HC Deb 10 April 1946 vol 421 cc1906-7
17. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Attorney-General if he is aware of the urgent need to cheapen and expedite civil litigation in the High Court; what objections there are to this being done immediately; and what steps are being taken to this end.

The Solicitor-General

The Government accept the view that it would be generally desirable in the public interest if the cost of civil litigation could be reduced, and the subject is now under review by my Noble Friend, the Lord Chancellor. The House will remember that, quite apart from any question of reduction of costs, the Rushcliffe Report, which is under consideration, recommends the provision of financial assistance in the conduct of litigation. So far as the courts are concerned, there is at present no undue delay in disposing of civil litigation, but this aspect of the matter is also being considered, with particular reference to the large number of divorce cases now being brought.

Mr. Hughes

Has not this been considered over a great number of years, and would the Solicitor-General take steps to see that consideration is expedited so that the litigation may be speeded up during this reconstruction period?

The Solicitor-General

The matter is under active consideration.

Mr. Butcher

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider establishing a working party on which non-legal gentlemen will be well represented?

Mr. Hale

Is the Solicitor-General aware that the major grievance and the major difficulty about the cost of litigation arises from the practice of awarding costs against an unsuccessful party which can never be assessed in advance, and would he consider limiting that right in cases which the judge thinks are frivolous and vexatious cases and give much wider access to the courts than are enjoyed at present?

The Solicitor-General

Costs at the moment are within the discretion of the judge, but I do not know who my hon. Friend suggests should pay the costs of a successful party unless it is the unsuccessful party.