HC Deb 24 May 1895 vol 34 cc240-1
MR. ALPHEUS C. MORTON (Peterborough)

I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware that a number of sheriffs have attended meetings recently held in Edinburgh in furtherance of the election of candidates for a seat in the House of Commons; and whether their action is in violation of a well-recognised rule, that judicial officers should abstain from actively identifying themselves with Party political controversies.


I have answered a similar question in this House before, and will make a similar reply. The sheriff's in Scotland are not bound by the regulations which govern the permanent Civil Service with regard to political action; and the Executive have no political control over their conduct in the matter, any more than over the Judges of the Supreme Court or the Court of Session. It is well established that the Judges of the Supreme Court, of their own accord, abstain from taking an active part in elections, from a sense that their duty requires them to preserve the confidence of men of all parties in politics; and the same consideration should weigh with the sheriff's—especially when it is considered that they perform the double function of settling finally the Registration of Voters, and superintending Parliamentary elections in the character of returning officers.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I should like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will call the attention of these sheriffs, who are now taking part in political meetings, to this question, and ask them to discontinue doing so; and if those gentlemen, who are Justices of the Peace, do continue this conduct, what course can be taken, to prevent them?


It is a very dubious course for the Executive to interfere with officers over whom they have no control. My own personal opinion, which is undoubtedly shared by Members of the Government and by the majority of Members in the House, has been expressed very clearly in my answer to the question, and there I must stop.


I beg to ask the right Hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he will be good enough to call tbe attention of the Revising Baristers, whom he employs—


Order! order! That does not arise out of this question.