§ Mr. Bermingham
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what measures he proposes for the maintenance of the existing level of magistrates' judicial independence within the magistrates courts system; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what proposals he has to ensure continuance of existing magistrates courts clerks' practice to offer unbiased legal advice to members of their benches; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
[holding answer 17 January 1991]: It is of fundamental importance that the magistrates courts must remain independent of Government in respect of judicial decision-making and that justices' clerks, in giving advice to their magistrates for this purpose, should act on the basis of their knowledge and understanding of the law and of their duty to provide expert and independent advice. In considering any options for changes to the service, whether drawn from the report of the scrutiny of that service or elsewhere, we shall exclude arrangements which do not effectively maintain the independence of magistrates and their clerks at least at its present level.