Examination of Witness (Questions 40 -
MONDAY 24 JUNE 2002
40. Courts can identify from their own records
what they have imposed in the past in the situation but this information
is not always provided to the magistrates. It seems weird, does
it not? The information you have on the fines you yourself impose
and their non-payment is not passed on to the magistrates before
they decide whether to impose another non-paid fine. How on earth
can that be justified?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I am not pretending it can be
or should be justified.
41. What are you doing about it?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) You have to make sure that the
magistrates' courts and the staff have the resources to get that
information available as quickly as possible. In the past resources
have not been available, but we have now made £10 million
available out of a total spend on enforcement of £40 million,
which is a very, very substantial increase, to try to tackle the
sort of problems you are identifying.
42. In that case your computer programme is
well advanced, is it not? I understand from this that there are
five different computers used by the magistrates' courts. Is that
correct? They are not compatible with each other.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Correct.
43. So they cannot necessarily communicate with
each othercannot possibly communicate with each other in
most cases. So they are of very limited use to the system. Why?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) These are systems which have
been built up over a number of years.
44. No, they were built up a long, long time
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes.
45. They were designed in the late 1970s or
early 1980s. They are the old BBC little computer you bought for
your kids when they were first starting to learn to play with
computers; 1970s early1980s. They are getting a bit decrepit now,
are they not?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) They are decrepit.
46. So where are the new ones?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) The situation is better. We
have a new standard national information technology infrastructure.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) This has now been rolled out
across 75% of magistrates' courts and out of 11,000 staff 8,500
now have the equipment and that gives us a national network, backup
and resilience and it gives e-mail interchange, electronic links
between courts and so on. I hope that by the end of this year
the linkages which you describe as not being thereand they
have not been there in the past and I am not trying to defend
thatshould be changed.
48. That would be very nice, if only it were
right. The latest advice we have in our update briefing from the
NAO tells us that you entered into a PFI deal worth £200
million with ICL for this computer. The existing computer systems
were due to be replaced by a single system:- Libra, but its introduction,
originally planned for 2003 was put back to 2004 or 2005. That
is a bit different from what you have just said. Are you saying
the NAO have got it wrong?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) No, I am not saying that at
49. Oh, then you got it wrong.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) No, I am not saying that at
50. Why did you not get it right?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) There is a series of phases
of this programme and I was trying to respond to your first question
about basic IT links. They are going out and they are in place.
You are quite right to imply that there has been a delay in the
delivery of some of the standard software which has delayed the
programme. What we are determined to try to achieve is that we
hit the end of 2004 target, which is a revised target a year late.
51. The pity is that what you have done is give
them a car but you have no engine in it. You have spoken about
the hardware, but, as it says in the report, the second stageyou
talked about the first stageis the introduction of bespoke
software for court business. That was due to start in July last
year and be completed in July 2003. This is a report you have
signed up to. However, software problems have resulted in delays
and a completion is not expected now until 2004 or 2005. They
have the tie, but it does not work and it will not work for a
couple of years. Is that right?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) There is a year's delay. I accept
that, that is correct.
52. But that is a year's delay on something
some years ahead.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) It is a year's delay from end
2003 to end 2004.
53. That is a bit different from what you were
trying to tell us a few minutes ago, that they have these computers
there now and giving us the impression that they are working.
They are not.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) If I have given that impression,
I apologise. That was not what I was trying to do. I was trying
to say that we are getting the basic interchange in place now
and then the software which will provide standard information
packages across the system will come in, but that will not be
available to everybody until the end of 2004.
54. We are told that in May this year the Lord
Chancellor's Department announced, but perhaps they did not tell
you, that it was not proceeding with that part of the contract
which would provide the software for court business. It is not
now even going to be part of it. Is that true?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) No, that is not my understanding.
My understanding is that we are in negotiation with the company
ICL, now called Fujitsu Services, about the timescale of the cost
of the software package because of the delay and we intend to
bring that to a conclusion just as soon as we can so we know where
55. The NAO says quite clearly here that in
May the Lord Chancellor's Department announced that it was not
proceeding with that part of the contract, that is the PFI contract,
which would provide the software for court business and that it
intends to select an alternative supplier to provide an application
to cover the next few years. That is a bit of a mess, is it not?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) That is an option but we have
not finished our negotiations with the company.
56. Would you like to come back next week and
tell us, if you do not know what is going on in your own Department?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I do not know whether the NAO
want to comment on that.
(Mr Gray) We understand that certainly discussions
are still occurring on some specific issues.
57. On alternatives. But the PFI contract is
not going to cover it, is it?
(Mr Gray) I am not aware of the detail.
58. Right, well I shall ask Sir Hayden, not
that I expect him to know. You had a PFI contract for £200
million. The company has not delivered because it cannot get the
software right. What penalty has now been imposed on the company?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) The position is as described
by the Comptroller and Auditor General's colleague. The position
is that we are in discussion with the company about what they
59. No, they have not delivered, they are not
going to deliver, you have admitted yourself that it is going
to be at least a year and you are not sure whether this part which
we have been told is not going to be covered by it is in or out.
They have defaulted on their deal. What penalty are they facing?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) First of all, you will appreciate
that I am in difficulty. We are in the middle of a contractual
4 Note by witness: Total expenditure on enforcement
in 2001-02 was £43.8 million. £10 million has been added
in 2002-03 Back