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Supply—Civil Service Estimates

Volume 203: debated on Tuesday 26 July 1870

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SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £29,615, to complete the sum for Law Charges.

remarked, that although the Government were reducing the Army and Navy Estimates, the law charges were higher than ever, and he thought the Government ought to look closely into this matter. He asked last year what was the cause of the large amount of fees to counsel; and he was told that it was on account of the Fenian prosecutions. This year the charge for prosecutions was as high as ever, and yet the Fenian prosecutions had almost ceased.

said, he would be the last man to wish that the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and the Queen's Advocate should not be properly remunerated. This year the total law charges included in the Civil Service Estimates amounted to £106,000. He thought it desirable that these Officers should be salaried, and he would not object to their receiving very high salaries; but he would have all the fees carried into the accounts of the State. When the Foreign Office required an opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, all the papers connected with the subject were placed in a sack, and the Law Officers had to wade through this enormous amount of chaff in order to select the small portion of wheat, and then to give their judgment. The whole system connected with these matters was behind the age, and ought to be referred to a departmental committee, with a view of securing efficiency combined with a considerable economy.

remarked that no legal business was so troublesome as Government business, none was so badly paid for, and none so little sought after.

explained that a great part of the charge for law and justice arose under statute; and the in- crease crease was accounted for by a series of fresh, charges, such as the cost of the Courts of Chancery and Bankruptcy. It was quite true that where the Foreign Office submitted cases to the Law Officers of the Government all the papers on the subject were forwarded. Such a course might be attended with inconvenience, and he was not prepared to say that there was not a case for inquiry.

remarked that the Foreign Office was differently situated in this respect from the other Offices. There was a counsel to the Colonial Office, and also to the Home Office; but there was no special counsel for the Foreign Office. In dealing with many delicate questions, such, for instance, as those arising out of naturalization, it was thought better to submit the whole of the papers in the case to the legal adviser instead of drawing up a case. This course, however, did not entail any additional expense.

said, there could be no doubt that the remuneration of the principal Law Officers for business actually done for the Government in cases sent by the Foreign Office was not in proportion to the amount of labour done. He did not, however, mean to say that, upon the whole, the remuneration of those officers was not adequate; nor was he at all opposed to making inquiry into the subject. If the remuneration for what was done for the Government was compared, in detail, with the remuneration arising from what was done for private persons it would be found to be very inadequate. The way in which that inadequacy was made up was by means of patent fees, which did not involve great labour, but which brought in large emolument. With respect to the mode in which the Foreign Office cases were stated, he had never, while he was one of the Law Officers, been dissatisfied with it. He thought that if the Law Officers of the Crown were to have the responsibility of advising the Government in difficult matters, it was convenient that they should have the whole of the papers placed in their hands, so that they might form the best judgment in their own minds, instead of taking the result of the facts as seen through the mind of another man.

agreed with the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) as regarded not only England, but also Ire land. Government business was far worse paid than private business.

complained of the heavy fees charged to poor patentees, and suggested that a professional staff should be appointed to assist the Attorney and Solicitor General to complete patents without cost to poor inventors.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £120,633, to complete the sum for Criminal Prosecutions.

complained of the travelling expenses of Clerks of Assize. These gentlemen were only six or seven in number, and their travelling expenses exceeded £3,000.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) £120,331, to complete the sum for the Court of Chancery.

(4.) £42,315, to complete the sum for the Common Law Courts.

(5.) £52,377, to complete the sum for the Banknrptcy Court.

(6.) Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £353,632, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the County Courts."

expressed his satisfaction that the vesting of Admiralty jurisdiction in the County Courts, in which he had been instrumental, had proved so successful. The amount of new business transacted had been considerable, and the business, upon the whole, had been managed in a satisfactory manner. The provision had proved specially valuable in the case of foreign shipping and of small ship-owners and barge owners and fishermen, who had been enabled to get their claims quickly settled. He having been instrumental in imposing upon these gentlemen extra duty, he had thought it right to bring their case forward. There were only 14 of the Judges who had had any material extra duty cast upon them by their Admiralty jurisdiction; but in the Liverpool district, within the last 11 months, there had been 150 of those causes. He thought, therefore, that the Judges were entitled to some extra remuneration. He would add that the Admiralty jurisdiction of the County Court Judges was exercised mainly for the benefit of the poor.

said, he thought that it I was a very dangerous thing to ask for increased pay for Judges whenever their duties were increased. In Liverpool, with all the increase of business, the County Court Judges had not sat more than six months in the year. There were 59 County Court Judges in England, and they received on the average more than £1,750 a year each, a sum which was amply sufficient. Instead of saving money by not filling up vacancies in the Superior Courts, he thought that they might reduce the number of County Court Judges to 40, and then they would not have to sit as many days in the year as the Superior Judges sat.

observed, that the general subject of County Court Judges was not now under consideration, and therefore it was not an opportune time to discuss it. He considered that the Legislature was entitled to add to the business discharged by all the Judges of the land any other business of a similar nature which these Judges were qualified to perform, and which they had time to perform; and he could not think that whenever it was proposed to give them additional jurisdiction there ought to be a demand for increased remuneration. Besides when equity jurisdiction was conferred upon them, what was then considered a permanent settlement as to the salaries of the County Court Judges was made. If the Legislature threw on the Judges business of a totally different nature from that which they had been in the habit of performing, and involving other qualifications than those which they might be supposed to possess, the case would be different, because that would be asking them to enter into a substantially new contract. He did not think, however, that the Legislature was ever likely to do anything of that kind.

complained that there was £15,000 charged for incidental expenses, and £14,704, or £250 each Judge, for travelling expenses. That was a monstrous sum, and required some explanation. He begged to move the reduction of the item by a sum of £5,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Item of £14,724 for the Travelling Expenses of Judges be reduced by the sum of £5,000."—(Mr. Lusk.)

complained of the number of County Courts in Scotland. There were 80 in that country, while the number in England was only 59. England would have 560 if she had them in the same proportion as Scotland enjoyed them. It was true that the Scotch County Courts possessed a criminal jurisdiction; but this fact was not sufficient to account for the very large number of those Courts.

agreed that salaries should not be increased simply because the work had increased. The County Courts were established as Courts for the poor man; but they had become Courts for giving rich men cheap law. At first their jurisdiction extended only to debts of £20; that had been increased to £50. Since then they had got an equitable jurisdiction, an Admiralty jurisdiction, and a jurisdiction in bankruptcy; so that a totally different class of men were now required for Judges of County Courts from those first appointed, and who, at that time, were equal to the duties which they had to perform.

said, the use of those Courts by rich men was no objection to them, as he thought that they ought to be open to all classes. He hoped that there would be some diminution in the number of public officials, with a view of meeting more satisfactorily the adequate wants of the public. It would be better to pay a small number of men whose time would be fully occupied larger salaries than to have a larger number on smaller salaries whose time was not fully occupied.

denied that the Admiralty jurisdiction of the County Courts was designed for the benefit of rich men. The High Court of Admiralty was one of the most expensive Courts in the kingdom, and it was in the interest of poor men that an Admiralty jurisdiction was given to the County Courts. It was, he thought, the duty of the Government either to relieve those County Court Judges of a portion of their labours, by a re-adjustment of their Circuits, or to increase their salaries.

said, the real question to be considered was this—when they had enormously increased the responsibilities and duties of the County Court Judges, whether the salaries were sufficient to draw from the Bar men of sufficient standing and ability to discharge those duties.

strongly urged upon the Government the justice of the claims of the County Court Judges to an increase of salary, on account of the many onerous duties imposed on them since the first establishment of these Courts. The number of days that a Judge sat was not the criterion, but the duties which he had to perform.

said, he thought that the principle laid down by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. West) appeared to him to be the true principle on which the Committee should proceed with regard to the County Court Judges. If they required more arduous duties to be performed, and a greater amount of ability than those Judges at present possessed, it would be reasonable to increase the salary in proportion to the extra work and acquirements which were expected.

said, that two appeals had been made to him by the hon. Member for Kingston-on-Hull (Mr. Norwood) and the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Alderman Lusk), and, though he was not able to accede to either, he thought the appeal made by the latter was the least unreasonable of the two. He believed that no palpable addition to the number of their days of sitting had followed from the imposition of Admiralty jurisdiction upon the County Court Judges. At the same time, he must decline, on the part of the Government, to enter into the question of the amount—whatever it might be—of additional labour and responsibility which might have been thrown on those officers, because judicial officers were retained and paid by the State for the whole of their time, their energies, and their services; and it was scarcely consistent with their independence and the nature of their duties that claims should be put forward for an increase of their remuneration. The opinion expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) would, he was sure, commend itself to the approval of the Committee. He agreed with those who held that such salaries ought to be given as would induce able and experienced men to accept them, and he appealed to the House whether, with the salaries that were given, there had ever been experienced a difficulty in getting competent men to accept them. He was not prepared to say that the amount of the travelling expenses could not be reduced; and that matter might be a fair one for consideration, but they could not be cut down so largely as the hon. Member for Finsbury proposed; and he presumed that the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion. With regard to the item of £15,000 which had been complained of, no less than £8,000 of it was for postages, and another £5,800 for the conveyance of prisoners to gaol.

regarded these payments for travelling expenses as an injudicious mode of dealing with judicial officers, and referred to the unseemly controversies into which not County Court Judges only, but the Judges who tried election petitions were brought with the Treasury about miserable items of travelling expenses, as illustrating the unsatisfactory character of that arrangement. Where a large trust was reposed an adequate salary should be given, and in fixing its rate they should have regard, not only to the amount of duty to be performed, but to the standard of character and fitness required for its creditable performance. To be allowed to charge for travelling expenses struck at the first principles of judicial independence, and was unworthy of the House of Commons.

expressed himself content for the present with the discussion he had elicited, and withdrew his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(7.) £62,020, to complete the sum for the Probate Courts.

(8.) £9,200, to complete the sum for the Admiralty Court Registry.

(9.) £3,570, to complete the sum for the Land Registry Office.

objected to this Office, observing that it was quite useless, and hoped that it would be reduced.

said, that two or three years ago an indirect promise was made that it should be ascertained whether this Office could not be amalgamated with some other. There could, be no doubt that the Office had been a failure, because it was ineffectual for its purpose, and while the profession generally had sot themselves against it, the Office had not been advantageous to the owners of land. The amount of the officers' salaries was fixed by the Act which created the Office, and therefore it was impossible to reduce the Vote; but if the Office could not be amalgamated, it would be more economical to abolish it and give some compensation to the officers for the loss of their posts.

admitted that the Office had not been extensively used. It was not popular among professional gentlemen, because few of them liked to advise their clients to incur the possible risk of discovering, by the investigation which must be made, technical flaws in titles which were substantially good; and such was the extraordinary system of conveyancing under which we lived, that there were very few titles, in which some such difficulties might not arise, or at least be apprehended as capable of arising. But the Committee had not now to consider the repeal of the Act which created this Office. He himself believed that it contained the germs of usefulness, and that it would eventually lead to the simplification of titles; while the opposition to it might, perhaps, not be wholly disinterested. He was told that the Lord Chief Baron had personally, and without the assistance of a solicitor, passed through that Office the title to some land in which he was interested at a very insignificant expense. He (Sir Roundell Palmer) would have been himself very glad to register the title to an estate that he bought, but he felt it necessary to wait until some special conditions had worked themselves out; if he lived long enough he should still be desirous of bringing it under the Act: and other people were, probably, in a like situation. Before many years had elapsed the House would have to take further steps towards the simplification of the law of real property, and then this Office would prove useful.

said, there was much justice in the criticisms which had been passed on this Office; but he hoped that hon. Members would not persevere in their endeavours to break it up. The Office was founded on the Report of a Commission of which Lord Westbury, the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Spencer Walpole), and himself were members. Their object was to make the title to land as clear as the title to stock. The measure failed because Lord Westbury deviated from their Report, by insisting that the title to land should show all the transactions that had taken place upon it. This was as fatal to simplicity as if it were required that the books of the Bank of England should show all the transactions that had taken place with regard to stock. It was with great sorrow that he found the Office had not been successful; and it was quite right to say that the public did not get value for the money which was expended upon it. A Commission had been appointed to consider the subject, consisting of learned conveyancers, presided over by the Master of the Rolls, and it had come to the conclusion that the deviations from the former system were all wrong, and approving of that which had been adopted by the Government. A Bill had been prepared to give effect to their recommendation; but, owing to the extraordinary pressure of business this Session, they had not had an opportunity of carrying that Bill through the House If hon. Members would be patient, he trusted that another Session would bring the Bill before them.

said, he thought the Office might be constituted on the principle of the Landed Estates Court, in which one-fifth of the land of Ireland had been sold. Perfect security was afforded, and the whole community derived great advantages.

Vote agreed to.

(10.) £16,899, to complete the sum for the Police Courts (London and Sheerness).

(11.) £145,803, to complete the sum for the Metropolitan Police.

asked what proportion of the charge for watching and protecting the Houses of Parliament was borne by the metropolitan police rate and what proportion by the State?

said, that the sum of £2,050, voted by the House yesterday, was for the police who watched the two Houses by night. In addition to these there were two inspectors and 39 constables employed about the Houses of Parliament for keeping order and protecting Members, at a cost of £4,319. Of that sum the proportion borne by the Treasury was £428 10s., leaving upon the metropolitan rate the sum of £3,890. He admitted that the subject required reconsideration by the Lords of the Treasury, with a view to there being an increase in the number of the force available for the protection of the metropolis generally.

reminded the Home Secretary that the Houses of Parliament contributed nothing towards the rates, and hoped that the subject would receive consideration.

In reply to Mr. ASSHETON CROSS and Dr. BREWER ,

said, with respect to habitual criminals, the expression, "supervision," was incorrect. The fact was that the Habitual Criminals Act provided not so much for a supervision by the police, as that those who came under the operation of the Act should be deprived of the advantage of the presumption of innocence which was enjoyed by other citizens. He had intended, but for the pressure of Public Business, to introduce a Bill to amend the Act, so as to make the supervision of the police more complete. He was of opinion that, in addition to the security already provided, it should be enacted that persons subject to supervision should report themselves to the police whenever they left or arrived at any district; that they should, in fact, be put in the position of holders of tickets-of-leave. As to the metropolitan police force, arrangements had been made for giving all the members of that force one day's holiday in every month, and the number of the force would be virtually increased by 900 men under that arrangement. The increased rate of 3s. a week to the sergeants would be a great encouragement to the whole force, because a man of good character and proved efficiency would become a sergeant in five years.

approved of the holiday granted to the force, for it was very essential that the duties of the police should not be too heavy for them. With regard to other changes made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the management of the police, he would not quarrel with them, but he would watch their effect with some anxiety. As to the police employed in and about the Houses of Parliament, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that their payment was more an Imperial than a local question. The very best men were picked out for that duty, and the Treasury, instead of contributing only a small sum towards their payment, ought to pay, if not the whole of the amount, at all events a very large share.

said, he had understood that the object of the registration of criminals provided under the Habitual Criminals Act was to render it easier to trace the various crimes committed by any one man for which he had been convicted, and in that way to assist the operations of justice in a more effectual manner. There were two different classes of persons in the country; first, those who had been brought up to a life of crime; and, secondly, those who in a moment of temptation or intemperance committed some offence. With the latter they desired to deal in as reformatory a spirit as possible; but with the former class it would be impossible to be too severe.

said, the object of his hon. Friend would be better obtained by means of photographs.

, believing that the Chief Commissioner of Police had the superintendence of cabs, wished to know whether they might expect any improvement in these vehicles by the time they returned to town? In Leeds, Liverpool, and other provincial towns the cabs were superior to those in London, although the fares were exactly the same.

gave a denial to the last assertion, remarking that the Town Council of Leeds had allowed the fare to be raised from 9d. to 1s. a mile. With regard to Liverpool and Manchester, the fare was 9d. a mile in one of those towns and 1s. in the other. It was true that a new class of vehicles had not yet been produced in the metropolis; but great vigilance had been exercised in rejecting all the inferior cabs. During the inspection last June more than 1,000 cabs were rejected, and the men in charge of the stands reported that there had been a marked improvement both in the vehicles and in the horses. As long, however, as the public would only pay 6d. a mile, they could hardly expect to get a much better class of cabs.

said, that there were 8,883 policemen in London, maintained at a cost of about £800,000 a year. He believed that only 5,900 were available for duty in London, and they were at present completely overpowered by the criminal classes. A much better system might be inaugurated if the men were better paid; if they were engaged for short periods with the option of re-enlisting; and if the length of service to entitle them to a pension were reduced from 30 to 15 years. Having been instituted as a civil body, he complained that they were subjected to too much drill, and this he attributed to the military tendencies of their officers. Good cabmen who had not been convicted of any offence should have some distinguishing mark, as compared with men who had committed any offence which a cabman could commit.

remarked that some absurd misstatements had been made respecting the increase in the military character of the police. In point of fact, the police were not drilled so much now, when they were under the command of a military man, as they were when they were commanded by a civilian. A certain amount of drill was obviously necessary, as the police were often called upon to act in a body against large mobs. In fact, drill only took place during the six summer months and in suitable weather—the men on duty by day being exempted, and the result was that the men were only drilled for about 16 hours in the whole year. He ventured also to say that, judging the police by any possible tests, instead of being overpowered by the criminal classes, their state was never more satisfactory than at the present time.

Vote agreed to.

said, that as the time was now come in which it was stated that the Census Bill would be brought on, he begged to move that the Chairman report Progress.

said, he never intended it should be understood that the Census Bill was to come on at half-past 11.

declared that Government had, through the medium of their "whip," most distinctly pledged themselves to bring on the Bill at that hour, and he had come down to the House specially to take part in the discussion. The Clerk Assistant, at the Table, informed the House, That Mr. Speaker was prevented by indisposition from resuming the Chair this evening. Whereupon Mr. Dodson, the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, took the Chair as Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order.

The Committee report Progress.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;

Committee to sit again To-morrow.