HL Deb 05 June 1893 vol 13 cc141-79

moved to resolve— That it has been a long-established custom that the Justices of the Peace should be appointed in counties on the recommendation of the Lords Lieutenant; and that, in the opinion of this House, it is highly inexpedient to disturb this usage in any county for the purpose of placing on the Bench Justices whose political opinions are in consonance with those of the Government of the day. He said he had been induced the more readily to bring forward this Motion in consequence of the deputation which waited on the Lord Chancellor a short time ago, bringing under the noble and learned Lord's consideration the mode in which for hundreds of years Magistrates had been appointed in this country. Personally, he had not a word to say against the Lord Chancellor. The noble and learned Lord had on all occasions treated him with extreme courtesy, and he only regretted that a strong souse of public duty should have induced him to invite the Members of the House of Commons to pass a Resolution setting aside a custom which he did not think anyone believed had been employed prejudicially to the carrying on of the business of the country with regard to Magistrates. If he properly understood the Resolution of the House of Commons, it appeared that in future the Magistrates would not be appointed in consequence of the necessity for them, but mainly owing to the political views they might entertain. He did not think that there was anything which could be so subversive of the good management of the administration of justice in this country than that the Magistrates should in future be appointed in consequence of their political views in place of a recommendation by the Lord Lieutenant to the Lord Chancellor owing to the necessities of the districts to which Magistrates were to be appointed and their fitness for the post. Nor could he understand how, under the new state of things, the Lord Chancellor was to find out the political opinions of the gentlemen whom he was asked to appoint; nor did he think that anyone in the county was more competent to advise the Lord Chancellor in this matter than the Lord Lieutenant. In his view the appointment of Magistrates and the administration of justice had nothing to do with politics. Speaking for himself, he said that on one occasion, when he had first the honour to be appointed to the Lord Lieutenancy of Banff, the names of several gentlemen were suggested to him as proper persons to be recommended to the Lord Chancellor. He inquired what the peculiar qualifications of the gentlemen were, where they resided, and what need there was for them, and was informed that these suggested Magistrates had been very active in promoting the Conservative cause. His answer was that he was very glad indeed to hear that those gentlemen had been active in the Conservative cause, that he trusted they would continue their good work with as much success, but that it did not appear to him that that was any reason for placing their names on the Commission of the Peace. He had acted on that principle up to the present time. The last batch of Magistrates he had boon instrumental in appointing included Unionists, Gladstonians, Conservatives, members of the Established Church, of the Free Church, Episcopalians, and, he believed, in one case a Roman Catholic. The Magistrates were appointed for the administration of justice, in order to see that the laws were properly and fairly carried out. He found, however, that the gentlemen who waited on the Lord Chancellor appeared to lose sight altogether of the fact that the Magistrates were appointed for the administration of justice. Since the passing of the Local Government Act there was very little else for the Magistrates to do. At the deputation Mr. Stansfeld stated that there was discontent and a want of confidence in the present system; that the appointments were at present practically political appointments, confined in the vast majority of cases to persons of one political Party. Among whom was the discontent? Surely not among the prisoners and the defendants who came before the Magistrates? According to the right hon. Gentleman, it seemed that the Magistrates ought to be appointed in order to gratify the vanity of certain members of the Liberal Party who wished to write J.P. after their names. He could not conceive anything more untenable than an argument of this kind. Was there any want of confidence among the persons brought before the Magistrates? If such persons thought they had not had a fair trial and that the Magistrates were partial, there might be some ground for the statement; but he appealed to any noble Lord who was in the habit of attending Petty Sessions whether or not it was the ease that where the prisoners had the option of selecting trial by the Magistrates or of being sent for trial by jury, they did not invariably select trial by the Magistrates then and there? This was a political move on the part of Members of the House of Commons who desired to bring the matter before the Lord Chancellor, so that a great number of Liberal Magistrates might be appointed. There was no desire on their part, and could be none, to improve the administration of justice, because they could not do it. He believed the administration of justice was as perfect as it could well be. He thought they ought to have had some statement made showing how disastrous the state of things was at the present moment, some charge against the Magistrates, some indictment showing that they had not done their duty, and declaring that on that account, therefore, it was full time that a state of things which had existed for hundreds of years should be put a stop to. He repeated, that the administration of justice was as good as anything human was likely to be, and he had a very good witness on that point. He would quote to their Lordships in justification of that statement what the Home Secretary had said. Mr. Asquith said— He did not make any charge against the Magistrates. He had an opportunity of seeing a good deal of their decisions, and though mistakes were made, as they must he under the best constituted systems, there was no ground whatever for suspecting the great majority of either partiality or incompetence. The statement made as to the number of Magistrates belonging to a particular political Party on the County Benches was not always quite correct. In the County of Denbigh it was said that there were only seven Nonconformists on the Bench. He had it from the Lord Lieutenant of that county that he had gone carefully over the list, and he found there were 22. That was a considerable difference. But he held that there should be no question of politics whatever in connect ion with the appointment of Magistrates. In Sussex, with which he was intimate, there was no such thing as politics in the matter. Sussex was a Conservative county, and they had for 30 years two Liberal Lords Lieutenant. First they had Lord Chichester, who was succeeded by Lord Hampden, and neither was influenced by any political considerations. They appointed those persons whom they thought properly qualified. If the new system were adopted, persons would be appointed not because they were qualified, but because they were advanced Liberals or advanced Conservatives. Each Party would try to do the best for its own men; and Magistrates would simply be appointed according to the political exigencies of the time. He could not imagine anything more detrimental to the administration of justice than the introduction of polities. No failure had been even hinted at in the present system, which had worked well for generations. He begged to move his Resolution.

Moved to resolve— That it has been a long-established custom that the Justices of the Peace should be appointed in counties on the recommendation of the Lords Lieutenant; and that, in the opinion of this House, it is highly inexpedient to disturb this usage in any county for the purpose of placing on the Bench Justices whose political opinions are in consonance with those of the Government of the day."—(The Duke of Richmond.)


My Lords, my noble Friend has moved his Resolution in a speech which is marked by all the fairness and moderation which we all know distinguish him; but, at the same time, I think the Resolution of the noble Duke is based on a misconception of the true state of affairs, and certainly of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. There is no desire to lay down the principle that for the future Justices of the Peace are to be appointed according as they agree or differ from the opinions of the Government of the day. If the noble Duke looks at the Resolution passed in the other House he will see that it lays down no such principle. What the Resolution of the other House affirms is that there exists at the present time a feeling of dissatisfaction at the fact that there is in the Commission of the Peace generally throughout the country a very small proportion of men holding particular opinions. In allowing the existence of that feeling it is not my intention, nor is it necessary, that I should bring any charge in regard to the course which has been pursued by Lords Lieutenant generally. I have no doubt they have been actuated by the same feeling which actuates my noble Friend opposite and myself—they desired to perform their duties faithfully to the public. But, my Lords, quite apart from the conduct of particular Lords Lieutenant, there have been reasons which have always tended to bring about the state of things complained of. There was in former years, and it still exists to a certain extent, a feeling that County Magistrates ought to be taken from persons of a particular class or of a particular social position, in one respect the appointment of County Magistrates differs from that of Borough Magistrates, because in the case of County Magistrates there still exists the property qualification, which I hope to see abolished—a hope which, I believe, is shared by noble Lords below the Gangway on this side of the House. The effect of the existence of that qualification is to exclude from the Bench some whom it would be desirable to place there. In one part of the North Riding of Yorkshire, for instance, there is a large mining population, and representations were made to me some time ago that the miners were anxious to have one of their own class put on the Bench. I was obliged to tell them in reply that, unless they could produce a person possessing the necessary property qualification, I could not comply with their wishes; and no such person has ever been named to me. The feeling, of which this incident is an evidence, is quite independent of the action of this or that Lord Lieutenant. This state of things has produced a feeling of dissatisfaction, which is yet on the increase, in the minds of a large portion of the community. It is not necessary to enter into any controversy as to whether the Liberal Party is or is not a majority of the population; it will at, least be admitted that the Liberals are a large and important portion of the population; and, at all events, whatever men's opinions may be, the holding of those opinions ought not to have the effect of keeping them off the Bench. If it does, then the result will be to shake the confidence generally reposed in the Magistrates. Among the Classes from whom Justices of the Peace have generally been drawn in the past there has recently been a large transference of support from the First Lord of the Treasury to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. In my own county one-half I be Magistrates formerly identified with the Liberal Party have changed their views, and it is that which makes the exclusion from the Bench more felt than it has been before. It is in these circumstances that great dissatisfaction has been expressed; that strong representations have been made to the Lord Chancellor, and that the other House of Parliament has passed a Resolution in favour of redressing the grievance. The noble Duke asked who are the persons who show a want of confidence in the Magistrates. It is not a question of the confidence of prisoners; I have no charge to make in regard to the administration of justice against the Magistrates in general; I quite agree with what has been said on this point by Mr. Asquith. There is a question beyond the confidence of prisoners on whom sentences may be passed, and that is the confidence of the general public, in the proper discharge of the great and responsible duties of the County Benches. There is proof of a large amount of dissatisfaction with the constitution of the Benches, and that, I think, furnishes a sufficient ground for the consideration of the matter by the Government. I quite agree that appointments ought not to be made exclusively from the supporters of the Government of the day. No such thought has entered into the minds of Members of the Government; and I am glad to see that noble Lords opposite appear to agree that neither political nor religious opinions, nor social position in itself, ought to be made causes of exclusion from the ranks of Magistrates. There is a strong feeling among a large proportion of the public at present that particular opinions and classes are not adequately represented on the Bench. That feeling ought to be got rid of; and it is the duty of the Government to take steps to remove that sense of grievance. As to the latter part of the Motion, I quite agree with it; Magistrates ought not to be appointed because their political opinions are in consonance with those of the Government of the day; but when there is an inequality such as is complained of, then there is a balance to be redressed, and I do say that that balance ought to be redressed. As to the first part of the Resolution, I cannot admit that it is a conclusive argument that a custom ought to be adhered to because it has existed for a long time. That argument can scarcely be used by the Opposition, because my noble Friends opposite, in 1888, in creating County Councils, deprived Magistrates of some of their duties without making any allegation against them that those duties had been inefficiently performed. There was no charge, there was no indictment. The late Government distinctly declared that the Justices had administered the County Finances well. A change was then made simply because it was demanded by public opinion. And now we are dealing not with the attributes of Magistrates, but with the manner of their appointment; and, after the great political and social changes which have taken place during the last 20 or 30 years, it is, I think, only natural that the method of appointing Magistrates should be found capable of improvement. Theoretically, as we know, the responsibility for the appointment of Magistrates rests with the Lord Chancellor, but up to the present time the Lord Chancellor has, in accordance with ancient custom, been accustomed to look exclusively to the recommendations of the Lords Lieutenant. It is not surprising, in days like these, with a democratic House of Commons, that a demand should be made that a more direct and tangible responsibility should be thrown on the Minister of the Crown in regard to these appointments. I am quite sure the Lords Lieutenant feel their responsibility to the public in the matter, and I am equally sure the Lord Chancellor will do his utmost to work with them in future. All that is implied in the Resolution, which has been accepted by the Government, is that in future the Lord Chancellor will examine more closely into the recommendations made, and will not refuse to receive recommendations from other persons than the Lords Lieutenant in regard to the appointments of Justices of the Peace. Beyond that the Government have not the slightest intention of going, and they have not the slightest desire or intention to make the appointments political, and, therefore, if the Motion were pressed I should not vote against it. But the Government believe it to be in the highest degree desirable that the existing public discontent should be removed, and they believe that the result of their action will be not to impair the position of the Lords Lieutenant or of the Magistrates, but to sustain their authority and place it on a firmer foundation.


supported the Motion of the noble Duke, and must begin by acknowledging the fair and courteous manner in which the Lord Chancellor had acted in regard to the appointments made in the county with which he himself was officially connected. Everyone admitted that the County Magistrates had discharged their duties well. Complaints, no doubt, were made of the Magisterial Benches in these days as of other institutions, and a so-called society journal had made it a point to publish weekly accounts showing the diversity of sentences passed by the Magistrates at different Sessions. This, however, would apply to the Judges and Stipendiaries as well as to the Unpaid Magistracy. That fact was in no way whatever a reflection on the Magisterial Bench; for the sentence of a prisoner often depended on a variety of circumstances, and not alone on the respective criminality of the offences. If there were time to do so, he could give instances of very unequal sentences passed by the highest Judges of the land for the commission of exactly similar offences. It had been remarked that it was very desirable the public should have confidence in the Magistracy. He concurred with this, and contended that the Bench already enjoyed the full confidence of the country. It had been complained by those who desired to interfere with the present system that a large majority of the Magistrates were on one side in politics. That was so, no doubt; but it was due not to Party political action, but to the fact that the great bulk of the class of men of leisure and education, who were most qualified and available for Magistrates, happened to be on the Unionist side. As to the alternative proposal of appointing the Magistrates on the recommendation of the County Councils, would that be satisfactory? Look at the way in which the County Councils had exercised their powers. In the London County Council the Aldermen wore all chosen from the Radicals. No doubt, in some other County Councils the Aldermen were chosen in quite a different way. A Committee was formed representing both sides, and the result was that half were chosen from each side; but they were the most prominent men, and those who had taken the most active part in elections, so that the appointments were made from extreme Radicals and extreme Conservatives, and the Moderate men were left out. He did not think that this mode of appointment would be at all satisfactory. But bad as it was it would be better than, what he was afraid would happen, their selection by the member or the defeated candidate for the constituency. The Government at this moment were appointing Magistrates under pressure from the other House. They had only a small majority on a most important measure which they were bringing forward, and they could not afford to offend anybody lest they might lose their votes on that and other questions. The Resolution which was adopted by the House of Commons was passed after only three hours' discussion, and it was inconceivable that a Resolution so passed should be considered enough to change the whole practice which had been going on for centuries, although, as far as he could make out, it was contrary to the deliberate opinion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, the very man who was to put it into practice.


My Lords, I think one thing is quite clear from the speech of the noble Marquess opposite, and that is that this matter has been brought to the front because a number of gentlemen, who have done their work very well, have not followed the Prime Minister in the change of front he has made on the Irish Question, and the result has been that the Magistrates who now follow him are a much smaller number than before. However the noble Marquess may vote upon this matter, and however he may by words deprecate the introduction of politics in the appointment of Magistrates, the whole object of the action of the Government may be fairly described in the words of the noble Duke. It is— For the purpose of placing on the Bench Justices whose political opinions are in consonance with those of the Government of the day. I do not think I should have interfered in this Debate if I had not had the honour to be, for a long time, connected with the administration of justice in the County of Lancaster; and perhaps noble Lords would like to understand what has taken place in that county, because I think it will show that that has been the whole object of the Chancellor of the Duchy, without any justification. Noble Lords will see as plainly as they can see anything that the sole object of the Chancellor of the Duchy was— To place on the Bench Justices whose political opinions are in consonance with those of the Government of the day. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, if be accepts this power in consequence of the vote of the House of Commons, will, I think, find the pressure put upon him extremely unpleasant. I have hero a Report of the number of Magistrates appointed since 1850 to to 1870, and, before quoting from it, I will mention that the "waste," so to speak, on the Magisterial Bench in the County of Lancaster is, on an average, 25 or 26 annually. In 1852 a change began to take place. In any observations I am about to make I will not impute blame to one Party more than the other. The Party with which I have the honour to be connected has been just as much to blame as the other. In the year 1852, when Lord Derby came into power, the number of appointments to the Magistracy was raised at once to 36. When Lord Aberdeen came into power in December, 1852, the number of appointments was 31. But later on this practice of increasing the number of appointments grew very much, especially after Elections. There was a change of Government in 1858, when Lord Derby came in a second time, and the number of appointments rose to 65 immediately. There was a change of Government also in 1859, when Lord Palmerston succeeded to Office, and then the number of appointments was 44, whereas 20 would have been ample at that time. So matters went on, with an average of from 20 to 22 appointments, for the next six years, until again there was a change of Government. Lord Derby came into power in 1866, when 54 Magistrates were appointed, and the next year 66 more were nominated. At the end of 1868 there was another Election; the present Prime Minister came into Office; and in 1869 the number of appointments of Magistrates, instead of being about 22, at once rose to 107.


Were those the figures for 1868 or for 1869?


Those, figures were for 1869, the Elections having taken place in the November of the year before. The matter seemed to be so serious at that time that the late Lord Derby, who was then Chairman of Quarter Sessions at one end of the county, with Colonel Wilson Patten and myself as Chairman at the other end, wont to the Chancellor of the Duchy (Lord Dufferin) and pointed out to him the state of affairs. We found the Chancellor of the Duchy perfectly alive to the evils of the appointment of Magistrates under the pressure of political Parties. The result was the Memorandum of 1870, by which it was directed that in future the Magistrates for the County Palatine of Lancaster should be appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy on the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant of the County Palatine as was done in other counties. That Memorandum was approved by the Government of the day, Mr. Gladstone, of course, being privy to the whole matter. The result has been that the average number of Magistrates appointed from 1870 to 1892 was about 26 every year. At the first great Election afterwards in 1874, at a time when the Chancellor of the Duchy would no doubt have been pressed to make an enormous number of political appointments—under the old system, the Lord Lieutenant made 27 appointments, which was about the average. In the year 1880, which I have every reason to remember, because I had to contest the South-West Division of Lancashire when the present Lord Lieutenant of the county and the late Lord Derby used all their legitimate political influence against me—the year Mr. Glad- stone came into Office. But that did not make the smallest difference in the number of Magistrates appointed. The Lord Lieutenant of the county only recommended, or the Chancellor of the Duchy only appointed, 20 Magistrates in 1880 and 25 in 1881, and there was no great increase in the appointments either in 1885 or in 1886. I think I have proved that before 1870 the Chancellor of the Duchy had under political pressure appointed more Magistrates than were wanted, and that those Magistrates were selected from his political friends, and that from 1870 to the present time the Lord Lieutenant has never allowed Party considerations to influence his appointments, and I have never heard up to the present moment a single complaint made against those appointments. Now I come to what started the Chancellor of the Duchy upon the extraordinary course of procedure that he has taken. A Memorial was sent to the present Chancellor of the Duchy, signed by a number of gentlemen, in which they called attention to the political and social disability under which the Liberals of the County of Lancaster suffered in respect of the appointment of County Magistrates. All of these gentlemen were extreme Liberals and supporters of the present Government, and were connected with the great towns, and not with the county districts. The Chancellor of the Duchy then communicated with the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and pointed out to him that the great preponderance among the Magistrates of gentlemen belonging to one political Party—that which supported the late Government—was complained of in some quarters, and that strong dissatisfaction was expressed with that preponderance. The right hon. Gentleman, in that communication, went on to say— We must all unite in desiring that politics should have as little as possible to do with appointments to the Bench; but when a glaring disparity exists, and has long existed, it is natural that those excluded should feel aggrieved and suspicious; nor are they consoled by being reminded that the fact is probably due, in many or most instances, to the tendency of the existing Magistrates in each locality to recommend for appointment their own personal and political friends. That was a very serious charge to bring against the Lord Lieutenant, especially when it was within the knowledge of the Chancellor of the Duchy himself, because he goes into the figures, that for the first 15 years of the Lord Lieutenancy of Lord Sefton the percentage of Liberals to Conservatives varied from 45 to 55 per cent. What more could be required? It really points only to the fact that the majority of the Liberal Magistrates had ceased to follow Mr. Gladstone in his present policy. The Chancellor of the Duchy thou points out that there were now on the County Bench 142 Liberals as against 522 members of the opposite Party; but as I have said, the reason is that the vast majority of the Liberal Magistrates had ceased to follow the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman also says this proportion is very wrong, because in many cases, as appears from the representation in Parliament, more than half the population is of one political opinion, while the Magistrates are almost exclusively of another, and he concludes his letter as follows:— I therefore append the names of 39 gentlemen distributed under 10 Petty Sessional Divisions, and hope that your Lordship may see fit, if satisfied as to their competence, to recommend them to me for appointment according to the custom followed of late years. That is an attempt practically to swamp the Bench with the supporters of the Government. It was not likely that the Lord Lieutenant would agree to that course, and I think his answer was a very dignified and proper one, and expressed in suitable language. He says— Before 1871 the appointments had been made for many years almost entirely on political grounds, and as rewards for Party services, and so the change became almost absolutely necessary. I have always looked upon the nomination of the Justices as a trust conferred upon me by all political Parties, and I have never abused that trust during the last 22 years by nominating a single Magistrate on political grounds. When additional Justices have been required I have always endeavoured to find the most suitable candidates in the different districts without inquiring to what political Party they belonged. At the present time there is no demand for any substantial addition to the Magisterial Bench; and I understand that your request that I should at once nominate 40 Magistrates is not based upon any such demand, but solely and alone because you desire that 40 gentlemen who are supporters of Mr. Gladstone should be nominated by me. The last sentence of the Lord Lieutenant's letter is one which, in my opinion, deserves a very different answer to what was given to it. He goes on to say— I desire to add that, if any representation be made to me that additional Justices are required in any distinct, I will gladly consider the competency and claims of the gentlemen whose names you have submitted to me, without the slightest reference to their political opinions. The answer the Lord Lieutenant got was one which, I think, ought not to have been written by any gentleman in the position of the Chancellor of the Duchy. The right hon. Gentleman says— While receiving with pleasure your Lordship's assurance that you have not desired to allow Party considerations to influence your choice of nominees for the County Bench, I must nevertheless observe that the disparity mentioned in my former letter cannot, in such a county as Lancashire, where, in both Parties, there are plenty of fit men possessed of the requisite qualification, be regarded as accidental. It must, therefore, apparently be ascribed to the action of the local Benches, the Tory majorities in which seem (with one or two exceptions) to have been in the habit of recommending to your Lordship their own political friends and associates, prolonging and increasing by this method of co-optation the disparity referred to. Thus the appointments, whatever the cause, have, in point of fact, had a strong political colour; and I regret to notice that your Lordship does not appear to recognise the injury to the Bench which that colour cannot but involve. The Lord Lieutenant had stated over and over again that he had never made political appointments. I sat on the Bench for many years, and the question which the Lord Lieutenant always asked before making appointments was, "Are the Magistrates wanted?" I would ask, Who are more likely to know whether they are wanted or not than those who perform the actual work of the day? The Lord Lieutenant does not take the names that are sent by the local Bench without making strict inquiry in order to see whether, in his judgment, the gentlemen suggested are tit for the Bench or not. The Chancellor of the Duchy had no right to pen such a letter to the Lord Lieutenant, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's action in the case of Lancashire may be reversed, because the present system has tended not only to the excellent, manner in which the duties of the Bench have been performed, but to the exclusion of political feeling from the body of Magistrates themselves. I think I have shown your Lordships what the effect of introducing political opinions has been in the old time in the County of Lancaster, and I take that as an example of what must happen if the Lord Chancellor should follow the practice he has suggested—that is to say, that memorial after memorial will come to him from political Parties, and he will find himself in the greatest difficulty when he comes to make appointments not recommended to him by the Lords Lieutenant.


said, the fact that he was to be handed down to posterity by Mr. Bryce as the black sheep of Lords Lieutenant only concerned himself and that right hon. Gentleman, and he would not occupy time by referring to any personal grievance; but the step which has been taken by the Chancellor of the Duchy was a most serious matter for Lancashire; it was far too serious a matter ever to have been dealt with as a Departmental question at the Duchy Office by a Minister of a few months' standing. It ought to have been fully considered, and every Member of the Cabinet made responsible for so great a change. The Memorandum of 1870 transferred the power of nominating Lancashire County Justices from the Chancellor of the Duchy to the Lord Lieutenant. This transference was approved and sanctioned by the Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone; it was backed by Lancashire's great leader and statesman, Lord Derby, who then led the Opposition in this House; it was originated by Lord Winmarleigh, far better known as Colonel Wilson Patten, who for upwards of 50 years was connected with everything that concerned the interests and well-being of Lancashire, and who was most justly respected by all classes, and by men of all political parties; it was also approved by the noble Earl who for so many years led the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House. It is hardly right for Mr. Bryce to say that this Memorandum rests only upon a voluntary concession of one of his predecessors, and it was intended to place Lancashire permanently on the same footing as other districts with reference to the appointment of Magistrates. The Chancellor of the Duchy would have acted more wisely and far more fairly to Lancashire if he had waited and followed the Lord Chancellor in any changes which it might be thought desirable to make. There were other portions of the country where the supporters of the Government were in a minority on the County Bench. The Chancellor of the Duchy asked him to nominate 39 County Justices, not because additional Justices were needed in any division of the county, not because there had been any irregularity in the attendance of the existing Justices, not because there had been maladministration of justice, but simply because the right hon. Gentleman had been informed that among the Lancashire Justices there were few supporters of the Government. In the Memorial an accusation was made that he was abusing a great trust. A more false, a more indefensible statement, could not well be made. During the 35 years of his Lord Lieutenancy he had never made a single appointment on political grounds, and since 1870 he had never nominated or refused to nominate a County Justice on political grounds. He did not think any noble Lord would say that if he had occupied a similar position he would have complied with the Chancellor of the Duchy's request, and he doubted very much whether the right hon. Gentleman himself ever imagined for one moment that he would lend himself to such a transaction. Mr. Bryce's letter was a courteously worded, but formal notice to quit. It might be possible to find or create some better authority than the Lord Lieutenant for the appointment of Magistrates; it might be desirable to do away entirely with the "great unpaid" and to appoint Stipendiary Magistrates in every Petty Sessional Division; but surely it was undesirable that the appointments to the Lancashire County Bench should again be used for political purposes as undoubtedly they were before 1870. Many appointments were at that time made on the recommendation of Political Agents and of the Whips of the Party in power. A seat on the County Bench, or, rather, the right to place the letters "J.P." after the name, was given away right and left as the reward for past services or the promises of future support. A Chancellor of the Duchy in one of Lord Derby's Administrations was stated to have created as many County Magistrates as he had been days in Office; his successor lost no time in liberally qualifying those appointments. It was said there were as many County Magis- trates as county police. Was it desirable that these appointments should be used for political purposes? The power of nomination was granted to him by Mr. Gladstone in 1870 virtually on the condition that it was not to be used for political purposes. That power had now been taken away in 1893 by the same Prime Minister, because he had refused to make these 39 political appointments. He admitted willingly that three months ago Mr. Gladstone knew nothing of Mr. Bryce's proceedings, but since then the question had been raised in the other House. Mr. Gladstone was present; he took no part in the discussion; silence gave consent. He missed that evening the assistance—and Lancashire will miss the advocacy—of the noble Earl who so lately led the Liberal Unionist Party in their Lordships' House. Lord Derby had been Chairman of Quarter Sessions in Lancashire for many years. That noble Lord knew Lancashire well, and noble Lords on both sides would admit that no bettor opinion and higher authority could be quoted on a subject of this kind. In Lord Derby's last letter to him—probably the last letter the noble Earl ever wrote, or, rather, dictated on any county or public question—he condemned the course taken by Mr. Bryce. All who had appointments in their gift, all who had responsibilities so often and so erroneously called "patronage" occasionally made mistakes which unfortunately it was not in their power to correct. He claimed no exemption to that rule. Mr. Bryce had made a very grave mistake in this matter, of which by this time he must be perfectly well aware; but was it too late for the right, hon. Gentleman to admit and correct that, mistake? He appealed to his noble Friend the Leader of the House—he appealed to the noble Lords who sat beside him—to use their influence with their Colleague to induce him to replace the Memorandum of 1870 on the table of the Duchy Office, and so prevent a very great wrong being done to a great county.


My Lords, I do not, wish to detain your Lordships for more than a very few minutes: but having for some years had the honour of filling the position now so worthily occupied by my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, I should like to speak of my experience on this subject. The noble Marquess (Lord Ripon) rightly said that the practice as to the appointment of Borough Magistrates is different from that in regard to County Magistrates; and I venture to say that there was no more difficult or unsatisfactory part of the duty of the Lord Chancellor in my time than that which related to the appointment of Borough Magistrates. There was constant pressure to obtain appointments for every reason except the fitness of the persons recommended for the performance of judicial duties, and most especially for political reasons. One manifest, evil is the constant tendency to an undue increase in the number of Magistrates. I found, in consulting the Borough Bench and the Municipal Authorities, as I was in the habit of doing, no indisposition to give information as to objections to particular names when not recommended by themselves, but at the same time to suggest a long list of their own, which had to be sifted in the same way; and it was my experience that if there was a man objected to on substantial grounds of unfitness, that was the man for whose appointment the greatest pressure was generally used by the parties who brought him forward. In the counties, on the other hand, the Lord Chancellor was saved from all those difficulties by the practice of receiving the recommendations of the Lords Lieutenant. Only twice during the time when I held the office was any complaint made of exclusion by any Lords Lieutenant either of classes or of persons in any county. One of those complaints was made immediately after a General Election by a defeated Liberal candidate; but no facts were brought forward to justify the complaint; and the Lord Lieutenant assured me that he never excluded any man or recommended any man for sectarian or political reasons. I quite agree that, no man should be appointed to such an office except with the view to the proper administration of justice, and certainly no man otherwise fitted by character and education should be excluded for sectarian or political reasons. If any Lord Chancellor had reason to believe that there was ground for inquiry he would make it, and would certainly not be content to follow the judgment of the Lord Lieutenant if, upon making that inquiry, he found that the Lord Lieutenant had acted upon any wrong principle of exclusion. The only other complaint made to me was as to a particular individual, to whom, as far as I know, there was no objection, except that, in seeking the honour which he desired, he had not conducted himself with perfect discretion. I inquired into that case; but the Lord Lieutenant satisfied me that there were grounds which warranted him in not recommending that gentleman. Those were the only instances of complaints of the manner in which the Lords Lieutenant did their duty made in my time. I quite agree with the noble Marquess that the fact of this being a long-existing practice would be no reason for its continuance, if justice would be likely to be better administered by a departure from it; but I am thoroughy convinced that the contrary is the case, and that there will be pressure brought to bear, which the Lord Chancellor will find it most difficult, if not impossible, to resist, on Party grounds, for making appointments which are not necessary to be made for the proper administration of justice, and which, when made, will not be conducive to the administration of justice. There are many bad ways of appointing Judges and Magistrates; election is one of them; but Party nomination is worse.


My Lords, my noble Friend who spoke last but one (the Earl of Sefton) made an appeal to me, and I gather from what he said that he was under the impression that Mr. Gladstone and his Colleagues were not responsible for the course taken by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Now, I beg to assure him, whether right or wrong, the Prime Minister and the rest of his Colleagues are entirely responsible, with Mr. Bryce, for the course he has taken. The matter was considered before Mr. Bryce proceeded in it, and the course taken was approved of by his Colleagues. Having said that, before I proceed any further I wish to express my sense of the extremely temperate and fair manner in which my noble Friend made his statement. He might naturally feel personal irritation with the course taken with regard to the county of which he is Lord Lieutenant; but while he expressed clearly and strongly his view of the situation, he showed that he could rise superior to all personal considerations and that he based the matter entirely on broad public grounds. In his letter to the Lord Lieutenant on the 18th January, in reference to Lancaster, Mr. Bryce, after describing the state of things with regard to the local Bench as deplorable and prejudicial to the confidence of the people in the administration of justice—the people being about equally divided between the two Parties, and the Magistrates being drawn, to a large extent, from one Party—added— Your Lordship will, I trust, agree with me that this is a real evil which it is desirable to remedy. Now, unfortunately, my noble Friend did not agree with Mr. Bryce, and I am myself rather surprised that he did not agree with him. If he had, no doubt he would have taken steps to remedy this undoubted evil. It is all very well to say that they must appoint fit men; no one will dispute that: but if you shake the confidence of the people in an institution, that institution will inevitably be doomed; and I warn noble Lords that it is my opinion if that confidence is forfeited the whole institution of Unpaid Magistrates will be seriously endangered. That being the case, we must look a little further, and see that the authority of the Bench is not disparaged by appointing Magistrates at variance in political opinions with large masses of the population. It is no use your saying that the people ought not to be dissatisfied—that may or may not be the case. It may be that there ought to be perfect confidence in the Magistrates. I have the honour to be a Justice of the Peace, and I believe the Justices of the Peace do their duty honourably and fairly. I never agree with those disparaging comparisons which are made between the Unpaid Magistrates and the Stipendiary Magistrates in this country. Except upon the point of legal knowledge, the conduct of the great majority of Unpaid Magistrates compares perfectly well with that of the Stipendiaries; but as I said before, they must command the general confidence of the population. I say that the existing state of things is such that confidence is impaired. I regret it not merely because there happens to be this disparity in regard to political opinion, but because I think it unfortunate that there should be a change in the system of appointing the Magistrates. It was far better that the thing should have gone on as before, the Lords Lieutenant making recommendations and the Lord Chancellor, if he thought proper, adopting them. There is, I think, great danger if any Representative of the Government of the day, however upright or impartial he may be, is to interfere in this matter. It seems to me that there may be possibly appointments made with too much regard to political opinions; and that, even if that is not the case, the Lord Chancellor of the day may be accused of having taken that course. On the other hand, it is evident that there is an evil to be redressed, and I do not know of any way in which it can be redressed except that which has been adopted. It has been admitted by my noble and learned Friend, Lord Selborne, that interference might be justifiable, because it appears he thought it his duty, when representations were made to him, as Lord Chancellor, that there had been an exclusion of certain persons from the Bench on the ground of political opinions, to make a representation to the Lord Lieutenant and to investigate the case, and, if there had been truth in the allegations made, he, as Lord Chancellor, would no doubt have interfered to redress what he considered to be an evil. That shows that, in the opinion of the noble and learned Lord, there might be cases in which the Lord Chancellor would be called upon to interfere. Now we have a case upon a large scale—it is a question not of a few only, but of a very large number. In my own County of Norfolk the Lord Lieutenant was a Liberal and is now a Liberal Unionist, and a fairer man than Lord Leicester I am sure does not exist. There are over 200 Magistrates in the county, and I am informed that only 15 belong to the same Party as myself. I perfectly admit yon could not make a complete balance in a county like Norfolk; but in Lancashire it is different. I admit that in my own county, with so large a disparity, it is not possible to restore the balance completely. There are not in Norfolk, as there are in Lancashire, a large number of men well qualified to be Magistrates who hold the same opinions as the present Government. The disparity arises in most cases from the custom of Lords Lieutenant to take what appears to be a fair course by consulting the Magistrates of Petty Sessional Divisions. Those Magistrates are already a majority of one section; it is only natural that they, when they are asked to nominate, should recommend their own friends. In that way it has happened that a Lord Lieutenant may not really have exercised his own judgment and discretion, but has accepted the names which have been sent to him. That is, no doubt, why you find such great disparities in some counties; and where they exist it is wise and politic on the part of the Lord Lieutenant deliberately to take into account the state of political opinion in the county and to endeavour to find fit and proper persons to strengthen the minority on the Bench. It is, I maintain, the duty of Lords Lieutenant to select fit and proper persons, having due regard to the state of opinion in the county and the representation of that opinion on the Bench. I think it will be admitted that in doing that they would be doing what was fair, wise, and desirable; and that is all that the noble Lord on the Woolsack desires to do. The only principle to be laid down is that you should, as far as possible, maintain a fair balance. If there is not a sufficient number of Conservatives on any Bench the noble and learned Lord would, I am sure, regard it just as much his duty to suggest that Conservatives should be added as he does now to suggest that Liberals should be added to the County Benches. That is the reason why the Government could not vote against the Resolution, because they deny altogether that they have disturbed the existing usage for the purpose of placing on the Bench Magistrates of their own political opinions. Since the disruption of the Liberal Party in 1886 I am informed that, of the new Magistrates in Lancashire, 80 per cent, support the present Opposition and 20 per cent. the present Government. If that is correct the disproportion to the state of political Parties is so marked that it is not at all surprising it provokes criticism. I sincerely trust that this will not be made a question of Party politics. The only way in which you can keep it out of the region of Party politics is by the Justices, who are in a majority as regards their politics, taking care that in their recommendations to the Lords Lieutenant there shall be no exclusion from the Bench of any one on account of political opinion or social position. If you will take care that there is a fair distribution of appointments you may bring about, I do not say a perfect balance—I do not believe that to be possible—but a redress of existing disparities. If you show a willingness to make a fair use of the advantageous position you hold and allow a sufficient number of Liberals to be on the Bench, you will not find this matter becoming one of Party politics; but if you do not do this, it will become a question of Party politics whether you like it or not, and it may be dealt with in a way that will be extremely distasteful to you and disadvantageous to the whole institution.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words on the remarks just made by the Leader of the House. He appeared to rest his justification of the action of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster upon the assertion contained in the right hon. Gentleman's letter to the Lord Lieutenant, that the composition of the Bench in Lancashire impairs public confidence in the administration of justice. I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Duchy made the statement repeated by the noble Earl; but I want to know upon what foundation the statement rests? I can only say that, if that want of confidence in the administration of justice does exist, its existence is only of very recent growth. For a very long period, with certain intervals, I had the honour of being one of the Liberal Representatives of Lancashire. I can safely say that, during the whole of my experience in that capacity, I never heard a word suggesting want of confidence in the impartiality of the Lancashire Bench on the ground that has been taken by my noble Friend. I have, as a Lancashire Representative, been exposed from time to time to rather pressing solicitations from some of my friends to urge the claims of certain gentlemen for appointment to the Lancashire Bench; but the pressure was applied to me solely and avowedly on political grounds. The appointment of such-and-such an individual to the Bench has been pressed upon me simply as a reward for political services. It has never been suggested to me that there existed in the county any sort of want of confidence in the administration of justice on account of the political one-sidedness of the Bench. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy relies for support of his assertion upon the Memorials which have been presented to him. We have a specimen of one of these Memorials, which is actuated evidently by nothing whatever except strong Party feeling. If this action is justified, in the opinion of the Chancellor of the Duchy, on the ground that want of confidence exists in the administration of justice in Lancashire in present circumstances, he has entirely failed to point out how that confidence is going to be created, or how any confidence is going to be maintained, if we are to revert to the system of appointing Magistrates which has been described in so much detail by the noble Lord opposite this evening. Does the noble Earl really imagine that more confidence will be felt in the administration of justice by Magistrates who are appointed in batches, before or after each General Election, avowedly as a reward for political services, than is felt in the administration of justice by a Bench composed as it now is? I think it is very fortunate that we should have had placed before us so clearly and distinctly as has been done in the course of this discussion what will be the probable results of a general change in the system of appointment to the County Bench as exemplified so clearly to us by what has taken place in Lancashire. I am glad the House and the country have had this opportunity of seeing an example of what is in store for every other county of the United Kingdom. I understand it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to divide the House upon this Motion. The noble Marquess who spoke first left that point in doubt; but I understand from what has fallen from the noble Earl it is not his intention to divide. But I hope that this Debate will not close before we have an opportunity of hearing from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack what is the action which he intends to take in consequence of the Resolution passed by the other House on his own invitation. I do not deny that this is not only an important, but a very difficult problem. I do not assert that the composition of the Bench is in all cases satisfactory; but I do not think the speeches which have been made from the Ministerial Bench altogether show that the difficulties of the situation are adequately appreciated by Her Majesty's Ministers. Much has been said about the preponderance of certain political opinions on the Bench. I doubt very much whether that is a very serious evil. Up to the present time I have never come across anyone who felt a want of confidence in the administration of justice at Petty Sessions by the Magistrates on account of their political opinions. But if it be an evil, it cannot be remedied by changing the system of appointment so long as the practice is maintained of selecting as Magistrates gentlemen of a certain social position. So long as that practice is maintained, it is absolutely impossible to redress the disparity which no doubt exists under present circumstances in regard to political opinions upon that Bench. For myself, I would—and I think a great many other Lords Lieutenant of counties would—regard with a perfectly impartial and open mind any proposal for a change of system in looking for Magistrates from classes somewhat different from those from whom they have hitherto been selected. But I do object to recommend persons as Magistrates because they happen to be Liberals, when I should not fool justified in selecting them if they were Conservatives or Liberal Unionists. I am not at all convinced that it may not be possible to find many persons outside the ranks of county gentlemen or successful manufacturers who would with perfect fairness and intelligence discharge the duties of County Magistrates. The only difficulty would be to get persons who would have the necessary qualifications. It is not always possible to find men with the necessary qualifications in the social position from which Magistrates are now chosen, and, of course, the difficulty would be immensely aggravated if the inquiry had to be made among men who were less conspicuously before the public eye. I confess, myself, if I were to look to the appointment of persons from other classes, I think the difficulty which I should encounter in obtaining the necessary information would be considerable, and I cannot conceive how the Lord Chancellor or any other authority could obtain more accurate information. The difficulty is to abolish the property qualification, and certainly, if it is the opinion of Parliament—and Parliament has the means of expressing its opinion on the subject—that the property qualification should be abolished, I should be prepared to do my best to meet that expression of opinion so legitimately made. But I should decline, under any circumstances, to act upon a Memorial emanating from political friends, or promoted solely by political Parties, and to take on trust qualifications which I had no means of satisfying myself were possessed by the persons so recommended. In the course of the Debate we have not yet succeeded in obtaining a clear and distinct intimation whether it is the intention of the Lord Chancellor to imitate the action of the Chancellor of the Duchy, and whether be intends to supersede the Lords Lieutenant in the discharge of their duties, and undertake to remedy the existing disparity by a series of appointments made upon political grounds only. My noble Friend, Earl Cowper, expressed his opinion that the Lords Lieutenant ought, whatever action may be taken by Her Majesty's Government, to give their best assistance in the selection of County Magistrates.


I did not mean to say whatever action might be taken. I only meant under certain circumstances. I do honestly believe the present Lord Chancellor would endeavour, as far as he could, to stem political jobbery.


I do not wish to express any final or conclusive opinion as to what the action of Lords Lieutenant ought to be in such a case. But I doubt very much whether it would be to the public advantage that we should continue to share the duties and responsibilities of making these selections between ourselves and the Government. I do not think that the power of recommending to the Bench as now proposed is one that will be agreeable to the country. As far as my experience goes, the power of appointment is one which involves a great deal of trouble, and it is in some cases an invidious one. I am willing, so long as the present mode of appointment prevails, to do my best to make suitable selections; but if it be the opinion of Her Majesty's Government and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that the present system is not conducive to the public advantage, and docs not secure general confidence in the administration of justice, it is absolutely within their own power to put an end to it, and to undertake the duty and also the responsibility of making the selections. I doubt very much whether we should interfere with that responsibility, and I am very much inclined to say—though I do so without consultation with any one of my friends—that, if the Government should think it necessary on their own responsibility to remedy the political disparity which they think so great an evil, we should not continue to exercise any power of selection or to incur any responsibility whatever in the matter.


, speaking as a sort of double-ban-el led Lord Lieutenant, said his own practice had been to make the necessary inquiries into the fitness of candidates for the post of County Magistrate, and, having done so, bad deferred to the opinion of the local Benches. He ventured to think that so long as the present mode of selection continued, where there was a large preponderance of one political side upon the Benches, politics must unconsciously have a great effect on those appointments. He felt convinced that there was a considerable body of the public who were not satisfied, and he was not satisfied himself, with the large and preponderating representation of the Conservative Party in politics on the Bench. He believed that character and intelligence wore not confined to one Party in the State. He thought it very desirable that the House and the country should know what the Government proposed to do in the matter, and whether the Lord Chancellor intended to adhere to the declarations he had made, especially to the statement he made on April 21, in answer to the Duke of St. Albans in that House, that nothing would induce him to refrain from consulting the Lords Lieutenant on these appointments.


My Lords, I doubt whether the discussion which has taken place to-night will tend altogether to allay that dissatisfaction which, in spite of all that has been said, I am satisfied does exist among a con- siderable class of the community in many parts of the country with the present system of appointing Magistrates and with the appointments that have been made. Several Lords Lieutenant have spoken of the knowledge which they have in their own particular counties, but I think your Lordships must admit that one who fills my position, and who for several months has been forced to make careful inquiries into the matter, is likely to have a more extended knowledge of the state of things in the counties of England, Scotland, and Wales than any of the noble Lords who have addressed you. When it is said that no dissatisfaction exists, all I can say is that I am constantly receiving expressions of dissatisfaction, and not from persons who expect appointment themselves—independent complaints of the present state of things in many counties which I think, in the existing circumstances, are only natural. I have said that I doubt whether this discussion will allay that dissatisfaction, because it seems to me that the noble Lords who have spoken appear to regard it as a matter of not the slightest moment or importance that the great majority of the Magistrates should be on one side in politics, while the great majority of the people among whom they officiate are of the opposite opinion. The noble Duke who has just spoken has not indicated that he shares that view; I refer to most of the other noble Lords who have addressed you. The majority of the Magistrates share the political views of those noble Lords, but I feel sure those noble Lords would not dream of being satisfied with a system in which the majority of the Magistrates held political views contrary to their own. It is easy enough for those whose political views are shared by the vast majority of the Magistrates in the country to be perfectly satisfied with the existing system, and it may be natural that they should complain of the action of those who are not satisfied. But, in my opinion, the dissatisfaction which prevails is perfectly natural and reasonable, and I maintain that so long as the Bench is largely filled by men of one political Party that dissatisfaction will continue. It is not necessary or desirable for the administration of justice that such a state of things should exist. The question is not whether the prisoners tried by the Bench are satisfied or not; all prisoners, if convicted, would probably be dissatisfied with the Bench, whoever tried them; but what is desirable is that the general mass of the people should believe that justice is fairly and equitably administered. I have received communications which have satisfied me that that is not now the case in some parts of the country. I maintain, therefore, that a fair distribution and representation of Party politics on the Bench is desirable in the interests of the administration of justice. Any action of mine in appointing to the Bench men who may happen to share my own political opinions will not be taken because they hold the same views as myself, but because I think that a fair and proper representation of political opinion is expedient, and if the same state of things in any county were to exist with regard to the Conservatives as now exists with regard to the Liberals, I should appoint Conservatives for the same reason. I should deal equally with both Parties. It has been suggested that the difficulty has only arisen on account of the split in the Liberal Party six years ago. I do not doubt that the complaints have become greater and the feeling stronger than they were before; but I attribute that largely to the action of Local Government in the counties and the large number of persons who have been brought into public life who never took part in it before; and there has been a strong opinion expressed that many men who have shown themselves to be efficient public servants in the County Councils would render equally good service on the Bench. Noble Lords are mistaken if they imagine for a moment that this feeling is confined to Liberals. I have had communications from Conservatives on the subject, and they have represented to me that excellent men of the description I have mentioned have been kept off the Bench by the Lords Lieutenant. I will call attention to a few figures without mentioning the names of the counties. In one county there are on the Bench 140 Conservatives, 20 Liberal Unionists, and 23 Liberals.


Would the noble and learned Lord inform us from what source he obtains his information?


I have tried to get it as accurately as I can, and I believe it to be as nearly correct as can be. I do not, of course, give it as absolutely accurate. But I may say that I have thoroughly verified at least some of these figures, and I am satisfied they may be relied upon. In another county there are 213 Conservatives, 21 Liberal Unionists, and 12 Liberals; in a third county 203 Conservatives, eight Liberal Unionists, and seven Liberals; and in a fourth 120 Conservatives, 21 Liberal Unionists, and three Liberals, and this last county is one in which the majority of the electors voted for Liberal candidates at the last General Election. It is not only natural but inevitable that dissatisfaction should prevail under such circumstances. I do not believe, from information that has come to my knowledge, that there would be any departure from the usage—which, it is said, prevailed for centuries—if the Lord Chancellor, after communicating with the Lord Lieutenant to suggest names, and the Lord Lieutenant cannot give any sufficient reason for refusing to put men on the Bench, should put them on himself. It is somewhat difficult to find out what has been done by my predecessors, for there are no records in the office. But I have lately seen a correspondence which passed in 1835 between the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Plunket, who was then Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the following passage, because it refers to what was the practice in this country as well as in Ireland:— I think it necessary to add," Lord Plunket said, "that where after communication has been made on the subject the Lord Lieutenant of a county refuses to give sanction to an appointment of a Magistrate recommended to the Lord Chancellor, I consider it the right and duty of the Lord Chancellor, if he is of opinion that there is no sufficient reason for withholding such appointment, to make the appointment on his own responsibility, and that such has been the avowed opinion and practice of the persons holding the Great Seal both in England and this country. It is evident from that that it has been the practice for the Lord Chancellor to suggest names for Magistrates to the Lord Lieutenant; and if the Lord Lieutenant gave no sufficient reason, then for the Lord Chancellor to appoint them, notwithstanding that the Lord Lieutenant refused to sanction the appointment. Therefore, so far from departing from the ancient usage in this matter, it appears to me that I am really asked to return to the ancient usage. I have no doubt that the habit of leaving the matter to the Lord Lieutenant is a modern usage, and I am very strongly confirmed in that opinion by the statement to which I have just called your Lordships' attention. The noble Duke who moved this Resolution and others have asked what course I propose to pursue, and upon that point I should like to call your Lordships' attention to one or two matters which have occurred in the course of the Debate. I think it was the noble Earl (Earl Cowper) who deprecated the introduction of politics into the appointment of Magistrates. I believe it to be an absolute delusion to suppose that politics have been excluded from these appointments. I am satisfied that politics have played a very considerable part in the appointment of Magistrates in many parts of the country. In saying this I am not necessarily in the slightest degree attacking any particular Lord Lieutenant, even when I refer to a county where they may have taken place. I say it for this reason. On what does a Lord Lieutenant act in making his representation to the Lord Chancellor? Of course, he does not in every case—and in a large district it would be impossible for him to do so—personally come into contact with everybody who is fit to be upon the Bench. Well, he gets his information from somebody. He largely gets it from the different County Benches. The occupants of the seats on a Bench do not cease to be politicians when they get there, and some of them are very active politicians. The truth is, that you cannot keep politics from being introduced; and unless you open your eyes to the question of politics, and if you take your advice and your information from those of your own political views, unless you make inquiry into the matter, you will inevitably and assuredly introduce politics into the Bench from the very fact of shutting your eyes to any such question. I have information before me which satisfies me that politics have frequently been introduced into these appointments. I think your Lordships will understand that politics have been introduced when you find that a gentleman who has been recognised as one who ought to have been on the Bench, and yet, nevertheless, had not found his way there—when you find one who for many years has occupied precisely the same position, but whose political views are not what they were a few years ago, and who, immediately after his change of political views, gets on to the Bench without any other changes in his circumstances—it is very hard to resist the conviction that the two circumstances had something to do with each other. Again, local Benches may sometimes say that no addition is wanted to their numbers, and the Lord Lieutenant acts upon that view. It is easy for a local Bench, when an appointment is likely not to be politically acceptable, to say that no appointment is necessary. If that is to stay the Lord Lieutenant's hands, it is a very strong political engine to use, because I have had brought home to my satisfaction frequently cases in which the local Bench has said there was no need of any need of any new Magistrates when there was a very considerable need of them, and when very grave complaints had been made quite apart from politics, from both sides, that there were not sufficient Magistrates. Therefore, Lords Lieutenant would often merely be playing into the hands of political partisans if they accepted absolutely the opinion of those who are sitting on the Benches for particular places that no more Magistrates are wanted. All I say is that the effect of the existing system has been to produce this great political preponderance, and I believe in many cases in which that has happened it has not been intended by the Lords Lieutenant, but has resulted in the manner I have suggested, and it is very natural that it should so result. The Lord Lieutenant should take into account somewhat, in considering what might or might not be the effect of his appointment, the political opinion of the county with which he is dealing and the state of the Bench there. I do not say that there should be an exact reproduction of the proportion between the political opinions of the population in any county; but that is a very different thing from saying that it is in the interests of justice to make or to maintain that preponderance of opinion on the Bench which now exists. A great deal has been said about political pressure and about the vast number of Magistrates that the Lord Chancellor will be pressed to appoint. I am thankful to say that I have not experienced that pressure, and that down to the present time the number suggested to me has been most reasonable. I am, however, satisfied that in most counties a very moderate additional appointment would allay the popular discontent. I have endeavoured to make this moderate addition, and have been taken to task for doing what I believe to be no more than my duty. It seems to me that the Lord Chancellor, being responsible for these appointments, is responsible for the effect of these appointments upon the administration of justice in these particular localities, and that he cannot get rid of that responsibility by sheltering himself behind the Lord Lieutenant. I have not undertaken this duty with any sense of satisfaction, or of the pleasure which it would give me to perform it. It would have saved me a vast amount of trouble, responsibility, and annoyance if I had not to perform this duty; but if I had not done it I should have been shirking the obligation laid upon me. As I have said, it was my duty to communicate with certain Lords Lieutenant on the subject, and there are some of them who have not had the courtesy to acknowledge my communications. I put it to your Lordships whether it is altogether a satisfactory state of things that when one who is responsible for the administration of justice in the counties communicates with gentlemen in, I hope, a perfectly courteous manner he should not even get a civil acknowledgment that his communication has been received? I have been asked how I propose to proceed. Wherever it is possible to do so; wherever I think that what is fairly necessary can be done in that way, I desire to proceed in concert with the Lords Lieutenant by asking them to consider the recommendations that are made to me, and to give me such information as they can upon the subject, and to endeavour, in concert with me, to allay the dissatisfaction that prevails. Where that does not succeed; where I think that, notwithstanding my communication to a Lord Lieutenant, and notwithstanding his communication to me, it is impossible to bring about a state of things which does not justly give cause for complaint, then it appears to me that it will be my duty to act. It has been said that the Lord Chancellor ought only to act if he is satisfied that a Lord Lieutenant excludes from the County Bench either on sectarian or political grounds. There is nothing more difficult to prove than a case of that kind. I am satisfied that there are cases in which sectarian considerations have prevailed, and that those who ought to have been on the Bench, and would, otherwise have been on the Bench, have not found their way there on that account. I shall certainly act with a sense of the enormous difficulty and responsibility that has been laid upon me in carrying out the Resolution which has been passed; but I think the noble Earl (Earl Cowper) is mistaken in saying that in the speech which I made in answer to the deputation I expressed satisfaction with the present state of affairs. I had hoped to find more readiness among Lords Lieutenant to act in concert with me without any Resolution or any extraordinary action at all. If all Lords Lieutenant had been as ready to take the same course in all cases as I have found some were willing and ready to take—many of them my political opponents—I believe it might not have been necessary to make any change in the state of things that prevails. But I have not found this to be the case. Lords Lieutenant can, of course, act as they think right; but I regret what the noble Duke (the Duke of Devonshire) said that as a Lord Lieutenant he should think it right to fill that office, and yet withhold from the Lord Chancellor, who is responsible, such information and assistance as he could give by answering inquiries made to him as to the qualification and fitness of the persons recommended. I hope the noble Duke will reconsider his determination.


The noble and learned Lord has misunderstood what I said. The opinion I expressed was, I said, not a final and conclusive one; but that if the Lord Chancellor, after communication with the Lord Lieutenant of the county, should think fit to make the appointment which he declined to recommend it is very doubtful to me whether it would be wise or to the public advantage for the Lord Lieutenant, whose advice had been dis- regarded, to continue to exercise a divided responsibility.


After what I have read, showing that it is certainly in accordance with the practice of the office which I hold to communicate with the Lord Lieutenant, and if the Lord Lieutenant did not sanction the recommendation made by the Lord Chancellor, or should give no sufficient reason, and the Lord Chancellor should afterwards appoint the person nominated to the Magistracy, it seems to me that it would be a serious question for the Lord Lieutenant to consider whether, if he declined thereafter to take any part in the appointment of Magistrates, it would not be his duty to resign his office as Lord Lieutenant. I can assure any Lords Lieutenant who maybe willing to render assistance in considering or communicating with me with reference to the names of candidates that I shall, of course, have every desire to accede to the views which they may suggest as to the unfitness or otherwise of any person recommended. Nothing would be more undesirable than that a Lord Chancellor should add to the Magistracy those against whom a strong opinion was entertained; but, on the other hand, I wish to say that in no case would I take that course unless I believed there were some Lords Lieutenant who most unreasonably objected to make additions to the Bench which would make its constitution more fair than at present. Social influences I have no doubt may to a certain extent prevail; and although the present qualification does something in the direction of limiting the area within which Magistrates may be chosen, there are many who might be placed on the Bench who possess the necessary qualifications and whose names have been suggested to me. I am not speaking of the unqualified, but of the qualified, who are in many cases not on the Bench, but who, from my own knowledge, I think it is desirable should be there. I am conscious of the enormous difficulty of dealing with the question. I admit at once that the transfer from the Lord Lieutenant to the Lord Chancellor of the entire responsibility of manning the Bench would not be satisfactory. I am aware that the difficulty of the Lord Lieutenant in a particular county is great in ascertaining whether the names pre- sented are those of fit persons or not; but the difficulty of the Lord Chancellor in dealing with all the counties of England, Scotland, and Wales is infinitely greater. If, however, he has the assistance of those who know the county thoroughly in such a matter there would be less liability of making mistakes; and the Lord Chancellor would be perfectly mad if he relied entirely on wirepullers and political agents. If I were to man the Bench solely on the recommendations of the politicians in counties, I should make blunder after blunder. Whatever course may be taken by others, that is not the course I intend to take. I will consider the names submitted to me by political agents, but in the boroughs one does not take nominations from the political agents only. My predecessors have not done so, and I do not intend to do so. Communications are received from a great many persons, but inquiries are made about them and the appointments are sanctioned after the inquiries. In the counties the difficulties are greater. In a borough the person recommended is probably pretty well known to most people; but in a county the same state of things does not exist, and therefore the difficulty is increased. I shall proceed with great caution in this matter. I am afraid that there is not a little anger on the part of those who would wish me to proceed more rapidly than I think I can proceed with safety. I shall do all I can in this matter in concert with the Lords Lieutenant, and if I think it necessary to make appointments without their recommendations it shall be done only after the most rigid inquiry I can make; and I shall do my best to place no one on the Bench, whatever his political opinions, who is not shown to be fit for the position.


, in supporting the Motion, hoped his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack would understand that if he deprecated very much the course it was intended to pursue, he did not do so from any mistrust of the exercise by him of the duty the noble and learned Lord had taken upon himself. He believed that the change which had been introduced was a serious one. However impartial his noble and learned Friend might be he must necessarily be utterly incapable of adequately discharging the duty without being misled to a degree which it was not easy for their Lordships to appreciate. He condemned the interference of the Chancellor of the Duchy, and he thought that great credit was duo to the noble Earl (the Earl of Sefton) for the temperate manner in which he had referred to Mr. Bryce's letter. There was nothing more difficult than to get people in those matters to tell the truth about them. He had been subjected to much animadversion because he had appointed some Tories, and he found on inquiry that one of the so-called Tories was Chairman of the local Liberal Association. He had no doubt his noble and learned Friend would be denounced in a similar manner, whatever he might do in the matter. On one occasion it was brought to his knowledge that serious injury was being caused in the administration of justice because the Lord Lieutenant would not recommend anybody, and after many communications and after waiting a year he himself appointed a whole batch of Magistrates. There was undoubtedly power in the Lord Chancellor to do it. That was a case where politics were not involved at all; it was a case where the Lord Lieutenant manifestly neglected to do his duty. What was now suggested was that the Lords Lieutenant should go through lists of persons who professed political opinions on one side or the other, and then see whether there was a majority on either side. That was a state of things which every one of their Lordships in that Debate had deprecated. Reference had been made to the County of Sussex, where there was a considerable preponderance of Conservative Magistrates, but the two Lords Lieutenant of Sussex for 34 years had been Liberals, and the preponderance of Conservatives in the county pointed to the fact that the class amongst which Magistrates were to be found, and had by law to be found, were Conservative in opinion. If that was so in other counties, as appeared to be the case, what was the reason for this change? The Lord Lieutenant was a permanent officer as custos rotulorum, and it was in that character that his particular jurisdiction existed in the county, but it was now proposed to make these appointments by the political officer of the Government. The Lord Lieutenant's office was not changed with the Ministry. He had no necessary connection with politics. Noble Lords talked of the necessity of consulting public opinion in these matters. No doubt one of the most important things was the respect in which the administration of justice was held by the public. Did they think the Lord Lieutenant would escape criticism and denunciation if he acted in any way wrongly? It was perfectly idle to suppose that the result would not be that every one would say that the appointments were simply the political rewards for political services. He felt this very much, because the door was being opened to place the Lord Chancellor under political pressure, which, however firm he might be, he could not altogether resist. He was surrounded by his political friends, and he could not get his political opponents to come to him. It would come to this, then, that the Lord Chancellor was to rely upon such information as he could get from political agents, aided, if they consented to aid, by the Lords Lieutenant. He doubted whether any Lord Lieutenant, with due respect to himself, would think it part of his duty to communicate with a Lord Chancellor who might accept his opinion or not. It seemed to him that it was a very serious and even fatal step that was being taken, and it left but one alternative—the abolition of the unpaid Magistracy, and the appointment of Stipendiary Magistrates for the purpose of administering justice all over the country. The unpaid Magistrates exercised an enormous amount of good in their several neighbourhoods, and if the changes were made which were suggested we should soon have the administration of justice in this country regarded with as little respect as, unfortunately, it was elsewhere.


I did not like to interrupt my noble and learned Friend, but if he had made a full quotation from the letter of the Chancellor of the Duchy to the Lord Lieutenant he would have seen that it was carefully worded so as so avoid making any imputation on the conduct of the Lord Lieutenant. The Chancellor of the Duchy remarked that the disparity was probably due to the tendency of the existing Magistrates in each locality to recommend for appointment their own personal and political friends. The right hon. Gentleman distinctly refrained from casting any imputations on the Lord Lieutenant. If the state of things described by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) as existing in the county with which he is connected, Sussex, were general throughout England and Scotland, I, for one, should be very much pleased.

Motion agreed to.


Nemine contradicente.