HC Deb 07 July 1987 vol 119 cc316-34 12.30 am
The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

I beg to move, That the draft Jury Trial (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 11th May, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that this is the second draft of the order to be laid before the House. The draft that was laid on 8 May was defective in that it did not give the commencement date of the order, and, on the advice of Counsel to the Chairman of Committees, the original draft was withdrawn, and a new draft, giving a commencement date of 1 August 1987, was laid on 11 May.

The effect of the draft order would be to remove personal injury and fatal accident actions from the list of cases for which a party may request trial by jury in the High Court of Northern Ireland. This change would bring Northern Ireland into line with England and Wales. At present, in Northern Ireland, either party to a personal injuries action in the High Court can request a trial with a jury of seven persons. Although the majority of cases are set down to be tried in this way, the vast majority are settled either at the door of the court, or in some cases in the course of the trial. Court records show that 95 per cent. of cases are tried without a jury ever becoming involved. In view of the fact that civil juries seldom become involved in trying cases, the then Lord Chancellor announced in November 1985 that he had decided to conduct a review into the desirability of changing the High Court practice. A total of 16 organisations were invited to make submissions.

Of the submissions received, 11 were in favour of the abolition of civil jury trials, and that included employers' organisations, representatives of the insurance industry, and the accountancy profession, the Automobile Association and, notably, the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland. Against this, three of the organisations invited to make representations opposed change. Those opposing change are the General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland, the Law Society of Northern Ireland, and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

In January of this year, the then Lord Chancellor announced that, having carefully considered the views of the interested parties, he had concluded that there was no compelling reason why Northern Ireland should differ from England and Wales in the use of juries in personal injury actions.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

Bearing in mind that the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that Northern Ireland should be brought into line with England and Wales, may we have his assurance that this is not a step forward in changing the system for Scotland as well, and that civil jury trial will continue as a right under Scottish jurisdiction?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. and learned Member knows very well that I do not speak for Scotland. In consequence, I am not minded to be led down that road. However, I am glad to note that the hon. Gentleman is interested and perhaps shadowing the position that I do not hold.

There are three reasons for making the proposed change. They relate to court procedures, court resources and costs.

On court procedures, the Government are satisfied that the findings of the Pearson commission of 1978 hold equally good for Northern Ireland as they did for England and Wales. That commission reported that jury trials militate against consistency and predictability in the award of damages and inhibits settlements. It was found that jury trials are more expensive than trials by judge alone and tend to take longer to arrange and complete. Finally, the commission reported that the increasingly sophisticated rules on the assessment of damages which had been introduced in recent years also militated against the use of juries.

The Government are satisfied that all those factors point to the change that is now proposed. It cannot be realistic to argue that trial by judge alone in personal injury cases could produce any less just results for litigants than the present system. Indeed, we are convinced that the advantages to be gained in terms of consistency and predictability will make this reform worthwhile.

The second reason for bringing this measure before the House relates to court resources. Virtually every day of each legal term men and women give up their time to do jury service in the High Court in Northern Ireland. If they stood even a reasonable prospect of seeing the inside of a court room and of hearing a case tried it might be argued that such service is a worthwhile aspect of their civic responsibilities. It could then be put forward as one method of involving members of the public in the administration of justice. However, I must tell the House that the reality is vey different.

The vast majority of cases—some 95 per cent.—are settled by lawyers at or before reaching the door of the court. Most of the men and women summoned to do jury service are sent home without having heard an argument uttered by the counsel involved in the case they were meant to try.

In 1986, 3,420 people were summoned to the High Court in Belfast to do jury service. However, 3,019 of them were sent home without ever having tried a case. I am sure that those figures will interest the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile).

Although, in theory, civil cases in Northern Ireland involve trial by jury, in reality they are settled before they come before a jury. In 1986, of 2,742 cases dealt with in the Queen's Bench division of the High Court, only 43—just over 1½ per cent.—were fully tried by a jury. At the same time, it will be appreciated that the time taken up each morning with balloting and swearing in juries for cases that are never fought is an inexcusable waste of court resources. It is estimated that the proposed change before the House could save up to two judge days a week and would also free valuable court room accommodation. The Lord Chancellor is convinced that those resources could and should be more productively used in trying cases.

The third reason for bringing this measure before the House relates to the question of costs. By this I mean not only the legal cost incurred by the parties involved in High Court litigation, but also the hidden costs to the economy that result from the present system.

I have already mentioned that, in 1978, the Pearson commission reported that jury trials are more expensive than trial by judge alone. That was borne out the following year by the findings of an inter-departmental working group made up of Northern Ireland Government Departments. It took evidence from a wide range of interest groups and established that employers' liability insurance costs—a matter of considerable interest to business people—were higher in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain. It found that those costs have a significant effect on the operating costs of firms, that awards granted under the jury system in Northern Ireland are higher than under the non-jury system in England and Wales, that legal costs form a higher proportion of the total costs of an award or settlement in Northern Ireland and that there is a greater delay in dealing with cases or achieving settlements in Northern Ireland.

Even those opposing this reform accept that the level of damages resulting from the present system is higher than in other parts of the United Kingdom. it is sought to justify this by pointing to the difficulty now experienced by persons involved in industrial accidents in re-entering the labour market in Northern Ireland. But the Government cannot accept as a matter of principle that the assessment of damages for factors such as pain and suffering and loss of amenity should in some crude sense be enlarged in Northern Ireland to take account of the economic climate. Indeed, it seems wrong in principle that an element of regional variation should come about in such an arbitrary manner, and in many ways it is counterproductive.

Another serious effect on the Northern Ireland economy arises from the present system. I have spoken of what I called the hidden costs to the economy which result from the present system. In its evidence to the review recently conducted by the Lord Chancellor, the CBI in Northern Ireland stated: The use of civil juries in personal injury claims continue to create additional costs for employers throughout industry and commerce in Northern Ireland. The costs are substantially higher than those facing employers elsewhere in the United Kingdom and, of course, company closures have discouraged several companies from expanding and have prevented companies from setting up in Northern Ireland. The abolition of civil juries is essential to the viability of industry and commerce in Northern Ireland and would be a significant encouragement to future industrial investment in the Province. That is what I mean by the hidden costs to the Northern Ireland economy which this reform seeks to redress.

The mechanics of the exercise are straightforward. The power to make the order is provided by section 62 of the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978, subsection (1) of which lists five classes of action in which a party may request trial with a jury in the High Court. The effect of the draft order is to remove paragraph (e) from that list, that paragraph being concerned with personal injury and fatal accident actions.

Removing personal injury cases will leave four classes of action—libel, slander, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment—in which a party will still be able to request trial with a jury. This, as I said, will bring the law in Northern Ireland into line with that in England and Wales. There will still be power for the High Court to order trial with jury even in a personal injury case where it is considered that that would be more suitable. However, the majority of personal injury cases from now on will be tried by a judge sitting alone.

It is proposed to bring the order into force on 1 August this year so that it will be in place at the start of the new legal year, in September. A corresponding amendment to the rules of the Supreme Court will make it clear that from the beginning of the new legal year trial by judge alone will be the mode of trial in personal injury cases.

The reform that is now proposed will be no leap in the dark for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. The equivalent change was made in England and Wales more than 50 years ago. The civil law and the rules of civil procedure in the Province are in most respects similar, if not identical, to those in England and Wales. The change now proposed will remove one of the few differences of any significance between our two systems and will provide for even greater parity in the methods of dealing with civil claims in the two law districts.

This measure represents a desirable and long overdue reform. The benefit for litigants that should result from reduced legal costs and the expedition of trials and settlements are reason enough for bringing this order before the House.

12.44 am
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

It is regrettable that, as with nearly all Northern Ireland legislation, this important measure is being dealt with by the notorious Order in Council system at such a late hour. It is also regrettable that provisions affecting whole areas of life in Ulster—for example, such ancient and fundamental issues as jury trial and personal liberty—should be dealt with in a rubber-stamp way.

I appreciate that the issue with which the order deals has been under discussion for some years, and prior to the signing of the Hillsborough agreement. I assume that, because the Government have brought this measure forward, the Irish Republic has been consulted through the Intergovernmental Conference. Has there been such consultation? I understand from a parliamentary answer that I received last week that the cost of that exercise to the British taxpayer is about £313,000. Are we to take it that the Republic will put its legal system in order? I know of a civil litigation case which has taken four years to come to court. One can imagine the costs involved when hearings are deferred.

Although I am speaking to the order, I must protest about it as it is, once again, a matter of take it or leave it. The Solicitor-General told us that representations have been made by varous sources. I am aware that the Trades Union Congress has been in touch. Two and a half to three years ago, I asked it to spell out its objections more specifically, but I still await a reply.

The Confederation of British Industry and the Northern Ireland Bar are interested parties. One of the Bar's comments is that the jury system of trial will disappear if the order goes through. I do not agree. I would prefer a better system for trying non-civil cases and the eventual return of the jury system for such cases.

The order is to be operative from 1 August to take effect when the new term starts in September. What will happen in cases that are already pending and which have opted for jury trial? Are they not entitled to continue with that system after September? I am not au fait with all aspects of the legal system, but it seems only right that people who have opted for jury trial and who have not delayed through any fault of their own should have a jury trial. I am not referring to cases that come up henceforth or from 1 August.

The main demand for change has come from providers of insurance, who contend that excessive damages claims force up premiums. I am anxious that the Bar and the insurance world should realise that nobody wants to do them out of a living, but the victims of accidents must get fair compensation. Compensation should be neither excessive nor penny-pinching.

A member of my congregation was murdered in the Donegal street bomb explosion and his widow was awarded the princely sum of £1,500. When she queried the figure, her own solicitor responded, "You do not have to feed him any more." The sum was increased, but I am not convinced that the legal profession has always done an excellent job of defending people's rights. Thanks to representations to the Northern Ireland Office, we have had reviews of some cases. There is a responsibility upon the courts to be fair, and I trust that they may be so.

It may benefit the House if I put on record an example of the differences in insurance premiums provided for me by members of the insurance industry in Northern Ireland. The example is simple. It relates to a group 1 car—for example, a Vauxhall Nova, a Metro or a Mini. For a driver of 40 years of age seeking comprehensive insurance, the cost of cover in Cornwall would be £230, in inner London £413 and in Ulster £445. For third party insurance only, that man would have to pay £93 in Cornwall, £168 in inner London and £180 in Ulster.

If this order becomes law, I hope that the insurance companies which have claimed that they have to charge higher premiums because of the method of dealing, with such claims, will show good faith and drastically reduce insurance charges in Northern Ireland. At the same time, if the order is passed, I hope that the companies that have said that premiums are putting them out of business will make their goods more competitive and bring business to Northern Ireland.

12.51 am
Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

I welcome the Solicitor-General back to legal affairs debates and to his enhanced responsibilities. I also welcome him to the late night shift, which is a feature of the workload of junior legal affairs spokesmen for the Government and the Opposition. Perhaps that is something that his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General did not tell him about before he took the job. I welcome the Solicitor-General to these late night trysts and look forward to many more. May I also congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman on having gained the title that accompanies his office. We Socialists are not moved by such things, of course. However, I would understand if the hon. and learned Gentleman felt that "Sir Nicholas" had a nice ring to it. I can certainly see how that could be so.

The matters under discussion are important, and no less so because we are discussing them late at night. The order, if passed, will remove personal injury and death claims from the list of actions that may be tried with a jury. That has been the case in England and Wales since 1933, as the Solicitor-General explained. There is no serious lobby in England and Wales for the reintroduction of jury trials in personal injury cases. The matter that we are considering tonight is the change in the Northern Ireland context. The Government must prove the case for change for Northern Ireland. That change must be shown, because successive Governments of different political persuasions have acquiesced in the present state of affairs from 1933 until the present day.

The case that the Solicitor-General has made is threefold. First, he argued that court costs are higher, and the legal costs that accompany those costs are higher, in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Secondly, he said that industry's costs—especially for employers' liability insurance—are higher in the Province. Finally, he said that the awards granted by juries in the Province are higher than those obtained in the rest of the country.

The Solicitor-General rightly made the point that 97 per cent. of all cases are settled before they reach court. That is the Northern Ireland figure and also the figure for the nation as a whole. The difference lies in the expense in getting juries together prior to trail and then having to dismiss them without their having heard a case. I fully accept that speeches made by members of the Bar to juries take much longer than speeches on the same subject made to judges. I accept that substantial extra expense may be involved there.

I understand, but am less sympathetic to, the point about industry's costs. I understand that the system means that those costs are higher in Northern Ireland, but it would be wrong to save money for the industrialist and do an injustice to the working people in Ulster. I could not support that. I do not think that the argument about industry's costs stands on its own.

The Government argue that in Northern Ireland juries make higher awards than a judge would. It is possible to argue that this reflects the Northern Ireland context and is not the effect of a jury rather than a judge making the decision. But I suspect that that is not what is happening. The reality is that juries are perhaps more generous than a judge would he in specific cases. Industrial deafness is a good example. I understand that a jury drawn from east Belfast, a shipbuilding community, could make a settlement in an industrial deafness case that was more generous and sympathetic than that made by a judge, who was perhaps, drawn from the English upper classes and whose knowledge of the shipbuilding industry was not as deep as the jury's. Had Tyneside local juries had the chance to vote on quantum in industrial deafness cases, their awards would certainly have been more generous to the shipbuilding community on Tyneside than the pathetically low amounts awarded in the series of benchmark cases heard about four years ago which set the going rate.

I cannot accept that the jury drawn from the local community is held to be too generous in such cases and that the judge is held to be too mean. I hope that the Government accept—although I suspect from what the Solicitor-General said that they will not—that damages, which the Government hope to reduce by their cost-saving measures, will be exempt. I know that there are savings to be made in trial costs and employers' costs and I can understand the Government seeking savings there, but I would be sad if the order resulted in a reduction in the amount of money given to an injured industrial worker in Northern Ireland. I would rather we preserved, even as an anomaly, the higher level of award in the Province. It would be possible for the Government to do that if they wished. The Province misses out in some respects, with a higher unemployment rate, more bad housing and a narrower industrial base than the rest of the country. The Government are not moving to bring those aspects into line with the rest of the country, so why should Northern Ireland not have higher personal injury settlements? If the other anomalies can stay, why not have this one?

I plead with the Government to be generous to the Province. What steps did they take to engage feeling in Northern Ireland before bringing forward this measure? The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) said that the consultations had not been as extensive or thorough as one might have liked. I urge the Government to ensure that, in as far as they can, they are carrying the community with them in introducing this change. I know that the Solicitor-General will respond to that point.

It has been argued that trial by jury in personal injury cases is valuable in the Northern Ireland context because it is a substitute for not having trial by jury in criminal cases. I completely reject that argument. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Belfast, South said this as well, and I wholly accept his arguments. The two matters are separate. The arguments about trial by jury in criminal cases stand on their own, and to suggest that the lack of that civil right can be made up for by having trial by jury in personal injury cases is nonsensical.

With those two caveats, to which I should like the Solicitor-General to respond, I am, if not happy, at least willing to acquiesce to the order.

1 am

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I join in the welcome to the new Solicitor-General, and congratulate him on his appointment.

Those who have from time to time practised in the mud of trading standards law have long known how distinguished a practitioner the hon. and learned Gentleman is. Indeed, in one very important case in which he appeared, the House of Lords sought to define what it described—if my memory serves me right—as the eyes and ears of a company. Henceforth we shall regard the hon. and learned Gentleman, with his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, as the eyes and ears of the Government on legal issues, and I am sure that he will fulfil that role with distinction.

No doubt all hon. Members start by accepting the proposition that the jury system is the bulwark of our common law system of justice. Yet in England and Wales, we have done without jury trials in personal injuries for, I believe, 54 years. Despite that, and despite changes that have been made by Governments of different complexions over the past 20 years, and despite the changes proposed in the second version of the Criminal Justice Bill, it would be wrong to suggest that the integrity of the jury system in England and Wales is in any sense under threat. However, the advent of the Diplock courts in Northern Ireland has meant that the integrity of the jury system there has been threatened. In criminal cases, we know not when it will be possible—for I accept that it was a necessary change—to restore the jury system in full. That means that the public in Northern Ireland have less opportunity to serve on juries than the public in England and Wales.

I hope that we all share the aim of restoring the jury system to criminal cases in Northern Ireland in due course, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman will confirm that that is the Government's aim as well as that of Opposition Members. But if it is to be restored to criminal cases in Northern Ireland—in my view, there is a connection between the two issues—it must be a credible system. There must be evidence that it works in the Northern Ireland context.

The jury system in personal injury cases in Northern Ireland does work. It shows no evidence of sectarian problems, it is consistent and it is recognised by the public on both sides of the sectarian divide as an acceptable part of the Northern Ireland judicial system. It is clearly in the public interest that whatever there is of the jury system in Northern Ireland should be maintained.

That view is certainly shared by some unionists. I have in my possession a letter from the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) to a leading Queen's Counsel in Northern Ireland, in which he says of the case put forward by the Northern Ireland Bar: I am certainly sympathetic to the case which you have put forward and will do all I can within the parameters of the Unionist protest to express your views. Some criticism has been made of the level of damages awarded by juries in Northern Ireland, but that criticism is based on the assumption that if the trial and assessment of damages in personal injuries cases is handed from juries to the judges, there will suddenly be a drop in the level of damages. Personally, I do not believe that to be the case. I do not believe for a moment that the judges in Northern Ireland will turn hack the clock with regard to damages. Many of us recognise by now that the level of damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity in the courts of England and Wales is very low compared with awards in other jurisdictions.

It is said that there will be a saving of costs, but where will such saving take place? There may be a small saving to employers whose employees are called to serve on juries for civil cases, but let us not forget that the economic burden on employers in Northern Ireland is mitigated by the fact that the Diplock courts exist and that far fewer people are called to serve on juries in criminal cases.

It is said that there will be shorter speeches by counsel, but the Solicitor-General should hearken back to some of his more difficult days in court—no doubt in tricky and complicated quantum cases. Juries do not interrupt. Judges do, and frequently. I suspect and suggest that if one analyses the time it takes to address the jury on quantum in a complex case and the time it takes to address the judge, who will interrupt, there is probably very little to choose between the two.

The Solicitor-General has said that the saving will be two judge days a week. If my mental arithmetic is right, it means that by removing juries from the civil jurisdiction in personal injuries cases we shall save approximately half a judge's salary a year. Is it really worth £20,000 or £25,000 a year to remove the right to jury trial, which is valued in Northern Ireland, in personal injuries cases?

It is said, "Well, of course, the Northern Ireland Bar, the Northern Ireland solicitors, the Northern Ireland Law Society and the trade unions which back personal injury action by plaintiffs would object to this order." But is that a fair criticism? The lawyers who appear in these cases in Northern Ireland surely occupy a position that is worthy of greater respect than simply brushing them aside on the basis that they are seeking to protect their own selfish interests.

Let us not forget that being a practising barrister in Northern Ireland is not an easy job. It is much more difficult than the same work in England and Wales, because it is fraught with personal risk. Those lawyers who are members of the Northern Ireland Bar base their opinion not upon the fact that they might earn a few extra guineas from taking cases before juries—I doubt whether there is any justification for that proposition—but on the fact that they not only work in the system and observe it but also live in the community, and they do so on both sides of the sectarian division which unfortunately exists in that community.

I ask the Solicitor-General and the Government to attend rather more closely than I suggest they have to the views that have been put forward by those experienced people who form the Northern Ireland Bar and Northern Ireland Law Society.

Indeed, in its submissions—which I am sure the Solicitor-General will have seen—the Northern Ireland Bar says that civil juries in Northern Ireland are an all-too-rare and successful social structure that transcends the cultural, political, social and religious bias that has characterised many troubled years.

It is not just the profession that is being ignored. I remind the Government that, as recently as 1970, the MacDermott committee conducted a detailed inquiry in civil procedure in Northern Ireland. In particular, the Committee examined the use of juries in civil cases, and recommended that they be retained. It is wrong to leap to the conclusion that civil juries should be abolished, bearing in mind that the MacDermott review was so recent. We should bear in mind, too, that as recently as September 1986, new Supreme Court rules were introduced in Northern Ireland. Among other things, those rules attempt to make the civil procedure in Northern Ireland speedier and more efficient. If we insist upon pushing the order through at this stage, we shall not be giving those rules a fair chance to show that they work.

The Northern Ireland Bar eloquently summarised the position. It said: The abolition of juries in personal injury cases in Northern Ireland may well diminish and endanger public trust in, and respect for the legal system. If ever there was a part of the United Kingdom where that trust and respect need to be maintained it is Northern Ireland, and the abolition of juries is no way in which to achieve that aim.

1.12 am
The Solicitor-General

First, I shall reply to the points made by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). I hope that I shall comfort him a little in relation to the technicalities of this Order in Council. He may be pleased to hear that it is not an Order in Council under the Northern Ireland Act 1974; it is a perfectly ordinary order under the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978. It is an ordinary subordinate instrument being dealt with under the affirmative resolution procedure. Therefore, we are following the normal procedures of the House, not the procedures to which the hon. Gentleman objects.

I thank the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) and the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) for their kind words of welcome to me. They made a point on behalf of the Bar of Northern Ireland. I have the honour now to be called to and within the Bar of Northern Ireland, and I certainly do not dismiss lightly the points put by its members, who have a deep knowledge of their community. We have thought most carefully about those points, and I would be the last to say that they were put forward on grounds of self interest. Indeed, I would wholly repudiate any such suggestion. On the other hand, it is important to say firmly that whereas the effect of the order will be to abolish the use of the jury in almost all cases of personal injury, the use of the jury in Crown court criminal cases is working far more widely and, in many respects, better than many people—even in Northern Ireland—recognise. These brief statistics are illuminating. In 1986, no fewer than 75 per cent. of cases dealt with in the Crown courts in Northern Ireland involved non-scheduled offences triable by judge and jury. In other words, they did not involve the Diplock courts. A total of 1,325 cases was dealt with, of which only 329—less than 30 per cent.—were scheduled cases. If one takes into account the number of scheduled offences in which the defendant pleaded guilty, which was 264, it is clear that non-jury trials accounted for only just under 5 per cent. of the total number of Crown court cases dealt with.

Recently, I had the pleasure and privilege of witnessing the ordinary jury system working well in Northern Ireland. Despite the great difficulties, which we all recognise and regret, those statistics are a measure of the way in which Northern Ireland still manages to carry on an excellent Crown court system with judge and jury in a way that we would all applaud.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South asked about those who have already opted for trial by jury under the present system. We have considered the matter carefully. This is a procedural matter. There is no vested right to trial by jury, and it will be dealt with by rules of court. After the new term, which in Northern Ireland begins in September, everyone will be tried under the new rules. But it is purely a procedural matter, and they are not being deprived of a vested right.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and the hon. Member for Belfast, South asked about the level of damages. I agree with all hon. Members that levels of damages are not a matter for Governments of any complexion. They are matters for the courts, and they will be decided by the judges of Northern Ireland, and the judges alone. Those judges live in and will understand the community, and we must wait to see how much they regard as the proper level of damages.

I have great sympathy with the points made by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East. In the unlikely event that I become a judge, I should be able to say that I worked on the Tyne and even went into a double-bottomed tank on one occasion. The hon. Gentleman, as a trade union official, has a deep knowledge of that matter and a deep interest in the proper level of damages for industrial deafness and all other forms of injury. That will be a matter for the judges; the Government cannot and should not control it.

The costs of trial and of court procedures under the present system and considerable. I gave the figures. From a total of about 3,400 jurors called to court, about 3,000 did not try a case at all, although they had gone to considerable expense and inconvenience.

The MacDermott committee was mentioned. Because of the high regard in which Lord MacDermott is held in the Province and here, I took the trouble to look up the report to see why it recommended the continuation of jury trial. I was pleased to note that the only reason that it put forward—I do not dismiss it—was that the ordinary juror well understood the proper level of damages, but no other reason was given. It is more than 50 years since we changed the system for England and Wales and, having considered the matter carefully, we believe that it is proper to introduce the change in the Province. Therefore, I commend the order to the House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 146, Noes 13.

Division No. 12] [1.18 am
Aitken, Jonathan King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Kirkhope, Timothy
Brazier, Julian Knapman, Roger
Butler, Chris Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Butterfill, John Latham, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lawrence, Ivan
Chapman, Sydney Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Chope, Christopher Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Conway, Derek Lilley, Peter
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Cope, John Lord, Michael
Cran, James Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Currie, Mrs Edwina MacGregor, John
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Maclean, David
Davis, David (Boothferry) McLoughlin, Patrick
Day, Stephen Mans, Keith
Devlin, Tim Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Dorrell, Stephen Maude, Hon Francis
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Dover, Den Meyer, Sir Anthony
Durant, Tony Mills, Iain
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Fallon, Michael Moss, Malcolm
Favell, Tony Moynihan, Hon C.
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Nelson, Anthony
Forman, Nigel Neubert, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Forth, Eric Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Page, Richard
Fox, Sir Marcus Paice, James
Freeman, Roger Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
French, Douglas Porter, David (Waveney)
Gale, Roger Portillo, Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan Powell, William (Corby)
Gill, Christopher Raffan, Keith
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Redwood, John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Gow, Ian Riddick, Graham
Gower, Sir Raymond Roe, Mrs Marion
Greenway, John (Rydale) Rowe, Andrew
Gregory, Conal Ryder, Richard
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Sackville, Hon Tom
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Grist, Ian Scott, Nicholas
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Shaw, David (Dover)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hanley, Jeremy Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Harris, David Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Hayes, Jerry Stanbrook, Ivor
Hayward, Robert Stanley, Rt Hon John
Heddle, John Stern, Michael
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Hind, Kenneth Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Sumberg, David
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Summerson, Hugo
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Temple-Morris, Peter
Irvine, Michael Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Jack, Michael Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Janman, Timothy Thorne, Neil
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Thurnham, Peter
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Tracey, Richard
Key, Robert Tredinnick, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Viggers, Peter Wilshire, David
Waddington, Rt Hon David Winterton, Mrs Ann
Waldegrave, Hon William Winterton, Nicholas
Walden, George Wood, Timothy
Waller, Gary Yeo, Tim
Wardle, C. (Bexhill) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Warren. Kenneth
Watts, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Wells, Bowen Mr. David Lightbown and
Wheeler, John Mr. Alan Howarth.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Hume, John Wallace, James
Kilfedder, James
Maginnis, Ken Tellers for the Noes:
Mallon, Seamus Mr. William Ross and
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Rev. William McCrea.
Paisley, Rev Ian

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Jury Trial (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 11th May, in the last Session of Parliament, he approved.

  2. cc328-34
  3. Birtenshaw Farm, Bolton 3,398 words