HC Deb 19 November 1948 vol 458 cc731-48

Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Philip Noel Baker)

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

The main purpose of this Bill is to enable us to grant pensions to European barrister judges who have been members of the High Courts in India and Pakistan, and who feel that with the changed conditions they cannot usefully continue to serve. As the House is aware, European judges used to be recruited for the Indian courts either from the judicial branch of the Indian Civil Service, or from among barristers who practiced in the United Kingdom or in India. The majority of the European judges, in fact, come from the I.C.S. It has been agreed, after some discussion with the Governments of India and Pakistan, by all concerned, that, like other members of the Indian Civil Service, I.C.S. judges are entitled to retire at their discretion on proportionate pensions. But judges recruited from the Bar have no such statutory right, and, as I say, the main purpose of the Bill is to ensure that such a barrister judge, who retires before he qualifies for a pension under the ordinary rules which govern the matter, shall not be left without resources.

As the House is probably aware, His Majesty's Government in this country at first came to the conclusion, after we had consulted the Viceroy, that the constitutional changes which would follow the transfer of power would not affect the fundamental position of these judges. The judiciary were still to remain independent of the Executive. For that reason, it was felt that we could not press the Indian leaders to grant these judges a right to retire on proportionate pension, or to give them compensation. It is still true that the judiciary have retained their independence. I make no suggestion to the contrary, but it has become plain that the continued service of European judges is no longer acceptable to some at least of the Provincial Governments. That fact made it necessary for the Government here to consider the matter again. Of course, we have no wish whatever to discourage the continued service of European judges in India or Pakistan. No one here would have any such desire. Far from that, we all hope that they will continue to serve as long as their service is acceptable to the Government for whom they work.

We feel, indeed, and I think that it is clear, that an impossible situation has occurred, impossible for everyone, if a European judge comes to feel that his continued services are unwelcome. We thought that such a man should be eligible both for a proportionate pension and for compensation, and if the Government of India or Pakistan did not think it right for them to accept the financial liability which this involved, then it ought to fall on the Exchequer of this country from which these judges come. We have had discussions on these points with the Governments of India and Pakistan, and we have decided that it is necessary for our Exchequer to bear the cost. I am sure that the House will agree that it is right for us to do that rather than to leave these judges without provision when they think it right in the public interest that they should retire. It may perhaps be convenient if I say a word or two about the Clauses of the Bill.

Clause 1 contains its main substance—the main purpose which I have described. It enables us to grant a pension to a barrister judge who retires before he has qualified for a pension under the ordinary rules which govern the matter. The pension which he is to get will be a proportion of the maximum specified in the Government of India (High Court Judges) Order for the particular appointment which the judge in question happens to hold. A proportionate pension based on service alone would not be adequate because the barrister judges are appointed at a later age and because most of them have served for a comparatively short period of time. Therefore, we have added two years to their service for the purpose of determining the amount of pension they are to have, and we have also fixed a minimum of £500 a year because we think that no judge should have less than that. Clause 1 also lays it down that the proportionate pension shall not exceed the pension the judge would have received had he served his full term. That is obviously right and necessary.

Clause 2 relates to the Indian Civil Service judges. As I have said, these judges have a statutory right to pension, and it is now agreed that they shall all have the right to retire on proportionate pension, if they desire to do so, just as other members of the I.C.S. have that right. But in the I.C.S. the judges can also earn an additional £200 a year pension for 12 years' service, if they were judges in certain of the courts, and this Clause gives us the power to award to such judges, in addition to the pension which they will now receive under the I.C.S. rules from India or Pakistan revenues, a proportion of the extra £200 a year which they would have received according to the proportion of the 12 years they have served.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

Is that a minimum?

Mr. Noel Baker

It is an addition to the other pension. As the I.C.S. judges will have a substantial pension from India or Pakistan, we do not think that we need give them the concession of the two extra years which we have provided for the barrister-judges in calculating their service in Clause 1.

Clause 3 (1) applies to one particular judge, Sir Patrick Spens, whose case is peculiar. The Clause is drafted in this form because it is just possible—I will put it no higher than that—although I do not think it is probable, that the Government of India may agree that the pension we think he ought to have is a liability on them. In any case, we intend, whether it shall come from the Government of India or from our Exchequer, that Sir Patrick Spens shall have a pension calculated on the same formula as applies under Clause 1 to High Court judges. We are calculating it with reference to the maximum pension of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court. The effect will be to give him the pension which he would have earned had he served as Chief Justice until the age of 65. I am sure the House will think that is right.

Clause 3 (2) enables us to grant an additional pension to a barrister-judge who has qualified for, and who has been granted by the Government under which he served, a pension under the ordinary rules, but who has not qualified for the maximum pension for his appointment. There is at least one such case, and I think the House will wish us to deal with it.

Clause 4 relates to the barrister judges of the Rangoon Court. The Government of Burma agreed that these judges should all compulsorily retire when Burma gained her independence and be granted, at the expense of Burmese revenues, the invalid pension they would have earned at that date. As that pension is considerably below the pension which judges in India and Pakistan would receive under the terms of Clause 1, we felt it was wrong that the judges in Burma should not be on the same footing as judges in India and Pakistan. We wish to grant them the same pension, and we therefore make provision in this Clause. The Clause enables us to supplement the Burmese pension by the required amount. Clause 5 prescribes the method of calculating service for proportionate pension. It is the method which applies to ordinary pensions and is quite straightforward.

Certain courts have been created in India and Pakistan since August, 1947, to which the provisions of the India High Court Judges Order do not apply. Clause 2 enables us to determine how service in a new court shall count for a proportionate position. Clauses 6, 7 and 8 require little explanation, except that Clause 6 (5) reserves the right of a judge to commute a proportion of pension under the current Indian, Pakistan and Burma rules. That is a brief outline of the Bill. I shall be very happy to consider any points which hon. Members may raise. We can discuss the Clauses more fully in Committee, when we shall be very ready to consider any Amendments. I commend the Bill to the House in the hope that it will be favourably received.

11.16 a.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

My comment on the genesis of this Bill will be slightly different from that of the right hon. Gentleman. I am afraid that I shall have to trouble the House by going, though not to any great extent, into the past history of this matter. While we on this side are not going to oppose this Bill and are very glad it has been brought forward, we are bound to point out that we called attention to this matter some two years ago when the Indian Independence Act was passed. We are very glad that the representations we then made have at last been taken note of by the Government.

I should like to avail myself of the latitude allowed on the Second Reading of a Bill to pay a tribute to the great service rendered by the Indian Judiciary in the past, to the fine men in it, both British and Indian, who, by their integrity, learning and standing, gave it the deservedly high reputation which it possessed in the world. I should further like to convey my respectful good wishes, and I am sure those of other Members as well, to the new Judiciary both in India and Pakistan. I earnestly hope that those judges of Indian birth who have joined the judicial bench in both Dominions, having previously served in British India, will find an atmosphere congenial to their abilities.

The Bill itself belatedly recognises the position of European judges in India and Burma. The Indian Independence Act contains no reference to them except in Section 10, which lays down that those who continue to serve the new Dominion are entitled to the same conditions of service as respects pay, leave, pensions and rights as to tenure of office as they were when serving under His Majesty's Government. That is all it says, and there was no scheme drawn up for their retirement as there was for members of the Secretary of State's services in India or for the Indian Army.

The truth is that when the Indian Bill was framed proper provision for holders of judicial office was omitted. Yet, as I understand the position, and I ought to know a good deal about it, because I took part in the discussion on almost every Clause of the Indian Act, 1935, is that in the Government of India Act, 1935, High Court judges had a fixed contract of service until 60 and Federal Court judges until 65, and were only removable for misconduct if it was proved before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, or if they broke down in health, or became lunatics, or bankrupts. This lacuna in the treatment of judges, which can only be described as the overlooking of their statutory right, is only another instance of the indecent haste with which His Majesty's Government evacuated India, even at the cost of repudiating its obligations to those who had served India.

We on this side have referred to the position of judges on more than one occasion, and so far as I know no one else has done so—I know of no reference made to this subject by Members opposite. My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) first asked about them when the Indian Independence Bill was being considered in Committee. It is worth referring to some of the things that he said. He said that in view of the many requests that we had had from judges he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would be able to carry this matter further on this head of compensation and tell us whether these men were entitled to be included.

My right hon. Friend referred to the matter again at a later stage. The answer we got from the then Secretary of State was that the case for compensating European judges was not quite the same as that for compensating members of the Secretary of State's service, because judges were independent of control by the Executive. If they retained their independence and preserved their terms of service unchanged, they were not fundamentally affected by the constitutional changes. That is what we were told at the time, but nevertheless the Government seemed to have qualms about it, because, as I have said, they stated at the time that they were considering granting compensation to the judges. That is the position as regards the past.

I have already stated that we welcome the Bill for the reasons which I have given, but there are certain points which we must put forward and certain reservations which we must make. The first concerns the adequacy or otherwise of the compensation to be given. The judges, however, under the old British Indian law have a statutory contract which gives them the privilege of serving until 60 or 65 as the case may be, but many of those who felt they must retire must suffer a diminishing income until they are 60 or 65 as the case may be, unless, of course, they are offered and accept appointments by His Majesty's Government when they come to England, in which case they may be better off than before. When the right hon. Gentleman replies perhaps he will tell us whether there are many such cases, and whether any employment has been offered by his Majesty's Government to these distinguished gentlemen. It would be useful if the right hon. Gentleman told us the lump sum of compensation to be paid in addition to the pension, and what it is going to cost the taxpayer.

There is another point to which we attach importance. Pensions may be granted to European judges who retire—and I am quoting the words of the Bill— owing to the changed conditions resulting from the passing of the Indian Independence Act, 1947. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is to determine whether conditions have changed in such a way as to justify retirement. The Treasury might argue that so long as the pay and allowances, leave and pension all remain the same, so long, in fact, as there are no diminutions in the material emoluments of these gentlemen and the privileges which they receive, conditions have not changed, and that, therefore, a judge is not entitled to retire. Changes, however, may be much more subtle than alterations in pay and allowances and conditions of service. The whole atmosphere in which these gentlemen work may change. So far as I know, judges were never offered the choice of where they could serve after partition, whether they wish to serve in India or Pakistan. Certainly in some cases where they are serving, it is in a different Dominion to which they were before, and considerable hardship and inconvenience has been caused to them in what may be called their domestic arrangements.

Again, there may be misunderstandings and friction between the Executive and the Legislature which may manifest itself in a number of irritating ways. The Executive, which holds the purse strings, may, for example, try to keep vacancies unfilled to save money or make reductions in the staff of the courts. All of this may throw extra burdens on the judges, and, at the same time, there is at least the danger that it may impair their dignity and comfort. I do not for a moment say these things are happening. In fact, I do not know, because we get very little information at the present time as to what is going on in India and Pakistan, but I am merely pointing out that conditions may change for a great number of reasons and may turn what had hitherto been a happy arena of work into a less happy one.

Therefore, we must ask the Government to tell us what criterion in deciding whether conditions have changed they are prepared to apply. Indeed, looking at the Bill again, I see no reason to refer to "changed conditions," at all. It would be much simpler to say that a pension could be granted to a judge who had fulfilled the other condition laid down in the Bill before he reached the normal retiring age of 60 or 65.

There are two other points which I wish to make. This Bill, if enacted, confers special benefits on Europeans, some of whom are not members of the Secretary of State's service. We on this side of the House, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware or at any rate his predecessor knows, have continually pressed—especially is that so of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden and myself as well as others interested in Indian affairs—the hard case of a Britisher serving in humble capacities in the non-Secretary of State's service who must serve out their contracts with the Government of either Dominion or a provincial Government as the case may be. We have asked, if conditions became intolerable for them, that they should be allowed to retire on proportionate pensions. We cannot deny to them what we are asking for those better off.

I am glad to see for the first time, as I believe we were told yesterday, that our efforts for these subordinate officials have been partly successful. It is on that understanding that we support the Second Reading of the Bill. I want to say quite frankly that if that answer had not been made, while we should have supported the principle of this Bill, we could not have accepted it as a settlement of the obligations which we owe to these men of our own race who served in India, because we have had to take into consideration a case of those men who do not belong to the Secretary of State's service. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think it unreasonable of me to put these points forward, to which I have no doubt he will reply. I have carefully refrained from being unduly self-commendatory about my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden and myself, but we on this side of the House welcome this Bill because it is a very belated recognition of the points we have constantly urged from these benches.

11.29 a.m.

Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)

I should like to follow the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) by saying that I agree with everything he said. As I wish to keep my remarks short, I hope the Secretary of State will treat them as being made against the background of my right hon. Friend's speech. I, too, welcome this Bill because it honours an obligation which we in this country owe to these men who have served us and India and Pakistan so well. I welcome it, too, as a belated acknowledgment that His Majesty's Government were wrong in principle in their attitude towards such men as these at the time of the passing of the Indian Independence Act. For this, indeed, is a definite change in principle.

Here, for the first time, the Government are acknowledging that this country has some obligation towards British persons who served in India and Pakistan before 1947, and are still continuing to serve, even though they were not members of the Secretary of State's services. That is a great departure from previous principle, and it is we on this side who have succeeded at last in breaking down the reluctance of the Government to depart from their strict adherence to the letter of the law. I hope that following on this Bill, there will be other Bills which will honour the obligation of the Government towards those other British men, perhaps humbler, and therefore even more important, to whom my right hon. Friend referred.

Before I make certain other remarks on that point, I would refer to the point made by my right hon. Friend about the condition attached to these pensions, namely, that the judge retires whether before or after the passing of this Measure, and I invite the attention of the Secretary of State to that retrospective Clause which says: retires … owing to the changed conditions resulting from the passing of the Indian Independence Act, 1947. I have read the answer that he gave on 16th November to the hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) about the conditions attaching to the award of compensation, and they do not seem to be quite the same. The words used there were that compensation would be awarded to European judges "who retire owing to the constitutional changes."

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer the questions put to him from the Front Bench on this side, and, at the same time, confirm whether or not there is any difference in the meaning of those two phrases. It seems rather odd that a Government Department should not get a small matter like this technically correct. Obviously they meant to attach the same condition to the giving of pensions and to giving of compensation, so surely it would be wise to use exactly the same words?

Mr. Paget (Northampton) rose——

Mr. Low

I see one of the right hon. Gentleman's learned advisers rising, but he could only argue, as I imagine he would argue, that they mean the same. It would have been so much wiser for the right hon. Gentleman to have put this in exactly the same words.

Mr. Paget

The point I was about to put was that the present words are obviously wider.

Mr. Low

If that is the hon. and learned Gentleman's legal advice, no doubt we shall hear the comments of the Secretary of State on it later. I was advised that the words were narrower, but I bow to the superior knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

I want to come back to the question of principle behind this Bill. We have here decided that we in this country will honour what, after all, is only a secondary obligation. The primary obligation to pay the pension and compensation one would have thought lay at the door of the Governments of India and Pakistan. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman tell us that he argued with those Governments as to who should pay. But I was surprised to hear from him that the reason why the Government had come round to the opinion that some proportionate pension and compensation should be given was that it was well recognised now by all the Governments concerned that the continued services of these European judges were no longer acceptable in some quarters of India and Pakistan.

In other words, the right hon. Gentleman is saying that because of the attitude of those quarters—I imagine that means some Provincial or Central Governments—these judges are being forced or almost forced to retire. If that is so, I should have thought there would have been a much stronger case than in the case of some civil servants for pressing those Governments to make this payment. However, I realise that is all over now, and that it has been decided that those Governments will not make the payments.

Why should that have been decided in the case of judges when, in the case of much humbler men in the non-Secretary of State services, His Majesty's Government will not undertake that obligation? Will the right hon. Gentleman try to explain the difference to us? In asking questions yesterday about the humbler folk, I was amazed to hear cheers and applause from the other side of the House when the right hon. Gentleman said that His Majesty's Government would not dream of paying pensions or compensation to them. In the case of these judges, the other side of the House is applauding the view of the Government that they should be given proportionate pension and compensation——

Mr. Thomas Brown (Ince) rose——

Mr. Low

Perhaps the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) does not approve, but the majority on his side is applauding the Government. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government who acknowledge their obligation in the case of senior officials but are not prepared to do so in the case of junior officials. I hope they will change their minds about this. I welcome this Bill, as my right hon. Friend has done, subject to proper answers to the questions he put. I welcome it as holding out some glimmer of hope that the humbler folk, in perhaps a few months, will be given their dues in the same way as the senior judges.

Mr. Paget

Would the hon. Member say whether these humbler people to whom he refers had security of tenure? Did they have offices which they held for life? That seems to be the difference.

Mr. Low

In many cases, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, they were in jobs which they reasonably expected to hold until they were of an advanced age. Their cases are not all the same, and there is a great deal of complication. I was dealing with the matter of principle. His right hon. Friend will explain to him that the cases are different but that, as I have said, they expected, and reasonably expected, to continue to a late stage in their life in the job they were in.

11.39 a.m.

Mr. Paget

There are a great many people who have an office that they hope to hold, but there is a great difference between that and an appointment which is an appointment until pensionable age subject to good behaviour. I should not have thought it was a question of humbleness or of non-humbleness, but of an entirely different form of appointment.

There is one point which seems to me important and on which I agree with what the noble Lord said. It seems to me unwise, when dealing, as we are here, with completely uncertain circumstances of a future over which we have no control at all, to use any words which may impose a limitation of our discretion. These words from Clause 2 (1, c) which are repeated on various occasions are just the sort of words on which we shall have a departmental interpretation. That departmental interpretation, as in the old days we used to know with the Ministry of Pensions, is apt to become incredibly rigid. Since no court—or, indeed, any assembly—can question it, one is never in a position to say whether a certain thing really comes within the meaning of the words or not. That seems to me unwise in a Measure of this sort.

We are dealing with men to whom we owe a moral responsibility. They are going into circumstances over which we have no control. One really has no idea at all of the sort of reasons which may lead them to accept those jobs. After all, a man who is a judge does not take up that job primarily for its reward. He takes it, generally, with financial sacrifice. He takes it in the same sort of way as people take voluntary offices, because they care about the things they are doing. They care about justice and doing justice, and if they feel, for a lot of subtle and indefinable reasons, that what they are doing is not justice as they understand it—that, because of the surrounding circumstances, the laws they are required to enforce are no longer laws which seem to them to be justice—that is really a decision which only they can take.

I do not think we ought to have any limitation of the discretion of the Secretary of State. But that does not act only in one way. As I have said, many people who take judicial office do so at a financial sacrifice. It is equally true, however, that when they give up this work in many instances they will not be making a financial sacrifice. That aspect, too, can be dealt with only by discretion. Many may return to practice at the Bar. A good many Indian judges have come back and are practising at the Bar. In financial terms they are probably far better off than they were as judges.

In exercising discretion about pensions, consideration should be given to what the man proposes to do, what he is doing, and whether the pension should be payable immediately or at some future date. From the professional viewpoint, many of these men are in the very prime of life. I urge the Secretary of State, therefore, in dealing with this matter, to have no limitation at all on his discretion; to deal with every individual case on its merits and to avoid particularly the growing up in his Department of a set of departmental rules which are not really justified by any statute and which will limit his discretion.

11.44 a.m.

Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)

I hope I have understood aright the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He seemed to start by making an amazing assertion when he said, on behalf of his party, that he felt the Government owed no obligation to humble people who had served the Government or the Provinces of India if they had no sort of contract of service. That really is an astounding assertion and one about which we on this side feel extremely strongly. These people did have an implied contract of service. They knew perfectly well that if they behaved themselves they would go on serving the Government of India for the greater part of their natural lives. My hon. Friends on this side and I would feel extremely strongly if we in this country were to repudiate those obligations because of what is, after all, nothing more than a legal quibble.

The hon. and learned Member also seemed to imply that because some of the judges had the good fortune to come home to this country and go into lucrative practices, the amount of pensions they got should be adjudged accordingly. In other words, he is advocating a sort of means test for them. Is that what the right hon. Gentleman means?

Mr. Paget

I certainly do mean that. Here we have people retiring, for various reasons, long before pensionable age. Their earnings in that long interval before pensionable age certainly ought to be taken into consideration.

Mr. Gammans

It is good to know that that is what the hon. and learned Gentleman means. He—and, presumably, this applies to his party—has given us yet another example of the fact that they stand for the principle of the means test.

Mr. Ellis Smith

It applied to millions in this country.

Mr. Gammans

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us a little more about the circumstances under which these pensions become payable by the Government of the United Kingdom. He said that negotiations had taken place with the Governments of India and Pakistan—and, I suppose, with the Government of Burma. Does he mean that he has asked these three Governments to pay the pensions and that they have refused? I cannot see why they should agree to pay the pensions of Indian civil servants and refuse to pay the pensions of judges. The same obligation exists in both cases. Is it due to bad or hasty drafting of the original Independence Bill, or is this something which was forgotten altogether?

Needless to say, I support the view that these judges should be paid pensions. Even although the sum involved is small, however, I think I am entitled to know why this charge should fall on the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. This applies even more so to Burma. Burma has gone entirely out of the Commonwealth, yet when she went out of it we gave her, I think, £30 million. Recently we have agreed to transfer out of our own dollar resources a further £2 million to be made available for the Government of Burma. It is a little odd that this additional charge should fall upon the taxpayers of this country. I hope that when he replies the right hon. Gentleman will be rather more forthcoming on this point than he was in his introductory speech.

11.48 a.m.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

I must thank the noble Lord and other hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate for the spirit in which they have spoken. I will begin, if I may, with the major point of principle which was raised by the noble Lord: why was there what he called a lacuna in the Indian Independence Bill, why was no provision made for retirement pensions and compensation for these judges? Another hon. Member suggested it was clear that His Majesty's Government were wrong in principle in failing to make that provision in the Act. What we did was done only after full consultation with the Viceroy, who gave the advice that it was not necessary or right to make provision for proportionate pensions or compensation.

Earl Winterton

I do not want to appear to be pernickety or priggish but, surely, it is most unusual for a representative of the Government to say that they acted solely on the advice of the Viceroy. The Viceroy is not responsible to this House for these men. The then Secretary of State was responsible.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Certainly, I am not at all trying to put responsibility on his shoulders, and not on ours. Of course the Government take the fullest responsibility. I am only making it clear that he gave those views and we were in agreement and came to the conclusion that it was right and, indeed, I still think so. In principle there has been no fundamental change in the position of the judges. The judiciary have maintained their independence of the Executive. I do not think any new situation of principle has arisen. There has been in the event a situation of fact which in some places, but not in others, has made it seem desirable to certain judges that they should retire. When they have come to that conclusion, we have judged them to be right, and that it was in the interests of those for whom they were working in India and Pakistan, and of themselves, that they should retire.

I will give the figures of those who have retired, and those who have not retired. There are in question 10 barrister judges. Seven have decided to retire prematurely, and three have not. There are in question 13 I.C.S. judges. Three have decided to retire prematurely, and 10 have not. I think that shows that this is a situation of fact arising in certain places, which must be subject to decision in each particular case, on the merits of that case. I was asked by the noble Lord what was to be the compensation given to barrister judges. That compensation is on a special scale, a scale which the Lord Chancellor regards as adequate. It is in fact more generous than that for I.C.S. judges. The details are set out in a written reply I gave to a Question on 16th November, and I think the noble Lord will find all he facts he desires at column 34 of the OFFICIAL REPORT on that date.

I was asked if this was retrospective; yes, it is retrospective and judges who have retired will, if this Bill is passed, receive benefits as from the date of their retirement. I understood the noble Lord to ask whether judges have been allowed to choose where they would serve. I cannot give a general answer, but I can say that judges in the Punjab and Bengal which were to be divided were given the choice of opting between India and Pakistan. It may be that in other areas judges were also given the choice, but I am afraid I have not the information. In those two cases, which were the most important because of the partition, the choice was given.

The noble Lord and another hon. Member asked whether any of these judges had been able to obtain other suitable employment which they might desire. Of the 10 who so far have decided to retire, I think it true to say that four have received new and suitable legal employment. I only know the facts in regard to two. One has become the legal adviser to our High Commissioner in India and another has been given a county court judgeship in this country. I think the matter is progressing well and I have every hope that others will receive employment, if they desire it. I ought to add that we are not taking employment after retirement into consideration in fixing the pension.

I was asked what would be the cost to the Exchequer in the current year. If the Bill goes through, we estimate—we may be on the high side—that the maximum will be £6,000. In a full year the maximum would be about £10,000. I was also asked who is ultimately to decide in this delicate question of fact—and it is a very delicate question and every hon. Member will desire that we should not in any way be interfering with the loyalty of the judges to those who employ them—on the question of whether a judge is right to retire or not. In other words, whether he is to be entitled to the pension. I admit that the Bill does not make it very plain, but I think it is clear in constitutional practice that if there is to be someone with that ultimate authority, it should be the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I say, without hesitation, that so long as I hold that office, I shall have the greatest reluctance in calling in doubt reasons given by any judge. If a man is fit to be a judge and has to take this grave decision, everyone must respect the motives which have moved him and it would only be in the most exceptional cases that it would be called in question.

Earl Winterton

Because of the views expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, will the right hon. Gentleman consider, before the Committee stage, whether he could not agree to alter these words, because they do not satisfy us, in view of the changed conditions?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, I shall be glad to have consultations with the noble Lord and my hon. Friend and to consider what would be the right language to use and, if necessary, to consider the introduction of an Amendment giving the ultimate power to the Secretary of State, or something of the kind. On that understanding, I hope the noble Lord will agree to the Bill being given a Second reading.

An argument was put forward based on the analogy between these judges and what were called the humbler ranks of the non-Secretary of State Civil Service——

Mr. Low

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he deal with the point I raised about the difference in language on the question of compensation?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am advised that the difference of language makes no difference of fact and that the conditions will be substantially the same, but I will look into the matter further between now and the Committee stage and, if the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) cares to ask again then, I will give a fuller answer; but that is my present advice.

I do not think the case of the non-Secretary of State Civil Service and of these judges is at all analogous. Most hon. Members will consider from the statement I made yesterday that we are going very far to meet the claims of the members of the non-Secretary of State's Civil Services. In their terms of contract they have no right to retire on proportionate pension, or to compensation. They are now getting the right to retire on proportionate pension, which I think is a very considerable concession. I think the House will recognise that we have done a great deal in that way. In any case, I must reiterate that we do not accept the analogy.

I should like to end by echoing what was so appropriately said by the noble Lord when he paid tribute to all Members of the Indian Judiciary, both those born in the sub-Continent, and those who went there from Europe. Certainly the traditions of the judicial service in India have been one of its glories and I have every hope they will so remain.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Wilkins.]