HC Deb 21 November 1960 vol 630 cc819-21

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

5.57 p.m.

Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)

I should like to put one or two questions on this Clause.

This is the stage at which we should examine in rather more detail than we do on Second Reading what we intend. The Attorney-General, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, indicated that the provisions in Clause 1 were really enabling; there was no obligation to fill the new appointments for which provision is made, either for the High Court or for the Court of Appeal. In laying the foundation for bringing in the Bill, the Attorney-General gave us a clear and lucid account of the arrears of work which had been piling up.

Can the Solicitor-General tell me—it may well be that he cannot—what are, broadly speaking, the intentions with regard to filling the appointments which can now be made. That will obviously involve some consideration as to the likely flow of work in the future, in particular, in the divisions which the Attorney-General described when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill.

I know that the Solicitor-General has asked for assistance from his advisers to enable him to answer this question. Perhaps I might put it in a slightly different form—not too obviously, I hope—so that he may receive the necessary assistance to put him in a position to answer me. I think that he will shortly get that information, and if he can give me an answer I shall be grateful.

6.0 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Jocelyn Simon)

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his usual courtesy in showing a slight hesitation in speech which enabled me to be sufficiently briefed to answer his questions. My right hon. and learned Friend mentioned the places where the pressure is particularly acute at the moment. That is the reason for the provision of an additional court of appeal, which my noble and learned Friend proposes to constitute under the powers in the Bill. As for the puisne judges who sit in various divisions of the High Court—my noble and learned Friend proposes to appoint two additional Queen's Bench judges.

In addition, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, although the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division is managing to cope successfully with its work at the moment, it has been enabled to do so only with the assistance of four Commissioners who sit specially to try defended divorce cases. As my right hon. and learned Friend reminded the House, the employment of Commissioners for that task was severely criticised by the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce under Lord Morton of Henryton. It is the intention of my noble and learned Friend gradually to replace the Commissioners by additional High Court judges, but he does not propose to do that all at once. It will be done over the years. I can therefore say that the likelihood is that at some time in the future he will use the powers that he has taken under the Bill in relation to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division also.

Sir F. Soskice

I thank the Solicitor-General for that very full account, which has entirely satisfied me. As I understand it, appointments will be made as the need arises for vacancies to be filled. The hon. and learned Gentleman has dealt with the matter very fully, and the hesitation in speech to which he called attention has produced the most fruitful and valuable results.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.