HC Deb 14 June 1895 vol 34 cc1145-51

On the Order for the further consideration of this Bill, as amended,

*SIR C. CAMERON (Glasgow, College) Moved, in Clause 24, to insert the words "subject to the approval of the Secretary for Scotland."

MR. J. CALDWELL (Mid Lanark)

said, that although the proposed Amendment removed much of his objections to the clause, he wished to make a few observations upon it. At the present moment neither the Corporation of Glasgow nor any Corporation in Scotland or England had any jurisdiction whatever with regard to the Magistrates' Courts or in any way to interfere with magistrates in the exercise of their jurisdiction. While this clause gave power to the Corporation over stipendiary magistrates, it did not give them power over citizen magistrates. They had no control over the latter. For the first time the clause introduced a novelty in legislation in giving power to popularly-elected bodies to interfere with magistrates. There was no such power in England. In Manchester and in the borough of Salford, where there were stipendiary magistrates, the justices by law had the whole responsibility for the administration of justice in the courts, and were entitled to make the necessary arrangements for holding those courts, and to alter the courts not only of the stipendiary justices but of the other justices. Then, again, by the Stafford-shire Potteries Stipendiary Magistrate Act, 1871, power was given to the magistrate subject to the approval of commissioners to make the necessary arrangements for holding his court; and there was a proviso in that Act that, in the event of difference, the matter should be referred to one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State. The most recent Act of all was the Merthyr Tydfil Stipendiary Act, 1894. That was a case of a stipendiary magistrate presiding over a very large area, and the Act provided that he should attend his court on each day fixed by the Standing Joint Committee, subject to the approval of one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, with a proviso that he should not be required to attend more than four days in each week. Then there was on instance in England, anymore than in Scotland, of any local body having the right to interfere in the management of the magistrates' courts. He thought, therefore, that in an important matter of this kind, cropping up for the first time in legislation, that the attention of the House should be called to the subject. If a precedent were set in this case, it might hereafter be sought to extend the principle to Ireland, and no one could tell what the consequence might be of introducing a precedent of this kind. The intervention of the Secretary for Scotland was, in his opinion, absolutely essential, and he thought that the Amendment before the House would remove a great deal of the mischief.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

said, he did not object to the adoption of the course that had been suggested; but still no reason had been assigned why the promoters of this Bill should not have adopted in this case, with the alteration of a word or two, the provisions of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act. The Lord Advocate had been at some pains to show that appointments of stipendiary magistrates had been previously dealt within Private Bills; but that was not the point to be met. What he himself urged was that in all cases in which Private Bills had dealt with matters of this kind the precedents already established by public legislation had been adhered to. The Lord Advocate had given no reason why the Corporation of Glasgow alone in the United Kingdom should have the powers conferred upon them to enable them to drive an unfortunate magistrate from pillar to post at their discretion—a power not conferred upon any other corporation in the country. It was, however, understood that the Corporation of Glasgow had a grudge against a stipendiary magistrate. [An HON. MEMBER: "No; he's dead."] Well, they were afraid of a recurrence of a condition of things in which they would find a stipendiary magistrate not amenable to their wishes; and, therefore, they wished to provide that a stipendiary should be at their beck and call. As far as he could see, no provision was made in the Bill for giving the stipendiary a pension; and, therefore, he was justified in asking the Lord Advocate whether this was an intentional omission. The Borough Police Act said that stipendiary magistrates should be entitled to such retiring allowances, having regard to their salaries, as were provided in the case of sheriff-substitutes. If the omission in this case were designed, it was one to which attention ought to be drawn. He could not see any object to be served by reducing the magistrate to a position of dependence upon the caprice of the corporation. What was done in Glasgow to-day might be applied to London to-morrow; and that a magistrate should be removable from Bow Street to the Thames Police Court would be a most dangerous power to confer on a representative body.

*THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR, Clackmannan and Kinross)

reminded the right hon. Gentleman that this was not a Government Bill, and he could not say for what reason the Corporation of Glasgow made no provision for a pension for the stipendiary magistrate; but it was entirely for them to consider whether they should do so or not. There were two ways in which you could pay a man. You could either make his salary sufficient to enable him to provide for himself in old age by saving, or you could pay him a smaller salary and give him a pension, which in that case was only deferred pay. He was not aware of any obligation upon public authorities making such appointments to remunerate partly by present payment and partly by postponed payments. It was a matter for arrangement and bargain between them and the persons accepting the appointment whether there should be a smaller salary and a pension, or a larger salary without one.


Is there any precedent for not providing a pension for a stipendiary magistrate?


I must point out that there is nothing about pensions in this Amendment.

MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

said, he presumed the hon. Baronet the Member for the College Division was moving the Amendments on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, and therefore he offered no objection to them, although he should be content to pass the Bill without them, and he was not sure whether the House would not be prepared to support the Bill as it stood; but he supposed it was a case in which compromise was advisable. Efforts had been made to induce the House to believe that the Corporation of Glasgow were going to interfere with the due discharge of the duties of the stipendiary magistrate; but those efforts had not succeeded. All that was asked was that the Corporation should have power to determine the duties the stipendiary magistrate was to discharge under this Bill. All that the Bill would do would be to give the corporation power to ask the stipendiary magistrate to go from one Court where there was no business to another Court where there were cases waiting to be heard. It was a baseless suggestion that in the carrying out of these arrangements there would be any interference with the proper discharge of magisterial duties.

MR. H. SMITH (Falkirk)

wished to repudiate the idea that in bringing this matter before the House there was any desire to attack the Corporation of Glasgow. Nothing could be further from his own wish, knowing as he did members of the corporation, and having received from them great kindness and courtesy for many years. He should have been the last man to support his hon. Friends if he thought that they meant in any way to reflect upon the integrity and probity of the magistrates of Glasgow or the members of the corporation. All that they endeavoured to do by the Amendment was to prevent the Corporation of Glasgow, as they would prevent any corporation or public body, from being endowed by Parliament with powers that were certainly liable to be abused, however good and worthy the corporation and its members might be. They could not answer for the corporation of the future; and, however much they might esteem the present, they ought not to confer upon them powers that were liable to abuse.

MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)

wished to point out, in strong and precise terms, that they were not dealing merely with the question whether there should be power to ask the stipendiary magistrate to go from one Court to another, but they were dealing with the whole question of the regulation of the duties of the stipendiary magistrate. It was that which raised the question whether it was wise to accept the proposals made and to pass them into law. He dissented from the views expressed by the Member for Mid Lanark, and if the House had gone to a Division he should have voted against them. It was only right and proper that the Corporation of Glasgow should be entrusted with control over all their paid officials, and have discretionary power as to their duties. He hoped the Amendment that had been moved would be accepted by the House. He only intended to express his regret that his hon. Friend should have imagined that there dwelt in the minds of the critics of the measure any other sentiment than a general desire to make the administration of the law in Glasgow as efficient as possible.

The Amendment having been agreed to—

*SIR C. CAMERON moved the insertion of similar words in line 7 of the same Clause. He said the Amendment had the approval of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow. He wished to correct the suggestion of his hon. Colleague that this was proposed in pursuance of an arrangement suggested either by the Member for Mid Lanark or the Member for Thanet. It had been suggested at the last Sitting by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, and as it had been already privately suggested to himself and the promoters of the Bill as an arrangement that would meet every reasonable objection, he had been authorised, if the proposal were made in the course of the Debate, to accept it. With regard to the question of pension, he had the authority of the Lord Advocate for saying that there was no provision for a pension in the only case in Scotland in which a stipendiary magistrate had been appointed. He was at a loss to understand why the right hon. Gentleman opposite was so intensely interested in the concerns of Glasgow. He was so solicitous about the stipendiary's pension, so resentful of any suggestion to hustle the stipendiary from court to court. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to renew his opposition on the Third Reading; if so, he recommended him to learn something about the details of the subject. He had said that the cat had been let out of the bag, and that the Corporation of Glasgow wished to put the screw upon the stipendiary. Why, the late stipendiary died two years ago! He was the master of the Corporation, and not the Corporation master of him. The right hon. Gentleman did not know that there was a School Board at Glasgow, or what were the duties and functions of a Procurator Fiscal, and if the Bill must be opposed on a Third Reading he should really leave his opposition to some one with more local knowledge.


supported the Amendment, saying it was not put down in opposition to the Corporation of Glasgow as a Corporation, but n opposition to the principle that any Corporation should possess the powers which would be conferred upon the Glasgow Corporation by this Bill. If the powers proposed were conferred on the Corporation of Glasgow, they would be sought for by other Corporations. The manner in which the Corporation of Glasgow discharged its municipal duties had nothing to do with the question. The clause, as it stood, was quite unnecessary as far as conferring the powers of an ex officio justice of the peace upon the stipendiary were concerned. The clause, as it stood with Amendment, would make the stipendiary magistrate a servant of the Corporation. He did not know a case in which a stipendiary magistrate was at the beck and call of any persons in regard to his official duties. It was quite necessary that the approval of the Secretary for Scotland should be provided for, and it was necessary for the dignity and independence of an important judicial officer.


said, he only rose in consequence of the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for Glasgow. He asked what he himself knew about Glasgow, and why he was so much interested in this subject. He did not wish to pose in any false light. He explained to the House that he had no local knowledge, that he did not represent any interest in Glasgow; but he appealed to the House to adhere to the universal practice by which it had always been actuated—to maintain the independence of the judiciary in any appointment sanctioned by an Act of Parliament. The hon. Baronet had had an opportunity of explaining why this important provision had been conspicuously absent from the Bill. He confessed he was not at all satisfied with the way in which the matter had been arranged. He did not wish to reopen the controversy; but the fact remained in connection with the appointment of a stipendiary at Glasgow that the statutory safeguards which Parliament had inserted in a public Act so recently as 1892 had been disregarded and omitted from the Bill, and a precedent was being set which must be extremely dangerous and most inconvenient when followed in other cases. The Lord Advocate had said he was not the draughtsman of the Bill. But he would remind him that the Chairman of the Select Committee stated the previous day that it was on the assurance of the Lord Advocate, as the head of the Scotch Bar, that the Committee passed the Clause. His responsibility for the Bill was therefore second to no one else's. If he himself found the retiring allowance of the stipendiary had been inequitably adjusted he should move that the Bill be re-committed.

Amendment agreed to.