THE Local Inspectors Association (LIA) is deliberately muddying the already-murky waters of the Government's localisation policy. On the one hand, it yesterday called for local civil servants to enjoy the same right as expatriates to compensation payments for the loss of British protection in 1997. At the same time, it warned that the proposed early retirement scheme for expatriates could lead to a vacuum at the top of the police force. Local officers clearly resent the compensation being paid to expatriate members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service (HMOCS) (even if they ignore the fear that expatriates are more likely as a group to face discrimination after 1997 than officers who can claim Chinese citizenship). But they should argue the case on its own merits. They might, for example, legitimately point out that no local was ever compensated for discrimination in favour of expatriates under previous employment policies. However, to camouflage such demands with a scare-story about time-serving expatriates all waiting to take early retirement simultaneously and leaving a dangerous vacuum is emotive, self-defeating and unworthy. Local officers' associations should not expect to have their cake and eat it. They rightly criticise the slow pace of localisation, but cannot then object if expatriate colleagues are encouraged to take early retirement, regardless of age. The Secretary for the Civil Service - or any other personnel manager worthy of the title - should be able to devise a policy to prevent all HMOCS officers leaving at once, should the fear prove to be real. However, it is hardly surprising that the Government should be getting itself into deep water over localisation policy if the LIA and its like cannot decide if they are for it or against it. It has a right to regard the local officers' signals on the policy as confusing.