§ Mr. Steen
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many employees will be made redundant in the proposed enlarged south Devon clerkship and in merging the north and west Devon clerkships; and what are their designations;
(2) if he will make it his policy to withhold his approval of the appointment of the Torbay clerk to the enlarged south Devon clerkship of the magistrates courts until he is satisfied that the reorganisation will result in an administration which is substantially more economic and efficient than merging the existing north and west Devon clerkships;
(3) what consultations have taken place with each of the benches in the north and west Devon clerkships with regard to the proposed reorganisation of magistrates courts in south Devon; what weight has been given to their recommendations; if he will set out the steps taken to ensure adequate consultations; and who makes the final decision;
(4) what is the estimated cost of the proposed reorganisation of the south Devon clerkships; what he estimates the savings will be in each of the next three years for the present system and for the enlarged south Devon system; and what estimate he has made of efficiency and cost savings produced by the merging of the present north and west Devon clerkships.
§ Mr. John Patten
I understand that the Devon magistrates courts committee has been considering the possible amalgamation of petty sessional divisions and the reorganisation of clerkships in the county. However, the committee has not yet submitted a draft amalgamation order under section 23 of the Justices of the Peace Act 1979 for my right hon. and learned Friend's approval. The Act provides for consultation with interested parties before a draft order is submitted and for my right hon. and learned Friend to take relevant objections into account before reaching a decision on a draft order. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the merits of proposals which have yet to be submitted to us.
Nor has the Committee yet sought my right hon. and learned Friend's approval for the permanent appointment of a justices clerk (as it is required to do under section 25 of the 1979 Act) as part of any planned reorganisation of clerkships. Before approving an appointment we will consider any representations which might be made by magistrates of the division concerned.