The next Amendment selected is No. 28. We can discuss with this Amendment Amendment No. 26, in page 3, line 1, leave out from "Act" to "shall" in line 2.
And Amendment No. 27, in page 3, line 3, leave out "1st April 1966" and insert:a day to be appointed by Her Majesty by Order in Council being a date not earlier than 2090 the day after the General Election following the passing of this Act".I call Sir Douglas Glover.
§ Mr. Mendelson
For want of a better man, I beg to move Amendment No. 28, Clause 5, in page 3, line 3, leave out "1966"and insert"1967".
The Amendment has as its main burden of argument an inquiry into the reasons why the Government are insisting that the Bill be passed now and why the effective date of its coming into force must be as stated in the Bill. This involves a further inquiry as to how the Government came to decide on these dates. It is agreed on both sides that we are at the tail end of a particularly busy period. On many occasions during Business questions the Leader of the House has stated that he might have to crowd a great deal of work into the last few weeks of the Session. Yet we have this Bill at the tail end, without any consultation with the members of the majority party supporting the Government, without any prior knowledge for any of us that such a Bill was coming, but obviously with at least some anticipation on the part of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), whose violent and vehement intervention earlier, full of sound and fury, far from bringing aid and comfort to my right hon. and learned Friend, will be a great embarrassment to him when the speech is read in the constituencies which we represent.
That brings me to the most important question I want to put to the Attorney-General. Is there any reason which involves the alleged agreement between the former Administration and the Shadow Cabinet of the Labour Party when the Labour Party was in opposition which insists upon this date? It is remarkable that we have not throughout these debates, neither on Second Reading nor during the Committee stage, had a clear answer as to how this agreement came about, who were the contracting parties, whether it was an agreement or merely an understanding. On no occasion when this matter has been raised have those right hon. Members opposite who were members of the Cabinet in the former Administration—the former Attorney-General told the House on Second Reading that he was not a member of the Cabinet but was a 2091 member of the Government—given us an explanation as to what part they played in this agreement.
All the right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been taking part in these debates have been protesting that they entered into no agreement and that they did not know of any agreement. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) said that he was a member of the Cabinet at the time but that he in no way took part in any agreement. Tonight the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) is here and we may hear from him. He was a member of the Government at that time. There is a clear contradiction between assertions on the other side of the Committee that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not a party to an agreement and the argument advanced by the present Government that such an implied agreement existed and therefore they are in honour bound to bring in this legislation.
Many of my hon. Friends are insisting that a clear answer must be given by the Government either now or during the further stages of the Bill whether such an agreement existed and how it came about, because there is involved here an element of policy of the greatest importance. Many of the suggestions made to the Government in our Amendments have been rejected by the Attorney-General. No reason so far has been given by the Government why they have insisted on making no concessions whatever to us on the Amendments and have not even been prepared to consider the Amendments carefully, and while they have had the support of hon. and right hon. Members opposite my suspicion has been growing that there must have been some agreement. Some hon. and right hon. Members opposite have been the only people who have supported the Bill and completely supported the attitude of the Government in resisting every Amendment.
§ Sir J. Hobson
It was a very good Bill. We said that we would introduce it and the former Lord Chancellor gave a pledge that if we had been in power we would have introduced it. I do not think that it is surprising therefore that we should now be supporting it.
§ Mr. Mendelson
It is surprising, because there were other hon. and right hon. Members opposite including a former Secretary of State for Scotland who was a member of the Cabinet and therefore of the policy-making body who said that there was no agreement. The former Secretary of State said, "There was no agreement. I was no party to it and therefore I oppose the Bill." That assumption therefore on the part of the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) breaks down at the first attempt to analyse the situation. We have just heard that there had been an announcement by a senior officer of the previous Administration but we have not heard from the present Attorney-General whether or not there is any substantive evidence of there having been an agreement.
There is no reason why the Government should not agree that the effective date of the Bill coming into force should not be postponed to 1967. In recent months there have been a number of applications for increases in wages and salaries and a number of negotiations. Some claims are under arbitration. In some cases the effective date has been postponed whilst in others appeals have been made to consider a limited increase year by year over a period of three years so that at the end of the three years the full increase will have been given. But this is not the method proposed for these substantial increases. The Government might have said that they thought that these salaries ought to be increased but that a three-year period, as in other cases, would have been a reasonable period over which to introduce them. The Government might have suggested that the total increase should thus be split into three, or they might have said, "We must deal with the matter, but we are in a particularly difficult financial and economic situation and it is sensible to appeal to some of the senior servants of the State to wait another year".
The burden of my argument has considerable support on these benches and in the country, and we ought to have a detailed explanation whether the Government are in honour bound and committed to the Bill; secondly, whether they are in honour bound and committed by an agreement with the other side of the 2093 Committee to this date; and thirdly, if they are not so committed, why they insist that it must be introduced now and must come into effect in 1966. Many of my hon. Friends attach more importance to this Amendment than to some of the other Amendments. If there are no satisfactory answers to the questions which I have put, then the Government's case falls to the ground.
I called Amendment No. 28 and I said that we could discuss with it Amendments Nos. 26 and 27.
§ 4.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Hogg
Despite the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) put his name to Amendments which he did not feel disposed to move when you called him, Sir Samuel, I must say that this Amendment reflects as clearly as ever the meanness and hypocrisy of the attitude underlying the opposition to the Bill, because it proposes to postpone the date of the increases in salary to the judiciary by a year. The alleged ground for that is that others have to negotiate for higher wages.
This is, again, an attempt to gain a little meretricious popularity with the more gullible of hon. Members' constituents. But when hon. Members' salaries were increased nobody suggested postponing the increase for a year. On the contrary, Members' salaries were increased with the approbation of most hon. Members opposite while the old-age pensioners had to wait. I have never heard such hypocrisy in my life, and I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I am glad that I have an opportunity to discuss my Amendment immediately after the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has spoken, because I want to refresh his memory. The present Opposition, when in Government in 1954, did exactly what is suggested in my Amendment. In 1954 there was an agreement on judges' salaries and hon. Members' salaries. The then Government promised that if the increases for judges were approved, they would deal with hon. Members' salaries, but in the 1922 Committee, led by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), they reneged and said that hon. Members' salaries would have to wait until after the General Election. In the same way, these proposals were discussed before the last General Election and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with the support of the present Government, said that whatever proposals were made by the Lawrence Committee, they would not apply until after the General Election.
I have put down my Amendment to make the Bill apply after the next general election because at no time since 1954 has the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marlebone, who sits there sniggering, or any member of his party or of the Government suggested that there would be an increase in judges' salaries. Ever since 1954, there has been discussion of Members' salaries, but Members had to wait for ten years and two committees of inquiry before anything was done. There was a Select Committee, and the Conservative Government reneged on the outcome of that. They said, "Wait till after the election", and they reneged on that.
Did either the previous Government or this Government, or any member of either party, say publicly in the House or in the country that there would be this increase? Was any hint or inkling given of it? I want my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to note these questions and to be good enough to answer them when he replies. Why did not the Government put this proposal in the Queen's Speech? If it was agreed between both sides in March, 1964, why was not a public declaration made at some time before or during the election campaign? Why was not it put in the Labour Party manifesto?
2095 I am not attacking my own side only. What about the Tories? Why did not they make a public statement? We are told that there was a statement in another place. Why not here? Why in another place, the non-elected, non-democratic, antediluvian other place?
§ Mr. Hogg
I have two points of order to raise, Mr. Jennings. First, I understand that it is contrary to the comity of Parliament for one House to make a direct attack on the other. Second, the Committee is discussing an Amendment to postpone the date of operation of the Bill. I submit that the hon. Gentleman is wholly out of order on both counts.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. J. C. Jennings)
The hon. Member is certainly out of order in attacking another place. On the second point of order, he would be well advised to stick to the terms of the Amendment and deal with the dates 1966 and 1967.
§ Mr. Lewis
I was told by your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Jennings, that my Amendment No. 27 was to be discussed with this Amendment. My Amendment deals with this very issue—being a date not earlier than a day after the general election following the passing of this Act.The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone is wrong. My argument is exactly in order, and I am speaking to my Amendment in preference to the one which proposes the date 1967. Let us wait till after the next General Election.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Member is quite right that we are taking Amendments No. 26 and No. 27 with this one, and I think that in our perambulations we have now got back into order.
§ Mr. Lewis
Thank you very much, Mr. Jennings.
So now the right hon. and learned Gentleman can appreciate that he was dealing in his speech with an Amendment he knew not of. I want to emphasise and re-emphasise that when I attack my own side I am careful to be fair, by saying that more blame lies on the present Opposition, because they were the Government when, on several occasions, they pledged their word that 2096 they would do something after the election. They did not do it. Neither my own party, nor the right hon. and learned Gentleman, nor the present Leader of the Opposition—if there is one: I do not know whether there is one or not at the moment—or perhaps the future Leader, made any declaration during the period of the General Election about this matter. If I attacked the other House, I withdraw the attack. Far be it for me even to think of attacking it. But I think it better that a statement on an issue like this should be made in this democratically elected place rather than in another place.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
Would the hon. Member not agree that the statement made on 24th March last year was not a statement but an answer to a question? If such a question had been asked in this House no doubt the same answer would have been given.
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Member knows as well as I do that a Question can be sponsored as well in another place as in this, and as well in this place as in another. I am sure there were plenty of hon. and learned Members opposite who were then in the Government who would have been pleased to put down a Question to the then Attorney-General asking about this, and I am sure the then Attorney-General would have been pleased to have given that answer. Then we could all have known about it, and discussed it, and we might have put a few supplementary questions. We should at least have had some inkling of it. This was not put in the Conservative Party's manifesto, and it was not in the Liberal Party's. I cannot see any Liberals here. If I am wrong, I am sorry; I do not want to attack them, and especially not in their absence. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not mention it during the last election, although he made a number of speeches at that time. He did not mention it. Perhaps he was bonkers or something; I do not know. But he never once referred to judges or judges' salaries.
What we have to do now is to take the electorate into our confidence. Let us go to the country and say, "We are going to increase judges' salaries. Both parties are agreed about this and are willing to do it, but we leave it to you, but now you know about it." That is what the 2097 Tory Party suggested should be done about Members' salaries. It said it on three occasions and eventually it was carried out.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman made reference to Members' salaries. I wish he would understand the vast difference between that proposal and this. There were three inquiries into our salaries, and on two of them the party opposite reneged. It said it would implement the third after the General Election. There is no need for the two right hon. and learned Gentlemen to prompt each other to get up on points of order. The point is that this matter should be left till after the next General Election, and I am giving my reasons why.
§ Mr. Maxwell
Get on with it, Arthur. With all due respect, the point has been more than amply made. It is nearly 5 o'clock in the morning. Need we really bear the burden of having things repeated three or four or five times?
§ 4.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
My hon. Friend was not here when I repeated things not four or five times but 400 or 500 times to get salaries increased. My hon. Friend probably did not know how many of our people needed the increase. I fought and struggled for the increase, very often against hon. Members like my hon. Friend, and we had speeches from the benches opposite—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. One gets a little tired of individual altercations and of hon. Members usurping the authority of the Chair and admonishing other hon. Members. If we can leave Members' salaries alone and get on with the point at issue, we will make much better progress.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. That was not the case at all. The hon. Member was answering an intervention by his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), and I am asking him to stick to the terms of the Amendments, particularly the one in his name.
§ Mr. Lewis
My Amendment says that a decision on this matter should be postponed until after the next General Election, and in support of that contention I am reminding the Committee that on three separate occasions—I shall not mention Members' salaries—the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends did that on vital issues. They suggested that decisions on those issues should be left over so that the electorate could express their views on them.
We have not had a crumb of satisfaction from the Attorney-General tonight. On three occasions I have asked him for a definite answer. Much as we love and respect my right hon. and learned Friend, much as we feel that we might have got the best of the argument, is it, or is it not, true that he is in the awful situation that the Lord Chancellor will not allow him to give anything away? Is it the case that the Lord Chancellor will not budge one-quarter of an inch?
I am very concerned about the situation. I am arguing that a decision on this matter should be left over until after the next election because I want to be able to tell people that a democratically elected House of Commons postponed a decision on the matter to enable the people to express their views on it. It appears that what I shall have to say is, "That is what I wanted to do, but a man who was not elected, and who was responsible to no-one, insisted that you should not have the right to express your views on this important issue". If that is wrong, I shall be pleased to be told so, and we might then be able to make some progress with the Bill.
§ The Attorney-General
I have said repeatedly in this debate that this Bill is a Government Measure for which the Government are responsible and which they have decided to introduce after the most careful consideration by the Cabinet. It is not the Lord Chancellor's Bill. It is not the Attorney-General's Bill. It is a Bill brought in by the Government who are ruling the country, and who intend to continue to do so.
Let me deal with one or two of the matters which have been put to me with increasing vehemence by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). This Bill is put forward by the Government on its merits. Whether or 2099 not there was an earlier agreement by a previous Shadow Cabinet when the Parliamentary Labour Party was in Opposition is completely irrelevant to the merits of the Bill. If there was such an agreement, it would not be binding on this Government, nor on any of the Members of it, or the Members behind it. It would have no constitutional effect, and no binding effect. The Government are free, as are hon. Members, to make their decision on this matter on its merits.
Any suggestion of threats or intimidation from my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor or anyone else is the sheerest nonsense. The position about the then Government of the day is that it was intimated that the announcement was to be made in the House of Lords. No objection was registered by the Shadow Cabinet to the making of that announcement that judges' salaries would be increased. An express commitment was made in the House of Lords by the then Lord Chancellor, and I have been very pleased to see that in this debate, at any rate, full support to the Bill has been given by the Opposition, who were committed to the Bill by the answer of the Lord Chancellor in March of last year. But, whatever the nature of any understandings that were entered into at that time, the matter has now to be dealt with by the Committee upon its merits, and it is in that light that I ask the Committee to look at it.
It is suggested in this crop of three Amendments that there should be further postponement of the application of the Bill. It does not take effect, so far as salaries go, until April of next year, and that means that the Lord Chancellor, for instance, unlike the other Ministers, has to wait yet another year for his increase to take effect.
The suggestion that the Bill should postpone having this matter raised as an issue until a General Election and then raising it as a political issue in the General Election would be in complete contravention of the accepted constitutional understanding of the status and independence of the judiciary. I can think of few things more unattractive than to throw this most sensitive aspect of the machinery of government into the whirlpool of an election issue.
2100 The increase in the number of judges will be required almost immediately—probably two in the Queen's Bench Division and probably two in the Divorce Division, as I said earlier.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) asked why the Bill was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. Not every piece of legislation that is later found to be necessary and expedient is mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and there is no constitutional requirement that it should be. The Government have decided at the end of this session that it is proper to introduce the Measure. It is necessary, and necessary now. I invite the Committee to reject the Amendments.
§ Sir D. Glover
I will not detain the Committee more than a moment over the Amendment that stands in my name, although I was minded differently when it was actually called, and that is not surprising in view of some of the speeches that have come from the other side.
I thought when I put my Amendment down that I was being very helpful to the Government. I listened to the debate the other night and decided that, as usual, they had got themselves into considerable difficulty. Being a man whose objects in life are reasonableness and accommodation, I thought that by putting down my Amendment I would be getting them out of their difficulty.
It appeared to me that there had been some agreement by what is now the Opposition Front Bench in March of last year, and that the obligations entered into by them had been accepted by what is now the Government Front Bench who, at that time, were the Opposition. When you enter agreements, Mr. Jennings, you have to take account of the circumstances of the time. It is perfectly proper for a human being to say, "Tomorrow I will take you for a sail in my yacht round the harbour".
§ Sir D. Glover
I would be only too delighted if you would come with me, Mr. Jennings, but I am speaking only metaphorically because I do not have one. I have not had rises of this sort lately and that is why I do not have a yacht. But if I had and I made that offer and 2101 the next morning I found that a hurricane was blowing, I would not think that I was committed to taking you round the harbour.
§ Sir D. Glover
We would postpone it until the weather improved.
I suggest my Amendment with similar considerations in mind. I am the last person to join in the criticisms of judges made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). The judges deserve the very high reputation and position which they enjoy in our society. However, as a result of the activities of the Government since they came to power, a hurricane has been blowing and it would seem to be foolish to take the boat out at this moment. It is better for the Government not to break any implied commitment about passing the Bill into law, but to postpone its operation until not just April next year, but April of the following year.
I thought that my Amendment would help the Government out of their difficulty and I hope that in its wisdom the Committee will accept the Amendment which would remove many of the difficulties of hon. Members opposite and at the same time allow the Government to keep within what they consider to be the ambit of their agreement with the Conservative Government which made a statement in another place 18 months ago, so that they could postpone the operation of the Bill until the economic climate had improved.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I was disappointed by the reply of my right hon and learned Friend because his case could not be substantiated. For example, he said that it would be shocking if the salaries of judges were to be discussed at a general election, and I noticed that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) strongly concurred with that view. The people who elect us to the House of Commons have a right to know about the things on which we vote, and to suggest that it is improper that this matter should never come within the purview of the people who elect us is an extraordinary view.
§ The Attorney-General
I said that it was clearly undesirable that it should 2102 become a party political issue at a General Election. That was the point I was trying to make.
§ Mr. Foot
That depends on the attitude taken up by the parties toward it. I do not think that there is anything undesirable in one party in the State saying that salaries of this nature are too big for judges. There is nothing improper about the matter being publicly debated. We have discussed it. It is quite wrong for us to say that we are superior people who have a right to discuss these things and that we are capable of discussing them, but that the people who elected us have no such right and are not capable of discussing them. The incomes of everybody else in the country are now a primary matter of public debate and yet we are suddenly told that the incomes of judges are not to be discussed, or, rather, discussed only at this very late hour of the night, and it is not our fault that they are being discussed at this time.
We are also told that there was an express statement by the previous Government that these increases in the salaries of judges would be made and that we are here carrying out that pledge. Even if we were to concede that that committed the present Government, which I deny, when that express statement was made we did not know that we were to have an £800 million deficit in the balance of payments.
We did not know that the Government of this country—a Labour Government, which I wish to see in office for many years to come and whose success in being in office may well depend upon the support which we can command among people about what should be an incomes policy—would in very difficult circumstances have to enunciate an incomes policy; we did not know this when that express statement was made on behalf of the previous Government in the House of Lords. And now we are told that we are absolutely bound by a statement made in March, 1964, irrespective of all the economic circumstances which have intervened, and that this must take precedence over everything else, or over a great deal of other matters.
It is a very curious Bill that is before the House of Commons. Look at the 2103 date when the Bill is to come into force—1st April, 1966. It may be that the judges will never get their increase. That would be a good joke after all the discussion that we have had. Today is 23rd July, 1965. It is a strange Bill to have to pass, not quite nine months ahead of when it is to come into operation.
It would have been quite possible to introduce a Bill in October or November to enable the judges to have a salary increase on 1st April, 1966, when the Government say that it is essential. There is nothing to stop the Government postponing the Bill until the autumn. Why did they have to bring it in now? The only answer that we have been given on this technicality is that the commitment—which, we are told, is not really a commitment, because it is solely on its merit that the Government are presenting the Bill—was that the Measure had to be introduced this Session. That is why it is being hurried through.
There have been lots of complaints tonight about Members of Parliament being kept up very late. I do not like staying up late any more than anybody else, but the decision of the Government was that this Measure was to be introduced and forced through the House of Commons, the Second Reading starting at 10 o'clock at night and the Committee stage starting at 10 o'clock at night. Therefore, it was the decision of the Government that this Measure should be pressed through the House of Commons, all stages of it, late at night.
The Judges' Remuneration Bill, 1954, to which we have had so many references by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, was introduced at 3.30 in the afternoon. The Government may say that they have not the time to introduce this Measure in the daytime, and I understand that. There are many more urgent Measures than this one, so I am not complaining. But why not put it off until the autumn? The Attorney-General has not given one valid reason why this Measure must be pushed through now. That is why we object. We are entitled to have reasons given to us by the Government.
We have had a most remarkable Finance Bill this Session in which more concessions—I am not complaining—have been given to the Opposition than, 2104 possibly, in any previous Finance Bill. Not one concession was given to this side of the Committee. The Government Front Bench knows very well the feeling in the Labour Party on this matter. They know that many Members of the Labour Party, whose feelings I respect and who feel just as strongly as I and other hon. Members do about judges' salaries and the date when they are being introduced, have decided, because of reasons of delicacy, good manners or eagerness not to offend their comrades—I understand it well—not to participate in this debate although they feel as strongly as we do.
The Government knew from the day they introduced the Bill how hot was the feeling against it, yet they have done nothing to move towards recognising the feelings on the back benches of the Labour Party. They were quite prepared to make concessions involving hundreds of millions of pounds when hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the Committee made protests, but not a penny has been taken off this Bill in order to accommodate hon. Gentlemen on this side. That is not a proper way to treat the Labour Party and the hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee. I am a strong supporter of the Government—I want to see them succeed—but they will not succeed by these methods. They will only do injury to their own cause. I am not prepared, as a Member of Parliament, to think that my duties are performed merely by coming to the House and having a Bill which I detest thrown at me and be told, "You have to swallow it and take it, and if it so happens to be decided by the Government that the only discussions will take place late at night"—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I have listened very patiently. The argument is generally relevant, but the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is now being guilty of some tedious repetition. I should be grateful if he would get back to the Amendment and its terms.
§ Mr. Foot
I have no desire to be irrelevant, Mr. Jennings. I am merely saying that, in view of the representations which have been made to the Government in open debate and in the meetings of the Party—which is deeply concerned about this matter—and in representations which I am sure that the Government have had from bodies throughout the country, I 2105 should have thought that, in its own interests and in the interests of decent Parliamentary Government, the Government would have sought to make some acceptable concession, at least to those who have pressed their views. They could have done it on this Amendment by saying: "We shall postpone it for a year", or at least agreed that there should be further discussion about the date on which these measures come into operation. That would have been an act of courtesy and political wisdom. It would have done the Government good, not merely on this Bill but on other Bills.
Who is saying that we must have this Bill in exactly the form—with every comma and Clause—in which it was presented to the House? If the Government treat the House of Commons like that, they will do injury to themselves and to the House of Commons.
Therefore, at this last moment, I make the same plea which I made to the Attorney-General at the end of the Second Reading debate. I urge the Government to consider the feelings of their own supporters. They have a right to do it, they have a duty to do it, and they could have done it on this Bill. They could have done it with no loss of face, without having to show signs of weakness. They need merely have shown that they have some respect for debate in the House of Commons. But if they refuse to show such respect, they must not be surprised if they have to sit up late many other nights, because the only sanction left to Members of Parliament is to say, "If Ministers will not give way, they will have to listen."
In the case which we have tried to present, the Government know that we speak for the majority of hon. Members in the House and for the overwhelming majority of people throughout the country. What we have been debating touches on a central part of the doctrines of Socialism—how we are to share fairly the wealth which we possess and create. This Government's survival depends on convincing the country that we are seeking to share that wealth fairly. In these discussions, the back benchers have shown that they know how to do it, but the Government, I am sorry to say, have not.
§ Amendment negatived.2106
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.