HC Deb 31 July 1972 vol 842 cc26-7
33. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Attorney-General what research is undertaken by his Department into the working conditions for lawyers, litigants and staff in county courts; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

A sum of £0.5 million a year has ben specifically allocated to county court new building and improvement work over the next five yars. In addition to the separate schemes represented by this, county court provision will be included in a dozen or more major court-centre developments planned for the next 10 years. The design requirements of county courts are kept under review by the Department of the Environment and a great deal of work has recently been done on the design of large court centres incorporating both Crown and county courts.

Mr. Davis

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman inform the House about the present conditions at, for example, Shoreditch County Court, where the conditions for litigants, lawyers and the registrar are quite intolerable on certain days? When three courts are busy, between 80 and 100 people crowd into the registrar's court, and despite the heroic efforts of the registrar to deal with the situation it is obviously most unsatisfactory. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman look into this matter in order to try to assist this county court out of its present difficulties?

The Attorney-General

The hon. Gentleman asked a Question about the research which is being undertaken. I do not know the position regarding the Shoreditch court, but major schemes including county court provision are taking place in Leeds, Liverpool, Merthyr Tydvil, Newcastle, Coventry and Teesside. Subsequently further major schemes including county courts are provisionally planned for Bolton, Bristol, Luton, Manchester, Norwich, Nottingham and Sheffield. It is a matter of great importance that there should be proper and adequate accommodation and I well appreciate that.

Sir Elwyn Jones

On a slightly different point but one which is I hope not lacking in relevancy, is the Attorney-General aware of the concern of county court officers at what they fear will be a deterioration in their conditions of service following the restructuring of the courts under the Courts Act?

The Attorney-General

That is another matter which does not arise out of the Question.