HC Deb 09 March 1981 vol 1000 cc615-6
32. Mr. Archer

asked the Attorney-General what correspondence has been received by the Lord Chancellor's Department in response to the consultative paper on the proposed increase in the jurisdiction of the county court issued in July 1980.

The Attorney-General(Sir Michael Havers)

There has been a good response and the writers include most of those with a close interest, including the judiciary, the legal profession and the TUC, as well as a number of other organisations and individuals.

Mr. Archer

Whatever the arguments for hearing liquidated claims in the county court, has the Attorney-General now appreciated that the costs entailed in preparing personal injury claims are often as great in the county court as in the High Court, but that a much smaller proportion of the costs is recovered? Is he aware that that is one reason why plaintiffs find the High Court more attractive. If the purpose of the proposal is to save the time of High Court judges, why not extend the existing practice of assigning circuit and deputy judges to hear personal injury claims in the High Court?

The Attorney-General

If the point of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's question is recompense for the lawyers concerned, I can assure him that the Lord Chancellor's Department has put forward proposals to simplify the county court costs scales and to increase the figures in those scales. That is under consideration and discussions are taking place. The Lord Chancellor has said that he would not wish to bring the proposed jurisdictional changes into effect until agreement on costs has been reached.

Sir Charles Fletcher-Cooke

I accept the need to extend jurisdiction, but will my right hon. and learned Friend look at the difference between the methods of recovering judgments in the county court and in the High Court? Is he aware that one of the objections to the extension—a mistaken objection, in my view—is that it is so much harder to recover a judgment in the county court than it is through the mechanism of the High Court?

The Attorney-General

The Lord Chancellor has discussed the matter with under-sheriffs and their proposal to enforce the larger county court judgments is under consideration by the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Can the Attorney-General give some indication of when the discussions based on the Green Paper are likely to be concluded and what sort of time scale he has in mind for legislation?

The Attorney-General

It is hoped that the Lord Chancellor will be in a position to announce his decisions shortly. It is certainly planned that the necessary steps should be taken as soon as possible after that.