HC Deb 07 December 1949 vol 470 cc2028-9

Subsection (5) of section three of the Local Government Act, 1933 (which provides that the chairman of a county council shall, by virtue of his office be a justice of the peace for the county), and subsection (5) of section thirty-three of that Act (which provides that a chairman of a district council shall, by virtue of his office be a justice of the peace for any county in which the district is wholly or partly situate) shall cease to have effect.—[Mr. Royle.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Royle

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The position with regard to chairmen of county councils and district councils is quite different from the position with regard to mayors. The arguments are very well-known to the Committee. The number of chairmen of county councils is limited and I am sure that in every one of those cases, these people will have been magistrates before they became chairmen of county councils. With regard to the hundreds of people who are chairmen of district councils of one kind and another, it is simply ridiculous that that mass of people year after year should be added to the commissions of the peace in the way they are. We had a debate early yesterday on this matter and since throughout the proceedings on the Bill I appear to be a defender of lost causes, I shall not be very disappointed if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General turns me down once more on this occasion. I move this new Clause in order to place on record the fact mat this matter has been discussed in this Committee.

Mr. Ede

I think the arguments used yesterday with regard to the position of mayors applies equally with regard to the position of chairmen of district councils. It is true there are about 1,400 district councils that may have chairmen, but all these people do not sit on one bench. At most there are two or three on any bench. I think that the recognition of the office, and not of the man, is a sufficient justification for retaining this. If the man or woman is unsuitable, the Lord Chancellor can decree that he shall not sit during his period of office as chairman. As a result undesirable people who might get on the bench in this way can be excluded. There is now a rule in most areas that a person is not appointed to a permanent commission of the peace while holding one of these appointments. On occasion it gives the bench an opportunity of seeing how a man of some standing in a district can act in his capacity as a justice, if he has the opportunity during his year of office of sitting on the bench. As a rule he sits on the extreme flank and his position as an ex officio justice is clearly enough marked by that when the court is sitting. I hope we shall preserve for the office rather than for the man this opportunity of public service.

Mr. Royle

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.