§ 10.15 p.m.
§ The Chairman
The first Amendment selected is Amendment No. 3, Clause 1, in page 1, line 6, leave out from "rate" to end of line 7 and insert:equivalent to an increase of 3½ per cent. on his present salary".With that Amendment I propose that we take the following Amendments: Amendment No. 4, Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert:subject to these rates being agreed to by the National Incomes Commission".Amendment No. 5, Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert:less any emoluments he may receive by way of expense and travelling allowances".Amendment No. 72, Clause 1, page 1, line 10, leave out from "may" to end of line 11 and insert:not exceed 3½ per cent. on the existing salary",and new Clause No. 1, Reference to National Incomes Commission.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
On a point of order, Dr. King. My name has been erroneously included on a number of new Clauses. This has been a mistake. I do not altogether agree with those new Clauses. Perhaps my name could be removed so far as concerns the record.
A second point of order I want to make is with regard to the following Amendments: Amendment No. 26, in Clause 5, page 3, line 1, leave out from "Act" to "shall" in line 2.
Amendment No. 27, in Clause 5, page 3, line 3, leave out "1st April 1966" and insert:a day to be appointed by Her Majesty by Order in Council being a date not earlier than the day after the General Election following the passing of this Act";and Amendment No. 28, in Clause 5, page 3, line 3, leave out "1966" and insert "1967".
1978 I understand, Dr. King, that it is your intention to select Amendment No. 26 which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and that we may discuss Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 with it. Amendment No. 28 is in the name of the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). My application to you is that Amendment No. 28 which is one we should like to vote on should be selected and that the other two Amendments should be discussed with it. That has the agreement of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North.
§ The Chairman
With regard to the first point, it is obviously impossible to correct all the Notice Papers which are in the hands of hon. Members at the moment. I take it that the Committee will understand that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is not supporting the new Clauses to which his name has been erroneously attached. If the Committee should last for another day the Notice Papers would be duly corrected.
To the second suggestion, I see no objection whatever. I grouped the Amendments in this order because they were linked, and I based them on the first because that was convenient. I have no objection whatever to taking the course which the hon. and learned Member has suggested if he has the approval of those whose names are attached to the three Amendments, and, if necessary, when we come to it allowing a Division on Amendment No. 28.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
As Amendment No. 28 stands in my name, may I say that I have no objection to that procedure.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I beg to move Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 72 and New Clause No. 1.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt on a technicality. The hon. Gentleman moves only one Amendment. The others he may speak about.
§ Mr. Lewis
I beg to move Amendment No. 3, Clause 1, in page 1, line 6, to leave out from "rate" to the end of line 7 and to insert:equivalent to an increase of 3½ per cent. on his present salary".1979 This Amendment, associated with the others which you mentioned, Dr. King, has as its objective something which I think can be warmly supported by hon. Members on both sides, with the exception of an hon. Gentleman who is not here—the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East, is it? I do not know his constituency, because he is not here very often. The object of these Amendments is to limit the proposed increases in the salaries of judges to a figure of 3½ per cent. My hon. Friends will appreciate that there is a reason for the figure of 3½ per cent. It is a very popular figure at the moment. Whenever there is any discussion—
§ The Chairman
Order. We cannot have debate by shouting across the Floor. If hon. Members want to make points of disagreement, they will have an opportunity in the debate.
§ Mr. Lewis
I was saying that 3½ per cent. has been spoken of quite a lot during the last few months. Those who work by hand and by brain have been asked and are being asked to limit their increases to 3½ per cent. Some unions are supporting this. Most of my hon. Friends are supporting it. I understand that most hon. Members opposite support it. But some unions are not exactly in favour of this and some of them are negotiating and trying to negotiate for more than 3½ per cent.
I heard an interjection about teachers. Teachers, rightly, have been negotiating, and good luck to them. They have had a rather limited increase of, I think, 13 per cent., limited as compared to the 25 per cent. proposed in the Bill. Teachers rightly or wrongly feel that, as there is a shortage of teachers, and as there is a dire need to get people to enter the profession, their union should negotiate for a larger sum. But there is no shortage of judges or potential aspirants to that office. Almost every legal luminary would willingly take the job if he could but get the offer, but the regrettable thing is that they are not at the moment getting the offer. I know of a number of hon. and learned Gentlemen in the Committee at the moment 1980 who would jump at the opportunity. So it cannot be said that in this instance the need is to increase the salary by 25 per cent. because there is a shortage.
Teachers—this applies to railwaymen and every other type of industrial worker—are in the position that, if they do not get what they feel to be an adequate increase through normal industrial negotiations, they can refer their case to arbitration. The teachers did just that. Therefore, one of the Amendments proposes that this increase should be limited to 3½ per cent., and if the judges do not feel satisfied, as they have not got a trade union affiliated to the T.U.C.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I do not know why not. They would probably feel that on their limited salaries they could not afford the affiliation fees.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Is my hon. Friend aware that Scottish judges are intending to join the Transport and General Workers Union?
§ Mr. Lewis
My hon. Friend may well be right. I am not well up in Scottish affairs. All I know about Scottish affairs is that something has happened today which has to do with Scotland. Incidentally, they have chosen a good union because, as I understand, that union is not in favour of the 3½ per cent. They may well get their 25 per cent. if they join it, but I am not canvassing for that union. If these worthy, learned judges are dissatisfied with the 3½ per cent., and since they have no trade union and no method of negotiation and arbitration, we have tabled an Amendment to help them by enabling them to refer the matter to the National Incomes Commission to arbitrate on whether 3½ per cent. is adequate.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
The hon. Member is suggesting that they have asked for an increase. Is not it a fact that they have not asked but that it is being offered to them?
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Member may know the truth of this. I do not know. I was told by the Attorney-General on Second Reading, when the hon. Member was not present, that it was the Conservative Government and not this Government who did all this. It was difficult to get at the truth of the matter because 1981 my right hon. and learned Friend said it was the Conservative Government who last March came to an agreement that in the early period of office of the next Government, irrespective of party, judges' salaries would be increased, but the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) interjected and said that there was no such arrangement. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) pulls a face. I agree, I was amazed and there was an alteration—
§ The Chairman
I can understand the hon. Member's amazement, but he must come back to the Amendments.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am trying to get it clear whether or not my suggestion of the National Incomes Commission as the arbitrating body is the right one or the other arbitrating body which may or may not have been active on this matter over the last 12 months or so. I do not know whether or not there was an arbitration committee. Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend can tell me that there is one in existence—either a trade union of judges or some negotiating body which negotiated either with the previous Government or the present Government or with both. If he does, I might well be willing to withdraw my Amendment which suggests that this matter should go to the National Incomes Commission and instead leave it to the usual channels between the two sides. It is relevant to try to ascertain whether or not there were negotiations, agreements or understandings, or whatever they may have been.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)
It may or may not help my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) in his consideration of this matter to know that the body which he suggests should adjudicate upon it, namely the National Incomes Commission, unhappily no longer exists.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
My right hon. and learned Friend has brought me to the next point I was about to put. I understood that when I put down the Amendment, and I had it in mind to suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend that, at this stage of the Bill, or on Report, he might care to undertake to refer the question to this committee which has been negotiating behind the scenes between the two 1982 Governments, the previous Government and this one. I left it so that I could give him an opportunity to do that.
§ Sir D. Glover
We all know that the hon. Gentleman is a great believer in democracy. If one Parliament is to be bound by the decisions of a previous Parliament, what is the point in having elections? Elections are held to decide whether the previous course of policy should be continued.
§ The Chairman
Order. We are now getting into a debate on constitutional procedure. That does not arise on the Amendment.
§ The Chairman
I understood the hon. Gentleman's argument. Expanding it would not bring it within order but would take it further out of order.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am sorry that you will not allow me to develop it, Dr. King, because I should love to do so. The Attorney-General definitely stated that there was an agreement, although the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral denied it. If there was such a committee, discussion, agreement, or whatever it was, we ought to know, and we ought to know what agreement was arrived at. I do not feel that I should be bound by secretly negotiated agreements between the previous Administration and the present one without my having the opportunity, at least, to express my opposition to it.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
There are many people in this country who have no trade union. Members of this House, acting in their own behalf in regard to their salaries, have no union. Presumably the Government agreed to alter our salaries and at the same time they agreed to alter the salaries of the judges. We are sorry we have no unions. It is not our fault any more than it is the judges'.
§ The Chairman
Order. Perhaps I can help the Committee. We have a lot of work before us. It will not help if we wander away from the Amendments which we are discussing. We are at present discussing whether the salaries should be increased by 3½ per cent., as several Amendments suggest, and whether, as the new Clause proposes, they should be referred to arbitration.
§ Sir D. Glover
On a point of order, Dr. King. I suggest that we must take into account the statement made from both Front Benches that there was some form of agreement between the two parties before the election.
§ The Chairman
That would arise on the Second Reading of the Bill, and it may even arise—I am not a prophet—on some Amendment. It might arise on the Third Reading. But it does not arise on these Amendments, and we must keep in order.
§ Mr. Lewis
Perhaps I can help by suggesting that, if my right hon. and learned Friend does not agree with my Amendment to refer the matter to the type of Commission I suggest, he might consider reconvening the Lawrence Committee, which considered Members' salaries, to deal with the question of judges' salaries. There was a definite agreement with regard to Members' salaries when the Lawrence Committee was set up. The setting up of that Committee was publicly declared and publicly made known, and publicly both parties declared they would implement its decision. If hon. Members do not like the Commission I am suggesting its name can be changed, or some other similar body can have this matter referred to it. I would welcome the Lawrence Committee, because it has in part dealt with the matter—in the instance of the Lord Chancellor.
§ Sir D. Glover
The hon. Gentleman and I are in agreement on this. What he is saying is that the Lawrence Committee was a public body agreed to by both sides here, but now on the hon. Gentleman's side of this Committee are 1984 at least a hundred Members who were not Members in the last Parliament. Are they bound by some private agreement reached between the two Front Benches?
§ Mr. Lewis
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He should sign a Motion I have on the Notice Paper, because it sums up what he has just said. If he signs I shall be very pleased. I take his point and agree with it, that if there was this agreement it ought to be publicised, and I believe that this is a means whereby it could be publicised, and I think this is a means whereby this matter, if we had an independent inquiry, would be put on all fours with that of Members' salaries, because that was declared at the time of the Election. I am suggesting that this matter, too, should have been declared.
I cannot for the life of me see why a 25 per cent. increase should be proposed. That is why I am suggesting that it should be reduced to 3½ per cent. We had not heard anything about this increase until lately. Not even in the Queen's Speech was this revealed. It is slipped in at the fag end of this Session, and we are to have it steamrollered through, we are told, to satisfy the Government—or the Opposition. I do not know which. But it certainly is not going to satisfy me.
Who has asked for this increase? I asked a Question of the Prime Minister today and I got an Answer. I asked him how many trade unions had asked for this increase. The answer was, None. I asked how many co-operative parties had asked for it. The answer was, None. I asked how many Labour parties had asked for it. The answer was, None—[Interruption.] How many Tory parties? None.
I cannot see on what basis this 25 per cent. has been worked out. I know that during Second Reading the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned something about an accumulative 1.9 per cent. If that is the basis does it mean that every worker can claim automatically a retrospective 1.9 per cent.? [HON. MEMBERS: "They have."] They have not had it. There are plenty of people who are doing very essential work who have not had it—plenty among 1985 the lower-paid people at £3 and £4 and £5 a week, cleaners—
§ Mr. Lewis
Yes, cleaners—in some of the Government offices. They have not had it.
I suggest that this ought to be looked at again. I believe there is no urgency to get this Bill through. I do not think there will be any strikes if we suggest substituting 3½ per cent. for 25 per cent. I do not think there would be any judges who would be found starving or in need or in want if we gave them 3½ per cent. instead of 25 per cent.
What I was interested to see was that the First Secretary of State did not put his name to the Bill and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not put his name to the Bill. I want to know whether this has been discussed, and is being discussed, by the Government in the light of their general policy on wages, salaries and prices. This is the wrong time to grant an increase of this amount.
Before hon. Members intervene to talk about Members' salaries, perhaps I might point out our salaries were decided as a result of an independent inquiry which went into the matter very fully. If my right hon. and learned Friend gives me an assurance that he will set up a committee of inquiry to consider judges' pay, I in return will give the assurance that if it recommends a 25 per cent. increase I shall support it. I make that declaration publicly, and not through the usual channels.
With regard to this question of a 25 per cent. increase as against a 3½ per cent. increase which I am suggesting, it is not possible to compare judges' salaries with what Members of this House are paid, because judges do not have to meet the cost of postage, transport, and living away from home out of their salaries. In addition to this proposed 25 per cent. increase, judges have a rather handsome arrangement whereby they receive £8 10s. per day, tax free, while they are on Circuit. This is to cover their expenses while they are away from home. They can, however, work on the basis of an assistance pool which is financed by public money, and in that event they receive only £5 2s. per day. If there has been a rise in the cost of living over the last 10 or 11 1986 years, and if judges are receiving expenses to cover that rise, their financial position cannot be compared with that of Members of this House.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I have followed the hon. Gentleman's argument that there is no analogy between M.P.s and judges, but I should like to hear his views about Cabinet Ministers whose salaries went up from £5,000 to £8,500, an increase of 65 per cent. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting, first, that they would have gone on strike if they had not had the increase, and, secondly, that they would have starved if they had not had it?
§ Mr. Lewis
I am surprised at the hon. and learned Gentleman's intervention. He has got himself a job as a recorder, and no doubt he aspires to a judgeship. I am surprised that he has not understood what I have been saying. I am saying that the Lawrence Committee considered the question of Members' salaries, and recommended certain increases. I might agree that it recommended too big an increase for Cabinet Ministers. I might agree that the increase should not have been paid, but the point is that there was a public inquiry into the matter, the Committee's recommendations were debated in this House, and the matter was discussed during the election. That has not happened with regard to judges' salaries.
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Gentleman describes me as a recorder. I am not; nor am I an aspirer to a judgeship. Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman is an aspirer to Cabinet rank?
§ Mr. Lewis
I apologise, and withdraw what I said about the hon. and learned Gentleman being a recorder, but I hope that he gets both appointments very quickly. As to my aspiring to Cabinet rank, either in this Government or in a Government formed by the party opposite, the hon. and learned Gentleman should know that the way to do that is not to try to get this right put wrong by one's own Government. [Laughter.] That is not the way to do things. The hon. and learned Gentleman has been here long enough to know that the way to do it is to row in with the Front Bench and to let the Government and Opposition Whips know that one will agree with everything that they say and do.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Crossman) did not row in with his Front Bench very often.
§ Mr. Lewis
I do not want to go on at any great length. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful for that cheer. Hon. Members opposite do not have to wait. They can go. There is no need for hon. Members on my side to wait, either. There is no need for them to wait in order to vote. In fact, there is no need for hon. Members on either side to wait, because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has declared that he is not going to accept defeat on anything of this character as a need to resign. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He has declared it publicly. He has already suffered a defeat on the Finance Bill, and he may find that he suffers another tonight.
I remind hon. Members, too, that it is not my hon. Friends and myself who are responsible for this matter coming on at such a late hour. We did not put down Second Reading for after 10 o'clock, and we did not put down the Committee stage for after 10 o'clock.
I do not think that any of the judges would resign, but I have heard it suggested—and I should like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General or my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General about it, and I want an answer—that, unless the Bill is carried through without any amendments, the Lord Chancellor threatens to resign. I do not know if that is true, but, if he is threatening to resign, I say let him resign. There are plenty of hon. and learned Gentlemen both in and out of the House who would be only too willing to take on the job at the existing salary—never mind a 3½ per cent. increase as proposed by me, or a 25 per cent. increase.
However, we ought to debate the matter and say what we think. If an hon. Member thinks that it is right, good luck to him. But I personally and many of my constituents and many of my hon. 1988 Friends' constituents do not think that it is right.
§ The Attorney-General
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for apologising now. I only wonder why he repeated the same remark a moment or two ago.
§ Mr. Lewis
I said that I am sure that there are many constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House, including my hon. Friends, in the plural, who are against the Bill at this juncture.
I was going on to say—and it is a point that I want to emphasise—that the salary increase to Members of Parliament was implemented prior to the new policy of the Government based on 3½ per cent.
I do not think that it will mean anything at all if we ask for this huge increase to be put off, with a 3½ per cent. increase given immediately, pending an investigation. If the investigation comes back with a public recommendation of 25 or even 30 per cent., I shall be quite willing to accept it.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
If no one else is rising to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), I should like to put forward one or two points.
I have a very great regard for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. I am very reluctant to say any word which would bring me into conflict with him, but I do not think that he should dismiss this matter quite so lightly as he appears to be doing.
Many of us are finding ourselves in an absolutely intolerable situation. If my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North presses his Amendment to a Division, I shall vote against it. I regret that the judiciary is being embroiled in a conflict which should not have been forced upon the House of Commons. I have 1989 great sympathy with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North, and I am not criticising him, for it is important that we should have regard to expenditure. However, as he interrupted an hon. Member on Second Reading to say that that hon. Member was a lawyer—I do not think that he said the same of our hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—perhaps I ought to say that I have a judicial decision to say that I am not a lawyer for Income Tax purposes, so that I can exculpate myself from any accusation against me of being a Jack Cade in that respect. The only thing a High Court judge is likely to give me is five years.
I still take the view that the judiciary, on the King's Bench and Court of Criminal Appeal, is the best we have ever known. It is facing a frightful problem in dealing with criminal cases and facing it with humanity. I am saying this off the cuff, but I say many things off the cuff and still do so with sincerity. The decisions of the Court of Criminal Appeal give a feeling that we now have men who are not only lawyers or judges, but men who have a real sense of penal reform, men who are trying desperately hard to solve these problems. I think that they will understand the problem which the hon. Member for Oldham, West faces tonight.
We are not entitled to argue about the 3½ per cent. It is dead. I am sorry that it is dead. It is an argument which we can use about teachers, or Post Office engineers, or doctors, or judges, at large, but not in particular. It is not fair to make it in particular.
With very great respect—and I say it with respect, and he know it and I like him—the Attorney-General, perhaps because he came from the courts, made his Second Reading speech perhaps without realising that there would be as much opposition to the Bill as there was. He did not refer to the pensions for the judiciary, not merely pensions for judges, but for their widows and so on. I know that one makes these casual observations, but he said that the salaries of these judges were fixed at a time when there was no Income Tax, as though when Income Tax provisions were introduced one had to make financial 1990 adjustments so that anyone who paid Income Tax got the money back out of the State. That sort of argument is not fair.
I represent Oldham and, on occasion, I have referred to Oldham, which I regard as a very civilised town. It has a very civilised newspaper. I suppose that I shall be accused of currying favour with the local Press and so on, but heaven knows that I have been rude enough about it in my time. It is a liberal newspaper with a liberal mind. I have with me a leading article which it wrote on this subject which is revealing. It says:A High Court judge receives something like £8,000 a year. If he is given a 25 per cent. increase under the Government's bill, he will be gaining an additional income of £40 a week, bringing his gross weekly income to £160 each week.Butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers, bus drivers, cotton operatives"—facing unemployment at this momentengineers, building workers, shop assistants—how many of those people are yet making £20 a week. Not so many, and that is what all the trouble is about. It is quite futile to expect the man in the street to understand astronomic increases of £40 a week when he is himself, by the party which claims to represent him, exhorted to keep his own wage rises down to a certain percentage.How often does one read stories of occupations which have been awarded wage increases of 14s., or 9s. 6d., or 5s. 7d. for unskilled workers? What are these recipients to think when they read of the financial pickings which are coming the way of the judges.That is why I say that those of us who are really concerned, and deeply concerned, should not rather interpret Jack Cade as a theory we can exploit after 10 o'clock at night.
How am I to vote? I shall vote in favour of the increases with deep reluctance, except for the increase for the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division, which is monstrous for a political appointment. It is monstrous to come here and ask for such provision to be made for a very distinguished man of high character—I have nothing against him—but it was a political appointment. To say that a man who said, "I am going to leave my constituents and take a comfortable job at a very high salary", should be given a special increase because it is said that his amour-propre—the cotton workers 1991 have amour-propre, and they are getting out of work. Last night we were having rather heated, sometimes even facetious, arguments.
I do not blame my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. I have no doubt that he inherited the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North said something about rumours about the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor is a man of the highest character I have ever known. He is a man of a great record of social service. I cannot think that he can have made the observations that my hon. Friend attributed to him. But respecting him as I do, admiring him as I do, regarding him as, perhaps, one of the men whose character, reputation, talent for social service, complete absence of cupidity and generosity put him above personal criticism, if he did make the remark, which I do not believe he did, which was attributed to him by my hon. Friend, I should personally and politely say exactly what my hon. Friend said.
It is quite impossible that a new member of the Government in the House of Lords should say, "I propose to dictate what the House of Commons should do", and I am quite sure that he did not. If he said, "I should be so hurt that I should have to consider my position", he is entitled to do that. He might easily have said that; I do not know. We cannot have regard, of course, to any observations of that kind.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North said that there was some talk about resignations from the Government. The Whips are not entitled to be on on a matter of this kind. I would not regard myself as subject to a Whip on a matter of this kind. The Labour Party has been able to demand from all its members a massive and almost humble loyalty, but on a matter of this kind, introduced after 10 o'clock at night, we are entitled to say to Her Majesty's judiciary something else. We are entitled to say, "We do not know whether you asked for this, and we certainly do not wish to use facile arguments to reject a demand". Indeed, there was a letter in The Times from the hon. Lady who represents a constituency on Tees-side or Tyneside—
§ Mr. Hale
I am not sure that the hon. Lady is entitled to make any observation from the position in which she sits. Nevertheless, I am grateful to her for the intervention. It was, however, a good letter. Roughly speaking, it set out my views. It reminds me of the old proverb I was taught that one must not judge the "yeds" by the "yats". It was a thoughtful letter.
The Government have put many of us in a great difficulty in introducing this Measure. If one could take the views of the judges—and I propose at a later stage in the discussion of the Clause, if I have the good fortune to catch your eye, Sir Samuel, to refer to the constitutional position concerning judges' salaries which they raised in 1931. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) who mentioned this on Second Reading, but I mentioned it some years ago—I do not claim any copyright in this—when the first question of judges' salaries was mentioned by my old friend the late Glenvil Hall, the former Member for Colne Valley, when Financial Secretary to the Treasury.
It is important, at any rate, that we should try to deal with the situation, which is a very serious one and raises a very important point. According to the book by Mr. Hewson—a wonderful book, which I recommend for holiday reading, assuming that we get any holidays—of writings from Lord Chancellors from Halsbury to Sankey, records judges frothing at the mouth about the suggestion that Parliament would have the impudence to reduce their salaries. In interviews, judges were saying that Parliament had no right—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Samuel Storey)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting very far from the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hale
Of course, I agree with you entirely, Sir Samuel. I submit very happily to your Ruling. I was anticipating much which, with your benevolence and acceptance of my rising, will be said in two or three hours' time.
This may be a valid argument against my hon. Friend's point, that if the judges 1993 cannot be reduced by 10 per cent. they cannot have their rise limited to 3½ per cent. under a formula which has not yet received legislative sanction. I am sorry that it has not. I desire to say—no: I should be out of order if I said it—but I want at least to make the point that I am not criticising the formula which the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs has battled hard and sincerely to bring into force. I am not complaining that it has not attained impossible heights.
So many of the old Wilsonian has-beens who have signed the Amendment are my old colleagues, with whom, in the dark days, we discovered Mount Wilson in the lonely Arctic wastes, the almost unapproachable political wastes, of the 1950's, that it would be fair for me to take an early opportunity to say, at this time, that I do not completely agree with some of their Amendments. On the other hand, I can sympathise with the motive which have made my hon. Friends formulate them. The dignity of the judiciary is important. It is true that the Counsellor Carter said that it was only "rabbit's skin", but it is still important.
Anyone who agrees with that might well consider whether it would not be better to withdraw this Amendment at this extremely unfortunate time, when every Labour Member is being faced with a miserable dilemma. I hope that you will not watch me for the next ten seconds, Sir Samuel, because, in my peroration, I may be tempted to say that, at a time when this House is unwilling to give me ten minutes to discuss the question of byssinosis and the people coughing themselves to death in Oldham, out of work, it is tough for me—it would be an easier course to vote with my hon. Friends—to stay here for hours discussing judicial salaries for the fourth or fifth times since I have been a Member of Parliament, while nothing is being done for the workers in Oldham who are losing their jobs bit by bit and coughing their hearts up with a disease which leaves them to endure the provision which is made for them with the courage they have.
This sort of case is not encouraging for them. It may be that these arguments are unfair. I would think that they were 1994 unfair if I were a judge. This is the dilemma. Is one justified in saying this? I doubt it. In a sense, some of these arguments are dishonest, but, to an hon. Member representing a working-class constituency, it is almost impossible not to say them and think them and not to have them in mind.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I had not intended to intervene in what is beginning to have the appearance of being a private fight on the benches opposite. However, I intervene to make a few observations which have occured to me when listening to the last two speeches.
I always listen with great interest and respect to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), and I thought that his speech raised the level of debate from that at which it started, although he made one observation to which I come immediately. He made what I took to be an unfair and unkind reference to somebody who many hon. Members and many people outside the Committee hold in very high respect. He referred to the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division in terms which, knowing the hon. Gentleman to be a fair-minded man, I believe that he will regret.
§ Mr. Hale
I tried to say—I hope I made it clear—that the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division is a man of exemplary character, great ability and fine record. I made no personal criticism of him at all. I said that, in the terms of the definition—I do not know how one otherwise defines it—it was a political appointment to appoint a Tory with a majority of 8,000, a man aged 50, with 10 years' Parliamentary service and with not much experience at the Bar—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. I do not think that we can pursue this point at the moment. There is an Amendment dealing with this salary later.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I think, Sir Samuel, that I shall be within the bounds of order, and certainly within the bounds of propriety, if I finish by saying—because the hon. Member for Oldham, West and I are not going to quarrel about this or anything else—that I feel it my duty to make these comments, 1995 not only because I have been fortunate enough to enjoy such a long friendship with the gentleman in question, but also because I could not agree that in any sense it was a political appointment; if by that the hon. Gentleman means that but for the political standing of the gentleman in question he would not have been appointed, I think we all know that, in fact, he had a very large and distinguished practice in that sphere of the law. He made very considerable sacrifices to assume Ministerial office and conscientiously discharged those duties. Since his appointment to his high judicial office he has brought to the discharge of his duties and the problems which he encounters a sensitive and conscientious approach. I feel, since he has discharged those duties with that distinction, that it is right that I should take this early opportunity of putting these facts on the record.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
I gather that there will be many opportunities, on later Amendments, to discuss the function of the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division. I suggest, with respect, that it is highly undesirable at this time to comment on the conduct of the President since that might invite possible criticisms of the President, for many of us would criticise many of his decisions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is, therefore, making a very undesirable interpolation.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. I have already ruled that hon. Members will be able to discuss this appointment when we come to later Amendments. What had been said I think called for some reply. I think that that has been made, and I trust that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not pursue the matter.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Indeed not, Sir Samuel. I have said what I felt I should say and I certainly will not pursue the matter further.
The next point which provoked me into saying a word on this matter is this. I think that it would be generally felt to be unfortunate in the country if the judiciary and the emoluments of the judiciary became too much the subject of controversy in the House of Commons. Of course 1996 any Bill that is put before this House should be discussed, and dispassionately and objectively discussed, and no one would say anything to the contrary on that. But when listening to the hon. Member for West Ham, North, I felt that he overlooked most of the basic factors of this matter.
It is part of a very great problem that we have in this country. To put it shortly, it is that the 3½ per cent. to which the hon. Member refers is an expression of what used to be known as the "guiding light", as the sort of figure that should be borne in mind as an annual rate of increase for people in productive work, being measured against the estimated increase in the gross national product year by year.
I have said in this House before on different topics that there is a considerable problem here, because there is a very large section of the population to whom it is very difficult to apply this type of index, first, because there is no index of productivity by which their activity can be measured and, secondly, because they have no annual wage negotiations and no arbitration machinery. Therefore, when applying this criterion of the 3½ per cent., the hon. Gentleman must, in fairness, recognise that it does not apply in the case of judges.
But let us assume for a moment, contrary to that contention, that it did apply. The hon. Gentleman must then relate it to the annual equivalent, which is what it is; and the 3½ per cent., if it be the annual equivalent, has to be related to the fact that these emoluments have stood still since 1954. I am no mathematician, but I would think that if one worked out the cumulative increase that would represent the deferred emoluments, owing to the fact that the annual increment had not been put into operation, it would represent considerably more than the percentage increase to which the hon. Gentleman keeps referring.
He does not assist the more serious purpose and deliberation of this Committee if he insists on comparing like with unlike—
§ Mr. Hale
I would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that in 1959 the Judicial Pensions Bill was also introduced, which made very specific and substantial additional provision. It is right 1997 we should remember that. I am not making a strong point of it but would only say that when my own ashes are ceremonially disposed of in the "No" Lobby my missus will get £300 a year.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I am very glad to get back to a point of agreement with the hon. Gentleman, which is that I hope that any such sad event will be very long deferred indeed.
Of course, it is right that we should have regard to the surrounding circumstances, including pensionable emoluments, and so on, and no doubt an actuarial calculation could be made to show, taking account of all these matters, what the figure should now be. But the hon. Gentleman has not made it. All he invites us to do is to take the figure of increase as it is and relate that to what is admittedly an annual figure. I say, with respect, that that is clearly comparing like with unlike. That suggestion, therefore, does not assist the Committee's purpose.
There is also the test suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) of comparing the percentage increase in judicial salaries with that in Cabinet salaries. Here is a link which has been accepted, and I think that there should be some relationship between these things.
There is the very high increase in Cabinet Ministers' salaries.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The hon. Member, I presume, refers to the Lawrence Committee. All I can say is that he may have spent his time during the election in discussing these salaries, but for my own part I was engaged in much wider matters coming far nearer to the wellbeing of the people and the position of this country in general.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I have not referred to the salaries of hon. Members— 1998 I was speaking of the salaries of Cabinet Ministers—but, so far as I understand him, the hon. Gentleman disclaims any interest in the remuneration of Cabinet Ministers because he told the House a short while ago that he did not think he would ever be likely to occupy such a position since he had adopted the attitude he is taking. Yet he need not despair. I would remind him of a passage in the Forsyte Saga in which Soames Forsyte was talking to Sir Laurence Mont, saying that there were two methods of getting on the Board—the method of oil and the method of vinegar. So the hon. Gentleman should persevere. If he wants encouragement, he should look about him.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I was a conscript into the ranks of Government. I did not want to go in, and I was glad to get out; and I do not want to go back. What I was trying to tell the hon. Gentleman is that he should not despair. If he adopts the vinegar method, it may be a test for the Government as to whether it gives way and admits him to its ranks.
I must return to the more serious aspects of the matter before the House. The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the salaries of hon. Members. Of course it cannot be measured on a productivity basis, or as any part of the gross national product. It cannot be measured on the annual increment basis, because there was no annual increment. It cannot be measured in terms of arbitration, because there was no arbitration; but, having regard to all these matters, there was a substantial increase. The same considerations apply in respect of judicial salaries.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I think that they do. He speaks of public opinion. Has he had a great flood of letters about this?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
He has? Well, I have a very large constituency, but I 1999 have had no letters at all; at any rate, none as yet. I may get some, although I do not flatter myself by thinking that many of my constituents are going to read in HANSARD of what I may say at twenty minutes past eleven at night. My constituents take account, I think, that the judiciary do not get annual increments.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I will give way to my hon. Friend in a moment. Let me say that my constituents realise that there is a great importance attaching to the judicial functions and they think that an increase such as is proposed, coming after more than a decade, is justified. At least, that is what I think. I have taken no plebiscite, but I should say that that would be their view.
§ Sir D. Glover
My right hon. and learned Friend rather horrifies me. Is he saying that the views of ordinary Members of Parliament are formed by the mischance or the unfortunate chance of the number of letters they receive on a particular problem? It may be that the people who would have written letters to us happen to be on holiday, or it may be because of all sorts of things that we do not get letters. It is a most extraordinary suggestion that one's judgment in this House is governed by the number of letters one receives.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I hope my hon. Friend is not going to say that he disregards the letters he receives. There seems to be a private fight going on on this side of the Committee now. Whatever view my hon. Friend's constituents may take, my constituents are kind enough to write to me even when they are on holiday. There are a great number of them, and they have not said that they disapprove of judges' salaries being increased.
I suggest that if one applies these various tests objectively and dispassionately one must agree that this is a not inappropriate increase at present. It probably is not very welcome to judges that their emoluments should be discussed in this way, but there is no other way in which it can be done since it requires an Act of Parliament to fix the emoluments. I think it not inappropriate to 2000 end these few remarks by saying what I believe to be the view of the overwhelming majority of the people in the country that they should hold their judges in high esteem, they have a high regard for the demanding work which judges do, and they think they should be fairly and properly remunerated in recognition and in proportion to the work they do.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
I have no intention of delaying the Committee unduly, but I do not think it is the responsibility of those of us who have certain anxieties about some of the Clauses in the Bill to apologise. The fact that we are discussing this matter after 10 o'clock at night is not our fault.
The reason why I intervene is the speech made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). I do not think he need worry as he will not be back in Government for a long time. He need not worry about the number of letters he receives because the only people likely to write to a Conservative Q.C. about this matter are the judges. Every argument he used became an argument for this Amendment. He said that there is no criterion by which these salaries can be judged. Judges' productivity cannot even be judged now by the numbers of hangings. I think the right hon. and learned Member referred to one or two other tests which could have been used such as arbitration, but argued they do not exist in this case.
But one criterion has begun to exist for every worker in the country, the so-called "guiding light" of 3½ per cent. No one has yet asserted that the existing salaries of judges are inadequate in terms of living conditions. We must therefore reckon them as adequate at the moment. This new criterion of 3½ per cent. therefore seems to be the right criterion, the touchstone on which to base salaries, so I hope that the right hon. and learned Member will now support us. I wish to relate what I have to say to 3½ per cent. because, in spite of the ebullience of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and the oratory of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) certain points still need to be made. Justice has to be seen to be done even when it applies to judges. The trouble about going forward 2001 at the end of a crowded Session with salary and pensions increases of this nature is quite simply that justice is not seen to be done.
It is no use telling us that the increase if spread over 11 years works out at only 2 per cent: a year. This is meaningless to the workers. The 3½ per cent. figure applied to the proposed salary of £10,000 means £350 a year, or £7 a week. Three and a half per cent. to a man earning £10 a week, which is what many of my constituents working in the shipyards earn, means between 6s. and 7s. a week. It is no use saying that the judges have had no increase for eleven years. They have been doing all right. During those eleven years my shipyard workers have been receiving less than £10 a week. There is no comparison. There is no justice. I have reservations even about the 3½ per cent. in the Amendment, because 3½ per cent. does not alter this injustice. It perpetuates it. If 3½ per cent. is applied to both £100 a week and to £10 a week, it does not bring equality any nearer. It perpetuates and eventually increases the inequality and therefore the injustice.
However, I am prepared to compromise in my desire for justice and support the Amendment suggesting 3½ per cent., because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, I have been placed in an intolerable position. I am one of those to whom an hon. Member opposite referred who had no part in any agreement and who were not even in the House of Commons when any agreement was arrived at. I made a pledge to those in my constituency to work for a society based on equality and justice. I cannot convince my constituents of the necessity for this Bill coming at this time in the first year of a Labour Government. I have asked my people to accept the concept of 3½ per cent. in the incomes policy. I accept the basis of the incomes policy. I have advised all the trade unions in my area to endorse the incomes policy, because I believe it can be used as a Socialist instrument to create more justice. But it cannot be used as an instrument to create more justice if dividends are allowed to increase by 28 per cent. in the last 12 months and salaries of £8,000 a year are allowed to increase to £11,000 a year, whereas 3½ per cent. for my workers on £10 a week amounts 2002 to only 6s. a week. I ask that the guiding light quite frankly be used as an instrument for more egalitarianism. We have heard much of the importance of the work the judges do. Are the workers in my shipyards not doing equally important work?
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
I thought that one of the great things about the trade unions was their insistence on differentials. Is there to be no "differential" between the work done in the Law Courts and that done in the shipyards?
§ Mr. Buchan
It is not valid to speak of a differential resulting in a difference in salary of £90 a week, namely, the difference between £10 and £100. Normally one thinks of differentials of 10s. or £1 a week. Those differentials are infinitesimal as compared with the standards of living involved in these increases. There is no comparison.
We have been told of the serious nature of the judges' work. The work done by workers in the aircraft industry or in shipyards is equally serious. Taking a steel plate and turning and twisting and moulding it is serious and important work. I cannot calculate the difference in importance between the two jobs. It is not a sufficient difference to justify an increase in salary equivalent to the wages of three workers for an entire year. I cannot accept that. Since I can neither accept nor excuse it, I speak in support of the Amendment. Unless the Amendment is accepted, a horse and cart will be driven through all our attempts to get the people behind us in our fight for an incomes policy. I hope that the Government will heed what has been said both on Second Reading and tonight. I hope that before the night is out the Government will meet us on this.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Sir D. Glover
It is extraordinary that most of the best debates from a House of Commons point of view take place after 10 o'clock at night. We are now debating one of the fundamental rights of the House of Commons. I think that it is in order to say on the Amendment that we are debating whether a private agreement privately entered into by the Front Benches is binding on subsequent Parliaments. This is one of the greatest issues of freedom 2003 for which the House has stood for centuries. I cannot believe that it is within any democratic concept that any Government Front Bench of whatever party can make in private consultation with the Opposition Front Bench an agreement which binds a new Parliament.
A new Parliament is a sovereign entity which makes its own decisions. I hope that I can honestly say that I would be making the sort of speech which I am making tonight if my party were on the Government side. I do not believe that any new Parliament can find itself fettered, hindered and obligated by some decision taken by a previous Parliament. If that is not true, what is the purpose of an election? I thought that the whole purpose of an election was to find out whether the Government of the day was carrying out the policies which the people wanted them to carry out, and, if they had not, to turn them out. Surely that is proof positive that any agreement entered into became null and void on the election of a new Parliament.
We have never received from the Government Front Bench a satisfactory explanation of whether they think that they are bound by some agreement unwritten and unsung. If it is true I am sure that my right hon. Friends will look equally guilty in these discussions. We have not had a clear indication whether the Government feel bound by some private arrangement entered into before the electorate had the right to say whether they would be the Government.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
Surely my hon. Friend can see that it is the Government's business that is being discussed and that it is Government business that his hon. Friends are trying to amend. The Attorney-General should answer the point made by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) which is in line with what my hon. Friend is saying. The hon. Member for Oldham, West said that the Whips were not on and the hon. Member for West Ham, North said that if the Government were defeated it did not matter. The Prime Minister had given authority that it did not matter.
§ The Chairman
Order. This is a speech, not an intervention. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to 2004 speak later. Perhaps he will now put his question briefly.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I was saying that whilst this is a Parliamentary occasion it is in fact Government business which is being amended and the Government should accept responsibility for the debate.
§ Mr. Hale
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) has attributed to me words which I never used, never intended to use and had not in mind. I never said that the Whips are not on. Whether they are or not is a private matter to which I made no reference. I said that in my view in a matter of this kind, trying to refer it to my own conscience, I was not concerned whether a directive had been given or not and that I should feel that this was an issue on which I was perfectly free to vote regardless of any advice from any source, official or unofficial.
§ Sir D. Glover
May I continue my remarks after the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) and that of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), whom I revere and for whom I have enormous affection. I often disagree with the hon. Member, but tonight I agree with a great deal of what he has said. I find it surprising that nearly all the speeches made on Second Reading and in Committee on this Bill have been by lawyers. It is extraordinary how they have been putting all the arguments. There is nothing wrong about this, but it is extraordinary that they do not declare an interest in that they hope to be judges in five or ten years time. When I became a very junior subaltern in the Army I was taught that you look after your men before you look after yourself. This country is facing a crisis, with raging inflation and a probable lack of confidence overseas in our currency in the Autumn. This Bill will not create confidence overseas in our currency or create the right climate of opinion among ordinary people in this country to bring about a sound economy.
§ Mr. Hooson
I should be more impressed with the hon. Member's adherence to this doctrine if he had spoken 2005 up when we were increasing the remuneration of hon. Members and Cabinet Ministers, when we had control over our own destiny, not someone else's destiny.
§ Sir D. Glover
One may have a drink and someone may say, "That is enough". One may have another drink and someone may say, "That is enough". And the time comes when one realises that it is true. In view of the economic situation, the House probably made a mistake when it increased the pay of hon. Members and Cabinet Ministers.
§ Sir D. Glover
May I make my own speech. The hon. and learned Member who, with the greatest respect, knows the courtesies of the Bar, should not intervene from a recumbent position.
When we made those increases, I voted for them. I take complete responsibility for that. We increased hon. Members' pay to £3,250 a year. The average hon. Member can say that he will have at least £1,000 as genuine expenses. We did not raise the pay from £8,000 to £10,000. We increased the pay of Cabinet Ministers, but not by as much as the Lawrence Committee had recommended. It was the first time that the pay of Cabinet Ministers had been raised for a hundred years. The judges' pay was raised ten years ago.
Because of their incompetence, instead of sending to the House all together the Bills dealing with Members' pay, Cabinet Ministers' pay and judges' pay—they might all have gone through on the nod—the Government sent them to us separately. The atmosphere has changed. The country's difficulties have become much more vivid in people's minds in the last nine months. While it might have been possible to get the Bill through in November, it now sticks in the gullet of the ordinary person. We are having a great drive for moderation in increases of salaries, wages and dividends, and yet this Bill is introduced by the great egalitarian Government, right at the end of the Session, to increase judges' salaries by 25 per cent.
It is doubtful whether the Bill will have all its stages completed this Session. It will not do so if hon. Members opposite continue their campaign. The Bill highlights 2006 the differences between one increase and another, makes the Chief Secretary's position more and more difficult and Aubrey Jones' position almost impossible. Yet here we are, debating this in about the last seven days of the Session before we break off for the summer Recess.
I am not speaking in terms of squalid arrangements or anything of that kind, but at that particular time we could have made an increase in judges' salaries without it becoming a political and economic fact of life, so to speak. Hon. and right hon. Members may try to laugh it off, but what we are doing by this Bill is driving a coach and four through everything the First Secretary of State is trying to do. We are making it almost impossible for anyone overseas to believe that we are really trying to control our economy. But, on the other hand—perhaps this is most important of all—we are showing by our opposition to the Bill that Parliament does not consider itself bound by any agreement not come to openly in discussion on the Floor of the House, and we do not regard ourselves in one Parliament as bound by the decisions of our colleagues in a previous Parliament.
I am surprised that my hon. Friends do not realise that there is a constitutional point here. We had a great battle over Burmah Oil, but this is a far more important issue than that. I never thought that I should support the hon. Member for West Ham, North, but Parliament is a strange place and one finds oneself, on this issue or that, with some unexpected colleagues. On this issue, I support the hon. Gentleman with great sincerity.
Will the Government say categorically whether they are bringing in this Measure in opposition to the views expressed by the previous Government—they made their opposition to the Conservative Government clear enough twelve months ago—or are they bringing it in because they had some sort of private agreement with the previous Government?
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I think that I am the only member of the previous Cabinet present at this moment. This talk about a private agreement in the last Parliament is, with respect, rather nonsense. As I understood it, what happened was that the Lord Chancellor of the day made a general statement, without any figures 2007 attached, in another place. I cannot believe that this raises any major constitutional issue. That sort of thing has been done before, and, with great respect, it does not bear on the Amendment, which relates to how great the increase ought to be—something entirely separate from the general statement which the then Lord Chancellor made.
§ Sir D. Glover
With respect to my right hon. Friend, the question whether there should be an increase at all is directly relevant to the Amendment. I am not criticising my right hon. Friend or his colleagues in the previous Cabinet. The present Government's argument is that this Measure would not have been brought in at this time if they had not entered into some commitment. All I am saying is that one Government or Parliament cannot enter into commitments which bind the next. I do not consider myself bound, and I do not imagine that anyone who was in the previous Parliament considers himself bound. We have complete freedom as our consciences dictate on this issue because we are a new sovereign Parliament elected in October, 1964. Even if I voted in the wrong Lobby in the last Parliament, this is a new Parliament, and I have been re-elected. I can now vote the opposite way. [Laughter.] Of course I can. This is the whole basis of elections. It may be that during the election I had arguments with my constituents—
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
On a point of order. Is not this Amendment about the amount of the increase? Is not the hon. Member out of order?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member went grossly out of order. The Chair would call him to order. He must link with the Amendment the story of his exploits during the election.
§ Sir D. Glover
During the General Election—and this is the point I want to make to the hon. Member—I made no pledge, implied or otherwise, that I would support any legislation to increase the judges' remuneration by 3½ per cent., 5 per cent., 10 per cent., 25 per cent., or any other greater or lesser amount. I made no such pledge at all. That is 2008 what I mean by saying that Members here now come here with a clean slate to debate the problem as we think fit at the time it arises. That is why we have elections. If we are bound—
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. Member has discussed the constitutional point long enough. He has established, if there was doubt in anyone's mind, that he is free to vote for or against this Amendment.
§ Sir D. Glover
Coming, as a result of your fine judgment, Dr. King, to this Amendment, I am sorry to tell the hon. Gentleman that I would not vote for this Amendment if it went to a Division—not on the basis of the Amendment, but on the basis, of which he will be aware, that there is a later Amendment in my own name. I do not enter into all the criticisms which have been made about the judges. I believe that we should take great pride in the fact that our judiciary in this country is respected more perhaps than that of any other in the world. I think we should protect that position with the greatest care. I do not accept what an hon. Member opposite said about comparing 10 bob or £10 and so on. I think the judges' remuneration is important in the long run. I would not in normal conditions oppose a rise in judges' remuneration. What I do oppose is the timing of this Bill, and at a later stage—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member must reserve his remarks on time and date until we come to the appropriate Amendments.
§ Sir D. Glover
Dr. King, I do apologise. This is a very narrow point, and it is very difficult to keep in order.
I shall oppose this Amendment if it goes to a Division because I do not think it is doing what I want to achieve. I am not hostile to the aims of the Bill. I am hostile to the timing. Therefore, if we divide, I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ The Attorney-General
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), for whom I have a very great respect indeed—and, indeed, admiration for his sincerity and eloquence—should think I dismiss lightly the problems which this debate gives rise to and this Bill gives rise to. Like him, 2009 I deeply regret that the judiciary have become involved in Parliamentary debate and to a slight extent in party political difference. It is regrettable, and I am sure that the judges regret it more than my hon. Friend.
Let us just consider for a moment how the matter comes to pass. I accept most willingly the apology and regret that I misunderstood a later observation of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). We want to be fair about this, because if this Committee cannot be fair to the judiciary we shall get into very bad trouble.
Let us consider for a moment the relationship between the House and the judiciary. We pass laws in the House, but it is the judges who interpret them. Without a fearless, able, and independent judiciary, the power of the House and the Government of the country could well be undermined, because we rely on the judges to interpret the Acts that we pass and to apply them properly and fairly.
The matter arises as an issue of Parliamentary debate in this way. As has been pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), the salaries of judges are fixed by Parliament. Judges, Ministers, and Members of Parliament are the only salary earners whose salaries are so fixed. In 1954 this House, for the first time for 120 years, decided that the salaries of the judges ought to be raised to £8,000 from £5,000. There was then an increase of 50 per cent. It was a proposal that was moved by Sir Winston Churchill, and supported enthusiastically by the then Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Attlee. That was the assessment that the House of Commons then made seriously of what a High Court judge ought to be paid, bearing in mind his responsibility, the relationshmip between his salary and what could be earned by new entrants to the Bench, in the professions, and in commerce and industry, the relationship between that salary and the lower judiciary, and other factors of that kind.
In 1954 the House decided that £8,000 was the right figure. What has happened since then? Since then the cost of living has gone up 42 per cent. This has resulted in a very substantial reduction in the standard of living of the judges. They 2010 alone of all salary earners in this country have had no increase in salary for 11 years. That is the position.
§ The Attorney-General
I shall come to pensions in a moment. I do not want to run away from that point. They alone have had no increase in salary in the course of the last 11 years, and this Bill takes effect in the twelfth year.
Representing, as I do, a working-class constituency, I know that the working folk of this country who are on low earnings have a formidable case for an increase, and so have those in receipt of pensions, but the fact that has to be faced is that judges alone of all salary earners in this country have not had any increase for 12 years. That means that their relative position to everyone else has deteriorated substantially. Salaries generally in this country have gone up 65 per cent., and wages have gone up 59 per cent. in the last 11 years, and therefore the question that has to be faced is this: Is it fair that this arrangement should continue? Does this House, having the responsibility of fixing a fair and proper salary for judges, think that this serious deterioration in their comparative positions should stand?
The Government have given very serious thought to this, and of course this is a Government Measure. I never suggested anything to the contrary during the Second Reading debate, and while there has been commendation of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) who has now entered the House—
§ The Attorney-General
—and has therefore brought herself in order, I find it surprising that she should have thought it proper to accuse me of cowardice in a a letter to The Times. Having that from a lady, one reacts slightly differently from how one would react to such an accusation from a member of one's own sex. I will give her an opportunity to intervene if she wishes to, although she could have done so in that debate if she had wanted to instead of whipping off a letter to The Times.
2011 I made it perfectly clear that the Government feels that the Bill is right in the circumstances, and it is true that the previous Administration thought so, too, although the terms were not then spelled out, and it is open to the present Parliament to decide upon it. There is no question of a constitutionally binding agreement; indeed, it is a nonsensical suggestion. As I said on the Second Reading of the Bill—and I repeat it now—the Government are satisfied, for reasons which I will develop shortly in a moment, that it is a proper and justifiable Measure.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Might I first of all say that I am not in the habit of discussing judges, about whom I really know nothing, and therefore I gave great thought to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech before I "whipped off" my letter to The Times.
What I was trying to convey to the right hon. and learned Gentleman was that he spent the whole of the time trying to suggest that it was a Conservative Government's decision about the judges, and I was very surprised that he did not, if I am correct, ever refer to the part that I as an ordinary, weak back bench Member—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Unversed in the ways of judges as I am, I did not ever hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say anything about the Lord Chancellor, who must have played a large part in perparing and advocating the Bill that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now introducing.
§ The Attorney-General
I can only assume, if the hon. Lady was in the debate, that she was temporarily not paying attention when I was speaking, or that the process of stating the facts is an intellectual effort beyond her comprehension. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I made it perfectly clear in the debate what the arguments were, and I will now try briefly to repeat them.
I have said that there has been a deterioration of 42 per cent. I am sorry to have this exchange with the hon. Lady, for whom I have had affection throughout the years. I notice she has sought the protection of the other side of the Bar. She really does not have to do that.
2012 Let me come to the issue. That some increase was justifiable and right, I submit is true beyond doubt. The question is, how much? It is suggested in the Amendment that we are immediately discussing that it should be limited to 3½ per cent. What are the facts? The proposed increase is an increase from £8,000 to £10,000. That represents, since the last increase in 1954, an increase per annum of 1.9 per cent. There has been no increase since then, and my hon. Friends may well think that any trade union organiser who was responsible for a group of salary or wage earners and who could not produce a better result than that would have been sacked a long time ago.
The real matter that the Committee has to consider now is, is the increase fair in the circumstances? Does it, comparatively speaking, maintain the position of the judges?
There is a further matter for the serious consideration of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West has spoken with eloquence about the high quality of the judiciary. Others have said that we enjoy an incorruptible Bench and an independent Bench. It is an important matter. It has been drawn from the Bar, and my noble and learned Friend is now of the view that a situation has been reached where the financial inducements now offered are inadequate to attract to the Bench the best of the Bar. If that is so, the House may well think that is a serious situation.
Up to now, broadly speaking, the Bench has been manned by the best of the Bar and I am happy to join in the tribute which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East paid to the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division whose standing as a leading divorce silk of course qualified him for that appointment. We have reached the position where it is certainly not so that the best of the Bar are being attracted to the Bench; on the contrary, there is an indication to the opposite effect.
Therefore, the Committee must decide what is to be done about this. Is it proper that there should be this comparatively modest increase which, I underline, will not restore the Bench, in 2013 relation to other professions and other earnings, to the position which it had in 1954? As I have said, there has been an increase in the cost of living of 42 per cent. since then. This salary increase constitutes an increase of 25 per cent. Accordingly, the Government have taken the view, which was previously taken by their predecessors, that in the circumstances it is right and proper to undertake this increase.
Were it not for the particular machinery of higher judicial salaries being resolved by Act of Parliament, there is little doubt that this would have been dealt with in the same way as the salaries of county court judges have been dealt with in recent years—three increases since 1954 and now tied to the salaries of the higher Civil Service, linking them in turn to changes in the cost of living. That machinery has resulted in the gradual increase of their salaries to keep pace with the rise in the cost of living.
Accordingly, while of course I appreciate the sincerity of my hon. Friends, I know that they will tell trade unionists and workers the facts about this matter—that we are in the presence of an increase of 1.9 per cent. as against the norm of 3½ per cent.; that it does not infringe the salaries policy but is faithful to that policy, and that it is a proposal which is fair in all the circumstances of the case to a section of the community whose standing and whose independence and whose position are the very foundation of the liberty of every one of us.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I am extremely disappointed by the speech of the Attorney-General, but before referring to it I want to comment on the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and other hon. Members who have compared these circumstances with the pay of Members of Parliament and who have said that we should reject the Amendment because of that comparison. It is most improper that such comparisons should be made, because they are extremely inappropriate, as will be agreed by anyone who studies the matter for a moment.
I have been a Member of Parliament on and off for about 20 years, and I can truthfully say that throughout the 2014 whole of that period, except for the last few months after the last increase, I would certainly not have been able to discharge my duties in the manner which I thought appropriate if I had not been able to earn some other money by other means. That does not apply to the judges and never did. The judges have a full-time job and are not able to draw other incomes, and it is most misleading to anyone outside Parliament to compare their salaries with those of Members of Parliament. I hope that such a comparison will be repudiated by every hon. Member. I am therefore surprised that the Attorney-General should have made the comparison and that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery should also have made it.
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I said that there was no analogy between judges and hon. Members, but there was between judges and Cabinet Ministers, which is a different point.
§ Mr. Foot
If we can dispose of this altogether, I shall be glad. I hope that nobody else will make the comparison.
I have no hesitation in defending the increase that was given to Members of Parliament anywhere in the country, on any platform, at any time, because I believe that Members of Parliament have been grossly underpaid in all the previous period since Members have been paid at all. It is shocking to compare them with judges, who in the main have been grossly overpaid throughout the whole period. Therefore, the comparison has no connection with whether we should limit the increases as proposed in the Amendment.
Moreover, there is the second comparison that the proposal for increases in the salaries of Members of Parliament was recommended by a Commission which had been set up to examine the whole matter. No such case has occurred with the judges. There has been no commission recommending this increase. Therefore, the Bill cannot be compared in any sense with the increases that were made for Members of Parliament.
Members of Parliament should have no compunction in saying that we must discuss this matter on its merits. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) suggested that there might have 2015 been a package deal with the salaries of Members of Parliament going through with increases for judges if it had all been done at the same time. Indeed, there have been suggestions in the newspapers that there may have been some bargain in this respect. I repudiate any such suggestion of any such bargain in exactly the words which were used by the late Sir Winston Churchill when Prime Minister in 1954 at the time when he proposed an increase for judges. He went out of his way to repudiate in the firmest possible manner any suggestion that there could possibly be any kind of bargain of increasing the salaries of Members of Parliament and those of judges at the same time or by some common arrangement.
Sir Winston Churchill said:Anything of that nature would cast a slur on the long-established reputation of the House of Commons. … Any hon. Member would, I am sure, do less than justice to himself if he allowed it to be said, even jocularly, that he would bargain one Measure off against the other. I am sure we shall get through our difficulties, and they are fairly obvious, by allowing no thought to govern our judgment except what is in the best interest of the State and the highest performance of our duty in each particular case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1057–58.]I hope, therefore, that any comparison with the salaries of Members of Parliament will be outlawed from this debate henceforth.
The Attorney-General, echoing what had been said by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East, said that it was most regrettable that this matter should have to be debated at some length in the House of Commons and that judges' salaries should be a subject for discussion. I do not think that it is as regrettable as all that. I do not see why their salaries should not be discussed as much as anybody else's.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the salaries of Members of Parliament throughout the country. I do not complain about the discussion—everybody is entitled to discuss it—but the idea is conveyed that it is, somehow, indecent to discuss the payment that is made to judges, that they are a kind of separate race and that we should not discuss what is paid to them. Everybody is entitled to know what is going on. If 2016 there is any responsibility for the extensive discussion of this matter which is bound to take place, it rests upon the Government.
It is because of the timing of this Measure partly and because of the manner in which it is introduced that many of us have insisted upon full discussion. If we had permitted this Measure to go through without the most detailed discussion, the suspicions in the country would be considerable. I can illustrate that presently by quoting from reputable authorities which, I am sure, would be accepted by the Attorney-General.
First, however, let me deal with another point made by the Attorney-General. He compared this occasion with the 1954 assessment. The foundation of his argument is that all that we are doing in a very modest manner is to bring up the judges' salaries to roughly the assessment which was considered proper in 1954. That is not the case at all. As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has pointed out, there has been a considerable increase in the judges' pensions since then, which adds to their salaries. Everybody else would have assumed that to be the case. Therefore, it is not the case that there has not been an alteration in their position since 1954. When the Attorney-General tries to persuade us that that is the position, it is not so.
Moreover—I know that this applies to some other people in the country, but it is a factor if we are talking about the hard cash which people have in their hands—judges have benefited from some of the other measures which have been passed over the last ten years. I imagine that they benefited considerably from the release of Surtax payment and that a considerable sum of money was put into their pockets. Others had the advantage, too, but it must not be suggested that the position of judges has been steadily worsening over the years. It is not the case. They had the same improvements which had been made for many sections of the population, partly owing to measures which we on this side of the Committee opposed, but that does not alter the fact that they had the improvements.
There is an even more important point than that. This was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) in the debate on Second 2017 Reading. If the Attorney-General intended to deal with the matter, he should have replied to this point. When Sir Winston Churchill asked the House of Commons to agree to the proposal that we should make the increase which we made in 1954, he did not come to the House and say: "We shall make this assessment now and assume that, in the years ahead, judges should be dealt with on the same basis as other sections of the community, that there should be increases every two years." He said the opposite. He said, in effect, "If we make this settlement now, I do not say that there will never be a change in the next hundred years, but we shall assume that there will be no change for, at any rate, a generation."
The quotation was read out by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool. Therefore, the assumption of the House of Commons in 1954 was not that judges would henceforth receive annual increments, as other people were receiving them, but that this settlement was being made for a considerable period ahead—[Interruption]—"Probably a generation" were the actual words. I could quote them, but my hon. Friend has already done so.
I am complaining that the Attorney-General quoted in aid the 1954 assessment, without giving the House the facts about it and without replying to the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool had made on the matter. It is not the case that, when the Government considered the matter, they could have said to themselves, "We have to do it in order to see that the judges are brought up to the situation provided in 1954." It was not accepted by the House of Commons in 1954 that that should be the arrangement. Those of us who are criticising this Measure are much more in accordance with the position of the House of Commons in 1954 than the present Government are.
My right hon. and learned Friend then says that this is a Government Measure, and that the Government introduce it on their own responsibility. We all know that, constitutionally that is the case, but if the Government's claim is that they are doing this purely on its merits, they have put themselves into a very difficult situation. On its merits, if we are discussing whether this is the 2018 right figure to pay the judges we have every right to discuss this matter at considerable length. There are members of the Government, I am sure, who would agree with me on these matters, because some of the present members of the Government participated in the Committee proceedings when we discussed the Judges' Remuneration Bill in 1954.
In a speech made by a member of the Cabinet—I leave it to the imagination of hon. Members to determine for themselves, or to guess if they wish, who it was—made on the question on its merits, there occur the words:In discussing salaries of this magnitude"—this is when they had the increase of 1954—in connection with judges and the Law Officers of the Crown, we are forced into our present position by the gross over-payment of those who practise the law. All lawyers are grossly over-paid. Relatively speaking, solicitors are also over-paid. It is disgraceful that the practice of the law attracts such extravagant rewards.The Speaker said:What are most lawyers doing?to which Sir Herbert Williams intervened:Everybody."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1683.]That was the standard of debate ten years ago.
The speaker on that occasion was a member of the present Cabinet, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I have no doubt that he has represented these same views in the discussions which the Cabinet have had on this matter. If we are discussing the question on its merits, no member of the Government can say that we have not powerful allies. If the Government are saying that, apart from any previous commitment and apart from any statement made by the Lord Chancellor, they are introducing the Measure on its merits, then it is part of our claim that the overwhelming majority of my hon. Friends cannot understand it on that basis. If there was no commitment at all, if—just out of the blue—this was decided, then what is the urgency? Why cannot the Government postpone it—
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman must leave the question of urgency until we discuss the appropriate Amendment.
§ Mr. Foot
I apologise, Dr. King, if I went astray. I realise that this matter would be more appropriate on a later Amendment.
The Amendment suggests that the scale of salaries proposed should be limited. That would be one way by which the Government could make a concession to the strong opinion that has been expressed on the Bill. There are other methods, some of which we will discuss later, such as the time when the Bill will come into operation.
It appeared from the speech of the Attorney-General—in the first intervention he has made in the Committee—that he reiterated the general case which he made on Second Reading for these full increases. He gave no indication that he was proposing to make any concession at all. I hope very much that the Government will not take that attitude on this question. It would be only proper for the Government to take into account the opinions which have been and are being strongly expressed by hon. Members.
Earlier the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East spoke about public opinion on this issue. I agree that we should make up our own minds, irrespective of what might be outside opinion on the matter. However, it is of some interest to note what outside opinion claims. A leading article in The Guardian this morning recalls the opposition to the Measure which was expressed on Second Reading. It refers to the fact that… the House showed an altogether understandable impatience".It goes on to ask a series of questions which should be answered before the Measure is allowed to go through—and so far we have not had any attempt by the Government to answer these questions.
We believe that the introduction of a Measure of this kind, at this time, by the hugger-mugger process which has been employed to do it is something that must arouse the protests of the House of Commons. If we were to say that a Bill of this sort—which, as we believe, had not been justified on its merits, which was not necessary on any ground we have so far heard and which, as far as we can see, could only be 2020 justified on the basis of a private commitment which, we are told, does not exist—can go through just like that, we would be failing in our duty.
I hope, therefore, that the Government will still carefully consider the representations that are being made. I hope that they will not think it right to rigidly drive through a Measure like this, insisting that every Clause as originally introduced must be accepted. If they do insist on every item of the Bill as originally proposed it will be the assumption that the whole Measure had been decided before it was brought to us. If that is the case, it is a most reprehensible state of affairs. I therefore trust that the Government will respond to the opinion of the Committee, particularly the almost overwhelming opinion that has been expressed by back bench supporters of the Government.
§ Mr. Abse
I have listened very carefully to the Attorney-General. I find it as chastening and sad, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), that I have to be so completely in conflict with the view presented by my right hon. and learned Friend. He has not presented any fresh argument why special consideration should be afforded to the judges on this occasion to justify their getting a payment which is estimated now to be clearly well above the 3½ per cent.
The first argument presented by the Attorney-General is that it is, in fact, only a 1.9 per cent. increase; that that is the compound rate. He must know that this suggestion that there should be an increase ranging between 25 per cent. and 40 per cent., in some cases, is in total breach of a clear understanding between the judiciary and the legislature, because that is a point that has to be faced.
When this matter came before the House in 1954, the words of Sir Winston Churchill were clear and unequivocal, and it is no use trying to dodge them. There was an understanding, and it was upon that understanding that the House decided to give a substantial increase. The understanding was given in Sir Winston Churchill's own words, and it was that… there should at any rate be a fairly long period, perhaps a generation, before what 2021 we now decide shall be altered, except by tax reduction"—and here let me interpolate that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has said, there has been such a tax reduction:so that those discharging these high functions, who have their whole lives to live within strict and rigid limits, should have a reasonable basis on which to work."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1061.]I want the Attorney-General to address his mind to this part of the argument: what does he consider is a "fairly long period, perhaps a generation"? It could not have been less than ten years, otherwise why should it be qualified by the words "perhaps a generation"? If he then works out the sum, if it started last year, or starts this year, can he honestly suggest to the House that what in fact the judges are receiving is merely a 1.9 per cent. increase? It cannot be acceptable.
I am not churlish in my attitude to what the judges should earn, or their value. Everything I say is said against the background of the present economic situation. I will emphasise that I think it very wrong that those who have to give leadership, those who have, and should have, great respect, should give the appearance that they are expecting different rules to apply to them. Those who administer justice must be seen themselves to be acting in a just way, and a deplorable impression can be made on ordinary folk if they believe that those in high and powerful positions abuse those positions—and, perhaps, abuse their power.
What was the Attorney-General's second argument. He suggested on Second Reading, and has elaborated on it a little this evening, that the Lord Chancellor has reason to believe that existing judicial salaries are insufficient to make certain of attracting the best of the Bar to the Bench. The truth is, is it not, that there always have been enormous differentials between the amount that could be earned at the Bar and the salaries of the judges?
Indeed, if we turn back the pages and learn of the astronomical figures which were earned by the great leaders of the Bar in pre-war years, when taxation was not anything like what it is today, it is highly probable that the differential 2022 between those leaders and the judges was far, far higher than it could possibly be today; that is if one looks at the net figure. I notice that hon. Members opposite nod agreement because it is a fact. Would they also agree that that did not deter those leading luminaries of the Bar from seeking judicial positions? Nor, judging from the quality or calibre of the present members of the judiciary, do I think that that consideration is operating today.
There have always been differentials and the status which a judge has, and the great respect in which he is held by the whole nation, is prized more than anything which any advocate, however outstanding, can attain at the Bar. So I say, we cannot be impressed by what I would call this differential argument advanced by the learned Attorney-General.
What was his third argument? He suggested that there should be no question of it being a three-and-a-half per cent. increase. It was, he said—and this, I thought, was the weakest of the arguments which he used during the second reading of the Bill—essential that these salaries should be settled at a figure which would not downgrade the status of the judges in the community. We are a status-ridden nation today, according to what we are told; and I find it an extraordinarily vulgar argument. I am very surprised to hear it from so sophisticated an Attorney-General as we have today. Perhaps money may be a matter of status in the "Jag belt", but it is hardly the sort of status we should expect to be a normality within the legal profession.
We do not compare ourselves as Members of Parliament with film stars or "pop" singers; those people may require huge salaries in order to have status, but I do not accept that such a materialistic and vulgar attitude is adopted by men who have entered into the service of the law. That is a dedication, and people have not entered the law any more than people have entered Parliament, in order to make money. That is left, as it should be, to tycoons who want to acquire companies; and perhaps some other people, but it is not the spur which brings people into this House and it is not the spur which brings people to the top of the Bar or on to the Bench.
2023 A special case cannot be made for the judges to have this astronomical increase on that basis. I repeat what I said on the Second Reading of the Bill; that the calibre of the judges does not depend on cheque books. The right hon. and learned Member who intervened spoke at some length of the attitude which should be required of everybody towards the judiciary. With that, I agree, but what is most unfortunate and deplorable is that because of the method and technique by which this Bill has become before the House, it is becoming increasingly apparent as the debate goes on that the charism of the judiciary is being affected. Surely there should be some regard and even awe for the judiciary, but it does not obtain it because of the salaries awarded to its members. It is obtained by the manner and the method by which justice is administered.
It is a great pity that all this started from a belief, not of hardship, but in a straightforward differential dispute. The Attorney-General has asked us to look back. If we ask ourselves what was the commitment of the last Government, we find that this question prompted the reply in 1954. The commitment about which we hear so much was this. In another place the Lord Chancellor was asked whether judges of the Supreme Court in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland had no increase in salaries since 1954 while the salaries of those in the lower judiciary had been increased on three, and in some cases four, occasions since that date. He was asked whether Her Majesty's Government would take the necessary action to increase those salaries. The Lord Chancellor replied:My Lords, the answer is Yes. It is the Government's intention …"—the last Government's intention—to introduce next Session legislation to provide for increases in the remuneration of the Superior Judiciary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th March, 1964; Vol. 256, c. 1130.]This arose out of a differentials dispute. It arose because, according to what the Lord Chancellor said last year, because apparently there was a feeling among the higher judiciary that their differentials were closing in. It does not reflect to their credit. Our great danger is that 2024 we may be living in a Poujadiste society. At a time when hon. Members are addressing themselves to this Amendment we must always have in mind the economic difficulties which afflict the nation. It ill becomes the mentors of society to act like a group of Poujadistes.
Who is making this demand? Where does it come from? Why is there this compulsion and urgency that at this time in the morning we have to decide that judges must have this amount? We would be naive not to believe that pressure has been applied. When we ask whether we should yield to that pressure and whether, there should be a 3½ per cent. increase, we are entitled to ask what are the motives for pushing this forward? Although the Attorney-General referred to the cost of living, which affects everyone, he on no occasion suggested that judges are suffering and enduring hardship. Despite what was said on Second Reading, is it still urged on behalf of the judges that the Government must go on with this. Are they still insisting on it? Do they not appreciate that they are provoking a most unfortunate situation?
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has appealed for second thoughts. It would be in the interests of the judges that there should be second thoughts, not only in the interests of the general economic situation. I can understand the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East having some sqeamishness about the fact that judges' salaries are discussed in this way. Some of the legal profession's etiquette has brushed off even on to me. I realise that perhaps my hon. Friend does not perhaps feel that, but he has expressed it. I do not find it pleasant to have to have a debate of this kind because I understand as a matter of taste that the right hon. and learned Member has diffidence about such open discussion.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I think that the hon. Gentleman's point of view and mine are the same, because although I expressed that view I also said that constitutionally I fully accepted that it must be discussed, since it was subject to an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. Abse
I am obliged. I still think that it could be discussed in happier circumstances. Much of the difficulty which has arisen will continue to arise if the 2025 Government seek to force the Bill through in this form at this time. There is a fifth argument. It has been a curious argument. It is the suggestion that in some way we have no alternative because we are bound. The extraordinary thing is that, although we have had a Second Reading and although we have now had hours of debate, we still do not know whether there was a binding commitment by this Government when they were in opposition. On Second Reading the Attorney-General made a vigorous and belligerent attack upon Members of the former Government and suggested that they were in breach of the understanding. He suggested that they were ratting. This may very well be true. If, as is abundantly clear, there is an overwhelming back bench opinion in this party that this is most inappropriate at the moment, what is the compulsion which is driving the Attorney-General? Is he afraid, or is anybody else afraid, that he would be regarded as being in breach of an agreement? Was there, or was there not, an understanding between certain members of the then Opposition and the former Government?
If the suggestion is that we are bound because the establishment, which is not a myth, has decided that this must be the case, that is not a palatable argument for me or for many hon. Members. The confusion over this agreement, the miasma with which it is surrounded, the ambiguity—everything seems to point to the fact that there is something tacit if there is not something overt. Everything seems to point to the fact that there are loyalties which are not loyalties as we understand them between Members of Parliament and their constituencies or the legislature. It is because of the suspicion that forces outside the House of Commons, forces which are not being articulate, are attempting to manipulate Parliament that many of us feel that we cannot possibly support the suggestion that these salaries have to be increased in the manner which the Attorney-General has urged.
This is an Amendment to which I am speaking and not one which I must necessarily support in its particular terms. The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) suggested that the work of judges was incapable of assessment in terms of productivity. 2026 I shall resist the temptation on this Amendment to answer that, because I think I should be out of order. There are other Amendments on which I hope I shall be able to answer the point raised by the Attorney-General and others and show how productivity could be increased. That aspect is not in the Bill, although it could be. All that has been said in support of the Bill so far seeks to emphasise that the Bill is being forced upon us by forces outside the normal sources.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
We have heard impassioned speeches tonight from those who are in favour of the Amendment. We have also heard reasoned arguments against the Amendment. I hope it will not be considered inappropriate if I say a few words in support of those who will abstain. This problem has been raised far above what it merits. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has made suggestions about shadows working behind the scenes. We have had implications that great pressures were applied and the suggestion that great constitutional problems are involved. None of the arguments has convinced me and I hope that in putting forward my objections I shall bring the matter into perspective.
The Attorney-General put forward an argument which was intolerably shaky on all accounts. His main argument concerned the amount of the increase. He said that compared with industry the average was a 1.9 per cent. increase and that if trade union leaders had to tell their membership that they had only achieved that increase they would not keep their jobs for very long. This is a ridiculous argument. I have been negotiating wage rates for years in the shipyards which the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) mentioned. When we discuss wages there we think of one year with another in the clear knowledge that next year or even within six months there will be a change. The great difference here is that when judges' salaries were fixed in 1954 those concerned were not thinking of a year but of fixing a level which would last for a long time.
§ Mr. Hale
I suggested to the Attorney-General that he had forgotten to remind the Committee that in 1959 a special 2027 Measure to deal with judges' pensions was introduced. When I interrupted him and reminded him that he had not yet reached that point in his speech he said that he was coming to it, but he has not yet arrived. It is important because under that Measure the pension went up to £4,000. This is a relevant point.
§ The Attorney-General
May I interrupt the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) to answer my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale)? The question of pensions comes up at a later stage of discussion of the Bill.
§ Mr. Hale
I will be most grateful if the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart will give way again and allow me to make the point that we are endeavouring to discuss the question of whether judges should have an increase on the basis of two statements by the Attorney-General that they have not had an increase since 1954. On the whole question of an increase it is relevant to take into account the fact that they had substantial increases in pension in 1959 to which my right hon. Friend has made no reference at all and about which he has been rather coy.
§ Mr. Taylor
It was a completely fallacious argument to talk in terms of a 1.9 per cent. increase. The whole point in the debate in 1954 was that it was being made clear that a salary appropriate for a considerable time to come was being fixed. Even a generation was spoken about, and to talk now of ten years is ridiciulous.
§ The Attorney-General
Does the hon. Member think that the Administration in 1954 contemplated that in eleven years' time the cost of living would have gone up by 42 per cent.?
§ Mr. Taylor
This is an even more ridiculous argument. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware that between 1945 and 1951 the cost of living went up by 6½ per cent. per year. After that it went up on an average by 4½ per cent. per year and in the last six years of Conservative rule it went up by 2½ per cent. Instead of going up at the same rate it increased far less than could reasonably have been anticipated. I will not say why that happened. But to suggest 2028 that the Government could not anticipate an increase in the cost of living is ludicrous, especially when the increase in fact was not as great as might have been expected in 1954.
In another place it was said that the previous Administration had it in mind to increase these salaries. I was not in the House at the time, but many hon. Members who were in the House could not have been aware of this intention. Certainly as a humble candidate working in a Glasgow seat, I was not consulted. I did not know about it. But in any event, surely it is for the present Government to decide what they think is the appropriate action, taking all the circumstances into account. They say that they have done so and that they are considering the matter on its merits. But I feel that the case put forward by the Attorney-General does not stand. I cannot accept it at all and I cannot support him.
On the other hand we have the arguments in favour of the Amendment, and I am in a difficulty because I cannot support them either. There were two main arguments in support of the Amendment. One was that there is no need for this increase because we have an adequate supply of judges and plenty of other people would be willing to take any vacancies which arose. It has been argued that in practice at the Bar those who may later become judges can earn as much as this and more. I am sure that that is true. But that is not an argument for the proposition that there is a danger that we should not attract the best people to become judges because in my view those people will continue to accept these positions. They feel that they are in positions in which they can use the talent, initiative and service which they are willing to give.
My argument, however, is this: is it right to take advantage of the commitment to public service which potential judges undoubtedly have in order to give them less remuneration than they would receive if they remained at the Bar? Surely that is a scandalous proposition. The same argument could be made about Members' salaries. If the salary of a Member of Parliament were £500 or £200, there would still be plenty of people willing to come here because they felt that 2029 there was a job to be done. Many people have a commitment to public service. Some could not afford to come here, but many would come here. Are we to suggest that we should take advantage of such people who can give this service on the cheap? I cannot accept that argument in any circumstances.
Another argument, advanced in particular by the hon Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), who made a splendid speech, was that £12,000 was a large sum of money for anyone to earn. We are constantly hearing figures like this, which appear to be outrageous when expressed in weekly and hourly terms and compared with the earnings of shipyard workers. But the right way to consider these figures is to take net earnings after tax, say, for a married man with two children. Looked at in that way they do not appear to be nearly as ridiculous as has been suggested.
The problem has been presented as one of constitutional importance, which I feel it is not. I shall therefore abstain. I feel that many hon. Members opposite have been annoyed by many of the things which their Government are doing. It is significant that many of the hon. Members opposite who have spoken to the Amendment have from the same benches been making the same kind of speeches criticising other aspects of Government policy. They have here taken a small item, perhaps of no great constitutional significance—one which certainly will not bring the Government down—in order to express their annoyance and regret at policies which the Government have been putting forward. If they wish to make clear their belief that the Government are not following the correct path to Socialism, this is not the kind of issue on which to make that case. We have seen the anger, vindictiveness and real disappointment of some hon. Members, but let them express it not in a case like this and not as a means of getting men to undertake public service on the cheap.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
I hope to persuade my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General—or, perhaps, the Solicitor-General, in his absence—to speak again, however briefly, in reply to the numerous speeches which have been made from both sides of the Committee since he last spoke. He did 2030 not deal with several points in his last speech, particularly the point about pensions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). My right hon. and learned Friend thought that this would be more appropriately dealt with at a later stage, but, Sir Samuel, since you and, I think, your predecessor in the Chair allowed the point to be examined at some length, it would be in order, I think, for the Attorney-General to reply on that specific point, since it must be borne in mind in relation to the size of the proposed increase. One cannot consider judges' salaries as a whole without considering whether their pension improvements have affected their general financial position. Clearly, it is relevant to this Amendment as well as to others which may follow.
From what we have been told, it seems that this is part of the legacy, or hangover, bequeathed to this Government by the last. The worst legacy that this Government inherited was, of course, the acute economic and financial crisis. It would have been perfectly reasonable, when this new approach or reminder of the last Government's views or intentions on this matter reached the present Government, for them to have said, "We may sympathise with that view, and we may have said so privately in the past, but at this time when we are calling for the greatest restraint on all sides, we are asking workers not to ask for more than a 3½ per cent. increase, and so on, it would be extremely difficult to justify granting these very substantial increases".
I hope that the Government will respond to the appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) to think again about this matter. I do not know whether the judges usually read the Commons HANSARD, but it might be a good idea if the Attorney-General were to send copies of tomorrow's HANSARD by special messenger to the various judges concerned—if he can afford to do so, after the increases in the cost of special messengers imposed by the Postmaster-General—so that they may read the debate at their leisure during the weekend. I am sure that these high-minded men, as we have been repeatedly told they are, will be so embarrassed by this discussion that they will unanimously refuse to accept the proposed increase.
2031 I see that my right hon. and learned Friend has just returned to his place. I have just asked him if he would seriously reconsider this matter and consult the judges again in the light of tonight's debate, because if all we have heard about the splendid public spirit, integrity, general spirituality and what not of the judiciary is correct, I feel sure that at a time of great national stringency they would not wish to be singled out for this gigantic increase.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Is my hon. Friend not aware that he is just putting exactly the point which was contained in the Solicitors Journal and in the leading article of last Sunday's Observer and that this is not a left wing revolt?
§ Mr. Driberg
This is not, of course, a specifically left wing criticism of the Government. I do not think any hon. Member of this Committee, on whichever side he sits, would think, for instance, that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is an extreme left winger, and it was he, perhaps, who started us all off on this course. Of course it is not a left wing revolt or any nonsense like that. It is a solemn reminder to the Government that we hope for a more egalitarian society and a more egalitarian and democratic approach to this kind of problem.
I was impressed, as always, by the tone and the intelligence of the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney, but as to the content of his argument I could not help feeling—I wish my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department would not distract the learned Attorney by his wit just when I am trying to address him directly. I could not help feeling that the learned Attorney's speech was in content plausible rather than convincing, and I hope that he will not think it too unfair or too demagogic if I say it would not seem more convincing at a trade union conference or a gathering of shop stewards, or at a Labour Party conference, and he knows this as well as I do. I am sorry for him, having to get up and make that sort of speech. I do not blame him personally, of course. This is part of the damnosa hereditas bequeathed to us by the last Tory Government. This Government should 2032 shake off these legacies and not feel obliged automatically to honour whatever commitments were given by the last Government in totally different circumstances.
I thought that my right hon. Friend the learned Attorney did slightly overstate his case when he represented the judiciary as an uniquely underprivileged class of citizens. I cannot think that he really believes it himself. Whether one bears in mind the point about pensions, the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, which clearly is relevant to this discussion and not only to some future Amendment, or if my right hon. and learned Friend will consider that, after all, there are quite a number of people living on small fixed incomes who certainly have not had a steady increase every year, and, indeed, even accepting his 1.9 per cent. argument—which is, of course, mathematically valid on paper if he ignores the pension aspect referred to by my hon. Friend—even if we accept that argument, would he really say that every worker, every salary earner, every wage earner in this country has had a 1.9 per cent. or more increase every year in the last 11 years? I doubt it very much.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) referred repeatedly to the charisma of the judiciary. I am not sure that they are all as charismatic as all that. I think that on the whole they are a much better lot then they used to be. Certainly we have a very high regard for the Lord Chief Justice himself, who acquitted himself admirably in another place only this week. On the whole, I think it can fairly be said that the judges now are at any rate a considerably less savage bunch than they were 20, 50, or 100 years ago, just as the bishops are a rather less savage bunch than they were 20, 50 or 100 years ago.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. I think that we are getting away from the question of a 3½ per cent. increase.
§ Mr. Driberg
Sir Samuel, I am obliged to you for your corrective reminder, and I would, with respect, merely point out that you have allowed almost unlimited praise of the judiciary to flow from my hon. Friends and from hon. 2033 Gentlemen opposite, and I thought that a very mild qualification might also be in order.
I only say in concluding that part of my remarks, and indeed in almost concluding my remarks altogether, that I would not have voted a penny increase in the salary of the judge—now retired, fortunately—who gave a most disgraceful summing-up in the case of Christopher Williams, about whom I have a Question down for answer by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary shortly.
But if it be true, as the Attorney-General argues, that the best of the Bar have always been attracted to the Bench, it seems odd, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool said, to reconcile the argument that these are the noblest and highest minded of mortals with the purely financial argument that they will not be attracted from the Bar to the Bench unless we give them a terrific lot more money. I do not follow that argument. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends says that they are only human, but they have been represented as almost superhuman.
We are living, not in a democratic society, but in a hierarchical society of many inequalities. It is, or ought to be, the function and the object of a Labour Government to reduce, not to enhance, or increase, those inequalities. Labour Governments after the war, and this Government also, did, and are doing, their best to reduce inequality by fiscal means. This Bill represents to me one of those quantitative differences that become qualitative differences because they are so extreme. It intensifies the gross inequalities of our society, and that is why I implore the Government to think about it again, and to consult the judges themselves this weekend.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward Short) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause, put, accordingly and agreed to.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I beg to move, Amendment No. 8, Clause 1, in page 1, line 10, after "increased", to insert "or reduced".
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think that with that Amendment it will be convenient to discuss Amendment No. 10, Clause 1, in page 1, line 22, to leave out from "section" to end of line 24, and Amendment No. 11, Clause 1, in page 1, line 22, leave outbut not so as to reduceand insert "including the reduction of".
§ Mr. Lewis
I am obliged to you, Sir Samuel.
This Amendment is entirely different from the previous one. Subsection (2) says:Her Majesty may at any time by Order in Council direct that any of the salaries to which the foregoing subsection applies shall be increased to such amount as may be specified in the Order.My Amendment is suggesting that, in addition to increasing, the order should be permitted to reduce. We heard on Second Reading and we heard just recently how difficult it has been for the judges. We have heard about the economic situation confronting the country, and that the First Secretary hopes to get the cost of living down. I had hoped that my right hon. Friend would have been here, at least for the last Amendment and this, as they concern him vitally, because, if the Government's policy of getting prices down and reducing the cost of living succeeds, reductions in wages and salaries may be suggested.
On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) spoke of the lobbying of judges in the 1930s, and it was either my hon. Friend or my hon. Friend for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) who said how they came crying and begging, and not only begging but insisting—putting on pressure—that they and they alone of his then Majesty's subjects should not have reductions made in their salaries.
I hope not, but in the autumn we may find ourselves in very serious economic trouble. I shall not argue whether it is the fault of the previous or the present Government, though I am sure where the fault lies. The Geddes axe which fell in the 1930s might fall again if—I was about to say "God forbid", but that would not be Parliamentary—the party opposite returns to office. I think that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has made 2035 that suggestion. Some of the big financiers, some of the big Tory supporters and some big vested interests have already suggested that it would be a good thing to have cuts in wages and salaries.
If the Bill goes through as drafted, it will mean that the judges alone, by Act of Parliament, will be entitled to have their salaries increased but never reduced. That is a deplorable situation. It certainly does not apply to any section of the manual, industrial or technical and administrative workers.
The argument of the Attorney-General about the 1.9 per cent. may be right, though I do not agree with him, but surely he cannot contend that the poor judges, with salaries of £10,000 or £12,000 a year, should for all time be entitled to claim by Act of Parliament that they alone should have legislative rights to maintain their salaries, even if the cost of living should drop by 10, 20 or 30 per cent., or even if the ordinary worker is compelled to take a reduction in his wages or salary.
We ought to be told more about what the judges do for their salary. I am told that, like Members of Parliament, they start at nine o'clock and work for any hours of the day or night. On the other hand, some of my legal friends tell me that that is not so and that they work from ten to four. I am told that they work for every day of the week for every month of the year; but some of my legal friends say that they work for only two or three months of the year.
These honourable and learned and noble judges may feel that they are working too many hours and it might be suggested that their hours are reduced. If it were proposed that their hours should be reduced from 20 to 10 a week, it would not be possible for their salaries to be reduced accordingly and they might work for only one or two months a year and get £10,000 or £12,000 for one or two hours a week.
I have heard it said—and I have not heard it denied—that the Lord Chancellor has said that he will not accept any Amendment to the Bill on pain of resignation. If he wants to resign, let him resign. There are plenty of honourable and legal gentlemen who would do the job at the present salary. However, 2036 he could accept this Amendment which does not cut the salaries of judges. There is no question of any restriction until the next election. After all, the Government did not even have the decency to mention their proposals in the Queen's speech. If the Government are to take power by Order in Council to increase the salaries of judges to any figure they like—and it may be by 40 per cent. and not just 25 per cent. next time—no hon. Member will have the opportunity to suggest that there should be a reduction.
The Amendment is a reasonable and necessary safeguard. We may not always have this great legal reformer, Lord Gardiner, the Lord Chancellor who is such a wonderful man. We may have a Lord Chancellor who is not so good, or even one who is better. Another Lord Chancellor may suggest that the salaries of judges should be reduced because, fortunately, people are becoming better and crime is decreasing and a reduction of salary for less work would be better than putting judges on pension. But there will be no power to do that if the Bill goes through as drafted. I am being helpful and not in any way critical of the Government or Opposition. This little Amendment will give the Government the opportunity to deal with judges on the same sort of basis as the rest of the community.
§ 1.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maxwell (Buckingham)
I rise for two reasons. First, I most certainly agree with most of my hon. Friends who have demonstrated tonight that the rise in judges' salaries is most untimely having regard to the severe economic crisis through which the country is passing. The timing is certainly not very good and, having regard to the circumstances in which the country finds itself, I would rather that the Government had invited the judges to wait a little longer until the economic situation had improved.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has made a great deal about the things he has heard about the Lord Chancellor. I invite him to deal with something that I have heard. That is, that the reason why he has taken up this matter in the way he did has something to do with the Boundary Commission redistribution between East and West Ham—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. J. C. Jennings)
Order. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) must keep to the very narrow Amendment. Boundary Commissions and matters pertaining thereto certainly do not come within the Amendment.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I understood the hon. Member to be rising to a point of order, not to ask a question.
§ Mr. Maxwell
In view of the statement made by my hon. Friend, I of course withdraw and accept what he has said.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Member must conduct himself in a seemly fashion. He has had a good spell.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Member is out of order in speaking from the Bar. Mr. Maxwell.
§ Mr. Maxwell
It is, of course, a fact that the judges' salary increases could easily have been postponed. As, how- 2038 ever, the Government have chosen not to postpone them, although I object to the fact that they did not, and certainly the judges could easily afford to have waited a year until the economic situation improved. I think that my hon. Friends are pressing the matter too far by taking so much of the time of the House of Commons in the way they are doing and going over the points time and time again. I appeal to them to call it a day.
§ Mr. Hale
I have not heard the same points being made time and time again. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) raised a point which, I thought, was important. He raised the point that the Bill provides that if it be passed, the whole question of judges' salaries be committed in future to the Privy Council, who shall be able to make an order increasing their salaries but shall not have power to make an order reducing them. I am bound to say that I have not heard such a proposal before in the 20 years that I have been in Parliament about any people at all. I must say, with very great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), that I resent an intervention in which, first of all, he tried to open up a scandalous personal attack on the character of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and then made a general attack on everybody who has taken part in the debate. I tried—and had some tributes from the other side of the Committee when I was trying—to treat this as a serious debate, in which we were unhappy about being compelled.
I say in his absence that I disagreed with much of what my hon. Friend said. I understand why he has retired and I hope he will come back. He has been unjustly treated in this, as I am sure the Attorney-General would agree. I know the sort of reference which was to be made, but scandals should not be brought on to the Floor of the House, when they are demonstrably untrue and when the slightest inquiry would have made clear that they were untrue, without a little trouble to find out whether they are true or not.
§ The Attorney-General
I have no reason to believe that was was alleged against my hon. Friend was true.
§ Mr. Hale
I know that, as we all know, the Attorney-General is a gentleman? We knew that he would say that, and that when he says it it is true. The slightest examination of the facts would have made this clear.
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North for the fact that what I said in his support was in his absence and that what I now say in criticism is in his presence. He is not correct to say that the judges have an easy life. The real trouble in a judge's life is Parliament, which goes on passing fantastic Bills which are incredible, having debates on which Amendments are shoved in at three o'clock in the morning. A judge called upon to administer the law as made by this particular Parliament has a fantastically difficult task. I do not believe that it is true that this is easy.
I have some reservations about divorce, which I cannot go into now without being out of order. I believe that marriage has nothing to do with judges at all, but Parliament committed them the task. It is a private arrangement, and it is scandalous that judges should ask about disclosing names of co-respondents and so on. It is a private matter and the question of whether one enters into a written contract or a formal contract or a religious contract is a matter for the individual conscience. My missus had me tied up by a capable Nonconformist clergyman of excellent character. I went through it with some reluctance and I urged that some other method should be adopted.
I want to say something seriously, and I do not want to joke about this. I have found that the House never could realise the services which an independent judiciary have paid to liberty and the service they have rendered to freedom in trying to ignore the hopeless ignorance of the House in relation to some matters of liberty. In the 20 years that I have been here, the House has been constantly passing Bills trying to pot somebody for something which they do not like. This passion for putting people in prison permeates nearly all legislation. We are hardly able to pass a Bill without creating a new crime. People can now be prosecuted before the courts for throwing a bus ticket in the main street. I got 2040 pinched myself for stopping outside a well-known library and was told that I was not at a loading bay. I have been trying ever since to find out from the Ministry of Transport what a loading bay is.
All these duties are sometimes performed by the lower judiciary, but the higher judiciary have had, running through the whole of their history, two quite contrary trends. The first, of course, was, over the years, their hopeless ignorance about industrial conditions. Every modern judge would admit that their record in relation to matters like volenti non fit injuria and common employment was quite appalling, mainly because most of them were Tory squires who knew nothing about industrial conditions. About the defence of liberty and the question of mala in se and the creation of the doctrine of "there is no wrong without a remedy", the reputation of the judges is high. In a calculated indiscretion recently, Lord Denning said that he thought that the judges were a dashed sight more competent to legislate than Parliament was. On issues like that, I am completely in his favour and agree with him. Seated beside me—my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot)—is a former client of mine. Jack Cade is running through his belly. It is nice to know that some people, even my hon. Friend, call on us in time of difficulty. I know, when I look at my hon. Friend, that he is absolutely reliable—it is a sort of reflex condition—when it comes to matters of liberty.
It is suggested that this matter should be dealt with by the Privy Council. We know what that means. Let us be pragmatic for a moment. I descend from the lofty heights to which I have with difficulty risen and consider what this means. It means that on 1st August of some year two more or less anonymous gentlemen trot up—or down, according to where they are—to Balmoral, pop into a private room, have a sherry and, a little piece of paper having been prepared, while spending five minutes in that inner sanctum they pass an order. Incidentally, I have described this process in one of my more unrecognised writings.
What happens then? Everyone says, "Jolly good. The House of Commons will not be sitting until 15th October. The M.P.s will have forgotten all about it 2041 by then. It is most unlikely that any of them will remember to put down a Prayer." The order having been passed, and that having been said, they discuss the grouse moors, the conversation perhaps resulting in them doing a bit of shooting—and then they go off to yield to the night life of Drumnadrochit.
We have the highest authority for saying that the judges will not submit to having their salaries varied by order of the Privy Council. This is precisely the method adopted in 1931 when, single ham-handedly, an order was passed saying that there would be a 20 per cent. reduction in the salaries of certain highly paid Crown servants. The Ministers of the day—not the most capable—declared that, in their view, the judges were Crown servants. I am bound to say that at that point the judges were undoubtedly on admirable legal and constitutional ground, for not only were they not Crown servants but there were a lot of articles by Professor Holdsworth and others, a lot of wonderful discussion and academic propositions—The Times pointed out what Henry IV had said about it—on whether the Crown was supreme or not.
What did it all prove? Certainly that judges are not in the position of postmen. I am not being derogatory about postmen. They are Crown servants, and that is a very good thing, too. They get pensions and so on. I do not think that anyone has ever disputed the fact that the judges were on good ground. But, having got themselves on good ground, they then behaved shockingly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) quoted from Mr. Hewson's book, to which Lord Sankey wrote a memorandum. Lord Sankey it was who said that they were frothing at the mouth. We must be clear about this. I wonder whether the judges ever said, "They cannot reduce our salaries, but if they want to increase them we would not feel that that was an infringement of our prerogative"? The memorandum of the judges is inscribed in the OFFICIAL REPORT of another place. I will not be unfair to the Committee. It was a long memorandum so I will quote only some of it. I will be happy to quote it all if I am asked to do so. It stated:'If the salaries of the Judges can be reduced almost sub silentio'"—2042 and at least we can say that nobody can complain that it is being done sub silentio at the moment.'by the methods recently employed, the independence of the Judicature is seriously impaired. It cannot be wise to expose judges of the High Court to the suggestion, however malevolent and ill-founded, that if their decisions are favourable to the Crown in revenue and other cases, their salaries may be raised and if unfavourable may be diminished.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 27th July, 1933; Vol. 88, c. 1210.]1.30 a.m.
It is, of course, quite easy to be facetious about all this, but it is a very important point. It is a point of serious import for liberty. Over the Channel, they say that the juge d'instruction is a law to himself. One juge d'instruction said that he could summon Napoleon III and cross-examine him without interference by anyone, but no one tried it. This is, in theory, correct. In practice, the Minister cannot sack him, but he can pack him of to some lousy place in the Pyrenees where conditions are bad and he is never heard of again, which is the object of the exercise. One recalls the famous Bishop of Frejus, who used to say "By the wrath of God, Bishop of Frejus." Geographically, one can discipline them, if one cannot do so by more normal means.
What we are here doing is precisely what the judges protested about. They did not say, "You can't reduce our salaries." What they said was, "You can only reduce them by Act of Parliament." It was pointed out that if any judge cared to issue a petition of right, the matter would have to be decided by the judges, and they would have to decide whether the Act of Parliament really did reduce their salaries, or whether it was invalid.
This was something of a dilemma, and I hope that it will not occur again, because Lord Sankey recorded that Mr. Justice Macnaughton said that he would present a petition of right, and would not be treated as an office boy by the Home Office. He thought that the Government were kicking the bottom of the judges, which was undignified. Lord Sankey recorded that Mr. Justice Macnaughton seemed to be in such a condition of indignation some months afterwards that he was a little distressed.
2043 I do not raise this matter in order to prolong the discussion. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham that I am just as anxious to get home to my wife as he is—I hope that he is happily married—but that I took the precaution of inviting my wife out to breakfast with me in case I was delayed.
I raise this as a matter of constitutional principle, and I say quite seriously to my hon. Friend that I would much prefer to be talking about byssinosis. If I could pick my subject I would rather give myself a few minutes on byssinosis than deal with these high constitutional issues on which, I humbly admit, I am incompetent to speak with authority. But I feel that I must speak, and I hope that I have not wearied the Committee unduly by these brief observations.
§ The Attorney-General
It would be a fascinating exercise to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) in his resurrection of the interesting events of 1931. I admire, as the whole Committee does, his formidable memory of what occurred. The issue as it was seen by the judges—if I may say a few words about that—was that they deemed that the status and independence of the judicature was involved, because an Order in Council directed to be made in respect of "persons in His Majesty's service" was deemed by the Government of the day to cover them, and they took the view that the words "persons in His Majesty's service" was not a correct description of their position and that the Order in Council was a nullity in their case.
But, at the end of the day, the judges' salaries were cut by 20 per cent. Perhaps it is right to put the record straight to this extent, at any rate, that the judges concerned volunteered to withhold that percentage from their salaries, and that was done. I am sure that my hon. Friend, with his customary generosity, would want that part of the record to be made straight.
This Amendment arises from Clause 1(2) wherebyHer Majesty may at any time by Order in Council direct that any of the salaries to which the foregoing subsection applies shall be increased to such amount as may be specified in the Order.2044 Of course, that will involve the machinery of having a draft of the order previously approved by the affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, and it will be a Resolution for increases of salary only. The suggestion that it should be possible, also, for the Executive by Order in Council to reduce the judges' salaries would raise a most serious constitutional principle, because it would place at the disposal of the Executive a power which it has not exercised and, in fact, has not had for about two and a half centuries; namely, by some quick measure to penalise judges who may have acted distastefully to the Executive by reducing their salaries.
This would introduce a most dangerous principle when Parliament itself has taken the most elaborate steps for the protection of the independence of the judiciary. It has taken those steps in various ways. For instance, judges' salaries are charged on the Consolidated Fund so that they do not fall within the scrutiny of this House, and criticism of a judge can only be confirmed by way of expression through a substantive Motion of the House. If this power was given to the Executive by means of some quick instruction through an Order in Council for the reduction of salaries, we should be granting a power of a most dangerous kind, and I accordingly advise the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The rest of the Amendments to Clause 1 are not selected. In my opinion the principles of Clause 1 have been adequately debated and, under the powers given me by Standing Order 47, I shall put the Question, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill" without further debate.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.