Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 3:45 pm, 16th July 2019

That is an innovative way to facilitate that speediness.

The shadow Minister, Yasmin Qureshi, mentioned parliamentary scrutiny. We are keen to ensure that accountability is maintained, and I continue to believe that it is right for these powers to reside with the Lord Chancellor, who is directly accountable to Parliament, whereas the committee is not. We are not trying to shift the constitutional balance within the Bill. We are looking to maintain that balance, which is why we have sought to ensure that the Bill mirrors the long-standing arrangements for the existing rule committees.

Stuart C. McDonald, who spoke for the Scottish National party, rightly raised Scottish representation, and I am very sympathetic to the points that he made. Obviously, I am as keen as he is to devolve tribunals. Not many Ministers stand at this Dispatch Box encouraging devolution, but in this case I am in concurrence with him, to use the word of the day. I am sure that we will continue to discuss that matter, but I hear the point he made about Scottish representation. He also raised the intriguing question why we have only one committee for online procedures, and he asked why the other three committees were not given the task of setting up their own online procedure rules. Essentially, the answer to that lies in the fact that we need the procedure rules to be the same across each of the civil, family and tribunal divisions of our courts. The decision was taken, with the support of the judiciary, to go down that route.

The hon. Gentleman also rightly raised the point that not every type of case is suitable for online procedures. He cited the welfare of children, and that is a good example. We will not bring anything online without seeking the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice and without laying an statutory instrument that will be debated in both Houses, but I hear what he says. There are many types of cases where physical hearings are the most appropriate path to go down, and I certainly agree with him on that.

On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.