§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the difficulties which have arisen recently in certain small Scottish burghs through the rigid interpretation of Section 52 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, whereby part-time employees of a joint board are not eligible to serve on the burgh council and, if so whether they contemplate introducing amending legislation to overcome them.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (LORD CRAIGTON)
My Lords. Section 52 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, provides—I quote the relevant words:A person shall be disqualified for being nominated as a candidate for election as, or for being elected, or for being, a member of a local authority if he …holds any paid office or other place of profit in the gift or disposal …of any joint committee or joint board the expenses of which are defrayed in part by the Authority.
§ In the matter to which the noble Lord refers, the question is whether it should be held that the expenses of a joint fire authority are defrayed in part by a town council of a small burgh in its area. Under the Fire Services Act, 1947, the expenses of a joint fire committee are defrayed out of a fund to which the fire authorities are required to contribute. The town council of small burgh is not a fire authority, nor is it a member of the joint fire committee, though as a rating authority it collects from its ratepayers 582 the requisition made on it by the county council which is the fire authority and is a member of the joint fire committee. This question is, as the noble Lord will appreciate, one for the courts to settle and is not one on which my right honourable friend can give a ruling.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, which is a good deal more helpful than it appears at first catch, shall we say, may I put this question? In view of the fact that in the small burgh to which I refer two members of the council have had to resign as part-time firemen, could he indicate what remedy might lie to the hand of those individuals to set the matter right?
§ LORD CRAIGTON
My Lords, if your Lordships will bear with me, I will try to give an equally helpful reply to that supplementary. If a councillor has not resigned from, or takes up paid office and remains a member of, the council. Section 53 of the Act provides a procedure for determining whether the office held by that member is vacant. Under that section the member is entitled to vote as a member until proceedings are taken before the sheriff to have the office declared vacant. Alternatively, the authority, after due notice, can pass a resolution declaring the office vacant, in which case the member concerned may appeal to the sheriff against the resolution. If a member has already resigned, or is not yet a councillor and in terms of Rule 5 (3) (c) of the Scottish Local Election Rules states on his nomination paper that the disqualifications in Section 52 do not apply, he can offer himself for re-election. If re-elected, his election can be challenged under Section 113 of the Representation of the People Act, 1949, by four electors who believe him to be disqualified and who may be required to deposit up to £500. Alternatively, as a councillor he is open to challenge under Section 53 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947. I am very grateful to your Lordships.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, do not these questions and answers show that it would be desirable to give a wider measure of Home Rule or devolution to Scotland?