§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is a valuable and necessary Bill, but I do not think that it is likely to prove highly contentious. It is necessary because, Parliament having passed the London Government Act last Session, which created a new Greater London area, it becomes imperative to adjust the structure of the system for the administration of justice in that new area to the new local government geography and pattern which the Act has created. That is Part I.
Part I will also secure advances in other fields which have no connection with the London Government Act, notably the implementation of the Aarvold Report on Magistrates' Courts in London, and that part of the Morison Report on the Probation Service which deals with the probation service in London. We owe a great deal to the hard work of each of these Committees, which produced those two valuable Reports.
I will deal, first, with those Clauses which flow from the London Government Act. The intention is that they will come into force on 1st April, 1965, the same date as the Act. This Bill contains transitional provisions which will enable the various bodies with administrative duties to begin their work before 1st April, 1965 in making the necessary preparations to ensure a smooth transition on that date.
The Government have gone to considerable trouble to try to secure as wide an agreement as possible over these adaptations in the machinery for the administration of justice. Away back in the autumn of 1962, my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and I began consulting the interested authorities and bodies in the area about the changes which we thought would be necessary in this machinery, and in the light of the replies which we had from 380 them we made modifications in our original plan. The first and most obvious step which had to be taken was to extend the area of the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court to coincide with the area of Greater London. It already covers the greater part of this area, but not the whole.
This is done in Clause 1, with its picturesque reference to… oyer and terminer and gaol delivery …and so forth. At the same time, the Government have taken the opportunity to bring forward a useful reform in the system of sessions of that court, a reform which I know has been in the minds of the authorities there for some time.
At present, the Central Criminal Court is required by statute to hold 12 sessions a year, each lasting about a month. It is felt by those who are closely concerned that this leads to excessive rigidity in the timetable of the court. It can sometimes mean that cases which are ready for trial cannot be tried, simply and solely for the technical reason that a case can be tried only in the session to which it has been committed. It seems absurd that justice should be delayed in this way.
The Government have, therefore, adopted the suggestion that, instead of being required to hold 12 sessions, the court should be required to hold a minimum of four sessions. This provision is in Clause 1(2) and Schedule I. This change will not mean any fewer sittings of the court. On the contrary, the increasing pressure of business and the extension of the area of jurisdiction mean more court rooms.
The City Corporation, which bears the whole capital cost of the Old Bailey without any contribution from the other authorities, is taking steps to provide more court rooms. It has also promoted a Bill to provide for additional judges. This technical change from 12 sessions to four sessions a year will enable some cases which now have to be delayed to be heard earlier.
For the purposes of commissions of the peace, quarter sessions and magistrates' courts, the Government put forward the plan of dividing Greater London into five commission areas. These are set out in Clause 2. I think that hon. Members representing Middlesex 381 constituencies will welcome the change that was made in another place whereby the North-West London area is to be called the Middlesex area. If anybody can suggest satisfactory names for the other areas, names which are not misleading or artificial, I should be very willing to consider them.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and I considered whether it would be possible simply to preserve the status quo in the matter of magistrates' courts and quarter sessions as some people urged upon us, but we came to the conclusion that it was not feasible. The Greater London Council will be responsible for financing all the courts, except the magistrates' courts in inner London, and it is hardly possible to adopt any plan which bases court administration otherwise than on the area of the Greater London Council or sub-divisions of that area.
It would have been practicable to treat Greater London as one unit for the purposes of the administration of justice, as we have treated it for the purposes of the lieutenancy and the sheriff in Clauses 18 and 19. Indeed, we originally thought that that might be the best plan to have one unit. However, it became quite clear that this did not commend itself to those involved. I hope that the House will agree that what we now propose represents the best solution to the problem.
Our chief aim has been to make only those changes which are necessary, so as not to dissipate the experience which has been built up over the years by the justices who sit in and around London. Each of the five commission areas will be treated broadly as a county. Each will have its own commission of the peace, quarter sessions, magistrates' courts and magistrates' courts committee. Somewhat special arrangements must be made for inner London. I will refer to them in a few minutes. The general position, as I have described it, is set out in Clauses 2 to 8.
The courts of quarter sessions for each commission area will be presided over by full-time paid chairmen or deputy-chairmen. The Bill gives the Lord Chancellor power to direct that the chairman or deputy-chairman shall sit alone, except in dealing with committals and 382 appeals from juvenile courts. This does not mean that the lay justices are to be wholly excluded from quarter sessions work. This is only a reserve power, and we hope that the lay justices, as time goes on, will play an increasing part in the work of quarter sessions.
One innovation which the Bill introduces is the power to appoint county court judges as deputy-chairmen of quarter sessions. This is in Clause 5, and it is based on a recommendation of the Streatfeild Report on the Business of the Criminal Courts. Concentration on criminal work exclusively may be monotonous. To add some variety to the judicial work may well increase the efficiency of the courts.
Before dealing with the inner London magistrates' courts, I want to refer to Clause 18 which deals with the lientenancy. That Clause provides that there shall be one lord lieutenant for Greater London and that, in addition to the vice-lieutenant and the deputy-lieutenants, the lord lieutenant shall be empowered to appoint assistant lieutenants to whom he can delegate certain of his functions. This is an exceptional provision to deal with a rather exceptional situation. Clause 19 provides for one high sheriff and gives him power to appoint an under-sheriff for each of the five commission areas.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what will be the position of the present deputy-lieutenants of the County of London?
§ Mr. Brooke
When the County of London passes out of existence we make a fresh start.
The inner London magistrates' courts are provided for in Clauses 9 to 17. As I think most hon. Members know, there have always been two systems of magistrates' courts operating side by side in the County of London. There are the metropolitan stipendiary magistrates' courts, which deal with the bulk of the criminal work. Then there are also the lay justices of the County of London, sitting in their petty sessional courts and exercising a jurisdiction limited by Orders made by the Secretary of State under the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, and dealing mainly with cases of the kind prosecuted by local authorities.
In addition to sitting in the petty 383 sessional courts, where they have only this limited jurisdiction, lay justices are increasingly sitting in metropolitan magistrates' courts to help in relieving the very great pressure that has built up in these important courts. When they sit in metropolitan courts they have a far wider range of jurisdiction. It has been thought for a long time that this dual system is wrong. In 1937, a Departmental Committee recommended an integration of the two systems. This presents quite a number of legal and practical problems, because at present each system is served separately by its own clerks. The metropolitan clerks and staff are appointed by me, whereas the lay courts staff are appointed by the London Magistrates' Courts Committee. Each system has its own separate courthouses and geographical areas of jurisdiction.
In 1962, the Departmental Committee on Magistrates' Courts in London, under the chairmanship of Judge Aarvold, which had been set up to examine the practical problems of integration, reported on the measures that would be necessary to give effect to the plan. Clauses 9 to 17 give effect to the recommendations of that Report.
The main result is that there will no longer be two systems in inner London, but one. The lay justices in general will have the same range of jurisdiction as the metropolitan magistrates. The metropolitan magistrates will, of course, continue to sit alone. There will be one common staff instead of two sets of staff, and when we have made more progress with long-term building plans, the magistrates' courts in inner London divisions will work in the same courthouses.
Clause 9 merges the two separate jurisdictions, and Clauses 13 to 17 deal with the administration of the integrated system. The Aarvold Committee recognised that inner London presented administrative problems different from those of any other area in England and Wales, and that, in view of these, the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State would have to retain a rather higher measure of control over the system than they have over court administration elsewhere; but the Committee wanted the administration to be brought as closely 384 as possible into line with that of magistrates' courts in the country as a whole.
The Committee also recommended that the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District, who, up till now, has been responsible for finance and building for the metropolitan courts, should assume the same responsibilities for the integrated court system. The Bill gives effect to these recommendations.
Clause 13 establishes a committee of magistrates formed of metropolitan and lay magistrates, and Clauses 15 and 16 set out its functions. The determination of the number and grading of the staff and their conditions of service are to be the responsibility of the Committee, subject to the approval of the Home Secretary. Otherwise, the functions of the committee of magistrates, such as the appointment of the justices' clerks and other staff, are very much the same as those of a magistrates' courts committee in the rest of the country.
Before I leave this part of the Bill, I should like to say a word about the pressure of business in the metropolitan magistrates' courts, and what is being done about it. The delay which this pressure has been causing is something that none of us can regard with complacency, and a great deal has been done recently to relieve the situation. Last year, a new courthouse, with three courtrooms, was opened in the South-Western Division.
Next month, we plan to open two more courtrooms in Wells Street, north of Oxford Street, for dealing with summonses, as there will be no cells there, and these will be followed by two more shortly after. In addition, extra accommodation has been provided at certain other courts. If we find that we need still further courtrooms, we must take steps to get them. A new domestic proceedings court has been opened in East London, and the jurisdiction of the lay justices in the petty sessional divisions has been extended to enable them to take some cases which would otherwise have to go to the metropolitan magistrates' courts.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has increased the number of stipendiary magistrates already, and Clause 10 of the Bill enables further increases to be made up 385 to the number of 40. My right hon. and learned Friend has also increased substantially the number of lay magistrates in the County of London.
I should like to make special reference to the effect of the changes in the Bill on the clerks and staff of the present metropolitan magistrates' courts and of the lay justices' courts in the County of London, who will be merged under the Bill. The conditions of service of these two elements are at present entirely different. It will be one of the first tasks of the committee of magistrates to decide, subject to my approval, whether the future terms should be based on those of the existing metropolitan staff or on those of the existing lay justices' staff.
The latter terms are the same as those which apply in the rest of the country. This will be a difficult decision, and, like all mergers of this kind, this merger will undoubtedly place some strain on the staff. My Department is in touch with the representatives of both elements of the staff, and we are discussing with them in particular the kind of provision that ought to be made for the protection of the interests of the existing staff. I have it in mind to move certain Amendments in Committee for the further protection of staff interests.
Clause 21 of the Bill deals with the arrangements for the probation service in Greater London, and, in particular, inner London. The Departmental Committee on the Probation Service, under the chairmanship of Sir Ronald Morison, recommended a change in the administration in inner London. At present, the London probation service is administered directly by the Home Office.
On the other hand, the probation services in the rest of the country are managed by probation committees composed of justices. The Morison Committee recommended that a similar system should be adopted in London. I do not dissent from that, I think it a good thing to assimilate the London administration to that of England and Wales generally. Clause 21(2) provides for the setting up of a probation committee for inner London.
As regards the financing of the probation service in inner London, the Bill proposes a change from the recommendation 386 of the Morison Report, which was that the probation service should be financed by the local authority as it is in the rest of the country. At present in London, like the metropolitan magistrates' courts, it is financed by the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District. Since magistrates' courts in inner London are to be financed by the Receiver, it seems to me right that the probation service also should be so financed.
Probation officers are just as much officers of the court as the staff of the justices' clerk, and I think that it would be a mistake to have two different systems of finance for two bodies having so much in common. Under either scheme the money would, of course, come partly from the rates and partly from Exchequer grant, as it does in the rest of the country. The proportion is, in fact, near enough half and half.
Part II of the Bill deals with England and Wales generally and not simply with Greater London. In this part of the Bill, we have seized the opportunity to introduce a number of reforms which I hope that hon. Members who are concerned with magistrates' courts will recognise to be valuable. The first of these reforms is in Clauses 27 and 28 and deals with the cases, which are few, when a justice or clerk is sued in respect of some act done in the execution of his duty.
The Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, made certain provision for indemnification out of local funds when this happened, but this provision has been recognised to be inadequate in a number of respects, particularly in that it applies only to justices and not to their clerks and staff, and does not give desirable safeguards.
A working party has gone into this, and Clauses 27 and 28 give broad effect to its recommendations. Clause 27 deals with the acts of justices and their clerks outside quarter sessions and provides indemnity from local funds. Clause 28 deals with prerogative proceedings in the High Court against magistrates and with acts done at quarter sessions and makes rather simpler provision for indemnity out of Exchequer funds. As I have said, these cases occur seldom, but it is clearly right to make proper and just provision for them.
387 We also propose the payment of subsistence allowances to justices. At present, justices are only entitled to be reimbursed for travelling expenses and night lodging expenses. I think that this provision in Clause 30 will be generally welcomed.
I do not think that I need comment at this stage on any of the other Clauses; they deal with relatively minor but useful matters. There is, however, one other subject which I should like to mention before I sit down. Under the Police Bill, which is now before a Standing Committee, the police authority in a county is no longer to be the standing joint committee.
Virtually the only other function of the standing joint committee is to decide questions about court accommodation for quarter sessions. It has been represented to me—and I am bound to say that I am inclined to agree with this view—that it is rather absurd that a statutory standing joint committee should continue in existence for this residual purpose alone when it is no longer concerned with police matters. I am, therefore, considering the idea of transferring the function of dealing with quarter sessions accommodation to the county councils in such a way as to ensure that the interests of quarter sessions are not jeopardised. This is a possible Amendment to the Bill which we may consider further in Committee.
To sum up, the Bill not only makes various necessary provisions in judicial administration following on the London Government Act, but also proposes a number of useful reforms in court administration which, I think, may be generally welcomed by hon. Members. It had a friendly and almost uncontroversial reception in another place, and I hope that the House will wish to see it reach the Statute Book.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
In my experience, it is not often that Home Secretaries receive compliments in this House, but I think that the right hon. Gentleman has rendered a service by telling us so succinctly and shortly about the very considerable changes which the Bill makes.
The right hon. Gentleman began by saying that he did not think that the 388 Bill would arouse much excitement. I think that he is right. It is curious that a Measure introduced in Parliament which affects millions of people in an aspect of their lives of great importance, namely, their contact or conflicts with the judicial system, should be, at first sight at any rate, so wholly devoid of interesting topics of controversy.
Speaking from the Opposition benches on a Bill of this sort, I am tempted to say simply no more than that the right hon. Gentleman has told us what the Bill is about, that we could, if we read it, verify what he has said, that what he has said seems to be reflected in the context of the Bill, and that this is obviously a Bill eminently suited to be discussed and picked to pieces minutely in Committee, and then sit down; and I am very much tempted to do that.
I have examined the Bill to see whether I can find in its provisions something which can be said to display a glimmer of principle and of purely human interest. It is a very important Bill, and I speak with no disrespect of its provisions in saying what I have said. Obviously, it is a necessary Bill and I do not suppose that any hon. Member would suggest that we should reject it. Our approach, no doubt, will be very similar to that of the noble Lords in another place.
When I scan the Bill to see what matters may be suitable for discussion on Second Reading, I find one which evokes almost a sentimental echo. It concerns the composition of the judges in the Central Criminal Court. The ex officio judges, as we know and can see from the Schedule to the Bill, include the Lord Mayor of the City and the aldermen. They do not sit. Their services are ceremonial. They lend great dignity and colour to the court. The court, which is of haunting and ancient memories, distressing memories for many of those compelled to resort to it, is, perhaps, particularly suitable to be garnished by the presence of that which is traditional, that which history has hallowed and that which possibly cannot be justified on grounds other than that there is something picturesque and reminiscent of the centuries which have rolled by to be found in it.
389 It was in those circumstances that noble Lords in another place discussed an Amendment to the effect that the chairman and vice-chairman of the Greater London Council should be made ex officio judges of the Central Criminal Court. The argument was that to be an ex officio judge was to assume a status of dignity and that the presence of these gentlemen would enhance the standing of the council and would be received with acclamation by members of the council. That was the argument for the Amendment, and it was pointed out, with not inconsiderable force, that it was perhaps anomalous that the chairman and vice-chairman of the Greater London Council should not be ex officio judges of the Central Criminal Court and that neither group of judges would sit but that both would lend dignity by their presence and association with the court.
It is easy in our arrangements to point to anomalies. The life of our great community is crammed full of anomalies. Some of them are tiresome. The majority of them militate against efficiency. It is difficult—and no doubt we will wish to consider this further in Committee—to find one's way between the views put forward by the Lord Chancellor and others in another place, that tradition hallowed the association of the Lord Mayor and aldermen and that it would be difficult and rather invidious to break with that tradition, but that the chairman and vice-chairman of the Greater London Council, which will be responsible for between 8 and 9 million of the population of London, should not be ex officio members of the court.
I have referred to this topic because it seems to me one which evokes a human interest, but I do not seek to offer a positive opinion of my own about it. I draw attention to it because, no doubt, when the Bill is considered in Committee, hon. Members will think it appropriate to examine and discuss what should be the rôle of tradition in our life, how far it should extend, and whether we should welcome, accept and endorse it, or try, when and as we can, to sweep it away in the interests of rigid efficiency. Those are matters of balance which evoke emotions and which perhaps we cannot adjudicate on in a spirit of complete rationalism and logic. I hope 390 that I am not showing undue cowardice by leaving it. It is obviously a matter on which the balance is very even.
I turn to a perhaps more practical point relating to Surrey Quarter Sessions. I suppose that the Bill is bound to be crammed full of local individual difficulties. I select one which has been brought to my notice as one of the sort of difficulties which is bound to be thrown up and which, at some time, some administration must face. The difficulty arises in this way. It is said that, under the London Government Act, Surrey Quarter Sessions will lose about a quarter of its criminal work, which will be transferred to what is rather clinically called the south-western area of Greater London—and I sympathise with the Home Secretary in his hope to find a more cosy and warm-sounding name.
There will be a separate court, a separate clerk of the peace, a separate staff and separate buildings to house the court. The argument is—and it can be well understood—that the expense which will be consequently incurred will not bring any corresponding benefit or advantage to the administration of justice.
I put the difficulty, without seeking to resolve it, as an example of the many difficulties which inevitably will be thrown up when and if this major rearrangement in consequence of the London Government Act is brought about in April, 1965, and which will, in one way or another, have to be straightened out. Therefore, having pointed to it, I leave it for others to seek to disentangle if and when the occasion arises in 1965. I see that the Home Secretary shakes his head both gloomily and forebodingly about that—rather, he was nodding, not shaking his head.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I must not interpret the right hon. Gentleman's mind through involuntary motions of his body which he did not intend to be significant.
The next point to which I would like to refer arises directly from the Bill and involves, perhaps, something more of major underlying principle which is more suitable to a Second Reading debate 391 than to Committee. I refer to Clause 12(3), which transfers from the Home Secretary's Department to the Lord Chancellor the function of selecting those justices of the commission who are to be the chairmen and members of juvenile courts in the Greater London area.
The selection of justices for that purpose is a function which for London is at present vested in the Home Secretary. Outside London, it is the justices of the commission themselves who select from among their numbers those justices who should form juvenile courts—justices who, because of their interests and their special qualities, may be thought to be more suitable to do that kind of work. There is an obvious rather odd anomaly between the practice in the provinces and that in London. However, rightly or wrongly, it is now the Home Secretary who does that. The Bill proposes that is should be done not by the Home Secretary, but by the Lord Chancellor.
The point of principle which was discussed in another place, and which this House may wish to consider, is as follows. The Home Secretary has already parted with the function of appointing recorders and stipendiary magistrates. It used to be part of his jurisdiction, but it no longer is. Now, it is proposed to take from the Home Secretary the further function of appointing other judicial officers. The justification which was put forward for the change in another place was that it is desirable that the appointment of judicial officers should be designedly separated from other functions which were of a penal or security character and that in those circumstances they should all be concentrated in the hands of the Lord Chancellor. They are not at the moment entirely concentrated in him. It is not I think on his recommendation that Lords Justices are appointed, but that, perhaps, is neither here nor there.
There is an argument the other way which somewhat appeals to me. It is said that in this country we do not like the idea of a Ministry of Home Security. We do not like the idea of a Minister who is responsible primarily and almost solely for the police, for the supervision of the carrying out of punishments of various sorts, 392 for looking after those who have strayed, or are likely to stray, and for doing the rather unpleasant tasks associated with the broad concept of security.
It is said that if, having taken away from the Home Secretary the function of appointing recorders and stipendiary magistrates, we go still further and strip the right hon. Gentleman of his rather human function of saying which among the justices in London are to function in juvenile courts, we would be going a little too far in the direction of making him rather a Minister of Home Security and that we should not do it.
Again, the arguments are somewhat finely balanced. The right hon. Gentleman still has extremely wide functions. His is a very responsible Department. He has a large measure of responsibility in the matter of children, and so on, and perhaps we would not recognise the present Home Secretary—and, I hope, none of his successors—in the rôle of the rather formidable continental Minister of Home Security whom we justly fear and whose presence we would not welcome in our administrative and governmental arrangements. That, no doubt, is a matter which it may be desirable further to consider in Committee.
A point which has been raised and which, perhaps, one would wish to discuss on Second Reading is one which has long been in the minds of those who are interested in the position of justices and which was raised in the Report of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace, which reported in 1948. At the moment, amongst the ex officio members of the commission are the chairmen of county and district councils.
It was strongly argued by a noble Lord who put forward an Amendment that they should no longer be ex officio members of the commission and that in a large number of cases they have not had the experience of the work on the bench which is required to enable them to be good justices of the peace, but that in any event if, independently of their function as chairmen of county and district councils, they have shown themselves suitable for appointment, they would in the ordinary way be recommended to the Lord Chancellor by the lord lieutenant and the advisory committee. Why, therefore, it was asked, 393 even in the Report of the Royal Commission, should they, simply because they were chairmen of those councils, ex officio be justices of the peace.
A distinguished predecessor of the present Lord Chancellor, Lord Jowitt, opposed a change on the lines which Lord Airedale in another place proposed by his Amendment. The former Lord Chancellor said that frequently he discovered the value of a holder of the office of chairman of one of those councils as a justice only by learning how he actually did his work when sitting on the bench as a justice during the period of his office. His office might be for only one year or it might last from year to year, but frequently excellent justices came to the Lord Chancellor's notice through the recommendation of the lord lieutenant simply and solely because a person had been seen to work well on the bench because he was enabled to do so as an ex officio justice of the peace qua chairman of the council and, therefore, it was valuable, and it added greatly to the resources from which the Lord Chancellor could select, to have chairmen of county and district councils as ex officio justices. Lord Jowitt opposed the change. The present Lord Chancellor opposed it on the same grounds.
That is another conundrum. Speaking for myself, I feel very much impressed by the arguments of the late Lord Jowitt and the present Lord Dilhorne on that topic. Without further consideration of this difficult and rather prickly problem, that is the way in which my own view would at present go.
The Home Secretary told us today about the steps which he is taking in Clauses 9 to 17 for the purpose of integrating in the inner London area the two systems of the lay justices and the stipendiary magistrates. I have always thought that there was something unreasonable in the jurisdiction in the lay justices being limited in the way that it is under the Act of 1949—an Act which, I confess, was passed when another Government were in office, although, no doubt, for very good reason.
I cannot remember whether I spoke on it; I hope not. At least, on reflection in later and more mature years, it seems difficult to justify the distinction. I am glad that the Government have taken 394 this opportunity, so far as possible, to remove what is an unreasonable and somewhat invidious distinction and one which, I should have thought, was an obstacle in the way of a much more efficient integrated service. I am glad that the Home Secretary has done that.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question, about which I found myself in doubt when going through the Bill. Clauses 9 and on deal, as the right hon. Gentleman says, with what is described in Clause 2 as inner London—the inner London boroughs referred to in subsection (1,a). But I cannot find anywhere in the Bill any provision which seems to deal with the position of petty sessional divisions and courts in what is described in Clause 2 as outer London—those commission areas specified in sub-paragraphs (b) to (e).
It is possible that, by implication, the Bill deals with them in the sense that each of them has a separate commission of its own and is a county for a number of purposes. Perhaps that has the automatic effect of reorganising the petty sessional jurisdictional system in these counties of the outer London area or, at any rate, giving power to effect reorganisation without further legislative change But I do not quite understand what is happening in the commission areas outside the inner area, and I would be grateful if the Solicitor-General would say something about this so that we may know how the Bill will work in the outer London areas.
A provision I very much welcome is that contained in Clause 5, which enables county court judges to be appointed to sit as deputy chairmen of quarter sessions in the five commission areas. I feel very strongly the desirability of varying the work of county court judges. The service they render is inestimable, as everyone would agree. Their administration of justice commands universal applause. Certainly, they already have a wide range of topics to deal with.
It has been our experience that, except in very individual specialised cases, it is desirable that a judge's work should cover as bread a range of human relationships as possible. We are rather suspicious about the permanent, fulltime 395 recorder, for example, who does only criminal work. We have the Recorder of London, who is an excellent exception, perhaps, to the principle I have been sketching, but of going beyond that we have always been chary and have rested upon the principle, which is quite right, that judges other than those dealing with specialised work like patents should, when dealing with cases affecting human beings, have experience as broadly-based and widely-flung as possible. Clause 5 goes in that direction and I feel that it makes a very substantial improvement which is of considerable value.
I want to close my speech with a note on names. That the outer London areas should be the north-east, south-east, south-west and—may I say it with a sigh of relief?—Middlesex, is, apart from that appellation Middlesex, a matter which has a somewhat gloomy cast about it. The right hon. Gentleman is very conscious of it as were the noble Lords.
That we should be identified by the point of the compass, that we should have to consult the capital letters of a compass when asked where we live, is something which does depress and oppress the spirit. I hope that the combined effort of right hon. and hon. Members of this House, when the Bill reaches Committee stage, will conjure up some names which will not plunge the whole country into confusion, as we were assured would happen by the Lord Chancellor.
I think it was said that the name "Essex" for the south-east London area might plunge us all into confusion, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find some name which will avoid these dangers. One noble Lord suggested that the area might be called the "Essex Metropolitan Area". The Lord Chancellor said that this would be disastrous, since no one would know what court to go to, or which court had convicted or acquitted him—indeed, that all would find their lives wrapped in mystery. This is the danger we must avoid, but if we could find simple names, not so pregnant with danger as that, we would render very great service to those living in these five big commission areas if the London Government Act takes effect.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
It is not my intention to take up much time, but I want to speak about one Clause which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) did not refer to. I am glad of the opportunity to do so. Clause 36 provides subsistence allowances for justices of the peace for the first time. This is obviously an improvement, but it is not quite good enough.
In other public services, where a man suffers loss of earnings as a result of carrying out public duties it has been recognised for some time that he should receive compensation from the authorities. This point was put very forcibly in another place by a noble Lord, but the Lord Chancellor came to the conclusion—although I do not think that he is quite determined about it—that the time is not appropriate for justices to be paid for loss of earnings.
I cannot really understand that view. Surely, in these days of progress, when more and more working-class and middle-class people are taking an active part in all these functions delegated by the State, and greater recognition is being paid to the need to get the best types of person for such work, compensation for loss of earnings should be paid.
I shall not develop this aspect, but we often say that the salaries of hon. Members should be increased sufficiently to enable the House to attract the best people. I cannot, therefore, see what would be lost if we compensated justices of the peace for loss of earnings in addition to giving them a subsistence allowance.
Many J.P.s cannot get away from work without having to suffer financial loss. While some employers will pay them during absence—they include the nationalised industries and the G.P.O.—many private employers will not do so. The result is that many men will not serve on the bench or, if they are J.P.s, will not allow themselves to be called during their working time. In this respect, the administration of justice suffers, as some very able and experienced people are being denied the opportunity to play their part. More and more each year are coming within this group because of the widening of the scope of opportunity of public service for the 397 middle-class and working-class elements in this country.
It was also said in another place that the majority of the members of the Magistrates Association, in 1960, were opposed to payment for loss of earnings. That may be so. There may be a majority of that opinion, but there must be many members of the Association who feel that this reform is long overdue. I appeal to the Government, not on a party issue—because these people come from all parties—to look at this matter again. It cannot cost much, but it would enable every justice of the peace, whatever his job, to undertake this very important work in the courts and to give the country the benefit of his able assistance in the tasks which the courts undertake.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
When he introduced the Bill, very shortly and clearly, the Home Secretary said that it was non-controversial, and that is largely the case. The Bill is to be welcomed on both sides of the House. It carries out a very-much-needed tidying up operation, and, at the same time, brings in some valuable reforms.
I should like to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) which arises on Clause 30. It is high time that this reform of the payment of subsistence allowances to lay justices was made. In another capacity I sit as deputy-chairman of two quarter sessions, and in my professional life I practised at those courts before being appointed a deputy-chairman.
When I first started to practise at Flintshire Sessions there was usually one day's hearing every quarter, with two courts sitting. Now, with the chairman and two deputy-chairmen, there are several sittings each month, and I know from the conversations which I have with the justices there that this pattern is repeated at the magistrates' courts level.
There is, therefore, a great hardship, which must be recognised, which attends on all magistrates, whatever their occupation, who are called upon to do this work. In this country they have always been described as the great unpaid, and I imagine that this emotional block occurs in the minds of 398 many magistrates when they are considering whether there ought to be compensation for loss of earnings.
The subsistence allowance, welcome as it is, does not go far enough. In another place Lord Champion referred to his own situation when he was employed on the railway as a signalman at £3 a week and was appointed a magistrate. He attended twice out of every three times that he could have attended, but he could afford to do so only because he was on a certain kind of shift work. This experience must be shared many times in many other cases. Surely the Government could look again at this Clause. Now that we are introducing so many valuable reforms in the Bill is this not another which could be introduced? I warmly support the hon. Member for Stepney in this matter.
It must not be thought, because I am selecting one or two Clauses on which I appear to be critical, that I am critical of the Bill generally. I am not. But one point which worries me a little arises in Clause 28, which is one of the two Clauses which deal with the indemnification of justices and clerks. Clause 28 provides that Clause 27shall not apply to proceedings for an order of prohibition, mandamus or certiorari, or to proceedings arising out of anything done or omitted by any person in his capacity as or as a member of a court of quarter sessions.The next subsection provides that the Lord Chancellor shall defray moneys ordered by way of costs against a justice, justices' clerk or clerk of the peace in respect of these proceedings.
Is this satisfactory? Suppose there is a case in which a litigant is seeking an order of certiorari, and it is a case in which magistrates ought to be represented in the divisional court. Because Clause 27 does net apply, they do not know whether they will be awarded costs until the whole proceedings are over and the Lord Chancellor has considered them in retrospect. Is not this a deficiency? Suppose that magistrates who thought that they might be mulcted in costs said to themselves, "We will not be represented because we do not know whether we shall get our costs", what would be the position?
I should like the Government to look at the Clause again to see whether it is not possible to fill this gap. There are 399 cases in which we have heard judges say that the magistrates ought to have been represented but were not. This Clause seems to perpetuate the threat of that kind of situation.
The Home Secretary and the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), referring to Part I of the Bill, commented on the transfer of the appointment of chairmen of juvenile courts from the Home Office to the Lord Chancellor's Department. Having read with some care the debate in another place on this point, and having listened to the two right hon. Gentlemen today, I am convinced that the Bill is right and that the function ought to be transferred to the Lord Chancellor's Department.
But there is one point which I do not understand and on which I should like some elucidation. In every other part of the country the magistrates select their own chairman for the juvenile bench. What is it about the magistrates in the inner London area which prevents them from exercising their discretion in exactly the same way and appointing their own chairmen? There may be some hidden deficiency in the magistrates in the inner London area and it may be that this is why they have not had the jurisdiction which magistrates have had elsewhere. But is there any reason why they should not now select their own chairmen exactly as is done in other parts of the country?
Mention has been made of the provision for more county court judges to be appointed and for county court judges to be appointed as temporary deputy chairmen for various sessions sitting in the London area. This is wholly to be welcomed, not only on the ground that it adds to the variation of the work for county court judges but also from the point of view that many of the ladies and gentlemen who occupy positions as county court judges have considerable experience of crime as advocates or previously as deputy chairmen of sessions elsewhere.
In view of the present spate of crime in this country, it seems a waste of material not to use the experience and knowledge of county court judges in criminal administration. As the Bill enables this to be done far more widely 400 than ever before, I think that it is wholly to be welcomed.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) said that he had scanned the Bill for an issue which offered a "glimmer of principle" as he put it, and I rise to mention one such issue which, I think, occurs to the mind on reading Clause 5. I want to hear the Government's view on the point which I shall make.
I entirely share the welcome which is given to the proposals that county court judges should be appointable as deputy-chairmen of courts of quarter session.
I agree with all that has been said about the desirability of variations in work and matters of that kind. In practice, it is likely that the judges who are appointed in this fashion will tend to spend considerable periods of time in the discharge of their duties. The period of service is to be decided by the Lord Chancellor, under subsection (1), and I think that, in practice, the tendency will be—and it may be a useful one—for county court judges appointed for this work to spend considerable periods of time in this temporary service. That will be a good thing, because it will enable them to get to know the way of the court and to become known.
If that happens, county court judges serving as temporary chairmen of courts of quarter sessions will be in a rather different position, and have a different status, from other judges who from time to time have served as chairmen of sessions. As we all know, sessions have benefited from judges serving as chairmen, and what is proposed here is really an extension of that. As I have tried to make clear, this is a most welcome provision and possesses great advantages, but if there is a degree of permanence about that service I think that the county court judges concerned will be in a somewhat different position from other judges who from time to time have served in the capacity of chairmen of quarter sessions.
Bearing that in mind, I wonder whether the Government regard it as desirable that a substantial proportion of the salary of the judges serving in that capacity should be paid by way of 401 contributions by the Greater London Council? Is not there a possibility of a shift of practice which may have some significance in point of principle? If it is thought by the Government and those who have been concerned with this Measure that there is no significance in the matter; that there is no important shift of practice and of status affecting the Bench, I think it might be of value to hear that that is their view. It seems desirable to clarify the matter.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. George Jeger (Goole)
I support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) that the Home Secretary should give further consideration to Clause 30 which deals with loss of earnings of members of the Bench. I do not need to repeat the arguments put forward so lucidly by my hon. Friend, but I draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the fact that the lack of compensation for loss of earnings restricts the number of people who can offer to serve, or accept an invitation to serve, as magistrates. The choice is restricted to a certain class of people. It is restricted to those who have leisure, or who have retired, or who belong to one of the professions and are able to practice when and where they like, and to those who are self-employed and can arrange their work to fit in with their public activities. Surely in these days we ought to widen the net from which we can draw people into public service, especially as there is so much more work to be done now?
The Home Secretary said that he took considerable trouble over the provisions of the Bill, and I am sure that he did, because it follows on the controversial London Government Act, 1963, and must, of course, dovetail into it. As this Measure is the logical consequence of that Act, we cannot criticise very much the reorganisation of the administration of justice following on the reorganisation of the London boundaries, but I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman consulted those who do the majority of the work behind the scenes—the justices' clerks and their staffs?
During the Second Reading debate in another place the position of the justices' clerks and their staff was referred to in one small paragraph. The Lord Chancellor 402 said that he hoped it would be possible to work out a formula which would be satisfactory to all the interests concerned. I know that the Home Secretary has had some second thoughts about this. He said that during the Committee stage he hoped to move various Amendments which would make the position of the justices' clerks and their staffs a little clearer.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the Aarvold Committee Report, which in at least four places stresses that there should be no detrimental provisions from the point of view of the justices' clerks and their staff. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider, too, the London Government Act, which in Section 85 stresses that point in relation to London Government staffs, and perhaps I might add that Section 150 of the Local Government Act, 1933, also stressed that aspect of the matter. It is exceedingly important that the staff should have a feeling of security, and a feeling that they will not suffer by any changes that have to be made. They have a right to feel that they will be given adequate protection. Sofe of them may not want to transfer to the new authorities, and they, too, should receive adequate protection and compensation, whether they are full-time or part-time employees.
The Home Secretary referred to the delays that occur in the bringing of actions in the courts. My experience as a magistrate at petty sessions is that far more delay occurs in the preparation of the cases than there is caused in the courts themselves. Time and again we have noted that cases have been brought before us in respect of offences which occurred anything up to 12 months previously. If the provisions of the Bill speed up inquiries and instructions to local prosecuting authorities to such an extent that we can cut that time down, it will save a lot of irritation and annoyance to those on the bench who are often confronted with a case of a minor character which has taken a long time to reach them.
Part II of the Bill seeks to introduce various reforms in relation to the administration of justice outside London. There is one provision which I think should have been included, but which has not been. For some time I have felt 403 that solicitors in private practice in a town should not be appointed as clerks to the justice of that town. I remember one rather unpleasant experience that I had. An old lady who lived alone in a small cottage was given notice by post to quit her cottage. The notice had been sent to her by a local solicitor on behalf of the owner of the cottage. She came to see me because she was extremely upset. I was able to assure her that she could not be evicted as she had lived in the cottage for a good many years and was protected by the Rent Act.
She then expressed the fear that she might be taken to court. I assured her that she could not be, and that in any case the bench would have to decide whether greater hardship would be caused to the owner by his not being able to occupy the cottage or put in his relatives than would be caused to her if she were evicted. She then said, "If it goes to court I am sunk, because the solicitor who has given me this notice to quit is the clerk to the justices".
It would not have been heard in the same court; it would have been a county court action and not a magistrates' court action. But this poor old lady does not understand the difference between one court and another. The fact that the solicitor who had given her the eviction notice was also an official of the court, and part of the machinery of the administration of justice, put fear into her heart, and I had to promise her that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) would be gathered in by me to protect her if, by any mischance, the case happened to go to court. I assured her that it would not go to court in any event, and I took steps to see that it would not.
Nevertheless, the reform that I have outlined is a very necessary one in the provinces, and especially in small towns where ordinary people have no knowledge of the complex organisation of our courts of justice.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
I know that the Bill deals almost entirely with London, but Clause 30 applies to justices of the peace in Scotland and provides for an improvement in their conditions. I take no exception to that, 404 but I wish to put before the House one or two points, and also to obtain some information, in connection with those same justices of the peace.
This afternoon I asked a Question relating to the numbers of persons in Scotland who were held in custody before trial last year, and the number of cases in which those persons had been found subsequently, upon trial, to be not guilty, or in which the evidence was of a nature that did not warrant imprisonment. To me—and I am sure to all those who heard it—the Answer which I received was a shocking one, describing a shocking state of affairs in the administration of justice in our justice of the peace courts—although what I am asking for would apply also to the sheriff courts.
I should like an explanation, or an assurance that this matter will be considered very seriously and that something will speedily be done to remedy it. The Answer that I received was to the effect that during 1962 no less than 9,303 men and 540 women were admitted to prison untried. This situation is related to those justices of the peace whose conditions we are here improving. Normally I would have no objection to the improvement of the conditions of anybody who does a job of work, but I must ask whether hon. Members consider that these justices are doing a job of work of which we can be at all proud or pleased about.
About 10,000 people in Scotland were committed to prison untried, and held, on an average—according to the figure given to me—for 12 or 13 days. That must mean that some of them were held for a substantially longer period, because some would surely have been held for a shorter period. Of those who were held in prison untried, 4,787 men and 370 women paid fines or were admonished. That means that the offences of which a good half of all those who were held in prison were accused were of a nature that did not warrant their being sent to prison.
Further, 964 men and 93 women were found not guilty, which means that in one year more than 1,000 people in Scotland who were held in prison before trial were subsequently found to be not guilty. This directly concerns the question of the way in which the justices of the peace are carrying out their 405 duties. We are here concerned with those same justices of the peace, and we are apparently so pleased with the way in which they are working that we are going to improve their conditions.
Only last week, in answer to a Question, we were told that the number of persons remanded in custody in England and Wales was about 35,000. In terms of population, taking Scotland as approximately one-tenth of England, it means that the Scottish rate in this respect is nearly three times worse than that for England and Wales. I presume that the Secretary of State was consulted about the Bill and agreed that this improvement should be made. I know that he not running the courts, but he is responsible for what goes on in them. I hope that he will be able to tell us whether he was aware of this position.
This is not a new situation. In 1961 the number worked out at just under 8,000, as compared with last year's 10,000. I would expect the Secretary of State to be able to tell us that he is concerned about the matter and that he will quickly take action to ensure that this kind of practice is curbed. I wonder what compensation is to be paid to these people for the fact that they were held in prison and were subsequently found to be innocent. To my mind it is a shameful situation.
The matter was drawn to my attention because of what happened to a constituent of mine. He had been working in his garden, one Friday night, and later went to the public house at the corner of the street, where he got into certain minor difficulties. [Laughter.] They were very minor difficulties. I have examined the case seriously. He was arrested and held over the Friday night, to appear in court on Sunday morning, although his wife pleaded that he should be released on bail, and it was known where he came from. He had never been in the hands of the police before.
When he appeared in court he was remanded until the following Friday, and bail was refused, in spite of the fact that, as I have said, the police knew where he came from, and there was no question of his trying to flee the country or commit any serious offence in the interim. He was held in custody for a week for a trifling offence. I am pursuing 406 the matter and I shall not mention any names. I merely raise it as an example of what can happen. My constituent was subsequently fined £10.
This is the sort of thing that happened to 10,000 people in Scotland last year. I appreciate that the Bill deals largely with London—
§ Mr. Lawson
Yes, certainly, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will tell us that he is gravely disturbed at this practice, which is adopted proportionately three times more often a in Scotland than it is in England and Wales. I always believed that in Scotland justice was administered with a mare even hand and a more discerning eye than it was in England and Wales The point that I have raised is certainly not evidence of that. Therefore, I hope that we shall get some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman, and an assurance that the practice will be curbed drastically and rapidly.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
This is the kind of Bill which I always read with considerable alarm. It deals with a service which has been well established and in which I participated to some extent in the past. It makes drastic alterations by means of Clauses which seem to bristle with points of administrative difficulty. It comes as a sequel to the London Government Act for which I never found it possible to say a good word, and from which, after strenuous efforts, I managed to get myself excluded by being no longer a resident in the area to be covered by that legislation. My right hon. and learned representative in this House can speak on it now with great impartiality for that part of his constituency which was included in the Measure was excluded in almost the last phase of its passage through this House.
It is very difficult to anticipate exactly what will be the effect of this Bill, when it becomes law, on the administration of justice in the area dealt with in the five special commissions which are to be established. It seems to be a new way of creating places of dignity that we should in such a Bill, bring in five 407 new counties and fill up five new commissions of the peace. I thought that the best thing I could do would be to consult the chairman of the Surrey Quarter Sessions about the effect of this Bill on those parts of the county which are concerned. He gave me permission to consult the clerk of the peace and obtain the opinion of the Surrey Sessions regarding the Bill.
I cannot do better than to read the letter which I received from the clerk of the peace. I have found that when one tries to paraphrase a document, ultimately one uses considerably more words than those in the document. Under the date 27th January of this year the clerk wrote to me as follows:It was kind of you to write and ask me to send you the views of the Surrey Quarter Sessions in this matter. These have been communicated in the past to the Home Office both by ourselves and Middlesex, but I do not think much or any attention has been paid to them.They can be expressed very shortly; namely, that the expenditure involved serves no useful purpose. Under the Greater London Act (under which we shall ultimately lose about a quarter of our criminal work), and about one-third of the criminal work is to be transferred to the south-west area of Greater London, where it is proposed that there shall be a separate clerk of the peace. This will necessitate the provision of a separate office staff and buildings to house them. The expense thus incurred does not appear to bring any corresponding benefit and indeed, to start with, it may be difficult to create an efficient and economical unit to deal with this amount of work on its own.In Surrey three or four chairmen sit in separate courts for between two and three consecutive weeks in a month to transact the criminal business. For the rest of the time they are able to pursue their other activities. It may be that in the south-west area of Greater London one chairman will have to sit on his own continuously. I understand that experience has suggested that this is undesirable.I personally am also concerned with a further aspect of this matter in that many of the justices of the peace who have served the county extremely well in the past, will be removed to another quarter sessions. I do not suppose, however, that Parliament will worry about this.I would not suggest that Parliament should worry very much about a matter of internal administration such as that. But it is evident that there will be considerable disturbances in a system which at the moment is working very well.
408 I ought to apologise to the Home Secretary for not being present to listen to him. My only excuse is that I was attending a Departmental Committee appointed by one of his predecessors and concerned with the work of his Department, and that I had previously had a long conversation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) with whose views, in the end, I managed to agree. I have no doubt that everything he said this afternoon was included in the subject which we discussed.
This Bill will require considerable and detailed attention when it comes to actual administration. I do not like the idea of there being five new counties with new commissions of the peace being appointed in areas where commissions of the peace now exist and where there may be some difficulty in sorting out various members of the bench in order to fill out the new commissions and retain a sufficient number of people on the old commissions to be able to maintain the court.
I wish to mention a matter which was alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards). For many years I served on the Lord Lieutenant's Advisory Committee. One of the great difficulties which confronts the members of such a committee is to find people with suitable qualifications, temperament and experience whom one can recommend for appointment to the bench. One of the things that operates against the selection which one desires to make is the fact that we have fewer of the leisured moneyed class in the country than we used to have. In a county like Surrey it was not an uncommon thing, to go to interview a person who was regarded as suitable to serve on the bench and to be met with this answer, "It is true that my grandfather and father sat on the bench. I know that we are short of a representative on the bench for our immediate neighbourhood. But my grandfather and my father managed to live on a private income. I have to earn my living and I cannot give the time." That is a very serious handicap when trying to fill seats on a county bench.
In the counties and in the boroughs one has the difficulty of going to busy men who are actively engaged in the 409 ordinary life of the community and who have shown that they possess the necessary qualifications of temperament and experience and then to find that the routine work of attending a bench, say once a fortnight or in some cases more frequently, is something which they cannot contemplate. I hope that steps will be taken to see that men and women of the appropriate qualifications—I put temperament and personal experience as the two most important—will not be debarred from service on the bench because of the financial sacrifices that may be involved.
There is no bigger gamble than to recommend a person for appointment to the magistrates' bench. I have known our committee sit for a long time discussing a particular matter and the first time a man appears on the bench one realises that, no matter what his experience might have been, his temperament is completely unsuited for the position to which he has been appointed. On the other hand, sometimes when one has been very dubious about recommending a name, when the person appears on the bench and participates in its work he proves to have just the qualities that are required. So much of the crime of this country is dealt with in courts of summary jurisdiction that it behoves us to see that men and women capable of service there should have the opportunity irrespective of the social and financial position they may hold.
This Bill continues the bad process, as I regard it, of moving certain things from the jurisdiction of the Home Secretary and handing them over to the Lord Chancellor. I hope that the Home Office will not be deprived of too many things that are not merely police matters, for it would be a bad thing if the Home Secretary were to become the senior police officer in the country. I see with some trepidation further moves being made in this Bill. The Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor are human. Both generally manage to reach their positions through their work in this House. I do think that there is so much to choose between them that one can safely say where the dividing line in certain services should fall, but it is very important that there should be a sufficient variety of duties left to the Home Secretary to prevent him from becoming merely a super policeman.
410 There are temptations enough to get into that position to which some Home Secretaries very readily yield. I am making no comment on the present holder of the office, about whom I have not always been able to feel quite reassured concerning some of the things he has done. I am certain it is essential for him, as well as for the country, that he should have a sufficient number of purely human problems to deal with in his Department to prevent him from becoming a super policeman and nothing else.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Peter Rawlinson)
The title of this Bill and its subject matter—although certainly not the debate—might I suppose come into that category of business which the Leader of the Opposition termed as dull. So far as this place is a place for pyrotechnics I suppose most hon. Members who have been present this afternoon would agree. But so far as this place is one for constructive work this Bill ranks as a very important Bill.
Some people always claim that interest in politics is only interest in controversy. I am not altogether sure, and I do not say that where controversy is absent business is necessarily dull. Sometimes, indeed, controversy can be extremely tedious. There has been little controversy about this Bill. Many points have been raised by hon. Members which clearly we shall have to consider further and to examine when the Bill goes to Committee. I think there has been quite clearly obvious agreement about the Bill and I feel confident that the House will ensure that it makes progress.
The Bill is a consequence partly of previous legislation—legislation which, as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, I personally can now regard with a far greater degree of impartiality—and also partly it is an opportunity to make some welcome changes and improvements. I fear that what I have to say because of the points that have been raised will have to be said in a rather staccato fashion, but I shall attempt to deal with all the points made by hon. and right hon. Members.
First, on Clause 1, I shall deal with points which arise about the Central 411 Criminal Court before I turn to the question which the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) posed without himself coming to a definitely decided view. That question was about the ex officio position of members of other bodies as judges of that court. It is right to remember that the Central Criminal Court is financed and its administration is paid for by the City to a great extent. For instance, in the capital reconstruction under the present programme it is estimated that the City will provide about £3 million or £4 million. The City pays for the fittings and fixtures and the salaries of the commissioners.
Until this Bill comes into operation, the counties pay the salaries of the clerk and other officers, for the office machinery, and day-to-day expenses. The estimated totals of annual expenditure are in the nature of £450,000 by the City and about £60,000 by the counties. The City will of course relieve the ratepayer of a very large burden. It therefore has a strong claim for retaining undisturbed control. Few would challenge the view that the standard of administration and efficiency at this court is extremely high. It has to estimate for an increase in business after these changes become law of about 20 per cent. Therefore, it is promoting a Bill to provide for more judges to man the extra courts which will be paid for by the City. The judges also will be paid for by the City.
There appears to be a distinction between retaining the ex officio members of the court—the Lord Mayor and Aldermen who for many centuries have been on the Commission—and inserting new ex officio judges who in fact will not play any part in the business of judging. I should have thought there was no need to enhance the reputation of, for instance the Chairman of the Greater London Council, a man who will be in the chair of a council representing between 8 million and 9 million people. I suggest that in this matter is is right to leave the Bill as it stands.
I was asked about the position of the petty sessions in outer London. The effect of Clause 2(3), which deems an area to be a county, is to produce the 412 normal county pattern of petty sessional divisions. The divisions will probably remain very much the same as they are now, with I suppose minor necessary alterations in the boundaries. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 enables the Secretary of State initially to make an order dividing Greater London into petty sessional divisions, and thereafter it will be for the magistrates' courts committee to recommend any long-term changes.
The right hon. Member for South Shields obviously found great reluctance in having to accept the Bill and the reorganisation which flows from it, probably due, as he frankly said, to his distaste for the parent Measure which has made part of this Bill necessary. The right hon. Gentleman was not here, for reasons which he explained, when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out that there had been a suggestion to begin with that there should be only one whole area but that that had not attracted the support of the persons within the area and that there had therefore been this division into five. Of course there must be a disturbance among organisations when there is a reorganisation to this extent. For instance, the South-West London area will have a population of nearly 700,000; the Middlesex area will have a population of over 2 million, and the inner London area will have a population of about 3 million.
The chairmen of the Surrey Quarter Sessions and the Middlesex Sessions were seen by my noble and learned Friend, who listened to the representations they made. The court areas must be based on the structure of the Greater London Area and the divisions in it.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) referred to Clause 28 and the position of lay justices with regard to the indemnity and the absence of indemnity which can arise under the Clause. Under this Clause prerogative proceedings are excluded from the procedure to be applied under Clause 27. Particular safeguards have been given to justices and their clerks under Clause 27. There is the power in a committee to make a decision in principle under Clause 27, and, having made a decision in principle, no appeal can affect it thereafter and they will get the 413 support they are seeking should proceedings be brought against them.
Under Clause 28 they do not have those rights, but there is a discretion left in the Lord Chancellor. The position is that it is not normally necessary for justices who are respondents to proceedings in the Divisional Court on a motion for one of the prerogative writs to be represented. In practice they usually file an affidavit. If the Divisional Court asks for the justices to be represented, it is intended that the Treasury Solicitor should make the necessary arrangements and the Lord Chancellor would decide in advance if he thinks fit, to indemnify them, and also a recorder, deputy recorder or assistant recorder, clerk of the peace or deputy clerk of the peace, for such costs and damages as could be the subject of an indemnity under Clause 27. Therefore, this discretion exists, to be applied, if necessary, in the rare cases which I think will arise.
The juvenile courts in London have always operated for the area as a whole and not on a petty sessional area. Hence appointment has been made by a Minister. It is intended to preserve the position whereby the panel is not split and the members dissipated over the whole of the area. They are to be kept together as a unit. The justices of the individual division are therefore not in a position to elect such a panel. The juvenile panel in London has done very good work and should be, and will be, preserved as it is.
What the Bill does is to transfer the making of such appointments to the Lord Chancellor from the Home Secretary, a change which has been welcomed by some hon. Members and frowned upon by others. I should have thought that everybody would have heard with sympathy and agreement the statement by the right hon. Member for South Shields about the Home Secretary's human duties, as opposed from his other duties. Indeed, the Estimates Committee has made some criticism of the fact that there is not some more coherent division between the position of the Lord Chancellor and that of the Home Secretary in the matter of magistrates. The Home Secretary no longer has to make any appointment of magistrates. He does not now 414 appoint them. It would therefore only seem logical, as some hon. Members have accepted, that the Lord Chancellor should appoint in these circumstances. The Estimates Committee recommended that there should be greater clarification of the position of these two Ministers.
I turn to the point raised by the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) and echoed by other hon. Members about allowances for justices. The Bill does not provide for a loss of earnings allowance. It is right to remember that this is the consequence of the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace in 1948 and the recommendation of the Magistrates' Association, though I bear in mind what the hon. Member for Stepney said about a majority and a minority. It was also the recommendation of the Central Council of Magistrates' Committees.
There is here a certain conflict in the attitude of persons considering the rôle of magistrates and the tremendously important work they do. It is difficult to say that magistrates are in the same position as, or in a similar position to, local government councillors. There is a distinction. There has not been any shortage of recruits who come from the type of employment mentioned by the hon. Member for Stepney. Such persons are available, and they are excellent magistrates in practice.
One minor matter is that of finance. The cost of granting a loss of earnings allowance and a subsistence allowance would amount in total to about £450,000, whereas the cost of granting only a subsistence allowance is estimated at only £100,000. Here there is a conflict, as has been clearly demonstrated in the debate. There is the view that it would diminish the prestige of magistrates and lessen their reputation were they to receive payment for loss of earnings. There are about 16,000 magistrates. They have carried out their task, and are carrying out their task, excellently, and there is no lack of recruits from the type of employment referred to by the hon. Member for Stepney.
§ Mr. W. Edwards
As the Government have conceded the principle of the payment of subsistence allowance, without 415 in any way detracting from the prestige of justices of the peace, surely it would be just as right to grant a loss of earnings allowance, again without in any way detracting from their prestige? The right hon. and learned Gentleman is missing the point. The fact that recruits are prepared to come forward is not the point. The type of person required is often prevented from coming forward because of the loss of earnings he will suffer. What is £300,000 to a Government like this one?
§ The Solicitor-General
The quality of recruits from the type of employment which the hon. Member for Stepney has in mind is extremely high, and there is no lack of them. That would indicate that this is not the bar which he has suggested, certainly not to the extent that he has suggested. Anyone with experience of magistrates' courts knows the quality of such persons who have come away from the type of employment which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. Admittedly, subsistence allowance is provided for the first time, but there is a distinction between that and an allowance for actual loss of earnings. We would nearly get to the position of a paid magistracy.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has not been here for the whole of the debate.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is too vehement to say that this is just not true, because the case is arguable, but this is something which would clearly give the impression and could give the impression of a paid magistracy.
§ Mr. Lawson
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that the judges and the sheriffs in Scotland who are paid are reduced in status because of it?
§ The Solicitor-General
Of course there are certain magistrates and certain judges who are paid, but they are part of the paid judiciary. If it is said that we should approach the magistracy entirely differently, so be it. I would understand the logic of such an argument. However, if we are to persist or 416 to attempt to persist with about 16,000 people forming an unpaid magistracy, we have to resist the idea of payment for loss of earnings. This is what the Bill does. Judging from what has been said today, there is no doubt that the matter will be raised at another stage. I have put before the House the reasons why there is no provision for loss of earnings.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Is there not a parallel when a magistrate, or justice of the peace, sits in a licensing court, when he is permitted to receive an allowance for loss of earnings? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the same magistrate, or justice of the peace, sitting in an ordinary court should not be deprived of such an allowance?
§ The Solicitor-General
I have not completed my sentence; I was quite sure that the hon. Gentleman would not have suggested it if it had not been the case in Scotland. I cannot speak to him about the Scottish law, but I appreciate the point he has made.
§ The Solicitor-General
I remind hon. Members that the Bill is an Administration of Justice Bill referring to London and England and Wales with a slight reference to Scotland in Clause 30, which the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) so usefully brought into play when he addressed the House earlier.
§ The Solicitor-General
I have said that subsistence allowances are provided. Most hon. Members will agree that that is a reasonable provision for persons doing this work. All I am saying is that if we go a stage further, we have to face up to a whole change in principle. This would be a major matter and if we are to do that, we have to reflect very 417 carefully upon the whole system of the administration of justice of which by far the greatest bulk in this country is carried out by 16,000 people, by magistrates who have been unpaid for many centuries.
The hon. Member for Stepney raised another matter with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when he opened the debate, and I want to make it clear to the hon. Member that the existing deputy-lieutenants of London and Middlesex who will be in office at the time of the change are to be treated as if they had been appointed deputy-lieutenants of Greater London. As he will appreciate, they will cease to be deputy-lieutenants of London. That is their position when the London Government Act comes into force.
§ Mr. Jeger
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that the subsistence issue will be raised again. Between now and the Committee stage will he take the trouble to inquire from all the clerks to the justices in London whether they have any difficulty about making up their rotas or getting the required number of people to sit on the bench, because people cannot afford to give as much time from their work as they would like?
§ The Solicitor-General
This is a matter for my noble Friend and not for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. A careful note will have been taken of everything said in the course of the debate and of the hon. Member's intervention.
§ Mr. Ede
May I suggest that an inquiry should be made of Her Majesty's lieutenants and the chairmen of advisory committees in the boroughs of how often the person whom it is desired to appoint is unable to accept the appointment, so that someone who is not at the head of the list of appointments is made a magistrate? Is not this the greatest danger?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and I will see that that is brought to the attention of my noble Friend whose responsibility it is.
The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) welcomed the employment of county court judges in criminal business in and around London, as proposed in Clause 418 5, and asked whether there had been any shift in practice or principle. I confess that I do not see that there has. They are being used and will be used to the great advantage of the administration of justice.
The hon. Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger) asked whether there had been any consultation with the justices' clerks. All the justice's clerks were included in the consultations on the general plan for the administration of justice in London and they are now in close touch with my right hon. Friend concerning all the details of integrating the staffs.
If I may dare come back to the matter of Scotland, having eluded, I hope—anyhow for a time—any of the interrogation, and refer to the comments of the hon. Member for Motherwell, the Secretary of State for Scotland will look into the problems in so far as he is responsible, but, as the hon. Member clearly appreciates, it is a matter for the courts to decide how they do their job, and how they do their job is not a matter for the Executive to influence. However, what the hon. Gentleman said will clearly be borne in mind.
I think that I have dealt with most of the points raised by hon. Members. Part I of the Bill flows from the provisions of the London Government Act and the reorganisation of London government. Its proposals are sensible and practicable. The opportunity has been taken in Part II to effect certain changes in the administration of justice. This is part of a continuing pattern, which to the casual observer may not be so apparent, which the House undertakes, that of improving and modernising the law.
Since 1960, there have been about 44 Measures which have effected important changes in the law, some substantial, some minor and 15 have been Bills promoted by private Members. An examination of the full list, of which Part II of the Bill is a part, reveals the remarkably wide extent of the Measures which this Parliament has already dealt with, while three other important Measures for the modernisation of the law are before Parliament. As the House knows, such changes can be effective only after careful study and examination, usually after examination by distinguished lawyers presiding over committees.
419 As the House will accept, in this sphere of law there exist very strong nonpartisan but differing views among professional opinion. Nevertheless, this Parliament has effected considerable changes and this Bill is a part of that process. I commend the Measure—Part I of which deals with the administration of London and Part II of which deals with the wider sphere—for Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).