§ (The Lord Advocate, Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
§ [BILL 209.] COMMITTEE.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(The Lord Advocate.)
MR. FRASER- MACKINTOSH, in rising to move
That no measure affecting the Sheriff Courts can be satisfactory unless provision be made for the abolition for the double sheriffship,
said, that though the Session was far advanced, he hoped the House would listen to the remarks Scottish Members had to make upon that very important question. It was a question which for many years had excited a great deal of interest in Scotland; and if it were necessary for him to establish this, it could be shown by the records of that House, for during every Session of the present Parliament there had been Bills upon the Table bearing the name of the Sheriff Courts. They were now in their fourth Session, and unfortunately hitherto the matter had made very little progress. The Notice he had put upon the Paper was a very important one in any measure dealing with the Sheriff Courts of Scotland. These Courts were analogous to the County Courts in England; and he believed it would be thought very anomalous when the County Courts were established, to have had two county Judges, both of equal position, but one sitting in judgment on the other. It became necessary for him to explain how it was that in Scotland they had two sheriffs, and it was incumbent for him, though he would be very brief, to
go back into the origin of the institution of Sheriff Courts. After the insurrection of 1745 and the abolition of what were called heritable jurisdictions in the hands of the large landowners, an Act of Parliament was passed putting every county in Scotland under the hands of a sheriff, who was required to be a member of the College of Justice in Scotland, and who had control of both civil and criminal procedure. It was necessary for the Judge to reside in Edinburgh, and attend the sittings of the Supreme Court. He could not, therefore, always be in the county looking after matters there, consequently he had the power of appointing a substitute. The distances between Edinburgh and many parts of Scotland were very great, and it was not an easy matter at that period to traverse them. The sheriffs themselves were very ill paid, and being obliged to pay the substitutes out of their own pockets, the consequence was that the substitutes were men of very inferior position altogether, and they were allowed to transact other business as well. He recollected himself seeing a gentleman, who had then retired, but who had previously filled the somewhat incongruous offices of sheriff substitute and of Collector of Customs. But in course of time the grievance of having men of this stamp came to be so great that no substitute could be appointed, unless he were a person of legal abilities, and, in fact, had the imprimatur of the Lord President and the Lord Justice Clerk. What had been the effect of those rules? It had been that the sheriff substitute in many eases was a member of the College of Justice, and an equal with the person who appointed him. His decisions and his legal knowledge were as good, and in many cases better, than those of the sheriff himself. The consequence of having two sheriffs was that in the most trifling cases, when the defendant had no substantial defence, appeals were made from the sheriff substitute to the sheriff principal, and the delays that took place on the part of the latter in hearing those appeals had been the cause of the very greatest dissatisfaction in Scotland, not only among the procurators, but also with regard to the public. He held that that was a matter which must be dealt with. The salaries of the sheriffs principal were a very heavy burden upon Scotland, and, in his
opinion, they were of no value whatever. In the second place, they were the cause of very great delay. At one time, when there was a sheriff in every county, it might have been alleged that it was right to keep up the separative and independent judicial status of the county by having a sheriff principal and a substitute. But some years ago it dawned upon those whose business it was to look after the legal business of Scotland that it was quite impossible to keep up this fiction of having a sheriff in every county, and accordingly, instead of taking up the matter and abolishing the sheriffs principal, as they ought to have done, they placed several of the smaller counties under one head sheriff. What he said was, that the moment they broke up the entirety and distinct independence of the county, the necessity for the sheriff principal thereby ceased to exist. With regard to the Bill before them he had not so much to complain of what was within the Bill, as of what it wanted. He thought it fell very far short of what the people of Scotland required, and what they were led to expect from the Speech from the Throne. How could it be pretended that the local Courts could not satisfactorily adjudicate on questions affecting heritable property or rights to the value of above £10 or £15 a-year, when they could deal with personal property without any limit. Another reason why the Bill fell very short of what was expected was that it might have been very well at one time for the Sheriff Courts to be limited in their powers. The remarks he had made as to the sheriff substitutes at one time, would also apply equally to the procurators who practised before the Courts. In the same way that great progress had been made in raising the status of the sheriff substitutes, the same process was also going on with regard to the procurators. In the present day it was necessary for a person desiring to be admitted as a procurator in the Sheriff Courts that he should have had the benefit of a liberal education, and that he must also have undergone a very strict examination. Speaking for himself, as perhaps the only Member of that House who had practised as a procurator in the Sheriff Courts, he said with confidence that the procurators were perfectly able to deal with the question of heritable rights to a. much greater degree than the Bill
before them warranted; in short, there should be no limit whatever. He was sorry to say that the Bill fell very far short of the expectations of the country, and he therefore begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ DR. CAMERON, in seconding the Amendment, said, that if he had merely a theoretical objection upon any one particular point, he would not think it necessary to oppose the progress of the Bill; but what he really did object to was, that all the propositions which the Bill embodied were directly in opposition to the recommendations of the important Commission which, a few years ago, inquired into- the whole subject. The proposals in the Bill were three-fold. It proposed, in the first place, to alter the mode of patronage in the appointment of sheriffs substitute. In the second place, it proposed to alter the mode of appointing the procurators fiscal; and it proposed, in the third place, that there should be a very limited extension of the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts. Now, he said that in all these three points, the Bill was diametrically opposed to the recommendations of the Royal Commission which had inquired into the whole matter. To show the importance that should be attached to the question, he need only read a few of the names of distinguished Commissioners. They were Lord Colonsay, Lord Justice Clerk Inglis, Lord Young, and Lord Moncreiff. There were also several English jurists of great eminence upon the Commission, and they made a most careful investigation into the whole subject. Now, as to the first point, the Commission recommended that the appointment of the sheriff substitute should be allowed to remain as it was. There was a great deal of apparent force in the argument that Judges should all be appointed direct from the Crown; but the relations between the sheriff and the sheriff substitute were of a very peculiar description, and after looking into the whole matter calmly and dispassionately, not merely that Commission, but a Commission which preceded them in 1834 came to the conclusion that the patronage of these offices should remain in the hands of the sheriff. The Royal Commission of 1870 in their Report stated that it had been suggested to them, as it was to the Commission in 1834, that the 87 sheriff substitute should no longer be appointed by the sheriffs, but by the Crown, and they had come to the same conclusion as that of the former Commission. The strongest testimony had been borne to the excellence, impartiality, and purity of these appointments; and if the two offices were to be maintained on their present footing, they thought it for the public advantage that the sheriff, who had the strongest interest in procuring the services of the best qualified man, should continue to have the power of appointing the sheriff substitute— subject, of course, to the revision of the Court above. The next point in the Bill was that of the appointment of the procurators fiscal, who were at present appointed by the sheriffs, and whom the Bill proposed to render the nominees of the Crown. Upon that point, again, the Bill went directly against the views of the Commission. The Commission had approved of the present mode of appointing these officials and the conditions under which they held office. What, then, was the object of bringing in a Bill at this period of the Session in order to make these changes? He had no opinion on the matter personally; but he thought there lay upon the Government, who wished to force this Bill upon the House, the onus of showing that the Commission were wrong and that they (the Government) were right. He held in his hand a report by the sheriffs, who expressed the same opinion as the two Commissions. The third point in the Bill was the extension of the jurisdiction of the Sheriff Courts, and he must say upon that point that the necessity for some reform had been repeatedly enforced. It was a very evident anomaly that the sheriff, who was entitled to deal with questions involving personal property to the extent of £100,000 or more, should be prevented from giving a judgment in any case affecting heritable property. But even upon that point the Bill did not set about the reform in the proper direction. In the first place, the extension of the jurisdiction which the Lord Advocate proposed was practically useless. It was so small that it was not worth having; and, in the second place, the limitation which it proposed, and which he believed was intended to be adhered to, was directly in the teeth of the Report of the Royal Commission again. What did they say upon this 88 point? They said it was suggested as a remedy that the jurisdiction should be limited to property of a trifling amount. It was, however, found impossible to fix upon any satisfactory criterion of value. If jurisdiction in questions of heritable right and title were to be conferred upon the Sheriff Courts, the majority of their number recommended that it should extend to all cases irrespective of value. Had this been proposed, he (Dr. Cameron) would have been content to overlook the more or less theoretical objections which he had raised on the other points of the Bill; but as it went so completely against the recommendations of the Commission in every proposal, and as there was no immediate demand in Scotland for legislation on the subject, he did not see any possible reason for pushing the Bill through at this time of the Session. Therefore, he had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Inverness.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no measure affecting the Sheriff Courts of Scotland can he satisfactory unless provision he made for the abolition of the double sheriffship," —(Mr. Mackintosh,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
considered that the hon. Member for Inverness had raised the question as to whether sheriffs in Scotland should be abolished. That had long been agitated in Scotland, and, in his opinion, the people of Scotland had not yet made up their minds on that point. The ultimate number of sheriffs would be decreased in Scotland as vacancies occurred, and the Bill at least paved the way for the abolition of the sheriff principal in course of time, if the people of Scotland should arrive at one mind on the subject. Now, with regard to the first part of the three into which the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had divided the Bill, that proposition did seem to him to be a reasonable one. Why should sheriffs principal have the appointment of substitutes? Surely, the Crown could make as good an appointment as the sheriffs themselves; and, besides, if there were 89 a vacancy in the office of sheriff principal, the sheriff who succeeded would have to go on with the sheriff substitutes who remained. Then it was said that political interests would have weight in these appointments in the future; but had not political influence weight in these appointments in the present? Did not a sheriff principal in nine cases out of ten appoint a member of his own Party to be his sheriff substitute? It seemed to him that the Crown was just as likely to make good appointments as the sheriff in that matter. He did not wish for one moment to put it forward that the sheriffs had not made good appointments in the past. He believed that in most cases the sheriffs had exercised their patronage exceedingly well; but it seemed to him that on constitutional grounds as they received their pensions from the Crown, they should be appointed by the Crown. Then with regard to the procurators fiscal, the sheriffs had a great objection to the Crown taking these appointments into their own hands; but, at the same time, their position at the present moment was a very anomalous one. They were serving two masters. They were appointed by the sheriff, and had to take his directions in the investigation of crime. But the moment the prisoner was committed for trial, they became the servants of the Lord Advocate, and had to take their directions from him. He therefore thought, upon the whole, that the alteration of the patronage of the procurators fiscal from the sheriffs to the Crown was a good one. With regard to the second part of the Bill, he did not profess himself to be a great judge of the matter, but he knew there was considerable difference of opinion with reference to it. The opinion of the Commission was that there should be no limitation as to value. Whether that were right or not, he hardly considered himself competent to judge; but there was no doubt that in their Report they took a very decided view on the subject, and they thought that, as there was an appeal at any moment to the Court of Session, so that the case could be taken immediately into the hands of that Court, that there was no reason for this change.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that before making any remarks on the Bill, of which he approved generally, he thought it right to state that the business of Scot- 90 land on this, as on many other occasions, had been unduly pushed into a corner. They were told a few days ago by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that an important Bill—the South Africa Bill—would be taken to-day; and it was only between 1 and 2 o'clock that morning that the House was told for the first time that the Sheriff Courts Bill would be taken. He read in the morning paper of this arrangement. Had he not noticed the statement there he would have been elsewhere that day, and he thought it was wrong to press on the Business of Scotland in this way without due Notice, as if it were of no importance whatever. There had been no proper Notice given, no courtesy shown to Scotch Members in this matter. As a consequence, there were only, he believed, at that moment about 18 Scotch Members present, though probably a much larger number would have been present had they known that the Bill was to come on. Some Scotch Members had asked the Government to give a Saturday Sitting for the Roads and Bridges Bill, which they thought far more important than the measure before the House, but the Government said a Saturday could not be given. For this measure a Saturday had suddenly been given, unasked for. In the views taken by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Eraser-Mackintosh) he most cordially concurred. He thought no real reform of the Sheriff Court could be obtained that was worth much unless the double sheriffships were abolished. He would only continue the sheriffs of Edinburgh-shire and Lanark, where there was a large amount of business. There were now only 15 sheriffships extant instead of SO, and over three statutory sentence had been pronounced. That would reduce the number to 12. Deducting Edinburgh and Lanark there would only be 10 sheriffships left with which to deal. He thought the House would feel that the large majority of these 10 should not exist. The Government were exceeding penurious in regard to Scotland when any grant for a useful purpose was wanted. Here were 10 sheriffships which the people of Scotland would be glad to dispense with as vacancies occurred, if the emoluments were applied to other purposes more useful. On the general scope of the Bill he was sorry to be obliged to differ from a Gentleman 91 whom he so much respected, and with whom he so often acted (Dr. Cameron). In 1869, he advocated all the principles which were embodied in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Inverness, and in this Bill. Speaking of the sheriffs' substitute, he then said—The judgment of those gentlemen who hear the oases and examine the witnesses, and know the character of the persons on the spot, may be reversed by the principal sheriff resident in Edinburgh, who has never seen the witnesses and knows nothing about the case except what he has learned by reading the evidence laid before him. On an appeal to a higher court it is often found, as might be expected, that the judgment of the principal sheriff was wrong, and that of the local sheriff right Many parties in Scotland think these non-resident sheriffs ought to be abolished altogether, and that the position of the local sheriffs ought to be somewhat improved, and put on a more permanent and respectable footing than at present.That was just what had been done by the Bill, in so far as regarded the sheriffs' substitutes. He went on to say on that occasion—I admit there is a difference of opinion, and some advocate the non-resident sheriffs, but to my mind the disadvantages of the present system greatly outweigh its advantages.These opinions, expressed eight years ago, have been confirmed since. He had heard them discussed in public and in private, and the more he had heard the more he had been confirmed in the opinion that they were right. He had also expressed the opinion at that time that the sheriff-substitutes should be appointed directly by the Home Secretary at a salary to be fixed by him. Having held these views then, and holding them still, he was pleased to see that the Bill substantially embodied them. He also approved of the proposals of the Bill with reference to the procurators-fiscal, thinking that an office of such importance as theirs should be in the patronage of the Crown. One could easily understand the sheriffs disapproving of this proposal; but the largest Law Body in Scotland—the solicitors of the Supreme Court—had approved a few days ago the proposal to extinguish the patronage of the principal sheriffs, and to place the appointment in the hands of the Crown. Placing the opinion of the 15 sheriffs against that of the 300, 400, or 500 procurators before the Supreme Court of Scotland, he thought the weight of authority would be allowed to the latter. 92 As to the small power given to the Sheriff Courts on questions of real property, he remembered expressing the opinion once before when the question came incidentally before the House, that it would be wise on the part of the Home Secretary to make one uniform law for England and Scotland. The Bill did embody that principle, as he understood, and the law was made identical in the Sheriff Courts of Scotland with that which applied to the County Courts of England. He had no bigoted feeling on this subject, and was open to have the question discussed and decided on any other limit that might be thought more advantageous. One point was of considerable importance. He could not find that any appointment of a sheriff principal had been made for the last 20 years that had not been a purely political appointment. It would be a serious matter if this rule were continued under the new system, in the appointment of 57 sheriff substitutes, who exercised both civil and criminal jurisdiction, and he would urge that at some future stage of the Bill, if not to-day, a distinct assurance on the part of the Government should be given that no such rule should be followed in future, but that the Crown would endeavour to find the best men who were willing to accept the office at the salaries appertaining to them. If the present Government gave such an assurance he had no doubt that a similar assurance would be given by any Government that followed, and the result would be that Scotland would have a set of County Court Judges who were above the suspicion of being connected with politics; and they would in this way be better qualified men, and would be looked up to with greater respect, seeing that they were selected because of, their supposed merits and not because of any Parliamentary or other influence which they might possess. He would support some of the Amendments on the Paper; but he hoped the Bill in its main features would be passed into law, and that it would be the foundation of a new County Court system from which the principal sheriffs would be abolished, and under which the sheriffs-substitute would have their status and emoluments much improved throughout Scotland.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
trusted that the House would allow the Bill to 93 go on without further delay. The hon. Member who had proposed the Amendment had raised a question beyond the scope of the Bill. He (Sir Edward Cole-brooke) thought that the question of double sheriffships had not met with the inquiry on the part of the Commission which its importance had deserved. That was very much owing to the fact that they were engaged upon an inquiry as to the desirability of raising new local Courts to supersede the Sheriff Courts altogether, which prevented their giving due consideration to the more practical question. He was not wedded to the system of double sheriffship. He thought there were great advantages in it as it now stood; but if it were to be altered, it must be altered by a much more sweeping change than had been suggested in the debate. The theory of it was perfect, being to have the advantage of having a gentleman of practice in the higher Courts to act as a Court of Appeal against local juridiction. But it happened, unfortunately, that the highest class of practitioners very seldom took these offices, and there were sometimes appointed persons who had left practice, or whose practice had left them, and who had not that perfect practical knowledge of their profession which the Judge of a Court of Appeal ought to have. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, the system had, on the whole, acted well, and had supplied a cheap and ready means of appeal to the country. If suitors had not these sheriffs to appeal to, the Court of Session must be got to undertake the duty. He regarded the Bill as a tentative measure. It was a cautious and moderate Bill which might lead to further improvments and changes in this direction. With regard to the question of jurisdiction in matters of real property, he could not agree with those hon. Members who said that the jurisdiction was urgently required to meet the great demand on the part of the country to have it on the same footing as personal property. On the contrary, the result of his experience was, that the one thing most prominent in people's minds with regard to personal property was to have summary jurisdiction. He could not look forward with much hope to the transferring of jurisdiction in a very large degree from the Supreme Court to the local Courts, which would be controlled by laws of 94 various kinds, and would lack unity. The measure of the Government was of a tentative character, and so far as it went, it met very nearly the requirements of the case; it was only in the case of small properties that the grievance was much felt on account of expense. But there were cases before the Commissioners in which the jurisdiction might be increased where the question of property was incidentally raised. It might be of advantage in such cases that the jurisdiction of sheriffs substitute should be extended; but, subject to that, he thought the demand for the extension of jurisdiction was of a very limited kind. Though he should be content to give them an unlimited jurisdiction, subject to the checks, as in the former Bill, that it should be in the power of a defendant to move a case into the higher Court, he did not complain of the Lord Advocate for being cautious. In nine cases out of ten, he knew that a case would be moved into the higher Court, so that the commencement in the lower Court would be superfluous. As to the question of appointing the sheriffs substitute, the Commission, of which he had been a Member, gave its opinion as to the good working of the present system. If the Government had let the matter alone, he thought no one would have complained, except, perhaps, the sheriffs substitute themselves, to whose office a higher importance and dignity would be attached if they owed their appointments to the Crown. He thought the present system had worked well, and endorsed the opinion of the Commissioners on that point; but the Crown acted with responsibility, and while he thought the change would be of little advantage, there would be little danger in it. The case with regard to the procurators fiscal was different, and he did not think that the Crown would act with the same responsibility in this case. Subject to these qualifications, he trusted the Government would be allowed to carry on the Bill; and he thought the Sitting would, in that case, have a more practical effect than if it had been wasted in a discussion on the Roads and Bridges Bill.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he could not accept without protest the position in which the Government wished to place the Scotch Members. Notwithstanding the promise made to them emphatically at the commencement of the 95 Session that Scotch Business should receive more attention and have more time given for its discussion than previously, yet this measure, which was the only measure for Scotland of importance that was likely to pass, was thrust into a Saturday's Sitting on less than 12 hours' notice. He did not think that the promise at the beginning of the Session had been all redeemed. It had been intimated privately by those responsible for Scotch Business that the Government would not admit any important Amendments on this Bill; and as the Government was all powerful, the question resolved itself into this— Was it worth while to accept the Bill as it stood, or should they defer any Law Reform and hope for a much more important and comprehensive measure in some future Session? He had very great difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that this Bill was worth having. It was far short of the expectations of the people of Scotland in regard to Law Reform, and he was much obliged to the hon. Member for Inverness for bringing forward his Amendment, as it raised a discussion on one important point about which the people of Scotland had made up their minds. The opinion had been forced upon him (Mr. Barclay) for a considerable time that they must not expect any material reform of the law of Scotland or its administration so long as the Parliamentary business of Scotland was entrusted—to a certain extent, at least—to the control of a Gentleman who must feel himself amenable to the opinion of the Parliament House in Edinburgh. It had been freely stated that a previous Lord Advocate, distinguished by his efforts for Law Reform, had experienced the influence of the Edinburgh lawyers to such an extent that he was prevented from going on with Law Reform; and this was a good reason why the business of Scotland should be entrusted to some Member from Scotland not so directly responsible to the opinion of Parliament House. Not until they had an Under Secretary of State to take charge of Scotch Business could they expect it to command the attention it deserved. With regard to the business done by sheriffs and sheriff-substitutes, he had had a Return prepared which he believed might be relied upon. He found that the business dealt with by the 96 sheriff-substitutes was as follows during one year:—Actions for debt above £12, 11,862; miscellaneous and administrative applications, 9,329; actions in Small Debt Courts almost wholly before the sheriff-substitutes, 43,455; and, including the criminal cases, the total number of cases before these officers was 87,389; while the number of cases dealt with by the sheriff-principals in the same period was 1,153. The sheriffs received between £800 and £900 a-year for disposing of 50 or 60 cases each, and were not restricted to their judicial business. They might do private business in the Supreme Court. It was easy, therefore, to understand that the sheriffs were very unwilling that the structure should be interfered with which practically yielded between £800 and £900 a-year for a sinecure office. But what was more objectionable was that the sheriff-substitutes, who really did the work, were only paid £600 to £650 on an average. He had heard it argued in defence of the small salaries of sheriff-substitutes, who were not allowed to have any private practice, that they had very little work to do. But it was an unsound principle to keep a gentleman who was expected to represent Her Majesty and the majesty of the law on a small salary, even if he had little work to do; and it would be much more advantageous for the sheriff-substitutes and the public at large if the number of the substitutes was reduced and the salaries were increased. They ought to have a much more decided reform than was proposed in the Bill before them. If a comprehensive scheme were brought forward, he thought it would command the support of those people in Edinburgh who exercised so much influence over the Scotch Parliamentary business; because if the double sheriffship was abolished, all important cases would then be appealed from the sheriff to the Court of Session, and instead of the appeal being, as now, from the substitute to the principal, with results which were unsatisfactory to all parties, there would be an appeal from the sheriff to the Court of Session, and so the legal fraternity in Edinburgh would get quite as much law business under the reformed system as they did at present. If, therefore, the Lord Advocate would have the courage of his own opinions, and bring forward a scheme which would embrace 97 the whole subject of Law Reform, there would not be greater opposition to it, if so much as to the present smaller measure. Considering, therefore, the whole position, he had not the least difficulty in proposing that the debate be now adjourned, and another reason for doing so was this—up to yesterday it was quite understood that the South Africa Bill was going to be taken that afternoon. In deference to the views of one or two Members who, after the great efforts they had recently been making, did not feel equal to the effort, the Government, about 2 o'clock in the morning, had postponed that Bill, and intimated that they would take the Sheriff Courts Bill. With a view to enable the Scotch Members who were not present to take part in this debate, he begged to move its adjournment.
§ MR. HUTCHINSON
seconded the Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. James Barclay.)
§ MR. ORR EWING
said, he was sorry the hon. Member who had last spoken had moved the adjournment of the debate. The hon. Member must be quite aware that there had been no communication from any part of Scotland but what was favourable to the Bill. It would be a great disappointment to Scotland if the Bill were defeated by the action of Scotch Members. He thought the Bill might be allowed to pass, for if it were not all that some hon. Members desired, at all events it must be better to have that improvement than to be without it. The only real objection brought forward by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Barclay) was that the Bill did not provide for the abolition of the double sheriffships, and he held out to the House the small number of appeals to the sheriffs principal, and the great expense of what he called sinecure offices. The number of cases did not matter much, for it was necessary to have men of superior education and of great legal knowledge. But would it be a saving to Scotland to abolish double sheriffships? If it cost £18,000 now for the support of those tribunals, they saved a vast sum of money to those who were obliged to appeal. No doubt, the abolition would be an immense benefit to the Courts of 98 Edinburgh; but it would impose an enormous expense on the people of Scotland if litigants in Wick, or Aberdeen, or Dundee, or Glasgow were obliged to carry every appeal to a Court in Edinburgh. He was sure the feeling in Glasgow would be against the abolition of sheriffs depute in the county of Lanark, where, ever since he had been acquainted with Glasgow, the sheriffs—the hardest worked men in the country—had always been men of the highest attainments and legal knowledge. So satisfied were the inhabitants of Glasgow with the decisions of the sheriffs depute that the number of appeals from them to the Court of Session were comparatively few. It was all very well for the hon. Member to say that they were taken from the same class of men. The same thing might be argued against the Court of Session—that the Judges were taken from the same class of men as the sheriffs depute. He would point out that, besides civil cases, the sheriffs had very large criminal jurisdiction, and it was very important that they should be highly qualified. He was satisfied that all populous places would be against the abolition of the local appeal Court. But whether that was so or not, he hoped the hon. Member for Forfarshire, though he might not be altogether satisfied with the measure before the House, would agree that they were met for the purpose of passing something. Nothing for Scotland had been passed at all, and he hoped the Motion for adjournment would not be persevered with. As to the statement that there had been no Notice, the Bill had been in the mind of Scotch Members during the whole Session. The Government were entitled to bring the Bill forward, and Scotch Members ought to have been prepared for any Scotch Business that day.
§ MR. LEITH
also trusted the Amendment would be withdrawn. He quite concurred in what had been said as to the Bill not being satisfactory to the people of Scotland generally—that it was not comprehensive enough to meet their wishes—and that it was not what they were justified in looking for. At the same time, he was very desirous that the Bill should pass into Committee, and thought that the Scotch people, though dissatisfied with the Bill on the grounds 99 he had stated, were desirous that the Bill should pass. It was a small measure of reform, but still it was a measure of reform, and for that reason he should oppose the adjournment of the debate, or any Motion having for its object the preventing of the Bill from passing. At the same time, he thought it right to point out some of the objections that he had to the Bill. He knew the difficulties which the present Lord Advocate, and previous Lord Advocates, had had in touching the question of Law Reform, and he could sympathize with them in those difficulties, which proceeded from what he might call professional Conservatism; but he urged on the Lord Advocate, and on the Government, that class interests ought not to prevail over the public interests. He had evidence of the force of that professional Conservatism from what took place in the two last Sessions, as to this measure of reform. Last Session they had a Bill brought in giving a limit of £2,000 in regard to dealing with cases of heritable rights, the object being to extend the jurisdiction of Sheriff Courts in that respect. Did they find an improvement on that point in the present Bill? No; but a retrograde movement. That was the best evidence they could have as to that professional Conservatism which had proved too strong for the Lord Advocate and for the Government. The people wanted that extension of jurisdiction without limitation. The Commission of 1870, composed of the highest legal functionaries both in Scotland and England, reported that the extension of jurisdiction in regard to heritable rights should be without limit. [Mr. ANDERSON: Hear, hear!] They said that if jurisdiction was to be extended to heritable rights, there ought to be no limitation in regard to value, because it was evident that the difficult questions of real property law must arise in small properties as well as in large ones. Another and a practical reason was that there would be delay and expense arising out of the limitation itself, for in almost every case there would be an issue raised before the issue on the merits as to the competency of the Court to try the case. On these grounds the Report of the Commissioners was unanimous that, as regarded heritable rights, there should be no limitation whatever. In the present Bill they had the limita- 100 tion to £2,000 converted into a limitation to £20 annual value as regarded heritable rights, and £500 as regarded movables in declaratory actions. He would put it to the common sense of the Lord Advocate whether there was any principle in that limitation. They had heard that there was no limitation as to the question of money; they might have hundreds of thousands of pounds decided by that tribunal, and yet they had a limitation of £20 annual value in regard to heritable rights, and £500 as to movables. So that beyond that limit a man must go to Edinburgh to try his case, instead of having it tried where he had his witnesses and his books. There was another important defect. The 8th clause neutralized entirely what was given by Clause 7 and sub-clauses, because it gave power to the defendant in every action which might be brought under the extended jurisdiction immediately, and without cause assigned, to put a stop note on the process, and to have it transferred to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in Edinburgh. The supposed extension of jurisdiction was, therefore, altogether illusory. The Bill was a permissive Bill. It required the consent both of the plaintiff and the defendant in every case in order to give jurisdiction to the Court, for Clause 8 neutralized the apparent gift to the public in Clause 7. As to the transfer and appointments, it was an anomaly that could only prevail in Scotland that appointments should be made by private persons while the salaries were paid by the Government. He was in favour of transferring the appointment of sheriffs substitute and procurators fiscal to the Government. On the general question he held that the Bill had the concurrence of professional and public opinion in Scotland. He would not much longer occupy the House. In his view the position of the sheriff as a Court of Appeal was an anomaly, and prejudicial to the public interest. It was not established by statute nor called for by public convenience. It had arisen accidentally from the appointment of one man to act in the absence and in the name of the sheriff. The decisions were always those of the sheriff; but business increased, the sheriff substitute was salaried by the Government, and then it was found he had almost all the legal business of the country, and the appellate jurisdiction 101 of the sheriff crept in. But these two judicial officers were of the same grade in the profession—three years' practice; while in experience the Judge of the Appeal Court was often less experienced and less able than his substitute. Two maxims were paramount in this matter —first, there should be a distinct superiority in the Court of Appeal above the Court whose decisions were to be reviewed; and, secondly, that there should be such uniform and authoritative exposition of the law as to give respect and force to it throughout the country. Both these things were wanting in the present Sheriffs Courts. To do away with the double sheriffship would open a wide question—What was the appellate jurisdiction to which a party should appeal? and this must be dealt with sooner or later by the Government. On this point Sir Roundell Palmer (now Lord Selborne) and Mr. Moncreiff, a late Lord Advocate (now Lord Moncreiff), recommended there should be a new constitution of the Appellate Court, a Court of Session in regard to appeal; and that instead of appeals going from the Lord Ordinary to the House, there should be a new body constituted, so as to get rid of unnecessary Judges, and that there should be only one appeal from that body to the House of Lords. That, he submitted, was worthy of the attention of the Lord Advocate. The sheriff substitutes ought to have a status which would command respect and give dignity to the office, and he was glad to find that the Crown was going to take them under its wings. But he would also suggest the propriety of increasing the salaries of those officers, as no increase had been made since 1854, and since that time the business and also the expenses of living had increased. By doing away with the system of double sheriffs, which entailed an unnecessary and startling expense upon the country, they would be in a position to improve the means and the status of the former officers. As regarded the qualifications of sheriff substitutes, he must bear his humble testimony to them as being a most efficient body of men. He knew that in Aberdeenshire and the neighbouring county of Kincardineshire they had two as efficient officers as were to be found in any part of the world; and, therefore, in considering the question of doing away with double sheriffships, the Go- 102 vernment would not be hampered by any consideration in reference to the competency of the deputy sheriffs for the performance of the duties which would devolve upon them.
§ MR. RAMSAY, in supporting the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, said, that after the full statement of the objections to this Bill which had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Leith), it was quite unnecessary that he should detain the House at any length by a statement of his own views. He thought that this Bill was wholly incommensurate with the wants and wishes of the people of Scotland, and it had so little in it worthy of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, that he felt sorry that such a measure should have been proposed to them. When the Sheriffs Court Bill introduced last year was modified in order to allow the portion relating to procedure to pass, many hon. Members then understood that the Bill to be brought in this year would deal with the whole judicial system of Scotland. In particular, they were led to expect that the jurisdiction of the sheriffs would be extended. His own feeling was in favour of doing away with all limit as to the adjudication of heritable questions in the Sheriffs Courts. Nor could there be any doubt that the suggestion to do away with the double sheriffships was one which should also receive the consideration of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It would be in accordance with the feelings and wishes of the people of Scotland that these offices should be done away with. An hon. Member had asked how the increased expense which would thereby be caused was to be met. He should suggest the very simple mode that they should not only not increase the cost of their judicial establishments, but also that they should be considerably reduced. He had not one word to say of either the sheriffs or sheriff substitutes except in commendation of the impartial manner in which they discharged their onerous and important duties. Everyone who had the pleasure of the acquaintance of these gentlemen must know that there was no class of men in Scotland who stood higher in the estimation of the people for probity and integrity in every relation of life. But when he found, 103 according to a Return which was granted at his own instance, that there were 18 sheriffs depute in Scotland, that these learned gentlemen were only employed during the year ending the 31st of December, 1875, for 627 days, and that the total number of causes tried before them was 2,875, it must be evident that they did not require to contemplate any increase in their judicial establishment. On the contrary, a very great decrease should be brought about as speedily as possible. He should certainly never contemplate that during the tenure of office of any of these gentlemen they should be deprived of their income without sufficient cause. But that was a very different question from passing the Bill before the House, which contained no provision for dealing with the question at all. The right hon. and learned Gentleman contemplated a reduction in the number of the Judges in the Sheriff Courts, but why was not some provision on the subject included in the Bill? Why were not arrangements made by the Bill for having the causes in the civil Courts tried by the Judges of the Supreme Court when on Circuit in Scotland in the same way as they were tried in England? If a measure had been introduced for the purpose of carrying out a comprehensive reform of that nature, it would have had his cordial support and that of nine-tenths of the Members who represented Scotch constituencies. But they were asked now to pass a Bill which, instead of doing that which they expected, did even less than was proposed to be done by the measure introduced last year. If it be true that the Government would not consent to the introduction of any important Amendments into this Bill, he thought they could not do better than adjourn the debate, and allow the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to consider the whole subject with a view to the introduction of a more comprehensive measure in another Session.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
I hope the hon. Member who has moved the adjournment of the debate will be induced to withdraw the Motion before the House. I quite admit that this Bill does not provide everything that is wanted or everything that is necessary; but it does institute a new principle, at all events so far as the Scotch judicature 104 is concerned, and it may be taken as an earnest of something else which is to come. The hon. Member who has just sat down must be well aware that one of the vacancies amongst the Scotch Judges has not been filled up, and that the whole question of the number of Judges in Scotland is under the consideration of my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate and myself, and I do trust before long a measure will be introduced to deal in a larger way with the whole judicature system of Scotland. But this, at all events, is a step in one direction, and I may say that personally no representations have been made to me from any part of Scotland in opposition to this Bill. I believe that so far as it goes—I say nothing more than that—that, so far as it goes, it will be acceptable to the people of Scotland. It will certainly, to some degree, extend the jurisdiction of these Sheriffs Courts. If it is really wished when we come to the clauses of the Bill to adjourn its further consideration, I shall have no objection, on behalf of the Government, to that course after the Speaker has left the Chair and the Preamble has been postponed; but I hope that, at all events, we shall be allowed to go into Committee this afternoon. It has been stated by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) and some others that no Amendments brought forward in Committee would be entertained. That is an assumption which I venture to think is hardly justified. I can promise that all the Amendments which have been placed on the Paper shall receive full and fair consideration. I notice some Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). The Bill raises the jurisdiction of the Courts to £20 in one ease and £500 in the other, and the hon. Member by his Amendments proposes to increase those limits to £50 and £1,000 respectively. Now, neither my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate nor myself has the slightest objection to consider very favourably those proposals. So far as at present advised, I shall not offer any objection in regard to the proposal to raise the limit of value to £1,000, and if the hon. Member will fix the limit of yearly value in the same proportion—namely, £40 a-year, I shall have no objection to accept that also. I merely mention this 105 to show that any Amendments proposed will receive fair consideration. I am quite aware of the usefulness of this discussion in regard to the double sheriffs, which is really a question in which I feel the greatest possible interest, and in regard to which I have expressed myself in the House more than once; in fact, it is under the serious consideration of the Government. I was very glad to hear the remarks of the hon. Member opposite in regard to the patronage clauses of the Bill, for I think nothing could be more unwise than to leave these appointments in the hands of private patrons.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he understood the Motion for the adjournment of the debate to have been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), distinctly as a protest against the way in which Scotch Business was managed in that House. He wished shortly to refer to the circumstances under which this Bill came on for a second reading. At a late hour one night, when there were several Amendments to it, the Government begged to be allowed to take the second reading formally, on the understanding that they would give an opportunity for a full discussion of the Bill on the Motion to go into Committee. Well, the Bill was allowed to go through; but he asked whether the very distinct pledge which was given that there would be the fullest opportunity for discussion on the next stage had been fairly kept? Two days ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that there was to be a Sitting on Saturday, not for the purpose of taking this Bill, but the South Africa Bill; but at a late hour the night before the Government suddenly decided not to take the South Africa Bill, in deference to some Irish Members who had been a little troublesome to them. In taking that course the Government gave Members a very bad lesson, showing that by adopting a policy of obstruction the Irish Members got what they wanted, while Members from Scotland, who did not obstruct the Business at all, got nothing. This suggested whether it would not be wise for the Scotch Members to adopt a policy of obstruction also. The Government having abandoned their intention to take the South Africa Bill, the question was what Bill should be taken, and they said—"Oh, take the Scotch Bill; 106 anything is good enough to give to the Scotch Members." The result was that not one-third of the Scotch Members were present to take part in the discussion on the Bill. He thought there was good ground for complaint that the Bill should have been brought in in this way. The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Orr Ewing) had said that all the representations from Scotland had been favourable to the Bill, and that therefore the House ought to pass it. As far as his own constituency was concerned, they thought the Bill would be of no value unless it were amended in Committee; and up to a few minutes ago they had been given to understand that the Government had determined to allow no Amendments to be introduced into it. With regard to the Bill itself, it proposed to vest in the Crown the appointment of sheriffs substitute and procurators fiscal, which at present was in the hands of the sheriffs. He was not opposed to giving that power to the Crown, but he could not forbear from pointing out the inconsistency of the Government in making this proposal. Only the other day, in Committee on the Irish Judicature Bill, it was proposed that the appointment of clerks of assize should rest not with the Judges, but with the Government, which many of them considered would be an improvement; but the Government themselves actually carried the clause which fixed the appointment in the hands of the Judge. But when the Government came to deal with Scotland, they took the subsidiary appointments away from the Judges and. vested them in the Crown. With regard to the question of the extension of the jurisdiction of the sheriffs it would be remembered that he had himself a Bill before the House on a former occasion, which Bill was withdrawn on the introduction of one by Lord Gordon and a pledge that it would be passed. That pledge, however, from pressure of other work could not be kept, and at an interview which he had with the Home Secretary in the Lobby of the House last year, the right hon. Gentleman undertook that during the present Session a Bill would be introduced extending the jurisdiction of the sheriffs. The right hon. Gentleman added, however, that he must not be understood as absolutely pledged to the limit of £2,000, which was in the noble Lord's (Lord Gordon's) 107 Bill, but he agreed to pledge himself to £1,000. He did not accuse the Home Secretary of any breach of faith in this matter, but on this point his (Mr. Anderson's) memory was distinct, and probably more reliable than the Home Secretary's because this particular point had been one to which he had given special attention, his own Bill having had no limit to the amount. He received with considerable satisfaction the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that he was prepared to accept Amendments, and particularly the Amendment extending the jurisdiction to £1,000, and he should not any longer attempt to obstruct the progress of the Bill. On the contrary, he should be glad to see it carried.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he could assure the hon. Member that he had not the slightest remembrance of anything of the nature he had mentioned having taken place between them. His own view had always been that the limit which he had that day proposed ought to be included in the Bill.
§ MR. LAING
said, he merely rose to add his appeal to the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) to withdraw his Motion, and allow the Bill to go into Committee. He hoped that on this occasion they would rather act up to their national common sense that half a loaf was better than no bread. As far as he knew, the principles of the Bill were principles upon which they were all pretty well agreed. He did not think there was any serious opposition in that House or in Scotland to the transfer of the appointment of local officers to the Crown, or to the extension of the jurisdiction. No doubt, there was a strong feeling that the proposed extension was not sufficient; but that objection had so far been met by the Home Secretary, that the subject might be very well discussed in Committee. Practically, he thought that the Opposition to the Bill chiefly turned upon this—that the question of the double sheriffships had not been dealt with. He wished to bear his testimony to that being a point of considerable delicacy and difficulty, and that they could not, without extreme inconvenience and hardship to the larger and more remote counties in Scotland, summarily abolish the existing double sheriffs, unless they were prepared with substitutes for them. In 108 reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), he would point out that Scotland had been the victim of obstruction as much as the Government. He hoped the last thing that would enter the mind of any Scotch Member would be because they had suffered from that course which he would not characterize, that therefore they themselves should resort to such tactics, and oppose Bills indiscriminately, whether they approved of them or not. He did not think they were likely to get a better opportunity than they had now for calmly considering the clauses, and he therefore hoped the Bill would be passed through at the present Sitting.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, that in consequence of the intimation given by the Home Secretary he would withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. YEAMAN
said, his constituents were all in favour of the Bill; but thought that considerable Amendments might be made in it. He considered that the proposal of the Home Secretary on the subject of jurisdiction in cases of heritable right was of too limited a character. He was not at all sure that the existing system of double sheriffships tended to increase the expenses, because generally their decisions gave satisfaction to the litigants. He quite approved of the appointment of sheriffs substitute and procurators fiscal being in the hands of the Crown. He was strongly in favour of finishing the Bill to-day.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
confessed that when he came down to the House he was inclined to think that this Bill should be more properly entitled "A Bill to relieve Her Majesty's Government from the imputation of doing nothing for Scotland." The Government having recognized the difficulty of passing their larger measures had put forward, as it were, their smallest bantam. He admitted that there was a great deal of good in the Bill as far as it went, and the only question was whether it was better for them to accept this very small instalment of reform, or to say that they would not be put off with this crumb from the Ministerial table, but would wait for a more comprehensive and satis- 109 factory measure. Providing that the Government were prepared to allow a full and fair consideration for all the Amendments, he was disposed to say that they had better accept this small modicum of reform now. There was very general concurrence as to the transfer of patronage to the Crown; but as the appointments fell in very slowly that was hardly a matter that pressed. He thought that as a matter of convenience it was necessary that there should be a combination of the functions of the procurator fiscal and the police. The police should be placed rather more than at present under the procurator fiscal. The functions of the two should be amalgamated and merged together. The procurators fiscal should be independent officers, and the whole duty of prosecuting counsel before the sheriffs should lie with them. He thought it right that the appointment of procurator fiscal should be in the hands of the Government. As to the matter of jurisdiction, which was the one on which the question of adjournment would turn, he had been much struck by what had been said by certain legal bodies. They pointed out that an arbitrator was competent to decide a case, whatever the value of the claim might be, with the consent of the parties, and if that was so, surely a sheriff who had shown himself competent to discharge his duties should be allowed to decide cases with the consent of the parties in the same way. As it was a mere optional jurisdiction to refer to the sheriff substitute, it appeared preposterous that that jurisdiction should be limited in any manner whatever. The only difficulty, he believed, was a fear that the clause might take a good deal of business from the lawyers of Edinburgh; but he hoped the Government would resist the pressure of the Legal Profession in Edinburgh, and that they would think it right and proper in Committee to remove this. As to the question of the double sheriffship, it was desirable that there should be a summary appeal of the simplest and cheapest kind, and the Government must either materially reduce the number of Scotch Judges, and somewhat raise the relations of the sheriff, so that he might be a Court of Appeal sufficiently high to command that respect which it was important Courts of Appeal should have, or they must do what he thought there was a 110 balance of opinion in favour of doing— namely, abolishing the superior sheriffs, and entrusting a certain Judge in a Court of Session with a similar jurisdiction on appeal as was now exercised by the sheriff. He thought it a subject of deep regret that in regard to the sheriffs substitute the Government had not undertaken the plainly necessary reform of the consolidation of sheriffs substitutes, the diminution of their number, the increase of their salaries, and the rearrangement of their jurisdictions. In conclusion, he thought the House should discuss the matter fully, and exhaust the Amendments, or make up their minds to drop the measure altogether and bring in another and larger one next Session.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, it appeared to him that it was quite possible to deal with the measure satisfactorily without determining at this moment the question contained in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh)—namely, "That no measure affecting the Sheriff Courts can be satisfactory unless provision be made for the abolition of the double sheriff-ship." If that question were to be disposed of it would occupy more time than hon. Members were aware. The hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) had referred to certain statements made by him (the Lord Advocate) on this question in 1868. Well, he had made that statement of his opinions because he entertained them, and it was not in the slightest degree fair to say that his views in that respect had undergone any material change. He would point out to the Scotch Members that matters did not stand at all now as they did in 1868. There had been a great deal of inquiry into the general question of the constitution of the Law Courts of Scotland, with the view of alterations being made in the law by statute. A large body of gentlemen belonging to England and Scotland—men of distinction on the Bench and at the Bar, together with others who were not connected with the Legal Profession—were appointed to consider the subject. A great deal of legislation had followed from the Report of the Commission. The Commission, however, did not entertain the view which he had entertained and expressed, and the result was that they recommended 111 a course of legislation which had since been followed, and which was at variance with opinions entertained by the hon. Member for Forfarshire and some other Gentlemen. The view of the Commission was entitled to a deal of respect, and if he had held the office of Lord Advocate in 1868 he should not have proceeded to legislate on lines entirely opposed to the recommendations of so authoritative a tribunal. The difficulty of legislating on these lines had not been lessened but increased by the course of legislation taken in consequence of the Report of the Commission. There were a good many things in the Report which had his hearty concurrence, and many of these suggestions had become law, but there were many other suggestions which had not been adopted. His sentiments differed from those of the Commissioners on several important points, and he would venture to say that some difference as to the weight of the Report had been manifested in the debate which had taken place to-day. On subjects of legal reform in Scotland, he noticed that there was one party who alleged that they were going entirely wrong if they went in the teeth of the Report of the Commission; and another section said that they were going wrong if they did not go in the teeth of the Report. He (the Lord Advocate) could not altogether appreciate the argument that he was not entitled to go in the teeth of the Report when he was at the same time called upon to support a Motion equally opposed to the Report. With regard to the recommendations of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Leith), a great many of them had been given effect to by the Legislature. He did not wish to stand between the House and the Committee; and if he had not been personally referred to, he probably should not have addressed the House at all. He thought the House would be unanimous with regard to one point— namely, as to the transfer of the patronage of the two offices referred to to the Crown. Referring to the position of the sheriff substitute, he would remind the House that though he was a Judge of lower instance so far as his judicial position and duties were concerned, he was entirely independent of the Judge who was in other respects his superior. He thought a Judge holding that position, and receiving a consider- 112 able salary from the Crown, had a right to be selected by the Crown. He confessed to considerable difficulty in dealing with the office of procurator fiscal; but, at the same time, the House must see that it was an anomaly that an official who was a public prosecutor, who was bound in prosecuting crime in the Sheriff Court to act according to his own intelligence and conscience, should really be subject to the Judge who was sitting on the Bench, and liable to dismissal by the Judge, if that Judge be the sheriff principal, without cause assigned, and therefore liable indirectly, he did not say directly, to be influenced in a degree which he conceived to be inconsistent with the duties of such an officer in the conduct of his prosecutions before a Judge; and he (the Lord Advocate) was prepared to maintain, in that House and elsewhere, that when a prisoner was committed for trial, the Judge who committed him ought to have no influence, direct or indirect, with the conduct of the prosecution. Then the next subject which the Bill dealt with was a difficult one. He could not conceive that questions relating to heritable rights, to titles of land, or declaratory questions, stood in the same position as judgments in regard to moveable rights, and for this reason—that the judgment in the declarator, or a judgment in regard to land or title, affected title in regard to which the judgment was pronounced as between the owner and neighbour with whom a dispute had arisen in all time. This judgment became part of the title and incident to the property, and it therefore became exceedingly desirable, in reference to their landed titles in Scotland, that there should be no diversity of judgment on those points. Scotch Members would be able to see this was a matter admitting of a great deal of dispute. The office of principal sheriff must not be looked on from one point of view—namely, his judicial duty, because his duty was to a great extent administrative, and the different branches of it affected not only the constitution of the Law Courts in his county, but also a great many questions affecting county administration, for which provision would have to be made, as well as arrangements in the Courts of Law; and he believed it was owing to the usefulness of the sheriffs as 113 administrators as well as to the efficient manner in which they had discharged their judicial duties that the feeling which existed in their favour in the Report of the Commission was to be attributed. He did not think that if it had been a merely judicial office the same amount of kindness and support would have been shown to them. Another important point was that in questions seriously affecting the peace of a county—and unfortunately there were counties in which there was a good deal of violence and crime—the existence of a sheriff had been found of the utmost value, because he acted as a great protector between the sheriff substitute and the local feeling in the county. When the local Judge had been relieved of the trial of cases into which party and local feeling entered, the sheriff had not only been of great use to the country, but he had afforded the greatest possible aid in shielding the local and resident Judge from imputations that might otherwise have been made against his fairness.
§ MR. FRASER - MACKINTOSH
was exceedingly gratified by the support accorded to him; and, being unwilling to cause delays, he would, as the Government had stated that the abolition of the double sheriffship was under its consideration, withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (The Lord Advocate.)
§ MR. LEITH
hoped that the Committee would be allowed to proceed with the consideration of the clauses. They had now arrived at 20 minutes to 3 o'clock, and he was sure that the Bill might be disposed of before 7 o'clock if it were proceeded with.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, they would not have such a good opportunity as the present again, and they must remember that reporting Progress meant the giving up of the Bill.
said, the concession made by the Home Secretary did not so far meet his objections to the Bill, and he should feel himself at perfect liberty to oppose it in its subsequent stages.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 61; Noes 39: Majority 22.—(Div. List, No. 261.)
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next.