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Government Information

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to bring forward prospects to increase the powers of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration with respect to the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. [16869]

The Prime Minister: None.

Ministerial Code

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Prime Minister what consultations he had prior to revising the Ministerial Code in July. [16868]

The Prime Minister: The Ministerial Code is my guidance to my Ministers on how they should act and arrange their affairs in order to uphold the highest standards. I decide the content of the Ministerial Code.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress in meeting the public service agreement target of reducing in real terms the unit cost of an asylum appeal. [14994]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The public service agreement target is to reduce in real terms the unit cost of asylum appeal by an average of 3 per cent. per annum. This year's target figure, which excludes accommodation and overheads, is £1,025. Performance against target is properly reported upon at the year end, but current performance indicates that this target will be achieved.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on (a) the criteria for assessment of and (b) progress towards meeting the public service agreement target of an improvement in the proportion of training which contributes to improvements in job performance. [14985]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Staff training is regularly evaluated in all parts of LCD—including the Court Service. This includes an assessment by individuals and managers of how the training contributed to job performance. There are no general criteria for this assessment. The individual and manager consider whether the training met the training objectives for that individual, which vary from case to case.

In 2000–01, evaluation showed that training contributed to an improvement in performance in 92 per cent. of trainees in LCD and 99 per cent. of trainees in the Court Service. The difference between the two figures is not regarded as significant, and probably arises

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from variations in the training events attended, some of which are necessarily more general and therefore less amenable to very specific training objectives.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress in meeting the Public Service Agreement target for the reduction of sickness absence in (a) the Public Trust Office and (b) the Court Service. [14988]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The average number of working days' sick absence per member of staff for this financial year (April 2001 to September 2001) in: (a) the Public Guardianship Office, is 9.2 days against a PSA target of 10.2 days; and (b) the Court Service, is 11.4 days against the PSA target of 8.1 days.

Although the figure is higher than the target for the Court Service, it masks a reduction in the actual number of days of sick absence per month from 9,211 days in April to 7,625 days in September.

A great deal of work has been undertaken in the Court Service to raise awareness of the targets and of the need to manage attendance in accordance with the best practice policies. It will however take time for this increased activity to improve attendance to have an impact on the average figures

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on performance in (a) 1999–2000 and (b) 2000–01 against the Public Service Agreement target of maintaining the average unit cost per court case constraint in real terms in Northern Ireland. [14916]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Northern Ireland Court Service's average unit costs, as defined by the terms set out in the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review, have increased as a consequence of the implementation of an extensive modernisation programme in line with the Government modernisation agenda and the one-off costs associated with the Omagh inquest. This unit of measurement for measuring the Northern Ireland Court Service's performance was not carried forward into the SR2000 period.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress in meeting the Public Service Agreement target for the extension of the work of the Special Investigations Unit to criminal cases. [14989]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Since June 1999 the work of the Special Investigations Unit has included investigations into the financial circumstances of individuals applying for or receiving publicly funded representation in criminal proceedings.

Since April of this year, the higher criminal courts have been able to order the defendant to pay back some or all of the costs of their defence at the end of a case, usually following conviction. SIU is responsible for carrying out means assessments to inform the making of such orders when the court refers them to the Commission.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on progress in meeting the Public Service Agreement target of halving the time from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders. [14995]

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Mr. Wills: This PSA target reflects the Government's Youth Justice Pledge. In 1996, dealing with a persistent young offender took an average of 142 days but figures published by my Department show that by June 2001 this had been cut to 70 days. This breakthrough was achieved through effective joint working by all the criminal justice agencies. We have now met or exceeded our target in three consecutive months: in July 2000 the figure was 71 days and in August this year the figure was 66 days.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on progress in meeting the Public Service Agreement target of increasing the proportion of (a) victims, (b) witnesses and (c) jurors who regard their experience in the criminal justice system as acceptable. [14997]

Mr. Wills: The 2000 British Crime Survey showed that 58 per cent. of victims were satisfied with their experience in the criminal justice system. The results of the 2001 British Crime Survey are awaited. The Witness Satisfaction Survey 2000, which was the first national survey of witnesses, showed that 75 per cent. of witnesses were very or fairly satisfied with the treatment they received. A similar survey next year will show whether the proportion of satisfied witnesses has increased. The first juror satisfaction survey, conducted in January 2000, showed that 95 per cent. of jurors were satisfied or very satisfied with their treatment by the courts. A differently constituted survey, carried out in February 2001, showed that 82 per cent. of jurors were satisfied or very satisfied. The original survey will be re-run in early 2002 to allow an accurate assessment of performance against the PSA target.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the public service agreements which apply to magistrates courts. [15035]

Mr. Wills: The public service agreements and service delivery agreements for Magistrates Courts Committees are set out. Other statutory performance targets and ministerial expectations supplement the PSA targets:


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LCD and magistrates courts will also contribute towards the Criminal Justice System PSAs:


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the Public Service Agreement target for the proportion of (a) witnesses and (b) victims giving evidence on the day that they are called in magistrates courts. [15005]

Mr. Wills: In support of the Public Service Agreement (as part of the common targets for Criminal Justice System agencies) the LCD Service Delivery Agreement targets are to reduce the average waiting time for witnesses in the magistrates courts to one hour or less by March 2002 and reduce the unnecessary attendance of witnesses in the magistrates courts by 10 per cent. over the SR2000 period. In the survey conducted in June 2001 in magistrates courts in England and Wales the average waiting time was one hour 22 minutes and the proportion of witnesses expected to attend who attended but did not give evidence was 51 per cent. Figures concerning victims are not recorded separately.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on progress in meeting the Public Service Agreement target of increasing the (a) number and (b) proportion of young offenders fast tracked. [14996]

Mr. Wills: The Lord Chancellor's Department's Departmental Report (the Government's Expenditure Plans 2000–01 to 2001–02) Cm 4606, presented to Parliament in April 2000 referred to an Output Performance Analysis Measure of increasing the number and proportion of young offenders fast tracked. That was in support of the Public Service Agreement target of halving the arrest to sentence time for PYOs from 142 to 71 days. That target reflected the Government's Youth Justice Pledge. Figures published by my Department show that we have now met or exceeded the target of 71 days in three consecutive months: June 2001 (70 days), July 2001 (71 days) and August 2001 (66 days).

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the baseline for the Public Service Agreement target of reducing in real terms the unit cost of cases in the Crown court. [15002]

Mr. Wills: The unit cost of cases in the Crown court was originally measured under the cash accounting system. The Court Service has recently moved to accruals

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accounting, and a new baseline has been set as a result. Performance against this figure will be reported as part of the 2001–02 accounts production process.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the (a) baseline for and (b) redress for the failure to achieve the Public Service Agreement target in 1999–2000 of reducing the unit cost of an item of originating process in the civil courts. [14945]

Mr. Wills: The target in 1999–2000 was £118 per item of county court originating process, and the figure achieved was £137 (16 per cent. greater than target). By way of context, the unit cost measure of performance was withdrawn as a Court Service PSA target after 1999–2000 because of its limitations as a measure of efficiency, mainly because the organisation's costs are fixed and the main driver of the unit cost figure is the relatively volatile level of demand for the service.

The reason for the under achievement is that in 1999–2000 the Court Service successfully implemented a radically different way of delivering civil justice. An assessment was made of the likely full impact on its costs and the behaviour of court users. In the event the costs of the Court Service were 6 per cent. higher than anticipated but the main cause of the increased unit cost was a 10 per cent. reduction in the level of activity. This was mainly due to court users and their advisers adjusting their activities to meet the new procedures. Given the limited value of the unit cost measure, and the unique circumstances, it was accepted in the Department's review of the Court Service's performance during 1999–2000 that there had been a technical rather than substantive failure in this area.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the reason for the non-specification in the 2001 departmental report of performance indicators for the Public Service Agreement target for the percentage of non-publicly funded expenditure spent on court service headquarters and corporate services group in the Lord Chancellor's Department headquarters. [14984]

Ms Rosie Winterton: This target is associated with the two preceding it in the departmental report. Like them it proved to be ambiguous and has been replaced by a series of targets which can more readily capture the Department's efficiency and value for money programme.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what further resources were (a) sought and (b) obtained to enable the achievement of the Public Service Agreement target on the commencement of Crown Court cases. [14998]

Mr. Wills: As part of the SR2000 settlement, a criminal justice unallocated reserve of £525 million was established to cover the three years of the spending review. Total funding of £10 million was sought and obtained to increase Crown Court sittings in 2001–02 from 93,000 to 100,000 days.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress towards meeting the Public Service Agreement target for the cost of publicly funded criminal defence services by March 2002. [14999]

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Ms Rosie Winterton: The Department is on track to achieve stability in the cost of legally aided criminal defence services through a number of measures which will aim to control cost:








Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress towards meeting the Public Service Agreement target for the reduction of courtroom over-capacity by March 2002. [15003]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Good progress is being made towards achieving the Public Service Agreement target. We are reducing over-capacity by a combination of measures. These include using surplus capacity for coroners courts, asylum and other tribunal work; reducing the number of buildings in the same city/town by facilitating joint usage of courtrooms across the estate (Crown, county and magistrates); and disposing of those courts surplus to requirements.

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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the failure to achieve the Public Service Agreement target for the average cost of an act of advice and assistance in criminal cases. [15001]

Ms Rosie Winterton: As of 31 December 2000 actual achievement was £74 against a published target of £71. The main reason why the target was not achieved was because solicitors were spending, on average, more time advising their clients than in previous years.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department which Public Service Agreement targets for 2001 to 2004 support the Government's objectives in relation to family law. [15115]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Lord Chancellor's Department has as its fifth strategic objective:


This objective is supported by Public Service Agreement target 8:


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress towards meeting the Public Service Agreement target for the use of (a) BACS to achieve value for money in the payment of invoices and (b) electronic commerce. [14990]

Ms Rosie Winterton: In October 2001 the Department achieved 57 per cent. of expenditure payments by BACS. This performance excludes any payments which have been made locally by the Courts. The use of BACS continues to be monitored by the Department on a monthly basis.

The Department monitors the percentage volume of low level transactions with a view to achieving the e-commerce target. For the last two quarters the Department achieved the following performance:


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress in meeting the Public Service Agreement target for the proportion of ministerial and other departmental correspondence answered within the target deadline. [14986]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Department is making good progress against its PSA targets on correspondence. For the first six months of the target period (April to October 2001) the Department exceeded its target of replying to 80 per cent. of public correspondence within 15 working days, achieving a figure of 85 per cent. For ministerial correspondence over the same period, 77 per cent. of responses were made within the 20 working day target, with on-going efforts being made to meet the 85 per cent. PSA target by the end of the period.

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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the series of targets which have replaced the Public Service Agreement target of (a) three per cent. annual efficiency gains and (b) a reduction in support costs as a proportion of running costs. [14993]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The full range of the Department's current Public Service Agreement targets and Service Delivery Agreement targets is published on the Department's website. A large number of the targets are relevant to the improvement of Departmental efficiency. In particular, Service Delivery Agreement targets 46–53 demonstrate our commitment to improving value for money.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the Public Service Agreement target of contracting for civil and family legal services solely with quality-assured providers setting out the (a) costs and (b) savings entailed. [15007]

Ms Rosie Winterton: From 1 April 2001, all legal help and representation in publicly funded civil and family work has been placed under contract with quality assured providers. On 1 November 2001, there were 4,972 contracts with solicitors' firms and 381 contracts with not-for-profit organisations. As of 31 December 2000, the average cost per civil bill adjusted for changes in case mix decreased from a published target of £2,151 to an actual achievement of £2,069.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the failure to achieve the Public Service Agreement target for the average cost of the duty solicitor scheme per person assisted. [15000]

Ms Rosie Winterton: As of 31 December 2000 actual achievement was £150 against a published target of £142. Achievement of the target was mainly affected by the Narey reforms to speed up disposal of cases in the magistrates courts. These reforms have resulted in an increase in cases dealt with under the Court Duty Solicitor Scheme instead of a full legal aid order.

The average cost of "Narey" representation was higher than the historical average for duty solicitor work.


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