HC Deb 14 November 1945 vol 415 cc2089-90
3. Mr. Keeling

asked the Attorney-General whether he has now considered the evidence sent to him that some Members of Parliament sit as magistrates in their own constituencies; and whether it is proposed to discourage them from so doing.

The Solicitor-General

There is no legal disqualification for a Member of Parliament who is already a magistrate to act as a Justice of the Peace in his own area, and my Noble Friend leaves it to individual discretion to decide whether an M.P. should exercise judicial functions during the period of his Parliamentary representation. At the same time the Lord Chancellor is disposed to think that an M.P. who devotes himself to serving his constituents in Parliament may feel that this cannot be well combined with the exercise of judicial functions by him in his constituency, and he would not regard a Member as neglecting his magisterial duties if he felt that it was, on the whole, better for him, while he is a Member, not to sit on the Bench.

Mr. Keeling

As the hon. Members in question are Labour Members, I am sure the House will appreciate the impartial attitude of the Lord Chancellor in this matter.

Sir Ronald Ross

Does not this advice run contrary to what we have already been told by the Lord Chancellor, that politics should not be brought on to the bench?

The Solicitor-General

No, it does not. The Lord Chancellor leaves it to the discretion of the individual, as I have stated, and the circumstance to which the hon. Gentleman called attention is obviously one which an individual would take into account in exercising his discretion.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

May we have it perfectly clear that what has been said by the Lord Chancellor is merely an expression of his own opinion, and that there is no ruling of any kind that it is in any way improper for a Member of this House to continue to act as a magistrate in his own constituency if he thinks it proper to do so? Also, has it not been the invariable practice in this House for that to be done in other days under other Governments, and is there any need to change it now?

Mr. Medland

Is it suggested that a magistrate is committing a crime by having become a Member of Parliament?