HC Deb 19 February 1952 vol 496 cc56-8

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

Mr. Wheatley

I rise to speak on this Clause with a view to submitting a point which arises on an Amendment I had put down, but which has not been called—in page 3, line 20, at the end to insert: (2) The foregoing provisions of this section shall have effect as from the first day of July, nineteen hundred and fifty-one. At the earlier stages of the Bill I queried the necessity for this Clause at all, because in the past it was felt possible and competent to pay travelling allowances of this nature to sheriffs-substitute; and, in fact, at present four of the sheriffs-substitute are in receipt of such travelling allowances, which have been compounded at £100 a year. On Second Reading the Solicitor-General for England explained that this Clause had been introduced merely by way of removing a doubt. In my opinion, there was no doubt at all, but if Her Majesty's Government feel that a Clause of this nature is desirable, though not necessary, I for one would not oppose it.

However, having regard to the fact that only four sheriffs-substitute are in receipt of such allowances, it is manifestly desirable that such payments should be extended beyond those four, because in the outlying parts of Scotland almost every sheriff-substitute has to journey to more than one court within his jurisdiction, and with the heavy cost of travel at the present time this is becoming a heavy financial burden to those sheriffs-substitute not at present in receipt of such allowances. In my opinion, therefore, the Clause is, in itself, fully justified.

In so far as these payments have been made in the past without statutory authority, and if this be merely a removal of doubt Clause, it seems to me that it would be possible, without in any way traversing your Ruling, Sir Charles, in relation to the Financial Resolution, to ask the Lord Advocate whether the payments of these travelling allowances could be made retrospective to 1st July, 1951, to the additional sheriffs-substitute. If that were done, although it is not specifically provided for in the Bill, it would be done under the administrative arrangements which have appertained heretofore, and would in my opinion be the fulfilment of an undertaking given by me at the time to the sheriffs-substitute that any such increases in their emoluments would be dated from the same date as the increases to the English and Irish judges.

In the circumstances, in recommending the Clause to the Committee, I ask the Lord Advocate if he could give any indication whether these travelling allowances could be made retrospective to 1st July, 1951.

The Lord Advocate

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right. The sole purpose of this Clause is to remove doubts for the future. It has been possible and competent to pay expenses of this kind to sheriffs-substitute in the past; and, as he says, four of them have been in receipt of these allowances. The intention is to extend similar allowances to the rest of the sheriffs-substitute and not confine the allowance to the four at present enjoying it. That could be done without legislation; it could be done administratively, just as we do it for the four at present.

I am pleased to be able to say that we intend to make the allowances to the other sheriffs-substitute retrospective to 1st July so as to put them on precisely the same footing, as from that date, as the four who are already in receipt of the allowances. We do that because the undertaking was given, and we are determined to honour undertakings when they have been given.

Mr. Rankin

On the last Clause I ask whether the Lord Advocate could tell us the total cost of this change, and I was then referred to the authority of my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I did not realise that the Government leaned so heavily upon my hon. Friend. Nevertheless, the Lord Advocate later saw fit to reply to my query, and I put the same query here. Can he tell us the total amount that will be involved in meeting this charge, in view of the fact that back money is to be paid to 1st July of last year?

The Lord Advocate

I am afraid I have not got precise figures. There is £100 allowed to each of the existing sheriffs-substitute who get these travelling allowances. The intention is that one of the others, who has very considerable distances to go, should get £100. The remaining sheriffs-substitute will get allowances of from £75 down to £10, according to the distances they have to travel.

Mr. Rankin

Will that cover air travel?

The Lord Advocate

It will cover travel by air.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.