If Ministers are not inclined to accept the accurate figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger), will the Solicitor-General accept the House of Commons Library figures showing that, from 1980 to 1995, a period of unprecedented rising crime, the number of people appearing for sentence at Crown court went down from 14,300 to 3,400, which is disgraceful? The crime clear-up rate—the crucial factor—has gone down from 40 per cent. in 1980 to a mere 26 per cent. now. Is it not true that Conservative law and order policy is that the innocent are punished and suffer while the guilty run free?
That is not true. The conviction rate in the magistrates court is 98 per cent. and in the Crown court is just over 90 per cent. The cases received by the Crown Prosecution Service from the police have fallen from 1.53 million in 1993 to 1.3 million in 1996. The police police and the prosecutors prosecute, but they can prosecute only those cases that are sent to them.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the use of information technology by the police is increasing the number of successful conclusions of cases? Does he believe that it would be a useful tool for the CPS? If so, what plans does the CPS have to use information technology to ensure that there are more successful prosecutions?
My hon. Friend is right. Information technology is a tool being increasingly used both within the CPS and in its relations with other criminal justice agencies. The case-handling computer system is now installed in 38 branches. By the end of the year, it will be installed in 57, including London. The e-mail system of transferring information is being piloted in Southampton and Ipswich and I shall be visiting Southampton within the next two weeks to see it in operation. I expect it to be considerably extended across the country within the coming months.