HC Deb 14 February 1949 vol 461 cc899-903

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Would I be in Order, Major Milner, in moving that Part II, which refers to Scotland, should be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee. You will be aware that by a recent Amendment to Standing Orders—

The Chairman

I am afraid that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) would not be in Order. He should have moved that Motion in the House. It is not permissible in Committee. It is a matter which the House only can decide.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I wish to point out that when I raised the question of whether this purely Scottish business should be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee we had promise of sympathetic consideration, but the sympathy seems to have evaporated and now I find that this Business is not to be relegated to the Scottish Grand Committee, as the House intended when the special Amendments relative to Standing Orders affecting Scottish legislation were passed.

However, that is not the point I wish to raise. I wish to raise a point relating to lines 32 to 36 in which the expenses of jurors attending Scottish juries are outlined. While I recognise that the Government have taken a great step forward to rectify an anomaly which has long been grievous in Scotland, I very much regret that when this historic change is taking place relating to the law of Scotland, there are only two Conservative Members gracing us with their presence—

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

Are my hon. Friends who are present invisible men?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

They are not Scottish Members. I was making the point that although they claim to have a great respect for the law of Scotland we who are suspected of not having so great a concern for the law of Scotland have to put forward this rectification. In the subsection there is a direct grievance. The subsection says: where the said period of time is more than four hours, the sum of twenty shillings shall be paid.

I wish to point out that there is a deep-seated grievance in Scotland, especially among miners, and that the sum of 20s. does not reimburse a miner who has to serve on a jury and lose his bonus shift for the week. I wish the Government had been generous in meeting the Miners' Union, who rightly argued that when they attend juries or local authorities miners should not be asked to lose earnings available to them in the ordinary course of their work. I wish the Clause had been more generous, but otherwise it represents a great step forward in Scotland. All I with to express regret about is that this was not referred to the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope that this will not be taken as a precedent, and that, the point so far as Scotland is concerned having been gained, similar legislation will not be dealt with in this way.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)

The superior court is always more important than a committee, and the House itself, sitting in Committee, is always a much more important body than a Committee of the House, sitting upstairs. Therefore, it is no indignity to Scotland for matters to be dealt with on the Floor of the House of Commons. I appreciate the point which my hon. Friend makes about the miners, but it is not a matter which can be dealt with here. The miners must obviously deal with the National Coal Board and put forward their claim to the Board. It has been decided that that is an industrial question and not a matter which concerns the House.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

I was rather surprised to hear the Secretary of State for Scotland answering the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) in the rather curt way he did about the question of referring Part II of this Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said that this is a superior court—

The Chairman

I am sorry, that we cannot have that matter argued here. It was mentioned, and I permitted an answer to be given, but this is not the appropriate place to argue that point. It is out of Order.

Mr. McKie

With great respect, Major Milner, I at once accept your Ruling. I was going to deal with the point which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire made about the loss in wages and in weekly earnings of the miners. I was delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman answer the hon. Member in the curt way he did on that point because the hon. Member completely missed the mark regarding miners sitting on juries when he suggested that there may be—indeed there certainly will be—loss of wages or weekly earnings. He completely fails to see the point that great honour is conferred upon anybody who is empanelled to sit on a jury in Scotland or anywhere else. For that reason I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman answered the hon. Member in the way he did. Apart from those remarks. I have no further criticisms to make.

Sir W. Darling

It is with reluctance that I ever address the Committee, but I feel that there is something to be said about this Clause. It is either too much or too little. Jury service is an honour and should be discharged as one of the rights, duties and responsibilities of a citizen. It is common knowledge that in Scotland, as elsewhere, many have discharged this duty without hire or reward and would be willing to continue to do so. But the Government, having decided to pay a subsistence allowance and compensation for loss of earnings, must adequately and realistically face the facts. If I were invited to become a juryman, I should not consider my remuneration at the rate of 20s. a day to be adequate for the loss of earnings which I should sustain, and I am not the only person of modest prosperity in the happy land of Scotland.

The point which was raised by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is a very proper one. We are not able to give any considerable attention to this Clause because there are only five Scottish supporters of the Government here, whereas there are two Members on these benches. That is not representation of the people in the sense which I would like. Scotland desires to be represented by rather more than seven persons. Having made this demurrer and associated myself with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie). I resume my seat, protesting against the hard-heartedness of the Government in not being prepared either to make an appeal for public service without reward or adequately to reimburse those who take the opposite view.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.