HL Deb 15 December 1949 vol 165 cc1635-7

Clause 10, page 7, line 31, leave out ("fifty") and insert ("thirty-five").


My Lords, your Lordships will remember that we made 50,000 the minimum popula- tion for retention by a non-county borough of a separate commission of the peace—I referred to it in the course of our debates here as "my irreducible minimum." This applies to many other provisions of the Bill. I want to say, frankly, that we got this Bill through by a system of compromise—there was no other way of getting it through in the time —and we sent it to the other place with a large number of compromises already made. Those of us who know anything about the other place are well aware that it is impossible to expect Ministers to get a Bill of this sort through the other place unless they, in their turn, can compromise, more especially as there are a large number of Members there who were urged by their constituents to see that their separate commissions were not done away with. Consequently, since getting the Bill through depended on good will and compromise, we made this compromise. I confess, frankly, that I would rather not have had it. I feel—and I am sure all my predecessors in this office would agree —that it is not desirable to have separate commissions.

We are now faced with the position that we sent the Bill to the other place, and this compromise was made—and it was not unnatural that it should be asked for. I feel about this as I do about the other Amendments, that it would be most unwise to sacrifice the Bill—because that is what it will come to—by objecting to this compromise. Its effect, in substance, is the saving the commissions of twenty-five boroughs. There were 169 separate commissions, and we have now succeeded in getting rid of 108 of them. This is subject, however, to a clause to which we shall come in a moment, which provides that I shall have a certain discretion conferred upon me. Those of us who have indulged in law reform know that on this particular topic great patience is needed, and you must be content if you can go by small steps. I do not think we have done at all badly if we manage to get rid of 108 out of 169 commissions. Possibly my successor in this office may achieve a little more, but I think this is a good beginning. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.— (The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I suppose everybody in your Lordships' House who served in another place realised that as this Bill deprived a certain number of the boroughs of their separate commissions of the peace, and more particularly of their recorders, there would inevitably arise considerable pressure from the Members of Parliament representing those places in order to sec whether they could not save something which was highly prized in these various localities. I never thought that any single justice was losing anything merely because the separate commission of the peace for a borough was given up, because he automatically would become a county justice. In a way his jurisdiction is extended, because he becomes eligible to sit as a member at county quarter sessions, a right which he did not have as a borough magistrate. Your Lordships will remember that I put up a considerable fight in this House to keep a number of recorders. But that is not what we are discussing at this moment. We should all realise that there was bound to be this pressure, and we should all realise that in order to get the Bill through in this Session of Parliament the Government had not only to give way to pressure in your Lordships' House, but, obviously, to the pressure which was applied in another place. We have really done quite well in abolishing all separate borough commissions of the peace (other than those which are attached to the recordership) for towns with populations below the figures of 35,000, and I think we ought to accept this Amendment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.