HC Deb 07 July 1836 vol 34 cc1312-4

On the motion of the Lord Advocate, the House resolved itself into a Committee on the Court of Session (Scotland) Bill. The clauses as far as Clause 16 inclusive, were adopted.

On Clause 17, which relates to the appointment of an Extractor General at 500l. a year, and an assistant at 300l. a year, being proposed,

Sir William Rae

expressed his strong objection to the clause, as tending to entail upon the public a great and unnecessary expense, inasmuch as there were already four clerks of Session, receiving 1,000l. a year each, and having little or nothing to do. Why these two officers, with monstrous salaries, should be added, very greatly excited his curiosity and astonishment. Formerly, the business was so heavy that an increase of officers was required, but at present a reduction, ought to take place in consequence of the decrease of the business. He moved the omission of the clause.

The Lord Advocate

reminded the right hon. Baronet, that he had himself when in office appointed four clerks or extractors, whose salaries amounted to 450l. a year each, making a total of 1,800l. per annum, drawn from the public money. Now he the (Lord Advocate) proposed to remove those four extractors, and to establish these two new officers in their stead, by which means a saving of 1,000l. a year would be effected.

Sir William Rae

said, that when he came into office he found six clerks, and, on account of the decrease in the business, he reduced the number to four. Since that time, by means of many improvements which had been introduced in the proceedings of the Court, the business was still further decreased, so that it could be easily per formed by the clerks of Session, whose duty it originally was. He thought, the whole of these officers might now be removed, and on this point he expected the support of the hon. Member for Middlesex.

Mr. Hume

said, he would support the Lord Advocate upon the principle of economy, because he was going to effect a saving of 1,000l. a year.

Sir George Clerk

wondered why the hon. Member would not go further, and join his right hon. Friend in omitting the clause and getting rid of the expense altogether.

Mr. Hume

said the principal reason why he supported the clause in its present shape was, because it was founded on the recommendation of the Commissioners.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he wished to ex plain the grounds upon which he should support the amendment proposed by the right hon. Baronet. It appeared that originally it was the duty of the clerks of Session to prepare the proceedings of the Court, they being officers perfectly con versant with all the forms and practices thereof. At that time the documents and extracts to be so prepared were exceedingly voluminous, and assistants were provided. The labour, however, having been reduced, his right hon. Friend reduced the number of extractors; the question now was, whether the business was so reduced as to come within the capabilities of the clerks of Session, and to justify a further reduction in the number of these extractors, or their total removal. It was admitted on all sides that those clerks were not over worked, and that they were well paid. And it also appeared that they were sufficient to perform the duty. A stronger case must therefore be made out to induce him to support the appointment of two new officers.

The Committee divided on the clause— Ayes 53; Noes 34;—Majority 19.

The remainder of the clauses were agreed to.

Mr. Gillon

rose to move a clause, of which he had given notice, the object of which was to disable Judges of the Court of Session from sitting in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and also to provide that those learned persons be not members of any mercantile company, There were, he observed, several objections to their occupying seats in the General Assembly; one of these was, that they there met on terms of perfect equality with the youngest advocate belonging to the profession, and they were thus exposed to frequent collisions with persons junior to them in age, and much inferior in rank; but a still stronger reason was this, that in the Court of Session they might be, and indeed often were called upon to revise the proceedings of the General Assembly, and to decide upon them.

The Lord Advocate

did not see any reason why a subject of that sort need be made the subject of a legislative enactment. It must be well known to many hon. Members then present, that Judges had often had seats in that House without its being found to interfere with their judicial duties. At present there was but one Judge of the Court of Session who be longed to the General Assembly; for that learned individual he entertained the highest respect, and he was quite sure that the performance of one class of his duties never interfered with that of the other. With only one Judge, then, in the General Assembly, it was hardly worth while to found on that a Parliamentary proceeding. Doing so would seem to imply that the Judges of the Court of Session did not so far defer to public opinion as to abstain from connexion with matters inconsistent with their judicial situations.

Clause withdrawn.

The House resumed.