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Crown Prosecution Service

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 14 January 2016

6. What discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the consequences of the Law Officers’ Department’s spending review settlement for the Crown Prosecution Service’s operations. (903030)

The Director of Public Prosecutions and I have regular discussions about Crown Prosecution Service operations. We both believe that the spending review settlement enables the CPS to respond effectively to a changing case load and an increase in complex and sensitive cases. We also continue to discuss how the CPS can be more efficient and effective in the work that it does.

Does the Attorney General agree with the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, that as the CPS is forced to shed thousands of jobs, a potentially dangerous situation could develop in which the CPS no longer has the necessary expertise to do its important job of delivering justice to the people of this country?

No, I do not agree, and, more to the point, neither does the current Director of Public Prosecutions. I draw the hon. Lady’s attention to two things in the settlement and what they have led to. The CPS can almost double in size its counter-terrorism unit, which has a growing case load, as she will appreciate. It can also recruit 100 more prosecutors to conduct work on serious sexual cases. In both those areas, the number of cases that the CPS has to deal with is growing substantially, and it is now in a position to do so.

Will the Attorney General confirm that his response is entirely consistent with the evidence that the Director of Public Prosecutions has given recently to the Select Committee on Justice? The willingness of the Crown Prosecution Service to look innovatively at the ways in which it organises itself is being reinforced by its co-operation with the chief inspector’s proposal to carry out thematic reviews of its financing at a corporate level, which will drive further efficiencies.

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend, and it is important that the Crown Prosecution Service inspectorate takes that role. As I have indicated, it is keen to ensure that its work is conducted as efficiently as possible, and it will need to do that in continuing difficult economic times. It is not right to suggest that the CPS does not have the resources that it needs to do its job well.

This time last year the Director of Public Prosecutions asked the Attorney General for an extra £50 million to prosecute complex cases properly, but the spending review revealed a real-terms cut of 2.1% to the Law Officers Department. Given that the vast majority of the budget is taken up by the CPS, will the Attorney General confirm that the DPP is saying that she no longer needs the extra £50 million for which she was pleading just 12 months ago?

May I start by congratulating the hon. Gentleman on his well deserved promotion? I point out, however, that I think four people have done his job in the time that I have been doing mine, so I wish him at least a comparatively long career in opposition.

As he knows—we have discussed this issue across the Dispatch Box previously—it is important to listen to what the CPS is saying now, not what it said a year ago, and what it is saying now is what I read to him in my initial answer. At the time, the CPS comment, with which the DPP fully agrees, was:

“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.”

That is what the DPP believes. She says that this is a good settlement, and I agree with her.