§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Jurisdiction of county courts in undefended matrimonial causes]:
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the Committee will allow me to say so, I have received a letter from my noble friend Lord Silkin, saying that he regrets that he will not be moving his Amendments to-day as he is unable to be here. In the circumstances, there being no other Amendments, although in the ordinary way when the House is resumed one would move that the Report be now received, I do not propose to do that, so 1192 that Lord Silkin may have an opportunity of putting down the same Amendments on Report stage.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has been prevented by ill-health from being here and moving his Amendments to-day. I am sure that he will be glad, as indeed I am, that he will have a further opportunity to do so. But, between now and then, I would ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to consider whether it would not be an improvement of this Bill—I am not suggesting that we extend it as far as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, wants to do by these Amendments—to take power to extend its scope by Order in Council at a later date, to what we commonly refer to as "short defended cases". I suggest that because, in the light of experience, the trial of these undefended divorce cases in the county court is thoroughly satisfactory, it may be that the time will occur when it is considered desirable that further duties in this field should be entrusted to the county court judges. It would be very tiresome then, if that were the view, to have to come back to Parliament and introduce a special Bill for that purpose. That is why I am asking the noble and learned Lord to give consideration to the question whether power to make that extension, should the case for it arise, should be contained in this Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I shall certainly be glad to consider that. Of course, the noble and learned Viscount knows that the Lord Chancellor may always appoint a county court judge or an official referee or a barrister of sufficient standing to act as a Commissioner, therefore having power to try High Court cases; but one would not want to do that in the ordinary way without the approval of Parliament. I will certainly consider the suggestion that he has made.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported, without amendment.