HC Deb 09 July 1957 vol 573 cc211-7

Order for Second Reading read

3.54 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

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

On 18th April, 1957, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the salaries of certain judicial officers in Scotland would be increased with effect from 18th April. These increases did not necessitate legislation, so effect was able to be given to them straight away. On the same day, my right hon. Friend also announced that the salaries of certain other judicial officers—the Recorders of Liverpool and Manchester, county court judges, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate and Metropolitan magistrates—ought to be increased and would be increased from 18th April. The Bill seeks to implement my right hon. Friend's statement. Legislation is required for this purpose and these judicial officers have not as yet received the increased salaries which were announced.

The House will remember that in 1956 the Criminal Justice Administration Act was passed and that that Act placed new and important responsibilities on the Recorders of Manchester and Liverpool. It enlarged their jurisdiction and increased their status and the intention was to make the office of Recorder of those great cities similar to the office of Recorder of London.

The salaries of the Recorders of Manchester and Liverpool were fixed at £4,000. The Bill increases them to £4,500. Although the figure of £4,000 was inserted in the 1956 Act, it was, in fact, decided upon in agreement with the City Councils of Liverpool and Manchester, in 1953. The salaries of the Recorder of London, the Common Serjeant and Chairman and Deputy-Chairmen of London Sessions have recently been increased and it is thought to be right to make the proposed increase to these two Recorders.

That increase makes it necessary to amend the 1956 Act so far as it relates to these Recorders' pensions. Under the 1956 Act, their pensions were related to the salary of £4,000. The Bill, by Clause 2, makes no alteration to the rate of pension but relates the rate of pension to the increased salary. The effect of the First Schedule is to make that pension rate operate automatically should there be any future increases of salary. I am sure that the House will consider that a desirable alteration. So much for the Recorders of Liverpool and Manchester.

By Clause 1 (1, b) of the Bill, the salary of county court judges is to be increased from £2,800 to £3,750. County court judges bear a heavy responsibility and, as the House knows, their jurisdiction was recently considerably enlarged. They have a great deal of work to do and I should be surprised if anyone were opposed to this increase. Subsection (1, c) makes a corresponding increase in the salary of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, raising it also from £2,800 to £3,750. Subsection (1, d) increases the salary of other Metropolitan magistrates from £2,500 to £3,400. The effect of subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1 is that these increases will take effect from 18th April last, or from the date of appointment, whichever is the later.

I should draw the attention of the House to the provisions in Clause 1 (4). This provides that if it becomes necessary to make any further increase in the salaries of these judicial officers, it can be done without legislation. As in the last Bill, the power is limited to increases; there is no possibility of using this machinery for a reduction. If the subsection is approved, the Lord Chancellor may, with the consent of the Treasury, make an Order increasing the salary of any of the offices to which I have referred, but no such Order will be effective unless a draft Order has first been approved by a Resolution of each House of Parliament; so that the House retains full Parliamentary control.

I hope that this provision will be welcomed. I am sure it will be welcomed by those who were promised these increases last April and who have had to wait for them until this Bill has passed through Parliament. As I have said, they have not yet received these increases. The pressure of Parliamentary business—the passage of the Finance Bill and other matters—has made it impossible to deal with the Bill before today. The effect of this provision will be to ensure that further increases, should further increases be justified, are not delayed by the need for the passage of legislation.

I think that I have drawn the attention of the House to the main proposals of the Bill. It is a comparatively short Bill, it is drafted, I suggest, with great clarity, and I commend it to the House.

4.1 p.m.

Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)

I can reply quite shortly to the speech of the learned Attorney-General by saying that we on this side of the House think that the provisions of the Bill are well justified. We recognise the extremely important jurisdiction vested in the three classes of judges referred to in the Bill, and we think that the increases which the Bill proposes are appropriate in their cases.

I do not think there are any comments that I should like to make individually on the Clauses of the Bill. The pensions provisions would also seem to be appropriate, geared as they are to the increases in salaries, though bearing the same fractional proportion, as I understand the speech of the learned Attorney-General. I hope that the House will agree to give this Bill a Second Reading.

4.2 p.m.

Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

There is one matter on which I should like to ask the assistance of my right hon. and learned Friend, as it is one which has been causing some concern to those interested.

I refer to the date at which the increases come into force, which not only affects the actual increase itself, but also has a substantial effect from the point of view of pension, particularly in the case of a magistrate whose pension is calculated, as I understand, on a three-year basis, with the result that a difference of a year in the date of the application of the increase is a matter of very substantial importance. There was, in fact, and I think it is generally known, what was regarded as a certain amount of delay in the granting of these increases. Of course, one has to have some date, but the date to which my right hon. and learned Friend referred is, in fact, the date upon which I asked a Question and it was answered.

It is a rather remarkable fact—I think I am right about this; I have done my best to check it—that in the case of the Masters of the Supreme Court, and also in the case of the recent Civil Service increases, which did not require legislation, they were back-dated to 1st April, 1956. It seems to me to be rather a striking fact that that date—1st April, 1956—was regarded as appropriate in these cases, but, in the cases of magistrates and county court judges, where legislation is required, it is considered sufficient to make the increases effective from 18th April this year. When we realise that this affects the pension, it becomes a serious matter indeed.

If any of the magistrates concerned, particularly magistrates who are affected by the three-year principle, retire in the three years which follow from 18th April, 1957, they will be affected by this difference in date. Similarly, if one of them was forced to retire because of ill-health, he would certainly be affected and would not be able to stay on for the extra time to get over the difficulty of the expiry of the period. I understand that there are five of the present magistrates who have done twenty years' service, and who would, therefore, be in a position to retire now.

I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether this matter has been appreciated, and particularly the difference between these judicial officers, who, as everyone recognises, do work of immense importance. These county court judges and magistrates are the people, I suppose, who are more closely in contact with the ordinary man in the street, both in London and in other parts of the country, than anyone else. They have very difficult work to do, they are much respected, and one feels that they ought at least to be given the same treatment as civil servants.

The Masters of the Supreme Court also do important work and, there again, it has been just as difficult to understand why they are to be placed on a different basis. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to explain this matter. If there is not an explanation, I feel that it would be only reasonable to expect that the necessary adjustments should be made. Even if they could not be made in relation to salaries, which would not seem to be a very generous point of view to take, it does seem to me that they ought to be possible in the case of pensions.

4.5 p.m.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

As hon. Members may recall, I have twice, when the Leader of the House has been announcing the business for the following week, asked when we were to have this Bill before the House, and I was very glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was able to reassure us that this money had not yet been paid out.

I am not discussing the merits of the Bill, but I believe that it is very undesirable from a constitutional point of view that money should be paid out before Parliamentary sanction has been received. I therefore hope that in future, whenever any similar increases are pending, the Government will try to see that the House is given an opportunity of indicating its approval before a public announcement is made like that some time ago, which led many of us to believe that in this case people were actually receiving increases in remuneration before this House had approved the expenditure.

4.7 p.m.

The Attorney-General

If I may have the leave of the House, may I say in answer to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) that no announcement was made that these increases would be paid on and after the 18th April. I am sorry if the point was not made clear. It was an announcement that the increases would be with effect from 18th April. I think that most of us understood the point—that they were being given something to look forward to, but not to receive immediately. I do not think that I have to defend the Government's action in this behalf. The Bill provides for payment, but until it is passed payment cannot be made.

In answer to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), I would say that the increases which could be made without legislation were made immediately—the increases to the Scottish judicial officers, which did not require legislation. Nor did the increases in the salaries of the Masters and others to whom my right hon. and learned Friend referred require legislation. The announcement was made on 18th April, and I think I am right in saying that it is not very usual to make retrospective increases of salaries. In this Bill we have made provision for the payments to take effect as from 18th April, when the public announcement was made, it is true, in Answer to a Written Question in this House.

It would be a departure from the principle which, I think, is fairly well recognised if the payment of salaries, in cases in which payment has to be provided for by legislation, was made retrospective to a date before the date on which this House was informed of the changes which were proposed to be made, and without this House having any opportunity at all of expressing an opinion.

While I appreciate my right hon. and learned Friend's desire to secure the same date in all cases, that is to say, 1st April, 1956, which is the date from which the increases were given in the cases of the Masters and some other officers, in which legislation was not required, I cannot hold out any hope that that can be done or would be done by this Bill. These increases will, in fact, date from the same date as that of the increases to the Scottish judicial officers.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Legh.]

Committee Tomorrow.