HL Deb 30 June 1983 vol 443 cc435-6WA
The Earl of Onslow

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they propose to take to minimise delays in the county courts in view of the rising caseloads.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)

The caseload in county courts has risen strongly in the last four years. In 1982 there were nearly 2.3 million proceedings started, including divorce proceedings. This represents an increase of about 38 per cent. over the 1979 figure. Her Majesty's Government attach great importance to keeping the delays in county courts to a minimum, and maintaining a high standard of service to the litigant. Nevertheless, the position must be viewed against the background of the Government's commitment to contain and reduce civil service manpower.

I have decided to maintain the high standards of service in the most important areas, and to keep delays to a minimum. But this can be achieved only by making economies in the use of staff in less important fields. Changes which would achieve the necessary economies would be to increase the minimum level for a part-warrant of execution from £15 to £50; to drop the facility for service of process by a bailiff except in those cases where personal service is required by the rules and cases where postal service has been tried and failed; and to raise to £50 the minimum level of judgment debt which has to be registered at the Registry of County Court Judgments. The first two changes will require amendments to the rules of court and I shall be inviting the County Court Rule Committee to make the appropriate amendments.