HC Deb 19 February 1963 vol 672 cc249-58

3.51 p.m.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the jury system. The main purpose of my proposed Bill is to ensure that all voters appearing on the Electoral Register shall be generally eligible for jury service and that the property qualification enacted in the Juries Act, 1825, shall be repealed. There will be, of course, ancillary provisions, but in the time at my disposal I think it only necessary for me to say that the House will realise that some of these have already been dealt with very well indeed by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) and that everyone in the House knows what the ancillary provisions are likely to be. Halsbury's "Laws of England" defines juries as follows: Juries are bodies of persons convened by process of law to represent the public"— I emphasise "to represent the public"— and to discharge Limn oath or by affirmation defined public duties. As the House is aware, since 1825—that is, for a period of 138 years—an illogical, ridiculous and indefensible system has been in existence which has divided the nation as to eligibility for jury service into first-class, second-class and third-class citizens. At one time designation of householders of first-class citizenship in this respect sometimes depended on the number of windows which a house possessed. That, of course, was absurd, but almost equally absurd is the distinction which still prevails.

To be a fit and proper person competent to serve on a jury one must be a householder of premises the rateable value of which must be at least £30 per annum in Middlesex and the County of London and £20 per annum outside that area, or one must be the owner of £10 a year in real estate or £20 a year in leaseholds held for not less than 21 years. One may vote to elect a Member of Parliament without any such qualifications, although, incidentally, that person may have those possessions.

I made a check in the register of my constituency some time ago and found that of the 51,223 eligible to vote in Parliamentary or local elections only 2,847, in consequence of the archaic law as it stands in respect of juries, were eligible for jury service. The rest I describe as second-class citizens not entitled to sit on juries, but at least this applies to both men and women. The third class of citizens, according to our present system, is women and only 164 in the constituency, which has nearly 52,000 electors, are eligible to serve on juries. So only 2,863 men and 164 women in my constituency are credited by the law with gifted specialist talent. They being householders or property owners are designated as possessing mental and other faculties necessary to judge their fellow citizens in accordance with the definition in Halsbury.

The law, however, says that, according to the rules of court, all persons qualified or liable to serve as jurors must be summoned to serve on juries without distinction of sex. When selecting the persons from the jurors' book for the panel, the sheriff must select from amongst them such a number of women as will bear the same proportion as near as may be to the number of men on the panel, as the totals of men and women are proportionate to cover cases on the jurors' book. The whole procedure is absolute nonsense. Ridiculous situations arise. Take, for example, the position in different towns of the husband's and wife's rights. One authority has argued that a general householder's liability for service on a jury should be assessed in accordance with the share of the rates they pay. Thus, where the persons have an equal interest the house would need to be of a net value of at least £40 or over to make both eligible for that service.

Birmingham practice is based on the view that since joint householders are equally liable for a portion of the rates the question of apportionment does not apply. In Manchester, council houses are on single tenancies and where there are joint householders of private property it is the practice to mark neither for jury service. In Liverpool, it is the practice to mark the husband and not the wife. Wolverhampton broadly follows the same principle. In Walsall, the principle of joint liability for service of both householders is accepted where joint householding is known, although administrative technicalities seem to mean that it is not applied to council houses. In 1956 Walsall asked the Home Office what it should do with regard to joint holders' eligibility for service on juries. The Home Office said, "We cannot tell you. It is a matter of law and will have to be decided by the law courts." The whole situation is absurd.

Under the new Rating and Valuation Act the genius of the Government is such that it is considered necessary for the rateable values of houses to go up from below £20 to three times as much and thus those who were not capable, whose mentality was considered to be such that they ought not to be on a jury, overnight become possessed of all the genius necessary to judge their fellow citizens. A professor, a doctor-at-law, a psychologist living in lodging, has no right to sit on a jury, but the landlady who supplies them with tea or coffee in the morning has that right.

We have been pressing for this reform for a long time. Everyone in the country who knows about it is also doing so, womenfolk in particular. I understand that an hon. Lady opposite is to oppose this Motion. Goodness knows why. The official bodies of women believe that something must be done about this question quickly. Pressure on the Government has been building up for well over a year. I asked Question after Question on the matter and we were eventually told in November that a Departmental committee was to be set up. Mark this, from November until last night no committee had been appointed, but by a strange coincidence there appeared on the Order Paper today a Question for Written Answer, asking what was happening about that committee.

The Home Secretary's reply to the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) was: I am glad to be able to inform the House that Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest has accepted my invitation to serve on the Committee … to inquire into the law …". As if it were not as plain as a pikestaff that the law is ridiculous at present. All too often committees are known to have very protracted meetings and when they report in a year or two the Government decide whether they will accept the report or not, which may take another year or two. It was the same in the case of my Bill about flick knives. The Government took four years to make up their mind to allow that Bill to go through.

We cannot tolerate this kind of thing. It is held up to ridicule by anyone who has any sense at all and I appeal to the House not to be set aside by this kind of flimsy Answer because it will take an unconscionable length of time before anything can be done.

If I am given leave to introduce the Bill, and a committee is set up, then by all means let the Government help. The Bill could be amended in Committee. I am certain that no one will set up a different system from the register system as the basis for this service, with any exceptions which may be absolutely necessary. In these circumstance, I cannot see how any reasonable person—and I call even on the reasonable persons on the other side of the House—can possibly allow this state of affairs to continue.

I hope that there will be an opportunity for this matter to be discussed in Committee by hon. Members, all of whom know what is necessary and who are just as capable as any outside body of making a decision on the matter.

4.7 p.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) on the sincere way in which he has put forward his Motion. I know of the tremendously hard work that he has done in getting all the facts. As he himself said, this is a very complicated pattern on which we have to work. I am a third-class citizen, as he rightly pointed out.

Sir B. Janner

It is not a complicated matter.

Mr. Speaker

It is not in accordance with our practice to allow interventions in proceedings under this Standing Order.

Miss Vickers

I took down the words of the hon. Gentleman. He said that it was a very complicated situation and I agree with him that it is. It is for this reason that I ask the House not to give leave to the hon. Gentleman to bring in his Bill today.

The hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) sought to put before the House on 20th March, 1962, a two-Clause Bill and this was rejected because it was felt that it did not go far enough.

The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West said that women were anxious to see a change in the law, and he is quite right, but they are not anxious to see a change in the law in respect only of women. They think that there are a great many matters in which the law should be changed, in regard to jurors, and they would much prefer to have a comprehensive survey.

Speaking as the chairman of the Status of Women Committee, some members of which I have consulted, and which represents a great many women's organisations, we feel that this is not a matter to be dealt with only from the feminist point of view, as the hon. Lady for Lanark said in her speech last year. We would like to see the whole of the jury system looked into. Any alteration in the jury system should not be made in the form of piecemeal legislation.

With all respect to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West, I feel that his Bill cannot be fully comprehensive of all the points which one would wish to bring forward, otherwise it would have to be tremendously long and complicated. I think, therefore, that it would be much better for the Government to bring such a Bill forward. We have to thank the hon. Member for Lanark, because her speech last year so impressed the Home Secretary that he promised that there would be a Departmental Committee. That promise was on 15th November. He is now setting this Committee up as mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. It was felt, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, that the Juries Act, 1825, the qualification mostly being a householder, the Sex Disqualification Removal Act, 1939, and the Women Jurors (Criminal Cases) Rules, 1920, needed looking into and some revision made. I think that the House will agree with that.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said in opposing the Motion introduced by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark, this is not a political matter; it is a matter for administration. I am sure that the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West, who is a very distinguished member of the legal profession, will agree that this problem must be looked at purely from the point of view of the administration of the law.

I was very glad when my right hon. Friend decided to set up a Departmental Committee and, like the hon. Member, I hope that it will not take too long over its deliberations. I think that the House will agree that this is the kind of problem into which it is essential to have a full inquiry. All the various anomalies—there are many of them—will be clearly seen. I personally hope that radical changes will be made. In the Juries Act, 1949, brought in by the Labour Party, no change was made in the rules governing the selection of jurors. However, as the hon. Member pointed out, many things have changed since then. The Government have now thought it right to look into the whole question of bringing all the various Acts I have mentioned up to date. I think that the qualifications should be on a local government electoral register basis. If a person has the right to vote, he should have the right to serve on a jury.

The position of women is still difficult, because in many cases they are not householders. There are other things apart from the qualification of being a householder, for example, if a woman is a householder but happens to be a professional woman—a doctor—she is exempt from jury service.

There is another question which was not mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, but which I should like to see looked into. There is some evidence that accused persons, who have the right to exercise a challenge in respect of seven members of a jury without giving any reasons, are apt to challenge women members, particularly in cases involving sex or cruelty to children. This point should be looked into. Further, I believe that the maximum age for jury service is 60. Many hon. Members feel well qualified to carry on their work here after they have reached 60. I do not understand why people cannot act as jurors when they have reached 60 years of age.

The hon. Member has done a great service in moving his Motion. I am sure that he is wholly concerned with the administration of the law. I hope, therefore, that he will not mind if his Motion is rejected. He will have achieved his object, because he has just anounced that a Departmental Committee is to be set up. I am certain that his Motion for leave to bring in his Bill has hurried up the formation of this Committee.

The hon. Member will be able to play an even greater part in future when the Committee has finished its deliberations. The hon. Gentleman may even wish to give evidence to the Committee, in view of the research that he has already done. I think that the result of setting up a committee of this kind will be beneficial and will effect an improvement in the jury system on an all-round basis and not

merely on the various points that the hon. hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

I therefore ask the House to refuse leave to bring in the Bill, although I repeat that the hon. Gentleman has done a great service today in moving his Motion.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 147, Noes 205.

Division No. 56.] AYES [4.9 p.m.
Abse, Leo Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Neal, Harold
Ainsley, William Griffitha, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Awbery, Stan (Bristol Central) Hamilton, William (West Fife) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip(Derby, S.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Hannan, William Owen, Will
Barnett, Guy Hart, Mrs. Judith Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.> Hayman, F. H. Parker, John
Beaney, Alan Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Parkin, B. T.
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hill, J. (Midlothian) Pavitt, Laurence
Benson, Sir George Hilton, A. v. Peart, Frederick
Blackburn, F. Holt, Arthur Pentland, Norman
Blyton, William Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Popplewell, Ernest
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hoy, James H. Prentice, R. E.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Probert, Arthur
Boyden, James Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Rankin, John
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Redhead, E. C.
Bradley, Tom Hunter, A. E. Rhodes, H.
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Janner, Sir Barnett Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jeger, George Robertson, John (Paisley)
Collick, Percy Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Ross, William
Crosland, Anthony Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Darling, George Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Skeffington, Arthur
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kelley, Richard Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) King, Dr. Horace Small, William
Deer, George Lawson, George Sorensen, R. W.
Delargy, Hugh Lee, Frederick (Newton) Sprigga, Leslie
Dempsey, James Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Steele, Thomas
Dodds, Norman Lipton, Marcus Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Donnelly, Desmond Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stones, William
Driberg, Tom McCann, John Swingler, Stephen
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John MacColl, James Taverne, D.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mcinnes, James Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McKay, John (Wallsend) Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Thornton, Ernest
Evans, Albert MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Wade, Donald
Finch, Harold Manuel, Archie Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Fitch, Alan Mapp, Charles Whitlock, William
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Marsh, Richard Willey, Frederick
Forman, J. C. Mason, Roy Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Ga pern, Sir Myer Meillsh, R. J. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Hurton)
Ginsburg, David Millan, Bruce Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Gourlay, Harry Mitchison, G. R. Woof, Robert
Gower, Raymond Monslow, Walter Yatea, Victor (Ladywood)
Greenwood, Anthony Moody, A. S. Zitliacus, K.
Grey, Charles Morgan, William
Mulley, Frederick TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Miss He.bison and Mr. Lubbock.
Agnew, Sir Peter Barlow, Sir John Berkeley, Humphry
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Barter, John Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Arbuthnot, John Batsford, Brian Biffen, John
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Bell, Ronald Blggs-Davison, John
Balniel, Lord Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Bishop, F. P.
Barber, Anthony Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Bossom, Hon. Clie
Box, Donald Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Braine, Bernard Hirst, Geoffrey Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Brewis, John Hobson, Sir John Peel, John
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Hocking, Philip N. Pilkington, Sir Richard
Brooman-White, R. Holland, Philip Pitt, Dame Edith
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hollingworth, John Pott, Percivall
Bryan, Paul Hopkins, Alan Price, David (Easlleigh)
Buck, Antony Hornby, R. P. Prior, J. M. L.
Buliard, Denys Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Profumo, Rt. Hon. John
Bulius, Wing Commander Eric Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Burden, F. A. Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Pym, Francis
Camphell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hughes-Young, Michael Quennell, Miss J. M.
Carr, Ccmpton (Barons Court) Hulbert, Sir Norman Rawlinson, Sir Peter
Channon, H. P. G. Hurd, Sir Anthony Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Chataway, Christopher Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees, Hugh
Chichester-Clark, R. James, David Rees-Davies, W. R.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Renton, Rt. Hon. David
Clarke, Brig. Terence(Porthmth, W.) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Cleaver, Leonard Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Ridsdale, Julian
Cole, Norman Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)
Costain, A, P. Kerby, Capt. Henry Roblnson, Rt. Hon. SirR.(B'pool, S).
Coulsdon, Michael Kerr, Sir Hamilton Russell, Ronald
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Sperthorne) Kimball, Marcus Scott-Hopkins, James
Crawley, Aldan Kirk, Peter Seymour, Leslie
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Lagden, Godfrey Sharples, Richard
Cunningham, Knox Leavey, J. A. Shaw, M.
Curran, Charles Leburn, Gilmour Shepherd, William
Dalkeith, Earl of Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Donaldson, Cmdr, C. E. M. Linstead, Sir Hugh Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Doughty, Charles Litchfield, Capt. John Stanley, Hon. Richard
Drayson, G. B. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Stodart, J. A.
du Cann, Edward Longbottom, Charles Storey, Sir Samuel
Duncan, Sir James Loveys, Walter H. Studhoime, Sir Henry
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. McAdden, Sir Stephen Summers, Sir Spencer
Elllott, R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.) MacArthur, Ian Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn McLaren, Martin Teeling, Sir William
Farr, John Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Temple, John M.
Fell, Anthony Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.) Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Finlay, Graeme McLean, Neil (Inverness) Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Fisher, Nigel Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McMaster, Stanley R. Tllney, John (Wavertree)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Maginnis, John E. Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Freeth, Denzil Maitland, Sir John Turner, Colin
Gibson-Watt, David Markham, Major Sir Frank Tweedsmuir, Lady
Gllmour, Ian (Norfolk Central) Marshall, Douglas Vane, W. M. F.
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Marten, Nell Vickers, Miss Joan
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wakefield, Sir Wavell
Goodhew, Victor Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Walder, David
Green, Alan Mills, stratton Webster, David
Gresham Cooke, R. Miscampbell, Norman Wells, John (Maidstone)
Gurden, Harold Montgomery, Fergus Whitelaw, William
Hall, John (Wycombe) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Morrison, John Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Nabarro, Sir Gerald Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Nicholls, Sir Harmar Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Woodhouse, C. M.
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd] Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael Woodnutt, Mark
Hastings, Stephen Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel] Oakshott, Sir Hendrle TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hendry, Forbes Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Mr. Mawby and
Osborn, John (Hallam) Mr. Bourne-Artor.