HC Deb 15 July 1915 vol 73 cc1095-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £180,995, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916, for such of the Salaries and Expenses of the Supreme Court of Judicature and Court of Criminal Appeal as are not charged on the Consolidated Fund." [NOTE.—£150,000 has been voted on account.]

8.0 P.M.


We all know that there has been a considerable decrease in litigation, and that as a result of the War, law is a depressed industry. It is surely a matter that requires some explanation that in spite of the depression in litigation there should appear to be an increase in the cost of the various items of £991 for salaries, wages, and allowances. It is very strange that at the present time, when salaried appointments under the Government should be cut down, we should have this increase in these items. I notice also a further increase in salaries in respect of the District Probate Register. These things call for a word of explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. We hope that in the Votes of this year in this particular Department efforts will be made to secure retrenchment. The public themselves have indicated that they do not want to spend their private money on the law. If the public are not anxious for the services of the judges, and do not wish to spend money out of their private pocket on ascertaining the variable opinions of these gentlemen, surely it is the duty of the Treasury to see that the public expenditure on these salaries is correspondingly reduced. I am, therefore, inclined to believe that the Estimate now before the Committee is an excessive estimate, that the increase over last year is not at all justified, and that in the circumstances the Treasury should have sought from the Department an explanation of the increase, and, failing any explanation, in view of the circumstances which I have indicated, should rather have insisted on a diminution of the charge.


My hon. Friend has made a very good point. This is a case in which there ought to be a large reduction. Obviously we are labouring under great disadvantages to-day, being unable to keep pace with the rate at which those Votes are got through. We are doing our best, but if we had more time we could illustrate from actual items in those Estimates where we think economies could be effected. If my right hon. Friend will look at page 24 he will see that for some extraordinary reason in the Supreme Court of Judicature the Court of Appeal spends £28 on the "Daily Official Stock Exchange List." I understand that they were paid for administering the law. Why are they diverted from the law by the Stock Exchange daily lists Does my right hon. Friend wish to cultivate the spirit of gambling on the judicature? Does he not think that it is an unsettling quality to introduce into the minds of men who ought to be devoting themselves strenuously to matters of law? Is it the tape or the list that they get? What do judges want with the tape of the Stock Exchange? If the right hon. Gentleman looks further up he will see that they spend £250 on washing at the Royal Courts of Justice. Whose washing? Do the judges have it spent on them, or is this washing that is provided for the public or for lavatory attendants, or what? It seems an extraordinary charge to place upon the judicature. If the right hon. Gentleman would go through this, as one could go through it, he would see that these are just the kind of things in which, if he would give us a little more time and opportunity, we could effect the economy which he desires. If he handed over this particular Estimate to the Members who are present and gave us a Committee Room upstairs for an hour we could fetch it back with the £3,160 wiped out, which would be a great economy. This is the kind of detail which we do not have the opportunity of dealing with on the Estimates, and which tends to mount up. In this case, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will achieve not only economy, but also serve a high moral purpose by discontinuing the "Daily Official Stock Exchange List" at the Courts.


I can assure my hon. Friend that whenever he rises to address this Committee I do not fail to detect a high moral purpose. I am much obliged to my hon. Friends who sit behind for the very illuminating speeches which they have made. There is an increase in this Vote of £3,160, but this increase is practically entirely due to the diminution in litigation. Though litigation costs everybody something, it does to a certain extent benefit the State in fees, and if my hon. Friends will look at the Appropriations they will see that they are reduced by £4,410. which more than accounts for the whole difference. With regard to salaries, an investigation of the salaries of the whole judicature is now going on. Pending that inquiry, a diminution in litigation does not mean a diminution in salaries. Many of these officers have gone to the War, but under the decision of the Government, of which I am sure the House approves, no one in the Civil Service or the Courts loses by going to the War, and we are still paying the full salaries, and in certain cases as officers go up in years of service or in the rank which they hold, they have annual increments of salaries, which make up some of the fluctuations of the kind to which my hon. Friend refers.

With regard to the other frightful disclosure which my hon. Friend, by careful scrutiny of these Estimates, has brought to the notice of the Committee, I venture to suggest to him that the dismal picture which he draws to the House of most learned judges neglecting their duties in order to gamble on the Stock Exchange at the public expense, owing to the fact that we have paid £28 for the "Daily Official Stock Exchange List," is wholly, I will not say frivolous, but a phantasy of imagination. The judges of the High Court, and the officers of the High Court, and many of those whose daily avocations bring them to the High Court, have to do with a large number of commercial cases, bankruptcy cases, settlement cases, and the investment of money paid into Court under various Acts of Parliament, and it is clear that at the library of the Courts of Justice there should be available that very useful publication, the "Stock Exchange Daily List," which I venture to suggest is not expensive, having regard to the use which is made of it.

Question put, and agreed to.