HC Deb 11 January 1894 vol 20 cc1327-8
MR. PRIESTLEY (York, W.R., Pudsey)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the remarks said to have been made to the new Justices, on presenting themselves to be sworn, at Leeds, on the 1st January, by the Clerk of the Peace, in which he stated that, whatever their politics, they would remember that directly they had taken the oath they were Magistrates for the West Riding, and they would never allow politics to influence them in anyway when on the Bench; whether it is customary that Clerks of the Peace should make such remarks to new Justices; whether similar remarks were made to Magistrates appointed by the late Lord Chancellor; whether he is aware that this same Clerk of the Peace demanded £4 4s. from each of the new Justices; and whether the Clerk of the Peace can legally demand such an amount?


My attention has been called by several of the newly-appointed Magistrates to those remarks, and the Clerk of the Peace, in answer to my inquiries, admits that he spoke in substance as he is reported to have done, though he says that his observations were informal. He also informs me that, as all previous appointments to the Bench for the last 10 years had gone through his hands to the Lord Lieutenant, there was no necessity for him to make a similar address on previous occasions. I can only express my opinion that the Clerk of the Peace strangely misconceived the duties and privileges of his office when he presumed to address an admonition of this kind to gentlemen appointed under Her Majesty's Commission to administer justice. It appears, further, that the clerk demanded £4 4s. as a fee from each of the new Justices. The fee in question has never been authorised in the manner prescribed by statute. No Justice, in my opinion, was bound to pay it. I have no power to order that it should be refunded; but it is open to any of the Justices who think fit to raise the question to take such proceedings as they may be advised.

MR. C. DODD (Essex, Maldon)

Who appoints the Clerks of the Peace, and how can they be removed in case of improper conduct?


The Clerk of the Peace is appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of the county. I cannot say what is the procedure as to removal without further inquiry.


Are these fees which are charged illegal all over the country?


That depends upon whether they have been authorised in the manner prescribed by the statute.

MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform all Clerks of the Peace that only the legal fees (if any) shall in future be demanded from Justices on being sworn in?


After the clear expression of opinion I have just given I do not think any further observations are needed.


Will the right hon. Gentleman do as my question suggests?


I think that that would be a very improper proceeding on my part, because I have no reason to suppose that the majority of the Clerks of the Peace charge any other than the proper fees.