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Criminal Cases (Payments)

Volume 406: debated on Monday 9 June 2003

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To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what recent assessment she has made of the effect of payments to those involved in criminal cases by journalists upon the judicial processes; and if she will make a statement. [117814]

In 2002, the Lord Chancellor published a consultation paper proposing to ban payments to witnesses by journalists during criminal proceedings because of the risk they pose to the administration of justice. This followed recommendations by the then National Heritage Select Committee and an inter-departmental working group.Following the consultation and further discussions, the Press Complaints Commission and other media organisations agreed to change their own codes to achieve this ban. They also agreed to regulate, for the first time, payments to potential witnesses made before criminal proceedings begin but when they are 'likely and foreseeable'. These can only be made when they are demonstrably necessary and in the public interest, for example to expose a crime.

My Department has a national contract for the provision of agency workers. Information regarding the number of agency workers provided to my Department under this contract and the associated expenditure is provided in the table.Information relating to workers employed through other agencies is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.My Department uses agency workers to meet short-term requirements and in areas where it is difficult to recruit and retain staff.The amended Press Code took effect on 18 March 2003. The Government have said that they will legislate to ban payments should self-regulation prove ineffective.