§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir William Harcourt.)
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, he could have wished that this Bill had been consigned to the legislative limbo where various measures of Her Majesty's Government had already gone; but as the Government had decided to take the judgment of the House upon it, even on the 3rd of August, he was not sorry to have an opportunity of stating the strong objections he entertained towards it. Who had asked for this particular measure? Who was, he would not say enthusiastic about it, but who really liked it? Who considered it was adequate to meet all the circumstances of the case? Who considered it would be a settlement of an important question? What was the language that was used about it outside those walls? It was described as an instalment, as a step in the right direction, as an advance on the present state of things, as a measure that would do little good, but would not do much harm; and only to-day he had read in the leading Scottish journal—he meant The Glasgow Herald—the following:—We have always proclaimed the absolute innocence of this, the latest development of ideal Scottish administration.1488 That was not very warm advocacy of the Bill. He was rather reminded of a good House of Commons' story of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon in reference to some ad captandum measure of the Government which was to help the farmers. Some farmers were asked whether they really liked the measure, and they said—"Oh, yes; we like it." "But will it do you any good?" "No; it won't do us any good; but we like the attention." It seemed to him that this measure was exactly a measure of that kind. It would not do much good, and it would not do much harm; but they liked the attention. There was no doubt that there were some persons who thought that even a bad Bill was better than no Bill at all for Scotland. He was not one of that number. The hon. Member for Edinburgh said the other day that the more he looked at the Bill the better he liked it. That seemed to imply that when he first saw it, he did not like it much. He could quite understand the hon. Member supporting the Bill, because the bellows-blowing in respect to this Bill had been in Edinburgh chiefly; and he had no doubt that in the mind's eye of many people in Edinburgh there was a vista opened of fussiness, self-glorification, and deputations without end. His view of the Bill, however, was exactly the reverse. The more he looked at it, the less he liked it. His belief was that it would undo much good, and initiate much that was mischievous. His purpose was to ask what was the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite representing Scotch constituencies towards the Bill? He was not going to tell the House what he believed their feelings to-day were, as they would have an opportunity of doing so themselves; but he wished they were free to say what they thought about the Bill. That was a strong thing to say; but he said it on his own responsibility as a Member of the House. There was an unreality about this whole business that struck him from the very first. There was an unreality as to the causes that led to the Bill; there was an unreality about the support given to it; and especially there was an unreality about the explanations of the Bill. With regard to the causes that had led to the Bill, it was said that their interests in Scotland were neglected. A high authority said, the other day—"We are over- 1489 looked." He said, also, that it was not legislation that they lacked in Scotland, but attention; and it struck him (Mr. Dalrymple), at the time, that that remark indicated the unreality and the fancifulness of the statement that their interests were neglected. He wanted to know, if they were neglected, whose fault was it? He did not desire to say anything against the Scotch Liberal Members. He entertained a warm regard towards most of them, and was proud to act with many of them on different occasions. But if the interests of Scotland were neglected, what were the 50 Liberal Scotch Members about? What did the Scotch Liberal Members effect for Scotland; or, rather, what might they not effect, if they were agreed? And yet the method they adopted when they were promoting the progress of any particular measure was of the most peculiar kind. They suddenly became aware that one or two Scotch Liberal Members were in a state of great activity and excitement, and upon inquiry they found they were engaged in the process of hawking about a "round robin" to be presented to one of their own number. That "round robin" asked that a certain measure should be advanced, and it was presented to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who was a Scotch Member. He ventured to say that if the Scotch Members proposed to effect much for Scotland they must go very much beyond the argument from the "round robin," which he thought was an impotent method of proceeding, and he marvelled that they should have recourse to it, when there wore ordinary and better means of pressing their views on the attention of the Government. But if their interests were neglected, which he denied, had there been anything wrong in the management of Scottish affairs? He understood from the Secretary of State lately that the management of Scottish affairs had been admirable. If, however, there had been defect, it was because the natural management of Scotch affairs in this House by the Lord Advocate had been impaired as to its efficiency of late years. This was no now thing. It was in the years preceding the administration of the present Officers of the Crown, that the Office of the Lord Advocate was seriously impaired. The right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary 1490 (Sir R. Assheton Cross), owing to circumstances which he would not describe, absorbed the power of the Lord Advocate. The separate residence of the Lord Advocate was abolished, and he was made the occupant of a very small and, he believed, unwholesome room in the Home Office. That went far to impair the diginity and the power of the Lord Advocate. Yet he was happy to say that the Lord Advocate's Office, and the occupant of the Office at the present moment, were as capable as ever of fulfilling all the requirements of the people of Scotland; and if proof were wanted, it would be found in the management—the skilful, courteous, and ready management—of the Scotch Agricultural Holdings Bill. If excuse were needed for attacking the Bill—and he denied that there was any—it would be abundantly found in the speech of the Home Secretary in introducing the Bill. He read the other day a remark by Mr. M'Laren, formerly Member for Edinburgh, who described the speech of the Home Secretary as being of the "don't duck me in the pond" style. That, he thought, very happily described the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was careful to explain that the recent system of the management of Scottish affairs worked particularly well—so well that he threw the reins on the necks of Lord Rosebery and the Lord Advocate. He thought that was a happy-go-lucky expression, although Lord Rosebery was the author of it, because if they threw the reins on the neck of a horse they were very likely to come to a smash; and he was not surprised, therefore, to hear that the arrangement of throwing the reins on the necks of Lord Rosebery and the Lord Advocate was only a temporary one. Now he came to the explanation of the Bill given by the Homo Secretary in introducing it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, on that occasion, said it was not a grandiose proposal. But they lived to learn. Who would have thought that, of all people, Lord Rosebery would go down to Edinburgh and choose the complimentary occasion of his receiving the freedom of the City to advance this not grandiose proposal? Lord Rosebery, he need not tell those who knew Scotland, was a clever and attractive speaker. He had a happy humour about him which was 1491 quite beyond the comprehension of those Radical audiences whom he delighted, and on whom his speeches had a bewildering and bewitching effect. There was a mixture of flattery and exaggeration about his speeches which put his audiences in such a state of ecstasy that they would take anything from him, and their gullibility and credulity were unfathomable. He thought it very hard on this poor Bill that it should be made the subject on that complimentary occasion of this damaging exaggeration. If he (Mr. Dalrymple) were a friend of the Bill, which he was not, he would deprecate exceedingly this exaggerated and inflated criticism and advocacy. But what a contrast there was between the account given of the Bill in that speech and that given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in introducing it. They ought to be thankful for the tone of wisdom and moderation of the Home Secretary, which contrasted so favourably with the extravagant criticism of his late subordinate. After quoting extracts from the speeches of Lord Rosebery and the Home Secretary, the hon. Member went on to say that it was a gross exaggeration on the part of Lord Rosebery to assert that there had been no definite arrangement for the conduct of Scottish Business. All he could say was that if the state of things was, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) stated, satisfactory, what was the cause of the resignation of Lord Rosebery? It was said that the resignation of Lord Rosebery was intended to propitiate the Scottish Members, and to facilitate the arrangement of Scotch Business. What was the history of this measure? In its "pawkiness"—to use a well-known Scotch word—in regard to the quarter from which the salary was to be obtained, it was essentially Scotch. But in other aspects, in its disregard of the expectations and demands of the people of Scotland, and in its inadequacy to the circumstances of the case, it was essentially English. It could not be said there was to be no additional charge to the country, because if the salary of the Lord Privy Seal was not wanted, it would not be a saving to the country to apply it to another purpose. But he passed that by. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, when he introduced the Bill, described it as a tertium quid, because there had 1492 been a proposal on the subject by the late Government, and there was a demand in Scotland for something else; therefore, it was a tertium quid. The proposal of the late Government was to appoint an Under Secretary. The proposal was well intended; but it was mixed up in a ridiculous way with the Registry Office in Edinburgh, and no wonder the scheme was not heard more of. But the proposal to appoint an Under Secretary was perfectly intelligible, and it would have met the case which was sometimes mentioned where the Lord Advocate had not obtained a seat, and where the Business of Scotland required looking after in the House of Commons. But the other proposal was that which had been very generally made in Scotland, that there should be a Secretary of State for Scotland. That was the thing that was asked for, and was still asked for, and which it was expected would be got, even though the present functionary under the Bill was appointed. The different bodies in Scotland, whose opinion received the greatest possible attention when they happened to be in accordance with the wishes of the Government, all asked for a Secretary of State for Scotland, and not for a President of a Local Government Board; and it was highly characteristic of some of these bodies that, having asked for bread, they should be, hat in hand, thanking the Government for any stone they might get. He thought there was no dissatisfaction among these bodies as to the time that was devoted by the Lord Advocate to Scotch affairs. On no ground whatever was there any necessity for meeting the case on the assumption that the Lord Advocate might not occasionally succeed in finding a seat in Parliament. It was not a Lord Advocate only that sometimes failed to obtain a seat in Parliament, for he remembered two notable occasions on which Home Secretaries had failed to obtain seats; but he was not aware that the business of the Home Office had come to an end on that account. He would not go back on the recent management of Scotch affairs; but they knew that in consequence of remarks not always well-founded, but made in a general way, that Lord Rosebery was appointed about two years ago to give assistance to the Home Office, and have charge of Scottish affairs. If that arrangement had worked well, why 1493 did it end? They were told that one day in Committee of Supply the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) stated that it was necessary that the Under Secretary for the Home Department should be in the House of Commons.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, it was the remark of the hon. Member for Burnley, which was endorsed by the late Home Secretary. The remark fell upon fruitful soil, for no sooner was it uttered than the change was made—and he had no doubt it was a very proper change—and the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) was made Under Secretary. But what had that to do with the resignation by Lord Rosebery of the management of Scotch affairs? Because, if it were necessary that the noble Lord should have the management of Scotch affairs, he did not see why he should not have remained in charge of them. Was the resignation of the noble Lord a mere excuse? What part of the arrangement was intended to propitiate the Scotch Members? Because that had never been cleared up. Could it be that the Office of Under Secretary was not quite adequate to the dignity of the noble Lord? He had not heard the least explanation; but if any of these reasons was the right one, how very painful must have been the suggestion that there were dissensions in the Home Office. He could not but recollect that the rumour of the dissensions led to that interesting account which the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) gave of his relations with Lord Rosebery. The House was moved by the account given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, though there were some profane persons—and he (Mr. Dalrymple) was one of them—who found relief in laughing. The House would recollect the letter which the right hon. and learned Gentleman read from Lord Rosebery, in which he said that he knew what must have been the feelings of the right hon. and learned Gentleman with regard to these unfounded rumours. After that interesting revelation, he (Mr. Dalrymple) had looked on the Home Office with different eyes, as being the scene of such idyllic harmony and peace. The other day there was a very true remark 1494 made by a Scotch newspaper upon the management of Scotch affairs—namely, that it was characterized by "instability dashed with hilarity." That remark was completely true of the Bill. The Parliamentary functionary whom this Bill was to create was to be a Peer and not a Peer. The Bill contemplated centralization; and yet he ventured to say in a remarkable degree it suggested notions of a separate control of Scotch affairs. Then, with regard to the Boards, it was stated that they were working well; and yet this new Board was to swallow up the smaller Boards. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: It does not.] Well, at least, this new Board was to make it its first business to overhaul the present Boards, and endeavour to ascertain whether the expenses of this new Department could possibly be defrayed out of their savings. That was a pitiful object to announce as the first duty of this new functionary. As he had said last night, they were thoroughly overhauled 14 or 15 years ago, and the Commission which was sent down to curse remained to bless them. But then there was "instability dashed with hilarity." He remembered that when, the other day, the Vote for the Lord Privy Seal's salary came under consideration, there was a sort of coyness or self-consciousness on the part of the Government which led him to see that there was to be no further proposal about the Lord Privy Seal. It was to be another person altogther, and the salary was to be absorbed for this new functionary. To create this new functionary, two Offices were to be destroyed. What the Prime Minister called the "lay character" of the Lord Advocate's Office was to be abolished, and the Office of the Lord Privy Seal was to be abolished, or to be held by a distinguished person without salary. The scheme was at once simple and complicated, subversive and reactionary. It subverted the present state of things; and yet, in one sense, it was reactionary. For while, at present, there was very much in common between the two countries, it was a step of a reactionary kind to establish a separate management of this kind. The most dismal hilarity was found in the 6th clause, which reserved the rights of the Lord Advocate. He thought that was adding insult to injury, and if the Bill reached Committee he should move the rejection of that clause. It was the merest 1495 mockery. No one could doubt that, whatever were the privileges and rights of the Lord Advocate, the lay character of the Office would be abolished. But the highest pitch of hilarity of all was reached about the personnel of this new Office. It was a very sad day indeed when Lord Roseberry resigned; but they might take comfort and think of that resignation with something like calmness, because Lord Rosebery was evidently about to be the new Minister. In fact, he thought that the Bill, in its main provisions, was intended to provide for Lord Rosebery. He claimed not to be considered unreasonable in opposing this Bill, for he might state distinctly that one of two courses would abundantly satisfy him. Although he did not like what the Home Secretary called the tertium quid, he should have been satisfied if the old responsibility and vitality of the Lord Advocate could be restored once more; and he wanted to know had any stand been made for that within the Government? When Lord M'Laren was amongst them, he believed that he did make a stand, not only for the ancient privileges, but the duties of the Lord Advocate. He believed that David stood up to Goliath at that time, and contended successfully with Goliath, until Goliath lifted him up bodily and placed him on the Judicial Bench. He wanted to know whether any remonstrance, any argument, or any resistance had been offered on this occasion to the final destruction, as he considered it, of the old character of the Lord Advocate's Office? He would fain believe that there had been, though they were not likely to hear it. Or, on the other hand, he would have been content, although he did not think it necessary, if the Lord Privy Seal had been appointed, with the charge of Scotch affairs. That would have been an Office of dignity and of great importance. It would not in any way have interfered with the Lord Advocate in that House, who would still have represented Scotland as heretofore in the House of Commons; and he thought—though perhaps not much consideration would be given to the idea—that such an appointment would have appealed to the imagination of the Scotch people, and gratified them very much. He knew quite well that that would have necessitated the appointment of a Peer; but he believed that the present Bill contemplated the ap- 1496 pointment of a Peer, and he was one of those people who imagined that a Peer was not beyond the reach of human influences, and might be well fitted to manage Scotch affairs. He knew of seine half-dozen Scotch Peers who could have abundantly fulfilled the idea in his mind; and why should not Lord Rosebery be Lord Privy Seal, with the management of Scotch affairs? That would have been an adequate proposal, and would have commended itself to the people of Scotland. He had no objection to Lord Rosebery being in that or any other Office. Lord Rosebery had made himself exceedingly courteous and pleasant to everyone in connection with Scotch affairs. He had a happy humour about him, which was not the strong point of Liberals as a rule; and although Radicalism, like adversity, might make him acquainted with strange bed-fellows, the noble Lord would have been able to discern between the real feelings of Scotland and the fussy activity of cliques and sects. That would have been an Office worthy of Scotland; but this President of the Local Government Board was neither one thing nor another. In this Bill, and in the prospect of this appointment, they were introduced into the higher regions of beadledom. It was a state of things in which the work was not so much ready to be done as requiring to be made. He felt there was the greatest susceptibility of mischief in that. There was at the bottom of it all an opinion that if this Scotch Board was created, much more Scotch Business would be transacted. The experience of the Local Board in England did not promise much in that way. Scotland was represented in several quarters as pining and panting for legislation. He did not recognize the description. They might create what Office they liked, and put what official they pleased into it; but unless there was a substantial agreement between the Scotch Members on both sides, Scotch measures would not have a chance of passing, oven if there were half-a-dozen Secretaries of State. He regretted the introduction of this measure, and should deeply regret its passing into law, for he thought it destroyed much good, and initiated much mischief. He was one of those who thought that those were not true friends of Scotland who wished to accentuate the differences between the two countries. The more 1497 the politics and measures connected with Scotland and England were identified, the better would it be for this House and for Scotland, and for the Empire generally. He supposed it would be said that Scotch sentiment was in favour of this Bill. He awaited with interest the statements which would be made as to the real state of feeling in Scotland on the subject. He wished he could hear the real sentiments of his hon. Friend opposite upon this subject. He had no fear whatever that in this or any other matter the special interests and predilections, aye, and the prejudices, of Scotland would not be respected; but he thought the initiation of this new arrangement was calculated to widen the distinctions between Scotch affairs and English affairs in a manner that would not be beneficial to Scotland. He did not know what might be the judgment of the House upon this matter any more than he knew what opinions hon. Gentlemen might express publicly about it. He was not in the habit of collecting information on any subject in this House. Though he had not been at any pains to conceal his strong opinion against the Bill, he was not in the habit—as some Members wore—of publishing his opinions through letters to the newspapers, or through the letters of a special correspondent; but he should give this Bill now, and should always give it, the strongest possible resistance. He believed it was absolutely unnecessary; but that if such a measure was necessary, then it ought to have been a measure commensurate with the importance of the case, consonant with the feelings of the people, and worthy of the history and traditions of Scotland. The hon. Member concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Dalrymple.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word now ' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. JAMES STEWART
said, that he was one of the Liberal Members alluded to by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down who did not profess to attempt to amuse the House with humorous remarks. He would do the hon. Gentleman the justice to say that he had never heard a speech so full of acrid humour as that which had just been de- 1498 livered. He would not answer any of the hon. Member's questions, but would simply refer him to the constituencies of Scotland for answer. Differing entirely from the hon. Gentleman, he was exceedingly glad that the Government had seen their way to bring forward this measure, and so to meet the wishes of the people of Scotland. The Bill, in his judgment, gave fair promise to supply the want of which the people of Scotland had long complained—namely, that their legislative affairs in that House had not got sufficient attention. That complaint might almost be said to be a matter of ancient history. In the year 1858 the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) brought the matter before the House by way of Motion, and was followed into the Lobby by a very considerable minority. Since that time, the dissatisfaction of the people of Scotland had found frequent occasion of expression in Parliament. This meant no reflection on the distinguished Gentlemen who from time to time had occupied the post of Lord Advocate. It was no fault of theirs that the machinery at their command was inadequate to meet the requirements of Scotch legislation in a full and efficient manner. He might be permitted to observe that the force of the demand which had induced the Government to bring forward this measure had received no accession of strength, but the very opposite, from the character of the distinguished man who at present so worthily occupied the post of Lord Advocate. Had this measure implied any impeachment of that Gentleman's conduct of affairs, it was not necessary to say that it would not have seen the light of day, and would never have had the support of Scotch Members. He doubted if ever there was a Lord Advocate who had discharged his duties with greater ability and with greater acceptance on the part of Members of that House and of the people of Scotland generally, titan the present Lord Advocate. But it was another and totally different question how far the present system was calculated to advance the legislative interests of Scotland. He wished to disabuse the minds of English Members—whose susceptibilities the hon. Member who had just spoken had endeavoured to arouse—of the idea that this demand on the part of the people of Scotland had anything in it approaching in the remotest degree the 1499 notion of the establishment of an imperium in imperio. It was in no merely provincial spirit that the Scottish people advocated this measure. It was no question of Scotland versus England. The national sentiment in Scotland was altogether of a healthy kind. It was a source of strength, and not of weakness, to England. They were proud of their nationality, and were also proud to feel that they were an integral part of the British Empire. This had been brought about by the wise and considerate recognition of the national sentiments of the Scotch people by those who in bygone times had administered affairs in this House. He was led to make these remarks, not only by the observations of the hon. Member opposite, but by the tone taken by the English Press when discussing this Bill. An article in the leading journal had put forward the view that if the Government acceded to the wishes of Scotland in this matter, they ought to recognize the claims of Yorkshire as well. The time might come when it might be desirable to decentralize government in regard to certain matters, and to divide the country into districts for the purposes of administration; and he could conceive, for instance, that Superior Courts of Justice might now be established with advantage at York or Lancaster; but to compare Scotland, with her distinctive laws and institutions, with York or Lancaster, showed a lamentable degree of prejudice and ignorance. He was glad the Government had not been swayed by such arguments and prejudices as these. It could not be denied that there was still a marked difference in the views and feelings of the people of Scotland on many subjects; but he considered that it would not be the desire of any wise Government to ignore those differences in any way that might offend or dissatisfy a loyal people. The impossibility of getting due attention paid to the legislative demands of I the Scotch people caused loud complaints against the last Liberal Government, and they were continued under the Government which succeeded to Office in 1876. The late Home Secretary (Sir B. Assheton Cross) introduced a Bill to meet those complaints; but it did not give satisfaction to the people of Scotland, and he was glad that the present Government had been able to improve on the arrangements then proposed. 1500 Very few words wore necessary in order to show that the present system could not be expected to yield the best results. In the first place, the one official who was especially to represent Scotland in the Government must be selected from among the members of the Scottish Bar. Men of the highest distinction, no doubt, were always appointed; but it must be remembered that, as a rule, the Bench and not the floor of that House was the goal of these gentlemen. During the last 40 years there had been 17 changes in the Office of Lord Advocate—on an average one in every two and-a half years. he found that 13 Gentlemen had occupied the post during that time. Lord Moncreiff held it for 13 years, and the tenure of Office of nine of the remaining 12 Gentlemen averaged a little over a year and a-half. Was it possible to acquire a knowledge of Parliamentary work in a short novitiate of that kind? Then the Lord Advocate had no sort of permanent staff attached to his Office; his Private Secretary usually went with him when the change of Office occurred, and the continuity of the work of his Department was almost certain to be cut asunder. Again, the Lord Advocate had a private practice to attend to. He did not mean to insinuate that a high-minded man such as the present Lord Advocate would allow his private interest to override his official duty. He knew, indeed, that the Lord Advocate sacrificed his private interests to the discharge of his public duties. But, looking at the vicissitudes of public life, they could not expect the Lord Advocate to give up his private practice. He questioned whether any other public official did so much official work for so small remuneration. He believed it would be found that the correspondence passing through the Lord Advocate's Office in these days was as much as the whole correspondence which passed through the Home Office 20 years ago. The marvel was that with such a system the work of Scottish legislation went on at all. But there were some people who viewed with impatience anything like separate Scotch legislation. They said that the law should be the same in the whole Kingdom; but those people forgot that, at the time of the Union, Scotland was guaranteed separate Laws and separate Courts, and they were not well-informed as to the great difference of 1501 opinion which existed in Scotland upon many points of legislation. Take the Temperance Question for instance. Would anyone say that, although Scotland was able 30 years ago to adopt the Forbes-M'Kenzie Sunday Closing Act, she ought to have done without that Act because it was not then considered that such a measure would be in the interest of England? This illustration showed, he thought, how absurd it was to say that where a section of the country, differing as Scotland did from England, was able to adopt beneficial measures, they should not be carried into effect until the whole of the country was able to follow. He admitted that the work of the assimilation of the law ought to go on, but it must necessarily be a work of slow progress. That progress, however, would, he considered, not be hindered, but helped largely, by the measure which was before the House. They had no reason to complain of the amount of Scotch law which has been imported across the Border, and he would be a bold English lawyer who would say that even now there were no points of Scotch law which might not, with advantage be adopted in England. But, on the other hand, it would be found that there were not a few provisions which had been engrafted on English measures from which Scotland derived no advantage, simply because English draftsmen found it easy to escape the intricacies of Scotch law by the simple process of saying—"This Act shall not apply to Scotland." He thought that the more efficient administration of Scotch Business under this Bill would do a great deal to correct this evil, and in that way the desirable work of assimilation would go on all the more speedily. There had been in Scotland an almost unanimous expression of feeling in favour of the Bill. As far as the representative bodies were concerned, it seemed to him that they had spoken in no uncertain voice in regard to their approval of the Bill. A very important body—the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh—the other day adopted a resolution in favour of the Bill, and showed that they preferred the interests of the nation to what might appear to be their class interests. They followed in this matter the steps of an eminent Scotch lawyer, who was Solicitor General in 1832 1502 (afterwards Lord Cockburn), and who wrote in that year that he not only approved of the separation of the legal functions of the Lord Advocate from his political functions, but also desired the appointment of a Political Minister for Scotland. He did not consider it necessary to discuss the Amendments on the Notice Paper, none of which, he thought, were of importance, nor did he propose to go into the details of the Bill at this stage. He thought they were well calculated to meet the wants of the case. He hoped sincerely that the Government would be able to carry this measure, and he anticipated from it the utmost advantage to the Kingdom at large and to Scotland in particular.
§ MR. COCHRAN-PATRICK
said, he took a different view from that of his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple). The principle of the Bill now before the House was to establish a Minister directly charged with the conduct of the affairs of Scotland, and responsible for them, and that was a principle strictly in accordance with the Constitutional theory and the Constitutional practice of the country. It was a principle which had received the sanction of the greatest Leaders on that side of the House; it had been approved of by Mr. Pitt, and it had been attempted, though unsuccessfully, by the late Lord Beaconsfield. He would support the second reading of the Bill, not only for the reasons he had given, but because he held it to be an admission on the part of Her Majesty's Government of the deplorable neglect into which Scottish Business had fallen in Parliament, and a recognition on their part of the necessity of doing something to remedy this state of affairs. But, while he approved of the principle of the Bill, there were many points in the details of the measure to which he had very strong and serious objection. The whole matter of Scottish Business involved two considerations which were distinct in themselves, and which it was highly important not to confound. One was the internal administration of the affairs of Scotland, or, in other words, the carrying into execution measures which had already received the sanction of Parliament and had become the law of the land; and there was the conduct of Scottish Business in Parliament, or, in other words, the giving 1503 to measures which were believed to be necessary for the good of the country a proper position in the Parliamentary programme. It had been said, and he believed it was perfectly in accordance with truth, that this Bill had been brought in on account of a certain amount of dissatisfaction existing in Scotland. He believed that such dissatisfaction did exist, and was very widely spread; that it was found in every class of society and in every political party in the country; but he did not hesitate to affirm that nine-tenths of that dissatisfaction arose, not from the internal administration of the affairs of Scotland, but from the conduct of Scotch affairs in Parliament. That being so, the question was how far did this Bill, introduced at the fag-end of a Session, deal with this important matter? Unless along with the Bill they had a direct assurance that Parliamentary measures for Scotland would be introduced at such a time that full consideration would be given to them, this Bill would, in his opinion, be unable to relieve the dissatisfaction of which he had spoken. It might be thought that any direct interference by Parliament with the Executive Government in the conduct of Scottish affairs would be unprecedented and impracticable. He was not prepared to say it would not be so; but there already existed a Treasury Minute of 1720 which provided that so long as Scotch Business was brought forward by the Government, that Business should be taken on one Government day each week until it was disposed of. He believed there was only one way in which the dissatisfaction which existed in Scotland could be removed. It could only be removed by giving to the proposed new Minister for Scotland, no matter what his title might be, such a place in the Government as would enable him to exert the influence of a Cabinet Minister. He was not one of those who found fault with the Bill because it did not make a direct provision of that kind, because it was utterly impossible that any Act of Parliament could do so. He believed the words of the present Bill were exactly the same words used in the Act which appointed the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for England; but the fact that they were not able to make it a condition of the 1504 appointment that the Minister should be in the Cabinet made it all the more necessary to have some assurance from the Government that such Minister should have such a predominant influence. If such an assurance were given, he had no doubt it would go a long way towards removing the feeling with which the measure was regarded in some parts of the House. There was another part which was important in considering the Bill. Many persons believed it would be of importance to have a Minister for Scotland in the House of Commons. He did not by any means share that opinion. They had already in the House of Commons a well-known Officer of State who was truly competent, if his action was free from shackles and restored to the position in which he was originally, to do all that was required in the House. It was, he believed, thought by some Members that the Lord Advocate of Scotland was only the official Head of the Bar. That was altogether a mistaken view of the position of the right hon. Gentleman. More than 400 years ago—in 1482—the King's Advocate for Scotland was, and had been for a long time previously, a high Officer of State. Then lie was not necessarily a lawyer. The first Lord Advocate of whom we had any knowledge was Ambassador to the Court of England; and the fact that the Lord Advocate from that period till the present time was a high Officer of State, apart altogether from his legal duties, pointed directly to the proposition that he was the proper person to be charged with the conduct of Scotch affairs in the Lower House of Parliament. The objections to the measure had already been answered by the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. James Stewart). There was no desire in Scotland for Homo Rule; but a Bill like this, giving a just consideration to the measures deemed necessary for the conduct of Scotch Business, would have a direct tendency to prevent those feelings arising which they saw elsewhere, and which led to the desire for Home Rule. It had been said that there had already been a Secretary of State for Scotland, and the appointment had not proved successful. It was perfectly true that there was a Secretary of State for Scotland up to the year 1725, when the Office was abolished, simply because the 1505 then Ministers believed that the then Secretary of State for Scotland, the Duke of Roxburghe, was intriguing against them in that country. In 1731, however, the Office was again constituted, and continued till 1746, when the unfortunate event of the Rebellion, and tile feeling which it created in this country, effectually caused the cessation of the appointment. He would not detain the House with any lengthy statement in support of the position he took up. He hoped that if the Bill passed the second reading the Government would be prepared to consider in Committee such Amendments as would make it of a more practical character, especially with regard to the Schedule at the end of it. In that Schedule there were some most extraordinary omissions and commissions, among the latter being the inclusion of an Act dealing with the affairs of Swansea. These errors certainly required amendment, and some of the details also needed revision; but the principle of the measure was sound, and he should vote for the second reading.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that before any Member of the Government addressed the House, he wished, in a few words, to state the difficulty he felt with regard to the Bill. He thought they were much beholden to the Government for the desire they had shown to give greater attention to the affairs of Scotland, and to provide that official Scotch legislation should be more specially attended to than hitherto. But, at the same time, he must confess that on reading the Bill, and the statements made by the Home Secretary, he was very strongly of opinion that the question would not be materially developed by the passing of the measure. He felt the greatest difficulty in understanding why the Bill had been introduced. The Home Secretary had given no reason beyond stating that it was called for by a considerable number of Scotch Members representing the sentiment of the people of Scotland. He believed this was a very accurate expression of opinion with regard to the origin of this attempt at legislation, because whoever had followed the affairs of Scotland must be aware that there was a great deal of feeling and sentiment in the matter—far more, indeed, in his opinion, than any solid conviction of any great griev- 1506 ante. There was the old story that the Scottish lion did not receive due attention; and there were complaints—perhaps a little more to the purpose—that the country was overridden with its lawyers, and that the Bar really controlled the whole administration of the country, as well as legislation in Parliament. He admitted that there was some truth in this; but he thought that much of the complaint arose from jealousy on the part of the lay Members for not having a fair opportunity afforded them of taking a lead in the administration of the country which they represented. Furthermore, there was a feeling among the country gentlemen that they did not like to be overridden by lawyers. He did not think this was sufficient to justify the change proposed in this Bill. He was an old Member of the House. He had known most of the Lords Advocate for many years past, and had seen a great deal of legislation carried through under their guidance; and he could testify to the admirable way in which it had been conducted. He would instance the manner in which Lord M'Neill piloted the Poor Law Act through the House, and the way in which the Education Act was carried through; while the present holder of the Office had shown, in connection with the Scotch Agricultural Holdings Act, what a Scotch lawyer could do in that direction. He was most anxious to know whether the present attempt at legislation was to be looked upon as having reference to administration generally, or merely to the conduct of Business in that House. He would ask the Government to state what on earth the new Officer would have to do. If the Office was to be a mere sinecure, involving not more than half-an-hour's work a-day, it would soon fall into discredit; and the individual holding it would not be allowed to enjoy such a position as would enable him, either in the House or in the Cabinet, if he was to be a Cabinet Minister, to supersede that which was held by the Lord Advocate. He did not think the responsibility for the neglect of Scotch Business rested on any person who had charge of it in that House. It was due to deeper causes, such as the block of general Business caused by the large amount of time given to Irish affairs of late years, and the character of special legislation with regard to Ireland. At 1507 the same time, he' certainly held, with other Members, that Scotland had frequently been unfairly dealt with by giving a precedence to Departmental Bills over Scotch legislation which they were not entitled to either by their importance or by the pledges given by the Government. If the Bill was really intended to bestow greater attention on Scotch Business he should give his cordial support to it. He admitted fully that great advantage had arisen, and would in the future arise, from some Scotch Member of the House being associated with the Lord Advocate in the conduct of Scotch Business. This had been seen in former days, when, for instance, Sir James Fergusson, as Under Secretary of State, rendered very active assistance in the conduct of Scotch Business; and he had no doubt that if Scotsmen would come to the front opportunities of distinction would be afforded to them. From that point of view he thought there was a good deal to be said in favour of the arrangement recently made in the appointment of a distinguished Scotchman as Under Secretary of State. He, for one, thought it would be far better to have a new Under Secretary of State to assist in the conduct of Scotch Business than to create this proposed new Office. It was very important to maintain the connection between Scotch administration and the Home Office, and that the Home Office should be the central authority, to which Scotchmen could apply in case of any complaint of want of attention on the part of the Lord Advocate or the Under Secretary. Some of the matters referred to in the Schedule of the Bill certainly involved questions of importance; but most of them were general matters of administration that might be very well left to an Under Secretary in the Home Office, with the opportunity of appealing to the higher powers if any want of attention should be experienced. There was one other difficulty he felt with regard to the proposal. He thought they should have a very clear understanding whether it was intended to supersede the Board in Edinburgh. Twenty years ago the dissatisfaction expressed at the existing arrangements took the form of an attack on the Board. The matter was at that time fully investigated, and the attacks against the Board had been dropped for the last 25 1508 years. Now they came in a new form. He admitted fully the case; but he thought the responsibility rested upon the Leader of the House. What the Scotch Members ought to do, if they felt themselves neglected, was to go to the highest quarter; and the sole effect of this Bill would be that the new Minister would hold levees in the Lobby, and would be the recipient of the groans of the Scotch Members, and things would never go any further. Certainly a difficulty would arise if the Office were held by a Peer. Members of the House of Commons would not be benefited by the change; but if the Office were held by a distinguished Scotch Member in the House of Commons, he would overshadow the Lord Advocate, and then he thought something might come of it. But they must always bear this in mind—that if the Lord Advocates had become such monopolists of the Business of the House, it had always arisen from the abilities and distinction they had arrived at, not merely in their Profession, but in the capacity they had shown in that House of dealing not only with legal questions, but any question of administration that might arise. These difficulties might be met by the statement that the Office was to be an important one; but otherwise he should feel constrained to vote against the Bill. As the matter stood, he felt that adequate cause had not yet been shown for the creation of the new Office; and, unless he was agreeably disappointed, he would vote against the Bill.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he was of opinion that the conclusion of his hon. Friend who had just spoken was correct that no sufficient justification had been shown for this measure, which the Government had introduced at the last moments of the Session to waste some precious hours upon. He considered that the Bill contained a great deal that was unsatisfactory and uncertain, and a great deal that might possibly be mischievous. What he would particularly draw attention to was the confusing and ambiguous nature of its title and provisions. It was founded, apparently, on the English Act, passed eight or nine years ago, establishing for the first time a Local Government Board for England. The Local Government Board was appointed to take over permanently the functions of the tentative Board 1509 formed to superintend the execution of the Poor Law Act of 1830, and was, at the same time, entrusted with the control over proceedings under the Sanitary Acts in different parts of the country. The combination of these two functions was held to justify, in the opinion of Parliament, the establishment of the new Office of the President of the Local Government Board. But what did they find in respect to this Bill? The greatest possible difference of opinion as to what was to happen, and as to what were to be the duties of the President of the Scotch Local Government Board. They were told, on the one hand, as one of the inducements for passing this measure, ' that the new Office was to be in lieu of the Office of Lord Privy Seal, who had been constantly reviled for having an Office with emoluments, but without any duties to perform. But what duties were proposed to be performed by the President of the Local Government Board of Scotland? It appeared he was not absolutely to be responsible to that House for his acts of administration, whether sanitary or in connection with the Poor Law. He was merely to pass over matters to Scotland, and bring the answer back, which the Home Secretary now did perfectly well. His first objection to the Bill, therefore, was that unless the Government was prepared to disestablish the Board of Supervision—he would not say the Lunacy Board—and make the President of the new Board not only responsible to Parliament for what the Board of Supervision did, but to sit in his place and administer his Department—unless the Government were prepared to go so far, this Bill would be a mockery and a sham, and the President of the new Local Government Board would have no more to do in his Office than the Lord Privy Seal had at this moment. Another objection which he entertained, as an English Member, to this measure was, that there was no Poor Law system worth the name existing in Scotland at all. Hon. Members representing Scotland were fond of telling them that the Poor Law system of Scotland was better than that of England. ["Hear, hear!"] They were very welcome to that opinion; but he could tell them it would be a very mischievous change if it were substituted for the system in force in England; and as to sanitary administration, 1510 Scotland had nothing worthy of the name. It had been said that the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act failed in Scotland in doing the good which might have been expected from it. The real fact was that there were no sanitary authorities in Scotland charged with the execution of it; and, unless they were to go much further, and to form a Local Government Board for Scotland in the way in which it had been formed in England, he was bound to say that no case had been made out for this Bill. He could understand the Lord Privy Seal being turned into a Secretary of State for Scotland, or he could understand a Scotch Lord of the Treasury being appealed to as an authority in connection with Scotch matters, and being entrusted by the Government with the function of dealing with those questions which the Home Secretary had hitherto had charge of; but he did not understand the creation of an Officer of the Government with this portentous title, which immediately raised the impression that he was to be cognizant of, and responsible for, the details of local administration; whereas they were told in the same breath that this Officer would not undertake these duties. When he came to the Schedule he found that Great ambiguity would attach to the establishment of the Office. He had mentioned the case of the Poor Law Board, and the anomaly which would exist if the President of the Local Government Board was not himself in the Chair of his own Office, and did not himself superintend the Poor Law administration. The same objection applied with reference to the Lunacy Board; but here he found that among the functions to be carried out by the Local Government Board were the management of the general police and the burgh police, and the industrial schools and reformatories. In those respects, it seemed to him, they were going too far in the other direction. The Government were proposing to hand over to a Board administrative functions which were essentially regarded as belonging to a Secretary of State. Until the Government could make up their minds as to the administration of police in England, it was too soon to hand over duties to the President of a Local Government Board, who would have to direct the local authorities, and represent the Imperial power 1511 in dealing with those local authorities, which would give him, instead of the Secretary of State, powers in reference to the police. Certainly it would be a most anomalous thing, and would be most violently resisted in England, if it were proposed that the President of the Local Government Board should take over the functions and duties of the Secretary of State in regard to police. He wanted to see the position of the Secretary of State in all these matters of local administration made very much clearer, and to see him recognized as Her Majesty's principal Officer of State and Minister of Justice and Police. From that point of view, he should object to see the President of the Local Government Board of Scotland endowed with these functions.
§ MR. SCLATER - BOOTH
The Bill said the President of the Local Government Board of Scotland was to carry on the duties now discharged by the Home Secretary in respect of general police and burgh police.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he did not know what the Home Secretary meant by saying these duties were practically nothing. He only knew he was engaged on a Committee for six weeks last Session endeavouring to undo the mischief occasioned by the over-legislation of the last six years. The Lord Advocate had been so moved by the experience of that Committee that he had introduced a Bill in the present Session of Parliament which would have greatly modified and got rid of the anomalous inconvenience of this system. But whatever the Secretary of State might say as regarded police, he could not deny that as regarded the industrial schools and reformatories he exercised jurisdiction in Scotland as part of his functions as Minister of Justice; and it seemed to him (Mr. Sclater-Booth) anomalous and misleading that the President of the Local Government Board for Scotland should be the chief police officer, and should attend to Home Office administration, such as reformatories, whereas the President of the Local Government Board in England did nothing of the sort. Tie was not unmindful of the feeling in Scotland in favour of a separate and 1512 distinct Office responsible for Scottish Business. He thought they could all appreciate and understand that feeling; but he did not think the want would be adequately met by the provisions of the measure they had now before them. He thought the measure was founded on a false analogy; that it would lead to false conclusions; that it, therefore, would not work well; and he should heartily join with his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) in voting for its rejection.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
If I rise at this time, it is because I know there is an anxiety, if possible, to finish this debate, and to devote what remains of the time of the House to other Scotch Business. [An hon. MEMBER: Not at all.] It seems to me, as far as I can learn, that the arguments in regard to this Bill are all one way. There have been, so far as I know, only two Members of the House who have spoken against the Bill. I can hardly reckon the speech we have listened to as a speech against the Bill. It is rather a speech of a late great authority of the English Local Government Board, who complains that the Bill is not identical with the English Local Government system. It never was intended to be so; therefore the whole of that part of the argument entirely falls to the ground. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman any more into the view he takes of Scottish administration generally. He says the Scottish Poor Law administration and the Scottish Lunacy administration are very bad, and that they have no sanitary administration in Scotland at all. I think that shows that the right hon. Gentleman has not the same acquaintance with Scotch affairs which he certainly has of English Business. That, therefore, is all we get out of that speech. Then I will pass by the point he made against putting into a Local Government Bill the question of police. He says—"You are parting with the power which the Secretary of State has over the police." I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman does not know that the Secretary of State has hardly any power over the police, except in the Metropolis, beyond the matters of pay and clothing, and the numbers—a subject with which, I hope, the Secretary of State will have nothing to do, for no greater mischief could be con- 1513 ceived than that which is at present done in England by the Secretary of State meddling and interfering, and saying to one town, "You shall have so many police," and to another town, "You shall have so many more." I have told the Inspectors of Constabulary that I will take the opinion of the communities, and not of the Inspectors entirely, on the subject, and that in my opinion it ought to devolve upon a town to say how many police it ought to have, and not depend on the opinion of Inspectors. This is my opinion of the principle on which affairs have been and will be administered. The notion that this Minister will have to do with the police in Scotland as the Home Secretary has to do with the police in London is an entire misapprehension. We have had one other speech—that is the very amusing speech of the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. Dalrymple), who commenced the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. James Stewart) called it "a speech of acrid humour." I would call it, without applying the adjective, a speech of humour. The hon. Member for Bute made very good fun of myself and Lord Rosebery, and I enjoyed it very much. He said humour is not a strong point of the Liberal Party. I am afraid that is a confession we may have to make; but if humour is a strong point of the hon. Member, perhaps, if he will allow me to retort, I will say that argument is not the strong point of the Benches opposite; and if there is anything that illustrates the contention, I should say it is the speech of the hon. Member for Bute. I followed his remarks throughout; but I could not find in all this very amusing sack with which he has supplied us one halfpennyworth of bread. There was a great deal—I will not say of abuse—but of invective against the people of Scotland, and against the Members for Scotland who support this Bill. He admitted that the great majority of Members for Scotland were in favour of the Bill; and he admitted, also, that a great majority of the people of Scotland were in favour of the Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
But the hon. Member complained that when this Bill was produced they did not resist 1514 and resent it, and one of his great complaints was that they were satisfied. Well, I cannot help that. I feel it is the duty of the Government to introduce that which the people of Scotland will accept; and if they are willing to accept this Bill, I cannot understand why the House of Commons should object. I do not think that my Predecessor in Office (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was present when the invective of the hon. Member for Bute was poured upon his head, because the right hon. Gentleman was the Fons et origo mali, for he is the man who destroyed the previous excellent and invaluable system of Scotch administration. It was the right hon. Gentleman, according to the hon. Member for Bute, who overthrew the authority of the Lord Advocate, and nothing has been done well ever since. Well, Sir, that is a very heavy charge, and it was loudly cheered, I observed, by the Conservative Members for Scotland. They are not a large body, but they are able to cheer. Well, this is a denunciation of their own Home Secretary, and they may console themselves with the humorous shafts of the hon. Member for Bute. I never overthrew the authority of a Lord Advocate. Far from it. I have always been only too glad that the Lord Advocate and the Scotch Under Secretary should transact Scotch Business, because I knew they transacted it a great deal better than I could. I never overthrew the authority of a Lord Advocate, and I do not think it is true that my Predecessor overthrew the authority of the Lord Advocate, and brought all these unnumbered ills on the Scottish nation. I do not know; but, if that be so, those irreparable evils have followed from it, and ever since the administration of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross) Scotland has demanded some new system, and, at all events, I have inherited that unfortunate state of things. The hon. Member for Bute has endeavoured to draw a distinction between the view taken of this measure by myself and Lord Rosebery. I confess, although I thought his remarks on that subject were very amusing, substantially there is no difference between us. If there is a difference between Lord Rosebery and myself, it is that he has the ardour and imagination of youth, and I may, perhaps, have acquired the dulness and scepticism of age; but 1515 beyond the tone with which people in these different situations look at the same subject, we are perfectly agreed, and always have been agreed, on the subject of this Bill—the object with which it was introduced and is intended to accomplish. That is really all that requires to be said as to the speeches we have heard against the Bill. I have said before that the Conservative Members for Scotland are not a numerous body. One of the most distinguished Members amongst them has made one of the most instructive and ablest speeches in support of the Bill. I think that is a sufficient proof that the overwhelming opinion of the people of Scotland is in favour of a change of this character. I am very much surprised at the opposition that has come from the Benches opposite. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) is going to denounce this Bill to-day. He used strong language about it some days ago. I was very much surprised at that, because it is not always the case that Members of the same Party disagree in the view they take of a particular subject. I think I recollect the Leader of the Party opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) at Edinburgh using very strong language—almost as strong, almost as imaginative on the subject of Scotch self-government as any that has been employed by Lord Rosebery. If that be so, I shall be extremely surprised to hear a denunciation of a Bill of this character from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire. That the condition of the existing state of things was not satisfactory is proved by the fact of his having introduced a Bill for the appointment of an Under Secretary for Scotland. What does that show? It shows that he thought Scotch affairs did require some additional aid, and that the existing condition of things was not satisfactory. Well; but can he say, or can anybody say, that the proposal for the appointment of an Under Secretary fulfilled the wishes and expectations of the people of Scotland? Why, everybody knows that it did not. That was a proposal that was rejected altogether. Therefore, profiting by experience of the failure of that proposal, the present Government brought forward a proposal of a different character. I venture to think that no proposal has 1516 been received with more favour or more support than the present proposal. That being so, I think it will be clear by the votes of Scotch Members, and I hope of the majority of this House, that this will be considered, as I have always considered it, as a moderato proposal to give more effectual attention to Scotch Business both in this House and out of it. I have never pretended that if you had a Minister for Scotland you would pass all your Bills, because a Scotch Minister cannot manufacture time any more than any other Minister. People say—"Oh, give us a Secretary of State for Scotland, and we will pass all our Bills." All I can say is, that I have the misfortune to be Secretary of State for England, and I cannot pass the Bills I want to pass for England. Even a Minister cannot overcome the difficulties which have to be encountered in that respect. I have been very glad to hear from everybody on both sides of the House the recognition of the fact that in this Bill there is nothing to disparage the authority or interfere with the Office of the Lord Advocate. Whether the Minister for Scotland be in the House of Lords, or whether he be in the House of Commons, the Lord Advocate must always be a principal Representative of the interests and of the Business of Scotland. Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down asked—"What is this Minister to do?" That was explained when I troubled the House on the introduction of the Bill, and it is explained by the Schedule of the Bill. He is to perform the duties the Secretary of State now performs with reference to the subject-matters mentioned in the Schedule of the Bill. I do not see how it is possible to make a more explicit statement than that. Several matters are excluded from his duties. These are the matters in reference to law and justice, which will still be conducted by the Secretary of State, acting on the advice of the Lord Advocate as before. But you will have the advantage of a person who may presumably be conversant with the habits of Scotland, with the peculiarities of the institutions of Scotland in reference to those matters which are referred to in the Schedule of the Bill. Can anybody say that it will not be a useful matter to have a person possessing political experience and Parliamentary authority 1517 to bring all those influences to bear upon the administration of the matters mentioned in the Schedule of the Bill, and with the peculiar knowledge which will enable him to make that influence most effectual in dealing with these affairs? That is the simple object of the Bill. I venture to think that the reception which the Bill has had in Scotland, amongst the people of Scotland, and amongst the Scotch Members, is such as I hope will insure it a favourable reception from this House, and I hope it may be read a second time.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had introduced his name into the debate, he trusted that he might be permitted to say a few words in reference to this measure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said that the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) contained no argument, but only humour. In, his opinion, however, the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had contained neither argument nor humour, though it did contain a great deal of banter. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: There was brevity.] Brevity was the soul of wit; but he did not know that there was any wit in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There was not a single argument from one end of it to the other in favour of this peculiar proposition which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had placed before the House. Somebody had said that he (Sir R. Assheton Cross), when Home Secretary, had interfered with the function of the Lord Advocate, and impaired the Office which he held. He could assure the House that nothing was further from the truth than that statement, because his object had been to enable the Lord Advocate to do as much as possible to raise his Office. The late Lord Beaconsfield had said they ought always to remember that the Lord Advocate was one of the great Officers of State for Scotland; that the Office was one of ancient rank and ancient fame and history; and that nothing should be done in any Bill to derogate from the dignity of that Office. He (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was afraid that the dignity of the Lord Advocate would be very much affected by the proposal of the Home Secretary. When the late Con- 1518 servative Government introduced a Bill to provide for an Under Secretary of State, a deputation consisting of the Dean of Faculty and other lawyers came to him, and the principal objection which they raised to that proposal was that it would materially diminish the dignity and usefulness of the Lord Advocate. That was one of the strongest points which they laid before him. Now, the present proposal was a totally different one from that. It was to bring into existence an Officer of much higher rank than an Under Secretary of State—not a mere Under Secretary of State, but an independent Officer who would be neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, but who certainly would be a much greater person than any Secretary of State could be, and his appointment would be quite certain to affect the dignity of the Lord Advocate to a much greater extent than the appointment of any Under Secretary of State. In his opinion, the Lord Advocate was fully competent to do everything that was required. The Under Secretary of State which had been proposed by the late Government would have been under the Lord Advocate to a great extent. What was the position of the Lord Advocate at present? The late Government, who were said to have derogated from the dignity of the Lord Advocate, had raised their Lord Advocate to the rank of a Privy Councillor. The present Lord Advocate, though called right honourable, was not a Member of the Privy Council; and he regretted very much that the present Government had not followed the example of their Predecessors in this matter. The Lord Advocate, not being a Privy Councillor, could not sit on the Committee of Council on Education in Scotland. He thought this was one of the greatest mistakes they could have made in regard to the position of the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate ought to be a Member of the Privy Council, so that he should be able to sit on the Education Committee. Nobody could, therefore, say that the Conservative Government, whatever they did, had interfered with the rank or dignity of the Office of the Lord Advocate. He still believed that the real objection to the proposal for an Under Secretary was the mode in which he was to be paid, because it was proposed that he should be paid out of the money saved in the Office of the Lord Clerk 1519 Register of Scotland. He believed if the Treasury had consented to pay the £1,200 or £1,500 a-year that was required for the salary of an Under Secretary, the Bill of the late Government would have become law. He entirely agreed with the hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Colebrooke), who had spoken from the other side, and to whose remarks he thought the Secretary of State had paid scant justice. The hon. Baronet had spoken as strongly against the Bill as most people, and his remarks had been entirely unanswered, excepting in almost the last sentence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. He did not know a Scotchman whose opinion on such a subject was more entitled to respect than that of the hon. Baronet. He still held that if they had an Under Secretary of State they would be very much better than with this Bill. In the first place, under this Bill, as lie understood it, it was contemplated that the person who was to fill this Office was to be in the House of Lords. The argument that was used when he was in Office was that those interested in Scotch Business should have someone to whom they could go; but under the Bill these difficulties would still confront them. He knew that some Scotch Members were going to vote for the Bill, because they thought it was a step in the direction of getting a Secretary of State for Scotland. He ventured to say that if that was their ground they would find that they had been mistaken. If the Government had chosen to revive the proposal for an Under Secretary of State who would always be in the House of Commons, they would have done very much more to further the interests of Scotland than by bringing in this Bill. He had asked the Secretary of State to give him some details of the expenditure which the proposed Office would entail; but he had been amazed when the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he could give him nothing of the kind, and he was still more amazed when the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he had not worked it out himself. He could give him no idea what the expense would be. When it was suggested that this Gentleman would want an office and staff, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, "Oh, dear, no." What, it was asked, would this Officer have to do? He would, 1520 it was said, have to look about and see how many Boards he could disestablish and pull down; and out of the ruins of those Boards in Edinburgh and elsewhere he was to provide his own staff. That was really not the way to proceed. They wished to be told what this man was to do. Was he to be simply a person who was to read over papers, and make his minutes upon those things that would be sent to the Secretary of State under the present system, or was he really to be responsible for the actual working of the Department? That was what they wanted to know, and that was what they had not been told. Was he to have the working of the Board of Supervision, the Lunacy Board, and of all those other Boards? Was he to have an office in Scotland or in London? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Both.] Very well. Then, where was his salary and his staff to come from? These were matters that ought to be in the Bill. The question what the Officer would have to do, apparently, entirely depended upon himself. he had to pull down the ruins they had heard of, and some of them might be rather hard to pull down, and would give a deal of trouble. The Bill ought to say what he was to be responsible for; but, at the present moment, they knew nothing—simply that there was to be a man appointed who was to have a salary of £2,000 a-year. He heard an hon. Member say, "It is a job." He would not have ventured to suggest such a thing himself; but he thought it would have looked very much better on the face of it if the duties of this Officer had been set forth in the Bill. He still hoped that if this unfortunate Bill was to become law—he called it unfortunate because lie did not think it would meet the real wishes and wants of the Scotch Members—but if it was to pass a second reading—he hoped it would not, and he certainly would vote against it—lie trusted that in Committee they should have, at all events, some detailed plan as to what this Gentleman was to do, and what his functions were to be.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said he had never done anything by any Bill to derogate from the dignity of the Lord Advocate of Scotland, because, he said, it was a principle of Lord Beaconsfield to keep up the dignity of that ancient 1521 Office, and not to destroy it in any way. They did not say that the right hon. Gentleman had destroyed the Office by a Bill; but they said the right hon. Gentleman had derogated from it by his practice in that House. Previous to that time all Scottish deputations wont to the Lord Advocate, and all Questions about Scotch affairs were addressed to the Lord Advocate; but the right hon. Gentleman, when he was Home Secretary, came forward and said—"I am the Secretary of State for Scotland; deputations, must come to me."
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he had not meant to say that the right hon. Gentleman used those words; but his conduct towards deputations and towards Members of the House was to that effect. That was how the dignity of the Lord Advocate was derogated from in those days. That was the first symptom of the decadence of the Office. It was when a highly estimable and good-natured Gentleman (Lord Gordon) was Lord Advocate. If it had occurred in the days of some other Lord Advocates that they had had experience of, that sort of thing would hardly have been submitted to; but, unfortunately, it was submitted to. The reason that some change was wanted now was that Scotland had got into the belief that its Business did not get proper attention in that House. He did not think there had been any want of administration at home. It was want of attention to Scottish Business in the House of Commons. A number of Members of the Cabinet had always measures of their own to push forward, and there was a strong rivalry inside the Cabinet, each one being anxious to get his own measure pushed forward to the sacrifice of others; and, under those circumstances, Scotland being entirely unrepresented in the Cabinet, always went to the wall. That was the feeling under which Scotch Members desired to have a Secretary of State; and it was under the feeling that this Bill would, to a certain extent, remedy that state of things—he did not think it would remedy it altogether, but it was in the belief that it would go a certain way in remedying that—that they desired to pass this Bill. The hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple), in the 1522 beginning of the discussion, had said Liberal Members were not free to speak on the Bill. He did not know what the hon. Member meant by that expression. If the hon. Member meant that they were afraid by speaking at length the Bill might not be read a second time to-night, he agreed with him; but if the hon. Member meant that they were afraid to speak out their minds, he could only say that he had himself never felt any want of freedom in that respect. They supported the Bill because they believed it would be a good Bill for Scotland. For his own part, he confessed he would rather see the Chief Officer for Scotland in that House than in the House of Peers. But there seemed to be at this moment a special fitness in the latter arrangement; and he believed if the appointment went to the House of Peers in the manner expected at present, it would be greeted with acclamation in Scotland. But he did not think that would be satisfactory as a permanent arrangement. He hoped to see that Office one day in that House. They had, certainly, no idea of derogating from the dignity of the Office of Lord Advocate, and as long as that Office was held by the Gentleman who at present filled it, they could not have one who was more acceptable in every way. They desired to pass this Bill, and he hoped he should see it passed ere long.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), in the latter part of his speech, had vaguely adumbrated that the first holder of the new Office would be a Peer. In the first part, he had attacked his right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary. But it was well known that the reason why, under the late Government, the Home Secretary had answered Questions and received deputations on Scotch Business was the continued ill-health of Lord Gordon. He confessed that his own feelings in regard to this measure were of a very luke-warm character; he had no enthusiasm for it, and he had no burning aversion to it. The speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced the Bill had been characterized by a diffidence very unusual to him. He had spoken in an almost apologetic manner. In effect, he said that the Bill would please some body, and hurt nobody. When Gentle- 1523 men brought forward Bills, they generally showed some enthusiasm in support of them; and, for a long time, he could not make out the meaning of the tone of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. But the speech of Lord Rosebery at Edinburgh had cleared up a great many things. It was tolerably evident that the real parent of the Bill was Lord Rosebery, and that the Home Secretary was really only in the position of a stepfather. He chaperoned the Bill; but he did not think he did so with any great liking, and he believed the right hon. and learned Gentleman would see the Bill dropped with great complacency. If they were to judge as Solomon did, in the case of the two mothers, between the comparative agonies of the Home Secretary and Lord Rosebery in view of the impending massacre of the Bill, they would have a pretty clear indication as to which of them the parentage of the Bill was to be attributed. With regard to the position of the Lord Advocate, he had no predilection for any system which put the management of non-legal affairs into the hands of lawyers; but he was satisfied that, of all the Gentlemen returned to that House, no one was better qualified to carry on the Business than the Lord Advocate, and he contended that the Bill derogated from that Office. Supposing such an official as the one proposed had been in existence at the present time, who would have had charge of the Scotch Agricultural Holdings Bill? Would it have been the Lord Advocate or the new official? The Bill would be a new departure, and could they say they did not derogate from the official position of the Lord Advocate? There was one argument in favour of the Bill which he had omitted to notice, and it was this—One defect of Scotchmen was that they did not show well at the poll; they had a habit of returning a majority of Liberal Members, and the result of that was that a Liberal Government could always command the services of eminent Scottish lawyers. It had not always been the case that the Conservative Government could do so, and that was a consideration the Conservatives should not lose sight of. This provision might be of convenience in the extremely unexpected event of a Conservative Government coming in. He did not mean to say that a Conservative Government wore likely to come in; but in no cir- 1524 cumstances, however important, ought it to be lost sight of when they were passing legislation of this kind. Though he should vote with his hon. Friend against the Bill, still that was a reason which made him believe that, after all, there was something to be said for it. It had been pointed out by hon. Members on the other side that what they wanted was not a good official in Scotland, but a good man in England; and by that was not meant a man who would conduct Business well through Parliament, but a man who would have such influence with whatever Government was in power that he would get the Business carried on. Was such an official as that proposed by the Bill likely to be one from whom they would ever gain anything from a Parliamentary point of view? How would he be able to exercise pressure on Government which was not now exercised by the Under Secretary or the Lord Advocate? If it was thought worth while to have a Secretary of State for Scotland, they should not see, as they often did see, important Scottish measures brought on at half-past 1 o'clock in the morning, or at the fag end of a Saturday Sitting. If they had a Secretary of State for Scotland, they should certainly not see, at any rate, anybody more important than a Peer appointed. The real motive the Government had in view in making the appointment was to confer on Scotland an honorary distinction. They felt truly that Scotland had great claims on the present Ministry. They felt, or they ought to feel, that these claims had been very imperfectly recognized; and just as the Government refused to give place, or a pension, to a distinguished foreigner, but gave him a title, so this Government gave to Scotland this honorary distinction. Honorary distinctions did very little good to the persons who received them, and they did very little harm. He should observe the result of the debate, and of the Division that was to follow, whichever way it should turn, with very great equanimity; but, on the whole, it appeared to him it was inexpedient to bring in these legislative shams—he did not use the word offensively—measures which could have very little result, and were merely meant to throw a sop to people who were discontented. He did not think it was a good principle to encourage this species 1525 of legislation; and if his hon. Friend went to a Division, he should follow him into the Lobby.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, they could not do better than note the words which the noble Lord to whom public rumour gave the new Office used in addressing the people of Edinburgh last week, and which were cheered very loudly. The noble Lord said—There are only two States in the Union of the United States that have larger populations than Scotland; and there is no State in the Union, however small, that has not its complete Executive apparatus, nor could they carry on their affairs properly without such apparatus.So that the noble Lord would contemplate a Federal Union existing between England and Scotland, instead of the incorporating Union which at present existed. That was what the noble Lord was driving at, and he thought the House ought to be made acquainted with it, so that they might know what the views were of the Minister who was to be appointed. The noble Lord had also told the people of Edinburgh that it was almost impossible to legislate for both countries in one Bill. But he (Sir Alexander Gordon) would point out how erroneous that statement was. Only yesterday a Bill had come down from the Lords relating to factories which applied to both countries. In the present Bill, the Schedule contained no less than 18 Acts applicable to the United Kingdom which the Scotch Minister would have to dispose of and deal with. Amongst these Acts were the Markets and Fairs, the Rivers Pollution, Food and Drugs, Contagious Diseases (Animals), and Labourers' Dwellings—all of which were most important, and applicable to both England and Scotland; and it was most desirable that such Acts should be administered by a central authority, and upon a uniform principle. If the new Scotch Department were to work these Acts, it would require a very large Department, supplied with competent experts, as well as competent officers, and clerks. The expenses of carrying out the whole of these Acts in their entirety would be very great indeed. When he asked a month ago whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would lay on the Table an Estimate of the expenses of carrying out these Acts, the Home Secretary replied that the expenses would 1526 be quite unimportant and insignificant. The Bill either meant that the whole of this Business was to be transferred to another Department, or it was a complete sham, and would be of no use whatever. The Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act it was most important should be worked from one centre, and under the able management of the Vice President of the Council. That was now proposed to be transferred to the Scotch Department; so that, while the Scotch Minister might decide one thing with regard to the admission or rejection of cattle, the English Minister might decide another, and there would be no central authority responsible for the expulsion of foot-and-mouth disease from the country. In his opinion, this Act and the Education Act, as well as other Acts, ought to be worked from one centre and on one system. To make the system complete it must include the functions of the Board of Trade in regard to Scotland, and also those of the future Department of Agriculture. The Board of Supervision, also, which was composed of three or four of the most able men in Scotland, would have to be supervised again, by a young man, who probably knew nothing about the subject. Then it was also proposed to transfer the carrying out of the Public Health Act to the new Board. It was most important that all the steps taken under the Act should be taken from one central Office. The 30th section of this Act related to precautions to be taken with regard to cholera. But in order to bring that into operation under the Public Health Act for Scotland they had to go back to the Quarantine Act of 1825 with regard to the landing of persons from vessels. Though this Act was transferred to the new Board, the Quarantine Act was not one of those to be put under Lord Rosebery's control. He, therefore, did not believe that the Bill had been thought out or worked out in all its details, as ought to be the case, before the House accepted it. He thought it was rather a novel proceeding to put the whole administration of the affairs of Scotland into the hands of, it might be, a very clever and amusing young man. The system which it was proposed to change had been growing up gradually ever since 1707, to the great advantage of both countries; and now it was proposed to alter or upset that system with- 1527 out any reason whatever being notified to the House. He thought it would be better, before such a plunge was taken, that they should appoint a Select Committee to inquire whether any change was necessary, and whether that change would be a benefit to the Empire. He hoped this question would not be viewed as a Party question, as it had really nothing to do with Party; it was for the benefit of the country, and that was the light in which he viewed it. He was sorry to differ from the opinion of many of his Colleagues from Scotland in regard to the Bill; but he was glad, in view of the not very courteous remark made regarding himself by the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. James Stewart), to have the support of another Scotch Member so highly respected and so influential as the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke). He believed the origin of the measure was the jealousy which existed among some Scotch Members that so many good things should go to the Scotch lawyers. He hoped that this measure of separation would not be read a second time, for, though he loved his native country — North Britain — much, he loved Great Britain more.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he was glad that the Home Secretary had been present when one of the supporters of the Government had opposed this measure, because he could not now go away with the impression that the House and the Scotch Members were unanimously in favour of the Bill. he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member (Sir Alexander Gordon) that this was not a Party question; but it was one that required great consideration, and which, in his judgment, had not received that consideration to which it was entitled before it was allowed to pass into law. What was the state of the question Several years ago the Government in which the present Prime Minister held Office appointed a Commission, presided over by Lord Camper-down, and that Commission was sent to Scotland to investigate this particular matter. Not only was the Report of Lord Camper-down's Commission against this change, but the evidence—especially that of Sir William Gibson-Craig—on which that Report was founded was evidence of very great weight. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. James Stewart) had 1528 alluded to the difficulty of getting Scotch measures passed, and instanced the Sunday Closing Bill for Scotland. That was a most unfortunate instance, because that Bill, known as the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, was passed rapidly through Parliament in accordance with the wishes of the people of Scotland. Although it was true that there might be some slight delay with Scotch Business, he ventured to say there was less delay with Scotch Business at this moment than with English and Irish Business. He was not aware of any Scotch measure at this moment of which the Lord Advocate had been in charge—and as to which there was any demand in Scotland—such as the Agricultural Holdings Bill, which the Lord Advocate was not competent to pass through the House with general acceptance. The fact was that the arrangement provided by this Bill would do the greatest possible injury to Scotch Business. The mode by which Scotch Business had been well conducted in the past had been by the appointment of a respectable Scotch Gentleman, as Scotch Lord of the Treasury; and the Lord Advocate and he were competent to carry on Scotch Business in the House of Commons. In the Cabinet, at the same time, there had been a Scotchman of eminence, though not as a Scotch Minister, who, when communicated with by the Scotch Lord of the Treasury and the Lord Advocate, was ready to urge on his Colleagues the necessity of arranging for time in the House of Commons for the consideration of Scotch Business. But the misfortune was that at this moment, through the secession of the Duke of Argyll, there was not a Scotch Representative in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister was, no doubt, a Scotch Member of the greatest possible eminence, and also a Scotch-man, and the Scotch nation was proud of having him as one of its Members. But he could not be expected to devote his attention, which was directed to Imperial concerns, to the ordinary local Business of Scotland; and, moreover, he was a Welsh rather than a Scotch resident proprietor, and had not practical experience of Scotch local Business. When the Cabinet was first constructed, it had the Duke of Argyll, and in the previous Administration the Duke of Richmond held a similar position. They were eminent persons upon whom 1529 the whole of Scotland could rely; they had nothing to gain, and they performed duties which the officer now to be appointed would not perform at all. There would be no duty left for the new Minister to perform, or he would have little to do but to draw his salary. He was not to appoint his staff; he was not to have the means of appointing persons for his Office; but he would be bound to take such persons as the Treasury approved. There was no intention of breaking up the Board of Supervision, or the Board of Lunacy, or the various other Boards which conducted Scotch Business; and yet it was from the fragments of these Boards that the staff of the new Local Government Officer for Scotland was to be obtained. The creation of this Minister not in the Cabinet, and with no power, would merely give an opportunity for shutting the mouths of Scotchmen who claimed to have a share in the National Government, and it would debar them for ever from proper access to the Councils of the Crown. He would give his most earnest opposition to the measure.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
said, he was surprised that the debate had gone so far without anything more than a passing reference to the Commission which was appointed to inquire into the questions of Scottish administration in 1870. That Commission was the direct outcome of an agitation somewhat similar to the present. He was reminded of the story told by Samuel Rogers, who related that at the time when plate glass was first introduced he went to the house of a friend who had fitted up the house with plate glass. He, not understanding it, thought the windows were all open; and, sitting at dinner with his back to one of the windows, by mere force of imagination caught a severe attack of lumbago. He thought that something similar to this was the reason of the present state of Scottish feeling. It had been impressed on Scotsmen that they were in a bad way. They had been told repeatedly by Members of Parliament and by candidates that Scottish Business was neglected, and that, if elected, they would vote for the creation of a Scotch Department. The necessity for that Department was the subject of a minute and searching inquiry by the Commission appointed in 1870. In the Report of that Commission 1530 there were one or two passages which he would recommend to the attention of the House. The Commission reported that those who objected most strongly to the Boards did not profess to ground their objections upon personal knowledge. He would like to ask how many hon. Members of the House had any practical knowledge of the Boards working in Edinburgh. He thought that the allegations against the present system were founded on general impressions, and nothing he had heard to-day had removed that conviction. He had not heard a single argument to justify an interference with a system which was working, if silently, at all events efficiently and economically. What was true in 1870 was true now. The Report of the Commission said the present distribution of business among the various Boards in Scotland was peculiar to Scotland, but was decidedly economical, and would bear favourable comparison, from a national point of view, with some Public Departments in England or Ireland. If that was true, why interfere with that system? What was wanted now was a man in this House, and not a noble Lord in "another place" to be an ornamental figurehead to the Scotch Department. He was the last to deny—he had felt it keenly since he came into Parliament—that the House was in the habit of treating Scotch Business in a stepfatherly way. The empty state of Benches at present was sufficient evidence of that. But would it ever be different? Did it not rest with Scotch Members themselves to undertake their own Business, and see that it was not neglected. English Members often asked him what was the meaning of this or that. Let them stay away if they chose; but let Scotch Members have a fair opportunity of discussing their Bills. Let their Bills be put on the Paper sufficiently early in the Session, and not like this—which was for the creation of a fresh Department—in the first week in August. He should follow his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) into the Lobby with the greatest confidence that he was discharging his duty, because he objected to this Bill as an attempt—and he thought it would prove an unsuccessful attempt—on the part of the Government, and especially of the Home Secretary, to satisfy the demands of a fussy and ambitious 1531 section of the Party which sat behind them.
§ MR. J. A. CAMPBELL
said, that the Home Secretary had spoken of the absence of argument against the Bill. At all events, the right hon. Gentleman must have observed what was itself an argument against the Bill—that there was much difference of opinion as to what the Bill really was, as to what the want was which was to be supplied, and as to how that want could be supplied by this Bill or by any Bill of the kind. When a new functionary was appointed they ought to have some definite information as to what his duties were to be. He spoke of a functionary, because he presumed he might dismiss the idea of there really being a Board at all, and assume that the Board was to be a mere name, and that the creation of the Office of President of the Board was the real object of the Bill. What was the proposed new Minister expected to do? Was he to improve the administration of Scottish affairs in Scotland, or was he to promote Scotch Business in Parliament? These were two entirely different things. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. James Stewart) said that there was in Scotland a general opinion in favour of the Bill. He would ask what interpretation the people put upon the Bill who were in favour of it? He thought that the difference of opinion as to what the Bill meant was in no small degree owing to the conflicting accounts of it given by those who had brought it forward. When they wanted to know what a Bill was, the first thing to do was to look at the Preamble. But this Bill had no Preamble. It began bluntly, "Be it enacted." When the late Government introduced a Bill for the appointment of an Under Secretary of State, they set forth clearly in a Preamble that the object was to make better provision for the conduct of Scotch Business in Parliament. But no explanation of this kind was given here. In the present Bill itself he found that the powers and duties which were to be transferred to the new Minister were duties now discharged by the Privy Council and the Home Office, and related principally to such matters as health, the inspection of mines and factories, &c., requiring the service of experts; and he saw no advantage to be obtained from having a separate 1532 Department in Scotland for the same purposes. The question to be considered was, whether the effect of this Bill would not go beyond the intentions of the Government? The Bill contained a clause expressly reserving the duties and functions of the Lord Advocate. But the misfortune was that, however good the intentions of the Government might be in that respect, the operation of the proposed change might be very serious in relation to the position of the Lord Advocate. It appeared to him that the Government had no very clear idea in their own minds in introducing this Bill. It did not seem so much to be intended to remedy any distinct grievance, as to satisfy some vague desire for increased recognition of the claims of Scotland to attention at the hands of the Government. They would be glad to accept additional Parliamentary assistance, especially in the form of the services of some high Officer of State, provided always that no harm should be done to the Offices they had already learned to respect—especially the Office of Lord Advocate. He found himself in one respect at variance with some of his hon. Friends. He thought that it was a defect of the Bill that it did not make it imperative that the new Minister should be a Member of the House of Lords. If the new Officer of State were a Peer, there would be less danger of his interfering with the position and dignity of the Office of Lord Advocate. But a Peer who was President of the Local Government Board ought certainly to have the dignity and the position as well as the salary of the Lord Privy Seal. The Bill failed to give anything that would lead them to expect an improvement in the conduct of Scottish Business. For that they must look elsewhere than to this Bill. The Bill had been introduced as a moderate one. He thought moderate was scarcely the term to give it. The Bill was either too much or too little. Either a Bill aiming at something much larger would be good, or a Bill not aiming at so much would be good. This Bill, in his opinion, would do no good whatever, and he should have pleasure in following the hon. Member for Bute in opposing it.
§ LORD HENRY SCOTT
said, that, having taken a very great interest always in the affairs of Scotland, although an Englishman, he thought he should 1533 be wanting in his duty if he did not join his hon. Friends in their protest against this Bill. Anything that would be for the benfit and progress of Scotch Business he should welcome with great pleasure; and having had in former years some experience of the manner in which Scotch Business was conducted, it struck him that this Bill would not do anything towards its improvement. When they had had a good strong Lord Advocate, who insisted upon going on with Scotch Business properly, and would exercise a certain amount of pressure on the Home Secretary, they had had Scottish Business extremely well done. But in late years the Home Secretary had, so to speak, sat upon the Lord Advocate, had squeezed him out of sight altogether, and had not allowed him to take that part in Scotch Business which was his right and due. Scotch Business had also fallen into arrear for the same reason that all other Business had fallen into arrear—that was, the want of proper business arrangements, and not bringing Business forward at the proper time. But how were they to get any advantage from this Bill? The Preamble of the Bill ought to run in this way—It having been found that the Secretary of the Local Government Board is unable to get on with the Home Secretary, be it therefore enacted that the Business should be transferred from the Home Department to the Local Government Board.It would be interesting to know what position the new Minister was to occupy. Was he to be put on an equality with the Lord President, or was he to have the position of a Cabinet Minister at all? It looked as if a sort of jumble was to be made of the Offices of Secretary of State, President of the Council, and President of the Local Government Board; and all they knew for certain was, that the Officer to be appointed was to have £2,000 a-year. They were left in doubt as to what other sums were to be required for the payment of subordinates. Under those circumstances, and with expenditure largely increasing, it did seem to him most extraordinary for a quasi-economical Government to ask the House to spend £2,000 a-year extra on a new Office, and not tell them what the total cost Of the Office would be. According to the clauses of the Bill, the duties of the new Minister were to be multifarious—a sort of mix- 1534 ture which only a Secretary of State could transact. A Bill of this sort, giving a Minister such an indefinite position, could not be a success, the only definite clause being one to save the amour propre of the Lord Advocate. Considering these circumstances, and the lateness of the period of the Session, he saw no advantage in this Bill at all. He was most anxious that Scottish Business should be done well and properly; but if it was properly set about there was no difficulty in doing it. What was there so special about Scottish Business that it should require an entirely new Office? It was one of the happiest things for Scotland that she had never put herself in the position in which Ireland had done in that House. The Scotch Members had always worked for one common object and with one common end in view, always doing their best to preserve a thorough union between the two countries, without disturbing in any degree the advantages of their local government. All he could say was that if the Bill were passed, it would have a tendency very much to destroy this satisfactory state of affairs which had existed so long.
§ MR. WARTON
said, there were many evidences in the Bill of ill-considered haste. It was perfectly apparent that the Government had not made up their minds as to which of two courses they were going to adopt. In accordance with the terms of the Bill, they might either appoint a Board or a single official, and they did not yet appear to know which of these two alternatives they would pitch upon. The Bill said when the President was appointed the Board was to be deemed to be in existence, and there was nothing to compel the appointment of a single subordinate. The Bill also destroyed the Lord Advocate's position—that was the gratitude of the country for a long succession of able men, who had done their work so well. The Government, not having carried out the pledges they gave in the Queen's Speech, were endeavouring at the end of the Session to make up by quantity for the want of quality in their legislation. He felt strongly that this Bill ought not to be proceeded with.
§ It being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.