§ MR. JAMES,
in moving a Resolution, that the application of the Treasury Minute, dated June 22, 1872, to County Court Judges appointed prior to the 17th September, 1870, would be unjust and inequitable, was understood to say that the object of his Motion was to obtain a determination of certain questions that had arisen between the Lords of the Treasury and certain of the County Court Judges, and his contention was, that so long as the County Court Judges continued to perform substantially the same duties as they had hitherto performed, they were entitled to a fulfilment of the contract into which the Treasury had entered with them on their appointment. He understood that it was the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept his Motion in its terms, and therefore under ordinary circumstances he should not have thought it necessary to address the House. He hoped, however, he might be excused from asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he quite clearly understood the 1290 spirit in which this Motion had been placed upon the Paper because the mere acceptance of it in its literal terms without the intention of carrying out its spirit would be of no avail? The object of the Resolution was to secure to the County Court Judges who were appointed prior to September, 1870, the same position in reference to travelling expenses as they held now, so long as they continued to perform the same duties which they now performed. If the right hon. Gentleman fully accepted the Resolution, then he (Mr. James) would move it without further comment.
THE CHANCELLOR or THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he was ready to accept the Resolution, but he could not undertake to say what meaning might be put upon it.
§ MR. JAMES
said, that that being so, he would briefly state the grounds upon which his Motion was based. Its object was not to increase the emoluments of the County Court Judges in any way, but to secure those of them who had been appointed prior to the 17th September, 1870, against being affected by the retrospective action of the Treasury Minute issued in June, 1872. When these Courts were first instituted, the County Court Judges sent in every year detailed statements of the expenses they had had to incur in travelling over their circuit. But in 1862 the Lords of the Treasury proposed that those expenses should be commuted, and that the Judges should receive a sum certain, and an arrangement to that effect was entered into with the Judges. He had to put a very simple proposition to the House—that the arrangement entered into between the Lord Chancellor and the County Court Judges who then held the appointments amounted to a contract—he did not mean such a contract as could be enforced by law, but such an one as would be hold binding by all honourable men—at all events, it amounted to an obligation which Parliament, he thought, would respect. The nature of the arrangement was this—The County Court Judge, on receiving his appointment, was told that he must give up his private practice at the Bar, and that he would receive a salary of £1,500 a-year, and allowances for travelling expenses amounting to between £200 and £300 a-year. If a commercial traveller or a domestic servant were engaged on the 1291 same terms, with a fixed allowance to the traveller for expenses, or to the servant for board wages, and if afterwards the employer sought to reduce the fixed allowance on the plea that the one might travel more cheaply, or that in the other case provisions were cheaper, the traveller and the servant would have a right to say—"We know we save money out of what you allow us; but the arrangement was one which you yourself made; we are willing to perform our part of the contract, and we call upon you to perform yours." But the case was even stronger in the case of the County Court Judges, for they had probably given up a lucrative practice, and could not, like commercial travellers or servants, return to their profession with any hope of success. They had relinquished professional incomes and hopes of professional advancement, and they now asked, with reason, that the State should continue to pay them what the State had contracted to pay them. Perhaps it might be said that a public appointment was subject to conditions of public policy. If so, the County Court Judges should have been told at the time that these allowances would be subject to further revision; and if the allowances were to be diminished, let them be diminished by a Parliamentary vote. The right of the Judges, however, was taken away not by a vote of this House upon the Estimates, but by a simple Minute of the Treasury. This contract continued to be made with the Judges appointed between 1862 and 1870; but in 1870 the Treasury concluded that economy might be effected by arranging with future County Court Judges that they should not receive the same amount as their predecessors. No complaint could be made of such an arrangement. If Judges took their appointments subject to it, they could have no ground of complaint, and his Motion did not apply to them. But in September, 1870, the Treasury, having this subject under consideration, came to the conclusion that it would be unjust to give retrospective effect to their new Minute, and he only wished the House to say that what the Treasury thought right then was right now. It would be in the recollection of the House that in that particular month which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had described as one in which hon. Members were apt 1292 to be inactive in the performance of their duties.
I beg pardon. What I said was that hon. Members suffered more from the Parliamentary work during the hot months than at any other period of the Session.
§ MR. JAMES
Well, it was, at all events, at that period of the year when the House was in possession of the Estimates, that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. West), whose mind was something like an elephant's trunk, capable of dealing with the greatest and the minutest subjects, condescended to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to these allowances. His hon. and learned Friend seemed to be in a great minority in this House, and withdrew his Amendment; but somehow or other he prevailed upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry his views into effect. In what zephyr-like whispers, wafted by what Favonian gales, his hon. and learned Friend's suggestions reached the Treasury he did not know; but, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman yielded to private representations what he had refused to the argument of debate. Now, advice to a Minister from the bench immediately behind the Ministry was advice which should always be looked upon with suspicion. He was not referring to Members of long experience in Parliament who sat behind the front bench, but rather to those more active and assiduous Members of the House, who always felt or seemed to feel uneasy unless they were in immediate contact with some favourite Minister. Advice from such Members should be regarded with suspicion, because it was likely to be moulded not upon the circumstances and exigencies of the case, but in order that it might suit the ear or the disposition of the favourite Minister. The discussion occurred in the House on the 17th of June; and on the 22nd of June the Treasury issued a Minute which was sent to every County Court Judge, and contained the following paragraph:—My Lords being, of opinion that no expenses should be allowed beyond what may be necessary to indemnify a Judge for his outlay, on the supposition that he resides at the most convenient place within his circuit, direct that the allowances made to all the Judges appointed 1293 prior to September, 1870, should be revised upon the principle upon which allowances have been fixed since that date.The rule, therefore, was retrospective in its effect. This Minute appeared to be based on the principle that a Judge should reside in the district where his Court was situated. But in the great majority of cases the Lord Chancellors had acted on an opposite principle—as would almost every practical man. Almost every common law Lord Chancellor who had sat on the Bench since the County Court Judges were first appointed had acted on the presumption that it was better that the County Court Judges should not reside in the district of their Courts. Lords Cranworth, Campbell, and Chelmsford, and an able equity Lord Chancellor (Lord Cairns), had all acted on this presumption. The reason they had come to this conclusion was obvious—they had themselves travelled on circuit and seen the inconvenience of either Judge or counsel associating with the suitor. If that were the conclusion come to in the case of Judges in Eyre, how much more imperative would the rule be in the case of a County Court Judge, holding not so distinguished a position as a Judge of the Superior Courts, who would accept invitations to the house of the attorney and local barrister, who would sit by the side of the suitor, or, what would be far worse, beside the suitor's wife—and who, under such circumstances, would be in danger of drawing a conclusion upon a case of the future from chance conversation rather than from evidence, and might even be influenced by prejudice or local influence. Lord Campbell was so strongly impressed with these considerations that at one time he was moved not to allow a Judge to remain more than five years in any particular district, so that he might rid himself of influences likely to result in favouritism. But notwithstanding that no Lord Chancellors but Lord Hatherley and Lord Westbury had expressed a wish that County Court Judges should live in their districts, and notwithstanding that those Judges had in almost all cases been told upon being appointed that it would be preferable if they lived at a distance, the Lords of the Treasury now told them they would be fined if they did not choose to live in the district of their Courts. To illustrate the inconvenience of the enforced residence of a County Court Judge, he would give 1294 an instance. When Mr. Rupert Kettle, whose name was, probably, familiar to most hon. Members, determined to accept the offer of the County Court Judgeship of Staffordshire, he did so on the understanding that he should occupy his house in Wolverhampton, where he had property, and be allowed his travelling expenses. Mr. Kettle had, however, recently received a letter from the Treasury, which was, probably, a fair specimen of the letters which had been sent to other County Court Judges. It was an extraordinary production; the work of some most industrious and able Treasury official, who seemed to have studied Bradshaw, and probably a map, before ordaining the way in which Mr. Kettle was to go to his Court. Now, it happened that Dudley, and not Wolverhampton, was the centre of the district; and the Treasury clerk ordained, in the first place, that Mr. Kettle should live at Dudley, and that if he declined he should be fined. Dudley was in the middle of "the black country," and, as far as he recollected it, was composed principally of mounds of cinders or slack, and it was not unusual to find heavy-looking men lying upon these mounds, with short pipes in their mouths and a bull-dog between their legs. Mr. Kettle, not being particularly partial to cinder heaps, and not liking bull-dogs, preferred to reside at Wolverhampton. That, however, did not satisfy the Treasury clerk, who required him, under certain forfeitures, to take up his residence at Dudley, and then dealt him out right and left, like a round game at cards, irrespective whether it was market or fair day at the places he would come to, and irrespective also of whether the sessions were being held; and he was to do this because it would result in a saving of £130. The Judge was not asked whether he approved the course marked out for him, but only whether he approved the calculation; and it did not appear to have occurred to the Treasury that the course marked out by the clerk might not suit the convenience of the public. On the 29th of July last, the hon. Member for South-east Lancashire (Mr. Assheton Cross) asked a Question, whether it was still intended that the Minute of June, 1872, should apply to Judges appointed prior to 1870. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that circumstances had come to his knowledge since deciding on this scheme 1295 which had induced him to modify his opinion; that he had now learnt that in the opinion of several Lord Chancellors, it was not desirable that County Court Judges should reside within their districts; and he added that if any Judge had made his arrangements for life in deference to the opinion of the Lord Chancellor appointing him, that circumstance constituted a claim on the Treasury, and that expenses ought to be paid which otherwise would not have been allowed. So that if a gentleman had taken a long lease of a house or had bound himself by contract, he would get relief from the right hon. Gentleman; but if he had taken a house from year to year or by a short lease he would obtain no relief, but must be fined if he declined to live in the town fixed upon by the Treasury clerk, notwithstanding consideration for the public convenience would not allow him to live there. Surely the County Court Judges were entitled to be more fairly dealt with? Their labours had been added to by giving them jurisdiction in Equity, Bankruptcy, and Admiralty cases; and although they had contracted to give their whole time to the public service the value of money had decreased since their appointments were made, and with more work they received less actual pay than they did 10 years ago. These Judges had not only technical duties to perform, but others of a higher character. It was expected of them that they would check rapacity and control dishonesty; they had to carry out almost a patriarchal system; and he could not believe it was worth while to pursue with regard to such men a policy of discouragement. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the application of the Treasury Minute dated the 22nd day of June 1872, to County Court Judges appointed prior to the 17th day of September 1870, will be unjust and inequitable; and that no Judge appointed before such date should be subjected to the operation of any Minute which will prejudicially affect the position upon the faith of which he accepted his appointment.—(Mr. James.)
I wish to call attention to the extraordinary method of proceeding adopted by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed the House; but before doing so let me make a single remark on the closing part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. He has entered upon 1296 a general eulogy of the County Court Judges, and, describing the unparalleled functions they have to discharge, he has appealed in the most impassioned manner to the House in favour of dealing with them on the most liberal terms. That would be very fair matter to introduce into a Motion for augmenting the salaries of the County Court Judges, but it is not in the slightest degree pertinent to the issue raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion, which involves simply a question of good faith. It is to this question of good faith—notwithstanding the hon. and learned Gentleman has favoured us with as bewildering a statement as ever I have heard in this House either by lawyer or layman—["No, no!"]—as bewildering a statement—["Oh, oh!"] I do not know what calls forth the indignation of some hon. Members. There is nothing indecorous in the expression I made use of. I say a statement which places out of view the main issue and leads the attention of the House from it is, in my opinion, a bewildering statement. A Motion stood upon the Notice Paper of the House until last night in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Mr. James.) At the last moment the hon. and learned Gentleman appears not to have been satisfied with the language of his Motion, and—doing that which he was perfectly entitled to do—he altered its terms, and it appears in that altered form upon the Paper this morning. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on reading the Notice as it appeared this morning, considered that it was one to which he could accede, and I believe that a communication to that effect has been made to the hon. and learned Gentleman. On receiving that Notice my hon. and learned Friend rises and says—"I understand that it is the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accede to my Motion in its terms. I hope, however, I may be excused from asking him whether he clearly understands the spirit in which this Motion has been placed upon the Paper?—because the mere acceptance of its literal terms without the intention of carrying out its spirit will be of no avail," and then proceeds in his speech to put an interpretation on the terms of the Motion which he had amended this morning, and to require my right hon. Friend by a categorical answer to bind himself to that interpretation. Now, I 1297 ask whether, in the memory of hon. Members of this House, they ever recollect such a proceeding to a Government or the Member of a Government before? Such a proceeding, if adopted and acted upon, would throw into confusion the whole Business of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to be supposed capable of accepting the Motion in letter and not in spirit he deserves not only what has been already said, but a straightforward censure. That an hon. Gentleman should make a speech and attach to the terms of his Motion some construction of his own, and upon the instant ask a Minister if he adopts the Motion in that sense is an entirely unfair and an unwarrantable proceeding. But what is the question—because, though I complain of the proceeding, I want to know what the contention of the hon. and learned Gentleman really is. I suppose that the Members of this House understand it, who were displeased when I said that the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman was "a bewildering statement." I suppose they understand it, but I declare I do not. I will now endeavour, if I can, to get at the nature of the case. We thought we had done all the hon. and learned Gentleman required. He places an amended Motion on the Paper; that Motion was to be understood as a full and clear exposition of his views. We accept it, but he is not satisfied; and he wants to know whether we accept it in the sense of his speech. But I do not know what the meaning of that speech is now, or what it is to which he intends to bind us. The hon. and learned Gentleman has complained very much of the Minute of the Treasury, of June 1872. There is no question about that Minute. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated distinctly that he does not propose to apply that Minute; he accepts the words of the Motion as applicable to it. What, then, is the contest about? My hon. and learned Friend amends his own Motion; we agree to it; and as to the meaning, strange as is the manner in which that meaning is put to us, I am sincerely anxious to find what it is. Anyone who has listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman would suppose that the Treasury had been laying down some rule as to the residence of the County Court Judges. I ask, was not that the impression con- 1298 veyed to the House? But as I am told the Treasury has never interfered in the matter at all.
The hon. and learned Gentleman says they fine them if they do not do it. I should like to know the meaning of that expression. As I apprehend it is not comformable to what the Government conceive to be the state of the facts. I say that the Treasury has never interfered. I am not conversant with the details of this proceeding, but I do not admit that the Treasury "fine them if they do not do it." We undertake to say that no just ground of complaint shall in future exist on that score; and why is not the hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied with the acceptance of his Motion by the Government? What, then, is it that the hon. and learned Gentleman asks of us? There is a Committee appointed at this moment, and that Committee is to consider the practicability of reducing the public expenditure; this is a question of reducing public expenditure; will he be content to refer the matter to that Committee? [Mr. JAMES: No.] The hon. and learned Gentleman says he will not. That Committee is not under the control of the Government. That Committee is composed, the Chairman being in the chair, of an equal number of hon. Members chosen from each side of the House. But the hon. and learned Gentleman is not content with the acceptance of his own Motion; he is not content with the proposal that it shall be referred to an impartial Committee. Well, then, what is it that he wants us to do? I have told him that the Treasury does not stand upon the Minute of 1872; that it does not stand upon any title to interfere with the residence of Judges—that is a matter for judicial consideration rather than for ours—and if there has been what he calls "fining," the Treasury adheres to no such intention. What, then, does he ask? Does he ask that those County Court Judges who have received a certain circular dated September 24, 1852, and signed "G. A. Hamilton," shall have a life interest recognized in the scale of travelling expenses as then determined? Does he ask that?
I want to know whether upon the terms of this Circular the hon. and learned Gentleman claims a life interest for those County Court Judges who had travelling expenses settled upon the basis of it? That is the question, and that is, as far as I know, the only question upon which we can be at issue with the hon. and learned Gentleman. He seems desirous to raise questions—I will not say "desirous," but he has needlessly raised this question. I tell him we do not differ about the Treasury Minute about the residence of the Judges; but I want to know whether he really requires us to recognize a title for life in the scale of expenses then allowed to County Court Judges who were appointed before 1852?
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not appear to be so correct as he should have been upon the point. If we are agreed upon the construction of the passage in question, I do not believe any ingenuity can get up any other point of difference. [The right hon. Gentleman then read the passage of the Circular to which he referred, which was to the effect that in order to relieve the Judges from the necessity of rendering periodical accounts of travelling expenses a fixed sum would be allowed, and accordingly the Treasury had been directed to pay to them by equal quarterly payments "until further directions" the sum of—pounds.] Does my hon. Friend claim that as a title for life? Will he not allow that a County Court Judge has not acquired under that Circular a title for life to a scale of expenses which was to continue "until further directions?" Does he or does he not claim a title for life under that Circular? I have a right to ask that question; and as he waited for an answer, I also wait—
§ MR. JAMES
I am anxious not to be wanting in respect to the right hon. Gentleman, and if he wishes for my answer I will give it. In the first place, it was never communicated to any Judges appointed after 1852 that this arrangement was only to be "until further 1300 directions;" and the only discussion is as to the Judges appointed since then to whom the circular was never communicated up to the present time.
Then I am aware of no difference of opinion between us and the hon. and learned Gentleman. If he says it is for life, I will not be bound to support either his speech or his Motion. If he says it is not for life, I can only say that we have every disposition to work with him in considering this matter in an equitable spirit, and I am not aware that there is any other point of difference between us. But where payment is ordered and notice given that the payment will be "until further directions," I cannot really see that any life interest can arise.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the House had been made aware about 12 months ago that Her Majesty's Government, in spite of all their abilities, had difficulty in understanding the meaning of Acts of Parliament. Since then they had painful experience that they did not well understand the meaning of Treaties, and now it appeared they had difficulty in comprehending the meaning of a Notice of Motion. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had alluded to the fact that two Notices had been placed upon the Paper; it would be as well that the House should see in what respect those Notices differed, and then they would be able to form their own conclusions as to the difficulty in which his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. James) had been placed by the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what he certainly thought a very plain and simple question—an answer which he ventured to say no man in the House really understood the meaning of. The first Notice as it originally stood on the Paper was this—County Court Judges,—That the application of the Treasury Minute dated the 22nd day of June 1872, to County Court Judges appointed prior to the 17th day of September 1870, will be unjust and inequitable"—Now came the important clause in the Notice—and that the operation of such Minute should be limited to the Judges appointed subsequent to that date.As the objectionable Minute had been withdrawn, the Notice of Motion, as originally drawn, had become useless, for the Minute being withdrawn could have no further operation; but it was 1301 quite clear that those County Court Judges might still fall under the operation of some other Minute different in terms, but similar, at all events, in spirit to the original Minute. The last words of the amended Notice, therefore, were most important—And that no Judge appointed before such date should he subjected to the operation of any Minute which will prejudicially affect the position upon the faith of which he accepted his appointment.He asked the House whether it was not perfectly clear that when his hon. and learned Friend asked the question whether the amended Notice was accepted in good faith by the Government, it was no answer for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he accepted it fully and fairly, but could say nothing of the spirit in which it was taken—the spirit being that no future Minute whatever should be made which should in any like manner prejudicially affect the County Court Judges. The question was simply this—would they or would they not fulfil the contract they had entered into with the County Court Judges appointed before 1870, and on the faith of which they had accepted the appointment? The contract was not such that the County Court Judges could in a Court of Law compel the Treasury to pay the money; if that was the case there would be no occasion to come to that House. The question was one as between honourable men—a contract between the County Court Judges and the Government; and if the Government would say they would not disturb that contract in any way, but accept it fairly and fully in its spirit, and that the rights of the County Court Judges would be preserved untouched, they would be satisfied. It was said by the First Minister that the Treasury never interfered with the residence of the County Court Judges, and never fined them for non-residence in a particular locality. He would read to the House the terms of the Minute, and they would see whether the right hon. Gentleman really understood the position which the Treasury had taken up. The Minute stated—In 1870, upon the appointment of the present Judge of Circuit 35, My Lords took into consideration the size and circumstances of that circuit, and caused to be forwarded to the Judge a calculation showing the sum to be allowed, based upon the supposition that the Judge should live at, or in the immediate neighbourhood of, 1302 the town in which that Court was held at which he would have to sit most frequently, and that he should go to and return home from those Courts which were within easy distance either by rail or road of such town. Upon this principle the allowances to all subsequently appointed Judges have been made.So far all was right, for the Minute only related to the Judge appointed in 1870, and all Judges to be afterwards appointed, who were all appointed subject to the alterations made in 1870. But now came the important words of the Minute—My Lords, being of opinion that no expenses should be allowed beyond what may be necessary to indemnify a Judge for his outlay, on the supposition that he resides at the most convenient place within his circuit, direct that the allowances made to all the Judges appointed prior to September, 1870, should be revised upon the principle upon which allowances have been fixed since that date.He asked if that was not a breach of the faith on which the contract made with those Judges who had been appointed before 1870, had been accepted? That was the Minute of 1872. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: The Minute is withdrawn.] He knew it it had been withdrawn. He was coming to that point. That was the strongest argument possible against the action of the Government. Why had it been withdrawn? How had it been withdrawn? Why Her Majesty's Government had been forced to withdraw it because it was in bad faith. By its withdrawal the Treasury had condemned itself. What was now wanted was an assurance that no other Minute would be placed on the Treasury books which would have a similarly prejudicial effect on the position of the County Court Judges. Unless that assurance was given, he hoped the House would feel it to be their duty to affirm the Resolution of his hon. and learned Friend.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he thought his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had but scant courtesy extended to him by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just addressed the House (Mr. Cross). He had stated in the plainest words that the action of his right hon. Friend at the end of last Session in expounding a Minute which had since been withdrawn was taken in bad faith towards the County Court Judges; and that having been convicted of bad faith his word should not be accepted when he assented to the Mo- 1303 tion of his hon. and learned Friend. ["No, no!"] Then, why was he not content with the answer of his right hon. Friend? The hon. and learned Gentleman took care not to quote the answer he received last Session, but said it was uncertain and unsatisfactory.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
had said the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer now to his hon. and learned Friend was uncertain and unsatisfactory.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he had misunderstood the hon. and learned Gentleman. He accepted the explanation; but he was entitled to refer to the answer of his right hon. Friend last year to show that a more explicit answer had never been given, and, if believed, there was no excuse for the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend. What was the answer of his right hon. Friend on that occasion? He said—Since the issue of this Minute he was bound in candour to say that fresh facts had come to his knowledge since the decision of the Committee was arrived at. It appeared to have been the opinion of several Lord Chancellors—though not of the present one nor of Lord Westbury—that County Court Judges should not reside in their districts; and he freely admitted that if any gentleman had made his arrangements for life in deference to that opinion, the circumstance constituted a claim on the Treasury, and that expenses ought to be paid which otherwise would not have been allowed. The Treasury, therefore, were not willing to take the matter in a lump, but intended to consider each case separately, with a view of rendering complete justice to those who had submitted their claims."—[3 Hansard, ccxiii. 48.]Here was as clear and explicit a statement as had ever been made by a Minister in that House. Nevertheless, his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. James), chose to bring forward his Motion, which was in these terms—That the application of the Treasury Minute dated the 22nd day of June 1872, to County Court Judges appointed prior to the 17th day of September 1870, will be unjust and inequitable; and that no Judge appointed before such date should be subjected to the operation of any Minute which will prejudicially affect the position upon the faith of which he accepted his appointment.But even then he was not content, for when told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he accepted his Motion in its own terms, he replied that he must bind himself to it in spirit—that was in the spirit of the gloss which he (Mr. James) put upon it. But that gloss could not, and ought not, to be accepted, because it was not consistent with the 1304 terms of the Motion itself. If there was a contract, and so far as there was a contract the Treasury was bound by it; but the gloss which the hon. and learned Gentleman sought to put upon it, and to get accepted on the spur of the moment, was that in every case there was a contract, that it remained binding under any circumstances, and that the Treasury henceforth was not at liberty to revise the allowance as regarded those to whom the Circular referred, or who held office before September 1870. He would explain the arrangement of 1870, which was proposed by himself; as it might have some bearing upon the criticisms of the hon. and learned Member, who had spoken severely of the necessity it would impose upon County Court Judges of changing their residences or being fined in default, if it were made to apply to the past. In order to arrive at a fair and reasonable calculation of the amount which should be allowed for travelling expenses, he assumed that a County Court Judge resided in the centre of his district, in some town which would probably furnish the largest amount of business. ["Oh, oh!"] That was his own assumption, for he made the arrangements in question. He then had a careful calculation made of the number of Courts the Judge would have to attend and of the way in which, according to experience, he would have to pass from Court to Court, and made an addition of 15 or 20 per cent to such estimate; and in the case which had been referred to, on the appointment of the Judge, he asked the Judge to call at the Treasury, and there explained to him the basis of the calculation, inviting his criticisms upon it. The learned Judge took it away, and after he had taken time to consider the calculation, when he returned it, certain additions, based on his criticisms, were conceded, 15 per cent was added, and the result was accepted by the learned Judge as satisfactory. When it was proposed by Minute to apply the same principle to Judges already appointed, all that occurred was that the method of calculation was set before them, and they were invited to dispute its correctness, if they thought fit to do so. It was putting the worst construction, rather than the best, upon the Circular to say that they were asked merely to check the arithmetic of the calculation; 1305 and as that was not the process applied to the Judges of the future, it could not be held that it was intended to be applied to the Judges of the past. With regard to the question of contract, he could not for a moment admit that in each and every case of the appointment of a Judge before 1870 there was a contract absolutely binding upon the Treasury during the rest of the Judge's life and service. In the first place, with respect to the 11 Judges out of the 37 or 38 who might be affected by this matter, the Circular of 1852, read by his right lion. Friend to the House, showed that no contract was entered into with them, and that the arrangement which the Treasury had made for the payment of personal expenses was subject to revision and correction in the future. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. James) said that every one of the County Court Judges appointed between 1852 and 1870 left the Bar and accepted a Judgeship upon a prior understanding with the Treasury not only that he would receive a specific salary for the rest of his term of holding the office, but that he would also have a sum that would never be varied for the payment of his travelling expenses. Yet the hon. and learned Gentleman had produced no evidence on which to found that allegation. The closest inquiries had been made by the Treasury, and upon the strength of those inquiries he was prepared, on behalf of the Treasury, emphatically to deny the accuracy of the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Although the Treasury could not admit that there were binding contracts in cases in which there were not, and although the Treasury could not tie their hands from in-inquiring into these cases, there was no disposition on the part of the Government, or of the Treasury, to inquire too closely or in any hostile or unfriendly spirit into the receipts in respect of personal expenses of men who had held office for 15, 20, or 25 years. If hon. and learned Members would have the goodness to dismiss unwarrantable suspicions from their minds, they would be quite satisfied with the assurance of his right hon. Friend, and with his acceptance of the terms of the amended Motion.
§ MR. WEST
said, he wished to set his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. James) right as to what had actually occurred with 1306 regard to this question. In 1869 he first called attention to the absurd extravagance of the travelling expenses of the County Court Judges. In 1872 he proposed a reduction of the Vote. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion pressed him not to divide the House, promising to take into consideration the whole question of the travelling expenses of those Judges. His hon. and learned Friend had fallen into a series of mistakes upon matters of fact. Ample Notice was given of the Motion he proposed in 1872, and it was idle for any one to talk of being surprised. It was a mistake to suppose that he had any communication on the subject with the Chancellor of the Exchequer beyond what occurred publicly in the House. It was a mistake to say that since 1852 any bargain as to expenses had been made before the appointment of a Judge, for he received his appointment first and struck his bargain with the Treasury afterwards as to travelling expenses; and, indeed, any fixed contract might have involved great injustice in such a case as had occurred in Devonshire and Cornwall, where a vacancy was not filled up, but two districts were incorporated, and a Judge was required to hold his Court at 12 places, instead of eight. His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. James) was mistaken in nearly all his assumed facts. He said there had been extension of duties without increase of remuneration; but during 1857 the salaries of County Court Judges had been increased by £300—from £1,200 to £1,500 a-year—and since then their work had been diminished by 10 per cent. Since 1857 the total number of sittings in the year had fallen from 9,019 to 8,041. From the letters he had received since he took up this question it might be supposed that his life was in danger. He could assure the House that he had nothing to do with the Treasury Minute of 1872, and was absolutely ignorant of it until he heard from a friend of its having been issued, and he never had seen it until it was published in a pamphlet written by Mr. Daniel.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he was somewhat astonished at his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. West) getting up and stating that what everybody else had said was entirely wrong, and he was not less astonished that his 1307 hon. and learned Friend had not made any effort—except one, which nobody could regard as an effort at all—to show that he was right. What had been the course of his hon. and learned Friend? Certainly he had not shrunk from pocketing the money of the public, nor had he been ashamed of taking any place that had been given to him. His hon. and learned Friend had obtained one place after another; he had filled no fewer than eight places in succession; and he now held several, which made the sums paid to the County Court Judges appear mere trifles in comparison with what he himself received. What would his hon. and learned Friend have thought if a hard-worked County Court Judge had come forward and said that his hon. and learned Friend was too well paid? He would have been most indignant; and yet he was surprised that when he attacked a whole body of men by his Motion to reduce their salaries, they should write letters to him. It was a wonder they did nothing worse to him. Probably some of them might have been tempted to say to him—"Pray, why don't you look at home? Why do you come forward and attack us, when the duties that you perform might, in our opinion, not in your own, be performed at a very much smaller price than that which you put upon your genius?" Really, when his hon. and learned Friend got up to set right all the hon. Members of the Government sitting in front of him, and came forward with arguments which they could not have found out, and which they had not been able to adduce, it was very extraordinary that he should not have known more about the subject than he had shown that he did. His hon. and learned Friend stated that no arrangements had been made between the Government and any County Court Judge with regard to the exact sum that should be paid to him for his travelling expenses between 1852 and 1870. [Mr. WEST dissented.] Those were the words which his hon. and learned Friend used, that no such arrangements were made, and no sums agreed upon as those which a County Court Judge should be entitled to receive.
§ MR. LOCKE
That was a distinction without a difference. A gentleman having been appointed a County Court Judge, his hon. and learned Friend said that simply because the Government entered into their compact with him after he had accepted the appointment, that was a reason why they should not pay him. Surely, whether the Government pledged their word before or after he accepted the office, they were bound as men of honour to pay the money. Therefore it was an extraordinary thing that his hon. and learned Friend, who had given such attention year after year to the emoluments of County Court Judges, should have made such an assertion as that there was no contract between the County Court Judges and the Government between 1852 and 1870, and that he should now explain that there certainly was a contract, but that they did not agree upon the payment till after the appointment had been accepted. Suppose they took a servant into their employment at £25 a-year, and, because he had accepted the appointment before they had come to a more definite arrangement as to money, they were to drop him down to £20. That would be a parallel to his hon. and learned Friend's argument.
§ MR. WEST
again explained that what he had stated was that the settlement of the amount to be paid for travelling expenses was not made until after the County Court Judge had accepted the office, the contract being that he was to receive £1,500 a-year for the office he accepted, but a payment was afterwards to be arranged upon the scale of the expenses he had to incur with regard to the circuit in which he was employed.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he had no recollection of his hon. and learned Friend having said anything at all of that sort, but he left that matter to the House. He would content himself with giving a particular case. The County Court Judge of Manchester had Salford added to his district. His hon. and learned Friend being Recorder of Manchester, knew all about it, and would be able to correct any inaccuracy in the statement of the case. There was a compact in the case of the County Court Judge of Manchester in regard to the sum that should go for these expenses; that compact was made between 1852 and 1870. The compact previous to 1870 was that a certain sum 1309 of money should go for travelling expenses; and it was clearly understood that he should not live in the purlieus of Manchester or in any place near that city, but that he should have the advantage of living in London. That Judge had done so ever since his appointment, and there was no better County Court Judge sitting on the Bench. [Mr. WEST assented.] His hon. and learned Friend agreed with him at least in that. It being clear, then, that these compacts had been made, the Government had a plain course before them, which it would be almost impossible for them not to follow. The question might therefore be taken as practically settled, and they might expect to have rest, unless indeed his hon. and learned Friend should find out something else among his brethren at the Bar which he could bring forward in the House, and which would be extremely disagreeable. In that event he was sure the House would leave it entirely to that hon. and learned Member's efforts to do what mischief he could, but for his own part he was happy to say that his hon. and learned Friend had not been very successful on the present occasion.
Motion agreed to.
Resolved, That the application of the Treasury Minute dated the 22nd day of June 1872, to County Court Judges appointed prior to the 17th day of September 1870, will be unjust and inequitable; and that no Judge appointed before such date should be subjected to the operation of any Minute which will prejudicially affect the position upon the faith of which he accepted his appointment.—(Mr. James.)