HC Deb 22 April 1991 vol 189 c765
30. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the work of the Crown prosecution service.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

Last year the Crown prosecution service completed proceedings relating to nearly 1.6 million defendants in the magistrates court and more than 140,000 defendants in the Crown court.

Mr. Marshall

What success is the Crown prosecution service having in recruiting additional staff?

The Solicitor-General

Over the past year recruiting has been very successful. The rate of recruitment has doubled, with a net gain of 210 lawyers in post, which means that vacancies have fallen from 23 to 15 per cent. That has been heartening to the service, and efforts are continuing, especially in areas still under stress.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the Solicitor-General believe that the process has speeded up as a result? Is this having any impact on the numbers of people held on remand?

The Solicitor-General

I think that it is having a good effect on the efficiency of the service, on the ability of the service to carry out its review and on the ability of lawyers in post to do more of the work in court as—well as on their general reviewing work—and that is to the general benefit. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a statistical answer on speed, but if he writes to me I can send him the information.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

The Solicitor-General will recall that the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, which set up the Crown prosecution service, received all-party support. Nevertheless, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) and I raised questions about the relationships between the heads of the services, chief constables, salary levels and the professional status of the service's employees. Obviously these were matters that would be judged over time. I remember that we asked for a review after five years and that the Attorney-General rejected our request. We now have a report from the Public Accounts Committee, which draws attention to the fact that two and a half years after its inception the objectives of the service have not yet been met and that it is costing twice as much as the previous arrangements. Those are matters for which the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General are directly responsible, so it seems fair to ask the Solicitor-General what he intends to do about them.

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman should remember the constructive and frequently praising remarks of the Select Committee on Home Affairs when it carried out its review nearly a year ago. The salaries, the career structure and the training scheme that have been brought into place in the past year have all had an excellent effect on morale within the service and on the recruitment that I have described to the House.

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