HC Deb 15 July 1839 vol 49 cc347-52

The House went into Committee on the Admiralty Court Bill.

On the first clause,

Mr. Hume

objected to the increase of salary which was proposed to be given by this bill to the Judge of the Admiralty Court. He did not think that either the duties which this learned functionary was called on to perform nor the present state of the revenue warranted this increase of salary which was proposed to be given by this clause. He thought it would be very desirable to know, whether any increased duties were to be thrown upon the Judge of the Admiralty Court by this bill, for he certainly saw no reason for coming forward, under the present circumstances of the country, to propose this increase of salary.

Lord John Russell

thought, that the hon. Member had not paid sufficient attention to this measure. The object of the bill was to alter the principle on which the Judge of the Admiralty Court had hitherto been paid, and instead of the payment by fees to pay the Judge, a fixed and permanent salary. During the time of war, owing to the increase of fees, the emoluments of this office had amounted to between eight and nine thousand a-year, whilst in time of peace the salary was under four thousand a-year. He thought that it was very objectionable that a person filling an office of this kind should receive a salary liable to so much variation in its amount, and that was a reason why it was thought much better to fix it. In making this provision, however, the hon. Gentleman would perceive, that the amount of salary had been fixed considerably lower than what the Judge was in the habit of receiving in time of war.

Mr. Hume

did not see the necessity of providing for time of war, for whenever such a time arrived, which he trusted would be far distant, it would then be early enough to provide for an increase of salary. They had an assurance from her Majesty at the commencement of the Session, that there was every prospect of the continuance of peace in Europe, and he certainly did not see the reason for providing for such a remote contingency. The reasons just stated by the noble Lord did not satisfy him, and he certainly should continue his opposition to this proposal.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the hon. Gentleman seemed to have mistaken the principle on which this increase was demanded. They were not asking the House to vote a war salary to the Judge of the Admiralty, but they asked the House, now at a time of peace, to vote such a salary as would form a mean between what the Judge received in time of war and what he received in time of peace. He did not think that this Judge ought to be in such a position that his emoluments should be high at one time and low at another, but his salary ought to be equal at all times and regularly paid. A few years ago an alteration was made in Ireland, and the salary of the judge of the Prerogative Court in that country was fixed at 3,000l. a-year, and this was not thought to be more than a fair proportion, in reference to the emoluments of a man in first-rate practice at the civil bar. Now, he certainly thought, that 4,000l. a-year in England, was not more in proportion to the larger emoluments of the English bar than 3,000l. was in Ireland. When it was considered, that the person appointed to this office should be able to determine questions of great importance not to this country alone, but to every civilized country throughout the world, and that the effect of his decisions was to reach distant countries, he thought that it would indeed be a most miserable economy which would not enable them to secure the best services for a situation of such eminence and importance.

Mr. Williams

observed, that no advance of salary had been made to Lord Stowell, to Sir Christopher Robinson, or to Sir John Nicholl; and the country was not in a better state now than formerly to give an increased salary. He had been told, that the judge of the Admiralty Court had sat only twenty-four days during the last year; but if the number of days had been double, the present salary was quite sufficient. He objected to the increase because the country was not in a condition to make it.

Mr. C. Wood

said, Lord Stowell had had the benefit of his war income for sonic years. If the hon. Member who spoke last would refer to the evidence before the committee of 1833, he would find, that the number of days the judge of the Admiralty Court sat was no criterion of the duty he performed. A salary of 4,000l. for a time of war as well as peace was not too much.

Mr. Hume

did not like that the Liberal party should be reproached with having increased the salary of this office when filled by one of their friends, after Sir John Nichol, and his predecessors had received only the lower salary. If the increase was fit to be made, it ought to have been made when preceding judges were in office; but he thought it a most unfit time to acid to the salary, when a judge had little or no duty to perform. If the learned judge had a duty to perform at the Privy Council, he would rather give him a salary of 1,000l. for that. As it was, it appeared a partial and improper proceeding.

Mr. C. Wood

had omitted to mention, that by this bill there was a considerable increase of business thrown on the Admiralty Court, by the extension of its jurisdiction.

The Solicitor-general

regretted, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny should have suggested that this increase had been made because the present judge of the Admiralty Court was one of their party. The hon. Member must, he thought, feel satisfied that no case more imperiously called for an increase of salary. The hon. Member said, there was at present very little business in that court; but it was most important to have there at all times a judge competent to do the business that was to be clone, and to get such a person he must be taken from a class of the highest professional eminence. It was a miserable economy to run the risk of not being being able to procure the services of men of the first eminence. Was it prudent or consistent with sound policy to make it the interest of the judge, who had to adjudicate questions not of meum and tuum, but which might plunge Europe in war, to decide in a case of capture something that might lead to hostilities?

Sir R. Inglis

agreed with the Solicitor-general, that it was important to have a judge of the highest eminence, as his decisions might influence the great question of peace or war. Those who recollected the decisions of our Court of Admiralty in the time of the Orders in Council would be aware how materially those decisions affected our foreign relations.

Mr. Wakley

was really much obliged to Government for not proposing a higher salary than 4,000l. a-year. Had the sum been 8,000l. instead of 4,000l. he had no doubt it would have been easily granted, for the extravagance of the House was without limit. He protested against adding to the burdens of the people, by an unnecessary increase of at least one-fourth in the salary of this judge.

Mr. C. Wood

said, he found, that in point of form it would be impossible to go on with this clause, as a preliminary resolution would be required.

Clause postponed.

On the 17th clause,

Mr. Hume

proposed, as an amendment, the insertion of certain words, which would give to all barristers indiscriminately the power of practising in the High Court of Admiralty. At present the practice in that court was monopolised by the doctors of civil law.

Mr. Wakley

supported the amendment. Perhaps the learned judge of the court, as the money clauses of the bill were postponed, would favour the Committee with his opinion as to the propriety of opening the court.

Dr. Lushington

said, that as he was thus personally called on, he had no hesitation in declaring, that though it might not be inexpedient in principle to rescind prospectively the rule which excluded from the court all advocates who were not doctors in civil law, still in practice it would be productive of considerable injury to the present advocates in that court to let in upon them suddenly a new class of competitors who had not acquired the same qualifications or undergone the same long and laborious ordeal with themselves. The advocates in the High Court of Admiralty must have acquired their degrees of doctor in civil law in a strictly regular way, for if the degree were obtained by any grace or favour, it was not sufficient to admit the person so obtaining it to practise as an advocate in that court.

Mr. Sheil

supported the amendment. Catholics and other Dissenters were at present disqualified from acting in this court, because they could not obtain the necessary degrees in the English Universities.

Dr. Lushington

said, that there was one other consideration to which he wished to call the attention of the Committee. The High Court of Admiralty was the only school of public law in this country, and he was afraid, that since the death of Lord Stowell, we had not been at all able to vie with the professors of public law in other nations. Any measure, then, which tended to diminish the emoluments of that portion of the profession, which devoted itself to the study of public law, must also impair its character for learning and talent. And let not that be considered as a matter of slight importance, for the King's Advocate was consulted daily on matters of public law, and any mistakes on such points might involve the country in war.

The Committee divided on the amendment:—Ayes 28; Noes 69: Majoity 41.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Power, J.
Bridgeman, H. Salwey, Colonel
Brotherton, J. Scholefield, J.
Collins, W. Sheil, R. L.
Dashwood, G. H. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Duke, Sir J. Turner, E.
Easthope, J. Turner, W.
Fenton, J. Vigors, N. A.
Finch, F. Warburton, H.
Gisborne, T. White, A.
Hall, Sir B. Williams, W.
Harvey, D. W. Yates, J. A.
Hawes, B.
Hutton, R. TELLERS.
Lushington, C. Hume, J.
Pechell, Captain Wakley, T.
List of the NOES.
Adam, Admiral Howard, P. H.
Ainsworth, P. Howard, Sir R.
Alsager, Captain Howick, Viscount
Baring, F. T. Hurt, F.
Barry, G. S. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Blake, W. James, Sir W. C.
Bryan, G. Kemble, H.
Buck, L, W. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Clive, E. B. Loch, J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Lowther, hon. Colonel
Dalmeny, Lord Lushington, rt. hn. S.
Darby, G. Macleod, R.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Marshall, W.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Maule, hon. F.
Evans, W. Morpeth, Viscount
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Packe, C. W.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. Palmer, G.
Freshfield, J. W. Parker, J.
Gordon, R. Parker, R. T.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.
Greenaway, C. Pendarves, hn. W.W.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Pigot, D. R.
Grimsditch, T. Plumptre, J. P.
Harcourt, G. G. Pryme, G.
Heathcoat, J. Rice, E. R.
Hoskins, K. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Rich, H. Thomson, rt. hn. C.P.
Russell, Lord J. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A. Walker, R.
Scrope, G. P. Williams, W. A.
Stanley, hon. E. J. Wilshere, W.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Wood, Sir M.
Stuart, R. Worsley, Lord
Stewart, J. TELLERS
Strutt, E. Wood, C.
Surrey, Earl of Solicitor-general, the

Remaining clauses agreed to.