§ (1) Every county and borough coroner appointed after the date of the commencement of this Act who has completed five years' whole-time service and has—
- (a) attained the ago of sixty-five years; or
- (b) satisfied the council by whom his salary is payable by means of a medical certificate that he is incapable from infirmity of mind or body of discharging the ditties of his office, and that such incapacity is likely to he permanent:
§ (2) A county or borough coroner appointed after the date of the commencement of this Art shall at any time after he has completed ten years' whole-time service and has attained the age of sixty-five years, vacate his office if called upon to do so by the council by whom his salary is payable.
§ (3) Any pension granted to or other amount payable to or in respect of a coroner under the provisions of this section shall be 2600 paid out of the fund out of which the salary of the coroner was payable, and any contribution deducted from the salary of a coroner under this section shall be carried to such fund.
§ (4) If a county or borough coroner ceases to hold his office for any reason except death before he has become entitled to a pension under this section he shall be entitled to receive a sum equal to the aggregate amount of his contributions under this section.
§ (5) If a county or borough coroner dies before he has become entitled to a pension under this section the council by whom his salary was payable shall pay to his legal personal representative a sum equal to the aggregate amount of his contributions under this section.
§ (6) If a county or borough coroner dies after he has become entitled to a pension under this section and before he has received by way of pens-on an amount equal to the aggregate amount of his contributions under this section, the council by whom Ins salary was payable shall pay to his legal personal representative the difference between the aggregate amount which he has received by way of pension and the aggregate amount of his contributions under thisseetion.—[Mr. Cates.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. GATES
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I am sorry to trouble the House with yet another proposed new Clause, but I am asked to put this forward by the London County Council, as they are anxious that the question of the superannuation of coroners should he duly considered by this House. The object of this Clause, and of a later Amendment which I have down to Clause 6, is to secure that the e hole-time coroners appointed after the passing of this Bill shall provide contributions towards their own pensions at the rate of 5 per cent. of their salaries, and the Clause specifies exactly what they are entitled to receive when they come to retire. Under the Bill as it stands, the coroners will be entitled to superannuation without them—selves making any contribution whatever,, but, at the same time, they will have the disadvantage of having to negotiate, or haggle, if you like, with the borough councils or county councils, as the case may be, as to the amount of that superannuation.
In answer to a question which was raised in Committee by, I think, the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), I may say that superannuation would be paid out of the 2601 county fund or the borough fund, and the contribution of the coroner would at the same time be paid into that fund or deducted from his salary, and then the pension, according to this proposed new Clause, would be calculated upon the coroner's length of service, That, I think, also answers another point which the hon. Member for Westhougliton raised in Committee. I have no doubt that the majority of coroners who would be appointed after the passing of this Bill would be very glad to join in the superannuation scheme. I have a letter before me now from the coroner for a very important borough, in which he says:I think that every coroner would he willing to join a contributory scheme if he were permitted to do so.The difficulty of the London County Council, and, I have no doubt, of other county or borough councils, if this Bid passes into law in its present form, will be that practically the whole of their staffs and officers are at the present time subject to contributory pension schemes. The London County Council has had to deal at various times with a great number of local government services, and in every case they have enforced, shall I say, or at any rate have arranged, contributory pension schemes on the lines set out in this Clause, namely, a 5 per cent. contribution from officers of the age of 40 or over—I am assuming, of course, that there would be very few coroners who would be appointed at an age lower than 40. For instance, under the Asylum Officers' Superannuation Act, 1909, the Local Government and other Officers Superannuation Act, 1922, the Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1925, and the Fire Brigade Pensions Act, 1925, superannuation schemes have been arranged by the London County Council, and it will put them in a very awkward position if one set of officers are not subject to contributions for their pensions. I might also call the attention of my hon. and gallant Friend to the Criminal Justice Act, which was passed last year, and which gave the Home Secretary power to make contributory superannuation schemes for probation officers. I understand that a Report is now before the Home Office which recommends a contributory scheme for pensions under that Act.
2602 There is only one other point that I desire to make. My hon. and gallant Friend stated during the Committee stage that coroners are not really the servants of any local authority, lout are quasi judicial officers, and, therefore, must be brought into the same category as Supreme Court officials. I think I have correctly quoted his words. I cannot help thinking, however, that Supreme Court officers and coroners are hardly comparable people. Supreme Court officers are, I think, appointed either by the Treasury or by the Lord Chancellor; at any rate, they are officials who perform certain duties under, I suppose, the Treasury, but they are in no way servants of, or connected with, any local authority, nor do they draw their salaries from any local authority; whereas coroners are appointed by county or borough councils, and are paid by those county or borough councils. Even in this present Bill, they have always been treated as the officers of such authorities, and in Sub-section (2) of Clause 6 it is proposed to give to county councils or borough councils the power in certain circumstances to call upon a coroner to vacate his office. That seems to me to confirm my view that, even in the eyes of the Home Office, the coroners, if they are not actually officials of county or borough councils, can at any rate hardly he held to be quasi judicial officers.
There is also, as I need hardly remind my hon. and gallant Friend, a dictum in a case which came before the House of Lords on appeal not very long ago, in which the President of the Court—Lord Dunedin, I think it was—specially drew attention to the procedure which had been set up in that case, in which a transcript of evidence taken in a coroner's court had been sought to be used as evidence in a civil case under the Workmen's Compensation Act. His Lordship said that that was a most improper proceeding, and thereby, I think, showed that, in his opinion, and in the opinion of the highest appeal tribunal in the land, coroners certainly could not be considered to be judicial officers. I have been asked to put forward the views of the London County Council on this point, and I have no doubt that their experience is the same as that of many other county and borough councils in dealing with their officers. I 2603 hope, therefore, that my hon. and gallant Friend will give consideration to this Clause.
§ Motion not seconded.