HC Deb 14 December 1999 vol 341 cc142-3
35. Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

If she will make a statement on the future of the magistrates and county courts in Lichfield. [101253]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Jane Kennedy)

The hon. Member will be aware from our meeting on 10 November that on 2 September 1999, Staffordshire magistrates courts committee made its final determination to close the Lichfield magistrates court, with effect from 28 February 2000, and sittings will cease there from 31 December 1999. The appeal process is under way and in September 1998 the Lord Chancellor gave permission to begin a public consultation exercise on the proposal to close the Lichfield county court. That has now concluded. A number of detailed responses were received which I am considering carefully.

Madam Speaker

Mr. Harry Cohen.

Mr. Fabricant

Do I remind you of him, Madam Speaker?

I thank the Minister for her detailed reply. She said that the matter is still under consideration, but is she aware that the Staffordshire magistrates court committee has decided to refer no more cases to Lichfield magistrates court from the end of this year? Is it not prejudging her decision? When the excellent local newspaper, the Express & Star, questioned Mr. Peter Wooliscroft, chief executive of the Staffordshire magistrates court committee, he said, "The court is not closing. We just won't be using it." Is that not prejudging the Minister's decision, and is it not wrong?

Jane Kennedy

I acknowledge the robust and persistent representations that the hon. Gentleman has made on the proposed closure of the courts at Lichfield. The decision by the magistrates courts committee to cease listing cases at Lichfield does not prejudge the decision on the appeal. The decision on the court building will be made on the merits of the case.