HC Deb 15 July 1887 vol 317 cc954-6
MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, in regard to Scotch Questions, To whom Members may address inquiries or Questions in this House, in order to receive answers with the authority of Her Majesty's Government?

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster)

The Lord Advocate is the Member of the Government who answers generally all Scotch Questions which may be addressed to the Government; and if from any cause the Lord Advocate fools himself unable to answer a Question of importance, it should be addressed to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is the responsible officer, superior to the Lord Advocate, for any Scotch Questions which may be raised in this House.


Will the First Lord of the Treasury exercise some discretion?

MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)

asked, if the right hon. Gentleman was aware that the powers of the Secretary for Scotland were, by Act of Parliament, vested in the Secretary for Scotland, and could not be delegated to the Lord Advocate, or to the Home Secretary, or any other officer of the Government?

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

asked, whether the Home Secretary had any official authority over the Lord Advocate?


I must ask hon. Gentlemen to consult the Act of Parliament under which the Office of Secretary for Scotland was constituted. But hon. Gentlemen are very well aware that in the arrangements of the Government one officer or another undertakes special duties; and naturally it falls to the Secretary of State, on any Question which the Lord Advocate cannot answer, to deal with that Question.

MR. A. L. BROWN (Hawick, &c.)

Who is the responsible Minister, when the Lord Advocate states it is not his province to answer a particular Question?

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

I did not say anything of the kind.


Order !


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, whether the Bill promised in the Queen's Speech relating to the Office of Secretary for Scotland was ever to be introduced; and whether the Government would postpone the Vote for the Salary of the Secretary for Scotland until that measure had been introduced, and the House knew what the duties of that Office were?


The duties of the Secretary for Scotland are expressed in the Act which exists. I have every reason to believe that the Bill will be introduced; but I am not able to give the undertaking which the hon. Gentleman asks me to give, unless it is his desire that the Office of Secretary for Scotland shall altogether be abolished.

MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, whether he will not reconsider what he has said, in reply to the Question about referring Scotch Questions to the Secretary for Scotland; whether it is not a fact that the cause for the Scotch Secretary Act was not this—namely, the confusion which had arisen owing to the arrangement of the Scotch business is the Home Office; whether in that Act all the Scotch powers vested in the Home Secretary, except law and justice, were transferred to the Secretary for Scotland; whether he has not promised, under the new Bill, that these powers will be transferred to the Secretary for Scotland; and whether all those permanent officials in the Home Office who were acquainted with the Scotch business have not been transferred to the Scotch Office; and that, therefore, the Home Secretary is hardly likely to be able to give a satisfactory answer to Scotch Questions?


I do not question a single word of the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, and I do not wish to indicate that ordinary Questions on Scotch business would be dealt with by the Home Secretary. But I understand the contention to have arisen from the fact that the particular Question addressed to the Lord Advocate was a Question which it was not fitting for the Lord Advocate, as a subordinate in the Scotch Office, to reply to, and only such Questions which might be addressed to the Government, as superior to the Secretary for Scotland, would be dealt with by the Secretary of Stale for the Home Department, who, having regard to the position he holds in the Government, would be the proper person to reply to such Questions.