HL Deb 24 May 1939 vol 113 cc211-4

The Appellate Tribunal.

The chairman shall be a person who is or has been a barrister, member of the Faculty of Advocates or solicitor of not less than ten years standing nominated in the case of the division for England by the Lord Chancellor and in the case of the division for Scotland by the Lord President of the Court of Session.

LORD SNELL moved, in the final paragraph of the Schedule, to omit the words "who is or has been a barrister, member of the Faculty of Advocates or solicitor of not less than ten years standing." The noble Lord said: This Amendment seeks to consider the question as to whether it is necessary that a trained lawyer, a barrister or a solicitor, should be the person to preside over this Appellate Tribunal. It is in every way desirable that the chairman of these tribunals should be a person of informed and balanced mind, but he need not of necessity be a trained lawyer, and so far as I know it might be difficult to find a sufficient number of trained lawyers to undertake these duties. For myself I would, of course, prefer a trained lawyer as a chairman, than that the chairman should be a person of narrow and prejudiced mind. If the Lord Chancellor will forgive me, there are quite a number of people who in regard to conscientious objectors have a minimum of knowledge of the workings of the human conscience. As between the two I should prefer a lawyer. Yet, on the other hand, I do not believe you need to restrict this to lawyers, because I believe there are quite a number of people of balanced and impartial mind who would do the work equally well. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 8, leave out from ("person") to ("nominated") in line 10.—(Lord Snell.)


I am happy to say, on behalf of the Government, that this Amendment is agreed to. I would mention that my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury proposed something of the sort when we were discussing this matter before, and I considered very carefully the question whether any such Amendment was desirable, both as regards local tribunals and as regards the Appellate Tribunals. I ascertained that a great many persons thought that in the local tribunals it was desirable there should be a lawyer, and accordingly the clause stands as drawn. The chairman of such a tribunal must be a County Court Judge in the case of England, or a Sheriff or Sheriff-Substitute in Scotland, and on the whole I think the feeling of another place, so far as I have been able to gather it, is favourable to that being left unaltered.

With regard to the Appellate Tribunal, on consideration I am in favour of the view that the persons to be nominated as chairmen of those tribunals should not necessarily be lawyers. The question that will arise before those tribunals is of course not one of law at all, but one of common sense and appreciation, if I may use that much abused word, of psychology. On the whole I can imagine many people, some of them I may say members of this House, who would be better chairmen of that tribunal than any lawyer whose services can be obtained at the present time. The Amendment does not rule out a lawyer, or somebody who has acted as a High Court Judge, if he can be obtained, but it leaves to the Lord Chancellor in England, and the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland, a perfectly free hand in nominating the best persons available in the two countries for carrying out the responsible duties in question. I would only add this, that as the clause originally stood it might be thought to contain a hidden slight on County Court Judges, because it might be thought that County Court Judges and their tribunal—namely, the local tribunal—were going to be overruled by barristers and solicitors of not less than ten years standing, by no means superior in rank or dignity to the chairman of a local tribunal. That apparent slight is removed, incidentally, by the Amendment, and I hope your Lordships will accept it.


I hope your Lordships will allow me to express my thanks to the noble and learned Lord, and also to the noble Lord opposite, for having adopted a suggestion which found its place in some of my observations the other day on the Second Reading. I do feel that the issues submitted to the Appellate Tribunal are not capable of legal definition, and therefore it is wise that the discretion of the Lord Chancellor should be completely unfettered. He may, of course, be able to appoint a first-rate Judge of the type who will not be too much of a legalist, but if not he should be able to appoint a first-rate layman in his place. Of course the argument used applies in a minor degree to the local tribunal, but I am too grateful to the noble and learned Lord to find any fault because he has not extended logically the concession to the lower tribunal. But there no doubt might be difficulty in finding enough competent laymen as chairmen of the lower tribunals. At the same time I hope that perhaps before the Third Reading of the Bill the Government might even reconsider that point. Let me just repeat that I do not suggest that they should never appoint a County Court Judge, but that it should be open to them not to appoint a County Court Judge; they should have that discretion. I do not want to be exigeant as the Frenchmen say in trying to drive a hard bargain, but I ask them to consider whether they would not be happier if there was a complete discretion as to who the chairman should be.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.