HL Deb 12 November 1968 vol 297 cc433-49

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill is a fairly long Bill dealing with a large number of quite different points affecting the administration of justice. Therefore, I am on Second Reading between the Scylla of not explaining particular provisions sufficiently to the House and the Charybdis of taking too long, and I shall do my best to steer between them.

Part I of the Bill deals with the jurisdiction of the county court and makes various amendments to the County Courts Act. Speaking in general, the jurisdiction of the county court has always depended on the amount in dispute or on the value of the thing in dispute. In 1846 this was £20; in 1903, it was £100; in 1938, it was £200; in 1955, it was £400; and in 1965, it was £500. I think that we have slipped a little in lowering the jurisdiction since the war. I am told that to-day the equivalent of £200 in 1938 is £742. Therefore, this Bill, in seeking to increase the jurisdiction to £750, is doing no more than restoring the jurisdiction of the county court to what it was in 1938. One of the reasons for doing this at once is the fact that a Committee reported in July. This was a Committee which I appointed between two and three years ago, of which Lord Justice Winn was chairman, on terms of reference which in substance asked them to see whether personal injury actions, which form the bulk of the work of the Queen's Bench Division, could not be tried in the county court, or perhaps in a traffic court, or some other court, more quickly and more simply.

We live in days when it has become fashionable to attack lawyers, particularly for their lack of reforming zeal. In fact, most law reform comes from lawyers, and I should like to say that I have never known a case of a judge or a barrister or a solicitor who has been asked 10 give up a great deal of his spare time, without any reward, on some law reform committee, and who has declined to do so. I am extremely grateful to Lord Justice Winn and to all the members of his Committee for the trouble which they have taken in this matter.

Their Report is one of considerable substance, making a number of recommendations designed to secure that personal injury actions can be tried more simply and more quickly. Many, if not most of them, do not require legislation; they can be dealt with either administratively or by rules of court. One of the recommendations which the Committee make is that the jurisdiction of the county court to hear these cases should be increased to £1,000, with power to increase it later to £1,500. But they hope that before that is done one or two things should happen; namely, that on each circuit there should be some large central court; that court buildings should be improved, and some perhaps built; that tape recorders should be installed; and that there should be reasonable remuneration for the lawyers in any cases under the extended jurisdiction.

One of the difficulties in catching up with the fall in the value of money in relation to the jurisdiction of the county court has always been that when the time has come to make an increase the Lord Chancellor has to consult his colleagues and try to persuade them to let him have sufficient Parliamentary time to produce an Act of Parliament. I have always felt that this situation ought to be more flexible. It is partly a practical question. Either the High Court Judges can do no more, or the county court judges have some room to do something, and it is, as I have said, a practical question to see what one can do. That is why, in a later clause in the Bill, provision is made for these questions of jurisdiction to be determined in future by a Statutory Instrument to be laid before Parliament and not to come into effect unless it has been approved affirmatively by both Houses of Parliament.

The points which Lord Justice Winn's Committee have recommended should be attended to first are already very much in my mind. In fact, I had already asked seven county courts on the periphery of London to let everybody know that anyone with an action involving over £200 could have it tape-recorded if he so wished. At the moment nobody has applied for it at all, and I am busy considering what the real demand for it is. To have one central tape-recorded court on each circuit would cost £40,000, so I have to consider that; but I have no doubt that in the meantime we should increase the jurisdiction to £750 and see how that goes. That would be no more than restoring the jurisdiction to what it used to be before the war. Accordingly, for actions of contract, tort or debt Clause 1 increases the jurisdiction from £500 to £750, and Clause 2 makes that alteration wherever £500 appears in different sections of the Act.

Clauses 3 and 4 deal with transfers from the High Court to the county court, or vice versa, and with the question of what is to happen when somebody brings an action in the High Court which, as the result shows, could have been started in the county court. The Bill follows the present practice of providing that if the plaintiff does not recover more than a certain amount he will get only county court costs; and if he recovers a small sum he will get none, because it was an action which ought to have been brought in the county court.

Clause 5 increases the equity jurisdiction from £500 to £5,000. That may seem a very large increase, but first it is a jurisdiction which has not been increased for 103 years; and secondly, when we have considered cognate questions recently, Parliament has taken the view that in that sort of case £5,000 would not be unreasonable. Your Lordships may remember that two years ago we passed the Family Provision Act, and considered then the fact that no application to the county court could be made under the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1938. The change arose because a High Court Judge, hearing such a case, had said: "What a pity that so much in the case of small estates is swallowed up in costs! Surely up to £5,000 it ought to be possible to bring such a case to the county court." Parliament approved of that. Moreover, the county court now hears disputes of title to land to a rateable value of £400—which is just about the £5,000 house.

Clause 6 gives to the county court ancillary jurisdiction such as the High Court already has, mainly in order to enable an urgent injunction to be obtained even before an action is started. It may, in the case of trespass, or in other cases, be necessary to have an immediate injunction, and this clause will enable a county court to do what the High Court can already do.

Clause 7 relates to two distinct questions affecting the right of audience. Under the County Courts Act (this goes back to the Act of 1852) a county court can hear the party, if he is acting in person, or his barrister or his solicitor, or anyone else, by leave of the judge, but not a solicitor advocate; so that the client's solicitor cannot get another solicito appear as an advocate for him if the case is in a neighbouring town to which he cannot get. This raises a delicate question of demarcation disputes and restrictive practices.

Some years ago, in 1949, this matter was considered by the Committee on County Court Procedure, of which Mr. Justice Austin Jones was Chairman. It was a Committee which included representatives of the Bar, including Sir Milner Holland, as he now is. You could not really defend this practice in, for example, a judgment summons which takes a couple of minutes. You could not reasonably say that if the solicitor could not get there himself, because the case was in the next town, he should not be allowed to get a solicitor from that town to take it, but had to put the client to all the expense of briefing a barrister. That was plainly indefensible. Moreover, a solicitor could always get round that section of the Act by getting the client to serve a notice on the other side that he had changed his solicitor. That made everything all right. So that this has not, in practice, worked for years.

I remember that we considered this matter when I was Chairman of the Bar Council. We all took the view that it could not be defended so far as small cases or undefended cases were concerned, and we wondered whether we should try to get the section altered to apply it only to larger cases. But we came to the conclusion that that would be a dangerous thing to do, because Parliament would be more likely to remove the restriction altogether. So that this has always been a sore point with solicitors. The barristers—I am not blaming them—have hung on to it as long as they could.

But an Amendment was moved in the other place on the recent Matrimonial Causes Bill to say that in undefended divorce cases solicitors ought to be able to get another solicitor to take the case for them. That was resisted by my right honourable friend the Attorney General, with my full approval, on the ground that if one was going to deal with this at all, it was a general point to be applied to all actions and the divorce cases should not be treated separately. But now, with this Administration of Justice Bill, I am bound to tell the House that I think it is a restrictive practice which simply cannot be defended any longer. I do not believe that it will really make tuppence-worth of difference to the Bar, simply because, as I have said, a solicitor can always get round the section by serving a notice of change.

The second point as to rights of audience arises because there is an Act called the Small Tenements Recovery Act 1838, which enables actions for rent and recovery of small premises to be brought in what, when I was young, was called a police court. Of course, apart from domestic proceedings, the magistrates' court is a criminal court, and it is quite anomalous that these actions about very small tenements should be brought in a criminal court. Accordingly, this provision will enable such actions to be brought in the county court. But the local authorities say, "Well, that is all very well, but we are used to the magistrates' court. We just send one of our officers along and these cases are not usually disputed. They are very small cases. If we went to the county court, how should we know that the county court judge would hear us? And we do not want to be put to all the expense of employing solicitors." Your Lordships may think that that is perfectly reasonable and, accordingly, in these actions for recovery of very small tenements local authorities will be enabled to appear by their officers.

I now come to Clause 8—Assessors. Until not long ago, if barristers or solicitors disputed the extent to which their fees had been cut down on taxation by an officer of the court, called a taxing officer, they had no right of appeal unless they could satisfy a judge that the officer had erred in principle. If it was merely that he had given them half of what would have been a reasonable sum to charge, that was no ground of appeal. Some years ago in the High Court it was provided that there should be a right of appeal on quantum to a High Court Judge who would sit with two assessors, one a taxing master and the other a barrister or solicitor, according to whose fees were in question. What Clause 8 does is to provide a similar right of appeal in the county court to the county court judge, assisted by a registrar and a barrister or solicitor, as the case might be. There have, in fact, been very few of these appeals in the High Court, but it would seem reasonable that the right to appeal should be there.

Clause 9 will enable county court rules to be made, first, to increase the jurisdiction of the registrar. The registrar of the court has always been able to hear small cases, particularly undefended ones, involving sums up to £30 and this provision increases his jurisdiction to £75. The Winn Committee suggested £100, but they were going to increase the judge's jurisdiction to £1,000. A figure of £100 would have been 10 per cent. of £1,000, and £75, which is in any case thought to be the right figure at the moment, is 10 per cent. of £750. The clause also deals with transfers between courts, and makes provisions in relation to solicitors of the same nature as in the High Court. Clause 10, to which I have already, referred, will enable future changes to be made by a Statutory Instrument, provided that it has been laid in draft before Parliament and affirmatively approved by both Houses.

Clause 11 deals with two or three miscellaneous matters in this field. It provides that a judge can sit at a court even if there is no office there. It repeals Section 46 of the principal Act, with which I do not think I need trouble your Lordships. The Winn Committee rightly found that it was a section which was a dead letter. Subsections (3) and (4) increase the amount of fines laid down in the Act which may be imposed on a juryman who does not appear, on witnesses who do not appear, or on officers of the court who misbehave. No change in the amount of fines has been made for 34 years. Some of them are £5, which are now being increased to £20, and some of them are £10, which are increased to £50. These are in line with the increases in tines made in the recent Criminal Justice Act.

Part II of the Bill relates to a project known among lawyers as "leapfrog". Sometimes, even soon after an Act is passed, doubts arise about its true construction; and the same thing can, of course, happen in subsidiary legislation. Conflicting decisions are given, and it becomes of public importance that an authoritative decision as to the true construction should be obtained as soon as possible. Then again there are cases where, when you go to a lawyer, he says, "Well, there is an enormous amount of money involved, but I am bound to tell you that the law as laid down by the Court of Appeal is against you, and as the Court of Appeal is bound by its own previous decisions you could not succeed in the court of first instance, and you could not succeed in the Court of Appeal. My opinion is that the Court of Appeal was wrong and that the House of Lords would say so. But I must make it quite plain that it is no good your starting an action, unless you are prepared to go to the House of Lords, because only the House of Lords can decide in your favour".

On those classes of case a Committee, of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Evershed, was Chairman some 15 years ago, observed that there is an enormous amount of litigant's costs involved, and they thought that in such cases the litigant, after trial and decision by the trial judge, should be able to go straight to the House of Lords, by-passing the Court of Appeal. The sort of case which one not infrequently gets is the Revenue case, involving a great deal of money and an important point of tax law. This has to he heard and argued out before the general or special commissioners of income tax, from whom an appeal lies to a single judge. He usually accepts the finding of fact already made by the Commissioners. He hears the legal point and he has to give his decision. From him, an appeal lies to the Court of Appeal; and, it may be, from the Court of Appeal to the House of Lords.

Now this is the sort of case in which it seems quite unreasonable to say to the litigant, "Not only must you have all the facts found by the commissioners, but you must then go to a judge, with more briefs to counsel, more solicitors' costs, although you are going to tell the judge when you have explained the whole thing to him and read him the decision of the Court of Appeal, 'I am asking you to decide this in my favour, but I know you cannot because I know you are bound by this decision of the Court of Appeal'. Then you must go off to the Court of Appeal, with more briefs to counsel and more costs to solicitors, and there the same thing happens again. You must go into all the facts with them, you must read the judge's judgment to them, you must read to them their previous decision, but at the end of it all you must say, 'Although I am appealing and am asking you to reverse the finding of the judge. I realise you are bound by your previous decision and that you cannot; but I have to come to you because I am on my way to the House of Lords'".

So this Committee (which was a large Committee of 24, 12 lawyers and 12 laymen; some of them Members of your Lordships' House now, even if they were not then) unanimously recommended what in substance is now set out in the Bill, and that is this. If, first, there is involved in a case a point of law of general public importance; if, secondly, either it involves the construction of an Act or of a Statutory Instrument or there is a decision of the Court of Appeal on the point; if, thirdly, all parties agree; and if, fourthly, the trial judge is of the opinion that it is expedient that it should go from him to the House of Lords, then he will have power so to certify. The Evershed Committee did not recommend one of those limitations, and that is that all parties should consent. I have put that in on the representations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid. He is apprehensive that the House of Lords, with quite enough to do already, might have too many of these cases. But I put this forward as a sensible suggestion.

It was not carried out at the time, I understand, because although all the Lords Justices supported the Evershed Committee the then noble and learned Lords of Appeal did not agree to it. The position to-day, I believe, is that the noble and learned Lords of Appeal agree but I think the Lords Justices, or the majority of them, do not. It is one of the facts of life which every Lord Chancellor has to consider, that 70 or 80 highly independent minds do not always agree. I think a suggestion is going to be made that, instead of getting this certificate from the trial judge, after the judge you should go to the House of Lords to ask them whether they agree. But, of course, the difficulty about this is obvious. If you send the House of Lords the papers, as I think is suggested, nobody is going to agree to something being decided against him without his being heard. He is going to insist on a hearing; and if you have to go to the House of Lords, with more briefs to counsel and more costs to solicitors, to ask them as a preliminary matter whether they agree to the Court of Appeal's being by-passed, you might just as well go to the Court of Appeal and the whole object of the exercise would be lost.

My Lords, I know many of your Lordships are interested in agricultural objectives, which is the subject of a Statement to be made. I assume that my noble friend Lord Beswick, as I have still a good deal of ground to cover, will give me some signal if and when he would like to interrupt me.

Part III of the Bill deals with a matter on which, frankly, I am not an expert, but this Part would give power to the court to make a will for a mentally disordered person. As I go round the Departments for which I am responsible I am always struck by the high morale in the offices of the Court of Protection and the Official Solicitor. The reason, I think, is this. The Court of Protection is a court which looks after the financial affairs and property of those who are incapable of looking after them themselves. These people are not, in the main, the insane; they are not necessarily mentally disordered in the sense in which perhaps your Lordships and I would understand it. Many of them are simply senile: they are just too old to follow these things. A receiver is appointed to do the administrative work under the court's direction. He may be a relative or, if not, the Official Solicitor. I attribute the high morale in these offices very largely to the fact that they know these people. They call in to see the clerks of the Court of Protection; they call in to see a member of the staff of the Official Solicitor. They get to know them. They may take up a lot of their time; they may talk a good deal, as old people tend to do; but they get very attached to them.

The Court of Protection has power, under the Mental Health Act 1959, to make a setttlement of all the property of these people. This does not arise very often, but there may be a case in which some old lady has a great deal of money and a great many assets—much more than she can possibly need for the rest of her life—and in which, if she were capable of dealing with her own affairs and were told it would save her family tax to make a settlement, she would make a settlement. Of course, anybody concerned who might benefit is always heard, and these orders are usually made only by consent. But there is no power to make a will, although there are cases in which, if a person was of sound mind he would be told by his lawyer, "If you want to save your family tax, you would do better to make a will in these circumstances than to make a settlement".

The Treasury have been consulted, and they say they see no reason why, merely because people are no longer capable of looking after their own affairs, those affairs should not be administered with the same eye on tax matters as everybody else has. Of course, no will would be made by the court on behalf of such a person without medical evidence that he had not got testamentary capacity. To have testamentary capacity you must have a fair idea of what your property is; you must be capable of remembering people who may ordinarily have some claim to your estate; and, generally speaking, you must know what you are doing. Of course, if there was a lucid interval, then the patient would be entitled to revoke any will which the court had made and to make a will himself.

Clause 19 is an implementation of a recommendation of the Winn Committee. This would enable interim payments to be made in personal injury cases. It is very often at the start that the need for money and the financial hardship is greatest. Yet neither the High Court nor the county court has any power to order interim payments to be made. What has been suggested by the Committee is that the court should have such a power where liability is admitted and the only dispute is as to the injuries and damage, or where the plaintiff has already obtained an interlocutory judgment for damages to be assessed, or where the plaintiff is bound to succeed—for instance, a passenger in a car which has been in collision with another motor car. Why should that passenger have to wait a year or two while the question which driver was to blame, or whether they were both to blame and, if so, in what proportions, has been sorted out by the courts? So this clause would give the court power to make interim payments in those cases.

The Winn Committee's terms of reference were limited to personal injury cases, but the Committee themselves say that they hope that a number of their recommendations will be generally applied; and there would seem to be no reason why this same power for the court to order interim payments should not be made in other classes of cases, too. So this clause gives power to make rules, High Court or county court, to implement this recommendation.

Clause 20 provides for the exercise of certain powers before the commencement of an action. This arises because the Committee say that there are cases in which it is very urgent that something should be inspected at the earliest possible date—if necessary even before an action has been begun. Take, for instance, a factory accident case. If justice is to be done, it may be necessary that the plaintiff's engineer should be able to inspect the machine which it is said has not been guarded before the machine is taken away or before it is altered. In the same way, if, in a case where there has been a smash-up, the plaintiff thinks the accident was due to the fact that the defendant's brakes were worn out, it may be very important that the brakes should be inspected before the car is repaired. Otherwise, no evidence on the point will ever be able to be called. Although this was not recommended by the Committee, because it did not apply to their kind of cases, I thought it right to add the powers also for the taking of samples. This clause, therefore, would enable either the High Court or the county court, under Rules, to apply by an originating summons before a writ has been issued for matters of that kind to be done.

Clause 21 is really a recommendation of the Latey Committee; and your Lordships will shortly be considering a Bill based on the Report of that Committee. But this clause relates to the administration of justice and it was therefore thought convenient to take it here; it is that it should be possible for the Lord Chancellor to assign a class of business to more than one Division. The Latey Committee pointed out that while we have a Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division, wardship cases and guardianship cases and adoption are heard in the Chancery Division. They rather look forward to the time when we might have a "Family Division" and all this work could be confined to a Family Division. But they thought that meanwhile the Divorce Division ought to have concurrent jurisdiction with the Chancery Division; and that is what this clause provides. I am only awaiting the Report of the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions. I do not doubt that some day we shall have to consider the reconstitution of the High Court of Justice.

The Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division—what an extraordinary mixture —arose only because at that time, the time of the Judicature Acts, the law in those three fields was the subject of study by a different group of lawyers who dealt with those three fields. But it is a very long time since that applied; and there is now no reason why these three should be together. It may seem sensible to transfer to that Division anything to do with children which at present is dealt with by the Chancery Division and to transfer from that Division probate, because the proving of wills, you might think, ought to be done by the Chancery Division which does the construction of wills. There is a case to be made for forming a fourth Division of admiralty and commercial cases which would leave the present Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division as a true family court dealing with all family matters.

My Lords, we now approach slightly more "Alice in Wonderland" matters. Clause 22 will enable the clerks to registrars of the Chancery Division to be called assistant registrars. They are in fact solicitors, and do not like being called clerks; and I do not see why they should be so called. I agree that they should be called assistant registrars. The clause also abolishes the limitation that they cannot be appointed unless they are solicitors of two years' standing. We live in days when you cannot get lawyers for anything from anywhere. The only effect of this two-year limitation is to reduce the number we can get, because by the time a solicitor has been called for two years he has probably gone off and done something else. We should be happier without that limitation.

So far as Clause 23 is concerned, I do not think I need go into any vast detail. Most of those employed in my Department are established civil servants. Four thousand or five thousand of them are in the service of the county courts throughout the country—and I include the Official Solicitor's Department and his staff, and, of course, a great many at the Law Courts, in the Strand. Most of these are appointed, nominally, by the Lord Chancellor, but in fact by a committee on which the Lord Chancellor is represented, the head of the Department and, of course, the Civil Service Commissioners. But there is an old law under which the Clerks of the Central Office are supposed to be appointed alternately by the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls. I need hardly say that this has not in practice been carried out for about 40 years. They are, in fact, appointed by a committee of the kind that I have described if they want to be established civil servants. This clause will bring the law in line with what has been the practice for some time.

Clause 24 deals with the records of grants of probate and administration. This really is to save a waste of money. The present law is that calendars have to be printed of all grants in every part of the country, showing the date, the registry, the name, the place and time of death, the description of the executors and the value of the estates. Copies of these, when they are printed, must be sent to every district probate registry and also to Edinburgh and Belfast. They are kept for ever; and you can get a copy for 1s. The defect is that it is very expensive to have these calendars printed and distributed on this scale; it is very time-consuming, and in practice it takes about two years before each calendar is printed. If people want to know about grants, they invariably want to know well within two years. So what they do is to go to Somerset House where they can see everything: they pay a shilling and satisfy themselves there. Clause 24 provides that all this can always be done at Somerset House—in fact most of it is done by post. The old calendars will go to the Public Record Office, where they can be examined, and the President can give directions as to precisely what the contents should be.

My Lords, Clause 25 again is "Alice in Wonderland". It deals with public notaries. Some of your Lordships may be surprised to hear that we have public notaries. But we have. They are useful for bills of exchange, promissory notes; and there are foreigners resident here who are used to the public notary system and may need to have a certificate from the public notary for their own purposes in their own countries. I said "Alice in Wonderland" because I appoint 500 clergy to livings and the Archbishop of Canterbury appoints the public notaries. He does this through his Master of the Faculties. Perhaps we might do an exchange some day. The whole question of public notaries deserves some examination. Meanwhile all the Bill does is this. Everywhere outside London there is a five-year apprenticeship for public notaries, but in London the period has been seven years. The London ones, quite reasonably, want this reduced to five years like the others. They say that there is no reason why it should be any longer.

Clause 26 is not quite so "Alice in Wonderland", but rather. If I want to promote a chairman of one of the London quarter sessions to be an additional Judge at the Central Criminal Court, he may say "I am sorry, but I cannot afford it, because I should have to leave ten years' worth of pension behind". This is because the chairmen of quarter sessions are remunerated and pensioned by the Greater London Council and there are no transfer arrangements. Exactly the same thing would happen if I wanted to promote an additional Judge of the Central Criminal Court to be Recorder of Manchester or Recorder of Liverpool, because his remuneration and pension at the Central Criminal Court comes from the City of London. It is ridiculous in these days that these pensions rights should not be transferable. They are already transferable between the High Court and the county courts. The county court judge who is appointed a High Court Judge is covered because there are suitable arrangements for the transfer of pensions. I hope your Lordships will think it only sensible that the same thing should happen in relation to the sort of judicial officers to whom I have referred.

Clause 27 deals with other pension rights. It gives the registrar and assistant registrar of criminal appeals the same rights that others in that sort of position have for pensions for widows and children. It provides that if you already have a pension from a previous position and are appointed to another post, you cannot get the remuneration for your new position and your pension as well. The one is deductible from the other. This applies to most whole-time judicial appointments, including, for example, a chairman of quarter sessions like the whole-time Chairman of the Kent Quarter Sessions. But Kent Quarter Sessions are now so busy that they have had to appoint a whole-time Deputy Chair man of Quarter Sessions. This clause brings him within the general scheme.

My Lords, Clause 28 is "Alice in Wonderland" again. There is a court called the Court of County Palatine of Durham, of which the Judge is called "the Chancellor". Usually he is a senior Queen's Counsel. He has a jurisdiction for the area around Durham, to hear Chancery cases which ordinarily are heard only in the Chancery Division in London. The Church Commissioners contribute to the remuneration of the Chancellor the sum of £427 7s. 4d. a year. Of this money 14s. is for white wax. It is a matter of grave dispute whether the white wax is for the candles or whether it is for the seals, but, whichever it is, the Church Commissioners are "fed up" with having to pay £427 7s. 4d. to the Chancellor; and I do not blame them. As they, very sportingly, offered that I should buy this from them and they will pay me fifteen years' purchase, this seems to me a very reasonable transaction, which the Bill reflects.

Clause 29 extends the legislative powers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in relation to two matters. First, it will enable them to abolish grand juries at assizes. They abolished grand juries at quarter sessions years ago. We abolished grand juries at assizes 35 years ago, so it seems only fair to let them do so too. They also want to make a change in their law with regard to indictments. There is nothing to this at all. As your Lordships know, in both countries a criminal case gets to trial at assizes by the magistrates finding that there is a case for trial. The indictment is then prepared. Here the indictment is sent to the clerk of the assize; in Northern Ireland it is sent to the Judge. If the clerk of assize sees it is in order, he signs it and it becomes an indictment. In Northern Ireland the Judge wishes to have the power, on reading the depositions and looking at the indictment, to mark it "No bill" if he thinks that the case ought not to proceed. Your Lordships will no doubt think that that is a matter which may properly be left to Northern Ireland.

Clause 30 refers to applications to the Crown and provisions as to orders. Clause 31 and Schedules 1 and 2 deal with "Minor consequential amendments and repeals". Clause 32 is the "Short Title, extent and commencement." My Lords, I commend this Bill to your Lordships as being one which, while rather varied in character, does a good many sensible things in the field of the administration of justice; and I am glad not further to have to detain my noble friend, Lord Beswick, from his agricultural objectives. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)