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Crown Prosecution Service: Funding

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 26 November 2015

7. What steps he has taken to ensure that the measures relating to the Law Officers Department in the comprehensive spending review enable the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute cases effectively. (902348)

Throughout the spending review process, I have been keen to ensure that, while saving money wherever possible, the CPS received sufficient funding to prosecute its current case load effectively. I believe that the settlement we have achieved does indeed do that, and I particularly welcome the £4.4 million that has been ring-fenced for the CPS counter-terrorism division, which will nearly double in size, and the extra funding provided to recruit 100 additional prosecutors to deal with serous sexual offences.

Should I need to declare an interest, I should tell the House that I was the head of the Crown Prosecution Service for five years, from 2008 to 2013.

One of the reasons that the CPS has coped well with the cuts in the past five years is that the case load of referrals from the police has gone down. What level of assurance can the Attorney General give me that if the case load goes up significantly or becomes more complex, further funding will be made available to enable the CPS to carry out its service?

As the hon. and learned Gentleman would expect, if circumstances change in that regard, we will speak to the Treasury again about money to be made available to deal with them. The settlement takes account of, and helps us to deal with, the substantial changes and significant shifts in the case load that took place over the time when he was Director of Public Prosecutions and subsequently.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that priority is given to dealing with the woeful state of the CPS IT system, which has been a long-running problem for many years? Secondly, will he ensure that all changes to CPS systems to ensure efficiency are aligned with the proposals that Sir Brian Leveson made in his report for overall efficiencies within the criminal justice system?

Yes, certainly. On my hon. Friend’s latter point, he will know that the CPS has been closely involved with the Leveson review, and a large number of Sir Brian’s conclusions come from what he has been told by the CPS. As my hon. Friend will have noticed, some £700 million was made available for digitalisation of the courts in the spending settlement announced yesterday, through the Ministry of Justice settlement. The CPS will benefit from and contribute to that process immensely.

At the beginning of the year, the DPP asked the Attorney General for an extra £50 million to plug the funding gap so that the CPS could properly prosecute complex matters, such as historical sex cases. He confirmed to this House that he was talking to the Treasury about this extra funding and that he thought it would understand the case he was making, but there was no mention in yesterday’s autumn statement of this extra, special funding for historical sex cases. What went wrong?

The hon. Gentleman should pay close attention to what the CPS is saying now, as much as to what it said then. Let me tell him what it said yesterday in response to the settlement. It said:

“This settlement will allow the CPS to respond to a changing caseload and the significant increase in complex and sensitive cases, such as terrorism, rape and serious sexual assaults and child sex abuse.”

The CPS is making the same point that I am making today about this settlement: it is a settlement that recognises the need to deal with precisely the type of increase in case load that he is talking about.