HC Deb 25 April 1961 vol 639 cc383-5

10.34 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. William Grant)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 32, at the end to add: (2) The provisions of the last foregoing subsection shall apply to a sheriff who is not restricted by the terms of his appointment from engaging in private practice and who is appointed after the commencement of this Act. It might be for the convenience of the House if, with this Amendment, we consider the two following Amendments to Clauses 9 and 10.

These Amendments apply to the retiring age of sheriffs not restricted from private practice. The object is to apply the retiring age of 72 to part-time sheriffs as well as to full-time sheriffs. It applies to those appointed after the commencement of the Act. An Amendment was moved in Committee stage by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and I gave an undertaking to take the appropriate steps at the appropriate time to put into effect the extremely good idea of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I wish to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for having accepted the Amendment and for framing it in a much more satisfactory manner for inclusion in the Bill. It deals with what was obviously an anomaly, that in one case there could be a sheriff of 75 or 80 years of age and in the other a sheriff had to be under the age of 72.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I want a more precise reason why the age 72 is included in the Bill. What is the justification for it, in preference to 70 or 75? I should like an assurance that the members of the judiciary in Scotland are not being treated in an inferior way to those in England.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not find those words in the Amendment, nor do I understand how they are governed by the Amendment. I should welcome the [...] Member's assistance, if he submits that he is in order on this Amendment, but at the moment I do not follow him.

Mr. Hughes

I regret that I do not follow the Amendment. I should like a further explanation, Sir.

Mr. Speaker

With respect, the hon. Member can talk only about what is in order on the Amendment, and I do not follow why that can be said to be in order on the Amendment. That is my difficulty.

Mr. Hughes

My difficulty is that I am trying to ask an innocent question to which I want a plain answer.

Mr. Speaker

The question, however innocent, must be within the rules of order on the Amendment. If the hon. Member can help me I shall be grateful, but if not, I must declare what he said out of order. I am open to persuasion.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

On a point of order. The Amendment says: The provisions of the last foregoing subsection shall apply to a sheriff who is not restricted… and the provisions of that subsection are that a sheriff must retire not later than the age of 72. The Amendment applies the age of 72 to a category of sheriffs who would not be covered by the Clause as originally drawn.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I apologise to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I think that he was just in order, and I am sorry that I stopped him.

Mr. Hughes

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for having in any way put you in a difficulty. All I seek is a simple answer to the question.

The Lord Advocate

There is no golden magic in the age of 72, but it is the retiring age for judges in England who are as far as possible comparable to sheriffs. It was the age recommended as the retiring age by two Royal Commissions. Admittedly the first was in 1913, but as we live longer now the argument would be for extending the age rather than keeping it at 72. One must exercise a certain amount of judgment in the matter; one person may suggest 70, another 72 and another 75. We discussed this in Committee and the Committee thought that 72 was an appropriate age for the compulsory retiral of full-time sheriffs and sheriff substitutes. We have chosen the same age for the part-time sheriffs, who are doing the same work, although only part-time, as are the full-time sheriffs.

Amendment agreed to.