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Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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asked the Attorney-General if he will publish the criteria governing the selection of magistrates.

The Lord Chancellor is responsible for the selection of persons for appointment as magistrates. Candidates must be personally suitable in character, integrity and understanding, and be able to think and act in a judicial manner. Selections are made of men and women from all sections of the local community, so that as far as possible they are broadly representative of its various elements in terms of age, sex and social and occupational background. A brochure setting out at greater length the criteria and procedure for the appointment of magistrates, published by the Lord Chancellor's Office, has been sent to the hon. Member.

asked the Attorney-General if he will publish the membership of the selection committees for magistrates.

To avoid possible lobbying and harassment, it has been the practice of successive Lord Chancellors not to disclose the names of the members of his advisory committees on justices of the peace. The names and addresses of the secretaries of these committees are available and published.

asked the Attorney-General if he will publish instructions issued to the selection committees for magistrates.

There is no single set of instructions to which reference can be made. If the hon. Member would write to him on any particular points he has in mind, the Lord Chancellor would be happy to consider them. In the meantime, the hon. Member is being supplied with a copy of the brochure already published by the Lord Chancellor's Office which explains the general guidelines within which advisory committees work.

asked the Attorney-General if he will set out in detail (a) who can apply to be magistrates, (b) any restrictions on appointments such as age limits and (c) the selection procedures.

Any person or organisation may recommend a candidate for appointment as a justice of the peace by sending the name and particulars of the candidate to the local advisory committee on a form which can be obtained from the secretary. The Lord Chancellor is arranging for the hon. Member to be sent a copy of a booklet which amplifies this and covers the other matters he raises.

asked the Attorney-General what conclusion he has reached about the appointment of stipendiary magistrates.

It is not apparent from the question to what aspect of the appointment of stipendiary magistrates the hon. Member is referring. The Lord Chancellor will be very ready to consider any relevant matters if the hon. Member will draw them to his attention.

asked the Attorney-General how many magistrates have been appointed in the North-West in each of the last 10 years; and how these figures compare with other regions taking density of population into account.