§ And which Amendment was, 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 again proposed, "That the word ' now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR WARTON
said, that yesterday afternoon, when the hour arrived for the suspension of the Sitting, he was pointing out to the House the gross blundering way in which this Bill, and especially the Schedule of it, had been drawn. He had called attention to the thoroughly inaccurate, inconsistent, and absurd character of the Schedule, his object in doing so being to elicit an opinion from the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor General for Scotland, because neither of those two much respected Gentlemen had spoken on the Bill. He thought if there was any responsibility for such a hash as this, these hon. and learned Gentlemen should have an opportunity of denying their participation in it. He did think it was hardly respectful to the House to put forward such a Bill as this, especially with such a Schedule, and that neither of these hon. and learned Gentlemen should address the House on the subject. He had thought yesterday of moving the adjournment of the debate in order to give the hon. and learned Gentlemen an opportunity of speaking on the Bill. He hoped that without such a course being taken they would take the opportunity to justify the Bill, which he heartily hoped was not theirs in any sense of the word.
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
said, he desired to explain in a very few words the reasons which induced him to give his support to the second reading of the Bill. It had been said that the principal object of the promoters of this Bill was to find a place for a distinguished and able supporter of Her Majesty's Government. He did not believe, however, that that was the case. He did not believe it was necessary to go so far afield to find a reason for the introduction of the Bill. He thought they had a very sufficient reason in the profound feeling of dissatisfaction which for some time past had been expressed on both 1554 sides of the House with regard to the way in which Scotch Business generally was carried on and administered in that House. Yesterday his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wig-town Burghs (Sir John Hay), as well as his hon. Friend the Member for Wigtownshire (Sir Herbert Maxwell), referred to the Report of Lord Camper-down's Commission, and triumphantly pointed to it as conclusively establishing their contention that the introduction of this Bill was wholly superfluous and unnecessary. But he must say it seemed to him, after a perusal of that Report, that his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) had no reason to congratulate himself. It appeared to him quite clear that, although Lord Camperdown and his Colleagues were satisfied that there was no great cause for complaint as to the way in which the Scotch Departments were administered generally, there was great room for improvement in regard to the way in which Business was conducted in that House. Those Commissioners were irresistibly forced to this conclusion by the evidence of two very competent witnesses—not one, as the right hon. and gallant Member said yesterday, but two unimpeachable Conservative witnesses—the late Sir William Stirling Maxwell and Mr. Nisbet Christopher Hamilton, as well as his hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgowshire (Mr. M'Lagan), who spoke with considerable authority as having had practical experience of the great inconvenience resulting from the present system. The objections to the present system were not new. Complaints had been made at intervals from 1804 downwards, that by reason of the Lord Advocate and the Home Secretary being overworked, Scotch Business had fallen into arrears. Measures were brought in too late in the Session, and too late at night, so that the work was generally hurried, and very often stamped. He found that in 1804 the Lord Advocate of that day told the House of Commons that by reason of the abolition of various Departments of the State, the duties appertaining to those Departments had been concentrated in his person; and he went on to say that he believed he had given as many as 800 military opinions, and that the work of the Attorney General was as nothing compared to his. If that statement was true, having had some 1555 personal experience of the way the duties of the Attorney General in England were carried on, it appeard to him that the labours of the Lord Advocate must be prodigious indeed. He would remind the House that in June, 1858, just 25 years ago, a Motion was made on this subject in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), who, in moving that Resolution, animadverted very strongly on the neglect and mismanagement of Scotch Business in this House, owing to the multiplicity of duties with which the Lord Advocate was charged. What did Lord Palmerston say on that occasion? Lord Palmerston on that occasion, curiously enough, took up a line totally opposed to the line taken up by those who contended that the Lord Advocate was the Minister responsible for the conduct of Scottish Business in this House. Lord Palmerston, speaking, as he did, with the experience of a former Home Secretary, and therefore having been responsible himself for the conduct of Scottish Business in the House, observed that—A great deal of Scottish Business never goes through the hands of the Lord Advocate at all. The Lord Advocate, I beg the House to understand, is only consulted by the Home Secretary, and has no greater authority than an individual giving advice.This was the interpretation put upon the duties of the Lord Advocate by one who was always acknowledged to be a competent authority on this matter. The Lord Advocate was only a subordinate Officer of the Home Secretary, who was virtually the Scotch Minister in this House. He should not object to this arrangement were the Home Secretary competent to undertake the duties of the Office; but they all knew, from the confession of the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself, that this was by no means the case. They all knew that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was overwhelmed with work, caused to a certain extent by the imposing of new duties, and it had been recently found necessary to appoint an Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. He thought the Scotch Department in that House was very much undermanned as compared with the Irish Department. Why should the Irish Department, as at present, be represented by a Chief Secretary and three ex-Chief 1556 Secretaries, by an Attorney General and an ex-Attorney General, whilst Scotland must content itself with a Lord Advocate and a Junior Lord of the Treasury? It was only by accident that they had the advantage of the presence of the Solicitor General for Scotland. One disadvantage resulting from the present system was that an ex-Lord Advocate very rarely found a place in that House. During the late or present Administration there had been no ex-Lord Advocate in the House. He was not astonished that the late Government should be opposed to this Bill, because it was only after six years tenure of Office, and when they were in in extremis, that they thought even of appointing a Junior Lord of the Treasury. The late Government made no Scotch appointments at all—stay, he was wrong in that state-merit; they made, at the outset of their career, the Member for Inverness-shire a groom. It was said they were anxious to have a Scotchman as a Minister; but that was not so. What they did want was not a Scotchman as a Minister, but a Minister for Scotland—and, provided he was a competent man, they did not care whether the Office was held by an Englishman, an Irishman, or a Scotch-man. And it did not signify what the name of such Minister might be; they did not care whether he was termed Chief Secretary, like the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or a Secretary of State, or President of a Local Government Board, so long as he spoke with a weight and authority which even the present Lord Advocate—and the present Lord Advocate was as good as the best—could not possibly pretend to. They had only to look back to what took place yesterday week in this House. Nothing more ridiculous could be conceived than what then occurred, to see the way in which Scotch Business was regarded. On that occasion they found the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) button-holing the Prime Minister, who was assuring him it was the wish of the House to put aside the Bill that stood next on the Paper—the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill—and take the one following it, which related to England; there was the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who though not a Scotch Member was a Scotchman, rushing frantically about in the House imparting advice and consola- 1557 tion; and lastly, the Lord Advocate endeavouring, as well as he could, to make matters pleasant all round. By this Bill they would escape all that; and it was with the view of escaping all that, or in order to have Scotch Business fairly transacted in this House, that he advocated the passing of this Bill. He had only one word to say in conclusion. He, to a certain extent, agreed with what yesterday fell from his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple). The Scotch Members might expect great advantages from the passing of the Bill; but they must, to a certain extent, rely upon themselves. They must really show some power of self-assertion in that House, and make their opinions more felt. They must show that they had some backbone. They grumbled too much in the Lobby, and their voices were too seldom heard in that House. Their distinguishing characteristics as Scottish Members were meekness and modesty — qualities excellent in their way, but qualities which, he was sorry to say, were not much appreciated in the British House of Parliament. Only conceive the power which 45 resolute men might wield! Only conceive what they might do by putting a little pressure on the Government — in other words, by making themselves occasionally a little more troublesome, even at the risk of being dubbed "Obstructionists!" If they did this there would be no necessity even for doing what the hon. Member for Buteshire objected to — namely, hawking Petitions about for signature in the Lobby. Although much might be expected from this Bill, and although he would give his heartiest support to it, he thought they should do a great deal more by occasionally relying upon themselves.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he thought that in a matter of such importance as the entire re-organization of the conduct of Scottish Business, the English Members were entitled to say a few words. He wished to inquire from the Government what was the real object of the Bill, because it had not hitherto been explained? The hon. and gallant Member who had just spoken had complained that Scotland was not so well represented in that House as Ireland. He did not think Scotland could be put on the same footing as Ireland, because the government of Scotland was 1558 remarkably good and orderly, and the state of Ireland had not given equal satisfaction. Why had the Lord Advocate not yet favoured the House with any remarks on the subject? Surely there was no authority in the House so eminent as the Lord Advocate; he was by common consent one of the best Lord Advocates who had ever sat in that House; and when they were about to disestablish him, he thought they ought to find out from himself how far he concurred in this measure, which he thought would be derogatory to the high position the occupant of his Office had always held in that House. He should be glad to hear from the Government that this Bill was not intended to be in any shape a reward for the Mid Lothian Election. There was a certain noble Lord who, it was well known, was very instrumental in bringing about the result of that Election; who, it was said, had contributed a good deal to the manufacture of faggot votes; and who declared, either before or during the election, that he had been under the wand of the enchanter. It now seemed that the wand of the enchanter was about to create a place under the Crown which would just suit the noble Lord. He did not think when Parliament met that it was ever intended to bring in a Bill of this magnitude. It was not brought in until the noble Lord resigned the Office of Under Secretary of State. As soon as the noble Lord was elbowed civilly out of that place by the Home Secretary, who was united with him in ties of personal affection, that personal affection developed itself in the production of the present Bill, which was to place the noble Lord, or whoever might be appointed, in the Cabinet. The only way in which the noble Lord could be placed in the Cabinet, without offending the claims of his rivals, was that he should be specially connected with Scotch Business. He would ask the Lord Advocate whether he would kindly give the House a little information, which had been denied them by the Home Secretary, as to the functions and staff of this new Officer? It was said there was to be no staff, except what was to be made hereafter. There was no Vote taken for the composition of the new Department. The President was to have a salary of £2,000 a year, and that apparently was all he had to receive, 1559 There was to be no Private Secretary, no clerks, and no officers, except such as he could hew out of the existing Departments. He understood there were about 11 Boards in Scotland which performed the different functions of government, and the President of the new Department was to be charged with duties which were now discharged by the Secretary of State under 30 different Acts of Parliament, all of which embraced the highest and most important functions of government. In the discharge of all this the noble Lord, or whoever might be appointed, was not even to have the assistance of a clerk. Then they were told that the new Minister was to form his Department out of the existing Boards in Scotland. He supposed that meant that on the verge of a General Election he was to be allowed to manipulate these Boards, to take those officers who might be useful, and dismiss those who were not obedient to himself. They all knew the capabilities of the noble Lord, and they were called upon not only to give him a place, but to bring in an Act of Parliament which would enable the Prime Minister to reward his particular supporter. He thought they ought to know how far this noble Lord was to be allowed to manipulate the Departments in Scotland, and how far he intended to reduce them or increase them. He contended that on the verge of a General Election it was most monstrous and dangerous to confer powers of this kind on a noble Lord whose antecedents were so well known—
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Mr. Speaker, I rise to Order. I wish to ask whether the hon. Member is in Order in making the allusions he has done while discussing this Bill?
§ MR SPEAKER
The hon. Member is assuming that a certain appointment is to be made under this Bill. Whether he is correct or not in the assumption, I do not know.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, the hon. Member for Edinburgh was very fond of calling other hon. Members to Order; but he should wait to gain a little more experience before pursuing that hobby. In his (Sir H. Drummond Wolff's) opinion, the only object of the Bill was to provide a place for the noble Lord; and in the face of the Corrupt Practices Bill, it was somewhat sur- 1560 prising to see this performance on the part of the Government. One Scottish Peer who dabbled in the Mid Lothian. Election was made an English Peer; another noble Lord was immediately rewarded by the manufacture of a new place, which was not foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech, and which was only provided for the noble Lord after the terrible disaster which occurred a few weeks ago. On that account he wished to appeal to the Home Secretary whether he would continue to countenance such proceedings? He did not think that this kind of reward should come from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, and should be ratified by an Act passed in that House. For these reasons he wished to give every opposition to the Bill now before them, in the hopes that it might be more considered, and that in Committee it should be specified what were to be the functions of the noble Lord; what Departments he was to deal with, what rights he should possess to create new offices or abolish old ones; and they should have it all cut and dry, so that they might not see all the Boards in Scotland manipulated in the interests of one particular Party.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he would have been glad had the Bill passed the second reading yesterday. It seemed to him that there had been very little argument against this Bill. All that had been said against it was in the nature of invective, and the argument of the opponents of the measure was that it was a Bill of the Government, and, therefore, they did not like it. The hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) seemed to him to add rather too much argument to his humorous speech. He proved conclusively three things—first, that no change was wanted, and that the present arrangement was perfectly satisfactorily; secondly, he proved that what was wanted was an Under Secretary—that was the real thing, and nothing more; and, in the third place, he proved clearly that no body in Scotland would be satisfied unless they got a Secretary of State. The hon. Member had proved by overwhelming argument these three things; but, like the omnibuses trying to get through Temple Bar together, it seemed to him that these three things proved by the hon. Member had rather jostled one another.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
These were the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Lanarkshire on the other side of the House.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, his impression was that this proposal of the Government was a happy compromise between an Under Secretary, which was too little, and a Secretary of State, which, he thought, was too much, and which they were not likely to got. He believed the President of the Local Government Board for Scotland would be a very useful institution; and, though he would occupy that position which it was right and proper a Minister for Scotland should occupy, he would not necessarily be in the Cabinet, nor would he necessarily be excluded from the Cabinet. As he understood the Office, judging by the analogy of the Offices of like salary and position—such as the President of the Local Government Board of England, the Vice President of Education, the Postmaster General, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and several other Offices—it was an Office held under the Government; but the President would not necessarily be in the Cabinet. He, however, hoped that on the present occasion the Office might be held by a Gentleman who might not improbably be a Member of the Cabinet. It was suggested that the proposed change was derogatory to the great Office of the Lord Advocate, and that it was not necessary that the change should take place when that Office was so well filled. He entirely differed from that view. It would not be a derogation from the position of the Lord Advocate; but it would put that Office on a much more dignified footing than it at present occupied. No doubt, the change would take away some of the duties that were now performed by the Lord Advocate; but he thought that Officer would hold a much more dignified position, as a Minister of Justice for Scotland, when he was freed from the somewhat humiliating function of acting merely as the subordinate of the Home Secretary in regard to certain matters which did not concern his Department. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Webster) was possessed with the idea that this was a horrible advance in the direction of Homo Rule—
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire seemed afraid that the proposed change was going in the direction of Home Rule. He (Sir George Campbell) thought they had too much centralization already. In this Government they had centralized too much. It might be he was wrong; but if his hon. Friend would succeed in sweeping away the broad distinctions which now distinguished Scotland from the other parts of the United Kingdom, if he succeeded in abolishing the Churches of England and Scotland, and in fusing the laws of the two countries into one great Code, in which predominance would be given to the law of Scotland, on account of its intrinsic merit, why, in that case, if the hon. and gallant Member thought proper to vote for more complete centralization, he might have an arguable case; but extreme centralization was not successful, and he did not attribute great weight to the argument of the hon. and gallant Member that this Bill was in favour of Home Rule. It seemed to him that they did want a Local Government Board in Scotland which could perform the functions of the Local Government Board in England, and a good deal besides. They had been told that in Scotland they had no Poor Law worthy of the name, and no Sanitary Authority worthy of the name. He could not admit it; but that was the very strongest argument they could have for the new Department, which would be capable of giving Scotland the benefits of a good Poor Law and Sanitary system, and many other good things. The proposition of the Government was an extremely good one—it was a jests milieu, and gave Scotland neither too much nor too little. Although he generally approved of the present Bill, he thought there was one thing wanting, and that was a more complete inside, as it were, to the Bill. He thoroughly approved of the objects and principles of the Bill; but he thought something more was wanted in the shape of detail. He would like to know from the Government what was to be the position of the President of the new Local Government Board? It seemed to him necessary that the new Board should be 1563 amalgamated with the old Boards. If this was not so, he did not think the new Officer would have enough work to justify his appointment and the salary that he was to draw. If the new Officer was only to be a kind of cherub sitting up aloft and looking down upon the local Boards his time would not be sufficiently occupied, and there would not be sufficient justification for giving him this high salary. His principal object in rising was to express a strong hope that when they got into Committee the Government would see their way to propose conditions under which they should be saved the necessity of having another Bill to occupy the time of the House next Session. He hoped the President of the new Board would concentrate in himself the general superintendence of the administration of the different Boards in Scotland; that he would be ex officio the Chairman of these Boards. He would then have amply sufficient work to occupy him, while he would be responsible to Parliament, either in the House of Commons or in the other House, for the functions which these Boards exercised. He hoped the Bill would be brought to maturity in a shape that would work well.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
asked if the Home Secretary or some other Member of the Government would give the House some idea of whatthe new Office was intended for? He found from the Schedule that four Departments would be amalgamated in the new Office. There would be the business now done by the Local Government Board, the business of the Home Office, the business of the Privy Council, and certain duties now undertaken in the Office of the Board of Works. A very large staff would be required to undertake all this work. It had been suggested by many hon. Members who spoke in favour of the Bill that it would be necessary to have an office in Edinburgh as well as in London, and he was of opinion that it would be necessary to have two offices. The Bill ought not to pass a second reading until the House should receive some idea what the Imperial Exchequer would have to pay
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am out of Order in speaking again; but I need not infringe the Rule. It is a question of general arrangement of Offices, and I am asked a question with 1564 respect to payment. That question does not belong to me. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire asked the same question yesterday, and I gave the only answer I could.
I rise to Order. I wish to know if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is in Order in speaking twice?
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he objected to the Bill on general grounds. He objected to it, in the first place, because it was distinctly a Separatist's Bill. It was calculated to render Scotland more separate and more distinct from England. It was going back to old times; it was undoing all the good which several centuries of intercourse and union between the two countries had effected. The Bill was wholly uncalled for. The Government had convulsed Ireland; but there was no reason why they should convulse Scotland too. Why should they not let alone the Scotch people, who were happy, peaceful, contented, and orderly, and who made no demand for this Bill? He believed, if the hon. Members on the other side of the House were polled, independent of Party, a great majority would be found to vote against the Bill. The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) objected to the Bill, because it was a sort of reward for electioneering services. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) would not go so far as that. He admitted that the conjuction of conditions was extremely suspicious. He admitted that the peculiar events in Mid Lothian gave rise to some natural reflections on the Bill, and there was very little doubt that it was introduced for the purpose of giving anOffice to acertain noble Lord. [Geueral Sir GEORGE BALFOUR: No.] He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) did not accept the denial of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He did not believe the Bill would ever have been heard of had it not been for the fact that for some reason or other it was thought desirable to find a more suitable and higher Office for the noble Lord. Therefore, the relations which subsisted between the noble Lord and the Prime Minister were suspicious. There was another point to which he desired to draw attention, and that was the patronage which the Bill would give to whoever was appointed to the position. That was a question which was making way, unfortunately, in this 1565 country. The disposition of patronage for Party services was one which was corrupting and ruining the Government of the United States and the Government of France. [Mr. BUCHANAN: Question!] He was not departing from the Question. He wished to point out the mischievous effect of Government patronage by the high Officers of the State. Assuming that a large amount of patronage was about to be given which had never been enjoyed before by an Officer of the State, he contended that it was a most dangerous and unfortunate precedent, which would have a tendency to carry this country onward in the direction of injurious Democracy. He objected to it on three grounds—because of its separatist tendency, because of its suspicious aspect with respect to electioneering affairs, and because it was dangerous to give Government such power of patronage.
said, he gathered from the fact of the Lord Advocate not rising to address the House, after the observations addressed to him, and the claim made upon him by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, as the principal Member of the Government responsible for the affairs of Scotland, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had been muzzled—["No, no!"]—and had received orders from the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of the Bill that he was not to favour them with his views on the matter. Something had been said about the position of the Lord Advocate being humiliated by this Bill; but he thought his position was more humiliated by the Home Secretary walking in and out of the House exercising a crontrol over the debate, and obviously preventing the Lord Advocate from addressing the House, and from giving the House that which it was entitled to have from him—namely, his experiences of the Office he held and his opinion upon the present Bill. It was apparently intended to collect all the different Departments of Government in Scotland—all those Boards and subordinate officials who at present attended to the affairs of Scotland—and put them all in one room, and place the noble Lord, who was a Member of the House of Lords, over their heads. What they wanted to know from the Lord Advocate was how that would work? He understood there were certain clerks in the Home Office 1566 who attended to Scotch Business; there were certain clerks in the Local Government Board Office who attended to Scotch Business; and there were, no doubt, clerks in the Privy Council who also attended to Scotch Business. [Mr. BUCHANAN: No.] Well, if it was not so, that was what he wanted to know from the Lord Advocate. The hon. Member for Edinburgh was very fond of interrupting speakers; but did he assist them in their deliberations? With great deference to the hon. Member, he should like to be informed by the Lord Advocate in what Departments there were clerks who attended to Scotch Business, and from what Departments these clerks would be taken for the purpose of forming the staff of the Local Government Board Office? He wanted to know whether that would increase or not the charge on the Public Revenue? It was quite conceivable that the present clerks might be able to conduct the affairs of Scotland more economically than if they were devoted exclusively to Scotch Business in the Scotch Department that was to be created. They wanted to know whether this arrangement would conduce to economy, and whether Scotch Business would be conducted more efficiently under the new arrangement than at present? He thought before the House of Commons was asked to create a new Department, with all the expenses attending it, that they were entitled to be informed by the Government on the points he had raised. It ought not to be the case that they should see the Members of the Government silent on the Treasury Bench, apparently listening to the debate, but when asked to give their advice continuing to sit in stolid silence. He confessed to a feeling of disappointment and indignation at the apparent contempt with which the Lord Advocate had treated the House; and unless he made some answer to the arguments that had been urged in the course of the debate, he (Mr. Gorst) should feel it his duty to resist the second reading of the Bill.
The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 21: Majority 78.—(Div. List, No. 258.)
Main Question again proposed.
said, he saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, 1567 and he would address to him the questions which had vainly been put to the Home Secretary and the Lord Advocate. Nobody wished to be too hard on a Government which was inclined to perpetrate a little job of this kind. It was natural that they should do so, and nobody wished to deprive them of the opportunity of doing so. But these kind of jobs ought to be perpetrated with some sort of regard to Parliamentary decorum. They should be done with a certain amount of plausibility in the House of Commons, and the ease ought to be put by a Minister carefully and seriously, and not in the off-hand and contemptuous manner in which the Bill was placed before the House by the Home Secretary. Therefore, as he saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer now on the Government Bench, and apparently in charge at the present time of Government Business, and as he knew that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a desire to observe Parliamentary decorum, he would address to the right hon. Gentleman the questions he had unsuccessfully addressed to the Home Secretary and the Lord Advocate. The Home Secretary, because he would not, and the Lord Advocate, because he was obviously prevented, had not answered the questions addressed to them, and both of them had now left the House, and hon. Members had no opportunity of repeating their questions to them. What he wanted to know was this. It was quite clear that the appointment of this Minister would render necessary a considerable amount of re-organization in several of the Departments of State—they did not quite know what. The Home Office was one; the Privy Council was, undoubtedly, another; and most people thought that the Local Government Board was a third; but the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), who knew all about it, said no. The first question he had to ask was in how many Departments of the Government would the re-organization of the clerks and permanent staff be necessary? That was a fair question to ask, and it was one to which they ought to have an answer. The second question he would ask was whether the alterations that would take place, or the transferrence of these clerks from the several Departments of the Government into the one Central Department of the President of 1568 the Local Government Board for Scotland, would entail any great amount of increased expense upon the taxpayers, and, if so, how much? They had not been told that. They had been invited by the Home Secretary to settle that there should be a President of the Local Government Board for Scotland, and that his salary should be fixed, without anything being said about the further expenditure that would follow. Before they assented to the second reading of the Bill they ought to have from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if not from the Home Secretary, some kind of explanation as to what amount of expense this re - organization of these Public Departments was likely to entail. He said, again, that when these kind of Bills, when these sort of things, were brought in, they must be brought in with a certain amount of Parliamentary decorum, and one essential part of that Parliamentary decorum was that when questions of the nature he had asked were put, the Government should condescend to give an answer.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
Sir, I rise to Order. I wish to ask whether the Home Secretary, having spoken on the second reading of this Bill, is entitled to reply or not?
§ MR. SPEAKER
There is a new Question before the House, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly entitled to reply.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am astonished that my hon. Friend should have sat so long in this House without knowing that we have entered upon a new Question. The remark I made was that when an Amendment of this kind had been moved—
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, although I have known a second Division to be taken on the Main Question, I have hardly ever known a debate endeavoured to be raised in this form. However, having entered my protest against such a proceeding upon a Saturday, I will, as briefly as I can, endeavour to answer the questions of the hon. and 1569 learned Member (Mr. Gorst). I gave the whole of the information to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) yesterday that I was in a position to give, or that I could give. I will not allude to all the personalities, which are a question of taste, that have been indulged in with reference to the speculations as to who is or who is not to be the holder of the proposed Office—such language as "jobs," or such language as that of the personal invective and abuse which has been heaped by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) upon Lord Rosebery. These are things which it is better to treat with disdain. I shall not make any reply to them, because it is quite certain that the good taste of this House and the feeling of England and Scotland will give them the only answer that they deserve, and I pass them by with that remark. Well, now, with reference to the staff of this Office. I said yesterday that I do not believe that any considerable staff will be necessary. No Estimate has been made—[Opposition cheers.]—of the cost of that staff. [Renewed Opposition cheers.] I always think it is well that you should allow a person to finish a sentence before you cheer. The hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) cheers loudly the statement that no Estimate has been made, and I hope he will also applaud the reason which I am going to give for that, and which would have been given in the sentence I had commenced if I had been allowed to conclude it. We believe that in the organization already existing in Scotland will be found material for a sufficient staff; and therefore our expectation is that the staff of this Office shall not be an additional charge on the country. That may or may not be the case; but if it is not so, it is quite certain that Parliament will have the control over it, because no addition to the staff can be made without application to Parliament, which will have the power of pronouncing an opinion upon it. That is really the explanation I gave yesterday, and I have nothing more to add to it. It is not the least necessary, as some hon. Members said yesterday, that the existing institutions in Scotland should be ruined and destroyed in consequence of the present proposal. Nobody desires to ruin them; nobody desires to destroy them. I be- 1570 lieve that most people who are acquainted with Scotland think that a more economical administration, by amalgamation or otherwise, of these Boards is quite feasible. At all events, that is a question which is well worthy of consideration. That really is the answer I have to give upon that matter; and I do not know that there is any other question on which it is necessary I should say anything further. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) said something as to how many Departments would be affected. Anybody can tell that by looking at the Schedule of the Bill. They will be affected in the way of being relieved of work which they at present perform. I am sure nobody objects to that. The Home Office certainly does not object. In a certain sense this Bill is an act of abdication on my part. I am not at all sorry that there should come relief to the Home Office of some of the labours imposed upon it.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am surprised that the hon. and learned Member should ask that question, because anybody who knows anything on the subject knows that the Local Government Board have no authority in Scotland at all. By an unfortunate accident, with which my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) is quite familiar, the Board did, by his oversight, recently have the control of some money in which Scotland was interested; and anybody who had experience of that error would not be likely to commit it again—because he would have impressed upon his mind the Scotch motto, Nemo me impune lacessit. Familiar as I am with that fact, I am surprised at the question that has been put to me by the hon. Member. I am reminded by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert) that the question of the Alkali Acts is an exception to the rule; and I apologize to the hon. and learned Member for Chatham for having overlooked the case of these Acts. Probably we shall hear something of these Acts when we come to Committee. However, whatever Office is affected by the Bill will be affected only in the way of relief by having another Department to take charge of local matters, which had hitherto been dealt with in those Departments.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been good enough to allude to him, and to say that he had made use of invective towards Lord Rosebery. But it was very clear that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not in his place when he spoke. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: I was.] Well, all he said was that Lord Rosebery had assisted in the Mid Lothian Election, and would do so again, and that the intention of the Government in passing this Bill was to place in his hands the power of manipulating Scotch elections. That was not invective. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in his lofty manner, had twitted the hon. and learned Member for Chatham with not knowing what was in the Bill, and said that there could be no reference in it to the English Local Government Board. If so, why did the right hon. and learned Gentleman introduce the English Local Government Board into the Bill? If this was an instance of the correctness of the answers of the Home Secretary, what were they to think when he talked about the low Estimates and the inexpensive manner in which this peculiar—he would not call it a job—this peculiar Office was to be administered? Why was the Bill introduced at this period of the Session, if the design was not to smuggle it through both Houses when many of the Members had gone away? It was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and was never hinted at till June; and no Estimates on the subject were contained in the Budget. Scotland had waited long enough, and was quite satisfied with the Lord Advocate, who had been hustled aside by this Bill, and had not been allowed to say one word about it. If there was a Division, he should vote against the Bill; and he should endeavour in Committee to give it a colouring which would take away many of its offensive features.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Monday next, resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—(Secretary Sir William Harcourt.)
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
moved that the Bill be referred to a Select 1572 Committee. He did so because the House had not been given the information which was necessary in view of so important a change. He reminded the Home Secretary that he asked him yesterday why he had introduced into the Bill the Education Act for Scotland as one of the measures which were to be administered by the new Board, while in the speech by which the Bill was introduced it was distinctly stated that the Education Act was not to come under the new arrangement. The Home Secretary had declined to tell him why that Act was to be transferred to the new Board. The same remark applied to the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. Having been refused any explanation, he wished the House to ascertain for itself whether the new arrangement would entail expenses.
§ MR WARTON
seconded the Motion.
Amendment proposed, to leave out all the words after the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be referred to a Select Committee."—(Sir Alexander Gordon.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the proposition of the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire was a most satisfactory one. They had already had one Commission — Lord Camper-down's Commission—which had investigated the matter, and that Commission had pointed out that it was unnecessary. They were about to alter the management of the Business of Scotland, and they were about to do so without knowing exactly what the new arrangements were to be. The Office to be created had no staff, no office, and they did not know what arrangements were to be made. In view of the Motion he would take the liberty of reading a few words from a letter from a late Member of the House—Mr. Maxwell of Munches—who sat on the other side of the House. That Gentleman pointed very strongly to further investigation being required; and as he was a person well acquainted with Scotch Business his views might fairly be placed before the House. Mr. Maxwell wrote—I never could see the necessity of a special Minister for Scotland. In old times we got on 1573 very well with the Lord Advocate and a Scotch Lord of the Treasury. Why that latter Office was given up I know not; but if that Office was revived I would consider it was quite sufficient for anything that was needed. The Lord Advocate's position has of late years been quite changed—I should suppose with no advantage—and in spite of the 6th clause it will, if the Bill passes, be still further altered so as to make him solely a Law Officer. I will be curious to have an explanation of that clause. Another objection in my mind is that the Bill will tend still further to centralization. Everything will go to London, and the few remaining well-managed Offices in Edinburgh will be given up.That was sent by the Gentleman who was Convener of the county with which he was connected, and in regard to that he said—It seems to me a most important measure, and not one which I can look to with favour. There are difficulties in getting an attendance at a county meeting at this season, otherwise I should have liked to have had that carefully considered.It was desirable that a measure of this kind should be submitted to the Commissioners of Supply in the different counties of Scotland, so that their view upon it might be taken. The suggestion now made was a reasonable one. It would cause a slight delay during the autumn; but the Government would come back with the force of the October meetings of the Commissioners of Supply, and the opinion of the House of Commons could then be taken in the matter. In the two counties with which he was connected—Wigton and Kirkcudbright — there was no opinion in favour of the Bill; and he therefore thought he was justified in the opposition which he had offered to the Bill, and in the support which he now gave to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I must congratulate the opponents of this Bill that, though a small band, they are a gallant one. Resistance is offered in every form, and repeated at every stage. We read in "Chevy Chase" that an English champion, "when his limbs were smitten off he fought them on his stumps." Certainly, the Scotch champions, though few in number, exhibit in their opposition to this Bill an equal gallantry. The right hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir John Hay) is good enough to wish to strengthen the hands of the Government by the opinion of the Commissioners of Sup- 1574 ply, who are to meet in October. I have the greatest respect for the Commissioners of Supply; but the Government do not think it necessary to wish for their support. They are quite satisfied with the support of the overwhelming majority of the Representatives of Scotch opinion that they have received. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is good enough to say that in his part of Scotland there is no feeling in favour of the Bill. His county is not very far distant from Ayrshire, and we have had distinguished support to the Bill from Ayrshire on the Benches opposite. If the opinion in favour of this Bill is a contagious disease I hope it may pass the borders of Ayrshire, and even reach the remote quarters of Wigton-shire before very long. With regard to the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, I do not suppose that my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Alexander Gordon) seriously thinks that we could accede to it. It is only a repetition of the proposition to reject the Bill. [Sir ALEXANDER GORDON: No!] Well, we regard it in that light, and I think the House will so regard it. My hon. and gallant Friend has not looked at the Schedule of the Bill, or he would not have fallen into the error of supposing that it transferred the Education Act to the new Board. It does nothing of the kind. It only refers to the powers and duties of the Secretary of State in reference to the Education Act. The Secretary of State has no power or duty under the Education Act, except as regards industrial schools and reformatories. That power it does transfer, and I think in Committee it may very well deserve consideration whether or not the parts referring to industrial and reformatory schools should not be struck out of the Schedule. I hope that, under these circumstances, and after the signal Division we have had, it will not be thought necessary to divide the House on this matter. We should have precisely the same Division over again. I do not know how many Scotch Members were in the minority in the Division we have had; but I think that hon. Members should be satisfied that the overwhelming majority in the House is in favour of this Bill going on, and going on now.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
explained, that if the Home Secretary had 1575 given him that answer yesterday it would not have been necessary for him to move for a Select Committee. Having, however, now heard that explanation of the Home Secretary, he begged to withdraw his Amendment for the appointment of a Select Committee.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill committed for Monday next.