§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
asked the Lord Advocate, Whether it is the case that by the Common Law in Scotland the collections made at the doors of parish churches are the property of the poor, and that collections cannot be made at the doors of parish churches for any other object than the support of the poor; whether, by the Poor Law Act of 1845, Kirk Sessions were bound to report annually to the Board of Supervision as to the application of the moneys arising from church collections; whether the Reports of the Board of Supervision show that since the year 1846 £964,925 has been collected by 431 Kirk Sessions, that only £378,440 has been expended on relief of the poor, £573,888 expended on other purposes, and £12,597 left unaccounted for; whether the last Return shows that during the year 1886–7 £38,746 was received by Kirk Sessions, and only £8,484 expended on relief of the poor; and, whether, if these sums have been illegally misappropriated by Kirk Sessions for other purposes than the relief of the poor, he will, as Public Prosecutor, take steps to see that the law is carried out?
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
In reply to the first Question, I have to say that it is not the law that collections cannot be made at the doors of parish churches for any other object than the support of the poor. I refer the hon. Member to Section 54 of the Act of 1845, and to page 42 of Mr. Guthrie Smith's Digest of the Law of Scotland, relating to the poor and public health, published in 1878. The Kirk Sessions are bound to report, and have regularly reported, to the Board of Supervision in terms of the Act of 1845. The figures in the third and fourth paragraphs of the Question are correctly stated. The Board of Supervision give every publicity to the Annual Returns by publishing them in the Annual Report of the Board. If there is any misappropriation of the funds of any parish, the heritors or any other person interested, and legally entitled to do so, can take such steps in the Civil Courts as may be necessary to prevent such misappropriation. It is not a matter with which the Public Prosecutor can interfere, unless a case of fraud or embezzlement is made out.