Clause 253 - Disqualification from office: justice of the peace

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:30 pm ar 14 Mai 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Llafur, North East Derbyshire

I want to give the Under-Secretary a chance to explain the clause. It seems that people will no longer be disqualified from becoming justices of the peace for being bankrupt. If so, what is the explanation? The answer might enlighten our debates on following clauses.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

We do not want society to lose the benefit of the expertise contributed by people who are justices of the peace merely because they have been made bankrupt. The Lord Chancellor already has in place a system of local advisory committees through which the conduct of JPs can be investigated. The

advisory committees allow the Lord Chancellor to operate a discretionary regime in respect of misconduct by JPs. That mechanism can also encompass those who become bankrupt. Perhaps, Mr. Beard, I should declare an interest as I was a JP, and I am still on the supplemental list.

The current automatic bankruptcy restriction imposed by the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 is, in our view, both unnecessary and somewhat heavy-handed. We recognise that certain bankrupts will not be suitable persons to act as JPs. The making of bankruptcy restrictions orders against JPs would be a clear indication that the conduct of their financial affairs had been found to be wanting and, depending on the circumstances, would be likely to lead to their removal. Equally, there may be cases where the removal of a JP on the making of a bankruptcy order might be appropriate. The clause will ensure that the Lord Chancellor can deal with each case on its merits and remove JPs from office only when it is appropriate. The provisions of this and subsequent clauses reflect the basic tenet and philosophy of the Bill in relation to bankruptcy. We are merely carrying it forward to cover particular situations and, in this case, certain extra protections.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Llafur, North East Derbyshire

After that explanation, it seems an entirely sensible clause. The explanation may be relevant also to later clauses.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 253 ordered to stand part of the Bill.