§ MR. ROEBUCK,
in rising to move an humble Address to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to give directions to the Lords of the Treasury that hereafter, in order to maintain the dignity and independence of the County Court Judges, they shall cause to be paid to the said Judges a salary equal in amount to all, and permanently fixed at £1,500 per annum, expressed a hope that this important question, which was one in which the public generally were interested, would not suffer prejudice from the unpopularity of the humble individual who had undertaken it. The interests of justice were deeply involved in the adoption of the Resolution he intended to move; and if it were supposed that he had any personal object in bringing it forward, and was following it out by seeking his own personal interest, the House would probably be disabused of that impression by the course he would adopt before he resumed his seat. It was fit that he should begin by briefly recounting the pregnant history of our County Courts as they now existed. The person who first propounded to Parliament the establishment of these tribunals was Lord Brougham, to whom the country was greatly indebted for his valuable labours in the cause of juridical reform. That noble and learned Lord, when Lord Chancellor, proposed to introduce a Bill into the other House for the purpose of establishing County Courts; but the opposition he then encountered was too great for him, and it was reserved for the right hon. Gentleman the present Chairman of Ways and Means Committees in that House (Mr. FitzRoy) to carry that desirable object into effect, and it was ultimately achieved by the passing of the 9 & 10 Vict. c. 95. That Act gave these Courts a jurisdiction up to £20, and directed the payment of fees to the Judges, with power for the Crown to grant salaries not exceeding £1,200 in lieu of fees. By the 10 & 11 280 Vict. c. 102, jurisdiction in insolvency and protection cases was transferred from the country commissioners to the Judges of County Courts in the country circuits; and the Judges of those tribunals were declared incapable of sitting in Parliament. The 13 & 14 Vict. c. 61, extended their jurisdiction to £50, and even, by the consent of the parties, to any amount, including the trial of title to real estates; and it also transferred to the Lords of the Treasury the power originally given to the Crown to direct payment of the salaries of these Judges. The 14 & 15 Vict. c. 52, authorised the Judges of country circuits to grant warrants for the arrest of absconding debtors, on affidavit, for debts of any amount above; £20. The 14 &15 Vict. c. 100, empowered the County Court Judges to direct the prosecution of witnesses for perjury, and to commit for trial in default of bail. The 15 & 16 Vict. c. 54, while debarring these Judges from practising in their profession, provided that they should receive salaries not exceeding £1,500 nor less than £1,200. He cited these facts to show how year by year the business went on accumulating in the County Courts, until, in fact, a great part of the civil litigation of the country devolved upon them. The 16 & 17 Vict. c. 51 (the Succession Duty Act), gave a power of appeal from assessments to those Courts where the sum at issue was not above £50. By the Customs' Consolidation Act a similar power of appeal was given in cases of conviction up to the amount of £100 penalty; while by the Charity Trusts Act jurisdiction in charity trust cases, where the income did not exceed £30 per annum, was likewise vested in Judges of County Courts. The Common Law Procedure Act, 17 & 18 Vict. c. 125, also authorised the Judges of Westminster Hall to refer causes involving questions of account to the County Court Judges. By the Friendly Societies' Act Judges of County Courts were empowered to wind up the affairs of friendly societies. The House would see from this statement that there was hardly any subject involving civil procedure which might not be brought before the County Courts. There was also, it must be remembered, this peculiarity in the jurisdiction of these Courts, that they were very seldom aided by juries, and not often by counsel; that they adjudicated alone upon various matters of law; that there was not, in the 281 majority of cases, any appeal against their decision, and that they exercised powers which were not always possessed by the Judges of Westminster Hall.
The Resolution he intended to submit to the House, proposed, in the first place, to make the salaries of County Court Judges equal. There was, he believed, a singular opinion held in some quarters that the merit of a Judge was to be measured by the number of cases he decided, and the amount of money which those cases involved; as if the great laws of this country were not dependent very often upon cases involving a very small amount. Why, the great question of ship money turned upon a case which involved only 20s., and that, perhaps, was the greatest case that had ever occupied our tribunals. If, therefore, you made the measure of a Judge's capacity the amount of money involved in the cases he decided, you might find that the man who was called upon to decide in cases involving only a few shillings had been called upon to exercise greater judicial knowledge, greater judicial acumen, and greater powers of mind and of temper than the Judge who decided cases involving thousands of pounds. A series of Judges having, then, been appointed throughout the country to try certain cases, they ought to be men of equal ability, and if it was determined to have men of equal ability the country was bound in honour and in justice to remunerate them equally. In his opinion the salaries of County Court Judges ought in all cases to be fixed and equal, because the cases you called upon them to decide were of the same relative amount. He would, however, pass by that and proceed to the next point, which was still more important—namely, that the salaries of the Judges should be permanently fixed. He was sure it would be universally admitted that, ever since the Revolution, the judicial officers of this country had been distinguished for their independence. By a law passed in the reign of William III. the Judges were rendered independent of the Crown; and so great was the jealousy entertained lest the Judges should be in any measure subjected to the influence of the Crown, that it was now the custom for Judges to go to Court to pay their respects to the Sovereign only once, and that was upon their appointment. This was in itself a small matter, but it was significant. But the County Court Judges were brought hat in 282 hand to the Treasury. One of the Acts of Parliament to which he had before referred provided that the salaries of those Judges should not be less than £1,200 or more than £1,500, the apportionment of the amount being left in the hands of the Treasury. The County Court Judges—the most important Judges of this country—were therefore required to bow down to the Treasury benches for the increase of their salaries from £1,200 to the maximum of £1,500 a year. As an illustration of this he would mention what had occurred to himself. It happened to him once, in the days when Lord Melbourne was Prime Minister, to have a grievance. He went to Lord Melbourne, and he should not easily forget the observations of that noble Lord:—'It 's all very fine," said Lord Melbourne, "to call me Prime Minister; but why don't you go to Johnny?" He (Mr. Roebuck) had no desire to "go to Johnny;" he made his application to Lord Melbourne, and the accuracy of that noble Lord's opinion was proved by the fact that, as he never made his application to "Johnny," his grievance remained unredressed. It was all very well to say that these questions of salary were decided by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the First Lord of the Treasury, but the man who really settled those matters was the Secretary of the Treasury. He would ask the House what they would think of the honour and independence of the Judges of this country if the Judges of any court should have to bow down to the Secretary of the Treasury? He would presently have to charge that hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wilson) with something like a dereliction of duty, and he would make the charge in plain terms, that neither the hon. Gentleman nor the House might misunderstand it. Before he stated the charge, however, he would entreat the House to consider what honourable and learned men would be likely to undergo before they would go cap in hand to the hon. Gentleman. It was his (Mr. Roebuck's) fate to have a brother-in-law who was a County Court Judge, and who received the appointment, without any application or solicitation of his own, from the late Lord Truro. That gentleman came within every rule laid down by the Treasury, or rather by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson), which would entitle him, as a County Court Judge, to the maximum salary; but he was carefully passed over. He (Mr. Roebuck) put a Motion on the 283 Notice-book, which he was told by the Speaker he could not move, as it was contrary to the rules of the House. Well, the hon. Member for Westbury came to him one day and said, "What becomes of your Motion to-morrow?" He (Mr. Roebuck) replied, "You know as well as I do that I cannot move it." "Well," said the hon. Member for Westbury, "that being the case, now I will tell you something. Your brother-in-law"—he (Mr. Roebuck) had never spoken to the hon. Gentleman about his brother-in-law—"has been for some time within the rule by which he is entitled to the maximum salary, but as your Motion was on the books he has not been appointed to that salary." Now, what did this case show? It showed clearly that in the apportionment of the salaries of County Court Judges circumstances were regarded which ought to have no influence upon such arrangements. What had the fact of his (Mr. Roebuck) being brother-in-law to a County Court Judge to do with the salary that Judge should receive? Why, the miserable self-complacency of the hon. Member for Westbury was hurt, and therefore justice was not done to a County Court Judge because he was his (Mr. Roebuck's) brother-in-law. But that was not all. In a Treasury Minute of the 23rd of August, 1853, with reference to the principle upon which the maximum salary should be allowed to County Court Judges, he found the following passages:—The number of causes tried cannot be considered as a criterion of the labour which falls on the Judge, as the amount of labour required in country districts in travelling from court to court must be set against the greater number of causes tried in the metropolitan and other urban circuits. It is, therefore, only by considering the amount of the different labours peculiar to each circuit that the labour of the Judge can be estimated, and, when such an estimate of each circuit is made, the difficulty remains of determining which of the labours required by the Judges should be considered as the most laborious, so as to be able fairly to decide in which of the different circuits the duties are the heaviest.In a Treasury Minute dated October 6, 1854, there was the following very remarkable statement:—The statement annexed to this minute shows the plaints entered, the causes triad, the Judges' fees, and the amount sued for in each circuit for the years 1852 and 1853, and the average for such years; and, these elements of the business done in the Courts having been aggregated in each circuit, as the best test which my Lords can adopt, the different circuits stand in relation to 284 each other in the following order with reference to the aggregate amount of such elements in each.Then followed a list of circuits, and the maximum salary was awarded to the Judges of the fifteen circuits first named. The Judge of the sixteenth circuit was his brother-in-law. It might be said that there was good reason for stopping there, and he did not accuse the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury of dealing with the interests of the country as if he were influenced by feelings against men who were unpopular in themselves. He did not say so. But it should be remembered that the County Court Judges were placed in a certain order for appointment to the maximum salary, and that the first fifteen were appointed, Well, it might have been supposed that the next Judge to whom the maximum salary was awarded would have been the sixteenth on the list. No such thing. No. 17 was the next, 19 the next, 28 the next, 37 the next, and 49 the next. So that, in fact, after the first fifteen, the appointments were made like the occurrences of a sickman's dream. Could it be said that No. 16 was passed over by mistake? He apprehended not. Was not the number of causes entered larger in the case of No. 16 than in that of No. 49? Certainly it was. There was also more travelling, and the amount of fees was greater. Upon what ground, then, was No. 16 passed over? It could not be said that the Treasury authorities were not acquainted with the facts, for Mr. Falconer, the Judge to whom he alluded, made frequent applications to the Treasury, feeling that there was a slur cast upon him. He knew Mr. Falconer well; he had great affection for him, and knew that the paltry sum in question was not that which agitated his mind, but the conviction that he was a marked man among his brethren. His brethren knew him to be a distinguished Judge; they knew that he did more work than almost any other Judge in the country, and yet they saw him passed over by the Treasury. Why? There must be some reason. The world at large did not know the reason. He could guess it, and the Secretary to the Treasury knew that he could. It was not that the hon. Gentleman was told by his superiors to do so and so, but there were certain minds so constituted that they easily found out what their superiors desired, and no matter what the dirty work might be, they were ready to do it. He held in his hand a letter addressed by Mr. Falconer to the Lords of 285 the Treasury on the 19th of February, 1855. It passed in review every one of the grounds which the Treasury authorities had assumed as those upon which they were to determine the right of a Judge to a larger salary, and the writer showed that on each particular point he was better entitled to an increase than many of those who had been promoted. Such being the case, what opinion would be formed out of doors? If a man in his position, with a full knowledge of all that was passing before him, came to the conclusion that the Secretary to the Treasury had passed over a worthy Judge from political reasons, what would be the opinion of the public on the subject? Did anybody believe that it would be I supposed that the Judges were beyond corrupt influences? Would it be supposed that the Office of the Treasury, which was peculiarly interested in the dirty work of Parliamentary elections, and which could be proved to have slighted a Judge for political reasons, and to have mixed itself up with that which was most degrading to human nature, could be corrupt in one case and pure in another? Not at all. It would be supposed—it was supposed—that Parliamentary influence governed its conduct in all cases, and that Judges were appointed and promoted, not on account of their merits, but upon political considerations and the connections they possessed. But he had another case to state to the House. A certain Mr. Morris was at one time sole County Clerk for the circuit of Glamorganshire, and he was also a great electioneering man in the same district. He was clerk to all the Courts in the Glamorgan district. He grew tired of his work as clerk, and went up to the Treasury and there entered into certain terms, the result of which was as follows:—For the sum of £400 a year he resigned his office, and the Treasury—such was his own statement—gave him authority to appoint full, not assistant clerks for the different courts in Glamorganshire, although the right to make such appointments belonged to the Judges. Mr. Morris exercised the power thus given to him; and when, some time afterwards, the Government expressed a wish to divide certain of the districts to which he had appointed clerks, one of those functionaries remonstrated, asserting that he had bought his situation from Mr. Morris, who, not content with the £400 a year from the Treasury as compensation for giving up his clerkship, had actually been paid by the 286 clerks for appointing them to their offices. The first time that Mr. Falconer heard of the transaction was, when he was told that one of the clerks objected to have his district divided, because he had paid Mr. Morris for it. Here, then, was a clear case of corruption, and of selling judicial offices somewhere. He wanted some explanation of it, and he asked whether, if these facts could be clearly proved, it was so very plain that the House had done wisely in giving to the Treasury the power of fixing the remuneration of County Court Judges? He called upon the House to do away with this mischief, by at once fixing the salaries of the Judges and rendering them permanent. Thus he got rid of the second part of his Resolution.
He would now come to the third point, which was to the effect that the salary of County Court Judges should be fixed by Act of Parliament at £1,500 a, year. He had stated his belief that County Court Judges were the most important Judges in the country. His reason for saying so was, that they decided upon the cases of the poor; that they disposed of a multitude of causes; and in many of the circuits had reduced the business of the other Judges to almost nothing. On the last Welsh circuit the Judge had one case, which engaged his attention the greater part of one day, but he could come to no conclusion, and at last the question was referred for decision to a County Court Judge. A County Court Judge tried cases not by hundreds, but by thousands, and if he were right in supposing that the interests of the country were bound up, not with the amount of money involved, but with the number of causes tried and the class of persons engaged in litigation, then there could be no doubt that County Court Judges, whose peculiar duty it was to administer justice to the poor, were the most important judicial officers in England. They had almost utterly excluded from business the courts of Westminster upon circuit; they decided now in insolvency cases, in Admiralty cases, and, if parties chose, in cases of title. They did so at much less cost than the Judges of Westminster Hall. It was true that they did not surround themselves with troops of javelin-men, and that they could not fine a sheriff £100; but they attended to the business and interests of the country, and, high qualifications being demanded of them, we were bound to pay them liberally. A very curious observation—more curious as 287 coming from the Treasury bench—had been made upon this subject. ''Oh," said the Secretary to the Treasury, "we can get as many men as we like, to fill the office of County Court Judge—men quite up to the mark—for £1,200 a year." Let him apply the argumentum ad hominem. Did the hon. Gentleman suppose that many men could not be found in that House and elsewhere to do the dirty work of the Treasury for less than £2,500 a year? So in the case of the Lord Chancellor, who had made a similar observation in the other House. Did anybody believe that scores of lawyers could not be discovered in Westminster Hall quite as capable as Baron Cranworth to perform the duties of Lord Chancellor for one-half of £10,000 per annum? And did the Chancellor of the Exchequer imagine that there were not hundreds of men, as able financiers as himself, ready to do his work for much less than £5,000 a year? That, then, was not a criterion. The criterion was the custom of the country. Now, County Court Judges were expected to mingle with country gentlemen—to take a position in society—and they were esteemed for the station they held. It was of the highest importance that those who administered justice to the poor should be above the very breath of suspicion. He had himself heard on circuit a prisoner object to being tried by any Judge but one in a red gown. The man fancied that justice would not be done to him if a "real Judge," as he called him, did not try him. What was the meaning of that? Why, the prisoner, like all his class, felt that a Judge in a red gown, occupying a high and distinguished position, which he had attained by his talents, would be sure to do him justice, and he could not place the same confidence in a man with a short wig and black gown. Hence it was of the greatest importance that County Court Judges, who were emphatically the Judges of the poor, should hold a high position in public estimation. It was of the utmost importance that the Judges should be above the cares of this world, that their minds should be clear and competent for business, and that they should not be troubled by the anxieties of life, but should be really happy and comfortable while doing the service of the State. To that end, he contended that the maximum salary appointed by Parliament was not more than sufficient; and he asked the House, in justice to those men, and in consideration for the country, 288 to apportion to them such a sum as would place them above suspicion, above the breath of calumny, and above the anxieties and the meanness of the world. When the County Court Judges were first appointed with the maximum salary of £1,200 a year, they were permitted to practise their profession; but when the maximum of £1,500 a year was given, they were deprived of the liberty of undertaking private practice. That was a very proper provision, if the Judges were otherwise adequately remunerated, because he thought that no man in the position of a County Court Judge should exercise his profession at the bar. If that was so, the County Court Judge should be placed in such a position as to be able to mix in the society of the gentry of his country. Now he would ask what was the ordinary income of a country gentleman? Perhaps it was difficult to fix it; but he would ask whether £1,500 a year placed a Judge in a position above that which he ought to hold? He should be placed not only above the anxieties of the world, but above the meannesses of the world. He should not be obliged to watch his expenditure too narrowly, but then he should not be doing injustice to his children and his family. He therefore appealed to the House to support the Resolution he had brought forward, and which he now begged to move.
said, that he had not much to add to the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down; more particularly as it was his intention to deal simply with the general question at issue, and not to enter into details of a personal or private character. He would briefly state to the House the manner in which Parliament and the Government had dealt with the question of the payment of County Court Judges. When the office was first created in 1847, it was determined that the Judges should be paid by fees; but so soon as it was found that the fees amounted to a larger sum than had been anticipated, the Treasury took them into their own hands, and adopted the principle of payment by salaries. In 1848, the salary was fixed at an average of £1,000 a year in all cases, leaving still to the Judges the power of private practice. In 1852, consequent upon the popularity of the courts and the confidence reposed in them, an addition was made to the amount of salary, and, upon the allegation that the remuneration allowed was not proportionate to the labour performed, an Act was 289 passed, changing the salary from an average of £1,000 a year in all cases to a varying scale, of which £1,500 was the maximum and £1,200 was the minimum. This increase, however, was more nominal than real, because the same Act which augmented the official salary of the Judge took from him his private practice, which had hitherto been a source of emolument. The consequence of the Act then passed was, that the salaries were made to fluctuate at the arbitrary discretion of the Treasury, because, although various attempts had been made to adopt something like a uniformity of proceeding, yet, when the system of fluctuating salaries was once admitted, it became extremely difficult to adopt any principle upon which the amount to be paid in different cases should depend. The Treasury, in their Minute, had themselves repudiated the idea at first suggested, that the amount of fees should form the sole measure of the salary to be given. The next test proposed was the number of causes tried; but the mere number afforded no test of the relative importance of the causes. Again, it was said that the collective amount involved in the causes tried should be taken as a guide; but it by no means followed that those causes which were pecuniarily of the most importance should be so in a legal point of view; because cases of a comparatively small amount might turn upon very complicated arguments, and furnish important precedents, while others of a large amount might be easy of solution, and involve no legal difficulty. The only remaining test was the number of days which each Judge sat, and the amount of travelling which he had to do. It was evident, however, that that of itself must afford a very insufficient criterion of the amount of work done, and of the value of a Judge's services. Taking all these tests together—the amount of fees, the number of causes tried, the number of days that a Judge sat, the amount of travelling that he did, and the aggregate sums sued for—some kind of vague and rough estimate might, perhaps, be formed of the importance of the labours of the different Judges; but, in any case, that estimate must necessarily be so vague and so rough that it could not altogether take from the judgment of the Treasury that character which now attached to it of being arbitrary in its application. He did not say that favouritism and partiality actually prevailed; but the suspicion of them was almost as bad; and 290 that would always exist so long as the principle of graduation was persisted in. Under these circumstances, he thought that the power of arbitrarily raising these salaries should not be left to the discretion of the Treasury, but that the salaries should henceforth be fixed by Act of Parliament, and should be equal in amount. Then came the question what that amount should be; and that was one which might be better answered by an appeal to common sense and a reference to the salaries given in analogous cases than by argument. The present state of things was this—that, while of the sixty Judges the great majority received only £1,200, there were some to whom £1,500 was allowed, besides two receiving intermediate sums. It was clear that the highest paid could not be reduced; the alternative was to raise the rest to their level. If authorities on the subject were required, however, he might cite the opinion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who, when Home Secretary, said that he was inclined to think that the application of the rule proposed was by far too narrow, and that the maximum salary should be much more extensively granted, if not extended to all cases. Lord Brougham, again, had expressed his opinion that it was most inconsistent with the character of the judicial office and with the due administration of justice that the Judges should be paid, as it were, by "piece-work," for it was manifest that the same high qualifications, the same talent, the same industry, integrity, and high sense of honour were required in all Judges alike. In that I opinion Lord Campbell and the Lord Chancellor had concurred; indeed there appeared to be among the heads of the legal profession but one opinion with regard to the propriety of laying down some definite rule on the subject, of adopting a uniform rate of payment, and of raising that rate to the maximum now granted. The business of the County Courts was increasing daily, the tendency of their legislation was to throw fresh duties on these Courts, and it was desirable that nothing should be left undone to increase the public confidence in them. The question was, not whether men might not be found to take the duty at a lower rate, but whether those men were fully qualified to discharge it. The duties of the Judges were onerous, and involved an amount of physical labour which rendered it injurious to select men advanced in years. But if they chose comparatively young 291 men, they must compensate them, not only for the practice which they actually relinquished, but for that increased practice which they would expect if they remained longer at the bar; and every professional man was apt to overrate his chances of success. The County Court Judges sat in most cases without appeal; they had no long vacation; many of them sat from 180 to 200 days in the year; the labour of their office was not inferior to that of a barrister in large practice, and they had no promotion to look to. Under these circumstances, £1,500 a year was not too much, especially as the physical labour of travel was generally greatest in those districts where the amount of business was least. Upon those two grounds, then—first, that in his opinion the salaries of the County Court Judges should be fixed and certain, and, secondly, that they should be uniform, he had great pleasure in seconding the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That She will be graciously pleased to give directions to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, in order to maintain the dignity and independence of the County Court Judges, to cause to he paid to the said Judges a Salary equal in amount to all, and permanently fixed at,£1,500 a year, being the maximum Salary which the said Lords Commissioners are empowered by Act of Parliament to assign to them.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I very much regret, Sir, that the discussion of this subject should have been mixed up with questions of a personal nature, not indeed by the noble Lord who has just sat down, but by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has proposed this Resolution; and I wish, before my hon. Friend rises to give that satisfactory answer which I am certain he will be able to give to the charges which have been made against him with so much bitterness by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, to state the course which the Government has thought it to be its duty to adopt with regard to this subject. In so doing I shall carefully abstain from saying one word with regard to those personal charges, and I will simply state the decision of the Government after a careful consideration of the question upon its own merits. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) has correctly stated that upon the establishment of County Courts the Judges were paid by fees; but he was not so accurate when he stated that the Government, when they found that the fees exceeded the amount anticipated by 292 them, put an end to that system of payment and substituted salaries. The fact is that the original Act contemplated payment by salaries rather than lay fees; but, as at that period there existed no experience as to the amount of fees which might be received, it was arranged that the Judges should receive fees at first, and it was provided that the Treasury should have the power of afterwards commuting them for salaries. After a, time it was evident that the incomes of the Judges from the source of fees were very unequal, some receiving an amount that far exceeded due remuneration, while others received amounts totally inadequate; the payment by fees was therefore commuted into payment by salaries of £1,000 a year. At that time I held an opinion—and I have never since seen reason to alter it—which is embodied in the Resolution now before the House, namely, that the rate of payment should be uniform. At a subsequent period, namely, in 1852, by the Bill for amending the County Courts Act, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the present Chairman of our Committees of Ways and Means, it was proposed that the salaries of the Judges should be raised to a maximum of £1,500 a year and a minimum of £1,200, and that proposal was assented to by Parliament and by the Government of that day (the right hon. Gentleman the present Member for the University of Cambridge being Home Secretary), on the express understanding that there should not be an uniform payment of £1,500, but that £1,500 should only be paid in those cases in which it might seem to those persons in whose hands the decision was left that that salary was fairly earned by the labour performed; so that Parliament imposed upon the Treasury the duty of making the distinction in the salaries of the Judges; and that department did not, as assumed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, take it upon themselves. I think that it would have been better to have at first absolutely fixed the amount of the salaries, because, notwithstanding the care and trouble which may be taken in considering, not the merits of the Judges—because in merit all ought to be looked upon as equal—but the labour imposed upon them, it is impossible to avoid creating dissatisfaction in the minds of those whose salaries may be fixed at the lower rate. Owing to the complaints which have been made by Judges who have felt, and not unnaturally, that they were 293 wronged by being placed in a category different from others, the subject is one which has been fully considered by the Government, and we have approached the consideration of it with no narrow feelings of prejudice against the County Court Judges, for we fully recognise the value of their services—a value proved by several years of experience; and I can also say that the Government are of opinion that it would be ill-judged economy to pay those gentlemen in a manner that would not be adequate to secure the services of men of sufficient qualification, or which would not place them in that social position which they ought to occupy. A Commission was appointed some time ago to inquire into the operation of the County Courts, and a Bill embodying many of the recommendations contained in the Report of that Commission has been laid before the other House of Parliament. In considering that Bill the attention of the Government has been directed to the question of the salary, and in the Bill to which I have referred we do recognise the principle that the salaries of judicial officers should be fixed and secure, and not varying or dependent on the discretion of the Treasury, and we have therefore proposed that the provisions of the Act of 1852 should be altered. The next question which arises is, whether or no these salaries should be all equal. Now, to say that they should all be made equal at once, is tantamount to saying that every County Court Judge shall receive £1,500 a year. But, looking at the nature of the duties performed, the question as to what would be a fair salary if we were to commence de novo has been fully considered by the Lord Chancellor, whose opinion from his position is entitled to the greatest weight, and he has arrived at the conclusion that £1,200 a year, in addition to travelling expenses, is a salary sufficiently large to secure the services of the most competent men from Westminster Hall, and to ensure to them the social position proper to them. We propose, therefore, in that Bill to fix the salary at £1,200 a year, in addition to travelling expenses; but we do not propose to take away from those Judges who have now a larger salary the sum above £1,200 which they may possess during their tenure of office. I have now stated the course which the Government have felt it their duty to adopt, and the reasons which have actuated us. If we have been mistaken, it is for this House to correct the 294 mistake; but as there is a Bill before the other House of Parliament upon this subject, which will come down to this House at no distant period, and as there is also another Bill before the House imposing additional duties on the County Court Judges, I think that this House will be better able, when those Bills come to be considered, to deal with the subject than upon a consideration of the question as now presented, and I hope that the House will be induced to take that course, and not hastily pledge itself to giving to all the County Court Judges a salary of £1,500 a year, in addition to travelling expenses, but to postpone any decision upon the subject. I should, perhaps, slate here that the expenses of these Courts have hitherto been defrayed from the fees; but, in accordance with the recommendation of the Commission, the Bill now before the other House proposes that the fees paid by the suitors should be very largely reduced, the effect of which will be to throw a considerable burden upon the Consolidated Fund. The Government had, therefore, to consider what, under these circumstances, would be a fair arrangement with regard to the salaries of the County Court Judges, and they came to the conclusion that they should not be justified in proposing to impose upon the public an additional burden of £15,000 a year, which would be the case if the salaries were raised to the uniform rate of £1,500. No doubt, it would be far more satisfactory to the Lord Chancellor, within whose patronage these appointments come, if the County Court Judges should all receive £1,500; and the Lord Chancellor could therefore have no motive in proposing an inadequate salary for these gentlemen; but the Government were actuated solely by a consideration of what was due to the public. I do not pretend to say that we may not have been mistaken, but I will ask the House not hastily to assume that the payment to the County Court Judges is inadequate, but to decide only after due consideration of the case. Not asking the House to negative the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman, by asserting that £1,500 ought not to be given to all the Judges, but only to suspend their judgment until the Bill to which I have alluded comes before them and they are in a position to decide satisfactorily, I beg to move the previous question.
§ Previous Question proposed, "That that Question be now put,"295
§ MR. MORRIS
said, he wished to offer some explanation of the case of the late clerk of the Glamorganshire County Court, who was not any relation of his, though he bore the same name with him. Mr. Morris, to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) had referred, was a gentleman of high character and respectability, at the head of his profession in that locality. The pension or annuity which he enjoyed for relinquishing the office was not sought for by himself; but the Government enabled clerks of County Courts to retire upon an annuity, and Mr. Morris consulted with him (the hon. Member) as to whether he should avail himself of that retirement. He (the hon. Member) accompanied Mr. Morris to the Treasury, where they met the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson), who offered him a retiring allowance of £400 a year. Mr. Morris at that time had another allowance or pension of £600 a year, which had been given to him upon another account, and he wished to be allowed the £400 a year in addition to retaining that; but the hon. Member for Westbury was inexorable, and would not listen to it for a moment, but showed in that so much vigilance on behalf of the public interests, as fully maintained the character which he bore. There was not the semblance of a job, or of anything like corruption in the whole transaction, and he (Mr. Morris) believed that Mr. Falconer, the Judge of the Court, himself rendered to Mr. Morris considerable assistance in carrying it out.
§ MR. WILSON
said, he was extremely sorry to intrude upon the House in a personal matter of this kind, but he hoped hon. Members would feel that this Motion savoured much more of a private than of a public character. Perhaps, too, the House would be astonished to hear that he had received no intimation of the course which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) intended to take on this occasion; but, probably, after the frequent experiences of other hon. Gentlemen as to the course usually taken by the hon. and learned Member in this House, he ought not to feel surprised, or to complain of this. He (Mr. Wilson) was, however, able to give at once so simple, and, he hoped, so satisfactory an account of this matter, that he thought the hon. and learned Member would find he had taken nothing by his Motion. The speech of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had shown the extreme difficulty of the task which had been 296 imposed upon the Treasury by the Act of 1852. There was an erroneous impression that such functions were undertaken at the desire of the Treasury itself, because, wherever discretionary powers were given by Act of Parliament in such matters as this, they must necessarily be reposed in the Treasury. But, in fact, such a discretion imposed upon the department a most onerous and difficult task. According to the County Courts Act of 1852, the salaries of the Judges, as had already been stated, were raised from £1,000 to £1,200 as a minimum, £1,500 being fixed as a maximum. About the end of the year, or in 1853, a pressure was put upon the Treasury, through the Home Office, by Judges, both metropolitan and county, who thought, from the amount of business transacted in their respective Courts, that they were entitled to the maximum salary. In March, 1853, the Home Office addressed the Treasury upon the subject, forwarding fourteen memorials from metropolitan and county Judges. Upon looking into this matter, his right hon. Friend the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gladstone) and himself felt it to be one of such extreme difficulty, involving so many elements of consideration in judging of the duties of the various Judges, that they were disposed in the first instance to refer it to the County Court Commission, then sitting. The Commissioners, however, did not consider that the salaries of the County Court Judges came within the scope of their duties. They (the Chancellor of the Exchequer and himself) then attempted to induce the Lord Chancellor to ask the Commission to take the subject into consideration, but in this also they failed; so that, as they could not obtain higher and better authority than their own in deciding upon this professional question, they were themselves forced to undertake to discover a principle upon which the difference made between the respective salaries should rest. He would state, however, that throughout the investigation he (Mr. Wilson), and he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer also, were not even aware of the names of the County Court Judges. For himself, he could say truly that, except one single Judge, Mr. Pollock, who presided over the Court at Liverpool, whose case stood out prominently from the ethers, he did not at that time know the name of one of the Judges with whom they were dealing, because the practice was to deal with the 297 sixty circuits by numbers, so that the names of the Judges never formed a subject of consideration. The whole of the various elements upon which the question of the respective salaries depended was drawn out in great detail. The first element of the comparison was the number of plaints; but it was open to the objection that in populous districts a great number of plaints were opened merely to obtain a settlement of accounts, and did not come to trial. Then the number of trials did not necessarily indicate the importance of the business. The number of days' sittings might be taken; but some of the Judges possessed a greater facility for disposing of business than others, and some, again, willingly underwent the labour of sitting more hours in a day than others did. Again, the amount of the fees did not furnish a satisfactory means of deciding; it was rather an indication of the amount of business entered in the Court, than of the amount of work done by the Judge. The course taken, therefore, was that all these elements were aggregated together, and represented by numbers, in the different cases, and that a list was made of all the Judges, placing at the head of it those who had the highest numbers, representing the aggregate of such elements of services and duties performed, and the fifteen Judges who appeared to have the largest amount of business, tested in this way, were to have the maximum of salary. When the elements he had described were thrown together, the highest was represented by 89,000, and the lowest by 16,000, so immense a difference was there between the amount of business respectively performed by the Judges. The numbers which represented the work done by the first fifteen came down gradually to 49,697, at which point there was a sudden fall of 5,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, decided that the number of 49,697, representing the services performed by the fifteenth Judge on the list, was the point at which the maximum salary of £1,500 a year should cease. He (Mr. Wilson) believed the right hon. Gentleman had no idea who the sixteenth Judge was, and certainly he had, himself, not the slightest conception that it was any relative of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck), nor did he even know that the hon. and learned Gentleman had a brother-in-law in such an office. The Treasury was soon, of course, inundated 298 with communications from those excluded, and amongst them one from Mr. Falconer. In passing the Minute raising the salary of the first fifteen, the Lords of the Treasury felt that there might be some cases which, from individual circumstances, might require further consideration, and a passage was therefore inserted in it directing that, if any such case arose, its claims should be considered. The hon. and learned Member had stated that very soon afterwards more Judges were added to the list of those who were to receive the maximum salary; and he said that No. 16 (being that of his brother-in-law) was passed over, and others below that number were selected. When the hon. and learned Member attempted to make the House infer that Mr. Falconer was passed over because he was his brother-in-law, he did not make the statement in ignorance of what the circumstances really were, because the papers in his possession showed why Mr. Trafford, the Judge of the Birmingham County Court (who was No. 17 on the list), had had his salary increased. After the first Treasury Minute was issued, it was discovered that, in consequence of the abolition of two local Courts, Mr. Trafford's duties had been greatly augmented. Had that fact been known at the time his name would have been included in the first Minute which assigned the maximum salary. The hon. and learned Member further observed that three other County Court Judges had since been advanced to the highest salary—namely, Mr. Addison, Mr. Serjveant Dowling, and Mr. Dinsdale. But why? Since their appointment insolvency cases had been superadded to their duties, which in number had far exceeded those which had come before any other of the County Court Judges. The insolvency cases disposed of in 1854 by Mr. Addison were 714; by Mr. Serjeant Dowling, 294; and by Mr. Dinsdale, 123. Referring to these facts, and to the amount of other business performed by Mr. Addison and Mr. Serjeant Dowling, they were considered entitled to the maximum salary of £1,500, and, considering the extra business done by Mr. Dinsdale, the Treasury assigned to him an intermediate salary of £1,350. The hon. and learned Gentleman had no excuse for making the charge on the ground of No. 16 having been passed over, because several other numbers lower in the list were also passed over before arriving at the circuits of Mr. Addison, Mr. Serjeant Dowling, and Mr. 299 Dinsdale. The charge of personality, therefore, was entirely unfounded. With regard to Mr. Falconer, he begged to say that he had never seen that gentleman in his life; but, from all he (Mr. Wilson) had heard, he believed him to be a man in the highest degree efficient for discharging the duties of a Judge. Mr. Falconer, like others who felt themselves to have a claim to be paid at the maximum rate, was not to be baulked by the first refusal, and once every six months the Treasury received a voluminous communication from him, as well as from other County Court Judges, urging his claim to the maximum salary. In 1855 he made a renewed application to be placed on the maximum scale, urging as the ground of his appeal that the business of his Court had materially increased. A Treasury Minute was passed on the 23rd of February, 1855, the concluding passage of which was in these terms:—My Lords have given very careful consideration to the claims which, apart from any other special circumstances, have been made on account of increasing business. My Lords are prepared to admit that this is an element which cannot in future be lost sight of, but that any increase of the kind which applies to only one, or even two years, would not be sufficient to justify a change; and that, before an increase of the salary of any Judge should take place on this ground, it should appear that the requisite increase of business to justify it has extended over an average of at least the preceding three years,At the close of 1855 Mr. Falconer again applied to the Treasury, representing that his duties had still further increased during the period since his former application, and in January of this year that gentleman addressed a memorial to the head of the Government, to the Home Office, and to the Lords of the Treasury, calling attention to the fact that his business had continued materially to increase, and that he thought he might be considered to come within the rule laid down by their Lordships of having attained that average of business for three years which would entitle him to be put upon the maximum salary. In 1849 the number of plaints in his Court was 5,000; in 1855 they amounted to 13,000. In 1849 the amount sued for was £7,000, and in 1855, it increased to £17,000. Mr. Falconer had represented this to the Treasury in December last, previously to his sending the memorial to the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) and the Home Secretary. At that time he (Mr. Wilson) had to look into the whole 300 matter, and to draw up a memorandum upon it, and rearrange all the tables for the past year; and he closed that memorandum with the observation that there were now two Courts which he thought might be raised to the maximum salary, one of which was the Court of which Mr. Falconer was the Judge. This at least showed that there had been no negligence on the part of the Treasury as to what was going on with regard to these Courts. When Mr. Falconer's memorial of January came before the Treasury, it had been almost decided that his circuit should be added to the list of those receiving the maximum salary, on the very ground on which he himself put his claim—namely, that his duties had, upon an average of three years, come up to the point fixed by the Treasury Minute. Thus matters stood in the middle of January last. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) had very frequently brought charges against the Government, and particularly against himself (Mr. Wilson), for having excluded Mr. Falconer from the maximum rate of salary on personal considerations. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that, because Mr. Falconer was his brother-in-law, he had been precluded from receiving the maximum salary of a County Court Judge. When Parliament met, this matter was brought under discussion in consequence of the Home Office having forwarded to the Treasury a letter which Mr. Falconer had addressed to Sir G. Grey. But when the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield put a notice on the books that he should move for leave to introduce a Bill for revising the salaries of the Judges of the County Courts, and of fixing them at the uniform amount of £1,500 a year, it was impossible that the Government could proceed any further in the matter until that Motion should have been disposed of. If the Government had given Mr. Falconer the maximum salary, any one would perceive that they would have been open to the charge of having done so in consequence of the pending Motion of the hon. and learned Member, it having gone forth a fortnight before that Mr. Falconer had been previously excluded from receiving that salary because he was the brother-in-law of the hon. and learned Member, and that the Government were anxious to conciliate that hon. and learned Gentleman. Under these circumstances, the Government took what they thought to be the right course. They did not alter the intention 301 which they had previously entertained; a Minute was drawn up embodying the purpose they had in view; but they allowed the matter to remain in a state of suspense until the hon. and learned Gentleman should have made his Motion; because, if the Motion were lost, the Government would still have the power to carry out its intention and assign to Mr. Falconer the maximum salary; and if it were adopted by the House, why, then, the Government would only be compelled to do what it had of its own will previously determined to do. When, the day before the Motion was to come on, he (Mr. Wilson) asked the hon. and learned Gentleman—and this affair would be a caution to him how he should communicate with the hon. and learned Gentleman in future—what he intended to do about it; the hon. and learned Gentleman told him that the Speaker said he could not bring it on; upon which he (Mr. Wilson) replied, "I knew that; but I thought you would make a speech on the subject, and I am now at liberty to state to you, with regard to the memorials which Mr. Falconer has sent, and which you yourself have personally supported with the Prime Minister, that the Treasury has passed a Minute, giving him the maximum salary to which he is entitled by the amount of business he performs." Indeed, there was another reason why Mr. Falconer should have the maximum; because the Government were about to add two more Courts to his circuit, on account of the increasing population of the district, besides the amount of business done in Mr. Falconer's Court having come up to what the Treasury considered to be the proper limit. From that conversation till now, he (Mr. Wilson) never had the slightest communication with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and he thought, in common courtesy, the hon. and learned Gentleman ought, if he had intended to put such a complexion on the matter, to have given him some notice. He could only repeat that, in the whole of these transactions, they had been guided by returns made by the proper authorities appointed to preside over this particular part of the business of the Treasury, and he believed that his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) knew no more than he did the name of any gentleman to be affected by the decision until some agitation was got up with regard to Mr. Falconer's case. He would now make one observation with 302 regard to Mr. Morris. He was charged, or, rather, the Treasury were charged, with some unusual and irregular proceeding with regard to compensation being given in that case. The circumstances were these. By the Act of 1852, it was enacted that in future every Court should have its own resident clerk. Formerly the clerks travelled with the Judges, and that was found to be inconvenient. It was, therefore, proposed that any clerk who was desirous of giving up any of the existing Courts and keep to one should have compensation for such Courts as he gave up, with the privilege of appointing the persons to succeed him in those places. The Treasury consented to that. Mr. Falconer was a party to the arrangement—nay, more, the arrangement could not be made without Mr. Falconer's consent, because it was for him to appoint fresh clerks, and it was only by his consenting that Mr. Morris was enabled to perform those acts, and therefore it was by Mr. Falconer' s own action that this arrangement was made. He was bound to say that something had come to their knowledge within the last week or two that Mr. Falconer would have done well to have informed them of before. They had been informed that money had passed between Mr. Morris and these clerks. They had written for information regarding it, and, when they received it, should act as circumstances might require. He would only add upon the present occasion that he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would not retain the idea that the Treasury had been influenced by personal motives in adopting the course which they had.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he did not propose to enter upon the personal differences between the hon. and learned Gentleman who made the Motion and the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down—his more immediate object was to suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield whether, after the speech of the right hon. the Secretary of State (Sir G. Grey), it would not be unnecessary to press the Motion to a division? The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was very properly addressed to two distinct branches of the question—one as to the propriety of equalising the salaries of the Judges, and the other as to the amount at which they ought to be equalised. The first was, as he (Sir J. Pakington) believed, the more important of the two points, and the right hon. Gentleman 303 the Home Secretary had distinctly announced the intention of the Government to put an end to the difference which had hitherto existed, and to withdraw the invidious distinction now made between some Judges and other of their learned brethren. That was a concession wisely made, and one that was much required. The Secretary of the Treasury in his speech had dwelt upon the variety and number of plaints, and the difficulty of deciding upon the principle of distinction to be adopted. He (Sir J. Pakington) conceived there was not only difficulty in drawing such distinctions, but that positive injustice ensued from them. He had taken the case of four Judges who had been selected to receive the higher salary of £1,500 per annum, and had compared it with that of four other Judges who had been excluded from that maximum salary. He found that while the four Judges with the highest salary had sat in the aggregate 522 days and 2,460 hours, the four Judges not so favoured had sat 671 days and 3,926 hours, and in many more different Courts. That statement proved the unjust results of the course which had been pursued by the Treasury. One of the proudest boasts of this country was the high character for independence of its Judges; but that independence would be jeopardised if the Treasury were allowed to possess a power of drawing distinctions and of exercising patronage of such a nature. Upon those grounds he thought it essential that the present system should cease. With regard to the second point—the amount at which the salaries should be equalised—he would submit to the hon. and learned Gentleman whether, in the present state of the question, it would be worth while to take a division on that point? As there was a Bill before the other House having for its object the equalisation of the salaries of County Court Judges, but at the minimum amount, he would submit that it would be as well to wait until that measure came before them, when it would be competent for the House to increase the amount to £1,500, a step which he was quite prepared to take. He would remind the Government that in the original Act there was not only a power to pay the Judges by salaries instead of fees, but also an indication of what those salaries should be in the provision that they should not exceed £1,200 per annum. At that time the Judges were allowed to retain their private practice, a privilege withdrawn in 304 1852, when the salaries were increased to £1,200 as a minimum, and £1,500 as a maximum. It had been stated that the Lord Chancellor was of opinion that £1,200 was a sufficient remuneration; but against that opinion he (Sir J. Pakington) would appeal to the noble Lord the First Minister (Viscount Palmerston), who, through the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. FitzRoy), had avowed his belief that the maximum salary ought to be more extensively granted, if indeed it was not granted to all County Court Judges. However, prepared as he was to vote with the hon. and learned Gentleman if the Motion were pressed to a division, he thought, under the circumstances, it would be advisable to await the measure which had been announced as coming from the other House of Parliament.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
explained, that the concession referred to by the right hon. Baronet was not now made for the first time. The Bill which he had mentioned proposed that all the Judges should be paid fixed salaries of the minimum amount now given, excepting only those Judges who were now actually in the receipt of the increased salaries, from whom no deduction would be made.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
disputed the accuracy of the distinction drawn between metropolitan Judges and their brethren in the rural districts. They were not nearly so hard worked as some of the provincial Judges, who were paid lower salaries. He found that while the Judge of the Whitechapel County Court had sat only ninety-eight days, the Judge of the Sussex Court had sat 191 days. He conceived the time had arrived when all such invidious distinctions should be abolished.
§ MR. MALINS
had derived great satisfaction from the result of the discussion, because he thought the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had succeeded substantially in the objects of his Motion. He entertained the strongest opinion that there ought to be uniformity of salary, and that the distinction made by the Treasury, though from the best possible motives, was an error of judgment. The Secretary of State for the Home Department having fully assented to the principle that there should be equality of salary, the only other point on which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield could desire to divide was, the amount of salary. In his opinion £1,500 a year was not too much for the duties required; and when the Bill came 305 down from the other House he should certainly move that the salary be fixed at that sum if the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield did not do so. He concurred in recommending the hon. and learned Gentleman not to press his Motion at the present moment, and he trusted the noble Lord, when the subject was again before the House, would accede to what he was warranted in saying was the general feeling, that the County Court Judges should not receive less than £1,500 a year.
I feel compelled to say a few words on this subject in consequence of what has fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Malins); because, as it appears to me, he has delivered views upon the question entirely contradictory of one another. In the course of his speech he has insisted that the amount of the salaries shall be understood to be a perfectly open question; and if he had stopped there I should have entirely concurred with him. But, so far from leaving the question open and leaving it free to us to express our opinions upon it, he congratulates the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield upon having virtually closed the question and completely succeeded in all his points, including the increase of salaries to the maximum of £1,500 a year. I hope it will be understood that the amount of salaries does remain an open question; and I confess I think it most inexpedient that we should enter upon the arguments with respect to the amount of maximum salary, unless it be clearly understood that those who entertain an opposite opinion from the hon. and learned Gentleman are at liberty to enter, with all details, upon an exposition of the grounds of that opinion. I shall not now enter upon any such exposition, but shall content myself by saying in the most summary terms, that it appears to me the great question is whether, with a reconstruction of offices and an addition of other functions, we ought to make an alteration of salary? But perfectly well knowing as I do the facility of finding fit men to occupy the position, fit men who eagerly seek it, fit men who are delighted at obtaining it—and that, too, when there was no prospect beyond the minimum salary of £1,200 a year—I think the question ought to be kept open for discussion, particularly when it is understood an early opportunity will be afforded, by the introduction of a measure on the subject, of arguing that which 306 is a matter of no inconsiderable importance either to the Judges or to the administration of justice, or to the public, or to the whole body of public servants, every class of which is, of course, powerfully influenced by the steps which the House takes in reference to the salaries of one class. I am desirous that the House should understand clearly the position of the Government with regard to this question. It is assumed that by an arbitrary act the Government introduced the principle of variation into the salaries of County Court Judges. I would join in condemning any such proceeding if that were a true representation of the case; but in point of fact the principle of variation was not adopted by the Treasury; it was distinctly laid down by Act of Parliament. It is perfectly plain, that when Parliament said the Treasury should fix the salary of each Judge at not less than £ 1,200, and not more than £1,500 a year, Parliament distinctly expressed an opinion—which I confess I think upon the whole an unfortunate opinion—that there were to be variations, and that the Treasury was to attempt to adapt gradations of salaries within those limits to the gradations of duties to be performed. One other word I am desirous of saying upon the only painful part of this discussion—that part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield in which he did not hesitate to impute corrupt motives and conduct to my hon. Friend the Secretary for the Treasury. It appears to me that nothing can be deeper than the interests of this House in the character of its Members, and that charges of this kind are not to be dealt with lightly, thrown out in speeches of hon. Gentlemen and then brought to no issue whatever—neither retracted nor supported. A Gentleman who, making such charges, is prepared to support them, does a public duty in thereby exposing criminal conduct on the part of those in office. I cherish the hope that the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman are hasty words, and that he does not intend to adhere to such charges as he has made. I cherish the hope that he will express himself to that effect in the reply which he will make. Whether he fulfils or disappoints that hope, I am quite certain I express the general feeling of the House when I state my conviction, that there are no grounds for such charges against the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury. The hon. and learned Member for 307 Sheffield seems to think it quite easy to find numbers of men fit to perform the duties of the hon. Member for Westbury. With his magnificent notions, the hon. and learned Gentleman disclaims the idea that the public has the right to be served at the rate of remuneration which belongs to the services it wants. I hold that principle to be the basis for the remuneration of all public officers. Where you do not apply it strictly it is a great misfortune and if you abandon or throw the slightest discredit upon it you commit a gross injury to the public, under the pretence of liberality to individuals. The hon. and learned Gentleman says it would be easy to find men to perform the duties of the hon. Member for Westbury at one-half the salary which he receives. I accept the challenge. I do not think it an easy thing to find a man fit to perform those duties, although I know it is not difficult to find many who will say they will do it. I think it would not be easy to find a person who could discharge those arduous duties, and especially in the manner in which they have been discharged by that most upright and most able public servant.
§ MR. MALINS
explained: He meant to say that the House would be free to discuss this question when it was brought forward, although he believed there was a general feeling in favour of the maximum.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I think there is nothing more objectionable than that the feeling of the House relative to the appropriation of the public money should be left to be collected by a desultory debate of this kind. Upon the personal question I have nothing to say, but I believe I express the general feeling of the House when I state that I think the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury has answered satisfactorily the charges brought against him. It is fair to suppose also that no hon. Member would make those charges unless he conceived himself justified in preferring them. I think that when an officer of the Government can give so satisfactory an answer to such charges, he has no cause to complain that he is labouring under a great grievance when he is subject to such allegations. I rise, however, entirely and solely with reference to the tone which the debate has taken in regard to the amount of these salaries. Considering the state of the finances of the country at the present moment—considering that we are just terminating a great struggle which has called for great sacrifices 308 and great exertions—and considering that the first duty of the House will be to consider the financial position of the country, I do not think it will be wise, after a debate of this kind, for the House to allow that it is pledged to increase these salaries. I do not pledge myself to any opinion that £1,200 is not a sufficient allowance, and, on the other hand, I do not mean to say that it is sufficient; but I think the House ought not at present to express any opinion on the subject. It may be a legitimate subject to consider whether the County Court Judges ought not to have fixed salaries for a certain number of years, and then increased salaries after a certain length of service. I do not give any opinion on that subject, but that may be worthy of consideration in discussing the salaries of public servants I only wish to guard myself against being supposed by my silence to give my adhesion to the assertion that the general feeling of the House is in favour of the increase. The state of our finances will necessarily occupy the most anxious consideration of Parliament; and. as we are about to witness, I hope, a reduction of the public expenditure to meet the reduction in the resources and revenue of the country caused by the war, I think it would be most unwise for the House, without due consideration, to pledge itself at the present moment to increase the salaries of public servants. After due consideration, the House may think the claim now preferred to be just; but the House must not be considered pledged to the proposition which my hon. and learned Friend appears to think has been adopted by the House.
§ MR. ROEBUCK,
in reply, reminded the House that when the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) was Chancellor of the Exchequer he had pointed out fifteen County Court Judges as persons deserving of the maximum salary of £1,500 a year. If those learned gentlemen were entitled to that salary, and if no one was to be appointed to the office who was not equally deserving, it followed, therefore, that all were worthy of the maximum salary. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had said that we were just at the end of an expensive war, and that it behoved us to be careful of our finances. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman was in the House yesterday, when the Committee of Supply was engaged in sowing broadcast the money 309 of the public, and squandering it on parks, roads, and matters of mere ornament. Yet here was a great question involving the due administration of justice, and the right hon. Gentleman expressed his opinion that it was a case in which the interests of economy ought to be consulted. Surely the right hon. Gentleman could not have been in the House last night. ["Yes."] Well, if he was, it was so much the worse. He (Mr. Roebuck) believed that the House and the country would go with him in favour of the Resolution; but as the Government had expressed their intention to deal with the subject, and make all the salaries uniform, he would withdraw the Motion.
§ Previous Question, and Motion, by leave, Withdrawn.