§ 10. Mr. Maclennan
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about his decision not to propose changes in the qualifications provided for by the Justices Clerks (Qualifications of Assistants) Rules 1979.
§ Mr. Mellor
Representations have been made orally on behalf of the Justices' Clerks Society. No others have been received.
§ Mr. Maclennan
Why has the Minister set his face against the requirement that all court clerks in the magistrates' courts should have professional qualifications? In view of the increasing complexity of the law, the volume of work in the magistrates' courts and the extension of legal aid, is not the quality of advice offered of very high importance? Is the Minister aware that the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Magistrates Association support this reform? Why is he against it?
§ Mr. Mellor
The hon. Gentleman is right. The quality of advice tendered to justices in magistrates' courts is important. Indeed, as the hon. Gentleman would, in all fairness, wish to admit, a number of those who may not be qualified as barristers or solicitors but who hold diplomas in magisterial law have been offering extremely good advice to magistrates' courts up and down the country for many years. Indeed, the magistrates' court system in this country runs with more than two thirds of the clerks so qualified. Only one third are legally qualified. We do not believe that the tremendous efforts and the large resources that would be needed to move to a fully professional justices clerks' profession could be justified at this time against so many competing priorities.