§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [22nd May], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD:
§ To leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD
I understand that the Attorney-General desires to speak on this Bill, and I do not want to intervene between the House and the hon. and learned Gentleman. I presume my right to move the Amendment will not be prejudiced?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
It is probably convenient that I should say a word or two about the Bill because when the Second Reading was moved it was moved without any observations as to its character. The Bill, I am afraid, does not permit of any detailed exposition without the risk of wearying the House, which is the last thing I desire to do, but probably I shall have to trespass for some little time on the attention of hon. Members. This is one of those kind of Bills which is required to correct mistakes which have been found to have occurred in legislation concerning legal matters and to fill up gaps which have unfortunately been found to exist in our legal administration. There are five parts of the Bill, and the various parts include a number of matters which are unconnected for the most part with each other. If I may deal with Part V first, it is sufficient to say that it contains 14 or 15 Amendments, some of which are consequential upon earlier Amendments in the Bill, sometimes merely corrections of mistakes which have been made in previous Acts. If any explanation is desired of these minor Amendments in Part V, which are really of no importance at all except that they correct the smaller mistakes to which I have referred, it will be probably more convenient to give an explanation in Committee.
I now pass to Part I of the Bill. The five Clauses contained in that part complete the reorganisation of the probate registries of this country, which was begun by the Administration of Justice Act, that Measure having been consolidated in the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, 1925. The reform which the present Bill will bring about, will complete what, I think, may be regarded as a very happy combination—indeed, the happiest of all combinations, namely, efficiency and economy. The reform is based on the recommendations of a Committee appointed in 1922 by Lord Birkenhead, then Lord Chancellor. The Committee was presided over by Mr. Justice Tomlin, as he now is. They reported that there were 40 district probate registries in this country, some of them in places of great historic interest but places which unfortunately had ceased to be as convenient 819 for the public as they once were; that some of the registries therefore had very little work to do, that the clerical staffs were, in many cases, underpaid, while, in some cases, the registrars were overpaid having regard to the duties which they have to discharge. The proposal of the Committee was to remodel the distribution of the registries, by establishing 11 registry groups in various parts of the country with the necessary sub-registries, and that part of the reorganisation has been carried out in the Act to which I have referred.
The present Bill makes what may be described as consequential alterations in the law providing for the recruitment, status, pay and, in due course, retirement of the existing staffs. I can assure the House that these arrangements have been made with the concurrence of the parties concerned. We have been careful to take counsel with the associations representing the various members of the staff, that is to say, the registrars and the clerks and the present proposals are based upon the arrangements which have thus been made. I may add that the provisions are analogous to and follow closely on the provisions made concerning the County Courts staffs and embodied in the County Courts Act, 1924, which hon. Members opposite were responsible for passing into law. Part II of the Bill in general deals with certain defects in the existing law which are of no particular interest to the public. Attention has been called from time to time by His Majesty's Judges to these defects and Part II of the Bill simply gathers them together and deals with them. The Clauses which constitute this part of the Bill are for the most part, merely machinery provisions to remove existing doubts as to the present practice in the ordering of the business of the Courts. I am sure if I were to detain the House with a discussion of the reasons for desiring, for instance, that the position shall be quite clear as regards the jurisdiction of the different parts of the High Court of Justice I should not contribute to the edification of hon. Members, and I am afraid I might be guilty of wearying them more than I must inevitably do in any case.
Clause 11 is in a slightly different category from those to which I have just referred. 820 It is partly consequential on the reforms in Part I of the Bill, but it goes a little further. It empowers the President of the Probate Divorce and Admiralty Division, with the consent of the Lord Chancellor, to give directions from time to time as to the place of deposit of original wills and other documents. With the passage of time, and with the accumulation of documents which it is necessary to preserve, such directions as that are necessary and the President will in future be empowered to give directions so that these documents may be preserved at the place deemed to be most convenient for those persons who have occasion to refer to them. Part III of the Bill deals with a matter which has been a subject of grave consideration, and I am bound to say also of great anxiety on the part of those whose duty it has been to consider it. It deals with the constitution of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Clause 13 contains provisions which it was hoped and believed would add to the efficiency of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in connection with the hearing of Indian appeals. It is with very great regret that it has been found necessary to state to-day—and I merely repeat the statement—that Clause 13 will not be proceeded with in this Bill. I regret it very much indeed and I believe that it is a loss which every hon. Member, who is aware of the circumstances connected with the hearing of Indian appeals would regret if the facts were fully known to him.
It is unnecessary for me to spend time on the matter. It has been decided to drop this Clause in order to secure the provisions of the rest of the Bill. We are not prepared to risk the loss of the Bill, having regard to the difficulty of finding time for it, in order to include the provisions of Clause 13, important though these are. The rest of the Bill is so necessary and so urgent that we thought it right to jettison Clause 13 in order to secure the passage of the Bill, and I hope that any hon. Member who has thought it right to take objection to Clause 13, will regard that as a substantial effort to secure to the public the advantages which the other parts of the Bill will confer. I say no more about Clause 13 except to repeat as solemnly as I can an expression of the great regret which I feel and which others will 821 feel that this effort—I was going to say modest effort—to increase the efficiency of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council cannot be carried into effect in this Bill. I hope an opportunity will be found to re-introduce the provisions, possibly in an improved form, if I may use that expression, at a very early date.
There only remains Part IV of the Bill, which contains miscellaneous; provisions as to matters connected with the administration of justice. One of these Clauses confers an added dignity, which hon. Members from Lancashire will appreciate, on the office of Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster. The added dignity will be more appreciated when it is realised that it is conferred without any increase of expense. The Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster has, up to the present time, been free, if he so pleased, even to be a Member of this House. His position in that respect has not been akin to the position of a Judge of the High Court, but it is an office of great dignity and importance. The holder of it tries cases which are certainly not less important than many of the cases tried in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice. It has been thought fit to confer upon him a higher status, with, of course, such limitations as exist in the case of a person who is unable to become a Member of this House, and I am sure no objection will be taken to that Clause. Clause 18 deals with a matter which is quite distinct and separate in itself, and which I am sure all Members of the House will appreciate, and that is the conferring on fathers of the rights which have already been conferred on mothers in connection with the guardianship of infants. We may regard this Clause as a modest addition to the legislation necessary for removing sex disqualification.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member would like me to say a word about Clause 17. The main object of this Clause is to promote an administrative economy in the Department of the Accountant-General of the Supreme Court. At the present time the Accountant-General holds a number of 822 separate funds in trust for various charitable and ecclesiastical purposes. These funds for the most part are moneys which have been paid into Court under the Land Clauses Act as compensation for lands which have been compulsorily acquired. There are a large number of such funds. They are small in amount, and the interest on the funds is paid over in a very large number of cases, numbering over 1,000, to the incumbents for whom the funds are held in trust in connection with their benefices. There are, in addition, a number of funds which are held for charities, and the administration of hose funds in the Accountant-General's office obviously causes a considerable amount of work of a very detailed character for the Accountant-General, who is not really the proper officer.
It has been thought that those funds, concerned as they are with the duties of the Charity Commissioners and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, should be entrusted to those bodies. They have powers which they can more conveniently exercise than the Accountant-General. They are the bodies charged with the duties which concern the administration of those funds. There is no change whatever in the incidence attaching to those funds. It is merely a question of the transfer to the convenient persons of the legal possession of the funds with the consequent duty of administering them for the persons for whom they are held on trust.
I have attempted, without going into great detail, and without attempting to describe the various Clauses except to the extern; only of matters of interest to the House to show the varied and important nature, as far as it goes, of this Bill, and I hope that hon. Members will now assist this Bill which has had many vicissitudes, which has come from another place, and which has made many attempts 10 pass through the narrow portals of this House, and I hope on this occasion it will be successful, because in truth and in fact it does embody a number of reforms, some of which have been overdue, and many of them perhaps may be regarded as unimportant, but as many persons whose duty it is to engage in the administration of the law are aware, the defects which this Bill is intended to cure do cause inconvenience, 823 and in many cases expense. I recommend the Bill to the House as a small instalment of the legislation, of which we have had a good many examples in recent years, to make the administration of justice more effective, and I believe also more economical.
§ Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD
I regret that the Attorney-General has withdrawn Clause 13, and I hope it will be possible at a later stage to keep it in the Bill. From my point of view, and I think I shall be able to show from the point of view of this House and the Empire, Clause 13, which deals with augmenting the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, is far and away the most important part of this Bill. As to most of the Bill, it deals with local matters, all excellent in themselves and few of them leading to any serious controversy, but in Clause 13 there is an attempt—a belated attempt—to increase the number of Law Lords in the Judicial Committee to meet the ever-growing flow of litigation from overseas, and especially from the Empire of India. The Attorney-General has given no good reason for dropping this Clause, and, as far as I know, there is nobody in the House who would like to weaken the prestige of the Judicial Committee, which is the Supreme Tribunal of the Empire and to which Court—and to which Supreme Court alone—every subject of the King throughout the whole Empire may appeal.
This Court, if I may remind the House, is the successor of the Court established by William the Conqueror and presided over by the Kings of England until the days of James I. It is the one Court—and I speak with considerable feeling as being one who was born in one of the Dominions—to which every subject of the Crown has looked since the commencement of the British Empire, and does look now with confidence. This Bill intended in Clause 13 to increase the number of Law Lords, restricting their choice to India. It is hardly necessary to inform hon. Members that the present number of Law Lords is six, and all these enjoy a salary of £6,000—not at all a large salary, having regard to the vital importance of their work and the sacrifice which they made in private practices to take the positions they now honourably hold. I 824 hope no hon. Member opposite will run away with the idea that this question swings on a matter of the salary. It is of such transcendent importance to strengthen this Judicial Committee in the interests of the whole Empire, that a mere matter of £1,000 ought not to prejudice anyone about the question. My complaint of the Clause as it stands is the fact that these Judges were to be selected from one part of the Empire only. That is an odious discrimination against the rest of the Empire. At the moment the Judges are selected from England, Ireland and Scotland. My point is that this is an Imperial Court, and the only Imperial Court; indeed, it is the only body left in these Islands the decisions of which go throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire. The decisions of the House of Commons no longer carry throughout the Empire, but the decisions of this Court, which is the most tangible link of Empire next to the Crown itself, go throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire. I say, therefore, that the selection of members of this Tribunal should not be restricted to India. It may be necessary to choose two men of legal or judicial status in India to augment the Court, but as soon as you begin to restrict your area of choice, you raise questionings throughout the Dominions and other parts of the Empire that need never be raised.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Certainly, we have already had distinguished Indian jurists in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That has been accepted. One reason why I welcome Clause 13 is that it intends to choose from the Empire an Indian, and it is from India that most of the cases to this great Court come, but my point is that we should not limit the choice to any part of the Empire. It may be necessary to choose some distinguished Australian, some distinguished Canadian, or, in years to come, some great lawyer from Jamaica. If you have a supreme Tribunal of the Empire, you should not restrict your area of choice. The second point to which I would draw attention on Clause 13 as it stands, is that we are to pay these new Judges smaller salaries than the members of the Judicial Committee who are now called Law Lords, 825 and their salary is made dependent, as far as half of it is concerned, upon the possibility of a grant from the Indian Legislature. If you have a Court in which there are Judges with equal responsibility, but paid different salaries, and some of them are dependent upon what may be the political, or, at any rate, the transient passions of a legislature in the Far East, it is humiliating the members of the Tribunal who are thus paid, and weakens the prestige of the whole Court. I am opposed to that, and every Member of the House will appreciate the position of a Judge from India who may actually have to hear a case in which the Legislature of India is a party. He would be in a humiliating position of having to realise that his judicial decision may be a ground of criticism against paying his salary.
The strength of the Supreme Tribunal of this Empire is in the fact that the Judges are selected by the Prime Minister of England, naturally acting on the advice of those best able to advise him, like the Lord Chancellor, or the Attorney-General, or other great legal luminaries, and the salaries are paid by this House. The Court sits in Downing Street. My point is that you must either strengthen this Court, or the people of the Dominions, and possibly of other parts of the Empire, will not be so willing to come to it as they have been in times gone by. My noble and learned Friend, Lord Haldane, who commands the respect of every Member of this House, as he does of all Judges of the Empire, described the position in the other House as a scandal. It is a scandal because there are too few Judges to hear the appeals. Some of our Colonial litigants come thousands of miles, and spend thousands of pounds, and in some cases tens of thousands of pounds, to come to this Supreme Court, and they often find the Court manned not by the Law Lords paid by this House, but by most respected, but too often elderly Judges, who have retired from active life on the Bench, and who are beseecbed to come in to make a Court to hear these cases. The Colonial litigant is no dullard, and he sees at once that he is not getting the full benefit of the Judicial Committee when the Court is constituted, as it frequently is, in the way I have described.
826 I would submit to the whole House that here is one of the few cases in which we can stand together in a great Imperial matter, because it concerns not the people of these islands, except the Free State of Ireland, but the humblest subject of the Crown throughout the whole Empire. It is the only Court to which he can go. It is the Court which, for hundreds of years has administered justice, and whose decisions have been loyally carried out in every part of the British Empire. When we have the Attorney-General of this Government coming to the House and dropping from this Bill a Clause which has taken years to bring to its present state, although I think that it is hopelessly inadequate, as he himself admits, it is not quite far, and it will give a bad impression throughout the Empire, which for years has been waiting for a strengthening of this Court. I remember the late Lord Chancellor, my noble Friend Lord Cave, deploring year after year that he could not strengthen this Supreme Tribunal of the Empire, and I especially appeal to hon. Members opposite who may think that the salary of £6,000 is too large——
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I appeal to the hon. Member to remember that it is not a question of salary, but a question of whether you want every member of this Empire to have a Court in England to which he can appeal, and be sure of a hearing by men of high position in the legal and judicial world, whose decisions are never questioned. That is the real question, and I hope the Attorney-General will be able to convince the House that this is a pressing and an urgent matter. Speaking, as I know, the feeling of many representatives from overseas, I hope this Clause will be reinstated and strengthened and that the number of Judges of the Supreme Tribunal of the Empire will be increased, and be made worthy of its great past, and able to continue to earn the confidence of the overseas Dominions.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, for I find on the Order Paper a Motion in his name to reject the Bill, and that would have meant rejecting Clause 13 with which he is in favour. I am glad the Attorney-General has dropped Clause 13; otherwise we should have fought the Bill harder. We object to members of the Privy Council being paid a salary of £6,000 a year, and, after five years' service being entitled to a pension of £1,000 a year. I represent the miners who, after 50 years' service, are fortunate if they obtain £26 a year pension. I consider that one man is as good as another. It might be argued that a miner cannot be a Judge, but you can equally well argue that a Judge cannot be a miner, on would not be a miner. As long as we have an opportunity in this House, we shall oppose one man after five years' service being paid £1,000 a year pension, while another man, after 50 years' service is luckly to get £26 a year pension. I am glad, therefore, that the Attorney-General has saved us the trouble of fighting that Clause. While this Bill is entitled "Administration of Justice" it is difficult to find anything dealing with the administration of justice in it. The first 12 Clauses deal with district Probate Registry Courts.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It may be for the hon. Member's convenience if I explain that the reduction of the number of registries has already been effected—three Sessions ago, in 1925. These Clauses merely provide for the necessary status on retirement, pensions, and so forth of the staff, consequent upon the alterations that have already been made.
§ Mr. BATEY
I take it the offices have not yet been closed, and no doubt it will be possible for the Attorney-General to tell us which he proposes to close. I notice that in these Clauses we deal with redundant registrars and under two 828 headings, those who have received certificates and those who have not received certificates. In the matter of pensions, registrars who have received certificates are dealt with differently from those who have not. In the case of registrars who have received certificates it says that their pensions shall bethe amount of the difference between the capitalised value of that annual allowance and the capitalised value of two-thirds of the annual salary on which the said annual allowance is computed.…or the amount of the annual salary of the registrar at the date of his retirement;Are we to understand that those registrars who have received certificates may be retired with, as pension, the amount of the annual salary at the date of their retirement? If so, I would like to know what the amount of the pension is likely to be. In the next Clause we deal with the uncertificated registrars. In that case the Bill says:If the registrar is one in whose case a certificate has not been so issued, the Treasury may grant to him by way of compensation such gratuity, not exceeding twice the amount of the salary received by him during his last year of employment.He is going to be retired, it may be, on twice his salary. That is not a bad prospect. I would like the Attorney-General when he is making inquiries to ascertain how much that is going to be.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If the hon. Member will continue his observations, I will listen to them while obtaining the information.
§ Mr. BATEY
I come now to the question of clerks, and how much they are to receive as pensions. The Bill says:Where a person who was immediately before the second day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight, employed as a clerk in a district probate registry is required by reason only of his having attained any age to retire from service as such a clerk, the Treasury may, if he has been required to devote his whole time to employment as such a clerk and if he had attained the age of fifty-five years before the eighteenth day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven, grant to him by way of compensation such gratuity, not exceeding twice the amount of the salary received by him during his last year of employment, as may seem to them just.Clerks who may be only 55 years of age are to be retired on double their salary. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, the gratuity is going to be double the amount 829 of their salary. I wish to know what sum that will be. I notice that, in the case of clerks who are retained, it is the intention to make them civil servants. What is the object in forcing the clerks to be civil servants? We have a recollection of how civil servants were dealt with under the Trade Disputes Act. Is the object of the Government in forcing these clerks to be civil servants to bring them under that Act and prevent them from joining a trade union?
§ Mr. WITHERS
The Attorney-General, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, did not deal with Clause 16. I do not know whether that has been withdrawn or not, but if it has not, I should like to draw attention to it. It introduces a new principle into our law. Hitherto I have always understood that Courts in England have refused to collect revenue debts of any countries abroad. It may be quite a proper thing to do it in this ease, but it is a great departure. We decide here to collect the revenue debts of Colonies and Dominions of the Crown who give us reciprocal treatment. If the Attorney-General is going to deal with this Bill again, I would very much like to hear his views upon this matter, because it is very important that this principle should be carefully considered and certainly not extended to foreign countries.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
I rise for the purpose of joining with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Walthamstow (Sir H. Greenwood) in his regret that Clause 13 of this Bill has been withdrawn instead of being retained, enlarged and extended. There have been days when we have been extremely fortunate—indeed, I think we have been extremely fortunate all along—in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but, at the same time, everybody who is familiar with the administration of justice in this Empire, knows that for some time now there has been very considerable dissatisfaction in our Overseas Dominions as to the manning of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council at the present time. It is quite true that within comparatively recent times there has been a certain amount of strengthening of the Judicial Committee, but, taking it right through, there is no doubt 830 that there is considerable feeling and considerable desire in the Overseas Dominions that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should be more representative of distinguished judicial opinion throughout the Empire.
When one is dealing with that I think one may be very dissatisfied indeed to see the principle upon which Clause 13 was based. I do not think it is worthy of a great Empire such as ours that those distinguished Judges who are appointed from overseas should be paid otherwise than by the Imperial Government. It is not in accordance with the dignity of our Empire that we should be seeking to man the greatest Court of Appeal in our Empire at the expense of our overseas Dominions; and as this Clause is apparently about to me withdrawn, I do hope that the Government will give it their attention rather in the direction of expanding it, so that it may provide an opportunity of appointing distinguished jurists from Australia, from South Africa, from Canada and (from other parts of the Dominions, so that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council may be recognised as a great Imperial Tribunal representative of the greatest and most distinguished Judges of the whole of the Empire, and that it will be done at the expense of the Imperial Government, and that we shall not seek to put any part of the expense upon our overseas Dominions.
I cannot help making one reference 10 the speech which was delivered by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), who seemed to think that you can judge the economics of these matters in the extraordinarily small way in which he discussed them. One can only say that if his remarks expressed the attitude of his party to what should be the most distinguished judicial tribunal of this Empire, then that is an attitude entirely unworthy of the representatives of any party in this House, and I venture to say that if the same parallels which he attempted to use with regard to the Imperial judiciary were used with regard to positions in trade unions, there would be very few trade union leaders. No one knows that better than the right hon. and hon. Members who sit upon the benches opposite.
I pass from that, because when you are dealing with a matter such as the 831 provision of an adequate Court of Appeal for this Empire, you have to consider matters other than mere finance. You have to consider the provision of a Tribunal to which the whole Empire will look with confidence. You can, in my opinion, provide that Tribunal only if you make it a rule to draw to that Tribunal the best men of the judiciary of the whole Empire; and if you do that it will be a Tribunal to which the whole Empire will look and to whose decisions the Empire will bow with confidence.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
The Bill which is now before us contains some matters which, I think, are, or might be, the subject of dispute, and some which are not. As regards the most contentious matters, Clauses 13 and 14, which deal with the constitution of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, I understand that those Clauses are not going to be proceeded with.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
In those circumstances, I do not say that it is a waste of time, but it seems to me that it is not very profitable, to discuss a Clause which we already know is never going to be law. Therefore, whether it be wise or unwise to leave that Clause out of the Bill, I do not think it is very much good discussing how a Clause may be improved which very soon will not exist at all. I cannot help, however, pointing out to the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord)—although in his utterances he is not very pleasant to some of my friends behind me—that if he loves this Clause, his criticism should be directed to the Attorney-General who has withdrawn it. We are not responsible for the withdrawal of this Clause but the Government are, and both he and the right hon. Member for East Walthamstow (Sir H. Greenwood), if they have a quarrel about the withdrawal of the Clause, have it with the Government.
I wish to call the attention of the Attorney-General, however, to a number of matters which, I submit, might very well have found their way into the parts of this Bill which deal generally with law reform. There is a particular matter of most urgent importance to those of us 832 who sit on this side of the House, and who are interested particularly in the extension of State undertakings. I refer to the right of the subject to bring proceedings against the Crown. We have had a Committee sitting for many years on the question of proceedings against the Crown. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General—to mention an important Member of the Committee—I myself—to mention one of the less important Members—and persons more important than either of us, such as the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, have devoted a great deal of time to the consideration of that matter. The Committee was appointed originally in 1921, and six years later, in 1927, a very complete Measure, drawn by Sir Thomas Willes Chitty and Sir Graham Harrison, was embodied in the report of that Committee. It would have dealt with these matters in what, I think, the whole Committee agreed would have been a very satisfactory manner. The House must know that at the present time it is still not possible to sue the Crown or any Government Department except by going through a very cumbrous and archaic procedure known as the Petition of Right, and when we are dealing, as we are to-day, with so many ordinary contracts made by Government Departments with subjects of various kinds, or, for the matter of that, with claims by workmen who work for Government Departments for wages, then there is no reason whatever why a subject in suing on a contract or an agreement with the Crown should not be put in precisely the same position as if he were suing another subject. That Committee which I have mentioned recommended in substance that the old and archaic procedure of the Petition of Bight should be swept away, and that the Crown should be amenable to exactly the same proceedings as a subject is.
Then it dealt also with the question of costs. I will not weary the House with details of the way in which the Crown can escape liability for costs. It was recommended that the Crown should be placed substantially in the same position as the subject in this matter. It is almost impossible, when the subject sues the Crown, for him to get access to those documents which are material to the case. While safeguarding those papers which have to be made confidential in the interests 833 of the State, the Committee proposed a scheme whereby when any person sues the Crown under ordinary contract, the subject should be in exactly the same position as against the Crown as he is when he is suing any other person. The whole of that report is omitted from this Measure; the whole Report has been ignored. Surely, when persons as eminent as the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Bolls and Law Officers and ex-Law Officers and many other eminent persons, have given time and consideration to solving these problems, the Government should not ignore their recommendations.
The same observations are true of a Report which resulted from a Committee presided over by Mr. Justice MacKinnon on the subject of arbitration. That Report was made in 1927, and it recommended important alterations in the law relating to arbitration, that arbitration should be more expeditious and that the arbitrator should be compelled to publish his award within a reasonable time; and it dealt generally with deficiencies in arbitration. That Committee included the present Solicitor-General. There is no mention of the work of that Committee in this Bill. I think it is a pity that law reform should lag behind in this way, and it is not encouraging to those eminent persons who give their time in proposing reforms of the law that, when we are presented with this Bill, there is no recognition of the work that they have done.
I come to a third point. I am profoundly disappointed that a proposal which, I understood, was to be embodied in this Bill, and which was certainly adumbrated by the late Lord Chancellor Lord Cave has disappeared—a proposal which would have done away with the necessity for coming to this House from time to time for a Resolution to appoint new Judges. I think that proposal was originally made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). If he were here, I think he would agree that the present practice is very undesirable. It means that, when the Judges fall below a certain number, and it is necessary to increase their number, Resolutions have to be put down in this House and long desultory discussions on judicial subjects 834 are carried on by Members some of whom are informed and some who are not informed. That matter is not dealt with here. A proposal was made that the number of Judges should be fixed at a certain definite number without going through the form of a Resolution in Parliament, but that has not been dealt with in this Bill. I hope next year we shall have another Administration of Justice Bill which will recognise some of these matters.
I think the matters which are in this Bill are useful and valuable, and I support the Bill. My only criticism is that so many other matters have been left out. I do not want to speak about the question of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I think the best thing is that the whole matter should be taken back and reconsidered, and possibly some agreement may be arrived at between the parties. In regard to Clause 16. As I understand it, the object of the Clause is to set at rest any doubt on the matter of whether a Dominion or a Colony is a foreign country. Clause 16 treats the Dominions and the Colonies for the purpose of recovery of these debts as an integral part of the British Empire and not as foreign countries, and from that point of view the Clause seems to me to be unobjectionable and useful. Finally I would point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) that the provisions dealing with the Clerks in the Probate Registry seemed to me to be identical with the provisions for which the Labour Government were responsible in the County Courts Act of 1924. I cannot lend myself, therefore, to the view that proposals for which I was myself partly responsible are incorrect. I think this Clause improves distinctly the position of the Clerks in the Registries and makes them more secure. There is only one other matter to which I would wish to refer. I do not think that anybody else has referred to the fact that practically the whole of this Bill is the work of the late Lord Chancellor, Lord Cave. Lord Cave during his term of office nearly every year did something to improve our legal system. I think we ought to recognise that almost the last thing which the late Lord Chancellor did was to draw up this particular Measure, and I think that ought to be recognised.
§ Sir MALCOLM MACNAGHTEN
I rise to express my regret that the Government have intimated that they do not intend to proceed with that part of the Bill dealing with the Judcial Committee of the Privy Council. This makes the third year in which the Government have dropped this proposal. I am sure if hon. Members fully realised what the tribunal known as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is they would allow this proposal to go through without any delay. The Judcial Committee of the Privy Council is a tribunal which may be regarded as the greatest tribunal the world has ever seen. Whether you regard it from the point of view of the area over which it exercises jurisdiction, or the population which is subject to its jurisdiction, there has never been a tribunal like it in the whole world. It is a tribunal which has done more for the benefit of the Empire than any other body in the Empire.
Having got this wonderful tribunal which has done such great service to the Empire, this country has treated it in a scandalous way. It is housed in a room which really is unsuitable for even a county court. At the present moment there is an appeal from India being conducted before this tribunal in which a large number of persons are concerned, and I am sure that the size of the room in which these proceedings are taking place is somewhat less than the Black Hole of Calcutta, and the atmosphere is quite as bad as when that place was occupied by the prisoners. If what I have described is the nature of the tribunal surely this country can afford to provide an adequate staff of Judges, because the importance of this tribunal is beyond all question. Here we have a modest proposal to add two more Judges, and because the Opposition has objected the Government have consented to withdraw their proposal. I trust that for the benefit of the country and for the sake of the Empire the Government will reconsider that decision.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
The Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) devoted a considerable portion of his remarks to matters which are not in the Bill and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir M. Macnaghten) has devoted the whole of his remarks to something that is going to be struck out 836 of the Bill. I wish to say a word or two with reference to the Clauses which are to be taken out of the Bill. I should like to congratulate the Attorney-General on the fact that they are to be dropped, and I think it is a pity that they were ever included in the Bill. In a Bill of miscellaneous provisions, dealing with all sorts of matters, some small and some great, in our courts at home, I do not think that provisions for altering the constitution of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should have been included.
I should much prefer to see a separate Bill brought in to deal with the whole question of the constitution of the Judicial Committee. As we know, the work that is thrown upon that great tribunal to-day is more than it can manage. Additions will have to be made to it, and like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Walthamstow (Sir H. Greenwood), I should not like to see the area of choice limited. We have to remember that the area over which that tribunal exercises jurisdiction is far wider than India, though as a matter of fact a large proportion of the work that is dealt with by the Judges in the Privy Council does come from India. At the same time, however, it comes from the Dominions overseas, and from our Colonies and Dependencies in East and West Africa and, indeed, all over the world. Therefore, when we are considering the improvement of the constitution of that tribunal, I think we should deal with it in a Bill by itself. It is a matter which requires the undivided attention of this House, and, when such a Bill is brought before the House, I hope that no limitation will be introduced into it to restrict in any way the area of choice of the Judges who will sit upon it.
§ Mr. PILCHER
The announcement made by the Attorney-General of the withdrawal of Part III of this Bill has been such a blow to those of us who know anything about the Indian end of this Privy Council work that I feel that I cannot forbear to add my appeal to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Walthamstow (Sir H. Greenwood) and others, that this Clause should be put back if that be by any means possible. I have several distinct reasons for desiring that this proposal should go 837 through at the earliest possible moment. The first is the fact that this proposal, as my right hon. Friend probably well knows, is only one-half of a very important compromise which was arrived at with very great difficulty by one of the most distinguished of the line of Viceroys who have ruled over India during the past 40 or 50 years. This proposal was Lord Reading's own proposal, arrived at in 1924 as a result of consultation with the Secretary of State for India. It was based on Lord Heading's knowledge both of the state of affairs in India and of the congestion prevailing here in the Privy Council in regard to Indian appeals.
The matter is urgent for this reason, that the state of affairs which made it possible for Lord Reading to arrive at that compromise is rapidly passing away. We are now in the penultimate Session of this Parliament. There can be but one more Session, and it must be a very crowded one; and when we come back—if we do come back—in the new Parliament, there will be a very different state of affairs prevailing in India. The very basis of this compromise will have to be re-created, if, indeed, that be possible, in India, and I very much doubt whether, in the new order, it will be possible again to arrive at such an arrangement as this. Over and above the fact that this is the result of a very difficult compromise, arranged by a Viceroy with unique authority in India, who enjoyed the unique confidence of Indians, I would plead that the present state of affairs does certain extremely grave injustices to India, injustices which we cannot afford, as Britishers, to allow to be perpetuated, and which we ought to remove as soon as we possibly can.
The first and most obvious, is the injustice done to Indian litigants, who come here in ever-growing numbers. Twenty or 30 years ago the number of appeals coming home from India was 25 or 30, but in the five years following the War the number rose to, I think, over 90, and I should not be at all surprised to hear that it is even higher at the present moment. The gravamen of the case from this end lies in the fact that appeals from India constitute 75 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the appeals coming from all over 838 the Empire to the Privy Council. There is the most appalling congestion. The Judicial Committee has itself descanted many times on the gravity of that congestion, and, surely, it is the duty of those in this country who value the tremendous position of the Privy Council, and realise what a great cement of Empire it is, to prevent the deterioration of the prestige of that great body.
Over and above the injustice done to Indian opinion by the present congestion, there is another injustice which will appeal to hon. Members on the Labour Benches One of the objects of Part III is precisely that to which one hon. Member has made allusion. It was desired to give Indian barristers, Judges and even pleaders a chance of coming home to the highest tribunal of the Empire. Even to-night we have had opposition to this part, based on the fact that the salary offered is higher than it ought to be. How do my hon. Friends imagine that a lawyer of great prestige in India, who must have been a Judge of one of the High Courts of India, will accept less than the salary mentioned? We live in a world of realities. The first thing is to do justice to Indian litigants and, as things are now, you certainly cannot get a competent Judge for less than the salary mentioned in Part III of this Bill. It is quite a common thing for a brief to be marked at 500 guineas. There is a rumour that in a great case now going on across the road, which will last till August, there are no fewer than eight silks engaged. In a single case the earnings of these distinguished men will run into the amount mentioned here. [Interruption.] We are not discussing whether it is a disgrace or not. We are discussing the congestion in regard to Indian litigation and whether we can give the Indian litigant the justice he is accustomed to associate with the British name and the British occupation of India. I should like to enforce my right hon. Friend's plea. I am certain that for the sake of our good name in India it is essential that this congestion should be corrected. We have now a unique opportunity created by Lord Reading. It is very doubtful whether we shall ever see this opportunity again, and I appeal to the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister to see that it is not lost.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I see there is mention of the Court of Session. Will the Attorney-General explain the exact relationship of the Clause to the law in Scotland, and what effect, if any, it has? Then there is the provision that a clerk shall be removable by the President of the Probate Division. Does than mean that he can be removed in the case of misdemeanour, and what are his exact rights if he is removed? Has he no opportunity such as any other civil servant has on his dismissal to request that his case be raised in this House? I would like to raise a small point in regard to Clause 19. I do not exactly know what is the new alteration of the law when it says:Section one hundred and fifty-four of the County Courts Act, 1888 (which regulates the sale of goods taken in execution), shall be amended by inserting therein after the words 'put in possession by the bailiff' the words 'or may be safeguarded in such other manner as the high bailiff directs.'I should be doing an injustice to the Government if I replied to the speech of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) who introduced matters far outside the scope of the Measure. I know perfectly well that I could follow him, but I have no desire to harass the Government. I want to say on the general issue that we have here the question of the appointment of a Judge who, it is suggested, should get £2,000 a year from this country and £2,000 from India. Some of us cannot understand the attitude of mind of Conservative Members who come here and object to adequate wages being paid to the miners, and yet will vote in favour of a salary of £4,000 a year to a Judge. Some of us think that the unemployed miners are as intelligent as a Judge, and that a miner is more necessary than a Judge. I congratulate the Attorney-General in dropping Clause 13. If he had not dropped Clause 13 he would not have got the Bill. We should have opposed it, but like a wise man, he swallowed the compromise. If you are going to deal with this important object, you should not deal with in a Bill relating to district probate registries. It is a big subject. If we are to have the whole question of Indian justice raised let us have it on a separate issue. Let us have it on a Bill definitely drawn up and properly thrashed out in this House. 840 I think that this Bill, with the omission of Clause 13, will bring about an improvement in the Courts of Justice, and, therefor, I do not intend to oppose it. I hope, however, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will answer these three questions, namely, in regard to Clause 3 and the question of an appeal by clerks who are dismissed, the point about Clause 16, and also the point about Clause 19 in their relation to the law of Scotland?
§ Mr. PALING
I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), have no desire to harass the Government. I was interested in the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoore (Mr. Batey), and also interested and rather amused at the superior attitude adopted by the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord). He referred to the comments made by the hon. Member for Spennymoor in regard to the compensation and gratuities to be paid under this Bill, and accused him of judging the economics of this matter in a small way. We have nothing to criticise in regard to the major portion of the Bill but, surely, when there are one or two matters to which we desire to call attention that is no reason for the attitude adopted by the hon. and learned Member for Norwood. If we want information we have a right to it, whether on a small matter or a big matter, and I resent the superiority of tone adopted by the hon. and learned Member for Norwood, in making such a suggestion. I should like to ask the Attorney-General a few questions in regard to the Financial Memorandum and paragraphs (a) and (b) with respect to registrars. Paragraph (a) says:If they are pensionable a special lumpsum addition to their normal compensation allowanceswill be paid. Paragraph (b) provides that:If they are unpensionable special retiring gratuities not exceeding twice the amount of their respective annual salarieswill be paid. Can the Attorney-General give us any idea what these amounts are, what the total will be and how many people will benefit? I should also like to draw attention to the paragraph relating to clerks, which states:Under Clause 4 of the Bill those existing clerks who are too old to be made established Civil Servants will be called upon 841 to retire at ages varying from 65 to 70. In the case of clerks so retired it is proposed to increase the gratuities normally payable by an amount not exceeding 100 per cent.…I should like to know the amount that will be paid in these cases. We have no objection to these pensions being paid, at least I have no objection. I have no objection to people receiving these gratuities and I have no objection to Judges being paid a decent salary and getting a reasonable pension, when they have done their work; but I would point out that there seems to be in the minds of hon. Members opposite the idea that, because these people are in this particular kind of service, they have an established right to a gratuity or to two years' salary if they lose their job, because I suppose they have created some goodwill, and that they have a right to pensions. I do not particularly disagree with that, but I wish we could succeed in bringing into the intelligences of hon. Members opposite that these rights ought to belong to all people, including miners.
What we complain about is that hon. Members opposite will make these distinctions. Of course Judges must be well paid and they must have a good pension, and hon. Members opposite will vote to the last letter in order to ensure that; but when it comes to the miner, the railwayman or any man who works with his hands, then in regard to every penny that he wants for pension, even when he contributes towards it, hon. Members opposite take up an entirely opposite point of view and fight tooth and nail against it. That is what we resent, and that is why we take this opportunity of pointing out the difference in treatment. It may be that these highly placed men are worth £4,000 or £2,000. It may be that they are worth more money than a miner, which may be because they have a better trade union, but I wish hon. Members would adopt that same attitude when they come to consider questions affecting miners and working men generally. That is our bone of contention with hon. Members opposite. That is why we do not apologise for having raised this question to-night. We shall raise it on every available issue, in order to point out to the Government and to the people of the country the distinction which the Government makes between 842 people in one class of society and people in another class.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I will try to reply shortly to all the points which have been raised. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) raised questions which have also been alluded to by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) in connection with the retiring allowances or gratuities to be paid to the registrars and clerks. It will be understood that the reduced number of registrars from 40 to 11 has been done in part under the 1925 Act, and will now be completed by this Bill. But you must provide for some inducement in order to facilitate and hasten the retirement of officers who are now to be superannuated. Some of the registrars are, and some of the clerks will become established civil servants entitled as such under the Superannuation Acts to pensions. This Bill proposes to grant special gratuities, that is to say, a gratuity in each case, not a repeated gratuity but a single gratuity, calculated in some cases at twice the salary being paid at the moment of retirement. The hon. Member for Doneaster asked me if I could give the figures. I am afraid, as the salaries vary, that I cannot give him the figures, but I am sure he will take it from me that the clerks have for the most part been underpaid, and the gratuities which they will receive, if they elect to retire, will be of a comparatively modest nature, and I do not think will shock the feelings of anyone. I cannot give details farther than that; their salaries vary I suppose between £200, £300 and £400 a year.
I was asked a question also as to the Clause which provides that they shall become members of the Civil Service, and rather a dark suggestion was made that this was part of a plot on the part of the Government to impose the conditions of the Trade Unions Act upon them. If the Government is a plotter their fellow conspirators are the persons concerned, because they have been applying with great insistence for the privilege of becoming civil servants, and this Bill proposes to concede them a privilege which they have long coveted and in consequence of which they will now become entitled to pensions, which are really deferred pay, under the Superannuation Acts. Nobody need be established as a 843 civil servant who does not desire to be established, and if he does not desire to be, he will forfeit the privileges associated with that condition. The hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) dealt with a number of matters some of which are in the Bill and some are not. I may say, generally, that it illustrates in one moment the difficulty of passing a Bill of this sort into law and the necessity for the Bill.
There are so many matters which require to be dealt with that, obviously, I should not be able to induce the House to assent to the passing of this Bill if it was not confined to comparatively modest limits. This Bill, I gather from the criticisms, is about as much as the House is prepared to accept at the present moment. I hope the criticisms of the hon. and learned Member as to some of the matters which are not included will be regarded by the House as a testimonial to our moderation, and if we can induce the House to take a further dose next Session it may be possible to do so. With regard to the proceedings in the case of the Crown, it is conceded that the Committee was by no means in agreement on that matter. It is true a Bill was introduced, but only a Bill on the hypothesis that it was desirable to adopt the proposals in question. That was Lord Haldane's instructions to the Committee. If we had attempted to deal with that matter in this Bill, I am sure we should not be securing its passage in the pleasant and easy way in which I now hope to do.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I did not suggest that this Bill should deal with all those points. What I asked the hon. and learned Gentleman was whether he could give us any hope that any part of the report of that committee is likely to be introduced in the near future.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I cannot say that it is likely to be introduced in this Session, and it may be desirable, as the last Committee was directed by Lord Haldane not to consider the merits of the proposals, still to have them examined on their merits. At any rate, it was not possible to put the reform into this Bill. The hon. Member asked a question about the arbitration law. Mr. Justice MacKinnon presided over a committee which, similarly, made a report 844 on those proposals, but that also is a subject which could not find a place in this Bill without overloading the Bill and taking the matter out of the Measure which would be the proper one to deal with it. As regards the question of the increase of Judges, again that is a matter which would have to be dealt with on another occasion. Perhaps it will be desirable that it should be dealt with, if hon. Members opposite agree, and I am sure I should be only too glad to join with them. Some observations have been made upon the question of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. My references to it will be quite short, as the proposals originally in the Bill have been dropped. The mere fact that some hon. Members have considered that the provision proposed was inadequate while others think that it went too far, illustrates possibly the wisdom of those who desire to get the Bill through, in dropping these provisions.
We shall take advantage of the advice which we have had from all quarters as to the proper way in which to frame a Bill to deal with the Privy Council, and when a suitable opportunity arises we may perhaps secure provisions better designed to promote the efficiency of that great tribunal. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) asked about the powers of the Court of Session in regard to revenue cases. They are exactly the same as the powers of the High Court of Justice. The Court of Session gives decisions on revenue cases in respect of persons domiciled in the hon. Member's country. He also asked about "walking possession" which is dealt with in Claus 19 of the Bill. That is a very interesting subject which would I am sure deserve a speech to itself, but it is sufficient to say that for 50 years or more there has been the practice known as walking possession. When a bailiff is put into a house it is very inconvenient that he should live in the kitchen and get in the way of the housewife, and so it has been the custom to give him what is called walking possession. That is to say, he goes in and takes possession, nominally, and then goes out again, but he is regarded as being in possession although not living in the house. That practice has had no legal warrant but it has proved very convenient to the humble persons who 845 may suffer this inconvenience and we propose to legalise it. That is all Clause 19 does, and I hope that having dealt with these matters the passage of the Bill through its remaining stages may now be secured.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I am sure the hon. Members for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and Doncaster (Mr. Paling) will be delighted with the speech of the Attorney-General who has dotted the i's and crossed the t's of their argument for common justice to all people concerned whatever their occupation. It is right to make provision for these people who may be regarded as rather higher than the miner or the railwayman. They must not be left out in the cold without sustenance. We come to plead for other people who are in exactly the same position. There are 200,000 of them who will never see work again without any provision whatever being made for them. I hope that hon. Members will listen with a quick ear to the arguments that will be put forward from these benches. After all, these people who have been denied are just as human as other people and require to be fed and clothed just as much. I claim for these people the same rights as for others. They have done their best for their country. I trust the Attorney-General will remember that We are pleading for some amelioration and that something may be given to keep these men and women and children alive. They have done their best for the country all through the days from 1914 to 1918, and they made heroes of themselves without having been compelled to go and fight. They went and did it, and they were ordered to come back to make provision for those who were fighting. They are now denied because of the ineptitude of the Government that we have had for the last few years. There is still one ray of hope and that will come in 1929 when you will be compelled to go to the country willy nilly. You have denied us the right to fight in the constituencies, but we will fight in them next year, and your orders will be marching orders if you do not take into consideration the rights of the people who want help.