§ Sir Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 5 after 'area', to insert '(other than the City of London)'.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this Amendment we shall be taking Amendments No. 2, in page 1, line 18 at end insert:(2) The justices of the peace for the City of London shall continue as heretofore to have the jurisdiction and powers, as provided by the charters of the said City.
- No. 3, in page 2, line 33, leave out from is ' to mayor ' in line 34.
- No. 4, in page 3, line 4, leave out subsection (7).
No. 5, in page 3, line 45, at end insert:
(2) Subsection (1) of this section shall apply to the justices of the peace for the City of London.
No. 20, in page 20, leave out line 17 and insert:
In section 15(10) the words a clerk to a stipendiary magistrate, a clerk to a metropolitan stipendiary court and'.
No. 21, in page 20, leave out line 27 and insert:
In section 21(7) the words `a clerk to a stipendiary magistrate, a clerk to a metropolitan stipendiary court and'.
No. 22, in page 20, leave out lines 29 to 37 and insert:
In section 27(10), in paragraph (c), the words a clerk to a stipendiary magistrate, a clerk to a metropolitan stipendiary court,'; in paragraph (d) the words from ' and ' onwards, and paragraph (e).
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
It is certainly a pleasure that, in the exercise of your discretion, Mr. Speaker, under the rules of the House we can debate this issue and reach a decision in the House. Because we are going to have now a debate upon this Amendment and the consequential Amendments, it is not and will not be necessary for my hon. and right hon. Friends and myself to move the Motion with regard to Third Reading; because what I want to do is to have this issue debated in this House and decided on the Floor of this House.
As you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, the purpose of these Amendments is the exclusion of the City of London from the Justices of the Peace Bill, which was a Bill to whose general principles no objection was taken in any quarter of the whole of the House. But it was a fact that on the Second Reading hon. Mem 1414 bers from all sides of the House, in accepting and commending the Bill, criticised the inclusion of the City of London in its provisions because, as it was expressed by them, it is a very special case; and it was felt that the City of London should not be put into a Bill one of the main provisions of which was the exclusion of ex officio justices.
I would say right at the beginning that one of our difficulties in dealing with a Bill such as this is that the Minister who is in charge of a Bill here in the House of Commons, as we all appreciate, is not the Minister whose Bill it is; under our procedures, the Attorney-General is the agent of the Lord Chancellor, because the Law Officers do not promote legislation. They are here to advise the Government and the House on matters of law. The Minister whose Bill this is is the Lord Chancellor. We are, therefore, at a certain disadvantage in not being able to direct our arguments to the man who can on his own initiative agree to the Amendment. Our advocacy must be very much secondhand. Only in another place can people speak direct to the Lord Chancellor. I hope that the Attorney-General will ensure that the Lord Chancellor has an opportunity to study the arguments which we shall advance. They were foreshadowed on Second Reading and dealt with shortly in Committee.
It would make a farce of Parliamentary proceedings if it was thought that the prestige or authority of either the Government or of the Minister whose Bill this is was involved in the question whether the Amendment is accepted or defeated. I ask the House, as I have previously, to have a straightforward argument concerning what is the best system for the administration of criminal justice in this very special part of the United Kingdom. The type of arguments which should be advanced are arguments as to the merits of the proposal to change a system which will work well for centuries.
The Bill proposes the removal of the ex officio justices of the peace from the roll of active justices of the peace. Hon. Members in all quarters of the House think this to be sensible. There are about 2,000 of these gentlemen. They have been elected to the mayoralty of their boroughs. They hold for one year a very special place of honour and dignity. Then 1415 they return to their membership of the council and to serving the community in the field. They have no inclination towards judicial work. They have had no training. They are very much birds of passage. They are not there to sit as justices of the peace, although in the past they have done so purely by virtue of their office.
The City of London is a very different case. There are 26 aldermen there. They are elected from the Common Council. As one of their qualifications they must be thought to have the ability to perform the judicial function. That is a prime consideration for their election to aldermen. They are required to study textbooks. They are required to know about procedure before they sit. They are required to visit prisons, detention centres and borstals. They are required to attend a minimum of six sittings of the court in the City of London. They are required to attend outside the City of London at another court of summary jurisdiction. They are required to take instruction in the treatment of offenders and the system of probation. They take part in the same type of sentencing courses as those instituted by the Lord Chief Justice for High Court judges and those holding judicial office.
Moreover, the City is the centre and the home of the most famous criminal court in the country—the Old Bailey. Aldermen have regular meetings and regular contacts with their Recorder and with the Common Serjeant, who are two senior judicial officers administering criminal justice in the City of London. In all these respects, and particularly in this last respect, the City is unique. We therefore start from the premise that this is a well trained magistracy, well versed in the exercise of their duties.
I turn to consider, apart from their training, how well they carry out their duties. Their industry in performing their duties is exampled by the fact that in 1966–67 the Lord Mayor of the day sat at 76 different court sittings. On an average the Lord Mayor sits on more than 70 days. When the Lord Mayor comes to be the first magistrate of the City of London, he has had seven or eight years experience of the bench. Aldermen attend, on average, 30 court sittings a year. Some aldermen attend 44 court sittings. 1416 Therefore, these people are wholly different from ex officio justices who may sit once or twice during their year of office and who have not had any experience before they become the mayor of their borough.
As to efficiency, I repeat the figures which were given in Committee. Whereas in 1950 the City of London magistrates dealt with 5,554 cases, a decade later the number had increased by 116 per cent. to 11,675 cases, and in 1967 they dealt with 19,025 cases, an increase of 350 per cent. since 1950.
To judge whether these aldermen are doing their work properly and efficiently, it is right to turn to the record of appeals to see whether those who have, as it were, supervision over the exercise of their duties are satisfied with the way that they have performed them. Since 1945, only 11 out of the scores of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of cases with which these aldermen dealt went to the Divisional Court by way of case stated. Of that 11 only 5 were successful. In 1967 these aldermen dealt with more than 19,000 cases. If their administration of justice was unsatisfactory, if it was unacceptable, if there was much complaint about it, would not that be reflected in the number of appeals? There were twenty appeals out of 19,000 cases. Only 6 of those appeals were allowed. None denies the very impressive record of the court sitting in the City of London. The statistics show an efficient and successful service.
This is corroborated by the various bodies who have had to review and examine the record of service of these aldermen. In 1948 the Royal Commission thought it right to leave the City alone. In 1966 the Lord Chief Justice, who sees far more of the criminal work in general, and who observes much more closely the work of the City of London in this respect than any of us, even the Attorney-General or the Lord Chancellor, congraulated these aldermen on the performance of their duty. He supported them and asked that second thoughts prevail over this matter.
On Second Reading and in Committee the Attorney-General himself fairly conceded the high standards. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, if a court is unsatisfactory professional 1417 bodies often receive representations. Indeed, they make representations themselves. From my experience both as a Law Officer and as a member of the Bar Council I know of no complaints by the Law Society about the handling of cases by these aldermen. I have heard of representations against other courts, but never against this court.
I turn to the question of cost. We must not overlook what the City provides with regard, for instance, to the Central Criminal Court. We must not forget the burden it bears. I know not whether it will be content to go on bearing that burden if the duties of aldermen on the bench are to be discontinued. As it is, the City produces £16,000 for the court of summary jurisdiction. This is a well manned, efficient, industrious, well-trained and successful administration of criminal justice. It meets with the approval of the appellate courts whose duty it is to supervise it. There has been no complaint against this form of administration of justice. It provides this system of administration of justice at low cost.
It is now proposed to make a change. A cumbersome system will be imposed which will involve drafting in by appointment many other justices of the peace. If they are fit and able to be justices of the peace, as I am sure they will be, why are they not being used in the areas where they are needed and where they live? Why must they be brought in to the City from the outskirts of London, or wherever it is, to do a task that is already being done? It is a most inefficient proposal and extremely extravagant of court time. If it is carried out it will be at increased cost to the community.
On Monday I said of certain proposals of the Government that they constituted cock-eyed law reform. Here we are having change for the sake of change, a change that is merely some kind of gimmick. Even if the system suffers it will still be done, because I understand that the Government's case is that although the system works successfully and there is no complaint about it, it offends against two principles. They do not ask whether it is a pragmatic and 1418 sensible system but whether it offends against those two principles. First, they say that justices of the peace should be drawn from different sections of the local population, and, second, that it is not right that a person should be tried by a lay justice sitting alone.
But the City of London is unique in its geographical position and its population. The character of the City is wholly different from that of any other place in the country. The resident population consists of the caretakers and wives of barristers-at-law. People come into work in their scores of thousands every day and depart every evening. Therefore, the local population as such is very scarce.
It may be thought that the present Bench is very well suited to deal with the many different cases it tries. One should have a bench designed for a particular purpose, so why not have this one in the City of London? Is it really necessary in the depths of the country—in the mountains of Wales, for example—to have a merchant banker or a stockbroker on the bench? Of course not. The present Bench of the City of London is suited for the best administration.
I do not know how much it is thought that there should be younger men on the bench, but aldermen have sat at the age of 35. They include Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen. It is said that there are no present wage-earners on the bench, but there are many who have been wage-earners, including Sir Robert Bellinger himself.
It is also said that there are no women. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred in Committee to Lady Donaldson—that "rare bird" as he said in a particularly felicitous phrase. She may be a rare bird, but she may come to the aldermanic bench and there is no reason why she should not. Female stipendiary magistrates were pretty rare birds. I remember Miss Sybil Campbell, a redoubtable magistrate to appear before, and Miss Collins. There are very few female stipendiary magistrates in London now, so if that argument is right we should change that situation and have many more women magistrates.
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
We know the hon. Gentleman's views on the rarity of birds.
I turn to the second principle, that cases should not be tried by one justice alone. The City of London magistrates are not in the same position as justices of the peace elsewhere in the country. They are very special and well-trained expert justices. In Committee the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave a comparison of the crime figures in the City and in Newport. I noticed that he did not give us the number of appeals. I do not know if Newport's record on the number of appeals can compare with that of the City of London which I gave earlier.
There have been no complaints about the City of London system. If it were so objectionable there would have been complaints. There are very few juvenile cases, and it is not worth changing the whole system just for them. Compared with the figure of 19,000 which I gave for 1967, there were only 158 juvenile cases, and such cases are sent to Tower Hamlets. Because of the special character of the City—its emptiness at night—there are also very few domestic cases, and they are sent to Bow Street.
Therefore, when we look at the whole argument we see that the onus is on the Government to satisfy the House that change is needed. If they fail to do that, they should leave the system alone instead of tinkering with it for the sake of doing so.
At this time the last people who should be ignoring the question of cost are the Government. We are told that the extra cost will not be substantial, but how can that be so? If the system is to be changed there must be the appointment of many additional magistrates. It may be necessary to appoint 70 magistrates, and give them allowances and subsistence under the Bill and meet the financial loss they may sustain. There will also be the need for changed accommodation. Who will pay for arranging the accommodation for three magistrates as opposed to one? Above all, there is the question of time. There is no doubt that if there are more justices than the one aldermanic magistrate more time will be spent in hearing cases.
So much for the two principles. There is still the argument that it is anomalous 1420 to have the City of London unique and different from the rest of the country. But the Bill bristles with anomalies, as those who were in Committee and discussed it on Second Reading know only too well. We had what my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) referred to as the well-worn argument about the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but still his position is an anomaly. If there should not be any anomalies in the law, why leave some and get rid of others? The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has no more knowledge than anyone else of who to appoint as a magistrate, and would not pretend to have any. He is busy on his tasks in the North-East, but he is here left with that power. We should take that out of the Bill if we want it all so neat and tidy and sensible. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) says, "Yes". He has had plenty of opportunities to move an Amendment, but he has not taken them. I understand that he has preferred to remove one anomaly and leave others.
The position of the Minister whose Bill this is, the Lord Chancellor, is anomalous. The Attorney-General, who was described as a stag at bay only two days ago, is an anomalous stag at bay. Here he sits discharging his duty of looking after Bills for the Government and then he goes away to another room and discharges quasi-judicial public duties. We accept that as a perfectly satisfactory position. If something is anomalous but works we should leave it as it is, I hope that those who always want to replace things with something different will consider very carefully before starting to make changes for the sake of change.
We were told in Committee that this was no attack on the position of the City of London. I hope not. It is the financial centre of a great, complex organisation and is the greatest exporter there is. The fabric of the City has been an organic growth, and it has a system and prestige which has built up. Whatever any hon. Member opposite may say, one has only to go abroad and engage in the real business of nations to know the prestige of the City.
The magistracy is part of the fabric, and the magistracy of the Lord Mayor over the peace of the City is associated 1421 with the work and position of the City. I believe that this change will do damage, and I would regret that if it happened leave aside all those matters such as the ancientness of the courts or the position of the magistracy. I am trying to deal with the case on merit. The present position has stood the test of time and should be allowed to remain. We see no argument against its efficiency or success. There are no complaints by practitioners or by people who live or work in the City.
The Magistrates' Association, which has been anxious to remove ex officio justices, would, one might have thought, have joined with the Government in destroying this administration of justice by the City aldermen. The Association is known for its advocacy and energy in promoting improvements in the administration of the law. But the Association passed the following resolution in council:That this Council is of the opinion that the main criticisms applicable to other ex officio appointments to the Bench do not apply to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London, and asks for official reconsideration of their special duties, experience and a record.That is what the magistrates have said about this proposal.
I hope that the right hon. and learned Attorney-General will listen to reason and to the arguments on their merits and that he will tell us that he undertakes to urge Caesar in another place to reconsider and withdraw the proposals. If he gives that undertaking, I will withdraw the Amendment. If not, when we return to power—and it will not be long before it happens—we shall do what we can, in the circumstances of the time, to return to the ancient, successful and efficient system of administration of criminal justice in the City of London.
§ Mr. Gordon Oakes (Bolton, West)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General was described on Monday as a stag at bay and I appeared as one of the hunters. But I make it clear that I am a fully paid-up member of the League against Cruel Sports, and I support my right hon. and learned Friend in what he is attempting to do in this Bill.
The closing remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) reminded me of our recent 1422 debate on defence but went much further than the Opposition did on that occasion. Then they wanted to take Britain back to the days of the British Empire. Today they would take it back to the days of the Middle Ages and assure us that that is what they will do if they return to power.
The argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was that this system works well and, therefore, we should do nothing about it. If that argument were generally accepted on a worldwide scale, we could say that all sorts of régimes in the world work well, but that does not mean that they should not be improved. Because they work well does not mean that they work democratically. The onus on right hon. and hon. Members opposite is not to say, "It works well, so why change it?" The onus on them is to answer the question of why one area of the British Isles should have a substantially form of bench from other areas.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House of any system which works better and which we should put in place of this one in the City?
§ Mr. Oakes
I am developing the point. This scheme will in fact work better because the magistrates will, I hope, come from all sections of the community instead of from the very narrow band from which they are presently drawn. That band must inevitably be narrow because the constitution of the Corporation is so designed. It has been said that there is no attack here on the Corporation. I wish there were. I cannot see why we should have the situation in which, in the centre of our capital city, the inhabitants, unlike everyone else in the country, have no opportunity of electing their own council. At least the Bill is giving them the opportunity of having magistrates drawn from all sections of the community, and that is essential.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Smith (Cities of London and Westminster)
The hon. Gentleman is getting the argument back to front. The population does elect its representatives. What is more—not that I think that this is necessarily a good thing—it so happens that it elects its justices of the peace because it elects the aldermen. Under the 1423 Bill, they will lose that power of election, which is the opposite of what the hon. Gentleman wants.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
Is the hon. Gentleman unaware that the greater part of the City is uninhabited at night, when the population largely consists of caretakers? Does he desire the the justices of the City to be elected by caretakers alone?
§ Mr. Oakes
This is where the two sides of the House are at cross purposes. The representation of the caretakers, the firemen and the barristers' wives who have been mentioned as living there, ought to be on the basis that applies in the rest of the country. It should be done on the basis of where one lives and not on one's position in a certain organisation. This Bill will allow the City of London to have the same substantial system of justice and of the appointment of justices as other parts of the country.
The onus is on the Opposition to say why there should be a separate system of justice in London. The figures given by my right hon. and learned Friend in Committee were amazing. He gave the comparison with Newport because it is the next town on the statistical list to London and the similarity of the cases coming before the magistrates of Newport and in the City is astonishing.
The vast majority of cases coming before magistrates' courts concern motoring offences. In the relevant period, over 6,000 motoring cases came before the City justices. If there were a drawbridge around the City, so that the caretakers or those who go into the City to work and subsequently become aldermen were an island community, they would have the right to this peculiar sytem of appointment of justices. But anyone from any part of Britain may drive through the City and yet, if he is tried for an alleged motoring offence, he will encounter a completely different form of justice.
He will find a justice sitting alone, which would be impossible anywhere else in the country unless he were a stipen 1424 diary magistrate. The magistrate will be sitting on the bench by virtue of his occupation and not because of his knowledge of the community or of motoring. Indeed, he may employ a chauffeur and never drive a car himself. Even if it is not true of him, this may well be the feeling of a motorist who appears before him.
Obviously, since people go into the City from all over Britain, they should meet the same form of justice and the same type of bench that they would meet anywhere else in the country, and the magistrates sitting on that bench should be appointed in roughly the same way as the magistrates anywhere else in Britain.
The argument was made out on Second Reading and to some extent in Committee, that the type of cases coming before the magistrates in London were peculiar in that they had regard to fraud, very big company cases and that kind of thing. Those cases are as rare as diamonds in the City court. The vast majority of the work done there is ordinary run-of-the-mill magistrates' court work.
There is another point made about matrimonial and juvenile courts. The juvenile and matrimonial cases cannot come before the City of London magistrates because the court is not competent in law. It has the power to take such cases but because it has only one woman justice, insufficient women justices to take cases—[Interruption.]—there is no woman at all. I am sorry, there is a woman councillor. Because there is no woman sitting on the bench the court cannot take these cases, and they have to be shunted out to another court. The efficiency of the court is in question, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend resists to the full this mediaeval attempt by hon. Gentlemen opposite to retain this peculiar system of justice in one part of the British Isles.
§ Mr. John Smith
I will not detain the House long, because the arguments both for and against these amendments have been heard from both sides of the House both on Second Reading and in Committee. I would say to the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes), who says that ours is a mediaeval argument, that one could certainly construct quite a good case on historical grounds for the Amendment; but the case that I put 1425 forward is a practical one, free from all the doctrinal promptings which have made it necessary for us to put down this Amendment.
The Attorney-General said at the outset of the debate on the Bill in Second Reading that its object was to improve justice. If this is so, it is surely up to the Government, which wants to change a system which they themselves say works very well, to prove that a change is necessary. Yet the Government have had to fall back on double negatives, which I always suspect. They say there is no reason why the change should be for the worse. The Attorney General said in Committee:my noble friend the Lord Chancellor has readily agreed that the City magistrates maintain a high standard—and I concur with that view—but he does not accept that there is anything inherent in the present system which makes it better than that operating in the rest c f the country … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 2nd April, 1968; c. 35.]but it is better, in the only respect which can be proved, namely, in the matter of statistics; there have been only six successful appeals out of 19,000 cases in the last year for which figures are available. The hon. Member for Bolton, West said very rightly that it is never an argument not to alter something because it works well. One should always approach institutions with a view to making them work even better. But is it practicable to alter a system which works well, in the hope of improving on a record of six successful appeals out of 19,000 cases? It is also a cheaper system than what is proposed.
One of the arguments advanced, which this Amendment seeks to rebut, is that of uniformity. I regard uniformity as a detestable argument.
It is the negation of all improvement. All human advance depends on non-uniform people, people who depart from uniformity. However we cannot attain uniformity. For example, Scotland, as usual, is in a special and peculiar position. The ex officio justices there are not to be abolished. It is true we may be able to thrust uniformity on the City justices but we cannot make the City cases uniform. It is misleading to compare the City of London with Newport. Of course the run-of-the-mill cases will appear the same, statistically, but if one 1426 examines them case by Case, there will be very serious divergencies which make the presence on the Bench of people with the qualifications of aldermen very advantageous.
Nor is it sensible to treat all ex officio justices throughout the country uniformly, because City justices are not the same as other ex officio justices. They do not serve for short periods, and they are industrious and well trained. It is much more important, not that the City justices should be uniform with other justices, but that they should be suited to the cases with which they have to deal, as the aldermen are. The Attorney-, General said on the Second Reading:Some anomalies undoubtedly exist. There cannot be total unanimity in our administration of justice, which is the product of a long historical process and practices."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January, 1968; Vol 757, c. 286.]One cannot put it better than that. Uniformity is therefore both undesirable and unattainable.
The second argument was that the Bench should be drawn from different sections of the local population. The Attorney-General mentioned wage earners, which was a curious concept in relation to the City. I think that he doubted whether any alderman had started as a wage earner.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)
No, I doubted whether he was a wage earner when appointed an alderman.
§ Mr. Smith
I do not know whether we have to draw the old-fashioned distinction between wages and salaries. I am certain that practically every alderman must have set out as a salary earner and that very many of them still are. I do not believe in this ever-more fashionable division of the population into more and more classes, categories and sections, All people, particularly when it comes to judging their fellow men, are united or divided by countless threads which have nothing to do with their purchasing power, or the way in which they live. Every man is an individual with an identity of his own, and aldermen are just as representative of all sections of the City when it comes to trying cases as anyone else. What is more important is that people should have confidence in them. Confidence can only be measured by the 1427 number of appeals from their decisions, and this is extremely low.
To treat City Justices like all other ex officio justices is simply prejudice. I do not say it is prejudice against the City, or even political prejudice. But for once can we not be practical about this? The system in the City works extremely well and there are a great many things in the country at the moment which do not work well to which we might better turn our attention. I do not argue that the system ought to work well, nor as to why it works well: but it does. Can we not therefore have the good sense to accept the Amendment and leave the system alone?
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Whitaker
I shall be very brief. The right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) and the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) deployed their arguments with their customary elegance; but I would submit to the House that they founded them on a total fallacy in that they failed to adduce that there is any nexus whatsoever between the criterion for being an alderman in the City of London and the qualifications for being a justice of the peace. This is as illogical and indefensible as if every Member of this House hereupon constituted himself a judge.
The provisions of this Bill are in no way unfair to those aldermen who are fitted to be magistrates. They are not excluded from consideration for appointment as justices of the peace, and it would be totally unfair that they should be. But it is an extraordinary and indefensible idea that because a person is fitted to be an alderman—and is elected upon a very strange and anomalous franchise—he should therefore be fitted to be a magistrate. For example, there must be many people in the City of London who can spare the time to be a magistrate but not the time to act as an alderman as well. Similarly, there must be others who are interested and qualified to act as justices of the peace in the City but who, for various—perhaps very good—reasons, would not touch politics with a barge pole. The two interests may in some cases overlap and, if it is not impolite to the present aldermen—and I have no wish to be so—it has been said 1428 in the Committee that their experience could be useful in trying fraud cases. But surely it is less than just to the remaining inhabitants of the City of London to say they are either unable to provide a suitable bench of magistrates or to forbid them to do so.
I would like to take the two examples which have been mentioned. If those who moved this Amendment could tell the House of a single example of a woman who ever has been a magistrate in the City of London, or who is one now, we might feel their arguments had slightly more logic. Why should juvenile court cases and domestic cases have to be sent a considerable distance purely because of this inadequacy of the present City magistrates bench? Why should the ratepayers of Tower Hamlets, an infinitely poorer part of London, have to pay the bill for cases emanating from the City of London because of the anomaly which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite is seeking to defend? Why should witnesses have to travel a substantial distance to Bow Street or Tower Hamlets purely because of this historical accident?
I believe that in many cases—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved this Amendment will recognise the truth of this from his own experience—the presence of a female magistrate is of considerable value when there is a bench of justices sitting. Whether or not justice is done as well as possible at present in the City, there may be female defendants who feel that justice is not being seen to be done when they know it is impossible, as it is at present, for there to be any female magistrate before whom they can appear.
Lastly, I would urge upon the House that it is an essential precept of our presently constituted form of magistracy that there should be a variety of occupations represented on the Bench—that there should be, as the Prayer Book says, "all sorts and conditions of men". As the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster will know, there is a variety of occupations in the City—including poorer people who reside there while richer businessmen are able to leave after their day's work and go to their larger houses in the suburbs or elsewhere in London.
I would urge upon the learned Attorney-General that the selection for 1429 this representation of a variety of outlooks on the bench should not be made on a basis of party politics, which would be quite indefensible. I do not say this in any party spirit, but I think it is utterly wrong that the selection of magistrates in this country is made by an attempt to balance party representation, because this disenfranchises as regards magistrates' benches throughout the country—as they are at present disenfranchised in the City of London—those who belong to minority parties, or are robust enough to be independents—of which there are far too few in present-day politics—and people who for some very good reason do not wish to involve themselves in party politics. Many such people, because they do not spend their time on partisan politics, are eminently suited to be magistrates ipso facto.
To conclude, I hope that there will be represented on the Bench, not just of the City of London but throughout the country, all manner and varieties of sex, occupation and outlook—provided of course they all qualify to a high enough standard to be justices of the peace.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
When the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Ben Whitaker) made his point about party politics not entering into re presentation on magistrates' benches, I felt a great deal of sympathy with him. I think it is right that in normal circumstances all sections of the community—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
I may have been at fault because I think I ought to have interrupted the hon. Member at that point and indicated that on this Amendment we are dealing only with the City of London. I do not think that we should pursue the point of political representation on benches generally.
§ Sir D. Renton
I respectfully agree, but as the hon. Gentleman had been allowed to make his point I could hardly resist the temptation to comment upon it, because I agree very much with him. However, I will not pursue it further.
The other serious point, which is truly relevant to the argument, concerned the City of London not having its own juvenile court. There is a reform which perhaps the Government might like to introduce without doing what they are 1430 trying to do in this Bill. They could quite easily make that reform and not do what in my opinion is something which they should try to avoid at this stage.
May I say that I have had the unusual experience of being at the receiving end of some of the work of the City of London Justices Court. I must make it plain that the reason is that for some 15 months ending last December I sat from time to time as a commissioner at the Old Bailey. I believe I am the only Member of Parliament ever to have done so. I do not complain that the Government decided that I was an anomaly in that capacity because I was a Member of this House—I hope for no other reason. Just before Christmas that anomaly was removed by adding commissioners of the Central Criminal Court to the Schedule in the House of Commons Disqualification Act. I do not complain of that at all: on the contrary, I ought to express my gratitude for having been allowed to sit as a commissioner for those 15 months for it enabled me to witness from the inside the excellence of the administrative arrangements for handling the vast mass of work at the Old Bailey, much of which originates in the City of London Justices Court, which is presided over by the Lord Mayor and on which he and the 26 aldermen are magistrates.
From that personal experience I can testify to the exceedingly high quality of that important part of the work of the City Justices Court which consists in committing cases for trial at the Old Bailey. Indeed, although I tried a number of cases committed by the City Justices, some of them fairly complicated, I do not recollect a single irregularity in any of the committal proceedings with which I had to deal. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom said, 'the City of London renders a vital and highly important service by making itself responsible for the administration and maintenance of the Central Criminal Court, which is, by Act of Parliament, the criminal division of the High Court. In pointing to the great service performed by the City Justices Court, my right hon. and learned Friend referred to the low cost of it to the Exchequer. The same is true of the work done at the Central Criminal Court, at low cost to the Exchequer, but at quite 1431 considerable cost to the City, which it does not grudge.
It is worth mentioning that the City Corporation has started on a programme of rebuilding the Central Criminal Court at a cost of £1—million. The cost to the City last year was £185,000. This financial year it will be nearly £500,000. When all 18 courts are built, the cost will be over £600,000 a year to the City. Surely it is a poor reward to the City for performing this great service for the State that the Lord Mayor and aldermen should be stripped of their authority as magistrates.
One wonders why the Government have tried to impose their will in this way. The argument of logic is so flimsy that it does not stand up to examination. The removal of anomalies is sometimes justified, but to make that so the anomaly must be a bad one which does not work. If the Bill removes an anomaly, which for the reasons mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster I somewhat doubt, it is an anomaly which works well.
I fear that this change is perhaps being made for the worst of reasons. It is being made because the Government do not understand and, therefore, do not respect and sympathise with one of our established institutions, however spendidly it may work. Change for the sake of Socialism is sheer vanity and is not good enough, and I hope that the Attorney-General does not agree with it. Today he has a good opportunity to show that he does not believe in change merely for the sake of change or for the sake of Socialism.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I am entirely in favour of anomalies. When anomalies work, and when no serious criticism can be made of them, why should they not exist? All my time as a junior member of the Bar was spent on the Wales and Chester circuit. I have always been devoted to that circuit, like the Attorney-General. Yet, in theory, one can say that the circuit system is an anomaly. The justification for it is that it works well, and those with experience of it are devoted to it.
1432 In a country like ours, which has a long history, there are bound to be thousands of anomalies. How dull and uninteresting our life would be if they did not exist. Take the law itself. The only argument against the City of London retaining its peculiar and unique system of administration of summary justice is that it is an anomaly. On Second Reading, the Attorney-General paid tribute to the standard of the administration of justice in the City, which he said was high.
Take the position of the Lord Chancellor, the man who is initiating this change. Is there a more anomalous position in this country than that of the Lord Chancellor? We have an independent Judiciary, yet who is the head of it? The head is the Lord Chancellor, who is the Government Leader in the House of Lords. He sits on the Woolsack in the position of Speaker. If the arguments advanced by hon. Members opposite are right, what justification is there for the position of the Lord Chancellor? The justification is that the system works well and no one has any serious criticism of it. It has been tested by years of experience. Therefore, even though it is anomalous, we should have it, because it works well.
Cannot exactly the same argument be advanced about the administration of justice in the City of London? I have no connections whatever with the City. I have no particular interest in it, save in the fact that the general reputation of the administration of summary justice in the City is high. Not only the present Lord Chief Justice, but his predecessor, Lord Goddard, paid great tribute to the standard of the administration of summary justice in the City. There are so many things in this country which do not work and which are costly that to concentrate time on abolishing something which works well and against which no practical criticism can be levelled is the height of stupidity.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that an even more startling anomaly than the Lord Chancellor is the Law Officers of the Crown, who are responsible for the most important tasks in administering justice? That does not prevent them 1433 from being politicians and members of the Government.
§ Mr. Hooson
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that intervention. I will not encourage him to reminisce, but I am sure that what he says is absolutely right.
There is a general revolt in this country against the process of trying to eliminate all anomalies, even though they work. In my own country of Wales and in Scotland there is a great revolt against the attempt from the centre to insist on uniformity in everything. I do not think that anyone in Newport, which has been given as an example, would argue that it was comparable with the City of London. The City of London is in a unique position. We are a commercial country. The centre of our commerce is the City of London. It is unique in the sense that people who work there during the day do not generally spend their nights there—at least not, to any good purpose. As the system has worked well and costs the country nothing, why should it not be allowed to continue?
I should have thought that the onus of proof in this matter was entirely on the Government. When a system works well, and when, apart from theoretical criticism, no one can point to any practical criticisms of it, is there not a very heavy onus on the Government to show that it is necessary in the interests of the country for a change to be made? Does anyone really think that ex officio magistrates in other parts of the country will complain and say, "They have alowed ex officio magistrates in the City of London to remain"? They will not do so because they all acknowledge that the system in the City of London is different and that those who sit on the bench there have had an adequate training and very often deal with cases which, to some extent, are different from cases heard in other parts of the country.
The real test is: does the system work? If it does, why change it at very considerable expense to the Government? Surely vie are sick and tired of the argument that it will not cost very much. The sum total of everything which does not cost very much is very great indeed.
The sole issue throughout the debate, to misquote the words of the Lord Chief Justice, is: have the Government put 1434 forward any justification for the sacrifice of this system on the altar of uniformity? No such justification has been given and the Government at this stage should accept these Amendments.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am grateful for the opportunity at this late stage to be able to speak in support of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) and to make this last appeal to the right hon. and learned Attorney General to reconsider the attitude of the Government to this matter. I did not have the advantage of being present on Second Reading, but I would not like this Measure to go through the House without raising my voice against it.
A country must be rich indeed in money and in experienced and devoted judges ready to give their time freely to the service of community that can afford to do away with a system of justice in the centre of its capital city which, as everyone has acknowledged, has served the country well from time immemorial and is shown by all the statistics which have been quoted to be serving the country and the capital well to this very day. I will not go through the numerous statistics which were quoted on Second Reading, but the 1967 figures of over 19,000 cases tried by the justices in the City, with 20 appeals and only six allowed, speak for themselves.
I share the view of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), which has been expressed by speaker after speaker, that what we are seeing here—and perhaps I may quote the learned Lord Chief Justice—is the sacrifice of this system, whereby the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City give their services freely, upon the altar of consistency. In an ancient country like ours it is right and proper that we should enjoy the fruits of centuries of experience enshrined in ancient institutions. It is right that we should examine those institutions with the years that pass to see whether they fit the needs of modern times.
The Royal Commission of 1948, the present Lord Chief Justice, his predecessor in office, and everyone who has spoken about the services of the aldermen of the City of London as justices have paid tribute to the fact that this is a 1435 system which works. Why, therefore, is it to be scrapped and thrown overboard and to have put in its place a new and more costly system in which three justices will have to sit where one sits now, where more court room will be needed, and where the authorities responsible will probably have to go outside the City to find the people to sit? I venture to express the view that the logical result will be that we shall see in the City the same system of Metropolitan magistrates which we have in the rest of London. It is a good system, but it will be infinitely more costly than the present service which is given by the City of London by its officers.
I said that a country must be rich indeed that can afford to do this. Can we afford it? We cannot. We are seeking every possible means of reducing expenditure which falls upon the State in the provision of social and judicial services, but we are here throwing overboard a tried system and replacing it by a very much more costly system.
§ Mr. W.O. J. Robinson (Walthamstow, East)
Following the argument about the replacement of the aldermen of the City of London, do I take it, from what the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, that the aldermen of the City of London would either be unwilling or unable to serve as justices of the peace by name and not by office?
§ Mr. Grieve
I am sure that the aldermen will be disposed to give their services as before. But why augment it? Why increase the cost? Why dismantle the whole edifice of justice in the City which has served the country so well?
The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) a little while ago denigrated and sought to diminish the number of cases coming before the City justices which were of a peculiar kind; that is to say, financial, commercial cases. Although they may be few in number compared with the large number of driving cases and matters of that kind which come before the justices, nevertheless they are cases of great importance in the commercial and financial life of this country. It would be a great pity if justices experienced in trying that type of case were to be excluded, by a new system, from bring 1436 ing their experience to bear in trying those cases.
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) referred to the fact that some cases had to be dealt with outside the City of London. Is that such a hardship? Are the transport services in the City and County of London to be compared with those, when British Railways have had their way, in the fastnesses of Lincolnshire, the Highlands of Scotland or the centre of Wales? Bow Street Magistrates' Court is within yards of the boundary of the City of London. Is it a hardship for the few people who live in the City—and most of the cases coming before the City justices do not concern those who live there—to have their cases sent to Bow Street or even to juvenile courts a little further west? Arguments of that kind demonstrate the lengths to which those who seek to dismantle this system are forced to go to discharge the heavy burden of showing that this system should be dismantled. I do not think that anyone on this side thinks there is any justification for it.
The hon. Member for Hampstead also said that there was no nexus between being an alderman and being a City magistrate. This is contrary to the facts, because the Court of Aldermen does not elect an alderman unless he has the capacity to serve the City and the country in a judicial capacity. It cannot be sufficiently emphasised that an alderman goes through a period of training. He has to attend court not three, as in the Lord Chancellor's scheme, but six times to see how it works. Having gone through his period of training he then sits consistently for very many years acquiring greater judicial experience, knowledge and expertise than perhaps any other Justice of the Peace in the country.
We cannot afford, anomalous as it may seem to those who would reduce the whole country to a common pattern, to dismantle our ancient institutions. I think it was Burke who said that those who seek to undo that which time has justified should look very hard at what they have in mind to see whether there is any justification for it. I submit there is no justification whatever for this change. Even at this last moment I hope that the right hon. and learned Attorney-General will see the force of all that has been said and will accede to these Amendments.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
I should like to say a few words about one aspect of the administration of justice to which insufficient attention has been directed, and that is the element of confidence. Speaking as one with some years' experience, I am inclined to think that if anybody were to ask me, "What do you think is the most important thing about a court of justice?" my answer would be that it should enjoy the confidence of the persons over whom it exercises authority, and whom it serves by administering justice.
It is not very important how the confidence is obtained. I think that nobody will ever enjoy confidence without deserving it, because our fellow countrymen tire very astute, and their judgment is good. I do not think that it serves any purpose to ask how we can obtain confidence. Confidence is either reposed in an individual, or a court, or anybody else, or it is not.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) is not here, because he rather put to us who take the view that I am advancing that it is for us to justify what we say. I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I think that when people wish to change something which, by common consent, works, the onus is on them. Let me, however, accept the hon. Gentleman's challenge. The justification for leaving these courts alone is that they enjoy the full confidence of the persons to whom they administer justice. There is nothing more that we can demand of a system, or of anybody in the system, there is nothing more that we can hope to receive from anybody who is any part of the system, than that he has the complete confidence of the persons whom he has to try.
I think that it is taking a grave risk in changing the system, when one has that most priceless asset in the administration of justice, without any reason to assume, and certainly no reason in logic to deduce, that the new system will enjoy greater confidence. Unless one can presuppose that, all that one is doing is taking a risk of lessening confidence.
I practised in the magistrates court some years ago, and I have the greatest respect for the vast majority of those who do this voluntary service, but it cannot be denied by anybody who has practised 1438 in these courts that the most distressing feature is that on occasions, probably due to inexperience, possibly due simply to a lack of the necessary capability, that confidence in the court suffers. The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. W.O. J. Robinson) shakes his head. I do not think that he is entitled to do so. I am not saying that this is common. I am not saying that this is the rule, rather than the exception. I am saying that it is folly to shut one's eyes to the fact that this can, and does, happen, albeit in a small proportion of cases. I do not care how small it is. When it does happen, it is very sad, because the moment people lose confidence in the system for the administration of justice, never mind in how few cases, or in how small a respect, that is a loss to the country.
§ Mr. W.O. J. Robinson
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting that that absence of confidence at no time, and in no case, has existed in the City of London courts?
§ Mr. Percival
Yes. I am speaking from my own experience, and based on what I have heard in this debate. I do not say that there may not have been the odd case which I have not either suffered personally or come across, but I think I am justified in making my point when everyone who has spoken during the debates on the Bill has praised the efficiency of these courts. On all the evidence available, these courts enjoy a high degree of confidence. This is a priceless asset in the administration of justice, and we should not risk tampering with it unless we have some good reason for supposing that what we are going to do will be an improvement.
I end by echoing something which has been said by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but it is so important that it bears saying again. I think that many of us are in danger of equating change and reform. To me, reform means improvement. There is a grave risk in saying that we must bring about the maximum number of reforms that we can, that we must chalk up a great list of them, and assuming that every time we change something that is reform.
I echo the warning which has been sounded throughout this debate by so many of my right hon. and hon. Friends. 1439 Let us not fall into the error of equating change with reform. Before we change anything, let us make certain that what we are putting in its place is an improvement. It is because, without any spirit of rancour, and without any party political spirit, that I remain unconvinced, having studied almost everything that has been said during the passage of the Bill, that the change proposed is an improvement, that I shall take the opportunity to vote in support of the Amendment, unless, even at this late hour, the Attorney-General is persuaded by what has been said from this side of the House.
§ Mr. W.O. J. Robinson
I intervene only briefly to explain and extend my intervention on the question of confidence. I have no experience of the City of London Bench, and I would not hesitate to accept that it has the respect of the people, but I think that when the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) was talking about confidence in the court he was judging and examining it from the point of view of the confidence shown by members of the legal profession.
I have regard to the confidence which a litigant, or an ordinary applicant, or a poor defendant, has in the court, and it is because of this question of confidence that the proposed change commends itself to me. One essential ingredient in the confidence of members coming to the court is that they should believe that the justices on the bench will, by experience, training, and perhaps social status, be capable of understanding the difficulties in which they, as litigants, are placed.
§ Mr. Percival
I welcome the opportunity of making it clear that when I am talking about confidence in the court, I am talking about the confidence of a lay client, not of the profession. This is what matters. These are the people who are at the receiving end of what is administered, and it is vital that the court should enjoy their confidence.
§ Mr. Robinson
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman, because that intervention strengthens my approach to the problem. I believe that it is imperative that the lay client should have confidence not only in the manner in which justice is administered—and one often has people who are discontented—but that 1440 the people on the bench understand his situation. I have sat as a magistrate on a number of occasions, and I have often felt that there was resentment by the person appearing in the court that his situation was not fully understood.
With respect to the aldermen of the City of London, I think that people who appear before them, knowing them to be aldermen, knowing their status, may feel—perhaps wrongly—that the learned gentlemen on the Bench do not understand their problems and the reason why they committed acts which are perhaps inexplicable to the Bench. The argument which fortifies the Government's proposal more than anything else is that by enabling a bench to be composed of men and women from all strata of society the court would inspire much more of the confidence which the hon. and learned Member for Southport regarded as essential. He could hardly have posed a more effective reason for passing the Bill in its present form.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
No one can say that the lawyers have not done a very heavy stint in the House this week. They have probably worked harder than any other section in advance of the Recess and I thought it desirable that a layman on this side should also speak. Also, the City of London, which is a very tiny city, needs some support from the representative of the smallest county. I had a battle in this House on behalf of the traditions of my county, and I am glad that it was against the previous Government, since, despite the right hon. and learned Gentleman's benign smile, if it had been against this Government, I should have been unlikely to win it.
At least, when we were in Government, we recognised that something which was anomalous and difficult could nevertheless be retained, almost because it was anomalous and difficult. A case could be made for changing something to make it conform, but the country now wants more of the non-conformist attitude. If the Attorney-General recognised that mood, he would accept the case of the City that its aldermen should remain justices, purely on the basis of tradition, of something which has gone on for many years. It just happens to work.
1441 The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. W.O. J. Robinson) said that justice needed to be seen to be done through the people on the bench being representative of those who appeared before them. I am not a justice, but I understand that they come to know peoples' problems by dealing with them over many years. They know from experience what people have to contend with and what makes them commit offences and they get a sympathyétique. I am sure that this must be so for the justices of the City.
Many of these men could not serve as justices in their places of residence because they could not attend in the morning. The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) said that there should be others sitting alongside the aldermen, but those who work in the City, 98 per cent. of them at least, live outside. They can serve as justices in Tower Hamlets or any other London borough in which they live, and no doubt many do.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned t he difficulties of the juvenile court. I was not on the Committee, so I apologise if I speak without knowledge, but it seems reasonable to have a juvenile court in the City of London. If so, would it not be possible to have additional magistrates to serve on it? This would enable women to serve.
There are three factors which should be telling reasons for the Attorney-General to give final consideration to this matter. The first is tradition, which should not be discounted, The right hon. and learned Gentleman should not assume that workmen in Lincolnshire, Lancashire or Tower Hamlets are concerned about a selection of wage and salary earners among the aldermen. This is a mistake which has recently been blown sky-high politically and is therefore even more unlikely to be true of justice.
The other two reasons should appeal to the Attorney-General because of the Government's present situation. First, the present system will undoubtedly keep down costs. Changing to a system which means building new courts and appointing new magistrates would raise the cost. On a Bill to make a modest increase in cost of £3 million, a Minister said that 1442 that was a paltry sum, to which I replied that it was the addition of so many so-called modest sums which led to great increases in expenditure and thus in taxation.
The third reason is that the Government believe in productivity in every aspect of our national life and I understand from this debate that the City magistrates provide both quality and productivity in the performance of their duties—so why change the system? If the present system serves, preserves tradition and is less costly, the best thing which the Government can do is to retain it.
§ Sir John Foster (Northwich)
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) said that the aldermen were chosen on the basis of politics. That is entirely wrong: politics do not come into it.
The argument that the accused must feel that there is a wage earner among the justices is an argument against any stipendiaries or independent High Court judges. We know that there are strong arguments for stipendiaries and it has not been objected to them that they are not wage earners and have not been dockers, so there is a fallacy in this argument. If a court is to be efficient and to inspire confidence, that is all the more justification for the aldermen of the City, with their training and experience.
They are halfway between lay justices and stipendiaries. A stipendiary is more efficient and a better tribunal to deal with a great press of cases, and lay justices are better suited to sparse populations. Because of the peculiar conditions in the City, its system is the best suited to the district.
§ The Attorney-General
This is the third time that the arguments on both sides of the issues arising from these Amendments have been deployed with skill, persuasiveness and moderation. Today, there has been re-emphasis rather than novelty in the argument. I make no complaint about that: on the contrary, I would repeat what I said in Committee, that the Government's proposals are, of course, in no way inspired by any hostility to the City and even less by any prejudice, political or social.
It is unthinkable, indeed incredible, that the status and reputation of the City, its Lord Mayor and aldermen will be 1443 whittled down one iota if they are deprived of the inherent and automatic right to be made justices of the peace when they are made aldermen. In practice, the aldermen will probably be made J.P.s under the new arrangements, and the proposals that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has made as to the manning of the advisory committee, which will be set up if Parliament approves these proposals, will ensure the close connection and community between the aldermen and the Bench of the City of London.
I am prompted by the attractive speech of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) to mention that this is not the first Administration who have sought to alter ancient practices and institutions. I recollect that during the time of the previous Conservative Administration I was briefed by the Home Office to move for the abolition of the independent police force of the County of Rutland, an occasion I shall never forget. The town crier and the local population were crying out for the populace to muster to defend the quality and independence of their own police force. When I deployed the argument of the Home Office that larger police forces were necessary to meet the grave challenge of contemporary crime, counsel for Rutland pointed out that the only murder committed in the county occurred in 1789, which he describes as "a very turbulent year." I must not be prompted to reminisce, but the end of the story was that the police force of Rutland was amalgamated with that of the County of Leicester, and, as far as I know, the police there have lived happily ever after.
§ Sir D. Renton
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that that was done by "the" previous Administration. In fact, it was done by "a" previous Administration—and it was a Socialist one.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We cannot pursue that matter now. We are dealing with the City of London.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I said that we were dealing with the City of 1444 London. Hon. Members cannot, on this Amendment, pursue reminiscences about the County of Rutland.
§ The Attorney-General
I accept your reproach, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and it may be that I should accept the correction of the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) as well.
While I know how strongly the City feels about losing the special arrangements for its Bench, those arrangements should, in my submission, be changed. The principal object of this part of the Bill is to improve the system by which persons become J.P.s in England and Wales. Most of the Bill's provisions are based on the principle that magistrates' courts should generally be composed of lay J.P.s who are men and women of integrity and intelligence, drawn, so far as is practicable, from all sections of the community and who have been specially selected to be J.P.s.
I have emphasised that they are men and women because the House may be interested to know that there are now about 5,200 women out of the total of about 16,300 justices on the active list in England and Wales. It is now generally accepted that women magistrates play a valuable part in the administration of justice.
Another principle which underlies the Bill is that a case coming before lay justices should not be tried by a justice, however experienced, sitting alone. It is because the arrangements in the City of London conflict with these principles, which are basic to the administration of justice in magisterial courts, that the Government have thought it right to apply the decision to abolish ex officio justices not only to the chairmen of local authorities throughout the country but also to the Lord Mayor and aldermen of the City of London.
The House has generally accepted that the fact that a man is appointed mayor should not be a ground for entitling him to administer justice in the magistrates' court. The principle which underlies that argument applies with a good deal of force to the arrangements for the City of London—although not, of course, with 1445 the same force because of special factors, to which I shall come.
The aldermanic courts of the City of London are quite unique in that not only are the justices who man them sitting by virtue of their election to high civic office, but because they sit alone, whereas current opinion I think favours magisterial benches of three lay magistrates as the best type of lay bench. The City benches are also unique because there is not a woman among them. Nor is there any reasonable prospect that there will be a woman among them in the near future.
We had occasion in Committee to refer to the charming lady, the "rare bird", who is the only woman Common Councillor, and it may be that she will fly to the aldermanic bench in due course. It has not happened yet and there has never been a woman alderman in the City of London. For that reason women who appear before that court are not likely to have the confidence of the presence of a woman on the bench, and the bench is deprived of the contribution that women can make in that capacity.
The argument has ranged on both sides of the House about whether the alder-manic bench meets the requirement of representing different sections of the local population of the City of London. I submit that it does not. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) referred to what I think has been the aim of successive Lord Chancellors; to try to bring about, in the manning of magisterial benches, representation on them of all manners, sorts and conditions of people. This has not happened in respect of the City Bench and it cannot happen by virtue of the fact that it is manned exclusively by those who are elected and selected as aldermen. The arrangements for the City of London therefore conflict fundamentally with principles which, I submit, are the proper principles to apply in the manning of magisterial benches.
I have conceded—I do so completely—that the quality of the work of the City justices has been high. I readily acknowledge the value of the services that they have rendered. However, I repeat the view expressed by the Lord Chancellor; that there is nothing inherent in the present system in the City which makes it better than that operating in the rest of the country, particularly since the general require- 1446 ment now exists that a new magistrate must undergo a term of training before he or she undertakes magisterial duties. There are no real grounds for thinking that the quality of City justice will deteriorate if the existing City system is replaced by one similar to that followed everywhere else in England and Wales.
It has been suggested in the debate that there is something peculiar, something special, about the character of crime in the City of London which calls for an exceptional kind of lay bench. I do not accept that and I do not think the facts support that contention. The pattern of crime in the City does not differ substantially from that in other urban areas. There are fewer burglaries, there are fewer housebreakers, but there are still a very large number of ordinary criminal offences ranging—surprisingly enough—from rape, no doubt a product of nocturnal habits which one hon. Member mentioned, all the way down to a mass of motoring and parking offences.
I am particularly happy to see that crime in the City does not reflect a specially disproportionate volume of fraud cases. If it did, it may well be that the reputation of the City in financial matters would indeed suffer. I read with interest and care a pamphlet which the City authorities put out on this Bill, which deals with the point I am now considering. It says:while much of the daily business of the courts"—of the City—resembles that of other courts of justices of the peace, some cases are of considerable magnitude and complexity. Many cases arise directly from business of the City as the centre of the nation's financial life".It says that in these circumstances the training and experience of the City aldermen show to particular advantage. Four illustrations are given. R. v. Grunwald and others in 1960, which related to a building society conspiracy involving £3,500,000, which lasted for 14 days; R. v. Moyland and Others, 26 days; R. v. Pim, Scarsfield and York, which lasted for 13 days in 1965; and a Purchase Tax case which took 12 days. All four were all committal proceedings. The time that was taken upon them was in relation to committal proceedings. Since the recent changes we have made in the 1447 Criminal Justice Act in committal proceedings in regard to the use of written statements and other time-saving methods, committal proceedings should certainly be far shorter hereafter than they were during the hearing of those cases.
It would still be open, if this Bill becomes law, for a single justice in the City to continue to sit alone to deal with committal proceedings. I devoutly hope that aldermen will still be sitting on the aldermanic bench and the aldermen with particular skill in the field of accounts will obviously be invited—and I hope will accept the invitation—to deal with committal proceedings in that sort of case when the new arrangements come into force.
What I find very doubtful is whether fraud cases of length and great complexity will be tried in the City by single justices. Under Section 19 of the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1952, justices are enabled to try certain indictable offences summarily, but, before they do so, under Section 19(2) they must satisfy themselves not only that the punishment which they have power to inflict will be adequate—and they are limited to six months—but alsothat the circumstances do not make the offence one of serious character and do not for other reasons require trial on indictment.I should have thought that that would prevent justices in the City trying cases lasting for two or three weeks, as distinct from dealing with committal proceedings.
I readily appreciate that there will be a benefit to have in the courts of the City the expertise of aldermen who are versed in business matters and can follow complex accounts in committal proceedings, but the particular and very special
§ arrangements which my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has proposed for the manning of the Advisory Committee which will nominate the future justices of the peace for the City, will maintain the links between appointment as an alderman and the holding of office as a magistrate. Accordingly, the new arrangements will ensure the continuance of the services and skills of aldermen, while giving to the City of London courts the application of principles which are appropriate for this part of this century and which fall into line with the principles which are applied to magisterial courts elsewhere in England and Wales.
§ Accordingly, I must advise the House to reject these Amendments.
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
For the second time within 48 hours, having listened to the Attorney-General, I am not surprised to hear what he said, however much I deeply regret it. Once again we have not heard any reason why on the merits this change should be made. Instead, at increased cost we are to have an increased number of people doing a job, and not doing the job so well. At a time when we should be doing everything possible to rationalise and make sensible all our efforts in the country, the stubbornness of the Government will be noted and not forgotten. They will have done a disservice to themselves by adopting their attitude, a disservice I do not care much about, but they will also be doing a disservice to the pursuing of criminal justice, which I do care about. For these reasons I invite my hon. and right hon. Friends to press the Amendment to a Division.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 145, Noes 163.1449
|Division No. 119.]||AYES||[6.8 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Boardman, Tom||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Body, Richard||Clegg, Walter|
|Astor, John||Bossom, Sir Clive||Cooke, Robert|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Braine, Bernard||Corfield, F. V.|
|Batsford, Brian||Brewis, John||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver|
|Bell, Ronald||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Crouch, David|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Cunningham, Sir Knox|
|Bessell, Peter||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Biffen, John||Bullus, Sir Eric||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Campbell, Gordon||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Eden, Sir John||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Royle, Anthony|
|Elliot, Cant. Walter (Carshalton)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Emery, Peter||Lubbock, Eric||Sharples, Richard|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Silvester, Frederick|
|Eyre, Reginald||MacArthur, Ian||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Foster, Sir John||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Speed, Keith|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McMaster, Stanley||Stainton, Keith|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Maddan, Martin||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maginnis, John E.||Taylor, Edward M. (C'gow, Cathcart)|
|Cower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Grant, Anthony||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Miscampbell, Norman||Thorpe, Rt. Hn, Jeremy|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Tilney, John|
|Grieve, Percy||Monro, Hector||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Montgomery, Fergus||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Gurden, Harold||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Walters, Dennis|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Neave, Airey||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Heseltine, Michael||Nott, John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Onslow, Cranley||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Hill, J. E, B.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Holland, Philip||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Hordern, Peter||Pardoe, John||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hunt, John||Peel, John||Wright, Esmond|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Percival, Ian||Wylie, N. R.|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pounder, Rafton||Younger, Hn. George|
|Jopling, Michael||Pym, Francis|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kimball, Marcus||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Mr. Jasper More and|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Mr. Timothy Kitson.|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Archer, Peter||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Ford, Ben||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Forrester, John||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fowler, Gerry||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bishop, E. S.||Freeson, Reginald||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Garrett, W. E.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Booth, Albert||Gourlay, Harry||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McBride, Neil|
|Bradley, Tom||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Maccoll, James|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Gregory, Arnold||MacDermot, Niall,|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Macdonald, A. H,|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hamling, William||Madennan, Robert|
|Buchan, Norman||Harper, Joseph||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Carmichael, Neil||Haseldine, Norman||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Coe, Denis||Hazell, Bert||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Heffer, Eric S.||Manuel, Archie|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Henig, Stanley||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hooley, Frank||Mendelson, J, J,|
|Dalyell, Tam||Horner, John||Millan, Bruce|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Milne, Edward (Bryth)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Howie, W.||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn, Sir Geoffrey||Hughes, Rt. Hn. cledwyn (Anglesey)||Moyle, Roland|
|Delargy, Hugh||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Newens, Stan|
|Dempsey, James||Hunter, Adam||Oakes, Gordon|
|Dewar, Donald||Hynd, John||O'Malley, Brian|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Dickens, James||Janner, Sir Barnett||Orme, Stanley|
|Doig, Peter||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oswald, Thomas|
|Driberg, Tom||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Dunn, James A.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Park, Trevor|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Eadie, Alex||Kelley, Richard||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Ellis, John||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|English, Michael||Lawson, George||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Ennals, David||Leadbitter, Ted||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Richard, Ivor||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P 'c' as)||Skeffington, Arthur||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Small, William||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Snow, Julian||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Swingler, Stephen||Woof, Robert|
|Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Ryan, John||Varley, Eric C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Sheldon, Robert||Watkins, David (Consett)||Mr. Ernest G. Perry and|
|Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Wellbeloved, James||Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|
|Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|