§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
286 I is so very recently that I commended the Financial Resolution on this matter to the House that I think the House will not wish me to cover again the ground which I covered on that occasion. I then gave full details of the work which was performed by the various persons who were then included in the Resolution and are now included in the Bill, and so I propose, with the permission of the House, merely to give a short resume of what the Bill does, and I hope that the House will not think me discourteous if, beyond that, I feel that I can best serve the purposes of hon. Members by dealing with one or two points that arose in the discussion on the Committee stage of the Resolution.
The Bill consists of five Clauses. The first Clause is designed to raise the salaries of county court judges and of magistrates to a figure of £2,000 a year. That is an effective increase of £350 a year in the case of both county court judges and of magistrates, and I should have said that in the case of the chief magistrate of London there is an increase to a figure of £2,300. The present remuneration, as I explained on the Committee stage, is made up of two elements. There is the statutory salary, and there is a bonus, which has been diminished since the peak period following the War, which is in the case of each of the offices now £150 a year. That bonus has no statutory authority behind it. It has been the subject of challenge by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and whatever else happens I am sure the House will agree that it is no longer satisfactory, especially in the case of judicial offices of this kind, that there should be any liability to challenge in respect of a portion of the salaries of public officials.
Besides the county court judges and chief magistrate and police magistrates in London, it provides for the fixation of the salaries of certain judicial officials in Ireland. Those are set out in the First Schedule. There is the Recorder of Londonderry, the county court judge and chairman of quarter sessions for the counties of Armagh and Fermanagh, and the county court judge and chairman of quarter sessions for the county of Down. No increase is proposed in respect of any of those offices, and I should explain to the House that those are offices for which we retain responsibility until the offices are filled by new holders. Under the Treaty agreement with Ireland we re- 287 tained responsibility for those offices and for those alone, and as they become filled by different occupants we no longer retain that responsibility. That deals with the first Sub-section of Clause 1, which is the Sub-section that provides for increases.
Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 takes the chairman and other members of the Scottish Land Court out of the statutory arrangement under which they are at present paid, and if the House passes the Bill as it stands, they will in future be paid such amounts as may be determined by the Treasury. It is thought that greater flexibility will be obtained in respect to their remuneration than obtains at present, but there is no intention in those cases that there should be any increase. But perhaps I should be wiser, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate is on the Bench and as my position is a little difficult in opening the matter in relation to Scottish offices, if I said that should any point arise as to the Scottish offices, my right hon. and learned Friend will be ready to answer any questions that may be put.
§ The Solicitor-General
As I understand it, it is considered desirable in this case that the remuneration should be in accord with what is necessary in order to get the best available man for the office, and from time to time the Treasury will be able, in consultation with the Scottish Office, to decide what is the proper rate of remuneration, one that will ensure that the best possible occupant is obtained for the office. Of course, it does not follow that that will not mean on some future occasion a revision upwards. I am not saying that for a moment. All that I am saying is that at present, as I understand, the intention is that there should be no alteration in the rate.
As regards Clause 2, that provides in a similar way that certain salaries which at present are fixed by Statute should be in future fixed by non-statutory methods. They are the Commissioners of Crown Lands, other than the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries—they at present, with bonus, enjoy a salary of £1,550—the Lyon King of Arms, who, at present, has a salary of £738 and some shillings, the 288 Secretary to the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, in Scotland, which is an office that has a salary at present varying from £738 to £847, and the Lyon Clerk, who has a salary of £337. The House will probably agree that there is not much of a case for retaining offices with comparatively modest remuneration of this kind subject to statutory fixation. There will be much greater flexibility if the offices can be rewarded at a current rate what is determined in consultation with the Treasury. Under Sub-Section (2) the same applies to the clerks attached to High Court judges. They at present receive a salary of £400 a year, supplemented by the non-statutory bonus, which again is open to serious criticism, bringing their total salary to £515 18s. In future the suggestion is that they should not be paid a statutorily fixed amount, but should be rewarded by such amounts as may be determined by the Lord Chancellor with the concurrence of the Treasury. The third Clause of the Bill is to provide that no existing holders of any of these offices which are taken out of the Statute, the salaries for which can be fixed by the Treasury or by the Lord Chancellor with the concurrence of the Treasury, shall suffer any loss on account of the change which is being made. Those are the substantive provisions of the Bill.
I outlined at such considerable length in the Debate a month ago the grounds upon which the Government felt that the case for revision upwards was imperative, that it would be an impertinence if I repeated myself now. One or two points, however, were raised during that discussion which it might be convenient for me shortly to refer to. I was asked on that occasion whether, in addition to their salaries, the county court judges received any travelling expenses. They are in receipt of travelling expenses and they are of such an amount as the Lord Chancellor allows in each case as reasonable for the purpose with the approval of the Treasury. When a judge has only one court he is expected to go from his home to that court at his own expense like a civil servant or a High Court judge, and he gets no allowance. If he has more than one court, which is the usual case, one of his courts is taken as his hypothetical centre and he gets no allowance for that court, but gets a travelling allowance when he has to move from place to 289 place. The circumstances taken into account in calculating the allowance are the number of his sittings at each place on the circuit, the number of miles he has to travel to get there, and the question whether it is reasonable for him to spend a night away from his headquarters. The amounts vary considerably and there is no actual scale. It would obviously be impossible to fix a scale which would cover, for example, a judge on a London circuit who had to move from somewhere in the East End to somewhere a little out in the country, and a judge who had to travel long distances to attend his courts.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is there not a case for a scale similar to that applied to the higher civil servants?
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that strictly this question does not come within the Bill. I am now giving details in answer to questions which were raised on the administrative procedure which is applicable to judges. There must be a difference between a general rate applicable to civil servants and a rate which is applicable to a wholly variable arrangement such as exists, for instance, between South Wales and London or between Durham and Devon. Probably greater economy and efficiency result from a flexible arrangement of the kind which is in fact administered. The allowances are intended to cover the actual and necessary expenses of travelling from the judge's centre, and no more. As it is an allowance and not a reimbursement, a judge does not have to keep an account of his expenses or justify his claim. I was asked about pensions. These are fixed by the County Court Act, 1934, as a proportion not exceeding two-thirds of the salary. The practice has been for the bonus to be incorporated in the salary in considering what the pension was—again a matter which is possibly open to some doubt. The result of that has been that the maximum existing pension, including the bonus, is about £1,100. Under the Bill the maximum pension will be two-thirds of the salary.
I was asked about the number of county court judges. One matter which I emphasised was that in spite of the vastly increased burden of work that fell now upon the county courts, the number 290 of judges had not increased substantially. I can now assure the House that that is the fact. The number since 1865 has varied between 60 and 55. Until the first of last month the number had remained 56. There were 55 in 1916, so that the number has remained static while the work, beyond all question, has increased out of all recognition. With regard to the police magistrates the Chief Magistrate has always enjoyed a slightly higher salary than the rest of his colleagues. He has certain extra duties. He presides at the quarterly meeting of the Metropolitan magistrates. He is the channel of communication between the Secretary of State and the whole body of magistrates. He is responsible to the Secretary of State for the general administration of the courts, and usually, except in some exceptional cases, he deals with extradition cases which have to be heard at his court at Bow Street. Among his less unpleasant duties is to hold a court once a year at Ascot during the race meeting, when he sits with other justices of the peace for Berkshire. That is not one of the duties which he regards as more onerous or as justifying the differentiation which exists between his salary and that of his colleagues. I think that he is more likely to lose something on account of that particular week.
I was asked about the number of magistrates. There are 27, including the Chief Magistrate. As regards attendance, it is a condition of their appointment that they shall sit if required on five days a week, but as a matter of established practice they may be called on to sit for six. They have not in recent years had to sit on so many days as either of those figures, and actually sittings have averaged about three days a week a magistrate.
§ The Solicitor-General
I think that they would be very pleased to have a 40-hour week, as indeed would anybody who is engaged in the administration of justice.
§ The Solicitor-General
That would involve questions of the spread-over which I am not anxious to embark on at this moment.
§ The Solicitor-General
And some very much more. I do not think that those who have even a passing acquaintance with the work of the magistrates in London, with short holidays and work which extends far beyond the ambit of their court, will doubt that they work extremely hard and are continuously occupied in the duties of their office. The area from which the Home Secretary has to draw his magistrates is, roughly speaking, the same area as that to which the Lord Chancellor has to go for his county court judges, and from almost time immemorial the salaries have been the same, and it would render the filling of these increasingly important offices difficult if an alteration were made now in the ratio between the two. It may be interesting to the House to know how London compares with some of the provincial cities, and not least with those cities represented by hon. Gentlemen who do not share the opinions of those who sit on this side of the House. The stipendiary magistrate at Bradford receives £1,500; at Kingston-on-Hull £1,500; at Leeds £1,705; Ponty-pridd £1,500; Wolverhampton £1,600, and Swansea £1,500. I hope that I shall not offend the susceptibilities of anybody if I said that the duties of the Metropolitan magistrates are not less important than those of the provincial magistrates, the salaries of which are fixed by the local authorities.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
In addition to being fixed are they supplemented by rates from the local authorities or by the Treasury?
§ The Solicitor-General
These, I think I am right in saying, are entirely a matter for the local authorities. I am extremely ill qualified to make any observations upon the Scottish Office, which occasioned some comment last time, and I only venture to do so because I see that a distinguished representative of a Scottish seat has a Motion down for the rejection of the Bill. I hope that he will address any observations on this matter to the Lord Advocate, who will be prepared much more efficiently than I can do to deal with any point he raises. The question of the Lyon King of Arms was mentioned on the last occasion. I feel, there fore, that I ought to say that that office is of great antiquity. Let us retain a sense of proportion in this matter. I would remind the Committee that the 292 salary we are considering is £738 its. a year. He was a prominent figure in the Coronation of Robert II in 1371. He is supreme in all matters of heraldry in Scotland. He is assisted by three heralds, Albany, Ross, and Rothesay, and three pursuivants. He has had his salary taken out of the statutory list and included in the administrative list. His duties include the grant of patents of arms, and various other matters which will not interest hon. Members, or, if they do, perhaps they would address their remarks to the Lord Advocate. I hope the Lyon King of Arms will not think me contemptuous of his historic position and undoubted importance if I remind the House that all the Bill does is to remove him from the statutory list.
§ The Solicitor-General
He is removed from the statutory list and his salary will in future be such a sum as is determined by the Treasury. Whatever view is taken by Members opposite of this gentleman, that is probably the most appropriate way in which his functions can be adequately and suitably remunerated. I have, therefore, outlined to the House once again—I hope without undue repetition—what the Bill does. I gave in much greater detail on the Financial Resolution the case for the increases, and I hope that with that explanation we may now have a Second Reading of the Bill for which we have been anxiously waiting since November.
§ 9.33 P.m.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "upon this day six months."
I am one of those who believe that the foundations of democracy mean that we must have justice easily procurable, speedy, cheap and impartially administered. If this Bill contributed in any way to these desirable ends, I should not be found here opposing it. Nor would I say—nor would any of my hon. Friends behind me say—that county court business mostly affecting the working classes should be handled by the duds of the legal profession. We want in the county courts and in the sheriff courts the best and not the worst members of the legal profession. When we 293 come to this Bill, which the Solicitor-General has explained for the second time with great persuasiveness and a growing facility for skating over thin ice, we come to rather different conclusions from those at which he has arrived. Clause 1 provides in effect that some 56 gentlemen shall have an increase of £350 per annum in their salaries, and an increase of somewhere about £233 per annum in their superannuation or pensions. I take it that in the view of the Government they are the most needy section of the population. They pick and choose, and since there must be priority they choose the judges in the county courts, and others to whom I shall refer later, for the earliest distribution of the largesse which the Treasury can provide.
The Solicitor-General talked about the hard work, the long and arduous hours of toil, which the Metropolitan magistrates had to give for their salaries, but the House will observe that he did not say one word about the long and arduous hours of toil of county court judges; and, indeed, it was pointed out during the discussion of the Financial Resolution that there were numbers of county court judges who were not called upon to sit for more than three days a week. Some have to sit, possibly, for four days a week, and some for five, and it may be that on occasions some have to sit for six, but there are numbers who do not normally sit for more than three days, and we are assured by members of the legal profession that those three days mean four hours a day. So we reach a condition of affairs in which there is no needs test applied to this increase of salary, and certainly no work test, because those who are working the six days per week are getting the same increase in remuneration as those who sit normally for only three days.
I gather that these judges in the county courts must be banisters of seven years' standing. They are nominated by the Lord Chancellor, who must be satisfied as to their state of health, though I read nothing about their competency, and we do know that in the past men have been appointed to these positions as a political preferment, for services rendered to the political party then in office. They may have addressed a few election meetings or rendered other political services to the party, and for those services they have 294 achieved the position of a county court judge. There is also a belief in the legal profession that the old school tie is a great recommendation. Further, there are no appointments for those who are below the Bar. I believe I am right in saying that in England no solicitors have been appointed county court judges, though I believe there are instances in Scotland of solicitors being appointed as sheriff substitute. The result is that in England there is a privileged section of the legal profession enjoying the right to be nominated to county court judgeships. When the Financial Resolution was under discussion we were assured upon all hands that unless an increase in salary was granted we should have great difficulty in getting the best men for these jobs. The weekly organ called "Truth" is not normally a supporter of the Members on these benches.
§ Mr. Johnston
Slogan, yes. In its issue of 24th February it provides a column of scathing comments on some of the statements made by the Solicitor-General and by the supporters of this Measure during the discussion on the Financial Resolution. I do not say that I agree with everything that is in that article, but there are certain comments which are apparently made by someone who is au fait with the legal position in England. Referring to the Solicitor-General's statement that county court judges make less money than banisters, and that the quality of our judges may deteriorate owing to the inadequacy of the pay, he says that it is simply a misstatement of fact. The article goes on to say that nowadays the number of men in the Temple who regularly earn £1,650, after allowing for expenses and bad debts, is very small indeed, and that hundreds of men, including K.Cs., are only too anxious to get any judicial appointment. The article goes on to say that anyone who really tried to find good county court judges would have no trouble in doing so, and winds up:In almost all county courts one is struck with the shortness of the judge's list, and to compare the work of a judge nowadays with what went on about 55 or more years ago, when some courts sat till eight in the evening, is simply laughable.295 During the discussion on the Financial Resolution we were told by a legal gentleman on the benches opposite that some of the county court judges in England earned fees for the State upon an extravagant scale, that one of the courts raked in £30,000 per annum from litigants, another court raked in £10,000 and another £12,000. I see the Lord Advocate here; perhaps he will be able to tell me whether my figures on this point are wrong. I believe it is the case that in the small debt court in Scotland the average cost to a litigant for a £20 case is about 9s. 4d., but in an English court the cost amounts to 46s. In Scotland, for the ordinary proceedings in the sheriff court, for £100 cases and more, the cost to litigants is an average of 15s., but in England the ordinary proceedings in the county courts cost the average litigant £100 per case. If any changes have to be made in the legal administration of this country, and in the county courts at that, surely the first change should be to eliminate these scandalous charges upon litigants who come before the courts. Instead of that, we find the Government leaving the scandals and anomalies untouched and coming forward simply with proposals to select a class of man who is already enjoying £1,650 per annum for, as has been shown, three days work per week, and increasing these men's salaries automatically to £2,000 per annum.
I come to Sub-section (2) which the Solicitor-General commended with one word—the beautiful word "flexibility." He was asked precisely what he meant by that word. What does flexibility really mean here? Whereas now the men covered in this Clause have their salaries fixed at present by Statute, under the control of this House and open to challenge here, it is now proposed that some indeterminate body called the Treasury shall fix the salary. If you please, they may fix the salary on an ever-ascending scale. The salaries may be fixed by the Treasury, not at £1,650 or £2,000 per annum; they may fix them at £3,000, £4,000, or anything which the Treasury chooses. The Solicitor-General was candid enough in the course of the Debate on the Financial Resolution to admit that that was possible. The Land Court judges presently draw £1,360 19s. per annum. The chairman draws £1,950 per annum. Those salaries have been 296 fixed by Statute apart altogether from any question of promotion, which has been challenged by the auditors, as the learned Solicitor-General knows. It is now proposed to ensure for the future that Parliament shall have nothing whatever to do with the fixing of those salaries, but that the salaries shall be fixed without any stated limit by the Treasury.
Clause 2 deals with the Lord Lyon King of Arms. Again, the Treasury may fix any upward limit they like for the Lord Lyon's salary. His salary is now £738 per annum. In future it is to be anything upwards that the Treasury like. The Lord Lyon King of Arms is a very amiable and learned old gentleman with a great knowledge of ecclesiastical history. His services might be more fruitfully used in the Record Office. I see the Lord Advocate smiling at that, but I do most earnestly hope that he will agree with me that Sir Francis Grant's knowledge and services might be more fruitfully used by the State in the Record Office at Edinburgh than in bolstering up these feudal survivals and this mediaeval nonsense which the Solicitor-General could hardly expound to-night without being amused.
There was a time in this House when all parties united to get rid of the Keeper of Green Wax at the Exchequer. Here we have a Knight of the Thistle. Being a Knight of the Thistle he is entitled to take precedence in all public ceremonials over masters in lunacy. He is Carrick Pursuivant of Arms, whatever that means. I hope to hear the Lord Advocate expounding this at some length. Will the Lord Advocate tell us what Sir Francis Grant does when he is the Rothe-say Herald? [Interruption.] I do not know whether it is a daily, a weekly or a monthly. Why should not this post be pensioned off? Why should the thing not be scrapped? Why should not this old gentleman be put where he can be of benefit to the nation? Why should we continue this post? Why should we have anybody being paid a salary, with a potential increase, away from the control of this House so that he may teach somebody how to waddle backwards out of the Presence on proper occasions?
The Solicitor-General did not tell us what the Commissioners of Crown Lands get by way of salary. He told us to-night, although he did not tell us on the Financial Resolution, what the Registrar- 297 General of Births, Deaths and Marriages costs. I could not find it in "Whitaker's Almanack."
§ Mr. Johnston
I said that the right hon. Gentleman did not tell us on the Financial Resolution but he told us to-night. I certainly searched in vain in "Whitaker's Almanack." This group of salaries is taken away from the control of the House, although they have been fixed by this House. Henceforth they are to be raised quietly, privately and surreptitiously by the Treasury. They may be raised to very much higher figures than they are now.
The Solicitor-General did not tell us, either on the last occasion or to-night, what these Irish gentlemen are getting. We have never heard a word about the salary of the Recorder of Londonderry, or the gentleman in Fermanagh, or the others who are to be kept in their jobs until they die, when the Government of Northern Ireland are either to take over the posts or scrap them. I do not know what they are going to do, but we are binding ourselves here to-night to maintain these gentlemen's salaries at their present level, and we have never been told, either on the Resolution or to-night, what the level of those salaries is. The House is entitled to know. Then there are the judges' clerks. They have £515 18s. now. They started at £400, and received an increase of £115 18s. Many Members in all quarters of the House might reasonably ask why there should be a differentiation between a judge's clerk and a Member of Parliament. The Member of Parliament started at £400. The cost of living goes up, but there is no question of any bonus for him. But the judges' clerks have been scientifically raised to £515 18s., and for the future the Treasury is to fix any further rise that they may get, and there is to be no further direct and obvious control by this House.
Lastly, it is impossible to remove from our minds the impression arising from the Government's treatment of the neediest section of the community. Many of my 298 hon. Friends here are personally acquainted, as I am, with young men who are really forbidden to get married, under the household means test that is being operated by this Government. They cannot save to furnish a house of their own, and I go further and say that this Government, in its housing legislation, prohibits local authorities from finding subsidies to provide houses for these young unmarried couples. Yet precisely the same Government that treats the poor in this fashion is asking the House to raise the salaries of 1,650 men. I repeat what I said at the beginning. I do not want to see the "duds" of the legal profession administering the law in the county courts of this country. The county court is the court frequented by the working classes; it is there that their business is administered and dealt with. I would like to see the best brains in the legal profession on the benches of the county courts. But, if there is to be priority in the raising of status, in the raising of salaries and incomes, I submit that we should give first consideration to the people who have not got two crusts at the end of the week. It is the poorest of the poor, the neediest of the needy, who should be attended to first by this House.
I should hope that the majority of the county court judges themselves would applaud the action of the Government if they took what surplus exists in the Treasury to feed those who are hungry and suffering, and I should imagine that the majority of the judges would cheerfully wait their turn for adequate remuneration. It is true that the only strike, or threat of a strike, that we had against the cuts in the hour of the nation's alleged financial crisis, was from the High Court judges, the £5,000 men; but those of us who happen to know some sheriffs, sheriff substitutes and county court judges, believe that the legal profession is like the average of all the other professions, trades and crafts of this country, and that, if it were, properly put to them, they would agree with us that the prime necessity of legislation in this House is not to raise the £1,650 man, but the men, the women and the children who cannot get enough to eat; and it is because the Government are all wrong in their priority, are all wrong in their vision and angle of outlook, that we object to giving this Bill a Second Reading to-night.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I join with my right hon. Friend who has moved the rejection of this Bill. At the same time, I want to compliment the Solicitor-General on the explanation he has given this evening. On the last occasion I criticised him because he did not seem to have prepared his case with his usual care, but to-night he has been ready to clear up the point that was mentioned on that occasion. It makes the case of the Government, however, all the worse. First of all, he tells us how the expenses of the judges, which are a separate item, are met. We did not know that before, and we desired to find out about it. The second point is that this increase of salaries applies to the pensions also, and therefore we get a rather striking case which proves to us that this matter needs further examination before we agree to pass it.
I would like to mention the figures as I find them, because it is rather difficult to follow the Bill. In Clause 1 we are referred to the First Schedule, and in another Clause we are referred to the Second Schedule. I have tried to find out the annual salaries that have been paid and will be paid in the future after this addition has been made, and I find that, if the Bill is carried, the £2,000 man in one case will get an increase of £230, while the Second Schedule mentions an increase from £1,800 to £2,300 in one case and from £1,500 to £2,000 in the other. But that is hardly a fair summary, because they are actually getting slightly more than the figures in the Second Schedule at the present time. It means, however, that there is an average increase of £350. That is bad enough, but we find that it is also carried on to the pensions as I have already said. A pension of two-thirds of the salary of £2,000 means a pension of £1,333, while in the case of the salary of £2,300 it will mean a pension of £1,532, so that the pension will be increased by £232 per annum. This figure may not appear very large to those who have plenty of money, but it is to people who have hardly enough to live upon and, when we come to examine a Bill of this kind, as watching the public purse, we must have in mind the needs of the people who have to find some of this money.
I have recently had brought before me the position of a widow who had been in 300 receipt of a pension and had had notice from the Minister of Health that her pensions was to cease next week. She will be deprived of it for 10 years. I was asked whether that was possible. Her husband died before the passing of the 1926 Act and she got her pension because her children were under age. She is 45 and she will have to wait 10 years for the renewal of her pension. When we appeal to these people for their votes we say we are trying to improve their conditions and, when they see cases like this of pensions being increased by £232 and their miserable 10s., which is their all, is taken away, they want to know what we did when this was brought before us in the House of Commons. That is why on occasions like this we are anxious to bring to the notice of the House the position of people who are unable to help themselves.
What makes me more bitter is that when we attempt to amend Acts of Parliament the Financial Secretary to the Treasury generally tells us that taxation is so high that they cannot ask for more from the people. But I never hear protests against increases of this kind. They tell us we must have the best men for the job and we have to pay them according to their market value. That appears to me a fallacy. It seems to be entirely wrong that a judge's salary should be measured by the enormous fees that can be earned by prominent counsel. A salary sufficient to give them a decent standard of life for the work they are doing ought to be good enough for judges. Case after case could be brought forward showing the difficulties of the working class compared with men in these positions. We get so many of them that we are bound to lodge our protest. Before long we shall be asked to give £37,000 to another class of people—Cabinet Ministers—and I dare say the same argument will be used, that these are the best men in the land and we have to pay for their services, but I believe there is no dearth of talent ready to fill vacant positions in the Cabinet. I hope we shall lodge an emphatic protest. I am not saying a word against the ability of judges. I have always found that they do their best for litigants, and I believe they are human and have the greatest sympathy for those who come before them. I am thinking only of the many poor people whose rights are never 301 examined by hon. Members opposite, and I feel that I should be lacking in my duty if I did not make my protest.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
As one who can never tell from time to time when I may come before one judge or another, I should not like to say anything disrespectful or to question the intelligence of the judges of the country, but if I said anything in praise of their general intelligence I am afraid I should be participating in the practice of hypocrisy. I want to oppose with all the strength I have this increase of salary. I should like first to say a word about the Lyon King-of-Arms. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnston) mentioned him, and some of the Sassenachs appeared rather amused that such a gentleman should still exist. But there is not only one. There is another Lyon King-of-Arms, or at any rate, a claimant to the post. He happens to be a miner in Cumberland. The occupant of the office is so insecure in his position that he is afraid to challenge the new Napoleon who has come upon the scene. So we have two Lyon Kings-of-Arms in Scotland.
To come back to the judges, I am of opinion that we should not concern ourselves with selecting the best brains in the legal profession. Why should we? There is case after case coming up in the law courts and county courts of London—human cases—of which the legal men do not have the slightest understanding. We ought to have a list of men and women who would go to the courts as they were selected to try the particular cases that are coming up. There are innumerable cases taking place from day to day, and when you read the reports you find that the legal gentlemen sitting on the bench are absolutely callous and cold-blooded. That is not what we want when dealing with people who are in difficulties and trouble, some of whom have their lives dragged out of them by the treatment they receive. Men, and sometimes women and young girls have to go into the courts and suffer this ordeal, and I have seen mothers sitting in court with their hearts breaking while their daughters have been treated in this way. We see all the legal gentlemen sitting there, big wigged and solemn, and there is never 302 anything like human feeling expressed or human aid offered to those who are suffering.
You tell me that you want the best men that you can get, but do not forget that the best men for hon. Gentlemen opposite might be the very worst men for me. I have appeared at Bow Street before one of the leading London magistrates. I had always heard that he was such a very brilliant gentleman; a fine Conservative, in fact. I was there in that court waiting to go to a higher place, always up, and up, and up. When I have gone to prison I have gone round, and round, and round. But on this occasion I was committed and allowed bail, and the bail was fixed at £200. Then a peculiar fellow who makes a somewhat precarious living by writing plays, a fellow of the name of Shaw went bail for me. He had to go into the witness-box and take the oath and testify as to his qualifications for being bail. This intelligent magistrate to whom you pay over £1,000 a year says to Mr. G. B. Shaw, "Mr. Shaw, are you worth £200?" You may imagine the intelligence of a court that asked a question like that. Shaw cocked his head slightly aside and said, "Well, I would not say that, but I have got £200." There was laughter in the court, but no laughter in the face of that intelligent magistrate. In another case there were a number of men before one of the judges, and some of them were sent away for 12 months. The intelligent judge said to the others, "Promise to leave the Communist party, and I will let you off." These are the kind of men the raising of whose salaries we are discussing. Did hon. Members know about that? No! "Promise to leave the Communist party and you will get off." Because they did not promise to leave the Communist party, they all got six months. That happened in the court of one of the best men in the country from the point of view of the legal profession. Of what value are such men for the dispensing of justice or dealing with the multifarious cases that come before the courts?
I should like the House to understand the importance of selecting men and women who have experience in regard to the different matters that are coming before the courts. If anybody in your neighbourhood was suffering from some terrible worry or weakness, or who had 303 committed an offence and was feeling the effects of it, would you not want to aid them and to bring someone to advise, encourage and help them, instead of sticking them into a court in the way that happens to-day? All sorts of cases are stuck into the same court, with the same atmosphere, the same inhuman atmosphere. I wonder whether hon. and right hon. Members have ever given any consideration to what places our courts are. There is no country in the world where the courts have been reduced to such an inhuman character. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Russia?"] Hon. Members may say what they like about Russia and about America, but anyone who has been in the courts there can confirm what I say. What do the correspondents of the London newspapers say with regard to the courts in Moscow? There you will get three or four workers sitting on the bench specially selected to deal with the particular offence before the court. In the big trials there you see the prisoners coming into court smoking cigarettes. There is no solemn body of men present, heavily wigged, and no be-robed judges.
In our courts the whole atmosphere tends to create a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. Have hon. Members ever been in the dock and tried to battle their way through all that was going on around them? I have been in the dock. The whole tendency is to crush you with solemnity. The police are there to prevent anybody from laughing. No human element is allowed. Instead of this Bill, giving rewards to legal men, I would have preferred that the Government should pay attention to the question of the human element in the courts. One of the most appalling cases about which I have ever heard took place the other day. Two babies had been starved to death. Think of the torture of the parents. There was no one there but solemn, legal men, arguing, instead of there being someone present to soothe the broken hearts and to help those poor people. Case after case of that sort could be quoted. I should like to draw attention to the growing practice that prevails when a jury returns a verdict of guilty.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We are talking about judges, and I am pointing out the practices that they tolerate. These judges, who are supposed to be thoroughly conversant with the law, tolerate the practice of allowing things to be said about prisoners that have no relation to the offence for which they are being tried.
I say that there is no case for increasing the salaries of county court judges or magistrates or arty of the others mentioned in the Bill. Instead of spending money in increasing the salaries and pensions of these judges, the Government should consider the question of selecting men and women, not necessarily legal men, who are best qualified to deal with the different kinds of cases. In certain cases it will be necessary to have legal men to decide on technicalities, but in the general kind of cases which come before the courts it is not a question of the best legal men but of the best-hearted and most intelligent men and women who will understand the particular case involved. I oppose this increase. I consider it is quite unnecessary, and that a better method can be found for dealing with the people who come before the courts. I think any money should be used for the abolition of the means test and hunger and poverty in the country.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I had hoped that the Solicitor-General would have attempted to justify these increases in salary and pensions in his speech, but he made no such attempt, and so far not a word has been uttered which can justify these increases. The surprising statement was made by the Solicitor-General that the average time occupied by Metropolitan Police magistrates was three days per week, whereas when the matter was before the House on the previous occasion on the Financial Resolution the impression was given that they sat for the whole of the week, five days and in some cases on six days. I suggest that a salary of £2,000 now proposed for 26 out of the 27 Metropolitan Police magistrates for three days per week is a little more than might well be asked for. But when we come to the salary of the Chief Police Magistrate, £2,300 a year, I am wondering on what basis the Government fixed the amount. It looks as though the Metropolitan Police magistrates will receive higher salaries 305 than the chairman and deputy-chairman of quarter sessions, who will have to sit and judge on appeals against decisions given by these magistrates. I think we ought to have been informed of that when the Solicitor-General was addressing us.
In view of the objections that have been raised on every occasion to increasing the salaries of the operatives in various Government factories and wages generally it seems strange that the Government should have such a fondness for justifying proposals for increasing the salaries of those who are far removed from the scale of wages and the standard of living of those engaged in production in our factories and workshops. I hope that we shall be told something more with regard to the Metropolitan police magistrates. With three days' work a week, with not many cases to be deals with, and not many papers to be read or decisions to be considered, I suggest that the present salary is not inadequate for the work they are called upon to do. The suggestion that there is difficulty in finding the right people for the positions is not in keeping with what we know of those who take the positions, and many of those who would be prepared to take the positions if they were offered to them
I would like to have some explanation as to why we are called upon to find the salary of the chairman, of quarter sessions for the counties of Armagh and Fermanagh. Why are we called upon to find out of the Consolidated Fund the salary of the chairman of quarter sessions of the county of Down? In this country the chairmen of quarter sessions are paid from local funds—in the case of London they are paid out of the county rate. Why is it that in Northern Ireland they are able to call on the Consolidated Fund for the salaries of the judges to whom I have referred, as well as the salary of the Recorder of Londonderry? Recorders in this country are not paid—at least I have not heard of their being paid—out of the Consolidated Fund. Why is it that the Government are not prepared to say what salaries shall be paid to the clerks attached to the judges of the Supreme Court? In this Measure it is left to the Treasury, and in one case the Lord Chancellor, to determine the salaries that shall be paid to these clerks. Is it because the Government are afraid to state the amount of salary these people shall receive, as it was stated in the Act 306 which we are called upon to repeal this evening? That is a curious way of dealing with the salaries and wages of these people. I cannot understand why it is that the Government will not indicate in any way whatever what shall be the salaries of these people, but is going to take the matter out of the hands of Parliament, so that Parliament will not be able to interfere with regard to these salaries.
We are asked to agree to increases in the case of certain officers such as the Lyon King of Arms and others, on the ground of the antiquity of the offices which they hold. I hope that argument is not going to make any impression upon the House. We should like to know from the Lord Advocate why we are asked at this time to give increases to these officers and particularly to Scottish officers such as the Secretary to the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Scotland. Is their work increasing or is there more importance attaching to it, or is it considered that the present salaries are inadequate? [HON. MEMBERS: "There is no increase,"] Then why are we being asked to repeal that portion of the original Act in which the figure is mentioned? Is it so that there shall be no figure stated in an Act of Parliament? What is the justification for such a proposal at the present time?
This Measure is similar to others which have already been brought before us whereby pensions are being found for people engaged in the kind of work which is mentioned here, while pensions are being refused to people whose wages are inadequate for a reasonable standard of life while they are working. I hope that people outside the House will note the anxiety of the Government to provide for people who are already fairly well-paid, while refusing pensions and adequate wages, and adequate benefits to those who really need them, to those who are suffering from distress. One hears of such cases as that of a whole district in the County of Durham, Wilton Park, where the people are begging to-day for cast-off clothing to enable them to withstand the rigours of the weather. While people in various parts of the country are suffering in that way, we are asked to agree to increases such as those proposed in the Bill. I hope we shall divide against it, and I wish I could think that we would be successful in the Division Lobby.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. T. M. Cooper)
I wish to address myself to the Scottish portion of the Bill, and I propose to follow the example of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General by confining myself strictly to my own side of the Border. The House will observe that the provisions relating to the Scottish officials mentioned in this Bill are really consequential upon the main provision of the Bill which is to be found in Clause 1 (1). If the House resolves to make the increases in salary provided for by Clause 1 and the First Schedule to the Bill, then two consequences follow. A certain relationship which has to be borne between the remuneration paid to various classes of judicial or semi-judicial officials in the United Kingdom may be—I do not say will be—thrown out of gear to some slight extent. Accordingly it is thought appropriate and I think I may say it is appropriate, that advantage should be taken of the opportunity provided in this Bill to remove those few statutory maxima which still stand on the Statute Book in relation to the salaries paid to certain Scottish officials. There are only a few. The great bulk of them are paid salaries fixed by the Treasury from time to time. For instance the counterpart of the county court judge, the sheriff substitute, in Scotland is not subject to a statutory salary at all. He has a salary which, as the House knows from questions asked and answered in this House, is revised from time to time and is at present in process of revision. It is for that limited purpose that the reference is introduced in this Bill to the chairman and other members of the Land Court, the officials of the Lyon Court, and the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
With reference to what was said by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), I should like to emphasise that there is no question, so far as this Bill is concerned, in regard to any of these Scottish officials of altering their salaries at all, but merely of deleting from existing Statutes, many of them of old date, the words "not exceeding the sum of …" The House will find, in the Small Landholders Act, 1911, for instance, that the salary of the chairman and members of the Land Court is declared to be such sum as may be determined, 308 not exceeding the sum of, in the case of the chairman, £2,000, and, in the case of the other members, £1,200; and in the old Act of 1867, which dealt with the Lyon King of Arms, there is a similar provision that his salary shall not exceed £600.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
Does he, in addition to his salary, receive the fees charged for granting coats-of-arms?
§ The Lord Advocate
No, Sir. I shall deal in a word with the Lyon King of Arms in a moment, but the point is that the sole purpose of the Bill, so far as Scotland is concerned, is to deal with an obsolete and inappropriate maximum limitation which is derived in certain cases from old Statutes and which is now the exception and not the rule.
§ The Lord Advocate
The hon. Member takes me up wrongly. What I said was that there was nothing in the Bill to affect the salaries of any of these persons. All that the Bill does is to remove a maximum and, therefore, to render it possible for the present maximum to be exceeded.
§ The Lord Advocate
But when one carries the argument to the further stage to which it was carried by the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), when he indicated a fear that the first action which the Treasury would take would be to pile Pelion on Ossa and Ossa and Olympus, in the shape of additions of salaries to these officials, I can only say that his experience of the Treasury must be very different from mine.
Lieut.-Colonel C. Kerr
I rather gathered from what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-Genera/ that it was not the intention to raise the salaries of the Scottish officers of the law. I want to be quite certain that I am wrong in that, because I feel very strongly that if there is going to be this rise in salaries of the English officers of the law, it should apply also to the officers of the law in Scotland.
§ The Lord Advocate
I gather that my hon. and gallant Friend refers to the sheriff-substitutes in particular. Their 309 salaries are at the moment under revision, and that revision will take place whether this Bill is carried or not. As regards the other officials who are referred to in the Bill, I wish to make it clear that if the statutory maxima are removed, as the Bill proposes, it will be open to the Treasury to increase the salaries. Whether they will do so or not, I cannot say, but I am confident, speaking from experience, that the increase will not be of the lavish type which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to apprehend.
With regard to the Lyon Court, the position is that up to 1867, when the Statute to which I referred a moment ago was passed, the Lyon King of Arms got the fees, but the effect of the 1867 Statute was that the Treasury took the fees, and it takes them to this day. In lieu of fees the Lyon King gets a salary, which was fixed in 1867 at a maximum of £600. These fees, which amount to a considerable sum, continue to be drawn to this day. Obviously, this Bill is not concerned with either the abolition or the perpetuation of the Court of the Lyon King of Arms, and I should be out of order if I pursued to any extent the argument which was adumbrated by certain hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the nature and functions of that office. I would like to say, however, that while I appreciate and sympathise with the feeling expressed by the right hon. Gentleman and certain other speakers as to the place which heraldry, precedent and genealogy play in modern life, there is no getting past the fact that the Lyon King of Arms and the court over which he presides play a very important part in the history and traditions of Scotland, and mean a great deal to many people. In the minds of a large number of perfectly reasonable persons value does attach to coats of arms, heraldic emblems and things of that sort with which the Lyon King is concerned.
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) introduced a definite side issue in reference to a claimant to the position of Lyon King of Arms. I am aware that the claimant exists, and the very fact that a member of the coal mining industry thinks it worth while to take such pains to make public the assertion of his right to that position suggests that it occupies a larger place in the mind of Scotland than some hon. Members seem to think. In all seriousness I think that 310 the position of the Lyon King and of his court is of importance in that he is definitely an officer of Scotland dating from pre-union times and discharging an important part of the duties which are discharged in this country by the College of Heralds, and to some extent by the Garter King. I leave the matter there with the further explanation that the sole purpose of this Bill in his case, and in the case of the Lyon Clerk, is to delete the old-fashioned 1867 maximum limit.
§ Mr. Johnston
Will the Lord Advocate address his mind to the suggestion that I made that we might use Sir Francis Grant's great knowledge of ecclesiastical history in Scotland to better advantage in the Records Office?
§ The Lord Advocate
I am not aware that there is anything to prevent the Lyon King's special knowledge being utilised for that purpose. So far as I know, he is not a full-time officer, and I believe that he is at this moment engaged to some extent in records research of the type to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Again, I can only say that that is a topic not strictly germane to the purpose of this Bill.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
The Lord Advocate has dealt with the questions which affect Scotland under this Bill. The Solicitor-General, in moving the Bill, did so in a short speech. Not another Member of the Government has said a word in favour of the Bill, and as far as one can see in looking at the Front Bench opposite at the moment all has been said which is going to be said on this Bill. Four speeches have been delivered already on this side of the House, and it is not fair to treat the Opposition like that. If the Government believe in the Bill more Members on the Government Front Bench ought to have attended the House for the purpose of defending the Bill.
§ Mr. Batey
I wonder what is the reason why Members on the other side of the House are so silent. Their silence means that they will vote for this additional £35,000 coming out of public funds. They are going to vote without the least word of comment or justification for increasing the salaries paid to these men from £1,650 to £2,000. They are going to vote for 311 increasing the pensions given. When the Money Resolution was before the House we condemned it because we said that it was class government. Here the Government are prepared to increase the salaries of men when no one can say that they have not sufficient salary at the moment. No one can argue that £1,650 does not give to a man a reasonable standard of life. We say that it does. The selfsame men who are going to vote for this increase to-night are responsible for the means test which takes the last shilling or sixpence out of the pockets of the unemployed. When the Money Resolution was before the House we objected to it because we believed that attention ought first to be given to the unemployed who come under the means test. We believe that they have the first claim, and that the Government should attend to them first. If the Government were prepared to see justice done to these poor people a lot of the ground would be taken from under our feet in our criticism of this Bill. But so long as the Government apply the means test, to take the last sixpence or shilling from the unemployed, we consider that we are entitled on every occasion to oppose the legislation of the Government and to insist that the poor shall be attended to first.
The only argument that has ever been used in favour of the means test in this country is that the money comes out of public funds. The money under this Bill comes out of public funds. If the means test has to be applied to the unemployed because their money comes out of public funds we should be justified in asking that it should be applied to everyone who receives money from public funds. Like my colleagues, I have not a word to say against either the county court judges or Metropolitan magistrates as men, but I believe that this House, before increasing the salaries of well paid men, ought to give consideration to the poor of this country and to those who come under the means test, and ought to remove the means test.
§ 10.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
My hon. Friends and I would have been neglecting our duty had we not taken up the attitude we have towards this Bill. We have done so because we believe that what the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) 312 said in 1909 is as true to-day as it was then. Speaking on 30th January, 1909, he said:The Tory party is the party of the rich against the poor, of the classes against the masses, of the happy and the strong against the left out and the shut out millions of the weak and poor people of this country.Whenever any question of this kind arises we take the liberty of pointing out the difference between the treatment this House accords to the rich and relatively well-placed people and the people for whom we on these benches speak. I understand that when this Bill is passed these judges will receive a salary of £2,000 a year. The increase which it is proposed to give is £350 a year, which is twice as much as the average miner receives when on piecework, and twice as much as the average skilled engineer receives after giving the maximum output that is possible as the result of the application of his human energy to his daily toil. The judges are already receiving £40 a week. When they retire they receive a pension of £1,000 a year, which it is proposed to increase to £1,300 a year.
I want those Members particularly who take an interest in ex-service men to contrast those conditions with the treatment which ex-service men get. We are putting questions to the Prime Minister to-morrow regarding the treatment of ex-service men, and I hope that those hon. Members who support this pension increase of £300 a year will support us tomorrow when we are demanding that the Prime Minister shall set up an inquiry into the treatment of ex-service men by the Ministry of Pensions during the past 10 years. Those of us on this side of the House who have taken a particular interest in this question have received piles of correspondence, and I am convinced that if the Prime Minister knew about the suffering and the feeling which exists among ex-service men, particularly those who suffered in the last war, he would be ready to agree to the suggestion we make. I hope that hon. Members who support this Bill will support us to-morrow when we ask that a Select Committee be appointed to go into the complaints about the treatment of ex-service men. Because of these anomalies among poor folk and of the way widows are treated, we are taking this attitude. During the 313 severe depression from 1930 to 1933, many men were unable to obtain employment in an insured occupation, and did not get sufficient stamps on their cards to enable them to qualify and maintain their pension rights. Consequently hundreds of widows now find themselves denied their widows' pensions. We say that it is most unfair of the Government to propose increases of this character for people who are relatively well placed while they mete: out that treatment to the other people.
§ 11.1 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
I suppose that the Government will say that the proposals are put forward because increases in salaries to county court judges and Metropolitan magistrates will best serve the ends of justice. They will not suggest for a moment that the proposal has any other justification than that the present remuneration is inadequate, does not attract the best type of man, and it is necessary to give these people an increase in salary in order that the judiciary might be properly filled. As I listened to the Debate on the last occasion, that, as far as I could gather, was the main statement made by the Government. There are other parts of the Bill which remove anomalies that exist at the present time. It would be presumptuous of me to pretend to any knowledge of the history of British jurisprudence, but I rather gather from such cursory reading as I have been able to do that the central feature of British justice is that a person who listens to the evidence and passes sentence should be of the same status as the person before the court. That is the basis of the British jury system.
As a matter of fact, the development of judges and magistrates has always been regarded by students of the history of jurisprudence as a rather unfortunate instance of the development of local administration. It is far more desirable, I gather, if a man has to be tried, that he should be tried by his peers. He should be tried by persons of the same social status, the same experience, generally speaking, and the same attitude of mind. The increase in the size of the population, the perplexities of modern life, and particularly the development of Statute law, are the only reason that we have judges at all. I think it is largely true—I am not suggesting that this is an accurate description of the development of 314 British jurisprudence—that it lies at the root of our system of dispensing justice that the man who listens to the evidence and passes sentence shall be able, because of his own status, to enter into the circumstances of the person who is before the court.
There has been considerable modification of that principle. I have heard it said both in and outside the House that there is no class bias of any sort in British courts, and that our magistrates and judges can be relied upon to weigh evidence in an objective and dispassionate fashion, and to dispense justice in accordance with the facts that are disclosed to the court. I have been present in many courts, and I must admit that superficially that would appear to be so. The laws of evidence have been laid down with great circumstantiality, and the persons who dispense justice are trained in their observance; and generally it is possible to find, in a decision of the court, some justification in the evidence that has been advanced before it. But one has to go a little deeper in order to find the class prejudice that actually exists in a modern court.
It would not be so evil if the proposals before the House referred to the higher reaches of the juridical hierarchy, because in those courts the judges have usually to concern themselves with points of law. But in the magistrates' courts and the county courts, as a general rule, the magistrates and judges have to make decisions upon facts, and into a large proportion of their decisions law never enters at all. It is just those judges and magistrates with whom this Bill is concerned. A very large proportion of the people who come before these courts are people belonging to the working classes, many of them earning not more than £4 or £5 a week. If the requirements of justice are to be preserved in those cases, and if we are to keep our system of jurisprudence in close accord with its pristine principles, one would have thought that the persons who dispense justice in these courts would be persons drawn from the same social status as those before the court. But that is not so. At the present time they have an income of £1,650 a year, and the proposal before the House is that that shall be increased by £350. I submit that, no matter how dispassionate, no matter how judicial may be the intelligence of such a 315 magistrate, if he lives at the standard of life represented by an expenditure of £1,600 a year, or £2,000 a year under this Bill, it is impossible for him to enter sympathetically or imaginatively into the circumstances of the person before the court, and, whether you like it or not, it is the fact that in the magistrates' courts and the county courts class-biased justice is being dispensed.
The proposal now before the House merely consolidates the class bias of the justice that is being administered in these courts. One of the reasons for the Bill is that hon. Members are rather uneasy that the £1,650 a year does not in fact preserve the class nature of the justice administered, and, if an addition of £350 is not sufficient, they will come forward with a proposal to increase it. This sort of legislation, and the kind of argument that has been used in support of it, destroys the professions of hon. Members opposite that you have a classless justice in British courts. You, in fact, surround your magistrates with a social atmosphere and a set of circumstances which insulate them from the circumstances of those who are brought before them, and the kind of sentences that they pass reflect that entirely unsympathetic condition of affairs. Hon. Members opposite do not regard the atmosphere of our courts as frightening because they rarely come before them. The kind of crimes of which they are guilty are not yet illegal. The only reason why they are exempt is that they are themselves legislators. I know of acts of which hon. Members are guilty for which I would send them to jail to-morrow. [Interruption.] Read the City news any day. Read the attempts that are made to protect the people against shameless profiteering. Read about share-pushing. The atmosphere of the magistrates' courts in London is entirely unsympathetic to the poor persons who go there for the redress of grievances or who are charged with crimes.
There is one difficulty that I find in dealing with this Bill. The judiciary is exempt from criticism in this House. I am not quite sure whether that applies to the judiciary as a whole or to any particular member of the judiciary or to any act of his. As I understand the Rules of the House, it is possible for an hon. Mem- 316 ber to indict the judiciary as a whole provided he does not instance any particular matter in which a particular judge or magistrate has been guilty. Not only do I oppose this Bill because I believe that it preserves a class system of justice, but I do not believe for a moment that the individuals concerned are so highly skilled that they deserve these high salaries. This is a conspiracy of the lawyers. There are two professions which practise an enormous deception upon the public mind—doctors and lawyers. They both wrap themselves up in a dead language. It is a part of the bunkum of modern society that there is a special skill possessed by lawyers which entitles them to huge salaries in carrying on their craft. I sat in a court the other day, and a man was brought up for having left his car in a public highway seven times in the previous two years. He was fined £1 and costs. Immediately after he had finished, another person came before the court charged with leaving his car beyond the statutory time in a public parking place. He was fined for a first offence £2 I2s. and costs.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is not in order in criticising the judiciary, and at this moment he is going beyond the point of Order in finding fault with a particular verdict given in a particular court.
§ Mr. Bevan
My contention is that we are being asked to pay extravagant sums for incompetence. I do not intend and indeed I would be offending against the Rules of the House if I did, to indicate the magistrate, the offence, or the court, but I am giving the example of an abstract magistrate. But it can be verified if I am challenged. I am giving an example of an abstract court and an abstract offence in order to show that I, as a Member of Parliament, am being asked at the present time to agree to pay £2,000 a year for gross stupidity, incompetence and bias of that sort, and I say that it is an excessive demand.
§ Mr. Bevan
I have made my point, and I do not wish to pursue it. The House of Commons is being asked to pay £2,000 a year, for a set of men of that kind but I say that I could find miners, agricultural workers and many artisans with a more judicial mind than such 317 magistrates. That is true of a good many magistrates' courts in London. Hon. Members like to say that they have no quarrel with magistrates' courts, but newspapers every day produce ample evidence that the magistrates who dispense justice in Great Britain in many instances actually abuse the exemption they have from criticism in this House.
County court judges come under the Bill. Hon. Friends on this side of the House have considerable experience of the administration of justice by county court judges. In administering workmen's compensation in particular, these judges often have to decide not questions of law but questions of fact; and many of them protect themselves from appeal against their decisions to the High Court by finding on questions of fact and not on questions of law. We often find ourselves helpless in appealing against decisions because of that. Many examples of such cases have been brought to me. A judge is paid £2,000 a year. He has to decide as to whether the kind of work that is offered to a workman on the surface at a colliery is the sort of work that that
§ workman can do. That is an obligation imposed upon him by the legislation passed by this House. The judge has not seen the pit, he has not seen the job, he has not seen the man except for a few minutes in court, and he has no knowledge of the circumstances of the case before the court, yet those poor people have to accept the decision of the judge. A great deal of British justice is sham and pretence. That state of things can be found in the county court, the registrar's court, and the magistrate's court. British jurisprudence has long ago departed from its central principle. It is no longer justice dispensed by the peers of the people brought before the court, but justice dispensed by persons who are put in a higher class position. It is to preserve that class bias and that class prejudice that we are asked to-night to grant increases of salaries.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 143; Noes, 82.319
|Division No. 129.]||AYES.||[11.22 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Foot, D. M.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Furness, S. N.||Magnay, T.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maitland, A.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Markham, S. F.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Guy, J. C. M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Hannah, I. C.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morgan, R. H.|
|Bracken, B.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Bull, B. B.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Holdsworth, H.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Holmes, J. S.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hopkinson, A.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Radford, E. A.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hunter, T.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Cookshank, Capt. H. F. C||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Cross, R. H.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Keeling, E. H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Denville, Alfred||Latham, Sir P.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Leckie, J. A.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rothschild, J. A. do|
|Duggan, H. J.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Lloyd, G. W.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Salt, E. W.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Scott, Lord William|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Shuts, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||McKie, J. H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Smith, L. W. (Hallam)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Somerset, T.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Wragg, H.|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Spens. W. P.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Watt, G. S. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||White, H. Graham||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wickham, Lt.-Col, E. T. R.||Ward and Sir Henry Morris-Jones.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, O. M. (Poplar, S.)||Grenfell, D. R.||Potts, J.|
|Adamton, W. M.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Groves, T. E.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Ridley, G.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hardie, G. D.||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ritson, J.|
|Barr, J.||Jagger, J.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Rowson, G.|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sexton. T. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Bromfield, W.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Burke, W. A.||Lathan, G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cape, T.||Lawson, J, J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Tinker, J. J,|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. La T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dobbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGovern, J.||Walkins, F. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Westwood, J.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gallacher, W.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Oliver, G. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gibbins, J.||Paling, W.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Mathers and Mr. Whiteley.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Captain Margesson.]320
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.