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Clause 24 - Deputy District Judges (Magistrates' Courts)

Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 1st July 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Before the Minister has a chance to read any further advice he might have received, why do the words

''by instrument on behalf and in the name of Her Majesty.''

not appear in this clause?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman might be testing the patience of the Committee. I explained previously why, in respect of a deputy district judge, the words that he seeks are not set out. As my explanation has been fairly robust, I am reluctant to fall back on the requirement to write to hon. Members. The reason for the wording is the difference in seniority between a deputy district judge and a district judge. That is why Her Majesty makes the appointments under clause 22. It is self-explanatory. If I am missing the point, will the hon. Gentleman clarify it?

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am sorry. I do not want to labour this, but the Minister is missing the point. He has persuaded me that the district judge has a very important position and must be appointed directly by Her Majesty with the advice of the Lord Chancellor. He has not yet persuaded me that the deputy district judge should be appointed under the fiat of the Lord Chancellor with no reference to an instrument in the name of Her Majesty. That is a necessary part of the appointment of lay justices. There must be a reason for that other than simple omission. What is it?

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs)

Appointments of deputy district judges are normally made for what might be regarded as emergency business reasons so as to make appointments swiftly and to enable someone to step into the shoes of the district judge for urgent and specific needs. In those circumstances, it is not felt necessary to have an appointment made specifically by Her Majesty, which is why such matters are delegated to the Lord Chancellor. With that strong explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome will desist from pursuing the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 25 to 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.