HC Deb 24 November 1926 vol 200 cc394-6
44. Sir G. WHELER

asked the Attorney-General what is the system under which the county advisory committees for the selection of those persons suitable to be nominated as justices of the peace are set up; and for what length of time do the members serve?


One or more county advisory committees for the selection of suitable persons for appointment to the bench have been set up by the Lord Chancellor in every county in England and Wales (excluding Lancashire) and in Scotland. Advisory committees in Lancashire are appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Lord Lieutenant of the county is chairman of the committee if he is willing to act. The ordinary members of the committee are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and, until 1923, they were not appointed for any fixed term of office. In 1923 the Lord Chancellor instituted a system of appointing the members of advisory committees for fixed terms of office. The system has been applied to 23 county advisory committees. Those committees are appointed for six years, with a provision that approximately half the members shall retire at the end of the first three years. The retiring members are eligible for re-election. The Lord Chancellor hopes to apply this system to the remaining county committees as opportunity offers. He has also appointed a number of borough advisory committees for fixed terms of office. In the Duchy of Lancaster the members of the Lancashire County Bench Advisory Committee are appointed annually.


Can the Attorney-General say whether these appointments are made on political grounds, or on what grounds they are made?


I am afraid I have no knowledge as to the grounds on which the appointments are made, except that I believe it is in order to get all parties represented, and in order to get a fair appointment of magistrates.


Are Members of Parliament entitled to sit on these advisory committees?


I am afraid I should have to ask for notice of that question.


Is it not the fact that members of these committees, when they have been appointed, usually stay on the committees till they die, which is very unsatisfactory; and that the work of the committees has given rise to great dissatisfaction in the counties?


My hon. and gallant Friend does not appear to have caught my answer. I said that there was a change in the terms of appointment in 1923, which is gradually being introduced throughout all counties.


Arising out of the original answer, may I ask whether there is any machinery by which the Lord Lieutenant can be compelled to summon a meeting of his advisory committee within a reasonable time, say, two years, after the advisory committee has been appointed?


I do not think you can compel the Lord Lieutenant to do anything, but no doubt anyone can make representations to the Lord Chancellor.