HC Deb 15 July 1910 vol 19 cc804-6

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


Will the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate tell us what is the meaning of this Bill?


The meaning of this Bill is that we desire to amend the procedure of the Sheriff's Court in Scotland. Experience has shown that the procedure is defective in some details which are sought to be remedied by this Bill. They are all purely technical points, and relate exclusively to procedure, and it will really not be fitting that I should weary the House with details about them. The hon. Gentleman can raise all the points he desires at the Scottish Committee.


There is no appointment of fresh judges I suppose?


The impression left on my mind is that the Lord Advocate has not read this Bill or the other——


I framed both Bills and carefully considered every detail I assure the Noble Lord.


These amending Bills are the result of hasty and ill-considered legislation of a few years ago. I believe that the Lord Advocate is perfectly justified in bringing in these Bills, but they are rather a strange comment upon legislation so recently passed. It is just another example of the manner in which the legislation of the last Parliament was very often rushed through very quickly, without sufficient consideration.


The one unfortunate experience I have had with regard to the Committees was when I was sent upstairs in 1907 to join the Scotch Committee. I remember bringing forward, at the instance of Scotch advocates, various Amendments with regard to this Bill, and they were all ruled out on the application of the then Lord Advocate. This Amending Bill is a standing illustration of the want of fore-thought with which Bills are brought forward in this House—important Bills like the Sheriffs Courts (Scotland) Bill. If you have to amend it so soon as three years after its passage, it shows the necessity of keeping such Bills on the floor of the House rather than sending them late in August to be considered by Committees compased, as that Committee was, of tired-out Members.


I was a Member of that Committee, and saw the Amendments which the hon. Member had put down, and it was a wonderful illustration of a man with a knowledge of the English law interfering with Scotch law. He would not have put a good many of them down if he had known anything about Scotch law.


I am sorry to rise on a point of Order. But would the hon. Member be kind enough to give an explanation and a description of those Amendments?


I think that is a matter for the Committee.


As a Member of a constituency in a considerable portion of the British Isles, namely, England, I should like to press the Lord Advocate just to give us English Members some explanation of what this Bill really means, because it is absolutely unintelligible to me, not being a lawyer or a Scotchman. If the hon. and learned Gentleman can assure me there will be proper opportunity for English Members to consider this Bill upstairs, I will raise no further objection, but if it is going to pass entirely out of the hands of English Members after its Second Reading, I think he ought to give us some explanation.


I protest against the method of passing Scotch legislation. This particular Bill was brought in and passed in the last three or four days of the Session of 1907. It consisted of something like 200 clauses, and no opportunity was given to the Scotch Committee to discuss it in detail. No Member had any opportunity of putting any Amendment on the Paper, and great pressure was brought to bear on everyone of the Scotch Members not to move any Amendment, but to let it pass. This position was put to them. The people of Scotland urgently wanted the Bill, and if any Amendments were insisted upon the Bill would be entirely lost. The option was given either to take this Bill in an unamended form, and, as this amending Bill proves, in a bad shape, or not to get it at all. That is the everlasting way in which Scotch business is treated. We are always at the tail-end of every sitting, or we are allowed a Friday afternoon. I venture to say the sooner we get Horne Rule for Scotland the better.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.