This Act may be cited as the Parish Councils Casual Vacancies (Scotland) Act 1897, and shall be construed as one with the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1894.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2,—
§ PROVISIONS FOR FILLING UP CASUAL VACANCIES IN PARISH COUNCILS IN PARISHES PARTLY LANDWARD AND PARTLY BURGH-AL, ETC.
In the event of a casual vacancy in the parish council of a parish which is partly landward and partly burghal, or comprises a police burgh or part of a police burgh, the following provisions shall have effect with respect to she filling up of such vacancy (that is to say):—
moved as an Amendment to leave out Sub-section (1), upon the ground that. it really was not required. There was no grievance and no difficulty to be remedied by means of it. Not only was that the case, but if it was 691 passed as it stood it would lead to many difficulties and complications which did not now exist. The reason for allowing the landward members of the Council to elect to casual vacancies in the Landward Committee was that the Landward Committee had distinct and separate functions from the Parish Council as a whole. The burgh members had no functions apart from their membership of the Parish Council, because all the functions which were discharged by the Landward Committee for the landward part of the parish were discharged for the burgh through the proper burgh authority. There had been a few difficulties in cases where burgh members had insisted on putting men with burgh interests into the Landward Committee. In the other case there had been no difficulty at all, and, as he had said, serious complications would be caused if this sub-section was allowed to stand part of the Bill. He would give one instance which he thought would convince the Committee that the proposal was not a wise one—namely, the case of the Parish Council in which Dundee and Broughty Ferry were situated. There were there two burghs, one of which had only one representative upon the Parish Council, and if the Bill were to pass with this sub-section in it the result would be, in the event of a vacancy occurring in the representation of Broughty Ferry, while the landward representatives of the Council would be prevented from voting, the vacancy would be filled up by the representatives of Dundee, because there were no others to do it. That would be an anomalous and absurd result, and he hoped their Lordships would not allow this sub-section to stand part of the Bill.
THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
explained that the object of the promoters of the Bill was to protect the interests of the landward members. The Secretary for Scotland had stated that those interests would be duly preserved by leaving out the sub-section, and therefore he had no objection to its omission.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
objected to the Amendment. He should like to explain to English Lords what the proposal of the Bill was and what the effect of the Amendment would be. In Scotland, parishes which were subject to Parish Councils were divided into three categories—namely, landward, which were 692 entirely parishes that were outside the limits of a burgh; burghal parishes, which were parishes within the limits of a burgh; and mixed parishes, consisting of landward and burghal parishes. In the Local Government Act for Scotland great care was taken to save the interests of the landward and burghal portions of such a parish. Great care was taken to insure, according to the interests of the two portions of the parish, an exact proportion in the numbers of the members of a County Council. In only one respect was not provision made, and that was in the case of a casual vacancy. When a. vacancy occurred from the death of one of the Councillors, then the landward representatives and the burghal representatives alike met and chose another Member in the place of the deceased. At times the interest of the landward and burghal parts of the parish were very different, and friction arose, and there had been difficulties, which, however, had been assuaged by the intervention of the Local Government Board for Scotland, who had induced the representatives of both portions of the parish to join in selecting the proper man to represent the particular interest which was represented by the deceased person. So that really this Bill was introduced to meet one particular case which had arisen, although other means had been found of meeting such cases. But if they were going to allow the landward representatives of a parish to select their own man by themselves, aside from the burghal representatives, to a vacancy that occurred amongst them, surely they ought not then to allow the landward men to have anything to say in the choice of a representative to a vacancy that occurred among the burghal representatives. Not only did they save the landward people from any violation of their interests by allowing them to elect a man to fill a vacancy that occurred among their own number, but if they adopted Lord Balfour's Amendment, they would allow the same landward men to have a large voice in filling the vacancy caused by a death amongst the burghal representatives also. Surely that would be giving an altogether unfair predominance to the landward members of mixed parishes. He would ask their Lordships either to leave matters as they were by not passing this Bill at all—which would not give rise to 693 any great grievance—or, if they did, while it was perfectly fair to give to the landward representatives of the Parish Council the right to elect their own representative, then he should say they ought also to allow the burghal portion of the parish to elect their own representative from among their own number. It seemed to him that to take that course would be absolutely inconsistent with the provisions of the Act of 1894. The step proposed by the noble Lord would be a departure from the intention of the Act, which evidently was to preserve the rights and interests of the burghal representatives and landward representatives in their separate capacities. He should certainly oppose the Amendment.
said there was One point omitted by the noble Lord—that there could really be no question of Lurgh representatives being properly appointed, for where there was a mixed parish the population of the burgh would always be in the majority, they would get in their man if they were unanimous, and would always have their own way in regard to filling up vacancies on the landward committee. It was impossible in the event of a question arising as to the burgh representation, and opinion being divided, the landward party by siding with one of the parties might determine the question as between the burgh representatives; but even in that case the man elected would be a representative of the burgh, not of the landward interest, whereas in the case for the Bill if the burgh representatives chose they could by united action put a man into the landward committee in their own interest, and hostile to the general body of ratepayers.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
, after the appeal of his noble Friend to English Lords, ventured to express his opinion on this Scotch subject, though he did so with great diffidence. He really could not understand the argument of Lord Balfour. He could quite understand. that it might be the case, as the noble Lord said, that there being such a large number people in the town portion of the parish, as compared with what in England would be called the rural portion of the parish, the land portion would always have a majority. But that was not exactly the point. As he understood, 694 all voted together; but surely, if it was desirable to make admission and to let the landward portion of the district vote for vacancies in their own body, it seemed to follow almost as a matter of course that you should do the same with the other portion.
said the noble Earl had missed the point; the landward committee sat apart from the burgh portion as to certain duties, as to the discharge of which the burgh representatives had no interest whatever.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said he had no doubt he had missed a point, but he could not see the evil result that would follow from placing them both on a footing of equality as regards casual vacancies. It seemed to him an equitable arrangement, and he did not see why all invidious privilege should be accorded to landward members and not given to town members. He could not see what possible injury would be done to anybody by making the matter equal to both sides. That was the view he took, but he repeated he had a feeling of diffidence in intervening at all.
THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
said there was a distinct difference of position, the landward members acted separately, but the burgh members conjointly with the landward members, so that the same question did not arise with burgh vacancies.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
said this was no reason for not meting out equal justice in respect to electing their own representatives.
THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
said there was no case in regard to the burgh portion, because there it was election to the whole council.
Question put: "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided.
§ Bill reported as amended, and re-committed to the Standing Committee; to be printed as amended.—(No. 175.)