§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone]
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of this important Bill and I notice that an array of legal talent from the Cross-Benches, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Foot, are about to illumine our discussions. At first sight, this Bill is of portentous length. It is 114 pages long; it has nearly 150 clauses and it has seven schedules. I hasten to reassure the House. The primary purpose of this Bill is consolidation. It is not, of course, capable of taking its place as a normal consolidation Bill. Even where it is a restatement of the law—and most of it is—it is to a substantial extent a restatement, like history, in words different from the original; and in any event the amendments, although, I hope, not controversial and certainly, I hope, not controversial in any political sense, are too numerous and too substantial for it to be treated as a consolidation Bill.
May I begin by reminding the House of what members of the legal profession must already know: that the Supreme Court from which the Bill takes its title dates from the 1870s, when the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873—a product, may I say, of a Conservative Government—amalgamated the Common Law Courts of Queen's Bench, Common Pleas and Exchequer with the Court of Chancery, and the Courts of Probate, Divorce and Admiralty at Doctors' Commons, and created a new Court of Appeal out of the old Court of Exchequer Chamber.
Our Supreme Court is not a Supreme Court in the American sense; that is to say, it is not, as such, a constitutional court. It is a general-purpose court operating at two levels, the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Justice. It is called "Supreme"; but, like many other British institutions, it is not what it 1211 seems because it is not supreme. It is called "Supreme" because it was originally intended (and the Act was originally drafted) to abolish the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords. Before it came into force, it was amended by Mr. Gladstone—not for the first time, a Liberal Government moving in the reverse direction, backwards, from a Conservative Government. On this occasion, as on some others, it was perfectly right because it restored the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords and complemented itself in 1876 by the Appellate Jurisdiction Act of that year which continues your Lordships' appellate jurisdiction and, for the first time, created the Law Lords, thus creating a really supreme court in this House applicable to all parts of the United Kingdom as it then was, ensuring a degree of homogeneity where the wording of statute or the local jurisprudence was the same and rendering homogeneity possible.
The last consolidating measure, as these Acts came to be amended—and they have been amended on numerous occasions—was the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act 1925, under whose relatively beneficent sway I have passed the whole of my professional life. But since this was a consolidation, we are, in substance, still living in our old Victorian mansions of 1873 and 1875. Much of the language is now outdated and some of the original provisions are now unnecessary. This Bill is largely a practitioners' Bill and, as such, it is, I hope, a very useful and important piece of practitioners' work for Parliament to undertake.
The need to restate the law in a series of coherent and contemporary propositions is, I should have thought, incontestable. That is the primary purpose of this Bill. In addition there are, as I shall be going on to say, a number of important amendments. In 1925—and I must go on with my historical survey in order to make my meaning plain—the old Court of Criminal Appeal was abolished and was institutionalised as part of the Supreme Court by the creation of the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division. The post of Vice-Chancellor establishes the fact, long since recognised in practice, that although in actual fact it is the Lord Chancellor who is the nominal president of the Chancery Division, he never sits at first instance in the division of the High Court of which he is nominally the head; the last occasion when he sat at first instance was in the Divorce Court in 1921 when the late Lord Birkenhead sat to teach judges how to get rid of uncontested divorces in a hitherto record time.
Going on with my story, the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division was dissolved during my first term of office as Chancellor and, at the same time, a commercial court was created within the Queen's Bench Division and the new Family Division, based on the old divorce jurisdiction, took over part of the family work practised in the Queen's Bench and Chancery Divisions. More important still, by the Courts Act 1971 the Crown Court was added to the structure and took over the combined work of the assizes and quarter sessions.
Perhaps I should say in parenthesis that the number of judges has enormously increased in recent years to deal with the huge increase both in the number and in the length and complexity of cases, and the whole 1212 structure of their remuneration, pensions and retirement has been elaborated. Incidentally, I should also say that this Bill does make a number of transitional and consequential amendments to the new Judicial Pensions Bill which I introduced the other day. That is contrary to what I told the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, on that occasion. The details are unimportant for the present purpose. I have ensured that the noble and learned Lord shall have them in extenso and be made aware of their nature and extent.
From the Bill which I am now introducing there have been deliberate exclusions. These are referred to in the second paragraph of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, some because they form a separate code, as do the provisions relating to funds in court in Part I of the Administration of Justice Act 1965 and the provisions in the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 relating to criminal appeals; some because they relate to the appellate jurisdiction of your Lordships' House as in the case of Part II of the Administration of Justice Act 1969, which provides for "leapfrogging" appeals—as the procedure is now called—from the High Court to the House of Lords where it is desired to challenge or systematise an existing ruling in the Court of Appeal.
I now come to the main classes of change brought about by the Bill. The first group relates to the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal. The object of these is to give greater expedition in the disposal of business, which is becoming a serious problem in the administration of our courts. Clause 54(4)(d) permits the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of the noble and learned Lord the Master of the Rolls to prescribe classes of civil appeal which can be heard by a court of two judges in place of the customary three. The need for this arises from the inexorable pressure of work in the civil division of the Court of Appeal where the average waiting time is now between eight and nine months, which personally I find quite impossible. Subsection (11) retains parliamentary control of the use of this power. The types of appeal involved might in the first instance include certain county court cases.
By paragraph 8 of Schedule 3, certain classes of appeal from county courts may be prescribed for which leave to appeal is required either from the county court judge or the Court of Appeal. There are such limits at the moment. The present limit is £20 in Section 108 of the County Courts Act, which dates from the 19th century and is plainly absurd. Even when my father was practising at the Bar there was a certain county court judge who, when he knew he was wrong, always said: "Mr. Hogg, it is less than £20" meaning that he would not give leave to appeal. Again, parliamentary control is retained in the new power.
Paragraph 9 of Part II of the second schedule creates an important new officer, the registrar of civil appeals. At present the Court of Appeal has no staff of its own, except the clerks to the Master of the Rolls and the individual Lords Justices. Nor does it have any judicial officer, apart from the Master of the Rolls and the Lords Justices themselves, who can deal with interlocutory questions and see that cases are properly prepared for presentation and made ready for the court to hear. The three divisions of the High Court all find it necessary to have judicial officers to deal with 1213 interlocutory matters. In addition, the criminal division of the Court of Appeal finds it essential to have appellate cases properly prepared and in this the criminal division is well served by the registrar of criminal appeals and his staff. The new arrangement for the civil division will relieve the Lords Justices of work which does not require to be dealt with by them and should therefore make a great contribution towards expediting civil appeals.
Clause 55 deals with criminal appeals. Appeals against conviction will continue to be heard before a court of not less than three judges. Appeals against sentence only may be dealt with by a court of two, with the proviso if these do not agree that the case will be re-argued before a court of not less than three. The reason is that the delays here too are intolerable. These are unpleasant figures, but I shall give them. For appeals against sentence the average delay is 20 weeks—nearly six months; appeals against conviction must wait, on the average, 40 weeks—that is, the best part of a year. In the past year, we have reduced by a third the element of the delay due to the difficulty in obtaining a transcript, which was a very serious matter before we started to work on it, and remains so. The purpose of the provisions is to reduce the other element of delay due to the difficulty of finding judicial time without abandoning the requirement of a three-judge court where the appeal is against conviction. The safeguard is the provision for re-arguing the case of appeals against sentence where the two Lords Justices do not agree.
From the Court of Appeal I turn to the High Court, and in the High Court to the senior division of which, for historical reasons, the Lord Chancellor is the titular president. The actual headship of the division is in practice carried on from day to day by the Vice-Chancellor, at present Sir Robert Megarry, and it is time that he was recognised as a head of division. In future, his will be a royal appointment and he will be an ex officio judge of the Court of Appeal. There will be a corresponding reduction in the maximum number of puisne judges permitted without Order in Council.
Clause 31 institutionalises in the Act the recently introduced provisions of Order 53 of the Rules of the Supreme Court by which the old remedies of mandamus prohibition and certiorari were modernised and supplemented under the rubric of "applications for judicial review". These are important provisions and it was thought proper to include reference to them in the new primary legislation. I am sure that that is right.
The Admiralty Jurisdiction of the High Court to commence proceedings in rem (which means proceedings against the ship itself) is now extended up to the limits provided by the Brussels Arrest Convention: Clause 21. The new remedy is by way of the so-called "Mareva" injunction, which I think I ought to explain. It means an injunction preventing the removal of assets outside the kingdom. That was previously the result of successive judicial decisions but is now stabilised by Clause 37(3) and will apply, as the Master of the Rolls has recently decided, to parties whether based inside or outside the jurisdiction. This was prefigured in the "Siskina" case—a case in which I sat judicially—and has subsequently been decided by the Master of the Rolls.
1214 Clause 49 restates in more economical fashion the fusion of equity and law with the predominance of equity which was originally contained in nine successive sections of the old Judicature Acts. Part IV of the Act and Schedule 2 open the appointments of master and registrar to both branches of the legal profession and drop the requirement that they must be practising at the time. This will increase the field of recruitment in two very exacting classes of office, and I am sure that it is a liberalising measure.
Clause 140 amends the Mental Health Act 1959 so as to make changes in the constitution and functions of the Lord Chancellor's Visitors. In place of the existing medical visitors, who hold full-time posts, and the part-time legal visitor, provision is made for panels of medical visitors, legal visitors, and general visitors who will be available to be called in to make visits as required either under standing directions or, in particular cases, on the order of the judge. General visitors will be able to carry out visits as required in cases where a visit by a medical practitioner or a lawyer does not appear for the time being to be necessary. The clause provides for the present offices of visitor to cease, but that will not sever the important link which exists between the psychiatric profession and this important jurisdiction over the affairs of mental patients. I should like at this stage to pay a justified tribute to the many eminent medical men who have given their services to the Court of Protection and have assisted it by their wise advice to exercise its jurisdiction.
It has been rather a difficult task for me to know exactly what to include and what to omit in a Second Reading speech on a Bill of this gargantuan size which is, as to nine-tenths, I suppose, a consolidation measure. I have tried to balance the balance-sheet as conscientiously as possible. If I err I must apologise to the House. Basically, this is a practitioners' Bill but I hope it will help to reduce delays substantially as a result of its passing—and I hope it will pass—and in that case it will help in the administration of justice generally. I do not pretend it is a revolutionary Bill. I do not think it will lead to the Lord Chancellor being burned in effigy or to demonstrations outside the Royal Courts of Justice. I believe it is a valuable piece of ongoing legal reform and I should like to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, who I think laid the foundations of this very substantial but, I hope, not very controversial edifice. As such, I commend the Bill to the House and now beg to move that it be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will be grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for steering us through as much as he thought could reasonably be digested within the space of time available. The Bill has its origins in discussions over a great many years, and I find myself, as did the noble and learned Lord, greatly reassured by the presence in your Lordships' House of eminent legal colleagues. I see that two noble and learned Lords are to speak. We particularly look forward to the maiden speech of the noble and learned 1215 Lord, Lord Roskill. We have had the pleasure of hearing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, many times in the past and I hope that we shall have continuing treats in the future.
There is one matter by way of slight complaint. I understand there has been very little discussion and notification to the Law Society about the contents of the Bill, and whereas frequently the information that one is given from that source is most helpful when one is in Opposition and even occasionally when one is in office, if I may say so, that has been denied to me on this occasion. I hope it does not mean that there has been inadequate consultation with the legal profession, both the Law Society and the Bar, about this Bill.
Principally, as the noble and learned Lord has said, this is a consolidating measure. I make no complaint about the exclusions from the consolidation process which the noble and learned Lord has referred to. Part I of the Bill highlights what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor mentioned—namely, the very large increase in the size of the judiciary in recent years, occasioned principally by the increase in crime and the maintenance of the volume of work also in the civil field. One wonders whether the difficulties with which these developments have confronted the Lord Chancellor have not been somewhat added to by the fact that we are still largely applying civil and criminal procedures meant for a more leisurely time when there were fewer cases and less need to avoid unacceptable delays.
As the noble and learned Lord has said, our civil procedure has remained substantially unchanged since the middle of the reign of Queen Victoria, and, in view of the appalling pressure of work in our courts on the criminal and social side, one wonders whether there is not now a case for inquiry into the possible reorganisation of our civil courts structure—an inquiry which might explore the possible need for an integrated system comprising both the High Court and the county court. I know that any suggestion of yet another inquiry into the courts and the administration of justice is greeted with a sigh, particularly in the Lord Chancellor's Office, and I understand that, because of the pressures on that staff, my suggestion will not be greeted with any enthusiasm. I am bound to say that I considered it myself, but there it lay! But it is something which may well be expected of us, and I think is expected of us by the legal profession.
I venture to fear that there will be some disappointment, in particular about the very limited contribution this Bill will make to dealing with the appalling difficulties which have been increasingly affecting the civil side of the Court of Appeal. Before March 1979 there were 12 Lords Justices sitting in the Court of Appeal. At that time I believe that the average period between the setting down and the hearing of an appeal was about four months. This year, in view of additional appointments that have been made, there are 18 Lords Justices, supplemented by the recall of one or more retired Lords Justices or judges from time to time. Yet the average time for an appeal to come on now, unless it is specially expedited, is at least twice as long as it was only about a year and a half ago. If that is right, and I fear it is, then whereas there has been a 50 per cent. increase in the 1216 number of judges, there has been a far greater percentage increase in the time taken for an appeal to be heard. My understanding is that the backlog of appeals is increasing.
The stresses that result on the members of the Court of Appeal are probably greater now than ever before. When one discusses these matters with a distinguished visitor like the Chief Justice of the United States, he is appalled, as are many visitors, by the pressures that are brought to bear upon our Lords Justices, and they express admiration for the skill with which, in a very limited space of time, they give ad lib judgments on complex matters and are subjected—as I think all of us who have anything to do with them and the work of the court know—to these great strains. Whether it is fair to expect that to continue, and whether we are not running the risk of the situation becoming even worse, are serious questions indeed. What troubles me, and I have no doubt troubles also the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is: What steps can be taken to cope with this flood of work into the Court of Appeal?
My colleague, and a colleague of many of the lawyers here, Sir John Megaw—a recently retired Lord Justice in the Court of Appeal—has, along with others, for some time urged three possible remedies to cope with the flood: first, a reduction in the number of appeals that come forward by legislative action—a more stringent winnowing of the right of appeal; secondly, a drastic procedural overhaul; and, thirdly, an increase in the number of Lords Justices. As to the latter, I am very well aware of what that involves. First, it is not simply a question of appointing more Lords Justices, but of finding court room accommodation for them and ancillary staff. There is also, of course, the question of expense and one has to take great care that there is no dilution of the high standards of the appellate court. Those are all factors which bear heavily upon the Lord Chancellor when that remedy is suggested. So that would, I think, be generally regarded as a last resort measure.
What, however, about procedural overhaul in the Court of Appeal? If I may say so, the civil division of the Court of Appeal has not been exactly famous for willingness to undergo procedural and administrative changes, and we have in this Bill some valuable suggestions which could result in expedition and which will cut some, at any rate, of the corners. I had the privilege of reading the report of a working party presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. I am not sure whether or not it was reported to me, but, at any rate, the report came out in December 1978. I believe I was privileged to see it. I am not absolutely certain about that, but I think I probably was. These arcane discussions very often go on out-with the eye and ear even of the Lord Chancellor. However, I do not complain—much—about that.
But paragraph 21 of that report said:We are convinced that the basic reform required is the appointment of a senior lawyer enjoying master status and having control, judicially and administratively, of the process between setting down and hearing",and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has identified that that is done in this Bill. It needs a microscope to find out how it is done. The provision is buried in the entrails of a detailed schedule— 1217 Schedule 2, Part II, item 9—where there is provision for the appointment of a registrar of civil appeals; and I congratulate the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on having achieved the position of being able to include that provision in the Bill.
However, a number of further matters now arise in relation to that new officer. Presumably, it is hoped that he will be of as high calibre as the registrar of criminal appeals, to whom the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has already paid tribute. I assume, also, that he will be supplied with an efficient and qualified staff. If I may say so—and I hope I say this without impertinence—it is very important that he should have the full backing of those involved in running the Court of Appeal. To what extent the Rule Committee will be involved in changes necessary to give effect to this new set-up, perhaps we shall learn in due course.
As to tile flow of appeals, the difficult question arises: should anything be done statutorily to provide for its reduction? I do not find it an easy question to answer. We have rightly regarded the provision of a right of appeal from first instance decisions by trial judges as of great importance, and statutory interference with that right is not to be undertaken without great care. It is clearly right that a decision of a lower court should be received by a higher court, so that errors of facts or of law by the lower court can be put right. However, it would be interesting to know what attempt has been made to analyse the workload of the Court of Appeal on the civil side, and to learn whether any proper screening now takes place of cases suitable for appeal or, indeed, any screening of substance.
So far as the provisions of the Bill are concerned, it would seem that appeals from courts other than county courts are to be subject to the old provisions of the 1925 Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act. I think that that is the effect of Clause 18 of the Bill. The main problem, I suppose, lies in appeals from county courts. Clause 143 of the Bill, by the operation of Schedule 3, gives the Lord Chancellor power by order, subject to a negative resolution of either House, to prescribe classes of proceedings in which there is to be no right of appeal under the section without the leave either of the judge of the county court or of the Court of Appeal itself.
Subsection (3) of Section 108 on page 93 of the Bill goes on to specify a number of possible criteria, on some or all of which the Lord Chancellor might reflect, if and when he makes an order under the subsection. They include, I observe, in paragraph (b):the amount or value of the money or other property which is the subject ofthe proceedings. Does that provision at Section 108(3)(b) mean that a new means test may be in contemplation? One wonders whether the financial value of a claim, either in theory or in practice, is an acceptable criterion for distinguishing between cases where appeals may be brought as of right, or only with leave given. One asks: does this not appear to involve one law for the rich and one for the poor?
Then I ask: what criteria are to apply if the requirement of leave to appeal is going to be introduced for some or all categories of appeals from the county courts? As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, the present screening process in 1218 the existing Sections 108 and 109 of the 1959 Act is generally regarded as practically useless and ineffective, and I suspect that there will be little sorrow at the disappearance of those sections. But the schedule, and indeed the Bill, do not make it clear what is to take their place and perhaps, if not today—I do not want to burden the noble and learned Lord with having to answer these questions, of which I regret I had no opportunity to give him notice, having applied what I am pleased to call my mind to the matter rather late in the day—we may learn more in the course of the progress of the Bill through Parliament.
There is a large number of other matters with which we shall have to deal in Committee. When I was in another place I remember that this kind of Bill was dismissed contemptuously as "mere lawyers' law", but lawyers' law goes to the root of the rights and liberties of the subject in very important respects. If the situation is to exist of increasing delay at the appellate stage in particular, and if the rights and claims and proper requirements of the subject from the courts are going to be further worsened by our ancient procedures, it is high time that something was done to remedy that situation.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Lord Roskill
My Lords, anybody who has had, as I am old-fashioned enough to believe, the good fortune to spend his working life in the law, either as a practitioner or as a judge, must welcome any new Bill affecting the work of the Supreme Court. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, the present Bill is mainly a consolidating Bill. Therefore the limits of reform which can be effected within its scope are marked, but the opportunity is rightly being taken to effect some improvements. I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, that there are many more which might be effected in the administration of justice in that Court.
With your Lordships' leave, may I concentrate for a few minutes this morning upon one part only of the Bill: that upon which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has also concentrated, namely, the work of the Court of Appeal. Before I had the privilege earlier this year of becoming a Member of your Lordships' House as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, I had been a Lord Justice of Appeal for some 8½ years. That court, in both its civil and its criminal jurisdiction, though this is not widely realised, is the pivot of our judicial system. The vast majority of cases, civil or criminal, stop there. If I may venture to paraphrase and adapt a famous phrase uttered in another place, curiously enough exactly 200 years ago, by James Dunning who, as Lord Ashburton, became Master of the Rolls at the beginning of the last century, the work of the Court of Appeal has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished. Some years ago a newly appointed Lord Justice gloomily remarked that until he had become a member of the Court of Appeal he had wrongly thought that slavery had been abolished. Another remark was that what the Lords Justices needed was a good trade union and a vocal shop steward.
When many of us started in the law, the Court of Appeal consisted only of the Master of the Rolls and 1219 five Lords Justices. The court then did only civil work and it sat only in two divisions. In 1968, as the Lord Chancellor has said, the criminal division was added. When I left the Court of Appeal early this year it was sitting in six civil divisions and three criminal divisions. The work load is intolerable: seven days a week, 14 hours a day. And many of those hours are what, in the current industrial field, are called wholly unsocial hours, which lead to great strain upon the members of the Court of Appeal, with sometimes—it has happened once this year already—disastrous results to their health and anxiety to their wives and families.
The work of the Court of Appeal does not consist just of a few cases in one division of that court which seem to attract the attention of the media. It consists of a vast number of cases spread over the various divisions of the court which receive no publicity at all. We seem today to live in a society which demands rights and seeks to impose rather than accept obligations. We have a legal aid scheme, of which we are justly proud. We have a horrifying crime wave of the most disturbing proportions. And what is the result? A huge increase in appellate work, both civil and criminal, with which we are seeking to deal with a judicial machine which, as the noble and learned Lords have pointed out, was structurally created, on its civil side, over 100 years ago, and reformed, albeit not wholly satisfactorily as some of us think, in 1968 and 1971 on the criminal side.
I have ventured to scan this massive Bill to see where I can find provisions designed to meet the situation, and I confess that, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, I have been somewhat disappointed. To my mind, the road to a solution lies along two routes. The first is to restrict the right of appeal in certain classes of case, however reluctant any appellate judge may be to see that happen. The second is to enable maximum use to be made of the available judicial manpower, for a further increase in appellate judicial manpower is, I respectfully suggest, at this time almost unthinkable at Court of Appeal level.
As to the first, I was a little alarmed to see that the new Clause 18 not only repeats in relation to appeals from the High Court the old Section 31 of the 1925 Act dealing with interlocutory appeals but in one respect at least enlarges the right of appeal. That is a step, as I think, in the wrong direction. It also preserves the wholly unsatisfactory and illogical distinction which no appellate judge in my experience has ever been able to define: the difference between a final and an interlocutory appeal. And so does Clause 54 of the Bill. With respect, this is not enough in High Court cases. An unrestricted right of appeal, whether from the High Court or the county court, allows far too much opportunity for what judges call "playing the system", by which we mean avoiding the inevitable by endless appeals and then delaying the hearing of such appeals by every trick or tactic that is possible—and by some that one might have thought were impossible.
I am glad to see that the powers proposed in Schedule 3 in relation to county court appeals have been brought forward, but I venture to doubt—here I share the view which was expressed by my noble and 1220 learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones—whether the financial test is the right one. I think we have to look at this very closely. Money is not necessarily the right test to see whether or not there should be an appeal. It should be dealt with much more by class of case. And one must never restrict the right of appeal where children are involved, or injunctions, or questions of personal liberty.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has said, a few years ago he appointed a working party under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, who had just then left the Court of Appeal. I understand that the noble and learned Lord will be taking part in the debate, and I do not therefore wish to anticipate what he will say. But, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, I ask: what has happened to the report of that working party? I saw it at the time, though I think I have lost my copy or it since I became a Member of your Lordships' House. I hope the noble and learned Lord will forgive me if I say that it is not all the members of the Court of Appeal who have been opposing reforms in procedure. Many of us have been pressing for them for years and years, as long as we have been there, and have not always found the support in the right quarter which we might have hoped to get.
We find that there is provision now for a Registrar of Civil Appeals. That will be a great step forward, and I hope it can be implemented as soon as possible. This is an opportunity to pay a tribute to the work of the official who has been mentioned by both the noble and learned Lords, the Lord Chancellor and Lord Elwyn-Jones: Master Thompson, the Registrar of Criminal Appeals. Having presided for nearly eight years in one of the divisions of the Criminal Division, I know full well that that division simply could not operate but for the devotion of Master Thompson and his staff. I hope that the Lord Chancellor's Office will be able to find someone of his calibre, and find him as soon as possible, in order that work of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal may come through a similar sieve.
I also notice the provisions on the use of judicial manpower. Obviously it is absurd that interlocutory appeals, whatever precisely they may be, from the High Court can be dealt with by two judges, yet final appeals from the county court require three. At the moment, the Appellate Committee of your Lordships' House have under consideration a very important and very difficult so-called interlocutory appeal which would have merited perhaps five Lords Justices to consider it, but we have the advantage of considering the views of only two members of that court.
I particularly welcome the provision that applications for leave may be dealt with by a single member of the court. To me, at least, it is not clear whether the provision is that that single Lord Justice shall sit in private and deal with the applications on paper, as happens with criminal appeals, but I earnestly hope that that will be so and made plain. It is also not clear to me whether or not his decision is open to review. I hope it will not be, but if it be, then I hope the power to review will be strictly circumscribed, otherwise the last state will be worse than the first.
The provision for two judges to deal with sentence appeals is long overdue. The noble and learned Lord, 1221 the Lord Chancellor, gave figures for the delay in criminal appeals—20 weeks, if I heard him correctly, for conviction, 40 weeks for sentence. At the beginning of this term I went back to help out in the Criminal Division for a week. No doubt those figures are average figures, but I can only say, not having sat in that court for the preceding eight or nine months, that I was appalled at how much those delays had increased meanwhile. I found myself dealing with sentence appeals where the sentences had been of the order of two years or 18 months, where, on any view, the prisoner was going to remain inside only for a matter of weeks. For humanitarian reasons, we found ourselves releasing prisoners because no useful purpose could possibly be served by keeping them in for those remaining times. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice will welcome this provision. This is perhaps the most constructive use of the judicial manpower, because it will enable those appeals which have merit to be sorted out from those—of which I am afraid there are a great many in criminal appeals—which have none.
If I may say so, this Bill is along the right lines, but it does not go far enough. Let it go forward, but let it be improved in its passage through Parliament, for it is still susceptible of improvement. I realise how much work has gone into this Bill on the part of the hardworking officials of the Lord Chancellor's Department, and I hope that nothing I have said by way of criticism will be thought to detract from my admiration of the enormous amount of work which has gone into the Bill.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Lord Scarman
My Lords, I count myself fortunate to be the first Member of your Lordships' House to be in a position to congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, on his powerful and, if he will allow me to say so of him, very characteristic maiden speech. I have known the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, for far longer than I care to enumerate. I used to hear him as an advocate on the other side; I never then agreed with a single word he said. I heard him on the Bench; when he agreed with me, I agreed with him, but not otherwise. But in your Lordships' House, so persuasive has he shown himself in his first speech that I know I shall always agree with him or else beat a hasty retreat to the corridors and say nothing. I know that I shall be voicing the views and sentiments of the House if I say that all of us look forward to hearing my noble and learned friend again and again and again in the debates and business of the House.
My Lords, despite its length and its formidable appearance, this is a modest Bill. I completely agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, that this Bill is no substitute—and it does not pretend to be a substitute—for the sort of far-reaching reform of our court structure and court procedures which many of us have thought is overdue. Unfortunately the Law Commission has never succeeded in taking on that review, and obviously in the hard-pressed times in which we live it is very unlikely that any such review will be initiated in the next few years. Nevertheless, I completely agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, that sooner or later such a 1222 review of our court structure and procedures will have to be undertaken. Meanwhile, let us rejoice at the hard work of the legal staff of the Lord Chancellor's Department and indeed other branches of Government, under the guidance, first, of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and now under the guidance of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. Let us rejoice that they have been watching the work of the courts attentively, cataloguing the various points that arise in the day-to-day work of the courts, so that they could come up with this large but modest Bill.
In so far as it is a consolidation of the various reforming Statutes affecting the Supreme Court, it is to be welcomed, making the law accessible in a modern statute. In so far as it consists of amendments to the law it contains a number of reforms, most of them minor but all of them designed to improve the efficiency of our courts and the quality of justice administered in them. I think one could say with confidence and without going into detail that, viewed on that modest scale, this is a Bill to be welcomed.
We have heard a good deal of discussion on one aspect only of the Bill; that is to say, the way in which it proposes a number of reforms in the working procedures and business of the Court of Appeal. I will also say a word or two about that. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, said, the work load on the Lords Justices is intolerable. It is absurd that a court of the pivotal importance as described by the noble and learned Lord should have to sit for five working days in the week; that they should have to write their reserved judgments at home over the weekends, to the intense annoyance, no doubt, of their wives; that they should have to find either some hours late at night or some hours early in the morning to read their papers for the next day's work. If you tell these sobering facts to a visiting American judge he will not believe you. You then take him to the Court of Appeal and he begins to see what you mean.
The working party over which I had the honour to preside and which reported in December 1978, on the working procedures of the Court of Appeal, recommended that the business should be so organised that Lords Justices should have one working day not in court but in their Chambers, so that they could prepare for cases that were coming on and write judgments that were reserved. If—and I know it is a big "if"—the business of the court could be so organised, the quality of justice, which is high in all conscience at the moment in that court, would be higher still.
It was with that largely in mind, although we had other considerations as well, that we recommended in the report of the working party that a master—a Court of Appeal master—should be appointed. We had in mind someone like a master of the High Court who could exercise judicial as well as administrative functions, could take off some of the preparatory decisions that need to be made if appeals are going to be brought on swiftly and if, when they do reach court, they are in a state to be properly argued on both sides with expedition.
This Bill has gone some way, not all the way but some way, towards meeting that requirement. The parliamentary draftsman has tucked away this major reform which the Bill does contain so far as the Court 1223 of Appeal is concerned in Item 9 of Part II of Schedule 2. It is introduced into our law by this astonishing piece of draftsmanship for a piece of law reform. I quote Clause 87(1):The power to make appointments to the offices in the Supreme Court listed in column 1 of Parts II and III of Schedule 2 shall be exercisable by the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of the Minister for the Civil Service as to numbers and salaries".Parliamentary draftsmen move in a mysterious way their wonders to perform. Beneath those bland and Civil Service words lurks Schedule 2. In Schedule 2 there is Part II and in Part II of Schedule 2 there is item 9. And what is item 9? Item 9 is merely this: "Registrar of civil appeals"—no indication as to his functions, no indication as to the sort of work that it is hoped he will carry out. Nevertheless, let us be grateful that he is there; let us be grateful that the Bill in this mysterious way has worked its wonder.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, that if a man of suitable calibre is appointed—and there is some assurance that he will be because he is to be a barrister or solicitor of a large number of years' standing—then we shall really begin to see a transformation in the business of the Court of Appeal, that should enable it to tackle more rapidly the workload and at the same time assist Lords Justices in the quality of their judgment, without the necessity, and this is very important, of increasing the numbers of Lords Justices. Because, my Lords, our system of justice has always depended upon High Court and Court of Appeal judges of limited numbers and high quality. There comes a point when if you increase the numbers you are bound to depress the quality. Every reform of the law, every reform of procedure, that we can take to enable the work of the Supreme Court to be done by a comparatively small number of highly qualified judges is bound to redound to the credit and quality of our law. Therefore, I welcome this Part of the Bill, strange though the drafting is.
There are many other reforms in the Bill which we have not discussed and which I do not think need discussion at this stage but which are to be welcomed. My Lords, this Bill is a step forward and I hope it will be accepted as such by the profession and by the public. I am not sure about the degree of consultation that has gone into the preparation of the Bill; therefore I can say nothing about that side. All I can tell your Lordships is that as far as the Court of Appeal proposals are concerned, made by my working party, that working party consisted of judges and representatives of both branches of the legal profession. My Lords, for those reasons I welcome this Bill, and indeed for many others, and, like the noble Lords who have preceded me, I congratulate those whose labours have made this large but modest Bill possible.
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Lord Wilberforce
My Lords, would your Lordships allow me to make a few observations on the Bill before the noble and learned Lord comes to reply? I do apologise for not having put my name down to speak and for not having been present during the opening speeches. The reason is that I and others of their Lordships were engaged in urgent judicial business 1224 which required our attention. May I just take the opportunity of saying, in view of a criticism which was made on a television series the other day, that Lords of Appeal do take their legislative responsibilities in this House very seriously. It is not always possible for them to be present. We have pressing on us a very great degree of business to which we have to give priority in the interests of litigants, but whenever possible, as I think your Lordships will agree, we do try to give the benefit of such experience as we have to legislative debates.
That having been said, I want to make only a very few points, conscious very much that I did not have the advantage of hearing the presentation of the Bill by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. It is very difficult on a Bill of this sort, which contains so much detail, to make a proper Second Reading speech; the points are really almost all Committee points which will have to be taken up later. I should like to draw attention to some which I would suggest will require attention. First of all—and this enables me to join my noble and learned friend in congratulating the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, on his admirable maiden speech—there is the very important question which he raised of the organisation of the Court of Appeal. Everybody must join in great concern as to that subject. Of course, the difficulty arises from the fact that we have this single concentrated centralised Court of Appeal. No other country of comparable size has such a thing. In the United States they have circuit courts of appeal all over the country. In France they have a large number of separate courts of appeal; in Germany it is the same. We have a centralised court, and so long as we wish to maintain that, as I think we do, we have an immense responsibility to improve its organisation. I do not want to say any more, because my noble and learned friend covered that subject, but I did want to endorse very heartily what he said.
Now, a few individual points. First of all, I very much welcome the change which the Bill has made in the status of the Vice-Chancellor. I think that that is very largely overdue. Speaking, as perhaps I may, as a former judge of the Chancery Division, I do very much welcome the recognition which this gives to the head of the Chancery Division as one who deserves status comparable with that of the other heads of Divisions.
Then there are three other points which I notice in the Bill. First, there is Clause 31, dealing with the subject of judicial review. That is a subject of immense importance to the law as a whole, and which has developed very greatly over the last few years. I must express a little reservation as to the insertion of these provisions in this Bill. In the introductory note on page 2 it is said that these provisions, at present contained in an order of the Supreme Court, are,in view of their importance, now set out in clause 31".I venture to doubt the validity of that reasoning. I shall not develop the point now. It does seem to me doubtful whether it is right to take what was essentially a procedural reform, which is what it was, and now to cast it in the concrete mould of a substantive statement in this Bill. That is something we shall have to discuss. I just venture to suggest that it does deserve reflection before Committee stage.
1225 Secondly, there are two provisions about injunctions to which the same observations apply. I welcome, of course, the attention which those who drafted this Bill have given to developments in the law. It shows that they are following these developments with sympathy, and I am glad that they do. But again I feel some doubt whether it is wise at this stage to bring in to this Bill and to crystalise such matters as Mareva injunctions and what are called Anton Piller orders. These are matters under development by the courts. The subject of Mareva injunctions has not been considered yet by this House in its judicial capacity, but will shortly be so considered. I just want to raise a doubt which perhaps may be raised at a later stage—namely, whether it is wise at this stage when these remedies are in the course of judicial development, to put them into a Bill which necessarily then freezes them in a certain form. Those and other matters will have to be discussed in detail and I do not wish to say more about them now.
However, I should like to say something about one matter which is not dealt with in the Bill but which is of absolutely major importance. When I say that it is not dealt with in the Bill, I mean that it is not dealt with in a positive form. When I am asked, as one is very often in university circles or on public platforms, what is the most important matter of law reform at present, I always give the same answer: first, second and third it is the costs of proceedings.
It is absolutely vital to the survival of our system as we know it that something should be done as regards the costs of legal procedures. One can see every day in criminal trials the immense costs of those cases. One can see it in civil cases. There are some people called the Moonies—I do not know what they are, what they believe in or what they do—who have a libel action which may or may not be justified and they are being called upon at the trial of this libel action to provide security for costs in the incredible sum of £135,000. That is the type of thing that is happening every day. Whenever one looks at the actual figures for a civil case one is absolutely horrified at the level they have reached.
I do not believe, of course, that in this Bill we can produce a cure-all. I notice that in Clause 51 there is a provision which of course reflects the existing law, that costs shall be in the discretion of the court. I venture to raise the doubt whether that is good enough in these days. I wonder whether it is possible to go on with our costs, with our system of civil justice or our system of criminal justice if one does not give the courts powers and impose on them the duty to limit costs in a way much more severe than they can at present. At any rate, there is this provision which still leaves the door wide open to these incredible costs which are absolutely destroying the possibility of the ordinary man, even with legal aid, getting justice.
I do not wish to say any more about the Bill, except to give it the general welcome which other of my noble and learned friends have done. A great deal of work has gone into it. I assure the House that my noble and learned friends and myself will do all that we can in the Committee stage to suggest modest improvements.
§ 1.3 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I do not think that 1226 anybody, certainly no Lord Chancellor, could complain of the reception which this very technical Bill has received. I should like to add—and to add briefly, because there are only two or three points that I wish to take up—my congratulations to the maiden speaker, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, whom we welcomed into our midst only recently from his long and distinguished experience as a judge of first instance and then as a judge in the Court of Appeal.
May I in that connection, and generally, re-echo what was said by my noble and learned friend, Lord Wilberforce, from the Cross-Benches at the commencement of the last speech to which we listened, and that there are people who doubt the value of the House of Lords as a legislative Chamber. I think that it really must be said—and he said it in a rather different way, but I shall say it as a politician—that I rather doubt whether a Legislature could handle a Bill of this kind unless somewhere in the Legislature there was a place for people like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce. I really do not think that it could be done. It is, of course, a fluke that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, happen to be here. We happened to attract the attention of the Prime Minister of the time and to secure the suffrages of a number of electors in our past lives; but that is, for this purpose, a fluke. Indeed, I should have mentioned in an earlier sentence the contribution of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. It is really essential, if Parliament is to deal with legislation designed to achieve the technical processes of law, that there should be embedded in the Legislature somewhere judges who are able to make a contribution to debates.
That leads me to say something else about the House of Lords, and I think that I am entitled to do so after having part of a life's experience here. The value of this House, such as it is—and people can hold different views about that—lies precisely in the fact that we do not represent electors. It lies in the fact that we are individual counsellors of the Crown. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, need not apologise for the fact that Law Lords do not speak very often. There are plenty of people who do not speak very often in this House, but who are equally valuable Members of it. We come here to give the benefit of our individual experience and expertise, such as it is. There are no generals in the House at this moment. There are no diplomats, as far as I can see—but I am fairly blind—in the House at this moment. But what would the House of Lords be like if we held a debate on defence without the generals, the admirals and the air marshals? What would a debate on industry be like without the trade unionists and the captains of industry? We are a gathering of indivdual counsellors of the Crown. That is what we have always been from the earliest days. And, although I happen to hold—as some of my friends may know—slightly radical views about our composition which are not universally acceptable, nonetheless if we alter this fundamental fact about the Legislature of the United Kingdom we shall be doing it a very real disservice. This debate, although it was of a very highly technical nature, 1227 illustrates that particular point, I think, almost better than anything that one could say could have done.
It is true, of course, that this is a very difficult Bill to handle on Second Reading, and I must pick out only one or two points from the debate. We have consulted the Law Society, but not about everything in this Bill. We have not consulted it about the restatement of the law very much, but we have about the changes in the law, or those of them which we felt that they would require to be consulted about. If there are any sins of omission I must take them upon the shoulders of myself as representing the office. But, we have consulted them about changes in which we thought they might be interested and in particular we were very careful to consult them about the two-judge proposal in the Court of Appeal, which I was glad to hear welcomed, I think, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill.
I turn to the amalgamation of the High Court and the county court. Perhaps I ought to say about this reply what I happened to say at a Press Gallery luncheon yesterday which was reported in The Times this morning: it is in Opposition that one can afford to be candid; in Government one cannot afford to be candid at all There are many things that I should like to sayabout this debate which I shall have to be careful whether I say candidly or not. But I remember during the last Parliament, when our roles were reversed, putting that very point about the amalgamation of the High Court and the county court to the noble and learned Lord who then sat on the Woolsack. I remember that I received a very non-committal reply. But I have long since thought that it ought to be done. I tried to stir it up in my first term of office and I was told, quite frankly, by my officials that they had to take on the Courts Act and there simply were not enough officials of adequate calibre to take on the civil jurisdiction at the same time. Needless to say, I have said exactly the same thing this time.
Again, I have been told: "You are taking on criminal legal aid, which is a burden which we in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor have to bear and we simply cannot afford to take on this one." I quite agree. My view of the matter long-term is exactly that which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, put forward. I do not think that the present division of jurisdiction between the county court and the High Court can really stand up to examination, especially based as it is very largely upon the amount of the claim, and with limitations on it which only the more expert practitioners understand.
I think that there is a case for amalgamation of civil jurisdiction rather on the lines of the Courts Act, mutatis mutandis. It is a very long-term project and I certainly do not want to hold out the smallest hope that I shall be able to do it during my lifetime; but I place it on the agenda of sonic future Lord Chancellor at some future time.
We now come to what I think has been the central point of the debate. Here, like Agag, I must walk a little delicately, because I was not quite sure that any of us was fully candid about what we really think in this matter. We were skirting round a problem which, to my knowledge, has dogged every Lord Chancellor and every Lord Justice of Appeal for the 1228 last 15 years. It is not a problem about which one wishes to be entirely candid. But I should like to say this: what has emerged very clearly from this debate is that the Court of Appeal is about a great deal more than coming to right decisions in particular cases. All judicial administration requires administrative ability. and people who neglect adminsitrative ability in favour of jurisprudential advantages are not doing a service to the administration of justice.
It was rightly said that the Court of Appeal is the pivot of our system. I would go a great deal further. I would say that although we pride ourselves on our system of law, until we had a proper pyramid of appeal, we never had a jurisprudence at all. We had an incorrupt juridicary, trial by jury, habeas corpus, and all sorts of things of which we were rightly proud, but we never had an adequate, coherent jurisprudence until we had the court of Exchequer Chamber. The old writ of error was nonsense. It still persists in America, which, despite the laudatory references to it, is a gigantic museum of archaic English legal procedure. But we never had a coherent jurisprudence until we had a Court of Appeal.
We shall never retain an adequate jurisprudence if we ever start tinkering with the appellate jurisdiction of your Lordships' House, because that is the ultimate filter. It is the only court of appeal which deals with Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales, and it is the only court of appeal which can, therefore, deal with the words of statutes which may be identical in all three parts of the United Kingdom. It has a splendid filter in that you can only get there at all by leave.
That brings me to another point which was first made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, on the Cross-Benches; and I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, also raised it. It is that the burden of work can only be reduced by providing some sort of filter in the approach to the Court of Appeal. I absolutely agree about that, and this Bill goes some way towards providing it. Of course, during my professional lifetime the work of the Court of Appeal has been partly increased by the virtual abolition of a large number of appeals which previously stopped at the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division. All county court appeals originally went there when I started at the Bar, which was 50 years ago. The Court of Appeal, therefore, has been taking the brunt of the large restriction of appeals to the High Court. That is one of the reasons.
However, the question now is: how do you filter into the Court of Appeal the burden of work which it is increasingly being asked to bear? There was one point in the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, which ties up a little with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, said at the end of his speech, with which I venture to disagree; and, I venture to disagree—if he will allow me to criticise the content of a maiden speech—with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, on this point. I think that the amount in jeopardy in a particular case is a factor in whether to take the matter further.
I would venture to disagree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, when he says that there is one law for the rich and one law for the poor. A rich man can persecute a poor man with a very small 1229 claim, and a poor man, who cannot pay the costs, can persecute a rich man with a big claim. There are people with equal amounts of wealth who may persecute one another in, say, a dispute among neighbours. I suppose that very few of us who have practised at the Bar have failed in the course of our practice to come across a dispute between two relatively humble people about six inches of territory which divides their two properties. They will ruin one another if they are allowed to. Their legal advisers may say, "But look, you are fighting about six inches". "Ah", they say, "It's a question of principle".
I do not agree that the amount of the claim is not a factor in taking into account the validity of the appeal. Of course, it is true—and this was something I said in my first term of office when we were dealing with the question of small claims courts—that a small claim can involve a very intricate question of law or a vast question of principle, and of course the size of the claim ought not to be the only factor. Of course, it is only a parameter that you feed into the gigantic computer of the judicial mind when it grants leave to appeal. But in all litigation one ought to say at the outset, "Is it worth fighting about at all?"
That brings roe to the question of costs, although—as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, rightly I think reminded us—this is not really what the Bill is about. The defamation case which is going on at present I must not talk about; but it is, of course, true that a foreign plaintiff—that is to say, a foreign-based plaintiff—has to give security for costs if he chooses to bring an action in this country. It has always been the law, but of course that is right, because he may just not pay the costs if he loses.
I am very unhappy about the law of defamation—I always have been—but one must say that the costs of such cases are astronomical because people choose to fight them. Unlike every other form of litigation, they do so at their own expense because they are not entitled to legal aid, although there are always movements to try to extend legal aid to it. But there are a great number of defamation cases which ought not to be brought, and a great number of defamation cases which ought not to be defended. If they choose to go to the High Court and spend—what is it?—months and months of the High Court's time, with all the expensive talent at the Bar, and solicitors and I do not know how many witnesses, they must expect to pay for it. They must ask themselves whether it is worth fighting for. But do not let them go to the Lord Chancellor and say that it is too expensive; because they have an alternative, which is not to go to court. Most of the legal profession, being honest men, are constantly trying to persuade people not to go to court when they ought not to fight their cases. However, I shall not say any more about that.
I did not quite agree with the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, about the draftsmanship of the registrarship in the Court of Appeal which we are introducing. I quite agree with him about the importance of reform, but I think he perhaps overlookedthe fact that this Bill is designed to become an Act, and when the reform is instituted it will form a relatively small part of the corpus of law dealing with the Supreme Court. Primarily this is a consolidation Bill, and primarily the registrarship, important as it is administratively, 1230 will be a relatively small part of the corpus of law dealing with the Supreme Court. It was probably rightly put into the Schedule rather than into the body of the Bill.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, complained that we have put in Clause 31, embodying in the primary legislation what is at present contained in the Rules of the Supreme Court, Order 53. The reason for that is that it was recommended by the Law Commission I have a certain feeling about the Law Commission which is that one should take their advice wherever practicable. I start with the presumption that the Law Commission is right, and I think that the burden of proof lies on those who say that it is wrong. If the Lord Chancellor does not fight for the Law Commission I can assure the House that nobody else will. The Departments will not. Only the Lord Chancellor supports the Law Commission, and I shall support it, if I can, through thick and thin. As regards the powers of the Registrar of the Court of Appeal, these will be decided by rules of court, and I think that that is the right way to deal with it.
Finally, about the Scarman Commission, I am again going to walk like Agag, a trifle delicately, remembering that even that did not save him. The Scarman Commission was appointed by the Master of the Rolls and it reported to the Master of the Rolls. Do not ask the Lord Chancellor what has happened to the Report of the Scarman Commission; ask the Master of the Rolls, because if the pivot of our judicial system is the Court of Appeal, the pivot of the Court of Appeal is the Master of the Rolls. I have already said too much. The Question is that the Bill be read a second time.
On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.