HL Deb 18 July 1994 vol 557 cc52-3

104 Schedule 7, page 79, leave out lines 14 to 19 and insert: '2.—(1) Section 17 (chairman and deputy chairmen of justices) shall be amended as follows. (2) In subsection (1), after the words "for the area" there shall be inserted the words "; and any contested election for the purposes of this section shall be held". (3) In subsection (2), for the words "subsection (3)" there shall be substituted the words "subsections (2A) and (3)". (4) After subsection (2) there shall be inserted— (2A) Subsection (2) above shall not confer on any chairman or deputy chairman of the justices the right to preside in court if, under rules made under the next following section, he is ineligible to preside in court.".'.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 104.

Amendments Nos. 104 and 105 are the result of work carried out by a working party of representatives from the relevant bodies within the magistrates' courts service, which was set up last July to consider the chairmanship of benches. The representative training bodies have also been consulted.

Presiding over a court of lay justices advised by a clerk is a very specialised skill. This group of amendments permits the Lord Chancellor to ensure that every court chairman is suitably qualified and experienced while still leaving the discretion as to who is to preside over a court with the local magistrates of each bench. It also allows the Lord Chancellor to simplify the procedure whereby benches elect their chairmen and deputy chairmen. Currently, either all of the justices of the bench must be candidates for election or all of the justices must contribute to a shortlist of candidates. The amended power will permit the introduction of a nomination procedure whereby any justice may be nominated for office. A secret ballot will take place if there is a contested election.

I may have been a little summary in my references to Amendments Nos. 49 and 50. Amendment No. 49 eliminates the need for Treasury consent to the number of inspectors to the magistrates' court inspectorate and Amendment No. 50 requires that the chief inspector's report should be laid before Parliament.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 104.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.