HC Deb 06 November 1911 vol 30 cc1376-81

(1) It shall be lawful for His Majesty, on the recommendation of the Secretary for Scotland, at any time after the commencement of this Act, and from time to time as vacancies occur, to appoint not more than five persons, to be designated the Scottish Land Court (in this Act referred to as the Land Court) and to appoint one of such persons to be Chairman of the Court.

(2) One of the said persons (in this Act referred to as the legal member) shall be a person who at the date of his appointment shall be an advocate of the Scottish bar of not less than ten years' standing.

(3) One of the said persons shall be a person who can speak the Gaelic language.

(4) It shall be lawful for the Secretary for Scotland to remove any member of the Land Court for inability or misbehaviour. Every order of removal shall state the reasons for which it is made, and no such order shall come into operation until it has lain before both Houses of Parliament for not less than thirty days, nor if either House passes a resolution objecting to it.

(5) If and when the legal member is temporarily unable to attend, or his office is vacant, the Secretary for Scotland may appoint to act temporarily in his place any person having the qualification required for holding the office of legal member, and the person so appointed shall, during such inability or vacancy, have the same powers and perform the same duties as if he were the legal member.

(6) The Secretary for Scotland shall from time to time appoint a fit person to act as principal clerk to the Land Court.

(7) The Land Court may appoint or employ such assessors, surveyors, law agents, valuers, clerks, messengers, and other persons required for the due performance of their duties, as the Treasury, on the recommendation of the Secretary for Scotland, may sanction.

(8) Any Crofters Commissioner or officer of the Crofters Commission in office at the commencement of this Act, who may not be appointed a member or an officer of the Land Court, shall receive such compensation as the Treasury may determine.

(9) There shall be paid to the Chairman of the Land Court a salary not exceeding two thousand pounds a year, and to each of the other members a salary not exceeding twelve hundred pounds a year, and such salaries shall be charged on and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof.

(10) There shall be paid to each of the other persons appointed or employed under this section such salary or remuneration as the Treasury may sanction; and all such salaries and remuneration and the expenses of the Land Court incurred in the execution of their duties, to such amount as may be sanctioned by the Treasury, shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.

(11) The Land Court shall submit such estimates and keep such accounts of their receipts and expenditure, and their accounts shall be audited in accordance with such regulations as the Treasury may direct.

(12) It shall be lawful for the Land Court from time to time to make rules for conducting the business of the Court.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (2) leave out the words "One of the said persons (in this Act referred to as the legal member)," and to insert instead thereof the words "the Chairman."—[Mr. Ure.]


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to add the words, "and shall forthwith on his appointment have the same rank as if he had been appointed a judge of the Court of Session."

The intention of the Government is to give the Chairman of the Land Court high rank. The intention of the Government is to give the chairman a very high rank and position in the legal hierarchy of Scotland. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Will he be a peer?"] Peers will not be disqualified. The intention is to put the chairman much in the same position as the head of the Irish Land Commission: that is in a position of a judge of the High Court.


We have now reached a stage in our proceedings in which we are creating this new rank, which by the way, I thought used to be the prerogative of the Sovereign, and perhaps as we have reached that stage we might get some information about this chairman; this glorified official and his subordinates and satellites.


I am afraid the convenient season is not yet reached.


I understand this Board was to be absolutely impartial, and that any Amendments to that effect need not be brought forward as they would be quite unnecessary. Here is the first attempt by giving a man the dignity of a peer and a law lord. I cannot really understand what is the reason for making the head of these five people a member of the Court of Sessions, with the rank of a judge of the Court of Sessions. The Lord Advocate complained a few moments ago that suggestions which had been made would inflict indignity upon him. Is it not really inflicting an indignity upon a judge of the Court of Sessions to make it necessary that the consent of the Sheriff of the county must be given before his acts can be carried out. His decisions will have to be signed by the Sheriff before being administered. I cannot see why that is necessary. If he is to receive this rank and dignity is it to carry a pension with it?


While the chairman is to have the same rank as a judge of the Court of Sessions, it seems to me he is not to have anything like the same salary.


Before this Amendment is passed I want to call attention to the fact that the Government is creating a new series of posts. They are setting up in Scotland new prizes for the legal profession. This seems to be the settled policy of this Government. They set up under every Bill a new army of officials, and create new posts and prizes for their followers and for others who may secure their favour. This occasion should not be allowed to pass without calling attention to the fact that this Bill is going to involve further expenditure of public money for the payment of high salaried officials, and to create a new train of Government followers.

Further Amendments made: In Subsection (5), leave out the words "legal member" ["If and when the legal member is temporarily unable to attend"], and insert instead thereof the word "chairman."—[Mr. Ure.]

In Sub-section (5), leave out the words "legal member" ["the office of legal member and"], and insert instead thereof the word "Chairman."—[Mr. Ure.]

In Sub-section (5), leave out the words "legal member" ["as if he were the legal member"], and insert instead thereof the word "chairman"—[Mr. Ure.]


The next Amendment, standing in the name of the Lord Advocate—to add, at the end of Subsection (9), the words, "The chairman shall have the same right to a retiring annuity proportionate to his salary, subject to the like conditions and incidents, as if he had been appointed a judge of the Court of Sessions, and every such annuity shall be charged and paid as aforesaid"—cannot be moved at this stage, as it creates a new charge.


I presume that I should apply at the end of this Report stage to recommit the Bill in regard to this Amendment.


The question cannot be raised now.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman bound to raise it now, and to move to have the Bill recommitted.


No, it cannot be raised at this stage.


I beg to move, to add at the end of Subjection (9) the words, "Every member of the Land Court shall devote his whole time to the duties of the said Court."

In view of the discussion which has taken place upon the Amendments in regard to the position of the new judge, this Amendment is all the more important. The Lord Advocate is creating a new judge of the Court of Sessions at a cheap rate. What we want to know is, is he going to supplement his payment by some other payment? It seems to us that this new position is a very important one and the remuneration is very substantial, and it is undesirable that the position here created should be held along with another position such, for instance, as that of sheriff. Perhaps the Lord Advocate would say that is not the intention, but if that is so there can be no harm in this Amendment. If it is intended that he should supplement his payment then we had better know the fact.


I have pleasure in seconding this Amendment. I think the principle involved is a good one. The probability is that these jobs will fall into that maw that gets the best jobs in Scotland, namely, the sheriffs and the sheriffs' substitutes, and if not to Members of Parliament. I think the only safety would be if these people all got jobs before this Bill passed. Seriously I think it wise that members of this Court should not have other posts from which they derive payment. That is the principle involved in the last few years in Government appointments such as the Procurator-Fiscal—that a man in a profession should abandon that profession when appointed to any Government position. In this instance, I think, it would be wise to carry out that rule.


As I intimated on the Committee stage, it is undoubtedly the intention of the Government that all the members of the Land Court should devote themselves exclusively to their duties, and that there should be no duplication of offices in connection with the Land Court. The usual way in which to give effect to an undertaking of that kind is to insert a provision in the Commission to the members of the Land Court. It is never done in the Act itself, and I give an undertaking that in the Commission appointing all these members of the Land Court this provision shall be inserted.


I heartily agree with this Amendment, and I think it would be much better to have it in the Bill than to put it into the Commission of appointment. If I were certain that my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate would remain in office for ever I should have no difficulty whatever. He may be going to a higher station, and we might be left with someone who has made no such promise. I think a mere promise is not enough, and it is much better to put it into the Bill, and thus show to our constituencies that we are not afraid to say what we mean, and then the gentlemen appointed to this office must obey the Act of Parliament. I hope the Lord Advocate will consent to put this in the Bill in a straightforward way.


I think we ought to know who these gentlemen are who are going to be put into these permanent positions. They might be Tories.


I think we ought to know something more about the gentlemen who are going to be members of this Court. We have no information about the Court at all, except that the chairman will rank as if he were a judge of Court of Session. Surely we ought to have some more information on this point.


I rejoice to think that the right hon. Gentleman takes such a sanguine view about this Bill becoming law that he insists upon knowing who the members of the Court are going to be. At the same time, the Bill may not become law, and it would be inconvenient to mention the names of gentlemen who do not yet know whether they would ever be appointed.


We are asking for nothing unusual. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman the same thing was demanded in the case of the Licensing Bill, and the names were announced before the Bill went through the Report stage. I do not know whether there is any other case, but I remember that one, and it is no good the Lord Advocate trying to ride off on that horse, because that cock won't fight. We had a discussion about this in Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that we might know something about it. Personally, I believe this will pass into law this Session, and I am sure it will if the right hon. Gentleman is reasonable. I have every reason to hope that the Bill will pass, and I think we are entitled to ask for a little more information.


After the undertaking which has been given I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.