HC Deb 29 August 1895 vol 36 cc1227-8

On the Report of the Vote for the salaries of the Law Officers,

MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said, he desired an explanation of the new Minute in reference to the salaries of the Law Officers. It appeared on the face of the Minute as if the country had got some advantage from the changes that had taken place. The Minute showed that the salaries of the Attorney General and Solicitor General were now £7,000 and £6,000 respectively, whereas, formerly, they were £10,000 and £9,000 respectively. But under the new arrangement, law officers were allowed to take fees for contentious business, and this seemed to make a great difference between the two Minutes and required some explanation. As to the fees to be paid, it was provided that they should be only those which were regarded as the ordinary professional fees which any Queen's Counsel of average standing might receive. An interpretation of those words in the Minute put that fee at 150 guineas, with refreshers of 30 guineas a day.


That is the maximum.


thought they were accustomed to find that the maximum was generally reached. He thought a fee of fifty guineas would be sufficient. In cases of exceptional importance an increased fee might be given in the discretion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When it was considered that these fees had to be paid in addition to the salaries of £7,000 and £6,000 a year, it did seem to be a matter worthy of consideration. It was, to his mind, a retrograde step, and he would like to know why the arrangement arrived at during the last Parliament was to be upset. He thought it was a most mischievous thing, if, after a matter of this kind had been settled with great difficulty, it should be so soon reopened.


said, he could explain in a very few words what the Government meant by the change which had been effected in this matter. The last Minute of the late Government had been entirely adhered to in the matter of forbidding the Law Officers to take private practice, and that was done after careful consideration by Her Majesty's Government. It was in accordance with what they thought right and with what they believed to be the general opinion of the House. He could only express his very great regret that, owing to their feeling it right to take that step, they had lost the services of an old colleague, the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth ["Hear, hear!"] The other part of the Minute differed from the decision arrived at by the late Government under which the Law Officers were each paid £3,000 a year more in respect of contentious business. The present proposal was that in future they should be paid fees for contentious business, carefully limited with regard to the cases in which they should be employed, and the amount of the fees, so that, in the belief of those who were accustomed to deal with such matters, the amount paid in fees would not exceed the amount in salary paid by their predecessors in office. The details of the Minute had been settled after careful consultation between his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, the permanent officials of the Treasury, and the Solicitor to the Treasury. The reason for the change was, that it was considered better and fairer to all parties that in this matter the Law Officers should be paid for the actual work they did. They believed that by this means the Law Officers' services would be secured in a satisfactory way, which would accord with the established rules of their profession. The Government also believed that the result of the change would not be to cast any increased burden upon the taxpayers.

Resolution agreed to.

Other Resolutions reported agreed to.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, in pursuance of the Order of the House of the 19th August, adjourned the House without question put.

House adjourned at a Quarter after Two o'clock.