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Crown Prosecution Service (Staffing Costs)

Volume 533: debated on Tuesday 11 October 2011

4. What proportion of savings to be made by the Crown Prosecution Service over the comprehensive spending review period will be made through a reduction in staffing costs. (72847)

A reduction in staffing costs will account for an estimated 60% of the total savings to be made by the Crown Prosecution Service over the spending review period.

Given that the CPS’s own submission to the spending review said that a 25% budget cut would bring considerable risk to service delivery, what steps is the Attorney-General taking to ensure that Government cuts do not damage its ability to prosecute crime?

When these savings were first outlined, the Director of Public Prosecutions and I gave very careful consideration to whether they could be achieved without reducing front-line services. As the hon. Lady will be aware, the plans centre principally on reductions in staff numbers at headquarters, recruitment freezes and the streamlining of services, particularly savings in IT services and elsewhere. For that reason, the CPS and the DPP remain of the view that it is possible to implement the budget reductions without affecting front-line services.

The concerns about the cuts to the capability of the CPS are matched by concerns about the capacity of the Serious Fraud Office, whose job is to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic and overseas corruption. Given those concerns, has the SFO been able to brief the Attorney-General on the case of 3M v. Boulter in Washington, which is a case of blackmail that allegedly involves the attempted dishonest settlement of a dispute between an American company and a subsidiary of the Ministry of Defence? Some may be aware that the case has arisen of a meeting at the five-star Shangri-La hotel in Dubai between Porton Capital’s chief executive Harvey Boulter, the Secretary of State for Defence and the latter’s friend Adam Werritty, at which it has been alleged that there was a conversation about $30 million and the taking away of a knighthood. Will the Attorney-General assure the House that the advice that he receives, and the action that is to be taken, will not be affected by cuts to the prosecuting departments?

May I first welcome the hon. Lady to her new post? I look forward to many opportunities to debate matters with her, and I congratulate her on her appointment. So far as the matter that she has raised is concerned, I simply make a couple of points. The SFO will examine cases that are referred to it, and as she will be aware, in any case that might have any degree of political sensitivity, by convention, proper steps are taken to ensure that the Law Officers’ role is kept to a minimum.