HL Deb 13 June 1870 vol 201 cc1928-33

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee (on Second Re-commitment), read.


said, that his noble and learned Friend (Lord, Westbury) had complained of the number of Amendments made in that Bill, as he said, at the last moment; but those Amendments were made in pursuance of arrangements entered into at least 10 days ago, and of which he thought his noble and learned Friend I was aware. By those arrangements he had engaged to take care that the Appellate Court should be brought into the system of the High Court of Justice, making it a branch of that tribunal; and that was the sole purpose of the Amendments, which would in no other way change the effect of the Bill. He must say a word about the Judges whom he was supposed to have treated with contumacious disdain. Three of the Judges—one from each of the Common Law Courts—had approved that very measure by approving the report of the Committee on Judicature, on which the Bill was founded. He referred to Mr. Justice Blackburn, Mr. Baron Bramwell, and Mr. Justice Montague Smith. Mr. Baron Bramwell was particularly anxious that he should inform their Lordships that he did not concur in the resolutions of the Judges, and that he was not, in fact, present when they were arrived at. It was proposed that the Bill should be re-committed for the purpose of being reprinted with the Amendments. The measure would bring the Appellate Court into unison with the High Court of Justice.


said, there was a subject connected with this matter to which he desired to call attention, because, though one apparently more proper for the consideration of the House of Commons, yet it would not be well that it should be passed over in silence in their Lordships' House—he referred to the arrangements contained in the Bill with respect to the salaries of the Judges. He could speak on this matter with considerable freedom, inasmuch as no alteration was proposed in the salary of any existing Judge, with the single exception of his noble and learned Friend who presided with so much ability over the Rolls Court, who would rise to the position of President of an independent Court, and his salary would be put on a commensurate footing. But this Bill proposed to make a serious alteration in the salaries of succeeding Judges. The salaries in the chief Courts at present had been fixed, after long and careful consideration, in pursuance of the recommendations of the Committee on Salaries, which sat some years ago. The salary of the Lord Chief Justice was £8,000 a year, that of the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, £7,000, and that of the Chief Baron £7,000. The Master of the Rolls had £6,000 a year, the Lords Justices of Appeal in Chancery £6,000, and the Puisne Judges and Vice Chancellors £5,000 a year each. But there was this farther circumstance to be considered, the expenses to which some of those Judges were put with respect to circuit. These expenses were very large, exceeding £600 a year each, and he had heard the estimate put considerably beyond that sum. Therefore the Chiefs and Puisne Judges of the Common Law Courts had salaries diminished for all practical purposes by a sum varying from £600 to £1,000 a year. Now, this Bill proposed that for the future the persons who should fill the position of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Chief Baron of the Exchequer should have a salary reduced to £6,000 a year. If these Judges had to go circuit—and there was no provision that they should not—their salaries would have been cut down to a sum which would leave them in the receipt of little more than £5,000 a year. The Bill did not say that the salary of the Master of the Rolls was to be continued at £6,000; but if the expenses of circuit which fell on the Common Law Judges were taken into account, that salary would be higher than those the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and the Chief Baron of the Exchequer would receive. With regard to the Lords Justices of Appeal, it had always been considered that there ought to be a difference between their salaries and the salaries of Judges of the First Instance. Their salaries were, however, to be reduced to £5,000 a year, while the Master of the Rolls, who would be sitting side by side with them, would remain at £6,000 a year. Now, these arrangements appeared open to very great objection; and, though it was not a matter which their Lordships could consider with the purpose of arriving at a decision upon it, still he was unwilling to have it supposed when the Bill should leave the House that their Lordships approved them. He entirely disapproved them, and he thought the policy embodied in them very shortsighted and very narrow-minded. Looking at the position which successful men at the Bar who might aspire to the position of Judges attained, and the incomes which they earned, he could not think that the salaries of the Judges—especially when the expenses of circuit were taken into account—at all too large. The expense of living had not been diminished since the Report of the Committee on Salaries had been made, and there was no reason that he could see for the proposed diminution. He hoped his noble and learned Friend and Her Majesty's Government would take this matter into consideration, and would propose in the House of Commons more liberal arrangements than were contained in this Bill.


said, that on the second reading he himself pointed out the same defect—namely, that if the proposed Court of Appeal was to be constituted the Lords Justices would be placed in an inferior position to the Judges of the primary Courts. He believed that was a thing which had never been done with respect to the Judges of an Appellate Court. The principle involved in the change seemed to be erroneous, and he hoped his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack would give it further consideration. With regard to the Judges of Common Law, it was supposed that they were placed in the same position as the Vice Chancellors and himself. It was true they would have nominally the same salary; but really they had very much less, because they were obliged to pay the expenses of circuit, which certainly were not less than £600 a year. That was a fact with which he believed a large portion of the public were unacquainted. They did not know that the expenses which the Judges went to while on circuit, in entertaining the sheriffs and other public functionaries, came out of their own pockets. He did see why the Judges of Common Law should not be placed in the same position in this respect as the Judges of the other Courts.


said, he quite joined in the views expressed by his noble and learned Friends. When the new Vice Chancellors were appointed, the office was offered to one who was eminently fitted to fill it—he meant the late Lord Kingsdown—but he declined it because of the smallness of the salary; and the result was, that the services of one of our most eminent judicial men were in a great measure lost to the country. It is true that afterwards, having inherited a large fortune, he gave gratuitously to the country what he could not be tempted to bestow at the salary of £5,000 per annum, coupled with the loss of his professional income. There were, undoubtedly, a great number of good lawyers who would perform the service for £1,000 a year—and if put up to auction it might be done for less; but the great object was to secure the confidence of the country in the men who were appointed, and that could not be obtained unless they selected for Judges those who had had long experience as counsel, and who had shown what they could do. He ventured to say that if they diminished the salaries of the Judges, already reduced as they were by the great increase of prices, and likely to be still more reduced by the rapid influx of gold from foreign countries, they would never get leaders of the profession to fill the office; they would only get subordinate persons, who would not possess that public confidence which Judges ought to have.


said, this was not a matter for prolonged discussion—it would be amply discussed "elsewhere"; but it was thought right that some notice should be given to their Lordships of what was proposed, though the details were not ultimately to be fixed in their Lordships' House. It was not without thought or consideration that the sums fixed for salaries had been inserted in the Bill; and he would state briefly the principle upon which the proposal was made. With regard to the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, he would remain exactly where he was, and so would the present Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and the Chief Baron of the Exchequer. With regard to the alleged anomaly of a larger salary being received by a Judge in a subordinate position, his noble and learned Friend who had just spoken (Lord Romilly) was an instance of that, for he was higher in rank than the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and than the Chief Baron, and yet he received a smaller income. Their Lordships were all aware what his noble Friend the Master of the Rolls had done for the records of this country; but though he had additional work in connection with those records, he did not receive the same amount of salary as the learned Judges whom he had first mentioned. That was an anomaly which it was thought better should not be continued. As to the Judges of Appeal, the matter stood thus—it was not the case that all Judges of Appeal received higher salaries than, those received by the Judges from whom the appeal might come. The Privy Council received appeals from India, where the Chief Justice and other Judges received very large salaries; and yet Sir James Colville, who had performed his duties in India so effectually, now heard these appeals, and only received the pension which he had earned by his services in India. Besides, Puisne Judges often sat now in the Court of Exchequer Chambers to hear appeals from the Chiefs of the Courts. The right criterion was not whether by the offer of a certain salary they could secure any man, but whether they could secure the best man. Lord Kingsdown had been mentioned by his noble and learned Friend. Well, Lord Kingsdown was one of the fittest men that could be secured; but having a very large fortune, it was not very surprising that he did not choose to fill the office of Judge at £5,000 a year. But what did Lord Kingsdown do? He came to their Lordships' House and gave his most valuable aid in hearing appeals, and did the same in the Privy Council, without any salary at all. Therefore the matter was not to be entirely judged of in that way. The sum of £5,000 a year was, in truth, determined on this principle. Lately three Judges were added to the Common Law Bench—the number having been raised from 15 to 18. It was thought at the time that the number was rather greater than would be required by the additional labour involved in trying Election Petitions. But in making an available Court of Appeal they found that they should have one more Judge of Appeal in the High Court of Justice, and they did not think it right that every Judge who should have a seat in the two Divisions should have £6,000 a year. The Judge had many troublesome things to attend to. He would, among other things, not only have to sit many times in the Court of Appeal, but would have at least twice a week to attend at chambers after his Court had risen. He had, therefore, no doubt that the Court of Appeal could be established at the cost contemplated in the Bill.


was understood to remind the noble and learned Lord that the Members of the Judicial Committee received no salary for the performance of their duties.

House in Committee accordingly.

Bill reported without Amendment; Amendments made; Bill re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next; and to be printed, as amended. (No. 136.)