HC Deb 25 November 1964 vol 702 cc1247-8
1. Mr. Hale

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who are the present members of the advisory committee on the appointment of magistrates in the county palatine, including the county borough of Oldham.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Houghton)

The members of those committees are appointed to assist the Chancellor of the Duchy, personally and confidentially, in his duty of appointing justices of the peace and in certain other matters.

For many years it has been the practice not to make public announcement either of the names of members or their proceedings. I have studied the matter closely and am satisfied as to the value of this practice which was, incidentally, endorsed in the Report of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace of 1946–48.

I regret therefore that I am unable to give the information requested. If, however, there is any other way in which I can help my hon. Friend, I shall be pleased to do so.

Mr. Hale

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is dubious why magistrates who sit in public should be conceived in privacy? However, I am so disarmed by the generous courtesy he has shown to my inquiries that I do not wish at this moment to press the tearing away of the seventh veil, but can he say whether in his view this body is fairly representative of both sexes and all creeds?

Mr. Houghton

I think so. As my hon. Friend knows, the responsibility for the appointment of magistrates rests with me. I do not necessarily accept the advice I am given, so if my hon. Friend has any matters to raise as regards the composition or the strength of the bench in Oldham or elsewhere I shall be very pleased to look into them.