HL Deb 07 June 1886 vol 306 cc1113-5

My Lords, I observe in this morning's journals a statement with regard to representations which have been made to Her Majesty's Government on the subject of the appointment of the members of the Crofters Commission. Those who are interested in the management of landed property in Scotland have, I think, behaved towards the Government in this matter with very great forbearance, because undoubtedly very arbitary powers—powers which might involve the complete forfeiture of all arrears due at the present moment—are dependent upon the personal character and responsibility of the gentlemen who are appointed Commissioners. I am bound to say that I have the greatest confidence in the perfect frankness and good faith of my noble Friend who occupies the Office of Secretary for Scotland. I have also the same confidence in the present Lord Advocate for Scotland; but, having that confidence, I think we have a right to ask, when a report so public as this appears in the morning papers in respect to remonstrances said to have been made by a certain class of Members of the House of Commons in regard to these appointments, whether there is any foundation for it? I therefore beg to put that Question to my noble Friend.


I have no difficulty whatever in answering the Question put to me by the noble Duke, because, as it happens, I was at the House of Commons on Thursday night shortly after the interview between Dr. Macdonald and the Lord Advocate took place, and I heard from the Lord Advocate at the time an account of what passed. The substance of the statement attributed to Dr. Macdonald, in the letter to which the noble Duke refers as having been made by him to the Lord Advocate on that occasion, although not quite accurate, is fairly correct, I believe, so far as regards his objection to the gentlemen whose appointment has been apparently rumoured in Ross-shire. The alleged reply of the Lord Advocate to Dr. Macdonald is not quite accurate either. The Lord Advocate simply answered that he would communicate to me what Dr. Macdonald had stated, and shortly afterwards, on my arrival at the House of Commons the same evening, he did so. I may perhaps be allowed to add that no understanding exists between the Government and the Crofter Members as to who will or will not be appointed to Commissionerships under the Crofters Bill. No promise has been given, directly or indirectly, on the subject, and no announcement will be made to-day in regard to it. I must decline most distinctly to make any reply to the insinuation contained in the last paragraph of this letter in The Times, because my doing so, either negatively or affirmatively, would imply that certain appointments have been proposed, or at least contemplated, a matter in regard to which, as I have stated, it is not intended to make any announcement today.