HC Deb 05 May 1893 vol 12 cc258-300
*SIR CHARLES W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

rose to call attention to the appointment of Justices of the Peace, and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the appoinment of County Magistrates should no longer be made by the Lords Chancellor of Great Britain and Ireland for the time being only on the recommendation of the Lords Lieutenant. He stated that he should make his remarks as brief as he could, as his hon. Friends were anxious to obtain the decision of the House. The present custom of the appointment of Magistrates was that the Lords Lieutenant nominated, but there was a custom within the custom by which the Lords Lieutenant generally consulted the local Bench. That custom did not rest on law. The Chancellor could change it, and could himself appoint without the nomination of the Lords Lieutenant. The effect of the custom was to confine the Bench in many counties to a select group of friends. A Derbyshire antiquary, a friend of his, had informed him that successive Dukes of Devonshire, acting as Lords Lieutenant of Derbyshire, had wished to appoint millers, maltsters, persons of other classes than those now almost exclusively represented, and had been met by the County Bench with the statement that, while the candidates were admirably qualified in every other respect, their social position was such that it was unwise to bring them on to the Bench; and successive Dukes of Devonshire, from the middle of the last century to early in the present century, were shown by their letters to have yielded to such representations. He feared that 'this concession to the local feeling of a select class still continued. The present Chancellor was a moderate man; and in receiving a deputation upon this subject, he had lately stated that the "constitution of the Bench" in many counties was "extremely unsatisfactory" and "prejudicial to the public interest." Lords Lieutenant, he had pointed out, were, he feared, often "too much in the hands of the local Bench;" and the present system in many counties was virtually one of co-optation subject to "political proclivities." The Chancellor asked for a Resolution of the repre- sentative House, in order that his hands might be strengthened in advising Lords Lieutenant to open the doors wider. The Chancellor could, of course, not only appoint from the present time without any change of law, but he could clear the existing Bench. He could advise the issue of new commissions and the discharge of all not included in them. But he would not take that course. He had, in fact, not been even asked to take it. The Chancellor was not only himself a moderate man, but he was right in his moderation under the circumstances of the case. How stood the facts? A great distinction must be drawn between the County of London and other counties of England and Wales and Scotland. He could not speak of Ireland, because the Magistrates in Ireland possessed far fewer powers. London differed greatly from the rest of the country. In parts of London more Magistrates were wanted, but no one cared whether they were Liberal or Conservative. He had been repeatedly concerned in pressing for the appointment of more Magistrates in the parish of Chelsea and in the parish of Fulham, because there were too few, who worked, to get through the work at present; and those for whom he had been most strongly pressing were persons—such as some of those who had, when he was Chairman of his Board of Guardians, greatly assisted him in the work—who happened to be Conservatives. In the parish of Fulham much difficulty had been found in discharging the work of Magistrates connected with lunacy, through the want of local Magistrates; and the Duke of Westminster had now placed upon the Bench the County Councillors and others, entirely irrespectively of politics, for the purpose of getting through the work. Elsewhere there were enough Magistrates, providing that they were the right men; but, virtually, in large parts of the country, they were only landowners, and of the landowners only those of one Party and one Church. In some counties the Lords Lieutenant admirably discharged their duties; for example, Lord Bath in Wiltshire, to name a member of the Party to which he was himself opposed; but in others the Bench was packed in such a way as to destroy public confidence. In his own division, and the counties which adjoined it—the rest of the County of Gloucester, the Counties of Worcester and Hereford and Moumouth—the Liberal Party had a considerable majority of electors, but the Bench was 22 to 1 against them. It might be thought that, to use the language of their opponents, what they called the best of the Liberal Party having lately joined the Conservatives, it was through this loss of Liberal Unionists that such results had been brought about. That was not so. The number of Liberal Unionist Magistrates in those counties was very small; and, although some were called Liberal Unionists who had been pretty steady supporters of the Conservative Party long before Home Rule was heard of, yet, giving to the other side every doubtful, the Conservatives were 10 to 1 against the Liberals and Liberal Unionists combined. In the county which he had the honour to represent there were only nine Magistrates who voted Liberal last time, or were likely to on the next occasion, against 267 Magistrates on the other side. Yet the Liberal Party had a considerable majority of the electorate even at the Election of 1892, a majority which would be increased if they counted the recent figures at a bye-election. It might 1M; said that the Liberals had no men who could be placed upon the list. No doubt there were more Conservatives who came up to the standard of the qualification than there were Liberals; but fitting Liberals were not wanting, and he was himself engaged in adding to the Land Tax list the names of Commissioners who possessed the qualification in land in the county who would make admirable members of the County Bench. One, for example, was a Baptist minister, held in the highest respect throughout the country, who was not on the Bench, although admirably qualified, simply because it was not the custom to place Nonconformist ministers upon it. Another was a large landowner, a man of business, who had bought one of the finest places in the county, and who, if he had happened to be an opponent of the present Government, would have been placed upon the Bench the day he bought it. Others were managers of great works who had bought land in the district. Another was a Radical farmer of great authority in the agricultural classes, and one of the most progressive farmers in the county; and, in addition, there were considerable numbers of traders in the towns, such as timber merchants, auctioneers, and others, who would be well fitted for the post, and whose appointment would command local confidence. In the next county to that which he represented there was a County Alderman who had been twice elected to that honourable post by a unanimous vote, but who, although an old resident in the county, had not been placed upon the Bench, for no apparent reason except that he was a Liberal and a Nonconformist. He would mention any of the names privately to any Member of the House on either side, but he did not like to cause annoyance to anyone by giving names in his speech. He did not wish to say a word against the existing Magistrates. No one who had long sat, as he had sat, on Local Bodies, both as an ex officio member and as an elective member along with ex officio members, would depreciate the services of the existing Magistrates to the community. If they had no other title to the respect of their fellow-subjects except the work they did in lunacy—the most dangerous, and, with the exception of the work in imbecility cases done by the Chairmen of Boards of Guardians, the most unpleasant of all local government work—these services were a sufficient title to commendation. He mentioned lunacy, because it was not only trying work, but it was the only work connected with local government which he himself had never done, he having been relieved of it by some of his colleagues, to whom he desired to pay all honour. Such dissatisfaction as existed was chiefly reasonable, so far as it concerned certain limited, but yet important, branches of the duties of Magistrates. There was reasonable dissatisfaction with regard to the political use at present made of the power to nominate to the Bench. There was also reasonable dissatisfaction with regard to a part of the Petty Sessional jurisdiction, which had been lately increased by the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879. The cases which caused the most hostility were masters' and servants' cases, poaching cases, public-house licences, and the appointment of Overseers, but this last only in some districts. With regard to the political use of the power of nomination, he would name privately to any hon. Member the cases of two gentlemen who had come at the same time into the same county, neither of whom had previously been known as politicians. They were both men who had made fortunes in business; they were both men in all respects fit to be on the Bench. One proved to have Conservative leanings, and he was at once placed on the Bench. The other proved to be a supporter of the policy of the present Government, although not a Party Liberal, and he, the owner of the larger property, had not been placed upon the Bench. As regards masters and servants and poaching cases, it was difficult to fully restore public confidence in the administration of the law so long as the qualification was retained, as it was, of course, retained under the present Motion. In districts which were urban, although outside of boroughs, the application of the factory legislation by Benches, which consisted chiefly of masters, led to much complaint. He knew a case, for example, in which a clear charge under one of the Factory Acts was brought against a master who was a member of the Bench, and was heard by only three Magistrates, all three of whom were masters in the same trade. In poaching cases he could name a case where, there being great doubt about the facts, a pheasant had been taken by a gipsy from the property of the Chairman of the Bench, who left the chair while the case was heard, but sat at the side and examined the witnesses, and talked all the while to his brother Magistrates. They were all also game preservers in the same district. As regarded public-house licensing, he could name a case where, the Chairman of the Bench being a brewer, undue regard had been paid to his opinion by his brother members—although he did not, of course, sit at Licensing Sessions—and a licence granted, which was not needed, against an almost unanimous local opinion. The brewer and the great majority of the Bench wore Conservative, but so was the Local Board, and so were the majority of the Overseers and Churchwardens; and yet the Local Board, the Overseers, and Churchwardens had all appeared against the licence. With regard to the appointment of Overseers, there were many districts in which the Magistrates in- variably accepted the choice of the locality. But there were startling cases the other way. In the case of a parish near Southampton, within three years of the present date, two gentlemen had been elected Overseers on a show of hands at the Parish Vestry as against two others, there being no difference between them except on Party politics. The parish had been polled, and, in spite of the plural vote of property, the same two who had won the show of hands had been returned upon a poll. The matter was taken to the Magistrates, and they struck out the names of the two presented to them by the parish, and appointed the other two who had been twice defeated. In another case, which he could name, the Magistrates having a strong opinion against a publican, of whatever position and of character, however high, acting as Overseer of the Poor, and a parish of 100,000 people having returned two Overseers to them, the name of one of the two was struck out, under a mistaken impression that he was another gentleman, who was, in fact, a very popular publican, whose appointment would have been a very natural one had it, in fact, taken place on that occasion. It might be thought that the Local Government (England) Bill would get rid of this difficulty about the Overseers; but that was not the case, for the provisions with regard to Overseers applied only to some parishes, and all the most important parishes in the country were left by the Bill in their present relations to the Bench of Magistrates with regard to the appointment of Overseers. None of these difficulties could be fully remedied without the abolition of the qualification. But by placing upon the Bench, under the present Resolution, men taken from a somewhat wider field, it would be possible to put on those in whom the workmen would have confidence in masters' and servants' cases in industrial districts; and, with regard to poaching cases, to bring in men in rural districts who would neither be game preservers nor in close social relations with game preservers. As regarded licensing and the appointment of Overseers, the Benches would be more in touch with local opinion. The larger question was not raised by the present Resolution. It concerned only the mode of choice, given the qualification. The qualification, he feared, was not always observed at present. But breaches of the principle were always upon one side He knew a case where a gentleman who had served for the whole of his long life as a Magistrate, had never possessed the qualification, or, at all events, not within the memory of man; and another gentleman had been excluded, who was a Liberal, although his qualification was a better one, and although he represented the oldest family in the district, and lived on the land which his ancestors had owned since the 14th century He thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Maden) could name a case which was as startling. Under the Resolution, the qualification remaining the County Bench would still in most cases be Conservative. The vast preponderance, he admitted, of those who were likely to be placed upon it in rural districts were Conservatives. Those eligible would still be chiefly county gentlemen, and he did not pretend to deny that the great majority of county gentlemen were Conservatives. His speech had been but brief, because, as he had begun by saying, the case must essentially remain there where in his careful speech the present very moderate Lord Chancellor had put it. But his short speech was intended to secure that the opinion of the House should be pronounced upon their Resolution, and he made no doubt but that the House would carry it.


seconded the Resolution with great satisfaction, and was glad that it applied to Ireland as well as to England, Scotland, and Wales. But he regretted that there should have been any necessity for the Resolution at all. The question was purely one of administration, and all that they were asking was that the Government should carry out the law. The Statute of Henry VIII. states distinctly that the King should appoint the Magistrates; and however convenient it might have been to hand over that duty to the Lords Lieutenant, and however long that custom might have been in use, it was irregular, illegal, and had been most unfortunate in its application. The expression "the king" now meant the Crown as advised by the Lord Chancellor, and he had no hesitation in saying that the Crown had no right to shirk or to hand over to Lords Lieutenant or anyone else the duty confided to it by an Act of Parliament. He could not, and did not, object to the Crown getting whatever assistance it could in selecting Magistrates from either Lords Lieutenant or any other persons who might have local knowledge of the persons who might be nominated. This Resolution, and the representations that had been made to the Lord Chancellor, was not so much an attack upon Lords Lieutenant as an insistance upon the right of the Crown to appoint County Magistrates without the intervention of anyone. At the present moment practically the Lords Lieutenant appointed these Magistrates; and the Crown, notwithstanding the Act of Parliament to the contrary, merely did what the Lords Lieutenant allowed it to do; and the Lords Lieutenant illegally actually claim the right to appoint Magistrates. These were the facts of the present state of things, and the position of the Crown in the matter was both absurd and ridiculous. Well, he was sure that he was right in asserting that Magistrates should represent, and be taken from, all classes of the people. What had been the result of this unfortunate custom which had grown up, and which the Lord Chancellor desired the assistance of the Resolution to remove? The result had been that we found the Magistrates nearly all selected from one class or political Party and one creed or sect. He had no time now to give the figures to the House, but he was within the mark in saying that more than 90 per cent. of the present County Magistrates belonged to the Party opposing— the Liberal and Radical Party—which in this country represent progress and civil and religions liberty to all classes and sects. A very large amount of information had been sent to him, showing how unfair the constitution of the present country Benches was. He could only to-night say that it conclusively showed that at the present time they had a state of tilings which was intolerable in a free country. Though he did not wish unduly to occupy the time of the House, he supposed he ought to state how this matter affected the constituency he represented. In the County of Peterborough there were 42 Magistrates, and only one was a Liberal. They had sent the Lord Lieutenant a list of eligible gentlemen. They did not ask for 41 Magistrates so as to make themselves equal with the Conservatives; all they asked was that 10 fully-qualified persons should be appointed, and the Lord Lieutenant refused to nominate one of them. He hoped the Tory Party would have the good sense to accept the Resolution, which was a very moderate one. They did not wish to make these appointments political; they desired to put a stop to the present practice and to allow all parties to be represented. He could not at that time refer to the appointment and qualification of Magistrates, but he preferred that Magistrates should be elected by the people, and 700 years' experience supported that view. The City of London had produced the best Bench of Magistrates in the country, and the only Bench about which no complaints had been made in that House. The City Magistrates were elected by exactly the same constituencies as the Common Council, and by the Ballot. He had noticed that queer abuses existed in towns. A trader on one side of the street was appointed a Magistrate because he was a Tory. A trader on the other side of the street, though perhaps in a much better position, was rejected if he happened to be a Liberal, or, worse still, a Nonconformist, He claimed for all parties and all sects, and especially for the industrial classes, the right to be represented on the Magisterial Bench, and was confident that the more democratic they made the Bench the better and purer it would be.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the appointment of County Magistrates should no longer be made by the Lords Chancellor of Great Britain and Ireland for the time being only on the recommemdation of the Lords Lieutenant,"—(Sir Charles W. Dilke) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

SIR J. DORINGTON (Gloucester, Tewkesbury)

, who had the following Amendment on the Paper, but was precluded from moving, to omit from the Resolution all the words after "House," in order to insert— The present system of appointing County Justices has worked to the advantage of the country, and has created a body of men whose decisions have been recognised as just and impartial by all classes, said the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean left matters, with regard to the appointment of Magistrates, very much as they were, because the Lord Chancellor at the present time had the right to rectify the evils he might find in the appointments made by the Lords Lieutenant. Of course, there should be a strong case before the Lord Chancellor acted over the head of the Lord Lieutenant, and no doubt the object of the Resolution was to induce the Lord Chancellor to exercise that power more freely. He ventured to say that if the Lord Chancellor acted as the right hon. Baronet proposed, it was bound to be the death of the present system of appointing Magistrates. That system had worked well, and very much better than any system which was likely to be introduced. He had for a long time been connected with county affairs in Gloucestershire, and had there been any real dissatisfaction with regard to the composition of the County Bench, he would have heard it before last November, when this agitation began. He believed it to be a mechanical agitation, not founded on any real grievance. It was said there were too many Magistrates 'who did not hold the political opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite. But what had political opinion to do with the Magistracy? Ever since he had been head of the Magistrates of Gloucestershire the Magistrates had never regarded themselves as a political body, and in the choice of persons to fill important public offices they had paid no regard to politics. Largely Conservative as the county was, at all events in the Magistracy and among the upper classes, his immediate predecessor in the office he held was a Radical, who had sat in that House as a supporter of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. He was elected by the free vote of the Magistrates, not because he was a Radical, but because they believed he was a man fit to fill the post; and when he succeeded that gentleman he was elected, not because he was a Tory, but because it was thought he was suited for the place. His lieutenants had been drawn regardless of their politics, and that represented the really healthy condition of a Bench. The House was now asked to create a Bench which should be essentially partisan, the members of which would be appointed by the different parties because they were their own supporters. All ideas of fairness and justice would thus be removed; and the Bench, which ought to be perfectly pure and free from all political considerations, would immediately become a scene of faction, and certainly would not have the same tone of honour as that which it displaced. It was not altogether unknown to the House how, in former days, politics affected the judicial decisions of the House. At one time Election Petitions were tried by vote of the House. Subsequently a scheme for the trial of the Petitions was adopted, under which it was hoped, that Party feeling would be eliminated; but it was equally unsuccessful. In 1868 the House came to the conclusion that it was too much animated by Party spirit to discharge judicial functions, and it transferred these functions to hands to which no motive of Party could properl attach. That was the position of the County Magistrates at the present time —they could not be suspected of Party feeling. He had some reason to say that, because in his own county the Lord Lieutenant was not of his own political opinions, though the Home Secretary had repudiated him as belonging to his Party. The Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire considered himself as attached to the Liberal Party and his son had sat for a long time in the House as a supporter of the Liberal Party. At the present time, no doubt, he and the Lord Lieutenant were on the same side in politics. [Ministerial laughter.] Hon. Members opposite were entirely wrong if they thought the appointments, of the great mass of the Magistrates of Gloucestershire were due to political predilections. The majority of them, it was true, belonged to the Conservative Party, but they had been appointed by a Liberal Lord Lieutenant because he had thought them the men best fitted to administer justice. [Cries of "Oh!"] He main- tained, despite the jeers of hon. Members opposite, that, as far as his own experience went, County Magistrates had always been appointed on account of their fitness. He believed that if the appointments to the County Bench were placed in the hands of gentlemen who had not the responsibility which now attached to the Lord Lieutenant the same state of things would prevail on that Bench that now-existed on the Borough Benches, and the appointments would be purely political. The late Lord Chancellor was most anxious that all the appointments to the County Bench should be absolutely independent of politics. Undoubtedly in his own county Lord Halsbury's appointments had been equally balanced, the Justices being selected from both Parties. The Chancellor of the Duchy prided himself upon putting things right, and had put an immense number of Radicals upon the County Bench. If hon. Members opposite made the change suggested, that would involve the abolition of the existing system, and such a change would be a fatal one. He hoped that the House of Commons, jealous as it was of the good name of the country, would not act hurriedly in this matter, nor after a three hours' Debate pass such a Resolution as this, which would give the appointment of County Magistrates to the Lord Chancellor, who could not be as well qualified as the Lord Lieutenant to judge of the fitness of the gentlemen appointed, and which would undoubtedly lead to the tainting of the County Bench with political partisanship.

*MR. J. WILSON (Lanark, Govan)

said, that in Scotland they could not say that either a man's position or his religious faith were a disqualification for the office of a Justice of the Peace; but, all the same, it was rather a strange thing that three-fourths of the Magistrates were Tories and Unionists. In his own Division, which had a population of 63,000, there were four Resident Justices of the Peace, of whom three were Tories and one, who had been a Unionist, was now a Liberal. Two of these four Magistrates were absent in Glasgow all the day attending to their private business, and, therefore, not available in Govan. He had called the attention of the Lord Lieutenant of Lanark to the want of Magistrates in the county: and as the same state of things prevailed throughout Scotland, he hoped the Lords Lieutenant of all the counties in that country would bestir themselves. He was glad the matter had been brought before the House, and he should support the Motion of the right hon. Baronet.

*MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)

said, that this Motion, if it: meant anything, meant an attack upon the Lords Lieutenant of the country for the manner in which they had appointed the County Justices. He had probably as large an acquaintance with this question as any hon. Member in the House. He had been Chairman of Quarter Sessions in his county for 22 years, and had dealings with three different Lords Lieutenant. The county for which he had been elected Chairman of Quarter Sessions was the most Radical county in England, and he thought that that incident might be taken as a good sign that politics were not the motive power in the appointment of the Magistrates of the county. His experience in that county convinced him that the present system was the very best that could be pursued. When additional Magistrates were required the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions represented the matter to the Lord Lieutenant, who made appointments to the Bench with the utmost impartiality, as far as politics were concerned. [Ironical cheers and laughter.] Perhaps hon. Members opposite could not think that it was possible to make appointments without being influenced by political bias. All he could say was that the most fit persons were appointed. There was a very large number of Magistrates in the county with whose politics he had no acquaintance whatever. But what was suggested now? That instead of the appointments being made by the Lords Lieutenant, who had made them impartially, they were to be made in future by the Lord Chancellor for political considerations. Would hon. Members opposite deny that the appointments by the Lord Chancellor in the boroughs had not been political. appointments? They were political appointments. By whatever side in politics the appointments in boroughs were made they were always political appointments, and it would be an evil day for England if political appointments wore made on the same scale in the counties. Did hon. Members opposite intend that these appointments should partake of a political character in the future? Had not the present Lord Chancellor made political appointments to the Bench? The late Lord Chancellor had done his best to keep a fair balance in making these appointments. Before the late Government left Office he was urged to send up the names of several gentlemen of his own political colour to the Lord Chancellor to be made Magistrates; but he refused, partly on his own account and partly because he had always found that Lord Halsbury had been determined to keep a fair balance between the two Parties. The very last appointments made by Lord Halsbury were made in Harrogate. One of the gentlemen appointed was a Conservative, one had been a Liberal, but what his politics now were he did not know, and three were out-and-out Radicals. But what was the state of things under the present Lord Chancellor? The other day Lord Herschell had appointed four Radicals to the Bench at Ripon without appointing a single Conservative or Liberal Unionist. Were those appointments fair? At Leeds, again, where there was a Bench of 63 Magistrates, the noble Lord had appointed 11 Radicals and only two Conservatives to the Bench, neither of the latter being asked as to their willingness to serve, and one of whom had previously declined to accept the appointment. Was this what they had to expect in the future? Lord Herschell was invited to follow the example of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; but if that example were followed by future Lord Chancellors he was sorry for the name and fame of England. He declared, without fear of contradiction, that the Benches appointed by the Lords Lieutenant had done their work well in the past; and if the old system were to be abolished, and if the appointments were to be made political, the result would be that Stipendiary Magistrates would have to be appointed at an enormous cost to the country. [Ministerial Cheers.] He was sorry to hear that cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite; but then the policy of the Radical Government was a policy of extravagance and expense. He hoped that, the Motion would be rejected, and that the Benches of England would continue to be nominated in the same way as heretofore.

*MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

said, he desired to make a few remarks with regard to the County Benches in Wales, and particularly his own county of Flintshire. Whatever the last speaker might have thought would be the results in England of a change in the method of appointing Magistrates, he could assure the House that they could not be worse than under the present system in Wales. Wales suffered far more keenly and far more unjustly in this respect than England. In England, at all events, the Magistrates, whatever their politics might be, and the people, belonged to the same race and spoke the same language; but in Wales, unfortunately, Magistrates belonged to one race and the people to another. The Magistrates spoke one language; and, speaking broadly and generally, the people used another language; and he was afraid that the Magistrates seldom or never took the trouble to acquire the language of those to whom they were expected to dispense justice. An Anglo - Indian Magistrate was obliged to know the language of the people to whom he dispensed justice; but in Wales it was too often the case that the Magistrates took pride in being ignorant of the language of the people. He considered that every nation had an inherent right to have justice administered to it in its own language, but, so far as Wales was concerned, all they asked for was that a due proportion of the Magistrates should be able to speak the language of the people. Previous speakers had alluded to the disqualification under which Nonconformists laboured under the existing system of appointing Magistrates. In Wales the preponderance of Nonconformists was enormous, and yet nearly all the Magistrates belonged to the Established Church. Then, with regard to the political grievance which had been spoken of in England, he could assure the House that that grievance was intensified in Wales. Wales was Liberal to the backbone, but the Magistracy was just as Conservative as Wales was Liberal. To give an illus- tration respecting one political question. The great majority of the inhabitants of Wales were strongly opposed to the present licensing system; but in that House, a few days ago, only one Member from Wales ventured to vote against the Welsh Local Veto Bill introduced by the Member for the Carmarthen Boroughs. On that subject, the Magistracy were in favour of the existing licensing system, and were entirely opposed to the wishes of the people. The Magistracy in the County of Flint was alien—he used the word in no offensive sense—in race, language, religion, and politics. Although Flintshire was a border county, two-thirds of the population spoke Welsh, but out of 90 Magistrates in Flintshire only 15 spoke the Welsh language, and there wore only eight supporters of the present Government. The hon. Member for the Southport Division waxed indignant the other night as to the composition of the Southport Bench; but accepting the figures of the hon. Member, if it was wrong that there should be a small Liberal majority on the Bench at Southport, was it right that there should be an enormous Tory majority on the Bench in Flintshire? Up to six years ago there was not a single Nonconformist Magistrate in Flintshire. A number of names had been submitted to the Lord Lieutenant of Nonconformists who had spent all their lives in the county, and were a hundred times better qualified than the strangers and squirelings who had been pitchforked on to the Bench, but the Lord Lieutenant absolutely refused to appoint them. This question was raised in 1887, and the only reply by the then Home Secretary was that there was no qualified Nonconformist. He could find no Parliamentary language whatever to characterise that statement. He could only say there were plenty of Nonconformists qualified for that position. But at last one Conservative Nonconformist was found, and he was forthwith appointed, although he had only resided in a seaside resort in the county for a short time, and had done, so far as he was aware, absolutely nothing for the county, and a short time after his appointment he left the county. The next Nonconformist put on the County Bench was himself; but he need not say it was not by the favour of the Lord Lieutenant, but because he was Chairman of the County Council. At the present time, five Nonconformists out of 93 Magistrates were on the County Bench. That was an object lesson of how Nonconformity was tolerated in Wales that the House would do well to remember. He did not assume for a moment that Nonconformity or Liberalism, as such, had any right whatever to be represented on the Bench; but he said that Liberalism and Nonconformity ought not to be made a disqualification. The County Council comprised men of every shade of opinion belonging to all sects, parties, and creeds, and it had this question before it on two occasions. On the first occasion it condemned the existing system of appointment with one dissentient only. In September last the matter again came up, and on that occasion the system was condemned without a single dissentient voice. It would be quite impossible for him to lay before the House a more conclusive argument, so far as Flintshire was concerned, than the one he had put before them. He came to Parliament with a mandate from the County Council and from the constituency he represented to speak upon that question; and he asked the House, in the name of a country which had long and patiently—too long and too patiently —tolerated many grievances such as the one he had described, to pass his Resolution.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

The House will not be surprised, I am sure, to learn that the people of Ireland take a very special interest in the subject of this Resolution. The question of the Magistracy is a burning question in Ireland. I think I will be believed when I assert that there is no fact which forces itself more strongly upon the attention of any intelligent man who visits Ireland with the intention of inquiring into the social troubles of that country than that what lies at the root, possibly more than anything else, of all the troubles of Ireland is that you have never been able to establish any bond of sympathy between the Executive Government and the administration of the law and the people of the country. It is not alone the denial of a legislative machine truly representative of the people of Ireland which has been at the bottom of the intensity of the demand for Home Rule, which is pressed upon this Parliament from Ireland. I have always contended that if it were possible for this House, as it might conceivably be, to legislate for Ireland in accordance with the wishes of the people of Ireland you would not get rid of the demand for Home Rule, for, whatever way you legislate in this House, the administration of the law in Ireland is not in harmony with the people of that country. The administration of the law, which comes home more than anything else to the lives of the people, is now, even under the present Chief Secretary, though happily to a much less extent than in times past, owing to the instruments which he is obliged to use in Ireland, not entirely in harmony with the people of that country; and until the administration of the law is brought into harmony with the people who have to live under the law, then, I say, you can never have contentment or peace. An hon. Member asked—What has politics to do with the appointment of Bench Magistrates?—and I think I will answer that question, and answer it to the satisfaction of every hon. Member of this House. I do not know what politics have to do with the appointment of Magistrates in England; but I do know what they have to do with the appointment of Magistrates in Ireland. If you dare to sympathise in politics with four-fifths of your people, that in Ireland is almost an insuperable bar, no matter what qualifications you may possess, to sitting as a Magistrate. There are people in our country, hundreds of men, intelligent men, well-conducted men, who are in every way qualified to act as Magistrates, and who are compelled to submit to the intolerable insult put upon them of seeing men who are not as intelligent, not as well conducted, not in any way as fit to sit upon the Bench, placed over their heads, simply because they are opposed in politics to the mass of our people. I shall now be compelled to give to the House a few figures as regards the condition of the Bench of Magistrates in Ireland. I will first give a few figures showing how the composition stands as regards religious persuasions. I must say, at the very outset, that this question is with us not a religious question, because there are not in the most Catholic corner of Ire-land people who would not be just as well pleased to see on the Bench a Protestant who sympathised with the people as a Catholic; and I know myself, in the South and West of Ireland, many Protestants whom the people would infinitely rather see on the Bench than many Catholics. I would only allude, therefore, to the religious persuasions of the Magistrates as compared with the people, because it is one of the signs which show the gross and scandalous partisanship which has characterised those appointments. The Catholic population of Ireland is over 75 per cent.—that is to say, more than three out of every four of the inhabitants are Catholics. There were, in 1886, 5,065 Magistrates on the Bench, and of these 1,229 were Catholics, and nearly 4,000 were Protestants. The population stands in the proportion of three Catholics to one Protestant, while of the Magistrates there are four Protestants to one Catholic. When we go into the figures of the counties the case comes out even, stronger. In Fermanagh County 55 per cent. of the people are Catholics. There are 86 Protestant Justices, and there are 4 Catholic Justices. In Monaghan 73 per cent. of the population are Catholics. There are 81 Justices, and there are 13 Catholic Magistrates. In Leitrim 90 per cent. of the population is Catholic. There are 80 Justices of the Peace, and of these 11 are Catholics. In the Queen's County 87 per cent. of the population is Catholic. There are 84 Justices, and 15 are Catholics. In the great County of Tipperary, where 94 per cent. of the population is Catholic, and where there are an enormous number of Catholics qualified in every respect for the Bench, there are 217 Justices, and only 59 of them Catholics. In the County of Wick-low 79 per cent. of the people are Catholics. There are 116 Justices, and there are only 13 Catholic Justices. I think it will be admitted that these figures alone look suspicious, and are sufficient ground for just complaint on the part of the Irish people. But those figures only give an inadequate idea of the grievances under which our people have suffered in this regard, because I have no hesitation in saying that the Catholic Magistrates are in a large degree worse enemies of the people than the Protestants, for the Executive Government of Ireland, or rather I should say the Lord Lieutenants, when making appointments to the Magistracy amongst those who hold the faith of the majority of the people, have selected men who are notoriously opposed in politics to the body of the Irish people, and who in many cases, I grieve to say, exhibit all the bitterness and animosity of turncoats and of traitors. In the County of Leitrim there are 71 Justices, and out of the 71 there is one Nationalist in a, county where the Tory candidate was only able to poll 14 per cent. of the Parliamentary voters—that is to say, 86 per cent. of the Parliamentary voters of Leitrim have one representative on the Magisterial Bench, and the minority have a representation of 70 out of 71. It is not to be wondered at that the Loyalist minority in Ireland should insist upon maintaining the present condition of things. In Sligo there are 78 Justices. One out of the 78 is a Home Killer. In the County of Mayo, a division of which I represent, and in which the Catholic population is, I should fancy, considerably over 90 per cent. of the whole, there are 95 Justices of the Peace, and two of these are Home Rulers; and in the County of Galway there are 196 Justices, and two only are Nationalists or Home Rulers. These figures are taken from the Return of 1886. Slight changes may have occurred since then, but those are not substantially wrong. I think it will be admitted by everyone who has any souse of fairness that those figures do constitute a grave and intolerable grievance upon the people of Ireland. I will give one more county, because I do not think it is necessary to pile up statistics. I have not selected the counties. They are taken at Random, but they are thoroughly characteristic of the state of things in Ireland in connection with the Magisterial Bench. The county I refer to is the County Carlow. The Roman Catholic population is 36,000, and the Protestant population 4,500. The Magistrates stand as follows:—There are 57 altogether, of whom 10 are Roman Catholics; but of those 10, 5 are Catholic gentry who do not reside in the county, so that in that county, with a Catholic population of 36,000 out of 40,000, there are but 5 Catholic Magistrates residing there, and, let me add, 4 of the 5 are Unionists, and only 1 is a Nationalist. Anybody who knows the County Carlow, who is acquainted with it, cannot maintain for a single instant that there are not in that county an abundance of men holding Home Rule opinions who are quite sufficient and competent to man the Magisterial Bench even twice over if they were allowed to do so. I could go on ad nauseam piling up figures of the same character; because, as I have said already, the instances I have given are instances taken at random from different counties. This exclusion, as I have already pointed out, this barrier against the appointment of Magistrates in Ire-land, is not confined by any means to any particular section or creed; it is not a question between Catholic and Protestant, because I have instances without number at my disposal of men who have been strongly recommended for the Magistracy who it could not be denied possessed every necessary qualification, whose names were sent forward to the Lords Lieutenant of Counties in Ireland, and who were refused to be appointed, who were rejected by these Lords Lieutenant, not because they were Catholics, for many of them were Protestants and Presbyterians, and in some cases Unitarians, but because they held, or were suspected of holding, the same views as are now held by Her Majesty's Ministers. I have here the names of such men as Mr. John Sterne, Mr. John Coleman, and other men of the same kind in North Londonderry, whose names were sent forward some time ago before the Home Rule Question was raised, and they were then Liberals. I think they are Presbyterian by creed, and men of standing and wealth in that district; but they were rejected by the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Sir Hervey Bruce, not at that time, because they were Home Rulers, but because they were Liberals. They were, however, afterwards appointed over the head of Sir Hervey Bruce to the Magistracy in Ireland. Already in Ireland the Lord Chancellor has exercised this right in the past, and we in Ireland are extremely anxious to see him do it again on a much larger scale. But those men, of whom I now speak, were refused to be appointed, so far as the Lord Lieutenant could refuse it 10 or 12 years ago, because they were Liberals, and the very same treatment has been meted out within the last few months to some respectable men of high standing in the County Down, whose names I have here. I may mention Mr. Robert B. Caughey, of Newtownards, a Presbyterian; Mr. Hugh Ferguson, formerly Chairman of the Newtownards Board of Guardians, and Mr. William Gibson, a Unitarian. But because these men were supposed to sympathise with Home Rulers and being Protestants—Ulster Protestants of the County Down—these men who enjoyed the universal respect of their fellow-citizens and neighbours, who had every qualification that could be imagined for the Magistracy, their claim was rejected by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County Down simply and solely because they were suspected of sympathising with the opinions of the present Government. What is the condition of things in Ireland at the present moment? The condition of things is this: that to be a sympathiser with, and a supporter of, the present Government and to be in harmony with the political opinions and views of the vast majority of the people in Ireland is a barrier to being placed on the Judicial Bench. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the Judicial Bench in Ireland has been turned into what is nothing short of a political engine, and that it is used for that purpose; and I say to that cause can be ascribed to a considerable extent the trouble which has arisen in Ireland, or rather the disrespect which is said to exist in that country for law and order. [Cheers and laughter.] It is all very fine to laugh, but when you sec men who are supposed to administer justice all selected from one class, and that a small minority and a small class, who are in continued conflict with the people, and if, when a man is brought up before these Magistrates, he sees no chance of impartial treatment, he sees arrayed against him the representatives of the very class who were oppressing him, then, I say, it is impossible to expect any kind of respect to exist for justice administered in such a manner. I will give one or two more instances to show I am not exaggerating or drawing upon my imagination in this matter, and I think the first case I am about to quote will bring home to any fair-minded man the reasonableness of the case I am making. Take the ease of Mr. Tener, who was brought into the County Galway as a stranger and an outsider by Lord Clanricarde to carry out the law of extermination which he is waging against his tenants. Mr. Tener was not a resident, and had no connection with any property in the county. He was brought into that county at a time, as I say, when Lord Clanricarde was waging a war of extermination against his tenants, and when Lord Clanricarde was defying and embarrassing the Tory Administration in Dublin Castle. The then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) appealed to Lord Clanricardo to stop this war of extermination, and not to embarrass the Government. What was done by Mr. Tener? While he was actually living on Lord Clanriearde's estate, and while a house was being prepared for him to live in, he was created a Justice of the Peace—a man who had no property and no connection with the county, and, notwithstanding that, he was created a Justice of the Peace—I presume at the request of Lord Clanricarde —in order that he might discharge the double functions of knocking down the houses of the tenants and afterwards sending the tenants themselves to gaol. I also wish to mention the case of Mr. Hewson, a gentleman of evil fame in connection with the Falcarragh evictions. When he came into the County Leitrim he was created a Justice of the Peace, in order that he might be the better able to carry out his functions as a land agent. That is the common practice in Ireland. The land agent, when he is brought into a county and takes up agencies, is created a Justice of the Peace in order to enable him to carry out the work of his employer more effectually. I ask hon. Members of this House, as fair-minded Englishmen, can they ask or expect people amongst whom such things are being habitually done to have respect for the administration of the law or the agents of the law? I heard an hon. Member just now speaking of the ex- treme purity of the Lords Lieutenant in England, describing the way in which the vacancies were filled up in England, and adding that the Lords Lieutenant and the Executive Government never for a moment appointed a Magistrate unless he was wanted. That may be the way in England, but it is not the way in Ireland. I will give you an instance. When the Government of Lord Salisbury came into power, and by our assistance—in 1885—they afterwards gave us a very bad reward for our good offices—when that Government came into power it lasted for 227 days. In that time they appointed 264 County and 63 Borough Magistrates, although there were no vacancies.

An hon. MEMBER

What are the names?


I have all the names of these Magistrates here; yes, every one of them. I am not going now, I need not say, to read out the list. I may say, however, that, on looking down the list, one would think you were looking down a list of English Magistrates. There is hardly a. name you would recognise as an Irish name. I have no doubt that a great many of them were Orangemen. Certainly they were all Tories. I have not been able to get the whole list analysed. Certainly that Government made hay while the sun shone. In the County of Leitrim, for instance, 13 now Magistrates were created, all Tories and Protestants, although up to that time there were no Nationalist Magistrates in the county, and only 11 Roman Catholic Justices altogether. I ask any Englishman present, even hon. Members sitting on Tory Benches, is that honesty? Is that fair play? Is that impartiality? Here is a county in which 80 per cent. of the population are Roman Catholics, and yet only 11 are Catholics, and there is not one in sympathy with the Parliamentary voters. Yet when there were no vacancies the Tory Party created 13 additional Magistrates.

An hon. MEMBER

They were appointed by the Lord Chancellor.


I thought the hon. Member knew enough to know that the Lord Chancellor is not coerced to make any Magistrates. If the Lord Chancellor thinks that the Lord Lieutenant is acting improperly, he has only to refuse to make the appointments. I only want to dispose of the argument that the vacancies may not exist. I say it is the duty of the Executive Government now in power in Ireland to do something, no matter what abuse or criticisms they may receive from those Benches; to do something to redress the inequality in Ireland, to give to the people of Ireland some foundation on which to respect the law. You (pointing to the Conservatives) have been at it for the past 90 years; and you have not brought much respect for the law, and never will so long as the system your Party supports is enforced in Ireland. You can crush the people by force of arms, or you can bind them down with Coercion Acts; but respect and love for your administration and law you could never establish in Ireland. I will tell you the reason. Because they know your law is based upon injustice. I shall say no more except just a few words, because I think we are bound to economise the time of the House. It has been my lot, amongst a somewhat varied experience in different parts of the world, to live for some time in very new communities in the Western States of America, where rough people of all kinds are thrown together, under circumstances not particularly conducive to the establishment of law and order, or respect for the law, and I never lived in any part of the world where the law was better enforced or more respected. Why was that? Because there was no man in the district who, by the labour of his hands, earned his daily bread, who did not know that he had his chance of taking part in the administration of the law under which he lived, as well as the wealthiest man in the whole district. The poorest labourer had a chance of being a Magistrate, and if he did sit on the Bench there he was as much respected, if he deserved respect, as the richest man there. My experience there, and in other parts of the world, has convinced me the surest and only way to secure respect and love for the law amongst any civilised people is to bring home to the mind of every man that they have equal rights before that law and an equal chance of taking a share and having a voice and an influence in the administration of it. If you will do that to the people of Ireland you will find there is not a people on the face of the earth more easily governed than the Irish people. I would appeal to the Prime Minister himself, or the Irish Secretary, to make some declaration to-night which will satisfy the people of Ireland that now at last, when for the first time since the Union there is in power in this country a Government which thoroughly sympathises with the masses of the population in our country, that they will use the power which unquestionably is in their hands in Ireland to remove this one great and intolerable grievance from the nocks of our people, and to commence, to some extent at least, the work of redressing the gross and scandalous partiality of the Bench of Magistrates in Ireland.

SIR G. RUSSELL (Berks, Wokingham)

objected that the people of England should be called upon to alter their entire system in order to meet the peculiar requirements of a peculiar people like the Irish. The hon. Member for East Mayo complained of the injustice of the administration in Ireland by the Magistrates, but be had heard from him precisely the same complaint with regard to the Judges of the High Court, who were not appointed upon the recommendation of the Lords Lieutenant. No doubt there might be in Ireland a body of Magistrates and Judges who might afford satisfaction in particular quarters. No doubt a gentleman who had cut off a cow's tail would have more sympathy with another gentleman who had also cut off a cow's tail; but he never yet heard, either with regard to the Judges or the Magistrates, any charge which could bear investigation on the floor of this House—never once. They in England declined to be dragged in this, as in other matters, at the tail of Ireland. The hon. Baronet who moved the Resolution in so temperate a speech said not a word against the existing Magistrates. His complaint was that there were gentlemen who should be, but were not, appointed to the Bench. But at the bottom of the whole of the argument in support of the Resolution was the allegation that the existing appointments were made upon political grounds. How was it proposed to remedy that? By handing over the appointments to a direct and distinct political personage. The Lord Chancellor sat in the Cabinet, was identified with every measure, Radical or Conservative, which the Government of the day might have placed before the people, and he would always be under pressure to regulate his Magisterial appointments so as to curry favour with the Party by whose aid he hoped to carry those measures. He had been sorry to hear from those Benches language somewhat condemnatory of the present Lord Chancellor, for there was no man living for whose character, capacity, and honesty he entertained a higher opinion. By way of analogy, take the appointment of the present puisne Judges of the High Court by the Lord Chancellor. Would any man venture to say that those appointments were made on the ground only of legal fitness? They were made every day, not on the ground of legal fitness, but of political exigency. Yet it was proposed to hand over Magisterial appointments to the very political gentleman who now made these political appointments in the High Court. The Resolution was reactionary; it would have the exact effect of doing that which it professed to undo, and he should have no hesitation in giving his vote against it.


I propose, in a very few sentences, to state the view which Her Majesty's Government take on this question. I think we shall all admit that we have had, up till now, a very valuable and interesting Debate. The Lord Chancellor, in answer to the deputation which waited on him a short time ago, expressed the opinion that while the legal right of appointing Magistrates for counties as well as for boroughs was vested in him alone, he himself did not feel justified in setting aside the long-standing practice and Constitutional usage which had grown up, of limiting the county appointments to persons nominated by the Lords Lieutenant, unless he was fortified in doing so by an unequivocal declaration of the opinion of the House. That declaration the right hon. Baronet, by his Motion, invites the House to make, and, as far as the Government are concerned, they trust the House will respond to the appeal. The Motion, I may point out, is judiciously limited in scope; it does not propose to disestablish the Lords Lieutenant from the position of a recommending authority; what it does is to take away from them the monopoly of the power or privilege of recommendation, and to open out for the information, and, if need be, for the action, of the Lord Chancellor, other sources of suggestion and advice. Now the adoption of such a Motion, no doubt, involves a condemnation of the results of the existing system. What are the facts? The effect of them may be summed up by saying that they show, when the composition of the Magisterial Bench is analysed, an enormous disproportion, out of all correspondence with the distribution of outside opinion, in favour of a particular political Party, and in some parts of the Kingdom in favour of a particular religious creed. In Wales, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Flint Boroughs has remarked, there is not merely the political, but there is the religious, question, and no one can doubt that over a very large part of the Principality the profession of Nonconformist belief is regarded as a disqualification for the Bench. In Carmarthenshire, for instance, there was, until lately, only a single Nonconformist on the Bench, and in Denbighshire there were only seven. In many parts of Wales the restriction of the appointments to the Bench to the Conservative Party and members of the Church of England leads to the great practical inconvenience that the Magistrates who have to administer justice among a Welsh-speaking population do not understand the tongue of the witnesses. In Ireland the Lord Chancellors have from time to time taken upon themselves to do what is a very rare, if not unknown, thing in this country, to disregard and over-ride the discretion of the Lords Lieutenant. Still, as a rule, the Lord Chancellor in Ireland, as well as in England, has felt himself bound, not by inflexible, but by common, practice to follow the recommendations of the Lord Lieutenants. I will take the appointments of the late Lord Chancellor, Lord Ashbourue. Between August 5, 1886, when he came into Office, and August 22, 1892, when he went out, he appointed in a country, where three-fourths of the population are Roman Catholics, 1,012 Magistrates, of whom only 166 were Roman Catholics.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say how many Presbyterians were appointed?


No, Sir; I cannot. The question of the hon. Gentleman is entirely irrelevant to the point. What I was saying was that in a country, three-fourths of the population of which are Roman Catholics, less than 200 out of over 1,000 Magistrates appointed by the late Lord Chancellor belong to that faith. That shows a practical, I will not say ostracism, but a discrimination habitually exercised against the faith of the majority of the people, which cannot but have the effect of permanently and profoundly impairing their confidence in the administration of the law. The present Lord Chancellor, during the nine months he has been Office, has appointed 210 Magistrates, of whom 133 are Roman Catholics. I do not know whether that will be represented as a scandalous piece of Bench-packing; but seeing that during the six years his predecessor was in Office only 166 Roman Catholics, out of 1,012 Magistrates, were appointed, I say it is high time some attempt was made to redress the balance. As it is, there are in Ireland some 5,300 County Magistrates alone, and after all the Bench-packing by the present Government 4,437 of that number are Protestants and only 873 Catholics. Though not strictly relevant to the question before the House, I have one observation to make on the criticisms passed on the action of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. It is suggested that in the boroughs my noble Friend has been guilty of extraordinary partiality and a want of a judicial spirit. When my noble Friend came into Office 22 per cent. of the Magistrates on the Borough Bench were supporters of the present Government. At the present moment 36 per cent. of the Borough Magistrates are supporters of the present Government. In other words, the Party opposite have been left in possession of nearly two-thirds of the Borough Bench. These figures speak for themselves. I will allow to those who oppose the Motion that there are two circumstances that might fairly be taken into account, and which are independent of the political prepossessions of the Lord Chancellor. In the first place, I admit that the Conservative Party have always had, and has at this moment, probably to a larger degree than ever in the past, a considerable preponderance amongst its supporters of those persons of property and of social position from whom the Magistrates have been appointed in the past. I will agree further that the existence of the property qualification, which is exacted as a condition for Magistrates in counties, though it is not in boroughs, must necessarily limit and restrict the Lord Lieutenant's area of choice. I should be very glad to think that we should have the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite in removing that disqualification and in assimilating the conditions for admission to the county to those which prevail for admission to the Borough Bench. I have been endeavouring for a long time past to bring in a Bill for that purpose, and if I can get the least encouragement in the course of the Debate from the Leader of the Opposition that that Bill will be treated as a non-contentious measure—[Opposition cries of "No!" and Ministerial Cheers.] I confess I never expected it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared deliberately to maintain, for the purposes of the County Bench, the property qualification. The noble Lord (Lord E. Churchill) shakes his head; but the noble Lord is a Tory democrat.

LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)

The property qualification has disappeared long since.


Not in the counties. The noble Lord is entirely mistaken.


The property qualification for all political offices has disappeared.


I understood we were dealing, not with political offices, but with judicial offices. Is the noble Lord going to maintain that these being judicial, and not political, offices the property qualification ought to be applied?




I am glad of that admission; but then the noble Lord has got to deal with hon. Gentlemen behind him, who, when I ask that the measure I wish to introduce should be treated as non-contentious, immediately indulge in a chorus of negation. The Party opposite see that the property qualification, coupled with the exclusive power of Lords Lieutenant to nominate, is their great security for maintaining the County Bench in its present position. After all allowance has been made for the causes to which I have referred, the facts cannot be accounted for without supposing that the Lords Lieutenant, or those who advise them, have been influenced in the past by political motives. I do not make any charge against the Lords Lieutenant. I know there are Lords Lieutenant who have steadily refused to nominate on political grounds, but they very frequently took a course which, though they did not intend it, had precisely that result. They went to the various Petty Sessional Divisions for advice, and they got from the Magistrates sitting upon the Bench nominations which, although the Lord Lieutenant may have been too innocent to know it, were undoubtedly inspired by political motives. I do not think I am putting the case too far when I say that we may divide the practice which has been pursued into two branches. Upon the one side, where we have had a Lord Lieutenant acting on his own initiative, we have had nomination on political grounds; and upon the other side, where we have had a Lord Lieutenant applying to the Petty Sessional Bench, we have had co-optation on political grounds. I entirely agree with those who say that politics ought not to be regarded as a qualification for the Judicial Bench. [Opposition cheers]. Yes; but if I may quote a familiar saying of an eminent Frenchman, who, when asked his opinion about the abolition of capital punishment, suggested that the assassins should set the example, I would say that it does not lie with those who have packed the County and Borough Benches with political partisans to hold up their hands in holy horror and argue, as against their opponents, that politics should have nothing to do with judicial appointments. I make a fair offer to hon. Gentlemen. Once let us redress the inequalities of the past, and we and our Party will be perfectly prepared to enter into a truce and to agree that, for the future, politics should have nothing to do with appointments to the Magistracy. I must add that I do not make any general charge against the County Magistrates. I have had an opportunity, perhaps, of seeing more of the proceedings of Magistrates than can fall to the lot of most hon. Members; and although mistakes are made from time to time, as they must he in the best-constituted judicial arrangements, I gladly yield my testimony that there is no ground whatsoever for suspecting the great majority of the Magistrates in this country either of partiality or incompetence. But it is not necessary for the purposes of this Motion, or for my argument, to allege that unfit persons are placed upon the Bench for political reasons, because, in the view of the Government, the efficiency of the persons who are charged with the administration of justice, important as it is, is not more important than securing public confidence in the administration of justice. 80 long as a state of facts exists—leaving England out of view—such as that which has been described in Wales and in Ireland, public confidence in the administration of justice is impossible. The determination of certain kinds of questions which constantly come before Magistrates must necessarily expose them to suspicion if the Bench be constituted wholly or mainly of one political or one religious Party. Take the case of licensing houses for the sale of intoxicating liquor. The appeal from the decision of the Borough Benches is to the County Quarter Sessions—that is to say, to Magistrates nominated by the Lord Lieutenant—and the cases are numerous in which the decisions of the Borough Magistrates have been over-ruled by the County Justices.

SIR E. CLARKE (Plymouth)

Not in the case of new licences.


No; there is no appeal in that case. Take the question of the rights of property, the enforcement of the Game Laws, and rights of way generally. Far be it from me to say that the Magistrates show bias in these matters; but, so long as the Bench is constituted as it is at present, there will always be in the minds of people a feeling, which you cannot say is unreasonable, that Magistrates belonging exclusively to one class slightly depress or raise the balance in favour of the class to which they belong. Take one other illustration—the large, increasing, and most delicate class of questions connected with labour which are now constantly coming before Benches; take such a case as that of the Hull strike, which was discussed in the House only yesterday. That has happened in a borough, but a similar state of things may happen, and has happened during my short experience at the Home Office, in a county. There we have Magistrates of the Bench not only determining the charges made against persons summoned before them for offences against the law, but with the delicate and responsible duty thrown into their hands of determining whether or not they should call the Naval and Military Forces of the Crown to assist them in the maintenance of law and order. The only condition under which justice can be administered so as to inspire general confidence is that the Bench should represent all Parties and all schools, and should be free from all suspicion one way or the other. The conclusion to which the Government has come is that, although the Lords Lieutenant certainly should not be deprived of the power which they may usefully exercise in continuing to recommend Magistrates to the Lord Chancellor, yet that the Lord Chancellor should not be shut out from other sources of suggestion—that County Magistrates and various Local Authorities which made up the county should have an equal power and an equal right of recommending names to him for selection. In this way we shall, by widening the area of choice and enlarging the Lord Chancellor's free power of selection, provide not only, as the Government believe, security for the efficient administration of justice, but security for that which is equally important—for the deeply-rooted and widespread popular confidence and faith in the impartiality of those who administer the law.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

I gather from the speech of the Home Secretary that the Government propose, if possible, by the aid of this House, to force down the throat of their Colleague, the Lord Chancellor, a method of selecting Magistrates to which the Lord Chancellor himself has raised very strong objections. If I understand what took place between the Lord Chancellor and an important deputation not long ago, he is of opinion that, generally speaking, the existing system has not worked badly; he is of opinion also that any system that has been proposed as a substitute would work far worse; and he is especially convinced that that which commends itself to the Home Secretary—to take the nominations of County Councils—is not one which would, on the whole, conduce to manning the Bench in a satisfactory manner. This is a very extraordinary procedure on the part of the Government. I should be curious to know, if one could discover it, what happened at the Cabinet when this course was finally decided upon. With regard to Ireland, the chief objection raised by the Home Secretary, echoing the speech of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. John Dillon), is that the proportion of Catholics to Protestants on the Bench is very different from the proportion of Catholics to Protestants in the population. That is perfectly true, and the reason is obvious.


said, the chief objection he had stated was that of political partisanship.


I will say, then, not the chief objection, but the longest objection of the hon. Member, and the chief objection of the Home Secretary. Both must be aware that one of the difficulties in Ireland in making the proportion of officers or of Magistrates, or of any officials whatever, at all correspond with the religion of the population is that, unfortunately, the class from which, on account of education and other circumstances, we have to draw the Magistrates is, unfortunately, not in conformity with the religious convictions of the majority of the people. It is a fact greatly to be deplored, and it is, in my opinion, a reason for limiting as much as possible the jurisdiction of unpaid Magistrates in Ireland. But so far as my experience of Ireland goes, it is distinctly to a man's advantage to be a Roman Catholic in seeking an appointment. I had nothing to do with the appointment of Magistrates; but so far as I had to do with medical appointments, I can most truly say I took Roman Catholics of lower qualifications rather than Protestants. As between two competitors for the same place, one a Roman Catholic and the other a Protestant, I always more than stretched a point in favour of the Roman Catholic. The hon. Member for Mayo desires to see a body of Judges who would administer law in conformity with popular feeling. The difficulty of doing that in some parts of Ireland is to maintain any law at all. In Ireland I should always be in favour of extending the jurisdiction of the paid Magistracy at the expense of the jurisdiction of the unpaid; but I do not believe, and the Home Secretary, I am sure, does not believe, that the cause of justice in Ireland is likely to be materially improved by the policy of recklessly appointing persons who are to administer the law in conformity with popular feeling. Coming to the case of England, I cannot do better than recall the observations which fell from the Seconder of the Motion, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. A. C. Morton) yesterday, as to the effect of the system of appointing Magistrates. The hon. Member, and Member after Member on his own side belonging to the Labour Party, got up and told the House that the whole administration of justice with regard to the series of cases arising out of labour disputes in Cardiff, in Bristol, and in Hull has absolutely brought that administration into contempt, because it has been left to Magistrates appointed in the manner which the Motion of the right hon. Baronet commends to the House. Whatever may be said of the County Magistrates of this country, I do not believe that for 50 years any accusation has been made against them at all comparable to the accusations which have been made against the Borough Magistrates in this House only 24 hours ago. What do the Home Secretary and those who agree with him aim at? The Home Secretary has told us that if only the political balance were redressed as between the two Parties, he would allow matters to rest, and there would be a truce. But because the political balance has not been redressed —except, indeed, by the energetic efforts of the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. J. Bryce)—because the balance has not been redressed except in one happy county (Lancashire), the right hon. Gentleman proposes to shatter the existing system from top to bottom and to call wholly new machinery into being in its place. But how long would this truce last if it were established? In 1886 it pleased hon. Gentlemen opposite to make great changes in their political creed, and, us a consequence, a great many Magistrates who up to that time belonged to their Party, now belong to the Unionist Party. Are we to understand that every time the Liberal Party choose to estrange a great body of educated opinion they are going to invent and set in motion new machinery until, to use the happy phrase of the Home Secretary, the balance has been again redressed? That phrase is enough by itself to dispose of the soft statements of the right hon. Baronet, who was moderation itself. The right hon. Baronet did not mention any desire to "redress the balance"; but now it has come out through the incautious utterance of the mouthpiece of the Government that the object is not to improve the administration of justice, but to increase the patronage of the Radical Party. The right hon. Gentleman says that, on the whole, he has not much to complain of in the action of the Magistrates in England; but that there are certain matters entrusted to them of such difficulty and delicacy, and so seriously affecting their own personal interests, that it is absolutely necessary to take the recommendations out of the hands of the Lord Lieutenants, and the right hon. Gentleman instances specially the question of poaching. Now, is there a human being in this House, acquainted with country life, who believes that the law relating to poaching would he more justly administered by Stipendiary Magistrates than it is at present? [Cries of "Yes!" and "Hear, hear!"] I do hon. Members who cried "Yes" the justice of believing that they spoke from ignorance, and not from prejudice. I am certain, at this moment—whatever may have been the case two generations ago—the fact that so many of the Magistrates who have to adjudicate in poaching cases are drawn from the land-owing classes tends, not to the severer administration of justice, but, on the contrary, to a more lenient administration. [Ministerial laughter, cries of "Oh!" and cheers.] I do not believe that that statement will be seriously traversed by any hon. Gentleman of competent knowledge. I now pass—for I can only speak for a few moments more—to a consideration of the substance of the Resolution proposed by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet recommends this Resolution on the ground that politics should not enter into the selection of Magistrates; but does he mean that those who are appointed should not necessarily be connected with politics? I agree that these appointments ought never to be made on political grounds; but the Government are ensuring henceforth that they shall always be made on political grounds. You ensure that henceforth they shall always be made on political grounds. The right hon. Baronet says that the Lord Chancellor is to have other channels of communication than the Lords Lieutenant of the counties. What other channels? Well, Sir, we all know what the other channels are. They are to be the local wirepullers of the Party in power; the other channels are to be every Member of the House who wants to do a kindness to a man who has helped him in his election. I do not make that statement merely with reference to hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have no special or peculiar monopoly of jobbery. I make no imputation of that kind, but I say while it is in the experience of every man in the House who has applied to a Lord Lieutenant to make a political appointment that he is likely to get well snubbed for his pains, every one is equally aware that if such an application is made to a Member of the Government obliged to conciliate the feelings of the Party behind him, and who is forced to think of the result of elections in dubious constituencies—an appointment of that kind made with those recommendations will be what the present appointments as a whole are not —namely, political appointments. I do not know whether the House has noticed that the Resolution of the right hon. Baronet is of a purely negative character. He tells us that the existing system is to be done away with, but he does not tell us what system is to be substituted. What does that mean? Earlier in the evening the right hon. Baronet the Member for Gloucestershire said he believed that if this Resolution wore carried it would ultimately lead to the destruction of the existing system of Magistracy in England, and that statement was received with enthusiastic approval by hon. Gentlemen opposite. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; but if you want to destroy the system have the courage of your opinions, and tell the House what the system is which you wish to substitute for it. For my part, if you come down to this House and say that you think, as labour questions are coming to the front, and that even on general grounds you prefer a Stipendiary Magistracy to the existing unpaid Magistracy, I should not agree with you as a whole; but I should see very great force in your argument. But I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he would like to find £500,000 a year to pay for this Magistracy, and I might even feel called on to comment on the extraordinary cost which appears always to attend Radical reforms. But at least I should understand your policy. I should go further, and should have in many respects great sympathy with it. But that is not what you are doing. You have not the courage to attack the Magistracy; you want to make it look ridiculous—and, if I rightly interpret the cheers with which the right hon. Baronet's speech was received, you want to make it ridiculous for the purpose of ultimately destroying it. That is not statesmanship. That is not the way to deal with an institution which has existed for 600 years in this country, and which through these centuries has given, on the whole, great satisfaction. It is not the way to deal with a method of administering justice which I believe has the confidence of the people as a whole. Your plan, to put it shortly, is this: you wish to turn the patronage of the Bench of Magistrates in England into a wheel in your general electioneering machine. I object to that. Destroy the Magistracy if you will, but destroy it by legislation after full discussion, with the assent of the Representatives of the people having the whole matter before them. But do not attempt this extraordinary expedient by which you will throw upon a political officer duties which he himself repudiates, and which he is ill-qualified by his position to perform. Do not take away duties from men who undoubtedly, with all shortcomings, have, on the whole, performed these duties well; and, above all, do not destroy a great system of administering local justice throughout the country until you are prepared to come forward and propose to us a system which you desire to substitute for it.

*MR. DODD (Essex, Maldon)

[Loud cries of "Divide!"] said, that a considerable part of the opposition to this Motion arose from misconception. First of all, the right hon. Member for Gloucestershire—[cries of "Divide!"]—who spoke with great authority on county questions, was, he thought, mistaken when he assured the House that there was no dissatisfaction with the present system. [Cries of "Divide!"] He wished to speak because he took an interest in this matter, and had himself received hundreds of letters on the subject from County Councils and other Public Bodies in Wales and in England, and even from Conservative Clubs, complaining of the present system of appointment of Magistrates. [Cries of "Divide!"] The right hon. Gentleman who was formerly responsible for the administration of the Government of Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was, he thought, mistaken in saying that this was a strong proceeding on the part of Her Majesty's Government, because, as he (Mr. Dodd) understood the matter, the Resolution did not in any respect change the law, but merely asked that the Lord Chancellor should enforce it; and everyone who went to the trouble of understanding the question knew that the appointment of Magistrates rested with the Lord Chancellor alone. [Interruption.] It was because they were attacking a class that these interruptions were made. [Cries of "Divide!"] He had received a letter from a gentleman, who said he had never been made a Justice of the Peace because he was an advanced Liberal, notwithstanding that he had twice been returned to Parlia- ment. [Continued interruption from the Opposition Benches.]


intervened, requesting that the hon. Member might be allowed a hearing.


said, that in the Division he represented there were 36 Magistrates, of whom one only was a declared Liberal. The same thing occurred in all the other Divisions of Essex—politics and social status, not fitness, were the present qualifications—and that was why one of the Conservative Members for Essex had joined in the crusade against the present mode of appointing Magistrates. He could give, but he did not propose to do so, letters from all parts of England where Nonconformists and Liberals had been excluded from the Bench. [Prolonged Interruption.] In Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales, there were eight Magistrates, seven of whom were Tories and one Liberal, and yet it returned two Liberals to this House, the lowest Liberal poll having been 11,756, while the defeated Tory polled only 2,304. [Cries of "Divide!"] Could they imagine a greater scandal? [Loud cries of "Divide!"] He recognised fully that the time had gone by for speaking on this matter. [Cries of "Divide!" and Interruption.] He knew that they had now to proceed to a Division, and felt confident that as a result this scandal would be put an end to.

MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)

(who rose amid loud and continued cries of "Divide!" and Interruption) was understood to say that his chief ground of objection to the Motion was that it was a purely negative proposal. [Cries of "Divide!"]


intervened to obtain a hearing for the hon. Member, but to no purpose.


was further understood to say that the result of carrying the Resolution would be that the County Bench would be packed at one time with Liberals and at another time with Conservatives. It would deteriorate the Bench and overload the hands of responsible Ministers.

*MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

(who rose amid cries of "Divide!") said, they had only ten minutes more, and it would not, perhaps, be too great a strain upon the House, in dealing with a subject which every one admitted was one of the greatest practical importance, if the time was devoted quietly to the consideration of the proposal before the House. He had a great difficulty in discovering for himself how he should vote on this Resolution. If any one were to suggest for the first time that the administrators of justice in each county should practically be intrusted to the selection of one man, chosen, perhaps, early in life, upon the development of whose character and opinions no one could speak with any certainty at the time of his appointment, that would be considered a proposal too ludicrous to be adopted. On the abstract question it was impossible to say that the present system was not open to the severest criticism, and he was free to confess also that too often the practical application of the system had been found wanting. There wore to be found amongst the Lords Lieutenant of Counties some gentlemen who, not dishonestly, but from the force of prejudice, the preoccupation of their minds, or the bias of their inclinations, were able to discover judicial qualities only in those who agreed with them in political life. That was not a fault confined to Lords Lieutenant—from what had happened during the past few minutes it was evident that it prevailed amongst Members of Parliament. But what were they to adopt in exchange for the present system? An Amendment had been placed on the Paper suggesting a definite principle for the protection as much as for the guidance of the Lord Chancellor, if he should dispense with the recommendations of Lords Lieutenant, and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir. C. Dilke) had expressed his sympathy with that Amendment, but could not adopt it because it did not meet with the approbation of his friends.


said, that the Resolution correctly conveyed the opinion of his hon. Friends?, who thought that the Amendment might be misapprehended.


said, this was strange distrust. The Amendment expressed their own minds, but they were not sure that it expressed the minds of their friends. What was this hut an unconscious confession that in the minds of some there lurked the feeling that Magistrates should be appointed, not on grounds of personal fitness, but as the reward of political support. He was sure the present Lord Chancellor, and he believed all Lords Chancellor, would beg protection against the pressure that would thus be put upon them. He hesitated to accept a proposition involving this danger. As the Prime Minister had often contended, voting against the Amendment to the Question that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair was only voting for the Previous Question. If the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Dilke) was not able to disavow, as he frankly admitted he was not, on the part of his hon. Friends, this suggestion of partisanship, though he himself was personally against it, then he (Mr. Courtney) considered himself justified in voting for the Previous Question. [Cries of "Divide!"] He had heard the Prime Minister use that argument scores of times. It was a good argument, and it would prevail with him on this occasion.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 240; Noes 293.—(Division List, No. 66.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


Mr. Speaker——


Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that the Question be now put.

LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)

Do not divide.


I was about to put the Motion for the closure, but if there is no necessity for it I will not do so.

Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the appointment of County Magistrates should no longer be made by the Lords Chancellor of Great Britain and Ireland for the time being only on the recommendation of the Lords Lieutenant.

Supply—Committee upon Monday next.