HC Deb 17 June 1825 vol 13 cc1210-1

On the order of the day for the third reading,

Mr. Brougham

said, that his opinion remained unchanged as to this bill, which he believed to be unjust and uncalled-for. Let the House only look at the progressive increase of the salaries of the puisne judges. A few years ago their salary was but 3,000l. a-year, and 25, or rather 33, per cent was then added, to make up for the increased price of the articles of life, and that was deemed sufficient. The prices lowered; but no reduction of the salary was the consequence. Then followed the restoration of the currency, which must again have made a difference in their favour, amounting to 25 per cent more, independent of the reduction of taxes, and other branches of their expenditure. The consequence of these several additions singe the year 1809, was, that the judges' salaries were raised in the proportion of 7,000l. a-year, as compared to the 3,000l. with which they were satisfied 15 years ago. If granting these large and unnecessary allowances to the judges, was evincing a faithful stewardship of the public purse, then he did not know what the meaning of an unfaithful steward was. He wished to See the dignity of the judicial situation upheld; but he disliked to see it done at this expense; and still more he disliked their being placed in the track of promotion, or translation, like the bishops; because he was convinced that in the law, as in the church, such prospects were detrimental to the public service.

Mr. John Williams

concurred in the observations which had been made by his learned friend, and regretted that ministers had persevered in carrying the measure through the House. He knew the difficulty of making any general regulation for the particular age at which a judge ought to retire; for some men were as competent to transact business at 70 years of age as others were at 60. It was, however, painfully remarkable to notice the age at which judges were appointed, with very few exceptions, to the bench, and more particularly during what might be called the dynasty of the present lord chancellor. His opinion was, that 5,000l. while in office, and 4,000l. on retiring, was a fit and proper salary.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, that nothing would be more absurd than to establish, as a general regulation, that a judge should not be appointed until, or should retire at, a certain age. Considering the bodily labour to which a judge was subject, provided at the age of 45 he had a character in his profession and sufficient professional qualification, he saw no reason why want of age should be a disqualification. He had no such impression on his mind, that 60 was a proper age. The effect of this increase would be, to induce men to undertake office who had sufficient bodily power to undergo its fatigues.

Mr. Hobhouse

thought the augmentations had been carried to an extent beyond all reasonable endurance. Why should the judges be paid more than the Secretaries of State? He was one of those who thought that the dignity of a judge was not dependent upon the amount of his salary. Nor could he see the propriety of stimulating the judges to move out of their present quiet circle of society, and rear the younger branches of their families at the west end of the town. Besides, he had to complain that several useless offices were still maintained about these courts. So decidedly opposed was he to the proposed augmentation, that he meant to move, as an amendment, that the salaries of the judges be reduced from 5,500l. to 5,000l. The increase was considered by lawyers of different politics as entirely too much. There was another subject to which his learned friend had not adverted—he meant the principle of making the puisne judges immoveable.

Mr. N. Calvert

thought there was still a great disproportion between the full salaries and the retiring allowances of the judges, which must have the effect of inducing men to cling to office at a time of life when they were unfit for its duties. He had seen judges on the bench who were labouring under two of the disqualifying infirmities of old age—deafness and peevishness.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that if he were disposed, he could not now increase the amount of the retired allowances, although it was competent for the House to reduce it. He contended for the propriety of the scale in the bill, and that it was calculated to induce persons to undertake judicial offices at a time of life when they were best calculated to perform their duties.

Mr. Serjeant Onslow

said, that he personally knew the efficiency with which the judicial business was performed by the oldest judges on the bench, who were neither deaf nor peevish.

The bill was read a third time. Mr. Hobhouse then moved to leave out "five hundred." Upon which the House divided: Ayes 45; Noes 74. The bill was then passed.