MP demands openness over £1 billion justice budget cuts

November 18, 2008 5:23 PM

Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, has refused to reveal details of how his justice department plans to save £1 billion in the next three years despite calls from Cambridge MP David Howarth.

Shadow solicitor general, Mr Howarth fears the cuts could hit front-line services and asked for the department's budgetary position and how it plans to deal with the shortfall to be revealed to Ministers.

But Mr Straw flatly refused, claiming details of the savings package would be revealed to a select committee next month "following a period of due diligence".

Mr Howarth is worried that a reduction in the Ministry of Justice budget could lead to further problems for the under-funded probation service.

The service is struggling to deliver Government programmes designed to reform domestic violence offenders and Mr Howarth fears the budget cut could lead to further problems.

"These programmes are immensely important for reforming offenders and for victims, many of whom would not come forward if they thought that their partner would be imprisoned immediately," said Mr Howarth. "I am very concerned that a huge cut in the Ministry of Justice budget can only lead to further problems for a service charged with delivering these programmes which are so vital in our work to stamp out domestic violence."

During a Commons' written question and answer session yesterday (Monday) he asked Mr Straw to reveal what assessment his department had made of the likely effects of the budget cuts and what decisions had been taken to reduce future expenditure.

But Mr Straw would say only that "the details are being worked on, but will focus on reducing overheads, removing duplication and increasing efficiencies."

He claimed the Government would prioritise front line services, provide access to justice and cut re-offending.

Mr Howarth said: "If this is the case, the department has clearly worked out the details of its proposals and they should be made public now to put people's minds at rest. Why is he insisting on prolonging the agony for people working in the front line?"

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