§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
moved in Sub-section (l), paragraph (c), after "grazing," to insert 740 "or for sites for court houses, or residences for Sheriff's substitutes or Procurators Fiscal." He made this proposal chiefly on the ground of the public scandal which had surrounded this subject in the Highlands for many years. There were certain landlords in the Highlands who held very strong views of the rights of property, and in order to bring those views into consonance with more tolerant and enlightened views elsewhere prevailing, the. Crofters' Act had been passed, in order to remedy what was felt to be a scandal. In one district of the Highlands there was a landlord who, by his high-handed ideas of the rights of property, had endeavoured to interfere with the execution of justice. The result of his action had been to compel the Sheriff, unable to get a residence in the locality, to go into inferior lodgings where the water supply was found to be bad. Indeed, some weeks ago he left the island declaring that he would not stay in the locality to be poisoned. The honorary Deputy Sheriff was also away from his post, and the result was that no Sheriff Court was being held in the island, the proceedings to compel an amelioration of the water supply by the landlord being consequently stayed. The powers asked for in his Amendment had been asked for by all the public bodies in the district.
§ *THE LORD ADVOCATE
hoped that the hon. Member would not think he failed to sympathise with the undesirableness of public officers being obliged to live away from their districts through the difficulty of obtaining residences. The House would see, however, that the provision of residences was scarcely one of the purposes connected with congested districts. He believed that so far as the Sheriff-substitute was concerned, the matter had been got over, and that a house had been built for him. He hoped that it would be soon ready for his occupation. They could not, however, go so far out of their way as to change the character of the Bill by adopting the Amendment.
§ DR. CLARK
could not agree that Lochmaddy was a congested district, there being scarcely more than 20 houses in the place. This scandal in connection with residences had been going on for several years, and attention had been 741 drawn to it in Committee of Supply. The Sheriff and Procurator Fiscal, who were by Statute compelled to live in their jurisdiction, had been turned out of their houses by the landlord, and had been compelled to live in inferior houses and under bad sanitary conditions. He hoped the Scotch Office would prevent the scandal of which he had spoken: and see that these public officers, who were compelled to live in the district, should when turned out have some place where they could keep the law in decent condition.
§ *MR. HEDDERWICK
hoped the hon. Baronet would not persist with his Amendment. This was not a fund for the relief of embarrassed sheriffs, but for the relict of congested crofters. He was not personally aware that there was in this part of Scotland and rabid desire for Sheriffs or Sheriff-substitutes, though there was a. demand for land. He had no doubt the observations of the hon. Baronet might be of value as a protest against the manner in which a particular sheriff had been treated, and would form good ground for an attack on the Government on another occasion; but he thought the Amendment might very well be withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *THE LORD ADVOCATE
moved, in Sub-section (1), paragraph (b), after "of," to insert "lighthouses."
Amendment agreed to.
§ DR. CLARK
thought they ought to be able to get money for such a purpose outside this fund. He was rather opposed 742 to its being applied to any other object. His hon. Friend represented in this case the fishermen, who were perhaps suffering from congestion more than anybody else; and what he proposed might, no doubt, be useful in a far-away district, hut the money ought to come from some other fund, not from this particular fund. However, as the Government were willing that it should be left to the discretion of the Commissioners, he hoped the Commissioners would not spend much money in this direction.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
agreed that there was often a want of these telegraphic and postal facilities in the Highlands, but he very much doubted whether provision ought to be made for supplying the want in the way now proposed. The burden ought to rest upon the Post Office, at any rate the cost ought not to come out of this specific fund. He might remind his hon. Friend that provision had been made in other ways; for instance, under the recommendations of the Lighthouse Commission, of which he had been a member for some years, there had been a considerable extension of the telegraphic system, especially in the Highlands of Scotland, around the coast. In his opinion they ought not to use this limited fund for doing work that ought to be done by the Post Office, and work in which the Post Office of this country was singularly behind-hand compared with other countries. He was, therefore, entirely in favour of putting pressure upon the Post Office, but he was not in favour of this proposal.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
said he did not know whether the hon. Member for Ross was in the House at the time, but he thought the Government had that day introduced a Bill for giving telegraphic facilities in the north of Scotland. If that was so then this Amendment might well lie withdrawn until they had ascertained what these facilities were.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said he was quite of the same opinion. It was very unfortunate, he thought, that this Congested Districts Bill should have introduced into it a provision enabling the Commissioners to give guarantees to the Post Office. The result would be that when complaint was made to the Post. Office that telegraphic facilities were wanted, they would say, "We can do. nothing for you; go to the Congested Districts Board." Then the 743 Congested Districts Board would say, "Oh, it's a matter for the Post Office; go to the Post Office." Instead of facilitating matters, if two parties were authorised to do a thing the result generally was that neither would do it. If the Congested Districts Board was to guarantee the Post Office they would simply have one set of Imperial funds guaranteeing another. He thought that as this was an experiment, and it was only to last five years, the First Lord would probably see that it was not desirable to introduce such a matter into the Bill. There was no such power in the Irish Act, and he thought it would do harm rather than good. He hoped the Government would not accept the Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said that as the hon. Gentleman had expressed his intention not to withdraw the Amendment in response to hon. Gentlemen sitting above the Gangway on that side of the House, the Government must, of course, adhere to the pledge given by his right hon. Friend that he would accept the Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course that was obvious. But he might say that they certainly did not intend that these funds should be used to illegitimately relieve the Post Office of any charge that ought to fall upon it—["hear, hear!"]—and they should, of course, keep that policy strictly in view.
Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5, —