HL Deb 03 August 1965 vol 269 cc126-37

2.55 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a short but important Bill. It raises the salaries of the higher Judiciary of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland by 25 per cent. and increases the salary and pension payable to the Lord Chancellor. The Bill also raises the maximum number of Judges who may be appointed to the High Court in England. I say that this is an important Bill because the superior Judiciary, as we must all agree, is one of the vital components of our society; the Judges discharge functions which call for the highest qualities of character and intellect, together with great learning, and it is upon the maintenance of these very high standards that the whole fabric of our civil liberties in this country depends. It is right that Parliament should see that these offices of immense importance are properly rewarded.

I do not imagine that anyone would quarrel with that very general proposition. Your Lordships will, however, undoubtedly be anxious to ensure that the increases proposed by the Bill are as correct as they can be made. I know that a measure to increase salaries is often unpopular with everybody else, and that, whenever it may be introduced, it is always possible to find reasons for saying that the moment is inopportune. Nevertheless, the Government are convinced that the Judges' salaries should be increased and that the amounts we are now proposing are right.

The most important provision in this Bill is Clause 1, which provides for the increased salaries, the amounts of which are set out in Schedule 1. The House will see that these increases are substantial; with one exception they amount to 25 per cent. of the salaries fixed by Parliament in 1954. The House may remember that when that measure was passed, it represented the first increase in the salaries of the High Court Judges for over 120 years; it is now over 11 years since those salaries were raised and (since this part of the Bill does not come into force until April 1 of next year) there will have been a 12-year interval since the last increase. As the House will see, apart from the salary of the President of the Probate Division, the new salaries all represent a 25 per cent. increase on the existing salaries, thus a High Court Judge in England, who at present receives £8,000 a year will receive £10,000, and Lord Chief Justice, whose salary is now £10,000 a year, will go up to £12,500. Corresponding increases are made to the salaries of the Lord President and the other Judges of the Court of Session and of the Lord Chief Justice and other Supreme Court Judges in Northern Ireland. The Bill also raises by 25 per cent. the salaries payable to the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary who discharge the judicial duties of this House.

It might appear to some of your Lordships that an increase of 25 per cent. is not in line with the Government's current policy of restricting salary increases to 3½ per cent. This is a fallacy, however plausible at first sight, because the 3½ per cent. "norm" refers to an annual increase, while the Judges' salaries will have remained static for 12 years. Over that period, a total increase of 25 per cent. represents a compound annual rate of 1.9 per cent., so that, far from exceeding the norm, the proposals contained in the Bill are well within it. Moreover, I should point out to the House that since 1954 not only has the cost of living risen considerably, but wage rates have gone up 59 per cent. and salaries 65 per cent. The House will readily appreciate that, if judicial salaries had been increased by anything like these amounts, the figures in Schedule I would be very much greater. I do not want to press that point too much. We must recognise that the amounts fixed 11 years ago were not intended at that time to be subject to annual increases and it would not therefore be altogether fair to make a strict comparison with other salary increases over that period. The Government recognise, as every sensible person must, that it is not at all easy to formulate the criteria by which judicial salaries, or for that matter, any other salaries, should be assessed, or to translate those criteria into figures. I think we all recognise that the status of a High Court Judge in England or his equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland, should place him in a position of recognised significance in the community, and that he should certainly at the very least be shielded from financial difficulties. Taking all these and other considerations into account, the Government have come to the conclusion that the increases proposed by the Bill are right.

Before I leave Clause 1, I ought to deal very briefly with two other matters. First, your Lordships will see from Schedule 1 that it is proposed that the President of the Probate Division should have a salary equal to that of the Master of the Rolls. The second point arises on subsection (3), from which the House will see that it is proposed that in future judicial salaries should be capable of being increased (but not decreased) by Order in Council, following Affirmative Resolutions of both Houses; hitherto, an Act of Parliament has always been needed and that is why this Bill is now before the House. But the fixing of salaries by Act of Parliament leads to inconvenience and injustice: apart from Ministers of the Crown, I think I am right in saying that no salaries other than those of the Judges are nowadays fixed by Statute. At the same time, the procedure proposed by subsection (3) ensures that Parliament will maintain its control over judicial salaries; it will not, however, have to devote quite so much time to their consideration.

I hope I can take the rest of this Bill quite shortly, although I will, of course, do my best to answer any questions on points of detail that noble Lords may raise. Clause 2 raises the salary of the Lord Chancellor from £12,000 a year to £14,500 and his pension from £5,000 to £6,250. The House will remember that the Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Geoffrey Lawrence recommended a number of increases in ministerial salaries, including those of the Lord Chancellor. The Government decided that, although there was a strong case for increasing these salaries, it would be appropriate to accept for Ministers only one-half of what I may call the "Lawrence" recommendations, and this decision was implemented in the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Act of this year. Clause 2 could very appropriately have been included in that Act, but my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack did not wish his own salary to be increased before those of his judicial brethren. According, Clause 2, which treats the Lord Chancellor in the same way as other Ministers by giving him one-half the "Lawrence" increases in salary and pension, appears in this Bill and takes effect on April 1, 1966.

Clause 3 deals with an entirely different matter. Under the current law, the maximum number of Puisne Judges who may be appointed to the High Court in England is 56; this number is raised to 63 by Clause 3. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and other noble and learned Lords will bear me out when I say that the growing volume of criminal and divorce business, coupled with additional pressure in the Chancery Division, makes it urgently necessary for the High Court to be strengthened. The need is undoubtedly urgent; and your Lordships will see that Clause 3 is the only part of the Bill which comes into force immediately. I need not detain your Lordships for more than a very short time on Clause 4, but I ought just to draw attention to subsection (2), under which a judicial salary is abated by the amount of any pension payable to the holder in respect of any public office. This is no new rule for the Supreme Courts of England or Northern Ireland, but the subsection extends it to the Lords of Appeal and the Scottish Judges. There is nothing I need say about Clause 5, save that, as I have already explained, the salary provisions do not come into force until April 1, 1966, while Clause 3 comes into force at once. Nor is there anything in the Schedules about which I need detain the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Longford.)

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, it is, I think, the custom in your Lordships' House, as in another place, that when a noble Lord has any personal interest in the subject matter of a Bill he should if he speaks declare it. In view of certain observations made in another place, I think I should declare that I have no interest in this Bill. I shall not benefit from its provisions. Of course, the time may come when that may be altered, but certainly I have no benefit at the present moment.

It was as long ago as March, 1964, that in answer to a Question in your Lordships' House, I gave a pledge that, if we won the Election, we should introduce legislation to increase the salaries of the higher Judiciary. We thought then that that should be done. But we were not able to do it that Session. I remember putting forward the suggestion that in future any increases that might have to be made should be made by Order subject to Parliamentary control, rather than by Bill. And I am glad to see that this Bill provides for that. I also remember that I urged that the position of the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division should be made the same as that of the Master of the Rolls so far as salary was concerned. It has always been an anomaly that he has been in receipt of a lower salary despite his great deal of administrative work. This change is indeed a good one.

Apart from those two matters, I do not think that there is anything in the Bill which was inherited from the previous Administration. We had not reached any decision as to the increases to be made; I do not think that we had any talks about that. But we did recognise that there was a clear case for an increase in salary. And I must confess that I am very glad that this Government have introduced this Bill.

I understand that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not going to speak in this debate, as he may benefit from the provisions of the Bill. Of course, he will do so only if he holds his present office in April, 1966. While one might admire his confidence, he knows, of course, that we shall do our best to see that that does not happen and that there is a change of Government long before then. Seriously, I should like to congratulate the noble and learned Lord on his success in getting this Bill included in the legislative programme for this Session, when so many other Bills which we were promised have fallen by the wayside. I know that it is no easy task for any Lord Chancellor to get his colleagues to agree to a Bill to increase Judges' salaries, and I expect that the noble and learned Lord had some difficulty in getting his colleagues to agree to this Bill and to the increases he proposed.

I was glad to hear the words that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, used at the beginning of his speech, when he spoke about the need to maintain the present very high standards of our Judiciary. We always take pride in the administration of British justice. Yet there are always those who appear to think that, somehow or other, we should get justice on the cheap. If we are to attract the best brains to the Bench it is necessary to provide salaries and pensions commensurate with their high position. Many of those from whom we wish to recruit Judges are earning very substantial incomes, and if they are to be asked to give up those incomes and serve on the Bench, then indeed it is our duty to see that the salaries are right. I do not wish to say anything more about that part of the Bill.

The noble Earl has made it clear that, although the increase works out at 25 per cent. on one basis, in fact it is well below the 3 per cent. annual increase rate. The Explanatory Memorandum says that the total cost of these salary increases will be some £165,000 a year, and when the new limit of judicial strength is reached they will cost a further £70,000 a year. I should like him, if he could, to give a rough estimate of the net increase to the Judiciary, because, of course, a great deal of the money paid out in additional salary will come back to the Revenue. I have heard it estimated that the net cost of these proposals, which look so formidable, is something in the region—it is hard to estimate—of £40,000 to £50,000. That marks our present situation, if the effect of providing a charge on the Consolidated Fund of some £165,000 in fact means an increased burden of the order of some £50,000. No doubt the noble Earl will be able to correct me if the estimate I have given is wrong, and I shall be interested to hear what it is.

The other matter the Bill provides for is the number of Judges. In recent years the number of High Court Judges has been increased very greatly indeed. I do not doubt the need to take power to add to their present numbers, but I think we must recognise that there must be some limit to the number to which they can be increased. I very much hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is exploring ways in which further increases can perhaps be avoided. It is not easy. But I get the impression that trials nowadays are apt to take longer than similar trials used to take; but that may be only an impression. I hope that efforts are being made to see whether ways can be found for accelerating trials, without at the same time affecting adversely the administration of justice. I do not think there is any more that I need say about this measure, but I do in all seriousness extend my congratulations to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on his success in getting this Bill before your Lordships' House.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we have all appreciated the persuasive and convincing way in which the noble Earl the Leader of the House and the noble and learned Viscount have explained this Bill to us, and it may seem ungenerous to differ from them in any way. But one cannot help remembering that one of the first acts of this Parliament was that Members of the House of Commons voted themselves an increase in salary of nearly 90 per cent., and at the same time your Lordships' expenses allowance was increased by 50 per cent. So perhaps we ought to commiserate with their legal Lordships in that they are being fobbed off with 25 per cent. I take the point put by the noble Earl about their not having had a rise since 1954, and that therefore the percentage rise per annum is as little as he said. But the idea of an absolutely certain annual percentage rise is quite a new one, and it is doubtful whether it can be sustained in the present circumstances.

I cannot help pointing out that when top and privileged people can obtain rises of this very substantial nature it does make more difficult the task of those of us who have to control competitive capitalist concerns, where we are urged by the Press and by the politicians, day in and day out, to export more and more, to cut our costs, to become more efficient and so forth. And is it surprising that our workpeople, our salary earners and wage earners, who, after all, constitute the major item in almost every budget, seeing the substantial rises which occur in privileged places, themselves feel that they would like a substantial share, and put in, I will say, for a rise of 12½ per cent.—half that of the Judges? We say to them, "Ah! But Mr. George Brown says that you ought not to have more than 3½ to 4 per cent." "But", they reply, "what's the good of that to us? Since the Labour Government came into office, the cost of living has already risen nearly 5 per cent., and we want not only to maintain our standards but to improve them."

Many of your Lordships must have seen some weeks ago, at the time of the Magna Carta celebrations, a brilliant cartoon by Illingworth, published in the Daily Mail, depicting the Prime Minister seated at a table, with Mr. George Brown, in scholastic garb beside him, regarding ruefully a charter on which is written: "No wage restraint"; around him stands a bevy of trade union barons, and one of them is saying, "You do not have to sign anything, chum. We will just take no notice of you, as usual." Why do we take no notice of Mr. Brown? Is it not because he preaches an unpleasant gospel? Is it not that, if we were to follow his preaching, we should be involved in some self-sacrifice and self-discipline? In other words, is he not preaching at any rate a part of a very unpleasant truth? If there is one thing more certain than another about democracy, it is that it hates hearing an unpleasant truth, until it is frightened. Until then, it derides and mocks and ignores the prophet of gloom. There are many instances of that. Throughout the 'thirties Sir Winston Churchill was derided and largely ignored as a prophet of gloom when he foretold the approach of the Second World War. Yet that same electorate which derided and ignored him, when frightened of invasion in 1940, clasped him to their bosom, when all he had to offer was "blood, toil, tears and sweat."

But an example perhaps more apposite to the present day occurred in 1931, when the electorate were frightened again. Remembering what happened to the mark in 1923, they were afraid that their pound would go the same way. So they threw the Government of the day out on its ear, and elected a Parliament which was pledged to a 10 per cent. cut all all round, including even the unemployed. I think—I hope that I may be wrong—that we are marching steadily towards another 1931. I believe that unless the temper, mood and behaviour of the nation, and particularly of organised labour, changes, we shall reach another crisis. Of course, as a lifelong Tory, I hope that it will be Mr. Wilson's ear which hits the ground. But, in some respects, there is not an awful lot to choose between the Parties. After all, was not the word "Butskellism" coined to indicate that fact?

And is not the sponsorship of this Bill now before the House a case in point? Here we have these two eminent personalities, the noble Earl the Leader of the House and the noble and learned Viscount, an ex-Lord Chancellor, joining together to give a jorum of jam to the Judges. Are they not just like the trade union barons in the cartoon? Can we not see them standing together, towering over poor Mr. Brown, the noble Earl's hand on the shoulder of his colleague saying, "Well, Geordie, chum, you can go on talking about 3½ to 4 per cent. as long as you like, but me and my mate here are determined to give the judges 25 per cent."? Can we not see poor Mr. Brown, gasping from the gashes of Casca Cousins in the Cabinet, gazing up into the eyes of the noble Earl in despair and saying, "et tu, Frankie!"?


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, may I just say that, unlike the noble Lord who has just spoken, I very much welcome the jorum of jam, and join with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, in congratulating the Lord Chancellor in having got it? As the Government appear to be in such an expansive, generous jam-making mood, I should like to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House one question: whether they would take into serious consideration the p ossibility of giving a pension to all those who have been Members of Parliament for more than 20 years.


My Lords, it is a little difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, but I should like to add to the congratulations and the welcome offered to this Bill. It is, of course, eminently suitable and eminently appropriate that those gentlemen in the very high seats of justice should be put in a place quite above the rat-race, above competition and above every sort of consideration. Therefore, I think that these increases, although they may seem to some of us, who are not so fortunate, to be large, are entirely appropriate.

I suppose that the noble Earl has taken into consideration the position of the slightly lower Judiciary officers, such as county court judges, quarter sessions chairmen, stipendiary magistrates and so on because we should not like to see them left out in the cold. I do not think there is anything with which one can compare them so that there is no obvious discrepancy between them and other increases. The only possible comparison and discrepancy I can make is that a great number of your Lordships who sit on the Back Benches, and work almost as many hours as the Law Lords, have not quite the same salary—in fact in their case the remuneration is exactly nothing.


My Lords, I am grateful to all the speakers who, in their different ways, have paid tribute to the ideas behind this Bill. I would inform the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that the county court judges, for example, have received three increases—all, I am sure, richly deserved—in the last twelve years, and I am sure that is why they are not included in this particular Bill.


My Lords, I think I am right in saying that they received their last increase in 1964. It was possible to make the increase for the lower Judiciary by orders and in other ways, but not for the higher Judiciary, except by a Bill.


I am grateful to the noble Viscount—I am sure that what he says is right. I am also grateful for the not altogether expected support, on a matter of this kind, from the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. I can assure him that his suggestion is bound to be attractive, that all Members of Parliament who have served for 20 years should be given some kind of pension. I am under the impression—and he can put me right here—that if he himself were in need, after his many years of service, he would be able to draw some benevolent payment of some kind; but I am sure he is not in need in that sense and therefore he does not qualify.


My Lords, I am sure that if the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, were here, he would confirm that that is the most painful form of means test


I am quite ready to believe it is, but I am sure that the noble Lord, who has been immensely successful in all fields of national endeavour, would never need to apply for this kind of grant.

I should like to say how much we all enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blackford. He made an eloquent appeal to us to consider the position of the working man against this increase of the remuneration for the Judges. The noble Lord is an eminent banker. I also dabbled in those quarters for a time, but the noble Lord has given a lifetime of service to banking, and I should think that if there are any Judges here (apart from the Lord Chancellor, who feels inhibited from speaking) they would gladly exchange their salaries for the remuneration of the average merchant banker. I offer that as a proposition to the noble Lord. When we learn that eminent bankers are, so to speak, pulling in their belts, then I think we shall have cause to realise that the crisis has become more grave than any of us had supposed.


My Lords, banking is one of the "cushy" industries. I am talking about exporting industries, with which I am also connected. I am not a merchant banker, they themselves receive the earth.


I think we have contributed enough to human knowledge for the moment. I can only say to the noble Lord, about the 1931 Government, in the light of his very fine and greatly appreciated tribute to Sir Winston Churchill, that one of the most striking facts about the National Government of 1931 was that they would not touch Sir Winston Churchill at any price, and kept him out of office for eight years. I feel the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, will not have forgotten that point. So I do not think we need join in any particular tributes to that Administration this afternoon. Nevertheless, I should like to thank the noble Lord for all he said.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, reminded us that he himself had said that his Government would do all they could, and I am glad that he feels we have lived up to his ideas. He asked me how much all this would cost, and whether it was true that what would appear to be a gross expense of £163,000, would boil down to a net figure of £40,000 to £50,000. Taking everything into account—the increased salaries, the additional High Court Judges, the clerks and the pensions—I am told that the gross addition to expenditure would be of the order of £300,000. As the noble and learned Viscount will appreciate, I have not in the time available been able to work it out, and I do not think anybody could on the spur of the moment say how much that would be net, but I think it is in the order of £80,000. At any rate, it is of that character.

I do not think I can attempt to add to what the noble and learned Viscount said, because he speaks with such immense authority in this field. He indicated that he himself had no interest in this matter, and he doubted whether the Lord Chancellor would in fact have an interest by April 1, when the Bill comes into operation. I would humbly submit, as a layman among these legal luminaries, that one of them has an interest, and the fact that the noble and learned Viscount felt able to speak and the Lord Chancellor did not, and bearing in mind that both are of equal integrity, suggests that perhaps between them they are agreed who is more likely next April to be the Lord Chancellor.

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