HC Deb 03 March 1893 vol 9 cc969-72
MR. WASON (Ayrshire, S.)

I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware that in Ayrshire there is a great disproportion between the number of Members of the Liberal Party who have been appointed Justices of the Peace for that county and of those who belong to the Party in opposition to Her Majesty's Government; and whether, if so, he will inform the Lord Chancellor of the fact in order that steps may be taken towards rectifying the disproportion?

MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)

May I ask whether the Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire was not appointed by the present Prime Minister; whether, since 1878, the Lord Lieutenant has not appointed 118 Liberal and Liberal Unionist Magistrates and only 83 Conservatives; whether there is any instance in which the private political opinions of the Magistrates has interfered with the public discharge of their duty; and whether it is proposed that steps should be taken to compel Justices of the Peace to change their political opinions to suit those of the Secretary for Scotland?


Is there any law vesting the appointment of Magistrates in the Lord Lieutenant?


The law on the subject is very simple. The law is that the Lord Chancellor appoints; the custom is that the Lord Lieutenant practically appoints. With regard to the question by the hon. Member below the Gangway, it is quite evident that in the County of Ayr there would be no difficulty in making out the Return to which attention has been called, because the substance of that Return is evidently a matter of public knowledge in Ayrshire. With respect to my hon. Friend's question, if he will lay a statement before me I am prepared to communicate it to the Lord Chancellor, as I am prepared to communicate the statement made by the hon. Member below the Gangway.


Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake, when any Return is laid before the Lord Chancellor in order to enable him to form a judgment upon this question, that it will be clearly shown, in indicating the politics of the present Justices, how long they had been in opposition to Her Majesty's Government, and whether they were appointed originally by a Liberal Lord Lieutenant as members of the Liberal Party?

SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)

I should like to ask whether, in undertaking to make this reference to the Lord Chancellor, the right hon. Gentle- man has any reason to believe that the Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire has not made his recommendations with perfect impartiality?


I have no reason to believe either one way or the other. But when a statement of a great practical grievance is laid before the Government inquiry ought to be made, and all the Lord Chancellor has promised is an inquiry. He will inquire into the question whether any such grievance exists, and will not go upon the first aspect of the facts as laid before him.


That does not answer my question.


The Lord Chancellor will not act upon statistics laid before him by a private Member. If these allegations are such as to call for any inquiry he will make that inquiry, and I have no doubt that inquiry will include the question of the date of the appointment.


I have not asked what the Lord Chancellor will do. I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman will lay before him the statistics I have mentioned—namely, how many of the Justices were appointed by a Liberal Lord Lieutenant as members of the Liberal Party?


The Lord Chancellor will find the information more accurately for himself. I have nott given him any statistics.


You said you would supply statistics to him.


I said I would supply to him any statements furnished me as to agreements said to exist.

MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under a Statute, 27 Henry 8, no person has any authority to make Justices of the Peace, that they can only be made under the King's Great Seal, by the authority of the King's Highness, or by that of his heir; and whether, if a custom has arisen in violation of that Act of Parliament, he will see that it is more honoured in the breach than in the observance?


I must ask for notice of that.


On what grounds does the right hon. Gentleman propose to represent to the Lord Chancellor that a grievance exists in Ayrshire?


I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to be very particular as to the date, because, take the right hon. Gentleman himself, he would be in one category at one time, and in another category at another date.


Order, order!