§ Mr. French
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) what progress has been made on the Lord Chancellor's proposals concerning the management of court time;
(2) what measures he has taken to improve the use of court time.
Mr. John M. Taylor
Over the last two years a number of measures have been introduced to improve the use of court time in the civil courts: jurisdictional changes and new arrangements for the allocation of business between the High Court and county courts which ensure cases are directed to the most appropriate forum for trial; procedural changes which advocate the early exchange of more informative pleadings so that trials can be focused on the issues in dispute, and the development of 80 county court trail centres which offer continuous hearings.
In the Crown court and magistrates courts, recommendations to reduce delay made by a working party on pre-trial issues are being introduced. Three pilot schemes are already operating to monitor the effectiveness of magistrates committing defendants to appear in the Crown court on a specific date, either for pleas to be taken or directions given if the case is contested. The guidance for Crown court listing officers is being revised and will include maximum times for the period between committal and trial. Magistrates and their clerks have been asked to give the reduction of waiting times a high priority and are being encouraged to develop methods of listing which will minimise the time people have to wait at court.