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Crown Prosecution Service: Apprenticeships

Volume 688: debated on Thursday 4 February 2021

What assessment she has made of the adequacy of apprenticeship opportunities with the Crown Prosecution Service. (911864)

The Crown Prosecution Service offers a range of apprenticeships across the legal, human resources, finance, project management, leadership and management professions and has launched a flagship solicitor apprenticeship. The CPS has consistently exceeded the Government’s apprenticeship target. It currently employs 287 apprentices and a further 94 are about to enrol on a programme. This year, the CPS will also launch a pilot programme recruiting apprentices from low socioeconomic backgrounds to meet its diversifying law agenda.

I am grateful for that answer. It is encouraging to hear that the Crown Prosecution Service is offering lots of apprenticeships. However, it is really important that those opportunities are based not just in London but across the whole country, so I ask the Minister: what apprenticeships are being offered in places such as the High Peak?

A very good point. The CPS is actively contributing to the Government’s levelling-up agenda, offering apprenticeships across the board in a number of professions across England and Wales. I am pleased to say that the CPS East Midlands, where High Peak is, covers my hon. Friend’s constituency, and it has had 30 apprentices since 2016 and currently has two members of staff undertaking a solicitor apprenticeship. Upon completion of that, the solicitor apprenticeship results in fully qualified solicitor status and a role as Crown prosecutor.

There is a backlog of 55,000 cases in our Crown courts, victims are waiting years for their cases to be heard, and CPS letters fail to be of standard nearly 50% of the time. While we welcome apprenticeships in the CPS, staff levels were cut by 31% between 2011 and 2019, so why have the Government Law Officers failed to get to grips with the fundamental crisis facing the CPS and our criminal justice system?

I do not accept the characterisation that the hon. Lady puts on the Crown Prosecution Service. Indeed, it is performing very well and the inspectorate confirms that. The position, of course, is—it is National Apprenticeship Week next week—that I and the Government very much support apprenticeships, and it is right that the CPS does the work that it does to support young people and people from other socioeconomic backgrounds in getting apprenticeships. I hope that she is as supportive as we are of apprenticeships. The reality is that the apprenticeship programme has meant that currently at the CPS, 3.8% of the workforce are apprentices, and that is compared with a national target of 2.3%. This is another parameter in which the Crown Prosecution Service is actually doing very well.