HC Deb 22 October 1941 vol 374 cc1773-5
37. Mr. Mander

asked the Attorney-. General whether any rule obtains as to appointing a Member of Parliament to be a justice of the peace for the area of his own constituency; and whether it is usual for Members of Parliament, who were already justices of the peace for the area they represent before election, to remain as such and to sit on the local bench?

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

Successive Lord Chancellors have maintained a general rule that a Member of Parliament should not be appointed a J.P. for the area of his own constituency, and my noble Friend, the present Lord Chancellor, has directed that this rule should be maintained. There is, of course, no legal disqualification for an M.P. who is already a J.P. to act as a Justice of the Peace in his own area, and it must be left to individual discretion to decide whether he should take part in magisterial work during the period of his Parliamentary representation.

Mr. Mander

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he considers it sound justice that the same individual should exercise both political and judicial functions in the same area at the same time?

The Attorney-General

I do not see any objection to a Member who has previously sat as a Justice of the Peace continuing so to sit when elected a Member of this House. If any Member thinks otherwise, I would not quarrel with his view.

Mr. Wedgwood

Have not Members of the House been Justices of the Peace ever since there were Justices of the Peace?

The Attorney-General

That is one of the things I had in mind in expressing the view I did.

Mr. Mander

Is it not the case that Recorders are specifically prohibited by Statute from exercising their functions in the areas where they are Members of Parliament?

The Attorney-General

I had that in mind, but that is a different case. In the course of our history there must have been innumerable cases in which Members of this House were Justices of the Peace of the locality they represented and continued to sit as Justices of the Peace.

Mr. Messer

Is it the suggestion that Members of this House cannot be impartial?