HL Deb 01 June 1954 vol 187 cc1067-70

4.24 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I must apologise for taking up your Lordships' time on a second Bill in the same afternoon. This Bill, however, is much shorter and, I hope, almost without controversy. It has come up from another place and it has, I think I am right in saying, the blessing of the Government. The purpose of the Bill, which is set out in the short Explanatory Memorandum, is to amend the provisions of the Juries Act, 1949, as to payments in respect of jury service. As the law stands, those payments are of two types. There is payment for travelling and subsistence, and there is compensation for loss of earnings and additional expenses. Whereas the payments for travelling and subsistence are prescribed without limit under regulations made by the Secretary of State, subject only to the consent of the Treasury—which, I understand, is not always readily obtained—there is a statutory maximum imposed on the compensation for loss of earnings and additional expenses.

The object of this Bill is to remove the statutory maximum on this latter type of payment. That is necessary because for some time—it may be for the whole time—since the Juries Act was passed, the regulations have provided for those expenses to run at the statutory maximum. The statutory maximum has, in practice, been found to be insufficient, and rather than put a higher statutory maximum upon it, it has been thought desirable to remove the statutory maximum altogether and to substitute a provision for regulations comparable to that for the other type of payment under the Juries Act. In my submission, that is a reasonable step to take. It also has the merit that in this respect it brings the payments to jurors into line with payments to members of local authorities. There is, however, this difference, which I must point out to the House, between the payments to members of local authorities and the proposed payments to jurors—namely, that the regulations for the payment of local authorities have to be laid before Parliament, and under the terms of this Bill the regulations do not have to be laid. That might be thought a subject of criticism, but I believe the answer is as follows, and I hope your Lordships will find it a satisfactory one. This payment brings all payments to jurors into the same category as payments to witnesses; they come under regulations made by the Secretary of State. It would be an anomaly by this Bill, which affects only compensation for loss of earnings and additional expenses, to put them in a special category that is not applicable to payments to witnesses and not applicable to the other payments to jurors.

It may be argued in this connection that payments to local authority representatives could be differently regarded, since they are payments repeatedly made, in respect of repeated attendances at local authorities' meetings by the same people, and that they might therefore be subject to abuse. Payments to jurors are not often made to the same persons—indeed, if they were, I imagine that the jurors concerned would be the first to complain. So the juror is more in the position of the witness where it has not been thought necessary to provide for the regulation to be laid and approved. As a further argument, I would suggest to your Lordships that, as this matter has come up to your Lordships in this form from another place, which is more concerned with finance than we are ourselves, and as it is subject to the consent of the Treasury and is concerned solely with the amount of money payable subject to that consent, we might let it go through as it stands. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Hailsham.)

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, I think both the subject-matter of the Bill and the explanation given of it by the noble Viscount are satisfactory, and his explanation was a very clear one. I am not altogether convinced, however, by the last part of his argument. I agree with him that it is desirable to have the same procedure followed with regard to both types of payment to jurors; it is obviously a desirable feature which should be embodied in this Bill. But I cannot see why both classes of payments, or the orders relating to them, should not be laid before Parliament. It may be that this is not the correct Bill in which to meet that problem, and I think that the Government might consider, perhaps in a subsequent Bill, making the neces- sary alteration so as to provide for the laying of regulations relating to both classes of payments to jurors before each House of Parliament.

I do not think the point about payment to members of local authorities is quite in the same class—first, because, as the noble Viscount says, the payments to members of local authorities are made frequently, but mainly because the juror is in a very different category from that of a member of a local authority. After all, trial by jury is one of the bulwarks of the liberty of the subject, and so on. I think it is right and proper that Parliament should have an opportunity of viewing, and if necessary reviewing, any regulations that are made with regard to payments to be made to jurors. Apart from those comments, I wish the Bill every success in its passage through this House.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend, as always, has given your Lordships a brief and extremely lucid exposition of the merits of the Bill. I have no more to add to what he has said than to assure him that what he told your Lordships is true—namely, that the Government support this Bill and that he can count upon us for any assistance that he requires in its passage through Parliament. With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I am, of course, always ready to consider anything he says, but I think that the arguments put forward by my noble friend for the procedure that has been adopted are sound. We have to remember that if every single set of regulations had to be laid, the Tables in Parliament would be knee-deep in paper. We have to consider a little carefully, therefore, what should and what should not be laid. There is no principle that I know of which binds us as to what regulations should, or should not, be laid; but it is only fair to point out that in the case of expenses for witnesses, which have been considered by both Houses of parliament, it has not been thought appropriate that the regulations involved should be laid. Clearly, if that is the case with witnesses, it seems only logical that it should apply to jurors who are in a similar position; in both cases they are doing their duties as citizens. What is sauce for the witnesses should also be sauce for the jurors. I am, of course, very ready to consider what the noble Lord has said and to bring what he has said to the attention of my right honourable friend.

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