I beg to move amendment No. 928, in
schedule 22, page 266, line 17, after 'person', insert
'including members of the Royal Household and the Royal Family'.
I welcome you to the Committee, Mr. Pike, as a cameo guest artiste.
The purpose of the amendment is simple: it is to ensure accordance with the principle enshrined in Lord Justice Auld's considerations on jury service that everyone, unless they are too old, too young or too mentally infirm, should have the privilege and duty of carrying out jury service when required.
If I may digress with your permission, Mr. Pike, I wish that I had added to the amendment, because the provisions refer to the prime qualification for jury service, which is that one should be registered as an elector. I remind my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General that Lord Justice Auld recommended that the basis be the entitlement to be registered as an elector, because one does not have to register on the electoral roll. If one does not want to do jury service and various other things, it is all too easy to opt out by simply not filling in the electoral registration form.
As it is, large numbers of people are allowed to claim the right not to serve on juries: peers, Members of Parliament, full-time members of the armed forces, priests, and medical and veterinary practitioners—a long list. The royal family is also exempt from jury service in practice, as are the royal family's retainers. The Royal Household is quite large. In fact, it probably represents as many people as are currently exempt from jury service because they are past or present members of the judiciary, for instance. I see no reason why Her Majesty's footmen or even the Prince's footmen or butler, should not be as liable to jury service as the rest of us. As a Member of Parliament, I do not wish to be exempt from my duty as a citizen. The notion that anyone, but anyone, is too grand or too clever to serve on a jury is archaic and not to be borne.
Lord Justice Auld spent a lot of time considering the potential role in juries of judges, barristers and everyone in the legal profession or in the police involved in administering criminal justice. His conclusion, with which I wholeheartedly concur, was that there was no reason why such people should not participate in a jury. Fears have previously been expressed that because of the special knowledge and
status of such people, other members of the jury would be intimidated. Experience in the United States is that—
I apologise, Mr. Pike. I wondered how soon you would rein me in. I hoped not to speak on clause stand part, but the point is made, which is that everyone—unless there are compelling reasons why they should not serve, such as age or mental condition—should have the privilege and duty of serving on juries.
Would it be appropriate for Dr. Turner to be a member of a jury serving on a Dr. Turner court? Is it not inappropriate for a member of the royal family to be a member of the jury in a Crown court?
My answer is that the crown is a symbol of the state. In practice they are the state's courts or the people's courts. Members of the royal family are as much citizens and servants of the state as anyone else.
I feel a sense of privilege in supporting the amendment. Our legal system is one that achieves the best. It is a balanced system. For people to feel that they should be excluded because they have special status is inappropriate. We are now in the 21st century, and I think that everyone should play a part—and, when they have the opportunity to do so, play it fully.
The amendment defines one of the duties of citizenship. I believe that the Royal Household, which is composed mostly of citizens, would feel that being able to play a part is long overdue. Other royals, except for Her Majesty and her consort, should be excluded; they are excluded anyway, on the basis of age. I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the amendment. It would give everyone the opportunity to be involved in a positive way to achieve and support the best. It is long overdue and I definitely support the amendment.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Pike. I apologise to the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) for missing his first few words. However, I had plenty of time to reflect on the amendment while coming down the track this morning.
It is a colourful amendment; perhaps it was tabled for that purpose. The hon. Gentleman was right to raise the issue, but the amendment could not be supported in its current form because it avoids some obvious implications. I have no problem with the
Royal Household being jurors; they are not members of the management of Britain, like the monarch, Parliament and the judiciary. They are in an entirely different category; they are employees, and should be able to serve like anyone else. I entirely support the hon. Gentleman on that point. Members of the Royal Household might even sit as jurors on trials. They could bring an interesting insight into life below stairs—not that the Crown Prosecution Service is going to rush into more trials of royal butlers in the foreseeable future after the unhappy experience of the last escapade. However, there is a bigger problem—
On a point of order, Mr. Pike. Is it right that there is a member of the press in the Room, reporting the proceedings? I am trying to understand why some of this discussion is taking place.
In the old days, the royal family took a direct interest in the courts, such as the Star Chamber. The press were excluded and the ordinary citizen accordingly suffered grievously. I am pleased to see the press here and I hope that this is the beginning of a long—
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) is the representative on earth of Robin Hood. We should welcome the intervention. I welcome the presence of the press—even more lowly representatives of the press than those who are present would be welcome. It is sad that they have not been here morning and afternoon, and reported on colleagues on the Conservative Benches and, occasionally—unhappily not often; we could have done with more from them—those on the Labour Back Benches, the sterling performances by the Under-Secretary and the excellent contributions of my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). It would probably have increased the sales—
I was just about to do so. I have the very simple view that it is entirely proper that all the members of the extended royal family should do their civic duty like everyone else. However, there is a strong case against the monarch and the spouse of the monarch—
Absolutely. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, there is a strong case that the monarch, the spouse of the monarch—or, in modern days, who knows, the partner of the monarch—the
children of the monarch and any other direct descendents, such as grandchildren, should be excluded for the simple reason that is touched on in amendment No. 926, tabled by the Conservatives. The phrase used there is entirely appropriate. It proposes that people should be excluded if, as a result of their inclusion,
''other jurors might give that person's views undue weight.''
There would be a triple difficulty if one of the children of the monarch were to serve on a jury. First, it would attract undue press attention, unfairly prejudicing other participants in the case. Secondly, it would distort the jury, because the jurors could not help but be distracted by the fact that a member of the immediate royal family was taking part in the process. Thirdly, other jurors would either give the royal person's views undue weight or unduly compensate for that. One could argue that if a major-general and a former permanent secretary and other members of such an unlikely motley crew collected together, that might happen too. People who are paid by the public purse are in a particularly delicate position.
There is a fourth concern that we cannot ignore. One of the great things about jury trial is that with no exception, as far as I am aware, the jury room has to be confidential. I am troubled by the prospect that if one of the Queen's children were serving on a jury, there would be people who would find the temptation to break that rule too great to resist. People sell stories of all sorts of relationships—professional, civic or personal. That is unsatisfactory and inappropriate. In recent years there have also been highly unsatisfactory occasions when people have suddenly spilled the beans in connection with former Members of this House.
The temptation for someone quite improperly to share the views expressed by a member of the royal family could prejudice a case and cause considerable difficulty. We should try to avoid that. I do not think that direct descendants should be included. First or second cousins, or third cousins once removed, who might technically count as the royal family, could be included. In my view the proper definition of the royal family should include only the limited group of the Queen's children and grandchildren.
May I question the hon. Gentleman on the two points that he has made? Does he really think that a scion of the royal family is any more likely to influence the jury than a well-known and learned judge? Is not it true that any such scion of the royal family who did what he has suggested and divulged secrets of the jury room to the press would know that they were creating a scandalous situation and would have to suffer the consequences?
I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman has obviously misunderstood me. I do not suggest that the member of the royal family would divulge things to the press, but that someone else would. Someone who sat on a jury for three months with Princess Anne—[Interruption.]—or any of her brothers or their children might think at some later stage that it would be worth their while telling the ''intimate details'' of the jury room. It is not the royal family
who would be the problem; they are quite used to keeping confidences.
The hon. Gentleman made a point against himself in his first comment. We shall debate other exclusions later. My view is that judges should not be included on juries either. They would have undue influence and authority, and their views would be disproportionately represented in the jury.
It is another amendment; exactly. The hon. Gentleman will perhaps agree with me that the appropriate response to the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown, when he says, ''Hang on a minute—what about people being influenced by judges?'' is, in the words of Edward Lear, that we are coming to that. There are other categories of people who would be unfortunately and disproportionately influential, including judges, in my view. That is a good reason not to include them.
I hope that, if the amendment is not accepted today and the hon. Gentleman decides to pursue the matter, he will, on reflection, try to persuade the Government that the Royal Household and members of the royal family not of direct lineage could be included, but that those in the direct line should be excluded in their interest and, more importantly, in the interest of justice.
I apologise for being a couple of minutes late for the Committee. I was stuck on the tube, although I confess that having heard a bit of the debate I began to regret that I was not back on it.
We seem to be a bit off the point. If I understand schedule 22 correctly, it is meant to sweep away a group of archaic rules relating to people claiming as of right that they cannot sit on juries. In addition it is my understanding—and this may be what the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown is getting at—that a large number of people have been able, not as of right, but effectively, to get out of jury service, because of custom. That may well cover members of the royal household.
I am sure that there are all kinds of other categories of people who would similarly have benefited, perhaps because they would not want a public profile or to be involved in something that was perceived as in any way contentious. Those matters will still have to be taken into consideration. It is not fair to a defendant or to other jurors to have a situation in which the presence of an individual on the jury becomes the dominant feature rather than the fact that 12 men and women are considering a particular verdict. That was rightly picked up on. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister to what extent the manuals that deal with those who can claim exemption—not those who can claim exemption as of right, but those who can normally go to Crown court to seek exemption—may be altered in future. I always understood that, as a result of schedule 22 of the statute that we are passing, that very thing would happen. The matter will require some public discussion and public comment. I hope that the Solicitor-General will be able to enlighten us; I should be pleased to hear from her on that point.
I understand what the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown is getting at, but what he seeks to do to paragraph 2 to schedule 22 is not right at all. According to the schedule, members of the Royal Household will already be eligible for jury service. For that matter, members of the royal family will be eligible. The Queen is not eligible because she cannot sit as a judge or juror in her own court. That is the end of that; we can forget about it. I hope that, on that note, we might hear from the Minister about the sort of revision that will be carried out—if one is carried out at all—of the discretionary criteria, once schedule 22 is up and running. That is an interesting subject.
Paragraph 3.24 of the Crown court manual says:
''If a member of the royal household is summoned for jury service and a responsible member of the royal household says that it would be 'inconvenient to her majesty' if he serve, he shall be excused.''
As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor) said, it is a privilege to speak to the amendment, but one is speaking about privilege, and one is speaking against privilege.
There is less need for an amendment to the Bill and greater need to ensure that the matter is aired so that any guidance on the schedule will allow for a change. If one considers for a minute the import of that, I dare say that there are several hundred members of the Royal Household—
Well, I have no idea. There are lots and lots of members of the royal family, apart from lots and lots of members of Royal Household. There are dressers, butlers, maids and footpersons—
Obviously, the hon. Gentleman is much closer to the seat of power than I am. I do not even know what they are called, and they seem to dress peculiarly. That is fine. However, we cannot have, in a democratic age, a sort of renaissance court, or a Louis XIV court, that is full of courtiers. It is a little reserve with barbed wire around it—a Bantustan of privilege from which people cannot be brought out to do their democratic duty. They cannot be empowered to fulfil their rights as citizens. The reason why they cannot be brought out is because of royal decree or a suggestion that it is inconvenient. That is outrageous privilege in a democratic age, and it is an anachronism that that privilege has endured. It is only one of many examples of how the royal family remain privileged.
I was about to make the point to the hon. and learned Lady that if one looks in the rules, which she has done, there are a range of matters set out there that deal with more than the Royal Household.
I am very concerned that the hon. and learned Lady is not being sufficiently assiduous to her duties as a Queen's
Counsel. She should have pointed out to the royal person that the rules are invidious.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I did my level best to be called people's counsel. When I wrote letters of gratitude to people—mostly judges—who had written to congratulate me, I crossed QC off and wrote ''people's counsel'', just to make them understand what they were congratulating me on. However, what's in a name?
I return to something slightly more serious, but for about half a minute only. Recently, the intrusions of the royal family into the workings of the criminal justice system have been appalling, and are leftovers of privilege. The normal way to give evidence as to the state of mind of someone who is charged with dishonesty is to give the evidence to the police when being interviewed about the matter, or, if one becomes aware that one has that information, to pass it on. It is not normal to remember later and have the information passed on through a conversation with the Attorney-General to someone at the central criminal court, who for some reason drops the charge. Nor, in the second case, is it acceptable that a range of people—not only the royal family, but headed up by them—who allow their staff to sell on gifts such as jewelled ships from emirs—
I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Pike, and the rest of the Committee will be grateful that I have been prevented from going on for two hours about other appalling exhibitions of privilege that the royal family have perpetrated recently. I dare say that I have made my point. It is not just in the way I described that the royal family continue to exercise privilege, but that is the matter with which we are heavily concerned. It is not right that in a democratic society people should be prohibited, arguably against their will on occasion, from embarking on the performance of their duty. It is not right that if such people do not want to do such things, they should be protected from that for no other reason than that it pleases an arbitrary monarch to say that that will be so. That is an anachronism. Whatever the fate of the amendment, I hope that the Minister can assure the Committee that any future guidance will exclude the privilege for the Queen to deny members of the Royal Household the privilege of being jurors.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Pike. I am standing in for the Under-Secretary, who is at a Prison Service conference. I hope that I shall not trespass too much on clause stand part, but the Government's attitude to the amendments depends on an overarching view of what we are trying to achieve with the schedule. The amendment is inclusionary: it tries to bring people into the responsibility and the privilege of doing jury service. A number of the subsequent amendments seek
to take people out of jury service. The principles that apply are the same.
In 1965 the Morris committee looked at who should serve on juries, and made the then radical point that the range should not be narrowed and restricted to householders—that is, that one should not have to have a property qualification to serve on a jury. The committee made that bold move, but the rest of what it said was all about excluding people. Who was too influential to be on a jury? Who was not good enough to be on a jury? It was almost as though people were being held at bay to protect the jury from them. In the intervening years two things have happened. First, our attitudes have changed, and secondly, we have drifted into a situation whereby of all those summonsed to a jury—many are not eligible—some 60 per cent. do not serve. We want everyone to go on a jury, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown said, they should do so unless they are too old, too young, too mentally infirm or too criminal.
I listened carefully to the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird), but if the guidance is to be fair to both parts of the Executive, it should deal clearly with not only members of the Royal Household, but staff at No. 10 Downing street. If Alastair Campbell, Jonathan Powell or another of our president's dignitaries is called to do jury service, he should not be able to use his position as an excuse to get out of it.
The underlying reason for the amendment seems to be the Crown court manual, which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar read out. Currently, some people may say, when summonsed, ''I'm ineligible for jury service.'' Others are statutorily excused as of right. Still others are neither ineligible nor statutorily excused as of right, but the Crown court manual says that they need not serve, and members of the Royal Household may be excused if Her Majesty would be inconvenienced.
I should tell my hon. Friends that their amendment anticipates the whole thrust of the schedule, as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said. When asked to go on a jury, people will not be able to say, ''I'm too important,'' ''I'm too grand,'' or ''My work is too essential''—whether they work in Downing street or anywhere else. Going on a jury is a great civic duty and civic obligation. Participating in the administration of justice in the jury box is very important, so everyone will have to do it.
I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown to consider withdrawing the amendment on the basis of my assurance that the Bill applies to everyone, including members of the Royal Household. The Bill will supersede the Crown court manual. The Lord Chancellor will bring in guidance on how the central jury summoning bureau will operate applications for excusal in individual cases.
The Juries Act 1974 does not purport to bind the Crown, and the Bill does not disturb that arrangement. The direct impact of the provisions on the Queen herself is therefore limited. In any case, she is over 70 and would not be eligible. Other members of the royal family who are on the electoral register will be eligible to be summoned like everyone else in the country.
I am no great expert on the issue, but I think that Prince Philip and Prince Charles are not on the electoral register because they are Members of the House of Lords. They are therefore ineligible, and that may be the case for the monarch's children, too. Does the Solicitor-General's objection as regards the Crown, which we understand, apply to other members of the royal family, or would they be eligible?
I cannot add to what I have said about members of the royal family. If they have registered to vote, they can be summonsed like everyone else—that is the inclusionary principle. However, the Bill does not bind the Crown. In any case, the Queen herself is over 70 and would not qualify. I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the amendment, given my assurance that the Crown court manual will be superseded by this Act. There will be guidance from the Lord Chancellor on how applications for excusal will be considered. The Lord Chancellor will consult widely on the guidance before issuing it, and it will be laid before both Houses. At present, 4 million people are ineligible for jury service, excused as of right or by the Crown court manual. That will all be swept away.
I believe that he would be dealt with according to the guidance, but if I discover that that is the wrong answer, I will inform the hon. Gentleman of the right one. The point about the Royal Household is symbolic but interesting. It shows that the old view that most people would not be caught dead on a jury and would find thousands of good reasons to be considered ineligible or excused, that only a mug would serve on a jury, is changing. We are telling people that we want them to carry out their duties and responsibilities on juries—and that applies to everybody. We no longer hold with the idea that some people are simply too important to do their civic duty. We are modernising jury service, as it has not moved on since 1965. We are taking an inclusive approach: everybody should be eligible for jury service unless they have a very good reason for not sitting on a jury on that particular case.
I hope that, subject to my assurances, my hon. Friend will withdraw the amendment, as it is not necessary.
I listened with interest to my right hon. and learned Friend, and her words fully justified the purpose of moving an amendment that has drawn
attention to the nub of schedule 22. I wish to say to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that members of the royal family are no more likely to sway a jury than a barrister, a judge or anybody else. Indeed, in some cases—I will not mention any names—I suspect that their effect would be rather less. I am not particularly worried about that. As for jurors who breach confidentiality, there are plenty of provisions on the statute book that would bite them and that would charge the organs of the media with contempt if they published. That is not a serious issue.
In response to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar, even those members of the Royal Household who turn up every year dressed as playing cards should have to do jury service.
I must say to the hon. Gentleman that those who dress up as playing cards are not members of the Royal Household at all, so they do not come under the 1965 provisions. I am sure that a herald would be as eligible to serve on a jury as anybody else.
My hon. Friend did not dress as a playing card; he only carried a wand.
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield is probably right. The serious point has been made, however, and I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for giving us those assurances, in the light of which I am happy to withdraw the amendment. I would just remind her that when we reach the stand part debate, we should remember the important distinction between entitlement to register and being registered. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment No. 737, in
schedule 22, page 266, line 27, after 'person', insert—
(ca) he is not a minister of religion;
(cb) he does not hold a part-time or a full-time judicial appointment;
(cc) he is not a member of either House of Parliament'.
Welcome to the Chair, Mr. Pike. The amendment would exempt from jury service people in three categories, the first and most important of which is ministers of religion. I hope that the Committee will agree that it is entirely inappropriate for a minister of religion to serve on a jury, for three separate but brief reasons. First, a vicar should be, and is, above the fray—a holy person ordained, above and beyond all matters relating to judgment in the criminal justice system. The separation of functions between the ordained and the non-ordained, the Church and the state, the secular and non-secular, is clearly established throughout the Bible. I do not need to repeat the quotations in support of that because they are well known to everyone present.
Secondly, the presence of a clergyman on a jury might interfere dramatically with the principle of clergy-parishioner privilege. In the context of
confession, the vicar who hears a confession—this applies in the Catholic Church and in the Church of England—hears it on the basis of absolute confidentiality and does not know by looking from whom the confession comes. Imagine the disaster if, having heard the confession of a sin, a vicar found himself or herself summoned to the jury where the sinner was on trial. That is a very serious point, which is all the more serious because no one makes a confession to a priest other than in the certain knowledge that it cannot be revealed and that it will not be possible for the priest to sit in judgment on them. Take that away and the situation regarding confession will be a sad and sorry one.
This is a minor point. My hon. Friend and I have conferred and we believe, from our detailed knowledge of the Church of England, that even the highest of Anglican churches do not have confessional boxes, so the vicar would know who was making the confession, unlike in the Catholic Church, where, at least in theory, he does not.
The hon. Gentleman is right. When Church of England vicars hear confessions, there is no confessional box, but it is not uncommon for a Church of England vicar to hear a confession from behind a curtain. It is simply that Church of England churches in this country do not traditionally contain confessional boxes. The prospect of visual anonymity remains invalid. I ask hon. Members to understand something about the need to confess—and I do not want their eyes to glaze over at this point, although I see them doing just that.
That is a very fair question and I think that the answer is yes, I would. My first and third arguments apply to ministers of other religions, while my second, the confessional point, applies particularly to clergy of the Catholic Church and the Church of England. The point about other denominations and faiths may accord well with my first argument, about the need for the clergy, so to speak, to be above the fray.
I wonder how the Bill would affect monks or nuns in a closed order, who would not be defined as ministers of religion, in that they are not ordained.
That is an interesting point. My snap reaction would be that a nun or monk would not be in the same category. I hope that I am right in saying that one can be a monk or nun without being ordained into the Church. However, I understand the point and it may be a proper one to consider.
My third and final reason for wanting to exempt ministers of religion—this is crucial—is that there can be no other job, vocation or occupation in life more
important to the people of the parish in question than the position of the vicar, who needs to be on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to give comfort to the sick and spiritual guidance to those who need it. Let no one tell me that it is proper to summon a vicar to go on a jury trial that may take months and thus to render the parish in question unable to turn at immediate notice to the person who has the duty to give religious succour, comfort and help to those who may need it instantly.
I do not accept any of the points that the hon. Gentleman has made, but, on a point of information, has he received any representation from any faith organisation in support of what he says?
None whatsoever, but I have had representations from clergy whom I know and with whom I have discussed the matter. The fact that I have not received representations from a faith organisation may well mean that faith organisations do not get to read amendments because they are often printed only 24 hours before we deal with them. As for the hon. Gentleman not accepting any of my arguments—well, surprise, surprise. I do not suppose that he has taken any of them on board. He has made up his mind beforehand.
The hon. Gentleman has passionately made the point about how essential a minister of religion is to his parish. However, others might make the point that doctors would be equally bound to do jury service, but a doctor would, if called upon, turn to another doctor to deal with his patients. Cannot the church make the same arrangement?
The point that the hon. Gentleman makes would be a good one but for the unique relationship that may exist between an ordained person and a member of his or her flock, which is perhaps not quite the same as that between a doctor and a patient. Otherwise the hon. Gentleman's point would have some merit.
The hon. Gentleman says that I am on weaker ground. I do not think that I am. There is something special—I have not put it properly into words—about an ordained person.
If I have understood the hon. Gentleman properly, he is concerned about the sacred relationship between a confessor and the person who receives the confession. Clearly, a clergyman who had heard the confession of a defendant whom he was called to jury service to try
would withdraw from jury service and explain why. It would never occur as a problem in practical life.
I dare say that that would happen in practice. However, the hon. and learned Lady must take on board my allied point that the person who makes the confession makes it in the absolute certainty that it can never be revealed and that the person who is revealing it can never sit in judgment upon him. I am focusing on the motivation of the person making the confession, who is thereby absolved.
The other two points are about full-time or part-time judicial appointments and Members of the Houses of Parliament. The point was made strongly by the Bar Council in its briefing to us that those who are involved in the judicial system as judges or ex-judges might have too great an influence and know too much about the system to sit upon juries, and I wonder about the practicalities of Members of Parliament being called away for trials of up to 12 months in relation to complex fraud matters. I suppose that the Minister will say—it is the catch-all position—that there will be a manual of guidance and the position will not change in practice. The Lord Chancellor will issue guidance, which will mean that in 100 cases out of 100 a Member of Parliament will be excused jury service. Does the Minister think that that is likely? The alternative is a potential long absence. If I feel strongly about any of these arguments, it is about the one concerning the minister of religion.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about the minister of religion. There is an argument for exemption, but the better course would be to start from the presumption advocated by the hon. and learned Member for Redcar: that people could seek to be exempted. There is a difficulty, however, in that it is not just the person in the dock who might be a parishioner. Witnesses or others involved in giving evidence could be parishioners, or the minister might try someone who later became a parishioner. It is a sensitive issue.
The issue has been addressed by magistrates courts for many years. When I sat as a magistrate and I was a local county councillor, I was always aware that an individual coming in front of me might be one of those whom I was representing in my county division. If that was the case, and if I knew the individual, I withdrew so that there could be no challenge to the decision made by the court. Surely the same principle can apply here. Neither prosecution nor defence would want proceedings to be challenged because an individual was known to a juror.
I understand. That is why, of the three, that argument is the most finely balanced. There are ways in which people can exempt themselves. It is not just a matter of whether the juror, who might be a priest, a minister or a pastor, has had previous dealings with the person in the dock. We should think it through further in the round. Others might be or have been involved.
I thought that the intervention of the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble), about being both a county councillor
and a magistrate, was interesting. Does the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey agree that it is different for Members of Parliament, in that although the person being tried may not previously have made representations to his MP, he may do so subsequently? That is a reason to treat the judiciary and legislature separately, and a reason for Members of Parliament not to sit as jurors.
Let me take the Member of Parliament point next. There are three options. The first is that Members of Parliament should be entirely excluded. Secondly, Members of the House of Commons, who are elected, should be excluded for the reason given by the hon. Gentleman; our job is to represent people at all stages, and we will not be seen to be doing that independently if we have previously sat in judgment on someone—and we would never know when that might happen. The third is that MPs should be exempted at least when Parliament is sitting—
Mrs. Humble rose—
I will give way in a moment. Those who participate in our election, or at least have the chance to do so, then pay for us out of their money to do a job on their behalf. They would certainly not expect us to disappear for three months to be a juror while the House was considering controversial business that might concern them. They might accept that during the recesses, but I would be nervous about doing so.
I shall deal with one more point before giving way to the hon. Lady. I have never served on a jury; I have not give much thought to the reason why, although I guess that I was ineligible either as a member of the Bar or as a Member of Parliament. However, I remember giving evidence for the prosecution in a trial in which the defendants were constituents of mine. Although I had no problem about being able to represent them fairly on any other occasion, they might not have thought that about me. There I was, in the Old Bailey, seeking to have them convicted for a serious crime, and I could hear them thinking, ''Hang on, this guy is never going to be on our side whatever we do.'' I went out of my way to make it clear that that was not how my mind was working, but it poses difficulties.
I just want to follow up on the point that the hon. Gentleman made about Members of Parliament representing people at different stages. I no longer sit as a magistrate, but I could; I am not excluded from so doing. However, if I sat as a magistrate, I know that a constituent could come to me after I had made a judicial decision against him. I think that the hon. Gentleman needs to think carefully about whether to restrict Members of Parliament, because MPs may have been involved in the judicial process wearing other hats.
I understand that, but slightly different issues arise. First, magistrates undertake it as an add-on job, which they do not have to do if they become MPs. As the hon. Lady knows, some stay as justices of the peace and some stand down. I am not
aware of anyone becoming a justice of the peace while a Member of Parliament.
I absolutely understand. However, I think that the practice is that if someone has been elected to Parliament they are not subsequently appointed as a justice of the peace because it is regarded as a potentially conflicting role. Most Members who were justices of the peace prior to their election, as was the hon. Lady, do not then serve—or do not serve in their constituency.
May I confirm my view of the position to the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood via the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey? Someone in a judicial office—a magistrate or a district judge—should never, never sit in the area that they represent when wearing their political hat, although they can sit elsewhere. Anyone who sits in their own area is potentially making a grievous mistake.
I share that view. That leads me to the third category, the second in the list, which is those who have a part-time or full-time judicial appointment. There might be an argument that applies to Members of Parliament, which is that if they sat on a jury in their own constituency, they might be regarded as too influential. For instance, if the Solicitor-General were summoned to sit on a jury at Southwark Crown court, it would cause her and the community some difficulty. It would cause unfair—[Interruption.] There was speculation earlier that if Members of Parliament appeared, they would generally not be in the jury box. In fact, that was first said about people working at No. 10 Downing street, rather than Members of Parliament, although I pass that by.
However, there is a serious issue about disproportionate influence, which leads me to the issue of part-time or full-time judicial appointees. It would be a bad move to allow judges, who in my book would include district judges and sitting magistrates, to sit as jurors, for all sorts of obvious reasons, and I would apply the same principle to police officers. Even if such people tried to hide the fact that they had judicial or legal training, they would not be able to prevent themselves from revealing their authority, and the reality is that many people would be influenced. In many cases they would assert themselves through their knowledge of the job and perhaps say, ''Trust me, I've sat in court and I know what a guilty person looks like.'' That would thoroughly complicate matters and make the defendant feel that they were not getting a fair trial.
I subscribe entirely to the Government's view about starting from an inclusive principle and only then taking people out if there is a good case. There is a very good case for taking out part-time and full-time judicial appointees, there is a pretty good case for taking out elected Members of Parliament during term
time, and there is a case for taking out ministers of religion, although it is a complicated case and I think that it is the weakest of the three.
I think that it was Bardolph in ''Henry V'' who said that the first thing they would do when they came to power would be to kill all the lawyers. There might be too many lawyers. However, although I have not made a recent tally, lawyers are still a small minority in the population as a whole. If one took out all Members of the Houses of Parliament, including from the unreformed—or partially reformed—House of Lords, all the part-time or full-time judicial appointees in England and in Wales, and even all ministers of religion, one would still be taking out only few people.
The hon. and learned Member for Redcar made the point that at the moment all sorts of people are taken out because they write in and say, ''I'm sorry, I'm too busy.'' The Solicitor-General made that point well. We must stop people saying that they are too important or too busy, or that they cannot be spared. The presumption should be that everyone serves. I do not argue for special treatment for us. Personally, I would like to sit on a jury. I would find it interesting and revealing, but would hope that I would not be on a two-year fraud trial and be stuck in Southwark Crown court for that long, although I appreciate that other people might feel differently. However, there are some categories that we should seriously consider for exemption, even though the presumption should be the other way. If people thought that Members of Parliament generally should serve, not least for the experience, that would be reasonable if it could be arranged for cases during the recess or parliamentary holidays that finished in time.
I want to add a few words to what my hon. Friend said, especially on the empanelment of Members of Parliament, because I agree with him entirely. I do not think that as a matter of principle Members of Parliament should be excused from jury service. We should be included in that pool rather than excluded from it. There is an issue about the separation of the legislature from the judiciary. I do not like mixing them up too much, although it is not an impenetrable barrier.
There are issues about representation. I certainly take the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Redcar that, if one is empanelled on a jury where a conflict of interest is likely to arise, either in relation to the defendant or to witnesses involved in the case, it would be entirely proper to ask to be excused. I have a serious problem with the conflicting civic duties to which Members of Parliament would be exposed if they were required to attend for jury service when the House was sitting. We have a special responsibility to our constituents, who are entitled to be represented in Parliament when matters are being debated and voted on.
That is a very good point. If an MP had to do jury service when there was a minority Government, which there could well be, that MP would not be present to vote in the House as required, which might have serious consequences. There is a straightforward and major conflict. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the amendment calls into question whether it should be possible for MPs to be summoned for jury service while the House is sitting.
Setting aside party arithmetic, I think that it would be a problem at any time. My first duty as a Member of Parliament is to the people in Somerset and Frome who elected me. If there is a matter on which their views should be represented, by either my voice or my vote, then the House is where I should be, irrespective of any other duty that I may perceive or others may thrust on me. That applies to all hon. Members. MPs are different from the other categories, because it is not possible to have a locum MP. Another person cannot take on the job of representing a constituency. We have single-Member constituencies in this country, so it is not possible to deputise for another Member.
I have two short points to add. On clergy, I do not agree with the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) about the situation that most worried him. Clearly, the defendant would have the right to challenge the clergyman's appointment to the jury because of his special position. If the hon. Gentleman is worried about the implied disclosure of the content of a confession requiring the clergyman to withdraw, that situation could be handled so as to indicate that a duty of confidentiality applied because the juror in question was a clergyman. It need not imply that the defendant had confessed, so I cannot see that it would be a problem in practice, although I understand the worry.
I also oppose the amendment because the boundary between who is a minister of religion and who is not is not as clear as the amendment suggests. I suppose that deacons and deaconesses take much responsibility, and they might be in similar situations of confidence. However, the amendment would not exclude them, which seems slightly arbitrary. Other people, such as
counsellors, would be in a similar position and have a similar a duty.
Obvious examples of others who deal with issues of confidence and have a duty to keep secrets include psychiatrists, social workers and counsellors. However, they would not be excluded, because they are not ministers of religion. I do not think, therefore, that there is a tidy category of people whom we can easily exclude. Indeed, for the reasons that I have given, I do not think that it is necessary to do so.
As for Members of Parliament, they could ask for their period of jury service to be deferred until the recess. I do not take the same elevated view of our work as the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome, who thinks that we are important to our electorate 24 hours a day, every day—even in the recess. I sometimes go on holiday in the recess, but I would be no more put out than anyone else should be if I had to sacrifice that.
Yes—the deferring power is fine, so we do not need to exclude Members of Parliament.
I am slightly worried, however, about Members of Parliament sitting on juries in their constituencies or somewhere geographically contiguous. If that happened during the trial of an elector, and people knew that one was the local MP, it would be difficult. Again, however, it is a matter for guidance.
Most MPs have a home in London, and I hope that they have one in their constituencies, too. However, they do not necessarily register to vote in their constituencies—that might depend on where their votes would be more valuable. There would be nothing to prevent me from being called to do jury service in my area of London, unless some sort of fame was a bar. It is not that I am particularly famous in London, but some people are.
Clearly, it would be quite wrong to exclude MPs totally, and it would be very practical for them to serve on juries in areas away from their constituencies. I hope that the guidance will allow judges carefully to consider the pressure of parliamentary duties and the dangers of a conflict of interest where MPs are called to do jury service in their constituencies or nearby.
The right policy under both the headings that I have mentioned, therefore, is inclusion, with careful guidance on how to deal with the particular situations that might arise with such categories of person.
As for barristers, judges and people involved in the criminal justice system, there are an awful lot of part-
time and full-time people who have nothing to do with the criminal law. They might be chairs of lands tribunals or planning inquiries, or involved in planning tribunals and civil cases. In contrast to criminal practitioners, they are unlikely to have particular influence on a jury, to be tainted by a greater knowledge of procedure or to know the real story behind what is going on in court. Again, it is not right to exclude the whole category absolutely, although guidance on members of the criminal judiciary who are called to do jury service in a criminal court should be very particular and helpful, because that is a difficult issue. If jurors knew the identity of such people, they would be certain to look for extra tips about what was really going on behind the scenes.
Those who did not understand the procedure very well—why should they?—might, for example, run away with the idea that a particular step had been taken because the defendant had previous convictions, although they had not been brought out. A criminal judge would know that that was not the case and that that step had been taken for a completely different reason. One would not know whether to intervene to stop that illusion, but at the same time to give away special knowledge that would be bound to result in the jury's asking for more special knowledge about what was really going on. The guidance should be very careful.
I am trying to follow the hon. and learned Lady to her conclusion. Is she content that members of the judiciary should serve on juries but with careful guidance, or does she not regard as a stronger point the constitutional division between the judiciary and the rest? That strikes me as a boundary that we should not cross—if people are there to judge, they should not also be the jurors.
I intended to say that it was my position that judges should be included precisely because there are many kinds of judge, many species who would not, by virtue of their appointment, be in the slightest bit compromised from doing the job of a juror; but that guidance given to the court on how to deal with criminal judiciary should be very carefully phrased. I would suggest that, on most occasions, there should be a presumption that criminal judiciary would not sit. However, there could be situations in which there was no difficulty. For instance, there are specialist fraud judges, who would not have been involved with other types of crime, so could safely sit, and if asked about their special knowledge by other jurors, which is my fear, say that they do not have any because they deal in a different kind of crime. There could, therefore, be exceptions. The Government's principle of inclusion is right, but the guidance must be carefully framed.
This is an interesting debate on an important topic. Going back to the point that was made on the earlier amendment about the Royal Household, the Committee agrees that it is desirable to include as many people as possible to serve on juries. The intervention of the hon. and learned Lady
highlighted the fact that within the guidelines, when they come to be drawn up by the Lord Chancellor, there will be certain categories of individual who are most unlikely ever to be called up for jury service. If that is the case, are we ducking the issue by not specifying that they should be excluded? To what extent are we hoodwinking the public into believing that this is a major, significant change, which will ensure that a wide range of people who have hitherto never appeared on juries will suddenly appear although, in fact, they will never appear in future?
I hoped that the amendment might prompt some debate, and it certainly has. It is not a question of the convenience of Members of Parliament. There is an issue about an hon. Member sitting on a jury in or close to his constituency; I can see serious obstacles in that, but—as the hon. and learned Lady said—he could sit somewhere else.
If I were to be summoned for jury service on a London jury, it would pose me no problem. It would doubtless cause no problem for my fellow jurors, who would be wholly ignorant of where I represent, or even, as we know from experience, that I am a Member of Parliament. A tiny percentage of hon. Members have a sufficiently high public profile to be known outside their constituencies. Even within them, a large number of our constituents do not know who we are, although they might look at us in the street and think vaguely that they have seen our photograph somewhere. It is not much of a problem.
On the other hand, it would pose a significant problem if there were to be a conflict between hon. Members performing their duties in the House and their being required to attend for jury service. If an hon. Member were to be called up for jury service during a period when Parliament was sitting—say I had been called up in the last two months when I have been one of the Opposition spokesmen on the Criminal Justice Bill—it would create a serious problem, and one that could be resolved only by exempting me from jury service, because service here would take priority. Such things will happen all the time, and we are right to be aware of that. It might be possible to do two weeks' jury service during parliamentary recess, but what would happen if Parliament were suddenly recalled?
The reason so many people escaped jury service in the past was that they had good excuses for not serving on juries. Many others have cottoned on to the numerous excuses for getting oneself off jury service and by exploiting them have succeeded in keeping themselves off juries when their real reasons would not have exempted them. That will continue. We have a duty to consider whether some exceptions should be specified in the Bill.
I do have some anxieties about judicial appointees serving on juries, because of the nature of their work and their profile. There is a danger that the presence of people with a very high public profile would hamper a jury's proceedings. That, too, will have to be considered.
I fully accept that some ministers of religion would have no difficulty serving on juries and ruling on
temporal matters. I remember that the chaplain at my school had no difficulty in making temporal judgments on the pupils while ministering to us spiritually. On the other hand, monks or nuns in enclosed orders might have important and legitimate objections to serving on a jury. We must be careful, as some of the comments worried me. In 1915 and 1916, the determining factor of whether one was considered a participating male citizen was one's willingness to be conscripted. Those who were unwilling were treated as a lower form of animal life, appearing before a conscientious objectors board where they were given a very unpleasant time.
We should be careful not to replicate that by saying, ''The test of citizenship in the 21st century is your absolute obligation to serve on a jury; if you refuse to serve, we will make life very unpleasant and difficult for you.'' There will always be people who will have legitimate objections to serving on juries, and such objections should be respected in a pluralist and diverse society. I look forward to the Minister's response.
The debate has raised some extremely interesting issues. All the points made by hon. Members about the difficulties that various categories of people might have in serving on a jury are good ones. However, they could name any category of person and I would find equally good reasons for exempting that person from jury service. If all those categories were exempted, juries would not be a cross-section of society, and that is what they should be. The arguments for groups to be exempted were made cogently, but if they were accepted, juries would cease to represent a cross-section of society.
The reform attempts to do away with all those good arguments and say, ''Everybody is on it—there are no excluded categories.'' There may be times when it would be quite wrong for a particular clergyman to serve in a particular case. In another case, a clergyman may be very eager to serve, so let us not have blanket exclusions and blanket exemptions. Let us look at the situation case by case, but let us presume that everybody is included.
I thought that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield was a bit cynical when he said, ''Instead of having categories, everybody will be included, but nothing will actually change.''
That is the challenge. Time will tell, but the intention is that things will change, this will make a difference, and we shall have a much broader cross-section of people on our juries, which is very important. As somebody who has always regarded herself as a supporter of the jury system, I want to see it strengthened by being more representative. If people consider themselves to be supporters of the jury system, they should want to see more people serving on it.
The figures are quite striking. We shall have, to begin with, 4 million people who, for one reason or another, are ineligible or are excluded as of right. That immediately reduces the chance of there being a cross-section of people on our juries. Moreover, there are people who will give excuses in individual cases.
At the moment, those who are excused as of right and those who are ineligible total 4 million. However, when jury service starts to become a minority activity, we shall have a culture of jury service being something that one does not do. We are trying to shift the other way. The words ''culture change'', ''radical'' and ''reform'' are overused, but we are trying to effect a shift so that people realise that jury service is something that all people do unless they feel that they cannot sit on a jury for a particular case.
I have a great deal of sympathy with many of the points that have been made; they are very good points, and I do not detract from them. I can see the intellectual point of the argument but, philosophically, we have a different starting point. I hope that we shall prove the hon. Member for Beaconsfield wrong and find that our starting point has made a real difference. The jury service system will be bolstered by ensuring that people from all walks of life are represented, which is not the case at present. That is my overview of my reasons for asking the Committee to resist the amendment.
I shall now deal with the points that the hon. Member for Woking made about individual categories. Some of my arguments against them are better than others. Even if they are not very good, I shall return to my baseline position.
First, I inform the Committee that the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility indicated that the Church's main committee, which represents Christian denominations, is no longer pressing for the clergy to be classified as ineligible. I accept that that does not entirely deal with the hon. Gentleman's point.
It is interesting that in the Morris report there is a long discussion about the clergy, nuns and monks. The report said that it might be a bad idea for clergy to sit on juries because they would be too forgiving, too compassionate and too likely to let people off. The report also said that the police would be too hard and too likely to convict people. After reading that section one is left to think that police and clergy on a jury might cancel one another out. I know that the hon. Member for Woking did not argue that the clergy should be excluded because they would be too compassionate, but that was the Morris report's approach. Incidentally, the report said that it would be a good idea to exclude nuns because they would be too innocent and they would have no experience of fights in pubs.
The hon. Gentleman made the point about the confessional. If I were a priest and, even halfway through a case, the penny dropped and I recognised a voice—it had been troubling me and I realised that it belonged to someone who had confessed to me—I could ask to be excused; it would be right for that to happen. The guidance notes to jurors stress that if anyone known to them turns up as a witness at any time, or if something happens that makes them realise
that they have prior knowledge of the case, they must ask to be excused and they will be excused and the trial will carry on.
That is the first point: someone who has heard a confession and does not even realise it to begin with, but does so halfway through, should be able to exclude himself. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar mentioned psychiatrists. Of course, other professionals hear things in confidence and they are in a similar position. Without having a spiritual role, other people are in an analogous situation and a way has to be found through that.
The hon. Gentleman's second point about the clergy was that they have to be above the fray. A lot of people, in many walks of life, have to be above the fray. However, that does not mean that they cannot be called on to join with fellow citizens to make a judgment about facts. Being on a jury is an above-the-fray matter. It is a grave responsibility and not incompatible with the serious role of a minister of the Church.
Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman said that no one is more important, 24/7, to his parishioners than a minister of religion, and he must be there to deal with them. Obviously, that relationship is important, but so would be that of an oncologist dealing with a patient who had suddenly hit a crisis in his illness and who had a one-to-one relationship with that medical practitioner. In that situation, one would expect the doctor to ask to defer his jury service, just as the clergyman would if a parishioner whom he had christened and married was terminally ill and he wanted to be there for him. That would be an argument for deferral. Similarly, if there was a court in a small area, and the person really did know everybody who knew everybody who knew everybody else, he could ask to serve in another area.
The arguments that have been made in respect of clergymen are valid. However, we must gird ourselves up to overcome them, and be confident that we can, not throwing the baby out with the bathwater and returning to the status quo. Some clergy will be eager to serve on juries. They will make responsible members and will be happy to do it. It will soon seem so normal that we shall look back on this debate and recognise that it has not been that traumatic, and that there should not be a blanket exemption.
The next point is about full-time and part-time members of the judiciary, all of whom the amendment would seek to exclude. The appropriateness of a blanket exclusion was punctured by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar when she asked about the civil judiciary. The civil judiciary do not have a clue about criminal matters; we could safely let them loose in a jury box. I see her confirming that that is what she meant. They could sit outside their own areas. She had a problem with their speculating about what had happened in the absence of the jury. I would hope that members of the judiciary would know that they were not supposed to do that. I would hope that
they would have listened to the judge's direction not to speculate on anything that they had not heard anything about, but just to decide the case on the evidence. Probably the best thing that a criminal judge could do if they were in the jury room and there was speculation would be to say, ''Why don't we just do what the judge has said and actually decide the case on the basis of the evidence that has been in front of us?'' The jury would then be in a good position and know not to speculate but to consider the evidence in front of them.
Does the Solicitor-General not think that there is still an argument that the rest of the jurors might be excessively influenced by the fact that somebody is a judge, will behave as a judge and will seek to command authority, and that, to the extent to which that is true, the jury will be weighted?
That is a different argument, which is partly to do with whether some people are too influential. Are we as society so deferential that some people are too authoritative to be part of the general throng? Such matters in 1965 exercised those compiling the Morris report. There are some overbearing, arrogant people around who think that they know everything. A bank manager, for example, might think that he knows everything, be overbearing and try to dominate things. There might also be a considerate, modest, thoughtful person sitting on a jury. One cannot stereotype people and say, ''This lot are not to be on a jury for this reason.'' The philosophy behind the provisions is to consider each case individually.
Let me give another example. Suppose that there is a case about a fight outside a football match—for example, at Millwall—and that somebody in the jury room holds a season ticket for Crystal Palace, knows what it is to be at a football match and knows the circumstances of the sort that are the context for the offence in question. The judge sitting on that jury might well never have been to a football match and not know the goings on. There are different areas of expertise. Legal expertise is just one area.
But the fact remains that if somebody is sitting on that jury who is an expert in a broad field and the rest of the jurors are not, there is at least a danger that they will defer to his or her experience. If somebody collapsed in the street and some members of the public surrounded that person, only one of whom was regius professor of medicine, the rest being lay people, they would defer to the regius professor over what should be done even if that professor had in fact never done any first aid in his life.
The point that I was trying to get to—but not succeeding—in relation to the football example is that there are many areas of expertise that might be in issue in a particular case, and that the law might not be one of them. The important thing is how one judges facts and evidence. One might, for example, have a case of child homicide in which there is a critical question about expert medical evidence. One of the jurors might well be an academic pathologist and therefore more influential than the other jurors. However, the point is to put everybody into the jury pot, and they should all serve unless there is a specific
reason for their not doing so in particular cases. We should not shy away from that. We should not lie awake at night worrying about it and then retreat, because the result will be that the jury box is empty and the jury system discredited.
The Solicitor-General agreed that knowledge of the criminal justice system nowadays is quite widespread outside the legal profession. All sorts of people, journalists and others who will be eligible for jury service, will know intimately what is going on in the courtroom setting. There must have been trials where such people were present who could have advised and commented on what was going on if they chose to do so. The right hon. and learned Lady may agree that it will not be such a drastic change to import such individuals onto juries, nor will it necessarily lead to the jury suddenly having revelations to which previously they were not privy.
I agree. Such people are either overbearing and too influential or too knowledgeable, but then, even under the current system, a member of the Home Office criminal policy team might one day be a juror, yet few people could know more about the intricacies of the criminal justice system. I have been to Judicial Studies Board courses where academic lawyers have given the judges lectures on the law, but they are not an excluded category.
Without labouring the point, I reassure the Committee that it will be all right, just as it was in America. Some states decided that everyone should be available to serve on juries, because it would make them more representative and give them more credibility. Judges, too, are included, and the evidence suggests that judges who have served on juries thought that the juries did a wonderful job. I reassure the Committee that there have been no problems.
The next point concerns Members of Parliament. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood said that they can sit as magistrates. There are two issues: the first is the possible conflicts of interests and the second is our higher duty of being available to represent our constituents in Parliament. The first point is dealt with by the fact that MPs can currently sit as recorders or magistrates but, as a matter of course, only outside their area.
That is a well-made point. As I said, recorders who are Members of Parliament sit in areas other than their constituencies.
The point was made that conflicts of interests could result from the different calls on one's time. If the House was sitting, a Member would say to the central jury summoning board that he was a member of the Committee considering the Criminal Justice Bill—indeed, he would not even have to say that; he would have to say only that the House was sitting and that he had to be available to vote. Hon. Members could also ask that their jury service be deferred to the recess.
If Parliament was recalled—it happens increasingly often—but a Member had agreed to do 10 days' jury service, he would simply say that he needed to be excused because Parliament had been recalled. He would return to Parliament, the jury number would drop, and the trial would carry on.
One can shrink away from those contingencies, or one can consider how they will work in practice. We may think that we are incredibly important to our constituents, 24/7, 52 weeks a year, even though when we go on holiday they manage to survive without us. I do not detract from the importance of Members of Parliament, but we should also recognise the importance of jury service; and Members of Parliament, along with everyone else, should be prepared to do it.
As for famous MPs in the jury box in their own constituency, they seem to want to say, ''I'm a celebrity—get me out of the jury box.'' Could David Beckham say, ''I cannot possibly be a juror—I am too famous''? Having asked that question, I realise that I do not have an answer for it, so I will move swiftly on. Unless any hon. Member can tell me that I have not answered their questions, I shall stop, for I have dealt with far too many already.
I thank the Solicitor-General for responding so thoroughly to the debate. I began the debate certain that I could not be wrong on any of the points. I am less certain at the end of it. Labour Back Benchers have contributed by interventions and speeches. The hon. Member for Wirral, West (Stephen Hesford) intervened, and I apologise unreservedly to him if I seemed abrupt in my response. He asked whether any faith groups had raised the matter with me, and I was a little bit dismissive. I am sorry for that. I heard from the Minister later that some faith groups had said that they had no difficulty with the proposal. I acknowledge his point and apologise to him again.
The hon. and learned Member for Redcar drew an analogy between the clergyman who has heard confessions and others who are in important advisory positions. I do not accept the argument completely, although I accept the general thrust. The hon. Members for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood and for Brighton, Kemptown also made contributions. I have been impressed by what I have heard. I still have an instinct that I am right on many of the points, but perhaps not right enough. I thank the Minister for her response and others for their contributions, and I apologise for stimulating a debate that lasted so long. Every member of the Committee recognises that there is something to be said on both sides of the argument, although perhaps not enough on my side. Which is why I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:
No. 925, in
schedule 22, page 266, line 28, at end insert
'(e) he does not fall within subsection (4) below.'.
No. 926, in
schedule 22, page 266, line 33, at end insert—
'(4) A person falls within this subsection if, in the opinion of the appropriate officer—
(a) that person has a close present or former connection with the administration of justice, and
(b) as a result other jurors might give that person's views undue weight.'.
No. 927, in
schedule 22, page 267, line 15, at end insert—
'6A After section 9(3) (discretionary excusal) there is inserted—
''(3A) Crown Court rules shall provide for questions arising in relation to the application of section 1(1)(e) to any person to be resolved by the court.'' '.
We have already rehearsed most of the arguments for these amendments. The key one is amendment No. 926. It does not seek a blanket exemption for those connected with the administration of justice; rather it seeks to exempt them if, in the opinion of the appropriate officer, other jurors might give their views undue weight. What would a jury think if the Lord Chief Justice was among them? It would certainly be an unusual and interesting situation. High-profile members of the judiciary who have publicly expressed their opinions on the law or on the acquittal rate for particular crimes or on whether the law should be changed may find themselves called for jury service.
Should there be safeguards on that in the Bill or should we leave it for the guidelines? It is a simple issue. The Solicitor-General may feel that she has already answered it, but I feel that it calls for a brief supplementary answer.
The hon. Gentleman anticipates correctly that I will say that most of the arguments have been dealt with in depth. I reassure him that if the Lord Chief Justice were called for jury service, the other jurors would not recognise him without his wig. I urge that the amendment be resisted for the reasons that I gave in relation to amendment No. 737.
I am fascinated by the Solicitor-General's argument. She has advanced one of the most coherent arguments that I have heard for a long time for the retention of judicial wigs, whereas the Lord Chief Justice is well known for wanting to get rid of them. Perhaps she could pass back to him that argument, which he might care to weigh in the balance. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 22 agreed to.