HC Deb 06 May 1953 vol 515 cc396-406
Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to vest in the Bar Council the powers to license barristers practising at the Bar in England and Wales and to deal with all disciplinary matters connected with the aforesaid. I understand that this Bill is attracting attention in some legal quarters. What it proposes to do is to institute in the legal profession the same kind of administrative set-up that exists in the medical profession, where the disciplining of medical practitioners and the licensing of medical practitioners—

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Your predecessor on one occasion asked for order on the ground that he could not hear. May I ask, with respect, whether you could hear what my hon. Friend has been saying?

Mr. Speaker

As a matter of fact I could hear. But I would ask hon. Members to keep order for the hon. Member's Ten Minutes Rule Bill.

Mr. Donnelly

May I come quickly to the proposals I wish to make? First of all, it is that in future the licensing of barristers shall be handed over to the General Bar Council and that disciplinary matters shall come to them as well. At present, these powers are in the hands of the Inns of Court and the benchers of the Inns of Court exercise them, having been handed them down from time immemorial. It is a very old profession and this custom has grown up. No statutory powers are given for these disciplinary powers to the benchers. We are dealing with something of substance and importance and with a very old profession; one may argue, that it is one of the oldest professions—if I may say so, without offence, the oldest profession in the world.

There is a certain amount of doubt about the way it is being exercised at the moment. A great deal of publicity has been given to the case of a barrister who has been suspended after a political speech made on a political platform—Mr. John Parris. I want to quote from the "Yorkshire Post" of 19th January. This is what he is quoted as saying in a speech he made at Bradford on 18th January. It was an attack on the Lord Chief Justice and the latter's views on flogging. It was: At the moment Lord Goddard is rather like that cat with two heads which figured in a recent law-suit. One of his heads is that of a judge, the other head is that of a politician. (I have to stroke the whiskers on one of those heads, but the whiskers on the other I am entitled to twist.) What I now say is said as a politician about Lord Goddard the politician. I cannot help thinking it is undesirable that anyone holding high judicial office places himself in a position where he moist be criticised for political utterances. The public are entitled to think that anyone who holds high judicial office will be a model of courtesy, firmness, fairness and impartiality. I cannot express the universal consensus of legal opinion about the manner in which the Lord Chief Justice now conducts criminal trials —I cannot say anything about that. But I am entitled to say many of his recent utterances in the House of Lords are sensational and untruthful nonsense. The relevance of this point of Mr. Parris to the whole question is this: it is an illustration of how the powers are exercised and the need for reform. What happened in the present instance was—

Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)

On a point of order. Am I not right in thinking that the case to which my hon. Friend referred is in a certain sense still sub judice in that the member of the Bar to whom he referred has still certain rights of appeal? If my hon. Friend has information that this member of the Bar does not propose to exercise those rights, clearly the matter is not sub judice, but it seems to me that it is a matter which needs consideration before it is further discussed on the Floor.

Mr. Speaker

I thought I heard the Attorney-General the other day say that that was the case. If so, it would be wrong for the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) to pursue this particular case. The Bill has a general title and if he addressed himself to the arguments for it I think that that would be better.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

On a point of order. Am I right in supposing that nothing can be regarded as sub judice unless it is the subject of legal proceedings in a court with judicial procedure? No one has ever claimed that any court in this country has any jurisdiction in this matter.

Mr. Speaker

I think that if it is not an appeal to the court it does not matter. If it is some sort of administrative appeal it is on a different footing. At the same time, I think the principle holds good that when the hon. Member is seeking to introduce a Bill for a specific purpose, in a short speech, he should direct most of his remarks at least to the reasons for the Bill and not to a particular case.

The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)

Further to that point of order. To avoid any misunderstanding—I am sure the House would not wish to be misled in any way—by ancient custom there is an appeal in these cases to a special legal tribunal consisting of the Lord Chancellor and all the judges of the High Court. There have been a number of such appeals and there is not the slightest doubt about their existence, for under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act of 1925 there is special provision for the judges to sit in matters where they sit by custom. That is the best example of it.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)

A tribunal consisting of a number of legal gentlemen is not necessarily the definition of a legal tribunal. It is not the same thing at all. It would be a very serious matter if the course of an administration appeal denied the House the right of legislating about the subject of the appeal until the appeal had been heard. It would frustrate our proceedings. In the past, the term "sub judice" has applied only to juridical proceedings and not to secular proceedings, no matter what process of appeal might be held to be reasonable in the circumstances. Surely my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) is entitled to adduce this instance as a piece of evidence for his Bill.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the Attorney-General for explaining the nature of the tribunal, which I did not carry in my mind. If it is a tribunal of the Lord Chancellor and Her Majesty's judges and if legislative sanction has been given in the Supreme Court of Judicature Act for them continuing to sit, it seems to me that the matter would be sub judice. Therefore, while it is not out of order for the hon. Member to explain his Motion for leave to introduce the Bill, I think I must rule that to use this case is not advisable in these circumstances.

Mr. Donnelly

Mr. Parris has explained that he is not exercising his right of appeal, so that this matter does not arise, Sir. All these obstructions are only holding up the procedure. What I was seeking to do was to use it simply as an illustration of the unfortunate way in which the present situation operates.

What has happened is that this man was convicted on the evidence of a newspaper report. Here is the evidence which has been handed to the benchers of his Inn following an editorial which appeared in the newspaper subsequent to the report urging the legal profession to look into his conduct. Mr. Parris was brought before the benchers of the Inn and charged on three charges, and the charges were heard in secret. Nobody knows who sat on that case and nobody outside knew beforehand what the charges were. He was suspended for four months, which is a heavy penalty for a successful practising junior, and nobody knew what that was for.

The whole situation has been given an unfortunate appearance by the fact that the "Yorkshire Post" is a political opponent of Mr. Parris in Bradford. It is associated with the political party which was formerly the friend of the Lord Chief Justice himself and the whole impression that one gains is that it may well have been a political case.

The Attorney-General

In the interests of accuracy it should be made clear that according to the publication of the evidence which has since taken place it was not the "Yorkshire Post" report but the "Manchester Guardian" report.

Mr. Donnelly

The hon. and learned Gentleman is misinformed. He would also do well to address himself to the matter, for what I am seeking to do is to protect the benchers of the Inns of Court and make it appear that they have been acting fairly. That cannot appear to be the case while there is a certain amount of innuendo about the whole thing. It is open to anybody to see who are the benchers of the Inns of Court, and the first commoner we see is the right hon. W. S. Churchill. We look further and we see the name of the right hon. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, and, looking further again, see the right hon. John Brooks Selwyn Lloyd, and the list leaves my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross) as the only man to carry the red banner of Socialism.

What I am anxious to do here is to explain this quite clearly. Here is a Bill which is seeking only to protect people who practice in this old and honourable profession, and which is only seeking to say that not only should justice be done behind closed doors, but that it should manifestly appear to be done. No kind of slur or political imputation is made against the benchers of the Inns of Court, because many of us share the same views on the Lord Chief Justice as Mr. Parris, but we are precluded from discussing them now. It is a matter for a substantive Motion on another occasion.

Nobody in this country, even though he be the Lord Chief Justice himself, may claim that he is immune from political attack or criticism on a political platform, and he certainly has no right to claim it if he indulges in political discussion on controversial matters which are before Parliament. These are ancient heritages which have grown up, and the general impression which exists at the moment would be removed if the power was taken from the Inns of Court and handed over to the General Council of the Bar, provided it is properly reformed, because there is a good deal of doubt in people's minds. In narrow and dusty rooms people are charged, tried and judged without any kind of public scrutiny on the matter at all. The British legal system is beyond reproach, and it is very important that the main pillar of that legal system—the barristers—should also be beyond reproach in the conduct of their own affairs.

In these circumstances, I think this matter is such that it is the public duty of the House to give some consideration to it, and to say that not only shall justice be done but that it manifestly shall appear to be done in what may become a narrow kind of vested interest, which may well have dangerous implications for the future constitutional position of the country and the whole question of freedom of political speech extending to anybody, whoever they may be, even including members of the Bar.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

A good many of my hon. Friends, practically all of them, in fact, are members of trade unions. I do not know how they would feel if a Member who did not belong to their union, who was not of their kind, came along here to propose a Private Member's Bill to alter the domestic rules of their union. I think they might well be concerned if they had not been approached themselves or if there had been no kind of consultation with the trade or profession involved.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

On a point of order. Is it not a fact that trade unions and their activities are subjects which can be discussed through the Ministry of Labour, and that they are registered under the Trade Unions Act? If my hon. and learned Friend would agree to place the barristers in that position, we would be satisfied.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Paget

Whether that is a point of order or not, Sir, I wonder how my hon. Friend would feel if I were to bring along a Private Member's Bill to alter the rules of the Engineers' Union.

Now let us turn to this Bill and to the material point. I have pointed out that there have been no consultations with members of the profession. I have discussed it with a good many, but I have not yet found one who would support this proposal. I do not believe that there is one barrister in 100 who would do so. For my part, I can only say that I am happy to entrust my reputation and my professional honour to the benchers of my Inn. They are a body to whom the Lord Chancellor and all the judges of the King's Bench and of the High Court have delegated powers. These are powers exercised by them and delegated by the judges, and the benchers themselves consist of the greatest judges, not only of this country, but of the Commonwealth. I can say that, for my part, I am very happy indeed to leave my honour in their hands, and that I do not know any tribunal for which I would have a greater respect.

I would be as loth to entrust my professional reputation to the Bar Council as I would be to entrust it to any other elected judicature. Election is not the way to make judges, and elected bodies should not exercise judicial power. Indeed, the Bar Council, in their wisdom, have deliberately refrained from taking any powers to judge these matters, and these would be powers which would be thrust upon them.

Finally, it is the rule of our profession that we may not publicly criticise judges for what they do on the judicial bench.

Mr. S. Silverman

Why not?

Mr. Paget

My hon. Friend asks "Why not?" The reason is because if. after we lost a case, we proceeded to attack the judge in the newspapers, the relations between Bar and Bench would be impossible. It is a necessary rule for the proper functioning of the court.

Mr. Silverman

I wonder how far my hon. and learned Friend wants to go with that proposition. It is, of course, common ground that, during the conduct of a trial, it would be quite improper—

Mr. Speaker

Under the Ten Minutes Rule, all that Mr. Speaker is allowed to hear are two speeches, from the hon. Members proposing and opposing the Motion to grant leave to introduce the Bill, and I must stick to that Rule.

Mr. Silverman

I hope I am not doing anything wrong. I rose with the consent of my hon. and learned Friend to ask for a further explanation of something he was saying, because he was saying something that seems to go a very long way further than anybody else has gone, namely that it is not appropriate to criticise the conduct of a judge, even after a case is over. That is a startling proposition, and I thought I was entitled to ask my hon. and learned Friend whether he really meant that.

Mr. Paget

The answer is "Yes." So far as members of the Bar are concerned, it has always been the rule of our profession that we may not criticise the judges for what they do on the Bench in public. That is the rule, and it is against that rule that Mr. Parris offended. I quite agree that many of my hon. Friends will have a great deal of sympathy for what Mr. Parris said in regard to Lord Goddard. as a Member of another place, expressing political views. That may be so, but he went further than that and criticised him, and is reported to have expressed the opinion of the profession as a whole about Lord Goddard as a judge.

In doing that, he certainly was not expressing the opinion of the profession as a whole, for, whatever one might think of Lord Goddard as a politician, I think I am speaking for almost the whole of my profession in saying that there has very seldom been a finer judge. That is true, and, Mr. Parris having offended against that rule, and, as I understand it, having admitted that he had so offended, cannot now claim that he was not dealt with according to the rules.

I certainly hope that this House will not grant leave to introduce this Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12.

The House divided: Ayes, 113; Noes, 210.

Division No 168.] AYES [4.10 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Paling, W. T. (Dewsbury)
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Hayman, F. H. Pearson, A.
Bence, C. R. Hobson, C. R. Plummer, Sir Leslie
Benson, G. Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Popplewell, E.
Beswick, F. Hubbard, T. F. Price, Joseph (Westhoughton)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Proctor, W. T.
Bing, G. H. C. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pryde, D. J.
Blackburn, F. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Rankin, John
Bowles, F. G. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brockway, A. F. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Jones, David (Hartlepool) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Short, E. W.
Burke, W. A. Kenyon, C. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Burton, Miss F. E. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Carmichael, J. King, Dr. H. M. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Clunie, J. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Coldrick, W. Lindgren, G. S. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Sorensen, R. W.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) McGhee, H. G. Sparks, J. A.
Davies, Harold (Leek) McInnes, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) McKay, John (Wallsend) Stross, Dr. Barnett
Deer, G. McLeavy, F. Sylvester, G. O.
Delargy, H. J. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Donnelly, D. L. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Manuel, A. C. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Edwards, John (Brighouse) Mason, Roy Watkins, T. E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Hellish, R. J. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Follick, M. Mikardo, lan Wheeldon, W. E.
Foot, M. M. Monslow, W. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Forman, J. C. Morley, R. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Wilkins, W. A.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Mort, D. L. Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Grey, C. F. Murray, J. D. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Nally, W. Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Orbach, M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, W. W. Oswald, T. Mr. George Craddock and
Hargreaves, A. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Mr. Fernyhough.
Alport, C. J. M. Cary, Sir Robert Fletcher-Cooke, C.
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Champion, A. J. Ford, Mrs. Patricia
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Channon, H. Foster, John
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Cole, Norman Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Baldwin, A. E. Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Garner-Evans, E. H.
Banks, Col. C. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Godber, J. B.
Barber, Anthony Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Gower, H. R.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Graham, Sir Fergus
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Crouch, R. F. Gridley, Sir Arnold
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Grimond, J.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Cuthbert, W. N. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Davidson, Viscountess Hale, Leslie
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Harden, J. R. E.
Bossom, A. C. Digby, S. Wingfield Hare, Hon. J. H.
Bowen, E. R. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Braine, B. R. Donner, P. W. Harvey, lan (Harrow, E.)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Doughty, C. J. A. Heald, Sir Lionel
Brooke, Henry (Hampslead) Drayson, G. B. Higgs, J. M. C.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Drewe, C. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Hirst, Geoffrey
Billiard, D. G. Duthie, W. S. Holman, P.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)
Burden, F. F. A. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Holt, A. F.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Fisher, Nigel Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
Campbell, Sir David Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Horobin, I. M.
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Speir, R. M.
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Nabarro, G. D. N. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Nicholls, Harmar Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (llford. N.) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth) Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Oakshott, H. D. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Odey, G. W. Studholme, H.G.
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Oliver, G. H. Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Kaberry, D. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Keeling, Sir Edward Orr-Ewing, Sir lan (Weston-super-Mare) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Lambert, Hon. G. Partridge, E. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Paton, J. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Lindsay, Martin Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Linstead, H. N. Perkins, W. R. D. Tomney, F.
Llewellyn, D. T. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Touche, Sir Gordon
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Pickthorn, K. W. M. Turton, R. H.
Lookwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Pitman, I. J. Vane, W. M. F.
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Powell, J. Enoch Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Viant, S. P.
Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Rayner, Brig. R. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
McAdden, S. J. Redmayne, M. Walker-Smith, D. C.
McCallum, Major D. Reid, William (Camlachie) Wallace, H. W.
Macdonald, Sir Peter Remnant, Hon. P. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
McGovern, J. Richards, R. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Watkinson, H. A.
McKibbin, A. J. Robson Brown, W. Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Wellwood, W.
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Roper, Sir Harold Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Russell, R. S. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Marlowe, A. A. H. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Wills, G.
Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton) Scott, R. Donald Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Maude, Angus Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Wood, Hon. R
Maydon, L.-Comdr. S. L. C. Shepherd, William York, C.
Medlicott, Brig. F. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W)
Mellor, Sir John Snadden, W. McN. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mitchison, G. R. Soames, Capt. C. Mr. Paget and Mr. Renton.