HL Deb 20 October 1949 vol 164 cc1011-91

2.35 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly: [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]

VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD moved to insert as a new Clause 1:

Appointment of Advisory Committees.

".—(1) There shall be in each county and in each borough having a separate Commission of the Peace an Advisory Committee for the purpose of advising the Lord Chancellor upon the appointment of justices of the peace for such county or borough.

(2) The Chairman of the advisory committee for a county shall be the custos rotulorum of the county and the clerk thereof shall be the clerk of the peace of the county.

(3) The Chairman of the advisory committee of a borough having a separate commission of the peace shall be such person as the Lord Chancellor may appoint and the clerk thereof shall be the clerk of the peace for the borough.

(4) An advisory committee shall be appointed by the Lord Chancellor who may by rules made by him give general directions as to the manner in which advisory committees shall carry out their duties."

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the new clause that stands in my name and I will try to explain to the Committee in a few sentences what is my object. It is to put in the forefront of the Bill one of the principal provisions for improving the status of magistrates' courts and making the administration of justice in those courts even better than it is now. It may be said that the clause does little more than put into statutory form what is at present the practice with reference to advisory committees. However, many active magistrates do attach great importance to having this practice stated in the Bill in statutory form. Lord du Parcq's Royal Commission emphasised time after time in their Report the key position of advisory committees—the committees who send recommendations to the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chancellor always having the final discretion whether to accept them or not; the committees who are responsible for collecting the names of suitable men and women in the counties and boroughs and sending them, usually with a unanimous recommendation, to the Lord Chancellor.

That is the practice that has been in operation since 1910 and it has never been put into statutory form. Upon the whole the system has worked fairly well. In some counties it has worked excellently; in other counties, particularly in the county of London it has not worked so well. In the county of London, to which the Royal Commission drew particular attention, politics have to a great extent dominated the advisory committees and the recommendations of those committees.

However, although on the whole it has worked satisfactorily, taking the country from one end to the other, the Royal Commission made a series of recommendations that would make the work of these committees more methodical and would go to make them even more representative than they are of the general body of opinion in their particular areas. For instance, the Royal Commission recommend that the chairman of the advisory committee in the case of counties should be the custos rotulorum. They recommend also that the secretary should be the clerk of the peace; that he is to have an office the address of which should be known; and that the advisory committees should keep minutes of their proceedings and should send to the Lord Chancellor an annual report of the conditions so far as the benches in their particular areas are concerned.

Now some of these detailed provisions I admit had better be put into rules. I hope, however, that when the Lord Chancellor does embody them in the rules he will publish them. I think that is very important, because from my own experience misunderstandings do arise in present conditions. For instance, there was a case in my own county the other day of a husband and wife being appointed to the same bench. I believe that took place either through ignorance of the existing practice or through some misunderstanding. I am inclined to think that if the rules are published mistakes of that kind will not occur. Whilst, therefore, I am quite prepared to see a good many of these details put into the rules, I am anxious to see the broad principles stated in the body of the Bill —namely, that normally the custos rotulorum (that is, the Lord Lieutenant in his civil capacity), should be the chairman.

Since I put down the Amendment it has been pointed out to me that there are cases in which, for one reason or another, the custos rotulorum cannot be the chairman. That being so, I should be perfectly prepared to amend subsection (2) of my new clause, and to add to the "custos rotulorum of the county" the words "or any such person as the Lord Chancellor may appoint." In any case, I think that the fact that the custos rotulorum or the gentleman appointed by the Lord Chancellor should act as chairman should be stated in the body of the Bill. I think also it should be stated in the body of the Bill that normally the clerk of the peace should be the secretary of the advisory committee. Lord Calverley has pointed out to me that while that is eminently suitable in counties it may not be so suitable in boroughs. I am quite open-minded upon that point, and if it is felt that the clerk of the justices in the borough would be a more suitable secretary to the advisory committee, I am perfectly prepared to accept that proposal.

Now those are the main provisions in the new clause that I am moving. The Lord Chancellor may ask, "Why put it into the Bill?" My answer is that here is a Bill which is covering the whole field of magisterial organisation and magisterial courts, and it is very important that we should have in it what is one of the key features of any of the reforms that we are now considering. I think it is essential that we should have a reference to the advisory committees as being one of the basic organisations in relation to improvement of the status of the magistracy, and I think we should have it in the very forefront of the Bill. That, I may say, is the unanimous view of the 7,000-odd magistrates who are members of the Magistrates' Association. They feel very strongly on this matter.

I hope that the Lord Chancellor will accept this new clause in the spirit in which I move it. It does not alter his ultimate discretion and it does not question the practice which he follows in carrying out his duties. But it does, first of all, put in the forefront of the Bill definite allusion to one of the key organisations which are so closely concerned with the question which we are considering. Secondly, it is in full keeping with what the Government themselves are doing in the case of so many Bills. I have seen Bill after Bill in which the establishment of advisory committees is actually provided for in the body of the Bill. In one form they are consumers' councils. I believe that in the planning Bill which we were considering yesterday there was mention of a body of this kind, the constitution of which was actually put into the Bill. I have not looked at that particular Bill, but I could give plenty of instances in which the constitution of advisory committees of this kind has been out into the bodies of Bills. I hope, therefore, that the Lord Chancellor will be able to say he accepts this Amendment. In doing so he will, I feel sure, be helping to enhance the status of the courts and will be doing something which the great body of magistrates are anxious to see done. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, at end insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Templewood.)

2.43 p.m.

LORD CALVERLEY moved, as an Amendment to the proposed new clause in line 4 of subsection (3) to leave out "peace" and insert "justices." The noble Lord said: As one who had the privilege of being a Royal Commissioner, I wish to pay my tribute to the Lord Chancellor, because he has already implemented the purpose of this clause in his instructions to the advisory committees, telling them that they must let the public know who is the person to whom they may properly write or whom they should approach if they wish to make any recommendation with regard to justices of the peace. Therefore, I am in agreement with the principle of the clause which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Templewood. When I studied his clause, I recalled that in the counties it was largely the practice that the clerk of the peace should be the appropriate person to be approached and also to be the secretary of the county advisory committee. Usually the clerk of the peace in the counties is a whole-time official—in some cases he is clerk to the county council—and he occupies a responsible and confidential position in relation to those whom he serves.

In the boroughs it is quite different, as your Lordships, no doubt, are well aware. The clerk of the peace in a borough is usually a local solicitor, or some solicitor whose headquarters are conveniently situated near the borough, and on four occasions during the year he spends a few days sitting as clerk of the peace. For the rest of the year, usually, he practises many times in the court. In our own court we used to say that our clerk of the peace had a special liking—no, I must not say liking, for that would suggest bias, but at any rate he was frequently specially briefed to appear for licensed victuallers. Let me hasten to say that licensed victuallers follow a most honourable profession and I am not saying a word concerning them in any opprobrious sense. But I think in practice it will be found, especially in the county boroughs, that the justices' clerk is a full-time official and a confidential servant of the magistrates who knows how all the business of the court should be conducted.

If this clause is going to be accepted, I think that for the sake of clarity it should so read as to make it clear that where it refers to the boroughs the clerks shall be clerks to the justices of the boroughs. I am pleased to see that the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, is in sympathy with me. Of course, being chairman of the Magistrates' Association he is in a position to speak for them, so, without more words, I am content to move my Amendment to the Amendment.

Amendment to the Amendment moved— In line 4 of subsection (3), leave out ("peace") and insert ("justices").—(Lord Calverley.)

2.47 p.m.


This is the opening of what is bound to be a long and complicated discussion. I think it only fair to tell your Lordships at the outset that I am not very optimistic about the prospects of this measure. It is obvious that there is a great deal of discussion which is necessary, and I certainly do not seek to close down or limit discussion in any way. Your Lordships would not be doing your duty if you did not give the Bill very careful consideration. On the other hand, there is bound to be some interval between now and the Report stage and there will be a great deal of re-drafting to be done when we have finished our discussions in this House and the Bill goes to another place. I do not know anything definite, but I presume that the Session closes before Christmas—shortly before the latter part of December, no doubt. Our prospect of getting the Bill through another place I think is not good. I am not mentioning that in order to induce your Lordships to refrain from discussing the Bill fully, or anything of that sort. I merely thought it was only fair to point out that I am, frankly, very apprehensive about the prospects of this Bill getting through. If it does not get through I think that will be a very great pity. I believe all Parties in this House want this Bill, and it is important that we should try to get it through. I hope it will be clearly understood that I am in no sense making a threat but merely a statement of what is in my mind. I thought it well to tell your Lordships of my view, lest anyone should accuse me hereafter of leading him on a wild goose chase.

With that note of warning, I would now say that I do not think that the Bill in the main contains anything which by its nature should give rise to Party controversy. It contains, of course, various matters on which different views may be taken. I am sorry that with regard to this first Amendment I find myself in opposition to the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, particularly in view of the fact that as chairman of the Magistrates' Association he has done so much to improve the position and status of the magistrates' courts. I hope that in many other Amendments I shall be able to meet him. With regard to this Amendment, however, frankly I think we should be making a great mistake if we accepted it. Let me tell your Lordships what my experience of the whole position is, extending as it does over four and a half years. I believe that ultimately the success of the whole scheme depends on the Lord Chancellor. I believe that it should be made perfectly plain that he is completely dominus of the situation. He shares his responsibility with no-one at all, and he is the person who is solely responsible for the appointment of magistrates. I believe that we cannot emphasise that too often or too clearly, because I think it is often misunderstood.

Though the Lord Chancellor is solely responsible he relies on, and is fortunate in getting, the assistance of an excellent staff who, as your Lordships know, are available on all occasions to the many of your Lordships who are Lords Lieutenant And, secondly, he has the assistance of the Lords Lieutenant themselves. The success of the working of the scheme depends very largely upon the happy and easy relationship between the Lord Chancellor and the Lords Lieutenant, and I am glad to say that in almost every case it is a happy relationship. The Lord Lieutenant comes and sees the Lord Chancellor, or sees the Secretary of Commissions, in regard to all his troubles. The success of the scheme, however, also depends on the efficiency of the advisory committees. I do not want to go into the case of London, but if the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, does not know it already, I can tell him that we have recently reconstituted the whole of the London scheme, thanks largely to the energy and activities of the Duke of Wellington, who is really entirely responsible for bringing about what I regard as a great reform. I will say nothing further about London. To my mind the noble Viscount was quite right in saying that it was unsatisfactory before.

These advisory committees exist in every county and in every borough that has a separate commission—or, to be perfectly accurate, there are few boroughs which have not got them and they will all disappear under this Bill. Great Torrington, Helston, Lydd, Lyme Regis, New Romney, Southwold, Tewkesbury and Wallingford do not possess advisory committees. I did not know that until a few days ago, when I had a request to appoint new magistrates at Helston and I noticed that the request was signed by all the existing magistrates. With that small qualification, it is a fact that I have an advisory committee in every county and every borough having a separate commission. Sometimes I see the representatives of these advisory committees, and sometimes I see that they have a complete misapprehension of their duties. Sometimes they think they are delegates, as it were, of a Party or section, and that their particular job is to try to get people appointed belonging to that Party or section. When I see them I say to them: "Do you realise what you are? You are not creatures of Statute all; you are simply there for one purpose, and one purpose only—namely, to advise the Lord Chancellor. You are my committees, and what you have to do is to advise me." I believe it is very important that that should be plainly understood.

Quite frankly, I am against this Amendment in principle—I will discuss the detail of it in a moment or two. I am against it because I regard it as the thin edge of the wedge. If it is proposed to make these advisory committees—which so long as I have anything to do with the matter will certainly continue to function—statutory bodies, then the next step will be to make the Lord Chancellor accept their recommendations; at any rate, it will be said that the Lord Chancellor ought not lightly to regard their recommendations. I believe that that sins against the principle upon which we ought to insist—namely, that the Lord Chancellor is entirely and solely responsible for this work. I think I may claim (I am not speaking for myself, but for my predecessors; I have merely carried on their work in this matter as best I can) that on the whole the system to-day is worked well. But, as I say, these committees are there merely for the purpose of advising the Lord Chancellor, who may or may not take the advice which they give, and who may, if he is so minded, appoint a magistrate without asking them at all. He does not do that often, though sometimes —and I think other Lord Chancellors have found the same——when I seek to appoint a distinguished lawyer who ought obviously to be serving in this capacity, and as a matter of courtesy I generally ask the advisory committee, I find that they are rather stubborn; and I have to appoint him notwithstanding the advisory committee. We must make it plain that the committees are the Lord Chancellor's committees, set up by him for the purpose merely of advising him.

I believe that if you make the Bill tidier by inserting this Amendment in the Bill—and I can give your Lordships an assurance, so far as I am concerned, that I will carry out the principles of this new clause—you will weaken the position of the Lord Chancellor and prevent him from being what he is to-day—namely, complete dominus of the situation. Therefore, I am opposed to this Amendment. I believe that we shall do much better to rest where we are to-day. Let us have these advisory committees all over the country, but let them not be creatures of Statute; let them be appointed, as they are to-day, by the Lord Chancellor, to advise the Lord Chancellor, under the control of the Lord Chancellor. If anybody says that I am seeking to be a pocket Hitler in this matter, it is the only respect in which I desire to emulate Hitler. But I believe it is desirable that the Lord Chancellor, whoever he may be, should be, and should be seen to be, in complete control of this situation. That is why, and for no other reason—I am not against the principle of the clause; I give your Lordships my undertaking that this is what I am going to do—I am opposed to this Amendment.

Lord du Parcq's Committee has been referred to. This suggestion of making the advisory committee a statutory body was never put to the du Parcq Committee. And as I read their Report, had it been put to them they would certainly have been opposed to it. What was put to them was something more far-reaching—namely, that the members of the advisory committee should be nominated by various bodies. In rejecting that proposal this is what they say in paragraph 59 of their Report: It has been suggested in evidence that the committee should be constituted by persons nominated by local bodies. This would make the committee a publicly-known body, and a no less serious objection is that the committee would then cease to be the Lord Chancellor's committee. That was their view, and I feel confident that, had the suggestion been put to them, on the very ground that they state in paragraph 59 under the heading "Advisory committees," they would have turned down this proposal. Had it been suggested to me at the time when I gave evidence to the Commission, I should certainly have spoken against it as strongly as I do now.

When we come to the details of the clause, again I think the same weakness is shown. One of the advantages of having this as the Lord Chancellor's committee is that he has a completely elastic system. That is a point which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood mentioned. Take, for instance, this situation. It so happens that in Wiltshire the Duke of Somerset, who is the Lord Lieutenant, has to be away for some time, and he has suggested to me that my noble and learned friend Lord Oaksey should act as chairman of the advisory committee. Of course, I have been only too ready to agree, and all your Lordships approved. In a Scottish division the Lord Lieutenant again has to go away, and he suggested that the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, should act as chairman. Again, I have been only too pleased to agree. Subsection (2), as the noble Viscount himself pointed out, is much too rigid. It states: The chairman of the advisory committee for a county shall be the custos rotulorum of the county.' Generally he is. He may be old, he may be ill or unwilling to serve, in which case I will appoint someone else. I want complete latitude. The subsection goes on: and the clerk thereof shall be the clerk of the peace of the county. Now there are a few cases—Leicestershire is one—where the clerk of the advisory committee is the clerk of the lieutenancy. In Leicestershire particularly we get a most admirable official in that way. If the custos rotulorum is going to preside, surely he ought to have some say in who is going to be the clerk of the committee. Although in nine cases out of ten it would be the clerk of the peace of the county, yet there is the tenth case in which, by tradition or by the wishes of the eustos rotulorum, some other official might be appointed. I want elasticity—I do not want rigidity.

Take the next subsection: The Chairman of the advisory committee of a borough … shall be such person as the Lord Chancellor may appoint and the clerk thereof shall be the clerk of the peace for the borough. There are many boroughs which have no clerk of the peace. A clerk of the peace is an official of quarter sessions, and if a borough has no quarter sessions then there is no clerk of the peace. There are many important boroughs which have no quarter sessions. I am dealing for the moment with boroughs of over 50,000 population, because I propose at a later stage of the Bill to suggest to your Lordships by way of compromise, which I hope will prove satisfactory, that when we do away with these separate petty sessions we might limit it to boroughs with under 50,000 population. There are very many of them: Swindon, Torquay, Hove, West Hartlepool—which is a county borough—Stockton-on-Tees and many others which have no quarter sessions and, therefore, no clerk of the peace.

There again, I suggest that you cannot settle in advance who he should be. In a normal case, if there is a quarter sessions it would be the clerk of the peace, but that is a matter which must be settled in each particular case. There is no Party controversy here at all and therefore I appeal to all your Lordships in regard to what I believe to be an important principle. I believe we ought to stick to what we have. I certainly intend to continue with the system of advisory committees. I rely upon advisory committees and, on the whole, I think they function very well. But I ask your Lordships not to make statutory, by inserting this Amendment in the Bill, that which has up to this time been purely a matter for the Lord Chancellor. I am certain that if we accept this provision it will lead to misunderstanding.

The argument which to-day I so frequently have to deploy when these people come to me and complain is: "You are merely there to advise the Lord Chancellor and you have no other raison d'être." That argument will go, because they will point to the Statute and say: "Here we have the Statute which says there is to be an advisory committee, and as such you must pay due regard, to what we say," or words to that effect. I must respectfully suggest to the noble Viscount who has moved this Amendment that he is mistaken. It is not going to do good. If you trust the Lord Chancellor, these things will he done, and if you do not trust the Lord Chan cellor, well, you will not get out of that difficulty by having any such clause as this. After all, even with this clause it is not proposed that the Lord Chancellor is bound to accept the advice. I believe that it would lead to misunderstanding and that you would do much better to continue the existing practice.


If the Committee will forgive my interrupting, I would like to point out that the business immediately before the Committee is Lord Calverley's Amendment to Lord Tempiewood's Amendment. The normal practice is to deal with that Amendment first. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Calverley in view of what the Lord Chancellor has said, would withdraw his Amendment.


I want the Lord Chancellor to make it plain that if an advisory committee appoints the clerk, there is no objection to that.


I am sorry, my Lord Chairman, and I am grateful for your advice. All I want to do is this. I do not want to fix the matter in advance. I want the advisory committee to appoint whatever person seems to them best, and I do not want them bound by rules and regulations to appoint some particular person.


In that case I withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The Lord Chancellor seemed to draw a distinction between an advisory committee and a statutory body. Let me point out to him that there are numbers of advisory committees who are also statutory. I am not in the least convinced by his argument that the stating of the existing practice in the Statute is going to compromise the situation in the future. I said specifically that the Lord Chancellor's ultimate discretion was entirely safeguarded. The Lord Chancellor's other main argument was that this is the thin end of the wedge. He said, in effect: "I am carrying out in principle what is included in this clause. Why is anything more needed? "I will tell him. I am genuinely nervous of the future. I regard these advisory commit tees as absolutely key organisations in the present system. Whilst I have no reason to doubt that, so long as he holds his office, these principles will be maintained, if there is no statutory support for these committees it is possible for a Lord Chancellor of the future to abolish them altogether. I should regard that as a great calamity, and I should look upon it as destroying one of the key factors in the whole system. I hope, therefore, that I shall find that noble

VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD had given notice to move an Amendment dealing with the qualifications of justices of the peace. The noble Viscount said: I do not intend to take up the time of the Committee with argument on this second Amendment of mine. I think it is a very good one but I admit that it largely forms part of the first Amendment. Your Lordships have shown by a large majority that you do not approve of my first Amendment. Therefore, I am not going to put you to the inconvenience of having another Division upon this. Let me repeat in a single sentence that I do think that, from the point of view both of future Lord Chancellors and of magistrates generally, it would be much better to have principles of this kind stated in statutory form. However, as your Lordships seem to take a different view this afternoon. I do not propose to move my Amendment.

Clause 1:

Residence qualification of justices

1.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be appointed justice

Lords, even after the Lord Chancellor's argument, will support me in pressing this Amendment, making it quite clear that the Lord Chancellor's discretion is not compromised and that we are merely setting out in statutory form the existing practice and the practice we wish to continue.

On Question, Whether the said new clause shall be there inserted?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 9; Not-Contents, 43.

Manvers, E. Boyd-Orr, L. Merthyr, L. [Teller.]
Faringdon, L. Rotherwick, L.
Templewood, V. Llewellin, L. Schuster, L.
Templemore, L. [Teller.]
Jowitt, V. (L. Chancellor.) Ammon, L. Hayter, L.
Baden-Powell, L. Holden, L.
Addison, V. (L. Privy Seal.) Balfour of Inchrye, L. Kershaw, L. [Teller.]
Bingham, L. (E. Lucan.) Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Beauchamp, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Braye, L. Mountevans, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Broadbridge, L. O'Hagan, L.
Calverley, L. Pakenham, L.
Hailsham, V. Chorley, L. Raglan, L.
Maugham, V. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Rochester, L.
Portman, V. Crook, L. Saltoun, L.
St. Davids, V. Darwen, L. [Teller.] Shepherd, L.
Digby, L. Strabolgi, L.
Winchester, L. Bp. Dorchester, L. Tovey, L.
Goddard, L. Winster, L.
Addington, L. Harlech, L. Wright, L.

of the peace by the commission of the peace for any area, nor act as justice of the peace by virtue of any such appointment, unless he resides in or within seven miles of that area.

(5) In the appplication of this section to the county palatine of Lancaster, references to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster shall be substituted for references to the Lord Chancellor.

3.19 p.m.

LORD RAGLAN moved, in subsection (1), to omit "nor act as justice of the peace by virtue of any such appointment." The noble Lord said: The first of the two Amendments which I have put down has no point unless the second Amendment is agreed to. Therefore, I hope I may be allowed to take the two together. Your Lordships will know that there are hundreds of thousands of people who live in the country or in a dormitory suburb and work in a town. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that such people may be appointed magistrates for the town in which they work. I do not think I need say anything more than that that is eminently desirable. If they are so appointed and if, having perhaps been for some years magistrates in the town where they work, and having, it may be, attained to the chairmanship of a bench, they then retire from business, they will, if this clause is allowed to stand as it is, be automatically disqualified from sitting further on the bench. What I am seeking to secure is that if they should retire from their work they will still be able to sit on the bench on which they have been sitting perhaps for many years. My Amendment it does away with the seven-mile limit which in these days of buses, cars and so forth, is obsolete.

The Amendment which has been put down by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has much the same effect as mine, but if I read it aright its effect will be that if a man lives near a place he may be appointed a magistrate for that place; if he works in a place he may be appointed for that place; but if he both lives and works in a place he will not be eligible for appointment as a magistrate! I beg to move.

Amendment moved: Page 1, line 9, leave out from ("nor") to ("appointment") in line 10.—(Lord Raglan.)


As my Amendment has been commented on by my noble friend and has to do with the same points as those made by him, perhaps I might be allowed to say a word. I think my noble friend could not have read completely my Amendment when he made his last criticism of it. Clause 1, subsection 1, says: … unless he resides in or within seven miles of that area. My Amendment starts with the word "or" and goes on: carries on business or is gainfully employed in that area What I am attempting to do is to ensure that if a person has a business or works within the area but happens to live outside it, he shall nevertheless be qualified, if recommended and approved by the Lord Chancellor, to sit as a justice for that area. I am assured by those who are knowledgeable about this business—the justices Clerks' Society—that they know of many cases where excellent magistrates sitting on the commissions of the peace do not live within seven miles of the borough. It seems to me that many good magistrates would be dis qualified by the present provision of the Bill.

The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor may say that this matter can be remedied under subsection (2) of this clause. I had it in mind, when reading that subsection, that the Lord Chancellor could appoint a fully legally qualified person, though I may be wrong. I understand that that was the kind of case which was being envisaged. Where a chairman or deputy-chairman of quarter sessions is required, someone who did not live within seven miles of the commission of the peace could be appointed because he was an extraordinarily eligible person. That is the kind of case which thought would be dealt with under subsection (2). I do not know whether the Lord Chancellor is going to rely on subsection (2). I wonder who is to bring these persons to his notice.

Probably we all know of people who are well fitted to be justices but who do not live within seven miles of their bench. However, they work in that part of the town every day and are respected by the people amongst whom they work, and so they should have consideration for appointment to the bench. It is for those reasons that I have tabled my Amendment. I want to ensure that a person who has been recommended by an advisory committee shall not be disqualified from being a magistrate merely because, although he works in the district, he happens to reside a little more than seven miles away from it.


As one who sits on a bench which will be affected by this Bill, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word in support. The present provision of the Bill would work particularly hardly on certain industrial areas—and probably on London more than any other. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor might bear in mind that the difficulty has been accentuated by present housing conditions: people have had to move further out whist retaining their position on the bench. I speak as a member of the Newington bench, and so far as that area is concerned the results of the present provision would be disastrous. We have a chairman who used to be the headmaster of a school in the district and who upon retirement became chairman of the bench, although he resides out of the district. Few men know the area better than he, and his loss would be very serious. There are many other benches in similar positions, and particularly in London, the difficulty is widespread. You can be within London and yet outside the seven-mile limit.

I hope the Lord Chancellor will see his way to accept this Amendment. I prefer the Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, but I will vote for whichever is best able to achieve the object. Moreover, there are people who reside and work in the area where the bench is w ho have not the time, or perhaps the money, to devote themselves to the work. But they are clearly interested in the borough where the bench of which they are members is situated, and it would be a very grave loss if these people were not able to carry on the work that they have been doing so well. That is what would happen if this Amendment is not carried.


This matter was particularly referred to the du Parcq Commission. When I arranged for the appointment of the Commission I was rather concerned about the difference which existed between counties and boroughs. I think I can best put my case by reading paragraphs 112 and 113 of that Report, and on this matter the whole Commission were unanimous. This is what they said: At present residence is a matter of qualification and disqualification, but it is convenient to deal with it in this Chapter. The effect of Section 2 of the Justices of the Peace Act, 1906, is that a person may be appointed a county justice if he resides in the county or within seven miles thereof. This requirement appears to relate solely to the date of appointment, and if a county justice subsequently removes to a greater distance he is not disqualified. Section 157 (3) of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, provides that a borough justice, while acting as such, must reside in the borough or within seven miles of it, or occupy a house, warehouse or other property in the borough. The principle should be that a man should not be a justice unless he is available to perform his duties. A fixed rule requiring residence within a stated distance does not take account of varying travel facilities, and a rule resting on occupation of property does not ensure anything except a high probability that he is liable for local rates. We think the rule should be that both at appointment and subsequently a justice should be resident in the county or borough, or within seven miles of it, provided that the Lord Chancellor could dispense with the requirement if satisfied that residence at a greater distance would not prevent the proper performance of his duties. These requirements should be statutory, and they should apply to existing justices as well as to future appointments. A justice who removes to an area from which he cannot properly perform his duties in the area for which he was appointed should be removed from the commission. To prevent the loss of a person of experience the name of a justice who removes can be communicated to the secretary of the advisory committee for his new area. This Bill, by Clause 1, subsections (1) and (2) precisely carries out that recommendation, and what I anticipate is this. If certain people are acting as justices—as for instance, the man to whom my noble friend Lord Ammon referred—and their case is brought to the notice of the Lord Chancellor, presumably by the Lord Lieutenant, then the Lord Chancellor may hesitate to make an order so that the services of that justice should not be lost to that Bench.

I do believe that the Royal Commission were right on this—if only for this reason. One of the troubles that Lord Chancellors frequently find—and all my predecessors have suffered from it—is that they are asked to appoint a number of people for the sole purpose of signing, documents. I have resolutely set my face against that doctrine of appointing people to sign documents. The underlying reason and the justification for my refusal is this: that the existing justices who are functioning are able and willing and sufficient to see that the documents are signed. And that presupposes that a justice is living either in, or at any rate near, the place for which he is appointed. Therefore I think that the Commission came to a right conclusion in this matter.

I have, so far as I know, precisely carried out the recommendations made by the Commission and, if the clause is passed in this form, I shall not hesitate to use my powers under subsection (2) of Clause 1 to see that these people who are rendering valuable service to-day do not cease to render that service. In those circumstances, I can only commend to the committee the decision of the Royal Commission. As I say, it was a unanimous decision, arrived at by very experienced people after hearing all the relevant evidence, and I for my part should be most reluctant to depart from it. It is a matter of some difficulty, and it is one of the precise matters which I referred to the Commission in order to obtain their guidance.


I only want to ask the Lord Chancellor one question. I do not know how far this proposal applies to Scotland. But the fact is that only in the boroughs is justice administered by justices of the peace; in the counties it is administered by the sheriffs. There are many widely distant parishes where the local justice of the peace is the only person available to sign documents. I want to ask the Lord Chancellor whether he will bear that in mind when he is asked to appoint justices in Scotland, because sometimes the difficulties in the rather deserted areas are very great.


The difficulties of a Lord Chancellor with regard to Scotland cannot easily be expressed. Be it particularly understood that the Lord Chancellor cannot apply to Scotland anything like the same principles that he applies to England. In Scotland there are a vastly greater number of justices of the peace, and their main function is to sign documents. When I said what I did about signing documents I was referring to those rigorous rules which we apply to England; I had not in mind the question of Scotland.


I have listened to what the Lord Chancellor has said on this Amendment but it seems, with great respect to the du Parcq Commission, that in the recommendations that the noble and learned Viscount read out they had not particularly in mind the person who worked in an area or had his place of business in an area, as contrasted with the person who resided there. They have made a qualification only in regard to residence. But where there is a person, whether he is a foreman or the owner of a factory in the area, who is well respected and well known because he works there, I think in these days, when we ought to put every accent we can on work and not on mere living and sleeping and residence, we should be right to make that one of the qualifications in this measure. After all, it means only that we are slightly widening the field, and it will give a rather larger selection, especially for the commissions of the boroughs. The commissions of the counties are rather different, because they are commissions for the whole county; and there, of course, in practice, it does not work out quite as the Lord Chancellor said. There may not always be available a justice to sign documents, because you may not always find one in every village, even though the petty sessional division may be completely manned. Acting as I do as a justice of the peace, together with other noble Lords, I feel that the important thing is to have properly qualified persons, respected by the people, on the local bench, and anything that will restrict such a choice is wrong. That is why I should like to see my Amendment, rather than that of Lord Raglan, incorporated in the Bill.


I have long believed that the Lord Chancellor is the hardest-worked man in England. But I am beginning to doubt it now, for it seems to me that by refusing to accept this Amendment he is imposing upon himself a great deal of extra and, in my view, unnecessary work.


This is not a Party measure, or anything like that. I believe in my Amendment and I would like to see it incorporated in the Bill. I believe this is almost entirely a matter for the noble and leaned Viscount the Lord Chancellor himself, and if he says there is a chance that we may have further talks about it I will not divide the House now. I had hoped that this was a Bill which we could get through without many Divisions.


I gladly respond to that suggestion. Certainly, I will do as the, noble Lord asks. I agree with him entirely in not regarding this as a Party Bill. I want to do merely what is right. With the very plain recommendations of the du Parcq Commission before me I do not think I can do more than stand fast here. However, I am willing to talk to the noble Lord in order to see whether I can be persuaded to a different view. This is truly a matter which is my concern and not that of anyone else. If he satisfies me that what is suggested is the right thing to do I will gladly meet him.


I should like to make a suggestion with regard to the figure seven which occurs at this point of the Bill. I would suggest that some consideration should be given to that number being increased. Seven miles is not a long distance in these days of motor vehicles, and I would suggest that it should be increased to ten miles.


I am glad that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has answered my noble friend in the way that he has done, because I think that this is a matter which can probably be adjusted to give general satisfaction. May I point out, so that there should be no possibility of confusion, that the Amendment which I understand is being put—that of Lord Raglan—differs fundamentally from the alternative which is down in the name of Lord Llewellin? If Lord Raglan's Amendment were accepted then the test would be merely a test to be applied at the moment a man is appointed. The result of it would be that if a man at the moment of appointment as justice of the peace satisfied the test he would continue to be a justice of the peace, whether he continued to live in the same place afterwards or went to live somewhere else. If I follow Lord Llewellin's Amendment correctly, he would have a provision that a justice shall continue to act as a justice only so long as he satisfies these conditions. That is plain when one looks at it closely, We have rather discussed this matter as though the two Amendments were saying the same thing. They are not. They are saying quite different things. That, however, is a matter which will no doubt be considered in the course of subsequent discussion.


In view of what has been said I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.44 p.m.

LORD MERTHYR moved to leave out subsection (5). The noble Lord said: This Amendment is the first of a small group which all deal with the same point. With your Lordships' permission I will put forward on this one Amendment all the arguments which I have to submit on the subject which it covers. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor reminded us just now that he was solely responsible for the appointment of justices. He said that he was in complete dominance of the situation. That, of course, is perfectly true. But what a great number of people perhaps do not realise is that those two sentences do not apply to the whole of this country, and that whereas the noble and learned Viscount appoints the justices in more than eighty counties in Great Britain, there is one county in which he does not do so. The purpose of this Amendment is to remove what I consider to be an entirely unjustifiable anomaly. I would like to say at once—though I hardly suppose it is necessary—that I am not making any sort of attack on the County of Lancaster. Further, I am not going to produce any evidence that anything wrong has taken place there in connection with the appointment of justices. I move this Amendment simply because, as I have said, I consider that this anomaly —for it is nothing else—should be removed. We have been reminded of the sort of organisation which we require for the appointment of justices. There is the Lord Chancellor and his office, his staff, the advisory committees, and so [...]orth, all specially concerned with this matter. In my submission it is pure waste, and unjustifiable waste, to have two such organisations in this country. It cannot even be said that Lancashire is so far away that a separate appointing machine is justified. If that were so, what about the counties in Scotland, for which it is not suggested that any separate organisation should be set up?

In support of this Amendment I would like to say that in my view this is not merely a harmless anomaly. Instances have occurred, and have continued, where the practice in Lancashire has differed from that in the rest of the country. For example, the Royal Commission were told that in Lancashire alone of all counties Members of Parliament were appointed, political agents were appointed. I submit that there is no case whatever for having that distinction. If it is wrong to appoint Members of Parliament in other parts of the country then it is wrong to do so in Lancashire. There is another and perhaps more weighty point. It is well recognised that so far as possible the person who appoints justices, whoever he may be, should be removed from political influences. He must be a very responsible Cabinet Minister I agree. It is surely far better that he should be in your Lordships' House, since he must be in Parliament, than in the House of Commons. The Royal Commission considered this point in connection with Scotland. Much evidence was heard and discussed as to the appropriate and best person to appoint justices for Scotland. The suggested alternatives were turned down because it was felt that the only person who really had a strong claim was the Secretary of State, and he ought not to be recommended for this purpose because he was almost always in the House of Commons.

May I briefly quote from paragraph 321 of the Report which appears on page 80? There the Commission say: … the Secretary of State is less removed from political influences than the Lord Chancellor. Further down the Commission say: … there is, we think, good ground for the view that he "— that is the Secretary of State— would be subjected to such pressure to a much greater extent than is possible in the case of the Lord Chancellor. I am not suggesting, as I have made clear, that any pressure has been sought to be used. But who would deny that it could be? A very awkward situation might arise. The other day a certain justice of the peace was dismissed. That might have happened in Lancashire. The Chancellor of the Duchy might have been a Member of Parliament for a Lancashire division, and the person concerned, whom it would have been his duty to dismiss, might even have been one of his own constituents. Even on that point, I am not suggesting that it could not possibly be done, but I do suggest that it would be far less awkward and far better in every way if it were the Lord Chancellor who had the duty of doing it.

As the Royal Commission rightly say, the Lord Chancellor is a very experienced legal officer; the Chancellor of the Duchy practically never is. He has never been a judge, and he may never have been a magistrate. He may not even have had arty experience of magistrates' courts. Yet he is entirely responsible for the appointment of justices in his county. I have asked myself what are the arguments for appointing justices in this one county out of eighty in a separate way. I searched for them, and there are only two. They are given by the Commission. The first is that Lancashire people want it, and the second is that it is tradition. I am impressed by neither of those arguments. I am not impressed by the fact that Lancashire people want it, because if it were now taking place in any other county the people of that county would want it; and I am afraid I am not impressed by the fact that it is history and tradition. I shall have to say again in this Committee stage that I was a humble student of history, and I have a due respect for tradition, but I refuse to allow history and tradition to impede the progress and improvement of things that are not right, and I think this is one of the cases where that applies. Look at it how I will, I am afraid I cannot see the argument for the retention of this pure anomaly and if beg leave to move my Amendment in order that that anomaly may be removed.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 19, leave out subsection (5).— (Lord Merthyr.)

3.52 p.m.


I am in rather an embarrassing position. I am not saying for a moment that I will do what is required better than anyone else, but I was for a good many years a Member of Parliament for a Lancashire Division. I could not agree at all with the view that the doctrine of what Lancashire wants does not matter. This point was referred to the Royal Commission, and in paragraph 43 of their Report they say this about it: The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a Minister of the Crown, but he is never a judge and has not the special qualifications of the Lord Chancellor for this particular duty. We have carefully considered whether his duties in respect of justices should be transferred to the Lord Chancellor. The evidence has satisfied us that the duties in respect of justices are performed in the Duchy at least as Well as in the rest of the country, and that opinion in Lancashire favours the retention of the existing system and would indeed resent any change in it. The argument for transfer to the Lord Chancellor rests on the desire for the removal of what appears to be an anomaly in order to secure a logical system. Against this must be set the long tradition which has resulted in these duties of the Chancellor of the Duchy being performed with care and in a judicial manner. In practice he is advised by competent officials who act on principles which closely correspond to those which guide the Lord Chancellor and his Department. We recommend that the Chancellor of the Duchy should continue to be the Minister responsible for justices in Lancashire. I would recommend your Lordships to accept the advice of the Royal Commission in this respect. My noble friend Lord Merthyr is an iconoclast. I rather like these old anomalies. It used to please me that in Lancashire the King was referred to as the Duke of Lancaster instead of as the King. Lancashire people are people steeped in tradition. They would very much resent the change and, on the whole, since it is the fact that the duty has been at least as well performed in the Duchy as by the Lord Chancellor, I should advise your Lordships against seeking a change. I may add that there have been several difficulties which have arisen in regard to which it has been rather useful for the Lord Chancellor to be able to go and discuss the matter with the official of the Duchy of Lancaster, to find out what is their practice. I must not be regarded now as advocating the competitive system, but I confess that it has been useful to be able to go and appeal to some other authority and find out what their practice is. I would advise your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.


My position, comparing small things with great, is at least as difficult as that of the Lord Chancellor, for I am a Lancastrian by birth, and for many years I have worked in perfect harmony with the officials of the Duchy Office. I have no doubt whatever that the Duchy Office cannot he in the same position as the Office of the Lord Chancellor to deal with these matters. The staff of the Lord Chancellor's Office for this purpose has endured for a very long time, and devotes its energies to this, and this only. I understand that since the present Lord Chancellor has been in office it has been further strengthened. It would be quite ridiculous if the Duchy, dealing with comparatively so small an area, were to go to all the expense and trouble of setting up a special department to deal with these matters.

It would be most improper, and certainly painful to me, if I were to criticise the administration in the Duchy Office in the past: I do not say a word about that. But I do say it is very embarrassing as between two offices that there should be two totally independent Cabinet Ministers, one of them peculiarly subject to political influence, and the other not subject to political influence, sometimes carrying on possibly (to my knowledge, certainly), different policies in this matter. I hope the Committee will pardon me if I say that I have always believed that the policy carried on by the Lord Chancellor of the day was the better of the two. I know I am rather impertinent in speaking about the matter at all, but I could not see Lord Merthyr go alone into the fight and not try to give him a hand by expressing my earnest belief on the subject.


If I may say a word on this matter, I think we should be well advised to follow the Royal Commission on this particular topic. I have a great deal of admiration for Lord Merthyr, who put forward his views in his Minority Report and who, as a good gunner, has returned to the charge today and made his point. However, unless there is something very wrong with the administration of this ancient system in Lancashire, we should be well advised to keep it. I cannot fail to disclose to the Committee that I think that as part of Doctor Dalton's time is spent in this way, it may even be better for the country.


I would like to intervene for one moment, as I am also one of those who belong in part to Lancashire and was brought up in that county. I should like to emphasise what has been said by the Lord Chancellor and by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin. In view of the fact that the system is working satisfactorily at the present time, I feel that the people in Lancashire would resent it if this ancient way of appointing justices in their county were abrogated under the Bill.


I rise to make only one observation. I am torn between two wishes. My first wish is to magnify the Lord Chancellor's Department. I desire to see it an even stronger Department than it has been in the past, and I wish all these questions of justice to be brought within the ambit of that Department. On general grounds, therefore, I should like to see the Lord Chancellor's Department responsible for appointments for the administration of justice in the Duchy of Lancaster. On the other hand, there is the strong pull of tradition. On the whole, I do not think I am prepared to support in a Division the proposal to transfer these appointments to the Lord Chancellor. At the same time, I would like to call the Lord Chancellor's attention to this point. So far this afternoon his arguments have consistently been an appeal to the Royal Commission. I hope he will continue to make that appeal when we come to the question of who should be responsible for the appointment of stipendiary magistrates, and so on. There are a whole series of questions that we shall have to discuss on which I hold strong views. I hope we shall find that the Lord Chancellor will continue that excellent practice until the end of these discussions.


I hestitate to join in this private war, but I want to say frankly that when we listened to the evidence which was given before the Royal Commission we decided to come down on the side of Lancashire for peace and quietness' sake. That was the real reason, and I must say that I put my signature to the Royal Commission on this point really to advocate a policy of appeasement. But we realised there was very little logic about it, and I wish we could accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, against even my own signature.


Speaking as a professional lawyer, I should certainly support the Amendment. For the moment, I do not quite see how your Lordships can possibly or wisely ignore the counsel which has been given to you briefly, but certainly very convincingly and eloquently, by the noble Lord, Lord Schuster. He must have what one might call a very specialised knowledge of these matters. If he thinks they are better dealt with by the Lord Chancellor's Department, then I think that Lord Merthyr's point is well made. This is not a matter for the County of Lancaster or any other county.


I am afraid I must take the other view. Here is a very ancient privilege of the great County of Lancaster, and I share the feeling of the noble Lord opposite who is very much a White Rose man. There is the separate Office of the Chancellor of the Duchy which has come down through the ages, and I really think that some of the anomalies of this county are among their most cherished possessions and should be continued unless there is a clear case of grave scandal. Let us have a few anomalies, provided they are harmless, as I maintain this one is harmless. I am sure fit at the idea that everything must he smoothed out is wrong. It will not only be "Home Rule for Scotland," but "Home Rule for Wales." If we get Home Rule for South Wales we shall get Home Rule for North Wales as against South Wales, and so on. This is one very ancient and picturesque anomaly appealing enormously to Lancashire folk, and let it go on a little longer until they make a "bloomer."


I was a member of this Commission, and with Lord Calverley I signed the Report. When I signed it I had no idea of appeasement. We thought that on the whole it was better to leave this matter alone, as it seemed to be working fairly satisfactorily.


The trouble this afternoon is that we are all quoting little snippets from the Report to suit our case, and I shall be guilty just as much as anybody else. I am sorry, but I am not impressed by the arguments which have been put forward against this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, said a word for the very ancient things, but there are a number of ancient things which are very bad things. I am not suggesting that great harm has been done by this anomaly, but it does not follow that because a thing is old it is good—it may be, but it does not follow. I am certain that there is a movement in favour of this Amendment, and I would like to press it.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 1 agreed to.

4.5 p.m.

LORD MERTHYR moved, after Clause 1 to insert the following new clause:

Chairman of County and District Council not to be Justice of the Peace ex officio

".Subsection (5) of section three of the Local Government Act, 1933, (which provides that the chairman of a county council shall, by virtue of his office be a justice of the peace for the county and subsection (5) of section thirty-three of the Local Government Act, 1933, (which provides that a chairman of a district council shall, by virtue of his office be a justice of the peace for any county in which the district is wholly or partly situate) shall cease to have effect."

The noble Lord said: I am afraid I accidentally allowed the last Amendment to go by default, but I will pass to an Amendment which is perhaps the most important on the List. If your Lordships will look at the Marshalled List, you will see that there are a number of Amendments on page 2 in my name. Now there are many remarks which I could make which apply to all these Amendments and, therefore, with the Committee's permission, I would like to make the case for these Amendments together. There will then be a few further remarks which I shall have to make on each one separately. I am sure that that will save the time of the Committee.

The whole point is whether there should be ex-officio justices. May I be allowed to say that on these matters the Royal Commission were unanimous? There are something like 2,500 ex-officio justices in this country, and of that number 1,800—not an insubstantial number—are mayors or chairmen of district councils. I think on principle the appointment of ex-officio justices is objectionable. Merely because a man holds one office, I do not think it at all follows that he is qualified to or should hold another. The difficuty, if there be one, is easily surmounted. If a man is thought to be the type who would make a good magistrate, there is nothing in the world to prevent his being appointed in the ordinary, proper way, and it is quite unnecessary to bring him in by the back door because he holds some other office.

There is further the objection that it is only too true that if you appoint chairmen of councils to be ex-officio justices you are, though perhaps indirectly, making people magistrates as a reward for public and political services. It surely cannot be denied that many people are appointed chairmen of councils as a reward for public and political service. Have we not been told over and over again, in lectures and speeches about magistrates and to magistrates, that it is objectionable to appoint a magistrate as a reward for a service, and that it should be regarded rather as a piece of work to be undertaken by him?

This is another case, I think, where the objections to the practice will be intensified in the future. I say that for this reason. If you read the Commission's Report, you will see that in the future there is going to be a fairly complete system of training of justices. Justices in the future are expected to read about, and make themselves acquainted with, the technicalities of their duties, to visit prisons, schools and institutions. They are expected to make a serious job of their work, and they are going to be paid expenses for doing so. Further, great trouble is now being taken, and greater trouble will be taken, to appoint as justices only people of suitable character, qualification and status.

Now if these ex-officio justices are appointed, all that is thrown away. All the effects of this training, which costs money, and all the effects of this sifting of a man's record and character, are rendered null and void, because a man comes on the bench by the back door, without any investigation whatever being made as to his antecedents or his past and without a penny being spent on his training. To my knowledge, that is the case. He may never have been into a court in his life before, in any capacity. Surely those are weighty reasons for the exclusion of these ex-officio justices. As I have said, with all the care exercised in picking good men, you may get men of any sort or character on the bench. I ventured to quote in my Report the case of a man who was mayor of a borough and who sat as chairman of a court and convicted himself for the eightieth time. That was done during the time when the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, was Lord Chancellor. I am sure that the noble and learned Viscount never heard a word about it.


He behaved very properly!


That happened, and it could happen again to-morrow. There is nothing whatever to prevent it. I know of other cases, and I have not been out to search the highways and byways for them. I have made no investigations. Those cases have come to my knowledge. There is nothing to prevent it happening again. Further, you may have, and do have, a court composed entirely of ex-officio justices. I know many cases where there are two on the same bench. I have heard of one case where there were six. If this matter of qualification means anything, the whole thing is rendered nugatory by having a bench composed entirely of ex-officio justices. Again—and this is the most important principle of all—these people are elected. I am a great admirer of the United States, but if there is one thing I do not approve of in the United States it is some of their criminal justice methods; and most of all the fact that they elect judges. It is horrifying to think that a man should be elected by popular vote to administer criminal justice. And here is the same principle in England. These people are to be elected judicial officers. I think, as a matter of deep principle, that that is most objectionable. There are approximately 1,800 of these justices in the country, and on that ground alone I think this practice ought to be terminated.

The Royal Commission investigated this matter thoroughly and have noted the fact, as we all know, that in many parts of the country chairmen are elected afresh every year. It is a wrong and thoroughly bad practice, but it is legal and it is growing. The saying is that "honours must go round." You depart from the good old system of picking your best man and sticking to him, and you elect a fresh man every year. A fresh man goes into court every year without any experience whatever. Forty per cent. of the ex-officio justices, say the Royal Commission, are in their first year. That was ascertained from the questionnaires that were sent round. May I now quote from paragraph 156, page 40, of the Report, on the subject of mayors? I am referring now to one of my other Amendments, all of which I beg leave to discuss together. As your Lordships will see, the Amendments vary, but the principle is the same in all cases. The first Amendment seeks to keep the chairman of the county and district councils off the bench, and the subsequent ones are to keep the mayor from sitting on the bench.

The present law goes very far because the mayor, as your Lordships know, is not only a justice for his year of office but is a justice for the year after his year of office—that is for the borough—and he is also a county justice for his year of office—a complicated state of affairs which leads to an extraordinary position. The most extraordinary position of all arises in the case of the ex-mayor who is not a county justice but is a borough justice. Where you have a borough with no separate commission of the peace there is a positively Gilbertian situation, which is described in paragraph 155 (c) at page 39 -of the Report. It says: … The ex-mayor is in a doubtful position; clearly he cannot sit in all cases that come before the court for the county petty sessional division, for he is a borough and not a county justice. A common practice is for the ex-mayor to sit in what are called "borough cases", that is, those arising in the borough. It is doubtful whether cases can be so divided, but"— this is the nice part— as Parliament has male the ex-mayor a justice for a part of an undivided whole it is perhaps unwise to invoke logical argument to show that the work cannot be divided. The result is that in several county divisions which include a borough without a separate commission there are two courts; the mayor and ex-mayor sit together and hear what are called "borough cases". and county justices sit together and hear what are called "county cases". The mayor and ex-mayor may have little experience of the work of a magistrates' court, and there is a real danger that the public will identify them with the borough council; the holding of such courts should not be permitted. I must express surprise that this Bill, to which we have all been looking forward so long, should have departed entirely from a unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission. I must qualify that by saying that not all these Amendments are recommended, but the first one, the important one, is a unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission made their recommendation and did not propose that the mayor should be turned off the bench. I should like to make it plain that in moving these Amendments I am expressing only my own opinion. I feel most strongly a bout this matter, and I believe there is strong feeling in the country amongst those who have studied the position. Therefore, reserving the right if necessary to say a few more words about each separate Amendment, I should like to move the first Amendment that stands in my name on page 2. If beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause I insert the said new clause.—(Lord Merthyr.)


In these matters one can speak only from experience. I have for twenty years been chairman of a bench which has two ex-officio magistrates on it. I have received a great deal of help from many such magistrates, and I have not suffered any inconvenience from any of them. Therefore, prima facie I have no objection to their retention on my bench. However, the matter goes a little further than that. I think it is undesirable that magistrates should be a sort of caste apart, a privileged class. I believe it is a good thing that members of the public—that is to say, selected members of the public—should have access to magistrates' retiring rooms and to know what goes on there. Although I realise that there is a good deal in the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, yet on the whole I am against his Amendment.


This point with regard to mayors occupied much time of the Royal Commission, because we realised that the mayor was the chief magistrate of the borough. The Lord Chancellor, I believe, when he was appointing new magistrates sent the list to the mayor as the chief magistrate of the borough. Speaking from memory, I think the Lord Chancellor and his department realised the anomaly especially in the smaller boroughs, about some of these mayors insisting on taking the chair without experience, saying "I am the chief magistrate; I am the boss." The Lord Chancellor has suggested that because a man is mayor he should not of necessity be the chairman. We were quite emphatic about that. As the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has just said, the people should have access to the magistrates, but there is no reason why there should be that access on an ex-officio basis. They should be put through the sieve like everybody else. That is why we suggested that chairmen of urban district councils and similar people should not sit on the bench by virtue of their office. Our pitch was queered a little, I believe, because the Secretary of State for Scotland had introduced a Bill and had appointed a whole spate of new ex-officio justices to the Scottish petty sessional benches. We felt that those justices could neither do much good nor cause much mischief; unpaid magistrates in Scotland, if they were abolished to-morrow, would never be missed. But I think we shall have to keep the mayors.


That last speech from a fellow-Yorkshireman brings me to my feet. As a countryman, I wish to protest against an undue preference being accorded to the mayors of towns. I have the greatest possible respect for mayors; I have no doubt that they perform both ornamental and valuable functions. But if they are to be regarded in the nature of chief magistrates, I really must protest against the suggestion that by reason of the fact that they are mayors they are more qualified by experience, human sympathy, and common sense to sit on a bench than are the chairmen of rural district councils or county authorities. For my own part, I think can be too logical in these matters. I am sure that a great deal that has grown up in our country and been found to work is very valuable. Successful appeal was made to your Lordships by my noble friend Lord Harlech for preserving special privileges for the the County of Lancaster with its special association with the Chancellor of the Duchy. But Lancashire does not stand alone; and I would say, as a countryman with some part in the life of my county, that the chairmen of our district councils are men selected on merit, who enjoy great respect, who take their duties seriously—and not only their duties as chairmen of their councils but their duties when they go to the bench.

The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr said that in future the members of benches are to be highly trained. They are to have special lectures in law and are to visit prisons and so on. I am all in favour of that; but do not tell me that you are going to get someone who is equivalent to a High Court Judge with a knowledge of the law of evidence by getting a man into a room for an evening lecture, or by arranging for him to visit a prison. If difficult cases come before a local bench and problems about evidence crop up, the man whose advice the chairman will take is the clerk of the magistrates, who ought to be properly trained and competent. Are there to be a lot of stipendiary magistrates, or are there to be people who have the knowledge and understanding of the district in which they reside and in which they are doing unsparing, unpaid, public service which every country in the world envies us? These men are respected and public-spirited men from every walk of life. They have given great service to the country in the past and, please God, will go on giving it in the future.

It is on these broad lines that, if I had to vote, I would cast my vote. I am quite certain that, weighing these imponderables in the scale against the technicalites that Lord Merthyr has advanced, we get benefit and not the opposite by having these respected men on the bench during their year of office. I speak with some experience of county matters. These men pull their weight, without throwing their weight about. I sincerely hope the Lord Chancellor will stick to the Bill as it stands, because I believe that that is the way in which continuity of all that is best in country life will be preserved.

4.27 p.m.


It is obvious that this is not a Party measure. Sitting here next to my noble friend Lord Swinton, I find myself in complete disagreement with what he has just said. I do not want to say anything against these ex-officio magistrates. What I do want to point out to the Lord Chancellor and noble Lords, however, is that great changes are now taking place. In the first place, we are basing ourselves on the recommendations of the Royal Commission in attempting to introduce a system of training for all new magistrates and for any existing magistrates who are prepared to take it. Let me reassure my noble friend that the last thing that anybody contemplates is that we shall be turning the benches into a home for superficial lawyers. That is not so at all. A large number of magistrates realise that their duties are becoming much more complex and that they need some general idea of what the duties involve before they adjudicate on the bench. When we come to a later part of the Bill we shall be discussing the kind of instruction that we contemplate; and my noble friend will see that it is not calculated to turn them into lawyers. That greater complexity of magistrates' duties is the first great change that has taken place.

Secondly, there is the fact that a great many of these local elections are now being decided upon exclusively Party issues. I think that is a great pity, but it is so. The chairmen of small councils now fight their elections supported by the Party machines and they are elected on Party grounds, and I think it is most objectionable that men who have been elected on Party grounds for a limited time should be ex-officio magistrates. If, as in many cases, they are excellent people of title kind that my noble friend wishes to retain upon the bench, by all means let the Lord Chancellor put them on the bench. Let them be magistrates like all the other magistrates. Let them avail themselves of the new system of training. Let them take their duties as seriously as the great majority of magistrates are now taking their duties. But let us on all accounts, so far as we can, keep politics off the benches, at any rate in this direct form of political election being the road to a place upon the bench. Let us keep the judiciary and the Legislature separate. Let us face the fact that what we are doing in this Bill is concentrated upon making magistrates take their duties much more seriously than they have in the past. If that is the main objective of the Bill, it is wrong to allow something like 10 per cent. of the total number of magistrates of the country to sit on the bench ex-officio, many of them elected upon political issues, irrespective of the discretion of the Lord Chancellor, as I believe is the case.

At the beginning of the discussion this afternoon the Lord Chancellor emphasized with great force the need in cases of this kind for keeping discretion entirely in the Lord Chancellor's hand. I do not demur from that point of view. But here we have men coining on the bench ex-officio. They are not recommended by advisory committees. Unless they commit some crime, if I am not mistaken the Lord Chancellor has no means of refusing to have them on the bench. For all those reasons I hope the Lord Chancellor will reconsider the position in relation to the Bill, and face the fact that to allow these ex-officio magistrates to continue cuts right across every principle in the Bill that matters. If he says to-day that by removing these ex-officio magistrates from the benches we shall be taking an interest from local life, I venture to say that the local benches are an integral part of local life. The magistrates themselves will resent intensely the fact that one of the most important recommendations of the Commission has not been carried out, and that a body of magistrates continue upon the benches who can in no important respect—either in respect of instruction, or of age, or of being recommended by the advisory committees—fit in with the general principles of the Bill. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will press the Amendment to a Division, and that we shall succeed in convincing the Committee that it is very necessary to insert a provision of this kind in the Bill.


More than once during the afternoon I have wondered whether the Committee have not been asked to take a certain line merely because it has been recommended by the Royal Commission. I believe the Committee will feel with me that we have to exercise an independent view upon every clause and every recommendation that is contained in the Bill. On this matter, however, I unhesitatingly say that I support every word that is contained in the Royal Commission Report. It seems to me—and I have had some experience judicially in these matters—that it is most unfortunate to have benches on which are sitting a large number of ex-officio justices. I believe that it is often a great misfortune that the mayor of a town sits as a justice at all.

I know that the Lord Chancellor is able in certain cases (as he did the other day), to issue an exclusion order, even against a mayor. A shocking case came before the Divisional Court a short time ago which led to the mayor of a borough being excluded from the bench. It was a case in which he sat and tried another member of the town council. I feel that the administration of justice will be helped to a very great extent if the ex-officio justices disappear. By all means, if they are men of judicial habit and of judicial thought, let them be put upon the bench by the Lord Chancellor in the ordinary way; but I submit that it is most undesirable that merely because they hold an elected position in local government they must necessarily be considered fitted to take part as justices of the peace. I hope the Committee will in this matter cordially support the Royal Commission Report, which I think is of the greatest possible importance.


I know that Lord Merthyr does not expect me to agree with all his Amendments, but in this particular case I think he is right. In the Royal Commission Report we considered the whole question of ex-officio justices. It was thought over for a long time, and we all came to agreement that it was not desirable to have them on the bench. It has already been said that they come to-day and are gone to-morrow. It is now proposed to give instruction to justices, and the ex-officio justices will not be expected to attend the various courses as will be the case with the other justices. So far as the rural district councils, the urban district councils and the borough councils are concerned, it would appear to me that if the chairmen and mayors were placed on the supplemental list it would answer the question. After all, mayors and such-like are generally confined in their activities to signing papers. But they can do it just as well as justices on the supplemental list as they can sitting as justices on the bench, and I think Lord Merthyr is right in what he says with regard to ex-officio justices. I have put down an Amendment with regard to mayors being placed on the supplemental list, but with the permission of the Committee, I do not propose to move it. I throw it out merely as a suggestion which might bridge the gap.


I desire to say very few words in support of Lord Merthyr's Amendment. If, as I rather apprehend from the silence of the Lord Chancellor, he is proposing to resist this Amendment, it will be a most unholy spectacle of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and the Lord Chancellor uniting in defence of a Tory principle. All the more so, because the Tory principle does not go back further than 1933 or, if the 1933 Act is a re-enactment of some earlier Statute, a little earlier in this particular century. The reason why I submit that Lord Merthyr is incontestably right is not only that the Commission were unanimous on this point. The principle that a magistrate should be of some permanence, some stability, is outraged when people who are chairmen to-day and gone tomorrow sit on a bench which they are never going to sit upon again, unless they are appointed by the Lord Chancellor as suitable persons. That is an outrage upon any principle of continuity. They are not selected at all with regard to judicial qualities. The qualities of affairs and of elections and so forth which pre-eminently distinguish chairmen of district councils are not qualifications which commend these men as fit or proper for membership of a bench of justices. That is the elected principle gone mad. On those short grounds I support my noble friend Lord Merthyr with all the emphasis in my power.


I should like to say, as I have had some experience as Lord Chancellor, that I agree with everything that has been said by the noble and learned Lord Chief Justice. I would add that cases have come to my knowledge in which mayors have acted, not because of any merits in a particular case but because a person accused has been a personal friend; in other words some mayors—not all perhaps—have not the judicial instincts that people holding such an important position as chairman of a local bench ought to have.

4.42 p.m.


My noble friend Lord Swinton said he hoped that I was going to support him in what he said. I am afraid I cannot do that, though I shall have great pleasure in supporting the fourth of Lord Merthyr's Amendments. I long for the Archbishop of York and his Chancellor to continue to exercise civil jurisdiction in the extinct shire of Hexham. They still have the legal right to do so, but I am quite sure that they have not exercised it for the last five hundred years. I think it is unnecessary and even terrible to tidy up the Statute Book in that kind of way.

Let us recognise that this, as the Lord Chief Justice has said with such emphasis, is really a matter on which practice varies to an extraordinary degree. The chairman of a rural district council is usually a widely respected person. Almost invariably leading people in a district are chosen for such office. But with regard to some of my councils—and I think it is the case with regard to other councils—it is almost invariably the rule that no one is ever chairman of the rural district council for more than a year. It has become a sort of democratic tradition that the occupant of the chair passes on after one year of office. It is well known that the chairman of a rural district council and the clerk and his officials have a good deal of work to do, and the chairman is almost always a working fanner or a man carrying on business in a small town in the district.

In my own county it is remarkable that several men who are appointed as chairmen of these authorities do not wish to be magistrates and who, rather than become magistrates for a year, have declined to take the oath. They will not do it, even for the sake of prestige and to keep up the representation of the authority on the bench. They say in effect, "I am prepared to do the work on the council for a year but if, in addition, you seek to make me chairman of the bench I will not do it." As I have said, there is a very varied practice here, and I have certainly come to the conclusion that the balance is in favour of the Royal Commission's Report. There is something to be said on the other side, especially in the case of mayors of larger towns and the like, but certainly in regard to rural district councils I think it very undesirable that a man who is chairman for a year should be automatically put on the bench.

I may say that in some petty sessional divisions in my county we have two or three of these ex-officio magistrates who are district council representatives. We have a rather slender bench of permanent magistrates, and I have been informed that on occasions the "temporary magistrates" if I may so cell them, have been in a position to out-vote the chairman of the bench and his one permanent colleague who is able to attend. That is a very undesirable situation. Therefore, on balance, I think that the Lord Chief Justice is right. It may be that if we pass the general principle that the bulk of the ex-officio magistrates are not to continue to be magistrates, we may on Report stage have to consider whether there are exceptional cases. I shall certainly vote in favour of abolishing the ex-officio rights of members of rural and urban district councils—I say nothing at this stage about boroughs or county boroughs where it may be that the situation is rather different—to be magistrates just for a year. I think it is most undesirable.


A good deal has been said about mayors in this discussion. As one who has been a mayor for five years, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word or two on their behalf. We do take very seriously our duties as magistrates from every point of view. Indeed, when the selection of a mayor is being made, careful attention is paid to the question whether he is or is not a suitable person to preside over a bench. It is not the case that we take our duties as lightly as the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, suggested. If we are discussing the whole series of Amendments, I would commend in this connection the paragraph in the Royal Commission's Report which emphasises the exceptional position of mayors, and I would suggest that where a borough has a bench there is a good deal to be said for the mayor being a member during his year of office. I do not necessarily press that he should be a member during the subsequent year or that he should be chairman of the bench.


I see that the Lord Chancellor is going to give us his view on this matter and that is what we are all anxious to hear. I should be very willing to remain silent on this subject, especially as there is a difference of opinion among my friends and others in the Committee, but in view of the fact that I have held the office of Lord Chancellor I do not think I should be doing my duty if I did not briefly state the conclusion to which I myself have come. I confine myself to the first Amendment, which is the one now actually before the Committee. If I understand it rightly, it covers the case of the chairmen of county councils. I have no doubt from the experience that I have had that there are, as one would expect, a large number of cases of individuals who have held these local chairmanships and who are at the same time qualified for and do in fact discharge the very different duties of justice of the peace.

Now although we need not necessarily be governed by what the Royal Commission has said, it is useful to note that on page 40 they state that they find there are a number of people who happen to be chairmen of local authorities who are already, in quite another character, on the commission of the peace. That is as it should be. Our local justice depends upon that. We could not govern the country in these matters without it. Our local justice depends essentially on getting people of worth, good will and good sense to act as lay magistrates. There are plenty of people possessing these qualities who may also find them- selves in the position of chairman of these local bodies. But there is no necessary correspondence between the two things. I would confirm strongly what the Lord Chancellor claimed just now, that the broad principle is that the Lord Chancellor has the responsibility—and it is a very grave responsibility—of choosing and deciding who shall be members of the local benches. This is a statutory exception to that; it has nothing to do with the Lord Chancellor's judgment. To my mind the only serious difficulty in the way of Lord Merthyr's argument is that we should be changing a practice which has now some long standing, though in the case of local authorities, as distinct from the mayor of a borough, it is not very ancient. That is a consideration.

My own judgment, which I am bound to state with candour, is that the argument of the Lord Chief Justice cannot be resisted. I am bound to place, and I do place, the case for the administration of justice in front of anything else. Therefore, on the whole I think the view is right that, while the Lord Chancellor would certainly have to see to it that many of these gentlemen holding office were put on the bench, it should nevertheless rest with a proper authority to decide the matter; it should not be automatic that the initials "J.P." should be added to a gentleman—he may be a gentleman of excellent attainments—who in any case will fill this judicial office for only a short time. It is of the essence of our system that magistrates should gain by experience and continuity of office. The holding of this position should not be regarded as automatically adding to the numbers of the local bench.

4.53 p.m.


I am sorry if I have given the impression of being a little coy about taking part in this debate. I confess that the fact that such divergent views have been so well expressed made the debate a most interesting one to listen to. I myself find the Report of the Royal Commission not very convincing on this point—here I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I cannot see any grounds for saying that mayors must continue, for instance, and that chairmen of county councils must not. If we are going to be logical about this, we must go through with it. Then there is the question: Ought we to go through with it? I want to give your Lordships my impression. I know there are some of these ex officios who are quite unfit to sit, but there are some of them who are very good—they vary.

At present, a mayor who sits ex officio presides. That we are now doing away with; if he comes on at all he must come as an ordinary member, just like the chairman of a county council or district council. But your Lordships, I think, have lost sight of one feature. It sometimes happens that during the time the mayor or chairman sits there ex officio it is discovered that he is very good. And this is a source from which we not infrequently get magistrates. A fellow conies along and is seen in action, and it is decided that he is well worth having. When his year comes to an end—I agree that it is often only a year—they tell me that the fellow has been very useful and proved himself, and I make him a magistrate. I get to know of his capabilities and his capacity solely because he is an ex officio. That point has not been mentioned but it is important.

Of course, some of the ex officios are not fit to sit. But in the case the Lord Chief Justice had in mind it is fair to say that there were three magistrates. There was the ex officio who presided, the mayor, as it was a county case.


Was it a county case?


Yes, it was a county case. The Statute provides that the mayor shall be appointed a county justice, and he presides. But let us be fair about it. There were two others. Though I had to make an order excluding the mayor, I had to remove the other two from the bench. So that does not exclusively tell against an ex officio, as there were two of the others. I do not think I should be prepared to say, from my own personal experience, that I could lay down a priori that the ex officios are worse than the others. I feel, however, that there is a real point of substance in the fact that they are there for such a short time. To my mind that is a great difficulty. If we are successful, as I hope we shall be, in getting some scheme of training going, I should not feel justified in asking anybody who is to sit for only a year to undergo a course of training such as we contemplate for the others.

Those are the difficulties, and it is important that this Committee should reach some conclusion on them. If you exclude one group of ex officios, then I feel you have to exclude them all. And you have got to face up to it: Are you, or are you not, going to do it? I admit quite frankly that it is very difficult, but what on the whole convinced me that we had better have the Bill in the form in which we now have it, was this. It was not a question of the administration of justice—if I had to look at it solely from the point of view of the administration of justice, I am not sure that I would not vote for the Amendment. But we must not lose sight of the other aspect—namely, the position of local government. The posh ion of local government is one which to-day gives us some concern and anxiety. We are taking away from local government—I think it is inevitable—so many functions which they used to carry out. What is concerning us all, my Party as well as the Party of noble Lords opposite, is the question: Is there enough left in local government to attract the best men? That is a matter of great anxiety. If at this rather critical moment in this matter (Mr. Churchill had something to say about it only the other day) we take away from these people what they regard as a privilege—or, if you like, what they regard as a perquisite which they have enjoyed for seventy or eighty years, in the case of the chairman, and much longer in the case of mayors—it will be regarded as a further blow to local government. I have no doubt about that.

The views of the various organisations who speak for local government are set out at the bottom of page 40 of the du Parcq Report, in paragraph 157. The Association of Municipal Corporations wanted the existing system to continue, except for the mayor's right to preside. The urban and rural district councils wanted it to go on, though they wanted an assimilation of their position with that of the mayors. The County Councils Association took a different view, which is set out in small print at the top of page 41. But the balance of view of the associations of local representatives, naturally enough, was in favour of the continuance of the existing system.


The noble and learned Viscount will remember that a great deal of evidence was given on the other side. For instance, the chairmen and deputy chairmen of quarter sessions were strongly against the continuance of the ex officios. One or two Lords Lieutenant spoke strongly against it, together with the chief constables and a whole number of other people actively engaged in local administration.


Quite right; and it is the fact—I do not want to conceal anything from your Lordships—that the Labour Party themselves spoke against it and put forward what I thought was rather an ingenious proposal which would perhaps have had the effect of softening the blow, that these people, although they should not be active justices, should be on the supplemental list. The noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, has that down in an Amendment to which we are coming later on. I have endeavoured to present to your Lordships fairly the arguments pro and con. We feel that at the present time we should not do something which would be regarded, rightly or wrongly, as a further blow against local government. I think this is typically a matter upon which your Lordships ought to decide and tell us what line you consider we ought to adopt.

5.2 p.m.


The noble and learned Viscount mentioned, but did not read, the opinion of the County Councils Association, which is most lucidly expressed on page 41. With the Committee's permission, I would like to read it, because it sums up the case for this Amendment from a very impartial point of view. I would ask the Committee to remember that they are really making this recommendation against their own interests and, therefore, it has all the more value. They say:

"The Association entertain no doubt that, if any approach is to be made to the ideal that only the most suitable persons are appointed to the commission of the peace, then chairmen of county, borough, urban and rural district councils should cease to qualify for admission to the list merely by their assumption of these offices. The qualities which enable a chairman of a local authority to perform his duties with success are not of necessity those requisite for the office of justice of the peace, added to which there is the point that in many areas the office of chairman is a matter of rotation rather than of distinctive merit. In any event, if a chairman of a local authority is suitable for appointment as a justice of the peace, the ordinary procedure should suffice to ensure his consideration for that office."

I could not possibly have said that better, and it reminds me of something which was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. He was apprehensive that country people were not going to get their share of appointments to the bench. He pointed out, quite rightly, the value of country people. I agree; but country people do not lose their ruddy complexion merely because the Lord Chancellor appoints them. If they are qualified to sit, there is no reason whatever why the Lord Chancellor should not appoint them. The noble Viscount said that this system had been found to work well. I must join issue with him and say that I have heard of too many cases where it has been found to work not at all well and where abuses have occurred.


That is like married life. You always hear of the few divorces and never of the many happy marriages.


I am going to ask your Lordships to press this Amendment to a Division.

On Question, Whether the proposed new clause shall be there inserted?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 24.

Exeter, M. Derwent, L. Monson, L.
Reading, M. Digby, L. Morris, L.
Dorchester, L. Rennell, L.
Hailsham, V. Goddard, L. Roche, L.
Maugham, V. Harlech, L. Rochester, L.
Simon, V. Killearn, L. Saltoun, L.
Templewood, V. Merthyr, L. [Teller.] Schuster, L.
Middleton, L. [Teller.] Winster, L.
Baden-Powell, L.
Jowitt, V. (L. Chancellor.) Blackford, L. Holden, L.
Broadbridge, L. Kershaw, L. [Teller.]
Onslow, E. Carrington, L. Luke, L.
Chorley, L. Marley, L.
Margesson, V. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Raglan, L
St. Davids, V. Crook, L. Shepherd, L.
Swinton, V. Darwen, L. [Teller.] Templemcre, L.
Hawke, L. Williams, L.
Bingham, L. (E. Lucan.) Hayter, L. Wolverton, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.10 p.m.

LORD MERTHYR moved, after Clause 1 to insert the following new clause:

Mayor of Borough not to be justice of the peace for a county

". Subsection (8) of section eighteen of the local Government Act, 1933 (which provides that the Mayor of a non-county borough shall during his term of office be a justice of the peace for the county in which the borough is situate) shall cease to have effect."

The noble Lord said: The next Amendment which is down in my name seeks to provide that the mayor of a non-county borough shall not, during his term of office, be a justice of the peace for the county in which the borough is situated. With regard to another of these Amendments, I might have said that in view of the Division which has just taken place I would not move it, but this Amendment covers, I submit, a different point. This deals with the case of a mayor who is appointed to be a justice for a different area from that in which his office lies. I have never been able to discover any justification for it. I concede that there might be something to be said for a mayor being a justice in a borough, but I cannot see the reason for his being a justice outside the borough. The chairman of an urban district council is not a county justice; the chairman of a rural district council is not a county justice, and I would evnture to adopt respectfully the argument of the noble and learned Viscount who said just now: "If we are going to do this, we should do all of it." That, I take it, means that we should treat these three chairmen in the same way. If he means that, then the point which I am pressing now is that the mayor should have no more privileges than the chairman of an urban council or the chairman of a rural council.

In the old days, centuries ago, the boroughs were the largest and most important towns in the country. That does not wholly apply to-day. If you look at the statistics, you will find that, in some cases, though not of course in all, the boroughs are very small and the urban districts are very large. There is at least one borough in this country with a population of loss than 1,000 and there is, to my knowledge, at least one—and I think more—urban district which has a population of over 200,000. Yet the chairman of that urban district with, in one case, 217,000 people, is denied a privilege (if it is one) which is accorded to the mayor of a borough of 9,000 people. Here again there is nothing Whatever but tradition to support it. There are no concrete reasons why the mayor of a small borough should do the work which the other man is not asked to do. If a mayor is to be a county justice, then I should say, logically, a chairman of the council ought to be also. I think it would be far better if that were so. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment moved— After Clause 1, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Merthyr.)


With great deference to the noble Lord who has moved it, I am afraid that we cannot accept this Amendment. I submit to your Lordships that the principle is cohered by the Division which has just been taken. This is the case of the mayor of a borough which has not a separate commission being ex officio a justice in the county. The noble Lord made some remarks to the effect that the chairmen of urban district councils in like circumstances were not ex-officio justices. I could not quite follow him in that because, of course, they are. It may be that there are some of these very small boroughs where the mayor has this position ex officio but, on the other hand, there are quite substantial boroughs which have no separate commission. I think one has to look at the situation as a whole and not single out the small boroughs, many of which, no doubt, will lose their position as time goes on. In those circumstances I suggest to your Lordships that the Division which has already been taken covers this point in principle, and that the advice of my noble and learned friend, to the effect that we must treat the whole of these ex-officio cases in one way or the other, is perfectly sound. In those circumstances I hope that your Lordships will agree that this Amendment ought not to be accepted.


The point is not exactly the same. The last Division settled the point that the mayors should remain justices, but there is nothing about their remaining county justices. It is a different point.


They can only be county justices, because the point of the Amendment is to deal with cases where there is not a commission in the borough.


I made one statement which was perhaps misleading, but with great respect I venture to say that the noble Lord has also, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, points out, there is the case of the non-county borough which has a separate commission of the peace. That case is one with which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, did not deal. There you have a mayor of a non-county borough with a separate commission of the peace. The law makes him a justice for his borough for his year of office and for one year after, but it also makes him—and this is what I want to alter—a justice of the peace of the county; and he then can sit both at quarter sessions and outside his borough He can go to the neighbouring county petty sessional division outside his borough and sit there. He can sit in two divisions. I do not think that situation is at all desirable, and it ought to be ended. That is the privilege, which is not accorded to the chairman of an urban district council, which I seek to deny to this mayor. I am afraid that I did not make myself quite clear because, as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has said, the chairman of the urban council is a county magistrate but he is not a magistrate for two places, as a mayor is. Perhaps I ought to withdraw this Amendment now, reserving the right to put down another later which will make a clearer distinction between the two points. I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.


Before this Amendment is withdrawn, which is the course I was going to suggest, may I say one word? As the Bill is drawn there will, as I understand it, be no separate commissions of the peace, other than those for county boroughs and for counties. But I have an Amendment later in the Marshalled List to preserve separate commissions of the peace for non-county boroughs with a population of over 25,000, a matter about which we shall obviously have some discussion as that is one of the major points in this Bill. In those circumstances we may find at a later stage that there are still some non-county boroughs left with separate commissions of the peace. If that should be so, I should have thought it only right that we should preserve the mayor as a justice, though only for the non-county borough and not for the county as a whole. I suggest that we adopt the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, and I suggest also that the Amendment should be withdrawn for the additional reason I have given.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD MERTHYR moved, after Clause 1 to insert the following new clause:

Mayor of Borough not to be Justice of the Peace ex officio after ceasing to be Mayor

". So much of subsection (7) of section eighteen of the Local Government Act, 1933, as provides that the mayor of a borough shall continue to be a justice of the peace for the borough during the year next after he ceases to be mayor shall cease to have effect."

The noble Lord said: This case is quite unlike any of the others. The law says that the mayor shall be a justice of the peace not only during his year of office but for twelve months afterwards. Why that is so I have not the slightest idea: there is no other case like this. Chairmen of urban district councils are not justices for more than one year, but for some reason or other the mayor is; and one finds the unsatisfactory position in which a court in a borough is manned entirely by the mayor and the ex-mayor, and by no one else. The Royal Com- mission say that that ought to be stopped, and I think it ought to be stopped. I am unable to understand the reason for this piece of legislation, and I want to alter it. I agree with the Lord Chancellor that we should make the position the same for all. I think I am right in saying that with a mayor the case is quite different from what it is in the case of these chairmen, and I want to make the position the same. I can see no reason why the mayor should go on for twelve months after ceasing to he mayor. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 1, insert the said new clause.— (Lord Merthyr.)


I cannot accept this Amendment. There is one very obvious and, I think, substantial difference between the position of mayor and that of the chairman of a district council, and that is that the mayor remains, after his year of office has come to an end, as deputy-mayor.



He does, in my experience, in almost all eases. He may not do so in every single case, but he certainly does in my experience.

A NOBLE LORD: It may be a local custom.


Whether that is a good point or not might depend on a statistical investigation, which we are obviously not in a position to carry out. But it was a difference which occurred to me, and I find that the experience of some of my colleagues has been the same as mine. Be that as it may, the view of the Government is that this particular matter ought to be dealt with on the same lines as those indicated by my noble and learned friend, and that there is no distinction between these cases, which must all be taken together. In these circumstances I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.


With great respect, there is every distinction between this case and the others. This is the only one in which the second year is mentioned. Surely I am right in saying that. In every other case the provision is that a man shall be an ex-officio justice of the peace by reason of his office. This man is not an ex-officio justice of the peace, because he does not hold the office. The Bill says that for twelve months after holding the office he shall he a justice of the peace. Properly speaking, he is not an ex-officio justice at all. If I am wrong I am open to be corrected. This man is in quite a different position from all the others. The noble Lord, in my humble opinion, has not advanced a single argument against this Amendment, and at the moment I am inclined to press it to a Division if I can get support and a noble Lord to tell with me.


I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, will reconsider this question between now and the Report stage. The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr is perfectly right in distinguishing this case from the others. I do not want to take up the time of the House with a long argument but it is surely unique that an ex-officio magistrate continues in office when he is no longer ex officio. I hope the noble Lord and the Lord Chancellor will look again into this specific point. I suggest that Lord Merthyr need not put the House to the trouble of a Division; but we should like the noble Lord to consider the matter again particularly after the Lord Chancellor's speech on the main Amendment, in which he said that all these cases should be treated alike.


I will certainly look into the matter.


On the understanding that the Government will look into the matter between now and the Report stage I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD MERTHYR moved, after Clause 1 to insert the following new clause:

Ecclesiastical persons not to be Justices of the Peace ex officio

". Sections twenty[...] twenty-one and twenty-two of the Act of Parliament made in the twenty-seventh year of His late Majesty King Henry the Eighth entitled An Acte for recontynuyng of c'tayne libties and franchises heretofore taken frome the Crowne (which provide respectively that the Bishop of Ely and his Steward shall be justices of the peace for the Isle of Ely, that the Bishop of Durham and his Chancellor shall be justices of the peace for the county of Durham, and that the Archbishop of York and his Chancellor shall be justices of the peace for the shire of Hexham) shall cease to have effect."

The noble Lord said: I will not detain the House for long on this Amendment, but I must make this point, because I have felt rather strongly about it for some time. I am against ex-officio magistrates, and it may be interesting, if a little tactless, if I ask on how many occasions these justices have sat on the bench. We are approaching the stage when justices are expected to do their duty as justices of the peace. I plead guilty to being logical—a terrible offence in this country. Therefore I entirely fail to see why the most reverend Primate should be an ex-officio justice for the shire of Hexham—particularly as the shire of Hexham does not exist. With no less respect I fail to see why the Steward to the Bishop of Ely should be a justice of the peace for the Isle of Ely—though I am well aware that the Isle of Ely does exist. I think that situation is wrong and ought to be put right. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause I, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Merthyr.)


The noble Lord is not quite so logical as he thinks he is. He has failed to notice the provisions of the Statute Law Revision Act of 1948, under which all these justices, or persons who would otherwise be justices, cease to be justices, with the solitary exception of the temporal Chancellor. He is a distinguished lawyer and, therefore, we should all desire that he should continue to be a justice. But the other eminent ecclesiastical dignitaries, the Bishop of Ely, the Bishop of Durham and the Archbishop of York, although they would all grace any bench upon which they sat, are no longer justices, owing to the repeal of the provisions of the Statute of Henry VIII by the Act of 1948.


I hasten to say that I was not aware of that. I apologise for detaining the Committee unnecessarily. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD MERTHYR had given Notice of his intention to move, after Clause 1, a new clause to repeal the enactment providing for the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University as a justice of the peace. The noble Lord said: I expect the Committee will be getting a little tired of ex-officio justices, and therefore I do not propose to move this Amendment.

Clause 2:

Disqualification in certain cases of justices who are members of local authorities

2.—(1) A justice of the peace who is a member of a local authority within the meaning of the Local Government Act, 1933, the London Government Act, 1939, or the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, shall not act as a member of a court of quarter sessions or of summary jurisdiction or as examining justice in any proceedings brought by or against, or by way of appeal from a decision of, the authority or any committee or officer of the authority.

(2) For the purposes of the foregoing sub-section—

  1. (a) the expression "court of quarter sessions" includes any committee by which the powers and duties of such a court are exercisable by virtue of any Act;
  2. (b) any reference to a committee of a local authority includes a joint committee, joint board, joint authority or other combined body of which that authority is a member or on which it is represented; and
  3. (c) any reference to an officer of a local authority refers to a person employed or appointed by the authority or a committee thereof in the capacity in which he is employed or appointed to act.

(3) A justice of the peace who is a member of the common council of the City of London shall not act as a member of a court of quarter sessions or of summary jurisdiction or as examining justice in any proceedings brought by or against, or by way of appeal from a decision of, the corporation of that City or the common council or any committee or officer of the corporation or common council; and the last foregoing subsection shall apply for the purposes of this subsection, with the substitution for references to a local authority of references to the corporation or common council.

(4) Nothing in this section shall prevent a justice acting in any proceedings for an offence by reason only of their being brought by a police officer.

(5) This section shall in its application to Scotland have effect as if in subsection (1) after the words "summary jurisdiction" there were inserted the words "or of a small debt court."

5.32 p.m.

VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "summary jurisdiction or an examining justice" and to insert "a magistrates' court." The noble Viscount said: I hope there will be general agreement upon this and the following consequential Amendments. I think I can put the case in a sentence or two. In the course of this Bill, courts where magistrates carry on their duties are described in a variety of ways, such as petty sessions, police courts, stipendiary courts and so on. I think the time has come to give a general name to courts where magistrates carry on their duties and to call them simply "magistrates' courts." I think that is a much better name than "police courts." Magistrates' courts have no direct connection with police counts at all, and to call them as they often are, "police courts," particularly in London, gives the impression that the post of magistrate is something to do with the police administration. That is not so; he is a judicial authority and is quite separate from the police. I hope, therefore, that the Lord Chancellor will agree that wherever those different names are mentioned in this Bill we shall substitute for them the simple term "magistrates' courts."

I realise that I cannot ask him to rewrite all of the Statute law dealing with these courts in which one or other of these other names may be included; but what I would suggest to him is that, while we leave these back Statutes to themselves, we should get the name inserted in this Bill, and that when there is a consolidation of the old Acts the name "magistrates' courts" should be inserted before these ether names. The Amendments in my name cover courts of petty sessions; they cover magistrates when they are undentaking their duties as examining magistrates; they also cover the courts in the city where the name "justices' room" is much better than the name "police curt"; and they also affect the title of "stipendiary magistrates." Noble Lords who look at the Order Paper will see that there is a whole series of Amendments of this kind in my name. That is the object of all of them, and I hope that the Lord Chancellor and the Committee will agree with their object.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 27, leave out from second ("of") to ("in") in line 28, and insert ("a magistrates' court").—(Viscount Templewood.)


I am grateful to the noble Viscount for the trouble he has taken in this matter and, in particular, for making this suggestion, which I readily accept. I think the phrase "magistrates' court" is much better, and although, as he rightly says, we cannot re-write the Summary Jurisdiction Act here and now, yet my object in this Bill is, so far as possible, to use the words "magistrates' courts" or "justices' room" when we are dealing with the city and metropolitan stipendiary magistrates, and not "metropolitan police count magistrates," in the hope that if and when the consolidation of the other Acts is carried through (which I hope is not going to be very long deferred) we shall be able to use throughout the simple term "magistrates' courts." I therefore have much pleasure in accepting the series of Amendments on this point which occur throughout this measure.


I beg to move the two consequential Amendments.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 45, leave cut from second ("of") to ("in") in line 46 and insert ("a magistrates' court").—(Viscount Templewood.)

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 11, leave out ("summary jurisdiction") and insert ("magistrates' court").—(Viscount Templewood.)

LORD RAGLAN moved to omit Clause 2. The noble Lord said: In the very courteous reply which the noble and learned Viscount made to me on the Second Reading, he said that if in any case he thought it might not be proper for him to sit, he did not sit; and he seemed to think that his position in the matter was the same as the position of a chairman of a magistrates' court. But I can assure him that the position is quite different. If the noble and learned Viscount decides not to sit, he simply is not there, and probably no one except his colleagues knows why he is not there. But if a chairman decides not to sit, a very different state of affairs arises. He may go half way through his list and then come to a case in which the village grocer it charged with having an unstamped weight. If he is a county councillor, what happens is that he has to leave the bench. If another magistrate happens to be a county councillor, he also has to leave the bench. Some other magistrate has to take the chair, everybody in court has to stand up and sit down, and then this grocer is brought forward. He says he is very sorry and that it was an oversight. He is fined five shillings, and almost before the chairman has got to the retiring room somebody is running after him to fetch him back again, and everybody in court gets up and sits down again. That is the kind of thing that goes on. I can assure the Committee that that does not lend either dignity or efficiency to the administration of justice.

There are many other anomalies arising from the same principle. There are many magistrates' courts which cater for more than one local government area. There may be two persons charged with the same offence before the same court, and half the magistrates on the bench would be disqualified from trying one of them and the other half would be disqualified from trying the other. I can assure the Committee that there is no end to the anomalies which will arise in this situation. There are the difficulties of getting a quorum, and in many cases the persons most desirable as magistrates are members of local authorities. As the noble and learned Viscount himself has said, this is not the moment in which to discourage able and distinguished persons from taking their place as members of local authorities as well. I hope very much that the Lord Chancellor will see his way, to some extent at any rate, to reconsider this clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 2.—(Lord Raglan.)


I am sorry I cannot see my way to reconsider this clause. Here I am following directly the advice of the Royal Commission and clearing up an obscurity which exists in the law at the present time. I cannot remind the Committee too often of the old adage, that not only must justice be done, but justice must appear to be done. If the local authority are bringing a case against a man, and sitting on the bench is a member of the local authority, although he might not allow himself to be in any way influenced—I do not say he would so allow himself—yet it might be thought that the man was not having a fair deal. I am quite satisfied that it is much better in those circumstances that we should have a clear rule. There is nothing to be said for the obscurity which exists to-day. First, we should have a clear rule, and, secondly, the rule should be that the member of the local authority is not qualified to sit in a case in which his local authority is concerned.

But the Commission (in paragraph 129, on page 22) say this: … Local authorities and their committees and officials are responsible for bringing a number of proceedings before magistrates courts and on occasion these bodies and officials may be defendants. A justice who is a member of an authority is in some instances disqualified from adjudicating in such a case, whilst in other instances the legal position is doubtful."— I will refer to that point in a moment. The Commission go on to say: In our view the rule should be simple and intelligible, and we recommend that a justice who is a member of a local authority should not adjudicate in any case brought by or against the authority of which he is a member or any of its committees or officials, and that this should be made clear by legislation. I am sure that that is right.

Just consider how complicated the position is at the present moment. The Home Office circular to which the Commission refer in a footnote at the bottom of page 32 is here before me. In the first paragraph the Home Secretary disclaims any power or right to lay down the law and says that what he states is what he is advised is the law. He goes on to say that he is advised that: … a member of a local authority, or of a committee of a local authority is in law disqualified from acting as a justice in any proceedings brought by a local authority, or a committee or an officer thereof, if he has been present at a meeting of the local authority or committee and supported or acquiesced in a resolution directing the proceedings to be instituted. He is also advised that a consideration of the judicial decisions suggests that a member of a local authority is not in law disqualified by mere membership of the local authority from acting as a justice in proceedings brought by a committee of the local authority of which he is not a member, or by an officer of such committee, if the matter of the proceedings stands finally referred to the committee and the decision of the committee is in no way subject to the approbation of the local authority. The Secretary of State is further advised that the question whether, in the absence of any special statutory provision, a member of a local authority, is in law disqualified by mere membership from acting as a justice in proceedings instituted by the local authority or an officer thereof is open to serious doubt; it would, however, appear on the whole probable that he is not so disqualified. There is nothing to be said for leaving the matter in this state of confusion. We shall all agree, I am sure, that whatever else we have, we must have a rule which is clear and intelligible. I suggest that a clear and intelligible rule is that if a man is a member of a local authority he should not be allowed to sit in such cases. After all, I should not be allowed to sit, the Lord Chief Justice would not be allowed to sit, in a civil action in which some great company was concerned—I.C.I. for instance—if we held even half-a-dozen shares in that Company. It seems to me that it is better that a rule should err on the side which I am now suggesting, rather than on the other side, so that everyone may be satisfied that he is having even-handed justice in this matter. I therefore ask your Lordships to agree with the view expressed by the Royal Commission.


I rise to say that I am absolutely in agreement with what the Lord Chancellor has just said. I think it is most important that members of these local authorities should not sit on a bench when prosecutions are brought on behalf of local authorities. It does not matter whether a man is a member of the particular committee or not, whether the decision of that committee was the final one, or whether the matter went for decision before the whole authority. All that the public knows in such a case is that there was, shall we say, a county council case before the court and there was a county councillor sitting on the bench to try the case. That is, in my view, entirely wrong. I would suggest to Lord Raglan, who I know plays such a good and active part in the administration of justice in Mon-mouthshire, that if he wants to avoid the shuffling about in court of which he has spoken, he should get the clerk to the justices to put in the county council prosecutions either at the beginning or at the end of the list. If the list is made up judiciously in that way, anyone on the local authority can leave quietly when the county council prosecution begins, or may wait to take his turn in the list. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the Amendment to a Division.


I am in agreement so far as county council cases and local government cases are concerned, but I think it is going rather far when river boards are brought into the question. River boards are very different from the county council. They do, I admit, have representatives of the county councils on them, but they cover a very large area of the country. It might be found difficult to find magistrates to sit on their cases. River boards are in a different category from county councils, committees and the like. There is, I believe, a tribunal, or something of that sort, relating to fisheries where members of councils are allowed to sit and adjudicate.


I must say that I had not considered the case of river boards. I will certainly look into that matter.


May I say that the arrangement of the business of a court is not quite so easy a matter as Lord Llewellin seems to think. If he were more familiar with the procedure of a magistrates' court he would know that the first business taken in such courts is always applications, and it is the custom of magistrates to put long cases at the end of the list. To keep, say, an inspector of weights and measures hanging about for two or three hours while a long case is heard would be most undesirable. However, as I have failed to get any support in what I regard as a most deserving case, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3:

Supplemental list

3.—(1) The Lord Chancellor may by statutory instrument make rules directing that in connection with any commission of the peace issued by His Majesty there shall be kept a list for the purposes of this section (in this Act called "the supplemental list"), and those rules shall make provision for the entry in the supplemental list kept in connection with any commission of the name of any such person appointed a justice by the commission as is hereinafter mentioned, and for the removal of names from the list.

(2) A person who is appointed justice of the peace by the commission of the peace for any area, but whose name is for the time being entered in the supplemental list kept in connection with the commission, shall not by virtue of that appointment be qualified as a justice to do any act, except as mentioned in the next following subsection, or to be a member of any committee or other body.

(3) The last foregoing subsection shall not preclude a justice from doing all or any of the following acts as a justice, that is to say—

  1. (a) signing any document for the purpose of authenticating another person's signature
  2. 1071
  3. (b) taking and authenticating by his signature any written declaration not made on oath; and
  4. (c) giving a certificate of facts within his knowledge or of his opinion as to any matter;
where the document, declaration or certificate is not intended primarily for use in connection with legal proceedings.

5.41 p.m.

LORD MIDDLETON moved to add to subsection (1): : such entries to be made after consultation with the custos rotulorum of the county, or the chairman of the advisory committee of the borough. The noble Lord said: After the introductory speech made by the noble and learned Viscount, I feel encouraged to think that he will accept this Amendment. It is intended to ensure that there shall be good relationship between the Lord Chancellor and the custos rotulorum, or the chairmen of the advisory committees. I must say that during the thirteen years in which I have been custos rotulorum I have never had anything to complain of in regard to my relationship with any Lord Chancellor. If the present Lord Chancellor were going to remain in office permanently I should not find it necessary to move this Amendment. But I know that there have been numerous occasions in the past when Lord Chancellors have either made or removed magistrates or done other things to them without any notice or consultation whatever with the custos rotulorum. That practice is likely to lead to friction and destruction of those pleasant relations which ought to exist. There is nothing in this Amendment which does anything to indicate that anyone but the Lord Chancellor has the responsibility for making or unmaking magistrates. I hope that the Government may be able to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 21, after ("list") insert the said words.—(Lord Middleton.)


I am sorry, but I do not think it desirable to accept this Amendment. May I tell your Lordships what happens in practice? Magistrates, being human, unfortunately, sometimes err. Periodically—I suppose on an average once a week—I have to consider the question of removing some magistrate's name from the list. Sometimes the case is so obvious that I need not trouble to consult the custos rotulorum. It may be that a man is convicted of burglary or rape. Obviously in those circumstances I remove his name without consulting anyone. It would be silly to consult anybody. There is another group of cases, where a man is had up for exceeding the speed limit and is reported to me. There, equally, I consult nobody, and I do not remove his name from the list.


I hope he was not only had up, but convicted!


Had up and convicted. There is a third class of case where there is some doubt. So far as I can recall, my practice in cases of doubt is always to consult the custos rotulorum. I do not think I have ever removed a magistrate where there is 2 real doubt about it, without seeking the advice and guidance of the custos rotulorum, to which I am entitled and which is always willingly given. But there are occasions when the custos is not available. Sometimes there is a considerable gap when one dies before another is appointed; and sometimes he is abroad. I should not like to be put under a statutory obligation to consult him before I can act. As many of your Lordships know, my practice has always been to consult whenever I am in doubt about the matter, and that practice I shall continue. On the other hand, if there was a slip, or I failed to consult, or something of that sort, I should not like the fact of my removal to be questioned. Equally, I should not like to be under an obligation to consult by reason of the time lag that might occur. I would ask your Lordships to be content with the existing practice. I have always said, and I believe it to be true, that the easy relationship between the Lord Chancellor and the custos is at the bottom of the whole thing, and everything depends on it. I shall continue in future, as in the past, to consult the custos whenever I am in doubt, but I do not want to be under a statutory obligation to do so.


I do not want to press the Amendment. As I said, if the noble and learned Viscount were a permanent fixture on the Woolsack I would not have moved the Amendment. I can only hope that future Lord Chancellors will always carry out the excellent practice he has adopted. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.54 p.m.

THE MARQUESS OF EXETER moved to add to subsection (2): Provided that nothing in this subsection shall prevent or be deemed to prevent a justice of the peace whose name is so entered on the supplemental list from continuing to be a member of a standing joint committee. The noble Marquess said: I put down this Amendment because while it may seem hardly logical that a county councillor is able to sit on a standing joint committee at the age of eighty or ninety and a justice is turned off at the age of seventy-five, it is quite likely that the justice who is incapable of sitting on the bench, perhaps through being hard of hearing, or something of that sort, is a useful person to sit on a standing joint committee. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will consider this point. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 28, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Marquess of Exeter.)


I hope the noble and learned Viscount will not consider this Amendment. I think it is most desirable that the quarter sessions members of the standing joint committee should be active magistrates.


I think this Amend rent has only recently been put down, and I have not had much time to consider it. I would ask the noble Marquess not to press the Amendment to-day, and I will look at it and see what I think ought to be done.


Would the Lord Chancellor consider, apart from that particular question, the language at the end of subsection (2): … or to be a member of any committee or other body. That does not say a committee of what, or what body. It is not very neat or good drafting.


I will certainly look at that.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD LLEWELLIN moved in subsection (3) to omit all words after the end of paragraph (c). The noble Lord said: I rise to move the omission of these two lines. They are certainly rather confusing to me as to what documents are intended, and I think they will be confusing to justices on the supplemental list if, before they can sign any document, which is only authenticating another person's signature, taking a written declaration or giving a certificate of facts within their knowledge, they have also to satisfy themselves that this document, declaration or certificate is not intended primarily for use in connection with legal proceedings. I should have thought they were quite capable of witnessing these signatures, and that these words are quite unnecessary. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, leave out lines 38 and 39.—(Lord Llewellin.)


I think I can accept this Amendment. I gather that an example of what the noble Lord who moves the Amendment has in mind is such a thing as ding declarations. Under Common Law dying declarations can be taken by a magistrate from the victim in the case of murder or manslaughter: they are not taken on oath. They can also be taken under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1876, where a material witness to an indictable offence is dangerously ill and unlikely to recover. Under this provision the declaration must be taken on oath or affirmation, and could not, therefore, be taken by a supplemental list justice. There are other provisions empowering a justice of the peace to take other kinds of declaration which are required for the purpose of justice, but they are comparatively unimportant. I think it is undesirable that supplemental list justices should take dying declarations. That being so, I am able to accept this Amendment to leave out these two lines, which I think will have the effect of making the clause rather simpler to understand than it is to-day.

THE MARQUESS OF EXETER had given notice to move after subsection (6) to insert: ()The said rules shall provide that there shall be entered in the supplemental list the name of any person being the mayor of a borough who is a justice of the peace by virtue only of his office during his term of office and the year after he ceases to be mayor. The noble Marquess said: I mentioned this Amendment earlier. As I said before, I put it down mainly as a bridge between doing away with ex-officio magistrates altogether and possibly putting them on the supplemental list, where they might be useful. In spite of the Lord Chancellor's objections to justices' signing papers, people do go to the chairmen of district councils, to mayors and other people of that sort to get their papers signed. If these chairmen were taken off the commission altogether there would be hardship. However, I will not move this Amendment.

LORD LLEWELLIN moved to omit subsection (7). The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment in order to obtain some information. Here is a different procedure for dealing with justices who are infirm, or whose age makes it inexpedient that they should still exercise judicial functions. Why we should deal with them in a different way from putting them on the supplemental list, I am not certain. I raise this because I do not know whether this applies to Lancashire, to London or to some other particular part of the country. If there is a satisfactory reason for it—and I have no doubt there is—I shall be glad to withdraw the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 19, leave out subsection (7). —(Lord Llewellin.)


This subsection deals with an anomaly so dear to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Harlech. In London for a long time now the supplemental list has been arranged differently from what it has been in the rest of the country. In London the active and the supplemental list is virtually the same thing; there is one list, and there is a star against certain names, which means that the people indicated are on the supplemental list. That is the way in which it has always been done in London. That was recognised in the Justices' Supplemental List Act, 1941, which provided that the supplemental list contained this special list in regard to London. Long prior to 1941, a system similar to the supplemental list was already in operation in London, and it was decided in 1941 that, as that arrangement achieved exactly the same results as the supplemental list, there would be no justification for the extensive work which would be involved if the system were to be changed. This is simply maintaining the old system which operates as efficiently and as well as the supplemental list.


I put my name to this Amendment because I could not understand what this clause meant. I am now satisfied, and I leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, as to whether he presses it or not.


I certainly do not mind. I understood that in ordinary parlance a star class was only related to people who were convicted and were in prison! But if the supplemental justices in London like being in the star class, I have no objection to that. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD MERTHYR had given notice of several further Amendments to Clause 3 and to Clause 5. The noble Lord said: I do not move the first of these Amendments because it is consequential on another Amendment which has not been carried. The same applies to the remainder of the Amendments to these clauses.

On Question, Whether Clause 3, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


May I ask the Lord Chancellor whether he will consider one matter before this clause is passed? I did not put down an Amendment because I thought one would be moved. With regard to the placing on the supplemental list of persons over seventy-five years of age, might it not be a good thing to except persons who hold, or who have held, high judicial office? I agree that one should not leave it to the justices themselves to apply to the Lord Chancellor to remain on the active list: if there are to be any exceptions, it should be stated in the Bill. But it seems to me that if you have a High Court Judge, who is going round the country trying all sorts of serious crimes, from murder downwards, it would be rather absurd that because he happens to be over seventy five—there is certainly one Judge over seventy-five now who is our greatest exponent of criminal law—to say that he should not be able to sit at petty sessions and decide whether someone had a rear light on his bicycle. It seems a little illogical. I venture to think that at a later stage a provision might he put in that if those justices hold or have held high judicial office, within the meaning of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, they should not have to resign from the Bench merely because they are over seventy-five.


I will certainly look at that and see whether something should be done about it.

Clauses 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:

Travelling and lodging allowances

6.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a justice of the peace shall be entitled to receive payments at the prescribed rates by way of travelling allowance or lodging allowance where expenditure on travelling or, as the case may be, on accommodation for the night is necessarily incurred by him for the purpose of enabling him to perform any of his duties as a justice.

6.5 p.m.

VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD moved to add to subsection (1): including his attendance at an approved course of instruction. The noble Viscount said: I notice that as at present drafted this clause deals only with travelling and lodging allowances. My Amendment seeks to add allowances for attending authorised courses. I put it down at this stage because this is the first stage in the Bill upon which I can raise this question. As noble Lords know, it is contemplated that courses, arranged primarily by the magistrates' committee and approved by the Lord Chancellor, should be available to magistrates everywhere. Perhaps they will be based upon the kind of model schemes which the Magistrates Association have been preparing in consultation with the Lord Chancellor's department and the Home Office.

It seems to me obvious that if new magistrates are called upon to undertake courses of this kind they ought not to be put to personal expense. They will be carrying out an obligation pressed upon them by the Government. I do not contemplate that these expenses will be great. In many cases the lectures will be given in the locality, and I think some of the courses at any rate will be by correspondence. It will be only occasionally, perhaps once or twice in the year, that the magistrates will be brought from their localities to London or some other centre for a more advanced course. I hope, therefore, that if not at this stage of the Bill at any rate at the appropriate point, the Lord Chancellor will take power to provide the possibility of funds for these expenses. At present, there is some doubt upon the subject. I understand that it is the view of some local authorities that they already have powers under which they can pay expenses. I do not know whether or not that is so, but it would be a good thing if the position were cleared up in the Bill. I hope very much that expenses of this kind will be allowed, because I think they will materially assist in making these courses of instruction really successful and undertaken upon a really big scale by new magistrates and any existing magistrates who wish to avail themselves of them. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 31, at end insert ("including his attendance at an approved course of instruction").—(Viscount Templewood.)


My only objection to this Amendment is that it seems unnecessary. The noble Viscount wants to put at the end of Clause 6 (1) these words: including his attendance at an approved course of instruction. Now Clause 6 says that justices shall be entitled to receive payments at the prescribed rates by way of travelling allowance or lodging allowance where expenditure on travelling or, as the case may be, on accommodation for the night is necessarily incurred by him for the purpose of enabling him to perform any of his duties as a justice. Then subsection (2) says: For the purposes of this section a justice following a course of instruction under a scheme made in accordance with arrangements approved by the Lord Chancellor shall be deemed to be acting in the performance of his duties as a justice. I put that in for the express purpose of meeting this point, and I cannot see the point of putting it in twice.


I am glad to have had the point completely cleared up by what the Lord Chancellor has just said. There was doubt upon the subject, and now it is perfectly clear that if there is instruction to be given in the course of his duties as justice a man will be able to claim his expenses. That being so, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8:

Area of commission

8.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, there shall be a separate commission of the peace for every county and for every county borough, and there shall not be a commission of the peace or justices of the peace for any other area.

6.10 p.m.

LORD LLEWELLIN had given notice of two Amendments to subsection (1), of which the first was to omit the first word "and" and the second, after "borough" to insert and for every borough appearing to the Lord Chancellor at the date when this section comes into force to have a population of twenty-five thousand or over. The noble Lord said: I rise to move these two Amendments, but the first is only preliminary to the second. If the Bill were left as it is, there would in future be no separate commission of the peace other than one for a county or for a county borough. It follows from that that unless some alteration is made in the law, every non-county borough which at present has a recorder and a court of quarter sessions will cease to have that recorder and that court of quarter sessions. I wonder whether that is wise. I am well aware that some of these small commissions of the peace are quite unjustifiable, and that it is extremely difficult, in a small and ancient borough of 4,000 or 5,000 inhabitants, to obtain appropriate people to act as justices. Indeed, the whole area of a small borough is so small that probably everyone knows about everybody else's business, and very likely the people sitting as justices are friends, or at any rate friends of somebody who is a friend of the person who is coming before them. Therefore I am not so concerned with what the Bill, as it is at present drawn, does about getting rid of separate commissions of the peace, because anybody who is now a magistrate for one of these borough commissions of the peace will, as I understand the terms of the Bill, after it has passed into law automatically become a justice for the county area in which the old borough commission of the peace is swallowed up.

That means that all these ladies and gentlemen will have a wider sphere of activities. They will become county justices instead of being merely borough justices. They will have a slightly higher status, at any rate, which will entitle them to sit at their county quarter sessions, a facility which they have never enjoyed in a town where the recorder is the court of quarter sessions. I am not much concerned about that, but I am very much concerned with the fact that this Bill as at present drawn sweeps away all recorders other than those for county boroughs. I view the office of recorder (I happen never to have held it myself) as a very useful office—useful, first of all, because it is a good training ground or, at any rate, if I am not misunderstood, a good "picking up ground" for people who may afterwards make very good Judges in the Court of King's Bench. It gives what the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has been describing as the ex-officio justice—the chairman of the county council or the chairman of the district council—some training. He sits for a year, proves himself a good justice and so automatically comes to notice in that way. That is what happens. There are few Judges of the King's Bench Division who have not started their judicial career as recorders somewhere or other. In fact, I had the honour of conducting my first case at the Bar before my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice when he was Recorder of Poole.

The second reason why I am strongly in favour of keeping as many recorders as possible is that there is an increasing strain on chairmen and deputy chairmen of courts of county quarter sessions—partly, unfortunately, because the number of crimes in the calendars shows no signs of decreasing, partly because with qualified chairmen and deputy chairmen of those quarter sessions they have authority to sit and preside over a court trying an extended jurisdiction of cases, and partly because I believe that, with the new legal aid measures that have recently been passed by Parliament, there will be more appeals corning to those courts. As a result, except in the case of Middlesex and London Sessions, which are, of course, completely different, there will be such pressure on the time of those courts which. have unpaid chairmen and deputy chairmen, and on the time of the justices who sit with them, that we do not want to add to their burdens by taking away the recorders who relieve the county quarter sessions of a substantial amount of work. We do not want to have county quarter sessions which, by reason of the abolition of many of these recorderships, have to sit for perhaps as many as sixty or seventy days in a year. In that case, I am quite certain that they cannot be staffed henceforth on a voluntary basis.

Therefore I have put down this Amendment, partly to obtain the general views of your Lordships upon the whole problem. I do not think it is satisfactory to do as the Government propose in the Bi11 and sweep all these recorders away. That would come under the phrase that I jotted down and which was used by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor earlier, when he said that perhaps this was not the time to take away from local authorities some of the ancient perquisites (I do not know whether I have his words quite right) in which they take much pride. These county boroughs do take a pride in having their own appeal court, and their own recorder whom they have had for a large number of years. I hope that second thoughts will prevail and that they will be allowed to continue having them. My Amendment is put down in accordance with the findings of the Roche Committee which fixed upon the number of 25,000 as justifying a separate commission of the peace, but I may well be on the low side there. However, I think I am rather on the high side in regard to the question of recorders. The Bill will get rid of a large number of them. I would like to see a figure of 10,000, or something like that, as the qualification for having a re:order in the town. That could be got over by making his jurisdiction co-extensive with the petty sessional division of which that borough found itself a part. At any rate, I think the Bill in its present form is too sweeping in what it tries to do in respect both to recorders and to commissions of the peace. For those reasons, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 9, leave out ("and").—(Lord Llewellin.)


In view of what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said earlier this afternoon—that is, he is contemplating a limit of 50,000—I intend to move an Amendment to insert a population of 40,000 as the minimum figure for a commission of the peace. As the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said when introducing this Bill, this clause is undoubtedly the clause upon which the controversy will rage. He added: "There are two points of view about this matter." There are indeed! This clause raises the whole question of "the slaughter of the innocents," albeit in a Bill concerned with the administration of justice. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said just now that he proposes to reprieve all the places with a population of 50,000 and over. I want to try to persuade the Lord Chancellor to be just a little more lenient and accept the figure of 40,000 instead of his contemplated figure of 50,000.

Let me be frank as to why I favour the figure of 40,000 and say that it is a case of special pleading. I think it will be conceded that whatever figure is chosen, it must of necessity be merely an arbitrary one. I very much hope, therefore, that in the process of decapitation the Lord Chancellor will consent to the lower figure of 40,000 and for this reason. If the Lord Chancellor's suggested figure of 50,000 is incorporated in the Bill the result will be that in the County of Kent two places, only nine miles apart, will he differently treated, quite arbitrarily, just because it so happens that Rochester has a population of 42,000 and Maidstone 53,000.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I do not understand these figures of 50,000 and 40,000. There is nothing about them in the Bill. I do not know where the figures come from.


The noble Lord moved an Amendment to insert 25,000 and I want to move an Amendment to that to make it 40,000. I think, therefore, that I am in order. Earlier this afternoon the Lord Chancellor intimated that he contemplated a figure of 50,000.



I did not remember that, and it was for that reason that I interrupted.


The noble and learned Viscount did say so and the noble Viscount will see it in Hansard to-morrow.


I apologise.


It would mean, therefore, that the ancient and historic city of Rochester would lose its petty sessional division while the town of Maidstone, higher up the Medway, would escape that deprivation because, by an accident of circumstances, Maidstone has at the moment a population of a mere 10,000 or 11,000 more than Rochester. Think of it! When Rochester was already a city, higher up the river there was probably neither a maid nor a stone, but only a morass or swamp with ill-defined banks to the Medway, on the site where the county town of Maidstone now stands, whereas Rochester has existed for Time, whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. There is definite evidence of the Mayor and justices of Rochester administering justice in minor criminal matters for many centuries. There are those who say that when Julius Cæsar landed on the coast of Kent in B.C. 55 he afterwards forded the Medway at Rochester. With our ancient Royal Charters, is it too much to ask that we should be spared to continue a service that is well recognised in the locality as being just, fair and impartial?

Another point I would stress is that under this Bill, Canterbury, with a population of only 26,000—little more than half that of Rochester—because by the accident of circumstances it happens to be a county borough, will retain its commission. I readily concede that Canterbury is an ancient city as well as Rochester, though not so important. But it seems strange that we should be scrapped, while Canterbury, with such a much smaller population than ours, should escape and retain its commission. I do not want even to contemplate the refusal of my plea, and to the last moment I shall hope my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will relent. But if the worst happens I would earnestly plead for the retention at all costs of our recorder, and also that our justices should continue to sit at Rochester as a petty sessional division of the county, even if they are deprived of their borough magistracy.

There is one other point in this connection about which I want to be assured, and as to which I should like to ask a definite question. It is this. In the case of those magisterial benches that are abolished under this Bill, can the Lord Chancellor assure us that there will be no danger whatever of buildings and other assets being compulsorily transferred to county councils? Many of these buildings are of great value and are of real historic and architectural importance. This is particularly so in the case of Rochester.

One other word, with your Lordships' indulgence, I should like to say while I am on my feet, to save intervening again later. I have been a county magistrate for well over forty years, having been appointed in 1907; and with that long experience behind me I have no hesitation in saying that I am in the fullest possible agreement with magistrates' clerks being whole-time appointments. I believe with the fullest conviction that such a statutory provision would be of inestimable value.

6.25 p.m.


I am addressing this Committee for the first time with rather more than the usual diffidence, because apart from the occasion itself I am told that it is not usual to do so on the Committee stage of a Bill. Unfortunately, I was not able to be here on the Second Reading so I hope the Committee will excuse me, particularly bearing in mind that speaking on the Committee stage does not take so long as speaking on a Second Reading.

There have been various Government statements to the effect that in all these Bills dealing with law reform the underlying policy is threefold: that justice should be improved; that the administration of justice should be improved; and that justice should be less expensive. I think that is a fair summary of the various speeches, and it is my contention that in many cases Clause 8 will have the opposite effect; it will make the administration of justice more complicated and more expensive. If your Lordships will bear with me, I should like to take one borough as an example. If I can prove my case with that one borough I think it is not unreasonable to assume that the same difficulties will apply to other boroughs in other parts of the country.

The borough I would take is Scarborough—one of the oldest in England and one of the largest in the North Riding of Yorkshire. It has what is evidently a border-line population, about 45,000—apart, of curse, from summer visitors. Its quarter sessions are not unimportant. Last year—the first year for which complete figures are available—there were fifteen indictments, twenty-two prisoners, and some seventy-nine witnesses were called. So that witnesses and solicitors together must have totalled over 100. In that connection I would point out that at these quarter sessions, in all the cases, almost without exception, the prosecution and defence are dealt with through Scarborough solicitors. Under Clause 8 of this Bill as it is drafted these Scarborough cases will in future be heard at Northallerton. As a place for hearing cases front Scarborough, Northallerton has almost every disadvantage that any place could have. Compared with Scarborough, it is little more than a village, with a population, I believe, of something under 5,000. It certainly has not enough solicitors to cope with cases that would come from Scarborough.

It is situated about fifty-three miles from Scarborough, across bleak moorland country. Even judged by post-war standards the train service is exceptionally bad and infrequent. There is no public coach service between the two towns and in winter the roads are frequently impassable. This means that solicitors and witnesses who last year, as I say, totalled over 100—and, I think I am right in saving, jurors—will have to spend one night, and sometimes two or more, away from home. There is one further administrative point. The police force of Scarborough, like most police forces, is under strength. With quarter sessions at Scarborough, police officers engaged in cases are as a rule away from their normal duties one day. If the quarter sessions are taken at Northallerton, they will be away from duty for two, three or more days. So much for administrative difficulties.

With regard to expense, as I say, the solicitors will be away from home for several nights, instead of not being away from home at all. Witnesses are in the same difficulty, and allowances will have to be paid both for journeys and for accommodation, though I cannot imagine where they are going to he accommodated at Northallerton. In fact, in my opinion, Clause 8 is a beautiful planners' clause with all the rough edges smoothed off, everything but county boroughs excluded; but it will not work satisfactorily. If it will not work for Scarborough I am quite convinced that it will net work for many other boroughs in other parts of the country. On the other hand, the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, will make it work. It will exclude what I believe is the general desire, certain small quarter sessions, but from a practical point of view it will retain quarter sessions that will help the administration and will not add to the general expense. It is hr those reasons that I am supporting the Amendment.


Perhaps I may say something at this comparatively early stage of this matter, though whether I shall succeed in keeping myself in order I am not sure. First of all, I would like to congratulate the noble Lord who has just spoken, not only for the matter but also for the manner of his speech. Although I am not always easy to convince, he convinced me that I must take special steps to see that the case of Scarborough is properly looked after. I suppose what we are really discussing is Lord Rochester's proposed Amendment, which is to substitute 40,000 for the 25.000 which Lord Llewellin has suggested. Lord Llewellin wants to insert after the word "borough" these words: and for every borough appearing to the Lord Chancellor at the date when this section comes into force to have a population of 25,000 or over. Lord Rochester preferred 40,000 and I much prefer Lord Rochester's figure to that of Lord Llewellin, in that I should like 50,000.

I suggest that we might have a compromise here. I do not like the compromise as much as my original proposal, but it is to this effect. On Second Reading I made it clear that, so far as I could, my ambition was to do away with the area of the separate petty sessional divisions. The Roche Committee suggested that they should be done away with in boroughs of under 25,000. The du Parcq Committee obviously queried whether that was not too small a figure, and suggested that the question might be considered as a matter of status. Status had this great advantage: that it prevented every individual case being argued—I understand why Lord Rochester has suggested 40,000—but I made it plain on Second Reading that, whilst I wanted that so far as petty sessional divisions are concerned, I was perfectly prepared to consider the question of quarter sessions and the maintenance of recorders. Since then I have been taking this matter up with the Bar Council and getting their views. If Lord Rochester will go a little further than 40,000 and will go to 50,000, and if he will say that there shall be no separate petty sessional divisions in boroughs under 50,000, that will get rid of 152 out of a total of 169, which is very substantial. Mark you, to-day I have to deal with these 169, in addition to all the counties and all the county boroughs, and it would ease my task enormously if I could simplify that number.

In return for that, what would happen? To answer Lord Rochester, the justices of Rochester (who, by the way, were neglecting their duties when Julius Caesar came), will still sit at Rochester in the same building, which from anything there is in this Bill will remain the property of the same owners as to-day; but instead of being justices for the borough of Rochester, they will become justices for the Rochester division of Kent—and that will do them no harm at all. So far as his recorder is concerned—he also made a plea for the maintenance of his recorder—I would suggest, by way of compromise, that we keep recorders in all boroughs having a population of over 10,000. That means knocking out very few. But even with regard to those, if there is any one quarter sessions court which appears to the Lord Chancellor to have played a substantial part in the administration of justice in the county (I have one mind; that is Devizes, which has a population of only 7,000 but which has made a considerable contribution to the trial of cases in Wiltshire) and if it were not there it would be rather awkward, then that can be retained. If I could have that, then I think I should have reached a satisfactory compromise.

I do not like that idea so much as the Bill, for directly I depart from status and get on to numbers—I will not say it would happen in your Lordships' House, because apart from Lord Rochester no one would do it here, but it might in another place—everybody will be arguing for a precise number. That will be difficult, and therefore I am giving hostages to fortune if I depart from status and go over to numbers. I thought we might have a general discussion on this and other matters now, though I am keeping, I hope, strictly within the rules of order, and I think my suggestion is worthy of consideration—that is, that all special commissions in non-county boroughs under 50,000 should go, but that I retain recorderships in all cases save those in places where the population is under 10,000.

I believe that that meets with general approval, and if that is so I should not be able to accept Lord Rochester's Amendment. I should want 50,000 and not 40,000. Fifty thousand would be my irreducible minimum, and I think Lord Rochester would be happy to know, that though he does not obtain his full demand, yet he gets that part of it which he very much wants. He still retains his recorder and his quarter sessions, who will be able to play their part in the administration of justice in Kent, and to hear appeals, of course, from the Rochester division of the County of Kent. To start with, until the Magistrates Courts Committee had rearranged the county, that division would be co-extensive with the existing area and, in all probability, would in future embrace a larger area. So I cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment. He will realise I am sure that I like it better than Lord Llewellin's. I rather hope that as a result of this discussion no one at this stage will move any Amendment here, and that in the light of what I have said, we may consider the whole matter and see whether we cannot hammer out a solution which will commend itself to everyone.


Would it not be for the convenience of the Committee if Lord Rochester were not to move his Amendment, which certainly served him as a peg on which to hang his remarks? It seems to me that it would be better to discuss this matter on my Amendment. I would not be prepared to accept Lord Rochester's figure of 40,000 for commissions of the peace unless I got the figure for recorders down to 10,000. I would be prepared to accept 50,000 for commissions of the peace if we got the qualification for recorders down to 10,000. I do not think we want these small commissions of the peace. No prestige is lost by a local authority by reason of its own commission being merged in that of the county. But a great deal of prestige is lost when you lose your own recorder, as we heard from the noble Lord who told us about cases from Scarborough having to go to Northallerton. I should be happy if we could get a compromise as the Lord Chancellor suggests, but, as I say, I could not agree to the figures mentioned for commissions of the peace unless we got the figures for recorders down at the same time.


May I appeal to the Lord Chancellor, now that he has put forward what would in effect be an absolutely new clause, to consider whether it is not desirable that this matter should be adjourned so that we can think over the proposal which he has made? One recognises that he has made an offer of something entirely different from what is contained in the Bill, and I think it requires careful consideration. I should be sorry to have to express any opinion off-hand now, having heard this put forward only at this late hour. It seems to me that, from the practical point of view, this is the most important clause in the Bill and if the Lord Chancellor would agree to give us an opportunity of considering this matter, by postponing further debate on this Bill until next week, I venture to think that it would be of great assistance to us all.


May I make a similar suggestion, with this slight addition? I should advise Lord Rochester not to drop his proposed Amendment. I think that Lord Llewellin's Amendment does not adequately deal with cases like Winchester, which has claims almost equally as important as those of Scarborough. The claims of Scarborough have been eloquently presented to-day, and I should have liked to hear something about the case for Winchester. The Bishop of Winchester not long ago put in a most eloquent plea for Winchester, both for its commission of the peace and for its recorder. He is, I take it, unavoidably prevented from being here to-day. I am reluctant in any way to claim to represent a Bishop, and I should like to hear him on this point. Therefore I hope that the whole matter may be regarded as open and not merely as one between the Lord Chancellor and Lord Llewellin. I hope that the opportunity will be given us to consider the questions involved before we meet again next week.


If that is a convenient course to your Lordships, I gladly give way. I must point out, however, that we have not made very good progress with this Bill. I am not making, the smallest complaint about that. We are meeting again on Tuesday and we should not get much further with the Bill if we sat a little later to-night. So I do not think it worth while resisting the suggestion that we should adjourn now. On the other hand, the prospect of this Bill becoming an Act is becoming very remote. It has to pass through this House and through another place during this Session. I assume that this Session will last until a week or so before Christmas. I believe that we all want this Bill. I will assent to the proposal that we shall adjourn now, but I shall adjourn with a heavy heart, because I think my prospects of getting the Bill through are now becoming very slender indeed. But there it is. Let this proposal be considered, and let the case of Winchester be considered. As I said before, I do not think that Winchester really need mind very much if they become the Winchester Division of Hampshire, so long as they keep their quarter sessions. However, there it is: let us adjourn and consider these things. I made this proposal in the hope that a compromise would be desired. I agree that your Lordships have not had time fully to consider the matter, and it is clearly one which should be considered very carefully, though like most compromises it may well be the fact that no one likes it altogether. I very much hope that your Lordships on consideration will come to the conclusion that this is something upon which we can agree.


May I take this opportunity of thanking the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for what I consider was his very conciliatory approach to my problem? I like the Lord Chief Justices's suggestion that we should adjourn discussion on the whole matter, and I also like Lord Roche's suggestion that we should adjourn without my dropping my proposed Amendment. But I want the Lord Chancellor to understand how greatly I appreciate his sympathetic approach and the conciliatory manner in which he has met my contention.

House resumed.

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