HC Deb 08 December 1997 vol 302 c666
37. Helen Jones

What steps he intends to take to ensure that each magistrates bench is representative of the community it serves. [18016]

Mr. Hoon

My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor directs his advisory committees to attract candidates for the lay magistracy from a broad spectrum of the community. To assist them, my right hon. and learned Friend has commissioned research into how best to undertake this task.

Helen Jones

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. In Warrington, only 36 per cent. of members of the Bench come from the Warrington, North constituency; most of the others come from Warrington, South. Many of them live as far away as Shropshire and Crosby. The central areas of Warrington are represented by only two magistrates. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that he will look seriously at such places to ensure that the communities—which often suffer the worst aspects of crime—are actually represented on the Bench?

Mr. Hoon

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's concern about this matter. We shall continue to make considerable efforts to attract as wide a variety of applications as possible. Such efforts have already been made by the Cheshire advisory committee, from which I know my hon. Friend has received a letter asking her to make suggestions on how to improve the system and on how we can encourage her constituents to apply for these important positions. I should be delighted if she took away that letter and encouraged as many as possible of her constituents to apply.