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Volume 494: debated on Friday 19 June 2009

To ask the Solicitor-General what compensation for loss of earnings HM Courts Service offers to witnesses in court proceedings who attend court on days when the cases in which they are due to appear are delayed or postponed. (280042)

Whether the case is heard, delayed or postponed the CPS provides a compensatory allowance for loss of earnings to witnesses who attend court at its request.

The rates currently in operation for ordinary witnesses provide a maximum of £33.50 for an absence from work not exceeding four hours, and £67.00 for an absence from work exceeding four hours. These payments are not subject to income tax or other statutory deductions.

The rates payable by the CPS are adopted by Her Majesty's Courts Service for defence witnesses, and by other prosecuting authorities.

To ask the Solicitor-General when the rates for (a) expenses and (b) allowances payable to witnesses appearing in court proceedings were last set; how the rates are determined; and how often the rates are (i) reviewed and (ii) amended. (280043)

The rates for witness expenses and allowances, which are paid in accordance with the Crown Prosecution Service (Witnesses' etc Allowances) Regulations 1988, are reviewed annually by the CPS in consultation with the Ministry of Justice and the Serious Fraud Office. They were last reviewed in July 2008 and amended from 1 September 2008 to allow for the reimbursement of any congestion charge paid by a witness in making a journey to court.

The regulations allow for the payment of the cost of transport to and from court, meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation if necessary, and loss of earnings. The travel and subsistence allowances are very similar to allowances made to civil servants, and are adjusted when civil service allowances are revised. The loss of earnings allowance is set broadly in line with the national average salary and by comparison to rates paid to jurors attending court for the purpose of public duty.