HL Deb 20 March 1962 vol 238 cc456-7

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make in regard to the urgent need to increase the existing accommodation for courts and ancillary offices at the Royal Courts of Justice.]


My Lords, on December 13, 1960, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, I said that I was in consultation with my right honourable friend the Minister of Works on the need to improve and increase the existing court accommodation in the Royal Courts of Justice. I am happy to say that these consultations have borne fruit and that a start will be made in the next financial year on a major scheme of reconstruction and new building which is now needed urgently, in view of the considerable increase in the number of Judges.

The first phase of this important operation will consist of making six permanent courts, with ancillary accommodation, on the ground floor of the existing building, adjoining the West side of the central hall. At the same time, plans are being prepared for the demolition of the part of Bankruptcy Buildings which survived war-time bombing, and for the erection on the site of a new building containing twelve new courts, two of which would replace existing Bankruptcy Courts, together with some office accommodation. These operations will inevitably cause trouble and inconvenience to the public, the Judiciary and both branches of the legal professions and will take some time to complete. But the work off the central hall will be done so far as possible by night-contract. The Bankruptcy Courts, and those who will be disturbed by the work there, will be temporarily accommodated in Kingsway. I hope Ito have two new courts in operation by September next year and another two by the end of 1964. Further courts should come into use in the following years.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for that statement, which will be whole-heartedly welcomed by the legal profession and, I venture to think, not least by certain of Her Majesty's Judges.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Viscount what is going to happen to the vast and empty central hall?


My Lords, I had in mind the question of the noble Lard, Lord Ogmore, when I said that the six permanent courts with ancillary accommodation will be on the ground floor of the existing building adjoining the West side of the central hall. I think he will agree, when he is later able to see the plans, that we are making suitable use of that part of the building.


My Lords, could my noble and learned friend say what architects are in charge of this work?


My Lords, I am sorry that I am not in a position to give a name, but I am assured that in the preparation of the plans, which are now in their very early stages, due regard will be paid to the atmosphere and character of the existing Law Courts building. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Conesford is or is not one of the admirers of "beauty in the Betjeman", but I assure him that due regard will be paid to the general desire.