HC Deb 25 November 1999 vol 339 cc748-9
29. Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)

What changes he intends to make to the Crown Prosecution Service's complaints procedure. [98866]

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Ross Cranston)

The Crown Prosecution Service has a three-tier complaints procedure which is accessible and well publicised and ensures that a full and fair investigation takes place. It is speedy and ensures that when a complaint is found to be justified, prompt action can be taken. The CPS complaints procedure complies with the Government's service first standards. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that last year the CPS in the Staffordshire area achieved a 90 per cent. response rate within 10 days of a complaint being received—better than the national average.

Mr. Kidney

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Yes, I am aware that the CPS in Staffordshire is good at dealing with complaints, but would it be fair to say that at the national level its attitude has been a trifle defensive? Does he agree that complaints should be viewed positively, as part of the management information that any organisation needs to improve its service? I hasten to add that I would say the same about people who make other comments, including compliments. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the CPS should change its attitude towards making use of the information that comes from the public in those forms?

The Solicitor-General

I think that the record is good, but it can be improved. As a result of the changes in the inspection arrangements, the inspector will examine the complaints procedure and ensure that it is up to standard. I take my hon. Friend's other point that complaints can be used positively. The complaints made by victims and witnesses underline and are central to our concerns.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

In view of the public pronouncements of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is the head of the CPS, and those of the Attorney-General, the noble and learned Lord Williams, about the damaging effect of the Government's proposals on jury trial, to which tier of the complaints system will the Solicitor-General go? Is what the Government are doing part of a unified policy, or is their policy on the jury system all at sea?

The Solicitor-General

I am not sure that I understood what that question was about. Inasmuch as it was a question about what the DPP said—I have seen the transcript of his interview in The Times—my answer is that he did not condemn the Government's proposals. He gave a dispassionate account of the jury system in England and Wales. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, our changes have been introduced to improve the system, there will be an appeal mechanism, which we introduced as a result of consultation, and the higher judiciary support the changes.