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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Are there any statutory requirements to that effect?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No, but the noble Lord has my assurance, which is relevant to the interpretation of statute.

I return to the wider issue of Clause 50 to which the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, referred. The definition of petty sessions areas, which Clause 50 covers, in terms of commission areas allows a magistrates' court committee the freedom to decide the most appropriate and efficient petty sessions structure which best suits its local circumstances, free of the changing constraints of local government boundaries. Petty sessions areas will in future be specified in an order made by the Lord Chancellor. I must emphasise that there is no change in the procedure for reorganising petty sessions areas and MCCs will continue to be free, subject to statutory consultation procedures, to redraw their internal boundaries.

A further provision in Clause 50 removes the distinction between a petty sessions area and a petty sessional division, which exists only for the purposes of geographical identification and is no longer necessary with the changes in local government boundaries.

I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, has widened the scope of his introduction of Amendment No. 299, but I hope that he will accept that the argument against it would justify his withdrawing the amendment.

Lord Gisborough: I thank the noble Lord for that explanation. It sounds benign, but I wish to consider whether to come back at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Consequential amendments]:

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 299A:

Page 27, line 44, leave out ("Schedule 7 (which makes amendments") and insert--
(" .--(1) The Lord Mayor and aldermen of the City of London shall not be justices of the peace unless appointed by the Lord Chancellor in accordance with the Justices of the Peace Act 1997.
(2) Schedule 7 (which contains other provisions").

The noble and learned Lord said: This clause and Schedule 7 complete the statutory changes needed as a consequence of the new approach to commission areas and petty sessions areas which we debated in connection with Clauses 49 and 50. The new material introduced by these amendments relates to the City of London.

Clause 57 will create a Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority (GLMCA), merging the existing 22 magistrates' courts committees (MCCS) in London. The GLMCA will be responsible for the administration of all the magistrates' courts in the capital in place of the 22 responsible for their separate geographical areas. As well as having the ability to manage its workload and magistrates' courts more efficiently and reduce delay, a further benefit will be the capability, if the GLMCA so wishes, to apply to redraw the commission area boundaries. A commission denotes the geographical area

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within which summary offences may be tried and for which lay magistrates are appointed. Furthermore, the GLMCA will also be about to redraw its petty sessions area, just like any other MCC.

The Government's policy is that the GLMCA should have the same freedom as other MCCs in the rest of the country to move cases and magistrates to administer justice with maximum efficiency and to reduce delays. Flexibility to change commission areas will be an integral part of the policy. This policy stems from work done in the criminal justice system cross-cutting Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Bill's provisions, if enacted, will have an impact upon the City of London MCC, its commission area, its petty session and the role of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London as Justices of the Peace. It is certainly possible that the City will be able to persuade the GLMCA that it should remain a separate commission area for the indefinite future. What is, however, unacceptable is that the City's commission area alone among the commission areas in the country should have a statutory guarantee of preservation in perpetuity. That would be an unacceptable restriction on the power of the GLMCA when the Bill confers powers to make changes for every other part on England and Wales.

There are other areas of the country with their own separate commission areas which are a matter of county and historic pride and it would discriminate against them to provide a unique statutory guarantee for the City commission area. The Lord Mayor and the aldermen currently have special rights carried forward from a charter granted to them in 1741 by His Majesty King George II. They are the only body of persons in the country who have the right to be magistrates through election as aldermen--in other words, they become magistrates by virtue of their office and not as a result of appointment by me as Lord Chancellor (or in the case of magistrates within the Duchy of Lancaster, by the Chancellor of the Duchy).

In practice, prospective aldermanic candidates apply to the advisory committee prior to aldermanic elections for it to be determined whether they fulfil the criteria for appointment as magistrates. That is sensible and can continue as of course. In practice, prospective aldermanic candidates qualify as eligible to be appointed magistrates prior to their election. The practical position in the City commission area is that there is always a demand for the service of aldermen, when elected, as magistrates, provided they satisfy the advisory committee's criteria.

While I firmly believe they play an important role in the delivery of justice in the capital, I also believe that it cannot be right for the ancient rights and privileges of the Lord Mayor and the aldermen to be justices of the peace by virtue of their office to continue in perpetuity. Amendment No. 299A amends Clause 51 by removing this automatic right of the Lord Mayor and the aldermen of the City of London to be lay justices of the peace by virtue of their office. The effect of this amendment means that the Lord Mayor and the aldermen will become justices of the peace only after passing through the same selection procedure as applies to all other magistrates through England and Wales. The amendment also means

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that they can, if they so wish, and are suitably qualified, apply to become either stipendiary or acting stipendiary magistrates or district judges (magistrates' courts) as they will in future be known.

It will be my policy--and this is a policy I believe will be appropriate as long as there is a need for aldermen to be justices--to appoint those who have been elected as aldermen, as justices if the advisory committee, applying the same criteria as apply in the rest of the country, recomend their appointment to me. To give effect to that policy, I shall be requiring my advisory committee to consider aldermen candidates as and when they present themselves for selection and within the timescales needed for aldermen selection.

The current position for the residence qualification for justices of the peace is that they must reside in or within 15 miles of the commission area to which they are appointed. However, many of the aldermen live more than 15 miles from the City. Therefore, I propose that if the Lord Mayor and the aldermen are appointed justices of the peace, I shall exempt them from this requirement. Amendment No. 299C gives effect to that proposal.

Furthermore, Amendment No. 328E inserts a new paragraph in Schedule 10 which allows the existing Lord Mayor and aldermen to remain justices of the peace as if they had been appointed under the current arrangements. These amendments set out my policy in respect of the Lord Mayor and the aldermen as justices. The remaining amendments grouped with these make further statutory amendments to give effect to my policy.

I should not wish to depart from explaining these amendments to the Committee without expressing the Government's appreciation for the high quality services that the aldermanic magistrates have rendered over the years for the benefit of the public and the City and to express my expectation that they will do so in the future. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Kingsland: The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has anticipated a question that I was going to ask and to a large extent he has answered it. As he is well aware, the potential effects on the Corporation of this change--I am referring to the effects of Amendment No. 229A--I would go very much further than the amendment suggests if the Lord Mayor and Aldermen were not in fact appointed as magistrates. That is because, I understand, other parts of the Corporation's constitution require that they are magistrates; if they were not, other functions of the Corporation, such as the operation of the City of London Police Authority and the relationship of the Lord Mayor and the Court of Aldermen with the livery companies, would be affected.

I believe that the Lord Mayor and Aldermen would prefer statutory backing for the future of both offices as magistrates. However, the noble and learned Lord has gone a very long way to reassuring future Lord Mayors and Aldermen of his commitment to their status as magistrates. In those circumstances, I certainly would not wish to press this matter any further.

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On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 51, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Commission areas and petty sessions areas: amendments]:

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendments Nos. 299B to 299D:

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