§ MR. STRACHEY
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether, in view of a circular issued by him to Clerks of the Peace in 1131 reference to Section 22 of the Local Government Act, 1894, he will take steps to remedy the inconvenience caused to Chairmen of District Councils having to take the oaths on re-election before they can safely sit as ex-officio Justices of the Peace?
§ MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)
I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board, whether it is necessary for those Chairmen of District Councils who have been re-elected in continuity of office to take the oaths required by law to be taken before they can act as Justices of the Peace; and, whether this entails the necessity of the payment of fees; and, if so, whether, in view of the inconvenience thus caused to such Councillors, he would take steps by arrangement with the Secretary of State for the Home Department, or otherwise, to exempt them from again taking the oaths and paying the fees?
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
I will answer this Question and the Question of the hon. Member for the Tavistock division of Devonshire at the same time. The question, whether a Chairman of a District Council on reelection is required by Section 22 of the Local Government Act, 1894, to take the oaths afresh is one of some difficulty; but, after consultation with the Lord Chancellor, I came to the conclusion that, in order to prevent any question as to the validity of any proceedings in which he might take part, it would be safer for a Chairman to take the oaths afresh on each election. This no doubt entails the payment of a fee, usually a very low one, where such fee is included in the table of fees approved for the county. A clause which has my approval, and which I should be glad to see become law, has been inserted in a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for East Somerset, with the object of removing this difficulty; but I cannot myself undertake, at all events not this Session, to introduce legislation on the point.
§ SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his predecessor in office recommended a uniform fee of two guineas on taking the oath?
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
No, Sir. I imagine he did exactly the contrary. The old fee payable to the Clerks of the Peace was seldom less than two guineas. It is now recommended by the Home Office that the fee payable by ex-officio Justices should be 5s.
§ MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL
May I ask whether the Government would support a Bill solely for the purpose of getting rid of this fee?