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Departmental Underspend

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 12 June 2003

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To ask the Solicitor-General what plans she has to reduce the Department's underspend in 2003–04 from that of 2002–03. [112782]

The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service is currently finalising its resource accounts for 2002–03. The final outturn position will be known with certainty when the accounts have been completed and certified by the National Audit Office. Against the main control total, the departmental expenditure limit, the Crown Prosecution Service anticipates an underspend of £2.5 million, which is half of one per cent. of the gross provision of £484 million and provides evidence of the effective financial budgetary, planning and control systems in place in the Department. Spending plans for CPS Areas and CPS HQ are regularly reviewed during the year and remedial action taken where appropriate to ensure spending targets are met. Such reviews will continue in 2003–04. On expenditure that is outside the departmental expenditure limit, there will be an underspend of around £13 million in respect of the costs of depreciation of IT assets, which were transferred to the Department's public finance initiative partner, LogicaCMG plc, on 1 April 2002. Future estimates of depreciation costs reflect the transfer and such an underspend cannot recur in the future.

Serious Fraud Office

The Serious Fraud Office plans to fully utilise its resources available in 2003–04. The Serious Fraud Office does not plan to underspend in any financial year but it is subject to short-term volatility in its resource consumption plans. The ability to make use of the End Year Flexibility scheme and carry resources forward to future years ensures that consumption can be managed efficiently and effectively to achieve value for money.

HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate

HM Crown Prosecution Service's underspend for 2002–03 is estimated to be £87k, attributable to managed vacancies while revising inspection methodology. Recruitment is currently under way. The underspend will be reduced in the Financial Year 2003–04 by recruiting additional staff, although it is still possible that there may be an underspend on the salaries budget because of the time taken to recruit.

Treasury Solicitor's Department

The Treasury Solicitor's Department had two main areas of underspend in 2002–03, namely staff costs and capital expenditure. In the later months of 2002–03, the Department was successful in recruiting staff as a result of a programme of continuous recruitment coupled with the overall position in the market for lawyers. This means that the Department is well placed to achieve the budgeted complement for 2003–04. The Department's major capital projects are on course for completion in accordance with their individual project targets and significant increases in expenditure over the previous year's levels will be achieved in 2003–04 as several major projects come on stream.

Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers

The total budget for the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers for the financial year 2002–03 was £3.1 million. Although figures have not yet been finalised, it is not expected that there will be any significant underspend for that period.