HL Deb 10 June 1937 vol 105 cc471-2

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill is primarily one to raise the salaries of County Court Judges and Metropolitan Police Magistrates. The County Court Judges date back to 1847, I think, and since 1865 their salary has been at least £1,500 a year. Since 1865 there has been an immense extension of their jurisdiction—Admiralty in 1868, Bankruptcy in 1869, Interpleader in 1884—and in 1903 the Common Law limit of their jurisdiction was extended from £50 to £100. During the last quarter of a century there have been upwards of a hundred Acts of Parliament which impose extra duties upon County Court Judges, such as the Workmen's Compensation Acts, which involved a great deal of work, the Landlord and Tenant Acts, the Rent Restrictions Acts and other Acts, which have added very much to the County Court Judge's labours. During the War a bonus was granted to civil servants and all servants of the Crown, which in the case of the County Court Judges amounted to as much as £750 at one time, and during the last few years has been stabilised at £150, making £1,650 in all. Of that £1,650 only £1,500 has any statutory authority. The bonus is only legalised by the Appropriation Act each year. In 1935, the last year for which statistics are available, the County Courts actually had to deal with over one and a quarter million cases, and of the total number of High Court actions more than 2,000 were remitted to the County Court and tried there—actually a greater number than the High Court Judges themselves had to try. In those circumstances it does seem to His Majesty's Government that it is ample time for County Court Judges to be given some increase of salary and the salary which is suggested is £2,000 a year.

When we come to the Metropolitan Police Magistrates they have not had in fact quite the same extension of jurisdiction as the County Court Judges, but they have always drawn the same salary as County Court Judges—namely, £1,500 a year with bonus and are chosen from much the same class of men as that from which the County Court Judges are chosen. They have had a very great increase of their labours, partly owing to the greater number of cases triable summarily, which increased very greatly in 1925, and partly owing to the change of sentiment in penal jurisprudence in this country, because nowadays the magistrate has to devote much care and thought in his probational work, and in juvenile courts and in considering how best to reclaim the potential criminal from the criminal ranks. In these circumstances we have thought that the salary of Metropolitan Police Magistrates should be made the same as that of County Court Judges. £300 a year extra is given to the Chief Magistrate, who has special duties.

In addition to that, what the Bill does is to deal with a certain number of officials who have at present a statutory maximum salary and are in fact in receipt of a larger sum than the statutory maximum, by virtue of the bonus granted in war time, which is legalised every year by the Appropriation Act. In those circumstances we are not suggesting that any increase should be given to them, but we suggest that the salary shall be such sum as the Treasury may determine or in some cases as the Treasury may determine in concurrence with the Lord Chancellor. In those cases also we think it is desirable that we should regularise the position and obtain statutory authority to pay them such sum as is allotted by the Treasury. I beg to move.

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

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.