HC Deb 21 May 1856 vol 142 cc476-81

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 7.


said, he objected to the personal description of qualification proposed, which was £100 a year derived from land held on lease for twenty-one years. In such a case a person might let a farm to a tenant who improved it and paid £100 a year rent on lease, and yet he would claim to be fully qualified to discharge the office of a justice of the peace. He should beg to move the omission of the first paragraph of the clause.


said, the clause was merely a re-enactment of the existing law.

Amendment negatived; Clause agreed to.


said, he should move that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again. He objected to the mode of personal qualification proposed to be given by the Bill.


said, that, if the Bill were passed, a Government clerk, with a salary of £300 a year, would be qualified for the office of a justice of the peace.


said, he thought that as the seventh clause was that with which hon. Gentlemen appeared to be most dissatisfied, and that as the Committee could not now go back and discuss that clause, the best course would be to go on, and afterwards move to strike out the clause.


said, he was not aware that the Chairman had put the clause; he hoped the Committee would not assent to a proposition which, if passed into law, would go far to lower the tone and respectability of the county magistracy throughout the country.


said, that the Chairman had put the clause with such haste that it was impossible for hon. Gentlemen to state their views.


said, he had put the clause, and that as no hon. Gentleman had moved an Amendment, he was bound to declare it agreed to.


said, that without imputing any blame to the Chairman the Committee was clearly taken by surprise, and that under those circumstances he considered that he was justified in moving that the Chairman report progress. He would not, however, persist in the Motion if a future opportunity were given for fairly raising the question.


said, that the whole essence of the Bill was the question whether justices of the peace should be allowed a personal qualification, and that he was quite ready to have that question fully discussed on bringing up the Report.

The Motion for reporting progress, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 8 to 10.

Clause 11.


said, he must press upon the Committee the strong objections there were to the creation of a distinct set of magistrates, and particularly if they were to be clerks in Government offices. The effect of the clause appeared to him to be that, as these proposed magistrates were not likely to have any stake in the soil, they were prohibited from acting in matters pertaining to taxation and the application of the county funds. In every county there would be two sets of justices with different powers, and to this he had the strongest objection.


said, he was of opinion that the clause, if passed, would be the first step towards a paid magistracy and financial county boards.


said, he would remind the Committee that so highly did the Government think of his proposition to establish financial county boards that they had taken the matter out of his hands, under a solemn assurance that they would bring it forward themselves.


said, he must ask the Committee not to pass a clause which would establish two classes of magistrates—the one responsible and the other not. Let both classes be responsible, or do not interfere with the existing state of things.


said, he quite approved of the observations of the right hon. Baronet who spoke last, and hoped that the Committee would not sanction the principle of a responsible and an irresponsible magistracy.


said, he believed he was the oldest magistrate in the kingdom, and that as he had many means of knowing how well the law was now administered by the existing class of magistrates, he was opposed to the introduction of a new and different class. He therefore hoped the Committee would not agree to the clause.


said, the object of the clause was to allow a class of Gentlemen to come in and have a voice in the disbursement of the funds which they had no authority to raise. He had introduced the clause to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen around him, and if they were not satisfied with it he would not press it.


said, he knew that great jealousy existed among the ratepayers when they saw magistrates who had very little property in the county voting away the county rates. He had been originally in favour of such a clause, but he would advise his hon. Friend to withdraw it.


said, the clause would not fulfil the object which it contemplated, for it would not prevent the new class of magistrates from voting on questions which, if not directly financial, yet affected materially the county rate. He was also of opinion that no man should be appointed a county magistrate who was not a person in the enjoyment of an easy fortune, and with sufficient time to attend to his official duties.


said, there was a great prejudice in counties against magistrates voting on financial questions when they had no property in the county, and, consequently, no responsibility. He thought this clause would do away with that prejudice, although it was open to the objection that it would establish two classes of magistrates.


said, he thought the objection to two classes of magistrates was insuperable.


said, he thought the objections to this Bill on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite opened a very wide question. The argument seemed to be that those who had something to do with the funds of the county ought to have something to do with the management, which appeared to be the view taken by his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) in advocating the establishment of county financial boards.


said, he thought the clause would have the effect of lowering the standard of county magistrates in the opinion of their fellow-ratepayers.


said, he was of opinion that taxation and representation ought to go together. He thought it very desirable that the administrative duties of the magistracy should be separated from the financial, and he was at a loss to know how a measure making such an alteration could be termed one creating two sets of magistrates and considered worthy of opposition, He should support the clause, because it would get rid of the anomaly stated by the Secretary of State for the Home Department—namely, that of a gentleman having a qualification in Northumberland, but residing in Durham, taking part in the disposal of the county rate for the former county.

Clause negatived.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 (Penalty for persons acting as magistrates without the necessary qualifications to be recovered in the County Courts).


said, he objected to the clause. By the present law persons so acting were liable to a penalty of £100, and had to be removed by quo warranto, and he was at a loss to know why the ultimatum had been proposed, except it was to deteriorate the position of country magistrates. He should move that the clause be struck out.


said, that under the old law the difficulty of suing a person so acting, was so great, that many continued on the list of magistrates who had not the necessary qualification, and it was thought desirable to remove that difficulty by reducing the penalty to £50, and making it recoverable in the County Court.


said, the object would not be gained by enacting the clause, because if a question of title arose, the County Court could not decide it.

Clause negatived.

Clause 14 (The person objected to for want of qualification, shall prove the same).


said, he objected to the clause, which would have the effect of producing endless litigation. It was not right to put a person to the proof under such circumstances.


said, that a magistrate must, under the present law, deposit with the clerk of the peace particulars of his qualification; these particulars are incorporated in the oath, and should the magistrate act without being duly qualified, he would be liable to a forfeiture of £100.

MR. PIGOTT moved that the Chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again.


said, the clause in question was but the re-enactment of a clause that had been in existence 120 years, and from which no incovenience had arisen.


said, that the Bill had been read, printed, committed, reprinted, and recommitted; a great number of the clauses had been struck out of the present Bill, and many were to be considered on the bringing up of the Report. A Bill requiring such treatment must be a bad one, and must throw ridicule on the proceedings of the House in connection with it.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 97; Noes 99: Majority 2.


then moved that the Chairman leave the Chair.


said, that the practical effect of the Bill rested on the qualification clause, which he understood the Committee had not assented to, but had reserved to itself the right of entering on it when the Report was brought up; he would therefore appeal to the hon. Member (Mr. Colvile) whether it was desirable to go on with the re-enacting clauses of the Bill, which to a certain extent must depend on the adoption of the qualification clause.


said, he wished the Committee to go on till they came to Clause 23, which enacted that any attorney, solicitor, or proctor might be appointed a justice of the peace for any county, city, of borough, but without liberty to practise in those Courts of which he was a justice. The clause alluded to by the right hon. Baronet (Clause 7) had been already agreed to; but as it was passed under some misapprehension on the part of some hon. Members, it could be discussed on bringing up the Report.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do now leave the chair."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 135; Noes 73: Majority 62.

The House resumed. No Report.

The House adjourned at Four o'clock.