HC Deb 26 January 1966 vol 723 cc209-10
35. Mr. Gardner

asked the Attorney-General what decision was reached about the proposal to set up a Commonwealth Court of Appeal as a result of exchanges between representatives of Her Majesty's Government and Commonwealth Governments after the Commonwealth Law Conference in Sydney in August.

The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)

I would refer the hon. and learned Member to what was said by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations in answer to Questions on this subject yesterday. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is making inquiries of other Commonwealth Governments to find out what progress has been made.

Mr. Gardner

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the importance of judicial links between Commonwealth countries has been dramatically demonstrated by the Rhodesian crisis? Would he not further agree that without judicial links of this kind, the recent visit of the Chief Justice of Rhodesia to this country would not have been possible? Would he not also agree that a certain way of strengthening the vital lifelines within the Commonwealth would be the creation of a Commonwealth Court of Appeal?

The Attorney-General

I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman's emphasis on the importance of judicial and legal links between Commonwealth Governments and, indeed, between lawyers of the Commonwealth. But as the hon. and learned Member, who was at Sydney, will recollect, there was no unanimity, to put it at its mildest, over the proposal for a Commonwealth court. He will also recollect the efforts made by my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and myself to give a fair wind to the proposal.

Mr. Hogg

Will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree about this? Is it not the case that, even on the lowest level, the English common law, like the English language, is one of the few indestructible assets of this country, and ought we not to do our best to add to the prestige of this country by advertising its virtues and co-ordinating the common law of countries throughout the world?

The Attorney-General

I entirely agree with that tribute to our common law, modified as it has been in recent decades by legislation in this House. I am an unqualified admirer of its virtues, and it is a splendid thought that it is the law of millions of people throughout the world. The problems of creating a Commonwealth Court raised many difficulties, constitutional and otherwise, which were very clearly elaborated at Sydney and Canberra.