HC Deb 15 March 1984 vol 56 cc496-7
8. Mr. Bermingham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the Prosecuting Solicitors Society with regard to the setting up of a national prosecutions service; and with what results.

Mr. Brittan

Representatives of the Prosecuting Solicitors Society have had discussions on this matter with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and with officials. These meetings have established a valuable basis for future co-operation.

Mr. Bermingham

Does the Home Secretary agree that as most of England is now covered by well-organised prosecution services they, in turn, could form the basis of the national prosecuting service that is envisaged in the White Paper and in current discussion?

Mr. Brittan

The concept of forming the basis of a national prosecuting service covers a multitude of alternatives. The comments received in response to the White Paper are being assessed. I hope as soon as possible to make an announcement of our decisions on the organisations of the new service.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. and learned Friend explain why he favours the further recruitment of a centralised bureaucracy rather than the use of private practitioners?

Mr. Brittan

I do not believe that the use of private practitioners is a possible alternative to the existing arrangements or the new arrangements proposed in the White Paper. We are talking not about a vast new bureaucracy but about staff costs of advocacy under an independent prosecuting service, which will be about £3.2 million lower than at present. It remains to be seen exactly how we organise the service. It will be of benefit to do what the Royal Commission recommended and have an independent prosecution service.

Mr. Ashley

While the Home Secretary is considering a national prosecution service, will he consider also setting up an independent forensic science service, because the present service is employed wholly by the Home Office and is used almost exclusively in favour of the prosecution? Is he aware that the scales of justice are rigged in favour of the prosecution when considering forensic scientific evidence and that many distinguished lawyers are worried about the present position?

Mr. Brittan

The question on the forensic science service raises completely different issues. The existing forensic science service has a high standard and is independent in its professional judgment. For that reason, I believe that it has the country's respect.

Mr. Bill Walker

As the parliamentary spokesman for the Scottish Procurator Fiscal Society, I draw my right hon. and learned Friend's attention to the fact that the procurator fiscal system in Scotland works extremely well for the benefit of the public and the police.

Mr. Brittan

I am grateful for that advice and information. The experience north of the border is one of the factors that have led us to take our present view on the need for this system and the feasibility of change.

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