HC Deb 09 May 1898 vol 57 cc740-3

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith), CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, in the Chair.]

(In the Committee.)

MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

When this matter was last before the House I raised a question with regard to a clause introducing an entirely new method in the law with regard to the removal of sheriffs, and I felt that in a matter of that kind there ought to be some provision made with regard to giving the sheriff some allowance in respect to the operation of that clause. Since then the Government have been able to satisfy the Treasury, and the resolution with regard to that allowance has passed through Committee, and there is a clause giving effect to that recommendation. I merely make this explanation in order to say that I do not any longer oppose this clause of the Bill.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

Under the clause, as it now stands (I do not want to mention any particular cases, would age become an inability? I know of one case in which age certainly is an inability.


I am quite satisfied as to that.

Question put, and agreed to— That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill. Upon a report prepared at the instance of the Secretary for Scotland by the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk for the time being, declaring that a sheriff depute in Scotland is, by reason of inability or misbehavior, unfit for his office, it shall be lawful for the Secretary for Scotland to issue an order for his removal from office, provided always that such order shall lie before both Houses of Parliament for a period of four consecutive weeks while Parliament is sitting, and if either House of Parliament within that period resolve that such order ought not to take effect, the same shall be of no effect, but otherwise shall come into operation at the expiration of the said month.

Question put, and agreed to— That the following new clause stand part of the Bill. This Act shall not apply to sheriffs substitute.

Question put— That the following new clause stand part of the Bill. If a sheriff is removed under the preceding section before he has completed ten years service on the ground that he is, by reason of inability, unfit for his office, it shall be lawful for the Treasury to grant him an annuity of such amount as they shall consider just in all the circumstances, but in no case exceeding three-tenths of the salary payable to such sheriff, and any such annuity shall be charged upon and payable out of the same fund and in the same manner as annuities to sheriffs are paid and charged under the first section of the Public Revenue and Consolidated Fund Charges Act, 1854.


I am not strongly opposed to this going on the Consolidated fund but would it not be better, if you are disposing of a judge, as you are practically doing, that the question of salary should come before this House? If the Bill passes in this form, then the House of Commons will not be able to express an opinion; whereas if it comes on the Estimates, along with the other superannuations, then it might be considered and discussed. I think it would be better that the matter should come before the House, and perhaps the Lord Advocate will explain the reason why it is placed on the Consolidated fund.


The reason is a very simple one; this Bill puts these sheriffs' annuities on exactly the same basis as other sheriffs' annuities are, and it would be a very exceptional thing to do to put them on a different footing.


This Order will lie upon the Table of both Houses, and probably it will not become law without there being further discussion. Under the Act of 1853, the pension is to be gained by service, and that Act is automatic in its operation; but the Treasury has conceded the principle contained in this new clause, for which they deserve our thanks. During the last Parliament we had three sheriffs who were members of the Board of Provision, and who drew £150 a year for looking into the office once or twice every fortnight. When the Board of Provision became the Local Government Board these three men were pensioned off for life at half of their salary. One of them had served two years and the other three years. So that three of our sheriffs having served at the utmost three years, get a pension for life at the rate of half their salary. These pensions will not go on the Estimates. I will not, however, press the matter beyond saying that I think that pensions of this kind for exceptional service—not earned by time, but granted under special circumstances—should come before the House.


moved the following Amendment— Line 4, after the word 'amount,' add the words 'for such period.'


This Amendment enables the Treasury, in the case of a sheriff being removed for inability, to grant the pension for life, or to restrict it to any number of years they may think proper.


The question is that— In line 4, after the word 'amount,' the words 'for such period' be added.

Question put, and agreed to, that the words proposed stand part of the clause.

Question put, and agreed to— That the clause as amended stand part of the Bill.

Moved— That the word 'depute' be omitted from the title of the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.


I will report this Bill, as amended, to the House.

House resumed.