§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland a question of which I have given him private notice, namely: Whether his attention has been drawn to 557 the public indignation which exists in Scotland owing to the continued imprisonment of eleven Lewis cottars in the Calton gaol; whether he is aware that a public subscription has become necessary to maintain their eighty dependants and to keep them from starving; and whether he is now in a position to make a statement as to their immediate release and the acquisition of land for them?
The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
The question of my hon. and learned Friend raises an important point of principle. In a case like this, where the sentence is imposed by the Court of Session for refusal to obey an order of the Court, I have been able to find no precedent for interference by the Executive with the exercise of the sole power possessed by the Court to enforce its orders. There would be obvious and serious objections to such interference, as my hon. Friend, who is a lawyer, will, I think, recognise, and I have the gravest doubt whether I have any right to interfere. I much regret that the cottars have not yet agreed to give the undertaking required by the Court. I have, of course, no right to speak on behalf of the Court, but I venture to think, judging from their previous action, that if the men will give the undertaking they will be leniently treated. I may be allowed to add that I am informed by the Prison Commissioners that the men are wearing the dress of untried prisoners, not by compulsion, but by their own choice. They may wear their own clothes whenever they wish.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON rose—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would, point out to bon. Members that the particular necessity of restricting supplementary questions has now passed. If the hon. Member wishes to ask a supplementary question to elucidate the reply, he is entitled to do so.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I understand, Sir, that before I came into the House you had given a ruling in connection with supplementary questions. I think it would be for the convenience of the House if we could understand exactly what it is.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The position was this: At one point of our proceedings there Were six or eight hon. Gentlemen who rose to ask supplementary questions. We had 139 questions upon the Paper. We had then reached twenty-five minutes past three, and it was obvious that if the supplementary questions which were going to be asked were very many in number we should make very little progress with the questions upon the Paper. I suggested that for once we might revert to the old rule. That does not mean that in future, from this day onwards, supplementary questions cannot be asked. I made the suggestion solely in consequence of the circumstances in which we found ourselves.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of my right hon. Friend's reply to my question, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this question again on the Motion for Adjournment to-night.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is not a matter for me to decide. I simply said the Prime Minister would make a statement on the subject.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the Prime Minister, who is also a Scottish Member, that we desire, and have given notice, to discuss this question at eleven o'clock, and it is infinitely more important to Scotsmen to get eleven crofters out of gaol than to keep two officers at the War Office?