§ MR. BAXTER
said, he rose to move the following Resolution:—That, in the opinion of this House, an Under Secretary for State for Scotland should be appointed to perform the political duties at present attached to the office of Lord Advocate.He begged to assure the House that, in moving this Resolution, he was actuated by no personal or party motives. The question was not one of Whig or Tory, but was a question of administration which in the highest degree deserved the consideration of Parliament. He had the greatest admiration for the talent and high character of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. Moncrieff) and every one knew that the present Lord Advocate not only enjoyed an equally high reputation, but was the most distinguished ornament of the Scottish bar. Scotchmen had, indeed, good reason to be 2119 proud of the succession of distinguished men who bad filled the office of Lord Advocate, and of the ability—the successful ability—they had shown in adapting the law of Scotland to the present state of society. Hon. Gentlemen would be astonished when they heard the extent of his duties, not that the Lord Advocate did so little, but that he did so much. The system was so inconvenient, so anomalous, and so liable to be abused, that it was wonderful it was conducted with so little ground of complaint. He (Mr. Baxter) might enter into an historical statement on the question, but he would content himself with reminding hon. Gentlemen that Scotland possessed a Secretary of State of her own for more than thirty years after the legislative Union, and then the office rather fell into disuse than was regularly abolished. In 1828 the management of Scotch business was transferred to the Home Office by Mr. Canning, at the request of the Scotch Members themselves, who were anxious to escape the dictatorship of the Dundas family. In 1832 so great were the complaints of the mode in which the legislative business of Scotland was conducted that Lord Althorp appointed a Scotch Lord of the Treasury, as a sort of assistant to the Lord Advocate, but the duties of that office were somewhat shadowy and mysterious. He (Mr. Baxter) had never been able to make out what they were, and he hoped that some hon. Member in the course of the discussion might explain them to the House. He would, however, proceed to state what were the duties of the Lord Advocate; but his description of them must necessarily be imperfect, because gentlemen who had themselves held that high office had frequently declared that they were unable to name all the functions of the office. The Lord Advocate was a member of the Faculty of Advocates, and was almost invariably the most distinguished man of his political party for the time being. Consequently he had the largest private practice before the Court in Edinburgh. He was Attorney General for Scotland, and public prosecutor for Scotland. Judging from the case of England hon. Members were little aware of the amount of business which that involved. The Scotch law discouraged private prosecutions, and practically speaking, they were almost unknown. All great offenders in that country were prosecuted by the Lord Advocate before the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, 2120 and minor offenders by his subordinates in the local courts. They had in Scotland no grand jury and no coroner's inquest. In short, the Lord Advocate had the sole right of deciding who was to be prosecuted for any offence. He might also dismiss any prosecution, as he might in some instances punish, without a trial. In an article contributed to the Edinburgh Review, by no less an authority than Lord Cockburn, it was stated that the Lord Advocate, in certain instances, could imprison a person for twenty years without being called to any account. The Lord Advocate had also a large practice in appeal cases before the House of Lords in London, and he was the Scotch law adviser of the Crown. Were these duties not quite sufficient to occupy the time of any one man? But, in addition, the Lord Advocate was the political monarch and dictator of Scotland; he had the entire charge of all the legislative business affecting Scotland, and he was the sole organ of his Administration in either House of Parliament. The late Lord Advocate publicly stated that his political duties alone were quite sufficient to occupy the whole of his time. When, six or seven years ago, the Convention of Royal Burghs memorialized the Crown to separate the political from the legal functions of the Lord Advocate, and appoint a Secretary of State for Scotland, the then Home Secretary reminded the memorialists that he was Secretary of State for Scotland. That was true in point of form, but every gentleman conversant with the manner in which Scotch business was conducted knew that it was not true in point of fact. The Home Secretary could do nothing without the Lord Advocate; but the question was where to find that indispensable functionary. [The Lord Advocate here entered the House, and was received with some cheering and laughter.] He was sorry that the hon. and learned Lord had not heard the opening part of his statement, but he was bound to admit, at the same time, that the constancy and regularity with which the hon. and learned Lord attended in his place deprived him of many of his best arguments in favour of his present motion. When a person called at the Scotch office in London, he was told that the Lord Advocate had been suddenly called down to attend an important trial in Edinburgh, and if he proceeded to Edinburgh he probably found that the Lord Advocate—that most erratic of mortals—had returned to London to 2121 conduct an important Bill through the House of Commons. Such was the system of which the people of Scotland complained, and he really wished it were possible to obtain a return of the number of London and North Western tickets which the Lord Advocate purchased during the course of a year, and he should be glad to know how many days in the last ten or fifteen years had been spent by Lords Advocate in the House of Commons. The Lord Advocate combined in his own proper person all the abolished offices of State which formerly existed in Scotland. He exercised the functions of Secretary of State for Scotland, grand jury, coroner's inquest, privy council, and he had been informed that the Lord Advocate even exercised a control over the movements of the military force in Scotland. Mr. Hope, who was Lord Advocate fifty years ago, expressed a strong opinion against the combination of so many offices and duties in one person, and he said that those persons who judged of the duties of the Lord Advocate of Scotland by the dry and formal duties of the Attorney General for England would make a great mistake, and he hoped an Act would be passed for the purpose of defining the duties of the office. The duties formerly performed by the Lord High Chancellor, the Lord Justice General, the Lord Justice Clerk, and others, had devolved upon the Lord Advocate. Since the date when Mr. Hope spoke, Scotland, it should be remembered, had doubled her population, and far more than doubled her wealth and manufactures, and although, whereas Scotland had formerly had only a servant-of-all-work, she, now that she had increased in worldly substance, required a division of labour. Amongst the numerous petitions sent up to the House from Scotland was one from the town council of Inverness, and they represented that the public duties of the Lord Advocate, without the addition of his private business at the bar, were quite sufficient to engross the whole of his time and attention. The town council of Forfar stated in their memorial that the office of Lord Advocate, to which were added the duties formerly belonging to the Privy Council and the Secretary of Sate, was always represented by a lawyer who was generally totally unfit for such multifarious duties. Not only on the ground of multifariousness of duties was the present system objectionable, but it should be remembered that the Court of Session of Scotland sat in 2122 Edinburgh at the same time of the year as the courts of England and Parliament sat in London, and they must all see that it was totally impossible for the Lord Advocate, however industrious and learned, to be in both places at one time, although that was often found desirable. The present arrangement was very bad, and he asked the House not that Scotland should have the services of a Cabinet Minister, or that any great outlay of public money should be incurred on her account, but simply that she should receive the undivided attention of one Gentleman in the management of her political business. At present she had only half a man's time given to her affairs, while there was not a banking company or a commercial company that would permit such a system to exist in connection with their establishment. For England they had a Home Secretary and an Under Secretary, an Attorney and Solicitor General. For Ireland there was a Lord Lieutenant, a Chief Secretary, and an Attorney and Solicitor General, but for Scotland they had only a Lord Advocate. Why, England had more functionaries to represent her at sonic petty court in Germany than Scotland had in the national councils. He knew it would be objected to his Motion that Scotch law differed so much from English law that it was of the utmost importance to have a Gentleman of great Scotch legal attainment in the House to conduct Scotch law bills. But that was perfectly consistent with his Motion. He did not wish to abolish the office of Lord Advocate, nor to exclude him from the House of Commons; on the contrary, he should be always glad to see him in the House to render assistance and advice to the Secretary of State, but he desired that the Lord Advocate should be for Scotland what the Attorney General was for England or Ireland. He wanted an officer to be appointed who would be during the Session of Parliament always at hand to receive deputations from Scotland, and who would be constantly in his place in the House to attend to the business in the House, and see that Scotch Bills were not postponed, delayed, and abandoned—to see that the Scotch business was not brought on after midnight and then conducted in the manner it was so frequently, and which gave such great, though justifiable, dissatisfaction to the people of Scotland. In an article in the Edinburgh Review, written, he believed by Lord Cockburn, and published in 1824, it was mentioned that the 2123 very first change which seemed to be called for was, that the Lord Advocate's power in his political character should be infinitely less than it then was, and the town council of Dundee in 1858 concluded their memorial to the House by stating that the legislative business of Scotland had not been discharged to the satisfaction of the Scotch nation. In the course of a remarkable debate which occurred in "another place" in 1854, the Earl of Eglinton complained that the Administration of affairs for Scotland was placed in the hands of gentlemen who had generally quite enough of their own business at the bar to attend to. The Duke of Montrose had also stated that the affairs of Scotland were not sufficiently attended to. So much for the present Government, and of late Governments might be mentioned the Duke of Argyll and the Earl of Aberdeen, who had pointed out the great exertions which were required of one man, and the somewhat anomalous jurisdiction which he exercised. Lord Campbell had also pointed out evils arising from the present system. In 1853 the Lord Provost of Edinburgh showed, in the most conclusive manner, that not the same justice, so far as legislation was concerned, was granted to Scotland as to England, and he instanced the Acts passed for the extension of boundaries of boroughs. But, as an instance of hasty legislation, he (Mr. Baxter) would mention the more recent case of the Police Act and the Lunacy Act; for even hon. Members who were in favour of those measures would admit they were faulty in the extreme. But how was it the provisions of those Acts were not sufficiently well considered? and why would the House be called upon to amend them? Simply because the late Lord Advocate had not sufficient time to attend to them while passing through that House. At the most critical period of the Session the late Lord Advocate was not present in the House for a fortnight, but was engaged during the whole of that time attending the trial at Edinburgh, of Miss Madeleine Smith, for murder. Both those Acts were passed through the House, as many other Acts had been passed, in an imperfect shape, simply because the Lord Advocate could not attend to his duties in connection with the legislation for Scotland. He also objected to the undue influence which the system gave the Parliament House interest—in other words, the lawyers of Edinburgh. The general sentiment of Scotland was against the present system, by which not 2124 only the legal but the whole civil and ecclesiastical patronage of Scotland was placed in the hands of practising lawyers. No man in the kingdom had so much power in that respect as the Lord Advocate, and it was impossible he could find time to exercise due discretion in the appointments which he made. At the Scotch bar, as well as elsewhere, there were many brief-less men, while in the article by Lord Cockburn, from which he lately quoted, it was calculated then—and things had not altered for the better since—that there were 374 names on the roll of Scotch advocates, that of these there were 150 who, from age, infirmity, or other causes, had renounced attendance in the law courts; that of the remaining 224 there were fifty-three who had entered under three years, and were, therefore, ineligible for most situations, leaving 171 barristers for whom there were seventy-eight offices, or nearly one for every second man. Another reason for the appointment of an Under Secretary for Scotland was that, in the event of the Lord Advocate failing to obtain a seat in Parliament, there was no one to take charge of Scotch legislation. That was no imaginary case; it happened under the Earl of Derby's last short Administration, and if that Government had continued in office, Scotland must have remained for that time without any legislation at all. The only other objection to his Motion he could think of related to expense, but if he had made out anything like a case, a salary of £1,500 a year for an Under Secretary ought not to be treated as an obstacle. He did not think that a Britiah House of Commons would allow a paltry pecuniary consideration to stand in the way of a measure which it believed was for the public good. But it was quite unnecessary to come to the public purse for an additional shilling. The Lord Advocate's secretary got £350 a year, and the Scotch solicitor to the Treasury, about whose duties something more ought to be known, £1,000 a year. He proposed to substitute for these an Under Secretary for Scotland, and he did so from the conviction that under such an arrangement the Scotch business would be far more efficiently done than it was at present. The appointment of the officer would be hailed as a boon by the people of Scotland of every opinion and every class.
Motion made and Question proposed,—
That in the opinion of this House an Under Secretary of State for Scotland should be ap-
pointed to perform the political duties at present attached to the office of Lord Advocate.
§ MR. W. EWART
seconded the Motion. He was not one of those who took up the question of Scottish rights with so much ardour a few years ago and complained of the indignities done to Scotland. He wished to see the bonds of union between the two countries drawn closer and closer, and he believed that nothing would more tend to promote that object than the measure proposed by his hon. Friend. He did not see why England and Ireland should have so many functionaries for the discharge of the public business connected with those countries, and Scotland should only have the Lord Advocate. It was objected that the measure proposed would have a tendency to sever the union between the two countries, but the new Under Secretary of State would be subordinate to the Secretary of State, and there would be no new department, but a combined department acting harmoniously together. The change ho contended for was necessary, because the functions of the Lord Advocate were too numerous and weighty to be discharged by one person. It had been said by Sir Robert Walpole, or the Duke of Newcastle, that the once Secretary of State for Scotland was a public nuisance, but he (Mr. Ewart) hoped that public nuisance would be revived, and revived with effect. Legislation for Scotland must increase, and if it did, it was impossible the Lord Advocate, whose travels between the two countries under the present system were so erratic, could find time to give it due attention. For these reasons he cordially supported the Motion.
§ MR. E. BOUVERIE
said, that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had failed to prove that the political and other important duties of the Lord Advocate were inefficiently performed. He ought to have shown that that portion of the duties of the office which he wished to transfer to another person was either not performed at all or done very inadequately, and that therefore there was a loud call for the interference of the House; but he had not succeeded in doing so. He (Mr. Bouverie) bad sat in the House with four different Lords Advocate, and be must say, having as a Scotch Member taken much interest in Scotch questions, that the Legislative business of Scotland was performed in a way not inferior to that of England and Ireland. It would be a very inferior substitute for the 2126 learning, diligence, and ability brought to bear on the various questions connected with Scotland, to provide at hap-hazard some Member of that House who would be much less able to deal with those questions than the Lord Advocate invariably was. In fact by far the greater part of Scotch Legislation was of a legal character and could only be dealt with by a man of legal education, and further, while his hon. Friend wished an Under Secretary of State in that House, it appeared that he also expected the Lord Advocate to have a seat in the House, though one of his arguments was that his principal duties lay in Scotland. An objection had been raised to the present system upon the ground that Scotch business was shoved off until after twelve o'clock and then done unsatisfactorily; but he must dispute the correctness of that statement. He had heard the same remark from Irish Members as to Irish business, though there was an Irish Secretary and Attorney, and sometimes a Solicitor General in the House. The real fact was, that a great deal of the Scotch business was not of a nature to invite a full attendance, nor to excite an animated debate; but when any real matter of importance arose it was always discussed at an early hour of the evening. There was no injustice in that arrangement, for much of the business of Ireland, as of England was disposed of after twelve. The absence of the Lord Advocate from the House would be a most serious loss to the public and to Scotland, and a transference of his political functions to an Under Secretary of State would almost necessarily involve that consequence. The Lord Advocate was the law adviser of the Government, and the adviser as to the disposition of patronage. In fact, scarcely a particle of ordinary Scotch administrative business ever came to the Home Office. The greatest portion of the Scotch patronage administered by the Home Secretary consisted of legal appointments requiring the aid of a person who was well acquainted with the qualifications of those who should be appointed to the various Offices. That was a point upon which the Lord Advocate was an authority, and with which no Under Secretary, unless he were a Scotch lawyer, would be competent to deal. Then, with respect to circumstances, suddenly occurring, it was obvious that it would be more useful for the Home Secretary to consult the Lord Advocate, who was in constant communication with Scotland, and ac- 2127 quainted with the feelings and wishes of the people, then to refer to an Under Secretary constantly stationed in Whitehall. The proposal of the hon. Member for Montrose was to divide one well-filled office into two, and to intrust the most important functions to an officer who, in all probability, would be less fitted to fulfil them than the present Lord Advocate. Since he had been in the House he remembered many excellent measures passed by sucsessive Lord Advocates, which none but Scotch lawyers could have carried into law. Mr. M'Neill, the present Lord Justice General of Scotland, had passed the Scotch Poor Law Act—a measure of great importance to the country. The late Lord Rutherford passed an Act for altering the Scotch Law of entail, while the hon. and learned Member for Leith (Mr. Moncrieff) had carried important measures for regulating the procedure of Scottish Courts of law, and for consolidating the Scotch law of bankruptcy. While he admitted that many Scotch Members held a different opinion, he felt bound to say he did not think the proposal was one which would lead to the public benefit, and therefore he could not concur it it.
§ MR. STIRLING
said, he would support the Motion, though its terms, taken by themselves, were somewhat unintelligible; and he hoped his hon. Friend would be induced to amend them. He was glad to learn that his hon. Friend did not propose to deprive the Lord Advocate of a seat in that House, though the Motion, strictly interpreted, would warrant that; for surely, to sit and vote in the House was one of the political functions of the whole of which his hon. Friend proposed to deprive that legal functionary. He thought the Motion would be more likely to meet with the general approval of the House if his hon. Friend would consent to alter the form by the substitution of the words, "That an Under Secretary of State for Scotland should be appointed for the Home Office to perform a portion of the duties at present attached to the office of the Lord Advocate." The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, implied that the Lord Advocate and an Under Secretary, together, would be more inefficient than a Lord Advocate alone. It did not strike him that a strong man and a weak man, carrying a burden together, were less efficient than if the strong man were to carry the burden alone. On the contrary, there were many little jobs which the weak man 2128 might perform with advantage to the strong man. It had been also argued by the right hon. Gentleman, that an Under Secretary of State for Scotland, in order to be of any use, should be a Scotch lawyer. As well, in his opinion, might the right hon. Gentleman have argued that the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department should be an English lawyer. Experience, however, showed that it was not deemed necessary for the promotion of the public interests that such should be the case, for Lord Panmure, who was not a lawyer but a soldier, had, he believed, filled the office of Under Secretary of State for the Home Department with great credit to himself as well as with great advantage to the country. He therefore thought that neither the argument which he had just mentioned, nor the others which the right hon. Gentleman had urged against the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose, ought to induce the House to reject it. He should support that proposition, because he was of opinion that the divided responsibility which at present existed in reference to the administration of the affairs of Scotland was incompatible with a due regard to the interests of that country. The relations between the Lord Advocate and the Home Secretary were so ill-defined that—as every Scotch Member who had for any length of time held a seat in that House must be aware—it was impossible to know upon which of them the responsibility for the performance of a particular duty devolved. In illustration of his meaning he might refer to the question of patronage, and would confidently appeal to any Scotch representative to say, whether he knew how the important appointments in Scotland were made, whether by the Lord Advocate or by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. If the Home Secretary were appealed to, he would infallibly say that, before coming to a conclusion upon the matter, he must consult the Lord Advocate; and if the Lord Advocate were appealed to, he would say he was a subordinate, and was in the hands of the Home Secretary. It was, of course, but natural to suppose, that the opinion of such a man as the present Lord Advocate must have great weight in influencing the decision at which any Minister might in such a case arrive, but it was quite possible that the Home Secretary, who in the greater number of instances was not a Scotchman, might, instead of being guided by the advice of the Lord Advocate, con- 2129 suit some other Scotchman who happene to hold a higher position in the Govern, went, and who, under those circumstances would in reality be the Minister for Scotland. In support of his views upon the question of responsibility, he might be permitted to allude to an appointment which had been made in the Register House in Edinburgh, under the auspices of the late Government, which had been generally condemned, and which he felt assured any Under Secretary of State' who would be held responsible for his conduct, never would have made. The expression of public opinion in Edinburgh had been unanimous in condemning that appointment. He, of course, did not accuse the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) of being actuated by any but the best motives in the matter, but the result of making these appointments was, he believed, the perpetration of a job, which would have better suited the days of Dundas than those in which we live. As to the expense of making the proposed change, he could only say that it might be afforded by making retrenchments in other departments of the national outlay. There was for instance, more money expended in warming, lighting, and duly receiving his noble Friend the Member for Cockermouth in his position as Irish Secretary than would pay the whole salary of the officials whom his hon. Friend opposite asked the House to appoint, while Germany was absolutely studded with highly paid public servants whose occupation might, without any breach of charity, be said to correspond with that which a certain personage was supposed to find for idle hands to do, and portions of whose salaries might with advantage to the country be applied to the promotion of the object which his hon. Friend had in view. We had a Minister at Florence, too, whose salary of £5,000 or £6,000 per annum might very well be submitted to the process for that purpose. Everybody knew that that post was but a dignified position for invalid statesmen. Now as recent circumstances had shown it to be a had place for invalids, he thought that that saving might be readily accomplished. So that, so far as the question of expense was concerned, it might be very easily disposed of by the scheme of subtraction which he had just indicated. In conclusion, he had simply to observe that, although the duties which attached to his office might be performed in a mannor per- 2130 fectly satisfactory by a man possessing the great powers of the present Lord Advocate, yet a time might come when a person less competent to the discharge of those duties might hold that office, and when the proposed reform might be found to be absolutely necessary, while it could not be effected under the same favourable circumstances as those which at present existed. He should, for the reasons which he had stated, be happy to support the Motion of his hon. Friend if put in the form which he had suggested.
MR. E. ELLICE
(St. Andrews) regretted that the late appointment of Mr. Dundas in the Register House at Edinburgh had been referred to in that debate, as it would hereafter come under the attention of the House when the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary would be in his place to state the grounds on which he made the appointment. As regarded the propriety of continuing the office in question he would say nothing; but he ventured to say, that if it were necessary to fill it up, there was no one in Scotland whose high character and great attainments so eminently qualified him for that particular office as the learned gentleman who had been appointed to it. Coming more particularly to the Motion before the House, he must say that he entertained a very strong opinion in opposition to it. He could understand the proposal to give to Scotland a Secretary of State as had been urged by the Society for the Vindication of Scottish Rights. He did not say that he should support such a proposition, because he viewed with great jealousy any attempt to transfer the administration of Scotland from Edinburgh to London; and he had a strong objection to the system of centralization to which our Government was now tending. But the proposition of the hon. Gentleman was, not that the proposed new officer should be a Member of the Cabinet or Secretary of State for Scotland, but to have a subordinate officer on whom the political duties of the Lord Advocate might devolve. If they were to have a Secretary of State or a Lord Advocate to manage the business, they had some security that the Crown would not appoint a person who was of no eminence; and, in either case, they would have a proper person to represent Scotch interests. But if they had an Under Secretary he could hardly be a person occupying a position sufficiently influential in that House. He thought the proposition would be used to degrade the 2131 office of the Lord Advocate, as it would hand over the chief part of his duties to a subordinate person, sitting in an office in London. To that he objected, as be thought it would be injurious to Scottish interests. He would say, let there be a Lord Advocate, or else a Secretary of State; but was opposed to the modified proposition. What, then, were to be the duties of the Under Secretary? If he was not a lawyer he could not conduct the legal business, and most of the Scotch business must be transacted by somebody conversant with Scotch law. He hardly knew of any other business but that connected with patronage which the Under Secretary could do. There was a Lord of the Treasury, who attended to the Scotch financial business, and those who had filled the office, of late years at any rate, had satisfactorily attended to the business; and, for himself, he had always received great attention at the Treasury. At present, then, the business was in the hands of the Lord Advocate and a Lord of the Treasury, and he did not see what they were to gain by having an Under Secretary of State. If they chose to transfer the Scotch Lord of the Treasury to the Home Office, he (Mr. E. Ellice) had no objection, except that the official would have nothing to do to occupy his leisure hours, for his attention, as Lord of the Treasury, was not confined exclusively to Scottish matters. Indeed, his belief was, that the Motion would only end in giving to Scotland a gentleman who would have a great deal of spare time upon his hands, and who would constantly be trying to carve out business for himself, which would be a great evil. It was now complained that they legislated too much for Scotland, and that the public burdens invariably increased with legislation as it went on. He objected, therefore, to the appointment of a fancy man of all work who should be perpetually cutting out work for himself and inventing new legislation for Scotland. He was quite sure, however popular the idea of having an Under Secretary of State for Scotland might be, that if such an officer were appointed, before two years were over his head he would be, by universal acclamation in Scotland, condemned as a public nuisance.
§ SIR J. OGILVY
said, he should confine his observations to that portion of the Motion which related to the appointment of an Under Secretary of State for Scotland. If he could believe that such appointment would prove acceptable to the people 2132 of Scotland he should be the last person to offer any objection; but he thought, on the contrary, that it would neither prove useful nor acceptable, and, therefore, he should give it his opposition. This was not a new question. It had at various times attracted the attention of the people of Scotland, and, in 1824, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Cockburn wrote in the Edinburgh Reveview a series of articles, which had been referred to. Since that time, however, the representation of Scotland, then so defective as to render it impossible to bring public opinion to bear on the Lord Advocate, had been greatly amended. It was no longer a farce and a sham, and Scotch Members now, to a certain extent, presented a true reflection of the wishes and feelings of the people of Scotland. Again, there now existed an able and independent press in Scotland, while the communications between the two countries had been vastly improved. Mr. Cockburn, in the course of his articles, suggested many alterations; but had he suggested the appointment of a Secretary of State or an Under Secretary of State for Scotland? On the contrary, he had expressed his belief that such an appointment would be infinitely worse than the existing arrangement, and that a Secretary of State was no more required for Scotland than it was for Yorkshire or Wales. He (Sir J. Ogilvy) was of opinion that the Under Secretary of State, when first appointed, would have little or nothing to do, but would, by and by, carve out work for himself in order to justify the payment of his salary. Now, if there was one thing to which the people of Scotland attached more importance than another, it was that they should be left to manage their own affairs in their own way. They objected strongly to the centralizing system which seemed to have been the fashion in the House of late years, and if any portion of his Parliamentary career had met with more favour than another it was that of last year, when he opposed the passing of the Police Bill for Scotland. That measure was based upon the principle of centralization; and the town which he represented was so averse to it that it had refused to take advantage of an inspection which it authorised, whereby the locality would have saved a share of its police rates. This was strong proof that the people of Scotland would view very unfavourably the attempt of any new official to occupy himself with matters which they would prefer 2133 should be left to them to manage. Feeling, therefore, that the appointment proposed would not only be of no use, but would prove unacceptable to the people of Scotland, and would lead gradually to an intolerable interference with their affairs, he should deem it his duty to oppose the Motion.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, that he did not attach much weight to the arguments which had been urged against the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, such, for instance, as the fears expressed by one hon. Member that the creation of a new office in connection with the executive Government of Scotland would have the effect of inducing the Minister to carve out work for himself, or the centralization argument which had been put forward by another hon. Member. Reference had been made to the poor law of Scotland in support of the past legislation under the existing system. Now, a more unfortunate reference could not have been made. That law had, at the same time, destroyed the prudent and provident habits of the labouring classes, and trebled the rates, and he felt convinced that it would be found, on inquiry, to have been one of the main causes of increased drunkenness in Scotland; and if no more successful instance of legislation for Scotland than that could be pointed to, the sooner the present system was changed the better for Scotland. He confessed that, after listening attentively to the views expressed by the adversaries of the Motion, he thought they tended to establish the necessity for the very change against which they had been expressed. Now, although he was willing to admit that Scotch business had been as well transacted under the present system as was possible under the circumstances, he contended that the learned Lord Advocate ought to be assisted in his labours, in order to afford him more time and leisure for devoting himself to Scotch business, which he was so well fitted to transact; and that it was necessary that when the noble and learned Lord was absent, either upon official or legal business, the Scotch Members should have some responsible person to whom they could apply for advice, and who could carry on the business of the House in relation to Scotch affairs. The change contemplated in his hon. Friend's Motion had the cordial support of the great bulk of the Scotch constituencies, by whom it was regarded as a matter of vital importance to the country. He had himself laid numerous peti 2134 tions upon the table in its favour. He trusted, therefore, that to obviate the verbal objections and criticisms which some hon. Members had expressed, his hon. Friend would assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling), and that ha would divide the House upon a Motion to which he, for one, would give his cordial support.
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that he should not have interposed in this discussion if the object of the Motion had not been to take money out of the public taxes. The hon. Member who made it had failed to convince him of the necessity for the new official. England and Ireland had both a Secretary of State, but the Secretary of State for Great Britain was as much the Secretary of State for Scotland as lie was for England and Wales. But if the gentlemen of Scotland were not satisfied with the assistance they got from the Secretary of State for Great Britain, surely there was the Secretary of State for Ireland open to them. A right hon. Gentleman who had filled that office had told them that the work of the office did not require more than two hours a day; well, then, could not that official fill up his time—say six hours a day—by devoting two to Ireland and four to Scotland? However, he saw no necessity whatever for this new office, and he warned the House that if it consented to its creation, there would very soon be a cry raised that the remuneration should be placed on a level with that of the other two Secretaries of State.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, no doubt the measure proposed to the House had emanated from a desire to relieve the Lord Advocate from some of the more laborious duties of his office, but before he could consistently accept it as a boon, he must be satisfied of two or three things. In the first place, it must be proved that the office was too laborious; in the second, that the measure proposed would relieve the holder of it of any portion of those laborious duties he at present performed; and thirdly, that that specific portion of his duties proposed to be transferred to the new officer would be performed as well as under the existing system, Now, he (the hon. Gentleman) was sorry to say that he could not see his way to assent to any one of these propositions. Far be it from him to say, for it would be perfectly inconsistent with the fact, that the office he had then the honour to fill was not a very laborious office, requiring a great deal of time and 2135 attention, and involving a great deal of anxiety. But he was by no means satisfied, that because the office was laborious, even eminently laborious, it followed as a necessary consequence that it was desirable to diminish the amount of its duties. He was not entitled to speak as a person of experience in public life, but in one way or other he had seen a good deal of hard work in his time, and had formed a very decided opinion, that if you want a man to do his work well you must give him plenty of it to do. It was just because they were going to diminish, or to attempt, rather, to diminish, unnecessarily, the labours of the existing office, and at the same time to create a new office, which would not have, he would not say, ample employment, but anything like employment at all, that he objected to both branches of the proposal. The duties of the office of Lord Advocate were not easily explained in detail, without detaining the House for a longer space of time than was desirable; but there was a peculiar feature of the office that distinguished it from all others, and which gave it a remarkable prominence in the business affairs of Scotland which some hon. Members did not appear well to understand. This distinction arose chiefly from his peculiar duties as a public prosecutor. The office of public prosecutor was an institution that did not exist either in England or in Ireland, and consequently they might not at first sight fully appreciate the precise effects of such an institution, and the value of such a public functionary. He might state, however, that in order to carry out the duties of that part of his office, it was indispensable that the Lord Advocate should have an extensive staff of subordinates throughout the country, by means of whom he could carry on the whole public prosecutions for crime, whether they were great or small. The consequence was, there was in existence throughout Scotland, not merely at headquarters in Edinburgh, but in every place of any importance, an organized machinery, by means of which the Lord Advocate could put himself in communication with every part of the country at the shortest possible notice, and obtain the most accurate information from the most available sources. Now, the existence of this machinery did in itself give him peculiar facilities for the performance of public business, which he apprehended could scarcely belong to any other office that might be created, and the consequence was, 2136 that in transacting those duties which the hon. Member for Montrose designated the political duties of his office, he called into requisition nothing more than the staff and machinery which was in existence for the purpose of conducting the public criminal procedure of the kingdom. This was a source of great convenience and economy in itself, and, at the same time, the performance of the one class of duties did not, in the least degree, interfere with the performance of another class by the same officials. Then the Lord Advocate was responsible, he would not say directly to Parliament, but he was responsible to the Home Office, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department was in his turn responsible to Parliament for the preservation of the public peace in Scotland. These were the two main features of his office as public prosecutor, in addition to his duties as legal adviser to the Crown, and beyond these three departments he (the Lord Advocate) knew of no other that fell within the scope of his office and authority, except those of legislation and patronage. He thought hon. Members would agree with him that he fairly stated the duties of this functionary's office when he defined and embraced them under these denominations. He supposed his hon. Friends who supported the proposition would agree with him that it was perfectly impossible for an Under Secretary of State to relieve the Lord Advocate of any portion of his duties as public prosecutor, or as being responsible for the peace of Scotland, or as law adviser to the Crown, and consequently it must be in the other two departments that it was proposed to relieve the Lord Advocate of a portion of his duties, and to have them performed by somebody else. But by what means was this to be done. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) proposed that there should be an Under Secretary of State for Scotland to perform the political duties of his office; and his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Stirling) not satisfied with that, proposed to have an Under Secretary of State for Scotland in the Home Office, to perform the Lord Advocate's duties in connection with that department. He (the Lord Advocate) did not think there was any great difference between the two, because he did not suppose that the hon. Member for Montrose, in suggesting the appointment of an Under Secretary of State for Scotland, meant that he should be unattached to any great department, or that he should sit as an independent officer 2137 in some tribunal or department of his own, and if that was not so he must mean that he should be an Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. Now, as regarded the administration of the Home Department with reference to the affairs of Scotland, so far as his experience went, he might say with perfect confidence and safety that he had not, since he came into office, had one communication on the affairs of Scotland from the Home Office, addressed to him by the Under Secretary of State for that department, which would not have been required equally to come to him if there had been a Scotch Under Secretary of State, and for this plain reason, because the correspondence between the Home Office and the Lord Advocate consisted of two classes of communications. One class required explanation with regard to the legal system of Scotland, and to its administration in its different departments; and the other had reference to the procuring returns, and things of that kind, which, after all, were mere matters of machinery and routine, and which were effected through a staff which he had already described as being under the command of the Lord Advocate himself. So far, then, as the ordinary business transactions in the Dome Department affecting Scotland were concerned it came to this, that if they were to appoint an Under Secretary in the Home Department, who should henceforth pass under the name of the Scottish Under Secretary of the Home Department, it would not, in the first place, relieve the Lord Advocate of any portion of his duties whatever; and, in the second place, it would not ensure the performance of those duties at the Home Office one whit better than before. He should be glad to see any of his hon. Friends who represented a Scotch constituency in the honourable position of Under Secretary of State for Scotland, but as regarded that part of the business that came from the Home Office, it did not in the least degree matter as regarded the efficiency of the way in which it was performed, whether it came from the hands of an Under Secretary of State, who was a Scotchman and understood Scotch affairs, or from the hands of any Under Secretary of State who might he there for the time duly qualified for the performance of the general duties of his office. But then it was said, that in regard to Scottish legislation there was much need of some ancillary assistance; that there was a great want of some one in the Government to take 2138 charge of Scottish Bills in that House; so that they might be advanced at a more rapid rate, and so that hon. Members interested in the discussion of those measures might not be driven into the midnight hours which were so justly and generally deprecated and objected to for the commencement of important debates. He (she Lord Advocate) could have wished that the hon. Member fur Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had explained by what means he intended to arm the Under Secretary of State with powers and facilities in that House for the introduction and discussion of Scottish legislative measures, so as to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or whoever might be the leader of the House for the time being, to give him larger scope and convenience for bringing forward his Bills. How, he wished to know, were these midnight hours to be avoided? in what way were Bills to be expedited at a more rapid rate in consequence of the presence of this additional functionary who was to use his influence, in addition to that of the Lord Advocate, in accelerating the ratio of the progress of Scottish business? The hon. Gentleman had also spoken of the absence of the Lord Advocate from the legislative duties of his office, occasioned by his professional duties in connection with the administration of the law. He (the Lord Advocate) laid no claim on the House for his own services in this respect; but it was within the knowledge of all present that Ins predecessor the hon. and learned Member for Leith (Mr. Moncrieff) was most punctual in his attendance on his duties, and he could not help thinking that a most extraordinary complaint was brought against him in reference to a single unexampled and unprecedented case of national importance and public interest, and having a bearing on the due administration of justice in Scotland that could not be exaggerated or overrated—that for the conduct of such a ease it should be deemed unreasonable or improper that he should desert his Parliamentary duties for one week. This appeared to him to be an extraordinary complaint to bring against his hon. Friend. It had been further argued in illustration of the unsatisfactory way in which Scottish legislation, even with respect to important subjects, was carried on, that the Lunacy Bill of last Session had been framed in a most imperfect way, and that, although it had passed the Legislature, it had since been found that it wanted mending here and there. Now, was that occasioned by the absence of the Lord Advocate? Was 2139 that hurried and inconsiderate legislation to be ascribed to him? He thought not. Was it not rather the result of a Resolution of that House, urging on the then Lord Advocate to bring in a Bill on this subject at a period of the Session when it was impossible to do it adequate justice? The House having determined that there should be legislation on the subject before Parliament was prorogued, his predecessor, the Lord Advocate, had endeavoured to grapple with the subject, and did so with some success, considering the time at his disposal, although the measure was marred by mistakes that required subsequent legislative rectification. It was a mistake to suppose that Scotch measures were hurried, postponed, or spoilt, by reason of the absence of the Lord Advocate. It was an exaggeration and a misunderstanding, so far as he had had an opportunity of observing. He did not think it could be said that Scotch legislation suffered more from this cause, or from delay in that House, than Irish, although there was a Chief Secretary for Ireland in existence. His noble Friend the Member for Cockermouth could bear him out in this; and if the existence of a Chief Secretary for Ireland did not prevent or diminish the misfortunes attending Irish legislation, it could hardly be expected that the appointment of an Under Secretary of State for Scotland would produce much improvement in the conduct of Scottish business in that House. In conclusion, he really thought that if this officer were appointed in connection with the Home Department, with his time to be devoted entirely to transaction of Scottish business, he really would not know what to do with his time. He (the Lord Advocate) felt bound to say so, because from the knowledge he had acquired of the duties of his office, he should be much puzzled to know what he could give him to do if he were placed under his (the Lord Advocate's) own and sole control. The fact was that the great preponderance of the subjects for legislation in Scotland were so much mixed up with the peculiarities of Scotch law, that although they might first send them to the Under Secretary of State, they would have, in the end, to revert to the Lord Advocate's department. If there were numerous Bills to be introduced of a nature affecting the people of Scotland, which did not partake of the nature of law reform, and were unconnected with the legal institutions of Scotland, he could 2140 better understand the proposition; but when, as during last Session, and as was generally the case, the Bills connected with Scotland were nearly all of a legal character, or closely connected with law, the case was altogether different, and what was chiefly required was the skill and experience of a practical lawyer, He had heard with pain some of the observations of the hon. Member for Montrose, when he was adverting to a period in Scottish history when there existed a great many unnecessary offices, particularly connected with the law. He drew a striking picture of the state of things as they existed in 1824, and added that he supposed that they were much the same now; but his hon. Friend must have been totally ignorant of the history of Scotch legislation, not to know that the Court of Exchequer, the Court of Admiralty, and the Consistorial Court had since then been abolished, together with various other offices too tedious to enumerate, but by the abolition of which a vast saving had been effected to the country; and he (the Lord Advocate) would venture to say that there was not a man in any judicial office in Scotland, or connected with the courts in Scotland, that was not doing fair work for the pay that he received. He could not help feeling the greatest regret that there should be in the mind of hon. Members representing Scotch constituencies any desire to excite any jealousy with respect to that profession to which he belonged. He had thought, on the contrary, that Scotchmen had always been proud of the legal profession of their own country on account of its great reputation and illustrious achievements in times past. He thought his hon. Friend would not, on reflection, feel disposed to grudge to the members of the bar of Scotland the only distinguished legal and political prize that connected the Scottish bar with public life in England. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that it was no mean or sordid motive, no mere love of place, but only an honest and noble ambition that ever led any member of the Scotch bar to accept that office. The mere gilded bait of power and patronage would be no inducement to forego personal comfort, and to suffer great pecuniary loss, which was the inevitable consequence of undertaking the office of Lord Advocate. To induce any one to make such a sacrifice, he must be animated by the desire to serve his country, and the hope of having some claim upon its gratitude.
§ VISCOUNT DUNCAN
said, it was re- 2141 freshing to hear once more the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams), in his place in that House, raising his voice in favour of economy, because it had been his (Lord Duncan's) fortune of late to sit there night after night, whilst grants of public money were made for metropolitan parks and bridges, and the hon. Member never broke silence upon the subject. The vote which the hon. Member proposed to give upon the present question, however, was not to be justified on the score of economy; and he believed that if so small a sum as £1,500 a year were absolutely necessary to create the office of Under Secretary of State for Scotland, few English Members would be found to vote against it. But he did not understand the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) to say that £1,500 a year additional should be granted for an Under Secretary of State; on the contrary, his hon. Friend proposed to abolish other offices connected with Scotland, and to apply the salaries appropriated to them to the new office he desired to create. Among these offices which his hon. Friend would abolish was the one he (Lord Duncan) had recently occupied—that of Scotch Lord of the Treasury—but it was not from any particular liking for his late office that he was new induced to come forward and oppose the Motion. His hon. Friend asked the House to say that in their opinion an Under Secretary of State for Scotland should be appointed to perform the political duties at present attaching to the office of Lord Advocate; but he (Lord Duncan), would ask the House whether the duties of Lord Advocate had been adequately or inadequately performed; and when he remembered that the office had been filled by such men as Jeffreys, Murray, M'Neill, and a long succession of other distinguished men, he thought there was not the shadow of a pretence for saying that those duties had not been adequately performed. With regard to the conduct of Scotch business in that House, he was inclined to agree with the hon. Member that it had not always been brought forward at the most convenient periods possible. True, it was almost impossible at certain periods of the Session, with every disposition on the part of a Government to give them facilities for Scottish Members to bring forward their Bills; and for that disease he was afraid there was no cure, except that the hon. Gentlemen interested in Scottish questions should occasionally sit up a little later than usual. For it could not be expected that great and important measures of Imperial 2142 interest should give way on all occasions to Scotch or Irish questions. Still he thought superfluous legislation not only useless, but injudicious. A friend of his one day asked him if he thought that there would be any more legislation for Scotland that Session, and on being answered in the negative, his friend rejoined, "Thank God, then there will be no further increase of rates and taxes in Scotland this year." Thus it did unfortunately happen that legislation for Scotland was generally accompanied with an additional burden in the shape of rates or taxes. At the same time some measures of legislation were occasionally absolutely necessary, and as allusion had been made to the late Lord Advocate in a way that might cause pain to that learned Gentleman he appealed to the House whether the Member for Leith, while occupying the office of Lord Advocate, had not sacrificed a large portion of his time, and considerable emoluments, in order to do his duty to his country? During the late Lord Advocate's tenure of office many useful measures of legislation were carried, and the Scotch had reason to be proud of the reputation he gained in that House. He might instance the Bill for the Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, and the Lunacy Bill especially, and any proposal therefore that would tend to deprive the House of his services, or of the services of the present Lord Advocate, he should feel it his duty to oppose. Still there was no use disguising the fact that there was a feeling on this subject in Scotland. This feeling probably came from the anomalous position of the Scotch Lord of the Treasury in the House. Still he thought it was of importance that that office should exist. If the duties of that office were a little better defined it would remove a good deal of the feeling to which he had alluded.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, as I filled fur sonic little time the office of Home Secretary, and therefore have some practical knowledge of the connection between the Lord Advocate and the Home Department, I think it right to state that I cannot concur in the Motion of my hon. Friend. I must also bear my testimony in favour of the reasons which have been assigned against the Motion, and more especially in the very able and clear statement of the present Lord Advocate. I do not object to this proposition simply because it creates a new office, and entails additional expense,— I say additional expense because I cannot agree that, if it is desirable to create a new office we should go foraging among 2143 the different departments of the State in order to find out some retrenchment that would be equivalent to the extra outlay. If any unnecessary offices exist let them be abolished, and the country will have the benefit of the saving. But do not abolish existing offices that are not unnecessary merely to provide for the cost of a new office, which I also humbly submit would in itself be very inexpedient. My hon. Friend, to judge from the language of his Resolution, has taken an erroneous view of this matter, and a proposal to appoint an Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, to undertake the political duties of the Lord Advocate of itself shows an imperfect knowledge of the relative positions of an Under Secretary of State on the one hand and the Lord Advocate on the other. The learned Lord has himself given a most lucid explanation of the duties he had to perform, and if those duties are at all to be transferred to any other Minister, that transfer ought to be to some Minister who is primarily responsible as the head of his department. Moreover, the functions discharged by the Lord Advocate in this House are legislative, not political in their nature; at least his only political duty is to vote with his party, and certainly that duty might be shared by an Under Secretary of State. But his principal functions are to frame and assist in passing Bills connected with Scotland. The Lord Advocate, as the highest authority in this House on Scotch law, must be the person chiefly consulted on such questions just as the Attorney General for England and Ireland are the principal authorities on legislation relating to the laws of those two countries. You may create an additional Under Secretary for the Home Department, but he could not take the place of the Lord Advocate in the framing and passing of Bills with respect to Scotland. The proposal before us, then, comes to this, that the Secretary of State fur the Home Department, who is responsible for everything appertaining to the administration of the affairs of Scotland which is not of a local character, instead of advising with the Lord Advocate, as he now does, should advise with his own Under Secretary. That, surely, would not be a wise arrangement, because the matters on which the Secretary of State would be guided by the opinion of the Lord Advocate are matters connected with the interpretation of Scotch law; and it is obvious that he could not attach the same value to the opinions of his own Under Secretary on 2144 such questions as he would to those of the man who is usually chosen for his eminence in the legal profession. It is a great mistake to suppose that the Lord Advocate is the ruler of Scotland in regard to patronage and appointments of all kinds. Now, it has been a matter of reproach in the early part of the debate that the Secretary of State does not often allow himself to be guided by the recommendations of the Lord Advocate, but goes in search of other advice. The fact is, that when any question arises as to an appointment in Scotland, in regard to which the opinion of a great legal authority would be useful, the Secretary of State consults the Lord Advocate, and any other persons whom he thinks competent to give him their advice; and after a careful comparison of the different opinions which are before him, he takes the course which as the Minister who is responsible for what is ultimately done, he believes it to be his duty to adopt. Responsibility must rest with the Secretary of State, and that responsibility cannot be transferred to an Under Secretary. A great deal of Scotch business never goes through the hands of the Lord Advocate at all, The business of the Home Office with regard to Scotland is of the same nature as that connected with England, and the Home Secretary decides with regard to it upon the same principles as he applies to English business of the same character. If a question arises which requires the interpretation of the peculiarities of Scotch law he appeals to the Lord Advocate, just as in a similar case in regard to English business he would appeal to the Attorney General, or any other high legal authority. The Lord Advocate, I beg the House to understand, is only consulted by the Home Secretary, and has no greater authority than the individual at the time filling that office is disposed to attribute to his authority and opinion. That would not be altered by the appointment of an Under Secretary, who would find it very difficult to discover occupation to fill up his days, and whose office would be so nearly a sinecure that it would soon attract the observation and censure of Parliament. You have already in the Home Secretary an officer directly responsible for every act of the Crown with regard to the administration of affairs in Scotland, and for every appointment made by the Crown in that country. If that Secretary of State is in the other House of Parliament, he is represented in this by an Under Secretary, who is quite sufficient 2145 for the performance of all the duties of the office, and you would gain nothing by the appointment of an additional Under Secretary. My hon. Friend suggested that you should abolish the Scotch Lord of the Treasury, and transfer his duties to the Under Secretary of State; but that would be impossible, because you cannot transfer to the Home Office business which must be transacted at the Treasury. Certainly you might say that the English and Irish Lords of the Treasury shall decide on Scotch business, but you could not transfer the business of one department to another. It is said that the Scotch business is thrown over to the small hours of the morning. That is a complaint which we hear quite as much from Irish and English Members, and arises from the precedence necessarily given to important public business over matters which are not of great Imperial importance. The only remedy for such complaints would be, that the Session should be prolonged, and that a month should be devoted exclusively to Scotch business, a month to Irish, and a month to the Bills of English private Members. Then there would be no complaints except on the part of those who were detained against their inclinations by business in which they had no concern. Probably, indeed, those only would stay who were directly interested, and business would go on very smoothly and with great unanimity. I must, however, do the Scotch Members the justice to say, that they carry their business through Parliament in a manner which deserves the imitation of other Members. When a Scotch Bill comes before us which creates a difference of opinion they meet and discuss it freely and fully out of this House; and it usually happens that they come to some sort of agreement, and when the Bill comes to be discussed in this House the debate is not long, and the decision is generally in accordance with the opinions of the majority of Scotch Members. I think that that course of proceeding is not only attended with convenience to themselves, but is advantageous to the country which they represent, and of this I am quite sure, that the appointment of no number of Under Secretaries would facilitate the passing of Scotch or other measures through Parliament. Bills of importance, whether Scotch, Irish, or English, will have precedence, and those of minor importance, to whichever part of the United Kingdom 2146 they relate, must be thrown to a later hour. I think that the wording of the Motion implies a state of things which does not exist, and that its effect would not be that which my hon. Friend proposes, inasmuch as you could not by the appointment of an additional Under Secretary create a responsible officer. He must be subordinate to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is now fully responsible for all that is done in the name and by the authority of the Crown in Scotland.
§ MR. DUNLOP
said, that although his feeling as a member of the Scotch bar would lead him to support, as far as possible, almost the only high office which was open to Scotch lawyers, his experience since he came into Parliament had convinced him that the business of the country required that the change now proposed should be made. He did not seek to shear the office of the Lord Advocate of any one attribute that really belonged to it; but he was satisfied that the duties were so varied and so important as well to bear the curtailment proposed, and leave sufficient to satisfy the ambition of the Lord Advocate. No blame in respect of the conduct of Scotch business was due to recent Lord Advocates, whose assiduity and ability could not be denied. But it should be remembered that in addition to their public duties Lord Advocates had their own private business to attend to; and although, no doubt, they made great personal sacrifices, in order to attend to their public duties, yet there was a limit to such sacrifices, and it was necessary that they should retain their hold in their private business, in order to secure them against the casualties attendant on a change of Ministry. One method of obviating the difficulty would be to introduce Scotch Bills a little earlier in the Session. English Bills relating to English police and English Universities were brought in early in the Session; but why should Scotch Bills always be brought in by the Lord Advocate at a period of the Session when they could not be carried through? With all the advantages of transacting business for which the noble Lord had so handsomely given credit to Scotch Members, this was a great drawback. They did not seek to withdraw from the Lord Advocate any part of the business which was essential to his office; but a great share of business came to the Lord Advocate which did not pertain to him in 2147 his legal character, but only as the representative of the Crown. They had no desire for a separate establishment for Scotland to supersede the Home Secretary, but they only wished that a proper officer should be appointed in the Imperial Government for the purpose of administering the affairs of Scotland.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, there is one point to be noticed before the House divides. It has been urged that opposition to this Motion may arise from a feeling of economy. I understand that this Motion concerns the administration of Scotland, and I cannot suppose for a moment that the House would entertain the question of economy with regard to a Motion of such paramount importance, or that they would think that a question of £1,500 or £15,000 a year ought to be allowed to enter into their consideration when they have to decide upon the good or bad administration of a considerable portion of Her Majesty's dominions. What we have to consider is this—whether the present mode by which the administration of Scotland is carried on, especially in this House, is wanting in responsibility or efficiency. With regard to responsibility I have not heard that any act can be pointed out in which there has been a difficulty in tracing to the proper officer the responsibility which the spirit, if not the form, of the constitution imposes, and I think all will agree that if anything occurred in the administration of Scotland which demanded the notice of Parliament immediately, means would be found of answering the critical inquiry which-might be addressed to the Administration of the day. Is it then inefficient? I have had some experience in this House, and I must say my experience leads me to this conviction, that of all public offices none have been sustained during the last twenty years with such continuous ability and sound intelligence as the office of Lord Advocate of Scotland. I do not remember the period in which it has been filled by a man of inferior ability, or in which the service of the State, so far as that office is concerned, has not been efficiently conducted. I do not remember a period in which it has not been represented in all its attributes by men entitled to respect and often to admiration. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) in noticing three of the predecessors of the learned Lord near me, mentioned the remarkable legislative feats which they have 2148 accomplished. One introduced the Poor Law into Scotland, which was once thought an impossible event; another reformed Scotch entails—a system of law which acted very injuriously on that country, but which it was denied could ever be dealt with. The late Lord Advocate improved the law of lunacy, and the learned Lord who now fills the office, during the brief period he has occupied a seat in this House, has introduced an important measure with regard to the Universities of Scotland which must tend very much to elevate those institutions. That is a complete answer to the objection made respecting midnight legislation, and I think that, upon reflection, those who made it must feel they have no ground whatever for that charge. It is said by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, that if the Administration of Scotland were represented in another manner good Bills might be introduced the moment Parliament meets. The same thing is said of every branch of Her Majesty's service in this House, but the reason that good Bills are not prepared in good time is that we find every department, whether under a Secretary of State or a Lord Advocate, or an Under Secretary of State, very much in the same condition. The labours of this House are so heavy and so continued, the period of relaxation is generally so limited, that one is not inclined the moment Parliament terminates immediately to commence preparations for the coming Session, and when the Session arrives the public departments are not so prepared as, theoretically, they ought to be, but, practically, they never will be. That legislation upon subjects not of paramount importance is brought on at midnight, or after midnight, is a necessary consequence of the manner in which the public business of this country is conducted, and I do not think the Scotch Members have any peculiar cause of complaint in that respect more than the English or the Irish Members. I believe an hon. Member, who was a staunch supporter of the Government, and who was endeared to me by every sympathy, has lately withdrawn his confidence from Her Majesty's Government, because I allowed the Public Health Bill to be brought on at so late an hour of the night. After all, what is the matter before us? The hon. and learned Gentleman who last spoke complains that functions of great importance which used to be filled by the Secretary of State for Scotland are not ful- 2149 filled now by the Lord Advocate. But what is the reason? It is because for many years it has been considered a great advance and improvement to endeavour to assimilate the legislation of the two countries, and to make Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department a Secretary of State for Scotland as well as for England. That is a matter which has always been considered one worthy of public praise and approbation. We have had great complaints of late of maintaining the office of Lord Lieutenant in Ireland, and Motions have been brought forward, the tendency and, in some instances, the avowed object of which has been to make the Secretary of State for the Home Department Secretary of State for Ireland. It is proposed to pursue a course with regard to Scotland exactly the reverse of that which is recommended for Ireland. The tendency of the present Motion is to bring us back to a state of provincial administration. With respect to Scotland and Ireland there is no doubt a great difference. The population of Ireland is much larger. The union between England and Ireland is of more recent date. There is greater variety of contrast in the habits and customs of England and Ireland than in those of England and Scotland. There is a considerable difference in geographical connection, and many reasons which make us view with considerable scruple any proposition which should terminate the existing machinery by which the administration of Ireland is conducted. But, so far as England and Scotland are concerned, we have now for a long series of years been assimilating the administration of the two countries, and I have always thought until to-night that it was rather a mark of advance to have that administration placed under the same high officer of State. The only exception on the part of Scotland to this view is, that Scotland has one peculiarity which redounds to its honour, that notwithstanding all changes, social and political, it has preserved its own law and a body representing that law, which is celebrated throughout the world for its eloquence and ability. Under those circumstances I am surprised that Scotch Members should come forward, and, as it seems to me, level a blow against that profession of which they taught to be proud; against that national system of jurisprudence which ought always to be deemed an ornament of their country. I should have thought they would have been 2150 proud that at this moment the administration of Scotland is conducted by the most eminent lawyer they possess, rather than by a subordinate political officer. But I think the great objection to this Motion is, that we have really had no evidence whatever placed before us that the people of Scotland have suffered in any degree from the system which exists, or that they have offered any probable means by which the administration of that country can be improved. As far as I can form an opinion it seems to me that with regard to administration Scotland is that part of Her Majesty's dominions which has the least cause of complaint, and I cannot but feel that we shall be deteriorating and lessening the position of Scotland if we follow the policy and principles which have been suggested and advocated by the hon. Member for Montrose, and the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us.
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
said, he would merely express a hope that the Government would appoint a Scotch Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. BAXTER
replied, he could assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was great dissatisfaction in Scotland with the manner in which Scotch business was conducted, and he also called his attention to the fact that no Scotch Lord of the Treasury had been appointed by the present Government. He willingly accepted the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling), and would withdraw his Resolution, in order that it might be put in the amended form to the House.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed,—
That, in the opinion of this House an Under Secretary of State for Scotland should be appointed in the Home Office to perform the political duties at present attached to the office of Lord Advocate.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 47; Noes, 174: Majority, 127.