Secretary of State, Dr Marjorie Mowlam, today published the Government's response to a report into the composition, recruitment and training of the RUC by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
She said the Government accepted a number of recommendations made by the Committee. In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Tony McWalter MP (Hemel Hempstead) Dr Mowlam said: "The principle that police officers who belong to private societies should register their membership has the support of the Police Authority and the Chief Constable who has already made enormous strides to the way his officers are recruited and trained.
"He has made a significant contribution by his ongoing development of a police service which is so obviously part of the changing political landscape in Northern Ireland.
"I am confident that this new measure will help to build greater levels of public support for the RUC."
The Government has accepted a number of recommendations made by the Committee. These include:
The Government has considered but rejected for now the proposal that membership of organisations mentioned by the Select Committee should in effect prevent someone becoming a police officer. Dr Mowlam said: "The question of a police service which can fairly represent all sections of the community in Northern Ireland is one of the main terms of reference of the Independent Commission on Policing and it would be peremptory to go further in advance of the Commission's findings."
A new working group is to be set up to consider how the proposals will be implemented. The working group will meet soon and examine:
The Report makes wide ranging recommendations on the RUC's recruitment and training structures and working environment. The RUC is committed to positive action in these areas by:
Dr Mowlam said: "I have consulted amongst others, the Chief Constable and the Police Authority who have both given a broad welcome to the Report. The report provides a timely benchmark of opinion for the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland set up following the Good Friday Agreement as it considers the question of policing arrangements which can fairly represent all sections of the community in Northern Ireland and have widespread community support."
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Chief Constable has already taken action on some of the recommendations made in the report. He has altered instructions so that the Union flag will not be flown over police stations on any public holiday. Inspection of the RUC by Her Majesty's inspector of Constabulary has also now been put on the same formal footing as applies in the rest of the UK (as provided in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act).
2. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, a Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland has been established to "bring forward proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including means of encouraging widespread community support for those arrangements." The Commission will report no later than Summer 1999.
3. Copies of the Secretary of State's response are available from the NIO Press office,
Tel: 011-44-171-210 6470/1/2.
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