I beg to move, "That this House recognises the widespread discontent which has existed at the method in which magistrates to the county Benches have been appointed, and is of the opinion that the measures taken by the Lord Chancellor to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission will not remove the cause of the dissatisfaction."
I think that we on this side of the House should be very grateful to the Government for having given us a day for the discussion of this subject, and I think we shall not be considered unreasonable if, now that our discussion upon the future administration and the Lord Chancellor is so circumscribed, we ask for a further opportunity next Session of discussing this question. I think, however it is a matter for regret that the last day of the Session should have been chosen when it is difficult to get any adequate expression of opinion from this House, upon a matter on which it is so necessary to get an expression of opinion from the House, knowing as we all do what the feeling in the constituencies is. The reason wiry my friends and I wish to bring this question forward is, in the first place, because we feel that the Report of the Royal Commission should not be acted upon without discussion in this House. After all, Royal Commissions are not divinely inspired; they are composed no doubt of eminent Members of the Houses of Parliament, but it does not in the least follow that their findings may suit the wishes of Members of this House, and in any case a question which involves such an immense amount of patronage it seems to me should not be decided without discussion. Secondly, we feel that the recommendations contained 2709 in the Report do not suit the exigencies of the case. I think I understand from your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that our discussion of the Report is rather circumscribed. Am I to understand that we are not to discuss the Report of the Commission at all?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is entitled to discuss the Report of the Commission, but I do not think he is entitled to suggest what should be done for the future; that part of the subject is shut out. The hon. Member is certainly entitled to criticise the Report or to make any criticism upon it he wishes.
I am very glad of that ruling, Mr. Speaker, because I think we all feel that whatever cure might be suggested for the purpose of our present grievances, that cure should be suggested by the Government itself. My Motion deals with the past as well as the future, and the fairest instance which I can give of the injustice to which Liberal constituencies have been subjected is by quoting what happened in my own Constituency. Last autumn the Lord Chancellor appointed two Conservative magistrates, and the proportion on the bench already was about three Conservatives to one Liberal. I thought I should write to the Lord Chancellor and ask him if he would mind my suggesting some names for his attention. He wrote back, through his secretary, to say that there was no chance of the question being reopened for some little time. There were a good many complaints in my Constituency of the great disparity in numbers of the political parties on the bench. On the strength of that I thought I would make a further attempt, and not having any confidence in my own powers of persuasion, I approached my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and trusted his well-known gentle handling of very delicate situations would bring about a successful result. The answer from the Lord Chancellor was that he would not consent to consider them now, and that the new practice of Advisory Committees had been established. That was quite a fair answer and attitude which the Lord Chancellor had a perfect right to take up, but what was my surprise when very shortly after this six magistrates were created, every one of them Conservatives, and without the Advisory Committee being consulted. I have nothing to say against the gentlemen appointed. No doubt they are admirable in every way. If I may coin a word 2710 from Lord Eldon, I would express the hope that they may be as "Eldonian" in their administration of justice as they are now in their political principles. But I cannot agree with the Lord Chancellor that there are no Liberals in my Constituency who are fit to be appointed as magistrates. The explanation of this transaction is even more extraordinary still. It was explained in a letter from the Custos Rotulorum to the Lord Chancellor himself. I will not weary the House with the whole long account, but I will read an extract from his letter. Lord De Ramsey wrote to the Lord Chancellor:—You will doubtless remember that when, at your request, I called upon you on February 14th last, and placed before you the names of the four gentlemen, two on each side of politics, to form a consulting committee which you asked me to lay before you, those names you approved. I then suggested six names for your appointment, to the Commission of the Peace, and remarked that 'if the family Bible were in my hand, I would swear I did not know their politics.' You replied, 'I shall not put you to that test.'Another instance of political impartiality:—But will you place them before your consulting committee?' to which I answered that I was leaving for Egypt the following morning, and that owing to the Commission of the Pence having been closed by you pending the Report of the Royal Commission, the matter was urgent; you kindly acceded to my request.The Lord Chancellor wrote back to Lord De Ramsey:—I am much obliged for your letter, and your account of what was said between us is quite correct. It was understood that any other names would come before the committee for the future.With regard to Lord De Ramsey's statement that he did not know the politics of the gentleman he recommended, it must be very galling to those gentlemen if he did not. Lord De Ramsey is president of the Wisbech Conservative Association, and a very active president, and one of the gentlemen whom he recommended is a member of the executive committee. They frequently sat together on various festive occasions and I think they were probably together at the festive occasion when the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin was selected as my opponent. But what I cannot account for is the action of the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor told me in answer to my right hon. Friend that he would not appoint any more magistrates without his Advisory Committee being consulted. There, upon his own admission is a case, because a Conservative Lord Lieutenant gives him names and they are appointed without further delay. I say deliberately the Lord Chancellor committed a breach of faith. That may be a strong expression, 2711 but it is not too strong. I am here as the representative of my Constituency, and if I find that my supporters are being treated in a contemptuous and unfair way I believe it to be my duty not to let that contempt pass unchallenged, whether it is done by a private individual or by the Lord Chancellor of England. The office of Lord Chancellor is an illustrious one, but no occupant of an office, however illustrious that office may be, should shelter himself behind its great traditions for action for which any private individual would be condemned, and I say that the titular Keeper of the King's Conscience should not neglect his own. The explanation of the Lord Chancellor's conduct is found in the evidence before the Royal Commission. An hon. Member of this House in giving evidence said as follows:—I know what the Lord Chancellor told me himself that he certainly should not act without the consent of the Lord Lieutenant: that a good many Lords Lieutenant were Members of the House of Lords, and he was not going to differ from them.That is the keynote of the Lord Chancellor's policy. What his object was I cannot, of course, say. It may have been the hope that Liberal measures would more easily glide through the House of Lords, and if that was his hope it was doomed to failure. On the other hand, his object may have been social, and then perhaps he was more successful. I do think it is a most humiliating position for the Liberal party that one of the Ministers of the Government they support ignores all Liberal dissatisfaction in the country and takes no notice of this burning discontent in the constituencies. I will now speak about the Report of the Royal Commission. That Report, as usual, expresses the hope that politics may not enter in future into those appointments, and I entirely agree with that view. I do so, however, on three conditions. The first condition is that for the future no politics should not mean no Liberal polities. The second condition is that the present disparity in number of the political parties on the Bench should be redressed; and lastly, if you are going to make these offices non-political, you should begin at the top and not at the bottom. I have no doubt that the Lord Chancellor himself was appointed for his superior legal knowledge. I have had no practical experience of the Lord Chancellor's legal powers, but I do say that although we concede willingly that the Lord Chancellor may have stood out in the forefront of all those qualified for that post, we must admit that he would 2712 have had no chance for that position if he had not been a member of the Liberal party. Let us begin at the top and not at the bottom. The Report further recommends that the Lord Lieutenant should maintain the practice of making representations for the magistracy, but that he should receive recommendations from the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committees are to comprise two Members of each party, with the Lord Lieutenant as chairman, presumably with a casting vote. The first question is, how are these Advisory Committees to be appointed. In the first place, I should like to ask whether they have been appointed at all. I received a letter from the constituency of the Home Secretary, in which the writer says:—I have sent many resolutions to Mr. McKenna during the last few weeks. It is most unsatisfactory as far as Monmouthshire is concerned, for they have not even appointed the Advisory Committee yet.I want to give an instance which I know of as to how these Advisory Committees are appointed. The Conservative Lord Lieutenant made representations to the Liberal Member who represents the constituency, and asked for two names to be put on as the Liberal members of the Advisory Committee. The Member sent the names down, but he afterwards discovered that those two names were not the names submitted to the Lord Chancellor and the reason why they were not submitted was that they were considered too partisan. I think the only possible chance of these Advisory Committees being of any use to the Liberal party at all is if you put on two real partisans, because you do not want to put on two Liberals who will not take their sides against the Conservatives. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] There is no question about the Conservative Members being partisans, and if you want any success from this system of Advisory Committees the Member must be consulted, and he must put on two men who will stick up for his party. The second point about Advisory Committees is that I do not see how it is possible in this way to equalise the disparity in numbers on the county benches. If the House will allow me I will put an analogy of how the Advisory Committees will work. Let us suppose for a moment that the present system of the creation of Peers is altered. Let us suppose the Advisory Committee is composed of two Liberal Peers and two Conservative Peers, presided over by a chairman or the Lord Chancellor himself. We must for the purpose of this illustra- 2713 tion banish from our minds the idea which we have of the natural reluctance of hon. Members on this side of the House to enter the House of Lords. Let us assume for the moment that there is a burning desire on the part of everyone sitting on this side to enter the House of Lords. I landowners who consider the right hon. Friends, do they think that such a committee would give them much chance of entering the House of Lords or, in fact, of redressing the balance of parties in the House of Lords in any way?
I think in what I have stated you get a perfect illustration of how these Advisory Committees will work. We wish more advantage to be taken of the Act which abolished the property qualification. I know it is often said that they would appoint Liberal magistrates, only they cannot find the Liberals to appoint. I think that comes from making the field of selection principally from people who are landowners. I have never been able to understand why to own land was a particular sign of intellect, or even of common sense. No one pays any particular attention to landowners nowadays, except the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I believe there are some landowners who consider the right hon. Gentleman's attentions superfluous. We do wish some measures to be taken which will widen the field of selection, and eventually not only redress the inequality between the two parties on the Bench, but also enable the method of selection to be fairer. I understand the Prime Minister is going to speak, and I am afraid anything we say will not be of any avail against the powerful eloquence of those who will speak later, but, if I may, I will mention one or two arguments which may be brought up against us from some quarters. In the first place, we may be told some of the figures we published in the summer showing the disparity of numbers on the Benches were incorrect. I very much regret if that was the case. We printed them as they were sent to us, and we could check them no more. We trusted the people who sent them, and we were unable to check them any further ourselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for the St. Austell Division of 2714 Cornwall (Mr. Agar-Robartes) and myself. Then it may be further said that many of the recommendations sent to the Lord Chancellor by the Liberals were invalid. It may be some of our recommendations that were sent in were bad, but surely it is not fair to damn the whole of the Liberal party for that reason. It may be said that people have been selected for magistrates because they subscribed to the party funds or took part in party politics. I do not know if the person who subscribes to the party fund is to be the outdoor man in the future, but why should you stigmatise any man who in the dark days of Liberalism stuck to his party in the country and choose to subscribe to his local association, not with any ulterior motive except to keep it going, and debar him for ever from sitting on the magisterial Bench? And, as regards taking part in party politics, surely that should not be a sign of unfitness for sitting on the Bench. How is a man in the country districts to give free play to the activity of his mind? Why should he not? Do you wish to banish every village Hampden from the county Bench and to say a man who takes part in politics, principally on the Liberal side, is to be disqualified from serving on the Bench? I think the whole idea is absurd. Since this question has obtained publicity a certain change has come over the situation. Since last summer some Advisory Committees have been set up, and two days before this Debate came on a certain number of magistrates were appointed. All I say about that is——
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Does my hon. Friend mean to suggest that announcement was delayed until this Debate was about to take place, or that it had any connection whatever with the Debate?
I do not for one moment suggest it was for the purposes of the Debate, but I think the action of the Advisory Committees was stimulated by the idea of the Debate.
To show some justification for their existence. That is the way a temporary change may have come over them, but we cannot be expected every time we wish some magistrates to be made to conduct an agitation in the Press and in the country which shall bring the matter to the attention of those who make them. I sincerely hope the Government will see their way to recommend some system in 2715 the future which will remove the inequalities between our party and the Conservative party in the country. I do think it is a most necessary step for them to take, and it is with that sincere conviction I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
§ Sir CHARLES HENRY
I beg to second the Motion. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Wisbech is to be congratulated on the moderation and the firm conviction he has shown, but he is to be congratulated for another reason. He has been successful where Liberal colleagues of mine in the Parliament of 1906 signally failed. He has been successful in obtaining from the Government a day to discuss this matter. We were unable to do so. I think the Opposition require some word of commiseration. They endeavoured to avail themselves of a Parliamentary method to stop this discussion. I can quite well understand and appreciate their reason for so doing. They do not desire this matter——
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
On a point of Order. What right has the hon. Gentleman to make that statement? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not a point of Order."] It is a point of Order. What right has the hon. Gentleman to impute motives to my hon. Friend who put down that Motion?
§ Sir C. HENRY
I will tell the Leader of the Opposition. I think those motives are so apparent, though I will not express any further opinion about it. I will leave it to the judgment of the House. What I do say is this: I think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will agree it is time this matter was discussed in Parliament. The question of magistrates generally never has an opportunity of being discussed in this House. The salary of the Lord Chancellor who has the appointment of them does not come under the Estimates. Therefore, I consider it is, if for no other reason, desirable some change should be made in the existing conditions under which magistrates are appointed. I hold the strong opinion that those duties should be delegated to one who can he questioned in this House regarding the appointments, and who will be responsible for them, and, as the Home Secretary is practically the arbiter of these gentlemen, he should have some hand in their appointment. What was the position with which we were confronted 2716 at the beginning of 1906? The Unionist party had been in power for a large number of years, and, during that time, most of the appointments made belonged to Members of that party. In fact, it had been the policy, not an unusual one, that to the victors belonged the spoil. It was expected, and naturally so, when a Liberal Government was returned to power with such an overwhelming majority as that Government was in 1906, that gentlemen qualified in every respect who belonged to the Liberal party would receive some recognition, and that the flagrant inequality and the predominance of one political party on the bench might in some way be mitigated. I would like to tell the Lord Chancellor this. He is a Scotsman, and, as a Scotsman, he will be the first to admit that his fellow countrymen not only like to have but are on the look-out for recognition and appreciation. I think the Lord Chancellor will be the first to admit that his party, whenever the opportunity has presented itself, have recognised and have shown appreciation for his great political services. I would like also to add that Englishmen are not very different from Scotsmen in this respect. They also like recognition and appreciation, and I say a large number of Liberals throughout the country had reason to take exception to the policy adopted by the Lord Chancellor when he said that no magistrates would be appointed on account of political services rendered. The Lord Chancellor had a difficult situation to contend with, but he had not the difficulties to encounter with which his predecessor—Lord Herschell—was confronted. The Prime Minister will remember that in the Parliament of 1892, in which he was Home Secretary, Lord Herschell said, in connection with this question, which was at the time very much in the forefront, 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 Lord Lieutenant, unless he was fortified in doing so by an unequivocal declaration of the opinion of the House of Commons.In May, 1893, the late Sir Charles Dilke moved a Resolution to this effect:—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.The Prime Minister, then Home Secretary, adopted the Resolution on behalf of his 2717 Government, and in the course of his speech expressed himself as follows:—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 yon 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.Then he went on to say:—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.That Resolution of the House of Commons has never been modified. It gave the Lord Chancellor power to act independently of Lords Lieutenant. In addition, his task in equalising the political complexion of benches was much facilitated by the fact that one of the first Acts of 1906 was a measure abolishing the qualification for county magistrates, to which my hon. Friend has referred. Lord Robson, then Solicitor-General, gave the following reasons for the necessity of this measure:—I need not point out that these qualifications very materially restricted the area of choice in the appointment of gentlemen living in the county to this important judicial office: indeed, there are some industrial districts in mining and manufacturing counties where it has not been only difficult, but almost impossible, to procure gentlemen in any way competent to fulfil magisterial duties, but who at the same time possess this qualification as resilient landowner or occupier. But there is a wider reason than that for the alteration in the law which we propose by the Bill. When the qualification by estate was originally devised and enacted there was some reason for it in the fact that education, especially that higher education which is derived from the responsible conduct of public affairs, was almost a monopoly of the propertied classes. You might say it was the privilege of property. That state of things exists no longer. Not only is education of the scholastic variety more widely spread, but public life has been thrown open to all classes, with the happy result that in every district of England are found men of position and authority well qualified to hold office quite irrespective of the wealth they may possess, especially landed wealth.We expected that legislation would lead to the result of selecting magistrates on a more democratic basis. What has been our experience? During the 1906 Parliament, together with many of my Liberal colleagues, I approached the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the present Lord Chancellor and the present Prime Minister, and, as a result, in 1909 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the subject. The hon. Member for Wisbech (Mr. Primrose) referred to his own personal knowledge in connection with his own Constituency. If I may be permitted to do so I should like to give some figures as regards the county of Shropshire—one of the Divisions of which I have the honour to represent.
2718 At the end of 1905 there were 194 county magistrates of whom may be stated with fair degree of accuracy that 139 were Conservatives, five Liberals, and fifty neutrals whose policy it was difficult to determine. In spite of these facts twenty-five more Conservatives have been appointed, seventeen Liberals, and six non-partisan, so that the bench now consists of 164 Unionists, twenty-two Liberals, and fifty-six unattached. In my own Constituency—the Wellington Division—what was the position at the end of 1905? There were seventeen magistrates, of whom fourteen were Unionists, one Liberal and two unattached. There are now eighteen Unionists, four Liberals and two unattached. I ask the Prime Minister, can he justify that position of affairs? Does he not think we are justified in trying to bring about some remedy for this flagrant monopoly? I have repeatedly approached the Lord Chancellor in connection with this question of the magistracy of Shropshire. I have never had the privilege of an interview with that august person, but I make no complaint about that. I recognise that the Lord Chancellor's office is an onerous one, that he has multifarious duties in participating in the Executive of the Government, as Speaker of the House of Lords, and as President of the Supreme Courts of Justice. For this reason alone I consider an alteration of the present system is absolutely necessary. What was my experience in presenting recommendations by which the anomalous position as regards Shropshire benches might be altered. The Lord Chancellor, when he assumed his present office, brought with him as secretary a certain Mr. Neish, to whom he delegated all matters connected with the magistracy. I do not think I am exaggerating when I state that no more unfortunate selection could have been made than the appointment of this gentleman in that capacity. I do not think I wrongly describe him by saying that he showed himself entirely opposed to the advancement of Liberal views. I believe my experience was by no means isolated. After Mr. Neish had done all he could to thwart Liberal views, he was removed from that position, and I think he may be congratulated—certainly the Liberal party may be—as he is now appointed to the office of Registrar of the Privy Council, at a salary of £1,200 a year. I hardly think this appointment is free from political influence. In 1909, owing to the continued protests of Liberal Members, a Royal Commission was appointed for the 2719 purpose of dealing with the selection of justices, and the Prime Minister was asked that its Report might be discussed in the House of Commons before it was acted upon. The Lord Chancellor put it immediately in operation. I take the view that as this Royal Commission was appointed by the Government, and as the expenses of the Commission come out of the Exchequer, this House had a right to pass an opinion upon the Report before it was acted upon, because there might be matters in it with which we wanted to deal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might have desired an opportunity of criticising the Report, because it did not pronounce that women should also be qualified for appointment as magistrates. This Report was, however, put into operation, with the result that my hon. Friend has indicated. I do not propose to deal very much with the evidence contained in that Report, but I cannot refrain from drawing attention to the evidence, or part of the evidence, of Sir Offley Wakeman, Chairman of the Shropshire Quarter Sessions. He said, quite frankly:—I quite recognise that there is an enormous preponderance of Unionists on the Bench, but the reason for that is that there is not the same proportion of material on the other side. It is very difficult to find gentlemen of Liberal opinions in Shropshire who are properly qualified to be put on the bench.What was the condition of things in Shropshire at the General Election in 1906? In the county divisions 18,209 votes were recorded for the Liberal candidates, as against 17,956 for the Unionist candidates. I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether he considers that from amongst these 18,209 voters a sufficient number could not have been found in order to some extent mitigate the inequality which existed on the Shropshire bench, instead of that inequality and predominance being further accentuated, as it has been since 1906. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government endorses the theory that from ranks of adherents to Liberalism men cannot be found with equal judicial capacity as amongst those drawn from the Unionist ranks? I should also like to ask the Prime Minister whether the Lord Chancellor, to his knowledge, had any evidence forthcoming that justice administered by Liberal magistrates is open to more criticism or is in any way less efficient than that administered by Tory magistrates?
§ Sir C. HENRY
At any rate I have got that admission from the Prime Minister. Lord Halsbury, in his evidence before the Commission, admitted that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he accepted the recommendations of Lords Lieutenant as a matter of course, and the present Lord Chancellor stated that 98 per cent. or 99 per cent. of his appointments were only made with the concurrence of Lords Lieutenant. In fact, it must be admitted by all sides that Lords Lieutenant, and those connected with them in the counties, have been mainly responsible for the appointment of justices, and that the Lord Chancellor and the previous Lord Chancellors have only been instruments in their hands.
It must not be overlooked that there is another body of magistrates, that is the borough magistrates. I know this Resolution does not refer to them, but for my argument it is necessary that they should be brought to the notice of the House. These appointments are made without the intervention of the Lords Lieutenant, but largely on the recommendation of Members of Parliament. On these benches far greater political equality exists. I do not think anybody will assert that the justice meted out on borough benches is in any way unfair or that it does not command equal, if not greater, satisfaction than that meted out by county benches. I should like to know why it is necessary in the case of county benches that 99 per cent. of the appointments have to come through the Lords Lieutenant, whereas in the case of borough benches no such concurrence is necessary. Is it considered that a lower standard of justice is permissible on a borough bench than on a county bench? In the Report of the Royal Commission there is no recommendation that the Lord Lieutenant should have any control over the appointment of magistrates for the borough benches. The Report recommends that the Lord Chancellor should continue to advise the Crown as to the appointments of county magistrates. This is supported on account of his being the head of the Justiciary, but the same power is entrusted to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. May I ask why it is suggested that the Lord Chancellor as the head of the Justiciary in England should make the appointments in all counties except Lancashire, while in Lancashire the appointment of magistrates is relegated to a layman, who has no connection whatever with the Justiciary.
2721 Advisory Committees have been appointed, and I will acknowledge this, that the Lord Chancellor has done his best to make the Advisory Committees as equal as possible in regard to Liberals. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, he has done that. I will go so far as to admit that since some of these Advisory Committees have been in operation a certain number of Liberal magistrates have been appointed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not everywhere."] I admit not everywhere. But even if in the counties of Kent, Devon, and Oxfordshire, Liberals have been appointed, that in no way will do away with the present injustice. That state of affairs may be promising at the beginning of the Advisory Committees, but it will not last. The Advisory Committees have been appointed in some counties with far different results. In the county of Berkshire, in which I live, previous to the appointment of the Advisory Committee, the predominance of Unionist magistrates over Liberal magistrates was about five to one. What has the Advisory Committee done? They have appointed six Liberals and five Conservatives. I shall probably be told that they could not find the men, but I think I can assure the Prime Minister that that is not the case, because I know the facts personally. The Commission recommend that in future Members of Parliament or candidates should not make recommendations for appointments, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wisbech has pointed out, they have entirely overlooked the fact of the inequality that at present exists. I maintain that before that recommendation is made effective, some steps should be taken to remove the present inequality and the prevailing predominance. Let me refer to what the Prime Minister said in 1893. He said,I entirely agree with those who say that politics ought not to be regarded as a qualification for the judicial bench.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Perhaps hon. Members who cheer that will also cheer what follows:—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, the politics should have nothing to do with appointments to the magistracy.2722 On behalf of my party I believe I can accept that proposal of the Prime Minister. I maintain that it is imperative that men should be chosen for the bench who will command absolute confidence, but it is not in the interest of the community, but an injustice, that the predominance of one political party should exist as at the present time. The Report of this Commission will not bring about this effect. I consider this matter requires the immediate attention of the Government. I hope the Lord Chancellor will recognise that the efforts of hon. Members have not been directed towards him in a captious spirit or in antagonism to himself, but in the desire of the party of which he is one of the leaders, may receive equal justice and equal treatment.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
The discussion to-day has been carried on in somewhat unusual circumstances, owing to the ingenious procedure of the hon. Member (Mr. Amery), but although to some extent the Debate is more circumscribed than it would be but for his intervention, I think I ought at once to say a few words by way of comment on the two speeches in which the Motion has been submitted to the House. The hon. Member (Mr. Primrose) made a lively and interesting speech. I regretted that it should be disfigured, as I think it was, by quite unnecessary personal imputations against the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor is a hard fighter in politics, and was for many years a much-respected Member of this House. It is sufficient to say there is no one who knows him, either as friend or opponent, who is not prepared to say, as I say, that there is no man in politics whose conduct is more scrupulously regulated by the highest considerations. It is a complete mistake to suppose that the Lord Chancellor has shown any desire to burke discussion in regard to this matter. I take the whole responsibility that we did not give a day for the discussion of the Report of the Commission. The Lord Chancellor was anxious for such a discussion, but there was not, in my opinion, adequate Parliamentary time for the purpose, and further, having regard to the fact that it was a unanimous Report of a most representative body, including a large number of Members of this House drawn from both parties, it was desirable to give the system proposed by the Report a little trial to see how the experiment worked, and then the House would be in a 2723 better position to pronounce a mature judgment on the whole matter. If that was wrong, I take the responsibility for the mistake. The Lord Chancellor has nothing to do with it.
The hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Henry) has quoted at some length from a speech which I appear to have made—I confess I had totally forgotten it, eighteen years ago, when I held the post of Home Secretary. It is not always the case when one's past utterances are disinterred from the oblivion to which we should often be only too happy to consign them, but I feel that I am in complete sympathy and concurrence with the opinions which I expressed upon that occasion. What did they come to, stated in simple language? That as far as possible political considerations ought not to enter into the composition of the magisterial Bench. No one would dispute that as an abstract proposition. Next I appear to have said, and I think it is perfectly true now, that that principle had not been in fact observed in the appointment of magistrates, and that the result of the system which then prevailed, and which prevailed up to the time of the appointment and the Report of this Commission, was without any imputation of corrupt or unworthy motives, that the magisterial Bench was composed, to a very large extent, of men who were chosen upon political grounds and recruited from one party in the State. That was a state of things which, although the magistrates might, and I believe did, act as a rule in a spirit of perfect impartiality, was not calculated to increase or to quicken public confidence in the administration of justice. I believe that is a perfectly sound proposition, and when the Lord Chancellor came to office at the beginning of 1906 he found that the state of things which I describe in these terms had been sensibly aggravated. When we criticise the action of the Lord Chancellor or of any Lord Chancellor in this matter, it is surely fair to remember that a more invidious and uncongenial duty cannot be cast upon any human being. Here is the Lord Chancellor, a very busy man, the highest judicial officer in the country, and a member of the Cabinet, and the duty is cast upon him of pronouncing upon the fitness or unfitness of tens, hundreds, even thousands of names which are poured in upon him to a large extent by political supporters, but also no doubt from other quarters, and in the determination of whose fitness or unfitness 2724 he is bound of necessity, because they are totally unknown to him, to have recourse to a more or less unsatisfactory local inquiry. That really is a duty from which anyone might shrink, and it is a duty in the performance of which the greatest possible consideration should be shown in the way of criticism.
Evidence given before the Commissioners shows that in the course of the four years up to the time of the appointment of the Commission, he appointed in all 7,000 justices. That includes England, Scotland and Wales, boroughs as well as counties. The Lord Chancellor says, quite frankly, that when he came to office there was an enormous preponderance of justices belonging to the Conservative party and consequently he felt that, as far as possible, he ought to find suitable Liberal magistrates to redress the balance. What was the quality of the complexion of the appointments actually made during those four years? It is not always possible to ascertain the precise political complexion of the appointments. These are the figures. In English and Welsh boroughs he appointed 1,100 Liberals, 284 Conservatives, and 115 persons whose politics were unknown. In the counties in those years he appointed 1,658 Liberals, 580 Conservatives, and 1,618 persons whose politics were unknown. [An HON. MEMBER: "They were mainly Conservatives."] That may be. I am not prepared to say. At any rate that was the state of the knowledge of the Lord Chancellor at the time the appointments were made. I am not at all surprised at the suggestion made by my hon. Friend that a large proportion of those persons whose politics were unknown turned out to belong to the Conservative party.
In the Scottish counties—there has never been any substantial complaint made there — there were appointed 439 Liberals and 141 Conservatives. The result of that in particular localities—for instance, in the two Divisions whose representatives have spoken to-day—may have been unsatisfactory. But if you look into the aggregate it cannot possibly be said that in the face of these figures the Lord Chancellor did not make an honest attempt, so far as his opportunities allowed, to redress the unfair balance which prevailed at the time of his appointment to office. We all agreed—and no one more than the Lord Chancellor when various representations were made to him by my hon. Friends behind me—that in many cases there was 2725 good foundation for complaining of the unsatisfactory way in which appointments were made. No one admitted more cordially than the Lord Chancellor that there should be a thorough, impartial, and independent inquiry as to the best system of dealing with this matter. That led to the appointment of the Royal Commission in 1909, and, pending the investigation and the Report of the Commission, the Lord Chancellor altogether held his hand, and I think during the whole period he appointed no magistrates, or only those needed for emergency purposes or to fill up gaps as required. Nothing has been said by either of my hon. Friends in the shape of adverse comment on the Commission presided over by my learned and lamented Friend the late Lord James of Hereford, and there sat upon it a very large number of gentlemen who either were or had been Members of this House. That Commission presented in substance a unanimous report. What was the substance of it? They agreed that politics ought not to be the determining factor, or, indeed, a governing ingredient in the appointment of magistrates. They agreed further that there was, owing to the operation of past appointments, a heavy political balance as against the Liberal party in the composition of the bench in most of the counties, if not in the boroughs of England and Wales. They agreed that for the future it would be desirable if possible to exclude political influence, and any opportunity of solicitation by political partisans, whether on the spot or in this House from the sphere, on behalf of nominees. They adopted the suggestion, which I think was put forward by the Lord Chancellor, that the appointment of these Advisory Committees would prevent Lords Lieutenant from being in future the sole, or even the principal channel and medium of communication between the locality and the Lord Chancellor, and who from their composition and their representative character would be able to sift the list of appointments and to present a list which could be safely accepted by the Lord Chancellor himself. That recommendation has been carried into effect. My hon. Friend (Mr. Neil Primrose) asked how many of these Committees have been appointed. I am told that Advisory Committees have been set up in all counties with few exceptions, and even as to those exceptions they are in every case approaching completion. Roughly speaking, in about half the counties recommendations have been already made by the Committees.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No. I am speaking of England and Wales principally. As regards the composition of the Committees, I am told by the Lord Chancellor that they are not composed on party lines, and though in most cases there is an equal representation of Liberals and Conservatives, there is, as a matter of fact, taking it as a whole, a slight Liberal preponderance. But the appointments to the Committees are not supposed to be on party lines. In almost every case they have come to unanimous decisions, but it is always open to any member to make direct representations to the Lord Chancellor if he thinks any injustice has been done. These bodies are not executive, but consultative. They are formed to advise the Lord Chancellor, and he takes full responsibility as regards the names submitted to him by the Committee. Though he has adopted the recommendations practically in toto he still considers every name and reserves the right of rejection, and I am informed by him that in no case has he rejected any name. The choice has been wholly that of the Advisory Committees, and I am informed by him that in practically every case the choice of the Committees has been unanimous, and so far as he knows has given general satisfaction. I think I ought to add that an examination of the lists of justices shows that the Committees have evinced a great desire to recommend Liberal justices, and the Lord Chancellor believes that the Conservative members of Committees are, if anything more ready to nominate Liberal justices. They have shown a spirit of fair play, and I share the view of the Lord Chancellor. That is the system which has been brought into existence, suggested originally by the Lord Chancellor himself, adopted after full consideration by the Royal Commission, and now in full working order in most of the counties of England and Wales. I do not believe that anyone can suggest that there has been, since the appointment of the Committees and in the names submitted, a great deal to call for adverse comment or objection. My hon. Friend cited a particular case in his own Division where an appointment was made without consultation with the Committee. I am told that the explanation is that the matter was represented to the Lord Chancellor as one of great urgency, and had to be dealt with 2727 accordingly. That took place before the Advisory Committee, at any rate, was in full working order. I have not heard, either in this Debate or outside, any serious criticism of the action of the Committees since they have been in working order, and of the way in which they have endeavoured to carry out the new functions which the Commission recommended should be entrusted to them.
In these circumstances, I venture to ask my hon. Friends to be content with the explanation of this subject, which I have only been too happy to give them the opportunity of hearing. Do not let it be supposed for a moment that there was any desire on the part of the Government that the matter should not be discussed in the freest and frankest manner. I admit that it is a very difficult question. I suppose that if we were starting afresh there is not one of us who would adopt this very cumbrous system, which throws upon the chief judicial officer of the State, through the co-operation of the Lords Lieutenant of the counties, this very invidious and very difficult duty. I can imagine many better systems which the ingenuity of man might devise for dealing with this problem, but, at any rate, I think we may take it that we have got rid of the principal anomalies and difficulties which clung to the working of the system prior to the appointment of these Committees. We have started, in place of the old system, a new one, which, so far, has borne excellent fruit; and I trust that further experience will tend more and more to justify its institution; and the House of Commons, I am sure, will be well advised at this stage of the development of what I conceive to be a great reform to discourage at the inception of its operations these doubts as to the possibility of its ultimate success. I could not possibly assent to the Motion which casts a reflection on the conduct of my Noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor; but I think I have shown from the facts which I have laid before the House and the reasons which I have given that in the appointments which he made that, while everyone of us must admit that in the performance of a duty of this kind errors of judgment are made from time to time and may have been committed, yet throughout he has been animated by an honest desire to perform his duty in the public interest and in a spirit of fair play; and now that we have the invaluable assistance of these Advisory Committees 2728 there will be less ground in the future than in the past for anything in the nature of adverse comment.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I am glad to say that I find myself in the position of agreeing with what has fallen from the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the circumstance that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Amery) had put down a Motion which caused this Debate to be conducted under somewhat restricted conditions. I have the authority of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bonar Law) for saying that when he himself saw the ruling upon this matter he expressed his desire that this Debate should not be curtailed, but my hon. Friend, while anxious that this Debate should take place, felt it his duty to put down this Motion as a protest against a condition of things the existence of which is admitted on all sides to be vicious and which has been constantly protested against by both sides.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I did not attribute anything to the Leader of the Opposition. It was put down by the hon. Member, and I quite understand the motive which led him to do so.
§ Mr. MORTON
Did the Leader of the Opposition endeavour to induce the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his Motion?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I at once saw my hon. Friend and expressed my wish that the matter should not be curtailed. He at once explained to me that he had put down the Motion at the request of another hon. Member who was absent, but that the object of it was not to interfere with this Debate, but to make a new protest against the fact that the Government have allowed this system to continue and that these Motions are possible.
§ Sir C. HENRY
Has not the effect of putting down the Motion been to prevent hon. Members from making suggestions in accordance with the recommendations of the Report?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The object of putting down this Motion was to renew a protest which has often been made before. The Prime Minister has never yet had an opportunity of making arrangements to get rid of this system.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
On the general merits of this question, I think that both sides will agree that it is a misfortune that there should be any very great disparity between the representation of Conservatives and Liberals on the public bench, but it would be a still greater misfortune when that disparity existed if measures were taken to redress it by appointing men who were not qualified for the very difficult task which magistrates have to execute. I think that the figures which the Prime Minister has given have shown absolutely conclusively as a whole that the Lord Chancellor has redressed in part the preponderance which existed of Conservatives when he came into office, and I think that I can say for everybody on this side of the House that we associate ourselves entirely with the language of the Prime Minister as to the Lord Chancellor. I sat with him for many years in this House. I should think that no man could have stronger political opinions or express them with greater strength and sincerity than the Lord Chancellor when he was an hon. Member of this House. Notwithstanding that, every one of us, I think, who knew him, and who sat in the House with him during those years, felt absolutely certain of his transparent sincerity, integrity, and the probity of his nature and character, and I say, without being able to go into minute particulars of these thousands of appointments which have been made on the magistrates' bench, having some knowledge of that kind, that the appointments which the Lord Chancellor has made on the judicial bench on which we can all form an opinion, have convinced hon. Members on this side, and the country, that he has the highest possible conception of the responsibilities of his office, and of the necessity of getting the best possible men for these high and responsible duties. When this is said I really do not think there is much to be added. It really would be unfair to criticise closely the speech of a young Member of this House, evidently suffering in regard to the conduct of the Lord Chancellor from some idea of a grievance in his own constituency. The Member for Wisbech frankly put it that he desired Liberals to be appointed to the bench in order to oppose and counteract the Conservatives.
No; I said I wanted Liberals to be put on the bench in order to equalise the disparity of numbers.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I accept what the hon. Member states. I noted the words at 2730 the time, but I may be under a misapprehension as to what he said. At all events, nothing would be more lamentable than that there should be on Advisory Committees or magisterial benches conflicts between people of different political opinions. Anybody who really considers the matter, or has any experience of it, will recognise that if the magisterial benches or the Advisory Committees were to become a sort of cockpit of controversy between Liberals and Conservatives, all respect that the country bears to them at present would almost instantaneously vanish. I will only add that the Commission, as to which again I wish to associate myself with everything said by the Prime Minister, was composed of men of most varied political opinions. There were Labour men upon it, and I think there was a larger number of Liberals than Conservatives among the members of it. It is a most wonderful tribute, I think, to the great skill, resource, and wisdom of Lord James of Hereford that he was able to achieve the remarkable result of a unanimous report on so controversial a matter. The last word upon this subject appears to me to be said in the recommendations of the Royal Commission, in paragraphs 5, 6, and 7. They say in paragraph 5:—We are of opinion that it is not in the public interest that there should be an undue preponderance of justices drawn from one political party.In the next paragraph they say:—We strongly condemn the influence and action of politicians being allowed to secure appointments on behalf of any political party.That, I think, will be the desire of hon. Members. In paragraph 7 the Commissioners say:—We submit to the Lord Chancellor for the time being that he ought to reject and repudiate any such influence, and we equally urge that Lords Lieutenant and any one recommending persons for appointment as justices should decline to recognise political or religious opinions as any ground of qualification or disqualification.When the Advisory Committees are being appointed on the recommendation of this Commission, and with the object of carrying out the proposals which I have read, and which have the assent of men of experience on this matter, it seems to me amazing that Liberals should rise in this House to make the comments they have on the Lord Chancellor, who has tried to strictly comply with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and who has fallen in most readily with the suggestions made—suggestions I believe which are a large part due to him. I only wish to say one word with regard to the real difficulty 2731 there is in getting an absolutely equal balance of Liberals and Conservatives in the country. I believe you can have no better member of the magisterial bench than a sound artisan, labourer, or workman, of good education and good character. Such men make excellent jurors, and good jurymen are often desirable appointments to the bench. The difficulty is for them to find time for the duties. It is useless to deny that, as a rule, wealthy men tend to Conservatism. Wealth gives leisure, and leisure gives opportunity to sit on the bench. You may have admirable men drawn from the poorer classes who simply have not the leisure to give to magisterial duties and, therefore, they cannot be appointed. That will give a monopoly still for a very long time, and no doubt it is due to that that there is a preponderance of Conservatives on the bench at the present moment. I would invite the House to consider that, although the preponderance exists, and that although all reasonable means ought to be taken to redress it, nothing would be more unfortunate than to redress it by appointing unqualified and undesirable persons.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
I beg to move, as an Amendment, after the word "That," to leave out all the words to the end of the Resolution, and to insert instead thereof the words,this House approves the action of the Lord Chancellor in giving effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the selection of justices.I wish to express my gratitude to the Prime Minister for having taken so much of the burden of supporting my case off my shoulders. I agree that this matter might very well have ended with his speech, but my hon. Friend so far from being satisfied with to-day's Debate, is anxious for another day next Session; therefore, I think that in some way or other the matter should be brought to a conclusion now. His Resolution has remained on the Paper for a very long time, and, no doubt, but for the pressure of business, we should have reached it sooner; at any rate it should be disposed of now. The object of my Amendment is to maintain the policy laid down by the Royal Commission in the selection of justices, and to defeat what in my opinion has been too often a vicious system of patronage in the nomination of justices. The agitation 2732 on this subject has been stimulated by some extraordinary figures given in the "Daily Chronicle" in several issues during July last. In that journal figures were given for various counties, and being interested in the new system of local committees I went to the Lord Chancellor and was put into communication with Mr. Butler. As regards these columns of figures, I do not think it is possible to test the religious opinions of justices in forty-two counties. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I am a justice, I am an elected justice, and I do not know how my hon. Friend would set about testing my religious opinions. But what can be tested is the principle of appointments. The list given in the "Daily Chronicle" dates from the year 1906, but without saying whether it is the beginning or the end of the year. But whether it is the beginning or the end, the list is inadequate. In almost all the counties it is often very inaccurate indeed. In Northumberland the figures given were 159 creations of justices since 1906, whereas the total number appointed since January, 1906, until the publication of the list was only sixty-eight. In Oxfordshire, the figures given of new appointments were 152, and the actual total was fifty-seven, so that almost two-thirds of those men are the creation of a fertile imagination. These are given as counties in the list. There are numerous other inexplicable blunders, and the figures given in half the counties given are inaccurate to the extent of 30 per cent., and in the remainder to the extent of about 10 per cent. So far as I can find out, the misstatements as regards the political opinions of those appointed are at least as great as the misstatements of the actual numbers. I would like to know where those figures came from, whether they have been shown to the Lord Chancellor, whether the Lord Chancellor has been asked for information, whether those figures have been checked or corrected, and whether they emanated from the party agents or caucus. I have no belief in the verbal inspiration of the resolutions or returns emanating from the caucus upon this matter. In my experience the great majority of justices of the peace are not active political partisans, nor do I see the public advantage in their being so. I readily admit that to extract the administration of justice from the political sphere is not an operation that can be carried out upon the spur of the moment, or that it can be carried out without mistakes and, at least, there are 2733 many cases of complaint like those to which the House has listened and others.
If I do not pursue the hostile criticism which has been made further it is because I have my own statement to make, and I do not wish to take up more than is necessary the time of the House. I will give some examples showing what has been done towards equalising the political element upon the bench. In Kent, which is a highly Conservative county, the Committee consists of two Conservatives and four Liberals, and their nominations have been forty-three, of whom six-sevenths are Liberals. That is that six out of seven of those recommended by the Kent Committee are Liberals. I do not think it is desirable that everybody on the bench should be known to the political agents as an active partisan. In the last list in Devonshire about nineteen out of the twenty-two nominated are sent in as Liberals. Those are two Conservative counties. In Midlothian about five-sixths of the twenty-five nominated were Liberals. The recent appointments have been made, I am assured, as soon almost as they came in and as they became ripe and in the ordinary course. The organisation of these committees is a matter that had to take some time, especially when the Lord Lieutenant does not cordially welcome them. In my own county our list was out last spring, but there the Lord Lieutenant was one of the originators of the scheme, and our list was done eight or nine months ago, and, so far as I can judge all over, progress has now become rapid. This question of the appointment of justices has perplexed people for nearly a century. For more than a generation political parties have been increasingly apt to regard the creation of justices of the peace as a thing to be used for the purpose of keeping the party together. That is a view prevailing more in some parts of the country than in others. In many districts the subject is not a burning one at all, but wherever the party managers on both sides have come to regard this form of patronage as one to use for the consolidation of their respective parties they try to make the most of it, and that is a system which is apt to lead to undesirable consequences. No doubt the present system has often worked extremely well. I can justify it myself. In my own Constituency my agent usually prepares a list of nominations for the consideration of the Lord Lieutenant under the old system, and nothing could have been 2734 easier or more happy than my relations with the Lord Lieutenant. His lists were usually received with general approbation of all parties, and doubtless others can say the same. But even so, most of us Members would be glad to get quit of this kind of thing. What is the office which you may fill under the old system by party agents drawing blank cheques on the Lord Chancellor? What are the qualities required in the men? Except where there are stipendiaries, which I believe are not common in England, every criminal case in some stage or another has to come before the justices of the peace. At quarter sessions penal servitude can be given and at Petty Sessions terms of imprisonment. The justice of the peace is far more than His Majesty's judge—he is the man who administers justice to the poor. As to the necessary qualifications, the Royal Commission refer to them, and I may remind the House of them. They recommended:—That the office should be filled by men of sufficient ability, of impartial judgment and high character.They have said that—the present practice and system of selection frequently results in the absence or deficiency of such attributes.They have referred to the activity of the political agents in preparing the list of applicants. They have pointed out that the chief qualifications sought for in preparing these lists is political service, and that it is difficult for the Member of Parliament to reject the agent's list. They added that all political parties seek to take advantage of every available opportunity to demand and secure the appointment of justices, and that such demand proceeds from a desire to strengthen the party interest. Everyone knows that most Members of Parliament detested this political system of making judicial appointments. Look at the first paragraph of the Memorandum of 1906 sent in by eighty-eight Members of Parliament giving most earnest support to any suggestion that would get rid of political influence. It says:—We desire to state that we believe the present system of appointment of the persons charged with the local administration of justice in county districts to be a wrong one, and would warmly welcome a proposal of the Government which would put it upon an entirely non-political basis.It was recognised that the whole thing tended to degenerate into a party job. I believe that the Lord Chancellor who permitted such a system to develop would be deserving of impeachment. I would like to allude very briefly to the work involved 2735 on the Lord Chancellor. I admit the delay which has occurred in very many counties, but in 1906 the appointments of justices of the peace in ninety-eight counties and nearly two hundred boroughs rested solely with the Lord Chancellor, and one man in. London and one secretary, with some clerical assistance, had to do the whole of the work. There was no organisation by which advice could be obtained from outside. Therefore the work was enormous. In the first four years of office, as the Prime Minister has stated, until the activities of the office were suspended by the appointment of the Royal Commission, there were 7,000 nominations made and 20,000 applications were declined. The figure 7,000 was largely in excess of the average number created in previous years, that excess being due to the attempt to rectify some of the more glaring discrepancies. That is not the whole of the work, because separate nominations have to be made for each Petty Sessional division and for each ward of the great cities, in order that the bench may not be either over-manned or under-manned. In my own experience in Scotland I have known the administration of a licensing bench to become a fiasco owing to the court being filled with a huge organised mob of justices. I have seen seventy or eighty justices sitting in a licensing court. Hon. Members will realise what the result of that might be.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
As a whole, yes; in part, perhaps otherwise. The expansion of the undue predominance of Conservatives upon the bench results in great part from the fact that between 1886 and 1906 there was a high property qualification in England, and most persons possessing it were Conservatives; and whilst before the split in the Liberal party in 1886 a considerable number of magistrates could be drawn from a class who were then to a large extent Liberal and available for the magistracy under the property qualification, that source of recruiting was lost when the split took place. That difficulty was removed by the 1906 Act, which was carried by the Lord Chancellor. Obviously the preponderance of the Conservatives upon the bench would necessarily have remained the same if it had not been for that Act. In dealing with the counties, on whom could the Lord Chancellor rely for information? 2736 There were the Lords Lieutenant. But if you take the county of London, with its sixty-six constituencies, or the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is obvious that the Lord Lieutenant could not speak from personal knowledge. He had largely to be guided by the chairmen of Quarter and Petty Sessions who are mostly Conservatives. The advice of the Lords Lieutenant and of Members of Parliament is open to the criticism which has been made. The question was, how is one man to do the work? The Lord Chancellor, in speech and evidence, has shown that he has had to do it as best he could, asking advice from the Lords Lieutenant and from the representatives, taking advice from whatever quarter he could get it, where he found it reliable, and supplementing it by correspondence with County Court judges and stipendiaries. But although the work entailed was enormous the result was not satisfactory, because the sources of information were not sufficient.
It was proposed, then, to set up some machinery to effect the object in view—namely, first of obtaining the most trustworthy and impartial men—those most suited to the administration of justice, and to prevent an undue preponderance one way or the other on the bench; and, secondly, to break down and destroy so far as it could be done the system which was sought to be set up in some districts, of keeping the patronage of the nomination of justices for party ends, with all the dirty business that that imports. That is why the Lord Chancellor in his evidence advised the Royal Commission to consider the appointment of local committees to advise. That was also the proposal of the Lord Lieutenant in my own county, Lord Elgin, from whom I first heard the outline of the scheme. The Royal Commission adopted that view. It went further, and recommended that the Lord Chancellor should keep clear of Members of Parliament. It recommended—That the Lord Chancellor and the Lords Lieutenant should refuse to receive any unasked for recommendations for appointment from Members of Parliament or candidates for such Membership in their own constituencies or from political agents or representatives of political associations.One Commissioner, Mr. Verney, dissented from that recommendation. He agreed with the description of the evil, but apparently he thought the recommendation was too strong. That shows how fully the Royal Commission realised the danger and mischief which lurked in the old system. The character of the Commissioners have 2737 been described by the Prime Minister. Six Members of the Commission were either Labour or Liberal Members of this House. They were unanimously in favour of the local committees. That is the policy to which effect is being given by the Lord Chancellor, and from which I most earnestly trust the House will not depart.
Under the old system two streams of recommendations flowed in. When the Lord Chancellor was a Liberal, all or nearly all the Liberal recommendations came from political sources. The Conservative recommendations have come almost entirely through the Lords Lieutenant. The Lord Chancellor has stated that not half a dozen names have been given to him by Conservative Members of Parliament. That shows how completely the drift has been on party lines. It was to get rid of this that the Royal Commission recommended the local committees—a practice to which the Lord Chancellor has said he will adhere as long as he holds office. The Royal Commission, as can be judged from its Report, was not in the least indifferent to the need of satisfying the people that a fair and honest selection was being made. What is condemned is the influence of politics, and the people must be satisfied that the best means are being taken to rescue the bench of justices from the grasp of the caucus. I will turn, in conclusion, to what the Resolution says. The wording has been left pretty well as vague as it could be. The House will recollect the letter signed by sixteen Members of Parliament asking for a day. They objected to the Advisory Committees. They asked for the transfer of the patronage, of the nomination, from the Lord Chancellor to a Minister responsible to the House of Commons—that is sitting in the House of Commons. I should have thought myself that the Lord Chancellor was responsible to the House of Commons. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] The House of Commons can hold him responsible. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not directly."] It is doing it now, to-day! If the first part of the Motion may be taken to mean that every fair-minded man disapproves of party methods of nomination, then it represents that on which everybody is agreed. On the other hand, the suggestion that the country disapproves of the Lord Chancellor's action is, I believe, entirely contrary to the fact, as the necessity for that policy is generally recognised.
The Motion states that this policy will not remove the cause of dissatisfaction. 2738 Does that mean that the Committee system is wrong? We have heard some arguments advanced to show that it is essentially wrong. That system was recommended by the best men who could be got together for the purpose of investigation in the Royal Commission. Does it mean that the Lord Chancellor has not appointed the Committees fairly? Or does it mean that the system is not approved by the party managers? If that be the attack on the Committees, it would appear to be that some other Minister sitting here in this House is to exercise the patronage without the Advisory Committee, though that has not yet been made plain; that is to say, that the evils of the old system would be reproduced, and Members of Parliament would be subjected to the closest political pressure to force some Minister to make political appointments. That, in truth, to my mind, would be the result of this Motion. You would have justices appointed all over the country, mainly through local political influences. My belief is that no Liberal should support such a proposition. I agree with the Report of the Royal Commission that the new system should remove all honest cause for dissatisfaction. A list of the County Committees have been published. Those Committees have been formed in nearly all the counties. What is the objection to that system? Consider the authorities in its favour I have already quoted. What conclusion can be drawn except that this protracted Commission has been forced on to coerce the Lord Chancellor, or any Lord Chan-by active partisans or party agencies of cellor, to accept the bills drawn upon him all colours? I know many of my friends are quite sure that the Lord Chancellor has not appointed a sufficient number of declared Liberals. It is very difficult to get proof of that. On the other hand, many have been appointed, and for many reasons stated by the Commission. They recognise the existing inequality, and regret it, although they say the disparity of which Lord Lansdowne spoke in 1907 has been appreciably reduced during the last few years. The last paragraph I shall quote from the Commission says:—Those who appoint justices or make recommendations for appointment ought not to be indifferent to the existence of this inequality, and should endeavour to redress the balance as far as public interests will admit. It is well that this gradual process should be pursued, for it is better that time should be given to curing or mitigating the disease than that resort should be a remedy which will tend to perpetuate the disease itself.2739 All I can say is that if Members of Parliament are to be made unworthy conduits of pressure from political agencies, and if justices of the peace are to be appointed as nominees of a partisan system, then it will be far better to elect justices. Let us have a clean and not a dirty democracy. Let us vote for our judges by ballot. I am an elected magistrate, and I am a believer in the method which prevails in the Scottish Burghs. I find myself all the stronger for the administration of justice upon the bench under that system. But it must be borne in mind that in the Scottish Burghs the magistrates are elected by the town council in very limited numbers, and that local government is non-political, which is apparently not the case in England. Uniformity of practice is readily obtained under those conditions. The difficulties of an elective bench are greater in the counties than in the burghs. The jurisdiction of justices in Scotland is much less in favour than in England. My experience of the county system is more limited, but I can say that as a Vice-Lieutenant and member of the local committee in Fife, that I really possess no knowledge of the politics of those who are nominated for the bench, any more than I know the names of the members of my town council, or of my brother elected magistrates. I can hardly advance, therefore, the Scottish Burgh system as a precedent for an English elective magistracy; but it does occur to me if you were to make the magistracy elective in England, that there might be some counties where no Liberal would be elected, just as I once knew a county in Scotland where no Liberal need apply.
I dwelt upon this matter because to my mind it is the only alternative before the House to the present system, and it is an alternative so far as I know which works uncommonly well. I admit that in relation to the Sheriffs' Courts, we may not know much about the law, but we know something about the facts. I admit at once where political feeling runs high, it may be necessary to give special weight to political considerations in making nominations to the bench. But it cannot be either in the interests of the administration of justice in England, nor for the interests of the proper administration of licensing in Scotland if the first qualification of a justice ceases to be impartiality, character, capacity, and zeal for the public service. The difficulty of finding a fair proportion of Liberals in the districts 2740 rapidly disappears when the population have self-government, and with the progress of education, and no such difficulty should be met with in future. In my opinion the country owes the Royal Commission and the Lord Chancellor a deep debt of gratitude for their efforts to rescue justice from the struggles of the political arena. I believe great progress has already been made; that the Conservative domination exercised in so many counties has been for ever broken; that it can never be revived, even if the Conservative party be entrusted with another long lease of power like the last.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I beg to second the Amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend. I do so as an English Member. I am aware that in Scotland the dissatisfaction that exists has been much less marked than in England. I do not wish for a moment to deny that there has been dissatisfaction in England for reasons which we quite understand. I think I should like to be associated with the protest which has been already made against the tone of personal offensiveness introduced by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No," and "Withdraw."] Personally, I regret that on the strength of the report of a conversation, which is, frankly, incredible, that there should have been any imputation of unworthy motives which I think the House as a whole will repudiate. It is quite unnecessary for me to attempt to defend the character and reputation of the Lord Chancellor. I admit, as I have said, that discontent does exist to some extent, but I find the roots of the discontent in the property qualification and in the long domination of the Conservative party. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), to express the sentiments of fair-mindedness with which we should all at once credit him, but there is the widest possible gulf between his sentiments as expressed to-day and the actual practice that prevailed. Lord Halsbury was perfectly frank before the Royal Commission. He stated the system under his own administration in all its purity. He declared this practice was very simple. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, indeed, he put it more strongly than that, he said, "I accepted the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant as a matter of course," and he 2741 went on to say, "I daresay there was some foundation for the complaint that the magistrates were more or less of one particular complexion, but I do not think it made any difference. The country gentlemen were Conservatives and the country gentlemen were the people from whom naturally the magistrates would be taken." I think that the word "naturally" is significant. Before the property qualification was swept away political partisanship and social exclusiveness were at the bottom of these appointments. The appointments were in fact saturated with class feeling. I do not want to attack the Lords Lieutenant by any manner of means. Some of them were very fair-minded men, but in the knowledge of most of us here there were at least one or two pretty bad scandals.
That is the situation in which we found ourselves when the change came in 1906. Everywhere there were Liberals and Nonconformists well qualified for the bench who had been excluded on the ground of their political or religious opinions. What was the action which ought to have been taken in these circumstances? I do not wish to misrepresent hon. Gentlemen who have associated themselves with all the criticism which has gone on, but I believe what is in the back of their minds is that there should have been an immediate and sudden reversal of those traditions, and that the object should have been to capture the political representation of the county benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] And that besides the 7,000 appointments somehow or other there should have been shovelled on to the bench, irrespective of vacancies, another 20,000; and that after brief search and short inquiry. It seems to me that the real object that lurks in the minds of these people is a desire that the majority on the county benches should change hands with every General Election, just as the Lord Chancellor himself changes in accordance with the politics of the party of the day. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] I do not wish to misrepresent anyone, but I believe that is really in their minds. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] If that is not in the minds of hon. Members here it is the view according to some statements I have seen in the Press and elsewhere. If such action had been taken it would have been a real disaster, and would have defeated the ends we all have in view. It would have stereotyped the present system, and could have had but one single 2742 defence, namely, that the party opposite have in practice always acted upon this principle, and that they would probably act again upon this principle if they got back to power, and that it was no use for us to be more immaculate than the other side.
If anything of that kind had been done it would have stereotyped the dominance of political interests in these appointments, and it would have defeated the action which we hope to see taken. It is quite true the position of the Lord Chancellor is extremely anomalous. He is a politician at the head of a great judicial system, but surely we do not wish for this violent see-saw after every General Election. Surely we do not wish to have a scramble of political partisans or promotion to the bench to be the appanage of party; we do not wish for the introduction of the spoils system.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
Then it is agreed nothing of that kind is possible, and hon. Members say nothing of that kind was in their minds. All they ask for then is a gradual process, and that the principle of appointment should be personal fitness and personal qualification, impartiality of character, and independence of judgment, and that these should be the ground of appointment; and in view of the fact that the existing preponderance leads really to loss of respect for the bench and for the administration of the law there should be an attempt made to redress legitimate grievances and the sense of exclusion. If that is all that is asked, and if the other alternative is repudiated, then I venture to think that the action of the Lord Chancellor, as shown by the figures, proves that he acted upon sound lines. There have been 7,000 appointments. The average rate of appointments has been doubled, and of the justices appointed whose politics are known there are three Liberals to one Conservative. It is quite true that there are 1,700 justices whose opinions are unknown. The Minutes of Evidence throw considerable light upon that. The explanation is that there were agreed lists in many counties, political parties in the localities or local bodies having themselves agreed upon a list, in which case the Lord Chancellor accepted the recommendations without inquiry into the political opinions. That is the explanation of the large number of unknown cases on the 2743 county bench. I think it is quite unfair to say that the present Lord Chancellor adopted the same attitude towards the Lords Lieutenant as Lord Halsbury did. It is perfectly plain Lord Halsbury took the nominations direct from the Lords Lieutenant. It is true that, as a matter of fact, the Lord Chancellor has in most cases obtained the concurrence of the Lords Lieutenant of the counties, but it is perfectly clear, as he himself says, he did not accept the list of the Lords Lieutenant without examination on his own part; and in a great number of cases he has interposed.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
I have nothing to add, with reference to that, to what the Prime Minister said, but there is a complete difference in the attitude of the Lords Lieutenant, and I believe the Lord Chancellor's attitude is much more likely to obtain really satisfactory results. This Debate has been very limited and circumscribed, and the only suggestion of an alternative has come from the hon. Member for Shropshire, who suggested that the whole process of the appointment of magistrates might be handed over to the Home Secretary. At the present time the Home Office is not exactly a bed of roses, and what I understand is suggested is that there should be a system of appointment affording an opportunity of canvassing the appointments by means of Parliamentary question and answer across the floor of this House as though the candidates were claimants for old age pensions. I do not think the Home Secretary would rest more easily on his pillow if such a change were introduced, and obviously the great objection to it is that it would really concentrate these appointments along political lines. If arguments with regard to alternatives are in order, I would like to say that if this system of Advisory Committees does not prove satisfactory in obtaining the best men——
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
The only way out of the difficulty would be to hand over to stipendiaries the judicial part of the justices' work. It may have been that the discontent which has arisen is not due so much to administration as to the inherent difficulties of the present system. It may be that the system itself is wrong, but we shall see whether in practice the Advisory Committees are able to overcome them. For the present, however, I think this system is far fairer and better than the one which has prevailed in the past, and I commend the Advisory Committees to the approval of the House on the ground that they will provide an authentic channel of information for the Lord Chancellor which will enable him or any future Chancellor to get over the great difficulty of obtaining reliable and trustworthy information. I commend the new system also on the ground that it will tend to minimise party pressure, and I am sure every Member of Parliament will only be too glad to fall in with the recommendation of the Royal Commission on this point, and while we may be willing, if asked, to supply information within our personal knowledge, under the new system we shall be free from the constant pressure put upon us to press the claims of candidates. I hope and trust that if these Advisory Committees become the normal procedure and are adopted as a permanent assistance to the Lord Chancellor in making these appointments, perhaps we shall get away from the bad traditions which existed between 1886 and 1906, and we may get, in the course of time, and by a gradual approach, to a system under which the appointments to the bench will be open to members of all classes, the working class included, as far as possible, and these appointments should be made amongst men of all creeds without favouritism. We ought to have a system under which the bench is really open to men of all shades of opinion. From that point of view I beg to think there is no real case to be made against the Lord Chancellor's action, and I hope that the institution of these Advisory Committees will, in the course of time, remove all this discontent.
§ Captain JESSEL
The hon. Member who has just sat down rather found fault with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), because he seemed to express satisfaction with the present position of affairs, and with what the Prime Minister 2745 has said. The hon. Member himself really supplied the answer to that criticism when he referred to the Report of the Royal Commission. The reason, no doubt, why on the county benches there has been and there is a vast predominance of Members of the Unionist party is owing to the fact stated in the Report that this state of things has been accentuated by secessions from the Liberal party in the case of those who opposed Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule policy. Another cause is that the property qualification was not abolished until the year 1906, and that restricted the field of selection, and no doubt excluded a large number of Liberals who were otherwise suitable for the position. That is the reason why hitherto there has been such a vast preponderance of Members of the Conservative party on the bench in the county divisions.
The Prime Minister at the close of his speech said that the hon. Member for the Wisbech Division who brought forward this Motion ought to be content, because he has had an opportunity of ventilating the grievance that has been growing and which has existed for a good many years. That opportunity has now been given to us in Parliament, and it is one which many of us are very glad to take advantage of. At the same time, I desire to entirely associate myself with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, when he stated that on this side of the House we had no wish to make any attack upon the Lord Chancellor. Having had the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons with the Lord Chancellor when he was a Member of this House, I can agree with every word that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman about the Lord Chancellor. At the same time, I should like to point out that there is a great deal of discontent with regard to the appointment of magistrates, more especially in the County of London. If the House will bear with me, I should like to state the position in my own Constituency, the Southern Division of St. Pancras. My Division represents one-third of the rateable value of the great borough of St. Pancras. There are in that borough some thirty-six magistrates on the bench, and out of that number there are only four who belong to the Southern Division. I and my family have been connected with this Division for twenty-five years. I had a little accident in 1906, and I was not a Member of this House for four years. During the whole of those twenty-five 2746 years there have on the Conservative side only been two magistrates appointed. During the four years I was out of the House there were two magistrates appointed on the Radical side, very eminent gentlemen, one of them it may be of particular interest to the House to know being one of the greatest assets of the Liberal party, Sir Francis Carruthers - Gould, whose pictures we all admire in the "Westminster Gazette." I have not a word to say against him. I am delighted he was appointed. But how extraordinarily disappointing that two magistrates should be appointed on the Radical side in four years, while, during the whole twenty-one years only two should be appointed on the Conservative side. We have had eleven Mayors of St. Pancras. No less than seven of them have belonged to the Southern Division. Out of the eleven, three who belonged to the Radical party have all become justices of the peace, and out of our heroic seven only one has been appointed to the bench who is of Tory opinion. That shows, though hon. Members opposite have grievances as regards the numbers on their side, we also have our grievances on our side of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) tells me that during the thirteen and a-half years he was Member for Peckham only one Liberal-Unionist was appointed, and, of course, he is rather extreme in his opinion, and thinks a Liberal-Unionist is not quite of the same character as a Conservative. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher) told me the other day that during the whole twenty-five years he has been connected with Fulham no single magistrate has been appointed for that division.
The Lord Chancellor, with the very best motives in the world, has appointed an Advisory Committee for London. I could not understand the composition of the Committee when I read it in the paper, because I found a great many well-known gentlemen—I hope I am not treading on their toes—of rather pronounced political opinions from the Radical point of view, and very few who are well known on the Conservative side. It seems to me, if this system is to work well, a little more attention should be paid in London to what we may call the geographical distribution of these magistrates. It is a most peculiar thing that no less than three out of eighteen of these gentlemen are connected with St. Pancras. They have nothing to do with my Division, but I am glad to see 2747 St. Pancras so well represented. It is a fact, however, with which the rest of London has found considerable fault. There is a Municipal Reform majority on the London County Council, but not one single member of that party has been appointed, though the deputy-leader of the Progressive party has been appointed. There are also three members of this Committee who are not magistrates at all, and, though we are very pleased, no doubt, to have with us in this House the picturesque personality of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward), he can hardly be said, even from the Labour point of view, to be connected prominently with the Labour party as regards London questions. Under those conditions, I fail to see how the system is going to work well in London unless more care is exercised in the appointment of the Advisory Committee. There are four Petty Sessional divisions in Westminster, and the rateable value is nearly one-seventh of the whole of London; but so far as I can see no active member of any one of those four Petty Sessional divisions has been appointed to a place on the Advisory Committee. I quite agree, if this system of appointing justices of the peace unpaid is to continue, the only thing is to try and work upon the lines of the Report of the Royal Commission. A great many of these men naturally—I do not see why they should not—look for some recognition of their services to their borough or the county in which they live, and, as far as I can see, the only appointment of public recognition which is open to them is that of being awarded the distinction of being made a justice of the peace, and I ask the Government in all consciousness to take into consideration whether it would not be possible to get a system by creating something analogous to what is done in the Civil Service.
I think the hon. and gallant Member is rather transgressing the ruling laid down by Mr. Speaker, or he is very near doing so.
§ Captain JESSEL
Of course, I bow to your ruling. I was only going to suggest that some other method of recognition of those who do good work in municipal life should be invented by the Government 2748 rather than rely upon this system of appointing everybody to be a justice of the peace. I venture to throw out this suggestion as a means of getting over this difficulty, because, after all, a man would be quite content with some recognition, and the only one which at present exists is to make him a justice of the peace. In conclusion, I can only say that I, for my part, am going to vote for the Amendment, because, as things are at present constituted, it does seem to me the best possible way out of the difficulty, and to make the present system wrok properly and successfully, as I hope it will, some little more care should be taken as regards the composition of these Advisory Committees.
Mr. SILVESTER HORNE
I am afraid I have somewhat failed to understand the exact consequences of the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken. He tells us he is going to support the Amendment which approves the action of the Lord Chancellor in giving effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and at the same time the fact that the Lord Chancellor has acted on those recommendations in the appointment of Advisory Committees is the one point against which he protests, explaining to us, as he did, that the Advisory Committee in connection with London was not well constituted and was not working well.
Mr. SILVESTER HORNE
The fact remains that the committee has been constituted in a way which has already aroused the disapproval of the hon. Member; yet he proposes to support the Lord Chancellor in carrying out that recommendation. All of us who have sat in this House welcomed the intervention of the Prime Minister in this Debate. We know he does, in his heart, sympathise with those who want these benches to be made more representative of the interests over whom the jurisdiction of the Commission of the Peace extends. At the same time, I venture to say that the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman disclosed one of the difficulties of the situation. The Lord Chancellor is not in this House, and the right hon. Gentleman had to tell us that on some of the cases which have been put to him he was not fully informed. The case put by my hon. Friend the Member for the Wisbech Division is certainly a very extraordinary case, and one which he 2749 3.0 P.M.
was fully justified in bringing before the House. The Prime Minister said he did not know the circumstances of that case, and one of the difficulties in which we are placed is this, that the influence of the House of Commons in regard to the general administration of justice in this country is made exceedingly difficult because of the procedure in connection with the appointment of justices of the peace at the present time. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Wisbech Division on the tenacity with which he stuck to his Resolution. It is quite true that the agitation is not a new one. It has been going on in this country for twenty years. The other day I turned up a speech delivered in the House of Lords in 1907 by the Earl of Malmesbury, in which the Noble Earl said it was a matter of common knowledge that for the last fifteen years an agitation has been on foot to deal with the system under which Lords Lieutenant appointed to the county magistracy and to substitute appointment by the Lord Chancellor direct. That was in 1907. The Earl of Malmesbury pointed out that for fifteen years previously there had been this agitation to alter the system, and this was a confession by one of the Conservative Members of the House of Lords. I do not suppose anyone will deny that the Lords Lieutenant have practically appointed the magistracy of this country. What we wish the Prime Minister had dealt with is the question of the new status of Lords Lieutenant in connection with the recommendations of the Royal Commission. In the first place, I think we ought to know whether the Lord Chancellor, by his action, has or has not divested himself of some of the responsibilities of his office. He cannot legally divest himself of the ultimate responsibility for the appointment of magistrates, but at any rate we want to know if he has practically transferred the responsibility to these new committees which he has appointed. This is a very serious matter. It is a big social and constitutional change, and if there is one thing about which the House of Commons ought to have been consulted it is about this matter. New machinery has been set up all over the country. New methods have been introduced which will determine the future administration of justice, from one end of the land to the other, and all this has been done without the sanction of Parliament, without this House having been taken into consultation, and without 2750 it being given an opportunity of pronouncing its opinion one way or the other. We certainly urge from these benches that this Debate ought to have taken place earlier. The question is one so far-reaching and will have such important effects in days to come, that surely the sanction of Parliament ought to have been required in a matter of this kind.
I want to raise one or two questions in connection with this point which have not been touched upon up to the present time. It is evident, in the first place, that the Lord Chancellor intends to make these Committees practically responsible in the future for the constitution of the Commission of the Peace. But we all know that the tendency of these Committees is, when they can, to clothe themselves with various powers and to establish various vested interests. Undoubtedly it will be exceedingly difficult and exceedingly invidious for the Lord Chancellor, after having appointed these Committees, to refuse the nominations which are sent by them. It can result in but one thing, that the whole power is now going to be transferred from the hands of the Lord Chancellor to the Advisory Committees, whom this House cannot possibly control. We shall have no sort of control over them. I admit that practically we have no control over the action of the Lord Chancellor, but he is a Member of the Government, at any rate. When, however, the power is transferred to the hands of these Advisory Committees we lose practically all voice in the mattter. I venture to think that this alone is a reason why this Debate should have taken place and why my hon. Friend should have raised this question.
The next question I wish to ask is whether any particular instructions have been given to these new Advisory Committees. Have they been instructed, for instance, that it is part of their duty to make these benches representative of all the various classes and interests within their jurisdiction? Are they to be told it cannot make for confidence in the administration of justice in this country that the justices should be drawn from one party or from the adherents of one Church? Are they to be told that they are to take steps to redress the inequalities of the present situation, and that they are not to take into account social considerations? Are they to be told it is their duty to remember that the property qualification has been abolished, and that it has not been 2751 abolished in order that it may be a farce and a sham, but that they are to proceed to take advantage of that abolition to appoint certain qualified working men to serve on county benches? All these questions are of great significance and importance to us, and we want to be assured, as a result of this Debate, that there is going to be a certain social change which is going to affect the whole administration of justice. I believe there are some Members of this House who do not understand how the people in the rural districts feel in regard to this matter. They cannot understand why some of us for years have been agitating that there should be a fair proportion of representation of interests which are exceedingly dear to us on the Commission of Peace. Let me give the House an illustration of what I mean. A little while ago there was a contested election in one of the divisions of Lincolnshire, and in the middle of it a workman made certain charges against the moral character of the Conservative candidate. I pronounce no opinion whatever as to whether he did or did not say what was attributed to him. I am quite willing to accept the fact that in the heat and excitement of the moment he did use the words that were attributed to him. What was the result? This man was first of all clapped into prison. Then he was brought before the bench of magistrates, and he was tried for this offence. A gentleman rose in the midst of the Court and asked whether he might be allowed to bear testimony on behalf of this man. He was refused leave to deliver his testimony. The magistrates adjourned for consultation, and then they came back into Court, apparently feeling that they had gone a little too far, for the chairman announced that if anyone had any testimony to give on behalf of this man they would receive it. Whereupon this gentleman, with a great deal of pluck and courage, went to the front and gave his testimony that the man was a simple sort of fellow, and that obviously in the heat of the election he had said probably what he had no justification for saying, and he pleaded the man's cause on the simple human ground that everyone in this House will recognise. What was the result? Without further adjournment, they fined this man £10, and they disfranchised him. He was totally unable to find the £10, but eventually it was found for him by certain friends.
On that bench, sitting to try a political question, there was not a single Liberal. 2752 Although I am perfectly willing to admit that any bench of magistrates with common sense and ordinary feelings of humanity might do the best they could in circumstances of that kind, I do not think it is a fair position to put anybody in. I do not think it is a fair thing that the general mass of the people of this country should at any rate believe, and have some warrant for believing, that they are not likely to get absolutely fair play because there is no representative on the bench of the particular interests to which they are attached. Take another instance. This is so common that I suppose all Liberals are familiar with it. We find innumerable cases in which men simply want ordinary documents signed which have to receive the signature of a member of the Commission of the Peace. It is an unfortunate thing in this country that our political quarrels do produce certain dislikes, certain animosities and certain asperities, and the consequence is that there does tend to be that line of cleavage between men of one party and men of another party. When your ordinary Liberal or your ordinary Nonconformist wants to get some document signed for which he must have the signature of a justice of the peace he must go to some member of the other side, with whom probably he has had at election time some dealing which have, perhaps, not been characterised by Christian charity, or perhaps there has been a certain feud between them which has grown up. Perhaps he is a Nonconformist who has to go to a clergyman or somebody who has put him down at a public meeting. It is an unfair and an unjust thing that there should be no one of his own type of feeling to whom he can go.
This is not an invented grievance. Anyone who travels much about England, especially in the rural districts, knows very well that there is absolutely nothing that these men feel so much as they feel this question. I do not see in the least degree why we should not adopt the Resolution of my hon. Friend. If I thought that the constitution of these Advisory Committees was going to bring relief to this situation, undoubtedly I would oppose his Resolution and I would support the Lord Chancellor. I think we are making a very big social and constitutional change without any guarantee whatever that it is going to work out in the way that we all trust, at any rate, that it may. But at the present time the House of Commons has not pronounced upon this question. We have 2753 really not been consulted upon this question, and it is so big a question, and it may be fruitful of so much difficulty and mischief in the future, that I venture to think it deserves more consideration than we have been allowed to give it. It does not very much impress me that we are sometimes handed lists in which we see certain people marked with an "L" and other people marked with a "C"—that is, certain people who are supposed to be Liberals and certain people who are supposed to be Conservatives, because I know quite well that there are certain Liberals who are far more Conservative than the most conservative of Conservatives, while there are many Conservatives who are more liberal than the average Liberal. You cannot distinguish between the two simply by putting an "L" against one name and a "C" against the other name. We know this, that when the Liberal Government happen to be in power some people suddenly discover in themselves Liberal sympathies which have never been very marked up to that particular time, and when there is a possibility of their getting on the Commission of the Peace it often means a belated and sudden development of Liberal principles. It therefore does not convey very much to me that certain people have an "L" against their names to distinguish them as Liberals. In point of fact, there are a good many Liberals about whom I must confess that their Liberalism is invisible to the naked eye. We want some people there who will be there to stand up against very considerable opposition. I want to suggest that it is not sufficient simply to put on one solitary Radical, who will have a poor time when he sits there. He will be received with distant, chill, and remote courtesy. There ought to be more than one, so that they can support each other.
I am one of those who believe that there is no question more vital to the social well-being of England than this one. A very eminent man once said that the greatest asset of England was its belief in justice. We shall have another asset one of these days for England, and that is the belief in the certainty of getting justice. It is all very well to believe in justice as an abstract proposition, but the people in the rural districts want to believe that they can get some kind of real justice, and that they can get it with some degree of certainty. I support the Resolution because I do not believe that we have yet any guarantee that steps are going to be taken 2754 to redress the existing inequalities on the bench, which are recognised by hon. Members opposite as well as by ourselves, and because I am perfectly sure of this, that the most necessary thing for our country at the present time is that the people shall really come to believe that in the administration of justice in this country particular prejudices will not merely be accepted for principle and that property will not be above human life.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has complained, with tears in his voice, that His Majesty's Government has carried a great change in the administration of the country without consulting the House of Commons. He must be a very innocent man, as well as we all know from his life outside a very able man, if he does not know that this Government is never tired of making great administrative changes without consulting the House of Commons. It is the natural course of their policy, and it is the last thing the hon. Gentleman should be surprised at. He says that it has been done with regard to the magistracy. I need hardly say that we on this side of the House will heartily concur in the Amendment with the hon. Member opposite, who doubted whether he had sufficient religious character to commend it to the House. I can assure him that he has as much religious character as any other Member of the House. There is not a man on this side who doubts the bona fides or sense of honour of the Lord Chancellor. We knew him in this House sometimes as a bitter and convinced Radical. There was no stronger Radical in this House than Sir Robert Reid. We all recognise that he has exercised his high functions as an officer of State as conscientiously as any man. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Resolution. He certainly embellished it with the Attic salt of inherited humour, which we all appreciate; but I do not know why he introduced so much personal passion into it. It struck me afterwards that perhaps he had tried to get nominated to a bench of magistrates, and had failed. But I am quite sure that the reward will come in time, and that he will also be on the commission of the peace.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I am very glad of it, but I still less understand the note of passion in what was a very amusing and 2755 interesting speech. But what we have not here is any real justification for the Motion. The only justification would be to impugn the administration of justice in the country by example to show that the stream was polluted, to show that people were not getting justice from the bench of magistrates as at present constituted. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoke gave an example which I am very glad to deal with. It seems that in some case arising out of a political election a man who was brought before a bench of magistrates, being unable to make good his case by any proof, had a friend who came into Court, and that friend, knowing nothing about it, did not come as a witness, but wanted to plead. He was not qualified to plead, and quite rightly the bench did not allow him to plead. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he thinks any bench of magistrates would allow a friend who came casually into Court without knowing the facts, to make a speech on behalf of the accused. There was no prejudice. The bench was simply following "Stone's Manual" and the ordinary canons of the administration of justice by local benches, and that is the sort of thing that is brought in in support of such a Motion as this. Why did not the hon. Member (Mr. Primrose) give us a single proof of the mal-administration of justice? That is the real crucial point in this Debate, and if these cases have not been brought, there is one very good reason, they do not exist.
I never imputed mal-administration to the Conservative magistrates. My idea is that a great taint on the administration of justice in the country is that the fact that Liberals have to appear before benches which are entirely Conservative; however just the decisions may be gives rise to a kind of suspicion.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
That I understand is the allegation, that there is a want of confidence in the administration of justice, but that will not be met by any such Motion as this. But the hon. Member (Mr. Primrose) says it is no good labelling a man a Liberal. He must be a Liberal at heart according to the judgment of the hon. Gentleman. I understand he would have a sort of committee of selection in this House or in the country which would even try those who were Liberals or supposed to be Liberals in politics, and see if they were of the true faith. It would purge even the party to 2756 which he belongs of halting, doubtful Members who are always on the side of the winning party. Therefore it is not enough to get a man labelled a Liberal. It is not enough for him to have been on the Committee of the hon. Member. He must prove himself afterwards to be in truth and in conscience a Radical of the Radicals and a man of pure Radical spirit. I do not know who is to be the judge, but that is the sort of thing to which the House is treated in support of a Motion such as this.
I should like to have heard one hon. Member opposite point to the true fault and defect of the administration of justice, and that is that we are trying to administer justice in the country by means of a mob. If there have been faults it is because a mob is not a good instrument for administering justice in Petty Sessions. There are far too many magistrates at present, and it would be a good thing if we could reduce them by a half or three-quarters. I think the time is ripe for some other system. I have attended meetings of justices in London. Public meetings I have addressed have often been smaller in numbers than an assembly of justices, and that is the experience of every man who knows anything of what is going on. The reason is that the bench has been packed in order to placate and cement political parties. In the first four years after 1906 the Lord Chancellor appointed 7,000 justices—they were 7,000 too many for the administration of justice—yet there is not a word said to-day about the real crux of this question, that we are attempting, I believe, to administer an obsolete system of justice conceived in other days, in which I think there ought to be some real change to bring it into harmony with the changed conditions of our life.
§ Sir C. HENRY
If it had not been for the presentation of the Bill by the hon. Member's colleague, we might have discussed that.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I am very sorry the hon. Member was precluded. I only said what I had heard, not what I should have heard, if the hon. Member had addressed the House at the length he desired. That is the real thing, and I do not believe we shall improve by carrying further the American system by distributing offices by spoil. Frankly, it is in the spirit of Boss Croker that hon. Gentlemen opposite are looking at the question of justice. If they 2757 turn to that book which is so often quoted, I written by Mr. Bryce, they will find that the city judges are appointed solely because of their subservience to the dominant party in the State, and there is one example he quotes, and it is rather a good one. When something was supposed to be unconstitutional one of those gentlemen said the constitution ought never to be allowed to come in between friends. That is the way in which, if their principles were carried to their furthest point, justice would be administered here. But there is one very good reason why it has been impossible to meet even what are the reasonable requirements of the party opposite. How is it possible to find men of leisure in the country districts among the labouring class for appointment to the Commission of the Peace? In the towns it has been found necessary to have meetings of the municipal and local authorities in the evening in order that those who are engaged in manual labour and other toil of the same kind can attend. It is not possible to have Petty Sessions held in the evening, and for that reason, and it is a very good reason, it has been impossible to appoint many who, I quite agree, would be a source of strength and common sense to the bench.
I do not see how that is dealt with by this Resolution. You cannot get men from the classes engaged in manual labour who have the leisure for Petty Sessional work, and, apart from the work, what is there in the question? Why should there be this extraordinary craving for the distinction of fixing the magic letters J.P. after the name, just as Germans are said to run after decorations. It seems to me a very diseased taste. A great many of those who seek these distinctions cannot perform the duties of the office and cannot participate in public work because of the onerous character of their employment. I am quite aware that the letters J.P. are supposed to be a reward for party services, but that is not an idea which should be encouraged in this House. What we want to do is to improve the administration of justice and the faults that there are are not because of the party character of the bench, but because, in many respects, the unpaid magistracy, as at present constituted, is not able satisfactorily to meet the requirements even of rural England to-day. That matter cannot be pursued further, but so far as the mere dignity is concerned, the outward show of the letters after the name, I really think the party opposite ought to be satisfied. In many 2758 respects they have been almost gorged with the appointments which have been made. I think, if hon. Members sitting opposite confessed and spoke with frankness, they would admit that they have got a very fair share of the appointments. I do not think we want more of the spoil system than we have already got. It is unsatisfactory when applied by either side. This Resolution which is moved will do nothing to improve the existing conditions, but would make things worse. It would make the impure impurer still, and would add to the local jobbery which is the curse of most countries with Parliamentary Government, and which might very easily be greater here than it is now.
§ Mr. BECK
This Motion is one which lends itself peculiarly to ridicule and misrepresentation. Any one a great deal less able than the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Lawson) could draw amusing pictures of supporters of the Government hungering for the honour of writing "J.P." after their names. I do submit that it is not generous for Members of this House—many of whom have attained the bench at an early age without any merits of their own—I was on two benches before I was twenty-eight—to sneer at men who have a perfectly legitimate ambition to serve their country in a way they could be of service.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I did not sneer at them. I asked would they perform the duties of the office and not use the title without doing so?
§ Mr. BECK
All Liberals have knowledge of suitable men—we cannot expect hon. Members opposite to have knowledge of men qualified and fit to sit on the bench—who for twenty years have not been able to get there simply and solely because they are Liberals. It is not in order to make these benches a spoil for the party system that this Motion has been brought forward. Our contention is that men who ought to have been placed there by a Conservative Lord Chancellor were not placed there, and when a Liberal Lord Chancellor came into office he also ignored them in favour of less qualified Conservatives. I think this is the least deeply interesting part of this Debate. The real thing we have to consider is the administration of justice, and I beg to associate myself with the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Silvester Horne) in his statement that in the rural districts there is a distrust of the county bench. I believe that distrust 2759 to be totally without foundation, but to say that it does not exist is to ignore plain facts. In my opinion, the administration of justice by county benches has, on the whole, worked well. They have local knowledge; they take a good deal of pains, and I think the policy of appointing stipendiary magistrates all over the country would be very unnecessary and costly. To say that men who are Liberals and Nonconformists will not have justice when they come before county benches is, I think, quite inaccurate. I remember one very small thing which burned itself into my mind when a man charged with an offence appeared for the first time in his life with one of those buttons which Primrose Leaguers are accustomed to sport. He had never been seen with one before, and I believe he has never been seen with one since. That is amusing in one sense, but I am perfectly convinced that the magistrate sitting there would have been harsher with that man if he had not appeared as he did. I say when men have possessed their minds with the thought that Liberals will not get justice then there is something wrong with the whole system.
The Mover of the Amendment stated that the Lord Chancellor had carried out the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Personally, I say frankly that I do not agree with the Royal Commission. I do not think they have gone nearly far enough. There are thirteen recommendations, and the Lord Chancellor has only partially carried out one of them. It is not accurate to say that he has carried out the recommendations of the Royal Commission. What seems to me to be the absolutely necessary thing to do is to kill this system once for all, and to get the appointment of magistrates into the light of day. I do not mean to have public elections or the names in the papers, but that members of the Liberal, Conservative, and the Labour parties should get on a Committee and openly and publicly go through the names to be nominated for the bench. These Advisory Committees have been appointed in a most peculiar way. They are very good, I say, and I know some that are excellent, but it is a fact that in some counties they have been appointed without the leading Liberals being consulted at all. I do not say that they have not been well appointed. I think most of them have been well appointed, but I say that system will inevitably break down. I think it is a great mistake to allow the Lord 2760 Chancellor to have the nomination of the Advisory Committees without consultation with Members of this House or anything of that sort.
I hope that one of the results of this Debate will be to finally kill the system of politics on the county bench. I hope the Government will take the opportunity of thinking out some scheme which will do away with the present system, and which will entirely remove from the influence of Members of this House the recommendation of justices. It is a most invidious and unpleasant task to have to refuse to recommend men for county benches because one happens to be the Member for the Division. Indeed, from the political point of view, it is a very precarious course, because there may be people who are excellent political workers, but who, one considers in his own mind, would be very bad justices. In that case one may have an unpleasant duty to perform in refusing to forward the name to the Lord Chancellor. On the whole it would be far better to remove this sort of thing out of the field of party politics. To claim that the Lord Chancellor has taken a single step towards doing this is to claim a thing that has not occurred.
I think the present system of appointing Advisory Committees leaves as much in the hands of party men with regard to the appointment of justices as before if they care to use their power for party purposes. I believe that though the Lord Chancellor may not be anxious to advance his own party interests, he can perfectly easily be used for that purpose under the Advisory Committee scheme. It is for that reason that I say the House must face this thing much more fully than it has done. The whole system of the appointment of magistrates is very peculiar. Magistrates have a great deal to do in connection with the administration of justice among some of the poorest of the population, and yet at the present day justices are appointed not in respect of the convenience of locality. There are villages where there are four or five justices, and other places where there is not a justice within four or five miles. One knows of men who have been for years in public office and are not justices, while young men of twenty-two or twenty-three years of age are appointed. All these things cause dissatisfaction with the present system of appointing justices, and the House must face the fact and deal with the question, Are you going to keep the benches of justices as a social distinction? No doubt, at 2761 the present moment, benches are in many places extraordinarily overcrowded. [HON, MEMBERS: "No." "You cannot get magistrates sometimes."] The remedy is not to appoint Liberal magistrates to the bench, but to do something to enable the men who are not taking an active part on the bench to retire and to appoint more active men in their places.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Wisbech (Mr. Primrose) is to be congratulated on having had the courage to bring forward this Motion. It was a most unpleasant Motion to bring forward, as it lends itself easily to ridicule and misrepresentation. As one who at one time sat for the Division of Wisbech, I may be allowed to associate myself entirely with my hon. Friend's indignation at the way in which he was treated by the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor between them over the recent appointments of magistrates. To refuse to appoint magistrates to the bench because you are going to set up an Advisory Committee, and then, before that Committee comes into existence, to appoint six county magistrates on the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant, is a thing which requires very strong language to do justice to it. I hope that this Debate will lead to some further reorganisation of this system. I think it was some great French thinker who said that justice was the bread of nations. It is not sufficient in the administration of justice to avoid maladministration, which I believe we do at the present moment, but you must avoid all suspicions of maladministration. I do say that the present way in which our county benches are constituted, in what can only be described as the hole-and-corner way in which magistrates are appointed suddenly, does cause a great deal of dissatisfaction and bitterness. There is, of course, one difficulty. I quite understand that you ought to have a larger number of working-class representatives on the county benches, but in the rural districts I admit it is very difficult. I say quite frankly that one of the difficulties is that in magistrates you ought to have a measure of independence, and that magistrates ought to be afraid of no one; and while it is quite easy in towns to get able working-class representatives who need be afraid of no one, one can often imagine circumstances arising in country districts where a man working as a manual labourer in some small shop or something of that sort would find it very difficulty to give a decision without favour. 2762 I believe that this Debate will have done good, and I only regret that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Amery) should have blocked to a certain extent the discussion of the Motion by bringing in a Bill dealing with the subject of the Motion on the very morning on which the Motion was down for discussion, in order to burke discussion upon the subject.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
My only ground for taking part in this Debate is that I happen to be a member of an Advisory Committee and that I have sat for a good many years administering justice at Petty Sessions. As regards the last of these qualifications, I have sat with justices of every shade of politics, and I confess that I have never detected any political conviction in their views as to the administration of justice, whether they were, Liberal or Conservative. I rather gathered from the opening speech that what was in question was the question of patronage, that there were a number of agreeable distinctions to be conferred, and that the Liberal party had, neither in the past nor in the present, a sufficient share in them. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Home) has brought the matter down into what I think is the question. The question is really whether justice is well or ill administered under our present system. He holds that it is badly administered, and he gave two instances, neither of which I think was entirely convincing. He told us a pathetic story of a working man who had committed an offence in the heat of a General Election, that a friend had desired to appear as an amicus curiœ and make a speech to the bench, and that the bench had not unreasonably declined to allow him; that thinking it over they thought the poor man should have a chance of anything that his friend could say, and that they heard the friend and were not convinced. I think before pronouncing a final opinion as to the propriety of their decision we should hear a little more of what actually took place.
The other point was the great inconvenience that if you want to make a declaration or sign a document which has to be made or signed before a magistrate you may have to go to someone who has a different point of view in politics from you. I confess that that hardship never struck me as an oppressive one. If I wanted a witness to my signature, I think I should not have been greatly oppressed if I found that the nearest person whom I happened to know, that I was entitled to ask to 2763 discharge that kindly duty for me, was an hon. Member on the other side of the House; and, really, to say that it is a serious hardship that a Conservative should have to ask a Radical or a Radical to ask a Conservative to allow him to make a declaration before him is making a grievance where no grievance exists. I do not believe that there is any dissatisfaction among the persons who are mainly concerned with the administration of justice, and I do believe that the present justices who have considerable local knowledge do, on the whole, discharge their duties to the advantage of the community. There is one small matter which does suggest to me that there is considerable confidence in the authority of the present Court of Summary Jurisdiction. A great many cases come before every bench of magistrates who have to sit week after week, cases of indictable offence, which may be dealt with by summary jurisdiction. You give the man his choice of being dealt with at Petty Sessions or at Quarter Sessions or Assizes, and, however near the Quarter Sessions or Assizes may be, or however easily he can get bail, I have very rarely known a case in which a man does not say, "I will have my case dealt with now." That is they prefer the Petty Sessions to the Quarter Sessions or Assizes. That shows that there is not serious lack of confidence in the administration of justice by the justices as at present constituted. But I admit the inequality that there is between the parties in the number of places filled on the bench. The property qualification no longer exists, and what you want besides are capacity for the administration of justice, interest in local affairs, and leisure to deal with them. It is that very necessary qualification of leisure which, I think, excludes a great many numbers of the working classes who might otherwise be useful additions to the bench from taking their part in those affairs which, no doubt, they would be well qualified to undertake. How are you to remedy this inequality? It has been suggested, in the course of this Debate, that you are to remedy it by the drastic process of appointing Liberal justices in order to counterbalance, no doubt, an equal number of Conservative or Unionist justices. What effect would that have on the administration of justice? Anyone who has ever sat in a Court of Summary Jurisdiction knows how much easier it is to administer justice by five persons than by 2764 ten persons, and to add justices to the bench mainly because they are Liberals I think would clearly be adverse to the proper administration of justice. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) referred to his experience as an elective justice. I think he hardly went so far as to say that the election by a very large constituency would necessarily produce the happy result which he has experienced. His election was by the town council, which is a somewhat restricted area to exercise the choice of justices. The remaining method which has been adopted by the Lord Chancellor is that of Advisory Committees. It has been asked, What is the composition of the Advisory Committees, and what guarantee is there that they will do justice? I am a member of an Advisory Committee which consists of five persons—three Liberals and two Unionists.
§ Sir W. ANSON
No; the Lord Lieutenant does not sit on the Advisory Committee, and on this occasion the Advisory Committee was left to discharge its functions. The Lord Lieutenant is a Conservative. The Committee came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to flood the benches in order to redress the inequality. They considered very carefully what benches really needed reinforcement, and they suggested persons to fill the places. It so happened that everyone of those persons was a Liberal. So far as my experience goes, and I think the experience of others in this House, the Advisory Committee is a promising arrangement which ought to have a fair trial. It is not open to the risk which has been suggested of undue influence exercised either by the Lord Chancellor or the Lord Lieutenant. I believe that, in spite of the suspicions of hon. Members opposite, most of those who take part in these affairs are anxious, if they are appointed on the bench, to do justice, and, if they are on the Advisory Committee, to appoint suitable persons to discharge the duties of magistrates. I trust that the House will support the Amendment, and give a fair trial to the procedure which has been adopted by the Lord Chancellor.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
There are times when this House shows to advantage. Any man who heard the Foreign Minister's reply to Germany the other night must have felt, even though his position in this House was one of reluctance, that it was 2765 an honour and a pride to be a Member of this House. But to-day what happens? On the last day of the Session, in this House, we have practically a group of disappointed office seekers, massed and banded together for the purpose of making an attack on a great officer of State because he has not managed, in the course of twelve months' administration, since the Royal Commission sat, to redress the balance which is the result of centuries. This House has striven invariably to get rid of and shed away any suggestion that its Members could be influenced either to get office, honour, or profit for constituents. We have given up Civil Service nominations. It was a great abuse, and this House surrendered its right to Civil Service nominations. Some fifteen years ago I remember—I think it was the action of some of these altruists—a Resolution was passed in favour of the view that we should no longer have anything to say to Post Office patronage. Now a Royal Commission has been appointed, and it has reported—a Royal Commission with a majority of Liberal Members. But the view is now put forward that it is the function of the Members of Parliament to get the office of Justice of the Peace for constituents.
I should have supposed that every Member of the House would have welcomed the recommendation of the Royal Commission, so that we should get rid of continual pestering from constituents whether in England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales—that we should get rid of this idea that we should have to go to a Minister and get these appointments for our friends. I must confess in this respect, as regards the present Lord Chancellor, that I am a disappointed office-seeker myself. A Liberal Member some five or six years ago asked me, Did I know the Lord Chancellor? I said I did slightly, having had the honour of his acquaintance in this House for twenty-five years. He asked me, Would I apply to have a magistrate appointed for him, as his seat depended upon it? I went to the Lord Chancellor, and I was promptly refused. That is my experience of the arbitrary action of the present Lord Chancellor in regard to magistrates. I speak on this matter to-day absolutely and solely from the point of view of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and their bearing on the general question of the administration of justice. In the first place, nobody has put forward a case such as we were able to make many years ago in Ireland, of 2766 gross acts of cruelty and of maladministration of justice, or any other matter of that kind. I have listened to every Member who has spoken in the Debate, and what has this case been founded upon?
It was opened by the hon. Member for Wisbech (Mr. Primrose) with, if I may say so, hereditary talent, and with an amount of acerbity and bitterness that I could not help thinking was also hereditary. I do not mean general bitterness, but I think that on this occasion there must have been something of that kind. What did he say, and it is upon this case, and this case alone, that this Motion was opened, and on which we are asked to censure a great officer of State, a great officer of State whose reputation I should have supposed hon. Gentlemen would have been anxious to conserve, seeing that he is the head of the judiciary not merely of England, Ireland, or Scotland, but of the Colonies of Canada, of India, of Australia, of Africa. Yet the hon. Gentleman accuses him, and I took the hon. Gentleman's words, "His object may have been social." A nice reputation to give the Lord Chancellor! "His object may have been social," said the hon. Gentleman, and that this should be said in reference to one whose decisions have hitherto commanded the respect of the millions of the races who have had to resort to this country for justice, and that it should be said by one of the lineage of the hon. Gentleman seems to be rather astonishing. What was his case? He said, as I understand him, that he had applied to the Lord Chancellor to make a number of magistrates, and that the Lord Chancellor, pending the appointment of a Committee, had stated that no more magistrates would be created in that constituency—I think I am stating the case not unfairly—and that then Lord De Ramsey, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, approached him, whereupon he immediately appointed six Conservatives. That is the whole case, and that is the length and breadth of the case, and it is upon that case, and that case alone, that the hon. Member founded his statement that the Keeper of the King's conscience had broken his word. He cheers that statement. I think if the hon. Gentleman is so tender of the conscience of the King he might have allowed His Majesty with regard to the oath question to have a little more freedom. Let us see how the matter stands. Take the position of one occupying that of our Chancellor. The Lord Lieutenant of the county comes to him and says, "I am going abroad"—that is the case the 2767 hon. Gentleman made—"and there is an impossibility in certain parts of the county of getting magistrates to attend to their duties. There is inconvenience created," and, mind you, inconvenience to the subject. [An HON. MEMBEK: "NO, no."] Does the hon. Gentleman correct me?
I only made two applications because those appointments were required. The Lord Chancellor said he would not make any appointments until the names had been put before the Advisory Committee. Later on he wrote a letter to Lord De Ramsey admitting that he made six appointments without them being placed before the Committee.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has added anything to what he formerly said or corrected anything I said. If hon. Gentlemen will allow me, I will continue. I am taking his case. I am not minimising it, I am taking it in all its bearings, and I am going to deal with it. He says that in spite of that the Lord Chancellor then made his appointment to Lord De Ramsey. Will he permit me to say if he were Lord Chancellor and if a Lord Lieutenant came to him and said, "I am going abroad, and the administration of justice suffers unless there is an immediate appointment, and I pledge you my honour (and that is the phrase he read out) and almost as if I were on my oath, that these are not partisan appointments, and I do not know the colour of anyone of these appointments—"Hon. Members show an unusual restlessness. I am not mis-stating anything. The Lord Chancellor is assured by Lord De Ramsey that he does not know that these appointments have any partisan or party character, that the administration of justice will suffer if they are not immediately made, that he is going abroad, and urges him to make them, and to say that the Lord Chancellor has broken his word because he then makes those appointments, is to my mind utterly ridiculous and absurd. What was the Lord Chancellor to do? Was he to say, "It is true law and justice shall suffer in the county, but I have pledged myself to Mr. Primrose that I will make no magistrate until Air. Primrose is satisfied. Bother justice. I will do nothing of the kind for him." The hon. Gentleman has made no case either of breach of faith or a justification of an attack, and as to the suggestion of social influence affecting 2768 Lord Loreburn I think anybody who knows him will feel that that is not so. Six years ago, when this Administration was formed, and before the election, I went down to my Constituency to stand my election. Nobody knew that the Liberal party were going to have a majority. I said to my Constituents that there was one reason for trusting the newly formed Administration, there was one man in it whom I had known for five-and-twenty years to be one of the most upright, honourable, and able men that could have been selected by the King for the appointment of Lord Chancellor, and that was the present Lord Loreburn. I said that without any reference to this Debate, and I never supposed I should have to stand up to say any word of that kind.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I prefer to be catechised on that point by a gentleman of better pretentions than the hon. Gentleman, and especially in regard to their Home Rule Bill of next year. But as he has put me the question I have no objection to answer it. I say this, that I believe any measure affecting Ireland which Lord Loreburn recommends and is prepared to support, any measure of that kind would be satisfactory to the Irish people. That is my opinion of Lord Loreburn. Let me, however, deal with the facts of the case.
What was the second ground of attack? The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. S. Home) said that during a recent election an unfortunate man made an attack on the moral character of the Conservative candidate. He was brought up at Petty Sessions, and at first the magistrates would not hear some volunteer advocate for him in the Court—[An HON. MEMBEK: "Against him."]—but they afterwards did so. What jurisdiction have any bench of magistrates to try a question of slander? The hon. Gentleman can hardly have stated the facts accurately. If the ground of the charge was an attack on the moral character of the Conservative candidate, how could the magistrates have any jurisdiction whatever to deal with it? I can quite understand, because we have had the same sort of feeling in Ireland for many generations, that the fact of a property qualification having been requisite for many years has undoubtedly given a preponderance to the Tory party. But what did the Liberal party do when they came into office? The first thing they did 2769 was to repeal the Act imposing the property qualification. The next step was to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject, and the recommendation of the Royal Commission was unanimous. How old is that Royal Commission? Twelve months. It was not in the early years of Lord Loreburn's administration that he was attacked. The Prime Minister has shown that no less than 7,000 magistrates—an extraordinary number—have been appointed by the Lord Chancellor during his administration. Another hon. Member has pointed out that in addition to 7,000 having been appointed, 20,000 have been declined—rejected. So that in the course of six years this Gentleman, who is the head of the Supreme Judiciary, who has to preside over the Privy Council and the House of Lords, has had to make personal inquiry into the character of 27,000 persons.
Does the hon. Member mean to say that the Lord Chancellor personally made inquiry into 27,000 cases?
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I am taking the statement as made in the House. Take the 7,000 men who have been appointed. I take it that the Lord Chancellor must satisfy himself that those 7,000 are fit and proper persons for the bench. Take the 20,000 who were rejected. I presume, in a great many of these cases he was satisfied with the assurance of the officials that there was some objection either of character or something else to their appointment. I do not say that in all these cases he personally inquired, but he is responsible for every one of them. What are the figures put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wisbech? He has charged the Lord Chancellor with breaking his word. I think the figures put forward by the hon. Gentleman constitute a much more aggravated form of injustice. Let me ask him, seeing he is so particular in regard to accuracy of statement—on the part of other persons!—where did he get his figures from? Was it just of him to say as he did in this article in the "Daily Chronicle" in July last thatthere were 159 magistrates created in Northumberland, of whom 126 were Conservatives and 33 were Liberals—When the fact was that instead of 159 being appointed there were only sixty-eight? Has he made an apology to the Lord Chancellor for publicly putting for- 2770 ward that extraordinary statement? That was not alone. Take another illustration. He said:—In Oxford there were 152 appointments, of which 120 were Conservatives and 32 were Liberals—When the fact, as exposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith Burghs, is that instead of 152 there were only fifty-nine appointed altogether. Does the hon. Gentleman think that that entitles him to come forward here and charge the Lord Chancellor with breaking his word?
The point really is this: Has the hon. and learned Gentleman taken into account that these figures include all the borough benches in the county, as well as the county benches? That is the whole explanation of it.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I take it in its natural meaning. It was not published with any explanation. The word used is "counties." I am dealing with it as though it was a county matter. The facts then are these: Dissatisfaction existed, and I have no doubt justly existed, in the minds of Liberal Members at the present composition of the bench, and anxiety existed to find a remedy. What was the remedy suggested? I read with some interest the Report of the Royal Commission when it came out. The Report was of a very remarkable kind. It came from a remarkable body. It would certainly be an extraordinary thing if this House—a residuum of this House rather—that is a dissatisfied section of this House who have flocked to the standard of the hon. Member for Wisbech—on the last day of the Session—took it upon themselves to reverse the Report of a Commission so representative. The fact of the Commission being unanimous seems to me also striking. Who were the Commissioners? Lord James of Hereford, Lord Chichester, Lord Robert Cecil, Sir William Hart Dyke (for over forty years a Member of this House), Sir Henry Hobhouse (a Member of the Cabinet)—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] I am sorry I gave the hon. Member an honour to which he is not entitled. Sir Francis Mowatt, Sir Arthur Osmond Williams, (for a very long time a Member of this House), Mr. Frederick Verney, Sir John A Simon (the present Solicitor-General), 2771 Sir W. Ryland Adkins, Mr. Thomas Gair Ashton (since made a peer), Mr. William C. Bridgeman, and Mr. Arthur Henderson. This recommendation, therefore, included the Conservative, the Liberal, and the Labour parties. What did they recommend? Is there any man in the House who is exposed to daily petitions to get men made magistrates that can say that these are not sane, wholesome, and proper recommendations? They say:—We are of opinion it is not in the public interest that there should be an undue preponderance of justices drawn from one political party. We strongly condemn the influence and action of politicians being allowed to secure appointments on behalf of any political party.And yet the hon. Member for Wisbech asks the House to reverse the recommendation unanimously made by the representatives of all parties in the State. The Member for Wisbech criticises these appointments, but what system will you substitute? These able and learned men took an immense body of evidence and heard every form of suggestion, including the suggestion made by the hon. Member who seconded this Motion, that the Home Office should have the appointments. Can anything be more absurd than this attack upon the Lord Chancellor? The crime Against him is that he acted upon the recommendation of this Commission. What is the suggestion to the contrary? It is that the Home Office should have the appointment of magistrates, so that we should be able to attack the Home Secretary here in this House, and that we should be able to Lobby him and buttonhole him and say, "Oh, John Smith, in my Constituency down in Wisbech, put up £100 to the party funds, and he ought to be a magistrate. Let us have a flat rate for J. P.'s." I read, coming down in the train this morning, a piece of Stock Exchange intelligence, which says:—The Stock Exchange members of the association are determined to adopt a rule to save them from the ignominy of dictation by clients.Against the system recommended by the Royal Commission the hon. Member opposite wants to have recourse to the old system, whereby a man who subscribes to the party funds, or who works for his party, will be rewarded in this House by being appointed to the office of justice of the peace. Compare the two sets of recommendations. It is a most difficult question, and anybody who has considered it must say that the present system is a survival of ancient times, and one of the most difficult to deal with. What is the 2772 suggestion as against the Report of the Royal Commission that a Committee should be appointed in each constituency representative for both sides of opinion, and that they were the county lieutenants should put forward their recommendations to the Lord Chancellor? I do not suppose any suggestion you could make would be an ideal one, but this suggestion is the suggestion of men who consider the matter and have taken evidence. What is the suggestion to the contrary? That there is absolutely none except to revert to the old system.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I do not wish further to trespass upon the House, but it appears to me that this Debate is an effort to make the Lord Chancellor the scapegoat of an ancient system. He is not responsible for the present state of the magisterial bench. He has inherited this unpleasant legacy. The question is, Is it right to redress it? One Gentleman said there were some Liberals appointed to whom he would have preferred Tories, the suggestion being that the letter "L" is not enough. You must have some kind of magisterial X-ray to apply to see if the letter "L" is up to the standard. That is a most extraordinary suggestion. The hon. Member for Wisbech spoke of the dark days of Liberalism, but I do not think he lived through many of them. Perhaps the darkest of them—well, I will not say which were the darkest of them, perhaps it is better not to. But the Lord Chancellor lived through many of the dark days of Liberalism, and I can say, at all events, that Ireland never had a better friend not merely in regard to Home Rule, but let me point out that some of the most important proposals on the land question which have saved us enormous litigation came from him. The dark days of Liberalism were the days of the pro-Boers, and the Lord Chancellor was not then afraid of his name. I have seen him make a fight when he was only one of a small minority, and now the suggestion is made that this man is seeking social honour and distinction, and using his distinction to injure the Liberal party. He has done more for the Liberal party than all his assailants put together. For twenty-five years he was in this House, and most of that period were the dark days of Liberalism, and he stood up for the causes that have now triumphed. I believe 2773 this attack upon him is without foundation, and is as unfounded and unjust a charge as was ever made against an honourable man.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
May I now make an appeal to the House that this Debate should be brought to a termination?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have been here a good part of the time. As we have a good deal of work to consider, including the Lords Amendments to the Insurance Bill, the Coal Mines Bill, and the Shops Bill, I wish to make an appeal to hon. Members to conclude this Debate. The case has been ably stated on both sides, and I am sure the House will be ready to come to a decision.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has just stated that both sides have been fairly heard. There is, however, one standpoint which has found no expression, and for that reason I regret that I cannot fall in with the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman has just made. I want to address a few observations to the House on this subject from a labour point of view. I understood the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. T. M. Healy) to say the Resolution is one recommending a reversal of the findings of the Royal Commission. I certainly do not understand the Resolution to mean anything of the kind else I could not vote for it. The Resolution speaks of the discontent with regard to the methods followed, and asks the House to say that the measures taken by the Lord Chancellor to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission will not remove the cause of the dissatisfaction. It is on the point that the Lord Chancellor has not adequately used the opportunities which he has so far had of giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission that I want to express the grievance of labour with regard to this subject. Generally speaking, I approve of the methods recommended in the Report of the Commission with regard to the appointment of 2774 magistrates. The machinery it proposes to set up, and the method of appointment are, to my mind, superior to the old practice, and are even superior to any method of appointing magistrates by election if the method of election had to be upon the basis and upon the lines of our present Franchise Law. The assumption throughout the Debate has been that there are only two parties to be satisfied.
I put it to the House that there is a third party, a third party which, in the majority of the constituencies, is capable of polling at least a third or a fourth of the votes recorded in any election contest. It is a bad thing to have the predominance of one party over another that has been spoken of this afternoon, but it is a worse thing to have the predominance of two parties over a third, and that third party the party that can claim to directly represent and is closely associated with most of the people who unfortunately find their way into the Courts over which the ordinary magistrates preside. I think, therefore, some public service has been rendered by the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Resolution, and he is entitled to our congratulations for the manner in which he has pursued this subject from the beginning.
The Commission distinctly recognised the claim of the Labour party. They recognised the necessity for the appointment of working men with first hand knowledge of the conditions of their class. My point is that the Lord Chancellor has not sufficiently regarded that deliberate recommendation of the Royal Commission. The same thing can be said of the Chancellor of the Duchy, as I think it will hereafter be shown. The poorer classes, because of their poverty, their conditions, and their environment and because of many other things, are often called before benches of magistrates to be tried for offences which in the case of the richer classes are not regarded as offences at all. In the very nature of things, it is inevitable poor people should come more into collision with the law as it now stands. On that account working men magistrates ought to be on our benches in much larger numbers than they are, because they know the conditions under which the poor live. Every one will agree that while the administration of the law is right and proper that administration should be tempered with some degree of mercy and some consideration for the position of the poor. Let me take one illustration. The other day a man was sentenced to two 2775 months' hard labour at the Marlborough Street police court because he had played a barrel organ in Oxford Street for the purpose of collecting alms. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was the decision of a stipendiary magistrate."] That may be so, but magistrates at any rate in the provinces frequently sit with stipendiaries. Of course it may not be so in London. But the fact remains that the stipendiary himself has seen fit to reduce the sentence to two weeks.
It is admitted that the appointments of magistrates have mostly been rewards for political services, and I think we are entitled to ask where we come in. We surely are entitled to be considered if political services are to be considered in these appointments. Another matter which I regret is that the findings of the Commissioners have not been carried out with respect to the composition of the Advisory Committees, and if they are not fairly constituted you are bound to have a recurrence of the complaints. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment told us there had been recently appointed an Advisory Committee in one county consisting of four Liberals and two Conservatives. There was no mention of a labour man. In another case there were five Conservatives and two Liberals, and still again no idea of labour representation.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
May I point out that as a member of an Advisory Committee I sent in the names of working men.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I have no doubt whatever that that is so. But I am calling attention to the general practice. The property qualification for many years stood in the way of labour representatives getting on to the bench. If the property qualification is abolished, let it be actually, and not technically or nominally, abolished. It is nominally abolished, but it is the fact if a man has no property and is not identified with established interests he has really no opportunity of being put on the bench. May I give some little evidence on that point. Take the case of Manchester and Salford, with a population of, roughly speaking, a million. There are 310 justices of the peace, and only nine represent labour. In Bristol, with a population of 400,000, there are seventy-seven justices, and only two labour representatives; and in Birmingham, setting aside recent 2776 appointments, with a population of 300,000, there are 130 magistrates, only two of whom were labour representatives, Leeds, with a population of 440,000, has eighty magistrates, and only four representatives of labour. Take a typical borough in Lancashire, Oldham. It has twenty-four magistrates, and but two labour representatives. Batley, a small town in Yorkshire, has twenty magistrates, and but one representative of labour. Taking the whole of the West Biding of Yorkshire, we find there are 238 magistrates, only six being identified with the working classes or who can be described as labour representatives.
It is not because there has been a want of appeal or representations that more appointments from the ranks of labour have not been made, because in all these and similar cases organised labour has persistently memorialised the Lord Chancellor, as well as the Chancellor of the Duchy. I am informed by the secretary to the Trades Council in Manchester and Salford that they have submitted lists of names on several occasions, and they have written letters to the Lord Chancellor, but the only reply was that the lists would be considered when fresh appointments were about to be made. I have similar information from practically the whole of those places in regard to which I have given figures. In Jarrow, quite recently, eight magistrates were appointed, four Liberals and four Conservatives; not one labour representative. Take the three towns of Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester, where there is a joint population of 130,000 and where there is but one labour justice of the peace. In respect to the Advisory Committees the same thing is true. A considerable amount of work is unfairly imposed upon the representatives of labour. I am told that in one case in ten months one of them had to sign no less than 220 documents. Although the right hon. Gentleman could not see any grievance in a person not caring to go to a man of another class or persuasion, he ought to remember that an ordinary village or an industrial town is not like the House of Commons, and that there are many influences at work to possess people with some sense of diffidence, amounting in some cases to almost a feeling of fear, in approaching those who they assume to be prejudiced in some way. I would plead for more labour representatives to be placed on the bench, chiefly because of the punishments so often inflicted on young persons, who are brought before the Court for 2777 misdeeds for which the rich are never punished in any way. Numerous cases have been brought to my knowledge, particularly of children of from eight to ten years of age, who have been brought before the magistrates and sent to industrial schools for four or five years.
§ Mr. CLYNES
That is a point to which I am coming. We have repeatedly sent to the Chancellor of the Duchy and the Lord Chancellor the names of men who are available who can and are willing to give their time. There are some of my own personal acquaintances who are magistrates and who work at their trade in the ordinary way, and who are prepared periodically to sacrifice a few hours or half a day. The argument should not be used that men of our class have not time or opportunity to discharge these duties until we fail to submit the names of men who are able to perform the duties. The Commissioners recommended the appointment of men of good moral and personal character and general ability, men of business habits, men of independent judgment and common sense. Many men have been appointed to the bench who have not had all these qualifications. Taking the experience we have had of labour magistrates, the way they have performed their duties fully justifies us in making the demand for a greater number of appointments. Lord Halsbury, in his evidence, stated that in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred he accepted the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant as a matter of course. How can we expect that the ordinary labour representative, the ordinary man of the working classes, can have means of approach to the Lord Lieutenant? We are really outside the influences which have operated in connection with the appointment in the past, and we are accordingly entitled to suggest that the machinery that is now set up in these Advisory Committees should be more fairly composed, that it shall be worked more equitably and more with due regard to the claims of this new and growing party than has been the case up to now.
A further reason why I suggest the appointment of a larger number of labour magistrates is that it is not always a question of justice in the ordinary sense that a Court has to decide. In these days of labour unrest and industrial turmoil, conflicts between capital and labour, struggles between employers and work- 2778 men are brought before justices, and it is essential that men of our point of view should have their share of representatives on the magistracy. These labour cases tend to become more numerous. We are not pleading that those who break the law should be excused or encouraged. I have had experience myself as a magistrate of sitting on a bench where a man has been before us for doing some act as a picket in connection with a trade dispute. Nearly the whole of the other persons on the bench besides myself were employers of labour, and however anxious these men may be to look at the matter purely from the standpoint of law and of justice, I say it is impossible for them to sever themselves from their personal associations. We have even had the experience of finding some magistrates of that class resenting the presence of Labour men on the bench, for the reason that they assume that we are prejudiced persons and will not give an unbiassed decision in regard to labour questions. On the whole, I think there is very good ground for asking the House to express its opinion that the Advisory Committee has not been used by the Lord Chancellor for carrying out the recommendations of the Commission. If the House is not prepared to go so far, I hope the Home Secretary and those who have influence at the Home Office will see that representations are made in the proper quarter so that the claims of labour which are reasonably founded will not go ignored.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
My excuse for intervening in the Debate is that I was one of those who signed the Report of the Royal Commission. I am very glad to find that nobody has had the courage to complain that our Report was not a fair and perfectly reasonable one. It has practically been supported on all sides of the House. Hon. Members who have supported the Resolution have expressed their own personal views. They did not attack the principles which, I think, we have plainly put in our Report. The complaint is that the Report, which only came out a short time ago, has not yet had any great effect. Before the Report has been out a year, hon. Gentlemen opposite come forward and say that it has worked very badly, and that we must have some entirely new system. Surely no reasonable man would imagine that a very difficult question like this could be settled in a few months. In fact many people say that the Lord Chancellor docs not give 2779 sufficient consideration to the appointments which are being made. That is a very good reason for saying that he ought to have more time to consider the appointments. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Beck) said the Lord Chancellor had only partially carried out one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member said that only one of the recommendations had been carried out. I would refer him to No. 8, which says that the Lord Chancellor or a Lord Lieutenant should refuse to receive any unasked for recommendations from Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I understood that a great many of the complaints were that unasked for recommendations had not been accepted. If that is not so, I withdraw that entirely. You cannot say that the Lord Chancellor has not carried out other recommendations. I agree with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Clynes) as to the representation of labour. I believe that certain Lords Lieutenant have been providing suitable representatives for labour on the Advisory Committee and on the bench, and I believe they will continue to do so.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
What I say is they are trying, and you cannot expect them to do it all at once. The only complaint that hon. Gentlemen have over there is that there are not enough Radicals, especially those who subscribe to Radical funds, whose generosity has been recognised by seats on the bench. If they are going to redress it in the way they suggest, they are going simply to aggravate further the disease which they are trying to cure. The complaint is that there is too much politics on one side on the bench, and the cure is that you should impose a still further test of politics and make the appointments to the bench depend entirely 2780 on political considerations. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from the remarks of the hon. Gentlemen who support this Motion. The Commission pointed out that you cannot cure this evil by a homoeopathic remedy of this kind, but that the whole idea of appointments in this connection was wrong; that instead of political parties being represented on the bench in fairly proportionate numbers, different classes, interests, and social grades should be represented irrespective of politics, and that we should try to get the best men of all shades. That comes in in our recommendation No. 10, which has been referred to. That is the remedy for this evil, and not the' remedy suggested by the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Beck) told us that it has been burned in on the minds of a great many people that these local bodies do not administer even-handed justice. I do not know quite how it is burned in, because he took the trouble to tell us that he believed it was entirely untrue. I hope that he has taken the trouble to tell those who told him so the same thing.
I am not quite sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite—having done their best to try to prove that although the benches perhaps may have a larger number of Unionists upon them than Members of the other side, at any rate there has not been any miscarriage of justice—are not urging that there is a sense that the benches are not fairly composed, composed in such a way as to get justice for all parties, especially the poorer classes. If that is so it is not because of the feeling of politics in it, but it is because they feel that there are not on those benches men who understand the conditions of life in which these classes live; and you will not make it any better by putting on people who can afford to subscribe to the Liberal party. They are not the sort of men who create any great confidence among the working classes. The remedy is, as the Commission again points out, to abolish politics out of the question as soon as you can. It cannot be done at once. If the Lord Lieutenant and the Advisory Committee, who, I believe, have done their best, and the Lord Chancellor, who I am sure has been doing his best, go on trying to select the best men, and supposing we may assume that probably there is a fairly equal number of men of both sides, and they go on to choose the best men, the political balance, as they call it, will be redressed of its own accord 2781 in the course of time. This is a question which requires time to be given to it, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite who satisfied themselves by showing an interest in their friends who, they were led to suppose, might become magistrates, wall now cease to attack the Lord Chancellor any longer.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I had the honour of a seat on the Commission, and I rise merely to say three sentences to show the reason why I cannot vote for my hon. Friend's Motion, if he goes to a Division, although I share the view which has been put before the House with so much force by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich. It is true, for reasons which we may regret or think inadequate, that there is a great deal of public dissatisfaction, and that will only pass away when the undue predominance also passes away. But those Members of the House, and I hope and believe they are numerous, who have read the Report of the Commission must notice that the Commission itself stigmatises the unfortunate result of the political predominance, and indicates quite clearly that the Consultative Committees are, as far as they can, having regard to the public interest, to redress that inequality. Is it desirable that this Motion should be pressed to a Division? What is the effect of it? The effect of it is not merely to emphasise the evils of the present system; they have really been admitted before the Royal Commission by witnesses of every political opinion. The effect of the Resolution if passed would be to weaken the hands of the Lord Chancellor and Members of the Advisory Com-
§ mittee in the difficult work they have to do. What has happened in the past may conceivably have been due to two causes—one, the absence of knowledge on the part of the Lord Lieutenant, or, secondly, the absence of fairness. But the Members of the Advisory Committees, in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission undoubtedly brought before them, will correct any want of knowledge, and will afford an opportunity for giving effect to those considerations which have been put forward as desirable to carry out. On the other hand, it is not fair even to Lords Lieutenant, who this afternoon have been the subject of criticism, to come to the conclusion that they have not been acting generally with fairness when the other alternative is still open that the difficulties have arisen from want of knowledge. As a Member of the Commission, and as Member of an Advisory Committee which has plenty of applications and of information pouring in upon it week after week, I shall not be able to vote for the Motion; and I am quite sure that if we want to redress the evils of the system, the Lord Chancellor and the Advisory Committees ought to be given a chance.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 121.2783
|Division No. 451.]||AYES.||[5.0 p.m.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Goldstone, Frank||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Higham, John Sharp||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Rowlands, James|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hudson, Walter||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, W.)|
|Chancellor, Henry G.||Lansbury, George||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Clynes, John R.||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Martin, J.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Morgan, George Hay||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||O'Grady, James|
|Glanville, H. J.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Primrose and Sir C. Henry|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George)||Bull, Sir William James|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Bird, Alfred||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Byles, Sir William Pollard|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Boland, John Pius||Cameron, Robert|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Bridgeman, William Clive||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Brunner, J. F. L.||Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Hunt, Rowland||Radford, G. H.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Clough, William||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|De Forest, Baron||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Doris, W.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Shortt, Edward|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Lewis, John Herbert||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Ffrench, Peter||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lynch, A. A.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.)||Waring, Walter|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Gibbs, G. A.||Macmaster, Donald||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Goldman, C. S.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Gretton, John||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Gulland, John W.||Malcolm, Ian||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Hackett, J.||Masterman, C. F. G.||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.||Younger, Sir George|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nolan, Joseph||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, East)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Munro-Ferguson and Mr. C. Roberts.|
|Horner, Andrew Long||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh Central)|
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That this House approves the action of the Lord Chancellor in giving effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Selection of Justices."