HC Deb 03 December 1959 vol 614 cc1450-8

6.46 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Jocelyn Simon)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "Act" to insert: when qualified for such a pension.

The Chairman

I understand that it would be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss, at the same time, the next two Amendments in the name of the Attorney-General, in Clause 3, page 2, line 9, leave out "to him," and page 2, line 10, leave out from "enactment" to "be" in line 11 and insert: to any such person who retires when qualified for such a pension shall".

The Solicitor-General

Yes, Sir Gordon. These are drafting Amendments.

It has been suggested by people who have looked at the Bill that it might be construed as meaning that a judge in office at the time when the Bill becomes law could retire and claim a pension equal to one-half of his salary, even though he had not completed fifteen years in office or, alternatively, had not retired suffering from a permanent infirmity.

The Amendment is designed to make it quite clear that the pensions are payable to serving judges only after fifteen years' service, or on retirement through permanent infirmity, as at present.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

On Second Reading, we were treated in a rather cavalier fashion by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I had hoped that on this occasion we might be able to elicit some information about the position in Scotland, but so far, I see, we do not have any Scottish Ministers on the Government Front Bench again.

On Second Reading, the Secretary of State intervened for exactly three minutes, including interruptions. He failed to give us a lot of information that was given by the Attorney-General in respect of the rates of pension to the holders of office mentioned in the First Schedule. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) spoke after the Secretary of State and put a number of questions to him. The Solicitor-General rightly refused to attempt to reply to Scottish matters.

I am in somewhat of a difficulty, Sir Gordon, because I want to raise Scottish questions on the Clause. I know that the Solicitor-General will not reply to questions on Scottish matters on the Clause, because I do not think he has the relevant information. I am wondering, therefore, what I can do about this. I do not know whether it would be in order for me to move to report Progress until we can get the appropriate Ministers here, but this is certainly an impossible position in which to place Scottish Members. We cannot get any information at all about the provisions of the Clause as they operate in Scotland.

7.0 p.m.

I see a figure rushing along the corridor and now entering the Chamber from behind the Chair, so perhaps I may make some observations to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who has, by this time, arrived. For the right hon. and learned Gentleman's information, I was remarking that the Scottish Office treated the House in rather cavalier fashion on Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State made an intervention for three minutes, including interruptions, and then departed. No answers were given to questions which were raised later. I can understand that the Secretary of State is a busy man, but where were the Law Officers? Where was the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself? Where was the Lord Advocate? We could surely have had someone present on Second Reading to tell us about Clause 1.

The Attorney-General, speaking about England, gave many figures to show how the Bill would affect the pensions of judges. I want the Solicitor-General to tell us how the Bill would affect the pensions of judges in Scotland. I gather that judges in Scotland receive smaller salaries than do judges in England. I am bound to say that I do not understand why. A judge in Scotland does work which is just as important as the work of a judge in England. This is quite unfair to Scotland and quite unfair to the legal profession in Scotland. I do not very often defend the legal profession—I spend most of my time attacking it—but, at least, this does not seem to be right.

The pensions of judges in Scotland will be smaller. As there will be this difference, may we now be told what the effect of the Bill will be upon the pensions of the Lord Justice General, the Lord Justice Clerk, and the Senators of the College of Justice in Scotland? To what extent does the Bill mean an increase in pension? How much of the estimated increase per year, namely, £55,000, for these pensions is in respect of pensions for judges in Scotland? I should be very grateful if the Solicitor-General for Scotland will tell us.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. William Grant)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked two questions. First, he asked, why are judges in Scotland paid a smaller salary?

Mr. Willis

I had a point before that. I asked why we were not given any information during the Second Reading debate, and I want to know where the members of the Scottish Office were after the Secretary of State went?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

As the hon. Gentleman realises, I am not a member of the Scottish Office, nor am I responsible for the absence of any member of the Scottish Office. I will, however, remind the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was here during a considerable part of the debate, and he did intervene in order to deal with particularly Scottish matters.

The pensions in Scotland are based on the salary, as they are in England, and the pensions will be the same fraction of the salary. Under this Bill, judges who retire in future will receive a pension based on one-half of their salaries. This means, if the hon. Gentleman would like a figure—

Mr. Willis

That is what I do want, yes.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The figures of salary in Scotland are as follows: the Lord Justice General has a salary of £8,000. The Lord Justice Clerk has a salary—I am speaking from memory, but I think I am right—of £7,800. The other judges each receive a salary of £6,600. If under the Bill, after doing the requisite amount of service and so on, they qualify for a full pension, they will receive half those amounts in pension when they retire. There will still be the widows' rights and the lump sum which, I think, were introduced in 1954.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)


The Solicitor-General for Scotland

1950—I am sorry. They were introduced in 1950, and the increase in salary of £3,000 a year was made in 1954, but that increase was not counted for pension rights.

Under the Bill, the judges will receive on retirement, after fulfilling the conditions for a full pension, a pension of one-half of their last annual salary.

Mr. Willis

We read all that in the Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not told us very much. I will put the question more specifically. What is the present pension of these judicial officers and what will the pension be under the Bill?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I can give the hon. Gentleman those figures. Starting with the Lord President, the Lord Justice General, his present pension—I am speaking about the full pension—is £2,812. Under the Bill, it will be £4,000. For the Lord Justice Clerk, under the rule as it now stands, there would be a pension of £2,700, and under the Bill it will be £3,900. Under the present law, the other judges have a pension of £2,025, and under the Bill they will receive a pension of £3,300. Those figures, of course, are exclusive of widows' rights.

Mr. Ross

I am very grateful indeed for this belated information about the position in Scotland. It would have been very much better had we had it at the right time; it might have enabled us to make more certain and considered comments about the matter at that stage. There is a further point about which we are entitled to know now. This Bill applies to England and to Scotland. The Solicitor-General for Scotland has made no effort to tell us why this action has been taken. What is the justification for it? When we were treated to the joyful news that an increase was to be given to the judges in 1954—

Mr. Willis

Great celebrations in Edinburgh.

Mr. Ross

—we were specifically told that that would not affect the pension. Therefore, in this discussion on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", I want to know exactly why what people took great care not to do in 1954 must be done in 1959. That is my first question.

The second question is how this Bill affects the options given by the 1950 Act? Does it mean that the calculations to be made will now be made in relation to this Bill? We were told that all consideration of the 1954 arrangement was to be wiped out; we were making a new departure, with fixed sums to follow.

In Scotland, the Lord Justice General will have an increase in pension of £1,188. For the Lord Justice Clerk it will be £1,200. I do not know whether there will be a clash here because one has a few more pounds than the other, especially considering that one of them is presently receiving a higher salary. For the other judges of the Court of Session the increase will be £1,275. I think my figures are right. As we go down the scale, so the increase in pension is greater.

How was this basis of pension scale worked out? Apart from the quite legitimate complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) about the level of salaries in Scotland for judges vis-à-vis their English counterparts, may we be told how the Bill will work out for Scottish judges compared with the English judicial hierarchy?

Subsection (3) provided: Where the period of the relevant service of any such person is less than fifteen years, the annual amount of the pension shall be as follows, that is to say—

  1. (a) if that period does not exceed five years, one-quarter of his last annual salary".
Why was it worked out on the basis of five years? There must have been some thought behind it. Why is it that after five years the judges receive one-quarter of their annual salary, but that in order to have full pension they have to continue for fifteen years or more? I hope the Solicitor-General can give us the answer to these rather small points.

The Solicitor-General

I think that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) did me less than justice when he suggested that I had not on Second Reading explained why the Bill was being brought in.

Mr. Willis

I did not say that.

The Solicitor-General

I gave several reasons—I think two are particularly relevant—why something which was not thought expedient in 1954 should now be considered expedient and, indeed, necessary.

The first reason is that in 1954 the economic state of the country was by no means as strong as it is today. There was an urgent case for an increase in judicial salaries, and this, I think, was accepted by the whole House. It was felt that an increase in pensions could, at any rate, wait.

Several things have happened since which make it quite urgent to deal also with pensions. With very great respect to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I did mention these points on Second Reading. I said that the pensions of the higher judiciary ought to bear a reasonable relationship to those awarded to the higher servants of the executive branch of Government. Latterly, particularly recently, the pensions awarded to the higher civil servants, based on the Coleraine salary increases, have gone up incommensurately, and, indeed, they are strikingly ahead of judicial pensions. That seems to me to be one major change in circumstance related to the general balance of the constitution and particularly the balance which one wishes to get between these two great branches of the public service.

Mr. Ross

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that, will he relate it to the actual service of 15 years?

The Solicitor-General

Actual service? Yes, what I was pointing out was that the judicial service must be seen in relation to the recruiting at the very beginning of the legal career as well as at the beginning of the judicial service.

The second point, perhaps even more cogent, is that it is necessary to preserve within the judicial service itself reasonable differentials so that those of higher rank and higher responsibility should attract a larger pension than those of lower rank and lower responsibility. Again owing to the fact that the salaries, and therefore the pensions, of the lower judiciary are reviewed at the time when there is a rise in the salaries of the higher civil servants there has been an increase in the salaries and therefore in the pensions of the lower judiciary which has resulted in some striking anomalies whereby members of the junior judiciary have got larger pensions than those in the higher judiciary. These are, of course, particularly striking in Scotland, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out on Second Reading. So there seem to me to be three reasons why this Bill and this Clause are so necessary today.

The hon. Gentleman asked me certain other specific questions. The first was how the provisions of this Clause affect the options under the 1950 Act. The answer is, not at all; that once an option has been taken one way or the other it cannot be reopened; that anybody who opted out of the provisions of the 1950 Act cannot now opt to have the ancillary benefits. The option was taken once and for all.

The second specific question the hon. Gentleman asked me was how these increases in pensions are worked out. The answer is that, with the exception of the pension of the President of the Scottish Land Court, whom we shall be discussing on a later Amendment, the pension is half the retiring salary after 15 years' service, with modifications, as hon. Gentlemen will appreciate, which permit of retirement after 10 years' service; and it is on that basis we get the increase to which the hon. Gentleman drew attention.

The right hon. Gentleman asked, thirdly, how the increases in the pensions of the Scottish judges are related to the pensions of the English judges. I imagine that he wanted specific figures, because, of course, in each case the pension is half the retiring salary after 15 years. If I may take a puisne judge of the High Court in England, he has had since 1954 a salary of £8,000 a year, and he has at the moment a pension, assuming that he opted for the ancillary benefits, of £2,625. That is increased to a pension of £4,000 That compares with the figures which my right hon. and learned Friend gave to the hon. Gentleman relating to a judge of the Court of Session, where the respective figures are a salary of £6,600 and at present a pension of £2,025, which will be increased to a pension of £3,300.

7.15 p.m.

The final question which the hon. Gentleman asked me was on subsection (3), which sets out the way the graduated system works: Where the period of the relevant service of any such person is less than fifteen years, the annual amount of the pension shall be as follows— First, the lowest figure is one-quarter of the last annual salary, and it then goes up by one-fortieth per year till it comes to half the annual salary. The figure of one-quarter was arrived at because it was felt that, in the case of a judge of the High Court retiring in a period under five years owing to infirmity, which is the circumstance this subsection envisages, it would be wrong to cast him off, in effect, with a pension of less than one- quarter of his last annual salary—in the case of an English High Court judge, £2,000 a year. It was felt that to treat high officers of our judiciary who were stricken and forced to retire in these circumstances through no fault of their own less generously than that would seem to show we put altogether too low a value on our judiciary generally.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.