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Code of Practice on Access to

Government Information

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when she plans to publish the monitoring report for the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information covering the year 2001. [73441]

Yvette Cooper: I am pleased to inform hon. Members that the monitoring report for the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information for the year 2001 will be published in August. A pre-print copy of the report has been placed in the House Library and a copy is available on my Department's website.

Libra Project

Jim Knight: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the progress of discussions between the Lord Chancellor's Department and Fujitsu Services on the Libra project to provide IT services for the magistrates courts in England and Wales. [73445]

Yvette Cooper: There are two parts to the Libra project: the provision of a modern IT infrastructure and network to link the magistrates courts with other parts of the criminal justice system and the special software for case management, accounting and other administration within the courts. Installation of the infrastructure and network is 75 per cent. complete and will be completed during the first half of 2003. The specialised software has been delayed.

The Department has now signed a variation to the contract with Fujitsu Services (formerly known as ICL) in respect of the Libra project.

Under these new arrangements, Fujitsu Services will continue to deliver the IT infrastructure and network and provide support until March 2007.

However, the Department has decided that Fujitsu Services will not be required to continue with the development of the specialised software for case management, accounting and other administration. Serious concerns arose last year when delays in delivery of the software and increases in their costs led Fujitsu Services to seek to renegotiate the contract. As many courts and offices had already been equipped with the IT infrastructure, a basis for renegotiation was agreed.

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Despite intensive negotiation however, it has not proved possible to reach an agreement on the specialised software at an acceptable price, which will deliver value for money for the taxpayer.

Instead, the Department will procure application services separately. Assessments show that robust, tried and tested software, is now available in the marketplace, which could meet requirements at a lower cost than that on offer from Fujitsu Services.

The original 1998 contract was valued at £183 million to run until July 2009. A variation to this was signed with Fujitsu/ICL in 2000, which was valued at £319 million and was to run until 2013. This was not a real price increase as the extra cost was for the extra years and other benefits. In each case the contract with Fujitsu Services was for the delivery of both the infrastructure and the specialised software.

The estimated value of the revised contract with Fujitsu Services is £232 million which includes some £31 million paid under the existing contract from 2000 to the end of June 2002 for the delivery and operation of the infrastructure services received by the magistrates courts. In addition, the Government have paid Fujitsu Services £6.8 million for design products produced as part of the software application development that can be reused. Apart from this amount, the financial and management risks of developing the software have been borne by the supplier.

A number of studies have been carried out by external organisations to provide assurances on the way forward, including a benchmark exercise on the infrastructure costs and an assessment of the costs, timescales and market capacity to deliver the software application services.

The benchmarking exercise shows that the cost of the provision of the infrastructure service in the revised contract is in line with the cost of similar services provided to organisations of similar size, structure and complexity in the private and public sectors. It is possible, but by no means certain, that a new competitive procurement could deliver the services for less cost, but the Department's assessment of the costs of delays and procurement and completing the implementation of the service to all courts shows that the revised contract provides best value for money to the taxpayer.

The studies on the software application services indicate that the services can be delivered by the end of 2004—a delay of nine months on the original 1998 contract—and at a price that will be affordable and provide value for money. The Department is planning on this basis. However, these services will be subject to new procurements and the House will be informed of the outcome when the procurements have been completed.

There are lessons to be learned for all parties from the project. Since the original award of contract a range of Government guidelines on managing IT contracts and on PFI/PPP contracts has been issued. These have been fully utilised in the recent negotiation. Improvements introduced on Libra in the last 12 months include strengthening of the governance arrangements, better risk management, the use of external benchmarking and an

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external review under the gateway process. This has provided more effective controls for the negotiations and future plans. The new arrangement separates the delivery of the infrastructure from the application which is designed to better ensure the success of the overall programme and at the same time place appropriate risk with the respective providers and the Department.

Asylum Seekers

Liz Blackman: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the personal delivery of some appeal determinations to asylum seekers. [73102]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Under the Immigration and Asylum Appeals (Procedure) (Amendment) Rules 2001, the Home Secretary has been responsible since 7 January 2002 for the delivery of asylum appeal determinations to appellants who have no further rights of appeal within the Immigration Appellate Authorities (IAA). While the majority of these determinations have been served by post, some determinations have been deemed suitable for delivery in person either by a home visit or at a reporting centre.

A pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of personal delivery procedures commenced on 7 January in the areas covered by Croydon, East Midlands and Leeds Local Enforcement Units and more recently Eaton House (Heathrow). The primary focus of the pilot scheme has been to establish that the correct procedures are in place to ensure that determinations are delivered promptly and that asylum seekers have access to their legal representatives and to the courts.

The Home Office has set targets of 48 hours for posting determinations and six weeks for those being served personally. This allows the Home Office, where appropriate, to serve the determination at a time when the appellant attends a reporting centre, in line with any reporting conditions, or by home visit. Where the Home Office is unable to deliver the determination in person within six weeks, it is posted to the appellant.

The first evaluation of this pilot has now been completed and the results are as follows. Between 7 January and 31 May 2002 the average time taken to deliver a determination in person (including those delivered at reporting centres when a person attends for their regular appointment) has been 19 days. A copy of the determination has been forwarded to the appellant's representative within a maximum of two and a half hours of personal delivery. For those appellants who were removed by 31 May, the average time between delivery of the determination and removal has been 13 days and the minimum time was one day.

Failed asylum seekers who have been taken into detention or removed have been informed of their right to contact a legal representative and given reasonable opportunity to do so. Those wishing to apply for judicial review have had three working days in which to submit an application and a day in which to obtain the High Court reference number. During this time removal directions have been suspended.

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Two such applications for judicial review were made between 7 January and 31 May. There have been no applications for a review (under rule 16 or 19 of the Immigration and Asylum (Procedure) Rules) by the Chief Adjudicator or President of the Tribunal respectively.

As of 31 May 2002, of the 76 determinations deemed suitable for personal delivery, 34 were successfully delivered in person and 24 people have been removed from the country.

The Home Office is now considering expanding the scheme in the light of the evaluation results.


Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the Electoral Commission will be advised of the need to incorporate Gibraltar within a European Constituency in time for the next European Elections; and if he will make a statement. [67853]

Yvette Cooper: The Government intends to seek legislation at the next convenient opportunity to allow people of Gibraltar to vote in the next European parliamentary elections and to provide for the Electoral Commission to recommend of which regional constituency Gibraltar will form a part. Preliminary consultations with the Commission have begun.

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