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Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart): The hon. Gentleman has outlined two motives that he claims the Government do not have for introducing the Bill. What does he believe is the Government's motive for doing so?
Mr. Davies: I am glad that I have the hon. Gentleman's attention and to know that he will listen carefully to the rest of my speech. An audience of at least one Member will wait in suspense for that important part of my speech. I shall come to that point, but I shall not quite yet be driven off the issue of the preparatory work for the new proposals for youth conferences, restorative justice, community responsibility orders and so forth.
The hon. Gentleman's intervention has confirmed my feeling that the Government have been thoroughly unbusinesslike about the Bill. One does not decide to change the system of criminal justice for anyone, and least of all for children, without thorough preparatory work. We cannot pass a Bill that takes lots of new powers and sets up many new systems, and then say that we will merely pilot it in Northern Ireland.
Before we take a decision, we need a thorough evaluation of the New Zealand experiment. The Government appear to have spent a lot of public money on that, even sending people to New Zealand, but we have had no proper analysis of the working of the system in New Zealand. That is surely elementary. What did those people do in New Zealand? I am sure that they had a lovely timeI gather that it is a beautiful countrybut there was a time when people who had a jaunt at the taxpayer's expense were expected to produce some sort of report. If their report was detailed, thorough and convincing enough to make a respectable contribution to our debate, I should have expected it to be published. It has not been published, either in the review or, as far as I know, anywhere else. The fact that the Minister, who is usually quick to intervene, is sitting tight confirms me in my fears.
Mr. Browne: The hon. Gentleman will recollect that, during one of his meetings with my officials, he was given a copy of international research into restorative justice, including in New Zealand. Has he read it?
Mr. Davies: I do not recall seeing the report to which the Minister refers. I should be interested to see it. I have no idea whether it was produced by his officials who went to New Zealand or by others. If that report was germane to the decision to roll this system out in Northern Ireland and to change the law in the way that the Bill proposes, I cannot understand why it was not included in the review or at least referred to in appendix B so that we might have known that it was one of the documents on which the Bill was based.
Mr. Browne: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that one of the supporting documents was the paper I have in my hand"Restorative Justice Options for Northern Ireland: A Comparative Review". It includes references to the very matters that he says are absent from the review.
Mr. Davies: The hon. Gentleman has not given me that report; I have not seen it. It is certainly not listed in appendix B. Perhaps he will point to precisely where it appears in appendix B, to show that we might have known that it existed and been able to ask for it. Page 445 of the review contains no reference to the assessment of New Zealand that he now claims exists. If the Minister wants some time to look at that page, he is welcome to it.
I have said enough to make it clear that I do not think that the Government can rest their case for the Bill on the provisions relating to either restorative justice or devolution of justice to Northern Ireland.
Mr. Browne: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I know that the point may be becoming tedious to some of his hon. Friends, but I should put the record straight. On page 445 of the review reportthe page to which the hon. Gentleman himself referreditem 10 is the report to which I referred: "Restorative Justice Options for Northern Ireland: A Comparative Review". I cannot be responsible for the hon. Gentleman's copy of the review report, but if it is missing page 445, he can have mine.
Mr. Davies: What I have asked for and what the hon. Gentleman has not providedhe does not even suggest that it existsis an assessment of the position in New Zealand. I have not seen such an assessmentnor, as far as I know, has any other hon. Member. We ought to read it, and we ought to have a chance to discuss it, before we change the law. My point is made.
The fact remains, however, that the Government would not have introduced the Bill this year if it were not necessary to camouflage two rather nasty and extremely significant provisions. Many parts of the Billrestorative justice, merits, demerits and what happens around the worldmay be discussed academically, which would be absolutely fascinating, but it represents a Trojan horse for
The Minister does not like my placing the focus on those two provisions, which is not surprising because they are very momentous provisions. I think that I am right to sayI hope that someone will correct me if I am wrongthat they must be the most overtly, explicitly republican provisions introduced in the House since the time of Oliver Cromwell. Someone cannot be much more republican than to suggest that we break the link between the judiciary and the Crown, that we no longer have the Crown at the apex of our constitution, legislative system, Executive and judiciary and that the doctrine on which the common law has always been basedthat the administration of justice flows from the Crownshould be breached in part of our country: Northern Ireland.
Mr. McNamara: Would the hon. Gentleman care to comment on two matters? First, the police in Scotland take no oath of allegiance to the Crown, and, under legislation that flowed from the Good Friday agreement, with which he agreed, neither do new recruits in Northern Ireland. Secondly, the Conservative Government supported Britain's joining and subscribing to the European convention on human rights, under which legal decisions come from the Strasbourg court and do not flow from the Crown, and from the Luxembourg courtwhich Mr. Heath took us into, as well as the European Communitywhich do not emanate from the Crown either.
Mr. Davies: I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman is just thrashing around, desperately trying to find some shield to protect the Government, and his desperation shows. First, he knows perfectly well that I referred to the judiciary. I am not talking about the police, but he tries to switch the discussion to the police. Secondly, he talks about courts set up under international agreements to which we are party. Clearly, that has gone on for a long time. We set up the International Court of Justice at The Hague some time before the first world war. It is obvious that if we set up an international court and are part of the convention, the international court is not subject to the Crown, but under all the systems of law in the United KingdomScottish law, English law and so forththe principle has always been that justice flows from the Crown, and the hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well. He also knows perfectly well that the Bill will cut that umbilical cord in respect of Northern Ireland, which raises enormous constitutional and juridical questions that he wants to shield the Government from facing up to.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): Does my hon. Friend agree that the position of the Strasbourg and Luxembourg courts in this country's judicial system flows entirely from a decision of this Parliament?
Mr. Davies: Indeed, that is absolutely true. I am afraid to say that the Government appear to be so embarrassed that the Secretary of State has done something unprecedentedto have absented himself from the Chamber during a debate on a fundamental constitutional issue. Absenting himself from the Chamber and not waiting to hear the Opposition's response in any context, let alone a debate on Second Reading, is pretty unprecedented. I have several questions to ask him, but they will have to be answered by the Minister, if he is prepared to do so.
I place on record the fact that that is not only an extraordinary discourtesy to the HouseI am certainly not worried about discourtesy to me personallybut it reflects the slighting way in which Government regard Parliament these days. They regard it as something of a burden, a nuisance and less important than other things that they might prefer to do. There could be no more graphic example of that than the Secretary of State's conduct this afternoon.
The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) is right to say that those provisions raise fundamental constitutional issues. Do the Government glory in making this concession? Are they closet republicans? Do they feel that this would be a wonderful thing to do if only it could be rolled out across the whole United Kingdom and that it is absolutely splendid that they have an opportunity to do so in Northern Ireland, they hope? Are they introducing the provisions more in sorrow, thinking that they reluctantly have to do so in Northern Ireland? To use the Secretary of State's phrase, is this a concession; or are the Government introducing it on its own merits? Perhaps we could have some answers. I should be happy to give way to the Minister, who normally likes to jump to his feet to interrupt, if he has an answer.