ireland which suggest that the figure could reach 30 per cent and drop down. I do not expect to be admired by the House for drawing attention to this difficult fact but the seriousness of the debate requires at least acknowledgement of it. Ultimately, it now appears that these issues are going to be the responsibility of the devolved ministries of Northern Ireland which will deal with the devolution of policing and justice. In one way, I am very glad that that is the case, because they are going to be extraordinarily difficult issues to deal with.
The noble Baroness gave a figure for those who did not get jobs in the Police Service of Northern Ireland and her suggestion was, entirely correctly, that it is a small percentage who were not appointed because of being of the “wrong” religion. None the less, this whole game is about small percentages. Getting from 28 to 30 per cent is crucial. Dropping back could also be crucial. I simply draw attention to this difficulty. I am grateful that the Government are only proposing this for one year. On a day which is positive for the history of Northern Ireland, I just draw attention to the fact that anybody close to this issue knows that, even if we reach 30 per cent, we have not entered some new nirvana. The difficulties remain and it might well be the responsibility of this House or another House to deal with what we do then. I hope I do not have to face the question if Catholic recruitment starts to slide backwards.
My Lords, Patten identified the problem of Catholic non-membership of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as one which required to be addressed. I do not think that any of your Lordships, or any of the people to whom I have spoken in Northern Ireland about this issue, underestimate the sensitivity of what was undoubtedly a necessary recommendation. I have worked with police officers for many years. I taught them, including chief officers, for 20 years. I served as a custody visitor to Northern Ireland’s police stations for seven years. I served on the Northern Ireland police authority and I served as Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, is quite right. Policing can operate only with the consent of those who are policed. That consent was not there for many years. The reality, however, was not simply that the IRA prevented Catholics from joining the RUC. Patten identified that significant change was required to facilitate and encourage this “ownership” of policing across Northern Ireland. The 50:50 recruitment model which Patten identified was supposed to ensure that the proportion of Catholic officers would quadruple within 10 years, and that has not happened. Patten recommended that the provision should stay in place for 10 years. He did not recommend any more.
Changing the situation required action by the people and the police. It also required action by the Government in the form of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. Brave things were done on all fronts, and we have heard the current figures of Catholic recruitment. But that figure of 27 per cent masks the fact that some 80 per cent of all officers above the rank of constable are still Protestant. It will be a long time before incremental change means that we have a rather more balanced police force at all ranks. However, it was noted in the 19th report of the Oversight Commissioner that all recruits are now considered fully capable and qualified to perform the duties of a police officer.
As we have heard and as we remember, on this day last year Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead. Last month, a brave young police officer, Constable Peadar Heffron, was critically injured by a bomb. I pay tribute to Peadar Heffron because he took a public role as a GAA captain and, particularly, in the Irish language efforts which were being made by the police and by the Northern Ireland Policing Board. He must have known that that made him particularly vulnerable. He is a brave man.
This was but the last of many attacks on young Catholic officers, and the Chief Constable has said that the dissidents are trying to kill another officer. The Catholic community—the whole community—will well understand the impact that the killing of a Catholic officer will have on future recruitment. However, there are brave men and women in the Catholic community, too, and they have moved to join the police force, but it is still the case that officers have to move because of threats; and it is still the case that those Catholic officers who are now able to live, very often, in the areas from which they came—which would not traditionally have been places where Catholic officers would have been safe—are vulnerable in such areas.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred to the fact that the number of Catholic officers leaving is still disproportionately high. I hesitate to correct the noble Lord, but I am not sure that as many are leaving as are joining. However, the police must find out the reasons for these departures by means of exit interviews and so on.
The picture is not as good in police support staff as it is in police officer competitions. The number of Catholics employed as police support staff was 12 per cent at the time of Patten; it is now 17.65 per cent, still far too low. Part of the reason for this is that the 50:50 rules apply only to competitions where there are six or more vacancies to be filled at or about the same time.
I endorse the call for the retention of the 50:50 rule for another year to enable the achievement of the critical mass of 30 per cent to which Patten referred. It would still leave Catholic representation in the PSNI well below the level of Catholic representation in the community, but it will facilitate the maintenance of the critical cultural change which has enabled so many of our people to give their support to policing and to the constitutional process.
My Lords, I am delighted that there has been a strong welcome throughout the Chamber for the order. I am also delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has welcomed the final piece in the devolution jigsaw, and I am grateful for that welcome. I am, of course, sad that the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Laird, spoke about my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in the way that they did. However, the positive outcome in the Northern Ireland vote today is right and proper for the people of Northern Ireland, and I am glad that we can all celebrate that.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred to the numbers of Catholic men and women who are leaving the police force rather than joining it. We regret that some people are leaving the police force but 1,914 Catholics have been recruited into the PSNI and only 209 new recruits have left. So, while we regret that fact, a lot more people are joining. People have left for a variety of reasons, including the wrong career choice, differences in personal circumstances and so on, but I recognise that for some people it is extremely difficult to serve in the police force in Northern Ireland. However, the police do a splendid job and I am glad that we all recognise that.
One interesting fact in my briefing is that in a recent poll—and I know that polls are not the flavour of the day—93 per cent of respondents from a Catholic background indicated that they would recommend policing as a career to family or friends. That is an interesting point which builds on what the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, said.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, quoted sections from the Patten report and reminded us of the views of the late Lord Gerry Fitt. I am well aware of the views expressed by the noble Baroness and her noble friends in 2007. She is right to say that the 50:50 provision cannot go on much longer, but it will not go on; this is the final order on this subject.
My noble friend Lady Blood made an important point about equality, but the point of this policy is to ensure that the police have the support of the whole community in Northern Ireland, as many noble Lords have said. While I recognise the strong views expressed by my noble friend, I think that this policy has had the outcome that all noble Lords would wish for. To all noble Lords who mentioned those applicants who have been unsuccessful because of the 50:50 policy, I understand the disappointment and frustration of those applicants, but I trust that, in the near future, everybody will be able to be appointed on merit.
The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, has huge experience in this area and she is right to say that the police can operate only with the consent of those who are policed; that is a very important point to make. She is also right that it will take time to have a balanced police force in all the ranks, to see these bright new recruits coming through into the senior ranks. We are confident that in the not-too-distant future, we will see a much more balanced police force.
To the noble Lord, Lord Bew, I say that we are confident that, with the high application rates seen in the past few campaigns, the composition of 30 per cent will be maintained, especially with all parties supporting policing and sitting on the Policing Board. We think that, in that way, Catholics will continue to have confidence in the system and that they will continue to apply and to join the PSNI.
The noble Lord, Lord Laird, spoke about female representation and suggested that it increased without discrimination. As I mentioned earlier, since the introduction of 50:50, 3,807 officers have been recruited to the PSNI. This large volume of recruitment has helped female composition to increase and, of course, we celebrate that. The Patten report acknowledged that it was important for female and ethnic minority composition to increase, but he focused on the more important need to address the community imbalance.
I was interested to learn from the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, that more people in Northern Ireland speak Chinese day-to-day than speak Irish. We learn things every day. It is important to recognise that the PSNI has run and continues to run a programme with Belfast Metropolitan College targeting individuals whose first language is not English. The purpose of this is to enhance their ability to undertake the application process. Initiatives such as these will ensure that the representation from ethnic minorities increases. As I mentioned earlier, it is 0.44 per cent at the moment. The ethnic minority population is 0.48 per cent, so it is probably where it should be, but of course, we do not want that to be reduced in any way.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, also spoke of what he called the limited consultation. The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 only stipulates that the Secretary of State should consult the Policing Board, but the Northern Ireland Office widened the consultation extensively. It extended the consultation to the PSNI, the political parties—the DUP, the UUP, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party—Northern Ireland MPs, the Equality Commission, the Human Rights Commission and British Irish Rights Watch, but neither the Presbyterian Church or the Church of Ireland were consulted and nor was the Orange Order. I just put that on the record for noble Lords’ information.
To give the noble Baroness a chance to have a glass of water, I make the point, just to place it on record, that this legislation, leading to good results as it is, has none the less been most hurtful to the Protestant majority community. To be fair to them and to take into account their interests, the Northern Ireland Office should not be selective, in inviting consultation with people who do not represent the Protestant community. Protestant community leaders, be it the Presbyterian Church leaders, the Church of Ireland leaders or the Orange Order, should also be consulted, so that all views are taken into account.
My Lords, I recognise what the noble Lord says and that some people in the community were hurt, as he puts it, by this policy. I also recognise what he says about the breadth of consultation. However, I think that we in this Chamber would all recognise that despite the hurt, which is regrettable, the policy has achieved the aims that we would all wish it to have. That is to the benefit of the whole community in Northern Ireland; it gives the community more confidence in the PSNI, and that can only be good for the whole community.
The noble Lord also asked whether the 50:50 provisions would transfer to the Northern Ireland Assembly. They will not. That is why I am confident when I say that if we get to 30 per cent before the end of the year, the Government will return to this Parliament and end the provisions immediately. General police recruitment, though, will be a matter for the devolved Government to consider.
On the subject of lateral entry, I will write. There are various things to be said. It could be said that the scheme has not been as great a success as one would wish, but I will write to the noble Lord with chapter and verse and place a copy in the Library.
I recognise from the debate today that the policy has discriminated against a small number of non-Catholics and it has had an impact on ethnic minorities. However, the positive progress to date has been possible only because of the temporary provisions. As the noble Baroness said earlier, we require a police service that reflects, and has the confidence of, the whole community.
I and the Government agree that the provision should be ended as soon as possible. The time to do that is when the 30 per cent target has been achieved, and we believe that it will be reached by March 2011. If it is not reached by then, it is not reached, because this is the final order. I think we all agree, though, that all people in Northern Ireland will get behind the police service as it stands today and as it is going to be in 2011, and that they will support it as we do in this Chamber. We thank the service for the difficult work that it does.