HC Deb 09 May 1922 vol 153 cc2118-20

(1) Every person whose name is included in the jurors' book 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:

Provided that nothing in the foregoing provision shall affect the right of any person to be excused from attendance on a jury on the ground of illness or, if a woman, for medical reasons.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words or if on her having been summoned to serve on any jury she has, within twenty-four hours thereof, given written notice (which may be sent by post) to the sheriff or other officer so summoning her that she does not desire to serve on such jury. In these modern days it might appear to some people a little reactionary to try to get women exemptions from duties which devolve upon women equally with men; but I am actuated in moving this Resolution by the fact that happily there are still many women in this country who prefer the sanctuary of their home to the excitement of public duty. Many of these, especially mothers of middle age, are brought into a new atmosphere outside their ordinary life, and if called upon to do this duty, it would not only rob them of the time in the house that should be devoted to household duties, but would inflict upon them an obligation that they feel unqualified to discharge. We know that many of the class to which I refer are highly sensitive. In their early days they never anticipated that they would be called upon to fulfil these public functions. The rising generation may seek to exercise the public functions and duties thrown upon them, but those who have not had that atmosphere in years gone by shrink from anything in the nature of publicity, and feel that this duty thrust upon them is irksome and painful in many cases. I think that by written notice that section should be relieved from the responsibility, and because I know a large number desire this concession, I move the Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

9.0 P.M.


This Amendment raises the whole question of women serving upon juries, a far, far bigger question than ought to be raised in a Bill of this kind. It is true it only gives the woman the right to say that she does not desire to serve on any particular jury, but she may say that every time, and it raises the whole question. I ask my hon. Friend to consider how large an extension of the Bill the acceptance of the Amendment would involve, seeing it raises the whole woman's question as to whether the woman who is receiving the privilege of the vote should not equally accept the responsibility, and I am sure that the women themselves will not unanimously support my hon. Friend in his Amendment. The Amendment as drafted will not save women from any jury at all—absolutely none at the present time. Take the proviso. It reads this way: Provided that nothing in the foregoing provision shall affect the right of any person to be excused from attendance on a jury on the ground of illness"— that right exists at the present time— or if a woman, for medical reasons"— that exists at the present time. Then would follow the words of the Amendment. But the Amendment does not help the matter in the least. It does not give the woman the right. All the Amendment says is that this provision shall not affect such rights. But there are no such rights; so that even if the House accepted the Amendment it would not affect one iota the position of women in regard to their liability to serve on a jury. I therefore hope my hon. Friend will withdraw the Amendment.


After the explanation of my right hon. Friend, I do not think I can pursue the matter further, but I am very pleased to have had this opportunity of putting forward views on behalf of that section who do not want the privileges which have been thrust upon them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.