HC Deb 19 December 2000 vol 360 c200
31. Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

What guidelines have been issued to newly constituted magistrates courts committees on local magistrates court closures. [141594]

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

I have personally endorsed the revised good practice guide on courthouse closure issued by the Central Council of Magistrates Courts Committees. That should be issued to all magistrates courts committees shortly. The Government encourage courts committees to follow the practices and advice in that document.

Mr. Heath

I hope that the guidance will include a reference to the importance of local magistrates courts in rural areas. The effect of consolidating magistrates courts committees into large areas to conform with police authority areas is that those committees are now very remote from many of the rural areas that they serve. Will the Minister guarantee, for instance, that Frome magistrates court will still be open in five years?

Jane Kennedy

It would be wrong of me to give any such guarantee. I may not be in my current position in five years' time—who knows? The guidance to which I referred includes the factors to be taken into consideration when reviewing accommodation needs. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the Government continue to believe that it is for local magistrates courts committees, which are drawn from magistrates who are local, who know the area and who are able to determine what is best for that area, to organise their resources and their courts.