§ The Chairman
I have a manuscript Amendment in the name of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller). I propose to call it, but I am not at all sure that it is within the scope of the Financial Resolution. I must therefore reserve the right to withdraw it from the Committee in the event of my being satisfied that it Is not within that scope.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page 12, line 35, after "who," to insert: "on grounds of health or."
I am much obliged to you, Major Milner. Speaking from my recollection of the Financial Resolution I think that my Amendment comes within the terms of it, but I move the Amendment with uneasy trepidation and I subject myself to the tender mercies of the Lord Advocate, as I am dealing with a matter which affects the Scottish system. I do so because I think it is desirable that we should have an explanation from him on this matter.
The Clause, as I understand it, provides that the salaried sheriff substitute who has held an extremely onerous office can, when he becomes less able to fulfil the duties of that office, move to a slightly lower, and perhaps easier office at a lower salary, and yet obtain a pension based upon his emoluments when he was getting the higher salary in the more onerous office. He will not suffer loss of pension consequent upon taking a less onerous position. I must say it sounds to me a very desirable system in the case of those who have been extremely active.
The Clause as it stands applies only to salaried sheriffs substitute who, after attaining the age of 65 years and after completing a service of not fewer than 15 years, take a less responsible place. It does not appear that the Clause will be of very extensive application. The salaried sheriff substitute has not only to attain that age but to have completed that period of service before he, so to speak, steps down. The effect of the Amendment would be to provide that where the stepping down takes place, not on account of age but on account of health—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It is true that it might be within a year of his appointment, and then there would not be a case for dealing with it in precisely the same way. Let us take the case where a man has spent 15 years in the higher position of a salaried sheriff substitute and 659 then retires because of ill-health to a less onerous position, without having reached the age of 65. He will not be able to obtain the benefit of this provision. I am not suggesting that the Amendment is a perfect form of words. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just drawn attention to one obvious defect.
The intention we have is to bring to the notice of the Committee the position of the sheriff substitute who has served a long period and whose retirement from a more strenuous to a less strenuous position is not due solely to age but to infirmities developed during his career. Ignorant as I am of what happens in the courts of sheriffs substitute it seems to me that there is a case for the Amendment. I hope that the Lord Advocate will be able to say that while he may not be able to accept the Amendment in its present terms he will do what he can about it between now and the Report stage.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I indicate in the first instance the change which we propose making by the Clause itself and then examine the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), in the light of that. It was represented to us that a sheriff-substitute who had completed 15 years' service and reached the age of 65 while engaged in busy courts such as in Glasgow or Edinburgh might not feel disposed to carry on with that work because of its onerous nature; but if he could get a transfer to a less busy court at a lower salary—because there are three grades of salary for sheriffs-substitute in Scotland—it would be a desirable thing. However, under the existing law, the Sheriff Courts Act, 1907, his pension is calculated on his salary over the last five years of his employment, and accordingly if he effected such a transfer to a less busy sheriffdom with a consequential lowering of his salary his pension would be calculated on a lower figure than if he had remained in his original sheriffdom.
We agreed to give effect to that proposal and Clause 24 seeks to do so. The basis of that was that in the normal course of events by the time a sheriff-substitute had done 15 years and had reached the age of 65—of course, he may have done 660 more than 15 years when he reaches the age of 65—apart from any real physical ill-health, the passage of years might make it difficult for him to stand up to the rough and tumble of the heavy court work in one of the busier courts, and it was desirable, without dispensing with his services altogether, to allow him to transfer to another sheriffdom.
But now the proposal is made in the Amendment that we should allow him at any time during the whole course of his career because of ill-health—which is not defined and no provision is made in the Amendment to determine what the nature or standard of ill health should be—to get a transfer to another less well paid sheriffdom but still have his retiral pension determined by reference not to the last five years of his employment but to the best five years of his employment. The net result of that would be that if a man was appointed, say, to Glasgow and served for five years in Glasgow as a sheriff-substitute doing very heavy work for which he receives the highest remuneration in this sphere and after that five years was transferred to a county sheriffdom where the work was very light indeed he would suffer a diminution of salary from £1,900 to £1,400; but at the end of the day when he retired under this proposal, albeit he had only done five years in Glasgow and possibly 25 years in the country, he would be entitled to his pension on his salary for the five years he served in Glasgow and not in relation to the 25 years he served in the country.
As my right hon. and learned Friend has said from time to time, we must not lose the good here in pursuit of the better. What we have to do is to meet the normal case of the person who at 65 with at least 15 years' service behind him wishes to transfer to a less busy sheriffdom with a consequential lowering of his salary. We cannot provide for every possible case, for the case of the person who breaks down here or breaks down there, because it really would make nonsense of the proposals if we take the example which I quoted concerning Glasgow. I believe that we have substantially met the case of the sheriffs substitute by including this Clause, and that this is better than putting forward Amendments to cope with other possibilities which are more likely to arise in theory than in practice.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
In the light of that explanation, which, I feel sure, will be fully understood by all those familiar with the Scottish judicial system, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. McNEIL:
In Clause 24, page 12, line 45, at end, insert:(2) Where a salaried sheriff-substitute who has attained the age of sixty-five years and has completed a period of service of not less than fifteen years is appointed to the office of sheriff and is not restricted by the terms of his appointment to that office from engaging in private practice, it shall be lawful for the Treasury on the recommendation of the Secretary of State to grant to him the like annuity as could have been granted to him under section twenty of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act, 1907, if, at the date of his appointment to the office of sheriff, he had resigned his office of sheriff-substitute and the certificate referred to in the said section twenty had been granted in respect of him.Provided always that so long as such person holds the office of sheriff the said annuity shall not be payable.
§ The Chairman
I gather that the Lord Advocate was, in fact, explaining this Amendment, and perhaps therefore it may be taken shortly.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Angus, North and Mearns)
Do I understand, Major Milner, that you are not calling the Amendment which is on the Order Paper in my name in page 12, line 38, after "place," to insert:or has been appointed to the office of part-time Sheriff Principal."?
§ The Lord Advocate
May I, with permission, Major Milner, for technical reasons, alter the form of the Amendment as it appears on the Order Paper, although the result will be exactly the same? I should like to delete the words:it shall be lawful for the Treasury on the recommendation of the Secretary of State to grant to him the like annuity as could have been granted to him underand to insert after the words:shall apply to him in like manner as it would have applied".662 I beg to move in page 12. line 45. at the end, to insert:(2) Where a salaried sheriff-substitute who has attained the age of sixty-five years and has completed a period of service of not less than fifteen years is appointed to the office of sheriff and is not restricted by the terms of his appointment to that office from engaging in private practice, section twenty of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act, 1907, shall apply to him in like manner as it would have applied if, at the date of his appointment to the office of sheriff, he had resigned his office of sheriff-substitute and the certificate referred to in the said section twenty had been granted in respect of him.Provided always that so long as such person holds the office of sheriff the said annuity shall not be payable.The hon. Member for Angus, North (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) need not be unduly worried that his Amendment was not called, because the purpose of the present Amendment is really to give effect to that which appears in his name. Part-time sheriffs, who can engage in practice as distinct from the sheriffs substitute do not have any pension rights; theirs is a non-pensionable appointment. The reason for the Amendment is simply this: that when a sheriff substitute has attained the age of 65 and has served not less than 15 years, he would be entitled to a pension were he to retire on the ground of ill health; but should he be appointed to a part-time sheriffdom, he would not have the certificate of ill health, and if he took that appointment he would forfeit his previous pension rights under the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act, 1907.
The purpose of the Amendment is that if that person satisfies the conditions of age—65 years—and 15 years' service and is then appointed to a part-time sheriffdom, he puts his pension rights into cold storage and they revive on his resignation from the sheriffdom or on death.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I am grateful to the Lord Advocate for meeting the point which I tried in my amateurish way to insert in the Bill.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
663 Clauses 25, 26 and 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
First Schedule agreed to.