§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [29th February].
§ "That the Resolutions of the House of the 1st December, 1882, relating to the Constitution and Proceedings of Standing Committees for the consideration of Bills relating to Law, and Courts of Justice, and Legal Procedure, and to Trade, Shipping, and Manufactures, be revived.
§ "Provided always, That the Committee shall consist of not more than Sixty nor less than Forty Members, subject to the power of addition to the said Committees by the Committee of Selection, as provided by the said Resolution."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY (Oxford University)
said, it was well for the House to see how considerable and fundamental was the change now proposed to be made in the Grand Committees as sanctioned in 1882. It was resolved in 1882 that there should be two Grand Committees, one upon Law and the other upon Trade, and that each should consist of not less than 60 and not more than 80 Members, who were to be nominated by the Committee of Selection. The Committee of Selection, however, had the power to add 15 Members, so that a Grand Committee might consist of 75 or 95. The proposal now made was that the Committee should consist of not more than 60 and not less than 40 Members. It appeared to him that this constitution of the Grand Committees would fail to carry out the object the House had in view, when it sanctioned the establishment of 385 Grand Committees. The original idea was that these Committees should not be large, but that they should be so large that they should be miniatures of the House itself—perfect representations of the House itself—that they should be presided over by Chairmen specially selected by the Committee of Selection to perform the duties. There was to be a panel of Chairmen not exceeding six, and five Gentlemen of experience were selected. It was now proposed that these Committees should be of very much smaller dimensions. His hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) who, with himself (Sir John Mowbray), took a very active part in the constitution of the Committees in 1882 and 1883, would agree with him when he said that all the Committees then appointed were eminently satisfactory, But the Committee of Selection would experience great difficulty in the formation of Committees of the size now proposed. By a Resolution of the House the Committee of Selection were instructed to have regard to the composition of the House and to the qualifications of the Members selected to servo on the Committees. They were now asked to form a Committee which might be as small as 40, and therefore the House would see the difficulty in which the Committee of Selection would be placed. Take the case of the Grand Committee on Law. Of necessity, the Attorney General, the ex-Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the Lord Advocate, the Attorney General and Solicitor General for Scotland, and the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who held the same office in the previous Ministry, would have to be chosen as Members of the Committee. Then there were many lawyers from whom they would have to make a selection, and there were the Representatives of the great trading communities, and there were Members of the House who by their individual qualifications ought to be Members of the Committee. The selection would be most invidious; indeed, the task imposed upon the Committee of Selection would be a most onerous one. There was another point he ought to mention, and it was one of very great importance in the working out of these Committees. If a Grand Committee consisted of 67 Members, it would represent one in 10 of the whole House, and the Committee 386 of Selection came to the conclusion originally that a less number than one in 10 would not enable them to thoroughly represent the exact composition of the House and the various Parties in the House. There were Nationalities to be represented, and in the case of trade it was necessary that the different industrial centres in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales should be properly represented on the Committee. If they limited the number of the Committee, they would find the task of selection one almost impossible to discharge.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, he had an Amendment to propose which would come before the Proviso at the end of the new Rule. As the Rule stood in 1882 agriculture was not included, and he wished to remedy that omission. He considered it of special importance that this should be done in view of the Railway Rates Bill coming before the Grand Committee. Under the Standing Order of 1882, matters relating to trade, shipping, and manufactures were to be dealt with by the Grand committee, and he wished the Committee to have regard also to agriculture and fisheries. He was obliged to move the Amendment in the shape of a Proviso in consequence of the form in which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) presented his proposal, and the Proviso was in these words—In Rule 13, line 4, after "revived" insert,—"Provided, that 'Trade' shall include Agricultural and Fishing interests, and that those interests shall be entitled to due consideration in the constitution of such Standing; Committee.Some Members were of opinion that a better plan would be to have a separate Grand Committee to deal with questions relating to agriculture; but if they had such Committee, although all the most prominent Members representing agriculture would be placed on it, probably no Bill of any great importance would be sent to it. To his mind, it would be much better to appoint a number of Members especially connected with agriculture—say, 15—to serve on the Committee on Trade, also a number of Members connected with the fishing industry. Both these industries were greatly interested in the Railway Rates Bill, which would be considered by the 387 grand Committee on Trade; but unless the Proviso he now proposed were adopted, agriculture and fisheries might not receive special attention in the nomination of Members to servo on the Committee.
In line 4, after the word "revived," to insert the words,—" Provided, that' Trade ' shall include Agricultural and Fishing interests, and that those interests shall he entitled to due consideration in the constitution of such Standing Committee."—(Mr. Heneage.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he had an Amendment much lower down on the Paper; but as it related exactly to the same subject as the one the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Heneage) had moved, and as it merely provided an alternative plan for giving effect to the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought it would be convenient to consider the two Amendments together. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman would be, he acknowledged, an improvement on the Rule as it stood; but to his mind, a Committee formed of Members who were closely connected with any interest would do better work than a Committee of Members representing conflicting interests. As an illustration of the truth of this, he would point out that the Grand Committee on Law—on which he had had the honour of serving—had been composed of Members representing conflicting interests, and that, therefore its deliberations had been abortive, whilst the deliberations of the other Grand Committee called "the good Committee "—that Committee having been composed of Members connected with trade, had been most successful, and had saved the House a great deal of trouble. If they got a certain number of men interested in a certain subject, and put them on a Committee appointed to deal with that subject, they would agree and would do very good work; but if they took men representing conflicting interests, however much fighting there might be in the Committee, hostilities would be renewed again with the same vigour when the matters in dispute came before the House on Report. He considered that if they had one Committee to do the work of trade and agriculture, they would have a balance of conflicting 388 interests, and the one which proved the weaker would go to the wall. They must bear in mind that there were far more questions raised in the House about trade than agriculture, and that there would be far more Trade Bills referred to the Grand Committee than Agricultural Bills; they must also remember that they had no Minister looking after agriculture, and that agricultural matters were, as a rule, treated in a haphazard manlier in Parliament. His contention was that if they had some specific machinery for dealing with agricultural subjects, there would be an inducement for doing something for the industry. The country did very little for it at present, compared with what was done for it in the United States, in France, and other countries. He did not see how they could possibly constitute a Grand Committee which would properly attend to both trade and agriculture. As for the Railway Rates Bill, if his proposal were adopted, he should suggest that the measure be referred to the Committee on both Trade and Agriculture. His Amendment was to add, at the end of Rule 13—That there he another Grand Committee, similarly constituted, and subject to the same Rules, for the consideration of all Bills relating to Agriculture which may, by order of the House in each case, be committed to it.If that were accepted, he should vote against the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby, although he thought that proposal would be an improvement on the actual Rule as it stood.
§ SIR EDWARD BIRKBECK (Norfolk, E.)
said, he also had given Notice of an Amendment—namely, to add, at the end of the Rule—That there be another Grand Committee, similarly constituted, and subject to the same rules, for the consideration of all Bills relating to Agriculture which may, by order of the House in each case, be committed to it.The reason he had placed this Amendment on the Paper was because he considered the agricultural industry was the greatest in the country, and certainly the most suffering. The tenant farmers did not understand Bills affecting agriculture being sent to a Standing Committee which had also to consider matters affecting commerce, shipping, fisheries, and so on, and he knew their desire was that there should be a Grand Committee 389 to consider agricultural subjects only. He was bound also to say that he had been under the impression that the Bill which was to be introduced constituting an Agricultural Department would be referred to a Standing Committee, and that he considered it indispensable that the measure should come before a Committee composed of Members of both sides of the House who would thoroughly understand the subject. The question of railway rates, which had been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Mr. Heneage), was an important matter. No doubt, there should be a certain number of agriculturists on the Committee by whom that measure would be considered; but, above all, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would hold out some hope to the House that on a future occasion, if there were important Agricultural Bills before the House, he would be in favour of appointing an Agricultural Committee to consider them. If the right hon. Gentleman would do that, the agricultural interests would be satisfied. All he (Sir Edward Birkbeck) would now do was to express the hope that in line 4, before the word "Trade," the right hon. Gentleman would allow the word "Agriculture" to be inserted, so that the Rule would readStanding Committees for the consideration of Bills relating to haw and Courts of Justice, and Legal Procedure, and to Agriculture, Trade, Shipping, and Manufactures.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
With regard to the Amendment of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Heneage) embracing the two heads of the Agricultural and Fishing interests, all of us must acknowledge that both of these interests are of enormous importance. But, at the present moment, I do not think we need deal particularly with the fishing interest, because it appears to me that a Bill relating to fishing, supposing this Standing Committee to be reconstituted as a Trade Committee, will be referred to that Committee as a matter of course. That is my impression; therefore, the real question we have before us is the question of agriculture, which probably would not, under the present wording of the Rule, be referred to the Committee on Trade. Now, Sir, looking at the principle of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, I conceive it to be included 390 in the first few words of the proposal. I am doubtful whether the latter words are necessary or convenient. I thoroughly agree with my right hon. Friend that the Committee on Trade ought to include agricultural and fishing interests. If they are included, then it will follow, under the operation of the Standing Order, that due regard will be had to those interests in the constitution of the Standing Committee; consequently, I think that any further specification such as "those interests shall be entitled to due consideration in the constitution of such Standing Committees," would introduce ambiguity into the rest of the Standing Order. Therefore, I will only consider what I may call the real point before us—whether agriculture will be included within the purview of the Trade Committee. I do not know what the view of Her Majesty's Government may be—I have no authentic information—but before they state it, there is no reason why I should not state the light in which I look at the question. Though agriculture is in many respects distinct from the trading interests, yet they both belong to the great category of industrial interests. When we are told that it is the desire of the tenant farmers to have a separate Standing Committee for the consideration of agricultural matters, I must say I doubt whether persons outside of this House are very competent judges on such a point. It is very much of a practical question for the House itself to consider, rather than one for persons outside, who cannot see very well the practical effect of what they may prefer on abstract grounds. It is not inappropriate to regard that question as it is illustrated by the subjects of great interest that are now pending. Now, there is no subject pending of greater interest to the agricultural classes than that of Railway Rates. It is a subject of extreme complication. It a subject in respect to which the farmers suffer in many instances very considerable hardship. It is impossible to suppose that the Companies will not try to get traffic wherever they can, and will not desire to make the best arrangements for it that can be made. But still there are considerations of the utmost complexity that enter into the arrangements for carrying goods from the place of production to market. Questions connected 391 with the quantities of the goods and the continuity of supply bear upon those arrangements; and it is very often the object of the Companies to get traffic on their Hues for long distances; and that has a tendency to bear hardly upon those producers and traders who are nearer to the markets. Now, all these matters will require great consideration in connection with the Railway Bates Bill. We are not now legislating for finality or for eternity. This legislation is, to a certain extent, experimental in its detail; and it is on account of its experimental character that I want to ask myself whether the question could best be dealt with by one Grand Committee or two Grand Committees. The subject of Railway Hates deeply concerns both the agricultural and trading interests. One hon. Member has suggested that the Railway Rates Bill ought to be referred to both Committees; but how can that possibly be done without each Committee having to travel over a great deal of the ground traversed by the other? The Railway Rates Bill is a complex one, and will, we may depend upon it, require all the time and attention which can be conveniently given to it. Most of the matters that will have to be considered in that Bill are in a large degree common to Agriculture and to Trade; and if we are to have a full and effective consideration of them, it is necessary, or at least in the highest degree expedient, that the Committee which has the Bill before it should be able to take into view all the different subjects relating to the traffic which the railways have to carry from the place of production, to market. I believe that, generally, those subjects will be best considered in a Grand Committee which is a Committee both for Trade and for Agriculture. If it should appear that Agriculture might not be sufficiently represented on the Committee—first of all we have great reason to repose confidence in those with whom the selection of the Members will rest; and, in the next place, Agriculture is strong enough in this House to prevent the infliction of any injustice on it in the composition of the Committee. I think that to send the Railway Rates Bill before two Committees would be an awkward and cumbrous arrangement, and one that would tend to delay legislation.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said, he would not detain the House for more than a moment or two. It had seldom been his good fortune to listen to a speech in the House from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) with which he more heartily concurred from beginning to end. If they were now about to decide for all time, as to whether or not there should be a Grand Committee on Agriculture, then he thought the question would be open to considerable discussion; but he did not understand that that was so by any moans. If in any future Session it was thought desirable or necessary to appoint a Grand Committee specifically to deal with Agricultural questions, he did not think there would be anything in their action to-night to prevent that being done. There could not be a question as to the correctness of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that the Railway Rates Bill was probably the measure which, above all others, would interest the Agricultural Party this Session, and that could be discussed by a Joint Committee on Trade and Agriculture. He did not think there was a sufficient number of important Bills affecting Agriculture likely to pass a second reading, so as to render it necessary to ask for a Grand Committee this Session to deal specially with those measures. Therefore, he cordially supported the proposal that Agriculture should be included in the Grand Committee on Trade. That was an arrangement with which at present, at all events, he thought they should rest satisfied.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
said, that representing, as he did, a constituency for the most part agricultural, he trusted that he might be allowed to take part in the discussion. He hoped the House would not assent to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby. The way in which agricultural affairs had been uniformly treated by both Parties had always been to him a matter of the greatest astonishment. Everybody had always acknowledged the enormous importance of the agricultural interest of the country, and yet it was only recently, after repeated negotiation, that they had obtained the promise of a separate Department and a 393 responsible Minister of Agriculture. He did not think that suck treatment was accorded to the agricultural interest in other countries; it certainly was not in the United States and France. What was it they asked for? It had been decided that Grand Committees were to be formed for the discussion of various subjects, and those who represented this most important interest only asked that agricultural matters should be discussed by a Committee composed of Members who were conversant with agriculture. There was a thing in connection with agriculture to marvel at In regard to almost every other pursuit, under the sun some knowledge, training, and experience was deemed to be necessary on the part of those who undertook to deal with it; but that was not the case with agriculture. Almost everybody deemed himself competent to advise the farmer how to farm his land. They were asked to have this Grand Committee composed of very eminent men, no doubt, but not men eminent in agricultural knowledge. The Government appeared to think that the moment a Member was appointed on such a Committee he would be able to deal with the interests of agriculture by intuition. They did not want to deal with agricultural questions men of the Wilkins Micawber kind—this gentleman, as related by Dickens, having, when expecting to leave this country for America, put on a planter's hat and busied himself with casting a critical eye on the cattle that passed, although he could not tell a cow from a horse. They did not want to deal with agricultural questions men who could not distinguish oats from barley, and who told them that jam making and the growing of "button holes" was the panacea for all the ills the industry was suffering from. They ought to make a stand and insist on having a Committee in which agricultural affairs would be properly discussed; and he hoped that this justice would not be denied to a depressed and long-suffering interest.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Kuatchbull-Hugessen) appeared to be under a misapprehension as to the work which devolved upon Standing Committees. The question they had to consider was 394 how they might constitute the Committee so as to give full expression to the views of hon. Members in different parts of the House. His hon. Friend seemed to fear that if there was not a separate Committee on Agriculture a serious blow would be dealt at that interest all over the Kingdom. Would his hon. Friend say that the Railway Bill was a Bill which solely affected agriculture? It also affected trade, and it would be impossible to refer that Bill to an Agricultural Committee. Indeed, he could hardly conceive any Bill dealing with trade that did not affect agriculture. To confine the Committee, then, to agriculture, would place agriculture at a serious disadvantage; and he believed that if the Government took the course suggested by his hon. Friend they would seriously cripple the power of Agricultural Members to deal with the important interests of their constituents. Then the question arose as to what Bill should be referred to an Agricultural Committee. One thing had been mentioned—the Bill for an Agricultural Department. That was a matter of considerable importance, and ought not to be referred to a Standing Committee at all. The Bill would not be one of any considerable length, and he thought it ought to come before a Committee of the Whole House. He could not give his assent to an Agricultural Committee; but if the circumstances of another year were different and rendered it necessary, then it would be fully open to Parliament to take what action it pleased.
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
said, the interests of agriculture should be fairly represented in this House, and he was anxious that, whatever step was taken in connection with these Committees, that agriculture should have perfectly fair play. He did not think that in the past that attention had been paid to agriculture which the importance of the industry demanded, at any rate, in the future. But it appeared to him that their object in reference to this question should be to aim at having these Committees so constituted that the opinions that came down from them to the House should come down with the greatest amount of weight possible; and he fancied that there would be more weight given by the House to opinions which came down from a mixed Com- 395 mittee of Trade and Agriculture than would be given to those which come down from a specific Committee on Agriculture. On that ground and on that line he would support the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury—on the understanding that agriculture was specifically named in the title of the Committee, and that the Agricultural Members would have a perfect right, if they found this plan work badly, to raise the question again on some future period.
§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON (Devon, South Molton)
said, he agreed it was utterly impossible to dissociate questions of Trade from questions of Agriculture, but there was one point he should like to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House—namely, that he would reconsider the question of enlarging the number of Members on the Standing Committee. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) had appealed to him a few nights ago on the question, and on reflection the right hon. Gentleman would surely agree that it would be impossible within a limit of 40 Members to appoint a Committee which would be thoroughly representative, and would be able to deal practically with these important matters.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The question of the number of Members forming the Grand Committees will come under consideration on a subsequent part of the Motion.
§ MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
said, he would point out to some hon. Gentlemen sitting near him the actual state of affairs caused by the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) and by a subsequent Amendment down in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan). As he understood the matter the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby, if adopted, would stultify the subsequent Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway, and for that reason he opposed the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. As to the actual merits of the proposal to which they had listened, there seemed to be a remarkable concensus of opinion between the occupants of the two Front Benches in favour of the 396 policy of "masterly inactivity" and postponement. The First Lord of the Treasury had asked the House on various occasions to suggest anything practical to remedy the evil which had fallen upon agriculture, which was reckoned the principal industry of this country. Well he (Mr. Brookfield) ventured to think that a practical suggestion had now been made, and if the Government would accept it, it would be an evidence that they were anxious to do something for agriculture. The agriculturists wished to be allowed to discuss matters affecting their interests through their own Representatives. As to the questions which were likely to come before an Agricultural Committee, he did not understand the discrepancy between the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian having pointed out that the Railway Rates Bill would be a measure of the greatest importance to agricultural constituencies, and holding that for that reason it should be discussed by a thoroughly competent Grand Committee, whereas the First Lord of the Treasury in speaking of another measure—namely, a Bill for the Establishment of a Department of Agriculture, had said that, in his opinion, it would not be right to relegate its consideration to a Grand Committee, but that it should be discussed in Committee of the Whole House. If they looked through the list of measures before the House this Session they would find that there were no less than 14, which were intimately connected with Agriculture. He was loth to detain the House, but he felt compelled to say that they would do well to reject the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Heneage) with a view to the acceptance of that which would take its place upon its being defeated—that was to say, the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway. As to the argument that there were not enough Agricultural Members to be found in the House to enable a panel to be struck to serve both on a Grand Committee on Trade and a Grand Committee on Agriculture, that was a state of things for which the remedy 397 rested with Her Majesty's Government, who possessed means to persuade Gentlemen who sat on the Ministerial side of the House and professed to represent agricultural constituencies, to take less frequent holidays and pay closer attention to their Parliamentary duties.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, he thought it would be a convenient plan that this question should be altogether decided on the Amendment before the House. They must bear in mind that the alternative to this proposal was one of a very serious character. It was no less than to ask the House to sot up alongside of the two Committees proposed by Her Majesty's Government, a third Committee to deal with the question of Agriculture. As practical men they had to ask themselves whether there was any probability at the present time of a sufficient amount of Business arising to justify the appointment of a Committee on Agriculture, and the answer to that question would be found in the determination of what was the extent of the meaning attached to the word "Agriculture." If the view of the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House was to be followed, Agriculture would be held to include horses, fish, glebes, Land Bills, Crofters' Bills, agricultural holdings, agricultural labourers, and so on. If they intended the term "Agriculture" to include all legislation upon questions in any way affecting land, then the matter assumed a different aspect, and became of such grave importance that they might well ask that questions of this nature should be handed over to the consideration of a separate Committee. Looking at the term "Agriculture" in its more limited form, and taking the view that had been already placed before the House that the only question of importance which could be rightly sent to the Committee was that of Railway Rates, it was obvious that there could be no ground or reason for supporting the appointment of a distinct Committee on Agriculture. He trusted that those who would have the selection of the hon. Members who would compose the Committee who would have to decide this question of Railway Rates, would not overburden that Committee with railway directors. No doubt those were Gentlemen who had done good work, and whose services 398 were of great value, but it was possible to have too many of them on a Committee of this kind. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House accepted the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for great Grimsby?
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he would suggest a slight alteration in the Amendment. He would propose that it should run "Trade shall include Agriculture and Fishing."
§ Original Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 4, after the word "revived," to add the words "and that Trade shall include Agriculture and Fishing."
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON
said, he would now move the omission of the Proviso laying down that the Committee should consist of not more than 60 nor less than 40 Members. He felt that a new industry had been added to the subjects to be considered by the Committee on Trade. He submitted that the duty of the Committee of Selection was a very onerous and difficult one before, and that the difficulty had now been increased ten fold. He thought it would be extremely difficult for the Committee of Selection to find within 40, possibly 60, Members Representatives of all the varied interests of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury seemed to think that the duty of a Standing Committee was a duty which ought really to be undertaken by a Committee of the Cabinet itself—that was to say, by a Committee of Gentlemen sitting round a table and considering what the details of a Bill ought to be. He (Viscount Lymington), however, maintained that the duty could not be properly performed by a Committee of 40 or even 60 Mem- 399 bers, although, no doubt, the vital details of a Government Bill should be properly considered beforehand by the Cabinet before the measure was submitted to the House. The House had thought fit, and very wisely as he thought, to add the questions of agriculture and fishing to the question of trade, therefore he hoped they would not depart from the old rule and diminish the number of Members of the Standing Committee. Holding these views, he begged to move the omission of the Proviso.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 5, to leave out from the word "revived" to the end of the Question.—(Viscount Lymington.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. BARING (London)
said, he hoped the Leader of the House would consent to drop this Proviso. He (Mr. Baring) had had experience of the Grand Committee on Trade, and he had never found it too large for easy working or too small for full discussion. If agriculture was to be fairly represented, as he had no doubt it would be, knowing what he did of the Committee of Selection, if the Proviso were retained they would be running very serious risks. There might be, and very probably would be, serious doubts raised whether a Report made by a Committee on a commercial subject of importance, the commercial Members of the Committee numbering, perhaps, not more than 25, would, have sufficient weight with the House to carry the Bill when it came from the Committee without re-discussion in Committee of the Whole House. Under the old conditions, there had been sufficient confidence felt in the Committee on Trade to induce the House to accept a Bill when it came back, and to pass it through the Committee stage without re discussion. If, however, questions affecting both agriculture and trade were submitted to so small a Committee, he was afraid thy Report of the Committee on matters of commerce (for he would not presume to speak about agriculture) would not have sufficient weight to carry the measure through the House in this way.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
also hoped the Proviso would be withdrawn. He feared that the limited Committee 400 proposed would be nothing more nor less than an enlarged Select Committee, and that there would be almost insuperable difficulties in the way of a proper composition of the body. There would be rivalries, heart-burnings, jealousies, and imperfections, and the Report, when presented, would not bear the authority which such a Report ought to bear, and the time of the House would be wasted in re-discussions. He thought the constituencies would be dissatisfied if they found their Members had not opportunities of serving on the Committee. No doubt Members could submit proposals in writing which could be put before the Committee; but the experience of all Gentlemen who had had to do with public affairs was this—that proposals submitted in writing by an absent person met with but scant justice and imperfect hearing.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
said, that the appeal to the Government, led in the first instance by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John Mowbray), had been strongly supported on the Government side of the House. So far as he could gather, very much the same opinion was held on the Opposition side. They would do well to be guided by experience in this matter, unless there were some strong reason for desiring a change. Undoubtedly, the number chosen in 1882 for these Committees might be fairly considered to have worked well; but, at the same time, there might have been some grounds for changing the number if it had been proposed to appoint a great many Standing Committees. But that was not so; and he did not entertain any doubt that the House would be gratified and time would be saved if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the old number, and form the Committees as they were formed in 1882.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he would at oncess answer the appeal made to him by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he had every wish to meet the views of hon. Members in all parts of the House. This limit of numbers had been proposed under the impression that the House generally was prepared to accept a smaller rather than a larger number of Members. It was thought, moreover, that there might be some difficulty in 401 finding Members to take their places on all the Committees which it would be necessary to appoint that year. The Government had already asked the House to appoint several very important Committees; they had asked for Committees on the Army Estimates, on the Navy Estimates, and on the Revenue Services. There was also another Committee on the Estimates proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). These would occupy the time of a considerable number of Members of the House. As he was satisfied, however, that it was the view of the House, as a whole, that the limit of numbers should remain as it had been before, he would at once accept the suggestion that had been made, and agree to the Proviso being struck out.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words struck out.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said, he proposed to add at the end of Rule 13—That there be added another Standing Committee for the consideration of all Bills relating to Scotland only.It was impossible for this House to deal adequately with all the details of all the Bills relating to each of the Three Kingdoms. The only way to get rid of the present Parliamentary impotence was to devolve some of their work upon portions of the House specially appointed for the purpose. The experiment made a few years ago was avowedly only an experiment, and it was understood that if it succeeded the principle was to be carried a great deal further. On both sides of the House it was admitted that the experiment had been successful. The Committee on Trade had been eminently successful, and the fact that the success of the Committee on Law had not been so great was due to the fact that the subjects undertaken by the Committee were too large, especially in regard to Scotland. In the Committee Scottish law could not get a fair chance, from the fact that it was entirely different from English law, and the Scottish legal Members were a small minority compared with the English legal Members on the Committee. Therefore, he held strongly that not only must they carry the experiment of Grand Committees a great deal further, 402 but that they should not succeed until they had localized some of these Standing Committees, and made them deal with different parts of the United Kingdom. In regard to this question, he did not wish to go beyond his own country. Some of his Friends might have a great deal to say about Wales and other parts of the country; but he thought it would be admitted that the Scottish case was the strongest of all as a matter of practical politics. They had in Scotland a much greater divergence of law, of institutions, of habits and customs than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Wales claimed a separate nationality; but the laws of Wales had been assimilated to the laws of England. That was not the case in Scotland. There were no loss than 18 Bills this Session relating to Scotland only, and almost every one of those Bills was of a specially local character—interesting to Scotsmen alone. Here were a few of them as specimens. The Small Debts (Scotland) Bill, the University of Glasgow (St. Mungo's College) Bill, the Agricultural Labourers' Holidays (Scotland) Bill, the Burgh Police and Health (Scotland) Bill, the Crofters' Holdings Act Amendment Bill, the Education (Scotland) Acts Amendment Bill, the Herring Fishery Bill, the Land Tenure (Scotland) Bill, the Parochial Boards (Scotland) Bill, and the Poinding (Scotland) Bill. These were all peculiarly Scottish subjects, and there was not the least doubt that this Grand Committee, at all events, would have sufficient Business to do, so that there would be no difficulty in that respect. The only Bill that could be referred to the proposed Grand Committees was the Poinding (Scotland) Bill, which might be sent to the Law Committee. Now, what chance would a Bill to amend the law of poinding in Scotland have of being dealt with by English lawyers, who would say—" What on earth does poinding mean?" It seemed that, Scotsman as he was, he had not been pronouncing the word properly, for some of his Friends beside him told him "pinding" was the correct pronunciation. What he wanted was that they should have something like the Scottish Saturdays of previous Sessions. [Cries of "No ! "] He did not mean that they should sit on Saturdays, but that the Committee he proposed should have something of the character of these 403 sittings, when all Members from other parts of the Kingdom, who were not immediately interested in the subject under discussion, absented themselves. He learned that his hon. Friend the Member for the Dumfries Burghs (Mr. R. T. Reed) had put upon the Paper a Notice to very considerably extend this Motion. If the House felt inclined to carry that addition, he (Sir George Campbell) would be extremely well pleased; but as he was afraid the Party opposite required educating before the adoption of his hon. and learned Friend's suggestion, he preferred the curtailed form of his own Amendment, which he hoped the House would concede.
At the end of the Question as amended, to add the words—"That there be added another Standing Committee for the consideration of all Bills relating to Scotland only."—Sir George Campbell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. DONALD CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
said, he wished to explain that he supported the Motion, not with any desire to remove the Business of Scotland from the consideration of the House. They heard complaints from Scotland that the voice of Scotland was occasionally overborne in matters in which it had a good right to decide. He might instance such a question as a Bill on the subject of the liquor traffic. They had a Bill last year as to the early closing of public-houses in Scotland, as to which the vast majority of the Scottish Members on both sides voted one way, and yet their view did not prevail on account of the majority, which was made up of English Members. That was a peculiar class of case, because it related to a subject which, by increasing consent, was one which was suitable to be decided by the locality, and even in areas much smaller than the Kingdom of Scotland. It was not upon that ground, therefore, that he supported the Motion of his hon. Friend. He should be content, if they could get consideration of their Scottish Business in this House, to abide the differences of opinion that might arise—to rely upon the deference which English Members would naturally pay to the opinion of Scottish Members on matters which the latter knew best, and which he thought they were entirely 404 disposed to pay—and even if a Scottish measure were partially delayed for a short time, he should have no fear of the voice of the country in a reasonable time making itself heard. The ground upon which he supported this Motion was that the work was not done; and his short experience had convinced him it never would be or could be done. He did not charge that upon any particular Party. He did not charge that on the Government any more than on the Opposition when they were in power. He thought there were great excuses for both Parties. During the Parliament of 1880–85, in which he had not a seat, he was in an office in which it was his duty very closely to observe the progress of Scottish legislation. At the beginning of that Parliament there was a large accumulation of Scottish Business which the Liberal Government was anxious to forward, including measures upon which they knew the hearts of the Scottish people were set, which received the most careful consideration and the approval of the Cabinet, and were then launched in this House. The impression of any novice would have been that the passing of Bills which had received that imprimatur was a practical certainty. But the experience of five years had taught them that, however carefully those Bills were prepared, and however anxiously they were looked forward to, instead of their passing being a practical certainty, there was very long odds against any Government Bill relating to Scotland passing at all. The exception to the course which these Bills followed proved the rule; because, for a short length of time, the administration of Scotland was reinforced by the presence of Lord Rosebery at the Home Office. He was Under Secretary for the Home Department, but he was specially charged with the entire control of Scottish Business. He foreshadowed the Scottish Minister, who shortly afterwards was created by Parliament. In 1882, the first Session after Lord Rosebery came to the, Home Office, by immense exertions on his part a certain amount of Government time was secured for Scottish Bills, and five, he thought, were passed. Three of these were of great importance—namely, the Entail Act, the Education Endowments Act, and the Fishery Board Act. All these Bills required much discussion, and excited in various quarters strenuous 405 opposition; and if an effort had not been made, which he attributed to that Minister—an effort which had never been made before or since—those Bills could not have received the discussion they required; and though they were now doing most useful work in Scotland, he did not believe that, up to this hour, they would have been passed. There were other Bills of not less importance—the University Bill, for example—which illustrated what he said, an important Bill they had never been able to get through Parliament. He thought with his hon. Friend that that position was partly due to the intrinsic nature of the business itself. It had been of great advantage to Scotland, and to England also, and bore a very favourable comparison to what they saw in another part of the Empire, that the laws and institutions of Scotland were untouched and unimpaired. When the Union with Scotland was completed, they retained their Presbyterian form of Church Government; they retained their laws, and all their administrative institutions, and their system of education. But anyone who had had any contact with the administration of Scottish Business, when it was nominally lodged in the Home Office, would say by experience how excessively difficult it was—almost an impossibility—for English officials who were fully occupied to understand or engage personally in the administration of Scottish Business. And the very same was true of Parliament. The House of Commons had not time to master the details of Scottish Bills, or even the phraseology which would enable it to understand them, or those slight differences which sometimes were all the more puzzling because slight, between the institutions of Scotland and England. That was the price which the House of Commons had to pay for the tranquillity which Scotland enjoyed. Scotland knew that it was allowed to do its Business, if at all, in its own way. Therefore, there had been no discontent or disaffection. What they contended now was, not that the Business was done wrongly, but that it was not done at all. Last year they had an example of how they were to be treated with regard to the conduct of Scottish business. A few Scottish Bills were thrown at their heads at a very late period of the Session, and they were told 406 that if the Scottish Members agreed upon them they would be brought in and allowed to pass. But how could they be expected to agree on the details of Bills on the backstairs of the House? It was on the Floor of the House—by discussion and mutual accommodation—that agreement ought to be arrived at; and if a Bill was rushed through the House in any other way the result was sure to be unsatisfactory. A feeling with regard to that was growing up in Scotland, and he in all earnestness regarded it with some alarm. He thought the neglect that Scottish Business had met with was wrong. It was a thing which admitted of a great deal of excuse; but still it was wrong, and therefore likely to bring evil consequences in its train, and those who are acquainted with Scotland knew that some wild and far-reaching proposals were now becoming current. Scottish Members were questioned as to how the Business of Scotland was done, and it was impossible for them to say that it was properly done, or to give a satisfactory answer. For these three reasons he would support the Amendment of his hon. Friend—in the first place, because Scotch Business was not done; secondly, because there was a reason in the nature of the Business itself why it was not done, and why separate and distinct treatment was necessary; and, thirdly, because there was a feeling growing up in Scotland which required the consideration of that House.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
said, he was sorry his hon. Friend, in bringing forward this Amendment, did not bear in mind the advice of a great American statesman, not to swop horses when crossing a stream. He put down an Amendment on the Paper, and the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs (Mr. R. T. Reid) put down an Amendment to it. It was to be presumed that, before putting down these Amendment, they studied the matter, and they brought forward two alternative schemes, which were probably the best that the united wisdom of the Scottish Members could evolve of effecting the purposes they had in view. When one had studied this Amendment, and come to discuss the pros and cons, they found a complete change of front. His hon. Friend (Sir George Campbell) withdrew the Amendment as it stood on the Paper, and he understood that the 407 hon. and learned Member for Dumfries did not intend to propose his.
§ DR. CAMERON
said, he would assume that he did not and assume that he did, and probably that would cover what would take place. If there were added another Standing Committee for the consideration of all Bills relating to Scotland, in what position should they find themselves? An Order had already been carried constituting Grand Committees on four subjects. Those Grand Committees, according to the Resolution of 1882, would absorb 300 Members, or close on half the House. He presumed they were not going to keep all the Scotch Members out of those Grand Committees. A very considerable number of Members of the House would be occupied on those Committees, and they were given to understand that there would probably be others. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had told them, a few minutes before, that no Member would serve on two of those Committees. Were the Scottish Members to be debarred from those Committees, or shut out from the discussion of Scottish Business relegated to that Committee? That was the position, assuming the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries did not move his Amendment. But if the hon. and learned Member did move his Amendment, it was proposed that all the Scottish Members should constitute the Scottish Grand Committee, and, therefore, he presumed that none of the Scottish Members would be allowed to sit on any other of the Grand Committees. Was that a state of things which the Scottish Members wished to bring about? The hon. and learned Member proposed that to this Scottish Committee should be relegated all Scottish Bills; that they should pass the second readings of Bills, which would be equivalent to a second reading in the House; that the Bills should then go back to the Committee to go through the Committee stage; and that the Bills should go through without the House having anything to do with them. He could not imagine that that was a scheme which the House would adopt, and if the House did adopt it, it would do nothing to bring the conduct of 408 Scottish Business into accordance with the views of the Scottish people. What was it that made Scottish Business in that House so dissonant from the views of the general public in Scotland? Why, the fact that the Administration was not responsible to Scottish opinion, and could defy the entire vote of the Scottish Members of the House, so long as it had a majority of English Members on the other side. Not merely was that the case, but the Scottish Executive could even defy the opinion of the House of Commons altogether, so long as it had the House of Lords at its back; because it could throw out, in the House of Lords, any Bill it chose, even if the whole of the Scottish opinion in this House and even if the whole opinion of this House were in favour of it. If they were to carry either of the proposals of his hon. Friend they would not be advanced one whit farther. At present they had their Tea Room meetings; but he ventured to say that the result was simply to show how absolutely indifferent the Executive were to the opinion of Scottish Members. He would give them an instance, which he quoted simply because it showed what did occur and what would occur. A Public-House Early Closing Bill came before the House, and a vast majority of the Scottish Members voted in favour of it, so much so that right hon. Gentlemen were obliged to give way and consent to the second reading of the Bill. They had a meeting of the Scottish Members, and the Bill was brought so thoroughly into accord with their views that about 40 or 50 voted for it against half-a-dozen on the other side. Did the Executive yield to that—a matter that involved only Scotland and only a small interest in Scotland? Not at all. They sent it up to the House of Lords and turned it topsy-turvey, and insisted on the Lords' Amendments being adopted. Now, when he had brought in a Bill this year to overset one of the Lords' Amendments, a Member of the Executive blocked the Bill. And what better would they be off with 50 Scottish Committees? So long as they had a Scottish Executive backed up simply by a dozen Scottish Members representing Conservative opinions, so long they must have the administration of Scottish affairs, the carrying of Scottish Bills, dependent upon the views of the Party, which included but a very small 409 minority of the Scottish Representatives. They might have their Grand Committees, or Tea Room meetings; but they could not get beyond that. He thought that what they wanted, while the House remained as it was, was an opportunity of discussion in that House. But what they had to do was to put the Constitution in the melting-pot, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) had phrased it with regard to Ireland. They wanted to go a little further and apply the same principle which his right hon. Friend had laid down for Ireland to Scotland, and then they would have the matter satisfactorily arranged. But, as for this peddling and pottering through Grand Committees, it was not wanted by the people of Scotland. It would not satisfy them, and it would not cure the evils complained of.
§ MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, he preferred the old traditional mode of managing Scottish Business to that proposed by the Amendment. It had long been the custom to confer with the Lord Advocate as to non-contentious Business, and when they were asked to meet the Secretary for Scotland at Dover House it was for the purpose of facilitating the progress of Scottish Business. When there was really a desire to pass Scottish Business, there was a desire also to make compromises, and when compromises were effected Scottish Business went on as other Business did. He preferred that mode of proceeding to having a Committee upstairs. In a case where difficult matters of principle had to be decided, there would be a great preponderance of opinion one way or the other, and that would give the minority no chance of being heard. The Bill would come back to that House sanctioned by the Committee upstairs, and the House would believe that it embodied the view of the Committee, whereas it would in all probability only be the view of the majority of the Committee. That would give the Committee upstairs exclusive right to control all Scottish affairs; and they might have, for instance, such a Committee sanctioning the views of the Morayshire Farmers' Club, which had recently been shown were not the views of the whole of the farmers of Scotland. The Bill would come back to the House, and English 410 and Irish Members would be coerced into voting for it, on the ground that it had been passed by a Committee of Scottish Members. They would not have substantial justice meted out in this way. Many of these subjects discussed upstrairs would never be heard of or be relegated to local tribunals, and they must not forget that if they were really striving to carry out their responsibility for the good of the Empire at large, they must take the opinion, not of 72 Members, but of 672. They wanted a broad and comprehensive grasp; and while he was not going to decry the capacity of Scottish Members, if they added to themselves 600 men and minds they would get a bigger and more comprehensive grasp. He knew there might be disadvantage and delay, and that there were many small grievances that waited to be redressed; but he believed if Scottish Members would put their heads together, that if there was a substantial grievance, no Government could for one instant decline redress. It was when 18 Bills were brought up, the titles of which really required explanation, and many of which would never see daylight, and when they were told they were all matters of such importance that they might be referred to a Committee—that then they doubted the expediency of the tribunal. Underneath all this, as was clearly shown by the speech of the hon. Member for the College Division (Dr. Cameron), there was Home Rule. That was the bottom and basis of the whole concern. Did the people of Scotland want Home Rule? He maintained they did not. The people of Scotland had got on far too well under the Union. They were far too canny, far too well-informed, and far too shrewd to say they wanted separation. But that was what people of the school of the hon. Member for the College Division wanted. He knew very well that what was held out by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and they knew very well what 99 out of every 100 people thought the right hon. Gentleman meant, when he suggested that if they could only vote Home Rule to Ireland, down would go the Church in Wales, and down would go the Church in Scotland. That was at the bottom of it, and he was there to protest against the assumption being forced upon the House by this very uncanny Amendment.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I will take the liberty of putting aside most of the topics which, have filled the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. He says he thinks very few Scottish Members would support the proposal of my hon. Friend, after listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow. Well, I do not think they will be few. I certainly will not be deterred by the speech of the hon. Member from supporting this proposal. I did not gather distinctly from the speech of my hon. Friend that he accepted the proposal. I am under the opposite impression. In my opinion, the speech of the hon. Member afforded additional reason for supporting this proposition. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says that Home Rule is at the bottom of all this, and something else is at the bottom of Home Rule—the Church in Wales and the Church in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman only means by that, that the question of the Church in Scotland and the question of the Church in Wales should be decided according to Scottish and to Welsh opinion, with the proposal I entirely concur. Apart from the question whether there is to be a Grand Committee on Scottish Bills or not, I hope the House of Commons will pay deference to the opinion of the Scottish and Welsh Members. But the subject is only darkened and complicated by introducing into this debate matters of the kind upon which, so far as their merits are concerned, there are, no doubt, very sharp differences of opinion. I look upon this as wholly a practical question; and as regards the imputation that it covers a plan of Home Rule, all I can say is, I believe there are many Members on this side of the House who are of opinion that a measure of this kind, if it is temporary and practical, is likely to give satisfaction in Scotland and prevent the introduction of larger demands. That, I think, would be the opinion of the hon. Member for Glasgow, who, I understand, desires a larger measure. Though I do not understand him to reject this, yet undoubtedly his speech was not animated by a spirit of excessive friendliness to this particular Motion, because he wants something larger, and because he has a shrewd suspicion that a moderate proposal of this kind would have a tendency to set 412 aside or indefinitely postpone his own view. That is a good argument why the hon. Gentleman opposite, instead of viewing the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow as an objection to the proposal, should, on the contrary, be inclined to look upon it in a more favourable aspect. I confess I am one of those who during the eight years of which I have been a Scottish Member—the last capacity in which I am likely to sit in this House—I mean the latest in point of time—I admit that I have felt the greatest difficulty before my assembled constituents in excusing myself and the House of Commons with reference to the handling of Scottish Business. I do not know what the experience of the hon. Member opposite has been; but I have exercised such ingenuity as either nature or practice has given me to make a decent and presentable apology to lay before the people of Scotland for the manner in which their Business—I will not say has been transacted—but let alone. I am at the end of my resources, and I can go no further. I am compelled to confess before them and others that something is wanting. I am very reluctant to be driven into a broad admission—I am by no means convinced—that any great or difficult measure is required for the exigencies of Scotland; but that there is a practical want which has to be supplied I have no doubt whatever. The speeches with which this Amendment was introduced were thoroughly moderate and temperate in their scope, especially, I think, the speech of my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment. He presented the matter in the most practical shape in which it can be laid before the House. What we have to say, I think, really depends upon, and is justified sufficiently by, a very few practical considerations. The objections which have been taken by the hon. Member for Glasgow turn very much upon details which are not now before us. When you come to the consideration of these details, undoubtedly there are various points which must be carefully weighed. There are two questions of great importance. First, whether all Scottish Members should sit upon the Scottish Standing Committee; and, secondly, whether, if they do, they should sit exclusively. I confess I have considerable doubt whether it would be expedient that all Scot- 413 tish Members should belong to the Standing Committee, and whether that Committee ought to be composed exclusively of Scottish Members, though I feel that the Scottish representation should be dominant in that Committee, and that it should be in the main a Scottish Committee. These are not the points now before us. The question now before us really is whether there is a practical want which has long been felt, which is now increasingly felt from year to year, and which we ought to make some mild, moderate, and safe effort to supply. In my opinion, there is such a practical want, and it is increasingly felt. I recollect the time when, by means of communication with Scottish Members, it was found practicable, in the state of Business then existing, to get on tolerably well with Scottish Business. It was settled in a great degree and very much by private unofficial communications, which had a great deal of the effect, I admit, of a Grand Committee; but that method is not adequate to the present, and the consequence is that it has fallen very much into disuse. First of all, these wants are continuously growing with the development of social exigencies; and while the wants are growing, the means of meeting them afforded by the state of Business in the House are continually diminishing. The arrears of Business, we all know, get worse and worse. This question has no connection whatever with the conduct of any one Party or Administration. The practical point is this—that Scotland not only has the distinctive marks of a very energetic people, but it is full of peculiar institutions. There is a separate system of jurisprudence, of religious establishment, of Universities, of charities, and of education; and, in point of fact, I must say it is truly marvellous how, owing to the great efforts of this House, things have been kept in a tolerable state down to the present time. But the state of things has really ceased to be tolerable. The want is so great, and has so grown, that I think it is incumbent on this House in prudence to endeavour to make some experiment for the purpose of meeting the want. The House has no time for the despatch of Scottish Business in an adequate manner. That is not the only difficulty. The House has the greatest difficulty in coming at the state of Scottish opinion. 414 What we want to do is this. We do not at all suspect the House of any indifference to the weight of authority which properly belongs to Scottish opinion on a Scotch question; but in order that the House may give that fair and reasonable deference to Scottish opinion—not, as the hon. Member opposite said, that the House should be coerced and bound to vote as the Scottish Members meant to vote upon a Scottish question, but in order that there may be that reasonable deference to Scottish opinion which is fairly due to it—the House requires to have means of knowing what the deliberate Scottish opinion is. At present that opinion has to be gathered haphazard from the debates in the House. What we want is that Scottish opinion shall have the means of testing itself and maturing itself, such as are supplied, such as would be supplied by the meeting of the Scottish Members in a Grand Committee. That being done, we have not a doubt that it would constitute a great practical improvement in the conduct of Scottish Business. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, who wishes for something much wider than this proposal, would be glad, I am sure, to see anything in the nature of a practical improvement. Undoubtedly Scottish opinion will be far better matured by this means of bringing together Scottish Members from other parts of the Kingdom to arrive at something like collective and deliberate judgment. The objection has been taken that if Scottish Members serve on a Committee of this kind, they could not also serve upon the Grand Committees which are to be appointed. Now, that may be as regards the individual Member; but there are Scottish Members sufficient to supply a powerful body, say of 40 or 50 men, to sit upon a Grand Committee for Scotland, and to leave in addition to that Committee of predominant Scottish character a residue perfectly adequate to supply the very moderate proportion of Scottish Members that would ever in the ordinary course of things be necessary for the purpose of serving on the Grand Committees. I do not see myself that the question offers any practical difficulties of an insurmountable or even of a serious kind arising in the way of this very moderate proposal. No doubt, there are points to be settled, but they could be easily settled 415 in debates; and I do ask the House to look at this question, not with regard to the ulterior and alarming view which can always be brought to the House for the purpose of disturbing the balance between our affections and our fears, but to ask ourselves the question whether Scotland can or ought to be satisfied with the present arrangements for the conduct of her Business, and whether, if we provide an organ through which the details of that Business can be simplified, can be matured, can be brought into a state for deliberate presentation to the House, that will not constitute a great step towards the attainment of that system, and towards the satisfaction of the reasonable wishes of that country. I know there are Gentlemen near me who will be able abundantly to support by illustrations in the case of particular Bills the great hardship to Scotland in having Scottish measures and Scottish opinion overruled by English opinion, mainly, I am certain, because Scottish opinion cannot, under the present system, be expressed in a form sufficiently deliberate and clear and intelligible. But, with respect to the purpose of my hon. Friend, as expressed in this Amendment, I have not a doubt that the general voice—I may almost say the universal, but certainly general voice—and opinion of Scotland will be strongly in its favour, and I hope the House will give to the proposition a most favourable consideration.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I think the House ought to be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for bringing back the discussion from the somewhat wide issues raised by the seemed to take in the hands of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow. I may say that nobody who is a Scotsman, or who has ever occupied the position of Scottish Secretary, is likely at all to underrate the importance of any proposal which is either calculated or intended by its proposers to promote the progress of Scottish Business through this House. Certainly, I am the last person to undervalue that object. But I am not at all sure that the proposal before us is one calculated to carry that object into effect. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is probably not 416 aware of the amount of Scottish Business that under the recent conditions of Parliamentary procedure had really been carried through this House. I have asked the Lord Advocate to give me a list of the Scottish measures passed last Session. That list was as follows:—Criminal Law Procedure Bill, Conveyancing Bill, Public houses Closing Bill, Public Libraries Consolidation Bill, Lunacy Districts Bill, Crofters' Holdings Amendment Bill, Technical Schools Bill, Trusts Bill, Valuation of Lands Bill, Secretary for Scotland Bill, and Prison Officers' Superannuation Bill. I do not in the least pretend that that list has satisfied, or ought to satisfy, the desires of the people of Scotland; but recollect under what circumstances that not inconsiderable list of measures was passed. It was passed in a Session which was almost entirely and exclusively devoted, not to English or Scottish Business, but to Irish Business; and I ask the House whether, with that list before them, they seriously think that Scottish Business last Session was more neglected than English Business? [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] Well, I think not. I admit that many measures of importance to both countries which we should have liked to see passed were not passed; but I am not sure that Scotland suffered more seriously than England from the extraordinary block of Business last Session. Another difficulty seems to me to attend this proposal. How are we to define what is exclusively Scottish Business? I admit that you may enumerate Bills which none will deny are exclusively Scottish Business; but whether the particular Bill, the name of which the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment so mispronounced throughout his speech—the Poinding Bill—is purely a matter of Scottish Business, I cannot say, because we must recollect this, that a matter might be one of purely Scottish law, but it might embody principles which, if we accept for Scotland, we can hardly resist in England. In other words, there are questions of purely local interest, and others which are not; and although you may see at the end of a Bill the words, "This Bill shall not apply to England or to Ireland," that does not imply in any way that the matter with which that Bill is concerned 417 is purely a Scottish matter. Therefore, I see in the very definition of Scottish Business a difficulty in the way of accepting the Amendment. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian seems to doubt whether there was any force in the argument urged by the hon. Member for Glasgow with regard to the rights of Scottish Members, as compared, with other Members, to sit on Committees other than this Scottish one. Hitherto, the House has gone on the principle that the affairs of any locality are the affairs of the whole House of Commons. If you abolish that principle with regard to Scotland—in other words, if you exclude substantially and practically English or Irish Members from the decision of Scottish matters—then, by a parity of reasoning, you will be bound to exclude substantially Scottish opinion from influencing English or Irish legislation. I confess I am old-fashioned enough to think that that would be a serious matter. There is another most formidable question raised by this proposal. The House is aware of the fact that hitherto it has been the practice of Parliament, when it delegates any Business to a Committee, to see that, so far as the balance of Parties is concerned, the Committee shall be more or less a reflex of the House. Are you going to abandon that principle in your Scottish Business or not? [An hon. MEMBER: Certainly.] Certainly? Then you will observe that that is a new departure of the utmost importance which was not alluded to by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, or by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in the powerful speech in which he supported it. Yet I venture to think that if you are going to have Committees dealing with Scottish or any other affairs which do not accurately reflect the balance of Parties in the House, you will land yourselves in endless difficulties, because the results of the deliberations of these Committees will come down to this House stamped on the face of them with the fact that they have been passed by majorities which may have been Party majorities, and which, if Party majorities, were Party majorities directly opposed to the Party majority in this House. If we could be sure that the questions to be submitted to this hypothetical Scottish Committee 418 would be questions into which Party considerations would not enter, this argument would, of course, fall to the ground; but can any one pretend that you can so carefully sift every measure submitted to the Committee that you will never have this conflict between the Party majority in the Committee and the Party majority in the House, and that you may not put the House in the position of having to reverse by a Party decision that which had been a Party decision in the Committee? Let me make one further observation. The whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman was based on this supposition, that henceforth the Business in this House is to progress as slowly and with as much difficulty as in the last few Sessions. But if that is to be the case, we have surely been labouring night after night on those Rules in vain. I hope and expect the result of the amendment of the Rules will be to facilitate the progress of Business in this House, and that Scotland will amply share the advantages conferred on other parts of the United Kingdom will obtain by the Rules already passed; and I would even point out that there is in the Rule as it at present stands a provision which will enable those Grand Committees to deal effectively with Scottish Business. I assume that on each Grand Committee there will be a considerable number of Scottish Members to deal with the Business of the nation as a whole, but the Committee of Selection have power to add 15 new names, and I presume that whenever a Scottish Bill is under discussion the whole of the 15 appointed by the Committee of Selection would be Scottish Members. You would thus have, without the Amendment of the hon. Member, a Committee, not, indeed, composed exclusively, or even mainly, of Scottish Members, but one in which Scottish Members and Scottish interests would be so largely represented that it would be perfectly possible to deal in an effective manner with any Scottish proposal that came before it. I am bound to say that I do not think that all hon. Gentlemen returned for Scottish constituencies are specially qualified to deal with Scottish subjects. They are not to blame for that, because they are returned by Scottish constituencies as Conservatives or Radicals to represent them on questions of Imperial policy, 419 and to support either a Conservative or a Radical Imperial Government. Therefore, you constantly find men returned who know nothing whatever about Scottish affairs, and who would be quite as much at a loss if they were asked to pronounce the word "poinding" as the hon. Member who made the Motion. For these reasons I hope the House will pause before it assents to a proposal which will undoubtedly have the effect of, for the first time, introducing into our arrangements Committees which do not represent in their constitution the balance of Parties in this House, and which would suggest that it was only the representatives of localities who were capable of adequately dealing with the interests of those localities.
§ MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
said, the proposal under consideration had been received with great fear by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). He (Mr. Whitbread) ventured to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if the Motion were carried that would happen which the right hon. Gentleman had suggested might happen. There was nothing more contemplated by the words on the Paper than the formation of one more Grand Committee. That Grand Committee would be constituted just as the other Grand Committees wore constituted, and it would be subject to the same Rules, and would form as perfect a miniature of the House, as the two other Committees. If that was the case, the question resolved itself into this—" Shall there be one more Grand Committee, and shall the group of Bills to be referred to that Committee be Scotch Bills? "He thought the proposal was an extremely moderate one. What the Scotch Members asked for was not a purely Scotch Committee—not an exclusively Scotch Committee—[Cries of "Oh !" and "Yes ! "]—but a Committee before which they would be certain Scotch Business would be discussed. Room would be made for the discussion of Scotch Business, which Business was unfortunately unable now to find an opportunity for getting itself considered in the House. He said at once that if the proposal was that this Committee should consist of Scotch Members exclusively, or that on the Committee the Scotch Members should 420 so preponderate in numbers as to overbear all other opinions, it was a bad and dangerous proposal, because it would only tend to accentuate the differences that might possibly exist between the two countries. But the proposal was nothing of the sort. It was that the Committee of Selection should constitute one more Grand Committee, exactly in the same way that they constituted the others. The only proposal at which the Government had a right to feel alarmed was that the group of Bills to be submitted to the Committee should be Scotch Bills. Undoubtedly the Committee of Selection would do what the right hon. Gentleman had just said they would do. If a Scotch Bill were referred to the Grand Committee, they would unquestionably name as the 15 specialists nearly all Scotch Members—Members who were particularly well qualified to deal with the subject before the Committee. But that would really be nothing more than a miniature of the House. It would represent probably just such a House as was drawn together on a Wednesday for the consideration of Scotch Business. There was nothing in that which was contrary to the practice they had hitherto followed. The hon. Gentleman who made the proposal (Sir George Campbell) did not ask to exclude English or Irish or Welsh opinion from the Committee. All he asked was a fair opportunity to get Scotch Business discussed before a Committee which should be competent to discuss it. The proposal seemed to him (Mr. Whitbread) to resolve itself simply into this—the appointment of one more Grand Committee, and the determination of the House to give the Members from Scotland an opportunity of getting their Business considered.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
said, those of the Scottish Members who agreed with him would be lacking in frankness and candour if they were to say they accepted the proposal just made by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), and were to intimate that they would be satisfied in any way with the constitution of another Grand Committee for Scottish Business, consisting of, perhaps, only seven Scottish Members. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had said that some of the Scottish Members were not more acquainted with Scottish affairs than English or Irish 421 Members. That might be so; but it was not the case with regard to most of them, and he was satisfied that they all knew what their constituents wished. He should think it a very great calamity if a mixed Committee were to be appointed for the purpose of discussing Scottish Business. The hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) did not seem to have the courage to state what he hinted at. He hinted at Home Rule for Scotland. Those who knew the feelings of Scotsmen, and were in the habit of mixing with them, knew that it was perfectly true that that subject was growing and waxing strong in Scotland. ["No !"] That might not be the opinion of the Lord Advocate. He would not say that the feeling had attained, or would attain necessarily, to any great importance; but there was a very strong feeling growing in Scotland that Scottish Business ought to be conducted with greater expedition than hitherto had been the case. It was because of that feeling, based upon reasons which he regretted exceedingly, that the Home Rule movement, charily and half-heartedly hinted at by the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow rather than defended, had assumed greater proportions. He, however, regarded the Motion before the House in the same light as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, as a purely business proposal, and would not deal with it otherwise than as a means for the management of the Business of the House. It was unfortunately the fact that there were no Scottish Members in the Cabinet, although, of course, there wore, as was always to be expected, Scotsmen in it. They might always expect to find them there. But the Secretary for Scotland was not in the Cabinet, and the enormous preponderance of the votes in the House consisted of those of English Members. Was it not reasonable to expect that the English Members would be influenced by their own constituencies, and that, without in the least desiring to do what was unjust to Scotland or to Scottish Members, they would press forward only those measures and questions in which their constituents were particularly interested. This was one of the reasons why Scottish Business was postponed. He wondered that the Chief Secretary 422 for Ireland was not afraid of referring to some Bills passed last year. In August last Session the Leader of the House put down three or four Scottish Bills of great importance, and said, with his usual courtesy, what amounted in effect to this—" Here are those Bills. Now, you Scottish Members can take them if you like them, and if you do not like them, then it will be your responsibility if you do not get them." The result was that they got a Wednesday to discuss them, and that three or four Bills passed into law in the course of an afternoon. There was another tendency. It was this—that, inasmuch as English Members preponderated in number, and had the most complete confidence in the Government of the day, Liberal or Conservative, the Government majority was often used for the purpose of overriding Scottish opinion on purely Scottish questions. He would take the action of the House on the Crofter Question the other night as an instance. Some of the Scottish Members did not represent crofter constituencies; but they were constantly receiving communications with regard to the crofter grievances. The other night there were 36 Scottish Members, as against 11 Scottish Members, who voted for the Amendment to the Address raising the Crofter Question. But they were defeated by the importation of a large number of English Members—he would not say not quite as important as the Scottish Members, but outweighing the Scottish Members—who by three to one were in favour of something strenuous being done in favour of the crofters. The same thing happened with Private Bills from Scotland. Under these circumstances, they asked that some effort should be made for bringing forward Scottish Business by Scottish Members. It could not be done in the House with the amount of Business it had to deal with at present. There was no time to do it, and their time was still further curtailed by the very wise Rule that Business should stop at midnight. The Early Closing Bill last year was only passed by Scottish Members sitting up till 2 and 3 o'clock every morning; but that could not be done now, and the avenues for private Members' Bills had become narrower by the amendment of the Rules of Procedure. He would not for one moment ask for, or care to see, 423 a Committee which did not consist of Members exclusively Scottish Members. He should like to see two conditions attaching to a Grand Committee for Scottish Business—namely, first, that all Scottish Members should sit upon it; and, second, that they should be able to pass, subject always to the control of the House, the second reading, so that, by that moans, they should have some chance of bringing their measures before the notice of the House and of the country. Of course, he was well aware that these were only his own opinions. He would remind the House that the criticisms passed upon the Motion standing in his name seemed to have been base on ignorance of his real intentions. The hon. Member for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright (Mr. Mark Stewart) had said he did not want to meet his brother Scottish Members without the assistance of an equal number of Tories. That amounted to this—that out of 72 Scottish Members there were 60 who were Liberal, or who called themselves Liberal—and for the present argument he would assume that they were Liberal. But if they were to have a Committee dealing with Scottish Business, then the sooner they allowed it to be conducted according to the opinion of Scottish Members the better. He said the same about English Business. When he was an English Member he never thought of voting against the opinions of Scottish Members on Scottish questions; and being now a Scottish Member he would never think of voting against English opinion on any Bill exclusively relating to England. He did not at this stage propose to move the Amendment which stood in his name, because he did not wish to preclude the general discussion upon tae much wider Amendment on which he was now speaking. But later on, if it were the wish of the Scottish Members that the matter should be put to the test of a Division, it would be perfectly easy for anyone to move formally that Amendment, in order that the House might divide upon it. He entirely disclaimed the suggestion that they were animated by some desire to got Home Rule under another form; and he equally resented the statements of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), that, because they did not choose to accept that which the hon. Member himself had not de- 424 fined, and had not the courage either to advocate or resist in plain terms, therefore they were to allow the whole of this Parliament to go by without making an attempt to improve Scottish Business, or to do anything to enable them to bring their affairs before the House. There was in Scotland a very earnest desire to see Scottish Business dealt with, and it was simply in that sense that he desired to advocate the proposal of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)
said, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) had complained that Scotland was at a considerable disadvantage in consequence of the minority of Scottish Members being frequently outvoted by the majority from other parts of the United Kingdom. But if they were to have an Imperial Parliament, it must necessarily happen that the Imperial majority, as a whole, must frequently differ from the local minority of the different Nationalities sending Representatives. Though that, to a certain extent, might be inconvenient, it was not in any way a grievance that bore on Scotland alone. It weighed on Ireland, on Wales, and even on England itself; for it constantly happened that there was a strong majority of English Members who were outvoted by a majority made up of Members from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. His hon. and learned Friend told them that when he represented Hereford, though a Scotsman, he thought it his duty to consider, in giving his vote, not the merits of the Scottish cases which came before the House, but how the majority of the Scottish Representatives thought on the matter. That was a view which was opposed by a very great authority indeed. They used to hear that a Member should not consider himself merely the Member for his own constituency, but that he was a Member for the whole country. He asked his hon. and learned Friend how he would deal with such a matter as the disestablishment, or partial disestablishment, or modifying the establishment of the Church of England, which affected England only? It had never yet been supposed that it was not the duty of Scottish Members to form their own opinions upon great Imperial questions of that kind; and he had no doubt that, whatever his hon. and learned Friend had 425 said to-day, he would undoubtedly act as he had the right of acting, and give effect, by his vote in the Lobby, in accordance with what he thought was right and wrong on a purely English question. He (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) had noticed a tendency on the part of some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to minimize very much the effect of the proposal now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) really treated it as if it were very little more than a proposal for referring to a Committee largely composed of Scottish Members Bills mainly interesting to Scotland. If that were all, there would be nothing in it. But it was even now the invariable practice to refer great measures relating to Scotland to Committees on which Scotch Members preponderated. This proposal went a great deal further than that. It was a proposal, in fact, to change altogether the basis upon which their notions as regards Standing Committees had been formed. Those Committees had hitherto been formed on a very rational ground. It was determined to divide the measures which came before the House into certain grand leading divisions, which were to be divided according to subjects. Now it was proposed to depart from that rational and proper division, and to divide the Business according to Nationalities. Though the proposal at present before the House was for Scotland only, they had only to glance at the Notice Paper to see that that was not the limit which the friends of this proposal made to themselves. There was on the Paper a similar Motion with reference to Wales. There were on the Paper Amendments suggesting that the stage of second reading should be disposed of by the Standing Committee, and not by the House at large. It was quite clear they must have equality in these matters. Scotland, at the Union, joined England on a footing of equality. He, for his part, believed, however little his hon. Friends who advocated these proposals intended it, that they were aiming a very serious blow at the influence and weight of Scotland in the Imperial Parliament; and he could not understand how an enlightened and patriotic Scotsman could advocate a system which must logically and inevitably lead to a Nationality basis being chosen for the efficient working of legis- 426 lation in the Imperial Parliament. This proposal meant that all Scottish Bills would be referred to a Committee of Scottish Members, and all English Bills to a Committee of English Members. How, then, were Scottish Members to exercise their due weight on the affairs of the country, when they were excluded from the discussion of English measures? They might talk of local matters as they liked; but, as a matter of fact, England and the English people were something more than local in the constitution of the United Kingdom. The affairs of England were so great and important that, though a particular measure might be confined to England, they could not in their nature be otherwise than Imperial. Take the relations of Church and State. Did anyone say that was a matter about which Scottish politicians and Scottish Members should not concern themselves? If this proposal of his hon. and learned Friend were agreed to, they would have arrived at this preposterous conclusion—that if a measure were brought forward dealing with a purely English subject, such as the Established Church, certain distinguished Members for Scottish constituencies would not be able to take any part either in the second reading or the Committee stages. For instance, they would not like to have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) unable to enter into the discussion affecting those great interests. A great change had come over Scotland and England in directly opposite directions to the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend. The tendency—and he thought it a very good thing—was, in fact, contrary to the Separatism which these proposals indicated. This modern tendency on the part of Scottish constituencies to elect Englishmen as Members, regardless of their knowledge of Scottish questions, but because of the great part they had taken, in the view of the Scottish electors, in Imperial matters, was growing every day, and Scotchmen and Englishmen were meeting more and more. There was a tendency in the legislation for the two countries to approximate; and, in these 427 circumstances, he said they would be acting very foolishly, perhaps to suit the views of the moment, and perhaps to suit the views of a certain number at the present time, and because they thought their views as to what was best for another country were also correct as to Scotland, if they were to give effect to a proposal of this kind. Whatever might be the reason for the action of his Friends, these views could not be pressed forward in the present position of matters between England and Scotland with, success. If they were to be tried they would be found wanting. They would be glad to find Englishmen taking some interest in Scottish matters, and Englishmen, he thought, were very often glad to have Scotchmen mingling in their discussions. For all these reasons, he regretted the general tendency of proposals such as this. He thought the tendency was one that a short time ago never could have prevailed in this country. But things had to a certain extent changed, and they had changed in a great degree from the necessities of Party conflict arising out of issues that might be connected with another country. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Lanark (Mr. D. Crawford) had said that he, for one, would be no party to delegating the affairs of Scotland to some Committee Room upstairs, and that that ought to be done on the floor of the House. That was what he (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) said too. He thought that remark of the hon. and learned Member had entirely cut away the ground on which he based his whole argument. He maintained that Scottish legislation was not to be shoved aside upstairs, but that it was to be Imperial legislation, on which they expected Englishmen to exercise their own judgment, just as Scotchmen exercised their own judgment on English affairs. If any measure was brought forward which seemed to be contrary to policy and justice, then he submitted it was the duty of Englishmen and Scotchmen and Irishmen to interfere. If that was not done, then he could not see on what theory the Union of the Three Kingdoms rested. He remembered how his right hon. Friends below him had opposed their giving full control to Scotland over such a subject as Scottish Education, and it did seem strange that those very Gentlemen were now advocating 428 proposals which most logically and necessarily extend far beyond what was put forward by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), or what was advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Lanark had to support his case by proving that Scottish Business was in arrear. It was in arrear. They could not get through their business as they would like; but that was a grievance not special or peculiar to Scotland, and they had to consider how they could further the legislation, not for Scotland only, but for England, and also for Ireland. His hon. and learned Friend had cited the cases of the Scottish University Bill and the Scottish Licensing Bill. He thought the reference of the hon. and learned Member to particular measures was singularly unfortunate. With regard to the Scottish University Bill, no one who knew anything about the matter could deny that the measure failed to pass last Session in consequence of the keen difference among Scottish Members themselves. There was the great difficulty about the Theological Chairs, and he never yet found an English Member who cared anything about the Theological Chairs in the Scottish Universities. The Bill was therefore lost in consequence of the extreme differences of opinion among Scottish Members themselves. The Licensing Bill did pass, however, and was now an Act of Parliament. There was no doubt that it had been found convenient last Session for Scottish Members to meet together and discuss among themselves the details of their measures. He did not admit that Scottish Bills had been lost because there had been no time to discuss the details. He believed Scottish measures had often been lost because Scottish Members disagreed about the second reading. But when the Bills got into Committee, he did not think Scottish Members, as a rule, took long over them. If it was desirable for the Lord Advocate or the Scottish Secretary to call together the Scottish Members, let them do so in the future as they had done in the past. What he objected to was a Standing Order whose basis was the exclusion of Members because they did not come from a particular district. He said that was contrary to the very theory of the Union. If such a system was set up for 429 the different countries in the United Kingdom, then he thoroughly agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who pointed out the confusion to which it would lead. A good deal had been said about Scottish opinion in this matter; but he expected Scottish opinion to form itself slowly upon such a question as this. It was a novel one, and it was not to be settled by the mere outcry that Scotsmen had a grievance, and that the Englishmen were not giving them fair play. They had to look into the merits of these proposals and into the real views of the Scottish people. He could not think that the time was approaching when Scottish and English legislation, or when Scottish and English legislators, would be telling off in different directions. He believed the current of the time was entirely against that. He thought they should look below the mere surface of the present movement. They were going contrary to the main leaning of the time, which was towards union, towards amalgamation, towards working together, towards better knowledge of each other. Though he fully admitted that for the moment there might be a movement which seemed to show a tendency in an opposite direction, he could not believe that that was the real current of the time. They should do well to look below the surface, and see that the real union between the Three Kingdoms should be the basis upon which they should wish to found the future.
§ MR. SHIRESS WILL (Montrose, &c.)
said, he must congratulate his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburgh (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) on the fairness of the arguments he had used from his point of view. His hon. and learned Friend, however, appeared to mistake the issue. He seemed to have got into his mind that the proposition before the House was a proposition pure and simple for Home Rule for Scotland, and he had gone on to point out what he thought was an unnecessary fear—that the position and influence of Scotland would be weakened by the adoption of such a plan. His hon. and learned Friend found what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had desired to find. The right hon. Gentleman desired to find some measure which could be described as exclusively applicable to Scotland, and his hon. and 430 learned Friend mentioned such a measure in the Universities Bill. That was one of the very things which could better be dealt with by a Grand Committee for Scotland than in any other way. What were the objections to the proposition before the House? The very moderation of the proposition now before the House seemed to make it difficult to answer it. One hon. Member opposite had given as a reason against it that some measure of Local Government for Scotland was impending; but who would contend that such a measure would at all suffice for dealing with the great varieties of questions that were brought up, especially by the private Members representing Scotch constituencies? These questions related to land, fisheries, trade, and 101 different things which could not be dealt with by any measure of County Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated that that House represented each part of the country. He (Mr. Shiress Will) did not deny it; but what if some parts of the country had been continually complaining, not of late only but for years, that its legislative needs were neglected? He failed to find in his hon. and learned Friend's speech any solution of the difficulty which existed. He was perfectly aware that several measures for Scotland were passed last year. He would be the last person to deny to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) the fullest credit for what he did last year; but, after all, what did it come to? At the very end of the Session, when Members were leaving town, and when the House was continually sitting to, and oppressed by, late hours, the Technical Education Bill and the Secretary for Scotland Bill were introduced. The good nature of the Scotch Members had to be appealed to in order that they might take what they could get, and if the Lord Advocate had not been met in the most friendly spirit by the Members from Scotland he would have found his efforts at legislation unavailing. Was that state of things to continue? It was common ground in this discussion that the fault did not rest with any man or any Government. The fault lay in the system under which the Business of Scotland was conducted in that House. This matter was not of recent origin. He was perfectly 431 willing to admit that last year's circumstances were exceedingly exceptional, but the grievance had gone on for years. Why had they been asked to appoint Grand Committees but to expedite Business which there might not be time to deal with in the House? Why could not the same principle be applied in the case of Scotland? What was to be done with the 20 private Members' Bills this Session? Were they to meet the same fate as those of last Session? Whatever further discussion might arise on. This question, it was premature to treat this Motion as if the House were deciding upon some question of Home Rule for Scotland.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
said, he would have heartily supported the proposal if he thought it would facilitate the despatch of Scotch Business, but he did not think it would have that result. He recollected a good many meetings of Scottish Members during the last 15 or 16 years, but he could not recall one Bill which had been passed as a result of them, unless it were the Crofters' Act. The difficulty seemed to be that they had too many wise men amongst the Scotch Members; and if they were to have a Committee of Scotch Members, every man would be so determined on his own views that it would be impossible to arrive at any conclusion on a question, and without the assistance of the English Members he did not think much progress would be made with legislation for Scotland. He did not exactly know what was desired. It seemed to be an open question whether English Members should be appointed on the Committee as well as Scottish; but if it were an exclusively Scotch Committee, it might not work so successfully as they desired. There was one Bill this Session which referred exclusively to Scotland, and which he might refer to as an example, and that was the Burgh Police Bill, which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate hoped to pass this Session. He (Mr. Barclay) recollected some years ago that Bill was referred to what was practically a Scotch Committee, and it was sent down to the House in such a state that it failed to pass. He was bound to say that it was opposed by many of the English Members; but some of the Scotch Members were also 432 opposed to it on general principles, and justly opposed to it, as the Bill stood at that time, and it failed to pass. His hon. Friend seemed to suppose there was only one point of difference with regard to the Scotch University Bill—namely, the theological question; but he could assure him there were several other questions of importance in the Bill on which there wore differences of opinion. His conclusion upon the whole matter was that when the Scotch people had made up their minds that a measure should pass, that measure did somehow become law, and he thought there was much reason to hope for an improvement in future. They might expect, now they had amended the Rules of the House, that greater progress would be made with Business. No doubt private Members had great difficulty in getting measures forward; but he was inclined to think in a good many cases that was from want of will on the part of the House rather than from want of time. For instance, there was his (Mr. Barclay's) own private Bill—the Land Tenure Bill for Scotland. The great obstacle to that Bill, he considered, was that the House was not disposed—even the majority of the Scotch Members were not disposed—to pass that measure. With the experience he had had, he was strongly of opinion that such a Committee as that proposed would not do anything substantial to facilitate the progress of Scotch Business, unless, indeed, the House was going to refer the Bills altogether to this Committee. If the House were to refer the second and third readings of Bills to this Committee, he dared say then a good many measures would pass through the House, though they might not prove altogether satisfactory to the people of Scotland. ["Why not?"] Because they would not be in accordance with the opinion of Scotland. He thought, however, it was of the highest importance that legislation for the United Kingdom should proceed upon uniform principles. The great object and aim with regard to the legislation of England and Scotland which had obtained during the time he had been in that House was that the legislation for the two countries should be approximated as much as possible. The enactments of the two countries and the difficulties they had to contend 433 with might, if this proposal were carried, be very much aggravated, and in endeavouring to get rid of one they might encounter other and greater evils. For himself, he confessed he had no very strong opinion on this question, and he should not be indisposed to recommend the Government to make a trial of this Scotch Committee, and he thought one Session would perhaps satisfy a good many Scotch Members of the futility of the proposal. For several Sessions the Scotch Members had been anxious to unite on Scotch legislation; but the result had been, at all the meetings that had been convened for the purpose, that they had not been able to agree on any general course of proceeding. That being his opinion, he thought it would be a sufficient experiment to refer the more important of the Scottish Bills to a large Select Committee, and then they would see what progress was made, and what work a Committee largely composed of Scottish Members would turn out.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
said, he was somewhat at a loss to follow the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) as to really what conclusion he had arrived at. One conclusion that hon. Gentleman had arrived at he (Mr. Esslemont) was unable to agree with, and that was that there were too many wise men for Scotland. In making that remark the hon. Member spoke for himself, because some of the other hon. Members for Scotland did not claim to be over wise. The very remarks the hon. Member for Forfarshire had made with regard to Scotch Business proved the case for the Committee which was proposed. They were told that last year they had a large number of Scotch measures passed in a very short space of time. He appealed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) to say whether many of those measures would have been passed had the right hon. Gentleman not constituted the Scotch Members into a Grand Committee, taken them to a place selected for the purpose, consulted them, ascertained their views, and practically had his measures passed before they were brought into the House. Now, after the experience of last year, and after the experience of the Grand Committee, it was be-beside the question to say this would 434 hinder the Business. But his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburgh (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) really let the cat out of the bag, when he said if the Scotch Members were to be allowed to have their say with regard to Scotch measures which were to be passed—that is to say—having conceded to Scotland at their discretion what was good for Scotland, then it would be impossible to withhold those measures from other parts of the Kingdom. Now, if these measures were bad measures, why should they expect that other parts of the Kingdom would follow Scotland? If Scotland, by her Representatives, went astray, would the warning which would thereby be given not prevent other parts of the Kingdom from passing bad measures? He admitted that, taking his own personal view, he had favoured something like Home Rule for Scotland, and he had done so because of the impossibility of Scotland receiving that share of consideration that was necessary for Scotch Business in the House. Were he a Representative of an English constituency, he should consider it his duty to do the very utmost he could to obtain the time of the House for legislation affecting England. He did not think the Government majority—namely, five to one, as regarded Scotland were at liberty or could be expected to lay aside legislation affecting England in order that Scotland might have its opportunity, and under existing circumstances it was quite impossible for English Representatives, in the interests of their own constituencies, to allow the Imperial Parliament to discuss such measures at any length; and all the Scotch Members asked was that that House should give them an opportunity of bringing before the House measures having the imprimatur of the Scotch Members, and showing that they, at least, considered them to be measures which would be most beneficial to the constituencies they represented. He ventured to say that the feeling that of late had been growing up in Scotland of estrangement to the Imperial Parliament in consequence of the neglect of Scotch Business would be greatly aggravated if this request were refused, and it would greatly strengthen the desire for Home Rule, On the other hand, if this moderate proposal were granted, it would very largely satisfy the Scotch 435 demand for attention to pressing domestic legislation, and would, to a large extent, allay the irritation which at present existed with regard to their relations with the Imperial Parliament. Then there was this point further—the want of opportunity of laying their proposals before Parliament. By the Closure Rules, and by the power now conceded to the Government of taking the whole time of the House if necessary, the Scotch Members were practically excluded from any opportunity of laying their wants before Parliament; but if they had that Committee for Scottish Business, they would have an opportunity they desired of bringing forward and discussing measures affecting Scotland, and bringing them before the House, and he believed that if so, whether they succeeded in carrying them through or not, they would be content. He hoped the House would accede to the very moderate proposal, and agree to the appointment of the Grand Committee now asked for.
§ MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars, &c.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—whom he congratulated on his first appearance in the character of a Scotch Member in the House—had referred to the differences between the institutions of Scotland and England. Those differences, he (Mr. Provand) ventured to say, were far greater than the differences between England and Ireland, or even between the institutions of England and those of the United States. Their methods of education, their Universities, their legal procedure, their Church Establishment in every way differed entirely from those of England; and they all knew that since the Union, England never—notwithstanding her enormous numerical power as compared with Scotland—attempted to force any of her particular ways upon Scotland. They had no reason to complain of that. But they had much reason to complain of the studied neglect of Scottish legislation by the Government. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) had spoken of the growing feeling in Scotland respecting Home Rule. Now, he (Mr. Provand) did not think that, up to the present moment, it had taken much root; but, undoubtedly, there was such a feeling against the neglect of Scottish legislation, and if there was one certain 436 way in which the feeling in favour of Home Rule could be increased it would be by rejecting this very moderate and reasonable proposal, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had said might be tried, at least, as an experiment. He did not think it would be perfection; but, at the same time, he thought it would do some good. Apart from that, he thought they were entitled to have it tried; and whether the Committee consisted of Scottish Members, or was controlled by Scottish Members, it would be to all intents and purposes a Scottish Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had read to them a list of Scottish measures passed last Session; but he would point out that even such as they were they would not have been, gained had it not been that, in effect, the Scottish Members made themselves what might be called a Grand Committee, and assisted the Government. And in the case in the Technical Education Act, they struck off all their Amendments in order that the Bill might pass. There were 39 Scottish Bills introduced last year, and 12 of them became law. But what were they? The Conveyancing Act was only to correct a blunder in a previous Act; the Crofters' Holdings Amendment Act corrected a blunder in the Act of the previous year; the Lunacy Districts Bill was to correct a blunder in two Acts passed in 1857 and 1877; the Sheriff of Lanarkshire Bill corrected a blunder made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) himself in appointing Professor Berry to be Sheriff of Lanarkshire; the Prison Officers' Superannuation Bill would probably not affect a score of people in Scotland in as many years; the Trusts Amendment Act, also, would probably affect almost as few. The seventh Bill gave to assessors only a little more work in making their valuations; and the Secretary for Scotland Bill simply enlarged the powers of that Minister. There was not a strong feeling in favour of the last Bill, and he did not think it had made much difference. There was much hope expressed when the Secretaryship for Scotland was created, and there had been much disappointment felt since at the trifling results that had followed. The Technical Schools Bill only passed with the 437 sacrifice of many Amendments; and the same remark applied to the Criminal Procedure Bill, about which, however, he would admit there was some work involved. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that he was entitled to any credit for these Bills, he must candidly tell him that his opinion was different from that of the rest of the Scottish Members. With regard to the Licensed Houses (Earlier Closing) Bill, he desired to point out that the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had much understated the unanimity of the Scottish Members with respect to this Bill. As a matter of fact, the Scottish Members were as nearly unanimous about it as they could possibly be, because only one Scottish Member voted against it after it came down from the House of Lords, although some of the Conservative Members from Scotland opposed it on the second reading and in one other Division. Yet, with this almost absolute unanimity, the Scottish Members were overruled entirely by English Members, who, to repeat the language which had just been used by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, cared not a button about any measure relating to Scotland, and who passed the Bill in a mutilated form. He believed that the majority of the Scottish Members would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs, which was a very small measure, and which was only proposed as an experiment. If they failed to make good use of it, let it be dropped; but then it would not be in the power of the Scottish Members to say that the trial of the proposed Committee had been denied to them.
§ MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)
said, he did not propose to follow the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Provand) into the somewhat exhaustive review of the Scottish legislation of last Session. The list of measures was enough to fill the heart of any Scottish Member with pride. It was true that the discussion was not so prolonged as upon some ordinary measures which formed the materials for the legislation of last Session; but he thought he was entitled to say that upon the Wednesday devoted to Scottish Business a great many measures passed through Committee with adequate, and yet not with too much, discussion. He did not think that Scottish Members had 438 any reason to look back with either regret or shame upon the performances of that day. With regard to the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir George Campbell), he must compliment him upon having cast his net so wide. It was stated in such general terms that he very nearly ensnared the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). But from that calamity they were delivered by the frankness of the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs (Mr. R. T. Reid), who explained that the hon. Member had entirely mistaken the purpose of the Amendment, that, owing to the general terms in which it was drawn, he was about to give his vote under a misapprehension, and that the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs did not desire to pass the measure with any such help. He (Mr. Finlay) confessed he thought there was very great justice in the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs, who stated fully and clearly to the House what the Resolution really meant. He (Mr. Finlay) was somewhat perplexed by the number of proposals that had been brought before the House. The original Amendment by the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs proposed another Standing Committee "similarly constituted, and subject to the same rules," for the consideration of all Bills relating to Scotland. At the same time the House had presented to them the more drastic and comprehensive measure proposed by the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs, according to which all Scottish measures were to be remitted to Scottish Representatives, not only for the purpose of dealing with them in Committee, but also for the purpose of second reading. Then they had presented to their bewildered eyes the amended Amendment by the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs, by which he struck out the words "similarly constituted, and subject to the same rules." What did this Amendment of the Amendment mean? Simply that Scottish Business should be remitted to a Grand Committee consisting of Scottish Members only.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, he did not pretend to penetrate into the recesses of the hon. Member's mind, and could only deal with 439 the scope of the Amendment and the uses to which it would be put. Although he entirely accepted the personal disclaimer, no one knew what the hon. Member meant but the hon. Member himself. He apprehended that in view of the explanation given by the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs the Amendment which stood in his name and the subsequent alteration of the Amendment were extremely ominous circumstances. No better illustration than the Amendment now under discussion could be found of the fact that it was impossible to treat, as confined to any part of the United Kingdom, measures which normally related only to that part. The House was really discussing an Amendment which involved principles of vital importance to the whole of the United Kingdom. The principles on which they had hitherto gone had been that they had one Parliament for the United Kingdom, and that the common sense of all should be brought to bear upon every measure affecting any part. That principle they were now invited to discard in favour of the principle of Nationalities. Reading the Amendment in the light of the commentary supplied by the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs—
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he was not responsible for the hon. and learned Gentleman's (Mr. E. T. Reid's) speech or Amendment.
§ MR. FINLAY
thought that what was said by the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs threw a most valuable light on the question the House had really got to discuss. How did the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs propose that the Committee should be constituted? Why did he strike out the words "similarly constituted?" Were they struck out at the same time that it was arranged that the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs should not bring forward his Amendment? How was his Grand Committee to be constituted? Were those words withdrawn in order to propitiate that section of the supporters of the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs who desired that the Grand Committee should consist of Scottish Members only? If they were not withdrawn for that purpose, he did not know why they were withdrawn. 440 Where was this principle to stop? Could any measure of importance be introduced for England, Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, which did not affect the other parts of the United Kingdom? And were they to have for Ireland, Scotland, and Wales separate Grand Committees, consisting of the Representatives of one country only, to deal with measures which were said to affect one part only? And then, no doubt, the question would be raised—"Was poor little England to be left out in the cold?" Were they to have a Grand Committee consisting of Gentlemen for the English constituencies only? ["Hear, hear !"] Hon. Members said "Hear, hear !" With all his heart he protested against this parochial view of the functions of the Imperial Parliament. They were there for the purpose of bringing the views of all parts of the United Kingdom to bear upon every subject of great and national importance which merged in this Assembly. If any subject of purely local importance arose in any Bill relating to any part of the United Kingdom, the greatest attention was naturally paid to the views of the Members representing that part; but he did protest against introducing into that House a principle which was very wide and far-reaching, and which would exclude from the consideration of the details of any measure the opinions of all Members, and against a principle which, if carried to its logical conclusion, would exclude the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), and the right hon. Member for the Southern Division of Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), from sitting upon a Grand Committee relating to purely English Bills, upon which they might bring to bear their great official experience.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs objected to this conclusion; but it was the logical result of the proposal which stood in his name. That might not be in the hon. Member's mind so far as he was aware, but these results were all latent there.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that he would exclude Scotch Members from Business which was purely English as distinguished from Imperial.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, that his hon. Friend was thus actually shut up to the conclusion that Scotch Members were to have nothing to do with certain Business if it was introduced into the House with regard to England only. This was a reductio ad dbsurdum of his hon. Friend's proposal. He agreed with a great deal that had been said by the hon. and learned Member for North-East Lanark who seconded the Amendment (Mr. D. Crawford), and whose remarks would find an echo in Scotland. There had been a feeling that Scottish Business had not always received the attention it ought to receive; but that was a very different thing from the question whether an appropriate remedy had been found in the Amendment now before the House. He believed that Amendment would not only do no good, but would be actually mischievous in its operation, and he hoped the House would have no hesitation in rejecting it. They were told there was great difficulty in getting Scottish Business brought on; but what would the Amendment do in regard to the question of the second reading of a Bill? Was there latent in this Amendment, as amended, a proposal that the question of the second reading should go to this Grand Committee, which was not to be similarly constituted to the others, and about the constitution of which they knew nothing except that the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs said it ought to consist of Scottish Members alone? He (Mr. Finlay) protested against the idea that they should take away from the Imperial Parliament of the United Kingdom the question of the second reading of any measure merely because it related to one part. Why had the hon. and learned Member struck out the words "subject to the same rules?"
§ MR. FINLAY
Exactly. The net had been cast very wide, and all they could see was that it embodied the principle of Nationalities as applied to Grand Committees. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: Hear, hear!] For that reason he could not but vote against the Amendment. It could not possibly relieve the House from the pressure of Business in regard to the second reading of Bills. In this connection the hon. Member had entirely failed to explain what possible- 442 good his Amendment could do. The Amendment might enable Scottish Members to have a Grand Committee of their own for the purpose of discussing in Committee, measures which had passed the second reading in this House. But he would appeal to the hon. Member, with his great experience of Scottish Business—he did not think he had ever attended a debate on Scottish Business without having the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member—he appealed to him whether on these occasions the House was not pretty well resolved into a Grand Committee of Scottish Members. They had, it was true, a little assistance from their English Friends, and they were glad to have it, because it would be a great pity if Scottish measures were left to be decided solely by the speeches and the votes of Scottish Members. They were all the better of a little corrective from the South. He appealed to the hon. Member whether the grievance was not entirely an imaginary one. The hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs had made an appeal to the House on behalf of Scottish private Members. He (Mr. Finlay) had the greatest sympathy for Scottish private Members, for he was one of them himself, and he would be very glad of any change in the Rules which would give them more time. But had the English Members no difficulty in getting on with measures in which they were interested? And what good would this proposal do in the way of enabling them to get on with measures in Committee? He had stated his reasons for believing the Amendment would not only do no good, but would do a great deal of mischief; and he would not sit down without indicating the direction in which he believed the real remedy lay. He did not believe Scottish Business would ever be properly attended to in this House until they had a Scottish Minister who had a seat in the Cabinet.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said, that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) had said and done a great deal to reconcile him to the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). Because the gist of his speech was to show that there was latent in his hon. Friend's Motion the germs of the Amendment 443 of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. E. T. Reid). The Motion he favoured was that of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, and the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Inverness reconciled him to vote for the Amendment originally proposed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness seemed to forget that even under the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries this House would still retain complete control over every detail of any Bill that might be submitted to the Scottish Committee when that Bill had passed the Committee and been reported to the House. He stood as firmly as the hon. and learned Member for Inverness, or as anyone else, for the supreme sovereignty of that House in all matters of legislation, and he said that principle was perfectly consistent with the terms of the Amendment. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Finlay) had entered a protest against what he called the introduction of a new principle into that House; but every argument upon which this proposal had he supported was that this was no new proposal, but that it was already carried out in the practice of the House. They heard every day that Scotch Members were allowed to control the Business of Scotland. Now, he hoped one of the results of that debate would be to remove a delusion, which had been very widespread and very prevalent, as to the extent to which Scottish Members were allowed to control the Business of Scotland. He had listened with amazement to English and Irish Members who had protested that if Ireland could only be treated as Scotland was, there would not be much difficulty about Irish questions. He had been amazed to see that the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had propounded that very remedy for Irish grievances. After that debate, and what had been said by his Colleagues, it must be apparent to English Members that this was an entire delusion. He protested, for his own part, that it was the very reverse of the truth. They had the illustrious authority of the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) that Scotland was the best regulated portion of the United Kingdom, and that her reward for her good conduct was the systematic and continued neglect 444 of her Business. [Sir EDWARD CLARKE: No, no ! and Opposition Cheers.] He accepted the verdict of his Colleagues rather than that of the English Solicitor General, who appeared to dissent from his statement Scottish Business, when. it had been taken up, had often been disposed of in a sense contrary to the opinions and wishes of Scotsmen. He would venture to say that Scotland in that House had often been like the respectable elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. It had been a law-abiding country, and it had been obliged to see the fatted calf killed for others; and it was no wonder that Scottish Members grumbled when that spectacle was presented to them. He had before observed that he was not much in love with the principle of devolution. It was exposed to great dangers, as he had seen in the case of the United States, where Parliamentary life was destroyed by it both in Congress and in every Legislature in the Union. Therefore he did not support this proposal because it added another to the list of Grand Committees, but he emphatically supported it because, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in the remarkable speech, ingenious as it was, had said, the Committee was wanted, not to decide the questions that were laid before it, not to settle the final form of any measure laid before it, but to obtain information as to the opinion of the people of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman was willing to accept the opinion of the Scotch Members as being the conclusive opinion of the people of Scotland, a course in which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Finlay) refused to follow him. That being the ground laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Robertson) failed to see the justice of the limitation which the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) attempted to impose upon this procedure. Information was all the House required for a Committee of this sort, and if they wanted to be conclusively and authoritatively informed as to what the opinion of the people of Soot-land was on any Scotch measure, what was the use of appointing English or Irish Members on the Committee? One reason why he supported the proposed Grand Committee was that it would pro- 445 cure that information. For that reason he was in favour of the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, and he hoped the proposal would be submitted to the judgment of the House. Then, in the main, Scotland was a country of Liberal opinions. Even in this time of Liberal political distress, and counting his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Finlay) and his Colleagues among the Tories, there was a large majority in favour of Liberal opinion in Scotland, which he thought his hon. and learned Friend would find stronger on the next occasion in which the opinion of Scotland was taken. The Governments in times past had also been mainly Liberal; so that, on the whole, the predominant Liberalism of Scotland had found itself dealing with a general Liberal Ministry in the country. What was the future before them? Taking the authority of hon. Members opposite, they were at the beginning of a long run of Unionist Administration. They were at the beginning of 20 years of Unionist domination in this country and of resolute government in Ireland. During these 20 years the prevalent opinions of the Scotch people would be opposed to the Unionist Administration. Therefore, one condition which had kept Scotland quiet under these restrictions and disabilities would be removed. But even if the prognostications of hon. Members opposite were as false as he hoped they would be, it was reasonably certain they had got before them five years of the present Government. He regretted he saw no way out of that, desperate and discouraging as the prospect might appear to be. But during the whole of that time, Scotland, so far as three-fourths of its people were concerned, would be not only neglected, but in active, determined, and, it might be, violent opposition to the Government of the country. With the view of making Scotland more tranquil than she was likely to be, and of making things more easy for the Government, he recommended them to accept the proposal now made. It had been brought forward by his hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron), as an objection to these proposals, that they did not go far enough for the people of Scotland. It was said the people of Scotland wanted Home Rule. He did not know whether they did or not. Some day they might learn their opinion on that subject. For his own part, he thought 446 the people of Scotland would deal considerately with so important a question. He was not himself enamoured of a one-horse Government in Edinburgh. He did not think he should particularly care for a Parliament House Legislature and a Princes Street Executive, and he did not think the people of Scotland were as yet enamoured of either of these objects. But if the Government objected to the extension of the Home Rule principle to Sootland—if they wished the present state of things to remain so far as this Legislature was concerned—then they would do wisely to meet the feeling which underlay this demand of Home Rule for Scotland—for it was a genuine feeling—by conceding the reasonable request preferred by them that night. Because underneath all the most absurd proposals that had been made or might be made for Scotland—for Home Rule for Scotland—lay a genuine, well-founded feeling of dissatisfaction with the mode in which Scottish Business was conducted in this House. His strong conviction was that it would be a good thing for Scotland, for the Empire, and even for Her Majesty's Government to let them have their own way in the matter. And, anxious as they all were to have Scottish opinions on Scottish matters known, let them have the only instrument by which that could be decided, and give them this Grand Committee composed of Scottish Members.
§ MR. SALT (Stafford)
said, the question was not so much whether the proposal of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) benefited one Party or another, but whether it would be really and simply a benefit in respect of carrying on the Business of the House. The proposal before the House had undoubtedly taken a good many forms, for one colour had been given, to it by one hon. Member, another by another, and even a third colour had been given to it. It was, therefore, difficult for anyone wishing to approach the subject in a businesslike manner to deal with its real import. He understood, however, the proposal to be this—that there should be a large Grand Committee consisting of Scotch Members only for the consideration of Scotch Business They had then to consider whether this would forward the Business of Scotland, of the House, or of the country generally. His own opinion 447 was that if a Grand Committee was to be set up to deal with Scotch Business only they would be compelled sooner or later to establish Grand Committees for English, Irish, and Welsh Business, and it must; then come to this—that the House would be divided into a number of different and hostile sections; whereas he held that they ought to constitute a united House. But how would they deal with the Scotch Committee, if it was to consist simply of Scotch Members? It was said that the Committee was to exist for the purpose of satisfying the Scotch people by conceding what the Scotch people wanted. But was this great machinery to be set up in order merely to instruct the House as to what Scotch opinion might be on various subjects? They knew already pretty well what public opinion in Scotland was when they had the pleasure of hearing Member's from Scotland in debate, and he did not think that any more information could be obtained on that subject by the establishment of the proposed Committee. But there was a further difficulty in the way of the proposal of the hon. Member. Suppose this Grand Committee came to a decision on any question; that decision must come before the House, and they had to ask whether the House would, in such circumstances, always back up and support the decision at which, they arrived? There was a great probability that such would not be the case, and then there would arise a condition of things, which would certainly not conduce to the forwarding of the Business of the House. The conclusion at which he arrived, then, was that they must stand by the old system of the House—trying to work together as well as they could—and that there should be but one country and one House, governed by the majority of the whole. On the other hand, he entirely agreed with those who said that more opportunities ought to be had for conducting Scotch Business; and no one could enter more warmly than he did into that feeling. But were they not, by the Rules of Procedure then under discussion, trying to give facilities for the transaction of Scotch Business? Their very object was that the work should be lightened for the House, so that more time might be given to the Business of the different parts of the Kingdom. The House was now taking one step, although not perhaps a very large one, in the direction 448 of enabling Scotch Members to get more time for their measures to be discussed; but he could not help thinking that the acceptance of the proposal before the House would not do otherwise than complicate matters more than they were at present. Everyone was aware that Governments of the present day were accustomed to make greater inroads upon the time allotted to private Members than was formerly the case, and it might be said that the opportunities of private Members for legislation had almost passed away. Now he thought that Members of the House might unite to put more pressure on the Government to restore to private Members the right which they so much valued, and which they had very often so well used.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
said, he thought it was curious that the only Members who had opposed the proposal from that side of the House were Members of the so-called Liberal Unionist Party. There seemed to exist in their minds a lurking suspicion that it would strengthen the cause of Home Rule in Ireland. He concurred with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) in thinking that the proposal involved a Committee composed of Scottish Members. It was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) that many of the Scottish Members were not acquainted with Scottish local matters. A more astonishing statement was never made in that House. He was certain that the Scottish Members were necessarily acquainted with Scottish local affairs. He supported the proposal on the ground that it met with the approval of nearly the whole of the Members from Scotland, and would be favourably received by the enormous majority of the Scotch people. By the proposal of his hon. Friend it was not intended to take away from the Imperial powers of Parliament.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
said, he thought they might all be satisfied that they had a very fair specimen of what the working of a Scottish Grand Committee would be in the different views expressed by Scotch Members who had spoken, in the discussion. One supported the proposal on the ground that the experiment would succeed, another on the ground that it would be a failure. The hon. and learned 449 Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) told them that the speeches which had been made from the Opposition side of the House practically divided themselves between two divisions of the Liberal Party. That went to indicate something more than that the work in a Scottish Grand Committee upstairs might proceed very much upon Party: because it brought into relief this strong fact, that no one in that House—in his heart—could deny that this move at present before the House was a move which had politics and not business at the bottom of it. It was the Home Rule movement, disguise it as they might. If this was a notion which had ever entered the mind of man as a matter of mere business—apart altogether from Party politics—it was very strange that it was never made till the year 1888. That led him to say this, that while they were told that Scottish Business was much neglected by the present Government he would like to know whether the Scottish Liberal Members pressed that upon their own Cabinet, which was in existence from 1880 to 1885?
§ Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD
said, he thought he should draw some statement of that kind, but that was what led him to the point. If the hon. Member pressed his Motion so very much upon the Liberal Cabinet, which contained more Scotsmen than any other Cabinet that was known to history, and was unable to make on thorn any impression, it was out of the question to blame the present Government. It was entirely a new idea, and there was no man in that House who did not know perfectly well that the proposal to establish Grand Committees, based not on the Business to be done, but on the country to which the Business generally related, never would have entered the mind of any Cabinet or any sensible portion of the House, had it not been that they had certain political measures brought forward in that House a year or two ago. They had Grand Committees sitting in that House for the purpose of considering particular classes of Business; but that was a very different thing from splitting up the House into different Grand Committees to consider 450 similar Business solely with reference to the particular nationality which was proposed to be represented on that Committee. The proposal was that the whole of the Scottish Members were to sit alone on their own Business, and were to take their share in sitting in the Committees of everybody else's Business. That rather illustrated what had often been said of their country—"We take all we can get and a little more if we can." the proposal seemed to him on the first blush of it to be a most illogical and absurd arrangement. But that was only the first move of the game. The next move would be in regard to another part of the United Kingdom, and then another move with regard to another part of the Kingdom. There was no reason to stop at nationalities at all. Why should the South of England, as they had been told, override the opinion of the North of England if they were going to subdivide upon such principles as that? Nothing was more plain than that they were not subdividing for Business, but for political reasons. It was said that Bills were to be sent to this Committee without passing any second reading; that the second reading was to be disposed of by the Scottish Members upstairs. Could any proposal be more grotesque and absurd, coming from any man who was the least acquainted with business? If the second reading was not to depend on a decision of the House, then nobody would consent to a first reading without taking a Division. The reason why a Division on the first reading was almost never taken was because the opportunity was still before the House of having a full discussion on the principle of the Bill on the second reading. Nothing was more plain on the face of the debate than that hon. Members had no clear idea of the result of this proposal. They all spoke of it as an experiment, and as a thing which could be set aside if unsatisfactory. That was a mode of conducting Business which no sensible man would adopt in his own affairs. The fact that this had been proposed as a pure experiment showed how absurd and ridiculous the proposal was upon the face of it. A good deal of comment had been made on the way Scottish Business had been passed through the House during recent years, and particularly last Session. What bearing had that upon the Com- 451 mittee stage of all Bills being disposed of by a Grand Committee upstairs? He should like to ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) whether he had received any complaints about Bills passed last Session? If not, it rather tended to show that the way those Bills were passed through Committee was perfectly satisfactory. How was the Grand Committee to fail? Was it by the work of the Scottish Members being set aside? If that were to be done, that would be very near a Parliamentary revolution. Or was it to fail from the work of the Scottish Members being so badly done that the House would not accept it? He (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) submitted, upon the whole matter, that it would not be wise in the meantime to go out of the course followed in the past in the appointment of Grand Committees. It was an intelligible, sensible, and reasonable mode of devolution; but to you to propose to facilitate the Business for one locality, the discussion on which showed that political reasons were at the bottom of it, would be to take a step which would have a most unfortunate result on the Business of the House.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, he found there had been little said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) that he required to answer. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said this was a Party question, and that the Members of the Liberal Government who now supported it, opposed it when in Office. He would not enter into contention on that point. [Laughter.] No; and the reason why was because that class of thought had been excluded from the debate. For the right hon. and learned Gentleman to try and make out a case of inconsistency against the Liberal Front Bench was as ungenerous as though he himself had twitted the First Lord of the Treasury with his original objection to the Closure, a reminder which he should have been ashamed to use. It was because this was a new experiment that they asked it as a tentative measure until they saw the result. The whole argument for the Grand Committees was the block of Business in the House. It was because there was a block in Scottish Business that they asked that the same remedy should be applied as 452 in the case of English Business. There could hardly be any doubt that there was at the present time considerable dissatisfaction and discontent in Scotland as to the treatment measured out to legislation affecting that country. When they were taunted from opposite Benches with being desirous of trying experiments, they could not forget that on those Benches the proposal had that night been accepted of trying the experiment of adding agricultural questions to those which the General Committee upon Trade would have to consider. Something must be done to stay the growing dissatisfaction in Scotland. The satisfaction at the appointment of a Secretary for Scotland had been followed by disappointment that the person holding that office was in the House of Lords, and that he was not in the Cabinet. His hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) spoke with great force upon the extremely serious and significant fact that the Scottish Executive was not dependent upon the majority, but the minority of the Scottish Representatives. That was a most serious matter; but what he (Sir George Trevelyan) was anxious about was, that if they could not get on in the way of administration, at any rate let them get on in the way of legislation. This was a very moderate proposal for the purpose of meeting a great amount of dissatisfaction. He hoped hon. Members would confine their remarks, as the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) had not done, and as the Lord Advocate had not done, to the proposal before the House. The hon. and learned Member accused the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) with having some sinister motive for altering his Resolution. The change was made with no sinister purpose, but simply and solely with the object of placing the Resolution before the House in the simplest form. It was to give the House an opportunity of getting the opinion of their Scottish Colleagues on Scottish affairs, in a concentrated shape, and expressed in a matured form. The Chief Secretary for Ireland said that it was the immemorial custom of the House to frame its Committees so as to represent the political feeling of the House. He (Sir George Trevelyan) must say he did not think that was the 453 intention in the case of these Grand Committees. In their case the object was to keep politics as far as possible out of them; and he hoped the Scottish Grand Committee would be so constituted as to represent Scottish opinion on Scottish questions, irrespective of politics. The Chief Secretary was afraid of a conflict between the majority of the House and the majority of the Scottish Members on the Grand Committee. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that there was such a conflict constantly going on in the House now between the majority of Scottish Members and the majority of the House; but that contest was carried on in a covert and somewhat unobserved manner, whereas what they wanted to do was to drag the whole thing into the light of day. What happened now? A Scottish debate took place. The Scottish arguments were generally not of a sort to fascinate English Members. English Members left the House in great numbers, and if they did so for good, the Scottish Members would be very well satisfied. But they came back again to vote. Illustrations of that had occurred recently. On the Motion of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) 36 Scotch Members voted for it and 11 against it; but that Motion was rejected by a majority of the House. The next day, on the Crofters' Amendment Bill, 36 Members voted one way and nine the other, and yet the Scotch majority was outvoted by a majority of the House. On the same day it discussed the method of electing the Scotch Parochial Boards, which scarcely any English Member could understand, and on, that matter, too, a large majority of Scotch Members were outvoted by a majority of the House. These were examples of what was continually going on, and English Members were not ashamed of what they did, because in those big Divisions they could not pick out and identify their Scottish Colleagues and see which way they went. But it would be a different business when the Scottish Members were gathered together into a Committee room upstairs, and went into the details of measures, and those Bills came down as the voice of Scotland, so far as it could be expressed by the Scottish Representatives. In that case he believed English Members who now 454 voted so freely against them would think twice or thrice before going against the undoubted feeling of the people of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary gave them a long list of Scottish measures passed last Session; but they were a poor set of measures indeed, and the reason was that the House had not time to consider any important ones, and was too conscientious to pass important measures without considering them. One was the Secretary for Scotland Bill. He did not hesitate to say that if that Bill had gone to a Grand Committee it would have come out a very different one; but this list was chiefly conspicuous for the absence of one Bill—the Scotch Universities Bill—which would have been worth all the rest put together. It was not passed, because the House could not find time to discuss it; yet he believed it would have passed, without a Division on the second reading, and then would have gone up to a Committee, and the Committee would have given the time to it which the House could not give, and so a Bill would have been passed which, as he had said, was worth all the rest put together. The right hon. Gentleman and he had had one great advantage—the advantage of a unique administrative experience. They had both of them—the right hon. Gentleman and himself—been Scottish and Irish Secretaries. Now, he should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have hesitated before rejecting this proposal; because it was brought forward some years ago in the case of Ireland, and was rejected. He did not see that now it was renewed; but if that proposal had not been rejected, then he must say that the one great cause of most of the serious grievances Ireland had against this country would have been, if not removed, at least greatly mitigated—that grievance being that Irish Bills concerning Ireland only, on which the majority of Irish Members were almost unanimous, were not accepted by the House. If a Bill for extending the municipal franchise in Ireland had been referred to an Irish Grand Committee, and had then been presented to the House of Commons, he felt satisfied that the House would not have consented to throw away the work of perhaps a third of the Session, but would have passed a Bill to remedy one of the greatest grievances of 455 Ireland. As to the contention of the Chief Secretary that these Bills contained principles which applied likewise to England, and that it was unfair to accept the Scotch idea with regard to these principles, he maintained that if it was unfair for Scotch Members to obtain an ideal of their own which, might not be palatable to England, it must be infinitely harder for Scotland to have the English ideal imposed by English votes upon Scotland—the weaker country, the country which could only influence England by example, but could impose nothing on her by votes. He felt that he had detained them too long on a discussion of this kind, and he would simply now restate the three arguments brought forward by the hon. Member for the Partick Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Craig Sellar). In the first place, Scottish views on Scottish affairs were overridden by English opinion. The hon. Baronet the Member for "Wigton (Sir Herbert Maxwell) said they ought to pay deference to the views of the entire nation. Now, why should Scotland defer to the view of the entire nation in the matter of the regulation of her liquor traffic, or on the question whether she should pay pensions to her police? The hon. Member went further, and said they were dealing with worldwide questions. Was it credible that the hon. Member should think that the civilized world cared three-halfpence or three bawbees about the question of hypothec? If they had this Committee, they would then obtain in a finished shape the public opinion of Scotland. Secondly, there was the question of the amount of Business. The hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) had done well to show up what was called by fares a Scottish Parliament. This Scottish Parliament had sat here for a couple of Wednesdays only—that was to say, they, a ninth part of the Representatives of the Kingdom, had about a 90th part of the time, and yet people spoke of a Scottish Parliament. Then, last and greatest of all, there was the growing feeling of dissatisfaction in Scotland. To meet that feeling, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) had brought forward a very moderate proposal. He (Sir George Trevelyan) would regret if it was rejected, and he thought Scotland would regret it still more, and would in 456 some respects almost resent some of the arguments, and especially some brought forward from Benches behind him, in favour of its rejection. The way in which it was proposed by the Government plan to recognize the nationality of Scotland was by putting some four or five Scottish Members on the two Grand Committees on Law and Justice, which, perhaps, would not have a Scottish Bill before them once in three years. He and his Friends proposed a very different plan. They believed it to be an innocent and salutary remedy, and, at the same time, they believed it would redress a great practical grievance, and meet and soothe the genuine feelings of the people of Scotland.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)
said, he could understand his right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) objecting to Members being taunted with changes of opinion; but on this particular subject the right hon. Gentleman was free from any such imputations, because he did not take part in the debate when this topic last occupied the attention of the House. In 1882, when this question was before the House the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) opposed it. He (Mr. Raikes) did not wish to attach too much importance to that, because, although the right hon. Gentleman had supported it tonight, the reasons he gave for doing so were reasons which he passed by, and did not attempt to contravene in 1882. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian then reserved to himself the liberty of judgment which he had been free to exercise, and had exercised that right by adopting a different line. But the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) took a very strong part in opposing a kindred proposition on that occasion, and Sir Edward Colebrooke, then a Liberal Member of the House, objected to the provincialism of the Amendment. That was not a Party opinion, but was one which found an echo in many parts of Scotland. He (Mr. Raikes) did not believe that the Scottish people were really enamoured of a scheme which was so much to lower their position in the Imperial Legislature. It was important to observe the difference between the forms of the Motion as it was put upon 457 the Paper, and it was now submitted to the House. The Amendment first proposed was that another Grand Committee should be formed on the same micro-cosmic principles as the other two, but it had been thrown over by its parent for one perfectly different. This Grand Committee was not to be formed with the same limitations as to scope as the other Committees, for while only Bills relating to law and justice or to trade, manufacture, or agriculture, were to be sent to Grand Committees, and all other Bills were still reserved to the consideration of the Committee of the whole House, this Amendment would give to a Scottish Grand Committee the entire control of all the Committees on all Bills, however important, however revolutionary might be their character, and would exclude from their consideration all other Members of the House. It was, therefore, proposed to give to that Grand Committee attributes and jurisdiction entirely different from, and immensely exceeding, those given to other Grand Committees. But the Amendment carried with it other consequences, for this Grand Committee would presumably contain all the most prominent and leading Members of the House of Commons who represented Scottish constituencies, and, therefore, the other Grand Committees would be deprived of their services. Could a more abnormal and more anomalous position be imagined? The only thing resembling it that he could imagine was that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow did so much to save the Irish Members from two years ago, when it was proposed to give the Irish Members exclusive jurisdiction over Irish affairs, and to exclude them from having any part in Imperial affairs. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member who formerly represented Hereford, but now sat for some Scotch borough (Mr. R. T. Reid) was altogether different in its scope, and had the merit of being more logical. The hon. and learned Member had proposed to refer the second reading of Bills to the Scotch Grand Committee, thus removing that stage from the jurisdiction of the House itself. [Cries of "No, no!"]—
§ MR. RAIKES
True, the proposition was qualified by the words, "unless the 458 House should otherwise order," but the hon. Member proposed to delegate to a Committee upstairs powers in connection with the stage of second reading which at present were exercised by the whole House. That, he believed, would oust the jurisdiction of the House as far as second readings were concerned. The House was asked to transfer to a Committee a jurisdiction which had hitherto been exercised informally and with advantage by the majority of the Scottish Members. Some hon. Members seemed to think that Scotland had fared worse at the hands of the House of Commons than Ireland because there were fewer debates upon Scotch matters. The difference was that where the Irishmen got the debate, the Scotsmen got the measures. But under the system which prevailed in the course of last Session, no less than 11 Bills of varying importance were passed for the benefit of Scotland. His hon. Friend opposite called that a poor list, but one of these measures was the Technical Education Bill; and, in respect of that important subject, Scotland had actually received a boon which England could not get. In fact, the English Education Bill was sacrificed in a great measure to the Scotch Bill. [Cries of "No!"] At all events the Scotch Bill was persevered with and the English Bill was not. The present arrangement with regard to Scotch Bills was this, Members representing Scotch constituencies found opportunities for discussing certain Bills among themselves, they then brought these Bills before the Secretary for Scotland, and in the end they passed through the House after some merely formal debate. He was not aware that the fact there was no prolonged discussion in the House in any way diminished the value of a measure when passed. It had been suggested that Scotland was entitled to this proposed Grand Committee on local grounds. But if the proposal were acceded to in the case of Scotland, how could they resist the demands of other parts of the country for similar Committees? How refuse Wales or Ireland, or oven London, Lancashire, or Yorkshire? It was rather remarkable that on this occasion Scotland should be the horse to run for the Separatist stable, while Ireland was kept in the background. The scheme if logically carried out would lead to the absolute 459 disintegration of the Imperial Parliament. It did not appear to him to be compatible with the Parliamentary institutions under which we lived. Hon. Members ought not willingly to reduce the House to the position of a Chamber for the acceptance of mere broad principles divorced from all details. To adopt proposals of this kind would reduce the House to a mere place of academic disputation in regard to broad principles; and the result would be half a dozen local Parliaments, which would, perhaps, enact in every part of the country measures absolutely different from each other, and make this country not a United Kingdom, but rather a group of disunited States.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, those who opposed the Motion before the House evaded the point at issue. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) for instance, had argued against the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) which was not now before the House, and ignoring altogether the fact that Scotland had separate laws, a separate Church, and separate customs and habits, he had endeavoured to show a similarity between Scotland and Yorkshire. Scotland suffered from a distinct evil under the present system, and that evil was that Scotch Business was not properly attended to in that House. They could not get time to discuss Scotch Business, and when Scotch measures were produced by the Government, the Scotch Members were told to pass them at the point of the bayonet—they were told that unless they passed them immediately and without proper time for discussion, they would not be passed at all. Reference had been made to the passing of the Scotch Technical Schools Bill; but at the time when that Bill was brought forward the Scotch Members pointed out that it was quite inadequate, a mere outline sketch of a scheme. They were, however, told that if they did not dispose of it on that Wednesday for which five Bills had been put down, it would be dropped. This was characteristic of the manner in which Scotch Business was conducted in that House. Indeed, it must be taken an admitted by the language of the Government that Scotland in this matter had great cause of complaint. If a Scotch Grand Committee were 460 appointed it could deal properly with Scotch Business. As the Government did not accept this suggestion, what suggestion had they to make to meet the present admittedly unsatisfactory state of things? Under the new Rules of Procedure Scotch Business would fare even worse than hitherto. In the first place the available time was shortened and the opportunities of discussing Scotch Bills as heretofore between 12 o'clock and 3 o'clock in the morning would no longer exist. This system of devolution would be no relief to Grand Committees so far as Scotch Business was concerned unless a Scotch Committee was appointed. The principle of the system of devolution was that Bills should be referred to Committees composed of Members with special knowledge of the subjects with which the Bills respectively dealt. But what would be the advantage of referring Bills dealing with Law and Courts of Justice in Scotland to the Law and Justice Grand Committee, which would only contain a few Scotch Members, and the majority of which would know little or nothing of the subject? The same argument applied to Bills dealing with Scotch agriculture and commerce. Of a Grand Committee consisting of 75 Members, only about eight would be Scotch Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) let the cat out of the bag when he said the reason that the Government objected to the plan of a Scotch Grand Committee was that it would interfere with the balance of Parties in the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that he stated nothing of the kind. He said that to appoint a Scotch Committee would be a new departure; that hitherto Committees of this House had been arranged with the balance of Parties corresponding with the balance of Parties in the House, and that it would be a very serious thing to depart from that arrangement.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, the practice referred to by the right hon. Gentleman only applied to Select Committees, and not to Grand Committees. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that a Bill might pass through the Scotch Grand Committee in a shape unacceptable to the Government, and had argued that the Government, which were supported 461 by a majority consisting mainly of English Members, ought not to allow a Bill to pass unless it conformed to their views. The Scotch Members claimed to have the legislation for Scotland passed which the people of Scotland wanted, whether the Ministry, supported by an English majority, wished it or not. No doubt the Government would be justified in the case of a Scotch Bill which raised wide political issues in withholding it from the Grand Committee, and in having its Committee stage disposed of in Committee of the whole House, and this was provided for by the words of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries's Motion, "unless the House shall otherwise order,"
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he would point out that there were no such words in the Motion then before the House.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that made no difference, because the House, of course, possessed the inherent power of keeping any Bill for discussion in the House itself. On Bills raising wide political issues, no doubt the Government of the day might be justified in exercising a veto; but on ordinary Bills it was not the liking or dislike of the Government that should prevail. The claim he put forward related to Bills raising no vital political issue, but relating to matters so peculiarly and distinctively Scotch that the wishes of the Scotch people ought to be suffered to prevail. Hitherto the question of reconciling the conflicting claims of the Scottish majority and the general majority in the delicate matter of Scotch legislation had only been temporarily solved by the Government being willing to give way to the strong expression of Scotch opinion. That was what Scotch Members desired to see recognized as the rule. The Grand Committees which sat a few years ago did not discuss the Bills submitted to them in a partizan spirit. All the Scotch Members asked for was that Scotch Bills should be considered by a Grand Committee in similar spirit. They believed it would be a great service to the country to allow Scotch Members to advance their own measures in their own way. They might try the experiment of sending Scottish Bills of a non-Party character to a Grand Committee, and the House might reserve for its own consideration such Scottish Bills as they thought were not fit for the Grand Committee. If the 462 House refused, he was bound to say he had considerable apprehensions of the result. This was a very temperate and moderate proposal. It was one which could not do much harm, and which could be revoked at any moment. The Government ought to know that there was a feeling growing up in Scotland that the majority of the House of Commons was claiming too much authority over distinctively Scotch measures. There was a growing feeling that some special provision must be made for Scotland. Scotch Members asked the Government to satisfy that demand while it was still in a tender stage. Let not the Government aggravate Scotch feeling as they had aggravated Irish feeling. Let them take warning from the example of Ireland. Let the Government give a reasonable attention to the demands which the Scotch people made, believing that, with the practical good sense which characterized the nation, they would not ask more if they could get some practical measure like this to satisfy their reasonable desires.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he thought a few words might be of use to call the attention of the House exactly to what they were asked to vote upon. He had heard the last speech or two with considerable surprise, and he would like to compare the arguments of the Speakers with the exact proposal before the House. His hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) proposed to add to the Resolution on the Paper the words—That there he added another standing Committee for the consideration of all Bills relating to Scotch Business only.He submitted that the addition of the words would leave the matter exactly where it stood before—that was to say, that the additional Standing Committee would be similarly constituted and subject to the same Rules as the others. That was the sense in which it was supported by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), who said distinctly that he could not support the proposal unless he understood that it was a proposal for a Committee of the same nature as the other Standing Committees now proposed to be revived. The hon. Gentleman said he would not accept a Committee exclusively formed of Scotch Members, or 463 a Committee containing a preponderating number of Scotch Members. Again, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) was conceived in the same sense, and it was to such a Committee only as the Member for Bedford indicated, that the right hon. Gentleman gave his adhesion. The argument, therefore, of the right hon. Gentleman opposite fell entirely to the ground, and the cases which he had adduced would not be touched at all by the proposal of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, which applied only to Bills which had survived the general sense of the House, and gone for consideration before that Grand Committee. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy apparently did not understand the words of the Standing Order with regard to the constitution of Grand Committees. The Standing Committees were to be nominated, and the numbers were to be appointed by the Committee of Selection which should have regard to the class of Bills committed to such Committees and to the composition of the House; so that the Scotch Members on the proposed Committee would only get their quota of the whole. Again, his hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) was in error in speaking only of the proportion of 8½ Scotch Members; because it was in the power of the Committee of Selection to add another 15 Members to serve on the Grand Committees for the consideration of any Bill. If a Scotch Bill, therefore, were referred, there would no doubt be added 15 Scotch Members, so that there would be 23 Members representing Scotland on the Committee whenever a Scotch Bill was referred. The whole question, was whether they should for the purpose of the devolution of Business get up Grand Committees to which Bills read a second time should be referred for further discussion. The system of devolution which they had adopted proceeded on the principle of referring Bills to Grand Committees according to the class to which such Bills belonged. It was now proposed to introduce a new class and refer Bills on the principle of their local application. It was a plea for the further and fuller consideration of Bills which had been discussed in the House and which discussion had been considered adequate. If the meaning of the Amendment was that when other means 464 of considering Bills were exhausted, he saw no difficulty in accepting the proposal. But he could only accept it if other means of consideration were exhausted, because he thought the principle mischievous and inferior as compared with the existing Rule. He preferred that Bills should be considered with regard to the subjects with which they dealt. He would rather, for instance, have a Scotch Liquor Bill considered with an English Liquor Bill, and the same with regard to a Bill on Scotch Education. [Cries of "Oh, Oh!"] The murmurs which he heard, he ventured to say, were murmurs of provincialism; and he thought Scotch legislation might be improved by having its Bills referred to Grand Committees in the way he had indicated. It was said that Scotch Business had a right to receive sufficient attention at the hands of the House; but it was yet to be proved that Scotch Bills considered with English Bills by Grand Committees would not receive due attention. He saw no reason why they should not have three or four Standing Committees. His hon. Friend the Member for Bedford had assented to the principle that in the case of say a Scotch Education Bill, 15 Scotch Members would be added to the Grand Committee who considered the Bill. If the House was driven by necessity to these local provisions, let them be accepted, but only then. At present, they were not so driven, because they had not tried the experiment of Grand Committees on a sufficiently large scale. Let the plan have a fair trial, and if it failed, it would be time enough to fall back on the present proposal, which he regarded as an inferior process.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he would not occupy more than a minute or two. He was going to support the Government, because he preferred that the House should mutilate and muddle Scottish Business. He preferred that Scottish opinion should be over-ridden by ill-informed English opinions. He preferred that the constitution of the Scottish Church should be decided by English Episcopalians and Irish Roman Catholics, because he thought the solution proposed was no solution of the question at all. The Union of Scotland with England was like the union of a race horse with a cart horse. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. 465 Finlay) looked upon Scotland as a parish, and the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) looked upon it as a municipality or a county. In Scotland they were overtaxed, and treated with niggardliness and meanness. There was strong dissatisfaction, and he wished that dissatisfaction to go on increasing. The only way when the incompetency of the House to deal with Scotch questions became manifest was to have Scottish Business transacted in Scotland by a Scottish Parliament and a Scottish Executive.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 214; Majority 77.467
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Fowler, rt. hn. H. H.|
|Gill, T. P.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Gladstone, H. J.|
|Acland, C. T. D.||Grey, Sir E.|
|Anderson, C. H.||Gully, W. C.|
|Asquith, H. H.||Haldane, R. B.|
|Barbour, W. B.||Harrington, E.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Harris, M.|
|Bolton, T. D.||Hayden, L. P.|
|Bright, W. L.||Hayne, C. Seale-|
|Broadhurst, H.||Hooper, J.|
|Brown, A. L.||Hunter, W. A.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||Jacoby, J. A.|
|Bryce, J.||Joicey, J.|
|Buchanan, T. R.||Kilbride, D.|
|Burt, T.||Lawson, H. L. W.|
|Caldwell, J.||Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.|
|Cameron, J. M.||Lewis, T. P.|
|Campbell, H.||Lockwood, F.|
|Campbell -Bannerman, right hon. H.||M'Arthur, W. A.|
|Carew, J. L.||M'Ewan, W.|
|Causton, R. K.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Cavan, Earl of||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Channing, F. A.||Mahony, P.|
|Colman, J. J.||Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-|
|Conway, M.||Menzies, R. S.|
|Cossham, H.||Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.|
|Cox, J. R.||Morley, rt. hon. J.|
|Cozens-Hardy, H. H.||Morley, A.|
|Craig, J.||Mundella, rt. hon. A. J.|
|Cremer, W. R.|
|Crilly, D.||Murphy, W. M.|
|Deasy, J.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Dillon, J.||Nolan, J.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Duff, R. W.||O'Brien, P.|
|Ellis, J.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Ellis, T. E.||O'Connor, A.|
|Esslemont, P.||O'Connor, J.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Fenwick, C.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||Pease, A. E.|
|Finucane, J.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Firth, J. F. B.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Flower, C.||Play fair, right hon. Sir L.|
|Foley, P. J.|
|Foster, Sir W. B.||Plowden, Sir W. C.|
|Power, P. J.||Stuart, J.|
|Price, T. P.||Sullivan, D.|
|Provand, A. D.||Summers, W.|
|Quinn, T.||Sutherland, A.|
|Rathbone, W.||Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.|
|Reed, R. T.|
|Rendel, S.||Tuite, J.|
|Roberts, J.||Vivian, Sir H. H.|
|Roberts, J. B.||Waddy, S. D.|
|Robertson, E.||Wallace, R.|
|Roe, T.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Rollit, Sir A. K.||Wayman, T.|
|Roscoe, Sir H. E.||Whitbread, S.|
|Rowlands, J.||Will, J. S.|
|Russell, T. W.||Williams, A. J.|
|Schwann, C. E.||Williamson, S.|
|Sheehan, J. D.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Smith, S.||Wilson, I.|
|Spencer, hon. C. R.||Winterbotham, A. B.|
|Stack, J.||Woodhead, J.|
|Stanhope, hon. P. J.|
|Stevenson, F. S.||TELLERS,|
|Stevenson, J. C.||Campbell, Sir G.|
|Stewart, H.||Crawford, D.|
|Addison, J. E. W.||Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Clark, Dr. G. B.|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.|
|Allsopp, hon. G.|
|Allsopp, hon. P.||Coghill, D. H.|
|Ambrose, W.||Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Commerell, Adml. Sir J, E.|
|Anstruther, H. T.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Compton, F.|
|Baden-Powell, Sir G. S.||Corbett, A. C.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||Courtney, L. H.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Cross, H. S.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Baring, Viscount||Currie, Sir D.|
|Baring, T. C.||Curzon, hon. G. N|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Dalrymple, Sir C.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Darling, C. J.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||De Cobain, E. S. W.|
|Bates, Sir E.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Baumann, A. A.||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-||Dixon, G.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. D.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Donkin, R. S.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Dorington, Sir J. E.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Dugdale, J. S.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C||Duncan, Colonel F.|
|Bentinck, W. G. C.||Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H.|
|Bigwood, J.||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Edwards-Moss, T. C.|
|Bolitho, T. B.||Ewing, Sir A. O.|
|Bond, G. H.||Eyre, Colonel H.|
|Bonsor, H. C. O.||Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Borthwick, Sir A.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Fielden, T.|
|Finlay, R. B.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Fisher, W. H.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Fitzgerald, R. U. P.|
|Burghley, Lord||Folkestone, right hon. Viscount|
|Campbell, J. A.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. of||Forwood, A. B.|
|Chamberlain, R.||Fowler, Sir R. N.|
|Charrington, S.||Fraser, General C. C.|
|Churchill, rt. hn. Lord R. H. S.||Fry. L.|
|Fulton, J. F.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.||Makins, Colonel W. T.|
|Malcolm, Col. J. W.|
|Gedge, S.||Mallock, R.|
|Gent-Davis. R.||Marriott, rt. hn. W.T.|
|Giles, A.||Matthews, rt. hon. H.|
|Gilliat, J. S.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Goldsmid, Sir J.||Mayne, Adml. R. C.|
|Goldsworthy, Major General W. T.||More, R. J.|
|Morgan, hon. F.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Mount, W. G.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Mowbray, R. G. C.|
|Gray, C. W.||Muntz, P. A.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Noble, W.|
|Grotrian, F. B.||Northcote, hon. Sir H. S.|
|Halsey, T. F.|
|Hambro, Col. C. J. T.||Norton, R.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Paget, Sir E. H.|
|Parker, hon. F.|
|Hamilton, Lord E.||Pelly, Sir L.|
|Hankey, F. A.||Penton, Captain F. T.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Powell, F. S.|
|Raikes, right hon. H.C.|
|Havelook - Allan, Sir H. M.|
|Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-||Rasch, Major F. C.|
|Ritchie, rt. hn. C. T.|
|Heaton, J. H.||Robinson, B.|
|Heneage, right hon, E||Round, J.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Russell, Sir G.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A.W.||Salt, T.|
|Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.||Sellar, A. C.|
|Hoare, E. B.||Seton-Karr, H.|
|Hoare, S.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H.|
|Hobhouse, H.||Sidebotham. J. W.|
|Howorth, H. H.||Sidebottom,W.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.||Sinclair, W. P.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.||Smith, right hon. W. H.|
|Hughes -Hallett, Col. F. C.|
|Hunt, F. S.||Spencer, J. E.|
|Hunter, Sir W. G.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Isaacs, L. H.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Isaacson, F. W.||Stephens, H. C.|
|Jackson, W. L.||Stewart, M. J.|
|James, rt. hon. Sir H.||Sutherland, T.|
|Jardine, Sir R.||Sykes, C.|
|Jarvis, A. W.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Jeffreys, A. F.||Taylor, F.|
|Johnston, W.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Kennaway, Sir J. H.||Thorburn, W.|
|Kerans, F. H.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|King, H. S.||Trotter, H. J.|
|Knowles, L.||Walsh, hon. A. H. J.|
|Lafone, A.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Laurie, Colonel R. P.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Lawrence, W. F.||West, Colonel W. C.|
|Legh, T. W.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Lewisham, right hon Viscount||Wharton, J. L.|
|White, J. B.|
|Llewellyn, E. H.||Whitley, E.|
|Long, W. H.||Whitmore, C. A.|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Lubbock. Sir J.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Lymington, Viscount||Wood, N.|
|Macartney, W. G. E.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Macdonald, rt. hon. J. H. A.||Wright, H. S.|
|Young, C. E. B.|
|Maclean, F. W.|
|Maclure, J. W.||TELLERS.|
|M'Calmont, Captain J.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Madden, D. H.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
§ It being Midnight, the Debate on the Main Question, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.