HL Deb 20 December 1967 vol 287 cc1440-1

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, may I make a Statement about the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions? Your Lordships may remember that on August 11 last year I informed the House that Her Majesty had been pleased to approve the appointment of the Commission and that on October 27 I advised your Lordships of the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Beeching, as Chairman, and of the names of the other members.

I understand that the Royal Commission have made good progress and that most of their evidence has now been received. They feel, however, that before they decide on their recommendations on the administration of justice at assizes and quarter sessions they should be in a position to take account of the effect these will have on courts in Greater London and on the county courts. They have therefore asked for their terms of reference to be extended, and Her Majesty has accepted a recommendation that this should be agreed to. The existing wording requires the Royal Commission: To inquire into the present arrangements for the administration of justice at Assizes and at Quarter Sessions outside Greater London, and to report what reforms should be made for the more convenient, economic and efficient disposal of the civil and criminal business at present dealt with by those courts". The words which are to be added read: and to consider and report on the effect these will have on the High Court, the Central Criminal Court, the Courts of Quarter Sessions in Greater London and the County Courts throughout England and Wales.


My Lords, while thanking the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for this Statement, I would if I may, ask two questions. The first is this. Is it not clear from this Statement that the Royal Commission will not investigate the proceedings of the High Court, the Central Criminal Court, the quarter sessions and the county courts, but will consider merely what the effect of their proposals will be on those courts? If that be so, I myself think, if I may say so, that that is a very desirable addition to their terms of reference. The second question is: can the noble and learned Lord indicate when this very important Royal Commission is likely to report?


My Lords, the answer to the first supplementary is, I think, that the position is exactly as the noble and learned Viscount has stated it. I am afraid that I cannot answer the second supplementary question. The Commission are, as I understand it, getting on extremely well, but I am informed that they are not themselves in a position yet to say when they will be likely to report.