HC Deb 16 November 2000 vol 356 cc1067-8
29. Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton)

What improvements he has made to the performance of the Crown Prosecution Service over the past three years; and if he will make a statement.[137164]

30. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Crown Prosecution Service.[137166]

The Solicitor-General

In May 1997, the Government announced that the CPS would be reorganised into 42 areas with the same boundaries as police forces; we also established the Glidewell review to recommend changes to make the CPS more effective against the background of that decision. The review reported a year later and its recommendations were almost wholly accepted. In implementing the recommendations, the CPS has undergone major organisational change affecting all staff, but has maintained its performance. Extra money was made available in the spending review, including money for a performance improvement programme. That will assist the CPS to become even more effective.

Mr. O'Brien

What action is my hon. and learned Friend taking to improve the rate of successful prosecutions? Does he agree that in order to do so we need to improve the level of representation made in the courts by the CPS?

The Solicitor-General

I agree with my hon. Friend. As a result of the Glidewell recommendations, one change is that the agencies are working together much more effectively. For example, in my hon. Friend's area, in Wakefield, the agencies—the CPS, the police and so on—recently agreed a protocol on racial crimes. As I have said to the House on previous occasions, information technology is much more effective in the agencies; the CPS has an extensive programme for implementing IT. I assure my hon. Friend that all steps are being taken to make the CPS more effective.

Mr. Swayne

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is little value in providing additional funds to police forces so that they can apprehend criminals if we are unable to follow that through with successful prosecutions? Is he convinced that the CPS is adequately funded? The representations that I have received—especially from magistrates—are that it is not; it is thus not capable of delivering that follow-through.

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman cannot have heard the announcements made about, for example, the extra £15 million next year for the CPS and the considerable increase in funding—about 8 to 10 per cent.—over the next three years under the comprehensive spending review. However, I take his point that if the police are to take forward charges effectively, they need effective prosecutors. We are taking steps to ensure that that need is met.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon)

During the progress of the Bill that became the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate Act 2000, I emphasised to the Solicitor-General the importance of effective monitoring of other prosecution agencies. What is the hon. and learned Gentleman doing about that?

The Solicitor-General

The different prosecutors fall under the auspices of other Ministers, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point that each prosecuting agency must work effectively, and an inspection service can ensure that. The point that the hon. Gentleman raised about the extension of the scope of the responsibilities of the CPS inspectorate is an interesting idea and may be taken forward at some stage, but that would require the House to change the 2000 Act.