HC Deb 23 February 1966 vol 725 cc409-10
35. Mr. Robert Cooke

asked the Attorney-General by what authority the clerk to a county council sought to dissuade an individual, whose name has been sent to him, regarding her appointment as a magistrate.

The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)

The clerk to whom the hon. Member refers holds the office of honorary secretary of the committee which advises my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor on the appointment of justices of the peace in the county. In October, 1965 my noble Friend drew the attention of the Advisory Committee to the fact that one party and one section of the community was over-represented on the county's benches and advised it to seek candidates from among wage-earners and Labour and Liberal Party supporters when further vacancies occurred.

The clerk's secretary, when speaking to the individual to whom the hon. Member refers, mentioned that my noble Friend was anxious to find candidates from among wage-earners; but the secretary did not seek to dissuade the individual from applying for appointment.

Mr. Cooke

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that the clerk tried to dissuade this woman from coming forward on political grounds. Does he realise the very grave difficulties which can result from that sort of behaviour?

The Attorney-General

I do not think that there was any dissuasion of the lady in question. Indeed, her name is among the list of those whose names will be considered when further vacancies occur. But in the county in question, of the 131 justices of the peace, 79 are Conservatives, 21 Labour and 8 Liberal. As the election result showed 58,000 for the Conservatives and 67,000 for Liberal and Labour, it would seem that—I will not say party representation—the party origin was a little unrepresentative on this county bench.