19 April 2023

Senior government advisor, Lord Caine, says there's no impediment to former RUC/PSNI serving as investigators in proposed legacy inquiries. Yet another reason for victims' families to oppose Government plans.

My Lords, as ever, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in this debate.

Responding directly to the comments of my noble friend Lord Rogan, and other noble Lords from Northern Ireland, regarding Amendment 33, the Government are very clear that we must set up the commission properly and with the best people to give it the best chance for success. As the Bill is currently drafted, there is no prohibition whatever on the employment of former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary—which was awarded the George Cross—no prohibition on the employment of former members of the Historical Enquiries Team and no prohibition on former members or current members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland applying to become commission officers. There is no prohibition within the current legislation.

I have made it clear in response to earlier debates that I share the admiration of noble Lords from Northern Ireland for the service and sacrifice of the Royal Ulster Constabulary throughout the Troubles. The figure I have is that 302 officers were murdered in the course of their duties. I have always been struck by the montage that was produced a number of years ago of all those officers, under the banner “Our Murdered Colleagues”, a copy of which I have at home.

Slightly linking to Part 4 of the Bill, where we talk about oral histories, I agree with and share the concern of those noble Lords who believe that the record of the RUC is under sustained attack, mainly from republicans within Northern Ireland. I have said in this House before that what I have described as a pernicious counter-narrative of the Troubles has developed in recent years, which has put the state at the heart of every atrocity and seeks to traduce the record of the Armed Forces and the police. We ought to resist this.

On that, I can do no better than to commend three volumes of outstanding oral history put together by a very good friend of mine, Colin Breen, called A Force Like No Other: The Real Stories of the RUC Men and Women who Policed the Troubles. Colin is a former serving RUC officer. One of the reasons why those he interviewed were able to open up to him so candidly and vividly was because he is one of their own. Anybody reading those volumes will be struck by stories that range from the comic to the absolutely heartbreaking. I commend that particular oral history to Members of your Lordships’ House.