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Clause 19—(Venue And Related Matters)

Volume 439: debated on Friday 11 July 1947

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I beg to move, in page 13, line 12, at the end, to insert:

"unless the court or judge at the instance of any party orders otherwise."
I propose, with your permission, Mr. Beaumont, to take this Amendment and the next one in my name, as they really go together—in line 13, to leave out Subsections (2) and (3). The short point is that, at present, where a writ is issued, all subsequent proceedings up to the trial have to be taken either in the district registry or in the central office, according to where the action is commenced, but it is now proposed in the Bill that all such proceedings have to be taken in the Central Office and not in the district registry where the writ is issued there as would be done in a normal case. That might lead to some inconvenience and hardship to the plaintiff, and all I desire to do is to ask the Attorney-General whether he will consider that again to see whether some improvement cannot be made in that connection.

The second part of the Amendment is much more substantial, in my submission. Under the Bill, the right to go to the Assizes seems to be taken away altogether, unless the consent of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is obtained. That seems to me to be a rather arbitrary proceeding. Why, in this particular case, my hon. and learned Friend, without giving the court any power to decide the matter, should arbitrarily say, whatever the circumstances, "No, I insist that this case should be tried in London and not in the country," I do not know. It may be that the matter will have arisen in the country, that the witnesses are there, and that everything that is convenient and near to the trial is all situated in that locality, and yet my hon. and learned Friend can say that, in spite of those conveniences, the matter must be dealt with in London. There are certain rules of court, as my right hon. and learned Friend knows, which provide that where it is more convenient to have a trial in the country by reason of local circumstances, the court invariably decides that it has got to be tried there. All I ask is that my right hon. and learned Friend will look at the matter again to see whether some modification cannot be made in order to meet the practical needs of the circumstances.

The reason for this provision, which was recommended by the 1921 Committee, is that in some—I dare say very few—important cases, cases of constitutional difficulty, or cases which are important for some other reason, it is necessary to have Treasury Counsel and a Law officer appearing for the Crown. That would be really quite impossible in existing circumstances unless the Crown were able to fix the trial in London. Of course, under the provisions of the Bill as it now stands, if the Crown does elect to have the case tried in London, it will have to bear the additional cost occasioned by trial in London rather than by trial at Assizes. As a matter of fact, of course, a very large proportion of cases are already dealt with at Assizes, and will continue to be so dealt with. Ordinary common law actions, running down actions, and actions of that kind, where no question of constitutional interest arises, always go to Assizes. If the court, in the exercise of its discretion, considers it convenient for the parties that the trial should take place there that practice will be continued. Even the case of Adams and Naylor, which gave rise to issues of considerable constitutional importance, originated in the Liverpool Assizes. We have considered the matter, and we shall not operate the Clause harshly. But, in cases where Law Officers have to be engaged, or in cases which raise matters of constitutional interest and where Treasury Counsel have to be employed, we must have the right to have the trial in London, if need be.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed, In page 13, line 13, leave out Subsections (2) and (3)—[ Mr. Turner-Samuels.]

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 20 to 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.