HL Deb 10 October 1946 vol 143 cc151-4

2.39 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. This is a Bill to enable young men who aspire to qualify as public notaries to count the time of their national service in this war as part of the period required by law for their apprenticeship, provided that they actually serve as apprentices for not less than two years. The full period is five years outside London, where nearly all the notaries also practise as solicitors, and seven years inside London, where the notaries are required to be members of the Scriveners' Company, becoming experienced in the laws and languages of foreign countries, but they do not practise as solicitors.

The provisions of this Bill follow precedent. After the war of 1914–18 the same concession was made by the Public Notaries (Articled Clerks) Act, 1919, and in this war a corresponding revision has been made for solicitors' articled clerks by Section 3 of the Solicitors (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1940. The functions of a notary public are to a great extent with our overseas trade. They include the drawing up of formal papers particularly relevant to ships and their navigation, as well as the carrying of cargoes of ships. The office of a notary, which is one of great antiquity, is, I believe, recognized in all civilized countries and by the law of nations. The acts of notaries have credit everywhere. A notary has to know the laws and languages of foreign countries. He prepares legal documents for use in other countries and makes authentic translations of foreign legal instruments for use in this country.

Notaries are deliberately restricted as to numbers. The approximate number now practising in England and Wales is 550, and the number of apprentices serving their articles is, at the present time, about l00. Though their numbers are few, the return of men from the Forces has revealed to the Master of the Faculties that a substantial number of apprentices would suffer hardship if admission had to be postponed until the full statutory period of their articles had elapsed. The object of the Bill is to remove that hardship. I need say little about the details of the Bill. Your Lordships will notice some reference to the Master of the Faculties. The office in which by custom or Statute notaries have always been sworn, admitted and enrolled is the Court of Faculties, and, by Statute., the Master of the Faculties is the proper officer for stating that the statutory requirements relating to the admission of notaries are fulfilled. Accordingly, in Clause 2 it is the Master of the Faculties to whom, as in the case of the Act of 1919, discretion is given to relax some of these requirements by reason of war circumstances.

Again, in Clause 3 (c) the definition of "war service" includes: any public service connected with or consequent upon any such war and being of a character approved by the Master of the Faculties. This follows the definition of war service in the Act of 1919, and in subsection (2) it is set out that: Any question whether any person has been engaged in war service for the purposes of this Act, or as to the length of such service, shall be determined by the Master of the Faculties. Similarly, in the Act of 1919 the Master of the Faculties had to be satisfied as to the fact and length of war service.

In one respect there is a departure from the Act of 1919. In that Act there were references to "the present war," and as the war did not finally terminate until 1926, after the Treaties of Peace had been made, the Act was in force for an unnecessarily long time. In this Bill there is, instead, a reference to a period called the "emergency period" which can be terminated by Order in Council at any time; and in choosing a date there will be no need to consider any circumstances except those which affect the purposes of this Bill. In this respect the Bill follows the more recent precedent of the Solicitors (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1940, and the definition of "national service" under that Act has been closely followed in the definition of "war service" in the Bill. In substance, the Bill merely reenacts the Act of 1919, and although this Bill will apply to a mere handful of young men, in that these young men have done service in the war I feel sure that your Lordships in all quarters of the House would desire that the principles of the Bill which we had in 1919 should equally apply at the present time. I beg to move that the Bill be given a Second Reading.

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

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, this matter has been so fully explained by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack that I do not think I need add anything as to the circumstances in which the Bill is put before the House or as to the effect which it will have. As the Lord Chancellor has pointed out, there is ample precedent for a provision of this kind even though, no doubt, it does diminish the period of time available for the tuition of the young men who are going to become, or who hope to become, notaries public. That, of course, is a pity, but all profession, or nearly all professions, have found it necessary to have some such provision as is translated into the language of Clauses 1 and 2 of this Bill. Even barristers, although there is no compulsory period of tuition in their case, have found something of the sort necessary. Barristers are thought to be amply instructed by having to eat dinners in the Inns of Court for some prolonged period, and we of the Inns of Court have thought it proper to regard the period during which the dinners are supposed to be eaten as a period which is almost equally complied with by service to the Crown. Accordingly, we, too, have made some such provision as is made in this Bill. I think that the arrangements set out in the Bill—which I have very carefully considered—are well-worded and proper, and although for a short space of time notaries public in England will not be quite so well trained as they used to be, I think that that is inevitable in the circumstances. I feel that your Lordships will desire at once to give this Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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