HC Deb 26 August 1887 vol 320 cc159-62

(The Lord Advocate.)


Bill, as amended, considered.


I beg to move the following New Clause:— That Section eight of 'The Secretary for Scotland Act, 1885,' shall be amended so as to read as follows:—The Secretary shall have the place, trust, and office of Keeper of Her Majesty's Seal, appointed by the Treaty of Union to be kept and made use of in Scotland, in place of the Great Seal of Scotland, with all such powers, privileges, and liberties as do by law and custom belong to the same; and it shall be lawful for the Secretary to affix the said Seal to certificates issued by him, relating to matters within his official cognizance, in any case in which he shall deem it expedient to do so.

New Clause (Secretary for Scotland may affix Seal in certain cases,)—(Mr. E. Robertson,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

was understood to oppose the clause for the reason that the Act of Union appeared to limit the application of the Seal to matters relating to private rights and to matters confined to the Kingdom of Scotland.


I am afraid I cannot accept the reason the Lord Advocate has given for not accepting the clause. I will explain the object of the clause. There are many cases in which incorporated Companies belonging to Scotland, but doing business out of Scotland, find that their property in foreign countries is absolutely imperilled for the reason that proof of their incorporation being challenged they cannot prove it except under the Great Seal. Now, it is possible, no doubt, to get the Great Seal of Great Britain applied; but it would be more convenient if we could get the Great Seal of Scotland applied; and all I ask is that the Secretary for Scotland should have power to use that Seal in every case in which it may seem desirable to do so. The Lord Advocate only gives as a reason why the clause should not be accepted that the provision of the Act of Union appears to limit the application of the Seal to matters relating to private rights, and contained in the Kingdom of Scotland. So far as that goes, it appears to me that, even if the Lord Advocate's reading is correct, all that I ask the House to do is to amend in an insignificant and unimportant particular an Act which has been amended over and over again. I trust that the House will not permit itself, from pedantic regard for an Act, to absolutely refrain, practically, from doing that which the convenience of the country demands. A great deal of valuable property of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has no notion will be placed in peril if this Amendment is not passed. I speak for ray own constituents in this matter; there is no less an amount than £9,000,000 worth of property invested by my constituents in the United States alone. Every cent of that money may be imperilled if a clause like this is not accepted. At all events, there will be great risk and inconvenience in connection with the protection of the property. I sincerely trust that the House will refuse the guidance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman upon this matter, which is of great importance to the commercial community of Scotland. I trust the House will refuse to accept the reason which he has alleged against the proposal. His reason, in my opinion, is based upon pedantic and historic considerations which have nothing to do with the business and the convenience of the country.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 148: Majority 42.—(Div. List, No. 427.)

MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars, &c.)

I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Debate be now adjourned." — (Mr. Provand.)

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I trust the House will dispose of this Bill. Having done so, we shall not propose to take any other measure.


I think the example we have just had of the amount of consideration which we may expect to have from the Government in regard to Scotch Bills is not such as to give us any very great encouragement to support the Government in their attempt to dispose of Scotch Business at such a late hour as this. The Government have nothing to complain of on the part of the Scotch Members this Session; but I think we have a great deal to complain of as far as the Government are concerned. We have gone out of our way to support them in advancing Scotch Business without any discussion whatever; but they have given us an example of the small extent to which they are willing to respect our affairs. I think we are bound, as a protest, to support the Motion of my hon. Friend if he goes to a Division.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

There is only one more Amendment to be proposed, with regard to which I hope the Government will be willing to accept a reasonable compromise. It is altogether against the interest of Scotland that the debate should be postponed.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

Apart altogether from the peculiar tactics of the Government in over-riding the overwhelming Scotch opinion in reference to this matter, some consideration ought to be paid to the position of the officials of the House. I protest against the officials only being allowed three or four hours sleep out of the 24. As this is contentious Business and we have to be here again at 12 o'clock, I trust the debate will now be adjourned.

MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)

I hope we shall be allowed to proceed. There is only one important Amendment to be considered, and I understand it will not occupy much time. In going to a Division we shall be only wasting more time.

MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

I venture to hope that, considering there is only one other Amendment which may be disposed of in a few minutes, my hon. Friends will allow us to proceed.


It might influence hon. Members on this side of the House if they received any indication that some concession will be made.

MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

This is a matter which really requires a great deal of consideration. If the Government will agree to omit Sub-section 2 altogether, I quite admit we may finish the Bill at once. If they are not pre- pared to agree to that we ought, in view of the complicated nature of the matter, to insist upon an adjournment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further consideration, as amended, deferred till To-morrow.

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