HC Deb 16 May 1994 vol 243 cc547-8
40. Mrs. Roche

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the cost of setting up the Courts Services Agency.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. John M. Taylor)

The preparatory work started in July 1992, and has cost £320,000 up to April this year. A budget of £690,000 has been set aside this year to carry out the work needed to launch the agency in April 1995.

Mrs. Roche

Does the Minister agree that, given the number of closures of both Crown courts and county courts over the past four years, the setting up of an unaccountable agency, which will make the whole process of the administration of justice much less accountable to both Parliament and the public, is a complete waste of money?

Mr. Taylor

The Government believe that it will be money well spent. It is directed towards improving the management and systems of the court service and, as a direct result, improving the standard of service that can be afforded to court users, who are the public—our constituents.

Mr. Boateng

Will the Minister show a little more concern for those members of the public who, over the past year, in the county court system alone, have received more than £400,000 by way of compensation for errors and delays? Is not that just a picture of what is happening everywhere in that service—demoralisation, inefficiency and Government complacency? Is not it time that he abandoned these hare-brained, ideological schemes and started taking care of the consumer of legal services?

Mr. Taylor

There are no hare-brained schemes or ideologies. The interests of the consumer are uppermost. There have certainly been some problems in London, but the rate of complaint has fallen rapidly. The Lord Chancellor is acutely conscious of the need to handle complaints in a sensitive and user-friendly way.

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