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Written Answers

Tuesday, 11th March 2003.

Courts: Funding

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

    In the light of the view expressed in The Times on 20 February by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, that the courts system may seize-up because of a funding shortfall, whether they will increase public expenditure on the courts.[HL1805]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Funding levels for the courts are set within the context of the overall spending review (SR) settlements for the department. We have recently completed the detailed allocation of resources across the department for the next three years, following the SR2002 settlement by the Treasury back in the summer. There have been some difficult choices in balancing competing demands for funding, but we have ensured that the focus has remained firmly on service delivery, particular in the courts. Specific measures that have been taken to protect front-line services include:

    Ensuring that funding for the courts provides the essential staffing and sitting day levels required to meet PSA targets, taking into account our current performance on criminal, civil and family waiting times and administrative process;

    Directing an additional 2,000 sitting days each year to family hearings;

    Providing increased funding to maintain existing provision of security staff, and to allow for improvements to physical security (e.g. CCTV), in the courts;

    Setting aside sufficient resource to take forward the key aspects of our IT modernisation programme across all jurisdictions.

Tribunals: Reform

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to take forward reform of the tribunal system.[HL2083]

The Lord Chancellor: Reform of the justice system is one of this Government's priorities. Since 1997 we have implemented major improvements in the criminal

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and civil courts. In 2000 I asked Sir Andrew Leggatt to review the tribunal system. We published Sir Andrew's radical blueprint for reform—Tribunals for Users: One System, One Service—in August 2001.

Since then the Government have been determining how best to meet the challenge set by Sir Andrew. We have taken a wide range of views, including through a formal, consultation exercise. A summary of the responses to that consultation has now been published; a copy has been placed in the Library of the House and it has been published on my department's website at

The Government have decided that the best way to take tribunal reform forward is to bring most non-devolved central government tribunals together into a single service. The service will reflect the needs and specialisms of individual jurisdictions and will in particular respect the differences between party versus party and citizen versus state tribunals. It will be a distinct part of the justice system, accountable to me. Initially the new service will be based on the 10 largest tribunals. Of these, the Immigration Appellate Authorities, the Office of the Social Security and Child Support Commissions the Tax Tribunals, the Pension Appeals Tribunal, and the Lands Tribunal already form part of my department. The Appeals Service, Employment Tribunals, Mental Heath Review Tribunal, Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeal Panel will transfer to the LCD over the period 2004–05 to 2007–08 from their current parent departments. Where appropriate, other smaller tribunals will also join the new service. The Government will publish a White Paper later this year on the reform and modernisation of the tribunals justice system within an increasingly unified tribunals service.

Northern Ireland Block Grant

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the underspend in the Northern Ireland block grant in the years 1999–2000, 2000–01 and 2001–02; and which departments were responsible for what percentage of the underspend.[HL1757]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): For the 1999–2000 financial year, expenditure was recorded by departments on a cash basis. From 2000–01 onwards, expenditure has been recorded on a resource basis and therefore comparisons cannot be made on a like-for-like basis between 1999–2000 and any subsequent years. Allocations to departments are set within departmental expenditure limits (DEL) and underspends are measured against the DEL. The table below shows DEL underspends for NI departments for the period 1999–2000 to 2001–02.

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Table showing DEL underspends for NI Departments for 1999–2000 to 2001–02 (£ million)

Cash Basis
Resource Basis
Department1999–00 Underspend% Underspend2000–01 Underspend% Underspend2001–02 Underspend% Underspend
Agriculture and Rural Development
Culture, Arts and Libraries
Employment and Learning 3.04.351.824.639.016.6
Enterprise, Trade and Industry 12.217.628.813.723.29.9
Finance and Personnel
Health, Social Services and Public Safety 13.819.946.822.349.120.9
Regional Development
Social Development 11.316.343.
Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister

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Data Protection: TfL and Congestion Charge

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

    Whether the legislation governing data protection principles applies to prevent the disclosure of personal data gathered by Transport for London for the purposes of the congestion charge to other public authorities for purposes unrelated to the congestion charge. [HL1821]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The data protection principles—a form of statutory code of good information handling practice—are set out in the Data Protection Act 1998. Among other things, the principles require personal data to be processed fairly and lawfully; and to be obtained only for specified and lawful purposes and not further processed incompatibly with those purposes. The term "processing" covers disclosure.

The Act provides exemptions from its non-disclosure provisions in circumstances where it recognises that the public interest requires disclosures of personal data which might otherwise be in breach of its requirements. In particular, Section 29 of the Act provides an exemption from the non-disclosure provisions in cases where their application would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the assessment or collection of any tax, duty or similar imposition.

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Section 35 provides an exemption from the non-disclosure provisions where the disclosure is required by law or is necessary for the purposes of legal proceedings, obtaining legal advice or establishing, exercising or defending legal rights.

Additionally, Section 28 provides a wide exemption from the Act's provisions, including the data protection principles, to the extent required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.

It is for Transport for London to ensure that its processing of personal data complies with the data protection principles or meets the terms of a relevant exemption. The Data Protection Act is administered independently of the Government by the Information Commissioner. Any directly affected person may request the commissioner to make an assessment as to whether it is likely that any processing of personal data has been or is being carried out in compliance with the Act.

Judicial Officers: Training in Childcare Issues

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in the specific training for all judicial officers in childcare issues before they are allowed to have a family law ticket which enables them to hear such cases. [HL1904]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Training of judges and magistrates is the responsibility of the Judicial Studies

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Board (JSB), which is a body independent of government. It is chaired by Lord Justice Waller.

Authorisation to hear public family law cases is governed by the Family Proceedings (Allocation to Judiciary) (Amendment) Directions 2002, which are made under the Children Act 1989.

Before such authorisation, circuit judges must first attend the public family law induction seminar (formerly known as the residential seminar for potential nominated care judges). Most may already have attended residential private family law seminars, and heard private family law cases. District judges are also invited to attend this course when they have been authorised to hear interlocutory applications in this category, having already undergone similar training in relation to private family law.

Thereafter, both circuit and district judges attend residential continuation seminars every three years in each jurisdiction they exercise.

District judges (magistrates' courts) have the same care jurisdiction as lay magistrates and those who sit regularly in the Family Proceedings Court are also invited to attend the JSB public family law induction seminar as well as private family law seminars. Statutory responsibility for the training of lay magistrates currently rests with magistrates' courts committees (MCCs) under Section 64 of the Justice of the Peace Act 1979, within a framework laid down by the JSB. The current outline syllabus for the training of family panel magistrates covers childcare issues as follows: key principles of the Child Care Act 1989; the welfare principle; needs of the child/basic child development; and the role of the local authority/child protection measures.

Specific training in care issues continues to develop. A series of seminars on the case management protocols is presently being organised for the autumn, and further seminars on the Adoption Act will follow in 2004.

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