I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
As the House knows, the salaries of the higher judiciary are fixed by Statute. The last time they were increased was in 1954. Before that the High Court judges in England and Wales had not had an increase in salary for 120 years. So far as I know, the higher judiciary are the only body of servants of the State, or, indeed, almost any person in receipt of remuneration, who have had no increase in salary for 11 years. I need hardly remind the House that since the last increase in 1954 the cost of living, according to the Index of Retail Prices, has increased by 42 per cent. The judges' salaries, alone of all salaries, have stayed put.
When the then Prime Minister, the late Sir Winston Churchill, introduced the Bill in 1954 he said that the new salaries fixed by the Bill would remain unaltered for a fairly long period, perhaps a generation. Unhappily, the erosion of the value of money has been more rapid than was foreseen in 1954 and 12 years—as the House will see from the Bill, the new salaries that are proposed will not take effect until 1st April, 1966—has proved to be too long a period for salaries to remain constant in modern conditions. Accordingly, as long ago as March, 1964, the previous Administration gave an express undertaking that legislation would be introduced in this Session to provide for increases in remuneration of the higher judiciary.
The most important Clause in the Bill is Clause 1. Clause 1(1), taken together with the First Schedule, increases the salary of the senior judiciary by 25 per cent. over that which was thought to be appropriate in 1954. The one exception is the salary of the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division. In his case the increase is not designed simply to restore his salary to something like what was thought appropriate formerly, but to give belated recognition to the very heavy duties which have fallen upon him.
The House may think that his post has been overdue for upgrading for a long time. Long since gone are the days when the President, assisted until quite recently by two other judges, was well able to despatch all the work of that Division. Today, there are, apart from him, 13 judges in his Division, and much additional work is done by county court judges and special commissioners. The President also has heavy administrative responsibilities, including the running of the Principal Probate Registry, the Admiralty Registry, and 26 district probate registries. In the circumstances, the House may readily agree that the salary of the President should be the same as that of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and the Master of the Rolls.
I invite the House to look at the list of salaries proposed in the First Schedule for the other judges. Leaving aside the Lord Chancellor, who is dealt with in Clause 2, the Lord Chief Justice comes, quite rightly, in view of his heavy responsibilities in connection with his presidency of the Queen's Bench Division and with assizes and many other duties which fall upon him, at the top of the list with a salary of £12,500 a year, as compared with his present salary of £10,000 a year. Next comes the Master of the Rolls and the nine Lords of Appeal in Ordinary who are now, as I have said, joined by the President. They will all, under the Bill, have a salary of £11,250 a year.
Finally, there are the largest group of the higher judiciary, namely, the Lord Justices of Appeal and the puisne judges of the High Court who have traditionally received the same remuneration, and that principle of equality remains in the Bill. They will receive under the Bill £10,000 a year. Having said that they will get £10,000 a year, the reality is that a married judge with no dependent children will get little more than a half of that amount after he has paid Income Tax and Surtax. Two-thirds of the additional £2,000 which is to be paid to the High Court judges of England and Wales will go back to the Exchequer as tax. Accordingly, the net benefit to the judges will be £779.
The suggestion was mooted, when this problem was raised a year ago, that this should be met by a tax-free payment of £1,000 a year. Not surprisingly, the Treasury of that day thought that to be a bad tax principle, but if that principle had been embodied in this Bill the judges would have been better off with £1,000 tax-free than they are with £2,000 subject to taxation.
Yes, so would we all, I think. This is why the Government have thought it proper to apply the principle of equal treatment by the tax authorities in this Bill.
The salaries of the senior judges in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also proportionately raised. I apprehend that some hon. Members may take the view that an increase of 25 per cent. in the salary of the High Court judges is too generous. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I notice the cries of poverty coming from the other side of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "And that."] Yes, and from this side, too. It may be said that the proposed increase is out of line with the Government's incomes policy in other spheres. It is accordingly right that I should deal with that immediately, because I submit that that fear is entirely without foundation.
The proposed addition of 25 per cent. to the present salary represents a compound annual rate of increase of 1·9 per cent. compared with the norm of 3½ per cent. increase in wages and salaries. The comparison, therefore, taking the period as a whole, is that of 1·9 per cent. with the norm of 3½ per cent.
Is it right that the House should take cognisance of what has happened in other spheres in regard to wages and salaries. In the same period since 1954 wage rates have gone up 59 per cent. and salaries 65 per cent. If the present judge's salary of £8,000 was increased at a rate commensurate with some of the changes to which I have referred, this would be the kind of result: the £8,000 would be raised to £11,328 to allow for the increase in the cost of living. It would be £13,200 if it kept pace with the average salary increases in the country. Those are the harsh economic facts and the background of this matter.
If the problem were looked at entirely afresh, it would not be easy for this House or for anyone to decide objectively what our community should pay for having an immensely able and independent bench of High Court judges. In 1832, they were thought to be worth £5,000 a year. That would be worth about £40,000 a year today. But, whatever figure is arrived at, I think that it is essential for their salaries to be settled at a figure which will not down-grade their status in the community. Clearly, they should remain measurably ahead of the lower judiciary, who have received three increases in salary since 1954, as have higher civil servants.
The position now is that the higher judiciary, apart from Members of Parliament and Ministers of the Crown, are alone among people paid out of public funds in not having a regular review of their salaries. Civil servants come under the Central Pay Agreement and they receive regular increases based on the principle of fair comparison. The higher Civil Service, to which the lower judiciary has in recent years been linked, has a somewhat similar procedure with less frequent but periodic increases. The judiciary, therefore, are in an exceptional position and subject to this exceptional treatment.
It is right that I should make this point early in the debate. The judges are recruited from the Bar, and earnings at the Bar, I am glad to say, have considerably increased in recent years. Had any one of the gifted people who are now High Court judges remained at the Bar, he would be in receipt of a considerably higher income than he has been drawing as a High Court judge, allowing for my other extras which it may be suggested the judges enjoy.
My right hon. and learned Friend has mentioned other benefits. So that the House may have all the facts before it, will he explain exactly what are the extra emoluments which judges receive when they go on circuit and what they are for? Second, will he say—this was raised in the debate when judges' salaries were last discussed—what are the present costs of their robes, wigs and paraphernalia?
My hon. Friend has invited me to make my speech in the way he wishes, but I am sorry to have to tell him that I propose to continue in the way I had intended. I can tell him at once that, of course, allowances are paid to judges who go on assize. Those allowances were fixed in 1954, and there has been no increment since.
If it is desired to obtain the detail of these matters, my hon. Friend can refer to HANSARD tomorrow morning where he will find the information fully set out in a Written Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), who was good enough to put down a Question on the subject today. The details are fully set out there and there is no mystery about them. It is a provision to enable judges on assize to return the hospitality they receive, on a suitably moderate basis, and it is adequate for that purpose and for no more.
The Lord Chancellor now has reason to believe that the existing judicial salaries are insufficient to make certain of attracting the best of the Bar to the Bench. That is the position we have arrived at. Yet I am sure that no one in this House will deny the importance of maintaining the high standards of the higher judiciary.
The work of the High Court judge has not become less arduous through the years. Queen's Bench judges now are frequently out of London and away from their homes and families for as much as six months a year. A considerable number of judges perform important work in vacations by sitting at quarter sessions, no doubt to the great advantage of the administration of justice. Vacations have been cut down by the sittings that have been arranged in September to clear the gaols of those committed for trial too late to be dealt with at the previous assizes.
Whenever any great problems of importance in the State call for investigation, it is to the High Court judges that we rush as soon as possible. Indeed, the pressure for their services has placed considerable burdens upon the administration of justice. They have performed their duties on various committees and there are no fewer than 20 High Court judges at present sitting on committees dealing with a wide range of subjects from law reform to security.
Moreover, those who sit in the Court of Criminal Appeal have to get through a great deal of paper work when the day's work in court is done. As those who have experience of these matters know, a good deal of the spare time of all the judges in the evenings and at weekends is devoted to the consideration and the writing of reserved judgments.
Subsection (1) of Clause 1 has the effect of increasing the pension payable to high judicial officers on retirement. Under the Judicial Pensions Act, 1959, the pension payable during the first five years of service is a quarter of the last annual salary. This is increased by one-fortieth of the salary for each further year of service up to a maximum of one-half the last annual salary, which is earned after 15 years on the Bench.
Although subsection (1) has, naturally, attracted most attention, the remaining subsections of Clause 1 are also of some importance. These enable the remuneration of High Court judges to be increased in future, should this prove to be just and proper, by Order in Council, provided that a draft of the Order has been previously approved by affirmative Resolution of both Houses.
Since the passing of the Judicial Offices (Salaries and Pensions) Act, 1957, a similar procedure has been applied to the salaries of the lower judiciary. As I have said, in modern conditions no salaries have remained constant for very many years. They have had to be adjusted from time to time and those few people whose salaries have been fixed by Act of Parliament have necessarily been placed in an invidious position. Indeed, virtually the only other salaries in the public sector which are still fixed by Statute are those of Ministers of the Crown and Members of Parliament—and hon. Members, too, have suffered because of the existence of this requirement of change by Act of Parliament.
Bills to deal with the salaries of Members, of Ministers and of High Court judges are unpopular—of that there is no doubt—and Governments are loath to find time for them in a congested legislative programme. The result of all this is that when, ultimately, a Bill is brought forward to bring the remuneration of these high officers of State into line with developments in the community, the Measure is usually very late and when it comes it gives a false impression that a wholly disproportionate increase is being granted.
The procedure which is now proposed in the Bill—and I emphasise that it still requires parliamentary approval—is the affirmative Resolution procedure which, at least, takes less time than the passage of a Bill of the kind which we are now discussing, so that there is every likelihood that in so far as a judicial salary hereafter needs adjustment it will be adjustable more nearly in the same way as the remuneration of all other salary earners.
I can deal with the remaining Clauses briefly. Clause 2 deals with the salary and pension of the Lord Chancellor. The House will remember that the Lawrence Committee on the Remuneration of Ministers and Members of Parliament, whose recommendations so far as they related to Members of Parliament were adopted and accepted by the House, recommended that the Lord Chancellor's salary should be £17,000 a year. However, since the Government decided that for other Ministers only half the increase recommended by the Lawrence Committee should be accepted—and that decision was effected in the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Act earlier this year—it has seemed to the Government to be right that the Lord Chancellor's remuneration should also be increased by only half the amount recommended. This is the effect of Clause 2.
My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor did not want his own salary to be increased before that of his judicial brethren and the increase in his salary, therefore, will not take place until a year later than that of his ministerial colleagues, that is to say, until April, next year.
The Lord Chancellor has been described as a sort of universal joint in the machinery of government. He links the three interlocking powers in our constitution. As a Cabinet Minister, he is a member of the Executive. As Speaker of the House of Lords, he is a legislator. Finally, not only is he a judge, but he is the very head of the judiciary. The House may like to know that, despite these vast responsibilities, the salary now proposed for him, of £14,500, is only £500 higher than that which was granted to his predecessor by Parliament 133 years ago, in 1832.
Clause 2(2) increases the Lord Chancellor's pension from £5,000 a year to £6,250. In view of certain comments which have been made about this part of the Bill, perhaps I ought to make it clear that it is not open to a Lord Chancellor on retirement to return to practise at the Bar. A busy Queen's Counsel who accepts the Great Seal has no security of tenure and he knows that he cannot enjoy the salary attached to the post for more than a short and uncertain time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That, of course, does not apply to the present Lord Chancellor. But it is clearly right that in all the circumstances the Lord Chancellor should be able to look forward to a suitable pension in view of his sacrifice of his professional position if, as in the case of the present Lord Chancellor, he goes straight from the Bar to the Woolsack.
I did not ask him. I do not know. It may well be that, as in so many other things, Lord Birkenhead was an exception. Certainly, the only other instance known to me of an ex-Lord Chancellor going to business was Lord Buckmaster, who, for a short time, undertook some voluntary inquiry in the City of London. He was a remarkable man. He did so and forwent his pension. The other is Lord Kilmuir, and as I have said, he does not draw his pension as an ex-Lord Chancellor.
I should like notice of that question. I would like to think about it. I will not give a spot answer, but we will look into it during the Committee stage. My present feeling is that it is doubtful, but I would be very glad to look at it and deal with it again.
The point which needs to be made is that Lord Chancellors who have retired and draw a pension are expected to sit judicially with the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, with the House of Lords, sitting in a judicial capacity. Although it is right that it has been mentioned that some of them have not followed that ancient tradition, greatly respected in the administration of justice, and have perhaps rather regrettably departed from it, it is right that we should emphasise that most Lord Chancellors have faithfully adhered to the tradition. When they have retired from the Woolsack, they do the ordinary work of the House of Lords, sitting judicially.
That is being done by ex-Lord Chancellors who are now Members of another place. The result is that those who do that—and normally that has been the procedure—find themselves enjoying merely the amount of their pension, while alongside them are Lords of Appeal in Ordinary who are, generally speaking, receiving twice as much by way of emolument from the State. That is the position, and in practice, heavy demands have been made upon the time of ex-Lord Chancellors for the performance of this most critical judicial work, normally sitting in the Supreme Court of Appeal of our country, and as members of the Judicial Committee of the Commonwealth.
If my hon. and learned Friend wants to return to the matter in Committee, we will look at it.
Clause 3 is the only part of the Bill which is designed to come into force on Royal Assent. The rest of the Bill comes into force in April next year. The effect of Clause 3 is to increase by seven the number of High Court judges who may be appointed in England and Wales. The next maximum will, therefore, be 63.
At this hour I do not propose to detain the House for very long over the Clause. No doubt we shall have an opportunity of discussing the matter in detail in Committee. But, broadly speaking, there are four main reasons for increasing the present statutory maximum by seven. The first is the continuing increase in criminal business arising unhappily from the continuing increase in crime which has been the feature of life in our own community, as indeed in most of the world, since the war. Whereas only 1,467 "judge-days" were required for the despatch of criminal business at assizes in 1961, that figure had risen to 2,148 in 1964. In those three years there was that remarkable increase. Moreover, the work of the Court of Criminal Appeal has also increased very sharply. In 1949, for instance, it sat for 65 days a year. Last year, there were 195 sittings of the Court of Criminal Appeal—three times as many.
The second reason for an increase is the increase in divorce work, which has been very sharp in recent years. In 1960, it might have appeared that the total number of divorce petitions had levelled out at between 26,000 and 30,000 a year, but for some reason—and perhaps one of these days the sociologists will explain it—the number began to increase in 1961—in 1964 the total number of proceedings started in the Divorce Division was 41,780. The result has been that the employment of Special Commissioners has still been necessary, and additional judges are needed for the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division, even if the Commissioners are not entirely to be replaced—and the House will recollect that the system of employing Special Commissioners as substitutes for judges for the trial of defended divorce has been greatly criticised in post-war years.
The third reason for an increase is the continued pressure of work in the Chancery Division. As hon. Members are probably aware, there has been a considerable increase there, in particular in wardship proceedings, which have come into the limelight recently, and, generally speaking, they require the personal attention of a judge. Delays are building up in the Chancery Division, and a further appointment there is now called for.
The fourth reason—and this is an urgent one—is that the three judges whose appointment was authorised by the Resale Prices Act last year are already fully occupied in the Queen's Bench and Divorce Divisions, and this at a time when the business arising from the Resale Prices Act is just beginning to come before the Restrictive Practices Court and is likely to increase the work of that court very considerably.
Everyone regrets the necessity for a further increase in the number of High Court judges. I must emphasise that the appointments which are authorised by the Bill will not—indeed, cannot—be made unless there is clear need for them in each case and unless not only my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, but also the Treasury, are satisfied as to the necessity of a new appointment.
I should like notice of that question. It will depend upon the need.
As I have said, it is contemplated that there shall be an early appointment to the Chancery Division and an appointment to the Divorce Division and another to the Queen's Bench Division; but I will look into the matter. If there is already an intention to make immediate increases, I will certainly let the House know. That further appointments will be necessary is undoubted. As I say, however, they will not be made unless both my noble Friend and the Treasury are satisfied of the absolute necessity for a new appointment.
In spite of the considerable increase in the number of High Court judges, it is, I think, generally accepted, certainly at the Bar, that there has been no fall in the standard and qualities of those who have been appointed. I can think of no contemporary judge who would come within the category of a former judge of whom it was said that to appear in the Court of Appeal with a judgment of his in one's favour was like going to sea on a Friday. It was not necessarily fatal, but it was an experience that would have been better avoided. The contemporary judges, as I have ventured to say, have maintained the very high quality indeed of the High Court bench.
In regard to the number of judicial appointments to the High Court, in England and Wales there are fewer High Court judges per million of the population than in Scotland and considerably fewer than in the most nearly comparable judicial systems in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is there more crime there?"] It may be that we are more law-abiding—I do not know: but I doubt whether our Commonwealth friends would be flattered by that intervention. At least, the increase in crime in our own country does not in any case call for complacency on our part in the face of the problem.
The remaining provisions of the Bill are of less importance than those to which I have referred, and at this stage I need trouble the House only with Clause 4. [Laughter.] A reference to Clause 4 is limited entirely to the terms of the Bill. Clause 4 makes the necessary financial provisions consequential upon the increase in the amounts of salaries and pensions and in the number of High Court judges which will be brought about by the first three Clauses of the Bill.
Subsection (1) of Clause 4 continues to charge all salaries and pensions of the higher judiciary upon the Consolidated Fund, with the exception of that part of the Lord Chancellor's remuneration which is attributable to his being Speaker of another place. Subsection (2) extends to the whole of the higher judiciary the long-standing rule which at present applies only to the Supreme Court judges of England, Wales and Northern Ireland under which their salaries are abated by the amount of any pension they receive in respect of public offices previously held by them.
This rule has never previously applied as I understand it, to the Scottish judiciary or to the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. The only likely practical effect of this provision in present circumstances will be that any Member of this House who has served here for 10 or more years and is appointed in future to high judicial office in the United Kingdom will be entitled to draw his Member's pension, but his judicial salary will be reduced by the amount of that pension.
May I add this, in conclusion of my presentation of the Bill? A vigilant, strong and fearless Bench is one of the bulwarks of liberty in this country, but the independence and high quality of the judiciary was not achieved without a struggle and it is well known that judicial independence and judicial integrity are not enjoyed by all countries today. It would be a disaster if the quality of the Bench were to be impaired, and it is as well for Parliament and the country to remind itself from time to time of the great value of the benefits which it enjoys through the possession of the kind of judiciary we have, and it should take care to see that the conditions in which the judiciary discharges its high functions are appropriate.
I thank you very much for that information, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the fact that I must not in any way question your Ruling, but may I just say that to my knowledge, in 21 years now in the House, no such Amendment to such a Government Motion has not been called? May I ask you whether or not this is because of the Measure itself? Or is there some other reason for it?
Not without notice could I be statistical, but I think that I am right in saying that I have a personal recollection of refraining myself from selecting them. It is a matter of judgment in the circumstances, in which I do my best.
The Attorney-General has made a very careful exposition of the Bill. I was amazed at his fortitude or foolhardiness in not declaring an interest—no doubt it was because of the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton)—because I am quite certain that one day the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be a most distinguished ornament of the Bench. I declare no interest at all—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—because although I am said to be, and indeed am, a member of the Bar, during the last 26 years, owing to the exigencies of war and politics, I have practised for only six years; and I am quite certain that no one would ever think of making me a judge. Therefore, I have no interest to declare.
As for the timing of the Bill, I think its sudden introduction is a little odd, at a time so near the end of our summer sittings, at a time when Government spokesmen, and, in particular, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are decrying increases in personal incomes. However, the timing of the Measure is a Government responsibility, and I think we must remember that it does not come into force till April, 1966.
In what he has just said is the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting that he does not think that an undertaking was given by his Administration in March last year about this, and that it was accordingly appropriate that the Bill should be introduced in this Session?
I did not wish to introduce this controversial note. Of course, we said that within this Session a Measure would be introduced, but we had not realised what an appalling mess would be made of the economy in the meantime. But I did not want to get involved in this argument. I shall willingly discuss it at greater length if need be, but the timing of the Bill is a matter for the Government.
I shall not give way. The Attorney-General was listened to almost in silence for nearly 45 minutes and I think, therefore, that I am entitled to put my constructive and moderate comments on the Bill in reasonable silence.
I think that the power given in Clause 1 to alter salaries in future by Order, subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure, is sensible. People talk a great deal about modernising the procedures of Parliament, and it is rather a nonsense that we should still have the whole paraphernalia of a Bill to alter these salaries. It is sensible to streamline the procedure and to make alterations in future by means of a very much simpler procedure.
Clause 3 provides for an increase in the number of judges. It is true, of course, that we are all the time putting increasing burdens on the judiciary. I think that three new judges were created because of the burden put on the judiciary by the passing of the Resale Prices Act, but it is very interesting to discover what happened to those three judges. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if he has time to listen to what I am saying, will concede that what happened to them can be described as larceny as a bailee, or fraudulent conversion, or embezzlement, but they have been transferred from any duties connected with the Resale Prices Act, and have been dealing with the ordinary work of Her Majesty's judges.
I do not complain about that, but I think that we shall return to this in Committee, so that we can have the case for the increase in numbers more fully made out. I do not think that my right hon. and hon. Friends are convinced that the case has been made out for this increase in the numbers, but we can discuss this later.
The main point with which we must deal as a Second Reading point is the amount of the salaries. It is very important that the case should be clearly made so that ordinary people can understand it. The facts as I see then are that the last increase was in 1954. There had been no increase before that since the days of King William IV, when it was fixed at £5,000, but I understand that there was no Income Tax then.
On a percentage rate, these proposals are not out of line with what we have done about our own salaries, nor are they out of line with what we have done with other scales of remuneration. I have here the latest figures paid to Permanent Secretaries. Many of them receive more than £8,000 a year. The Treasury Solicitor is paid £8,285, and I do not think it can be said that these new scales are out of line with these other scales which the House has accepted.
Nor do I think—and this is a very practical point—that it can be said that the new scales are out of proportion to the earnings of a member of the Bar in busy practice. It is true that the judicial pension is a great advantage, but practising barristers can now make arrangements for pensions, and in view of that I think that it must be said that this increase is not out of line with the earnings of a member of the Bar.
The judiciary must attract the very best, and I would not have thought that that would be disputed by any Member of the House. We must show the world that we have a judiciary of the highest quality, and it must, therefore, attract our very best people.
The financial consequences of appointment to the Bench must not be such as to deter acceptance. That is a simple and obvious point which most people will understand. The right hon. and learned Member referred to the general view that the life of a judge is a very comfortable and sheltered one. That is not true. The Attorney-General did not endorse that view; he referred to it in order to refute it. The duties of a judge on circuit are onerous, and the number of judges now required to clear the lists often over-burdens the available accommodation—and their hours may be extremely long. A wide range of other duties is put upon Her Majesty's judges.
But the main point—the common jury point; the Second Reading point—is the question whether we are prepared to say that the salaries of judges should be fixed at a rate which will attract to the job the very best. Applying that test, the proper remuneration of judges is in the national interest, and although the Government must take responsibility for the timing of this Measure I could not ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to vote against it.
I rise to oppose the Bill. If I speak at some length I want to explain to my hon. Friends that, strange as it may seem to them, I am not one who frequently takes part in debates in the House. This is the first time that I have spoken for eight months, and I have spoken in debates on only eight occasions in the 21 years that I have spent in the House. But on this matter I feel deeply. I am sorry that I am in conflict with both my right hon. and learned Friend and the Government—and particularly with my right hon. and learned Friend, because he is a great personal friend of mine, and has been for 21 years. He represents the constituency adjoining mine, West Ham, South, and he knows that what I shall say about my constituents applies equally to his.
When I begin to quote, to explain to the House the feelings of my constituents, I want my right hon. and learned Friend to take it from me that I have strong reason to believe that they are also the feelings of his constituents.
I know my right hon. and learned Friend, and before the Bill goes through I have no doubt that he will find out something about it. As a matter of fact, I think that he has already had one letter.
It is better if I get on with my major objections to the Bill. I never attempted to intervene in the Attorney-General's speech, although I might have been able to assist him in answering some of the questions put by my hon. Friends in their interjections, to which my right hon. and learned Friend replied by suggesting that they look at tomorrow's HANSARD for the information they required. Later, I shall give my right hon. and learned Friend the information which I have, and which will answer the points made in interjections.
I am sorry to be at variance both with my right hon. and learned Friend and with the Government about the Bill. I wanted to move the rejection of the Bill, but Mr. Speaker has not called my Amendment. I intend to call for a Division and to vote myself, and if any of my hon. Friends, or hon. Members opposite, want to join me I shall be pleased to have them. If they do not, I am big enough to stand on my own two feet.
First, I cannot for the life of me see that this was something of major and urgent importance, which had to come in the first eight months of this Government. I believe that we have quite a big legislative programme; whether or not hon. Members opposite agree does not matter at the moment There is and was a large legislative programme based on the policy of this Government, but no mention was made of increases in judges' remuneration. No reference was made by any leader of the Labour Party—[Interruption.] When I start criticising, I wish that hon. Members would not interject, because this applies to both sides of the House and to all three parties—
There was nothing in the legislative programmes of the political parties on this subject and, to the best of my knowledge, none of the leaders of the Labour Party made any reference to it. None of the Liberals did, and certainly not the Tory Party.
Therefore, through the campaign, if this was such a vital issue, and it was so urgent, why did not someone think of telling the electorate about it—[Interruption.] The hon. Member is quite wrong, because during the election and before it, it was publicly declared in this House and outside that the Lawrence Committee was sitting. It was appointed by this House. It was discussed by all the political parties and in the Press and the Committee made its report.
The hon. and learned Gentleman knew that there was no report on this subject, there was no committee, there was no legislation, there was no recommendation from the House during the whole period that I have been here about judges' salaries.
I will go further than that. The Attorney-General said that there was a agreement between the two sides in March of last year. That was the first that I had heard about it. I knew nothing about it—[AN HON. MEMBER: "They did not tell you."] I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite know. Any criticism which I make of my Front Bench is equally applicable to hon. Members opposite, because they were parties to this—
The facts are, then, that neither of the parties was committed to this. There was no committee and no investigation and no action was taken on this matter by the House.
As we know, hon. Members on this side of the House are proud of the fact that they have association with the trade unions and the Co-operative Party and they declare that interest quite openly. They are proud to do so. Looking through the journals of the unions, I have found no trade union, no Labour Party, no Co-operative Party which, either locally, at district or branch level, or at its annual conference, has passed any resolution demanding urgent attention to increase the judges' salaries.
I may be wrong, but the only reference which I can find to the matter was by a Mr. Jones, of the Transport and General Workers' Union—I think that he is the assistant general secretary—who was violently against it. He said at his annual conference that, as far as he was concerned—I do not know whether he was speaking for his union—he would have no truck with this Bill.
If there was something urgent about the Bill, even if they did not see fit to consult us at any time between last March and now, they might have had the decency to seek an opportunity of discussing it with the Trades Union Congress General Council or with the Co-operative movement. But they did not do it.
As far as I know, having looked through Tory Party reports—I do not get verbatim reports of the Tory Party conference and I do not know what happens in their mothers' or women's guilds, or whatever they may call them—no Tory Party organisation has pressed for legislation to increase the poor judges' salaries during the first eight months of the Labour Government.
I must not leave the Liberals out. I do not think that even they have. Certainly, I do not remember reading or hearing that they have.
As I understand, what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that we ought not to be doing this in a busy Session because none of the party leaders has said that it would be done and there has not been a public outcry that it should be done. If there is anything in the point, perhaps he will tell the House how he explains the fact that so much time has been spent in this busy Parliament on the abolition of capital punishment, of which no mention was made during the election and about which there was no public outcry?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am sure that you were listening to what I said. The hon. and learned Member obviously was not. I did not say anything of the sort. That is what he said, and, if he wants to say it, he should do so in his own time and leave me to get on with my speech.
I was going on to refer to the lack of pressure not only outside the House, but inside. I have no interest to declare. I am one of the few Members present here this evening who have no connection with the law. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, there are lawyers here. Of course, it is true. I am told there are about 100 hon. and learned Members who have some connection with the law. Some are Queen's Counsel, some are barristers-at-law and some are solicitors. [An hon. Member: "There are more than that".] Well, I do not want to argue over a hundred or two either way. I am advised that there are some, like the hon. and learned Gentleman, who are well known by repute, but who do not practise. But I will not argue about a hundred either way. Let us call it 100.
I have been going through the OFFICIAL REPORT. We have a wonderful Reference Library, whose staff have been helping me. I asked them if they could find me one Question from a member of the legal fraternity which has asked for the matter of judges' salaries to be considered one of urgency. There is not one hon. and learned Member who has done it. Probably, as they have not got a very good trade union—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I thought that I would not get agreement on that one. As their union was inactive on this, I thought that some of my trade union friends would have thought it right to do it. But, no; there is not an hon. and learned Member who has asked for this matter to be raised or dealt with.
I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General would tell us that, as things are at the moment, the poor judges cannot manage and that a number of them have resigned. Again, I have no knowledge of any who has resigned, and certainly none has resigned because he cannot manage on his inadequate salary. As far as I know, over the last few years none of them has died in poverty, or without leaving a few thousand pounds.
I mention this because it has been suggested that judges' salaries must tie up with the salaries of Members of Parliament. They have nothing to do with the salaries of Members of Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members may jeer, but we know that during the last 10 or 15 years there have been many hon. Members who lived in abject poverty, who could not afford to pay their hotel bills and for the necessities for their job. Many of them died in poverty. It is true that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said that we will see all this in HANSARD tomorrow. We will. I would advise you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to study it, because it will be very interesting.
It would appear that when the judges are on circuit they have a choice. They may get only £8 10s. a day. But £8 10s., tax-free, is not too bad. There are plenty of hon. Members who, when they were forced to accept the sessional allowance, would have liked £8 10s. a day. I understand that not all of them draw the £8 10s.
I am coming to the point about the head cook and bottle washer, about the judge taking his butler and cook with him. If he wants to do that, he should pay for it. If my hon. Friends bring their butlers and cooks down from the North, they pay them themselves. I would go further and suggest that if they get £8 10s. a day for it, they can well afford to have good butlers and good cooks.
Evidently, that was not good enough, because, to quote the Attorney-General's remarks, in recent times the Lord Chancellor set up a central pool of cooks and butlers, and they are paid from public funds. The daily allowance of these poor judges, who are served by cooks and butlers taken from the public pool—I am referring not to dock expressions, but to the public pool of cooks and butlers—is reduced when they make use of the pool. When three or four judges in the same lodgings are provided with a staff at public expense, they have to manage on a daily allowance of only £5 2s. But £5 2s., plus cook, head butler, head bottle washer, and so on, is not too bad. I hope that hon. Members will read about this in HANSARD.
This matter is a scandal. Hon. Members opposite may say, "The hon. Member has no connection with the law", but I have the Solicitors' Journal. I thought that the Attorney-General would refer to it. This is not a trade union document—or is it? I do not know. However, it supports my right hon. Friend the First Secretary's plea for wage restraint. It says:
Nevertheless, we wonder whether the time is not ripe for a positive gesture of good will. On just over £150 a week gross a High Court Judge can afford to be generous.
It goes on to suggest that it would be a good idea if they showed how they supported the incomes policy by not going ahead with this proposed increase.
I have dealt with the question of the emoluments. I have adequately explained that there is no comparison, and no question of comparison, with M.P.s, who have to meet their hotel expenses themselves. Fortunately, I am not in this category, so I do not have to shout. I am a London Member. M.P.s must pay for their lunches and dinners. As a London Member I do not have to. M.P.s have to pay their travelling expenses to their constituencies and all the other things. Whether that is right or wrong, and whether M.P.s should or should not have had an increase, is not now the issue. A committee sat to consider the problem. There was an inquiry and its report was published. There was a reference to M.P.'s pay during the election. I hope we shall not have the comparison with M.P.s trotted out.
This is completely contrary to the Government's own declared pledges. It is completely contrary to the Government's incomes policy. It is completely contrary to the pledges and pleas which hon. Members opposite have been making for everyone to show restraint. They always appeal more to the trade unions. To be fair, we appeal more to directors of companies and to shareholders. Both sides appeal to trade unions, on the one hand, and to those in receipts of income from shares, dividends and directors' fees, on the other, to try to limit it and show some regard for an incomes policy.
Why do we not follow this policy on this matter? Why do not the Government do it? The Attorney-General went to great lengths to explain the comparison with what percentage increases have or have not been made. I am sure that there are very many thousands of people, not only of old-age pensioners, but disabled pensioners, the chronically sick, and so on, who are in much greater need and are much more deserving of a meagre increase than those who are to receive the vast increase proposed in the Bill. What about teachers? We are told that the country is very short of teachers. Why not give them a 25 per cent. increase, because we need teachers? That would be worth doing.
I do not criticise the Government for having had to do unpopular things because of what they inherited. I am not complaining at the fact that, far from reducing mortgage and interest rates, they have increased them because of what they inherited and have had to deal with. But they do not have to adopt a Measure which the Tories prepared. Why do the Government have to put into effect legislation which the Tories prepared? Because they gave a pledge? [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] If they did not give a pledge, why should they do it? I do not know who is right on this. I understand that there was a pledge. It is now said that there was not a pledge.
I will not give way. I heard what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said before. He said that a statement was made in another place to the effect that it was the former Government's intention to do this. Good luck to them. It was not my intention. It was not my hon. Friends' intention. It was the former Government's intention. I cannot see why I should support this Government in doing the former Government's work for them; and I shall not, Whips or no Whips. I will not do it.
I go further and say that it is no criterion to say that people have or have not had increases on what they got 150 years ago. Is it to be said that, because a person gets a certain income, he is entitled to claim as of right his 2½ per cent. or 3 per cent. or 3½ per cent.? Is that to be the incomes policy? Mr. Wilfred Harvey may well say, "I have been getting £270,000 since 1954, but I have had no increase since 1954, so I want 15 years' back pay at 2½ per cent." He might well say that he also wants the increase.
The hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) always makes very good interjections and he made a good one tonight. He asked, "What about the tax-free allowances?" The Attorney-General missed the point. The hon. Member was referring to what is not only a gross anomaly, but an absolute liberty taken with Her Majesty's taxpaying subjects in that if a Queen's Counsel or barrister decides to retire from the Bar he can take his last year's income free of tax.
On a point of order. If the hon. Member makes a statement which is manifestly untrue, and for which he has no authority whatsoever, should he not at least allow somebody to intervene? He cannot deceive the House.
It has been declared in the Press and in the House and Chancellors of the Exchequer of Governments of both parties have admitted that that is the case.
I was about to say that these hon. and learned Members, before they become judges, are invariably Q.C.s and invariably, when they resign from the Bar before becoming judges, have this tax-free income. There may or may not be an argument for this salary increase—I do not think that there is—but if ever there was an argument for that increase there certainly cannot be, by any stretch of the imagination, a claim for a 25 per cent. increase in the pension rights of the Lord Chancellor and other judges.
An hon. and learned Member may be giving up £15,000 or £50,000 a year at the Bar to take over the Lord Chancellor's job. I do not begrudge him that income. He can have £100,000 for all I care, but if he gives up £100,000 a year to take a £15,000-a-year Lord Chancellor's job, and he knows that there is a chance that he may be turned out of that job because of the people's democratic vote, he takes that chance and if he is getting a £5,000-a-year pension that is adequate enough. I do not see why he should have another £1,250, making the pension £6,250.
I asked Questions about this matter. I confessed earlier that I do not speak much in the House, but I do ask a lot of Questions. I received an Answer to this Question on pensions. The Attorney-General was right to refer to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmuir, and to say that he does not draw his pension—now that he gets a reputed £20,000 or £30,000 a year from the business world. That is true, but legally he could draw it, and legally, for a fortnight, he did, until the Press reported it and then he decided to stop drawing his pension. I am not complaining. If that is what the law says, he is entitled to claim it, and I make no objection. Why should not he have it? If the law says that, in addition to his £30,000 a year, he can have his pension, let him have it. All I say is that the law is wrong. The law should not entitle a man in that position to have £30,000 or £40,000 a year and the right to claim not only £5,000 now, but a proposed £6,250.
Again, there is no comparison with Members of Parliament. We contribute to our pension fund. We have to do 10 years. The Lord Chancellor can do 10 months on the Woolsack and draw his pension. [Laughter.] That is not laughable. It is serious. It is a disgusting situation. The poor old-age pensioner outside who works for 40 years to build up the wealth of this country goes on to a few pounds at week, and if he stays on at work his pension is pro tanto reduced.
No, I shall not give way. It is a crying shame that a Labour Government, of all Governments, should have the audacity to suggest that a man should have £6,250 a year if he wants to draw another £30,000 a year from business.
My right hon. and learned Friend went on to explain that some of these chappies do judicial work. No disrespect to you, Mr. Speaker. "Chappie" is an affectionate term. Some of these chappies in the House of Lords, so we are told, do some judicial work. Do they? Here again, I have had some Answers to Questions. There appear to be three entitled to draw the pension, and, apparently, only one draws it. I assume that he is the one who is acting in a judicial capacity, and I assume, also, that he is doing it in the House of Lords. I must name him, the noble Lord, Lord Dilhorne. Is he performing his judicial function when he is leading Tory revolts against the democratically expressed will of this House and bringing in provisions restricting the trade unions?
I am speaking in all seriousness about this. Am I, a Labour man who objects to his politics, and who openly and frankly says so, to be expected to pay this man £5,000 a year and vote him another £1,250 a year on top to enable him to sit in the House of Lords? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] All right. He will not get it. But the principle is the same. This noble Lord is now drawing £5,000 a year, and he has led a revolt against the democratically expressed will of the people as represented in this House. No one can remove him. No one can take away his pension. No one can stop him. But I am told that he is acting in a judicial capacity. If he is, let the judiciary of the Tory Party pay him. Perhaps some hon. and learned Members opposite might even club round to help.
I started in a jocular vein, but I am very annoyed and upset about the Bill. My party sent me here—[Laughter.] Do not laugh. Every hon. Member has a party behind him, I hope. I have a very good local party and a very good national party. They sent me here to help carry out the programme and policy of the Labour Party in its election manifesto. They did not send me here to agree to increases for judges' pensions and salaries. This is true not only of me, but of all my hon. Friends. It is true of every hon. Member of the House of Commons, wherever he sits, because this was never put to the electorate by any party.
I have not canvassed my hon. Friends for their support, and I do not do so now. But I shall vote. Some of my hon. Friends might say that such a course will cause trouble for the party and the Government, but that is not so. The Bill would not apply until next April, in any case. Why are the Government so anxious to push it through now? Why not postpone it? If my hon. Friends say that a defeat on the Bill could have a dire effect upon the Government, I remind them of the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who has said that the Government will not fall on a defeat on a matter that is not a major issue. Indeed, he has gone further.
The Conservative Opposition—good luck to them—by manoeuvre and manipulation were able the other night to get an Amendment made to the Finance Bill and the Government accepted it. I wish that we could carry my vote, but I am afraid that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not support me. But if the vote for it were large enough there would be nothing to stop the Government saying that, in view of the feeling of the House, they would postpone the Bill at least until the next Session.
Many of my hon. Friends have anxious eyes on Bills and Motions which they would like to introduce. The Government also have Bills ready which they could bring in in place of this Measure. We could all suggest other Bills if the Government are short of legislation. Do not let my hon. Friends be misled. If they have the courage to vote with me they will be doing what the overwhelming majority of the people would want. They would be doing what is right in all conscience in the name of the ordinary men and women in the country. They would be doing what we have said is right—giving an example to the country. I ask my hon. Friends to come with me into the Division Lobby, because that will show the country that we in the Labour Party can stand up for what is right and just.
I congratulate the Government on resisting pressure based on the suggestion that this is an untimely and unpopular Measure. The hon. Member is entitled to his views, but I ask him and the House to consider whether his speech was not, in the main, a denigration of the members of our judiciary and the functions they carry out in society. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Whatever the hon. Member's basic intentions, the way in which he expressed them was certainly an attempt to poke fun at many aspects of our judicial system. To do that in present circumstances—
The hon. Member refused time and time again to give way. I am prepared to give way to any other hon. Member, but not to him.
I want to turn to one aspect of the Bill which is of considerable importance and which is completely devoid of controversy. This is the provision to increase the number of puisne judges in the High Court from 56 to 63. [Laughter.) I do not understand the meaning of that laughter. I am trying to make a serious contribution on a matter of interest to everyone who wishes justice to be administered, and administered without delay.
It has been said that justice delayed is justice denied. Circumstances at assizes at the moment are such as to give rise to anxiety in this connection. About a fortnight ago, the officers of the Welsh Association of Law Societies and the officers of the Wales and Chester Circuit met to consider this point, which applies particularly to the hearing of civil actions. [Laughter.] This is not a laughing matter. Perhaps hon. Members opposite think that workmen who have had accidents and who are waiting for their cases to be heard feel no anxiety and frustration when there is undue delay in the hearing of their cases.
What is happening especially at assizes, bearing in mind the increase in criminal work, is that civil actions are constantly being put back from one assize to another. That in itself is unsatisfactory but there is another unsatisfactory aspect in that it results in cases being settled when they would not have been settled, or when the parties are not anxious to settle on the terms obtained but are forced to do so when faced with the alternative of their suits not being heard until several months ahead.
I hope that advantage will be taken of that part of the Bill which is to come into operation immediately upon the Royal Assent to increase the number of judge days to deal with civil actions. Following the recommendations of the Streatfeild Committee, I believe that conditions for dealing with criminal cases are reasonably satisfactory, but that is certainly not so with the hearing of civil actions.
I now revert to the remuneration aspect of the Bill. One would have thought that what was proposed for Her Majesty's judges was exceptional for persons of great responsibility. However, I have had extracted in the Library information about what is happening in connection with persons holding positions of very great responsibility in other spheres, for example, in the higher Civil Service and the nationalised industries.
If one looks at those figures and sees what is proposed in the Bill it certainly cannot be said that these proposals are in any way remarkable or extravagant. May I mention one or two examples? The last occasion on which the higher judicial salaries were reviewed was in 1954. I have a list of a number of salaries in the Civil Service and in the nationalised industries for 1954 and 1964. In 1954, a Permanent Under-Secretary of State received a salary of £4,500 and in 1964 his salary was £8,885. A Deputy Under-Secretary of State received, in 1954, a salary of £3,250, and in 1964 his salary was £5,800.
I cannot give that figure. All I can say is that the judges had to wait 120 years for the rises they obtained in 1954.
In the nationalised industries the Chairman of the Electricity Council received a salary of £8,500 in 1954 and it is now £12,500. The comparable figures for the Gas Council are £6,000 and £11,000. The Chairman of London Transport Board received £7,000 in 1954, and now the figure is £11,000. It is difficult, in this sphere, to talk about the rate for the job, but if one compares what is proposed in the Bill with the high responsibilities it is certainly not out of proportion to what has happened in relation to people with high responsibility in other spheres of public life. [AN. HON. MEMBER: "It depends what is meant by high responsibility."] Of course, it depends upon responsibility, but is anyone suggesting that the judiciary have not duties of very great responsibility?
In considering this, one should have that in mind. I have a quotation which expresses far better than I could what I would suggest should be remembered in this respect. It is a quotation from what the then Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, said on the occasion of the Second Reading of the 1954 Bill. He said:
Parliament has to ensure that those few men who are capable of rendering this exceptional service in all its forms are attracted towards doing so, and that their circumstances when they have taken office are such as to enable their powers to be exercised in the public interest without financial anxiety or personal distraction."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1063.]
I believe that that sets out quite clearly and specifically what should be our attitude in this matter.
It is no different in the sense that what we have to decide is what is a reasonable and proper remuneration. That is the test. What I am saying is that the remuneration proposed in the Bill is perfectly reasonable and proper in the circumstances. That is the acid test and I believe that the Bill stands up to that test.
I agree. If the suggestion is that everyone should be paid the same wages, then I can understand the hon. Member's point of view, but that is certainly not the Government's policy.
I do not want to detain the House longer, although I am tempted to do so, in particular to deal with some of the points raised by the hon. Member for West Ham, North. I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government on having introduced it.
We have first to decide, are the judges getting too little? Secondly, if they are, what about the timing? My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General talked about downgrading the judges' status. I am surprised to find that on this side of the House status is expressed in terms of cash. I hope that in this country status is not measured in that way. Some of the jobs which carry the greatest status are not paid at all. I think, for example, for example, of lord lieutenants.
We are told that the increase is necessary to maintain the judges' independence and integrity. It seems to me to be something of a reflection upon the legal profession that we can maintain their integrity only by paying very large salaries. A Member of Parliament requires independence and integrity, and if he is to do his job well he needs qualities about as good as the average judge. Many hon. Members have become judges, and I think they have been a good average as Members of Parliament—probably not much above or much below the average.
Can we find the men to do this job at the money? It is said that we must attract the best advocates. I do not agree with that at all. An advocate needs a power to assert himself over a court, a passionate belief in his own words, a tremendous interest in what he says and little interest in what anyone else says. These are just the qualities which do not make a good judge, and many of the best advocates do not make good judges.
What are the qualities which we need in a judge? They are men of the highest character, of course. They are careful, they are courteous, they probably have second or good third-class degrees. That is about the level that we require. One or two on the Chancery side have good first-class degrees and are outstanding, but for the ordinary type of judge we want good common sense with a certain amount of experience and not very much more.
Can we get that sort of man, who makes a good judge, for this money? Of course we can. It comes at an age when he wants to cut down his work, and when he becomes a judge he cuts down to an enormous degee the work which he was doing as a barrister. This is a nice, gentle job which one can step into at that age. He gets a big bonus, tax-free, to start with, because it is not merely a year's salary; by postponing payment it can add up to a good deal more than that. He gets a pension earned more quickly than in any other job—and quite a good pension. It is nonsense to say that we cannot get the judges we want—and good judges—at the present money.
The trouble is that in the old days judges were paid vastly too much. When ones goes back a couple of centuries, and looks at what £5,000 a year meant, it would be the equivalent of £50,000 or more now. Why were judges paid at that level? It was to make certain that they were on the side of the rich. It was to commit the judiciary to property, and that was the sole reason why it was made certain that the judges saw things from the rich man's point of view.
If one looks at judicial law as it has developed, it has always been the development of the rights of property as against the rights of the individual. It is that judicial law which we in Parliament have constantly had to cut back to save the rights of individual people as against the rights of property. The idea that judges should be vastly highly-paid people is, I believe, socially wrong.
Having said that as to the level of payment, I now turn to the question of title. We are told that a pledge was given by the last Government. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) did not think so; he said that there was an expression of intention in another place. Some very definite pledges were given by my party, and some of those pledges are before us. One of those pledges was to bring public service pensions up to the purchasing power which they used to possess, to save them from inflation and to apply the principle of parity to public service pensioners.
That was a pledge which I was authorised to give and gave on behalf of this party. It has not been implemented, and it was our pledge and not that of the party opposite. [AN HON. MEMBER: "It is not the only one, either."] Why is there this priority here?
We are told about the salaries of Members of Parliament. I do not think that the timing of the increase in the salaries of Members of Parliament was right. What happened in that case was that Members' salaries and the removal of prescription charges came in right away before we had run into the economic difficulties—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which have prevented our other pledges being fulfilled. That is why this one came out of its priority. However, we know the situation now. We know that those pledges which were made to the public service pensioners are not being carried out. We know that they are not being carried out because of the economic situation.
At this point we take over a Tory pledge and say that we have to fulfil it. All this is a question of priorities. This is a Tory priority which we are accepting. We have been doing this far too much. We are told, "Ah, but you must support the Government". A critical point comes: at what point do we go on supporting Conservative policy because it comes from a Labour Government? We have had Conservative defence policy and ours was scrapped. We have had Conservative nuclear policy and ours was scrapped, and we have had Conservative foreign policy.
In economic matters, we have seen the handling of our economy through the acceptance, again, of a Tory priority, the first priority being the maintenance of sterling at a certain level as an international exchange currency. We have seen the handing over of the economy, broadly, to a consortium of bankers who dictate what sort of a Budget we have and as to what kind of payment we have. How long does one go on supporting that—a Labour Government in their conduct of a Tory policy? This is the problem which we had to face in 1931, and we are coming near to facing it again. As far as I am concerned, I shall not support the Bill. This is the point where I rebel.
I should like to ask my hon. and learned Friend, for the sake of putting the record straight, whether he would not, on reconsideration, agree that the economic difficulties which face the Government are part of the Government's heritage, which is entirely the result of the Tory Government?
I shall certainly conclude in a moment, because I do not want to be long, but I do feel that the point has come at which the Government have got to face up not only to the difficulties which were created for us by the other side—of course, they were—but to whether or not to use the other side's remedies. They have been accepted. We cannot go on doing that.
I intended to begin by saying that it was not for me to try to resolve the domestic conflicts between the Attorney-General and his colleague, the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), but that conflict has now paled into insignificance beside the almost Freudian revelations by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), because we see now all the seething frustrations which have been brewing all along on the Government's back benches during many months rise suddenly to the surface and breaking out on this issue and at the expense of Her Majesty's judges.
It is curious to see the Attorney-General in the rôle of catalyst in such a demonstration, but, so be it, that is the rôle in which he is cast. The way in which this demonstration has presented itself should, I think, be a cause of some concern, because it suggests, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) pointed out, a lack of awareness of the importance, in a democratic society such as ours, of the quality of judge, which is manifestly high, independent and effective.
The hon. Gentleman opposite is making observations while sitting down—[An HON. MEMBER: "On his side they want people's courts."]—but he has promised us a speech and no doubt we shall have it later.
I put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman that judges are in many cases divorced from the people. That is why the trade union movement is suspicious of these people who are removed from society and are protected in a far over-protected way in our present society. I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he does not think that these salaries, based on the remuneration they are asking, is not excessive, and that perhaps dedication to service would be much more useful from judges than asking for more money.
If the implication of the suggestion that Her Majesty's judges are divorced from the people were taken as far as it could be, it would lead in the direction of the creation of a system of people's courts, which, in my submission, is not the kind of society that we would like to create. I take the hon. Gentleman's first point to some extent, and I shall come back to it later.
The hon. Gentleman should not underrate the importance of the judicial system and its working today. Judges are called on to make decisions on claims by injured workmen, and it is important that the highest quality of legal mind—their training is a different question—should be directed to these disputes. It is a fact that within recent years members of the Bar, people of high quality, have been attracted to other non-judicial activities with substantial fringe benefits, far beyond those to which the hon. Member for West Ham, North referred.
At all levels of society we are living in a competitive world in which the labour market is at work and where the rate for the job has to be paid to get the quality of man that is required. [Interruption.]
Has my hon. Friend any evidence that the labour market is not working in this case? His argument must postulate that people are not becoming judges because they cannot afford to. Has he any evidence of that?
I do not want to dwell for too long on that, but I am prepared to deal with it. There is evidence that a number of members of the Bar are being attracted at various stages—
Not from the Bench, because it is inconceivable that they would be. I am saying that potential recruits of high quality are being diverted from the Bar. I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) bears me out on that.
The argument being presented from the benches opposite suggests the existence of a malaise and disquiet about the working of our legal system which is spreading and is not without foundation. It is important that Her Majesty's judges and all those responsible for the working of the law and the legal system should take account of this. Her Majesty's judges have the rôle not only of administering the law in our courts, but also of setting the framework within which it operates. Their influence as a body and as individuals is substantial on the substance of the law, on the machinery and management of the courts, on the organisation, and on the education of the legal profession.
Their rôle and influence on all these things is substantial, as the leaders of the profession. They have a direct influence over the machinery and operation of their own courts, and they can express a corporate view on any shortcomings of the way in which the courts as a whole are working. On the substance of the law, their corporate view can make itself felt, and on the profession they can exert substantial influence.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) mentioned the mounting difficulty arising from cases awaiting trial on circuit, in the courts of Her Majesty's judges. This is a real problem, which is causing growing inconvenience that has been tolerated for too long in the running of the courts. If any member of either branch of the profession makes personal representations to Her Majesty's judges about the working of a certain court he will be received with courtesy and attention.
My hon. Friend is taking me away from my main argument. I should have no difficulty in answering the point, but I should be grateful if hon. Members would be patient and listen to my argument, which is important.
The point is that our courts, both in and outside London, are so overloaded with work that case after case is often put into a court's list and not reached. This involves inconvenience not only for the legal profession—we are paid to be inconvenienced—but for witnesses, including medical and expert witnesses, members of juries, and parties. It also involves loss of valuable time.
I know of an occasion on which a dozen steel workers, immobilising half a plant, were put on parade for three days in respect of a case that was not reached. Leaving aside the question of the time of medical and expert witnesses, that is one manifestation of the ineffective working of the machinery.
Would not it be fair to say that many of the difficulties of which the hon. Member is speaking come not from a shortage of judges, but from the rigidity of the Bar, which often refuses to alter judges' arrangements? The inconveniences that arise are due not to the causes that the hon. Member is emphasising, but to the attitude adopted by both sections of the Bar. [Interruption.]
Some of my hon. and learned Friends heartily disagree with the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). I would not disagree with him as fiercely as that. I suspect that many of the shortcomings in our legal system are due to the conservatism of both sides of the profession and the reluctance of both sides to do what is necessary to make the system more efficient. It is in that respect that I regard the responsibility of the Bench as important. The overloading of lists is one matter and the way in which the lists are made up hopelessly late in the day, so that litigants are called from the other end of the country at short notice—
Order. Second Reading debates do go rather wide, but the hon. Member is getting a little too wide now—unless he can relate his argument either to the question whether judges should be paid more or whether their number should be increased.
I was aware that there are limits to the territories that we can cover in this debate, but my argument is related, first, to the question of additional judges, and, secondly, to the reason why increases in judges' remuneration are more and more resented. Judges are regarded as being responsible for these shortcomings. I suggest that they should be taking a lead, at the head of the profession, in putting these shortcomings right. The Lord Chief Justice has recently arranged for divorce cases to be heard on a fixed day, and has done a great deal to improve the arrangements for circuits. We have more fixed cases in London. But the system still remains a nightmare for many of those who work in it, let alone the litigants whom we are trying to serve.
This is because we have a system in which cases are often regarded as a kind of fodder, to be wheeled in front of the judges who, because of the pressure upon them, are obliged to take the fodder as it is fed to them. It may be inevitable in the present system. Yet the Evershed Committee said 12 years ago that this is the only civilised country in the world where cases were not fixed, where a litigant did not know well in advance the date on which his case would be tried. I do not know whether, in the framework of the existing system, it is possible for the judges to achieve efficiency of that kind, which we should like to have.
To the extent that we do not achieve it, their image and reputation is tarnished, because they are regarded as the "head man" of the legal system. I believe that it is wrong that public respect for our judges should be diminished by shortcomings of that kind in the working of the courts. I hope that the judges will try to meet criticism of the kind which we have had by themselves pressing for the rapid implementation, as a matter of interest to them and to the legal system as a whole, of the kind of reforms which have for so long been canvassed.
Another feature which may make them less respected and less deserving of these higher salaries is the fact that they may no longer be doing the kind of work which is most important. So much of their time is spent on cases of traffic accidents and industrial injuries. I recollect one case in which three counsel, together with full supporting cast, detained one of Her Majesty's judges for three days in determining whether a railway wagon was the property of one nationalised corporation or another, so as to decide which should compensate an admittedly innocent workman. So much judicial time is taken up with that sort of thing that many of the important issues are being diverted to non-judicial tribunals.
The real rôle of Her Majesty's judges is tending to decline and the important decisions are moving away from them. It is important for them to take the lead in restoring the courts to the central areas of dispute in our society, and to do it not only on the basis of providing the "Rolls-Royce" justice of the highest possible standards which we have at the moment, but on the basis that our legal system needs at one and the same time its Henry Ford and its Professor Buchanan to enable it to give public service of the kind which is needed.
I turn now to the organisation and integration of the legal profession—
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is still a little wide. We cannot reform the legal profession in this debate. We are deciding whether to pay Her Majesty's judges more money and whether to increase their numbers. All his arguments should be addressed to the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman is right, but I do not need him to tell me that.
The judges play a major rôle in the education of the legal profession. They make up well over half of the membership of bodies like the Council for Legal Education. I believe that the long-proposed reforms of the educational system of both halves of the profession and the long-proposed integration in the educational system would enhance the reputation of the legal system and of the judges. It is something for which the judges ought to press if they are to go on appearing to deserve the increased remuneration proposed in the Bill.
It is over 100 years since a Royal Commission last considered this subject, and since then, in the 1870s and 1880s, many judges took the lead in introducing legislation in another place to implement the reforms suggested by that Commission, but they fell by the way. I hope that the present generation of Her Majesty's judges, to uphold the high reputation they have, will again take the lead in that respect. If medical education deserved consideration by the Robbins Committee and the appointment of a Royal Commission to look at it as a whole, then it would be splendid if Her Majesty's judges were to take the lead in proposing the establishment of a Royal Commission to consider the whole of legal education.
I have covered the main points that I wanted to make. They seem to me to be important. The attitude, understandable in many ways, of hon. Members opposite and some of my own hon. Friends on this side to the proposed salary increases appears to be symptomatic of the feeling that Her Majesty's judges could be giving a more powerful lead in the preservation of those aspects of our legal system that we believe to be important. I believe that it is important that they should give the lead in the pursuit and preservation of the substance of the rule of law, rather than the shadow, and of the substance of the real virtues of our legal and judicial system.
If they are able to do that, then the next time a Measure of this kind comes before the House, I have no doubt that it will be received with warm and enthusiastic cheers from both sides.
If I do not comment on the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman for Bebington (Mr. Howe), that is not the result of any intended discourtesy towards him; it is merely because I want to say something about the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman has clearly expressed views to which he has given much thought. I am sure that he has given highly skilled thought to the need for reform in certain parts of the legal profession. I expect that, one day, he will give that lecture to the Bow Group, but I cannot think why he wanted to rehearse it in the House.
I acknowledge my debt to it very freely indeed. It is my main source of amusement.
Before I turn to the observations of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on the Bill, there are two matters that were mentioned by Members opposite to which I would refer. There seemed to be some confusion about a statement of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) and the reported views of my right hon. and learned Friend about what took place in March of last year. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral said that all that happened was that the then Lord Chancellor made a statement in another place. But I have heard it said that, before that statement was made, it was shown to the then shadow Cabinet, who agreed it. If that is so—[Interruption.] The Opposition Chief Whip is telling you to shut up, so you had better shut up.
All that the Chief Whip was doing was inquiring whether the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) was referring to the then shadow Cabinet. I thought that he meant the present shadow Cabinet, which was then in government. I understand, however, that the hon. Gentleman was referring to his own party's shadow Cabinet when in Opposition.
I said it with absolute clarity, and the Chief Whip understood me. I will say it again now in monosyllables, for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman. I have heard it said that these words of the then Lord Chan-cell-or were agreed in ad-vance with the then sha-dow Cab-in-et. [Laughter.] I trust that the hon. Gentleman now has the point.
The question which arises—I cannot put it to the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral, because he is not here, but perhaps one of his hon. Friends will answer it on his behalf—is this: was he arguing that because the then Lord Chancellor made that statement it bound any future Government? If so, this is a very strange doctrine. If that is not being argued, why do we have the Bill now?
Is it not because the Government feel bound by a statement of the Lord Chancellor of another Government, but because they gave their assent at that time to the Bill? If so, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is absolutely right in saying that this Government are being much more meticulous in honouring the pledges of the previous Government than they are in honouring the pledges made when they were in opposition and when they went into the General Election. We should have this cleared up.
The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral says that there is no more in it than something which took place in March, 1964, and which, in the jargon of 1965, would be called a declaration of intent. There is a declaration of intent that there would be wage restraint. There would be a different wage policy for judges from other people. If so, it is a different situation from what some of us have been led to believe. I hope that before the night is out we shall have clarification on this point either from hon. Members opposite or from the Government Front Bench.
I should like to refer to one observation of the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), who, also, is not here now. He talked about people with responsible jobs and gave some examples. We can all choose our own examples. I do not know many jobs more responsible than the job of a man who drives a 3,500 horse-power electric or diesel-electric engine along a main line at 80 miles an hour with 600 people behind him and their lives in his hands. Such men have been negotiating for more than a year an increase in wages less than one-thirteenth of the increase we are proposing to give to the judges.
In an overcrowded legislative programme which is taking us right into August, and in which it has been impossible to deal with Measures which the Leader of the House has admitted are desirable, but for which, unhappily, he has not time, I wonder by what yardstick or criteria of responsibility the hon. and learned Gentleman would assert that we have to give priority to legislating an increase post-dated till next April for judges more than 13 times as great as the increase which locomotive drivers have failed to get in a year of negotiation?
I do know, but I think that I should be out of order in quoting it. I am not saying that their case is on all fours; of course it is not. They have had increases over the years, and I will turn to that question in a moment. But that is not germane to my point. The question is one of urgency. We are squeezing in this Bill after 10 o'clock at night and at the fag-end of a Session which is overcrowded and this part of which will overrun by a fortnight because, we are told, the Bill is desperately urgent.
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. Without wishing to make any direct comparison between locomotive drivers and judges, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would still be here at 12.35 a.m. if the Bill concerned locomotive drivers?
My attendance has been rather more frequent and longer than that of the hon. Member since I have been a Member of the House, only nine month. Perhaps I shall learn better when I am an older Member, like he is.
If I had known that there was to be a silly intervention like that, I should not have been so ready to give way. That is a deliberate distortion of the point I was making. I will not measure my attendance by comparison with that of the hon. Gentleman's. We can do that in the morning without bothering the House.
I was not complaining about the hon. Gentleman's attendance. I was trying to make the serious point that the hon. Gentleman would not be here, and many other hon. Members would not be here, and perhaps I would not be here, if the Bill concerned the wages of locomotive drivers. We would not have a Bill for their wages. The only point I am trying to argue is that we are getting our proportions all wrong.
The Attorney-General made a speech which I have heard in different contexts many times. I was the speech of a trade union organiser putting forward a wage claim on behalf of his members. It was very well done. If my right hon. and learned Friend were not such a distinguished lawyer, he could get a job in any trade union. His speech had all the characteristics of the conventional speech of the trade union organiser in support of a wage claim—"My members have not had a rise for a long time. They have been overtaken. They have been leapfrogged by other people who have had more rises in the same time. We are not sure that the wages are high enough to attract suitable applicants for the job."
The Attorney-General made this speech in circumstances in which one of his right hon. Friends, with the support of the whole Government and of many of us who are not in the Government, is trying to get an incomes policy accepted. My right hon. and learned Friend argued that this is a special case for an exception to the incomes policy. He may be right about that. What he is doing is encouraging the putting forward of many more special cases. If we are to be practical, what is breaking the incomes policy and what led to that cri de coeur from my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State is not that people are not accepting the incomes policy—my right hon. Friend got an overwhelming majority for that—but that far too many people are treating themselves as exceptions to it.
I, as one who has tried to get the planning of wages accepted within the trade union movement, who argued for it and wrote about it 15 years ago, before the First Secretary had it as a glint in his eye, tell my right hon. and learned Friend that he is giving great encouragement to those who are eroding his right hon. Friend's incomes policy by accepting the incomes policy for everybody else's income but their own. That is what is eroding the incomes policy—the tendency of too many groups of people to treat themselves as a special case.
There is great weight in what my right hon. and learned Friend said. It is true that it is 11 years since the judges had an increase in salary. It is true that if this 25 per cent. is divided by 11 it works out at about 2 per cent. and is well below the guiding light. There is force in the logic of the Attorney-General's case. He should bear in mind, however, that reactions are not always based on logic and that in commerce and industry atmosphere and psychological factors play a very large part.
I do not know what the National Coal Board will say to miners who ask for 30s a week more for five shifts of eight hours a day or seven and a half hours a day. The miners will say, "But the judges were given another £40 a week." How many weeks of the year do they work? Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General can tell me that. How many hours a week do they work in the weeks of the year that they work? What is the length of their working week and their working year? All my right hon. and learned Friend's advocacy and logic will not help Lord Robens to face a wage claim for 30s. a week for underground workers when they ask, "Why do you say you cannot afford it when you give the judges £40 a week rise?" This is a serious and important situation.
I sympathise with my right hon. and learned Friend when he makes the powerful and valid point that in the case of the small number of people whose remuneration is fixed by legislation it is always the wrong time. We all have had experience of this. He said that Members of Parliament and Ministers have suffered from it at various times. It is a bit cheap to say, "It is the right thing to do but, this is the wrong time," and if that were all that we were saying my right hon. and learned Friend would be within his rights to "take a crack" at us and say that that was not fair. But we are saying more than that.
It has been said that the increases are not to come into force before next April and that a Bill could be introduced next Session and in good time. It is the rush of it that will affect the workers in the factories. This is what they cannot understand. They will say, "When you conduct trade union negotiations you are lucky to have a settlement a year after the claim is made. These 'bods' are getting a settlement eight months beforehand." The men in the railway shops and the mines and the dockyards will not begin to understand why—
Will the hon. Member accept two points? The first is that judges are asked to deal with cases which as to 80 per cent. of civil actions are concerned with people on the factory floor and their compensation. Secondly, it is well known that people of the highest calibre at the Bar are leaving for competitive industries. On that basis, is it possible to put forward the hon. Member's present argument?
The answer to the only real point in what the hon. Member has said has been given several times, and mostly from his side of the House, which is that one does not have to advertise situations vacant for judges for 10 weeks on end before one has an application, which is sometimes the case with engineers. There are more candidates than there are vacancies on the Bench.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I do not know all that much about the legal profession, but I know that although I see advertisements on the back pages of the Sunday papers for weeks on end for certain jobs in industry I have never seen one appear there for weeks on end advertising for a judge.
I apologise for having detained the House for so long and I make a last point. I am sure that many of us were moved by the latter part of the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton. I do not think that there is any Member of the House who is held in greater respect for his sincerity than is my hon. and learned Friend. We all know that he would not have made a statement of such gravity unless it came from deep feeling and from his heart. I understand—and I think that it was a bit silly of one hon. Member opposite to try to sneer at it—the sense of frustration which my hon. and learned Friend felt. He is, of course, not alone in it. He is not alone in resenting—if I may steal his words—having to support Tory policies merely because they are implemented by a Labour Government.
My hon. and learned Friend said that this was his last ditch. I understand him. But I must tell him that it is not mine. I shall vote for the Bill, though with reluctance. I do not think that the Bill is necessary at this time, but I do not regard this as an issue of sufficient weight and importance to justify hon. Members on this side of the House causing embarrassment to the Government, who have got so much on their plate. If one is to use one's vote, as I suspect I shall have to do one day, to register in tangible form objection to Tory policies carried out by a Labour Government, there are worse Tory policies to vote against—and I have a horrid fear that there will be opportunities of voting against them.
While I appreciate the depth of feeling of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, I hope that there will not be many of my hon. Friends who follow them into the Lobby on this occasion. I think it right that those who feel as we do should make their protest. I hope that there will be no curtailment of this debate, because all those who feel in this way should say so, and the louder the better. But, in the end, I do not regard this as an issue which ought to be treated as a last ditch.
I shall vote with the Government, but I want them to understand—they may not care twopence one way or the other—that it will be the most reluctant vote I shall have cast since I voted in the Division on Seretse Khama.
I shall not discuss judges' salaries except to say that I consider that the Government are acting thoroughly properly and responsibly in introducing the Bill in the way they have. I wish to raise a purely Scottish point. Of course, from the nature of things, we have heard little about Scotland in the debate so far.
Before he delves into Scottish matters, will the hon. and learned Gentleman, who was one of the Law Officers in the previous Administration, kindly answer this simple question? Was there an agreement between that side of the House and this that the Bill had to be introduced? If there was such an agreement or an understanding, a great deal of this argument would cease and, I am sure, a lot of my hon. Friends below the Gangway would understand and appreciate why the Bill is being introduced tonight. If there was not such an agreement, please let us know. This we must have.
I personally know nothing about it, if there was one.
I want the Minister of State to answer this question. Why has the opportunity not been taken to increase the establishment of the Scottish Bench? The hon. Gentleman will have expected me to raise this question. He knows as well as I do that, in the last 17 years, the establishment of the Scottish Bench has been raised by only three. Since 1948, three additional judges have been appointed, one under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956, one under the Criminal Justice Act, 1963, and one under the Resale Prices Act, 1964. This brings the Scottish establishment at present up to 18.
On each of these occasions, the legislation imposed further duties and obligations on the courts. Since last year, of course, we have had the Law Commissions Act which has abstracted for all practical purposes one of the judges. Thus not only do we have a situation in which we are one judge short. I understand that tomorrow the Solicitor-General for Scotland is to be made a judge, which will bring the number of judges up to 17 and not, as stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, to 16. Be that as it may, the position is that there is only one reserve, as it were, if it becomes necessary to increase the number of judges on the Scottish Bench.
In the last few months, as I know from my own experience, the volume of work in the Scottish courts, particularly the High Court, has gone up substantially. This was the foreseen result of the recent introduction of legal aid in criminal cases, and the sittings of the court on circuit are taking longer and longer.
I understand that, for several months, the Second Division of the Appeal Court in Scotland has not been able to sit because there have not been enough judges available to cope with the work of the Appeal Court and, at the same time, the work of the Outer House and on circuit. A very sound explanation should be given as to why there is no provision in the Bill to increase the establishment of the Scottish Bench. I suggest that it should be increased by two.
This is not a party political matter. I ask the Minister of State if the Government consulted the head of the judiciary in Scotland as to the need and desirability of increasing the establishment of the Scottish Bench, because I heartily believe that if the Lord President had been consulted his advice would have been for an increase.
That error occurred on another occasion, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) was seeking to move a Motion relating to Northern Ireland and I was under the threat of having my house blown up instead of his, which would have been most regrettable.
I have given a great deal of thought to this issue during the last few days, since my hon. Friends drew my attention to the problem that it poses. While I understand and appreciate the sentiment of my hon. Friends, I think that they are wrong. The sentiment they have been expressing is basically one of having a more egalitarian view in relation to salaries, to try to close the gap between—shall we say?—the very high salaries which go to members of certain professions and the remuneration of the workers. I do not believe that this kind of problem can be dealt with in isolation in relation to this Bill.
Indeed, I would argue that, in the kind of society which exists in this country, we can only get this kind of egalitarian approach by fiscal and taxation policy. I do not care whether the Government take 19s. 6d. of every £1 increase in judges' salaries. That would be perfectly within my conception of an egalitarian approach to income. But I do not believe we can deal with this kind of problem by voting against the Bill.
Many false arguments have been raised. Hon. Members have compared the hard work of judges with the hard work of shipyard workers, but that is useless because we do not get paid, under our existing system, on the basis of how much hard work we put in. Let us view this with reality. It has nothing to do with the kind of physical, or, in some cases, mental effort required. Comparisons have been made between engine drivers and judges. Again—and the two responsibilities are hardly comparable anyway—the fact is that we do not remunerate people on the basis of responsibility. In the society in which we live today we remunerate people basically on the basis of their scarcity value, on the basis of the laws of supply and demand.
Some of my hon. Friends may not like that. As a Socialist, I find a great deal of fault with it, but we have to live in the real world and, as Socialists living in the real world, many of us have pressed to get greater equality of post-taxation income, which is the correct way to tackle the problem. If there is a scarcity of higher legal skills, bearing in mind the competition for these legal skills both at the Bar, on the one hand, and the judicial Bench, on the other, the case for the Bill is substantial.
It is argued that the remuneration should be on the basis of need. In terms of need it is arguable that a young barrister with the early responsibility of setting up a home and a family for the first time should start on a judge's salary and should get less as his responsibilities become less. The same argument could be used for teachers' salaries, but that is not a realistic assessment of the kind of society in which we live. The main basis for remuneration in this society must relate to the professional responsibilities and the scarcity of the skills involved.
I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that salaries and status are not connected. They are. The status of the profession of judges will be judged by many people on the basis of the remuneration for the job.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) argued that the Government were faced with a heavy legislative programme and had got their priorities wrong. That is a false argument, because the time required to pass this simple Bill will not in any way impede the great social legislation which the Government will pass in the coming months of this Parliament.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North asked why this 25 per cent. increase should not go to the teachers. I was a teacher for 10 years. I remind my hon. Friend that if every extra penny to be spent on the salaries of judges under the Bill were to be paid to teachers, it would not make a penny difference to individual salaries. The issue of public service pensions was also raised. That, too, is an irrelevant argument. The amount of money involved does not in any way affect other negotiations which are now going on. As a teacher may I say, in passing, that the remuneration of teachers has rightly been increased during the last 10 years and that there is now under arbitration a salary claim for approximately a 12½ per cent. increase.
There has been a great lack of logic in some of the arguments put forward by my hon. Friends. It might be said that some of us can afford the luxury of exercising our consciences this evening and voting against the Government on the assumption that hon. Members opposite will not vote against the Government. I want to warn my hon. Friends not to trust hon. Members opposite. There is a distinct danger this evening that if my hon. Friends, for whatever good motives they have, vote against the Government on a matter which I would have thought to be one of some confidence in the Government's policies, we may find ourselves in the very odd position of a very unholy alliance, not necessarily intended, of the Left wing of the Labour Party, on the one hand, and the Tory Party, on the other.
I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but I have as much right to speak in this House as my hon. Friend.
I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton that the Government are to be condemned in such an outright manner as conducting Tory policies. I do not believe that the Tory Party would have introduced the National Insurance Bill to increase pensions in the face of an economic crisis, or the Rent Bill, or a Finance Bill which was fought through against the bitter opposition of hon. Members opposite. I do not believe that this Bill is of sufficient merit for my hon. Friends to seek to bring down the Government.
I find myself in a very strange position tonight. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), because it was only towards the end of his speech that I realised we were still divided across the Floor of the House. At one stage of his speech I was prepared to say, when I got up, that if he wished to divide the House, I was willing to be a Teller with him. Towards the end of his speech he said that discretion was the better part of valour and that he intended to support the Government. I agree with every word of his argument.
I oppose the Bill, with the exception of Clause 3, which increases the maximum number of judges to the High Court of England from 56 to 63, because I believe that the Bill is being presented at the wrong time and in the wrong circumstances. I am not in any way going along with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who, I thought, was very unfair to the legal profession in his remarks about judges.
I believe that it is right that the country should be the envy of the world in the standard of its judiciary and that we should do everything to maintain that standard. There have been speeches from both sides of the House, and if I may say so without giving offence, from the strongest trade union lobby in the House, making a powerful case why there should be a 25 per cent. increase in judges' pay.
We are not debating whether the legal profession should maintain its high position in the national opinion, or whether there should be a wage freeze on judges for the next 100 years. What we are debating is whether it is wise of the Government to bring forward this Bill for Second Reading today, 14th July, 1965, in the middle of a financial crisis, largely brought about by their own methods and lack of judgment. I do not want to enter into this subject, but it is at a time when the First Secretary of State is doing his utmost to try to bring about an incomes and wages policy.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the judges. I am sure that most of them are lining up outside the National Assistance offices getting remuneration for blankets to keep the cold off their beds, or for coal. The picture which has been created is that here is a community which is very badly treated.
We know that this is not so. What is to be the result of the Bill at this time, when there is a crisis in the nation's affairs, when we are trying to get responsibility in income, and to get coal miners and engine drivers and signalmen to moderate their demands for increased pay because it is creating an inflationary bubble? The coal miner will say to Lord Robens, "My condition is desperate, yet you say that you cannot do anything about it. But the judges are able to get a 25 per cent. increase."
I know that the amount of money involved in this infinitesimal. If the amount involved in the Bill were put on teachers' salaries or miners' wages, it would probably not make a penny difference to each one of them. But that is not the point. The point is the psychological reaction of people. If we say that the judges are in a special category, who is not in a special category? For centuries the judges have been the leaders and formers of public thought. It is surprising that, when they heard of the intention to introduce the Bill, they did not say, "Please do not bring it in at the moment. We shall pay the bulk of the increase away in taxation, but we realise what a deplorable effect the increase would have on wages negotiations over the next 12 months."
The hon. Member for Poplar said that this was not a big enough issue on which to divide the House. It is a scandal to bring in a Bill of this importance after 10 p.m. I believe that this little Bill could easily go down in history as the final wrecking Measure of the present Administration. What will the First Secretary, or Mr. Aubrey Jones, Chairman of the National Board for Prices and Incomes, say to any argument put to them after this? The amount of money involved may be minute but the psychological effect will be great.
The Conservative Government, when they tried to damp down remuneration, were told that they were being unfair, but when they were conducting a campaign to moderate the demand for increased salaries they did not choose that time to introduce this sort of Measure, which would have made their arguments nonsensical. The Government have shown than they have no clear assessment of how ordinary men and women think. I am not at all hostile to the judges. With my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe), I think that a review of the whole legal structure is probably called for. The bulk of the British people have great regard for the integrity of the judges and the legal profession. In normal circumstances the Bill would have been thoroughly justified. I am criticising the Bill not on its intrinsic merits, but on its timing.
If hon. Members opposite feel that the issue is sufficiently important for them to vote against the Bill, I will vote with them. I cannot completely set aside political considerations, but my basic objection will be to the psychological approach of the Bill to our economic problems. It will do the nation a great disservice and probably double the problems which we have to overcome.
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) for having risen when his name was called. I am sorry that as a result of the similarity of our names he should have been threatened with having his house burned down, although after listening to his speech I am not so sure.
It is not possible to discuss the question of an increase in judges' salaries without referring to the whole context in which this matter is brought forward, and that is the context of a wages policy and a guiding light. I am more than a little concerned, therefore, at the timing of the Bill, quite apart from any question of principle in it.
I am not unduly impressed with the argument that the judges have had to wait for a number of years before having this increase, because part of the wages policy is not merely to provide a 3½ per cent. increase per annum or the equivalent, but is also a policy of social justice in trying to rectify past discrepancies. That is why we justify an increase greater than 3½ per cent. in the case of, say, postmen, nurses and other public servants whose wages have been depressed in the past.
It is not on this basis that we can justify the kind of increase that is proposed at this time for members of the judiciary. We are dealing with figures which, to the average man in the street, are staggering. To a man who takes home, say, £15 a week, the figure of £8,000 is quite outside his normal experience. If we are asking people, as we will be, to limit themselves and to accept restraint, we cannot at one and the same time ask the nation to stomach this sort of thing.
I should like to take up one or two of the arguments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. He referred, for example, to the fact that there was a great deal more to be done in the divorce courts. Then, he demolished his argument by stating that special commissioners are brought in to do this work. If special commissioners are brought in who are not High Court judges but very often are county court judges, what is the justification for saying that High Court judges must do the work and that this is a reason for higher salaries?
Has not my hon. Friend met a great deal if dissatisfaction and criticism at the use of commissioners who, able as they are, are often regarded as second-class judges and give the impression, at least, of the litigant receiving second-class justice? I am not saying that this is true, but surely my hon. Friend must have met this time and again as a complaint at the Bar.
I am not prepared to accept that argument in relation to the average undefended divorce case. I am not prepared to defend a vested interest merely because it is in my own personal interest. That is one sphere where, I am sure, the present special commissioners are doing very well. I have had no cause for any dissatisfaction with any special commissioner before whom I have appeared.
Surely, the basis of the argument is not one which would justify an increase in salaries although it justifies an increase in the number of judges. Nothing that my right hon. and learned Friend has said or that I have heard in the debate leads me to believe that anything is needed other than an increase in the number of judges. We have had no evidence to show that we cannot get those judges if we do not increase the salary by 25 per cent.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), who made a remarkable and entertaining speech, said that in taking the view that we do, we on this side were denigrating the judiciary. It is far more denigrating to say that the only way in which we can preserve the strength, independence and integrity of the judiciary is to pay them £2,000 more. The integrity, strength and independence of our judiciary is, however, beyond question and nobody would question it, although some of the things which have been said are putting it in issue.
I regard the Bill as one of the least important items in a programme of a Government who are intent on radical reform. Many of us cannot understand why, so late in the Session, when so many other vital and urgent matters are being awaited with eagerness by hon. Members on this side, we should have been forced at the last minute to sanction a Bill which can have a very damaging effect upon the whole basis of our economic programme. Last week or the week before we were asked to give landlords permission to ask 15 per cent. more per annum from their tenants. Now we are being asked to give 25 per cent. more to the judges, but the average worker, on the factory floor, is to be restricted to 31 per cent. I do not think that we should underestimate the psychological impact of all this.
I do not believe that this issue is important enough, and because I do not I would not advise my hon. Friends to divide the House. We have a Government who are intent, we hope, on the kinds of reforms so much needed in other spheres, and it would be a great shame if we were to give the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) the satisfaction of dividing the House on this issue and thereby, as he says, wrecking the Labour Government. For that reason my hon. Friends, I hope, will not follow him into the Division Lobby, but I think we must make it very clear, at the same time, that we are registering a protest, that we are not satisfied with this, and that the Bill ought to be lost in Committee somewhere: it ought not to be proceeded with.
It seems a great shame that at this late hour the Bill should have been brought before the House. On this basis, I would ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench not to resent the fact that some of us have stayed up late and kept other hon. Members late to register a protest. This place is the place where protests must be registered, but, other than that, I would not advise my hon. Friends to divide the House.
Like the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) I think that the Bill is completely and utterly ill timed. We have waited for a great many years, about 11 years, for the question of judges' salaries to be brought before the House, and it seems to me that, in the economic condition of the country at the moment, this is not the time to introduce a Bill of this sort.
It seems to me, also, that no thought whatever has been given to the level of salaries being proposed for the judges. A judge has a very responsible position, and ought to be paid a proper salary for the job, but no thought seems to have been given, in preparing the Bill, as to what is a proper salary for a judge. In the Bill there is a great variety of salaries for various judges whose duties are not defined in the Bill, and we have had not explanation from the Attorney-General about the relative merits of these judges.
We find that the Lord Chancellor is to receive a very large salary indeed. He is, as has been said, a sort of universal joint in the machinery of Government, and he has a great deal of responsibility, and he ought to be paid in accordance with that, but whether £14,500 is the correct salary for him I do not know. However, when we compare his salary with that of other judges mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill it seems to me that his salary is at an extraordinary figure.
The first I would mention is the Lord President of the Court of Session. He is, in Scotland, in exactly the same way as is the Lord Chancellor in England, a sort of universal joint; not head of the judiciary in Scotland, but having very important administrative duties in Scotland, not only in the law but in many other ways as well. It seems completely illogical that the Lord Chancellor should have the salary proposed, £14,500, when the Lord President, who occupies very much the same position in Scotland as that the Lord Chancellor does in England, is proposed to be paid only £10,000. I should like the Minister of State to explain why this tremendous discrepancy should occur.
Not only do we find this discrepancy between the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Chancellor, but we find that certain English judges whose duties are certainly not comparable with those of the Lord President of the Court of Session are to receive very much higher salaries than the Lord President. There is the Lord Chief Justice. He may be a very important man, but he is simply a judge. He is not an administrator in the same way as is the Lord President of the Court of Session. Then there is the Master of the Rolls. I do not know what he is: I am a Scots lawyer. He is to receive a bigger salary than the Lord President.
I want to know why that is. We Scots Members are entitled to know, and I hope that the Minister of State will tell us. I would have liked the Lord Advocate to be here to tell us, but we are denied that privilege because the party opposite has been unable to find a seat for him in Parliament. It is possible that some day we will have the learned Lord Advocate here to tell us these things, but I cannot say that we will ever have a learned Solicitor-General for Scotland, because he seems to be rather difficult to get.
There may be a scarcity of judges in Scotland. It may be difficult to get people to accept the duties of a judge in Scotland, but I understand that the learned Solicitor-General has been appointed a judge and is to take up his post tomorrow. If it is difficult to get suitable counsel to become judges in Scotland, why are judges there to get a salary of only £8,250 compared with the £10,000 which a puisne judge in England is to receive? Why should there be this difference?
It is no answer to say that traditionally there is a difference in the salaries of English and Scottish judges. I think that these salaries were fixed in the reign of King William IV, and what may have been a mistake then should not be perpetuated now. If judges' salaries are to be adjusted, this anomaly ought to be removed, and the Lord Ordinary of the Court of Session in Scotland ought to be given his proper place alongside a puisne judge in England. He is doing the same job as his English counterpart. His dignity and his responsibility are the same as those of English judges. Indeed, in the case of some Lords Ordinary, it is greater, and I cannot see why this discrepancy should be continued. I hope that in Committee the Minister of State will move an Amendment to ensure that Lords Ordinary of the Court of Session are paid the same rate as puisne judges in England.
I do not know whether the Minister of State knows it, but certain of the Lords Ordinary of the Court of Session have an appellate jurisdiction, and are not in the same position as puisne judges. I am not sure what the position is in England, but I know that here they have Lord Justices of Appeal. As far as I can make out, these Lord Justices are in the same position as judges of the Inner House in the Court of Session who act as appellate judges and who have a much greater responsibility than has a puisne judge in England.
I am sorry that none of the Northern Ireland Members is here.
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. He started by saying that he thought that the Bill was ill-timed and that we should not pay judges more. He is now arguing that we ought to pay Scottish judges more than is paid to the English ones. What is the hon. Gentleman's argument? Is it right or wrong to do what is proposed in the Bill?
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument, he will find that I argue in a complete circle and then come to my logical conclusion. I should like to consider this in a roundabout manner and come to my conclusion in a logical way.
The discrepancy between Scottish and English judges is indefensible, and, speaking on behalf of Irish judges, for whom I have no brief, it seems even more indefensible that there should be an even greater difference between the salaries of a puisne judge in Ireland and a puisne judge in England than there is between the salaries of a puisne judge in England and a Lord Ordinary in the Court of Session.
These differences are indefensible, and that brings me back to where I started, that the Bill has not been thought out. It is characteristic of the legislation introduced by the party opposite. Since the election the Government have introduced a number of Bills which have not been properly thought out, and which have had to be altered radically in Committee.
The hon. Member will be glad to hear that I am now right back where I started. This Bill has not been properly thought out. Arbitrary figures have been taken. There is to be an arbitrary increase of 25 per cent. on the old salaries of judges. I suggest that the Attorney-General takes the Bill away and thinks about it again. I suggest that he gives proper consideration to the question of what should be the proper salaries for judges, and makes sure that we have a Bill which contains at least a germ of common sense, so that judges of equal rank in the three countries are paid the same salary.
If the salary is properly £10,000 a year—or whatever it is—we should be told why it is that, and why it should not be applicable universally. The thing is nonsensical as it stands. A puisne judge in England at the moment gets £8,000 a year, and the salary proposed for a Scottish judge is £8,250 a year. If £8,250 is right for a Scottish judge, why should an English judge get £10,000? That is obviously wrong. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk that the Bill should not be proceeded with any further.
The most interesting exchanges that took place in the course of this debate were those that took place between the Attorney-General and the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) concerning the origin of the Bill. This is the matter to which many of us are now directing our attention. When this matter is cleared up—which I do not doubt it will be—it will determine my attitude and that of many other hon. Members.
What concerns us is that we heard two speeches that were indistinguishable one from the other—one given by an able, learned lawyer and the other by an extinct lawyer. Both had the same tone and the same content. They were speeches belonging to the Establishment. What we have witnessed tonight is not an eruption against the Government, but an eruption against an Establishment that is beginning to creak.
So much is it beginning to creak that even the facade normally presented when the Establishment gets moving is beginning to show signs of stresses and strains. For example, the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral made it abundantly clear that his Government, when in office, were committed, through their Lord Chancellor, to bring in a Bill of this character. Of that there was no doubt. The one difference between the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral and that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General was that my right hon. and learned Friend appears to have scruples whereas the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral has none.
The right hon. and learned Member made it abundantly clear that he thought this was an ill-timed Measure. He attributed this belief to the fact that our economic circumstances were different now, and made it clear that he would not have brought in the Bill. Therefore, we are asking why the Bill which is being so badly received by the House as a whole has been brought in.
I believe that judges have a right to be well paid. Becoming a judge usually means a considerable immediate financial sacrifice. It means a peripatetic life, which could cause groans to many a commercial traveller. It means a retreat into loneliness that would drive a gregarious Member, such as my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), into melancholia. But the burden of the judges must not be exaggerated. When hon. Members who are attached to the legal profession begin to embark upon a eulogy of their work and exaggerate their burdens they do a disservice to their profession, and certainly to the dignity of our courts.
The salaries of judges are not inconsiderable. Their security of employment is almost limitless. Not for them any fear of redundancy payments. It would require an Address from both Houses of Parliament to dismiss them. Their persons are attractive, their holidays are long and the respect which is usually and rightly accorded to them and is always demanded by them from the community is immense. I would say to the hon. Member who introduced some ingenious argument about the wage structure that the judges are not "pop" stars; they are not tycoons collecting companies, they are not film stars. Sophisticated men perhaps sometimes have some transient envy when they see these people earning large sums, but they do not respect them, they do not hold them in awe. I am appalled by what I thought was an extraordinarily vulgar assessment of the status needs that should be accorded to judges, which came from the Attorney-General and one or two other hon. Members.
We do not respect the judges because we measure their salaries. This type of petty bourgeois vulgarity ill becomes this country and I hope that it is not the sort of yardstick we will ever use in judging whether we have good or bad judges. It is true that the nation gives boundless respect to the judges, and that is because of their disinterestedness, because the nation wishes to believe that they are on Olympian heights and distinguished from those mere mortals down below who are possessed of frailty. It is clear from the debate that the judges need to look at their charisma. They do themselves no good by pressing—as they must have pressed—for claims of this kind in this context. They have clearly provoked in the House tonight a needless and destructive enmity.
We are all aware that, after an ill-timed pay award to Members of Parliament—however justified it may have been—how damaging it may be to be suspected of preaching and not practising—
That is just the point I want to come to.
When I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) describe the Attorney-General as having given the classical trade union argument for an increase, he provoked and aroused still further my suspicions, for few hon. Members sense a classical trade union argument more rightly and quickly than my hon. Friend. There is, in fact, a history to the wage claims of judges which this demand is bound to evoke. We must recall what occurred in 1931. That, too, was a time of national crisis, a time when people felt very keenly about the economic situation of the country. We recall the refusal of the judges in 1931 to accept the cut of 20 per cent. in official salaries which was authorised by the National Economy Act of 1931.
To answer the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir T. Brinton), I should like him and the House to recall that the pressures which were then placed by the judges on Lord Sankey—then Lord Chancellor—were quite extraordinary. Lord Sankey has recorded that while nearly all the humble sections of the community were accepting what were—as those of us who are old enough to recall will recall—heavy burdens, the judges were, to use Lord Sankey's phrase of the time, like the men of Invergordon: mutinous.
Nearly all the judges protested individually to him. He has recorded all this. Many of them had private interviews, and there were repeated deputations representing the King's Bench Division, the Appeal Court, the Admiralty Division and the Chancery Division. When they had finished with that, the judges, who had all the skill of any trade unionist, challenged the legality of the authority of the Act itself.
As if that were not enough, in their determination not to have any reduction in what was then £5,000 a year, for good measure they threatened to draw up and present a petition of rights to the Crown. If any trade union official wants an object lesson on how to extinguish the income guiding light, all he needs to do, I am sorry to say, is to read the history of the judges' trade union activities in the national economic crisis of 1931.
That is one of the many reasons why I am on inquiry. I am on inquiry still further because I recall what Winston Churchill said in 1954, when the last award was given to the judges. He was speaking at a time when, for 120 years, there had been no interference in any form with the salaries of judges. Those salaries had been fixed, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has rightly said, for reasons which are founded in the social structure and facts of that time. On that occasion, Winston Churchill said this:
It is not likely that another 120 years will pass without some alteration, but there should at any rate be a fairly long period, perhaps a generation, before what we now decide shall be altered, except by tax reduction, so that those discharging these high functions, who have their whole lives to live within strict and rigid limits, should have a reasonable basis on which to work."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, cc. 1060–61.]
Certainly, the judges have benefited by the tax reduction since 1954, because quite clearly, in view of the different Surtax range which has come into existence, the judges have had the benefit which Winston Churchill at the time anticipated.
It is really no use for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in the light of that categorical statement of Winston Churchill, to attempt to adduce the argument that they have not had the types of increases that other people have had. It was never intended at that time that they should have. What was intended was that as far as possible there should be a degree of finality, and it is clear that that type of finality was a finality of something like a generation ahead.
Therefore, when we are thinking of these vast vistas of time envisaged in 1954 of course we are suspicious when, suddenly, once again there is this demand. I do not speak about this because I have any churlish resentment about judges having any more money. I accept as much as any other hon. Member the need for an independent judiciary, and one which is genuinely independent. I am as jealous about that as I am about the need for us to have an independent Legislature.
The one Motion standing in the House at the moment criticising the judges is because I and 100 other hon. Members have considered on the question of the damages for personal injuries judges have sought to usurp the rôle of the House. I certainly do not flinch from saying that it is necessary that the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the Legislature should be absolute and should be safeguarded.
Of course, the test that must be made at this moment of time when a demand is being made for an increase of salary is a test that is being made at a time when I am bound to wonder whether our Lord Chancellor has been receiving some of the clandestine buffeting which went on with Lord Sankey in 1931. At the same time, the test applied must be the same us that which is applied in any factory or workshop. I do not think that there is a right to any distinction. Before any wage increase is coming forward, I want to ask what efficiency is being offered and what degree of productivity in the courts is there which would justify an increase of this kind? Goodness knows, there is a need for it.
I was dismayed that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has repeatedly today been emphasising that one of the needs for the Bill to increase the number of judges is because of the awkward situation that men who are not High Court judges are being created commissioners to take divorce cases.
I take an interest in divorce matters, as the House knows. I asked the last Administration, and I have asked this Administration, when undefended divorce cases would be taken in the county courts. This is a widespread demand, not only within the solicitors' profession, but outside it. If this were to come about, it would be unnecessary to appoint the additional judges provided for in this Bill. Why is it that this matter which was to be considered by the last Administration is still being considered? Why is it that discussions are still going on with the Bar Council and the Law Society?
Why has this proposal not been implemented? The only argument used was certainly not the argument which I suspected would be used by the Attorney-General today, namely, whether the quality of the county court judge metamorphosised into a commissioner was sufficient. The argument which has been used is that if it were implemented all the majesty which should attend the severance of marriages would go and marriage contracts would not receive the respect which they deserve. This is a little more of the humbug which it is well known surrounds so much of the divorce law of this country.
My suspicion is that again the vested interests are at work which believe that if the doors of the county courts were flung open in this way members of the Bar would not have to attend and that there would be a reduction in the number of High Court judges needed. It is for reasons of this sort that the issues are being clouded.
I can speak with clinical knowledge and from professional experience about divorce matters. I say categorically, having seen lay magistrates dealing with complicated, sophisticated problems of law with great efficiency, that there is no need to create more divorce judges to deal with matters which are and can be dealt with even by lay magistrates and certainly by county court judges.
As has been mentioned by the hon. Member who drew attention to the need for streamlining the administration of justice, there is no reason for suggesting that this would fling so much more work on to the county court judges. I have asked before, and I ask again, how much longer county court judges must spend one week in four acting as agents for hire-purchase companies which manipulate and use them so that they can have judgment summonses? This work could easily be swept away to registrars. If county court judges took on divorce cases, we should not be asked to make provision for more judges.
If the Attorney-General had come to the House and indicated such a reforming zeal that we could see that there was the prospect of greater efficiency and productivity in the courts, we should look more kindly on this proposal to create more judges. The Government readily conceded to me earlier this Session that it was their considered view that the law and practice relating to damages was unsatisfactory. We have heard from the Attorney-General and other Members how burdened High Court judges are as a consequence of cases involving industrial accidents. They concern all of those of us who have any connection with the trade union movement. Yet, although, belatedly, we have had a half-hearted suggestion that there will be a reference of this matter to the Law Commissioners, we do not know whether they will direct their attention to it.
Is it not wrong that we should be asked to create more judges at a time when we do not know what changes may come about in the law and practice relating to damages? I hope that more actuaries will be available and that something will be done about the miserable damages now being awarded in courts to men who have received industrial injuries. I am not encouraged by the idea that if judges are made more remote by higher salaries they will have a deeper appreciation of the need for men to be awarded proper damages for the quality of life which they have lost as a consequence of serious industrial accidents.
I suggest that there is a failure in presenting in this wretched sort of way a Bill at this late hour, a Bill at the end of the Session, a Bill of which one suspects everybody is slightly ashamed. One suspects that this is why it is being introduced in this way. It is unfortunate that it is being introduced without any indication that, parallel with it, there will be the same changes and alterations as to the administration of justice as would be expected to take place on the workshop floor if a group of men were asking for a rise.
If we are to pay judges this increased salary, and there are to be more judges, is it not time we asked ourselves from what section of the community judges are likely to be drawn and what sort of training they are likely to have? It is not a comforting thought that at present a man can become a judge perhaps as a consequence of taking indifferent food in an Inn. The lack of sociological understanding in their training programme makes me wonder whether we are at this stage justified in talking about increases. After all, as we know from many of the interventions which were made in the debate on the abolition of capital punishment, barristers-at-law may know a great deal about the criminal law, but they are not trained to know anything about the aetiology of crime. They are trained to know how to sever marriages, but they have no training in how to deal with them.
If we are to have judges who have regard and respect for the community, before we think about increasing their salaries we should think how we can be sure that they have a broader appreciation and a greater understanding of the needs and problems of the wider community. For most people unversed in law, their certainty that justice will be found in the courts rests not upon legal systems, not upon carefully built up precedents, not upon bills of right, not upon Magna Cartas. It rests upon the deservedly high reputation of our judges.
At this time, when every loyal trade union member and every loyal member of the Labour Party is attempting to educate and tutor the nation to understand the need for an incomes policy, it is most unfortunate that the judges should be so remote from understanding the psychology of the nation that they should be pressing this demand. The fact that those who administer justice to others put themselves in a position, as they are clearly doing as a result of this debate, in which it should even be thought that private gain is more in their minds than the national interest is chastening to all of us who take pride in our legal system.
I deeply regret that the Bill should be before the House at this time. I think that the judges would be wise to take the action referred to in the Solicitors' Journal and voluntarily recognise that this comes at a bad moment from a group who are expected, as we are expected, to give clear leadership to the nation at a time of economic crisis. If this Bill goes through in its present form, it can only be a triumph for the Establishment over wisdom and common sense. I hope that it will be the desire of the House to bury the Bill in Committee.
We have begun to make rather heavy weather of the Bill. I do not think that there is any need to make long speeches at this time of night. It is high time somebody on this side of the House who does not make his living in practice at the Bar said something in favour of the Bill. Although I am a member of the Bar, I only once had a brief. I lost the case and cost my client 10s. I decided that I would leave the law alone.
I took the advice of the Lord Chancellor, who had accepted 100 guineas from me a little earlier to be his pupil. As I had been elected to this House, he said to me, "You cannot do the two things together from the beginning. You had better chuck this and go to the other". I do not know whether I did the right thing, but I do know that the judges—
I do not know about that. The thing is to say a word here when one gets the chance and one feels that one ought to speak.
I should like to say a few words on behalf of the judges who I think are a very popular institution in the country, much more popular than this House is with at least half the country all the time. There is no time when this place is not extremely unpopular with somebody whereas the judges are, except with the criminals, a popular institution. If we are to continue to get the best men that can be found in the profession to serve on the Bench they must be paid properly. The country believes this.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), whose sincerity I respect, is utterly wrong and inconsistent in opposing the Bill tonight, because no one has fought more than he has for the proper payment of Members of the House. It ill becomes him to say that the other part of our constitutional system, the judges, should not be given the same advantage in these days of inflation. I hope sincerely that the House will support the Bill.
I also think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) is wrong tonight. If a thing is right to do, it does not matter about the time. It ought to be done. The judges are so important, such a popular institution, so respected and so deserving of our attention that we should see that they are properly paid. I hope that as many hon. and right hon. Members as think that will be here to go into the Lobby in support of the Bill tonight, whether they are paired or not.
Many of my fundamental objections to the Bill have already been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and, therefore, I will not try to reiterate their observations.
I was shocked and surprised when the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) said that it seemed almost a disgraceful thing for us to criticise judges at all. I find that not merely a simpering, syncophantic attitude, but a very dangerous one. When it is necessary anyone should be severely examined and criticised by the House. No one should be put on a special pedestal to avoid examination and criticism here.
A feature to which I should like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench is this incredible argument of percentage increases. Do they believe that we can say to the rank and file or officers of the trade union movement, "Over a number of years you chaps have had an increase of 50 per cent. Your wages have gone up from £10 to £15 while the poor judges have scraped up from roughly about £4,000 to £4,500", or whatever it may be? Do they really believe that this sort of argument will go down on the workshop floor, in the factories, in the great estates of this nation which are the docks, the airports, the coal mines and where the great machines turn? They are absurdly and dangerously mistaken if they do believe it.
It is putting those trade union officials who are doing their level best to give support to this Government and the First Secretary of State in the terrific job that he has done in a most difficult position, and, more than that, it will give a lot of grist to the mill of other people in industry who do not want the First Secretary's policy to succeed. I hope that some of my hon. and right hon. Friends will take this point into account as well.
If we believe in justice in the House of Commons, it is ironic that in a Bill dealing with judges there is, in the view of many of us on this side, so much injustice to working people. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to consider the proposal that this matter be delayed. It will be extraordinarily difficult for all of us, on either side of the House, whether we are trade union officials, company directors or anything else, to go back to our constituencies and tell people who work in the mines, in the docks, on the railways and in transport that they must be prepared to hold back their demands while, on the other hand, a small minority are allowed to leap forward.
I am sorry to have to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris), particularly as he is, I believe, the only Member not a practising lawyer who has spoken in favour of the Bill, but I oppose the Bill for three reasons.
The first is quite simple. Speaking as a Scotsman and knowing a little about Scots law, I know that what we now need in Scotland is more judges, not more pay. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) said, we are short of judges to deal with the number of cases which are arising, and it is perfectly clear that there is no difficulty in obtaining judges in Scotland. The Minister of State will be able to confirm that tomorrow an hon. and learned Gentleman, not a Member of this House, is to be made a judge.
The Attorney-General talked with some passion and a good deal of special pleading about the difficulty of obtaining judges from among men who have been earning £20,000, £30,000, or £40,000 a year at the Bar because they will have to come down to the miserable pittance offered on the Bench. But I doubt whether the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who is to be made a judge tomorrow, has ever earned £1,000 a year—probably not £500—at the Bar. Yet this makes it perfectly possible for him to become a judge. I am not in the least impressed by the argument, at least in Scotland, that one cannot get men to be judges, and good judges, because of the enormous fees they can otherwise earn at the Bar.
The second reason why I disapprove of the Bill at this time is its timing. I need not make a long speech about this; the point has been made time and again. I would merely add that, as far as I am aware, no undertaking has ever been given by this side of the House that a Bill of this sort would be produced at a time of this sort. I do not believe—and I have had some experience of judges and have a great many friends among them—that judges regard their status as coming from the salary they get.
It is true that many people called to the Bar, and who are making good salaries, are attracted out into industry because there are perhaps greater salaries to be made there or because of other reasons. But I have never met—although that does not mean that none exist—people who have refused to become judges because the salaries and conditions offered are not sufficient.
This is quite a different point and it is one which the Attorney-General, in a long speech, seemed to skirt most cleverly around. It was a speech that I would have expected from the Minister of State, Scottish Office, who has spent a great deal of his time learning the legal profession, judging by the number of questions I have heard him address to the Lord Advocate at one time and another. If there is cause to bring in this Bill today, then someone on the Government Front Bench must seriously address himself to these three questions, for so far that has not been done.
I am obliged for the opportunity to intervene. I do so as a lawyer, but I hope that I will try to speak as a non-lawyer. The Bill is ill-timed, it runs counter to a number of the Government's economic policies and it would have been better had it not been introduced. Having said that, it seems to me that there is only one justification for the Bill being introduced at this time. It can be summed up in a question.
Do the Government consider themselves in any way bound as a result either of a pledge given when in opposition, or as a result of a pledge given by the last Administration, or as a result of an undertaking, agreement, arrangement—call it what you will—reached between them and the last Government? If such an arrangement was made, if there was such an agreement at the suggestion of the last Government which was accepted by the Labour Party in opposition whereby the Government now feel honour bound to introduce legislation, then I, like a number of my hon. Friends will feel that I must support the Bill. We have heard from the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) that the Bill arises, apparently, as the result of an undertaking given in another place by a member of the last Administration. We were told by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral that someone—I assume the then Lord Chancellor—gave an undertaking that judges' salaries would be raised by the last Administration, and that that undertaking was given in March of last year.
Let us have none of the humbug from the other side of the House about the economic results of the Bill. If there is any humbug and hypocrisy in the House tonight, it is from those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who, having given a pledge themselves to introduce a Bill to raise judges' salaries, are now attacking this Administration for doing so at a time of great economic difficulty what they themselves pledged themselves to do at a time when, on all the evidence, they must have known that economic difficulties were looming up.
The hon. Gentleman listened to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) and he heard my speech and I have heard him ask several other hon. Members, and in no case has he been told that there was a pledge to introduce a Bill of this sort at this time.
I entirely accept that there was never any specific undertaking that a Bill of this sort in these terms would be introduced, but is it not also true—and this can be confirmed by the ex-Attorney-General—that there was a clear understanding between the parties that judges' salaries would be dealt with in this Session of Parliament?
I have heard other hon. Members, although not in the course of debate, say "Yes".
If because of that sort of pledge the Government are in honour bound, regrettable though it is, the Bill has to be introduced, but it does not lie in the mouths of right hon. Gentleman opposite to criticise the Government for introducing a Bill which they would have introduced had they been in power.
Regrettably, this is the second such example we have had in this Parliament. I remember the War Damage Bill and the long and furious debates in this Chamber and another place. That Bill was not even the result of an undertaking or arrangement between the parties, but was a specific Bill prepared by right hon. Gentlemen opposite and left on the Table for the present Government to introduce when they came to office. When that Bill was introduced, we had this spectacle of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral repudiating the specific pledge given by his Administration when he was in office.
It is not right to say that the previous Administration gave any pledge of any sort to introduce the War Damage Bill. It is true that that Administration prepared a Bill, but it took no decision as to whether it would introduce it.
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that helpful intervention. One thing which I distinctly remember about the Burmah Oil affair was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Government—although at that time he was not a member of it—wrote to the Burmah Oil Company warning it that it was proposed to bring forward that precise legislation. At one stage the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral took responsibility for that Bill and said at the Dispatch Box that he could not in honour vote against it. Yet he voted against it on Third Reading. With this Bill we have exactly the same position—an arrangement made between the parties, an arrangement on which the Tory Party has ratted.
I say to my hon. Friends below the Gangway, "Beware the Greeks bearing gifts in this debate". We had a remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) who, almost with tears running down his face, said how much he appreciated the efforts of the First Secretary, how much he agreed with the Government's attempts to introduce an incomes policy and, with his hand on his heart, how devastating it was, that the Bill would somehow wreck the whole fabric of the Government's economic policy, and that, therefore, he called upon hon. Members to follow him into the Division Lobby against the Bill.
Is it honestly to be believed by hon. Members opposite, and by the hon. Member for Ormskirk in particular, that my hon. Friends are so gullible as to fall for the oldest trick in the political game? When there is a genuine difference of opinion within the ranks of this great party, of which I am proud to be a member, the hon. Gentleman then attempts to divide it and draw half of them into the Lobby with him. That is a very old gag and I am happy to say that it will not work tonight.
I must mention some of the speeches made from this side of the House, in opposition to the Bill. I find myself in a great deal of agreement with most of the speeches which have been made. As I said, it is only with the greatest reluctance, and only because the Government feel themselves in honour bound because the Tory Party ratted on an obligation, that I feel I can support the Government in the Lobby tonight. I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), when he talked about the difficulties of relating the Bill to an incomes policy and I would agree with a large part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo). I can entirely understand the motives that were behind these speeches and appreciate that they were sincere.
Regrettably, I heard the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I say regrettably, because, having heard that speech, it is necessary that certain things should be said. For a large part of his speech he took the line which has been taken by a large number of other Members on this side of the Committee, that the Bill was ill-timed. I have said that this is an argument with which I find myself in a great deal of sympathy. But in the last five minutes of his speech he proceeded to attack the Government for breaking their pledges on nuclear policy, on defence policy and on foreign policy. He even succeeded in lumbering us with the present economic crisis.
I have been in the House for only eight months, but I have listened carefully, and how anyone, on either side of the House, or in the country, can persuade themselves that the Labour Government are responsible for the present economic crisis which the country finds itself in is almost beyond belief.
My hon. and learned Friend even went so far as to say that the Government had sold out to an international consortium of bankers. That was the phrase he used. With the greatest respect, this sort of thing, in this debate, is almost beyond belief. The idea that the Government, with all the great tasks in front of them, with all the great things that they have set their hands to, will be brought down because of an increase in the Lord Chancellor's pension of £1,250 per annum is absolutely absurd.
As I listened to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, a quotation came into my mind, which I believe was addressed by Lord Birkenhead to Lord Carson in another place, at the conclusion of an Irish debate, in the course of which Lord Carson had violently attacked him. The noble Lord concluded by saying that "as a piece of constructive Statecraft it would have sounded immature upon the lips of a hysterical schoolgirl."
I regret having to say that, particularly having been a Member of the House for only eight months, and particularly having regard to the fact that my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Northampton is a member of my Chambers, but I could not leave the House tonight without at least registering one protest against the last few moments of the speech of my hon. and learned Friend, and saying, quite frankly, that it does not help the cause of the Government, or the cause of his opposition to the Bill, to indulge in this sort of attack.
I did not say that we were responsible for the economic circumstances. Of course we cannot be, any more than Ramsay MacDonald was responsible for the economic circumstances of 1931. What we are responsible for is the manner in which we have dealt with them. It has been the Conservative manner. When one says that the £ shall be one's first priority and one goes to the banks to help one, then one is making them the master of one's economy.
I have remained here long into the night, and I am keeping the House for a few moments longer, but I am one of the only two Members who have no connection with the law who are, nevertheless, prepared to defend the judges.
We have listened to many speeches, nearly all of them heavily attacking the proposed increases for the judges, who have been defended by a few Members, most of whom have been or are in the legal profession. It is time that somebody from the general mass of the population, as it were, spoke up for the judges and against some of the remarkable things which have been said. It seems to me that the Attorney-General needs some assistance, particularly against his own side of the House.
Hon. Members have rambled over many subjects, including parliamentary tactics and differences of opinion about the Labour Party's general policy. Could we come back to the case in point? My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) said something with which I entirely agree—and perhaps I am in a better position to say it than he is because of his previous connection with the legal profession. By the great majority of the people the judges are highly respected as representing an institution of great antiquity in which they have great confidence.
I have been surprised to find that so many hon. Members, not only opposite, but, I am sorry to say, on this side of the House, value this institution so little. One hon. Member compared the task of the judges with that of people working on the shop floor. Another said that we have such respect for them that they must be above the general run of us and yet thought it petty bourgeois vulgarity that they should expect to receive a salary commensurate with their position
Many hon. Members seem to have no idea of the salaries which able and dedicated men can command in our society—or the incomes which can be made even by some hon. Members who have been talking about the Bill. A lot of nonsense has been talked about levelling down. Some hon. Members must in the past have admired that great Socialist State, Russia, but Russia has had to expand the differences between incomes in order to get its society run on the lines which are necessary.
Through this Parliament hon. Members opposite have talked about modernisation. Do they think that they will get modernisation and ability in any walk of life, including the legal profession, if they do not pay properly, especially in view of the fact that progressive taxation reduces the value of the increased reward which highly paid men receive? The right hon. and learned Gentleman made this very valid point in opening the debate. We are talking about an increase for most judges of from £8,000 to £10,000 a year. This means a total increase in spendable income of £779 a year. This shows the bite of taxation into increased incomes over a certain figure
Surely we are the last people to fail to realise that if we want the finest judges and the most dedicated judges we must see that they are set above the rest of us ordinary mortals not only in status but also to a reasonable extent in salary. To suggest that £10,000 a year in this day and age, especially in relation to what they have received in the past, is unreasonable is the most arrant prejudice. I defend the judges absolutely on this point, and I am sure that most people will.
There has been an attack on judges, not only on this but on other occasions, particularly by hon. Members opposite but even from this side of the House. The attack has been because the judges represent an independent and independently minded authority. This is our greatest safeguard in this country and I uphold it 100 per cent. I am prepared to go into the Lobby and vote with the Attorney-General, even if nobody else is.
I agree largely with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), and I certainly will not delay the House at this hour in repeating what they have said.
I hope, however, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, if he replies to the debate or after the debate, will consider that a new situation has arisen in the House of Commons since he made his first speech. That new situation has arisen, first, because of the statement by the spokesman for the Opposition, confirmed by a member of the last Government, that in their understanding of the situation no commitment was made that a Measure of this kind should be introduced this Session. I think that I have correctly interpreted what the former Attorney-General said in an intervention.
I am sorry if I did not make it clear that in my last intervention I was speaking only of the War Damage Bill concerning the Burmah Oil Company. I said that no pledge had been given in that respect that any legislation would be introduced by the previous Government. I am sorry that I cannot assist the House, although I can, perhaps, assist the hon. Member. Of course, the office of Attorney-General has nothing whatever to do with judicial salaries. I was not a member of the previous Cabinet. I do not know whether there was an agreement. I certainly know that there were discussions, but I was not a party to them. If there is any information about this, I am prepared to accept what is said by the Government Front Bench.
It cannot have been a firm commitment, because the former Attorney-General does not know whether there was such a commitment, the former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), says that there was no commitment and the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) was not clear when he said that there was a statement in another place. The right hon. and learned Gentleman certainly did not say that there was a commitment to introduce a Bill this Session, because he also protested against the timing of the introduction of the Bill.
It may well be—I acquit the former Attorney-General, who says that he does not know—that the other two right hon. Gentlemen opposite are misleading the House, but they have let out the Government. They have said that they did not think there was any commitment, certainly for this Session. So why do not we say "Done" right away? If that is the recollection of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, why should we be more loyal than the king?
There is, however, another sense in which the situation has changed. If it was the understanding of the present Government that there had been a firm commitment and it was the understanding of those on the benches opposite who formerly were responsible for these matters that there was no firm commitment, and if we who are listening to the debate, who are hearing for the first time whether there was a commitment and who are being invited to cast our votes on the claim that there was a commitment, subsequently discover that there was not a commitment in the understanding of the former Government, a new situation is created.
There are second grounds on which there is a new situation. Many hon. Members thought that this Measure—and, indeed, at the time of the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral it was thought that this Measure—was at least supported by all hon. Members opposite. We have, however discovered during the debate that quite a number of hon. Members opposite disagree strongly with the Bill. Nobody would dispute that the whole of this side of the House, despite the speech of one of my hon. Friends, is strongly critical of the Bill. Not one speech from this side has given full support to the Bill. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar, who came nearest to that position, had some criticisms. All other hon. Members who have spoken from this side of the House are opposed to the Bill in different degrees of strength. That is an extremely serious situation, and it is one of which the Government should take note. They should be guided by what has occurred.
I am coming to that.
I am a member of the Select Committee on Procedure, as I have been at pains to remind one or two hon. Members on previous occasions. One of the changes in procedure I have always advocated and which I continue to advocate is that Governments ought to listen to what is said on the Floor of the House of Commons. This is one of the ways in which I think we can restore the authority of the House of Commons. Many of the measures advocated by some of my hon. Friends for restoring the authority of the House I disagree with, because I think they would have exactly the opposite effect.
I do not think it is dishonourable—indeed, I think it would be highly creditable—in a Minister who has introduced a Measure in good faith to listen to the debate upon it, to listen in particular to his hon. Friend who had difficulties about it, and at the end to say, "I take full note of all that has been said and I propose to report it to the other members of the Government to see if their views are altered because of the representations made on the Floor of the House of Commons". There is nothing wrong in that. That is what the House of Commons is for.
The Attorney-General is perfectly capable of doing it. He could come to the Dispatch Box now and say that, in view of the very strong representations which have been made, and in view of the fact that there appears to be a difference of interpretation—I put it no stronger than that—between the two sides as to what was the commitment, he proposes to report the matter back to the Government. He should do that before he presses the matter to a Division. He could do that. I know it has not been frequently done in recent times, but it has been done by Governments previously, and that is the way the House of Commons should operate. The House ought to have the capacity to make an impact on Administrations.
If the Attorney-General does not feel he is able to do that he can at any rate say that he is altering his view about the urgency of this Measure's going through in this Session. There is no necessity which has been described to us for its going through in this Session, except the commitment, which is a commitment questioned by the other side of the House. In any case, there are no grounds on which it can be argued that it is urgent in that sense, since it does not come into operation till April. There is plenty of time to reconsider it.
We have had in connection with other Bills, introduced in this Session, White Papers first, and we have discussed the White Papers instead of taking the Bills. There could have been a White Paper about this Bill, and I do not think we should have had the Bill had we had a White Paper about it first. We have also had the postponement of certain Measures which were mentioned in the Queen's Speech—very important Measures, such as the one about leasehold reform. I gather that that has been postponed to another Session or that it may be postponed to another Session; I am not sure; but it was in the Queen's Speech. There are other Measures which have been postponed. I am not complaining. I know that Governments get into legislative jams. But this Bill has been inserted in the midst of a legislative jam.
So I say, for all these reasons, that there are good grounds, in the proper conduct of the House of Commons, why the Attorney-General should take very serious note of what has been said. I do not think he can be under any misapprehension of how profound and strong is the feeling of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House against the Bill—very strong indeed. So I hope he will take that into account in the reply he makes now, or in the recommendations which he makes to the Cabinet following this debate, or in deciding whether to proceed with the Bill in Committee in this Session or not. He has three different courses open to him by which he can recognise the strength of feeling on this side.
I say to him, and to other members of the Government who are present, that it is not only a question of this Bill. If they show recognition of the feelings of the House, genuinely represented to them, and of the feelings of this side of the House, genuinely represented to them, it will assist them greatly in all their future plans and in the difficulties which they may have with the House. But if they adopt a rigid attitude and say, "Once we have put down a Measure for Second Reading we are going to take no notice whatever of the most powerful feelings put forward from these back benches", they will be heading for difficulties.
The Government should consider very carefully what has been said, and if they find, as I hope they will, that there are different ways in which they can postpone this matter to another Session so that we can examine it much more carefully, if they find it a bit awkward that they have to go to the judges and say, "You have to wait a little longer", I have another solution which I recommend to them. They can say to the judges, "In the meantime, your lordships, we propose that your wage claims should be referred to Mr. Aubrey Jones' Prices and Incomes Committee, and we will see if that Committee can report as quickly as it has done in some other cases. We are sure that the Committee will look into your claims as eagerly as it has done into some others".
The Government cannot say that I have not made a whole series of constructive suggestions. I have pointed to a whole series of ways in which they can escape from the dilemma into which they should never have got themselves.
I should like, first, to deal with what I can only designate as squalid inconsistency on the part of the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) who, shortly after making his speech, left the House. The squalid inconsistency to which I am referring is the inconsistency between the quite clear and specific undertaking and commitment which the then Government—and they were Members of the Cabinet of that Government—gave in regard to this matter, and what has been argued tonight.
I should like the House to know in what terms this undertaking was expressed. It arose in another place on 24th March of last year in the following circumstances: The noble Lord, Lord Alport asked the then Lord Chancellor to ask Her Majesty's Government
whether they are aware that the Supreme Court Judges in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have had no increase in their salaries since 1954, while those of the lower judiciary have been increased on three, and in some cases four, occasions since that date; and whether Her Majesty's Government will take the necessary action to increase these salaries.
In reply, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Dilhorne, said:
My Lords, the answer is, Yes. It is the Government's intention to introduce next Session legislation to provide for increases in the remuneration of the Superior Judiciary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th March, 1964; Vol. 256, c. 1130.]
That commitment was clear and express, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman: Was not he then a Member of the Cabinet? Was not this a Cabinet decision? Are we to understand that it was not intended; that this was a sheer piece of deception and delay because the previous
Administration was afraid to introduce an unpopular Measure? I charge the right hon. Gentleman with gross and sordid inconsistency in this matter.
It is possible for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to charge me with anything that he likes, but his own Government have on many occasions in the last six or nine months announced their intention to do something and then have not done it.
Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman has no sense of honour in these matters—no sense of the moral and political meaning of a commitment of this kind? The judges in the higher judiciary were most expressly told this in the answer of the Lord Chancellor. There was a clear commitment on the part of the then Government to the judiciary in March 1964. Now this Government are honouring that comment at the latest point of time. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman finds this so laughable a matter. His good faith is directly involved in this, in the way in which he and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral have repeated the kind of performance to which we were subjected in relation to the War Damage Bill, when that same right hon. and learned Gentleman was the Member of a Government which sent a letter to the Burmah Oil Company at the beginning of the litigation saying, "If you go on we shall bring in a Bill to stop you recovering any damages in the litigation." In spite of that dramatic and highly criticised intervention, when the time came for putting this Measure through the House once again there was a ratting and running away from a clear political commitment.
There must be a misunderstanding in relation to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I understood him to say—and I am supporting the Bill; I have waited here in order to vote for it—that the Lord Chancellor had given an undertaking to the House of Lords in March. He mentioned it expressly, and never went away from it. I understood that the point of dispute was a matter on which I am not informed —whether there was an agreement between the two sides of the House, or a pledge on behalf of both parties, which is different from the pledge actually given by the previous Lord Chancellor.
I hope that the Attorney-General is not misunderstanding the position in making this attack upon my right hon. and learned Friend. My right hon. and learned Friend said that the former Lord Chancellor had given that undertaking in the Lords on 24th March. I agree that there was an express undertaking by the previous Government to introduce legislation in the next Session, but that is a different question from the question whether the present Government were bound by the pledge then given by the House of Lords, and a different question, again, from the question whether there was any agreement between the previous Government and the Opposition, as it then was, as to this Measure. These are three different questions, and we should make it clear that the attack made by the Attorney-General upon my right hon. and learned Friend is not warranted, because he did speak about the pledge.
I was criticised about the length of my opening speech, but if the interventions in the speech that I am now making are as long as that just made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman this speech will be interminable.
I will remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman of what the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral said. He attacked the timing of this Measure. What does that mean? This is the very end of the Session in which his Government undertook, if they had been in power—which, thank Heaven, they are not—to introduce a Bill. I have not gathered that the quantum of the increase either in pay or in numbers is challenged. The right hon. and learned Gentleman attacked the Government for the timing of this Measure. What is the timing of it? This is almost the last moment when the Bill could be introduced in order for it to be passed this Session. In attacking the Government in that way the right hon. and learned Gentleman—I am sorry to make this attack in his absence, but it is not my fault that he is not here—was seeking to gain political advantage, and once more demonstrating the fact that we have met so many times since this Government came to office, namely, that we have had to do some of the dirty work that the party opposite should have done. Agreeing that the position of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral was slightly different, I repeat that the right hon. Member for Argyll certainly attacked the timing and the contents of the Bill, a Measure which his own Government had undertaken to introduce.
Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves this crucial point—he has clearly explained that there was an announcement by the previous Administration which could be regarded as binding on that Administration. What he has not yet explained, and what is far more important for me and my hon. Friends on this side of the House, is this: what is the commitment he believes binds his Administration to carry out what he called the "dirty work" of the previous Government?
I was not a member of the shadow cabinet at the time. It is true that an undertaking by the Government of the day to the judges is a highly relevant consideration, to which any successive Government has to give immense and important weight. That is a factor which must, clearly, operate in the minds of any successive Government if they are to have any reputation for decency. Apart from the background of that specific undertaking, the Government take the view that, upon the merits of this matter, this Bill is justified in present circumstances.
I have said, and I repeat it without apology or reservation, that the Bill does not constitute, in any sense, an infringement of the Government's incomes policy. Of course, I understand my hon. Friends' anxieties about the difficult conditions and circumstances of those receiving still inadequate wages and pensions in spite of the efforts of the Government. But I hope that those who have been critical will point out that what is involved in the Bill, which, on the face of it, looks like a dramatic advance of 25 per cent., has arisen only by reason of the special circumstances of this group of salary earners, the judges. I know, because they are hon. Friends of mine, that they will honestly tell their constituents—as I shall tell mine—that what is involved here is an increase of slightly less than two per cent.—1·9 per cent.—in the course of the last twelve years, that and no more.
That constitutes no infringement of the guiding light principle of 3½ per cent. This impression of a major rise has been created only because, in this class of salary earners alone, increments from time to time—as has happened with county court judges, and civil servants—have not taken place merely because of this constitutional machinery, because up till now, judges' salaries have been controlled by Act of Parliament. If these increments had been made one at a time over the past eleven years, we should have heard absolutely nothing about it. The reason that this unhappy situation has come to pass is, as I said in opening the debate, that the special position of the judges has resulted in them alone of all salary earners in the country not getting a penny of increment between 1954 and today.
The fact must be faced that, if we are to maintain an independent judiciary, it is, under the present arrangements, essential that the best of the Bar should be recruited for the Bench. All I can say is that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, who perhaps has even more knowledge of these matters by reason of the fact that he has to deal with them in making judicial appointments, has told me, and I have little doubt that he will say so in another place, that we have reached a situation where the present emoluments of £8,000 a year are not ensuring that the best of the Bar are interested any longer in going on the High Court Bench.
That is the fact. A lot of this debate has been about equality, and I am passionately concerned about equality, because socialism is about equality. One of the things that Labour have done, in every administration, is to make major advances towards equality, and we shall continue to do so. But it will take time, and we have only been in office for eight months.
Then my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) made a passionate speech. I much admire his reforming zeal, but does he think that the Lord Chancellor has lost all of his? For the first time this country has a permanent Law Commission in existence whose sole task is to keep the law under review, to reform it and bring it up to date. It is the greatest advance in law reform for hundreds of years, and the Government have accomplished it within nine months of taking office. I do ask my hon. Friends to give us credit for something in their zeal for reform. Turning to the other matters that my hon. Friend raised, he must know that the questions he has referred to me and my hon. Friends are being actively investigated and considered.
The suggestions that have been made in this debate by the hon. and learned Members for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) and Bebington (Mr. Howe) and others about the law's delays will be looked into. But it is not long ago since we had the Streatfeild Committee Report. As a result of that, there was a major overhaul of the administrative arrangements for the courts, and the consequence has been that the period between a man being charged and being tried is today less than it has ever been in our history over the country as a whole. We have made considerable progress in reducing the law's delays. It is true that in the civil field there is beginning to be a build-up. That is why we want more judges, and that is the justification for Clause 3 of the Bill.
In the view of the Government, the Bill is an essential measure. We deem it to be necessary for the proper administration of our justice that the Bill shall be introduced, and we are not afraid of introducing a measure which, although on the face of it it will be an unpopular and perhaps unpalatable one, when the true facts are known I am confident that the people will understand. They must realise that a price has to be paid for an independent judiciary attracting the best legal skills, and we are in danger of paying some lip service to a Bench of high quality but failing to provide with it the means to maintain its standards.
I am certainly convinced of the merits of the Bill and, because of those merits, I shall vote for it. What I am not convinced of is that a pledge given by a different Administration in different economic circumstances is in some way binding in the circumstances of today. Nevertheless, the Bill is before the House and, on this occasion, I shall vote for it. But I should not lose any sleep at all if it never got any further in this Session.
Government is surely about priorities and, like many other hon. Members, I hold clinics regularly in my constituency. The greatest number of cases I had are those of public servants and old age pensioners. I have judges living in my constituency, but I have never had a judge come to see me about an increase in salary. While I do not doubt the merits of the Bill, and although I accept all the cogent arguments advanced in its support, I think that perhaps this is not a priority in the Government's legislative programme.
I wish primarily to raise a quite different matter which has not been discussed. I should, in passing, say that I hope that a reply will be given to the points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentland (Mr. Wylie) about why there is no increase proposed in the number of Scottish judges.
I always hesitate to deal with matters regarding the administration of the law in Scotland. But there is already a spare judge in the Scottish legal arrangements. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not expressing myself very clearly. There is an establishment for one more judge under the Scottish provisions, and it is thought that that is adequate to meet with the reasonably foreseeable needs in Scotland.
There is a log jam in litigation in Scotland, and I hope that if there is a spare judge he will be brought into use.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) asked why there was a wide discrepancy between the remuneration for judges in England and Scotland. I thought that the Labour Party believed in equal pay for equal work. I find this differentiation rather strange.
The main point which I wish to raise is this. We are being asked to vote for an increase in salary for, among others, the Lord President of the Court of Session, the Lord Justice Clerk and the other ordinary judges of the Court of Session. It is right that in considering an increase in salary for these judges we should consider who they are and how they are appointed. I am not satisfied with the way in which they are appointed now and have been appointed in the past. Hon. Members who do not represent Scottish constituencies would, perhaps, like to know about this matter very briefly.
The Lord Advocate in Scotland is a Minister of the Crown and is appointed by the Prime Minister. He, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland, then appoints the judges, and among those whom he appoints is invariably himself. More important, he can wait until one of the two top offices in the Court of Session falls vacant and then appoint himself to it. At present both offices are occupied by former Members of Parliament, former Lords Advocate. The result is that it is not often easy for people in the legal profession in Scotland who have not gone through the political ladder to reach the top jobs, however great their merit.
I accept that what the right hon. Gentleman says is technically correct. We all know that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland do not themselves make the decision. The decision is obviously made on the recommendation of the Lord Advocate. I was cutting short the story. Nevertheless, it is true, and the right hon. Gentleman will accept, that Lords Advocate invariably hold these positions. The system of political appointments to judicial positions has been used consistently by both parties when in government, and it is bad and should be changed. When we are taking the opportunity to provide for increases in salary, I hope that we can have some assurance that the system of appointment may be changed.
When Lord Cockburn's Memorials were reviewed in the Edinburgh Review it was said that they were
an illuminated catalogue of past abuses too preposterous to be believed if they had not been almost too inveterate to be conquered".
Among the abuses attacked by Lord Cockburn was political appointments to judicial positions. The political bias in judicial appointments is still preposterous and even more inveterate, and I hope that this Government will conquer it.
The debate which we are about to conclude has shown two important things which should not be lost upon the Government. The first is that it would be much wiser in future, when Bills involving important principles are about to be introduced, to have consultations at an early stage at which the principles of such legislation can be fully discussed.
The second conclusion is that it is good to listen to the House of Commons. The Government are now in the position where they have put themselves in disagreement with considerable numbers of their supporters. They know that the views which have been expressed by many Members on this side tonight are representative of the views which are held by thousands and thousands and supporters of the Labour movement outside the House. They know the sincerity with which many Members who have advocated the Government's general incomes policy all over the country have put forward their views.
The Attorney-General's answer has left major points unanswered. There has been no real clearing up of the essential point about the commitment, which was one of the major parts of his case. There has been no answer about the necessity of going on with a Measure which the other side might have announced in their own way in a half-hearted fashion. There is no possibility of going any further on this important matter tonight, but the Government would be mistaking the temper of many of their own supporters and that of many people who have watched these events in the country, and in the trade union movement in particular, if they were to make light of the views which have been expressed tonight.
I myself believe that the purpose both of Parliament and of the work of the Government and the work of the Labour movement and the Labour Party in the House would be best served if no Division whatsoever in a formal sense were recorded tonight. It would represent the point of view of those who send us here and I believe that it would be the most dignified and effective way of concluding this discussion.
I make this final appeal to the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has indicated, even after tonight, when there might have been particular reasons why the Attorney-General could not give a commitment to do something about the Bill, there are further constitutional opportunities at the Government's disposal and they ought to interpret the temper of this debate in the way my hon. Friend has urged. With that in mind, I would like to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends who are particularly concerned with this to take note of this debate, and I repeat my suggestion that the best way to conclude the debate is to have no Division.