§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I believe it is the feeling of the House that the debate on the Address should not be prolonged; and therefore, in moving the Amendment which I have placed upon the Paper, I will only briefly explain its object. I should certainly not have placed it on the Paper if I had thought that the Government were likely to bring in any measure which would grapple with the difficulty I propose to deal with. And I may remind hon. Members that if I were to waive the present opportunity I should find it almost impossible to secure a day for its full discussion. My Amendment is couched in the following terms:—But humbly to submit to Her Majesty that the affairs of the Realm have outgrown the capacity of this House; and humbly to pray of Her Majesty to invite Her Majesty's Ministers to consider and submit to Parliament Measures whereby great part of the special affairs of Scotland and of other parts of Great Britain may be relegated to bodies representing the several parts of the Kingdom, and the excessive burden on this House may be relieved.I think, regarding the first sentence, there will be a general concurrence of opinion. It is quite manifest that it is impossible for a House of 670 Members to perform properly the whole of the Business it now undertakes, including an examination into all the minute details of four Kingdoms, and also the threshing out in Committee of every one of the measures submitted to it. The Business of the country which necessarily comes before Parliament is growing largely from year to year. We had, I think, sufficient evidence of that on the first night of the Session in the extraordinary number of Bills of the introduction of which into this House 1475 Notice was given. The capacity of the House is totally unequal to undertake the whole of the Business brought before it. The Business of the Realm has outgrown the capacity of Parliament to grapple with it. I think that is a point which will be very generally admitted, and also that the time has arrived when some attempt should be made to provide a remedy. When we come to the question of the remedy, I admit that there are very great differences of opinion. I began by saying that if I saw any reason to hope that the Government would be able to deal with the question satisfactorily, I should be willingly prepared to leave it in their hands; but I see no evidence that they are prepared to cope with it. In the course of a private meeting one Scotch Member expressed a strong opinion that the time is inopportune for dealing with the question, because the proposals which Her Majesty's Government may have to make in regard to it are as yet unknown. But I entirely fail to find that the Government have any serious remedy to propose for the incapacity of Parliament to deal with the affairs submitted to it. If the proposed New Rules would increase the working power of the House, I should not have submitted this Amendment; but although those Rules may improve the Procedure of the House, they are not Rules that will increase the working power of the House. On the contrary, I believe they may have, so far as Scotch Business is concerned, a prejudicial influence, and that we shall have no prospect whatever of pressing Scotch measures forward, seeing that at the present moment it is a matter of difficulty to get them considered, even at 3 o'clock in the morning.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I must apologize for having infringed the Rules of the House; but perhaps I may be allowed to submit that the Rules of Procedure are not likely to provide a remedy for the special grievance of which I complain. What I desire is to see removed from the House, as a whole, a large amount of the Business it is now called upon to perform, and to proceed in the direction of handing it over to Bodies constituted on local lines. As I gather that you, Sir, would not permit 1476 me to go further into this matter, I will content myself with submitting, in the terms of the Amendment, that the excessive burden on this House should be relieved by relegating measures immediately concerning the special affairs of Scotland, and of other parts of Great Britain, to Bodies representing the several parts of the Kingdom. I have made the Motion in general terms, so that it does not require any hon. Member to pledge himself to any particular plan. Some prefer Committees, some local Legislatures. All I desire to affirm is the general principle that measures of the kind should be submitted to some Bodies other than this House. I propose that the work shall be done by delegation—not a general delegation, but a delegation purely on local lines. It has been suggested that many questions might be submitted to Grand Committees. Now, I have had some experience of the working of a Grand Committee in a former Parliament; and I am satisfied, as the result of that experience, that if you submit Scotch Law Bills to a Grand Committee, in which Scotch Members are necessarily in a minority, they will be overridden by the English Members, and especially by English lawyers, who have no acquaintance with the principles of Scotch law, but who, of all persons, in regard to legal questions are most superstitious. Scotch laws, and especially Scotch Criminal Laws, are radically different from English laws; and I claim as a Scotchman, on the part of Scotland, that in order to do justice to my country the delegation should not be a general delegation, but should be carried out on local lines; otherwise the smaller nationalities of the United Kingdom must go to the wall. Scotchmen are, I should say, almost unanimous in not wishing to have for Scotland the kind of local government which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) proposed for Ireland. The Government of Ireland Bill excluded Ireland from all part in Imperial affairs; and although that was accepted by the Irish Representatives in the case of Ireland, Scotland has no wish to be cut off from the Imperial affairs of the country, and to be converted into a Colony. There is a strong feeling in Scotland that local government of that kind would not be suitable for the country. I have 1477 no desire to assimilate Scotland to the system of Home Rule which appears to be desired in Ireland. Therefore, I have so framed the Amendment as to be entirely neutral in regard to the whole subject of Ireland, and have confined it in general terms to the affairs of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain. I should have included Wales; but while I incline to believe that the people of the Principality wish that something should be done for them, they have not given me authority to speak on their behalf. I should have also liked to include the Metropolitan area as one of the areas in respect of which it is desirable that there should be some local Government possessing some power of legislation. But when I proposed that to the Scotch Members, they certainly expressed a strong feeling that the affairs of Scotland should not be put on the same footing as those of the Metropolitan area. Although I am a Scotch Member, I am also a resident of London, and I certainly entertain a strong opinion that there should be some delegation of the special affairs of London, as a whole, to a Body representing London. Many think that the Kingdom of Scotland is greater than the Metropolitan area. On the principle, however, that the population of the Metropolitan area is quite equal to that of Scotland, that the wealth of the Metropolitan area is probably much greater than that of Scotland—although the intelligence of the Metropolitan area is behind that of Scotland—and also on the principle that Scotchmen are largely represented in London, and assist very largely in levelling up its intelligence, I think I am not far wrong in comparing its demand for local government with the similar demand of Scotland. As a Scotchman, I have a selfish object in desiring to see a good representative Local Body for London. It is the capital of the Empire, and I do not see that Scotch Members abandon their country when they come to reside here; they only come up to the capital of their country. Therefore, as a Scotchman resident in London, I am anxious to see something in the nature of local government for London. Whatever the character of that local government may be, I should like to see it go further than a mere Municipality. I should like to see the Local Body possessed of some powers to deal with gas, and water, and 1478 similar questions. It would be almost a disgrace for the Metropolitan population to be ruled by a body that possesses nothing more than the ordinary powers of a Municipal Body. Of late years the tendency of Parliament has been towards centralization, to be jealous of local municipal authority, and to take away from the town and city municipalities of the country the power of local legislation by bye-laws. As an instance, the House will allow me to refer to the bulky Bill introduced into Parliament last year—the Burghs Bill—for Scotch Municipal Government, by which it was proposed, practically, to take away the local powers which the cities and towns of the country have hitherto possessed in reference to local affairs. I want to reverse the centralizing tendency of recent times, and to give all the cities of the Kingdom very considerable powers of local regulation; still more where you have to deal with some 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 people, such as you have in the Metropolitan area. My proposal is, in no degree, antagonistic to that of giving power to local areas to manage their own affairs. On the contrary, where I wish to see this system of Provincial government, I trust that it will be carried farther upon the same system. I should like to see this delegation of local government carried out on something like the American principle—first, delegation to the great Provinces; then within the Provincial areas there should be a delegation to municipalities in the Provinces, by which we would be able to secure a complete and ascending series of Bodies from the smaller to the greater. I feel that it would be impossible to hope that any practical result would follow my Motion at the present moment; but, at the same time, I think it is desirable that the subject should be ventilated, and the ground prepared for those practical plans which may be submitted hereafter. A great representative meeting of the Liberal Associations of Scotland met the other day in Edinburgh, and unanimously passed a resolution to the effect that they considered the time had come when a measure of Home Rule for Scotland should be pressed on and passed by the Imperial Parliament. This demand, as I have already pointed out, is not in the sense of Home Rule for Ireland; but simply 1479 a demand for the delegation of some of the powers of Parliament to a Local Body representing Scotland, so as to deal with the affairs of Scotland more efficiently than hitherto. Under present conditions we get no legislation for Scotland beyond one or two Bills in the course of a Session. We get, generally, no legislation at all, or scamped legislation, which we are obliged to take as the Lord Advocate is pleased to give it to us, and frequently without the healthy discussion which it would have received if there had been some kind of local legislation. I think there is a pretty general consensus of opinion in Scotland that the work of the country has outgrown the capacity of this House; that something should be done by way of delegation; and that the delegation should take a local form. I beg to move the Amendment I have placed upon the Paper.
§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire) seconded the Amendment.
At the end of the 12th paragraph, to insert the words—"But humbly to submit to Her Majesty that the affairs of the Realm have out-grown the capacity of this House; find humbly to pray of Her Majesty to invite Her Majesty's Ministers to consider and submit to Parliament Measures whereby great part of the special affairs of Scotland, and of other parts of Great Britain may be relegated to bodies representing the several parts of the Kingdom, and the excessive burden on this House may be relieved."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College Division)
I should not like the debate to conclude without saying a word upon the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend (Sir George Campbell). My hon. Friend was careful to confine himself to the expression of a very moderate desire on the part of the Scotch, people in favour of a more direct control over their own local legislation. As a matter of fact, I think he was a good deal too guarded. No one can be ignorant that there is an immense and rapidly growing feeling in favour of Home Rule in Scotland, and there is no mystery as to how that feeling has been developed. The fact is, that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has been extensively canvassed and thought upon, and the people, having considered its details, have come, in greater and greater num- 1480 bers, to think that those details are applicable to the cases of other nationalities in the United Kingdom. [Cries of "No!" from the Ministerial Benches.] All I can say is, that in public meetings in Scotland every allusion in favour of Home Rule for that country is now rapturously cheered; and the reason is that the subject of Home Rule has been brought home to the people by the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The feeling in favour of Home Rule in Scotland goes very much further than my hon. Friend imagines; and it is felt by the people that what is wanted is a system very much on the lines of the measure proposed by the late Prime Minister for Ireland. They are anxious to see a separate Administration for Scotland. ["Oh, oh!"] That, at any rate, is my opinion, and I believe the Motion of my hon. Friend will have a valuable effect in educating this House to a knowledge of what is undoubtedly the growing feeling of the people of Scotland. I am speaking of that which I know; and I venture to say that at the next General Election the question of Home Rule for Scotland will be a test question. [Cries of "No!"] You may agree with the proposition or not; but I think it is desirable that Her Majesty's Ministers in this House should know what the state of public opinion in Scotland is upon the subject. I may say, further, that another reason which has led a large number of the people of Scotland, and which is leading them now to view favourably a proposal for Scotland similar to that which the late Prime Minister made with regard to Ireland, is this—that it appears to them the adoption of such a system, in regard to other portions of the United Kingdom would immensely facilitate the working of the Irish scheme. One of the objections which have been urged against the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian for Ireland would never be urged against any proposal for giving Home Rule to Scotland. When the right hon. Gentleman brought forward his Irish measure, it was strongly objected that it would divide the United Kingdom and lead to a virtual breaking up of the Union, and it was boldly asserted that that was the idea which prevailed in the minds of the Irish Members. No such assertion can 1481 be made with regard to Scotland, and Scotland has as fair a claim for Home Rule as could be made for Ireland. The Scottish people are rapidly adopting the opinion that next to nothing will be done for Scotland in the shape of legislation until she receives some such measure of Home Rule as that which has been proposed for Ireland. Although the idea appears to be regarded somewhat contemptuously, it is an undoubted fact that within a recent period the question of Home Rule has come to the front in Scotland, and that there is now a genuine Home Rule movement there. Therefore, I think my hon. Friend, in submitting a proposition to the House which will facilitate the consideration of the question, is deserving of the thanks of the House, and I hope that, at any rate, the step my hon. Friend has taken will have the effect of convincing the House that the subject is one which is engaging the attention of the people of Scotland. The Scottish people know, at the present moment, that they are overtaxed, and that the questions which are of primary interest to Scotland are receiving a very small amount of legislative attention. My hon. Friend has told hon. Members that there is a superstition in connection with Scottish legislation in this House. That the Representatives of Scotland are always able to get what they want the moment they make up their minds what it is to be. Unfortunately, it is impossible always to ensure unanimity, and, owing to the paucity of legislation, and the scant attention otherwise which Scotland received at the hands of Parliament under existing arrangements, there is a strong feeling rapidly developing itself in that country in favour of Home Rule.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I rise to support the Amendment of the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell); but, in doing so, I must express some surprise and sense of disappointment. I felt very much disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member. When I saw his Amendment on the Paper, I thought that he intended to propose a large and comprehensive scheme; but in his speech he so whittled down the scope and area of the Motion that if he had gone on much further we should have required a powerful microscope to find out the part of the United Kingdom to which it was to apply. Not 1482 only was the area the Motion was to cover diminished by the hon. Member, but the power of the local self-government he proposed was so diminished that it seemed to me it would amount to nothing before he had done. It has always been the wish of the Party to which I have the honour to belong to relieve this House of many of its multifarious duties, and I support the Motion of the hon. Member, because I think it should be the policy of that Party to support every Motion going in that direction. We should do so not only for the sake of the country that we represent, but also for our own sakes individually; because we have to sit up here night after night as men who attend diligently to the Parliamentary work which they have in hand. We are obliged to sit up here night after night until a very late hour in order to get Irish Business passed—in order, indeed, to get Irish Business considered, and to aid and assist that Government in passing the Estimates which are necessary to carry on the Irish Government. Not only is it necessary that we should stay here until a very late hour at night to attend to Irish Business, but it very often happens that we sit up here late in order to pass Radical measures when the pronounced Radicals themselves are at home sleeping in their beds. Nay, we have often sat up here night after night to oblige Scotch Members, in order to pass Scotch Business, when many Liberal Scotch Members are at home and asleep. We, I hold, are the only true Liberal or Radical self-sacrificing Members of this House. We have sacrificed our own comfort in this Parliament for the sake of advancing the Business of Irish, Scotch, and English Radicals. I think, therefore, there is very good reason why we should wish to see the Business of this House distributed in such a way that it would be unnecessary for us to perform these self-sacrificing duties. But, Sir, I would take a higher ground than that. Personally, I have a great regard for this Parliament. I believe no man who has studied the history of this Parliament, the great amount of work it has accomplished, its struggles for liberty, its splendid machinery, but must have a high regard for it. Anything that would restore to it its ancient efficiency would certainly have the support of the 1483 Party to which I belong. In that spirit, Sir, I support this Motion. This Parliament is a model which has been followed by all the Parliaments of every free people in the world. All the Parliaments of your Colonies have been modelled after the fashion of the Parliament of this country, and the old countries of Europe, when they have changed their institutions, have followed the example of this Parliament. The great American Republic, when it won its freedom, looked to this Parliament as the model for its institutions; and when I take all these things into account, my respect for this institution is increased, and my desire for its efficiency is also multiplied. We have heard a great deal during the past few days about obstruction to Business—about the difficulty of reaching the business stage of this Parliament. But what is the real reason for the delay which occurs? Why it is the great tendency that the world is showing for more talk. It is not this House alone that is hampered by that tendency. If the labours and the work of other governmental institutions in Europe and America are studied by Members of this House, they will find that it is with the greatest difficulty, and with daily-increasing difficulty, that the several Governments of these countries are able to carry out their business, except where their power is limited. Why, Sir, I was speaking to a gentleman last year who occupied atone time the Office of Prime Minister in the Government of Nova Scotia, and was at the same time Attorney General, and he told me a most extraordinary story. It was this—his Parliament consists of 28 Members, and there is connected with it a House of Lords which numbers, I think, 12 Members. Well, there was a most important matter before this very extraordinary House of Commons, consisting of 28 Members, and they debated the subject for two days and two nights, through Sunday morning and into the middle of the Sunday, and when the debate was concluded the Speaker put the Question. One Member of the House got up and protested against that course, stating that as it was Sunday Parliament could pass no law; but the Prime Minister rose and said that the Bill should be passed, and then if the question as to its legality were brought before him as Attorney General, he 1484 would decide it. Now, is it not extraordinary that in this small Parliament of Nova Scotia, consisting of only some 28 Members, a debate should have gone on for such a length of time? But does it not teach us a lesson? Does not the story carry its moral, and ought it not to teach hon. Members the necessity of agreeing to some such Motion as that of the hon. Member's (Sir George Campbell)? At all events, it proves my proposition that the tendency of the world is towards more talk, and that, therefore, the Members of this Legislature ought not to complain of the talk which goes on here. We have heard to-night a good deal about Scotch Home Rule. I wish the Members who represent Scotland would only show their earnest desire for Home Rule. From the Front Bench opposite last year it was held out to them by the late Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), that if the Scotch people would only indicate their desire for Home Rule, this Parliament and the people of this Kingdom would begin to consider the question. But whilst these differences exist amongst the Scotch people—["No, no!"]—well, I mean the differences referred to by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), and those differences exhibited in this House this evening—whilst they exist the Scotch people will never come within a long distance of Home Rule. When Scotland asks for it, Scotland will have the support of hon. Members from Ireland. But a more serious question arises than Scotch Home Rule, and that is English Home Rule. For some time past I have been going up and down this country, and I have observed a growing desire on the part of Englishmen to see their business attended to in the House of Commons. The desire for English Home Rule is growing gradually, but surely, and that desire can only be gratified by this House agreeing to some measure of a larger and more comprehensive character than that proposed by the hon. Gentleman to-night. I began my observations by saying that it was the desire of the Party with which I act to see the labours of this House properly divided. I believe that it will soon be the aim and object of Members representing all parts of the United Kingdom to bring about that division of labour which will enable this House to continue the career which has been so glorious in 1485 the past, and which, I believe, will he glorious in the future.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I do not know that many words are required from me or from the Government on this occasion. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) is well advised in bringing this Motion on. He can hardly have supposed himself that it could or would receive serious discussion on such an occasion, and the speech in which he advocated his proposal was certainly not of the kind to induce the House of Commons seriously to consider it. What object he can have gained I do not know. Whether he thinks—to use his own poetic phrase—he has well manured the ground by what he has said, I do not know, but I certainly think that, on consideration, he will agree with me that to expect this House seriously to consider at 12 o'clock at night on the 13th day of the Address the re-establishment of the Heptarchy in this Kingdom is to expect a great deal too much. Sir, the system that the hon. Gentleman wants to destroy has been, so far as England and Scotland are concerned, in operation to the general contentment of all parties, for 180 years; and, so far as Great Britain and Ireland are concerned, for the past 80 years. [Several Irish Members: Contentment! Oh, oh!] I grant that during the last few years the pressure of business in this House has become so great that all Governments from whatever side of the House they are drawn, and all Parties on whichever side of the House they sit, have turned their minds to devising some plan by which their labours can be diminished, but the hon. Gentleman himself in laying his scheme before us has not explained in the smallest degree what subjects these Bodies that he is going to establish are going to deal with, nor does he explain to us how the labours of Parliament are going to be relieved by the adoption of his proposal; and surely before the hon. Gentleman destroys a system of such antiquity, and which has been for so long the admiration of the world, he ought at all events to see whether the temporary evil we have suffered from for the past few years cannot be in some 1486 degree remedied, and will not be to a certain extent mitigated by the measures which Her Majesty's Government have announced that they intend to propose. Now there are in all four Measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech which have either some direct bearing upon the government of Scotland, or some direct relation to the relief of the pressure of business in the House. To begin with, there is the Bill for altering the position of the Scotch Secretary. Then there are the new Rules of Procedure. [A laugh.] I heard some hon. Member opposite laugh. At all events, I would suggest to him and his friends that probably the new Rules will be found not inadequate to meet the particular evil which the hon. Gentleman who last spoke particularly alluded to—an undue flux of talk, which he seems to think is a disease that attacks all modern Representative Institutions. Then there is the Local Government Bill, and finally, there is the Measure by which it is proposed to amend the system by which Private Bill Legislation is at present conducted. At least three of these Measures are directly concerned with remedying the evils to which the hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Campbell) called attention. So far as one could gather from the discursive and sometimes inaudible remarks the hon. Gentleman offered us, these measures are far more calculated to carry out the object he has in view than the proposal he himself submits. I admit that in criticizing his plan I am under the difficulty that I do not understand exactly what it is. I believe he proposes to hand over the affairs of Scotland to a Scotch Local Assembly, but that is only a small fractional part of the hon. Gentleman's scheme. He also wants to give Homo Rule to London; he also wants to give Home Rule to Wales—[An hon. MEMBER: And to Yorkshire!]—an hon. Member suggests that he would also give Home Rule to Yorkshire, and I certainly would put in a plea for Cornwall, which differs in the origin and character of its population from the rest of the United Kingdom quite as much as those parts to which the hon. Member alluded. But the hon. Gentleman who has thus carved out his native country into these fractional divisions has not told us what these fractional divisions are to deal with when carved out, what these Local Legisla- 1487 tures are to do when created. Are they to deal with purely local parochial matters in a purely local parochial manner, or are they to deal with those larger questions of policy to which we in this House are accustomed to apply ourselves?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But what are the special affairs of Scotland? What are the special affairs of Wales, what are the special affairs of London, what are the special affairs of Yorkshire, of Cornwall? That is precisely what I want to know. Are they only strictly speaking local affairs or are they larger affairs of policy? If they are strictly local affairs then I think the demand the hon. Gentleman has made will be adequately met by the Local government Bill the Government mean to bring forward, but if they are the larger questions of policy, such, for instance, as the Church of the land—[Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: "Hear, hear!"] Then the hon. Gentleman seriously comes down to this House and asks us in all gravity to pass a series of Measures by which London is to decide whether it is to have a National Church for itself or not, whether it is to have a separate Land Act for itself or not, or what the position of its landlords is to be. He asks this historic Assembly to consider seriously so wild and insane a proposal as that. The hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that the commentary he has just made by way of interruption to my speech is clearly a reason why we should entirely refrain from any further serious consideration to the proposal he has made. If there were no other reason for the advice I now give the House, I should find a reason for it in a sentence that fell from the hon. Gentleman himself. He informed us with that naïve candour peculiar to himself that if his Amendment were passed it would bind no one who voted for it to any particular Measure. Well, I believe this House will refrain from passing an abstract Resolution which binds no one who votes for it to anything in particular. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman thinks, but I am sure the House will agree with me that anything so venerable as the Constitution of this country ought not to be tampered with in a light spirit—that if we approach it to introduce 1488 changes, we should do so seriously with our proposals carefully considered, with the details of our proposals carefully marked out, and with all the difficulties which must ensue from a large change carefully weighed and balanced. The hon. Gentleman has done none of these things. We do not know from him what the relation is to be between these Local Bodies and the Imperial Parliament or how the powers of the Local Bodies are to be limited. When we are told that the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman will bind no one who votes for it to any particular Measure, I think I have given sufficient reason to the House why, at this stage of our proceedings, we need no longer consider the proposal which the hon. Gentleman, in this somewhat incoherent form, has laid before the House.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
[Loud cries of "Divide!"]: I am afraid it is rather early in the Session for hon. Gentlemen opposite to practise this species of discourtesy. Besides, this is a Scotch question, and interruption of this kind is rarely practised on such occasions. I was a good deal struck by the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and also surprised at the heat he infused into the discussion. ["No, no!"] Yes, it is undoubtedly evidence of a heated frame of mind to describe a proposal brought forward by so modest and moderate a Member as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) as an "insane" proposal. I am rather afraid that these epithets are too strong so early in the Session. If such insinuations are indulged in I very much fear that the progress we shall make with legislation will not be very great. Now, this Amendment is not one that should excite the ire of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It really should not ruffle the feathers of the Minister for Scotland to suggest that his native land should have given to it a special opportunity for performing those functions which, by the common consent of those who have studied the history of Scotland, Scotchmen have from time to time evinced a special aptitude to discharge. The words of the Amendment, I think, claim for themselves a peculiar style of obeisance which should have calmed the wrath of the right hon. Gentleman. The second 1489 word of the Amendment is "humbly." Its phrases are thoroughly Parliamentary, and when we see before us an Amendment couched in such language as that we are compelled to draw a comparison between it and the speech of the Representative of the Government, largely to the advantage of the former. The Amendment read—But humbly to submit to Her Majesty that the affairs of the Realm have outgrown the capacity of this House.[Cries of "Divide!"] There is one inherent capacity in the House still, and that is the capacity of English Members to continually cry "Divide," in order to interrupt hon. Gentlemen who do not agree with them in politics when they are endeavouring to state their views. The Amendment goes on to say—and humbly to pray of Her Majesty to invite Her Majesty's Ministers to consider and submit to Parliament measures whereby great part of the special affairs of Scotland and of other parts of Great Britain may be relegated to bodies representing the several parts of the Kingdom, and the excessive burden on this House may be relieved.The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the Mover of the Amendment would allow these delegated bodies to have cognizance of such matters as Church affairs. I say "Why not?" The Scotch people already have special legislation on that subject. In this House we have had instances of it. I remember a whole Wednesday being devoted to the discussion of the Scotch Church by Scotch Members. I remember the day particularly because it was the day of our National festival. The whole of last St. Patrick's Day was occupied with the Question of the Church of Scotland in this House, and I do not think it too much to say in the spirit of this Amendment that we should delegate legislation on such a subject as that from this House—and I am speaking in an imperial and not in a local sense—to the Scotch Members. It is for the Scotch Members to say whether they should or should not maintain their Kirk as a State Institution. As I say, the subject was discussed here, and occupied the whole of a Wednesday sitting; but nothing came of it, and I do not think it is pressing the argument too far to say that the subject might have been as profitably discussed 1490 by a Scotch Assembly in Edinburgh as it was in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. The right hon. Gentleman objects to our entering into the discussion of an Amendment of this kind at 12 o'clock at night; but I would say, with all respect to the House, that we have often addressed ourselves to more trivial matters than are contained in this Amendment long after 12 o'clock at night. The right hon. Gentleman says, further, forsooth, that, seeing that England and Scotland have carried on the existing arrangement for 180 years, therefore it is absurd to disturb it at the present time. There it is: the old policy of the Tory Party—stupid stagnation. Because a thing has existed for some length of time, it must remain for ever. That is the motto of the Tory Party. The Legislative Union between England and Scotland has existed for 180 years, therefore, it must not only be maintained, but sustained in every particular, and cannot be at all modified. But let the right hon. Gentleman who argues thus, just for a moment recollect that, though the union between England and Scotland has existed for 180 years, really, in this House, you have given Scotland Home Rule all the time. On great Scotch Questions, you always consult the Scotch Members. You do not divide them into two—you take both sides into your consultation. You examine, as far as possible, into what are their views on matters which are to come forward for legislation. That practice has existed for 180 years; and it appears to me that the Amendment of the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell) really means no more than to continue it. The hon. Gentleman proposes that you should give that practice which has so long existed in your Constitution a more formal methodical recognition by delegating primarily to the Scotch people certain Scotch Business which they could as sensibly, as effectually, and as practically transact in Scotland as you can transact it here. The Motion of the hon. Member was also met by the right hon. Gentleman with the announcement that there were four Measures adumbrated or foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech, which remotely, or intimately, or materially, one way or another, affects Scotland, or, if not Scotland, the United Kingdom. I believe I am fairly paraphrasing the remarks of the right hon. 1491 Gentleman. It is because four measures are foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech that the people of Scotland are not to raise their voice, and they are not to approach Parliament on this question. I think, Sir, that is a very broad argument. If it were to be maintained, the result would be that a Ministry with a barren policy—any Ministry who felt their own incapacity—might come down to the House with a programme charged with four adumbrated measures that could never come into the domains of practical legislation. We have here, Sir, the whole argument which from time to time is put forward, not only in this case, but against us. I will not refer, in this debate, to the arguments advanced a few nights ago; but I say that this seems to be the stock-in-trade argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite and when once raised on the Treasury Bench it is re-echoed in melancholy monotony which seems to indicate the barrenness of intellect and argument for which the Tory Party is conspicuous. The argument opposed to the demand for Home Rule for Ireland and Scotland is the same always—"Will you re-establish the Heptarchy?" Why not? I say that if it suits the people of Great Britain we should re-establish it. After all, what is a system of local government but a modern translation of the Heptarchy? I doubt very much whether hon. Members opposite who so glibly use this argument in order to discredit the appeals made for this legislation, thoroughly understand how far it takes them—["Oh, oh!"]—because if they do, and the peculiar circumstances of Scotland and Wales require peculiar treatment in this House, or a special delegation of powers, why do they deny it to them? Let us take a practical issue, and suppose a deputation of Welshmen or Highlanders who could only speak their native tongue were to come as a deputation to the Ministry; and suppose for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Scotch Department in this House, and who has spoken to-night with such an air of self-confidence as much as to say—"When I ope my mouth let no dog bark—"
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must call the attention of the House to the continued irrelevance on the part of the hon. Member, and direct him to discontinue his speech.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I agree, Sir, with one statement, and with one only, which has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour)—namely, that the present is not the time for discussing so important a subject as a measure of Home Rule for Scotland; and I will go farther and say that this is hardly the occasion on which it ought to be discussed. This is a Motion which proposes that a great part of the affairs of Scotland should be relegated to a Scotch Parliament. It does not say what part; so that a more indefinite Motion could hardly be brought before us; but, at the same time, I warn the right hon. Gentleman that in demolishing the arguments of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) he has by no means silenced or got rid of the question of Home Rule for Scotland. I believe that I am interpreting the sentiments of the Scotch Members when I say that on the present occasion is not one on which this subject can be adequately discussed, and I do not myself intend to discuss it this evening; but for the information of the right hon. Gentleman I wish to say that the question of Home Rule is one which has been attracting the very serious consideration of the people of Scotland. I have never in my lifetime known a political question that has advanced with such rapid strides as this has done. I am met by my own constituents with this argument—that if what I say with regard to Ireland is true, it is still more true with regard to Scotland. As far as my constituents are concerned, the general body of them have said that they felt the time had come when a measure of Home Rule for Scotland should be passed—a measure which would give to Scotland a Legislative Assembly of its own, which should have control of the Executive. Since the introduction of the Bill of the lute Government, I have met many constituencies in various parts of Scotland—in Edinburgh, Galashiels, and Dundee, where enthusiastic meetings have been held, in which resolutions in favour of a measure of this kind have been unanimously passed. We do not mean by Home Rule for Scotland, anything that would diminish or destroy the Imperial Union of the two countries. So far as Imperial affairs are concerned the Union between Scotland and England has been, 1493 as the right hon. Gentleman had said, an unqualified success; but so far as legislation specifically affecting Scotland is concerned, it is the opinion of the Scottish people that its success has not not been unqualified. It is the opinion that the special business of Scotland has been neglected and that it is now largely in arrear. I make these observations, Sir, in order to warn the right hon. Gentleman not to imagine that this question has died. He will hear of it again, and under circumstances which I hope will afford a more favourable opportunity for discussion.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
Sir, I brought forward this Motion at a late hour with the assent of the right hon. Gentleman opposite solely with the view of saving the time of the House. I merely wished to give notice that this question is one which hon. Members for Scotland regard as serious and one which is coming to the front, as well as to elicit the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland upon it, of which the people of Scotland will now be able to judge. Having done so, I will now ask permission to withdraw my Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate farther adjourned till To-morrow.