Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda

Replies by the Lord Chancellor's Department to Written Questions from the Committee on the Lord Chancellor's Department Annual Report 2001-02


1.   PSA targets have changed significantly which makes it difficult to follow progress. From last year's report it would seem that not all of the previous targets, which ran for the three years to 2000-01, have been met by March 2001. For example, the previous PSA3 target to increase the proportion of administrative processes dealt with within a set time to 95 per cent. This target was not expected to be met for 2000-01. Did LCD pick up those targets not met by March 2001 and include them in the SDAs or have they been completely abandoned?

  The PSA targets and Output and Performance Analysis (OPA) measures or indicators contained within the Departmental Report 2000-01, were set as a consequence of the Comprehensive Spending Review 1998. The Report only comments on the outturn position for those targets up to and including 31 December 2000. The OPA are measures or indicators that support the delivery of each individual PSA target. A revised PSA was agreed as part of SR2000.

  A summary of departmental performance for the PSA targets is shown below. A more detailed summary table containing details of the PSA and OPA not achieved by 31 December 2000 is attached (Annex A).
ObjectivePSA targets
Met by 31 March 2001 Met by 31 March 2002
1All three targets met Not applicable
2All three targets replaced by SR2000 targets Not applicable
3Three of the eight targets were met A further two of the targets were met; the remaining three were replaced or superseded by SR2000 targets
4Six of the 18 targets were met A further two of the targets were met; the remaining 10 were replaced or superseded by SR2000 targets
5The PSA target was dropped New PSA and SDA were set during SR2000
6The two targets were met New PSA and SDA were set during SR2000
OperationalEight of the 15 targets were met The remaining targets were replaced or superseded by SR2000 targets or Court Service Key Performance Indicators

  The majority of these targets were replaced or subsumed into the Spending Review 2000 LCD PSA and SDA targets.

2.   The PSA targets were revised in December 1999 according to last year's report, where they were printed in full in addition to the targets for the three years to 2000-01. The targets are broken down into measurable sub-targets. For seven out of 10 of the current LCD PSA targets, specific measurable indicators or baseline data have still not been agreed for all sub-targets over two years later.

  For example, PSA2: To reduce by 2004 the time from arrest to sentence or other disposal for all defendants by:

    —  reducing the time from charge to disposal for all defendants with a target to be specified by 2001;

    —  dealing with 80 per cent of youth court cases within their time targets, and

    —  halving from 142 to 71 days by March 2002 the time taken from arrest to sentence for persistent youth offenders and maintaining that level thereafter.

  Whilst the last sub-target has been met, the department is still developing baselines for the first two sub-targets.

  Sub-targets and baseline data have also not been set for PSA3, 5, 6a, 7, 8 and 9. Targets run for three years from 2001-02 so the department is already one third of the way through this period. Why are such delays arising and what action is being taken to address this problem?

  Explanation for each of the PSA targets quoted above is attached (Annex B).

3.   PSA3: Increase the level of confidence in the Criminal Justice System by 2004, including improving that of ethnic minority communities. The PSA targets for 2001-04 as set out in last year's departmental report referred to a target date of March 2004 rather than 2004. Has the target been amended?

  The PSA target has not been amended. The PSA runs for three financial years ending on 31 March 2004. This target is also a criminal justice system PSA target. In the drafting of the Departmental Report 2001-04 the word March was added in error.


4.   Target 1b: To reduce waiting time for asylum appeals from receipt at the Immigration Appellate Authorities to promulgation of the Adjudicator's determination from 36 in 1999-2000 to 17 weeks. This was met in 2000-01 but will not be met in 2001-02. Why was this and what is the department doing to address this? What assumptions about the number of appeals underlie this target?

  The targets for 2000-01 and for 2001-02 appear the same but are actually quite different and not directly comparable.

  The target for 2000-01 was to achieve an average time from receipt of the appeal to promulgation of the adjudicator's judgment in 17 weeks. This target was for the first tier only of the Immigration Appellate Authority. It was met as the average time for receipt of the appeal to promulgation at adjudicator level was 15.4 weeks.

  The target for 2001-02 was to clear 65 per cent of all asylum appeals in 17 weeks, through both tiers of the IAA—that is through the adjudicator and through the Immigration Appeal Tribunal as necessary. The way of measuring this target was changed to align with the target adopted by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office for the decision-making process.

  Figures for cases received in the period April 2001 to December 2001 (inclusive) show LCD has cleared 43 per cent of asylum appeals through both tiers of the IAA.

  The target was set for a future projected caseload of 4,000 appeals each month, and a caseload mix which included 35 per cent of certified cases which are dealt with at adjudicator level alone. The number of appeals has been steadily rising and will hit 6,000 appeals a month from November 2002. In addition, the proportion of certified cases has decreased considerably to 21 per cent and a far higher number of appeals now continue to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal.

  Radical new ways of dealing with appeals, through tighter judicial case management, faster promulgation of judicial decisions, and the introduction of a single administrative centre in Loughborough are driving down the time that cases take. At the same time the IAA is taking on a huge increase in the number of appeals dealt with each month. This concerted action should achieve an improvement in progress towards the target over the remainder of the year.

  At the same time as handling this increasing workload, the IAA has embarked on an unprecedented 50 per cent expansion of judiciary, staff and hearing and administrative facilities to handle the 50 per cent increase in appeals.

  From April 2000 to March 2001 the IAA disposed of 26,810 adjudicator appeals.

  In the following year it disposed of 47,017 asylum appeals and an increasing number of family visit visa appeals and bail cases. Family visit visa appeals were only in place in the last five months of 2000-01 and so had a far greater impact in 2001-02. Bail cases have increased in line with the Home Office increases in detained places. These significant changes in volume and case mix, most of which could not be predicted at the time that the target was set, have inevitably had an impact on its achievement.

5.   According to page 78, the target is contained in LCD SDA targets for 2002-03 onwards in a modified form. How has it been modified?

  This target is modified from the previous SDA, which only covered an average time for those cases promulgated. The KPI for the Court Service for 2001-02 was in the modified form.

6.   Target 6: To increase the proportion of mediated divorce proceedings as against court-based proceedings from 5 per cent to 20 per cent by 2001-02 for those areas where the Family Law Act is implemented. This has not been met and has been dropped. It is now partly included in PSA5 but there is no mention of per cent targets or time deadlines and progress is not known. What were the difficulties which contributed to this target not being met, why does PSA5 not include per cent targets or time deadlines and how does the department now intend to measure progress?

  This target was relevant to the proposed procedures for implementing divorce reform set out in Part II of the Family Law Act 1996. The Lord Chancellor announced, in a written parliamentary answer on 16 January 2001, that the Government was not satisfied that it would be right to proceed with the implementation of Part II. He confirmed that the Government would invite Parliament to repeal the relevant sections of the Act when a suitable legislative opportunity occurred.

  His decision was based on the comprehensive research undertaken on pilots of the Part II information meetings which indicated that these did not meet people's needs. After considering the research and in the light of concerns about the procedures generally, the Government concluded that Part II did not meet the principles set out in Part I of the Act of saving saveable marriages, and bringing marriages which have broken down to an end with the minimum distress to the parties and children affected.

  His decision also took account of research undertaken on pilot contracts for the provision of publicly funded family mediation (published in December 2000). This indicated that mediation was not suitable in all cases, and that in many cases it was not possible to engage both parties so as to allow mediation to be successful.

  LCD has replaced this target, which focused on the procedures for dealing with relationship breakdown with a target that focuses on improving the outcomes for children caught up in their parents' relationship breakdown. LCD's current PSA Target 8: "to increase continued contact between children and the non-resident parent after a family breakdown where this is in the best interests of the child" is based on research evidence. This demonstrates that children's health, educational and general development is enhanced where the quality of the relationship between the child and the non-resident parent is good. LCD's PSA Target 5, covering the resolution of disputes other than through the courts, does not include specific targets or deadlines in respect of mediation because of the research findings that mediation in family cases can benefit only a minority of cases. However, publicly funded mediation under the Community Legal Service Funding Code has been available since March 1997. Over 270 mediation services have now concluded contracts with the Legal Services Commission to provide quality-assured mediation facilities in all parts of England and Wales. The volume of cases in which family mediation is provided under the Community Legal Service continues to be monitored as a means of assessing the volume of mediation and its effectiveness.

7.   Productivity Target 1a: To improve the level of service to court users based on an index of quantitative measures from 82 per cent in 1998-99 to 85 per cent in 2001-02. This has not been met. It is now included in PSA1. Why was this target not met and how is the department changing its approach to ensure it can meet the improvement standards now included under PSA1?

  The target was in fact met—the performance figure was 89.2 per cent. The final performance information was not available when the Report went to print.

8.   Productivity Target 10: A reduction in real terms of the unit cost of the Legal Aid Board processing current legal aid business by an average of 3 per cent per annum. The status of this target is unknown although progress is said to be on course. Why is the status of this target said to be unknown?

  Progress is reported by the LSC in its Annual Report. The Report for 2001-02, to be published soon, will show that the Legal Services Commission (which replaced the Legal Aid Board in April 2000) achieved a reduction in real terms of 2.6 per cent in the unit cost of current legal aid business. This applies to the processing functions that remain comparable before and after the legal aid reforms. The introduction of contracting has shifted much of the business to a new form of transaction.

9.   Further CSR Target Fraud: The Department's strategy includes extending the LAB's Special Investigations unit to criminal cases, better detection through the use of LAB's Corporate Information System and exclusive contracting. This target has been dropped and new targets set in SDA 58, 59 and 60. Please provide details of the three SDA targets on fraud and the progress to date on each of them.

SDA 58 states that: "LCD will continue to improve systems and controls throughout the Department designed to secure regularity, propriety, and value for money and safeguarding of assets and interests from losses. In particular, the Department will be focusing on meeting Government targets for the introduction of risk management and corporate governance procedures, and establishing mechanisms to demonstrate the effectiveness of those procedures".

  The Department maintains sound systems of internal control, which are kept under review and are subject to regular audit coverage. Specific measures taken by LCD to improve its systems and controls include:

    —  in January 2002 a revised system of internal financial control was introduced for LCDHQ and the Associated Offices. The system is based upon a flexible core of compliance controls, and strengthened the reporting and review structure. It introduced the assessment of risk to achieve a balance between the application of resources and the level (likelihood/impact) of the risk identified to ensure an acceptable degree of control. It also provides an auditable trail of evidence to enable assurance that controls are being operated effectively;

    —  a wide range of security measures are in place to safeguard assets and to deter and detect theft and fraud. These include physical security standards for all departmental buildings, personnel security procedures and arrangements to safeguard valuable departmental assets. The security of buildings is reviewed on a periodic basis and security arrangements in general are reviewed in the light of any emerging threats or serious incidents. The Department's programme to achieve compliance with BS7799, the British Standard for Information Security Management, will quality assure existing practices and introduce improvements where these are found to be necessary. Measures include more extensive use of risk assessment, security education and awareness for staff and improvements in physical security;

    —  the Department's Fraud Prevention Policy is communicated to all staff, and guidance on the identification, and reporting of fraud, is contained in the Departmental Finance Manual. All incidents of suspected or detected fraud are subject to rigorous investigation and appropriate action is taken, including consideration of whether controls need to be improved to prevent any further re-occurrence. The Department maintains an effective capability to investigate incidents of fraud, and includes a cadre of trained staff. The Department's Fraud Prevention Policy has been supplemented by the introduction in 2001 of a Confidential Reporting (whistle-blowing) policy, and the revision and reissue of staff conduct and disciplinary procedures in the Staff Handbook. Guidance on Propriety & Regularity issues has also been revised and is to be issued shortly through a Finance Bulletin to all staff.

  SDA 59 for 2002-03 has been slightly amended to reflect changes to government internal audit standards for internal audit in central government bodies, which took effect from April 2002; the target requires that:

    "LCD will provide annual internal audit opinion on risk management, control and governance, based on the evidence provided from an agreed programme of audit assignments and other activity; the audit work will have due regard to regularity, propriety and value for money. IAD will also provide advice and guidance on risk, control and related issues and provide assistance in the promotion of an anti-fraud culture and investigation of incidents of fraud, irregularity or corruption."

  Internal audit work programmes for 2002-03 have been agreed with the Department and its agencies' Audit Committees and Accounting Officers. The programmes are on target for completion by the end of the financial year and will provide sufficient evidence to support the annual internal audit opinions. Activity within the audit programmes provides for a strong emphasis on assessing the reliability and effectiveness of controls to safeguard the Department's assets and interests from losses of all kinds, including those arising from internal fraud, irregularity or corruption. In addition to the programmes of audits, internal audit is delivering an active contribution to the Department and its agencies' anti-fraud culture including managing the risk of fraud and the promotion of fraud awareness, fraud policies and fraud response plans. On those occasions where internal fraud is suspected or reported investigations have been/are being completed. This includes identification of any lessons learnt and of any need to refine existing control arrangements.

  SDA 60 states that: "The Department will contribute fully to central government initiatives to combat welfare benefits fraud. The Legal Services Commission's policy will be to seek prosecution of individuals in all cases where there is sufficient evidence of dishonesty. The Commission's Special Investigations Unit will continue to examine rigorously applicants' financial eligibility for publicly funded legal services".

  We are making progress.


  In 2001-02, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) concluded full investigations into 151 civil cases. In 85 per cent of these cases, investigations led to either the refusal or withdrawal of funding, or an increase in contributions payable. This compares with 84 per cent in 2000-01. In addition, the SIU assisted the Commission's regional offices with means assessment in a further 195 complex cases involving self-employed people and company directors. In 91 per cent of these cases the additional enquiries led to a change in the previous decision. This compares with 93 per cent in 2000-01. Estimated savings arising out of the work of the SIU are £1.2 million per annum.


  In April 2001 Recovery of Defence Costs Orders (RDCOs) replaced the former system of means assessment for criminal legal aid for cases which progress to the Crown Court. The SIU assists the courts in determining a defendant's ability to pay towards their defence costs where the defendant is likely to have access to significant assets and where their financial affairs are complex. In 2001-02 the SIU accepted 809 referrals from the Crown Court. Of these, 632 cases required full investigation. Investigations were concluded in 292 cases and reports submitted back to the courts. The Crown Court made 22 RDCOs as a result of reports from the SIU and the total of costs so far assessed on those 22 orders is £141,605.

  Investigations into the outstanding referrals are not yet complete. Many of the cases involving the SIU are large and the trials are not scheduled to take place until some time after the case has been referred to the SIU.

  The SIU also concluded 47 investigations relating to applications for criminal legal aid made prior to April 2001. In 40 cases (85 per cent) these investigations resulted in a change to the decision regarding funding. This compares to 93 per cent in the previous year. This slight reduction in the proportion of successful outcomes reflects the fact that some of these defendants withdrew their legal aid applications after April 2001 and reapplied under the new scheme.

Prosecutions for fraud

  The Commission is not a prosecuting authority and appropriate cases have to be referred to the police who, with the CPS, will consider whether to prosecute. The standard of evidence required for a criminal prosecution is far higher than that needed to take action on funding and these cases do not receive the highest priority by the police. Referral to the police is therefore limited to larger cases where there is clear evidence of fraud. Two new cases were referred to the police in 2001-02. In one case the police decided not to proceed further. In the second case, the file was referred to the CPS for a decision. The outcome is not yet known.

10.   Further CSR Target-Procurement: There were six targets on procurement, all of which have been dropped. In some cases they have been replaced by SDA targets. Please provide details of the SDA targets on procurement and the progress to date on each of them.

SDA 56 is: "To achieve value for money improvements in procurement, year on year, equivalent to 3 per cent of general procurement expenditure".

  The target was met in 2001-02. Activities focused on expenditure in areas such as reprographics, postage, catering, security and motor vehicles and delivered value for money improvements of £8.63 million against overall expenditure of £50 million on general procurement. The £8.63 million will form part of the LCD contribution to the OGC £1 billion VFM target.

  SDA 57 is: "To deliver an annual programme to review at least 20 per cent (by value) of the total expended on general procurement".

  Planned reviews of colour print services, hotel requirements and catering services, as well as security initiatives, including reviews of personnel, duties and hours worked were carried out. This represents an approximate value of £12 million against a baseline of £50 million (24 per cent).

  As a component part of e-commerce, the successful pilot of the Government Procurement Card has been evaluated and a phased implementation to remaining areas of the Court Service is due to be completed by the Autumn. The introduction of the Card to the remainder of the department will follow by the end of this year.

  A key task for 2002-03 is the further development of the procurement cross-cutting responsibility which is aimed at strengthening procurement across the whole of the department's commercial activities. The Centre Led Action Network (CLAN) has been created and as a priority a survey of commercial activities, expenditure and capability across the department, its agencies and NDPBs is under way. The survey is intended to facilitate the sharing of information and best practice and to identify opportunities for collaboration and scope for improvement.

  The expectation is that the CLAN will play a major role in contributing to the achievement of procurement objectives and targets.


11.   The department has now completed one full financial year with a live resource budget and is coming to the end of the first quarter of the second year. How effective have the assumptions underlying resource budgeting process been and how has the department performed against its budget for 2001-02?

  The assumptions underlying the resource budget were generally fairly robust. In some instances, particularly with regard to the provision for higher criminal legal aid (increased by £50 million) and the increase in capital charges for the Court Estate (increased by £14.7 million), the initial assumptions required adjustment through the Supplementary Estimates process. The Department's in-year monitoring process highlighted those changes and enabled the adjustments to be made through the normal parliamentary procedures for approving government expenditure.

  The performance against the 2001-02 budget is currently being finalised. The outturn figure is expected to be close to budget but is still subject to some accounting adjustments such as those associated with the Machinery of Government changes. In addition, of course, it is possible that a significant event after the year-end (known as a Post Balance Sheet Event), may necessitate further adjustments to the final outturn position at any point until the accounts are certified.

12.   In previous years there have been significant losses disclosed due to the fines, fees, costs and contribution that could not be collected. Given this, has the department estimated the likely impact on losses of removing means testing and moving to a system whereby at the end of the case the judge can order defendants in Crown Court cases to pay back some or all of the costs of defence after an assessment of means?

  The primary purpose in abolishing the means test was to remove the potential for delay in the Criminal Justice System, and to avoid administrative weaknesses that the National Audit Office (NAO) had highlighted every year since 1990. It was not to increase the amounts collected from defendants. Some reduction in revenue net of the direct costs of administering the test was expected, but with gains in enabling the criminal justice system to deal with cases more expeditiously. In reviewing the new system, we shall assess the likely impact on financial losses and the options for reducing them. The Comptroller and Auditor-General has accepted (in his Report of 20 February 2001) that Recovery of Defence Costs Orders (RDCOs) have removed the control weaknesses over the grant of funding in the Magistrates' Courts.


Financial Tables

13.   Tables A2 to A4 and the additional table for Capital Employed for LCD include outturn figures for 2000-01. Should these figures equate to figures included in the published resource account for 2000-01? For example, Table A2 analyses expenditure under the same headings as Note 8 of the 2000-01 resource account but the figures in Table A2 differ substantially from those in Note 8 of the accounts (see below). Can you clarify why the figures above disclosed in Table A2 are not the same as those in the published resource account?

  The figures shown in Table A2 are prepared on a different basis to the Resource Account figures, but it is possible to reconcile the two. The main reasons for the differences are explained in detail below, but generally speaking it is due to the structure of the HM Treasury FIS Database (from which the Departmental Report tables are drawn). It has not yet been possible to update the database with figures derived from the Resource Accounts, although it has been possible to reconcile the database to our Appropriation Accounts, as the database structure more readily suits that format. For example, it is not possible to show the Legal Aid provision or the capital charge related to this provision under Legal Aid on the database. This has instead been shown under Headquarters.

  There are also certain streams of expenditure that appear under different headings in the DR tables and the Resource Accounts. The table below sets out the key differences:
HeadingPublished RA
Legal Aid
Consolidated Fund Non-cash charges/accrualsTable A2

Headquarters and
Associated Offices
6691816 181
Court Service306 83(39)350
Public Trust Office10 (6)4
Community Legal Service781 15 796
Costs from Central Funds40 (1) 39
Legal Aid: Criminal972 (91)(30) 851

  Non-cash charges and accruals adjustments are not included in the Appropriation Account, and so have not yet been updated from forecast figures. The non-cash items are reflected in the Department's Annually Managed Expenditure due to the fact that they were never forecast before the introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting and are therefore highly volatile.

  The Legal Services Commission: Admin line cannot be reconciled because they are being reported on two completely different bases, which is due to differences in the resources accounting and resource budgeting boundaries. In the Resource Accounts, the grant paid to the LSC is recorded. In the Departmental Report, the resource consumption of the LSC itself is recorded. This resource consumption has also yet to be reconciled to their own published accounts, and so the table shows their forecast resource consumption.

14.   Under Publicly Funded Legal Services, does the line "Legal Aid: Criminal" include both criminal and civil legal aid for 1998-99 and 1999-2000?

  The entry, which relates to expenditure incurred before the creation of the Community Legal Service and Criminal Defence Service, should have read "Legal Aid". We apologise for the error.

15.   Overall, legal aid has increased significantly in 2000-01 and Table A2 suggests that costs are expected to remain at this increased level. Where is this arising (ie Magistrates' Courts, Crown Court)? What are the reasons for this and what is the department doing to cap expenditure at the present level?

  The increase relates solely to criminal legal aid—civil legal aid has decreased.

  The increase is mainly in the Crown Court, where average costs are rising partly as a result of a fall in the plea rate—with fewer guilty pleas and more trials. But the main reason is the increase in the cost of high-cost cases; the most expensive 1 per cent of cases (mainly serious fraud, drug trafficking and revenue cases) now cost 49 per cent of Crown Court legal aid. We expect some increase in the volume of cases going to the Magistrates' Court as a result of Government initiatives for tackling crime and dealing with persistent offenders.

  Criminal legal aid is demand led and available to anyone charged with a serious offence. Decisions to prosecute are taken elsewhere (by the police and prosecuting agencies). The Department cannot simply cap expenditure when it has no control over case volumes, or increasing complexity.

  Nevertheless, the Department has done much to control costs in individual cases. For example, 90 per cent of cases in Magistrates' Courts are paid at a standard fee. In the Crown Court advocates are paid a graduated standard fee in all cases involving trials of up to 25 days. Use of QCs is now more tightly controlled, and QCs are used in 50 per cent fewer cases. Additionally, the Legal Services Commission is piloting the use of contracts in very high cost cases, when the work required and rate payable at each stage are agreed in advance. Early indications suggest that considerable savings are possible, but there would be a substantial initial cost in extending these contracts because lawyers must be paid earlier. No decision has yet been taken on extending these contracts; we will look at this carefully in light of the spending review.

16.   Court service resource expenditure increased by 76 per cent in 2000-01, is expected to increase by 22 per cent in 2001-02 and is thereafter expected to rise by about 5 per cent per year. What were the reasons for these large increases and the sustained higher expenditure levels in later years?

  The expenditure figures in Table A2 do not provide an accurate picture of changes in Court Service expenditure because of the change in accounting from the cash system to Resource Accounting and Budgeting during the period covered by the table.

  The Court Service published its first set of audited agency accounts in 2000-01. Total net expenditure was £411 million in 2000-01 rising to £514 million in 2001-02, an increase of 25 per cent. This increase is almost wholly explained by additional funding secured to support the following:

    —  Courts' Modernisation Programme (£11 million);

    —  asylum expansion (£38 million);

    —  additional Crown Court sitting days (£10 million);

    —  inflationary increases (£14 million); and

    —  transfer of staff functions relating to Magistrates' Courts administrative issues (£26 million).

  Increases in future years will depend on the outcome of spending decisions, for example, additional asylum expenditure, and investment in court information technology.

Table A5: Staff Numbers

17.   In Table A5 no casual staff are included for LCD for 2000-01 and overtime was lower than in other years. How did circumstances at LCD differ from in other years so that there was reduced overtime and no casual staff needed to be employed during 2000-01?

The figure recorded for casuals in 2000-01 was omitted in error and should read 450, which is not significantly different to previous years.

  The overtime figure is only slightly lower than the three previous years. Overtime fluctuates according to local business needs, and we do not collect information on the particular reasons for authorising overtime.


18.   On page 75 there is a reference to the department strengthening its Corporate Board and corporate functions in response to the external peer review. Can you explain how this has been achieved and the impact this has made?

  The Peer Review found that the Board did not have the necessary mechanisms to ensure that as information and issues were brought to it these were presented in ways that enabled the Board quickly to get to the root of the problem and take effective decisions that could then be swiftly implemented. It was also important to involve a wider number of senior staff more directly in corporate governance. This has been achieved by establishing a proper network of sub-committees for the Board to provide greater scrutiny on specific areas of the department's work. The four sub-committees are the Resources and Priorities Committee (which has been primarily focused on the department's contribution to SR2002); the HR sub-committee; the E Business Strategy Group; and Policy Committee. At the beginning of 2002-03 we established at SCS level a new post with responsibilities for ensuring proper co-ordination between the Board and its sub-committees and to develop the Board's ability to look strategically beyond the immediate. As part of his responsibilities the postholder is responsible for the departmental planning system. We also made arrangements to make senior members of staff owners of particular PSA delivery targets from April 2001. PSA Working Groups exist for all targets or groups of targets, and include as appropriate, representation from other Government Departments, the voluntary sector and other agencies. The owners have to report on performance and progress on a six-monthly basis to the Corporate Board. With the conclusion of SR2002 the Resources and Priorities Committee will now take over the work of detailed scrutiny of the PSA targets with the Board concentrating on any areas where remedial action is required.

  The Departmental Change Programme Review, which began in co-operation with OPSR, will include in its detailed work examination of our ability to manage effectively our programmes and help us to identify the necessary changes to be more effective.

19.   The report says that the department is on course to meet the HM Treasury timetable to implement and fully test procedures in support of the Statement of Internal Control. Can you explain the processes for identifying risks and mitigating controls, who has carried out this work on behalf of the project board and the timetable for completing it?

  The processes for identifying the key risks to Departmental Objectives and Targets and establishing mitigating controls are set out in the LCD Policy and Framework for Managing Risk, which is based upon the principles set out in the HM Treasury Guide "Management of Risk—a Strategic Overview" (The Orange Book). The process of risk self-assessment, which is being applied to objectives and targets at each level of the organisation, was developed by the project team in consultation with external consultants. The Framework incorporates a standard Template for recording the following discrete stages:

  1.  Defining & Testing Objectives/Targets—Through identifying the critical success factors and key performance indicators, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of internal and external environmental factors, and identification of the stakeholders.

  2.  Risk Identification—Through workshops and other discussions focusing on inherent risks and using the headline risks of External, Financial, Activity, and Human Resources to encourage discussion, consideration and capture of the full range of risks.

  3.  Risk Assessment—With a number of risks identified, consideration is then given to the impact and likelihood of each risk to establish which are the most significant, using a scale of one (Very Low) to five (Very High). The discussion that follows this initial risk assessment, is key to clarify understanding of the risks and driving out new risks.

  4.  Risk Management—Having identified and prioritised the significant risks, consideration is given to the contributing factors (or root/primary causes) which determine a risk's likelihood or impact, the current responses/controls in place to manage the risks and decide upon their adequacy, and finally whether anything more is required to manage the residual risk (ie the level of risk that still exists in spite of the controls already in place).

  5.  Risk Monitoring & Reporting—Within LCD the various business areas of the LCD HQ, the Associated Offices, Court Service, PGO, and the Executive NDPBs have their own reporting structures which adopt the formal reporting of risk. The Departmental level reporting of risk, which includes contributions from each of its business areas through submission of a Risk Register to a quarterly timetable, aims to draw up knowledge of the risks to the Department's business and cascade strategy down.

  The project board is chaired by the Director of Corporate Services. The Project Reviewer is the Head of Financial Systems Branch, and the Project Manager is a member of that branch. The introduction of risk management procedures is a strand of SDA 58, the Target Owner for which is Head of Financial Systems Branch.

  The LCD Policy and Framework for Managing Risk was published on 11 June 2002. A summary of remaining timetable tasks include:
August-September 2002Ongoing Risk Workshop/Training for staff
September-October 2002Key Departmental Committees (eg PSA Working Groups) to provide quarterly Risk Register and report to the Corporate Board
October 2002Compilation of the first draft of the Departmental Risk Register and submission of Summary Risk Report to the Corporate Board
November 2002 to April 2003Review of supporting procedures to the SIC, including the LCD Policy and Framework for Managing Risk
April 2003Draft Statement on the Systems of Internal Control


20.   The table on page 88 shows an estimated outturn of £84 million and projection of £69 million for current payments by central government under PFI and PPPs in 2001-02 and 2002-03 respectively but only £1 million relates to the Magistrates' Courts PFI. Can you provide a breakdown of these figures by project to show what the remaining expenditure relates to?

  The remaining expenditure relates to the following PPP contracts:

PPP Contract
Estimated Outturn 2001-02 (£m) Projections 2002-03 (£m)
Probate Records Centre1.47 1.53
Chester Civil Justice Centre*0.5

  *  Private Developer Scheme, the rest are PFI deals.

21.   Page 88 refers to Private Finance initiative and Public Private Partnerships. However, there is no information given on the IT PFIs disclosed in the published resource for 2000-01 and also in last year's departmental report. Can you please update us on these projects?

  Information on the running costs for the IT PFI deals was included in central government expenditure in the table on page 88 of the departmental report. Figures for the individual projects, which are also included in the answer to question 20, are:
PPP ContractEstimated Outturn 2001-02 (£m) Projections 2002-03 (£m)


22.   Media coverage in the last few months suggest that the LIBRA project, responsibility for which transferred to the Court Service during the year, may be in severe difficulties. Can you please set out what the current position is on this project and any possible effects on the 2001-02 and 2002-03 accounts?

  Delivery of the first phase of the Libra programme, to provide a modern national infrastructure to the Magistrates' Courts, is 75 per cent complete. The remainder will be completed by early next year.

  The second phase, to provide a new standard software application, was not delivered by the supplier when originally planned. We are in negotiations with the Libra supplier, Fujitsu Services, to resolve this situation and Parliament will be informed of the outcome as soon as those negotiations are concluded.

  Expenditure for 2001-02 was within the limits set for the project. The funding position from 2002-03 onwards remains dependent on the outcome of current negotiations. The Department does not expect to revise the existing accounting treatment of the Libra programme as a result of the contractual changes.

23.   The Management Information System (MIS) is discussed on page 74. This says that managers and staff in LCD HQ and the Court Service will be able to access case level data on the system. Are there any plans to extend the system to integrate with Magistrates' Courts to ease the transfer of information when cases are moved from Magistrates' Courts to higher courts?

  MIS is not intended to, nor will it, support case management of cases transferring from Magistrates' Courts to the Crown Court. It is an enquiry, analysis and reporting tool designed to improve the Department's understanding of the work of the courts.

  The benefits of extending MIS to include some data from Magistrates' Courts for management information purposes have been recognised, and this option will be kept under review.


24.   Page 23 sets out the target to increase the proportion of asylum appeals completed within four months to 65 per cent from 2002-03. In the first quarter of 2001-02, 44.8 per cent of appeals went through both appeal tiers within 17 weeks. Is it possible to break down the process time at each tier to identify where the delays are arising?

  It is possible to break down the process time not just for each tier but for the various parts of each tier. This information is given below for asylum appeals received by the IAA between 1 April 2001 and 31 September 2001.

  Of the asylum appeals received by the IAA from 1 April 2001 to 30 September 2001, the average process times for each stage of the appellate process were as follows:
Adjudicator first hearing96.5 per cent dealt within eight weeks
Adjudicator substantive hearing87.3 per cent dealt within 15 weeks
Application to Tribunal62.1 per cent dealt within 21 weeks
Substantive Tribunal hearing59 per cent dealt within 35 weeks

  In each case, the timings are from initial receipt of the appeal by the IAA.

25.   Are there targets set for each tier? If so, what has been performance against targets? If not, why have targets not been set for each appeal tier?

  The current target is for the two tiers combined. There are no published targets for each of the two separate tiers of the IAA. The IAA has set internal performance indicators broken down for each of the two tiers for the first time this financial year. Data will start to come on stream starting with the April figures from the end of August. (There is always a five-month lead time: four months to allow for the case to progress through the system and one month to collect and collate the relevant data.)

26.   The target at the Home Office for processing asylum applications is 60 per cent of new substantive applications to be decided within two months. The Home Office departmental report says that performance has improved and, if sustained, the target can be met. This is a significantly shorter time scale than the LCD target for appeals processing. As the proportion of appeals is very high, is this causing a bottleneck of appeals and if so, how is the department intending to address this?

  The Home Office target and the LCD target are both expressed as percentages to be achieved within overall periods to help improve measurement of performance over the end to end system.

  The IND process aims to make 60 per cent of decisions within two months. This is essentially an administrative decision-making process. The appeal target is for a judicial process which is much more complex and relies on judicial case management of the appellant's appeal and of the Home Office's response to that appeal. It also relies on the simultaneous availability on the hearing day of appellants, their legal representatives, HO presenting officers and interpreters. The current target of 65 per cent within four months covers both tiers of the Immigration Appellate Authority and includes judicial decisions by adjudicators, by the Immigration Appeal Tribunal (IAT) on leave to appeal, and by the IAT on substantive appeals. The IAA also handles appeals on immigration cases, family visit visa appeals and bail applications in relation to asylum and immigration cases.

  The Home Office made over 130,000 initial decisions in 2000-01, effectively dealing with all their backlog of initial decisions. Appeals are being fed through to the IAA at a current rate of 4,500 each month, which will rise to 6,000 each month from November 2002. The HO and LCD have worked jointly to manage this very significant volume of cases. This has necessitated an unprecedented expansion of the IAA: judiciary, staff and courtrooms, and a corresponding increase in the number of interpreters, legal representatives and HO presenting officers. All of these will be in place to support the November increase in caseload and the IAA will be able to eat further into the bottleneck of the backlog of appeals, as well as handling all new appeals.

27.   Given the link between the two departments in this area, how far do LCD and the Home Office liaise when setting their targets?

  LCD and HO work very closely together on target setting, on planning for the future and on the day-to-day handling of cases.

  Both LCD and the Home Office have major programmes in place to expand their capacity and improve their performance and each Department has senior level representation on the other's Programme Board.

  In addition, a senior LCD official sits on the Board of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

  Joint projects involving both LCD and IND (and other key stakeholders as appropriate) are tackling a number of key areas, especially adjournments in the IAA. This project has used joint working to achieve a reduction in the adjournment rate from 30 per cent to 20 per cent.

28.   Page 24 refers to the IAA trying to increase the appeals processing capacity from 4,000 to 6,000 per month from November 2002. What is the estimated additional cost of this? What are the longer-term targets?

  The estimated additional cost for the year 2002-03 is £65.8 million. The longer-term targets will be focused on speeding up the average time that each case spends within the appeal systems—and the asylum system as a whole—whilst still ensuring that the interests of justice are served both for the appellant and the Government.

  Work is ongoing to assess appropriate future targets and funding as part of the current spending review. At this time it is expected that the Home Office and LCD will set SDAs as well as working together to set a joint target for the "end-to-end" asylum system. Such a target would be supported by focused funding arrangements agreed with Treasury.

29.   Suggestions have been made by the Home Secretary that asylum seekers who appeal might be expected to return to their country of origin or their first point of entry and appeal from there. In general terms, what additional costs would be associated with asylum seekers appealing from overseas and what additional difficulties may this cause?

  The IAA already hears appeals from abroad for family visit visa appeals, either on paper or at oral hearings where the appellant's legal or other representative may appear. Experience of these appeals will help to inform the handling of other out-of-country appeals and joint work between IND and LCD will aim to reduce any potential difficulties.

  The Home Secretary has brought forward measures in the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Bill currently before the House, which would allow the conduct of appeals from certain categories of asylum seekers from abroad. IND and LCD are working closely on an implementation plan following Royal Assent. This will include an evaluation of the likely costs and savings.


30.   Page 40 says that there have been changes to criminal legal aid which is now provided through contracts with private sector lawyers and a small number of public defenders. This is said to have achieved value for money. What evidence is there to support this? Can this be quantified financially?

  Criminal contracting was introduced only in April 2001, and the Public Defender Service (PDS) is still being established. It is therefore too early to quantify improvements in value for money. Contracting provides an assurance of what is being done for the money paid, and improvements should follow progressively as suppliers improve their performance, not least in response to the challenge of the benchmark information LSC gain through the PDS. We have commissioned researchers to undertake a full evaluation of the performance, cost and value of the new PDS offices.

31.   Page 40 also refers to individual case contracts being applied in Crown Court cases. How do these operate, eg by day, by case?

  These are the "Very High Cost Criminal Cases" or VHCCC contracts. Cases are managed under individual contracts between LSC and defence teams. Payment for work is agreed on the basis of an overall case plan and individual stage plans. Prices are agreed for each stage and are fixed, subject to limited tolerances, or unforeseeable circumstances. Payments are made at the conclusion of each stage. There is no need for taxation at the end of the case. Pricing takes place within a rigorous framework, including hourly rates set in regulations, for both solicitors and counsel.

  The LSC will arrange an Individual Case Contract (ICC) for any very high cost case, ie a case predicted to last more than 25 days (if it proceeds to trial) or to incur defence costs of more than £150,000. The £150,000 applies to any one defendant, or a group of defendants if represented by the same firm of solicitors, and includes the solicitor costs, fees payable to counsel, or experts, and other disbursements. Since April 2001, only Serious Fraud Panel Members can undertake very high cost serious fraud cases.

  The indications are that these contracts can save substantial sums, but there is a substantial "bring forward" of expenditure because lawyers are paid earlier. We will look at how far this scheme can be rolled out in the light of the spending review.

32.   Page 40 says the introduction of individual case contracts in Crown Court cases is making sure costs are controlled. One of the findings in the recent Audit Commission report, Route to Justice, was that lawyers are boosting their fees through adjournment and cancellation of trials, how would these arrangements prevent this and ensure costs are kept under control? Can you provide details of the financial saving of using QCs less?

  The Audit Commission report suggested that the system was open to such abuse. However, the very serious and lengthy cases dealt with under individual case contracts will be subject to strict management by the judiciary, limiting the scope for abuse. In addition, case contracts control such behaviour, as all work must be identified and justified in advance in the stage plan. We would not pay for work caused by unnecessary adjournments by the defence team.

  These complex arrangements are not suitable for more conventional cases, because contract management would be disproportionate to the case costs involved. We already have considerable control over cost from the use of standard and graduated fees. In the context of Auld, we will extend these schemes and ensure that they properly reward good and timely preparation.

  The present fee structures do not, we believe, encourage lawyers to generally prolong cases. Most payments in the Magistrates' Courts are based on standard fees which give no incentive to spin out cases. The Graduated Fee Scheme for advocates in the Crown Court provides set fees, with little incentive to prolong cases. Cases outside these schemes are paid ex post facto, when it can be argued that there this is some incentive to prolong cases. We are working on a defence fee structure, to replace existing ex post facto work, which will support efficient, timely and effective case preparation, as part of the Auld reforms.

  In the year to May 2002, there was a saving of £1.16 million in payments to QCs in graduated fee cases over the previous year. This followed the introduction of new regulations in September 2000 to control more tightly when Queen's Counsel might be allowed for the defence in Crown Court cases. A judge may still allow the defence a QC where the case warrants.

33.   What has been the experience of the first year of operation of the pilot Public Defender Service office in Liverpool? (page 40)

  The Liverpool PDS office has had a successful first year. Key challenges have been to establish the office, recruit and build a team of people and begin to develop a client base from scratch. From its opening in May 2001 to the end of March 2002, the office commenced 482 cases, 37 per cent from previous clients or referrals from existing clients. It is too early to make a full evaluation. Researchers will start work shortly to do so.


34.   On page 19, details are given of SDA2. This includes the target to reduce unnecessary attendance of witnesses at Magistrates' Courts by 10 per cent over the period 2001-04. In the last 12 months there has been a reduction of 3 per cent to 50 per cent. Can you provide details of the reasons why unnecessary attendance arises, why the unnecessary attendance rate is so high and what steps the department is taking to reduce unnecessary attendance?

  The Department introduced a "Cracked, Ineffective and Vacated Trial" monitoring scheme into all Magistrates' Courts in January 2002 (with data being collected from April 2002). This will assist the criminal justice agencies to identify and tackle the causes of unnecessary attendance. The main categories of reasons that will be identified from the scheme are:

    —  prosecution end case;

    —  prosecution not ready;

    —  late plea change;

    —  guilty plea on alternative charge;

    —  prosecution witness absent;

    —  defendant absent/unfit;

    —  defence not ready;

    —  defence witness absent;

    —  right to representation problems; and

    —  lack of court time.

  Initial data from the pilot monitoring scheme showed that the biggest contributors were: late plea changes; prosecution witnesses (both police and civilian) absent; defendant absent; prosecution end case; and lack of court time. We expect data from the scheme to be used at a local level to improve inter-agency co-operation, and thereby performance.

35.   On page 19, it says that a new monitoring scheme to help Magistrates' Courts identify the reasons for trials "cracking" or being "ineffective" was launched in January 2001. Full data collection to help Magistrates' Courts Committees identify and monitor problems in the Criminal Justice System did not start until April 2002. Why was there a delay of 15 months between the launching of the scheme and the start of data collection?

  This is a typographical error. The scheme was launched in January 2002, not 2001.


36.   The department implemented reforms in January 2001 to send indictable-only cases straight to the Crown Court after the first appearance in the Magistrates' Court. Page 21 says that this reform has not been fully evaluated but the early indications are that it has reduced waiting times in the more serious cases. What data is available to indicate that this reform is reducing waiting times? When does the department intend to carry out a full evaluation of this reform?

  The target set for the disposal of indictable only cases when the change was implemented was 26 weeks. This period broadly reflected the average time that these more complex and difficult cases took to progress through both the Magistrates' and Crown Court.

  For the period January-May 2000 (a full year after implementation) the average waiting time for indictable only offences is 17.3 weeks, over eight weeks less than the target.

  It is not intended to undertake a full evaluation of the reforms for a further six months to ensure that all the changes brought about by the reform have settled down.


37.   Page 22 says that the department is using court capacity more effectively to reduce surplus. Courtroom over-capacity was reduced from 43 per cent in 2000 to 38.5 per cent between April and September 2001. This is said to represent a reduction of 10.5 per cent not 4.5 per cent. Can you please clarify this?

  The target was to reduce the level of over capacity (43 per cent) by 10 per cent. A reduction of 4.5 per cent of 43 per cent represents a reduction in over capacity of 10.5 per cent.

38.   Courtroom over-capacity is evidently still a significant problem. What measures is the department employing to reduce over-capacity?

  A series of meetings has been held with Justices, Chief Executives and Circuit Administrators/Group Managers to agree a sensible blueprint for the Court (Joint) Estate against which all future business cases will be measured. To date meetings have been held covering 35 Magistrates' Court areas and the programme will be completed in the early autumn. The meetings have identified some 60 opportunities for sharing with Magistrates' Courts where the latter have spare hearing room capacity. In the majority of instances this will mean moving from Victorian county courts to modern Magistrates' Courts buildings which should result in the provision of better quality facilities both to our customers and our staff. Feasibility studies will be undertaken to determine whether this potential can be realised. There would appear to be little difficulty from a Courtroom/Hearing Room point of view. The major problem is likely to be whether the county court staff can be accommodated in the building as well. Magistrates' Courts generally are over-provided with courtrooms but under-provided with office space and ancillary facilities.

39.   The department is also said to be tackling the problem of some urban areas having too many separate court locations. How widespread is this problem and how is the department trying to address this?

  The problem is now much less widespread, as the Department has made significant efforts to address the issue of separate locations in urban areas.

  The major problem was the number of separate offices for Probate and some Tribunals. In the last few years we have relocated offices and combined them where possible and/or sought out more cost-effective accommodation. These include the Probate offices in Lincoln, Leicester, Oxford, Ipswich and York, and the Pensions Appeals Tribunal and VAT Tribunal in Birmingham and the Pensions Appeals Tribunal in Newcastle upon Tyne. There are plans for new build schemes to include both Probate and other administrative offices into one building in Bristol, Exeter and Manchester.


40.   Are contracts with solicitors mentioned on page 37 broken down into different categories of work?

  Yes. Contracts are broken down into the following categories of law:

    —  Family;

    —  Housing;

    —  Public Law;

    —  Consumer;

    —  Community Care;

    —  Mental Health;

    —  Welfare Benefits;

    —  Immigration;

    —  Actions against the Police;

    —  Clinical Negligence;

    —  Debt;

    —  Education;

    —  Personal Injury;

    —  Employment;

    —  "Tolerances"*.

  *  Tolerances are included in contracts to enable contracted organisations to undertake related work in which they do not hold category-specific contracts. The number of tolerances is a fixed percentage of the overall contract size, usually about 10 per cent.

41.   Are sufficient lawyers with necessary expertise and achieving the CLS Quality mark available to cover all aspects of the law (eg, immigration, particularly given the increase in asylum applications an appeals)?

  LSC and LCD keep the supply of lawyers under close review. At present, there is no general shortage of lawyers willing to undertake publicly funded legal services. There are some rural and semi-urban areas of England and Wales where we would like to increase supply, and we are working to expand service provision in particular in social welfare and asylum law.

  As for the future, there was a drop of 6 per cent this year from last in the number of solicitors' firms undertaking publicly funded work. There is intelligence that many firms are contemplating leaving it. Publicly funded work is not very profitable and, as costs rise, some firms may find it in their commercial interests to leave it. We are looking with the LSC at what we can do to ensure a continuing service in the light of the SR2002 settlement.

42.   On page 69 it states that "Community Legal Partnerships now cover 95 per cent of the population in England and Wales". In which parts of the country do the other 5 per cent of the population live?

  By June 2002 coverage of England and Wales by Community Legal Service (CLS) Partnerships had extended to 99.14 per cent. We are confident that we will reach 100 per cent population coverage by the end of the autumn, some 18 months ahead of the Lord Chancellor's target date of spring 2004. We would prefer not publicly to name the four areas where Partnerships have not yet been established while negotiations continue between them and the LSC.


43.   What has been the financial impact of the changes in the funding regime for civil litigation?

  The financial impact on civil litigation generally is inconclusive. Changes in the funding regime have coincided with civil procedure ("Woolf") reforms. These have required more work to be done before proceedings—and look to have resulted in many disputes being settled without any, or without as lengthy or onerous, proceedings. Test cases on costs, behind which many other cases have yet to be resolved, have only recently been determined in the higher courts.

  We are considering commissioning quantitative research into case management in fast and multi-track cases. This is likely to capture information on costs in civil cases that proceed to trial and may capture information on settled cases. The Civil Justice Council's Costs Working Group will be commissioning data collection to inform options for introducing fixed recoverable costs for personal injury disputes in the pre-action protocol and fast track periods.

  As for legal aid our best estimate is that the introduction of CFAs, and the decision to take personal injury cases out of scope, saves around £100 million a year. This is based on an assessment of the decline in the volume of work after 1995 when CFAs were introduced, as well as the savings from taking personal injury out of scope in 2000. It is necessarily not a precise figure.

44.   Page 43 says that response to the changes has been more gradual in complex areas of litigation. Now that two years have passed since the changes were implemented, are there any areas of civil litigation which LCD consider cannot be properly served by the legal services market?

  Legislation does not allow CFAs in family cases but some forms of private provision are available such as specific insurance policies for maintenance after divorce.

  Even with test cases on cost recovery unresolved, the market has proved innovative and is moving into areas previously seen as risky, such as defamation and clinical negligence. Some areas may be unpromising, for instance, where there is public funding, cases which require substantial investigation to assess prospects of success, or where the likely outcome is inherently difficult to assess.


45.   On page 52, the department acknowledges that there have been teething problems with funding, managing and completing the set-up of CAFCASS. What were these problems and how were they addressed?

  CAFCASS was set up to a very demanding legislative timetable. It was always clear that, whatever our long-term ambitions for it, in the short term it would take considerable hard work merely to bring together the three existing services (including numerous local arrangements), while continuing to provide a service on the ground. Despite the problems, we do not think anyone seriously disputes that the creation of CAFCASS was the right way forward.

  A dispute between CAFCASS and self-employed guardians clearly took up much time and effort, and diverted attention from other important issues. However, CAFCASS has made significant progress on the issue of contracts for the self-employed children's guardians. The vast majority of the guardians have now accepted the offers CAFCASS made.

  Following a series of regional visits, the independent Magistrates' Courts Inspectorate (MCSI) reported in March 2002 that CAFCASS had generally continued to provide the same service as was provided prior to its creation. Nonetheless, we recognise that there will have been local variations from this overall assessment and we are aware that there have been some specific local difficulties due to the decisions of individual self-employed guardians about their future in some of those areas. Where this was the case CAFCASS has taken action, including the appointment of new employed guardians, to ensure services are maintained. CAFCASS will appoint new guardians where there are local shortfalls.

  CAFCASS's budget was based on the historical expenditure of the three component services, plus new cash for start-up costs. CAFCASS's expenditure in 2001-02, on a cash basis, came in slightly under budget. As with any new organisation it takes time to review resource needs and drive out the greater efficiency that a merged organisation can offer.

  CAFCASS, as a new national organisation, has had to work with the management information it inherited from its predecessor bodies. This was not homogenous and the data was limited. CAFCASS has, however, begun to address how this management information can be improved across the service.

  The Department is working closely with the CAFCASS Board and management team. Rosie Winterton MP has regular meetings with the Chairman and receives reports from him. CAFCASS is now beginning to develop a unified service and is progressing forward with greater purpose and confidence.

46.   What information do you have on the level of satisfaction of users of CAFCASS compared with the situation two years ago?

  Two years ago no baseline existed to measure the satisfaction of users of the services which were brought together to form CAFCASS, as each had its own system for monitoring performance. As for any new organisation, it is necessary to develop performance indicators that are specific and appropriate to its operation.

  One of the six key objectives, which the Lord Chancellor set CAFCASS upon launch, was to create effective measures to assess the quality of services it offers. In its Corporate Plan for 2002-06, CAFCASS sets out the key indicators it will develop, and against which their performance will be measured in subsequent years. This includes identifying the best means of measuring the satisfaction of children, families and other stakeholders in its service.

  The best information on the performance of CAFCASS compared with two years ago comes from the independent inspection conducted by the Inspectorate. Its view, in its report published in March 2002, based on initial structured visits to the regions during 2001, was that:

    "CAFCASS...has generally continued to deliver a service to children, families and courts to at least the same standards as in the previous services prior to the creation of CAFCASS."

  This is a tribute to the professionalism and dedication of the great majority of CAFCASS staff.

  The MSCI report was placed in the House libraries.


47.   On page 58, you forecast a shortfall during 2001-02 in the appointment of medical members of the Appeals Service and the Mental Health Review Tribunals, adding that measures have been taken, in conjunction with the Department of Health, to improve the recruitment of doctors. What form have these taken and are there any indications yet as to how successful these measures have been?

  The recruitment of medical members across the health-related tribunals has been a cause for concern for some years. This reflects a general shortage of consultant psychiatrists, with 17 per cent vacancies nationally reported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists; higher in certain locations.

  Nevertheless, in conjunction with the Department of Health, a number of steps have been taken to improve matters. These include:

    —  increasing the frequency of recruitment exercises for medical members;

    —  extending the retirement age of medical members to 70 (and considering requests from DH to extend individual appointments on a year by year basis between age 70 and 75);

    —  the Department of Health increasing the fee level;

    —  changing the criteria for appointment as a medical member of the MHRT, to recognise part-time as well as full-time experience;

    —  establishing regular contact and meetings between LCD officials and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Current projects in conjunction with the College include a proposed schedule of talks by officials to NHS Trust executives, medical directors and local interest groups, in order to raise the profile of the Tribunal;

    —  sending a questionnaire to existing medical members of the MHRT asking for their opinion of the present recruitment service, and suggestions for ways in which more members might be attracted. The results are now being analysed;

    —  sending an additional questionnaire to consultant psychiatrists not presently members of the MHRT. Although the exercise is in its early stages, results so far have been positive and sufficient interest has been generated to warrant arranging a new recruitment competition;

    —  The Lord Chancellor continues to explore with Ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health what other initiatives might be taken to attract more medical applicants.

  So far, the most promising results have been from the more personal contact that officials are establishing with both the profession and individual psychiatrists and the general raising of interest in Tribunal business. As a result of this work, a number of consultants have declared an interest in becoming members of the Tribunal and a new competition has been organised for later this year. It is too early yet to assess the impact of the fee increase.

48.   According to page 59, only 82 per cent of Magistrates' posts that Advisory Committees were seeking to fill were filled last year, against a target of 95 per cent. What action is the department intending to take to help the Committees set the ideal number of Magistrates for a bench and realistic targets for filling those posts?

  The Lord Chancellor has commissioned a National Recruitment Strategy for Lay Magistrates and there is ongoing consultation with the Advisory Committees regarding local recruitment and target setting.


49.   Initial legal advice has suggested that the 1958 and 1967 Public Records Acts may not be able to cope adequately with electronic records and may be out of line with government and business environments. On page 119 it says that PRO are proposing to undertake a study with other government departments which may recommend that they work towards new legislation. Can you provide details of the departments involved in this, when you anticipate this study may be undertaken, and the broad remit of the review?

  With reference to Question 49, the Public Record Office, as a separate government department with its own accounting officer, has provided the answers to the Committee's questions.

  An initial scoping study is being undertaken by a small group of departments, comprising PRO, LCD (with its FOI and data protection responsibilities), Cabinet Office, DCMS (because of its responsibility for heritage and cultural matters), FCO (a major creator of historical records) and the Department of the Deputy Prime Minister (now responsible for local authority archives services). The group will be advised by a Treasury Solicitor representative retained by PRO and chaired by the Keeper of Public Records.

  The group will meet for the first time in early August. Its role will be to set an agenda for consideration by a working group which is planned to report to Ministers before the end of the year. It will consider the need for and scope of legislation to replace the Public Records Act 1958. The aspects it is likely to consider include:

    —  provision for the long-term management and preservation of electronic records of central government and the courts, so as to preserve their authenticity and reliability;

    —  creation of a National Archives, by bringing together the functions of the PRO and the Historical Manuscripts Commission (a body whose remit relates to records that are not covered by the Public Records Act 1958)—as announced by Baroness Blackstone on 12 July;

    —  a legal framework for the proper management of the records of central government, with provision for standards and monitoring equivalent legislative provision for local government records (at present covered by the Local Government (Records) Act 1962 and the Local Government Act 1972, s 224).

50.   What is the latest state of play on publication of the 1901 census on the Internet? How does the actual cost to public funds of publishing the 1901 census compare with that originally predicted?

  With reference to Question 50, the Public Record Office, as a separate government department with its own accounting officer, has provided the answers to the Committee's questions.

  At the time of writing, 11 July 2002, the Public Record Office (PRO) cannot give a firm date when the 1901 Census will be fully functional. However, QinetiQ Ltd, who are responsible for setting up the site and providing the online service, have continued to make technical improvements to it. QinetiQ Ltd have been testing the site and the PRO has also carried out its own independent test programme. Now the final results of these tests are available, QinetiQ Ltd and the PRO are planning to move to a phase of public testing, from which it will be possible to decide whether the service is sufficiently robust to give a satisfactory experience to users. It is anticipated that this will be completed by mid to late August.

  All development costs and additional improvement costs have been met in full by QinetiQ Ltd. The PRO is not aware of the amount of expenditure incurred by QinetiQ, nor of the additional costs incurred, which have been funded using independent finance. Since 1998-99 the PRO has spent £1.4 million in respect of contract negotiations, legal advice, contract management, quality assurance and editing of data, and independent expert loading testing for the 1901 census service.

  The PRO discharged its statutory duty of making the 1901 census publicly available by providing a microfiche set for the whole country at Kew and by supplying local record offices and libraries throughout England and Wales with microfiche copies relating to their areas. The new online census website is an additional service. It was immediately overwhelmed by unprecedented demand and general Internet access had to be temporarily suspended on 7 January. This was done in order to enable the introduction of improvements to the online service by the PRO's contractor QinetiQ Ltd (formerly the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency), who are responsible for the technical aspects of the service within the framework of a Public Private Partnership. Since 6 February the service has been closed down completely, to allow QinetiQ to conduct rigorous testing of the improvements.

  The PRO has apologised for the disappointment, which has been expressed by many family historians worldwide, a disappointment that it shares. It has been working very hard with QinetiQ to progress the improvements and to conduct its own rigorous testing programme. The most important consideration is to ensure that, when the 1901 online census is relaunched on the Internet, it successfully handles the initial demand, which it is anticipated will be extremely high once again, and provides a consistently reliable service to users.


51.   When is the review of the Law Commission expected to report? Will this be a normal quinquennial review? If not, by whom will it be conducted? (page 28)

  We have not yet launched the review, which will broadly follow Cabinet Office guidance for quinquennial reviews. We will also take account of further Cabinet Office thinking, to make greater strategic connection between NDPBs and sponsor departments. Accordingly, our review will examine how the Commission contributes to the overall process of law reform and the delivery of Government objectives. We expect to appoint a head of review shortly. The report should be available around the end of the year.

52.   What are the current staffing levels and annual budget for the LCD's work on human rights, House of Lords reform, freedom of information and data protection (as shown on pages 62 and 63) and for electoral and party funding (as transferred recently) and how do these figures compare with the last full year in which these functions were carried out in other departments?

Human Rights and Freedom of Information/Data Protection

  The staffing level and annual budget for human rights and freedom of information/data protection work are as follows:
2002-03 (LCD) 2000-01 (Home Office)
Human rights£450,000

8 staff

7 staff
Freedom of information and
data protection

17 staff

Staffing figure not available

  LCD also sponsors the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC), a non-departmental public body enforcing the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts. In 2002-03, the grant-in-aid for the OIC is £14.126 million, offset by a projected fee income of £4.2 million.

  Prior to the formation of the OIC, enforcement of the Data Protection Act was carried out by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC). In 2001-02, the grant-in-aid for the DPC was £4.99 million, with a projected fee income of £2.5 million.

House of Lords Reform

  In 2002-03 the budget for the House of Lords Reform Unit is £361,000, with four staff. (In the event of there being a House of Lords Reform Bill in the next session, there is provision for this to rise to six staff.)

  For 2001-02, when the Unit was the responsibility of the Cabinet Office, the budget was £406,000, with six staff.

Electoral and Party Funding

  The former Home Office function, which is transferring from DTLR to LCD this year, expanded from five staff to 16 last year due in part to the work on electronic voting.

53.   Does the Department measure its performance in responding to parliamentary questions and letters from MPs? If so, what was the performance in 2000-01 and 2001-02?

  The Department does not have a set performance measure for answering parliamentary questions. However, the Department aims to answer all parliamentary questions within their parliamentary target. For the House of Commons the target is within five working days for ordinary written questions, and on the day named for named day questions. For the House of Lords the Parliamentary targets for answering questions is 10 working days.

  The Lord Chancellor's Department has a paper system for recording the parliamentary questions tabled to or transferred into the Department. This was established when there was a smaller number of parliamentary questions tabled to the Department. As with other Government Departments the number of questions tabled to the Lord Chancellor's Department has steadily increased. We are looking to establish a computer-based system for parliamentary questions. This will enable performance to be monitored easily against the target.

  The limitations of the present recording system make it very difficult to produce statistics swiftly about the Department's performance in responding to parliamentary questions. However, the Lord Chancellor recently answered a parliamentary question which required the information to be collated from the records. The question asked for the proportion of ordinary written questions which were answered within a week, and for the number of named day answers which received a substantive reply on the day named. The period covered by the question was 1 June 2001 to 24 May 2002. This is reproduced at Annex C.

  The Department does measure its performance for responding to letters from MPs. Performance against the overall 20-day target went up from 72.99 per cent in 2000-01 to 74.97 per cent in 2001-02. The Lord Chancellor has recently asked for the department to improve performance significantly over the coming year.

54.   What progress has LCD made towards the target for delivery of services electronically? (page 73). Which parts of LCD are most ahead? In which parts could significantly more progress be made? What are the constraints on delivery of services electronically?

What progress has LCD made towards the target for delivery of services electronically? (page 73)

  The latest return we made to the Office of the e-Envoy shows that currently we offer 32 per cent of our services (as defined in our Public Service Agreements) electronically. That figure will have increased since the return was made as Money Claim On Line and XHIBIT have been launched in the interim.

Which parts of LCD are most ahead?

  In our most recent submission to the OeE on e-Business Delivery we suggested the following are our four most successful examples of Electronic Service Delivery:

    —  JustAsk! web site: one of the LCD's core objectives is to improve people's knowledge and understanding of their rights and responsibilities. The award-winning JustAsk! web site provides free access to the range of legal information ranging from information on the law to finding local advice providers;

    —  XHIBIT (eXchanging Hearing Information By Internet Technology): a modernised, joined-up Criminal Justice System (CJS) is one of the government's key priorities. XHIBIT is a cross CJS initiative, led by the LCD as part of its Courts and Tribunals Modernisation Programme (CTMP), which is piloting new ways of joined-up working, in relation to court hearings, made possible by the application of modern technology;

    —  Money Claim OnLine (MCOL): also a CTMP initiative, is one of the few fully transactional online government services available to citizens. It provides for issue of fixed amount money claims, judgments and warrant of executions. All of these can be completed online, unless the case becomes defended (which happens in less than 5 per cent of the 1.7 million issued each year);

    —  The Court Service Web site: this web site is amongst the 10 most used across Whitehall. Its position has been achieved by offering a very wide range of services that are in demand from our users of the justice system, in particular court judgments and online forms and leaflets.

In which parts could significantly more progress be made?

  As far as gaps in our online offerings are concerned, we have identified both the Magistrates' Court and Family business areas within LCD as being particularly in need of further development. The next version of our e-Business plans, to be published in the autumn, will contain proposals as to how this might be done.

What are the constraints on delivery of services electronically?

  The "2005 target" is actually 100 per cent of services it is appropriate to deliver electronically. In LCD's case 6 per cent of our services have been deemed not to be suitable for delivery by these means. These services are various types of court proceedings for which a hearing is currently necessary in the criminal and family jurisdictions, which, for reasons of public policy, it is felt an electronic alternative would not be appropriate.

  The speed of overall delivery is also, clearly, dependent on levels of funding made available to the Department.

  Particularly in the criminal justice arena, we are committed to delivering "joined-up" electronic services spanning across Criminal Justice Organisations. Thus, there is a mutual dependency on the speed of delivery in each CJO and delivery of the central IT, which will link all components together. The latter part is the responsibility of the Criminal Justice IT unit, located in the Home Office.

55.   What public appointments, other than judicial appointments, has the Lord Chancellor made in the past year to posts commanding salaries of more than £10,000 pa; and to which such posts are appointments due to be made in the period up to the end of 2003?

  The following public appointments made by the Lord Chancellor, other than judicial appointments, which command salaries of more than £10,000 have been made since 1 April 2001:
Jim Shearer (non-executive member)Legal Services Commission
Sheila Hewitt (non-executive member)Legal Services Commission
Margaret Richards (non-executive member) Legal Services Commission
Alan Clifton (member)Strategic Investment Board
Andrew Hutton (member)Strategic Investment Board
Laurence O'Mara (member)Strategic Investment Board
Anthony Hewson (Chair) 1CAFCASS
Angela Killick (member) 1CAFCASS
Nalini Singh-Varma (member) 1CAFCASS
Pip O'Byrne (member) 1CAFCASS
Mike Walker (member) 1CAFCASS
Anne Morgan (member) 1CAFCASS
Peter Hargrave (member) 1CAFCASS
Nedine Watson-Cutts (member) 1CAFCASS
Judy Weleminsky (member) 1CAFCASS
Leonie Jordan (member) 1CAFCASS
Nigel Fricker QC (member) 1CAFCASS
Stuart Bridge (Commissioner)Law Commission
The Honourable Mr Justice Toulson (Chair) Law Commission

  1 Based on daily rate and estimated time commitment

  Public appointments made by the Lord Chancellor which command salaries of more than £10,000 are expected to be made to the following posts before 31 December 2003.
Non-executive member (x 3)Legal Services Commission
ChairCouncil on Tribunals

  1 Based on daily rate and estimated time commitment

56.   What information do you have on the level of satisfaction among users of the Public Guardianship Office compared with the situation two years ago (with the Public Trust Office)?

  The Public Guardianship Office (PGO) will carry out a survey by the end of 2002 and then subsequently on an annual basis. Once the results of this survey are available we will be able to make a comparison between satisfaction among users of the PGO as compared with the situation two years ago with the PTO.

  The PGO has reached out into the community by holding receivers' open days around the country going out to find out first hand what they see as the real issues. So far this year PGO has held four open days and attendees have said they see this as a positive step forward. Information collected during receivers' open days will be used to gauge the effectiveness of services and introduce improvements.

  Significant improvements have been made by the PGO in areas where the PTO was heavily criticised, particularly in terms of accounts collection and review and the number of visits carried out to clients. Over 6,000 visits were made to clients last year, including visits to new clients and all clients for whom the PGO was receiver. The number of visits to clients whose affairs are being managed by private receivers was more than double the number carried out just two years ago. Following the transfer to the PGO, a new accounts form was introduced in April last year, receivers were asked for their views on the new form and 91 per cent said the new form was easy or very easy to complete. This new form and more rigid chasing mechanisms have significantly improved the turnaround times of the collection and review of accounts.

  Despite these improvements the PGO is still suffering from an increased level of complaints from customers. The reason for this is that the PGO relocated to Archway and conducted a major organisational restructuring exercise towards the end of last year. The disruption caused by both of these exercises has had an adverse affect on performance and therefore on service to clients. In order to address this the PGO has formed an arrears team to clear backlogs of work and has made plans to improve service delivery more generally. Improvements under way include: closing down call centres as this approach has been heavily criticised by receivers and solicitors; moving files from a central registry to case-working branches so telephone enquiries can be dealt with more speedily; and investing in recruitment and training for staff. In the longer term a new electronic records case management system will be introduced which will end the reliance on papers files, which have exacerbated delays.

July 2002

Annex A

Summary of progress for PSA and OPA targets in the LCD Departmental Report 2000-01

DepartmentalObjective  PSA Targets  OPA Measures and Indicators  Outturn position at 31 March 2001

Objective 1:      All three targets met by 31 December 2000.

Objective 2:      All three targets replaced by new SR2000 SDA targets—SDA 34-39.

Objective 3:      4th and 6th PSA/OPA met by 31 December 2000.

  1st target: By March 2002 to reduce the duration of civil cases.  To increase the proportion of administrative processes dealt with in target time from 92 per cent to 95 per cent.  The target was met by 31 March 2002 (94.9 per cent). Replaced by modified Court Service key performance indicator from 2002.

  2nd target: to reduce the waiting times for all asylum appeals from receipt at the Immigration Appellate Authorities to promulgation of the Adjudicator's determination from 36 weeks in 1999-2000 to 17 weeks by 2000-01.    The target was met by 31 March 2001. Replaced by SR2000 SDA target 28.

  3rd target: to reduce the unit cost of civil cases in real terms.    Not met. Superseded by 4th-8th targets.

  5th target: To reduce in real terms the unit cost of an item of originating process in the civil courts by an average of 3 per cent per annum to 2001-02 (base 1999-2000)    On course. Replaced by SR2000 PSA 9 and associated SDA targets.

  7th target: To reduce in real terms the unit cost of an asylum appeal by an average of 3 per cent per annum.    On course. Replaced by SR2000 SDA 50.

  8th target: Percentage of administrative work in the Court Service processed without significant error.    Met. Replaced by modified Court Service Key Performance Indicator from April 2002.

Objective 4:      2nd, 4th, 7th, 9th, 16th and 17th PSA targets met by 31 December 2000.

      19th target is a Home Office target.

  1st target: To halve the time from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders from 142 days to 71 days.    Replaced by SR2000 PSA 2c. Target met by March 2002.

  3rd target: Number/proportion of young offenders fast tracked.    Met—was delivered as part of the SR2000 PSA 2c.

  5th target: To increase the proportion of victims, witnesses and jurors who regard their experience in the CJS as acceptable.  (a) Victims and Witnesses: to improve by 5 percentage points by 2002 the satisfaction of victims and witnesses and of witnesses with their treatment in the CJS.  Replaced by SR2000 PSA 1.

    (b) Jurors: to maintain at 95 per cent the level of jurors who are satisfied or very satisfied with their treatment in the CJS whilst increasing by 5 per cent by end March 2002 those who are very satisfied.  Replaced by SR2000 PSA 1.

  6th target: to maintain the rate of 78 per cent of Crown Court cases commencing within 16 weeks in 1999-2000.    Replaced by SR2000 SDA 5.

  8th target: To achieve stability in real terms in the cost of publicly funded criminal defence services by March 2002.    On course. Replaced by SR2000 PSA 9 and associated SDA targets.

  10th target: Average cost of a criminal legal aid bill in the Magistrates' Courts.    Replaced by SR2000 PSA 9.

  11th target: Average cost of duty solicitor scheme per person assisted.    Replaced by SR2000 SDA 63.

  12th target: Average cost of an act of advice and assistance (criminal).    Replaced by SR2000 PSA 9.

  13th target: To reduce in real terms the unit cost of cases in the Crown Court by an average of 3 per cent per annum.    On course. Replaced by SR2000 PSA 9 and associated SDA targets.

  14th target: To reduce courtroom over-capacity.  To reduce courtroom over-capacity by 10 per cent by March 2002.  Replaced by SR2000 SDA 46.

  15th target: Measures on the rights of defendants to show improvements by March 2002.    Replaced by SR2000 SDA 4.

  18th target: The proportion of witnesses/victims will give evidence on the day they are called.    Replaced by SR2000 SDA.

Objective 5:      The PSA target was dropped as a result of the Government's decision not to proceed with the implementation of Part II of the Family Law Act 1996. New PSA and SDA targets set during SR2000.

Objective 6:      Both PSA targets were met by 31 December 2000. New PSA and SDA targets were set during SR2000.

Departmental operations:      3rd, 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 15th PSA/OPA met by 31 December 2000.

  1st target: The Department will meet a target of 3 per cent year-on-year gains in efficiency.    Replaced by SR2000 Value For Money PSA/SDA targets.

  2nd target: A reduction in support costs as a proportion of running costs.  60 per cent of services to be reviewed by March 2002.  Replaced by SR2000 Value For Money PSA/SDA targets.

  4th target: An improvement in the proportion of training, which contributes to improvements in job performance.  Percentage of instances of training which contributed to improvement in job performance.  Replaced by SR2000 SDA 70.

  5th target: An increase in the proportion of Ministerial correspondence and other correspondence answered within target by 5 per cent year on year.  Percentage of Ministers' cases answered within the Departmental deadline 95 per cent.  Replaced by SR2000 SDA 67.

  6th target: An increase in the proportion of undisputed invoices paid within 30 days.  100 per cent of undisputed invoices paid within 30 days.  Dropped—not met.

  9th target: To contribute to a reduction in public sector sickness absence of 20 per cent by 2001 and 30 per cent by 2003.    Met. Replaced by SR2000 SDA 78.

  11th target: A target of 5 per cent annual reduction in general procurement expenditure.    Met. Replaced by SR2000 SDA 56 and 57.

  13th target: Use of electronic commerce where there are cost benefits.    Dropped. Replaced by Government-wide e-Government SDA during SR2000.

  14th target: Use of BACS to pay all invoices by December 2002.    Subsumed within Government-wide e-Government SDA during SR2000.

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