HC Deb 24 September 1841 vol 59 cc737-41

On the motion that the report from the committee of the whole House, authorising her Majesty to grant a retiring allowance of 3,500l. to the new Vice-Chancellors, be received,

Colonel Sibthorp

objected to the amount of retiring allowance. He thought it much too great, but would not divide the House on the question.

Mr. Ewart

also thought the sum too great, and proposed that the amount be reduced from 3,500l. to 3,000l.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

objected to the proposition. The duties of the Vice-Chancellors were not inferior to those of the other judges, and it would be extremely dangerous, by fixing a lower retiring salary than those of the judges, to produce the impression that their employment was inferior or of less importance.

Mr. Wakley

should like to know when they were to begin to act upon a different principle, because it might be said in all cases it was inexpedient to reduce the emolument, lest it might be inferred that the office was not of importance. Considering the state of the finances of the country, that they had no money to bestow, but rather wanted money to borrow, he thought that the retiring salary proposed to be paid to Vice-Chancellors was preposterously high, and he regretted that his hon. Friend opposite had not moved a much greater reduction. He conceived that 2,000l. a year would be quite sufficient as a retiring allowance. They ought to show some consideration for the bankrupt condition of the finances of the country, and he was very sorry that the present Administration had not made a beginning in that direction. As in the last Session of Parliament they had been committed to the proposed sum, the present Administration were no more to blame for it than the last; but if both Administrations were thus to run on in couples, the public would be placed in the difficult position of not being able to find out which was the worse of the two. It was said, that "if you don't offer a high reward, you won't get valuable services, or be able to command the best talent at the bar." For his part, he found great difficulty in meeting with a lawyer who was worth 3,000l. or 4,000l.a year, although he had searched for one again and again. There were certainly men in the profession of great talent, and there was no doubt that judges ought to be men of the highest capacity and honour; because, by putting men of inferior abilities into such a position, they would be risking the rights and liberties of the people, injuring the administration of justice, and endangering the public service to a vast extent. He was, therefore, for amply rewarding the services of judges, but he considered that the amount now proposed was much too high. There was a very strong feeling in the public mind against the amount of salaries paid to public functionaries in general. The public considered them to be too high, and would not believe that that House was sincere in its professed regard for econony, if it continued to propose such exorbitant annuities by way of remuneration. The Lord Chancellor was paid a salary of 14,000l., and a retiring allowance of 5,000l., which was preposterously high, considering the miserable condition of the working classes, and considering also that the very necessaries of life were taxed to pay those enormous salaries. It was a disgrace to that House, and a reflection upon the justice of Parliament, that such things should be. He hoped, although he did not expect, that the House would adopt the proposition of his hon. Friend, and strike off the trifling sum which he suggested, if only as an indication of their desire to do something towards lessening the burdens of the people. It was only 500l., but let them be able to say, that they had made a beginning in this Session of Parliament, as a pledge of their intention to go a great deal farther by and by.

Sir R. Peel

said, that the House was well aware of the circumstances under which this bill had been proposed by her Majesty's late Administration. It was for the purpose of providing some remedy for the enormous evils which had arisen from the accumulation of business in the Court of Chancery. The evils accompanying the denial of justice, arising not from neglect on the part of the judicial authorities, who it was admitted were most competent to the discharge of their duties, but from the impossibility of transacting the immense and complicated business of the Court of Chancery, had led to the proposal of this bill as a remedy. He was quite sure of this, that the worst economy would be to make incompetent appointments, and the present measure would fail in its object, unless they could procure from the bar two men of great eminence for the discharge of the judicial duties to which it would give rise. The hon. Member for Finsbury said, he never knew a lawyer whose services were worth 3,000l. or 4,000l. a year, but at the same time he admitted that it was of the utmost importance to the public interests that men of high authority, great learning, and unblemished integrity should be induced to accept judicial offices. It was upon the latter principle that the proposal before the House had been made by the late Government. If judges were appointed, inferior in learning or ability to the advocates who pleaded before them, it was impossible that their decisions could carry with them due weight. In such a case, the temptations to appeal would be multiplied, and procrastination greatly increased. The retiring allowances proposed in this case were the same with those of the puisne judges, 3,500l. a year, and he had often heard complaints in that House of judges retaining their judicial situations at a time when they were incompetent for the discharge of the duties connected with them. He had heard it frequently stated, that it was the truest economy to appropriate such an amount of retiring salary as should induce judges to volunteer to retire from the judicial bench before they were incapacitated for the discharge of its duties. It was difficult upon a question of some particular reduction of expenditure, of three or four hundred a year, always to show a sufficient reason for the precise amount fixed, but, on the whole, he believed this subject to have been well considered. He had heard it stated, that the salaries attached to the new judicial offices would be hardly sufficient to ensure men of the first eminence — that there was a great probability of their not getting men of the first talent to relinquish their professional emoluments for the purpose of accepting the offices with these salaries. He had refused, however, to make any increase in the salaries proposed by the late Government. He believed the amount was just, and be trusted it would be found sufficient to ensure the object of the bill. He was quite sure that it was not wise to make a disproportionate retiring allowance, and so induce those who were placed in judicial seats to remain to the last, when their strength was failing, because there was not a sufficient inducement to retire. He trusted that these considerations would be sufficient to lead the House to affirm this proposal, which was made by the late Government and adopted by the present Government, not out of deference to their predecessors, but, because they thought it reasonable and just and conducive to the interests of the people.

Sir John Easthope

said, that possibly there was no Member of the House who was more deeply impressed with the suffering of his constituents, or more anxious to consult every species of economy than himself. Representing constituents who were suffering under distress that would defy description, he felt it his duty to take a line of rigid economy; but he might safely say for those constituents, piercing as was their misery, that they would discard such paltry economy as this. It was not by rendering less efficient the courts of justice, or by excluding from the judicial bench individuals of high talent, that distress such as theirs was to be remedied. Their real complaint was that they were not allowed the free use of their industry, that they were under a species of taxation which aggravated their sufferings, which, whilst it conferred no benefit on the State, pressed heavily on their daily bread. He (Sir John Easthope) would be no party to an economy which, doing no good to the country, might do much damage to the administration of justice. But he did most sincerely deplore, when they talked of economy, that they did not go to that grand source of the distresses of the people, which was viewed throughout the country with the greatest possible dismay.

House divided on the question that 3,500l. stand part of the resolution—Ayes 150; Noes 36: Majority 114.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Emlyn, Viscount
Acton, Colonel Escott, B.
Adderley, C. B. Fellowes, E.
Aldam, W. Ferrand, W. B.
Allix, J. P. Fitzroy, Captain
Antrobus, E. Fleming, J. W.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Follett, Sir W.W.
Ashley, Lord Forester, hn. G. C W.
Baillie, Colonel Forman, T. S.
Baird, W. Fox, C. R.
Baldwin, C. B. Fuller, A. E.
Barrington, Viscount Gordon, hon. Captain
Baskerville, T. B. M. Gore, M.
Beckett, W. Goulburn, rt. hn. H.
Boresford, Major Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Boldero, H. G. Grant, Sir A. C.
Borthwick, P. Greenall, P.
Botfield, B. Greene, T.
Broadley, H. Grey, rt. hn. Sir G.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Grimsditch, T.
Browne, hon. W. Grogan, E.
Brownrigg, J. S. Harcourt, G. G.
Bruce, Lord E. Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.
Bruce, Lord Hardy, J.
Buck, L. W. Harford, S.
Campbell, A. Henley, J. W.
Canning, rt. hn. Sir S. Henniker, Lord
Chetwode, Sir J. Herbert, hon. S.
Clements, Viscount Hodgson, R.
Clerk, Sir G. Hollond, R.
Cole, hn. A. H. Hope, hon. C.
Collet, W. R. Hornby, J.
Colville, C. R. Hoskins, K.
Coote, Sir C. H. Hughes, W. B.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Irton, S.
Cresswell, C. Irving, J.
Crosse, T. B. Jermyn, Earl
Dawnay, hn. W. H. Johnson, W. G.
Dawson, hn. T. V. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Douglas, Sir C E. Jones, Captain
Duncombe, hn. O. Kemble, H.
Easthope, Sir J. Kerrison, Sir E.
Egrington, Viscount Knatchbull, right hon. Sir E.
Egerton, W. T.
Elphinstone, H. Larpent, Sir G. de H.

Resolution agreed to.—Committee on the Administration of Justice Bill instructed to incorporate it with that bill.