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

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman began by saying that he would look at this matter again, I began to think that there was perhaps some hope that he would meet the point of view which has been expressed in favour of the unqualified clerk, but he has now made it clear that such looking at it as he will do is limited only to the question of the time of bringing it into operation, or was related to the possibility of arranging some special facilities in regard to the examination on account of war service. That does not go any length to meet my objection to the principle to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman adhered when he insisted upon universal qualifications before one could become a justices' clerk. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he was trying to get both experience and qualifications together, but that is only a hope. As the Bill stands, no experience of any kind is required of a solicitor who has been qualified for five years as a solicitor, and he is immediately qualified to become a justices' clerk without any kind of experience in a justices' court.

I take this opportunity of putting forward this further weight into the scale. Under Clause 19 (8) of this Bill as it now stands, no justices' clerk can be appointed without the approval of the Home Secretary. Therefore, there is a safeguard there, and I should have thought it was ample. The Home Secretary approves the appointment after consultation, of course, with those who advised the appointment, because, first of all, the appointment has to come from the magistrates courts' committee which makes the first selection and sends the name to the Secretary of State, together with the qualifications and experience of the proposed nominee. I should have thought that that was an ample safeguard to ensure that only properly fitted persons were appointed to these offices. I cannot see that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made, nor that he could indeed make, anything of the point about facilities for passing examinations other than that to which he referred about war service. I do not think it is desirable to debase the value of the solicitor's examination, but nothing in this Bill can ensure that any such facilities are given.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friend want to make a compromise on this matter, it might be satisfactory if there was instituted, instead of this solicitor's qualifications and justices' clerk's examinations, some proposal for a man to qualify as a justices' clerk by a suitable examination. Personally, I should regard that as satisfactory. One of my principal objections was that, whereas justices' clerks require mostly to be proficient in the criminal law, they have to spend a large part of their time in gaining the necessary experience in learning conveyancing and the law of real property in order to qualify. That seems to me to be taking their attention right off the qualifications which they really need, instead of the training being directed to that which would make them most proficient. If it were possible, instead of this Clause, to institute some qualifications for justices' clerk, I would regard that as satisfactory; there could be an examination in the appropriate subjects for justices' clerks.