Courts and Tribunals: Recovery

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 3rd December 2020.

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 12:50 pm, 3rd December 2020

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. First, with regard to a multi-year settlement, it would not be right for me to prejudge what the decision of the Chancellor might be on that. The important decision had to be made this year to have a one-year settlement for the obvious reasons of the covid outbreak and the fact that, rightly, there was not a fiscal event—namely, a Budget. I will leave that decision ultimately to the Chancellor. However, my hon. Friend can be reassured that the work being done within the Department is indeed looking beyond one year only and coming up with evidence-based arguments and proposals that lead on to longer-term investment. For example, he will see in the capital programme not only a welcome £105 million extra for court maintenance but the multi-year prison capital programme, which will make a huge difference in terms of modern conditions in our prisons.

With regard to the Crown courts, my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the figures. The figures for Crown court statistics are populated both manually and by automation. Therefore, they take some time to fully settle down. However, I am particularly encouraged by the figures relating to effective trials: trials that end up being “cracked”, as they say, with a guilty plea on the day; and trials brought into the court by the judge just before trial, or a week before trial, where guilty pleas have been tendered. The overall figures I am looking at now through November show a very encouraging increase in that overall number, getting us much closer to the pre-covid baseline. It is not there yet, but if those trends continue, we can get to that pre-covid baseline on trials, I think, in the new year. Of course, that allows us to start to make real progress on the rest of the case load.