§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN TRAIN
I beg to move, in page 6, line 27, to leave out paragraph (4).
The Clause deals with matters in respect of which the Bill affects Scotland. I believe this is a good Bill, because of the cumulative effect all over the country in the interruption of meetings and processions got up by various causes, many of them good causes. The Bill is designed to keep proper public order, and I support it. When we come to exemptions for Scotland, I would draw the attention of the Committee to paragraph (4), which says:Sub-section (1) of Section three of this Act shall in its application to a burgh have effect with the substitution of references to the magistrates of the burgh for references to the chief officer of police, and any reference to the powers conferred by the said Sub-section shall be construed accordingly.To-night we discussed Clause 3, in the beginning of which it states emphatically that the chief of police shall be in charge, andif the chief officer of police is of opinion, having regard to the time or place at which and the i circumstances in which any procession s taking place or is intended to take place and to the route taken or proposed to be taken by the procession, that there is ground for apprehending that the procession may occasion serious public disorder, he may give directions.The chief of police has the power. Apparently the Bill is designed so that England and Wales shall have a privilege that Scotland has not, the power of the chief of police to decide. I am in considerable difficulty at the present time, because, when Clause 3 was discussed, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) put a question to the Lord Advocate as to whether the magistrates of Glasgow were to be the controlling power, or the chief of police. You pointed out, Captain Bourne, that there was an Amendment later which you intended to call and which dealt with that very subject, but the Lord Advocate replied to the hon. Member that he intended to support the view that the authority in Scotland should be the magistrates, and not the chief of police as in England. Therefore, it follows that 691 the answer to this present Amendment has been given already by the spokesman of the Government, before any argument has been put forward and before a Debate has taken place on Clause 8, which applies to Scotland. It may be that the Amendment will be turned down, but I give full marks to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs for raising the question at that time and getting his answer. He thereupon proceeded to make a speech, and also to vote against Clause 3. He was one of the noble 13 who voted against that Clause, and, therefore, was consistent in his position. I take a different view. I voted for Clause 3, and I think it is right.
We in Scotland have always been fond of processions. One of my earliest recollections of a procession, in the village where I was brought up, was a Sunday School treat on a Saturday afternoon, when we went through the main streets with little tin mugs slung over our shoulders, and the village band in front playing, "There is a happy land, far, far away." That liking for processions has grown up with us, and there is very little interference with processions in Scotland. Is it that we are far better civilised in Scotland than you are in England and Wales, so that we do not require any chief of police to look after us? But we have very kind-hearted magistrates, who are appointed by the people and elected as magistrates by the town council, so that we are in advance of England and Wales. I recall, however, something riot so happy. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs talked of 1919, when he got a crack over the head in Glasgow. Two or three hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite will remember that incident perfectly well, as I do. I was sitting as chairman at a meeting of a joint wages board which was trying to settle wages and hours and conditions, when broken bottles were thrown about the streets. We had the accredited representatives of the trade union and the employers discussing this question, but it was taken into the hands of the mob, and there was a riot in the street. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was in Scotland."] That was in Glasgow in 1919, and there are hon. Members sitting on those benches who will remember it.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
These historical reminiscences are no doubt extremely interesting, but I fail to see what connection they have with the question whether the magistrates or the chief of police shall be the authority.
§ Sir J. TRAIN
I am very sorry; I was trying to reply to something that had been said in the Debate. In spite of all that has been said about Edinburgh being a very quiet place, where they have never been accustomed to anything but the magistrates' control, Glasgow is a place where we have had disorders in the past, and in this Bill, while we are giving this power to the police in small boroughs and county councils in England and Wales, in Scotland we are going to leave out those large burghs where these things may happen at any moment. Are we to wait until the chief constable calls a meeting of his magistrates before he can act in the matter? Why should Scotland be exempted? Is Scotland not as important as England and Wales? Do we require separate legislation for Scotland? Can we be given a definite reason why we should not have the chief of police in the same position in Scotland as in England and Wales? I appeal to the Government to reconsider the position. If this is a good Measure for England and Wales, it is a good Measure for Scotland.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. HARDIE
We have just had a very interesting dissertation from a Scotsman who seems to have forgotten all his native logic. He began by arguing that Scotland is a very peaceful place and is famous for its administration. It is true. I do not know why he should want to make a change unless it is that he himself has ceased to have any ideals about democracy and that he wants, now that he sees other parties coining into majorities where he does not like them, to hand over civic powers to non-elected authorities. From the earliest days of local government, even going back to the twelfth century, it has always been the boast. of the Scottish people that they are capable of dealing with any kind of disturbance that may crop up. There is no city with a better record than Glasgow 693 in regard to public disturbances. I put that down to the fact that you cannot find a more patient people anywhere. When you consider the condition to which the capitalist system has reduced certain people in big areas of that city, one wonders that there are not very serious disturbances. I challenge any hon. Member from Scotland to say that there has ever been a disturbance in Glasgow of the magnitude described by the hon. Gentleman.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is exactly the point where I stopped the hon. Gentleman. It is quite irrelevant.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Gentleman knows from his own experience that if he went back now, even to his own constituency, and suggested that the democratic body was to hand over its powers to an unelected person he would very likely have to run away. Suppose we get away from the city and come to the cour, ties and small burghs, is there not a greater argument still when you leave the industrial city, in favour of preserving that sense of justice. Take the case of the chief of police of Lanarkshire, who is stationed at Hamilton. Imagine what might take place in all the areas which he has to govern. I cannot understand why any Scotsman should come along with the idea that we should follow anything that was done in England and Wales in connection with doing away with democratic institutions. The democracy of Scotland has always had that power, and I am convinced that if a plebiscite were taken in Scotland the whole of the people would vote for the retention of their civic rights. I hope that the Lord Advocate will see to it that we are protected from any hon. Member who may try to take away our civic rights.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment has acted very unwisely, and I hope that the Lord Advocate will not make any concession with regard to it. The position under the Bill, as it is at present, is that the chief of police, if he has reasonable grounds for supposing that trouble may occur with regard to a demonstration, will consult the magistrates, and will have their backing if his grounds are sufficiently reasonable. That is probably the soundest line, if you are to have interference with the present practice, 694 and the most suitable way, considering our Scottish law and organisations. I do not want to develop the point, but I hope that on the Report stage I shall have an opportunity of making a further suggestion to the Lord Advocate as to how this matter ought to be dealt with, and he will probably consider before then whether it will not be possible to do this to meet the hon. Gentleman behind him in this way. Sub-section (5) should be omitted so that there should be not only the decision of the magistrates with regard to a demonstration being banned for any long period, but that the matter should come before the local council for ratification. You would have the magistrates acting on the initiative of the chief of police in the first place with regard to the route of the demonstration and whether special steps should be taken in view of the circumstances, and then, if the emergency situation about which the Lord Advocate spoke earlier in the day should come along, and for some reason or other it was desired to ban demonstrations for a period of time, the magistrates would approach and get the consent of the council to put their proposal before the Secretary of State for Scotland for action to be taken.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I was only mentioning it in connection with this Amendment as suggesting to the hon. Member for Cathcart (Sir J. Train) that in this way he might get some of the advantage in the English Measure, which seems to have been one of the motives in putting this Amendment to the Lord Advocate. I hope the Lord Advocate is going to retain the position as it is in the Bill. I think he would probably agree that the different procedure here has not been come to lightly, but in a certain measure because of the different relationship between the police and the magistrates in the Scottish administration as compared with the position of the police and the watch committees in English administration. I hope that on Report the Lord Advocate may be able to consider further the consideration regarding town councils.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. ERSKINE HILL
I rise to express my opposition to the Amendment. In 695 Scotland magistrates have been entrusted, to a large degree, with the keeping of law and order. That tradition is one which has lasted in many cases for several hundred years, and the magistrates have fulfilled their duties in an admirable way. The Burgh Police Act, 1892, gave powers to different burghs in Scotland to administer the keeping of law and order. Glasgow did not avail itself of those powers, but those burghs which did do so have well fulfilled the duties entrusted to them. The answer to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who suggested that power should be given to the town councils as well, is that, as the magistrates have done well in the past, why should we alter the scheme of things? For that reason I am in favour of entrusting the power to the burghs, and not to the chief constables.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
My task has been considerably lightened by the Debate that has taken place. The Committee will appreciate that the issue raised by this Amendment is based on Clause 3 being part of the Bill, and the question is, assuming that this procession Clause is to be part of the law of England and Scotland, which is the proper authority in Scotland—the magistrates or the chiefs of police? I am surprised at the way the hon. Member for Cathcart (Sir J. Train) put the position in moving this Amendment. He seemed to put it that what is good enough for England is good enough for Scotland—a view which Scottish Members would be very slow to appreciate. The answer is that in deliberately choosing the magistrates of the Scottish burghs as the substitute for the chief officer of police in the Scottish burghs the Government were influenced by a completely different historical background of local government and police control in Scotland from that of England. I have touched on that subject before and would only remind the Committee that if we had adopted the English system of the chief officer of police, one or other of two results would have followed. Either the control in Scotland would have been a dual control, a most confusing and complex thing, or, alternatively, we should have had to face in this Bill the necessity of amending quite a number of Scottish Acts, private 696 and public, and withdrawing from the magistrates of every burgh in Scotland, except Glasgow, powers which they already exercised and with which, according to the best information I have been able to get, they will be exceedingly reluctant to part.
I appreciate that in putting the duty of exercising the powers of Clause 3 upon the magistrates of Scotland we are imposing upon them a very difficult and very big task, which probably they would be very pleased to be without, but I am quite confident, nevertheless, from the record of centuries of administration of law and order in Scotland which the history of the magistrates can present, that they will be able in a spirit of high public duty to discharge this function in the future as they have discharged it in the past. I accordingly suggest to the Committee that they should reject the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I beg to move, in Page 6, line 30, after burgh, "to insertand in its application to non-burghal areas have effect with the substitution of references to the county council.We desire to get the same security for the non-burghal burgh as for the county.
§ 10.59 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I am afraid that the arguments which I used a few moments ago in respect of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cathcart (Sir J. Train) are almost equally efficacious in regard to the present Amendment, and I would urge the Committee to reject the Amendment. The county council in Scotland which the hon. Member proposes to make the authority in non-burghal areas has none of the historical position and none of the police functions which the magistrates of Scottish burghs have. The county council in Scotland was only brought into being in 1929 by the Local Government Act of that year, when the county council superseded as the police authority the Standing Joint Committee which had exercised the function prior to that year. Accordingly, there is a, complete absence of that back- 697 ground of historical tradition on the part of the county council towards the nonburghal areas which the Committee has accepted with regard to magistrates in burghs.
In the second place there is no case in which the county councils of Scotland possess powers of this nature. Finally, there is the practical argument which will appeal to the hon. Member. If this power in the matter of procession control and local disorder is to be exercised by a local authority that local authority must necessarily possess an intimate local knowledge of the localities where disorder is likely to break out and where processions are likely to take place. In a local authority for a burgh you have a body of persons who by the very necessity of the case possess that local knowledge, or presumably possess it, whereas in the case of a county council or the police committee of a county council, drawn from an area hundreds of square miles and many of them residing 40 miles away, it is quite impracticable to get that local knowledge which is required for an intelligent exercise of this power.
In addition, there is this further consideration, that by no reasonably practical method I can think of would it be possible to secure consultation or conference between the members of the average county council with the necessary expedition desirable for the exercise of this power. The case of the county council is in vivid contrast to that of the magistrates of a burgh, and the reasons which induced hon. Members to accept magistrates on the last Amendment are really the reasons for inducing them to believe, as I suggest they should, that the county council is not the appropriate body in the case of non-burghal areas. In that situation the only alternative is the chief officer of police, and accordingly the practical solution which I commend to the Committee is to allow the police to remain as the authority for the non-burghal areas in Scotland. I appreciate the suggestion that it is not logical that in the burghs it should be a popularly elected authority and in the case of the non-burghal areas a non-elected body. There is, of course, an absence of strict logic, but my answer, in addition to what I have already said, is that strict 698 logic is not always a wise guide in local public administration or in statecraft in general. This is a typical instance where the strict logic of the situation must give way to the considerations of common sense.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Could the Lord Advocate not make a distinction as between the chief officer of police being vested with powers for the direction of processions and the county council having some power as to whether there should be a permanent ban I That is a different matter. It is a much stronger power permanently to ban processions, and I wonder whether the Lord Advocate can consider between now and Report making the county council for some period of time the authority in that matter.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I shall, of course, consider between now and Report stage any suggestions made by any hon. Member, but I would remind the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) of the fact that Sub-section (2) of Clause 3 is confined in its application in England to boroughs and urban districts, and does not apply to rural districts. Therefore, the necessity for a reference to a corresponding Scottish local authority would not appear to arise.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. Gentleman was saying that in the other matter we should not follow England, and I therefore think we could differ from England in this case as well.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I do not wish to pursue that matter, because it is one that might call for more consideration. I was simply pointing out to the hon. Member that in England it applies to boroughs and urban districts only. I can assure the hon. Member that I will look further into the matter.
§ 11.6 p.m.
§ Mr. HARDIE
While it is true that the councils as organised bodies are only of recent date, something of the sort existed for very many years. I had hoped the Lord Advocate would have been able to do something on the lines I suggested, and I hope that between now and Report stage he may be able to think of some way out. For the reasons he has just 699 given, and in the hope that he will consider the matter further between now and Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 11.7 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I would like to refer to one or two points with regard to this Clause. I would like the Lord Advocate to tell me how the Clause affects local authorities who already have powers to deal with processions. Will this Clause take precedence over any of the local by-laws that the town councils may have already? The town councils, or burghs, throughout Scotland already possess various powers in local by-laws. There is a difference in practice, in powers, in fines and punishments, and in the chief constables' powers. Will this Bill, if it becomes an Act, take precedence over the local by-laws, and will the local bylaws cease to have effect wherever the Act takes over the duties which the bylaws gave to the local authorities?
The second matter to which I would like to refer is the permanent ban to be imposed by the magistrates. I would ask the Lord Advocate whether he could not give further consideration to the question of the imposition of a permanent ban, that is to say, a ban for a period of time? I submit that when there is to be a ban for a period of time, the magistrates should seek the approval of the town council, and I would ask the Lord Advocate whether he cannot give serious consideration to the question whether the magistrates should not seek the approval of the town council?
Another point I would like to raise is the power of the procurator-fiscal in connection with the search warrant. As I understand Sub-section 3, the procurator-fiscal will apply to the sheriffs for power for a search warrant. I anticipate that "sheriff" in this connection will mean "sheriff substitute," but I hope it is not intended to include honorary sheriffs substitute. The point was raised in the discussions on the Incitement to Disaffection Act that there were honorary sheriffs substitute who were not appointed on grounds of legal training and knowledge but often on quite different grounds. In 700 matters involving important points such as may arise here, the reference should be to the sheriff and not to the honorary sheriff and I hope the Lord Advocate in this respect will follow the procedure adopted in the Incitement to Disaffection Act. I would also like to know whether the reference to the procurator-fiscal applies to a deputy and, if so, to what class of deputy; or must the procurator-fiscal himself in pursuance of his legal duties undertake this work.
§ 11.12 p.m.
§ Mr. ERSKINE HILL
I wish to raise a question of drafting with reference to paragraph (6) which states that the provisions of Clause 6 in so far as they relate to the institution of prosecutions shall not apply to Scotland. If the Committee look at Clause 6 they will see that these words are obviously meant to apply to the new Sub-section (4) which that Clause proposes to add to Section 1 of the Public Meeting Act. I think, however, they are capable of an interpretation which would also have the effect of wiping out as regards Scotland the proposed new Subsection (3) which it is proposed to add to Section 1 of the Public Meeting Act. That Sub-section (3) makes a person's refusal to give his name and address an offence and that obviously relates to the institution of proceedings. I think the point might be met for the present by an undertaking on the part of the Lord Advocate that between now and the Report stage he will reconsider the drafting of this paragraph.
§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not propose to go into the details of the Clause, but to say something on the general principle which it represents. There have been 'a good many complaints against this method of legislating for Scotland. There are obvious reasons, which 'apply both to England and to Scotland, for adopting this method, where the only differences to be made are those of terminology—the substitution of sheriff for county court judge and so forth. But that is not the case in this Bill. It was made clear by the Lord Advocate in the Second Reading Debate, and it has again been made clear in the last three-quarters of an hour, that, particularly in regard to processions, entirely different considerations apply when you are dealing with the law in Scotland, compared with those which 701 apply to England. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate told us on the Second Reading that throughout the greater part of Scotland the magistrates already possess powers closely corresponding to those which are conferred by Clause 3 of this Bill. It may have been that it was unnecessary for a large part, at any rate, of this Bill to be passed at all for Scotland. We all know that this Bill was brought in because of peculiar circumstances which had arisen in the East End of London and, I think, in one or two other cities. I do not think it was due in any way to circumstances which had arisen in Scotland, and it seems to me that in a case like this, where there are substantial differences between the law of one country and that of another, and where the changes you have to make in this sort of Clause are not simply terminological changes, but are substantial changes, so that you are really embodying two Bills within the corners of one, it would have been far better if there had been a separate Bill for Scotland and if, instead of dealing with the Scottish part of the Measure at the fag-end of the business and at this hour of the night, we had been able to take the whole matter upstairs to the Scottish Standing Committee.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
With reference to the observations of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. D. Foot), in the first place, there was, and is, no fundamental difference in the law on the subjects dealt with in this Bill between Scotland and England. The difference is in the machinery of local government of the two countries, and all that required to be done was to adapt the provisions of the main enacting Clauses of the Bill to the existing local government machinery North of the Border. Whether that has been adequately clone or not is for the Committee to determine. It is true that Scotland already possesses a wide measure of power in relation to the processions question dealt with in Clause 3, but not in relation to the other subjects dealt with by the Bill, and in regard to the processions powers, in Scotland, as in England, the powers differ widely in different parts of the country, and therefore it is of great advantage to Scotland to have a uniform code throughout the 702 length and breadth of the land. In this case, therefore, I think the policy of having one Bill for both countries, with a Scottish interpretation Clause, was appropriate.
With regard to the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) and his inquiry, I think I need not say more than that the position in which Clause 6 of this Bill has been left by the decision of the Committee a few moments ago will necessarily compel a reconsideration of the Scottish application Clause in relation to that matter, and therefore it would probably be a waste of time to examine the drafting of that provision. Turning to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), first of all, and subject to looking a little more narrowly into the matter with my advisers, I am inclined to accept in principle his suggestion that the sheriff-substitute should be the full salaried, and not the honorary, sheriff-substitute. As regards the Procurator-Fiscal, I should like to look more narrowly into that matter also; but in principle I agree that the responsibility for this duty should be undertaken either by the Procurator-Fiscal for the county or the second in command who acts in his absence. That is the general idea we have tried to secure. With reference to the hon. Gentleman's remaining points, the existing powers in Scotland are mostly contained in Statutes. On examination of those Statutes, such as the Edinburgh and Aberdeen Acts, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the powers contained in them will fit in perfectly well with the powers in this Bill. There will be no duplication, and in certain areas there will be given to the local authorities more extensive powers. For example, in Aberdeen it is necessary before a procession is held to give 24 hours notice to the chief of police; and I think a similar provision applies in Edinburgh. These powers will remain available, but so far as regards that area of administration which covers the same ground as that with which this Bill is concerned, the provisions are parallel and will involve no clashing or difficulty of administration. The hon. Gentleman asked whether it would be possible to substitute the town council for the magistrate in regard to the imposition of a ban for a period on processions. I am willing to consider that 703 topic afresh, but I see a difficulty in adopting the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.