§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
rose, according to Notice,To call attention to the extreme neglect of Scotch Business in the Session of 1876; to suggest the necessity of relieving the pressure which is now felt in this House, and improving the arrangements for the conduct of business.The hon. Member said, that with regard to the Session of 1876, it was notorious that in that year Scotch business was neglected in that House in a manner which might almost be termed gross. Although many Bills relating to Scotland were brought forward, the Government failed to give Scotch Members a fair 930 opportunity of discussing them, and the House a fair opportunity of dealing with them—they had, in fact, about the half of one morning sitting—that being the only time which was really devoted to the discussion of Scotch Business. The feeling in Scotland in reference to this matter was very strong indeed—so strong that when Scotch Members went down to their constituents they found that the two great subjects of interest were the Eastern Question and the neglect of Scotch Business in that House. There was also another grievance—namely, that all the time which was usually given to Scotch Business was in the small hours of the morning. He feared many of his Colleagues had become so accustomed to that ill-usage that they did not fully appreciate it, or feel how ill-used they were; but he (Sir George Campbell), coming into that House as a new Member, had felt the grievance extremely. The Scotch Members were bound to sit up all hours of the night in order to watch Scotch Bills that did not come on. This he said was a real grievance, which ought to be redressed. He was himself a man who had done a great deal of work in his day, and was willing to do a great deal still; but his health would not permit that he should be kept sitting up night after night until all the hours of the morning waiting in vain for Bills in which he was interested to come on. If justice were not done to the Scotch Members in this respect, they were bound to take every constitutional means in their power to obtain it—they might follow the example of Gentlemen sitting on this side who came from the other side of the Channel. He had supposed this grievance was last year so notorious and so acknowledged that this Session they would have been treated a little better; but, in fact, the bad practice of former years had been repeated. For instance, the one Scotch measure before the House, the Scotch Prisons Bill, had been twice put on the Paper when there was not the least chance of its coming on before midnight; and it was only by the interposition of an Irish Member that prevented its being called on after midnight. To add insult to injury, not only was the English Bill twice put before the Scotch Bill, but an Irish Bill too. He said, then, that not only were they very ill-used last year, but that so far as the indications of the present year went, 931 there was every probability they would still be ill-used in this matter, and that Scotch Bills would be only brought in after midnight, a proceeding of which they had a just right to complain, and which they certainly would resist. They must treat Her Majesty's Government as they should treat the Turks—if they did not yield to moral coercion, they must try such physical coercion as the Forms of the House would enable them to apply. So much for the strong and pressing grievance of which Scotch Members had reason to complain, both as regarded the constituencies they represented and the treatment that they personally received. But he believed that there were deeper evils. He believed, in fact, the Business of the House was such that some of it must go to the wall, and the Scotch Business only went to the wall in preference because Scotch Members were more submissive and less obstructive and troublesome than others. To do justice to all, radical measures of reform were required. He would touch but briefly on those subjects, because there were other hon. Members who knew more of those things than he did who would follow him. As regarded the Scotch Business in particular, there was one remedy for the evil which he believed was approved by many Scotch Members, and by many persons out of the House, and that was that, distinct from the Lord Advocate, there should be a lay Minister of State, who should be charged with Scotch Business. There was a great deal in that suggestion. He was not himself prepared to offer a very decided opinion upon it; but he believed it would operate as a palliative of the evil. He believed that if a lay Minister were charged with the Scotch Business, a very considerable amount of good might be derived there-from, and that something might be done towards putting the Scotch in their proper position. At the same time, he felt that such a Minister might have to encounter many of the difficulties which prevented the Lord Advocate from doing that justice which he would desire to do. The Lord Advocate was a distinguished official in his own country, and here was a benevolent despot towards Scotch Members. He did the best he could for them; but he was not in a position to put sufficient pressure upon the Home Secretary or upon Ministers to obtain justice for Scotland. Moreover, 932 good as Lord Advocates generally had been, and willing as they had generally been to do justice to Scotland, he was inclined to think that Lawyer Government was not altogether good for any country. It was not good for any country to be placed permanently under lawyer rule, and that would be the case with regard to Scotland as long as the Lord Advocate had the conduct of Scotch Business. There was this objection—that, however willing the Lord Advocate might be to do justice to the country, however willing he might be to bring forward measures which he thought would be beneficial to the country, he was always more or less hampered in his efforts by influences at work out-of-doors. He was much afraid that too many Scotch measures were treated not solely in view of the benefit they would confer upon Scotland, but also from the view whether they would be acceptable to the lawyers of Scotland, and whether the effect would be to bring business or take away business from Edinburgh. That was a state of things very much to be avoided. He was not sure that the appointment of a lay Minister of the Government to take charge of the Scotch Business would necessarily get rid of that difficulty. He was inclined to think that in regard to Irish affairs also a good deal too much attention was paid to the wishes of the Irish lawyers. At the same time, it was very desirable that a fair trial should be made of the suggestion to entrust Scotch affairs to a lay Member of the Government. As he had said, such an arrangement might operate as a palliative; but ho believed that the business of the House, which was every day becoming larger, was really too much for the House to get through; and that was the real evil with which they had to contend. He believed that very radical measures were necessary in order to meet and obviate a very great and growing difficulty. In the shape in which he had first put his Motion on the Paper, it was supposed that there was something of a Home Rule flavour about it. He feared any suggestion of the kind would give rise to dissensions; but his own personal opinion was, that great and free countries were not likely to be permanently successful in any other way than with some sort of federation. He would not, however, dwell upon the 933 subject—especially for this reason, that though he thought they were eminently fit for Home Rule in Scotland, yet most people in Scotland did not want it, while, on the other hand, although Ireland might want it, it might be a question whether the people were fit for for it. He did not believe that Home Rule was immediately practicable in Ireland or in Scotland; but he thought much might be done in the way of local government which would be acceptable to Liberals and Conservatives alike. For this reason he viewed with the greatest alarm the course which the Government had lately taken in showing a disposition to centralize and to minimize local government as much as possible. So much had been said in the course of other debates about this subject that he need not now dwell upon it, but this he would say—that just as the Prisons Bill had been a centralizing measure, so they were induced last year to suppose that the Poor Law Bill would be a centralizing measure with regard to Scotland. He hoped that course would not be persevered in by the Government. He trusted that, instead of centralizing, they would consider it to be their duty to localize; and in that way Parliament might be relieved of a good deal of Business in that House. There was another way in which considerable relief might be obtained—he meant in regard to private local Business. He was quite sure that the expense and time which the passing of local Bills through Parliament involved was being more and more felt in all parts of the Kingdom. They felt that more especially in Scotland, because they were further off. There was now a great disposition to obtain measures which would enable local authorities to apply themselves to improving the water supply, and doing other things which were very much needed, and many places in Scotland had been deterred from the course of local improvement by the expense and difficulty of passing Private Bills through Parliament. It was a matter on which he was somewhat sensitive, for the borough he had the honour to represent (Kirkcaldy) had recently had to pay a bill of upwards of £1,600 for passing an unopposed Bill through Parliament. It would be a very great boon if some means could be devised by which some tribunal on the spot could deal with these legal local and 934 private matters. There was another view which he desired especially to press on the Lord Advocate. As he had said, it was most desirable that a great many affairs should be disposed of locally. But there was another class of affairs in which it was desirable to aim rather at uniformity than localization. He would ask why was it that on such subjects there should be separate Bills for Scotland and Ireland, instead of having one measure for the Three Kingdoms? Take the Prisons Bill. There it was quite possible to amalgamate the three Bills into one, and allow the Scotch Members to discuss that measure at the same hours at which English Members now discussed the English Bill. In that opinion he was supported by men of the utmost authority. Looking further ahead, he fully believed that great good might be effected by codification. Nothing would go so far to unite the Three Kingdoms as one system of codes which should apply to all. The suggestion he wished to make was, that if' they wished to get rid of those provincial difficulties, and make their system uniform, they must place their system of codification upon a broad basis, making it not a mere digest of the law of England, but a general system in which the best parts of the law of Scotland should have a place. He believed that if that were done a great deal of the time of Parliament might be saved, much friction avoided, and a very great good achieved for the country. Another suggestion had been made for expediting Business — namely, that there should be some kind of division of the House for the purpose of considering Scotch Business, and perhaps other Business. In former days there was the system known as "the tea-room system"—that was, the Scotch Members discussed Scotch Business with the Lord Advocate in the tea-room, and, as far as he could gather, there was a good deal to be said for and against that system. He did not venture to put forward an opinion of his own on that subject, as it was a matter which so much depended upon experience; but he understood that a very distinguished officer of the House (Sir Erskine May), before a Committee which sat to inquire into the Business of the House, expressed a strong opinion that much of the Business could be best considered by a system of Grand Commit- 935 tees. His own belief was that if they were not prepared to divide the work of the country they would have to come to some sort of Home Rule. They must divide the work of Parliament itself. They must have some kind of Grand Committees of Parliament, which might sit at the same time and dispose of different business. If they did not adopt some radical measure of that kind, the pressure upon Parliament would increase more and more, and Scotch Members would become more and more discontented, and it would become more and more difficult to dispose of the Business of the country. He had ventured to make suggestions on this subject; and he only wished again to mention two—first, that the Government should give up not only a fair share of the time of Parliament, but a fair precedence in regard to time, to Scotch Business. That was a practical suggestion, and he hoped it was one which Her Majesty's Government would accede to. The other suggestion was that on every possible occasion Bills affecting England, Scotland, and Ireland should be rolled into one — that where they had one uniform system they should have one and not three Bills for the Three Kingdoms. Those were suggestions which he thought the Government might immediately adopt.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
That, Sir, is what I call a good-natured grumble all round. I have not the slightest fault to find with the hon. Gentleman for having given expression to his views and feelings on the subject; but, looking at the discursive nature of his remarks, I hope he will pardon me if I do not follow him through all the many windings of his speech. I fully recognize the fact that many of the matters he has brought forward deserve attention, but to attempt a general discussion on the whole would not, I think, be saving the time of the House. I am very happy to be able to tell the hon. Member that in the two suggestions which he has made I most cordially and heartily concur—namely, that, so far as the Scotch Business which will come before the House on the part of the Government is concerned, it should be taken at a time of night when it can be reasonably argued out, and that it should have reasonable precedence in point of time. I also entirely agree with him that whenever Bills affecting England, Scotland, 936 and Ireland can be rolled into one, it ought to be done. I am glad that the hon. Member has at last discovered that there is a difference between localization and uniformity; that localization may be good in one case, and uniformity better in the other. That is a principle upon which I have had to argue a good deal during the last few days, and I am glad the hon. Gentleman has come to the same conclusion as I did myself. But in regard to those Bills, just see how the hon. Gentleman would treat them. The moment they are rolled into one, he would say they are not a Scotch measure; after we had taken trouble to satisfy him, he would say at the end of the Session—"Why, you have not passed a single Scotch measure." The real fact is that Scotland, as I have always thought, is an integral part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland too, and there are a vast number of measures relating to the welfare of Scotland which, by the wise anticipation—not only by this Government, but by former Governments—of the suggestion which has fallen from the hon. Member, have been rolled into one, and therefore in his category they do not come under the title of Scotch measures. What the hon. Member means, no doubt, is that there are certain things affecting the interests of Scotland, and Scotland only, and in the case of Scotland there are many matters where, in the present state of the law, it is absolutely impossible that one Bill will do. I never will consent, so far as I can help it, to separate Bills where one Bill will do; but in many cases separate Bills cannot be helped at present. I hope gradually the laws of Scotland and England will be much more assimilated. It would be a good thing if they were. But treating simply Scotch measures only, a good deal has been done since we came into power. We have passed a Summary Prosecution measure, a Bill for the Amendment of Entail, a Public Health Act, an Act, dealing with Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings, a Church Patronage Act, and others in 1874 and 1875; and though last year it is quite true that, as far as the number of measures went, the business done was small, a considerable advance was made towards the settlement of the question of roads and bridges. Now, the hon. Member says that we have added insult to injury, 937 and in this case I am bound to say that the Scotch motto Nemo me impune lacesset has not suffered with the hon. Baronet. But we were in a difficulty here, as the complaint is that in putting the Prisons Bill on the Paper we put first the English, then the Irish, and then the Scotch. Now, as I came out of the House of Lords immediately after the Queen's Speech was delivered on the day Parliament opened, I was met by an Irish Gentleman of considerable ability and position in this House. He said to me, "What have you been doing?" I replied, "I really do not know;" and he rejoined, "You have put Scotland before Ireland in the Queen's Speech," and it is very hard indeed to say how we can please all parties. We put the one before the other in the Queen's Speech, and we arranged the Bills differently on the Paper, and no one is pleased. But so far as these Bills are concerned, it is the intention of the Government that they shall all pass into law one after the other:—at this early period of the Session there shall be no breaks, so far as the Government can help it, in the passing of the three Bills, and probably they will all leave this House on or about the same day. The hon. Member rather suggested that we ought to have read the Scotch Bill the other night. Here, I think, I am really bound to say it is not my fault, for but for two hon. Gentlemen from Scotland, it would have been put down for the second reading on Monday, and would perhaps have come on at 9 or 10 o'clock. But it was at the request of Scotch Members, and at their request only, that it was put off. Now, what have we done? We have placed in the Queen's Speech two Bills of considerable importance to Scotland. When we have done that, it is impossible that we should not do our best to pass them. It is the intention of the Government that they should pass, and that they should be brought forward at a reasonable hour, and have reasonable precedence. When you talk of 1876, you must remember that it was not Scotch Business alone that suffered, but English and Irish also. Debates were so prolonged on one or two measures—though I do not say unnecessarily prolonged — that one measure which I was myself extremely anxious to pass into law I was obliged to withdraw. If the hon. Member will be con- 938 tent with the assurance I can give him, I hope that when the end of this Session arrives he will be far more satisfied, and that without the Turkish coercion with which he threatens us. I will not enter at the present moment into questions of a code or a Grand Committee, or of matters of Private Legislation. All these matters have been considered by successive Governments, and the growing Business of Parliament will at some time or other demand serious attention. At present I believe a good deal of time might be saved if some Members would, in the course of debate, keep rather more strictly to the point under consideration. As to the best mode of dealing with Private Legislation, that is a matter on which persons of great experience have come to different conclusions. It is a matter which has been seriously thought of, and about which very different opinions are entertained. I do not know that I should be justified in taking up the time of the House any longer from the ordinary Business, but I will assure the hon. Member once more with regard to his two last suggestions—first, that particularly Scotch Business certainly shall have a fair share of the time of the House and fair precedence; and that, whenever three Bills can at any time be rolled into one, I shall, as far as I can, see that this is done.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, he thought the remarks that had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had fully justified the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir George Campbell) in bringing the matter before the House. He was prepared very nearly to endorse all that his hon. Friend had said; though, as to the suggestion of applying a little Turkish coercion to Her Majesty's Government, he must say that those hon. Gentlemen had not as yet applied any Turkish oppression to the subject-races that sat on those Benches, nor did he contemplate applying any Turkish coercion to them. The Home Secretary had practically admitted the grievances complained of by his lion. Friend—he admitted, at all events, that last year, and probably for some years back, Scotch Business had been in a very neglected state. They could not expect the right hon. Gentleman to admit more than that. He had made his admission frankly, and they would frankly accept 939 it. He had done more than that—he had promised amendment. Now, when you brought a distinguished functionary occupying the position of the Home Secretary down to that level, he thought his hon. Friend had done very well; and they might rely upon it that the Home Secretary was fully convinced of the necessity of putting Scotch Business upon a more satisfactory footing than it had hitherto occupied. He was convinced that his hon. and learned Friend who sat at his side (the Lord Advocate) would not for a moment suppose that in any remark that had been made, or might be yet made, about the office of Lord Advocate, the smallest personal reflection was intended to be cast upon himself. They had now had the pleasure of hearing the learned Lord addressing the House on two occasions, and he thought he only expressed the general sentiment of the House—as far as he was able to gather it—when he said that they would be very glad indeed to hear the learned Lord address the House again. No doubt it did appear to some of them—and certainly to himself — that something like a more thorough reform in the management of Scotch Business was needed than the Home Secretary had laid down in the hope of being able to carry out. It appeared to him the Home Office was not strong enough for the work it had to do. He was not going to say anything offensive to lawyers, but it was quite anomalous that the whole civil business of Scotland should be, as it was, conducted entirely by a Lawyer; and when he said that, he was not expressing an opinion confined to that side of the House, for, as the Home Secretary was well aware, this subject had been several times before Parliament in past years. It was brought under the notice of Parliament in 1858 by his right hon. Friend who now sat for the Montrose Burghs (Mr. Baxter), and it was again brought before Parliament in 1864 by Sir James Fergusson, who unfortunately had not at present a seat in the House; and again by the right hon. Member for Montrose in 1867. It was almost impossible that these repeated remarks made of the want of strength in the Home Office for the tranasction of Scotch Business could be made altogether without ground for complaint, and though he did not intend to go into any detail on 940 the subject just then, and although perfectly well satisfied as far as it went with the promise which the right hon. Gentleman had given, that Scotch Business should be presented to the House at convenient hours, and should be put in its own proper place on the Notice Paper, he would respectfully invite attention to the question whether it would not be possible, with considerable advantage, to strengthen the Home Office for the performance of civil business, more specifically Scotch.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that the complaints of neglect of Scotch Business were unquestionably well-founded. For many years past the Scotch Members had complained of the manner in which Scotch Bills were brought forward, of the utter neglect to give opportunities for fair discussion of them, and of delaying Scotch measures till sometimes within an hour of the period at which their debates were usually brought to a close, so that those measures were forced upon them without that discussion which in justice to them they ought to have. But as far as last Session was concerned, he thought the Scotch Members were almost equally to blame for the failure of Scotch Business as Her Majesty's Government. He might refer particularly to the manner in which the opposition to the Poor Law Bill was developed. The number of speeches by hon. Members on that side of the House was enough to thwart any Government. Look at the Scotch Poor Law Bill and other Scotch measures—such was the multitude of speeches ready for delivery that the Lord Advocate was compelled to drop them. But without following his hon. Friend (Sir George Campbell) through all the stages of his speech, the matter rested in a very small compass. All they wanted was time, and, after the very fair assurance the Home Secretary had given them, that Scotch measures would be considered in a manner which would give them reason to be satisfied, he would only say one or two words. First, ho would say that while the main responsibility rested on the Government, he must appeal to his hon. Friends from Scotland to consider the responsibility which also rested upon them. He had heard a great many compliments paid to the Scotch Members in former years, both in and outside the House, on the 941 manner in which they conducted their Business, because they did not make long speeches in either House. Now, his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) was an example, in making a speech an hour long that might have been compressed into a few words. He thought they ought to give an honest assurance to Her Majesty's Government that they would make short speeches and stick to the point. Next as to the manner of conducting Scotch Business out of the House. There had been many compliments paid to the Lord Advocate, and he (Sir Edward Colebrooke) might speak as an old man who had had some experience of Scotch legislation. His hon. and learned Friend's Predecessor, Lord Moncreiff, was very successful in passing Scotch measures of late years, and he thought that was much due to inviting Scotch Members to meet him at his office and talk the matter out. Now, he could assure his hon. and learned Friend that they were not a very formidable body to meet. He did not think he need be afraid to give them opportunities to let him know what their most important objections were, so that he might take them into consideration in shaping any measure he might be framing. He had to say that he entirely differed from the hon. Member for Fife (Sir Robert Anstruther) as to his opinion on the appointment of a Secretary of State for Scotland by way of strengthening the Home Office. No doubt the Office might be strengthened by the introduction of some Scotch element, but not in the position of Secretary of State. There might be an Under Secretary, who had some knowledge of Scotch affairs, and who could assist him in Scotch Business. In that way, he thought material aid might be given.
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
said, there were one or two passages in the speech of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) to which he desired to advert. As they all knew, this complaint of the delay of Scotch Business was as old as the hills. The delay they knew was not due to this Ministry or to that, nor to this Party or to that, but was rather traceable to the antiquated manner in which Scotch Business was conducted in the counties. In each county a standing committee was appointed to report on Scotch Bills 942 introduced either in that or in the other House of Parliament. Up to lately these committees had been in the habit of proceeding in the most leisurely manner possible. It took them two months to consider the Parliamentary Bills submitted to this House; it was then put to the county as to what Bill or Bills should be petitioned for or against. In that way about three months were lest. Was that the fault of the Minister of that House? Was it not the fault of the antiquated system that had prevailed in Scotch counties which wasted three precious months of the Session before they decided what action was to be taken. On the other hand, they should not fly into the opposite extreme—they must not proceed too fast. Parliamentary committees, in order to deal with the subject, must have the Bills before them in sufficient time to enable them to give their opinions to the county. The mode in which the Bills were presented by the Government to the House was everything that could be desired. The Scotch Prisons Bill being substantially the same as the English Bill, would meet with little obstruction from the Members for Scotland. He was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman promise reasonable time to discuss measures for Scotland. One thing he desired to say — that they ought not to follow the custom of last Session and allow a Bill to pass the second reading, pro formâ, on the understanding that the principle would be discussed on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair. That was the course pursued last year on the Poor Law Bill, and hon. Gentlemen would bear him out in the opinion that that course was not attended with success. Precious hours were wasted; and, after all, the Bill never got into Committee. So long as that course was pursued they would never succeed in advancing Scotch legislation.
§ MR. M'LAREN
I shall not go into all the matters referred to by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), but shall endeavour to keep strictly to the question of Scotch Business before Parliament; and I hope I may be indulged a few minutes, as representing the capital of Scotland, where this question has been more discussed than in any town in Scotland; and, secondly, because I have not taken up any time this Session on any Business whatever. In whatever the Home 943 Secretary has said as to Scotch Business I place implicit credit. There is no Member of the House on whom I would more completely rely in a matter of this kind. But he only promised that any measures introduced into the House on Scotch Business should have fair play as to time for its proper discussion. There is a question beyond that. There are Bills that ought to be brought in to enable the legislation of Scotland to keep pace with that of England. What is the remedy? As to the longest part of the speech which the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy devoted to this point, not one word was said by the Home Secretary. The hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) has also dwelt on it, and on that point I would like to say a few words. Those who contend for anything that is ancient will, I hope, be conciliated by the remarks I am about to make. It is no new thing for Scotland to ask for a Secretary of State for that country, the same as Ireland has. After the Union there was a Secretary of State for Scotland as there was a Secretary of State for England. The office was continued for 36 years. It was dropped about 1740; but it was not dropped by legislative enactment. It gradually fell into abeyance. It may be argued that it was not in accordance with the feeling of Scotland or it would have lived. But there was no public opinion in Scotland at that time. Scotland was governed by a despotism. It had no public opinion whatever. Even up to the passing of Lord Grey's Reform Act there were only 2,800 electors in all the cities, boroughs, and counties put together, and the qualifications of many of these were fictitious, arising from lands to which the voters had no real title. Upon that I will not dwell. As soon as public opinion arose in Scotland, this question began to be understood. There was one family which had ruled Scotland for about half a century as if they were its sovereigns—the Dundas family. That was continued until 1828, when a number of Scotch Members arranged with Canning that if he would extinguish the Dundas sovereignty they would give him their support; and from that time there has been an active public opinion in Scotland. In 1832 a Scotch Lord of the Treasury was first appointed, in the hope of improving matters, by getting 944 attention paid by the Legislature to the Business of Scotland; but he was far too small an officer to influence the Legislature or the Cabinet. The agitation still continued. In 1853 there was one of the largest and most influential meetings ever held in Scotland, on this subject, and a Resolution was passed declaring that Scotland was entitled to have a Secretary of State. The Resolution was that—This meeting considers it necessary for the better administration of the Public Business of this part of the United Kingdom to have a Secretary for Scotland, and that it would be for the practical benefit of the united Legislature if the office of Secretary of State for Scotland were restored, with all the rights and privileges formerly appertaining thereto, and this meeting invites the burghs and cities of Scotland to petition Her Majesty on the subject.I have said this meeting was, perhaps, the most influential ever held in Scotland. I may inform hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was mainly composed of Members of the Conservative Party on the platform. Lord Eglinton was in the chair, and there were present Lord Grey, Sir David Dundas, Sir Archibald Alison, Sir J. W. Drummond, Sir Charles Napier, Sir H. H. Campbell, Professor Aytoun, Sheriff Skene, the Hon. G. Sinclair, Captain Hamilton, and a large number of others, including the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, who made an excellent speech on the subject, and who was described as "Alexander Baillie Cochrane, of Laming-ton." That meeting passed the Resolution to which I have referred. A number of Petitions were sent up to Parliament; and from that time, although the question has been allowed to smoulder, it has never been buried, and I believe it never will be buried. One of the bodies with which I am connected—the Chamber of Commerce—sent a Memorial to the Secretary of State, and he answered that he was the Secretary of State for Scotland. Well, that was literally true, but it did not improve the state of affairs. A few years ago—in 1869—Mr. Gladstone's Government took up the question, and appointed a Treasury Commission to enquire into these matters in Scotland, and that Commission reported that there were difficulties, and that they were opposed to any great changes, but various recommendations were made, none of which were ever carried into effect. I men- 945 tion these things to show that the question of a Secretary of State for Scotland had been brought down to the present time. I may repeat what has been said by other Members—but I hope no one will suppose I mean any disrespect to, or reflection on the Lord Advocate who now holds office. I have never spoken of him but with the greatest respect, either in public or private; but it is quite enough that he should attend to the legal Business of Scotland, as the Solicitor General for Ireland attends to the legal Business of Ireland; and we should have a Secretary to attend to the lay Business of Scotland, as a Secretary attends to the lay Business of Ireland. There are other more practical grounds of complaint. In our taxation we suffer injustice. In the income tax, under Schedule A, on the city which I represent (Edinburgh), the rents have risen about 5 per cent yearly during the last three years. In England an assessment for the income tax is made once in three years on the rental, and not on the rental for each year; and there is a Bill before the House for extending this period to five years; while there is a new assessment for Scotland every year. That is a practical tangible money grievance. Then again, the sum of £10,000 granted under the Poor Laws to Scotland has no reference whatever to the equitable demands of Scotland, as compared with the grants to England and Ireland. Again, it appears by the present Estimates that the total sum allotted by Government to Public Buildings in Scotland is £8,400, while for Ireland the sum of £177,000 is allowed. Twenty years ago an Industrial Museum was established in Edinburgh, which is largely visited by the working classes, the returns showing that a greater number visited it in proportion to the population than have visited the South Kensington Museum. What have the present Government done? Till it came into office certain grants were annually made. But during its first year of office an excuse was made; then another excuse the following year; and this year also there has not been a shilling granted, while £177,000 have been given to Ireland and large sums to England. Is it a right thing, I would ask, that the Government, for the purposes of economy and saving expenditure, should cut off the necessary payments that ought to be 946 made in Scotland? I say that this is a very wrong state of things, and ought not to receive the sanction of the country. In stating these things I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not in favour of a lavish expenditure—I have always advocated economy; and, although last year I obtained a Return which showed that the expenditure for the judicial system in Scotland was less than half that for the judicial system in Ireland, yet the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Barclay) had my entire concurrence when he proposed to reduce the number of Judges in Scotland. I mention that to show that it is not money for Scotland that I want. Irish Members clamour for money for Ireland for the creation of places, and the keeping up of the judicial system, but I would just as soon vote for the extinguishing of offices in my own town as for the extinguishing of offices in England or Ireland. I was glad to hear the Home Secretary refer to the Roads and Bridges Bill, although I think the Bill itself contains another Scottish grievance. I know the Rules of the House too well to discuss that Bill now, but I will say—as I said a few days ago—you appoint a Committee of this House to take into consideration Petitions for the abolition of expiring English turnpike trusts, and they are abolished whenever the Committee think they are no longer necessary. That Committee refuses to receive any Petitions respecting Scotch trusts; and the consequence is that in the county in which Edinburgh is, its Act of Parliament expired 10 years ago, and although it had a most improper constitution when it was passed, that trust has been continued from year to year, by the Annual Continuance Bill, and the public has no power whatever over it. There is an enormous expenditure going on for keeping roads and bridges in repair, but we cannot approach this Committee with our county roads grievances. What has the Home Secretary done? He has brought in a most excellent Bill for repairing the roads and bridges of Scotland; but it is a Bill not for to-day, but to come into operation, compulsorily, only 10 years hence. Why not leave it to his successors to bring in such a Bill. No doubt it is a permissive Bill up to the 10 years; but I think it is not desirable that a county, where the Act 947 expired 10 years ago, should remain in the same state for another 10 years through the sovereign will and pleasure of the county authorities alone. If the powers of Parliament are to be given to a local body to determine when the Bill shall come into operation, it should be a body imbued with public spirit, representing the county and burgh authorities in proportion to their several interests. Under these circumstances, I hope the Government will seriously consider the proposal, first made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Peeblesshire (Sir Graham Montgomery) to extinguish the office of the Scotch Lord of the Treasury and to have in his place a Secretary who shall act for Scotland as the Chief Secretary does for Ireland; and leave the Lord Advocate to conduct the legal business before Parliament.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, he desired to record his satisfaction at the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. He could not conceive any statement with regard to Scotland more forcible, or that would give greater satisfaction to that country. That country had been generally dissatisfied on the ground that Scotch Business had been apparently neglected; and although they in that House were well conversant with the facts of the case, and though they knew that it was not the fault of the Government that Scotch Business had been neglected, yet there had been no assurance this Session that there would be any Scotch Business, except the Two Bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech. He did not propose to follow the hon. Member who had just sat down into the question of Scotch roads and bridges. The question was rather how they ought to meet the difficulties which confronted them in dealing with Scotch legislation and Scotch Business in that House. Now, however, when they were assured by the right hon. Gentleman that he would give Scotch Business due precedence, and that he would ensure its coming on at a reasonable hour, he was satisfied that that statement would be accepted generally by the country and by all in the House. One point there was that he desired to mention, and that was that it was a great matter to get Government Bills for Scotland out as early as possible. There was, for instance, the Poor Law 948 Bill which occasioned great interest last year, and was likely to occasion more this—it would be a great satisfaction if it were in the hands of Members, so that it could be thoroughly discussed by them throughout the Easter Recess. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Ayrshire (Colonel Alexander), that it would be desirable for Scotch counties to organize their Parliamentary Committees at an earlier period of the year, he thought that if the Government were prepared to pay greater attention to the representations made by those committees they would certainly know a great deal earlier what their views of the Bills were than they did at present. The hon. Baronet who introduced the Motion talked as if the only business of Scotch Members was to sit there till past 12 at night to hear Scotch Business discussed, and then go home disappointed because Scotch Business had not been brought forward. He (Mr. Stewart) took a different view of his duty; he considered that he sat there not merely to consider those matters which affected Scotland as apart from the rest of the Kingdom, but rather to consider those which affected the interests of the whole Kingdom. He need not enumerate the difficulties the Government encountered in the long and dreary debates of last Session on the Royal Titles Bill, the English Amending Education Act, and other existing measures, nor would it be very easy to ascertain how the course pursued by the Opposition benefited Scotch legislation; and let the House recollect when it was desired to push forward a Scotch Bill—the Poor Law Bill—he believed it was the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) himself, who was most anxious that the Bill should not pass and who used all the Forms of the House to oppose it.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, that if there was one thing more than another that had characterised that debate, it was the desire to abstain from attacking the Government in any form, or throwing blame upon them. It was true that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) did refer to the last Parliament, in connection with the promises of the present, to show the way in which Scotch Business had been neglected in that House. Now, there was nothing that struck him 949 (Sir George Balfour) so much, when he entered Parliament before the change of Government, as the way in which Scotch Business was neglected; and when he inquired the cause, was informed that it was a practice that had existed for many years:—therefore, in that respect they had no reason to impute blame to the present Home Secretary. No one was more ready than he to listen to representations made by the Members from Scotland. Therefore, it must be understood that in any remarks he might make he did not mean to impute personal blame to any of the Ministers, seeing that they were only carrying out a bad practice handed down from their Predecessors. He had heard with great satisfaction the promises the Home Secretary had made that night with regard to devoting his personal attention to Scotch Business in the future; but he did not think it possible for him to fulfil the promises he had made. He well knew that there was no suitable machinery within the office of the Secretary of State for dealing with the details of Scotch affairs, and he fully believed that the close attention the right hon. Gentleman was obliged to give to the Business of England and Wales occupied the whole of his time, and that it was impossible for an English Secretary of State to attend to Scotch Business in the way Scotchmen had a right to expect. The recent mode of bringing the Prisons Bills of England, of Ireland, and of Scotland before the House supplied a good illustration of the relative importance of the three divisions of the Kingdom. He found a Cabinet Minister bringing forward the Bill for England and Wales, and a Cabinet Minister bringing forward the Bill for Ireland; but he found the Lord Advocate, who was not only not a Cabinet Minister, but not even a Minister, bringing forward the Bill for Scotland. That, he thought, was a circumstance which showed in a marked manner the way in which Scotch Business was being neglected. Only that morning he was struck by the demand made by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) in regard to Ireland, and which was at once acceded to. He demanded that the Irish Prisons Bill should be brought forward at as early a period of the evening as the English Bill had been; and the Irish Secretary, being a Member of 950 the Cabinet, at once promised to use his best endeavours to see that that was done. When he contrasted the patient endurance of Scotch Members with that persistent energy in demanding of the Irish Members to have their affairs discussed at early hours of the evening, he was afraid that those for Scotland might be led to follow the same course pursued by hon. Members from Ireland in order to get that fair and proper attention paid to their affairs which was now forced to be given to those of Ireland. The conclusion that he had come to was that, unless they had a Cabinet Minister for Scotland, he did not think they would ever get Scotch Business brought forward so promptly and so well as had always been the case in regard to English, and, of late, as in the case of Irish affairs. The influence of a Cabinet Minister was shown in the case of other Departments. They saw Business connected with the Board of Trade, the Local Government Board, and India, equally thrown aside whenever the Business in the hands of a Cabinet Minister required priority. It was on that account that he cordially supported the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) in asking the Government to give them a Minister having all the requisite influence, and who would become responsible for the Scotch Business. The hon. Member had shown that they had in former days a Scotch Secretary of State. That appointment was taken away in order to meet the exigencies of the unwieldiness of a large Cabinet Council; and yet, knowing how inadvisable it was to have too many Members in the Cabinet, at least, Scotland ought to have a real Minister of State, if not in the Cabinet, at all events in. some position of responsibility. In regard to the Lord Advocate, he would point out that his whole time was not devoted to public duties, and that his remuneration was not commensurate with that sacrifice, and must, therefore, ask if the Scotch Members could not have the time of their Lord Advocate entirely to themselves. Hon. Members knew well that the Lord Advocate was obliged to attend to legal business in Edinburgh; and, indeed, any lawyer of standing at the Scotch Bar who accepted the position had necessarily to sacrifice much of the private business which was so important to him. Still, Scotland ought 951 to be able to pay an officer for managing its affairs, and to pay him so well that he could afford to give up the whole of his time to the work. At all events, if they could not obtain a Minister of State for Scotland, he thought that they should have a separate and distinct Scotch Department within the Home Office formed of permanent Civil servants of the State, to which Members of Scotland could apply, quite distinct from the small temporary office of the Lord Advocate, and where the Home Secretary could collect information and always have it thoroughly at his own command, without being dependent on the Lord Advocate. With regard to the remarks that had been made as to the Bills which had been brought forward by the Government in former Sessions, it had been said that the Scotch Members themselves were to blame for their defeat or failure; but he thought this to be an unjust accusation, for he knew of no occasion in which the late Lord Advocate appealed to them in vain to assist him in passing his measures, and on more than one occasion Scotch Members accepted imperfect measures to avoid discussions.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
Sir, I am painfully aware that I am probably less qualified than any of my Predecessors to take part in the present discussion, because having been hardly ten days in the House, it would be bad taste for me to take on myself to criticize any observations which concern either my own office, or the conduct of Business in past years in this House, or the best method of expediting Scotch Business in the future. But one or two statements have fallen from Scotch Members in the course of this debate of which it is necessary I should briefly take notice—particularly in regard to what fell from the hon. senior Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren). He stated—not by implication merely, but in very plain set terms—that England in regard to legislation stood in advance of our realm of Scotland. Having a tolerably intimate acquaintance with the Statute Book, I am totally unable to give assent to that proposition. Imperial legislation in all questions of importance has been equally considered in regard to both countries, and if hon. Members would study the various statutes on our books which affect the social welfare of the people, and which relate to what I may call the 952 more important parts of useful social legislation, they will find that Scotland is certainly not one whit behind the sister country of England. I challenge those hon. Members who take a different view from me on this point to state what special legislation they say has been passed for England in which Scotland has not had her own share of legislation. Why, in the matter, for instance, of the Public Health Act, we had our consolidation statute passed by the Legislature in 1867; whereas that for England was not passed in this House till 1875. The General Prisons Act for Scotland passed in 1860, which a Bill is now being introduced to amend; and a measure somewhat similar, and differing only in its applicability to England, did not become law until five years afterwards—namely, in 1865. The hon. Member for Edinburgh referred to certain grievances under which Scotland labours in respect to the imposition of Imperial taxation upon two different bases of valuation in the two countries. I would have asked the hon. Member, had he now been in his place, whether that arises from England being in advance of Scotland in valuation legislation? I take it I would not have received a negative answer from the hon. Member had I asked him if he did not sincerely approve of the Valuation Acts which have been passed by the Legislature for Scotland, as following a much more simple and comprehensive plan than the statutory rules of England on the subject. I think the logical conclusion, according to his own views of valuation legislation, would be that England is in the wake, and ought to follow rapidly the legislation which has already passed for Scotland. I think that the hon. Member's observations, when carefully examined, really tend to illustrate and establish this fact—that although certain grievances in the conduct of Scotch Bills may have been justly complained of—and I trust my experience in this House, after the assurances which hon. Members have received from the Home Secretary, will not make me acquainted with those grievances—the result has not been to impede the passing by the Legislature of useful measures for Scotland—and that England has not, apart from Imperial measures, succeeded in obtaining an undue share of the legislative attention of the House. It may be exceedingly unpatriotic of me to 953 refer to these things; but when it is broadly stated that we are so much behind, I feel as a Scotchman bound to rise and state, according to my own knowledge as far as it goes, that that statement in its broad terms can scarcely be accepted.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said he regretted exceedingly the speech he had just heard from the Lord Advocate. He should have had more hope for Scotch Business in the future if he bad not made it. The speech of the Secretary for the Home Department was very encouraging, for he admitted a neglect of Scotch Business in the past, and promised to do his best in the future; on the contrary that of the Lord Advocate, rather justified the past and said they had nothing to complain of. To prove that these complaints were well-founded, they had only to look at the amount of time given to Irish measures and Bills in the last few Sessions, and compare it with the time given to Scotch questions, and the way in which they were systematically shelved. He had great doubts whether the Lord Advocate really had time to give the necessary attention to Scotch Business—whether, in fact, he or any Lord Advocate could do it. Ireland had two Law Officers as the Scotch had; but over and above that, Ireland had a Secretary of State, who was a Cabinet Minister, and who attended to the business in a way in which it could not be done if it had to depend only on its Law Officers. As had been admirably pointed out by his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), it was not only the neglect of legislative Business that they complained of, but that it was partly fiscal differences between Scotland and England which required to be redressed, and would have to be sooner or later. The Home Secretary had spoken of three Scotch measures, two of which he said were included in the Queen's Speech, and would therefore certainly pass. The other was one which was mutilated last year, and partially passed. Now, the right hon. Gentleman and the Government were under no special pledge to the House or the country with regard to the two Bills which had been put into the Queen's Speech; but the right hon. Gentleman was under the most specific pledge with regard to the Sheriffs Courts Bill. That Bill was not put into the Queen's 954 Speech, they had not yet heard a word about it as to its being brought in this year. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: It has been already stated in the House that it would be brought in this Session.] He was very glad to hear that statement and hoped it meant that the right hon. Gentleman really intended to fulfil his pledge to the House and to the country, not only to bring in the Bill, but to pass it.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he had no desire to prolong this debate, but he hoped the House would not begrudge Scotch Members a few hours to allow the question to be fully discussed. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman and the Lord Advocate, instead of attempting to bring the debate to an abrupt conclusion, would have done better had they listened to all that the Scotch Members desired to say. He thought that the statement the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had made in regard to Scotch Bills was in every respect satisfactory, and he had not the slightest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman intended to carry out the promises he had made; but he thought they had heard something of this kind before, and, notwithstanding, Session after Session had passed over with the same complaints and the same results in regard to Scotch Bills. They were put on the Paper of the House without the slightest chance of their coming on for discussion; and the Scotch Members had to remain here to look after these Bills, or be driven to the extreme course initiated by the Members from Ireland to prevent the measures from coming on after half-past 12 o'clock; other Scotch Bills were left over, and hon. Members were told that they must accept them as they are or forfeit them altogether. He thought that a very fair cause of grievance on the part of Scotch Members. There was beyond doubt a very strong feeling in Scotland on the subject. He had no sympathy with any of the suggestions which the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) had made as to Home Rule—he had no desire whatever to see a home Parliament sitting in Edinburgh, instead of the Public Business of Scotland being attended to by the Imperial Government. So far as centralization was concerned, various Boards had been established in Edinburgh which were in no way respon- 955 sible to that House, but had far more autocratic and despotic powers than the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself. As regarded the expense of passing private legislation, he had had some experience in passing private legislation in this House for a Scotch municipality, and he could therefore say that the expense was very serious indeed, but he had been unable to discover how the business could be conducted more cheaply in Scotland than in London. He thought the system of Provisional Orders might be extended very largely, to the great advantage of the public, both as conducing to efficiency and economy. But besides the matter of the conduct of Scotch Bills in that House, there were other questions in regard to the general conduct of Scotch Business as to which he very much sympathized with the views stated by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. He like him, had no very great confidence in lawyers' legislation for the general affairs of the country. It was admitted that not legal matters only, but general social questions with regard to Scotland, were entrusted to the Lord Advocate. He was unable from his experience to say who else they had to look to but the Lord Advocate with reference to all affairs affecting Scotland. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: I have charge of those matters.] He understood, then, that it was to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary they had to apply on questions relating to Scotch Business. They had advanced a stage in this matter then, and they now knew that they had not to trouble the Lord Advocate in regard to Scotch affairs, but had to apply to the Home Secretary. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he had known this before it would have saved him a great deal of trouble. During the last Session of Parliament, and also during previous Sessions, he always understood that it was the Lord Advocate in Scotland who looked after Scotch affairs in the first instance. He (Mr. Barclay) now understood that the Lord Advocate was not in charge of Scotch Business except so far as being the Legal Adviser of the Crown on Scotch affairs. He could understand his occupying the same position in regard to Scotland that the Attorney General did to England. But he would point out in how unfair a position Scotland was in regard to Ministers to look after her 956 interest. England had her Home Secretary, her Under Secretary of State, her Attorney General, and her Solicitor General. Ireland, in the same way, had three representatives—her Chief Secretary, her Attorney General, and the Solicitor General. But Scotland had no representatives whatever exclusively for herself; for the Home Secretary said he was going to take Scotch affairs
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
I beg your pardon; I never said so. I said I was responsible Minister for Scotland.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he quite understood the right hon. Gentleman to be responsible for the general business of the country, but he understood, from what had previously fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, Scotch Members, in their intercourse with the Government on Scotch affairs, were to apply to him and not to the Lord Advocate as heretofore. He did hope the Government would consider the propriety of appointing a special Scotch official. He had no desire to ask for a Cabinet Minister, although Ireland had one; but he should like to have an Under Secretary for the Home Department especially charged with the care of Scotch Business.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
said, that the best justification of the course taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy was to be found in the speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. The complaint of the neglect of Scotch Business was not only a very ancient grievance, but it was one about which Scotch Members on both sides of the House were nearly unanimous. The only Scotch Member who apparently did not agree in the justice of this complaint was the Lord Advocate, and he deeply regretted that he should have made such a speech as he had made that night. The learned Lord had challenged Scotch Members to find a single instance in which Scotland was not in as good a position as England. He (Mr. Holms) would venture to quote several. First of all, until last year they could not borrow money in Scotland for sanitary purposes under 5 per cent; whereas in England it could be borrowed at 3½. Again, as to medical officers in connection with the sanitary beards, last year while England had £160,000 for that purpose, the Scotch had to put up with a beggarly £10,000. 957 Again, there was a complaint as to the income tax assessors, who were paid less than in England. Those were some of the evils of which they complained, arising he believed from the want of adequate representation of Scotch interests on the front Bench in that House. He ventured to say that under the present system it was impossible that Scotch Business could be efficiently attended to. On the one hand, there was the Home Secretary overburdened with work; on the other, the Lord Advocate with a threefold duty to perform. First, he was Law Adviser of the Crown; secondly, he had to bring in and take charge of all measures affecting Scotland; and, lastly, to look after his own private practice, which was generally a very large one. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told them in a good-humoured way—he believed it was at Edinburgh—that the Scotch were too modest in pushing their claims. He did not think the Government were wise to encourage the idea that they would get more by grumbling. Scotch-men did not forget that their interests were the interests of the Empire, and though in some respects they asked for special legislation, they wished to have no more than their fair share. It appeared to him that what was wanted was to have, as suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Forfar (Mr. Barclay), an Under Secretary for Scotland, who would have, and be responsible for, the general management of the affairs of Scotland.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, in explanation, it must be borne in mind that the Secretary of State for the Home Department was Secretary of State not for England alone, but for the United Kingdom. Therefore he desired it to be understood that he was the Minister answerable for Scotch Business. Unfortunately, hitherto the office of the Lord Advocate had been in a different building from the Home Office; and the result had been that many applications in respect of Scotch Business had been made to the Lord Advocate which ought to have been made to the Home Office, and had not been brought to his (Mr. Cross's) cognizance. He could assure hon. Members that any application relative to Scotch Business made to him at the Home Office would receive his prompt attention.