HL Deb 17 November 1948 vol 159 cc415-74

2.40 p.m.

LORD CALVERLEY rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have studied the Report of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace; also whether they have come to any conclusions; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I put down the Motion which stands in my name partly in the form of a question, and in moving for Papers I do so in the hope that, with the help of your Lordships, we shall ensure that the Report of the Royal Commission on the administration of justice in magistrates' courts, will not be pigeon-holed and forgotten. In fact, we have good grounds for hoping that that will not happen, because His Majesty's Government have already shown that they have been studying the Report and that they propose to introduce a Bill during the present Session. I certainly did not expect the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to devote a part of his holidays to an intensive study of the Report, but evidently he has done so. I am hoping that the debate this afternoon will prove a pleasant sequel to his arduous journeys of the past two or three days, and that it will result as successfully.

My noble friend Lord Templewood, I am glad to say, is introducing a Motion of his own which specially mentions what is generally known as the Roche Report. Therefore, I propose to say very little on that, but will leave it to him and other speakers to enlarge upon the theme of what ought to be done to bring our magistrates' courts, and especially the clerks of those courts, to an even higher state of efficiency than the not unworthy one to which they have already attained. I presume that I was appointed a member of this Commission because I am what is called a working magistrate. As a working magistrate, I have found that a truly learned clerk guides and does not dictate to the magistrates who sit upon the bench.

I propose to say very little about Scotland; hardly anything at all in fact, because I am delighted to see that my colleague, the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, who knows so much about Scottish affairs, is going to speak in this debate. I would only point out to your Lordships that it was a great privilege for the Commission to visit the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, to listen to the witnesses, instead of inviting the witnesses to come down to London to see us. We had an instructive week and it seemed to us who, to our shame, knew not Scotland, that it was a liberal education. In passing—and this I trust will not be out of order—I would say that I was struck by the feeling of remoteness from affairs in Scotland. I hope that our proposals will bring us closer together so far as the administration of justice is concerned; and may I add that I hope to live to see the day when Scotland will have a Parliament of its own?

One of the matters dealt with in the Report is the training of justices of the peace and the holding of examinations. The average person has an aversion to examinations, but certainly a justice of the peace needs training before he takes an active part in the administration of justice. In the court where I sit, we have a golden rule that a new magistrate should sit for six months in silence among his experienced colleagues before playing an active part. I think that is a most salutary rule and is far better than some of the suggestions which were made to us; as, for example, that we should get hold of some tome on the law and study it. I consider that the amateur lawyer is a greater menace to society than the quack doctor. I listened with interest and respectful attention to the leading witness of the Bar Council, who frankly admitted that a barrister studies for a long time—he did not mention anything about the eating of dinners, but I presume student barristers do eat—and went on to express the opinion that a barrister learns his business in court, on the anvil of experience. We should certainly have books of reference, and we should have simple rules of conduct. I think the average magistrate who sits regularly would wish me to express our gratitude to the present Lord Chief Justice for the advice he gives us by his rulings, which we greatly appreciate. Even a High Court Judge is fortified by Archbold, and we are guarded by Stone's Justices' Manual. I noticed that one very gifted lawyer who adorns this House, when his daughter, equally gifted in other directions, was made a magistrate, presented her with Stone's Justices' Manual instead of Mrs. Beeton's Cookery Book—and I hope she enjoyed it.

When we were appointed as justices of the peace, we appreciated that it was a great honour; we now realise it is a great responsibility. The Lord Chancellors who brought into being what is called the Supplemental List, which was also discussed by the Royal Commission, did a great service in allowing a magistrate who was growing old to be put upon that list and retired with honour, instead of being dismissed. I presume that in future, as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, we shall use the Supplemental List more than we have done in the past.

I should also like to refer to the subject of visiting justices which is mentioned in the Report. As a rule, these justices meet ten times a year, and the weekly rota of prison visits is something, I think, not possessed by any other country,. When a visiting justice must visit a prison every week, and any prisoner has the right to speak, without equivocation or mental reservation, it is a great service. During the war, when there were depleted services in our prisons (and they are still over-crowded), the co-operation of the visiting justice did much to preserve morale in our prisons. This fact is mentioned in the Report, and I refer to it now because we recommend that the Home Office should instruct those courts of summary jurisdiction which still do not pay the railway fare of the visiting magistrates to do so. I insist, as a matter of principle, on being paid my shilling when I go—so far, I have not been surcharged! A woman comes from Scarborough, and pays third-class fare of 18s. 9d. That is wrong. There should be no question of anybody appointed by his fellow magistrates not being able to fulfil his duty because he is unable to pay the fare. I trust that this will be brought to the notice of the Home Office as a sadly needed reform.

I now come to the vexed question of the advisory committees. I believe it was Lord Loreburn, Lord Chancellor from December, 1905, for some years, who appointed the James Royal Commission; and the James Royal Commission, I am told, reported in favour of advisory committees. Lord Loreburn refused to appoint a large number of justices (in those days, it meant that they were taken from the Liberal Party), or to pack the benches, or out-balance the benches which were packed in another direction. He was quite right. The advisory committees appointed by him, and succeeding Chancellors, have done a great public service. I believe that when they were first appointed it was from the two Parties, Conservative and Liberal; to-day they are appointed from the three Parties. I want to say, quite frankly, that I disagree with those people who criticise the advisory committees because some people on the advisory committees are politicians, or members of a Party. It is not a vice but a virtue to belong to a Party and to take an active part in politics.

It has been shown that on balance the presence of such people on public bodies, and the work which they perform, is an asset and not a liability to the community. I trust that the present Lord Chancellor, and his successors, will not take notice of the so-called independents who want to be appointed, or who desire to have someone of their own liking appointed on the advisory committees. As a result of the work of Lord Chancellors of the past forty odd years we have a cross-section of the community: we have tinkers, tailors, soldiers, sailors, rich men and poor men—and very few thieves. I have never found political bias while I have been a magistrate, and I am seldom concerned about the politics of the colleagues who sit with me. I am certain that that can be said of all your Lordships who have the honour to be justices of the peace. So these independents have no real grievance.

If I were asked to define what is an independent, I would quote the definition of the noble Lord, Lord Woolton—that an independent is a Conservative who refuses to pay subscription to his Party, but who expects Conservative support when there is an election in order to keep the Labour Party out. Sometimes the independent is a disgruntled person, with a bias against his own colleagues, if he has left his Party; but that is by the way. Where the Lord Chancellor can find such a person, man or woman, I suggest that he or she should be a member of the advisory committee, in addition to the men and women who are appointed at the present time. I say quite confidently that in the main, over the course of years, the advisory committees have been a success. In passing, I would criticise one advisory committee. If the Duke of Wellington were here this afternoon, I would pity him from my heart in having to preside over the congregation of forty-two persons who constitute the advisory committee of the County of London. I say no more on that, because I notice my noble friend Lord Fortescue is taking part in the debate, and he will be able to tell the County Hall, and also the County of London, how to manage their affairs in a better way.

I believe we have slipped up in our Report—we were thinking of the counties—in stating that clerks of the peace should be the secretaries to the county advisory committee. I suggest that in boroughs where there is an advisory committee, the full-time clerk to the justices is the proper person to act as secretary. I wish to say very little on the question of juvenile courts. They are included in the Report, but they are a comparative innovation. They have been successful in fulfilling a most difficult rôle in England and Wales. I would comment only on the matter of ages, and particularly the ages of the chairmen or chairwomen. The spokesman for Scotland, a chief constable, on being asked what type of person he preferred as a chairman of a juvenile court, said: "I prefer a grand-dad to a daddy." In my own town we had a very good chairman, who was a good granddad and chairman at the age of ninety. I would accept Mr. Churchill himself, who is proud to be a grand-dad, as chairman of a juvenile court, instead of Leader of the Opposition. That would be better for the Labour Party—but that is by the way.

The Bar Council advised us to appoint fifty stipendiaries in the country districts to go round every few months to take the chair. What is going to happen amongst the lay magistrates who have any degree of self-respect when the Grand Inquisitor comes along to take the chair? He will not be very welcome. Also, I do not think we can find fifty stipendiaries. Notwithstanding that, we recommend that solicitors may now be appointed as stipendiary magistrates. We appoint stipendiaries to sit alone, except on matrimonial cases. It is well to remember that, in England and Wales, there are only sixteen stipendiaries, and there is a reason why that it so. The Lord Chancellor, in his wisdom, has told the lay magistrates not to "clock on," as we say in the factory; but he certainly told us that we have to sign on to show that we have put in our regular attendances. The lay magistrates sign on, but the stipendiaries are exempt.

I asked the Home Office if they could give instructions to stipendiaries, but I was told that stipendiaries were, to put it mildly, a law unto themselves, and that they could do almost as they liked so long as they behaved themselves. I respectfully urge upon His Majesty's Government that stipendiaries should be put on exactly the same level as the twenty-six Metropolitan magistrates, both with regard to salaries—some of the stipendiaries are underpaid—and with regard to pensions. I believe that, out of the sixteen stipendiaries, there are only two who can and will be able to claim a pension after serving for twenty or more years. That should be put right, and these stipendiaries—for some of whom I have the greatest regard—should have a suitable pension from the Treasury in the same way as the Metropolitan magistrates.

We also recommend that the Lord Chancellor, instead of the Home Office, should appoint stipendiaries, and I think that recommendation should be considered. We mentioned the County Palatine of Lancashire, which receives much of its revenues from Yorkshire. I am sorry, personally, that the magistrates in the County Palatine were not appointed by the Lord Chancellor. I think that should be done; but, being a Yorkshireman, I do not want to stir up the Battle of Roses once more, and I leave it like that.

I want to say sincerely that all the Lord Chancellors of this country during the past forty years have built upon sure foundations. I have noticed what you would call a silent revolution taking place during the period that I have been a magistrate—more courtesy and more consideration, especially for the accused, if that accused is not represented by counsel. I believe that, since the First Great War, the magistrates and the justices of the peace of this country have performed a great and noble task in preserving the morale of the nation, and that the community owes a great debt of gratitude to the Lord Chancellors who have brought about this change during the past forty years. Our gratitude is also due to their understaffed departments which have given magnificent help to succeeding Lord Chancellors. The edifice—I say this without being too complacent—is sound and it is also secure. Perhaps it is not ornate—certainly the average bench of magistrates has not the charm of a coterie of film stars. But the average bench, by its character, inspires confidence rather than mistrust, and it is only the wrong-doer who need be afraid.

I would also like to say what great work the Chairman of this Commission has performed, in bringing together eighteen men and women and making them into a team of colleagues, working together for the public good. I pay my tribute to that Chairman and to those who supported him. I maintain that the administration of justice in our courts has done much in the past, especially during the war years, to make this country the most stable in Europe, and, by comparison, the most law-abiding. The lay magistrate has been the symbol of justice; and he has, indeed, been the keeper of the peace. You can surely call the lay magistrates of this country the great unpaid. I beg to move for Papers.

3.8 p.m.

VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOODhad given Notice of a Motion to call attention to the Reports of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace and the Departmental Committee on Justices' Clerks; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, there was a time when a debate upon the lay magistracy would have involved this or another place in a bitter controversy. I am old enough to remember the years in which a question such as we are discussing this afternoon excited acute Party disagreement. It is satisfactory to think that to-day there are no Party issues between us, and that we are all unanimous in thanking the noble Lord, Lord du Parcq, and his Commission for a very valuable Report in which it is interesting to note that, after the fullest possible inquiries, they have substantiated the case for lay magistrates.

In the past, as I say, very different opinions were held by people. Even among the great Judges there was a difference of opinion. I have here, for instance, an observation by Lord Chief Justice Coke: The whole Christian world hath not the like office of justice of the peace if duly executed.

On the other hand, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Cowper, describes them as Men sometimes illiterate and frequently bigoted and prejudiced. We have now passed from those days of extreme opinions and we are here not to discuss questions of principle—for I do not think they would divide us—but rather questions of detail.

I am one of those who, both as a magistrate and also as Home Secretary, have always taken the view that one of the great advantages of a lay magistracy (I say this as one who is not a lawyer) is that it keeps the lawyers out of a particularly intimate field of the national life. I have also taken the view that, in the kind of cases that are dealt with in courts of summary jurisdiction, it is an excellent thing to have more than one judge. Just as in the higher courts a jury is a help to the Judge, so in the courts of summary jurisdiction, dealing with intimate matters in the lives of the people, it is a great advantage to have a bench of magistrates; and, that being so, I have always preferred a bench of lay magistrates to the single stipendiary. Now, taking the view that the lay magistracy has been thoroughly justified by the Report of the Commission, I ask myself how it can be further improved and how its members can be made more up-to-date with the growingly complex needs of the community. If the lay magistracy is to continue, it must first of all be wisely selected; it must, secondly, be reasonably trained; and, thirdly, it must be efficiently organised. Let me say a word or two about each of these three requirements.

I begin with the question of selection. Noble Lords know very well how the selection is made. The advisory committees of the counties and the boroughs propose names to the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord Chancellor nominates the magistrates. On the whole, this system of selection has justified itself. At the same time, I think that experience since the Royal Commission of 1910, shows that it contains certain definite defects. I do not attempt to generalise over the whole country. I know very well that one county committee differs from another. In certain counties the present system may work perfectly, but I can only say that that is not universal. I am quite sure that in certain counties and boroughs the advisory committees and their secretary are not sufficiently aware of the needs of particular benches. I will return to that point in a minute. I think also that in certain areas it is not sufficiently realised that the secretary of an advisory committee is a very important official. The time is long past when he can be simply a part-time clerk in the office of the Lord Lieutenant. He has now become a key official in the organisation of the lay magistracy. It should be his business to keep in touch with the benches, to know of their collective needs, to know the individual qualities of the magistrates upon them, and to advise the committees as to the needs of the counties and of the boroughs.

My first point therefore—and it is a point which has been well made by the Royal Commission—is that in future the secretary of the advisory committees should be an official of standing, that his name should be known, that the address of his office should be known, and that the job should be regarded, at least in many cases, as practically a whole-time job. Without an official of this kind, I think it will be increasingly difficult, both for the advisory committees and for the Lord Chancellor, to know about the particular individuals, men and women, who are suitable for appointment as magistrates.

There is a further question concerning the advisory committees. Should the names of their members be made public? At the present time they are treated, officially at any rate, as confidential. Here again, I do not wish to generalise or to suggest that in certain cases the system has not worked well. I am quite sure, however, that there are other cases in which this spurious secrecy—if I may use the expression, for as a rule the names of the members are known—has worked very badly. I have in mind, as one who was for more than thirty years a London Member of Parliament, the case of the London Advisory Committee. The Royal Commission criticised it in very strong language; and I think I may say that my experience gave me cause to support their criticisms. A case like that makes me think that it would be much better to end this spurious secrecy, and let the people in the area know who are the men and women advising the Lord Chancellor. If, as we hope they will be, they are men and women of standing, all the greater weight will be given to their recommendations. If they are not suitable, as I imagine may be found to be the case in an advisory committee such as there is in London, public opinion will be brought to bear on the advisory committee. I am fully aware that the case against publicity is that it opens the door to lobbying; but I am very much afraid that a very great deal of lobbying goes on already. If there is to be lobbying, it had better be above board, rather than beneath the surface, and left very much in the hands of political agents. I would therefore urge upon your Lordships that the time has come to abandon this meretricious secrecy and to let the whole world know who are the men and women on the advisory committees.

Now we come to an even more difficult question: the question as to how far, if at all, politics should enter into the appointment of members of advisory committees and into the constitution of the individual benches. I am not so foolish as to say that because a man or a woman is a politician, a member of, one or other of political Parties, he or she should be debarred either from being a member of an advisory committee or from being appointed to the bench. I do say, however, that political affiliations should not be made a condition either of membership of the advisory committee or of membership of a particular bench. Whilst I think we all agree with a general principle of that kind in theory, in actual practice it is not being carried into effect. What is happening now is that the attempt is made to keep a balance of Parties upon the advisory committees and upon the various benches. Thirty years ago it may have been very necessary to adopt a practice of this kind. It so happened in my early days in another place that the majority of the members of benches were Conservatives. It was due to the antiquated system of qualifications, without which nobody who had not substantial property could be made a magistrate. But that state of affairs no longer exists. The Commission have shown clearly that in actual practice the benches as now constituted maintain a very substantial balance between the various Parties. Now that we have reached this balance, I say, that the time has come when we could clearly insist that in future men and women should be appointed to advisory committees and to benches only upon their general qualifications as citizens of judgment and standing, and that Party considerations should not enter into it at all.

I pass from this very important question of selection to my next requirement—namely, organisation. As we all know, the lay magistracy, like practically everything in the country, has grown up empirically. On the whole, it has worked well, but the time has now come, with the greater complexity of its duties anti the heavier responsibilities placed upon it, when it needs a better organisation than it at present possesses. Let me suggest to noble Lords one or two improvements developed in the Report of the Commission that I very strongly support. If I may say so, I think the time has come (I say this with due deference in the presence of the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor; it is no aspersion upon the administration of his duties) when the Lord Chancellor's office should be better organised. The duties connected with the magistracy have become both more important and more difficult. That being so, I think the time has come when this part of his office ought to be regarded as an important Department of State, with an official secretary of status appointed to it and having at its disposal the fullest possible information about the magistrates in the country. If I have correctly read the Report of the Royal Commission, it seems that one of their difficulties, at any rate in their initial discussions, was to obtain the kind of information that they needed about the various benches of magistrates. It did not appear to be readily available. Now that we are contemplating legislation on the subject and bringing the organisation up to date, I think the Lord Chancellor's Department ought to have the necessary staff and information, using as its liaison officers the secretaries of the advisory committees in the counties and the boroughs.

There is another improvement that I should like to see adopted. This is a local improvement. The duties of a bench have now become so important and also so complicated that. I am sure the time has come for each bench to have its duly appointed chairman. I know that in many cases benches do appoint their chairmen for a substantial period of time. However, there are other cases of which I myself know where it is a rather haphazard arrangement, where the senior magistrate, it may be, takes the chair, or where somebody is appointed for a short time and somebody else shortly afterwards. I think that the time has now come when each bench should be required, preferably by secret ballot, to elect its chairman. I consider that the election should be for a period of years.

My next point has reference to procedure. I welcome the proposal of the Royal Commission which contemplates the issue of rules for magistrates courts. I have never been able to understand why, when there are rules for procedure in higher courts, there has not been a code of rules for magistrates courts. Very often in the course of the debates in this House upon the Criminal Justice Bill I could not help thinking that a great many of the details which took up so much of our time in the discussions here might much better have been dealt with in a body of rules. Therefore, I hope that, when the Lord Chancellor comes to introduce his Bill—a Bill that is contemplated in the King's Speech—for carrying out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, he will institute a body of rules upon the same general lines as I understand are in use in the higher courts.

So much for organisation. I come to my last point, the question of training. That question greatly interests me, as Chairman of the Magistrates' Association, with its membership of many thousands of magistrates. The Royal Commission recommend that all new magistrates should undertake to receive a course of training. The question immediately arises: Who is to give this training? I should be sorry to see the training, organised by the Lord Chancellor's office or the Home Office, not for any want of confidence in the Ministers who are at the head of those Departments, but because I think that it is a bad thing for the Executive to interfere in the training of the Judicature. Therefore, if the Government are not to organise the training of the magistrates, the question arises as to how they should get this training. On the whole, I think that the recommendations of the Royal Commission in this respect are sound. They recommend, so far as I understand them, that there should be local training; that the Chairmen of Quarter Sessions, for instance, and local bodies of magistrates, should be encouraged to organise training for the new magistrates.

That is all right so far as it goes, but I feel, very definitely, that some system of central training will also be necessary. We, in the Magistrates' Association, have made a beginning. We have been organising correspondence classes for new magistrates in which many hundreds of magistrates already take part. We have been organising conferences in the country that have been very well attended, and we have had week-ends at colleges, like Ashridge. I have been much interested to notice the keenness of the new magistrates, particularly the younger men and women, who are only too anxious to receive training of this kind. I think the wisest line to adopt is a combination of local and central training, and, so far as the central training is concerned, to have conferences, and so on, with correspondence classes organised by some such body as the Magistrates' Association, and with the great possible stimulus put upon the local magistrates' committees and the magistrates of Quarter Sessions to organise local facilities.

But something further is still needed. Although, as I say, I should object to the Government actually undertaking training of this kind, I think they should encourage it in every possible way. What I have in mind is this. I think they should arrange for and give grants to local libraries to which the more important books upon penal questions could be sent. I think, also, that any magistrate who wishes for Government papers connected with his or her work should receive them gratis, as your Lordships and I receive Parliamentary papers. I think also that if a library were started centrally in London with books and papers of this kind, it would be essentially a case for a Government grant. By these means I believe that we could help to be better instructed and better informed an excellent body of people who, more and more every year, are taking their work extremely seriously. I hope that when the Lord Chancellor comes to reply, and still more when he introduces the contemplated Bill into this House, he will take account of the points I have ventured to make and those that many other noble Lords will no doubt make to-day, and that we shall take the opportunity during this Session of really helping an excellent body of men and women.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, if it is not too impertinent, to compliment the Lord Chancellor upon his selection of this Commission, and also to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lord du Parcq for the admirably diplomatic way in which he has brought his team into a more or less uniform line. I think there is little to be said against the Report. The thorny question is that of the advisory committee. On the whole, I think it is better to have an advisory committee than to leave the recommendation of magistrates purely to Lord Lieutenants, of whom I see several in the House to-day. Lord Lieutenants used rather to belong to one Party, though whether they will continue to do so in the future I do not know. However, the advisory committee method has not worked too badly. There could, of course, be a committee made up of farmers, traders, labouring folk and landowners (if there are any left), who would form a different sort of committee, but I do not think it would be very much better. If the advisory committee get together and make recommendations which on the whole are satisfactory, I do not see that there can be much wrong with the system. I have no doubt that the Lord Chancellor's office has other sources of information in regard to that matter and I do not propose to say anything more about it.

As regards the composition of benches —I speak now in regard to the benches with which I have been associated—I think the tendency is to have rather too many magistrates sitting. I remember an instance, which I think was in London, when there were thirty magistrates on the Bench and only six cases. That looks rather top heavy. Five or six justices on a bench are probably enough. If the delinquent comes in and sees twenty or thirty people on the bench, it tends to put him off his balance. In my experience as a magistrate (which goes back forty years) magistrates have greatly improved, in care and industry and in their own standards. They were not always what they are now. My noble friend has quoted a Lord Chancellor who talked about illiteracy. I can remember an occasion a long time ago when we were compiling a jury list, and we came across the name "Mary Jones, spinster." The chairman said, "That is wrong; that must be amended to 'spinsteress,' as she is a female."

I confess that I am entirely in favour of the appointment of a permanent chairman. He should be a man whose faculties are alert; and not only should they be alert but they should appear to be alert. It is no good having a man who is suffering from paralysis agitans. I have sat under several deaf chairmen and one blind chairman. The blind chairman did his job quite well, but it did not make a good impression when he looked the wrong way as a witness was giving evidence, or when the clerk had to come and guide his hand when he signed papers. But deafness is, of course, worse. People know when they are blind, but they do not know when they are deaf. It is not easy to get rid of a chairman—though it is far, far harder to get rid of a clerk. For that reason I would be in favour of the ballot system. Very often a junior magistrate who has been a year or two on the bench does not like to vote against a man who has been in the chair a long time; but if there is a ballot that difficulty can be overcome.

Then there arises the question of age. We all know that you may have a very good magistrate at eighty and a very bad magistrate at fifty. It is impossible to lay down a rule, but it is probably better that a magistrate should be "like Caesar's wife." It is a bad thing for the culprit—or the defendant, as he is generally called nowadays—to be able to say, "That old man ought not to be able to judge me." As everyone knows, however, the difficulty is that we cannot get young people to go on the bench; they have other things, probably more remunerative, to do. To get young people of the age of thirty—I believe my noble friend was appointed a magistrate when he was in the twenties—is difficult.

I should like to say a word about Quarter Sessions. I seldom go to Quarter Sessions. One finds there a lawyer chairman who knows his job, and a bench of twenty or thirty magistrates. They have nothing to do except to give their opinion when the question of sentence comes along, because they do not take any part in the trial of the case. I have sat at Quarter Sessions alone with the chairman, and I am sure that that is much better than having about thirty people on the bench.

The whole class of cases has altered greatly in the last thirty or forty years. One seldom gets cases of assault or poaching or bastardy nowadays. Such cases have become rare. Nearly all the cases are motoring cases. It was, I think, the late Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, who said that of the cases which came before him in the Divisional Court, 80 per cent. were motoring cases. In all of them, he said, there were three constant qualities: the first was that both cars were stationary all the time; the second was that both cars sounded their horns all the time, and the third was that there was no accident.

I am dead against the payment of magistrates. I think it would greatly impair their prestige. What would you pay them —£200 a year? That would be less than the police constable who appears before them receives. I am sure that payment of magistrates would damage their value greatly in the eyes of ordinary people. And I believe that ninety-nine magistrates out of at hundred would not want it. In the same way I am against stipendiaries. I think that the system by which country people are judged by country people is the best. The people on the bench then know local conditions and they know the localities—both of which are important matters when you have to deal with roads. To bring in outsiders who perhaps have never the time or the opportunity to travel around would not be, in my view, any improvement.

To what extent the recommendations that the Lord Chancellor or the Government wish to implement can be carried out by rule or by circular letter I do not know. It probably would be an effective method of doing it. Generally speaking, I think I have seldom read a Report of a Royal Commission (I have served as Secretary of three Royal Commissions, so I know something about their labours) which seemed to me more succinct, clearer or more important. I hope that the recommendations which have been made will go forward and will be adopted.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Calverley, who was a colleague of mine on the Royal Commission, told me that he was going to bring forward this Motion he said that he would not in any way touch upon Scotland. Therefore, I do not propose, in the few words which I shall address to your Lordships, to touch upon England, except to say, if I may do so at the start, a word with regard to the advisory committees, which of course are common to both countries. I feel that I must join issue with my noble friend Lord Templewood on the question of the secrecy of those committees. We were, I think, unanimously in favour of the secretary's name being published so that anyone who wished to put forward names could do so to the secretary. But I think that if the names of the actual members of the advisory committee were made public there would be so much lobbying as a result that you would get very few responsible and worth-while people to sit on these committees. The noble Viscount said that in some places there was not much secrecy about who were on these committees. That was not what we gathered from the evidence that was put before the Royal Commission. I am glad to hear my noble friend Lord Calverley say "hear hear" in corroboration of that, and I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord du Parcq, will bear me out when I say that it appeared, on the whole, that the names of the people on the advisory committees were absolutely unknown in the districts. I must also say that I do not agree with the noble Viscount's use of the adjective meretricious. I do not think that it is quite the one which I should have used had I been in the place of the noble Viscount. I have not had an opportunity of looking up the word in a dictionary since he spoke, but from my recollection of its derivation and meaning I should have thought that it was the last adjective to be used in that connection.

I would now like to say a word or two on the Scottish aspect of this matter. First let me say that originally the Scots did not want justices of the peace; they were forced upon us. They were brought into Scotland by an Act of 1587, but they fell into desuetude and, in fact, after the Union of the Parliaments in 1707, another Act had to be brought in emphasising the fact that they should be employed in Scotland. The justice of the peace does not belong in Scotland, as he does in England, to the traditional hierarchy of judicial officers, and he has never played in Scottish life the important rôle which he plays in England. In fact his judicial functions in Scotland have, in practice, always been limited, and apart from routine work, such as the witnessing of documents, have been very small indeed. May I say—I would rather like to read it standing as I am in front of a very learned Bench—that petty offences in Scottish burghs are usually dealt with by the bailies, not by the justices. Except in the annual licensing courts, where 50 per cent. of the members are justices, there is no great call on the time of justices for official duties. As I have said before, except for witnessing signatures, justices—certainly in a great number of counties—are not very much employed. There is nothing in Scotland corresponding to the criminal jurisdiction of the Courts of Quarter Session in England and Wales. The jurisdiction in Scotland is entirely limited to the trial of offences on summary complaint, and there are further statutory limitations on this jurisdiction.

But there is also another court which can deal with nearly ail those cases—the sheriff court. There is a very strong and cogent reason why these cases are dealt with by the sheriff court and not in the court of the justices of the peace. The cost of the sheriff courts are met by the Government; the expense of the justice of the peace courts fall on the county funds. Therefore, as your Lordships can imagine, we in Scotland prefer the country, rather than the counties, to pay the expenses of our courts. We have at the present time some 6,000 J.P.S in Scotland, and compared with our population in relation to the population of England and Wales you will doubtless say that that seems to be too many. But it must be remembered that in certain places in Scotland people live in very remote areas, and cannot be reached very easily. People in Scotland—just as I dare say they do in England—prefer to have their documents witnessed by J.P.s, rather than by hankers or whoever else has the power to witness signatures. And in the far distant counties, probably far more justices of the peace are required than are thought necessary per head of population in England. On the other hand, I must admit that in some of the burghs and cities there are too many. I think that has largely been due to the fact that the names have been submitted, roughly speaking, every three years. The Royal Commission have recommended that the list in all counties and burghs should be revised annually, and I hope that this suggestion will be accepted. I think that will have the effect of reducing the number of people who are made justices of the peace at any one time.

I should like to say a word on what we regarded as one of the most important recommendations of the Royal Commission—namely, who was to be responsible for justices of the peace in Scotland. There were three possibilities: first of all, that the authority should be delegated to the Lord Advocate General. When the Lord Advocate General gave evidence before the Royal Commission, he pointed out that it would be improper for the holder of this office to be responsible, partly because he is not a Minister of the Crown responsible to Parliament and partly because he exercises judicial control over justices of the peace. As that was the legal ruling of the Lord Advocate General himself, it obviously rules him out. The second possibility was that names should be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am the last person in the world to desire not to render to Scotland the things that are Scottish, and if I thought there was any justification for the Secretary of State being the individual to recommend justices of the peace, I would say so. It seems to me, however, that we must have someone more remote from politics than the Secretary of State.

It is all very well to say that the Lord Chancellorship is a political appointment. That may be, but so long as the Lord Chancellor is to occupy the Woolsack, and so long as he is to be head of the law in this country—I again speak with respect—I take it that politics have nothing whatever to do with his appointment. If the Secretary of State for Scotland appointed justices of the peace, undoubtedly he would be bombarded right and left for political appointments. Therefore, we agreed, and agreed unanimously, that the Lord Chancellor should remain the person to recommend and appoint justices of the peace. But I hope, f the noble and learned Viscount will not mind my saying so, he will agree with me when I say that his office is grossly under-staffed; and we in Scotland live in a part of the country very remote from London. I do not know whether legislation is required for this, but I would suggest that the Lord Chancellor, while still being the responsible Minister, will consider setting up a central advisory committee in Scotland, with a Secretary of Commissions resident there, so that he can have advice from those conversant with the problems on the spot and knowing the people who are considered for appointment in Scotland. I hope very much that the noble and learned Viscount will agree with what I have said.

I should like to say only one further thing before I sit down. I wish to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord du Parcq, not only for his ability in conducting the Royal Commission but also in particular for his courtesy in bringing the Royal Commission to Edinburgh so that the Scottish witnesses could be heard there. It was a courtesy very much appreciated by those up North. I believe it was the first occasion on which a Royal Commission had left London on a tour of this kind, and I sincerely hope that it will not be the last.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will have gathered from previous speakers that I was Chairman of one of the bodies which are the subject of this debate—namely, the Departmental Committee on Justices' Clerks. Without criticising people who take a different view, I regard it as no part of the duty of the author of a Report or a Chairman of a Committee which reports to advocate, whether in season or out of season, the adoption of the recommendations of that Report. At the same time, it is possible that my reflections, mainly on the Report of the Royal Commission, and which I will give your Lordships very briefly, may be of some assistance to the House.

The first topic is the question of lay justices, as opposed to professional stipendiaries. Lord Beaconsfield once said in a controversy that it was a question between the apes and the angels, and he was on the side of the angels. I will not say which side is ape and which is angel in this controversy, but I am wholeheartedly in favour of lay justices. That preference is based on an experience of sitting with justices for seventeen years and of sitting as chairman of an Appeal Committee in Quarter Sessions for some twelve or thirteen years. I do not base my preference solely upon the consideration that there are not enough barristers to go round, but on my conviction that on questions of fact, which form the largest number of cases before justices, a body of five laymen—the number I prefer to sit with—is a much better judge than a single stipendiary. I am not criticising the stipendiaries of the Metropolis, who are picked men. However, the problem of the supply of barristers does come into the question. It is my opinion, broadly speaking, that laymen on such a body are better judges than professionals.

That conclusion is accentuated when I reflect that the Bar is a very small one, of about 2,000 practising barristers, who have to carry on advocacy and also supply a large number of County Court Judges and magistrates; and what is left, as your Lordships know, would not be of the best. If a single Judge is not the best judge of fact—and often I have reflected that the jury was more right than I would have been—still less are what is left of the lawyers good judges, and I have found that second and third and fourth rate lawyers are the worst judges of all. Therefore, I was profoundly relieved that the Royal Commission, with singular unanimity, came to this conclusion. I am sorry that my noble friend, Lord Merthyr, for whom I have the most profound respect and affection, was of a contrary view, and I could not help thinking that he had a very unfortunate experience in his part of the world which is not at all universal.

If that is the best tribunal, it is essential that justices should be competently advised, and that is why perhaps the Departmental Committee over which I had the honour to preside is of some importance. These bodies are at present advised by clerks and I hope they always will be. It is very important that these clerks should be of the best. Generally they are very competent and very good, but your Lordships will not be surprised to learn that some are better than others and some are not really good at all.

Where does that most commonly happen, and why does it happen? It happens because the appointment of clerks as advisers of the benches rests with the particular petty sessional division. Those of your Lordships who have read the works of Scott, and other works, will know that clerks like Mr. Jobson, and others, were appointed by the individual justice. Nowadays, however, they are appointed by the individual petty sessional division. The gist of the Report of the Committee over which I presided was that that was too narrow a basis for appointment. Obviously, a poor bench are very likely to appoint a poor clerk; at all events, benches are much too inclined to appoint their own particular local fancy, without regard at all to the question whether it would not be better to appoint someone else, who could be a clerk to several bodies of justices. In other words, there will never be an extension of the whole-time clerk system, which is very desirable (your Lordships will note that I say "extension," because I do not regard the system as capable of universal application, still less of immediate application; but an extension is highly desirable) without a wider appointing body.

The recommendation of the majority of the Committee (all, I think, except my noble friend Lord Schuster and the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr) is that this should be done on a county basis, through a county committee based upon a combination of the petty sessions and Quarter Sessions. I need not trouble your Lordships with the details. At all events, it was a much wider basis. My noble friend Lord Schuster, and the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, wanted the appointment to rest with the Lord Chancellor. With the infinite respect that I have for all Lord Chancellors, and particularly for the present occupant of the Woolsack, I think that is a job which is beyond him, because of local conditions, and he would not have the knowledge and authority which a really representative committee on a local basis would have. I am a wholehearted supporter of the maintenance of local administration, because I think it is the very bulwark of the freedom of this country.

There is one thing that I think is important for the retention of good clerks—namely, the question of their remuneration. A substantial part of the Report of the Departmental Committee dealt with the question of finance. I am the more free to commend that section of the Report to the respectful attention of the powers that are going to legislate, because I left that part of the Report very much to persons more mathematically qualified than myself. I confess that I had little to do with it, though I wholeheartedly approve of it. The gist of the matter is that fines and fees, which provide the revenue of the courts, are at present going to a great diversity of bodies, and little is going to the people who have to pay for the administration of justice. A great deal goes to the Exchequer. The recommendation is that all fines and fees should go to the Exchequer—so as to prevent any suggestion that magistrates are fining largely in order to get revenue—and that the Exchequer should pay the expenses of administration up to the total of the amount received, which would probably pay for the administration of the courts. On the recommendation of the Committee, only if there is an excess of expenditure would that be borne, half by the Exchequer and half by the local authority. That I believe to be a wise recommendation, and I hope, at any rate, that it will receive careful consideration.

There is the point—an important point, no doubt, but a technical one—as to who should audit. However, I do not think it is necessary to discuss it here this afternoon. I cannot more wholeheartedly agree than I do with what has been said about many matters, such as having a rule committee, and making proper arrangements for the election of a chairman, and I will not pursue those topics. I will conclude with a word about the very vexed question of politics. It is very difficult to say anything concrete about that subject, because it is not really a question for legislation; it is a question of the prerogative of the Crown and the discretion of the Lord Chancellor. He must pay just as much, or as little, attention to politics as he thinks fit. We all agree, I believe, that you should not, when you get to the bench, have politics there.

But may I just put my own view? I think the effect of the Royal Commission's majority finding is that politics still have too much to do with it; that what they have to do with it ought to be diminished: that their influence is mischievous; but that politics cannot altogether be got rid of as, at any rate, a cross-reference as to whether the proper mixture and combination of people is being obtained. I do not find much fault with that finding. The case against politics might have been put a little more strongly, because there is no doubt that in some counties the system of political quotas is still a great mischief, and, by appointing porportionally Labour, Liberal and Conservative, some people go on the bench under the mistaken conviction that they represent their Party. I have found that in my experience. I remember one gentleman, who was a justice of the peace, but very mixed up with the activities of his wife. He wrote to me on the point and signed himself "Yours fraternally." It is quite obvious that he had not got rid of his political notions when he entered upon his duties.

Nevertheless, I would not go so far, perhaps, as the three gentlemen who signed the Minority Report, who said that politics ought not to have anything to do with the matter. That seems to me to be a little too strong. Politics may be needed to ascertain whether you are getting a proper cross-section of society upon your bench. It is said by some people that that cannot be obtained without asking what are a man's politics. I demur to that entirely. Speaking for myself, I like to see manual workers represented on the bench, and if I were told in a country district that so and so was a blacksmith, or a carpenter, I should not want to ask —I should desire not to ask—what his politics were. That is my view of the distinction. Speaking for myself, I hope that politics will have less and less to do with advisory committees, and that appointments to the bench, and fitness for office, may have everything to do with it. I am not so sure that I am in such raptures as the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, about the lay magistracy, although I regard it as a good, time-honoured and beneficial institution, and better than any that can be substituted for it.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate but probably I have been a justice of the peace longer than any member of your Lordships' House, having been appointed sixty years ago, on my twenty-first birthday. I want only to say how thoroughly I agree with what has just fallen from my noble friend Lord Roche, as to the desirability, in the light of my own experience, of discounting politics as much as possible, at least in the rural districts. I may say, incidentally, that I do not know to what political Party the majority of my colleagues on the local bench belong, but I do know from my own experience that certain people have in the past been appointed to the commission of the peace, having quite obviously joined a certain political Party with the object of that appointment ultimately coming their way. The instructions to the advisory committee say that care must be taken to see that there are persons in the commission representive of various sections of the community. I would like strongly to endorse that particular recommendation.

I myself have long been on the supplemental list, and in recent years, in my own semi-industrial area, there are people—one in particular was the manager of the tinplate works in my parish—of great repute who could not be recommended to the bench because there was no vacancy. Yet in that district the magistrates who were on the local list had left, and were not available. One of them, indeed, I am sorry to say, had committed a very serious offence which resulted in his leaving the neighbourhood altogether. Such a situation does not make for a strong bench. If it were possible, discounting politics altogether, to make a big effort in every area to see that all the leading interests—particularly the trade and industrial interests—are represented, as well as the working population, I think it would approach nearer to an ideal bench than exists at this time. I particularly hope that when it comes to trying juvenile cases, care will be taken that no one sits as chairman of the bench unless his moral character is beyond all doubt.

The only other thing I wish to say arises out of the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Roche. I see that it is recommended that the superannuation age of clerks to the justices should in future be seventy-two. My own impression is that on many country benches the clerk would be more fittingly superannuated than a good many of those who sit as justices and who receive his direction and advice as to what course they should take. I do not know what steps can be taken to-day in the case of a clerk who is obviously no longer fit to carry out his duties, which require a robust mind and clear utterance. But I would like to see care taken that at any rate those who are no longer physically and mentally fit to act as clerks to the justices no longer remain in that position. I, for my part, if I may say so as an old stager, most heartily endorse the Royal Commission's Report, and hope that it will be implemented.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think that in the course of the last thirty-four years we have on any occasion had a debate on this subject, and it is probably not desirable that we should more than occasionally discuss this subject here. The higher courts in this country are, quite rightly, kept as far as possible from discussion in Parliament, and it would be disastrous if the lay magistrates' courts were frequently talked of here. But occasions do arise when we must take stock, and this is one of them.

We have before us two Reports of very great value and very great impor tance. I hope your Lordships will pardon me if I find it difficult to compress all that I have to say into a reasonable compass, though I will do my best to do so. On the Report of the noble Lord, Lord du Parcq, I will confess that at first I personally felt a slight disappointment that His Majesty's Government, instead of proceeding to put into legislative force the proposals of Lord Roche's Committee, or such of them as they approved, should have set up this further Commission to discuss the questions of the courts at large. That feeling of disappointment has been proved to be wholly unjustified and unbased, and I am extremely sorry that I have ever entertained it. We have here what we have never had before, or have not had for many years—a reasoned justification of the lay magistrate which I hope will stand for many years. It would be very wrong, in this or in any other matter, to rest complacent on that which we find in existence. It is equally wrong to try to pull to pieces something which, on the whole, is working well. We have here, from the noble and learned Lord, Lord du Parcq, and from his impartial and learned colleagues—learned not so much in the law as in the general affairs of the world—definite justification of the system as it is, subject to the proposals which they make for its improvement. Therefore, I heartily agree with almost everything which the Commission have said, and I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I speak now of the things with which I disagree.

First, I want to say a word on what the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, has already said about Scotland. Wicked, imprudent, rash, foolish and temerarious as it may be for your Sovereign to venture, even in spirit, across the Tweed, I venture to remind you that it has for long been a matter of discussion and debate whether it was desirable that Scottish justices of the peace should be appointed by the Lord Chancellor in London. As your Lordships will have already gathered from what has been said, there is much to be said on both sides of the question. I start off with what I believe to be the sound rule that Scottish affairs are best dealt with in Scotland by Scotsmen—and that for many reasons. In the first place, I think that a Scottish authority, dealing with them in Scotland, is likely to deal with them better than any kind of authority dealing with them in England. In the second place, I am quite sure that such an authority is far more likely to command the confidence of his fellow countrymen. On the other hand, of course, one cannot but look with sorrow at the severing, in any sort of sense, of what is said to be the one link which causes the Lord Chancellor to continue in office under the title of Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. And, incidentally, I would say that it is not the sole link. The most important function which the Lord Chancellor discharges in relation to Scotland is that he may preside in a Scottish appeal in this House. He is familiar—and if he is not familiar to start with, he is taught to be so—with the peculiarities of Scottish Law, and he learns a community of feeling with the great Scottish lawyers who sit with him. I do not think he gains any advantage; indeed, I think he suffers many disadvantages in being troubled with Scottish affairs and the appointment of local justices of the peace.

In those circumstances, as your Lordships are aware, the Royal Commission have recommended a halfway house. They have recommended that the Scottish justices should continue to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor—but by the Lord Chancellor assisted by a Scottish staff who, so far as I can make out, are to sit in Edinburgh. I do not want to use violent language, but I must say that I think that is making the worst of all possible worlds. The reason why I think it desirable, apart from the maxim which I have already mentioned, that Scottish justices should be appointed by one authority and English and Welsh justices by another, is that the functions of the justices in Scotland, as has already been pointed out, are wholly different from those of the justices of England. It follows from that that there is in Scotland a wholly different view in the public mind of the qualifications which should be sought in justices.

For as many years as I can remember, we in England—in spite of what has been said here this afternoon—have been getting away from the idea that appointment as justice of the peace is a reward for political services, or is in any sense concerned with politics. In Scotland, I do not think that has ever been suggested. In Scotland, for the most part, and cer tainly in the two great cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the persons recommended for appointment by the Lord Provost on his retirement form a kind of Honours Roll—the very thing we do not want to have anything to do with in England, so far as the appointment of justices is concerned. I do not envisage with any pleasure the idea of the Lord Chancellor conducting two wholly different systems "under one hat." He chooses his justices in England, so far as he possibly can, with a complete disregard for political or personal considerations, or for any idea of giving honours or such things. In Scotland he has to do the opposite; and I do not think any Minister, without great embarrassment to himself, can operate two such systems together.

The other point which I want to criticise, and upon which I differ from the findings of the Royal Commission, is one which your Lordships may think almost too trivial to mention. I cannot forbear mentioning it, however, because it connects up with something which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood has said. The Commission recommended that there should be kept in the Lord Chancellor's office a card index, kept continually up to date, of all magistrates in England and Wales, and also, presumably, in Scotland. That seems to me to be another instance of the modern idea that, if you want to get anything well done, you must collect as many officials as you can and get them to write on as many bits of paper as can be found for the purpose as much useless information as can be devised. There is no reason whatever why the Lord Chancellor's department should want to know—and it is hardly desirable that they should want to know—where all the justices of the peace are distributed, or anything of the kind. Such a record would be a pure waste of time and labour at a period when labour and time are very valuable.

It is necessary only to know roughly how many justices of the peace there are. Every now and then—not every day or every week, but perhaps every two or three years—the local authority in a county (I do not use the words "local authority" technically; I mean the authority responsible locally for making recommendations) could submit to the Lord Chancellor's office a list of the persons recommended for appointment. The Clerk of the Lieutenancy—and in spite of what has been said, most Clerks of the Lieutenancy are good—puts forward a statement of the petty sessional divisions to which the persons are to be appointed and on which they are to serve. He ought to put forward, and sometimes does, a statement of the number of active magistrates who are at present available in those particular petty sessional divisions. That is all that anybody wants to know, and there is no reason at all for keeping a continuous list; that is merely a desire for organisation.

That brings me to another point. (I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, is not here, because I am going to say something very nasty about him.) I have referred to the intense desire for organisation. It has been stated, and said again by the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, that the Lord Chancellor's office is greatly understaffed. It is not merely understaffed, owing to a great many causes which it would be too tiresome to relate here: it is understaffed to the extent that it cannot do its duty effectively. It is exceedingly desirable that the Lord Chancellor's office, above all offices of the Crown, should not lose its personal touch with the people of the country. The officer in charge of commissions in this matter of appointing justices should be, as far as possible, a person known to every Lord Lieutenant in the country; and the permanent secretary, who is less responsible for these matters, should at least be on terms with them. To multiply clerks and machines in matters where what is really required is personality is the way to destroy the whole of the success which has slowly been built up. Anybody who has held my position would indeed be foolish if, in looking back over the years, he thought that everything had been done perfectly, right up to the time of his leaving office. That is far from the view that I entertain about either my performance or my office.

That brings me to what I ought to have been talking about—namely, the proposals made by the noble Lord, Lord Roche. Throughout the petty sessional divisions in the counties, and also in the small boroughs, the clerk was underpaid and, as we all thought, was remunerated on a wrong system. He was paid, and is still paid, in certain places at any rate, an inclusive salary—a very small one too small for the duties he is called upon to discharge. Out of this he has to pay his clerks and the office expenses. It is obvious that that is not the way to pay a clerk and it is not the way in which we can hope to obtain a proper service of magistrates' clerks. In those circumstances, we were all agreed that, so far as possible, there should be substituted for the present rather haphazard system a regular service of clerks throughout the country.

In the view of the majority of the Committee, however, it should be an integrated service, and not all one service, and the clerks should have proper salaries, separate from those of the people employed under them. Moreover, sufficient money should be allotted to them to enable them to provide the books which are necessary for the justices if they wish to discharge their duties properly, and to pay for postage so that they can send to the justices documents coming from the centre which the justices should have in their possession. I do not think that anybody is going to argue about those points, when the evidence before the Committee has been read and the Report has been read, or that there will be any division of opinion as to the general desirability of doing that. There was a difference among us, as a result of which, if the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, had still been in England when we presented our Report, so far as I can gather from what he did write, he and I would probably have presented a Minority Report—and for this reason. I do not think that it is possible to organise such a service as I have described unless it is all one service.

I think you must be able to give to the clerk, when you take him into such a service for what will probably be his whole life, the hope of promotion elsewhere to some bigger court if he proves worthy of it. I think there must be, in particular, a power to move clerks from place to place, and to fit the right man in the right place—more or less, if I may take an analogy, on the lines which prevail in the service, entirely directed from the Lord Chancellor's office, of registrars and clerks in the county courts. Although I personally—I am sorry to be so personal in my remarks—am passionately a local authority man, and not a central authority man (in every case where I possibly could, I would throw the weight on to the country, and take it away from the centre), in this case, I am convinced that the system which we propose cannot prevail unless it is run from the centre. I believe that to be so, not only for the reason that I have already given—that I do not think we shall secure a proper service of magistrates' clerks unless it is an integrated service in which everyone has a hope and, so to speak, a field marshal's baton in his knapsack—but also for one of the essential purposes which the Committee had in view. We were all satisfied—and I do not think it would be difficult to satisfy your Lordships, if there were tine—that there must be a great rearrangement of the petty sessional divisions, in which many of the smaller towns will certainly lose their separate clerks of the peace.

It is ridiculous, for instance, that in the town and county which the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, and I know best, the petty sessional courts for the petty sessional division should sit once every month, and another court for the town in which they meet should also sit once a month, and that each court should have before it on each occasion about three persons charged, or three cases arising in the juvenile court. If those two courts were amalgamated, nobody would be turned off the bench. The persons from the borough would be appointed just as they are now. It would bring about concentration. It would save an enormous waste of time, and if the town were a little bigger than it is, there would be raised a substantial sum out of which a proper salary for the clerk could be provided. I have deliberately taken the case which my noble friend and I know best, because it happens that both the clerks—for there are separate clerks for the county and for the borough—are excellent men, who know their job extremely well and in whom we all have absolute trust. In addition, they happen to be popular. But they also happen to be remunerated at a rate which would surprise your Lordships. I should very much doubt whether either of them puts £5 in his pocket when expenses have been paid. That is not the way it should be done.

If there is to be a reorganisation of that nature, if, as the Committee recommend, the petty sessional boroughs of 25,000 are to lose their commission and are to be absorbed into the counties, I am sure that it can only be done gradually from the centre. It cannot be done all at once without doing grave injustice to many people. When the county courts were taken over by the Lord Chancellor's department, and the registrars (who at that time were mostly part-time officials) became full-time officials, the matter was spread over a space of years, so that a bench should not be rudely turned out of offices in which they expected, quite rightly, to spend their lives. General convenience should be met and justice generally done all round.

This business of dealing with the petty sessional divisions in the boroughs will be much longer and far more difficult than we imagine. There are many of them with which to deal, there is much more to be considered, a great many more prejudices—although I do not think they really are prejudices—and a great many more local sets of feeling to be considered and conciliated. Therefore, I think it is a long job. It cannot be done in a month, in a year or in ten years. I am sure it can be done, if it is to be done, only gradually, from a centre, and from a centre where those who conduct the business of the centre are generally sympathetic to each of these local feelings as they come, one by one, to be considered. Those at the centre must not act hastily or roughly but, having that goal in view, must press on to it, knowing that life may be short and that organisations of this sort take a very long time to build.

I am afraid that I have rather overstepped what I ought to have said, for these questions of organisation are not very interesting, except to those people who have passed their lives in dealing with them and who can think of nothing else. I want to pass on for one moment to one or two observations of my noble friend, Lord Templewood, now that he has returned to the Chamber. I shall not detain your Lordships long. Like the noble Earl who sits behind me, I was really shocked at my noble friend's language. He was brought up in a classical academy and surely he must at some time or another have met the word "meretrix" and the adjective derived from it. It is not one which I should have thought would fall from his lips. I think his criticism can actually be applied to any advisory committee or any member of any advisory committee. I think we should just disregard it. As for spurious secrecy, I have no doubt that there are persons who, having given their word that they will not give away secrets, most improperly still give them away. There are wicked men and corrupt men in every walk of life, and in every political Party; and no doubt that happens.

But very substantially the names are kept secret; substantially the committees work in secret and, objectionable as I agree secrecy is in almost every aspect of public life, I am completely satisfied that secrecy is absolutely necessary here if the independence of these bodies is to be preserved. It is a matter which does not come up now for the first time. It cannot be supposed that successive Lord Chancellors for the last thirty years have not thought about it and have not been plagued by it. They must have asked: "Is it right that secrecy should be preserved? Can it be preserved?" I feel that that long line of Lord Chancellors have, one by one, each gaining experience as he went through the affairs of his office, reached this conclusion and stood by this principle. I greatly hope that we shall not deviate from it now. These bodies are the Lord Chancellor's bodies. They are bodies to which the Lord Chancellor, on his own responsibility and not on that of anyone else, appoints and from which—and this is a very important matter in this regard—he at his own instance and of his own motion removes members. If their names are publicly placarded, if they are to be public persons so that every appointment will be canvassed, so that every time it becomes, for whatever reason, desirable to ask Mr. Somebody or Miss Something-Else to retire from the committee—if all that is going to be in public discussion, the whole system of the advisory committees cracks and breaks. Therefore, I greatly hope that on that point the words which fell from my noble friend—and, if I may say so, every word he says I always respect—will not have effect in action.

On this matter of politics, I cannot remember exactly what phrase he used, but he said something like this: that in 1913, 1914, or 1915, or whenever it was, it was necessary to have regard to political considerations because, owing to the long period of office of successive Conservative Governments, the benches were overcrowded with Conservatives. I do not deny that; but what I do deny is that the necessity has passed. He does not seem to remember or realise that in these last years—and I hope I shall not be interpreted here as saying anything which is in any sense political—a new Party has sprung up, of which no account could be taken when Lord Lore-burn appointed his Commission or when Lord Buckmaster began to act upon its recommendations. Like any other Party, the Labour Party have, of course, continually pressed, just as the Liberal Party pressed before 1911 or 1912, that they should receive what they call "adequate representation" on the benches. With great respect to the Labour Party and indeed to other Parties, I utterly abhor the word "representation." There is no question of any creed or religion or Party on the benches. But that there should be Labour people who hold the Labour faith on the bench appears to be at least as desirable in the year 1948 as it was necessary that there should be persons holding the Liberal faith on the bench in 1912 or 1913.

It seems to me quite impossible to say that a man's politics will be disregarded. You must discover what they are. If you do not, you will find, as actually occurs in certain places in England, that one Party, still puts forward a purely Labour list, or a purely Conservative list, or a purely Liberal list. You might just as well say that you must not find out whether the person put forward is a man or a woman, as to say that you must not find out his or her political views. It must be done, and you cannot get away from it. I do not know what Lord Chancellors say when they are alone, but what they always say to their permanent secretaries is, I believe, that appointments must be made fairly; that there must be a proper, not representation, but collocation of persons in the locality on the bench, whatever their political views, whatever religious faith they hold, and whatever peculiarities they may have.

From the point of view of the Conservatives—and at the moment I speak as a Conservative—this is also a matter of great importance. Nothing can possibly be worse than that it should be supposed (as is sometimes represented to be true) that one political or one social class holds the monopoly on the bench. It is no good merely saying, "I know the man is a blacksmith; therefore I put him on the bench." There may be plenty of people who are not blacksmiths and whose views are not so apparent merely from looking at their profession. Therefore I most strongly agree with what the Commission say and what I think has been said this afternoon—that no one should ever be put upon the bench for political services, and that on the bench itself there should never be a division on political grounds. To exclude politics from the Lord Chancellor's consideration of the lists which are put before him, however, is an impossibility, and if it were a possibility it would be an evil thing. I fear I have spoken for too long and too vehemently, and I am afraid I have actually contradicted my noble friend, Lord Temple-wood—contradicted him as much as I think is good for him in one afternoon.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should like at the outset of my remarks, if it is not thought to be an impertinence, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord du Parcq, and his three noble colleagues whom I see in the House, on their extremely able and interesting Report. I read it from cover to cover, I have gained great instruction from it and I found it not at all heavy reading, but exceedingly interesting from beginning to end. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, and to my noble friend, Lord Templewood, for bringing this Motion forward to-day. My noble friend, Lord Templewood, has spoken with a great record behind him of many years in high office, including a long period at the Home Office. The few remarks that I make to-day will be in a very humble capacity—that of chairman of a bench in a very rural part of England. My bench, I take it, is typical of many hundreds in the Kingdom. It will be of interest to four Lordships to know that we work in two rotas, one of which is presided over by myself and the other by ray noble friend, Lord Royden, who I am sorry to see is not here to-day. There are ten of us on the active list and two on the supplemental list. I think we form a very fair cross-section of the population—namely, landowners, farmers, and tradesmen of the only town in the district.

It may be objected by some noble Lords (and not only noble Lords opposite) that we have no representative of that very important branch, the agricultural workers, on our bench. That is so at present, but the sole reason is that up to now there has not been found anybody from that important section who is willing and suitable to be on the bench. When he is found, I shall be the first to welcome him and to send his name forward to the clerk of the peace for eventual appointment by the Lord Chancellor to the bench. As regards the question of politics, of which a good deal has been said this afternoon, I frankly confess that we are a Tory bench; we are all Conservatives except one, who is a Liberal. That is not our fault, the reason being that we are what I think noble Lords opposite would call a "black area," in the same way as we should regard Merthyr Tydfil or Pontypool as black areas.

We are told in the gracious Speech that legislation is to be introduced to implement the findings of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace. While we do not know what are the Government's intentions, I venture to hope that they are not going to try to do too much. May I turn to the recommendations of the Commission contained in paragraphs 347 to 358 of the Report? I may say at once that I am in thorough agreement with the recommendation that justices of the peace should receive instruction in their duties. That was touched on, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, and also by my noble friend below me. If we could have short courses under schemes drawn up by Quarter Sessions, I think it would be quite a useful thing. New magistrates appointed to my bench have often asked me how they are to find out about their duties, and I think that a scheme of this kind would be exceedingly welcome. I also agree with the recommendation that there should be laid down in whatever Bill is introduced exactly what justices on the supplemental list may or may not do. At present I find there is a great deal of uncertainty in regard to this question, as is stated in paragraph 102 of the Report.

I am also thoroughly in agreement with paragraph 352, which recommends that the election of the chairman of a bench should be by ballot. I go through the ceremony of appointment at the beginning of every year and have done now for about ten years. I am invariably elected chairman of the bench. I suppose that, possibly, my colleagues think that I am the best man for the job—but I do not know. I think this method has great disadvantages. It is very often, I think, owing to that rather pleasing and very English trait in our national character of not liking to hurt people's feelings that the same appointment is so often made year after year. I believe it would be far better in every way if the appointment were made by ballot. We should have no objection at all to the election of a chairman being countersigned by the clerk of the peace, on behalf of the advisory committee.

I am not at all in favour of a statutory retiring age for justices of the peace. I consider that to retire a man just because he happens to be seventy-five years of age is a great mistake, and I cannot help thinking that it would be much better if power regarding retirement were given to the advisory committee. It would, of course, be done through their clerk. They would keep in touch with benches so that they would know what justices had not put in proper attendances and were not fit for their jobs. Then, whatever their ages, whether sixty or seventy or seventy-five, the clerk could write to them and suggest that they retire and go on to the supplementary list. If they did not do so, then there should be power to remove them. In most cases I think the suggestion would be quite sufficient. My objection extends to the removal of justices from the juvenile panel at the age of sixty-five. The idea that persons who are old (and, after all, whatever age we may be, we are really much younger now than our fathers were at that age) do not deal with juveniles so effectively or so sympathetically as younger persons, is, to my mind, quite wrong. I confess that on my own juvenile panel we are all over fifty; two of us are over sixty and one, myself, over sixty-five. In spite of that, I think we deal quite efficiently with the cases of juveniles that come before us. Certainly I have never heard parents complain. Therefore, I totally disagree with that part of the Report.

Now I would like to turn to the very interesting Minority Report of my noble friend, Lord Merthyr. And may I say how sorry I am that he is not here to-day. I was especially interested in paragraphs 19 to 28 in his Report. My noble friend certainly is not at all nebulous in what he puts forward; the reader is left in no doubt as to what he wants. He has no use for any of us, and he wants to replace the whole lot of us by stipendiaries. Whatever legislation is proposed, I do hope that His Majesty's Government will not entertain the idea of doing anything on those lines. In spite of what my noble friend says in paragraph 21, I believe that, to start with, it would be very difficult and would take a great many years (certainly many more years than he says) to get a sufficient number of barristers to fill the vacancies on the benches, even though the benches were grouped, which I believe is the idea. I am afraid that it would mean that, until a happier day arrived, many courts would be presided over by people who were not exactly first-class exponents of their profession. I do not think the noble and learned Lords who are present to-day will mind my saying that I take it that in their profession there are good barristers and bad barristers, just as there are good and bad in other professions. So I am afraid that it would come about that some of the courts would be presided over by second-rate people.

I am aware of the case of Northern Ireland which has been quoted by my noble friend in that connection. I would have liked to remind him, had he been present in the House, that Irishmen, whether they are from Northern Ireland or from Eire, are intensely conservative. In Northern Ireland, by the Act of 1935 they merely reverted to the old system which obtained before 1922, of the resident magistrate, generally known as the "R.M.," who, as I well remember in the days before 1922, used always to preside at petty sessional courts in a county, though in those days he was also assisted by the local justices of the peace.

I have made the points which I wished to make and I will not detain your Lordships longer. I just desire to say, without being in the least complacent or self-satisfied, that I believe that my own bench and benches like it—of which there are many hundreds in the country—on the whole do their job well and give satisfaction. I hope that His Majesty's Government, in their wisdom, will not entirely upset the present system, a system which perhaps, if not quite logical, is peculiarly English, gives, as a rule, satisfaction to the local inhabitants and works, on the whole, very well.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, like the previous speaker, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord du Parcq, and all the other members of the Commission on the Report which they have produced, and to say that, generally speaking, I am in favour of it. I have been a Lord Lieutenant of Devon for fourteen years so I should know by now a certain amount about procedure with regard to the appointment of justices. In Devon, we have three advisory committees. We have over 260 justices of the peace, besides those on the supplemental list, and there are thirty petty sessional benches. This shows that a large number of people have to be found to serve in the county of Devon. There is only one point which I wish to make this afternoon, and that is in regard to the appointment of chairmen and deputy-chairmen of benches. This is a matter which is referred to in paragraphs 173 to 178 of the Report. In spite of the many letters that have been sent out, there are in my county, and in many others also, I believe, several benches which have no permanent chairman or vice-chairman. I think your Lordships will agree that, for obvious reasons, that is very bad. Certainly, it is a very bad system indeed not to have one, and I think that the sooner it is stopped the better. Imagine what would happen if on all boards of directors the different members took the chair in turn. It just would not work.

That brings me to another reason why I think there should be a permanent chairman. According to paragraphs 117 and 136 of the Report, various duties are to be given both to the Lord Lieutenant and to the chairman, and there must be a certain amount of correspondence between the two. If there is no chairman, it means that the Lord Lieutenant or his secretary must correspond with the clerk of the justices, which, I am sure, is not always desirable, and the sooner that system is stopped the better. In a big county like mine, which is roughly seventy-five miles north to south and the same east to west, it is quite impossible for me, or for any other Lord Lieutenant, to know personally all the justices, and there must be a certain amount of work done by correspondence. I would mention, as an example, that this correspondence often has to take place about ladies and gentlemen who are deaf. The point has already been mentioned that, for some reason, people who are deaf never think they are deaf, and unless that matter is brought home to them they will go on sitting on the bench. That means correspondence between the Lord Lieutenant and the chairman of the bench in order that he can ascertain the whole truth, so that he can bring home to the gentleman concerned that he should go on the supplemental list or retire altogether.

I hope the recommendations of the Royal Commission in regard to permanent chairmen and deputy-chairmen will be carried out, and I would ask His Majesty's Government when they are going to carry them out. I should like to make one more brief point. I entirely support what is said in the Report, that the appointment of justices of the peace should not be made as an honour or as a reward for political services, and that the appointment should be made only on merit.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, the last Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace sat in 1910, and now, thirty-eight years later, we find that another Royal Commission propose no great sweeping changes. That is equivalent to saying that the system as a whole has worked well, and may be expected to work well in future, if the recommendations which are made here are carried out. I want to draw attention to a gap in this Report which I think ought to be filled. If your Lordships will look at paragraphs 128 and 147, you will see that the position of such people as grocers, chemists, and members of co-operative societies and, in paragraph 147, licensees and pawnbrokers, is dealt with. There is a definite recommendation that although people may occupy positions like these, it should not be a bar to their becoming licensing justices.

In my view, the Royal Commission, without going beyond their terms of reference, might have taken a further step, and considered the position of many justices of the peace who, like myself, are the owners, but not the licensees, of public-houses in the licensing division in which they sit. I have taken the highest possible legal opinion on this matter and it is this: that no case of this kind has yet been before the Divisional Court and, therefore, no opinion can be given: that a justice should not adjudicate on any matter regarding a public-house which he owns, but that he can adjudicate in any matter regarding any other public-house in the licensing division in which he sits. I think this is a very common-sense view, and I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to say something about this when he replies. I hope he will be able to say that when legislation is introduced this matter will not be forgotten. If he does, he will be doing two good things. He will be clarifying what has been until now a very obscure position for a large number of justices, and he may be saving the time of the Divisional Court at some future date; and, as we know, the Divisional Courts are extremely busy with matters far graver than this.

I saw in the Press to-day another reason from another angle why this matter should be borne in mind. It was stated in The Times that when the Government bring in legislation regarding State-owned public-houses, they are going to have the licences confirmed, not as they are now by a committee of magistrates, but by the whole of the Quarter Sessions. Perhaps this may be a good thing; there will be more people considering this matter than before. But as a result of this widening of the sphere, there will inevitably be more justices who may be affected in this way. For all these reasons, I hope that this matter may not be forgotten. In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord du Parcq, and his fellow Commissioners on their Report. I express the hope that the Government will see fit to carry out, by means of legislation, their main recommendations.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to say only a few words. My noble friend the Earl of Rosebery, himself a member of the Royal Commission, has explained the part of the Report which relates to Scotland. I should like to welcome these provisions. I welcome the Report which for the first time has focused the position in Scotland, which undoubtedly is different from that which obtains in England. In regard to recommendation for the appointment of justices of the peace, there is a considerable feeling in Scotland that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be the Minister to recommend such appointments. Many appointments lie in his hands at the present time, and there is no doubt a certain measure of feeling that he should make these appointments also. I think that the considerations urged in the Report weigh very heavily towards leaving the appointments in the hands of the Lord Chancellor; and I would agree with these recommendations. But, as is pointed out in the Report, there is a certain remoteness in Scotland and it is desirable that the Lord Chancellor's staff should be strengthened for such recommendations. The Report recommends that he should have a Scottish official of high standing, supported by a central advisory committee. I presume that these appointments would be made by the Lord Chancellor, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland, and this would ensure that the Secretary of State's advice would carry weight in this matter. In the circumstances, I believe that this proposal is a wise one.

I disagree entirely with the view of the noble Lord who signed the Minority Report, that there should be no more justices in Scotland. I disagree for a number of reasons, but most particularly from the point of view of juvenile courts. In Scotland, the work of the juvenile courts has not yet extended as it has in England. There are four courts, and more are coming, as I know.


There are four juvenile courts only.


There are four courts, but it is a work which is extending rapidly. I know that the matter has been considered by the justices with a view to extending this work, and it is very desirable that it should be extended. I think the noble Lord will agree with me that Scotland is rather backward in this matter of juvenile courts. The remedy is not to abolish the justices, but rather to hearten them in their work. I believe that juvenile court work is eminently suitable for the justices to undertake. I think the noble Lord will agree that the City of Aberdeen is a good example, and that good work is done where courts have been established. But there is room for much advancement and improvement in Scotland in the matter of juvenile courts. I therefore disagree profoundly with the view expressed by those who signed the Minority Report, that juvenile courts should be abolished. That is not the answer. The answer is to encourage them in the extension of their work, and to enlarge the number of juvenile courts in the country.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, before the Lord Chancellor replies to the debate I should like to be permitted to make a few observations bearing on some of the matters which have been discussed in this very informing debate this afternoon. I warmly concur with these who have said that my noble friend Lord du Parcel's Report is a most admirable document. So many people are tempted to pronounce their opinions on this sort of subject, without having the opportunity to consider all the arguments that ought to be weighed, that it is a great thing to have a document of this kind, which seems to me to put together the considerations, on the one side and the other, in perfectly Plain terms and, I am sure, greatly for the advantage of those who have to pronounce an opinion. The responsibility in this matter rests very heavily upon the shoulders of each Lord Chancellor in turn. This is an important part of his duties, which every Lord Chancellor treats very seriously, and it is to me a remarkable thing that the very limited staff which has hitherto been available to help the Lord Chancellor of the day has been able discharge its duties so well. It is perhaps better not to mention individual names, but those of us who have had this task on our shoulders can never be too grateful for the help given by just one or two people in this all-important department of the Lord Chancellors work. I am strongly of opinion that the Commission are right when they say that that department should be strengthened, and that the Lord Chancellor's staff in that part of his work should be enlarged.

I will save time by stating, dogmatically, my own view on some of these possibly somewhat controversial questions, rather than trying to argue them out, because we all want to hear the Lord Chancellor's reply, and no one wants to prolong the debate unnecessarily. I will take three or four of the points which have been discussed. First of all, there is the point in regard to the choice between our existing system of lay magistrates and the suggestion that it would be better to adopt a new system, where we should make a much extended use of professional and paid stipendiaries. I am clearly of opinion, with all respect to my noble friend Lord Merthyr (I am sorry that he is not here at the moment), that the right view is the view which the majority of the Commission have expressed.

Your Lordships could hardly judge this without considering how fine a part is played in this country—and I believe only in this country, so far as Europe is concerned—by the system which has grown up. It essentially depends on this: that the day-by-day administration of justice, in simple cases not involving any very prolonged or severe punishment, can be effectively discharged by men and women of repute, regarded as good individuals and worthy citizens, who can be trusted to administer this very important function in the midst of their neighbours, and in respect of their neighbours. It is a source of great pride that we in this country are able to say that, on the whole, that is very well done. I am speaking for the moment of England. I do not doubt the goodness of it elsewhere, but it does not really operate in Scotland, as has already been explained. In England, we are entitled to say that our national character is such, the ordinary citizen's sense of balance and, above all, his sense of fair play, are such that no disturbing current of prejudice will alter the fair discharge of his duty of deciding, along with his colleagues, what the evidence proves, and what is the reasonable thing to do. I think we should lose something most precious if we once allowed ourselves to depart from that system.

There is another system. It is not for us to criticise it, but it is a very different system. There is the system which prevails in France, for example. There, those who are devoting themselves to the practical administration of the law are quickly divided into two classes. Some young men, from the very beginning, are aiming at a magistracy, in the first instance usually an extremely humble position. That ladder of advancement may lead them on, until they finish by being President of one of the great Tribunals that administer criminal justice in Paris and in other big towns. Side by side with those, but completely separate from them, are lawyers who hope to pursue the profession of advocacy. In France, however, it is not from that profession that are ultimately selected the great Judges. I think our system is a far better system, at any rate for us. Therefore, I very much hope that this consideration will weigh with my noble friend Lord Merthyr, and with those who have agreed with him. I have the greatest respect for his dispassionate view, but on this point I feel sure that the majority are right.

That is one reason for my view. The other reason is this (I am now looking at it from the point of view of the Bar). I do not want to see the profession of the law in this country become an attraction to a young man who does not intend to enter into the ordinary practice of the profession and make himself an effective member of an honourable and highly important service, with the prospect, it may be, later in life of being invited to be a Judge. I would not like to hear a young man say: "No. I am going to be called to the Bar with a different idea in my mind. I will practise for a few years, with the object of getting one of those professional stipendiary appointments. It may not be a very big one, but perhaps I shall be promoted afterwards." I do not think that would be good for the profession, or good for the country. On these grounds I am clearly of opinion that we ought to rejoice in the fact that we have preserved, as we ought to preserve, the lay magistracy.

The other point is one on which I have the misfortune not quite to agree with my noble friend Lord Templewood: Should the names of the members of the advisory committee, so far as possible, be kept secret and confidential? I agree with what my noble friend Lord Schuster has said; and he speaks with great experience. After all, these advisory committees are advising the Lord Chancellor. The responsibility for the appoint ment rests fairly and squarely on the Lord Chancellor's shoulders—and on nobody else. I think my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will confirm it when I say that, in his duty of making appointments, not merely of J.P.s but of many others, occasions frequently arise when the Lord Chancellor does confidentially consult somebody else—it may be a person who has held his office, or some other office which the Lord Chancellor regards as a qualification. It would be monstrous if he were able to do that only if he announced who was the person to be consulted. Equally, it would destroy the effective discharge of his very responsible duties.

The Lord Chancellor has a formidable number of duties to perform in the way of nomination. These advisory committees are committees carrying out similar duties, and I should have said entirely as my noble friend Lord Schuster said, that we all respect the system. It may be said: "Well, leakages occur; cases can be quoted where in fact the name of one of these persons on an advisory committee has become known." It may even be, in some cases, that a political Party has pushed names. If so, it is a pity, because it is a breach of confidence. There is, however, a great deal of effective confidential information afforded to the Lord Chancellor at his request, and I should pity him, and the advisory committee, if ever it were finally decided that any body who had not been made a J.P. could point to a man and say: "That is the man on the advisory committee who has done me down." That I am sure would be wrong. Therefore, with every respect to my noble friend, I should prefer that we kept the names of these advisory committee members confidential.

There is a further reason. It is most important that the Lord Chancellor of the day should be served, on every one of these advisory committees, with the best people who can be found. I doubt whether he would secure the services of the best men or women if, by accepting the nomination, they knew they would have to stand the racket of all the embarrassing attempts to canvass on behalf of this man or the other. In some cases I think, it would cause the best possible individual to decline this responsibility. That is the reflection that I make. I need not say that I attach the greatest importance to the view which my noble friend has been led to form.

Now we come to this question of politics. I have listened to the whole debate, apart for a few moments when I was away from the Chamber. On the whole, I think the noble Lord who has most accurately expressed my own feeling is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche. Of course, nobody should be appointed to discharge this judicial duty on the ground that he holds a particular political opinion. That goes without saying. Nobody who sits on a bench, and is there discharging the duties of a justice of the peace should ever discharge them merely from the point of view of his own political Party. But it is possible, I think, to call for a degree of aloofness in this matter which does not correspond with human nature or, at any rate, with political human nature in this country. There is a very well-known line by a Roman poet which I may conveniently translate by saying: "You may drive out nature with a pitch-fork, but she will come back again." If you attempt to shut the front door to any sort of political consideration, do you suppose you will have shut the back door? Of course not.

There is a further consideration which I think has to be borne in mind. Something turns on remembering the history of this matter. My noble friend referred to it, and so did the noble Lord, Lord Schuster, although he is so youthful in spirit that I think he dated the matter about six years too late. The accurate story is this. In the year 1906 when, for the first time for some fifteen years, the Liberal Party swept into power, they found—and it was undoubtedly true—that in fact the benches, and especially the country benches, were to an overwhelming extent staffed by people who were Tories. It was partly due to the fact that up to that time there had been a property qualification. There were a certain number of gentlemen who, I think, would not have objected to being called Whigs who were, equally, justices of the peace. The first thing done in 1906, when I was first made a member of the Commons, was to pass an Act abolishing that property qualification. Parliament said that henceforward a man might be made a justice of the peace without any property qualification at all.

I do not think anybody disputes that to-day, and I do not think anybody disputed it then. Lord Loreburn, who had just become Lord Chancellor, and who was a pretty strong Radical, if ever there was one, was approached and put under the greatest possible pressure by a certain number of indignant supporters of the victorious Liberal Party, who said: "What sort of a list of J.P.s is this? There is not a bench in the country which is not completely over-weighted with Conservative members." Some of these gentlemen pressed upon the Lord Chancellor: "You must correct that at once, and you must create a number of Liberal justices of the peace" (the Labour Party at that time had hardly emerged) "in order to equalise things." Lord Loreburn, like the honest and sensible man he was, although he had been a responsible politician, said: "I will do nothing of the kind. I am not going to appoint people because of their political opinions." It was because of that situation that there was appointed the Royal Commission on which I sat, together with Mr. Arthur Henderson and the late Mr. Bridgeman, and which was presided over by Lord James of Hereford. It was that Commission which devised this proposal to set up advisory committees.

I disclose no secrets when I tell your Lordships that the practice, so far as I have known it, has been this. It is not that the Lord Chancellor is calling for people of particular political persuasions; of course he is not. From time to time, he seeks the advice of his advisory committees, which he himself has appointed and which are responsible to him and to nobody else, and which give him confidential information. But when it comes to the question of deciding: "Is this a satisfactory list of J.P.s for this bench?" my impression is that one looks at the matter as a whole, having ascertained the reputations and qualifications of people. One then says to oneself, and I think the Lord Chancellor ought to say to himself: "Is this group of people a list which may fairly be expected, not only to do its duty but to give satisfaction to the neighbourhood?" It is no good being too much of a Simon Pure in this business.

The Lord Chancellor has, to my knowledge, to consult most anxiously with the Lord Lieutenant, and has sometimes to send for other members of the advisory committee, and he says: "I am sure these names are very good, but the list has a very lop-sided air. What we have to do is to have not only a body which will do justice, but a body which will make people feel that there is going to be a fair administration of justice by a proper cross-section of the community." Therefore, it is hardly necessary to emphasise the point that there never can be any question of appointing a man because of his politics: that would be monstrous. I assume that justices of the peace never allow their political attachments to influence their efforts to do what is just and right and to judge the facts as they are. It is a necessary element in deciding what is the proper composition of a Bench to ask oneself, "What will be the general make-up of this body—a body which we desire to be a fair specimen of the honest and qualified judicial temper of the neighbourhood?" That is the way in which I have always looked at this question.

I think it is a mistake to suggest that there is a sort of contrast between politics on the one hand and fitness on the other; fitness is the first test. Having satisfied oneself about that, one must make sure that one gets the proportions reasonably right. I am a little astonished that the Report of the Commission does not make more of this point, which in my experience is so important, alike on the advisory committee and on every bench. There has surely always been a desire and an effort to include men and women whose standing and reputation did not depend in the least on their politics. I see another previous Lord Chancellor here, and I am sure he will agree that one has attached the greatest importance to including amongst the justices of the peace of a district at least one lady or gentleman, who would certainly be an admirable member, about whose politics we did not know anything. There are in various parts of the country many good women, women of shrewdness and good sense, who devote their lives to the service of all sorts of good causes. If we can get a woman of that type to serve, I do not care what her politics are, for she is the sort of person who is likely to be generally acceptable. I do not think the Report of the Commis sion makes quite enough of that aspect of the matter.

Those are the three main matters on which, I think, a certain amount of controversy has turned this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Templemore, just now made reference to age limits. It is always a little delicate for anyone who is in danger of being told by his friends that he is getting older (even though he may not feel it) to make observations on this subject. As regards the juvenile courts, however, I can well understand the feeling of grandfathers that they can deal with the peccadillos of children quite as well as people of the next generation. There is a famous French book which bears the title The Art of being a Grandfather—and it is a charming art. It has very few responsibilities and endless opportunities for enjoyment. I think it is true that the child before a juvenile court probably does not very clearly distinguish between the young man (I do not know between what ages that description should lie) and the person who is thirty years the young man's senior: they are all equally "old buffers" to him. I remember an undergraduate who in his enthusiasm once asked Mr. Asquith whether or not he was at Balliol with Matthew Arnold—and Asquith nearly went through the roof! All the undergraduate knew was that Matthew Arnold and Asquith were both a great deal older than he was. I think there is much to be said for the view, nevertheless, that these juvenile courts are better worked by people who are not advanced too far along the road to old age.

I remember having been told that at one time, in one of the poorer quarters of London, where, I am sorry to say, the children had not got a better playground, there were some children who used to play in the street and who sometimes acted, as all children love to do. The only stage property they possessed was a beard, and there was always great competition as to who should wear the beard: for they used frequently to pretend that they were sitting as a juvenile court, and whoever was allowed to play the part of the president of the court was permitted to wear the beard. The wearer of the heard used to perform the most extraordinary gestures to indicate that he was the old gentleman who presided. I admit, then, that there is a case to be made for an age limit in juvenile courts.

Now let me say a word as to the proposal to make an absolute dead-line at seventy-live as an upper age limit for justices of the peace. That is the proposal which we have to face hereafter. It is quite right to have a maximum age. But, of course, the real truth is that the judicial quality, unlike some other qualities, does sometimes improve with keeping; and assuming that you have a case in which someone who, in other respects having passed the span prescribed by scripture for human life, yet retains unimpaired his faculties—not only his mental faculties, but the faculties of sight and hearing—I must say that I think that there would be some loss caused by the imposing of this restriction. I am sure many instances could be given of this point, not only on ordinary benches but also in Quarter Sessions. It has been the practice hitherto for the Lord Chancellor, in a case where it is clear that further useful service could be rendered, to invite a justice whose time for retirement is due to continue for a further limited period—and there is a great deal to be said for this practice.

It is curious that no one has mentioned one most important proposal in the Report, which is to abolish the separate commissions of the peace for the smaller bodies. I am sure that would be an improvement but I imagine that that is one of the matters which would call for legislation—as I suppose would some of the other proposals. A great many of these things are within the discretionary administration of the Lord Chancellor, and in this particular matter I have the utmost confidence in the Lord Chancellor's judgment. I hope he will feel that the debate to-day has been of some assistance in reaching a conclusion as to the advice which he will give and as to the form of legislation to be introduced—legislation which I hope will not: he long delayed.

5.39 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Lords who have put these Motions on the Paper. We have had a most interesting and instructive debate, which will be of great help to me when making up my mind as to what we ought to include in the forthcoming legislation.

I should like to do what many noble Lords have already done, and that is, to express my sense of obligation to the noble and learned Lord, Lord du Parcq, and those who laboured with him so long and so faithfully on this difficult subject. I was certainly wise in my choice of a chairman. I knew that this was a task which he could do supremely well. Notwithstanding that, I tried to surround him with a company of angels to help him; and I think he will agree that in that respect also I succeeded pretty well. The result is that we have what I think is a most valuable and a most useful Report. I propose quite shortly to introduce legislation which will carry out many—in fact, I think I may say most—of the recommendations of that Report, in so far as they need legislation, and at the same time the recommendations of the earlier Departmental Committee over which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche, presided. In view of the fact that this Bill is coming on and that it would be against Parliamentary tradition for me to take this opportunity of saying what the Bill is to contain, I feel that I am suffering from what is sometimes called in legal circles a "restrained anticipation," and I must abstain from telling your Lordships the precise details of our proposals.

However, I should like to discuss one or two general questions. First of all, there is the question which was raised in the Minority Report of the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, as to whether we should look forward to a time when we could appoint stipendiaries all over the country and leave the ordinary magistrates out of it altogether. For my own part, I am altogether opposed to that idea. Though born and bred a lawyer, I should be very sorry if the administration of justice got too much and too exclusively into the hands of lawyers. What we want beyond anything else in the administration of justice is an atmosphere of good common sense. That is a quality which is not always possessed, even by members of my own profession. Therefore I think it would be a mistake to scrap our existing system and to start something new. After all, is not our existing system working pretty well? It was my belief that it was when I appointed this Commission. Of course, there are occasional lapses. Whenever there is a case which comes to my notice and in which I think something is seriously wrong, I always get a Judge to go down at once and investigate it. Because there has been perhaps one such case a year since I have been Lord Chancellor, people may have formed an exaggerated idea that there is something very wrong. I do not think it is so at all. It is that I am careful to see that, whenever there is a breath of suspicion, the matter is investigated. I am sure that policy is right. But when we remember that these magistrates courts deal with over ninety-nine per cent. of the criminal cases of this country, and that with few exceptions the work is very well done, I cannot see any reason whatever for scrapping the whole system and putting in its place something brand new. I, too, believe in local knowledge and a knowledge of the circumstances and the place. I think it is valuable, and I should be sorry to see the practice discontinued.

Another question about which I want to say a word is politics. Perhaps I am slightly illogical about this matter, but I admit at once than in appointing Judges, whether of the High Court or of the county court, I would never let political considerations weigh with me to the slightest extent. I think it is of fundamental importance that that element should be eliminated altogether. And yet, so far as the bench of magistrates is concerned, considering the question globally, I am quite sure it is desirable, if we can, to see that all Parties have members sitting on the various benches up and down the country. On the other hand, I think that politics is often put too high in the scale of things required. For instance, as the noble Viscount said just now, the first prerequisite obviously is that the man should be a man of good character, of good reputation and of good intelligence. If those considerations are absent, they cannot be made up for by any political affiliations at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Templemore, said, I would far rather have a true blue Tory of the extreme right wing who was an honest and respectable man than I would have somebody more of my line of thought who was not. That goes without saying. But, if we find men with those necessary qualities—men of integrity, men of character, and men who are respected by their neighbourhood—then, given those things, I say it is all to the good that they should be chosen from all sections of society and from all Parties. I believe that to be desirable.

For the rest, I will say this. I am inclined to think—I was so inclined before I appointed this Commission and I am more inclined to think it now—that, speaking generally, we have too many justices and they tend to be too old. I will tell your Lordships what I mean when I say that we have too many. A rota system has to be adopted because a court of more than seven, in my experience, is an inconvenient court. A court of five should be quite sufficient. Therefore, a rota system is adopted. If there are many justices, it means that some people do not get a chance of taking part in the administration of justice except at considerable intervals of time. The administration of justice is something which needs to be learnt, to be studied, and one gains greatly from experience. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, is putting his hand to a most valuable work in trying to bring about the education and training of magistrates. Incidentally, I may say that I entirely agree with him that that should not be done by the State but should be supported by the State, as he suggested. But, whatever training you give, the best training of all is the training of actually sitting and trying cases. If there are a large number of magistrates and new magistrates are given few opportunities to sit, they are not receiving a chance of becoming trained and expert in their work. I had a case the other day of a magistrate who had been appointed and was keen to learn his job. He proceeded to sit whenever the bench was sitting. An indignant protest came to me. It was suggested that I should write and "tell this fellow off," and inform him that he must not show such enthusiasm about his job but must sit more seldom. That is a very practical consideration.

The other consideration that I mention concerns the age of justices. We all want to get younger magistrates, but the problem is that the younger magistrates have such difficulty in finding time. It is the older magistrates who are giving all their time and services. I do not want in any way to speak slightingly about them. I say only that I wish—and I know many Lord Lieutenants who help me so much about these matters agree with me—that we could have younger people to start with, because, in due course, they will get older and, when they get older, they will have the necessary knowledge and experience. So much for those general considerations.

I would like to refer here to one particular recommendation of the Royal Commission and that is the one about the Minister who is to advise on the appointment of stipendiary magistrates. I do not feel disposed to fight for the transfer of the appointment of these stipendiary magistrates to the Lord Chancellor at the present time. Your Lordships know that we have a very small staff—and I must say I am pleased to have only a small staff. We have rather inadequate accommodation and, as things are at the present time, I could not contemplate taking on a further branch of that sort of work. Without prejudice to what may happen in the future, I should be sorry to have that duty cast upon me at present.

Also with regard to the question of ex officio justices, one might say that there will be no ex officio justices; or one might say that it should be mayors or chairmen of councils. But, of course, there is another aspect to that. In these days, when we are taking away so much from local authorities of all sorts, we should be reluctant and hesitant to take away any privilege (which is how they regard it) which they have enjoyed. If we were able to make out a clear case that these justices did interfere with the administration of justice, or made it less efficient than it otherwise would be, then of course we must act. I mention that as one of the matters that we shall have to consider when our legislation comes forward. Subject to that, I am not conscious of any point, in either this Royal Commission or indeed the Roche Committee, which we are not going to attempt to deal with in our legislation.

My Lords, I want to say a word or two on the question of advisory committees. I believe that it is very desirable that there should be a secretary, who should occupy a prominent position, whose name should be known and to whom all the correspondence should be addressed. However, I do not think it desirable to reveal the identity of the members of the advisory committee. There is, unfortunately, a very great deal of pressure put by various organisations and various Parties—indeed, all Parties—in regard to the appointment of justices, and I myself feel that if the names of the unfortunate people who have to advise me (because they are my personal advisers and nobody else's) were known, the risk of pressure being put upon them, the risk of lobbying and the risk, as Lord Simon said, of the best people not being willing to undertake the task, would be very much increased. Therefore, as at present advised, I shall observe the rule of secrecy and ask that that secrecy be even more strictly maintained than has been the case in the past.

Now, my Lords, I come to the question of elected chairmen. I hope that we shall provide by rules under the Bill—we shall certainly provide for a rules committee—for the election of the chairmen. I think it should be done annually, and I certainly think it should be done by ballot. That is my present opinion. So far as the retiring age is concerned, that is a very difficult question because, whatever age is fixed, one will always find exceptions. The trouble is that everybody thinks he is an exception. I do not hesitate to say, having regard to the value of this Report, that I think in the first instance, at any rate, I am entitled to accept the Report which the Commission have made. I have no doubt that when we come to debate it in this House we can explore the whole position—there is no Party question about this at all, so far as I know—and we can consider then what is the right course to take.

There are other and many administrative matters which I can deal with without legislation. The Commission have suggested, for instance, that licensees should not be automatically barred. I think that is right. I am rather glad they have made that recommendation. Hitherto, I have been following a rule which laid down that the fact that a person held a licence was a reason why that person could not be appointed a magistrate. The Commission point out very cogent considerations which apply in the case of a licensee, such as the close relationship between licensees and the police, and various other factors which are set out in their Report. Those factors should always be considered by advisory committees, and they should weigh up the facts carefully to see whether there is any reason for surmounting and disregarding these difficulties. But there should not be, and there will not be in the future, any bar whatever. After all, let us remember that these licensees are men known to be men of good character, and I have always felt that to have an absolute bar upon these men was a mistake. When considering whether or not to recommend them, it is obviously right to take into account the nature of their calling, and all the surrounding circumstances.

The same applies with regard to clergymen. In the past, there has been an absolute bar with regard to beneficed clergymen. That will be a matter for the advisory committees to consider; they will recommend what names they think right. The same applies also with regard to the Rechabites. That, again, is a matter that the committees will have to consider, and there will be no absolute bar. Generally speaking, I may say that, so far as administrative matters are concerned, I intend to be guided by the Report of the Commission and to work on the lines they have indicated.

I must say a word about Scotland, but before I do so, may I answer the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp? In our legislation we shall try to clear up the ambiguity of the law at the present time about licensees rather on the lines he has suggested. But I was about to deal with Scotland. I am not going into detail because I hope the Bill will be before us quite shortly. I confess, if I may use that expression, that I had rather hoped that the Commission would recommend that I should no longer be responsible for Scottish appointments. It is often said that everybody in office wants to stretch out greedy hands to try to get further patronage. I do not know whether that is true sometimes; it certainly is not true so far as I am concerned, and I very much doubt whether it is true of any Minister I have ever known, because patronage means a heavy responsibility and some of us have already enough to do. I had hoped that the Commission would have taken away my Scottish duties, but they have not done so and, in the circumstances, I do not think I must shirk them; I must do the best I can. The disadvantages are very obvious, and were put by Lord Schuster.

One has to apply, illogically though it may seem, a different criterion and a different tradition in England from that applied in Scotland, and it is very hard to maintain the strict English tradition when you are letting Scotland run amok (if Scotland ever does run amok) in the matter of appointments of magistrates. But it has to be done. If and when I am told that there is a united opinion in Scotland which enables the Lord Chancellor to hand over all his functions to somebody else, I shall be very relieved to do so. But having been told by the unanimous Report of this Commission that that is not the case, f must continue to do the best I can. I must support myself, of course, with the sort of advisory committee which this Commission recommend, and I need hardly say that although that advisory committee will not be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, the names will be suggested by him. I think we had better go on on that principle and see how matters work, and whether that principle causes general satisfaction. As I say, if it does not—and here I occupy the same position as all my predecessors—I would be only too pleased to be able to pass to other hands this difficult and burdensome duty.

May I say how much the Lord Chancellor has owed to his staff in this matter? I do not mind mentioning a name which many of your Lordships know—that of Sir Rupert Howorth. Most valuable services have been rendered to me by Sir Rupert, and I am indeed deeply sorry that circumstances have made it necessary for him to resign. I am glad that Mr. Skyrme, who has been trained under Sir Rupert Howorth, is now taking on his difficult task.

I wish also to say that in the counties the success of the system depends upon the Lord Lieutenant working with my Secretary of Commissions. There are some Lord Lieutenants who, by reason of age or infirmity, are not able to do what they would like to do, but there are others who do get to know all the details of their areas, and they are able to give me most valuable help. I rely upon them and count on their support, and they know that they will always have my backing in the difficult work which they have to do. In the boroughs, the chairmen should also keep, and, I am glad to say, do keep, in the closest and friendliest touch with my staff, and they have always the right to come to me personally about this matter.

That is really all I have to say. What I have done substantially is to say that. I hope that in the forthcoming legislation we shall be able to introduce measures to, implement the great bulk of the recommendations contained in the du Parcq Report and also in the Roche Report of an earlier date. Having said that, I would again thank the noble Lord who initiated this debate for the privilege which he has afforded me of speaking about this important matter.

6.3 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to ask your permission to withdraw my Motion, and, at the same time, would like to take the opportunity of expressing my deep gratitude to all noble Lords who have spoken for helping to make this a most interesting debate.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, before the House rises, I should like to make one observation. I had intended to speak in some detail about Lord Roche's Committee, but when I came into the House this afternoon I was told that it would meet the convenience of the Lord Chancellor if the debate ended at about this hour. Accordingly, I did not weary your Lordships with my observations upon the work of Lord Roche's Committee. I should like, however, to say that I agree with every word which Lord Roche himself has said. I was very glad to note that he made very much the same points which I had intended to make. Having said that, I would only add that I do not move my Motion.

House adjourned at five minutes past six o'clock.