Patten Report — 6 Apr 2000

That this House welcomes the well-deserved award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary; condemns the Government's decision to remove its Royal title; and calls for the postponement of the implementation of other controversial recommendations in the Patten Commission Report on Policing in Northern Ireland until the 'new dispensation' on which it was predicated has truly arrived.

bring forward proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including means of encouraging widespread community support for those arrangements.

An opportunity for unity was lost this year in the failure to honour and respect the 302 RUC men and women who were murdered and almost 9,000 who were severely injured defending the Catholic and Protestant parts of the community. Even the Patten Report itself inexplicably failed to pay a sufficient decent and detailed tribute to the 302 dead and the thousands wounded.

Until there is a change in the status of Northern Ireland, inevitably many of the symbols of government will be British. There is no clear reason to make a special case for the RUC by changing its name without changing the name of other organisations which are also either "Royal" or "British". The official symbols associated with the force are not central to the status of the RUC in the eyes of the community. They attract the loyalty of many in Northern Ireland. There is no good reason to change them.

As Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, the Union Flag is the appropriate flag to be flown over police stations.

as a particular priority to create a statutory obligation

to promote equality of opportunity in relation to religion and political opinion.

take politics out of policing.

recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status.

freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union.

Again, the emphasis is on legitimacy. The parties are recognising the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom. Put simply, all the parties to the agreement, whether or not they will acknowledge it, are accepting British sovereignty in Northern Ireland. There cannot then be any objection to the normal and reasonable expression of that sovereignty.

a sensitive use of symbols, so that more than lip service is paid to the principle of consent.

the Agreement provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing.

a unique opportunity to bring about a new dispensation.

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

'welcomes the well-deserved award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary; notes that the award was made by Her Majesty in recognition of the service and sacrifices of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which must never be forgotten; reiterates its commitment to maintaining an effective police service in Northern Ireland capable of protecting the public and maintaining law and order; and reaffirms the objective in the Good Friday Agreement of creating a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole.'.

the adoption in the main of the Fundamental Review.

the name of the RUC . . . had become politicised--one side of the community effectively claiming ownership of the name and that the use of those words . . . must inevitably go some way in inhibiting wholehearted participation in policing.

sadly, there would have been little chance of progress towards a broadly acceptable force without some change in the name and symbols, which were a legacy of the past.

would do well to take their cue

take all the changes in its professional stride.

will cause major offence in the Protestant community but will not lead to significant improvements in support for the Police among Catholics.

until the "new dispensation" on which it was predicated has truly arrived.

a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole.

believe that the agreement provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole.

An equal number of Protestants and Catholics should be drawn from the pool of qualified candidates.

We discussed the duties they had to perform in that conflict-ridden province and I came away deeply impressed by their professionalism. More importantly, I was told by their chief,

whom I believe Ronnie Flanagan had met,

that the sixty-strong RUC contingent was among his best group of international police officers.

Similar compliments were paid to your officers by senior UN officials, army officers and representatives of NGOs. The RUC can be justly proud of these fellow-officers.

The colour of the current police uniform should be retained.

The Patten Report on Policing is seen as absolutely the most essential element of addressing the need for change. The confidence of our membership in the Good Friday Agreement was won by the possibility that policing would be properly and thoroughly addressed.

In the seemingly endless search for a political settlement in Northern Ireland, it is clearly essential to know what core attitudes in the two communities are to be reconciled.

There is no escaping the unwelcome conclusion that changing the name and symbols of the RUC, and producing a police force sufficiently supported by a large majority, will be a crucial issue.

I agree. This Government and this House of Commons with the people and police officers of Northern Ireland have to be equal to that immense challenge. It would be much, much better if these issues could be resolved in the Northern Ireland Assembly based on genuine consultation with all communities in the Province. I should love to see the early reinstitution of the Assembly.

The RUC have nothing to fear from the Patten inquiry.

If we are going to have a sensible look at the RUC then I believe that Chris Patten's appointment is progress.

very happy with the make up of the Patten commission. I think practically we could not have hoped for anything better.

deeply flawed and objectionable to the greater number of law-abiding people in Northern Ireland.

The resolution referred to the need to

bring forward proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including means of encouraging widespread community support for those arrangements.

What on earth did these people think they were going to get when they signed up to the Belfast agreement?

I don't say this provocatively, but it really does seem to me that we were given a very clear agenda, and I'm surprised that those who gave us that agenda did not understand what the consequences would be.

Nothing the Government say or do can dishonour the RUC and the men who have served in it.

but they can dishonour and are dishonouring themselves.

Does he realise that despite his euphemistic language, my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble)--the leader of the Ulster Unionist party--is absolutely right to say that what has been announced today degrades, demeans and denigrates an honourable force . . . ?--[ Official Report , 19 January 2000; Vol. 342, c. 852.]

The RUC must remain intact so that my husband John did not die in vain. My husband was a family man. He was not political, he was not sectarian, he was not a Catholic and he was not a Protestant, but a Christian. He was very fair, he treated people equally and I was proud to be his wife. I put the words Royal Ulster Constabulary on my husband's gravestone. That is what he died for, and I do not want to see that changed.

Question , That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 118, Noes 264.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 111069.4%
Independent1 0033.3%
Lab251 (+2 tell) 1061.1%
LDem10 0021.7%
SDLP2 0066.7%
UUP0 6 (+2 tell)080.0%
Total:264 118060.5%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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Frank FieldBirkenheadLabaye

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