Clause 13. — (Size and Chairmanship of Bench.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7 December 1949.

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6.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

I beg to move, in page 10, line 39, to leave out from "sitting," in line 39, to the second "as," in line 40.

Photo of Mr Charles Royle Mr Charles Royle , Salford West

On a point of Order. Would it be for the convenience of the Committee and save time if the Amendment standing in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hackney (Mr. H. Hynd) were considered with the Amendment which has just been moved?—In page 10, line 41. leave out from "than," to end of line 42, and insert: seven in the case of quarter sessions and five in any other case or such lesser number as may be.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

We might take that course if the Committee has no objection.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

I certainly have no objection. It would probably facilitate our discussion. To some extent the hon. Member's Amendment and my own are directed to much the same point. I do not propose to say anything, nor would it be in Order to do so on my Amendment, about the proposal to limit the number of justices who ran sit at petty sessions. There is something to be said for that, but I desire to draw attention to the fact that this Clause does not prescribe the number who are to sit at quarter sessions or indeed the number who are to sit at petty sessions. We are asked here to give general approval to the proposition that the number of justices who should attend, sit and adjudicate at quarter sessions should hereafter be limited by rules.

On that proposition two questions arise. The first is whether it is desirable at this time to limit the number of justices attending quarter sessions? The second is, if it is desirable, to what figure is the number to be limited? We heard on Second Reading a speech by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in which he pointed out the many advantages which ensue from a full attendance of justices at quarter sessions. I feel sure that those of us who have had experience of the practice regard it as having a great deal to be said in its favour. I know that at some quarter sessions the rota system already applies. It may work in some counties, but I must admit that I am a little nervous as to the effect of imposing a limitation on attendance at quarter sessions at this time.

At some quarter sessions it is not known until the work begins how much work there will be. At my own quarter sessions in Northamptonshire, one usually finds a good attendance of magistrates. Then, when the pleas are taken, it is possible to determine how long the quarter sessions are likely to last and whether it is necessary to divide the court into two courts. It is at that point where, if necessary, the division of the magistrates between two courts takes place. If the number who can adjudicate is to be limited in these days when petrol is in such short supply—and I get a number of letters from magistrates saying how difficult they find it even now to get to quarter sessions—I fear that it will be found difficult to obtain the attendance of a number in excess of the number who will be entitled to adjudicate.

The Royal Commission recognised the difficulties and said that there was no ideal solution to the problem. I agree, and I agree that it is a bad thing to see a large body of justices adjudicating either at petty sessions or at quarter sessions. One has sometimes seen almost public disagreement as to a sentence, but if that is used as an argument for some limitation in numbers the answer can be made that public disagreement was not necessary, and that the magistrates might have retired to their private room and reached their decision privately. I do not attach much importance to that aspect of the matter as an argument in favour of the limitation of numbers at quarter sessions.

It will be difficult to secure the attendance of magistrates which one wishes to see at quarter sessions, even if they are not to adjudicate, unless the right hon. Gentleman intends to fix a pretty high limit for quarter sessions. The defect of this Clause is that we are asked to approve in principle the limitation of numbers at quarter sessions without having any idea of the sort of limitation in principle which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. Can he tell us what sort of figure he has in mind? I certainly think, and I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees* with me, that importance attaches to the desirability of a great many justices attending quarter sessions even though not all of them sit and adjudicate.

Photo of Mr Charles Royle Mr Charles Royle , Salford West

As a result of the two Amendments which we are considering, we have three alternatives before us. In discussing the Amendments we are discussing two points relating to the same subject, but I am in total disagreement with the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) on this matter. One alternative appears to me to be what is contained in the Bill, which leaves the question of determining the number of magistrates who shall sit to the rules which will ultimately be placed before the Lord Chancellor. The second alternative is the one I am now suggesting—that we should in the Bill establish the numbers in a statutory form. The third alternative, suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman, is that the matter shall be left to rule in the case of courts of summary jurisdiction but that in the case of quarter sessions the situation shall remain as it now is without alteration.

Clause 13 contains a provision for the making of rules to establish the size of the benches of magistrates. The aim of my Amendment is to ensure that these limitations shall be fixed by Parliament and shall be contained in the Bill rather than be left to the decision of any appointed committee which might advise the Lord Chancellor on these matters. No better committee could possibly be set up to decide these principles and these matters than this Committee which is now considering the matter in this Chamber. I do not think that it can be controverted that there is a wealth of legal knowledge here which will enable us to determine what is a good number to sit on the magisterial bench. I suggest that the figure mentioned in the Amendment in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hackney (Mr. H. Hynd) is worthy of the consideration of the Committee.

During the Second Reading Debate I suggested that in present circumstances there was a real embarrassment to the bench and to the defendant by the unwieldy number of magistrates who sometimes sit on the bench. It is that which I am trying to eliminate by my Amendment. In his Second Reading speech, the Attorney-General drew the attention of the House to two very striking cases of benches being "packed" for a specific purpose. The examples he gave were such exceptionally strong ones that I cannot see how the Government can possibly resist laying down here and now what the numbers of magistrates who sit on benches should be. I should have thought, in view of the two examples the Attorney-General quoted—I am sorry he is not present at the moment—there would have been no doubt of his support for my Amendment.

In the case of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, and the Summary Procedure (Domestic Proceedings) Act, 1937, a limited number of justices sit on the bench. I am sure I am expressing the opinion of anyone who has had experience of the administration of those particular Acts when I say that the arrangement in those cases is admirable, and that no one would think of suggesting that we should go back to an unlimited number of magistrates. Having proved the desirability of having a limited number of magistrates in the courts I have mentioned, I feel that we should extend the principle into other courts and thereby abolish a tremendous amount of embarrassment.

The hon. and learned Member for Daventry talked about the difficulties which might arise at quarter sessions with regard to the numbers of magistrates attending, and the like. It is not beyond the wit of man to ensure by a rota system that in cases of that kind there are sufficient magistrates present within the numbers which I now recommend. I hope that when the decision is made on this Bill, we may take it out of the hands of any recommending committee, even out of the hands of the Lord Chancellor, and that in courts of summary jurisdiction the number of magistrates sitting shall not be more than five, and in quarter sessions not more than seven.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

We have had put forward two diametrically opposed points of view. There was a time when I favoured an unlimited number of magistrates at quarter sessions. That was when I was a very junior justice and might not have been invited had there been a limitation on the number. Having seen the effect of a reasonable limitation of the numbers by voluntary arrangement, and at the same time steps being taken to ensure that sufficient magistrates should be present, I feel that it is desirable that there should be some rule on this point. It is very wrong that there should appear to be trial by public meeting. It is very wrong that there should be suspicion of very large attendances on the bench because of the personality of one of the participants in the dispute which may be adjudicated upon. There was a time when that, so far as appeals to quarter sessions were concerned, amounted in certain cases to a scandal, and steps had to be taken to avoid it.

I admit that the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) put a perfectly sound point when he said that there are difficulties in sustaining attendance at quarter sessions. My own quarter sessions, for example, started on Tuesday and continued until Friday with two courts sitting the whole time. In fact under the Criminal Justice Act which we recently passed, power has been given to make legal the three courts which they had been illegally operating for some time. In those circumstances it is essential that there shall be some arrangement, which hitherto has been a voluntary arrangement, whereby there is a sufficiency of magistrates sitting in order that the courts can function. I hope I have indicated that I understand the range of the problem.

6.45 p.m.

Unless there is a real limitation of attendance, no voluntary arrangement can prevent a justice who insists on sitting from attending the court. I have seen a bench of over 100, and the senior magistrates on that occasion complained that the juniors had grabbed all the seats and they were left standing at the back. If we desire to avoid that, it is clear that some limitation must be fixed. If there is a commission of possibly 500 or 600 people, we may very well be at the mercy of a sudden swamping of the court and therefore I think it is desirable that there should be a limitation on the number.

I think also that there should be some discretion with regard to the numbers. There may be occasions when it is desirable that a bench—in the case of some important decision having to be made—should have a sufficient number present to ensure that considered judgment is given without having so many that real consideration becomes impossible. If there are 50 or 60 people retiring to the magistrates' room to consider the sentence to be imposed, it becomes very difficult to get any real consideration of the matter involved. The case for some limitation has, I think, been proved.

It is, of course, always flattering to say to an audience, "After all, you are the people dealing with this matter." That gives everyone a nice feeling that the gentleman making the proposition has infinite confidence in the people he is addressing. But this is a very important matter. We must have regard to the circumstances where more than one court will certainly have to be constituted and maintained. Therefore, to put into the Bill certain figures which in normal circumstances might be regarded as suitable would, in my opinion, be a mistake. I suggest to the Committee that the course proposed in the Bill is the soundest one of the three. But we recognise that some limitation should be imposed and that the rules committee should be left to work out the limitation. It should be understood that they must have regard to all the considerations I have mentioned, and doubtless to others which will be known to hon. and learned Gentlemen who practise in these courts as being desirable to have in mind when the rules are drafted.

There is the further difficulty that if we put figures into the Bill, and if experience indicates that it is desirable for one reason or another that some amendment should be made we shall have to wait for another Bill before the arrangement can be altered. If the considerations which I have mentioned are borne in mind by the people framing the rules, it should be possible to make an amendment, if it is necessary to do so, without calling in the tremendous machinery of waiting for another Bill. No matter what Government may be in office, Parliamentary time is always limited, and the difficulty of arranging for a Bill to deal with a point such as that would be quite considerable. If we leave it with the rules committee, we shall ensure that, if it is necessary to make an amendment either one way or the other, or. if experience shows that some error has been made on the first occasion, it will be easier to make an alteration. I hope, therefore, that neither of these Amendments will be pressed, and that the very full consideration given to this matter by the Law Officers and others interested, who commend the Bill to the Committee, will carry some weight with the Committee.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Hackney Central

I was disappointed to hear the views expressed by the Home Secretary. First, I should like to comment on the speech made by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). His Amendment does not seem to me to be logical. I thought that he made an unanswerable case for a limitation of the number of magistrates both at quarter sessions and at magistrates' courts. On studying the arguments he used to justify differentiation, I thought that he did not make it clear just why there should be a difference between the counts. Undoubtedly, one deals with more important cases and has a professional chairman. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the principle applies equally in the two cases.

I was somewhat puzzled by the argument he used about the shortage of petrol preventing magistrates from travelling a distance to quarter sessions because, if there is the limitation which is proposed, there will be a saving of petrol, as there will not be so many magistrates travelling to the courts. In practice, as the Home Secretary has indicated, there is a voluntary rota arrangement on many benches. I believe that system works successfully. It certainly works successfully at the court of quarter sessions with which I am connected, and that is perhaps the busiest in the whole country.

The Home Secretary made the very important suggestion, which I believe was the main basis of his argument, that perhaps this Committee is not the one best qualified to reach a decision on this matter. He said that legal gentlemen were involved, that experience must be taken into consideration and that we should not jump to a decision here. In reply, I would point out that this Amendment was put down by my hon. Friend the Member for West Salford (Mr. Royle) after consultation with the Magistrates' Association and that this is the unanimous decision of the Council of the Magistrates' Association, which I suppose hon. Members will agree contains the cream of the experience of the magistrates of this country. Therefore, it is not a question of asking this Committee to reach a snap decision without proper consideration. This matter has been carefully considered and there will be great disappointment in the Magistrates' Association if this limitation is not accepted.

Of course, the limitation is accepted in principle, and then we come to what is the real issue behind both Amendments—namely, the question whether the limitation should be left for arrangement by rule or whether the number should be inserted in the Bill. There is a growing opinion in all parts of the Committee against matters being left out of Acts of Parliament to be handled departmentally or by rules and regulations. The only argument to justify that procedure is if there are complications and if it would mean unduly lengthening a Bill in order to insert all the details in it rather than to have them issued as separate regulations. This is a clear case where there is a simple issue at stake. That simple issue is what is to be the maximum number of magistrates at quarter sessions and at magistrates' courts. I cannot see any objection to stating that number in the Bill, apart from the last argument used by the Home Secretary about possible alterations in the future. I recognise the validity of that argument. It must be taken into consideration, but I should have imagined that the importance of getting the number into the Bill would outweigh any possible objection about future arrangements.

I submit that the proposal in our Amendment is practicable and that it should be acceptable to the Committee and to the Home Secretary. In regard to the Amendment tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry, I suggest that if the number is to apply to the magistrates' court, it should apply also to the court of quarter sessions, for the reasons which have been stated. I wonder whether it is too late to ask the Home. Secretary to look at this problem again, perhaps between now and a later stage of the Bill, to see whether, in view of the fact that the Amendment is strongly supported by the Magistrates' Association, he can give some hope that the matter will be decided once and for all by putting the figures into the Act.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

The hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. H. Hynd) rather attacked me for the views I have expressed. He wanted to know the reason the view was expressed that a full attendance at quarter sessions was desirable. If he wants to find reasons expressed in favour of that contention, I would refer him to the speeches made on the Second Reading of this Bill, which I do not think it is necessary for me to repeat now and which I did not think it was necessary to repeat when I raised this question. I tabled my Amendment in order to raise that question, and I think that we have had a useful discussion upon it. Of course, the fact that the Magistrates' Association have come to a conclusion is not binding upon this Committee, but it is a matter to which we should pay considerable attention.

At first sight I am inclined to think that the maximum of seven in the case of quarter sessions and five in other cases proposed in the hon. Gentleman's Amendment is on the low side. There is force in the right hon. Gentleman's contention that there should be some margin of operation. I agree with him that it is impossible to have 200, 300 or 400 magistrates attending at quarter sessions. I think that he has made out a case for a limit and I think he has also made out a case for not having that limit in the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Central Hackney that normally we do not like leaving over questions which are important to be settled by rules. Therefore, I think it was right to get the right hon. Gentleman on his feet to justify that course, and I think he has justified it in this instance.

I did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to put the limits in the Bill. I asked whether he could give some indication of the Government's intention in regard to these limits, but I do not press that point. I ask him to bear in mind as a matter of operation that at some quarter sessions all the magistrates sit together on one bench while the pleas are taken. There can be no objection to that. It would be a great pity, I think, if the number who could sit on the bench during that stage of the proceedings was limited. It would be rather invidious if some sat on the bench and all the rest waited with the jurors in waiting to see whether the court divided. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take care to see that there is nothing to limit the number during that stage of the hearing. It is only after the pleas have been taken that in many parts of the country the court decides whether it shall divide or not. When the court divides to go into each case—whether a man has pleaded guilty or not guilty then by all means let there be a limit, but let there be some flexibility. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to go further than he has done. I do not want to press him on that subject.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for the remarks he has made, especially because they remind me of one point with which I meant to deal. I think that it is desirable that justices not sitting on the trials should have the opportunity, where there is a qualified chairman in the chair, of seeing the way in which a trial should be conducted. I also hope that, when quarter sessions and petty sessions come to arrange the magistrates who are to be asked to attend, and whose attendance it is desired to secure, they will make arrangements by which there will be a judicious sprinkling of experienced and new magistrates on the rotas. That is very desirable, because, in addition to listening, it is sometimes advisable that the new magistrates should also realise the responsibility of reaching a decision, and of doing it in consultation with, and after listening to the views of, their more experienced colleagues.

I cannot give any very clear indication tonight what the numbers will be, but, for the reasons that I originally gave, I think that in some cases the maximum numbers set down here might not be sufficient in the case of a very important trial at quarter sessions.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have regard to the point I raised about not putting a ceiling on while the pleas are taken.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I think it is very desirable that, at that stage, as many magistrates as possible should be present.

Photo of Mr Charles Royle Mr Charles Royle , Salford West

While I am naturally disappointed that my right hon. Friend will not agree to put the figure into the Bill, I appreciate the force of this argument, and I think that the point between us is so fine that I would be ill-advised to press the matter further at this stage. Therefore, I shall not move the Amendment that stands in my name.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

May I ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment in view of the useful discussion that we have had upon it?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

On a point of Order. What question is now before the Committee?

Photo of Mr Thomas Burden Mr Thomas Burden , Sheffield Park

There is a further Amendment. No, I beg the Committee's pardon. The Question is. "That Clause 13 stand part of the Bill."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

May I detain the Committee one moment to ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary whether he has considered the question of bias, in view of the restriction made on the size of the bench. The fewer justices there are, in' the case where it is thought there is bias, the more difficult is the problem. There are a lot of legal qualifications dealing with the question of whether a magistrate has a direct or indirect financial interest in a matter to come before the court, and there are magistrates who have all sorts of bias from temperance to pedestrians or religious bias, which leads people who come before them to doubt whether they will get fair trial before that particular magistrate.

If the learned Attorney-General was here, he would no doubt know the forensic fable to which I will now refer. It is the story of a county court judge who used to determine first, in any case which came before him, whether one of the parties was a builder. If he found that neither was a builder, he decided the case on its merits, and in the other cases gave judgment against the builder. There are people of similar mentality who sometimes, possibly by mistake, get on to a bench of magistrates, and I therefore throw out to the Home Secretary the suggestion that he might consider the possibility, either by rules or by some Amendment of the Bill at a later stage, of providing for something of the same kind as the challenge that is made at courts martial.

Photo of Mr Conolly Gage Mr Conolly Gage , Belfast South

I do not think the argument of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) holds water, because, if we were to take steps to guard against bias in that way, the natural corollary would be that we should never get any member of a bench who would be completely free from suspicion. We really cannot guard against all these matters. It is true that, in a case of a large bench of justices, there might be one with a bee in his bonnet at one end, but he is usually cancelled out by another justice with precisely the opposite kind of bee in his bonnet at the other end.

We cannot ask the Home Secretary to make provisions against all kinds of matters like that. Justices take the oath to administer justice fairly, and, generally, they do it. At least, they try to do it as well as they are able, and I do not think that if we were to limit the size of a bench the chance of bias would be any the less. I do not think that would be the case at all, although I think there is a strong case here for limiting justices. We have all known cases such as that the right hon. Gentleman described of far too many justices on the bench. From the point of view of one attending the court, it is always something of an advantage to have a lot of justices, because one can usually say that the greater the number of justices the smaller the sentences are likely to be.

I would not quarrel with the numbers proposed a moment ago, and I think it is a sound idea that the numbers should be left to a departmental committee, which would be able to deal with matters that we cannot discuss, and I should be very content to leave it in the hands of such a committee, without suggesting what limits there should be or making any suggestion in regard to bias.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I want to make a remark about the conduct of an hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. As you know, Mr. Burden, I had the Floor, but he got up to speak and I gave way, because I thought he was going to put a point to me. I never thought that an hon. and learned Member of this House would get down as low as to take advantage of another hon. Member in the way he did.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

On a point of Order. May I ask that you, Mr. Burden, should tell the hon. Gentleman that I was raising a point of Order?

Photo of Mr Thomas Burden Mr Thomas Burden , Sheffield Park

I took it that the hon. and learned Gentleman was raising his point of Order with me, and if the hon. Member will recollect I was just coming into the Chair. I had not quite realised what was the position regarding the two Amendments. I hope he will put any blame on me and not on the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller).

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

The Temporary Chairman called me before the hon. and learned Gentleman withdrew his Amendment.

I want to get down to the question of this Clause. I want to ask the Home Secretary, when he is providing for suffi- cient justices in order to ensure that at any particular time there will be an adequate bench of justices, from where he expects them to come? From which particular section of the community are these justices, who are going to be waiting about, to come? I am quite sure that the Home Secretary has never given sufficient consideration to the character of justices who are to be there ready, in order to fill up the bench., If a stated number was arranged for each occasion, an organised method could be developed for having certain selected justices there to ensure that there was proper representation on the bench, in view of the different types of cases coming before it. For instance, 15 working-class families have been evicted in Buxton, and seven fathers of families have been put into gaol.

Photo of Mr Thomas Burden Mr Thomas Burden , Sheffield Park

I hope that the hon. Member will really come back to the Clause because that incident has no relation to it whatever.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I am coming to that. These men, maybe, will come up before the quarter sessions; courts of justices are going to deal with these men. If they appear before justices who are particularly concerned about property—and many of them are—there will be no chance whatever for these men. On the other hand, if the justices were drawn from the factories or were associated with working-class life and had a real understanding of the difficulty in getting homes at the present time, then they would constitute a bench that could appreciate the problem facing these men, and there would be no possibility of their being sentenced. Indeed, there might be a possibility of their getting a home.

I would like to see in this Clause something more definite about the character of the organisation that is going to be created so as to ensure that benches of justices will be biased in the proper direction. It is quite impossible for a Socialist to be unbiased as it is for a Tory to be unbiased. Nobody is unbiased. We do not want to play with fantasies. There is no such thing as an unbiased man. We want to get on the bench men who are biased in the right direction, and who will see to it that decent workers are treated properly and that robber landlords receive the treatment they deserve.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am sure that if the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) were at any remote stage in the future to fill the office of Home Secretary the benches of magistrates in those days would be full of what he would regard as an appropriate bias. But I rise on this Motion solely for the purpose of congratulating the Home Secretary upon the appearance of subsection (6) of this Clause and of expressing the hope that before this House has entirely finished with this Bill there may be many other opportunities in respect of many other Clauses of expressing the same congratulations.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

This Bill has the support of all quarters of the House; in fact, it has so much support that unless we are very careful it will be smothered by it. Therefore, I am quite sure that hon. Members will aquit me of discourtesy if I do not reply at great length to the remarks made on this Motion. I assure the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) that I was prepared to discuss all the cases in which something analogous to subsection (6) should appear in the Bill. That offer still remains open, and I have no doubt that we shall reach a satisfactory arrangement on the matter.

With regard to what my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) said about a person appointed to the bench displaying the kind of bias he suggested, I would say that the thing to do is to ask the Lord Chancellor to remove that person. That is what ought to be done.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

He could be objected to at the time.

7.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Yes, he could be objected to at the time. I have heard counsel object to some colleagues of mine who were sitting beside me. I once left the bench because I thought there might be some bias when a defendant asked whether he was going to be judged by me. I think that after the result was announced he rather wished that I had been on the bench.

I think I ought to say a word or two about what was said by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) because in these matters it will be the duty of those who draw up the rota, or whatever the arrangement may be, for selecting magistrates, to see that an appropriate and careful selection is made so as to get as representative a bench as possible. I speak as one who has had a good deal of experience of sitting with magistrates, and it would not surprise me if the hon. Member for West Fife sometimes found that the bench which he suggested he would like to have deal with a particular case would be harsher than the one which would normally try it.

I believe that when men sit on the bench they do endeavour within the limitations that human nature imposes upon all of us to listen to the evidence and to reach a decision on the evidence and on the law as explained to them by the clerk. I do not want a feeling to get abroad that on certain occasions it is possible to pack a bench, even by the voluntary attendance of magistrates or by the way in which the selection is made. I am quite certain that the rules under this Clause will throw on the individual benches the responsibility of seeing that the benches required from time to time will be so constituted as to command the confidence of the people they exist to serve.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.