HL Deb 25 October 1989 vol 511 cc1363-4

Lord Mishcon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a reference has yet been made to the Law Commissions for England and Wales and for Scotland on the question of amendments to court procedure to provide for a class action; and, if so, in what terms, and when it is expected that their reports will be received.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, following the recommendation of the civil justice review that one of the law reform agencies should carry out a study into representative or class actions, the possibility of such a study being undertaken by the Law Commission is under discussion. As was announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on 26th July 1988, the Scottish Law Commission has accepted a reference from my predecessor as Lord Advocate to consider the provision in Scottish civil procedure of a more effective remedy in situations where a number of persons have the same or similar rights. I understand that they have prepared a discussion paper which they expect to issue in the New Year.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Minister for that reply. Does he recollect that some 18 months ago at Committee and Third Reading of the Legal Aid Bill, in response to an amendment that I had the privilege of moving, the Minister's noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said that these references would be considered? This is an urgent matter which, if grappled with, will save administrative and judicial time. The Law Commission for Scotland has already accepted the reference. Will the Minister inform his noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor that one hopes that the English and Welsh Commission will follow the example of the Scottish Commission and speedily accept this reference?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, as I have indicated, discussions are already being held. I understand that that follows upon the exchanges to which the noble Lord has referred during the passage of the Legal Aid Bill. Clearly, it is a project of major proportions. I am aware that the Scottish Law Commission—which is some way ahead in its consideration of the project—has already recognised that while the focus of public interest is in relation to personal injuries, the issue of representative or class actions has a wider application and may be of particular worth in the field of administrative law.

Lord Morris

My Lords, regarding the second part of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, can my noble and learned friend say when it is expected that the report will be received?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I believe that my noble friend is referring to the Scottish Law Commission when speaking of the second part of the Question. The Commission is hoping to publish a discussion paper on class action procedures early next year. As I have indicated, as regards the Law Commission for England and Wales, it is still a matter of discussion on what shall be the scope and nature of the inquiry, particularly bearing in mind the very important priorities that it otherwise has to meet.

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