§ [Queen's Recommendation signified.]
§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).
§ [Major Sir WILLIAM ANSTRUTHER-GRAY in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law with respect to the pensions and other benefits attaching to certain high judicial offices, it is expedient to authorise the charge on and payment out of the Consolidated Fund of any increase in the sums payable out of that Fund which is attributable to provisions of the said Act applying to all or any of the following offices, that is to say Lord Chancellor. Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. Judge of the High Court of Justice or Court of Appeal, Judge of the Court of Session, and Judge of the High Court of Justice or Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland, being provisions—
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I would like an answer to a question which I asked in the last debate, and which I though could well have been answered then. I asked for some information about the cost of this operation. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says it is estimated thatthe additional cost will not exceed £16,500 in the current financial year and £55,000 in a full year.312 I suggested that someone in the Treasury could easily tell us the actual cost at least in respect of one of the items listed in the Money Resolution. The provisions of the Bill can be divided into three parts, as defined in the Money Resolution. The first amends the law with respect to pensions or other benefits; the second regulates the age of retirement from office, and the third refers to increased pensions payable to persons retiring before 9th July, 1959. Can we be told how much the last part will cost in this year and in a full year?
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
I cannot give the hon. Member any more information than is given in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. There are many factors to be considered in this matter. In any case, the hon. Member left out the words:Since the cost will depend on the number of judges in retirement at any time, it is impossible to forecast accurately what it will it amount towhich occur immediately before his quotation. One of the factors which make it impossible to estimate arises from the fact that under the Bill various options can be exercised, and until we know how they are exercised it is not possible to arrive at a precise estimate of the financial result, although we can make some kind of calculation. I can assure the hon. Member that the best calculation which can be made has already been set out in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum.
§ Mr. Ross
I am sorry to insist, but I am afraid that the Attorney-General has not been listening to me, or has not the Money Resolution in front of him. If he will look at the Resolution he will see that it refers to provisions:(c) increasing pensions payable to who retired before 9th July, 1959.There is no question of estimating how many of those who are now retired did so before 9th July of this year. That is surely within the ken of the people presenting the Money Resolution. We are told that the increase in this case is one of 12 per cent. That is also capable of calculation. It can be worked out how much that is likely to cost this year, estimating the time when the Bill will go through, in relation to the financial year. The Attorney-General should 313 be able to tell us how much it will cost in a full y ear.
Having asked the question the second time, I am very disappointed that I have not received an answer. When I first spoke I asked for this information to be given not only in the aggregate but in relation to those now retired in Scotland. I asked how many there were and what amount would be represented by an increase of 12 per cent. in respect of those judges who retired before 9th July, 1959. In view of the fact that a known number will get a known increase, I hope that I may now be given the in formation I seek.
§ The Attorney-General
I can give the hen. Member particulars about Scotland. I understand that there is one judge who retired before 9th July. The hon. Gentleman can calculate what is a 12 per cert. increase on his pension.
§ Mr. Ross
If I knew what his pension was, which, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, is at present based on a series of calculations, I could do so. But after all, we are employing the Treasury to present us with this information. We employ at least six Ministers in the Scottish Office. Here is a simple piece of information which should be available not only in respect of Scotland but also in relation to England. The Treasury is responsible, but I do not see a representative of the Treasury present on the Government Front Bench. I think that the Treasury is treating the House of Commons with little respect regarding the Money Resolution and I should like an answer to the point I have raised regarding paragraph (c) of the Resolution.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
before we part with this Money Resolution, I wonder whether either the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General can give me some information about another aspect of this additional liability on the Treasury? Under existing legislation in the Finance Act there is provision for a special remission of the whole of taxation on the salaries earned by members of the Bar during their last year of practice at the Bar. A learned gentleman who has reached the higher ranks of the legal profession as an advocate, and decides to cease practice at the Bar, can so arrange his 314 affairs in the final year of his practice as to have a great many fees coming in during that year which would be entirely free of tax.
Order. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he must be careful to keep within the terms of the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Price
I appreciate that mild rebuke, Sir William, if it be a rebuke.
I wish to show that this is directly related to the Money Resolution, because before we can know what this will cost as an additional liability on the Treasury we are entitled to ask what are the implications of this final tax-free year before a barrister ceases to practise at the Bar and becomes a judge.
The Solicitor-General gave us a pretty broad hint that this will give the Lord Chancellor and others concerned with the appointment of judges a greater freedom of selection. This additional pension is an additional incentive bonus. One might expect from what was said by the Solicitor-General that there will be a tendency to appoint judges of a more advanced age than at present. I should regard that as unfortunate from certain points of view. If we do that, we shall be faced with the additional cost of the remission of taxation for the last year in which a barrister practises at the Bar before being translated to the Bench. I wish to know whether anyone has gone into that matter to find out what the cost is likely to be.
That is not a point of order. If no other hon. Member rises, the Chair has no option but to put the Question.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I understand, Sir William, that you have not yet put the Question.
I wish to ask a question of the Solicitor-General, who seems to be doing some sums. Perhaps he can now tell us the position in Scotland under paragraph (c) of the Money Resolution. I do not think it is good form to take the 315 advice of the Attorney-General on all occasions, and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now advising that we should not be bothered, that the House of Commons does not count when we are discussing a Money Resolution, I think that his advice is bad.
There is also the question of the position in Ireland. During the course of my remarks on Second Reading I mentioned that subject. I do not know whether or not any hon. Members from Northern Ireland are here yet, but, obviously, they ought to be in the Chamber and taking an interest in this Money Resolution in order to find out how the payments are to be made to the higher judiciary in Northern Ireland. Seeing that they are not doing it, I should like, on their behalf, to ask the Attorney-General if the position in Northern Ireland could be explained as it is regulated by paragraph (c) of the Money Resolution. The right hon. and learned Gentleman volunteered the information that there was one judge in Scotland who retired before 9th July, 1959. I wonder if he would indicate the position in Northern Ireland in so far as there have been any retirements.
§ Mr. Ross
I do not know who briefed the Law Officers tonight, or whether they are sitting in for the Treasury. We have asked a question in regard to lines 14 and 15 of the Money Resolution. Here we have the Treasury saying that it has agreed that money will be taken out of the Treasury for the purposes of paragraphs (a), (b) or (c). I quite agree that it would be difficult to estimate, and so I have not asked, what sum it is suggested would be taken out in regard to paragraph (a). There is nothing to prevent me asking. The same thing applies to paragraph (b), but when it comes to paragraph (c) we are dealing with something which is specific and is known. How many judges retired before 9th July, 1959, what pension are they now receiving and how much is the Treasury prepared to pay out? [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite should think of the brave speeches they made and where the money is coming from.
§ Mr. Ross
In Clause 7, the actual provision is that there will be an increase of 12 per cent. in the pension of any judge who retired before the 9th July of this year. There is no explanation necessary. Here is a simple piece of arithmetic. The Government know the number of judges retired and the pensions which they are at present paying them and the Treasury should be able to calculate what that increase of 12 per cent. in a full year will be. Here we have the Attorney-General unable to answer. He can tell us of one Scottish judge who has qualified because he retired before 9th July, but he has not a clue about what he is receiving. I do not blame him at all. I am not holding the Attorney-General for England responsible for the negligence or the failures of the Law Officers of Scotland. He made a very brave effort. He was able to tell us that there was one person, and I hope he was right, because we will be able to check it. I do not want to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman following in the footsteps of the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who give the Scottish Standing Committee one piece of advice one minute and then—
Order. The hon. Member is not in order at this stage of the Bill to refer to what goes on in Scottish Standing Committee.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross
I entirely agree, and I return to the Money Resolution. I think I am in order in expressing my appreciation of the attention given by the Attorney-General in addressing himself to the question I put. I think he did his best; it was not a very good one, but I am not blaming him. I do not think that it is his job to be able to answer in relation to Scotland, but if he comes here and supports the Money Resolution properly briefed, not only by his office but as sitting in for the Treasury, he should be able to answer questions on the Resolution.
In the last Parliament when the present Solicitor-General had responsibilities for the Treasury, we were never able to catch him out on points like this. He did his homework. I take it that the Attorney-General just does not know the 317 answer and has not been briefed to answer this simple and relevant question. I sincerely hope that he will at least take to task those who provided him with information to satisfy the House of Commons that we ought to pass this Money Resolution. Should we pass the Resolution when the Government cannot give an answer to the simple question of how much it will cost the British taxpayer next year in relation to the judges who retired before 9th July, 1959, getting a 12 per cent. increase in their pensions?
I do not know whether one of these new calculating machines has been installed at the Treasury. If only one judge in Scotland has retired before that date, I am sure the Treasury could go to any junior secondary school in Scotland and get a child passing his qualifica Lion examination some time this year to give the answer. Has economy gone so far with this Government that they cannot give the answer to this simple piece of arithmetic?
Although I do not blame the Attorney-General for not being able to answer in relation to Scotland, he ought to be able to give the figures in relation to England and Wales. The fact is that he has allowed himself to be brought into the House to support the Money Resolution without having a proper brief in relation to the questions which we are obviously entitled to ask. He gave me an answer which was doubtful here and imponderable there, but there is not a single imponderable in paragraph (c) of the Resolution.
How many judges retired before 9th July, 1959? We have already been told that they are to get a certain increase in their pension. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should be able to tell us how much it will cost. Here we have present the serried ranks of the Conservative Party who made brave speeches on the hustings on such expenditure. I sincerely hope we shall find that some of those jubilant and joyful perorations which they have put behind them will cause them to ask what this is going to cost, but I am afraid they will get the same answer as I am getting, that the Government do not know.
318 Hon. Members opposite are going gaily to pass this without knowing what it costs. [An HON. MEMBER: "Lobby fodder."] It is not a question of Lobby fodder, but of the kind of speech they make to their constituents and what they do when they come here. They are entitled to know what this will cost under paragraph (c). I return to this point and we can repeat it as often as we like until we get an answer. This is why a Money Resolution comes before a Committee of the whole House. It is to enable us to probe what is involved. [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Manuel
It is not a laughing matter. It is our duty to know about these things. It is what hon. Members are elected for.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law with respect to the pensions and other benefits attaching to certain high judicial offices, it is expedient to authorise the charge on and payment out of the Consolidated Fund of any increase in the sums payable out of that Fund which is attributable to provisions of the said Act applying to all or any of the following offices, that is to say Lord Chancellor. Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, Judge of the High Court of Justice or Court of Appeal, Judge of the Court of Session, and Judge of the High Court of Justice or Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland, being provisions—
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow.