HC Deb 10 July 1995 vol 263 cc621-2
30. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proposals he has for the reform of civil justice and the civil courts. [31468]

Mr. John M. Taylor

Last year, the Lord Chancellor appointed Lord Woolf to conduct a comprehensive review of the civil justice system. He has now presented his interim report. The Lord Chancellor has warmly welcomed that report and is considering how best to give effect to those developing ideas.

Mr. Hughes

The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that the Woolf report is generally welcomed. Nothing less than a huge and radical reform of the civil justice system is required. How will the Parliamentary Secretary gather opinions from the public on Lord Woolf' s proposals? What is the timetable? Can the interim proposals proceed apace where there is general agreement, so that justice can be more quickly delivered in our civil courts?

Mr. Taylor

The Lord Chancellor's general view is that we must keep moving. There is no time to spend, spare or waste. In view of the wide-ranging review and consultations undertaken by Lord Woolf, the Lord Chancellor does not intend to undertake further public consultation. However, the power to make the necessary amendments rests with the County Court Rule Committee—which, as part of its consideration of the matter, will consult interested parties.

Mr. Batiste

I welcome the proposals for the reform of the civil courts, and congratulate the Minister on the introduction of conditional fees, which will open up civil litigation to many more litigants who cannot afford it now. May I, as a solicitor, nevertheless urge on my hon. Friend the fact that there needs to be an independent Bar capable of providing objective advice both in relation to civil litigation and, perhaps even more importantly, in relation to criminal litigation?

Mr. Taylor

It has never been remotely on my agenda—nor has the idea ever passed my lips in the House of Commons—to deny the need for an independent Bar, which has been a respected part of our English institutions for long years.