HC Deb 08 May 1941 vol 371 cc1040-2
Major Milner

This Clause confers jurisdiction upon county courts, and a question has been raised whether the publicity of the proceedings in those courts may not prevent deserving cases applying to them for relief. I do not know what view the Attorney-General may take on that question, but in my experience, latterly at any rate, not much publicity has been given to proceedings of this nature. Of course bankruptcy proceedings, applications for discharge and so on are reported. It may be that it will be sufficient if special courts are held to deal with these cases. I do not think we ought to insist on no publicity at all being given to these proceedings, but, on the other hand, one would wish that some discrimination should be exercised. Those who brought this point to my attention were very much concerned lest by reason of the fear of publicity many people might not take advantage of this Measure who otherwise would do so. I do not altogether subscribe to that view, but I should like an assurance from the Attorney-General, if it is possible for him to give it, that discretion will be exercised and that perhaps special courts will be held. Of course, the court cannot prevent legal proceedings being reported, but the Press themselves may exercise a wise discretion in not reporting proceedings of this nature, unless there are special circumstances which make it desirable.

The Attorney-General

One of the objects in providing for liabilities adjustment officers was to secure a procedure which would operate, we hoped, without any publicity at all. I think it would be impossible, and wrong, to have some special Rule under which these matters were to be heard in camera. Personally, I should doubt whether there is likely to be much publicity, beyond, of course, the publicity which is essential in order that creditors may know what is happening. In most of these cases, there will not, I think, be anything of general interest to the public, and one hopes that not much publicity, or at any rate no unnecessary publicity, will be given to them, and that people will not be deterred from taking advantage of this legislation for fear of publicity. I do not think however we should make any special Rule on the point.

Mr. Douglas

There is nothing in the Bill which shows that cases will necessarily come before the county court judge himself. It may well be that a great number of cases which are of a simple nature will come before the registrar in chambers, and then there will not be any publicity. If there is a dispute, the matter will have to come before the judge, and it may be advisable in such cases that there should not be undue secrecy.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clauses 21 and 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.