§ 7. Mr. Ellis
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to amend the law regulating the granting of bills of indictment to transfer 1744 criminal prosecutions from a lower court to a higher court.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
The Government have no plans for legislation on this subject.
§ Mr. Ellis
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the steadily accumulating evidence showing that this procedure is being used to thwart the wishes of defendants and even of courts where no practical difficulties exist to having cases conducted entirely in Welsh, and that an increased possibility of a miscarriage of justice and increased public disquiet inevitably follow? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman look at the affidavit produced in Carmarthen Crown Court last week in order to see the farcical and tragic situation that has been contrived?
§ Mr. Carlisle
I do not accept that the system is being ill used. The voluntary bill of indictment system is a procedure whereby the prosecution may apply to a high court judge for a voluntary bill as an alternative to ordinary committal proceedings. At the moment, we have no intention of altering that procedure.
§ Mr. Gwynoro Jones
On how many occasions has a magistrates' court adjourned a hearing for several weeks so that the police could find a Welsh-speaking solicitor, only to discover that over its head the case has been transferred to a Crown Court? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that the spirit of the Welsh Language Act does not mean that cases in Wales are not to be heard in the Welsh language?
§ Mr. Carlisle
I cannot give a factual answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question. I will try to find the answer for him. As for his second question, the use of Welsh in the courts is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor.