HC Deb 27 January 1972 vol 829 cc1590-1
4. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consultations he has had regarding the future administration of magistrates' courts; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

Last June the Home Office issued to the organisations principally concerned a memorandum, prepared jointly with the Lord Chancellor's office, setting out the arguments for and against the two main alternatives for the future organisation of magistrates' courts. Replies to this memorandum are now being considered, but I am not yet ready to make a statement.

Mr. Mitchell

Is the Home Secretary aware that large numbers of magistrates' benches, particularly in the big cities, would like to see a national magistrates' service as part of the general court system, with administration taken away from local authorities?

Mr. Maudling

I am aware that there are many people in favour of that alternative and, equally, many important people with an interest in this matter who feel the other way. This matter is under careful consideration.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that court overcrowding is often caused by lay magistrates, and will he give serious consideration to the appointment of more stipendiary magistrates?

Mr. Maudling

That is a wide question on which I will not hazard a snap reply.

Mr. John Fraser

As the organisation of magistrates' courts is bound to be considered during the passage of the Local Government Bill, will the Secretary of State make a statement on this subject before the Bill completes Committee stage?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, certainly, we shall have to do that.