|Tue 27th November 2018||
Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill [Lords]
2nd reading: House of Commons
|3 interactions (80 words)|
Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill [Lords] DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Ed DaveyMain Page: Ed Davey (Liberal Democrat) - Kingston and Surbiton)
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My hon. Friend brings me back to the Bill and makes a good point—one which came up on several occasions during the deliberations in the other place about the extent to which we should be prescriptive, or whether powers should be left with the rule committees. I share his instinct that as much as possible should be left to the rule committees, because they are best placed to make such assessments. Indeed, that leads to points made by distinguished retired judges in the other place about not being over-prescriptive. Such matters may be a point of discussion this afternoon or at the Bill’s later stages.
I now turn to the Bill in greater detail. The measures will help to provide the greater flexibility and responsiveness that we need within our court system. That includes freeing up judges’ time from the most routine tasks associated with court cases. The Bill will build on existing powers that already enable staff in most courts and tribunals to be authorised to exercise some of the functions of judges. It will continue to allow appropriately qualified and experienced staff in the civil, family and magistrates courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Court of Protection and tribunals to be authorised to carry out uncontroversial and straightforward judicial functions under judicial supervision. The Bill will enable those arrangements to be extended for the first time to the Crown court, where court officers can only currently undertake formal and administrative matters. Allowing court and tribunal staff to exercise a wider range of judicial functions will potentially free judges up from undertaking more regular tasks, such as changing the start time of a hearing or changing a pre-trial preparation hearing date, so that they can focus on the more substantive matters of the case.
Indeed, and I will turn to that point in a moment. I hope that the clarification provided by those amendments will be widely welcomed in this House. The passage of this Bill in the other place was characterised by a constructive and co-operative approach from both sides, and I hope that that will continue to be the case—I suspect it will, but we shall see—because the point of those amendments was to provide particular protections. Other issues debated in the other place included suggestions about being more prescriptive. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), it is right that we use the judicially led rule committees in many of those areas, but the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) makes a perfectly fair point.