HC Deb 14 March 1850 vol 109 cc937-42

Order for Second Reading read.


wished to know from the Attorney General whether he included in the reduction of the salary of the Chief Justice any alteration of the retiring allowances?


said, that might be a question for consideration in Committee. The present Bill did not propose to diminish the retiring allowance of the Judges. A maximum was fixed by Act of Parliament, but the Treasury was not bound to give the maximum.


thought this Bill ought not to be proceeded with until a return which he had given notice of his intention to move for, of the appointment of officers of courts of justice, and the salaries attendant upon them, had been made. He was of this opinion, because the salary in some measure depended upon the patronage and the emolument of the officers appointed by the chief justices. Nothing was said in the Bill about retiring pensions, and it appeared to him essential that there should be some provisions in the Bill stating what the retiring pensions should be. The very principle of the Bill was involved in the amount of the retiring pension coupled with the patronage. He gave the hon. and learned Gentleman fair notice that, considering the state of the country and the circumstances of the times, he meant to propose a reduction in the salary of 8,000l. a year which it was intended to give to the chief justices. He believed the salary of the Secretary of State for the Home Department was 5,000l. a year; and he believed that the labours and the responsibility of the chief justices were not equal to the labour and responsibility of the Secretary for the Home Department. He was not disposed to underrate the learning and the talent of the chief justices; but the time had arrived when stern necessity called upon them to cut down those salaries—salaries that were more than sufficient to secure the performance of the duties attached to the different offices. He had been for the last two quarter-sessions in Gloucestershire sitting upon committees of magistrates, to consider what reductions might be made. They had reduced the salaries of the officers there, and he gave them a pledge that when he came back to the House, he would pursue the same practice. It was in pursuance of that pledge that he voted the other night on the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding; and he should, whenever occasion offered, always support economy.


said, that as he belonged to a branch of the profession from which chief justices were not usually selected, he might speak as a person not partial on this subject. He thought it was above all things to be deplored if the House should go too fast in the direction of the reduction of judicial salaries. Nothing was of greater importance to the wellbeing of the country than that justice should be administered by men of learning and impartiality, such as they had seen occupying the bench, and that could not be done unless they gave them salaries such as would command men who by their experience and practice were at the head of their profession, and had attained a competent degree of public confidence and respect to fill these situations. When the hon. Member for Cirencester asked why the Chief Justice was to be paid 8,000l., whilst the Home Secretary of State received but 5,000l., he forgot that the Home Secretary was not taken from a class of persons who made an income by their professional exertions to support themselves and their families, and which, upon the acceptance of that office, they were obliged to give up. It was indeed of the highest importance to the Government that the Secretary of State should not be taken from a class of persons dependent upon the emoluments of the office. But they could not expect great lawyers to be found in other way than by persons choosing that profession and attaining eminence in it as a means of supporting themselves and their families; and if they took men earning their 8,000l., 9,000l., or 10,000l a year to fill these important situations, it was absolutely necessary to give them great salaries. In the United States, whore the salaries of the judges were small, it was notorious that they could not get the best men to accept the office, or, when accepted, to retain it; and it was not uncommon for a judge to descend from the bench to a subordinate office in his own court, the salary of which was higher. He therefore implored the House not to travel too fast in that direction, for he was convinced it was the most false, ruinous, and unconstitutional economy that could possibly be adopted.


would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman, that if he were not of that branch of the profession from which chief justices were usually selected, he did belong to that branch from which lord chancellors were taken; and if he (Mr. Spooner) could form an accurate judgment of the hon. and learned Gentleman's talents from what they had seen in that House, he hade very fair, some time or other, to occupy the woolsack, and the vote come to now would necessarily involve the consideration of all other judicial salaries. Lord Denman had been Chief Justice seventeen years, and would the House say that what was a competent salary seventeen years ago, was not too much now? Another reason for postponing the Bill was that they might know the result of the Motion of which the hon. Member for Oxfordshire had given notice as to the salaries of public officers.


said, it was not very encouraging to bring in a Bill for the reduction of salaries if they were to meet with such opposition as was now offered to the second reading of this Bill. At present the salary of the Chief Justice, as fixed by Parliament, was 10,000l It was proposed that it should be immediately reduced to 8,000l.; but if this Bill were abandoned, the effect would be that the Chief Justice would have a right to draw for 10,000l. The proper time for discussing the amount was in Committee, but by agreeing to the second reading they sanctioned the principle that the salary of the Chief Justice should be reduced.


said, reduction ought to take place, not only in the salaries of the Judges, but of those on the Treasury benches. They had too much. they were too fat, too well fed, and therefore they were useless. He suggested that the Bill should be postponed until the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made his financial statement.

Bill read 2°.