Land Seizure (Prosecutions, Lochmaddy).

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland. – in the House of Commons at on 19 June 1928.

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Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that two crofters, Neil Macdonald and Ewan MacLennan, were sentenced to four months' imprisonment, at Lochmaddy, on Thursday, 14th June, for occupying land in defiance of a Court Order; that those two men were imprisoned, with others, for the same reason some time ago, but were released; that they are willing to pay rent for the land; and whether he will say how long these men's applications for small holdings were lodged, and what is the reason for the delay in placing them on small holdings?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

As to the first part of the question, I have no information beyond the newspaper report from which it appears that these men were charged with breach of interdict, and after evidence had been led were sentenced as indicated in the question. The answer to the second part of the question is in the affirmative. I am unaware whether these men are willing to pay rent, and as regards their settlement in small holdings, I would refer to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) on 3rd May.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Is it not the case that these men were compelled, by stress of circumstances, to take possession of the land, because of the delay of the Scottish Office in granting them small holdings? Surely in circumstances such as these, where the Government of the day is in part responsible for the action taken by the people concerned, the Government would at least exercise some clemency in the matter and give some chance for these men to get on the land?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

I cannot accept the suggestion of the hon. Member, but as these men intimated on conviction that they intended to appeal to the Court of Session, I do not think it would be proper to discuss the merits of the case now.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Dundee

Arising out of the Lord Advocate's answer, is he aware that at the Court where these men intimated their intention to appeal, they were arrested and that they are now in prison?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

I should assume that.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Dundee

Is the Lord Advocate not aware that these men, in violation of their statutory rights, have been sentenced to prison without an effective appeal to the Court of Session having been made?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

No, I am quite unaware of that.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not think that some clemency ought to be observed in this matter, and that the Government might at least release these men, pending the hearing of their appeal?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

No, Sir. The question of a breach of orders of the Court is a matter for the Court and is not a matter in which my right hon. Friend will intervene at all.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

But surely, in a case of this kind, where it is not really a very grave offence, the Lord Advocate himself can exercise some influence in the matter and see that these men are released from prison pending the hearing of the appeal?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

No, Sir; it is a matter for them to apply for liberation, pending the appeal.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Is it not the case that they have been denied the right of appeal?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

I am not aware of that. As I have stated, I know nothing except what is in the newspaper reports.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

From the reply it is evident that the Lord Advocate knows nothing about this case.

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

For the reason I have stated, that the Government have nothing to do with it.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Since the Lord Advocate has admitted that he is unaware of these matters, will he make inquiry into them and try to meet the position put forward by hon. Members?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

No, for the reasons I have already given, I do not propose to do that.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Then I want to move the adjournment of the House, since the Law Officer for Scotland, who is responsible to this House for these legal matters, declines to take action in this matter, and even to acquaint himself with the facts. I beg to ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to move the adjournment of the House on a definite matter of urgent public importance.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I cannot accept that Motion.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Is there any way in which we can move to deal with the position that the Lord Advocate has taken up?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The proper way is for the hon. Member to move to reduce the Minister's salary.