HC Deb 06 December 1977 vol 940 cc1288-332

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Sheriff (Removal from Office) Order 1977, dated 22nd July 1977, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th July in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled. Last Session I introduced a Private Member's Bill under which all public appointments would have been accountable to Parliament. It related to appointments such as the chairmen of the nationalised industries, ambassadors and so on, because I firmly believe that those who are appointed to such posts should be accountable to the House. Similarly, if people are to be dismissed from those public appointments the dismissal should also come to this House for debate. That is why I tabled the motion.

I do not believe in the complete independence of the judiciary in the sense that it should not be accountable at all to Parliament. I believe that it should be accountable to Parliament and that the proposed dismissal of a judge is something that should be discussed and finally decided here, one way or the other.

Sheriff Thomson, whom the order removed from office, is alleged to have taken part in political activity such that it is misbehaviour making him unfit for his duties as a judge. The basis of the allegation is the publication earlier this year of a pamphlet headed: Scottish Plebiscite Report by Sheriff Peter Thomson". It is important to remember that in the pamphlet Sheriff Thomson does not campaign for or propose any constitutional change in Scotland. What he proposes is that the people of Scotland be given the opportunity to express their opinion on what constitutional change, if any, they would like.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)

I am worried about correcting the hon. Gentleman so early in his speech, but it was not on the basis of publication of that pamphlet that Sheriff Thomson was reported as having misbehaved under the terms of Section 12 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971.

Mr. Canavan

Action was taken under Section 12 on the basis of a complaint referring to the publication of a pamphlet, a complaint given first to the two senior judges in Scotland, Lord Emslie and Lord Wheatley, who investigated the matter on the basis of the complaint and then reported back to the Secretary of State.

We should also emphasise that in the pamphlet Sheriff Thomson attempts to be as impartial as possible in putting forward his proposals. On reading the pamphlet, I was struck by the fair manner in which he puts his proposals. For example, on page 2 he states: To achieve the appropriate atmosphere "— in the lead-up to his proposed plebiscite—

  1. "(a) There should be no partisan propaganda within one week of polling day; and
  2. (b) Prior to this period the propaganda should be balanced in order to give all sides an equal chance of being heard. It is not enough to give the same amount of money to certain organisations since one might be wealthy and the other poor and the publicity one-sided."
To some people that may sound a bit naive and impractical, but if Sheriff Thomson had been the returning officer and had been organising the Common Market referendum we might have had a different result.

No doubt many people, including the Secretary of State, will argue that Sheriff Thomson was involved in political activity. But Sheriff Thomson claims that this political activity was of a non-party and non-partisan nature. He claims that he has not been a member of any party or partisan organisation for at least 22 years. No one, not even the Secretary of State, has disagreed with that claim by Sheriff Thomson.

Surely the most basic question which the House must ask itself is whether Sheriff Thomson's behaviour was of such a nature as to be likely to interfere with his judicial capacity when sitting on the Bench. As the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) said, the basis of the dismissal procedure proposed is in Section 12 (1) of the 1971 Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act, which states quite clearly that The Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk may … undertake jointly an investigation into the fitness for office of any sheriff and report in writing to the Secretary of State … that the … sheriff is unfit for office by reason of inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the Secretary of State is not arguing that the sheriff in this case is unfit for office by reason of inability. Neither does my right hon. Friend appear to be arguing that the sheriff is unfit for office because of neglect of duty. It appears to me that the Secretary of State is arguing that Sheriff Thomson is unfit for office because of misbehaviour. But what misbehaviour?

The House can think of many types of misbehaviour which would disquality a judge. We can all think of types of misbehaviour which would prejudice or affect his decisions when sitting on the Bench in his judicial capacity. Probably the most obvious is misbehaviour in terms of criminal activities. Clearly, it is inappropriate for someone who is himself a criminal to be sitting on the Bench judging other criminals. A judge who plays an open part in party politics would also disqualify himself from sitting on the Bench, where he is supposed to be impartial. If an accused person who was a Tory came up before a Labour judge or an accused person who was a Labour supporter came up before a Tory judge, there would be at least suspicion, well-founded or not, that he would not get a fair deal.

Yet do we all agree with that? Are we consistent in saying that, or are not we ourselves guilty of double standards? In Scotland we have honorary sheriffs, and both north and south of the border we have thousands of justices of the peace serving on judicial benches. Many of them got their jobs in the first place because they were in possession of a political party card. That is a fact which I am sure no hon. Member will deny. I have also known cases of people standing for election under various party colours and deliberately putting "JP" after their names on election addresses in order to get votes. I am quite convinced of this. If this is not misuse of a judicial position, I do not know what is.

I have also known cases where a person sits in the morning in court in judgment of his fellow men and in the afternoon in the council chamber taking political decisions. To those who say that this is the judiciary at a lower tier, I would argue back and say that the basic principle is the same.

In any event, the upper tiers of the judiciary are not completely exempt. We had the case of Lord Hailsham, for example. He was Lord Chancellor during the 1970–74 Government. His was a political appointment. During his period as Lord Chancellor, he also thought that he was fit to sit on the Bench as a Law Lord.

We also had the case of Lord Avon-side, who in the late 1960s served on a Tory Party committee—a study committee which caused such a ballyhoo in Scotland over a period of weeks that eventually he had to resign.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

What happened to Lord Avonside?

Mr. Canavan

He eventually had to resign, but it was only under great pressure from the public that he did so and Conservative Members were supporting him when he was sitting on that Tory Party committee.

Quite apart from party political involvement in the part of judiciary, we have had many partisan statements by the judiciary criticising the Government and also the Labour and trade union movement. What about Lord Denning and his disgusting remarks earlier this year about the Grunwick affair and his comment that it was mob rule? Let us suppose that someone who was at Grunwick came before Lord Denning. Does anybody suggest that he would get a fair deal?

It is clear that the Government and most of the Members of this House have in the past tolerated situations where judges have been allowed to make open criticisms of the laws made by politicians in this House, and also criticisms of many of the decisions made by politicians, including those of the Executive.

We had, for example, almost a year ago to the day, Lord Robertson using his judicial bench to attack my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Why? Because he had used his executive position to release Patrick Meehan who, he thought, had been wrongly convicted of murder. There was a clear case of the judiciary attacking the Executive, and yet as far as I know no retaliatory action, apart from a statement in the House, was taken by the Executive to deal with Lord Robertson.

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman feel that his argument would be stronger if he were to cite the case of Lord Wheatley, who is one of the two signatories to this letter to the Secretary of State? Does he recall that Lord Wheatley campaigned round the length and breadth of Scotland selling this rotten prospectus for the reorganisation of local government? That was a blatantly political action, and he has the hypocrisy to sign this letter to the Secretary of State attacking Sheriff Thomson.

Mr. Canavan

I do not completely agree with that in the context of this debate. I think that Lord Wheatley's impartiality can be judged by the fact that he tried to send the father of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) to prison at one stage because he broke the provisions of the Tory Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act.

What about constitutional matters? Surely the basis of this pamphlet about a Scottish plebiscite is that a judge has expressed his views on a constitional matter. Is that incompatible with his position as a judge? What about Lord Kilbrandon, who was chairman of a Commission appointed to look into the constition of Scotland and come back with recommendations?

It seems to me that the rules—if there are rules—on the political activities of judges require clarification. I am not in favour of a written constition to define the exact role of the judiciary as opposed to the Executive, but I think that the Government should clarify their views on this matter before picking on Sheriff Thomson, because they will be creating not just a precedent but a bad one.

Can the Secretary of State tell me what political activity Sheriff Thomson has ever indulged in that has interfered, or was in danger of interfering, with his impartiality as a judge? There is nothing in this pamphlet which suggests that his impartiality as a judge was being impaired. There is nothing biased in the pamphlet. There is nothing partisan in it. No doubt the Secretary of State will dig up things from the past—the long-distant past. He will dig up such things as the Plebiscite Society, the Rutherglen plebiscite, the advertisements in judical garb, the allegations of discourtesy and so on.

Certainly the sheriff received a warning on a previous occasion; one can read it in Hansard. The latest report from Lords Wheatley and Emslie reads: the publication of this 'Report by Sheriff Peter Thomson' can only be regarded as a repetition of the very kind of activity condemned in our report of 15th January 1975 and in clear defiance of the warning then given to the Sheriff. I want to make two comments on that. First, it may have escaped the minds of Lords Wheatley and Emslie that there is a big difference between actually organising a plebiscite and publishing a pamphlet proposing an impartial plebiscite. Secondly, in 1975 it was obvious that Lords Wheatley and Emslie disapproved of the plebiscite. They disapproved of the sheriff's activities, but nevertheless they did not then consider him to be unfit to hold judicial office. In other words, it appears now, two years later, that the publication of a pamphlet proposing a plebiscite is more serious in their eyes than the actual organisation of a plebiscite.

Elsewhere, Lords Wheatley and Emslie appear to have concluded from the pamphlet—which says that These local plebiscites will continue until this matter is resolved. that Sheriff Thomson intended organising further plebiscites in exactly the same manner as before, with himself as the returning officer. They had no right to conclude any such thing. They also insinuate that his use of the term "sheriff" was deliberately to try to make his plebiscite appear to be an official plebiscite. But they conveniently forgot to say that on the reverse of the pamphlet dealing with the plebiscite the sheriff says clearly This is not an official Crown document". Thereby, he makes it clear that it is not an official document.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

The hon. Gentleman says that these two senior judges had no right to assume that the type of plebiscite organised in Rutherglen and elsewhere would be continued. But in the pamphlet Sheriff Thomson says: These local plebiscites will continue until this matter is resolved. Nowhere does he indicate that he would cease to act as a returning officer. Does the hon. Gentleman believe it proper or improper that a sheriff who at the time was a returning officer for a parliamentary election should print, at his own expense, ballot papers distributed among members of the electorate and on those ballot papers have the words They should be returned to Sheriff Peter Thomson, Returning Officer"? Is not than an abuse of his position as sheriff?

Mr. Canavan

In 1975, Lords Wheatley and Emslie concluded that such behaviour did not merit Sheriff Thomson's dismissal. That cannot be denied. Since 1974, sheriffs can no longer act as returning officers at General Elections. There has been a change in the law. The chief executive of the appropriate local authority acts as returning officer at General Elections. Thus the possibility of confusion is thereby reduced. There are different circumstances now compared with the 1974 situation. Sheriff Thomson has not repeated his 1974 activity, and he faces dismissal simply for publishing a pamphlet supporting an impartial plebiscite.

It is rather ironic that Sheriff Thomson has been campaigning for 30 years for such an impartial plebiscite and now, at long last, the Government are getting ready to propose his dismissal in the very year when they themselves have gone some way towards stealing his idea by having a referendum on devolution. Whether we agree with the case for Sheriff Thomson's dismissal or not, I think it is important that he should get a fair hearing, and I think that it is a pity that the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) was not debated and decided by this House.

I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will rise in a few minutes and say that Sheriff Thomson did not reply to the invitations from the Lord President of the Court of Session, the Lord Justice Clerk and himself. Perhaps he did not reply to some of the invitations to come forward, but it is wrong to say that he did not reply to any of them.

In the early days of the initial investigation, Sheriff Thomson wrote a polite letter to the President of the Court of Session dated 28th October 1974. He wrote Dear Lord President, I thank you for your letter of 25th October which arrived this morning. I should be obliged if I could have details of the charges against me. Is it said that I took part in 'partisan politics' on ' non-partisan politics'? If the charges concern the word 'politics' alone, then on what definition of politics is the matter proceeding? You will appreciate that … it is desirable that I know what charges I am called upon to answer. Yours sincerely, Sheriff Thomson. He received the following reply, and I have the original in my hand. It is a very curt reply from Lord Emslie. It reads: Dear Thomson"— How is that for discourtesy for a start? It is not "Dear Sheriff" or "Dear Peter," but "Dear Thomson". I am surprised at the terms of our letter of 28 October 1974. You already have the details of the complaint against you and you will appreciate that the burden of the complaint is that in your capacity as a full-time sheriff you have engaged in political activity. The question whether that is partisan or non-partisan is nothing to the point. Yours sincerely, G. C. Emslie". In view of that sort of reply, is it any wonder that Sheriff Thomson thought that any further communication was pointless?

But even if hon. Members think that he has been guilty of discourtesy to the Lord President of the Court of Session and suppose that his failure to answer letters was indiscreet, as it may well have been, are they seriously arguing that that provides sufficient grounds for dismissal? I can think of many hon. Members who do not answer letters, but I do not hear them arguing for their own dismissal.

This House is sitting tonight as a final court of appeal in the case of Sheriff Peter Thomson. The House is sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity—

Mr. Fairbairn

The hon. Member has been funny and frivolous, but this is an important matter. This House is not a final court of appeal in the case of Sheriff Thomson. It is entitled under the Act to ensure that the judges gave a decision according to the Act to the Secretary of State and that the Secretary of State acted upon it. It is not a final court of appeal to an individual.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) has struck the heart of the matter. It is this. According to the hon. and learned Member, Section 12 of the 1971 Act deprives this House of its rights. I suggest that this House has the rights of the ultimate sovereign authority in the United Kingdom, including the right to defend Sheriff Peter Thomas—if he deserves defending.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Order. I appeal to hon. Members to remember that we had only two hours to discuss this matter and half an hour has almost gone. I must tell the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) that the House this evening is exercising its rights.

Mr. Canavan

I do not want to be tripped up by all these legal niceties about whether this is a final court of appeal, but de facto this House tonight will finally decide the fate of Sheriff Peter Thomson, and to that extent we are sitting tonight in a quasi-judicial capacity. It is one of the basic principles of natural justice that a man should be heard before he is condemned.

This House has gone to the bother of setting up industrial tribunals under the Employment Protection Act 1975 and so on in order to see that people have the right to be heard before they are dismissed. If Sheriff Thomson is not heard—and the fact that the motion of the hon. Member for Tiverton was not debated or decided is an indication that Sheriff Thomson will not be heard—the case for the dismissal of Sheriff Thomson must at best be doubtful. That reason alone, to my mind, is enough to justify voting tonight for the annulment of the dismissal order.

11.26 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Milan)

I think it might be for the convenience of the House if the House will allow me to intervene at this early stage. I hope that later on, if there are one or two things with which the House would like me to deal in winding up, I shall have permission to do so. I have tried to help the House already by publishing certain information in Hansard in answer to Questions on 25th and 30th November 1977, and I hope that hon. Members who are interested in this matter have been able to read in Hansard the answers that I gave.

I very much welcome the debate because I believe that this is a serious matter, and it is very right that the House should debate it. I want to start by explaining the procedure which is laid down in statute for the removal of a sheriff in Scotland. It is set out in Section 12 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971, and it has been the same in essentials since 1838.

The essential part of the procedure is an inquiry by the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk, the two senior members of the Scottish judiciary. That inquiry may be instituted by the judges of their own accord or at the request of the Secretary of State, but may I make it absolutely clear that without such an inquiry the Secretary of State has no power whatever to make an order for the removal of a sheriff. There is no independent initiative by the Secretary of State on this matter without an inquiry.

Mr. Ian MacCormick (Argyll)


Mr. Millan

I am sure that many Members will wish to participate in the debate, and I should like to be able to complete my remarks without interruption.

The conduct of the inquiry is left to the two judges themselves. There are no statutory rules which lay down what they must do, but it is perfectly clear from what happened in this case that on each of the two occasions when the judges conducted an inquiry into Sheriff Thom-son's activities, in 1974 and 1977, they acted with scrupulous fairness and in accordance with the principles of natural justice. On each occasion Sheriff Thomson was informed that the judges were undertaking the inquiry under the Act, and on each occasion he was given an opportunity both to make submissions in writing and to appear before the judges personally or by counsel. He did not take any of those opportunities, but it is important to emphasise, in view of some of the criticisms which have been made, that the fullest opportunity was given.

At the conclusion of their inquiry, the judges on each occasion came to the conclusion that Sheriff Thomson was guilty of "misbehaviour", which is laid down in the Act as one of the grounds on which a removal order can be made. On the first occasion the judges stated, however, that they did not yet find him unfit for office, both because he carried out his judicial duties in other respects satisfactorily—there has been no dispute about that then or since—and also because they thought that up till then he might have been under a misapprehension as to the objectionable nature of his activities. On the second occasion, the judges also found that Sheriff Thomson had been guilty of misbehaviour and they declared on this occasion that he was unfit for office. After considering the judges' report, I decided to make the removal order.

I have described the procedure in detail in order to make it clear that no injustice has been done to Sheriff Thomson by the decision not to allow him to appear at the Bar of the House to answer questions. I understand that that procedure has been used on one earlier occasion when Parliament was considering an Address to the Crown for the removal of a judge.

It may be—although this is a matter of English law and, therefore, not a matter for me—that a similar form of procedure would be thought appropriate if Parliament were in the future to consider an Address for the removal of, for example, an English High Court judge. But the procedure for the removal of an English High Court judge is quite different from the procedure for the removal of a Scottish sheriff.

Mr. Henderson


Mr. Millan

When I have explained the procedure I shall give way, but perhaps I may be allowed to complete this section of my speech. If an Address were presented for the removal of an English High Court judge, the proceedings would be initiated in Parliament itself and Parliament would therefore be the proper tribunal to decide judicially on the charges made against the judge.

But the statutory provisions dealing with the removal of English High Court judges have nothing at all to do with Scottish sheriffs. A sheriff who is accused of conduct which may lead to his removal is, of course, fully protected from injustice, but the protections are those which are laid down in Section 12 of the 1971 Act. These provisions were agreed in the House in 1971. Although the procedures date from a much earlier time than that, the provisions under which I am operating at the moment were agreed as recently as 1971 in this House. Indeed, the protections for a sheriff, as distinct from a sheriff principal, were improved in the 1971 Act, because before that Act there was no parliamentary procedure at all.

If a sheriff had been removed before 1971 this debate could not have taken place, at least not on a Prayer with regard to the order. What I am saying is that as recently as 1971 the House had an opportunity to consider this procedure. I have looked back over the records and I find that there was virtually no debate on this procedure and no suggestion that this particular procedure was in any way unjust to a sheriff who might be involved in it.

Parliament has made no provision for any inquiry other than the judicial investigation by the two senior judges of the Scottish Supreme Court. If, of course, there had been any suggestion that the judges in this case had not acted judicially in their inquiry and had not given Sheriff Thomson every opportunity to meet the charges against him, that might have been another matter. I do not believe, however, that any one who has studied this case would make any such suggestion.

It is perfectly clear that Sheriff Thomson could have put forward to the judges on whom the duty of inquiry was laid the arguments in support of his conduct which he later sought to put to hon. Members and to others. But the fact is that he did not choose to do so.

In those circumstances, there is in my opinion no justification for the view that, when Parliament has laid down in detail as recently as 1971 the procedure for the removal of a sheriff, he should be given an opportunity now—which is not provided for in the statute—to put forward a defence which he did not choose to make at the proper time.

Mr. Henderson

The Secretary of State has explained clearly and fairly the procedure laid down. Will he tell us at what stage the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk informed Sheriff Thomson of the charges against him, since the Secretary of State himself has used the phrase "reply to the charges"?

Mr. Millan

The information was given to Sheriff Thomson at the start of the inquiry. All the matters of which there had been complaint were intimated to Sheriff Thomson—I have the letters here—at the start of the judges' inquiry. It simply will not do to pretend that Sheriff Thomson was unaware of the charges made against him or that he did not have a full opportunity of rebutting them. He had every opportunity. When I go into the matter in rather more detail, that will be made clear.

Mr. English

My right hon. Friend is surely not saying—as he seems to be—that a sheriff in Scotland has fewer rights than a judge in the High Court in England. The Government may be right in wishing to dismiss this sheriff; I do not know, but I know that I am not prepared to vote for anybody's dismissal until I have heard him. This is an ancient judicial principle. Let us hear the other side. Why does my right hon. Friend seek to prevent Sheriff Thomson from being here?

Mr. Millan

I do not want to make invidious comparisons between Scotland and England, but a circuit judge in England can be dismissed without any parliamentary procedure. That is the nearest comparison that can be made with the sheriffs in Scotland.

Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)


Mr. Millan

I hope that the hon. Member will allow me to continue. I have dealt with this section of the matter. I want to give more details of the case.

The two senior judges in Scotland found Sheriff Thomson unfit for office on the ground of misbehaviour, inter alia through the publication of a pamphlet advocating the holding of a Scottish plebiscite and formulating the questions to be answered by the voters. I shall return to the pamphlet at a later stage, but I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this matter has a long history.

Sheriff Thomson's campaign for a Scottish plebiscite—which is no doubt sincerely meant—goes back over many years. He was one of the founders of the Scottish Plebiscite Society in 1947. There was, of course, nothing whatever wrong in that, because in 1947 he held no judicial office. But after his appointment as a sheriff in 1955 he continued to belong to the society. In the 1960s, complaints were received by Ministers about his activities, and these were drawn to Sheriff Thomson's attention by the Lord Advocate. He was also advised by the Sheriff Principal of Lanarkshire, at that time, Sir Allan Walker—he would be well advised to discontinue his activities. These were not then matters of formal investigation by the two senior judges.

In 1974, Sheriff Thomson conducted a "Scottish plebiscite" in Rutherglen. He circulated to electors a voting card inviting them to vote for one of three propositions about the establishment and powers of a Scottish Parliament. The voting card contained the statement The result will be intimated by Sheriff Peter Thomson, Sheriff of Lanarkshire, at Hamilton". It was sent to the voters along with an envelope for return to "The Returning Officer, Scottish Plebiscite, Uddingston, Glasgow". Uddingston is where Sheriff Thomson lives. These facts came to the notice of the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk and they decided to institute an inquiry under Section 12 of the 1971 Act.

When the judges started their inquiry, they wrote to Sheriff Thomson to inform him of this. At the same time, they invited him to let them have written observations on the complaints. Sheriff Thomson did not reply to this invitation. The judges then invited him to attend personally at a stated time to give orally any explanation which he considered relevant. Sheriff Thomson neither attended the meeting nor informed the judges that he did not intend to do so.

The judges then went on with their investigation. They decided that the subject matter of the plebiscite was at that time a sensitive and highly controversial one, particularly on the threshold of a General Election. In these circumstances, they held that Sheriff Thomson's participation in it was a public political activity of a controversial character which was incompatible with the exercise of the judicial office of sheriff. Apart from the general principle that a judge should not publicly engage in any political controversy, the language used in the plebiscite documents could readily have given the impression that Sheriff Thomson was acting not as a private citizen but in his official capacity as a sheriff. The judges therefore concluded that Sheriff Thomson was guilty of misbehaviour.

Notwithstanding that conclusion, however, the judges did not at the time of the inquiry in 1974 recommend his removal from office.

Mr. MacCormick

Is it not most odd that the Government are putting forward a case against Sheriff Thomson at a time when the Secretary of State for Scotland is sponsoring a Bill demanding a referendum on exactly the same thing?

Mr. Millan

If that is not a demonstration of his engagement in political activities, I do not know what is. That is precisely the point I am making.

The judges referred to the fact, which is still not in dispute, that in other respects Sheriff Thomson adequately carried out his function as a sheriff. Moreover—this is important in view of the later history of the case—they took the view that the sheriff might in the past have laboured under the misapprehension that his plebiscite activities were unobjectionable because they did not involve him in any party political stand. In order to dispel this misapprehension, the judges sent to Sheriff Thomson a copy of their report to the Secretary of State. They added It is to be hoped that he will not further engage in any similar activity. If he does so, however, it may be extremely difficult to resist the conclusion that his fitness for his office is at an end. There could not have been a clearer warning than that.

In accordance with the provisions of the statute, the judges sent their report to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who was then the Secretary of State for Scotland. My right hon. Friend accepted the conclusions of the report. He also asked the Sheriff Principal of the sheriffdom to speak to Sheriff Thomson to reinforce the warning which the judges had given at the end of their report, so that there should be no doubt in his mind about the serious consequences of any similar activity in the future. I understand that this warning was personally conveyed to Sheriff Thomson by the Sheriff Principal.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Time is racing on. I hope that hon. Members will not persist in demanding to make interventions when the Member who is speaking does not give way.

Hon. Members

The hon. Member should get back to his aircraft.

Mr. Millan

All this took place in 1974 and the very early part of 1975. However, Sheriff Thomson has continued with these activities. In April 1977 he issued and widely circulated a pamphlet entitled "Scottish Plebiscite—Report by Sheriff Peter Thomson". The pamphlet again urged the holding of a plebiscite on the government of Scotland and set out three questions for the voters on the form which the government should take.

It is true that on the last page of the pamphlet there are the words This is not an official Crown Document". One might wonder why it is necessary to state those words unless there could be some misunderstanding about the situation. Nevertheless, Sheriff Thomson uses his judicial title in the heading of the pamphlet and describes himself as Sheriff of South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway at Hamilton, Lanarkshire in a paragraph describing the organisation of the plebiscite.

When the pamphlet was brought to my attention, I requested a fresh investigation by the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk. As before, the judges wrote to Sheriff Thomson asking him to submit written observations and inviting him to appear before them personally or by counsel. On this second occasion too these invitations were utterly ignored. The judges then proceeded with their inquiry. At its conclusion, they reported to me that the issue of the pamphlet constituted misbehaviour and that, because of this and of the earlier incident and of the final warning in 1974. Sheriff Thomson was no longer fit to hold his judicial office.

Sir Bernard Braine

This is the only opportunity that the House has to get to the heart of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman has talked about the removal of Sheriff Thomson on grounds of misbehaviour and political activity. He referred also to circuit judges and recorders in England who are, I suppose, the equivalent of sheriffs in Scotland. Will he explain how it is that Her Majesty's recorders may take their seats in the House of Commons and indulge in political activity? Where is the crime of Sheriff Thomson?

Mr. Millan

I am not responsible for what happens in respect of judges in England. I am responsible for what happens in Scotland under the terms of the Act. As I have made clear, I have acted throughout absolutely in accordance with the provisions of the 1971 Act which was passed by the House, of which the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) has been a Member for a considerable time.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)


Mr. Millan

No; I shall complete the narrative.

Even at this stage—I was at the stage where I had received the report—I decided that Sheriff Thomson ought to be given yet another opportunity to make representations. I accordingly gave instructions that a copy of the 1977 report should be sent to him for comment. He did not acknowledge this, and he made no observations. That was in June of this year. I then decided after considering the judges' report, that its conclusions were correct and that, in the absence of any undertaking from Sheriff Thomson to desist from what had twice been held to be unacceptable activity on the part of a judge, I ought to make the order removing him from office.

In making that decision I naturally attached great weight to the views of the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk. However, the ultimate decision was for me, subject, of course, to the decision of the House. I decided that the opinion of the judges was right.

It has never, of course, been suggested that a judge must necessarily be isolated from all participation in public affairs. Judges have on many occasions been called upon by the Government to serve on Royal Commissions and committees of inquiry even when the subjects under investigation might turn out to be politically controversial. No suggestion is made that there is anything improper in a judge accepting such an invitation. Where, however, the judge takes part publicly in discussion or argument on a subject which may be politically controversial, not as the result of an invitation by the Government to undertake a public duty but of his own accord, in my view he is entering upon dangerous ground.

This is no doubt an area in which it is extremely difficult to lay down hard and fast rules. But where what the judge has done goes beyond even expressing private opinions about a controversial matter and takes the form of involving his judicial office in the controversy, it seems to me that the line has been crossed, and that the judge who does this is guilty of misbehaviour. It is important to emphasise that this is—

Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is becoming clear to me as a recorder that I am not entitled to vote in this matter. Is that so?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Frankly, I do not know the answer to that question. Before we take the vote, I shall be able to acquaint the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder) with whether he is entitled to vote.

Mr. F. P. Crowder

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In that event, I wish you goodnight.

Sir Bernard Braine


Mr. Tebbit

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Are recorders allowed to speak in debates on political matters in the House?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Yes. That has been the practice. We have hon. Members who are recorders, and they take part in our proceedings. However, it is not for me to give rulings on matters that are governed by law.

Mr. Tebbit

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could you say whether, as the Secretary of State suggested, recorders are equivalent to sheriffs?

Hon, Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will not pursue that matter. In my opinion, having listened very carefully, the Secretary of State has made it abundantly clear that he is dealing not with the situation in England but purely with the Scottish position. Mr. Millan.

Mr. Millan

Thank you. Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was going on to say that the question whether there ought to be a plebiscite at all on Scottish home rule and, if there is to be such a plebiscite, the form of the questions which are to be submitted to the electorate are quite clearly issues calculated to arouse political controversy. I need not emphasise those points, because they are matters of acute controversy at the moment in relation to the Scotland Bill.

In this case, as I have said, Sheriff Thomson has not even confined himself to engaging in this controversy as a private citizen. He has used his judicial office as the justification for carrying on the campaigning. He has used his judicial title. He referred to himself on an earlier occasion as "The Returning Officer", and as recently as July of this year he published an advertisement in a Scottish newspaper for a public meeting to discuss the plebiscite, complete with a picture of himself in judicial wig and gown. Therefore, there has been a deliberate association of his judicial office with this particular political campaign.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are discussing whether a man should be dismissed from office. Surely, therefore, the Secretary of State should be heard in silence.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure that the House will take note of what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Millan

I am grateful for all this help. I am coming to the end of what I want to say.

I have already described the procedure in and the circumstances of this case. I was simply making the point that there can be no question in my view—and it is the view that the judges took—but that Sheriff Thomson engaged in activity of a political character and, what is more, deliberately engaged his judicial office in that activity. That, in my view, is the particularly serious aspect of this case.

Of course, I considered this matter very carefully, even after receipt of the judges' report, and, as I have already said, I invited Sheriff Thomson at that time to make further representations to me.

It was with some regret that I made the order removing Sheriff Thomson from office, because he has given long service as a sheriff and there has been no complaint about his behaviour on the Bench. Incidentally, it was in view of that service that I decided to exercise the powers that I have regarding his pension—a matter about which a number of hon. Members made representations to me. However, it was unnecessary for them to make such representations, because my decision about the pension was announced on the day that I laid the order for the removal from office of Sheriff Thomson. Therefore, he will receive his pension at the age of 65.

Mr. Canavan

Conscience money.

Mr. Millan

Nevertheless, in view of the history of the case, the two separate reports by the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk and the absence of any undertaking by Sheriff Thomson that he will not in future engage in this political activity, I decided that it was proper to make the order. I ask the House to accept that my decision was right and to reject the Prayer for the annulment of the order.

11.54 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

When I came to the House this evening, I had two questions in my mind. The first was whether Sheriff Thomson had been fairly treated within the terms of the 1971 Act, had known the charges against him and had had an opportunity to defend himself. The second was whether the charges were so serious that he should be removed from office.

I confess that until the Secretary of State spoke I had some doubts whether Sheriff Thomson had been fully informed about the charges against him. However, I understand from the Secretary of State's speech—as far as one could hear it—that he was informed of not only the general charge of misbehaviour but the particular matters on which that charge of misbehaviour was founded. I also understand that he was given opportunities to see the judges and that he refused to take them.

My mind was set at rest, at any rate to some extent, about the conduct of the inquiry under the 1971 Act, but I still remain unconvinced as to whether the substance of the charge is sufficient to dismiss a judge. This is an extremely serious step to take. The House must approach this matter saying that the onus is upon those who wish to dismiss the judge. If we have any doubts about it, our duty is to say at least that the matter is not proven if not that Sheriff Thomson is not guilty.

My reason for saying that is that the misbehaviour consisted of organising a plebiscite. As far as I know, no evidence has been produced that Sheriff Thomson wanted or pressed that the plebiscite should result in any particular conclusion. I would not deny that there were certain aspects of his conduct which I should have thought were ill advised. However, in my time I have had something to do with judges. I could think of many judges some aspects of whose conduct have from time to time been ill advised. There have been no attempts to remove them for that reason.

All that Sheriff Thomson did was to organise a plebiscite. What was unwarranted was to announce that he was a returning officer, chiefly because he was, in fact, a returning officer for parliamentary elections. But, again, I do not think that that by itself is sufficient reason for removing him.

We have heard this evening an illogical position in which politics and the judiciary are involved. We have had the question of recorders, JPs and so forth. It is perfectly true that the 1971 Act determines the situation in Scotland and the position of sheriffs, but the Secretary of State himself said that, in his view, what finally determined him that the recommendation of the judges must go through and that Sheriff Thomson must be removed was that he was engaged in argument upon subjects which might become controversial.

I want to return to the case of Lord Avonside, who is a distinguished judge in the highest court in Scotland the Court of Session. I am not making any criticism about him on this occasion, but I confess that I did so at the time. I quote his example as showing a certain attitude to politics which undoubtedly exists in the highest reaches of the Scottish judiciary.

When the Conservative Party set up a committee of the party to advise it upon devolution, Lord Avonside joined it. What I have tried to make clear to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) is that Lord Avonside resigned from the committee but after certain letters had been written to the Scotsman, one by myself. As far as I know, there was no pressure upon him from his colleagues. He resigned for good reason, because he thought himself that it was unwise. There was no pressure upon him to resign as far as I know. Obviously, he must have given the matter careful consideration, but this shows, at any rate, that this very distinguished judge did not think that it was a serious political step. It was a much more serious political step than holding a plebiscite. It was directly connected with a political party.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Subsequent to his resignation, did Lord Avonside persist with further political activity of that kind?

Mr. Grimond

Having resigned from that committee, he could hardly go on persisting. I do not wish to make a point against Lord Avonside. I am merely indicating an attitude in Scotland that may be slightly different from the English attitude about the activities of judges.

I take another example. Again, it is not on all fours with the case before us. For some years I was a member of the Highland Panel. We were very fortunate to have Lord Cameron, a most distinguished judge and able man, as our chairman. He was appointed to this post. It was not his duty to take part politics, but it was his duty to make requests to the Government on controversial matters. No one thought that that was an activity inconsistent with being a High Court judge in Scotland.

There may be a slightly different attitude in Scotland. The question of recorders is certainly interesting. We have to be clear not only that Sheriff Thomson has been properly treated under the 1971 Act but that the accusation against him is sufficient, even if proved, to remove him from office. For my part I still have some doubt about it, although I do not deny that his behaviour was incautious.

Should he, then, be asked to come to the Bar of the House? Here I was not clear, from what the Secretary of State said, whether Sheriff Thomson has that right. If it is a right of Scottish sheriffs, I do not see why it should be denied him. If it is not a right, we should be clearly advised by the Government. If Sheriff Thomson is entitled to come to the Bar of the House, we would be wise to say that we shall hear him, because it is vital in a case of this importance that every conceivable criticism should be removed by giving him the fullest opportunity to state his case, particularly because there is some doubt about his removal.

12.2 a.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I raised this matter on 28th July, the day after my right hon. Friend laid the order. There was not a single Member from the Scottish National Party in the House. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) was present and he interrupted my speech with some pertinent questions. I see hon. Members who have been interrupting tonight who were in the House then and who took not the slightest interest in the issue at that time. I am glad that the House is now seized of the fact that we have had a certain measure of devolution in Scotland for a long period and that we have legislated as recently as 1971 in relation to Scottish sheriffs, who are judges in a certain type of court, in a manner very different from the procedure in England for equivalent judges.

We have to appreciate that Scottish sheriffs are expected to be impartial and not to take part in activities which would lead people to think that they were partial in one way or another. I was Secretary of State for Scotland in 1974 when the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk, the two highest positions on the Scottish Bench, instituted an investigation. Mark those words. It was an investigation. They received complaints, instituted an investigation and got in touch with Sheriff Thomson. They told him what the complaints were and asked him to discuss the matter with them. Sheriff Thomson refused to see them. He did not reply to their letters. When the report eventually came to me, it was a very serious conclusion which the judges had reached. They said that Sheriff Thomson was guilty of misbehaviour but they thought, since it did not seem to have interfered in the past with his objectivity in his judgments, that he was acting under a misapprehension or misconception of his activities.

I agreed with that view put forward by the judges. I sent a copy of the report to Sheriff Thomson. The Sheriff Principal saw him and drew his attention to the gravity of the position, and to what the report said—namely, that if the activities complained of continued they would be construed as being incompatible with his continuing to hold office. That was in 1974.

Then we had the report. We had the advertisements about the public meetings which Sheriff Thomson attended in his wig and gown. He said clearly that he was doing this as sheriff. That is important. We are not discussing a man holding opinions. Lords Advocate and Solicitors-General have gone from this House to the Bench. They can have political opinions, but they must not engage in political activities.

Mr. Canavan

What about Lord Wheatley?

Mr. Ross

He was appointed by the Government to be chairman of a Royal Commission, and it was in that capacity that he made his report. When Lord Avonside was invited by the then Conservative Party leader to become a member of a Shadow constitutional commission, surprisingly he accepted but he did not sit on that commission. He reconsidered his position. The Lord Advocate contacted him. Lord Avonside reconsidered, realised that it was wrong and withdrew from the commission because that would have amounted to engaging in political activities.

Mr. Adley


Mr. Ross

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I have a very short time in which to explain my part in the affair.

I think that Sheriff Thomson was very very foolish and very unwise. He became obsessed with the Plebiscite Society—he is the Plebiscite Society. He engaged in the plebiscite in the middle of a General Election. He sent out ballot papers saying that they should be returned to him as returning officer. He was already returning officer for the General Election.

Mr. Canavan

He was not at the 1974 election.

Mr. Ross

He was deputy returning officer, but he had acted as returning officer.

A year ago we passed the Returning Officers (Scotland) Bill. The Opposition said that we must retain the sheriffs as returning officers because they never engaged in partial activities. This type of matter destroys confidence in the sheriffs as returning officers. It was a disgraceful thing to do.

That was the issue on which the investigation took place. The Secretary of State was unfair because he did not quote the report of that investigation. That report clearly said that Sheriff Thomson had misbehaved—but he was given another chance. He said that he would continue to engage in the plebiscite until the matter was resolved to his satisfaction.

When explaining why he did not appear before the Judges, Sheriff Thomson said: The court I had been summoned before had no basis in law. He was not summoned before a court. It was not a court but an investigation under the law. The Lord President of the Council and the Lord Justice Clerk were asked to undertake jointly an investigation into the fitness for office of any sheriff principal or sheriff and to report in writing to the Secretary of State. Sheriff Thomson was given the opportunity to see them but he ignored it.

When my right hon. Friend eventually came to the distasteful task of deciding on this matter, he held fire. He sent a copy of the report to Sheriff Thomson, asking for his comments. Not a word came from him. Is my right hon. Friend to throw overboard the heads of the Scottish judiciary, the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord Justice Clerk? He had no option but to produce the order. I regret it, but not only Sheriff Thomson's activities but his relationship to the Lord President of the Court of Session and the investigation, as well as to my right hon. Friend, is such that, sadly, he left my right hon. Friend no option but to make the order.

I shall not support my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). I shall vote to support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

12.10 a.m.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

The precedents which govern tonight's debate were chosen by the Leader of the House, although the Secretary of State for Scotland has been busily denying them. In answer to business questions on Thursday 24th November, the Leader of the House specifically chose the precedents as the basis for denying the House the right which it had always itself exercised to decide whether to hear a person at the Bar of the House.

Moreover, the Leader of the House assured us that he had not left the research to somebody else but had done it himself. He said: But if one takes into account that motion"— the motion that I had tabled to give access to the Bar to Sheriff Thomson— and one looks back at the precedents on the question, as I have carefully done, one sees that the last attendance at the Bar other than on a privilege question was in 1857."—[Official Report, 24th November 1977; Vol. 939. c. 1759.] It was not, as a matter of fact. It was in 1896, with a string of them in between, and it had nothing whatever to do with privilege. What it had to do with was petitioning for a reprieve for persons who had been accused of insurrectionary activity in Ireland. It had nothing to do with privilege.

But the more important precedent that the Leader of the House, of his own free will, chose was the case of the dismissal in 1830 of a judge called Sir Jonah Barrington. It is no good the Secretary of State for Scotland's saying "Ah, but he was an English judge." This is the precedent selected by his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House as a reason for not allowing the House to decide whether it wishes to hear this man at the Bar. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said, with a flattering reference to myself: The hon. Gentleman knows everything, but he might learn a litte more if he would listen a little longer. There is a precedent. There was a dismissal of a judge in 1830 and the House considered whether the judge should appear personally at the Bar. The House of Commons at that time decided not to do so. The right hon. Gentleman added his little joke: It was, of course, the Duke of Wellington's Parliament ".—[Official Report, 24th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 1759. 1758.] What did the House actually do in the case on which the Leader of the House bases his refusal to allow the House to decide for itself whether it wishes to hear Sheriff Peter Thomson at the Bar? First, having been made aware of the result of an inquiry by the Commissioners of Judicial Inquiry in Ireland, a body in some ways analogous to the inquiry by the two judges in Scotland, it set up a committee, which examined all the depositions and all the written evidence. The Committee then examined viva voce the various witnesses, including the accused judge, Sir Jonah Barrington, himself.

Incidentally, if the Leader of the House had done what he told us he had done and examined the precedents carefully, he would have read this ringing and majestic phrase at the end of the 15 pages of deposition by Sir Jonah Barrington, which he concluded with these words: The judge therefore stands his ground and defies his enemies, this Twelfth day of January 1829. Harvey Smith did not originate the bi-digital procedure.

But what did the House of Commons do after its Select Committee had examined Sir Jonah Barrington? Not content with that, when the Select Committee had reported to the House and the House had considered its report, the House then heard at the Bar counsel on behalf of Sir Jonah Barrington. Why did not the Leader of the House tell us that when praying this case in aid, having told us that he personally had carefully examined the precedents? Is it because his statement that he had carefully examined the precedents himself was untrue, or is it because he had examined them and was aware of this but did not want the House of Commons to know it?

Those are the two horns of the dilemma on which the right hon. Gentleman has impaled himself. I will give way to him so that he may reply if he wishes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"]

It was only when the House of Commons, therefore, had first read the report by an exterior body like the two judges in this case, had examined all the evidence by means of a Committee of the House over many days, had examined the judge in person over many hours and then heard his counsel address it from the Bar, that it decided that there was no further information which it required in order to know the case that was put by both sides and arrive at its decision.

It is exactly that which the Leader of the House has refused to permit Parliament to decide for itself, and—this is the truly scandalous incident—he has usurped the power of the House of Commons.

I think the House will accept that I have done my homework rather more thoroughly than the Leader of the House has done his. There is no precedent of which I am aware for any Leader of the House refusing to allow the House of Commons to take this decision for itself.

It is on that ground that the House owes it to itself to say that it will support the Prayer. This is the last occasion on which it can do so. When the House rises tonight, the praying time expires. This is the end of the 40 days. This is a very rare form of negative resolution procedure. It is not just an ordinary one. An ordinary negative resolution procedure can become operative as soon at the Minister makes an order. But this very rare one cannot, under the Act, become operative until after the 40 days of praying time, as laid down in the Statutory Instruments Act 1946, has expired.

If the House votes for the Prayer tonight and passes it—assuming that the Leader of the House has learnt his lesson by then, although he is not very good at learning his lessons—it will give itself another opportunity. If the Secretary of State makes another order, there will be another period of 40 days in which the House, assuming that the Leader of the House will then permit it to do so, can decide for itself as it did on the last occasion—the precedent prayed in aid by the right hon. Gentleman himself—whether it wishes to hear this man's case.

Mr. Adley

My hon. Friend makes a serious allegation against the Lord President. Does he recall that on 7th May 1974, speaking during proceedings on the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, the right hon. Gentleman spoke approvingly of fighting against the decisions of judges who have sought to twist the law to what they consider to be their advantage."—[Official Report, 7th May 1974; Vol. 873, c. 243.]? Is not that what the Lord President himself is trying to do to Parliament tonight?

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

It is not clear from that quotation whether it is the Lord President's conscience or his memory which is the weaker organ—possibly both.

What this is not tonight, and what it cannot be, is a trial of the merit of the dismissal. We cannot try the merit of the dismissal without hearing the case of Sheriff Peter Thomson, and this is doubly so because the Secretary of State for Scotland himself has made as one of his major complaints the fact that Sheriff Peter Thomson has not put his case as he had the opportunity to do to the Lord Justice Clerk and the President of the Court of Session.

Mr. Fairbairn

I think that we should look at the equivalents. We have here somebody who refused to recognise the court or the investigations, or those who have to report upon them. If, in a criminal case, he decided to appear before the Appeal Court and put points that he had refused to put earlier, he would not be heard, and if in a civil case he decided to appeal to the House of Lords on the basis that he had refused to defend the case earlier, he would not be heard either.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am most obliged to my hon. and learned Friend, who has told us what happens in criminal courts. However, I draw his attention to the fact that declining to respond to the invitation of an inquiry exterior to this House was exactly what Judge Jonah Barrington did. In 1829 he declined to put his case to the Commissioners of Judicial Inquiry in Ireland, but that did not stop the House of Commons from taking evidence from him in person.

This is the procedure, and this is the precedent quoted by the Leader of the House. It is not one that I have carefully selected to embarrass him. It is one he selected, and it would have grossly misled the House of Commons had it not been challenged. That is a very serious thing for the right hon. Gentleman to do to the House of Commons.

The redress built into the 1971 Act for an administrative dismissal—and this is an administrative dismissal, not a judicial one—is by the mechanism of a Prayer only. Members from every part of the House—except the Liberal Party, and I suppose that if Liberal Members had thought about it they would have signed, too—including some of the most senior and distinguished Members, signed the motion that Sheriff Peter Thomson should be heard at the Bar of the House.

This has been raised again and again on Thursdays, and each time the Leader of the House has refused to allow the motion to come on to the Order Paper "above the line". He has therefore usurped the function of the House of Commons. But, worse than that, he has brought about the situation that, on the last praying day that is left—it was the right hon. Gentleman who chose this day—we are asked to judge the merit of the dismissal without having heard the case of the person whom we accuse. That is why we do not need to take the view that Sheriff Peter Thomson should (lot have been dismissed to take the view that he should be heard at the Bar of the House. We do not even need to take the view that he should be heard at the Bar of the House to form the opinion that whether or not he is granted that leave is a function that belongs to the House of Commons and not to the Leader of the House.

Those are the grounds on which hon. Members on both sides of the House, whether or not, having heard one side of the case., they believe that Sheriff Peter Thomson should or should not have been dismissed, owe it to themselves to vote for the Prayer as the only means of securing that Sheriff Peter Thomson receives the same natural justice as he has always administered in courts over which he has presided.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Earlier the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder) asked whether, as a recorder, he is entitled to vote in these proceedings. I am glad to be able to say that it is quite clear that recorders who have a seat in the House may vote.

Sereval Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We have 35 minues left. May I appeal for five-minute speeches in order that I can accommodate everyone who is trying to get in?

12.25 a.m.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell and Wishaw)

Sheriff Thomson's jurisdiction includes my constituency. The sheriffs of Hamilton have acted as returning officers for a long time until recently. I understand that Sheriff Thomson so acted until 1966.

The independence and impartiality of Sheriff Thomson are an important matter for this House. They are a still more important matter for those of our constitutents who live and work under his jurisdiction. I have had no complaints about his ordinary conduct of his ordinary duties. I have no such complaints myself. Nor would I overrate the political impact of his campaign. It is utterly trivial; I think that it is quite eccentric and politically irrelevant.

Nevertheless, putting together Sheriff Thomson's insistent activities, the warnings that have been given to him and the reports of the two senior judges, we have to ask ourselves whether, in the circumstances as they now exist, he is fit to continue in his office. We have to consider not only our own confidence but the confidence of our constituents in his impartiality and independence.

People in Scotland are used to proper respect for authority. They do not regard it as in any way detracting from their freedom. But they have noticed that that respect for authority has not been forthcoming from their sheriff. That is the reaction of lay people in my constituency. It is not only they who are concerned; members of the legal profession, solicitors in particular, who practise in the sheriff court district are also concerned.

There have been expressions of opinion by two solicitors in particular, Mr. Walker Munro of Motherwell and Mr. A. E. McIlwain of Leonard's solicitors in Hamilton. The latter wrote to a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I asked these two gentlemen this morning, as their representations were dated before 30th November, when the reports by Lords Wheatley and Emslie were published in Hansard, whether they had had the opporunity of reading them. Mr. Walker Munro said that he had offered to support Sheriff Thomson but his offer had been declined. He had not had an opportunity to read the reports.

I asked these two gentlemen whether they would like to hear the reports, and when they said "Yes" I read them to them. They then authorised me to say that, having heard read to them the reports by the Lord President and the Lord Justice Clerk, they, while affirming the necessity of the independence of the judiciary, did not wish to sustain their objections to the order, which, they regret, appears to be necessary in order to safeguard the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

There is nothing but sadness in our proceedings. There is, and I trust that there always will be, room for eccentricity in the judiciary in Scotland. But when that conflicts with the view of the ordinary people and of the legal profession practising under the jurisdiction of the person concerned about the proper discharge of the proper rôle of a sheriff, then, alas, that eccentricity has gone too far. I hope that the House will accept the order.

12.31 a.m.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)

The dismissal of a judge strikes at the heart of the independence of the judiciary, and I am sure that that is one thing upon which the whole House will agree. Can the House go a little further with me in agreeing that only if the weight of evidence is preponderantly against a judge and in favour of his dismissal should he be dismissed? If the House can go that far with me, perhaps there is room for voting against the removal of this judge tonight, or at least for asking the Secretary of State whether, in view of the time limit, he will reintroduce the order to give the House further time for consideration.

The Secretary of State put the question of the law fairly to the House, but I wish to emphasise one point that he made. It is that after the investigation has been called for—an investigation which appears to have been in private, and ipso facto it would be private between the two top judges in Scotland—the matter was subject to the action of the Secretary of State. The 1971 Act clearly says that the Secretary of State may take action. Therefore, it is not the decision of the two judges that is before us but the decision of the Secretary of State. I make that point because it brings me to the question I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman on the matter of legal interpretation.

If the House is clear, and it seems to be so, that the dismissal of this judge would be made under statute law, I submit that we are entitled to look at the law of statutory interpretation in order to decide how to interpret "misbehaviour". There are three headings in the statute under which the Secretary of State's order was made. They are inability, neglect of duty and misbehaviour. It is clear that any discussion of fitness for office must refer to the judge's conduct in his judicial office. It is surely obvious to the House that inability certainly relates to his conduct on the bench. Neglect of duty must also so relate. By the rule of statutory interpreation ejusdenz generis, the third word in the list must be interpreted in the same relationship as the first two words in the list. Therefore "misbehaviour" must also relate to his fitness.

Whatever we do as a House, therefore, we must be able, under the rule of statutory interpretation, to relate the misbehaviour that is alleged back to the conduct of the judge in his judicial office. We must be able to say that whatever was alleged against him was affecting the conduct of his judicial office. For example, we must be able to say that it affected his partiality. I suggest that that is a very serious question upon which the Secretary of State must satisfy us. I wonder whether he has come here with an open mind to listen to the debate, whether his mind is open to the possibility of making the order again, or whether he is going through this serious matter as a formality.

Having said that, I do not think that the charge was clearly made. If the Secretary of State is content that the charge is as set out in his very detailed answer of 25th November, which appears in Hansard, and is happy to rest the allegations within the corners of that long and detailed answer, I submit that hon. Members, if they reread it, will find that there is no specific charge there except a series of failures to answer letters of warning to take heed.

There is a suggestion, for example, that in 1974 one set of actions was accepted at least to the extent that no misbehaviour was found. A lesser series of actions by the same sheriff in 1977 led, as we know, to an allegation of misbehaviour. I refer to two phrases relating to 1974. The two top judges said that they did not yet find him unfit for office. It was also said that it would be unrealistic to hope that he would never do anything of the kind again.

Is the misbehaviour of the sheriff, therefore, the belief on the part of the investigating judges and the Secretary of State—who is the one who really makes the decision—that this sheriff will commit some misbehaviour in the future? If that is so, that is surely quite untenable. Are we really seriously creating this very unusual precedent, which is not only a warning for every occupier of every judicial office in Scotland but must contain the germs of a warning for any holder of a judicial office in England?

Suppose that a lawyer were advising any citizen summoned to appear before a public prosecutor who said "I am not telling you in exactly what specific way you have offended. I am not prepared to define the misbehaviour. I am not prepared to say whether it was partisan political activity or not partisan, but nevertheless I want you to come and see me." Any lawyer in those circumstances would say to the citizen "Do not go, because until you have a specific charge to answer you have the right to stay away. Until you know what the charges are, you cannot draw up the answers. You cannot even begin to be relevant." I make this point extremely seriously.

I should like to make another point which no one has yet made. It concerns what is the legitimate action of a sheriff who is convinced in his mind that he has no specific charge yet to answer. We know that the sheriff wrote a letter seeking to establish what the specific charge might be and that it was curtly dismissed, with a refusal to be specific.

I will give another reason why it is absolutely resonable for a sitting sheriff not to engage in correspondence or meetings with the supreme appeal judges. I should like the Secretary of State to comment on it. As a judge on the shrieval bench, the sheriff was still sitting daily, hearing cases. The ultimate appeal from a dissatisfied litigant before him was to the two divisions of the Court of Session, presided over by the very same two judges with whom he was being asked to have private meetings about unspecific charges.

There is, perhaps, a fault in the very Act itself. At least, as has been pointed out, the sheriff has more protection than any type of equivalent judge in England. That is not in dispute, but that does not make it right. If it is not right in Scotland, we need not console ourselves that it is even worse in England. That argument does not hold water.

We have here a case in which this sheriff is in no way being criticised for his inability. He is in no way being criticised for neglect. The alleged misbehaviour seems to be that when given the opportunity to go before the top judges of Scotland when summoned, he failed to do so to answer what he regarded as unspecified charges, and that he did this not once but several times. It is alleged that he compounded the felony—if it is one—by refusing to go when one of the judges offered him another opportunity.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)

Having read the answers in Hansard, will the hon. Lady accept from me that she is totally and almost deliberately misleading the House in everything she is saying? Is it not right that both the two senior judges of Scotland made it absolutely clear that they were discounting what they described as his behaviour to themselves and that their complaint against him was that they found he had acted in a public capacity on a political matter?

Mrs. Ewing

I know that that is what the judges have both claimed, but, as I have already explained, it is the Secretary of State's decision that we are considering here. That decision is within the corners of the letter of 25th November, and it is only there that we read what these so-called allegations were.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Fairbairn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Lady appeared to suggest that the judges did not mean it when they said—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. Time is very short. Mrs. Ewing.

Mrs. Ewing

I shall treat that intervention with the contempt that it deserves.

On the merits of the case, I would say that if we are to turn from statute law to some convention of the common law it seems odd to reflect that a supreme judge accepted, albeit for 13 days of controversy, an appointment to a Conservative committee and was not dismissed. There are many other precedents that one could give.

Perhaps I can clarify one thing with regard to the Plebiscite Society. Like many others, I was a member of that society. I have seen the form which is relevant to this case. That form used the phrase "returning officer". That had nothing specific to do with Sheriff Thomson. Whenever plebiscites were conducted in Kerriemuir, Annan and other places, that was the form provided by the Plebiscite Society in an effort to make the exercise as realistic as possible. The Secretary of State is clutching at straws if he relies on the merits of that.

I shall finish by asking this question. If the allegations in 1974 were the most serious, why was Sheriff Thomson given this so-called other chance? If they were less serious in 1977, we must give the sheriff the benefit of the doubt, otherwise we are creating a precedent and no one knows where that precedent will lead us.

12.44 a.m.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I do not think that the hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) has helped the case a great deal by what she has tried to put forward.

There are one or two matters which should be settled at this stage. There is the general feeling in the House that it is unsatisfactory to have two hours—admittedly we have an extra half-hour—to discuss such an important issue. It has been complicated by the fact that we have been discussing two issues. First, we have been discussing the straightforward question of the conduct of Sheriff Thomson. Second, we have been discussing the important issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) and others of how this issue has been handled in this House.

There are, however, one or two things which should be said. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) surprised some of us from Scotland with the remarks he made about Sheriff Thomson's activities and statements. With regard to the Sheriff's plebiscite activities and the advertisement in the paper, the hon. Gentlemen give the impression that one should almost treat such matters as "So what?"

I remind the House that recently in the Scottish Grand Committee, when Scottish law was being considered, we debated at lencth an important Government Bill—a Bill to take away powers from sheriffs. As has been mentioned, for years sheriffs in Scotland have been our returning officers in General Elections. They have had sole powers in this respect.

We had a long debate about this, and what surprised me was the proposal from the Government that we should take away this power from the sheriffs and give it to local government officers. I was surprised to see that two people objected to the Bill—the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire and a representative of the Scottish National Party, the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick), who has been making a lot of noise during the debate.

First, the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire: I agree that the impartiality of the sheriff is an important matter. The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) has already said that the sheriff is a step more remote from politics than either the Chief Executive or the director of administration of a local authority, who is in day-to-day touch with political matters. The local government officer is in daily touch with politicians, he may well have conisance of the majority opinion within his council, and to that extent he is not so remote from the day-to-day running of political matters as is the sheriff, for example. The hon. Member for Argyll said: I return to the remarks of the hon. Member for Ayr about the impartiality of sheriffs in the past. No one in Scotland could ever have doubted that these men and their staffs were totally impartial. I know from the reaction that this Pill, small though it may be and not on the face of it likely to attract public interest, has attracted in Argyll that people simply do not believe that the new regime for the runing of elections will be as impartial as the old one … I believe that the running of something as important as an election ought to be in the hands of someone who is totally above the whole political scene".—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 14th December 1976; c. 10–13.] This is probably the difference between Scotland and England. Whereas in England we have a different situation, in Scotland we have always taken the view that the sheriff should be totally above the political scene. As long as we can retain that situation, we are preserving something that Scotland thinks worth while.

Mr. Adley

Is there in my right hon. Friend's opinion any difference between "political", "partisan" and "constitutional" in these matters?

Mr. Taylor

Yes, a very deep difference indeed. I wish I had time to go into it.

There are three questions. First, were the conditions of the 1971 Act properly carried out?

Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)

Can the hon. Gentleman give the House any example of any time when Sheriff Thomson was anything other than objective? Did he ever show any bias?

Mr. Taylor

Some examples have been given. I hope that the hon. Member will accept the views of his party at the time that the sheriff should be totally above the political scene". I doubt whether, in view of what has happened, Sheriff Thomson was above the whole political scene.

First, has the procedure laid down under the 1971 Act been properly carried out'? There was a different procedure before. In 1971 we had the advantage of having a debate in the House. There can be little doubt that the procedure has been properly carried out. The Lord Justice and the Lord President initiated a report, and there was another report to the Secretary of State. The reports showed that they had considered the matter with great care and understanding, and in the letter of 1975, although they stated that they were of the opinion that the sheriff's behaviour was inconsistent with his official judicial position, they would not report him as unfit because, basically, they thought that he would take their advice.

The second thing we must ask is whether the issue was serious. There can be little doubt that it was. Certainly, sheriffs have opinions and sometimes express them, and I doubt whether participation in the plebiscite was a major problem in itself. In an intervention, the hon. Member for Argyll suggested that this was not a controversial matter because the Labour Government had adopted it. I would not think that this was a proper guide. More important is the nature of the campaign, because until recently sheriffs had a duty of being returning officers at elections.

The 1975 report showed that quasi voting cards were issued to electors, to be returned to Sheriff Thomson, and the result was to be intimated by him in Hamilton. That was designed to give the impression that the plebiscite may have been official in character, and certainly this was inconsistent with the sheriff's office.

Was Sheriff Thomson given a reasonable opportunity to state his case? He was given repeated opportunities—no one has denied this—to respond and be heard. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire raised the point about the original letter.

What about a hearing in the House? Some people have taken the view that since 1971 there have been major changes in the protection of individuals against dismissal by measures such as the Employment Protection Act. The feeling has been expressed by a number of hon. Members that there is something basically wrong with depriving an individual of his position without giving him an opportunity to state his case. Although our Act of 1971 gave an opportunity for an additional hearing in the House of Commons which was not there before, there is nothing in that Act or any other Act of Parliament preventing the House of Commons from doing anything at all, including hearing the sheriff.

There is a second point of view that has been expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), who asked why, as Sheriff Thomson had disregarded two senior judges and was not willing to express a view to them, the House of Commons should take a different view. In normal proceedings, evidence which is not advanced at an early stage is not advanced at a later stage.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my hon. Friend focus his attention on the point of whether the House wishes to hear the person about to be dismissed by the Minister? It is a decision for the House, not for the Leader of the House, who has usurped that function. The only way to remedy it is to support the Prayer.

Mr. Taylor

There are strong views on both sides. I quite agree that this is an issue which should have been determined by the House of Commons. It is regrettable that this separate issue might have impinged on the less controversial debate about whether the Secretary of State acted correctly in what he did. It has introduced controversy into what may not have been so controversial, and it has introduced two separate issues into the debate affecting an individual.

I hope that the House will bear in mind the merits of the case. Where would we stand if we rejected the order on its merits? If we rejected it, we would be rejecting the advice of two senior judges who looked into the matter with great care and consideration. Secondly, we would have no rules of guidance on the conduct of sheriffs and we would undermine the whole basis of the 1971 Act, which was discussed and approved by Scottish and English Members in the House. It would seem to me that this would be a step that we would have to take very carefully.

The matter is complicated greatly by the high-handed attitude of the Lord President, who is responsible for the conduct of the business of the House. He has concerned us on many occasions by the way in which he does things. There was an official Opposition request on the issue of whether Sheriff Thomson should be heard and discussed in the House of Commons, and this was rejected.

It is unfortunate that the House was not given the opportunity of deciding the matter right or wrong. This is an unfortunate and unsatisfactory situation which has been created solely by the bad handling of the affair by the Lord President. If the right hon. Gentleman had acted sensibly and correctly, I believe that we could have debated what we should have debated—namely, whether the Secretary of State acted correctly.

In view of what I have said about the merits of the case, I shall not be opposing the order. Although a small minority, a fringe group and some of its friends, might vote against the conduct of the Secretary of State, there is no doubt that more will be inclined to vote against the motion because of the unwillingness of the Lord President to allow an important issue to be debated. There will be a free vote for the Opposition. I hope that there will be a free vote throughout the House.

I hope that what I have said makes it clear that I accept that the Secretary of State acted correctly. I think that the right hon. Gentleman applied the rules properly. I make no criticism of the action that he has taken. However, there is no doubt that the issue has been clouded by the unfortunate and regrettable action of the Lord President.

12.57 a.m.

Mr. Millan

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) finished his speech on a rather equivocal note. The substance of his remarks amounted to a rejection of the Prayer.

I wish to say very little. I tried to explain earlier the background and the procedures. I shall sum up by reiterating one or two points.

First, it is utterly and completely untrue to say that Sheriff Thomson was not aware of the nature and detail of the complaints that had been made against him. He was made aware of the detail of the complaints as well as their general nature. It is wrong to suggest in any way that he was not.

Secondly, it has been amply demonstrated during the debate that Sheriff Thomson had ample opportunity to deal with the complaints that had been made against him. He had ample opportunity to make representations both in writing and orally to the two judges. Incidentally, he had a further opportunity, not provided under the 1971 Act, that I afforded him to make a final representation to me. I find it difficult to explain why anyone can seriously suggest that in this case Sheriff Thomson has not had the fullest opportunity to deal with the complaints made against him.

It has not been suggested in the debate that I acted in any way other than in full accordance with not only the letter of the 1971 Act but its spirit.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend justify his dismissal under the 1971 Act by saying what alleged misbehaviour on the part of Sheriff Thomson classified him as being unfit for judicial office? What

possible link-up was there with any of the alleged misbehaviour and his impartiality as a judge?

Mr. Millan

I was coming to that. I said that it has not been suggested that I did not act throughout in accordance with the letter and spirit of the 1971 Act. That is a measure that was passed comparatively recently by the House.

We come to the question of the behaviour of Sheriff Thomson. I accept that it is possible to have different views about the serious nature of his behaviour. I take the view that it is well—

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

proceeded to put the Question.

Mr. Carlisle

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Has anybody said "No"?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Yes, I understood so.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly,

That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Sheriff (Removal from Office) Order 1977, dated 22nd July 1977, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th July in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled:—

The House divided: Ayes, 52, Noes 170.

Division No. 37] AYES [1.02 a.m.
Adley, Robert Grimond, Rt Hon J. Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Bain, Mrs Margaret Hannam, John Ross, William (Londonderry)
Banks, Robert Henderson, Douglas Shepherd, Colin
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Sillars, James
Benyon, W. Kitson, Sir Timothy Sims, Roger
Berry, Hon Anthony Knox, David Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Braine, Sir Bernard Langford-Holt, Sir John Stradling Thomas, J.
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Loveridge, John Tebbit, Norman
Brooke, Peter MacCormick, Iain Thompson, George
Brotherton, Michael Mackintosh, John P. Warren, Kenneth
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Mather, Carol Watt, Hamish
Crawford, Douglas Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Welsh, Andrew
Dunlop, John Moate, Roger Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Durant, Tony More, Jasper (Ludlow) Winterton, Nicholas
English, Michael Pattie, Geoffrey
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Penhaligon, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Glyn, Dr Alan Percival, Ian Mr. Dennis Caravan and
Goodhart, Philip Rathbone, Tim Mrs. Winifred Ewing.
Goodhew, Victor Reid, George
Allaun, Frank Atkinson, Norman Bates, Alf
Anderson, Donald Bagier, Gordon A. T. Beith, A. J.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)
Armstrong, Ernest Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Bishop, Rt Hon Edward
Blenkinsop, Arthur Harper, Joseph Palmer, Arthur
Boardman, H. Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Park, George
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hart, Rt Hon Judith Parry, Robert
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hatton, Frank Pavitt, Laurie
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Healey, Rt Hon Denis Price, William (Rugby)
Buchan, Norman Horam, John Richardson, Miss Jo
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rifkind, Malcolm
Campbell, Ian Hunter, Adam Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cant, R. B. Hutchison, Michael Clark Roderick, Caerwyn
Carlisle, Mark Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Rooker, J. W.
Carmichael, Neil John, Brynmor Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Clarke. Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Johnson, James (Hull West) Rowlands, Ted
Clemitson, Ivor Jones. Alec (Rhondda) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Coleman, Donald Jopling, Michael Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Conlan, Bernard Judd, Frank Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Kaufman, Gerald Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Corbett, Robin Kerr, Russell Silverman, Julius
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Kinnock, Neil Skinner, Dennis
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Lambie, David Small, William
Crawshaw, Richard Lamborn, Harry Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Lamond, James Snape, Peter
Cryer, Bob Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Spriggs, Leslie
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Latham, Michael (Melton) Stallard, A. W.
Dalyell, Tam Leadbitter, Ted Stoddart, David
Davidson, Arthur Lester, Jim (Beeston) Strang, Gavin
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Luard, Evan Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Deakins, Eric Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Tinn, James
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McCartney, Hugh Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Dempsey, James McDonald, Dr Oonagh Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Doig, Peter McElhone, Frank Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dormand, J. D. Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Eadie, Alex Maclennan, Robert Ward, Michael
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Watkinson, John
Ennals, Rt Hon David Marks, Kenneth Weetch, Ken
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) White, James (Pollok)
Fairbairn, Nicholas Meacher, Michael Whitehead, Phillip
Fairgrieve, Russell Mendelson, John Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Flannery, Martin Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Molloy, William Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Monro, Hector Wise, Mrs Audrey
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Woodall, Alec
Ford, Ben Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Woof, Robert
Forrester, John Moyle, Roland Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fraser, John (Lambeth N'w'd) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Young, David (Bolton E)
Gilbert, Dr John Newens, Stanley Younger, Hon George
Golding, John Noble, Mike
Grant, George (Morpeth) Oakes, Gordon TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Grocott, Bruce O'Halloran, Michael Mr. James Hamilton and
Hardy, Peter Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Mr. Ted Graham.

Question accordingly negatived.

  2. cc1331-2