Clause 20. — (Qualification of Justices' Clerk.)

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

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Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton 12:00 am, 7th December 1949

There is a series of Amendments on the Order Paper in my name which have not been selected, and which it may be convenient to discuss at the same time as this Amendment, since their object is very much the same as that of the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman has just moved. It really comes to a clear issue of whether we are in favour of clerks with professional qualifications or of continuing the present system of permitting unqualified clerks.

I want to address myself to that problem, making it quite clear at the outset that I support the maintenance of the present system of unqualified clerks. I think that it is necessary to go a little into the genesis of this matter in order to get a clear understanding of it. No one suggests that there has been any wide dissatisfaction with the present system, or that the proposed alteration in the law will give any greater satisfaction. Men with professional qualifications are just as liable to err as those without them, but the position when this Bill was originally introduced in another place was that professional qualification was not required. That was the position upon which the Government took their stand when they first introduced this Bill.

Subsequently something happened. I will tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in case he does not know, precisely what it was. It was that the Justices' Clerks Society had their annual conference at Bournemouth, and two noble Lords were invited to attend its annual dinner. The interest of the two noble Lords in this matter was aroused by those present, who had, of course, an interest in the matter, and it was in the nature of what the hon. Member for York (Mr. Corlett) has described as creating a closed shop. Curiously enough, an Amendment was moved in the House of Lords which achieved the result which the Justices' Clerks Society required. It seems to have been a very successful dinner which they had at Bournemouth on that occasion.