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24 Jul 2002 : Column WA73

Written Answers

Wednesday, 24th July 2002.

House of Lords Reform

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Lord Chancellor on 16 November 2001 (WA105), 27 March (WA45) and 8 May (WA171), whether, having regard to their inclination to the view that Members of the second Chamber should not sit for more than 10 years (whether appointed or elected), they will now announce that they intend to seek to implement Recommendation 103 in the Report of the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords in respect of all life Peers created after the date of the announcement, saving only those to whom the intention to grant a life peerage has been made public but had not been implemented by the issue of a Writ of Summons before such date.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): While the way forward on House of Lords reform is under consideration by the Joint Committee of both Houses the Government do not intend to make any commitment on the nature of any possible reforms.

Libra Project

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the progress of discussions between the Lord Chancellor's Department and Fujitsu Services on the Libra project to provide IT services for the magistrates' courts in England and Wales.[HL5595]

The Lord Chancellor: There are two parts to the Libra project: the provision of a modern IT infrastructure and network to link the magistrates' courts with other parts of the criminal justice system and the special software for case management, accounting and other administration within the courts. Installation of the infrastructure and network is 75 per cent complete and will be completed during the first half of 2003. The specialised software has been delayed.

The department has now signed a variation to the contract with Fujitsu Services (formerly known as ICL) in respect of the Libra project.

Under these new arrangements, Fujitsu Services will continue to deliver the IT infrastructure and network and provide support until March 2007.

However, the department has decided that Fujitsu Services will not be required to continue with the development of the specialised software for case management, accounting and other administration. Serious concerns arose last year when delays in delivery of the software and increases in their costs led Fujitsu Services to seek to renegotiate the contract. As many courts and offices had already been equipped

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with the IT infrastructure, a basis for renegotiation was agreed. Despite intensive negotiation however, it has not proved possible to reach an agreement on the specialised software at an acceptable price, which will deliver value for money for the taxpayer.

Instead, the department will procure application services separately. Assessments show that robust, tried and tested software is now available in the marketplace which could meet requirements at a lower cost than that on offer from Fujitsu Services.

The original 1998 contract was valued at £183 million to run until July 2009. A variation to this was signed with Fujitsu/ICL in 2000, which was valued at £319 million was to run unti 2013. This was not a real price increase as the extra cost was for the extra years and other benefits. In each case the contract with Fujitsu Services was for the delivery of both the infrastructure and the specialised software.

The estimated value of the revised contract with Fujitsu Services is £232 million which includes some £31 million paid under the existing contract from 2000 to the end of June 2002 for the delivery and operation of the infrastructure services received by the magistrates' courts. In addition, the Government have paid Fujitsu Services £6.8 million for design products produced as part of the software application development that can be reused. Apart from this amount, the financial and management risks of developing the software have been borne by the supplier.

A number of studies have been carried out by external organisations to provide assurances on the way forward, including a benchmark exercise on the infrastructure costs and an assessment of the costs, timescales and market capacity to deliver the software application services.

The benchmarking exercise shows that the cost of the provision of the infrastructure service in the revised contract is in line with the cost of similar services provided to organisations of similar size, structure and complexity in the private and public sectors. It is possible, but by no means certain, that a new competitive procurement could deliver the services for less cost, but the department's assessment of the costs of delays and procurement and completing the implementation of the service to all courts shows that the revised contract provides best value for money to the taxpayer.

The studies on the software application services indicate that the services can be delivered by the end of 2004—a delay of nine months on the original 1998 contract—and at a price that will be affordable and provide value for money. The department is planning on this basis. However, these services will be subject to new procurements and the House will be informed of the outcome when the procurements have been completed.

There are lessons to be learned for all parties from the project. Since the original award of contract a range of government guidelines on managing IT contracts and on PFI/PPP contracts have been issued. These have been fully utilised in the recent negotiation.

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Improvements introduced on Libra in the past 12 months include strengthening of the governance arrangements, better risk management, the use of external benchmarking and an external review under the gateway process. This has provided more effective controls for the negotiations and future plans. The new arrangement separates the delivery of the infrastructure from the application which is designed to better ensure the success of the overall programme and at the same time place appropriate risk with the respective providers and the department.

Code of Practice on Access to Government Information: Monitoring Report

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to publish the Monitoring Report for the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information covering the year 2001. [HL5599]

The Lord Chancellor: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his question. I am pleased to inform your Lordships' House that the Monitoring Report for the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information for the year 2001 will be published in August. A pre-print copy of the report has been placed in the House Library and a copy is available on my department's website.

Deaths in Custody: Review of Role and Practices of CPs

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Attorney-General proposes to announce the outcome of his current review of the role and practices of the Crown Prosecution Service in cases arising from death in custody.[HL5540]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): I hope to make an announcement around the end of September. I had hoped to do so before Parliament rose this month, but because of the thought-provoking contributions that have been made, and because I wish to examine aspects of the handling of a trial which ended in acquittal earlier this month, I have decided to extend the period of the review. I am grateful to all those who have so far responded to the consultation paper or contributed their views in other ways.

Northern Ireland Court Service: Language Policy

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What languages are used by the Court Service of Northern Ireland to provide information to the public: and what is the rationale for their selection.[HL5243]

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The Parliamentary Secretary Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Northern Ireland Court Service provides information leaflets, corporate literature and consultation documents in English. Information may be provided in any other language, if requested, subject to the reasonableness of the request and any associated costs.

Irish may also be used in official business consistent with the Government's obligations under Part 3 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

At the Laganside Courts complex "talking" information signs provide information in English, Irish and Cantonese, being languages which court users are likely to want to use.

Transsexual People

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What are the reasons for the continuing delay in introducing legislation to give transsexuals legal recognition and the right to marry in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights; and (b) whether they will speedily introduce such legislation.[HL5289]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government recently reconvened the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People to re-examine the implications of granting full legal status to transsexual people in their acquired gender, and to make recommendations to Ministers before the end of this year. The working group met on 9 July. It has now been tasked additionally with considering urgently the implications of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Christine Goodwin v The United Kingdom and I v The United Kingdom.

Reconvening the working group has been necessary as the interests of transsexual people touch on the policy responsibilities of a large number of government departments and the devolved administrations. Responses to the Court's ruling must be carefully co-ordinated.

The Government are obliged, under international law, to implement the judgments and will decide as soon as possible how to do so. The devolved administrations are also considering their approach to these issues where responsibilities are devolved.

Following the ruling, statutes must be interpreted in the light of the ECtHR findings and, where a statute allows, discretion must be exercised differently in any case where the traditional interpretation of exercise of discretion would result in a violation of a transsexual person's convention rights.

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