§ 63. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
To ask the Attorney-General what recent information he has about the cost of introducing an integrated family court.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)
I understand that the Lord Chancellor will shortly be receiving a copy of the report commissioned by the Family Courts Campaign examining the cost of a family court.
§ Mrs. Bottomley
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that one of the needless costs of our present system is that it frequently exacerbates the human misery and difficulties associated with divorce and family break-up? 838 Can he confirm that the preliminary findings of the report of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy for the Family Courts Campaign show that substantial savings are to be made overall by the introduction of an integrated family court—largely in terms of legal aid and matrimonial care orders? More than that, will my hon. and learned Friend say when his Department will come forward with its costings, to show that it is serious in its intention to move towards an integrated family court?
§ The Solicitor-General
As my hon. Friend knows, conciliation is currently the subject of research by Newcastle university, and studies are also in progress in the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department into the requirements for staffing, resources and welfare expertise in relation to wardship and care proceedings at each court level. The report of the Cleveland inquiry is expected shortly and, following a study of that, the Government hope to come forward with further announcements on the development of a family court.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd
Is my understanding wrong? Did not the then Lord Chancellor, now Lord Havers, suggest last year that his Department hoped to produce conclusions on the prospective costs of the various options for a family court system? Was it not hoped that that report would be brought out by the beginning of the year? What has happened to that report, or has it already been produced?
§ The Solicitor-General
I think that my hon. Friend has not really had an opportunity to keep up with developments. The Lord Chancellor made it clear that the first priority was to get the child care law right, but a number of studies have been in progress and he hopes to come forward with further announcements on the development of the family court following the receipt and study of the Cleveland inquiry report.