HL Deb 20 March 1918 vol 29 cc540-2

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


MY Lords, this Bill, of which I propose the Second Reading, raises two points in connection with intending solicitors. It relates to service under articles, and to the intermediate examination which solicitors have to pass in addition to the final examination. Your Lordships may be aware that the law requires that intend- ing solicitors should serve five years under articles, and that during their service under articles they should not engage in any other employment. There is a power to dispense with that requirement as to no other employment being taken with the permission of the solicitor with whom the clerk is articled, and with the approval of the Master of the Rolls. It has been the practice of the Master of the Rolls to grant his approval in cases where he is satisfied that the other employment would not interfere with the service under the articles.

I am informed that when the war broke out practically all articled clerks applied to the solicitors with whom they were articled for permission to join His Majesty's Forces, and, on application being made to the Master of the Rolls, he said that, as far as he could, he would certainly facilitate this being done. But it is doubtful whether, in conformity with the practice that had prevailed, leave could be given in a case where beyond all question service with the Colours would interfere with service actually the time under the articles. Anyhow, it is highly desirable that there should be some general provision upon the subject in order to prevent hardship from being inflicted upon a class of young men who devoted themselves to the most imperative service of their country.

The first clause of this Bill deals with that point, and it provides that, notwithstanding anything in the Solicitors Acts, any time after August 3, 1914, during which an articled clerk has served in any of His Majesty's Forces or in public service in connection with the war, of a character approved by the Master of the Rolls, or has in consequence of the war been detained as a prisoner, military or civil, in any enemy country, or has been interned in an enemy or a neutral country, shall, if the Law Society are satisfied as to the fact and length of such service, detention, or internment and that the articled clerk has in other respects complied with the Acts, be reckoned as time duly served under his articles for all purposes. I commend that clause to your Lordships' favourable consideration.

The other clause deals with the case of the intermediate examination. An intermediate examination has to be passed by intending solicitors in the course of their training; and, of course, as these young men have been away, and very many of them are away at the present moment, on active service, or otherwise detained in consequence of the war, they cannot go up for their examination in the ordinary course. Therefore, it would be a very great hardship upon them if, when they came back, they found themselves compelled to pass both the intermediate and the final examinations. The final examination, of course, cannot be dispensed with. But the object of the second clause, to which I will call your Lordships' attention, is this. It empowers the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, or either of them, where in circumstances arising out of the present war it is thought fit so to do, to exempt any person from compliance with the enactments and regulations with respect to the intermediate examination, either entirely or partially, and subject to any such conditions as may seem fit. The power to impose conditions will enable the Law Society to secure, by application in the proper quarter, that nothing essential about the examination, such as bookkeeping, is altogether neglected. At the same time, it relieves these persons who have acted in so meritorious a manner of what otherwise would be a very serious burden. I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read 2a.