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.