Oral Answers to Questions — County Courts

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 April 2001.

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Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 12:00, 3 April 2001

If he will make a statement on the planned closure of county courts in England. [155201]

Photo of Mr David Lock Mr David Lock Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

The court service operates 220 county courts at present. We anticipate that the consultation process as a result of the managing the civil courts programme will result in a substantial increase in the number of locations at which county courts can serve their local communities.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply and I am encouraged by its the content. Can he assure the House that in assessing responses to the consultation paper on modernising the civil courts, he will make it clear that the local delivery of justice and not cost will be the overriding objective?

Photo of Mr David Lock Mr David Lock Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

I have just explained that we are planning to deliver county court services in an increased number of locations. The hon. Gentleman must understand that, on the principle of full cost recovery, it is the court users who pay for the cost of running the system. It would not be fair to those users to operate courts in locations where there is not sufficient demand. We will take every care to meet local demand as we expand the number of hearing centres where county courts are able to sit, but finance will have to be a consideration.