HC Deb 04 December 1953 vol 521 cc1569-70

Order for Second Reading read.

3.48 p.m.

Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)

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

I am not a legal man but only a layman, so I shall be brief and keep to the facts of the Bill. I believe I have the support of the whole House for the Measure.

Section 1of the Juries Act, 1949, provides that jurors in England and Wales shall be entitled to travelling and subsistence allowances, compensation for loss of earnings which would otherwise have been made, and additional expenses, other than expenses of travelling or subsistence, to which they would not have been subjected if they had not served on juries. The amount of the payments to which jurors are entitled is prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury. I understand that the Secretary of State has unfettered discretion in fixing the rates of travelling and subsistence allowances.

The rate of compensation for the loss of earnings and additional expenses is, however, restricted by the proviso to Section 1(1) of the 1949 Juries Act to a maximum of 20s. per day for more than four hours and 10s. per day for a period of not more than four hours. These restrictions were parallel to those made for members of local authorities in Section 112 of the Local Government Act, 1948. Sections 24 and 32 of the Juries Act, 1949, made similar provisions for the payment of allowances to juries in Scotland and fixed the same maxima.

The rate of compensation for the loss of earnings prescribed by the Juries Allowances Regulations, 1949, and the Juries Allowances (Scotland) Regulations, 1949, were actually maximum rates permitted by the Act, and these rates require revision from time to time. Whenever maximum rates are fixed by regulations and they reach the statutory limits, the procedure, which is very cumbersome, gives rise to difficulty and delay which may in itself unfortunately cause hardship. The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1953, abolished the statutory maxima in respect of members of local authorities, and the rates can now be fixed by Statutory Instrument.

This Bill will have the same effect in regard to juries. It removes the statutory limit on the rates of compensation for loss of earnings, and leaves it to the unfettered discretion of the Home Secretary, and, in the case of Scotland, the Secretary of State for Scotland, with the consent of the Treasury, to fix by Statutory Instrument such rates as may be desirable from time to time.

With that short explanation, I trust that the House will be good enough to permit this Bill to go to Commitee.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

To facilitate the passage of this desirable Bill, I formally support the Motion.

3.53 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)

The Government welcome this Bill, and hope that the House will give it a Second Reading. If, as a result of the Bill there is any increase in the allowances payable to jurors, this will involve a small charge falling directly on the Exchequer, and a somewhat larger charge, falling indirectly, in respect of expenditure by local authorities, which will attract equalisation grant.

A Money Resolution will, therefore, be necessary, and the Government will be willing to consider that sympathetically if the Bill receives a Second Reading today.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.