HL Deb 11 July 1951 vol 172 cc760-97

2.56 p.m.

LORD LLEWELLIN rose to call attention to the delay in implementing certain provisions in the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper. Your Lordships will remember that during a considerable part of the year 1949 we were considering in this House the Justices of the Peace Bill, and some of your Lordships may remember the anxiety which His Majesty's Government showed in December, 1949, to try to obtain the Royal Assent before the end of that Session. It is no secret that some of your Lordships did not much like one of the Amendments made in another place to a Bill that had originated in this House; but, rather than risk losing that Bill, we agreed to accept the Amendment so that the Bill could receive the Royal Assent in December, 1949. In fact, I was one of those who urged your Lordships to that end. At all events, the Bill did receive the Royal Assent on December 16, 1949—just over eighteen months ago; and I think it is as well, especially in regard to an Act which originated here, to examine the position as it is to-day.

By Clause 45, the Act was to come into operation "on such day as His Majesty may by Order in Council appoint." And on March 31 last year, such an Order in Council was made in respect of a number of the provisions of the Act. It brought into operation all of Part I, except Clause 9, which relates to the payment of travelling and lodging allowances for justices of the peace; a section or two of Part II; certain provisions of Section 20, in Part III; none, I think, of part IV; practically the whole of Part V; and a substantial part of the Miscellaneous and General Provisions Section, contained in Part VI. Some of the provisions were brought into operation on June 1 last year; others on January 1 of this year. But some of the more important portions of this Act are not in force; nor, indeed, when I put my Motion on the Order Paper, was there any indication that it was intended to bring them into operation.

However, on June 28, the Home Secretary, in reply to a Question in another place (and he was courteous enough to send me a copy of his answer) indicated the intentions of the Government towards the rest this Act. He said that, as had already been announced, Section 10 of the Justices of the Peace Act, which abolishes certain commissions of the peace, will come into force on October 1, 1951. Under subsection (5) of that section it was left to the discretion of the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack to go into the marginal cases. It was a discretion which, at one time, he said he was most reluctant to accept, but it was imposed upon him in another place. I gather that the noble and learned Viscount has now made the decisions, and details were given in this House last Tuesday. He has retained the commissions of the peace and quarter sessions for eight of these ancient quarter sessional boroughs—Abingdon, Andover, Banbury, Barnstaple, Bury St. Edmunds, Devizes, Lichfield, Newbury—but has rejected the petitions on the others. I have no comment to make on that decision, though I wish the Home Office would act in regard to this Bill as quickly as the Lord Chancellor has acted.

I now come to the intention with regard to the remainder of the Act. I am appalled at the delay that is indicated in the Home Secretary's answer in another place. He said that the first step—that is, in regard to the all-important provision of setting up the magistrates' courts committees—will be taken on April 1, 1952—which is nine months ahead—and that their full powers will not be conferred upon these committees until April, 1953. I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to tell the House why there has been this long delay in setting up these new committees. The Act was passed in December, 1949. The whole of 1950 has passed, the whole of 1951 is to he allowed to pass, and the first quarter of 1952 before the Government act on those Paris of the Act which have not already been brought into force by order. I ask, why is this? I know that discussions are going on with the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations, and I believe that agreement has not yet been reached. But, important though these bodies may be, surely it does not depend upon the agreement of other people whether or not the provision of an Act of Parliament shall be brought into operation.

What are the sections which will not operate until April, 1953? There is Section 8, which deals with the payment of travelling allowances and lodging expenses for magistrates, and Section 36, which we can discuss with Section 8, which makes similar provisions for members of probation committees. Be it noted that Section 8 (2) of the Act reads as follows: 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.

On Second Reading the noble and learned Viscount said: I intend to do all I can to encourage these training schemes. The only thing I can have in this Bill is power to pay the expenses which magistrates incur in going for the training.

That was, of course, an accurate statement, but it does not seem to me to be encouraging these training schemes, which we all agree are desirable, if we have to wait for three and a quarter years to bring into operation Section 8, under which magistrates can be paid travelling and lodging allowances for such schemes. Nowadays many persons are appointed to the bench who literally cannot afford to pay their own expenses for going away for training courses. Until Section 8 is brought into operation—and it will not cost the Treasury very much, because not many expenses will fall to be paid under it—this idea of the training of magistrates is largely going by default.

I should like to mention, in passing, Section 15, which deals with the setting up of the rule committee. It is true that when he moved the clause on Committee stage the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor envisaged some delay. He said: We shall have to go rather slow. We must first of all see what the Summary Jurisdiction Acts provide and try to separate the procedure from the subsequent"— but I think it ought to be "substantive"— law. On that point, I ask the noble and learned Viscount whether he can tell us how matters are going on, and whether he can report progress with regard to implementing this section, which any reasonable man will realise must take some time to put into operation.

I come to Section 16, which provides for the setting up of magistrates' courts committees. There was no disagreement about that object, and I cannot think why it should take two and a quarter years to start setting them up. I have a feeling that if the matter had been left to the Lord Chancellor's Department, as we wanted all matters in regard to justices to be left, the committees might well have been set up before now. I believe that in this matter it is the Home Office which is the "nigger in the woodpile"—though perhaps the metaphor is not very apt, because the "nigger in the woodpile" was trying to do something, if only to light a fire. What I am complaining about is that the Home Office seems to be postponing as long as possible the bringing into operation of a large part of this generally agreed and good Act of Parliament.

The year between the setting up of these committees and clothing them with full powers may be justifiable, though I notice that upon Committee stage the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor mentioned a period of only six months. But I make no particular point on that. However, I see no reason whatever why, having already waited eighteen months, we should have to wait until April 1 of next year to set up these committees to start the preliminary work which they will have to do. It is not as though there were any dispute as to how they should be constituted, because that is already laid down in the Fourth Schedule to the Act. What is causing this delay? It may be that some counties or boroughs do not like the idea of having a committee of magistrates employing their clerks and their staffs, making recommendations regarding the salaries of justices clerks and the assistant clerks and generally ruling their affairs. Nevertheless, the provision is contained in an Act of Parliament, and it is the duty of local authorities as well as individual citizens to try and implement what Parliament lays down. I would ask the Lord Chancellor, and the Government as a whole, to get on with the job of implementing what Parliament has decided shall be done, especially in relation to this part of the Act.

Coming to Part VI, I would point out that Section 38 says: Courts of quarter sessions for a county may be held in any borough forming part of, surrounded by or adjoining the county, notwithstanding that the borough is not part of the area for which the courts are held. I see no reason why that should not be put into operation at once. The only other section on which I feel I must say a few words is Section 42, which deals with compensation for loss of office. I do not intend to say much about this matter, because my noble friend Lord Merthyr has a Motion on the Paper, and I will leave it largely to him. Perhaps when I come to wind up the debate on my Motion I shall have a few words to say on that matter. I would merely remark now that when we considered this section we certainly thought that it would cover—and I think it was intended to cover—part-time justices' clerks as well as full-time clerks. That was the recommendation of the Committee over which my noble and learned friend Lord Roche so ably presided. One of the objectives the Roche Committee had in view was to have fewer part-time and more whole-time clerks. I cannot see that there are many cases where a whole-time justices' clerk is put out of employment because of the provisions of Part II or Part III of this Act. If any people are to go, it will be the part-time clerks. If, as is thought will be the case, regulations made under Section 42 are to exclude part-time officers, then I believe we shall be putting a complete spoke in the wheel of this reform. This is one of the matters to which magistrates' courts committees will have to apply their minds, and it will seem unjust to them—as I have no doubt it may seem to many of your Lordships—in the exercise of statutory powers, to cease to employ a man who has done good service in a capacity which comes to an end owing to the incidence of the Statute. For my part, I feel that it would be unjust. Let us remember that these magistrates' courts committees will consist of justices, and the duty of a justice is to see that justice is done to any person brought before him, and equally to those who have served the courts well, as many of these part-time officers will have done.

I believe that the effect of restricting this matter (if it is done) to part-time justices' clerks will be to impede the amalgamation of a certain number of petty sessional divisions under a whole-time clerk. These cases can easily be looked at differently from those of other officers who might be thought to have similar positions. I would ask the Lord Chancellor to get the Home Secretary and the Treasury (if they are in this woodpile as well) to have another look at this matter, to see whether, having regard to the small cost involved, these regulations, which the Home Secretary has power to make quite wide enough to cover this point, if the Government wish to do it, cannot be made. The position will then be the same as it was before the war, as it was approved in an order for the County of Middlesex and was about to be approved in a draft Order for the County of London which was not proceeded with because of this Bill. In both those cases there was provision for compensation for part-time justices. I would ask the Lord Chancellor, now that he has listened to our views, to discuss the matter again with the Home Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and such other Ministers as may be involved.

I do not intend to take up more of your Lordships' time this afternoon. I am convinced that most of these provisions should have been put into force before now, and that no further delay should take place. I am reinforced in this opinion by the words of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, when he moved the Second Readine of the Bill. He referred to the Bill as one of tremendous importance. At any rate, the debate to-day will give the Lord Chancellor the opportunity of telling us why the child to which he gave birth is not making better progress. I hope that we shall hear that, just as "a mother's tender care" should not "cease toward the child she bear," so the Lord Chancellor, as the father of this measure will look at his child to see that it progresses to maturity rather more quickly than it is at the moment. I also beg him to tell us this afternoon that he will once again take up this matter of compensation with his colleagues in the Government for this small number of men who will be displaced, because I am certain that if that is not done it will take years and years to implement some of the better parts of this measure. I beg to move for Papers.

3.22 p.m.


had given notice of his intention to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in making regulations under Section 42 of the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, it is intended to provide for compensation for loss of office for part-time clerks to justices; and if not, what are the reasons for this decision; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand that it will be for the convenience of your Lordships if I speak now upon the Motion which appears in my name on the Order Paper. The noble Lord who has just sat down has mentioned the particular points which I wished to make this afternoon, but I should like to reinforce his remarks. I begin with the publication of the Report of the Roche Committee in 1944. As the noble Lord has just said, one of the main objects of the Roche Committee, and one of the main recommendations of their Report, was to secure the diminution of the number of part-time justices' clerks and their replacement by a greater number of whole-time clerks. In the old days, part-time clerks were essential. When one had to travel by horse and there were no telephones it was sensible to have part-time clerks almost everywhere. But with the improvements of transport, it becomes equally sensible, where possible, to replace those part-time officers by specialists, in the form of full-time clerks. Therefore, I suggest to your Lordships that it may be taken as agreed that a certain measure of replacement of the one by the other is desirable; and, indeed, the noble and learned Lord's Committee, in paragraph 101 of their Report, specifically recommended the replacement of part-time clerks by whole-time clerks. They further recommended that the displaced clerks should be compensated, and they recommended specifically that the compensation should be payable in accordance with the 1933 Act regulations. That means that part-time clerks would be eligible.

Now what was the result of the publication of the Roche Report? One of the results was the Act of 1949 which, I think I may correctly say, was the direct result, partly of the Roche Report and partly of the Report of the Royal Commission presided over by the late noble and learned Lord, Lord du Parcq. That question is specifically dealt with in Section 42 of the Act. May I read Section 42 (1)? It says: The Secretary of State shall by statutory instrument make regulations providing, subject to any exceptions or conditions provided for by the regulations, for the payment of compensation to persons suffering any loss of office or employment, or loss or diminution of emoluments, which is attributable to the coming into force of any of the provisions of Parts II and III of this Act or to anything done under any of those provisions. I have read that section because I particularly desired to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that, during the passage of the Bill in this House, no mention at all, so far as I know, was made of that section. That is rather singular because, as is well known, much time was taken up and many words were spoken in this House about this Act. I can find no mention of any comment on this section of the Bill—and why? Surely, because everybody in this House understood, so well that they did not deem it necessary to ask about it, that this section covered the payment of compensation to part-time clerks. I think that can be the only explanation of the complete absence of words spoken about this section. I should perhaps explain that Part III, which is referred to in this section, is the Part which establishes the magistrates' courts committees, who, in turn, are the employers of the justices' clerks. I do not think your Lordships need trouble about Part II. I want to make the point that subsection (1) of Section 42 is confined to cases arising out of the coming into force of Parts II and III of this Act, which, for all practical purposes, means Part III of this Act. In passing, may I say how much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin when he urges that magistrates' courts committees should be brought into existence at the earliest possible date? Indeed, I should have pleaded for their being brought into force before the loss of the commissions of boroughs, because I should have thought that that would be the proper course for events to take.

Now I pass to the debates in another place. There was a mention there of this section, and I think it is rather important to see what was said by the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State. In his speech on the Second Reading, he said: Provision is made in Clause 42 for regulations to he made for the payment of compensation to salaried officers who lose office or emoluments under the provisions of Parts II and III of the Bill. What do those words mean? I suggest that they mean exactly what they say. further suggest that no other inference can be drawn from those words than that compensation would be paid to part-time clerks. I go further. If it was then not intended to pay compensation, why was it not stated in either House of Parliament? Surely, if the Government at that time intended to pay no compensation to part-time clerks, the least they could do was to say so, either in this House or in the other, if not in both. I think that is a fair criticism. So I ask why, if that was then their intention, they did not say so; and, if it was not then their intention, what has happened to change the view of His Majesty's Government since?

Further, when the Bill was introduced into the House of Commons a Financial Memorandum was attached to the Bill which was not attached to it in this House. I believe I am right when I say that in that Memorandum there is not a word about any intention to debar part-time clerks from compensation. Again I ask: If it was intended to debar them, why was it not stated in the Financial Memorandum, in order to make the position clear to Members of Parliament? If there is to be no compensation for part-time clerks under Section 42, can the Government tell us just who is to be compensated under this Section? Having in mind the fact that this Bill is directed towards the encouragement of full-time clerks, I ask: How many full-time clerks are likely to have to be compensated for loss of office under this Bill? If there is none, then who will be affected by Section 42? Why, indeed, is Section 42 in the Bill at all?

I should like to mention the effect in the country if the Government's present intention is carried into effect. What will happen is that these part-time clerks will not be replaced. I cannot conceive of the average magistrates' court committee dismissing summarily an officer of long standing, or even of short experience, without the payment of some compensation to him. What will happen is that the clerks will continue their service; and therefore, one of the main objects of the 1949 Act, which was so carefully considered before being passed into law, will be nullified. That, I think, will be the effect. Lord Llewellin has spoken of the fact that prior to 1949 two Private Bills were presented to Parliament, one by Middlesex and one by London. In each there was provision for compensation to part-time clerks. That part of the Bill was withdrawn in each instance—because, I submit, the 1949 Act was then being discussed and was soon to be passed into law. Had it been known that under the 1949 Act there would be no compensation for these clerks, I feel sure that these two Private Bills would not have been withdrawn. I think that that is a relevant and pertinent point. It was thought that the 1949 Act made those two Private Bills unnecessary, and therefore they were not proceeded with.

Why is compensation desirable and necessary for these part-time officers? I think the reasons are fairly obvious and need not be laboured. Perhaps I may ask your Lordships for a moment to envisage the position in some small country town. where there are, perhaps, two firms of solicitors. The partner of one of the firms is the justices' clerk. The other firm, therefore, does all the work in the criminal court. The justices' clerk is suddenly deprived of his office. What is to happen to him? Can it really be said that he will not lose anything? Surely not. He has provided extra staff, accommodation and books for his duties as clerk. When lie suddenly loses office will he really recover the private practice which has been lost to the other firm? Surely not. And, that being so, is it right that he should receive nothing at all, when, through no fault of his and for the good of the country, he has been deprived of his office? I will not at this stage labour the reasons why compensation is desirable. But whatever may be the general run of cases, in the case of these clerks, compensation is both fair and desirable.

Finally, if the Government proceed in this matter of refusing to pay this compensation it must make your Lordships think much more carefully in the future about acquiescing in legislation by Regulation—particularly when, as in this case, the Regulations cannot be annulled by Parliament. It may be that the Regulations to be made under Section 42 of this Act will be placed before your Lordships—I do not know. But they cannot be annulled or amended by this House, and this fact should make us more careful in the future before acquiescing in such legislation. I repeat that, if your Lordships had known, during the discussions on the 1949 Bill, before it became law, that this financial policy would be, the result, you might well have come to a totally different conclusion, and might even have refused to pass the Bill. The wording is perfectly clear. I submit that no other conclusion is possible than that it was then intended to make this compensation. If this policy has been changed, we ought to know why. If there is a change it may be due to a change in the financial policy of the country. We I all want to save money; none of us wants to waste it. But is it right that a change in the financial policy of the country should be allowed to set aside an Act of Parliament which was never intended to deal primarily with finance? I offer these observations now, to suit the convenience of your Lordships' House, but perhaps it would be better if I moved my Motion at a later stage.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I desire to support the arguments put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Llewellin and Lord Merthyr. I hope to do so with due brevity, while having regard to the importance that I personally attach to this matter. Perhaps, before I proceed, I may be allowed to make two personal observations. The first is that, like most of your Lordships, I feel very glad to be back in this Chamber again. It is the first time since we returned here that I have ventured to address your Lordships. The return arouses pleasant memories, not merely of Parliamentary matters between 1935 and the happening of the great disaster, but of a much longer experience, early in the present century, when I not infrequently appeared at that Bar, sometimes assisted as junior by the noble and learned Viscount who now sits on the Woolsack. I tried then to reach the ears of the Lord Chancellor. I can only hope that now, in my octogenarian stage, I shall succeed in reaching his ears; for this Act, in my judgment, deals with a matter to which I know the noble and learned Viscount attaches great importance, as I do. If it were implemented it would be a great feature in a great and not altogether short career on the Woolsack. I am sure that, had the considerations to which Lord Merthyr has directed your attention applied, this Act would be a failure. I am equally sure that the Lord Chancellor, when he introduced and supported the Bill, did not know what those implications would be—he has much too much candour and frankness not to have told us that at the time. If I had known of the implications I myself should not have supported the Second Reading. In my opinion, if the present policy prevails, the Act will be useless.

There is one other personal matter which I should like to mention. I remember saying, when I addressed the House on the Second Reading, that though I knew some other Chairmen of Committees thought the opposite course was right, I thought it no part of the duty of a Chairman of a Committee to insist on the whole of his Report and nothing but his Report and to move Amendments if the Bill did not contain that which his Committee recommended. That is perfectly true. I followed that policy throughout the debates and gave such assistance as I could. But I say again that, had I realised for a moment—and nobody could have realised because it was not even thought of—that an essential part of the Report, the very keystone of the Report, was to be done away with, I should not have consented to the Bill being read a second time. In my opinion, it is useless.

I will tell your Lordships why. As I think both of my noble friends have said, a principal object of the Bill was to render the habit of having whole-time clerks much more common than it had been in the past. Conditions have changed, the population is more concentrated and it is possible to operate sometimes one court, sometimes several courts, with one clerk. It is common sense to say that a man who does nothing else but one thing does it better than another man who does a number of things. Aristotle said so long ago. But in sparsely populated places it is necessary for one man to do several things. That has been the rule in England. Let me give your Lordships two or three figures. England has not altogether changed, and there are many parts which are sparsely populated now, where courts are held infrequently, though they have to be held regularly. We are dealing with a situation where even to-day the number of clerks is about 800. Whole-time clerks are not one-eighth of the total. There are over 700 part-time clerks and fewer than 100 whole-time clerks. Some Wise Man of Gotham or elsewhere who has to sit on these matters in Whitehall is actuated by some imagined analogy to Bills under which a certain number of what I will call part-time casual workers have to be dealt with, and the question has to be considered whether or not they are to be compensated. There is no analogy between those cases and this case. Here we are dealing with seven-eighths of the staff of an industry, profession or office which has been going on for centuries. Where people in town or country have been satisfied with and used to these ways for centuries, you are not going to get them to change to an unjust basis.

Of course, there is a great deal of difference of opinion—the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, and I do not absolutely agree on his point—as to whether we shall ever be able to abolish a large number of part-time clerks. That is a question for these committees themselves to solve—solvitur ambulando. At all events, the object to be aimed at is to increase the number of whole-time clerks where circumstances permit. If anybody thinks that, by setting up a local committee actuated by a sense of justice and knowledge of local conditions—and, if you like, also by local prejudices and feelings—you are going to get them to turn out people without a penny of compensation, you are vastly mistaken. I know what we think about it in the county in which I had the honour to be the chairman of quarter sessions for over fifteen years. This Act will not work and, if part of the Act does not work, we might as well not have spent our time passing it. So I earnestly entreat the Lord Chancellor to talk very seriously to these gentlemen who have devised some method of which I am sure he was quite ignorant when he recommended the Bill to your Lordships' House, and let them think again. If not, unless they receive some satisfactory assurances that this matter will be thought over again, I would strongly urge my noble friends to divide the House. Those are the submissions I desire to make to your Lordships.

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, it has been said in the past that Royal Commissions were appointed in order that their findings should he put into pigeonholes and forgotten. At any rate, the Lord Chancellor can congratulate himself upon one Royal Commission, the Royal Commission to examine the administration of jusice in this country. It was a liberal education for a mart like myself to sit and listen and learn from the late Lord, Lord du Parcq, whose passing from us I continue to deplore as a loss to this country. He had about him the usual collection of men and women, most of them of balanced opinions, and he issued a Report which was nearly unanimous. Some of us made a bet that the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, would have a Report of his own—and, of course, we won our bets. But the fact remains that that Report was not put into a pigeonhole. It is the duty of the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, to oppose this Government and, though he has done it this afternoon cooing like a dove, he has certainly been most skilful in trying to find any sins of omission—or commission, so far as I can gather.

What has happened since the Bill was introduced within a few months of the signing of our Report? It was introduced into this House and, therefore, it was carefully examined, expeditiously and without any obstruction. It became the law of the land. Speaking from knowledge not of the country villages, which is the peculiar "pigeon" of my noble friend, Lord Llewellin and, I believe, also of the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, but of the great industrial areas, I can say that a silent revolution has taken place and is taking place as a consequence of this Bill.

I would remind your Lordships that, owing to our putting into the Bill a provision that at the age of seventy-five a magistrate shall retire, and also that the advisory committees shall report to the Lord Chancellor on any disabilities of a magistrate, especially in the matter of hearing and sight, 4,000 men and women have gone on the Supplementary List, I believe, within these last twelve months. I do not know how many magistrates the Lord Chancellor has appointed, but I imagine that he has replaced them by even more than that number. Therefore, if your Lordships would care to scrutinise the new magistrates who have been appointed as a consequence largely of the debate in this House on advisory committees, you will find that, whilst it is no crime to belong to a political Party, efforts have seriously been made by advisory committees to go outside, the ranks of the three major Parties. I want to emphasise that point, and put it on the credit side. If my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor wants a bouquet instead of a brick, I am prepared to bring him at least a posy because that task has been accomplished.

Another recommendation that has been implemented concerns the election of chairmen. As a Commission, we felt that that was most important, especially in the country districts where a bench could he dominated by one man because the rest of the bench were afraid to vote against him. As your Lordships are aware, we made a regulation that chairmen and deputy chairmen should be appointed without nomination, without a speech—in fact without any remarks—and that the election should proceed by way of secret ballot. That is a reform that I should like to point out to my noble friend (he is still my friend) Lord Llewellin—at any Tate so far as the great towns and industrial centres are concerned. I do not know what they are doing in Dorset or in South Wales, but if what Lord Merthyr has said is anything to go by I should say Mat South Wales is still not the most enlightened part of the British Empire.

Now I pass to the court committees, in regard to which we certainly have had no statutory regulations. In passing, I would say that I had the privilege and honour of sitting on my bench seventy-six times last year. It was a poor attendance, because in order to get full marks one has to be in attendance about 150 times. It is a matter of interest that the Lord Chancellor insists that we "clock on" to show that we have been in attendance. These new magistrates have been appointed, and in the large industrial areas we have put into practice the recommendation relating to court committees. Any bench with any common sense will have a court committee. There is nothing to stop them having one. But they cannot have the statutory power in regard to salaries. What they can do is to say how the court shall be carried on and whether it is to be painted or whitewashed, and they can deal with matters in relation to the appointment of staff. My Lords, that has been done in the past and it is not now changed—at any rate not in any progressive city of which I know in this land of ours. We have not got the statutory powers. I appeal to the Lord Chancellor to implement that recommendation, because sometimes there is a little battle going on between the justices' end and the corporation end as to what the salaries of a full-time clerk and his assistant shall be. Generally we compose our differences and are all very happy about it, but I agree with Lord Llewellin that that recommendation should be implemented as quickly as possible.

Now with regard to lectures, the Magistrates' Association, a conglomeration consisting chiefly of South-Country magistrates, meeting for a day out to listen to the Lord Chancellor or anybody else—even my noble friend the illustrious Chairman—wanted an Act of Parliament to the effect that we should all go back to school. This House said that we were not to do so. But that does not mean that there have not been lectures, and in these great cities instruction in regard to behaviour in a court of summary jurisdiction has been given by those competent to give it. Latterly we have had regional conferences of instruction. I sat with great profit at the feet of the Lord Chief Justice when he visited us in Yorkshire, because he brought with him great common sense, a characteristic in him which we all admire so much. I came to the conclusion that his court had no cobwebs, because he certainly brought a breath of fresh air (almost a breath from the Yorkshire moors) when he came and told us how to do our job. That kind of thing is going on up and down the country. And if we are short of money we simply go to the corporation and get it—I believe that is out of order, but we get it just the same, and possession is nine points of the law.

My Lords, I am concerned with the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lord Merthyr which deals with the small country benches. As Lord Roche has reminded us, while there are a hundred full-time clerks administering about 70 or 80 per cent. of the 99 per cent. of justice which is administered in courts of summary jurisdiction, the remainder is administered by country courts which meet at less frequent intervals but which are certainly no less just. I make no criticism in that regard. But those courts have a part-time clerk, usually a solicitor of standing in his own township and generally a man of culture; so much so that even if he is in a country district the chairman can invite him to a day's shoot or even to dinner at certain times of the year. If I were assured that one of these part-time justices' clerks suffered any hardship because of the necessary amalgamation of certain small courts, then I should say—and I am certain that the Lord Chancellor and his Department would be the first to agree—that it would be our duty to see that that was remedied. But there cannot be a flat rate for stating what should be the compensation of a part-time clerk. I agree that when they are appointed the local court committee should be able to advise, I hope the Lord Chancellor's Department and not so much the Home Office, as to whether there is a need for compensation, and then that compensation should be given.

But I am more concerned with the assistant justices' clerks. In many of these small towns the assistant justices' clerks are the men and women who do the work, and except on certain ceremonial occasions some of the justices' clerks, the solicitor classes, do not come but leave the job to a very competent assistant. If that assistant clerk is going to suffer hardship, he will be in a very uncomfortable position. Sometimes he has not the proper means to put forward his case, especially before your Lordships' House, as the part-time solicitor-clerks have. I emphasise that if there is hardship there should be compensation, and I trust that provision will be made for it. I could mention other reforms. There is real enthusiasm on the part of new magistrates in seeking instruction, but they do not want to be crammed with it. That is a matter within my own personal knowledge. That is all to the good, and is on the credit side; and I claim that your Lordships, in introducing and passing the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, did a fine job of work. And, whilst there arc certain statutory regulations which have not been implemented, I would say that the spirit of the Act is being carried out to the best of the ability of this noble band of unpaid men and women who are called magistrates.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord and I have somewhat different ideas about time. It is particularly true, as he has said, that a number of very good magistrates have been appointed, and we are all obliged to the Lord Chancellor for the care which he has taken in making the appointments. We also knew that the advisory committees are taking their duties more seriously than they did before. But let me point out to the noble Lord that neither of those two improvements has really anything to do with the statutory provisions of this Act. The Lord Chancellor could equally have appointed excellent magistrates without this Act. It is true to say that the regulations for removing some of the older members of benches have come into force. I have always been one of those who attached I will not say the least importance to that particular provision of the Justices of the Peace Act, but at any rate, I have never regarded it as one of the key provisions. And indeed, I understand that it has been found that a great many exceptions have to he made to enable the work of certain benches to he carried on. But, in the main, the points that Lord Calverley took as credit points could have been achieved by administration.

Our case to-day is that in the wider aspects of the Act there has been great delay. I will tell noble Lords what is in my mind in this connection. I speak not only as a former Home Secretary, and as one who took great interest in the passage of this Act, but also as chairman of the Council of the Magistrates' Association. The noble Lord, Lord Calverley, almost sneered at the Magistrates' Association.


I spoke of it as a central body.


The noble Lord almost sneered at that body as a sort of hole-and-corner body, brought together to listen to speeches, presumably from the President, the Lord Chancellor.


I said so.


Let me tell Lord Calverley that, nothing could be more different from the true state of affairs. This organisation consists, in the main, of the great body of active magistrates. At their gatherings the attendance sometimes runs into three figures. The members come from every part of the country. It is quite untrue to suggest that it represents principally the South of England.


Will the noble Viscount allow me to interrupt him?




I said that the increasing value of the Magistrates' Association was due to the fact that more regional conferences are being held. I suggested that until the principle of running the organisation from the centre is revised, there is bound to be trouble.


I do not want to enter into controversy with the noble Lord regarding the organisation of this body. All I can say—and this is based on the experience of the years during which I have been connected with the Magistrates' Association—is that it is very fairly representative of the great body of magistrates in this country, whether they come from the North or whether they come from the South. In any case, whether that is so or not, we have had a series of discussions about the delays that have taken place in the implementing of the Justices of the Peace Act.

We have had committees inquiring into the particular delays: first, the delays relating to the setting up of the magistrates' courts committees, and, secondly, the delay in bringing into operation the recommendations of the rule committee contemplated in the Act. Let me say this in passing about the rule committee. I fully realise that it must take some time to collect together the innumerable details connected with the procedure of petty sessions courts, and to-day I do not criticise the Government for not having produced a cut-and-dried scheme. But I would reinforce what I understand my noble friend Lord Llewellin has already stressed: that, before this debate ends, the Lord Chancellor should tell us when we may expect the recommendations of the rule committee. I can assure him that this is a question that directly interests the great body of magistrates. They are urgently anxious to have these new rules, and to clear up many of the complications that from time to time obstruct the administration of justice in the magistrates courts.

The question of the justices' clerks, I will leave to the end of my remarks. I return for a moment to the magistrates' courts committees. I can speak only for myself, but in doing so I speak as one who, I think, followed every discussion during the long debates on the Justices of the Peace Act, and I can say that my impression certainly was that the magistrates' courts committees, for which very little new expenditure was needed, were intended to come into operation without any material delay. 1 was not alone in holding that view. There was a debate upon the subject in another place, in which the Attorney-General confirmed my view and said that he contemplated the magistrates' courts committees being in full operation in September of last year—I have the answer here. Then, for some reason, I know not what, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office shortly afterwards pushed that date into a more distant future; and, according to what he said, everything was to come into operation on April 1 of next year. That was bad enough, indeed, but during the last few weeks we have heard that these magistrates' courts committees, upon which so much depends, will not be in full operation, with their plans for the division of boundaries, the amalgamation of benches and the appointment of justices' clerks until April, 1953. I can assure the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor that that is creating great disillusionment among many magistrates.

During the time that has elapsed since the Act was placed on the Statute Book, the Magistrates' Association have tried to stimulate interest in magistrates' work from one end of the country to the other. We have based our appeal on the passage of the Justices of the Peace Act and the greater importance that is being attached to magistrates' work. We have circulated a training scheme to which the noble and learned Viscount gave his, I will not say, formal approval, but obviously his informal approval.


My Lords, I gave my formal approval.


As the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, has said, a number of conferences have been held, some of which have been addressed by distinguished persons like the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, to whom I would offer my sincere thanks today for the work he has done in this connection. Now, after all this, the magistrates having been worked up to this point of interest and almost of excitement, we are told that the committees will not be in full operation until April, 1953. It is true that magistrates can set up informal committees, such as the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, mentioned, but that is not what was contemplated. The statutory committees are intended to have definite powers. It is for them to recommend the rearrangement of boundaries, the amalgamation of small benches and the amalgamation of the work of justices' clerks, and all that is held up for another two years. After the trouble we took with the Justices of the Peace Act two years ago, I ask your Lordships whether this is the result that was expected.

I come to my third point, which is the question of part-time justices' clerks. I take a special interest in that question. As Home Secretary I had the great privilege of appointing the Committee of which my noble and learned friend Lord Roche was Chairman. Let me say to him to-day how delighted we are to hear him intervening in our debates once again with all the mental vigour not of an octogenarian but of a young man. I ask your Lordships who took part in our discussions whether any of you was under an illusion about the fact that justices' clerks were to receive compensation. It was obvious to all of us that if the recommendations of the Roche Committee were to work, it was essential that the part-time clerks should receive compensation. Without compensation it would be unlikely that either the benches or the magistrates' courts committees would agree to their dismissal and to amalgamations that would lead to more whole-time clerks. As my noble friend Lord Merthyr has pointed out this afternoon, Section 42 of the Justices of the Peace Act is meaningless if it is not intended to embrace within its scope compensation for part-time justices' clerks.

I imagine that the answer the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will make will be that in 1948, about the time we were discussing the Justices of the Peace Bill, a new system was adopted by the Ministry of Health for excluding part-time officials from compensation. I do not know whether that is the case or not, but if it be the case, I still say it is grossly unfair that these part-time justices' clerks should have applied to them what is really restrospective legislation. We certainly cannot have contemplated that they would not be compensated. I can well imagine that if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche, had known about this Ministry of Health proposal, he would have made a different recommendation that would have covered the point. He made his recommendation on a different basis and this House passed the Act on a different basis. It is grossly unfair to these men to say now that, because a different plan has since been adopted by the Minis- try of Health, henceforth they shall not receive compensation.

I have spoken strongly on these various points because I assure your Lordships that many hundred of magistrates feel very strongly on each of them. I hope, therefore, that when the noble and learned Viscount comes to reply, he will be able to give the House some further comfort. I hope he will be able to tell us, for instance, that April, 1953, is not the last word and that it may be possible, and that he will try to make it possible, to bring these various parts of the Act into operation before that long-postponed date. I hope also he will be able to tell us, in spite of what has been said in another place, that he will see that these part-time justices' clerks who, I would remind him, number something like seven to every one whole-time clerk, will receive adequate compensation.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack must have the greatest sympathy with most, if not all, of the points which have been made this afternoon. I hope that the notable contributions which have been made to the debate may provide him with ammunition in his discussions with the Treasury. I suppose that it would be wrong to call the Treasury the "nigger in the woodpile," but it is they who are causing the difficulty about implementing those parts of the Justices of the Peace Act which have not yet been brought into force. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Calverley indicated that, in spite of the difficulties which have been alluded to this afternoon, the Justices of the Peace Act has already begun to have a considerable effect, if only a psychological one. Those who have had the pleasure of practising over a number of years in magistrates' courts, and who have themselves afterwards had the honour to become magistrates, must have felt that over the last generation or two there has been a considerable increase in the efficiency with which the law has been administered in the courts of summary jurisdiction in this country. I believe that that is due to a number of causes, and not the least the growing importance of the Magistrates' Association, of which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, is the Chairman, and on behalf of which he has spoken this afternoon. There are many members of the Magistrates' Association who sit on benches in the north of England. I was rather surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, seemed to think that in some sort of way it was managed entirely from the South. As a North countryman myself, I deny with a certain amount of indignation that any organisation on which northerners are represented is entirely managed from the South.

I should also like to add my support to the noble Viscount opposite in asking the Lord Chancellor to bring all his influence to bear to ensure that the financial provisions of the Act are implemented without delay. We realise that the nation's financial position is an exceedingly difficult one, but the provisions should be implemented, particularly those in relation to the payment of out-of-pocket expenses, which are of great importance at the present time. The tremendous amount of voluntary work, which is one of the remarkable features of the administration of justice in this country, is becoming more and more difficult, as the expenses of attending at court, particularly in the country, are growing all the time. As the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has frequently emphasised, it is important to get the younger men and women on to the bench; but they are the very people who, unless they get some return in the way of out-of-pocket expenses, find it difficult to do this work. I can assure the Lord Chancellor that there is a great deal of disappointment among working men and women who sit on benches in this country that these financial provisions have not yet been implemented.

I can also support what the noble Lord opposite has said as to the Roche Committee Report, and the problem of part-time clerks. Anybody who has had much experience of the administration of justice in summary courts must realise the absolutely key position of the clerk, and how varied is the efficiency and ability displayed by different clerks. Some of them are men of outstanding ability; but, unfortunately, others are far from reaching that standard. As everybody realises, the securing of a uniform standard of efficiency depends upon the implementation of the Roche Committee's recommendations, I have no doubt whatever that Lord Roche is absolutely right when he says that, unless there is some fair compensation for these part-time clerks, it will be impossible to get them replaced, as it will undoubtedly be the view that an injustice is being done. In that event, perhaps the most important part of the Act will not be carried into effect. It would be a serious matter if a judge of the eminence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche, and the people who worked with him all these months, should see their work thrown away. This country, perhaps more than any other country in the world, depends on the hard, slogging work which is given on committees and benches, and in all sorts of other ways, by people who receive for it no remuneration, and often very little commendation, but who do the work because they feel it is part of their duty to the country. If the results of their efforts are, so to speak, to be thrown on one side—because that is what it will come to—then I think the community will find that men of this calibre and eminence will not be so ready to perform all this hard work. That would be a serious matter from the point of view of the standard of public life and public work in this country. Therefore, I hope that in his negotiations with the Treasury the noble and learned Viscount will succeed in making them see that these provisions of the Act must be effectively carried through.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, I do not in the least complain that your Lordships have asked for this review of the way in which we are putting the provisions of this Act into force. The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, was good enough to say that I had given birth to this Act of Parliament. It is about the only thing to which I have ever given birth and the only thing to which I am ever likely to give birth. I suppose that if I ever again give birth to anything, I may perhaps be a little impatient lest the child does not grow up quickly enough. I must confess that I think your Lordships have, to some extent, shown a little impatience and lack of understanding of the provisions of this Act, and have failed to appreciate the inevitable delays that there must be.

I should like to start with a consideration of Section 10. That is the section of the Act which imposed upon me the duty to consider whether or not certain ancient boroughs should or should not lose their separate commissions and their separate quarter sessions. Speaking from recollection, I believe there were thirty-one of them which had the right to apply to me. I appointed a small committee, over which Sir Hartley Shawcross (then Attorney-General) was good enough to preside, to go into and consider each particular case. They went into each case most carefully, and it took them a considerable time to do so. When they had announced their decisions—provisional decisions, of course—they were conveyed to the various boroughs, and all those boroughs which were not successful naturally wanted to petition me. I received deputations asking that I myself should review the whole matter again, consider further evidence and the like.

As I told your Lordships at the time and as Lot d Llewellin recalled, I never liked the task. These boroughs were rightly proud of their ancient privileges and traditions, and it was no pleasant task to take them away. Accordingly, I consented to start the whole thing over again and see them all again. I was determined that if I had to remove from one of these ancient boroughs their ancient privileges and rights, at least it should be clear to everybody that they had had every possible opportunity of saying what they wanted to say. I was determined that if the decision turned out to be against them—as in the majority of cases it did—no one should be able to say that his case had not been fully and adequately considered. I believe I was right to dc that, and I do not think anyone has ever said that his case was not considered. Though I have no doubt that the twenty-three boroughs I turned down think I came to a wrong conclusion, I am sure they do not think that I came to a hasty conclusion, or came to a conclusion without giving them every opportunity of saying what they wanted to say.

The result of that procedure, for which I make no apology and in which I think I was right, was that there was a considerable delay in announcing my decision. I am speaking from recollection, but I think I announced the final decision to the boroughs at the end of May this year, and to your Lordships in answer to a Question asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, in the early days of this month. If it was right to take a considerable time in coming to my conclusion about certain boroughs, it was quite impracticable to do anything further until that preliminary act had been done. You cannot conveniently set up a magistrates' courts committee—and I wish this had been explained to people—unless and until you know who the constituents are going to be who will be represented. The committee can do little or nothing if it does not know for certain whether some of its members will represent borough benches or county petty sessional benches.

Now I want to say a word to the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, about Section 38. I think that he is under some misapprehension about the necessity for that section. At the present time, until Section 10 comes into operation the magistrates for a county can sit at a convenient town within the county even though at that time it had its separate commission. But when Section 10 of this Act comes into force, as it will on October 1, then the position will be different. Thereafter, magistrates will be magistrates only for the administrative county arid not magistrates over the whole county. Therefore, when that is brought into force Section 38 is needed to make it possible for them to do in the future what they can do to-day. There is no point in having Section 38 at all unless and until you have Section 10. When Section 10 becomes effective, then you must have Section 38 but to-day we do not want Section 38 at all.


I had not understood that it was intended to bring in Section 38 on October 1. If that is the case, that largely answers my point.


The Order in Council brings in both sections on the same day, and one is really a corollary of the other. That is what I am told, and no doubt the noble Lord will check it. I imagine that I have made my case that you cannot reasonally appoint magistrates' courts committees unless and until you have determined what is to happen under Section 10.

Again, there seems to be another strange misapprehension. It is quite unfair to talk about April 1, 1953, which I agree is the date when financial responsibility is assumed. Incidentally, let me say that this much at least is plain: you must accept the date of April 1, because that is the beginning of the financial year, and all the complicated changes as between the ratepayer and the taxpayer which are involved in this Bill cannot be brought into force in the middle of the financial year without extreme inconvenience. Therefore, the scheme was really April 1, 1952, or April 1, 1953. Now observe this. It is untrue to say that the magistrates' courts committees are not able to do anything at all until 1953. We shall appoint them, get them elected and in the saddle, and they can survey the ground and make their plans. They can do that on April 1, 1952. Indeed, there is no particular magic in April 1 at all for this purpose. I do not see why it should not be done earlier, subject to this point. There is a power in this Act for quarter sessions in the case of particular counties, to petition that there shall be two magistrates' courts committees for a particular county, and I think that you must wait until after January to see whether that provision is made. After that, I think we could quite easily set up our magistrates' courts committees to survey the ground. That is a very considerable task. We had intended that they should be able to do this and get out their provisional plans in the course of the year. It may be that the longer term will be required, but certainly we contemplate that when April 1, 1953, comes, the plans will all be made, cut and dried, and the ground will have been surveyed and they will know what they want to do.

That seems to me not an unreasonable space of time, after the bringing into force of Section 10, which will be on October 1 of this year—I suggest February, if you like, or April, when you set up your magistrates' courts committees and get them busy and functioning. Is there any noble Lord who thinks that delay unreasonable? We will set them up and they will get their plans ready, and those plans will become effective on April 1, 1953. If I am right in saying that the financial change must come about at the beginning of the financial year, those who say we are too long about this matter must really be saying that the financial change should come in on April 1, 1952. But it is absolutely impossible for the magistrates' courts committees, who cannot be set up until after October, to have perfected in a few months their plans which will involve all sorts of comings and goings and talking in the county council, and so on. Indeed, very likely a year will prove too short and, therefore, I will try, if I can, to advance the date of April, 1952, to, say, February 1.

Until the financial change comes about when the ratepayer and the taxpayer become partners in this scheme—broadly speaking, I think the taxpayer pays two-thirds and the ratepayer one-third—we cannot make the necessary financial arrangements. We cannot provide, for instance, for the Section 8 travelling and lodging allowances or the Section 36 lodging allowances of members of Probation committees. It is only when the financial scheme imposed by this Act comes into force that the taxpayers' obligation to foot the Bill to the extent of one-third can come into force. If we are to provide for these financial needs before that date, we shall have a different scheme operating, and in the nature of things the whole burden could not be shared between the taxes and the rates. I hope and believe that that is a complete answer, and I am bound to say that if committees of the Magistrates' Association have been inquiring into this matter I wish they had come to me and asked me a question about it, because I think I could have explained to them that their fears and misapprehensions were really quite misplaced.

I come now to a different point. I am speaking without notes, and if I leave out any matter I shall be grateful if noble Lords will ask me about it. I am speaking of the rule committee. I am perfectly ready to appoint a rule committee at any time when it is desirable. But, frankly, I do not think it would be useful just yet. One of the schemes which I have very near to my heart—and the fruition of which, I hope, is near in point of time—is a complete revision of the whole of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts and their consolidation into a consolidated measure. Schemes for a Consolidation Bill have, as I have announced, been in force for some time, and practical steps have been taken towards that end.

But I do not think it would be useful to constitute the rule committee just now to deal with certain existing matters, and then to call them together again in a short time to deal with a wholly new situation which will arise when I get my consolidated measure. It would be much more sensible, I think, to constitute them then and bring them into play in order that they may advise me throughout upon rules that will be inevitable in connection with this consolidated measure. If I am asked about a time-table for this consolidated measure, I can only tell the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, that substantial progress has been made with what has proved to be an extremely complicated task. I can myself say how complicated it has been. The Home Secretary and I hope that it will be possible for the work to be sufficiently advanced for a departmental committee to be appointed before the end of the year, in the hope that it will be possible to present the proposed legislation in the course of next year. If we can do that, it will be a very remarkable achievement, and I hope we shall be able to do it.


This is the first, I think, which we have heard of the departmental committee. Is it the case that the draftsmen are doing preliminary work on it, that the departmental committee will be set up to report, and that in the light of their recommendations legislation will then be Framed?


The qualifications of those dealing with this measure would have to be substantial. It is so complicated that, instead of leaving this matter simply to a Consolidation Committee, we think it would be better to have a departmental committee of experts to look into it, so that in the light of their observations we can make such alterations as are necessary. That is the scheme we have in mind; and the noble Lord will know that it is quicker in the long run to take all these preliminary steps beforehand, so that a measure which is agreed by all the interests concerned can be presented. Let it not be said that I am making any promise, but I am hopeful that in the course of next year we may be able to get through our consolidation measure consolidating all Summary Jurisdiction Acts. If that is even approximately right, it would be foolish at the present time to appoint a rule committee to consider the difficulties of the existing law, instead of waiting until I can get a Consolidation Act and then appointing them to help me with the rules under that Consolidation Act.

There remains the position regarding the compensation to be paid to part-time justices' clerks. This is a matter on which I want to speak quite frankly. Speaking for myself—and, I should think, speaking for many of your Lordships—I do not think that any of us applied our minds to this problem at the time of the passing of the Justices of the Peace Act. If I had known that there was this difficulty I should have mentioned it to you; and if any of your Lordships had known that there was likely to be this difficulty I feel certain he would have mentioned it to me. I do not think that this point had arisen at that stage. I think it came up a little later: it was a short time before the discussions on the South Shields Extension Bill, which was in June, 1950. It was considered main on the South Shields Bill in July, 1950, and the Gloucester Extension Bill, again in July, 1950. This point was then thrown up for decision.

So far as I am concerned, speaking as the Minister in charge of this Bill, I should very much welcome a decision to extend compensation to part-time clerks—and I say that for this reason. In the first place, the logic of such a course is unanswerable. Moreover, I think it is desirable to get rid of a good many of these part-time justices' clerks and to supplant them by whole-time justices' clerks. I believe that it is only common sense that a magistrates' courts committee is more likely to use power if it has power to grant compensation than if it has no power to grant compensation. Anybody who denied that would be contesting something which was obvious. The code which governed these matters was the code of 1933. The Roche Committee said in paragraph 101 of their Report that: …schemes for combined areas"— that is to say, arrangements for group divisions, to enable several divisions to be served by one clerk— should come into operation gradually, and that ordinarily an existing appointment should not he terminated if it might reasonably be expected to have continues under the present law and practice. But there may be cases where the Committee ought to terminate an appointment for good reasons, though the justices have not done so, and there may he other exceptional cases where the Committee may think it right to terminate a clerk's employment but do not thick it right to do so without compensation. Upon an alteration of petty sessional division this is provided for under the existing law, and in suitable cases provision should he made for compensation on the lines of the Local Government Act, 1933. I should very much welcome power to give compensation to these part-time clerks, but I have to consider the matter not only from the aspect of the Minister in charge of the Bill but from the point of view of the general financial position. As I have said before, while everybody urges us to strict economy it is always the case that, whenever some particular measure of economy comes up, everybody looks askance. It therefore behoves us to consider this matter on its merits rather carefully. Though I should like to provide compensation for part-time officers, yet I think we must consider the condition prevailing to-day as compared with the condition prevailing in 1933. As we all know, the condition prevailing to-day is a condition of full employment. As some of your Lordships have said, and as some of us have thought, perhaps it is a condition of over-full employment. That makes a profound difference to whether we should or should not dip our hands into the bag containing the taxpayers' money to compensate individuals.

I venture to think—and I want your Lordships to consider my words, because our interests are at one over this matter—that, in the past, in many cases compensation has been given to a man who holds a part-time office for the extinction of that office, when in fact the extinction of the office has led to an improvement of his financial position. He is able frequently to devote himself more attentively to some other business. If he is a solicitor devoting part of his time to judicial work as a justices' clerk, he is able to devote more of his time to his solicitor's office. It by no means always follows that the loss of a part-time office involves any financial loss. These things must always, of course, be in the nature of speculation and uncertainty. Human nature being what it is, I suppose that compensation is generally claimed, and, under the 1933 Act, has generally been awarded. But where we are in a position of very full employment, and where we have to consider how we spend every penny of our money, is it wise to spend some of the taxpayers' money in compensating people for losing part-time office?

The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, asked me—I have here his words—whether I would listen to his argument and discuss it with the Treasury. I most certainly will. I will put the argument in this way—I think this is how the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche, put it: Although it may be fair enough to use the argument of full employment, which I have indicated, in, for instance, the case of South Shields or Cheltenham, where we are dealing with one isolated individual who is losing a part-time position, it may be that we should have to consider it from rather a different angle in dealing with a group of people—I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche, said some 700 people out of 800, or words to that effect—who are themselves part-time people. I will say further—and as I have said it here, so I will say it to the Treasury—I am confident that, if there is this power to award compensation to these part-time people, you will get the magistrates' courts committees making more thorough recommendations than they would otherwise make. I think that is only common sense.

On the other hand, though I will certainly put forward those arguments, I cannot conceal from your Lordships that the answer may come back: "Well, this is a mere particular application of a general principle; and if, in this particular case, we are to concede that the principle should be altered, we shall in practice have to concede it in all cases." It may be said that in the condition of full employment today, it should not be difficult for a part-time servant who loses his employment to find another occupation. Therefore, I should not be fair if I led your Lordships to suppose that, merely because I promise to discuss this matter with the Treasury officials, I am in any way indicating that they will accept my representations. I have no right to say that. If I were to say that, I should be misleading the House. Therefore, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, all I can say (and I hope he sees that I have listened to his arguments, and have appreciated them) is that I will once more put to the authorities the arguments, to have it determined whether or not those arguments can or cannot be applied to this particular case without prejudice to general policy. More than that I cannot say. I should be misleading the House if I pretended that I could.

There is this consolation. This displacement of part-time officers is to be a gradual process, and if I understand this measure aright—and I hope and think I do—the Fifth Schedule makes it possible for these people to have superannuation. Of course, that does not apply until they reach the age of seventy. But, if you have a part-time officer now, and if this change is to be brought about gradually, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche himself said in his Committee's Report, when that part-time officer reaches the age of seventy he may be eligible for superannuation and pension. But, whilst it is right that I should point that out to your Lordships, which is entirely an amelioration of the position, if I understand it aright, it does not, of course, alter the fact that under the present ruling, if it is to apply to this case. there is no power to give compensation for loss of office if an officer is declared redundant before he reaches the pensionable age.

I have endeavoured to answer all the points which have been raised in this debate. I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Templewvood, that I am one of those who are wholeheartedly with him in his endeavours to arrange lectures to magistrates. I believe the Lord Chief Justice has gone. I am most grateful to him, and to others of His Majesty's Judges who have given these lectures. I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Calverley and Lord Chorley, that the standard of administration of justice is improving and I do think that the provisions regarding age and residence and the like have proved useful. I believe that, speaking by and large, the advisory committees are taking their work seriously and are giving me great assistance. On the whole, I have a very satisfactory report to make to your Lordships or those matters.

I hope and believe that I have satisfied your Lordships that we can do nothing more quickly than we are doing. If we try to do more we shall run the risk of people saying, and perhaps thinking, that matters have been dealt with too quickly. Having taken this decision on the Section 10 cases on October 1, and having waited until January for representations about how many magistrates' courts committees there are to be, we will then start to constitute the magistrates' courts committees. They can get into the saddle and survey the whole ground; they can discuss it with the numerous people with whom they have to discuss it, and can get fully prepared, so that at the beginning of the next financial year, on April 1, 1953, we can bring the financial provisions of the scheme into effect. If we are reasonable and look at the matter fairly, I venture to think that that will be a satisfactory compliance with the terms of this Act of Parliament.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for the trouble he has taken in the reply which he has just given us. Let me first deal with the question of the rule committee. I asked only for a progress report on that point arid I am aware that that is not a matter which can he hastened. I certainly agree with the Lord Chancellor that it would be much better not to set up the rule committee until the various Acts are consolidated. I think we may have been slightly at cross purposes in regard to Section 38, because in his announcement to the House of Commons the Home Secretary did not mention that section alongside Section 10 when he said that, apart from Section 10, the rest of the Act would come into force on the date he gave. I have now received the assurance that that section is coming in at the same time as Section 10, and that seems to me to be right. I think we all wanted the Lord Chancellor to take the trouble he did about the boroughs which were to retain their quarter sessions and their separate commissions of the peace. Whether it was really necessary that it should take eighteen months, I do not know, but that is the time it has taken, and on October 1 that part of Section 10 will be settled.

I have one consolation in that to-day, as I understand it, we have had an indication from the noble and learned Viscount that the setting up of magistrates' courts committees need not be delayed until April 1, 1952. I appreciate that the financial provisions can come into effect only on April 1 of one year or another. The noble and learned Viscount says that we are somewhat impatient, but I would point out that the former Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, on the Report stage of the Bill another place, said that the finan cial provisions would come into force on April 1, 1951, which gives us some slight basis for impatience about 1953. I had hoped that they could be brought in by April 1, 1952. The original estimate of time was six months. That may have been too short, but at any rate I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will try and see that these committees are set up at the very beginning of next year.


I think we must choose one month. I think it is January, but I do not see why it should not be done in February.


There may be some objection, but I do not see why they should not all start together. It may well be that they could be started in counties where there is no question of petitioning. It does not follow that until they are all set up the work cannot be done by some of them. It is not as though the work done by one depends upon the decision of another. I hope, at any rate, that as many as possible will be set up as soon as possible, so as to assure the magistrates who set a certain amount of store on the establishing of these courts committees that something is being done. I think the Lord Chancellor is right in saying that we had not got clearly in our minds at the time the section dealing with compensation for justices' clerks. Certainly those who were advising us thought nothing other than that it was going to apply to part-time clerks. That was the recommendation of the Committee presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche. That had been the practice under the procedure of 1933, and I think none of us was aware that anything different was to be done. There is still one question that the noble and learned Viscount has not answered—namely, to whom this section is to apply if it does not apply to these part-time people. We are not getting rid of any of the whole-time people under Part and this applies only to what is done under Part III of the Act. If the magistrates' courts committees are acting under Part III of the Act, the only people they will be getting rid of are the part-time clerks.


They may get rid of whole-time people. They may make one whole-time person do instead of two.


That may be so, but I should not put it higher than that, because when there are at present only 100 out of 800 justices' clerks who are whole-time people, there are really no more whole-time clerks than are necessary for the whole-time work otherwise they would be part-time clerks. I think the only people to be dealt with under Section 42 will be part-time clerks. That is why we all thought that section was inserted. It is true that if a man ceases to be a part-time clerk he may be able to give more time to something else. But if you dismiss a whole-time clerk, he also can give more time to something else. That argument applies equally to both. The whole point is that these people are not in quite the same category as other local government officers, in that justice can be dispensed without reference to the ordinary local government office.

The justices' clerks case rests on this: Do you or do you not want to implement the recommendation of Lord Roche's Committee? If you do, I believe (and I think the Lord Chancellor believes this, too) that you must have some measure of compensation for the men you displace. I do not think that the magistrates' courts committees will turn people out or do away with jobs without any compensation whatsoever. As I said, the committees will be composed of justices. The reason why people are called "justices" is because they are supposed to administer justice and to deal justly with people, and to sack a man under a Statute without some compensation being paid to him is not just. I have no doubt the Lord Chancellor will put this point strongly to the Treasury, and I hope that they can be convinced that this compensation is essential if this reform in our judicial proceedings is to be made. That is the attitude from which this matter should be viewed by the Treasury, and not from the point of view of bringing it into harmony with the general scheme for local government officers. After all, a justices' clerk will no longer be an officer of the local authority. He will become an officer of the magistrates' courts committee. I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for saying that he will take up this matter again. I think there is a strong case, and I am convinced that we all thought that that was the way Section 42 was going to work. We passed it over without comment because we thought it completely met the case of these people. I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for having dealt with my Motion as fully as he has done, and, with your Lordships' permission, I now ask leave to withdraw it.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.