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Mathematics Teaching

14. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): If he will make a statement on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of Professor Adrian Smith's report regarding mathematics teaching. [201241]

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Charles Clarke): We continue to make good progress in taking forward the measures for mathematics teaching announced on 28 June. In particular, on 9 December, I will be inviting expressions of interest from organisations to create and run the national centre for excellence in the teaching of mathematics. Advertising has begun to promote increases in training bursaries and golden hellos from September 2006. There has also been a welcome increase of 4 per cent. this year in recruitment to mainstream teacher training courses in mathematics.

Dr. Cable: Does the Secretary of State recall Professor Smith's words that there was

Does he also recall that in an Adjournment debate six months ago, I was told that the Government were considering writing off the debts of maths and science teachers? How far have the Government got with that initiative and other inducements to maths teaching?
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Mr. Clarke: As I have already said, we have already started advertising to promote increases in bursaries and golden hellos for the next academic year. The strong point that I would like to make is that Professor Adrian Smith and my recently appointed chief adviser, Professor Celia Hoyles—an outstanding individual in the subject—would both acknowledge that we are working extremely expeditiously to deal with the matter. I am committed to increasing the number of mathematics teachers, and the Government have a strong record on such matters.


The Solicitor-General was asked—

Crown Prosecution Service (IT Systems)

19. Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the IT systems available to the Crown Prosecution Service. [201247]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman): I have kept a close eye on the development of the Crown Prosecution Service IT system, which is called Compass. My assessment is that it helps with the timely and efficient management of cases by the CPS and helps it account to the House for what it does. More generally, the criminal justice system IT offers the prospect of better communication between the police, the CPS, courts and defence lawyers and of keeping the victim and witnesses informed of what is happening in cases in which they are involved.

Mr. Kidney: I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. It was the Glidewell report that recommended modern IT systems for prosecutors and we surely have here a public sector IT system that has been introduced successfully. We should all be pleased about that. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in Staffordshire, as a result of new electronic systems, the CPS is more effective, more accurate in the advice that it gives, delivers a faster service and is well placed to do a good job in respect of electronic links with the police and the courts?

The Solicitor General: I am sure that the Crown Prosecution Service in Staffordshire will warmly appreciate my hon. Friend's comments, but he is inviting me to tempt fate by telling the House that it is probably the only computer system in government that is working properly. There has been a good deal of investment—£56 million over the next 10 years—and the prosecution system has gone from a largely paperwork system to one that had three computers on each prosecutor's desk and now to one single system that is joined up with the rest of the criminal justice system.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): Will the Solicitor-General commend the work of Nottinghamshire Crown Prosecution Service and its chief prosecutor, Kate Carty, in introducing information technology systems? Will she also ensure
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that excellent IT is complementary to, and not a substitute for, the softer skills of local prosecutors meeting police officers and the local community informally to deal with misunderstandings and undertake a process of mutual education?

The Solicitor General: My hon. Friend is right and I thank him for his comments on the workings of the CPS. Of course it is important that people communicate not only through IT but in person and that the CPS work closely not only with the police and the courts but with the local community and MP. I welcome the involvement that he seeks with the CPS, which is after all an accountable service, although it works independently.

Serious Organised Crime Agency

20. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): What relationship the Serious Fraud Office will have with the Serious Organised Crime Agency. [201248]

The Solicitor General: The Serious Organised Crime Agency will bring together the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the drug trafficking investigative and intelligence work of Customs and Excise into a single agency to lead the fight against organised crime. The Serious Fraud Office will continue to investigate and prosecute serious and complex fraud. The Serious Organised Crime Agency will offer support to the SFO in its investigations and the SFO will advise SOCA.

Hugh Bayley: I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Unlike France and some other countries that have mounted successful prosecutions, as they are obliged to do under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention against international bribery, the United Kingdom has yet to do so. The Serious Fraud Office has expressed concern that it does not have sufficient resources to investigate these complex cases abroad, but it is important to investigate them because they undermine development in so many developing countries and those responsible for taking bribes internationally—corrupt politicians and officials—use the same money-laundering channels as organised crime. Will SOCA be able to provide support to the SFO to investigate some of these cases and secure prosecutions?

The Solicitor General: Yes, it will. I agree with my hon. Friend about the corrosive effect of corruption in developing countries and that we have to do what we can to tackle those giving and taking bribes. We are working closely with the international community. The SFO's budget rose to £23 million and will increase again to £35 million. That will enable it to increase its staff to 300, which will include lawyers and accountants.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon) (LD): Two of the most important weapons in the fight against crime are intelligence and co-ordination. Will the right hon. and learned Lady give the House the three most
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compelling reasons why the investigations arm of the SFO is not to be merged into the Serious Organised Crime Agency?

The Solicitor General: I think that they will work together, but the work of the SFO involves a prosecution process, while that of the Serious Organised Crime Agency is largely investigative. The SFO will work closely with SOCA, but it will continue to prosecute, just as Customs and the CPS will continue to prosecute when information comes before them from SOCA.

Fraud Prosecutions

21. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): What plans she has to ensure effective prosecutions of those who commit fraud against small enterprises. [201249]

The Solicitor General: Effective prosecution of fraud against small business depends on good police investigation and evidence gathering, and close working between police and prosecutors. It is also important for small business to do what it can to protect itself against fraud. Both the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry have advice on their websites about how to recognise fraudulent approaches.

Mr. Bellingham: I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for that reply. Is she aware that there has been a significant increase in the number of small businesses that have fallen foul of so-called phishing scams, in which the sender of the e-mail tries to get their banking password, and of scams from countries such as Nigeria, in which the sender promises a commission on money that is wired to the recipient? What is she doing to try to protect small businesses from such scams?

The Solicitor General: I am aware of those attempted scams. The hon. Gentleman has raised them and brought them to the attention of the authorities. I thank him for doing that because it helps warn small businesses of the problem. I would say to small businesses, and everybody who sees offers on the internet—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. These are very important matters. The House must come to order.

The Solicitor General: I would say to small businesses that they cannot get something for nothing and that if they see on the internet offers of huge sums without
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having to do anything, such offers are probably a scam. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the new guidance on policing priorities for fraud cases that the Home Office sent out, which says that, even if the sum involved is small, if the effect on the small business victim is large, it should be a priority for police investigation and prosecution.

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