HC Deb 04 August 1876 vol 231 cc561-4

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, explained the nature of the Sheriff Courts, pointing out that they were important, bringing, as they did, the administration of justice to the doors of the less wealthy classes, who could not go to the Superior Courts. He did not intend to proceed with the clauses extending the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts to real property, which he would take up next year. The Bill before the House, therefore, simply aimed at reforming the procedure of those Courts, and applied the improvement effected in the Court of Session to the Sheriff Courts. [The right hon. and learned Gentleman read a communication from the attorneys in Glasgow, expressing approval of the Bill, and showing the character of the measure.] It was important, he said, in the interests of Scotland, that the Bill should pass, and, if desirable, be amended in Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)


in moving, as an Amendment, that it was inexpedient to legislate on this matter without extending the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts, said, he must remind the House of the circumstances under which a Bill similar to this was brought in last Session by the Lord Advocate. He himself had then a Bill before the House for extending the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts to questions of heritable right, and he had been induced to withdraw that Bill on the pledge of the Lord Advocate to carry that reform in a Government Bill. The Lord Advocate had failed to carry his Bill last year, and the present Bill was its successor. The hon. and learned Lord now proposed to carry his Bill only after striking out the jurisdiction extension clauses, and when all that remained was some clauses to amend procedure, probably very good in themselves, but certainly not the main object of the Bill. The Sheriff Courts had an unlimited authority respecting personal property, but could not interfere with real property) and the effect of that was that great injustice was done to certain suitors by cases being unnecessarily taken to Edinburgh by the wealthy suitor and to the prejudice of the poorer. He objected to that part of the Bill relating to the extension of jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts being struck out of the Bill for the present Session. They might have the Lord Advocate's pledge that he would embody the provisions with regard to jurisdiction in a Bill next Session, but they could not depend on the Lord Advocate's pledges. They had had two years' experience of them, and they had found that they were not to be relied upon. He did not for a moment mean that the learned Lord was unwilling to redeem his pledges, or made them without the fullest intention of redeeming them; but he seemed to have no weight with the Government. The Government did not allow him any weight or say at all, and it seemed as if Scotland would not get any legislation unless Scotch Members adopted the principle which had been so successfully adopted by the Irish Members—form a Home Rule party, and begin to agitate and unite, and give the Government all sorts of trouble and factious opposition. When the Scotch Members did that, no doubt they would be a little better attended to. He was willing to withdraw his opposition to the second reading of the Bill if the Home Secretary would give Scotch Members a pledge to see that the Lord Advocate next Session brought in a Bill to extend the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts with a Government pledge to do their best to pass it. If he did not receive that pledge, he should divide the House, although he was sure to be defeated, and he should continue his opposition to all the future stages of the measure.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to legislate on this matter without extending the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts,"—(Mr. Anderson,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, it was no fault of the Lord Advocate that he had been obliged to drop the question of jurisdiction. It was only from extreme pressure that the Bill had been curtailed, but that portion had been retained which was the most important, and which was very much needed. As to the extension of jurisdiction he admitted that time was required for con- sideration. He was therefore in favour of the postponement. The other parts of the Bill were generally approved of in Scotland, and he hoped the second reading would be taken pro formâ. He had consulted with the Lord Advocate, and he would undertake that the right hon. and learned Lord should bring in a Bill next Session dealing with this question of jurisdiction, and pass it through if possible.


said, there was a general concurrence of opinion in favour of the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts being extended, and he would refer in proof to the Petitions which had been presented from Scotland in favour of it. They amounted to 46 in number, and among the Petitioners were the principal Chambers of Commerce, and only three Petitions were presented against it. These were by solicitors and writers of the signet. But the general community were in favour of that principle. He complained of the manner in which Scotch Business had been treated during the whole of the Session, because it had created general displeasure both amongst the Members of that House and in Scotland.


said, there was no one he knew of in Scotland who would object to the Sheriff Courts having the same power respecting real property as the County Courts had in England. He should like to see a discreet Bill brought in next Session to extend the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts in Scotland to the same extent as the County Courts in England.


rejoiced that there was a prospect of the improvement in the administration of the law in the Sheriff Courts, Scotland.


said, he was satisfied with the pledges given by the Government, and would withdraw his Amendment.


said, he had a Motion on the paper to the effect that the Bill be read a second time on that day three months, but he would not bring it forward.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.