§ Mr. Stan Thorne
asked the Attorney-General whether his right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor authorised the collection from magistrates of personal information relating to their religious and political opinions; and if he will make a statement.
It has been the policy of the Lord Chancellor's Department for many years to secure benches so far as possible balanced between political parties and social occupations. Candidates for possible appointment as justices of the peace have for many years been invited to include among the written particulars which they provide an indication of their occupations and political convictions, and in relation to the latter are free to say they are uncommitted. It is made quite clear that neither their politics nor, except for occupations incompatible with the magistracy, their occupations, are either a qualification or a disqualification for appointment, and that the information is requested only in order to avoid the appointment of a disproportionate number of justices supporting any one party or representing any one element on the local community. The information given is treated as confidential and is available only to the Lord Chancellor and those who advise him. In a few areas magistrates have been invited to bring this information up to date on the same basis. The Lord Chancellor does not invite information about the religion of magistrates.