§ 29. Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull)
When he last discussed with the Association of Magisterial Officers the qualifications required of a clerk to a magistrates court. 
§ The Minister of State, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)
I last spoke with the Association of Magisterial Officers about qualifications for court clerks on 14 January 1999.
§ Mr. Taylor
Does the Minister mind telling the House, on the matter of the solicitor's qualification, why a clerk of a magistrates court should need to be trained and examined in conveyancing, probate, wills and trusts?
§ Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the concession that he made to allow clerks over 40 years of age to continue in their job without obtaining the qualification, and I congratulate him on the fact that he has put in place the training of non-qualified clerks so that they can obtain the qualification. Having said all that as his friend, may I ask him once more about the question of certificates of competence for those who have not attained the age of 40 but have done the job for many years and have thereby proved their competence? Why should they be obliged to obtain another qualification if they can already receive a certificate, as suggested by the Justices' Clerks Society, for one?
§ Mr. Hoon
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his observations, but there is no suggestion that there is any criticism of the competence of those giving legal advice. However, it is important that we achieve a fully professional service to meet the challenges facing magistrates courts today and those that they are likely to face in future. The difficulty is that, if we exempt the great majority of those in post at present, it will take until at least the fourth decade of the next century to achieve the legal qualification.