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Operational Units

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General, pursuant to her answer of 27 February 2002, Official Report, column 1330W, what (a) educational, (b) technical and (c) professional qualifications are required for the business managers who head each operational unit. [60207]

The Solicitor-General [holding answer 10 June 2002]: Area Business Manager posts do not require the post holder to have specific educational, technical or professional qualifications. Recruitment to these posts is done on the basis of a person specification, which sets out in detail the key competencies for the post. Candidates are required to state clearly evidence which demonstrates their achievement of each competency, and applications are judged on merit.

Crown Prosecution Service

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General how many (a) performance reviews and (b) case specific reviews were undertaken in (i) 1999–2000, (ii) 2000–01 and (iii) 2001–02, broken down by prosecuting authority. [59347]

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The Solicitor-General: The CPS prosecutes around 1,350,000 cases a year in the magistrates courts and 115,000 in the Crown Court. Cases are subject to continuous review by prosecutors and mechanisms are in place to monitor CPS area performance quarterly. HMCPSI also undertakes inspections of CPS areas. Since the current cycle of inspections began in 1999, HMCPSI has published 39 area inspections reports.

All cases with an adverse outcome are subject to specific review by a senior prosecutor in the area concerned to ascertain reasons and accountability for the outcome. They number around 1,700 a year in the magistrates courts and 15,000 a year in the Crown Court.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General if each CPS region has recently received a modern IT infrastructure; what the cost of the infrastructure was per CPS region as a percentage of the total revenue budget; what the total revenue budget is in each case; and if these systems are compatible with other systems in the criminal justice system. [59345]

The Solicitor-General: The Connect 42 project provided over 5,300 staff across all of the 42 CPS areas with a common IT infrastructure with modern office automation. The project ran from 1999 and concluded in March 2002, on time and within budget.

The costs of the Connect 42 infrastructure were met from a centrally held HQ budget that was partly funded from the Capital Modernisation Fund. The cost of the infrastructure per CPS area as a percentage of the total 1999–2002 revenue budget and the total gross revenue budget was:

Connect 42:
Total revenue budget £ million (1999–2002)Expenditure (£ million)As percentage of total area budget
42 areas869.519.872.3
Avon and Somerset20.00.31.5
Devon and Cornwall17.40.42.2
Dyfed Powys8.00.22.5
Greater Manchester56.01.22.2
North Wales10.00.32.9
North Yorkshire10.30.32.5
South Wales28.00.62.3
South Yorkshire18.70.52.4
Thames Valley21.80.62.7
West Mercia14.20.42.9
West Midlands52.91.22.2
West Yorkshire42.41.12.6

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The Connect 42 infrastructure provides a secure e-mail facility that is compatible with other government departments through the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) and with the police through the police network, the Criminal Justice eXtranet (CJX).

The CPS is therefore making its full contribution to the target set out in the "The Way Ahead" for all criminal justice professionals to be able to e-mail each other securely.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General which CPS regions are piloting the recommendations of Sir Robin Auld that the CPS should take over responsibility from the police for determining the charge from the outset of the case. [59343]

The Solicitor-General: A six-month pilot to identify the practical implications of implementing the recommendation that the CPS should take over the decision to charge from the police was established in mid-February in Kent (Medway division), Essex (the whole county), Wrexham (North Wales), Halifax (West Yorkshire) and Bath (Avon and Somerset). Two busy charging centres in Bristol were added to the pilot in April. A paper explaining the pilot in more detail is available from the Library.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General if Her Majesty's CPS Inspectorate has assessed the consistency of approach between each CPS area in respect of the (a) scrutiny and (b) credibility checks undertaken by the staff of the CPS in relation to (i) all cases and (ii) historical sex abuse cases. [59336]

The Solicitor-General: HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) assesses the quality of decision making in each area on the basis of a sample of randomly selected files. Inspectors assess the extent to which prosecutors take all decisions in accordance with the principles set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors (the Code) promulgated by the Director of Public Prosecutions under section 10, Prosecution of Offices Act 1985. First, there must be sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. Secondly, once the case has passed the evidential test, the circumstances must be such that a prosecution would be in the public interest. Area inspections reveal that a very high level of compliance is attained, that is 98.3 per cent. and 99.81 per cent. respectively up to the end of March 2002. Assessments of decisions made in child abuse cases are broadly similar.

In the joint inspection conducted by HMCPSI and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary into the investigation and prosecution of cases involving allegations of rape (the Rape Report), published in April 2002, there were insufficient numbers of historic sex

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abuse cases to render comparisons meaningful. Inspectors found that most decisions were in accordance with the Code, but were not satisfied that all rape cases were being reviewed consistently. Inspectors recommended that in future all rape cases be allocated to specialist lawyers and I informed the House on 25 April 2002 about the action to be taken by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in response to this. Furthermore, the inspectors recommended that the CPS updates, revises and widens its guidance to prosecutors on the review and handling of cases involving allegations of rape and that legal training on sexual offences be updated in the near future and undertaken by all appropriate lawyers and caseworkers. These recommendations, when addressed, will help ensure a consistent approach to the review and assessment of credibility in all rape cases, including historic sex abuse cases.


Winter Fuel Payments

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in discussions with the European Commission about the extent of the UK's legal obligations under European regulations on winter fuel payments; and if he will make a statement. [53502]

Mr. McCartney: We are unable to say when discussions will conclude.

New Deal

Mr. Lyons: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the impact of the new deal on long-term unemployment. [59649]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since 1997, the number of people unemployed for one year or more has been cut by nearly three quarters. The new deals have played an important part in this success.

By the end of March 2002, the new deal for young people had helped over 360,000 young people off benefit and into work. Independent research by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research found that the number of young people unemployed for six months or more would be twice as high without the new deal. It also found that the new deal had increased youth employment and had a positive knock-on effect on employment among other age groups.

New deal 25 plus has helped over 100,000 long-term unemployed people into work. In April 2001, we launched an enhanced new deal 25 plus programme, providing a more flexible, more individually-tailored service for long-term unemployed people. Since then, the number of people aged 25 and over unemployed for 18 months or more has fallen by almost 30 per cent.

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