§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is quite a- short Bill. The main object of it is to simplify and make less expensive the compilation of jury lists, and, as a Bill for that purpose is necessary, the opportunity has been taken to put in two or three very small changes which have been recommended by the Committee over which Lord Mersey presided. The House may recollect that at the present moment the procedure for compiling jury lists is complicated and expensive. In the case of a county, the 2298 clerk to the county council sends out requisitions. This involves a great deal expensive work, and there is much expensive printing, and a separate jury list is drawn up. All this will be abolished by the provisions of this Bill. Equally in boroughs they have a burgess roll, and a similar reform is to be effected there. What we propose is this. When the autumn list of electors is being prepared, the overseer shall be instructed in each parish to mark the names of those who are qualified and now act as jurymen. The letter "J" will be placed before the name of the ordinary juror, and the letters "S J" before the names of those qualified to act as special jurors. The list of electors will be printed with the letters indicated before the names of the electors, and it will thus indicate the people liable to act as jurymen. Consequently, practically the whole of expense of printing separate jury lists will be saved. There will be a small additional amount of outlay incurred, but in most parishes it will be very small indeed, and in some cases the change will cost nothing at all. I am told that, taking Wands-worth for example, the compilation of jury lists now costs from £500 to £600 a year. After the first year under our plan, it will be possible to do the work for from £12 to £15. Thus, all over the country there will be a very substantial saving if this proposal is accepted. There are minor provisions which are very necessary to enable persons whose names appear on the list to appeal if they think they are not liable to serve.
That is the main object of the Bill, but, as I have said, there are one or two small matters which have been added. In the first place there is power given to the sheriff to excuse the attendance of jurors either at Courts of Quarter-Sessions or at assizes if there is proper ground for doing so. As it is at present a person who wants to be excused has to apply to the Court when it is sitting, although as a matter of fact it has very often been the case in the past that the sheriff has given permission to jurors not to attend, and has subsequently explained the position to the judge sitting in Court. This Bill gives a sheriff power to excuse any juror who satisfies him that he or she has really a good valid reason for being excused. Of course, there is always the danger that some 2299 sheriff might pack a jury, and, in order to avoid that, there is a provision, which will be found in Clause 3 (b), that he must show to the Court or Judge all the applications, the letters and the evidence accompanying them, and the reasons for any excuse that he has allowed.
There is also a change in the jury list for quarter-sessions boroughs. At present, in quarter-sessions boroughs, the jurors are picked—I think that is about the only word that one can use—by the town clerk from the burgess roll, and the burgess roll, contains the names of numerous people who are neither liable nor qualified to be jurors. Lord Mersey's Committee recommended that that should be changed, and we have now provided that, in the case of a quarter-sessions borough, the part of the register which applies to that borough shall be the jury list for that borough. That will be perfectly simple and quite easily worked, and will remedy that which the Committee recommended should be remedied. Then there is a small provision which was not recommended by the Mersey Committee, but which has arisen from the proposed change in the method of compiling the lists. I need hardly assure the House that in matters of this kind we always consult His Majesty's Judges, and they have attached considerable importance to the Court knowing what was the occupation of any juryman, and, more especially, of any special juryman, having regard to the trial of trade cases and things of that kind. Therefore, we have provided that when a juryman is summoned there shall be a reply, on the postcard which he will be required to send, setting out what his occupation is. That, without having to go to all the expense of a separate column stating what the profession, occupation or calling of the juryman is, will enable the Court to have the necessary information at the expense only of a few halfpenny postcards.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Yes, three-halfpenny postcards. I am rather an optimist, and I should like to see that altered. The Bill has beer, drafted after careful consideration. The House may recollect that a Bill was introduced in another place last year for the special purpoee of being considered by registration officers and 2300 those who are interested in the matter. There has been careful consultation, and, as a result of that consultation, this Bill has been brought in. So far as I know, at any rate outside this House amongst those who are chiefly concerned, it is an agreed Measure.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am very glad to hear from the Home Secretary that this is a Bill which is going to save money, and I only hope that his prognostications will be realised. While, however, I should support a Bill which is going to save money, this Bill, apparently, introduces new features of an extremely objectionable kind. I would ask the House to look at Clause 2, which says:Every person whose name is included in the jurors books as a juror or special juror shall be liable to serve as such, notwithstanding that he may have been entitled by reason of some disqualification or exemption to claim that he ought not to be marked in the electors list as a juror or special juror.It is true that earlier in the Bill, in Clause 1 (4), it says:If any person who is marked as a juror or as a special juror in any of the electors lists for the autumn register claims that by reason of some disqualification or exemption he ought not to be so marked, he may, at any time within the period within which a claim to be registered as an elector may be made"—I do not know what period that is—apply in the prescribed manner to the registration officer to have the mark placed against his name removed.Sub-section (5) goes on to say:If the registration officer refuses to comply with an application made under the last preceding Sub-section or fails to notify to the applicant within the prescribed time his decision thereon, the applicant may, within fourteen days next after the date on which the refusal of the registration officer is notified to him or the expiration of the prescribed time, as the case may be, apply to a court of summary jurisdiction for a declaration that he ought not to be marked as a juror or as a special juror, as the case may be.Why, because we want to save money, which is a laudable object, should we put the unfortunate citizens of this country to all the trouble and expense which may be entailed under these provisions? Hitherto, unless I am very much mistaken, if a person over 60—I am not sure that the age was not altered during the War to 65, but I do not know whether that was made permanent—if a person who had reached the age limit for exemption was summoned and appeared in 2301 court, he could say to the Judge that he was over the age limit, and, therefore, exempt; and if he was a Member of Parliament he could appear and say so to the Judge, when he would be exempted. Under this Bill, however, any one of us may be put on the jury list and may not happen to see it. How many Members of this House, for instance, at the present moment know whether they are on the electors' list OT not? If they have looked on the churoh door, or have gone to their party office and asked the agent to look up the list of voters, they will know whether they are on the list or not, but unless they have done that they do not know. I do not know whether I am on the list or not. The list is revised every year—in some cases it is revised every six months—and, unless I make a special effort to find out whether I am on the list or not, I do not know. If this Bill is passed, a vast number of people who are exempt by law will not know whether they are on the list or not, and they may be summoned to appear. Possibly some Member of this House, who may have a, Motion down supporting, or even opposing the Government, may be summoned to servo on a jury, and may not know that his name was on the list. He says he is a Member of Parliament, but, because he has not been to the registration office and then to a court of summary jurisdiction, he may be detained at the court and not allowed to come down to support the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, or to oppose him, as the case may be. Why should we be put to all this trouble? It is not going to save any money in that case, and I cannot see why, if the registration officer marks the list of jurors wrongly, the people whose names he has wrongly marked shall not be exempt, as they are at the present moment. We are going to be put under all these officials, and we are presumed to know what they have done. Certainly, there is a limit of 14 days, but it is quite possible that a person may be away, or may not get a letter; and busy men do not always see every letter that is sent to them. If, however, he has not done something within 14 days, he is bound to serve if he is summoned.
Moreover, all this will recur every year, and I am not sure that it will not recur twice a year. Why are we to be put to all the trouble of rooting up these lists to see whether we have been put 2302 rightly or wrongly on the Jury List? There is no penalty on the registration officer, and you are putting a tremendous power in his hands. If he has a grudge against anyone, there is nothing to prevent him from putting his name on the list, and there is no penalty on him for having done so. I hope that when the Bill goes to the Committee they will certainly omit Clause 2. I suppose that Sub-sections (4) and (5) of Clause I will have to stand with certain modifications, but I certainly think that Clause 2 ought to be omitted, and it ought to be made clear that, if a person is exempt owing to his being over age, or a Member of Parliament, or for any other reason, that exemption shall hold good, and that, if he has been put wrongly on the register, he should not be compelled to go through all the formalities and trouble of writing to the registration officer and appearing before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Consider the case of a busy man who has to go and wait, perhaps, in one of the police courts of his town. I have sometimes been in a police court, and I have found that magistrates are not always absolutely punctual. Why should we have to wait two or three hours because some registration officer has made a stupid mistake? I trust that the Home Secretary will give attention to my few remarks, and will insist upon the Government making some alterations in the Bill.
§ Mr. SHORTT
With the permission of the House, I should like to make an explanation with regard to Clause 2. If the House will look at the Schedule of enactments to be repealed, they will see that Sections 11 to 15 of the Juries Act, 1870, are proposed to be repealed. That is the ordinary way of drafting. This Clause 2 is simply Section 12 of the Act of 1870, and it has been the law of the land ever since that time without any of the results which my right hon. Friend anticipates.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that we should refer to the Schedule. I should be glad if he could inform us whether it is necessary that the Bill should be in this form, or whether, instead of these complicated provisions in the Schedule, it would not be possible to pass a simple Measure containing all the law relating to juries? The first part 2303 of the Schedule, which shows what Sections are to be cut out and what are to be partly repealed, surely does not help to make the matter simpler, and one would have thought that it might have been possible, now that three or four earlier Measures are here dealt with, to draw up one Bill dealing with the whole matter. Then there is the question whether the registration officers now engaged will receive any further remuneration for the extra work involved. I do not know if it is possible, while we are discussing this Bill, to refer to what is, perhaps, the most serious omission, namely, that no allowance is to be made to jurymen for their attendance. I have only just now intervened in this discussion, and have not had an opportunity of seeing the Report of the Committee over which Lord Mersey presided, but I should be glad to learn if that subject of remuneration, or at least of some payment, to jurymen, even if only to cover their actual expenses of attendance, was discussed by that Committee. My sympathies are always with the jurymen, f think that very often they are treated most inconsiderately, apart from the fact that they receive no payment. Very often the fact that they are in attendance is forgotten altogether while the Court is sitting, and frequently they are made to wait three, four, and five days, when actually their attendance is not necessary. In that they have a great grievance. My sympathies are altogether with the man who is brought away from his farm or from some distant part of the county, and is made to wait, perhaps, at the Assizes for a week or more, without being called, and no allowance whatever is made to him even in respect of his travelling expenses. He has to be in a Court where every official is paid, and where every counsel engaged is there not merely to carry out the administration of justice, but also to receive very often substantial fees; and it is difficult to understand why the juryman, who is an essential part of the machinery for the administration of justice, should be the only one who is excluded from any provision for meeting his expenses. I do not think it is suggested that there should be any substantial amount paid him, but I shall be glad to learn whether the Committee over which Lord Mersey presided 2304 had regard to that very widespread grievance that presses specially hardly upon the poor man who sometimes has to take his part on juries.
There is one way in which perhaps those expenses might be met. I know the suggestion will be made that this involves an increased expenditure on the State. I am not aware of the date of the report of Lord Mersey's Committee, but on that occasion did they consider again the grievances which were voiced, I think, in some hundreds of courts only a few months ago when the grand juries were revised? I know there was a difference of opinion expressed, but generally speaking the chairman of Quarter Sessions themselves, as well as a great many judges, expressed the opinion that the calling of the grand jury was an expense that the State should no longer tolerate. I have seen different estimates given as to the cost of grand juries, but certainly the whole expenditure must run into scores of thousands of pounds. Did the Committee consider whether the summoning of a grand jury was essential to the administration of justice, and did they have regard to the opinions expressed by the majority of the chairman of the Quarter Sessions concerned? There is one smaller point on which I should be glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's opinion and that is as to the power of the sheriff to exclude a juror from attendance. In Clause 3 that power is given and in Clause 4 provisions are made as to sheriffs in borough courts. In many borough courts there are no sheriffs at all. What provision will be made for the Quarter Sessions in a town like Plymouth where there is no sheriff? Who will exercise the power which the sheriffs will exercise in a city like Exeter? I assume it is intended that there shall be a power applying to every Quarter Sessions throughout the country, and I shall be glad to know who will exercise the power in county boroughs.
§ Mr. HAILWOOD
I rise to draw attention to another very serious omission from the Bill, namely, that it makes no provision whatever for exempting women who are living in religious community, such as nuns and other congregations, from jury service. I raised this question last Session, and the Home Secretary gave me a sympathetic reply, and I was fully under the impression that at the first 2305 opportunity this glaring anomaly would be rectified. It appears to me that this is an opportunity for altering the law as it now stands. It seems to me that the law is left just as it was with regard to juries. Under the Acts of 1825 and 1870 certain men are exempt from service. Barristers, solicitors, Members of Parliament, magistrates, and so on are exempted. Of course all these various offices and professions related to men only. I do not know whether the Home Secretary is aware that since then votes have been given to women, and that in consequence of being on the voters' list women also have to serve on juries and we are living in quite a different world from that of 1825 or 1870. If lists had been compiled exempting certain men from service I am quite sure that if women had had votes in those days certain women would have been exempted. Before a Bill of this sort is passed consideration ought to be given to the women I have mentioned. I cannot think of anything more harsh or cruel than to drag a nun out of a convent to sit on a jury in some of the cases which are heard in court.
§ Mr. HAILWOOD
It may not have been done, but the law says she has to serve unless she gets special exemption from the sheriff or through the Court, and while we are passing a Juries Bill the law ought to be amended so as to exempt women of this sort. I cannot for the life of me see that justice would be served by having such women serving on juries. Their knowledge of the world is very often very slight and remote, and I do not think they are in any way qualified to hear evidence in Court and to come to a right decision on some of the cases which might come before them, and I plead with the Home Secretary to take this opportunity of amending the Bill in such a way as to exclude nuns and women living in religious community from service on juries.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I reply to the right hon. Gentleman, who quoted to me Section 12 of the Act of 1870. May I quote Section 13 of that Act, which says:If any overseer without reasonable excuse being allowed by the Justice or Justices having cognisance of the case insert in the list of persons qualified to serve as jurors prepared by him the name of any person whose name ought not to have been Inserted therein or omit therefrom the name 2306 of any person whose name ought not to have been omitted he shall on summary conviction be liable to a penalty for each offence not exceeding 40s.There is a very good reason for the overseer not to insert in the list a person who is not qualified to act as a juryman, and that safeguard does not appear in the Bill.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The answer to the question put by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) is to be found in the definition Clause—The expression 'Sheriff' includes any person charged with the return of juries.With regard to the Clause which my right hon. Friend the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) has just quoted, I was going to point out they very substantial difference between the existing law and this Bill. I do not see any objection to the alteration, but there is one question that I want to ask. Is the sheriff or the registration officer to have a real discretion as to excluding people who are legally bound to serve'? It is rather difficult to follow in the Bill. It is a very ticklish power if it is given. Is he to exercise his discretion, whether the nun is on the jury list or not, or is he bound by the existing rules to say to the nun, "You are qualified; I must put you on the list. I have no power to exempt you"?
§ Mr. SHORTT
It is not a question of exclusion from the list. It is only where a person is summoned and asks to be excused from serving on that particular jury. That is all the discretion that is given to the sheriff.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I understood the Bill was to save expense in this way. You were to take the existing electors' list—it is not a jury list at all—and instead of making up a fresh jury list the sheriff was to make a note against each person's name—C, qualified to serve as a common juryman, or S, qualified to serve as a special juryman—and he would leave nothing against Members of Parliament, because we should be exempt. The sheriff has to do that, as I understand it, and in a borough the clerk of the peace would have to do it. Has the man who makes those marks jurisdiction to say, "Though I know a nun is a person against whose name I ought to mark a C, either I do not like nuns or I think it undesirable that they should be on juries, and I leave her out," or is he bound to put her on the list?
§ Mr. SHORTT
The sheriff or the clerk of the peace, the person responsible for the compilation of the list, is the person, to whom a man or woman claiming exemption has to apply, and there is an appeal to Petty Sessions. I thought my hon. and learned Friend was dealing with the new power of the sheriff to grant exemption at a particular court from attending at the particular court for some special reason, and not to striking the name off the list.
§ Sir T. BRAMSDON
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) in desiring to call attention to the complication which arises from legislation by reference. I am sure this Schedule is extremely complicated, and I should like to see some Committee appointed for the purpose of seeing whether something cannot be done to make the law more easily understood than it is at present. I have raised this question on several occasions, and I recently put down a question to the Prime Minister. I understand it is not impossible to make Acts of Parliament much simpler than they are. I suggested on a previous occasion that when there is a reference to an Act of Parliament, the particular Section should be set out at the foot of the Bill, so that when you have to construe an Act you have some knowledge of what it is. At present you have to hunt through old Acts to see what these Sections are. I am 6ure the first reference to the Juries Act of 1825 in the Schedule to this Bill at nothing else but chaos. The whole subject of juries, to my mind, wants revising. It is complicated to the extreme and it is difficult to know who are and who are not exempted. The law is different in the Assizes from what it is in some instances in Quarter Sessions, and altogether I think the whole thing wants to be brought up to date. Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to consider, if not an entirely new Bill, at any rate, a consolidation Bill, that we might know what the whole question is? I had expected to hear something about grand juries. To my mind, grand juries are quite unnecessary. I have observed in different Courts that judges, chairmen of Quarter Sessions and others held different views upon the matter, but, upon the whole, I think that the consensus of opinion is that grand juries are unnecessary and might very well be dis- 2308 pensed with. I think, therefore, it ie a pity they are not included in this Bill.
§ Sir T. BRAMSDON
With great respect I was wondering whether a Clause applying to grand juries ought not to be included in this Bill. If I may proceed on those lines, I believe that there is only one reason why grand juries are considered—
§ Mr. RENDALL
There are certain professional classes who are at present excluded from service on juries and who, I think, ought not to be excluded as classes, but where necessary the individuals could be excluded. Take the lower branch of the legal profession—that of solicitors. [HON. MEMBEKS: "Why lower?"] They are called that. Originally the reason for excluding solicitors from jury service was that they were supposed to have duties in connection with litigation which would make it undesirable that they should be members of the jury. We know that the vast majority of them have nothing to do with the working of Courts or litigation, and consequently there is no reason why they should be excluded from duties which fall on ordinary citizens. It is a great pity then to adhere to an exemption which puts certain classes of persons in a preferential position. I would like to know if it is possible to amend this Bill in Committee in the direction of getting rid of all exemption of classes, and allowing each individual who wants to be exempted to apply to the officer set up under this Bill for the purpose of deciding the matter. I do think that that is something which ought to be done, and, if we are not going to have a further Bill later on dealing with this matter, this is the proper time to do it. I will be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will tell us now whether it is possible to make that alteration.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time" put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.