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Lord Donaldson of Lymington: Of course, I agree with everything that has been said about the importance of the lay magistracy, especially as regards attracting members of ethnic minorities to serve on it. But we need to remember that there is an inherent problem with the lay magistracy in that its members cannot sit continuously for more than a limited period. Certainly half days would be highly inefficient. We shall always need district judges to deal with carry-over lists. I refer also to cases that do not last more than a day. Nevertheless, if a case is begun late in the afternoon there are great advantages in being able to continue it the next day. One may not be able to do that with members of the lay magistracy for the reason that I have already mentioned.

It is not right just to look at the caseload; one must look at the nature of that caseload. There is a further problem here. If magistrates are to be confined to short cases, due to the amount of time that they are able to allocate to cases, they may encounter the experience that my wife had in moving from Bow Street, which

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she found an extremely interesting Bench—as I am sure it is—to the City of London Bench, which involved giving notices to motorists asking them to explain why they had not said who was the owner of the vehicle in question. That is enough to drive anyone to drink, or at any rate to resign from the Bench. One must look at the quality of the case which can be given to the lay magistrate and try to make it as interesting as possible.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I resist the temptation to point out that the Greek word holistikos is used as a euphemism by this Government for the more easily understood latinate "centralising". Without wishing to get involved in the affairs of the Duchy of Lancaster, what is the role envisaged for the current local advisory committees which assist the Lord Chancellor in the appointment of magistrates? Will they continue as before? There is nothing in the Bill about them. Do we assume that they will continue to fulfil their role? If so, who will appoint them? What powers will they have?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I reassure the noble Lord that that issue will not be on the face of the Bill. There is nothing on the face of any Bill at the moment in relation to the advisory committees. The Lord Chancellor will continue to need the advice and support of those who advise him in relation to the appointments that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, mentioned. Those advisory groups may be restructured but certainly the need to have some form of advisory committee will remain. I cannot tell the noble Lord exactly what form it will take. I hope that we shall be able to consider some of that detail in due course when we consider the structure of the guidance and the framework document.

Lord Jones: I was glad to hear the Minister's response to some of the questions that I posed. She gave a handsome reply for which I thank her. I believe that she referred to the strategy with regard to the 29,000 magistrates in England and Wales and mentioned a likely increase of some 3,000. I know that the Minister is up to speed on matters concerning Wales, because I heard her say in a previous debate to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, that she would not cede one inch. Will she say how many of the 3,000 will be itemised for Wales over a period of years? How many extra magistrates are envisaged for Wales?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I cannot say how many are specifically targeted for Wales, just as I cannot say how many will go to the South West, the North East, and so on. However, the overall figure is likely to increase as the needs increase. We must make an assessment of the needs.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, made some valuable points about quality, nature and balance. All those issues will have to be put into the pot when we decide what the balance should be in any given area. I endorse the point that members of the judiciary, whether they be lay or professional, should have interesting and challenging work to which they

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can become committed. That is certainly part of the thinking that we will build into any plans that we make, whether for the professional judiciary, with which the noble and learned Lord is especially familiar, or the lay magistracy. Both are equally valuable.

Viscount Tenby: I shall be brief, as it is late. I wish to pick up the ball that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, punted so expertly up the hill, in relation to advisory committees. Is it not the case that a problem with such committees for as long as anyone can remember is that all their activities are conducted with a nod and a wink? Nobody knows who they are or what their terms of reference are. At a time when our affairs are increasingly about accountability, is it not time that those committees were shepherded complainingly into the floodlight?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hear what the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, says. He is right to say that transparency and accountability will be important. We want magistrates to continue to have the full confidence of the communities that they serve. Advisory committees have performed a useful role and we hope that they will continue. The shadowing scheme that we have put in place, which allows young people to think concretely of the magistracy, should help us, because more people from a wider spectrum will volunteer to become magistrates, which must be good.

Baroness Seccombe: Little did I think, when I moved the amendment, that we would have such an interesting and varied debate. I am grateful to everyone who has taken part.

Perhaps the most difficult issue for us is that we do not see any justification for the change of appointment by the Duchy of Lancaster. We will raise the issue again under Clause 98, and on Report we may table another amendment. Amendment No. 47 meets the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Jones, so he will have an opportunity to make his point at that stage.

My experience of district judges has been positive in so far as they have been used only in a long case, when it would have been difficult to find magistrates to cover the case. As my noble friend Lady Anelay said, in family courts cases can drift on into the next day, so there is that commitment by magistrates to be available, which is credit worthy.

The possibility of appointing 3,000 extra magistrates and more district judges is interesting. Is that envisaged because of changes in the Criminal Justice Bill, which means that magistrates will cover more cases with more responsibility? Will that bring about the need for more magistrates?

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As the noble Baroness knows, it is certainly right—it is foreshadowed in the Criminal Justice Bill—that lay magistrates will have an

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increased jurisdiction. Although we cannot predict the precise number, we are trying to make an assessment of what the needs might be. The current projection—not simply because of the Criminal Justice Bill, but because of a number of other changes we are making—is that that figure looks possible. As she also rightly said, we are doing work on the family court. As Members of the Committee will know, special courts are being piloted in certain parts of the country to address domestic violence and other issues. Specialist magistrates' panels are being recruited to sit and do that type of work. We are therefore looking much more broadly across the piece, and not only because of the Criminal Justice Bill, to see how we might better enable the magistracy to deliver the high-quality work of which we know they are capable.

Lord Jones: In her reply on advisory committees, my noble friend the Minister deployed the word "transparency". Does the Bill presume that Lords Lieutenant will continue to play a leading role in the advisory committees? Does the Bill specifically refer to Lords Lieutenant and advisory committees? How do the Government see the advisory committee in all of that?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Lords Lieutenant, of course, continue to be involved. The Bill does not mention anything about advisory committees. I was trying to respond to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, about whether they would continue to be involved although they are not mentioned in the Bill. I was happy to give that reassurance. The Lord Chancellor sets out the terms on which advisory committees will operate, and those terms will continue.

Baroness Seccombe: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Seccombe moved Amendment No. 40:


    Page 5, line 10, leave out "or on behalf of"

The noble Baroness said: This is a very short probing amendment. I am unsure when lay magistrates would have need to sit in a local justice area to which they were not assigned, although I understand that that could be possible by virtue of the office they hold. The Bill states that that may be done only in accordance with arrangements made by the Lord Chancellor. Our amendment seeks to leave out the power to delegate this function to another person.

This is, as I said, a probing amendment to ask the Minister what is behind the drafting "or on behalf of" in Clause 10. To whom would the Lord Chancellor delegate this function, and in what circumstances would this power be delegated? I beg to move.

Lord Renton: The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, has rendered a useful service by tabling this probing amendment. She may have had this point in mind, but

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I should like specifically to ask the Minister: if that is done on behalf of the Lord Chancellor, who is going to do it?


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