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Clause 30 - Places, dates and times of sittings

Part of Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 1st July 2003.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:15 pm, 1st July 2003

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. What he says is right. I was being generous to the Minister by suggesting that the provision could be construed in the way that he wishes. That is not its primary construction.

We know that there are efficiency savings to be gained by centralising these things. That is the call centre mentality. A call centre, or trial centre for all the same sort of cases will be much cheaper to administer. There will be a temptation to put everything up in Strathclyde, for example—eventually, it might all be moved to Bombay, and everybody will be listed for a huge court in the Indian subcontinent, which will be

very cheap to run. That is the natural extension of what is being proposed.

I am not suggesting that that is in the Minister's mind at present. However, the fact is that that is what he is providing for in subsection (5). I ask him to look at that again. If it is genuinely his intention not to facilitate batch processing, as we call it, but to deal with the exceptional cases that need facilities beyond those that are provided in the local justice area, there is a better way of phrasing the clause, perhaps by referring to an exception, so that it states that the above will not apply where specific facilities are required in the interests of justice. Something along those lines would ensure that the Minister could do what he wants to do, without encouraging the use of remote courthouses to deal with a large number of cases of a similar type, which is most people's interpretation of the provision as it currently stands.

I ask the Minister to think about whether the clause can be worded better so as to achieve what he wants to achieve—let me not accuse him of bad faith. If he does not give attention to the matter, I will want to come back to it on Report, and perhaps at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.