§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the consideration of Commons Amendments read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, in rising to move that the Commons Amendments be now considered, may I say that I think it might be convenient if, at this stage, I indicated in outline the effect of these Amendments and suggested those to which your Lordships might direct your attention. Needless to say, if any noble Lord attaches an importance to any one of them which is not apparent to me, I shall be happy to give a full explanation.
Amendments Nos. 1 to 5, 7 and 9 are concerned with drafting or minor administrative points and, I suggest, might be accepted without further discussion. Amendment No. 6 limits narrowly—namely, to cases committed for trial—the right of a legally-qualified chairman to sit alone. There was uneasiness expressed in another place on giving any wider powers to dispense with lay justices. Amendment No. 8 provides that 766 the justices with juvenile court experience who sit on an appeal from a juvenile court shall, so far as is practicable, include a man and a woman.
The main purpose of Amendment No. 10, that is, the new clause after Clause 9, is to provide an appeal on salary for a clerk of the peace who is not—I repeat, not—also a town clerk, deputy town clerk or assistant town clerk. Broadly, the position is that where the clerk of the peace is, by virtue of holding another office, on the staff of a city or borough, his salary is fixed within scales determined by a negotiating machinery, and he may or may not, according to mutual convenience, receive fees payable to him as clerk of the peace. It is, however, accepted by all concerned that there is a good case for providing that a clerk of the peace who is not a town clerk, deputy town clerk or assistant town clerk should have a right of appeal to the Home Secretary where he feels that he has a complaint against the salary fixed by the borough council. He has not a salary fixed according to negotiated scales, and it is reasonable that he should have some authority other than his employers to whom he can turn if dissatisfied.
Amendment No. 11, another new clause, together with the consequential Amendments in the Schedules, Nos. 18, 19 and 21, deal with two minor matters on which the wording of old Statutes is causing difficulty in the stipendiary magistrates' courts in London and South Staffordshire respectively with regard to the qualification of magistrates' clerks. The result is to include a barrister among those professionally qualified in London, and to equate the position in Staffordshire with that of other magistrates' courts.
Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 have the effect of requiring the consent of both the prosecution and defence to be obtained before a case is committed for trial under this clause to a sitting of assizes or quarter sessions already in progress. This accords with strong feeling expressed on both sides of the Committee in another place, as well as by the Bar Council and the Law Society. Amendment No. 14 is designed to close a somewhat obscure gap in Clause 15, subsection (3), and so ensure that, when a case is committed by magistrates to 767 quarter sessions for sentence, any appeal against the decisions of the magistrates' courts—for example, an appeal against a conviction for a road traffic offence and an appeal against disqualification—may be dealt with by the same court as is to deal with the sentence.
The effect of Amendment No. 15 is to secure that the provision that the period spent by an offender in custody before sentence should, in certain circumstances, count towards the length of any term of imprisonment later imposed by a superior court should apply to all circumstances, including breaches of a probation order, or offences committed while subject to a probation order or conditional discharge. Amendments No. 16 and 17 deal with the payment of costs when committal proceedings have proved abortive. The remaining Amendments, Nos. 18 to 25, are drafting or consequential.
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships may think that this method of providing the House with a conspectus of the Amendments is convenient, and may obviate their being put seriatim to the House unless, as I say, there is any particular point that any noble Lord wishes to raise.
§ Moved, That the Commons Amendments be now considered.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am sure the House will be very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for his suggestion as to how these Amendments should be dealt with. As a matter of fact, I have been through them, and I was going to suggest that they should be dealt with in the way the noble and learned Viscount has put forward. I think he has dealt with all the Amendments which I personally felt required explanation, so I do not propose, to ask him any further questions. Unless any other noble Lord wishes to do so, I should be quite content that they should be dealt with in the most expeditious manner possible.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.