Tuesday 12 December 2006
Private Members’ Business
The Assembly met at 10.30 am (Madam Speaker in the Chair).
Members observed two minutes’ silence.
Introduction of the Offence of Corporate Manslaughter
Madam Speaker: The Business Committee has agreed to allow two hours for each of today’s debates. The proposer of each motion will have 15 minutes to speak, and all other Members will have 10 minutes.
Mr Gardiner: I beg to move
That this Assembly calls upon the Government to introduce legislation introducing the offence of corporate manslaughter to Northern Ireland, where it could be proven that culpable negligence by a firm was a major contributory factor to the death of an employee or subcontracted worker; and further calls for the introduction of an additional offence of secondary liability for corporate manslaughter, where it could be shown that a company’s failings were provably caused by the culpable negligence of one or more individuals within the firm.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill is currently in the House of Lords, having already passed through the House of Commons. The Bill applies to Northern Ireland as well as to England and Wales. In Scotland the offence of corporate manslaughter will be called corporate homicide. The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 20 July 2006. It passed Standing Committee B on 31 October 2006 and looks set to become law during 2007.
Therefore why, Madam Speaker, am I calling on the Government to extend the legislation to Northern Ireland? The clue is the second part of the motion.
There I call for an additional offence of secondary liability for corporate manslaughter, where it could be shown that the failings of a company, public body or organisation were caused by the negligence of one or more individuals in the firm or organisation involved. When I talk about organisations, I include councils, health boards and Departments.
The reason why I am calling for that extremely important addition to be made to the legislation is not to seek retribution, even though retribution is a perfectly legitimate principle on which to base law. I seek that addition on the principle of effective deterrence.
An article on the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’s (ICAEW) website summarises the likely impact of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill as follows:
“companies that comply with existing health and safety legislation have nothing to fear.”
“Companies found guilty of corporate manslaughter will face an unlimited fine, as a well as a remedial order requiring the company to address the cause of the fatality”.
The article concludes:
“As long as employers exercise due diligence in managing their health and safety risks, in the event of an accident, they are likely to have most of that duty of care discharged under the law”.
The Government have confirmed that view. During the Bill’s passage, Ministers have stressed that no new burdens will be placed on companies that already comply with health and safety legislation. In short, the new corporate manslaughter law will impose penalties no different in form or severity to existing health and safety legislation and manslaughter legislation. Under existing legislation, unlimited fines are already in place. Imprisonment is already an option under existing gross negligence manslaughter law.
Under that law, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) states that, where it can be proven that:
“There was a duty of care owed by the accused to the deceased”,
“There was a breach of the duty of care by the accused”,
“Death of the deceased was caused by breach of the duty of care by the accused”,
“The breach of the duty of care by the accused was so great”,
that can be described as gross negligence and is therefore a crime.
The problem with existing legislation has always been that, for a company to be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter, it is necessary to identify a “controlling mind”, who is also personally guilty of that manslaughter. It is not possible under present law to add up the negligence of several individuals in order to show that the company or corporate body was grossly negligent. A specific individual must be identified as a “controlling mind” in order for corporate manslaughter to be proven. For that reason, a separate offence of corporate manslaughter had to be created.
At present, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, employers whose negligence leads to the death of an employee or a member of the public can be convicted only where there is sufficient evidence to prove that individual members of the senior management team were guilty. Those individuals must be prosecuted before the company or corporate body can be prosecuted. To date, only seven small businesses have been found guilty of negligence. It was for that reason also that the new offence of corporate manslaughter had to be created.
When it becomes law, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill will give the courts the power to decide whether the collective failings of a company’s senior management team amount to a gross breach of the company’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of its employees and the public.
The Government have stated that examples of such breaches will include failure to ensure that staff have adequate health and safety training and to check that equipment is in a safe condition, that lifts are maintained and adequate fire precautions have been taken.
Under the proposed legislation, an organisation will be guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter if its activities are organised by senior managers in such a way as to cause a person’s death and amount to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care that the organisation owed to the deceased.
To decide that question, any jury would have to consider whether the evidence showed that the organisation had failed to comply with the relevant health and safety legislation or guidance. The Bill also sets out a number of other factors for the jury to consider, such as whether senior managers sought to cause the organisation to profit from its health and safety failure. In other words, did the firm or corporation deliberately cut corners to reduce costs or boost profits?
Critics of the proposed legislation are already concerned that such additional factors will make it difficult to obtain a conviction. The overriding and most worrying aspect of this situation remains, however, that the new corporate manslaughter Bill lacks teeth. It has virtually no effective deterrent impact beyond that of existing legislation.
It is appropriate, Madam Speaker, to define what we are talking about in human terms. I began to call for corporate manslaughter legislation three years ago following the death of one of my young constituents in an accident during a motorway-upgrading and bridge-widening project near the junction of the M1 and Black’s Road at Dunmurry. His death was a tragedy for his family. A young man’s life; all the potential he has to offer — that is beyond price.
I felt that my young constituent’s death had wider implications. I have lost two other constituents to industrial accidents in the past three years. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) reported that there were 24 fatal accidents in Northern Ireland in 1998-99. There were 19 the following year; 16 the year after; 12 the year after that; and 21 in the year 2002-03.
More significantly, RoSPA reported that fatal accidents were at a rate of 2·17 per 100,000 employees in Northern Ireland in 1998-99, compared with just 0·8 in Great Britain. RoSPA summarised the situation as follows: there are about 20 fatal injuries each year; 70,000 cases of ill health are caused or aggravated by work activities each year; some 365,000 days are lost due to accidents at work each year; and the cost to employers is up to £370 million and to the Northern Ireland taxpayer over £500 million.
RoSPA further indicated that there are about 350 deaths of workers and members of the public in Great Britain every year due to reportable accidents at work. Taken on a pro rata basis, that means that Northern Ireland could expect to have about 10 deaths a year from accidents at work. Northern Ireland has 20 fatalities a year — twice the Great Britain average. Workers are twice as likely to be killed at work in Northern Ireland as they are in Great Britain. That is why we in Northern Ireland need to take the problem more seriously.
For those reasons alone, quite apart from the human tragedy, Northern Ireland must act. I am concerned that deterrent factors in the proposed UK corporate manslaughter Bill are inadequate. Those problems could be best addressed by the introduction of a new offence of secondary liability for corporate manslaughter. Juries could be asked to establish whether management failure had caused or contributed to a death. On the basis of such a finding, the Director of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) would then determine whether an individual within a company should be prosecuted for manslaughter.
Only individual responsibility for the death of a worker — beyond the issue of overall company negligence — will make individual managers take this issue seriously and give sufficient priority to worker safety.
Many feel that big organisations such as building firms have broad backs and that if an organisation is blamed it will simply be subject to financial penalties. That is not enough to change attitudes in the construction industry. If the death of workers on site is to be taken seriously, people will have to feel that they, individually, will face a manslaughter charge if they have been negligent. That is the sort of sharp focus that we need.
The duty of care underpins the operation of a civilised society. Therefore the deterrent factor must loom large in the corporate manslaughter legislation, and individual accountability must not be lost sight of. The additional offence of secondary liability for manslaughter must become an integral part of the new legislation.
Madam Speaker: I have received one amendment to the motion, which is published on the Marshalled List of Amendments.
Mr McLaughlin: Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle.
I beg to move the following amendment: At end insert:
“; furthermore this legislation should apply to all employers, including government agencies and, in keeping with this principle, this Assembly calls for the removal of Crown immunity from prosecution.”
I welcome the debate, although I regret that, once again, we are discussing an important issue on which the Assembly is powerless to act. This matter, along with water charges, health, education, rates and so on, would be better addressed by locally accountable Ministers in our own Assembly. I believe that all those issues will eventually be addressed by an Assembly because the political will clearly exists. I welcome the fact that across all the Benches there are those who recognise the need for a locally accountable Executive to respond to those important issues. I hope that between us we will resolve, through direct dialogue, the few remaining issues so that an Executive can function in future.
I propose the amendment, as it supports and strengthens the motion. I strongly identify with and appreciate Mr Gardiner’s motion and the arguments that he made in support of it. However, the amendment addresses some of the deficiencies in the Westminster Bill, which is substandard in important respects, as Mr Gardiner mentioned. It fails to address comprehensively work-related deaths in many circumstances.
My amendment addresses the anomaly of Crown immunity from prosecution. In the interests of justice and equality, as well as of workplace safety, this must be abolished. An employee of Government agencies, or his or her dependants, should be afforded the same duty of care as any other employee in any other sector of the economy. Therefore we would best serve those whom we represent by working on solutions that would remove the privileges and anomalies in the system and deliver equality of protection to all workers.
In the 12-month period to March 2005, 88 people lost their lives in work-related accidents in Ireland; 73 in the South and 15 in the North. Since most of those deaths and injuries occurred in the construction industry, and given the numbers of construction workers who travel to sites throughout the island, this issue must be addressed on an all-island basis. A definition of work-related deaths and injuries should be developed that takes that into account.
Another important issue arises from the methods of calculating the statistics of work-related fatalities and injuries. The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) has warned that the number of work-related fatalities could be 10 times higher than is reported. For example, SIPTU has pointed out that occupational fatality statistics do not include the deaths of employees who are killed in road traffic accidents while driving as part of their normal employment. However, statistics tell us that up to one third of all road accidents are work-related.
Likewise, illnesses contracted at work that can lead to fatalities outside the workplace are not included in work-related statistics. For example, workplace-related cancers such as asbestosis, instances of which are particularly high in the North, are not recorded. In addition, non-fatal work-related illnesses and injuries can cause serious deterioration in the quality of life, including, in some cases, disruption of ability to participate in the workforce, or reduced life expectancy. The absence of statistics on such illnesses and injuries shows that they are not being treated with the seriousness that they deserve.
A Cheann Comhairle, the important point to make is that nearly all such work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths are preventable, provided that proper safety regimes are in place and are implemented with due diligence. Employers stand to benefit from measures that reduce workplace injuries, illness and stress, so it is hard to understand why employers’ organisations continue to resist measures that would improve health and safety. Such benefits would include improved productivity due to lower rates of sickness, absenteeism and staff turnover, and improved recruitment and retention of trained staff.
Sinn Féin does not believe that there is any acceptable excuse when employers fail to meet worker health and safety standards and obligations under the law. My party wants the establishment of a universal, all-island commission on health, welfare and safety at work, which is centrally involved with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in the South and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the North. We want the initiation of an all-island workplace health strategy to reduce and remove all aspects of ill health that arise from unsafe work practices. We want immediate steps to be taken in order to tackle the shortage of health and safety inspectors, as that has been identified as a major factor that hinders the authorities’ ability to carry out inspection and enforcement functions. That would obviously require the injection of additional resources to enable the HSE to fulfil its responsibilities under strengthened workplace health and safety legislation.
The provision of Government grant aid for sectoral trade-union safety training would be another progressive step. Sinn Féin wants there to be a legal obligation for employers to agree a programme of general health and safety training with the HSE that would meet specific requirements, depending on the substances and processes used in the workplace. The introduction of mandatory safety training, which new employees could take on full pay, would also contribute significantly to improving health and safety statistics.
The introduction of legislation that obliges employers to notify the HSE of any events that occur at their place of work, including exposure to noxious substances that result in workers’ absence for more than three consecutive days, is comparable to existing legislation and to regulations in other European economies. Such legislation would provide greater accountability and reassurance that such issues would be dealt with. Finally, I ask for support for the conclusion of an international convention against asbestos production and use.
Let us make no mistake: work-related death through lack of proper safety measures or employer negligence is a crime. There is widespread support across the political spectrum for many of the changes that have been proposed in the legislation on the accountability of companies. However, there would be further support for those changes if sufficient thought and attention were given to the accountability of company owners and directors. Furthermore, even if those issues were comprehensively addressed, it is not proposed that they would be applied in the North of Ireland. Why not? Do workers here not deserve the same entitlement to protection? The motion allows the Assembly to state clearly that it believes that they do.
The Westminster Bill’s proposed changes, which provide Crown agencies with immunity from prosecution for the offence of corporate killing, should form no part of any legislation that applies to workers’ rights legislation here. All bodies, Government or corporate, should be liable to prosecution if culpability or neglect can be proven. The proposer of the motion has highlighted that. Corporate manslaughter legislation is already in place in many economies and in many countries. It has proved to be a key tool in the battle to reduce workplace accidents and fatalities.
I ask Members to support the amendment. Go raibh míle maith agat.
Mr Storey: I support the motion, but not the amendment. The proposer of the amendment has raised a few issues that must be corrected for the sake of the record. He said that the Assembly is powerless to act on this important issue, but it seems as though the lack of power and will is coming from the Member’s party, not the Assembly. His party has failed abysmally to do anything in the past few weeks or months — years, even — to convince my community and the people of Northern Ireland that it is in any way interested in having a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland. The proposals and actions of that party are always minimalist.
The proposer of the amendment said that he wants the amendment to be accepted in the interests of justice and equality. He also said that negligence is a crime. Does he accept that —
Mr O’Dowd: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you rule on the relevance of the Member’s comments to the motion and the amendment?
Madam Speaker: Thank you, Mr O’Dowd. I will allow Mr Storey to continue, but I will listen to how he develops his remarks.
Mr Storey: Thank you, Madam Speaker.
The proposer of the amendment said that negligence is a crime. I take issue with that. Does he accept that the murder of Jean McConville was also a crime, as it was quite clear that —
Madam Speaker: Order. Mr Storey, those comments are not relevant to the motion. Please keep to the motion. Corporate manslaughter is a serious subject, and I would be grateful if you would confine your remarks to the motion.
Mr Storey: Madam Speaker, my comments relating to the contribution of the proposer of the amendment are also serious, and they will be recorded as such.
I support the motion. As one who worked for almost 20 years in industry before becoming involved in politics full-time, I saw at first hand the unfortunate situation where employers take a cavalier attitude towards their responsibilities. Anyone who has responsibility for employees owes them the most common and acceptable protection possible, so that the utmost protection is provided in all circumstances.
The statistics quoted by the hon Member Mr Gardiner are regrettable. The Assembly would be doing a disservice to the people of Northern Ireland if Members somehow allowed the debating of this issue to be seen as an opportunity for them to merely salve their consciences and show their concern, rather than as an opportunity to make appropriate responses to the issues that are prevalent in society.
Look at the statistics that the hon Member quoted. There is a concern that we all bear responsibility. As Mr Gardiner proposes, there should be an offence of corporate manslaughter where it can be proven that culpable negligence by a firm is a major contributory factor in the death of an employee. That is a key element of the motion.
All Members should come to the Assembly with a sense of duty and responsibility. If Members are serious in their concern for the proposal, they will support the motion and impress their concerns upon the Government — a Government who appear to be cavalier in their attitudes towards the safety of their citizens with regard to security and the roads infrastructure.
The proposal to reduce the finance for our roads by 40% or 50% will undoubtedly lead to a continual decline in, and deterioration of, the roads infrastructure. That results in accidents and deaths on the roads for which the authorities take no responsibility. I support the motion.
Mr Attwood: I welcome the motion, the amendment, and the thoughtful speeches from their proposers. First, we must put the problem into context: it is estimated that businesses, commercial enterprises or companies may have had some culpability in between 250 and 300 deaths since 1999. However, only five people and five businesses have been found guilty of any criminal act. As Samuel Gardiner pointed out, there are, on a pro rata basis, some 20 deaths a year in the North, and that is a significant problem.
Today, we should be trying to work out a legislative approach that deals with those 250 deaths in which there is corporate responsibility. I cite the incident at Zeebrugge, which was a very public example of corporate failure; the issues around the death of Victoria Climbié; the death of Jean Charles de Menezes; and the deaths at Deepcut Barracks. Legislation must deal with cases of great public concern when a corporate enterprise, a business or public body has failed in its standard of care to the individual. We need to work out a law that will address the problems that were identified in the cases of Victoria Climbié, Jean Charles de Menezes and others, including deaths in the North over the past 30 years in which there was corporate failure by public bodies.
The problem with the legislation resides in two areas. As Mr Gardiner pointed out, if a prosecution for corporate failure is to succeed, the standards of proof applied to businesses must be properly established. Mr McLaughlin identified the second problem: how far does Crown immunity extend in the legislation? It extends far beyond what the Assembly, the House of Commons or the House of Lords should accept.
If there were another killing like that of Victoria Climbié, the question arises whether a public body that had contributed to that person’s death could be prosecuted under this legislation. The argument is uncertain, because, as Mr Gardiner pointed out, a successful prosecution could not be brought in that case, or high-profile cases in this jurisdiction, because the standards of proof are too high.
The standard of proof should be stated as “beyond reasonable doubt” or “in the balance of probabilities”, or another standard that is close to either of those, but not the standard of falling:
“far below what can be reasonably expected”.
To prove a case against a public body or business, the plaintiff must demonstrate a failure to comply with health and welfare requirements or, as Mr Gardiner pointed out, that the manager sought to profit from a failure to uphold appropriate standards or that there had been a gross breach of the relevant duty of care.
When a case is brought to the PPS in the North, or before the courts in any jurisdiction in these islands, trying to meet those standards in a difficult case will be so demanding as to inevitably lead to failure. The second part of Mr Gardiner’s motion is important because it aims to moderate those very exacting standards of proof in a way that creates some possibility whereby a public body or private enterprise may become vulnerable to prosecution.
The standards set by the Bill, if it becomes law, are so exacting and demanding that prospects of a prosecution in many — or even a few — of the 250 deaths that will arise over the next four or five years, is slim to the point of being negligible. Great public debate will arise around cases of public concern following the failure to successfully prosecute those who should be responsible before the law.
The second issue with which there are major problems is highlighted in the amendment proposed by Mitchel McLaughlin, which concerns the question of where Crown immunity begins and ends. Although the original draft of the Bill addressed Crown immunity and provided that persons in the Police Service of Northern Ireland or in other public bodies that are involved in the administration of law and justice might be subject to a corporate charge, the Bill has subsequently been amended by the British Government in a damaging and fatal way.
I shall provide three examples. There are additional draft exemptions in the legislation proposed by the British Government that provide a blanket exemption for deaths of civilians caused by the gross negligence of the police or others — such as the intelligence services and MI5 — in the performance of policing or law enforcement activities.
Moreover, there will be an exemption for the killing of members of the public that occurs in situations of terror, civil unrest or serious public disorder in which the police come under attack or face the threat of attack or violent resistance.
I ask Members to apply those circumstances to some of the tragic cases in the North’s history. Apply them even in cases in which the police have come under attack, and subjected to threat and terrible violence, but where, nevertheless, a police officer or commander committed a grave error that led to the death of an individual. Those exemptions would allow that police officer, in criminal terms — or the police service, in corporate terms — to walk away. All Members know of cases involving use of force by the police or the military, or cases with MI5 involvement, that gave rise to public concern. All of those matters will, in all likelihood, be exempted under the proposed legislation. That is the importance of the amendment proposed by Mitchel McLaughlin.
I know that it will be difficult to reach cross-party consensus on such an issue. However, Members should try to do that today. During sittings of the Committee on the Preparation for Government dealing with law-and-order issues this summer, a significant event happened. On 23 August 2006, all of the parties that were represented on that Committee, including the Alliance Party, agreed the following motion:
“This Committee calls on the Government to review policy on the publication of reasons where there has been a failure to prosecute and the collapse of prosecutions.”
Two or three years ago, that would not have happened, because there was then a sense that the prosecutors and the state knew best. There was a sense that, if a case collapsed or did not proceed, there must have been a good reason.
The situation changed because of concern within unionist parties about the collapse of the Stormontgate case and because of the subsequent failure of the Attorney-General and the PPS to give adequate reasons for the collapse. The public concern that arose from the failure to explain why that case collapsed led to all parties agreeing to communicate to the British Government that the issue was one of cross-party concern.
Members should accept the Sinn Féin amendment, not because it will lead to open season on the state and its agencies, but because it will limit the power of the state to walk away from issues of public concern that involve lethal force.
Madam Speaker: I now call Francie Brolly. This will be the first occasion on which the Assembly will hear from Mr Brolly, who will be making what can be described as his maiden speech. As Members know, it is the convention that such a speech be heard without interruption.
Mr Brolly: Go raibh míle maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. My father was a strong nationalist and a significant member of the old Nationalist Party. As a young child, I got to know all the nationalist luminaries of the time, who were regular visitors to our house in Limavady — a house that at times served as a party office as much as it did a home. My father was a tireless political activist; his bedtime reading was the electoral registers and the minutes, motions and agendas of Limavady Rural District Council and Derry County Council, on both of which he was a long-serving member.
When we moved to our native Dungiven, he became the secretary of the local GAA club. Concerned about the level of unemployment in Dungiven, he initiated a drive for the building of what was then called an advance factory. He went on to persuade Desmonds textile manufacturers to set up in the village. As people around our way say: “ He was in everything but the crib.”
In 1970, he was a foreman on a housing scheme in Lettershandoney. I was teaching in Dungiven at the time. On the morning of 23 February, the local curate came to my classroom door and motioned me out. “Your father has had an accident at work”, he said. “Bad?” I asked, “Bad”, he said. And it was very bad — my father was dead. He had gone down into a 15-ft-deep unshored trench to organise pipe-laying. The trench collapsed, and he was buried alive.
A radio broadcast that evening said that a worker had died as a result of an accident on a building site. “A worker” — as if a man is no more than his job description.
When jobs were scarce, work was paramount. Workmen were plentiful, exploitable and expendable. My mother was pitifully compensated, and the company was told not to let it happen again. Nothing much has changed. People still die at their places of work, and employers still escape any fitting and proportionate sanction. In 2005, only 40 employers in the Twenty-six Counties were prosecuted for breaches of health and safety regulations. The average fine was approximately £8,000.
My mother’s compensation was £7,000. I suppose the assessors thought that £7,000 was a lot of money for her in 1970.
A mere six employers were penalised in the Six Counties in 2004-05. The largest fine imposed was £100,000 against Farrans (Construction) Ltd, following the death of a 20-year-old who was electrocuted. Was £100,000 a lot of money for Farrans (Construction) Ltd in 2004?
No Irish employer has served a day in prison for criminal negligence resulting in the death of an em-ployee. That prompts me to recommend the establish-ment of an Irish commission on health, welfare and safety at work, especially at this time when there is such a high level of employee mobility throughout the Thirty-two Counties, particularly in the construction industry.
Although I support the substantive motion strongly and absolutely, I am concerned about the title “corporate manslaughter” and, therefore, about the concept of corporate guilt. As long as company directors are not made personally amenable to the law, but can shelter under the umbrella of corporate culpability, we will not have the issue of safety at work tackled with the urgency and the thorough commitment that would be the desired outcome of the motion and amendment. A few months in jail would concentrate the mind of a careless employer.
To finish, I will digress a little and make a plea to all Members here. Thousands of people genuinely sympathised with me on the death of my father. However, some whom I knew bore a grudge against members of his employer’s family and would have used my father’s tragedy as a stick to beat them with. My personal experience would not allow me to use any victim of any tragedy to make cheap political points. Let us, in the spirit of the motion, look after our living in the home, on the streets and in the workplace, and let the dead rest in peace.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle.
Madam Speaker: The next Member to speak, Mr Davy Hyland, will make the winding-up speech on the amendment. This is the first occasion on which he will have addressed the Assembly, so he will be making his maiden speech.
Mr Hyland: Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle.
Last week P J Bradley referred to his cold. Today I have a cold and a sore back, and I hope that it is not due to the arctic conditions that we endured yesterday in the Assembly. Perhaps Members saved some taxpayers’ money by cutting down the fuel bills. However, it is more likely that old age is setting in, as I have to use my reading glasses.
Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration, family reunions and giving and receiving presents — a holiday time when one can overindulge in food and drink and not feel too guilty about it. However, it is also a time of reflection when the previous 12 months can be reviewed — the highs and lows, the good times and the bad.
For some people, Christmas can be a sad period when they remember their loved ones who are no longer with them. It is a particularly difficult time for families who have lost loved ones because of unnecessary accidents at home, on the roads, or in the workplace. Sinn Féin supports the motion because too many people have been injured or have lost their lives through work-related accidents.
Yesterday, a delegation of firemen sat in the Gallery. On seeing them, I remembered the two firemen who lost their lives tragically last week while dealing with an explosion in a fireworks factory in England.
In 2005, 73 people lost their lives in work-related incidents in the Twenty-six Counties, which was a 30% increase on the previous year. There were 15 work-related deaths in the Six Counties in the 12-month period to March 2005 — a total of 88 in the whole country.
The construction industry remains the most dangerous industry for employees. In the Twenty-six Counties, 23 construction workers died in 2005. Thirty years ago, after finishing university, I took a job as a brickie’s labourer on a building site in Newry. The foreman was called Dominic Craven. Unfortunately, there are parallels with Francie Brolly’s case; we were working on a new Housing Executive development in Newry that necessitated the building of trenches. Dominic was a man who was not afraid to get his hands dirty and work in the trenches, yet one collapsed and he was killed instantly. Afterwards, I wondered why no public inquiry was held into his unnecessary death, or, indeed, why there was no public apology from the firm. Perhaps an apology would have implied guilt on the firm’s part. I wondered also whether his wife was compensated adequately for her suffering and loss.
Illnesses contracted at work can also lead to work-related fatalities outside the workplace. Work-related cancers caused by working conditions in the linen and shipbuilding industries in the North have always been particularly high.
The important point to recognise is that many such work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths are preventable, provided that the employer exercises due diligence. Indeed, the HSE estimates that up to 70% of deaths in the workplace are the result of serious management failures.
Ultimately, companies are not responsible for killing workers; it is people. Fatalities in the workplace are avoidable and are often caused by fundamental safety shortcomings throughout an organisation, the blame for which can be properly laid at the door of the chairman, chief executive and board of directors as appropriate.
Many employers who are responsible for dangerous working conditions are never held accountable, nor made to change their practices. As with other laws relating to workers rights in Ireland, health and safety legislation is rarely enforced, and penalties for violations are not strong enough. As Francie Brolly pointed out, no Irish employer has ever served a prison sentence following the death of a worker.
Sinn Féin welcomes the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 in the Twenty-six Counties, which contains significant increases in fines and penalties to deter non-compliant employers. However, fines are not enough when an act of negligence leads to a worker’s death. Corporate killing is a crime, and corporate manslaughter legislation exists in other jurisdictions. For example, in Canada, Bill C-45, better known as the Westray Bill, provides for the crime of corporate killing. It was enacted following agitation in response to the Westray explosion in Nova Scotia, which killed 26 miners.
On a more positive note, Sinn Féin feels that an all-Ireland commission on health, welfare and safety at work, should involve both the HSA and the HSE. A 10-year, all-Ireland workplace health strategy to reduce and remove all aspects of ill health arising from unsafe work practices would be beneficial. We should tackle the shortage of health and safety inspectors in the Six Counties and Twenty-six Counties immediately, as that shortage has been identified as a factor hindering the ability of the authorities to carry out their inspection and enforcement functions.
Furthermore, sufficient resources must be injected into both the HSA and the HSE to enable them to fulfil all their responsibilities under existing worker health and safety legislation.
We also support grant-aided safety training for trade unions on a sectoral basis.
Yesterday, Peter Hain — sorry, that was a Freudian slip — Peter Weir talked about the importance of cross-party support in opposition to the closure of fire stations in the North. I welcome the fact that all parties in the Assembly are today united to defend the rights of ordinary men and women in their workplace. It is right to highlight the offence of corporate manslaughter and the need for legislation to be introduced in the North of Ireland.
Culpability is a difficult subject. No one would like to be accused of responsibility for another person’s death, but companies and firms are ultimately answerable for the safety and well-being of their workforces. That must be the clear message from this Assembly.
Mr K Robinson: Today’s debate has been important, not simply because worker protection is an important matter in itself but because this Assembly can be seen to be debating a bread-and-butter issue that affects the everyday life of working people rather than simply occupying itself with what has been described in other quarters as a high-wire act. It is important that the electorate perceive that the Assembly works in their interests and on their behalf.
Seeking to put legislation in place that secures higher standards of safety in the workplace is an appropriate and important matter for us to consider. As the Member for Upper Bann Mr Gardiner said, legislation to create the offence of corporate manslaughter, which will apply to Northern Ireland as well as other parts of the United Kingdom, is already making progress through the House of Commons.
Though some industries are taking the improvement of safety standards seriously, and with a degree of success, more remains to be done to reduce the current levels of workplace injuries and fatalities. It is to be hoped that today’s debate will inform the legislators in Westminster and get them to reconsider the issue of secondary liability for corporate manslaughter, which we believe — and as has been illustrated in today’s debate — will create the deterrent factor necessary to focus minds on the need to ensure close adherence to health and safety considerations in the workplace.
That that deterrent factor is necessary is all too obvious, and we have heard some graphic illustrations of the impact on families from Members who have spoken today. Mr Gardiner drew attention to the fact that the rate of fatalities from industrial accidents in Northern Ireland is twice what we could expect on a pro rata comparison with GB. That points to the need for a more robust culture of industrial and worker safety than currently prevails in Northern Ireland.
The essential building block and foundation for that new culture has to be a corporate manslaughter Bill — one that has teeth. If the Bill’s deterrent factor is inadequate, the whole exercise will be a waste of time. The drafters of the legislation at Westminster have had grave difficulty in producing a Bill that incorporates the wide range of concerns expressed in the Chamber today.
In some ways, the new legislation will lead to the abandonment of the current legislative position. At present, the prosecution of individuals has to take place before action against a corporation or employer is even possible. The proposed new legislation enables the prosecution of the corporation or employer immediately, subject to decision by the Director of the Public Prosecution Service. In some ways, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water.
In its anxiety to make the prosecution of corporations easier, Parliament has ignored the aspect of individual accountability that is involved in any industrial fatality. I concur with Mr Gardiner that the culpability of individuals within corporations, companies, and Government Departments and agencies is important.
The matter of Crown immunity has been referred to in the proposed amendment. There is now a step forward and a recognition in the legislation currently before Parliament that Crown immunity, as a principle, is being breached. I appeal to the proposer of the amendment to recognise that, so that the House can unite around the original proposal in order to show the public, the employers and the Westminster Government that we are serious about the matter. We recognise that they have at least breached the principle of Crown immunity in this first instance. Perhaps we can deal with the remaining issues at a later stage.
Government agencies can now be made individually and personally accountable in some way, and the issue of industrial safety will now be taken seriously. Clause 16 of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill currently proposes that any individual working for a corporation, Government Department, agency or body be expressly excluded from the Bill’s operation. Clause 16(1) states:
“An individual cannot be guilty of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the commission of an offence of corporate manslaughter.”
Clause 16(2) states:
“An individual cannot be guilty of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring, or being art and part in, the commission of an offence of corporate homicide.”
The Assembly must speak out about that serious flaw in the Bill currently going through Parliament. In particular, I ask those MLAs who are also Members of the Westminster Parliament to take that message back to the House of Commons. Members must do so on behalf of the families of the 20 or more people who die each year from industrial injuries.
Members have heard highly personal descriptions of such cases. The descriptions went beyond the fact that a worker had been killed in an industrial incident as broadcast on radio, to the impact on the family left behind. The hurt and the pain for that family do not end with the broadcast: they continue, perhaps for generations.
The only way in which to reintroduce personal accountability is to introduce a related and dependent offence of secondary liability for corporate manslaughter. In practice, the UUP envisages that that would work by requiring juries to establish whether management failure had caused, or contributed to, the death in question. On the basis of that finding, the DPP would determine whether individuals in a company should be prosecuted for the manslaughter, in addition to the prosecution of the company, corporation or agency involved. That would give the new corporate manslaughter legislation a necessary cutting edge and would underpin it with a deterrent impact — both of which are currently lacking.
There is no question that the corporate manslaughter deterrent effect is necessary. Year after year, the construction industry is one of the worst offenders in relation to industrial injuries and fatalities. I will not bore the House with the figures now, but in Northern Ireland injury rates remain stubbornly high, whereas in GB they have consistently dropped over the last four or five years. It is possible, therefore, to make inroads into those figures, providing everyone accepts that the safety measure of a corporate manslaughter deterrent must be introduced.
Between January and October this year, as many people were killed in the construction industry as there were in the whole of 2000: there has hardly been great progress. The fact that the record for industrial deaths in Northern Ireland is markedly poorer than that in GB must be a cause for concern and for action.
Let us anchor that in the report of a tragedy that was reported by the media in the past week. It was reported that the Water Service in Northern Ireland had been held responsible for the death of a contractor who was killed in an explosion at a treatment works last year. A Crown censure hearing was held following a HSE investigation. The Water Service accepted the censure and presented to the hearing information on measures that it had put in place since the blast to prevent it happening again.
Crown censure is an administrative procedure followed by the HSE in circumstances in which a case cannot be taken to a court of law because of Crown immunity from prosecution. Under the proposed corporate manslaughter law, the Water Service would almost certainly have been brought to trial for that offence. Therefore, one positive aspect of the proposed legislation is that Crown immunity has been breached for the first time.
However, there is concern about industrial deaths and accidents across Europe. A study of comparative industrial death rates in Sweden and Denmark showed that the levels are much lower in Sweden. Perhaps that reflects the fact that there are lengthy periods of apprenticeship in Sweden, during which significant time is spent ensuring that health and safety issues are to the fore, whereas in Denmark much more is learned on the job and on site. Therefore, major issues of training and health and safety awareness must be addressed.
In 2000, a building contractor in Spain was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment following an industrial accident that led to the death of a worker. The court ruled that that contractor had committed homicide by failing to fulfil health and safety obligations.
It is also worth pointing out that, as they were going through a building boom in Spain, the number of deaths and injuries on building sites increased dramatically. That is something that we need to bear in mind. We too are going through a building boom, so it is particularly important that we address these issues quickly.
I am running out of time, unfortunately. We can see that we are dealing with a western European problem. I had hoped to refer to several of the contributions made by Members, but time is against me. In general, there has been great support across the Chamber. I repeat my appeal to the Member who moved the amendment to look at it again so that we can move forward as a united body in support of the motion.
Question put, That the amendment be made.
The Assembly divided: Ayes 22; Noes 22.
Alex Attwood, Mary Bradley, Francis Brolly, Willie Clarke, Mark Durkan, Michelle Gildernew, Carmel Hanna, Davy Hyland, Dolores Kelly, Gerry Kelly, Patricia Lewsley, Raymond McCartney, Patsy McGlone, Philip McGuigan, Martin McGuinness, Mitchel McLaughlin, Francie Molloy, John O’Dowd, Pat Ramsey, Sue Ramsey, Caitríona Ruane, Kathy Stanton.
Tellers for the Ayes: Davy Hyland and Sue Ramsey.
Billy Bell, Paul Berry, Gregory Campbell, Wilson Clyde, Michael Copeland, Robert Coulter, Leslie Cree, Nigel Dodds, Reg Empey, Samuel Gardiner, William Hay, Danny Kennedy, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Lord Morrow, Dermot Nesbitt, Ian Paisley Jnr, George Robinson, Ken Robinson, Peter Robinson, Mervyn Storey.
Tellers for the Noes: Wilson Clyde and Leslie Cree.
Question accordingly negatived.
Main Question put and agreed to.
That this Assembly calls upon the Government to introduce legislation introducing the offence of corporate manslaughter to Northern Ireland, where it could be proven that culpable negligence by a firm was a major contributory factor to the death of an employee or subcontracted worker; and further calls for the introduction of an additional offence of secondary liability for corporate manslaughter, where it could be shown that a company’s failings were provably caused by the culpable negligence of one or more individuals within the firm.
Madam Speaker: Members will know that the Business Committee has arranged that the next debate will commence at — [Interruption.]
Order. I am on my feet, and I am speaking. It seems, however, that Members intend to leave the Chamber anyway.
Members will know that the Business Committee has arranged that the next debate will commence at 2.00 pm.
The sitting was suspended at 11.49 am.
On resuming (Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr Wells] in the Chair) —
Mr Deputy Speaker: The Business Committee has allowed two hours for the debate. The Member who moves the motion will have 15 minutes to speak, and all the other Members will have 10 minutes.
Mr Campbell: I beg to move
That this Assembly calls upon the Government to provide the necessary funding to allow a new police college to be built in Northern Ireland.
The new £130 million facility will encompass a site of more than 200 acres. It was supposed to have been completed by next year, but it is now almost two years behind schedule. As well as the annual intake of new recruits, serving officers would also heavily use it. It could also be shared by other police services, not just in the British Isles, but further afield. Fire Service investigators, ambulance response teams, bank staff and domestic violence specialists could also avail themselves of the new facility.
The present college at Garnerville is completely unsatisfactory. Indeed, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton admitted yesterday that trainees currently have little more than a telephone box around which to simulate incidents.
Everyone with the best interests of first class policing at heart wants a new purpose-built college that will provide a world-class training facility. Even Chris Patten, many of whose views my party does not endorse, said:
“The Northern Ireland police should have a new purpose-built police college and the funding for it should be found in the next public spending round.”
That, of course, was several years ago. That sentiment was further emphasised in a report from the Oversight Commissioner, who recognised that the training, education and development of police officers and civilian staff is crucial to the success of policing.
More and more people from Northern Ireland and beyond are choosing policing as a career. Setting aside, for the moment, the current disgraceful and discrim-inatory recruitment practices to the policing service, the PSNI is dedicated to serving the entire community and making life here safer for everyone. All existing staff who require ongoing training deserve the highest-quality training in the best possible environment. They also deserve the support of all the political represent-atives of all the political parties in Northern Ireland.
The new college will enable us to bring together police training in a single, purpose-built, world-class facility and allow us to build connections with other police services across the globe.
After the negative reputation that this country endured throughout the decades of terrorism here, we have an opportunity for Northern Ireland to become renowned internationally for something positive, but the Government are dithering. Resources were promised for this college, and a previous Northern Ireland Grand Committee, a body that has met just this afternoon in Belfast for the first time —
Some Members: Hear, hear.
Mr Campbell: Thank you. I have just left it in order to be here.
At a meeting of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee on 6 February 2003, the former Northern Ireland Minister, Jane Kennedy MP, said, and I quote:
“I can confirm that the delays to the project have been due primarily to difficulties associated with identifying a site, and that those difficulties are now being overcome. There is no problem regarding resources ... the availability of finances is not a problem; the development of the project has been the problem, and I hope that we can now bring this matter swiftly to a conclusion.”
When pressed further on the funding of the project, by my party leader, Dr Ian Paisley, Mrs Kennedy went on to say:
“I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my reassurance that on Patten’s recommendations regarding the policing college, resources are not the issue. The problem is getting the plan to its final stages and carrying it through to completion; and I hope to see that happen very rapidly.”
We are nearing the end of 2006, and building has not yet commenced. Therefore, we appear to be little further on.
In passing, I shall speak to the SDLP amendment. Cookstown may be the location for the college, and, if so, we should all support that. If not, obviously the Northern Ireland Policing Board will seek out the location that is the next most suitable. However, I am sure that other Members will campaign on behalf of their individual localities. For example, I contend strongly that the Army camp at Ballykelly, with its excellent topography, road links and proximity to an airport, is an excellent location. Nonetheless, I digress.
The key is to get the go-ahead and the resources to build the college. David Nairn of the Police College of Northern Ireland stated that the college should provide training and education of the highest quality for all police staff. He also said that:
“The unparalleled expertise we hold places us at the forefront of specialist operational training in the United Kingdom. We are undoubtedly best placed to offer our knowledge to both public and private sector organisations and police services across Great Britain and Republic of Ireland. Having accumulated a wealth of operational experience through policing in Northern Ireland, I believe our training provision is truly unique and pioneering.”
That is undoubtedly the case; however, we need the full resources in order to complete the job. An organisation that seeks to deliver a first-class service needs first-class facilities. A state-of-the-art college will provide untold opportunities for Northern Ireland. Government must act immediately to unlock that potential.
Mr Deputy Speaker: I have received one amendment to the motion, which is published on the Marshalled List of Amendments.
Mr McGlone: I beg to move the following amendment: Leave out “Northern Ireland” and insert “Cookstown, Desertcreat site”.
A LeasCheann Comhairle, I appreciate that that specific detail about the location of the police college is the only difference between the amendment and the substantive motion. Mr Campbell has clarified his position on that point, and I thank him for doing so.
For that reason, I submit the following matters of fact for inclusion in the Official Report of this debate. Recommendation 131 of the Patten Report states:
“The Northern Ireland police should have a new purpose-built police college and the funding for it should be found in the next public spending round.”
Following detailed and open competition in the search for a site, the police college project board recommended that the new site for the college should be Desertcreat, outside Cookstown. The deputy chief constable chairs that board, which comprises other members of the PSNI, the Policing Board and representatives of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). It is also supported by a team of external consultants. All sites that were submitted were fully evaluated and were visited prior to that recommendation being made to the entire Policing Board in February 2004. On the basis of the business case that was submitted in support of the Cookstown site, the decision of the board was, and remains, unanimous.
In July 2005, outline planning permission was granted for the site. The Chief Constable supported recently, publicly and fully the decision to progress with that site. The site has now been formally transferred from the ownership of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to that of the Policing Board at, I am reliably informed, a relatively modest cost.
At a meeting with the Policing Board on 10 October 2006, the Secretary of State confirmed that Cookstown remains the site for the college, and he gave assurances about the Government’s continued commitment to the project.
From my correspondence with the Policing Board, I am aware that the site has further potential for the Fire and Rescue Service, which is currently also assessing its requirements for a firefighters’ training college.
It makes sense for the emergency services to share facilities at one location. Indeed, there would be further opportunities for training for other emergency and police services on the island of Ireland, from Britain and from other countries. First, however, it is high time that the Government committed to proper resources for a new, state-of-the-art police college to provide the foundation for the new start to policing itself. Instead of dithering and allowing construction and related costs to rise, which they have already done, the Government should get on with the work and commit to this project.
Molaim an leasú. I commend the amendment to the House. Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle.
Mr G Kelly: Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Sinn Féin believes that police training is an indispensable part of changing the culture and ethos of policing. That change is essential in order to achieve the new beginning to policing that was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement and for which our party and our community continue to strive.
The RUC was a paramilitary, sectarian force born out of the turmoil of partition, drawn, in the main, from the UVF of the time. It was a partisan, state, political police force. Thirty years of conflict reinforced that mindset and behaviour. The problem was high-lighted in the Patten Report, which was published in 1999 — and I thank Gregory Campbell for quoting from the Patten recommendations — and which states in paragraph 4.5:
“Human rights training in the RUC also lags behind other police organizations we have spoken to. In the new curriculum (introduced only this year), of 700 sessions of training there are only 2 sessions dedicated to human rights, compared with 40 of drill and 63 of firearms training”.
That is why we need a new beginning to policing, and Sinn Féin has been and still is working hard to secure that.
We need a new beginning for many reasons, not least because there is still a gun culture in the PSNI. In the recent past, we have witnessed PSNI members shooting up tyres of articulated lorries on the Falls Road and driving on motorbikes and firing into vehicles that they believed to have been stolen. Worst of all, in 2003, Neil McConville was shot dead by the PSNI during a pre-planned operation.
The NIHRC, in the foreword to its report, ‘Human Rights in Police Training, Report Four: Course for All’, published in April 2004, states:
“Our evaluation concludes that although the course complied with the requirements of the Patten Report to a certain extent, it did contain some weaknesses from a human rights perspective. The Commission has therefore framed its recommendations to take account of the fact that the Course for All will not run again.”
The report found that, for example, participants displayed sexist, racist and sectarian attitudes and that, generally, tutors did not intervene to explore or to challenge those attitudes.
Paragraph 2.2 of the report also states:
“Human rights and equality were not accorded a sufficiently central place in the course.”
We have some distance yet to go to achieve a new beginning to policing, and central to that, of course, is the transfer of powers at the earliest moment. I want a police training college where no one is trained in the use of plastic bullets and where the Irish national flag is given the same respect and prominence as any other national flag. I do not want a police training college where police learn to arrest people simply because they speak Irish but one where the new recruits are not coached in how to break down the front door of a family home at 5.00 am and maraud through it with semi-automatic weapons, while the occupants, including children, are verbally abused and terrorised.
If the proposer of this motion seeks a new police training college to expunge those human rights violations from policing, it is more than welcome. If an end to the practices that I have described is facilitated or helped by the creation of a new police training college, it cannot come quickly enough. If it helps to facilitate a new beginning to policing, which is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement and which Sinn Féin is determined to deliver, bring it on. However, if this debate is about who gets to have a high-profile development in their backyard, the public will see through that.
We know from places such as Palace Barracks that it is not the building that has been the problem in the past but what went on inside the building. Indeed, it is rather like the problem of what used to go on inside this Building in the golden era of the old Stormont apartheid regime.
The British Government should release the funds to build a new police college, but, more importantly, the transfer of powers on policing and justice must take place within a reasonable time frame to ensure that any new college is part of building a truly new policing and justice dispensation and is not just another monument to more of the old agenda. Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle.
Mr Deputy Speaker: Members who serve on the Policing Board may wish to speak during the debate. It is important that those Members declare such an interest, as it is highly relevant to the debate.
Mr Kennedy: Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall immediately indicate that I have been a member of the Policing Board since April 2006, lest you take or authorise any enforcement action against me. [Laughter.]
My party and I strongly support the motion. This debate is a somewhat bizarre event. The previous contributor, Mr Kelly of Sinn Féin, has just said that a police training college is essential. I may have missed the news overnight or earlier today, but I have not yet heard details of the calling of the ardchomhairle meeting that will lead to the Ard-Fheis, resulting in Sinn Féin’s signing up to policing. However, now Sinn Féin wants a college. Sinn Féin Members tell us that they want to train police recruits, yet they refuse to give support to the rule of law or to the policing institutions. That is an intolerable and unsustainable position.
My best advice to Mr Kelly and his party is to stop lecturing MLAs and the people of Northern Ireland on issues of policing, and to stop falsely denigrating, and making crude, outrageous and unfounded allegations against, the honourable members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who stood against anarchy on behalf of the decent people of this country while the republican movement attempted to wreak havoc. Mr Kelly would be better served proceeding immediately to ensure that his party does the right thing and signs up to policing without any further delay.
I indicated that I am a member of the current Policing Board. The first Policing Board started work on the college project as far back as 2002. Very commendably, the independent members and the elected representatives on the board approached this important matter in a mature fashion, and have agreed on how the project should proceed. That should be recognised as a unique feature of the Policing Board’s work, and should be recognised particularly by the Secretary of State and the Government.
Throughout the history of the project, we have heard words of encouragement but have seen little action from NIO Ministers, some of whom were mentioned earlier. The commitments that Jane Kennedy gave were mentioned, and there were various meetings with Shaun Woodward — if anyone remembers him.
As a result of the processes that the Policing Board engaged in, outline planning approval has been granted to the site at Cookstown. Like the Member for East Londonderry Mr Campbell, I have no doubt that there are Members who would have preferred locations in their constituencies to have been chosen — as I do, he said modestly. [Laughter.]
Lord Morrow: Name them.
Mr Kennedy: There is plenty of ground around Armagh, and there is a lot of room at Bessbrook. However, we must accept that the Policing Board, having studied the matter in some detail, has now purchased and gained planning approval for the site at Cookstown, which appears to be the most likely candidate for the college. I have no doubt that other Members, including those who belong to my party, will advocate alternatives, but we should concentrate on and recognise the work that the Policing Board has carried out on this matter.
Two outline business cases have been made, of which the latest gives a cost of at least £131 million. Once the Government heard those serious sums of money being bandied about, they started to get cold feet. The Policing Board has approved the business cases and has entered into long correspondence with the Govern-ment on them. It has met the current Minister with responsibility for security, Paul Goggins, and his immediate predecessor, Shaun Woodward. Representations have also been made to the Prime Minister, but, at this stage, the Government are offering only £90 million, which realistically would only serve to upgrade the existing police training centre at Garnerville.
What we want, what Northern Ireland wants and what the Policing Board wants is a modern, twenty-first-century centre of excellence at the designated site. The Policing Board met the Secretary of State immediately before the talks at St Andrews. The Secretary of State, keen to see progress, indicated that there was still a strong commitment to the new training centre, but he has not yet come up with the extra money. Indeed, in correspondence that the Policing Board has received, the NIO has confirmed that no money additional to the £90 million will be made available, and, further to that, it is not prepared to allow the Policing Board to borrow money to deal with the shortfall.
The Government response is very unsatisfactory indeed. It is the view of the Ulster Unionist Party that Her Majesty’s Government alone should fund a new policing college — in full. It is not the business of the Government of a neighbouring jurisdiction to send money or to make donations towards the building of a centre that is the responsibility of this part of the United Kingdom. The new college should be state-of-the-art to maximise its potential as a world-class centre of excellence.
It is reasonably safe to predict that the Assembly will agree the motion, and therefore we hope that the Secretary of State will heed us rather than turn a deaf ear while playing pretend politics and ignoring the work of the Assembly and its Members. We say to the Secretary of State and to the Government: it is time to fund the new police college, and the sooner, the better.
Mr Hay: Like the Member who moved the motion, I have no problem with the amendment. We would be fools if we did not want such a project in our areas — a project that will probably cost, when finished and operational, about £150 million. .
I suppose that I digress a little when I say that I am a member of the Policing Board. It is important to declare that interest.
This project has been in the minds of members of the Policing Board from its establishment in November 2001. The new board had many issues to deal with, but we were all focused on how we might deliver a new police training college for Northern Ireland and where it might be sited. There were many discussions on its location.
As members of the Policing Board, some of us were certainly batting for our own areas; there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. Since 2001, this project has been very difficult — although not from the point of view of the Policing Board, which has been united and clear about what needs to be done to deliver this huge project costing over £130 million. It will have huge economic spin-offs for whichever area is chosen as the location, and for Northern Ireland as a whole.
It is rather sad that Sinn Féin has turned this issue into a political football, but it does not surprise me. Every political party and every individual could unite on this motion, if politics could be left aside. This project will be worth £150 million when it is up and running. I do not know of any political party, or any individual representative, who would not want such a project in his or her area. It is sad that Sinn Féin has decided to bring politics into this. As with so many issues, Sinn Féin will agree to a number of things, but always with preconditions attached. That is the tragedy of Sinn Féin’s politics across Northern Ireland, especially where policing and support for law and order are concerned. There should be no preconditions when it comes to policing and the rule of law in Northern Ireland.
The Policing Board has been dealing with this protracted issue for quite a while. Other Members have mentioned the board’s meetings with the Secretary of State and Government Ministers. There have certainly been plenty of promises, but there has been no delivery. The Policing Board had a meeting with the Secretary of State before the St Andrews talks, and the board thought that he would write us a cheque for the shortfall, but that did not happen. Even more annoying for the board members was the fact that Government officials worked alongside the project team in developing the project, so they were aware of its cost at every turn — they were not suddenly hit with a bill for £130 million.
Mr Weir: Although I am only making an intervention, I should declare that I am a member of the Policing Board.
Does the Member agree that the Government’s obfuscation on giving the green light to the funding for this police college will work not only to the detriment of policing in Northern Ireland, but to the detriment of taxpayers in Northern Ireland? As anyone who has been involved in any large-scale capital project will know, the longer that a project is delayed, the more the costs go up. Thus, as a new police college will eventually be needed at some stage, the delay is simply adding to the final price tag.
Mr Hay: I certainly agree with the hon Member for North Down. The Policing Board’s greatest fear is that if the project is delayed for another six months or another year, it will cost us even more. That is the greatest worry, and that is why the board has been trying to drive this project on. There is no doubt that there is total unity in the board’s focus and in its plans to move the project on. The problem is that the Government have still not come up with the shortfall.
In the past few months, the Government have once again decided to carry out a scoping exercise, which is why other locations in Northern Ireland were considered. However, a decision has now been made, and I believe that if the shortfall can be found, work on the project will begin at Cookstown. I have no doubt about that whatsoever.
All the other sites that were considered presented several difficulties. It would be totally negative, for several reasons, for the project to be moved. For example, it has taken a long time for a second business plan to be developed. The Government carried out a scoping exercise. Good work was done by the Policing Board, which tried to move the obstacles from the door and assist the Government. However, as Danny Kennedy mentioned, the board does not seem to be able to convince the Government at the highest level, even by making representations to the Prime Minister. The board has not been able to move from the door the obstacles to obtaining short-term funding.
In his most recent report, the Oversight Com-missioner made it clear to the board and to the public that the facilities at Garnerville are of a Third World standard. I challenge any Member to go to Garnerville and dispute that its fixtures are of a Third World standard. In order to have an effective and efficient Police Service, there must be a new police training college. The House must send out that message. The Government knew all along what the project would cost: they worked with the Policing Board and its subcommittee; they worked out the business and economic plans for the project; and they knew what it would entail several months before the figure, which was then only £90 million, was announced. The House, and, in particular, those of us who are members of the Policing Board, cannot accept that.
The House calls on the Government to put their money where their mouth is. They clearly indicated that they would provide all the money that was needed for the new college. The Policing Board should not have to go along with a begging bowl to any other Government looking for them to part-fund the college. That is wrong. There have been all sorts of rumours that the American Administration or the Dublin Administration might fund the college. In the past few weeks, the Dublin Administration have made clear that the new college is a British project in Northern Ireland so the British Government should pay for it. The American Administration have said the same. We must not fool ourselves. The House must say to the Govern-ment that we shall not seek funding elsewhere: they must pay for the new college.
Mr Deputy Speaker: The next Member to speak is Mr Raymond McCartney. This is the first time that Mr McCartney will address the House. It is, therefore, his maiden speech. Members are aware that it is convention that such a speech be heard without interruption.
Mr Raymond McCartney: Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. As it continues in its efforts to create a new beginning to policing, Sinn Féin contends that proper and supervised training is an indispensable part of changing the culture and ethos of policing in the North. Indeed, the whole concept of change is fundamental to any attempt to create a new beginning in policing as outlined under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Central to that change is the need to ensure that all those who want to police us are imbued with the highest standards of human rights training and are free from political control. No ifs, buts or maybes. Indeed, it was heartening to hear William Hay say that politics should be taken out of policing. That has been Sinn Féin’s position for many years. I could not agree more with what he said.
Any proposed police training college should not be reduced to a debate about cost, who should pay for it and in whose townland it should be located. Although £120 million — some say £150 million — would buy an awful lot of bricks and cement, missing from the debate so far, to some extent, is any commentary about what training ethos should be promoted in the new building. One wonders how much has been spent on the building to date, despite not one brick having been laid.
As well as that, there is little or no recognition of what failed in the past or of what permitted Patten to say that the RUC training college was an abysmal failure by any standard, where the emphasis was more on military training and where the notion of civic policing was simply that — a notion for some distant place, but not here in the North.
The need for properly structured, delivered and received training was further highlighted in a recent Human Rights Commission report, ‘Course for All’, which states:
“Human rights and equality were not accorded a sufficiently central place in the course.”
That is bad enough, but the following observation was made about those who were given the responsibility of acting as tutors to the new recruits;
“Certain tutors also made inappropriate remarks on occasion, compounding some of the difficulties involved in inculcating a culture of human rights in the organisation.”
The Human Rights Commission found that the content of the training course materials appeared to understate the nature and depth of the difficulty faced by the police in gaining the trust of different sections of society. Material relating to such issues as sectarianism and past abuses of human rights did not feature, and the authors of the report concluded in paragraph 2.3:
“In ignoring the historical and current context, the course failed to lay a proper foundation for the lessons it wished to impart.”
The Human Rights Commission is also critical that the training did not meet the requirements laid down by Patten to apprise officers of the other new institutions such as the Human Rights Consortium, the Equality Commission and the office of the Police Ombudsman. That finding has been endorsed by the Oversight Commissioner. In that context, how can one be surprised that the Police Federation holds the office of the Police Ombudsman in utter contempt?
Gerry Kelly envisages a training college where the Irish national flag can be displayed, and it will be an environment in which training will be enshrined in a human rights ethos, and with proper content, delivery and supervision. It does not need the ardchomhairle to state that; it has been stated in the House today.
The British Government should release the funds to build a new policing college, but they should also deliver the transfer of powers on policing and justice and, therefore, offset the possibility of yet another damning report on police training by the Human Rights Com-mission. Let that day come soon. Go raibh maith agat.
Mr Armstrong: I have no problem in supporting the motion. I was a police constable from 1975 to 1989, so I know the importance of good training and the need to have a special building for that purpose. It is two years since the Policing Board announced its approval of the purchase of the 210-acre site at Desertcreat, close to Cookstown, for the new police college. Two years ago, the Policing Board took the first step in its agreement with the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, which emphasised the importance of a new state-of-the-art police college to the long-term success of the training programme and the transform-ation of Northern Ireland’s Police Service.
The police college is seen as the cornerstone for providing new recruits, as well as seasoned police and civilian personnel, with an environment conducive to modern learning and development techniques. However, the funding for the college, which was to have been found in the next public spending round, has fallen short by £40 million. It is imperative that the Government fund that shortfall now.
The training facility at Garnerville was originally a temporary measure, and it was never of an adequate standard, but, unfortunately, it was the only option for too long. Northern Ireland’s police force — formerly the RUC, and which is now known as the RUC George Cross — was renowned worldwide as a first-class force against the evils of society. Just think about what a new state-of-the-art academy would do for the PSNI and what possibilities it would open up for reaching out to police forces worldwide now and in the future.
It is a shame that, following the progress achieved in finding a suitable site and the establishment of a public-private partnership (PPP), sufficient funding is not available from the Government. Is that another case of the Westminster Government holding back funding from Northern Ireland as a threat to push the political parties together into political progress? The training and progress of the Police Service of Northern Ireland should not be held to ransom by the lack of political progress.
In the Northern Ireland Grand Committee in February 2003, Jane Kennedy told Lady Hermon that there was “no problem regarding resources”. This delay will surely incur further costs, bumping up the full and real cost of the police college. Despite assurances from Lord Rooker in the House of Lords on 12 July 2006 in a response to a question for written answer that the:
“consultancy work and the commencement of the construction of the college are on hold”,
until the final money is found, that setback will cost the Government more money in the long term.
It is imperative that the Government at Westminster incur the complete cost of the police college and find the funding shortfall. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is being developed and trained to guard and protect all the people of Northern Ireland, and therefore it is vital that the funding be found within the United Kingdom. The PSNI cannot afford to divide its loyalty with another country south of the border, should the Republic of Ireland Government be urged to fund the college. The Westminster Government must make up the remaining £40 million of the total cost of £143 million for this college.
We are at a critical stage — delays are creating doubts in the minds of the police, who are in need of a new training facility, and those businesses, schools and Mid Ulster communities that are looking forward to a state-of-the-art facility being established at Desertcreat, close to Cookstown. The building of the new college at Desertcreat will be a tremendous boost for Mid Ulster and has the potential to inject much-needed finances into the local economy, acting as a catalyst for other ventures in the future.
The Desertcreat area is embedded in history. It is close to Tullyhogue Fort, where the kings of Ulster were crowned, and to Loughry where, in the 1930s, an agricultural college for ladies was sited, followed by agricultural colleges for both sexes and, more recently, the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). The area has always been a place where new ideas are developed and expanded. Today’s Northern Ireland cattle herd originated from the Desertcreat farm where artificial insemination was first developed, again in the 1930s, putting Northern Ireland on the world map. [Laughter.]
It is no coincidence then that the Policing Board felt that Desertcreat would provide an excellent site for the future training and development of the PSNI. We do not need to debate that Desertcreat is the ideal site for the college: the Policing Board has made that decision, and it has been confirmed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the House of Commons. Cookstown is centrally positioned in Northern Ireland, only 50 miles from most places. It is easily accessible by the main A29 road that reaches from Coleraine to Armagh and is a short distance from both the M1 and M2.
The Cookstown area is becoming better known for its entrepreneurial businesses, with many large national companies setting up there. The people of Cookstown are anxious to see the cutting of the first sod on the site without delay. It is felt that the new police academy will bring additional investment to the area and promote development in the neighbouring towns and villages.
Madam Speaker — [Laughter.]
I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. I conclude by saying that the new police college is vital for the future development of the PSNI; it cannot be delayed any further. To do so would have adverse consequences in many areas, including additional costs to the taxpayer, a continued lack of adequate facilities for the Police Service and a loss of confidence in the people of the Cookstown area. The Government must make up the extra money.
Mrs D Kelly: I welcome the honest and frank debate and the unanimity expressed so far in the Assembly in support of a police college and, in particular, for the specification in the amendment of the Desertcreat site in Cookstown. However, I will not be lectured on human rights or human rights training by parties yet to call for the return of exiles, at least for Christmas.
The SDLP believes that everyone is equal before the law and that no one is above the law. We will expose cover-ups, whoever is responsible — be it the state in the Finucane case; Sinn Féin and the IRA in the McCartney case; or loyalists in the McIlwaine case. We demand that all democratic political parties accept the rule of law and policing. In the twenty-first century, police officers and trainees deserve proper facilities. I hope that the Desertcreat site becomes a twenty-first-century facility and a centre of excellence.
I am concerned at the disingenuous nature of the comments of the hon Member Mr Gerry Kelly, who, when speaking this afternoon, failed to note recent progress on implementing the Patten Commission’s recommendations. Some 87% of the 160 recommend-ations have been either fully or substantially implemented. In response to Members who commented about other facilities and opportunities in their constituencies — and I do not blame them for doing so — it was heartening to hear that the Secretary of State, at his meeting with the Policing Board on 10 October, noted that the Ministry of Defence had offered no sweeteners with any of those sites. Full land value would have to be paid for any one of them. It is appropriate that the Policing Board has pursued and obtained the 220-acre to 230-acre Desertcreat site and that in July 2005 outline planning approval was granted.
Surely provision of the police training college at that site shows a commitment to the Assembly’s decision on decentralisation and the provision of facilities across the North of Ireland.
I support the amendment and hope that all Members will get behind the Policing Board in this debate, and I call on the Secretary of State to do likewise. I understand that Minister Goggins is to return to the Policing Board before the end of December, and I hope that within days he will make an announcement that will be satisfactory to us all.
Mr G Robinson: I am delighted to contribute to today’s debate, albeit briefly, since I await in eager anticipation further contributions from the Members opposite — namely Sinn Féin — who, if rumours are correct, are preparing to embrace fully policing and all its structures, without the Irish tricolour. However, having heard the contributions of Gerry Kelly and Raymond McCartney, I think that we may be waiting a long time.
I support the motion wholeheartedly, not only because it was tabled by colleagues and Members representing East Londonderry and North Antrim respectively, but because two vital components of world-class policing are education and training and development. Those components are integral to the provision of a world-class Police Service. I am confident that those elements will be greatly enhanced by the college that is envisaged. However, that dream can only be realised as a result of a firm, unambiguous and resolute commitment from the Government that the required additional funding will be forthcoming immediately. That funding must be made available as a matter of the utmost priority.
Although I, and most of those whom I represent, dearly wish to see any future police training college operate on the site of Ballykelly’s historic Shackleton Barracks in my East Londonderry constituency, I will be content when the funding shortfall is overcome and a long-overdue twenty-first-century training academy is provided for the Province.
That facility will be in stark contrast to what is currently available at Garnerville. In response to a question for written answer tabled by my esteemed colleague Mr Gregory Campbell MP, Mr Paul Goggins MP wrote on 29 November 2006:
“Ministers have been exploring all avenues … to ensure that the project provides value for money.”
The Minister with responsibility for security should be informed that the overriding importance of this project should not, solely, be one of value for money. Similar importance must be placed on delivering a facility that meets the needs, and enhances the effectiveness and efficiency, of the police and the community that they serve.
Mr McCarthy: I support the amendment and the motion.
The Alliance Party expresses its deep disappoint-ment at the Government’s delay in providing the up-to-date, state-of-the-art police college that they promised. That facility is part of the Patten Report on policing in Northern Ireland, and a suitable site has been identified in Desertcreat.
I am pleased that Members are using the name Desertcreat, which is a townland in County Tyrone. As an ardent supporter of the use of townland names, I believe that Members should keep that name in the forefront of our deliberations.
There was a glimpse on television yesterday evening of the inadequate and outdated facilities at Garnerville in east Belfast that have been mentioned on numerous occasions in the Chamber today. That establishment is long past its sell-by date, and the Government must be criticised for dragging their heels on the issue of a replacement. If money can be found for unwanted wars in Iraq and other places, surely money can be found to provide a quality police college that turns out quality policemen and policewomen to serve in Northern Ireland.
I welcome the assurance given by Mr Campbell that funding is available, although I remain sceptical. If the Irish Government wish to make use of the new training college — and there is no reason why they should not — I am sure that a financial contribution will be forthcoming, and it should be welcomed.
When the new police college is completed, I suggest that it be called the “Desertcreat Police College for Northern Ireland”.
Mr Hussey: I declare that I am a member of my local district policing partnership (DPP), which may be relevant.
The issue that we are considering is the provision of a world-class training and education facility for the Police Service. My late younger brother did his training in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Currently, provision is at Garnerville. My memories of Garnerville go back to my days at college in Belfast, when it was not a police training college. Members may recall the previous use of Garnerville. I support the motion in the context of what it is designed to achieve and what we all, I suspect, wish it to achieve — namely, world-class training and education.
Mr McGlone referred to the idea of the development of a joint blue-light college, and I support that. However, I do not fully support the amendment, and I am sure that the proposer of the amendment will understand that. I will come back to that point. In regard to the pedigree of the site mentioned in the amendment, I will address that issue in time.
Like other Members, I urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Brown — who I understand may be seeking another job — to meet the financial requirements needed to start this project immediately. The Treasury holds the purse strings. Members have already said that the longer that this project is delayed, the larger the shortfall will be. It is imperative that the project be started as soon as possible. Funding could be made available after Christmas, as everything is more or less ready for work to begin on site, and that is what we should aim for.
I found it interesting that Mr Raymond McCartney, in his maiden speech, supported Mr Hay’s suggestion of taking policing out of politics. Why, if he wants to take policing out of politics, does he put so much emphasis on having policing devolved to politicians in Northern Ireland? I fail to follow his logic.
I now move on to fiscal pragmatism. If the funding is not forthcoming, Members must consider the alternatives. I proudly declare a further interest as a representative for West Tyrone. I trust that the party sitting at the top right-hand side of the Chamber will appreciate that I support the economic desires of its party colleague and MP for West Tyrone. I trust that that party and its MP appreciate that. We look towards joined-up government.
Planners tell us that we should utilise brownfield sites. The proposal is for a greenfield site. We have a site at Lisanelly — and I refer to the townland name. That site, combined with the Army base at St Lucia, would be equal in size to the site currently available. It has the substructure, the surface infrastructure and the necessary security perimeter. It also has world-class third-level educational provision in the brand new college in Omagh adjacent to it. In such circumstances, £90 million would possibly enable a college to take recruits and personnel before the end of the next calendar year. If that is a fiscal requirement, and if that is being pragmatic, I am not ashamed of that. However, I urge the Government to fund the project as it stands. If they do not, I urge the Policing Board to consider the motion and to put in place the mechanism that will provide that college as soon as possible.
Mrs Foster: I declare that I am a member of the Policing Board and am very honoured and privileged to serve on it.
Members have heard about training for the RUC — now the PSNI, incorporating the RUC GC. However, we fail to hear about the cowardly campaign of terrorism against RUC personnel over the past 35 years. Police officers returning from work at night were shot in the back of the head, and officers were blown up by an under-car booby trap on their way to work in the morning. Sinn Féin’s memory is very selective — a bit like its attention to the rule of law.
I pay tribute to the officers of the RUC, and their families, who made the ultimate sacrifice for the entire community.
I turn to the issue of the policing college. My colleagues have already said that it is an abdication of responsibility on the part of our Government to make available only £90 million for building the college, and to fail to provide the extra £40 million that is required. We may as well not get any money at all if the Govern-ment are not prepared to provide the required amount.
There is no doubt that Garnerville is a college from the dark ages and, as my hon Friends have said, it has facilities that one would expect to see in the Third World. Yesterday, I listened to Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton on the radio, describing the rooms in which student officers sleep and share bathroom facilities. I wondered why training was ever moved from the depot in Enniskillen. However, that was probably due to the threat of terrorism at that time from colleagues of those who sit opposite me in the Chamber.
If the Government are sincere about policing and justice as a central issue in Northern Ireland, they must divvy up the money for the new policing college. We cannot have a twenty-first-century police service with nineteenth-century facilities. The Government deliver good rhetoric on policing, but when it comes to delivering resources, it is quite a different matter.
I have brought a copy of today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ to let the House see the headline that states that 900 police stations have shut up shop. That number relates to police stations in England and Wales over the past 14 years, where the vast majority of those that remain open are operating only during limited hours. Since the Patten Report, we in Northern Ireland, including my constituents, have seen the closure of a number of police stations. We are told that those closures are not about cutting resources, but about using them more effectively. My colleague William Hay, the Member for Foyle, is the chairman of the finance committee of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, and he tells me that policing is always faced with financial constraints. Therefore, if it is not about cutting resources, what is it about?
According to today’s radio reports, there were five robberies of elderly people last night in one area. Phone-in radio shows demonstrate that the public are not satisfied with the level of resources that are put into policing in Northern Ireland. That is true whether it relates to manpower, human resources on the ground, or the new policing college. The message from this House to the Government is that they cannot police Northern Ireland or any other part of the United Kingdom on the cheap. They should make the money available for the new college immediately. I support the motion.
Mr McFarland: I had the experience — or perhaps the good fortune — to have served on the first Policing Board, but I am no longer a member after standing down in April.
Like our experience during the first Assembly mandate, the first Policing Board adopted a DIY approach in that it sought out the best policing practice from around the world. Since 2001, the PSNI has developed world-class expertise, particularly in community policing. The PSNI is a world model for human rights policing, with its code of ethics for each officer and its rigorous annual human rights inspection by two of the UK’s foremost human rights lawyers, Keir Starmer and Jane Gordon. If Members have not read their reports, they should do so.
The expertise of our community police service is coupled with the background of the RUC as the best anti-terrorist police service in the world. Former RUC officers are currently stationed across the world in places such as Iraq, training people in state-of-the-art anti-terrorist techniques.
Thus, the PSNI is well placed to deliver world-class training for both its own recruits and those from overseas. It is in that context that the idea for the police college has been developed. I was involved in discussions with the NIO, and there were assurances that the full cost of the college would be covered. Indeed, we said that the Policing Board would probably not proceed with the project unless that undertaking was given.
What has gone wrong? Why are the Government procrastinating now? We have had agitation from some in Londonderry to halt the project and to resite it there. There have been voices trying to steer the college to assorted former Army bases around the Province, and some have been demanding joint training with the Garda Síochána on the new site — hence the Irish Government’s trying to offer money. I am not too sure that the gardai trainers at Templemore are too impressed with that idea.
My guess is that the delays represent the Government putting pressure on the PSNI and the Policing Board to cut back on its enormous £720 million budget. Could it be that the NIO has its eye on clawing back the 3,000 additional police officers that Patten proposed for Northern Ireland in order to move us out of conflict? Watch this space.
(Madam Speaker in the Chair)
Each month’s delay increases the cost of the original ambitious concept — a world-class college, offering training that only the PSNI, with its expertise in both community and anti-terrorist policing, can provide. If that is to be met, the NIO must crack on and meet the obligations that it accepted in 2002.
Mr Shannon: I support the motion. There was a great cheer on the day that planning permission was sought. That was a major hurdle on the way to building a new police college. The funding seemed secure, as the college was recommendation 131 of the so-called Patten Report, which, as we all know, the Government have been keen to implement in full. As usual, however, once the Government’s agenda had been fulfilled — namely, to get rid of the Royal Ulster Constabulary — the rest of the recommendations were pushed to the side.
It was recommended that the PSNI be provided with an infrastructure for development and training excellence, so the search began to find the facilities that could provide a state-of-the-art training college that would draw worldwide renown and hopefully attract much-needed positive attention to Northern Ireland and its policing policy. A site was found, a blueprint drawn up, and a community buoyed by the promise of a boost to their local economy. Here we stand, however, attempting to get the Government to live up to their promises on at least that one area.
There is no doubt that we are in great need of a facility that not only deals with the day-to-day service to the community that the Province needs but that has the capacity to train for the ever-more-possible threat of chemical or biological warfare. The 210-acre space provides room for a train carriage, plane fuselage and on-site bank to simulate hijackings and robberies, as well as purpose-built accommodation with 300 rooms, and a village built for public order training complete with decontamination units. The estimate of £80 million was a modest sum, especially when taking into account the sheer class of what was being timetabled.
To accept any less would be unthinkable when one looks at the amount of money that the Government have poured into futile exercises such as the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Here is something that would not only benefit police training, and consequently the safety of the 440 policemen and policewomen recruited annually and the communities that they serve, but that has the potential to benefit other police services on the mainland.
When seeking to build a twenty-first-century facility for a twenty-first-century police service, one must pay twenty-first-century prices. It is possible that other services such as the Fire and Rescue Service and the Army bomb squad could use the facilities, which would go some measure towards offsetting the cost factor. The simple fact is that Garnerville does not come up to scratch and needs replaced. The old adage that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right, fits this situation perfectly. Hugh Orde has said that the current facilities are limited, with no specialist information technology provision. Interview and courtroom-training facilities are poor, and the physical training suites are grossly inadequate.
There must be a drastic overhaul. Given the circumstances, there is no point in Members pushing for anything less than excellence. To do so would do a disservice to the future of Northern Ireland and to the PSNI in particular.
The Committee on the Preparation for Government’s findings on the economy made it abundantly clear that, in a new period of stability, Northern Ireland has huge potential to thrive, if given the opportunity to do so. Investment is needed, and it is slightly surreal that the Government are quibbling over the relatively small sum of money that is required for the police college. If funding were to be sought for such frivolous nonsense as the Millennium Dome, the required money, and more, would be granted in the blink of an eye. However, it is not granted for a police college with the capacity to rejuvenate not only the town in which it is built but the entire Police Service. Northern Ireland’s status as a twenty-first-century country is being shunted to the side.
The building of the police college must begin as soon as is practicable. There has been some talk of going ahead and getting a loan for the outstanding sum of £40 million, and I support the drive and determination of those who desire to see the full potential realised as soon as possible. If it is necessary to take out a loan, it must be done.
Undoubtedly, it is entirely up to the Government to find the funding needed for the police college. It is probable that the Government are merely chancing their arm by attempting to withhold what should be given freely. They do so in the hope that Members will throw up their heads, become frustrated at all the delays and, anxious to move ahead, find another source of funding. After all their wavering and fickleness, the Government must move forward and provide the necessary funding immediately. Without further delay or postulating, the Government must fulfil their obligation to provide the best possible service to the people of the Province by building a purpose-made facility that will be an example to other services and a means to a safer, secure and stable Northern Ireland.
Mr Attwood: I acknowledge everyone who has contributed to a new beginning for policing, particularly the Police Ombudsman, the members of the DPPs and the Policing Board. The biggest single achievement of the Good Friday Agreement is that much of the best work done over the past number of years, and many of the best opportunities for our society created in that time, can be sourced in the work of all those who signed up to a new beginning for policing five or six years ago. That is why the British Government should now respond quickly and positively to the leadership of both the Policing Board and the PSNI by funding the new police college.
I listened intently to the debate, and I look forward to hearing what Ian Paisley Jnr has to say. However, during the course of the debate, quite a number of the speeches made from the unionist Benches moved closer to Patsy McGlone’s amendment. I urge the unionist parties to support the SDLP’s amendment. My primary reason for doing so is that Gregory Campbell quoted what Jane Kennedy said about a new police college when she was Security Minister, some time ago. He quoted her as having said that “resources are not the issue” and that she hoped that things would progress “very rapidly”. At that time, her comments were unambiguous.
However, now, significantly later, there is still ambiguity about funding for the new police college.
Mr Poots: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have allowed Mr Attwood some time to declare an interest, but I note that he has not yet done so. As he is a member of the Policing Board, it is appropriate for him to declare that now.
Mr Attwood: I thank the Member for that prompt, and I so declare.
Since Jane Kennedy’s comments, there has been ambiguity, delay and doubt about the funding of the policing college. There are elements in the British Government who, for whatever reason, want to cause further delays and create greater doubt about that funding. If the Assembly does not unanimously, or at least substantially, endorse the amendment, those elements will feel somewhat reassured.
Given that there are some indications that the Minister with responsibility for security, Paul Goggins, may be minded to make a decision about funding of this matter in the very near future, and that he appears to be a man of good intentions, I urge all parties, even at this late hour, to accept the amendment. That is how the political leadership in the North can send out a message of certainty in the midst of the delay and doubt that have characterised the British Government’s response over the past three or four years.
A number of Members have commented on the prospect of the Dublin Government making a con-tribution to the police college. The SDLP negotiated a provision in the St Andrews Agreement for North/South funds, over and above any of the other institutions of the Good Friday Agreement that are now in place or that may develop in the future. I have heard nobody, in this Chamber or outside, oppose the Irish Government’s making a contribution to the North through North/South funds. I have heard nobody declare that he or she does not want a new road built in some border area because it is to be part-funded by the Irish Government. No strategic, political or other reason has been offered to explain how the SDLP proposal with respect to North/South funds poses any political threat to any interest in the North.
The SDLP says that it is quite proper to extend that argument to a moderate contribution from the Irish Government towards the police college. We do not do that just for some narrow political reason, although some would portray it as such. We do it because of the Patten Report and because the relationship between the gardaí and the PSNI is such that having a facility in the North part-funded by the Irish Government and which the Irish Government and the gardaí, and perhaps other emergency services in the South, can use makes sense.
Jim Shannon made a very interesting point. He rightly identified many substantial reasons for needing a police college in Desertcreat, including the threat of international terror and chemical attack, with a con-sequent need for decontamination chambers and the like. The Patten Report said that there is a need for joint disaster planning and training. Any chemical attack in this part of the world will affect the people of this island equally. Why not have the Irish Government contribute a moderate sum to the police college in the North in order that they, through the gardaí, and our-selves, through the PSNI, can have joint training exercises in case that sort of disaster is inflicted on our people?
It makes sense in policing, practical, operational and community terms, and we should do it. For that reason, among others, we are not saying that we should go to Dublin with a begging bowl. If Dublin thought that it was giving money to the North, for any reason, to go in a begging bowl, it would quickly and rightly show us the door. There are strong imperatives for North/South funding of various dimensions being extended to the police college.
I listened intently to the Sinn Féin speeches. In one way they demonstrated a misunderstanding, and in another way they were downright muddled. Gerry Kelly said that Sinn Féin wanted a new training college and that it should fly the Irish tricolour. He implied that the tricolour should fly equally with the Union flag. What Sinn Féin fails to recognise is that the only flag that currently flies over any police building is that of the PSNI, and that flies only at police headquarters. How can he argue that the Irish national flag should fly over police stations and the new police college when the Union flag has not flown over any police building for the past five or six years?
Sinn Féin twice referred in a disparaging way to high-profile police developments being in somebody’s backyard, and said that the issue of the police college should not be reduced to whose townland it ends up in.
I beg to differ. One of the reasons that the Policing Board was attracted by the application for the college to be built at the Desertcreat site near Cookstown was, in my view, because it was a substantial investment in the west of this part of Ireland — a place that has historically and structurally suffered disadvantage and discrimination.
If I had the choice between a police college at the Maze site or one in the west or the north, on the grounds of discrimination and disadvantage, I know which location I would choose. Jim Shannon had the good sense to make that point, unlike the Sinn Féin repre-sentatives, who had the bad sense to oppose that approach.
The third reason that Sinn Féin was muddled and confused is that it quite rightly referred to a series of human rights commentaries about the police training college and its human rights provisions. However, those representatives failed to mention all the follow-up reports that were commissioned by the Policing Board and others in order to correct the deficiencies in human rights training to the point that, if they would only read the most recent report of the Policing Board’s human rights advisers, Keir Starmer and Jane Gordon, they would see how far human rights culture and training have progressed. That work is not finished. However, the Patten Report said that the job of implementing the Patten reforms should fall to the Policing Board, and not through grandstanding outside the Policing Board, as Sinn Féin has done over the past number of years.
We need a police college in the North to demonstrate modern and progressive policing, to embed the Patten reforms and policing change and to drive forward the policing agenda. However, there is another reason. The SDLP is of the view that a police college should become an international centre of excellence, where other societies that are emerging from conflict can come to this part of Ireland and be trained in best policing practice and policy. Over and above the domestic and national needs for a police college in Cookstown, there is, ironically, an international need, whereby Cookstown police college could become a symbol of best policing practice across the world.
Mr Paisley Jnr: At the outset of my speech, I declare that I am a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
This debate is not about where a police college should be built, despite Members’ obvious and clear entitlement to indicate where they would like the college to be built. The debate is about something else altogether — delivery. It is about the delivery of the necessary resource to build the police college and the delivery of the will to see the police college built.
We have cleared a hurdle in relation to where the college should be built, because the Policing Board, and all the political parties represented on it, has unanimously endorsed where the college should be. That is why the DUP has no problem with the proposed amendment to the motion.
As with so many issues in Northern Ireland, we discuss delivery. Delivery by Sinn Féin on the rule of law is an issue in this debate, just as that party’s failure to deliver is an issue. It was made an issue by the contributions of Sinn Féin Members. There will be no confidence that there will be delivery on a justice and policing Minister within a certain given timescale until Sinn Féin signs up to and supports the rule of law, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and the rule of law demonstrated by our courts — in total.
During his contribution, Mr Kelly begrudgingly made several comments about the police college. He said that the issue is not about the building but about what goes on inside the building. However, it was clear from Mr Kelly’s comments that he does not have a clue about what goes on in that building and that he has not had a clue for some time. Mr Kelly now wants a police college, but he wants it without his supporting the PSNI and the rule of law. I say to him loudly and clearly that he must totally support the Police Service, he must totally support the rule of law and he must totally support the royal courts of justice. Then he will see a college working appropriately and properly.
He had the audacity to say, “Bring it on”. One of the things that he wants is an end to training in the use of baton rounds.
Well, if they stopped rioting in north Belfast there would be no more need to have training in baton rounds. Bring it on: stop the rioting in north Belfast.
Mr Kelly said that he wanted to see the Irish national flag flying over the police training college. Mr Attwood has quite rightly pointed out that if Mr Kelly wants the Irish national flag, he will also want the Union Jack. Therefore, this afternoon Sinn Féin is calling for the Union Jack to fly over police establishments in Northern Ireland. What a change we have seen in Sinn Féin today.
Of course, Mr Kelly does not want to see training in the use of water cannons. I know that from time to time he has had an annual wash-down from water cannons. Again, if they stopped the rioting in certain parts of Ulster, water cannons would no longer be used.
Madam Speaker: Mr Paisley, I remind you that we do not want personal comments.
Mr Paisley Jnr: Absolutely.
Sinn Féin should go and live in the real world.
Mrs D Kelly: I am sure that the Member would wish to include in his call for an end to rioting the rioting surrounding parades and at Whiterock. While I am on my feet, let it be noted that I am also a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
Mr Paisley Jnr: In his contribution, Mr Kelly made some awful characterisations and slurs about the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and about the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which preceded it. He indicated that it was a partisan police service that derived from the Ulster Volunteer Force. That is a slur, and it does nothing to demonstrate that Sinn Féin has crossed the Rubicon in its little narrow mind that it must cross if we are going to see support for the police and the rule of law. Sinn Féin is giving no indication that it wants to change.
While we are talking about organisations, let us talk about the great Óglaigh na hÉireann — what has it morphed from? It has morphed from the psychopathic headbangers of Patrick Pearse into the drug-dealing, granny-beating, child-killers of Northern Ireland.
Madam Speaker: Mr Paisley — [Interruption.]
Order. Mr Paisley, please keep to the motion. I am sure that you are articulate enough to do that.
Mr Paisley Jnr: Thank you for that prompting, Madam Speaker.
We also heard a masterful contribution on policing from another Member of Sinn Féin — the one-time hunger striker who did not make it. Of course, his brother runs Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI). If we look at the model advocated by that particular organisation —
Mr Raymond McCartney: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is not true. He does not run CRJI. The Member is wrong and he should withdraw his comment.
Madam Speaker: Thank you. I remind Members that they should be careful in how they talk about people who are not Members of the House. Mr Paisley, will you withdraw that remark?
Mr Paisley Jnr: Madam Speaker, I am going to defend the remark on this basis — it must have been his twin brother, or someone remarkably like him, who advocated community restorative justice to the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
Mr Raymond McCartney: There is a difference between advocating community restorative justice and the statement made by the Member. He made a very clear statement that the person concerned was running CRJI, and he is wrong.
Madam Speaker: I agree with you, Mr McCartney.
Mr Hussey: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. [Interruption.]
Madam Speaker: Order. Mr Paisley, would you repeat the comment that you made about Mr Raymond McCartney’s brother?
Mr Paisley Jnr: He helps to run the CRJI, and he is a member of that organisation. Madam Speaker, if it would help to clarify the situation, I will say that he helps to run it. Let us deal with the issue. Mr McCartney said — [Interruption.]
Madam Speaker: Order. Do people not listen to what I say at every sitting? We must have order in the House. Can I also —
Mr Hussey: On a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker: Just a moment, Mr Hussey, I am on my feet.
I heard what you said, Mr Paisley. I took it that you felt that Mr McCartney’s brother had helped to run CRJI. If that is not correct, I would ask you to withdraw the remark.
Mr Raymond McCartney: He said very clearly —
Madam Speaker: That is fine, Mr McCartney. Sit down. I will examine Hansard and I will come back to the issue.
Mr Raymond McCartney: Please do.
Madam Speaker: Thank you very much.
Mr Paisley Jnr: Madam Speaker, I am happy for you to examine Hansard.
Madam Speaker: Mr Hussey has a point of order.
Mr Hussey: I would like to raise a point of order under Standing Order 2(a). Madam Speaker, you said that if any Member rose to make a point of order, they were to name the relevant Standing Order. That constantly does not happen in the House. Thank you.
Madam Speaker: I certainly agree with your comments, Mr Hussey. That does not stop Members from doing so, however, and that is why I asked whether people ever listen to what I say.
Mr McLaughlin: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can we take it that, under Standing Order 2(a), we can treat Mr Paisley Jnr’s earlier comments — in fact, his entire contribution — as having the same integrity as they had when he talked about community restorative justice?
Madam Speaker: As I am sure that Mr Hussey would point out, that is not a point of order. I assure Members — including Mr Paisley Jnr, who I know will agree — that I will look at Hansard and will come back to it.
Mr Paisley Jnr: Some Members are obviously reluctant to hear about community restorative justice. Why is that? Is it because community restorative justice groups’ exercising of policing and the type of policing that they want exiles people from Belfast? Do they want people to withhold information from the police and the courts? Or is it because the head of training of one of those groups was convicted for the murders of Corporal Wood and Corporal Howes in Belfast? Is that the sort of police training that they want in Northern Ireland?
Madam Speaker: Mr Paisley, I ask once again whether that has anything to do with the police college. It does not, as far as I am concerned.
Mr Paisley Jnr: It does absolutely; my point is about training.
Mr Raymond McCartney indicated that he wants a new ethos in policing. If that ethos is the same as that of the CRJI network, that is not the ethos that people in Northern Ireland need, nor is it the ethos that the Protestant community wants. Indeed, I bet my bottom dollar that it is not the ethos that Roman Catholics want for their country either.
Mr Raymond McCartney: Will the Member give way?
Madam Speaker: In case you did not notice, Mr Paisley Jnr, a Member asked whether you would give way. However, it is up to you whether you do.
Mr Paisley Jnr: I am well aware of the Members who wish me to give way, but I will not do so.
The ethos of the police should be — and is — that they support democracy, that they support wholeheartedly the rule of law, that thou shalt not kill and that thou shall respect diversity. That ethos exists in the police training college, and has existed there for some time. However, the ethos of republicans has been to bomb, kill and murder police recruits.
In my constituency, I once saw republicans plant a pipe bomb underneath the car of a Roman Catholic man who had been recruited to the Police Service. That bomb had been planted by republicans, and that action was not condemned by the Provisional IRA or its spokespeople.
Quite rightly, many Members have taken the opportunity through the debate to say where they want a new police college to be built. However, in its past and current forms, the Policing Board has been selfless in ensuring that it gets the best site for Northern Ireland. Acquiring such a site should result in the building of a new police college. However, it is ironic that the failure to implement a proposal that has unanimous political support is being blocked by the NIO, the Treasury and the Government. It is perverse that the NIO is stumbling on and delaying the issue.
I ask Members to consider the contribution that our police officers make to police training across the world. Former RUC officers manage police training in Kosovo, and a former assistant chief constable manages similar training in Basra, yet Northern Ireland still lacks the state-of-the-art, world-class training centre that it deserves.
Some Members called for the location of the college to be changed. If the location is changed, costs will either increase or decrease. However, that is not the issue. The issue is whether we can build a college that has the unique selling point of a tactical training village such as that mentioned in the current police- college business strategy.
The current facilities in the police college at Garnerville are Third World. We recognise that a new college must be built; we will not settle for second best. It is therefore up to the British Government to give the money now to ensure that we have the first-class college that Ulster deserves for its police recruits.
Question, That the amendment be made, put and agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That this Assembly calls upon the Government to provide the necessary funding to allow a new police college to be built in Cookstown, Desertcreat site.
Adjourned at 3.35 pm.