HL Deb 11 July 1927 vol 68 cc329-32

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, a Bill of a similar character passed this House last year at a period when time could not be found for it in another place. The Bill is now re-introduced with certain alterations and additions. The main purpose of the Bill is this: As your Lordships know the appeals from India form a very important part of the work of the Judicial Committee, and the Committee is at present not of sufficient numerical strength for that purpose. It is proposed therefore to authorise the appointment of two additional members of the Judicial Committee having Indian experience, such as Indian Judges, advocates or barristers or vakils. It is proposed that they should receive a salary of £4,000 a year, of which one-half comes from the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom and one-half will be found by India, and I am glad to say that the Indian Legislature has this year approved that proposal. It is proposed that the members first so appointed shall retire at the age of 72, and that some provision shall be made for superannuation. It is of course difficult to ask that men of experience and position should accept these appointments unless they know that if they are compulsorily retired at 72, or if owing to sickness they have to retire, there will be some provision for old age. We therefore propose there shall be paid out of the Consolidated Fund a pension of £1,000 a year, and if the Indian Government choose to supplement that of course it will be open to them to do so. That represents the proposal as to the new members of the Judicial Committee.

Then there is added to this Bill a new proposal of this kind. As many of your Lordships know, the present law is that the Judges of some of the Dominion Courts who are named in Statutes or in Orders in Council shall, if Privy Councillors, be entitled to sit on the Judicial Committee. The number of persons so entitled is limited to seven, but it is proposed to remove that limit. As a matter of fact the limit has not excluded many persons qualified to sit. In fact I think at the present moment only one is so excluded. But there may be others, and we are always glad to have the assistance of distinguished Judges of the Dominion Courts when they happen to be in this country. As for myself I should be glad to be able to ask any of these Judges, if they are Privy Councillors, to cone and give us their assistance on the Judicial Committee. They always give us valuable aid, and it seems to me that it is in accordance with the policy of this country to welcome these high officers from the Dominions—if qualified to take part—to join the Judicial Committee and give us their help. The effect then of Clause 2 of the Bill is to remove the numerical limit to which I have referred. Those are the provisions of the Bill, and I beg to move that it be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, this Bill is a thoroughly good Bill. The provision of members to sit in the Judicial Committee, particularly in Indian appeals, is so scanty that at times great inconvenience is caused, and, with the addition of two regular, paid members, who will sit as ex-Indian Judges, informed of Indian Law, we shall certainly be in a more efficient position. I hope in time that the Judicial Committee will not assign all its Indian members to one Division, but that they will take part in the general work of the Empire, judging causes from all parts of it. I am not going to say anything more about the Bill. I warmly supported it last) Session, and my only regret is that it does not go further and provide for the addition of two English or Scottish—I do not care which—fully-qualified members for the general purposes of the Judicial Committee, in addition to those we have got.

It interests me to see the age limit of 72 for the Judges who are to be appointed. That age limit would be merciless if it were applied to my present colleagues who sit there, and I should myself before very long be threatened. It is right to put in that limit in this Bill, but I am not quite sure that a provision might not be put in enabling the Government of the day to ask any noble and learned Lord who was sitting there to continue to sit notwithstanding that he had reached the age of 72. Some of our members are over that age, for example, Lord Phillimore, but he is as young and active as the youngest and most active of us—indeed, I think he is the youngest and most active—and it would be a great loss if we had had to part from him because he had reached the age of 72; and there may be others in that position too. However, we must take things as they stand.

The only clause I am not quite certain about is the final clause, which enables the Government to disregard the old limit of seven for the Judges who might sit on the Judicial Committee in virtue of their Dominion and Colonial qualifications. That is quite right in principle, but it may give rise to a certain amount of competition, in which each Dominion will desire to get its full share. If so, the position of the Lord Chancellor will be a very difficult one. He will be assailed by people going to the Colonial Secretary, who is interested in the matter from another side altogether, and without much regard for the numbers of the Judicial Committee. However, we must rely on the Lord Chancellor to be valiant. The constitution of the Judicial Committee and the laws which govern it are a most mysterious subject, which nobody has ever tackled, but we find in practice that, whether he is entitled to do so or not, the Lord Chancellor exercises great influence in the selection of the people who sit. If he continues to do so, and asserts himself against the Colonial Secretary, all may go well, otherwise I think in putting in this clause you deprive yourselves of a buckler which I myself, as Lord Chancellor, had occasion to use. But the rest of the Bill is a thoroughly excellent Bill, and I cordially support it.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before seven o'clock.