Magistrates

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons am 12:00 am ar 16 Hydref 1995.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Tom Arnold Mr Tom Arnold , Hazel Grove 12:00, 16 Hydref 1995

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what assessment he has made of whether an adequate number of people are applying to become magistrates in the Duchy. [35883]

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

My assessment is that although there is an adequate number of applications from certain age groups—for example, retired people—we are not receiving enough applications from younger individuals.

Photo of Mr Tom Arnold Mr Tom Arnold , Hazel Grove

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his first Duchy questions. Will he confirm that it is his policy to ensure that successful applicants are drawn from a wider cross-section of the community? Is he aware that there is sometimes a problem in that regard?

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I recognise that within the County Palatine, where I have responsibility for appointing magistrates, there is a problem, which also exists throughout England and Wales, in finding enough young applicants, particularly among men and women who work in industry. I intend to approach some of the larger employers within the County Palatine to remind them of the great contribution made by unpaid voluntary magistrates and of the contributions that employers can make to their employment opportunities and to their own businesses by discharging that essential public service.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

Does the Minister recognise that there is considerable concern in the County Palatine that the magistrates who are appointed do not reflect the political complexion of the county? I accept that it is not a political duty, but magistrates should represent the political views of a broad cross-section of the people living within a county.

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says and I am pleased that he has reminded the House that magistrates are not appointed purely on the basis of their political affiliations. It is important, however, to ensure that magistrates reflect the views of the communities from which they are drawn and that a fair and proper balance is maintained.

As for the County Palatine, we should like to receive more applications and nominations from those who have political affiliations other than Conservative. Therefore, I believe that the solution lies in the hands of individuals who believe that their political affiliations are not being represented fairly.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Magistrates Association. I pay tribute to all the magistrates in the County Palatine and to the 30,000 magistrates in England and Wales who do such a magnificent job on behalf of the public.