Discrimination in police recruitment

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Lord Trimble: We have discussed this issue many times, and have put on record our firm and unaltered opposition to discrimination in employment. It has always amazed me that this Government, who have embodied the European convention in domestic law and are proud of their commitment to human rights, turn out to have no real commitment to rights as such, because the first time that it becomes convenient to ditch rights they do so. They are constantly hinting at doing so in other fields as well. It amazes me that a Government who sometimes talk about commitments to human rights turn out to have merely a skin-deep commitment to it.

We have always opposed the procedure. Over the years, we have managed to achieve a position in which it was said—only said, of course—that the next renewal was envisaged as the last, and that it would not be continued after that. My colleague the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, said that it was always envisaged in Patten that it would operate until such point as the percentage of Roman Catholics in the police force had got to 22 per cent.

It astonishes me that the Democratic Unionist Party, which in the past was opposed to discrimination, now trumpets as one of its achievements that it has abandoned opposition to discriminatory employment, and that it supports its continuation until the percentage of Catholics in the police force reaches 30 per cent, which may run beyond the period for which it is envisaged that the provision will go. The DUP has actually agreed to an extension beyond the point originally envisaged. That is presented as a great thing, but I fear not.

Lord Morrow: The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, introduced the discrimination; it was his brainchild. I find it difficult to understand how the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, can say what he says here tonight. I want to refute it clearly, and to make it clear where the Democratic Unionist Party stands in relation to that issue.

Lord Trimble: The comments that the noble Lord made about my noble friend Lord Maginnis of Drumglass were misconceived and inaccurate. What was in Patten is something quite different from the ideas that my noble friend explored as different ways in which to achieve the objective. Indeed, looking back, there was a lot to be said in preference for his proposal. In retrospect, his proposal was a darned sight better than what happened under Patten, but the two things are quite different.

We—and I—have been absolutely clear right from the outset what our position is and, unlike the DUP, we have not changed. The reality is that on this issue the DUP has, which is a shame. It weakens the overall unionist position. It would be desirable if the DUP, instead of going around saying what a great thing it is that we are going to continue discriminatory employment for several more years, returned to a position which all unionists have hitherto held.

(November 22nd, 2006)

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