§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is a Bill of importance, and the reason for it and the objects which it seeks to achieve can be concisely and briefly stated. I hope it is a Measure which will commend itself to all parties. It arises out of the fact that experience of recent years shows that the work of the Court of Appeal cannot be adequately 1655 done by the two divisions of which that Court is at present composed. In 1924 Parliament imposed additional duties on the Court of Appeal by providing that appeals from county courts, which previously went to the divisional courts, should go to the Court of Appeal, and although, of course, the figures vary slightly from year to year, that provision has imposed anything up to 50 days a year extra work on the Court of Appeal. Apart from that there is the normal increase of work, and experience in recent years has shown that a considerable number of cases of extreme complexity are apt to occupy from time to time a large part of the time of the Court. Quite recently 25 days were occupied with three complicated and technical patent appeals. In spite also of the clarity of the Sections of the Finance Acts, to which such a handsome tribute was paid in our recent Debates, Revenue legislation certainly does not occupy a smaller part of the time of the Court than in past years.
All these causes together have produced a state of affairs in which, during the last five years, the number of cases awaiting trial in the Court of Appeal at any period of the year has progressively increased. The number at the Michaelmas Term last year, as compared with 1932, was double; that is to say, there were some 257 cases at the end of last year as compared with 122 in 1932, and the position has not been improved since that date. When the recommendation was made that county court appeals should go straight to the Court of Appeal, a recommendation which was adopted by Parliament, it was contemplated that that extra work might be met by a third division of the Court of Appeal constituted from judges of the Chancery Division or King's Bench Division. Although third Courts have been so constituted from time to time, that system has in fact broken down, because the judges have not been available from one of the other divisions to constitute the third court. Although the third division has been constituted and has sat for some 27 days this year, it was not found possible to constitute a third division in that way in 1937 for any period.
Therefore, the position in the Court of Appeal, which has gradually developed in the way in which I have described, is 1656 neither fair to the litigants nor to the court. The litigants wait a correspondingly longer period for their appeals to be heard and the court works—and necessarily works, however great its patience may be—under a certain sense of stress and a feeling that it is not keeping abreast of its work and that arrears are mounting up. There is then the further fact, which I think has some importance, that under recent legislation the appeal to the House of Lords is no longer as of right, and in a large number of cases the judgments of the Court of Appeal are the judgments of a final court from which no further appeal can be taken. It is not contemplated that the whole time of the three Lord Justices will be occupied in sitting as a third division of the Court of Appeal, and they will therefore be available to assist in other legal work, particularly in the King's Bench Division, when required to assist in dealing with the work of that division. That explains Clause 2 of the Bill, which makes an alteration in the law that is one rather of wording than of substance. As the House will see, it provides thatThe duties of an ordinary judge of the Court of Appeal appointed after the commencement of this Act shall include the duties of sitting and acting as a judge of the High Court when requested by the Lord Chancellor so to do.The wording of the 1925 Act was that the judges of the Court of Appeal may, with their consent, sit, and although such consent has never been withheld, it was thought right, with regard to judges appointed after this Act, to alter the wording in order to make it clear that it will be a normal part of their duty, when the work of the Court of Appeal does not require them, to sit in a third division to deal with appeals. The other parts of Clause 2 are really consequential on that, and bring the existing provision with regard to that into accord with Sub-section (1) of that Clause. I will say a word or two about Clause 3, which deals with the Chancery Division. The Chancery Division under existing legislation has six judges. Clause 3 enables one vacancy to remain unfilled if the state of business in that division does not require it to be filled. In the present state of affairs, five judges it is felt will be able to cope with the work of that division adequately, promptly and expeditiously. 1657 Should there be a vacancy this Clause enables that vacancy to be left unfilled, until such time as the business in that division renders it necessary to go back to the number of six.
Clause 4 deals with the necessary financial provisions. That puts the broad grounds for this Bill and the reasons for which it is introduced before the House. In conclusion, I would say that, from some points of view at any rate, the Court of Appeal is the lynch-pin of our judicial structure and I hope that a Bill which enables that court to be adequately manned, which enables it to deal with its work expeditiously and to feel that it is not working under a sense of stress, with arrears mounting up, but that the work is being disposed of, is a Bill which will be welcomed in all quarters of the House.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
There is no doubt that the efficient administration of justice is a vitally important matter in the State. Nor is there any doubt that at the present time the Court of Appeal are grossly in arrears with their work. I am not blaming them in any way, but that is what has happened. No appeals of any kind from the King's Bench Division, have been heard, I think, since Easter.
§ Sir S. Cripps
None have been heard, I think, since Easter, and none will be heard before next October. That is obviously an impossible position, and one which should not be allowed to persist in connection with the administration of justice. But my complaint about the Bill is that it is another of those "penny numbers" which we are now continually getting in relation to the administration of justice in this country, and "penny numbers" are often bad and ineffective documents. I do not think that this is either an efficient or a cheap way for this House to proceed in the regulation of the procedure in our courts. Surely it is time that this matter was tackled thoroughly and fundamentally. Instead of doing so, we wait until some difficulty occurs, until there is some piling-up of unheard cases, and then some, more or less emergency Measure, such as this, or, such as the appointment of divorce judges the other day, is introduced. All the time we are making more fixed the scheme as it is, 1658 and less able we become, to enter upon any large-scale reorganisation.
I shall not reiterate what has been said by many lawyers in this House and in other places in more picturesque language than I could use, about this type of legislation. But I want to emphasise that there is a mass of reforms which are long overdue and to which we do not seem to get any nearer by passing Bills of this type. I think the time has arrived when we ought to have a representative in this House responsible for these matters and for judicial appointments. I am not decrying the capabilities of the Law Officers but they have no responsibility of any sort or kind for the administration of justice in this country. That is entirely in the hands of the Lord Chancellor. I think it is time it was put into the hands of a Minister of Justice who would be in this House and who could deal with and initiate these matters.
I am sure it would be in accordance with the interest of the community and the administration of justice if such a change could now be made. In fact, I think it could be said, using a legal expression, that the degree of the improvement of the administration of justice can be measured by the length of the Lord's Chancellor's foot, and most of them, it seems, have somewhat small feet. At any rate, they have not either the time or the staff or the opportunity for undertaking the fundamental and wide reform that is necessary in our legal procedure, and if we are to keep it up to date and a good service to the community, one that can be utilised to settle disputes finally and quickly, I feel that it is quite time that we undertook that measure of reorganisation.
This particular Bill has no vices in it excepting perhaps vices of omission, and there are only two matters with which I want to deal. I should like, first of all, to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman for a little further explanation of Clause 3. He has told us that it is proposed in future to carry out the work with five Chancery Judges. He will realise that at the present time the method is to have two sets of three Chancery Judges, one doing Chambers work and similar work, one doing the short witness lists, and one doing the long witness lists and Chambers lists, each in little groups, so that the work can be followed through in either one of those sets. I do not 1659 quite understand how the Lord Chancellor is going to arrange this with five judges, because there will not be two complete sets. Does it mean a complete reorganisation of the whole of the present method of procedure in the Chancery Division? The Chancery Division, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, is rather different from the King's Bench Division, because it is often necessary for judges to retain and follow through cases which last for many, many years, such as wills, guardianship of infants, and similar cases. There is not the same flexibility of moving from one judge to another as there is in the King's Bench Division. I shall be interested to know, and I think other people will as well, how it is proposed, with five judges, to work the system which has so far been worked on the Chancery side.
The second matter is one of omission, and it is one of those perhaps comparatively small matters which consequently are often overlooked. But small injustices are just as serious as large injustices to those people who suffer from them. I refer to the omission to do anything for the judges' clerks. Those judges' clerks are servants of the State, paid by the Treasury, and are doing admirable, essential, and useful work in the administration of justice, and I believe that they are almost the only public servants in this country who have no pensions provisions whatsoever made for them at the present time. It is all the more peculiar and boring to the judges' clerks in England because the judges' clerks in Scotland do get pensions. They, perhaps owing to their nationality, at the time when the old method of payment by fees was discontinued got provisions made for the setting-up of a pensions fund, out of which they are now pensionable. The English judges' clerks gave up the fees in exactly the same way, but apparently had not the same forethought as regards the setting up of a pensions fund. Both were originally paid in that way.
There has been a long and constant agitation by the judges' clerks, and numerous cases of great hardship have occurred from time to time. One case will be familiar to everybody connected with the law at the present time where, upon the death of a judge, his clerk was left next morning with no means of subsistence 1660 beyond the small savings from his salary. Although this request has been put forward in every sort of way, it has never been met, and I am sure that Members on all sides of the House will feel that it is inequitable that these people should continue servants of the State without any opportunity of being pensioned as almost every other servant employed by the State is. I realise that it is probably too late to do anything in this Bill, but I want to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he will take some immediate steps to put in train by means of a committee or something of that kind, the necessary inquiries which must precede legislation. Then, when we get to the Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) (No. X) Bill, which I suppose we shall do in course of time, perhaps something could be put into the Bill to deal with this important matter because of the injustice which at present exists. I hope other hon. Members on all sides of the House will join me in pressing that something should be done for these judges' clerks. It is not a question of cost or anything of that kind. It is a matter which has too long been overlooked and which, unless this House takes it in hand, will continue to be overlooked. That is why I was anxious to take this opportunity of bringing the matter before the House. With these observations, we shall certainly be glad to give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies
I am glad to join with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) in this appeal to the Attorney-General and the Government on behalf of a set of servants who have given in the past, and I am sure will in future give, very faithful service to the public, namely, the judges' clerks. There is not one of us who has practised at the Bar who does not realise the good work that clerk after clerk has done attending to his judge and helping litigants, counsel and solicitors. It has always been a matter of deep regret to me that, although they are paid by the State, and to that extent are civil servants, the moment a judge is dead his clerk is thrown upon the scrap-heap. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol and I know of several instances in the Temple where these men have to rely upon such charity as can be meted out to them. One case in particular which 1661 I know is that of the clerk of one of our greatest commercial judges who afterwards became a great judge in the Court of Appeal. For 24 years that man served his judge and the State. Suddenly one morning the judge died, and the clerk was left with nothing. He existed on £1a week which he got from a charitable society. That instance can be repeated many times, and I join with the hon. and learned Member in making this appeal on behalf of this deserving class. It will not cost the State much, but it will help these people and put them beyond the terrible anxiety which they must feel as to what will happen when the judges for whom they work die.
Now I will turn to this Bill. Like the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, I cannot welcome this Bill as a settlement of anything. The Attorney-General ended his speech by saying, very rightly, that we should have a strong and efficient Court of Appeal, and plenty of time for that Court to do its work properly. Undoubtedly, the two Divisions of that Court of Appeal have been overworked and are incapable, constituted as they are, of dealing with the cases which keep coming up; so much so that they have been unable this term to deal with a single case of appeal from the King's Bench Division. So far as the Bill gives us a third Division of the Court of Appeal we all welcome it, but the proposal in the Bill to reduce the number of judges is one which I cannot understand. I keep on asking myself, as the hon. and learned Member has asked himself, how much longer is this patchwork going on? We get Bill after Bill to do some little bit of patchwork. The mere fact that they are introduced is an acknowledgment that the system is wrong.
I had the honour of sitting upon a Commission, which I think was the eleventh which had sat since 1865, to make recommendations for the reform of this system. Time and time again people have given up their time, heard evidence from the Temple, from solicitors, from the City, from lay clients here, there and everywhere, and have drawn their conclusions and made their recommendations; but the system still persists, and still requires to be helped along with Measure after Measure such as this. I therefore put to myself the question, who is it who now stands in the way of having the system put right?—what man is it?—someone, 1662 either one or two or three—when witness after witness has given evidence about it? The Solicitor-General himself gave evidence before the Commission of which I was a member with regard to this very matter. Who is it who, in spite of all the evidence from Judge after Judge saying that the system does not work, that it is expensive, that there is a delay of justice, that there is really a denial of justice, stops reforms from coming about?
For 25 years I felt that the day ought not to appear when we should have a Minister of Justice. I am now convinced, like the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, that the only way of dealing with this matter is to have a Minister of Justice. As he has rightly pointed out, neither the Attorney-General nor the Solicitor-General have any power in this matter. The power lies in another place, and no question can be put to the other place. If there is delay in the administration of justice in any assize town, if people are put to needless expense, no question can be asked from these benches as to what is to happen. A person in another place has to be consulted. I think the Minister responsible ought to be in this House, at that Box. Then these difficulties would not arise, and then we should have a system which could be worked.
What is the position at the present moment? This Bill proposes to reduce the number of Chancery judges from six to five. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol has already dealt with the point of how the work is to be divided, considering that the work has been so well done on the Chancery side since it was divided as it was in the last few years, but there is another point. Why, with the lists in the state they are, should the Government take power to reduce the High Court judges sitting in the Chancery Division from six to five when there is power in the Judicature Act, 1925, in Section 4, for a Chancery judge to sit on the King's Bench side and assist the King's Bench judges? Just at this moment when the work is so congested in that division, the Government forsooth say: "Instead of increasing the number of judges, we will take power to reduce it, but look at Clause 1, under which we are going to create three more Court of Appeal judges." They fondly 1663 hope that those three judges can be spared from the Court of Appeal at some time or other to assist judges in the King's Bench Division.
When will that time come? At the present moment there is such congestion in the Court of Appeal that it will take months to get rid even of that congestion. Litigants, I suppose, are to wait until the congestion in the Court of Appeal has been wiped away and then, perchance and perhaps some time next year, one or two of those judges will be available to sit in the King's Bench Division to relieve the terrible congestion that there is there. May I give a few figures to show the position to-day? In 1934, when the Peel Commission was appointed, its duty was to consider what could be done to expedite the hearing of cases because of the congestion that then existed. We sat for 12 months and we issued a report. The position prior to our sitting and during the time I sat was as follows: In 1932 there were 937 cases awaiting trial; in 1933, there were 945; in 1934, there were 580; in 1935, there were 736, and in 1936, thanks to the appointment of an additional judge, the figure dropped to 307.
Now for the position this year. On 14th June, just at the beginning of this term, all the judges except four left London to go on circuit, and only four were left to deal with the arrears which were in London and with new cases as they came. That position was known at the beginning of the term. All the circuits had been fixed and the places where the judges were to go and their dates. It was known that there were to be only four judges in London. What is the position in regard to this matter? Three of the judges are taken away every Monday and sit in the Court of Criminal Appeal. One of them sits in the commercial court, so that last Monday there was not one judge capable of relieving the list or taking any of the special jury, common jury, or non-jury cases. This is the position to-day, if anyone looks at the list in the "Times." There are three judges sitting in the courts. The Lord Chief Justice is taking the special jury cases, Lord Justice Hawke is taking a case which has already lasted a fortnight, and Mr. Justice Lewis is taking the commercial court. There is no other judge, because the other judges in London have had to go to the Central 1664 Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, in order to relieve the list there.
There are two judges there, and that leaves London with two judges to deal with special-jury, common-jury and non-jury cases. At the beginning of this term, on, 4th June, 993 cases were awaiting trial and some of those cases had been awaiting trial since last January or last February. Shakespeare himself has spoken about the law's delays; Commission after Commission has denounced them, but nobody seems to pay any attention to the costs which are thrown upon the public. All that matters is that you should just keep the judges fully occupied and it does not matter how long the public have to wait outside. There were 993 cases at the beginning of the term. By 27th June, the number had gone up to 1,077, and by this morning had gone up to 1,147. Scarcely a judge will be back before the end of this term—the end of July—and then they will all go away for the Long Vacation, and will not be back until October.
§ Mr. Davies
Disputes will arise during August and September, cases will have to be set down, and I should think it is a fair estimate to say that, when they reassemble in October, the number awaiting trial will not be far short of 1,500. In these circumstances, one would have expected that the Government would have shown a little courage, and would have asked the House of Commons to appoint more judges. This House has never refused such an appeal. But, instead of asking for more judges, they take power to reduce the number in the Chancery Division from six to five.
The position in the country is quite as bad. The most favoured of the provincial towns outside London are the towns of my own circuit, Liverpool and Manchester, where they have pretty nearly continuous sittings, with two judges. But the congestion was so great there at the last Assize that cases had to go over to this Assize, and it took them four weeks, with two judges, to try to clear the list of cases that had remained over from the previous Assize. A judge has gone on the Midland Circuit. He goes to Lincoln, where he is allotted a certain number of days in which to try crime and dispose of the civil list. It is as much 1665 as he can do to get through the criminal list at Lincoln, so, without thought for anyone, with no consideration at all for the litigants and their expenses, he says they must all go to Nottingham. When he gets to Derby, exactly the same thing happens; he has to send the civil cases from Derby to Nottingham. When he gets to Nottingham, even the Lord Chancellor's Department have realised that something has got to be done, so they do what Commission after Commission has condemned as wrong—they send down a King's Counsellor to sit with the judge and try to help him clear the list.
I had cuttings from the newspapers showing the first two cases which that King's Counsel tried at Nottingham. One was a case from Sutton-on-Sea, in Lincolnshire. Instead of its being tried at the Lincoln Assizes, everyone concerned in it had to make their way to Nottingham. It was a slander action, and the House can well understand that in a slander action you get quite a number of witnesses on both sides. The case took a full day to try, and the jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff and awarded him £100 damages. I wonder what it has cost him to recover his £100 damages and clear his name. All those witnesses had to be kept in Nottingham, and their expenses had to be paid, but nobody seemed to care about them as long as the judge could keep on the move. The next case was an even more glaring one. I do not know the result; it was part heard. It was heard on one day and adjourned to the next day. The case was that of a man earning £5 a week who said he had been injured on a bus at Littlecoates, just outside Grimsby. That man. with £5 a week, had had, I imagine, the greatest difficulty in finding the money to pay his witnesses' expenses to go from Littlecoates to Lincoln. How much more did he have to find to take them to Nottingham? And when he got there, the case was adjourned till the next day, and they had to be kept at a hotel till then. That is a denial of justice, not the administration of justice. That is the kind of thing against which we keep protesting, but we get no adequate answer.
When I turn to the evidence that was given before us I find some very amazing things. I only wish the new Lord Chancellor who is responsible for initiating this Bill would consult Lord Justice Maugham 1666 on what he thinks of the position, because this is what he told the Commission:I hope I shall be forgiven for adding that eminent lawyers from Lord Eldon and Lord Ellenborough downwards are often opposed to any alteration of our law or procedure. They are accustomed to say 'Let well alone.' For my part I deny that all is well when serious cases involving expert evidence take not infrequently 10, 20 or even more days to try, and where the legal costs equal or exceed the amount at stake. Every trial is of the nature of a compromise. Not all cases are rightly decided now. The case for reducing the costs of litigation by divers expedients is amply made out if, as the result of the reforms, the number of miscarriages of justice is not sensibly increased.Fixing dates of trial: I regard this matter as one of first-rate importance in a large number of cases, but, as things are, it is absolutely impossible to fix a date for trial except under very exceptional circumstances. The reason is that no one can tell even approximately how long the more difficult cases will last and, on the other hand, there is no reserve of judges from whom you can summon one to hear a particular case on a particular day. This disadvantage from which English suitors suffer does not exist abroad or in Scotland because they have the necessary reserve of judge power.I put the question,Do I sum up your position truly with regard to a reserve of judges if I put it in this way? Disputes arise and those disputes have to be settled. They ought to be settled in the most efficient and cheapest way for the litigant. If it is necessary to have a reserve of judges who, perchance, on occasional days have nothing to do, that does not very much matter if they have enough to do at other times.He replied:I would agree that it does not, though I would always find them something to do because they could always sit in the Appeal Court if there happens to be nothing to do on a particular day and they would thereby get some training in appellate work. Apparently the notion of an idle judge appals the people of this country. It does not seem so bad to me, I must say.That was his considered evidence in 1934. What is his opinion to-day? There he is emphasising the importance of fixing a day for trial. In 1895 a great judge, Mr. Justice Mathew, knowing that litigants were being put to absurd expense, and that the courts were becoming unpopular, especially with the commercial classes, established what is known as the commercial court, and he said the right thing to do was that the judge would sit there the moment the writ was issued, take charge of the proceedings, deal with it and, what is more important, fix a day, for trial. In many commercial cases the 1667 witnesses are ships' witnesses and, if a case comes on sometime in the middle of a term, you do not know when those witnesses may be across the sea. That was the system and it has worked until now. But now, instead of getting a commercial judge sitting steadily throughout the term, they chop and change. They get one judge for half a term and another for a week, and what has happened now is that the judge taking the commercial list this term begins a case on 25th June. It is still going on, it will last the rest of the term and every other case in the commercial court has had to go to the end of October. There was one case where an application was made to him this morning, where witnesses had come from abroad. The date had been fixed three months ago for trial on 4th July. The witnesses came on 4th July, there was no judge available; no judge was available until to-day. They made the application. The judge said, "There is nobody to help me; they will have to go home; I will fix a date in October." If the position is to continue like this, there will be nobody to help him in October. That is the position that the Government tolerate; and are prepared not only to tolerate, but to make worse by lessening the number of judges. We also have the advantage of having before us the evidence of the present Solicitor-General. He was not then Solicitor-General, but he gave us his considered view. I propose to read it to the House because it is so striking, so cogent, so true in fact, and so carefully prepared that I am sure the House will be glad to hear it. After giving a few instances of the very kind of thing that I have mentioned—he had given three instances of cases being put on the list and then taken out, and witnesses waiting—he went on to say:The following deductions from this state of affairs seem to me to be fair: (1) a large number of witnesses, some of whom came to England from abroad, wasted days of valuable time and incurred expenses in London which one or both of the parties had to bear. (2)Jurymen had been kept needlessly kicking their heels in the uncomfortable precincts of the Law Courts and had lost time and money. (3) In each case important businesses were seriously and unnecessarily disorganised. (4) A mass of witnesses and jurors, as well as parties, have concluded their experiences with serious dissatisfaction at the arrangements for the determination of justice, and with a determination to suffer injustice rather than have 1668 recourse to the courts themselves. Thus, every case in which maladministration occurs deflects an unascertainable number of people from recourse to law and deepens the public distrust of the administration of justice.I could not have found more telling words than those, the considered judgment of the Solicitor-General. He has then given us an account of the growth of the cases pending. He says:What is to happen to the issues which might have been expected to find their way into the King's Bench Division? Some, no doubt, have found their way into the county courts, under their extended jurisdiction"—I hope he will bear that in mind in a moment, because he is now opposed to that extended jurisdiction—but a mass of issues is, in my experience and belief, disposed of in ways which reflect dissatisfaction with the law's delays and expense. For example: (1) most business men and all insurance companies insist on an arbitration clause in the agreements. Arbitration is costly and often unsatisfactory, but it has the merit of being usually speedy and often conclusive. (2) Potential plaintiffs settle their claims for inadequate amounts rather than face the delay and expense of litigation.Then comes this gem:(3) Potential plaintiffs avoid the law like the plague, and suffer injustice rather than resort to it.I could go on reciting this evidence, which took an hour and a-half to give before us, and which contains views of that kind. The Government have taken a monopoly of the administration of justice. If they do so they should carry out that monopoly properly. They should do it in the way which would mean quick, speedy and cheap justice for the public. But what do they do? There is no consideration whatever for the public. If it cost the Treasury something one might expect to hear something about it, but the judges do not cost the Treasury a penny piece. The salaries of the judges and of the clerks, and I suppose the pensions of the clerks and the cost of the buildings themselves, are paid out of the fees of the litigants. The hearing fees are only £2, but they are enough to pay for the whole lot, and all we get here is a token Vote of £100, so that we can discuss the matter.
Then they refuse to administer justice. I will give one other instance. I mentioned Derby, Lincoln and Nottingham. I understand that the position in Nottingham was that when they had finished there, having compelled witnesses, litigants, solicitors and jurymen to come 1669 over the border and into Nottingham, they had disposed of the Lincoln list and the Derby list, but they could not dispose of the Nottingham list, and that had to go either to Birmingham or to the next assize sometime in October or November. Think of the terrible cost of all this. That is one example.
Let me take another view. The assizes have no relation whatever to-day to the situation of the population. There are 37 big towns of over 100,000 inhabitants which have never seen a judge. Judge after judge will tell us that the important thing is that the public should see a red judge. While we would not deprive the little towns of their assizes, that is no reason at all why the judges should not go to places where the population is. I will give an instance in the circuit of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol. The circuit town of the hon. and learned Gentleman is Winchester, and the judge never goes to Southampton or Portsmouth. Litigants have to bring their witnesses to Winchester. I would not deprive Winchester of its assizes, but why a judge should not go to Portsmouth or Southampton I do not know. It would not take long. A car would take him. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not go to the Isle of Wight?"] Why not go to the Isle of Wight or to Plymouth, or to Hull, Bradford, Huddersfield, Sheffield? There are a million inhabitants around Sheffield, but litigants have to make their way to Leeds.
§ Mr. Davies
The same judge might also be sitting in Sheffield. I am sure that the House realises the tremendous expense and loss the country is suffering because of this. When are we to have these matters put right? I will conclude with an appeal that the time has come when we should have a Minister of Justice answerable to this House for the questions that I am raising. Until we get a Minister of Justice we shall not have justice done in this House.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I wish on behalf of myself and my hon. Friends to associate myself with the most eloquent plea made by my hon. and learned Friend opposite. Everybody welcomes the addition of three 1670 new Lord Justices. There is no controversy about that. But I regard with some misgiving the proposal that they should sit also as judges of the High Court. Nobody objects to that, but the Attorney-General spoke of the congestion in the Court of Appeal. It is no greater than the congestion which now obtains in the King's Bench Division. It would be exceedingly unfortunate if because we have passed this provision for strengthening the King's Bench Division from time to time by the Lord Justices sitting as judges of the High Court, that were used as an excuse for avoiding adding judges to the King's Bench Division.
The hon. and learned Member spoke of some cases that have come within his knowledge, and that for the last two or three weeks we have had only three or four judges sitting in the High Court at one time. There are a number of cases in the non-jury list that have been there for two or three weeks. Nobody can tell at this moment whether or not they will be heard this term. Therefore, the witnesses have to be ready. In some cases they may have to come very great distances and they have to hold themselves in readiness, at a few hours' notice, to attend the court in London. They do not know whether they will have to attend now or in October or November.
The hon. and learned Member referred to the difficulty that sometimes occurs on circuit. I have not any experience of circuit towns as large as Liverpool or Manchester, but it has always seemed to me whatever the difficulties may be on circuit, that on the whole the litigant who brings an action at the assize is in a better case than the litigant in London, because he does know for some weeks or a month or two ahead when the assize will come on. In the smaller assize towns he knows within a week when his case will be heard. So he has that advantage, providing that his case is heard at all. If his case is not reached when the assize is held he is in very considerable difficulty, because it has to go over to the next assize.
May I put the sort of case that arose only a short time ago at the assizes at Bodmin? There was an unusually heavy list, and as a result it was not possible to reach one of the cases in the Civil List. Therefore, it had to go over. In the ordinary way, for some 1671 reason which I have never been able to understand, civil work is not taken at Bodmin in the autumn, unless some special arangement is made. It is possible to make arrangement in certain circumstances. The litigants in that particular case have to wait till the end of January or the beginning of February. Everybody must realise that that is an extremely unsatisfactory position. As matters stand, it is unavoidable because the dates on which the judges are going on circuit have to be arranged before the circuit begins, and cases are entered for trial at the assize after the circuit has begun. When those dates have been fixed, it is impossible for the circuit officials to make any correct estimate as to the amount of time which will be needed. That is something we cannot avoid, but we should obviate these difficulties if we had some reserves of judicial strength, as suggested by the hon. and learned Member, so that it would be possible in certain cases to send down additional judges where it was found at a late stage that there was more work than could be got through within the time allocated.
Therefore I associate myself with the plea made by the last two speakers, that although we are agreed upon the strengthening of the court of appeal, which is proposed in the Bill, what is needed even more urgently is a further addition to the number of puisne judges, particularly in the King's Bench Division. Both hon. Members referred to a proposal for a Ministry of Justice. I regard that proposal with considerable alarm. Certainly, I should not be in favour of it, unless the functions of the Minister of Justice were strictly limited to business management of the courts and did not extend to any other function. But even if we had a Minister of Justice, he would not be able to do much to relieve the present situation unless there are a greater number of judges. It is impossible without that to meet the grievances which have been brought before the House. I take it that hon. Members will support the principal proposals in the Bill, but like other hon. Members we regard it as a very inadequate contribution.
§ 11.11 p.m.
§ Major Milner
I shall give my support to the Bill, with a rather closer relationship 1672 to the subject than hon. and learned Members who have spoken. After all, it is the poor solicitor who has to face the slings and arrows of outraged suitors. Hon. and learned Members hear the distant rumbling of disgruntled suitors, but it is the poor solicitor who has to face the music. He has the suitor on his doorstep asking when his case is to be tried, and it is impossible in present circumstances to expedite it in the Court of Appeal. From inquiries I have made I find that the cases which a week ago were to be heard next in the King's Bench Division were set down as long ago as December, 1937, and that county court appeals, which concern workmen's compensation, were set down in December, 1937. Many injured workmen have been waiting for six months for their case to be heard. I agree that in many cases this delay means nothing less than a denial of justice. The same state of affairs exists in the King's Bench Division. I am told that in the special jury list the first case to be heard was set down as long ago as January of this year; similarly with the common jury long list and the common jury short list. Cases in the non-jury list which are about to be heard were set down in February this year.
It is a fact that cases do get dealt with more expeditiously when dealt with at the assizes in the Provinces. If a suitor issues a writ in the High Court Registry of Leeds I can almost guarantee that the case will be heard within three months, and I would recommend all suitors to issue their writs there. I do not recollect that it has been necessary in recent years to carry over cases at the Leeds Assizes. It is a fact that on the Northern circuit, on 4th July, there were no less than 160 cases for trial in the ordinary list and 129 divorce cases at the assizes at Manchester. I imagine that the great majority of those cases were entered during the previous two or three months. It is obvious that, with that enormous congestion of cases even at the Assizes in Manchester, where the Judges sit almost continuously, the position is very serious, and that it will not be remedied by the mere appointment of three Judges in the Court of Appeal. The truth is that the matter has been dealt with by piecemeal methods, whereas what is wanted is a wholesale overhaul of the whole system and the provision of a sufficient number of Judges to deal expeditiously with 1673 whatever cases may come before the Court in any of its Divisions in London or in the Provinces. I confess that I am rather in favour of the appointment of a Minister of Justice, who would be responsible to this House, which would be a strong point in favour of having such a Minister. I hope that the Government will not continue to bring in piecemeal Bills such as this. The Lord Chancellor and the Law Officers ought to apply themselves to having the whole matter looked into, if it has not been sufficiently looked into already, and to having appointed whatever number of Judges are necessary to deal easily and expeditiously with the work of the Courts.
Nothing has been said in the Debate bout the appointments which will be made to the Court of Appeal in pursuance of this Bill. I have a feeling that there is a vast reservoir of talent in the higher branch of the legal profession from which judges could be appointed. It is not always necessary to appoint King's Counsel. I know, as many practising lawyers must know, of many most competent junior counsel who, for various reasons, have not taken silk, who would make etxremely competent judges. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will not always confine himself to King's Counsel, but will look farther afield to the great number of men who have borne the heat and burden of the day to the great satisfaction of litigants.
I should like also to say a few words on the subject of judges' clerks. Certainly I support what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite in regard to having some sort of pensions for judges' clerks. I would point out, however, that the matter is not free from difficulty. I think I am right in saying that when a judge is appointed, he usually likes to take with him as judge's clerk the person whom he had as clerk when he was in chambers. It may happen that the judge does not live for many years, and when his successor is appointed, he, in turn, may wish to take with him the clerk he had in chambers, so that the first judge's clerk will be thrown out of work. Therefore, there might have to be some system of judges' clerks serving judges in turn and not necessarily being appropriated to particular judges. I 1674 recognise the desirability of judges having the right to select their own clerks wherever that is possible, since it is a great convenience to them to have as clerks men who are accustomed to their methods and so on; but I doubt very much whether a pensions system could be worked out unless it were on ordinary Civil Service lines. Certainly, I am convinced that something should be done to put judges' clerks in the same position in this respect as other civil servants. I support the Bill.
§ 11.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Errington
I support the plea which has been made for an investigation into the position of judges' clerks, in relation to pensions. But I would submit that the important thing to realise in connection with this Bill is that economy in the appointment of judges is false economy. Reference has been made to the Assizes of Manchester and Liverpool. At the Easter Assizes at Liverpool, 12 days were allotted and there were 50 civil cases, 20 criminal cases and a considerable number of divorce cases. The result of that was that it was not until three weeks after the beginning of the Summer Assizes at Liverpool that a case which had been entered for the January Assizes was tried. At the Summer Assizes at Manchester, there were over 160 civil cases, 120 divorce cases and a substantial criminal list. The result was the appointment of a Commissioner. If a Commissioner has to be appointed, it is most desirable that he should be appointed from outside. Sometimes that is not possible and a "silk" on the circuit has to he appointed. That, in my submission, is most undesirable, because clients who "brief" him appear before him and that puts him, or at any rate, seems to the public to put him, in a position of grave difficulty. One alternative to the appointment of a Commissioner is working late at Assizes which, again, is a very unsatisfactory method. The other alternative is that of leaving over as remanets a number of cases, which are not reached. The result of that is the denial of justice to people for a considerable period. With regard to what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), I would not advise anybody who wanted speedy justice, to issue a writ, either in the Manchester or Liverpool district registries.
§ Mr. Errington
It must be very much better than either of the others. It seems to me, in this case, that there are grave demands on the Court of Appeal, there are grave demands on the King's Bench Division and there are grave demands on the circuits and I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General whether he can give any undertaking that the abuses which I have mentioned will be alleviated by the additional appointments of judges proposed in the Bill. This is a matter about which, not only lawyers but the general public, feel most strongly.
§ 11.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt
I do not wish to add to what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and other hon. Members have said. Every lawyer knows that what can only be described as grave scandals exist, and have existed for years, and are scarcely remedied at all. The tragedy of it is that unless laymen come into contact with litigation, they do not know what is going on, and consequently we do not get the pressure of public opinion applied to legal departments to force them to put their house in order. The Bill makes me think that the motto of this Government is "Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor." Have as many soldiers and sailors as you can, and the tailors to make clothes for them, and as for reforming anything else, why, just tinker with it. I want to say this about the proposal for a Ministry of Justice, that most of us on these benches think it would be an admirable plan. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) is anxious about it, because Liberals like to preserve the illusion that the Government never give the Judicature a hint as to the way in which they want justice to go, whereas everyone knows that that farm of hinting is carried on very efficiently at the present time. I have heard of an instance in which a Judge said to the learned counsel in a case, "You present very cogent arguments, but I am not sure the Government want the case decided in that way."
§ Mr. Pritt
Yes, I am glad to think there are, but there comes a point where one 1676 is not quite as confident as one would like to be. I want now to say a few words about the question of Judges' clerks, because, as the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) pointed out, there is a difficulty. The Judge's clerk is appointed by the Judge; "therefore," say the watchdogs of the Treasury, "although in a sense the money will not be paid out of the public purse, we cannot give pensions to people whom we do not appoint ourselves and who may, when appointed, be almost as young as the younger sons of Peers in the 18th century, when they were made Paymaster-General at the age of 60 and became pensionable at 70." The matter is exceptional and very small in the amount of money involved. The profession of barristers' clerks is a curiously hazardous one and very personal as to the relations between the barrister and his clerk or the Judge and his clerk. They either hate each other like poison or they are very good friends. They see so much of each other that they must be one or the other.
When a member of the Bar is appointed to the Bench, as sometimes happens, he generally asks his clerk to go up with him, and, of course, it is very difficult for the clerk to refuse. It is a remarkable fact that the clerk will almost always lose money by going up with his employer to the Bench, and I think most barristers feel that really the proper thing to do is to secure that the clerk has a pension. The clerk runs a double hazard, because his Judge may not only retire or die; he may be made a Lord of Appeal, in which case, for some mysterious reason which nobody has ever been able to fathom, he does not need a clerk, so that his clerk is quite unexpectedly out of employment. I understand that pensions are paid in Scotland. It may naturally be said that if the clerks are to have pensions, they must expect to be moved from Judge to Judge in order to save the country money. Ordinarily speaking, that would be a good argument, but the difficulty is that the relationship is so personal that the ordinary Judge would no more consent to take somebody else's second-hand clerk than he would consent to take somebody else's second-hand tooth brush. It is one of those things where a little give and no take ought to be exercised by the Government in order that that branch of the legal sphere can be adequately served.
1677 I want to say a few words about the provisions of the Bill, for however iniquitous it is that we should be only tinkering, tinkering is better than nothing; and if there is to be tinkering, let us see whether it is good or bad. I do not agree with some of the criticisms of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies) and one or two other hon. Members. Some of the tinkering is rather good. The increase of the Judicature by three is a good thing. To make them Judges of the Court of Appeal and then get them to sit from time to time in the King's Bench Division is a good plan, not only because I fancy I suggested it to the Attorney-General two or three years ago, but on its merits. For various reasons you will get. I think, the best members of the profession more willing to become Judges of the Court of Appeal than to become Judges of first instance. They will be improved and not worsened in their work by sitting from time to time as Judges of first instance, and it will lend a certain flexibility to the whole procedure. For example, if this week and last week and the week before, when the King's Bench Division must have looked like a desert, there had been three extra Judges of the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Appeal's work had been well up, it would have been easy to detach three Judges to deal with the King's Bench work.
One or two hon. Members have said that the Court of Appeal is very congested, and therefore it was not much good looking to the additional three Lords Justices for any help in any other court; but there is no court which changes more quickly from slump to boom than the Court of Appeal. Within the last three weeks that Court has actually sat with hardly a case in its list wondering from day to day whether anybody would set down an appeal in order to give it a little work. Consequently, the appointment of three extra judges in this way seems to me to be the best way of tinkering, because you can switch them about like reinforcements without any detriment to their convenience or to their efficiency in working in order to deal sometimes with one court and sometimes with another.
With reference to the reduction of the Chancery Judges from six to five, one or two hon. Members have asked why the 1678 number should be reduced when the work is so seriously in arrear. The answer is that the Chancery work is not in arrear and that it is a mistake to believe that you can really get good work by habitually borrowing Chancery Judges for King's Bench work. The work is very different. It is the old problem which you get when a regiment in the Army is asked to detach somebody for special service; they always send the worst lieutenant, and consequently the system is said not to be a good one. I should have thought it was obviously the right thing to reduce the Chancery Division from six Judges to five. I can hardly expect the Law Officers to tell us that they realise that everything which they and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery have said in the past about abominable inefficiency is quite right, and that they will see the Lord Chancellor to-morrow and have a proper Bill brought in, because they belong to a Conservative Government, but I ask them to tell us that they will really see whether the country cannot bear the expense of giving the Judges' clerks pensions.
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Lyons
So far as I can understand, whatever good purpose will be served by the Bill no help will be given to the work of the Judges on Circuit. May I read one further observation which was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General when giving evidence before the Peel Commission? He said:It seems to me there is an overwhelming case for 24 permanent Judges of the King's Bench Division, of whom never less than 12 should be in London.Can he say, after the position of affairs which has been disclosed, that there is any reason to-day for expressing a different view from that which he expressed to the Peel Commission in March, 1935? If the state of affairs then warranted that observation from him, and the present state of affairs be as bad as we have heard to-night, will he during the remaining stages of this Bill consider the possibility of going a little further in relieving the congestion of business on Circuit? No help appears to be given towards reducing that vast amount of work which is accumulating assize after assize, leading to delays and a denial of justice to litigants.
§ 11.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Herbert
I did not want to intervene in this Debate, but I have been moved by the speech of the hon. and learned Member opposite to say a few halting words. I have never been satisfied with the appellate system of the country. After all, to have one Court of Appeal is a confession of error, because it presupposes that the judges of first instance are liable to err, and if there are two appeals we are counting on two successive errors. Now that we are adding to the strength of the Court of Appeal the logical conclusion is that the judges of first instance are increasingly liable to error. This is the second Bill which the Government have produced during the present Session for the improvement of the administration of justice, and we all stand here and say—the same thing happened on the Second Reading of the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill—that it is a small thing, but that we must take it because there is nothing else. For how long are we to go on like this? One question discussed at great length on the other Bill was the cost of getting justice. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General made no sort of reply on that question—it was a late hour, as now, and no doubt he was anxious to go to bed—and I cannot blame him, because, as so many other hon. Members have said, he is not in a position to make any reply. I am not going to repeat the very excellent arguments which I presented, as did other hon. Members, on the cost of justice, as we must assume that they have by now penetrated into the minds of my hon. and learned Friends on the Treasury bench. They knew all about it long before.
There is one technical, special and easy point which was raised on the last Bill, and which I venture to mention again, and that is the question of the cost of assizes. I said then, and I say again, that at assizes the only divorce cases which can be heard are poor persons' cases defended or undefended, and undefended cases of non-poor persons, and the result is that a great many people who are not technically poor persons but are actually very short of means have to go to great expense to come to London and bring their wives, which they would not have had to do if they had been able to take their cases to the local court of the 1680 assize. I understood, or hoped—I am not saying that the fault is anybody's but mine—from something that the Attorney-General said when forecasting this Bill, that something would emerge on the lines of creating more Judges.
There is another small point, an easy point, which I am not sure would need legislation at all and which might be done by administrative processes by the Lord Chancellor, at the other end of this building. On the occasion when the last Bill was introduced, my hon. and learned Friend, myself and others agreed to say no more because we hoped that something would be forthcoming. There are no Members of His Majesty's Government I admire more than the Law Officers. I ask them to give us some assurance that they will exert themselves—my right hon. Friend has just become a Privy Councillor, a fact upon which we all congratulate him, although he might as well be an ordinary Member—to go to the Lord Chancellor and say that something has to be done about the things which hon. Members mentioned in the last Debate and in this Debate.
I understand that hon. Members on the other side do not propose to divide against the Bill, but I am convinced that unless we have some strong assurance on these points from the Law Officers I shall be tempted to vote against the Bill in order to send a message to the illustrious fellow at the other end of this passage that something more must be done. I appreciate all the difficulties of the Law Officers in the humble position which they occupy in the great hierarchy, but I ask them to say to the Lord Chancellor, or whoever it may be, that unless the next Bill is a bit more thorough and drastic we shall not sit about in this docile and delightful manner, assenting to the Second Reading.
§ 11.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I rise to speak because I do not think that this matter ought to be regarded as one primarily for lawyers. The cases alluded to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) are primarily matters of concern to laymen, and laymen are the victims. I have noticed that, when these cases are following the Red Judge from circuit town to circuit town, the members of the Bar, with great self-sacrifice, follow the cases; 1681 and I gather that each time they appear, even if it is only to rise in court and ask on what day it will be convenient for the case to be taken, their self-sacrifice is suitably rewarded. [Interruption.] If I had to fix the reward for certain barristers, it would be far less than the fee which their profession says is the minimum. Litigants of the kind mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire suffer the most severe hardships from this kind of thing, and I think that Members of the House who are not members of the Bar ought to make it plain to the Government that it brings the administration of justice—I emphasise the word "justice"—into very serious contempt in the country. People are told that in this country there is one law for all, and that the King's courts are as open to the poor as to the rich. Can the man who came from Grimsby to Lincoln, and then had to go from Lincoln to Nottingham, believe that that is really the case?
I have known people to abandon cases in despair, first, because they could not afford the money, and, secondly, because they could not afford the time. The indictment that we have again heard this evening makes it essential that the Government should give the very earliest possible attention to securing such a reform of the system as will enable poor people to get these cases dealt with in reasonable time and at a reasonable minimum of expense. If that can be done, the administration of justice will be a great deal more admired in this country, and people will not be inclined to feel, as they do too often at present, that there is a distinct difference between the administration of the law and the administration of justice.
§ 11.49 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General
Perhaps, with the leave of the House, I might deal with some of the points that have been raised. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) made some remarks which I thought—I am not sure that I rightly understood him—might be at any rate construed as suggesting that Judges in this country allowed their decisions to be influenced, not by proper legal considerations or by evidence, but by what they believed to be the wishes of the Executive. If any such suggestion was conveyed by what he said, I desire to repudiate it as a suggestion for which there is no foundation of any kind.
1682 The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) raised a point about the Chancery Judges doing their work in threes. I cannot give him a specific answer, but he will of course have realised that the power under Clause 3 is permissive. The Lord Chancellor is an old Chancery Judge, and I think we can rest assured that he will not allow action under that Clause to be taken if it would interfere with the efficient and proper working of the Chancery Division. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows a great deal more about the working of that Division than I do, but undoubtedly, of course, there have been times in the past when Chancery Judges have been away, and the three-division system was not working for some time. It is also, of course, the fact that Chancery Judges are not immortal. Very often a matter that has started under one Judge has to be continued by another. But I cannot believe that it will be beyond the power of human ingenuity to enable the five-Judge system to work. It is obviously a consideration which will affect the mind of my noble Friend in considering whether the number shall remain at five or whether the business of the Division requires it to be raised to six.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I was not suggesting that it was impossible to re-arrange it. I was asking whether there was any plan for its re-arrangement. I gather that there is not.
§ The Attorney-General
I do not think that is quite right. I cannot give a specific answer on the point but the House may rest assured that my Noble Friend, who is a Chancery Judge, will give consideration to the matter. That may not satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman but I think the House will agree that it is not a point that my Noble Friend has overlooked.
Reference was made by more than one speaker to Judges' clerks. That, like one or two other matters, though of course in order, is obviously beyond what anyone might have anticipated in the scope of the Bill. There again I do not think I can be expected to deal with it at any length. It is true, as the hon. Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) said. that it is not as simple as some people may think. Under the Scottish system, where there is provision for pensions, the status of clerks is quite different from what it is under the present system and 1683 whether this country desires to adopt the system or not is a question to which I can give no answer. I can give no undertaking that there will be an inquiry, which is quite outside the scope of the Bill but I can assure those who raised the point that what they have said will be studied and given consideration. I do not think the House will expect a long dissertation on the merits and demerits of a Ministry of Justice. That again seems rather a long way from the Bill and I do not think it is a matter that I can enlarge upon except to say that I am not in the least satisfied that such a suggestion would redound to the improvement of our present system.
If I may come to the more general speeches that have been made, they blessed the Bill but dealt with what is not in it. I heard my hon. and learned friend say he passed to the Bill but in fact he did not pass to it. He passed to a matter of things that he would like to see in it which are not there. Those are matters again of great importance but I do not think the House will expect me to deal with them in detail. I thought my hon. and learned Friend was a little unfair to the Lord Chancellor. He quoted evidence that he had given and suggested that as Lord Chancellor he was not putting into operation ideas that he had previously expressed. He has not held his present position long. This is a Bill which, whatever may be said about it, makes a very considerable contribution to the judicial strength of the country which is what my hon. and learned Friend has frequently urged the desirability of. I do not think anybody listening to my hon. and learned Friend would have got the impression that this Bill did in fact add to the strength of the judiciary of this country. A great deal has been said about the difficulties of assizes and the arrears of the King's Bench Division. All I would say is that of course it is clear that some people think more ought to be done than is being done, but I would ask them to bear in mind that this Bill increases the strength of the Court of Appeal, with the reasonable certainty that that strength will be available for the relief of the King's Bench Division for trying cases in London.
§ The Attorney-General
I did not say, this year. Many references have been 1684 made to the difficulties which occur at assizes everywhere except at Leeds. Leeds is the Elysium for the administration of justice in this country. I would also make a passing reference to the fact that the provisions of the administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, dealing with quarter sessions, will have, it is anticipated, a most substantial effect in relieving the assize courts. I agree with the hon. Member of South Shields (Mr. Ede) that the questions raised in a discussion of this kind affect laymen rather than lawyers. It is laymen who suffer the hardships caused by delay and unreasonable costs. In spite of these criticisms—and we realise that there are many criticisms which can be urged—I do not think that those who urge them always realise the difficulties of solution or that they give sufficient credit for the amount which has been done—piecemeal, if you like, but if you are going to build a structure of this elaboration and complexity there is something to be said for doing it gradually and not making a sweeping reform at once. I do not think sufficient credit has been given for what is being done now and what has been done in past years.
§ Sir Henry Fildes
In view of the fact that judges' salaries are met out of the fees charged to litigants, what is the objection to creating more judges?
§ The Attorney-General
I do not think their salaries are met entirely out of fees. This Bill will increase the number of judges by three.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Captain Dugdale.]