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The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 122A, 161A, 175A, 178A and 178B. It is accepted that the purpose of this part of the Bill is to draw a clear distinction between the functions of prosecution and the functions of investigation in order to enhance public confidence and support in the criminal justice system. It is a distinction in proposals with which I agree.
I assume that the Government are being careful not to annoy republicans, by having given us the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland, or PPSNI, which is a body to prosecute, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, or PSNI, which is the body to investigate. When republicans back home in Northern Ireland begin to talk about the PPSNI or the PSNI, how muddled, in terms of titles, will these two bodies be?
The Government may feel unable to accept this amendment, although some thought must be given to the problem of possible muddle. If the Government are unable to accept the amendment, for whatever reason, and they remain deeply committed to the Public Prosecution Service of Northern IrelandPPSNIthen potential confusion could be avoided by amending the name of that other body, the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Off the top of my head, I suggest it could be called the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I beg to move.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I wonder if I can assist the noble Lord. I said at the outset that, because this Bill is of such importance, it was intended that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, would deal with Part 1 and the Attorney-General would deal with Part 2. That is the reason for the division.
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: The noble and learned Lord has taken my comments slightly too seriously, but I am grateful. My point is that we have had reassurances throughout today about the effort that is being made to give balance to the Bill, but if ever there was an example of where that balance has totally, completely and utterly disappeared, it is by the adoption of the word "public" when "Crown" should be on the face of the Bill. In respect of those words, once again I ask the question that I posed earlier: does
If the Government have their way, soon everything that identifies the majority of people in Northern Ireland and everything to which an even greater number of people in Northern Ireland have assented through the Belfast agreement, will be eroded or withdrawn. That there shall be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until the people of Northern Ireland so decide is to be eroded. Slowlyperhaps almost imperceptiblybut cumulatively, it is something that will have a huge impact.
I shall listen with interest to what Government Ministers and the Attorney-General have to say about the reason for effecting this diminution of the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. There can be no justifiable excuse for a government not to be willing to stand by those things to which they put their hand in April 1998.
In bringing forward these amendments, we have not talked about the consequential amendments that, if they are accepted, would have to be applied. In Clause 29(2) is the term, "the Director of Public Prosecutions". That title would need to be examined again. In Clause 36(1)(a) is the term "public prosecutor". I know that refers to "any" public prosecutor but I would imagine that under the circumstances of our amendment being accepted, it would be the Crown prosecutor.
I am not a lawyer. I simply draw attention to the consequences of what we propose in this set of six amendments. I shall listen with interest to how the Government believe that they can justify this insult to the people of Northern Ireland.
Viscount Brookeborough: I am inclined to support the amendment, but perhaps for its perception and what people will think of it. The term, "the Crown", has always been used in matters where an organisation or subject is politically neutral in every sense of the word. In the public's perceptionor at least in minepublic bodies or institutions are those that are generally directed by an executive or a government. I would rather see the Crown, because it is overtly entirely neutral politically and not a public body, as it might be perceived.
The problem we have is that the Belfast agreement does not work unless it brings a range of people who are Unionist with it. That is a simple fact. The Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Government of the Republic of Ireland said at a meeting at the Northern Ireland
Lord Glentoran: I support the amendment, albeit maybe obliquely. The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General may not be used to Northern Ireland affairs and may think that the amendment and those grouped with it are petty.
The points have been made extremely clearly by noble Lords in the Ulster Unionist Party. As I have said on a number of occasions both here and in the Chamber in other debates, the Government are riding the agreement into the ground. My party is having extraordinary difficulty in hanging on to some sort of bipartisanship, not because we are particularly pro-Unionist, but solely because we believe that the behaviour of the Government and their machine is eroding the good faith that there was in the agreement that was reached on that Good Friday.
You have to be there and talk to all the peopleI know that the Lord Privy Seal has been there regularlyto understand that what the noble Lords, Lord Maginnis and Lord Laird, are saying is very real. The amendment talks about a wordthe difference between a Crown prosecution service and the public prosecution service. That is very important in the perception that the majority of the people in Northern Ireland will interpret. They will pick it again and they will see it as one more little piece of sanitisation and appeasement to Sinn Fein/IRA and the republican movement, who will not play in our judicial system anyway. We shall have to come to that later in the Bill when we talk about other things to do with youth justice, which is excellent, but we have to make sure that everything in the Bill is able to stay with the proper legal judicial system.
Lord Hylton: I am conscious that, in the speeches so far made on this group of amendments, we have listened to some very sincere expressions of opinion. However, it seems to me that the content of the Bill should be directed towards creating shared institutions and, consequently, shared symbols. Here we can take heart and be encouraged by the wisdom of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which chose as its logo or symbol the flax flower. That seems to have been accepted wholeheartedly by everybody. I am glad that that should be so. I cannot support the thrust of the amendments.
The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): I start, if I may, by making it very clear that I for one do not for a moment doubt in any way the sincerity of those who have spoken or the importance of the points that they
This group of amendments has proceeded in the debateif I may put it this wayas if we were removing a word that presently exists or proposing to change the name of the prosecution service of Northern Ireland from the Crown Prosecution Service to something else. That, however, is not what is happening. The present position is that the only name that exists is that of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland. What the Bill proposes elsewhere, however, is a radical and important change in the function of his office, so as to give it a far greater responsibility for cases. The number of cases that the service will be dealing with will be significantly higher. The review recommended in those circumstances, for very good reasonMembers of the Committee will no doubt agree that the name should reflect the fact that there would be a prosecution service covering all of those casesthat the name should be changed to that of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland. To those Members of the Committee who suggest that this is an erosion of confidenceor a "sanitisation", to use the word of the noble Lord, Lord GlentoranI say that nothing of the sort is taking place because that is a sensible statement of what the service will be doing.
There is no risk of the confusion to which the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, referred. I very much doubt that anyone would have any difficulty in Northern Ireland. They would recognise the prosecution as being conducted by the prosecution service. They would recognise that the police were carrying out a different function. If there were to be any risk of confusion at all, it would be if the service in Northern Ireland, which would be carrying out its functions in a somewhat different way from the prosecutors in England and Wales, were to carry exactly the same name.
If there isI respectfully suggest that there is notany question of symbolism in the name, I agree entirely with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, who expressed the view that it must be important in these circumstances to have a statement which is a shared symbol. What could be clearerwhat could be more sharedthan a prosecution service that recognises that it is the Public Prosecution Service? It is a prosecution service for the public, and therefore totally apolitical, because it is the public interest that is being promoted. It was, as I say, the review that recommended the change. The name "Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland" was widely welcomed during the consultations when the review, report and the draft legislation were published. The widenot universalsupport that the name "Public Prosecution Service" has received from the people of Northern Ireland should be respected. I hope that Members of the Committee agree. While I respect the sentiments that noble Lords have expressed on the amendments, the approach is not pandering to sensitivities; the name is sensible and properly reflects
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