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Navy Supplementary Estimate, 1919–20.

Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Services and Revenue Departments and Navy Supplementary Estimates, 1919–1920. – in the House of Commons on 17th March 1920.

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Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

We have had a very interesting speech from my hon. Friend opposite, and if and when the time comes when the salaries of Ministers of the Crown are revised, the subject of the salaries of the Law Officers may be a fit subject for discussion. I find myself in sympathy with what he said with regard to the remuneration of the Prime Minister of this country. It must seem to anyone who looks down the list of salaries of Ministers an anomaly that a man here and there, who perhaps does as much work and has as much responsibility as any other Minister, should receive half as much as some of his more fortunate colleagues. To-day, however, we are considering a Supplementary Estimate for Law Charges. Under Sub-head A there is an additional sum of £2,534, a proportion of which provides the War Bonus for the clerks in the Law Officers' Department, and the remainder for increasing the salaries of the Law Officers from the amounts at which they stood during the War to the amounts that they received before the War. My hon. Friend was perfectly correct in his statement of the case as to the fixed salaries paid to those two distinguished officers, and his history also was accurate, although I should like to remind the House that the change made under Lord Rosebery's Government was temporary. It was made by a Minute at the end of June, 1894, and in 12 months' time the salaries were placed on the same basis, with modifications, as had subsisted for very many years. The Law Officers' record during the War is one which I am sure will commend itself to the hon. Member who has spoken as to every Member of the House. Not only did they each voluntarily reliquish £1,000 per year of their fixed salary, but they accepted a reduction of the fees to which they were entitled of no less than 25 per cent. They did a vast amount of work in Paris for nothing, and that reduced the amount of work that they were able to do in this country, and for which they would have been paid. During the War they have done vastly more work even than the hard-worked Law Officers before the War for considerably less remuneration. Having regard to the fact that these reductions were agreed to for the period of hostilities, and to; the fact that each Law Officer on accepting office knew perfectly well the financial terms of his appointment, I have no hesitation in asking the House to sanction, by this Supplementary Estimate, placing them back on the pre-War terms, dating from the signing of peace at the end of January last.

The other items in the Vote call for very little comment. We have under each sub-head the increased bonus which runs through ail the Civil Service Departments. We have an Appropriation-in-Aid which we have been fortunate enough to get this year owing to the costs that have been recovered in the Prize Court and Admiralty cases being greater than we expected. We have had more litigation in the Divorce Court than was expected, and that has increased the figure under Sub-head F. We have had to ask for a small addition under Sub-head K to meet certain special and unexpected law cases in which the Government have been engaged since the main Estimates were prepared. I make no complaint against my hon. Friend for raising the question of the Law Officers' remuneration I am certain that my right hon. and learned Friends will thoroughly understand that no personal charge of any kind is involved in the remarks that he made, but I feel, after the brief explanation that I have given, that the House will be perfectly satisfied and will pass this Supplementary Vote.