HL Deb 07 May 1970 vol 310 cc394-7

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Judges' Remuneration Order 1970, a draft of which was laid before the House on April 14, be approved. From some of the speeches that I have heard in your Lordships' House lately it almost sounded as though there might be a General Election coming along sometime, and I am glad now to be dealing with a subject matter which does not have, and I hope never will have, anything to do with Party politics.

The object of this Order is to increase the salaries of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and of the Judges of the Supreme Court in England and Northern Ireland and the Judges of the Court of Session in Scotland. The Order is made under the powers conferred by Section 1 of the Judges' Remuneration Act 1965. The Judges' present salaries date from April 1, 1966, when the increases made by the Act of 1965 came into force, so that the Judges have had no increase in salary for over four years. I imagine that they must be one of the few groups of men working in the country who have had no increase for four years—four years during which their living standards have decreased by 15 per cent. Although the increases proposed by the Order may at first sight seem large, they are well within the annual rate of increase of 4½ per cent. permitted by the prices and incomes policy. For example, the increase of £1,500 proposed for the High Court Judges in England is equivalent to an annual rate of increase of no more than 3.7 per cent. They in fact vary between increases of 3.5 per cent. and 3.87 per cent.

As the House will be aware, the National Board for Prices and Incomes and the Plowden Committee last year recommended substantial increases in the salaries of the chairmen and board members of the nationalised industries and of the Higher Civil Service. The first stage of these increases was given last year, and it was recently announced that the nationalised industries should receive their second stage increase on April 1 this year; and the Civil Service will be receiving theirs on July 1. This will bring the salary of the Permanent Secretary up to £11,900, as against the £10,000 which a High Court Judge receives at present. It is true that there has never been any direct link between the salaries of the Higher Judiciary and those of top civil servants, but the fact that in 1963 Permanent Secretaries' salaries had drawn ahead of the Judges' was one of the reasons which led Parliament to make the increases it did by the Act of 1965.

As the House knows, it is proposed that in future many top salaries in the public sector, as well as those of Ministers and Members of Parliament, should be kept under review by the special panel of the new Commission for Industry and Manpower. As I announced in answer to a Question on April 14, the Judges have agreed that the same should be done in the case of their salaries. This will enable the Judges' salaries to be reviewed more frequently than has been the case in the past, and will, I hope, serve to ensure that a proper relationship is established between the Judges' salaries and those of people holding comparable positions. It should also make it easier to undertake the comprehensive review of judicial salaries which the Beeching Royal Commission thought would be necessary when their recommendations were implemented.

In the meantime, pending a review of this kind, it is essential that we should not allow the Judges' salaries to fall further out of line, and that we should now increase them by margins which are in full accordance with the Government's prices and incomes policy, and which might well indeed be thought to be too modest, having regard to the ever-increasing burden of work falling on the Judges. We should be foolish to allow a situation to arise in which the office of a Judge no longer held attractions for the men of character and ability on whom we are accustomed to rely.

My Lords, the draft Order has already been approved by the other place. In the assurance that the draft Order proposes increases in salary which are no more than the present situation demands, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Judges' Remuneration Order 1970, laid before the House on April 14, 1970, be approved.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I do not want to say more than a word about this Order, because its commendation is so patently clear from what the noble and learned Lord himself said. It is indeed true that one cannot suppose that the community can rely on people of the desired quality coming forward for judicial office unless they are assured of proper remuneration; and the noble and learned Lord has already told us how long it is since their salaries went up.

I want to make only one point, and I am one of the few people in this House who can do it. The noble and learned Lord, of course, is not personally concerned in this Order, but among those noble Lords who come to this House (they are not here this evening, because they are interested in the Order and it would not be proper for them to take part) are some whom we respect most. Indeed, among the other beneficiaries of this Order, whether from England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, there may be some who will in due course come to fill the Cross-Benches and take part in your Lordships' debates. Whatever may be the enormous quality of their judicial opinions and utterances, I think this is perhaps a fit moment to pay a word of tribute to their legislative capacity, and to the help the House derives from their views and from their speeches on some of the immensely intricate and very difficult legislation and other matters that we have before us. Perhaps I could, possibly very rashly but I hope rightly, take this opportunity to pay a tribute to them, as well as to the puisne Judges and the Court of Session and the High Court in Northern Ireland. I hope that the House will approve this Order and all that lies behind it.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for what he has said.

On Question, Motion agreed to.