HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc737-8
39. Norman Lamb (North Norfolk)

If he will make a statement on the development of IT systems within his Department. [65336]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Yvette Cooper)

Current IT systems in the courts are limited in scope and in their ability to communicate with other parts of the justice system. That is why the Department has started a major programme of IT modernisation, beginning with providing IT infrastructure and networks for court users and developing online services for the public and pilot programmes in new technology.

Norman Lamb

May I ask the Minister about the Libra project? Back in May, there were reports that the whole project was to be abandoned at a vast cost to the public purse. It was supposed to be a vital part of the Government's modernisation process for the courts. Will the Minister tell us what the current situation is with regard to the project and ensure that matters proceed quickly, as court staff are getting frustrated by the endless delays?

Yvette Cooper

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. There are two parts to the Libra project. The first part—providing the modern infrastructure and computer equipment for magistrates courts—is 75 per cent. complete and the remainder will be completed by early next year. The second phase is the new standard software application, which was not delivered by the supplier when planned. We are in negotiations with the Libra supplier, Fujitsu Services, to resolve the situation, and I will inform the House of the outcome of those negotiations as soon as they are complete. I take on board the point that has been raised.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

May I commend to the House last night's meeting of PITCOM, the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, in which three senior police officers spoke to hon. Members about IT issues in the criminal justice system? It was a very worthwhile event. One comment made to me behind the scenes was about how much progress had been made in the criminal justice IT system. I congratulate the Department on that, but will my hon. Friend ensure that in all future procurement, work is done closely with the customers—the people who do the work at the sharp end—to ensure that procurement meets their needs?

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend is right that procurement needs to be undertaken in close co-operation with the customer. In the criminal justice system, that means not only the particular customer who will be using the system, but the other criminal justice agencies that they may need to communicate with. We have to ensure that systems are compatible and work well in communicating between the various agencies.