§ In Section thirteen of the principal Act the following words shall be added at the end of the Section: "The examinations shall be held in Scotland."—[Mr. Milne].
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Mr. MILNE
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The purpose of the Act has been largely frustrated. It was the aim and the intention of the framers of the Act that all proceedings connected with our private legislation, as far as possible, should be carried out in Scotland. In point of fact, the great majority of the Orders, certainly of the more important Orders, are drafted in Loudon, and the proceedings are carried through by London solicitors. It was in the contemplation of the Legislature that this should be done in Edinburgh. One of the principal reasons for this unsatisfactory state of matters is the fact that the Scottish Office is situated not in Edinburgh, where it ought to be—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I do not know whether the hon. Member quite realises the exact implication of the Clause he is proposing. He proposes that:In Section thirteen of the principal Act the following words shall be added at the end of the Section: 'The examinations shall be held in Scotland.'Those examinations really relate to examinations for Standing Orders before the Examiners, and the hon. Member seems to be making what is in the nature of a Third Reading speech.
§ Mr. MILNE
I stand corrected. My purpose in making that reference to the Scottish Office—and I was going on to say that I was not intending to enter into it at all—was because I wanted to preserve a proper sense of proportion. There is another cause, which is a contributory one. Examinations are held in Scotland. I had better explain what that means, as it is a technical term. There are officials called Examiners who 341 hold examinations. These are technical terms which will be found in the Act. At these examinations the promoters are required to appear, and, if need be, to lead evidence in order to satisfy the examiners that the general orders have been complied with. It was in the contemplation of the Legislature that these examinations would be conducted in Scotland, because in the principal Act it will be found that the Legislature 'makes provision for payment of the travelling expenses and subsistence allowance of the examiners.
More than that, I find that there is a general Order which provides that, when it appears to be for the general convenience of the parties interested, or to be otherwise advisable, the examination shall be held in Scotland. As long as it depends on the convenience of the parties, or, I suppose, the convenience of the London agents, then it seems to me the prospect is remote indeed of our ever seeing an examiner in Scotland. But there is no reason whatsoever why examiners should not come north to Scotland. Apart from travelling expenses, no expense would be incurred, and I am certain that the examiners themselves would be perfectly ready to come north to Scotland. Accordingly, I invite the Committee to insert these words, so that the examinations shall be held in Scotland.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
The present position is that under the general Orders the appointment of time and place for examinations shall be in the discretion of the Commissioners, provided that where it appears to be for the general convenience of the parties interested, or otherwise advisable, the examination shall be held in Scotland. Accordingly, at the present time what determines the question whether the examination shall take place in London or in Edinburgh is solely the convenience of the parties, and not the convenience of the Examiners or anyone else. It would be inappropriate by legislation to compel examinations to take place in London, even although that was contrary to the convenience of the promoters and other parties interested in the Orders. If hereafter the promoters choose to employ 342 Parliamentary agents in Edinburgh, the result will be that the examinations will, in an increasing degree, take place in Edinburgh, which will be a convenient place for them, and the existing provisions give all the necessary power for an examination to take place in Edinburgh unless it is inconvenient to hold it there. Therefore, I must oppose the proposed new Clause.
§ Mr. MILNE
In view of what the Solicitor-General for Scotland has said, I realise that there are difficulties. I fear that this reform, along with many other reforms, must await the removal of the Scottish Office to Edinburgh, and accordingly, with the permission of the Committee, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.
§ Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.