HC Deb 02 February 1939 vol 343 cc469-87

7.53 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty representing that the state of business in the King's Bench Division requires that two vacancies in the number of puisne judges of the King's Bench Division should be filled, and praying that His Majesty will be graciously pleased to fill such vacancies accordingly, in pursuance of the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act, 1925, as amended by any subsequent enactment. Since the Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act, 1935, the position with regard to the judges in the King's Bench Division has been this. There are 19 judges of the King's Bench Division authorised by that enactment, subject to this, that vacancies which may occur over and above the number of 17 cannot be filled except on an humble Address pre- sented to both Houses of Parliament in the terms of this Motion. That is to say, under that Act 19 judges were appointed, and vacancies have, in fact, occurred reducing the number to 17. Appointments are made without the necessity of any Address to keep the number up to 17, but in order that the number may be 19 an Address in the terms of the Motion requires to be passed by this House and another place. At present, owing to the vacancies which have occurred, the number of judges of the King's Bench Division, in addition to the Lord Chief Justice, is 17, and the object of this Motion is to enable two further judges to be appointed.

Anyone familiar, as many right hon. and hon. Members are, with the existing position will, I think, recognise the desirability and, indeed, the necessity of this Motion. During recent months there has been serious congestion on the Northern, the Midland and the Western circuits, and representations have been received from many quarters with regard to it. The position in London equally, I think, requires that this Motion should be passed. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cases awaiting trial in the King's Bench Division. There are arrears to be worked off and it is, as everyone will agree, desirable that arrears should not accumulate, and that the strength of the judiciary should be such that cases as they become ready for trial should receive trial and be disposed of. I do not want to trouble the House with figures because the case for this Motion is plain from the position as I have indicated it on circuit and also in London. So far as the position on circuit is concerned, I may remind the House that in the course of last year four commissioners had to he appointed in order to do the work and to supplement the work done by the judges.

The only criticism which I anticipate with regard to this Motion is that it might have been moved before and the question may be raised whether it is sufficient to deal with the volume of work both on circuit and in London which comes before the assizes or the courts here. In that connection I would like to remind right hon. and hon. Members of the fact that last year Parliament passed a Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act under which three additional Lord Justices have been appointed to the Court of Appeal. When that Measure was before the House I said that it was not anticipated that these three additional Lord Justices would be required all the year round to sit in a third division of the Court of Appeal. It was anticipated, therefore, that their services would from time to time, and for substantial periods, be available for dealing with the work of the King's Bench Division in London, and so assist the judges of that Division and the Lord Chief Justice, who presides over them. I think it is fair to say that owing to causes which quite reasonably were not anticipated—one or two exceptionally long cases and, I think, some illness—the assistance which the Lords Justices appointed under that Act will in normal times give to the work of the King's Bench Division has been less than might reasonably have been anticipated in the period since that Act was passed. In this connection I should also like to refer to another Act, passed quite recently, under which extended jurisdiction is conferred upon quarter sessions which it is anticipated may give some relief to the work coming before assize judges.

Therefore, in considering whether the judges who can be appointed if this Motion is passed will be adequate to deal with the existing congestion and arrears and keep matters up to date in future, it is right to bear in mind both the Acts to which I have referred. When the Act of 1935 was passed and raised the possible establishment of judges in the King's Bench Division from 17 to 19—subject to a Resolution of Parliament—there were considerable arrears in the King's Bench Division. The appointment under that Act of the two extra judges for which it provided did deal, and deal satisfactorily, I think, with the arrears which existed at that time. In considering the adequacy, therefore, of the present Motion, one has to remember what happened then, and in addition to bear in mind the assistance which can be given by the three extra Lords Justices appointed under the other Act when they are not required to preside in the Third Division of the Court of Appeal.

I hope that I am interpreting the wishes of hon. Members in not going into detailed figures, because to anyone who is familiar with this matter there is really no argument about the necessity of this addition to the judicial strength, but I should like to say that the two other Acts to which I have referred, and in particular the Act which added the three Lords justices in respect of the Court of Appeal, are evidence, if evidence were necessary, of the importance which my Noble Friend the Lord Chancellor attaches to seeing that there are in all courts, and in all Divisions of the Supreme Court, an adequate number of judges to ensure that cases are dealt with with all reasonable promptness and expedition. I have good grounds for asking the House to believe that this Motion, if the House thinks fit to pass it, as I hope and believe it will, will, together with the other Measures to which I have referred, produce the result which everybody desires to see, but I can give the House the most complete assurance that my Noble Friend will have this matter under his constant consideration, because he realises to the full the importance of seeing that in all the Divisions in London, as also on circuit, the judicial strength is adequate to deal promptly and expeditiously with the cases which are set down for trial and which the parties desire to be heard.

Mr. Tinker

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make this point clear? The Motion speaks of appointing judges to fill two vacancies. His speech has left me wondering whether he meant two or four judges—whether there are two vacancies to be filled and two more judges, making four in all, are also to be appointed.

The Attorney-General

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman and to the House. The position is this: that under the Amendment which was made in 1935 the full complement of the King's Bench Division is 19 judges, subject to this qualification, that when vacancies occur and instead of 19 judges there are only IS, or instead of 18 only 17, you cannot go back to the number of 19 judges without a Resolution of Parliament. If, having got to 17, the number of judges fell to 16, that one vacancy could be filled without such a Resolution; but to get hack from 17 to 19 you want a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament in the terms of this Motion. Under this Motion, if passed, two extra judges, but not four, will be appointed.

8.9 p.m.

Mr. Benson

The learned Attorney-General put up a very strong case against any possible criticism that he was flooding the Bench with judges. He argued very earnestly that there was adequate work for these two extra judges to do, and I do not think that there is any danger of anybody who has had any experience of the congestion in the courts being likely to attack him on that point. On the other hand, I think the gravaman of most people's criticism would be that to appoint only two new judges is really playing with a very serious and very troublesome problem. The Attorney-General suggested that these two new judges would enable the courts to deal with cases with more reasonable promptness. Much depends on who is to be the judge of what is reasonable. At the moment there are a large number of cases awaiting trial, cases pushed over from one assizes to the next, invariably because there is a shortage of judges, and despite the fact that there have recently been as many as four commissioners assisting judges on assize. It is not merely the delay of postponing a case from one assize to another of which litigants have a right to complain. There is another form of delay which is even more serious, because it is more general, and that is the appalling waste of the time of litigants, of witnesses, of solicitors and of everybody else involved in a case in being kept hanging around the court uncertain of whether or when their case is to be heard. Wherever assizes are held one finds the courts thronged with people who are waiting, waiting, waiting, never knowing when their case will be heard. It may come on in an hour or it may not be heard for three or four days, but they have to be there or they miss their place. That is a far greater cause of trouble and expense than the putting off of a case from one assize to the next.

Let me give the House an experience of my own to show what it is I am really complaining about. At a recent assize I was to be a witness in a motoring case. On the first day of the assize I received a letter from the solicitor in charge of the case to the effect that the case was, as he said "One out of to-morrow's list." It remained "One out of to-morrow's list" for more than 10 days, during which time I was in London anticipating being called by telegram at any moment to go up North. Eventually the case got from the proud position of being "One out of tomorrow's list" into "In to-morrow's list" and it remained "In to-morrow's list" for another four or five days. Finally, I received a telegram asking me to go. I had to leave London on the night before the case was to be heard. I went up to the assize town, and there I found the litigant and several other witnesses all forgathered in order that they might be at the court at 10 o'clock the next morning. The next day the solicitor and a number of other witnesses arrived from various parts of England—because the case was being tried far away from where everybody concerned lived. We hung about the assize court until four o'clock in the afternoon, and then it was decided that even if the case were opened it could not be finished in time and it was put off to the March assize.

In that case you had a litigant, two or three business men, including an accountant, as witnesses, all forced to waste a couple of days, and the case was not even heard. I suppose that a similar waste of time of a number of busy people will take place again next March, when the case will be heard. That waste of two or three days apparently goes on in almost every case, and is due to the fact that there are so few judges that every minute of a judge's time is so valuable that it must be occupied. Dozens of busy people must hang about for days in order that a judge may avoid wasting half an hour. The mere appointment of two fresh judges will not solve that difficulty.

What we really require is sufficient judges so that it may be possible for a case to be put down for hearing on a certain day, with the probable expectation that it will be heard on that day. One does not expect 100 per cent. certainty. If you attempt to adopt the system that the case shall be heard on a certain day irrespective of the condition of business, you may get a case being adjourned to make room for another case which has been set down for that day. Nobody asks for that position to arise. An increase in the number of judges, even if it did not give 100 per cent. certainty as to when a case could be heard, would at any rate have the effect of reducing enormously the amount of waiting and of hanging about which now takes place, and would give a high probability of a case being heard on the day for which it was set down. It would bring about a very big reduction in the present uncertainty.

What is the objection to the appointment of more judges? The Royal Commission considered the matter recently, and the only argument I can find against the appointment of more judges is that the field of selection is limited. The Lord Chancellor, himself a judge, said: Any increase in numbers must, so far as it goes, tend somewhat to lower the quality I have not the slightest doubt that the standard of our British Bench is extraordinarily high. No one challenges it, but it is a very solemn thought if, out of 40,000,000 people in this population we can succeed in finding only 19 men capable of sitting on the King's Bench. It may be theoretically true that if a larger number of judges were appointed the standard would be reduced. If you appoint one judge only, naturally you will be able to pick the best man, whereas if you appoint 20 judges you will have to take the 20 best men in England who may not be up to the standard of the one; but does anybody seriously suggest that to appoint four more judges is likely seriously to reduce the standard of the Bench?

The Attorney-General is moving to appoint two more judges. On what basis has he decided to make the appointments? Does he say: "We have a certain standard to maintain and we have succeeded in finding two King's Counsel who come up to the standard which we desire; therefore we shall appoint them"? Is the standard his basis? Or does he say: "We shall create these two appointments and chance whether we can get two men capable of filling them"? Nineteen is an entirely arbitrary number. There is no virtue in the number 19. Whenever you make an appointment you have to take one policy or the other: wait until you have a man capable of filling the position or decide to fill the position and take the best man you can. It is nonsense to say that to appoint three or four more judges will play such havoc with the standard of the Bench as to poison British justice.

Finally, even admitting the argument that a small increase in the number of judges is likely to reduce the standard of average quality, I think that the average man would rather have his case settled by a judge of a standard of which we can certainly pick 24 men than waste his time and money and the time and money of his witnesses and solicitors, hanging round assize courts simply and solely because we have not taken the trouble to appoint an adequate number of judges.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Evans

The Attorney-General has made out a good case for requiring further assistance in the administration of justice in this country at the present time. But the matter ought not to be left there. It ought to be borne in mind by the Attorney-General and by the Government that several commissions and committees have in recent years considered questions affecting our administration of justice. All the committees and commissions were composed of men of very great ability and experience and they all made recommendations, the implementation of which they felt to be necessary for the more successful administration of justice. It would be improper for me to argue the respective merits of the suggestions which they made, but I believe that the time has come when the Lord Chancellor and the Law Officers who advise the Government ought to persuade the Government to make some declaration as to the importance they attach to the recommendations made by those committees and commissions. The trouble is that, despite the valuable inquiries of those bodies, we still do not know the attitude of the Government to their recommendations, and when the Government ask us to consider a Motion of this sort we are entitled to mention that fact.

The Motion does not meet the difficulty. We are asked to approve the appointment of two additional judges, but that would not be a permanent solution of the difficulties which now present themselves to those who are engaged in administering justice. It is true that those commissions and committees have been established, but beyond that very little has been done. There are jury and non-jury cases now being tried which were set down for trial as early as May of last year. We should not overlook the significance of that fact, because it means that litigation is delayed for nine months, largely owing to the lack of judges available for the trial of the cases. If that be true—and it is true—the appointment of two judges is obviously not going to solve the difficulty. True, it is an argument in support of the Attorney-General in asking for the appointment of those two judges, but it is equally true that such appointments will not relieve us of this situation in the future.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to a fact which, of course, is perfectly well known to the Law Officers, namely, that one of the most marked features of litigation, particularly on the common law side, is the very large number of personal injury cases. I cannot argue the merits of the recommendations and suggestions which have been made by these commissions, but I would ask the Attorney-General whether it is not possible to consider giving the master, on a summons for direction, power to direct that these personal injury cases shall be more frequently tried in the county court. These cases do not involve, as a rule, many difficult questions of law. They involve questions of fact, with which county court judges are dealing daily. It may mean that a larger number of county court judges would be required, but, on the other hand, the amount of travelling necessary for witnesses and others engaged in these cases would be reduced considerably, owing to the wider distribution of the county courts as compared with assizes. It would also have the effect of reducing delay in the trial of cases, which, of course, is a matter of great importance to the parties to actions of this kind.

I stress this point for another reason, which also will be within the knowledge of the Law Officers. On certain circuits in this country, especially those which include the largest industrial centres, the increase of work at the assizes during the last few years has been very largely due to the number of personal injury cases. At some assizes, I am told, these cases have accounted for 80 per cent. of the civil list, and, therefore, my previous argument also applies here. If the present condition continues, and these cases are not otherwise dealt with, the number of judges attending certain assizes will have to be increased, and that would involve the very thing which, I imagine, the Law Officers and everyone responsible for the conduct of the courts wants to avoid, namely, the taking of more High Court judges away from London.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) has already pointed out that this is not a Motion which will involve any expense to the country. I think it will be admitted that the cost of all the judges of the High Court is always covered by the fees and stamp and other duties, so that the administration of justice does not involve the country in any expense. But, even if it did, I venture to point out that the administration of justice is one of the most essential privileges of the British system, and it would be entirely wrong to think that the country was making any profit out of the granting of this essential service to its citizens. In supporting the Motion, I would respectfully ask the Attorney-General whether he cannot give consideration to the wider questions which I have ventured to mention.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Errington

I should like to amplify what has been said by the last speaker with regard to assizes. The Attorney-General mentioned the Criminal Justice Act, which authorised the appointment of a third court of appeal, but, so far as I have been able to see, the assizes, particularly on the Northern Circuit, have benefited but little from that. There may be some benefit—I do not know—as a result of the extended jurisdiction of quarter sessions, but it can be stated quite definitely and categorically that the extension of the limit for county court cases has not decreased the number of civil cases at the Liverpool and Manchester Assizes, while the divorce work at those assizes has very much increased. The result is that two judges are expected, in a period of between three weeks and a month, to deal with upwards of 160 civil cases, 50 or 60 criminal cases, and 200 undefended divorce cases. It is clear that, if those two judges try to do that, they will either be in the position of having to sit extremely late, which is undesirable, or of putting large numbers of cases in the list in the hope that some of them may be settled.

It is true that during the past year two commissioners have been appointed, and I think it is an extremely good thing that they were commissioners who were properly sent down and paid for their work, and not commissioners taken from the King's Counsel actually attending assizes. There seems, however, to he no reason at all why these commissioners should not be replaced by High Court judges. I feel very strongly that it will have to be realised in the near future that. with the large amount of work in industrial cities, at any rate in Lancashire, and possibly also in the Midlands, it will be necessary for three judges to go on assize. The administration of justice should be speedy. It is of vital importance, and, as the last speaker has said, no idea of false economy should interfere with it. The methods that have been adopted hitherto have, in my submission, done very little to ease the situation. The matter can really only be dealt with by staffing the judiciary who go on assize adequately to deal with the work which they have to do in a limited time. I suppose there is no one in the House who really knows anything about these matters who does not realise that it is essential that this Motion should be passed, and I hope that, as a result of its passing some relief in the form of judicial help will come at any rate to the Northern Circuit.

8.34 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

I think it is a thousand pities that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) is not here to-night, because he has made himself in some sort the leader of a kind of crusade in this matter, and I think the Debate would have benefited very greatly if he had been present to make his usual valuable contribution to it. The present state of the administration of justice is, I will not say a public scandal, but rapidly tending in that direction. If it be true that justice delayed is justice denied, we have to accept the fact that justice is denied to a great number of litigants and potential litigants. The Attorney-General said quite truly that during the past year no fewer than four commissioners had to be appointed and sent to various towns. I think that two went on the Northern Circuit, in order to relieve to some extent the congestion there. He seemed to adduce that as an argument in support of his Motion this evening, but if he gets his Motion—as I feel sure he will—that will not in any way relieve the congestion at assizes. You can relieve congestion at assizes only if you send more judges on each particular assize or if you have more assizes in a year; and neither of these things is proposed.

The Attorney-General

One of the objects of the Motion is to enable more judges to be sent.

Mr. Silverman

In that event, two will not take you very far. There are four assizes a year at many of the larger assize centres, and two judges go to each of them. The four commissioners last year have not relieved the congestion. What is the Attorney-General then proposing? Does he contemplate having two more judges and sending out four commissioners as well; or will the two judges take the place of the four commissioners? In either event, it will not deal with the congestion. There are at this moment at the assizes at Liverpool, which started yesterday or the day before, over 100 cases. More than 80 of them were in the list of the last assize and were not reached. There is no possibility of these 100 cases being tried at this assize. It seems that this problem is being approached in altogether too casual a way. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) pointed out that on assize—and, I think, in London, too—a very large proportion of the cases are running-down cases, personal accident cases, and he suggested that one way to relieve the congestion would be to give power in a greater number of those cases to send them to the county courts. I do not see how you can say that the jurisdiction of the county courts shall be extended in respect of one particular class of case and not of another.

I would remind the Attorney-General that in respect of the two Acts to which he referred, and on which he relied to relieve congestion in the future, the Government almost went out of their way to limit the effectiveness of the proposals. Undoubtedly it is now the law that certain quarter sessions can now deal with cases that were previously triable only at Assizes, but the Government resisted great pressure from all parts of the House to have that system of quarter sessions jurisdiction made universal. They resisted it successfully, and the result is that the relief to Assizes which might have been afforded in that way has not been achieved. Similarly, in the same Measure there was a proposal to extend the jurisdiction of the county courts, and the Government again successfully resisted proposals, thus making the relief that could be afforded in the High Court very much less effective than it might reasonably have been. I do not know that the appointment of two judges is going to help. I do not know that the appointment of half a dozen judges would help.

It is clear to most people who have any experience, no matter how limited, in these matters that what is really required is a large-scale reorganisation of the administration of justice in this country. It would have to be on a large scale. The only way to relieve congestion in the High Court is by an extension of jurisdiction in the county courts. But you will not have support for that unless county court judges are appointed from men of the same calibre, on the whole, as High Court judges. Given that, you could safely extend the jurisdiction of the county court very largely indeed, so as to get good and efficient administration of justice. I hope the time will come when this or some other Government will address itself to the whole problem in a large way, in a way adequate to what I think everybody realises are the actual needs of the situation. While no one would oppose the present proposal, one supports it—or fails to oppose it—with some doubt and some diffidence, realising that it is a very small patch that the Government seek to apply to a very large hole.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. Oliver

I do not think the right hon. and learned Attorney-General put the case too highly when he introduced this Motion. I feel sure everyone in this House appreciates the need for at least two judges. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was very modest in his statement. I agree with what has been said with respect to the difficulty he himself has found in regard to the congestion on circuit, particularly on the Midland circuit, of which I can speak with experience. I cannot see how the appointment of two judges can meet the difficulties on the Midland circuit, the Northern circuit and other circuits to which the right hon. and learned Attorney-General referred. That is the position in regard to the circuits; but when we come to London, there we have what might be described as almost a permanent waiting list. I noticed that in the last term there were 1,447 cases awaiting trial. When this matter was being discussed in the House some years ago the present Solicitor-General made a speech, and drew attention to the number of cases then awaiting trial. I think they approximated to the present figure; the figure he mentioned for 1935 was 1,325, and for 1934 1,052; so the position has not altered very much between 1935 and 1939

That brings us to this point: Any appointment of judges is not likely to settle this matter. There have been very distinguished committees sitting to consider the business of the court and many aspects of judicial administration, and yet, while we are asking for two judges to-night—and there is no doubt the Motion will be passed—it is unreasonable to believe it will meet the position that we all desire should be met. Where there is a large waiting list it presages an enormous delay; and delay in justice, even in big cases, means an enormous loss to litigants, while in cases of personal injury great hardship ensues as a result of the delay. We see it as legislators looking at the matter from an abstract point of view. What is the position looking at it from a litigant's point of view? There are the hundreds of personal injury cases which come before the courts, and there is the length of time which elapses before probably the writ has been issued, and the length of time which elapses before all the interlocutory proceedings are concluded. After the case it set down for trial, six, seven or eight months may elapse before it actually comes for trial. Persons who have been injured are often in a state of nerves, having to wait so long, and wondering whether, when their case comes to trial, they will be successful, and, if they are not successful, what will happen to them.

All that sort of thing aggravates the position of litigants, and in cases where they have suffered great personal injury, the delay which ensues from the setting down of the case until the hearing of the case, has, I believe, almost as bad an effect upon the litigant as the accident itself. Therefore, it is necessary that something should be done to expedite these matters. This is not a new case but one that has been argued in this House time and time again. A learned Solicitor-General quoted some figures of the Council of Justice in 1890 when, he said, there were over 1,000 cases waiting to be tried. That is over 40 years ago. As we have reviewed this matter in this House time and time again, I have noticed that the waiting list has constantly been over 1,000 cases requiring to be heard. This is a matter which is of great importance. Justice is too vitally important to be the subject of parsimony on the one hand or misdirected economy on the other.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. Tinker

I want to speak on this Motion, and therefore I venture to enter into the legal arena. With the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), those who have taken part in the Debate are legal men, and I was rather taken with the public-spirited outlook which they showed. I always thought that lawyers liked delays as it meant more money for them if they could delay a case, but now I want to apologise for having had that view. I believe that the learned Attorney-General will be gratified by the remarks that have been made and will feel that, whenever more judges are required, he will be able to obtain them. It would appear from what has ben said to-night that, if he wanted a dozen judges, he could have them. I want to say a few words with regard to the question of delay in the hearing of cases. I have had occasion to represent a trade union which has had cases down for trial, and I know of the difficulty and inconvenience entailed when it has not been known when the cases would be heard. We had expected that a case might be on the list, say, for tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that. I hope that the judges or whoever control the arrangements for the hearing of cases will take note of this fact and will have some regard for the litigant. They should try to weigh up how long a case is likely to take.

I am a Justice of the Peace and when my colleagues and I review cases in the court-room before we go on to the bench, we obtain a shrewd idea as to how long the cases are likely to last The learned judges should try to arrange the hearing of cases so that litigants may have a better idea when their cases are likely to be called. The waiting causes a tremendous expense to the trade unions, and it must be a tremendous expense to the private litigant who probably comes to London and has to wait day after day not knowing when his case may be called, and all the time his expenses are mounting up. I agree with the Motion which is before the House. I stand for speedy justice, and I agree with those who have spoken. Whenever an application is put before the House for more judges, I feel that I shall be able to support it in the knowledge that it will be in the interests of those who require their cases to be dealt with quickly.

8.51 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)

The House will not expect me, after the very favourable reception which the Motion of my right hon. and learned Friend has received to-day, more than very briefly to state the attitude of the Government to the discussion which has now taken place. Every one of the comments emphasised by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will be noted and brought to the attention of those who are responsible for the day-to-day administration of justice. I would say, in reply to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker)—and we are delighted to see lay people taking part in these Debates—that no one realises more than my right hon. and learned Friend or my right hon. and Noble Friend the Lord Chancellor the essential importance of trying to fix times and dates as nearly as possible. It is one of the things in the administration of justice that is always being met with in this country. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that to fix dates and times would involve a surplus of judges. Of course, the ideal would be to have more judges than there is work for them to do. You must have a certain flow over, and until recent years it has been extremely difficult to convince this House and public opinion that it is not a bad thing to have a surplus of judges occasionally. The impression has been that if a judge was not fully occupied all his time, public time and money were being wasted. Many of us have tried to impress upon public opinion the view that the wastage of litigant's time is much more important than the wastage of judges' time.

Much more has been done than has perhaps been recognised in some of the observations which have been made this evening. I remember an hon. Member for one of the divisions of Leeds saying, in the last Debate that we had on this subject, that in the last few years we have had virtually a revolution in legal procedure as a result of the passing of several Bills. That is true. I would remind the House of some of them. There was the Administration of Justice Bill passed last year. We have extended the jurisdiction of quarter sessions. There is a new Evidence Act, notes are now taken by shorthand writers in practically all the courts, and there has been a voluntary extension of the county court jurisdiction. The effect of all these advances in administration will be cumulative and will not necessarily be seen for some considerable time. The extension of the jurisdiction of quarter sessions only became possible this January. The application to the Lord Chancellor for the appointment of qualified chairmen could not be effected for the January sessions, but the net result of the provisions of that Act will be to take away a good deal of the criminal work of assize and place it in quarter sessions.

We have to wait a little time until we, see what the net effect of that will be in lightening the work of the assizes, and so making the additional judges available for the trial of other causes. Similarly, there is the appointment of the Third Panel of the Court of Appeal, under which three Lords Justice are available for service in the King's Bench Division when not needed in the Court of Appeal. They were appointed because the work was-sadly in arrears. Those arrears have to be caught up, and when they have been caught up some of that additional judicial strength will be available in the King's Bench Division. That, again, is a benefit that will not be noticeable for some little time.

There are other matters that my right hon. and Noble Friend has had in mind and which he has been recommended to try the effect of which can only be achieved by bringing up the judge power to the strength we are now seeking to bring it to. For example, there are some recommendations which have not been yet carried into effect. The Royal Commission recommended that civil work should be taken at every town on the autumn circuit. The Finlay Committee went further and recommended that civil business should be taken on every circuit at every assize town visited by a judge. It was recommended that a fourth assize should be given to Birmingham, and that Cardiff, Swansea and Chester should be visited by two judges at each assize, and that two judges should visit Exeter, Bristol and Winchester at the autumn assizes.

These recommendations cannot be carried into effect on the existing judge strength. They are certainly desirable things, and with the addition of the judges that we hope will result from the presentation of this Address, we shall move a stage further towards the carry ing out of those desirable additions to the judicial strength. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into great detail on the points that have been raised. While it is realised that additional judge strength is necessary, neither my right hon. and learned Friend nor I would like the House to be left under the impression that the wider question of effectively improving the administrative machinery is left out of account. As far as possible all steps are being taken to limit the decimating delays to which reference has been made—delays which are in some cases almost inevitable, and in all cases deplorable, and which are to some extent inherent in the vicissitudes of litigation itself. Nobody knows exactly how long a case will take or when a case is going to crack up. We are left at the mercy of all kinds of contingencies. All these matters have a place, and a serious place, in the mind of my Noble Friend. The House may take the assurance that we do not view the present position with any ease and equanimity, or that we shall be content merely with this addition of two judges to the judicial strength. Every administrative avenue will be explored.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty representing that the state of business in the King's Bench Division requires that two vacancies in the number of puisne judges of the King's Bench Division should be filled, and praying that His Majesty will be graciously pleased to fill such vacancies accordingly, in pursuance of the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act, 1925, as amended by any subsequent enactment.

To be presented by Privy Councillors of the Members of His Majesty's Household.