§ Mr. Hurd
I am today publishing the report of the scrutiny, which was completed on 4 July. The report includes wide-ranging proposals for the reconstruction of the magistrates courts service as an executive agency with a number of specific proposals directed towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the service while maintaining public confidence in the impartial administration of local justice. The major proposals would require legislation. The report, rightly, accepts as a fundamental principle that judicial decisions in the magistrates courts must be wholly independent of Government direction.
I welcome the report's thorough and perceptive analysis of the problems facing the magistrates courts service. I welcome also its recognition of the considerable efforts now being made by the members of the magistrates courts service to improve its performance within the limits imposed by the present system.
The proposals raise issues of considerable importance. Before reaching decisions on the scrutiny I should like the interested parties, including the bodies representing the magistracy, justices' clerks and their staff and local authorities, to let me have their considered views, and to provide an opportunity for public comment more generally. Consultations will begin shortly, and it would be helpful if initial comments could be sent to the Home Office (Room 418, Queen Anne's Gate) by 30 September.