HC Deb 20 June 1895 vol 34 cc1519-23

On the Order for the Third Reading of this Bill,

MR. J. CALDWELL (Mid Lanark)

said, that on the Third Reading of this Bill he should limit his observations to Clause 24. He did not object to any other part of the Bill. Clause 24 dealt with stipendiary magistrates. The present law in Scotland, with regard to stipendiary magistrates, was contained in two public Acts—the Sheriff-Substitutes Act, 1875, which dealt with the appointment of stipendiary magistrates at Glasgow; and the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, which dealt with the appointment of stipendiary magistrates for all burghs, with the exception of the five exempted burghs which had power conferred upon them to adopt the section with regard to stipendiary magistrates, so that the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, applied or, at the will of the corporation, might be made applicable to to the case of stipendiary magistrates in every burgh in Scotland. Thus the Act of 1892 brought the Act of 1875 up to date. The Burgh Police Act of 1892 was a Government measure, brought in under the full responsibility of the Government. It had been bequeathed to the Government by its predecessors in Office, was carefully considered by a Select Committee, and afterwards by a Committee of the Whole House. The Burgh Police Bill as brought in made provision as to the appointment of stipendiary magistrates. But it was only to apply to burghs of over 50,000 inhabitants. Owing, however, to the extension of municipal legislation in Scotland, and the fact that many cases arose in which the corporations were personally interested, it became daily more necessary and expedient to have a stipendiary magistrate in the interest of the impartial and effective administration of the law. Hence the Act of 1892 applied to all burghs without limit of population, giving power to five larger burghs to adopt the Act, and making the law uniform in all the burghs in Scotland. It provided that the appointment of stipendiary magistrates should be made by the Crown; that the person appointed should hold the qualification of Sheriff Substitute, and have the same tenure of office and retiring allowance as the Sheriff-Substitute. When the Glasgow Corporation Bill was introduced into the House it ought to regulate, by private Bill, what had been, a matter of public statute law, and to place the appointment and initiative of dismissal in the hands of the Corporation, and provided for other powers of control by the Corporation not in the Acts of 1892 or 1875. The Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Crown, interfered with regard to the appointment and dismissal, but the Bill still contained, as part of the scheme, other powers of control and interference by the Corporation. As the Bill contained police and sanitary clauses it was referred to the Police and Sanitary Committee instead of to an ordinary Committee, and the duty of the Committee was to examine and compare the Bill with the existing public statutes on the subject, and make a report to the House in what respect, if any, there were changes in the existing policy and public law of the country. But the Committee did not appear to have had before them the Act of 1892 or have compared it with the Bill to see to what extent it was a departure from or modification of the statutes of 1875 and 1892. The Lord Advocate only stated that the clauses having been adjusted, as regarded the appointment and dismissal of the magistrate, the Crown had no objection, to the Bill. One thing was clear—the Committee did not report to the House in what respect the Bill differed from the statute law of 1892. It merely stated that it had sent for the Lord Advocate, who had expressed his satisfaction with the Bill. Without any intimation from the Police and Sanitary Committee the House amended the clauses in two important particulars. The chairman of the Police and Sanitary Committee stated that, in the case of England, he had received assistance officially from the Local Government Board, who advised him in matters of public law connected with England, but there was no such officer or official from the Scotch Office. That was an important matter requiring serious attention. If public statutes were to be embodied in private Bill legislation passing before the Police and Sanitary Committee, it was necessary there should be an official connected with the Scotch Office to advise the Committee in matters of Scotch law. The effect of no inquiry being made by the Committee was, that the House was asked to make changes for which no adequate reason whatever had been assigned. It was proposed, for instance, that the Corporation should have power to change the stipendiary from one court to another. The reason assigned by the Lord Advocate was, it was not unreasonable that provision should be made for the stipendiary to take charge of a court, the bailie presiding over which happened to be absent. He mentioned also that there were nine courts in Glasgow, and there were occasions when prisoners were awaiting trial in one part of the city with no magistrate to try them. But under this Bill the Corporation would have the honour of requesting the stipendiary magistrate to attend when he had concluded the work in his own court, and try these persons, who otherwise might have to wait for a day or perhaps more. There were nine magistrates' courts in Glasgow. The stipendiary sat at the Central Police Court and at St. Rollox, and the unpaid magistrates sat at the other seven. For these seven courts there were 15 bailies and 20 ex-bailies—35 in all, or a reserve of 28 magistrates, to take the place of any magistrate who might be absent. No magistrate knew how long his Court would sit, and, therefore, it was impossible to arrange business of that kind in such a manner as would enable one magistrate on the same day to do the work of another. It was, in his opinion, quite competent in Glasgow to send cases to the Stipendiary Court. If there were any doubt about that, a clause could be put in the Bill empowering the Corporation to do it. His contention was that they were dealing in a private Bill with matters which up to now had been dealt with by means of a public Bill. The Bill made important changes in the public statutes. The House had not been made acquainted, in the Committee's Report, with the changes in the public law of Scotland, which the Bill would make, or with the reasons for those changes. The Corporation of Glasgow might by simple resolution have adopted the provisions of the General Burgh Police Act. His contention was that it was not expedient when they were dealing with a case of what undoubtedly ought to be a question of public law, and what, moreover, was a matter affecting the administration of justice, that the House should in a private Bill introduce matters which were contrary to the principle of public law. It was quite true that the Bill only applied to Glasgow, but it had an application much wider than its promoters attached to it. The proper course in this case when they were proposing to alter the public law would have been for the Government of the day to bring in a Bill on their own responsibility so that, as in the case of 1892, the change in the law affected by the measure would apply to every burgh in Scotland.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

regretted very much that so much of the time of the House had been wasted over this Bill. He did not exactly know who was to blame for it, but he could not altogether free the Corporation of Glasgow from that blame. Parliament had spent a great deal of time for the benefit of Glasgow when the Burgh Police Bill was before the House. The stipendiary and other clauses had been put in for the benefit of the city Yet, after all that had been done, Glasgow came forward and asked for worse powers than were given in the Police Act, which gave them, if they had cared to adopt the section of the Act relating to the subject, powers to appoint stipendiaries on the same conditions as those under which the Sheriff-Substitutes were appointed. They could have adopted the section by a simple resolution; but instead of doing so the Corporation had brought in this private Bill, and they had wasted all this time over it. He rose simply to protest against that waste of time. He did not wish to waste more time; still, he thought that some power should exist to prevent corporations from coming to Parliament with private Bills, the object of which was to make changes in the public law.

*MR. WALTER LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)

, as the Chairman of the Police and Sanitary Regulations Committee, entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman opposite that this discussion was merely a waste of the time of the House. The hon. Member for Mid Lanark was entirely wrong in his assumption that the Committee were called upon to report to the House in what way private Bill provisions differed from public law. The Committee were called upon to report that powers were sought which deviated or differed from the general law, but they were not called upon to specify the manner in which those provisions did differ. If the hon. Member for Mid Lanark would look at the Committee's Report on the Bill, he would see that it contained schedules which gave the number of clauses which differed from the general law, and the local reasons which were given why the powers were desirable and which were sufficient for the Committee.

SIR CHARLES CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

said, that there was nothing proposed by Clause 24 which was in the smallest degree contrary to the law of the land. It did not provide pensions, but neither the Sheriff-Substitutes Act of 1875, nor the Municipal Corporations Act of England, provided pensions. He did not see, therefore, why the Corporation of Glasgow should be abused for not making an innovation, and he thought that the matter might very well have been allowed to rest after what took place on the Report Stage of the Bill.

Bill read 3°.

Forward to