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Mr. Skinner : There used to be a story, which the hon. and learned Gentleman destroyed tonight, if it had not already been destroyed, that members of the old Liberal party were radicals, or "wadicals" as "Woy" used to call them. The hon. and learned Gentleman now says that it is all right to hammer the dockers and every working class group in England but that the lawyers must be left alone.
Mr. Carlile : I do not think that I mentioned the dockers, but let me clarify what I am saying to the hon. Member for Bolsover. It is important to leave the independence of lawyers alone and not to take them under Government control.
There is another reason why the Lord Chancellor may need an increase in salary. His job as a judge will be that much more difficult. The proposals in the Green Paper would entitle lawyers to full advocacy certificates not on the basis of their competence--there would be no test of competence--but because they had stood up in court and done a given number of a particular type of case, however, badly. That is what the Green Paper amounts to : there is no quality control whatever. Judges in this country--the Lord Chancellor earns his salary as a judge, the head of the judiciary--depend upon receiving guidance as to the applicable law from those appearing in front of them. If the quality of those appearing in front of them is not as rigorously controlled, both by competence and the market, as it is at the moment, we shall have a judiciary that is embattled, oversized and probably therefore less competent. The Lord Chancellor's budget will increase exponentially and that, I suppose, will force us to recognise, on that cynical basis, that he will have to be given an increase in salary.
I trust in what we heard from the Lord Chancellor in the other place last Friday, that if there is to be legislation in the next Session, careful consideration will be given to all the points put before him. If he is to be worth the salary that will, no doubt, be voted to him tonight, he must pay careful attention to those points and, above all other things, to the independence of the law. 12.3 am
I shall support the order increasing the Lord Chancellor's salary, although I fully agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) that there are failings in the Lord Chancellor's Department. I shall support the increase because the present Lord Chancellor is the first since the 1980s to make the people and the legal profession respectively sit up and think about what they want from the profession and how consumers' needs can best be met.
One important point seems to have been overlooked in the debate. The Lord Chancellor merits his salary because he has written three excellent Green Papers. I hasten to add that they are all green, which means that they are all being consulted upon. It can only be a welcome development for this country to discuss what we expect from our lawyers and how they ought to deliver their services. There are many ways in which the present legal system is inadequate. Access to the Bar is at present pitifully small. When I was a young barrister--no, I am still a young barrister. When I was training there were 113 people on my course, but a mere 23 got pupillage. Of those, only four got chambers and those four were sons of judges or barristers who were already in Chambers. We must look at the way in which access to the Bar is awarded. It would be most welcome if people could become solicitors more easily and compete with those whom the
Column 701Bar has selected as being the most appropriate people, so that those who are the best advocates can represent the public. Much has been said about the Lord Chancellor not meriting his salary because of the effect of the Green Papers on the Bar. But why is it expected that the Bar will disappear? Have we no confidence in our Bar and in its containing the finest legal professionals available?
About 80 per cent. of solicitors in this country are in partnerships of fewer than four people. All those solicitors, throughout the country, will need specialists on whom they can call, so there will be a market for the Bar. Why, therefore, is it assumed that all the barristers will be snapped up by big firms in the City? Large firms such as Coward Chance have already said that they are not interested in entertaining the prima donnas of the Bar. They are not interested in paying the sort of salaries that those at the top of the specialist Bar want to command and they are not interested in recruiting those who are not specialists.
The most important thing about the proposals in the Lord Chancellor's Green Papers has been the welcome fact that for the first time we are talking about the legal system meeting the needs of the consumer. Until recently the word "consumer" never appeared in the legal profession, but surely the whole system should be pointed towards the consumer. Many consumers who come to my surgeries seem to think that the legal process in this country is a lottery in which only the rich or the most determined take part, and I think that they are absolutely right. I hear nothing from my constituents about the legal system, apart from the fact that it is uncertain and that it takes a long time.
Most ordinary people do not think that the present legal system with its two tiers of solicitors and barristers is meeting their real needs in the best and most appropriate way. We all know that at the junior end of the Bar the consumer is being asked to pay for a two-tier system but is taking delivery of only one tier. When we are instructed to appear in the market towns of England we are given a piece of paper with perhaps little more on it than a chap's name, and we are expected to do what used to be called a "dock brief"--in other words, to find out what the case is about, do the necessary and send the brief back with a suitable fee on it. That is not what the consumer deserves and it is not what the consumer should have. That is why the Lord Chancellor's Green Papers are welcome.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : I am horrified that the law of England still has barristers who, without proper instructions, nevertheless appear for clients, which is in contradiction of their duty. I trust that my hon. Friend never has.
I am interested to know whether my hon. Friend receives complaints about the legal profession at his surgery, as I frequently do at mine, and how many he has had from people who feel that they have been let down by a member of the Bar and how many from people who think that they have been let down by solicitors, who will be all that they have if the reforms are passed.
Mr. Devlin : It may be unbelievable to hon. Members in various parts of the House, but the fact is that there are complaints about barristers and complaints about solicitors--perhaps more about solicitors. People do not see the present system as delivering the services that they need.
The Lord Chancellor deserves his salary because he sat down and thought carefully about the future of the Bar. He has made the barristers respond. He has made them think out some good reasons for carrying on in the way that they do. It is very interesting to note, in the Bar's response to the Green Papers, that it is now putting forward a plan for a wonderful new scheme under which a barrister will have to take the next brief, regardless of whether it is a legal aid case, provided that it is within his area of speciality. One Left-wing barrister wrote to me saying how welcome that was. When I was at Bar school--not many years ago--I was told that that rule existed already ; it was called the cab-rank rule.
It is about time that we looked carefully at our legal profession. The Green Papers have opened a welcome debate, and in that respect by itself the Lord Chancellor merits his salary.
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West) : May I say to the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) that, after 25 years of dealing with constituency cases, I do not pretend to have a statistical breakdown of the grievances against solicitors and the grievances against barristers. However--and in this respect the hon. Gentleman is right--a point of difference occurs to me immediately : most people making complaints against solicitors turn up at my surgery, whereas those making complaints against barristers normally correspond by letter, by courtesy of Her Majesty.
The first two speeches in the debate--those of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) and of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence)--gave very different perceptions of the Bar. The hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross gave the perspective north of the border. We recognise his particular knowledge and experience there. All that I as a Welshman can say is that I am overjoyed at the thought that a fellow Celt will do a bit better out of the system than perhaps his predecessor managed to do, though both of them seem to be doing pretty well. I know that the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Burton was intended to be dispassionate and objective. That is why he did not declare an interest. Perhaps it is well that we have a special exemption for lawyers during the next couple of months, because it would take up too much of the time of this House if every lawyer speaking had to declare his interest before getting down to what he wanted to say. There is quite a substantial built-in lobby in the House. However, I watched the departures, and, having heard the hon. and learned Gentleman make his case, and having watched that case gradually disappear, I became increasingly convinced of the irrelevance of barristers in a successful court case. I started off far more sympathetic to the cause that I think the hon. and learned Gentleman was advocating than I was by the time he had finished his advocacy. Indeed, he put forward some rather novel propositions. I had to pass a tissue to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) when the hon. and
Column 703learned Gentleman was talking about all the poor barristers who will be homeless. The solicitors will have roofs over their heads, and they can have cars, but the poor barristers will be under the arches.
Mr. Lawrence : The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. The point is that, under these Green Paper proposals, the cost of a barrister will rise to pay for overheads--cars, pensions, holidays with pay--so that the cost to consumers will rise. The barristers will be in clover because they will be working for firms of solicitors, with steady, substantial incomes guaranteed against inflation. That is the point. It is much more in our personal interests to have the Green Papers than not to have them, but it is in the interests of the country not to have them.
Mr. Williams : I congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman on the fact that he managed to convey, in his second presentation of his case, a degree of clarity that he failed to achieve in his first presentation. Indeed, on the first occasion he became so preposterous that he could even envisage a situation in which someone would ask for the assistance of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross before the courts. I should have thought that that was self-evidently irrelevant, in that such a person could get off on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
The basic proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Burton was strange. He said that the Lord Chancellor should not have an increase in salary because he was upsetting the legal profession. I hope that tomorrow when my hon. Friends the Members for Bolsover and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), always aware of the mood of the House, table a motion that the Secretary of State for Health should have a reduction in salary because he is upsetting the doctors and a motion that the Secretary of State for Education and Science should have a reduction in salary because he is upsetting the teachers the hon. and learned Gentleman will be the third person to sign them.
There will not be an official Division on this issue, but we are an independent-minded party. The Lord Chancellor has been berated by his honourable colleagues because he is trying to attack the restrictive practices in his profession. In the 1970s a commission was set up to look into restrictive practices in the legal profession. It is recorded in the minutes that the secretary of the Law Society came before it and said that all the restrictive practices were in the public interest. Imagine if the National Union of Mineworkers or the Transport and General Workers Union put forward such an outrageous proposition.
The Lord Chancellor deserves some credit for opening up issues that need to be discussed. At least he has opened a public debate, not one in a closed group or for a small select commission. We all have a right and an opportunity to take part. We shall be convinced even further of his genuineness if he now gets rid of another restrictive practice, the strange one that we are debating here tonight. There seems to be no logic whatever to defend the principle that the Lord Chancellor should have £2,000 more than the head of the judiciary, the Lord Chief Justice. The argument is that it is necessary because he is the head of the legal system. The Prime Minister is head of the Civil
Column 704Service, yet she receives £21,000 less than the permanent secretary, or the official head of the Civil Service. The Secretary of State for Defence is the ultimate decision-taker for the military services, yet he receives £34,000 less than the Chief of the Defence Staff. Any Secretary of State receives far less than his permanent secretary. Where, then, is the logic?
I remember when I was Minister of State at the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection and the head of my private office was leaving. The morning he was leaving he said, "I have not dared tell you previously, but tomorrow, when I take up my new job as a senior principal, I will be receiving £600 a year more than you are receiving as Minister of State."
Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West) : The hon. Gentleman is right. The Secretary of State for Defence does not lead the troops in battle, but the Lord Chancellor sits as a judge. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of that? He is a judge and assists as a judge in the House of Lords.
Mr. Williams : I do not remember--perhaps the hon. Gentleman will remind me--when the Chief of the Defence Staff has led any troops into battle. The moment that the hon. Gentleman can convince me that that is the case I will concede that he has made a point. It is absurd that the Lord Chancellor receives £37,000 more than the Speaker of the House, who also has responsibilities--within his salary payment--as a Member of Parliament.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : As the hon. Gentleman probably wants an answer to his question, I can tell him that I believe that the last Chief of the Defence Staff to lead his troops into battle was Butcher Cumberland, who did us such harm in Scotland.
Mr. Williams : In that case, I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will concede that the argument put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) hardly has much relevance in today's circumstances.
Several hon. Members have referred to the question of relating the pay to productivity and performance. No one will pretend that there is an easy measure, but let us look at the simple fact that in the past five years-- since December 1983--the Lord Chancellor, with this increase, will have received increases in his salary of 56 per cent., 11 per cent. a year. We all know that throughout that time the conditions in our prisons, especially of remand prisoners, have been getting worse and the delays in having cases dealt with have been getting longer.
Column 705Until last year the explanatory note used to contain the following sentence :
"The salary quoted represents a maximum and may not be the actual salary claimed."
In other words, some previous Lord Chancellors did not claim their full salary. I believe that, in the mood of the Lord Chancellor's proposals for a complete review of the restrictive practices within the legal profession, it would be suitable for this Lord Chancellor to say that he, too, would not accept, even though it has been granted--as his predecessors reserved the right to say--the increase until the waiting lists have been eliminated.
Question put :--
The House divided : Ayes 110, Noes 7.
Division No. 152] [12.22 am
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Buck, Sir Antony
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Fishburn, John Dudley
Glyn, Dr Alan
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Column 706Hague, William
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Miller, Sir Hal
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Mitchell, Sir David
Moynihan, Hon Colin
Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Porter, David (Waveney)
Powell, William (Corby)
Sackville, Hon Tom
Shaw, David (Dover)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. Alan Howarth and
Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Wareing, Robert N.
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Bob Cryer and
Mr. Dennis Skiner.
Question accordingly agreed to.
That the draft Lord Chancellor's Salary Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 14th March, be approved.