HC Deb 22 August 1804 vol 29 cc284-313

Lords' Amendments considered.

Lords' Amendment proposed, to leave out lines 22 and 23— The Board shall comply with any instructions which may be issued by the Secretary for Scotland.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

said, he did not know whether the Government intended to accept all the Lords' Amendments; but perhaps they might have an explanation from the Secretary for Scotland with regard to this Amendment, which was an important one.


said, he had taken the very greatest care in the arrangement of Clause 4, in order to carry out what he promised to the House of Commons—that the Local Government Board should be responsible to Parliament. They laid it down on the lines of the English Board, and still more of the Irish Board, and in neither of these cases was any provision of this sort. The Government considered it would be absolutely unnecessary, and not only that, but it might be regarded as somewhat invidious to put these words in which they were reconstituting the Board. At the same time when the question was raised in the Grand Committee, the Government did not think it essential to refuse to accept the Amendment inserting these words. The Secretary for Scotland would have the same relation to Parliament in respect of the Local Government Bill in Scotland as the Chief Secretary for Ireland had in respect to the Local Government Board in Ireland.


said, he was strongly in favour of the words in the Bill, but he would not divide against the Lords Amendment. The Secretary for Scotland would still be responsible in that House for whatever the Local Government Board might do. The right hon. Gentleman, however, with these words struck out, might not be able to direct the action of the Board in Edinburgh, and the Scottish Members were very anxious that in future the Secretary for Scotland should not be able to hide himself behind the Board, but that he should be required to take personal responsibility upon himself.

MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)

said, that Lord Tweedmouth, who was in charge of the Bill in the other House, stated that this proviso had probably been inserted by too enthusiastic an admirer of the present Secretary for Scotland.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

said, that the Amendment was not inserted in the Grand Committee for the purpose of conferring any greater power on the Secretary for Scotland, but of conferring on the Scottish people greater control over the Secretary for Scotland, that he should not have the power to say that this or that was the resolution of the Board, over which he had no control. The object of the words which were inserted was to put on the face of the Statute the fact that the Secretary for Scotland was to be responsible to Parliament for the deliberations and Orders of the Board, lie thought that, was only right, considering the enormous powers which were given to the Board to make Orders practically superseding legislation. Looking, however, to the fact that they were anxious to have the Bill passed, ho would not at that period of the Session divide against the Lords' Amendment.

Lords' Amendment agreed to.

Other Lords' Amendments agreed to:—

Page 2, line 24, leave out ("may"), and insert ("shall").

Page 3, line 20, after ("executed"), insert ("or any action or proceeding raised").

Page 5, line 5, after ("register"), insert ("exclusive of such portions thereof as relate to police burghs").

Line 36, leave out ("register of parish electors"), and insert ("Parish Council register").

Line 42, leave out ("each"), and insert ("such").

Page 7, line 32, leave out ("seven"), and insert ("fourteen").

Amendment in page 8, line 13, leave out ("landward"), the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


said, that as the Bill stood if there were an election instituted by a landward parish the expenses would fall solely on that land ward parish. The Lords' Amendment would throw the charge upon all the parishes concerned. In the same way, if there was an election rendered necessary by the action of the burgh parish, the Lords would require that the expense should be shared by the landward parish. The elections were different—one held under the County Council, and the other under the Burgh Act, each having a distinct electoral roll. This was not a question of Party politics at all, and people should be encouraged to refrain from having contests, and this encouragement would be given by making the expense fall on that portion of the parish responsible for the election. If the people knew that the expense was to be spread all over the parish they would not have as great an inducement to avoid a contest.


said, the whole of the Amendments on the first page were put down by the Government. This was one. It had reference to the expenditure on the election of Parish Councillors, and its effect would be to divide up that expenditure into such infinitesimally small sums that the cost of making the division would be as much as the relief which would be given to either parish. It was therefore understood, with the goodwill of the Parish Authorities who understood the matter, that it would be well to have the clause as amended by the Lords.

Lords' Amendment agreed to.

Other Lords' Amendments agreed to:—

Page 8, line 14, leave out ("or part of a parish respectively").

Page 9, lines 9 and 10, leave out ("burghal parish or part of a parish respectively") and insert ("parish").

Line 40, after ("Council") insert ("or Town Councillors").

Page 10, line 24, leave out ("on") and insert ("in").

Line 28, leave out ("up").

Page 11, lines 14 and 15, leave out ("and of the chairman thereof ").

Line 15, leave out from ("two") to ("can") in line 16, and insert ("or more candidates receive an equal number of votes, being more than").

Line 17, leave out ("a") and insert ("the").

Line 25, leave out ("and") and insert ("or").

Page 12, line 16, leave out from ("re-election") to the end of the sub-section.

Line 20, after the second ("Council") insert ("sitting as a district committee").

Line 23, at the end of the clause, add— ("Provided always that, in the case of parishes partly landward and partly burghal, he shall be appointed by the landward committee from their own number").

Page 13, line 1, leave out ("in") and insert ("for").

Page 19, Hue 15, after ("Board") insert ("may").

Amendment in Clause 24 (powers of Parish Councils to provide building), striking out the words ("or other public purposes"), and inserting ("and for any purposes connected with parish business, or with the powers or duties of the Parish Council"), the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


said, this was an Amendment of some importance. This was a change which the Government had themselves stated would restrict the powers and policy of the Parish Councillors. He did not know the exact meaning of the differentiation between the phrase of the Bill and the phrase of the Lords' Amendment, and perhaps the Lord Advocate would tell the House what the limitations of the Amendment amounted to.

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR,) Clackmannan, &c.

said, the Government preferred their own words, "or other public purposes"; but in another place it was thought, as it was thought by a good many in the House of Commons, that these words might be too large and wanted some definition. The words inserted by the Lords corresponded with those in the English Act, and he thought they were quite consistent with the Bill.


asked whether, under the Amendment, it would be possible for the public hall to be used for the consideration of such subjects as the estab- lishmant of Public Libraries and for meetings of candidates at Parliamentary elections?


said, as to the first purpose mentioned by his hon. Friend, he considered that the building could be used for it, because the Parish Councils would have powers with respect to Public Libraries. As to the second purpose, it had been pointed out that throughout Scotland school-houses were invariably used for that purpose. There was a doubt at one time whether Board schoolrooms could be used for flower shows, but it was ultimately settled that any purpose which did not interfere with the primary purpose, and for which an elective body such as the School Board might allow the rooms to be used, was lawful.

SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)

This clause has no relation to the use of the buildings. It is a question of providing the buildings.


Hear, hear.


said, this was practically the only portion of the Bill which concerned the country districts generally. The object they had in view was to infuse a little activity into parish life, and he thought it was greatly to be regretted that the Government should allow the Bill to be whittled down by accepting the Lords' Amendment.


Up to this point I do not think the Bill has received any damage, and we have now reached the first matter upon which the majority of the House of Commons and the Government decided against the Amendment which has been inserted by the Lords. I prefer very decidedly the clause as it originally stood, and I am not in the least defending the change made by the Lords, but the Government have to look at this question rather in the large. The Bill at one period in its passage through the Lords gave the Government some anxiety, because there wore on the Paper Amendments of a very serious, if not fatal, character. These Amendments, however, were not pressed, and on the Report provisions were introduced in a great many places in a sense satisfactory to the Government and the House of Commons. Hon. Members will observe that absolutely no change whatever has been made in that essential and indispensable framework of the Bill, and the machinery of the Bill as it left the House of Commons has been preserved intact, and will work exactly as the House of Commons wishes it to work. That being the case, the Government had to consider whether in the two or three decidedly important matters which, however, do not absolutely touch the framework of the Bill, it became their duty to disagree with the Lords. At this time of the Session and under the existing conditions, my strong opinion, and that of my colleagues, is that if any Amendment is disagreed with there will be, to say the least of it, the greatest risk that the Bill will be lost, and that is a result which we regard as so important—whether we look to the gain that Scotland will get, or to the pains which have been taken to make the Bill what it is—that I cannot make myself responsible for the loss of the Bill. Up to this time all the Amendments proposed by the Lords can be accepted, and have been accepted, by the Government; and as to those which will follow, there will be two or three which, if hon. Members accept them they will accept with reluctance, a reluctance which is shared by the Government. I trust hon. Members will believe that this action on the part of the Government has been arrived at honestly and after serious consideration, and that I am speaking now under a serious sense of responsibility.

Lords Amendments agreed to.

Amendment, in page 15, to leave out lines 3 and 4, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir G. Trevelyan.)

MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)

In moving this Motion—namely, that this House disagree—which, if carried, will have the effect of restoring to the Local Government (Scotland) Bill the clause giving Parish Councils power to provide or acquire land for the erection of workmen's dwellings, I desire at the outset to repel an accusation which has been made—to wit, that I and those who support this Motion are endangering the Bill as a whole in any way whatever. I desire to point to a paragraph which has been circulated this morning by the Central News Agency which, I think, accurately describes the position which we take up in the following words:— The course now taken cannot imperil this Bill, which the Lords already passed as a whole on Friday last, and if their Lordships throw out this particular clause a second time they will at the worst merely prolong the Session by a day or two, while at the same time they will supply the electors with a fresh issue against themselves of such a clear and simple nature as will be readily understood by every working man throughout the country. In offering this Motion for the consideration of the House I am convinced that I shall be able to state nothing less than an overpowering case for the reinstatement in the Bill of the sub-section empowering Parish Councils to provide or acquire land for the erection of workmen's dwellings. I hold that it is no slur whatever on the Government that they did not introduce this power at first into their Bill. They took as their analogy the English Bill without at the moment considering the difference of circumstances between the two countries. It will not be denied that the provision of workmen's dwellings in the rural districts of England is not by any means a burning question to the extent that it is in Scotland. In fact, the Census Returns prove that rural depopulation is not going on in England to anything like the same extent as it is in Scotland. In England there exists no positive conspiracy to depopulate the country districts. But what is the case in Scotland? In the Highlands, in particular, it is the positive policy of the owners of many great estates to use every method in their power in order to get rid of the people from off the soil, and to reduce their villages to silence and desolation. I would commend to the attention of hon. Members a Return presented to the House about two years ago. That Return gives particulars of all the land which has been thrown out of cultivation and turned into deer forest within the last 10 years. It shows that no less than 280,000 acres have been turned into deer forest during that period. The existence of a single workman's cottage on such land as this is deemed by the landlord to be an offence and even a nuisance. And so every such cottage is either purposely allowed to fall into decay, or is razed to the ground. "Oh! but," say those landlords, who believe that they possess rights in the soil without any duties to its inhabitants, "the landlord only turns out the people from cultivating the land when he can get a higher rent from the sporting tenant." Now, Sir, I hold that even this policy, thus declared by landlords, of making it merely a matter of money for themselves whether the land shall be occupied by human beings or by the wild beasts of the field, is a sufficiently brutal policy. But even this, I am sorry to say, does not go the full length of the miserable facts as they exist at this moment. An examination of the same Return will show that no less than 200,000 acres of these deer forests are let to tenants, and the cultivators of the land thrown out, although the landlord actually receives less rent from the sportsman for turning his laud into a wilderness than he formerly received from his cultivating tenants and village workmen. These reared their families in comfort on the soil in their hamlets and villages where now no sound, no voice of man, or woman, or child is heard. Sir, it is a mockery to tell the working population of rural Scotland to go to landlords like these, even on their bended knees, and to ask them for a plot of land, on any terms whatever, for the erection of a workman's dwelling. I would point to the woeful results of this policy as shown in the last Census. Its figures demonstrate that in one of the counties which I have the honour to represent—namely, the County of Nairn—shire, if allowance is made for the natural increase of the population in Scotland generally, no less than 25 per cent, of what should have been at this day the normal and natural population of the county has disappeared during the last 10 years. And now, Sir, I would briefly sketch what has been the history of this sub—section, providing land for workmen's dwellings. It was carried into the Bill in the Grand Committee on the 3rd of July last by a majority of about 2 to 1. Moreover, that majority comprised every Scottish Liberal Member who was present, except the paid Members of the Government, without one single exception. More than a month passed by, during which it became fully evident that the sub-section had been received with a unanimous chorus of approval by all sections of the Press and people throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, Many congratulatory resolutions were passed by important bodies in Scotland, which were sent not only to myself, but to the other hon. Members who had supported the sub—section. Well, Sir, all this had its natural effect not only on the Government, but on the Opposition also. The Government gallantly resolved to stand by the sub-section. It will also be observed that so popular was it known to be amongst the people of Scotland that no Member of the Opposition who sits for a popular constituency could be found who was willing to move its rejection on Report. The only Member in all Scotland who could be found to do so was one in whose constituency there is not a single working man—namely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who sits for the Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities. The right hon. and learned Gentleman went to a Division, and was defeated in this House by a majority of between two and three to one. And, Sir, it is most significant that on that crucial occasion, out of the whole of the 23 Scottish Members who belong to the Opposition, only a diminutive band of eight Members ventured to join the right hon. and learned Gentleman in thus voting against the right of the people of Scotland to live upon her soil. But, Sir, yet another and a most remarkable argument has been meanwhile supplied for retaining the sub-section in the Bill. I refer to the Report which has just been presented by the Select Committee of this House on Feus and Building Leases in Scotland. It was 23 days after this sub—section had been carried into the Bill in the Grand Committee that the Select Committee on Feus and Building Leases met to consider their Report. And I specially ask the House to note that paragraphs 44 to 47 of that Report embody the very same arguments, and urge the granting of the very same powers for providing or acquiring land for the erection of workmen's dwellings, which had been successfully urged in the Grand Committee 23 days before. I will quote from paragraphs 44 and 45— The next question to which the Committee would advert is one which has long excited much interest in various parts of Scotland. It is alleged that there are towns and villages situated upon the property of proprietors who do not desire the extension of the towns or villages, and decline to give land either for building houses or for industrial purposes in their vicinity, either absolutely or on lease, except upon prohibitive terms. The effect, of this is said to be not only to prevent the natural expansion of such communities, but to lead to their decay. And now let the House mark that the remedy for this public evil is propounded by the Select Committee in these remarkable words—paragraphs 46 and 47— The remedy which the Committee would suggest is that the Local Authority, whether Town Council. County Council, or other Elected Body, should be empowered to purchase land by agreement, or compulsorily, for the purposes either of building dwellings for occupation by workmen or other persons, or of otherwise providing for the present or prospective development of the town or village."—"Machinery for the acquisition of land, simpler and less expensive than that prescribed by the Lands Clauses Acts might be provided, as has been done in the Parish Councils Act for England, in the Local Government (Scotland) Bill, and in other Bills now before Parliament. But, Sir, the most remarkable testimony of all to the value and the urgency of this provision of laud for workmen's dwellings consists in the fact that these stringent proposals for the acquisition of land for workmen's dwellings were actually passed into the Report of the Select Committee with the unanimous voice even of the Opposition Members, who had opposed my Motion to the same effect in the Grand Committee. These hon. Members were the Members for Linlithgow, Dumfriesshire, the Western Division of Renfrewshire, the North-Western Division of Lanarkshire, and the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Sir, surely in all this there has been shown amply sufficient reason for retaining the sub-section, and it only now remains for me briefly to allude to the action of the House of Lords in regard to it. I have already given ample evidence both of the necessity for the sub-section and of the chorus of approval with which it has been received by the people of Scotland as a whole. Now, on the other hand, who was it who moved and supported its omission in the House of Lords? Its omission was moved and supported by the Marquess of Huntly and Lord Balfour. These two Scottish landlords are, no doubt, very worthy and excellent noblemen, but I do not think that they themselves would go so far as to say that they in any wise can be held to represent the people of Scotland. And what was the number of Peers who went into the Division Lobby against this subsection, which was fitly described by Lord Tweedmouth as offering a great boon to both workmen and fishermen? Why, only 38 noble Lords; that is actually not so many as form a quorum of this House. And what was the solitary argument which these noblemen in the House of Lords, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities (Sir C. Pearson) used, in the House of Lords and in this House respectively, against this sub-section which they moved to strike out? It was this—


That is going too minutely into an examination of the Debate in the other House; that is not admissible, though an allusion to it would be.


I bow to your ruling, but I wished to say that one argument was used and one alone, and that was the extraordinary one that if the power were retained in the hands of these Parish Councils to acquire land for the purpose of the erection of workmen's dwellings, it might be used by the Parish Councils for the purpose of buying plots of land and selling them to persons desiring to build upon them, until quite a large number of workmen's dwellings might be thus called into existence.

SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)

That was not the only argument.


I am only speaking from The Times report; there may have been others not reported; but if this was used as an argument, the right hon. Gentleman will admit we are entitled to call not only these noble Lords, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman, into the ranks of the friends and supporters of this sub-section. I ask, could any stronger proof possibly be given of the enormous want of workmen's dwellings which, in the opinion of these gentlemen themselves, exists in Scotland at this moment? If no such want really exists, what earthly inducement could either the Parish Councils have to provide the land, or the builders to build the workmen's dwellings upon it? Therefore, Sir, we are entitled to say that out of their own mouths they are accused of now endeavouring to stop the supply of what they themselves admit to be a great, urgent, and grievous want— namely, the want of houses for workmen desirous of continuing to live upon the soil of their own country. For these overwhelming reasons I have no hesitation whatever in appealing to the Government to stand firmly by this sub-section. And, Sir, I do not believe that, if the Government does this, the other House, on full and careful consideration, will for a moment elect to fly in the face of the wishes of the people of Scot-land—seeing that these wishes have been represented, first, by a majority of two to one in the Grand Committee; secondly, by a majority of between two and three to one in this House; and, thirdly, by the unanimous Report in its favour by the Select Committee on Feus and Building Leases in Scotland, whose Report was circulated only a few days ago.

MR. CROMBIE (Kincardiueshire)

said, he wished to make his position in this matter clear. So far as the merits of the sub—section under discussion were concerned, he was at one with the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Seymour Keay). He supported it in the Grand Committee against the Government; he supported it again upon the Report stage, and upon its merits he was willing to support it again against the Government. So far as the merits of the question were concerned, no demonstration was necessary, because in the Report of the Feus and Leases Committee his right hon. and learned Friend before him, the Lord Advocate, showed in his remarks distinctly how great a benefit would accrue from its adoption, and even some hon. Gentlemen opposite had been converted into ardent apostles of it. But the question really before them was what would happen if the House should adopt the hon. Gentleman's Amendment and reinstate this sub-section in the Bill? From good information he believed what would happen would be simply this: The Amendment would be sent back to another place; they could hardly believe that the Lords would accept it, and a Division would be challenged; if, upon a Division being challenged, there were not 30 Peers pre- sent the Bill would simply drop —[Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Members said "no," but his information was good, and he believed that was actually the case. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down seemed to think that such a contingency would not be unwelcome, as it would add a certain amount of odium to another place. That might be splendid, but it was not statesmanship. The Bill was of the utmost importance, and not only hon. Gentlemen in this House, but a great many people throughout the country, had been most actively and energetically interested in it, and any Member who took upon himself the position of imperilling the passage of the Bill was taking a grave responsibility. But while he said that, he admitted he had at least learned a lesson to-day. He found that in another place there existed a power which he had not expected; not only might the House of Lords reject their measures or add Amendments; not only might they use the power of battery, but the might use against them the power of siege; that when all else failed they might starve them out. This, perhaps, was not the place or the occasion for discussing the matter, but there was another place where they might discuss it freely, and that was in the country, and he should take care that this new power, at least new to him, should be known throughout the country. He hoped the knowledge of it might tend to increase the steps that might ultimately be taken against the House of Lords.


In what I am going to say I may ask hon. Members to believe me that the Government, in the course they are taking, are not actuated by the fact that the Amendment was not originally in the Bill, but came from another quarter. For my part, if anything could commend a proposal it would be that it hail been started in the Scotch Grand Committee, and the Bill shows very many evidences of that belief on the part of the Government. I will speak very shortly, because I am not going to try to controvert the substance of the speech of my hon. Friend. Ever since I represented a group of small Scotch burghs I have known the cruel manner in which they are often cribbed, cabined, and confined in matters that concerns them most intimately, and I have always held that the Municipal Authority should have the power of acquiring land, just as land is acquired for the purposes of the public in railways, in water, and in sanitation, and for my part I see little difference between acquiring land for sanitary purposes, as they are generally concerned, and acquiring land for the purpose of building healthier streets and houses in the neighbourhood of a town or in a country parish. But as to my hon. Friend's provision, I have always thought it was the assertion of a great principle rather than the carrying out of it into practical effect. The Workmen's Dwellings Act of 1890, which applied to unhealthy quarters of towns, was a whole body of legislation; and though, of course, much of it would not be applicable in carrying out the proposal of my hon. Friend, still a great part of that Act consists of clauses the like of which would have to be put into any Bill for practical purposes. My hon. Friend has referred to the extreme importance and timely Report of the Feus and Building Leases Committee. I do not know that I can quite endorse what appears to be the tenour of his remarks: that this Report was inspired by the action of the Scotch Grand Committee, especially when I see among the members of the Feus and Building Leases Committee such names as those of the Member for North-East Lanark (Mr. D. Crawford), who has made this and kindred subjects his own for many years, and of the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Dalziel). But it is observable in the paragraphs which my hon. Friend has read out from the Report of the Feus and Building Leases Committee that even in the bald assertion of the principle there are really more methods and machinery laid down than exists in the Bill as at present.


I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; but as this seems to reflect upon me for having carried an Amendment and not coming forward to provide the proper machinery to carry it out, I desire to remind him——[Cries of "No!"] It looks like it; and I would remind him that in the presence of the Solicitor General I asked him timeously whether or not the Government intended to propose any machinery such as the right hon. Gentleman had said was necessary in his speech in the Grand Committee, or whether I should do so; and he, in the presence of the Solicitor General, said that the Government had carefully examined into the Bill, and had found that there would be no further machinery necessary. And, therefore, I held my peace.


I was not aware that had passed. I think that more machinery would he necessary. I was merely referring to the provisions of the Bill as they stand at present. The Feus and Building Leases Committee made the proposals which my hon. Friend has referred to, in addition to some six or seven others of great importance; and it is impossible that so very pregnant and serious a Report can remain without some result. I am sure I am not going too far or speaking without authority when I say that the Government heartily endorse, speaking broadly, the recommendations of the Committee; and, speaking not broadly, but particularly, that they heartily endorse the particular paragraph quoted by my hon. Friend, and at the earliest period in their power they will embody that Report in a Bill—and that Bill will be an effective and complete machine for carrying out the recommendations of the Committee; and certainly the recommendation which my hon. Friend has put forward. I am sorry if my hon. Friend thinks that anything I said reflected upon him in any way, because I think he has done a great service in this question. But I end by saying I can but repeat my opinion that the rejection of this Amendment of the House of Lords would at this period of the Session very seriously imperil the Bill. I notice that my hon. Friend has used some words doubting whether the other House would allow the Bill to drop.


I left it to the Government to explain how it could possibly be dropped by any action of the Lords.


If the Bill went up to the House of Lords, and the clause is opposed, as I have very little doubt it would be opposed, then the Bill itself would drop.




Of course the Government would not drop it, but if the House of Commons insists upon its Amendment, and the House of Lords insists upon theirs, then the House of Commons must insist a second time. I am not going to play the fool with this Amendment. If the House of Commons supports it now they must support it to the end. I hope hon. Members will endorse it. Then if the House of Lords insists upon their Amendment the Bill would drop, and I see quite plainly that the dropping of this great Bill for Scotland would be too great a price to pay for the House of Commons insisting upon the insertion of the sub-section. That is my opinion and the opinion of the Government; and I believe the danger is very considerably aggravated by the lateness of the time and the very small number of Peers that are now in the other House. I will not, however, enter upon that question, and it is a somewhat hazy one. On these grounds, the Government being heartily in favour of the principle, and thoroughly determined to bring in a Bill which shall embody it, and in good time, I ask the House to support the Government in this matter.


said, he would not have intervened in the Debate but for the statement of the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Crombie), that the Opposition were hostile at first to the Bill, and had only given it a lukewarm support.


I only said that the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Seymour Keay) had proved, or tried to prove, that that was the case in respect to this Amendment.


said, he could only consider it unfortunate that any hon. Member should have been so unfair as to represent that any section of the House had been or was hostile to the Bill. The Secretary for Scotland and Scottish Members would, he believed, generally recognise that a most earnest desire was shown on all sides, and certainly by the Party to which he belonged, to give their best assistance to the Government to carry into effect a measure which was calculated to do a great deal of good in Scotland, and for which there was great occasion. As to the necessity for providing dwellings for workpeople, he had all his life earnestly desired to see the working classes better housed. He had, himself, spent large sums of money in that cause, and he had no sympathy with any who would hinder the provision of sufficient and suitable dwellings for them. The great objection which was urged in the House of Lords to this Amendment was the absence of any machinery to carry the clause into effect; and he would point out that the Committee on Feus and Building Leases, who had just reported, urged the necessity for such machinery. There must be adequate machinery and an adequate controlling authority; and without these the clause would not efficiently work. He must protest against it being said that their opposition to this point showed that they were hostile to a measure to pass which all had given their assistance, and in which he had taken a good deal of interest and an anxious part.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

thought they could heartily endorse everything that had been said by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken; that he had assisted them in making the Bill a useful measure, though on two or three points they had differed. He was not going to say a word as to the merits of this case, as the only question was what they should do at the present time, whether they should allow the Peers an opportunity of reconsidering this matter. The charity Amendment was an important one, but they would be willing to let that and all the other Amendments pass with a protest more or less expressed in words or silently; but upon this one question he really thought that the Government ought to give way to them, and give the Lords a chance of reconsidering the question. This was not a large, but a small, question. The Parish Councils had only got a 6d. rate for carrying out everything provided by the Bill, and if the Parish Council after making a levy should spend the money in land for workmen's dwellings, they would not be And there was able to do anything no attack upon the rights of property, because all the powers it was now proposed to give to Parish Councils had been in the possession of District Councils and burghs, and had been carried out with very great advantage. Therefore, the only question was whether the Government would give the Lords a chance to reconsider this one question out of all the questions which had been raised. They were not prepared to wreck the Bill upon the question, but it was one which he thought the Lords might well reconsider. There might be no Division in the other House, and if there was and there were not 30 Peers present, to say that the Bill would be lost was a very serious matter. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Crombie) was mistaken, because if he read the Standing Orders lie would find that if there were not 30 Members present when a Division took place that nothing was lost—that the matter was simply put down for the next day. The utmost, therefore, that could happen was the addition of one day or perhaps two days to the Session. He did not want to increase the Session, but the utmost would be that they would require to increase the Session for a single day in order to get a change, but there was no need for that. If the House could accept all the other Amendments, the House of Lords might be able to give way on this question, and it might be settled in the other House without any Division at all. He thought, however, that at present they had a right to urge that the question here involved was one of very great importance for the social well-being of the people, and that the other House should have an opportunity of reconsidering the matter. If they still persisted, this House was powerless. They would take nineteen shillings in the pound, and hope to get the other shilling from the right hon. Gentleman. He trusted they would take a Division right away upon the matter. If the Government did give way, he and others would assist them afterwards upon the other Amendments. They were willing to come to terms with the Government in a spirit of compromise, and he believed that the other House would be willing in the same fashion. At any rate, they ought to give them another chance, hence he would support his hon. Friend in taking the Division, if the Government forced them to have a Division, in order to express their opinion, and to give the Lords a chance.


said, he thought that the position of the Government was a most unfortunate position. It was not a courageous position. The Government should hold to the opinions of the whole of the Scottish Liberal Members, and should not refuse to give effect to them in the Statute Book merely for fear of what the Lords might do. It was admitted there should be power to acquire land for the erection of dwellings, and there was as much machinery for carrying out that sub-section as for carrying out any other sub-section. The Government agreed to a limit put in by the Opposition to the effect that the powers of the Parish Councils were to be limited to a 6d. rate, and they also provided that money could not be borrowed for any purpose of the clause without the consent of the Local Government Board. The 6d. rate, after certain deductions, was practically only 4d., and it was payable half by the landlord and half by the tenant, so that the Government need not have been afraid of the exercise of the power to acquire land for the erection of working men's dwellings. If they had not got this power really, the Bill was valueless as regarded other matters. He thought it was upon the special power given here that there was much enthusiasm in their country districts. If the Government showed timidity in a matter of this kind, it would produce a very chilling effect throughout the country constituencies. If a Division was challenged, he would certainly vote in favour of the principle, no matter what the issue on the Bill might be.


said, it was very easy to show that the effect of this clause might be slight indeed, on account of the limited amount of money which the Parish Councils would have at their disposal, not only for this, but for all other purposes. What they had now to consider was the position they would be in if they acted on the suggestion of the Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark). What the hon. Member said in effect was that they should ask the House of Lords to make a compromise. Although they in this House objected to certain Amendments, they would give in on them if the House of Lords would permit them to have this sub-section inserted. If they were to act upon that suggestion, in what an undignified position would the Government stand! The Secretary for Scotland had said distinctly that he would not play the fool with this Bill, and that if the sub-section was insisted upon, the House must continue to insist upon it, and if they did so and the other House would not consent to its reinstatement, the Bill would be dropped. Therefore they came on this point to a deadlock. He had consequently to appeal to his hon. Friend (Dr. Clark) to withdraw from the position he had taken up, as he thought it was one this House ought to occupy. The Secretary for Scotland had told them that at the earliest possible time they would introduce a Bill, not only to include this particular provision, but also all the recommendations, including those read out to-day, from the Report of the Select Committee on Feus and Building Leases. It was questionable if this sub—section, even if it was reinstated, would be of any great practical value, but all doubts would be set aside by the Bill which the right lion. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, had promised to introduce at the earliest possible moment. He had no doubt that it would be much better to accept the Bill as it now stood and endeavour to pass a far more adequate Bill next Session dealing not only with this subject but with other cognate questions. If the Bill were dropped there would be a feeling of very keen and painful disappointment in Scot-land as the result would be to indefinitely postpone the new and permanent system of Local Government which it would establish in Scotland. Under these circumstances, he trusted that his hon. Friend the Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) would recede from the position he had taken up.

SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)

wished to press upon the Secretary for Scotland the advice given to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark). The right hon. Gentleman had spoken as though the question of workmen's dwellings was only a small matter in comparison with the benefits that would be conferred by the Bill, but he could assure him that in his constituency it was the one provision to which the greatest value was attached. The agricultural workmen among his constituents had sometimes to go miles in order to get to their work, and some of them were actually put to the expense of keeping bicycles to enable them to reach their work in good time. Then there were the fishermen who could not get the smallest bit of ground to build their cottages upon except upon the moist extortionate terms. They had to pay £1 a year for the use of land which was not worth a penny. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir. J. Fergusson) to use his great influence with the other House in this matter. There were bad landlords as well as good landlords, and all that was asked for was a, very small modicum of compulsion to force the bad landlords to do that which good landlords did of their own motion.

MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)

said, he felt bound to vote in support of the Motion. He did so, first, upon sanitary grounds, upon the ground that some Public Authority ought to have compulsory power to erect healthy dwellings, and, secondly, on constitutional grounds. As he understood the Secretary for Scotland, the House was to accept all the Lords' Amendments because the Members of the House of Lords did not choose to attend at Westminster at that period of the Session. He did not himself believe that the Lords would be so foolish as to absent themselves from the House when an important Bill was brought before them. He was certain that were the House of Lords approached reasonably on the subject they would be willing to give way on one Amendment or another, and that an amicable arrangement might be arrived at.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

appealed to the House to let the Government take the responsibility of the vote it was about to give. The present situation was not a new one. The Minister in charge of the Bill, who was naturally anxious to save the results of the labour which had been expended upon the measure, was in consequence of that anxiety prepared to sacrifice that which he himself regarded as one of the most important points in the Bill. It seemed to him (Mr. Dalziel) that no case had been made out for refusing to replace this clause. It was said that the Lords would insist upon the omission of the clause and that the Bill would be lost. His reply was that if the Lords were prepared to take the responsibility of killing the Bill on account of a clause like this which had been accepted by the vast majority of the Scottish Members let them take that responsibility. The House of Commons ought to be guided by what it considered right in the matter. He put it to the Government whether there was the slightest hope that the question would be dealt with next Session if it were not decided now? The Secretary for Scotland knew that there were half—a—dozen Bills of prior claim to that which would embody the recommendations of the Committee in feus and leases. Even if the subject were dealt with next Session no assurance could be given by the Government that the proposal would meet with any better fate than that which had overtaken it on the present occasion. Under the circumstances, he thought the Scottish Members had no option in the matter. Their constituents were unanimous in demanding this clause, which was the one point of the Bill that had aroused great enthusiasm. He himself knew districts where not one single house had been built for 20, 30, or 40 years, simply because the local landlords objected to grant the ground. He thought that whatever course the Government took, the Scottish Members were bound to insist upon the retention of the clause.

Sir W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

said, he supposed it would not be out of Order for an Englishman to take part in a Scotch Debate, and he should like to give an English view of the Scotch situation. What was going on to-day was, in his opinion, a most valuable object-lesson for the whole nation. In the earlier part of the Session, the House took some nine days to settle the question whether there should be a Scotch Committee or not. The Committee was at last appointed, and sat about 17 days on this Bill. Two days were afterwards devoted to Report, and now at the end of the Session it was said that the most important part of the Bill that had occupied so much time, and to which so much labour had been devoted, had been thrown by the Lords out of the window. However, neither the Government nor the 15 Liberal Members who voted with them last night had any right to complain, because they had insisted upon providing the Lords with £20,000 to enable them to carry on the proceedings against which the Scotch Members were now protesting. He was not at all afraid about the Bill being withdrawn if this clause were insisted upon. If it were withdrawn it would be the fault of the Lords; and if the Commons continued to provide money for keeping up the Lords, they were responsible. It would be a very good thing, he thought, if the Scotch as well as the Irish had a lesson on this subject, as it might help to get up the steam and promote the agitation, which ho hoped would be successful against the present great obstacle to legislation.

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

said, that Irishmen took considerable interest in the Mouse of Lords, and he supposed that If an Englishman might state his view on this Bill even an Irish Member might do the same. It was true that Irishmen had fallen out of practice in recent years with reference to the consideration of Lords' Amendments because Irish Bills when they once left the Commons never came back, but this did not absolve them from the duty of considering what course they should take as regarded Lords' Amendments or Bills relating to other parts of the Kingdom. As a Home Ruler he felt bound to consider this Amendment in regard to Scotch opinion as to its merits, and as a Member of the House of Commons he felt bound to consider the circumstances under which the Amendment was necessary. He took it that as the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Beach had nothing to say against the merits of the Amendment struck out by the Lords there was nothing to be said against them, and a Select Committee of the House containing Representatives of both Parties had unanimously reported that the Amendment ought to be inserted in the Bill. The Grand Committee adopted it by a majority of two to one, and the House as a whole, on the Report of the Bill, confirmed the decision of the Grand Committee by a still larger majority. It regard to the Lords' Amendments, he thought that the Scottish Members had taken up a surprisingly moderate position, because, as he understood, they proposed to accept six pages of Lords' Amendments if the Lords would yield on this Amendment. In view of the manner in which the provision had been carried in the House of Commons, it seemed to him that an occasion had been sought by the House of Lords to give a deliberate challenge to the House of Commons, and that challenge ought to be accepted. As to the argument that the Bill would be lost if this Amendment were persisted in, it was an argument he had heard at the end of every Session for the 14 years he bad been in Parliament; and it was only to be regarded as a form of coercion. He did not believe the Bill would be lost if this Amendment were inserted; but if it were lost, let the responsibility rest upon the body of men who sent down to the House of Commons six printed pages of Amendments, and who refused to re-consider even one of them. If this was an Irish Bill, it would in all probability be lost, but it was a Bill which concerned the people of Scotland, who were sturdy in the assertion of their rights, and he did not for a moment expect that if this Amendment was rejected the Bill would be lost. If the opponents of the Bill did not return to the other House to oppose this Amendment, it would be accepted; but if they did return, and if they overbore the quorum commanded by the Government, the Bill would return to this House forthwith, and, with a merely verbal Amendment, it could be sent back to the other House and passed. Both on the merits and as a matter of Parliamentary tactics this House ought to stand by its provisions, and, even if it were again rejected, the Bill could still be saved.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 31.—(Division List, No. 246.)

Other Lords' Amendments agreed to.

Page 16, line 43, leave out ("if they think proper").

Page 17, line 30, at the end of Subsection (7) insert— ("Provided always that the Board may, and when required, within the said period of one month, by any party interested who has presented a Memorial against the Order, shall state a special case on the question whether the proposed Order is within the powers conferred by this Act for the opinion of either division of the Court of Session who are hereby authorised finally to determine the same along with any question of expenses").

Line 6, leave out ("sections six and") and insert ("section six and sections").

Amendment, in line 24, after ("compulsory") insert as a new sub-section— "(c) The Parish Council shall make [and shall jointly with the proprietor maintain] sufficient fences for separating the land taken from the lands not taken,") the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


said, it was no use taking a Division when they had been beaten by two to one upon the last they took. All they could hope was that by-and-bye some legislation might be passed which would amend the defects in this Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords' Amendments agreed to:—

Line 40, after ("purchasing") insert ("the whole or any part of").

Page 19, line 2, after ("undertaking") insert— ("or any land which, in the opinion of the County Council or Board is being held, and may be required for the extension of a factory or public work").

Line 31, leave out ("single") and insert ("sole").

Page 20, line 32, after ("barn") insert— ("provided that such stable, byre, or barn shall not, unless erected with the assent in writing of the landlord, be the subject of compensation, but may be removed by the tenant on the determination, of the tenancy").

Line 36, leave out ("single") and insert ("sole").

Page 21, line 16, after ("thereunder") insert ("or for feuing or building").

Line 17, after ("winning") insert ("or feuing").

Line 25, leave out ("single") and insert ("sole").

Page 23, line 12, leave out ("but") and insert ("and").

Lines 12 and 13, leave out ("of such roads or ways").

Line 15, leave ("such road or way") and insert ("any such way").

Line 18, after ("them") insert ("as such inhabitants").

Line 35, after ("property") insert— as the trustees and the Parish Council may agree upon, or in default of such agreement").

Page 23, line 36, leave out ("when") and insert ("where").

Page 24, line 12, leave out ("when") and insert ("where").

Line 21, after ("shall") insert ("hold office until his successor is appointed, and shall").

Amendment in page 25, line 3, at end of clause, add— ("The provisions of this section with respect to the appointment of trustees shall not apply to any charity until the expiration of 40 years from the date of the foundation thereof, or, in the case of a charity founded before the passing of this Act, by a donor, or by several donors, any one of whom is living at the passing of this Act, until the expiration of 40 years from the passing of this Act, unless with the consent of the surviving donor or donors,") the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


asked, how it was that the Government had been converted on this matter? Had they consented to insert the provision because the House of Lords had insisted upon it?


said, that that was one way of putting it. The hon. Member, who was not responsible for the measure, had put the matter in a most disagreeable manner, and they must accept it. While the Government did not think that this provision was necessary, still it was much better than the similar provision in the English Act. Scotland would now be in a somewhat better position than England, because he would venture to say that the Local Government Board was a more satisfactory body for the purpose than the Charity Commissioners.

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment, in page 26, line 33, leave out from the first ("the") to ("Board") in line 34, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, find Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


said, this subject was one on which a Division was taken on a previous occasion in this House, and the Lords Amendment reversed the judgment then arrived at. Did the Government hold to the view they took in the House of Commons, or was this another point that they were conceding for the purpose of carrying the Bill? He thought the people of Scotland should know the price they were paying for the Bill.


said, that this did not raise any great question of principle. In the Bill it was originally proposed that the county auditors should audit the accounts of the Parish Councils. There was a very general feeling in the Committee against this proposal, so strong a feeling, indeed, that it was absolutely necessary to bow to it, and consequently the change was made that the Parish Council should appoint their own auditors, subject to the approval of the Board. He was quite certain that any Secretary for Scotland who knew his business would take care to consult the wishes of the parishes and not override them in this matter. He had known the Sheriff override the wishes of the burghs. He thought this was the right solution.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had said that there was no principle involved in this matter. He was quite sure also that there was no Party question involved. He believed it embodied a real improvement in the Bill.


said, he agreed that this was an improvement in the Bill, and he looked at the matter from the financial standpoint. This was an opportunity where the Government might have placed Scotland in the same position as England, and allowed a large portion of the cost of the audit to be defrayed by the Imperial Exchequer.

Question put, and agreed to.

Other Lords Amendments agreed to—

Page 26, line 35, leave out Subsection (2) and insert new sub—section— The Board may, by Order, prescribe Rules modifying the enactments as to the time and place of the audit.

After line 39 insert new sub-section: The accounts of a Parish Council shall be transmitted annually by the clerk of the Council as soon as may be after the fifteenth day of May, but not later than the first day of August, to the auditor appointed by the Board.

Page 29, line 9, leave out ("and that failing") and insert ("or unless in the event of").

Line 11, leave out ("consenting"), and insert ("refusing such consent").

Page 32, line 7, at the end of the clause add the following sub-section:— Upon the formation of a special lighting district under the provisions of this section it shall be lawful for the district committee to adopt the Burghs Gas Supply (Scotland) Act, 1876, and any Act amending the same, but in such case the provisions of the principal Act with respect to capital, expenditure, borrowing, and audit of accounts, shall apply in lieu of the corresponding provisions of the former Acts or of this section; and in the application of the former Acts the expression 'burgh' shall be construed to mean special lighting district, 'commissioners,' 'town council,' and 'Commissioners of Police,' to mean district committee, and 'elector' and 'ratepayer' to mean a person registered as a county elector the subject of whose qualification is situated within the special lighting district.

Line 17, after ("Scotland") insert, ("amendment").

Page 34, line 23, leave out ("eleventh day of December") and insert ("fifteenth day of May in the year").

Line 24, leave out (ninety-four") and insert ("ninety-five").

Line 38, after ("passed") insert— ("Provided that any re-arrangement of the duties and remuneration of existing medical officers holding office under the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, 1845, shall be subject to the approval of the Board")

Page 35, line 2, after ("Council") insert— ("Provided that if any existing Inspector of Poor is aggrieved by such distribution of business, or by the imposition or withdrawal of any duties, he may, within one month after the date of any resolution of the Council distributing such business or imposing or withdrawing such duties, appeal to the Board, whose decision shall be final.")

Page 36, line 9, after ("respectively") insert— ("The expression 'town clerk' includes the clerk to the Burgh Commissioners of a police burgh").

Page 40 after line 25 insert—

52 & 53 Vic. c. 50. Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1889. Section twenty-eight, sub-section (2), (i), the words "who is not married, or who, being married, is not living in family with her husband." The Commencement of this Act.
44 Vic. c. 13. Municipal Elections Amendment (Scotland) Act, 1881. Section two, the words "who are not married, and married females not living in family with their husbands."

Page 41, leave out lines 30 to 41.

Page 43, line 15, after ("adopted") insert ("or any bye-law made there-under").