The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Des Browne): Under the cash ratio deposit (CRD) scheme, banks and building societies place non-interest bearing deposits at the Bank of England. The Bank invests these deposits and uses the income earned to fund the costs of the Bank's sterling liquidity, monetary policy and financial stability operations, which benefit sterling deposit-takers. The Bank of England Act 1998 placed the scheme on a statutory footing with effect from 1 June 1998.
As a result of significant changes the Bank of England will make to its operations in sterling money markets from next year, in particular the introduction of remunerated voluntary deposits which banks and building societies will be able to place with the Bank, the Treasury proposes to amend the definition of eligible liabilities for CRDs.
These proposed amendments principally seek to ensure that voluntary deposits would not count as an offset within the calculation of eligible liabilities on which CRDs are based thereby avoiding an unnecessary reduction in the Bank's CRD income.
The proposal requires a change to secondary legislation under the Bank of England Act 1998 and also requires the Treasury to consult those who are likely to be materially affected by the change and other persons it sees fit. This consultation has begun as of today and will conclude at the end of September.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): My right hon. and noble Friend, the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has made the following written ministerial statement in the other place today, 13 July 2005:
It is critical that the judiciary is reflective of the society it serves, in order that the public can have full confidence in the justice system. Judicial diversity is a priority because it makes a real and positive difference to the administration of justice. It means harnessing the talent and ability of all those who would make good judges if they were able or willing to apply, enabling us to be sure that the best are being appointed. It will enable every person with the right qualifications and qualities
I have therefore decided to legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to broaden the pool of those eligible for judicial appointment. The legislation will amend the eligibility requirements so that fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives and registered Patent Agents and Trade Mark Attorneys, as well as barristers and solicitors, will in future be able apply for appointment for appropriate judicial posts (i.e. those district bench and tribunal-level posts for which their skills and experience particularly fit them; or specialist intellectual property appointments in the Patents Court, Patents County Court and specialist tribunals, in the case of the intellectual property practitioners). There will also be a power for the Lord Chancellor, after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and the Judicial Appointments Commission, to amend by secondary legislation the qualifications needed for particular judicial offices in order to widen eligibility.
After considering a range of views on this subject, I have reached the conclusion that the current statutory eligibility entitlement has the disadvantages of being both too restrictive (because it is unnecessarily long) and insufficiently precise (because time elapsed since qualification is not a meaningful measure of an individual's experience or skills). Indeed, under the law as it stands, it is unnecessary ever to have exercised rights of audience in order to become eligible for judicial appointments. The current statutory requirement will be replaced with a requirement for a specified number of years' post-qualification legal experience. The specified number of years will be reduced from seven or ten (according to the judicial post concerned) to five or seven.
Magistrates are vital to the operation of the justice system. The Government value the work which magistrates do, and we will be bringing forward proposals later this year on supporting magistrates more fully. In line with that approach, I want to make a particular change in terms of improving judicial diversity. In recognition of the significant court experience gained by magistrates when sitting, I am also making a limited exception to the established policy that no-one is appointed to salaried judicial office without first having served in a fee-paid post. In future, those barristers and solicitors who are also justices of the peace will be able to count their magistrates sittings in lieu of fee-paid service when they apply for a salaried judicial appointment. This change will not require legislation. We will be consulting further on its detailed implementation.
The eligibility changes will enable a wider range of people, with the appropriate skills and experience, to apply for judicial appointment. These proposals are about eligibility to apply for judicial office, which is of course separate from the question of appointment. Those who do apply will face a rigorous, competitive, competence-based selection process. Appointments are made, and will continue to be made, solely on merit.
I am also taking other action to encourage greater diversity in the judiciary. My Department is working to raise awareness of the possibility of judicial appointment and the range of posts available by, for example, extending the judicial work-shadowing scheme to include district judges (magistrates courts) as well as circuit judges and district judges; advertising widely in the press and on websites; sending out regular e-newsletters; organising events aimed at specific under-represented groups (the first of which, a highly successful event aimed at women, took place in Manchester on 28 and 29 June); and piloting a scheme to encourage individuals to apply for appointment.
My Department is continuing to work on the other components of the judicial diversity programme, and I expect to make a further announcement in the autumn. I believe that these are important initiatives which, together, will make a real contribution to greater diversity in the judiciary, and will set a new and more flexible framework which will help the Judicial Appointments Commission from next year in widening the range of people who apply for judicial appointments".
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): Following the discovery by the Big Lottery Fund of irregularities in certain grant applications in September 2004, the investigations team of the fund, the police and the Charity Commission have conducted extensive investigations into suspected multiple application fraud. Lottery funds were safeguarded by immediately suspending payments on suspect grants.
A number of arrests have been made and both criminal and civil proceedings are likely to follow. It would not be appropriate, therefore, for me to describe in detail the nature of the alleged fraud. However, I can say that what is suspected is a systematic fraud targeting a number of charitable and public grant makers, including the Awards for All programme operated by the former community fund on behalf of six lottery distributors.
Although the scale of the suspected fraud is uncertain and will not be clear until the end of the investigation, I have now been provided with sufficient financial information to make a statement to Parliament.
|Arts Council England||£297,000|
|Heritage Lottery fund||£202,000|
|New Opportunities fund||£584,000|
The Big Lottery fund has reviewed its systems and put in place additional controls which will significantly reduce the risk of similar fraud in future. The fund will strike an appropriate balance between preventing abuse of lottery funds and running an application process which minimises delays and bureaucracy for small community organisations seeking funding.