HC Deb 03 December 1959 vol 614 cc1472-92
Mr. Ross

I beg to move, in page 3, line 12, after "Act", to insert: having served in that office for a continuous period of at least five years".

If we allow this Clause to pass un-amended it will mean that the Lord Chancellor will be able to attract a pension now of £5,000 a year, without any conditions at all as to service. My hon. Friends have pointed out how long ordinary people had to serve to get very much smaller pensions than those we are discussing. A case was put up to give people pensions after five years' service, but this is the finest and brightest of them all. The annual amount of any pension granted under the Lord Chancellor's Pension Act, 1832, for service as Lord Chancellor shall, in the case of a person who resigns that office after the commencement of this Act, be five thousand pounds,…".

It is as simple as that. When we look at the Lord Chancellor's Pension Act, 1832, we find that at that time it specifically said that the pension was free of tax. I wonder if this proposed pension will be free of tax—I hope not. I should be very worried if it were. Now the pension is to be £5,000.

My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) raised questions on this point on Second Reading, and no answers were given. Would it be right that, if at the end of any Parliament a Lord Chancellor was appointed and after a fortnight resigned, or was sacked, he should be entitled to a pension of £5,000? The same thing could apply year after year. In other words, there is no limit as to time in the holding of that office. This pension is unlike that of the Speaker of the House, in respect of whom we decide to do something about his pension after he has retired, because in the case of the Lord Chancellor the pension is fixed as soon as he is appointed. Trust the lawyers to look after themselves! They are taking no chances with any recalcitrant House of Commons or House of Lords. In their case the conditions apply from the start.

I should like to know why we should give the Lord Chancellor—especially the present one—a pension increase of £1,500 without any conditions at all. I hope that the Solicitor-General will not tell us that the pension was £5,000 in 1831 and is less than that now. We all know that that is so. It was reduced in order to be able to provide a pension under the provisions of the Act dealing with widows and dependants.

I should like to know why the Lord Chancellor, as distinct from anybody else, gets a pension even if he holds his office for only a day. We have two Solicitors-General sitting on the Front Bench, and I would like the Solicitor-General for England to confirm that this is the position. The Lord Chancellor's contact with Scotland is very slight. He does not even look after our justices of the peace. The hon. and learned Gentleman need not be worried that a Scotsman is attacking the office of the Lord Chancellor and the conditions attaching to his pension. I should have thought it was wise to put in some condition of service. That would certainly satisfy the public. There should be a reference to the time for which the office is held.

I know that the Solicitor-General may say that if we put those words in the Clause will read: a person who resigns that office after the commencement of this Act, having served in that office for a continuous period of at least five years, … and that may well mean that the present Lord Chancellor would be ruled out in respect of a pension until he had completed a continuous five years of service after the passing of this Measure. I am quite prepared that the Clause should be interpreted in that way. The Lord Chancellor has a special obligation to our people in relation to the changes which are to be made in his salary and pension.

Unlike every other person operating in a judicial capacity, the Lord Chancellor is a politician. That is one of the notorious anomalies that have been common throughout the centuries. We are just on the morrow of an Election, and we can still go round the countryside and see references to the fact that the Lord Chancellor is speaking on behalf of a political party. During the early part of last month he and his wife spent much time in making political speeches. He spoke in Rugby, Watford, and other places telling the people why the old-age pensioners could not have an increase in their pensions and why it was so wrong for the Labour Party to say that this should be done.

8.15 p.m.

I wonder if he told his audiences that one of the first Bills to be introduced by the Government of which he was a Member would provide, among other things, for an increase in his pension from £3,500 to £5,000 a year? It might have made a considerable difference to the outlook of his audiences when he was speaking on the subject of the profligacy of the Labour Party in the spending of Government money. We Scots are traditionally concerned about the spending of Government money. During the General Election I noticed a letter to The Times saying that Members of Parliament should return to the old convention of scrutinising carefully the expenditure of the Executive. That is what we are doing. We are asking the Solicitor-General to ensure that before qualifying for a pension of £5,000 a Lord Chancellor should serve the country, in his judicial capacity, at least for a reasonable time. We have suggested a period of five years.

Since the Goverment's provision is a new departure and since it comes immediately following an election, in which the issue of pensions loomed very largely and was referred to in strong terms by the present incumbent of the office of Lord Chancellor, the Government ought to be prepared to agree that the provision requiring the office to be held for at least five years should start with him.

Mr. Willis

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). I hope that the Solicitor-General has noticed that our Amendments are very modest ones. We do not seek to achieve a great deal. We seek only to achieve a certain amount of justice. The Amendment provides merely that before a Lord Chancellor receives a pension he shall have done something to earn it. Under the present legislation he need hardly do anything at all. A few weeks or a few months of office entitles him to a pension of £5,000 a year.

The Amendment merely ensures that the Lord Chancellor gives the nation a certain length of service in his office before he qualifies for a pension. I do not know anybody else of whom we say, "It does not matter how long you hold your office; you will get a pension when you leave that office." Nobody else receives that special treatment. This is all part of the great hocus-pocus that we have erected around legal appointments.

I have no doubt that the Solicitor-General will say that we must bring this pension into line with the others, and that if we do not we will not get the best type of man for the job. That is the sort of argument that we get, that they are eminent men with great experience and knowledge, and all the other words that are used to elaborate that point. That is what we shall be told.

I wonder whether that is true. If the pension remained at the present figure of £3,500 I wonder whether there would be fewer men striving to get that pension. I wonder whether they would not still be highly qualified men. I think that they would be. The argument that high qualifications are required, or expected, for the job provides no answer to the principle that one gets a pension whether one has given any service or not. That is virtually what is established under the Lord Chancellor's Pension Act, 1132, about which the Bill does nothing and about which we seek, in a humble capacity, to try to achieve something.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock was right. During the recent election hon. Gentlemen opposite had a lot to say about expenditure and that we could not afford this and that we could not afford that. Where are those hon. Genlemen now? Where are those great orators who, all over the country, spoke about the extravagance of a Socialist Government which, incidentally, reduced the Chancellor's pension, or at least provided a quid pro quo? We did not hear anything about this proposed increase of £1,500 with no length of service specified to earn it. Nothing was said about that at the election. We must remember, too, that no contributions are to be paid for this increased pension.

Last night, we were told that the Government could not find the money to assist depopulated areas of Britain. Means were not at the disposal of the Government for that purpose, but we are now being asked to provide an additional £1,500 for somebody who does not have to hold the job for any specific length of time before he gets a pension.

Is there not something fantastic and crazy about this? I am confident that if people generally knew about this position they would not tolerate it. It has historic origins and we are still encumbered with it, but it is quite out of accord with modern ideas. I cannot imagine even good Conservatives in my division supporting this. I do not think that we would have done anything as silly as this in Scotland. One of my hon. Friends asks me, "Are there any good Tories?".

Mr. Ross

Those who will vote Labour at the next General Election.

Mr. Willis

Is there any justification for this proposed increase? If there is, we shall be pleased to know what it is. I have tried to think of the possible arguments in favour of it. I can think only of the argument about attracting the right people to this high and important post, but that would not justify the position of having no specified length of service. It might justify a high pension, but I cannot think why it should justify a man getting a pension without having served for a specific length of time.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock would be willing to alter the period to six years or seven years if the Government were prepared to put a time limit into the Bill. If the Government were prepared to do that I would be ready to consider it, but we ought to be given some explanation.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

Would my hon. Friend be happy with the present Lord Chancellor for another six or seven years?

Mr. Willis

I am never happy to have a Tory in any office, not even for five minutes, never mind for five years. Un-fortunately, we are in the position that we are in today, but for my part I would not have a Tory in any office at all.

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, and I accept this right away, that he was not attacking the present Lord Chancellor but was referring to his office. I accept that unhesitatingly. The present Lord Chancellor was highly regarded when he was a House of Commons man and hon. Members knew him very well for many years. I know that there was no towards him in any part of the House.

May I first deal with certain specific questions that the hon. Gentleman asked me, then go on to look at the operation of the Amendment on a narrow basis, taking it literally, and then deal with some of the wider considerations that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) raised?

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked whether if the Lord Chancellor retired immediately after taking office he could draw a pension. The answer is that he could. No period is specified, and there never has been since the introduction of the Lord Chancellor's Pension Act, 1832. The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the pension was paid free of tax. The answer is that no part of it is paid free of tax.

Mr. Ross

When was that alteration made?

The Solicitor-General

I am not sure, but I think it was in the middle 'fifties. I think it was then that the Lord Chancellor lost his tax benefit.

Mr. Lawson

If the pension is not free of tax, to what extent are there special allowances which go with that office that are free of tax?

The Solicitor-General

I am told that the pension was always subject to tax. What I had in mind, and what I think the hon. Gentleman had in mind, was the Lord Chancellor's salary under the early provisions.

Mr. Ross


The Solicitor-General

I am told that no part of the pension was ever free of tax. It certainly is not today; and there are no benefits that go with it, except those benefits which are allowable under the 1950 Act, the ancillary benefits.

May I turn now to the effect of the Amendment. I am not going to deal with its effect on the present Lord Chancellor, in that its effect on him would mean that he would have to serve, unlike previous Lord Chancellors or any future Lord Chancellors, for a period of five years after the passing of the Act, be- cause that seems to me to be unjustifiably unfair to the present incumbent of the office.

8.30 p.m.

I should like now to look at the wider aspects. The Amendment does not say that it must be a cumulative period of five years, but that it must be a continuous period of five years. The Committee might be interested to know how that would have operated in the past. There have been 28 Lord Chancellors who have held the office since 1827. Of those, eighteen did not serve a continuous period of five years, although quite a number served for a period of more than five years in the aggregate. One must remember that during all that time until, I think, 1918, Parliament was operating under a septennial Act, so that it was more likely that a Lord Chancellor could put in a period of five years during a period of party Government.

Today, we operate under a quinquennial provision, and such are the chances of party fortune that one would normally anticipate in a Government, with a swing backwards and forwards, a period of less than five years' continuous service. Personally, I should like to think that what we have seen at the last three General Elections would be repeated indefinitely. I see that the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) does not agree with that, and I did not expect him to.

In any event, in the nature of things, that cannot continue. The normal movement of party Government is an alternating of parties. I should therefore have thought that it would be a quite unreal and unfair test to demand a continuous period of at least five years.

However, I thought it right to look at the matter also in its larger context although, perhaps, this is more relevant to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", although both hon. Members raised this point. They both said that the Lord Chancellor is a politician. That is absolutely true. His position is unique and, in a sense, constitutionally anomalous, but very ancient. I have heard the present Lord Chancellor describe himself as a standing refutation of Montesquieu's division of powers in the British Constitution, and that is true. He sits in the Government, he is at the head of the judiciary and he presides over the House of Lords. It is a very ancient office and a very important office; and as long as a Lord Chancellor is part of our Constitution and is head of the judiciary I think it is incumbent on us to provide for proper emoluments, for him, including pension.

Why should he have what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East quite rightly described as unique conditions of service? Why should he be able to draw his pension even though he does no period of service to qualify for it? That really follows from the nature of his office. Here, perhaps, I may be allowed to give an example, although I prefer not to take a living one, of a Lord Chancellor.

One looks at the career of Lord Jowitt. I remember that when I went to the Bar he was a commanding figure there—a great lawyer, a great advocate, as some hon. Members will remember. He went straight from office as, I think, Attorney-General, to Lord Chancellor. He could undoubtedly have graced the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords. He would have been an admirable judge, a wonderful judge, wherever he was called to do judicial service, but he was called to the office of Lord Chancellor.

It seems to me that it would be very unfair, and very unwise, to say that because he took that particular line of career he should be worse treated in the way of pension than the judges, some of whom sat under him, or the judiciary of which he was the head. If we want to attract that sort of man to the office of Lord Chancellor—making it an alternative judicial career, even though it has the constitutional oddity of also being a political career—if we want to attract the commanding lawyer into that job we must pay a reasonable, indeed, a generous pension.

Mr. Ross

Is he a Lord of Appeal?

The Solicitor-General

No, he is not a Lord of Appeal.

Mr. Willis

How is he worse off than a judge? A judge would not get a pension within six months.

The Solicitor-General

That was my next point. He has no security. If a man with the choice of going on the bench or becoming the Lord Chancellor decides on the bench, he knows that he can serve for fifteen years, or whatever it is, and earn his pension. The Lord Chancellor is subject to the exigencies of political life. He has not the security. He is, in addition, presiding judicially, even as Lord Chancellor, over Lords of Appeal in Ordinary enjoying a salary of £9,000 a year which will attract, under the provisions of the Bill which the Committee has already approved, a pension of £4,500 a year after fifteen years service.

It goes further than that. When a Lord Chancellor retires, he cannot return to the Bar. If he did, there is no doubt that with the attainments of men who become Lord Chancellors he could earn a very considerable salary. Nor is it altogether in accordance with custom that he should take outside posts. There is a certain moral compulsion on him that he should continue to sit in, and preside over, the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I do not want to put this too high. There is certainly no statutory obligation on an ex-Lord Chancellor to sit judicially whilst in receipt of his pension, and there is certainly no such conventional obligation in the constitutional sense, but there is a moral obligation on him. As the Committee knows, it has been the custom of ex-Lord Chancellors to continue to preside over the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. One has only to think of the service rendered by a man like Lord Simon to appreciate what wonderful contribution can be made in that sort of service to the development of our law.

Mr. Willey

I believe that the convention was broken by Lord Birkenhead. In view of that, would it not be wise to take some precautionary step, because that caused a very considerable stir at the time?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman is right. There was very considerable, indeed acrimonious, controversy at the time. However, when Lord Birkenhead went into the City he did not draw, although he put on record his right to draw, his pension as an ex-Lord Chancellor.

I used my words carefully and advisedly in speaking of the sort of obligation that there is on a Lord Chancellor. In recent times ex-Lord Chancellors retiring on pension have presided with very great distinction and very great public advantage in the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. There is this to be added. When an ex-Lord Chancellor is doing that—with his pension of £5,000 under the Bill and £3,750 at present—he is presiding over Lords of Appeal in Ordinary who are earning salaries much in excess of his pension. As it works out at the moment, it is very much to the public's financial advantage. For those reasons and because the Amendment is defective, in that it in any event asks for a continuous period of five years, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel that it should not be pressed.

Mr. Ross

I am not entirely convinced of the argument that there should be no period, although I see the objections in relation to the period we have put down and the qualification that it must be continuous. I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that we thought seriously about whether it should be three or four years rather than five, and we took five as being the normal term, although it is once again theoretically rather fictitious in the reality of the term of a Parliament.

I hope that the Solicitor-General will have a look at this matter again. I am prepared to accept the replacement of the word "continuous" by the word "aggregate", or another word such as that, to ensure that broken periods could be built up to meet the time specified. I am not touched to a great extent by what has been said in relation to the wider arguments. What I want to ensure is that there should be something in the nature of service adequate to the pension being granted. Most of the Solicitor-General's arguments are based upon tradition which has been breached, not centuries ago, but during the present half-century. That is a matter with which I proposed to deal on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," but I will not go into that matter now. Although I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment, I would ask the Solicitor-General to have another look at the narrower point about time and service. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Mr. Ross

I should like the Government to take this Clause out of the Bill altogether, for the simple reason that I do not think that a Clause which deals with the Lord Chancellor should also deal with judges. The Lord Chancellor is a very different individual altogether. The Act of Parliament which laid down the pension of the Lord Chancellor was a separate Measure which applied purely and simply to him. That Act, which I think is mentioned in the Bill, was The Lord Chancellor's Pension Act, 1832. It laid down a pension of £5,000, which, as far as I can see, was to be paid quarterly without any deduction of tax or any other deductions. I think that those are the words of the 1832 Act.

Mr. Willis

I think that the words are free and clear of all taxes and deductions whatsoever …

The Solicitor-General

I should not like to mislead the Committee. That does not mean that the pension is paid without deduction of Income Tax. At the time, there was no Income Tax, which was introduced about ten years later. I think that the words refer to deductions by way of land taxes, and that sort of thing.

Mr. Ross

The point is that it was for all time. We always legislate, not for the day, not for the year, but for all time. First, I think that we should follow the precedent of 1832 and keep the Lord Chancellor separate. Secondly, it is quite wrong, in dealing with judges, and with principles and the arguments relating to those principles that might well support something being done in relation to the justiciary, to include within the Bill a Clause dealing with someone who has always claimed to be entirely different and who is very different indeed. Here we have the anomaly, to which the Solicitor-General has referred, of a man who is, that strange thing, the link between the justiciary and the Executive. We have always said that the thing to do is to keep the two entirely separate. We have at the head of our legal system this strange animal who is also a politician, a placed politician, and a member of the Cabinet. Neither the House of Lords nor the House of Commons has any say in his appointment. He is appointed by the Prime Minister.

8.45 p.m.

One of the strange things is that whereas, when we elect a Speaker of the House of Commons, we take into account his years of service, his experience and everything else, the chances are that the man who presides in another place has had no experience of another place and has never spent any time there, because of late the office has been dealt with on the basis of granting him a peerage on his appointment.

He is not only a politician, but a party politician. This is where it becomes difficult to avoid referring to the fact that no person has been more of a party politician than the present holder of the office. I remember the Lord Chancellor when he was in the House of Commons. [Interruption.] We will come to the noble Lord, Lord Birkenhead, presently. I remember reading some of the speeches delivered by the present Lord Chancellor in another place relating to party political matters. At one moment, the Lord Chancellor is sitting as the President of the assembly in another place. The next minute, he can step down and become one of the leading spokesmen of the Government.

It would be far better to deal with the Lord Chancellor's pension when we are dealing with the pensions of politicians. The Prime Minister is not making any change in his own pension nor in the pension of Mr. Speaker or of Members of Parliament. Why should we single out one political animal—the Lord Chancellor—to give him this additional pension of £1,250, remembering that he has just come from the hustings?

I took the trouble to see exactly where the Lord Chancellor had been. He was in quite a few places, and so was his wife—we must remember that now his wife is covered for pension, too—actively pursuing a political programme and attacking another political programme. It was said from the Dispatch Box today or on Second Reading by the Solicitor-General—or was it the Attorney-General on Second Reading—that the Bill arose from a promise given in another place when attention was drawn to the anoma- lies relating to the pension of the higher justiciary as compared with others. Therefore, when he was attacking my party in relation to the pensions of simple, ordinary people, the Lord Chancellor must have known that one of the first pieces of legislation would relate purely and personally to himself, amongst others. It would have been far better from the viewpoint of the Lord Chancellor and of politics that he should have been left out of the Bill. If the Government and the Lord Chancellor felt that he should be dealt with, it should be done in a separate Bill.

The Lord Chancellor is not only a judicial being, but he is also a politician. That has always been so. The Solicitor-General spoke about the tradition that a Lord Chancellor did not go into business after leaving office. From the Dispatch Box, the hon. and learned Gentleman proclaimed tradition. My hon. Friend rightly mentioned what happened with Lord Birkenhead. He went into the City. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman remember Lord Birkenhead in another place, as Lord Chancellor, proclaiming tradition to Lord Carson?

If anyone is interested, there are some glorious pages in the reports of the House of Lords for 22nd, 27th and 29th March, 1921, when the Lord Chancellor attacked Lord Carson for daring to be a politician because he was a Law Lord. He drew attention to how exceptional a being he, as Lord Chancellor, was and said how right it was that freedom of political expression should be open to him and that it was wrong for any other judicial Lord to make rather bitter speeches taunting the Government of the day. When we recognise that the person who can proclaim tradition can himself within a few years break tradition, we must be cagey about this business of an appeal once again to tradition, even though it comes from someone as pleasant, as courteous and as clear as the Solicitor-General.

I raise my objection to the Clause on the strange existence of this anomaly, which is quite inexplicable and in many ways indefensible. The only thing is that it works. It has been found of some practical use through the centuries. It is a violation of the sanctity of our constitution and all our theories about the constitution. That being so, if we cannot make the separation within the one person, we can make the separation in relation to Bills dealing with the two factions.

In 1832, we had a separate Act of Parliament dealing with the Lord Chancellor's pension. We have recently had an election, in which the Lord Chancellor took a prominent part. I shall not quote arty speeches—that would be unfair, because the Bill does not devolve entirely from the personality of the Lord Chancellor. It devolves from the anomaly that he is a politician and, since he is a politician, when there is an election, he must speak for his party as one of the spokesmen of his party.

This being so, he should not be treated in legislation which deals with judges, judges who are not allowed to be partisan, judges who are not allowed to enter into the controversy and heat of party battle. In this matter, there should be separate legislation for the Lord Chancellor.

I am not speaking now about whether £5,000 is enough, too much, or suitable. I am dealing with the question of principle. The Lord Chancellor is a politician and an active political partisan. During the General Election, he was a spokesman of a party which has been telling people that they cannot have this, that or the other, yet now his own pension is to be raised. It would have been far better to take the Lord Chancellor's pension out of a Bill dealing with the judges and provide for it in a Bill of its own. I hope that the Solicitor-General will agree.

Lord Haldane, speaking in another place, in 1922 said: Lord Chancellors and ex-Lord Chancellors are, of course, in a different position. The Lord Chancellor is a member of the Government, and ex-Lord Chancellors, by the terms of their patents, are put expressly in that position of freedom."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 22nd March, 1922; Vol. 49, e. 725.] Therefore, let us now deal with him along with other members of the judiciary who have not that freedom, and who, because they are outwith politics, should be dealt with in different legislation relating to them alone. It is always claimed that the Lord Chancellor is different from the judges, from the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary elsewhere, and his behaviour is not to be compared with that of the judges, be it in the House of Lords or in the country generally, in political matters. I assert again that they should be dealt with in separate legislation and in different ways, and I sincerely hope that, even if, after further consideration, the Solicitor-General does not agree with me, he will drop this Clause from the Bill.

Mr. Willis

I agree with a great deal of what my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has said about the duality of the position of the Lord Chancellor, but I doubt that the introduction of a separate Bill would do very much. There is certainly an argument for a separate Bill, but it does not seem to me that the introduction of a separate Bill to deal with the pension of the Lord Chancellor would settle the matter with which my hon. Friend was concerned.

I should have thought that the present incumbent of the office would serve his office much better if he kept a little more free of party politics in their most acute form than he does. He is one of the Government's chief spokesmen in by-elections and General Elections. Indeed, he is a very expensive Conservative propagandist, but, unfortunately, he costs the taxpayer a great deal of money. I do not really see how this fits in with the conception which the hon. and learned Gentleman has been advancing from the Dispatch Box about this mighty office, this office of dignity under the Crown. It should be one thing or the other.

I agree that the fact that it is a political appointment and, at the same time, the Lord Chancellor is head of the judiciary, creates an anomalous situation, but—I say this with very great respect—it would be far better for his office if the Lord Chancellor kept freer from the political arena. After all, some Lord Chancellors do not take a great part in political activity at all. That is very desirable. I cannot imagine that the position will be sorted out in some way, because in this country we usually build upon or move forward from tradition. Nevertheless, I feel that matters might be far better ordered than they are today.

I am still dissatisfied about the arguments advanced by the hon. and learned Gentleman about a period of years.

Admitting all the difficulties, I still cannot see any reason why a person should be in a position to do one month's service and then receive a pension of £5,000. I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman was coming to our point of view when he spoke about continuous service. Like my hon. Friend, I think it might be quite useful to consider a shorter period, even two or three years, or even a period of broken service; but it surely cannot be right, no matter what the office is, for a person to receive £5,000 a year even though he serves only one day. At least, it does not seem to me to be right.

I am prepared to accept a great deal of what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about the difficulties of the situation, but it still seems to me that some period, perhaps even only a year, ought to be laid down. I do not accept as right that this business is not laid down at all. As a compromise, why not make it a year, or eighteen months, or two years? After all, most Governments last at least eighteen months or two years. I should have thought it could have been two years' broken service. It would be a peculiar set of circumstances which resulted in a man's holding the position for less than two years allowing for broken service. That, surely, would be most acceptable.

9.0 p.m.

Why should the matter not be placed upon the same footing as that on which Mr. Speaker's pension stands? Mr. Speaker's pension is granted as a result of a Motion and of a Bill in the House on the occasion of the retiral of each Speaker. That would be a better arrangement than this Then the pension could be given in accordance with what might be considered to be the circumstances of the time.

A man might be Lord Chancellor only five minutes. He might be appointed and then decide, at the end of an hour. "I do not think that I want the office," and then he becomes entitled to £5,000 a year. Surely there is something wrong with that method?

I do not ask the Law Officers to look at this again, because I do not suppose that they would make much change, but I really think that it is something which the Government ought to look at. The principle seems to me to be quite a wrong one, one which could not be supported very ably. With all due respect to him, I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments, with some of which I agree, made a very powerful case that a man should get a pension of £5,000 after one day. Is not this really something which ought to be looked at very seriously by the Government, with a view to putting it on a sounder basis and one more acceptable to the people? I am sure that if I spoke about this at meetings in my constituency people would be quite annoyed about it. The fact is that most people do not know what goes on. I did not know about this until the Bill came.

The answer seems to lie either in the acceptance of some of the other ideas which have been advanced, or by putting the Lord Chancellor in a position similar to that of Mr. Speaker, whose pension is decided upon after the determination of the period of office. All the factors which the hon. and learned Gentleman himself mentioned could then be taken into account, justice could be done to the individual, the dignity of the office, about which we heard, could be preserved, and the relationship of the Lord Chancellor's position with that of other judges could also be preserved. All this could be done if that course were adopted. It seems to any ordinary layman a much more desirable way in which to approach this matter.

The Solicitor-General

I advanced, in answer to the last Amendment, a number of considerations which really relate to the wider issues which are raised on this Clause, and I know that the Committee would not wish to be wearied by a repetition of them.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Willis

Let the hon. Member tell his constituents about it.

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, quite rightly, that the Lord Chancellor is a strange animal, a political animal. He is, of course, partly that. As I ventured to point out, on all the generally accepted theories of the division of powers in the constitution his is a quite anomalous post.

But, as the hon. Gentleman himself said—and this is its justification—it works. It has worked now for many centuries, and there has not been any suggestion that we should change the character of the Lord Chancellor's office.

What the hon. Gentleman says is that, in so far as he is not wholly a judge, in so far as he is a party politician, he should not be dealt with in the Bill. I think that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) was rather exaggerating the political activities of my noble Friend, certainly as compared with those of some of his predecessors. There was Lord Brougham, who was in the very centre of politics, very much more in politics than in the law, because it was said of him that if he knew a little law he would know a little about everything. There have been certain other Lord Chancellors, who have been very much in the centre of political controversy.

Mr. Willis

Brougham was not considered to be a very great Chancellor.

The Solicitor-General

I am sure that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock will not take it amiss—I should be very sorry if he did, When he has been so courteous and so generous in what he has said about me—but it seems to me to be doctrinaire to say that, because a Lord Chancellor is not purely a judge, he should not be dealt with in the Bill.

The answer is that he is partly a judge, and he is head of the judiciary. Surely, in a Bill in which we are raising the pensions of the judiciary generally, it is sensible to deal with his at the same time. It would not be sensible, on the other hand, to leave his pension where it is at £3,750, when he will be presiding over the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, each of whom will be earning a salary of £9,000 a year, and who themselves will be retiring on a pension of £4,500 a year. It is because he is the head of the judiciary that it is right to deal with him in this Bill.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

Accepting all that he has said, does not the hon. and learned Gentleman think that his noble Friend the Lord Chancellor should review his conduct during the past General Election and think of the desirability of setting a new standard, because it was his conduct during the election that has led to some of the criticisms that have been made during this debate?

The Solicitor-General

No, I do not accept that for a moment. I do not accept that my noble and learned Friend's conduct during the General Election or at any time is in any way subject to criticism.

What I do say is that either it is right to raise his pension or it is not. If it is not right, it is not more right to do it in another Bill, and if it is right, it is sensible to do it in the Bill. Furthermore, it is logical to do it, because the Lord Chancellor is head of the judiciary.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East returned to the more general aspect of the length of service, and suggested that even if one had, say, three years' service, it would be a fair test. But that would have excluded for example, Lord Haldane, unless we put in cumulative periods.

Mr. Willis

I said cumulative periods.

The Solicitor-General

If it were cumulative periods he could have put in his period as a Liberal Lord Chancellor, and his period as a Socialist Lord Chancellor. But it would certainly have excluded Lord Maugham and Lord Sankey, because the period of the second Labour Government was under three years.

The hon. Gentleman asked why we should not deal with the Lord Chancellor's pension as we deal with that of the Speaker—on retirement. It seems to me that that is subject to overwhelming objection. In the first place, it is not realistic, when one thinks that one would be voting a pension, not to the occupant of the Chair of this House, who is above party politics, but to a man who has been actively engaged in party politics.

There is another and far more fundamental objection. In my submission, it would be wrong to vote a pension to a judge at the end of his period of service, because it would mean that he would be looking to the executive and to the Legislature in his conduct as a judge, even subconsciously, to fix his pension.

Mr. Willis

That argument is not sound. He owes his position to the Government. He is a political appointee. Surely the fact that he depends for his appointment upon the Government of the day creates the situation which the hon. and learned Gentleman said is bad. He is looking to the Government in power. Is not that precisely what he is doing?

The Solicitor-General

Through my fault, the hon. Gentleman did not understand the point which I was trying to make. The Lord Chancellor would not be looking to the Government in power—of his own party—for a pension; he would be looking to the other party. In addition, one must not forget that he continues to sit as a judge. He continues to preside in retirement, as an ex-Lord Chancellor, over the House of Lords in its judicial business and over the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It seems to me constitutionally objectionable in those circumstances that the pension should be other than fixed in advance of his service. That is why it seems to me to be right that we should deal in this way and in the Bill with the Lord Chancellor's pension, and I hope that the Committee will allow the Clause to stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Ross

I am interested in the argument that on no account must an ex-Lord Chancellor receive less than those over whom he is presiding.

The Solicitor-General

I did not say that. Even under the Bill he will have less. It is a question of degree. Is it right that he should have a pension of only £3,750 and that we should expect him to continue to do the work of a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, who is being paid currently £9,000? That is the argument.

Mr. Ross

The argument falls to the ground. As the Solicitor-General has said, even under the Bill the Lord Chancellor will have less. It is not long since the hon. and learned Gentleman left the Treasury. Time after time we drew to his attention the anomalous position of the Secretary of State for Air. This is a justifiable analogy, for the Secretary of State for Air, in presiding over the Air Council, presides over poeple who are paid far more highly than he is. The Under-Secretary of State for Air is the lowest-paid member of that Council.

In view of all the years the hon. and learned Member was connected with the Treasury, when he did not worry at all about the authority of Ministers who were placed in exactly this position in relation to civil servants, I am interested to know how he can advance that argument. If ever he is tempted to repeat it on any other Bill relating to the Lord Chancellor or anyone else, I hope that he will dismiss the argument from his mind, unless he has first dealt with the point which I have made.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.