HC Deb 23 March 1990 vol 169 cc790-2W
Mr. Caborn

To ask the Attorney-General what functions the Lord Chancellor's Department carries out at the regional level; where the regional offices are located in each of the regions; what staff are employed and at what grades; what proportion of the Department's budget is spent in each of the regions; and what geographical boundaries determine the Department's regions.

The Attorney-General

The Lord Chancellor is responsible for providing the administration of the Supreme Court, which consists of the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Crown court, and of the county courts. The Crown court sits at nearly 100 locations and there are some 275 county courts. Administrative control is exercised through circuit-based administrative staff headed by a circuit administrator and a number of courts administrators in each of six circuits in England and Wales. These circuits are the Midland and Oxford (with its headquarters in Birmingham), the North Eastern (Leeds), the Northern (Manchester), the South Eastern (London), the Wales and Chester (Cardiff) and the Western (Bristol). There are also 11 district probate registries and 18 probate sub-registries, which together with the principal registry in London are administered by the administrator of the Royal Courts of Justice.

The majority of the Department's staff work in the courts on the circuits. The distribution as at 1 January 1990 is as follows (the figure in brackets represents the number of staff in the circuit and courts administrators offices):

Number (Number)
Midland and Oxford 890.5 (60.5)
North Eastern 1,130.5 (42.0)
Northern 11,34.0 (47.5)
South Eastern 2,700.5 (101.5)
Wales and Chester 611.5 (31.0)
Western 890.5 (44.5)
Other court service staff1 1,419.0
1 Including RCJ/PRFD

These staff are employed in a full range of grades which include support grades and administrative and executive grades up to circuit administators at grades 3 and 4 level.

Of the 1989–90 provision for running costs, the six circuits are directly responsible for half the Department's expenditure:

Per cent.
Midland and Oxford 8.5
North Eastern 6.0
Northern 6.3
South Eastern 17.6
Wales and Chester 3.5
Western 5.1
Other court service 9.6

In addition, the majority of expenditure on accommodation (27.8 per cent. of the total) and a proportion of the budget for headquarters and associated offices (15.2 per cent.) is controlled centrally on behalf of the court service.

The court circuit boundaries date from 1972 when the Courts Act 1971 established a unified court service. The circuits cover the counties of England and Wales as follows:

Midland and Oxford circuit Cambridgeshire (the part formerly Huntingdon and Peterborough), part of Derbyshire, Hereford and Worcester, Humberside (the part formerly in Lincolnshire), Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands.

North Eastern circuit Cleveland, Durham, Humberside (excluding the part formerly in Lincolnshire), part of North Yorkshire, Northumberland, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire.

Northern circuit Cumbria, part of Derbyshire, Lancashire, part of North Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside.

South Eastern circuit Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire (except that part formerly Huntingdon and Peterborough), East Sussex, Essex Greater London, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, West Sussex.

Wales and Chester circuit Cheshire, Clwyd, Dyfed, Gwent, Gwynedd, Mid-Glamorgan, Powys, South Glamorgan, West Glamorgan.

Western circuit Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somerset, Isle of Wight, Wiltshire.