HC Deb 30 July 1998 vol 317 cc523-5
28. Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)

If he will make a statement on the adequacy of his Department's funding for the implementation of the recommendations of the Glidewell report. [51715]

The Attorney-General (Mr. John Morris)

To facilitate early progress on implementation of the proposals for the internal restructuring of the Crown Prosecution Service, the Treasury has agreed, subject to Parliament agreeing the change in the expenditure estimates, additional provision of £5.3 million for the CPS in the current year. Provision for subsequent years is included in the three-year settlement announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 14 July 1998. There are now both a commitment to change and the necessary resources. I look forward to providing the House with a progress report in the autumn.

Mr. Heald

The comprehensive spending review shows an increase from the current year's figure of £281 million to £312 million for 1999–2000. Does the Attorney-General agree that that is grossly misleading, because spending in 1997–98 was £321 million? Has he secured some increase, or is there a substantial cut in CPS funding as it faces a major reorganisation that will cost a great deal of money?

The Attorney-General

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will find a cut. I told him that we are seeking parliamentary authority for an increase of £5.3 million for the present year. If he looks back, he will find that the Government whom he supported planned significant reductions in 1997–98 and 1998–99. I have never suggested that the settlement is anything but tight. He may know that there is a difference between prosecution costs and the running costs of the Department. We shall see as we go how tight the settlement is, but I am confident that we have succeeded in ensuring that money is available for the early implementation of the Glidewell report.

Mr. Kerry Pollard (St. Albans)

What has been the reaction of the CPS staff to the publication of the Glidewell report?

The Attorney-General

I am conscious of the attitude of the staff and I am aware, of course, that there will be further uncertainties. These can be minimised, but they cannot be avoided altogether if we are to get the CPS on a sound footing and provide a new start for it. Since the report, the former Solicitor-General and I have made a number of visits to CPS offices. We have been impressed by the warm welcome that CPS staff have given the report. The new chief executive, whose appointment I announced on 1 June, is putting in place mechanisms for receiving feedback from staff on the reorganisation.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon)

I am delighted to see the new Solicitor-General in the House. We congratulate him and welcome him to his appointment. Will the Attorney-General confirm that securing and enhancing the independence of the Crown Prosecution Service will be at the core of his proposals for its reform? Will he confirm that any integrated unit with police officers attached to it will be under the control and supervision of the Director of Public Prosecutions or one of the 42 chief Crown prosecutors?

The Attorney-General

I am aware of the concern of the hon. Gentleman. The criminal justice units were recommended by the Glidewell report in order to ensure better preparation and integration between the work of the police and the prosecution process, which are distinct. The proposals will be considered by my ministerial colleagues and me. I am sure that whatever changes occur will be aimed at the working relationship between the CPS and the police and at making them closer, more effective and more efficient in the fight that we all share against crime.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that decisions on whether cases are to be prosecuted will remain the sole responsibility of the independent prosecutors applying the code for the Crown prosecutors. I am confident that in the way forward we shall not undermine the independence of the CPS.

Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire)

I join in welcoming the new Solicitor-General to his post. I hope that he will last longer than his predecessor, who appears to have been shuffled off to be the Government's junior enforcer, or perhaps we should say enforcer's apprentice.

Getting back to real business, does the Attorney-General agree that securing an extra £5.3 million for the CPS over the rest of this Parliament cannot possibly meet anything but the most elementary requirements of the Glidewell report? Does he agree that Glidewell recommends that the CPS take over many of the duties of the police admin support units? Does he know—the Home Office failed to answer—how many people are employed in those admin support units? I suggest that it is almost as many as are employed in the CPS itself. Does he agree that, if the CPS is to take over any significant portion of those duties, a massive injection of cash will be needed, which the comprehensive spending review simply does not provide?

The Attorney-General

I welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman back to his post after his recent illness. He will have heard what I said a moment ago about the reductions that took place in the CPS provision in the last two years. Built into the provision is £6.5 million of transitional costs for the next two years for the implementation of Glidewell. I emphasise that the running costs are obviously cash-controlled, whereas the prosecuting costs have to be looked at as they occur. I am confident that the provision is a good start and will provide the necessary beginning for the implementation of Glidewell.