HC Deb 30 January 2001 vol 362 c164
26. Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire)

What the (a) original estimate was and (b) latest estimated cost is of modernising Derbyshire's magistrates courts. [146207]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Jane Kennedy)

I understand that my hon. Friend is referring to the private finance initiative contract for new courthouses in Derbyshire that is currently being negotiated. The original estimate of the procurement costs in 1997 was £500,000. It is now £1.5 million.

Mr. Todd

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. The cost of that bloated project will increasingly be levied on the council tax payers of Derbyshire. Those in my constituency will measure up the increased bill that they receive against the fact that the local courthouse in Swadlincote will be closed and they will face a bus journey of more than an hour to reach the new super-court in Derby. How does my hon. Friend suggest that that should be explained to them?

Jane Kennedy

As my hon. Friend is aware, the Derbyshire magistrates courts committee made a determination to close the courthouse at Swadlincote and to transfer the work to Derby. As for work on the new court in Derby and the cost of the project, neither officials of the Department nor those of Derbyshire county council or Derby city council believe that work on the shire hall, which is to be brought back into use, could have been undertaken at a lesser—or no—cost. It is a grade 1 listed building of great antiquity. English Heritage strongly advocates its re-use for courts. On occasions, Mr. Speaker, I feel that I cannot win on any account.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will agree that the hon. Lady brings tremendous diligence and skill to her brief. Some of us believe that she wins every time. Will she assure the House that she will bring to the administration of the magistrates courts of West Sussex the same diligence and skill that she applies in Derbyshire?

Jane Kennedy

I thank the hon. Gentleman and can give him that assurance.