|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, while we are discussing this amendment, perhaps I may use the opportunity briefly to pursue a matter which I raised with the Minister at Third Reading. He may not want to answer my question here and now, but I should be grateful if he were able to write to me. The matter concerns how the devolution arrangements are working in the case of Bills such as this one. Immigration and asylum matters are reserved for Westminster. This is a United Kingdom Bill and it applies, entirely appropriately, to Scotland. However, various provisions in the Bill affect areas of government which are devolved. Clearly, this amendment concerns a bail matter and therefore it affects the Scottish courts. Scottish court matters are devolved. The Bill affects the Scottish Prison Service, social services and school meals.
At Third Reading we discussed an amendment on the school meals provision. I then asked the Minister whether the Scots Parliament had considered this matter. He gave me the soothing reply that the Ministers of the Scottish Executive had asked for the amendment. Subsequently, I read in the press of a discussion at the Scots Parliament, of which the Minister may be aware, in which Members of that Parliament queried how it could be that legislation which involved various of their responsibilities was being dealt with at Westminster but that they were not being consulted about the consequent effect upon those responsibilities. That is an issue which will arise in relation not just to this Bill but to future Bills. We all want devolution to work smoothly and well.
Perhaps the Minister will write to tell me precisely how the consultation with the Scottish Executive took place; whether there was time for consultation with the Parliament; and whether the Government are satisfied that the present arrangements are the best ones. This issue and the way that the Scottish Executive consults the Parliament within itself may be matters for the Scots Parliament. But it is important that the
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, perhaps I may deal with the last point first. I am content to write to the noble Baroness. While this Bill amends Scots legislation on devolved matters, it deals with immigration and asylum, which are themselves reserved matters. Scottish Ministers have apparently reported the Bill to the Scottish Parliament and we shall have concordats in place on those matters, particularly in relation to the operation of support arrangements. I trust that those points help the noble Baroness, and I shall be happy to write to her with further clarification.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for her kind comment on loaves, halves of loaves, and so on. That was very generous of her. I am somewhat chastened by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Cope. However, I simply remind your Lordships that, while there have been 367 amendments, they are in part and in some measure a reflection of the efforts made by the Government to improve the quality of the legislation and also the product of the efforts of Members of your Lordships' House to do so. For that, I believe your Lordships should all take credit.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the draft order is made under Section 4(1) of the Supreme Court Act 1981. The statutory ceiling for High Court judges in England and Wales was last increased from 85 to 98 by the Maximum Number of Judges Order 1993. This order will further increase that number to 106.
The High Court will face additional challenges over the coming years. Broadly speaking, they will arise from the implementation of the Human Rights Act and the Immigration and Asylum Bill, shortly to become an Act. It has become clear that, in the face of those challenges and even with the relief afforded by the implementation of the civil justice reforms in April this year, the High Court Bench will be under severe pressure unless additional judge power can be brought onstream as and when required.
The Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division and the Crown Office list will receive a significant increase in workload on implementation of the Human Rights Act. Those courts are the places for challenging, through judicial review, the actions or decision of any person or body charged with the
The assessment of the Lord Chancellor's Department is that applications for leave to move for judicial review in criminal cases may well double from the 300 received last year to 600 per year. It is anticipated that the vast majority will require a hearing for leave before a single judge. It is further thought that as many as one-quarter of the applications may be allowed and will then proceed to the full Divisional Court for determination.
It is estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 additional applications for leave to move may be made in immigration cases after implementation of the Human Rights Act. Even if only one-quarter receives leave to move for judicial review, that would lead to an increase of 65 per cent--about 250 cases--in the Crown Office list.
Appeals from magistrates' courts by way of cases stated may also increase by as much as 70 per cent, particularly in the early years--the first two years after implementation of the Human Rights Act. Virtually all those appeals would require to be heard by the Divisional Court, rather than a single judge. Other non-criminal applications for judicial review may also increase by up to 20 per cent. The majority of those applications for leave will be taken by a single judge and one-third may proceed to hearing before the Divisional Court.
In the Family Division it is anticipated that human rights points will be taken in anything up to 50 per cent of cases. The division has already determined that all cases raising these points should be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice, placing additional pressures upon the High Court Bench in London.
In the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, implementation of the Human Rights Act is expected to lead to an increase of one-third in the cases coming to the court on points of law relating to the convention. In the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal, pressure on judge power is expected to arise both from the Human Rights Act and, this year, from appeals testing the civil justice reforms to which I have referred. The Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal and the Queen's Bench Divisional Court will require additional sittings both by the High Court bench and by Lords Justices in order to handle the expected influx of human rights and immigration work. The latter requirement will be met by diverting the time of some Lords Justices from the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal. That will, however, require that deficit to be made good by a commensurate increase in High Court judges.
It is essential that the courts are well prepared to meet additional pressures. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has judged that some increases to the High Court bench need to be made by
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation. Following the passage of the Access to Justice Act, what effect does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor expect these measures to have on the efficiency with which the High Court undertakes its daily work?
I understand that the passage of the Human Rights Act will introduce new pressures. However, at the same time the Woolf reforms are supposed to increase the efficacy of the work of the High Court bench. Can the Minister give your Lordships an estimate of what the Lord Chancellor's Department expects will be the saving in judicial time from the introduction of the Woolf reforms?
Can the noble Lord the Minister also give some estimate at this juncture of the extent to which he expects the increased pressures on the Court of Appeal, to which he referred in his remarks, will lead to an increased requirement for Court of Appeal judges?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, for his remarks. I am not in a position to be able to give any real estimate as to the number of Court of Appeal judges that may be required as a consequence of the extra work involved. However, I promise the noble Lord that I will take this back to the department. I shall ensure that research is carried out and that a letter is sent to the noble Lord, a copy of which will be placed in the Library at the same time.
As I understand it, the main effect of the Woolf reforms is on the lower courts, that is the county courts. There has already been a story of some success. As the House knows, it is only six months or so since the Woolf reforms came into operation. It is too early to say what effect that will have on the High Court. However, the department will keep a close watch on the situation.