HC Deb 29 March 1938 vol 333 cc1964-6

Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Fortunately this Bill is still shorter and still less contentious than the last one, and it has the additional advantage of being simpler. It has been the practice in the past for members of the Land Court, as distinct from the Chairman, to retire at the age of 65, and appointments of members have been made on this condition, with a written condition attached to the appointment. It was assumed that the attachment of this condition was in conformity with the Act of 1911, under which the Scottish Land Court was set up, but last year it was decided by the Court of Session that such a condition was ultra vires the administration, as there was no specific provision to that effect in the Statute. Consequently, we come to Parliament for an Act declaring that members of the Scottish Land Court retire on reaching the age of 65 years, as has been the practice in the past. I think perhaps it is unnecessary to go into the matter further now, although I shall be glad to answer any questions that any hon. Member desires to put. On the Committee stage there will be an opportunity of going further into the Bill.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Is the Land Court appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Elliot

The Land Court consists of a Chairman and three members appointed by His Majesty on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

11.6 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

We understand this Measure, as it has been privately explained to us and as we have read about it in the Press. It arises over difficulties experienced in the retiral of one gentleman and the Court of Session's decision as to his pension. It is a small matter, and we reserve any points of disputation until the Committee stage.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. Davidson

I would like an explanation of that part of the Bill which says that, providing any existing member of the court who has not attained the age of 65 on the passing of the Act gives within three months written notice to the Secretary of State, the Superannuation Act shall apply to him. Does that mean that any member who has not reached the age of 65 but who feels that he can no longer serve in this court will automatically be allowed to apply for superannuation?

Mr. Elliot

He will come under the provisions of the Superannuation Act, and he will receive superannuation in proportion to his length of service.

11.8 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

Since the hon. Members above the Gangway are not opposing this Bill on Second Reading, I do not propose to take on the responsibility of opposing it myself. But I think there is something in the way of a precedent being set up here, where it is being laid down now specifically in an Act of Parliament that 65 is the upward age limit at which a man is capable of exercising judicial functions. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not going to tell us that, if 66 is too old for a man to serve on the Land Court, 70, 80, or 90 is a reasonable age for a man to serve in the other courts. There is no requirement that the Chairman of the Land Court, whose responsibilities are greater than those of his junior assessors, should retire at 65. The Chairman may go on as long as life remains within his body. As long as he is capable of tottering into the court, he can go on, but we are laying down that the other men must resign at 65. I cannot see the point. A Judge of the High Court or a Judge of the Court of Session, who has to sit upon an infinite variety of cases, may be 70, 80, or 90. I do not know what age some of them are, but I know there have been extraordinary cases of longevity among Judges of the High Court. It seems to me that if this precedent is to be established in the case of these men, then it has to be extended over the whole judicial system.

Mr. Elliot

I hope the hon. Gentleman will not take it that a precedent is being set up here. These gentlemen are in a different position from judges to whom the hon. Member refers. It is necessary for them to travel about the country and as the hon. Member knows they have to go to very wild parts of the country in the course of their duties. I do not think this can be regarded as a precedent in the sense suggested by the hon. Member. It must be regarded as sui generis.