HC Deb 02 December 1985 vol 88 cc14-5
46. Mr. Nicholas Brown

asked the Attorney-General if he will make a statement regarding the establishment of the new Crown Prosecution Service.

The Solicitor-General

Good progress has been made towards the establishment of the service in all areas, but especially in the six metropolitan counties and in the counties of Durham and Northumberland, where it will become operational on 1 April 1986. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made the necessary commencement order in respect of those areas last week, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has made the regulations under which the transfer of staff to the new service will be effected. Elsewhere, chief Crown prosecutors have been designated for 24 out of 25 areas, and they are actively planning the structure of the service in those areas.

Mr. Brown

The Solicitor-General will recall that at Question Time on 1 July 1985, the Attorney-General assured me that it was the Government's intention that it should be a properly remunerated service which will attract talented people and offer a good career structure."—[Official Report, 1 July 1985; Vol. 82, c. 13.] How can that assurance be reconciled with the staff transfer regulations tabled last Friday, which reduce the wage rate in the new service from what is currently paid? How can such Dickensian meanness be reconciled with the Prime Minister's statement that no resources will be spared in the fight against crime?

The Solicitor-General

I have always said to the House—and it has been the consistent view of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General—that we must offer such terms and conditions as will attract, retain and motivate people of the necessary high quality. Equally, we must ensure that the taxpayer is not presented with a tax bill that is higher than necessary. We had some experience of that with previous reorganisations. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I was recently able to offer improved terms. We have reached the point at which those two objectives can be achieved.

Mr. Lawrence

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of the threat to the integrity of the dual profession system that is posed by the Crown Prosecution Service, which will inevitably try to press the frontiers of rights of audience further than has hitherto been acceptable? Will my hon. and learned Friend give an undertaking that the Government will resist these pressures?

The Solicitor-General

The Government's position has been expressed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in accepting the advice of the Benson Royal Commission that the professions should continue to have divided functions. That remains the position of the Government, and I see no danger of the sort to which my hon. and learned Friend referred. It is in the public interest, which is the only criterion that counts, that matters should remain as they are.