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Clause 69

Volume 951: debated on Friday 9 June 1978

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Northern Ireland Court Service

11.45 a.m.

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 45, line 4, leave out

",and other persons employed for the purposes of,".
If it is not out of order on this amendment, Mr. Speaker, may I explain to the House that, although there was a substantial number of Government amendments in Committee, we have some further amendments today. They arise partly from the substantial amendment to the Bill, which was introduced in another place. Partly they are in response to suggestions from a number of quarters for improving the system in matters of detail. I hope that the House will not feel that they are unwelcome.

Naturally, I shall try to ensure that the time of the House is not taken up unnecessarily but, where there is any substantial amendment to the Bill, obviously I shall try to make it clear to the House.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that only the functions of officers of coroners' courts will be transferred to the Northern Ireland Court Service. It is not intended that the work of other persons, such as pathologists, should become the responsibility of the new Court Service.

I am glad that the Solicitor-General said what he did about amendments being tabled late in the day. There were certain observations passing from both sides on this in Committee. It is a pity, especially in the late stages of a Bill such as this, to have a large number of even technical amendments. I share that view, but, since I complained in Committee, I think that I should have the decency on this occasion to say that the Solicitor-General kindly arranged for us to have some notes yesterday on these amendments. That was not only very courteous but very sensible, because it enables us to be informed about them. Being that much informed about the amendment, I have nothing to say on it.

Although the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) was informed about the amendment, I was not informed about the full meaning of it. Will the Solicitor-General please list the officers of the coroners' courts, and tell us which persons employed in coroners' courts are left out or exempted by the amendment?

May I first say that I am grateful to the hon and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) for what he said. There is always a difficulty when someone makes a suggestion at a relatively late stage in a Bill such as this. One has to decide between saying "I am sorry, you are too late, we cannot incorporate the suggestion", or introduce an amendment at a late stage. We have done the best we can.

It is easier to answer the question of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) by explaining the kind of people whom it is intended to exclude. Coroners are obviously assisted by a number of people—earlier I gave the example of pathologists who do the post-mortems. No one would think that the pathologist was an officer of the coroner's court, but the drafting of the Bill may have brought the pathologist within the provisions which were not intended to apply to them.

Many coroners in office at present are practising solicitors who use their own staff for clerical work. It is not intended to apply the provisions to them. The officers we intend to bring within the provisions are clerical staff—it is as simple as that.

Amendment agreed to.