§ 19. Mr. H. Hynd
asked the Attorney-General if he is aware that 16,000 divorce applications are awaiting attention at the 1901 office of the Poor Persons Committee of the Law Society; that many of them will not be heard for many months unless additional staff can be made available; and what steps he proposes to take to meet this situation.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)
I regret that my answer must be somewhat long. As stated in reply to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) on 14th November last, the regrettable delays in the handling of Service divorce cases, which are solely due to scarcity of accommodation and shortage of staff, have been under, constant consideration by my Noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. Arrangements have now been made, with the approval of the Government, for expanding the Services Divorce Department of the Law Society to four times its present capacity, and for enabling the work to be decentralised by setting up branch offices in the provinces. For this purpose, the Government have authorised the allocation of accommodation, labour and materials as a matter of priority. But it must be realised that staffing difficulties, and particularly the acute shortage of typing staff, will remain an impediment to rapid progress for some months to come. In the meantime certain procedural and administrative reforms are being effected, designed to speed up the work of preparation.
It should be clearly understood that at present the delay in dealing with the cases does not rest with the courts, but arises at an earlier stage—namely, the preparation of the cases for trial. My Noble Friend is in constant touch with the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division with a view to ensuring that when these cases are ready for "trial in increasing numbers there should not be delay in hearing them. The necessary arrangements to prevent this happening have been worked out.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
Can the Attorney-General tell us how far the shortage of typists referred to in his reply is due to the appallingly inadequate rates of pay given to them by Government Departments in comparison with those paid by outside employers, and may he not find. a solution to his difficulty through the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. WilIiam Teeling
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether undefended cases need to be held up for so long as cases that have to be defended?
§ The Attorney-General
The administrative delay that occurs at present is almost entirely in dealing with undefended cases. It is a question of handling the very large number of these cases which are now coming up as a result of circumstances largely connected with the war.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
Is the Attorney-General aware that much greater use might be made than at present of arrangements for affecting reconciliations between estranged parties, and that, by so doing, the family life of the country might be better maintained?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the Attorney-General consult with his colleagues in the Government and arrange for 9ome measures to be taken to get more domestic help, in view of the appalling situation which now exists in family life?