§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Last July my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, in reply to a question asked by Lord Silkin in a debate on the Pensions (Increase) Bill, pointed out that the increases which had been sanctioned in the salaries of members of the lower judiciary in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had resulted in the amount of the maximum pension entitlement being automatically increased to a point at which they approximated to and, in a few cases exceeded, the pensions of the higher judiciary.
My noble Friend announced, with a confidence in the outcome of future events which has proved fully justified, that the Government had decided in a subsequent Session to put proposals before Parliament for the revision of the pension entitlement of members of the higher judiciary in the United Kingdom and, at the same time, to increase the pensions of those of the higher judiciary who had already retired.
The Bill contains those proposals, but before I explain the Bill, perhaps I should remind the House of one or two facts. Before 1799, Parliament made no provision for the payment of pensions to judges, though, on occasions, some were able to secure some provision for their future. For instance, Lord Northington, on resigning his post and becoming President of the Council in 1766, obtained an immediate pension of £2,000 a year and an agreement that he should receive a pension of £4,000 as soon as he retired from the Presidency. He also obtained a reversionary grant for two lives of the lucrative office of Clerk of the Hanaper in Chancery. I should perhaps add that that office no longer exists.
It was in 1799 that the first Act providing for pensions of the higher judiciary was passed. In 1825 three Acts were passed abolishing the sale of offices in the Court of King's Bench, the Court of 247 Common Pleas and the Court of Exchequer and making further provision for the salaries and pensions of the judges of those courts. The pension of the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench was fixed at £4,000, of the Master of the Rolls at £3,750 and of High Court judges at £3,500. One hundred years later, when the Supreme Court of Judicature Act was passed, those were the pensions to which they were entitled. The pensions were payable only if the judge had served for fifteen years in his office or was afflicted with some permanently disabling infirmity.
Unlike the English judges, the pensions of the Scottish judges were linked to their salaries. From 1808 until 1954 they were entitled to a pension not exceeding three-quarters of their salary, payable after fifteen years' service or on retirement through physical infirmity. The Northern Ireland judges until 1954 received two-thirds of their salaries as pension on retirement after fifteen years or on retirement as a result of infirmity.
In 1950, the pension of a High Court judge, the pension of the Lord Chief Justice and those of many other judges were those fixed in 1835. The Lord Chancellor's pension was that fixed in 1832. In 1950 we passed the Administration of Justice (Pensions) Act under which, the House will recollect, provision was made for the widows and children of the higher judiciary. In return for the surrender of one-quarter of their pensions, judges became entitled to lump sums equal in amount to one year's pension and their widows to pensions of one-third of the amount of the judge's pension.
Judges serving at the date of the passing of that Act could elect to opt out of its provisions altogether, or out of the provisions as to pensions for widows and children. If they opted out, their pensions remained at £3,500, while, if they opted out of the provisions for widows and children only, their pensions were reduced to £2,625 and they had a lump sum equal to two years' pension.
In 1954 judicial salaries were increased by £3,000 generally, but those of the Lord Chancellor and of the Lord Chief Justice by £2,000. This Act provided that the increases in salaries were not to affect the 248 amount of the judges' pensions or derivative benefits.
So the position today is that the higher judiciary of England is entitled to pensions which have not been increased since 1825, and in the case of the Lord Chancellor since 1832, despite the fall in the value of money since then. In consequence of the increases made in May, 1959, the pension of a county court judge is very little less than that of a High Court judge in England, the pensions of the Recorders of Liverpool and Manchester are the same as that of a High Court judge. The pension of a Lord of Session in Scotland is less than that of the Sheriffs of Lanarkshire, the Lothians and Peebles and less than that of a Sheriff Substitute Class A. The pension of a High Court judge in Northern Ireland is less than that of the Recorders of Belfast and Londonderry and less than that of a county court judge in Northern Ireland.
I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that there is an overwhelming case now to increase the pensions of the higher judiciary, pensions which have not been increased for over 100 years.
I come now to the Bill. The Government have reached the conclusion that, in future, the pensions of the English judges should be linked to their salaries as, I have said, the pensions of Scottish and Northern Ireland judges are now linked. We propose that, in future, after fifteen years' service the pension will be one-half of the judge's last annual salary. It is now common for public service pension salaries to provide for a maximum pension of half the salaries. Official referees, county court judges, Metropolitan magistrates, Masters of the Supreme Court, civil servants, can all earn pensions equal to half their salaries.
§ The Attorney-General
I am glad to receive the hon. Gentleman's support.
The effect of our proposal in relation to judges of the High Court is that, unless they elected to opt out of the 1950 Act to which I have referred, their pensions will be increased from £2,625 to £4,000. That may seem to some a very large sum, but it should be remembered that it will suffer both 249 Income Tax and Surtax and that, even after the enactment of the Bill, the purchasing power of the pension will be less than when it was fixed in 1825.
The Bill also proposes a graduated instead of a fixed pension. Clause 1 (3) provides that if within five years of appointment one of those to whom the Bill applies retires through ill health or because he has reached the age of 75 or after he has reached the age of 70, he will receive a pension of one-quarter of his last annual salary, and for every year of service after five years an addition of one-fortieth of that salary.
A graduated pension scheme for the judges of the King's Bench Division was recommended as long ago as 1913 by a Royal Commission called the St. Aldwyn Commission. Its Report said:We do not wish to see Judges appointed late in life; but it seems to us unfair to compel one who has been so appointed, to serve perhaps for some years beyond a reasonable age for retirement before he can obtain any pension; unfair to the Lord Chancellor to limit his choice of judges to men below a certain age; and unfair to the taxpayer, that in this Department of the State alone permanent infirmity should entitle a person, irrespective of his length of service, to the same pension as that at which he would have been entitled had he served the full term. We think that judges compelled to retire by ill-health or by the age limit should only receive pensions in proportion to the length of time they have served.This proposal was endorsed by a Royal Commission which sat in 1936, which I may refer to as the Peel Commission. The Government think, largely for the reasons given by the St. Aldwyn Commission, that now when the pensions will be raised for the first time since 1825 it is right to make this change from a fixed to a graduated pension.
Clause 2 provides that those who are appointed to any of the offices to which the Bill applies must retire on their 75th birthday. The provision of a compulsory retiring age is new, but the St. Aldwyn and Peel Commissions were both in favour of it. The St. Aldwyn Commission thought that the age should be 72, with power to extend it in exceptional cases. The Peel Commission also thought that it should be 72, but without any discretionary power to extend. Its members thought that there should be a fixed limit. In paragraph 283 they used the words: 250…since a conditional extension of office might conceivably be thought to endanger, in however small a degree, the independence of the judges.There have been suggestions that there should be different retiring ages for judges of the High Court and for Lords Justices. Indeed, there have been suggestions that there should be no retiring age for Lords of Appeal. This question was recently considered by the Bar Council, and it is not uninteresting to note that the members of the Bar Council have expressed themselves in favour of a fixed retiring age of 75 for all members of the higher judiciary.
We have considered this question carefully and have reached the conclusion that there should be no difference between the retiring age of those to whom the Bill applies. We think that that age should be 75. We recognise that individual people vary so much that, whatever the statutory retiring age, it will not be right for everyone. We feel that in these days a retiring age of 75 is low enough to prevent judges continuing after their mental and physical faculties have deteriorated and high enough to ensure that the bench is not deprived of too much knowledge, experience and ripe judgment. Further, the provision of a graduated pension scheme will make it possible for those who feel their powers failing to retire after they have reached 70 and still receive a pension. There will be no need to carry on until they have served fifteen years. They can retire at any time after 70.
What I have said about the Bill so far applies to those who are appointed judges in the future. Clause 3 makes provision for those now holding judicial appointments. They are to be given the right to elect whether the provisions I have outlined shall apply to them. If they elect, they can retire on reaching 70 whether or not they have served fifteen years and they will receive the graduated pension. If they do not so elect they will receive on retirement after fifteen years' service, or in consequence of permanent disability, a pension of half their last annual salary, and they have three months after the passing of the Act to decide which course to take.
Clause 4 is a very complicated Clause. Its purpose is to ensure that a person who has held some other full time 251 judicial office shall not suffer by promotion if he has to retire after a short period in the higher office. For example, a county court judge in England can earn a pension of £2,200. If he is appointed to the High Court bench and retires with less than five years' service, his pension as a High Court judge would be £2,000. Clause 4 provides that a person in that position can elect to take a pension equal to that which he would have earned had he remained a county court judge, and the lump sum payable to him under the 1950 Act will be calculated on that basis.
Clause 5 restores the Lord Chancellor's pension to £5,000—the figure fixed in 1832—which, of course, is less than half his salary—
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman used the word "restores". Can he say when the Lord Chancellor's pension was reduced?
§ The Attorney-General
I think I said that under the 1950 legislation, unless people opted out of it, the pensions were all reduced by a quarter in order to make provision for the lump sum payment, and for widows' and children's benefits. By this Clause, the Lord Chancellor's pension will go back to what it was in 1832, and will be less than one-half—this is the difference between his pension and that of the other judges—of his salary.
Clause 6 provides against a person claiming two pensions. Clause 7 deals with the position of judges who have already retired but who would come within the scope of this Bill by virtue of their appointments. If they have already retired, their pensions will be increased by 12 per cent., and their widows, if the judges had already retired, will receive a pension of one-third of the judges' pension disregarding the increases made by this Bill.
That is rather complicated, and it is really dealt with by Clause 7 (2). The intention is to prevent their getting two increases. Some widows of judges are now entitled under the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1959, to an increase of 12 per cent., and under that Act it is pro- 252 posed to make regulations to secure that all widows' pensions not related to judges' pensions increased by this Bill are increased by 12 per cent.
The result of all this will be that the pensions of judges who retired before the introduction of the Bill, and the pensions of the widows of those judges who died, or retired, before that date will be increased by 12 per cent., and every judge who retires after this Bill has been introduced will have a pension at the new rate and his widow's pension will be calculated on that rate.
I do not think that I need say very much more about this Bill, but perhaps I should just refer to Clause 8 (2) which may cause some little difficulty. That provision deals with the special case of the judge who opted out of the 1950 Act, and so did not have his pension reduced. The effect of this subsection is to give him the same proportional increase in pension as is being given to those who did not opt in 1950 and those who were appointed since 1950. There is a mathematical calculation in that subsection, and that is the result of working it out.
I have explained this Bill as shortly as I can, and, I hope, to the satisfaction of the House. It is a Bill that is badly needed, and, for the reasons I have already given, I submit that there is a strong case for making the increases it proposes, and I commend it to the House.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
It seems to me that the question we have to consider today is not whether these pensions are in themselves attractive or unattractive, or even whether, taken in the abstract, they would be fair. Judges' salaries are at present fixed by a recent Act at figures of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given some instances. As I see it, the question is whether these pensions bear a fair proportion to those salaries. I have no doubt, both by comparison with the cases of other judicial dignitaries and officers mentioned by the Attorney-General and also by comparison outside the legal profession altogether, that, as a matter of proportion, the present judges' pensions are too small in relation to their salaries.
253 Attached to that, of course, there is the question of qualification and retirement, about which I should like to say a word or two later. First, I want to say something in support of what I was suggesting just now. It is certainly not true to say of the judges, in relation to their salaries or their pensions, that they have never had it so good. They had it very much better at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
The learned Attorney-General did not tell us that the £5,500 that a High Court judge got then was free of all tax—though there was not very much tax about until that lusty child, the Income Tax, appeared in the middle of the Judges Pensions Acts of that time. Therefore, part, if not all of the pension was then free of all tax, too. The judges really had a very good time of it, and it no doubt reflects the lucrative character of the somewhat curious arrangements, to our modern eyes, by which their previous salaries had been supplemented.
That did not last for long, and it is generally true to say that the figures of £5,000 for a High Court judge, with a pension of £3,500, did last for so long that they became established in the minds of many of the older among us as the set figures. In relation to £5,000, £3,500 is, of course, considerably more than half. Where does the half come from?
The half-salary figure comes, I think, partly from existing legislation in relation to other superannuation, where I would add one instance to those given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—he may, indeed, have mentioned it. One-half is the standard maximum for a senior civil servant after forty years' service. A senior civil servant normally retires at 60 and if, as many civil servants do, he does not join the Civil Service until he is 23 or 24 years of age, he does not, as an average senior civil servant, serve the full 40 years.
I have been looking at what happens to judges in regard to age and service. Though not, of course, dealing with any individuals, I have taken as instances the last eleven appointments of King's Bench judgeships; that is to say, all appointments in and since 1951. The average age on appointment was 55, and the average length of time that those judges had served at the Bar before they were 254 appointed to the Bench was about 31 years. That, I think, is the service which one really has to consider when looking at the matter of judicial pensions.
If we are to take the fifteen years which has been traditional and remains the period for maximum pension under the Bill, and if we consider 55 or thereabouts as the average age at appointment, then, in the majority of cases, a judge in order to qualify under the Bill by retiring at or after the age of 70 will have earned the full pension. The important point in the Bill, therefore, from the standpoint of money, is the amount of the full pension, the half proportion which it bears to the salary.
There is another way in which the proportion of half salary or earnings has appeared recently. My own party recently made some proposals about superannuation. Without going into those in detail or into questions concerning the length of time which might be required to put them into effect, the ultimate aim there, which we broadly regarded as just, was half earnings. I say no more than that.
§ Mr. Mitchison
My right hon. Friend points out that that is a contributory scheme. What I am on at the moment is that the amount which was felt to be right and proper, however arrived at, in relation to a man's earnings, whether he were a judge or anyone else, was the half. This was what was thought proper and sufficient provision on retirement, however arrived at, whether with or without contributions. We took that figure because we regarded it as being about the proportion obtainable under a good private pension scheme nowadays, whether contributory or non-contributory. In my view, when we are considering the right proportion, we should have regard to that conclusion. For all those reasons, I should have thought that the right proportion was the half.
It is perfectly true, of course, not only that a judge's pension is non-contributory but also that, under the 1950 Act, the judges obtained, in return for a concession of a quarter of their pensions, two advantages. One was a lump sum and the other was a widow's and children's allowance, if I may call it that. 255 Those two advantages, again, correspond to provisions for the retirement of senior civil servants. A senior civil servant in the same way receives what is called an additional allowance, and though the comparison is not exact it is roughly similar to what a judge had under the 1950 Act in return for his concession of that other amount. As regards the widow's and children's provision, there is, again, something similar for retiring civil servants, with the difference which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will note, that it is in that case contributory, though I must say that the contributions seem to me to be very small indeed, spread, as they are, over the whole of the civil servant's career.
The essential difference when one is considering questions of contribution or non-contribution seems to be this. One must, I suggest, in the case of the judge consider not merely the actual period during which he serves as a judge but the 30 or 31 years, or thereabouts, during which he has qualified himself for appointment as a judge by working in the legal profession. One may take a young man and set him in a public office, appointing him, as I believe he is appointed, as an assistant principal, give him something to do and allow him to establish himself in his work gradually. Indeed, in some foreign countries there is a rather similar arrangement for the judiciary; they begin in small offices and work their way up. In this country we have never had that system. We are not called upon to alter the whole system under this Bill. The system being what it is, it seems to me only right to take into account those other years. In the circumstances, of course, the matter of contributions begins to look a little different, for many are called to the Bar but few are chosen to the Bench. It is impracticable to identify the future judge at the moment when he begins his career.
I find a rather close analogy—as close, indeed, as one could expect in different circumstances—between what is being done for the judge now and what is provided for senior civil servants and, indeed, for the other judicial officers to whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred. I think that that is right. Again, judging the proportion, I think that that is right.
256 I turn now to the qualifying period. Obviously, in the nature of the case, if the average age of appointment is 55, it has to be a short one. I think it right and proper that judges should receive a proportion of the pension after five years' service on the Bench. Similarly, of course, a senior civil servant has a proportion of his final pension if he retires at an early age; bust, naturally, since there is a difference between the two careers, he would have his quarter far earlier than the judge, and, in fact, the senior civil servant would have his quarter after twenty years of service, shall we say, at the age of 43 or 44 or something like that. But that merely reflects the difference between the two types of career.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
If my hon. and learned Friend will allow me to say so, it will not be a quarter of the judge's salary if he retires at that early age.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I thought I said a quarter of his retiring pension. It is on the matter of proportions that I am speaking now, since it does not seem to me that the Bill raises any question whatever about the amount of judges' salaries. The question before us is merely one of the relationship of the proposed pensions to the salaries which are already there. In order to make that clear, I was taking as an analogy a similar relationship which exists between the pensions of senior civil servants and the salaries of senior civil servants, which latter are no more in question in our discussion today than, in my view, are the salaries of judges.
I turn now to the provisions for retirement. I feel sure that it is right that, in accordance with the recommendations of the two Royal Commissions and a certain amount of practical knowledge which anyone who has had any connection with the legal profession cannot but have acquired, there should be some obligatory retiring age. I doubt that it will come into operation very often. Similarly, I think it right that there should be an age at which entitlement to pension begins. It is 70 in the Bill. In the majority of cases, as I have said, I think that a judge who reaches the age of 70 will have qualified for the full pension.
257 Accordingly, we shall get out of a difficulty which must have presented itself to many distinguished judges, who, from some points of view, not necessarily because of their own competence but perhaps because of their own inclinations, would have wished to retire at an advanced age although short of their full fifteen years' service but felt obliged to hold on in order to get their pension. We know very well that that happens in other walks of life, but it cannot be a good thing or a thing to be encouraged. I think that we would all agree that it is to be discouraged particularly among the judiciary. On that account, therefore, and in order to make the judges perhaps a little better off but comparable with more humble mortals in other respects, it is a good thing that the provision should be there.
I welcome the Bill. I see no objection to it on any ground of principle. There is a rather wide Money Resolution which we shall have to consider later. No doubt, if there are any small points to be raised, they can be dealt with then. I do not wish to say anything about the provisions for opting out, for reconciling the position of judges who retired earlier and matters of that kind, because they seem to me, at any rate, to be sensible and fair, and we must thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his clear explanation of them.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I support the Bill. I think that its provisions with regard to the age limit for judges and the increase in pensions will be welcomed by the whole profession. I have always thought it strange that there should he no age limit for the retirement of judges, when there is one in practically every other activity. It has always seemed to me odd that there was not some regulation under which judges at a certain age should retire from the bench. I know that it is true that it is a profession in which experience begets wisdom, but I think it right that an age limit should be imposed. A considerable strain is imposed on judges presiding at trials for many hours on end. For a person of very advanced age, however brilliant of mind and however experienced and knowledgeable that person may be, great strain is imposed which is understandable at the end of a long day but which shows, perhaps, 258 that that person is not fit enough physically to undergo the strain. I therefore think that the Clause dealing with retirement is generally wise, although I know that there have been, and are, greate exceptions who still sit on the Bench.
I think that a judge has a unique position in society. Society places him in a position of tremendous trust. I should imagine that it is a lonely and isolated office. I think that it has always been held to be the duty of society that if a man is made a judge of his fellow countrymen he should not only have the support of the people who made him a judge but should also have around him the dignity of the law. That is why I presume our judges still sit on the Bench in their ancient robes and wear their wigs, and why advocates also appear before them robed and wigged. When a judge puts on his robe, like Melchizedek, he does so without pedigree. I presume that that tradition is maintained in our system of law to show that a judge is apart and separate from everybody else. Similarly, we have here in the House of Commons Mr. Speaker in his robes and we have a Black Rod because we wish and think it right to maintain the dignity of our proceedings.
So we must also ensure, high as the figure may sound, that our judges are properly remunerated. Presumably, the sum of £5,000 was awarded in the early 19th century in order to place judges beyond the reach of corruption. As has been said, at that time that was a very high and fine remuneration. That system seems to have worked with such success that their salaries seem to have become forgotten and left alone. Not only must we remove the possibility of corruption by the salary, but we must also reflect in it the high degree of honour which we should pay to judges.
I am very glad to see the introduction of this timely increase in pensions. I was interested to hear the researches of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) into the average age of the eleven appointments to the Queen's Bench Division since 1951. The Treasury, I suppose, demanded that persons be appointed who would be likely to last fifteen years. So, to earn the pension, there had to be appointed a certain age group. I think that this Bill gives 259 greater opportunity for the appointment of older men who may not serve for fifteen years but who will bring great wisdom and merit to the bench and who previously seemed to be excluded because they were over the age of 55.
A judge, as has been said, should not be asilly old man who does silly old trade.But I agree with Plato who said:A judge should not be young; he should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long observation of the nature of evil in others: knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience.I am, then, in favour of some appointments which I think will now be possible under this Bill because of the pension provisions.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman think that Plato is a dangerous author to quote? He would have no lawyers in the Republic.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
As I understand it, Plato would have only old judges.
I should now like to turn to the question of the increase of £1,000 in the pension of the Lord Chancellor. While I thoroughly approve of the increase, I think that we should bear in mind that the appointment of the Lord Chancellor is a political appointment. When we consider the pension which is paid to Prime Ministers, it seems that we have our values in incorrect perspective. I have always felt that men who are leaders of the country and hold important positions should be paid and looked after by the nation after the years of service which they have given to it. While I support the Lord Chancellor's pension of £5,000 per annum, I should certainly like to point out that there ought to be increased pensions that should and could be paid to public servants of great distinction.
Finally, I am unashamedly proud of the English judicial system. I know that, with any system, criticism can be made, but when one travels abroad to countries where judges are elected and where they get their appointments and maintain them because of political influence and pressure, I think that we can look with pride to our own system. I believe that 260 we should maintain the pageantry of our judicial system in the same way as we maintain the pageantry of this House.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does the hon. and learned Member suggest that no political bias among the judiciary is ever expressed?
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I know that the right hon. Gentleman has had some experience at the receiving end. I suppose that that is liable to happen to any of us at any time, but I think that he would be misjudging generally the views and opinions of the people of this country if he thought that there was serious criticism of the administration of judges or of their partiality. One has only to visit the courts, either criminal or civil, to be quite satisfied that those who preside are men who to the best of their ability and with great integrity carry out the difficult task of administering justice. The status of the bench is as high in reputation and repute today as it ever has been. I am glad to welcome the Bill, because I believe that in its way it will help to maintain this high standard.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
I was interested to hear the hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) say that pensions should be granted to those who have served the State for a period of five years. I sometimes wish that that rule applied to the Members of this House as it will now apply to the judicature. We know that through force of circumstances many Members of the House give service for a much longer period, lose their seats in Parliament and are turned out without any pension at all. I hope that if this rule is to be applied to the judicial bench, some day this House might look after its Members, who are responsible for the legislation concerning judges.
I want to say a word about the position affecting Scotland. I must express just a little surprise that neither the Lord Advocate nor the Solicitor-General for Scotland find it possible to be present 261 this afternoon. It is true that the Secretary of State for Scotland is here, and I wonder whether he might care to reply to a question or two which I wish to put. I shall not argue either for or against the Bill. It provides us, however, with an opportunity of raising the case of a section of those who serve in Scotland.
I wish to refer to the position of sheriffs substitute under the Bill. In opening his case today, the Attorney-General pointed out the position of county court judges under the Bill and said that some of them had pensions greater than those of some members of the judicial bench. Indeed, in substantiation of the Bill—
§ The Attorney-General
May I correct the hon. Member? I pointed out that one provision in the Bill was to ensure that people who were promoted from the county court bench—I took that as an example, but it would apply anywhere—to the High Court, to a superior appointment, did not lose financially if they had to retire at an early date in consequence. I gave the illustration of a county court judge in England, who can now earn a pension larger thin a High Court judge will get during the first five years, and I said that a right of election was given which applies to all judicial appointments coming within the scope of the Bill.
§ Mr. Hoy
I admit that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will, however, remember that he instanced the case of the sheriffs principal for Lanark and Lothian and Peebles and one other and said that their pensions as a result of recent legislation were in excess of what could be earned by a judge of the Court of Session in Scotland. That was the Scottish background on which the Attorney-General was basing his case for the Bill.
I do not dispute that for one moment. What I say, however, is that it does not apply to the sheriffs substitute in Scotland. The sheriffs substitute have always been regarded as the counterparts of county court judges, but in law the sheriffs substitute in Scotland have a much greater judicial power than have the county court judges in England and Wales. They have a tremendous amount of work which does not fall on their 262 counterparts in England. Despite that, the sheriffs substitute in Scotland are in a much inferior position concerning pension.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Jocelyn Simon) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Hoy
I want to put the case fairly despite the shake of the head by the Solicitor-General.
The sheriff substitute in Scotland is in an inferior position in comparison with a county court judge in England. For instance, by Section 21 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act, 1907, a pension may be granted to a sheriff substitute or to a sheriff on the scale of not less than one-third for 10 years of service, two-thirds for 15 years of service or three-quarters for 20 years of service. This is something which does not stand comparison with the position of county court judges in England. Indeed, in today's Bill, five years' service will be the determining factor. When we make this change, with which I do not disagree, it will not apply to the sheriffs substitute in Scotland. I do not think anybody would deny that.
§ The Attorney-General
The change proposed by the Bill does not alter the pension of county court judges. The only provision which applies to county court judges or sheriffs substitute is Clause 4, which gives them the pension if they are promoted to higher judicial office. Otherwise, sheriffs substitute, like county court judges, are outside the Bill.
§ Mr. Hoy
That may be so. All I am pointing out is that even if the Bill is passed, the position of the sheriffs substitute in Scotland will still compare most unfavourably with county court judges in England. The sheriffs substitute feel this difference keenly. Indeed, on the whole question of salaries they feel that they are treated in a way which is inferior to the treatment of their counterparts in England and Wales.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
The Scottish judges get less too, and their pensions also are accordingly less.
§ Mr. Hoy
Yes, indeed. I agree with my hon. Friend that in that respect the Scottish judges are in an inferior position to their counterparts in England and Wales. That is why I have raised the matter this afternoon. I could instance many cases, both in industry and elsewhere, where this position arises. On the Bill before us, which affects judges, I am raising the position of the Scottish sheriffs substitute in comparison with their counterparts in England.
Another anomaly is that when the English county court judge retires his pension is based on his salary during his last year of office. This does not apply to the sheriffs substitute in Scotland. The Scottish judicial bench feels that the sheriffs substitute have been ignored both in today's Bill and in previous Measures.
This is not a matter which concerns merely the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General. It is peculiar to Scotland. The sheriffs substitute have had a long argument about their status for many years. It is the duty not of the English Law Officers but of the Scottish Office to reply to this point, and it is the Scottish Office to which I am directing my argument. If we cannot have the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor-General for Scotland with us, we are at least entitled to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to make his opinion clear about how the judicial bench in Scotland will be treated by this Bill.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
I do not dare to follow the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) into Scottish affairs. I will confine myself to the subject of the Bill, which I understand is the pension of the higher judiciary, excluding both county court judges and sheriffs substitute, and the present salaries of the higher judiciary both in England and Scotland.
I want shortly to give the reasons why I welcome the Bill. It is of vital interest to the State that we should have the highest quality of personnel holding the 264 higher judicial offices of the State. One reason why our legal system and the common law have been admired throughout the world is that for centuries the higher judiciary have displayed qualities of intelligence, integrity and independence which are quite outstanding.
The only criticism that can be raised against our judicial system at the moment is that it has been said that the efficiency of our criminal law is now impaired only by the difficulty of finding twelve ordinary men, who can neither read nor understand anything, in order to compose the jury, but there is never any criticism of the way the higher judicial officers discharge their duties. One of the difficulties is that should they not be properly provided with pensions on retirement it is liable in the long term, twenty or thirty years from now, to lead to a decline in the quality of persons who may come forward as being available for appointment to such offices.
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) pointed out that we recruit for the High Court in England from members of the Bar. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) said, we do not have elected judges nor, thank heaven, a Ministry of Justice. Some Continental countries train their judges from the beginning as civil servants. We have always followed the system under which those who may come to preside over trials have taken part in the arena. They know the difficulties of conducting litigation within the arena and, like persons who have played the game, should make the best referees. I am sure that we all want to see perpetuated a system whereby we should continue to recruit High Court judges from members of the Bar and not from a Ministry of Justice where they start as civil servants when young and continue to be promoted throughout their careers.
If this is so, the quality of those who are to occupy seats on the High Court bench must depend to a certain extent on the rewards that await them at the end. At the moment there is grave anxiety that the attractions of industry and of walks of life other than the law are taking away from the Bar, at any rate in England, very many of the able brains who might previously have been 265 called to the Bar. It does not matter a bit as far as the Bar is concerned. It can look after itself, but what is important is that twenty or thirty years from now, when it is too late to do anything, we might find ourselves in a position in which there are not those qualified people who occupy seats on the High Court bench such as we have always been able to recruit from the Bar up to now. It is for that reason alone that I welcome the provisions in the Bill for increased pensions. The right hon. and learned Member for Kettering—
§ Mr. Hobson
I am sorry. I beg the hon. and learned Member's pardon. The hon. and learned Member has the support not of Plato but of Aristotle for his view that retirement provisions are good and are to be welcomed, because Aristotle said:That judges of important causes should hold office for life is not a good thing, for the mind grows old as well as the body.It is true and without doubt that as age advances some judges, though there are very notable exceptions, obviously show tit.; wear and tear of the office that they bear, on the onset of extreme old age.
I have worked out that there are 86 people who hold offices which are scheduled in the Bill and, of those, the live who have been longest on the High Court Bench have had an average occupation of the bench of twenty-five years each, a very long and substantial time for any person to discharge high judicial office. The five holders of these offices who are senior in age—and they are not the same five as are senior in appointment to the bench—have an average age of 81, a very high age for senior members of the bench. This shows that the Bill is overdue. It may well be that many of the holders of these offices might well have considered retiring earlier had there been a pension similar to what is now proposed.
I ask the Government to consider the question of opting. As I understand, under Clause 3 the present holders of high judicial office can opt to take the new rates under Clauses 1 and 2. They are to be allowed to take those benefits but are not, apparently, to be subject 266 to the retirement provisions if they opt for the benefit. They will be allowed to retire at 70 if they desire to do so, but they will not have to remain, in default of opting, on their present scales because Clause 3 (1) provides that in default of opting they shall retain 50 per cent. of salary on retirement.
It seems to me, therefore, that a judge who does not opt does not place himself under an obligation to retire at 75 and yet will still get 50 per cent. of his salary on retirement. I should have thought that a judge, in default of electing to take the new benefits and obligation to retire, ought to remain on his present pension scales and not have his retirement pension raised to half his annual salary.
§ The Attorney-General
I am afraid that my hon. and learned Friend has misread Clause 3 (1). What he says ought to be done is provided for.
§ Mr. Hobson
I am glad that point is cleared up, but the subsection says:…in default of such an election the annual amount of the pension which may be granted to him under the relevant pension enactment on his retirement shall in any case be one half of his last annual salary.
§ The Attorney-General
My hon. and learned Friend puts the stress on "in any case" but he must have regard to the words:under the relevant pension enactment".
§ Mr. Hobson
To the English High Court judge the relevant enactment is the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act, 1925, which, by amendment in this Bill, will enable to be paid to him a pension the amount of which is unspecified in the Bill. Therefore, as I understand it, with the amendment in this Bill the judge who does not opt will nevertheless have one-half of his annual salary. However, this is a Committee point. It is pure drafting, but it is a point which I would ask the Government to consider and certainly would have thought ought to have been made clear in the Bill so that inefficient lawyers like myself who cannot understand the Clause can see plainly that the position will be that the judge who opts to get the benefit will have the duty to retire and that the judge who opts to stay on will not receive the increased benefit and will have to remain on the present pension rate.
267 Subject only to that small point, I welcome the Bill, the total estimated cost of which is only £55,000 a year. I welcome the Bill because it will secure that men of the right quality will come forward in the future to discharge one of the most important offices in the State. When we remember that the whole of our judicial system in its higher ranks between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland depends on the shoulders of only eighty-six men, I am sure we should be grateful for the way in which they have maintained the high standard of British justice.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."
Mr. Speaker, we are considering the Second Reading of the Judicial Pensions Bill. We could have confined ourselves to saying what should be in the Bill and we could also have made a critical analysis of it because of the great cost involved. However, other issues arise and we would have been wrong to be satisfied by confining ourselves to that. Therefore, since there is so much at stake, I have moved the Amendment.
Let me make it crystal clear that in any observations which I and my hon. Friends make we are casting no reflections upon the British judiciary. Apart from certain qualifications I must make, and apart from 1920, 1921 and 1926—and, now I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) sitting here, apart from George Square in 1919—we have the greatest possible respect for it. In a time of relative normality the British judiciary is one of the best in the world, if not the best.
This Amendment has been placed on the Order Paper by a certain small minority it is true, but they are hon. Members who have served this House well, and I wish to emphasise that the thought of our own pensions did not enter our minds. My hon. Friends and I have never begged for a penny. We have never been on our hands and knees. We have never been parties to sycophancy. We have worked for our living. We have come through a hard school. We have never used our public influence for personal advantage and we 268 do not intend to do that in any way this evening.
I once sat on the Front Bench because I was voted there and not through individual selection. That has never been my lot in life. Sitting there, because on two occasions my party was not prepared to differ with the Coalition Government about the position of the old-age pensioners, I voted against my party because there was so much at stake. That is the explanation of our position tonight, Mr. Speaker. I will leave it to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and several other of my hon. Friends, to relate the story of the Beveridge Report and all that went on behind the scenes, and the part we played.
In moving this Amendment to postpone the Second Reading of the Bill, our main purpose, therefore, is to provide a wider opportunity for discussion, based upon our acceptance of and respect for the Standing Orders, and to remind the House that we are living in a democratic State. We shall contrast the difference in treatment of the relatively well-placed people in the professions, of military officers, including field marshals, of those in most of the non-productive services—we shall compare their treatment with that of those engaged in the export and essential productive industries of our country. During the last twenty years we have seen one Bill after another brought in, all like this one, all improving the position of relatively well-placed people whilst our own people are in the position which everybody at a General Election admits. We are asking that what is said at a General Election should be reflected in this House, and by doing so we are worthy to belong to those who put us here.
If hon. Members on both sides of the House accept my argument as reasonable, they will agree that the time has come to take a stand upon this matter. We are doing that early in this new Parliament. I learned many years ago that there were always many people in all walks of life ready to stand up and speak for the relatively well-paid people, but very few are prepared to take a stand for those not well placed. I have seen how people with legal training and those trained as accountants handle things, such as negotiating their Income 269 Tax returns, while our people are dealt with by Pay-As-Your-Earn and every penny is taken into account. When reasoning in this way I am bound to mention that point.
There is another point which gave rise to the Amendment. The publication of the Bill coincided with the announcement of Mr. Speaker Morrison's appointment as Governor-General of Australia. I associate myself 100 per cent. with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). There is no reflection on Mr. Speaker Morrison when I say that the announcement coincided with the publication of this Bill. Everywhere I went in the Lobbies and tea rooms—I do not go into the "coalition" smoke room—Members were saying that the time had arrived when a stand should be taken. Therefore my hon. Friends said, "Well, we will not talk, we will do something". That is the reason why I am pleased to be: associated with my hon. Friends in this Amendment.
When Is began to think about this, I remembered the giant who used to sit on the benches opposite and who stood on his own for many years before the war. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) was Prime Minister he moved the Second Reading of the Judges' Remuneration Bill on 23rd March, 1954, and the Attorney-General did not mention this. The Prime Minister of the day, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, said:We are giving the judges £3,000 a year and we are taking back from them £2,266 in tax a year at the same time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1058.]That meant that the judges were still getting an increase in salary of £734 a year, which is not a bad increase. And it was only five years ago. That has not been mentioned by the other speakers who have supported this Bill. Incidentally, I was wondering which side was supporting the most—but we will not inquire into that too far. Not a word was said about that Measure of five years ago.
What are the facts? The more I study the Bill the more indignant I become at the differentiation made between the people to whom I belong and represent and the other people to whom I have re- 270 ferred who are relatively well off. This Bill is another step in the same direction of differentiation.
It says that it is a Bill toAmend the law with respect to the pensions and other benefits attaching to certain high judicial offices, to regulate the age of retirement from such offices and"—let me underline this with all the emphasis possible—to increase certain pensions and other benefits granted to or in respect of persons who have held such offices.If I understand that correctly it means that this is retrospective legislation. Am I correct? This is equivalent to retrospective legislation. Is that correct?
§ The Attorney-General
I did not follow the hon. Gentleman. If he would not mind putting the question again, I will certainly seek to answer it.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman very much. I will repeat it. The Long Title, the effect of which is carried out in the Clauses, states that the Bill is to increase certain pensions and other benefitsgranted to or in respect of persons who have held such offices.That means retrospective legislation?
§ The Attorney-General
So far as those judges who have retired already are concerned, it is a pensions increase Bill, like we have had before. There is no retrospective element in this. So far as those who have retired already are concerned, this is just increasing their pensions. With regard to those who retire after the date of the introduction of the Bill, by Clause 7 (3), they will be entitled to the benefit of this Bill.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I know I am dealing with the highest placed legal authority in the country. So in plain language that means the retrospective operation of this Bill—in payments.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
If I am wrong, I shall be corrected. If I am correct in my understanding of the Bill, it means that that retrospection which cannot, they 271 say, be applied for the benefit of, for instance, those who suffer because of pneumoconiosis, and those who are on workmen's compensation, can be applied to judges or to relatively highly-placed people. When we are dealing with industrial injuries, that kind of help cannot be applied.
Clause 1 says that after fifteen years' service the maximum pension shall be one-half of the annual salary. Does that mean that Lords of Appeal will receive a pension of £4,500 a year? Does it mean that the Lord Chief Justice will receive a pension of £5,000 a year? When the Solicitor-General replies to the debate, will he say what are the contributions that are being paid towards these pensions? Will he say what the salaries are?
I have here the Finance Accounts of the United Kingdom in which the Solicitor-General will be very interested because he was Financial Secretary to the Treasury prior to his recent new appointment. Will he just glance at this document? He will know it right away. My hon. Friends should go to the Vote Office to get this very interesting document. It is very interesting to see what is hidden in the Finance Accounts of the United Kingdom.
Now I am on very strong ground, because for years and years I have pleaded with this House that it should examine in detail the Consolidated Fund Bills which come before us year by year. Instead of that we have year by year gone on to something else. Year after year, especially during the last fifteen years, millions of pounds have been voted away without any examination at all. We see what this means when we look at the Finance Accounts of the United Kingdom. It is interesting to read pages 34, 35, 36, and 37 of the document where we come to the salaries of the judges. On page 39 there is a list of the whole of them. We read in the Official Report for last Thursday that some people receive other appointments, and that twenty-one judges have been appointed to other positions of inquiry since 1955.
What we are saying is that the time has arrived when this differentiation in 272 treatment should be looked at, and the treatment of people on Industrial Injuries insurance, for instance, should be contrasted with the treatment of those in relatively higher positions. That is why we take the attitude we do tonight towards this Bill.
There are millions of pounds of payments of all kinds hidden away in the Consolidated Fund Bills, and they can be seen by making an analysis of the Finance Accounts of the United Kingdom, which should be read by all hon. Members if we are going to do justice to those whose support we have recently received at the General Election, and for whom my hon. Friends and I are speaking tonight. Year after year, I emphasise, we have passed Consolidated Fund Bills without examination of them. We have done it since 1940. It was then it started. I remember the days when such a thing could not have taken place, when those Bills were subjected to minute examination by the House. But we have got away from that and gone to voting millions just like that. Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair for a short time, and sits on the Treasury Bench while we go into Committee and the Chairman of Ways and Means takes the Chair, and in almost no time millions of pounds are voted, Mr. Speaker resumes the Chair, and we go on to deal with some issue which has nothing to do with finances at all. The result has been that since 1940 millions of pounds have been voted away without any examination at all.
The people pay contributions for their pensions. They are subject to an actuarial report, which I have here, if anyone challenges me. The people pay a greater amount in contributions than they receive in benefits. If anyone doubts that let him check the fact for himself. Highly skilled engineers, draughtsmen and patternmakers, for whom I am speaking, go on National Assistance if they have exhausted their benefits through sickness. Compare the treatment which they and their families receive with that of the people we are legislating for tonight.
In view of the fact that some hon. Member on the other side of the House may charge me, let me plead guilty and say that during the years Consolidated Fund Bill after Consolidated Fund Bill has been passed without any examination 273 at all it has been done under all Governments. I have seen this done by all Governments, and in the past fourteen years, in particular, it has been overdone. We contrast the pension of thousands of pounds a year with the meagre old-age pension, the low sickness and unemployment benefits, the benefits paid to disabled workers, and the scandalously low National Assistance scales. We object to the Bill because of the differentiation in the treatment of our people.
No one believes more than I do in rewarding merit and service, but there are millions of other people who are serving this country well, and have done so in the past. In addition—and if anyone doubts what I am about to say the International Labour Office Reports will prove that I am right—the percentage of our national income spent on pensions, sickness and unemployment benefits is falling below that of continental countries. The proportion of the national income paid out is not what it was a few years ago. Even in 1946, when we were responsible for fixing the standards of payment, it was not as high as it should have been. All that we have done since then is to maintain what was a low standard.
In reply to a question which I asked, the then Financial Secretary, who is now the Solicitor-General, said that in 1946 the percentage of the national income spent on social services was 3.2 per cent. In 1955 it was 2.8 per cent. The industrial workers have been responsible for an enormous increase in output but in times of sickness, unemployment or industrial disability, or on reaching the age of 65, they have not maintained the relative position which they won pre-war, and which we secured for them in 1946.
For those reasons, the time has arrived when we should do our duty on every occasion when a Bill of this character is brought before the House. There are those of us who do not want to be any different and prefer to remember the roots from which we draw our strength. It is our duty to speak out in the way that my hon. Friends intend to do this evening.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, 274 South (Mr. Ellis Smith) on so ably moving the Amendment. He did it with the sincerity that we always associate with him in discussing matters of this kind. My hon. Friend has covered most of the aspects with which we wish to deal, and, therefore, I will say only a few words in support of what he has so emphatically said this evening.
It is not that we have any personal hostility or animosity towards the people who will benefit by the proposals outlined in the Bill. As my hon. Friend said, many of these people have worked hard in their own spheres all their lives and have given great service to the community and the country. I hope that it will be understood that the reason for the Amendment is to draw the attention of the House to those people whom we think deserve consideration.
It is true, as was said earlier, that compared with the total national income the pensions outlined in the Bill do not amount to very much, but they amplify a wrong set of values. As my hon. Friend said, we are more and more condoning this sort of thing. It is time that there was a levelling up. When we talk about the wrong values being amplified it would be wrong of me, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you would call me to order, if I happened to mention the "golden handshakes" from another source, so I will leave that. I would, however, like to draw the attention of the Government to the obligations that they have to that section of the community which has the greatest need.
The Government and the nation are not entitled to boast about their achievements and prosperity, and shout to the high heavens that we have never had it so good while, at the same time, continuing to ignore the plight of the poorer sections of the community. We should remember that in our modern industrial society not only is enormous wealth created for certain people but that certain obligations and responsibilities follow. We should remember that we have obligations and responsibilities to the people whom my hon. Friend mentioned, the old-age pensioners, the sick, the disabled and the widows. No Government should be allowed to run away from those responsibilities. These people are as much a product of our society as the wealth that is created.
275 In the last election the party opposite were successful in creating a myth in the public mind about everyone in this country living prosperously, that there was nothing to worry about and that there was nothing for anyone to complain about. The party opposite must have been successful in creating that myth because they won the election. I am bold enough to say that that is why the party opposite are on that side of the Chamber and not on this.
As has been pointed out in a number of social surveys over recent years, one-fifth of the population of this country cannot exist on their own resources. They have to rely on outside help. As hon. Members on both sides of the House know, there are millions of old-age pensioners who are living in poverty. If we accept that we are a prosperous industrial society, we must accept that the nature of poverty changes. In the midst of what is a supposedly prosperous society we have the poverty of old-age pensioners.
If we accept, as we must, that we have made great social and economic progress since the end of the last war, we must recognise the tremendous contributions that our old-age pensioners made in bringing that about. They played their part in creating the wealth which the present generation is enjoying. The tragedy is that they do not enjoy it themselves. Those are some of the things which we expect the Government to take notice of when considering the Bill.
One hon. Member opposite spoke in glowing terms of the dignity of the judges with their ermine and their scarlet robes. I think that there is no more dignified person in this country than the old-age pensioner, who bears his poverty with dignity and who shows a fine spirit of independence which would be as admirable in a judge as in anyone else. When talking of dignified people, we should remember how dignified are the old-age pensioners.
In my constituency we are fortunate enough to have hundreds of people who do everything in their power for the welfare and well-being of old-age pensioners—local authorities, voluntary organisations and people from all walks of life. They do what they can for old-age pensioners and for others in unfor- 276 tunate circumstances—the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and so on. Throughout the county of Durham, Scotland and South Wales people are brought up to accept it as a personal honour that they should do everything they can to relieve the plight of such people.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South mentioned disabled people. In industrial areas we are not concerned with legal jargon. We know what really happens. Before I came to the House I was a miner. I have seen many strapping young men struck down by serious injury in the pits, men who were earning £16, £17 or £18 a week through working hard and then who found themselves no longer able to work but still having to maintain a wife and a family.
When we talk of differentials and values of pensions, those are the things which the Government should consider. I am not saying that the people whom I have mentioned live in dire poverty—far from it. Fortunately, the Labour Government of 1945–51 improved their position immensely, but much still remains to be done. Although the earnings limit for pensioners and widows is to be raised, that will be no consolation to men in South Wales, in Scotland and in Lancashire who are now nearing 65 years of age. In those areas there is high unemployment. In Durham we have ten people chasing one job. We have nearly 2,000 unemployed youngsters under 18 years of age and some of them have never had a job. We have unemployed people standing at the pits and factories waiting for people to retire so that they can get their jobs.
Let the Government face up to these human problems as they are facing up to the problem with which this Bill deals and as they face the problem presented by the retirement of ex-Speaker Morrison. In simple language, let the people whose case we have made have a fair crack of the whip. That is all we are asking. Let the Government fulfil their election promise to the neediest section of the community. Before the Bill is given a Second Reading, let the Government give a categoric assurance that they will substantially raise the basic pension rates of the people for whom I am concerned.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
We are accustomed on occasions such as this to having a closed shop in the debate and to having members of the legal profession hogging the whole debate. I am very pleased that on this occasion my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and other hon. Friends and I have decided that we ought to enter the debate and break up that closed shop. We know that the Government have never been in favour of the closed shop principle, but we think that some fresh air should be brought into a debate which is usually much too stuffy to attract much attention.
§ Mr. Manuel
Possibly. I think my hon. Friend is correct. I was about to deal with the legal profession, and perhaps we may get some more information from the Attorney-General.
In debates of this sort, it is generally only lawyers who take part. The lawyer's is a profession not always regarded as the best. Lawyers are often criticised. While I would be the last to say anything in any way to offend the dignity of judges, I presume that most of them were lawyers before they were judges. Consequently, there will have been a period in their careers when they had to review certain doubtful characteristics which are supposed to be those of lawyers. I do not want to take that any further, but I want to point out that those people in the higher judiciary with whom we are now dealing are human beings with the usual human failings of us all.
The Attorney-General gave us a history of the pension position of the judiciary in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is not part of our case that judges ought not to be well treated. We agree that judges should be well paid and we have taken steps to see that they are well paid. Not long ago we substantially increased their salaries. We agree that they should have good pensions.
However, if the Government want to spend money in giving relief to a certain section of the people, they ought not to 278 have brought forward this Bill at this time. In comparison with the vast majority of people, members of the higher judiciary are extremely well catered for, with both salaries and pensions. I have always believed, as I have said many times before, that if the country is going through a prosperous period and if the Government feel that they have money to distribute, it is their bounden duty in whatever way they can to assist those people who belong to the weakest sections of the community. It is not a weak section of the community which we are discussing tonight.
I want to ask the Attorney-General one or two questions. I presume that it is not merely accidental that the Bill should come forward at this time. The Attorney-General briefly referred to some commitment made on the last occasion when pensions for the judiciary were discussed.
§ The Solicitor-General
It was on the occasion of the Pensions (Increase) Bill on Second Reading in the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Manuel
In the House of Lords? What I wanted to be clear about was that the House of Commons had not made a commitment that this provision must he made now and that we have not given judges a prior claim over other sections of the community. I am very pleased that the Solicitor-General has helped me to clear up that point. Could we be told by the Attorney-General, who is the fountain head from which these things flow, what representations have been made to him for these increases? They are not just accidental at this time, because the Government must have made some decisions about priorities. I want to know what are those priorities and what representations have been made to him about the judges' pension position which have compelled him to bring forward this Bill when there are so many other conflicting claims. If, as I suppose, some representations must have been made, what was actually asked for? Are we giving the whole of the pension that has been asked for? I do not know if trade union representation can come from the judges, but there must be some avenue of approach, and I should like to know what was that avenue of approach.
279 My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, in moving the Amendment, mentioned the word "contributory". Has it ever been considered whether these pensions are in any way contributory? I do not think that they are. I pose this question because the pension of all the people we know and have contact with is contributory. Over a long period of years they have had to budget in a painstaking and realistic fashion each week for the money which at the end of their working life gives them a very poor pension in relation to that which we are discussing.
While I recognise that the judges have to be completely free to exercise their judgment in the excellent way they do, I think that the disparity in pensions is far too great. If this nation has the greatness which it is supposed to have and exerts the influence throughout the world that it should, it would be very much better if we tried in a realsitic way to narrow the gap between those who are very well off and those who are not so well off and suffer very keenly once they have retired and have to exist on their pensions.
The hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) said that judges were very lonely people. That is probably as they make it. I know one judge who enjoys going to a football match. He has on occasions told me very good stories but I cannot repeat them all here. He is a likeable personality, enjoys company and does not lead the lonely life which the hon. and learned Member indicated.
After all, there are 81 judges in the higher judiciary alone. The whole realm of the judicial system and the friends which they have around them is much greater. Therefore, I do not think that lonely eminence is the lot of many judges. I hope that our judges do not remain too remote and so completely aloof. I had the suspicion that in some courts they were too far removed from the everyday affairs with which they were dealing and that if they had mixed a little more their judgment would have been exercised a little better.
We are dealing with 81 people. I have been examining some of the salaries paid to them. They are people who during their lifetime as judges have 280 been earning very substantial sums of money and will not be completely dependent on the pension indicated in the Bill. They will have been able to make substantial savings and probably have dividends accruing from the investment of those savings. Consequently, they are not in the position of the people whom we are trying to bring into this debate and focus some light upon.
We intend to press the Government unceasingly, as we are trying to do tonight, to face up to their election pledges, because they led many thousands of people to believe that we were sailing into an even more prosperous era and that they would make it their business to see that the weaker sections of the community and the old-age pensioners, in particular, would have their share of that prosperity. That was the pledge made on practically every Tory platform in the country. But, when there is money to allocate, seemingly the old-age pensioners do not come into the picture.
The Lord Chancellor receives a salary of £12,000 a year—£8,000 as a judge and £4,000 as Speaker of the House of Lords. His pension is to be increased from £3,750 to £5,000, even after all the years of earning this high salary. Furthermore, he can go on until he is 75 years of age. However, that is the top position and is not the real criterion for judging this question. Let us consider the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary—to give them their full title. I do not know what the word "ordinary" means, because certain features of their existence seem to me most extraordinary.
There are nine Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, and they each receive a salary of £9,000 per annum. Next come the the members of the Court of Appeal. The Master of the Rolls receives £9,000, and another eight judges each receive £8,000. Then there is the High Court of Justice. There are seven judges in the Chancery Division, each of whom receives £8,000. The Lord Chancellor presides over that court. The Queen's Bench Division consists of 24 judges, each of whom receives £8,000 a year. That Division is presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, with a salary of £10,000 per year.
I am sorry that we have no Scottish legal luminaries present on the Government Front Bench to throw further light on the 281 position in Scotland. They may be within call, however, and the Secretary of State may be able to buttress his speech by calling upon their aid. In Scotland, in the Inner House of the Court of Session, the Lord President receives a salary of £8,000. Although I do not advocate high salaries, I cannot see why Scottish judges receive less than English ones. It would seem that law is cheaper in Scotland. Under the Lord President there are another three judges in the Inner House of the Court of Session, each of whom receives £6,600 a year.
Then we have a second division. In football we know that the team at the top of the second division goes up to the first division, and I understand that the same principle applies in this case. At any rate, in the second division we have the Lord Justice-Clerk, who receives £7,800, aid three other judges who receive £6,600 each. In the Outer House of the Court of Session there are seven judges, each of whom receives £6,600 a year.
As I understand it, the nine Lords of Appeal receive pensions on top of their £9,000 a year salaries. They can retire after five years' service or less, if illness causes them to, with a pension of £2,225, arid if they serve for fifteen years they receive a pension of £4,500.
I do not know whether any Northern Ireland Members are present. I take it that they have some interest in what will happen to the judges of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland. They, again, seem to be a little lower in the scale—lower even than Scottish judges, but on a par with them in the case of the four judges of the Supreme Court, who receive £6,500 each. I do not know why they receive £100 less than their Scottish counterparts. The Lord Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland receives £7,500.
My hon. Friend referred to the question of retrospective payment, and that question enters into this matter in regard to the period between the introduction of the Measure and the date when it becomes law. Any judge who retires between those dates will receive retrospective payment. I would point out that the trade union movement has always been subjected to the most determined opposition in its efforts to get retrospective payment for wage claims 282 or pension awards. The same considerations apply in the case of workmen's compensation. It is most difficult to establish a principle of retrospective payments of that character.
The Government have been ill-advised to bring forward the Bill at this time. We have well over 1 million old-age pensioners who have been forced to draw National Assistance because of their poverty, and there are many other categories in a similar plight—people in receipt of sickness and unemployment benefit; people drawing National Assistance payments, and industrial injury cases. I am prepared to go further than my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) in this matter. It is tragic that a young man in the full flush and vigour of manhood, who has been maimed while engaged in his industrial occupation and cannot follow that or any other occupation afterwards, should have to live in complete poverty, comparing his position with that which he would have been in if he had been able to continue working with his full vigour and strength. Because such men have lost their jobs through industrial injuries their families are sentenced to live to a much lower standard of living than they would otherwise enjoy.
I worked as a railwayman for many years—as a locomotive fireman and driver on main line trains, when many railwaymen received no pension at all. After many years of service they had to retire without a pension. Today, such men receive a miserable pension of a few shillings a week, which cannot be regarded as in any way commensurate with the services they have rendered. We should consider the whole question of pensions in the industrial sphere, and equate them as they are equated in respect of the higher judiciary. If the Government will not do that, and if the House is to be continually confronted with the singling out of selected sections of the people for special treatment, many more hon. Members on this side of the House will have to make many more determined efforts to force the Government to recognise that a great deal of feeling is boiling up all over the country in regard to this matter. The Government must realise that people will not continue merely to read about pension and salary increases for judges and 283 similar sectors of the community and say and do nothing about them. They are beginning to talk very critically about how these things are managed in this Parliament.
I hope that the Attorney-General will convey to the members of the Cabinet that something ought to be done as soon as possible for the weaker sections of the community, especially those people on National Assistance, the old-age pensioners, the sick and the unemployed, all of whom are having such a difficult time.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
I think it would be convenient for me now to speak briefly, not upon the general points made in this debate but on those more particular points relating to Scotland which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy). My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General dealt with the general case for revising and bringing up to date the pension arrangements for the higher judiciary.
So far as concerns the judges in the Court of Session, the relevant pension enactment referred to in Clause 1 is the Judges' Pensions (Scotland) Act, 1808, which provided for a pension proportionate to a judge's salary at the time of his retirement. I wish to make clear that in calculating the pension of a judge who retires in 1959 the salary used is not his present salary but that fixed for his office by Parliament as long ago as 1877. The reason for this is that the increase in judicial salaries approved by Parliament in 1954 by the Judges' Remuneration Act of that year was specifically excluded from the pension calculation, with the result that judges of the Court of Session are pensionable only on their 1877 salary.
In the meantime, other judicial salaries have altered. The salaries of the lower judiciary were increased in 1957, and earlier this year there were further increases on the lines of those awarded to senior officers of the Civil Service. The upshot is that the salaries of the lower judiciary in Scotland have been pressing hard on the pensionable emoluments of the Supreme Court judges. In Scotland, the pensionable 284 salaries of the Senators of the College of Justice are now exceeded by those of the sheriffs principal of Lanarkshire and of the Lothians. I would point out to the hon. Member for Leith that they are exceeded also by those of the Chairman of the Scottish Land Court and the sheriffs substitute who sit in Glasgow.
That is the main reason why this Bill is needed in Scotland, apart, of course, from the general principles which were made clear by my right hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Maclay
The other point raised by the hon. Member for Leith relevant to the position of the sheriffs substitute—
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Member for Leith referred to the relative positions of the sheriffs substitute and of the county court judges. That matter is not dealt with in this Bill. It is a subject about which I have some knowledge and I have noted what was said by the hon. Member. But I think that he will agree that it was not possible to deal with the matter within the compass of this Bill.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Thanks to your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, this debate has covered a wide field. Speaking as a humble member of the junior branch of the legal profession, I hesitate to intervene particularly in view of what some of my hon. Friend's have been saying. But I wish to make clear that, while I desire to deal with other aspects of the Bill, I do not dissent from the observations which they have made. I, too, feel somewhat embarrassed that the Bill should be one of the first Measures introduced by the Government, and that they should ignore the very real interests of old-age pensioners and a great number of other people who deserve improved pensions.
Having said that, may I turn my attention to what seem to me to be one or 285 two fundamental constitutional aspects of the Bill? Having paid my tribute to the social requirements generally in the country and to the needs of a great many other members of the community, I think I may say that as responsible Members of this House we must realise and appreciate our responsibility for trying to establish and maintain a completely independent judiciary. After all, it is upon the independence of the judiciary that the fundamental rights and liberties of our citizens depend.
There are two aspects of this Bill which trouble me and upon which I hope we shall have some enlightenment from the Attorney-General. As I understand it, since the Act of Settlement, and probably before, judges have been irremovable. They have had a kind of livelong right to remain in office. For the first time, by means of this Bill, we seek to provide that in future judges shall retire at the age of 75.
Will the Attorney-General tell us whether one of the reasons for this proposal is that in the past it has been found that after reaching the age of 75 judges have become so senile as not to be able properly to perform their judicial function? Unless that be the case, I find it difficult to see the reason for this innovation. My limited experience leads me to believe that there have been judges in the High Court and the Court of Appeal who were over the age of 75 but were able to discharge their judicial functions at least as well as some younger judges.
Will the Attorney-General also tell me whether I am right in thinking that one of the results of the provision in this Bill will be to make it virtually impossible to appoint anyone to the bench who is over 60 years of age? As I understand it, in future judges will qualify for the full pension only if they serve for the full period of fifteen years, apart from having to retire because of illness? Since there will be compulsory retirement at the age of 75, I take it that in future it will be difficult to appoint anyone to the bench who is over 60 years of age. I am not saying whether that is a good or a bad thing, but I should have thought there might have been some objection to it.
No doubt in the future, as there have been in the past, there will be occasions 286 when, other things being equal and apart from the provisions in this Bill, it might well be desirable to appoint someone to the bench who is over the age of 60, but where, owing to the provision of this Bill, such a person might be embarrassed and prejudiced by such an appointment.
There is a wider question which I think ought to concern this House when considering the judiciary and judicial pensions. As things stand at present, as you, Mr. Speaker, will be aware and as I have said for a very long time, elevation to the judicial bench has been confined to members of the Bar. Personally, I am not at all sure that that is a good thing, and I should have thought that it was something which this House might well investigate in the future, but it is particularly important to make one or two comments on it at the moment, for this reason.
In so far as appointment to the bench is confined to membership of the Bar, there would seem to me to be some real reason for some public misgiving, because, as you are aware, Mr. Speaker, there has been voiced recently and during the last few years some concern about the position of the English Bar.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member imputes knowledge to me, and it is true that I have knowledge of such matters. What I am not clear about is how he relates his observations to the Bill, and I should be obliged if he would explain.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I thought I had tried to show that this Bill covered a very wide field. We have heard a great deal from some of my hon. Friends about the miners, the railwaymen and the old-age pensioners, and, surely, Mr. Speaker, in dealing with the pensions of the judiciary, if what was said by my hon. Friends was in order, it is in order to make a few observations about this very limited field within which the judiciary—and these are the only people eligible for judicial functions—are recruited? It is that aspect of the matter to which I refer, and I should have thought that my remarks were clearly in order.
May I ask your permission, Sir, to try to develop my argument? My argument is that, in considering whether we should make provision for judicial 287 pensions, we are entitled to consider the very restricted field within which those eligible for judicial pensions will be recruited, and I should have thought that that was at least as germane to the purpose of this Bill as a good deal of what you have already been kind enough to allow in this Second Reading debate.
I think it is particularly relevant, Mr. Speaker, for this reason. We are concerned not only with seeing, as we must be in this House, that there should be a proper payment to the judiciary and that the judiciary should be well provided for and well pensioned, but that members of the judicial bench should be well recruited. Unless we make provision for that as well, it is difficult to provide adequate and suitable pensions for judicial offices. What I am worried about is the fact that there is a good deal of concern about the English Bar. For example, in yesterday's The Times, a letter was given a very prominent position—
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot conceive how the prosperity or the lack of prosperity of the Bar has anything to do with this Bill to make provision for judicial pensions.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Could I perhaps try to bring myself within order by observing that the Government, in seeking to make provision for judges' pensions, are perpetuating a system under which elevation to the bench is limited to the Bar? As I understand it, we are also making an innovation of some considerable constitutional importance by a departure from the Act of Settlement, and, for the first time, are placing an age limit for the compulsory retirement of judges. That being so, it seems to me relevant to consider whether that is a wise provision to make.
As I said just now, one of the consequences of this Bill, as I understand it, will be that in future it will be virtually impossible, owing to its provisions, to elevate to the bench anyone over the age of 60. That is something quite different, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, from the system which has obtained in the past, and it is for that particular reason that it is important to draw the attention of the House to the fact that there has recently been a good deal of criticism about the elements at the Bar from which learned 288 judges are recruited and, particularly, about the difficulties at the Bar. This is very relevant—
§ The Attorney-General
On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman has just been ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker in dealing with these very matters. You have just come into the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to go back to them?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray)
It certainly would not be in order to contravene any Ruling given by Mr. Speaker. The House knows how I am placed, in that I have just come into the Chair. I am listening carefully, and I hope that the hon. Member will not go further than he should go in what he is saying.
§ Mr. Fletcher
May I say that I should be the last in any circumstances to seek to take advantage of the fact that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have recently come into occupation of the Chair, because you are not, presumably, aware of the circumstances in which Mr. Speaker gave me his guidance in order to embarrass you? I had hoped that if Mr. Speaker had continued to occupy the Chair I should have been able to develop my argument with his permission, as I am quite sure I should have been able to do. In view of the intervention of the Attorney-General it may be a little more difficult for me to do that, but the last thing that I should wish to do would be to dispute your Ruling or the rules of order.
I will, therefore, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, bring my remarks to a conclusion by observing that while I think the Government are perfectly entitled to make suitable and adequate arrangements for judicial pensions, they should at the same time bear in mind the full implications of the innovation in this Bill whereby they provide for the compulsory retirement of judges at the age of 75. I hope that when the Attorney-General replies we can have some comments from him on that aspect of the situation.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I rise for only a few minutes to make the very strongest possible protest at the way in which Scottish Members are being treated in this debate. I have no concern with the English judiciary. My experience of English judges has been 289 singularly unfortunate. My only criticism about this age limit is that I once met Mr. Justice Swift in his professional capacity and my only regret was that he had not retired at 45.
I suggest that while the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General have listened to this debate with a great deal of interest and attention and have followed every possible point, we are entitled to protest against the way in which we have been treated by the legal advisers of Scotland. We have a Lord Advocate and we have a Solicitor-General for Scotland. I used to protest that the Solicitor-General for Scotland was not a member of this House and that the Lord Advocate had to bear the burden of advising us on Scottish legal questions. After a great effort, a Solicitor-General for Scotland succeeded in getting a seat in one of the Glasgow constituencies so that now we have two Law Officers. Neither of them has been here today, and I wish to protest on behalf of the Scottish judges at the way in which the Law Officers for Scotland have let the side down.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Does my hon. Friend think that they may have been rather shy in intervening in a matter which might affect them, as they might be promoted to the bench?
§ Mr. Hughes
I believe that observation is very pertinent, but shyness on the part of lawyers in asking for legal remuneration is a quality which has passed my notice. I want to make this point, which I think is a perfectly legitimate and proper point to make. We have a Secretary of State in Scotland, we have three Under-Secretaries and two Law Officers. I think we are asking only the minimum in saying that we should have one of those Law Officers present and that we should not be left to the tender mercy of the Solicitor-General for England. Scottish hon. Members are entitled to have someone present who can guide us on Scottish legal questions.
It is true that the Secretary of State for Scotland made a speech of about two and a half minutes. When I asked him how the position of sheriffs in Ayrshire would be affected, he dismissed that as a matter of no importance and left us with "the boy on the burning deck". I have every confidence in the capacity of the Solicitor-General for England to 290 speak on behalf of England, but I suggest that Scottish law is such that every Scottish advocate and every Scottish judge, and potential judge, will feel disgusted at the way in which the legal profession in Scotland has been let down in this debate.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
It had not been my intention to intervene in this debate until I heard some of the speeches from hon. Members opposite. One of the things which has rather upset me is that, apparently, we talk about judges as we talk about people in terms of every man having his price. The impression has been conveyed by one or two of those speeches that unless these salaries and pensions are kept high there is a danger that we shall not be able to fill these positions with men of integrity and honesty. If members of the legal profession believe that, they have little right to expect millions of people in the country to be honest and to show integrity. It is a terrible reflection on lay magistrates, who are paid nothing. It suggests and insinuates that on the lay benches, where there is no payment, there might be graft, there might be corruption, there might be miscarriage of justice merely because lay magistrates are not financially independent and, therefore, cannot make independent judgments.
I have never understood how the more money one gets when one is working the bigger pension one should get when one retires. I should have thought that one has far more chance on £1,750 a year to make provision for retirement than those who receive smaller salaries. I should have thought that if I had £3,000 a year I should be able to make even more provision than on a salary of £1,750. The idea seems to be, however, that the higher the salary goes the bigger the pension must be.
In the Bill there are qualifying periods which the judiciary have to serve for a pension, unless they are afflicted with sickness and have to retire earlier. The appointment of Lord Chancellor is made by the Prime Minister and is a political appointment which can change. If we had five elections, say, in five or seven years, the occupant of the office could change five times. The political forces are still fairly evenly balanced and the 291 margins are very slight. It would be possible to have three or four elections in quick succession, each side making its own selection of Lord Chancellor. I ask the Solicitor-General whether, in those circumstances, assuming that a man had been Lord Chancellor for nine months, he would be entitled to a pension of £5,000? If twelve months after an appointment another Lord Chancellor were appointed, would the one who had served for only a year be entitled to £5,000?
I should like to know how it is that this House is prepared to put the pension of the Lord Chancellor, who in another place occupies the same position as Mr. Speaker in this House, higher than we this afternoon voted for our ex-Speaker. We say that in relation to the Speaker the pension shall be £4,000, but for the Lord Chancellor we say it should be £5,000. I shall be very glad if the Solicitor-General can give me a little enlightenment on these points.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I very much deplore the fact that we have no representative from the Scottish Office present, neither the Secretary of State for Scotland, an Under-Secretary or the Lord Advocate, nor the Solicitor-General for Scotland. This bill has been presented, not only by Mr. Attorney-General, but is supported, among others, by Mr. Secretary Maclay and the Lord Advocate.
The Lord Advocate has not put in an appearance. So far as I know, there has been no apology for the absence of the Scottish Law Officers. It may be that they have gone to see whether there is a vacancy on the bench. It may be that they are very modest. When a matter like this is raised, hon. Members have to declare an interest, if they have one, and perhaps they did not want to anticipate an interest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) has been talking about political appointments. When we look at the history of Lords Advocate and Solicitors-General for Scotland, we find that often they go to the bench. It is one of the recognised political promotions. I should have thought that in 292 a matter of this importance, when we are making important changes, we could have had the benefit of the advice of these gentlemen, based on their knowledge and experience, on questions which naturally arise when we discuss a Bill such as this.
I am dismayed at what we have heard from the legal fraternity. There is continual harping on the suggestion that unless we pay judges certain pensions and emoluments, not only for the men concerned but for their wives, somehow or other we shall not attract into these high and distinguished offices people of the highest rank. Things are coming to a lamentable pass in this materialistic society when money is the one thing that counts. It is not the position, not service to the nation in what is probably the most honoured part of their profession, but the touchstone of all their activities is money. I hope that hon. Members opposite who spoke for the legal profession and supported the Bill and stated that point of view were stretching it a little. I should hate to think that our justice depended entirely on material considerations.
It is evident from reading the Bill that a very limited number of people are involved. I should like to ask for firm information in relation to Scotland. Someone said that the number involved was 86.
§ Mr. Ross
What is the position of those already retired, because they are involved in the 12 per cent. increase for those who retired prior to 9th July, 1959? Any estimate of the cost of the Bill in the current year can be related not to the people presently holding the offices, but to the people who are retired. The £55,000 additional cost in a full year must be related purely to those who are already retired. After all, the Government are not going to pay additional pensions to those presently in employment.
How many people in Scotland are affected by the Bill? How many are affected by the 12 per cent. increase in Clause 7? How much will that mean in additional taxation which will have to be raised in Scotland? This is important, because there has just been a 293 General Election. Every time anything costing money was mentioned hon. Members opposite asked what it would cost and where the money was coming from. I dare say that even the Lord Chancellor in his political dress would make political speeches during the General Election.
§ Mr. Ross
I am sure that the Bill has come as no surprise to him. It was printed and ready to be brought out, but he did not tell people in the country that whilst he was opposed to giving an increase to old-age pensioners he was all set and ready with his friends to put through a Bill which would raise his own pension from £3,750 to £5,000. Do the Government think this is right? Can they wonder at the reaction of people in the country when there is that different method of dealing with the needs of particular people?
The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow is very relevant. The office of Lord Chancellor is a political appointment. He sits in the Cabinet. He is not only head of the legal system in this country, but is also a very active political being and participates in General Elections and makes speeches about costs. The Lord Chancellor asked where the money would come from, but one of the first things with which he is associated after the General Election is raising his own pension from £3,750 to £5,000 a year. Apart from the Lord Chancellor being given a higher pension than that given to the incumbent of the Chair in the House of Commons, does any question of abatement arise? We need to look at the original legislation to discover that. We should be given some information about the £5,000. If there are no questions of abatement in the original Act, do the Government feel that there ought to have been in relation to the increase now being made?
I want to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who are not yet here, what has happened since 1954. In 1954, the same judges with whom we are dealing tonight were given an increase in salary. Such was the mood of the House that the Government felt it necessary to say, "Do not worry. We are putting in a proviso".
294 Section 1 (1) of the Judges' Remuneration Act, 1954, provided that the increases in salary made then should not affect the amount of the judges' pensions. That is now being wiped out. It means that once and for all judges' pensions will be on a formula basis. It is a very good formula. After service for five years or less they are entitled to 25 per cent. of their salaries. For fifteen years' service and over the pension rises to half the salary received in the year before they retire. That is very good.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) mentioned our superannuation scheme. What arises in our minds is that we should congratulate the judges on having achieved this. We should wonder how they found such a receptive audience when they advanced their case to the Government. We do not need to look at judges' pensions again. All the concentration now will be on their salaries. Any change made to their salaries will automatically increase their pensions. It is a lovely position to be in—nice work if you can get it, and the judges have got it.
When will these benefits and this justice be applied to the rest of the country? A handful of people will be affected in Scotland. It is half pay for all but one in Scotland. We are entitled to an explanation, not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of the English and Welsh Members, of why one person should be treated differently in Clause 3. I refer to the Chairman of the Scottish Land Court. Clause 3 (1) says:The foregoing provisions of this Act shall not apply to any person who holds an office listed in the First Schedule to this Act at the commencement of this Act, unless he elects that those provisions shall apply to him; and in default of such an election the annual amount of the pension which may be granted to him under the relevant pension enactment on his retirement shall in any case be one half of his last annual salary.The First Schedule details in relation to Scotland the Lord Justice General, the Lord Justice Clerk and the Senator of the College of Justice in Scotland.
Clause 9 (3) says:In relation to the person who holds the office of Chairman of the Scottish Land Court at the commencement of this Act, subsection (1) of section three of this Act shall have effect as if for the words 'one half' there were substituted the words nine sixteenths'.295 The Chairman of the Scottish Land Court is not mentioned in the First Schedule. That is a mystery. I could probably suggest the solution, but it is not for me to solve the intricacies of the Bill. That task should be undertaken by someone sitting on the Government Front Bench. The Lord Advocate should have helped us. Instead of getting one half of his salary as in the cases sited in Clause 3, he will get nine-sixteenths. Why is more than justice done to this one person? It may well be another injustice to the English Law Lords. The reason is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) knows—he is learned in all these matters relating to the law; I suppose that that is one of the penalties of having represented Edinburgh, North—that this gentleman starts off with a much smaller salary. Nevertheless, the provision must be justified, and the Secretary of State ought to be here to justify it.
Why are we now to have this inflexible provision of retirement at 75? Why 75? Why was it necessary to bring in compulsory retirement at all? Have there been cases where people have been found to be very unsatisfactory over that age? How do those cases balance against those of persons who have been found to be very unsatisfactory under the age of 75? I am perfectly sure that there are as many judges unsatisfactorily carrying out their work under the age of 75 as over it. In fact, by insisting on this inflexible rule of retirement at 75, we may be robbing ourselves of valuable and experienced men who are capable of carrying on for some time.
If it is right to make 75 years the age at which these people must retire, why have the Government left it until now, since the difficulties that have arisen are obviously presently evident? Does this compulsory retirement cover judges presently carrying out their duties, or is it to apply only to newly-appointed judges? It may well be that there is a lack of courage here, and I should like to have the Scottish side of it justified.
I can finish only as I began, by expressing my regret that we have present no representative at all of the Scottish Office to give adequate answers on Scotland's participation in this important piece of legislation. It is an important piece of legislation, because the law of 296 Scotland has always been different from that of England. By the Act of Union we are entitled to our own system of law, and we have our own system in relation to the bench as well. I would have thought that in order to maintain this distinctive individuality of Scottish law we might have had someone on the Government Front Bench who could have answered the case for Scotland.
One hon. Member spoke of the centuries-old tradition of impartiality in the law of Scotland. I interjected at that point, because we have many cases in Scottish administration of justice, particularly towards the end of the eighteenth century, when impartiality was not exactly the strongest feature of our judiciary. It was then that, for instance, we had a celebrated judge talking to a man even before the man had been found guilty, and saying, "Och, ye'll be nane the waur for a hanging."
We have a separate legal tradition, and when we are dealing with this matter of Scottish law and Scottish judges it is deplorable that we have not got in their places the Secretary of State for Scotland, or the Lord Advocate, or the Solicitor-General for Scotland, or the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, No. 1, or the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, No. 2, or the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, No. 3—three Under-Secretaries, two Law Officers and one Secretary of State. Nor can they tell us that they are away dealing with affairs in Scotland, because we also have a Minister of State to look after that, too.
This is not being just to hon. Members for Scotland or to this House of Commons, and I sincerely hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General, the representative of the law in England, will draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland and that of his legal satellites to the dissatisfaction that has been expressed tonight.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
Not very much remains for me to add in winding up the debate from this side of the House after the minute and exhaustive inquiry to which this Bill has been subjected. I certainly would not venture to join in the controversy between Scottish hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. I feel that the case put forward by those 297 of my hon. Friends who sit for Scottish constituencies is quite unanswerable, and I hope that the Solicitor-General for England will be able to satisfy them. The hon. and learned Gentleman is the only person here, as far as I can see, who is emboldened to accept that task.
Nobody can have sat for long in this House without both respecting and enjoying the deep and ringing sincerity of my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland). I feel sure, therefore, that the Solicitor-General will not be surprised that many of my hon. Friends—and particularly those who have appended their names to the Motion—have thought it appropriate in this discussion to cast a rather wider glance at the situation of the very large numbers of persons in this country at present living in one form or another of need; and, in particular, that of retirement pensioners.
Those lovers of fresh air, as they have been described by, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) have forcibly put the case, and have forcibly reminded the House of those wider aspects of our present-day set-up that they desire, and quite rightly desire, to be prominently borne in mind by the Government immediately after they have won a General Election on the cry that we have never had it so good.
I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will share the anxiety that the Mover and Seconder have expressed in moving this Amendment. Whether my hon. Friends desire to press the Amendment to a Division is a matter for them. Speaking for myself, I hope that they will not think that I in any way lack respect for the sincerity they have evinced when I say that I feel that the Bill technically looked at, at any rate, involves rather narrower issues. Again, speaking for myself, I feel that for the Bill covering as it does the somewhat narrow ground over which it stretches the case has been made out, and I for one would desire to support it.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) had quite obviously embarked on an elaborate study of the analogous situation in other pension spheres, by which he sought to test the appropriateness or 298 otherwise of the pension provisions contained in the Bill. I would not seek—indeed, I would not feel competent—to add to what he has said on that aspect, except to say that I agree entirely with his conclusions and hope that they commend themselves to the House.
The Bill does three things. By the Judges' Remuneration Act, 1954, this House thought it appropriate to increase the salaries of the members of the higher judiciary. As I understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, what the Bill does is to relate the pension provisions to those scales of salary, which have, as I say, already been approved.
The Bill does no more with regard to the pension provisions, but it has two other important objectives. One is the objective of arranging for a graduated pension system. I am bound to say that I feel that that is justified, and indeed fulfils a useful purpose. As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said, if we have a retirement age of 75, and if a judge has to serve for fifteen years before he earns the full rate of pension, a judge who is appointed after the age of 60 will not be able, as I read the provisions of the Bill, to achieve the full pension scale on his retirement. The hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson), I think, pointed out that the provisions about graduated scales mean that, in terms of the maximum pension provision, appointments over the age of 60 will still be rendered possible, and a judge appointed over the age of 60 will be able to have the graduated pension scale appropriate to the number of years he actually serves before reaching 75.
I am bound to say that I think that is a useful and sensible provision, and I shall be glad to hear from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General that that is the object, or, at any rate, one of the objects sought to be compassed by the provisions with regard to graduated pensions.
This brings me to what is virtually the third provision of the Bill, namely, the provision for compulsory retirement at 75. I myself consider that any provision for retirement at a given age coupled with a power of extension is invidious and undesirable. I think it quite wrong that anyone serving in a judicial capacity 299 should be in the position of having to wonder whether his service has been such that he can hope, as he approaches retirement age, to have his service extended. That would be utterly undesirable, and I am quite convinced that, if there is a provision for retirement, it must be a fixed and specific provision which cannot in any circumstances be departed from. I am glad that the Government have accepted that view and have fixed, therefore, a definite age.
One of my hon. Friends asked why the age should be 75. Of course, the same question could be put with regard to whatever age was selected. If the age were 72, as was proposed by the two Royal Commissions which investigated the matter, the same question could be put about that. I suppose that the Government and those who decide upon the retiring age must look at the normal span of life and the normal processes of nature as the years go on and fix upon such a period of time as seems most suitable having regard to those gradual processes. I think that 75 is a reasonable age. Certainly, it means that the bench will be deprived from time to time of the services of highly experienced judges who could exceed this age limit. Equally, as a counterpoise to that, the disadvantage, possibly, of some judges staying on after a time when they ought really to have retired, will be avoided.
The Bill compasses, I think, three purposes which are in themselves desirable. Many of my hon. Friends have commented that these pension provisions are generous. I would reply in the terms which have been used by some of my colleagues at the Bar. The judges are called upon to discharge very arduous and anxious functions. Our personal liberties and our happiness depend tremendously upon their character and the skill with which they administer their judicial functions. They must be completely incorruptible. More than that, they must be known to be completely incorruptible and wholly inaccessible to any sort of temptation from any quarter whatsoever. They must have the complete trust of the people of this country. It is because they have had the complete trust of the people of this country that they occupy such a high position in our esteem.
300 Whether rightly or wrongly—I take the point made by some of my hon. Friends—it has always been our concept that high position and meritorious service in difficult functions should be remunerated on a scale appropriate to the degree and quality of the service rendered. That may be right or wrong. It may be that we should look to the satisfaction of the service itself as providing its own adequate reward. That has not been, for many decades past, the way in which we have approached these matters. Speaking for myself, I doubt whether it would be a practical approach at all. Judged by that test, I should have thought that the pension provisions are appropriate to meet the end which we seek by instituting them.
For those reasons, it seems to me that the Bill is justified, and I very much hope that my hon. Friends will feel that they can support it. I was glad to hear my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South and Chester-le-Street say that they moved and seconded the Amendment in no kind of hostility to the bench. They accept that the bench deserves well of this country. Their purpose in putting down the Amendment was to mark their strong sense that the needs and plight of many others should also be borne in mind. That I think was their very laudable and proper objective, but I hope that they may be able to feel that they have accomplished that objective by tabling and speaking in support of the Amendment. In the circumstances, I hope that they may not feel it necessary to press the matter to a Division.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
Would my right hon. and learned Friend deal with this point? What would happen if one of the persons to benefit under the Bill were appointed Governor-General of Australia? Would he still get the full pension?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I do not have the pleasure and honour of being the Solicitor-General. I think that my hon. Friend's question would be better addressed to the hon. and learned Gentleman than to myself. I say to the Solicitor-General that he has had a very pertinent question put to him. It is directly relevant and I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will give my hon. Friend a fully satisfactory answer.
301 For myself, I would certainly agree that the Bill should be given a Second Reading.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Jocelyn Simon)
I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) for the high eloquence with which he expounded and sustained the principles of the Bill. I am also grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) for his careful examination of the Bill in relation to other pension provisions in the public service.
I am glad to think that the Bill has been widely welcomed on both sides of the House. I recognise that some hon. Members opposite, for reasons which we entirely understand and respect, have expressed misgivings. Like the right hon. and learned Member for Newport, we on this side also have a high regard, as I hope he knows, for the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and his hon. Friends. We certainly do not complain that they should be mindful and should remind the House of the lot of the less fortunate members of the community at a time like this. Nevertheless, I venture to think that such an approach to a Measure like this is wrong.
I think that this was put very well by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) during the Second Reading of the Judges' Remuneration Bill, 1954, when a number of such considerations arose. My right hon. Friend said:Each case must be decided on its own merits in the public interest. It is the longterm interests of fundamental institutions of the State which alone must rule."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1058.]
§ Mr. Manuel
While accepting what the hon. and learned Gentleman says about the quotation from the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), would not he agree that over and above there being a right place there should be a right time for introducing changes of this kind?
§ The Solicitor-General
If the hon. Member has patience, he may find that I shall deal with the points on which he feels impelled to intervene and ask question. I intended to deal with the timing of the Bill.
302 As to the high importance of the judiciary in our constitutional scheme of things, there has been no dispute whatever. In moving and supporting the Amendment, hon. Members made that clear. We in this House cherish our own place in the Constitution, and, equally, are the first to value that of the judiciary. Just as we recognise that our own forerunners here played a leading part in the vindication and consolidation of the liberties of the British people, and, indeed, in their extension to distant places in the world, to peoples who were not known to exist at the time of Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights, so we take pride in the fact that the rule of law, in the development of which our judiciary has played such a stalwart part, is one of our most valuable exports to the outside world.
We all recognise that it is not enough for the preservation of freedom to have a virile Parliament continuing, as we hope, to recruit able and dedicated men. We here above all depend on the fact—again, I quote my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford—thatthere is behind Parliament an independent judiciary applying and enforcing the law with high integrity and a great measure of common sense and knowledge of daily life, and with high professional skill, and applying it in conformity with the intentions of Parliament.The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and the hon. Member for Chesterle-Street (Mr. Pentland) spoke for the ordinary people and very engagingly put it as "our people". I venture to suggest—I am sure they would be the first to agree—that the people owe, partly at least, to the judiciary something they value more highly than their material prosperity, and that is their civil liberties. It is in that spirit that we should be concerned with the Bill.
It is, therefore, a major concern of the House to foster and maintain not only the independence and probity of the judiciary—because, with respect to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), we take its independence and probity for granted, and safely so—but also the recruitment of the highest standard of ability to the ranks of the judiciary.
303 Mr. Attlee, as he then was, put it like this when he spoke in support of the Judges' Remuneration Bill:The general level is high, but we have to maintain it high.Bringing his observations very close to the subject we are discussing today, he went on to say:It is a very penny-wise, pound-foolish policy not to pay the right remuneration. One has to consider this in general relation to the standard of life and the cost of living and to opportunities for earning outside."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1062, 1065.]Today, I do not suppose that anybody would disagree that pensions are an aspect of remuneration for the job. It is a fact of modern life that the pension attached to a job is part of its attraction. Once these general considerations are accepted—the constitutional position of our judiciary, the facts that we must continue to attract into the judiciary men of the highest character and ability and that a pension attached to a job is today part of its attraction—certain consequences follow.
First of all, where one finds that the pension which was formerly thought proper is very seriously eroded by inflation, there is likely to be a case for its increase, particularly where the burden of the office has increased rather than lessened. Secondly, whilst his salary must be such as to attract men of high ability into the judicial service, the judge's pension also must bear some relationship to that which a man of comparable ability can earn outside the public service. That was really a point that Mr. Attlee was making.
Thirdly, the pensions of the higher judiciary should bear a reasonable relationship to those awarded to the higher servants of the executive branch of government. Fourthly, within the judicial service itself there must be reasonable differentials so that those of higher rank and higher responsibility gain a higher pension than those of lower rank and responsibility. Each of these considerations points inescapably towards the necessity of raising the pension of the higher judiciary.
As for the modern buying power of the pension, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has pointed out, the pension of the High Court judge 304 today is no more than it was in 1825—indeed, in absolute terms it is less, after translation of a quarter of that pension into a right to ancillary benefits. Yet to produce the equivalent purchasing power today of a pension of £3,500 in 1825 or indeed in 1914—for I take 1914 as my base as the start of the modern inflationary era—would demand over £15,000. These figures, quite rightly, do not take into account the modern burden of taxation, because that is something which every citizen must be expected to shoulder.
But that means, apart from the increased taxation, that modern judges in retirement are far worse off than were their predecessors, not only comparatively to other sections of the community but also absolutely. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) put it this way in the debate on the 1954 Act:The real cause for this increase is a quite simple one, for which we need make no apology at all, that the value of the salary is not now equal to the nature of the job." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1099.]
§ Mr. Ross
This is interesting. The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and to Lord Attlee in relation to the Judges' Remuneration Act, 1954. We may agree with everything that he has said and is saying, but why was it that in 1954, when they were all saying these things, the Government deliberately inserted a provision in that Act stating that an increase in salary would make no difference to the position of these pensions?
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Member loses sight of the fact that there is a time and place for everything. We have made a number of advances since then in pensions. If he would wait again he will see that there are a number of considerations arising in the matter of public pensions which make imperative now this decision, which at any rate in 1954 could wait in view of the rise in salaries.
I was coming to the second point that the judiciary, considered as the consummation of a legal career, has to compete with other callings in attracting recruits 305 of a high calibre. The financial prizes open to the professions or the public service have always been and must always remain far eclipsed by those available in industry and commerce. Indeed, there are the other satisfactions which, to the minds of many, more than compensate for the greater emoluments outside.
Nevertheless, there comes a point when the discrepancy in salaries and pensions between the public or judicial services and those paid outside can become damaging not only to the comparative standing of those services in the community, but also to their power to recruit men of first-class ability. Again I quote Mr. Attlee. He said:One can have a terrible waste of public and private money if one has incompetent judges.Salaries in industry and commerce have increased to keep pace with the fall in the value of money; and pension schemes have been increasingly introduced in those spheres, the pensions being related to salaries. The judge's pension, however, remains at the figure fixed in 1825, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, and with less than a quarter of its 1914 value. I do not say for a moment that any section of the community has a sacred right to the maintenance of its comparative position in the salary or pension scale or to differentials existing at any one time, but I do say that a dramatic shift against our judiciary in this respect, such as we have seen, is something that no one who knows and values its constitutional rôle can view without misgiving.
There was a similar danger of such a shift, although far less, in the Civil Service. That was recognised and brought to our attention by the Priestley Commission; and we are now, I think with universal approbation, pledged to pay the, civil servants a salary which fairly matches with those paid for comparable work outside the Civil Service, and the pensions of civil servants are, of course, linked to such salaries.
This has produced discrepancies within the public service to the disadvantage of the judiciary. Again, if we take 1914 as a base, the High Court judge then ha .d a salary of £5,000 and a pension of £3,500. A permanent secretary had a 306 salary of £2,000 and a pension, after forty years' service, of £1,333. In three years' time from now, when the recent Coleraine increases have had time to work through into the pension scale, a permanent secretary with forty years' service will have a pension of £3,500, a lump sum of £7,000 and a pension of £1,060 for his widow. That follows inevitably from decisions which this House took last April. The High Court judge's pension is today only £2,625, with a lump sum of the same amount and a pension of £875 for his widow.
§ The Solicitor-General
Certainly not after forty years' service. What I am concerned with is that we should attract from the available sources of recruitment men of similar calibre into the higher ranks of the Civil Service and into the judiciary. I say that such a startling alteration in the relationship of the pension of judge and civil servant does not reflect a proper balance in the constitution or, in the way I ventured to put it to the hon. Gentleman, a proper balance of the comparative attractions of these two great careers, both of which are so vital to our public life.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to put a point? It is all right to put the point in this rather unbalanced form, but surely every judge who is appointed to the bench at a mature age as a man of outstanding quality has already served as a senior counsel in the other branch of the profession? Presumably, if he has all those brilliant qualities which qualify him to be a judge, he has made a dickens of a pile of money in his career at the Bar and cannot, therefore, be regarded in the same light as a civil servant who has devoted the whole of his career perhaps to working his way up the ladder from some junior position.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman's assumption is false and quite unjustifiable. There are many men of the greatest ability who have been appointed to the Bench who have been unable to make any savings at all.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the 1954 debate. During that debate, I quoted 307 the wills of judges who had recently died and the considerable sums of money that they left.
§ The Solicitor-General
I read with considerable enjoyment the hon. Gentleman's speech in that debate, and I noticed that in every case the man concerned had practised at the Bar before the war at a time when taxation was nothing like the burden it is today.
§ The Solicitor-General
On the third criterion, the relation of the pensions paid respectively to high executives and judicial officers, there is again a clear case for the Bill. I am certain that that consideration caused Lord Silkin in another place, when the Pensions Increase Bill was presented in the last Session, to raise precisely the question whether judges' pensions should not receive comparable treatment.
The matter does not stop there. Anomalies have developed in judicial pensions. As a result of the Coleraine Committee's recommendations at the beginning of this year, there was an increase in the salaries of higher civil servants. The salaries and, therefore, the pensions of the lower judiciary are reviewed whenever there is an increase in the salaries of higher civil servants, and those were therefore also increased earlier this year.
That has had the result, to which my right hon. and learned Friend drew attention, that certain members of the lower judiciary have pensions as great as and in some cases greater than High Court judges. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering rightly said that that was a distortion in the pension structure of the judiciary which could not be justified.
I turn now to some of the questions that have been specifically asked. A point was put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson), and the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), whether the graduated pension combined with the retirement age would not lead to the virtual impossibility—as I think the hon. Member for Islington, East put it—of appointing a person over 60 years of age. The right hon. and learned Member for 308 Newport opposite challenged that and asked whether it was not one of our objectives to get greater flexibility into the system of appointments?
I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It was one of our objects. At the present time the Lord Chancellor finds it very difficult to appoint a man over a certain age to the Bench because he is faced with the position that either that man will not be able to earn his full pension, or he may have to go on on the Bench to a fairly advanced age to earn it.
Under the new system of a graduated pension with a retirement age, anybody of the age of, say, 65, will be able to accept a judgeship knowing that he cannot earn his full pension if he is appointed at 65, but knowing exactly where he stands. That new source of recruitment to the Bench will be available to Lord Chancellors.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) raised the next point. He asked about the phrase in Clause 3:… shall in any case be one half of his last annual salary.He asked whether it would not be possible for a judge at present on the Bench to take advantage of the Clause and to get half his salary and yet be able to retire prematurely.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am much obliged. The position is that Clause 3 (1) says that the foregoing provisions of the Bill, that is, all the provisions of Clause 1 and Clause 2, shall not apply to any sitting judge unless he elects that they shall apply to him and in default of such an election he shall get one half of his annual salary.
The effect of Clause 3 is that the foregoing provisions of the Bill do not apply to him. Therefore, although he enjoys the higher retirement pension of one half of his last salary, he does not get the benefit of any of the provisions of Clause I and Clause 2, including the right under Clause 1 (3, a) to retire after less than five years and to enjoy one quarter of his salary, or the provision for retiring at the age of 70 and enjoying a proportionate part of his pension. The words to which my hon. and learned Friend 309 drew attention, "in any case", are there to denote that the Clause applies to all cases of the judges who are affected by the default of election. If my hon. and learned Friend wishes, we can resume the point in Committee.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent. South and the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) asked whether the provisions of the Bill would be retrospective. It seems to me that there is no truly retrospective element. The increases in the pensions of the judges who are at present serving are not retrospective. They take effect only from the time that the Bill passes into law, which in this case, is the date of the Royal Assent. The provisions affecting retired judges and the widows of retired judges are not retrospective, or, if they are, not under this Bill. Any retrospection comes from other pension increase provisions, such as the Pensions (Increase) Act of last Session, where there was a similar provision for a 12 per cent. increase for those who were on flat rate salaries like Colonial judges.
§ Mfr. Manuel
It is important to get this matter clear. Is it not retrospective in that it will apply from before the date that the Bill receives the Royal Assent, in the sense that certain provisions are back-dated to people who will have retired by then?
§ The Solicitor-General
This is a matter which can be taken up in Committee. As I read the Bill, it is retrospective in the sense of the people whom it affects, but not retrospective in the date of payment. To see what people are affected, one has to look at the date of the passing of the Pensions (Increase) Act.
There were certain other questions which I was asked and which the House would probably prefer to have taken up in Committee.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman reply to the point which I raised and which is serious because of the provision in another Measure for a reduction of pension in the case of another job? The hon. and learned Gentleman will remember the 310 case I put. Supposing a judge retires and draws a pension under this Bill and is then appointed, say, Governor-General of Australia; will there be any reduction of pension?
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman puts to me what is not, I think, a very likely case, but I can answer him quite specifically. There is no provision for abatement of judges' pensions, and there never has been. The only exception to that—and this is the point which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock raised—is the Lord Chancellor's pension, which is subject to an abatement provision.
§ The Solicitor-General
I was certainly not intending to reply to the specific Scottish points, as I was quite satisfied that they had been well-answered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
On all the grounds which we have reviewed—the high constitutional importance of the judiciary, the need to continue to attract into these ranks men of outstanding ability, the fact that the pension today plays a vital part in the pecuniary attraction of the job, the fall by over three-quarters—even disregarding taxation—in the buying power of the judges' pensions since 1914, the increase, by contrast, in pensions outside the public service, the fact that top civil servants' pensions have long overtaken and now far transcend judicial pensions, and the anomaly whereby the pensions of the lower judiciary may now equal or surpass those of High Court judges—an increase in the pensions of the higher judiciary is imperative and, indeed, overdue. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
May I have a reply to my question? Can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell me whether it would be possible for five men to be receiving a Lord Chancellor's retirement pension within a period of five years?
§ The Solicitor-General
Yes. There is, of course, no qualifying period at all 311 for very good reasons. There never has been. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be content if we took that up in Committee.
§ Question, That "now" stand part of the Question, put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. J. E. B. Hill.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.