Oral Answers to Questions — Court Accommodation, London

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th October 1970.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South 12:00 am, 27th October 1970

asked the Attorney-General what steps are being taken to increase court accommodation, particularly for the trial of criminal cases in London, in view of the shortage of such accommodation.

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

The shortage of court accommodation is a real problem. It will be assisted by legislation implementing the Report of the Beeching Commission. Meanwhile my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is doing everything he immediately can to relieve the situation. In London six additional temporary courts are being made available within seven months, and a further six in the following 12 months. We are also using spare accommodation at the Royal Courts of Justice for criminal trials.

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that those proposals are quite inadequate? Will this ill-considered scheme of economy hold up the fulfilment of an urgent public need?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the Beeching legislation will give better control of the lists and distribution of the case loads and will greatly improve the situation concerning the shortage of court accommodation. It is hoped that legislation will be speedily brought into force. In the meantime, I ask that local authorities should assist by making accommodation available. But not all ordinary accommodation is of the kind which can be used for criminal trials. I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that every step will be taken to make sure that cases are not delayed when it is possible to provide courts.

Mr. W. T. Williams:

Does the Attorney-General appreciate that the problem in London, although serious, if of general application? Will he give us some indication when it is likely that the Beeching proposals will be implemented? It is a scandal that men are being kept in prison while awaiting trial, sometimes for many months.

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

I appreciate what the hon. and learned Gentleman says about the delays which have occurred and which do occur. I hope that whenever possible accommodation will be provided by local authorities. If any Members can assist by getting their local authorities to help in this respect we would be very grateful. But we must also take into account staffing of the courts, which is quite a problem. I appreciate the importance of the matter.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Would my right hon. and learned Friend please tell what I presume is his "shadow" what difficulty I had when he was in my right hon. and learned Friend's position in trying to get some additional courts for Newcastle-upon-Tyne? Therefore, the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) should not make the kind of statements he has made today.

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. The right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) is now free of inhibitions, and the value of his comments can be assessed by the House.