asked the Attorney-General if he is aware that people who have to attend at Somerset House to file probate have to wait in a long queue and that great distress is often caused by the fact that the conversation between the clerk and the person he is attending to is clearly audible to the strangers next in the queue; and whether he will take steps to improve these conditions and to ensure that people can discuss their private affairs with officials without being over heard.
The hon. Member presumably refers to the Personal Application Department of the Principal Probate Registry. This Department, in response to an urgent public demand, is operating in London, detached from the main body of the Probate Registry, which is still at Llandudno, and with a staff reduced by the exigencies of the war. A considerable part of the Probate Registry's accommodation at Somerset House is still occupied by units of other Government Departments. At busy times there is undoubtedly some crowding at the counter at which applicants obtain their forms to be filled up; but at this stage there need be no discussion of details of a private nature. Applicants are interviewed privately by one of two Commissioners, by whom they are assisted in filling in the private details, in a room to which not more than two persons are admitted. It is regretted that it will not be possible substantially to improve the conditions in which this Department operates until the Probate Registry is able to return to Somerset House with the full use of its normal accommodation.