When this debate was adjourned I had very nearly come to the conclusion of the remarks I wished to address to the House. I had in my observations outlined in general the reasons which commended to me the Bill proposed by the Government, and for which I hoped that it would receive a Second Reading.
I will simply state in summary form that those reasons are the very important responsibilities resting on the shoulders of the judges and magistrates who form the principal topic of the Bill before the House; the very great importance of making the offices they hold sufficiently attractive always to bring to them the very best talent available; and finally, the change in the value of money and the circumstances generally since their salaries were last fixed before the war.
For those reasons it has seemed, to me at any rate, that the changes the Government propose are desirable changes. They are indeed, as I have already said, and as the Attorney-General said last time, changes which the late Government themselves had proposed to introduce. For these reasons I hope that the House will be ready to give the Bill a Second Reading.
I am glad that the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice), as the principal spokesman for the Opposition in this matter, has supported the general principle of this Bill, which, I hope, will not be in dispute in any part of the House. I think that all who have given any thought to the problem are fully satisfied that the county court judges and magistrates today, having regard to the decreased value of money, have a very strong case for an increase in their salary rates. That was very rightly understood by the preceding Government, who took the initial steps for preparing this Bill; the Bill is, in fact, only carrying out the undertaking which was given by the preceding Government.
If I had any comment to make at all upon the amount of the increases it would be that it does not really go far enough. Both the county court judges and the London magistrates are, in my view, still underpaid, even at these new rates. I very much doubt whether, unless further increases are made before very long, these payments will continue to attract the right kind of man who is needed for this very difficult job. I hope that there will be no opposition to this Bill merely on the score that it is dealing with people whose salaries are in the four-figure category.
During the speech of the Attorney-General one hon. Member opposite—I think it was the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith)—interjected once or twice, without even rising from his place, "What about the engineers?" I am one who is anxious to see a high wages policy for all classes of the community, but I think that it would be difficult to establish that there is any engineer who has not had a rise in the last 50 years or so, which is the position of the people we are considering today.
The particular matter to which I want to draw the attention of the House is the differentiation which takes place now for the first time between the salaries to be paid to the county court judges and the salaries to be paid to the Metropolitan stipendiary magistrates. In the past these two classes of appointments have always carried, so far back as the records go, I think, the same salary. They were increased sometime in the 1930's, and, at that time, both received exactly the same rate; so that they have always been equated. Now, for the first time, an entirely new principle is being introduced to distinguish between the county court judges and the London stipendiary magistrates.
The stipendiary magistrates, of course, are bound to accept the position because, naturally, they are not going to oppose the Bill, and they do not wish it to be opposed. They do feel, however, that they are entitled to make their protest that, for the first time, this distinction is being drawn. Whereas at present the county court judges and the stipendiary magistrates receive £2,000 a year, the increases made in this Bill have the effect of putting the county court judges up to £2,800 and the stipendiary magistrates up only to £2,500, making a difference of £300 between them.
It is not, I think, so much the amount that the stipendiary magistrates object to, because, after all, when we have taken Income Tax and Surtax into account the actual amount of the difference between the two of £300 a year really makes very little difference between them; but they do feel strongly that they ought to set on record their protest against the differentiation in status which is being made, and I think the House ought—
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we speak our own views on our own initiative, and that we are not briefed to speak on behalf of any particular body. I am speaking what I know to be in the minds of many Metropolitan magistrates—
I should not dream, if the hon. Gentleman came here on a Bill which affected his profession—concerning the Law Society, say—of asking him whether he was instructed by the Law Society to speak on its behalf. I shall assume that he was setting forth his own views, as he would be perfectly entitled to do. I am setting out what I believe to be the view of many of the magistrates; and even if this is not their view, it is my view, that there is no case for making this differentiation at this stage.
I was dealing with the question—before I was interrupted by that irrelevant interruption—of what was the value of the difference between these two rates of salary, and I was pointing out that the actual amount involved is negligible to the person who receives it, but that the principle is important. I want just for a moment to examine the case of whether there is any justification for it.
If there were anything to be said about the difficulties of the tasks I should have thought that the work of the London stipendiary magistrate was more difficult and more onerous than that of the average county court judge. It is impossible to make any sweeping comparisons because the work of the county court judges varies enormously in different parts of the country. It is far heavier in the industrial towns than it is the country circuits. However, county court judges have much more orderly lists, for instance, than the Metropolitan magistrate has. The Metropolitan magistrate may be faced at any time with a very difficult problem involving always the liberty of the subject. He is faced with criminal charges. He has a far more extensive and varied list in a day than the average county court judge does, and he receives less assistance in the discharge of his duties.
In many cases the county courts are conducted with the help of advocates, barristers or solicitors, which does, of course, considerably lighten the work of the judges. The average Metropolitan magistrate's case is taken without any assistance of advocates at all, and I think it is a very considerable burden which is placed on him.
I want also to consider whether the total amount involved is really worth making this distinction. There are 26 stipendiary magistrates in London, so the difference of £300 a year gives a difference, I think, of about £7,800 a year gross. Assuming that there is no private income at all, then of that amount some £4,600 would go back in tax, so that the total yearly cost to the country of maintaining the principle that these two are equivalent, as they have always been before, would be about £2,000. I suggest that it is not worth doing. It is not worth trying to establish this new principle, that there is a difference in status between the two, at a net expense of some £2,000 a year to the country
There is one other matter with which I wish to deal. There are references in the Bill to judges of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland and of Scotland. Unfortunately, there is no reference whatever to the judges of the Supreme Court of England. I would submit that this is a suitable opportunity for remedying a long-standing injustice, and this opportunity ought to be taken to increase the salaries of the High Court judges. I know, of course, that it is not easy to argue the case of a man in receipt of a gross amount of £5,000 a year.
But, as the House well knows, there has always been a perfectly good reason for paying High Court judges on a high salary scale and, by modern standards, they are no longer on a high salary scale. They are, after taxation, on an extremely low scale. In their case there has been no change in the salary scale since 1831. I think that there is probably no other class of people in the country who have remained on the same scale without an alteration for 120 years.
Having regard to the tasks which they have to undertake and the responsibilities which fall upon them, and having regard to the necessity for keeping them free from financial worry and of preserving the high position which they occupy, I submit that there is a very strong case for an increase in the salary of the High Court judges. Indeed, I think that it is a pity that this opportunity has not been taken to give an increase.
I have nothing further to say on the Bill, which, I hope, in general principle is agreed in all quarters of the House, but I hope that at the earliest possible opportunity consideration will be given particularly to the question of the differentiation between the county court judges and the stipendiary magistrates. Although, as I have said, the amount involved to the individual is not of great importance, it does make a considerable difference when it comes to the assessment of pensions, and it will now mean that the stipendiary magistrate will receive considerably less pension than the county court judge to whom he has always previously been considered the equivalent. I hope that at some time proper consideration will be given to these matters.
I wonder if we can get one point clear in the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe). Is he suggesting that the pay of the chief Metropolitan magistrate should be higher than that of a county court judge, or is he suggesting that the salary of the chief Metropolitan magistrate should be the same as the rest of the Metropolitan magistrates?
I suggest that the principle should be the same as before—that county court judges and stipendiary magistrates should receive the same, and the chief magistrate receive something more. I say that that principle should be maintained.
I was a little surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), like the Attorney-General, should have expressed the belief that there might be a large amount of opposition in this House to the Bill. I do not think that there is: in fact, I am sure there is not.
The hon. and learned Gentleman took upon himself to mention my colleague the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), who made an interjection, "What about the engineers'?" I think it is right, as my hon. Friend is not in his seat, if I say on his behalf that I know that he has no objection in principle to the Bill, and that the fact that he interjected some reference to engineers and their salaries should not be interpreted as an objection on his part to justice being done to other classes of society. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman should realise that the three Members for Stoke-on-Trent always have one mind on all, or nearly all, subjects.
The Attorney-General, too, I think, was somewhat responsible for creating unease on this side of the House by the way in which he presented the Bill. He seemed to expect something which I am sure is not here. I am sure that it is the unanimous feeling in the country, as well as in the House, that justice should be done to the citizens whom we choose for these positions of very great trust and responsibility. I am not a lawyer, and, therefore, I have the right perhaps to speak more broadly than a lawyer would do on this subject. I can, however, speak as a layman with some knowledge of the courts, and I say that the public expect certain attributes from magistrates and county court judges.
We expect them to be absolutely incorruptible; we expect them to show the greatest courtesy to those who enter their courts—a courtesy to those in distress—because people, innocent or guilty, often show marked distress and nervousness when they go into court. Lawyers and medical witnesses accustomed to the courts sometimes tend to forget what a terrifying ordeal this is to some people. Perhaps I may mention a county court judge who is no longer alive, Judge Ruegg, who used to practise in North Staffordshire, and who had a great reputation. Heaven help any counsel who appeared before him and who thought that he might be clever at the expense of an ill-dressed, impoverished man or woman who came before the court. His courtesy and kindness to those who needed help was something which I shall never forget and which has always been an inspiration to me.
Further, we ask for immense knowledge and experience from our magistrates and county court judges. We heard, in the introduction of the Bill, that often they have not learned counsel to assist them, and it is astonishing what a very wide authority and range of knowledge they possess, and how promptly they can use it. Another thing that we expect from them is an intimate knowledge of all types of problems that affect all classes of society, and, lastly, we ask from them that, as well as interpreting the law, they should show pity where pity is needed, as I am sure they do.
If this is what we require from one person, be it magistrate or county court judge, I do not think that we should begrudge the cost of a little financial security to them. That cost will never be begrudged by the average working man in this country, or any one in any sphere of life. I know that they use the courts on many occasions and in many ways, particularly when they have been injured at work, and from a long personal experience in the area from which I come, I know that they very frequently, if not always, got redress.
On Clause 1 (4) of the Bill, I should like to ask the Lord Advocate a few questions about stipendiary magistrates in the provinces. I gathered from the Attorney-General that the Secretary of State, under Section 32 of the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, will give directions in reference to salary changes, and he told us in answer to a Question from myself and from a former Secretary of State for the Home Department that the salaries would be £2,000 to £2,500 for the 15 stipendiary magistrates in the provinces. Why this disparity? It does not seem to me to be reasonable.
I think that it has grown up out of archaic interests and traditions in the areas involved; but cannot we alter it now, and make the whole system more reasonable? Why, for argument, should a magistrate in Birmingham have a larger salary than one in Salford. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] I did not want to quote my own area, but I am glad that I am receiving support from my own Front Bench. The work in a small city is not necessarily less arduous than in a large one.
In a city the size of Birmingham, there is a tendency for magistrates to be supported by a number of lay magistrates who help to share the work. If one looks at some of these courts one finds that the magistrates often finish at lunchtime, but, because custom and tradition makes it a large authority, there is a demand for an association between the salary of the stipendiary magistrate and the salary paid to those who serve the authority in other spheres like the town clerk or the finance officer. There is a link between the salaries paid to the stipendiary and the other officials of the local authority. I am not sure that this is reasonable or fair.
The sittings are just as numerous in a smaller city as in a larger one, the hours will not be shorter and—this, I think, is an important point—stipendiaries are all drawn from one class. Certainly, in the Midlands area I have in mind at the moment there are three magistrates who come from the same circuit. They are men of exactly the same pattern, and we are asking for the very best type of men to enter the service.
We do not want the men to feel that perhaps this will be an easier job or that they can take it on because they have not been successful in the cut and thrust of work at the Bar. The purpose of this Bill is to get the best, and I do not think it is going far enough for the provinces. It seems that as things are now, the accident of geography and circuit alone decides what salary the stipendiary is to get and whether, in future, it is to be £2,000 or £2,500.
There is another point I should like to put, and I hope the Lord Advocate will answer this when the debate ends. As things are now, with the differentiation of salaries for these posts in the provinces it means that a young man may start with a larger authority at a larger salary than the, man who has done years of work and who has had great experience but is attached to a smaller authority. One will start at £2,500 a year and the other will get £2,000. It must also be remembered that there is no question of moving on, no progression or advancement. Once a magistrate accepts the post there he stays. This seems to me a very good reason for a reconsideration of the whole subject, and as the matter is to be controlled by Regulation there is obviously plenty of time for second thoughts on this issue.
There is a further point. Everybody in the provinces interested in the matter wants to know if it is true that we pay twice. Is it a fact that we pay towards the upkeep of the Metropolitan magistrates through general taxation and again through our local rates for the upkeep of the office of the local stipendiary? If we do it makes our claim the stronger. I speak on behalf of 15 magistrates in asking that the whole subject should be looked at once more to see whether we cannot get a similar financial status for people who are obviously drawn from the same class, have the same experience and who are debarred from enjoying the larger scale only by the, accident of geography and circuit.
Lastly, in this country where the standard of justice is so high—it is without a peer in the world—I do not think we should ever complain about the payment of a suitable amount to these men who carry such a great responsibility. The German Chancellor, in this building yesterday, made a very flattering statement about the quality of British justice and law, and how it was responsible for the existence through the centuries of the British Commonwealth. I agree, and it made me think when I got up to speak today that these men, on whom devolve the carrying out of the laws made in this Chamber and in another place, should never be begrudged what we can reasonably give them.
I am glad to be following the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), because I agree very much with him in hoping that the Home Secretary will always keep an attentive eye on the salaries of the lower range of provincial stipendiary magistrates. I hope it is in no sense a criticism of justice to say that it is certainly no less important to see that a man is kept independent in every way when he works in a rather smaller community in administering justice.
However, I think that if the hon. Member were to look at the variation in duties between these 15 provincial stipendiary magistrates, he would find that any kind of a flat tariff would be an injustice in itself, partly owing to the fact that in some communities the lay magistrates are much more anxious than in others to relieve the stipendiary magistrate of his duties. They like doing it.
I did not intend to intervene in the debate at all, but I want to deal with the one point of criticism which seems to arise on both sides of the House, and which was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe). For my part, I think it would be the greatest pity if anyone outside the House were to get the impression that the distinction between magistrates, particularly the London stipendiary magistrates, and county court judges had anything to do with status. It has none.
Nobody is saying that the stipendiary magistrates were not capable of doing the divorce work which, in fact, the county court judges were called upon to do. But it is the county court judges and not the Metropolitan stipendiary magistrates who are commuting by giving up what they have been getting in divorce court earnings in order to balance their increase of salary. That has nothing to do with status, and no one can think so, because the stipendiary magistrates in London are entrusted with most important duties in connection with matrimonial work.
In the year ended 31st March last they dealt with matrimonial payments to the tune of something over half a million pounds. They are given most responsible matrimonial duties to do, and I feel sure that those who hold the views that my hon. and learned Friend says they do would not begrudge anybody the extra remuneration for the burdensome and tiresome duty of listening with an extremely alert mind to monotonous volumes of evidence about other people's matrimonial infidelities. It is a judicial task which deserves extra remuneration.
Nor would it be right, apart from what my hon. and learned Friend has said, to make a comparison between the work done by these gentlemen. If it is to be said that the stipendiary magistrate's court in London gives him more work and a busier task than the county court judge, then I feel obliged, in return, to indicate to the House some of the dreadful things that happen to county court judges. They inherit, almost by accident, the task of deciding cases on the most tiresome legislation that this House has ever devised. No sooner do they get rid of workmen's compensation than they are plunged into rent restrictions, landlord and tenant, and every sort of horror of that kind.
They do not stay still. They do not have the honour of going to relatively few courts like the stipendiary magistrates in the metropolis do. Many do not boast of a motor car. Hon. Members who have suffered personal agonies while listening to other hon. Members talking out the last train may sympathise with a judge who has to listen to litigants talking out his last train when he is travelling around the country in all kinds of weather.
On Monday I was listening to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), whom I regret to see is here not at this moment. [Laughter.] It was reluctance which dragged my negative out at such a late stage. I listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman interrupt the former Attorney-General, letting the burnings of his heart override his sense of relevance, when he was talking about the salaries being paid to judges' clerks and was forced to recall that the county court judge is not allowed a clerk at all, not even a clerk with an inadequate salary. He has to drag his own books about with him, and live often on a diet of sandwiches.
As for the buildings in which he works, some of them are very good, but I cannot help recalling the county court judge who told me that the first time he went on circuit he did not know the way to his court. At the station he took a taxi and the taxi-driver got him there all right. Arriving at the building he said, "Here we are; here is the chamber of horrors." That certainly did not relate to the quality of justice; it related to the building in which it was administered.
I refer only to these matters in case some comparison is to be made between the arduous element in the duties of those holding judicial office. My belief is that these increases are long overdue, are abundantly justified, and I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
I should like to say straight away that I am in entire agreement with the provisions of this Bill. Stipendiary magistrates are entitled to have a substantial and proper salary, for the position that they hold in the administration of justice in this country is one which is almost unique in the world. Those of us who have had experience of the courts, as I have had for some 30 years now, always feel that it is highly important that they should be relieved of any unnecessary strain in the matter of their financial status and affairs.
Particularly today there has been a tremendous responsibility placed upon the shoulders of the stipendiary magistrates, and it seems a little odd that an attempt should be made to differentiate between the county court judges and the stipendiary magistrates on the question of salary. It is all very well saying that that does not affect the status as between the two persons concerned but, in fact, it does. What actually happens is that it is natural to expect a person who desires an appointment to take the better appointment because of the finance offered. Nobody will gainsay that, and no one will deny the right of a barrister to decide that the appointment he accepts should be the one with the higher salary. That in itself creates the difficulty which the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) was speaking about.
There is a limited number of persons from whom stipendiaries and judges can be chosen. Stipendiaries, in my experience, have to be strong physically, capable of standing a very great strain in the courts, particularly in London. I sympathise, of course, with the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), having seen stipendiary magistrates at work in the provinces and in one city, Cardiff, for something like 12 years. The stipendiary magistrates whom I knew had an extremely difficult job. I am not at all sure that in many cases they are not entitled to a similar salary to those sitting on the London bench.
Not all cases come within that category, because, as the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster) said, there are some districts in which the stipendiaries have not got quite as much to do as in others. I do not know whether the House realises that stipendiaries' courts are sitting practically the whole year, with the exception of only about two or three days, Bank holidays included. The stipendiaries sit from about 10 in the morning until about six, and have to consider in their so-called leisure time points of law or other matters that come before the courts in the course of the day.
I urge that the difference which is being introduced into the Bill should be removed, if at all possible. There is the question whether a man, considering his own status, is guided by the salary which is offered for an appointment. Why not? Is it not obvious that if one man is receiving a higher salary than another who is performing the same duties he may consider himself as occupying a higher position than the other man? He would be legitimately entitled to come to that conclusion.
Reference has been made to stipendiaries in relation to divorce. As has been rightly said, the stipendiary is just as capable of taking divorce cases as any judge in the county court. I am not casting any slur upon the county court judge. Far be it from me to do that, but, taking other things as being equal, the stipendiary is a man with equal knowledge and ability. The fact that stipendiaries do not get divorce cases is not due to any idea that they cannot do them, but to the hours which they spend on the other work that comes before their courts.
I do not want to enter into controversy with my own Front Bench on this matter, but I speak with some experience of the courts.
I feel that the time involved in a judge's work, plus his divorce work, cannot be more than what he is capable of doing. The time spent by a stipendiary on his work cannot be extended, in most cases, certainly not in the metropolis. He could not do any more, even if he attempted to do it. The stipendiary has in his hands the character of the people who come before him. He has such important tasks as deciding whether he shall send a person to prison for the first time. The county court judge has not that power. If a magistrate has to decide whether he will exercise his right under the Probation of Offenders Act, instead of sending a man to prison and damaging his whole future career, his position is an extremely important one. Perhaps that is one of the most important things that come within the purview of stipendiary magistrates.
We are very proud of our system of justice in this country. To both the courts which we are discussing the ordinary person resorts in order to have his troubles properly attended to. The average man goes to the police court with no knowledge at all of its atmosphere. He has to be guided. The stipendiary magistrate conducts the case, and he has in his hands the destiny of the people who come before him, equally with a High Court Judge. In many instances, although the penalties are not as high, the actual effect on the individual, even where a small penalty is inflicted, is equally great. The character of the person and his liberty are at issue, just as much as in the case of the larger penalties when there is a hardened criminal to deal with.
In those circumstances, I hope that nobody in the House will oppose the Bill in general. The argument that, because some people whom we all want to see receiving higher salaries are not receiving them, those who administer justice in these two very important courts should not be given higher salaries, is not one that has been sustained. A man who comes before the court wants to feel that the person who is trying his case, whether in the county court or the magistrates' court, is receiving a substantial salary and has a high status. If any hon. Member has made up his mind to proffer an argument against the Bill I hope that he will reconsider his position and will try to maintain the very great and important place that these two sets of courts have in the minds of the people, not only of this country but throughout the whole world.
I am sorry if I overlooked the one exception to the rule.
This discussion has largely been carried on by members of the legal profession. I was about to say, when I was interrupted, that it might be considered not unsuitable for me to make a few observations on this matter, because for a good many years I have been a lay justice in the Metropolitan area and can, therefore, claim to have some knowledge of and interest in the administration of justice in that area.
I feel quite unconvinced by the arguments that have so far been advanced in support of making a differentiation in salary for the first time between county court judges and Metropolitan magistrates. I am quite unable to accept the view that has been advanced by more than one hon. Member, that no question of status is involved in the differentiation. It seems to me that the question of status must follow inevitably upon the question of salary and that it is quite impossible, when we are making a differentiation in salary for the first time between two classes of people who for a century or more have received the same rate of salary, to say that we are not in any way affecting the status of the two classes of person concerned.
That seems an impossible proposition to advance. I do not think that the case has been made out in support of this differentiation, that divorce work is now undertaken by the county court judges and that they should, therefore receive a salary higher by £300 a year.
There are one or two considerations which have not been brought before the House on this point and which I feel we ought to have in mind. The Attorney-General, in introducing the Bill, indicated that the £300 additional salary proposed to be given to county court judges in excess of the new scale proposed for Metropolitan magistrates represented approximately the average over a period of the additional earnings which the county court judges had enjoyed by reason of the additional fee which had been paid to them for divorce work.
It is not perhaps irrelevant to point out that to take an average based on a past period may be doing more than justice to the county court judges, because it is a fact that the number of divorce cases reached its peak in 1948—a very high peak, indeed—and that since 1948, providentially, the amount of divorce work which has been handled by the courts has been undergoing a steady diminution.
The figure based on the average of the fees paid for the divorce work undertaken in the past may be unduly generous, but if we concede that the county court judges are entitled to additional remuneration because of the divorce work which they now undertake, I would submit that additional work and additional responsibility of at least an equally important and equally onerous character have been undertaken in recent years by the Metropolitan magistrates. I refer particularly to the additional work and the vastly increased responsibility falling upon them by reason of the great range of economic laws which have come on to the Statute Book during the last 10 years, and with which those magistrates are very largely concerned in their administration of justice.
May I take only one case, which, at the time, attracted a great deal of public notice, to indicate the new type of case with which the Metropolitan magistrates are called upon to deal? Within the last year or two, before one of the Metropolitan courts, there was a very important case, which received a great deal of Press attention at the time, relating to diamonds. The case occupied four weeks before one of the Metropolitan magistrates. The maximum fine which could have been imposed was in the neighbourhood of £1¼;million; the actual fine imposed was £300,000. It is perhaps not entirely irrelevant to point out that a very eminent counsel was engaged in that case on behalf of the defendants, as might have been expected in view of the large sums involved. I am reliably informed that the fee paid for that four weeks' attendance before the Metropolitan magistrate was at the rate of 1,500 guineas for each sitting day.
We therefore had the position of the Metropolitan magistrate who was trying the case being in receipt of £2,000 a year, while the counsel who appeared before him earned very nearly as much money for one day's work as the Metropolitan magistrate had to work for a year to earn.
Bearing in mind that the Metropolitan magistrates are now concerned with this type of case, which is really an addition to the kind of work which they have ordinarily undertaken in the past, I say that this is the worst time and the most unfair time to put them, so far as salary is concerned, into a relatively inferior position in comparison with county court judges.
I wish now to say a few words on the proposed new salaries to Metropolitan magistrates, looked at, not in comparison with the salaries of county court judges, but in isolation. From that standpoint it would seem that an increase of 25 per cent. on the pre-war salary is doing very much less than justice to the men concerned when regard is had to the general level of salaries paid today in comparable positions.
In the senior ranks of the Civil Service and local government the increase in salaries would be not less than 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. on an average over the whole range. The proposed increase so far as the Metropolitan magistrates are concerned is 25 per cent. If we come down to, for instance, clerks to justices courts, the average increase in their remuneration is, I am advised, not less than 50 per cent.
I understood that the hon. Member was speaking as a magistrate. Surely he knows that the whole position of clerks to the justices has been entirely altered and that the amounts they have to pay to their staff have greatly risen?
I appreciate that point fully, but even allowing for that their net remuneration, according to the information available to me, shows an average increase of 50 per cent. over their pre-war net remuneration. That, I believe, is a fair statement of the position. Obviously, it varies from clerk to clerk, but I think that is the average throughout the country.
If we refer to the National Income and Expenditure White Paper for 1950 the comparison for wages between 1938 and 1950 shows an increase of 158 per cent. and the comparison for salaries between the two years shows an increase of 129 per cent. In suggesting an increase of only 25 per cent., and bearing in mind the increased duties and responsibilities involved and the general increase in the whole wages and salaries scale throughout the country, it would seem that much less than justice is being done to Metropolitan magistrates.
Reference has already been made to the fact that in a very real and vital sense they are the custodians of the liberty of the subject; and it is important in the highest degree that their independence, their sense of responsibility and their qualifications should be of the highest. Over a long period of years this can be achieved only if we recognise the principle that the labourer is worthy of his hire.
I wish to intervene only to deal with a statement made by the Attorney-General when we were discussing this matter on 3rd December. Following an interruption by me, he said:
There are, I think,15 magistrates involved"—
that is to say, stipendiary magistrates in the provinces—
and their salaries range from £1,400 to £2,000 The proposal is that they would run from £2,000 to £2,500."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 2166.]
The Home Secretary has the duty of dealing with the salaries of these stipendiary magistrates in the provinces, but he has to fix the salary after consultation with the local authority for the area in which the stipendiary magistrate serves. I think it would probably be rather harmful in the consultations if the local authorities thought that there had been some prior salary fixed by the Home Office and that they could operate only within that limited range.
I have no doubt that there is a desire that these consultations should be friendly and that as much as possible should be done to bring the new salaries into a line proportionate with the Metropolitan magistrates, having regard to the old salary which has been paid to both. I hope it will be made clear that the consultations with the local authorities will be on a basis that has not been predetermined by any statement.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), said there was no promotion from one place to another so far as provincial stipendiary magistrates are concerned. When the appointment of a Metropolitan magistrate rested with me, as Home Secretary, I promoted—if that is the proper word—a provincial stipendiary magistrate to be a Metropolitan magistrate. I thought it would be a very good thing if it could be understood that when an appointment is made to the stipendiary magistracy in the provinces that does not necessarily represent the end of the man's career. There is a possibility that he may be moved from one place to another or absorbed into the Metropolitan magistracy. I am quite sure that would be a very good thing for the magistrates themselves. There is also the advantage from coming into the Metropolitan magistracy that he can get the superannuation which he does not always get as a stipendiary magistrate in the provinces.
I do not wish to follow the dissertation on the respective worth of Metropolitan magistrates and county court judges, but I would not accept the view that the public would be satisfied if a Metropolitan magistrate was regarded as a suitable person to act as Commissioner in respect of divorce cases. I am exceedingly perturbed at the tremendous number of divorce cases which there are. I know that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) is also perturbed, and I do not want to do anything which would make it appear that divorce is something even remotely related to what is popularly called police-court work. We do wish to make quite certain that divorce does not get into that category.
I hope that this Bill will have a Second Reading and an unobstructed passage through the House. I hope, also, that the negotiations between the Home Office and the various provincial authorities who have to deal with the salaries of provincial stipendiary magistrates may be fruitful to the magistrates; and be conducted with the good will which does not always characterise such negotiations with regard to salaries.
I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that divorce work must not be handed over to stipendiary magistrates. Not that they are incapable of doing it, but because it would tend to cheapen divorce in the eyes of the public and bring it into contempt if it were a matter to be dealt with on the same status as a small motoring offence. It is a very serious matter, and should be kept within the jurisdiction where it is being dealt with at present. That is the reason why county court judges are being given this extra work and salary.
The basic salary of both stipendiary magistrates and county court judges must not be regarded as satisfactory at the present time. As the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) told us, in settling the salaries we have to consider that the gentlemen in question should have financial security. We also have to be certain that we are getting the best people for these appointments. All hon. Members will agree that we must have the best people in these judicial appointments. I am not at all satisfied that this rate of salary will provide for either of those criteria, and I hope that this Bill will be regarded only as an interim Measure, because it is not nearly wide enough in amount or extent.
The question of amount I have already dealt with: it deals with only two, although two very important, classes of the judiciary. There are many other classes as well—High Court judges, Official Referees, Masters of the High Court—who are not affected or touched in any way by the Bill. I hope that the House will not consider that by passing this Bill they have finished with the question of judicial salaries in the lifetime of this Parliament. I hope that in the near future we shall have a Bill covering a larger and wider range and dealing fairly with all those sections of very important people, important because they affect very much the every-day life and liberty of our people.
I wish to deal with one aspect of the Bill which has not so far been touched on. The county court judges are, very rightly, to receive an addition to their salary by reason of the fact that they are now conducting divorce work. But since the war the stipendiary magistrates have been doing an immensely increased amount of work as well. There have been an enormous number of Statutory Rules and Orders and delegated legislation, all of which is difficult to follow, and which make offences triable and punishable in the police court.
There has been an enormous increase in their matrimonial work by the increase in the weekly amounts they are able to award, and for that extra work they are receiving precisely nothing. If it is right, and it is that county court judges should have increased remuneration by reason of their increased work it is only right that stipendiary magistrates should also receive an increase in their salary in respect of their increased work.
I look upon this as a rather niggardly Bill. It does not go far enough in any direction. I am glad that it is to have an unopposed Second Reading which will mark the feeling of the House as to its virtue, but I hope that in the future we shall have a much wider measure affecting a larger section of the judiciary.
An opinion from the Front Bench carries great weight and should be treated with the greatest possible respect. But it would be regrettable if we were to conduct a debate on something on which we had already come to a final conclusion; and, naturally, those of us without other engagements will wish to hear what hon. Members on both sides of the House who have the privilege of catching your eye, Sir, have to say, and to pay due attention to that.
I do not wish to introduce a note of controversy into this matter, but about an hour and a quarter ago this Bill was about to sail calmly into harbour undisturbed, when the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), rose to give the benefit of his views to the House. I do not think he means it, but he never seems able to rise without introducing controversy, or to speak without excessive arrogance, or to give way without misrepresenting the purpose of the intervention. In the early stages of his observations, I made a fairly simple interruption, which, I thought, was on a matter about which the House should know. He said that the stipendiary magistrates say this or that and I asked if he was speaking for the organisation as such.
It is a perfectly proper thing for the Law Society to make representations to the solicitor Members of this House about legal matters and if I said that the Law Society said this or that I should be putting the case as it had been put to me as representing the Society. But my intervention was received with a great deal of discourtesy, so I listened with more attention to the words that followed.
Our general view of this matter is that, where the existing machinery has reached a decision on the question of income, the House should honour it. Our general view would be that men who occupy distinguished judicial positions should not be exposed to factious or unnecessary criticism and when a Bill of this kind has been negotiated after full consultation no one wants to oppose it. I rather regret the discourtesy of the hon. and learned Member for Hove. No doubt he will put down an Amendment on the Committee stage, because I am sure he would not have committed the House to an hour's discussion on matters which other people have described as unimportant if that were not so.
The Money Resolution seems to cover the possibility of some increase, because it refers to the matter in general and I think the ingenuity of the hon. and learned Member will enable him to get over that and we shall be able to debate this matter in Committee, I hope at some length.
I want to make one protest about this matter. Whenever we speak in this House about distinguished surgeons, bishops, archbishops, or judges, a note of quite incredible sycophancy comes into our voices. I do not think there is a judge in the land who wants that. Most of those with whom I have served on committees are men of distinction, good sense and humour and capable of laughing at themselves and of being good fellows. I do not think they would like the House to keep talking of them in this way.
The hon. and learned Member for Hove made a most savage attack on the ethics of the profession to which he belongs. I do not believe it is true that members of the Bar, when offered High Court judgeships, refuse because they would lose money thereby. I know distinguished members of the Bar who are most anxious to fulfil any vacancy which arises and, if any vacancy arises in the future, I can assure the hon. and learned Member that there would be no lack of people who would be waiting to hear that the Lord Chancellor would like a word with them in the immediate future.
It is not true that very great ability is needed to become a High Court judge; in fact, all the evidence is to the contrary. Anyone who has read the lives of judges will know of occasions when the appointment has been a flagrant political job—when it was wanted to create a by-election. One Lord Chancellor explained that it would be better to put two incompetents on the bench than to let two straight voting Tory baronets go into the bankruptcy court. All these appointments have been enormous successes. [Laughter.] Yes, it is quite true.
I do not want to discuss the reputation of a judge who has passed away, but it was a common comment on Lord Darling that his appointment was regarded as a big political job, yet he was one of the most distinguished judges on the Bench. It is a common joke that some judges had to hand back both their briefs at once on being appointed, yet one or two have been amazing successes and rendered yeoman service as High Court judges of distinction. What a judge wants first is a good deal of common sense, forbearance, love and understanding of human nature and a great deal of tolerance; and, of course, a first-class brain does not matter to that extent. The whole argument is vitiated by the fact that one or two High Court judges have been appointed from the county court bench. That has not happened enough and I would like to see it happen more often.
My experience is that the county court judge represents about the highest standards of judicial administration that we get anywhere. His is a rather more human court than the other courts, with their rarified atmosphere, can be. They are considering intimate human problems and are brought into touch with the sort of lives lived by the great majority of His Majesty's citizens, so there is a great deal of humanity behind the fairly ancient traditions of judicial probity. I believe that they represent a very high standard, and, if anyone wants them to have a higher salary, I would not oppose it.
The argument put forward today, which is a better argument, is that, after all, relative standards exist. If one is prepared to have a Socialist Government which says, "You should not have so much" we would have to have a wages policy which would embrace everyone from the cotton worker to the Lord Chancellor. But, until we do that, it would be indecent to introduce the poverty argument but base it on comparable forms of occupation. Unfortunately, the stipendiary magistrates have one of the worst types of court. It is no fault of theirs. The stipendiary magistrate has the same high standard of qualification and is drawn from the same class of people. Everyone knows that it is very much the chance of a vacancy whether a man becomes a stipendiary, or a county court judge.
I wish hon. Members would go into the courts of London and see the circumstances. They are grossly overworked and my view is that most of the stipendiaries would rather see six new stipendiaries appointed than have a small taxable rise. We get the position in which 50 or 60 motoring cases are taken in 20 or 30 minutes. A policeman goes into the box and says, "John Jones, 25 miles an hour" and the fine is 10s., then "William Brown, 30 miles an hour," fined 15s. If there is a man with a burning sense of grievance, he is almost bound to be looked on with a certain amount of antagonism as a horrible crank who wishes to take up the time of the court. I do not think anyone who has practised in the courts of London will deny that this is true.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will find that many more London stipendiaries are anxious to get appointments in the country than there are country stipendiaries who wish to come to London. He would be surprised to find that that is also true of Birmingham, even though Birmingham is greatly overworked. There is a need for new appointments. It is almost impossible to argue a small case in the London stipendiary courts today without a feeling that one is doing one's client harm by antagonising the court. I do not say that in any critical way, but if hon. Members saw the conditions they would see that that is true.
One either has a heavy case with big counsel and special days are appointed and once that is done one may proceed with the discursiveness of, say, the Home Guard Bill, or the sort of case where a chap is advised to plead guilty and not to waste time and he is polished off in 10 seconds. There is hardly a chance of getting those spacious conditions of the unpaid magistrates' courts.
I am sorry that no one mentioned the unpaid magistrates, because they are very good. One hon. Member mentioned clerks to the justices, but that should not be allowed to go unchallenged because they completely altered their status. The tendency is for clerks to the justices to be full-time officers today in amalgamated courts so that there are no standards of comparison with the task when nearly always they were part-time officers. The unpaid magistrates' court today is a matter for admiration.
When the Bill dealing with judge's pensions was discussed I raised the question of the judge's clerk and other hon. Members raised it also. I rather think the Solicitor-General raised it, very properly, and I know from correspondence I have had that this raised hopes in a number of breasts that something might be done. My recollection is that we got from my right hon. Friends a fairly clear undertaking that an early opportunity would be found to study the problem and to do something about it.
Judges' clerks are in a very special position as they have no pension of any kind. I think it may be said and often is said, that they have fairly high incomes. That may be said of most barristers, but it is a profession peculiarly liable to Income Tax and with very little hope of those little arrangements for entertainment allowances and so on, which are available to business generally, so there is not all that opportunity of saving. I think the judge's clerk is a very special case and I much regret that, after what was said some months ago, he has not been considered in this Bill. I hope that before this debate closes someone will say that he will be considered.
This has been a very interesting discussion, especially the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) to whom we always look to bring lightness, brightness and humour into any debate in which he takes part.
I believe that this Bill has been introduced at the most inopportune time. The first thing that happened when the party opposite were elected was that Ministers' salaries were cut and the number of Ministers' cars was reduced. Everyone thought that this Government would do nothing to increase public expenditure, but would take steps to reduce public expenditure. This Bill, admirable though it may be, will increase Government expenditure, not to a great extent, but, nevertheless, by over £70,000 a year. I think it should be looked at from the same point of view as the issue is looked at in regard to industrial workers and anyone else at the present time.
Normally, when industrial workers seek an increase it is asked whether there is a shortage of manpower in the industry or, if there is not a shortage, that is usually held as a reason against the increase. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, there are plenty of people—and I know one or two—who would gladly fill one of these vacancies, if offered the opportunity. Inasmuch as there is no shortage of applicants for this kind of appointment, I think that the introduction of the Bill at this time is, as I have said, inopportune.
I point out, particularly to the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), that whilst it may be true that engineers have had many increases in pay, all the increases they have had in the 20 years, to which the hon. and learned Member referred, plus their basic wage, still do not approximate to the increase which is to be given to the gentlemen covered by the Bill. The last increase for the engineers was less than £30 a year, as against the £500 and £800 increases represented by the Bill.
I should be the last to make any imputation against the ability, impartiality, competency and fairmindedness of our judges. I have never had to appear before one, and I hope that I never have to do so, but I think that they accomplish their duties in a most admirable way. But when it is seen in the Press that people already receiving £2,000 a year are to get another £500 or £800 a year, it is most difficult for those of us who have to deal with industrial workers to get them to exercise restraint in their demands. They feel that if everybody else is to have a good whack, they also are entitled to it. It is because, at this time in our history, the industrial and productive workers matter more than any other section of the community that we must have their good will and service more than those of anybody else if the country is to get through. I think, therefore, that the Bill might have been introduced at a more appropriate time.
One other feature of the Bill to which I take some objection is that it is retrospective in application. I well remember that when Sir Stafford Cripps wanted to make a certain piece of legislation retrospective with regard to Mr. Lord and Sir John Black, there was quite an outcry from the party opposite when they were in Opposition. They objected strongly to any attempt to give a retrospective effect to that particular legislation. Whatever else is said of it, the Bill is retrospective. For these reasons, therefore, despite the general unanimity towards the Bill, I think that it might have been deferred until we have overcome the economic crisis which now faces the nation and until the time is more appropriate, when it could have had the blessing of everybody in the House.
We have had a very full and interesting debate, but I do not think that we need apologise for taking up the time of the House on this subject in view of the very important part which those to whom the Bill relates play in our civic life. My one observation on this point is that when the Bill reaches the Statute Book, I trust that the increases in emoluments will not pursue the same course as this debate has taken and be paid out on the instalment system, because this is the fifth occasion on which we have tried to get the Bill through its Second Reading.
We on this side welcome the Bill. Although we cannot claim maternity in delivering it to the House, we cannot, nor would we wish to, dispute paternity in its conception, because it merely brings into operation certain arrangements made by the previous Government. While I rise specifically to deal with the Bill so far as it affects Scotland, there are one or two general observations which I should like to make.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), that we are justly proud of our system of law. There may be imperfections in its structure and deficiencies in the human personnel who administer it, but by and large—I speak both of Scotland and of England—we have a system of law and a body of judges of whom we are justifiably proud. Although we have the two systems—the English and the Scottish—my remarks apply equally to both. I make no attempt to differentiate between the one and the other so far as these general remarks are concerned, nor do I seek to express any views as to which of the two systems of law is the better. If I were to do so, I should undoubtedly be accused of prejudice.
With that high standard in the administration of our law, it must be our endeavour not only to attract the best possible men for the position but to see that they receive a remuneration consistent with their high responsibility. Those two aspects may, incidentally, be correlated, because we may not be able —and in this I differ slightly from my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale)—to attract the best possible men unless we make the remuneration reasonably equivalent to the responsibility which they carry, bearing in mind that we are attracting them away from another branch of the profession in which their remuneration may be reasonably high.
It is sometimes difficult, as those who have had the responsibility of nominating or appointing judges will know, to attract people away from a very lucrative practice in order to take a position on the Bench. In saying that, I do not ignore the question of prestige, which is a most important element. Many people, although they are making a large income in their practice at the Bar, have regard to the prestige involved in being appointed to a judicial position. By the same token, that prestige ought to be reflected in the remuneration which they receive.
In many cases, the net increases proposed in the Bill are not nearly so high as they first appear when the incidence of taxation is taken into account. I submit that it is wrong and harmful for our judges to be paid on a lower financial scale than many other people in the public service and in private industry. When we consider the position of people in the public service—in the Civil Service, in local authorities and in the nationalised industries, and the position of executives in private industries—and compare their salaries, emoluments and remunerations with those of the members of the Bench, it is clearly demonstrated that an increase in the pre-existing salaries of judges is well justified. Accordingly, no apology need be made for attempting to redress a position which the changing events of society have made anomalous so far as the members of the judiciary are concerned.
Following those general observations, I turn now to the provisions of the Bill which deal with Scotland. If I may speak I hope, at not too great length on the position of Scotland, I trust that I may be excused, because I am the first Scottish Member to have spoken on the Bill, and, quite possibly, I may be the last. In view of the fact that I occupied the position of Lord Advocate and know intimately the position of the judges in Scotland and their salaries and claims, it would be less than fitting if I did not give the House the benefit of my views on these proposals.
Clause 2 of the Bill deals with circuit expenses to be paid to the Lords Commissioners of Justiciary in Scotland. In 1887, the salaries of these judges were compounded or consolidated at £3,600 per annum, to include the circuit expenses which previously had been paid to them. The salaries have not been increased since 1887, and in the course of time the circuit expenses have become heavier. Accordingly, this particular aspect of reform is long overdue, quite apart from any increase in salary.
It has been a considerable drain on the resources of judges going on circuit in having to meet the circuit expenses out of their salaries and bearing in mind the higher salaries paid to the English High Court judges and the fact that they are, in addition, given circuit expenses, this is a reform which I should have been very glad to have introduced in other circumstances. I am for this reason pleased to have been associated with it at an earlier stage.
It is only right to point out to the House and to remind the Government that these circuit expenses, which have been offered, have been accepted—at any rate, the proposal has found itself acceptable to the judges of the Court of Session—without prejudice to their rights regarding further claims in relation to salaries. There is a difficult problem with regard to salaries, and if I may point out one particular aspect it is in relation to the claim for parity with the High Court judges in England. Therefore, in accepting the proposal that was made to them, the judges of the Court of Session made it clear that their acceptance was without prejudice to any claims they might have on this other topic.
I mention the question of parity because certain of the English Members who have addressed the House dealt with the question of parity as between the stipendiary magistrates and the county court judges. In just the same way, the Chairman of the Land Court and the full-time sheriffs and sheriffs-substitute in Scotland have accepted the present increase without prejudice to their rights to pursue their claims, in relation to salaries, with particular reference to parity with the county court judges in England.
I should be less than frank and less than fair if anything I say today could be interpreted as a complaint that these matters to which I have referred have not been dealt with in the Bill. The proposals in the Bill were our own proposals. They are restricted to a certain group of judges, and the increases which have been made have been based on the pre-existing salaries and a uniform increase of £500. It would, however, be legitimate for me to ask the Solicitor-General, who, I understand, is to reply, to state the intentions of the Government in relation to this question of parity as between the Scottish judges and, roughly, their English counterparts.
In looking at this question, I trust that the Government will bear in mind the questions of status and prestige as well as the money which is involved, because these are matters of great importance, which might outweigh even the financial considerations which are under review. Before I leave Clause 2 (1) I should like to know from the Solicitor-General whether payment of circuit expenses will be made retrospective to 1st July, 1951, as in the case of salaries payable under Clause 1.
I appreciate that the Financial Resolution has been so drawn that if it is passed in its present form, it would be impossible to table an Amendment for the Committee stage to enable what I suggest to be done. I ask the Solicitor-General to look at this matter and at the Financial Resolution. At the appropriate time—I want to give notice of the fact—I propose to raise questions as to whether the Financial Resolution should be passed in its present form because it would exclude these payments being made retrospective to 1st July.
In the circumstances which I have disclosed, these payments should be forming part of the emoluments of the judges, and if the increases for English and Irish judges are to be ante-dated to 1st July last, there is no logical reason why these additional emoluments to the Court of Session judges in Scotland should not similarly be ante-dated. If the only barrier against doing this is the way in which the Financial Resolution has been drawn up, I earnestly solicit the Government to take away this Financial Resolution and to bring back one which will enable justice to be done to the judges in Scotland. [Laughter.] I am glad that I am getting support for that proposal from the Government benches from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) and the hon. and gallant Member for Edinburgh, West (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison).
It is an advantage which the hon. Gentleman has with me and which I have not got with him.
Turning now to another matter which is not actually within the ambit of the Bill, but which is dealt with in the Financial Memorandum, namely the increases in salary to the Chairman of the Land Court, the full-time sheriffs and the sheriffs-substitute, again I wish to raise a question to which I think we ought to get an answer: are these increases to be ante-dated to 1st July, 1951? While we are getting the uniform increase of £500 per annum conveyed by Clauses 1 and 4 of the Bill to the other judges concerned, I want an assurance that the increases to the Scottish judges, so far as the Land Court, the sheriffs and the sheriffs-substitute are concerned, will likewise be ante-dated.
So far as the sheriffs-substitute are concerned, this was an increase which I was very pleased indeed to negotiate, because I am quite sure that the English Members of the House do not realise exactly the type of work which is done by the sheriffs-substitute in our sheriff courts, and when I put forward to the learned Solicitor-General a plea for the consideration of parity with county court judges it might be of interest to the House to know the range of jurisdiction in the sheriff courts in Scotland.
They have both a civil and a criminal jurisdiction, and in the civil jurisdiction, apart from actions affecting status, they have almost co-ordinate jurisdiction with the Court of Session, which is the High Court. In the criminal field their jurisdiction extends not only to summary jurisdiction but also to solemn procedure and they sit with juries trying indictable cases. A large range of cases can fall within their jurisdiction, and their powers of punishment, sitting with a jury, extend to two years' imprisonment.
In those circumstances, I think that that brief synopsis of their duties, leaving out of account the manifold other duties such as bankruptcy proceedings, proceedings under the Tenancy of Shops Act and a hundred and one different administrative duties, goes to show that they have functions to perform which largely outweigh the responsibilities of their counterparts in the county courts in England.
I think in looking at this question His Majesty's Government might have regard to the large range of jurisdiction both in civil and criminal cases which the sheriffs-substitute are called upon to perform. I am pleased to be able to say that during the late Government's tenure of office we made substantial improvements in the pre-existing position of sheriffs-substitute, culminating in the present proposals, and not leaving out of account the very important factor, which possibly has not been too much stressed during this debate —the great benefit which is now being conferred upon them by the introduction of the judges' pension scheme which was introduced during the last Parliament.
Again in relation to these increases to the sheriffs-substitute, to the Chairman of the Land Court and to the other judges concerned, I should like to know whether the expenses proposed under Clause 3 so far as the sheriffs-substitute are concerned will be ante-dated to 1st July, 1951. Here again the Financial Resolution has been too tightly drawn. I commend it to the notice of the Solicitor-General, and do not intend to repeat that argument.
There is one further question I should like to ask before leaving the subject. I presume that these increases in salary, if made retrospective, will count for pension purposes from 1st July, 1951. May I ask, in relation to these judges who are getting an increase for which no legislative power is required, namely sheriffs-substitute, the full-time sheriffs and the Chairman of the Land Court, whether the increases will apply to those judges who die or retire before the Bill becomes law?
Provision is made under Clause 1 for that advantage to be conferred upon the English judges covered by Clause 1, and I should like to know whether a similar provision will be made in respect of the Scottish judges concerned. No legislation is required. It can be done by an administrative decision, and I should like an assurance on that point.
Before I leave the question of salaries may I ask another question in relation to a court in Scotland, the chairman of which has been mentioned in the Financial Memorandum but not the other members of the court, namely the Land Court? Is it the intention of His Majesty's Government to increase the salaries of the members of the Scottish Land Court with retrospective effect from 1st July, 1951? No legislation is required for this purpose; again it can be done by administrative action.
When the late Government announced on 31st July that these increases would be paid to the Scottish judges the question of the members of the Land Court was raised and an assurance was given at that time that their position was being considered. I know from personal experience that negotiations were in train when I occupied the office of Lord Advocate, and I should like the Solicitor-General to let us know how these negotiations have gone, whether any decision has been reached, and particularly, if and when a decision is reached, whether any increases given will be dated back to 1st July, 1951, and whether they count either for superannuation or for pension purposes as from that date.
Turning now to Clause 3 (1), I should like to ask the Solicitor-General why this Clause is necessary, because it makes provision for travelling allowances to sheriffs-substitute. At the present time four sheriffs-substitute in Scotland receive travelling allowances which have been compounded at £100 a year. That was done by administrative action, and it has all along been felt that no legislation was necessary to enable these travelling allowances to be paid. As I say, for quite a number of years now such allowances have been paid to four of the sheriffs-substitute in Scotland.
In those circumstances, since it has all along been felt and interpreted that no statutory authority was required, why is it necessary at this stage to put statutory authority into this Bill? I have no objection to it if the hon. and learned Gentleman says it is necessary. I never thought it was necessary, and if it is now introduced may it not throw doubt on the validity of the payments which have been made heretofore? The result would be the same at the end of the day, but I am sure it might cause confusion and doubt in the minds of many people in Scotland if it were now thought necessary to have this provision in the Bill, or in an Act of Parliament eventually, when previously we were able to operate the same system without any statutory authority.
Before I depart from the subject of the sheriffs-substitute, may I say a word not to the Solicitor-General but to the Lord Advocate and the Secretary of State for Scotland? Will the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Advocate consider whether the time has not come to have a full-scale inquiry into the jurisdiction and structure of the sheriff-court in Scotland? Any such review might well affect the question of the salaries to be paid eventually to the judges of these courts. I do not wish to develop the point at length as it would take some considerable time, but it may well be that a thorough review is now very desirable.
At the same time, will the Lord Advocate, in consultation with the Secretary of State, examine the possibility of amalgamating certain of the existing sheriffdoms—I mean the areas over which the sheriffs-substitute exercise jurisdiction—not merely from the point of view of saving money but of providing the sheriffs-substitute in some of these outlandish parts with more work to do?
The great difficulty about the shrieval bench in Scotland is this. In busy districts many of the sheriffs are grossly overworked, but owing to the historical tradition of having a resident sheriff-substitute throughout the various parts of Scotland, many of the sheriffs-substitute in the outlandish parts do not have sufficient work really to occupy their time, and that has caused a great deal of disquiet among the sheriffs-substitute themselves, who frankly would like more work to do.
I should have said "the outlying parts of Scotland" I hope that will be corrected in the OFFICIAL REPORT. They do not have sufficient work in the outlying parts to occupy their time as fully as it might be occupied. It is a great problem, and I know that it would be very much welcomed by these sheriffs-substitute themselves if some scheme could be devised to give them more work to do. One of the means of doing it might very well be to effect by administrative action—because it can be done by administrative action—the amalgamation of some of the sheriffdoms. It has been done in the past, and I think another look ought to be taken at the problem.
In conclusion, speaking for Scotland, I welcome this Measure as a step in affording appropriate recognition to the status and prestige of those who administer our law. Like every one else who has spoken, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), who merely entered a caveat that he thought it was untimely although meritorious, I hope this Bill will have a quick and speedy passage to enable it to become law.
The right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Wheatley) is, I am sure, to be congratulated on at least the first part of his remarks and in being able to deliver a speech which, no doubt, he prepared to make in support of this Bill before the last General Election. I could find nothing in the first part of his speech with which I could disagree, and I think he expressed views which are held on both sides of the House with regard to the performance of their duties by the judiciary both of England and of Scotland.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to ask me a considerable number of questions, some of them relating to matters not in any way dealt with by the Bill, and others which, I should have thought, we could perhaps more conveniently discuss upon the Committee stage. But he has asked me one or two detailed questions, and I shall endeavour to give a short, quick reply to them which I hope will satisfy him.
May I intervene before the hon. and learned Gentleman starts to develop his point? He has been good enough to say that some of the points which I raised might be more conveniently dealt with on the Committee stage. Will he give an undertaking that the Financial Resolution will be so drawn as not to exclude any of these points on the Committee stage?
I limited my observations to some of the points raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I adhere to that phrase.
I shall deal with a few of the points that he raised. He asked why it was that under Clause 3 (1) we should now be taking statutory authority for the payment of travelling expenses to the salaried sheriffs-substitute. I understand the reason is that it is desirable to put the power to do so beyond any shadow of doubt by taking statutory authority. That is the short answer to that point. With regard to the increases of salaries to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, under Clause 3 (1) I gather that it will be possible without any addition in this Bill to make the salaries retrospective.
As for expenses under Clause (2), what we might call circuit expenses, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right in saying that we are not providing payment retrospectively, and I am sure that he will appreciate that there are difficulties about doing that which do not arise in regard to the retrospective payment of salaries. I am a little surprised that he should have raised this point, particularly as the Bill seeks to implement in full, and does not go beyond, the pledges given by the late Government and the statement made by the former Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords. However, that is a point upon which, if I have not satisfied him, I have at any rate given him the reason for the course that is being pursued.
The right hon. and learned Member also asked me to express some views upon the parity of the position of Scottish and English judges. That is a field which would require a very brave man to tread at the present time, and it really is not necessary in considering whether or not the Bill should have a Second Reading.
I am glad the Bill has received such a general welcome from both sides of the House, and we appreciate what has been said about it. There has been only one dissentient voice, and that was the voice of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). But I think the House, by and large, does agree that an overwhelming case has been made out for the increases contemplated by this Measure. Indeed, the criticism, so far as there has been any, is of a different character, and is that the Bill does not go far enough and that it creates a differentiation between the position of stipendiary magistrates and county court judges which did not exist before.
I should like to make it quite clear, that while the £500 a year increases to county court judges and stipendiary magistrates, taking into account the fees earned by county court judges in divorce courts, do mean that, on the face of it, there is a disparity in salary, with a slight effect on pensions, my right hon. and learned Friend, in our earlier discussion on Second Reading, said that it was not intended that that disparity should in any way prejudice or affect conditions of status.
One appreciates the praise which both county court judges and stipendiaries have received, and I think every one agrees that they all perform extremely onerous and heavy duties. This Bill makes an improvement, both in regard to county court judges and stipendiary magistrates.
Before the Solicitor-General leaves this question, can he tell the House what advantage has been taken of Section 32 of the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, with regard to the disparities in salary of stipendiary magistrates, other than Metropolitan magistrates, because there is a difference in the same area, in some cases, of as much as £700 or £800?
The hon. Gentleman interrupted me just before I was going to deal with that point, which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who drew attention to it in the earlier stage of the Second Reading debate.
The position is that discussions are now going on between the Home Office and the local authorities to deal with that matter, and, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, I can say that there is no attempt, and has been no attempt, to pre-determine what the result of those discussions will be. Figures have been put forward as a basis for discussion, but I am quite sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary wants to avail himself of the fullest consultation with local authorities on these particular matters.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), dealt with a lot of matters, but I do not really think that it is very necessary for me to say very much about them. He made an attack upon my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), on the ground that my hon. Friend did not know to whom he was speaking. He then expressed, as he put it, "our general view" I began to wonder for whom he was speaking at that particular time.
The Solicitor-General was good enough to give me an assurance that the increases relating to Scottish judges covered by the Bill and the Money Resolution, would be ante-dated to 1st July, 1951. I asked him about the position of the members of the Land Court, but he did not deal with that. Could he give me an answer on that point?