HC Deb 18 February 1963 vol 672 cc23-4
34. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Attorney-General whether he will introduce legislation to prevent magistrates giving decisions indicative of racial discrimination.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Peter Rawlinson)

No. There is no reason to think that any action is necessary, but, if it were, legislation would not be the appropriate remedy. If a magistrate shows himself to be unfitted for judical office by reason of bias, whether concerning racial discrimination or otherwise, it is open to my noble friend the Lord Chancellor to remove him from the Commission of the Peace.

Mr. Fletcher

Has the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention been drawn to a case in Nottingham recently where an English couple were told by the chairman of the magistrates that they could apply for the custody of their two white children, now in the care of the local authority, if they moved away from a district with a coloured population in which they are now living? Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that public manifestations of racial prejudice of this kind by magistrates are very undesirable?

The Solicitor-General

I agree that the remark was unfortunate. My noble Friend called for a full report and for the full magistrate's notes of the occasion. He asked for the full statement made by the chairman of the magistrates. On consideration of the whole matter, however, my noble Friend did not feel justified in removing this magistrate from the commission.

Mr. Dugdale

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give consideration to the possibility of ensuring that persons who are known to have strong views in favour of racial discrimination are not appointed magistrates?

The Solicitor-General

I will see that the right hon. Gentleman's comment is brought to the attention of my noble Friend.