HC Deb 25 February 1839 vol 45 cc875-9

The Lord Advocate having moved the second reading of the Supreme Courts (Scotland) Bill, which provides for an increase of the Judges' Salaries,

Mr. Wallace

opposed the motion. He said it carried into effect none of the improvements which had been recommended by the committee which had sat upon the subject. Of that committee he had been a member; and Lord Eldon, Lord Brougham, Dr. Lushington, and Mr. O'Connell, who were examined, gave it as their opinion, that the great length of the pleadings in writing and printing ought to be much reduced; but that was not effected in this bill. There was another point very objectionable; and that was, that the Lords Ordinary often acted as solicitors and barristers, in preparing the cases they were afterwards as judges to decide. It was most improper that judges should have any other than judicial duties. He put it to the learned Doctor, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, whether it were not most improper. The learned Doctor when asked that question before the committee had declined giving an opinion—but had said to the best of his judgment it was very im- proper, and the weight of authority was to that effect. The fifth clause of the bill provided two judges to sit in the "Court of Exchequer;" why there was no Exchequer in Scotland—there was a nominal Exchequer certainly, but there was no money in it—and what was the use of putting judges in a court where they would have nothing to do? Great stress had been laid on the abolition of various courts. The judges of, these courts were sinecurists, and their abolition would not be looked upon as any great boon, and although a reduction in the number of courts had taken place, there had been no improvement in the manner of conducting the business in those which remained, nor would there be, as long as thirteen judges were retained for the purpose of providing work for one another to do. If the whole of the Judges did their duty in that court, there would be soon no work for them to do. He could prove, that there was no necessity for more than nine judges, and their salaries might be increased by doing away with the remaining four to the great advantage of the business of the Court. One Clause of the bill shifts the duties from one set of judges to another, and allows the judges themselves to determine the mode in which the people of Scotland should apply to them for justice. By the next clause the Tiend Court, the most tedious court of any, was allowed to have nine judges. He would refer to the Lord Advocate, whether four judges were not quite sufficient on the bench at one time for the due administration of justice. By another clause it was provided, that the sittings of the courts should remain as at present, that is to say, five months in the year. The Court of the Lords Ordinary sitting for three weeks longer, leaving in the one seven, and in the other case six months unoccupied. He would ask, whether the provision of the 10th clause was decent or decorous, by which the judges were permitted to determine whether they shall sit or no. This was a new system entirely. It was true, that at the end of the clause there was a provision by which the Queen and Council may, if they see fit, extend the time a month, but he considered it was cot very fit to place the Queen and Council after the Judges of Scotland. This was another exhibition of that grasping desire for power, by which the judges of Scotland had always been characterised. He next came to the proposed regulation and increase of the salaries. It was proposed by the Lord Advocate, that the salary of the Lord President should be increased to 5,000l. a-year, with 500 or 600l. a-year for his clerk, making 5,600l. a-year, to be taken out of the pockets of the people. The proposed increase to the Lord Justice Clerk would make his salary amount to 4,600l. per annum, in addition to which there was an allowance of 400l. a-year for his clerk. He begged to call the attention of the representatives of England and of Ireland to these extensions of salary. He called upon them, because he had no hope whatever that his own countrymen would assist him in his endeavours to introduce a better system bf administration into these courts. He did not understand, whether Lord Gillies and the other Judges who at present receive 2,300l, a-year, were to continue to receive their salaries, with this addition. He wished to ask the Lord Advocate this question.—As the Lord Advocate remained silent, he supposed they were. This measure renewed the objectionable power, now exercised by the judges, of making laws, called Acts of Sederunt, with closed doors, and of the existence of which the people were ignorant until the penalties were inflicted upon them. No such power existed either in this country or in Ireland, but the contrary was the case in Scotland, for the Acts of Sederunt were not laid on the Table of that House until they had been in existence for three or four months. Referring to the expenses of the justiciary of Scotland, he found that for the last year, there were under the head of general expenses, connected with the judges, 74,443l. for general prosecutions; 18,500l. for salaries, and the sheriff's about as much more. It was for Parliament to decide, during what length of time, the judges should perform their duties, so as to avoid disrespect, and satisfy the just expectations of the country. He should conclude by moving, that instead of being read now, the bill should be read a second time that day six months.

The Lord Advocate

was thankful to his hon. and learned Friend, for bringing forward his amendments. He had shown a good disposition, as he always did, but in this case he had shown the most complete ignorance. If he had spent only a month in personal attendance at the courts, he would not have made half the statements they had just heard. Now, he had spent father more than a month about those courts—about thirty years—and he could say, that neither in the Court of Session, nor in the Court of Ordinary, did the judges do the duties of solicitors. If the learned Gentleman alluded to the preparation of reports, he was right, but then that was a most important part of their judicial duties, which the English judges had also to perform. His learned Friend had said, that there was no Court of Exchequer—that there was no money in Scotland—the latter was perfectly true—but there was a Court of Exchequer, although no money was intrusted to the judges. But many useful retrenchments and reforms had already been made in the Courts of Scotland, and since the death of the late Chief Baron 4,000l. had been saved. In other departments, by the reduction of some sinecures and of two judges of the Court of Session 54,567l. 9s.d.. had been saved to the country. No one could suppose, that any gentleman deriving 6 or 7 or 8,000l. a-year from the bar, would accept the office of judge if the salaries were kept low, and if the proposed reductions were to take place. What was the case with the late Lord Eldon? Was it not admitted, on all hands, that he should have been raised to the judicial seat ten years previously? The fact was, however, that neither he nor any other gentleman in extensive practice would give it up for an appointment which deprived him of a third or a half of his usual income. The question, therefore, came to this, with a salary only such as persons wishing to retire from the bar would accept, was it possible to fill up with efficiency the vacancies in the judicial situations? If, then, none or these five judges were to be reduced, the question was whether any of the four Chamber Judges were to be reduced. ["Hear, hear," from Mr. Wallace.] The hon. Member said "hear, hear," as if he assented to that proposition, but he questioned very much, whether it would be advisable to place the whole judicial power in civil cases in Scotland in the hands of three or four individuals. The bill was one of much importance to Scotland, and he hoped it would be allowed to pass.

Mr. Gillon

felt bound to oppose the bill of the learned Lord, because, in his opinion, there was not one clause in it which was not very objectionable. The learned Lord had often appealed to the report of the Committee of a former Session, but he did not use it fairly, for he only carried into effect part of its recommendations. He did not equalize either the salaries or the duties of the judges. It was proposed, that two of the judges should attend to the business of the Exchequer. Now, there were only six disputed causes in that Court last year; true, there were 108 other causes, but what were they? Why, the signing of the name of a party to a deed, which might as well be done before any clerk in court. It was now perfectly in their power to have the best men at the bar on the bench; indeed he would go further, and say, that the bench had exhausted the bar. Considering the bill of the Lord Advocate did not carry out the representations he had made, and that to give the judges of Scotland additional salaries would be a wasteful application of the public money, he would support the motion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Greenock.

Mr. Hume

thought, notwithstanding the complaints made against him by the learned Lord, that he would do him the justice to admit that he had given him and his predecessor, Sir William Rae, due credit for the great good they had effected in the alteration of the law in Scotland. The learned Lord had said, that he knew nothing of the report: for the purpose of convincing the learned Lord that he was wrong, he had brought down that report, and from it it appeared that the judges sat, upon an average, only one hour and a half a day; in such a state of things was it to be said, that their salaries were to be increased? He should support the motion of his hon. Friend.

The House divided on the original question: Ayes 139; Noes 21: Majority 118.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Beamish, F. B.
Aglionby, H. A. Bernal, R.
Alsager, Captain Bewes, T.
Alston, R. Blackett, C.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Blennerhassett, A.
Archbold, R. Blunt, Sir C.
Ashley, Lord Bodkin, J. J.
Bailey, J. Bolling, W.
Baillie, Colonel Bramston, T. W.
Baines, E. Bridgeman, H.
Bannerman, A. Briscoe, J. I.
Baring, F. T. Brotherton, J.
Barrington, Viscount Bryan, G.
Bateson, Sir R. Burr, H.
Busfeild, W. Law, hon. C. E.
Campbell, Sir J. Lennox, Lord A.
Chalmers, P. Lister, E. C.
Chetwynd, Major Lockhart, A. M.
Chute, W. L. W. Lushington, rt. hon. S.
Clayton, Sir W. R. Lynch, A. H.
Clerk, Sir G. Mackenzie, T.
Colquhoun, J. C. Mackenzie, W. F.
Courtenay, P. Macleod, R.
Craig, W. G. Marsland, T.
Crawley, S. Martin, J.
Cresswell, C. Mildmay, P. St. J.
Crompton, Sir S. Morpeth, Viscount
Curry, W. Murray, rt. hon. J.
D'Israeli, B. Noel, W. M.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. O'Brien, C.
Duff, J. O'Connell, M.
Duke, Sir J. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Dundas, C. W. D. Ord, W.
Dundas, F. Paget, Lord A.
Dungannon, Viscount Paget, F.
Du Pre, G. Palmerston, Viscount
Ebrington, Viscount Parker, J.
Etwall, R. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Farnham, E. B. Perceval, hon. G. J.
Ferguson, R. Philips, M.
Fitzalan, Lord Philips, G. R.
Fort, J. Plumptre, J. P.
Godson, R. Pringle, A.
Gordon, hon. Captain Pryme, G.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Rice, E. R.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Grant, hon. Colonel Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Grant, F. W. Seymour, Lord
Grey, Sir G. Sinclair, Sir G.
Grimsditch, T. Slaney, R. A.
Guest, Sir J. Spry, Sir S. T.
Hawkins, J. H. Stanley, W. O.
Hayter, W. G. Stock, Dr.
Hill, Lord A. M. C. Stuart, V.
Hindley, C. Strangways, hon. J.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Strutt, E.
Hobhouse, T. B. Tancred, H. W.
Hodgon, R. Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Hope, hon. C. Thompson, Alderman
Hope, G. W. Thornhill, G.
Houstoun, G. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Howard, P. H. Turner, E.
Howick, Viscount Waddington, H. S.
Hughes, W. B. Walker, R.
Humphery, J. Wilbraham, G.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Wilshere, W.
Irton, S. Wood, Sir M.
Johnstone, H. TELLERS.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Maule, hon. F.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Steuart, R.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, Major Hume, J.
Bruges, W. H. Lushington, C.
Collins, W. Marsland, H.
Davies, Colonel Morris, D.
Dennistoun, J. Parker, R. T.
Evans, G. Redington, T. N.
Fielden, J. Salway, Colonel
Finch, F. Scholefield, J.
Vigors, N. A. Williams, W.
Wakley, T. TELLERS.
Warburton, H. Wallace, R.
White, A. Gillon, W. D.