§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is a Bill which can be described as complementary to the London Government Act, but I hope that it will not give rise to such controversy—and will not, because it follows upon that Act, which I know arouses the ire of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, stir him up into any very unusual activity to-day. The changes brought about by that Act have made it necessary to make changes and adjustments in the administration of justice throughout the area of Greater London, and in making those adjustments, we are seeking to make considerable improvements. Our intention is that the changes in the administration of justice should come into operation at the same time as those made by the London Government Act; namely, April 1, 1965.
Part I of the Bill deals with the courts in the Greater London area. Assizes are dealt with in Clause 1 and Schedule 1, which amends and brings up to date the legislation relating to the Central Criminal Court. That court was established nearly 130 years ago. My predecessor in office, Lord Brougham, introduced the necessary legislation, and Lord Campbell, in his Lives of the Lord Chancellors, says that it met with unmixed applause. I hope that this Bill may be similarly received. Lord, Campbell went on to say that, in fairness, the merit of it ought to be almost 833 exclusively imputed to Brougham. And he went on to say this:From ancient times there was a Court, called the Old Bailey, which met frequently throughout the year for the trial of all offences committed in the county of Middlesex and in the metropolis which formerly did not extend beyond the ancient walls of the City of London. But large portions of the metropolis were now",he said,to be found in the counties of Surrey, Kent and Essex, and persons charged with offences in them might be seven or eight months in prison before being brought to trial.To-day, nearly 130 years later, it is equally true to say that large portions of the metropolis are to be found in the counties of Surrey, Kent and Essex. That will be changed when the London Government Act comes into force. I am glad to think that the administration of justice in the adjoining counties does not arouse the kind of criticism that it incurred nearly 130 years ago. The Central Criminal Court had as its members the Lord Chancellor and all the Judges. And they are still to-day members of that Court, though it is a very long time since the Lord Chancellor presided at a trial there—if indeed he ever has done.
Under subsection (1) of Clause 1 the territorial jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court, as a criminal court of assize, is extended to coincide with the area of Greater London, and the Court will consequently have more to do than it does at present. It is thought that the proposed extension of jurisdiction will increase the work at the Old Bailey by about 20 per cent. above the present level. The work has already increased substantially in recent years and it is obvious that the time has come for the Central Criminal Court itself to be expanded.
Your Lordships may remember that the Royal Commission suggested that the Greater London Council should be made responsible for the expenses of the expanded Central Criminal Court, while recommending that the special rights of the Corporation of the City of London should be preserved. The Corporation has already undertaken a scheme for rebuilding the Central Criminal Court which will add four more courts. That will cost, I am told, more than £4 million. The Corporation are promoting 834 a Bill of their own to provide for the appointment of more Judges.
On some occasions the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has thought fit to utter criticisms of the City of London, but I hope he will join with me in paying a tribute to the Corporation of the City of London for undertaking this heavy financial burden. Not very many of those who appear at the Central Criminal Court are charged with offences committed in the City of London itself, and for the City to shoulder this expense and relieve the ratepayers of Greater London to such a considerable extent shows a degree of public-spiritedness which should command our admiration.
My Lords, in considering what would be the best pattern for the administration of justice in Greater London, I was at one time, I must confess, attracted by the idea of having one Commission of the Peace or one quarter sessions for the whole of Greater London. We have consulted the interested parties and we have endeavoured to meet so far as possible the points they have raised, and it is in the light of the views expressed that the Bill now proposes five Commissions of the Peace and five separate quarter sessions, excluding the City. That is provided by Clause 2. Each of the five quarter sessions areas will have its separate magistrates' courts committee.
Clause 2 as at present drafted designates the five areas by geographical descriptions; that is to say, North-East London area, South-East London area, and so on. It has been suggested, however, that the North-West London area, which covers the area of the present County of Middlesex, should be known as the Middlesex area. I know that those who wish to maintain the identity of Middlesex after the abolition of the administrative County are anxious that this should be done. This would mean that the name "Middlesex" would be attached to the Commission of the Peace, court of quarter sessions and magistrates' courts committee for the area, and also to the Custos Rotulorum and the Under-Sheriff.
I should be glad of your Lordships' views on this. I certainly am not unsympathetic to the idea. But it might appear a little odd if, of these five areas, 835 Middlesex is the only one which is named and the others are referred to by their geographical description, such as the South-East London area, the North-East London area, and so on. I have tried to think of appropriate names for the other four areas, if the North-West London area is named Middlesex, but so far I have not been successful. If one is called Middlesex and the others are not named, may it not in the years to come look rather an anachronism and an anomaly to use the name "Middlesex" in this connection? As I said, I shall be interested to hear your Lordships' views upon this matter. We are not at all unsympathetic to the suggestion, but I should be grateful to know what your Lordships think with regard to it.
The appointment of chairmen and deputy chairmen of the new courts of quarter sessions are dealt with in Clauses 4, 5 and 6. Clause 4 provides for the appointment of five whole-time chairmen—one for each area—and one or more whole-time deputy chairmen in each area, not exceeding 25 for the whole of Greater London. Your Lordships will observe that Clause 5 introduces a novel arrangement by providing for the appointment of county court judges as part-time or temporary chairmen of quarter sessions for the London Commission areas and for contribution by the Greater London Council towards the salary and pension of any county court judge so appointed. It is already possible for county court judges to preside over quarter sessions in counties other than London, and many of them do so. This proposal will enable them to play a responsible part in the administration of the criminal law in London.
Noble Lords may remember that the Inter-departmental Committee on the Business of the Criminal Courts, presided over by Mr. Justice Streatfeild, recommended in paragraph 224 of their Report that the appointment of supernumerary county court judges might be preferable to an increase in the number of full-time deputy chairmen of quarter sessions. This proposal has, to my mind the considerable advantage of adding variety to judicial work. I have often thought that it must get extremely monotonous always to be trying the same kind of cases, whether they be 836 criminal or civil—and I am by no means sure that additional variety may not lead to an improvement in the administration of justice. What I have in mind is, for instance, that for one quarter of a year a county court judge might be asked to preside at quarter sessions instead of sitting in the county court. In order that a sufficiently large reservoir of county court judges may be available from among which the necessary number of deputy chairmen may be found, subsection (2) of Clause 5 raises the limit on the total number of county court judges from 80 to 90.
I would say a word or two in explanation of Clause 7(4) which provides that each court of quarter sessions must be presided over by a legally qualified chairman or deputy chairman and enables the Lord Chancellor to direct that any of those courts shall be held before a chairman or deputy chairman sitting alone. I should like to make it clear that I hope that lay justices, who play a very great part in the administration of justice throughout the county, will continue to play a big part at quarter sessions in Greater London, and I hope that they will continue to attend them. But I have thought it wise to include in the Bill a power to direct that a chairman or deputy chairman shall sit alone.
It is certainly not intended to make general use of this power, but one may get some cases which are likely to last a very long time, for many weeks, and I think it would be asking a lot to ask lay magistrates to devote several weeks on end to hearing a case. Indeed, it might not be possible to find those who could, and so this is, I think, a useful reserve power to have. Lay justices do not at present sit at London Sessions except to hear appeals. Under this Bill it will be possible to secure that they can adjudicate at quarter sessions in the Inner London area.
My Lords, I now turn to the magistrates' courts. At present, in the County of London there are two separate systems of magistrates' courts, the Metropolitan stipendiary magistrates' courts and the petty sessional courts of lay justices. The two groups of courts are organised differently, and have separate staffs. Moreover, there are important differences in their jurisdiction. The 837 Metropolitan stipendiary magistrates can deal with any offence, either summarily or as examining justices, but the criminal jurisdiction of the lay justices sitting in their own courts in the County of London is restricted, by Orders made by the Home Secretary under the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, to a fairly narrow range of offences, mostly of a kind that are prosecuted by local authorities.
It has long been recognised that it is not satisfactory to have these two systems of magistrates' courts, with overlapping jurisdictions, for one area. The Maxwell Committee recommended in 1937 that the Metropolitan magistrates and lay justices should sit in the same courthouses. In 1960 the Interdepartmental Committee on Magistrates' Courts in London was appointed under the chairmanship of Judge Aarvold to consider what measures were required to integrate the two systems of magistrates' courts in the County of London. It recommended that, after the integration of the two systems, the Metropolitan magistrates and the lay justices should have, with certain exceptions, a common jurisdiction, common staff, common financial arrangements and, eventually, common courthouses. The recommendations of the Aarvold Committee are implemented, with a few variations, in Clauses 9 to 17 of the Bill.
The Bill provides that lay justices in the Inner London area are to have the jurisdiction exercisable by justices of the peace elsewhere, and will also, with a few exceptions, be able to exercise the jurisdiction which is at present reserved to Metropolitan magistrates by Statute. The system of management which the Bill provides is that the integrated courts should be under the control of a committee of magistrates consisting of representatives of the Metropolitan stipendiary magistrates and the lay justices. This will replace the present system in which the Home Secretary has direct responsibility for the Metropolitan magistrates' courts while a magistrates' courts committee controls the lay justices' courts. The integrated courts will be served by a common staff, and it is intended that in time both Metropolitan magistrates and lay justices will sit in the same courthouse.
838 The new courthouse for the South Western Magistrates' Court, which was opened earlier this year, was planned with this in mind, and has court rooms for both Metropolitan magistrates and lay justices; and there is a substantial building programme ahead for further suitable courthouses for the integrated courts. The Aarvold Committee recommended that the area of the integrated courts should be divided into nine petty sessional divisions, and also made recommendations as to what these divisions should be. It will be for my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to define the initial petty sessional divisions. I understand that he has broadly followed the recommendation of the Aarvold Committee.
The establishment of an integrated system of magistrates' courts in Inner London is, I think, a step forward in the administration of justice in this area. It will mean that the dual jurisdiction of the present two systems of courts is done away with, and the removal of the present limitations on the jurisdiction of lay justices will have the welcome effect that they will be able to play a fuller part in dealing with the heavy burden of work in the magistrates' courts in Inner London. I hope noble Lords will agree that this is a useful measure, and that it commends itself to the House.
I do not want to take up much more of your Lordships' time, and I will deal with the remaining provisions of the Bill as briefly as possible. There are, however, one or two matters to which I should draw your Lordships' attention. Clause 12, subsection (3), transfers to the Lord Chancellor the functions now discharged by the Home Secretary in respect of the appointment of the chairmen and members of juvenile courts in London. The present system is rather a curious one. I appoint the magistrates, and then the Home Secretary decides who can sit on the juvenile courts. Throughout the rest of the country the magistrates themselves elect the members of the juvenile court panel. They have, of course, to be within the prescribed ages.
The Home Secretary has great responsibilities for the police. He no longer appoints stipendiary magistrates and recorders, and these appointments to the juvenile court bench are the only judicial 839 appointments still made by the Home Secretary. Your Lordships may take the view that, as the Lord Chancellor is responsible for the magistracy as a whole, and for taking steps to secure that both juvenile court and other lay magistrates receive instruction, he should, and the Home Secretary should not, be responsible for the appointment of juvenile court magistrates in the Inner London Area.
The integration of the Metropolitan stipendiary and the lay magistrates in Inner London has of course a special significance for the staff of those courts. Clauses 15, 24 and 32 of the Bill regulate the appointment and conditions of service of the staff in Inner London, and enable the Home Secretary to make suitable provision for the protection of the interests of the existing staff; and it is our hope that, within this framework, which is drafted in general terms, it will be possible to work out a formula which will be satisfactory to all the interests concerned.
Those of your Lordships who are Lieutenants of Counties will be particularly interested in Clause 18, which provides that there is to be one Lieutenant for Greater London, excluding the City. The clause also makes provision for the appointment of a Vice Lieutenant, of Assistant Lieutenants and for Deputy Lieutenants. The Vice Lieutenant will rank next to the Lord Lieutenant, and the Assistant Lieutenants will come next. These Assistant Lieutenants will be new offices, special to Greater London.
It may be suggested that, instead of a single Lieutenancy for Greater London, there should be five Lieutenants, corresponding to the five Commission areas. This possibility was considered, but it does not accord with the concept of Greater London as a single unit. The unusually heavy work in Greater London is, we think, best met by enabling the Lieutenant to delegate some of his functions, and the creation of the special office of Assistant Lieutenant is intended to give a recognised standing to those who will have to deputise for the Lieutenant on occasions when the presence of the Lieutenant himself, rather than a Deputy, would be expected.
The Bill also seeks to implement some of the recommendations of the Morison 840 Committee on the Probation Service—and perhaps I should here point out that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, had no responsibility for, or connection with, this work. It was a Committee presided over by Sir Ronald Morison. The Committee concluded that complaints which they had received that the administration of the London Service had been inefficient were not substantiated, but they recommended thatto secure the contentment and command the loyalty of the London Service a change in administration should be made.Clause 21 of the Bill provides for the appointment of a Committee composed of representatives of the courts, as the probation authority for Inner London.
I come finally, my Lords, to Part II of the Bill where the opportunity has been taken to deal with some outstanding matters affecting magistrates in general. Clauses 26 and 27 provide for the indemnification out of public funds of justices and their clerks, recorders and clerks of the peace, in respect of damages or costs payable in proceedings arising from acts done in the course of their official duties. Clause 29 provides for the payment of subsistence allowances to justices and members of probation and care committees. The Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace, which reported in 1948, recommended that subsistence allowances should not be paid to justices, and at present they are entitled only to travelling and lodging allowances. Times have changed, however, since 1948, and the Government feel that the time has come when those who discharge the duties of justice of the peace should receive such allowances.
Before concluding I should like to mention one other matter, on which I should welcome your Lordships' views. The provision of accommodation for courts of quarter sessions in counties is at present the responsibility of the standing joint committees, which of course are also the county police authorities. After the creation of new police authorities in the Police Bill, and the consequent abolition of the police functions of standing joint committees, those committees will be left only with the residual function of dealing with court accommodation for quarter sessions. The Bill is drafted on the assumption that the committees should be retained, even 841 though that will be their only function. Some may think that these committees should be abolished, as there will not be much for them to do. If they are abolished, we shall have to decide who should be responsible for court accommodation. With regard to this matter there are four possibilities.
The first is to lay on the county councils the duty of providing proper accommodation, subject to consultation with quarter sessions. Some may think that this would not be entirely satisfactory. Secondly, the duty to decide questions of accommodation could be placed on quarter sessions themselves; but it may well be that some counties would not regard that as entirely satisfactory if they were obliged to follow the determination of the sessions, subject to an appeal to the Home Secretary or to the Lord Chancellor. Thirdly, quarter sessions accommodation could be brought within the province of the magistrates' courts committees, although this would present some financial problems. Finally, a new kind of special committee to deal with this matter could be set up—though if there is a case for not having a standing joint committee there is presumably the same case for not having other special machinery. I should be glad to hear the views of noble Lords on this subject.
My Lords, this Bill has the twofold object of fitting the court system into the new local government structure, while at the same time removing dead wood and improving and modernising the administration of justice throughout the Greater London area. By these means it is hoped to provide better machinery for tackling the vast increase in the load of work falling upon the courts in this area to which I have referred and which, in the case of the magistrates' courts, has led to delays in the disposal of cases which I regard with the gravest concern. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.5 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the House is much obliged to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the very clear exposition he has given. The provisions of this Bill 842 are not in all cases easily understood, although I do not think it is one of the most difficult measures submitted to Parliament; nevertheless, we are grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the explanations. I hope to be here until the end of the debate but I have an engagement to address King's College on Parliamentary Democracy—the word "democracy" is not entirely unrelated to this Bill; but I will not deal with that. However, I must be at the College at 4.15 and I apologise now if I have to depart before the termination of discussion.
This Bill will not be as troublesome as was the London Government Bill—I am sure many noble Lords will be glad to hear that—but it is a consequential Bill, as the noble and learned Lord said, on the London Government Act, 1963, and therefore, instinctively, I feel that it should not commend itself to me. However, here it is; and I agree that if the London Government Act is to remain on the Statute Books—and this is, at least, doubtful—then something must be done about the administration of justice. I therefore do not blame the Government for bringing in this Bill, which, in any case, does not operate until 1965. There are a few points that I ought to mention in this Second Reading debate, and others may be raised by other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Champion, who will raise matters connected with the Provincial and Welsh aspects of the Bill, and my noble friend Lord Silkin who will pick up a few points in winding up the debate.
The first point I would make is about the financing and the administration of the Central Criminal Court, which is popularly known as the Old Bailey. It is provided that the area of jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court shall be extended from what it was before (I believe this included the counties of London and Middlesex and perhaps one or two other places) to the whole of the Greater London Area. This is a logical consequence upon the London Government Act, 1963. But the set-up and the financing of the Central Criminal Court is a curious affair. I agree that the City of London provides a part of it; I understand that the City provides and maintains the court house at the Old Bailey and pays certain expenses, salaries and 843 superannuation contributions. However, the London County Council, as things are (and now this will be the Greater London Council), pays seven-eighths of the salaries of the court officials and their office expenses. The remaining one-eighth is shared between the County Councils of Middlesex, Essex and Surrey.
But when we come to the composition of the Court, we find in Schedule I paragraph 1:
The Central Criminal Court (hereinafter in this Schedule referred to as "the Court") shall consist of ex officio judges, additional judges and such other persons as may be included in any commission issued under paragraph 4 of this Schedule, and those judges and commissioners shall be the judges of the court.
Paragraph 2 of this Schedule provides that:
2. The ex officio judges shall be the holders of the following offices, that is to say—
- Lord Mayor of the City.
- Alderman of the City.
- Recorder of London.
- Common Serjeant.
§ Then it is provided for some to be, presumably, as regards the Supreme Court, nominees for the Lord Chancellor. At any rate it provides in the case of the Supreme Court that the judges shall be:
- Lord Chancellor.
- Lord Chief Justice.
- Judge of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court.
§ I should have thought that either the City should pay the whole of these residual expenses or, preferably, the Greater London Council as well as the City of London Corporation should be represented upon this body. And I should have thought that the best way to provide for that would be that the chairman, vice-chairman and deputy chairman (if there is one) of the Greater London Council, who for the time being 844 are out of active council politics, at any rate in the jurisdiction of the Council, should be added to the representatives nominated by the City of London. Otherwise, it will be a case of taxation without representation, which I suggest to the House is undemocratic. I hope that this point can be considered in Committee and that the Government will not be unsympathetic if and when the point is raised.
§ Another point I wish to make is about the juvenile courts. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that it was an anomaly, because he had exclusive, monopolistic jurisdiction over the appointment of justices of the peace, that the function of appointing chairmen and members of panels of juvenile courts should belong to the Home Office—although apparently outside London the chairmen of children's courts are appointed by the justices who sit in the children's courts, for which I should think there is something to be said. This tendency to take every bit of judicial administration from another Department to the Lord Chancellor's Department is part of the "empire building" of which I was complaining last week. This has been preceded by the transfer of the appointment of stipendiaries and recorders from the Home Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department. I should not think it a bad thing if these appointments, which involve a certain amount of patronage—I do not use the word in any improper sense—were divided between the two Departments.
§ But the case here is stronger. This is the appointment of chairmen and members of a panel not for general judicial purposes, but for a special purpose—namely, for juvenile courts. That being so, I submit that the Home Office is more appropriate than the Lord Chancellor's Department for making these appointments. The Home Secretary is responsible for the administration of the Children Act, which is an important Statute dealing with the problems of deprived children and naughty children which arise outside the functions of the Ministry of Education. The Home Office deal with approved schools, which educate and care for children who have gone astray and are often referred to these schools by the children's courts. It also deals with borstal institutions, but these are for somewhat older young 845 people. The consequence is that the Home Office is experienced administratively and in relation to local government with the very problems that largely concerns children's courts.
§ The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and his Department know nothing about children administratively. They have no special knowledge of the problems of children. But the Home Office has that special knowledge. And I strongly take the view that this function should remain with the Secretary of State and not be transferred to the Lord Chancellor's Department; for these are not general judicial offices, but judicial offices which relate to a particular section of the population, a particular section which is dealt with by the Home Office in the ordinary way. Therefore, I take the view that this function should remain with the Home Office. I very much hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will think about this again and consider whether, on this occasion, he cannot be a little generous to the Home Office, of which his Department is traditionally jealous and from which it likes to take and seize all it can for itself.
§ There is another point with which I am concerned. I have been Home Secretary, as has the noble and learned Earl sitting opposite, Lord Kilmuir—I nearly uttered his commoner's name by mistake: I understand that he is not going to "de-Lord" himself, and on that I congratulate him. There is one thing about the Home Office about which I am apprehensive. I do not want it to be a Department dealing solely with police and prisons. If that happens in our country it will become something like a Continental Ministry of the Interior; and with every respect to Continental Ministries of the Interior, I do not like them too much. There is too much of a police flavour about them.
§ It is a good thing that the Home Office should have human functions outside the police and the prisons, because that tends to preserve the Department as a human Department, and not to make it a cold Ministry of the Interior. The Home Office used to have factory inspectors. They were lost to it because of the powerful persuasion of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, who had a case for taking them under the Ministry of Labour, though I regret it on the grounds which 846 I am indicating. There was an argument about whether the Children Act should be administered by the Ministry of Education or by the Home Office—and there is a case to argue there; but I strongly took the view that the Home Office had to deal with these youngsters and that, in any case, it was a good thing for the Home Office that it should have human duties to discharge and should not confine itself to police and prison administration.
§ The British Home Office is probably unique among the Ministries of the world. Far from its being a menace to civil liberty, it regards it as one of its primary duties not to make breaches in civil liberty, but to protect it, as I think the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, will agree, although I would say that the degree of this protection varies from Home Secretary to Home Secretary. It is a very fine thing that this should be so. It is something of which all of us, irrespective of Party, should be proud. I believe that it would be much more difficult to maintain this if the Home Secretary had not a number of these human services to administer as well as police and prison. And I beg your Lordships to keep this point in mind, because it is a serious aspect of what I think is the desire of all of us—namely, to maintain the Home Office as a protector and guarantor of individual rights and of civil liberty.
§ With regard to the County of Middlesex, I think the Government have been very rough on that county, as well as London, and perhaps it is some sign of a little sense of guilt and repentance that the Lord Chancellor is proposing to preserve the name of Middlesex in one of the Commissions of the Peace. I should have thought that, on the whole, it was a nice thing to do, even though I agree that he cannot find county names for the other Commissions of the Peace, because, unfortunately, they will cut across existing county boundaries; but all of them, I understand, will be within the Greater London area. That is all I have to say. We shall not be unduly troublesome about the Bill, but I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and the House generally, will take account of the points I have mentioned and others that may be mentioned on both sides of the House, in order that we 847 may do our best in due course to make the Bill a better Bill in these respects than it is as introduced.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
All of them; and absent friends, as well. This is a long-awaited Bill. It clears up some tiresome anomalies, such as the position of London justices, who at this moment, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said, have very limited jurisdiction. I not only support the Bill, but would commend it to your Lordships. It is a sensible Bill, with a few reservations which I hope to advance to your Lordships in the next few moments. I should like to say that, although I am speaking on the exceptions, which may appear to make my speech a critical one, I do so only because one does not want to waste the time of the House by commenting on points with which one agrees.
My own connection with the Bill is that I am a deputy chairman of Westminster justices and a member of the Magistrates' Courts Committee for London, of which the noble and learned Lord has spoken, and I also gave evidence before the Aarvold Committee. I may say that anything I say in the course of this debate is entirely my own responsibility; I have no authority to speak for the Westminster justices or for the Magistrates' Courts Committee for London.
As to the Central Criminal Court, I agree with the proposals in the Bill but I feel that the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, is a wise one. I would support the suggestion that the chairman and possibly also the deputy chairman, should be added to those who are to be ex officio judges. I see no reason why they should not be added, and every reason why they should be, if the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London are to be ex officio judges. With regard to the Commission areas, these seem to me reasonable. I agree with the Lord Chancellor that we ought not to have one area for the whole of London, 848 and five would seem to be a reasonable number. I am sorry that, again, we have not taken this opportunity to get rid of the rather tiresome anomaly of the City of London, but I suppose that the principle has been followed that was enshrined in, and to my mind marred, the Greater London Act by preserving this anomaly.
As to Middlesex, I favour the idea. All the other counties are still preserved in some way, and their names are still preserved. Middlesex is, so far as I know, the only one left out. There will be a Middlesex Regiment, the famous "Diehards", still in existence; but precious few other bodies and authoritiese will include "Middlesex" in their titles. So I would urge the noble and learned Lord to come down on the side of preserving the name of this ancient county attached to the particular Commission area. If I serve within one of the Commission areas, it will not be in Middlesex, and the Lord Chancellor need not fear that most of us will feel any jealousy in that regard.
On the matter of the jurisdiction of the judges of the quarter sessions, I welcome the idea that county court judges should have this additional responsibility. I spoke on county court judges, as the noble and learned Lord will remember, only last week, and he referred at that time to this Bill. I did not refer to the Bill, although I knew of this provision. I welcome this provision, and I think it will give them good experience for promotion. It is my view that more county court judges ought to be promoted to the High Court Bench.
I am pleased that chairmen and deputy chairmen of quarter sessions will be recruited from barristers and solicitors; and I hope that the solicitors will not be forgotten. There are, after all, 20,000 solicitors in the country, as compared to 1,800 barristers, so that we have still a fair amount of leeway to make up. There is one, and one only, Metropolitan magistrate who is a solicitor, and he was appointed by the noble Earl, Lord Kilmuir, when he was Lord Chancellor. I hope that the present Lord Chancellor will follow his predecessor's example and appoint solicitors not only as Metropolitan magistrates, but also as chairmen and deputy chairmen of these new quarter sessions.
849 Dealing with summary jurisdiction for Inner London, I am particularly pleased that the proper, suitable and full summary jurisdiction has now been granted to the lay justices. I myself at one time sat at Bow Street, with another justice, and while there we had the full power of the stipendiary magistrate and the same powers as are given to magistrates in any other part of the country. But if you go half a mile down the road and sit in the Westminster Petty Sessions, as I have done, you have this very limited jurisdiction. It is an absurd position, and we justices have felt that it is absurd. Several of your Lordships sit as magistrates in London. People who occupy these positions are very experienced, and this situation has seemed to mean a great waste of their time and effort.
With regard to domestic courts, I appreciate that, as the Lord Chancellor said, in reference to another part of the Bill (but the same principle applies), the hearings may be lengthy, and it may be difficult to get lay justices to sit. But I believe that, in the normal way, it is much better for the stipendiary magistrate to sit with a lay magistrate when hearing cases in domestic courts. This is not a matter where great legal acumen or experience is required—and, in any event, there is always a professional clerk—but one where lay magistrates can make a considerable contribution. This applies particularly to women magistrates, who I think are most important people, both in the domestic courts and juvenile courts.
That brings me on to the juvenile courts where, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said, there is to be a transfer from the Home Office to the Lord Chancellor's Department. The noble Lord, as a former Home Secretary, has put up a powerful plea for this proposal to be reversed and for the Home Office to retain their power. I am not sure that he is right on this point, although I say at once that the Home Office are much quicker than the Lord Chancellor's Department in getting magistrates appointed. That is one good thing about the Home Office. On the other hand, I think there is a great deal to be said for having one judicial authority, and after all, the Lord Chancellor is the judicial authority having responsibility for all the Judiciary. I am sure that now that the Lord Chan- 850 cellor is to have more power in this way, and since the system is being cleaned up, it will be much more efficient than it has been in the past. On balance, I think it is better for the Lord Chancellor's Department to deal with this particular aspect of the magistrates' affairs. In a way, I take the reverse view of that taken by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, on this matter: because the Home Office have so much to do with prisons, prisoners and all the rest of it, I do not think they are a particularly good Department to deal with magistrates. I think the two should be completely separate in the public mind and there is a great deal to be said for a completely separate department which has nothing to do with the police handling the particular problems. I will say more about that in a moment.
I come next to the committee of magistrates which is to take the place of the committee of which I am now a member, the Magistrates' Courts Committee for London. I hope the Lord Chancellor will ensure that the transitional period is as short as possible. There are obviously many problems to be dealt with. As he said, we have built one or two big courts recently, and the court situation in London is a difficult one. A number of new courts are needed, and I hope that that matter will be dealt with. Of course, we also deal with the magistrates' clerks and staffs of the courts. They also cannot be left in the air, as it were, so I hope that the transitional period will be very short.
I am also rather concerned about the constitution of this new committee. It seems to be over-weighted with the professional magistrates. The new committee is to be 27 in number, including 3 ex-officio members, 9 lay magistrates (as they are called in the Bill), 3 juvenile court magistrates—making 15—plus 12 professional magistrates. That seems to me rather a heavy weight. The 3 ex officio members are really professional, so it means 15 professionals to 12 lay.
§ LORD OGMORE
Not 12 of each, because, after all, unless I am wrong, the 3 others are likely to be professional as well. If the noble and learned Lord 851 the Lord Chancellor will look at the provisions, he will see that what I am saying is so. Maybe it is a Committee point, and I need not waste the time of the House now.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I can probably help the noble Lord. If he looks at Clause 13(3)(c) he will see that paragraphs (a) and (b) deal with lay magistrates, and then we have paragraph (c), which refers tosuch number of metropolitan stipendiary magistrates…as is equal to the total number of members required to be chosen under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection.So there will be equality between the stipendiary and the lay magistrates.
§ LORD OGMORE
I am afraid the noble and learned Lord has not been following me. It is my fault, because I should have made myself clear. What the noble and learned Lord said is in part quite true. There are 9 representatives from the petty sessional divisions who are laymen, and there are 3 members of the juvenile panel—that makes 12. There are, in addition, 12 metropolitan stipendiary magistrates; that gives 24. Then under subsection (2) there are three others who are to be members of this committee. One is the custos rotulorum, whoever he may be—I presume he is likely to be a professional. If he is not, we can snatch him back—I understand that he is the Lord Lieutenant. The Chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions for that area will definitely be a professional. There is also the Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, and he is a professional. There will be a slight amendment to my figures, and there will, in fact, be 14 professionals to 13 lay, if my arithmetic is correct, and counting the custos rotulorum as not a professional and presuming that he will be a distinguished Field Marshal or the holder of some post of that kind.
There is, I feel, an important point, as the others have been, and one that particularly concerns this House. A great deal of the administrative and financial provisions are dealt with by a gentleman called the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police. At the present moment he has rather ill-defined functions with regard to the courts. I say "ill-defined" because for some considerable time the Westminster justices have been a sort of judicial Ishmael, 852 wandering around with no settled home to go to. We have no court of our own. Our tent, as it were, is pitched at the moment in Caxton Hall, which is not a particularly suitable place for a judicial body, and we have been trying to get somebody to take an interest in our fate and provide us with a court. But this is a sort of administrative square dance. There are the London County Council, the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police, the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Home Office—none of them will really take responsibility. You go from one to the other and, as I have said, it is a sort of square dance. Nothing happens. There is a court, Rochester Row, which is not used at all except for the storage of traffic signs by the Metropolitan Police, and we fail to see why a court which has been built for the purpose is not used for that purpose. However, we have not been able to get it.
It is true that this Bill assists in this way: it pins down responsibility to someone, and that is an advantage—I am not denying that—and an improvement on the present system, when no one is responsible. But I feel that it is undesirable for a functionary who is described as the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police to have control, as he will do to some extent, over the magistrates and their staffs. They will have to go through him, and the Home Secretary will have to consult him. The magistrates will have to go through his department to the Home Secretary, and I would much rather some functionary other than the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police did this duty. Even if it was a straight Home Office official I should not mind. I would much rather that it came under the Lord Chancellor's Department. Or why should not the Greater London Council do it? For magistrates to be as it were under some obligation—certainly their staffs are to touch their foreheads in a way—to a police official is quite wrong and not in accord with the separation of functions which we ought to have in this country.
There is only one other point I would make, and that is on the appointments of magistrates. The system we have in this Bill is, I think, quite satisfactory, with one or two exceptions. But the present system of appointment of magistrates in London is not satisfactory. I 853 hope the Lord Chancellor will look into this matter when he is re-examining the whole situation under this Bill. It is not satisfactory because there is far too much secrecy about it. It is obviously weighted to the two main political Parties. The advisory committees are like secret societies: one does not know who belongs to them or what suggestions they are putting up to the Lord Chancellor, what their membership is, who chooses them, and so on. I think it is wrong, for example, to have a Minister of the Crown as Chairman of one of these committees, as is the case or was until quite recently. In my own petty sessional division neither the chairman nor the deputy chairmen are members of the committee. The committee consists of people either not on our bench at all or who are members, but not chairmen or deputy chairmen.
Certainly for some considerable time we have been asked to put forward names for magistrates. One puts up names, and nothing happens for a considerable time. One has to go to people and ask them whether they are prepared to stand if selected, and it is embarrassing for month after month and year after year to go by and for one to find that nothing has happened. In my own case, about two years ago I was asked to put up the names of one or two gentlemen to serve. I put them up and the papers were then lost. I put them up again, and finally I was told that one gentleman was not suitable. It seemed to me rather odd, for I would not have put his name forward unless I thought him suitable. Lo and behold, three months or so later he was appointed to another petty sessional division just a mile or two away, still in the Metropolitan Police area! It seemed to me that there was something odd going on.
That is all I have to say. I am glad subsistence is being granted for magistrates. This is very welcome, especially for those magistrates dependent upon salaries or upon daily wages. The magistrate who is a wage earner—and there are, I am glad to say, several in London now—will welcome this very much. As I have said, generally speaking I welcome the Bill, and I hope that my reservations about it can be met during the progress of the Bill through this House.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, unlike the two noble Lords who have spoken from the Front Benches, I am not competent to discuss Part I, the major part, of this Bill, so I shall confine my remarks to the general provisions that are contained in Part II. I would begin with the provision in Clause 26 which provides for the indemnification of justices and their clerks.
Since becoming a justice of the peace I have always been conscious of the fact that I was entrusted with considerable duties and powers, powers that might have dire consequences for persons appearing before me, for decisions in which I participated might very well have disastrous consequences and effects upon a human life far beyond the mere fine imposed by the magistrate or, indeed, a sentence of imprisonment. There has always been, too, at the back of my mind the salutary reminder that if I misused those powers I was subject to certain pains and penalties, such as damages being awarded against me in the High Court. Magistrates are human beings and will from time to time come to wrong decisions, and I must say that, in the main, I have always felt that they ought not to be too much upset if a superior court reverses or changes their decisions. I think that Mr. John Scott Henderson, Q.C., who spoke to the Magistrates' Association recently, was talking good sense when he told that Association:Do not worry so long as you have come to a just decision. If, perchance, you have come to a wrong decision, there are courts of appeal to put the matter right. That is what appeal courts are for, and do not fret unduly if an appeal court allows the appeal.I believe that the vast majority of the magistrates' courts take decisions that are just; just by their lights and, of course, their limitations. But I must say, despite the fact that I am a magistrate, that I am not wholly happy about the possible removal of the penalty for the misuse of power by the odd bench here and there. We see these little things happening occasionally, and, of course, it has always been possible to take a decision higher up which would mulct the bench in damages. However, on balance I support this clause.
Having said that, I am bound to question the decision for making the magistrates' courts committee for the area the 855 body to determine the question whether or not the magistrate, or the bench, or the justices clerk should be indemnified—and I am thinking particularly of the magistrate in this connection—because I think it would be a very rare occasion upon which a magistrates' courts committee, composed mainly of magistrates, would find against one of its fellow magistrates in this connection. I cannot see that happening, except at least on very rare occasions. I wonder whether some other body, totally removed from all such association, ought not to be entrusted with the first decisions in these matters.
I am, of course, well aware of the fact that the Bill makes provision for appeal to be made to someone appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and that the appeal can be made not only by the magistrate or the justices' clerk who feels that the magistrates' courts committee ought to have indemnified or taken the steps necessary to indemnify the magistrate or the magistrates' clerk against these actions; but there is, of course, the other side, namely, that the local authority can also appeal to the person appointed by the Lord Chancellor if that local authority feels that the magistrates' courts committee have taken the wrong decision. I have these doubts about such a committee composed mainly of magistrates having the right to take the first decision, and on this point I shall be most interested to hear what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has to say. He did not say very much on this subject in opening, because, quite clearly, this was to him a minor matter.
The second point to which I would make reference is Clause 29, which substitutes for the words "lodging allowance" the words "subsistence allowance". This is an act of some justice to the "great unpaid", as magistrates rather like to call themselves. But I think there is something else still to be done in this connection—that is, provided I understand the words "subsistence allowance" aright. I believe that "subsistence allowance" does not make provision for loss of earnings. I am correct on that, for the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has nodded his assent.
856 The Lord Chancellor in his Presidential Address to the annual meeting of the Magistrates' Association in October of last year, said:It is important that justices should attend their courts regularly and frequently, not only because their failure to do so may result in the courts being inadequately staffed or an undue burden being thrown upon their colleagues, but also because regular and frequent attendance enables justices to gain experience and to keep themselves up to date on the complex work which they have to perform.I agree absolutely and entirely with those sentiments. Until the beginning of this century custom and the property qualification ensured that justices were appointed from the upper and middle classes. The squire, the ex-Navy or ex-Army officer, the wealthy businessman or the professional man, were the main sources from which justices were drawn, and they could afford to give their services and time free. The Royal Commission of 1910 brought about a change, and more and more justices were appointed from what may be described as the working class. For many of these to do what the Lord Chancellor advised—that is, make regular and frequent attendance—means a considerable loss of earnings unless, as is sometimes the case, the employer is prepared to give the justice of the peace time off with pay for his work as a magistrate. I am glad to say that, to my certain knowledge, many good employers do this. But often it is impossible for the justice to make the sacrifice of a day or a half day's pay to attend in court.
My Lords, perhaps I might instance my own case. When I became a magistrate I was a £3-a-week signalman. I was able to attend court fairly regularly because I happened at that time to be a shift worker, working three shifts, which meant that when the court met in the morning I could attend two out of three, which was a fairly satisfactory attendance. But I could not possibly have given 10s. out of £3 a week to attend court; I just could not have afforded it at that time. So, had I not been on shift work, I should have had to content myself with merely signing declarations and forms and all the rest of those things which are brought to one's door, and I should not have been able to carry out my main function which is that of being a magistrate and sitting on the Bench and there carrying out the duties which the noble 857 and learned Lord rightly referred to in his Presidential Address.
The principle of payment for Parliamentary duties was accepted in the beginning of this century, against considerable opposition it is true, but is now I believe generally accepted. The principle of payment for loss of earnings for attendance at council meetings was established after the last war. That was quite right, too. And if to-day a man sits on a tribunal—I am thinking here of the Assistance Board Tribunal, which I happen to know—and therefore loses a day's pay he is entitled to payment for loss of earnings. If it is justifiable for payments for loss of earnings to be made for councillors attending council meetings, if it is justifiable for those who sit on tribunals to be paid for loss of earnings when they sit on such tribunals, surely it is justifiable for payment to be made for loss of earnings for magistrates who sit on the Bench.
I believe that this justification has been there ever since we started appointing working-class magistrates to the Bench. But I believe it is even more justifiable to-day with the tremendous increase that is taking place in the work of the magistrates' courts throughout the country. We all know to what extent motoring offences have stepped up the work of the magistrates' courts, of the additional time which has to be spent on these cases, which means that magistrates have to attend in order to carry out their work there. The other thing that is increasing enormously the work of the magistrates' courts and the time spent there is the operation of the Legal Aid Act. That is a good Act. It had a right purpose, and indeed has served its purpose well. But it has the effect, so far as magistrates' courts are concerned, that so often we find—and I have found this in matrimonial cases—that cases seem to be spun out, as a result of solicitors and counsel being employed, to inordinate lengths. This takes up a lot of time of the magistrates and of course, I believe, would justify the point I am making.
I believe that everybody here will confirm what I am saying—I mean, everyone who sits as a magistrate. I believe that the time has come for pay- 858 ments to be made to magistrates for loss of earnings and that this Bill ought to have included the appropriate provisions. I might have to return to this point on the Committee stage, but I shall be deeply interested to hear what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has to say on this as well as on my other point. I may say I would use the same disclaimer as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has. I am speaking for no trade union here, for no association, for no body; I am merely putting this point forward on my own initiative as one who has seen how this can operate, and in the hope that we might here take a decision which ought to have been taken a long time ago to pay loss of earnings to magistrates in the circumstances I have described.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am sure that those noble Lords who have listened to this debate will agree that it has been a very valuable and well informed discussion. We all of us accept the need for this Bill, and I think that all the points that have been raised have been worth raising and are fully worthy of consideration. All I can do is to repeat some of the points that have been made, and I would say at once that, unlike any of my noble friends who have spoken, I speak with no special knowledge on this subject at all. I think I have only once been to the Central Criminal Court, in spite of a long career in the law—and that was not as a defendant, I might say—and I have hardly ever been to any other court.
My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth dealt first of all with the question of the Central Criminal Court. I think he pointed out that there is to-day an anomaly. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor himself said that the purpose of this Bill, or one of the purposes of it, was to deal with the consequences of the London Government Act, and at the same time to bring the law up to date. I think that my noble friend indicated there is to-day an anachronism as regards the composition of the Central Criminal Court. It was perhaps not practical, at a time when the Central Criminal Court comprised in its jurisdiction the counties of London, Surrey, Essex and Middlesex, to have representation from all those 859 counties on the court, and possibly the contribution of those other counties was not large enough to justify it. But to-day if we are clearing up anomalies and getting rid of anachronisms it surely will be much simpler—we are dealing with one other authority apart from the City—to include in the composition of the court representatives of the Greater London Authority. We do take a very serious view of this. We feel that if the Greater London Authority is to be responsible for a substantial amount of the cost of the Central Criminal Court there is no reason whatever why it should not be represented on the judicial body itself.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor referred in very glowing terms to the public spirit of the City of London—I thought he laid it on a little thick—in making this contribution towards the cost of the Old Bailey. I am not going to quarrel with the exact terms. I would say that, having regard to their resources and the kudos they get from it all, the ceremony of the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen appearing at the Central Criminal Court, I think they are getting their money's worth. But, in any event, whether that be so or not, I think that now the whole position has been simplified it would be just and equitable and in the public interest that the great new London Authority should also be represented on the court. We shall be discussing this at a later stage of the Bill, and I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will keep an open mind on the subject and not close down here and now on the idea.
The Bill refers to the creation of five quarter sessions, and I shall be grateful if the noble and learned Lord will explain to me what will be the relationship between these five quarter sessional courts and the Central Criminal Court. Will they be dealing with the same kind of cases? How will they be distinguished from the Central Criminal Court?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I can probably save time by answering that now for the noble Lord. The relationship between the quarter sessions and the Central Criminal Court will be precisely the same as the relationship 860 between the quarter sessions and the Assize in the county. Their jurisdiction will be exactly the same.
§ LORD SILKIN
That is to say, I imagine, that the magistrates' courts will send a case either to one or the other according to the nature of the case itself. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in welcoming the fact that county court judges are to be associated with the quarter sessions as deputy chairmen. I think it will give them much more interest and experience, and make them better judges in dealing with the matters with which they normally have to deal. I may say also, now that my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has left the Chamber, that to my mind that is a further justification of the increases in remuneration which we voted on here last week. Certainly if they are to have these additional and more complicated duties, even though it may be good for them, they are entitled to the extra remuneration that we are giving them.
The noble and learned Lord referred to nine magistrates' divisions. I take it that that does not necessarily involve a reduction in the number of courts. Would that be merely an administrative measure? Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will deal with that. I did not quite follow—it is my own fault—the significance of the nine magistrates' districts. I take it that there is no intention of reducing the number of magistrates' courts, and that this would be a purely administrative point and a simplification.
Then, again, my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth dealt with the question of the appointment of the chairmen of juvenile courts in future by the Lord Chancellor. Again I feel that there is a lot to be said for leaving this to the Home Office. I am not going to repeat his argument, because I thought that he put the case most forcefully and convincingly. But there is this further point. At one time I was chairman of an approved school, and there used to be sent to that school by the magistrates' courts children who had not necessarily committed any offence but were simply in need of care and protection, children who had been neglected. I always thought that it was rather anomalous that they should go to an approved 861 school at all; but they did go, and they were sent there by the magistrates. I thought that was entirely a civil function and much more appropriate for the Home Office than for the judicial authorities. It seemed to me that that would be an additional reason for leaving the appointment of the chairmen of juvenile courts to the Home Office rather than transferring that function to the Lord Chancellor. But I would not myself necessarily describe it as "empire-building". It is an open question, but I think it is worth while threshing out in Committee, and perhaps we can all of us preserve an open mind on the subject.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor asked for the views of the House about the preservation of the name "Middlesex". For what my own opinion is worth, I think, on balance, that it would be a good thing to preserve. It is poor compensation for having been entirely wiped out as a county council, but at least we are preserving a good many of the well-known names of local authorities which are being absorbed or merged. I see no reason why we should not allow the name of Middlesex to continue. It has an important history among the various county councils that are either being altogether taken over or being cut into pieces. Middlesex has a great history running over hundreds of years, and I think the name should be preserved.
Then the noble and learned Lord sought the views of the House on what should take the place of the standing joint committee. He put forward four possibilities and as I understood rejected them all. I do not know whether we are asked to decide which of the four he has rejected is the least objectionable, but the simple solution is that the authority responsible for finding the money—that is, the county council—is the most appropriate authority to succeed the standing joint committee. I did not follow what were the objections to making the county council responsible. If they are to be responsible for finding the money, and if there are such serious objections to the other alternatives, I should have thought that the county council was possibly the least objectionable.
862 Finally, I should like to take up the point made by my noble friend Lord Champion, on subsistence and loss of earnings. I think that after many years we have now, at last, come round to the view that members of the local authorities are entitled to be paid for loss of earnings. I am not sure that, even now, we have found quite the right solution. "Loss of earnings" is a most elastic term, and one that may lead to difficulties and anomalies. But I believe that the principle is right, and I feel that my noble friend Lord Champion made a most convincing case for paying something in regard to loss of earnings. It seems to me that we can profit from the experience we have already had as regards payments to members of local authorities, and perhaps we might do something similar to what is done in this House—that is, to pay a sum by way of expenses. That would cover the kind of case that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, had in mind.
I should not like it to go out that there is a tendency on the part of solicitors and counsel in legal aid cases to spin out those cases. I think my noble friend is completely mistaken in that. I cannot conceive of any solicitor or counsel, for the remuneration which is offered in legal aid cases, thinking it worth while to spin out a case. I would not deny that sometimes they may speak at greater length than is necessary, but that is not confined to the courts. One has only to listen here sometimes—possibly in my own case now—to find that speeches are much longer than is warranted by the occasion. That is due to a variety of causes, and not because of the remuneration involved. So I hope that my noble friend will acquit my profession of being concerned to work on a time basis and of believing that they will be better remunerated because they talk longer. But on his main point—that is to say, remuneration for loss of earnings—I am entirely in agreement. The points that have been made can all be dealt with in Committee—though I am not sure whether or not the point about loss of earnings would come within the scope of the Bill. However, apart from that matter, all other matters can be dealt with in Committee. I hope we shall have a useful Committee stage of this Bill, and that the mind of 863 the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not closed to the various points that have been raised in the course of this debate.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it has indeed been an interesting debate, and I am grateful to your Lordships for the way in which you have received this measure. The fact that you have confined observations to raising points on the Bill and not to condemnation of the Bill hook, line and sinker, shows that, even though it has not received the entirely unmixed reception received by the Bill that constituted the Central Criminal Court, it is true to say that it has received a good welcome from your Lordships.
I should like to deal as shortly as I can—because I do not want to be accused by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, of speaking too long—with the points that have been touched on in the course of this debate, while I recognise that it will be open to raise some of them in the further stages of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, raised, as did the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, the question of the financing and administration of the Central Criminal Court. Lord Morrison of Lambeth said that seven-eighths of the cost in regard to court officials and office expenses were being paid by the London County Council and would be paid by their successors, the Greater London Council. In truth I am told that of the running costs, taking into account the salaries of the Judges, the Greater London Council will pay considerably less than one-quarter of the total in the case of the Central Criminal Court and will pay none of the capital costs of the buildings. As I told your Lordships, the capital cost of the building now being undertaken exceeds £4 million. In those circumstances I thought it right to pay tribute to the Corporation of the City of London in shouldering this very considerable burden, which relieves pro tanto the ratepayers in the Greater London area.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, then raised the question whether the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Greater London Council should not have their names included among the names of the Judges of the 864 Central Criminal Court, in paragraph 2 of Schedule I. It is true that the Lord Mayor never sits judicially in the Old Bailey, nor does any Alderman. It is in one sense an anomaly that their names should remain, but it is an anomaly that has existed for a very long time indeed, and the retention of their names there does not, so far as I can see, injure anyone, but merely preserves a long and well-established tradition. I myself would not support the idea that one should add to paragraph 2 the names of other individuals, no matter how distinguished they may be, if, when adding them, you know perfectly well they would not be required, and indeed would not be wanted, to discharge any judicial duties.
At the same time the point made by the noble Lord—and it is a point I should like to consider—was not so much that others should be appointed as nominal Judges who would never be expected to judge, but that, in view of their contribution of less than one-quarter of the total annual cost, the Greater London Council should have some say in the administration of the Central Criminal Court. I will certainly give further consideration to that matter. I think there is no difficulty at the present time between the London County Council and the Corporation of the City of London with regard to the administration of the Central Criminal Court. That is a very different point from adding further names to the list of those who are ex officio Judges.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, then referred to juvenile courts, as did the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Silkin. I should like to make the position clear, because I feel I must have failed to do so. The Home Office has no say at all in the choice of juvenile court magistrates throughout any part of the country, except in what will be Inner London. In other parts of the country the magistrates themselves select who will be the juvenile court chairman and elect him. The time may come when that will take place in Inner London: when one has lay magistrates in London discharging the same duties as magistrates outside, it will be hard to deny that they should have the right themselves to choose who should sit on the juvenile court panel. What we are dealing with here is a 865 limited matter and, I would suggest, a real anomaly. In fact I rather resent Lord Morrison of Lambeth (I am sorry he is not here at the moment, but I understand he cannot be) saying that my office likes to take all it can from the Home Office. There is really no substance in that at all. The amount of times my office has been requested to take over duties and has had to say "No" would perhaps astonish him.
Surely the broad line should be that the Home Office should be concerned with police matters, penal treatment and aftercare, and with juveniles, I quite agree, but that the Home Office should not have responsibility for deciding who should try juvenile cases. In this connection I would draw your Lordships' attention to the recent report of the Estimates Committee, which received some publicity in the Press. One of their recommendations was thatThe Home Office and the Treasury, in consultation with the Lord Chancellor's Office, should take immediate steps to reorganise the present division of responsibilities between the three Departments concerned with the administration of the criminal law, with a view to rationalising its administration and rendering more effective the methods of bringing the criminal law up to date.The Home Office reply said, among other things, this:There is close co-operation between the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department on all matters of common concern.It went on to say:It is also proposed to take the opportunity in the Administration of Justice Bill to effect some adjustments between the responsibilities of the Secretary of State and of the Lord Chancellor.And this is one of them.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, if I may correct him, was wrong in saying that it is quicker for the Home Office to appoint a juvenile court magistrate. It is not. The Home Secretary cannot appoint a single magistrate. I have to appoint them, and then, I having appointed them, the Home Secretary under the present system selects who he thinks should adjudicate on juvenile court cases in London. They all have to be appointed by me, and if the Home Secretary wanted to appoint somebody I thought unsuitable I could refuse to appoint him a magistrate and the Home Secretary could do nothing about it. The broad line should be, and ought to be maintained, that the Home Office, 866 while dealing with after-care, child care, and so on, ought to keep separate from the function of appointing those who should try cases and determine guilt or innocence. It is not a matter of very great substance, but there is an unnecessary overlap there, and I myself should have thought that it would be an improvement to eliminate that limited anomaly.
Reference was made to the name of Middlesex. Everyone has thought that it would be a good thing to retain that name for the North-West London area, and I am certainly not unsympathetic to that; I need not take up any more time on that point. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised the position of solicitors as deputy chairmen of quarter sessions. My Lords, I will always do my best, not so much to have regard to whether a man is a solicitor or a barrister, but to have regard to the individual capacity of the man concerned, and to select and appoint the best people for all these various offices. Lord Ogmore then raised a question about the metropolitan stipendiary magistrates sitting alone and trying domestic cases. If the noble Lord will look at subsection (1) of Clause 11, he will see that it provides that the metropolitan magistrates should sit alone if it is not practicable for a court with lay justices to be composed. This means that, except in cases of real difficulty, where a case might be held up because of the difficulty in finding a lay justice (perhaps someone has gone ill, or something else like that), the normal rule will be for a metropolitan magistrate to sit with a lay justice. I am dealing with the points as quickly as I can.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, drew attention to the constitution of the magistrates' committee and we had a little argument about that. I do not think anyone can possibly object to the custos rotulorum, the chairman of the quarter sessions and the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate being, by virtue of their office, members of the committee of magistrates. That must obviously be right. But we have taken the trouble to see that the rest of the committee is evenly divided between lay magistrates and stipendiaries. I feel that one ought not to pay too much attention to the exact balance, because, when lay magistrates and stipendiaries are on this committee working together, I am sure they will forget 867 entirely whether they are lay or stipendiary, and will work together for the common good.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made some observations about the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police. It is recommended by the Aarvold Committee that he should take on the functions of looking after the magistrates' courts in the London area, and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was wrong in attributing to the Lord Chancellor's Office any responsibility for magistrates' courts: that is one thing for which the Lord Chancellor is not responsible. That responsibility rests variously between the Home Office and the London County Council. So far as the lay magistrates of Westminster are concerned, I can tell the noble Lord now (perhaps he was not aware of it) that the body responsible for providing appropriate accommodation for the Westminster magistrates is the London County Council.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, all I can say is that they have been singularly lacking in providing the necessary accommodation. I never suggested that the Lord Chancellor's Department had now the duty: I was hoping that they would take it on.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Lord is a little behind the times. This matter was brought to my notice a short time ago; I made as many inquiries as I could into it, and I can give him an answer. The noble Lord mentioned the case of the court which he said was not used at all; I think he said that it had been used for storing traffic signs. I went into that, and the court is at Rochester Row. The position about that is that it is not being used for traffic signs at all; it is in use as offices. It is a court with which the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police is concerned. The Receiver looks after the courts for the metropolitan magistrates; the London County Council look after them for the lay justices. That is the system we are getting away from. But the position is this. Rochester Row is now office accommodation for the Metropolitan Police, and I am told that it would be an extremely expensive and lengthy matter to convert it back again. It was bombed during the war, and I understand that to convert it back into 868 a court would take eighteen months, and that very extensive work would have to be done. My Lords, my particular Office is doing what it can in this regard, and we are in touch with the London County Council and the magistrates' courts' committee on behalf of the Westminster magistrates. I am sure the noble Lord will be glad to hear that.
I was very sorry to hear the noble Lord criticise the present method of appointment of magistrates. I take as much care as I can about that, and I take care to see that the advisory committees are fully representative of the political Parties and are really on top of their jobs. My Lords, it is not right to say that they are weighted in favour of the two main political Parties. I naturally want to know, if I can, the political outlook of a candidate, for this reason: that it is a bad thing, I think, to have, in any part of the country, a bench of which people can say, "What can you expect from that bench: it is entirely Socialist?"—or "It is entirely Tory," or "It is entirely Liberal." I do not regard the individual's political outlook as in any way a qualification or a disqualification, but over the whole area it is important to see that there is a properly balanced bench.
The noble Lord commented upon the fact that he did not know who were the members of the advisory committees. My Lords, I made some observations about that fairly recently. One of the difficulties is that, if their identities are disclosed, they are subjected to an intolerable amount of lobbying. I do not think there is any difficulty. I am only too glad, as is my Office, to receive from noble Lords any names of those who they think would be suitable. But this would take time—and it is right that it should—because I would pass those names on to the advisory committees and get their views on those particular individuals. Then, in the light of their views and recommendations, and dependent, too, on there being a vacancy on that particular bench, I would consider what decision I should make. I hope that that explanation has comforted the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. I could not, offhand, remember how many professing members of his Party have been appointed magistrates in the last few months, but it is not an inconsiderable number.
869 The noble Lord, Lord Champion, raised a question—he was the only noble Lord who did so—with regard to Clause 26. I did not regard Clause 26 as a minor matter. I did not say very much about it, but I thought that we should probably have some discussion upon it in Committee. I think it is very important to provide for the protection of a magistrate. We had the case, not long ago, of one who really thought he was properly discharging his duties and yet made a bad error, and might have been very hard hit financially in consequence.
The noble Lord criticised the use of the magistrates courts' committee as an adjudicating body, in the first place. But, my Lords, I cannot think of a more suitable body to do that in the first place, because two conditions must be satisfied. A decision must be given swiftly, if the magistrate is going to be defended and so on; secondly, the decision must be made by some body, some people, acquainted with the character of the duties of justices and their clerks, and it will be for them to say whether, in all the circumstances, the magistrate acted reasonably and in good faith. If the local authority, on whom the burden of the expense will fall, think that they have acted wrongly, or if the magistrate thinks the claim has been wrongly rejected, there is—as the noble Lord pointed out—provision for appeal. My Lords, I believe that it will be hard to improve on that system, though I shall naturally be glad to consider any suggestions that the noble Lord may like to make.
That brings me to the question touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, but with which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, dealt at some length—namely, the question of making provision for the payment of compensation to lay justices for loss of earnings. It is a step forward, about which not very much has been said, that this Bill contains provision for making payment of subsistence allowances. Although none of your Lordships, except the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, expressed a welcome for this change, I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, also welcomes that particular part of the Bill.
870 This question of loss of earnings is indeed a difficult one. It was considered by the Royal Commission in 1948, and your Lordships may know that they recommended against the payment of loss-of-earnings allowances on the ground that this would diminish the prestige of the Bench and would lessen their reputation for integrity and impartiality. Now those views may be right or wrong, but they are certainly views which deserve very serious consideration. Furthermore, the majority of the members of the Magistrates' Association and of the magistrates' courts committees, which are members of the Central Council of Magistrates' Courts Committees, when they were consulted in 1960, three years ago, were opposed to the payment of loss-of-earnings allowances.
I do not myself think that one really can draw much of a comparison between the duties of a local councillor when acting as a councillor and the duties of a lay magistrate acting in the administration of justice. I myself am hesitant indeed about the question whether it would be right to go further than we now propose in this Bill. I appreciate the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Champion. At the same time, it is right to say that the lack of payment of loss-of-earnings allowances is certainly not, so far as I am aware, restricting the recruitment of suitable persons to be justices of the peace; that is to say, suitable persons who are not of any particular wealth, working men, and so forth. No real difficulty is being found, so far as I am aware, in getting suitable candidates for the Bench drawn from those walks of society.
I am very glad indeed that the proposal, which I think is a novel one, for the employment of county court judges in the way proposed in this Bill has received the reception it has. I will not say any more about that. With regard to the nine petty sessional divisions, to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred, there is certainly no desire to reduce the number of courts within our sessional divisions for administrative purposes, and we are seeking, indeed, to get more courts as speedily as possible—and the sooner we can remove the Westminster justices from Caxton Hall, the more likely I am 871 to have peace from the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and other members of that Bench.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was the only noble Lord who referred to the position of the standing joint committees. Here, again, I should just like to say this. As I pointed out, if the Police Bill is enacted, the standing joint committees which now exist will be left with the whole responsibility for quarter sessions accommodation. Throughout the rest of the country, if nothing is done, they will continue to exist. The choice really is as to whether one brings London, the five Commission areas, into line with the rest of the country and appoints standing joint committees for this solitary purpose, or whether one abolishes standing joint committees throughout the whole of the country.
We could perhaps consider that more in Committee, and I should indeed be grateful to know the views of bodies like the Magistrates' Association. It is not of very great moment; the only point is that, if we do abolish standing joint committees, someone will have to be made responsible for looking after quarter sessions accommodation. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that he thought that the county councils would be the right people to do it. It may well be so, but I am not altogether sure that all standing joint committees would welcome that. In any event, I hope that we shall be in a better position to reach a decision on that when the Committee stage comes on.
My Lords, the only other point to which I think reference was made was the wholly unwarranted attack upon the legal profession of spinning out cases in the magistrates' courts. I will not say any more about that in case there will be a tu quoque. But I would say just this: that sometimes I think it is true that there is undue prolixity. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said it is not confined to magistrates' courts; but, after all, the courts ought to be able to do something about it themselves. In case I run any risk in that regard, I will conclude my reply to this debate by saying I am grateful to your Lordships for the reception which your Lordships have given to this measure.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.