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Mr. Tom Harris: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Davies: No, I cannot take any more interventions at this stage. I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman will catch your eye later in the debate.

Mr. Browne rose

Mr. Davies: I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He would not answer my key questions, and he had plenty of opportunities to do so. I asked him questions five or six times and he would not answer them. Now it is too late for him to intervene because I am about to wind up my speech.

Finally, we recognise that there may be occasions on which it is a good idea to consider symbolism. Clearly, in this case there is an important issue concerning the royal coat of arms in courtrooms. Our approach would be not to take away an existing symbol but, where it seemed a good idea, to add another. A wonderful example of how that can be done has been set, no thanks to the Government, by the Policing Board, which has decided on a new cap badge and uniform for the new police service. As we know, the Government's contribution was to try to screw that up that by including the wrong photographs in the order put before the House of Commons.

That is a good example of how it is possible to make progress in accommodating groups and making them feel a sense of ownership of institutions in Northern Ireland without at the same time insulting or humiliating other groups. That is the way forward, but it does not seem even to have occurred to the Government to try to solve the issue of the royal coat of arms in courtrooms on that basis. If it had occurred to them, I trust that we would have heard about it because they would have pursued the suggestion and had discussions. They never even thought of it because their instinct, which is purely destructive and unbalanced, is to get rid of the royal coat of arms. I do not know whether that is because they are closet republicans or whether it is because they just did not think beyond their noses.

Mr. Browne: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Davies: No, Ministers have had many opportunities to intervene on me.

I particularly resent, as will the whole House, the fact that the Secretary of State has absented himself from this debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That must be the third or fourth time that the hon. Gentleman has made that point. He has said enough about that.

Mr. Davies: The Government have no answer to the key questions that I have asked. Why, if these measures are so desirable, are they not being rolled out in the United Kingdom as a whole? Why are the Government continuing to give away concessions without getting anything in

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return? The Secretary of State is not in a position to answer those questions; the Minister declined to do so when I put them to him, and the House can judge from that whether or not it is right to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman has moved the Opposition amendment?

Mr. Davies: My first remarks, which were made before you took the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were that I moved the amendment in my name and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. That was not picked up by my predecessor in the Chair. I am glad that we have clarified the point.

6.35 pm

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): Despite my reputation, I welcome today's debate and the Bill as a further demonstration of the Government's commitment to the Good Friday agreement and a further stage in its implementation.

We are having this debate against a background of considerable violence in north Belfast: the fire-bombing of a pensioner, the abiding cruelty towards the girls and families of the Holy Cross school and the casual murder of a young father, Daniel McColgan. All that reminds us that the road on which we travel is beset with risk and danger, as it has been over the years, but I believe that we have come a long way and that we are making progress.

The second paragraph in the declaration of support for the Good Friday agreement reads:

At the outset, it has to be said that the Bill begs the question of the continued existence of emergency legislation, the failure to reform the inquest system and the persistence of no-jury courts. It begs the question of the past, and in important respects, particularly on the all-Ireland dimension, it begs the question of the future.

The past runs like a cancer through the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. One can try, like Lord Widgery, to paper over the cracks after Bloody Sunday, but the truth has to be addressed eventually. The cost of 30 years of delay can be counted in bodies on the streets. It is no use now complaining about the cost of Lord Saville's inquiry.

The roots of the failure to bring to justice the murderers of Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill and Rosemary Nelson lie in the corruption of the police and the criminal justice system by what nationalists believe was a fundamentally flawed and self-defeating practice of counter- insurgency—of pursuing a clandestine war against terrorism through the institutions of the state. It is for historians and politicians to argue about whether that was successful or necessary. One thing we all have to understand is that confidence in the rule of law and the institutions for upholding the law were critically undermined in the process.

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We need a fresh Act and a new beginning. That is the reality that we have to address, and the Government are partly doing so today. The Good Friday agreement envisaged that, following the establishment of the new institutions, within a relatively short time it would be possible to create a new police service, reform the criminal justice system and transfer responsibility for law and order to the Northern Ireland Assembly. In that scenario the promotion of rights would be balanced with the nurturing of a new sense of collective responsibility. There would be no winners and no losers. The process would move on.

We can argue about who was to blame for delay, but delay has occurred. The Bill is clearly only a half-way house. It introduces a number of important reforms that prepare the ground for devolution, but it does not take that step. Consequently, it is more difficult to establish the balance between rights and responsibilities. I wish to underline at the outset the fact that balance will not be achieved by taking half measures in reform. It should have been introduced sooner, but I welcome the Government's target for devolving policing and justice as quickly as possible after May 2003.

The legislation that we have now got must create confidence in the justice system across the whole community. For that reason, I question why the Government in their publication on the purpose and aims of the criminal justice system have dramatically departed from the aims of the criminal justice system set out in the Good Friday agreement. The aims, in the agreement, of being

and having

do not appear in the text of the Government publication. I have no great disagreement with the aims as published, but regret to say that I can see no reason to jettison the aims that appeared in the Good Friday agreement, which have been voted on by the House and by the people of Ireland, north and south.

The Good Friday agreement and the criminal justice review that was established as a result both set great store by recognising the centrality of human rights and the framework provided by international human rights standards. However, they have no place in the Government's exposition of the aims of the criminal justice system, although my right hon. Friend partly dealt with that in his speech. It is a major defect that that recognition is not implicit on the face of the Bill. I share that position with the Northern Ireland Assembly, which adopted it by unanimous agreement.

The Bill should have regard to rights highlighted by the Good Friday agreement, particularly given the recent history of communal conflict, as they address parity of esteem. The right to pursue democratically national and political aspirations and the right to seek constitutional change by peaceful and legitimate means should be given legal expression; consequently, those parts of the Treason Felony Act 1848 that still prescribe that activities such as felony should be punishable by life imprisonment should be repealed.

I welcome what the Bill says about the rights of the child, which are increasingly important in the international framework for the protection of human

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rights. I welcome the clauses that deal with youth justice and am pleased that the Government are moving into line with international best practice by bringing 17-year-olds into the orbit of the youth justice system. The United Nations convention on the rights of the child provides that in all actions concerning children undertaken by

In that light, I am surprised that the aims of the youth justice system set out in the Bill are drawn even narrower than the aims of the criminal justice system as a whole. The Government are right to set out the aims of the youth justice system, but it cannot be right that clause 53(1) states:

There is no reference, despite the three subsequent subsections, to rehabilitating youth and child offenders; that should have been addressed, as its importance parallels that of the principal aim. At a minimum, the Bill should require all persons and bodies within the system to have regard to the UN convention on the rights of the child.

The Bill must pass three critical tests if it is to meet the challenge of creating a fresh start for the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. Will the structures of the system make it accountable to the community that it serves? Will its composition make it representative of the community that it serves? Will its ethos make it sensitive to the need for tolerance and reconciliation in a divided society?

On accountability, the Director of Public Prosecutions is no less controversial, albeit less public, than the Chief Constable, formerly of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but now of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I should prefer greater accountability and a new name, especially in light of the Finucane fiasco, in which murderers walked free in the interests of national security; Stobie was originally acquitted 10 years ago and Herard, allegedly the man who pulled the trigger on Pat Finucane, was recruited to the security services. I certainly want to ensure greater transparency in decision making when it is decided not to prosecute, especially bearing in mind the decision of the Attorney-General not to prosecute the policemen involved in shootings in South Armagh—the alleged shoot-to-kill policy—who were to have been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. I believe that, as a general principle, although not necessarily in those particular cases, that is the attitude of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

On the composition of the new institutions, I am disappointed that the Government have so far failed to bring the component parts of the criminal justice system into the purview of section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which would place on them a statutory duty to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will say that that is the Government's intention when he makes his winding-up speech. I fail to understand why it is not important to ensure that the recruitment and promotion practices of the court service or the prison service should not comply fully with the law on providing equality of opportunity. I fail to see why the composition of the work

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force should not be monitored to protect against discrimination on the grounds of gender, community origin or any other prescribed basis. I fail to see why a programme of affirmative action with goals and timetables should not be put in place.

The process of change and renewal requires the bringing-in of new people and influences. There is much greater scope for lay involvement in the proposed Law Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission. It should be possible to create neutral symbols for the Northern Ireland Court Service that represent the system's aim of providing justice for all. The issue of members of oath-bound organisations came up in relation to the new police service, and it is no less important for those appointed to judicial offices and other positions where trust is all-important. The judicial oath is incompatible with that taken by the Orange Order; we must deal with that. The judicial oath is improved beyond measure by removing the sovereign from the equation, but for some reason, the proposed text retains "the realm" where "the jurisdiction" would serve as well. However, I am sure that we can address that in Committee.

I find the galloping republicanism, of which my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench are accused, rather startling. It would be helpful if, in his reply, my hon. Friend the Minister would explain how many new courthouses will spring up round Northern Ireland, perhaps like a rash of measles, none having a coat of arms outside. Members of the legal service, such as solicitors and barristers, and other people may find it difficult to have a coat of arms in court. The suggestion that justice comes from the sovereign is a rather quaint idea—a leftover of mediaeval and legal history—which bears no resemblance to considerations in other modern states, but we retain it.

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