§ MR. THOMAS LEGH
, Member for South West Lancashire, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, "the action of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in revoking the Memorandum of 1870, and in reverting, in the appointment of Lancashire County Magistrates, to the system which was then abandoned with general approval, and to the wholesale appointment of Magistrates of one political Party in the various boroughs in Lancashire."
§ MR. SEXTON
rose to Order. He asked whether the revocation of the Memorandum of 1870 by a Minister of the Crown was a subject to be dealt with by moving the Adjournment of the House, or whether the hon. Member interested in the question should not ballot for a day and take his chance?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It is optional with the hon. Member whether he proposes to take this course or not, and the House must judge. I understand that the Memorandum of 1870 applied specially to Lancashire and the appointment of Magistrates within that area. Is it your pleasure that leave be given?
Not less than 40 Members having risen to support the demand.
§ MR. LEGH
regretted that he had not been able to secure a better opportunity for raising the question. He had selected the present method of procedure because the Chancellor of the Duchy occupied a particularly enviable position, inasmuch as his salary did not appear on the Votes, and therefore he could not be attacked in Committee of Supply, and because the Government had taken the whole time of the House, and the Home 1144 Rule Bill might be under discussion for the next two or three months. The question would have been raised long ago had those interested in it not been prevented by various causes, such as the difficulty of presenting Papers, the absence of the Chancellor of the Duchy abroad, and the discussion on the Home Rule Bill. The facts in relation to this matter were very simple. Prior to 1870 County Magistrates in Lancashire were appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy directly; but in April of that year a Minute was issued by the then Chancellor (Lord Dufferin), assimilating the practice in Lancashire to that of the rest of the country. Lord Dufferin was not a Member of the Cabinet at the time, but they had they the authority of the present Lord Chancellor for the statement that the question was of sufficient importance to be treated as a Cabinet question. He need hardly remind the House that in 1870 the present Prime Minister was the head of the Government, and only two years before the right hon. Gentleman had been a Lancashire Member himself. In replying to a deputation which waited on him on the 22nd of March, the Lord Chancellor said that in 1871 it was thought expedient to make a change by means of a Minute to which the Cabinet were parties. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy alluded to the Memorandum as a temporary arrangement, which rested only on a voluntary concession of one of his Predecessors; but he (Mr. Legh) could find nothing in the Minute to justify the statement. As a matter of fact, it directly contradicted it, for it said that, so far as it was in the power of the Government, it was intended that the arrangement should be a permanent one. The object of the change was well known. The Lord Lieutenant, in his communication with the Chancellor of the Duchy, made use of the phrase, "The chaos which existed prior to 1870." He supposed that was a political chaos, because up to that time the Magistrates were invariably selected in accordance with their political views. It was unnecessary for him to enlarge on the advantages which the Lord Lieutenant possessed over the temporary occupant of a political office; but he would point out that it was only quite 1145 recently that there had been any suggestion that the system instituted in 1870 had been in any respect a failure, and even now he did not gather that the Lord Lieutenant was charged with appointing improper persons. Everybody knew that, as a matter of fact, he had been exceedingly particular, and had not gone on the principle of appointing men as Magistrates because they were county magnates. He had not even selected Peers, but had always taken special care to appoint people who would guarantee to work, who resided in the neighbourhood, and took an interest in its affairs. It was quite impossible for anybody to quote an instance of any person having been jobbed into the position of Magistrate by the Lord Lieutenant. If all the Lord Lieutenants of the country had taken the same trouble in exercising their right of nomination, there would have been less excuse for interfering than there was at present. The appalling charge against Lord Sefton was that in 1886 he became a Liberal Unionist, and that since 1886 gentlemen belonging to the Liberal Party had not found their way to the Bench in sufficient numbers. It was perfectly true that Lord Sefton was a Liberal Unionist, but he was a politician of a very mild and unaggressive type. He was not connected with any political organisation, and he (Mr. Legh) had never heard of his appearing on a political platform. He seemed to have carried his aversion to politics to an excess, and looked upon any recommendation for the County Magistracy that came from the House of Commons with extreme suspicion, and he (Mr. Legh) would like to know whether the Member for Southport and the Member for the Ormskirk Division had found the cause of gentlemen nominated for the County Bench greatly advanced by their taking it up and recommending them to the Lord Lieutenant. What did the complaint amount to? What struck him was the extreme patience which had been displayed by the Liberal Party in Lancashire. For six years he had never heard them complain in any shape or form—[Cries of "Oh!]—but. in November or December they awoke to the fact that they had not adequate representation on the Bench, and representations were addressed to the Chancellor of the Duchy from various 1146 quarters. He had never been able to hear of this discontent himself. The only rumours he had hoard were statements that representations had been made to the right hon. Gentleman from the Liberal Club in Manchester. There seemed to be a certain Mr. Guthrie, who took upon himself to collect the figures with regard to the composition of the County Bench throughout England, and to show the proportion of political appointments. Taking that gentleman's figures as comparatively accurate, he found that there were five counties fortunate enough to possess Lord Lieutenants who followed Mr. Gladstone, and the proportion of Liberals in those counties was—In Bedford, 14 per cent.; in Northampton, 17 per cent.; in Somerset, 20 per cent.; in Warwickshire, 10 percent.; and in Westmoreland, 28 per cent. In Lancashire, the proportion was 21 per cent., and only one county—Westmoreland—had a larger percentage of Liberal Magistrates, and he believed that there the increase could be traced to the ingenuity of the present Lord Lieutenant in discovering qualifications in some of his nominations. Whose fault was it that the proportion of Radical Magistrates was so small? Certainly it was not the fault of the Lord Lieutenant. [Cries of "Oh!"] The Chancellor of the Duchy or Mr. Guthrie had pointed out that, before 1883 45 to 55 per cent. of the Magistrates appointed were Radicals; and surely, if it was anybody's fault, it was the fault of the Prime Minister that they had changed their politics. The Lord Lieutenant, when he appointed the men, could not possibly toll that they were going to change, any more than they could predict the policy of right hon. Gentlemen. But even 21 per cent. was not a disproportionate representation on the Magisterial Bench of the Radicals of Lancashire. The Magistrates were taken from the classes, and the classes were all on one side; therefore, if the Radicals got 20 per cent. of them, they had not much to complain of. The Chancellor of the Duchy had stated in his communication to the Lord Lieutenant that he shouldbe reluctant, in the interests of the office he held, to assume the exercise of tins large and most delicate patronage;but his letter culminated in the impetuous demand that 39 prominent Radical poli- 1147 ticians should be added to the Bench, chiefly on the ground that the injustice which now existed should be remedied in the interest of the due administration of justice.
§ MR. LEGH
said, that was the right hon. Gentleman's idea of the way in which an "extremely delicate patronage" should be exercised. Lord Sefton did not find himself in a position to subscribe to these "thirty-nine articles" of the Radical creed, and no self-respecting man would have acted in any other way. The Chancellor of the Duchy replied by issuing a sort of Ukase, which would, perhaps, have more befitted a Russian Government or Oriental potentate than as proceeding from an enlightened and cultured Representative of modern democracy. The question was, why should politics have anything to do with selections for the Bench? What was the object aimed at? He took it that even if every single Magistrate was a follower of the Prime Minister the administration of justice would not suffer; but what was aimed at was to get hold of people who lived in the neighbourhood, who held positions of responsibility, and who would take an interest in the administration of justice. Whatever might be thought of the action of the Chancellor of the Duchy, no one could deny that it was a startling innovation. Here they had for the first time, so far as he was aware, an official declaration that a certain number of Magistrates must be Radical, and it was the first time in which such a position in politics had been openly avowed. There were two explanations which suggested themselves to his mind. The right hon. Gentleman was a student of American political life, and apparently he had adopted and had go this Colleagues to concur in the adoption of one of the leading features of the Presidential Election—namely, that the spoils belonged to the victors, or, in other words, that official positions were to be the rewards of Party services. But why stop at Magistrates? Why not carry the principle into the Army and Navy? If Conservatives and Unionists were not fit to be Judges, they were not tit to command or drill, or even to post the letters of the people. Perhaps it would be advisable for the Postmaster General to 1148 inquire into the politics of postmen. But how had the Home Secretary been "squared"? The other day the Home Secretary laid it down that politics ought to have no connection whatever with appointments to judicial functions. This was not the first time that the frank and outspoken declarations of the Home Secretary had caused some slight embarrassment to his colleagues. But there were Gentlemen on the same side of the House who did not hold the same views. In a discussion a short time back in the County Council, with reference to the salary of a Judge, the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. John Burns) had opposed an increase of the salary because the Judge was not in sympathy with the democracy. To find indications of the policy of the present Government, he always turned to the hon. Member for Northampton, or rather, his organ. In that paper the hon. Member had been hounding on the Lord Chancellor for a long time, telling him that he had "a public duty to perform." The hon. Member regarded Ministers as the servants of their Party; and had declared that no one required more looking after as a general rule than a Liberal Minister.
§ MR. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
rose to Order. He wanted to ask if the hon. Gentleman was not going beyond the question?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman must keep strictly to the question of the conduct of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the matter.
§ MR. LEGH, resuming, said the Chancellor of the Duchy, having received his orders, went to deal with his own Lord Lieutenant with the proverbial light heart, but the feverish zeal with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with this matter suggested that he feared he might not occupy his present position long; and if that was so, what would happen? It was very probable that in 12 months' time, the right hon. Gentleman's position would be occupied by a Conservative or a Liberal Unionist. Certainly he did not envy the right hon. Gentleman's successor his post. Day and night, in season and out of season, he would be pestered by people who thought they had rendered political services to the Party in power who would be claiming to be made Magistrates. In his opinion, the ill-advised 1149 action of the Chancellor of the Duchy must introduce to the Bench a marked element of discord. He supposed his action would be ratified. by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. A. C. Morton), and the hon. Member for Northampton, and other hon. Members on the other side of the House, but he (Mr. Legh) could not help thinking that his action would be viewed by all impartial persons with something very much like disgust. Even his own Party organs in Lancashire were finding fault with him, and he was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman had permanently injured his political reputation by being the first person who had sought to prostitute the County Bench to Party political purposes.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said he rose to second the Resolution. He desired to join in this protest against the arbitrary ukase of the Chancellor of the Dually, What the Unionist Members of Lancashire"—and they were the majority of Members for that county—did not understand was, that there was anything in the position of Lancashire or of the Chancellor of the Duchy why that county should be treated with a highhandedness which the Lord Chancellor did not venture to apply to England and Wales, There were special reasons why such notion should not have been taken in Lancashire. The system which the Chancellor of the Duchy had re-introduced was in existence up to 1870, and was a miserable failure. The right hon. Gentleman had referred somewhat pedantically to the ancient custom which he was reintroducing. It was very remarkable that eager reformers of the type of the right hon. Gentleman were so ready to rake up any discarded and discredited system if only it suited their purposes to do so. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that the system of which he now expressed approval was put to death with universal approval in 1870, on the understanding that it was never to rise again. Up to that time both sides had been in the habit of appointing Magistrates in batches just as the right hon. Gentleman was now doing. 'Then, as now, appointments were made to the Bench not because Magistrates were wanted, but because Party hacks wanted to be Magistrates, and the result was that 1150 there were in 1870 over 900 Magistrates in Lancashire, or a good deal more Magistrates than policemen. The right hon. Gentleman said that the old system was temporarily abolished by the voluntary act of one of his predecessors. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong. It was not temporarily abolished, and it was not abolished by the act of one of his predecessors alone. The abolition was agreed on by both Parties, as they had grown sick and tired of the disgrace which had been brought on their Parties and on the Judicial Bench by the competition in jobbery which had been in progress before 1870, and which was to be renewed if the policy of the right hon. Gentleman prevailed. The abolition of the system was so much the effect of an agreement between the two Parties that its terms were absolutely embodied in a Minute. Lord Dufferin, who was the Chancellor of the Duchy at the time, quoted Colonel Wilson Patten as saying, on behalf of the Conservatives, he hadNo doubt that every future Government will be able to resist political pressure for the appointment of Magistrates by any recurrence to the old system.The declaration made by Lord Dufferin himself was very much more important, as he was actually in office at the time of the abolition of the system, and he abolished it with the Consent of his colleagues, of whom the present Prime Minister was one. Lord Dufferin said—I have further to inform your Lordship that it is intended by Her Majesty's Government that this arrangement should be a permanent one, so far as it is in their power to render it so.The only difference between the position of 1870 and the position now was that Magistrates were no longer charged with more or less political and administrative duties and were almost solely judicial officers, so that political bias ought, less than ever, to be imported into their appointments. Was the present Chancellor of the Duchy likely to have less political bias than Lord Dufferin or than the present Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, who was appointed with the common consent of the two Parties? Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that he would ever find two Parties in the State willing 1151 to trust him with appointments to the Magisterial Bench? What special local knowledge did the right hon. Gentleman possess? There had been Chancellors of the Duchy who, like Colonel Wilson Patten, Mr. John Bright, and the present Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir U. Kay-Shuttle worth), had local knowledge, hut none of them had thought it necessary to go hack to the old system, and it was certainly remarkable that this change should he introduced by a right hon. Gentleman who, whether he was a Scotchman or an Irishman, certainly know nothing about Lancashire. It was extraordinary that while the Lord Chancellor, with his vast experience, was unwilling to apply this scheme to the counties of England and Wales, the Chancellor of the Duchy should have lost no time in seizing upon it and applying it to the county over which he presided. It was evident that either the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire was a particularly bad Lord Lieutenant, and had abused his powers, or the Chancellor of the Duchy was an especially unwise Chancellor of the Duchy. What were the circumstances with regard to the Lord Lieutenant? In the first place, Lord Sefton had had as many years' experience of his duties as Lord Lieutenant as the Chancellor of the Duchy had had weeks' experience of his duties as Chancellor of the Duchy. Lord Sefton was appointed Lord Lieutenant in 1868. He was then a Liberal of the Liberals, and his appointment was at the time resented as a job, but so bad was the system of magisterial appointments which the Chancellor of the Duchy was now reviving, that only two years afterwards both political Parties concurred in putting the power of appointment in the hands of this Radical Lord Lieutenant. Lord Sefton said most distinctly that never once during the whole of the 23 years that he had been administering the power of appointing Magistrates had he considered the political character of any man he had appointed. He (Mr. Hanbury) was told by those who knew the Lord Lieutenant that he had told Members of Parliament who had recommended men for appointment that a Member of Parliament was the very last person from whom he would take a recommendation. The sole argument of the right hon. Gentleman was 1152 that there was now a great preponderance of gentlemen belonging to one particular Party. But there were three Parties in this country. The Liberal Unionists were recognised by the constituencies, and he should have thought that what was good enough for the constituencies was good enough for the Chancellor of the Duchy. The fact was that the sole offence of the Lord Lieutenant was that he had not wiped out the Liberal Unionists altogether. The action of the right hon. Gentleman was prompted by mere Party rancour against the Lord Lieutenant. He should like to know what a mere difference of opinion on Irish administration had to do with fitness to administer justice in the County of Lancashire. When the right hon. Gentleman talked of the preponderance of one Party, did he not forget that a great many of the Magistrates who were now Liberal Unionists were appointed before 1886, when they were as good Liberals as he was—and He (Mr. Hanbury) did not know that they were not. a great deal better Liberals now. Even in 1886, when the Lord Lieutenant himself was a Liberal, and when the Liberal Unionists belonged to the Liberal Party, there was a great preponderance of Magistrates who belonged to the Conservative Party. That showed not that there was Party bias on the part of the Lord Lieutenant, because he was a Liberal himself, but that the Lord Lieutenant could not find a sufficient number of Radicals who were properly qualified to sit on the Bench. If that difficulty existed then, surely it existed a great deal more now, when the cream of the Liberal Party had left it. The Liberals who were most fitted to sit on the Bench were precisely those who had deserted the Liberal Party and become Liberal Unionists. The right hon. Gentleman in his letter to the Lord Lieutenant stated that only 20 per cent. of Liberals as against 80 per cent. of the other Party had been appointed to the Magisterial Bench in Lancashire since 1886. The right hon. Gentleman was emphatically, distinctly, and ludicrously wrong in that statement. The fact was that since 1886 33 per cent. of the appointments to the Judicial Bench had been Gladstonian appointments. The Return which the right hon. Gentleman called for himself showed that since 1153 August, 1886, 116 Conservatives and 36 Liberal Unionists, making together 152, and 50 Liberals had been appointed Magistrates in Lancashire. It would thus be seen that almost exactly one-third of those appointed were Liberals, and not one-fifth as mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. The figures showed also that the Lord Lieutenant had replaced Magistrates who had died by men of their own Party, and had added actually 12 per cent. to the number of representatives of the three Parties. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing a deputation to the Lord Chancellor recently, stated that only 10 per cent. of the Magistrates on the whole of England wore Liberals, and the Lord Chancellor stated in reply that on the Borough Bench only 22 per cent. of the Magistrates were Liberals. In Lancashire, however, which had been singled out by the right hon. Gentleman for special treatment, 33 per cent. of the whole number held the same political views as the right hon. Gentleman himself. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had consulted his friends in Lancashire on this subject, but the only Memorial he was able to produce was one signed by gentlemen, nearly the whole of whom lived in the towns, and a great number of whom were not qualified to be County Magistrates, and were defeated candidates at the last Election. If there were two classes of people who could not speak with any authority on a subject of this kind, surely one of them consisted of those who were not qualified to be Magistrates, and the other was composed of those whom the people of Lancashire would not elect as their representative in Parliament.
§ MR. HANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman would not. be likely to publish his worst Memorial. He has chosen his best.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, it was evident that the Memorial published was the only one that was worth anything at all. Well, what was there on the other side of the case? There was a majority of Lancashire Representatives on the Opposition side of the House. Take the County Council of Lancashire. That surely would be admitted to he a representative body. Mr. Guthrie put on the agenda paper a motion that the appointment of Magistrates should be made solely by the County Council of Lancashire. What happened? The County Council wore so opposed to the Resolution that Mr. Guthrie did not dare to even bring it to a vote, and withdrew it on the advice of the Secretary to the Treasury, who sat on the Treasury Bench. This did not show that the County Councils wore also in favour of the right hon. Gentleman. Then he took the resolutions sent up by the different Quarter Sessions. The right hon. Gentleman said there was one where the resolution was passed unanimously, but. that his men were not there, and that they had no notice of it. This looked as if the right hon. Gentleman's friends were not very punctual in attending these Sessions, and that there was no great necessity to have any more of them. But he (Mr. Hanbury) found three other cases where these resolutions were passed. How was it that the right hon. Gentleman's friends did not attend to oppose these resolutions which condemned the right hon. Gentleman most strongly? The right hon. Gentleman said they did not condemn him by name, but they praised the Lord Lieutenant, which was the same thing, and contradicted the assertion upon which the right hon. Gentleman had based his statement. If the Lord Lieutenant was not the bad Lord Lieutenant which the Chancellor of the Duchy tried to prove, then the Chancellor of the Duchy must be one of the wisest Chancellors of the Duchy they had ever had. It was pretty clear that the alternative was one which they ought not to reject, at any rate in a hurry. He did not think the Chancellor of the Duchy had carried out his duties with any peculiar tact. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to appreciate the importance of what he was doing, or he would never have lectured the Queen's Representative in 1155 a county like Lancashire as a pedagogue might lecture an impertinent school-boy. He did not think that any man who had any great regard for the administration of justice could have appointed Magistrates without necessity. He would recall to the House the fact that, since 1886, an enormous amount of work had been taken off the hands of the Magistrates, and there was nothing like the necessity for them now as was the case years ago. But, since 1886, the number of Magistrates had enormously increased; and, not content with this, the right hon. Gentleman actually wanted to add another 40, though there wore no vacancies at all. By his action, the right hon. Gentleman would he stirring up division between the Magistrates of Lancashire—a thing that had not happened before. Party politics had not been introduced into these appointments before, but it was still worse when they had two sets of Magistrates, one the Lord Lieutenant's and the other the Chancellor of the Duchy's, the latter, he supposed, to take the views of the Chancellor in the administration of justice. How many months was this going to last? One of two things would happen—either the Conservative Party would have to imitate the Chancellor of the Duchy in their turn—and he deprecated this method most strongly—and revive the old system, or they would have to cease to imitate him, which was the more likely thing. He deprecated most strongly these political appointments, and he might say that in his own borough, when he had the names of Magistrates sent to him for recommendation, he had invariably written to the Leader of the other Party asking him to send him names also, so that the names sent up might be free from Party favouritism. He did this because he wished to he thoroughly fair, and to show that he was not actuated by political motives.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Legh.)
§ *MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
said he should not imitate the violent Party insolence which had characterized the last two speeches. [Opposition cries of "Withdraw! withdraw! "] He should withdraw at once if called upon by the Speaker, otherwise 1156 he should not. He complained that no notice whatever had been given of the intention to bring forward this question on a Motion for Adjournment. He had come down to the House without the smallest idea that anything of this kind was going to be raised, and without the least opportunity of consulting anyone else. There was one hon. Member who had certainly taken active part in this question who was not present in the House, and perhaps would have been if he had known it was coming on. Although he heartily endorsed what the Chancellor o the Duchy had done, he was not one of 1hose who originally moved him to do it having been out of England when the movement took shape. It was not a new question, because to his knowledge it had excited great dissatisfaction in Lancashire for years. It was rather difficult in this matter with regard to a person like the Lord Lieutenant to make use in public of all that one might have heard, and he desired to say emphatically that he had no wish for one moment to say one word personally against the Lord Lieutenant. He believed the real mischief had arisen from the Lord Lieutenant paying regard only to one source of information—namely, persons on the County Bench—and that those persons had in many cases acted not from political feeling, but from the ordinary motive of desiring to see on the Bench those with whom they were acquainted or in whose circle they moved. The result had been most unfortunate. In his own division at this moment, he was informed, there was not resident one single county Magistrate of a Liberal way of thinking. He knew that two years ago an application was made by the Local Board in the district to make an appointment, and he was informed that no notice whatever was taken of the recommendation, but that shortly afterwards a gentleman was nominated by private influence—a Tory, though in every respect a perfectly fit man to put on the Bench. When they found no notice taken by a public authority of such a recommendation, the House would understand that it was not very pleasant to persons who were strongly opposed in political opinions, as he was, to make representations to the Lord Lieutenant. As a matter of fact, he made one in a case where there was urgent want of a 1157 Magistrate. He was informed at that time that the gentleman was a Conservative or Liberal Unionist, but even in that case it took three or four mouths to get the appointment. His own impression was that the Lord Lieutenant had acted on the theory that he should not appoint Magistrates unless there were distinct vacancies on the list. There might not be actual vacancies on the list, but there might be some gentlemen on the list who through age and other circumstances were incapacitated from performing their duties. So long as the list was filled up with a sufficient number, the Lord Lieutenant did not think it his duty to make new appointments. But it was sometimes very necessary that new appointments should be made. In country districts it was exceedingly inconvenient that, old pensioners who required a certificate, or persons who had lost a pawn ticket, should have to go miles in order to find a Magistrate. This was equivalent to taking time from persons to whom time was their only menus of support.
§ MR. HANBURY
asked the hon. Member to name the Petty Sessional Division where there was no Liberal Magistrate.
§ MR. KNOWLES (Salford, W.)
said, he lived in this Division, and he should like to ask the hon. Member his grounds for the statement. He knew several Liberal Magistrates.
§ *MR. ROBY
said Mr. Agnew did not live in the County Division, but lived in the Borough of Salford. He knew of one Magistrate appointed in his own Division who was an active supporter of his opponent. What he wanted to point out was, in the first place, that there was an absolute need of more Magistrates: secondly, that the action of the present Lord Lieutenant had been such as to make it almost hopeless for Liberals to approach him; and, thirdly, that it was desirable that there should be more members of the Liberal way of thinking on the Bench. Magistrates ought, he admitted, to be above all political con- 1158 siderations, but they knew that Magistrates wore human. There were occasions when Magistrates were almost forced to take a line which others would attribute to political considerations, and he desired that there should be some on each Bench who would be able to call their brethren's attention to the Liberal side of the question. He also desired that in the many discussions which must arise as regarded capital and labour there should be some members on the Bench who would have more sympathy with labour than with capital. He entirely applauded his right hon. Friend in making a distinct point of appointing some Labour Representatives. Was it really so entirely alien to the feelings and views of hon. Members opposite that politics should enter into those appointments? The hon. Member who seconded the Resolution declared his own practice to be entirely superior to political considerations. He heartily congratulated him on it; but when numbers of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists had been appointed, and hardly any Liberals, it could not be said that those were appointed mainly on account of their superiority'. He had known in some cases that they were not persons whose individual merits would recommend them. They were put on the Borough Benches in heaps, and put on, no doubt, deliberately and purposely for political motives. It had been asserted that the Chancellor of the Duchy was not connected with Lancashire. He was very proud to think that his right hon. Friend had, by marriage, become connected with that county. For many years one of the counties in which he had taken most interest was Lancashire, and there was no doubt that those people with whom he had become acquainted would only be too glad to give him honest assistance in regard to the appointment of Magistrates. He declined to agree to the doctrine that it was only from a Conservative or Liberal Unionist Lord Lieutenant that fit appointments could be made. He was certain that the Chancellor of the Duchy was as capable as any man of overlooking political considerations where those political considerations were not of the first moment. But he said that in the present state of the Bench in Lancashire it was of the first moment that some regard should be paid to political considerations, therefore 1159 he would oppose the Motion and support the action of the Chancellor of the Duchy.
*MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has accused two Members on this side of the House of Party insolence, and the hon. Member persisted in the criticism. I venture to say, with all respect to the hon. Member, that a more insolent observation has rarely been made in this House. We are discussing what we believe, rightly or wrongly, to be an exhibition of the grossest political partisanship on the part of a Member of the Liberal Government, and it would be difficult to exclude from such a discussion some slight display of Party feeling. Having made this protest, I will endeavour to avoid any such feeling as much as possible myself. I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Newton Division has boon abundantly justified in bringing forward his Motion. As a Lancashire Member of seven years standing I have had some opportunity of becoming acquainted with the appointment of Magistrates both in the county and borough. It is not for me to defend Lord Sefton, but I must say I never knew a Lord Lieutenant less willing to take into account in such appointments purely political considerations, or one who more carefully and scrupulously examined the local and personal claims of every name submitted to him. A Lord Lieutenant more averse to receive recommendations with a political colour, either from the nature of the men who offered them, or the political complexion of the individuals suggested, I never came across. My own communications with Lord Helton left me with the impression that Lord Sefton is a man peculiarly gifted with Party independence and superiority to Party bias, which ought to have ensured him, not the laughter, but the enthusiastic admiration of the Bench opposite. If it be asked how, then, came about this preponderance of the one Party on the Magisterial Bench, I would reply that it is due to the mischievous policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—which has driven the intelligent and leisured classes into the ranks of the Conservatives. Lord Sefton is a peculiarly scrupulous individual, for he has not only discouraged the advances of the hon. Member for Eccles, but he treated with indifference the representa- 1160 tions of my hon. Friend and myself. That is the character of the nobleman selected for these attacks. The hon. Member opposite talked about the dissatisfaction which existed in Lancashire at the discharge of his patronage by Lord Sefton. If such discontent existed it was a purely bogus discontent, manufactured for purely political purposes. As to the signatures to the Memorial addressed to the Chancellor of the Duchy, which the right hon. Gentleman has printed, because, as he says, it has attempted to argue the question, four of them are drawn from my own constituency. Who are they? The first is the Chairman of the Gladstonian Party in my Division, and lives in a town; the second is a gentleman who stood against me, and who was very properly defeated by me at the last election, who also lives in a town; the third is a gentleman living in the same town, interested in labour matters, who has two or three times very properly been defeated in Parliamentary contests in other parts of the United Kingdom; the fourth of the signatories is a leading member of the Gladstonian Party, and was one of the principal speakers against myself in another part of the division. [Ministerial cheers.] I am interested to hear the cheers of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, because they appear to endorse the purely political partisan character of the Memorial. While on the question of the discontent in Lancashire I would like to acquaint the Chancellor of the Duchy with the fact, of which he is probably ignorant, that the Justices of the West Derby Hundred passed a resolution a few days ago placing upon record their appreciation of the good sense, discretion, and complete absence of political favouritism displayed by Lord Sefton. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. V. Harcourt) opposite appears to be overwhelmed with laughter, but I would remind him that the resolution to which I refer was proposed by a gentleman who for many years was a warm supporter of the Prime Minister, but who is now a Liberal Unionist, and was seconded by a gentleman who is still an adherent of the Prime Minister—though how long he may remain so is another matter. Scant mention has been made of the boroughs. I should like to offer a few observations as to the Borough Bench of 1161 Southport—a town which gives its name to the Division which I have the honour to represent. The system of appointments hitherto pursued has commonly been that the Chancellor of the Duchy made the appointments upon receipt of suggestions or recommendations from the Member for the borough, presuming him to be of the same political Party. That system imposed a very onerous and high responsibility upon those who were called upon to exercise it. During the time of the late Government I never recommended anyone except upon vacancies occurring through death or removal, and I took an immense amount of trouble to induce Members of the opposite Party to accept nominations. [Laughter. I really do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite should laugh, unless they doubt my word.
The hon. Member knows the town, and he can tell the House that both in 1886 and 1892 it was as I have stated. Last summer, for example, the five gentlemen appointed on my recommendation wore three Conservatives, one Gladstonian Liberal, and one Liberal Unionist. I may say that I found great difficulty in inducing gentlemen belonging to the Party opposite to accept nomination. When the right hon. Gentleman came into Office the Bench at Southport were almost evenly divided in politics. Notwithstanding this, and although vacancies had been filled up by the appointments of a few months before, the right hon. Gentleman in a moment added eight new names, and tried to add a ninth to the Bench. But of what complexion were those eight gentlemen? Did the right hon. Gentleman approach any Liberal Unionist or Conservative in the town? Did he follow my example r Those eight gentlemen were Gladstonians, pure and simple. [Cheers.] That exhibition of partisanship on the part of the right hon. Gentleman seems to meet with approval from his friends below the Gangway. The Bench of Southport, instead of being pretty evenly divided as it was before the right hon. Gentleman came into Office, now stands thus—Gladstonians 19, Conservatives 11, Liberal Unionists 2. Yet this political Puritan comes down to the House——
The right hon. Gentleman says I am quite wrong. It is a mere question of fact, and we can soon settle it. I have made a statement to which I adhere, and I challenge him to prove the incorrectness of that statement. The right hon. Gentleman comes down, in face of these facts, to take away the power of the Lord Lieutenant—a power which has been exercised with scrupulous fairness, for mere suspicion of a partiality of which I have shown him to be flagrantly guilty himself. I desire now to remind him of the statement of one of his most eminent colleagues. The Times of March 23rd last contained an account of the reception by the Lord Chancellor of a deputation that waited upon him in reference to appointments of Justices. Lord Herschell stated the principles which had guided his own conduct in this matter. He said—The statement of recent appointments should be accompanied by a statement of the condition of the Magisterial Bench at the time that the appointment was made.I have fulfilled that condition this afternoon. And again—I do not think it is well at any time to add a disproportionate number to any Bench. You should have in all the appointments a certain proportion so that you do not swamp the old Bench by a number of new men.That is exactly what his colleague has not done. The Lord Chancellor added—In no case have I placed those of my own political belief in a majority on the Bench.That is exactly what his colleague, the present Chancellor of the Duchy, has done. The Lord Chancellor said—Wherever the numbers have been very near I have appointed Conservatives as well as Liberals.That is exactly what his colleague did not do. And, finally, the Lord Chancellor said—Certainly when T have brought them near, I shall in the future, if I appoint Liberals, appoint Conservatives as well.This his colleague is not likely to be able to do, since whatever balance existed, he has already destroyed. But I would quote just one more 1163 authority, which the Chancellor of the Duchy will perhaps recognise as even a greater authority than the Lord Chancellor—that is the right hon. Gentleman himself. In his published letter he wrote—We must all unite in desiring that politics should have as little as possible to do with appointments to the Bench, but when a glaring disparity exists it is natural that those excluded should feel aggrieved and suspicious.And yet the right hon. Gentleman has considered polities, and politics alone, in his appointments to the Borough Bench. He has thus aroused suspicion by creating the very disparity which he himself deplored. The case I have submitted is one that I think deserves the consideration of the House, for it shows that the right hon. Gentleman has exercised his patronage in a way that calls for the condemnation of this House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, that he found consolation in the fact that there was one individual at least whom the hon. Member for Southport had found unapproachable. The hon. Gentleman reminded him a little of a distinguished man, the Emperor of Germany, in his boundless self-confidence. He had some hesitation in joining in this discussion, although he was a Lancashire Member; and one reason why he had that hesitation was that hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway had shown extraordinary inventive power in discovering urgent questions of great public importance during the present Session, and he had some hesitation in assisting them in standing between the House and great measures of reform that were demanded by the working classes. Not for the first, second, or third time the House was called upon to pass a measure which dealt with the lives, limbs, and homes of hundreds of thousands of families, and it was on this day that hon. Gentlemen thought it right to occupy a considerable portion of the time of the House with as unreal, artificial, and unfounded a complaint as was ever made in that House. What was really at the bottom of this business? It was said that political opinions were no qualification for the Bench. Well, then, they ought not to be a disqualification. His hon. Friend the Member for South Molton had been returned by an overwhelming majority, but it was not until recently that there was a single 1164 Liberal on the Bench. Let them take Essex. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. O'CONNOR
said, he was probably wandering beyond the question, so he would confine himself to Lancashire. The Bench there had been manned for years practically from the members of one political Party. ["No!"] Well, they would soon have the figures, and he thought they would startle the House. It was nearly time that this state of things should be dealt with. He should like to ask how many labour Magistrates Lord Sefton had appointed since he deserted his own Party? ["Oil!"] Did hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on that (the Conservative) side think that because a man was a working man that was a reason for excluding him from administering justice?
§ MR. O'CONNOR
Docs the hon. Gentleman say that working-men have not been excluded from the Bench in this country?
§ MR. O'CONNOR
said, of course the hon. Member for Southport Division (Mr. Curzon) was dealing with Borough Justices. The Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) seemed to think he (Mr. O'Connor) was confining his observations to County Justices.
§ MR. O'CONNOR
said, that was hardly the way in which to conduct a debate, nor was it the way in which to show that working-men had not been excluded from the Bench. If they had not been excluded, how many, he would ask, had been appointed? The whole case was one of class and Party prejudice, and it was time the system was swept away. In his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy had rendered good service to the people by the action he had taken.
MR. R. G. C. MOWBEAY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down evidently knew nothing of the subject at all. He asked whether it was a disqualification that a man was a workman, and he also asked how many workmen Lord Sefton had placed on the Bench?
No. The hon. Member distinctly charged Lord Sefton with keeping working men off the Bench. The Member for Preston was right in saying that workmen were not now qualified for the County Bench. Whether it was right or wrong, there was a certain qualification with regard to the Country Bench, and if the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were anxious to alter the system they would find assistance on his side of the House. Lord Sefton was not responsible for the system, and it was simply Party prejudice which was at the bottom of the attack which had been made upon him. So far as his experience went, it was precisely the same as that of his hon. Friend the Member for Southport. The worst tiling they could do was to make a recommendation to Lord Sefton as a Party politician. They were now asked by the Chancellor of the Duchy to destroy a system which had worked, he believed, fairly. They were told that they should have the figures, and no doubt the preponderance of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists was a very largo one, but that reminded him that among those who were qualified there was a very largo majority of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists. In Lancashire also they had a large majority of Conservative and Liberal Unionist Members of Parliament. They were now asked to transfer the power to the Chancellor of the Duchy, who was essentially a Party man. He would illustrate the present system with the case of the town of Mossley, which was partly in Lancashire, partly in Yorkshire, and partly in Cheshire. In 1888 fourteen names were recommended to the Lord Chancellor, with whom the appointment at that time rested—ten Liberals and four Conservatives. The Lord Chancellor thought that, in a borough of that size, 12 would be amply sufficient, and in the end seven Liberals and five Conservatives were appointed. It might be said that two of the former were Liberal Unionists but he could only reply that they never came to his platform, and, for all he knew, they might not he Liberal Unionists at the present moment. Thev were certainly gentlemen who were associated with the Liberal Party in the old days—the days preceding 1886. 1166 At the close of the last Parliament he believed the Borough Bench of Mossley consisted of seven Conservatives and four Gladstonians, and two Liberal Unionists. An application was made to the then Chancellor of the Duchy to appoint further Magistrates before the Party went out of Office; but he refused, because, he said, there were sufficient Magistrates in number for a borough of that size. But the present Chancellor of the Duchy had not been in Office throe months before he appointed five additional Magistrates, all of his own Party. He thought these cases taken together would show the House that they had good grounds for saying that whether the appointments of the Lord Lieutenant had been perfectly free from Party prejudice or not, they preferred them to the partisan appointments of the Chancellor of the Duchy.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury)
I am sure the Chancellor of the Duchy will feel that in taking the course he has taken he has passed a heavy sentence of condemnation on Lord Sefton. Those who know Lord Sefton know very well that he has never made the appointments on political grounds. Until 188(5 he was a strong Liberal. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] Well, I can assure my right hon. Friend that at that time Lord Sefton was a strong Liberal, but I will not discuss whether he loft the Liberal Party or whether the Liberal Party left him. I must ask that stock should be taken of the number of Liberal Magistrates in 1886, and then you will see what was the proportion of other political opinions. If there was a large proportion of Conservatives, how was it that Lord Sefton, a devoted Liberal, appointed Conservative Magistrates? I think it, arose from this cause. The old statute of Henry V. said that the Magistrates should be appointed from the "most efficient persons in each constituency." That brings into play the property qualification, which answers the objections of hon. Gentlemen on that point. I must say that my experience of Lord Sefton is that he never studied political opinions. I once made two recommendations to Lord Sefton of men who happened to hold sound political opinions—they were, in fact, Liberal Unionists—though I did not make the recommendations on political grounds; but my application was refused, because 1167 it was thought there was no necessity for more Magistrates in the district. we are now discussing whether an improvement is made by asking an official of the Government to take the place of the Lord Lieutenant, who is guided by local reasons. Now, in Bury, in 1892, the late Chancellor of the Duchy appointed two Conservatives, two Liberal Unionists, and two Gladstonian Magistrates, and the Town Council was consulted before the appointments were made. The present Chancellor of the Duchy then came into Office. I think the Bench was pretty full, but the Chancellor appointed eight members, all of whom were Gladtonian Liberals, and without consulting the Town Council. That, was striking so strongly at the precedents that the local Press, which was represented with great ability by a gentleman who was a Liberal candidate strongly imbued with Party feeling, condemned in strong terms the action of the right hon. Gentleman, because it displayed partisanship that could not be supported for a moment. I will ask my right hon. Friend to tell me if any statement I have made is correct. No representative body has advised the right hon. Gentleman in his action, and I would point out that there are many people in Lancashire; who do not feel that the right hon. Gentleman has discharged his duty in a manner more free from political bias than the Lord Lieutenant, whom he has condemned, has done.
§ *MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I agree with the hon. Member for the Scotland Division that this is rather a curious case of urgency, and it appeared to me in listening to the Mover, the Seconder, and the hon. Member for Southport, that they felt that themselves, and tried to make up by the vehemence of their language for the want of real urgency in the matter. I do not complain of the subject being brought forward, but for the loss of public time. I think it is a legitimate matter for discussion, but I must express regret that notice was not given me that the question of the Borough Bench was to be raised, as I would then have furnished myself with particulars on that point. First with regard to Bury. When I came into Office there were in Bury 18 Magistrates, 16 of whom supported the late Government—only two being supporters of the present Govern- 1168 ment. What I did was this: I appointed six Liberals and two representatives of the working men, but I am not able to say what are the politics of the latter. The condition of the Bench now, therefore, is that there are 16 opponents of the present Government, eight supporters, and two working men. So much for the right hon. Gentleman. In the borough of Mossley, when I came in, there were nine opponents of the present Government and four supporters; and, being pressed by a gentleman entitled to speak with authority on the point, and being assured that there was need for further appointments, I appointed five. That is to say, I have left the Borough Bench exactly equal, and have not given to my own Party a preponderance on the Bench. Now I come to Southport. The figures given by the hon. Gentleman are totally different from those I possess. In South-port, from the short note I have with me, I find there were 16 opponents of the present Government and nine Liberals. What I have done is to appoint six Liberals and two working-men representatives, thus leaving the Bench consisting of 16 opponents of the present Government, 15 supporters of it, and two working men representatives.
said he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would allow him to correct him, because the figures with which he was supplied was incorrect, He had put before the right hon. Gentleman a copy of the County Council and Municipal Companion for the present year, and taking the list appearing in that book of the names of the gentlemen on the Southport Bench, he made out 19 Liberals, two Liberal Unionists, and 11 Conservatives.
§ MR. BRYCE
The hon. Member has done nothing more than reiterate what I have already said. I cannot detain the House now by scrutinising the names, because I have none of my own data by me wherewith to test what he says. If the hon. Member had told me he was going to raise this question I would have been better prepared, but I am confident the facts I am supplying to the House are correct. The hon. Member has cited the method followed by the Lord Chancellor. I have followed the same method. I did not rely on the representation of the Members of Parliament or candidates 1169 solely, but in every case I bare made it my business to obtain independent, information on the subject, and often I have obtained advice from my political opponents. I think I can best state the general case as regards the Borough Magistrates by repeating some figures I gave at Question time. When I came into Office I found that in the various borough divisions the opponents of the present Government had 507 Borough Magistrates and the supporters of the Government had 159. By the addition which I have made to the Borough Bench I have brought up the number of Liberal Magistrates to something very little over one-half of the number which the opposite Party possess, and the proportion of Liberals to that of the other Party is as 11 to 20. Coming to the question of the County Benches, which is much more important, I will endeavour to deal especially with the speech of the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Legh), since the hon. Member for Preston added little except personal bitterness. The hon. Member said a great deal about the desirability of keeping politics out of Magisterial appointments. I subscribe to that admirable general sentiment, but I want the House to look at the facts. I have been represented as if T had wilfully disturbed the state of peace and contentment which existed in Lancashire. When I came into Office I found an enormous disparity as regards the County Bench. There were 522 opponents of the present Government and only 142 supporters. There were many loud and constant complaints from Members of the Party excluded regarding their exclusion, and if the hon. Member for Southport had had the experience I have had during the last five months he would have known that there is no question which interests and excites the people of Lancashire more than this question of the exclusion of Liberals from the Bench. (Jut of 32 Petty Sessional Divisions there are seven on whose Benches there is not a single Liberal. I was challenged by the hon. Member for Newton to point out what reasons there were for persons of different politics being on the Bench. According to the hon. Member there is no reason why every Magistrate should not be a Conservative. His argument went the length of justifying a complete monopolisation of the Bench by one Party. Let 1170 me suggest some reasons why both Parties ought to be fairly represented. It is a very serious inconvenience when Magistrates of a certain political Party are not to be had within a given area. At election and registration times a great number of declarations have to be given before Magistrates, and I have heard of Magistrates refusing to take declarations from members of the other Party. [Opposition cries of "No!" and "Name!"] I have had such cases mentioned to me, and have been informed that at election or registration time it sometimes happens that the local Magistrates are taken to the club of their own Party, where, naturally, persons of the other Party do not like to go to look for them. I am not stating this as against one Party; for aught I know it may happen alike in both Parties. Again, there are a certain number of questions on which, as every one knows, no doubt Justices belonging to different parties are apt to take somewhat different views—for example, the Licensing Question, the Game Laws, and questions relating to rights of way. Then when any breach of the peace has been committed in any political connection, when there has been an election disturbance, for instance, and the accused is brought up, it is eminently desirable that the Bench should contain members of both political Parties. I do not accuse the Magistrates of Lancashire of any want of fairness or uprightness, far from it: but the Magistrates there and elsewhere should be above even the possibility of suspicion, and I say that not only by the selection of fair and impartial men, but by securing proper and adequate representation of both political Parties, must any such suspicion of partiality be avoided. It is sometimes said that the present disturbance of the balance of the Magisterial Bench is due to the schism which unhappily occurred in the Liberal Party in 1886. But if you examine the appointments made for some years before 1886 you will find that the proportion of those appointments was 55 Conservatives to 45 Liberals. Since 1886 the proportion is something more than 80 per cent. Conservatives to 20 per cent. Liberals, and it is largely owing to this great recent inequality that the total disparity is so striking. ["No!"] The Member for Preston 1171 may deny that. I have gone into the matter fully. I have examined three different sets of returns of Magistrates' political opinions that have been sent to mo from different quarters, and that is the result I have arrived at.
§ MR. HANBURY
rose, hut Mr. BRYCE declined to give way, and the two Members remained standing for some time amid loud cries of "Order!" from the Ministerial Benches.
§ *MR. BRYCE
The hon. Member did say that at the time, and need not have risen again to repeat it, but I must remind him that there was no official statement. I know the statement he refers to, but it cannot be called official. Another objection is made that there are many parts of the country where there are no Liberals possessing the necessary qualification. That is an argument which I have no doubt has some weight in some counties, but Lancashire is a very peculiar county. Most of the area, and seven-eighths of the population outside the boroughs is really urban; there are a large number of men engaged in manufactures, and there are few districts where it is not possible to find, on both sides of politics, people who are qualified. in the Manchester Petty Sessional Division at present the proportion is, I am informed, six Liberal Magistrates to 30, who are opponents of the Government; and in Rossendale, whose political complexion we have all good reason to know, out of a Bench of 23 Magistrates, only two are Liberals. In these districts surely an adequate number of duly-qualified and perfectly competent Liberals can be found. The gross disparity cannot, therefore, be accounted for by the absence of fit men on the Liberal side. The hon. Member for Preston has accused me of knowing nothing about Lancashire. I can assure the hon. Member that I know that county far better than any other part of England, for on behalf of a Royal Commission, 28 years ago, I explored every nook and corner of the county, and 1172 have had, ever since, opportunities of knowing the condition of the county, and of obtaining information regarding it, and of making friends in it, which can have fallen to the lot of very few persons who do not permanently reside there. In the state of facts I have described, I was obliged to ask myself what ought to be done. It seemed to me that the experiment made in 1870 might fairly be described as a failure. It had totally failed to secure a fair representation of both Parties; it had produced not peace and confidence, but discontent and exasperation. Lord Sefton has assured me that he had not made his appointments on political grounds. I have no charge to bring against Lord Sefton, and, of course, I accept his assurance; but, at the same time, it is abundantly clear that Lord Sefton in fact, even if unconsciously, did make political appointments, and for this reason: that he relied too Largely on I he Local Benches of Magistrates, the members of which were in the habit of recommending their own political friends. I would, however, like to make an exception of the Bolton Bench. In Bolton the Magistrates have gone on the principle of endeavouring to preserve the balance of Parties, and a very fail-balance has been preserved. If all the Benches in Lancashire had acted in the same way, there would be no fault to find. Well, in the circumstances I have described the question arose—What should be done? The matter was very carefully considered, first, by myself, and then by my colleagues also, and we came to the conclusion that we must pronounce the experiment of 1870 to have been discredited by experience and must revoke the Memorandum of 1870. But, first of all, I gave Lord Sefton an opportunity of rectifying the disparity. Lord Sefton met my suggestion, although with a negative, in a spirit of perfect courtesy; but he refused to comply, and there was then no course left to me but to revoke the Memorandum. I saw an injustice; I had the power to rectify it; I conceived that it was my duty to rectify it, and to endeavour to secure the confidence of the people in the local administration of justice by removing any possible ground for suspicion. No one desires less than I do that the Magisterial Bench should become in any way a subject of partisanship. My hope 1173 is, and my effort will be, to exclude partisanship, and such suspicion of it as may now exist. I believe I have completely vindicated my action, and I hope when the present Government retire, and others sit on these Benches—I hope then all these admirable professions of a desire to exclude politics from the Magisterial Bench will be remembered and acted upon. If any Member of the House will suggest to mo any means of avoiding political appointments, any means of securing that the appointments shall be made by some wholly impartial authority who will set politics entirely on one side, I will be very glad to carefully consider such a suggestion; but I feel sure that what I have done so far will be approved by the opinion of all impartial men, and all the more so because public opinion in this country will not, since the creation of local representative government in the counties, any longer acquiesce in the exercise of such important functions by a totally irresponsible person.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford),
who rose amid cries of "Divide!'' from the Ministerial Benches, said: If the House will allow, me I will not detain it beyond a few moments. On the question before us there seems to be a great divergence as to facts between the right hon. Gentleman and Members on this side of the House; but, having heard the right hon. Gentleman, I think there will be a very general and widespread feeling on both sides of the House that a weaker defence of an arbitrary exercise of authority—which, after all, might be, very brief—has seldom been offered to the House by a Minister. The right hon. Gentleman will admit, that this question is a perfect legitimate one to to raise——
§ MR. CHAPLIN
It would be impossible to raise it any other way, as the Government have taken over all the time of the Session. One of the reasons given for this change is that there was a difference of opinion between Magistrates on the Bench—a difference, I presume, about the Game Laws, licences, and such matters. There was a difference of opinion before 1886; but since then the right hon. Gentleman, and not the Magistrates, has changed his opinion. The right hon. Gentleman admits the 1174 difficulty of getting Magistrates of his own way of thinking, and he admits that Lord Sefton never intended to make appointments on political grounds; but, at the same time, he says that Lord Sefton did so unconsciously, because he relied on the opinions of the County Bench. The House has before it Lord Sefton's statement that he had never made an appointment on political grounds, and I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to give the House some ground for saving that Lord Sefton's appointments were political appointments. What are the facts before the House? It appears that the system of appointing Magistrates prior to 1870 on purely Party grounds had degenerated at that time into an abuse. So great was the abuse that the Cabinet decided to make a change.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Then I will take leave to refer the right hon. Gentleman to the correspondence conducted by Lord Dufferin and Colonel Wilson Patten. Lord Dufferin says—I have, however, to inform your Lordships that it is intended by Her Majesty's Government"—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
I must enter my protest against the idea that whenever in official correspondence the phrase "Her Majesty's Government" is used it signifies the assent of the Members of the Cabinet.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Then are we to take it that Lord Dufferin's letter was written against the decision of the Cabinet? Not only was it the deliberate decision of the Government, but it was concurred in by Lord Derby, the Leader of the Conservative Party. The arrangement made then had lasted for 20 years; and it is only since 1886 that complaints have arisen as to the disparity between Liberal and Conservative Magistrates. Prior to that year the Magistrates in Lancashire and elsewhere were in a position satisfactory to the Government; and if, whenever the Prime Minister and his Party think it necessary to change their opinions upon matters of vital importance, fresh batches of Magistrates are to be appointed, the thing will be interminable, and the whole population will become 1175 Magistrates. The sole ground for the change that, is now made is the Memorial sent to the Chancellor of the Duchy. The Lord Lieutenant has pointed out that nearly all who signed that Memorial are townsmen. I fully confirm what has been said by my hon. Friends of Lord Sefton, and I can confirm it from a private letter written to myself, and which I will take the liberty of quoting to the House. Lord Sefton writes to me—I have never made an appointment in my life upon political grounds, or as a reward for Party services.I do not believe you can find a. Lord Lieutenant who more carefully examines into the fitness of those whom he appoints. Yet the Government deliberately reverts to a system which has been tried, and which failed when it was tried. They profess to be anxious that the appointments should be made irrespective of political considerations, and then, by the way of showing their consistency, they propose that 39 appointments should be made in Lancashire on political grounds. Lord Sefton said that, even if he was requested to do so, he would not add to the Bench of Magistrates unnecessarily for the purpose of giving representation to political opinions. The Government, however, now return to a system of political jobbery of the most mischievous and regrettable description. I think my hon. Friend behind me is entitled to the thanks of the country for raising this question.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 186; Noes 260.—(Division List, No. 61.)