Work of the Committee in 2008-09 - Justice Committee Contents

3  Conclusion: impact

62. It is not always easy to distinguish the impact of the activity of a select committee in any particular area of work. Select committees often act as a focal point for gathering concerns which are being put to Government from other quarters of the public policy community; and on which the Government may well itself be reflecting or examining other evidence. However, as examples of where we perceive ourselves to have successfully added value, or weight, to the consideration of issues of concern—with an identifiable outcome emerging in 2008-09—we would point to:

  • the dropping of the specific provisions within the Coroners and Justice Bill on secret coroners inquests without juries and the deferral, pending re-examination of safeguards, of broad data-sharing powers within Government;
  • the abandonment of proposals to build three 2,500 place Titan prisons as part of the prison capacity programme;
  • the revision of proposals to reform family legal aid (a) to increase recognition of the varying complexity of family law cases and (b) to preserve the ability of legal aid funding to provide vulnerable children with separate representation (when deemed necessary by a judge) in circumstances when the official service cannot do so;
  • the deferral of the full introduction of best value tendering in criminal defence legal aid until after the results of the relevant pilot schemes have been analysed and lessons learned;
  • the various changes to the Parliamentary Standards Bill to protect freedom of speech in the Commons and the separation of legislature and courts; and
  • statutory provisions aimed at establishing greater openness and transparency with respect to the administration of justice conducted by the Family Court—balanced with the need to preserve the privacy of vulnerable children and families—contained in the Children, Schools and Families Bill introduced on 19 November 2009 which our predecessor committee first recommended in March 2005.[44]

63. Overall, we attach great value to a theme emerging through our work on criminal justice issues around which significant cross-party consensus has gathered within the committee. This is that there is an urgent need for a new strategic aim for the whole criminal justice system, and each of its constituent parts, which is a focus on the prevention of offending and the reduction of re-offending and that resources should be allocated, and performance measured, within the overall system against contributions to that goal. Our First Report of 2009-10, which rests on a great deal of evidence-gathering and analysis undertaken in both 2007-08 and 2008-09, explains and expresses this theme in detail.[45]

44   Constitutional Affairs Committee, Fourth Report, 2004-05, Family justice: the operation of the family courts, HC 116. The Government reply recognised: "a growing consensus that the family courts lack transparency (Cm 6507, March 2005) Our predecessor committee followed up the issues in its Sixth Report of 2005-06, Family justice: the operation of the family courts revisited, HC 1086. A Ministerial statement on 16 December 2008 announced the Government's decision to legislate and the Children, Schools and Families Bill (2009-10, No. 8),fulfils that commitment. Back

45   First Report, Justice Committee, 2009-10, Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94-I Back

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